Ex-Trump Aides Argue Over Space Program in Custody Battle

Credit: Douglas Messier

President Donald J. Trump’s boast that he only hires the best people has blown up in his face, what with all the departures, scandals, investigations, indictments and guilty pleas besetting the administration. (The departures alone have now spilled over into a third bingo card.)

Now, just when you thought things couldn’t get any kookier, there comes this bizarre story involving former Trump aides Jason Miller and A.J. Delgado. The ex-lovers are involved in a nasty child custody fight that involves an adulterous affair, an out-of-wedlock baby, allegations of sexual and physical abuse, and — wait for it — the Apollo moon landings.

Yes, you read that right. The Apollo missions are a point of contention in this sorry mess. Here’s what Delgado alleges in a court document:

Father once told Mother he believes the moon landing was staged. When Mother asked how he could possibly believe such, he said he learned it from spending time with Ted Cruz’s team, noting something about the Houston connection.

Miller had worked on Cruz’s presidential campaign before the Texas senator ended it. He and Delgado then worked for Trump’s presidential bid, where they had the affair.

Miller, who resigned as Trump’s campaign spokesman after all this became public, denies it all and accuses Delgado of spreading “false and salacious accusations” against him.

For the record, NASA has said the similar things about the fake moon landing claims.

If you want to read more about the custody fight, click here. Be forewarned: there are indeed some salacious details that I shan’t repeat here. This is a family blog.

U.S. Government Could Start Charging for Landsat Data

Landsat 8 (Credit: NASA)

The Trump Administration is considering re-imposing fees for Landsat images that were eliminated in 2008.

The US government is considering whether to charge for access to two widely used sources of remote-sensing imagery: the Landsat satellites operated by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and an aerial-survey programme run by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Officials at the Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, have asked a federal advisory committee to explore how putting a price on Landsat data might affect scientists and other users; the panel’s analysis is due later this year. And the USDA is contemplating a plan to institute fees for its data as early as 2019.

Some scientists who work with the data sets fear that changes in access could impair a wide range of research on the environment, conservation, agriculture and public health. “It would be just a huge setback,” says Thomas Loveland, a remote-sensing scientist who recently retired from the USGS in Sioux Falls, South Dakota….

Since the USGS made the data freely available, the rate at which users download it has jumped 100-fold. The images have enabled groundbreaking studies of changes in forests, surface water, and cities, among other topics. Searching Google Scholar for “Landsat” turns up nearly 100,000 papers published since 2008.

A USGS survey of Landsat users released in 2013 found that the free distribution of Landsat imagery generates more than US$2 billion of economic benefit annually — dwarfing the programme’s current annual budget of roughly $80 million. More than half of the nearly 13,500 survey respondents were academics, and the majority lived outside the United States.

Read the full story.

Ursa to Extract Oil Demand Information from ICEYE’s Satellite Data

HELSINKI, FINLAND, April 25, 2018 (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, an Earth observation company providing synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data, and Ursa Space Systems (Ursa), a Space data analytics company, announced at GEOINT Symposium an agreement where ICEYE will provide satellite data to Ursa. The data from ICEYE’s SAR satellites, used to monitor oil wells and measure global oil storage, will enable Ursa to derive actionable oil demand insights for their customers.

(more…)

NASA’s Exploration Campaign: Back to the Moon and on to Mars

If the Moon has enough water, and if it’s reasonably convenient to access, future explorers might be able to use it as a resource. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, worlds beyond.” 

-President Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — In December 2017, President Donald J. Trump gave NASA a new direction, telling the agency to work with international and commercial partners to refocus exploration efforts on the moon, with an eye to eventually going on to Mars and even beyond.

(more…)

Russian Lawmakers Eye Ban on RD-180 Sales

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

Well, this doesn’t sound very good.

The burgeoning private space industry might find itself caught in the middle of geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia. Russian lawmakers have drafted a law that would ban cooperation between the two countries on building rocket engines, including sales of the crucial RD-180.

The RD-180 powers the Atlas V, the launch system maintained by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint company owned by both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Earlier this year the company was awarded a $351 million dollar contract by the U.S Air Force for launching satellites.

If the Russians follow through on this, ULA and the U.S. Air Force and NASA will be in quite the pickle.

Hopefully, it doesn’t happen. But, you never know.

House Passes Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

Lamar Smith

The House passed a measure on Tuesday designed to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for commercial space companies.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 invests oversight authority in the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce.

A key element of the bill is the reform and simplification of the regulatory process that covers remote sensing. The measure requires the office to approve or reject an application for a space object to launch.

“The bill establishes a favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise with maximum certainty and minimum burden for stakeholders,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who introduced the legislation and chairs the House Science Committee. “With this innovative legislation, we position the American space industry as a leader.

“New space operators would now be incentivized to set up shop on American ground and allow the United States to maintain and adhere to our international obligations as well as improving our national security,” Smith added. “This enterprising bill provides an efficient, transparent, and streamlined structure for authorizing and supervising future space activities to create the path for future exploration of the final frontier.”

The bill creates a Private Space Activity Advisory Committee to analyze the effectiveness of the the office’s operations, identify problems, and provide recommendations to the Commerce Department and Congress on policies and practices.

Space companies and industry groups praised the act in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“The member companies and institutions of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are in strong agreement with all of the goals and most of the key elements of your legislation: significant reform of the Commerce Department’s obsolete, burdensome, and dysfunctional regime for licensing commercial remote sensing satellites is especially welcome,” said federation president Eric Stallmer.

Video of Virgin Orbit Engine Test

Video Caption: We are always excited to test our most powerful engine, the NewtonThree, for long duration. During this specific test, we completed a full ‘mission duty cycle’–a fancy way of saying that we fired the engine for as long as it would fire on a full flight to orbit. We also gimbaled the engine, meaning we changed the angle of thrust by several degrees during the course of the firing. The ability to gimbal is important, since that is one of the main ways a rocket ‘steers’ on its way to space!

As a reminder: our LauncherOne rocket has two rocket engines on board: a single NewtonThree on the main stage and a single NewtonFour on the upper stage. You can see a full duration NewtonFour firing here: https://youtu.be/AGZF4o-gwHk

How a NASA Team Turned a Smartphone into a Satellite Business

Two of the 28 Planet Labs Dove satellites that make up the Flock 1 constellation are seen launching into orbit from the International Space Station on Feb. 11. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Satellites aren’t small or cheap. The Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by NASA in 2010 weighs about 6,800 pounds and cost $850 million to build and put into orbit.

Even the satellites built under NASA’s Discovery Program, aimed at encouraging development of low-cost spacecraft, still have price tags beyond the reach of smaller companies or research organizations: one such satellite, the sun-particle collecting Genesis, ran up $164 million in expenses despite its modest design and mission.

(more…)

Successful Launch for AFRL Eagle Spacecraft Experiment on AFSPC-11 mission

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (88th Air Base Wing PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s EAGLE spacecraft flight experiment was successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14.

(more…)

Multiple Flight Projects Selected from ISS Cotton Sustainability Challenge

Projects selected from the challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, seek to improve cotton sustainability by leveraging the International Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., April 23, 2018 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the selection of three projects from its Cotton Sustainability Challenge.

The challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, provided researchers and innovators the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

(more…)

Video of Gwynne Shotwell’s TED Talk

Video Caption: What’s up at SpaceX? Engineer Gwynne Shotwell was employee number seven at Elon Musk’s pioneering aerospace company and is now its president. In conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson, she discusses SpaceX’s race to put people into orbit and the organization’s next big project, the BFR (ask her what it stands for). The new giant rocket is designed to take humanity to Mars — but it has another potential use: space travel for earthlings.

CubeSats Readied for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Technicians examine at CubeSat at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in California. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — A host of CubeSats, or small satellites, are undergoing the final stages of processing at Rocket Lab USA’s facility in Huntington Beach, California, for NASA’s first mission dedicated solely to spacecraft of their size. This will be the first launch under the agency’s new Venture Class Launch Services.

Scientists, including those from NASA and various universities, began arriving at the facility in early April with spacecraft small enough to be a carry-on to be prepared for launch.

A team from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, completed final checkouts of a CubeSat called the Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeREs), before placing the satellite into a dispenser to hold the spacecraft during launch inside the payload fairing. Among its missions, the satellite will examine the radiation belt and how electrons are energized and lost, particularly during events called microbursts — when sudden swarms of electrons stream into the atmosphere.

This facility is the final stop for designers and builders of the CubeSats, but the journey will continue for the spacecraft. Rocket Lab will soon ship the satellites to New Zealand for launch aboard the company’s Electron orbital rocket on the Mahia Peninsula this summer.

The CubeSats will be flown on an Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission to space through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. CeREs is one of the 10 ELaNa CubeSats scheduled to be a part of this mission.

Non-Profit Group Bought XCOR’s Assets & IP

Message left on the XCOR engine test stand. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

On Friday, Space.com published a story I wrote about how Build A Plane had purchased XCOR’s assets for use in a school it wants to build down the road in Lancaster. The organization, which focuses on getting planes donated to schools, has launched a parallel program called Build A Rocket.

In addition to the physical assets, Build A Plane also gained control of XCOR’s intellectual property (IP). The IP of Rotary Rocket was included in the purchase.

(more…)

This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, April 23, 2018; 2-3:30 PM PDT (4-5:30 PM CDT, 5-6:30 PM EDT): We welcome back DR. JAMES SCHWARTZ to continue discussing his body of work regarding human spaceflight exploration and more.

2. Tuesday, April 24, 2018: 7-8:30 PM PDT; 9-10:30 PM CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT: We welcome TOM RISEN, Aerospace America journalist for a discussion on many important news topics, the recently concluded Space Symposium, and the NASA Administrator hearing which he attended.

3. Wednesday, April 25, 2018: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, April 27, 2018; 9:30 AM-11 AM PDT, (12:30 -2 PM EDT; 11:30 AM-1 PM CDT): This will be an Orbital ATK program about the Air Force EELV program and their new rocket, OmegaA Rocket Program.

5. Sunday, April 29, 2018: 12-1:30 PM PDT; 2-3:30 PM CDT; 3-4:30 PM EDT. Welcome DR. BRIAN KEATING, UCSD astrophysicist and author of the new book “Losing The Nobel Prize: A Story Of Cosmology, Ambition, And The Perils Of Science’s Highest Honor..”

HyperScout Successfully Captures First Images From Space

This first-light image from the miniature HyperScout instrument aboard ESA’s newly launched GomX-4B CubeSat, shows the southern coast of Cuba. (Credit: ESA/cosine Research)

WARMOND, The Netherlands (cosine PR) — HyperScout, the first miniaturized hyperspectral camera in space, has captured its first images. Developed by an international consortium led by cosine, HyperScout was launched into space on 2 February 2018. The images are the first Earth observation images of their kind captured by an instrument onboard a nanosatellite.

(more…)