by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Report
July 13, 2017


Bezos and Musk Are Shaping the Worldviews of Future Space Settlements

“People living in free space near the Earth will remain Earthlings. People who settle Mars will become Martians.” What might be the difference between living in space while always seeing the Earth, versus perceiving it as a point of light from the surface of Mars? Some people suggest that two or more very different societies will emerge. This could be a positive step, as we experiment with various ways to survive in an unforgiving environment. It might also have negative consequences, as new forms of competition and conflict emerge. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, two billionaires who helm thriving private space enterprises—SpaceX and Blue Origin, respectively—are making plans that will address this question. They share the dream of taking us off of Earth, but have publicly expressed different ideas about how to do it and why. — Motherboard


After Nine Launches in 2017, It’s Tough to be an Honest Critic of SpaceX

Elon Musk and SpaceX had one hell of a weekend. While much of the country celebrated the summer weekend at the beach or enjoying time with friends, SpaceX was hard at work launching two rockets for customers, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast. One of those rockets had previously been flown. And despite dangerous returns due to high-energy missions and inclement weather, the company recovered both of the first stage boosters.

SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and it has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype but doesn’t always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend’s back-to-back launches is that the company’s successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years. — Ars Technica

This was SpaceX’s second flight of a “used” first stage booster.


SpaceX Deploys Robot to Steady Recovered Stage

The first stage from the previous Falcon 9 launch from Florida arrived in port, with a “robot” visible on the ship’s deck. The drone ship arrived at Port Canaveral early Thursday with the stage from the Falcon 9 launch last Friday of the BulgariaSat-1 spacecraft. Observers noticed the presence of a robot previously seen in tests that the company said is designed to secure the stage after landing without having people on the ship. — Florida Today

The highly anticipated, first stage securing robot called Optimus Prime.


SpaceX Scores Another Launch Success After Twin Technical Delays

SpaceX successfully launched an Intelsat 35e satellite today in its third attempt after the mission was aborted once on July 2 and then again on July 3. The scrubs were due to automated countdown clock stoppage with 10 seconds remaining prior to launch. SpaceX took July 4 to fully investigate the cause and review its systems. The original scrub for the mission occurred because SpaceX’s computer system detected a potential issue with its Falcon 9’s guidance platform. — Tech Crunch 

Closeup of the titanium grid fins. Not painted, as they glow red hot during a fast reentry.


The Complete Visual History of SpaceX’s Single-Minded Pursuit of Rocket Reusability

Reusing the first stage of a rocket, the largest and most expensive component because of its cluster of nine powerful engines, has been part of SpaceX’s goals since the beginning. The latest launches are a sign it is starting to become routine. But until recently, the mere idea was scoffed at by the most experienced players in the industry. Rockets were only economical as “expendable” systems, used once and abandoned. — Quartz

The ruling on the field is a touchdown. (SpaceX)


NASA Funding Project for Nuclear-Powered Travel to Mars

As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats and other equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into electric power.

NASA’s technology development branch has been funding a project called Kilopower for three years, with the aim of demonstrating the system at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018. The last time NASA tested a fission reactor was during the 1960s’ Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power, or SNAP, program, which developed two types of nuclear power systems. — Nuclear-News


The Common Burden of “Spacemankind” 

Companies planning space resources ventures, and the countries backing them, are running into conflict with countries who see such resources as belonging to all humanity. Kamil Muzyka explores some possible solutions to this argument that can benefit companies and countries alike. — Space Review

Asteroid mining brings with it treaty and legal issues regarding who should benefit from the resources extracted. (credit: Brian Versteeg/Deep Space Industries)

Six Volunteer ‘Astronauts’ to Lock Themselves Inside a Simulated Mars Colony

Atop a forested ridge in southern Poland, a mission on the surfaces of both Mars and the Moon is about to launch. The two-week mission is just a simulation, of course, since no entity on Earth is prepared to inhabit deep space. But the experiment — called the Poland Mars Analogue Simulation 2017 — will study a group of six volunteer “analogue” astronauts as they work through a realistic schedule of space exploration, then provide those findings to anyone who’s drawing up crewed missions beyond Earth. The project’s central feature is a four-armed, domed habitat in the countryside of Rzepiennik Biskupi, Poland (and near the Queen Jadwiga Astronomical Observatory, no less). To build the habitat, PMAS rounded up material donations and money from corporate sponsors, and raised tens of thousands of dollars through crowdfunding sites. — Business Insider

The HI-SEAS faux Mars base on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. NASA


At Last, a National Space Council. Now What?

Last Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the executive order formally creating the National Space Council. “Today, we’re taking a crucial step to secure America’s future in space by reviving the National Space Council after it was—has been—dormant almost 25 years, if you can believe it,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “Today’s announcement sends a clear signal to the world that we are restoring America’s proud legacy of leadership in space.” — Space Review

President Donald Trump signs an executive order June 30 formally reestablishing the National Space Council, as astronauts, members of Congress, and industry executives look on. (credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


Pence: America Will Dominate the Heavens Under Donald Trump

On Earth as it is in heaven (including the weapons). While delivering a speech at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence promised the American people that under President Donald Trump, the United States will control the heavens—presumably, meaning space—as he said America does the world. “As we once again lead in space exploration, we will continue to make the investments and presence in space to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” Pence said. “Space is vital to our national security. I saw it firsthand when I visited Schriever Air Force Base just a few weeks ago. And I can assure you, under President Donald Trump, American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth.” “We will beat back any disadvantage that our lack of attention has placed and America will once again lead in space,” Pence said. “We will return our nation to the Moon, we will go to Mars, and we will still go further to places that our children’s children can only imagine. We will maintain a constant presence in low-Earth orbit, and we’ll develop policies that will carry human space exploration across our solar system and ultimately into the vast expanses.” — Newsweek

Re-Opening the American Frontier: Recent Congressional Hearings on Space

A Senate committee has held a series of hearings on commercial space policy issues. The Senate, and in particular Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), are to be congratulated on the foresight to be considering “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space,” the title of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, chaired by Cruz. — Space Review


In Support of a Forming a US Space Corps Now

The House is scheduled to take up this week a defense authorization bill that includes language establishing a Space Corps within the US Air Force. Mike Snead discusses why it’s important to create a Space Corps now, leading to a full-fledged Space Force, to protect national interests in space. — Space Review

The X-37B spaceplane on the runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after landing May 7. Would efforts like the X-37B be better off under the control of a separate Space Corps in order to best meet national security space needs? (credit: US Air Force)


Inside Planetary Resources, the Startup that Wants to Mine Asteroids and Transform Space Travel Forever

For one, the concept of asteroid mining made sense – in theory. There are more than a million asteroids orbiting our Sun, ranging from a few centimetres to hundreds of kilometres in diameter. Most are lumps of inert rock and dirt. Some, however, are ancient proto-planetary cores stripped of their outer layers during the violent tumult of our Solar System’s youth. These are made of pure metal, usually nickel, iron and platinum. “Having an abundant source of platinum group metals from space can transform the way our world works,” Lewicki says. “Much as we transformed our relationship with metals when we figured out how to extract aluminium from the Earth’s crust.” — WIRED


This is a cut piece of the Campo De Cielo meteorite, a richer source of platinum than any mine on earth. The palm-sized moon lander was 3-D printed from the rock it sits on.


Skintight Space Suits for Mars

The space suit is torn between humanity’s two chief desires: exploration and protection. None more so than the one some of us will be wearing on Mars—which could determine astronauts’ survival while farther from Earth than humans have ever traveled before. But what people end up wearing on Mars is not just about being protected: What’s the point of going all the way to the red planet if we can’t act as humans do? We need to be able to bend down on one knee to collect a rock sample, or use our uniquely opposable thumbs to grip a tool and make a repair. — Newsweek

RISD student Kasia Matlak fits scientist Andrzej Stewart in a new suit being developed by RISD and NASA.


Interstellar Communication Using Microbial Data Storage

In the concluding installment of his paper, Robert Zubrin examines some of the implications of the transmission of genetic material among solar systems, by nature or by intent, and the role Mars exploration would play to study that question. — Space Review

Space Colonization, Faith, and Pascal’s Wager 

Sylvia Engdahl argues that faith in space colonization isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The history of human civilization clearly shows that most major advances have been made by people who had faith in what they envisioned before they were able to produce evidence; that was what made them keep working toward it. Having faith in the future, whether a personal future or that of one’s successors, has always been what inspires human action. — Space Review


How to Buy a Satellite and Launch it Into Space

For the first time since the beginning of the space age, privatisation of space has reached such an extent that now you can build (or buy) your own satellite and send it into space. Now if you’re wondering why you’d spend money to send a satellite into space, the answer, really, is because you can!

Because these are the glorious times we live in! Because it just puts you in the same league as NASA, SpaceX, ISRO and the likes. Okay maybe not… but because you can actually boast about having something in common with Elon Musk or, really, just use it at a bar or on your Tinder profile. We’re really running out of reasons why you shouldn’t send out a satellite into space. — GQ


Like the Concorde, But With Cheaper Fares

If one of your great aviation regrets is never flying faster than the speed of sound on a Concorde, I have good news for you. No, the sleek Anglo-French airplane isn’t readying for a comeback, but a Denver-based company is aiming to take paying passengers faster than they’ve ever gone before. And if Boom Supersonic keeps its promise, you’re in for a cheaper and more comfortable flight than Concorde could ever deliver.

As detailed last week at the 2017 Paris Air Show, the Boom Passenger Airliner would accommodate 45-55 passengers (half that of the Concorde) at a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. Flying that fast, it would cut the current flight time between London and New York in half to just 3 hours, 15 minutes and a reduce a typical 14-hour flight between Los Angeles and Sydney to 6 hours, 45 minutes. Though the Concorde flew slightly slower at Mach 2.02, its usual flight time between London and New York was only 15 minutes longer. — CNET

The Boom Passenger Airliner