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What’s in Store for 2017 at NASA?

What’s in Store for 2017 at NASA?

With 2016 behind us, we take the time to not only reflect on what we’ve
accomplished, but also take a look to what’s ahead for the next year.

Here are a few things to
look forward to in 2017… 

New Telescope in Town

This year marked big
progress on our James Webb Space Telescope and there are still a number of
large milestones before the telescope is launched in 2018. Once launched, JWST will
be the premier observatory of the next decade. It will study every phase in the
history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big
Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets
like Earth, to the evolution of our own solar system.


In 2017, the telescope
will be shipped to our Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where end-to-end
optical testing in a simulated cryo-temperature and vacuum space environment
will occur.

Epic Final Year at Saturn

After more than 12 years
studying Saturn, its rings and moons, our Cassini
is in its
final year of its epic voyage
. The conclusion of the historic scientific
odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes
a daring two-part endgame.


Cassini’s final phase –
called the Grand Finale – begins in earnest in April 2017. During this time,
Cassini will make the closest-ever observations of Saturn, mapping the planet’s
magnetic and gravity fields with exquisite precision and returning ultra-close
views of the atmosphere.

Delivering Supplies to Space

Our ambitious commercial
space program has enabled a successful partnership with two American
companies to resupply
the International Space Station. 


The companies are
successfully resupplying the space station, and more missions to deliver
scientific investigations and cargo are planned for 2017.  

Launching Two Earth Missions

New Earth science
missions got underway in 2016 to enable studies that will unravel the
complexities of our planet from the highest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere to
its core. In 2017, we will launch two Earth-observing instruments to the
International Space Station as part of our ongoing use of the orbiting space
laboratory to study our changing planet.


The Stratospheric
Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE III)
will give us a new way to monitor
Earth’s protective ozone layer and document its ongoing recovery. The Lightning
Imaging Sensor (LIS)
will measure both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground
lightning over much of the planet, data that will help improve our
understanding of lightning’s connections to weather and related phenomena.

Commercial Crew

Our Commercial
Crew Program
is working with American aerospace industry as companies
develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable
of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.


In 2017, astronauts will
train for commercial flights and launch pad 39A will be completed at Kennedy
Space Center in Florida. Work is
wrapping up on a new structure built specifically for the needs of astronauts
climbing into Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as it stands atop a United Launch
Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. In 2017, the
200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower and Crew Access Arm will see installation and testing
of emergency evacuation systems. 


has also overhauled the historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy and built new support
structures for the company’s line of Falcon rockets. The Crew Access Arm,
currently under construction, will be connected in mid-2017
to provide a bridge from the fixed service structure to the Crew Dragon
spacecraft so astronauts can board before launch

Orion Progress

Our Orion spacecraft is
being built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will
serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide
emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel and
provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.


In 2017, computers in
the Orion
crew module
for the spacecraft’s first mission with our Space Launch System
rocket will be turned on for the first time to verify the spacecraft can route
power and send commands. While the Orion outfitting and assembly process for
the first mission of the spacecraft atop the SLS rocket continues in 2017,
construction will also begin on the vehicle for the first Orion flight with
astronauts that will fly as early as 2021.

Cutting Edge Technology

Our Space Technology office
is dedicated to pushing the technological envelope, taking on challenges not
only to further space agency missions near Earth, but also to sustain future
deep space exploration activities. 


In 2016, the office focused on and made
significant progress in advancing technologies and capabilities that will
continue into 2017. 

Advances in Aeronautics

Our rich aeronautical
research heritage added to its history of technical innovation in 2016 with
advancements that will help make airplanes use less fuel, release fewer emissions
and fly more quietly…and that includes working to return supersonic flight to
the commercial marketplace.


We took steps in 2016 to
resume designing, building and flying several experimental aircraft, or
X-planes, as a means to demonstrate key green technologies and help accelerate
their use by industry. In 2017, this research will continue to grow and

Thanks for joining us in 2016, we look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming year. 

Happy New Year!

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Brazilian satellite manufacturer seeks new business as it completes its first satellite

Brazilian satellite manufacturer seeks new business as it completes its first satellite
SGDC Visiona Thales Brazil

WASHINGTON — In the absence of a guaranteed order for a second geostationary satellite, Brazil’s emerging domestic satellite manufacturer Visiona Tecnologia Espacial is building up a remote sensing business and weighing a small satellite project in order to gain more experience.

Established in 2012, Visiona is a joint venture between Telebras Telecomunicações Brasileiras and Embraer Defense and Security tasked with cultivating a geostationary satellite manufacturing capability in Brazil. The company’s flagship project is the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications (SGDC) satellite, a Ka- and X-band spacecraft for Telebras and the Brazilian Ministry of Defense constructed in partnership with Thales Alenia Space of France.

SGDC is slated to launch in March, toward the end of a six-month window with launch provider Arianespace on an Ariane 5 rocket. Visiona awarded the SGDC contract to Thales Alenia Space in the fourth quarter of 2013, which included a technology absorption program organized by the Brazilian Space Agency that let more than 65 Brazilians work alongside Thales experts in France. Visiona received the finished satellite this month and is preparing to have it shipped to French Guiana in February.

Visiona worked as the interface for Telebras and the Ministry of Defense to help design the satellite and integrate the payloads into a Thales Alenia Space’ Spacebus 4000 platform. To prevent a loss of momentum, Visiona is considering a satellite project in low Earth orbit that would allow the company to showcase its manufacturing abilities until other avenues of business become clear, according to company President and Chief Executive Eduardo Bonini.

“Next year the next step for Visiona could be building a new small satellite for observation. This would bring more confidence from customers and that could bring more chances to build products and capabilities,” Bonini told SpaceNews.

Visiona’s background is in low Earth orbit satellites. Much of the company’s technical acumen came from INPE, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which has built several remote sensing spacecraft and led Brazil’s half of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) series. The latest such satellite, CBERS-4, launched in December 2014 on a Chinese Long March 4B rocket.

“Visiona is not waiting only for a second satellite in geostationary. We are working in front of all the necessary government areas that could use not a geostationary satellite, but a new satellite for observation, data collecting, or other applications,” Bonini said.

SGDC is Visiona’s first geostationary satellite project. The company would not have been able to complete the project without the support of Thales Alenia Space, which helped build the satellite and its ground stations in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. A smaller satellite, however, is something Bonini believes it can complete on its own.

“We feel we have capacity to build a small satellite here in the weight of 100 kilograms that could meet the demands of several applications. Our idea is to use a Visiona platform that could fit into data collecting, remote sensing or strategic tactical communications and optical applications,” Bonini explained.

Earth imagery business

Visiona has also formed a new business unit called Observation Services that stitches together imagery from international satellite operators with coverage of Brazil.  Bonini said his company has partnerships with Airbus, DigitalGlobe, Restec (Remote Sensing Technology Center) of Japan, South Korea’s SI Imaging Services and UrtheCast. That service has generated a few million dollars in revenue from about 12 to 15 customers.

Bonini said Visiona is investing in value added services for the imagery, such as creating models and simulations, rather than just being an intermediary supplier. Visiona’s imagery partners were represented in Brazil in the past, but Bonini said the volume of business was too little to justify having a large individual presence. With the combined resources of the five imagery providers, Bonini said the company has optical coverage of Brazil ranging from 0.3 to 25 meters, and radar from 0.25 to 50 meters, as well as access to UrtheCast video from the International Space Station.

Bonini said Visiona is marketing this service to Brazil’s Ministry of Defense, but could also build a dedicated satellite constellation if they preferred a proprietary system. Visiona is pursuing customers with this imagery business in addition to trying to find additional customers who might buy satellites.

Future satellite plans

The SGDC communications satellite is designed primarily for government services. Its 50 Ka-band transponders are meant to provide full coverage of Brazil mainly for digital inclusion programs to bring internet access to remote parts of the country. The seven X-band transponders are for military applications.

Bonini said the country’s new government needs more time to determine if it wants to invest in a second SGDC satellite. The president of Telebras also changed with the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, Bonini said, and new leadership wants to ensure that continued investment in SGDC would be a profitable investment. He added that none of these changes have affected the first SGDC satellite.

Should Visiona obtain another geostationary satellite contract, be it an SGDC-2 or something else, Bonini said the company would seek to build more of the satellite with Brazilian parts and labor. “We have in mind that the integration of a second satellite should happen in Brazil,” he said.

This would likely involve using an assembly, integration and testing facility through INPE. Thanks to skills gained with SGDC, Bonini said Visiona would be able to build more composite materials, participate in building solar arrays and construct some of the power system for its next geostationary satellite project, whenever one starts.

Source: Here you’ll find lots of information about International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. Also we have facts about the the planets, solar system, and planets in our solar system. Learn about new planets and outer space Space News

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Reestablishing the National Space Council may not be such a great idea, experts warn

Reestablishing the National Space Council may not be such a great idea, experts warn

Reestablishing the National Space Council may not be such a great idea, experts warn.

The space policy issued by the Trump campaign prior to the election called for recreating the council, last in place in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and advisers have reiterated plans to do so since the election.

However, the National Space Council has had a mixed history at best, historians and policy experts note, with both NASA and the Defense Department often perceiving it as another layer of bureaucracy between those agencies and the president. []

More News

The return to flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 grows closer as its payload of satellites is prepared for launch. Iridium released a photo Thursday of 10 Iridium Next satellites being encapsulated in the Falcon 9’s payload fairing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, a step usually taken relatively close to a scheduled launch. That launch, the first since a Sept. 1 pad explosion destroyed a Falcon 9 and its satellite payload, is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 7, pending the outcome of an investigation into the explosion and the FAA’s issuance of a commercial launch license for the mission. [Spaceflight Now]

Two Chinese satellites placed in the wrong orbit after a launch earlier this week are raising their orbits. The two SuperView-1 Earth imaging spacecraft, launched late Tuesday on a Long March 2D, were placed in elliptical orbits with a perigee much lower than planned. Tracking data indicates that the two satellites are raising their orbits, likely using their own thrusters. A small student-built satellite also flown on the rocket remains in that original elliptical orbit. Neither the satellites’ owner nor other Chinese officials have commented on the apparent problem with the rocket that left the satellites in the wrong orbit. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s chief scientist is leaving the agency after more than three years on the job. Ellen Stofan left NASA this month “for new adventures,” according to an interview NASA posted on a social media site earlier this month. Stofan had been chief scientist since August 2013, serving as the principal adviser to the NASA administrator on science issues. Separately, NASA has named a new deputy associate administrator for its science directorate. Dennis Andrucyk, the current deputy associate administrator for space technology, will fill that post in mid-January. [SpaceNews]

Russian satellite operator RSCC has made its first payments for two new communications satellites. The company said this week it made payments to ISS-Reshetnev and Thales Alenia Space for work on the Express-80 and Express-103 communications satellites, scheduled for launch in 2019. ISS-Reshetnev is building the satellite bus for each spacecraft, while the Italian division of Thales Alenia Space is providing multi-band communications payloads. [SpaceNews]

Engineers believe a piece of debris may be keeping the drill on the Curiosity Mars rover from working properly. Analysis of data of the drill’s performance has shown a pattern consistent with a piece of debris becoming embedded within the drill, causing it to stop working intermittently. Engineers don’t know if the debris is a tiny rock that got into the drill, or something from within the drill itself. Project managers said they are still studying how to address the problem, with no guarantee the drill can return to full operation in the future. [Spaceflight Now]

Despite building a new spaceport, Russia has no plans to end use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for the foreseeable future. Russian and Kazakh officials signed an agreement this week covering continued cooperation at Baikonur. Russian officials said that, despite the development of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, Russia planned to continue using Baikonur and upgrading its facilities there, confident in the stability of the Kazakh government. Cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan may also extend to other space projects, such as a new launch vehicle called Sunkar. [Sputnik]

Actor Ryan Gosling has been tapped to portray Neil Armstrong in an upcoming movie about his life. The movie, First Man, is based on the authorized biography of Armstrong of the same name by James Hansen. The movie will focus on Armstrong’s life in the 1960s, leading up to the Apollo 11 mission. The film will be directed by Damien Chazelle, whose latest movie, La La Land, also stars Gosling. Filming is scheduled to start in early 2017. [Variety]

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Google Lunar X Prize teams await word of their fate

Google Lunar X Prize teams await word of their fate
An illustration of the Audi Lunar Quattro rover that PT Scientists plans to send to the moon to win the Google Lunar X Prize. Credit: PT Scientists

WASHINGTON — Teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, facing an end-of-the-year deadline to obtain a verified launch contract, may not know until some time in January if they will be able to continue in their race to the moon.

The competition, which offers a $20 million grand prize to the first private team to land a spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and transmit video and other data, requires the 16 remaining teams to submit a launch contract to be verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition, by Dec. 31. Teams that fail to do so will be dropped from contention, while those who continue will have until the end of 2017 to launch their missions.

To date, four teams have verified launch contracts: Moon Express, which will launch on an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab; SpaceIL, which will launch its spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9; Synergy Moon, which will use a Neptune rocket being developed by Interorbital Systems; and TeamIndus, which will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Indian space agency ISRO. A fifth team, Hakuto, announced Dec. 20 it had a verified agreement to fly its rover on the TeamIndus lander.

A German team, PT Scientists, announced Nov. 29 it had a launch contract to fly its lander and rover as a secondary payload, likely on a Falcon 9, through a deal arranged by Spaceflight Industries, the same company that arranged the SpaceIL contract. At the time, the Berlin-based team said its contract was pending verification by the X Prize Foundation.

Team spokesman Sven Przywarra said Dec. 28 that PT Scientists was still awaiting word on the status of their launch contract, and did not expect to hear from the X Prize Foundation until next month. “X Prize is still verifying our launch contract and will make their decisions public later in January,” he said. “We have no further details so far and are awaiting the results.”

In a Sept. 27 talk at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Andrew Barton, the director of technical operations for the prize, said the Dec. 31 deadline for launch contracts was the deadline for the X Prize Foundation to verify them, not for teams to submit them. It’s not known how many launch contracts besides the one PT Scientists submitted are being evaluated. Neither Barton nor X Prize Foundation spokesman Eric Desatnik responded to inquiries Dec. 28 about the status of the competition.

At least two teams are dropping out of the competition. In an op-ed published in SpaceNews Magazine Dec. 19, John Thornton, chief executive of Astrobotic, announced it was leaving the competition. Thornton said the company would continue to develop a lander for a 2019 launch, but said it was unwise for the company to be “chasing unrealistic prize deadlines” to remain in the Google Lunar X Prize.

Also leaving the race is Budapest-based Team PuliSpace. Tibor Pacher, team leader and chief executive of Puli Space Tecnologies, said Dec. 29 that his team was retaining an option to fly its rover on Astrobotic’s lander and was not planning to find another ride to the moon in order to remain in the competition.

The status of eight other teams remains unknown. Synergy Moon, in a Dec. 24 statement posted on Google Lunar X Prize web site, said it was joining forces with four other teams: Independence-X, Omega Envoy, Team SpaceMeta and Team Stellar. In the statement, Synergy Moon team representative Kevin Myrick said the arrangement was not a merger of the teams but instead a partnership “such that each team remains a separate entity and retains their current status as an official Google Lunar X Prize team.”

The statement didn’t explain the details of the partnership that would allow the teams to remain in the competition as separate entities without launch agreements of some kind. The four teams mentioned in the statement as partnering with Synergy Moon did not respond to requests for comment about their status.

Four other teams that have yet to announce launch contracts or other arrangements — AngelicvM, Euroluna, Plan B and Team Italia — also did not respond to inquiries about their status. One of the four, AngelicvM, had previously planned to fly its rover on Astrobotic’s lander.

Pacher said that he was skeptical that any team would be able to claim the prize before it expires at the end of 2017. “I think there is little chance for whatever team to meet the current deadline,” he said. “Signing a contract mere one year before the planned launch date looks anyway extremely risky.”

Barton, speaking at the IAC in September, said there were no plans to further extend the competition, whose deadlines have been stretched out several times. When the Google Lunar X Prize was unveiled in 2007, the competition’s grand prize was set to decrease from $20 million to $15 million if no team won it by the end of 2012, and would expire at the end of 2014.

Pacher said he accepted the X Prize Foundation’s plans not to extend the deadline again, but added that, should the foundation reconsider that view, it should “consider a fair reopening of the contest” for all 16 teams currently in the race.

PT Scientists’ Przywarra said his team would likely continue developing their lunar mission regardless of whether their launch contract is verified in time for them to continue in the Google Lunar X Prize. That mission plans to land near the Apollo 17 landing site, with their two rovers approaching the lunar rover left behind by that mission, the last human expedition to the moon to date.

“Our mission to the moon will take place in any way and as it stands today has a good chance of being highly competitive to be the first private mission to the moon,” he said, “with the added scientific value of visiting Apollo 17.”

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Our Most “Liked” Instagram Posts of 2016

Our Most “Liked” Instagram Posts of 2016

Our Instagram page has over 1,800 images and is lucky enough to be followed by more than 18 million fans.

What images and videos were your favorite from this past year? Great question, and one we asked ourselves too! 

Here’s a look at our most liked Instagram posts* of 2016…Enjoy!



Colorful “last hurrah’ of a star: The Hubble Space Telescope shows off the colorful “last hurrah” of a star like our sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. With 513,672 likes, this image is our 10th most liked of 2016.



Vivid glowing auroras in Jupiter’s atmosphere! Astronomers are using the Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras – stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere – on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system. This image ranks #9 for 2016 with 515,339 likes.



Astronomers found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetized neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed. With 517,995 likes, this picture ranks #8 for 2016.



Fiery South Atlantic Sunset! An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed a sunset that looks like a vast sheet of flame. With Earth’s surface already in darkness, the setting sun, the cloud masses, and the sideways viewing angle make a powerful image of the kind that astronauts use to commemorate their flights. This image ranks #7 for 2016 with 520,553 likes.


Go floating! Join us for a fly-through of the International Space Station! This footage was shot using a fisheye lens for extreme focus and depth of field. This video ranks as our sixth most liked Instagram post of 2016 with 541,418 likes.



This #BlackFriday post helped us celebrate our 4th annual #BlackHoleFriday! Each year we pose awesome content about black holes on the Black Friday shopping holiday. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. With 549,910 likes, this image ranks #5 for 2016.



A cluster of young stars – about one to two million years old – located about 20,000 light years from Earth. Data in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope (green and blue) reveal thick clouds where the stars are forming. This image ranks #4 for 2016 with 573,002 likes.



Supermoon is a spectacular sight! The Nov. 14 supermoon was especially “super” because it was the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. We won’t see another supermoon like this until 2034. Which might have something to do with this image ranking #3 for 2016 with 695,343 likes.



Supermoon seen from space! Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson posted this image on Dec. 14 captured by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. This stunning image ranks #2 for 2016 with 704,530 likes.



It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s a #supermoon! The moon, or supermoon, is seen rising behind the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan ahead of the November crew launch to the International Space Station. This photo was our #1 image of 2016 with 746,981 likes.

Thanks for joining us as we traveled through the space events of 2016. We’re looking forward to all of the interstellar fun that 2017 will bring. Happy Holidays!

Do you want to get amazing images of Earth from space, see distant galaxies and more on Instagram? Of course you do! Follow us:

*Posts and rankings are were taken as of Dec. 21, 2016.

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