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This week in The Space Review…

Centaur upper stage

Exploration and the private sector

NASA is playing up its efforts to partner with companies as part of its plans for future human space exploration missions. Jeff Foust reports that while the private sector is open to such partnerships, one industry leader is looking at ways for the private sector to do human exploration on its own if NASA is unable to lead the way.
Monday, July 28, 2014

Ear against the wall: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory and signals intelligence

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) planned to be a platform not just for imagery, but for other kinds of intelligence as well. Dwayne Day discusses what’s know about plans to use MOL for those other applications.
Monday, July 28, 2014

Vision 2069

As the events surrounding the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 wind down, some are already thinking of the 50th anniversary in 2019. Vid Beldavs argues that the best way to commemorate that anniversary is with activities not on Earth but on the Moon.
Monday, July 28, 2014

Mad Men… in space

When one TV show is a hit, it becomes a model for others that seek to follow in its footsteps. Dwayne Day describes an upcoming TV series about a generational starship that appears to take its cues from “Mad Men.”
Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Starlight Detectives

Advanced in telescopes, detectors, and computers have allowed astronomers to make major advances in recent decades. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks back to another revolutionary era in astronomy, when the then-new technologies of photography and spectroscopy changed the field.
Monday, July 28, 2014


Previous articles:

The dog days of summer launch debates

Two of the key issues surrounding access to space in the US this year have been reliance on the Russian-built RD-180 engine and a dispute between the Air Force and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite a number of hearings and other events, there’s no clear resolution to either issue on the horizon.
Monday, July 21, 2014

A generational opportunity for Europa

While interest in a mission to Jupiter’s icy, and potentially habitable, moon Europa is growing, funding for such a mission has been lacking in NASA’s budget requests. Casey Dreier argues that a Europa mission could, in fact, solve several of the problems NASA is facing today.
Monday, July 21, 2014

Heavy glass: The KH-10 DORIAN reconnaissance system

The main purpose of the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory was to conduct reconnaissance using a very high resolution camera system. Dwayne Day examines how that system would have worked, had MOL not been cancelled 45 years ago.
Monday, July 21, 2014

“A little bit of bedlam”: An interview with Neil Armstrong

This year is the first major Apollo 11 anniversary since the passing of Neil Armstrong in 2012. Neil McAleer recounts an interview he did with Armstrong 25 years ago to discuss the astronaut’s relationship with a famous science fiction writer.
Monday, July 21, 2014

New Fort Knox: A means to a solar-system-wide economy

While space advocates are never short of bold visions for future space development projects, funding them has long been a major challenge. Richard Godwin offers one approach to bootstrap long-term use of space resources though smaller initial steps and a key financial measure.
Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: No Requiem for the Space Age

Forty-five years after Apollo 11, people still contemplate why that historic mission didn’t open a new era of space exploration. Jeff Foust reviews a book that argues that Apollo, and human space exploration, were victims of a change in cultures in America at the time of the Moon landing.
Monday, July 21, 2014

Spinning to Mars

Thirty years ago, scientists and Mars exploration advocates finished the second Case for Mars conference, where participants designed a spacecraft that could carry people to Mars. Dwayne Day examines what happened to that design, including a model that is back on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting to love logistics on the space station

On Sunday, an Antares rocket launched a Cygnus spacecraft on a mission to deliver cargo, from food to smallsats, to the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on the launch and the challenges NASA and its industry partners are overcoming to establish a regular supply chain to the station.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Kidnapping a Soviet space station

A documentary produced by the television studio of the Russian space agency Roscosmos claims that the US attempted to retrieve the Salyut-7 space station in the mid-1980s. Bart Hendrickx discusses the documentary and debunks its claims.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Black Bird

Forty-five years after its cancellation, new details are coming to light about the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. Dwayne Day gives an overview of what we know about MOL and how it lost out to robotic reconnaissance satellite programs.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Boy Scout space exploration

What can space advocates do to help inspire the next generation of space enthusiasts and professionals? Ken Murphy describes how one National Space Society chapter updated a guide to space exploration that will be read by thousands of Boy Scouts.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Bold They Rise

This month marks the third anniversary of the final flight of the Space Shuttle program. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks at the early history of the shuttle as seen through the eyes of many of the astronauts who flew on it.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Scaling up alternative space funding sources

In recent years, some space-related projects have pursued unconventional funding sources, including crowdfunding and other donations, with some success. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to scale up those mechanisms for bigger, and more expensive, projects.
Monday, July 7, 2014

The 2nd SPACE Conference examines human exploration and habitation in space

Last month a meeting of a little-known space group examined a variety of issues about humanity’s future in space. Anthony Young recaps the conference’s sessions on a wide range of topics and concepts.
Monday, July 7, 2014

Remembering Bill Gaubatz

Bill Gaubatz, the DC-X program manager at McDonnell Douglas more than 20 years ago, passed away over the weekend. Jeff Foust looks back at the role he had in spurring development of reusable launch vehicle systems and technologies as the government ramps up a new X-vehicle program.
Monday, July 7, 2014

Moving the Earth

As the Sun gradually warms over the next billion years, the Earth will gradually become uninhabitable. Robert Zubrin ponders what could be done to change that, and if it’s possible to see if any other civilizations in the galaxy is trying the same.
Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Neil Armstong: A Life of Flight

One of the most famous astronauts in history was also one of the most private, keeping out of the limelight after walking on the Moon and sharing his thoughts with only a select few. Jeff Foust reviews a biography of Neil Armstrong written by the journalist perhaps closest to Armstrong.
Monday, July 7, 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

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

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