by Jennifer Hurst
September 6, 2018

New Space Race Fuels Massive Economic Comeback on Space Coast

“We’ve never been busier,” said Brenda Mulberry, president of Merritt Island’s Space Shirts. The store has more than doubled its business since the shuttle program formally ended seven years ago Friday. The 30-year program’s closure signaled the loss of about 9,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect ones in Brevard County. Worsened by the economic recession, unemployment in Brevard bottomed out at 11.8 percent in 2010. Some people thought Kennedy Space Center had closed.

To survive, Kennedy Space Center moved from just a launch site to a place where spacecraft could be assembled, including the next-generation deep space exploration vehicle Orion, which is nearly complete. The region’s economy diversified to welcome suppliers and manufacturers. Brazilian aerospace giant Embraer created nearly 1,000 jobs and aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman Corp. added about 3,000. And then came the high-profile private space companies.

Tesla founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin set up camp on the Space Coast, bringing with them a new, 330-job rocket factory for Blue Origin, opening in February, and the promise of crewed flights from SpaceX as early as April — the first from American soil since the shuttle program shut down. The Space Coast Economic Development Commission said the Cape had created 8,718 mostly space-related jobs since October 2010, when unemployment rates were at their highest. — Orlando Sentinel


Asteroid Space Mining Mission Plan Revealed by USGS in $700 Quintillion Gold Rush

USGS bosses are drawing up plans to probe asteroid mining space – an industry estimated to be worth $700 quintillion. Space mining is the process of sending spacecraft to asteroids, moons, comets and even planets to collect valuable minerals.

USGS officials are now investigating how they can expand their operation to search for resources in space – with hopes to team up with NASA. Minerals and other resources in space have been estimated to be worth up to $700 quintillion – that is seven with 20 zeroes after it. And that is just what can be found the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. — Daily Star


SpaceX Wants to Use the First Mars-Bound BFR Spaceships as Martian Habitats

Speaking at the 2018 Mars Society Convention, SpaceX’s Principal Mars Development Engineer Paul Wooster briefly presented on the company’s BFR and Mars colony ambitions. While the majority of the 30-minute talk rehashed CEO Elon Musk’s 2017 BFR update and subsequent Reddit AMA, it also happened to contain a handful of new details and slides, including a suggestion that the first BFR spaceships to land on Mars will stay on the Red Planet as temporary habitats or tools for early colonists.

The senior engineer reiterated the company’s aspirational Martian launch targets, featuring two uncrewed cargo BFRs in 2022 and four total BFRs in 2024, two crewed and two uncrewed. Whether or not the lack of change in those dates (provided by Wooster nearly a year after CEO Elon Musk’s identical date reveal in September 2017) asserts that SpaceX’s BFR and Mars research and development remains on track, it almost certainly confirms that the company’s incredibly aggressive targets are here to stay. — Teslarati

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS) pictured near a conceptual Mars base, including a domed common area. (SpaceX)


Blue Origin Scores Big in NASA’s Latest Batch of Flight Opportunities for Space Tech

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 15 promising space technologies for testing on suborbital flights, and almost half of them are set to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship.

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture, headquartered in Kent, Wash., started flying science payloads to the edge of space and back more than two years ago. This week’s NASA announcement solidifies Blue Origin’s status as a leader in suborbital space science missions.

New Shepard’s uncrewed test flights provide a few minutes of zero gravity, more scientifically known as microgravity. That’s long enough to see how a technology that’s designed for orbital use might fare during much longer stints of zero-G.

During this week’s visit to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, which is responsible for managing the Flight Opportunities program, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency wants to increase funding for suborbital science payloads.

“Flight Opportunities gives researchers and universities the opportunity to get involved with NASA,” Bridenstine said. “By increasing funding for payload integration and flights, we will continue to support and advance the commercial suborbital flight market.” — Geek Wire


Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly of NASA’s Orion Spaceship in Florida

Technicians have completed construction on the spacecraft capsule structure that will return astronauts to the Moon, and have successfully shipped the capsule to Florida for final assembly into a full spacecraft. The capsule structure, or pressure vessel, for NASA’s Orion Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) spacecraft was welded together over the last seven months by Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans.

Orion’s pressure vessel is made from seven large, machined aluminum alloy pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, light-weight, air-tight capsule. It was designed specifically to withstand the harsh and demanding environment of deep space travel while keeping the crew safe and productive. The capsule was shipped over the road from New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center, arriving on Aug. 24. Now in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Lockheed Martin technicians will immediately start assembly and integration on the EM-2 crew module. — Lockheed Martin

At the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, Lockheed Martin technicians have completed construction of the first Orion capsule structure that will carry humans to deep space on Exploration Mission-2. Image courtesy of NASA. (PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)
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Pompeo and Mattis Should Add Space Cooperation to the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership

The U.S.-India strategic partnership may become the most important relationship of the century. Space cooperation will contribute to the relationship’s long-term success. This week marks the first ‘2+2’ dialogue between the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and their Indian counterparts.

As the world’s two largest democracies, the United States and India have long-term interests that will guide the relationship over the coming decades. The secretaries are likely to discuss some of these interests, including shared values, Indo-Pacific security and commerce, the U.S.-India economic relationship, and an expansionist China that threatens both Indian interests in the Indian Ocean Region and US interests in the Pacific. The U.S. and India should also be sure to discuss the next frontier: outer space.

The United States will need major power space partners in an era of strategic competition with Russia and China, and India could find no better partner for its objectives in space than the United States. — Space News

U.S. Defense Secretary is welcomed by Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman to New Delhi on Sept. 5. Mattis is in New Delhi for the first-ever U.S.-India “2+2” ministerial dialogue, in which Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will meet with their Indian counterparts. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)


Space Force – Maintaining Military Dominance While Saving Dollars and US Lives

The U.S. Space Force that President Trump is advocating will be in some ways a big change and in some ways only a small change from the U.S. military of today. Currently, we use space to leverage our capabilities on land, sea and air to provide combat dominance. It has literally forced our enemies to either stay within their borders or be very surreptitious about their movements. Both China and Russia had to make their recent moves in the South China Sea and Crimea, gradually and only with a weak-willed U.S. president.

Why? Because today with space-based sensors, we know immediately what every major military is doing in the world. We also can attack those militaries with an integrated military force that is deeply connected with space-based communications. These forces depend on armed drones overhead that are being flown from the United States using space-based communications to drop weapons, accurately using space-based GPS, without risking a pilot. No aircraft carrier or large troop forces are required. The US stomped out ISIS in Syria in months with a U.S. force of less than 2,000, but with a space force of tens of thousands back in the U.S. — Town Hall


NASA Reveals Plans to use Moon Water to Help Build New Space Station and Head to Mars

Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine has laid out his grand vision to use the water on the Moon to power the space exploration of the future. The agency should launch a new and “sustainable” mission of human exploration of our nearest neighbor, he said. And the new discovery that there is water ice on the lunar surface is a key part of that mission.

Eventually, it could become something far more spectacular. He laid out a vision of tugs going back and forth between Earth and the Moon, which would have a space station built around it and serve as a launching point for missions to Mars and deeper into the solar system.

“We know that there’s hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine said in an interview in Washington on Tuesday, a day after Nasa unveiled its analysis of data collected from lunar orbit by a spacecraft from India. — Independent

One of the few photographs of Neil Armstrong on the moon shows him working on his space craft on the lunar surface (NASA/Newsmakers)


NASA’s Growing Trust in Private Companies Fuels Innovation

NASA’s evolution has been years in the making, officials said, as it grows more comfortable giving industry more autonomy and freedom, which many hope will spark the kind of innovation necessary to make spaceflight more routine. Over the years, it has developed deep partnerships with several companies, awarding them billions of dollars in contracts to carry out crucial services.

NASA does lend its expertise and oversight, but at the same time, the companies are teaching the agency a thing or two about how to apply business practices to open the frontiers of space. None more so than Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which from the beginning of its partnership with NASA ran into resistance, a clash of Silicon Valley-style ethos with government bureaucracy, youthful impatience with aged bureaucracy. — Observer-Dispatch


Icy Dunes on Pluto: Spacecraft Reveals New Details About Planet’s Surface

Images from New Horizons spacecraft provide more evidence about the surface of Pluto. When Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, he could not have known that he was opening a whole field of science that is only now coming into its own: the study of planetary landscapes – or comparative planetary morphology. Since the announcement of Pluto’s discovery, the body has been a subject of much speculation: even from the very start, its designation as a planet was a matter of controversy.

Now a new study, published in the journal Science, adds to what we know about this body: that it has icy dunes, making it another planetary object, like Earth and Mars, with a surface that has been transformed by wind and weather. Pluto’s existence at the edge of the known solar system led to questions of its composition: there was early recognition that methane was a significant component of Pluto but was it mainly composed of ice and gas like its nearest neighbor Neptune? Or was it rocky?

It was not until 1994, when the Hubble Space Telescope took the first direct images of Pluto that any compositional variation across the planet could be seen – and even then the question of what it was made up of was not resolved. Now, though, thanks to the spectacular images returned by the New Horizons spacecraft that flew past Pluto in 2015, we know that, far from being a dreary and undistinguished body, Pluto is a lively and active object that displays a fantastic variety of landscapes. — Independent

The suggestion of dunes on the planet points to the existence of granular matter and wind
The suggestion of dunes on the planet points to the existence of granular matter and wind (Shutterstock)


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.3 million miles (2.1 million km).

OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3. — Science Daily

On Aug. 17, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft obtained the first images of its target asteroid Bennu from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km), or almost six times the distance between the Earth and Moon. This cropped set of five images was obtained by the PolyCam camera over the course of an hour for calibration purposes and in order to assist the mission’s navigation team with optical navigation efforts. Bennu is visible as a moving object against the stars in the constellation Serpens.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona


Jeff Bezos Wants to Build ‘Space Hotels and Colonies

Bezos wants to build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and colonies for two or three million people orbiting around the Earth. Given Bezos’ early interest in space exploration and colonization, it’s little surprise that he would go on to found the spaceflight startup Blue Origin in 2000. Today, Blue Origin is one of a handful of private rocket companies backed by billionaires, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (Much like SpaceX, Blue Origin has focused much of its efforts on making spaceflight more accessible by reducing the cost of space travel, including by reusing rockets for multiple launches.)

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos told The Washington Post in 2017. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.” — CNBC

Photo by Franziska Krug
Jeff Bezos


Faster Than Light? Neutron-Star Merger Shot Out a Jet with Seemingly Impossible Speed

The dramatic neutron-star merger that astronomers spotted last year generated a jet of material that seemed to move at four times the speed of light, a new study reports.

“Seemed” is the operative word here, of course; the laws of physics tell us that nothing can travel faster through space than light. So, the superluminal motion was an illusion, which was caused by the jet’s (still very fast) speed and the fact that it blasted almost directly at us, researchers said.

“Based on our analysis, this jet most likely is very narrow, at most 5 degrees wide, and was pointed only 20 degrees away from the Earth’s direction,” study co-author Adam Deller, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, said in a statement from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a facility of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

“But to match our observations, the material in the jet also has to be blasting outwards at over 97 percent of the speed of light,” he added. —

The simulated radio images in this not-to-scale artist’s illustration show superfast jets blasting from the black hole created by the merger of two neutron stars, a dramatic event observed in August 2017. In the 155 days between two observations, the jet appeared to move 2 light-years, a distance that would require it to travel four times faster than light. This “superluminal motion” is an illusion created as the jet is pointed nearly toward the Earth; it is actually moving at about 97 percent light speed.
Credit: D. Berry, O. Gottlieb, K. Mooley, G. Hallinan, NRAO/AUI/NSF


Next Stop Space: Researchers to Carry Out ‘Cosmic Elevator’ Experiment

A team made up of researchers at Shizuoka University and other institutions is set to conduct an experiment in September for a project to develop a “space elevator” connecting Earth and a space station by cable — attracting attention as a possible dream vehicle for space travel and cargo shipments in the future.

The experiment will be the first of its kind ever to be conducted in space. However, a number of challenges, including the development of special, high-strength cables, await researchers before they can bring a cosmic elevator into reality.

In the experiment, two ultra-small cubic satellites, which were developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering, will be used. Each satellite measures 10 centimeters each side, and a roughly 10-meter-long steel cable will be employed to connect the twin satellites. The pair of satellites will be released from the International Space Station (ISS), and a container acting like an elevator car will be moved on a cable connecting the satellites using a motor. A camera attached to the satellites will record the movements of the container in space. — The Mainichi

An artist’s rendering of a space elevator envisaged by Obayashi Corp. is seen in this image provided by the contractor.