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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 18 declined, 23 accepted (41 total, 56.10% accepted)

+ - Navy Research Might Be Key to Space-Based Solar Power

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "A researcher at the US Naval Research Laboratory has developed an electronic module that can be used to capture solar energy in space and transmit it to Earth via microwave beam.

NRL has been studying space-based solar-power systems for several years. It has identified a number of possible applications including supplying power to forward bases, synthfuel production, and powering bistatic radars, sensors, and UAVs.

The military, which often pays much higher prices for energy than civilian customers, especially in remote areas, is seen as a possible anchor tenant for space-based solar power."

+ - Astronomy Group Throws Tantrum Over Crater Names

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "The International Astronomical Union has thrown a tantrum over a plan to crowdsource names for craters on Mars.

The IAU gives official scientific names to craters, but it has only bothered with craters that have "scientific significance." The science-funding platform Uwingu has launched a campaign to come up with popular names for the remaining craters. For as little as $5, a member of the public can name one of the craters on Uwingu's map, with the proceeds going to fund space science and education.

This caused the IAU to issue a statement condemning such crowdsourcing efforts. The IAU pointed out that it did allow the public to vote on names for two of Pluto's moons, in the past. In that case, however, the IAU rejected the winning name (Vulcan)."

+ - Dream Chaser Damaged in Landing Accident at Edwards AFB

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "The test article for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft suffered a landing accident on Saturday when the left main landing gear failed to deploy, causing the vehicle to flip over. NBC News quotes a Sierra Nevada engineer saying that the pilot would have walked away.

Sierra Nevada Corporation is developing the Dream Chaser to support the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo program. It is not yet known what effect the mishap will have on Dream Chaser development.

A number of rocket vehicles have suffered landing-gear mishaps in the recent past. Several years ago, concerns over spacecraft gear design led to a call for NASA to fund a technology prize for robust, light-weight landing gear concepts."

+ - DARPA Launches Military Spaceplane Project

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a new program to develop a reusable first-stage launch vehicle. Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) would be capable of flying 10 times in 10 days, with a small ground crew, reaching speeds of Mach 10, and deploying a small upper stage to place a 3,000-pound satellite into orbit.

The XS-1 program is complementary to the Air Force's Boeing X-37, which is a reusable upper stage. The X-37 is currently launched by an expendable Atlas rocket but could be launched by a vehicle derived from XS-1 in the future.

Military planners have dreamed of a two-stage, fully reusable Military Spaceplane (MSP) for several years, but funding has not materialized up to now."

+ - Suborbital Spaceflight Picks Up Speed

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "The race to develop low-cost, suborbital spaceflight is heating up. On Thursday, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two successfully completed its second powered test flight, reaching a speed of Mach 1.4 and an altitude of 69,000 feet. Meanwhile, XCOR Aerospace has begun posting daily reports on the progress of its Lynx spaceplane, which is expected to begin flight tests sometime around the end of this year. This means one of both companies are likely to begin commercial service by the end of next year.

XCOR still plans to move its headquarters to Midland, Texas later this year, but Midland may not be the only suborbital spaceport in the Lone Star state. On Wednesday,the Houston Airport System revealed renderings of its proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport, near Johnson Space Center just south of Houston. Citizens in Space (also based in Texas) has begun training five citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators on the XCOR Lynx and evaluating biomedical sensors for use on the flights. Details of those astronaut activities were also released this week."

+ - Arduino Enables a Low-Cost Space Revolution

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "Arduino, the popular open-source microcontroller board, is powering a revolution in low-cost space-mission design. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, a spinoff of NASA's PhoneSat project, has raised $13 million to launch a flock of 28 Arduino-based nanosatellites for remote sensing. Planet Labs launched two test satellites this spring; Flock-1 is scheduled to launch on an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket in 2014.

NanoSatisifi, also based in San Francisco-based company, is developing the Arduino-based ArduSat, which carries a variety of sensors. NanoSatisifi plans to rent time on ArduSats to citizen scientists and experimenters, who will be able upload their own programs to the satellites. The first ArduSat is scheduled for launch August 4 on a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle carrying supplies to the International Space Station.

The cost of orbital launches remains a limiting factor, however. As a result, Infinity Aerospace has developed the Arduino-based ArduLab experiment platform, which is compatible with new low-cost suborbital spacecraft as well as higher-end systems such as the International Space Station.

The non-profit Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space is looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. To help spread the word, it is holding a Space Hacker Workshop in Dallas, Texas on July 20-21. Infinity Aerospace will be on hand to teach Arduino hardware and software."

+ - SpaceShip Two Flies Supersonic on First Powered Flight

Submitted by RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy (2708739) writes "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two broke the sound barrier this morning on its first rocket-powered flight. The flight began at 7:02 am Pacific, according to the press release from Virgin Galactic. The reusable suborbital spacecraft reached an altitude of 47,000 feet and a speed of Mach 1.2 with test pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury at the controls.

Companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace hope that suborbital spacecraft will make spaceflight routine and affordable for researchers and citizen space explorers. Customers are already lining up for the new vehicles. Hundreds of scientists are expected to attend the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in June. Hardware hackers who wish to become citizen scientists or citizen astronauts are preparing to attend the first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments this weekend (May 4-5)."
ISS

+ - Sarah Brightman's ISS Trip in Peril

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "Actress/singer Sarah Brightman's trip to the International Space Station may not happen in 2015 as scheduled.

Space Adventures works with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to fly private citizens like Brightman on Soyuz taxi flights. Those taxi missions normally last eight days, but NASA and Roscosmos are considering a plan to extend the 2015 taxi flight to one month, so it can carry a scientist to perform some additional research aboard ISS. If that happens, Brightman will lose her seat.

This situation points to the need for more flexible transportation options and new orbital facilities which are not subject to the same operational restrictions as ISS. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada are working on the transportation problem, while Bigelow Aerospace expects to begin launching its Space Station Alpha in 2015. So, the era of citizen astronauts visiting ISS may be drawing to a close."
Space

+ - FCC Guidance on Radio for Commercial Space Operations Falls Short

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Public Notice to help commercial space companies obtain use of communications frequencies for launch, operations, and reentry.

Commercial space companies can obtain the use of government frequencies on a temporary, non-interference basis through the FCC's Experimental Authorization process. Experimental Authorizations are valid for a six-month period from the date of grant and are renewable, but applicants must obtain a new authorization for each launch and must apply 90 days in advance.

Unfortunately, this requirement does not meet the needs of suborbital launch providers who expect to fly several times per day and schedule launches as needed, on very short notice."
Space

+ - Spaceport Development Picks Up Steam in Texas

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "The Lone Star State is moving to become a leader in spaceport development.

The Houston Airport System is officially moving ahead with plans to turn Ellington Airport, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, into an FAA-licensed commercial spaceport. The airport system has completed a feasibility study for turning the field into a spaceport for suborbital spacecraft such as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two and XCOR's Lynx. In the longer term, spacecraft could link Houston to Singapore in as little as three hours, according to airport system director Mario Diaz.

Meanwhile, state Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) introduced a bill that would allow county commissioners to close a local beach for launches from the proposed SpaceX launch site in Cameron County. The bill is part of a flood of spaceport-related legislation that has been introduced recently in the Texas legislature."
Mars

+ - Dennis Tito Proposes "A Mission for America": Two Humans to Mars

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "Dennis Tito, the first citizen space explorer to visit the International Space Station, has created the Inspiration Mars Foundation to raise funds for an even more dramatic mission: a human flyby of the planet Mars.

Tito, a former JPL rocket scientist who later founded the investment firm Wilshire Associates, proposes to send two Americans — a man and a woman — on a 501-day roundtrip mission which would launch on January 5, 2018. Technical details of the mission can be found in a feasability analysis which Tito is scheduled to present at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March.

Former NASA flight surgeon Dr. Jonathon Clark, who is developing innovative ways of dealing with radiation exposure during the mission, called the flight “an Apollo 8 moment for the next generation.""
Space

+ - AXE and Buzz Aldrin Announce Apollo Space Sweepstakes 1

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "Apollo 11 lunar-module pilot Buzz Aldrin joined AXE, a personal-grooming brand of Unilever, to announce the AXE Apollo Sweepstakes, which will select 22 winners to become astronauts on the XCOR Lynx Mk II spacecraft.

“Space travel for everyone is the next frontier in the human experience,” Aldrin said. “I’m thrilled that AXE is giving the young people of today such an extraordinary opportunity to experience some of what I’ve encountered in space.”

According to XCOR Aerospace, AXE will select one winner following the Super Bowl on February 3. Twenty-one additional winners will be selected later on. 100 early-stage winners will attend the AXE Apollo Space Academy in Orlando, Florida in December 2013.

Private citizens can also earn a chance to fly on the Lynx through Citizens in Space, a non-profit project of the United States Rocket Academy, which has purchased 10 flights for citizen astronauts."
NASA

+ - Nuclear Rocket Petition on White House Website

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "A petition on the White House website is calling for the United States to rapidly develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

Technically, nuclear rockets are a promising technology, but unless NASA develops a deep-space exploration ship such as Johnson Space Center's Nautilus X, a nuclear rocket would be wasted.

Launching nuclear rockets may pose regulatory and political problems as well. Practical applications may depend on mining uranium or thorium on the Moon."
Space

+ - "Spaceport America Could Become a Ghost Town"

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "A group of New Mexico legislators is warning that the $200-million Spaceport America "could become a ghost town, with tumbleweeds crossing the runways” if trial lawyers succeed in blocking critical liability legislation. The warning came in a letter to the Albuquerque Journal [subscription or free trial required].

Virgin Galactic has signed a lease to become the spaceport's anchor tenant but may pull out if New Mexico is unable to provide liability protection for manufacturers and part suppliers, similar to legislation already passed by Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia. The proposed legislation is also similar to liability protection which New Mexico offers to the ski industry.

An eclectic group of business and civic interests has formed the Save Our Spaceport Coalition to support passage of the liability reform legislation, which is being fought by the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association."
Space

+ - Government May Ease Export Controls on Space Technology

Submitted by
RocketAcademy
RocketAcademy writes "After many years of complaints by the space industry, the United States government is finally moving close to reform on space export-control regulations. ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) was originally intended to control international arms shipments. Unfortunately, ITAR has been applied to space vehicles, satellites, and related technologies that are dual-use or purely civilian in nature.

The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, just passed by the House and awaiting action in the Senate, would reverse some of the harshest changes to ITAR regulations that have been made in recent years.

The news of potential ITAR reform has been greeted enthusiastically by industry groups including the Commercial Space Federation, the Aerospace Industries Association, and the Space Foundation. Notably absent was any statement from the “bad boys of space” at the Space Frontier Foundation, who are busy planning a Welcome Back party for ex-convict Walt Anderson,"

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