NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) and the bright star R Doradus (left) with just a single detector of one of its cameras on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The frame is part of a swath of the southern sky TESS captured in its “first light” science image as part of its initial round of data collection. (Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS)

By Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is now providing valuable data to help scientists discover and study exciting new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. Part of the data from TESS’ initial science orbit includes a detailed picture of the southern sky taken with all four of the spacecraft’s wide-field cameras. This “first light” science image captures a wealth of stars and other objects, including systems previously known to have exoplanets.

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ABL Space Systems Signs Lease to Begin Operations in Camden County

ST. MARYS, Ga. (Camden County JDA) — This afternoon, at the site of the former St. Marys airport, ABL Space Systems (ABL), the City of St. Marys, and the Joint Development Authority of Camden County (JDA) agreed to terms on a lease that will allow ABL to begin business in Camden County, Georgia. The ABL lease agreement signals another step toward establishing Camden County as the Commercial Space Center of the United States.

Under the terms of today’s agreement, the Camden County JDA will lease the former St. Marys airport property from the City of St. Marys along with a former aircraft hangar adjacent to the airport from a private owner. The JDA will make minor improvements to the sites and sub-lease both properties to ABL.

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Zeldovich Medal Awarded to Japanese Researcher for ISS Fluid Dynamics Experiments

Taishi Yano (center) receiving medal. (Credit: Yano Yokohama – National University)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — At COSPAR 2018, the scientific assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) held on July 14 – 22 in the US, Dr. Taishi Yano, Assistant Professor of Faculty of Engineering at Yokohama National University, was awarded the Zeldovich Medal. The medals are conferred by the Russian Academy of Sciences and COSPAR to young researchers for their outstanding contribution to space research.

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Trump’s Space Force to Cost $13 Billion to Establish

Defense News reports the U.S. Ar Force has estimated it will cost $13 billion over five years to establish an independent space force.

In a Sept. 14 memo obtained by Defense News and signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service laid out its proposal to transition its space functions to a sixth branch of the military known as the Space Force.

Notably, the Air Force’s Space Force proposal pushes back on a previous proposal, put forth by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in several key ways, including advocating for increased integration with the National Reconnaissance Office and objecting to the White House’s plan to install an assistant secretary of defense for space to help guide the transition.

In an exclusive Sept. 17 interview with Defense News, Wilson said her intention was not to hit back at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, but to provide an alternative way to execute President Donald Trump’s direction to create a Space Force….

The proposal put forward by the Air Force would strip all space capability and personnel from the existing services, but even then, there will be additional funding needed to run a new space branch.

NASA Names Holly Ridings New Chief Flight Director

Holly Ridings is at her Flight Director console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Nov. 17, 2008, for day four of the space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has named Holly Ridings its new chief flight director, making her the first woman to lead the elite group that directs human spaceflight missions from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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NOAA Continues Push Toward Innovative Partnerships with Second Round of Commercial Weather Data Pilot

Radio occultation helps to increase the accuracy of weather prediction models by measuring the refraction of radio signals beamed through Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit; NOAA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NESDIS has awarded contracts to three satellite companies as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) Round Two.

Awardees Spire, GeoOptics, and PlanetIQ will each provide space-based radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings.

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Mattel, Inc. Releases Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Matchbox Toy

Mattel Dream Chaser Matchbox® toy. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (Sierra Nevada PR) – America’s next generation spaceplane will soon be available in stores. Mattel, Inc. toymaker is releasing a Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft Matchbox® toy, which will be sold in stores starting in September.

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Astrobotic and RIS4E Demonstrate Technologies to Explore Extreme Lunar Environments

Astrobotic is developing navigation technologies to allow free-flying spacecraft to explore subterranean environments on the Moon, such as lava tubes. (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Astrobotic PR)  As America prepares to return to the surface of the Moon, Astrobotic Technology is partnering with scientists from the RIS4E node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), led by Stony Brook University, to demonstrate the robotic technologies needed to explore and study our nearest neighbor’s most interesting and challenging destinations.

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Japanese Billionaire is Passenger on SpaceX BFR Moon Flight

Yusaku Maezawa at SpaceX headquarters. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa was introduced on Monday as the customer for SpaceX’s planned circumlunar flight aboard the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

The 42-year old billionaire, who founded the clothing company Zozo (www.zozo.com) and collects high-priced art, said he plans to invited six to eight artists on the trip who would create works of art after returning home. The passengers could include painters, sculptors, film directors, architects, writers and fashion designers.

Musk praised Maezawa as brave to take the flight. “This is dangerous, let’s be clear,” Musk warned. “This is no walk in the park.”

Maezawa’s flight is tentatively scheduled to occur in 2023. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk admitted he was not sure of the date because BFR is still under development.

Musk said Maezawa made a significant deposit on the expensive voyage around the moon. The funds will help fund the development and testing of the reusable rocket/spacecraft, which Musk estimated will cost $5 billion.

Maezawa is calling his flight Dear Moon and has established a website, dearmoon.earth. The flight’s Twitter handle is @dearmoonmission.

New Artist’s Conceptions of SpaceX’s BFR in Flight Released

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk and SpaceX have tweeted some new artist conceptions of the BFR in flight.

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

Musk tweeted that there is now a “forward moving wing” near the nose.

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

The announcement of the first passenger signed for a trip around the moon aboard BFR will be webcast tonight at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT) from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

This Week on The Space Show


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

1. Monday, Sept. 17, 2018; 2-3:30 PM PDT (4-5:30 PM CDT, 5-6:30 PM EDT): We welcomed back DDR. CHRIS IMPEY to discuss his new book “Einstein’s Monsters.”

2. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018: 7-8:30 PM PDT; 9-10:30 PM CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT: We welcome JOHN JOSSY to the show for astronomy, space advocacy, staying informed and much more.

3. Wednesday, Sept. 19, 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, Sept. 21 2018; 9:30 AM-11 AM PDT, (12:30 -2 PM EDT; 11:30 AM-1 PM CDT): We welcome back MEEAGAN CRAWFORD re the NewSpace business plan competition and more.

5. The Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 program from 12-1:30 PM PDT, (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back RANDA AND ROD MILLIRN of Interorbital back to the show.

NASA-funded ELFIN CubeSats to Study How Electrons Get Lost

An artist’s depiction of the Van Allen Belts, showing Earth’s magnetic field lines and the trajectories of charged particles trapped by them. The twin ELFIN spacecraft are shown following their inclined polar orbit, traced in yellow. (Credits: UCLA EPSS/NASA SVS)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Three hundred and ten miles above our planet’s surface, near-Earth space is abuzz with action. Here begin the Van Allen Belts, a pair of concentric rings of fast-moving particles and intense radiation that extends more than 30,000 miles farther into space.

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MarCO Makes Space for Small Explorers

Engineer Joel Steinkraus uses sunlight to test the solar arrays on one of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Twenty years ago, CubeSats — a class of boxy satellites small enough to fit in a backpack — were used by universities as a teaching aid. Simpler, smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites, they’ve made space more accessible to private companies and science agencies.

This summer, NASA has been flying the first two next-generation CubeSats to deep space. They’re currently on their way to Mars, trailing thousands of miles behind the InSight spacecraft. InSight and its CubeSat tag-alongs are already more than halfway to the Red Planet.

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How NASA Goddard Tests Tools Astronauts Will Use to Explore Distant Worlds

Kelsey E. Young, a geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who helps develop space-exploration tools, is using the handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to investigate lava flow chemistry at Valentine Cave at Lava Beds National Monument, Tulelake, California. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

When astronauts land again on the surface of another world, their limited resources will allow for a short window of time each day to explore their new surroundings. Instruments designed to quickly reveal the terrain’s chemistry and form will help them understand the environments around them and how they change over time.

To protect precious hours available for extraterrestrial scientific investigations, a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland — the Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT) — is testing and refining the chemical-analyzing and land-surveying tools that will assist future human explorers of places like the Moon and Mars.

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Brazil Eyes Alcantara for Smallsat Launches

VLS-1 rocket on launch pad.

Reuters reports Brazil is eyeing the use of the Alcantara Launch Center for small satellite flights.

Brazil is ready to launch small commercial rockets from its space base near the equator as soon as it agrees to safeguard U.S. technology that is dominant in the industry, the Brazilian Air Force officer managing the space program said on Friday.

Brig. Major Luiz Fernando Aguiar said Brazil wants to get a piece of the $300 billion-a-year space launch business by drawing U.S. companies interested in launching small satellites at a lower cost from the Alcantara base on its north coast.

“The microsatellite market is most attractive today and we are interested in the 50 to 500-kilo niche,” Aguiar told Reuters at the base’s main launch pad. “We are developing a rocket for microsatellites. For that this tower is totally ready.”

[….]

Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in December visited the Alcantara space center, which is especially attractive to smaller firms, such as Tucson, Arizona-based rocket-maker Vector Launch Inc, because its equatorial location cuts fuel costs by a third allowing heavier payloads.