by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
March 22, 2017


Blue Origin Plans Crewed (Suborbital) Launch Within a Year

The spaceflight company Blue Origin, which was founded by CEO Jeff Bezos, plans to launch its first crewed flight to suborbital space soon. “We’re trying to get to our first human flights within the next year. That’s a laser focus for the team right now,” said Erika Wagner, Blue Origin’s business development manager. The launches would occur at the company’s private Texas spaceport using the New Shepard reusable rocket. —

Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle launches on a suborbital test flight on Jan. 22, 2016. Credit: Blue Origin


UCF Prof: Building a Mars Colony? You’ll Need a Team of Astronaut ‘MacGyvers’

Colonizing Mars will be no easy feat. It will require billions of dollars and years of specialized research led by some of the smartest scientists and engineers in the world. It will demand advanced technologies, yet to be invented — new kinds of spacecraft, for example, advanced rocket propulsion, deep-space life-support systems and high-speed communications. But when humans arrive at the Red Planet, their best chances for success and survival will depend on simple materials, low-tech solutions and a broad set of problem-solving skills that will allow people to adapt. “Here on the Earth, when we go to a remote location to do an engineering development project, we’ve learned that taking high-tech equipment isn’t really the right approach. What you want is appropriate technology,” said planetary scientist Phil Metzger, who is also a co-founder of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Swamp Works. “You want technology to be maintained using the local resources and local labor.” —


SpaceX Launches EchoStar

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into a starry moonlit sky Thursday from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, making a speedy trek across the Atlantic Ocean to place a commercial television broadcast satellite into orbit for EchoStar. The nearly 23-story rocket, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines, ignited and blasted off from historic launch pad 39A at 2 a.m. EDT. Liftoff was pushed back 25 minutes Thursday out of concern for unfavorable high-altitude winds. High winds also scrubbed a launch attempt Tuesday. — Space Flight Now


The Untapped Value of In-Space Manufacturing

Anyone who doubts the value of in-space manufacturing need only imagine the day-to-day inconveniences of life in low-Earth orbit. The International Space Station’s resupply missions carry very tightly-controlled payloads, which may be scheduled twelve months in advance of launch.2 Given this rigid framework, the everyday unexpected challenges of life in space can’t be addressed by terrestrial segments. This is where in-space manufacturing comes into play. A readily-available source of supplies—from wrenches and other tools, to medical supplies3—would prove invaluable when the next resupply mission is three weeks from arrival.

In-space manufacturing is projected to free up space on resupply missions. Consider the fact that SpaceX’s ISS resupply missions can cost NASA upwards of $20,000 per pound of cargo.4 The ability to simply print objects in-orbit could significantly reduce the amount of cargo that’s launched to the ISS. It also frees up space for the little necessities humans need to thrive—like musical instruments or other small luxuries.

In-space manufacturing also has major benefits in the event of emergencies. If there were to be a components breakdown, or system malfunction, repairs must be carried out with equipment aboard the space station. But what if tools are misplaced, or broken? Given the limited storage space aboard the ISS,5 there’s no room for multiple sets of backup equipment. With a capable 3D printer, ISS crew members can create whatever component they may need in both seen and unforeseen situations. This potentially life-saving technology is worth major money to NASA, who has offered significant financial incentives for small businesses to develop innovative solutions to the problem. — Space Angels Network

Image credit: Made in Space


Lockheed Martin Says Mars Base Camp Possible by 2028

While NASA evaluates how soon it can send astronauts on a loop around the Moon in an Orion capsule, Lockheed Martin is promoting a concept that would send crews on a three-year trip around Mars in just over a decade. “This is all doable in the next 10 to 12 years,” said Tony Antonelli, a former NASA space shuttle pilot who heads advanced civil space programs for Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for the Orion spacecraft being assembled at Kennedy Space Center. — Florida Today


To the Moon! The Musk-Bezos Billionaire Space Rivalry Just Reached New Heights

Musk congratulated Bezos on the accomplishment but also stressed that landing a rocket during orbital liftoffs — as SpaceX was trying to do with the first stage of its Falcon 9 launcher — is much tougher to do. In response, Bezos said the Falcon 9 first stage doesn’t actually make it to orbit before coming down to Earth, then pointed out that the SpaceX rocket performs a deceleration burn to make its “re-entry environment more benign.

“So if anything, the Blue Origin booster that we just flew and demonstrated may be the one that flies through the harsher re-entry environment,” Bezos said in a news conference in November 2015. “And then finally, the hardest part of vertical landing and reusability is probably the final landing segment, which is the same for both boosters.”

SpaceX nailed its first Falcon 9 landing a month later, bringing a first stage back safely during the Dec. 21, 2015, launch of 11 satellites for the communications company Orbcomm. Bezos congratulated Musk’s company with a tweet that some people interpreted as a being bit snarky: “Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon’s suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!” —


Integrated Space Plan Shows the Paths Forward

Integrated Space Analytics is expanding the venerable Integrated Space Plan (ISP), a detailed roadmap/forecast showing the technology and programmatic prerequisites for various space exploration scenarios. The group is sponsoring a new kickstarter initiative to allow you to back the project’s 100 year forecast update. — ISA

Bigelow Aerospace Space Station Alpha 4 B330s


Supersonic Planes Are Mounting a Comeback—Without That Earth-Shaking Boom

Two things explain why you aren’t jetting across the country at the speed of sound: cost, and noise. Forty-eight years after the Concorde made its first flight, supersonic commercial aircraft remain enormously complex and prohibitively expensive. They also generate an inevitable sonic boom so disruptive that Congress banned the Concorde from overland routes.

But advancements in materials and aerodynamics, coupled with an industry embrace of business jets, could see commercial aircraft achieving Mach 1 or better within a decade. Big names like Lockheed Martin and startups backed by Airbus and Virgin Galactic see a day when you’ll fly from New York to Los Angeles in about two hours. One study found a potential market for 450 supersonic aircraft, and notes that the technology to build them is within reach, assuming the FAA eases restriction on overland flights, which account for 75% of commercial air travel. — WIRED

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Private Space Stations Could Orbit the Moon by 2020, Robert Bigelow Says

Giant space-station refueling depots could be orbiting the Moon by 2020, but only if the Trump administration makes the funding and national drive needed for it to happen a priority, according to aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. Bigelow, whose company, Bigelow Aerospace, has launched three private space-habitat prototypes into orbit — including the first inflatable space-station module, said that a commercial station in lunar orbit would be a vital destination for Moon exploration. —


NASA Plans to Make a Telescope Out of the Sun

As NASA astronomers peer further and further into space, they require ever larger and more powerful telescopes to do so. That’s why one team of researchers from the Jet Propulsion Lab have proposed using the biggest object in our solar system, the Sun, as a cosmic magnifying glass.

Massive objects will bend the space around it and cause the path of objects traveling within that space — including light itself — to curve as well. And, under the right conditions, that light can bend just enough that it magnifies the view of space behind it. This is known as gravitational lensing and astronomers have leveraged its effect for years to help boost the visual prowess of our telescopes. We discovered the exoplanet Kepler 452b in this manner and that thing is hundreds of millions of light years away.

Despite the technical difficulties, the payoff for actually implementing this system would be huge. Currently, we have difficulty separating the exoplanet and its host star in our imaging. Like the TRAPPIST-1 shots that came out earlier this week, generally what you get is an amorphous blob of pixels. But with the Sun as a gravitational lens, telescopes equipped with starshade technology will be able to see the exoplanet itself. — Engadget

Pr3t3nd3r via Getty Images


NASA Moving Ahead with Plans for Cislunar Human Outpost

Despite uncertainty about potential policy changes, NASA is pressing ahead with plans for a cislunar “gateway” outpost for future human missions, with decisions about how to develop it expected in the coming months. Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said he was studying concepts for launching the first elements of the proposed outpost as secondary payloads on early flights of the Space Launch System. “There’s starting to be a sense of urgency” about selecting what to fly on those initial SLS missions to support development of the cislunar outpost, he said. “We’ve really got to start making some decisions about what that cargo is.” The outpost will be a collection of habitation, cargo and other modules that could support crews working in lunar orbit or elsewhere in cislunar space for extended periods. Orion spacecraft would ferry astronauts to and from the outpost, where they could test technologies and perform other work needed to support NASA’s long-term plans for human missions to Mars in the 2030s. — Space News


Aliens May Be Using Giant Radio Beams To Travel The Cosmos

Two Harvard University scientists are suggesting that mysterious fast radio bursts, detected in faraway galaxies, may be evidence of aliens traveling through the cosmos. FRBs are extremely bright flashes of radio waves that last for only a thousandth of a second and are detected by earthbound telescopes. Since the first one was observed 10 years ago, 17 have actually been reported, although scientists think there are thousands of them a day.

At first, Abraham “Avi” Loeb said, he took a conservative approach to explaining them. “It looked like the simplest explanation would be flares from stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” said Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist and chair of Harvard’s astronomy department. But then “one of the FRBs was localized to reside in a small galaxy at a distance of about a billion light-years away,” Loeb told The Huffington Post. (One light-year is about 6 trillion miles.) — Huffington Post


Space Sex is Serious Business

Mark Lee and Jan Davis met during training for a space shuttle mission and kept their relationship quiet long enough to ensure that it would be difficult to replace them on the mission, as NASA normally would have done under its then-unwritten rule that banned married astronauts from flying together. And so, in September 1992, Lee and Davis became the first (and, after the unwritten rule became a written one, possibly last) married couple in space.

NASA says no humans have had sex in space. There’s nothing other than speculation to suggest otherwise. (Well, speculation and a vague sense that we would want to try it, given half a chance.) But you aren’t a total junior-high pervert for wondering. Sex — or, rather, reproduction — has piqued the curiosity of scientists, too. When they went to space together, Lee and Davis even spent some time artificially inseminating frog eggs for the greater good. — Five Thirty Eight