October 31, 2014

Cecil Spaceport Prepares for 2016 Launch (Source: WJXT)
Many people in Jacksonville and north Florida may not be aware, but Cecil Field is also a spaceport. There are plans set to launch rockets from the old Navy base, but not like what most are used to seeing. There will not be vertical rockets, but horizontal launches. Small Rockets strapped to jets will fly out over the ocean and launch from there.

The first launch is set for December 2016, but there have already been tests run by Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch, or GO Launch for short. In July, it tested out a space flight that started at Cecil Spaceport and ended with a rocket launch over the ocean. It used a Learjet with a mock rocket attached. The test was to get a feeling of what workers need to do for the real thing. The rocket was never launched.

The Aviation Authority has spent several million dollars getting the permits and preparing to build a hanger for a much larger plane. "We have the infrastructure in place right now to do those operations," said Rusty Chandler, of Cecil Spaceport. GO Launch has teamed up with NASA to put small satellites into orbit that could be used in communications research and other areas. GO Launch CEO John Olds said the company is still getting ready and working on funding for the launch in December 2016. (10/29)

Spaceport America Hangar Architects Win Award (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America has been given a merit award by the American Institute of Architects Western Mountain Region. The hangar was selected from 145 projects submitted by architectural firms across six states including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

SMPC Architects, the Albuquerque-based archtect of record for the project, accepted the award on behalf of the design team, which is a collaboration with URS Corp. and London-based Foster + Partners. (10/29)

Ukraine's Yuzhnoye Launches Investigation of Antares Explosion (Source: Itar-Tass)
Experts of the Ukrainian design bureau Yuzhnoye, which took part in designing and manufacturing the Antares carrier rocket, have launched their own investigation of an explosion of the Antares rocket Tuesday. "We've begun the 'hotwash' already and are scrutinizing the possible causes of the explosion," the press service of the design bureau said. "The results will be reported later." (10/29)

Space Florida Gets State Funding for UAS Project (Source: EOG)
Space Florida was awarded a $38,500 grant to design, plan, and execute an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) component to the annual emergency response exercise at Camp Blanding, the state's largest National Guard installation. This grant will enhance the installation’s capability, and provide research and development for emergency response; thereby providing a springboard for more UAS-related activity in the state.

Senate President-Designate Andy Gardiner said, “This grant will help provide Space Florida the opportunity to play an important role in Camp Blanding’s annual emergency response exercise. We need to make sure Florida is prepared to respond to critical threats to our security and it is great to see Space Florida play a role in that important mission.

Senator Thad Altman said, “The Legislature and Governor Scott recognize the economic importance that our military installations have on state’s economy. We are pleased to be able to make a positive impact and continue to enhance the value Florida’s military bases.” (10/29)

Antares Rocket Crash in Virginia Investigation to Take up to Year (Source: Space Daily)
The investigation into the reasons of the Cygnus spaceship explosion during the launch at the US Wallops Flight Facility can take about a year, a NASA spokesperson said. "Investigation will take up to 6 month to a year," he said. (10/30)

Orbital Asked Judge on Day of Accident To Force Turnover of Launch Hardware (Source: Space News)
Shortly before its Antares rocket exploded Oct. 28, Orbital Sciences Corp. asked a federal judge to force a contractor to turn over hardware the Virginia company needs before it can launch a new version of its Cygnus cargo capsule that was supposed to debut in April. The timing of that mission is now in doubt following the failure of the company’s Antares rocket.

The motion for a preliminary injunction Orbital filed Oct. 28 is the latest turn in a lawsuit centered around the Transporter Erector Launcher, the slow-moving mobile launch tower used to haul Antares out of its hangar and raise the rocket vertical at the pad. NASA’s day-after assessment of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A found that the Transporter Erector Launcher was among the ground hardware damaged when Antares erupted into a ball of flame and debris. (10/30)

Moon Express Plans Tests Soon at KSC (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Moon Express Inc., headquartered at the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field, California, will perform vehicle testing at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility as part of NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown or CATALYST initiative. The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST is to encourage the development of U.S. private sector robotic lunar landers, and this initiative is being executed by means of no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreements with U.S. private sector partners.

Editor's Note: NASA has entered into agreements with three companies to support their lunar landing concepts, including Moon Express, Masten, and Astrobotic. (10/30)

Range-Initiated Flight Termination May Have Saved Launch Pad (Source: SPACErePORT)
It looks like the Antares rocket was OK up to the L+15 seconds mark. "Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground," says Orbital. Space Policy Online reports that a range-initiated "flight termination" signal was sent before the rocket fell back to the ground.

From photos I've seen, it appears that the flight termination system ripped open the vehicle's fuel tanks to ensure that no errant forward propulsion would be possible. The vehicle blew apart as it fell, avoiding a direct impact on the launch pad. Photos show that the launch complex suffered much less damage that I would have expected, given the size of the explosion. Perhaps the range's command-destruct action saved the launch pad from what could have been a much more damaging outcome. (10/30)

Virginia Braces for Aftershocks From Wallops Explosion (Source: Watchdog)
The failed launch and fiery explosion at the Wallops Island spaceport this week could blow up Virginia’s projected financial windfall at the commercial site. The state invested $26 million in 2009 to bring privately operated space flights to the Eastern Shore. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was estimated to generate $4.25 billion for Virginia’s economy through 2020. Now the short-term outlook isn’t so rosy.

“The complex is pretty much toasted. It was like a tactical nuclear warhead going off,” said Keith Cowing, who edits NASAWatch.com. The question is: Who will pay for the massive repairs, the environmental cleanup and for the $200 million in lost cargo and equipment bound for the International Space Station? The rocket company, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., isn’t saying.

With questions still up in the air, neither the company nor NASA nor the state would speculate about the cost of restoring the Wallops site, or who would foot the bill. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office was looking into the legal ramifications, but had no answers Wednesday night. (10/30)

The 8 Incredible Details You Never Knew About Virgin Galactic (Source: Jaunted)
How about Paris for the weekend, or a two-week trip around Southeast Asia? Forget it—that's so 2014, so terrestrial. Should Virgin Galactic have their way, 2015 will be the year you book a vacation of suborbital space travel, or perhaps a supersonic 45-minute flight from California to London.

This month SpaceShipTwo completed her 54th test flight, improving the odds that next year will indeed be the one to finally kick off space tourism. In fact, Virgin Galactic has already begun the big move from Mojave, CA to Las Cruces, NM, the latter being home to Spaceport America and, hopefully soon, flights to space full of paying passengers (6, to be specific, plus 2 pilots). Click here. (10/30)

NASA's High Altitude Glider Can Fire Rockets Into Space from the Air (Source: Gizmodo)
It still costs an arm and a leg (and sometimes an entire Antares rocket) to lift crews and cargo into space. So until we get around to building that space elevator we've always wanted, NASA will just have to use this drone-towed, pilot-less, rocket-launching glider.

It's called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System (TGALS) and it's designed to launch orbital rockets from high altitude at a fraction of the cost of current methods. So instead of trying to dead lift loads straight up through the atmosphere (and directly against the pull of gravity) atop an SLS rocket, this method gives the launch a running—or rather, flying—start.

NASA successfully tested its 1/3-scale prototype (which still measured 27 feet wingtip to wingtip) earlier this week at Edwards AFB in California as part of the Game Changing Development program. This test did not include a rocket launch, but rather was a dry run to ensure that the glider's mix of OTS and custom built components could hold together during its powered flight and landing. Turns out, it totally did; bring on the rockets. (10/30)

October 30, 2014

Atlas Launches GPS Satellite From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
An Atlas-5 rocket carrying a GPS satellite for the U.S. Air Force successfully launched from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Wednesday. It was the 50th Atlas-5 mission since the rocket's first flight in 2002. The Atlas-5 is operated by United Launch Alliance. (10/29)

Alliant Tech Evaluating Merger Plans After Orbital Rocket Explosion (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Alliant Techsystems Inc. said it is evaluating any potential implications from Tuesday night’s explosion of Orbital Sciences Inc.’s Antares rocket, a hint their plans to merge could be in jeopardy. Alliant Tech and Orbital Sciences Inc. disclosed plans in April to merge in a $5 billion deal and related spinoff that would create twin powerhouses supplying space services and serving the booming U.S. recreational shooting market.

Editor's Note: A Space News tweet said Orbital's CEO believes the launch failure should have no impact on the planned merger with ATK, or on projected 2014 revenue/earnings. Meanwhile, Orbital shares fell 14% before trading began on Wednesday. (10/29)

Students Lost Science Experiments in Antares Explosion (Source Washington Post)
For months, students across the United States and Canada conducted scientific experiments. Some wanted to know how crystals would change without gravity. Others wondered whether plants would grow or how fast milk would spoil in space. Nearly 1,600 pounds of science and research was loaded onto a cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

And Tuesday evening, it was all destroyed. Many students watched as an unmanned Antares rocket exploded above its launchpad in Wallops Island, Va. Some saw it on video from the classroom. Others, like students from Knoxville, were “close enough to feel the percussion of the blast.” “I think the adults took it harder in the room than the kids did,” said Serena Connally, a sixth-grade science teacher in Texas. (10/29)

NASA Is Kicking Space Station Technology Up to the Next Level (Source: NBC)
NASA has pioneered new technologies on the International Space Station for years, but the space agency's latest technological twists are venturing into science-fiction territory. For example, the next generation of camera-equipped, free-flying robots could usher in an age when remote-controlled gizmos check out the space station's far corners, unassisted by humans on board. But couldn't that open the way for a robot to go rogue, as HAL did in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Click here. (10/29)

Russian Cargo Ship Docks with ISS (Source: Space Policy Online)
Cargo launches to the International Space Station (ISS) usually are so routine that they barely get mentioned in the news, but the docking of a Russian Progress spacecraft this morning (October 29) is noteworthy following the failure of a U.S. Antares rocket last night. If nothing else, the Progress docking demonstrates that there are several ways to get cargo to the ISS and while the Antares failure is disappointing, it is not a showstopper for ISS operations. (10/29)

NASA Anticipates Orion's First Flight (Source: Space.com)
NASA's planned launch of Orion on Dec. 4 sets the stage for a dramatic journey through the Van Allen Belts, where the unmanned capsule with collect data crucial to future manned missions before it returns to Earth. After the splashdown, if all goes well, NASA will have completed a critical test for its work charting a course for human space exploration. A new NASA video outlines just what should happen on Orion's journey. (10/28)

India and Space (Source: Frontline)
After the phenomenal success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has turned its attention to the maiden flight of its biggest launch vehicle so far—the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-MkIII)—in November. Click here. (10/29)

Mock Satellite Destroyed to Study Space Junk Collisions (Source: Space.com)
Talk about a "bang up" job. A full-scale lookalike of a modern satellite was destroyed in a ground test chamber recently to help scientists better grasp the effects of space collisions. The DebriSat test was designed to help researchers craft better models for how satellites break up. The data produced from the test might help people working in the orbital debris community as well. Click here. (10/29)

November 1 Anniversary for Space Coast's 321 Area Code (Source: Liftoff.net)
On Nov. 1, 1999, Florida Governor Jeb Bush placed the First Official Phone Call from the Public Service Commission Hearing Room in Tallahassee to the Teleconferencing Room at Kennedy Space Center where Center Deputy Director James Jennings took the first call with Robert Osband, the local resident that proposed the new code. (10/29)

Delay Saved NanoRacks External Platform from Antares Failure (Source: Space News)
Houston-based space services firm NanoRacks unknowingly dodged a bullet when it shifted a $10 million piece of equipment off the Antares rocket that exploded moments after liftoff Oct. 28 from Wallops Island, Virginia. Needing more time for testing, NanoRacks decided last month to wait for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s fourth paid cargo run to send the External Research Platform to the international space station. (10/29)

Russian Manufacturer: Antares Engines Not to Blame (Source: Guardian)
The Russian maker of the engine used in the unmanned US supply rocket that exploded after liftoff in Virginia denied on Wednesday that its product was at fault for the catastrophe. The launch phase of the Antares rocket relied on two AJ-26 engines that were originally produced in the 1970s for a failed Soviet moon program and later modernized for US space flights. Speculation quickly centered on the Soviet-based engines, which have failed in tests, when the rocket exploded in a giant fireball after takeoff on Tuesday night.

But the Kuznetsov company in the Russian city of Samara suggested the blame lay not with its NK-33 engines, which formed the basis for the AJ-26 engines, but rather with their later modification in the United States, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

“Due to certain specifics, it’s not possible to talk about the construction details of the rocket itself and the interaction of its systems during launch, since this is the field of American specialists,” Kuznetsov’s press service said. “However, it’s important to note that during yesterday’s launch, the AJ-26 first-stage engines, which are a modification of the NK-33, were functioning normally.” (10/29)

Arianespace Signs Contract for Ten Vega Launchers (Source: SpaceRef)
Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, and Pierluigi Pirrelli, Chief Executive of ELV (European Launch Vehicle), signed a contract confirming Arianespace's order of ten Vega launch vehicles from the Italian manufacturer. The ten Vega launchers ordered today, representing more than three years of business for Arianespace, will enter service at the end of 2015. (10/29)

Orbital Remains Committed to Next Commercial Cargo Bid (Source: Space News)
Orbital’s planned November bid to NASA for a follow-on space station logistics contract, called Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2, will proceed as scheduled. CEO David Thompson said this bid had always featured an upgraded Antares rocket with a new first-stage engine to replace the Russian AJ26 engine used now. (10/29)

NASA's Asteroid-Capture Mission Won't Help Astronauts Reach Mars (Source: Space.com)
NASA's bold asteroid-capture mission is an expensive distraction that does little to advance the agency's overarching goal of getting humans to Mars, one prominent researcher argues. For the past 18 months, NASA has been working on a plan to drag an entire near-Earth asteroid, or a boulder plucked from a large space rock, into lunar orbit using a robotic probe.

The captured asteroid could then be visited by astronauts aboard the agency's Orion crew capsule, ideally by 2025 at the latest. "The principal reason that ARM makes no sense is that it is a misstep off the path to Mars," Binzel told Space.com. "There's nothing about sending humans to Mars that requires us to capture an asteroid in a baggie. That's a multibillion-dollar expenditure that has nothing to do with getting humans to Mars." (10/29)

Space Mining Company Loses Test Vehicle on Antares (Source: Forbes)
Planetary Resources, a company developing technology that they hope will one day mine asteroids, lost a test vehicle after an unmanned NASA-contracted Antares rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. Among the cargo was Planetary Resources’ ARKYD 3, a test vehicle that was to orbit Earth. Deep Space Industries, another company developing technology to mine asteroids in space, offered their sympathies. (10/29)

NASA Has Eye on Congressional Critics Following ISS Launch Disaster (Source: Flight Global)
No-one was hurt on the ground, early indications pointed to the survival of at least some of the launch pad infrastructure. However, at a press conference later in the evening, NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier acknowledged Congressional critics of NASA’s private sector launch partnerships, which will see Boeing and SpaceX ferrying US astronauts to the ISS from 2017, a service currently bought from the Russians.

Noting that the rockets which will carry US astronauts will not use the Antares’s AJ-26 main engines, William Gerstenmaier on several occasions underscored that space launches are a “tough business”. As for upcoming human launches by private contractors, he says that he and NASA have been “pretty open with our Congressional friends in Washington, explaining how difficult our launch business is”.

And, he went on: “The important thing is we don’t overreact to this failure. That we really understand what occurred… and that we fix it, and fix it with some confidence.” This failure, he says, was a “reminder of how difficult this business is, how careful we have to be. How the small things matter in this launch business”. But Gerstenmaier, in a further remark clearly aimed at everyone associated with launches in NASA and its contractors, says: “Don’t get over-confident.” (10/29)

Lockheed Martin Opens Colorado Commercial Satellite HQ, Adds Hundreds of Jobs (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. Wednesday opened the new headquarters for its commercial satellite business, heralding the addition of hundreds of local jobs by Colorado's largest private-sector aerospace employer. About 200 guests gathered at the company's 4,000-employee campus near Waterton Canyon in Jefferson County to mark the opening. Lockheed Martin Space Systems (LMSS) is moving its communications and remote sensing satellite-building operation from Newtown, Pennsylvania, a location it's closing as part of a larger restructuring. (10/29)

MIT Scientist Proposes Asteroids as Destinations Before Mars (Source: Boston Globe)
Asteroid scientist Richard Binzel is often preoccupied by questions about the rocky bodies that sit in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. Spraypainted styrofoam asteroids hang from the ceiling of his MIT laboratory -- evidence of his passion for a topic that usually captures public attention only when one passes too close for comfort.

Which is why it might be surprising that Wednesday in the journal Nature, Binzel makes a strong case for why we should think about asteroids not for their scientific value, but as destinations for human space travel.

Millions of near-earth asteroids sit further away from the moon, but much closer than Mars. Those, Binzel argues, offer appealing destinations for trips that could test equipment and protocols as technology and systems are developed capable of ferrying people further and further -- and eventually all the way to Mars. Click here. (10/29)

Supersonic Laser-Propelled Rockets (Source: The Optical Society)
Scientists and science fiction writers alike have dreamt of aircrafts that are propelled by beams of light rather than conventional fuels. Now, a new method for improving the thrust generated by such laser-propulsion systems may bring them one step closer to practical use. The method is being developed by Russian physicists Yuri Rezunkov and Alexander Schmidt.
 
A number of systems have been proposed that can produce laser propulsion. One of the most promising involves a process called laser ablation, in which a pulsed laser beam strikes a surface, heats it up, and burns off material to create what is known as a plasma plume—a column of charged particles that flow off the surface. The outflowing of that plasma plume—essentially, exhaust—generates additional thrust to propel the craft.
 
In their Applied Optics paper, Rezunkov and Schmidt describe a new system that integrates a laser-ablation propulsion system with the gas blasting nozzles of a spacecraft. Combining the two systems, the researchers found, can increase the speed of the gas flow out of the system to supersonic speeds while reducing the amount of burned fuel. (10/29)

Canadian Space Agency President Departs After 15 Months (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Well, that was quick. Retired Gen. Walter Natynczyk will depart his post as president of the Canadian Space Agency next month after only 15 months on the job. He will replace Mary Chaput as deputy minister of Veterans Affairs effective Nov. 3. (10/29)

Orbital's Rivals Have Opportunity to Get NASA Cargo Business (Source: Bloomberg)
As Orbital Sciences Corp. halts rocket launches for potentially a year or more while it investigates a catastrophic explosion seconds after liftoff, rivals are poised to jockey for a new slate of private spaceflight contracts. Boeing and Sierra Nevada each plan to bid in the coming weeks on the next round of multibillion-dollar awards to fly cargo to the International Space Station.

While Orbital also plans to jump in, it will be doing so with its rockets grounded. “It may be that Orbital may look very weak,” said Marco Caceres, director of space studies at Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group. “If anything, this opens up more opportunities for other companies. A failure like this could have jarred the door open just enough.” (10/29)

Space Case Donald Trump Hates Private Enterprise Now (Source: Wonkette)
America’s Top Political Analyst Donald Trump had some thoughts on the wider symbolic significance of the event. He tweeted: "The U.S. rocket that blew-up and crashed yesterday is emblematic of the United States under Obama. Nothing works, be it a rocket or website."

NASA, starting under GW Bush but increasingly under Obama, has been doing a lot of these private contractor things, and they’ve generally been pretty successful. Apparently, Mr. Trump is unaware of the tendency of highly volatile rocket fuel and oxidant to sometimes explode and crash to the ground in a fiery flameout, something you’d think the promoter of several bankrupt casinos, conspiracy theories, and a rumored but never-launched presidential campaign might understand. (10/29)

How Will Orbital's Grounding Affect Virginia Spaceport Efforts? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Orbital Sciences and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) have had a spotty relationship and it could get worse after Tuesday's Antares explosion. Orbital sued the state in 2013 for $16.5 million in launch pad construction expenses, primarily for an Antares transporter/erector vehicle that the state had refused to purchase because it was designed solely for the Antares and couldn't be used by other candidate VCSFA customers.

It seems a deal was struck that required Orbital to modify the transporter/erector after Tuesday's launch, but that modification is now at the heart of a separate lawsuit filed by Orbital against one of its manufacturers. It is unknown whether the modified transporter/erector will be used for Orbital's next-generation Antares, which will see its current Russian-supplied engines replaced, possibly with solid rocket motors provided by ATK after a planned Orbital/ATK merger.

The failed launch obviously damaged the state-owned launch pad (and possibly the transporter/erector), but the extent of that damage has not yet been reported. Perhaps worse than the destruction of property is the lengthy downtime now faced by VCSFA as repairs are made and the cause of the launch failure is determined and corrected. Orbital is the launch pad's only active customer, so any lengthy downtime may cut deeply into VCSFA's revenues. (10/29)

NRO Contractor Engility Acquires Rival TASC for $1.1 Billion (Source: Space News)
Engility Corp. will acquire rival systems engineering company TASC in a $1.1 billion all-stock deal, Engility announced Oct. 27. Both firms are based in Chantilly, Virginia, near the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds the nation’s spy satellites and is a key customer for the two contractors.

Tony Smeraglinolo, Engility’s chief executive, will hold on to that title for the combined company, and John Hynes, TASC’s chief executive, will become chief operating officer, according to an investor presentation on Engility’s third-quarter results. TASC has more than 4,000 employees and a funded backlog of $385 million. (10/29)

What Science Lost in the Antares Rocket Explosion (Source: WIRED)
Science took a big hit in the Antares explosion. Almost a third of the payload (by weight) consisted of science experiments that ranged from a student project studying how pea shoots would grow in zero gravity to a high-tech camera that would have been the first to monitor meteors from space. All of the cargo was packed into the Cygnus spacecraft. Click here. (10/29)

Launching on the Cheap has had Disastrous Consequences in the Past (Source: Washington Post)
When reporters asked the first U.S. man in space, Alan Shepard, what he thought about as he sat atop a Mercury launch vehicle, he's said to have responded, "The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder." That sentiment may hang heavy over the launch failure at a NASA facility near the coast of Virginia on Tuesday night.

The cause of the failure remain unknown. But Orbital has marketed the Antares as a "cost effective" way to launch payloads, due at least in part on its reliance on recycled Soviet-era rocket engines — a move that has drawn criticism from some, including competitor SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk. Here's what he told Wired in a 2012 interview:

"One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s — I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere." (10/29)

Aerojet Stock Drops After Antares Failure (Source: Market Watch)
Aerojet Rocketdyne's parent company GenCorp saw its stock drop sharply Wednesday after RBC Capital analysts suggested a link between the company and the Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket that exploded was likely. The stock GY, -5.36%  fell 6.9% through morning trade. Less than two hours after the open, volume was already more than two-thirds the full-day average. (10/29)

Crashed Antares Partly Developed in Ukraine (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first stage work of the US Antares, which exploded seconds after lift-off on Tuesday, was conducted by Ukrainian state design office Yuzhnoye, according to the company's website. "The Antares LV stage one core structure was developed by Yuzhnoye State Design Office, manufactured by Yuzhny Machine-Building Plant (YMZ) in cooperation with Ukrainian companies: Khartron-ARKOS (Kharkov), Kievpribor (Kiev), Khartron-YUKOM (Zaporozh'e), CHEZARA, RAPID (Chernigov) et al," the company said on its website.

According to nasaspaceflight.com, the Antares' first stage is loosely based on the Zenit rocket also developed by Yuzhnoye. The rocket is powered by a pair of AJ26-58 rocket engines – modified versions of the NK-33 engines developed by the Soviet Union in the '70s. (10/29)

Russia’s Federation Council Ratifies Space Cooperation Agreement With Cuba (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Federation Council has ratified the intergovernmental agreement with Cuba on cooperation in exploring and using space for peaceful purposes on Wednesday. The agreement was signed on February 21, 2013 in Havana, Cuba and is aimed at creating organizational and legal foundation for the formation and development of cooperation projects between Russia and Cuba in the field of satellite communications, broadcasting and satellite navigation. (10/29)

October 29, 2014

Russia Launches First Soyuz-2.1a Rocket (Source: Xinhua)
A Soyuz-2.1a space rocket carrying a Progress M-25M resupplying ship was launched and placed on a transitional orbit on Wednesday. The rocket blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. "Six hours after the blast-off the cargo ship is to dock with the International Space Station (ISS)," Roscosmos said. This is the first launch of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket which has substituted the Soyuz-U-PVB rockets. First test of the new rocket was carried out in November 2004.

The Progress carries over 2.5 tons of cargo, including fuel, foods, water and oxygen as well as various scientific equipment. The resupplying ship is to dock ISS Russian segment at the height of about 400 km. Earlier Wednesday, a U.S. carrier rocket Antares driven by a Ukrainian engine exploded immediately over the launching pad in the state of Virginia. The Antares was supposed to deliver Cygnus cargo craft to the ISS U.S. segment.

Editor's Note: Interesting how the engines are described here (probably by Russian sources) as "Ukrainian." They were originally built by the Soviet Union's Kuznetsov Design Bureau (now Kuznetsov UEC, of Samara, Russia), which no longer produces them. They were exported from Russia under an agreement with Aerojet Rocketdyne. (10/29)

The Question of Using Decades-Old Soviet Engines (Source: Washington Post)
The tale of the engines that propelled the Antares rocket, which exploded in a spectacular ball of flame in Virginia Tuesday night, begins four decades ago, thousands of miles away, in the land of communism and Sputnik. There, in the Soviet Union, rocket scientists conceived and built dozens of rocket engines meant to power Russian astronauts into the cosmos. But it didn’t work out that way.

The unused engines were snapped up by Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded. It uses two modified versions of those Russian engines to propel missions to the International Space Station, according to the company’s user’s guide. To be clear, investigators say they do not know what caused Tuesday’s explosion, which destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment. But some observers are questioning those Soviet-era engines. (10/29)

America Has a New Spaceport: Midland, Texas (Source: Examiner)
After the Mojave Air & Space Port got its spaceport license, the Midland International Airport, Midland Development Corp., XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters announced the FAA's approval of a Commercial Space Launch Site License (Spaceport) for the Midland International Airport (MAF). Midland International Airport is the first primary commercial service airport to be certified by the FAA under the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 420 as a spaceport and will furthermore be referred to as the Midland International Air & Space Port. (10/28)

Space-Aged Whisky Returned to Earth (Source: Cheers)
On Oct. 23 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, NanoRacks Managing Director Jeffrey Manber officially returned vials of Ardbeg whisky that spent 3 years in space to Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation Dr. Bill Lumsden. White paper findings from this bold and dynamic experiment will be revealed sometime in 2015.

The vials will then commence a tour of the United States and other countries around the world before one lucky buyer will have the chance to bid and purchase at auction. The night concluded with a toast of Ardbeg's newest expression; Supernova 2014- the limited edition malt that was released to commemorate the return of the Ardbeg vial from space. (10/28)

Russia Offers to Help with ISS Deliveries After Antares Failure (Source: Raw Story)
Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off. “If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request,” Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov said, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance. (10/29)

Range Safety Initiates Termination of Antares Launch After Vehicle Failure (Source: Space News)
An Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the space station exploded seconds after liftoff Oct. 28. The Antares rocket lifted off on schedule at 6:22 pm EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. Approximately ten seconds after liftoff, however, an explosion took place at the base of the rocket’s first stage. The rocket fell back to the ground near the launch pad, triggering a second, larger explosion.

The failure will likely raise new questions about the AJ-26 engines that currently power the first stage of the vehicle. In May, an AJ-26 engine was destroyed during a ground test at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Aerojet Rocketdyne, which provides the AJ-26 — a refurbished version of the Soviet-era NK-33 engine — took $17.5 million loss in its latest fiscal quarter because of issues with the AJ-26 rocket engine.

The cause of the May failure has not been disclosed by Aerojet or Orbital. An investigation into that failure was wrapping up as of a month ago. Editor's Note: It is unclear whether the rocket could have advanced over the Atlantic before the command-destruct signal was sent, potentially preventing extensive damage to the launch pad. (10/28)

House Republicans Clamor for Commercial Crew Selection Info (Source: Space News)
More than a month after NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX contracts to build the first U.S. crewed spacecraft since the space shuttle, the Republican leaders of the House Science Committee are fuming that they have yet to be briefed on the logic behind NASA’s selections.

“To date, the Committee has not been briefed on the source selection, nor has it received the source selection statement, despite the fact that the offerors have been briefed, details were released to the press, the GAO is now involved; and NASA has decided to proceed with the contracts,” Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) wrote in a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Smith and Palazzo chair the House Science Committee and House Science space subcommittee, respectively.

NASA has not publicly released the 29-page source selection document for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability procurement, in which Bill Gerstenmaier detailed his reasons for giving Boeing and SpaceX contracts respectively worth $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion while rejecting Sierra Nevada’s $3.3 billion proposal to build a lifting-body spacecraft called Dream Chaser. Gerstenmaier was the source selection authority on the program. (10/27)

What Does the Future Hold for Atlas V Rocket? (Source: Florida Today)
Since first taking flight 12 years ago, Atlas V rockets have sent NASA spacecraft soaring throughout the solar system and lofted nearly 30 military missions supporting communications, weather forecasting, missile warnings, surveillance and research. The United Launch Alliance rocket could be the next to boost astronauts from the Space Coast within a few years.

However, ULA is actively preparing for a future without the Atlas V, its most frequently flown rocket. Mounting political and economic pressures point to the rocket's eventual discontinuation, at least in its current form. Congress has proposed spending as much as $220 million in 2015 to start developing an engine that could replace the rocket's Russian-made main engine, which has become a liability for geopolitical reasons, and ULA is pursuing another replacement option on its own.

"The writing's on the wall for Atlas V as a launcher," said Marco Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies at Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia., a firm specializing in aerospace and defense market research. "We cannot rely on the Russians over the long term. And from an economical standpoint, Atlas V is still too expensive the way it is to compete against emerging companies like SpaceX, and certainly to compete successfully in the commercial markets." (10/28)

Astronomers Capture Images of a Star Going Nova (Source: LA Times)
You don’t see this every day. For the first time, astronomers have captured images of a nova very soon after the stellar explosion flared into existence and have tracked the fireball's dramatic expansion into space. The discovery offers a unique look at a nova in action, and could give us a much more complex picture of how these explosions occur. Click here. (10/28)

ORBCOMM Wins 16,000-Unit Order (Source: SpaceRef)
ORBCOMM announced that the one of nations largest retail fleets has selected ORBCOMM to deliver 16,000 dual-mode tracking and monitoring solutions across its mixed fleet of dry and refrigerated trailers. ORBCOMM expects to ship the majority of the order in the fourth quarter of this year. ORBCOMM will provide its award-winning, dual-mode GT 1100 solution for the customers dry van assets utilizing its new, more advanced OG2 satellites and Verizons CDMA cellular network. (10/28)

Spaceport America May Get Near-Space Balloon Flights (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Paying passengers may soon fly to the edge of space in massive balloons launched from Spaceport America. World View Enterprises plans to send customers on balloon flights that climb 20 miles into the stratosphere, allowing passengers to view the earth’s curvature and the dark of space while wining and dining in a luxurious cabin with 360-degree views.

No decisions have been made, but the company is in negotiations with Spaceport executives to launch its balloons from southern New Mexico, starting in late 2016, said Chief Technology Officer Taber MacCallum. World View flew its first balloon test flight from Roswell last June. The balloon, which was about one-third the size of the one planned for passenger flights, reached 120,000 feet.

“Roswell offers several strategic advantages, such as open landing areas to the east and west,” MacCallum said. “The airport has great facilities with lots of space and privacy.” With the Eustice skydive done, World View executives will now focus full time on developing their technology and the business strategy for outer-Earth flights, including negotiations with Spaceport America, MacCallum said. (10/27)

Space Station Dodging Junk from Old Satellite (Source: AP)
The International Space Station sidestepped a piece of treacherous junk Monday just hours before the planned launch of a supply ship from Virginia. NASA said debris from an old, wrecked Russian satellite would have come dangerously close to the orbiting lab — just two-tenths of a mile — if not for the move.

The space station was maneuvered well out of harm's way to keep the outpost and its six inhabitants safe. Mission Control was informed of the space junk over the weekend. It is wreckage from a Kosmos satellite that was launched in 1993 and collided with an Iridium spacecraft in 2009. Mission Control said the space station's relocation would not affect Monday evening's scheduled launch of a commercial supply ship. (10/27)

China Launches Experimental Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched an experimental satellite into preset orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in its northwestern gobi desert on Monday. The Shijian-11-08 was boosted by a Long March-2C carrier rocket at 2:59 p.m. Beijing Time. The satellite, which was developed by China Spacesat Co. Ltd under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, will be used to conduct scientific experiments in space. (10/27)

First Hasselblad Camera Flown in Space Up for Auction (Source: CollectSpace)
A more than 50-year-old space-flown camera with connections to two of the original Mercury 7 astronauts is hitting the auction block in Boston. RR Auction has scheduled Nov. 13 for its special live sale of the Hasselblad 500C camera, which includes components used aboard the fifth and sixth U.S. space flights in 1962 and 1963. As the first Hasselblad to be flown into space, the camera led to NASA adopting the Swedish brand's equipment for the lunar landings later that decade. (10/28)

Looks Like We Won't Be Populating Mars Any Time Soon (Source: Mirror)
We've got the technology to get us to other planets - but once astronauts get there the human race has a problem. Colonizing other planets could save the human race, said Stephen Hawking. But though we now have the technology to reach them, there's one big problem... The astronauts could be infertile by the time they get there. That means they wouldn't be able to start a new human colony on Mars, or anywhere else. Click here. (10/28)

Vostochny Cosmodrome Construction Safe for Environment (Source: RIA Novosti)
Fuel that is supposed to be used for rocket launch at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Trans-Amur Territory is safe for the environment, the government of the Amur Region said. "Taking into account the experience gained while working at the Baikonur cosmodrome, the most secure and environmentally friendly technology is used here." (10/28)

SpaceX Closing in on Certification for Military Launches (Source: Space News)
Rocket maker SpaceX is expected to begin a series of review boards with the U.S. government’s chief engineer the week of Oct. 27 as it enters the “final phase” of  its quest to earn the Air Force certification necessary to launch national security missions. The Air Force requires SpaceX — and any other so-called new entrants in the national security launch marketplace — to provide data from three successful launches for analysis and to pass 19 engineering review boards, among other tasks, to earn certification. (10/28)

Scotland’s Clyde Space Reports Strong Annual Growth, New Contracts (Source: Space News)
Small-satellite builder Clyde Space of Scotland said it sharply increased revenue and operating profit in the past year and booked two contracts with European and U.S. customers equivalent to more than its full-year sales. Clyde Space said it is moving into larger quarters to accommodate what it said is likely to be continued strong growth in its business. (10/28)

October 28, 2014

10 Years On: A Progress Report on Spaceport America (Source: New Mexico Watchdog)
It has cost New Mexico taxpayers $218.5 million to construct and its anchor tenant, headed by a flamboyant billionaire, has yet to get off the ground. Nonetheless, backers of Spaceport America remain confident the investment in the first site built specifically for commercial flights going into suborbital space will pay off.

“When it comes to the whole commercial space industry, I don’t think it’s a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of Spaceport America, located essentially in the middle of nowhere in a desert basin in southern New Mexico — 45 miles north of Las Cruces, 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences and just west of the White Sands Missile Range.

Anderson said SpaceX has already spent $2 million on infrastructure improvements on its Spaceport site. Musk’s team is working on what Anderson called “the holy grail of vertical launch,” its Falcon 9R  that’s designed to lift off and instead of having the first stage of the rocket get discarded into the ocean, returns the ground to be used again. SpaceX is testing the rocket in Texas and suffered a malfunction in August, but plans to conduct its launches in New Mexico. (10/28)

Plane Carrying European Satellite Makes Emergency Landing in Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
A plane carrying a European satellite on the way to the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan has made an emergency landing at the airport of Ulyanovsk in Russia. The reason for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft's forced landing in Ulyanovsk was the failure of one of the engines. (10/28)

2014 Canadian Aerospace Summit Planned on Nov. 18-19 (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
The 50 year old, largely unofficial Canadian partnerships which tied together government, business and academia to define and inform our Canadian aerospace and space activities are about to split apart just in time for the expected Federal election tentatively scheduled for October 19th, 2015. And, the best place to watch the explosion is the fast approaching Canadian Aerospace Summit, which will be held in Ottawa, Ontario from November 18th - 19th. (10/20)

Partnership Formed to Propel Ontario’s Aerospace Industry (Source: Canadian Manufacturing)
A trio of organizations are teaming up to increase innovation in Ontario’s aerospace sector. Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) are partnering with the newly formed Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) to identify and develop opportunities for increased industry-academic research and development collaborations in the province, home to Canada’s second largest aerospace sector. (10/27)

Canadian Company Works to Develop Space Drill (Source: CBC)
A Greater Sudbury mining innovation company is getting to literally take some of its equipment out of this world. Deltion Innovations Limited is in the process of developing a drill for the Canadian Space Agency and the goal is to have the drill mine for water and ice on the moon.

CEO Dale Boucher said the drill is being developed in the company’s test facility in Capreol. Testing is being done by using a liquid nitrogen tank that is used to cool down the sample, filled with simulated moon dirt and water, he said. This test phase involves trying to drill through material at liquid nitrogen temperatures — about minus 180 degrees Celsius. (10/20)

NASA Seeking Ultra-Lightweight Materials to Enable Missions to Mars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA is seeking proposals to develop and manufacture ultra-lightweight materials for aerospace vehicles and structures of the future. Currently and in the recent past, manufacturers have been using composite "sandwich" materials. Composite sandwich structures are made by attaching two thin skins to a lightweight honeycomb or foam cores. Today this type of composite is used extensively within the aerospace industry, automotive industry and almost anywhere where reducing weight and cost while maintaining structural strength is desired. (10/28)

Virgin Galactic Has Plans for Satellites (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
No one knows for sure when any tourists will be flying on a Virgin Galactic craft taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. But that's not stopping the company from talking about doing even more. The company is developing a new vehicle to launch satellites into orbit. "We're doing great things in the Mojave Desert, although it's less in the spotlight than our testing of SpaceShipTwo," Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides said. (10/27)

Finding the Right Rocks (Source: Space News)
The NASA inspector general (IG) recently excoriated the agency’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program, finding that the effort to locate potentially Earth-threatening asteroids and comets was poorly resourced and far behind its mandated detection goals. In 2005 Congress tasked NASA with locating 90 percent of NEOs 140 meters in size and larger, but currently only 10 percent of this population has been found.

The IG concluded that program management and funding for the planetary defense effort were insufficient for the task at hand. Unfortunately, the IG’s audit missed a much broader and far more important point: NASA is not looking for the right rocks. Click here. (10/27)

Construction Takes Wing at NASA Glenn in Brook Park (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
NASA Glenn Research Center's first new office building in a few decades is a glassy, gleaming, energy-efficient sign of the federal government's continued commitment to Brook Park. The Mission Integration Center, which opened in late July, is the biggest result to date of a 20-year master plan approved in 2007. Construction crews are creating a "downtown Glenn" for key operations and moving other jobs, such as shipping and receiving, to the fringes.

The mission center cost $29 million, counting design, construction and furnishings. It provides common ground for workers from different Glenn enterprises, including space flight and conventional flight. Many of the building's roughly 300 occupants have labs elsewhere on campus but offices here. (10/27)

Film Review: ‘Interstellar’ (Source: Variety)
The date is an unspecified point in the near future, close enough to look and feel like tomorrow, yet far enough for a number of radical changes to have taken hold in society. A decade on from a period of widespread famine, the world’s armies have been disbanded and the cutting-edge technocracies of the early 21st century have regressed into more utilitarian, farm-based economies.

“We used to look up in the sky and wonder about our place in the stars,” Cooper muses. “Now we just look down and wonder about our place in the dirt.” And oh, what dirt! As “Interstellar” opens, the world — or at least Cooper’s Steinbeckian corner of it — sits on the cusp of a second Dust Bowl, ravaged by an epidemic of crop blight, a silt-like haze hanging permanently in the air.

And as the crops die, so the Earth’s atmosphere becomes richer in nitrogen and poorer in oxygen, until the time when global starvation will give way to global asphyxiation. But all hope is not lost. NASA (whose massive real-life budget cuts lend the movie added immediacy) still exists in this agrarian dystopia, but it’s gone off the grid, far from the microscope of public opinion. Click here. (10/27)

Wayward Boat Scrubs Antares Launch (Source: Space News)
A boat that entered restricted waters forced Orbital Sciences Corp. to postpone the launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft Oct. 27. The launch of the Antares rocket, scheduled for 6:45 pm EDT, was scrubbed when a sailboat entered a restricted zone off the coast from the launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. The boat was not able to leave the zone before the ten-minute launch window closed.

There were no technical issues reported with the Antares rocket or the Cygnus spacecraft prior to the scrub, and weather conditions were favorable. Orbital Sciences and NASA announced the next launch attempt would be Oct. 28 at 6:22 pm EDT. Forecasts call for a 95 percent chance of acceptable weather at the new launch time. (10/27)

Mojave Spaceport Board Candidate Dies in Plane Crash (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Michael Hill, who was director of business operations at the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Air and Space Port, was killed on Friday along with student pilot Ilam Zigante in the crash of a two-seat, single-engine aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash. Hill had been a candidate for one of two short-term seats on the Mojave Air and Space Port Board of Directors. (10/26)

Disruption and Destruction in the Launch Business (Source: Space Review)
One of the most popular business buzzwords today is "disruption"; does it apply to the launch business? Jeff Foust reports on the effect one company is having on the business and what its quest for reusability could mean for the industry. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2628/1 to view the article. (10/27)

The Space Pioneer Act (Source: Space Review)
Advanced in commercial space ventures have raised new questions about the need for property rights and ownership of resources in space. Wayne White makes the case for legislation that could accomplish this within the limitations of current treaties. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2627/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Why India is a Major New Market for Military Space Systems (Source: Space Review)
India has achieved major advanced in civil space systems, such as its recent Mars mission, but lags in military space systems. Kiran Krishnan Nair argues that improved relations between India and the US provide an opportunity to sell India reconnaissance and other military satellite systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2626/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Lessons from Apollo for Mars One (Source: Space Review)
The plan by Mars One to send people to Mars one-way has attracted its share of attention—and criticism. James C. McLane III examines what Mars One could learn from the challenges faces a half-century ago by Apollo. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2625/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Another View on Cubesats and Debris (Source: Space News)
In response to recent articles regarding cubesats and space debris, I would like to offer some input from a stakeholder in the cubesat community in order to provide balance and continue this important discussion on the sustainable use of the space environment.

ISIS — Innovative Solutions In Space has been active in the cubesat sector for nearly a decade, and the company has been involved in debris mitigation technology development, such as drag sails and deorbit motors, since 2007. Through our own missions and our ISILaunch Services, we are subject to various aspects of space debris; the sustained use of space is a daily aspect of our activities, and as such is a growing concern.

From the active debris removal studies we have been involved in, the key contributors to the debris problem were always large objects (defunct upper stages and large satellites) that still carry unused fuel with associated fragmentation risk. These objects have a large acceleration effect on the debris growth and are the prime targets for debris removal missions to curb the growing collision risk in low Earth orbit. Click here. (10/27)

October 27, 2014

China Tycoon Reveals Foray Into Space (Source: Space Daily)
A mysterious Chinese tycoon who plans to dig a $40 billion canal linking the Caribbean and the Pacific is spreading his reach into space with ambitions for a network of satellites, reports said. Wang Jing, who won a 50-year concession to build and operate the canal from Nicaragua last year, announced that one of his companies launched a test orbiter last month.

The move made Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group first private firm to invest in China's tightly controlled and mostly military-run space industry, the Beijing News said. Wang, in his early 40s, ranked 224th on the Forbes' world's billionaires list this year with wealth estimated at $6.1 billion.

He has denied any connections with the Chinese government, but reportedly owns a car with military licence plates, broadcasts army songs twice a day in one of his companies, where the lobby is decorated with pictures of Chinese leaders visiting the firm. (10/27)

China's Wenchang to Launch Space Station (Source: People's Daily)
China's fourth space launch center, the Wenchang satellite launch center in south China's Hainan Province, will launch the country's space station and cargo spacecrafts. Tao Zhongshan, chief engineer of the Xichang launch center, told Xinhua on Sunday that the new center will be used mainly for geosynchronous orbiters, large-tonnage space stations, cargo spacecraft, and large polar orbit satellites.

Wenchang has an advantage for transportation of modules of such spacecraft as it is located near a seaport. The site's low latitude will also help the carrying capacity of rockets by about 10 percent, compared to Xichang. (10/27)

Israel Positions Itself To Boost Satellite Business (Source: Defense News)
After silently settling what many here have characterized as the most potentially damaging lawsuit in Israeli aerospace history, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has taken full control of ImageSat International (ISI), a company it created to stimulate satellite business, but ended up as a renegade, aspiring rival.

The merger of ISI into the corporate portfolio of state-owned IAI aims to revitalize Israel’s remote sensing sector and fuel export sales after a decade of edge-eroding industrial infighting. IAI, a majority shareholder in the locally based, Dutch Antilles-incorporated firm that owns and operates IAI-built Eros satellites, never announced the out-of-court settlement of billions of dollars claimed by ISI minority partners. (10/27)

Plan for Texas Coastal Parks Likely Includes SpaceX Viewings (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Cameron County's park system crown jewel is Isla Blanca Park on the southern tip of South Padre Island. For decades, its jetties, surf and recreational vehicle parking have made Isla Blanca a revenue generator, but Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia Benavides said the new master plan will allow the county to maximize usage of the county’s coastal parks.

The timing is perfect, Vega said, noting the area’s newest attraction, which is currently under construction across the ship channel from Isla Blanca. “With SpaceX coming around the corner (Isla Blanca) will be an ideal location to witness that,” Vega said, envisioning crowds packed into the park all looking south toward the spot where Elon Musk and SpaceX has begun work on the world’s first commercial rocket launch pad. (10/27)

Commercial Space Industry Growing Fast (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
The promise of paying passengers flying to space from southern New Mexico and elsewhere in the near future has captured the public imagination and helped spur the emergence of a new commercial space industry. But space tourism is just the tip of the iceberg. Scores of companies worldwide are working with government agencies such as NASA, and with research labs and universities, to develop a broad range of commercial space missions using new technologies created and managed by the private sector.

Some of the most visible initiatives include Elon Musk’s company Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, plus Orbital Sciences Corp. of Virginia. Both firms have been flying cargo to the International Space Station under contract with NASA. And in September, the space agency awarded the first commercial contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to fly U.S. crews to and from the space station by 2017. (10/27)

SLS Booster Separation Testing Brings Confidence to First Flight (Source: Space Daily)
It's a familiar phrase heard just before a rocket launches at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Throughout history, millions have traveled from across the world to see the fiery plumes created by a rocket's large boosters, which have launched astronauts and other payloads into space time and time again. NASA will once again shape history when it launches the Space Launch System (SLS).

Engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia are doing their part to enable NASA's 5.5-million-pound SLS to launch the Orion spacecraft to deep space. To understand the aerodynamic forces exerted on the rocket as it flies through the atmosphere, Langley engineers recently tested a 35-inch SLS booster separation model in its Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel, with air speeds of over 2,400 mph. The engineers collected high-fidelity data from 800 runs. (10/27)

Roscosmos to Receive Designs of Super-Heavy Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos will receive technical suggestions in creating the country's super-heavy carrier rockets by the end of 2014, an agency department head said Thursday. "We expect to receive designs from leading enterprises by the end of the year," said Andrei Mazurin, who heads one of the space agency's departments, told RIA Novosti.

Roscosmos is looking into developing a super-heavy carrier rocket to be used in Russia's lunar program, able to launch up to 80 tons of cargo into space, Mazurin said. In the long term, a rocket capable of carrying 130 to 160 tons could be created, he said. In September, Roscosmos reported that it was planning to launch a full-scale moon exploration program. (10/27)

OECD Takes Look at Quarter Trillion Dollar Global Space Industry (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The global space sector is a high‑technology niche with a complex ecosystem, which employed at least 900,000 persons around the world in 2013, including public administrations (space agencies, space departments in civil and defense‑related organizations), the space manufacturing industry (building rockets, satellites, ground systems); direct suppliers to this industry (components), and the wider space services sector (mainly commercial satellite telecommunications).

But these estimates do not take into account universities and research institutions, which also play a key role in R&D, as receivers of public contracts and initiators of much of the space sector’s innovation. The acquisition and development of space capabilities remains a highly attractive strategic goal, and the number of countries and companies investing in space systems and their downstream applications continues to grow. Click here. (10/25)

Virgin Galactic's Potential is Cosmic (Source: Express)
The space tourism firm will launch “earlier than most people expect” according to the tycoon, and has advance bookings from 800 passengers. The billionaire said: “The rockets are ready and the fundamental boxes have now been ticked, so I am hopeful we’ve got a nice surprise for those people coming.

“It’s the most exciting company we’ve ever launched and one day we’re going to be competing with British Airways point-to-point via space. “It could become one of the most profitable firms we have ever launched.” (10/26)

Novel Rocket Design Flight Tested (Source: Los Alamos National Lab)
Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists recently flight tested a new rocket design that includes a high-energy fuel and a motor design that also delivers a high degree of safety. Conventional solid-fuel rocket motors work by combining a fuel and an oxidizer, a material usually rich in oxygen, to enhance the burning of the fuel. In higher-energy fuels this mixture can be somewhat unstable, and can contain sensitive high explosives that can detonate under high shock loads, high temperatures, or other conditions.

The new rocket fuel and motor design adds a higher degree of safety by separating the fuel from the oxidizer, both novel formulations that are, by themselves, not able to detonate. After years of development and bench-top static tests, the new rocket design was recently flight tested at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center's Socorro launch site, part of New Mexico Tech. Click here. (10/26)

KSC Business Expo Planned on Tuesday (Source: KSC)
The NASA KSC Women-Owned Small Business Industry Day and EXPO trade show is sponsored by NASA/KSC Prime Contractor Board, 45th Space Wing, and the Port Canaveral Authority, and features approximately 150 businesses and government exhibits.

Exhibitors include businesses providing a variety of products & services. Representatives of NASA, the 45th Space Wing, prime contractors and other government agencies will be available to answer specific questions about doing business with their respective organizations. Matchmaking sessions will be available for those interested. Additional information will be available during the Opening Ceremony. Click here. (10/27)

Decatur Daily Endorses Marshall Engineer Bray to Unseat Mo Brooks (Source: Decatur Daily)
The rhetoric of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, has caused enough harm to Alabama and the Fifth District. Mark Bray, I-Huntsville, is a political newcomer, but he represents needed change. North Alabama has endured the inflammatory rhetoric of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks for too long. We endorse Mark Bray, I-Huntsville, for the Fifth District seat of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The contrast between incumbent Brooks and his predecessors is depressingly stark. The template for past representatives provided huge benefits for north Alabama. Former Reps. Ronnie Flippo and Bud Cramer were behind-the-scenes players. They created alliances that benefited their districts while pushing legislation that their constituents favored. What they did not do is make spectacles of themselves.

Like his predecessors, Brooks is an intelligent man. Unlike his predecessors, he devotes that intelligence to finding the spotlight. He is a darling of the national media, not because of his incisive commentary, but because of his inflammatory comments. Bray is a political unknown. He campaigns as a conservative, but he advocates practical solutions rather than ideological ones. As an engineer for NASA, he understands the importance of the federal government to north Alabama. (10/26)

October 26, 2014

Atlas Set for Wednesday Launch at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Air Force and United Launch Alliance managers will meet Monday to confirm an Atlas V rocket's readiness to launch the nation's next Global Positioning System satellite this week. The launch is scheduled for 1:21 p.m. Wednesday, the opening of an 18-minute window at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Launch Complex 41. The 19-story rocket is expected to roll to its pad Tuesday. The $245 million GPS IIF-8 spacecraft was attached to the rocket last Monday. (10/25)

ULA Talking to States About Hosting New Launch Vehicle Work (Source: The Monitor)
Salvatore T. “Tory” Bruno, the new president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, says the space company’s vision is to build on its foundation and strengths through innovation, new technologies and initiatives. These include plans for a new rocket and, in partnership with aerospace company Blue Origin, LLC, the development of a rocket engine made in the United States that would provide more performance, lower costs, and end ULA’s reliance on Russian-made engines.

“I’m really pretty excited about it,” Bruno said Thursday at ULA’s manufacturing and integration facility in Harlingen. Ending ULA’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines is a priority. ULA provides launch services for the Department of Defense, National Reconnaissance Office and NASA.

“We’re going to invest a lot of money in this new launch system so we are talking to various states about what we can do where and there are a lot of state governments that understand that they can play a role in stimulating jobs to come in and the tax base to increase, all that good stuff. So we are anxious to enter into those arrangements and partnerships with them,” Bruno said, referring to economic development agreements. (10/25)

Profile of ULA's Tory Bruno (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Tory Bruno found a box of old dynamite in his grandmother’s barn one day. He was about 12 or 13 years old when he made the finding — and built his first homemade “rocket.” Rockets have always fascinated Salvatore T. “Tory” Bruno, the new president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Boeing Co. Click here. (10/25)

Roscosmos to Test its Moon Base on Earth (Source: Russia Today)
Russian space agency Roscosmos will build a prototype of the base it plans to build on the Moon beyond 2030 on Earth. The base will consist of four parts – habitable module, energy module, laboratory module and junctional module. The prototype will allow the developers test all architectural and technical solutions for the actual Moon base.

The Roscosmos source added that the agency plans to supply the base with various robots – some of which will be constructing it. They will also be tested on Earth at the prototype base. The agency estimates the costs of its most ambitious space projects in the federal space program for 2016-2025 at about $7.5 billion, the source said.

Editor's Note: I've been waiting to see something like this from NASA, either for the Moon or Mars. All of the mock bases I've read about (in Canada, Utah, Hawaii, etc.) seem to have focused on crew operations and not so much the architectural/engineering designs for potential bases. (10/26)

Infertile Field of Mars? Colonization Plans Marred by Gravity, Radiation Fears (Source: Russia Today)
The Mars One mission - to bring humans to the Red Planet - is underway, with nearly 80,000 applicants for a possible one-way trip. But will they go forth and multiply? Low gravity and cosmic rays lie in the path of the ambitious plan. Mars is considered to be the most hospitable planet in the solar system, after Earth.

The mission is aimed at sending first four Mars inhabitants in 2024, and their journey will become a Dutch reality TV program. One of the things the first settlers will not be allowed to do, however, is to have children. Still, Mars One acknowledges that to lead “true” life on Mars, having children is “vital,” so Adams and Eves could still descend on Mars. But what’s in store for them?

The planet’s gravity is just 38 percent of Earth’s, the atmosphere is so thin it resembles a laboratory vacuum, and is terribly cold. Typical nighttime temperatures close to the equator are -70 C. Scientists have been examining the issue of reproduction in space for decades – in conditions of reduced gravity and limited space. What concerns scientists are the dangers and risks space conditions pose to a potential baby and his surviving abilities. Click here. (10/25)

Huntsville Aim for Mars (Source: Huntsville Times)
As NASA prepares to take its next giant leap in space exploration with a human journey to Mars in the 2030s, Huntsville is again at the forefront, developing the Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy lift rocket that will carry our astronauts farther into the solar system than anyone has ever gone before.

Marshall has a diverse portfolio of technology development and science research underway that will make it possible to explore, live and work in space beyond low-Earth orbit. None of this would be possible without the more than 6,000 civil service and contractor employees at Marshall who are dedicated to America's spirit of exploration and innovation. (10/26)

Dragon Splashes Down with Critical Research on Human Spaceflight (Source: CNN)
SpaceX's Dragon spaceship splashed down Saturday in the Pacific Ocean, returning from a four-week resupply mission to the International Space Station and bringing back a valuable payload of potentially groundbreaking experiments. Dragon, an unmanned spacecraft, successfully came down about 300 miles west of Baja California just after 3:30 p.m. EST, carrying a return load weighing 3,276 pounds

Dragon was expected to be hauled to a port near Los Angeles where some of the cargo would be removed almost immediately, the space agency said, while the rest of the research aboard the rocket will return to SpaceX's facility at McGregor, Texas, for further processing. (10/26)

SpaceX Plans to Start Reusing Rockets Next Year (Source: MIT Technology Review)
At a shipyard in Louisiana, SpaceX is building a floating platform measuring 90 meters long by 50 meters across. The company plans to land part of its Falcon 9 rocket on the platform after its next mission to the space station, planned for December 2014. Musk predicts a 50 percent chance of success. The company has previously performed a controlled landing into water, rather than on a platform.

Over the next year, SpaceX plans to carry out 12 missions, and he says there’s an 80 percent chance one of those will be successful, allowing the vehicle to fly again. “So we’re quite close,” he said at the event. (10/25)

Facility at NASA Plum Brook Station Receives $2M Ohio Grant (Source: Sandusky Register)
A state grant aims to reinvigorate rocket testing a world-class space test facility in Erie County. The Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded $2 million for a high-technology company based in Milan to inspect and refurbish sophisticated pumps used for rocket testing at NASA Plum Brook Station's B-2 facility.

The facility's three pumps cool rocket exhaust as it passes from the nozzle throughout the rest of the facility, allowing for productive small rocket engine testing — the first step toward handling larger rocket testing. The B-2 facility is Earth's only experimental chamber capable of testing full-scale, upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines. Workers or contractors representing Sierra Lobo will use the money so they can remove, repair and reinstall the three pumps to make this happen. (10/25)

Film Looks at Women in Space (Source: Boston Globe)
Now we take for granted the notion of female astronauts, but for two decades it was strictly an all-male affair. Not so well known is how women finally breached that barrier. Michael Epstein’s “Makers: Women in Space” is one of six documentaries in the PBS “Makers” series about pioneering women. It relates the story from the earliest days of the space program, when female candidates — some of them proven to be more qualified than their male counterparts — were still denied. (10/25)

U.S. Still Spends More on Space Than Every Other Country—Combined (Source: Washington Post)
Ever since NASA retired its last space shuttle in 2011, American space travel has taken a back seat to news of growing Chinese space ambitions, Indian Mars missions, Iranian space chimps, and Russian space geckos. But make no mistake, the U.S. is still the global powerhouse in space spending. Last year, the U.S. spent roughly $40 billion on its space program, which is more than every other country combined.

According to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), China's space budget, which is the second largest in the world, was just under $11 billion in 2013; Russia's the third largest, was roughly $8.6 billion; and India's, the fourth largest, was about $4.3 billion. Click here. (10/27)

China's Main Competitor in Space Exploration is India, Not Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
China's principal competitor in space exploration is India, not Russia, a researcher at the Russian Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies said. "China and India are two new space powers. They have vast resources and consider their space programs from the national prestige perspective," the expert said.

He added that China and India are following Russian and US footsteps in space exploration. "China's more developed space-rocket industry and immense resources have let it take the lead in the two countries' space race," he argued. Despite being behind China in space exploration, India has a significant advantage, according to the researcher.

"China is still under rigid restrictions on any form of cooperation with the United States, including on the purchase of components … The Chinese are forced to do many things on their own and they sometimes cannot produce components of a required level. The Indians have less resources, but they are in good relations with everyone. India can cooperate with both Russia and the West, adopting their best technologies," he concluded. (10/24)

Space Dive Sets Stage for World View Space Flights (Source: World View)
Following the record-breaking 135,908-foot space dive accomplished by Google’s Alan Eustace and the Paragon StratEx team, World View Enterprises, the commercial balloon spaceflight company, has acquired the technology from this history-making project. The acquisition will advance the company’s mission to pioneer a new frontier at the edge of space for travel and research.“

For StratEx, Eustace was lifted to his peak altitude of 135,908 feet via high-altitude balloon, the same ballooning system that World View will employ to launch sailing-like journeys to the edge of space. While World View’s voyagers will ascend within a luxuriously engineered pressurized capsule, Eustace was kept safe from the elements in a self-contained space suit system designed with the goal of allowing manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet.

The patent-pending technology developed for StratEx has been acquired by World View for future space travel and research flights, adding depth to World View’s systems for launch, recovery, communications, ballooning, tracking, mission control, avionics and aerodynamics, among others. World View will have Voyagers floating peacefully to the edge of space for a one-to-two-hour space cruise within a luxury capsule complete with bar and lavatory, which is transported by a parafoil and high altitude balloon. (10/24)

Ashes Rocketed Into Space (Source: KVID)
Families got a special wish granted Thursday at Apaceport America thanks to a collaboration between two aerospace companies. Ashes from deceased loved ones were rocketed into space. The Spaceloft XL Rocket launched from Spaceport America, containing the ashes of 24 people from all over the country. The $1,000 memorial spaceflights were first introduced by Celestis in 1995. Currently, they operate the flights jointly with Up Aerospace. The ashes are put into individualized flight capsules, which are then attached to the tip of the rocket. After the rocket reaches space, it then returns, bringing the ashes back to the families. (10/24)

October 25, 2014

SpaceX to Attempt Falcon 9 Booster Landing on Floating Platform (Source: Florida Today)
As soon as December, SpaceX will attempt to land a Falcon 9 rocket booster on a floating ocean platform the size of a football field. The landing platform is being built at a Louisiana shipyard and measures 300 feet by 170 feet. The new infrastructure is SpaceX's next step in trying to recover a Falcon 9 booster so it can be flown again, a breakthrough Elon Musk believes is critical to lowering launch costs.

So far, the company has twice flown boosters as tall as 14-story buildings back from space and hypersonic speeds to soft landings in the Atlantic Ocean, where they broke up. The new platform aims to give the boosters something more solid to touch down upon with landing legs that span 60 feet. It will be positioned miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, unanchored but equipped with engines and GPS sensors that will try to keep it stable.

Editor's Note: I haven't seen that SpaceX's petition to overturn Blue Origin's patent for barge landings has been resolved. I wonder if Blue Origin will attempt to block the landing attempt. (10/24)

Do You Have What It Takes to Go Into Space? (Probably) (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Selected from hundreds of elite pilots, the Mercury Seven astronauts had to endure a battery of grueling tests: running on treadmills for hours, blowing up balloons repeatedly to gauge their lung capacity, being exposed to extreme heat, vibration and loud noises. None could weigh over 180 pounds or be taller than 5-foot-11. And they needed to have logged at least 1,500 hours of flying time in a traditional aircraft.

The bar has since lowered drastically, especially for ordinary citizens hoping to catch a ride aboard the commercial “space-tourism” flights that have either launched or have plans to do so as soon as early next year. Just ask the 700 ticket holders who’ve paid up to $250,000 to ride with Virgin Galactic 50 miles above the earth, or the 300 who have signed up for a similar offering by XCOR (at a cost of $95,000). Overweight? Probably not a problem. Heavy smoker? The sky may still be the limit.

Even if you think you haven’t got the right stuff, you might. It could just take a bit of training to get you there. Surprisingly, the baseline medical requirements for commercial space travel are lenient—and that’s true whether you’re taking a “suborbital” flight that barely leaves the earth’s atmosphere (as Virgin Galactic and XCOR’s flights will do) or going all the way to the International Space Station (a trip offered by a company called Space Adventures). (10/24)

Range Safety Concerns Postpone Launch of European Re-Entry Experiment (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency on Oct. 24 postponed indefinitely the planned Nov. 18 launch of its intermediate experimental vehicle (IXV), designed to make a suborbital equatorial flight to test re-entry technologies after launch aboard Europe’s Vega rocket, following concerns for range safety as Vega passes over the South American spaceport.

Stefano Bianchi, head of launchers for the 20-nation ESA, said discussions with the French space agency, CNES — which is Europe’s “launching state” in legal terms as host to the Guiana Space Center — are likely to continue “for a few weeks” before an acceptable flight route is determined. Bianchi said the specific concern is that Vega’s second and third stages, both solid-fueled, will be unpressurized and in low altitude over French Guiana territory during the flight’s first minutes after liftoff.

The Ariane 5 rocket carries two large solid-fueled boosters, but both are ignited at liftoff. For Vega, a flight anomaly that forced the vehicle’s destruction would pose potential hazards from the vehicle’s fully fueled second and third stages. The vehicle’s fourth stage is liquid-fueled. Bianchi said it is only natural that range-safety authorities, presented with an unprecedented launch profile for a relatively new vehicle — this will be Vega’s fourth flight — would want to pay special attention to the performance required of Vega. (10/24)

Dream Chaser Heads to Space for Science (Source: Denver Post)
Sierra Nevada's Louisville-based Space Systems has a new mission: Doing science in space. The Dream Chaser for Science, or DC4Science, is a variant of the Dream Chaser spacecraft designed as an orbiting microgravity laboratory. "We can create a custom lab that allows us to dedicate the lab space to whatever the scientific purpose is," Mark Sirangelo said.

The spacecraft allows for customized experimental payloads to be sent to space for three different types of missions: Short-term flights with scientist astronauts on board; uncrewed months-long missions; and longer duration missions of a year or more. In addition to the customizable aspect, there is one major difference between experiments on board DC4Science and those being performed on the space station:

"Customers will maintain scientific intellectual property rights, free from Federal Research Laboratory regulations that govern the International Space Station," said John Roth, Space Systems' vice president of business development. (10/24)

Supersized Sunspot is Largest in Decades (Source: Science News)
A colossal sunspot large enough to be seen with the naked eye now blemishes the nearside of the sun, covering an area wide enough to comfortably fit 10 Earths side by side. The new sunspot, dubbed AR 12192, is the largest observed since 1990. Sunspots are cooler regions on the sun where powerful, twisted magnetic fields poke through the solar surface. According to NASA, the enormous sunspot has already sparked several solar flares, which can create auroras and disrupt satellites around Earth. (10/24)

UAE Fires Up Space Agency with Mars Mission (Source: Physics World)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced plans to send a spacecraft to Mars by 2021, which would make it the first Arab country to reach another planet. The unmanned probe's prospective nine-month journey is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE's independence from the UK.

The UAE is also creating a new national-level space agency intended to "maximize the contribution of space industries to the national economy", according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and the UAE's vice-president. The Mars mission and the new space agency are intended to help diversify the country's economy away from reliance on oil and gas and into hi-tech industries. (10/24)

Spaceport America Seeks To Diversify Customer Base and Revenue Streams (Source: Space News)
As Spaceport America gears up for the beginning of commercial flights next year by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, the spaceport’s director says she is looking for additional users and revenue streams that will be required to eventually make the facility financially self-sufficient.

Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said that commercial spaceports in general, like airports, will require a diversified revenue stream that goes beyond rent payments and other fees directly linked to launch activities.

“Airports are not self-sustaining today just on the aircraft that come in and out,” she said, citing revenue streams from activities like concessions and parking. “Spaceports, for a very long time and maybe forever, are not going to be able to rely on just launch vehicles.” (10/24)

Contract Dispute Holds Crucial Launch Site Hardware Hostage for Antares Mission (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences is suing a contractor for holding “hostage” hardware needed to launch an Antares mission to the ISS next April and is suing to recover the parts. A roughly $2 million contract Orbital awarded in 2013 to Integrated Systems & Machinery and its owner, Kevin Huber, was to procure new gimbals and cylinders for the hydraulic system used by the Antares Transporter Erector vehicle.

Orbital’s third cargo run to the ISS — which is still slated to launch Oct. 27 — can proceed without the withheld hardware. However, Orbital is obligated under an agreement with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s host state to upgrade the Transporter Erector before launching its fourth contracted cargo run, the debut of a bigger, heavier Cygnus cargo tug.

A July 14 email shows that Huber told Orbital that the hardware was mostly complete, but that he would not turn it over because of “unresolved contractual matters” between Orbital and Integrated Systems and Machinery. Huber also wrote that he would “be ready, on the spot, to do it if somehow the contractual issue resolves itself.” Editor's Note: This mess gets pretty complicated. Click here to read the full story. (10/24)

'Ambition' Beautifully Blends Science, Art and Fantasy (Source: Discovery)
Walking across a barren plain, after the apprentice failed to keep a levitating mountain of rock in the air, the master says to his student, “I think we should find you something a little less challenging.” ... “I don’t understand. I planned everything. Let me try it again,” argues the apprentice stubbornly.

And that is the premise of this beautifully-crafted short film by Polish director Tomek Baginski: through dogged determination and ambition, humanity can achieve anything. The film is a celebration of ESA's hostoric achievement of sending the Rosetta probe to rendezvous with a comet. Click here. (10/24)

October 24, 2014

Space Traffic Management Conference Planned in Daytona on Nov. 5-6 (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Commercial Space Operations degree program is hosting the inaugural annual conference on Space Traffic Management at the university's Daytona Beach campus. The November 5-6 event offers academia and leaders of government and industry a forum for discussing the complex, diverse, and timely issues of aviation and space traffic coordination, space launch, space weather, and space debris. Click here. (10/23)

Stratosphere Jump Breaks World Record (Source: New York Times)
Orlando native (and current Google VP) Alan Eustace has parachuted from a balloon near the top of the stratosphere, falling faster than the speed of sound and breaking the world altitude record set just two years ago by Felix Baumgartner (128,100 feet). Wearing a specially designed spacesuit, Eustace ascended to 135,908 feet attached to a balloon before separating himself for an 800mph freefall.

The mission was supported by Paragon Space Systems. Mr. Eustace said he gained a love of space and spaceflight from growing up in Orlando during the 1960s and 1970s. His family crowded into a station wagon to watch every launch from Cape Canaveral. Click here. (10/24)

Argentina’s Satellites Protected by ‘Launch Plus Life’ Insurance Plan (Source: Space News)
The first telecommunications satellite assembled and tested in Argentina, and also the first operated from there, is subject to an unusual insurance policy that covers, in part, the satellite’s in-orbit performance for its full 15-year life. An identical policy has been purchased for a second Argentine telecommunications spacecraft, ArSat-2, scheduled for launch in 2015. ArSat-1 was launched Oct. 16 and is healthy in orbit.

Each of the two ArSat satellites has been insured for about $230 million, a figure that covers the launches, both aboard European Ariane 5 rockets, and various stages of the satellites’ in-orbit performance. ArSat’s insurance broker, Aon International Space Brokers (ISB), said the coverage is divided into three tranches. One is the classic launch-plus-one-year policy. A second covers the launch plus an intermediate period of several years. The third covers the full scheduled 15-year service life. (10/24)

NASA Ames Celebrates 75th Anniversary with Open House (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Ames Research Center welcomed about 120,000 visitors on Saturday, Oct. 18 during an Open House held in celebration of the Center's 75th anniversary. The event featured a 2-mile self-guided walking tour, panel discussions, "Ask-An-Expert" sessions, static aircraft displays and "Backstage Pass" guided tours of Ames Research labs and wind-tunnel facilities. (10/23)

Huntsville Leaders Want to Build ‘Space Academy’ in Rocket City (Source: WHNT)
Local leaders are looking into the idea of bringing a space academy to the Rocket City. The plan is in the conceptual phase, but local, state and federal leaders are involved, according to information provided by U.S. Space and Rocket Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart.

Barnhart says this is not a USSRC project necessarily, but the organization would benefit from having a world-class space academy in North Alabama. “This is about an economic mandate for our community to continue to be the space capital of the universe,” Barnhart said. Currently there is not a “space academy” anywhere in the county, but Barnhart and others who support the plan say other cities are eager to create a facility like this to their city due to the economic benefits. (10/23)

SpaceX Land Holdings Grow Near South Texas Spaceport Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
In preparing the site of the world’s first commercial and vertical orbital launch complex at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County, SpaceX continues its land purchases, public records show. SpaceX recently purchased six more lots, bringing the number of tracts of land that it now owns to 93, which comprise approximately 110 acres of land. (10/23)

Oculus Rift Could Make Grueling Trips to Mars More Tolerable (Source: Washington Post)
When you think of the Oculus Rift, you probably think of interactive gaming or entertainment experiences made possible through virtual reality. But NASA is also considering how those same types of virtual reality experiences could be used during long-haul missions to address the unique psychological and physiological problems encountered by astronauts traveling in small teams through cold, dark space over extended periods of time. Click here. (10/23)

India's Human Spaceflight Endeavor Inches Ahead (Source: Deccan Herald)
Taking a first flight-related step in its Human Space Flight (HSF) endeavour, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will, in nearly 45 days’ time, launch an unmanned crew module on the experimental GSLV MK III flight. According to ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan: “The government had sanctioned Rs 145 crore towards the HSF program. With that funding we have been able to develop a crew module that will fly the astronauts to space, space suits, life support systems and a host of technologies relevant to the HSF." (10/23)

Russia to Spend Around $50 Billion on Space Program in 2016-2025 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Roscosmos space agency estimates the costs of most ambitious space projects in the federal space program for 2016-2025 at about $7.5 billion, a source says. Roscosmos has requested about $50 billion from the federal budget for the program, while another $6 billion is to be spent from manufacturers’ own funds and incomes from commercial projects. (10/24)

Government, University Commitments Keys To Aerospace Engineering (Source: Aviation Week)
What are the opportunities and challenges for aerospace engineering as it enters its second century? One opportunity is to adapt the education curriculum to a very different world. The aerospace profession has evolved from hardware-based science, technology and engineering to include systems  and even system-of-systems engineering.

Sustainable aviation provides another opportunity. The quest for faster, larger and longer-range aircraft is over—for now. Today’s challenge is to achieve the industry’s stated goal of carbon-neutral growth by 2020. Aircraft technologies help solve only one piece of the puzzle; next-generation air traffic management and biofuels also will contribute. Engineering schools will need to step up to these multi-disciplinary challenges.

The commercialization of space offers a third opportunity. In speaking with students, I’m struck by their interest in entrepreneurial companies like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and Blue Origin, where big, bold ideas are being implemented by teams of young engineers. The same is true of the unmanned aerial systems sector, which is poised to explode when airspace liberalization occurs. Click here. (10/20)

Dummy Astronaut Shows ISS Crew Better Protected from Radiation than Thought (Source: Space News)
A decade-long experiment using a human-like mannequin to assess radiation absorption inside and outside the international space station has concluded that the human body is much better at protecting astronaut internal organs than previously thought.

The experiments, which used U.S. technology monitored by U.S., Russian, Japanese and European teams, conclude that previous radiation-intake measures, mainly dosimeters worn by astronauts in their pockets or on their chests, overstate the radiation exposure to internal organs.

For an astronaut working inside the space station, the overestimate was about 15 percent — a fairly close correlation given that the station’s exterior shell provides much of the protection needed. But for astronauts working outside the station, the radiation absorption measured was substantially less than what had been registered by the personal dosimeters worn by astronauts. (10/24)

Miami-Based Startup Plans Microsatellite Launch Services (Source: Mishaal)
Mishaal Aerospace Corp., the Miami-based launch vehicle provider for small satellites, is pleased to announce that SpaceQuest Ltd., a Virginia based advanced satellite developer, signed a Letter of Intent for launch of their satellites once Mishaal Aerospace’s M-OV, Orbital Vehicle, is ready. Mishaal Aerospace's M-SV propulsion system successfully completed its first static test on August 11, 2014. Click here. (10/22)

SpaceX Builds Enough Merlin 1D Engines for 10 Falcon 9 Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Less than two years after SpaceX began producing the Merlin 1D engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket, the 100th Merlin 1D engine is complete. SpaceX is currently the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world. The Merlin 1D is an all-American engine designed and built in-house at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Engines are currently manufactured at a rate of four per week, projected to rise to five per week by the end of 2014. The production process begins with major engine components – injector, turbopump, gas generator, thrust chamber, valves and actuators – integrated with tubing, sensors, and other small components to form the major sub-assemblies of the engine. These sub-assemblies are put together to become the engine’s lower and upper assembly. Once the lower and upper assemblies are stacked and mated, the engine undergoes a series of quality checks prior to testing. (10/23)

China Launches Flyby Mission to the Moon (Source: CBS)
A Long March 3C rocket launched a robotic Chinese space probe Thursday, setting the stage for a looping flight around the moon and a high-speed dash back to Earth to test technology and procedures needed for a planned robotic sample return mission in 2017.

Chinese news agencies reported the 184-foot-tall Long March booster blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, but the launch time and other details were not immediately available. The ascent was intended to put the solar-powered spacecraft, known in some quarters as Chang'e-5 T1, on a "free return" trajectory around the moon. (10/23)

Report: KSC Must Do More to Succeed as Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center has made progress transitioning into a multiuser spaceport but must do more to compete with a growing number of alternative launch sites, according to a NASA audit report. "The better Kennedy can position itself now as a commercial-friendly launch site, the more competitive it will be in the future," says the report by NASA's Office of Inspector General.

In interviews with the auditors, six companies and KSC's closest government partner, Space Florida, continued to raise concerns about bureaucracy, high costs and potential mission conflicts that can hamper commercial operations at KSC. The companies have not abandoned the spaceport given limited options available today, but "this may change as the commercial space industry grows and additional non-Federal launch sites become available," the report says. (10/23)

Report: KSC Offers Weak Reason for Resisting Shiloh Support (Source: Florida Today)
The OIG audit of KSC's commercial spaceport efforts undercuts one of NASA's primary reasons for resisting a state proposal to develop a site that might make the Cape more attractive for commercial launches. Space Florida two years ago sought NASA's permission to develop one or two pads on up to 200 acres at the north end of KSC and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, in an area known as Shiloh.

While NASA let the state start an environmental review of the proposed site, it continues to claim that it needs the land as a safety buffer zone and to support future missions. When questioned by auditors, however, "Kennedy personnel were unable to provide any details as to the need for a buffer zone of information about specific future missions involving the property." Click here to download the report. (10/23)

Hold Your Breath: 'Aquastronauts' Go Underwater to Train for Space (Source: NBC)
Have you ever wondered where astronauts train before heading into space? They actually travel in the opposite direction of the International Space Station: they go underwater. Since 2001, NASA has sent astronauts-in-training to take part in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program, alongside astronauts from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. So far, they’ve completed 19 missions, each of which comprises a six- to ten-day stay in the habitat.

I had the rare opportunity to join a group of NASA astronauts-in-training underwater at the Aquarius base off of Key Largo, Florida, located 63 feet underwater. The base offers the would-be space-faring candidates the most extraterrestrial experience available while still on Earth. Click here. (10/23)

Florida Transportation System is Adding More Intermodal Components (Source: Florida TaxWatch)
"One of the selling points for relocating space-oriented businesss to Florida is that our state includes areas where multi-modal transport is possible for payloads to space. The Cape Canaveral Spaceport already provides access for four modes of transportation: roads, rail, sea, and space; and this combination of efficient transfers between modes has helped companies decide to relocate to Florida to pursue delivery of payloads of satellites and other space-oriented items." (10/23)

Original Redstone Launch Team Recalls Start of Modern Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Bill Grafton ran. As the last one on the pad before the launch of the first Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, on Aug. 20, 1953, it was his job to plug an igniter into the enormous, seven-story missile. "I was a little bit nervous, because this thing was filled with all the fuel and it was sitting there puffing like an old train," Grafton, 89, remembered recently.

Four of the five living members of the original Redstone launch team gathered last week in Titusville home to reminisce and record some of their stories. Reed Barnett, of Melbourne Beach, and Bill "Curly" Chandler, of Astor, Fla., joined Rigell and Grafton, visiting from Flagstaff, Ariz. Their friend Jim Rorex was unable to make the trip from Huntsville, Ala. Click here. (10/23)

CASIS Awards Life Sciences Research Grants (Source: Parabolic Arc)
CASIS announced a series of unsolicited investigations focused on life science studies for flight to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. These unsolicited investigations represent targeted areas of emphasis in the life and biological sciences as determined by the CASIS Science and Technology Advisory Panel as well as the CASIS business development team. Click here. (10/23)

Suborbital Rocket Launched at Spaceport America (Source: Parabolic Arc)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced the launch of the third NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket from Spaceport America. The launch of SpaceLoft XL 9 (SL-9) took place from Spaceport America’s Launch Complex-1. Today’s liftoff marks the 21st launch at Spaceport America and the 13th flight conducted by UP Aerospace, the spaceport’s oldest launch customer. (10/23)

Ukraine Seeks to Revive Space Industry (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Oct. 21, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko held a meeting to discuss progress, problems and prospects of development of the space industry. General Designer Alexander Degtyarev presented on participation in international projects like Sea Launch and Land Launch; in the joint Ukrainian-Brazilian Cyclone-4; the Antares; and remote sensing satellites.

President Poroshenko said that Ukraine’s space industry suffered through a break ties with Russia as key partners in space programs. However, there are prospects for cooperation in space with such countries as Brazil, Turkey, and the USA. He also raised questions about the prospects for space cooperation with other interested countries, including the Republic of Kazakhstan.

"We need to develop a strategy to return the status of great space power,” he said. According to him, Ukraine requires political will and support of the international community. Also, According to a Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, YS Alekseev was dismissed as Chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine. (10/22)

Buzz Aldrin Says One-Way Trips to Mars Could Actually Work (Source: Space.com)
Buzz Aldrin wants to send people on a trip to Mars, and he doesn't want them to come home — at least not at first. The time and resources that will be used to get humans to the Red Planet only make sense if the astronauts stay there and help to jump-start an outpost on the new world, Aldrin said.

"It [will] cost the world — and the U.S. — billions and billions of dollars to put these people there, and you're going to bring them back?" Aldrin said. "What are you going to do when you bring them back here that can possibly compare [to] the value that they would be if they stayed there and Mars wasn't empty? And then, they helped to work with the next group and it builds up a cadre of people. When we've got 100 — or whatever it is — then we start bringing people back." (10/23)