by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Report
January 16, 2018 


John Young, Dies at 87

As John Young readied for launch of Gemini 3 in March of 1965, he displayed a calm that would become one of his best-known characteristics. Biometric data showed his heartbeat was normal, according to Bob Sieck, whose job was to monitor astronauts’ heart rates, among other things. NASA officials announced Saturday that Young, a legendary astronaut who grew up in Orlando, walked on the Moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, died Friday following complications of pneumonia at his home in Houston. He was 87. — Orlando Sentinel


2018 Could See Return of US Human Spaceflight

2018 could provide for some exciting, history-making moments on Florida’s Space Coast. NASA expected to send astronauts on spacecraft in 2018. NASA’s website says the first crewed flight on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for Nov. 2018. SpaceX’s first manned launch on Crew Dragon is set for Dec. 2018. The return of human spaceflight would be welcomed news for local businesses after the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. — News 13

Artist’s concept of a CST-100 Starliner capsule atop an Atlas 5 rocket. Credit: NASA


NASA’s New Power Source Could Provide Energy for Manned Missions to Mars

NASA is getting ready to make a major announcement about a new energy source which could put man on Mars. The US space agency has been testing an affordable fission nuclear power system which could run processing equipment to transform resources on the Red Planet into oxygen, water and fuel. The Kilopower project is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) development program and experts will gather at the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas on Thursday to make an announcement on progress.

Patrick McClure, project lead on the Kilopower work at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Los Alamos National Laboratory, where testing took place, said: “A space nuclear reactor could provide a high energy density power source with the ability to operate independent of solar energy or orientation, and the ability to operate in extremely harsh environments, such as the Martian surface.” — Herald Scotland

NASA depicting the Curiosity rover, of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)

Nasa’s Kilopower project could provide energy to make possible manned missions to Mars


Three Minutes of Microgravity is Worth the Cost of a Small House

Forget seven minutes in heaven. For some scientists, the real indulgence is three minutes of microgravity. Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, is expected to fly its New Shepard suborbital rocket and space capsule multiple times this year in a final round of developmental testing. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is also testing a suborbital rocket plane, VSS Unity, that it hopes to bring into operations in the years ahead. These vehicles are designed to carry passengers and cargo up to the edge of space, approximately 100 kilometers up, where they will spend three to four minutes in microgravity. The commonly-used term “zero-g” is a misnomer: gravity is always present in space, but these vehicles experience apparent weightlessness briefly before they fall back to earth. (Faster vehicles can experience apparent weightlessness continuously, when they go into orbit around the planet.) The suborbital rockets are marketed as luxury thrill rides for would-be space tourists, but both companies have found eager customers in researchers who want to perform experiments in microgravity and the upper atmosphere. In December 2017, Blue Origin flew its seventh test mission of the New Shepard with a dozen research payloads onboard; the company expects to fly several more times this year. — Quartz

Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. (Blue Origin)


Vast Sheets of Ice Have Been Found on Mars

Scientists just uncovered eight, massive ice sheets on Mars hidden below the surface. A co-author of a paper published Jan. 11 in the journal Science noted that future explorers can probably use the ice as a source of water, given the ice is only one to two meters (3.3 to 6.5 feet) below the surface. “Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need,” study co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory said in a statement. NASA has said that future Mars-exploring astronauts could use ice deposits close to the surface. In 2016, for example, a separate science team uncovered a deposit of water in Mars’ Utopia Planitia that has the equivalent volume of Lake Superior. Early observations indicate some of these sheets are at least 100 meters (330 feet) thick. Like the Utopia find, these eight zones are located in the mid-latitudes of Mars. They likely were deposited there as snowfall. And the deposits are just a few examples of subsurface ice on the Red Planet; the Science paper notes that one-third of the Martian surface has subsurface ice of some sort. — Seeker

A cross-section of underground ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scene is about 550 yards wide. The scarp drops about 140 yards from the level ground in the upper third of the image. | NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS


The Coming Age of Commercial Spaceflight: Some Considerations

As commercial suborbital vehicles capable of carrying people prepare to enter service, those vehicles offers new opportunities for “ordinary” people to fly into space. John Putman cautions that such opportunities will require people to prepare not just physically but also psychologically. — Space Review

Suborbital vehicles will give those onboard the opportunity to experience weightlessness and high accelerations. Will people be prepared for them? (credit: Blue Origin)


Dreams of Orbital Factories May Get Real Via 3-D Metal Printing

Sending metal parts up to orbiting satellites and rockets is a slow and expensive process. So why not put the factory in orbit too? It’s not as outlandish as it might sound. Made In Space plans to use 3-D printing to manufacture metal parts in space. The technology is already used here on Earth by companies such as General Electric and Siemens to build components for everything from jet engines to rockets. Cosmic applications are expected to gain traction as space travel expands. — Bloomberg


How Lockheed Martin’s Silicon Valley Arm Get Space Tech Into The Mainstream

Imagine this: Light years away, the molten ball of energy we call the sun is having an internal battle, different magnetic forces colliding with each other. This energy gets released in a solar storm, which spits out magnetic and electrical charges to earth. The high level of magnetic energy is strong enough to affect some (or all) of the thousands of satellites orbiting the earth, the knock-on effect being chaos on the ground.

As a result, billions of dollars disappear into the ether, planes get grounded, and people get lost in the wilderness. “Most people don’t realize how fully dependent they are to space,” says Scott Fouse, Vice President of Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto. In this example, it’s his job to figure out a fix for this and get everything online again.

At Lockheed Martin, there’s been a significant push to explore technologies that have both a national security and commercial element. Scott Fouse’s Palo Alto lab is at the forefront of this, piggybacking off Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial bent to innovate, iterate and expand their footprint. — Forbes

The launch of the Soyuz MS-07 with members of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 54/55. (Credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)


How the Future of Space Travel is Being Redefined

There is a widening divide between “old space” – the domain of government agencies – and “new space”, which includes glamorous projects like rockets to Mars. Rates of technological advancement and decreasing costs of production have enabled private companies to move from manufacturing low-orbit satellites to rather improbably advertising commercial flight to Mars. These kinds of changes are fairly unprecedented, but the last few years have demonstrated the ability of commercial entities to come up with completely novel ways to explore space.

David Baker, from the British Interplanetary Society, the oldest space advocacy organization globally, said: “Space is about applications – such as communications, weather forecasting, TV, data relay, navigation, monitoring Earth’s resources –  which are being increasingly handled by private companies, and exploration, which is the job of the big space agencies. — New Statesman


Want Faster Data? Start Mining Asteroids

Mining asteroids might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but there are companies and a few governments already working hard to make it real. This should not be surprising: compared with the breathtaking bridges that engineers build on Earth, asteroid-mining is a simple, small-scale operation requiring only modest technological advances. If anything is lacking, it is the imagination to see how plausible it has become. I am afraid only that it might not arrive soon enough to address the urgent resource challenges that the world is facing right now. As an academic researcher, I work with several asteroid-mining companies to address that urgency. I depend on their funding, so there are trade secrets I cannot share. However, I can reveal the core reasons why I am optimistic about the business case for asteroid-mining, and what it will mean for our future. — Aeon


Blue Origin Lights Up BE-4 Engine in Tests 

Blue Origin is continuing to make progress in the development of its BE-4 engine. The company released video Monday of one such test, lasting about 10 seconds. The engine is exceeding the company’s targets for specific impulse, while also demonstrating its “deep throttling” ability. Blue Origin is developing the BE-4 for its New Glenn rocket, and is under consideration by ULA for its Vulcan rocket. — Nasa Space Flight


10 Space Startups Investors Loved in 2017

What interests me most about covering the NewSpace industry is seeing which companies really have what it takes to make the cut. Beyond the snappy elevator pitches, entrepreneurs must prove that their businesses are not only unique and innovative, but substantial enough to generate revenue once the rubber hits the road — something each of the following companies worked to accomplish in 2017. While this isn’t a full list of every funding round that took place last year, the Via Satellite team thinks these 10 companies are ones that hold serious potential as the NewSpace arena continues to mature. — Satellite Today


OneWeb is a Step Closer to Bringing its Global, Satellite-Based Internet Services to Earth 

OneWeb, the company aiming to bring the internet to the 31% of the world’s population who don’t have access to 3G connectivity, is moving one step closer to bringing its satellite services back to Earth. The billionaire-backed corporation, which has raised over $1.7 billion from Virgin Group, SoftBank, Coca Cola, Bharti Group, Qualcomm and Airbus; just announced an exclusive $190 million contract with Echostar subsidiary Hughes Network Systems to provide some of the terrestrial infrastructure necessary to distribute its internet services.

Through the deal, Hughes Network Systems will manufacture a ground network system to support OneWeb’s low earth orbit satellites. The contract is an extension of an earlier agreement the companies signed in June 2015 and leaves OneWeb on track to deliver its first connectivity services by 2019. Through the deal, Hughes Network Systems will produce gateway sites with several access points for satellite tracking to smooth the handoff of high-speed user traffic between satellites. In all, the deal brings the total contract between OneWeb and the Echostar subsidiary to roughly $300 million. — Tech Crunch