by Edward Ellegood and Rod D. Martin
Florida Space Report
September 29, 2017


BREAKING: Anywhere on Earth in Under an Hour

The biggest reveal at IAC was Elon Musk’s plans for terrestrial use of his reusable rockets: 30 minute to one hour flight times, for passengers or cargo, from anywhere to anywhere on Earth. Oh, and all that for a price comparable to an airline coach ticket.

This confirmed Rod Martin’s longstanding predictions not only regarding this application, but that the real purpose of the SpaceX offshore landing ships was the facilitation of intercity travel, due to the noise restrictions at major airports. You can’t just launch and land rockets at LaGuardia or Heathrow.

In SpaceX’s video illustrating the idea, passengers take a large boat from a dock in New York City to a floating launchpad out in the water. There, they board the same rocket that Musk wants to use to send humans to Mars by 2024. But instead of heading off to another planet once they leave the Earth’s atmosphere, the ship separates and breaks off toward another city — Shanghai.

Just 39 minutes and some 7,000 miles later, the ship reenters the atmosphere and touches down on another floating pad, much like the way SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets at sea. Other routes proposed in the video include Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes, London to Dubai or New York in 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.

Combined with hyperloop for shorter distances (Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example), this would put most of the planet’s population within 30 minutes of each other. And all of it within 30 minutes of space. All for airline prices.

Fans of Heinlein saw this coming. But this is genuinely revolutionary. And only decades overdue.

More information at The Verge. But this video will blow you away.


Musk Updates His Mars Colony Plans 

Musk announced his scheme, which focused largely on the rockets and spacecraft that could transport people to Mars rather than the Martian colony itself, at the IAC event last year. Then, over the summer, Musk revealed that the plan has “evolved quite a bit.” Specifically, he said in an interview that the size of the vehicles that may ferry Mars pioneers has been decreased somewhat to make it less expensive. The revised design could be capable of performing missions for Earth orbit as well as Mars. “Maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth orbit activity. That’s one of the key elements of the new architecture,” he said. He later explained via Twitter that reducing the diameter of the vehicles would also allow them to fit in current SpaceX factories. Musk held off on publishing the revised plan and design in order to present it in person at this year’s IAC gathering in Australia on the last day of the conference, Sep. 29. The IAC meeting is also set to include the latest on Lockheed Martin’s vision for a Mars Base Camp designed to support NASA’s plans to send astronauts to the fourth planet using the upcoming Space Launch System and Orion capsule. — CNet


Dreams of ‘Moon Village’ Shape Up at Riga Meeting

By 2040, 100 people will live on the Moon, melting ice for water, 3-D printing homes and tools, eating plants grown in lunar soil, and competing in low-gravity “flying” sports. To those who mock such talk as science fiction, experts such as Bernard Foing, ambassador of the European Space Agency-driven “Moon Village” project, reply the goal is not only reasonable but feasible too. At a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, Foing spelled out how humanity could gain a permanent foothold on Earth’s satellite, and then expand. He likened it to the growth of the railways, when villages grew around train stations, followed by businesses. By 2030, there could be an initial lunar settlement of six to 10 pioneers — scientists, technicians and engineers — which could grow to 100 by 2040, he predicted. Mere decades from now, “there may be the possibility to have children born on the Moon,” he enthused. — Japan Times

The ‘Moon Village’ would represent a giant leap in space exploration, says European Space Agency head Jan Woerner. | ESA


Stratolaunch Fires Up Its Engines – All Six of ’Em

The world’s biggest airplane hit another milestone this week with the completion of the first phase of engine testing at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, according to Stratolaunch, the space venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Stratolaunch’s CEO, Jean Floyd, reported today that all six of the plane’s Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines were started up for the first time. “Our aircraft is one step closer to providing convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit,” Floyd said. — Geek Wire


University Focuses on Outer Space Law

The Global Space Law Center at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law was developed due to the rapid growth of the private space industry, the university said. That growth has increased the demand for lawyers trained in the complex international and domestic aspects of space law and policy.

The center will seek to train the next generation of space lawyers, to promote the development of laws and policies that promote the peaceful use of outer space, and to facilitate the growth of the commercial space industry. — Cleveland


Houston NASA Chief: If Trump Wants ‘We’re Very Well Set Up’ to Go to the Moon

At a recent Rice University event in Houston, one of NASA’s top chiefs was asked about the potential pivot from Mars to Moon. “If we do see an administration that decides to make a little bit of a turn and focus a little bit more on the Moon, I think we’re very well set up to do it,” said Ellen Ochoa, NASA’s Johnson Space Center director, according to Berger. “It’s not at all incompatible with what we’re doing,” she said. Ochoa said NASA has left a lot of options open and that a variety of missions are possible, including a return to the Moon. — Houston Chronicle

President Donald Trump, center, signs an Executive Order to reestablish the National Space Council, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Commercial Space Companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Friday, June 30, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence will chair the council. Also pictured are NASA Astronaut David Wolf, left, NASA Astronaut Alvin Drew, second from right, and NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


Mattis Sees Need for New DOD Space Programs

DOD Secretary James Mattis said he’s open to funding new space programs if Congress delivers on the military spending hike the White House has sought. “In space, we need new starts in order to take advantage of what industry can deliver if we are willing to invest there,” Mattis said Sept. 20 during a keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber conference here.

Space is becoming a more dangerous military region, Mattis noted. “In outer space,” he said, “we used to consider it a sanctuary.” But now, he said, adversaries are challenging the U.S. in that domain as they are in others. “It is contested.” One particular area that relies heavily on space-related systems is national nuclear deterrence and Mattis spoke of the need to maintain the robust capability. — Space News


With SpaceX Launches, Landings, and Automated Flight Safety, USAF Revises Mindset at Eastern Range

SpaceX has forced the Air Force to revisit how it manages launch operations. Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral, said that the company launches “on readiness” rather than on a fixed schedule. This has forced the Eastern Range to become more efficient and more affordable, he said, allowing it to accommodate more launches. An autonomous flight safety system SpaceX developed with the Air Force will allow the Eastern Range to handle up to 48 launches a year. — Space News


Air Force Reserve Grooming Space Warriors

Air Force leaders generally agree that the service will need more skills in three key areas: space, cyber and intelligence. Where that talent will come from is still a matter of debate. Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of Air Force Reserve, says many of the specialized space and cyber operators the Air Force hopes to add to its ranks are likely to be part-time reservists.

Miller recently sat down with Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, to discuss this very topic. The command is leading a long-term project to sharpen space warfare skills in the Air Force and prepare for future wars against peer competitors.

A central challenge that Raymond faces, said Miller, is “How do you take the space domain and convert it into a war fighting environment?” There is no simple answer to that question, Miller said. — Space News

Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of Air Force Reserve, says many of the specialized space and cyber operators the Air Force hopes to add to its ranks are likely to be part-time reservists. Credit: U.S. Army National Guard /Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill


New Gravity Map Suggests Mars Has a Porous Crust

NASA scientists have found evidence that Mars’ crust is not as dense as previously thought, a clue that could help researchers better understand the Red Planet’s interior structure and evolution. A lower density likely means that at least part of Mars’ crust is relatively porous. At this point, however, the team cannot rule out the possibility of a different mineral composition or perhaps a thinner crust. — NASA

A new map of the thickness of Mars’ crust shows less variation between thicker regions (red) and thinner regions (blue), compared to earlier mapping. This view is centered on Valles Marineris, with the Tharsis Montes near the terminator to its west. The map is based on modeling of the Red Planet’s gravity field by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The team found that globally Mars’ crust is less dense, on average, than previously thought, which implies smaller variations in crustal thickness.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/UMBC/MIT/E. Mazarico


Mars Research Crew Emerges After 8 Months of Isolation

Six NASA-backed research subjects who have been cooped up in a Mars-like habitat on a remote Hawaii volcano since January emerged from isolation Sunday. They devoured fresh-picked tropical fruits and fluffy egg strata after eating mostly freeze-dried food while in isolation and some vegetables they grew during their mission. The crew of four men and two women are part of a study designed to better understand the psychological impacts a long-term space mission would have on astronauts. The data they produced will help NASA select individuals and groups with the right mix of traits to best cope with the stress, isolation and danger of a two-to-three year trip to Mars. — Washington Post


A New Way of Propelling Spacecraft May Open Up the Asteroid Belt

In a paper presented to the European Planetary Science Congress on Sep. 19, they proposed that spacecraft equipped with their new propulsion system could make a round trip to the asteroid belt in little more than three years. A fleet of 50 such craft, weighing about 5kg each and thus capable of being launched by a single rocket, could visit 300 asteroids, survey them and return to Earth for a thrifty €60m ($72m) or so, including the cost of launch. — The Economist


Finnish Firm Markets Astronaut Training

A Finnish startup developing an online astronaut training program has signed on a marketing firm led by a former Apple executive. West, a San Francisco-based “venture studio,” will help Space Nation with its rollout next year of its Astronaut Program, a smartphone app that will lead users through a series of challenges with the prospect of participating in full-fledged training and even suborbital spaceflight. West was founded by Allison Johnson, Apple’s former vice president for marketing and communications. — Space News

Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola, co-founder and chief executive of Cohu Experience, describes how people will be able to compete for an astronaut training program using a smartphone app. Credit: Cohu Experience


Space Quotes to Ponder

“Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring–not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive… If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds.” — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

“I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.” — Stephen Hawking, interview with Daily Telegraph, 2001

“Let me end with an explanation of why I believe the move into space to be a human imperative. It seems to me obvious in too many ways to need listing that we cannot much longer depend upon our planet’s relatively fragile ecosystem to handle the realities of the human tomorrow. Unless we turn human growth and energy toward the challenges and promises of space, our only other choice may be the awful risk, currently demonstrable, of stumbling into a cycle of fratricide and regression which could end all chances of our evolving further or of even surviving.” — Gene Roddenberry, Planetary Report Vol. 1, 1981

“The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.” — Robert Heinlein, speech

— Collected by Author Sylvia Engdahl