Archive for February, 2014

“GOLauncher” - an air-launched rocket system specifically designed for launching small satellite payloads. Credit: Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc.

“GOLauncher” – an air-launched rocket system specifically designed for launching small satellite payloads. Credit: Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc.

There’s a new entry in the air-launched rocket system business to hurl small satellites into Earth orbit.

Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) of Atlanta, Georgia signed an exclusive investment banking agreement with The Inman Company, an investment banking firm.

As part of the GO team, Inman will assist in raising capital to fund GO’s “GOLauncher” – an air-launched rocket system specifically designed for launching small satellite payloads.

The intent of the effort is to provide transportation services for nano and microsatellites, enabling developers and operators to unlock the full commercial and scientific potential of this rapidly growing market segment, according to a company press statement.

John Olds, CEO of GO, stated: “Now that we’ve passed many of the initial development milestones for GOLauncher, assembled a top-notch team of suppliers and partners, completed some early hardware ground testing, and sold the first flight to NASA, management believes that it is time to tap the equity markets to move our company into the next phase of its growth.”

To watch a video on the concept, go to:

China's Chang'e 3 lander is denoted by the large white arrow, the Yutu rover by the small white arrow. Credit: NASA/LROC/ASU

China’s Chang’e 3 lander is denoted by the large white arrow, the Yutu rover by the small white arrow. Credit: NASA/LROC/ASU

Obit for a frozen rabbit?

No official word as yet, although one Chinese news story states that China’s first lunar rover, Yutu (meaning Jade Rabbit), could not be restored to “full function” on Monday as expected, and “netizens” mourned it on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.

For more details, go to:

Has China’s Ailing Moon Rover Survived 2nd Lunar Night?

NASA's PhoneSat. Credit: NASA

NASA’s PhoneSat. Credit: NASA

Small satellites are growing… in popularity and utility.

That’s the message from a new study looking into trends and projections for the nano/microsatellite market.

The new assessment comes from SpaceWorks of Atlanta, Georgia and the study projects that more than 400 nano/micro satellites will need launches annually in the year 2020 and beyond.

SpaceWorks is currently tracking 650 future (2014 – 2016) nano/microsatellites with masses between 1 kilogram and 50 kilograms in various stages of planning or development.

“Small satellites continue to grow in popularity, as is evident by the sizable number of nano/microsatellites launched in 2013,” stated Elizabeth Buchen, Director of SpaceWorks’ Engineering Economics Group. “Our assessment confirms that the market is continuing its growth phase, which will remain in the coming years, especially in the commercial sector,” she said in a company press statement.

Commercial sector influence

Analysis of development trends by sector show that the civil sector (including academic) remains strong.

However, the commercial sector is growing significantly and will continue to influence the nano/microsatellite market.

Analysis of trends by purpose suggests that applications for nano/microsatellites are diversifying, with increased use in the future for Earth observation and remote sensing missions.

Projection database

Other study conclusions include:

– The nano/microsatellite market is growing tremendously with the continued use of the CubeSat standard, microelectronics and other technology development, government programs, and furthering of applications.

– Projections based on both announced and anticipated plans of developers indicate 2,000 – 2,750 nano/microsatellites will require a launch from 2014 through 2020.

– SpaceWorks’ Projection Dataset shows average growth of 23.8% per year over the next 6 years (2014 – 2020).

– Based on the announced launch data alone, 2014 will see a 52% increase in nano/microsatellites launched compared to 2013.

– Commercial companies will contribute over one-fourth of all nano/microsatellites launched in 2014.

NOTE: For more information from the SpaceWorks assessment, go to:


CHINA MOON LANDER HIGH REZ (2)change3_lander2

The count in China is one alive, one still silent.

That’s the Internet word this morning that scientists have regained contact with the science-instrumented Chang’e 3 lander after surviving a 14-day lunar night. No official word, however, as of this posting.

Whether the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) has come out of a “cosmic coma” remains unknown. That rover experienced a mechanical control anomaly that may have spelled its doom.

The rover abnormality occurred due to “complicated lunar surface environment,” the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) reported January 25.

The reportedly now active Chang’e-3 lander went into a controlled hibernation mode on Friday, January 24th Beijing Time.

While scientists were organizing repairs to the Yutu rover prior to its hibernation, in the hopes of it surviving the super-chilly lunar night, the mobile Moon robot may be long-gone.

An announcement from Beijing mission control is expected shortly on the condition of Yutu.

mars-mystery-rock-opportunity-rover-fullMARS JIM RICErice mars 2

Top: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University/Arizona
State University

Bottom: Courtesy of Jim Rice/PSI

MARS JIM RICEThat odd object – dubbed Pinnacle Island — spotted by NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover continues to be perplexing.

More detective work is ahead explains James Rice, Senior Scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Project, Geology Team Leader, at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

According to Rice, the rover scientists are still working the data and scratching their collective heads. The object of attention remains an enigma.

Stuart Island

The hope now is by rolling over to the “Stuart Island” area — and working that site over — the picture may become clearer.

Now on tap is roving over to a new work site, an area that has several interesting targets that will be investigated.

Stuart Island is roughly 80 centimeters from Pinnacle Island – and may be the source rock for the mystery find.

At that locale there is a nice size rock that’s ideal for using the rover’s rock abrasion tool. There is also some interest to analyze the soil in the area that the rover has kicked up, Rice says.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechSee More
NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover has crossed a dune that stands across a gateway to a southwestward route favored by the rover team for driving to future science destinations.
After reaching the west side of the 3-foot-tall (1-meter-tall) dune,… the rover looked back at its tracks down the western slope. The dune sits between low scarps at a site called “Dingo Gap” inside Mars’ Gale Crater.
Now that Curiosity has passed through the gap, engineers and scientists plan to direct the mobile laboratory toward a location of interest where different rock types intersect. That is a candidate site for next use of the rover’s drill.
Beyond that, the drive will continue toward the mission’s long-term science destination on lower slopes of Mount Sharp, in the middle of the crater. This image is a raw image of the rover’s tracks over the dune. It was taken by Rear Hazcam: Left B (RHAZ_LEFT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 535.


Depression in Space: How Computer Software Could Help Astronauts Cope

America’s Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Exploration, Editor Eric Sterner; George C. Marshall Institute, Arlington, Va.; $12.99, shipping and handling $3.99; (soft cover); 2013.


The George C. Marshall Institute has published a thought-provoking new book, America’s Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Exploration, edited by Institute Fellow Eric R. Sterner.

There are those that see NASA as a lost in space agency, lacking of vision, without direction and having a shortfall of finances to set the country on a proper trajectory of space leadership.

This book adds fodder to that precept. It has convened an august group of authorities to look at today’s NASA and where the country should go in space. Basically, it’s a view of that “vision thing.”

Contributors to the book are:

•James Vedda, Senior Policy Analyst at the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy & Strategy

•Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute and Professor of International Affairs, George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs

•William Adkins, President of Adkins Strategies LLC and former Staff Director of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee

•Charles Miller, President of NexGen Space LLC and former NASA Senior Advisor for Commercial Space

•Eric Sterner, Fellow at the George C. Marshall Institute and faculty member at Missouri State University Graduate Department of Defense and Strategic Studies.

I think the reader will find their perspectives, in essay form, of value – but also may shake up the views of some.

The book is potpourri of prognostication about where NASA has come from and where it’s going – or where it needs to go. This volume deals with what makes for a 21st century space strategy; how best to advance U.S. geopolitical and international interests in space; the need to prime the pump on research and development to ensure space leadership; and a historical look at private-sector – government partnerships.

Sterner as editor adds as wrap up to the book: “As our space program moves forward, it’s critical that we not simply start with where we are and look to make things better, but that we have a clear eye on where we want to be.”

My view is that this book is a contribution to that debate, deliberation, and decision-making intended to recast and strengthen the U.S. space program, and enlighten those that are hungry for a revitalized U.S. space agenda.

For more information on this book, go to:

NOTE: On December 13, 2013, the Institute brought together contributors to the book for a special discussion. The video can be seen here: