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This week in The Space Review…

GAMBIT and Zenit

Close encounters of the top secret kind

In 1969, a Soviet spy satellite passed closed to an American one. Dwayne Day examines whether this was a deliberate attempt by the Soviets to image the American satellite—or even test an ASAT system—or just a coincidence.
Monday, October 20, 2014

Commercial crew’s extended endgame

Last month, NASA awarded contracts for commercial crew systems that were expected to end months of uncertainty about the program’s future. However, Jeff Foust reports that the uncertainty lingers today, as one company protests those awards while also working on alternative plans for its vehicle design.
Monday, October 20, 2014

Powering cislunar spaceflight with NEO powder

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission plans to use xenon as the propellant for ion propulsion systems that will nudge a small asteroid into lunar orbit. Ronald Menich argues that using NEO materials themselves is a more sustainable approach to developing long-term cislunar infrastructure.
Monday, October 20, 2014

Big data computing above the clouds

Data centers, the essential if invisible component of cloud computing, require large amounts of power and cooling to operate effectively. Vid Beldavs describes one solution that would put cloud computing literally above the clouds, in orbit.
Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Mars Rover Curiosity

More than two years after landing, the Mars rover Curiosity has helped scientists make fundamental discoveries about the Red Planet. Jeff Foust reviews a book by the mission’s chief engineer that examines the significant challenges NASA faced in developing the spacecraft.
Monday, October 20, 2014


Previous articles:

The incredible, expendable Mars mission

Five years ago, NASA published its latest detailed architecture for human missions to Mars. John Strickland explores that architecture and discusses several ways it could be improved to make it more robust and less expensive.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Canadian space at a crossroads

Two weeks ago, Canada hosted the global space community at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. Jeff Foust examines how that conference, which sought to play up Canada’s unique capabilities in space, also raised questions about the country’s long-term future in areas like human spaceflight and planetary exploration.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Women of Space

A documentary airing on PBS this week examines the history of women in America’s space program. Dwayne Day reviews the show and examines both the issues it covers and topics he wished it included.
Monday, October 13, 2014

The role of international cooperation in China’s space station plans

China’s human spaceflight program has, to date, been an independent pursuit, with little interest in cooperation with, let alone dependence on, other nations. Jeff Foust reports that view may be changing with China’s plans to develop its own space station.
Monday, October 13, 2014

A second look: Safe Is Not An Option

A book published earlier this year offered an alternative, and at time provocative, examination of the issues of risk in spaceflight. Michael Fodroci offers a different perspective on the issues the book raises from his experience working safety and mission assurance issues at NASA.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Ten years after the X PRIZE

Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of SpaceShipOne’s final flight, a suborbital journey that allowed it to win the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE. Jeff Foust reports on a commemoration of that anniversary at the site of the flight in Mojave, California, as well as Virgin Galactic’s efforts to get SpaceShipOne’s successor finally flying.
Monday, October 6, 2014

US space policy and planetary defense

Events like the Chelyabinsk meteor more than a year and a half ago have raised the profile of measures governments should take to prevent more devastating impacts. James Howe examines the history of American space policy in this area and the gaps in those policies.
Monday, October 6, 2014

The strange contagion of a dream

The history of spaceflight has been shaped by a few key individuals who have worked to convince governments to enable their dreams of space exploration. Brian Altmeyer examines how these visionaries have enabled progress in spaceflight and what that means for humanity’s future in space.
Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Hubble’s Legacy

As the Hubble Space Telescope approaches its 25th anniversary, it’s worthwhile to look at the successes and difficulties the orbiting observatory has faced. Jeff Foust reviews a book based on a symposium that offers insiders’ perspectives on the development and operation of Hubble.
Monday, October 6, 2014

A highway’s ending is a spaceport’s beginning

Last week, SpaceX and local officials formally broke ground on a new commercial spaceport the company will build outside of Brownsville, Texas. Jeff Foust reports on the event and the company’s plans to develop and use the site over the next several years.
Monday, September 29, 2014

ULA, Blue Origin and the BE-4 engine

One of the big space developments of the last month was the surprise announcement that United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are partnering on a new rocket engine. Anthony Young examines the program and its prospects for both companies and the space industry in general.
Monday, September 29, 2014

Fixing the curse of incumbency: Reward excellence to achieve best value

Government space procurements can be particularly challenging for incumbent companies to win again because of pressures by competitors to lower prices, perhaps unrealistically. Thomas Taverney explains the problem and how it can be solved to ensure the government really does get the best value, not just the lowest bid price.
Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Copernicus Complex

In recent years, scientists have debated whether life is commonplace in the universe or if it, at least in its intelligent forms, is rare. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astrobiologist that seeks o find middle ground between those extremes.
Monday, September 29, 2014

Commercial crew and commercial engines

Last week, NASA made its long-awaited announcements about the companies that will develop commercial crew transportation systems. Jeff Foust reports that this announcement had to share the spotlight with a surprise commercial partnership that could affect the future of space launch.
Monday, September 22, 2014

The ASTEROIDS Act and hearing: some observations on international obligations

Earlier this month, a House Science Committee hearing examined legislation that would grant some types of property rights to space resources. Charles Stotler explores some of the international space law issues associated with that bill.
Monday, September 22, 2014

In space no one can hear you sigh

The cover story of the latest issue of Newsweek claims to tell newly-revealed stories about the US-USSR Space Race. Dwayne Day notes that these stories aren’t that new or properly told.
Monday, September 22, 2014

Are solar power satellites sitting ducks for orbital debris?

Proliferation of orbital debris could have adverse effects not just on existing spacecraft but future ones as well. Three authors examine some of the technical and other solutions needed for cleaning up orbital debris that are essential to making applications like space-based solar power possible.
Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: The Edge of the Sky

How small of a vocabulary can you use to describe the universe? Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts, with mixed success, to do so with only the one thousand most common words in the English language.
Monday, September 22, 2014

Getting the rules right: LEO as an economic development region

NASA has taken some steps to support the growth of the commercial space industry through measures like commercial cargo and crew development. Mary Lynne Dittmar examines what else governments can, and can’t, do to further enhance the commercial development of low Earth orbit.
Monday, September 15, 2014

Ugly little gem: The Teal Ruby satellite

An experimental military satellite called Teal Ruby is now on display at a museum, a quarter-century after it was cancelled. Dwayne Day explores the troubled history of a satellite that at one time represented many of the worst attributes of the military space bureaucracy.
Monday, September 15, 2014

Another wakeup call for the Cape Canaveral Spaceport

Last month, SpaceX announced it would establish a commercial launch site in Texas that will support many of the commercial satellite launches it currently performs from Cape Canaveral. Edward Ellegood enumerates a series of concerns commercial entities have about launching from the Cape.
Monday, September 15, 2014

Schedule slips raise alarms about NASA’s exploration program

NASA celebrated milestones in the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion last week, even as recent reviews and comments suggested those programs’ schedules may be slipping. Jeff Foust reports on the potential delays facing SLS and Orion and how Congress may respond.
Monday, September 15, 2014

Project Upward: hauling the NRO’s GAMBIT to the Moon

In the 1960s NASA and the intelligence community explored the potential use of reconnaissance satellite technology to help map potential Apollo landing sites on the Moon. Philip Horzempa reviews what we know about the program thanks to some recently declassified information.
Monday, September 15, 2014

MOL’s mysteries

The declassification of some information about the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program has answered some questions about that effort, but raised new ones. Dwayne Day looks at what we know about the companies involved in MOL from the declassified information.
Monday, September 8, 2014

Reaching Mars: is it about great power status?

Later this month, India’s first Mars mission is scheduled to enter orbit around the Red Planet. Ajey Lele says missions like this might demonstrate that India is an emerging “great power” here on Earth.
Monday, September 8, 2014

The startup-ification of commercial space

As the commercial space industry evolves, many of its most entrepreneurial ventures are taking on different forms. Jeff Foust reports on how many space startups look increasingly like other Silicon Valley technology startups.
Monday, September 8, 2014

How a few technical failures can spell success for SpaceX

Last month, an experimental SpaceX vehicle was destroyed during a test flight at the company’s Texas test site. R. D. Boozer explains why such failures should be expected in a development program that is successful in the long term.
Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Arms Control in Space

While most people recognize the potentially disastrous effects of the use of weapons in space, efforts to ban such weapons through treaties and other agreements have made little progress. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the framework needed for the successful development of such accords.
Monday, September 8, 2014

A mission to Pluto enters the home stretch

It’s been more than eight and a half years since New Horizons lifted off, but the spacecraft is now less than a year away from its long-awaited flyby of Pluto. Jeff Foust reports on a milestone the mission achieved last week, and the expectations the science team has for the upcoming encounter.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Deflecting near Earth asteroids with paint

When the concept of deflecting threatening asteroids comes to mind, it’s usually associated with visions of using impactors, or other kinds of weapons, to shove the object off course. Shen Ge describes an ongoing effort to study a far more subtle technique for deflecting hazardous objects.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Complications of the legal definition of “launching state”

A key tenet of international space law is the concept of the “launching state,” the nation or nations responsible for a particular launch. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi examines some complications that the original definitions of the term create as more nations and non-state entities become involved in spaceflight.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce

While NASA experiments with the use of public-private partnerships to support the development of space capabilities, such partnerships are hardly novel in general. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines analogies to other such partnerships from American history and the lessons they offer for spaceflight.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Grand Tour finale: Neptune

This week marks the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune, completing the initial reconnaissance of the solar system’s four large planets. Andrew LePage recounts the development of the “Grand Tour” that was topped off by the Neptune encounter.
Monday, August 25, 2014

The unsettled launch industry

Since the early 2000s, the commercial launch industry had been dominated by three companies. Now, Jeff Foust reports, those companies are facing serious challenges from new entrants, who themselves are dealing with issues of their own.
Monday, August 25, 2014

Orbital manoeuvres in the dark: Apollo 11’s UFO

A new biography of Neil Armstrong offers an answer to a question raised by the Apollo 11 mission: what was the flashing light astronauts reported seeing trailing their spacecraft on the way to the Moon? Dwayne Day examines if that answer makes sense.
Monday, August 25, 2014

The downhill slide of NASA’s “rocket to nowhere”

A GAO report last month argued that NASA’s Space Launch System faces serious cost and schedule risks. Rick Boozer argues that this is the latest sign that the heavy-lift rocket is doomed.
Monday, August 25, 2014

An outer space solution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict

This week, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine are scheduled to meet in an effort to resolve the crisis between those two nations. Vid Beldavs suggests that the two nations should set aside their differences and work with the EU and others on major space projects instead.
Monday, August 25, 2014

The cosmos in a cornfield

When it comes to space museums, people most likely think of the National Air and Space Museum or one of the NASA visitor centers. Dwayne Day describes the impressive collection of artifacts that can be found in a museum located right in the middle of the country.
Monday, August 18, 2014

Alternative propulsion concepts power debate

New propulsion technologies that promise to greatly reduce travel times would seem to be universally welcomed, but such concepts often get mired in debates about their feasibility. Jeff Foust reports on developments involving a couple of different proposals that have either been treated as revolutionary advances or dismissed as ineffective or even impossible.
Monday, August 18, 2014

India’s SAARC satellite proposal: a boost to a multilateral space agenda

India’s new prime minister recently proposed that India collaborate with other South Asian nations on a joint satellite program. Ajey Lele examines the potential benefits of such cooperation and how to best implement it.
Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Why Mars

It’s been nearly half a century since NASA first sent a spacecraft past the planet Mars. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a programmatic history of NASA’s robotic Mars exploration effort, highlighting the ups and downs from the early Mariners through Curiosity and beyond.
Monday, August 18, 2014

Small satellites, small launchers, big business?

Interest in small satellites is bigger than ever before, given the numbers of such satellites launched and plans for future systems. Jeff Foust reports on what the future may hold for smallsat applications, and whether this growing demand could support development of dedicated smallsat launch systems.
Monday, August 11, 2014

ARM and the Mars-Forward NASA

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has been widely criticized as a “dead end” on the path towards eventual human missions to Mars. Martin Elvis argues that ARM is, in fact the best first step to demonstrate technologies needed for Mars and for other applications in space.
Monday, August 11, 2014

The 2014 PPWT: a new draft but with the same and different problems

In June, China and Russia introduced a new draft of a proposed treaty that would ban the placement of weapons in outer space. Michael Listner and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan examine the proposal and find that it has many of the same issues and flaws as the earlier version.
Monday, August 11, 2014

For the future of Mars exploration, the past is prologue

As Curiosity enters its third year on Mars, several other missions are either en route to the planet or under development. Duane Hyland recaps the discussion about Mars exploration from two panels at a conference last week.
Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Mars Up Close

Last week marked the second anniversary of the Curiosity’s landing on Mars, a good opportunity to take stock of what it has done and what’s coming up. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a science writer embedded with the project team that offers both interesting details and a broader perspective about both the mission and Mars exploration in general.
Monday, August 11, 2014

Feeling strongARMed

A mission to redirect an asteroid into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts might sound like something of great interest to planetary scientists, but many remain skeptical of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Jeff Foust provides an update on ARM and why some scientists feel so strongly negative about the proposed mission.
Monday, August 4, 2014

The ExoLance project and the search for life on Mars

Last week, Explore Mars formally kicked off a crowdfunding effort for the first phase of ExoLance, a project to develop penetrators that could fly to Mars as part of other missions. Joe Cassady explains why ExoLance could revolutionize the search for life on Mars.
Monday, August 4, 2014

CubeSats to the Moon

As CubeSats become widely used for various applications in Earth orbit, some are thinking about how such small spacecraft can be used for missions beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reports on recent proposals to send CubeSat missions to—and, in some cases, into—the Moon.
Monday, August 4, 2014

The Moon or Mars?

Two months after its release, a report by the National Research Council on human space exploration continues to trigger debate on what NASA should be doing beyond Earth orbit. Eric Hedman examines in particular the perceived disconnect in interest between the Moon and Mars.
Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: Curiosity

The second anniversary of Curiosity’s successful landing on Mars is the hook for a new wave of books about the mission and Mars exploration in general. Jeff Foust reviews one such book that gives the reader a glimpse at the inner workings of the mission, before and after its historic landing.
Monday, August 4, 2014

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

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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ISPCS 2014