by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
April 27, 2017


Let’s Shoot for the Moon – Yes, Again…This Time for Economic Development

The ink was not yet dry on the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced that he was going to work on a new NASA Authorization bill that will chart a long-term course for the space agency. Speaking to the Commercial Space Federation in Washington, D.C., last month, Cruz also said he will work on a new commercial space transportation bill that will build on the success of the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. Cruz, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, will be in the position to determine where and, almost as important, how and why America will go into space for the foreseeable future. He also will be able to correct some of the mistakes of the past that have hampered the American civil space program for the past 10 or so years. — Houston Chronicle

In this Feb. 13, 1971, photo, Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. conducts an experiment near a lunar crater. Science is a good reason to go back to the moon, but commercial development is a better one.


How the US is Gearing Up as Fear of a Space War Mounts

Tapping Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch some of its satellites is only the beginning in a larger top-to-bottom rethink of the way the U.S. Air Force approaches its operations in space. Air Force officials want to move faster when addressing emerging threats and future missions in orbit. — CNBC

Steven Puetzer | Getty Images


North Korea’s Missile Launch ‘May Have Been Thwarted by US Cyber Attack’

North Korea’s botched missile test on Sunday may have been disrupted by a secretive US program of cyber and electronic warfare designed to sabotage launches. The attempted test, and a weekend parade of Pyongyang’s military hardware, prompted international condemnation and an American promise of further action if the hermit state failed to end its provocations.

It came as the US’s national security adviser confirmed for the first time that Washington was working with China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang spent the weekend showing off its arsenal of ballistic missiles alongside thousands of goose-stepping troops in a military parade. But the regime suffered a humiliating setback when a test-launched medium-range missile exploded four to five seconds into its flight. Its destruction raised immediate suspicions that it had fallen victim to sabotage.

“It could have failed because the system is not competent enough to make it work, but there is a very strong belief that the US – through cyber methods – has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail,” Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, told the BBC. — Sydney Morning Herald


US Versus UN – Asteroid Mining

Asteroid mining is the extraction of valuable resources from asteroids in outer space. While the idea of asteroid mining is not particularly new, with the first written reference found in the 1898 book “Edison’s Conquest of Mars,” by Garrett Serviss, the idea did not gain real traction in the scientific community until recently. The interest in asteroid mining is not limited to scientists, however, since at least two US companies are currently researching the idea and its feasibility. Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are two notable American companies that are exploring asteroid mining. The interest is so high that the United States recently passed a law that contains an article that directly concerns asteroid mining and legalizes it. This law is the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA). — ERAU Avion

Image Credit: NASA


India Plans Moon Mining by 2030 to Meet Energy Needs

From launching 104 satellites at one go, enabling commercial roll out of lithium-ion batteries, to taking the lead in providing energy security, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is firing on all cylinders. Apart from planning for manned missions to Moon, Mars and even aircraft development, ISRO is now working on a plan to help India meet its energy needs from the Moon by 2030. The premier space agency, credited with launching 225 satellites till date, plans to mine Helium-3 rich lunar dust, generate energy and transport it back to Earth. This lunar dust mining plan comes in the backdrop of India’s plan to cut down import dependence in hydrocarbons by 10 percentage points by 2022. India’s energy demand growth is expected to outpace that of the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook. ISRO’s success on this front will also help reduce pollutants and India’s fuel imports. This assumes significance given India’s energy import bill of around $150 billion, which is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030. India imports around 80% of its oil and 18% of its natural gas requirements. India imported 202 million tonnes of oil in 2015-16. — Live Mint


India’s Next Rocket Will Be a Game Changer

The Indian Space Research Organization plans to undertake next month the first developmental flight of a “game changer” rocket capable of launching 4,000-kg satellites from the Sriharikota spaceport, its chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said. ISRO’s rockets can currently launch satellites weighing up to 2.2 tonnes; it depends on international launchers for heavier satellites.

“Next month, we have scheduled the launch of GSLV-Mk III-D1,” Mr Kumar said. The second developmental flight could come within a year. “By the time two developmental flights are over, we will be working towards more launches so that it (GSLV-Mk III) becomes operational,” he said. ISRO views operationalization of this rocket as a “game changer” for it, he said. — Deccan Chronicle

Indian Space Research Organisation (Photo: File/PTI)


China Launches to Space Station

China launched its first cargo resupply spacecraft Thursday on a mission to test docking and refueling technologies. A Long March 7 rocket lifted off from the Wenchang spaceport and placed the Tainzhou-1 spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft, the first in a new line of spacecraft designed to eventually support a Chinese space station, will dock with the uncrewed Tiangong-2 laboratory module in orbit to test automated docking technologies and refueling of the lab module by the cargo spacecraft. Tianzhou-1 also carries experiments it will perform for three months after completing initial docking and refueling tests. — GB Times


Africa Looks to Space to Power its Science, Tech, and Military Ambitions

Reaching for the sky. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

In January, Ethiopia became the latest African nation to look skyward and declare its ambitions in space. The country’s ministry of science and technology announced that it will launch a satellite into orbit in three to five years to better develop its weather-monitoring capabilities. This follows the 2015 launch of a privately-funded, multi-million dollar astronomical observatory in the Entoto hills overlooking Addis Ababa—the only one of its kind in the region.

That bigger picture is a realization among African countries of the value space technology holds for economic development, job creation—and military aspirations. Many African nations lack the human expertise or capital to fund these projects.

But for those that do, information gleaned from satellites has the potential to improve agriculture, guard tropical forests from deforestation, forestall climate change, improve disaster planning, and provide internet to rural communities. These investments can also offset the long-term costs of purchasing and maintaining satellites from foreign governments. — Quartz


Israel’s Space Program Innovates to Beat Geopolitical Struggles

Israel has long had to combat politics with innovation. The nation, which in recent years has become known as ‘Silicon Wadi’, has spun out some of the world’s best high-tech firms in fields like cybersecurity and agriculture, that have grown directly as a result of its many geopolitical binds.

Few industries have faced as stark a showdown as Israel’s space program. Conventional rocket launches, for example, are directed with the rotation of the earth to save fuel. Such launches would put Israel’s craft in the airspace of Iran, a longtime enemy, which has vowed to blow any Israeli objects out of the sky.

With regards to the satellites those rockets almost always carry, Israel has also become a world leader. Israel has made its satellites smaller, and smarter, than the majority of the competition. Nanosatellites have become so commonplace that this month a team of Israeli high-school kids built a 4lb device launched as part of the EU’s QB50 thermosphere research program. — Red Herring


Brits Could Launch Into Space from Wales in Just 3 Years

Tourists wanting to holiday in space could be set to blast off in just three years from a remote field in Wales. Mission chiefs see sleepy Snowdonia as the UK’s answer to Cape Canaveral in Florida – and have drawn up plans to make it the country’s first spaceport. They say the destination is leading Britain’s space race and could be ready to launch commercial trips to space in 2020. — Daily Mail


Terminal Velocity Launches Test Spacecraft on Atlas ISS Mission

The first RED-Data2 spacecraft of Atlanta-based Terminal Velocity Aerospace (TVA) have been successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) to begin an approximately 100-day mission in space. The three small spacecraft lifted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard the Cygnus cargo vessel S.S. John Glenn, and will dock with the ISS on April 22nd. The RED-Data2 research mission to study the performance of advanced heat shields is expected to begin after approximately 100 days in space, during the reentry and disposal phase of Cygnus’ mission. TVA’s RED-Data2 units are designed to record critical onboard engineering data from spacecraft reentering the atmosphere. The first three RED-Data2 flight units are configured to evaluate the performance of different heat shield materials and thermal protection systems that may be used on future U.S. space missions. The RED-Data2 units are carrying instrumentation and embedded thermocouples to record heat shield performance at high temperatures following their separation from the Cygnus cargo vessel. — Terminal Velocity


How 3D Printing is Changing the Future of the Space Industry

In aerospace, parts are complicated, and manufacturing them can be very expensive and time consuming. When rocket engine parts can take up to a year to make, it is very difficult to start a new rocket company and for aerospace companies to be cost effective, innovative and nimble. These barriers to entry are why you don’t see many start-up space companies and why the industry has relied on the same basic engine designs as those built during the Apollo program.

3D printing is changing all that. At Virgin Orbit, we are building a rocket system that will send small satellites into orbit. We aim to open access to space for small satellites to improve life on earth through services such as internet connectivity to the under connected and data for planning, production, disaster mitigation etc. And we are going to use 3D printed rocket engine parts to launch them to space. —


New Commercial Crew Vehicles Could Serve As Space Station ‘Lifeboats’

New commercial crew spacecraft for the International Space Station will be able to do more than just carry astronauts to the orbiting lab: They will also serve as temporary shelters, or even fly crew home, if there is an emergency in space, according to NASA. Currently, in dangerous situations, such as when a piece of orbital debris threatens the space station, crewmembers take shelter in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

And if a medical emergency were to arise that could not be handled in orbit, the crew would head back to Earth in the Soyuz craft. The SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft are both set to start crewed flights as early as next year, and NASA is working to ensure that these new spacecraft will serve most of the Russian spacecraft’s protective functions, agency officials said

“The scenarios that would call for the spacecraft to operate as space-borne lifeboats have not occurred on the International Space Station before, but mission planners have long made sure they are prepared,” NASA officials added.  “An electrical issue or ammonia leak on the space station could call for astronauts to shelter inside a Commercial Crew Program spacecraft long enough to correct the problem.” —


NASA JPL Uses Space Tech to Battle Breast Cancer

For decades, scientists here at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have sent spacecraft deep into the solar system. Now, they’re exploring another mysterious terrain: the human breast. “It’s very simple. If JPL has a bunch of technology — to get to the moon, to look for life on Europa — and that has any benefit for medicine and health, then we have a responsibility to share that benefit with the public,” said Leon Alkalai.

Dr. Susan Love, a well-known surgeon and advocate for breast cancer research, was trying to understand the microbiome of breast ducts — the channels under the skin that carry milk to the nipple. (The breast was one of the organs left out of the federally funded Human Microbiome Project.) Since almost all breast cancers originate in the ducts, Love has been keen to map them and to determine if they harbor any infectious agents that may play a role in breast cancer.

In a fortuitous coincidence, one of the scientists immersed in planetary protection at JPL, Parag Vaishampayan, had spent his postdoctoral training in Berkeley studying how a mother shares her microbiome with her infant, possibly through breastfeeding. While many biologists have long assumed the breast and ducts to be sterile, Vaishampayan knew otherwise. — Stat


An Alternative Architecture for Deep Space Exploration Using SLS and Orion

NASA has started to disclose more details about how the Space Launch System and Orion can be used in the 2020s to develop a “gateway” in cislunar space to support operations of a transport vehicle for missions eventually to Mars. Ari Allyn-Feuer explains some issues with that architecture and proposes an alternative, and potentially more effective, approach. — Space Review

An illustration of NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, a human-tended outpost in cislunar space that serves as a step towards human missions to Mars in the agency’s current plans. (credit: NASA)


SpaceX’s Next Launch to Mark Start of New Era

An upcoming launch of a government spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office will mark the first time the U.S. Department of Defense has used SpaceX for a mission. For at least the last six years, that arena has been the exclusive domain of competitor United Launch Alliance, which also launches regularly from Florida.

The satellite is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than April 30. The NRO revealed in May that it had awarded SpaceX the upcoming launch. The mission will reflect a new area of competition for SpaceX and ULA, two of the main launch providers from the Space Coast. That could mean more business for Florida.

“This satellite was going to launch from Florida anyway,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances. “But it reflects more competition. That will drive down prices and could result in it being cheaper to get into space, meaning more launches. Competition is a good thing.” — Orlando Sentinel


Factories of the Future Could Float in Space

This past summer, a plane went into a stomach-churning ascent and plunge 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. The goal was not thrill-seeking, but something more genuinely daring: for about 25 seconds at a time, the parabolic flight lifted the occupants into a state of simulated weightlessness, allowing a high-tech printer to spit out cardiac stem cells into a two-chambered, simplified structure of an infant’s heart.

Impressive though this may be, it’s just a brick in the road toward an even bolder goal. Executives at nScrypt (the makers of the stem cell printer), Bioficial Organs (the ink provider), and Techshot (who thought up the heart experiment) are planning to print beating heart patches aboard the International Space Station by 2019. The printer will fly up on a commercial rocket.

With the help of the simulated microgravity environment on a “vomit comet,” companies have successfully 3D printed small heart structures.

Private spaceflight companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX have been criticized as vanity projects for plutocrats surfing on taxpayer investments. But the emergence of these companies has led to nose-diving prices for sending goods and equipment into space. — Popular Science


Senate Hearing to Focus on Expanding US Free Enterprise in Space

The Senate will hold a hearing next week on “expanding American free enterprise in space.” The hearing next Wednesday, by the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, will include as witnesses the heads of Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Made In Space and Virgin Galactic. The hearing is intended in part to examine “potential regulatory barriers” that could be addressed in future bills. — Senate Commerce Committee