Monday March 18, 2019
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Firefly Aerospace Inc Plans to Build a Factory at Cape Canaveral

NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface.

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket stands ready for launch on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 5, 2018 VOA

Firefly Aerospace Inc, a resurgent rocket company founded by a former SpaceX engineer, plans to build a factory and launch site at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a $52 million deal, people familiar with the project said on Wednesday.

The Firefly project is strategically important for the Cedar Park, Texas-based startup as it competes with several other new entrants vying to cash in on a big jump in the number of small satellites expected in the coming years.

Companies like Firefly, billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, and the U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, are among the most promising companies designing miniaturized launch systems to link a broader swath of the economy to space at lower cost.

Firefly and Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

Beginning around 2020, around 800 small satellites are expected to launch annually, more than double the annual average over the past decade, according to Teal Group analyst Marco Caceres.

The boom is fueled in part by new venture cash and technology leaps that have reduced the size of satellites used for everything from communications to national security.

A Florida project code-named “Maricopa” was publicly disclosed in November by Space Florida, but officials have been tight-lipped on specifics. Two people familiar with the project said Firefly is the company involved, though one of the people said the deal had not been finalized.

Firefly aims for a first flight in December of its Alpha rocket, which is capable of carrying around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) into low-Earth orbit at a cost of about $15 million per flight.

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Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha.

By comparison, it can cost around $62 million for a ride on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with a payload topping 50,000 pounds (22,700 kg).

Firefly, founded around 2014 by former SpaceX and NASA engineer Tom Markusic, says its main competitors are government-subsidized foreign ones like the Indian Space Research Organization.

Asset management firm Noosphere Ventures bought Firefly’s assets in 2017 after it nearly shut down when a key European investor backed out. That resulted in the cancellation of a $5.5 million NASA contract for small satellite launches.

Also Read: NASA Planning to Use Blockchain Technology For Air Traffic Management

Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha and a higher-capacity Beta rocket around 2021. It was not clear when the Florida expansion would be completed.

In November, NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface. (VOA)

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NASA Reveals First Person on Mars ‘is Likely to be a Woman’

NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA's astronaut corps

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NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency. Pixabay

The first person on Mars is ‘likely to be a woman’, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said.

“It’s likely to be a woman, the first next person on the Moon. It’s also true that the first person on Mars is likely to be a woman,” CNN cited Bridenstine as saying on a science and technology radio talk show “Science Friday”.

The NASA administrator did not identify a specific person but said women are at the forefront of the agency’s upcoming plans.

NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency.

NASA, mars
NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA’s astronaut corps. Currently, women comprise 34 per cent of its active astronauts, according to the agency. Pixabay

“So these are great days. We have the first all-female spacewalk happening this month at the end of March, which is of course, National Women’s Month,” Bridenstine said.

Both McClain and Koch were part of the 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women. They came from the second largest applicant pool NASA has ever received — more than 6,100. The most recent class of flight directors was also 50 per cent women, NASA said.

 

ALSO READ: NASA’s Future Scientists Would Likely Be Better Equipped To Study The Lunar Material

NASA has come a long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA’s astronaut corps. Currently, women comprise 34 per cent of its active astronauts, according to the agency.

“NASA is committed to making sure we have a broad and diverse set of talent and we’re looking forward to the first woman on the moon,” Bridenstine said. (IANS)