NASA Taking First Steps Toward High-speed Space ‘Internet’

Engineers are currently testing the optical module assemblies on the Goddard-built optical test bench to ensure pointing accuracy during the upcoming mission. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Sandra Vilevac)

By Ashley Hume
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Md.

NASA is developing a trailblazing, long-term technology demonstration of what could become the high-speed internet of the sky.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will help NASA understand the best ways to operate laser communications systems. They could enable much higher data rates for connections between spacecraft and Earth, such as scientific data downlink and astronaut communications.

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Congress, President Fail to Embrace Musk’s Bold Plan for Mars

Last September, Elon Musk made his pitch for a bold new approach to sending people to Mars that requires substantial taxpayer supporter. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a NASA authorizing act that maintains the slow, steady-as-she-goes status quo. The billionaire was not amused.

Trump: Making America First in Space Again

Credit: Matt Wade

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Today, President Donald J. Trump signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017, the first comprehensive NASA authorization passed by Congress in more than six years. The bill demonstrates strong bipartisan support for our Nation’s space program and helps ensure that NASA remains at the forefront of exploration and discovery.

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NASA Acting Administrator Praises Authorization Act

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot on President Trump signing Tuesday the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017:

“We would like to thank President Trump for his support of the agency in signing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017.

“We also want to express our gratitude to a bipartisan Congress for its thoughtful consideration of the agency’s path forward. We are grateful for the longstanding support and trust of the American people, which enables our nation’s space, aeronautics, science, and technology development programs to thrive.

“Our workforce has proven time and again that it can meet any challenge, and the continuing support for NASA ensures our nation’s space program will remain the world’s leader in pioneering new frontiers in exploration, innovation, and scientific achievement.”

NASA’s Efforts to Shrink Agency Lagging

NASA’S Efforts to “Rightsize” its Workforce, Facilities,
and Other Supporting Assets
[Full Report — PDF]

Office of Inspector General
March 21, 2017

Why We Performed This Audit

To accomplish its diverse scientific and space exploration missions, NASA relies on specialized facilities and infrastructure, unique equipment and tools, and a highly skilled civil servant and contractor workforce. These assets, collectively known as technical capabilities, are spread across NASA’s 10 Centers and include more than 5,000 buildings and other structures, 17,000 civil servants, and tens of thousands of contractors. Over the years, striking the right balance among these various assets has been a top management challenge, with the Agency making a number of mostly unsuccessful attempts at “rightsizing” its technical capabilities.

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SpaceX Expands Operations at Port Canaveral

Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is expanding its operations at Port Canaveral so it can process, refurbish and store recovered first stages.

The commercial space company has occupied the 53,360-square-foot former SpaceHab building on the north side of the port since August, under a month-to-month lease, and has been renovating the facility, located at 620 Magellan Road.

Now, with the signed lease agreement, “they can forge ahead” with their plans, Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said.

The company also plans to build an adjacent 44,000-square-foot hangar on the 4-acre parcel.

Canaveral Port Authority commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on the lease, which will take effect April 1.

Under terms of the lease, SpaceX will pay monthly rent to the port of $35,181 in Year 1, increasing to $50,639 a month by Year 5.

Read the full story.

Trump Signs NASA Authorization Act

President Donald Trump has signed a NASA authorization act that calls for spending $19.5 billion by the space agency in fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure stipulates the following funding levels for the space agency:

  1. Exploration, $4,330,000,000.
  2. Space Operations, $5,023,000,000.
  3. Science, $5,500,000,000.
  4. Aeronautics, $640,000,000.
  5. Space Technology, $686,000,000.
  6. Education, $115,000,000.
  7. Safety, Security, and Mission Services, $2,788,600,000.
  8. Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration, $388,000,000.
  9. Inspector General, $37,400,000.

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Rocket Lab Raises $75 Million Series D Funding Round

First Electron rocket at launch site. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

By Peter Beck,
Rocket Lab CEO

Today, we announced that Rocket Lab has closed a $75m Series D financing round, led by Data Collective, with additional investors Promus Ventures and an undisclosed investor. We’ve partnered with this esteemed group of investors because of their experience in the space industry.  We also had renewed participation in this round from our existing investors – Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and K1W1 – who have provided continued expertise and support as we work to make space accessible to everyone. The closure of the round brings the total funding Rocket Lab has received to date to $148 million, with the company value now in excess of $1 billion (USD).

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Jeff Bezos Muses About Those Underappreciated Engine Components – Bearings

Finding its bearing: Orbit plot with starting shaft location (red dot) marking each revolution as shaft spirals to its center during propellant fluid film pressurization. (Credit: Blue Origin)

By Jeff Bezos

Although the BE-4 turbopump is smaller than your refrigerator, it generates 70,000 horsepower from a turbine running at nearly 19,000 revolutions per minute that pumps cryogenic propellants to pressures just under 5,000 pounds per square inch. To react the forces generated by the rotating turbine and impellers inside the pump, production rocket turbopumps to date have used traditional ball and roller bearings. For BE-4, we’re doing something different – we’re using hydrostatic bearings.
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This Week on The Space Show


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

1. Monday, March 20, 2017: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome LAURA MONTGOMERY, ATTY. Ms. Montgomery, a former regulation attorney will speak to Article 6 of the OST and much more.

2. Tuesday, March 21, 2017: 7-8:30 PM PDT, 10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT: We welcome back DWIGHT STEVEN-BONIECKI regarding his new book and film on Skylab.

3. Friday, March 24, 2016: 9:30-11AM PDT; (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30 AM – 1 PM CDT): No show today working on tax matters. Check the website newsletter for updates.

4. Sunday, March 26, 2017: 12-1:30 PM DST (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): Open Lines. First time callers welcome as are all space and STEM topics..

OneWeb Breaks Ground on Satellite Factory at Kennedy

One Web Satellites Ground Breaking ceremony at Exploration Park. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The portfolio of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon include large-scale satellite manufacturing following Thursday’s groundbreaking for a 150,000-square foot spacecraft factory in the center’s Exploration Park.

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Former Roscosmos Official Stabbed to Death in Jail

Law enforcement officials in Moscow are investigating the stabbing death in jail of a former top Roscosmos official who was awaiting trial on charges of embezzlement, Tass reports.

Vladimir Yevdokimov was found dead in a cell he shared with 11 other inmates from two stab wounds in the heart and one in the neck. Officials say they are investigating the death as a murder, but they have not ruled out suicide.

Yevdokimov formerly headed up the space agency’s quality and reliability control efforts. He was arrested in December on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($3.5 million) from the MIG Russian Aircraft Corporation.

Yevdokimov and an alleged accomplice denied the charge.

EOS Launches Land Viewer

MENLO PARK, Calif. (EOS PR) — Data scientists, GIS engineers and software developers from California-based company EOS have recently launched a cutting-edge cloud-based tool that allows users, journalists, researchers and students to easily search and analyze huge amounts of the most up-to-date earth observation data.

Land Viewer is an on-the-fly, real-time imagery processing and analytics service, which provides:

  • instant access to petabytes of new and archive data;
  • the ability to find geospatial images on any scale in 2 clicks by selecting the required territory on the map or by location name;
  • on-the-fly imagery analytics, with the option to download any images required for business purposes.

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ULA’s Delta IV Launches U.S. Air Force Satellite

Delta IV rocket launches the WGS-9 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., March 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EST.

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