Peake. Tim Peake + Google Headed to Spaceport America
With the release of the latest 007 film, Spectre, and his own upcoming space flight, British astronaut Tim Peake offered an homage to James Bond on Twitter, posting a publicity shot from the space-themed Bond film Moonraker alongside one of himself in a similar pose in an actual spacesuit.
“Just arrived in London, #Spectre007 on at the movies & feeling in a James Bond kinda mood ;),” he tweeted.
Peake is in London doing outreach in advance of his December launch to the ISS, which, unfortunately, is not quite as spacious as the station in Moonraker. [Twitter @astro_timpeake]
Google plans to test airborne communications technology at New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The company said in an FCC filing that it plans to perform the test using an unspecified aircraft flying about 7,500 meters above the spaceport. The tests may be part of Google’s plans to provide broadband Internet access through high-altitude drones or balloons. [Business Insider]
Astronauts have started the second spacewalk in as many weeks outside the ISS. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren started their latest spacewalk at 6:22 a.m. Eastern, nearly an hour ahead of schedule. The two plan to reconfigure an ammonia coolant line servicing one of the station’s solar arrays during the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk. [CBS]
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NASA has once again delayed the award of commercial cargo contracts, but also dropped Boeing from the competition. NASA announced Thursday that it was delaying the award of Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contracts to no later than Jan. 30. NASA said it needed more time to evaluate the proposals, which companies submitted 11 months ago. Boeing, one of the companies that did compete for CRS-2, said Thursday it was notified by NASA that it was no longer being considered for a contract; the agency gave no explanation for the decision. The CRS-2 contracts will cover the transport of cargo to and from the International Space Station as a follow-on to existing contracts held by Orbital ATK and SpaceX. [SpaceNews]
Honeywell is buying Canadian satellite components manufacturer Com Dev in a $345 million deal. Honeywell said that Com Dev’s component business will be a “terrific fit” as it seeks to expand its space and connectivity businesses. Com Dev will spin off its exactEarth space-based maritime surveillance company prior to closing the deal in the first quarter of 2016. Com Dev officials said last month that they were considering a sale of the company after canceling a planned stock offering for exactEarth. [Canadian Press / SpaceNews]
The British military may return to a more conventional procurement approach for its next communication satellites. The U.K. used a public private partnership with what is now Airbus Defence and Space for the Skynet 5 series of communications satellites, with Airbus gradually taking on a greater role in their operation. The British military, though, is thinking of buying one or two communication satellites later this decade that it will operate itself as it considers whether to continue the Airbus partnership in the long-term. The current agreement with Airbus to operate the Skynet satellites runs until 2022. [SpaceNews]
Scientists have confirmed that the solar wind stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere about four billion years ago. Analysis of data collected by NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft showed that Mars once had a thick atmosphere, but a lack of a magnetic field allowed the solar wind to carry away most of the atmosphere between 3.7 and 4.2 billion years ago. Other findings from the mission, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, include the discovery of auroras by the spacecraft’s ultraviolet spectrograph. [SPACE.com]
NOAA plans to gradually release quality standards for commercial satellite weather data. NOAA Deputy Administrator Manson Brown said Wednesday that some standards will be included in a “procedural guide” the agency will publish in December. NOAA also plans to release the final version of its Commercial Space Policy in the “coming weeks.” Members of Congress and some commercial weather companies criticized a draft version of that policy earlier this year because of a lack of data buy standards. [SpaceNews]
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has completed a set of maneuvers to send it past a Kuiper Belt object. The spacecraft performed the last of four engine burns Wednesday, putting the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past the object 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019. The mission will still need to win NASA approval and funding for an extended mission to carry out science during the flyby. New Horizons is still transmitting data from its July flyby of Pluto, with more results expected to be announced at a planetary science conference next week in Maryland. [JHUAPL]
No one seems to be home around a star some thought might harbor “megastructures.” A search by the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array of star KIC 8462852 turned up no evidence of radio signals that might be transmitted by an extraterrestrial civilization there. Astronomers became interested in the star recently after finding unusual fluctuations of light from it. A few suggested those variations might be caused by artificial megastructures in orbit. While the limits set by the search were relatively high, researchers noted that “any beings able to build such large structures will have access to far more energy than a fossil-fueled society like our own.” [SETI Institute]