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.
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).
RocketAcademy 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.
RocketAcademy 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.
RocketAcademy 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.
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.
RocketAcademy 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.
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.
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."
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."
“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."
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."
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.