by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
March 10, 2017


Blue Origin’s Big ‘New Glenn’ Rocket Unveiled With New Animation

The New Glenn rocket is named after NASA astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. Blue Origin has unveiled plans for two-stage and three-stage versions of New Glenn, both with a reusable first stage and an identical second stage. Each of the rockets will be powered by seven of the company’s BE-4 engines (the optional third stage will use a BE-3 engine), burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen. The company also has a contract to sell the BE-4 engines to United Launch Alliance to power its new Vulcan rocket. Bezos revealed new details about New Glenn at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington, D.C., this week, according to an article by SpaceNews reporter Jeff Foust. Bezos said New Glenn would be capable of launching up to 13 metric tons (about 28,000 lbs.) into geostationary transfer orbit and 45 metric tons (about 99,000 lbs.) into low-Earth orbit. That would make the rocket “one of the largest vehicles in service,” according to Foust’s article. —


Bezos’s Plan to Set Up Amazon-Like Delivery for ‘Future Human Settlement’ of the Moon

Bezos and Blue Origin have been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about the company’s interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges NASA to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the Moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the Moon. Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the Moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home. The prospect of a lunar mission has several companies lining up to provide not just transportation, but also habitats, science experiments and even the ability to mine the Moon for resources. ULA has also been working on plans to create a transportation network to the area around the Moon, known as cislunar space. Bigelow Aerospace, a maker of inflatable space habitats, said his company could create a depot that could orbit the Moon by 2020, housing supplies and medial facilities, as well as humans. — Washington Post

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage.


SpaceX Plans to Send Privately Crewed Dragon Around the Moon Before 2019

SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a Moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results. Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission. In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding.  — SpaceX


Bezos Says NASA Should Return to the Moon, and He’s Ready to Help

Until the last year, Jeff Bezos has kept the plans for his rocket company, Blue Origin, largely under wraps. Since then, he has talked about doing suborbital space tourism flights, building an orbital rocket, and now he has begun to open up about ambitions beyond low Earth orbit. And unlike SpaceX and its Mars ambitions, Blue Origin has its focus on the Moon. He proposal outlines a plan to build a lunar spacecraft and lander to deliver supplies to the South Pole of the Moon, where scientists believe there are abundant ice resources and almost continuous solar energy. Bezos said this enterprise could only be done in concert with NASA and that his company would help establish cost-effective tools to carry out the development of a lunar settlement. The spacecraft could launch on an Atlas 551 rocket built by ULA. Alternatively, it could go up on NASA’s under-development Space Launch System, which could deliver considerably more payload, more quickly. Significantly, Bezos said he was also ready to put his own skin into the game. “I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen,” the white paper states. — Ars Technica


NASA Wants to Collect Solar Power Directly From Space

Space-based solar power has had a slow start, but the technology may finally take off in the next few decades. Since its inception, solar power has had a severe limitation as a renewable energy: it only works when the Sun is shining. This has restricted the areas where solar panels can be effectively used to sunnier, drier regions, such as California and Arizona. And even on cloudless days, the atmosphere itself absorbs some of the energy emitted by the Sun, cutting back the efficiency of solar energy. And let’s not forget that, even in the best of circumstances, Earth-bound solar panels are pointed away from the Sun half of the time, during the night. So, for over half a decade, researchers from NASA and the Pentagon have dreamed of ways for solar panels to rise above these difficulties, and have come up with some plausible solutions. There have been several proposals for making extra-atmospheric solar panels a reality, many of which call for a spacecraft equipped with an array of mirrors to reflect sunlight into a power-conversion device. The collected energy could be beamed to Earth via a laser or microwave emitter. There are even ways to modulate the waves’ energy to protect any birds or planes that might wander into the beam’s path. — Futurism


Here’s Everything You’ll Need to Know If You Want to Help Colonize Mars

Lots of organizations including Mars One—a Dutch nonprofit, SpaceX, NASA, The European Space Agency (ESA), and Russia’s Roscosmos, have plans. Let’s look at two of the most prominent, as NASA’s plan is extra careful, inching humans toward low-Mars orbit by the 2030s, and a surface landing in the 2040s. A private enterprise will likely beat them and other government organizations to it. Mars One is being financed initially through a successful crowdfunding campaign and colonist application fees. It was started by Dutch entrepreneurs in 2012. They plan to have a permanent base on the Red Planet by 2023. — Big Think


Virgin Galactic is One Step Closer to Carrying Tourists to Space

On Friday, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully completed its third glide flight test over California’s Mojave Desert. The company’s SpaceShipTwo craft, called VSS Unity, was carried up to about 50,000 feet by VMS Eve, a WhiteKnightTwo craft, for a mid-air launch. The WhiteKnightTwo, a dual-fuselage, four-engine aircraft, was built specifically to launch Virgin’s smaller crafts. After decoupling from Eve, VSS Unity glided down to a safe landing, according to Virgin Galactic. Friday’s test represents another step toward Virgin founder Richard Branson’s ultimate goal of making space tourism a reality. Fittingly, VSS Unity is designed with precisely that goal in mind. The craft has space for eight people, including two pilots and six passengers. It has windows along the sides and top of the fuselage so passengers can look out in multiple directions during their suborbital flight. It’s as similar to a glass-bottom boat as a spaceship can be. — Inverse


Hybrids in Space – Crafting a Safer, Cheaper Rocket Fuel

On his way to a top altitude of more than 62 miles, test pilot Mike Melvill heard what he described as a “tremendous bang” from the engine of SpaceShipOne. Thankfully, things ended well on that June day in 2004, with Melvill landing safely in the Mojave Desert, and entering the history books as the first private sector astronaut to reach outer space. Although the source of that distressingly loud noise was not determined, there was speculation within the aerospace industry that rocket fuel had become jammed in the engine. “For a second or two, the astronaut didn’t know whether the hunk of fuel was going to go out the nozzle or whether the combustion chamber was going to explode,” says Sid Gutierrez, a former test pilot and astronaut. “It wound up going out the nozzle, so life was good for him that day.” All of that is to say: Rocket fuel can be dangerous. Gutierrez’s Florida-based startup, Rocket Crafters, is hoping to reduce those risks with its newly patented rocket fuel, made in part with 3-D printers. Unlike most rocket fuel, which is either solid or liquid (NASA’s current standard), Rocket Crafters’s is a hybrid: part solid, part liquid. — Newsweek

A structural malfunction in rockets using either liquid or solid fuel can lead to disastrous explosions, such as the infamous Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986. The ingredients for Rocket Crafters’ part solid, part liquid fuel are kept in separate containers, lowering the odds of accidental mixture and detonation.


Human Moon Missions Could be on the Horizon Under Trump

Is there renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector to revive travel to the moon? There are signs, like a single reference in President Trump’s address to Congress, that seem to suggest that a space journey may be sooner than we might think. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we could learn and why it’s back on the table. — PBS



Meet the Man Working with NASA to 3D Print a Colony on Mars

Forget the Moon. The next giant leap for mankind could be building a habitat on Mars. The fourth planet from the sun may be cold — Martian winters can reach -190 degrees Fahrenheit (-87 degrees Celsius) — full of deserts and lacking in oxygen, but for Behrokh Khoshnevis it’s humans’ next destination. The pioneering professor in engineering at the University of Southern California has been working with NASA on the possibility of building a colony on Mars since 2011. In 2004, Khoshnevis unveiled a revolutionary 3D-printing method dubbed Contour Crafting (CC), which made it possible to print a 2,500-square-foot building in less than a day on Earth. Then, in 2016 he took first prize in the NASA In-Situ Materials Challenge, for Selective Separation Sintering — a 3D-printing process that makes use of powder-like materials found on Mars and works in zero-gravity conditions. — CNN


NASA Considers Magnetic Shield to Help Mars Grow Its Atmosphere

An enticing idea came from Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director. In a talk titled, “A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration,” Green discussed launching a “magnetic shield” to a stable orbit between Mars and the sun, called Mars L1, to shield the planet from high-energy solar particles. The shield structure would consist of a large dipole, or a pair of equal and oppositely charged magnets to generate an artificial magnetic field. Such a shield could leave Mars in the relatively protected magnetotail of the magnetic field created by the object, allowing the Red Planet to slowly restore its atmosphere. About 90 percent of Mars’s atmosphere was stripped away by solar particles in the lifetime of the planet, which was likely temperate and had surface water about 3.5 billion years ago. According to simulation models, such a shield could help Mars achieve half the atmospheric pressure of Earth in a matter of years. With protection from solar winds, frozen CO2 at Mars’s polar ice caps would start to sublimate, or turn directly into gas from a solid. The greenhouse effect would start to fill Mars’s thin atmosphere and heat the planet, mainly at the equator, at which point the vast stores of ice under the poles would melt and flood the world with liquid water. — Popular Mechanics


A Radically Easier Path to Space Settlement

The promise of space settlements has remained just that because of the extremely high costs of establishing these outposts beyond Earth orbit. Al Globus offers an alternative approach that he believes could be much more feasible by sticking closer to home. — Space Review


Humans May Quickly Evolve on Mars, Biologist Claims

An evolutionary biologist has suggested that human colonists on Mars could go through rapid evolution, eventually becoming an entirely new human species. Scott Solomon, an evolutionary biologist with Rice University and the author of “Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution,” wrote on Nautilus that humans on Mars would be subjected to the “founder effect,” a phenomenon in which species entering new environments adapt very rapidly. The founder effect occurs as a result of a new population being very small, meaning that a genetic bottleneck forms and diversity is radically lowered. The phenomena is frequently observed on islands and other remote areas. The founder effect can lead to the creation of new species, and Solomon argues that Mars’ atmosphere will expedite that process. “Rapid” is relative, as the process of evolution takes millions of years to create new species. Solomon claims that “just a few hundred generations, perhaps as little as 6,000 years” of human life on Mars would cause a new species to develop. — Mars Daily


One Step Closer to Jupiter, NASA’s Europa Mission Enters Design Phase

A NASA mission that will send a probe to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa recently passed a critical stage on its long journey to the Jovian system. Europa is one of a handful of locations in the solar system that scientists think could host an environment fit for life. Beneath an ice layer about 10 to 15 miles thick, the moon is thought to harbor a liquid water ocean, possibly warmed by geologic processes originating in the planet’s core. With heat, water and nutrients, subsurface Europa could resemble the deep-sea ocean vents on Earth that support vast ecosystems. The $2 billion Europa mission will orbit Jupiter’s icy moon, using its instruments to observe the surface up close and probe for information about the subsurface environment. Its primary objective is to determine if Europa hosts an environment that can support life. —

NASA’s mission to orbit the icy Jovian moon Europa recently entered a new phase of mission planning that is focused on creating preliminary designs for the instruments and spacecraft.
Credit: NASA
Click image to enlarge


NASA Wind Tunnel Tests Lockheed Martin’s X-Plane Design for a Quieter Supersonic Jet

Supersonic passenger airplanes are another step closer to reality as NASA and Lockheed Martin begin the first high-speed wind tunnel tests for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The agency is testing a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s X-plane design in Glenn’s 8’ x 6’ Supersonic Wind Tunnel. During the next eight weeks, engineers will expose the model to wind speeds ranging from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (approximately 150 to 950 mph) to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as aspects of the propulsion system. NASA expects the QueSST X-plane to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the not too distant future. — NASA