SLS Earns its Racing Stripes

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NASA has completed the critical design review for the Space Launch System rocket. The review of the design for Block 1 version of the SLS clears the way for full-scale fabrication of the vehicle, keeping the program on schedule for a first launch in 2018. The program actually completed the review in July, although the final results were not briefed to NASA’s Agency Program Management Council until earlier this month. [NASA]
When NASA announced the completion of the Space Launch System's critical design review Oct. 22, it also released an updated illustration of the rocket, with the core stage now orange instead of white. NASA said in a press release that orange is "the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements," as was the case with the shuttle's external tank. Not explained in the release, those, are the curved gray and orange stripes on the solid rocket boosters. Some think they are intended to evoke memories of the shuttle itself or the logo of original shuttle contractor Rockwell International — or, perhaps, computer game company Atari. Credit: NASA

Racing Stripes

When NASA announced the completion of the Space Launch System’s critical design review Thursday, it also released an updated illustration of the rocket, with the core stage now orange instead of white. NASA said in a press release that orange is “the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements,” as was the case with the shuttle’s external tank. Not explained in the release, though, are the curved gray and orange stripes on the solid rocket boosters. Some think they are intended to evoke memories of the shuttle itself or the logo of original shuttle contractor Rockwell International — or, perhaps, computer game company Atari. Credit: NASA


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The satellite industry is making a final stand to protect satellite spectrum in advance of a key conference next month. The industry is seeking to preserve a portion of C-band spectrum between 3.4 and 4.2 GHz that the wireless industry wants to use for terrestrial broadband services. The U.S. and Europe are open to allowing terrestrial use of the lower end of that band, but other nations, and the satellite industry, are seeking to preserve the entire band. The future of that C-band spectrum will be a key topic at next month’s World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva. [SpaceNews]

Lockheed Martin won a $784 million contract for a missile defense radar. The contract, announced this week by the Missile Defense Agency, covers the development of a long-range discrimination radar designed to identify missile threats in the Pacific region. Lockheed, who beat out Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, said technologies it developed for the Space Fence radar program helped it win this contract. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has dropped plans to develop additional commercial launch sites on its property. KSC announced Thursday that it decided not to select any proposals submitted earlier this year to develop two commercial launch pads, designated pads 48 and 49. In a statement, KSC officials concluded “the market wasn’t sufficiently mature” to proceed with development of the pads, but would reevaluate its plans if market conditions change. [Florida Today]

NASA is seeking designs for the spacecraft that will carry out the robotic portion of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The agency said Thursday that it is requesting proposals that will lead to study contracts for the ARM spacecraft bus. The spacecraft will need to accommodate key ARM technologies, including high-power solar electric propulsion and mechanisms for grappling a boulder off the surface of an asteroid for return to the vicinity of the Earth. NASA expects to award study contracts in January. NASA will provide more details about its plans in an online forum at 10 a.m. Eastern today. [NASA]

The New Horizons spacecraft is starting a series of maneuvers to send it past a Kuiper Belt object. The spacecraft was scheduled to fire its thrusters late Thursday in the first of four maneuvers to send the spacecraft towards a small Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69. The trajectory change will send New Horizons past the object, about 50 kilometers across, on New Year’s Day 2019. The mission will still need formal NASA approval and funding for an extended mission, which is expected to come next year. [AP]

An asteroid scheduled to fly past the Earth on Halloween may be a comet in disguise. Scientists said the unusual orbit of 2015 TB145 — very elliptical and inclined — suggests that the object might be a comet. The object will fly 480,000 kilometers from the Earth on Oct. 31, and scientists are planning to use radar to study its size and shape. [SPACE.com]

China is developing a satellite to monitor carbon dioxide levels. The unnamed satellite, scheduled for launch next year, will carry sensors to measure carbon dioxide levels with an accuracy of better than 4 ppm. The spacecraft will be operated by China’s National Satellite Meteorological Center. [Xinhua]

Satellite systems are “trophy attacks” for computer hackers, according to insurers. Growth in the industry and the entry of new companies developing satellites, or components for satellites, provides new opportunities for hackers seeking access to space systems. At the recent International Astronautical Congress, one European Space Agency official said it received electronic components “tampered with at a fundamental level” that could have made the satellites those components were installed in vulnerable to attack. [Reuters]

A startup is using satellite imagery to help wineries. Vinsight, established earlier this year, combines satellite imagery with sensor and weather data to help wineries better estimate the size of their crop and thus more accurately plan for harvests. Vinsight says they have found an enthusiastic audience among corporate wineries, and the company is looking to expand to cover other crops. [SpaceNews]