(1901 Research Institute) Amid sweltering heatwaves and wildfires worldwide, a group of scientific experts supported by 22 students -- most of them young undergrads from Chicago, New York, Miami, and Richmond -- embark Aug. 23 on a 22-day investigation of related conditions at the top of the planet.The Northwest Passage Project will improve the resolution of the scientific picture of changes underway in the far North, considered a harbinger for the rest of the world.
August 19, 2018
An artist’s concept shows a York Space Systems satellite in orbit. (York Space Systems Illustration) Two years ago, Chuck Beames presided over . Now he has his eyes set on another big frontier: small satellites. Beames, who at Allen’s venture in 2016, is gearing up for his first launch as executive chairman and chief strategy officer for , a startup based in Denver. “It’s very exciting,” Beames told GeekWire during an interview on the sidelines of last week’s in Logan, Utah. “We’re really democratizing space for the entrepreneur.” Beames can’t say too much about his time at Stratolaunch, due to confidentiality requirements that still apply. But he has lots to say about his latest gig, which began last year. “I’d known about York for a while before I joined the team,” he said. Chuck Beames is executive chairman and chief strategy officer for Denver-based York Space Systems. (York Space Systems Photo) Founded in 2012, York has been working on a spacecraft platform, or bus, that can be adapted for a wide variety of satellite applications. York’s S-class satellite can carry instrument payloads weighing as much as 85 kilograms (187 pounds), for a total mass of 160 kilograms (352 pounds), Beames said. That capacity on the small side when compared with, say, NASA’s 6.5-ton James Webb Space Telescope. But it’s heftier than the typical CubeSat range of 12 kilograms (26 pounds) for a . “The CubeSat is great,” Beames said. “But it’s very much geared toward academic research. That’s where it came from. So there ends up being inherent limitations in the design.” Beames said York is targeting a different sort of sweet spot: “low-cost, industrial-grade, meaning a very predictable design life.” “We can design to launch on every launch vehicle,” he said. “Everything from a very rough ride on a solid rocket to a rideshare on a Falcon 9, to rideshare on an ESPA ring for the Air Force. Our first one is going to be on a Rocket Lab Electron.” That first launch is due to take place by the end of the year at Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch facility. York’s Harbinger Mission will carry a Finnish-made , BridgeSat’s , and a from Austria’s Enpulsion. The mission is , and could literally serve as a harbinger for rapid-response national security launches. For Beames, the price point is a big selling point. He said the base model costs in the range of $1 million, and upgrades such as a beefed-up 3,000-watt power system bring the cost to “not much more than that, frankly.” That lowers the cost of admission for entrepreneurs trying to get into the thick of the satellite services market. “They no longer have to raise $30 to $50 million to build their first satellite,” Beames said. York’s strategy for keeping the cost low is to automate as much as they can at their on the campus of Metropolitan State University of Denver. “The most expensive thing in the modern economy is people,” Beames said. York’s workforce currently stands at less than 30 employees. “That’s everything,” Beames said. “It’s optimized to take costs out.” There’s a long list of competitors in the satellite-building business, ranging from heavyweights such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace to more recent entrants such as Millennium Space Systems, which is due to be acquired by Boeing. But that doesn’t faze Beames. “I think competition’s a good thing,” he said. “Just as we saw in the early days of the personal computer business, there are a lot of different ideas on what’s the right thing, what’s the right equipment to fill the niche, who has the right vision. Time will tell.” There’s one thing Beames is already sure of: In this space race, there’ll be more than one winner. “It’s big, and I think it’s going to be a 10x thing in the next few years,” he said.
August 18, 2018
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) New NASA-funded research has discovered that Arctic permafrost's expected gradual thawing and the associated release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere may actually be sped up by instances of a relatively little known process called abrupt thawing. Abrupt thawing takes place under a certain type of Arctic lake, known as a thermokarst lake that forms as permafrost thaws.
August 17, 2018
(Carnegie Institution for Science) Aerosols are tiny particles that are spewed into the atmosphere by human activities, including burning coal and wood. They have negative effects on air quality -- damaging human health and agricultural productivity. New work from Carnegie's Geeta Persad and Ken Caldeira demonstrates that the impact these fine particles have on the climate varies greatly depending on where they were released.
August 17, 2018
News Brief: A CNN survey suggests most Americans don’t back the Trump administration’s plans to create a new military branch known as the . The survey, based on a sampling of 1,002 American adults, showed that 55 percent would rather keep the Air Force in charge of protecting U.S. space assets. Phil Larson, a space policy adviser in the Obama administration who’s now at the University of Colorado, that “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” (the movie featuring the widely panned character) . Support for the Space Force was similarly low in an . Such polls aren’t likely to sway the White House, however. Check out and the .
August 17, 2018
(University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston) Four years after their publication by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), voluntary guidelines designed to increase the safety of e-health records have yet to be implemented fully, according to a survey led by a researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Findings appeared recently in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
August 16, 2018
An artist’s concept shows Millennium’s Aquila satellite in orbit. (Millennium Space Systems Illustration) Boeing says it’ll expand its already-strong satellite portfolio with the acquisition of Millennium Space Systems, a California-based venture that specializes in small satellites for national security customers. Founded in 2001, Millennium had its first satellite, the 200-kilogram (440-pound) Rapid Pathfinder Prototype, launched in 2011 for the . Millennium says it provided more than six years of operations for three classified payloads. The privately held company was awarded a U.S. Air Force contract for a geosynchronous satellite system, based on its Aquila platform. It also won backing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for a class of small satellites that can be built in 90 days for less than $500,000. The first satellite in that class, Altair Pathfinder, was . “Millennium Space Systems’ expertise in vertically integrated small-satellite solutions perfectly complements Boeing’s existing satellite portfolio, and will allow us to meet the needs of a diverse customer set,” Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, . “We look forward to incorporating Millennium Space Systems’ end-to-end mission solution capabilities into our service offerings in satellite operations and data solutions,” Caret said. Millennium CEO Stan Dubyn said he was proud of the accomplishments of his team, which currently takes in about 260 employees. “By combining our tools, talent, technologies and culture, we’ll be able to do even more incredible things as part of Boeing,” Dubyn said. The acquisition is subject to the customary conditions and is expected to close by the end of September. Once the deal closes, Millennium will become a Boeing subsidiary, operating under its current business model and reporting to Mark Cherry, the vice president and general manager of Boeing Phantom Works. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Boeing said the transaction will have no impact on the company’s 2018 financial guidance or its commitment to returning free cash flow to shareholders. Boeing has manufactured satellites for a wide spectrum of applications — ranging from GPS satellites and military communication networks, to the TDRS satellites for NASA’s space shuttle and space station programs, to commercial telecom satellites for customers including ViaSat, Intelsat, DirecTV and SiriusXM.
August 16, 2018