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Articles previously published in The Space Review:

June 2014:

NRC’s “Pathway to Exploration” should start with the Asteroid Redirect Mission

The National Research Council’s human space exploration report released earlier this month did not look favorably on NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) plans. Lou Friedman and Tom Jones argue that ARM, rather than being a dead end towards the long-term goal of Mars, is instead a key enabling mission.
Monday, June 30, 2014

Red tortoise, blue turtle

In the past, many Western observers conflated China’s robotic lunar exploration plans with its human spaceflight plans. But as Dwayne Day explains, the two may be finally, if slowly, starting to truly come together.
Monday, June 30, 2014

Air launch, big and small

While the concept of air launch seems compelling, such systems have failed to have much effect on the overall launch market. Jeff Foust reports on two different air launch ventures, one by DARPA and one funded by Paul Allen, attacking the air launch idea from two very different directions.
Monday, June 30, 2014

India and the satellite launch market

On Monday, an Indian PSLV rocket placed five satellites into orbit on a commercial mission. Ajey Lele examines what India needs to do to become more competitive in the global commercial launch market.
Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

A new NASA book got media attention last month when some bloggers and reporters said it claimed aliens left mysterious writings on the Earth. Jeff Foust reviews the book to find that it, instead, offers a very different, and sometimes critical, take on SETI proposals to communicate with any extraterrestrial civilizations.
Monday, June 30, 2014

Ten years later, still waiting for the future to arrive

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the first flight to space by SpaceShipOne, an event at the time that appeared to mark a new era in human spaceflight. Jeff Foust looks back at the event and the progress, or seemingly lack thereof, in commercial human suborbital spaceflight.
Monday, June 23, 2014

All alone in the night: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory emerges from the shadows

In 1969, the Nixon Administration cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, focusing its resources on other reconnaissance satellites. Dwayne Day describes new insights into the MOL program from recently released documents.
Monday, June 23, 2014

Boeing displays CST-100 progress at Kennedy Space Center

As NASA reviews proposals for the next phase of the commercial crew program, companies continue to show off the progress they have made and their future plans. Anthony Young reports on a Boeing event earlier this month in Florida, where the company plans to assemble its CST-100 spacecraft.
Monday, June 23, 2014

It’s time for NASA to abandon the Apollo mission model

Both the National Research Council’s human space exploration and a separate internal NASA study lay out a path of missions and destinations for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit. John Strickland argues that they fail, though, by following an Apollo-era paradigm of standalone missions.
Monday, June 23, 2014

Planetary orbit insertion failures (part 2)

In the conclusion of his two-part examination of planetary missions that failed to enter orbit as planned, Andrew LePage reviews four Mars missions by the US and former Soviet Union that failed to enter orbit as planned.
Monday, June 23, 2014

Space policy via the rearview mirror

The release of the final report by National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight, evaluating the future of human space exploration, kickstarted a new round of debate about what that future should be. Dale Skran offers his assessment of the report, including where it falls short in assessing technical and commercial developments that could alter the report’s proposed pathways.
Monday, June 16, 2014

The commercial remote sensing boom

Two years ago, weak demand for commercial imagery and reduced government budgets drove consolidation among providers of such images; today, a number of startups are trying to get into the field. Jeff Foust reports on this new wave of interest, including one company’s recent acquisition by an Internet giant.
Monday, June 16, 2014

Planetary orbit insertion failures (part 1)

One of the most challenging aspects of planetary exploration, short of landing on another world, is entering orbit around it. In the first of a two-part article, Andrew LePage examines some of the missions that failed, at least on their first try, to achieve orbit around another solar system body.
Monday, June 16, 2014

NASA’s big rocket gives Putin a big advantage

Tensions with Russia have generated interest in Congress and elsewhere to develop a new large rocket engine to replace the Russian-built RD-180. Rick Boozer argues that such an engine might be available today, or very soon, had Congress not derailed NASA’s proposed launch vehicle development plans in 2010.
Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Sally Ride

While Sally Ride was one of the most famous astronauts in American history, she was also a private person with secrets that didn’t emerge until after her death nearly two years ago. Jeff Foust reviews a new biography that artfully tells the public, private, and even secret lives of the first American woman in space.
Monday, June 16, 2014

A new pathway to Mars

Last week, the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight issued its long-awaited report on the future of NASA’s human space exploration programs. Jeff Foust examines the report and the key issues it highlights, including whether the government and the public are willing to support a sustained long-term space exploration initiative.
Monday, June 9, 2014

Why Shelby’s latest crusade is self-defeating

Senator Richard Shelby has proposed that NASA require companies competing for the development of commercial crew systems to submit certified cost and pricing data. Sam Dinkin puts on his acquisition-economist hat to analyze the proposal.
Monday, June 9, 2014

The changing fortunes of NASA astronomy missions

A few months ago, the future looked dire for NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory, as it faced a budget cut that would have mothballed it. As Jeff Foust reports, SOFIA’s fortunes are improving, but now another mission is facing the threat of termination.
Monday, June 9, 2014

The commercial race back to the Moon

With just over 18 months to go in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, a few teams are emerging as frontrunners with the best chance to capture the prize. Anthony Young looks at two of the teams that recently received support from NASA, as well as a third company not competing for the prize but also working on commercial lunar mission concepts.
Monday, June 9, 2014

Decision time for commercial crew

Last week, SpaceX unveiled the design for its commercial crew vehicle, but it’s not the only contender for that NASA program. Jeff Foust reports on the latest progress made by Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX, and the hard decisions facing these companies as NASA chooses some, but not all, of them to continue on the program.
Monday, June 2, 2014

Secret optics

The roles people play in space programs are often overlooked in comparison to technology, a problem exacerbated in classified programs. Dwayne Day discusses one exception to this rule in the form of a new book by, and interview of, someone who worked on early reconnaissance satellite programs.
Monday, June 2, 2014

The prospect of a grand Africa-Europe partnership to accelerate space development

Africa could benefit greatly from enhanced used of space, but lacks the expertise and resources to do so. Vid Beldavs proposes how a partnership between Africa and the European Union could benefit both, and even the world.
Monday, June 2, 2014

Cislunar cinema (part 2)

Ken Murphy completes his two-part review of movies based in cislunar space with those produced since the turn of the century, and what some of overall trends from these movies suggest.
Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: The Cosmic Cocktail

As astronomers meet in in Boston this week for a major conference, the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy will be on the minds of many there. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines what we know, and don’t know, about these primary constituents of the universe.
Monday, June 2, 2014


May 2014:

Export control reform (almost) reaches the finish line

After more than a decade of lobbying by the space industry, the State Department published a final rule earlier this month moving most satellites and related items off the US Munitions List, and therefore no longer subject to ITAR. Jeff Foust notes that, while this is a major milestone, industry didn’t get everything they wanted, and there’s still some unfinished business to tend to.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Regulating the void: In-orbit collisions and space debris

One of the biggest uncertainties in space law and regulation today is determining who is responsible for collisions between spacecraft and debris. Timothy G. Nelson outlines the key legal issues associated with this topic.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Making progress, and seeking stability, with SLS and Orion

NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion spacecraft are two of NASA’s highest profile programs, and also two programs subject to significant criticism and debate. Jeff Foust reports on what the key companies involved in those two programs are doing to keep them on schedule in the near term as they also seek long-term stability.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cislunar cinema (part 1)

Over the decades, many dozens of films have been produced about spaceflight to the Moon and its vicinity. In the first of a two part examination of this ouvre, Ken Murphy recounts the cislunar films from the golden age of cinema to the turn of the 21st century.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Innovation the NASA Way

NASA might not seem like an innovative organization to everyone in the space community, but it’s far ahead of many companies in that regard. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines NASA’s techniques for innovation throughout its history and how they could be applied elsewhere.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life in space is impossible

Several recent movies have provided a negative view of space, including Gravity’s opening message that “life in space is impossible.” Dwayne Day compares those messages with the promise of an upcoming film, Interstellar, and the challenges of getting a positive space message out to the public.
Monday, May 19, 2014

The future of NASA’s commercial partnerships

With the end of the COTS program and the transition of commercial crew to more conventional contracting arrangements, NASA is exploring new ways to partner with the commercial sector. Jeff Foust provides an overview of several of those relatively small-scale efforts.
Monday, May 19, 2014

The quest for on-orbit authority

An issue of some concern in the commercial space industry is the concept of giving one or more government agencies “on-orbit authority” over spacecraft operations, including measures related to orbital debris mitigation. Jeff Foust reports on some of the ideas for such regulation and the willingness of Congress to grant it.
Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Nearest Star

Of all the billions of stars in our galaxy, the most important one is the one closest to us: the Sun. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an overview of our knowledge of the Sun and the effects it has on climate and space weather.
Monday, May 19, 2014

Replacing the RD-180

The RD-180 engine used by the Atlas V is technically very good, but its Russian origins have become problematic from a policy standpoint in recent months. Jeff Foust reports on recent court action involving imports of the engine and studies to either develop a domestic production of the engine or develop an American-designed replacement.
Monday, May 12, 2014

Red Planet dreams

Last week, British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, best known as the principal investigator on the failed Beagle 2 Mars lander, passed away. Dwayne Day looks back at Pillinger and his controversial role on the ill-fated mission.
Monday, May 12, 2014

Remembrances of conferences past

Later this week space professionals and advocates with gather in Los Angeles for the NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC). Jeff Foust takes a page—literally—from history by looking at the proceedings of an ISDC held nearly thirty years ago to see what’s changed and what hasn’t.
Monday, May 12, 2014

Building a bridge to space solar power for terrestrial use

A long-running challenge to the concept of space-based solar power is the high costs inherent in generating it versus terrestrial alternatives. David Dunlop and Al Anzaldua examine approaches to develop key technologies and address the cost issue through a stepping-stone approach.
Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Milestones of Space

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is filled with a dazzling array of artifacts from the Space Age. Jeff Foust reviews a book that profiles 11 of the museum’s most historic items, from a space shuttle to a spacesuit.
Monday, May 12, 2014

How to energize the space economy

While the commercial space industry shows great potential, it still relies heavily on the government. Kenneth Silber argues that the government can do more to help commercial space grow through several focused, interrelated initiatives, from space energy to property rights.
Monday, May 5, 2014

Mars missions on the cheap

While robotic missions to Mars typically cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, some organizations are looking at creative ways to develop low-cost missions to the Red Planet. Jeff Foust reports on two such efforts discussed at a recent conference, one using CubeSats and the other penetrator probes.
Monday, May 5, 2014

Following up: reusability, B612, satellite servicing

Several topics previously covered in The Space Review have had some new developments recently, although often not getting the same attention as other headlines. Jeff Foust takes a look at recent progress in launch vehicle reusability, searches for near Earth asteroids, and servicing satellites in orbit.
Monday, May 5, 2014

Teaching space in US schools

A new set of national science education standards puts a greater emphasis on teaching space science in grades K-12, but are teachers prepared to deal with those topics? Gary H. Kitmacher discusses the results of a survey of Texas teachers on their background and capability to teach about space.
Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Crowded Orbits

Many in the space community understand the the space environment is growing more complex and competitive, with more organizations involved in space activities and flying more satellites, but that situation isn’t necessarily clear to policymakers. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a broader audience with an overview of the current state of space activities and the potential diplomatic approaches for space security.
Monday, May 5, 2014


April 2014:

SpaceX escalates the EELV debate

For months, SpaceX has sparring with the Air Force and United Launch Alliance about a block buy contract that appeared to keep SpaceX from competing for many upcoming military launches. Jeff Foust reports that SpaceX has intensified that debate with plans to contest that contract in court.
Monday, April 28, 2014

…Try, try again

After an earlier effort to develop Venus and Mars probes in the early 1960s resulted in launch and spacecraft failures, the Soviet Union redoubled its efforts with a new set of missions. Andrew LePage explores the development of that next generation of Venus and Mars spacecraft 50 years ago.
Monday, April 28, 2014

Customary international law: A troublesome question for the Code of Conduct?

Various nations, including the United States, are discussing a proposed code of conduct for outer space activities. Michael Listner examines whether the code, intended to be a non-binding document, could establish a form of international law depending on how the US or others implement it.
Monday, April 28, 2014

Microbes, spacecraft, and cheerleaders: The ISS payload story of Project MERCCURI

Among the payloads delivered to the International Space Station this month on a Dragon cargo spacecraft is a microbiology experiment with an unusual public outreach angle. Bart Leahy describes the development of Project MERCCURI and the challenges it overcame to make it to space.
Monday, April 28, 2014

Reviews: new spins on astronaut biographies

Many books have been written about the lives of astronauts, including by the astronauts themselves; is there anything new that can be said? Jeff Foust reviews two, relatively short books that profile astronauts who have already written their life stories, but do so in new ways.
Monday, April 28, 2014

The uncertain road to Mars

There’s growing acceptance that NASA’s space exploration program should have the long-term goal of landing humans on Mars, perhaps in the mid-2030s. However, Jeff Foust reports there’s less information on exactly how NASA should go about achieving that goal, and whether any NASA strategy is affordable in the long run.
Monday, April 21, 2014

Humans and robots to the Moon and Mars: a unified and integrated space program strategy

Too often debates about space exploration have focused on destinations, or whether robots or humans should be in the lead. John Strickland offers an integrated approach that maximizes the capabilities of both humans and robots to explore destinations throughout the solar system.
Monday, April 21, 2014

The growth of public-private partnerships in commercial space ventures

While the capabilities of commercial space ventures continue to grow, those efforts are increasingly being done in cooperation with governments. Anthony Young examines the rise of these public-private partnerships through several recent examples.
Monday, April 21, 2014

Everest, the camps, and the Sherpas

NASA first reached the Moon thanks to tremendous resources at its disposal during the Apollo era. Derek Webber argues that for NASA to explore in more fiscally constrained times, it must borrow a page from mountaineering and establish an infrastructure of “base camps” leading into the solar system.
Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Lucky Planet

The discovery of the first Earth-sized exoplanet in its star’s habitable zone has raised hopes that true Earth-like worlds may be common. Jeff Foust reviews a book where one scientist argues that Earth, in fact, may be a exceptionally rare planet.
Monday, April 21, 2014

Commercial crew, Crimea, and Congress

The increase in tensions between the US and Russia would appear to provide NASA with a strong case for funding the agency’s commercial crew program and thus reducing reliance on Russia for accessing the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA has been making that case, some in Congress are not necessarily receptive to it.
Monday, April 14, 2014

Special Operations takes the fight to the high ground

While interest in small satellites is growing, the utility of such small spacecraft remains open to debate. Ethan W. Mattox discusses an effort by one element of the US military to test the feasibility of smallsats to provide communications support for special operations forces.
Monday, April 14, 2014

Robust and reusable?

If reusable launch vehicles can dramatically lower launch prices, as some have argued about SpaceX’s efforts to develop a reusable Falcon 9, what markets does such a vehicle enable? Ajay P. Kothari examines the economics of RLVs regarding one well-known potential market, space tourism.
Monday, April 14, 2014

Creating “believable” aliens: an interview with James L. Cambias

As interest in astrobiology increases along with the prospects of alien life, science fiction often remains rooted in conventional descriptions of what intelligent alien life would be like. John Hickman interviews an author of a new novel that offers a different, and perhaps more credible, view of what they could be like.
Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Orbit of Discovery

Can a relatively ordinary shuttle mission, one without major achievements or problems, make for a compelling book? Jeff Foust reviews a book that profiles one such mission as seen from the vantage point of one of its crewmembers.
Monday, April 14, 2014

What’s in a code? Putting space development first

While a code of conduct for outer space activities has the backing of governments in the Europe and the US, there’s less support of the proposed code among Asian governments. Peter Garretson examines what issues are impeding the code in Asia and how a greater emphasis on space development could garner greater support for it there.
Monday, April 7, 2014

Symbolism and substance in US-Russian space relations

NASA made headlines last week when it announced it was suspending cooperation with Russia, with the notable and very large exception of International Space Station operations. Jeff Foust examines how much of an effect that ban will really have versus its symbolic effect in an era of tense US-Russian relations.
Monday, April 7, 2014

Competing forums: an asteroid or the Moon?

While some people believe that the next destination for humans beyond Earth orbit should be a return to the Moon, NASA is working instead on a human mission to a captured near Earth asteroid. Tom Chinick discusses how advancing capabilities in the commercial sector could allow human exploration and development of both.
Monday, April 7, 2014

Dennis Tito’s “Spaceship to Everywhere” may be a dead-end for NASA

Dennis Tito, the former space tourist now backing a proposal for a human Mars flyby mission, recently spoke out in favor of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion to carry out that and other missions. Rick Boozer argues that flaws with SLS/Orion could doom its use for Inspiration Mars and more.
Monday, April 7, 2014

Europa on the cheap

NASA’s 2015 budget proposal included, for the first time, a small amount of funding to support studies of a proposed mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA leadership may finally be warming to a mission that already has support among many in the scientific community as well as in Congress, it’s also seeking ways to do that mission less expensively.
Monday, April 7, 2014


March 2014:

After a year, NASA’s asteroid mission still seeks definition

Last April, NASA unveiled plan to redirect an asteroid into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts, a plan that was criticized for some for the lack of details. Jeff Foust reports that, nearly a year later, NASA is refining those plans, but still faces critics of the proposed mission on Capitol Hill.
Monday, March 31, 2014

Prospects for the Indian human spaceflight program

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the first Indian astronaut, Rakesh Sharma. Gurbir Singh examines the prospects for India’s own human spaceflight program after many years of waiting for someone to follow Sharma.
Monday, March 31, 2014

If at first you don’t succeed… (part 2)

In part 2 of his look back at early Soviet planetary missions, Andrew LePage recounts what happened to the fleet of Mars and Venus missions launched by the USSR in the latter half of 1962.
Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Marketing the Moon

Humanity’s first missions to the Moon, 45 years ago, might seem like such a historic milestone that there would be no need for help publicizing it. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explains not only why such publicity efforts were necessary, but how NASA, industry, and the media carried them out.
Monday, March 31, 2014

Making the most of the ISS

In recent years, NASA and others have turned their attention on the International Space Station from building and maintaining the facility to making the best possible use of it. Jeff Foust examines some of those government and commercial efforts, from using the ISS as a remote sensing platform to as a launch facility for small satellites.
Monday, March 24, 2014

If at first you don’t succeed… (part 1)

The early history of Soviet missions to Venus and Mars was filled with failures. Andrew LePage looks back at how Soviet engineers responded to the initial set of failed missions with a spacecraft concept designed for missions to both planets.
Monday, March 24, 2014

Reusability and other issues facing the launch industry

While many in the space community are fascinated with SpaceX’s experiments with reusability and their implications for launch prices, that excitement doesn’t necessarily extend to other companies in the launch industry. Jeff Foust reports on what issues are currently of greater interest and importance to them.
Monday, March 24, 2014

A new price point to orbit

The upcoming reusable Falcon 9 launch is generating some excitement. Sam Dinkin looks at the implications of projected lower launch costs for space settlement.
Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Live TV From Orbit

Today, we take for granted getting live high definition video from the International Space Station, but forty years ago, getting live TV of any kind from orbit involved technical and other problems. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the development and use fo live TV on Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, and the beginning of the Space Shuttle program.
Monday, March 24, 2014

Through a glass, darkly: Chinese, American, and Russian anti-satellite testing in space

In May of last year, China launched what it said was a high-altitude sounding rocket for research purposes, but what many in the US believe was an ASAT test. In a comprehensive report, Brian Weeden examines the evidence that the launch was an ASAT test, the historical record of such tests by other countries, and its implications for space security.
Monday, March 17, 2014

Aborted takeoff

After nearly two decades of development, the SOFIA airborne observatory is about to formally enter its operational phase. However, Jeff Foust reports, the future of SOFIA is in jeopardy after NASA proposed cutting funding for it in its 2015 budget proposal, a move that could significant scientific and even geopolitical implications.
Monday, March 17, 2014

India’s 2014–15 space budget: an assessment

Last month, the Indian government released its proposed budget for its next fiscal year, including more than $1 billion for the Indian space agency ISRO. Ajey Lele examines the budget and the priorities it assigns to efforts ranging from space science to human spaceflight.
Monday, March 17, 2014

Regulatory effects of the International Code of Conduct on commercial space

Discussions about a potential International Code of Conduct for space activities have focused on its effects on national governments. Michael Listner examines how it could affect commercial space activities, particularly those regulated by the US, depending on how the code is interpreted.
Monday, March 17, 2014

A time of danger and opportunity for US-Russian space relations

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine could imperil US-Russian cooperation in space, some fear, including access to the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on the potential threats an intensified crisis could pose, but also the opportunities it could provide.
Monday, March 10, 2014

Uwingu: making an impact

Last month, Uwingu rolled out a new program to allow people to name craters on a Mars map for a fee. Alan Stern and Mark Sykes discuss the benefits this initiative promises for funding space science efforts, and how some have misunderstood it.
Monday, March 10, 2014

Protecting critical space capabilities from physical and fiscal threats

Space has become congested, contested, and competitive, officials have warned in recent years. Now, Thomas “Tav” Taverney argues, military space systems are facing fiscal threats that could imperil plans to protect those systems from other threats.
Monday, March 10, 2014

Rocket reusability: a driver of economic growth

On Sunday, SpaceX will launch its latest Falcon 9 rocket on another ISS resupply mission, but this time attempt to recover the first stage. Rick Boozer explains how this step towards reusability can change the economics of spaceflight.
Monday, March 10, 2014

Rebooting Cosmos

Last night the highly anticipated first episode of the remake of Cosmos broadcast on Fox. Jeff Foust checks out the show and examines how it and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, compare to the legacy of the original Cosmos and Carl Sagan.
Monday, March 10, 2014

Mars 2021 and the quest for direction in human spaceflight

Last week, a Congressional committee held a hearing about whether NASA should adopt a human Mars flyby concept developed last year by Inspiration Mars. Jeff Foust reports on the debate at the hearing about a 2021 Mars flyby mission, and demands from policymakers for more details from NASA about its human space exploration plans in general.
Monday, March 3, 2014

The Affording Mars Workshop: background and recommendations

In December, a team of experts convened in Washington to examine how to carry out “affordable” human missions to Mars in the next two to three decades. Harley Thronson and Chris Carberry discuss the background of the workshop and the recommendations they developed to make such missions feasible.
Monday, March 3, 2014

Apollo 9: testing the lunar module

Monday marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 9, an Apollo mission that never left Earth orbit yet was a key step in the journey to the Moon. Anthony Young recounts this mission that provided the first opportunity for astronauts to fly the Lunar Module.
Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Microlaunchers

Can small launch vehicles disrupt the space industry in the same way that microcomputers did to the computing industry decades ago? Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes that argument, but doesn’t necessarily convince the reader.
Monday, March 3, 2014


February 2014:

Rocket science on a shoestring

NewSpace is often aligned in the minds of many with major companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Yet, as James Careless describes, there is plenty of action among much smaller ventures, where people have to learn to creative with small teams and smaller budgets.
Monday, February 24, 2014

Shining light on dark matter

Roughly a quarter of the universe is made of matter whose gravitational effects can be felt, but which can’t easily be seen. Jeff Foust reports on efforts in space and underground to try and detect the hypothesized particles believed to comprise dark matter.
Monday, February 24, 2014

Elon’s elan

Like Robert Heinlein’s Delos Harriman, the man in The Man Who Sold the Moon, watching humanity’s progress into space can seem like a narrative primarily about one man. Sam Dinkin tracks Elon Musk’s progress this year toward settling Mars.
Monday, February 24, 2014

Orbital debris: resource ladder to the stars

The growing population of orbital debris poses hazards to the satellites that modern society relies upon. However, Al Anzaldua argues that efforts to clean up orbital debris can also develop technologies needed for expanding our economy and our presence into the solar system.
Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Branson: Behind the Mask

Many in the space community are growing impatient with Virgin Galactic as development of its SpaceShipTwo program encounters extended delays. Jeff Foust reviews a book about Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, that offers a sharply critical look at the company, but one that may also be factually flawed.
Monday, February 24, 2014

EELV’s era of transition

The US Air Force announced recently a “bulk buy” of EELV rockets from United Launch Alliance that it claims will save the government billions of dollars. Stewart Money argues that such savings may prove elusive and that the government’s EELV strategy should be reconsidered given the rise of new entrants like SpaceX.
Monday, February 17, 2014

Who framed Jade Rabbit?

For a time last week, Western media widely reported that China’s Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” lunar rover had died, only to have officials sources state that the rover was alive, if not completely well. Jeff Foust examines both the faults in the erroneous media coverage and the lack of official information about the mission.
Monday, February 17, 2014

“The All-American Boy”: Walt Cunningham speaks on Apollo 7 and more

He may have flown only once in space, but Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham remains one of the better-known figures of that era and beyond. Shane Hannon interviews Cunningham about both Apollo 7 and more contemporary topics, including his thoughts on the future of human space exploration.
Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: The Martian

There have been, over the years, many science fiction stories of human Mars mission gone awry. Jeff Foust reviews a new book that offers a different but compelling take on that, a “hard” science fiction story of one astronaut’s quest to survive after being left behind on Mars.
Monday, February 17, 2014

A decadal survey for human scientific exploration of space: a focus on discovery

Winning broad support for human space exploration efforts, be they to the Moon, asteroids, or Mars, has long been challenging. Matt Greenhouse argues its time for human spaceflight at NASA to adopt the approach for choosing missions that has generated considerable success for the agency’s science programs.
Monday, February 10, 2014

Balancing safety and cost in commercial human spaceflight

As companies develop commercial spacecraft to carry private citizens and NASA astronauts on suborbital and orbital flights, some worry that safety could be sacrificed to lower costs. Jeff Foust reports on the debate regarding NASA’s commercial crew effort and a proposal to extend a “learning period” for commercial providers that limits FAA regulation.
Monday, February 10, 2014

Why not return to the Moon? (part 2)

In the second part of his examination of the future of lunar exploration, Anthony Young looks at a new NASA initiative to support commercial robotic lunar landers and the role it could play in stimulating later human missions back to the Moon.
Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: X-15

This year, rocket-powered winged vehicles will be flying in the skies above the Mojave Desert, as two commercial ventures test their vehicles. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks back a half century to a time when another rocketplane flew as high, and far faster, in those same skies.
Monday, February 10, 2014

Kepler’s second act

Last summer, NASA announced that the Kepler spacecraft could not continue its mission to look for exoplanets because of failed reaction wheels on the spacecraft. Jeff Foust reports on how the project is trying to bring new life to the spacecraft with an alternative mission, as other spacecraft seek to follow in Kepler’s footsteps.
Monday, February 3, 2014

Ranger: America’s first successful lunar program

As China’s ongoing lunar mission, Chang’e-3, struggled with problems with its rover, it’s worth remembering the problems early American lunar missions encountered. Andrew LePage examines the failure of a Ranger mission 50 years ago, and how it paved the way for successful missions that followed.
Monday, February 3, 2014

Why not return to the Moon? (part 1)

Four years ago, NASA set aside plans for a human return to the Moon in the foreseeable future in favor of expeditions to asteroids and Mars. In the first of a two-part article, Anthony Young reexamines the potential scientific, geopolitical, and commercial benefits of reconsidering human lunar exploration.
Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Challenger: An American Tragedy

More than a quarter of a century after the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, is there anything more that can be written about that fatal accident? Jeff Foust reviews a short ebook that does offer a new perspective from the person who was the voice of launch control.
Monday, February 3, 2014


January 2014:

Commercial crew’s critical year

NASA’s commercial crew program is facing an important year in 2014, as it selects one or more companies for the next phase of development. Jeff Foust reports on the budgetary pressures the program is facing and one company’s redoubled efforts to remain a part of the program.
Monday, January 27, 2014

Achieving cheap access to space: the foundation of commercialization (part 2)

In the concluding section of his book excerpt, Charles Miller discusses how competition and public private partnerships, key to early aviation a century ago, can help the US achieve cheap access to space.
Monday, January 27, 2014

A brief look at the legal and political implications of Japan’s space debris removal plans

Japan is planning to demonstrate in orbit in the coming weeks an electromagnetic tether that could be used to help remove space debris. Michael Listner examines some of the legal and political issues associated with that effort that could pose challenges as great as any technical ones.
Monday, January 27, 2014

Celebrating space

This week is a somber one for many in the space community, given the confluence of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia anniversaries. Ken Murphy describes how the rest the the year offers more upbeat opportunities to commemorate and celebrate spaceflight.
Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Wheels Stop

Two and a half years after the end of the last Space Shuttle mission, the program is firmly in NASA’s past, even if it still casts a shadow on the agency today. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the history of the Shuttle program post-Challenger, with interviews of many of the astronauts who flew on those missions.
Monday, January 27, 2014

Achieving cheap access to space: the foundation of commercialization (part 1)

Many people agree that low-cost space access is important to the future of spaceflight, but there’s no consensus about how to achieve it. In the first of a two-part excerpt from a new book, Charles Miller looks back to the early history of aviation for lessons that can be applied to spaceflight.
Monday, January 20, 2014

A blurred vision, but a persistent goal

As many in the space community celebrated the final 2014 NASA budget last week, they overlooked a very different milestone: the tenth anniversary of the presidential speech announcing the Vision for Space Exploration. Jeff Foust looks back on than anniversary and how some are carrying on a goal that survived the Vision’s demise: sending humans to Mars.
Monday, January 20, 2014

Launch failures: normal, healthy paranoia

To outsiders, those involved with launch campaigns can appeared obsessed with details to the point of paranoia. Wayne Eleazer discusses how this is a normal and even healthy attitude to take, given the hard lessons companies have learned over the years.
Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Safe Is Not an Option

NASA officials and others frequently emphasize the priority safety has in human spaceflight. Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes the argument that safety is, in fact, being overemphasized at the expense of making significant progress in space exploration.
Monday, January 20, 2014

Four more years: The US seeks to extend the ISS, but will its partners join?

Last week, the White House and NASA announced that the US wants to operate the International Space Station to at least 2024, four years later than previously planned. Jeff Foust reports on the reaction to those plans both in the US and among the international partners, who have yet to agree to such an extension.
Monday, January 13, 2014

Why greens should be pro-space

A recent op-ed criticized space tourism for being environmentally unfriendly, with a carbon footprint per person much larger than for commercial aviation. Joe Mascaro makes the case that environmentalists should actually embrace the growing opportunities of commercial spaceflight.
Monday, January 13, 2014

Doing the right thing when it’s steamboat time

Much of the criticism regarding the Space Launch System has been about its large size and cost. John Strickland argues that the true root of the SLS’s costs is not that it’s large, but that it is expendable, and thus unaffordable.
Monday, January 13, 2014

The International Lunar Decade

As more nations and companies show an interest in going to the Moon and making use of its resources, a regime to effectively govern access to those resources may be needed. Vid Beldavs discusses a proposal to study those resources and develop technologies to access them within the framework of an existing treaty.
Monday, January 13, 2014

What’s a space exploration program for?

As heads of space agencies meet in Washington this week for a space exploration conference, some in the US call for a change in direction in NASA’s human spaceflight program. Jeff Foust reports on several views of what NASA should be doing, as proposed in a new book.
Monday, January 6, 2014

Shooting the news from low Earth orbit: An interview with Mark E. Brender, Executive Director of the DigitalGlobe Foundation

The news media has become one of the major users of imagery from commercial satellites. Dwayne Day interviews one of the pioneers of such use of commercial imagery, offering his perspectives as someone who worked first in the media and then for one of the commercial remote sensing companies.
Monday, January 6, 2014

GSLV-D5 success: A major “booster” to India’s space program

On Sunday, India launched successfully for the first time a version of its large GSLV rocket with an indigenously-developed cryogenic upper stage. Ajey Lele discusses the significance of this milestone for India’s space program and its future plans.
Monday, January 6, 2014

First west, then east

Government agencies and companies have struggled for decades to develop feasible one- or two-stage reusable launch vehicles (RLVs). Ronald Menich describes how a three-stage RLV, while seemingly more complex, could be done today without any major technological breakthroughs.
Monday, January 6, 2014

US citizens: demand maximum support for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

This is a key year for NASA’s commercial crew efforts, and funding decisions in the coming weeks could determine the future of the program. Rick Boozer argues why the program deserves full funding.
Monday, January 6, 2014


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