Lockheed Martin has its head in the space cloud

Cloud computing in space

Satellites could extend cloud computing to the final frontier. (Lockheed Martin Illustration)

Is the final frontier the next frontier for cloud computing?

One of the presentations planned for Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June suggests that Lockheed Martin is putting serious thought into the idea of space-based cloud services. The presentation, titled “Solving Earth’s Biggest Problems With a Cloud in Space,” features Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Lockheed Martin Space.

Just because an executive is talking about the subject doesn’t necessarily mean the aerospace giant has a plan in the works. But the concept would fit in nicely with Lockheed Martin’s previously announced partnership with Amazon on AWS Ground Station, a cloud-based satellite communications and control service.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon unveiled plans this month for a 3,236-satellite constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, which would make broadband internet access available to the estimated 4 billion people around the world who are currently underserved.

Extending cloud networks into space would provide yet another boost for global commerce, and potentially for global welfare as well.

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Policing AI: Whose job will it be?

AI panel

Social-media entrepreneur Sean Langhi poses a question for panelists during a discussion of AI bias. From left are University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, ChatMode’s Chad Oda, EqualAI’s Miriam Vogel, Microsoft’s Navrina Singh and LivePerson’s Alex Spinelli. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

It may not yet be clear how societies will guard against the potential downside of artificial intelligence — including algorithmic bias, invasions of privacy and unjustified profiling — but it’s already abundantly clear that safeguards are needed.

That’s the bottom line from April 17’s panel discussion on AI bias, presented in Seattle by EqualAI and LivePerson.

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Blue Origin cleared to use historic rocket test stand

Test Stand 4670

A 1965 photo shows a Saturn V first-stage rocket engine being test-fired at Marshall Space Flight Center’s Test Stand 4670 in Alabama. Blue Origin has struck a deal with NASA to refurbish and use the facility, which has been inactive since 1998. (NASA Photo)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has signed an agreement with NASA for the use of a historic test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Under the terms of a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670 to support testing of its BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines, NASA said today.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard said in a news release. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.”

The 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand was built in 1965 to test rocket engines for NASA’s Saturn V rocket, and was later modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. It hasn’t been used since 1998.

NASA identified the test stand as an underused facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded to the notice, and a team was commissioned to explore a partnership.

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Earthrise Alliance uses space data for climate action

Image: Lori Garver

During her stint as NASA’s deputy administrator, Lori Garver visited Seattle’s Museum of Flight in 2011 for a NASA Future Forum. (Credit: Ted Huetter / Museum of Flight)

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver helped lead the charge for commercial space ventures, and now she’s leading a brand-new space campaign to address the climate change challenge.

Garver is the CEO of Earthrise Alliance, a philanthropic initiative that will leverage space connections and satellite data get policymakers, educators and the public fired up about climate action.

She noted the connection between observing Earth from space and taking action on the environment goes back 50 years or so, to Apollo 8’s famous Earthrise photo in 1968 and the first Earth Day in 1970.

“Investment in space activities have driven scientific and technological advances that have transformed our understanding of Earth’s changing climate,” Garver said in a news release. “Earthrise Alliance was created to translate this knowledge into meaningful action and to inform critical decision making that supports and sustains humanity on planet Earth.”

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Cygnus cargo ship flies to space station

Antares launch

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket lifts off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, sending a robotic Cygnus cargo capsule into orbit. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

Almost four tons of supplies, hardware and science payloads are heading to the International Space Station after today’s launch of a robotic Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship.

The spacecraft, dubbed the SS Roger Chaffee in honor of one of the astronauts killed in the 1967 Apollo 1 launch-pad fire, was sent into orbit from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast at 4:46 p.m. ET (1:46 p.m. PT) atop Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. The afternoon launch could be seen from a wide area of the East Coast’s mid-Atlantic region.

Cygnus’ 7,600-pound shipment includes experiments aimed at manufacturing high-quality optical fiber in zero-gravity, as well as nanoparticles that could someday be used for drug delivery. A host of nanosatellites are on board and due for deployment either from the space station or from the cylindrical Cygnus craft itself.

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Did a bad command cause moon lander’s crash?

Moon view from Beresheet

Team SpaceIL says this was the last picture taken by the Beresheet lunar lander, at a distance of 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the lunar surface. (SpaceIL Photo)

A manually entered command apparently set off a chain reaction of events that led to last week’s crash of an Israeli-built lunar lander during its attempt to touch down on the moon, the mission’s managers said today.

Preliminary results of an investigation into the crash indicate that the manual command was entered into the spacecraft’s computer, which caused the main engine to switch off and stay off during the Beresheet lander’s descent.

The Jerusalem Post reported that problems started with a malfunction in an inertial measurement unit that kept track of the spacecraft’s orientation and motion.

“There was no incident like this since the mission began,” the Post quoted SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby as saying. “After it occurred, an activation command was sent to [the inertial measurement unit], causing a chain of events in which the main engine stopped and was unable to return to continuous operation.”

All attempts to restart the engine failed. That led to the failure of the nearly $100 million lunar mission, which took its name from the Hebrew words for “In the Beginning.”

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NASA sets up more long-term space stays

Christina Koch on ISS

NASA’s Christina Koch conducts botany research on the International Space Station. (NASA Photo)

Just days after the publication of scientific results from NASA’s first “Year in Space” mission, the space agency says two more extended stays on the International Space Station are in the works.

One of the missions will set a world record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, and it’s already in progress. NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who went into orbit in March, is having her tour of duty extended to 328 days.

That exceeds the 288 days spent in orbit by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, the current record-holder among women astronauts for continuous time in space. And it comes close to the 340-day NASA record set by Scott Kelly in 2015-2016. (But for what it’s worth, the duration falls far short of the 437-day, 18-hour record set by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov on Russia’s Mir space station in 1994-1995.)

Koch said spending nearly a year in space will be “awesome.”

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