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This week in The Space Review…

HEXAGON with secondary payload

The wizard war in orbit (part 4): P-11, FARRAH, RAQUEL, DRACULA, and KAL-007

In the conclusion to his series about the development of signals intelligence satellites by the US during the Cold War, Dwayne Day looks at one class of spacecraft that provided key data on Soviet activities for decades.
Monday, September 19, 2016

The new era of heavy lift

Last week, Blue Origin unveiled its planned orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, that likely will be able to place payloads weighing dozens of metric tons into low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust notes it’s the latest development in heavy-lift vehicles that include programs by NASA and SpaceX.
Monday, September 19, 2016

Launch failures: non-launch mishaps

The pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket early this month during preparations for a static fire test was rare, but not unprecedented. Wayne Eleazer examines some of the previous pad mishaps in the history of the Space Age.
Monday, September 19, 2016

Commercial crew: two years after contracts, two years until flights

Last week marked the second anniversary of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite initial hopes that one or both vehicles would be ready by the end of 2017, delays until late 2018 are looking increasingly likely for both.
Monday, September 19, 2016


Previous articles:

A tale of two launchers

As SpaceX continued to investigate a mysterious pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9, United Launch Alliance flawlessly launched another NASA mission last week. Jeff Foust reports on those developments and their implications for both companies.
Monday, September 12, 2016

An interview with Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES

Formerly the head of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall currently runs the French space agency CNES and soon will take over the presidency of the International Astronautical Federation. Théo Pirard interviews Le Gall about his priorities at both CNES and the IAF.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Selecting from the flight demonstration spectrum

An aerospace flight demonstrator can help prove technologies and business cases for full-scale vehicles, if they’re selected properly. Steve Hoeser describes the various types of flight demonstrators and how they should best be used to further a vehicle development effort.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: All These Worlds Are Yours

The search for life beyond Earth has attracted a lot of public interest, but where is the best place to look for such life? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an astrobiological survey of the solar system and beyond.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Blasting to conclusions

An explosion during a test last week destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, and damaged its launch pad. Jeff Foust examines the implications of the accident for SpaceX and other companies and organizations.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How we settle Mars is more important than when

Much of the discussion about human missions to Mars has focused on the technical challenges of such missions. Joelle Renstrom argues that the various ethical considerations of such missions should not be ignored.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A seven-year mission

On Thursday, a NASA mission to collect samples from an asteroid is scheduled to lift off. Jeff Foust reports on goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which range from understanding the origins of the solar system to paving the way for future asteroid mining efforts.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The best reason to go to Mars

There are no shortage of reasons why humans should travel to Mars. Eric Hedman describes how the effort needed for such an expedition could catalyze technological development and education, helping improve conditions for people around the world.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“Mister President, their rocket blew up.”

Even after the US won the race to the Moon, American intelligence monitored Soviet development of the N-1, and reported on it to President Nixon. Dwayne Day discusses what Nixon learned about the N-1 based on recently declassified intelligence briefings.
Monday, August 29, 2016

A changing of the guard at Spaceport America

Christine Anderson originally signed on to run New Mexico’s Spaceport America for a year; she stepped down earlier this month after five and a half years on the job. Jeff Foust examines the state of the spaceport, including efforts she led to diversify the spaceport’s customer base.
Monday, August 29, 2016

Rethinking image release policies in the age of instant gratification

While some planetary missions readily share the images they take with the public, others are more reticent to do so. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, in an era of instant access to information, all missions should be more open in releasing images.
Monday, August 29, 2016

Interplanetary “litter” on the Space Trail: University of New Mexico’s Meteorite Museum

A small museum in Albuquerque contains a collection of meteorites, including some from Mars. Joseph Page provides an overview of the museum and its exhibits.
Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit

NASA is trying to promote commercial activities in low Earth orbit to help build demand for commercial facilties once the ISS is retired. Jeff Foust reviews a free ebook published by the agency with papers examining the economic issues with that effort.
Monday, August 29, 2016

Through the looking glass

After the Pentagon cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in 1969, it faced the question of what to do with the hardware already built for it. Dwayne Day examines what’s known from declassified documents about that effort, including the transfer of mirrors for use in an observatory.
Monday, August 22, 2016

Human-rating the Atlas V Centaur for NASA’s commercial crew program

Part of the effort by NASA to develop commercial crew transportation systems involves human-rating the Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Anthony Young discusses that effort to prepare both the rocket and the launch site for missions to fly astronauts to the space station.
Monday, August 22, 2016

CubeSats: faster and cheaper, but better?

There’s growing interest in using CubeSats for a variety of scientific, commercial, and other applications. However, Jeff Foust reports that CubeSat developers are grappling with the issue of reliability of such satellites, which suffer higher failure rates than larger spacecraft.
Monday, August 22, 2016

Why a coherent Middle East space policy is a necessity

Some in the Middle East are concerned that Iran, now free of sanctions linked to nuclear weapons development, might become more aggressive in the region. Michael Listner argues that this should provide an impetus for other nations there to develop comprehensive, coherent space policies.
Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: In the Footsteps of Columbus

Europe has been a major partner on the International Space Station program, even though it’s the last to formally endorse an extension of station operations through 2024. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recaps the first decade of European expeditions to the ISS, with many details but few deeper insights about the overall effort.
Monday, August 22, 2016

For smallsats, launch options big and small

As the number of smallsats under development grows, so does the number of options for getting those satellites into space. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to both develop dedicated small launch vehicles as well as make greater use of rideshares on larger rockets.
Monday, August 15, 2016

A 21st century renaissance in high altitude ballooning

New technologies are allowing high altitude balloons to perform applications once reserved for satellites. Alan Stern describes the new capabilities such balloons offer and how they are augment or replace space capabilities.
Monday, August 15, 2016

Why America needs space

In these turbulent times, can space exploration help unite society? Zach Miller argues that lessons from the Apollo era, combined with the growth of commercial space ventures, show what is possible.
Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Calculated Risk

Gus Grissom was the second American in space, but most people’s perceptions of him are shaped by the negative portrayal of him in The Right Stuff and his death on Apollo 1. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to offer a more complete biography of the man and his contributions to NASA.
Monday, August 15, 2016

Is the Moon a necessary step on the path to Mars?

There is an ongoing debate about whether humans should first return to the Moon before setting out on expeditions to Mars. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that human lunar missions should stand or fall on their own merits, rather than be justified as Mars precursors.
Monday, August 8, 2016

Focus on space in Germany’s G20 agenda

Germany will hold the presidency for the G20 nations in 2017. In an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the International Lunar Decade Working Group suggests she include space development, including a “Moon Village,” on the agenda of issues the G20 will take up in 2017.
Monday, August 8, 2016

Scrutinizing NASA’s exploration efforts

Regardless of who wins the election, the next administration is likely to take a close look at NASA’s major exploration programs. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA says those efforts are making good progress, GAO reports found potential cost and schedule issues with them.
Monday, August 8, 2016

Plagiarism in space journalism, again

An article a space website reprinted from a Russian news service appears to have extensively borrowed, without attribution, from another article. Dwayne Day examines this latest case of space plagiarism and why this is a serious problem.
Monday, August 8, 2016

Making it in space

Who will be the customers of commercial space stations that companies, and NASA, envision being developed within the next decade? Jeff Foust reports that there are a number of potential markets for them, including an interesting new effort in space manufacturing.
Monday, August 1, 2016

The one space policy question for the candidates

If you could get the presidential candidates to answer one question about their prospective space policies, what should it be? Jeff Foust argues that it might to get them to explain why they believe NASA should have a human spaceflight program.
Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: Fallen Astronauts

Forty-five years ago this week, the Apollo 15 astronauts held a brief, private ceremony to memorialize the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in the last decade. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the lives of those men and the circumstances of their deaths.
Monday, August 1, 2016

A stepping-stone to commercial space stations

NASA hopes that, by the time it’s ready to retire the International Space Station in the 2020s, one or commercial space stations will be ready to support researchers and others using the ISS today. Jeff Foust reports that one step towards a commercial station may be a commercial module on the ISS.
Monday, July 25, 2016

Stories of cislunar suspense: Literary adventure on the near frontier (part 2)

In the second and final part of his examination of literature set in cislunar space, Ken Murphy reviews novels from the 1990s to the present, and looks at some overall trends in literature.
Monday, July 25, 2016

Re-evaluating the Moon’s role in Earth’s past and future

A recent study suggests that the Moon has played a bigger role than previously thought in making the Earth habitable. Peter Kokh says this, plus the Moon’s role in our future, should influence what we consider to be “Earth-like” worlds.
Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Mission Control

The concept of mission control is one that has been an essential part of spaceflight since the beginning of the Space Age, but not all mission controls are alike. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines differences in mission controls based on country and types of missions.
Monday, July 25, 2016

What happens after a year in space?

Scott Kelly returned to Earth earlier this year after spending nearly a year on the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports on what he said his experience there was like, and how a study involving his twin brother may provide new insights into the effects of long-duration spaceflight.
Monday, July 18, 2016

The human spaceflight equation

One of the fundamental questions of human spaceflight is why humans should go beyond Earth at all. Eric Hedman examines human spaceflight from the perspective of the survival imperative, and what research needs to be done to ensure that humans can, in fact, survive on other worlds.
Monday, July 18, 2016

Stories of cislunar suspense: Literary adventure on the near frontier (part 1)

Stories about activities in cislunar space have been staples of science fiction for decades. In the first of a two-part review, Ken Murphy examines some of the cislunar science-fiction novels in the first few decades of the Space Age.
Monday, July 18, 2016

Old milestones, new gallery

The National Air and Space Museum reopened their Milestones of Flight gallery at the beginning of this month to mark the museum’s 40th anniversary. Jeff Foust explores what is new about the gallery, and what’s missing.
Monday, July 18, 2016

Two SLS to Jupiter: The motivations and ramifications of the Europa mission’s launch vehicle mandate

At the direction of Congress, NASA is not only working on a mission to send an orbiter and lander to Jupiter's moon Europa, it's also planning to launch them on the Space Launch System heavy-lift rockets. Cody Knipfer examines both the benefits and drawbacks to this approach.
Monday, July 11, 2016

More money, no problem

Venture capital investment, once a rarity for entrepreneurial space companies, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Jeff Foust reports on some of trends that both investors and companies see in the market, and how long that surge of investment might last.
Monday, July 11, 2016

We are all Pluto now

One year ago this week, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, providing our first close-up views of that distant world. Dwayne Day examines what's changed, and what hasn't, in the year since the spacecraft encounter.
Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Eccentric Orbits

As Iridium prepares to launch its next-generation satellite system, it's worth remembering that, 16 years ago, the original satellite constellation was on the verge of being deorbited. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts how one retired businessman led the effort that eventually saved the system.
Monday, July 11, 2016

The Seattle space scene

Seattle is working to make a name for itself as a hub for the entrepreneurial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on what companies and local officials think make the region stand out, and what obstacles it faces.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The wizard war in orbit (part 3): SIGINT satellites go to war

During the 1960s, the United States ramped up its development of signals intelligence satellites, and found new uses for them as well. Dwayne Day describes how satellites developed for identifying radars in the Soviet Union also played a role in the Vietnam War.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A review of the Atlantic Council’s ideas for a not-so-new National Security Space Strategy

A new white paper by the Atlantic Council offers proposals to revise the current US national security space policy. Christopher Stone argues that the new proposal is in many ways similar to the current policy, and has the same flaws.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth

The International Space Station is an outpost for research and preparation for future exploration, but is it also an architectural landmark? Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes that argument as it provides a history of the station’s development.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The wizard war in orbit (part 2): Black black boxes

As the US signals intelligence satellite effort ramped up in the 1960s, agencies developed a wide range of payloads to fly on spacecraft to study radar signals and communications. In the second part of his history on the subject, Dwayne Day explores what is known about some of those efforts through declassified documents.
Monday, June 27, 2016

Jovian fireworks: Juno arrives at Jupiter

While many Americans will spend next Monday celebrating Independence Day, NASA will be busy with the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Jeff Foust reviews the goals of the mission and the challenges it faces dealing with the harsh radiation environment around the giant planet.
Monday, June 27, 2016

A new level of urgency for space-based solar power

The US military has examined space-based solar power in the past, but has taken little action beyond studies. Nathan Kitzke argues that developing even small-scale systems could have benefits for both military operations and national leadership.
Monday, June 27, 2016

The Air Force Museum’s impressive encore

The National Museum of the United States Air Force recently opened a new building with some space exhibits. Dwayne Day visits the museum to see what’s on display and got a pleasant surprise.
Monday, June 27, 2016

Storytelling with space art and artifacts

At last week’s NewSpace conference in Seattle, attendees were advised about the importance of storytelling to sell their businesses and visions to wide audiences. Jeff Foust checks out a couple of nearby museum exhibits that offer their own takes on the interplay between space fact and fiction.
Monday, June 27, 2016

Inside Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch Systems, the company backed by Paul Allen working on an air-launch system, opened the doors to its Mojave hangar to the media last week. Jeff Foust reports on the status of the company’s large aircraft and its plans to enter the smallsat launch market.
Monday, June 20, 2016

The wizard war in orbit (part 1): Early American signals intelligence satellites

Thanks to declassified documents, we’re learning more about early American efforts to develop signals intelligence satellites. In the first of a four-part series, Dwayne Day discusses how these new sources show how diverse and prolific those efforts were.
Monday, June 20, 2016

Why won’t there be a SpaceX in India unless…

Entrepreneurs in India hope to join the NewSpace movement with space ventures of their own, following in the footsteps of SpaceX. Narayan Prasad argues that, without support from government and investors in India, those ventures won’t be able to pursue their dreams.
Monday, June 20, 2016

Albuquerque’s Space Age jewels: Launch exhibits at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

A nuclear weapons museum in Albuquerque has several space related artifacts tucked away among the exhibits. Joseph Page discusses the museum and its space connections.
Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Pinpoint

Satellite navigation services, primarily provided by GPS, have become ubiquitous in our society in recent years. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explores the history of GPS and the various effects, good and bad, it’s brought to out modern-day life.
Monday, June 20, 2016

The “Asian Space Race” and China’s solar system exploration: domestic and international rationales

China has announced an ambitious series of robotic space missions, including future lunar sample return and Mars missions. Cody Knipfer examines how the missions fit into Chinese efforts to establish greater international power, while also stimulating a space race among other spacefaring Asian nations.
Monday, June 13, 2016

Fly me to the Moon

The X PRIZE Foundation held a screening of parts of a documentary about the Google Lunar X PRIZE last week in Washington. Dwayne Day describes what the film tells us about the prize, and also the significant details it leaves out.
Monday, June 13, 2016

Landers, laws, and lunar logistics

Astrobotic and Moon Express are two of the leading companies involved in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, and each is dealing with a variety of technical and regulatory issues. Jeff Foust reports on their progress, and how feasible it is for either company to be ready to fly by the end of next year.
Monday, June 13, 2016

The Bird is the word

A new wing at the National Museum of the US Air Force includes, among other items, the last remaining HEXAGON spy satellite. Dwayne Day discusses some key aspects of that spacecraft and of the person who designed its camera.
Monday, June 13, 2016

Remembering Patti Grace Smith and her influence on commercial spaceflight

Last week, Patti Grace Smith, former associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, unexpectedly passed away. Jeff Foust describes the effect she had on the commercial spaceflight industry in the unusual dual roles as advocate and regulator.
Monday, June 13, 2016

Suborbital research makes a comeback

Several years ago, interest was high among researchers in flying payloads on commercial suborbital vehicles, only to see development of those vehicles continually delayed. Jeff Foust reports that now, as some of these vehicles begin test flights, the research community is taking a second look.
Monday, June 6, 2016

Float like a hypersonic butterfly

Many media reports compared the recent test of an Indian technology demonstrator for a future reusable launch vehicle with the US space shuttle. Dwayne Day discusses how a better comparison is with two Air Force programs of the 1960s.
Monday, June 6, 2016

Echoes from the past: the Mars dilemma

Last week, Elon Musk reiterated his plans to mount human missions to Mars as soon as 2024, using an architecture he will unveil later this year. John Hollaway wonders if these plans will be threatened by a shift in demand for launches that will hurt the large vehicles Musk needs to carry out his Mars plans.
Monday, June 6, 2016

Everybody wants to rule the world

In recent years military space policy has received heightened attention, particularly given concerns about the vulnerability of US national security satellites. Dwayne Day recaps a recent panel discussion about the US policy and what changes, if any, are needed.
Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: A Beautiful Planet

IMAX space documentaries have generally followed a certain structure, and the latest one is no exception. Jeff Foust reviews the movie to see of, even with that formulaic approach, what it shows of life on the International Space Station and observations of Earth is worth watching.
Monday, June 6, 2016

A year on Mars

The recent Humans to Mars Summit in Washington was only the latest in a series of conferences about human exploration of Mars. Dwayne Day compares this conference with some other ones, and discusses what was said, and overlooked, there about getting humans to Mars.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

XS-1 prepares for liftoff

Last week, DARPA released a request for proposals for the next phase of its experimental reusable launch vehicle program, XS-1. Jeff Foust reports on how the competition stacks up for XS-1 and whether the program can retain its relevance as private ventures make progress on their own reusable vehicles.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The rapture of the wonks

Advocates of artificial intelligence can be as devoted to their belief that it will positively benefit society as space advocates are of the benefits of space settlement. Dwayne Day describes a recent interview with a science fiction author who has a more cautionary view of both subjects.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A comprehensive first look at Denmark’s domestic space law

Denmark is the latest country to develop a national space law. Michael Listner reviews the provisions of the new law and how they compare with other nations and with international treaties.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Petitioning the US to take the lead in space solar power

Advocates of space-based solar power have launched petitions seeking to win attention and support for the concept within the federal government. Mike Snead makes the case for why readers should sign those petitions.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Eyeing the Red Storm

Thanks to documents declassified after the end of the Cold War, CORONA is now widely recognized as the first US reconnaissance satellite program. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines an earlier, and largely unknown, effort by the Air Force to develop a spysat called WS-117L.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Human missions to Mars: questions of who and when

NASA has general plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, but that schedule is not fast enough for some. Jeff Foust reports on a debate among Mars exploration advocates on the schedule of such missions, and the role the private sector can play.
Monday, May 23, 2016

Apples and oranges: Why comparing India’s reusable launch vehicle with the space shuttle is totally out of place

On Monday, the Indian space agency ISRO flew its first reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator vehicle on a brief suborbital flight. Kiran Krishnan Nair argues that while the flight is a step forwards towards an RLV, its importance has been overhyped, particularly in the Indian media.
Monday, May 23, 2016

Creating a mission control for the commercial spaceflight industry

As more organizations get involved in human spaceflight, there will be a greater need for facilities to monitor and control those missions. Greg Anderson argues for the creation of a consolidated mission control organization to meet that need.
Monday, May 23, 2016

How an ICBM-based “bridge to nowhere” can help start a Moon Village

In recent months, the launch industry has debated whether to revise existing policy limiting the commercial use of retired ICBM motors. Michael Turner offers an alternative use for those missiles that could stimulate lunar development.
Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Exploring the Planets

Fred Taylor may not be a household name outside the space sciences field, but he had a long career working on a variety of Earth and planetary missions. Jeff Foust reviews Taylor’s memoir about his career developing instruments that helped explore the solar system.
Monday, May 23, 2016

Effects of changing economics on space architecture and engineering

Investment in government and commercial space systems have followed similar trends for much of the Space Age. Gary Oleson explores those trends and examines the possibilities offered by both very small and very large space systems to change them.
Monday, May 16, 2016

That’ll do, DONKEY, that’ll do

While the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program was cancelled, one payload intended to fly on the military space station did find an alternative route to space. Dwayne Day examines the story of a signals intelligence payload codenamed DONKEY.
Monday, May 16, 2016

When CubeSats are too big

As interest in CubeSats continues to grow, some are wondering what even smaller spacecraft can do. Jeff Foust reports on one initiative to develop satellites the fraction of the size of CubeSats that could support education, technology development, and even science.
Monday, May 16, 2016

Apollo 10: “To sort out the unknowns” for Apollo 11

Forty-seven years ago this week, Apollo 10 lifted off on a “dress rehearsal” mission for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Anthony Young recounts the mission and the achievements that paved the way for a successful landing on the Moon.
Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Into the Black

Last month marked the 35th anniversary of the first shuttle mission, STS-1, one that began a new era in human spaceflight, but not without difficulties. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a new, and comprehensive, look at the development of the shuttle and the challenges faced leading up to, and during, that first flight.
Monday, May 16, 2016

Mining issues in space law

Legislation passed by the US Congress last year appeared to clear the way for space mining ventures. Jeff Foust reports that there are still policy issues these and other companies have to overcome both at a national and an international level.
Monday, May 9, 2016

An overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (part 3)

In his final installment examining a wide-ranging space policy bill, Michael Listner examines the sections of the bill dealing with commercial space law and regulations.
Monday, May 9, 2016

Life on Pluto

For decades, Pluto was largely ignored in science fiction, with too little known about the distant world to stimulate the imaginations of authors. Dwayne Day wonders, with New Horizons now revealing Pluto to be a far more dynamic place than expected, whether it will become fodder for more works of fiction.
Monday, May 9, 2016

The future of space economics and settlement

Many still assume that human presence and activity in space will always have government in the lead. Dick Eagleson makes the case that this view ignores fundamental limits on government involvement in space activities and sketches out how human expansion into space must be increasingly driven by private entrepreneurship if it is to happen at all.
Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: The Cosmic Web

In the last few decades, astronomers have discovered that the universe’s galaxies trace out intricate patterns, rather than be randomly distributed. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astrophysicist who helped understand why those structures, in some cases spanning more than a billion light-years, came to be.
Monday, May 9, 2016

Time for fresh thinking about collaboration in space

The International Space Station has demonstrated how the US and Russia can cooperate in space even when terrestrial relations are strained. Ajey Lele argues that this can serve as a model for cooperation in space between China and India.
Monday, May 2, 2016

A new chapter for a commercial space pioneer

Jeff Greason and two other co-founders of XCOR Aerospace have left the company in recent months and started a new venture, Agile Aero. Jeff Foust reports on Agile’s vision for the future of space vehicle development, as well as where XCOR stands on its Lynx suborbital spaceplane.
Monday, May 2, 2016

An overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (part 2)

In the second part of his comprehensive review of a new space policy bill, Michael Listner examines the civil space portion of the act, including changes to how a NASA administrator is chosen.
Monday, May 2, 2016

The US should challenge the EU to lead lunar development

As ESA seeks to drum up support for its “Moon Village” concept, the US appears content to focus instead on missions to Mars. Vid Beldavs, in an open letter to the president, argues that the US should push Europe to take the lead on lunar development and take on a supporting role that can help support its own Mars ambitions.
Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Under Desert Skies

The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is widely considered a leading center for planetary science research, a remarkable accomplishment for a facility barely half a century old. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the origin and development of that center.
Monday, May 2, 2016

A launch company, and industry, in transformation

United Launch Alliance found itself on the hot seat last month after a executive made controversial comments at a university seminar that leaked out. Jeff Foust reports that behind the controversy are insights into the transformation that company, and the broader launch industry, are undergoing.
Monday, April 25, 2016

An overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (part 1)

Earlier this month, Congressman Jim Bridenstine introduced a wide-ranging space policy bill. Michael Listner begins a three-part examination of its contents by looking at the section discussing military space issues.
Monday, April 25, 2016

Of India and ICBMs: two current concerns for American small-satellite launch

Developers of small launch vehicles in the US have recently raised two policy concerns: easier access by American satellite to Indian rockets, and the potential commercial use of excess ICBM motors. Cody Knipfer explores those issues and how they could influence the development of a new generation of commercial launchers.
Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: The Value of the Moon

ESA’s “Moon Village” concept is just the latest proposal in long-running efforts to develop viable, sustainable plans for a human return to the Moon. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a leading American lunar exploration advocate who argues that a return to the Moon should be rooted in efforts to make use of its resources to expand human presence beyond Earth.
Monday, April 25, 2016

Expanding the space station market

A prototype expandable module, delivered on the latest ISS cargo flight, is now installed on the station. Jeff Foust reports that the company that developed it, Bigelow Aerospace, now has interest in adding a much larger module to the station by 2020.
Monday, April 18, 2016

Hunting Red October

In the 1980s, the CIA used satellites to try and monitor the development of a new class of Soviet submarines, but were often stymied by clouds. Dwayne Day describes how one naval analyst used satellite imagery to argue the Soviets would have their next submarine ready earlier than expected.
Monday, April 18, 2016

A starshot into the dark

Last week, a Russian billionaire announced plans to invest $100 million into an effort to develop tiny spacecraft that could travel to the near stars within a few decades. Jeff Foust examines the Starshot concept and the numerous challenges it faces.
Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: Black Hole Blues

The discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO instruments is likely to be one of the biggest astronomy stories not just of the year, but of the decade. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a very human history of the development of LIGO, right up to the point of that discovery.
Monday, April 18, 2016

Closing the case for reusable launchers

A successful first stage landing by SpaceX Friday on a ship at sea is the latest evidence that we are entering a new era of reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports that concerns about the viability of reusable rockets may be shifting from technical obstacles to economic ones.
Monday, April 11, 2016

Chasing shadows: Apollo 8 and the CIA

Did CIA intelligence about Soviet lunar plans influence NASA’s decision to send Apollo 8 to the Moon in 1968? Dwayne Day reexamines that historical question based on evidence in a declassified document.
Monday, April 11, 2016

A major role for the EU in lunar development

There’s some interest in developing an international lunar base of some kind, despite the fact that NASA has made it clear it has no desire to take the lead. A group of authors describe why the European Union should lead this project and the benefits it will gain from doing so.
Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: Project Emily

Last December marked the 60th anniversary of the birth of the Thor missile, the ancestor of the Delta 2. Joseph T. Page II reviews a book that examines one aspect of the Thor’s history, when the rocket was based in England.
Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: No Dream Is Too High

Buzz Aldrin may be known for being a somewhat eccentric former astronaut, but he has lived a full life as a fighter pilot, astronaut, and space advocate. Jeff Foust reviews a book where Aldrin uses anecdotes to help illustrate a set of life lessons.
Monday, April 11, 2016

The challenges of commercializing research in low Earth orbit

Much of the infrastructure needed for fully commercial research in low Earth orbit is either in place or will be ready in a few years, but the business case is still uncertain. Jeff Foust reports on a recent discussion at the National Academies that examined the issue from the point of view of suppliers, customers, and NASA.
Monday, April 4, 2016

How the Defense Innovation Initiative can help deter a “space Pearl Harbor”

An ongoing effort by the US Defense Department seeks make closer ties with innovation taking place in private companies, but does not have specific, big goals. Brian Chow argues for using that effort to develop technologies to deter an attack on critical satellites.
Monday, April 4, 2016

Federal legislation to jumpstart space solar power

If the United States needs to transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, like space-based solar power, in the coming decades, how can the federal government enable that shift? Mike Snead offers a concept for legislation that would establish a range of projects and responsibilities across the government.
Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Rise of the Rocket Girls

The first technical jobs available to women in the early history of the space age were largely as “computers”, performing calculations for male scientists and engineers. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks at some of those early computers at JPL, and how they responded to changes in both society and technology.
Monday, April 4, 2016

Big Bird and the Big Mother: US intelligence community monitoring of the Soviet lunar program after Apollo

Even after Apollo 11 successfully landed men on the Moon, ending the Moon race, the Soviet Union continued to develop its N-1 rocket for several years. Dwayne Day examines how the US monitored those activities using a new generation of reconnaissance satellites.
Monday, March 28, 2016

InSight’s second chance

A NASA mission to land on Mars was supposed to launch this month, but problems with an instrument cancelled those plans. Jeff Foust reports on plans to fix the problem and launch the mission in 2018, although with cost impacts that could affect other missions.
Monday, March 28, 2016

ExoMars: a long awaited reboot of the Russian planetary program

Earlier this month, a Russian Proton rocket launched the ExoMars mission, a joint venture with Europe. Svetoslav Alexandrov discusses how ExoMars is revitalizing Russia’s Mars exploration plans, although not in a way all Russian space enthusiasts support.
Monday, March 28, 2016

Improving South Asian space cooperation

Pakistan recently rejected a proposal by India to provide a communications satellite to help a group of South Asian nations. Vidya Sagar Reddy examines what India should do to better promote space cooperation among its neighbors in the region.
Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Blue Gemini

What might have happened if the Air Force had continued its manned space program in the 1960s? David Johnston reviews a novel that offers a credible alternative history of those efforts.
Monday, March 28, 2016

A look inside Blue Origin

Earlier this month, Blue Origin opened the doors of its headquarters for the first time to the media, showing off their work on suborbital vehicles and rocket engines. Jeff Foust reports on the tour and the vision for the future of humanity in space that company founder Jeff Bezos wants to enable.
Monday, March 21, 2016

A vision ahead

Next year will bring a new President and Congress, and perhaps another reexamination of NASA’s human spaceflight plans. Eric Hedman proposes that any such effort focus on developing infrastructure in cislunar space to make voyages to Mars and beyond more affordable.
Monday, March 21, 2016

Desolate magnificence

Originally developed as an initial step in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has become a valuable mission for planetary scientists in understanding the Moon. Dwayne Day describes how its images, some of which are on display in a museum, are also works of art.
Monday, March 21, 2016

Planetary defense to avert global economic crisis

There’s been a heightened awareness in recent years of the threat posed by near Earth objects and the importance to take steps to protect the Earth from that threat. Vid Beldavs argues that such investments can have a positive influence on the global economy as well.
Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: Moon Shot

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is entering a critical time, with the prize deadline at the end of next year. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that provides brief profiles of some the teams remaining in the competition.
Monday, March 21, 2016

One track, two stations: A proposal for cooperation on the ISS and the Chinese Space Station

Some in the West have suggested that China join the International Space Station program in some way. Chen Lan argues that while it’s too late to expect China to abandon its plans for its own space station, there may be ways to cooperate by using both stations on joint efforts.
Monday, March 14, 2016

The shifting commercial launch landscape

The entry of SpaceX into the commercial launch market has put pressure on other companies to reduce their prices, even through many customers have traditionally not been price-sensitive. Jeff Foust reports that changes in the market are making customers more eager to spend less on launch, even as some launch providers seek to emphasize schedule performance and reliability.
Monday, March 14, 2016

Giant steps are what you take, walking on the Moon

An exhibition of Soviet space artifacts closed in London on Sunday after a six-month run. Dwayne Day discusses one of the key items in that exhibition, an engineering model of a lunar lander.
Monday, March 14, 2016

US terrestrial non-fossil fuel energy vs. space solar power

In the final essay in his three-part examination of the importance of space solar power, Mike Snead explains why only space-based solar power can meet the growing energy needs of the US as fossil fuels are phased out in the decades to come.
Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: Mars One: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure

Although it hasn’t attracted the same degree of public attention in the last year that it has previously, Mars One is still working on its controversial plans to send humans to Mars on one-way private missions. Jeff Foust reviews a book edited by some Mars One advisors that examines how they plan to handle a number of issues associated with those plans.
Monday, March 14, 2016

Déjà vu all over again: NASA and the question of risk

NASA’s human spaceflight program faces uncertainty with a change in administrations and potentially a change in direction, putting more pressure on NASA to carry out its ongoing programs. Roger Handberg warns that, like in the agency’s past, this could set the stage for tragedy.
Monday, March 7, 2016

Implementing a space weather strategy

Modern society is particularly vulnerable to the effects of massive solar storms that could bring down power grids and disrupt communications. Jeff Foust reports on a new effort by the federal government to coordinate work to better understand, and prepare for, that threat.
Monday, March 7, 2016

US fossil fuel energy insecurity and space solar power

Many Americans today do not worry much about energy security, given what appears to be plentiful supplies of fossil fuels. In the second installment of his three-part essay on space solar power, Mike Snead explains why now is the time to begin the transition from fossil fuels to, ideally, space solar power.
Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: The Last Man on the Moon

Since December 1972, Gene Cernan has been the last man to walk on the Moon, a distinction he’s held far longer that he expected, or hoped. Jeff Foust reviews a documentary about his life and astronaut career.
Monday, March 7, 2016

Seeking consistency in inconsistent times

Space has not been an issue during the presidential campaign to date, creating uncertainty about what the next President will do with NASA after taking office. Jeff Foust reports on one Congressional effort to provide more stability for NASA by, in effect, stripping the White House of some control over the agency.
Monday, February 29, 2016

The Paris climate agreement and space solar power

The recent climate agreement signed in Paris seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions to curtail global temperature increases, but says little about what should replace the energy sources that create such gases. Mike Snead, in the first of a three-part article, sees the agreement as an opportunity for space-based solar power.
Monday, February 29, 2016

Space launch lite: the Swala concept

Is there a better way to get to space using vertically-launched rockets? John Hollaway describes his concept for a reusable vehicle, launched from a moving platform and using ramjets to help get to orbit.
Monday, February 29, 2016

Staying course on the Journey to Mars

Recent hearings have suggested that some in Congress would like the next administration to choose another direction for the nation’s human spaceflight program. Louis Friedman argues that NASA’s “Journey to Mars” strategy remains the best option given likely budgets.
Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Abandoned in Place

The fate of many space artifacts from the early Space Age, in particular decommissioned launch sites, has been a topic of debate recently. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a photographic review of launch pads and other facilities that, in many cases, have been “abandoned in place” over the years.
Monday, February 29, 2016

Relaunching a spaceship

Last Friday, Virgin Galactic unveiled the second SpaceShipTwo, replacing the vehicle lost in a test flight accident more than a year ago. Jeff Foust reports on the rollout, what’s changed about this suborbital vehicle, and the company’s test flight plans.
Monday, February 22, 2016

Remembrance of things past

A recent essay argued that society, particularly in the United States, wasn’t doing enough to preserve space history artifacts. Dwayne Day explains why, in fact, the US does a good job deciding what to preserve, and then keeping it safe for future generations.
Monday, February 22, 2016

Making it happen

Recent milestones by Blue Origin and SpaceX have raised the prospects for reusable launch vehicles and low-cost space access. Bob Clarebrough looks to aviation history for guidance on how those companies might change the space industry.
Monday, February 22, 2016

Giving the tiger teeth: improving the space operations center

The Joint Space Operations Center is largely a space monitoring center, keeping track of satellites and debris in orbit but doing little in the way of command and control. Joseph Page argues for a revision of the role of that center to ensure space superiority in the event of a crisis.
Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: A Bunch of Plumbers

When NASA assigned the Lunar Orbiter program to NASA’s Langley Research Center a half-century ago, one Nobel laureate criticized the move, calling Langley a “bunch of plumbers.” Jeff Foust reviews a book where one of those “plumbers” recalls his work on both Lunar Orbiter and another Langley-led mission, Viking.
Monday, February 22, 2016

In space no one can hear you dream

Space advocates have long desired a realistic portrayal of space settlement to build support for their cause. Dwayne Day says the TV series The Expanse may be the most realistic such show to date, but one that is hardly going to get viewers to embrace advocates’ space settlement vision.
Monday, February 15, 2016

A thump in the night

Last week, physicists announced success in the decades-long search for gravitational waves, another vindication of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Jeff Foust reports on its discovery and its implications for astronomy and future space missions.
Monday, February 15, 2016

Governance challenges at the intersection of space and cyber security

Space security is closely tied to cyberspace security, given the reliance space systems have on computer technology. Jana Robinson discusses the links between the two issues and how to address those security concerns at an international level.
Monday, February 15, 2016

Why a Mars landing could be terrific for science

Some have argued that landing humans on Mars could contaminate the planet, making it potentially impossible to determine if life once existed, or still exists, there. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that sending humans to Mars will actually help the study of the planet and its habitability.
Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Breaking the Chains of Gravity

While the Space Age may have formally begun with the launch of Sputnik, there were activities in various aspects of rocketry in the decades leading up to that milestone. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a history of that work, but one that is not particularly original or compelling.
Monday, February 15, 2016

Filling in the details

Passage of a new commercial space bill last year marked the end of one effort, but the beginning of another. Jeff Foust reports on the various reports required by the bill and its implications for future commercial space legislation, either this year or beyond.
Monday, February 8, 2016

To look out from a higher plateau: the naming of Onizuka Air Force Station

For decades, military space programs were controlled out of a California facility later renamed after an astronaut killed in the Challenger accident. Joseph T. Page recalls the development, and ultimate demise, of Onizuka Air Force Station.
Monday, February 8, 2016

Rethinking the national security space strategy: part 3

Given the growing reliance on, and growing threats to, satellites, some argue that the US government should take a different approach to safeguarding their security. Christopher Stone discusses why the current deterrence approach should be replaced with an alternative.
Monday, February 8, 2016

Preserving our space heritage

While some lament the destruction of archeological artifacts during conflicts in the Middle East, most are unaware of how more recent space-related artifacts are falling apart elsewhere. Anthony French argues that those space relics, on Earth and in space, should be treated with the same respect as more ancient ones.
Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: SpaceX’s Dragon

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry cargo and eventually people, is perhaps just as important to the company as its launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers what turns out to be a disappointing history of the vehicle’s development.
Monday, February 8, 2016

Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space

A recent commentary argued that, for a variety of reasons, humans will never settle Mars or other destinations beyond Earth. Dale Skran counters that settlement is ultimately the only reason for humans to be in space.
Monday, February 1, 2016

A different kind of spaceport

Last month, Arizona officials approved a plan to develop a spaceport for a company that, technically speaking, won’t be flying to space. Jeff Foust reports on the development of a new headquarters and launch site for World View, and its plans for high-altitude balloons for space tourism and other applications.
Monday, February 1, 2016

Using space resources to help all of humanity

The promise of accessing space resources on the Moon or asteroids brings with it the potential of massive wealth. Greg Anderson discusses how that can be used to benefit not just the companies involved but also those on Earth less well off.
Monday, February 1, 2016

Creating a July 20 space exploration day holiday

There’s no single holiday in the United States devoted to space exploration. J. David Baxter discusses the history of his efforts to create one, and the importance of having one.
Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List

Do you have a “bucket list” of space activities you want to do at some point in your life? If not, Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a wide-ranging list of 100 such activities for devoted space enthusiasts.
Monday, February 1, 2016

The unfortunate provincialism of the space resources act

The commercial space bill enacted late last year provides rights for US companies to resources extracted form asteroids or other celestial bodies. Thomas Simmons discusses how the bill is a missed opportunity, though, since it doesn’t address resource rights internationally.
Monday, January 25, 2016

Elon Musk and the SpaceX Odyssey

Elon Musk has long made clear his long-term ambitions to establish a human presence on Mars, but that effort faces both opposition and competition. Tim Reyes argues that SpaceX needs to accelerate its efforts to make a reusable launch vehicle to maintain momentum for sending humans to Mars.
Monday, January 25, 2016

Future telescopes versus telescopes’ futures

At a recent astronomy conference, much of the discussion was about future space telescopes planned for launch over the next two decades. However, Jeff Foust reports there was also talk about existing and planned telescopes in space and on the ground that, in some cases, face uncertain futures.
Monday, January 25, 2016

(Star) trekking the through the Land of Enchantment: the New Mexico Space Trail

New Mexico isn’t always considered a space state, but it has a diverse heritage in spaceflight and astronomy. Joseph Page describes an effort to tie that history together through the New Mexico Space Trail.
Monday, January 25, 2016

The devil’s planet

Last week, astronomers announced evidence for the existence of a planet in the far outer solar system. Dwayne Day notes that the search for “Planet X” has inspired many works of fiction, including a Japanese manga from the 1980s.
Monday, January 25, 2016

And then there were three

Last week NASA awarded follow-on contracts for transporting cargo to and from the station to the two companies with existing contracts, plus one newcomer. Jeff Foust reports on the cargo contracts and the new life one contract offers to Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser.
Monday, January 18, 2016

NASA’s Journey to Mars and ESA’s Moon Village enable each other

As NASA pursues long-term plans to send humans to Mars, the leadership of ESA appears more interested in an international lunar base. A team of authors explain why the two approaches are not mutually exclusive.
Monday, January 18, 2016

China’s new space threat and the justification of US pre-emptive self-defense

New developments by China have raised concerns in the US about new anti-satellite capabilities. Brian Chow argues that the US should be prepared to take pre-emptive actions to protect its satellites in the event of a potential conflict.
Monday, January 18, 2016

CubeSat proximity operations: The natural evolution of defensive space control into a deterrence initiative

The increasing reliance by the American military on space assets brings with it increased vulnerability if those satellites are attacked. Michael Nayak describes how cubesats could pose a threat to those spacecraft, and how cubesats could also be part of the solution to deal with that threat.
Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: The Right Kind of Crazy

Achieving milestones like landing rovers on Mars requires not just technical expertise, but also ingenuity and the ability to deal with management issues and other obstacles. Jeff Foust reviews a book by the person who led the development of the Curiosity rover’s landing system on how he conquered those challenges.
Monday, January 18, 2016

The Moon in the crosshairs (part 4)

Dwayne Day concludes his review of US intelligence of Soviet lunar mission plans with monitoring of the failed N-1 launches of 1969, and how that overall intelligence affected NASA’s own plans for going to the Moon.
Monday, January 11, 2016

Accelerating the next, next space telescope

As NASA works to complete the James Webb Space Telescope for launch in less than three years, it’s also beginning work on the next major space observatory after it. Jeff Foust reports on the accelerated start of the WFIRST mission.
Monday, January 11, 2016

A snapshot of MOL in 1968

Recently declassified documents have provided new insights into the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program that was cancelled in 1969. John Charles examines what those documents tell us about the management and structure of the program.
Monday, January 11, 2016

Making Moon Day memorable

One of the challenges for the space community is outreach to the general public. Ken Murphy describes the successes and setbacks he’s encountered in one such effort, a “Moon Day” event in Dallas.
Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Mars via the Moon

As NASA develops its long-term plan to send humans to Mars, some argue for precursor missions to the Moon not currently in NASA’s roadmap. Anthony Young reviews a recent book that lays out some of the arguments for going to the Moon first.
Monday, January 11, 2016

A step towards reusability

SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket last month, an accomplishment widely heralded as ushering in a new era of reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on the landing and the steps SpaceX still must take to make reusability a reality.
Monday, January 4, 2016

The Moon in the crosshairs (part 3)

Did the threat of a Soviet manned circumlunar mission weigh on NASA’s decision to fly Apollo 8? Dwayne Day examines what role, if any, intelligence on Soviet plans affected NASA’s planning.
Monday, January 4, 2016

Increasing the profit ratio

SpaceX recovered its first stage from a successful orbital launch. Sam Dinkin assesses progress of SpaceX toward its goal of reducing the cost of launch by two orders of magnitude.
Monday, January 4, 2016

Jurisdiction of the federal courts: An under-appreciated provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

Much of the attention the recently enacted Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act received focused on provisions ranging from asteroid mining to launch indemnification. Michael Listner discusses another provision in the act that may be just as important as the others.
Monday, January 4, 2016

Bringing Asgard to Earth: Making a Thor Heritage District at Vandenberg

The last Delta II rocket will launch next year from Vandenberg Air Force Base, ending an era that dates back to the early days of the Space Age. Joseph Page argues that the launch facilities Delta and its predecessors used there should be preserved as a historic site.
Monday, January 4, 2016

Review: Go Flight!

Flight controllers play an essential role on NASA human spaceflight missions, but the individuals themselves are rarely known by name. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a history of the early years of Mission Control and the people who helped create and staff it.
Monday, January 4, 2016

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