The Space Review

Articles previously published in The Space Review:

October 2013:

Working in the shadows: Phil Pressel and the Hexagon spy camera

For more than four decades, Phil Pressel could tell no one outside of his co-workers—not even his wife—what he did. With that veil of secrecy now lifted, he describes to Roger Guillemette and Dwayne Day his work with the camera on the Hexagon reconnaissance satellite.
Monday, October 28, 2013

A new launch vehicle that lofts, rather that lifts off

Most people associate a launch vehicle with a rocket, but that’s not necessarily the case. Jeff Foust reports on a new venture that plans high-altitude passenger balloon flights with a system newly classified as a launch vehicle by the FAA.
Monday, October 28, 2013

Space security: possible options for India

The importance of space-based services and the threats they face have more countries thinking about how to improve space security. Ajey Lele offers some proposals tailored to the space security needs of India.
Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: COMETS!

In the next few weeks, Comet ISON may dazzle the night skies—or it may fizzle out. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a historical overview of our studies of comets as well as tips for observing them.
Monday, October 28, 2013

The trouble with being virtual

The concept of “virtual” participation, be it of meetings or in space exploration, is often seen as less than full physical participation. Dan Lester argues that telepresence and other virtual exploration concepts are just as real as being there in person.
Monday, October 21, 2013

Commercial spaceflight weathers the shutdown

While most of NASA went on hiatus dring the government shutdown earlier this month, commercial space companies managed, for the most part, to continue their launch vehicle and spacecraft development efforts. Jeff Foust reports on orbital and suborbital vehicle updates from last week’s ISPCS conference.
Monday, October 21, 2013

Russian on Space: an interview with Anatoly Zak

In Russia in Space, journalist Anatoly Zak describe the post-Soviet space program. Dwayne Day interviews Zak about writing the book and related issues regarding Russia’s space program.
Monday, October 21, 2013

The public’s views on human spaceflight

As part of its study of the US human spaceflight program, a committee of the National Academies issued a call for white papers this summer on various key issues. Jeff Foust examines the broad range of papers submitted and the themes they offered for what the US should do in space and how.
Monday, October 21, 2013

The case for kerolox

A recent report that the Russian government was considering a ban on exports of the RD-180 engine raised concerns in the US, given its use on the workhorse Atlas V rocket. Jeff Foust reports that, while such an export ban appears unlikely, some in government and industry are advocating development of a domestic engine that could potentially replace it.
Monday, October 14, 2013

Eyes of the Big Bird

For decades, the development of the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellites was cloaked in secrecy, a veil only recently lifted by the NRO. Dwayne Day examines a new book by one of the key people involved in the HEXAGON program that offers a behind-the-scenes account of designing the most complex mechanical device ever flown in space.
Monday, October 14, 2013

Testing the Neil deGrasse Tyson Effect

Much of the general public thinks NASA’s budget is much larger than it actually is, and as a result it shapes their willingness to support the space agency’s activities. Alan Steinberg describes research he performed to see if adjusting the public’s knowledge of NASA’s budget increases their support for the agency.
Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Five Billion Years of Solitude

The last two decades have seen an avalanche of extrasolar planet discoveries, raising hopes that the discovery of a true Earth-like exoplanet is around the corner. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an eloquent overview of the state of research and the possibility these discoveries will come to a halt just as we’re on the verge of ending our cosmic solitude.
Monday, October 14, 2013

The astronomical community must wake up: the need for synergies between science and exploration

As NASA plots the future of human spaceflight and exploration, some worry that science, including astrophysics, will be left behind. Matt Greenhouse argues that the exploration and science sides of NASA should come together to develop architectures that use humans to support science missions.
Monday, October 7, 2013

The return of the X-vehicle

Just when it appeared that the US government had all but given up on the development of reusable launch vehicles, DARPA announced plans last month for the Experimental Spaceplane program. Jeff Foust reports on the DARPA effort and what it could mean for lower cost and more frequent space access.
Monday, October 7, 2013

The Wizard

Albert “Bud” Wheelon, a key figure in the CIA’s efforts to develop satellite reconnaissance systems in the 1960s, passed away recently. Dwayne Day examines his life and the contributions he made to several satellite programs.
Monday, October 7, 2013

Remembering Apollo 7

Forty-five years ago this week, the first crewed Apollo mission, Apollo 7, lifted off. Anthony Young looks back at this historic mission and what may be misunderstood about it.
Monday, October 7, 2013

Gravity and reality

The new movie Gravity, about a disaster in space, is proving to be a hit at the box office, but space enthusiasts and professionals are put off by the film’s inaccuracies. Jeff Foust examines the issues with the movie and whether it’s okay to an enjoy a movie that looks realistic but takes some dramatic license.
Monday, October 7, 2013


September 2013:

Super space Sunday

In the course of less than 12 hours on Sunday, a commercial spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station and two rockets successfully performed critical launches. Jeff Foust recounts the events of that busy day and their significance for those companies and others.
Monday, September 30, 2013

Back to the Moon, commercially

Many Apollo-era astronauts have been skeptical of the potential of commercial human spaceflight, but one such astronaut has changed his mind. James Lovell describes why he now supports plans by Golden Spike to develop commercial human missions to the surface of the Moon.
Monday, September 30, 2013

NASA tries to keep an asteroid mission in the bag

This week, NASA is hosting a workshop to discuss ideas for the agency’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission submitted this summer. Jeff Foust reports on the progress NASA is making on the mission concept and the obstacles it faces selling the mission to the public and to Congress.
Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Russia in Space

More than two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, is can still be difficult to keep track of Russia’s space activities. Jeff Foust reviews a book that gives a detailed, and richly illustrated, look at Russia’s past, present, and future human spaceflight plans.
Monday, September 30, 2013

When darkness falls: the future of the US crewed spaceflight program

The future of NASA’s human spaceflight program remains uncertain as the agency, Congress, and others debate destinations and deadlines. Roger Handberg argues that, if the program is to have a future, it will require much different approaches to cooperation and funding than in the past.
Monday, September 23, 2013

Commercial crew prepares for its next phase

As three companies continue work on development of commercial crew transportation systems, NASA is preparing to release a call for proposals for the program’s next phase. Jeff Foust reports on the status of the companies’ work on crew transportation issues and the policy and budget issues the program is facing.
Monday, September 23, 2013

Replacing the ISS

While NASA has hopes of extending the life of the ISS to as late as 2028, eventually the station will need to be retired. Eric Hedman examines what kind of station, or stations, should replace it, who should build it, and how.
Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: My Brief History

Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s most famous scientists, but someone perhaps better known for his disability than his research. Jeff Foust reviews Hawking’s autobiography, where he discusses both his personal and professional lives.
Monday, September 23, 2013

Space and nuclear deterrence

Can the lessons of decades of nuclear weapons deterrence be applied to the use of weapons in space? In an excerpt from a new collection of essays, Michael Krepon discusses what our experience from the Cold War could teach about preventing conflict in space.
Monday, September 16, 2013

A critical time for commercial launch providers

Starting this week, three companies will be performing key launches of new or returning to flight rockets over the next few weeks. Jeff Foust reports on these upcoming launches and the stakes for these companies and their customers in government and industry.
Monday, September 16, 2013

Futures lost

One of the “what ifs” people ask about space history regards extending the Skylab program by flying its flight spare. Dwayne Day examines that while exploring a Skylab training mockup now on display in Huntsville.
Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Dreams of Other Worlds

The venerable Voyager 1 spacecraft was back in the news last week with word that it had passed into interstellar space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that looks at Voyager and a number of other astronomy and planetary science missions, putting their development and scientific results into a broader context.
Monday, September 16, 2013

Spaceport America awaits liftoff

The state of New Mexico placed a $200-million bet on the commercial space industry by developing Spaceport America. Jeff Foust visits the facility as it waits for its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, to begin launches from the desert spaceport.
Monday, September 9, 2013

In praise of the Eastern Range

The Eastern Range, which includes the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, has a bad reputation in some quarters of the space industry for being expensive and difficult to use. Edward Ellegood argues that reputation is largely undeserved, thanks to changes in the way the range does business over the last decade.
Monday, September 9, 2013

Revisiting Space: The Next Business Frontier

Remember when Lou Dobbs was the prophet of space profits? Jeff Foust dusts off a 12-year-old book written by the business media personality and SPACE.com founder, and compares Dobbs’s views and predictions about the commercial space industry with what has transpired since.
Monday, September 9, 2013

Flying above the Martian radar

Most of the attention devoted to Mars missions is focused on rovers like Curiosity, Opportunity, and NASA’s planned 2020 rover. Jeff Foust reports on an upcoming orbiter mission, overlooked by many, that offers an opportunity to understand what happened to the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Death, and life, in space

With the movie now in theatrical release, more people have seen Europa Report and its story of a human mission to the Jovian moon Europa. Dwayne Day revisits his review of the movie and the criticisms others have raised about it.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: The Visioneers

Space colonies are back in public view, thanks to the recent sci-fi film Elysium. Jeff Foust explores the long history of the concept through a review of a book that examines Gerard O’Neill’s role as a “visioneer” of the concept.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013


August 2013:

Gambling with a Space Fence

Earlier this month the Air Force announced it would shut down at the end of this fiscal year its “Space Fence” used for tracking orbiting objects. Brian Weeden provides a thorough examination of what the Space Fence does and the implications, both technical and fiscal, of that decision.
Monday, August 26, 2013

New options for launching smallsats

One long-running obstacle to the greater use of small satellites is the limited ways to get them into orbit. Jeff Foust reports on some emerging opportunities ranging from a NASA solicitation for a dedicated smallsat launch to use of the ISS as a launch platform.
Monday, August 26, 2013

“I guess an exercise program is in order”

One year ago Neil Armstrong passed away after heart surgery. O. Glenn Smith recalls his experiences with the famous astronaut, including an email exchange shortly before Armstrong’s death.
Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: The End of Night

Light pollution makes it increasingly difficult for people to truly appreciate the night sky. Jeff Foust reviews a book where the author travels across two continents seeking dark skies and a better appreciation of the night.
Monday, August 26, 2013

Can lightning strike twice for RLVs?

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the DC-X, an experimental vehicle designed to test technologies and operations for future reusable launch vehicles that, however, did not follow. Jeff Foust examines what the prospects are for a new generation of RLV “X-vehicles” in both government and the private sector.
Monday, August 19, 2013

Neil Armstrong: One small friendship remembered

It’s been nearly a year since the death of Neil Armstrong. Author Neil McAleer recalls his correspondence with the famous astronaut and the connection they had with a famous science fiction writer.
Monday, August 19, 2013

Kepler seeks a new mission

Last week, NASA announced that efforts to fix one of the reaction wheels on the Kepler spacecraft had failed, ending that spacecraft’s planet-hunting mission. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and what’s next for the spacecraft and the overall mission.
Monday, August 19, 2013

To Mars, or, not to Mars?

Governments and private organizations alike have proposed sending humans to Mars, yet many members of the public view such ventures as a waste of money. Thomas Taverney lays out his rationale for why and how humans should go to Mars.
Monday, August 19, 2013

On the trail of “The Curse of Slick-6”

A long-running mystery in the history of spaceflight has been claims that a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base was “cursed” by a local Native American tribe. Dwayne Day reviews what we do and don’t know about those stories, and the challenges of researching that topic.
Monday, August 12, 2013

Technology’s role in space innovation

Technology is often cited as the key factor in enabling new space missions and markets, but it is typically just one factor among many. Jeff Foust reports on how some are balancing technology development with business models and other approaches to promote innovation in space.
Monday, August 12, 2013

Exploring space, finding ourselves: Why we must always have an “Out There” out there

For decades many advocates have offered the inspiration of the young as one justification for space exploration. Now a full-time teacher, Bob Mahoney reports some disturbing observations that may suggest the inspiration-exploration connection is more important than many people think.
Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Rocket Girl

At the beginning of the Space Age, few women were involved in the nation’s space program. Jeff Foust reviews a biography of one of those women, a rocket scientist who played a key role in the launch of America’s first satellite but whose contributions had been largely forgotten.
Monday, August 12, 2013

If you set out to go to Mars, go to Mars!

There is no shortage of proposals for exploration architectures that lead to human missions to Mars. Harley Thronson, though, argues that too many of these proposals feature distractions like Moon and asteroid missions that make it unlikely they would succeed.
Monday, August 5, 2013

One year after the seven minutes of terror: the state of Mars exploration

One year ago, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover successfully landed on Mars, overcoming the “seven minutes of terror” to begin its mission of studying the Red Planet. Jeff Foust examines how NASA’s Mars exploration program, as well as private efforts and overall public interest, have evolved over the last year.
Monday, August 5, 2013

Back in black

More than two years after the end of the last Space Shuttle mission, it’s tempting for some to seek comprehensive histories of the program. Dwayne Day says there’s still a lot to learn about the military uses of the shuttle, although a few declassified documents are now shedding some light.
Monday, August 5, 2013

NASA policy gets partisan

NASA has traditionally been considered an issue that hasn’t been particularly partisan. However, Jeff Foust reports that this year is different, with policy and spending bills for the space agency often divided along party lines.
Monday, August 5, 2013

INSAT-3D and India’s new emphasis on meteorology

Last month, India launched on a European rocket a next-generation weather satellite. Ajey Lele discusses how this satellite fits into expanded efforts by India to better predict the weather and understand the implications of climate change.
Monday, August 5, 2013


July 2013:

Space, luxury or necessity: situations and prospects for France after the Livre Blanc and Opération Serval

The United States is not the only country to realize the transformative role space-based assets can play in military operations. Guilhem Penent discusses how use of space-based reconnaissance, telecommunications, and other capabilities is changing French military operations and doctrine.
Monday, July 29, 2013

The Silicon Valley of space could be Silicon Valley

As entrepreneurial space ventures have spring up in places like Mojave and Seattle, one region largely associated with high-tech startups has been on the sidelines. Jeff Foust describes how that is changing, as smallsat and other space companies get started in Silicon Valley.
Monday, July 29, 2013

Talk of an icy moon at Vegas for Nerds

The new movie Europa Report was the subject of a panel at Comic Con earlier this month, featuring some of the key people involved with the movie. Dwayne Day reports on the panel discussion, including the role science played in shaping the sci-fi film.
Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: The Pioneer Detectives

Could the mysterious slowing of the Pioneer spacecraft as they exited the solar system be proof of exotic new physics, or simply an unforeseen aspect of their design? Jeff Foust reviews an ebook that describes this mystery and its outcome.
Monday, July 29, 2013

Seeing the shuttles, two years after wheels stop

Sunday marked the second anniversary of the landing of Atlantis on the final Space Shuttle mission. Jeff Foust examines Atlantis’s new home at the Kennedy Space Center as well as the reopening of the shuttle Enterprise exhibit in New York.
Monday, July 22, 2013

Space control in the Air Force’s 2014 budget request

Comments made by a senior Defense Department official in May led some to speculate that the military had started a new antisatellite weapons program. Victoria Samson examines the military’s 2014 budget request and finds no evidence of such an effort.
Monday, July 22, 2013

Let’s all go to Space Camp!

The 1986 film Space Camp, about a group of teenagers accidentally launched into space, is one of the highlights of an earlier, more optimistic era about spaceflight. Dwayne Day checks out a new film that is, at best, an unappealing remake of that earlier movie.
Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: The X-15 Rocket Plane

The X-15 remains one of the most fascinating aerospace programs, setting speed and altitude records that in some cases still stand today. Anthony Young reviews a book that offers a history of the program from the perspective of those who flew and worked on this rocketplane.
Monday, July 22, 2013

Science and the ARM

NASA’s plans to redirect an asteroid into cislunar space and sending astronauts to it would seme like something that would excite planetary scientists, given the prospects of returning large amounts of samples from that asteroid. However, Jeff Foust reports, some are worried about the challenges such a mission faces and the priority science would have on it.
Monday, July 15, 2013

You’ve come a long way, baby!

Fifty-one years ago this week, Congress held hearings on whether women should be astronauts. Dwayne Day looks back at this key turning point in the debate about whether women should fly in space, in light of a letter from that era now making the rounds online.
Monday, July 15, 2013

Revisiting SLS/Orion launch costs

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket continues to receive scrutiny in some quarters because of concerns about just how affordable the vehicle will be. John Strickland examines the costs of SLS in light of recent developments that suggest the vehicle could have a very low flight rate.
Monday, July 15, 2013

The Chief Technologist’s view of the HGS-1 mission

Jerry Salvatore, former chief technologist with Hughes, offers his own understanding of the facts surrounding who was involved in, and should get credit for, the rescue of the AsiaSat 3 satellite by the company 15 years ago.
Monday, July 15, 2013

Stimulating greater use of the ISS

As researchers meet this week to discuss research on the International Space Station, NASA and the organization that manages ISS research are being pressed to make greater use of the station’s facilities. Jeff Foust reviews those challenges and the efforts of one startup company that believes its research could have a significant commercial payoff.
Monday, July 15, 2013

Things that go boom in the night

Last week a Proton rocket malfunctioned and crashed spectacularly, an incident immediately known to the general public. Dwayne Day looks at a previous launch accident what was not immediately acknowledged by the Soviets but noticed by the American intelligence community.
Monday, July 8, 2013

Mist around the CZ-3B disaster (part 2)

In the conclusion of his two-part article, Chen Lan examines exactly where the Long March 3B rocket crashed in February 1996 and whether the crash could have caused the large death toll that many in the West have speculated.
Monday, July 8, 2013

An alternative view of the HGS-1 salvage mission

Mark Skidmore, the Hughes program manager for the HGS-1 satellite recovery effort 15 years ago, offers a different recollection of some of the key events in that program than what was published in a recent essay here.
Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Spacefarers

The perceptions of astronauts and cosmonauts have evolved over time, along with who was considered eligible to fly in space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a collection of historical essays on the “heroic era” of human spaceflight early in the Space Age.
Monday, July 8, 2013

Mist around the CZ-3B disaster (part 1)

Over 15 years ago, a Chinese Long March rocket went off course seconds after liftoff, crashing not far from the launch site and, according to some accounts, killing many people. In the first of a two part article, Chen Lan examines what we have learned about that accident since 1996.
Monday, July 1, 2013

Smallsat constellations: the killer app?

Interest in smallsats is rising as such spacecraft become more capable, but finding applications for them that will generate significant demand has been a challenge. Jeff Foust reports on how two companies, including one that announced its plans last week, are seeking to fly fleets of such satellites for Earth imaging applications.
Monday, July 1, 2013

Conflating space exploration and commercialization: coverage of PayPal’s announcement

Last week, electronic banking company PayPal announced, to some surprise, that it was kicking off an initiative to study how to perform financial transactions in space. John Hickman takes issue with the lack of critical reporting about the announcement in the press, especially those who confused space commercialization with space exploration.
Monday, July 1, 2013

Life and death and ice

Although it won’t be in theaters until August, the sci-fi movie Europa Report is available now via video on demand. Dwayne Day watched the movie and describes an interesting and thought-provoking film about a human mission to Europa.
Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: The Astronaut Wives Club

In the early Space Age, the women married to NASA’s first astronauts were, in public, the ideal housewives who cheerfully supported their husbands’ dangerous journeys into space. Jeff Foust reviews a new book the describes the private struggles these women faced dealing with the unique stress of their situation.
Monday, July 1, 2013


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