SpaceNews: October 9, 2015

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Asteroid Mining Could Be Key To Safer And More Cost-Effective Mars Mission

Successfully completing a human mission to Mars is no small feat, but there are those who are up for the challenge through what’s called asteroid mining. Asteroid mining has garnered interest in making the first Mars mission possible given that the journey to the Red Planet, which is about 140 million miles away, could take over six months each way. A mission to the moon, on the other hand, can be completed in three to four days.

According to NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki, his company Planetary Resources can accomplish the difficult and highly expensive task and establish the first asteroid mine in five to 10 years. Business tycoon Richard Branson, Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and filmmaker James Cameron are among the big-name investors of Planetary Resources, which finds a likely competition in newer companies such as California-based Deep Space Industries.

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NASA to Startups: Take Our Inventions and Patents, Please

How badly does NASA want startup companies to use its patented technology? Enough to begin offering it at no up-front cost as part of its just-announced Startup NASA initiative under the space agency’s Technology Transfer Program. Meant to address two common problems for startups — raising capital and securing intellectual property rights — the program encourages for-profit companies based in the U.S. to take advantage of NASA’s vault of 1,200 patented technologies, ranging from aeronautics to power generation to general electronics.

Startups can search for tech in 15 categories and apply online through NASA’s website. The agency said it is waiving the initial licensing fees for the patents, but will start collecting royalty fees if and when the company starts selling the product. Multiple startups will be allowed to apply for the same technology, but NASA said it is open to negotiating if exclusive rights are preferred.

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Corporate Battle for Global Internet Connectivity. OneWeb vs (or with) SpaceX

OneWeb and SpaceX have both launched ambitious plans to bring hundreds of satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and, by doing so, provide low-latency broadband internet to anyone anywhere on Earth. Through strategic partnerships and impressive fundraising, they are both well positioned to develop their product. Providing service with this product, however, is an entirely different story.

The larger challenges won’t likely be associated with financing or technology development. Both companies will need to deal with strict international regulations, comply with varied government policies for internet development, and ensure that customers are ready and willing to pay once the service comes online.

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From space to road: Ford engineers trial robotics technology originally developed for Cosmonauts

The prototype system, developed by engineers from carmaker Ford and St Petersburg State Polytechnic University, has been designed to enable vehicles to reliably communicate with each other via the cloud when connectivity conditions are poor.

The technology is underpinned by a so-called “intelligent connectivity manager”, a software tool which enables a vehicle to choose from the strongest available wireless connection – whether it’s Wi-FI, mobile-phone based, or direct communication with other vehicles or infrastructure – in order to transmit data to the cloud.

In one potential scenario, the research team outlined how a car entering a tunnel and encountering black ice, but without a mobile phone or Wi-Fi signal, could for instance, use the system to instantly identify passing vehicles that do have connectivity and pass on this information via the car’s vehicle-to-vehicle channel.

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Indian government launches project to use space technology and drone-based imaging to estimate crop yield

The Indian government on Monday kicked off a project – KISAN – that will use space technology and drone-based imaging for estimating crop yield in better way and also launched an Android App, designed by the country’s space agency Isro, to assess real time data on hailstorm occurrences to figure out crop loss in affected areas.

Both these technical support systems will help the government in effectively running the crop insurance schemes and disbursing compensation to farmers.

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