by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
June 5, 2017

Is “Fast Space” Fast Enough?

A recent Air University report recommends that the Air Force partner with industry to develop new, low-cost reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on how effective such partnerships could be given the progress industry alone is making. — Space Review

A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage lands at Cape Canaveral after a May 1 launch, as the company makes progress to reuse those stages in its bid to lower launch costs. (credit: SpaceX)


Over 40 U.S. National Laboratory Sponsored Experiments on SpaceX CRS-11

Onboard the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will carry more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored experiments. This mission will showcase the breadth of research possible through the ISS National Laboratory, as experiments range from the life and physical sciences, Earth observation and remote sensing, and a variety of student-led investigations. — CASIS


Rocket Lab ‘Well Ahead’ After Initial Launch Test

Rocket Lab says that despite not reaching its intended orbit of between 300 and 500 km on its first test launch on May 25, the Electron vehicle performed nominally throughout most of the mission and successfully executed the majority of the test goals…Although the first test did not achieve orbit, Rocket Lab still expects to be able to clear the vehicle for the start of commercial operations by year’s end with two more test shots. “We are well ahead of where we need to be,” says Beck, who said the company’s ground operations, launch site and tracking station, based on Chatham Island, all performed to plan. — Aviation Week

Electron launch: Rocket Lab


How Much Each Company Will Charge to Take You to Space

The first issue of Airbnbmag, which hits newsstands today, will help you find a place to stay off-planet, too. Here are the companies competing to take us to the heavens, and how much we’ll have to pay (and how long we’ll have to wait) for the ride of a lifetime. Worldview Express: $75,000 – Float 100,000 feet to the edge of the atmosphere via a helium-balloon-powered space capsule. There’s no training required for the four- to six-hour World View Voyager trip. XCOR Future Astronaut Program: $150,000 – You’ll experience six minutes of weightlessness and get your astronaut wings after summiting 62 miles above the Earth— aka outer space—in a rocket-engine-powered XCOR Lynx Mark II two-seater. Virgin Galactic: $250,000 – After a 47,000-foot climb powered by the WhiteKnightTwo “mothership,” the SpaceShipTwo will detach and launch past the atmosphere to a height of 68 miles and then glide back to Earth. Space Adventures: $50 million – Eight space tourists, with great resources and bravery, have taken the Virginia-based company’s two-day flight to spend a week and a half on the International Space Station, 249 miles above the Earth. – Popular Mechanics


Who Will Build the World’s First Commercial Space Station?

Michael Suffredini has big business plans for low Earth orbit. After a decade as NASA’s program manager for the International Space Station (ISS) he retired from the agency in September 2015 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, convinced that a golden age of commercial spaceflight was dawning. Partnering with Kam Ghaffarian, CEO of SGT, the company that operates the ISS for NASA and also trains America’s astronauts, Suffredini co-founded Axiom Space in early 2016. As Axiom’s president, Suffredini’s goal is simple: to build and fly the world’s first private space station, using the ISS as a springboard. The company is in talks with NASA to install a new commercial module on the ISS’s sole available unused docking port as early as 2020 or 2021, and is presently planning the module’s construction and flight with aerospace manufacturers and launch providers. Axiom’s module would be the foundation for a full-blown private space station that would debut after the ISS’s retirement, which is tentatively slated for 2024. Detached before the ISS is deorbited to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, Axiom’s module would remain in orbit to serve as the private station’s first section. Axiom, however, is not alone in its bid for private piggybacking on the ISS. Another company, Bigelow Aerospace, is already occupying an ISS port with its bedroom-size Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a test facility for its own line of proprietary “inflatable” commercial space stations. – Scientific American

After retiring as NASA’s International Space Station program manager, Michael Suffredini (pictured above) co-founded Axiom Space, a company seeking to develop the world’s first private commercial space station. According to Suffredini, the first module of Axiom’s station could launch as early as 2020 or 2021 Credit: NASA


The Future of Zero-Gravity Living Is Here

If the new-wave space entrepreneurs manage to radically change the economics of space travel as they promise to do, kids in high school today could spend a slice of their careers working in space, not as astronauts but the way a young diplomat or banker today might take a posting in London or Hong Kong. By 2030, it’s possible that many dozens of people at a time will be working and living in space…A constellation of commercial outposts will be serviced by a fleet of reusable spaceships. A rocket could go to orbit every day, compared with just 85 launches worldwide in 2016. Those rockets could carry dozens of people, and head to laboratories, factories and tourist resorts a few hundred miles up in low-Earth orbit, or they could be stationed farther out, between the Earth and the Moon. Eventually, they will service outposts on the Moon itself (a three-day trip) and possibly Mars. – Smithsonian

A mid-air tourist flight.


500 New Space Startups by 2025? The Foundation Institute Wants to Make That Happen.

The Founder Institute plans to attract would-be space entrepreneurs to its worldwide network of incubators with generous financial incentives and mentorship from industry veterans. “This is an international call for anyone working in space or passionate about space to launch a company,” said Adeo Ressi, co-founder and chief executive of the Founder Institute, a business incubator based in Palo Alto, California. “Our goal, which admittedly might be a bit of a stretch goal, is to have 500 new space and space-exploration companies launched by 2025.” Since it was founded in 2009, Founder Institute has established operations in 180 cities and become one of the world’s largest incubators for technology startups, helping to establish nearly 3,000 companies. How many have been space-related? “Zero,” Ressi told SpaceNews. “There is definitely a pipeline problem in space entrepreneurship today. We want to fix it with these incentives.” – Space News


Posey, Bridenstine Sponsor STAR Act

Congressmen Bill Posey (R-FL) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) have introduced HR-2571, the Spaceflight Training and Astronaut Reform (STAR) Act during the 1st Session of the 115th Congress in Washington DC. The bill would authorize the operation of Space Support Vehicles (aircraft operating at FAA-licensed spaceports to simulate spaceflight conditions for pilot, crew and participant training, and for spaceflight hardware testing). The vehicles would operate under FAA experimental permits along with a FAA-issued Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year produced a Congressionally mandated study of Space Support Vehicles and whether they should be regulated as a separate category by the FAA. Examples include Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two, ZERO-G Corp.’s G-Force One, and Starfighters Aerospace’s fleet of F-104 supersonic jets. The bill would establish a new regulatory framework allowing these vehicles to perform astronaut training flights. – SPACErePORT


What Does Trump Think of America’s Space Launch Industry?

What would President Trump think about the current state of the U.S. space launch industrial base and the Department of Defense’s plan for a next generation of rocket motors and boosters? How might he react when told that the U.S. is dependent on Russian engines to operate one of its two primary satellite launchers, the Atlas V? On the one hand, the president’s emotional side might resonate to the idea of the U.S. and Russia cooperating on something even as relations between them have worsened. On the other hand, the businessman in him would ask the question why isn’t the Pentagon buying American and hiring Americans when it comes to a critical national security capability. – National Interest


Who’s in Charge of Outer Space?

In space, no one can hear you scheme. But here on Earth, plans to go where few have gone before are getting louder by the minute. The final frontier is starting to look a lot like the Wild West. As more companies announce ambitious plans to do business beyond Earth, serious questions are emerging about the legality of off-planet activity. Everything that happens in space falls under the purview of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. This international agreement, also known as the Outer Space Treaty, turned 50 years old in January. More than 100 countries, including the U.S., Russia and China, are parties to the treaty. – Wall Street Journal


Putin Sets Task of Accelerating work on Super-Heavy Rocket

Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a task of accelerating work on a super-heavy rocket, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told journalists on Monday after a government meeting on the space industry development. “We looked at a serious perspective – a perspective of developing a super-heavy-class rocket,” he said. “The president set a task for Roscosmos to accelerate work by means of developing the technologies presented by general designers.” According to Rogozin, the government has approved a plan of further use of the Baikonur spaceport, which will be discussed in Kazakhstan within days. “We plan to immediately start work on a medium-class rocket that would be competitive with the United States’ latest developments on the commercial services market,” he said, adding that this rocket will have a carrying capacity of 17 tonnes. Apart from that, in his words, it is planned to use Baikonur’s launching pad for Zenit rockets. He said this work will be part of the plan for the development of a super-heavy-class rocket and stressed the importance of large-scale cooperation with Kazakhstan. – Tass

© Artiom Geodakyan/TASS


ISRO Braces to Tame Monster Rocket that Could Launch Indians Into Space

An indigenous rocket as heavy as 200 full-grown Asian elephants could well be the one taking “Indians into space from Indian soil” as the country inches closer to joining the big boy’s space club. Standing tall on the rocket port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh is the country’s latest rocket called the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk— III), the heaviest rocket ever made by India that is capable of carrying the heaviest satellites till now. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) enters into a bold new world muscling its way to make its mark in the world’s heavy weight multi—billion dollar launch market. It is the maiden experimental launch of GSLV—Mk III earlier named Launch Vehicle Mark—3, but if all goes on well in a decade or after a slew of at least half a dozen successful launches, this rocket could be India’s vehicle of choice to launch “Indians into space, from Indian soil using Indian rockets.“ This heavy lift rocket is capable of placing up to 8 tons in a low Earth orbit, enough to carry India’s crew module. – The Hindu


Mars Rover 2020: Here’s What NASA’s New Red-Planet Car Will Look Like

NASA has unveiled some cool new concept art for its next Red Planet robot, the Mars 2020 rover, and it looks awesome. If the Mars 2020 rover concept art, which NASA released yesterday (May 23), looks familiar, don’t worry; you’re not seeing things. The rover’s basic design was influenced by NASA’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2012. –


This Technology Could Help Us Build Huge Structures in Space

The nascent off-Earth manufacturing industry is getting set to take its next big steps. Made In Space, the California-based company that owns and operates the commercial 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is developing new technology, called Archinaut, that’s designed to enable the assembly of large structures in the final frontier. The Archinaut concept integrates a 3-D-printer and flexible robotic arms into a single spacecraft capable of manufacturing parts and putting them together in space. In addition to building structures anew, Archinaut could help repair or upgrade existing satellites, Rush said. – NBC News


Sperm Stored in Space Makes Healthy Baby Mice on Earth

Lengthy stays on board the International Space Station don’t seem to hurt sperm fertility. In a new study, mice on Earth successfully gave birth to litters of pups after being fertilized with sperm that had been freeze-dried for nearly a year on the ISS. It’s potentially good news if, one day, animals and people will have to reproduce beyond Earth. But experts say there is still a lot more research that needs to be done to fully understand how the space environment affects reproduction. The point of this study, published today in the journal PNAS, was to see if the sperm experienced extensive DNA damage while in orbit around Earth. On the ISS, people receive between 10 to 100 times more radiation than they do on our planet, and the parts of the body most sensitive to that exposure are the reproductive organs. – The Verge


A Better Ion Drive for More Efficient Space Travel

Plasma propulsion – or an ion drive – is common in science fiction, where it can represent a clean, futuristic alternative to the mess and blast of crudely burning rocket fuel. Though it is the most efficient space propulsion method yet devised, it is still rare in reality, where ion drives are weighed down by the bulky engineering currently required to manage the ionized gas propellant.

However, researchers from the University of York in the UK and the École Polytechnique in Paris have taken a major step towards solving the problem. Existing systems use an electric current to ionize propellant gas and turn it into plasma. The charged ions and electrons are then forced through an exhaust beam, creating thrust. – Cosmos


The Neptune thruster with plasma expanding into a space simulation chamber.


Jupiter May Have Huge, ‘Fuzzy’ Core

Jupiter’s deep interior appears to be as strange and otherworldly as the gas giant’s storm-studded exterior, new observations by NASA’s Juno spacecraft suggest. Scientists have generally thought that Jupiter either harbors a relatively compact core 1 to 10 times as massive as Earth or no core at all, said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton.

But neither of these hypotheses fits with the gravity data collected so far by Juno, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016. “There seems to be a fuzzy core, and it may be much larger than anybody had anticipated,” Bolton said. –

Diagram of Jupiter’s possible interior structure. Observations by NASA’s Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft are already helping to flesh out this picture; Juno’s gravity data suggest, for example, that Jupiter may have a surprisingly large, partially dissolved core, mission team members have said.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI


This image of Jupiter’s south pole was created by a citizen scientist using data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset


Delta 4 Replacement Ready by 2023

The U.S. Air Force expects a replacement for the Delta 4 Heavy rocket will be ready by 2023, with one of several vehicles under development able to take its place, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told a House committee May 19. Raymond said that the Air Force expects to have uninterrupted access to heavy launch for national security missions. Several companies have heavy-lift vehicles in development, including SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s New Glenn, that could replace the Delta 4 Heavy built by United Launch Alliance.

A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites for the Air Force. Credit: ULA

The Air Force has purchased launches on seven more Delta 4 Heavy rockets, Raymond said, though one launch will be a NASA mission. The final launch is scheduled for 2023. “We’re comfortable that we will have a new capability online that will be able to support the requirements going forward,” Raymond said. The Air Force also has three more Delta 4 Medium rockets left, with the last launch scheduled for 2019.

ULA is currently searching for an engine for its Vulcan rocket, which is intended to succeed the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. The company has said the leading candidate is the BE-4 liquid methane engine under development by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. That engine will also be used on Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy launch vehicle. – Space News