White House reportedly weighing competition between “Old” and “New Space”

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The Trump administration is reportedly weighing a competition between “Old Space” and “New Space.”

A memo from a NASA transition team member proposed an “internal competition” between existing agency programs and commercial approaches to see which would be the best way to fly humans to lunar orbit by 2020.

Such an approach could conceivably threaten existing NASA programs like the Space Launch System and Orion, which leading members of Congress have said they would protect from any changes the new administration might impose. [Wall Street Journal]


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Planet is acquiring Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging business. Planet announced Friday it was acquiring Terra Bella for an undisclosed sum, and that it signed a multi-year deal to provide images to Google. A “significant” number of Terra Bella’s employees will join Planet. Terra Bella’s SkySat fleet of high-resolution imaging satellites will be added to Planet’s constellation of medium-resolution imaging cubesats, and Planet said plans to launch additional satellites for both systems will continue. Earlier Friday Planet announced it would fly 88 of its Dove cubesats on an Indian rocket scheduled to launch Feb. 14. [SpaceNews]

The chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force is calling for space acquisition reform. Gen. David Goldfein said Friday that there was a need for an “honest discussion” about space acquisition, with dozens of organizations playing a role today. He said there needs to be changes to streamline who sets requirements and who acquires systems to meet those requirements in order to stay ahead of any potential adversary. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s acting leader says that, two weeks into the new administration, there have been no major changes. In a memo Friday to agency personnel, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that the Trump administration has offered “no new guidance” on NASA’s existing programs. NASA is operating under a continuing resolution that funds programs at their 2016 levels through April. Lightfoot said that new presidential appointees assigned to NASA are “extremely engaged and to a person excited” to be at the agency, calling the transition very smooth so far. [SpaceNews]

A Japanese cargo spacecraft reentered Sunday without deploying a tether experiment. The HTV-6 spacecraft reentered as planned Sunday, a little more than a week after departing the space station. Japanese engineers had planned to extend a tether 700 meters long from the spacecraft as a test of technologies that could be used to remove orbital debris. However, they said it appeared the tether never deployed. [AFP]

DigitalGlobe said Friday that its newest satellite, WorldView-4, has entered service. The company said that the satellite, launched in November, had completed on-orbit tests and was now serving its first direct-access customer. The new satellite more than doubles the company’s ability to collect images at a resolution of 30 centimeters. [SpaceNews]

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will features hundreds of parts made with 3-D printing technology. Boeing is working with Oxford Performance Materials to use plastic 3D-printed parts on the crewed vehicle, replacing traditionally manufactured aluminum parts to save weight. Oxford hopes that the use of such parts on Starliner can open up new markets for 3D-printed components. [Reuters]

The Kennedy Space Center’s visitors center is planning new attractions to boost attendance. The center, which opened the new “Heroes & Legends” astronaut exhibit in November, is planning a Mars exploration attraction that will start with a Mars rover exhibit later this year, with the full attraction opening by 2021. The center set an attendance record with 1.66 million visitors in 2016, overcoming a nearly 30 percent drop in attendance from 2009 to 2012 because of the recession and the end of the shuttle program. [Florida Today]

No, NASA’s ISS account did not tweet at President Trump. A screenshot making the rounds on Twitter over the weekend purported to show NASA’s @Space_Station account responding to a tweet from Trump with an offer: “We have space for you up here. Come join us.” NASA confirmed that the tweet was fake: “It’s just someone having fun.” [New York Post]

A Mars-themed teen romance film failed to achieve liftoff at the box office. The Space Between Us, about a romance between a teen boy who grew up on Mars with a girl on Earth, brought in only $3.8 million in its opening weekend, far short of projections of $8-10 million. The movie, whose release was delayed from last summer, cost $30 million to make. [Variety]