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Submission + - Arduino Enables a Low-Cost Space Revolution

RocketAcademy 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.

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

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."

Submission + - Spaceport Development Picks Up Steam in Texas

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."

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

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.""

Submission + - AXE and Buzz Aldrin Announce Apollo Space Sweepstakes 1

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."

Submission + - Nuclear Rocket Petition on White House Website

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."

Submission + - "Spaceport America Could Become a Ghost Town"

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."

Submission + - Government May Ease Export Controls on Space Technology

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,"

Submission + - NASA Cancels Nanosat Challenge

RocketAcademy writes: "NASA has canceled funding for the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, a $2-million prize competition that was intended to promote development of a low-cost dedicated launch system for CubeSats and other small satellites.

The cancelation is a setback for small satellite developers, many of whom have satellites sitting on the shelf waiting for a launch, and the emerging commercial launch industry.

The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge was being run by NASA and Space Florida as part of NASA's troubled Centennial Challenges program. The sudden cancelation of the Launch Challenge, before the competition even began, is calling NASA's commitment to Centennial Challenges into doubt."

Submission + - Low-Cost CubeSats are Gaining Respect, Mindshare

RocketAcademy writes: "Low-cost nanosatellites known as CubeSats were originally developed as educational projects for university students. Today, CubeSats are attracting increasing attention for their ability to tackle a wide variety of applications. NASA's innovative PhoneSat, which uses a Nexus cellphone as its primary processor, has won the Best of What's New Award from Popular Science.

Most CubeSats operate in Earth orbit, but interplanetary CubeSat missions are also gaining mindshare. A team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed sending a
CubeSat mission to Phobos, on of Mars' moons, earlier this year. Now, a group of companies is proposing a non-profit private mission that could carry up to 27 CubeSats to Mars."

Submission + - The Great Meteor Grab

RocketAcademy writes: "New regulations by the Federal government define asteroidal material to be an antiquity, like arrowheads and pottery, rather than a mineral — and, therefore, not subject to US mining law or eligible for mining claims.

At the moment, these regulations only apply to asteroidal materials that have fallen to Earth as meteorites. However, they create a precedent that could adversely affect the plans of companies such as Planetary Resources, which intends to mine asteroids in space."

Submission + - Virgin Galactic's Quiet News

RocketAcademy writes: "While all eyes were focused on SpaceX, which is preparing for another launch to the International Space Station, Virgin Galactic quietly put out a press release.

Virgin Galactic has acquired full ownership of The SpaceShip Company, which will build production versions of SpaceShip Two. Ownership was previously shared with Scaled Composites, which built SpaceShip One and is building the SpaceShip Two prototype.

There have been rumors of strained relations between Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. This news, which was not announced until after the close of business Friday, raises some interesting questions about Virgin's relationship with Scaled and its plans for the future."

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright