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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Huge constellations of satellites expected to launch to orbit in the next few years are an opportunity for defense agencies to expand their communications — and transform the nature of conflict.
Why it matters: National security experts warn that China and other nations are ahead of the U.S. when it comes to beefing up their weaponized capabilities in orbit, potentially putting U.S. assets on Earth and in space in jeopardy.
"Instead of having all of your national security dongles hanging off of one giant satellite, you could distribute them around to a bunch of other satellites both DoD [Department of Defense] as well as commercial."— Brian Weeden, of the Secure World Foundation, to Axios
What's happening: The Air Force has tested SpaceX’s Starlink internet service aboard aircraft, and the company holds a $28 million contract with the government agency to test new ways of using Starlink.
Yes, but: The satellites expected to make up mega-constellations are small and economical, meaning it might be difficult to include hosted payloads on them at all.
The bottom line: Huge constellations of satellites could reframe the way the U.S. military is able to fight wars but further blur the line between government agencies and the companies they rely on.
The Tarantula Nebula as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
On Thursday, NASA will shut down the Spitzer Space Telescope, ending a mission that transformed how we understand the invisible machinations of the universe.
Why it matters: While the telescope is still able to function today, NASA made the decision to shut it down, saying $14 million per year is too high a cost for its diminishing science return as the observatory will likely be inoperable soon.
What Spitzer found: The telescope was able to see in infrared light, revealing new information about distant galaxies and even planets orbiting stars far from our Sun during its more than 16 years in space.
"It allowed us to see what our human eyes could not see," Farisa Morales, a Spitzer Space Telescope scientist, said during a press event.
Background: Spitzer's shutdown is happening at a time when the future of astrophysics at NASA is somewhat uncertain.
FAST in China. Photo: Ou Dongqu/Xinhua via Getty
China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) began official science operations earlier this month, making it the largest operating telescope of its kind on Earth.
Why it matters: The $100 million Breakthrough Listen project is expected to survey 100 nearby galaxies, 1 million stars and the galactic plane for radio signatures that could only have been sent out by an advanced society, and FAST is expected to help.
Where it stands: FAST has already done a preliminary observation in collaboration with Breakthrough Listen, listening for signals from the planet GJ273b as a proof of concept for the telescope, Gajjar said.
But, but, but: Just because scientists are listening for advanced intelligent life doesn't mean it's out there, or that we can hear it.
Go deeper: The search for life as we don't know it
Photo: Trump Twitter feed (left); CBS/Viacom (right)
Bridenstine concerned about aspects of House NASA authorization bill (Jeff Foust, SpaceNews)
Satellite photos suggest Iran is preparing to try to launch a satellite (Geoff Brumfiel, NPR)
Fallen SpaceShipTwo pilot's name added to Space Mirror Memorial (Robert Pearlman, CollectSPACE.com)
Trump's Space Force gets a new, recognizable logo (Axios)
Looking down on the lights of the aurora from above is something very view people have had the chance to experience.
1 fun thing: It takes the space station about 90 minutes to complete an orbit around Earth, meaning that the astronauts and cosmonauts on the space laboratory experience about 16 sunrises and sunsets each day.
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