NASA Outlines New Lunar Science, Human Exploration Missions

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is focused on an ambitious plan to advance the nation’s space program by increasing science activities near and on the Moon and ultimately returning humans to the surface.

As part of the President’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning a new Moon-focused exploration campaign that starts with a series of progressive commercial robotic missions.


Made in Space Selected for 2 NASA SBIR Awards

NASA has selected two proposals from Made in Space focused on producing advanced crystals and high-strength components for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. Each two-year Phase II is worth up to $750,000.

The Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF) would produce “nonlinear optical single crystals and other relatively large material formulations, such as bulk single-crystal thin films and high temperature optical fiber,” according to the proposal.


FAA Draft Environmental Impact Statement Released for Spaceport Camden

Spaceport Camden (Credit: Camden County)

WOODBINE, Ga., March 9, 2018 (Camden County PR) — Spaceport Camden has achieved its most significant milestone to date with the release of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The EIS process for Spaceport Camden began in the fall of 2015 and for the last two and a half years, the FAA has been evaluating the environmental impacts of all proposed construction and operational activities, including those from launches of orbital and suborbital vertical launch vehicles and first-stage landings at Spaceport Camden.


Vector Selected for NASA SBIR Award

NASA has selected Vector Launch company for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to demonstrate a micropump-based stage pressurization system. The two-year contract is worth up to $750,000.

“Electrically-driven micropumps drive a small portion of each propellant over a novel 3D-printed heat exchanger at the engine to pressurize the tanks. Excess flow can be diverted to the engine as needed,” the company said in its proposal.


Falcon 9 & Soyuz Launch Communications Satellites

Soyuz rocket takes off from French Guiana on March 9, 2018. (Credit: Arianespace)

It was a successful week for launches around the world.

On Tuesday, SpaceX conducted its 50th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. The booster orbited the 30W-6 communications satellite for Hispsat of Spain from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. At 6 metric tons, it was the heaviest geosynchronous satellite ever launched by SpaceX.

On Friday, a Soyuz booster roared off the pad in French Guiana to deliver four O3b F4 communications satellites for SES. It was the third successful launch of Russia’s workhorse Soyuz rocket this year.


Silicon Valley Company Launched Satellites Without FCC Approval

SpaceBEE satellite (Credit: ISRO)

A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.

Read the full story.

NASA Selects Variable Gravity ISS Centrifuge for Funding

NASA has selected a proposal from Techshot to develop a variable gravity rodent centrifuge for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The two-year Phase II contract is worth up to $750,000.

“The counter-balanced centrifuge is designed to provide a facility to allow rats and mice to live and be observed in simulated gravity between 0-1 g for up to 90 days,” the company said in its proposal. “This streamlined design is more cost efficient and provides up to five cages. Each cage can accommodate at least six 30 gram mice, three 200 gram rats, or two 400 gram rats per cage.”


Vector to Conduct Dedicated Launch of Alba Orbital PocketQube Satellites on First Orbital Attempt

TUCSON, Ariz., March 8, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced it will conduct a dedicated launch of two PocketQube satellites using an Alba Orbital deployer (AlbaPOD) on the Vector-R launch vehicle later this year from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak.

Alba Orbital, a manufacturer of PocketQube satellites, will launch the Unicorn-2a satellite platform and a satellite developed by Delft University of Technology, Delfi-PQ1. The launch itself marks a historic moment for both Vector and Alba Orbital as its first orbital launch attempt and the world’s first PocketQube dedicated launch.


DARPA Requests Quarter Billion for Space Development Programs

Artist’s conception of Boeing’s Experimental Spaceplane One (XS-1). (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

DARPA has requested $254.67 million to fund a variety of space programs for FY 2019. The total includes funds for work on an experimental space plane, a responsive launch competition, and robotic on-orbit servicing of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).


Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat Would Allow Small Satellites to Grow on Orbit

Tethers Unlimited has been selected to receive up to $750,000 in NASA funding to demonstration technology that would allow small satellites to grow after they are launched into orbit.

The company’s MakerSat project was one of 128 proposals selected by NASA for phase II funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The contracts last two years.


Stratolaunch’s New Launch Payload: A Vehicle the Size of the Space Shuttle

Straolaunch aircraft on the Mojave runway. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The Washington Post has a story about Stratolaunch that contains this interesting piece of news from backer Paul Allen and CEO Jean Floyd.

But Allen has even bigger ambitions for Stratolaunch and is considering pairing it with a new space shuttle that’s known inside the company as Black Ice….

“I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going,” Allen said in an interview in his Seattle office.


China’s Long March 5 Rocket to Return to Flight in Busy Launch Year

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In recent weeks, Chinese officials have revealed more details about the investigation into the Long March 5 launch failure last year as well as their ambitious launch plans for this year, which include a landing on the far side of the moon.

Long March 5 will be returned to flight in the second half of 2018, according to Bao Weimin, head of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Engineers have identified the cause of a launch failure that occurred last July and are working to verify it, he said.


House Space Subcommittee Members Criticize Inaction on Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Members of the House Space Subcommittee were none-too-pleased on Wednesday when Robert Lightfoot showed up to testify about NASA’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

It had nothing to do with Lightfoot, whom members praised effusively for the job he’s done as acting administrator over the past 13 months. Lightfoot, a career civil servant, took over after Charles Bolden resigned as the President Barack Obama ended his term.

Instead, their anger was focused on the Senate, which has yet to take action on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA’s administrator six months after President Donald Trump nominated him.