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Active Polar Regions on the Moon?

By Marc Boucher on August 22, 2014 11:45 AM.

New Study: Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil, University of New Hampshire

"The study, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, proposes that high-energy particles from uncommon, large solar storms penetrate the moon's frigid, polar regions and electrically charge the soil. The charging may create sparking, or electrostatic breakdown, and this "breakdown weathering" process has possibly changed the very nature of the moon's polar soil, suggesting that permanently shadowed regions, which hold clues to our solar system's past, may be more active than previously thought."

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SpaceX Faces Another Former Employee Lawsuit

By Marc Boucher on August 21, 2014 6:50 PM.

SpaceX Workers Launch 3rd Suit, Allege Racist Policies, Law 360

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. employees on Monday launched a putative class action suit in California court accusing it of fostering a racist working environment in which certain workers were subjected to slurs and passed over for promotions, making this the third employee suit to befall the rocket manufacturer in less than a month."

Marc's note: I reached out to SpaceX for a comment on this new lawsuit. Here's the response from John Taylor their Communications Director.

"SpaceX rejects these allegations and will vigorously defend itself in court. At SpaceX, we don't care about your gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age or anything else of that nature--to succeed here, the only requirement is to work hard and produce outstanding results.

"Earlier this year SpaceX completed its annual review cycle and as a result of those reviews, approximately 4% of our workforce were let go. Given the ambitious goals of the company, the standards for work performance at SpaceX are very high. It is critical that all employees meet this standard."

Continue reading: SpaceX Faces Another Former Employee Lawsuit .

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Russian Scientists Claim That Algae Lives On ISS Exterior (Update)

By Keith Cowing on August 21, 2014 5:07 PM.

Sea creatures are discovered living on the exterior of the ISS, Daily Mail

"Traces of plankton and other microorganisms have been found living on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS), according to Russian space officials. They claim the plankton were not carried there at launch - but are thought to have been blown there by air currents on Earth. Incredibly, the tiny organisms were found to be able to survive in the vacuum of space despite the freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and cosmic radiation. The discovery was made during a routine spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts Olek Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov, who were launching nanosatellites into space.
They used wipes to polish the surface of windows - also known as illuminators - on the Russian segment of the ISS and later found the presence of plankton and other microorganisms using 'high-precision equipment'.

Keith's note: I'm certain that were I to ask CASIS or the ISS National Laboratory folks for a peer-reviewed publication for these results that they'd be more than happy to comply, right? And if this news story is not true, I should expect an equally swift statement to that effect, right? Astrobiologists ought to be jumping up and down about this - if it is true, that is.

NASA, Russia Squabble Over International Space Station Sea Plankton Claim, Forbes

"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia's space agency) colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com. "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from."

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CCiCap Update and Boeing Completes all Milestones

By Marc Boucher on August 21, 2014 2:56 PM.

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements, NASA

"NASA's spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives."

... "In August or September, NASA plans to award one or more contracts that will provide the agency with commercial services to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of 2017."

Boeing Commercial Crew Program Completes Critical Design and Safety Reviews, NASA

"Boeing recently completed the Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and the Critical Design Review (CDR) of its integrated systems, meeting all of the company's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones on time and on budget."

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NASA "Super-Black" Nanotech Shows Promise

By Marc Boucher on August 21, 2014 9:10 AM.

Super-Black Nano-Coating to Be Tested for the First Time in Space, NASA

"An emerging super-black nanotechnology that promises to make spacecraft instruments more sensitive without enlarging their size will be tested for the first time on the International Space Station within a year."

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Small Satellite Conference Keynote Speaker Steve Jurvetson

By Marc Boucher on August 21, 2014 8:40 AM.

Video: Small Satellite Conference 2014 Keynote Speaker Steve Jurvetson, Small Satellite Conference

"Steve Jurvetson is one of the commercial space industry's most successful investors. He is a partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, where he serves on the boards of Planet Labs, SpaceX, Synthetic Genomics and Tesla Motors."

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Another Blue Marble Image

By Marc Boucher on August 21, 2014 8:34 AM.

Earth: Blue Marble, Eastern Hemisphere, NASA

"Of all the planets NASA has explored, none have matched the dynamic complexity of our own. Earth is constantly changing, and NASA are working constantly to explore and understand the planet on scales from local to global."

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Where's the Ozone Damaging Carbon Tetrachloride Coming From?

By Marc Boucher on August 20, 2014 2:56 PM.

Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows [With Video], NASA

"NASA research shows Earth's atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide."

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Cygnus "Speeding" Away From the ISS

By Marc Boucher on August 20, 2014 2:47 PM.

Timelapse Video of Cygnus Release from the Space Station, ESA

"This video shows a timelapse of the Orbital Science's Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft departing from the International Space Station on 15 August 2014."

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SpaceX Reportedly Attracts Another $200 Million in Investment (Update)

By Marc Boucher on August 20, 2014 8:29 AM.

Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising Money At A Valuation Approaching $10B, TechCrunch

Space Exploration Technologies, the commercial space transportation startup founded by Elon Musk with ambitions to land people on Mars, is raising investment that values the company somewhere south of $10 billion, TechCrunch has learned.

Musk's SpaceX Denies Blog Report of Capital Raising Plan, Bloomberg Business Week

"SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done," John Taylor, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. "The source in this [TechCrunch] report is mistaken."

Marc's note: It should be noted SpaceX did not refute the original story by Quartz in April where Quartz said SpaceX was close to closing a round of funding at that time.

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Northrop Grumman XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane

By Marc Boucher on August 19, 2014 5:16 PM.

Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Design for DARPA

"Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.

XS-1 has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft."

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CCtCAP Commercial Crew Announcement - Soon?

By Keith Cowing on August 18, 2014 4:38 PM.

CCtCAP Commercial Crew Announcement Expected Soon, SpacePolicyOnline

"NASA declined today (August 18) to confirm rumors that it will announce the winner(s) of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contract by the end of the month, but anticipation is mounting. Whenever it happens, it will be a major step forward for the commercial crew program and achieving the oft-stated goal of restoring America's ability to launch American astronauts into space on American rockets from American soil. A NASA spokesman replied to an email query this morning by saying only that NASA still expects to make an announcement in the late-August, early-September time frame, as it has been saying for months. NASA officials are not allowed to discuss the selection process before announcing the award(s), even to say who submitted bids. Expectations are that at least the three companies being funded under the current phase of the program - Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) - did so."

- Who Will Win the Next Round for the Commercial Crew Program?, Earlier Post
- SpaceX Hater Article Disappears From Forbes Website, Earlier Post

NASA Closes On Commercial Crew Selection, Aviation Week

"Almost five years after beginning its search for a U.S.-developed spacecraft to carry humans into orbit, NASA is poised to award at least one contract to its industry partners in the Commercial Crew Program."

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The Future of Earth Observation

By Marc Boucher on August 18, 2014 11:17 AM.

Use of Space-Based Earth Remote Sensing Data In Support of Scientific and Societal Needs - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef [Watch]

"In this session, representatives of agencies, organizations, and communities that make use of space-based remote sensing data in support of scientific and societal needs will discuss those uses, including both those now carried out using existing data, as well as potential future uses based on the data that are anticipated to become available in the future. Uses will cover topics such as operational forecasting/prediction, resource management, policy development, scientific assessment, and commercial product development."

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SpaceX Hater Article Disappears From Forbes Website

By Keith Cowing on August 17, 2014 7:39 PM.

When SpaceX Falters, Washington Looks The Other Way (From Forbes) Loren Thompson at Lexington Institute

"Space Exploration Technologies Corporation -- SpaceX -- has won broad support in Washington by offering a low-cost, innovative alternative to traditional launch providers for lofting satellites into orbit.  However, the company is struggling to meet commitments to its government customer, and eventually that may tarnish its image. ... I have written a commentary for Forbes here."

Keith's note: The Forbes article that Thompson refers to at Forbes is no longer online. Several websites have apparently reprinted the article such as this one [update - now removed]. Hmmm why did Forbes pull this article offline? Could it be that the article was ... inaccurate?

The curious case of a deleted Forbes.com commentary on SpaceX, Space Politics

"SpaceX is no stranger to both strong support and harsh criticism of its activities, particularly in political circles. Last month, for example, three members of the House of Representatives asked NASA for details on an "epidemic of anomalies" they claimed the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have experienced. But the company's decision early this month to establish a commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas, generated praise from various officials, including US Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)."

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The Space Industrial Revolution?

By Marc Boucher on August 17, 2014 10:58 AM.

Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business [Video]

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from industry and government discussed Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution.

The availability of the International Space Station and the corresponding improved access to and from LEO has ushered in the start of a new entrepreneurial renaissance. In addition there are companies exploring revolutionary approaches to Earth observation, space manufacturing, and resource utilization of the lunar and asteroidal material. This panel will explore the broad sweep of possible applications as well as looking at how these companies could combine to form a new commercial space ecosystem."

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NASA ISS Space to Ground Weekly Report - 22 August 2014

NASA ISS Space to Ground Weekly Report - 22 August 2014 Video in Story

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

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