October 21, 2014

Heavy Seas Delay Return of SpaceX Dragon Capsule (Source: Florida Today)
Heavy seas have delayed a SpaceX Dragon capsule's return home from space this week. Instead of on Tuesday, the unmanned cargo craft's departure from the International Space Station is now planned just before 10 a.m. Saturday, setting up a splashdown less than six hours later in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California.

A deorbit burn is expected at 2:43 p.m., followed by a parachute-assisted splashdown around 3:39 p.m. The Dragon will re-enter the atmosphere carrying nearly 3,300 pounds of equipment and science experiments. It's the only spacecraft flying today that can return large amounts of cargo to Earth. (10/20)

What It Could Be Like to Live on Mars (Source: WIRED)
I'd always wanted to visit Mars. Instead I got Hawaii. There, about 8,200 feet above sea level on Mauna Loa, sits a geodesically domed habitat for testing crew psychology and technologies for boldly going. I did a four-month tour at the NASA-funded HI-SEAS—that's Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation—in 2013. It's a long time to be cooped up, “so the psychological impacts are extremely important,” habitat designer Vincent Paul Ponthieux says. The key to keeping everybody sane? A sense of airiness. Click here. (10/21)

China Lofts Yaogan-22 via Long March 4C Rocket (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Chinese have launched another new satellite in the military’s Yaogan Weixing series via the use of a Long March-4C (Chang Zheng-4C) rocket. The mission began with lift off at 06:31 UTC on Monday from the LC901 launch platform of the LC9 launch complex at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. (10/20)

Federal Tax Money for Spaceport America? Congressional Candidates Support Idea (Source: NM Watchdog)
State taxpayers have already kicked in $218.5 million to build Spaceport America, the commercial space venture in southern New Mexico that is still waiting for its anchor tenant  Virgin Galactic to launch its first flight into suborbital space. But federal taxpayer money? That’s never really been on the table.

Both the Democrat and Republican in the race for U.S. House of Representatives in New Mexico’s Second Congressional District say they support the idea of federal funding going to the project. Incumbent Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, and challenger Roxanne Lara were asked, “Would you pursue and approve of federal funding … for the Spaceport?” Pearce said he “would be glad to support it” and Lara said the Spaceport “needs a good plan that’s going forward and  the federal funding can be a part and a piece of that.” (10/21)

Weather Grounds Spaceport America Launch (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Poor weather grounded the UP Aerospace rocket that was scheduled to launch into suborbit from Spaceport America on this morning. “We scrubbed the launch yesterday because the weather forecast for today was not favorable,” UP President and CEO Jerry Larson said. “We’ve re-scheduled the launch for Thursday morning.”

The rocket, dubbed the SpaceLoft, will carry four payloads paid for by NASA under the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program. That initiative, launched in 2011, pays commercial aerospace companies for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space. (10/20)

Spaceport's Relationship to County Discussed at Legislative Meeting (Source: KVIA)
Spaceport America's finances, and a still unbuilt southern access road, were big topics Monday when a New Mexico legislature finance committee met in Las Cruces. More than 90 percent of the price tag thus far has been borne by Dona Ana County, yet one state senator pointed out there still isn't a road leading to the spaceport from Dona Ana County.

"I think we are definitely setting the pace for the rest of the industry,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of the Spaceport. With more than $218 million spent thus far, Anderson is confident New Mexico's spaceport is ahead of any other venture of its kind. “For Virgin Galactic, the assumption was they would start commercial flights in June. We will be thrilled if they come earlier,” Anderson said. (10/20)

What it Took for SpaceX to Disrupt Boeing and Leapfrog NASA (Source: Quartz)
The SpaceX rocket factory is a large, white hangar-like building near Los Angeles international airport, with a parking lot filled with late-model motorcycles and Tesla electric cars. The vast metal structure once churned out 737 fuselages for Boeing. When you get through the front doors, past security and a cubicle farm stretching the width of the building, there it is: Science fiction being wrought into shape, right in front of you.

Right in front of all the workers, too. The company’s two-floor cafeteria is practically on and overlooking the manufacturing floor. Designers and accountants can eat lunch watching technicians build space capsules and rocket stages. There’s a lot to see: Rockets, like good suits, are bespoke objects, hand-made to order; a SpaceX tour guide says much of the work is too precise for robotic assembly. Click here. (10/20)

Pentagon Will Wean Itself from RD-180 Engine (Source: Space News)
A top U.S. defense official reiterated to a large group of California lawmakers that “now is the time” to study how to reduce the Pentagon’s dependence on a Russian-made rocket engine. In September, 32 members of California’s congressional delegation asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to broaden competition in the U.S. national security launch program and to move away from the RD-180 rocket engine that powers the Atlas 5 rocket sooner rather than later. (10/21)

CASIS Awards $800,000 in Grants to Boost ISS Science (Source: Space News)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit manager of non-NASA science aboard the international space station, spread about $800,000 in grant money among three experiments aimed at improving scientific research aboard the orbital outpost.

Individual awards range in value from $200,000 to $300,000, Patrick O’Neil, spokesman for Melbourne, Florida-based CASIS, wrote in an Oct. 15 email. Winning experiments were selected from among those that replied to CASIS’s February request for proposals for “Enabling Technology to Support Science in Space for Life on Earth.” The experiments have not yet been scheduled for launch. Click here. (10/21)

Spaceport America Takes Spotlight Before NM Lawmakers (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The first phase of an improved southern road to Spaceport America is slated to be under construction in the summer of next year, county officials told state lawmakers. The road proposal, vetted by the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee, is still being reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency responsible for much of the land along the 24-mile route.

The county is waiting for the agency's environmental assessment of the road construction, Armijo said. The county is hoping the BLM will issue a finding of "no significant impact," giving the project a green light. That decision could happen in mid-April, though "they haven't given us a firm date."

Doña Ana County officials also told lawmakers they're questioning the spaceport's current practice of spending excess dollars from the 2007 spaceport sales tax. Now, the spaceport authority uses most of the spaceport's share of tax revenue — one-quarter goes to education — to repay bonds that were used to build Spaceport America. But it's also using excess tax revenue beyond what's needed for that bond repayment to help pay for other spaceport operations. (10/21)

Former Boeing Exec Named to New USAF Launch Post (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has created a new senior executive service position at its primary space acquisition headquarters to improve what it describes as the “business of launch.” Claire Leon, a former Boeing executive, is the new director of launch enterprise at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The move comes as the service begins the competitive phase of its launch program.

Leon retired from Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems in 2013 as vice president of national programs, a euphemism for classified intelligence systems. She had previously served as vice president of the company’s navigation and communication systems and as program director for the Wideband Global Satcom system, on which Boeing is prime contractor. (10/20)

When Good Rockets Go Bad: Orion's Launch Abort System (Source: Planetary Society)
On conventional rockets, where a capsule full of humans sits at the very tip of the launch vehicle, it makes sense to have a second controlled explosion at the ready that can pull the capsule away from whatever went wrong. This second rocket motor is usually built into a tower attached to the capsule, which, under normal launch conditions, gets thrown away once the capsule makes it through most of Earth's atmosphere.

Future capsule designs by companies like SpaceX plan to forgo the tower and use thrusters built into the capsule. These thrusters could also be used to land the capsule in lieu of parachutes, which normally bring spacecraft home under both normal and abort scenarios. NASA has a lot of experience with the tower system—it's been used on every American human spaceflight program except Gemini and the space shuttle. So for Orion, NASA's new spacecraft, the capsule and tower system are back.

Critics have questioned why NASA didn't try out next-generation abort systems like built-in thrusters or powered landings. They argue Orion is simply an Apollo redux—and that other NewSpace capsules are, as one prominent journalist once told me, "still f—ing capsules." But other considerations aside, capsules and launch abort towers are a safe bet for a government agency trying to please a long list of bureaucrats, politicians and industry leaders. (10/21)

First Privately Funded Moon Mission to Ride on a Chinese Rocket (Source: Air & Space)
A Long March rocket scheduled to launch on Thursday to test technology for a future Chinese lunar mission will also carry a historic “hitchhiker”: the first privately funded payload sent to the moon. The Luxembourg-based company LuxSpace is attaching its “4M” payload to the upper stage of a Long March 3C rocket, whose main job is to launch a capsule that will round the moon and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed to test the spacecraft’s protective heat shield. China plans to use such a capsule in 2017 for the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission. (10/21)

Satellite Imaging Firm Working with Google Maps (Source: Toledo Free Press)
Blue Water Satellite (BWS) of Toledo announced its collaboration with Google Maps for Work to provide immediate feedback to help the team improve Google’s image processing capabilities. BWS uses satellite and other spectral imagery and patented image processing to monitor the world’s land and water resources by implementing Google Earth Engine and Google Maps Engine, BWS can process its satellite imagery and serve the data to desktops and mobile devices supported by Google’s cloud. (10/21)

French Official Invokes U.S. Market ‘Dumping’ To Make Case for Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
France’s space minister, seeking to marshal support for a next-generation Ariane rocket that will better compete in the global market, on Oct. 20 said Ariane’s U.S. competitors, enabled by a richly profitable government business, are all but “dumping” their rockets on the commercial market.

Returning to a theme she has regularly used in the past two years, Genevieve Fioraso said the France-backed Ariane 6 rocket being considered by European nations will be Europe’s way of countering the inherent U.S. advantage of a large domestic government market. In her speech to the parliamentarians, Fioraso did not list any specific examples, but in the past she has pointed to SpaceX as billing NASA much more than it bills commercial satellite customers for the same Falcon 9 rocket. (10/20)

Close Encounters of the Top Secret Kind (Source: Space Review)
In 1969, a Soviet spy satellite passed close to an American one. Dwayne Day examines whether this was a deliberate attempt by the Soviets to image the American satellite -- or even test an ASAT system -- or just a coincidence. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2623/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Commercial Crew's Extended Endgame (Source: Space Review)
Last month, NASA awarded contracts for commercial crew systems that were expected to end months of uncertainty about the program's future. However, Jeff Foust reports that the uncertainty lingers today, as one company protests those awards while also working on alternative plans for its vehicle design. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2622/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Powering Cislunar Spaceflight with NEO Powder (Source: Space Review)
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission plans to use xenon as the propellant for ion propulsion systems that will nudge a small asteroid into lunar orbit. Ronald Menich argues that using NEO materials themselves is a more sustainable approach to developing long-term cislunar infrastructure. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2621/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Big Data Computing Above the Clouds (Source: Space Review)
Data centers, the essential if invisible component of cloud computing, require large amounts of power and cooling to operate effectively. Vid Beldavs describes one solution that would put cloud computing literally above the clouds, in orbit. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2620/1 to view the article. (10/20)

Rocket Lab Among Winners in New Zealand Innovators Awards (Source: Scoop)
Rocket Lab’s creation of a carbon-composite launch vehicle will allow businesses to launch satellites into orbit more cost effectively than anywhere else in the world. Built in their Auckland facility, it will also reduce launch lead-time from years down to weeks. It has the ability to deliver up to 100kg into low Earth orbits. The evaluators thought that the Rocket Lab have done a great job in working out a disruptive and market creating application for this breakthrough technology. (10/16)

Behind the Scenes of Virgin Galactic (Source: Virgin Galactic)
What actually goes on behind the hangar doors of the world’s first commercial spaceline? Here is your chance to find out: join us for a behind the scenes look at Virgin Galactic. Click here. (10/20)

Senate Space Staffer Ann Zulkosky Leaving for Lockheed Martin (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce science and space committee’s top Democratic staffer is stepping down Nov. 7 to take a government affairs position with Lockheed Martin. Ann Zulkosky joined Senate Commerce in 2007 as a NOAA legislative fellow, but spent most of the last seven years working on civil space matters under Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who chairs the science and space subcommittee. (10/20)

Why Floating Into Space is a Dream Come True for Zero Gravity Hero (Source: Independent)
Gavin Walsh realized a lifetime ambition onboard NASA G-Force-1 at the world's top space center in Florida. The opportunity for the visiting public to take a weightless flight was introduced at KSC by the Zero Gravity Corp. last year. The cost of the entire experience - which lasts a day - is around $3,700, according to the website.

Since their introduction, the flights have proved a huge hit with the space- mad visiting public. Each flyer experiences Martian gravity (1/3 Earth's gravity, referred to as "g"), lunar gravity (1/6 g) and zero gravity - the sensation of floating freely with no pull from terra firma. The flight patterns temporarily counteract Earth's gravity, creating weightlessness for several seconds. (10/20)

Network of Spaceports Needed to Advance Space Industry (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico Governor Jack Campbell was a visionary. In 1963, he sent a letter to President Kennedy asking him to "support the establishment of the first inland aerospace port." Today, 51 years later, the state of New Mexico is committed to evolving its role in the commercial space transportation industry. Spaceport America is one piece of the puzzle in creating a global space transportation industry that will be stimulated by the evolution of a network of spaceports in the United States.

Visionary governors are just one of the essential components in the growing commercial space transportation industry in the United State. As states increase their interest in commercial space enterprise, spaceport development has become the leading indicator of the growth of the commercial space transportation industry. Likely, the U.S. will continue to lead in the development of the spaceport network for the next 10 years, as the space transportation industry begins to grow on a global scale. Click here. (10/20)

Editorial: Winds of Change for Weather Data (Source: Space News)
Even limited-government conservatives, like me, would concede that the federal government has a role in weather prediction, at the very least for military operations and national security. Unfortunately, the United States ranks just fourth in accurate and timely weather forecasting despite spending much more than the rest of the world combined.

NOAA is doing some good things to correct this situation. First, NOAA is investing in high-performance computing, which is necessary for the numerical weather prediction models that will enable us to improve weather forecasting. Second, NOAA is exploring options to utilize commercial satellite companies. The U.S. can dramatically improve weather forecasting, save taxpayer dollars and reduce risk by empowering the commercial weather and satellite industries. (10/20)

October 20, 2014

Tom Hanks on His New Space Fiction (Source: New Yorker)
I think Alan Bean should be a household name, along with Jack Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young—all of the dozen guys who walked on the moon. They aren’t—ah, well. Alan is probably the only example of a guy who was really changed by his trip to the moon. He’d been a military guy, a jet pilot, an astronaut, he was on Skylab, etc. Then he came back and took up painting, something he hadn’t done prior to that. Now he’s a full-time artist. Click here. (10/20)

Russia to Orbit 9 Advanced Military Commsats by 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian military will add nine advanced communications satellites to its orbital grouping by 2020, a senior military commander said Monday. “By 2020, the orbital grouping of military communications satellites will be strengthened with nine modern satellites,” Maj. Gen. Khalil Arslanov, the chief of the Main Communications Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, said Monday.

Arslanov said additional satellites will allow the Russian military to quadruple communications traffic and increase average data transfer speed to 8 Mbit/sec. According to open sources, Russia has over 100 satellites deployed in various orbits. Two-thirds of them are military or dual-purpose spacecraft. (10/20)

Earth at Risk After Cuts Close Comet-Spotting Program (Source: Guardian)
The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned. The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding. “There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn’t know about it.” (10/20)

Hey, MIT — What About Success on Mars? (Source: Digital Journal)
MIT's study of the Mars One project has come up with a few very interesting, but debatable figures and options. It’s not infallible. It includes a lot of necessary measures, using different case scenarios based on given parameters, reasonable enough for the purposes of a study. The scenarios including growing food, not growing food, oxygen and nitrogen depletion, and water depletion, accounting for calorie intake and full recycling.

Some news reports on the paper are clear as mud, and wrong in some major respects. Click here. (10/20)

'Virtual Therapist' for ISS Crew (Source: Space Daily)
Since 2001, Dartmouth, Harvard, UCLA and The Troupe Modern Media have been developing the "Virtual Space Station," a set of interactive behavioral health training and treatment programs with support from NASA's National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). The NSBRI recently gave Dartmouth a $1.6 million grant to add new virtual reality and conflict management content to the existing Virtual Space Station programs. The NSBRI is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions developing solutions to health-related problems on long-duration missions.

Dartmouth's Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation lab, better known as DALI, is creating the new technology for the system, including virtual reality content "to help make people feel at ease, at home, happy, comfortable and calm," says Lorie Loeb, a Dartmouth research professor in computer science and executive director of the lab. (10/20)

Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near (Source: Space Daily)
The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust. NASA's Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, Oct. 19, as the comet flew near Mars.

The comet sped within about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars, equivalent to about one-third of the distance between Earth and Earth's moon. Odyssey had performed a maneuver on Aug. 5 to adjust the timing of its orbit so that it would be shielded by Mars itself during the minutes when computer modeling projected a slight risk from high-velocity dust particles in the comet's tail. (10/20)

MAVEN Studies Passing Comet and Its Effects (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft -- full name Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution -- reported back to Earth in good health after about three hours of precautions against a possible collision with high-velocity dust particles released by comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. (10/20)

Two Ways To Space And Back - An Astronaut's View (Source: Aviation Week)
Michael Lopez-Alegria has been to orbit four times – three of them in a NASA space shuttle and once on a Russian Soyuz capsule. At the recent International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, the former U.S. Navy test pilot described the differences taking off and landing in the two vehicles. As you will hear, they are very different indeed. Click here. (10/20)

Thermal Images Of SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket On Descent (Source: Aviation Week)
A partnership between NASA and SpaceX is giving the U.S. space agency an early look at what it would take to land multi-ton habitats and supply caches on Mars for human explorers. Click here so see the video. (10/20) 

Opinion: Mars One Should Take MITs Disturbing Report Seriously (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A disturbing computer simulation by students at MIT indicates that the Mars One plan is a doomed venture before it even gets off the ground. The study, by MIT students Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Samuel Schreiner, Andrew Owens, and Olivier de Weck was presented to the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. It points up potentially deadly flaws in the Mars One mission architecture as it is currently designed.

These problems the effort could lead to the crew facing starvation, suffocation, and even incineration. Do, a doctoral student in aeronautics and astronautics, said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post: “We found many problem areas, many of which revolve around the current capability of state-of-the-art technologies. These problems in turn impact the long-term sustainability of the Mars One Plan.”

...Let’s just hope they’re considering all the difficulties that they may encounter. When dedicated to a goal, it’s easy to overlook or minimize problems. In this new era of space exploration, the recent successes of private companies have emboldened groups to reach for ever-loftier goals. However, as these firms and organizations run the risk of overreaching – and in the case of space exploration – such mistakes can be deadly. To put it another way, Lansdorp needs to avoid “go fever.” (10/20)

An All-Female Mission to Mars (Source: Slate)
In February of 1960, the American magazine Look ran a cover story that asked, “Should a Girl Be First in Space?” It was a sensational headline representing an audacious idea at the time. And as we all know, the proposal fell short. In 1961, NASA sent Alan Shepard above the stratosphere, followed by dozens of other spacemen over the next two decades. Only in 1983 did Sally Ride become America’s first female astronaut to launch.

But why would anyone think a woman would be the first to space, anyway? Medical studies, for one thing. Some studies in the 1950s and ’60s suggested female bodies had stronger hearts and could better withstand vibrations and radiation exposure. Moreover, psychological studies suggested that women coped better than men in isolation and when deprived of sensory inputs. Click here. (10/19)

Space Station Is Getting A UPS-Style Shipping Service (Source: Popular Science)
It’s easy to forget that the International Space Station isn’t just a place for astronauts to hang out and take epic selfies. Because of its unique microgravity environment, the station is actually a valuable hub for research and development, housing hundreds of ongoing experiments that involve everything from human tissue growth to protein crystal formation.

Except there’s one little snag when it comes to conducting experiments on the ISS: It’s kind of far away. Getting critical samples from the station to Earth can be a lengthy process, and researchers usually have to wait anywhere from six months to a year before samples can make the trip to laboratories on the ground. These long waits can be risky, as live biological samples have a perishable lifespan and often need to be reviewed quickly before they degrade.

Well now, private spaceflight company Intuitive Machines has a solution to this problem. In cooperation with NASA, the company is developing the Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV), a spacecraft that can deliver experiment samples from station to Earth in less than 24 hours. Think of it as same-day shipping for the ISS. Such a short sample return time opens up more opportunities for research on the ISS that could never have been done before. Click here. (10/20)

Legislative Meeting Monday to Focus on Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The state Legislature's New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee will hold two days of meetings in Las Cruces this week, devoting the entire first day on Monday to Spaceport America. That meeting will include a thorough review of spaceport finances, past, present and future. The Spaceport Authority Board of Directors is expected to be present, along with Executive Director Christine Anderson and Chief Financial Officer Doreen Sieberg, and Finance Authority CEO Robert Coalter. (10/19)

NASA Ames Turns 75; Tens of Thousands Flock to Open House (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Greg Katayuma visited NASA's Ames Research Center when he was in grade school but hadn't been back since. So when he heard that the center was inviting the public into the famed facility to celebrate its 75th anniversary, he jumped at the chance to return.

"We thought we'd come out here and take a look and see what they do," said Katayuma, 59, who spent the better part of Saturday with his family touring the Moffett Field center. He was one of thousands of curious visitors who attended the open house, Ames' first in 17 years. (10/18)

October 19, 2014

ULA Targeting Oct. 29 Launch from Florida (Source: Florida Today)
United Launch Alliance is preparing for an Oct. 29 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport of a new Global Positioning System satellite, the eighth in the newest series of 12 built by Boeing. An Atlas V rocket's 18-minute launch window opens at 1:21 p.m. EDT. More than 30 GPS satellites orbiting about 11,000 miles up provide highly accurate positioning, navigation and timing data to military and civilian users. (10/19)

Science Sample Return Vehicle for ISS National Laboratory (Source: Intuitive Machines)
Intuitive Machines in cooperation with NASA has been selected by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop a Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV) that will enable on demand, rapid return of experiments from the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. Through this commercial service, Intuitive Machines will enable researchers to regularly and quickly return small samples and components from the ISS to Earth. (10/17)

New Mexico Senator Supports RD-180 Replacement (Source: Space News)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said Oct. 17 he continued to support efforts in Congress to fund development of a replacement for the RD-180 rocket engine despite a joint venture by Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance to develop such an engine on their own. “I’m pleased that, in Congress, we’ve taken the steps to provide the initial funding needed in 2015 to begin risk reduction and develop that next-generation rocket engine, and I will continue to support those efforts,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich said he was not swayed by criticism of a planned RD-180 replacement, such as estimates of as many as seven years to develop a replacement. “I think these arguments only serve to prolong the inaction and delay a course of action that will eventually make us much more self-reliant,” He did not suggest that the Blue Origin/ULA effort, which the companies are funding on their own, eliminated the need for the RD-180 replacement. (10/17)

Editorial: Indian Space: Hype Versus Priorities (Source: The News (Pakistan))
India's Mars orbiter may have served as a steroid shot for ISRO. But it will do little to advance India’s S&T. For decades, India was the Third World’s unquestioned ‘science superpower’. In 1980, it globally held the eight position in the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, while China was a distant No 15. By 2010, China had moved up to No 2, and India down to No 9.

India lags behind the developed countries in number of R&D (research and development) personnel, and in scientific output and its impact (measured in the number of citations of papers). Other emerging economies are also catching up. Not just China, but even Russia and South Korea, have more people engaged in R&D than India. Brazil isn’t far behind.

Although India accounts for 3.5 percent of all scientific papers published worldwide, the share of Indian publications in the top one percent impact-making journals is a low 0.54 percent. As many as 45 percent of Indian publications remained uncited in 2006-2010. India’s S&T establishment is in crisis. Its priorities are warped. (10/18)

We Must Explore Space (Source: Humanity Plus)
Space exploration is a challenge to human ingenuity, and celebrations this week, under the banner of World Space Week, are an ode to it. Extreme challenges are found across our solar system. In July 2015, New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto. Pluto is so far from Earth that data will come back from the spacecraft about 5,000 times slower than your home broadband, mimicking the early days of spaceflight where images of Mars from Mariner 4 took hours to trickle back to Earth.

But it will provide a new window into a largely unknown alien world. What will we discover? What will we learn about the origins of the solar system? What will we learn about ourselves? Continued space exploration is the only way we can answer any of those questions. (10/16)

The Biggest Problem Facing Elon Musk's Dream Of Building A City On Mars (Source: Business Insider)
One particular obstacle towers over the rest when building a Mars colony: "no one knows how to manufacture an entire atmosphere." We barely know enough about how our own atmosphere works to keep from destroying it. "On Mars, the best we can expect is a crude habitat, erected by robots," Anderson writes.

Those first pioneers will face a unique set of problems, including carrying out medical and equipment repair procedures they know nothing about. What works for them definitely won't scale to house 1 million people comfortably enough for them to want to spend the rest of their lives there. For one thing, atmosphere of Mars is 100 times lighter than that of Earth, making the air too thin to breathe.

The low atmospheric pressure is also partially responsible for Mars' frigid average surface temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to 57 degrees on Earth). (10/15)

SPACErePORT LinkedIn Group Follows Spaceport Issues (Source: SPACErePORT)
Interested in spaceports? I have created a LinkedIn Group that focuses on spaceport news, including LinkedIn's ability to host discussions. Join the group here. (10/19)

Branson Responds To Musk's Criticism; 'We're About To Prove Him Wrong' (Source: Business Insider)
Q: "Your friend Elon Musk had an interesting thing to say recently. 'I like Richard but,' I think his exact quote was, 'technology is not your whack.' He makes technology; you use technology to create better experiences. What do you think about that?"

A: "Well, I hope we're about to prove him wrong in that. I mean, I would not be able to change a sparking plug and I would not be able to fly a spaceship or build a rocket or whatever. But what I am good at doing is finding brilliant people and surrounding myself with brilliant people. And you know, before Christmas, we'll start to go into space. Earylish next year, I'll be going to space with my kid Sam. I would love to have my daughter, Holly, with me, but she's pregnant. And then we're going to start a whole new era of sending people to space."

"We're building our own spaceships shaped as airplanes. That means that one day we'll be able to transport people across the earth in spaceships. We're going to be able to put thousands of small satellites into space. So at the moment Elon and I are in different areas, but there will come a time, I'm sure, where we'll overlap. He's done something extraordinary — I think our team has done something extraordinary, as well." (10/18)

Sending Pakistan to Mars (Source: Asian Age)
When spacecraft Mangalyaan successfully entered the Martian orbit in late September after a 10-month journey, India erupted in joy. Costing more than an F-16 but less than a Rafale, Mangalyaan’s meticulous planning and execution established India as a space-faring country. Although Indians had falsely celebrated their five nuclear tests of 1998 which were based upon well-known physics of the 1940s the Mars mission is a true accomplishment.

Pakistanis may well ask: can we do it too? What will it take? Seen in the proper spirit, India’s foray into the solar system could be Pakistan’s sputnik moment — an opportunity to reflect upon what’s important. Let’s see how India did it: First, space travel is all about science and India’s young ones are a huge reservoir of enthusiasm for science. Surveys show that 12-16 year olds practically worship Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking...and most want a career in science.

But how can we cash-strapped Pakistanis get to our bit of the solar system? Or establish a presence which we so far lack in the world of science? The process will be slow, but here is how to do it. First, create enthusiasm in our young people for science. Space exploration is only a part of the larger whole. Instead of TV channels saturated with dharna news and random political “experts”, have good educational programmes. Standards of English in Pakistan must improve. Sadly, the world of science is closed to those who can only read or understand Urdu. (10/18)

Leave Space Alone! (Source: Khaleej Times)
We are looking at conquering other planets even as we destroy our own! When Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon in 1969, it was a “giant leap for mankind”. There could have been no disputing that. Today, however, that ‘small step’ can definitely be disputed! In fact, not regretting may be a blunder!

While humans are unable to control the destiny of the planet they occupy, they are bidding to shape the destiny of planets beyond their own. Surely, there could have been better ways to spend the $250,000 (approximately today’s price) a minute that it cost for Armstrong to walk on the moon.

In the intervening years, as threats to our planet have multiplied, that question has become even more important. No doubt, there have been spinoffs, from satellites to several other luxuries that we have got used to in our daily lives, but surely safeguarding the survival of earth should rate above exploring Mars and beyond. (10/19)

October 18, 2014

Work Completed on New Chinese Spaceport (Source: China Daily)
Construction of the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province, China’s fourth and most advanced space launch center, has been completed and it will soon become operational. The center is designed to handle next-generation rockets and space station modules. Building work began in 2009.

Situated on the northeast coast of Hainan, about 60 km from Haikou, the provincial capital, the center is the country’s first coastal satellite launch base. The location, about 19 degrees north of the equator, is suitable for launching geosynchronous satellites, heavy satellites, large space station components and lunar and interplanetary missions.

The new center will enhance the nation’s deep-space exploration capability, as it is an ideal site for the launch of the Long March 5 rocket, China’s most powerful, which is being developed. The Long March 5 can be transported to the center by sea, while the other launch centers are in inland areas, requiring transportation by rail. Qi Faren, former chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceships, has said the Long March 5 will be launched from the new center in 2015. (10/18)

A Step Toward Asteroid Mining: Planetary Resources to Launch Test Satellite (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Planetary Resources is set to launch its first satellite Oct. 24, a significant step in the Redmond company's ambitious goal of mining precious metals and water from asteroids. The first satellite Akryd 3 satellite won't do any of that, however. It won't carry mining equipment or even a camera. At just 14 inches long and 4 inches wide, its purpose is to test the company's software systems, computer, and its rocket motor.

The launch date was announced by Chris Voorhees, Planetary's vice president of space development, at a Seattle conference last week on defense, space and security. It is several months behind the July launch date mentioned last year by Planetary Resources President Chris Lewicki. (10/16)

ULA Plans New Rocket, Restructuring to Cut Launch Costs in Half (Source: Denver Business Journal)
United Launch Alliance is starting to develop a whole new rocket system and will be restructuring its processes and workforce to slash launch costs in half amid smaller military budgets and competition from SpaceX. The result will be a smaller ULA in the near term, but one able to grow again and win new kinds of business in the long run, said CEO Tory Bruno.

Bruno, the former president of Lockheed Martin's strategic missiles and missile defense programs, said ULA will have preliminary design ideas by year's end for a new line of rockets blending the best features of ULA's Atlas V and Delta IV rocket families. The new launch system, its booster stage powered by new engines made by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company, is meant to start flying in 2019 and cap a remaking of ULA as a more efficient organization.

What affect the restructuring will have on ULA's work force isn't yet clear, Bruno said, but he expects ULA will be smaller. How much smaller remains to be seen. The company employs 3,700 people nationwide. About 1,700 of them around Denver primarily in engineering and ULA's administrative functions. Manufacturing, assembly and launch take place in ULA facilities in Harlingen, Texas; Decatur, Alabama and launch complexes in Florida and California. (10/16)

Dark Matter May Streaming from Sun’s Core? (Source: Guardian)
An unusual signal picked up by a European space observatory could be the first direct detection of dark matter particles, astronomers say. The findings are tentative and could take several years to check, but if confirmed they would represent a dramatic advance in scientists’ understanding of the universe.

Researchers at Leicester University spotted the curious signal in 15 years of measurements taken by the European Space Agency’s orbiting XMM-Newton observatory. They noticed that the intensity of x-rays recorded by the spacecraft rose by about 10% whenever it observed the boundary of Earth’s magnetic field that faces towards the sun. (10/16)

NASA, SpaceX Share Data On Supersonic Retropropulsion (Source: Aviation Week)
An innovative partnership with SpaceX is giving NASA an early look at what it would take to land multi-ton habitats and supply caches on Mars for human explorers, while providing SpaceX with sophisticated infrared (IR) imagery to help develop a reusable launch vehicle.

After multiple attempts, airborne NASA and U.S. Navy IR tracking cameras have captured a SpaceX Falcon 9 in flight as its first stage falls back toward Earth shortly after second-stage ignition and then reignites to lower the stage toward a propulsive “zero-velocity, zero-altitude” touchdown on the sea surface. Engineers are now correlating the IR data with vehicle telemetry to learn exactly what the vehicle was doing in terms of engine-firing and maneuvering when it generated the signatures collected by the aircraft. (10/17)

NASA Begins Sixth Year of Airborne Antarctic Ice Change Study (Source: NASA)
NASA is carrying out its sixth consecutive year of Operation IceBridge research flights over Antarctica to study changes in the continent’s ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. This year’s airborne campaign, which began its first flight Thursday morning, will revisit a section of the Antarctic ice sheet that recently was found to be in irreversible decline.

For the next several weeks, researchers will fly aboard NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft out of Punta Arenas, Chile. This year also marks the return to western Antarctica following 2013’s campaign based at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. “We are curious to see how much these glaciers have changed in two years,” said Eric Rignot, IceBridge science team co-lead. (10/16)

Will Humans Start Colonizing Mars in Ten Years? (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Colonizing Mars has long represented one of the more ambitious dreams for space travel proponents ranging from NASA scientists to Silicon Valley entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The latter also envisions sending humans to Mars sometimes in the next several decades, and has mused about how to build a Mars colony population of 1 million people in an Aeon interview.

Mars One — a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands — shares some of the Musk’s goals and indeed, the Mars One vision relies on Musk’s SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. But Mars One’s concept of seeding Mars with human colonies by launching one-way missions recently received some close scrutiny from a team of MIT researchers.

The MIT team’s critique identified potential challenges and estimated that settling the first batch of Mars colonists would require about 15 launches of the Falcon Heavy rocket being developed by Musk’s firm SpaceX at a cost of $4.5 billion. MIT also suggested that Mars One may want to dial back its aggressive schedule of sending four-person crews every 26 months starting in 2024. (10/15)

The Big Future: Can We Colonize Mars? (Source: The Verge)
Mars has been seeing a lot of action lately, between NASA's string of rovers and new projects from Elon Musk and Mars One. But what would it take to set up a permanent settlement there? Could humans survive in such a harsh and alien setting? We take a look at the nuts and bolts of a Martian settlement, from food shipments to radiation management. There are a lot of problems, but we've got good ideas about how to solve them. Click here. (10/17)

Hadfield: 'Forget Mars, We Should Live on the Moon' (Source: Daily Mail)
NASA has made no secret of its desire to land humans on Mars in the 2030s. But according to former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, we should be looking to go back to the moon before making the giant leap to the red planet. He says we don't yet have the technology or capabilities to safely make the trip to the Mars and should instead aim to live on the moon for 'generations' before.

"The next logical destination? It’s obviously the moon as its just three days away," Hadfield says. "If there’s a mistake we can turn around and come back. There’s sort of a public appetite for going to Mars right now in a big hurry, but there’s no tech to make it safe enough and affordable." (10/17)

Orbital Sciences Beats Expectations, but Merger May Be Delayed (Source: New York Times)
Orbital Sciences Inc. on Thursday reported a 36% increase in third-quarter profit, beating expectations, and raised its full-year guidance, though it said its planned merger with Alliant Techsystems Inc. may not close until January. The rocket and satellite specialist plans to merge with Alliant to form a new powerhouse in launchers, space services and defense products such as military ammunition, with annual sales of around $4.5 billion. (10/16)

Once in a Million Years: Comet Will Buzz Mars (and its Seven Robots) Sunday (Source: CS Monitor)
The heavens are hosting an event this weekend that occurs once in a million years or so. A comet as hefty as a small mountain will pass mind-bogglingly close to Mars on Sunday, approaching within 87,000 miles at a speed of 126,000 mph.

NASA's five robotic explorers at Mars — three orbiters and two rovers — are being repurposed to witness a comet named Siding Spring make its first known visit to the inner solar system. So are a European and an Indian spacecraft circling the red planet. The orbiting craft will attempt to observe the incoming iceball, then hide behind Mars for protection from potentially dangerous dusty debris in the comet tail. (10/16)

Argentina Successfully Launches Its First Telecom Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
Argentina has successfully launched its first domestically designed and developed geostationary communications satellite Thursday. ARSAT-1 is the first stage of a program by Argentina’s government to orbit a fleet of satellites able to transmit and relay signals to all of Latin America. A second satellite is planned to be launched in 2015. (10/17)

Did Jesus Save the Klingons? (Source: Scientific American)
The discovery of life beyond Earth would be a triumph for science but might wreak havoc on certain religions. Some faiths, such as evangelical Christianity, have long held that we are God’s favorite children and would not easily accommodate the notion that we would have to share the attention; others, such as Roman Catholicism, struggle with thorny questions such as whether aliens have original sin.

Now that researchers have discovered more than 1,500 exoplanets beyond the solar system, the day when scientists detect signs of life on one of them may be near at hand. Given this new urgency, Vanderbilt University astronomer David Weintraub decided to find out what the world’s religions had to say on the question of aliens. In his new book, Weintraub investigates the implications of life beyond Earth on more than two dozen faiths. Click here. (10/17)

Hubble Finds Fresh Targets for NASA's New Horizons Mission to Pluto (Source: SEN)
The Hubble Space Telescope has successfully discovered three remote, icy objects in the outer Solar System that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it shoots past Pluto in July next year. (10/17)

Meet Scotland's DIY Rocketeers (Source: Motherboard)
There aren’t many places you can conveniently launch a homemade rocket. But a blustery Scottish moor, reachable only by winding roads that twist around reservoirs, wind turbines, and plenty of sheep, is one of them. Every year for a week in August, a group of amateur rocketeers convene at the Fairlie Moor Rocket Site, not far from Glasgow, to blast their DIY shuttles and spaceships into the skies. This is International Rocket Week. Click here. (10/16)

New Spacecraft Cleaning Method Gets Rid of Pesky “Hitchhikers” (Source: Air & Space)
Ralf Moeller from the German Aerospace Center gave a presentation about a novel sterilization method that could be used to kill bacteria stowing away on spacecraft sent to other planets. These “hitchhikers” are a critical concern for planetary protection—which seeks to avoid contaminating other worlds with terrestrial life as well as preventing possible alien organisms from reaching Earth on returning spacecraft.

The sterilization methods most commonly used today are based on ultraviolet irradiation and chemical sterilizing agents. No method is 100 percent effective, and large numbers of hitchhikers survive space travel. Current sterilization methods selectively kill certain microorganisms by exposing them to the kinds of environmental stresses that microbes would experience on Mars. In other words, organisms that wouldn’t survive on Mars anyway are killed before they leave Earth. And life that might survive on Mars would most likely also survive the sterilization measures.

Moeller’s proposal—using low-temperature plasma—is a promising alternative because it occurs at a low temperature, does not involve toxic chemicals, and can be done within a minute or less. Research has shown that plasma sterilization is very effective at killing even the spores of the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Many microbes, in detrimental environmental conditions, go dormant and form these hardy spores, which can become viable again when conditions improve. Not only does plasma sterilization neutralize active microorganisms, it also stops this revitalization of spores to a very large degree. (10/16)

Need for Commercial Space Travel Pilots Driving Changes to Aviation Education (Source: Skift)
Before commercial space travel can get big, it will need to get more pilots in aircraft cockpits, and university’s are responding to the need by creating programs to get students pointed in the right direction. Dr. Richard Heist of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University says the school put a heavy focus on preparing students for commercial space travel in the past three years. He says the school readies students for future aircraft making it possible to travel between New York and Singapore in just three hours, for example.

“One reason for this is in the last four to five years NASA pulled back from controlling all space operations and now other companies like XCOR and SpaceX are moving into supplying the industry,” said Heist. “But commercial customers are what will make it work, and eventually we’ll be carrying people where they want to be faster using these new engines.” Click here. (10/17)

Boeing Finishes Commercial Crew Space Act Agreement for CST-100/Atlas V (Source: NASA)
Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket.

NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’s crew transportation system, confirming the detailed designs and plans for test and evaluation form a satisfactory basis to proceed with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing.

It is the culmination of four years of development work by Boeing beginning when the company partnered with NASA during the first round of agreements to develop commercial crew transportation systems. To get to this point, extensive spacecraft subsystem, systems, and integrated vehicle design work has been performed, along with extensive component and wind tunnel testing. (10/17)

ESA Agrees To Manage Copernicus Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency on Oct. 16 formally approved a convention with the European Commission that will give ESA the management authority over Europe’s Copernicus series of environment-monitoring satellites. Under the agreement, which is formally called as a delegation agreement and is expected to be approved by the commission within two weeks, the 20-nation ESA will receive 3.148 billion euros ($4.1 billion) from the commission between 2014 and 2020 to run the Copernicus space segment. (10/17)

Top Managers Fired at Silicon Valley Satellite Maker (Source: Space News)
Canopus Systems LLC, a small-satellite startup in Silicon Valley, underwent a shake-up in early October when Chief Executive Tomas Svitek was fired and Chief Operating Officer Megan Nunes resigned. Established in early 2013 to develop and manufacture inexpensive small satellites, Canopus of Mountain View, California, is affiliated with Dauria Aerospace, which has its headquarters in Munich and offices in Mountain View and in Skolkovo, the high-technology hub near Moscow. (10/17)

ABS Files $214 Million Insurance Claim for Bad Satellite Beam (Source: Space News)
The failure of a key Russia-directed satellite beam aboard the ABS-2 satellite launched in February will result in an insurance claim of up to $214 million, an unusually large sum for a single beam that reflects its importance for the satellite’s owners, industry officials said.

ABS-2, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California, suffered an unexplained anomaly on its Russian beam this past summer. At the time, Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) said it was only a partial failure of the beam, and that the rest of the satellite was operating normally.  (10/17)

Alaska Offers Incentives for Medium-class Launch Providers (Source: Space News)
The operator of an underutilized Alaska launch site is offering more than $20 million to launch companies in a bid to attract a larger class of launch vehicles, even as it continues to assess damages from a failed missile test there in August. The Alaska Aerospace Corp. issued a request for proposals (RFP) Oct. 2 for companies interested in conducting commercial launches of “medium class payloads” from the state’s Kodiak Launch Complex.

Such launches are defined in the RFP as those capable of placing payloads heavier than 1,500 kilograms into a 1,000-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. Companies responding to the RFP have to demonstrate their technical capabilities as well as their ability to conduct at least three launches from Kodiak by 2020.

Alaska Aerospace will award the winning company a $21 million fixed-price contract to develop those launch services. The launch provider, though, will be responsible for providing any additional funding needed to develop the launch site infrastructure to support those launches. The $21 million comes from a $25 million appropriation by the Alaska State Legislature in 2012 to develop a medium-lift capability at Kodiak. (10/17)

Orbital Says It Has Selected Future Antares Engine, But Offers No Specifics (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. on Oct. 16 teased investors about the future of its Antares rocket program, saying the company had selected an Antares main-engine manufacturer for launches starting in 2017 but would not say who it is. Many industry officials expect Orbital to use a solid-fueled motor built by ATK, with which Orbital is merging in a deal scheduled to clear regulatory approval late this year or early next year.

Orbital also had been considering two Russian suppliers, including the current main-engine provider, but a Russian choice given the current state of relations between Russia and the United States would carry risks, industry officials said. (10/17)

SecAF Gains 'Inside Look' Into Eastern Range Launch Mission (Source: USAF)
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, and her husband, Mr. Frank Beatty, visited the 45th Space Wing's Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Oct. 15, 2014. The Secretary's visit included a wing mission brief, unit mission briefs, tours of Air Force Eastern Range launch assets as well as a windshield tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (10/17)

Igniting Excitement at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
Stuart Witt, chief executive officer of the Mojave Air and Space Port, challenged attendees at the International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Space (ISPCS) Community Partners luncheon Tuesday, Oct. 14, to build a vibrant business hub at Spaceport America – and to bring the community along. “Tell your story to a thirsty world,” Witt said. “People are looking to be part of something bigger than themselves.” (10/17)

Space Plane Lands at Vandenberg (Source Santa Barbara Independent)
Descending from space after 674 days in orbit, the Air Force's autonomous, reusable space plane — the X-37B — touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:24 a.m. Friday morning. The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, which is overseen by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, “performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies,” Vandenberg officials said. The Air Force is preparing to launch the fourth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 2015. (10/17)

Rogozin Drives Builders to Finish Cosmodrome Before Winter Comes (Source: Moscow Times)
With winter on Russia's doorstep, Deputy Prime Ministry Dmitry Rogozin is hounding workers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome construction site in the Far East to complete the spaceport's facilities before the cold sets in. "Vostochny Cosmodrome workers are trying to complete all concrete construction before the cold arrives, and provide warmth to the facilities for the installation of the technical equipment, which has already been delivered to the space industry in Amur oblast," Rogozin said.

Rogozin added that he will be making the trip to the new cosmodrome every month to inspect the site's construction progress. Rogozin has been increasingly active in the Vostochny Cosmodrome project, which is estimated to be two to three months behind schedule. Eager to make a promised first launch in 2015, President Vladimir Putin last month pledged 50 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) to expedite the facility's completion. (10/17)

October 17, 2014

Airbus Nabs $1.7 Billion Contract for Six Metop Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
Airbus signed a $1.7 billion contract to build six polar-orbiting meteorological satellites for European governments, a deal in which guaranteeing strict work-share equality between Germany and France was almost as important as the satellite technology involved. For Airbus, the contract for the Metop Second Generation satellites was a kind of revenge match against the same Thales Alenia Space-OHB AG team that had bested Airbus for Europe’s third-generation Meteosat geostationary-orbiting satellites. (10/16)

Meet the Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of the Space Race (Source: Entrepreneur)
Call it the New Space Age. There's a reignited fervor for all things extraterrestrial, and entrepreneurs are leading the charge. From zero-gravity tourism to satellite and software development, themed entertainment and beyond, commercial enterprises are capitalizing on opportunities in the burgeoning space industry. As costly and risky as these endeavors may be, the possibility for reward is out of this world. Click here. (10/17)

Who Owns the Moon? (Source: The Conversation)
Whether you’re into mining, energy or tourism, there are lots of reasons to explore space. Some “pioneers” even believe humanity’s survival depends on colonising celestial bodies such as the moon and Mars, both becoming central hubs for our further journey into the cosmos. Lunar land peddlers have started doing deals already – a one-acre plot can be yours for just £16.75.

More seriously, big corporations, rich entrepreneurs and even US politicians are eyeing up the moon and its untapped resources. Russia has plans for a manned colony by 2030 and a Japanese firm wants to build a ring of solar panels around the moon and beam energy back to Earth.

We need to be clear about the legal validity of extraterrestrial real estate as the same ideas that were once used to justify colonialism are being deployed by governments and galactic entrepreneurs. Without proper regulation, the moon risks becoming an extra-planetary Wild West. Click here. (10/17)

Countdown to Monday Launch at Spaceport America (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
UP Aerospace is set for its next suborbital launch on Monday out of Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. It will be UP’s first flight since last year, when it launched two rockets in summer and fall with more than a dozen payloads paid for by NASA under the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program. That initiative, launched in 2011, pays commercial aerospace companies for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space.

Monday’s flight will include four payloads that UP is now packaging and loading onto its rocket, company President and CEO Jerry Larson said earlier this week. This is UP’s 13th launch from the spaceport since 2006, and the 21st time a rocket has flown from the facility since it began hosting vertical launch activities eight years ago, said Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson. (10/16)

NASA Maintains Lofty Worker-Satisfaction Ratings for 2014 (Source: Washington Post)
NASA employees remained largely satisfied with their agency this year, likely continuing the agency’s trend of ranking among the best places to work in the federal government, according to results from a recent survey. Seventy-one percent of NASA staffers who responded to the Office of Personnel Management’s federal-employee viewpoints survey gave the agency a positive mark this year when asked about their overall impression of the organization. (10/16)

Construction of ISS-Bound Cold Atom Lab on Tap for 2015 (Source: Space.com)
A $52 million physics experiment NASA plans to send to the international space station in 2016 is scheduled for a critical design review — the last milestone before hardware construction begins — in January. The Cold Atom Lab is being built by JPL, and will be carried to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Once unpacked, astronauts will install the science payload inside one of the space station’s standardized Express experiment racks.

The experiment, slated to run at least one and as many as five years, will take advantage of microgravity to cool atoms to temperatures impossible to reach in Earth gravity. (10/16)

Obama Nominates Dava Newman for NASA Deputy Administrator (Source: Parabolic Arc)
President Barack Obama has nominated Dr. Dava Newman for the post of Deputy Administrator of NASA, a position that was left open by the departure of Lori Garver in September 2013. Newman is best known in the space community for her working in designing a shrink-wrap type pressure suit called the BioSuit. Dr. Newman is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (10/16)

zero2infinity Plans to Launch Nanosats (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Spanish company zero2infinity, based in Barcelona, known for its extensive Near-Space ballooning experience, announced it’s been working to expand its capabilities to include a nanosatellite launch vehicle, named bloostar, to offer reliable, dedicated, launch on demand for 21st century small satellites. zero2infinity has been operating high-altitude balloons since 2009. Flying technical, scientific and commercial payloads to over 30km altitude is its current operational activity. Using balloons as a first-stage for a nanosatellite launcher is the logical and necessary next step to address this booming and underserved market. (10/15)

CASIS to Fund 3 ISS Enabling Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has announced grant awards for three projects focused on enabling technologies from the International Space Station (ISS). These awards stem from the CASIS Request for Proposals (RFP) “Enabling Technology to Support Science in Space for Life on Earth.” CASIS is the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.

The purpose of this RFP was to identify and support technology development projects that would enable increased use of ISS for Earth benefits—for example, improvements in hardware/capabilities or methods to improve bandwidth, throughput, or quality of future research projects. Click here. (10/15)

Alba Orbital Announces Off-the-Shelf CubeSat Solar Panels (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Alba Orbital Ltd (PocketQube Shop) announced today the addition of the DHV Technology PocketQube Solar Panel product to its online satellite shop. The Solar Panels are the first off the shelf power subsystem to be developed for the new PocketQube Standard.

The PocketQube Solar panels are available in a number of configuration including 1p, 2p and 3p. They leverage flight heritage gained from the Unisat-6 Microsatellite which launched earlier this year using DHV Solar panels. Panels can be tailored to different structures on request. (10/15)

Albuquerque Company Lands Multi-Billion-Dollar NASA Deal (Source: KOAT)
An Albuquerque information technology company has been awarded a contract to provide products and services to NASA. The company, Abba Technologies, is headquartered in Albuquerque. It offers IT systems integration and professional services. The contract was awarded under the Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement fifth generation initiative. Abba competed to win one of a limited number of awards. (10/16)

Arianespace Launches Two Satellites (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace continued Ariane 5’s track record of success with another heavy-lift mission performed today from the Spaceport in French Guiana, which orbited a pair of telecommunications satellites for Latin America: Intelsat 30, which is hosting the DLA-1 payload; and ARSAT-1. Both spacecraft were deployed into geostationary transfer orbits following their ascent from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone. (10/16)

Designing Tomorrow's Air Traffic Control Systems (Source: Phys.org)
On a good day, flying can be a comfortable and efficient way to travel. But all too often, weather or overcbooking can cause delays that ripple through the system, inducing missed flights, anxiety, discomfort and lots of lost time and money. Things had gotten so out of whack that in 2003, Congress enacted a law designed to bring online a Next Generation—or NextGen—air traffic control system by January 2020.

The Department of Transportation would require the majority of aircraft operating within U.S. airspace to be equipped with new technology to track and coordinate aircraft and would institute many other programs to improve air travel. Click here. (10/15)

Space Coast Candidates Answer Space Policy Questions (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council has posted answers to five space policy questions posed to the candidates competing to represent Florida's 8th District, which includes the Space Coast. Incumbent Republican Bill Posey and the Democratic nominee Gabriel Rothblatt both provided thoughtful answers on topics that are of increasing concern to Space Coast voters. Click here. (10/16)

To Boldly Go -- How A British Business School Would Change NASA (Source: Forbes)
NASA’s biggest problem is well-known. It was the first international space operation to get a man on the moon. Its critics say it has not done enough since to maintain that supremacy and now it faces competition abroad from China and at home from the likes of Elon Musk’s space company Space X.

Stating that NASA has not made valuable contributions to modern life would be like that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when dissident from the People’s Front of Judea complains: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

In healthcare alone, a recent paper by Loizos Heracleous, professor of strategy and organisation at Britain’s Warwick Business School, in the journal Space Policy lists technologies developed or advanced by NASA from laser angioplasty, cardio and body imaging, gait analysis and ocular screening to food preservation and safety, UV-blocking lenses, scratch resistant lens coatings and X-ray imaging. Click here. (10/15)

October 16, 2014

Rosetta's Latest Selfie: Just Showing Off Now (Source: New Scientist)
Rosetta just can't stop snapping selfies – but let's be honest, if you were hanging out this close to a comet, you'd want to show off too. The European Space Agency spacecraft is now orbiting just 16 kilometres from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, meaning the rubber-duck shaped rock looms much larger than in Rosetta's previous selfie snapped last month. Click here. (10/16)

ESA Confirms Comet Landing Site for Rosetta (Source: ESA)
ESA has given the green light for its Rosetta mission to deliver its lander, Philae, to the primary site on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November, in the first-ever attempt at a soft touchdown on a comet. Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J and located on the smaller of the comet’s two ‘lobes’, was confirmed on 14 October following a comprehensive readiness review.

Since the arrival, the mission has been conducting an unprecedented survey and scientific analysis of the comet, a remnant of the early phases of the Solar System’s 4.6 billion-year history. At the same time, Rosetta has been moving closer to the comet: starting at 100 km on 6 August, it is now just 10 km from the center of the 4 km-wide body. (10/15)

U.S Premiere of Space-Inspired Work for Orchestra and iPads (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Talk about out of this world. Inspired by the NASA's Voyager program, which launched two unmanned space probes in 1977, English composer Warren Greveson has created a new work titled "Voyager." Truly a product of the modern age, Greveson scored the piece for orchestra and four iPads.

The American premiere of the work will take place at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 19, at the Mount Dora Community Building, 520 N. Baker St., Mt. Dora. Anthony Hose will conduct Stetson University's symphony orchestra. A film by Maurice Lock accompanies the performance of "Voyager." (10/15)

India Launches Third Navigation Satellite (Source: The Hindu)
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C26) lifted off with aplomb from the Satish Dhawan spaceport on Thursday and precisely put the Indian navigation satellite, IRNSS-1C into its orbit. This was the 28th successful launch of the Indian Space Research Organization. All the four stages of the vehicle ignited on time and separated on the dot. (10/16)

Living in a Dome for 8 Months in Hawaii, Pretending It's Mars (Source: National Geographic)
On Wednesday, three men and three women will step inside a thousand-square-foot dome on the north side of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. For the next eight months, they will be cut off from the outside world. The team will simulate life at a space station on Mars as part of a project called HI-SEAS, sponsored by NASA and led by the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The eight-month project is the second of three missions sponsored by NASA studying human performance on long-duration isolation missions. It's NASA's longest Mars simulation to date. Martha Lenio, 34, of Canada, is the mission's commander and the first woman to lead a Mars simulation. She's the third woman in NASA's history to lead a mission of any kind. (10/15)

Sierra Nevada Files Suit To Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Contracts (Source: Space News)
In the latest round in the legal dispute regarding NASA’s commercial crew contracts, Sierra Nevada Corp. filed suit in federal court Oct. 15, seeking to overturn a NASA decision to lift a stop-work order on contracts it awarded to Boeing and SpaceX. Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts. (10/16)

China Moving Forward with Big Space Station Plans (Source: Space.com)
Space travelers from around the globe recently got a firsthand sense of China's blossoming plans to explore Earth orbit and beyond. At the 27th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), held in Beijing last month, China's space industry leaders extended an open invitation for other nations to take part in China's emerging space station program.

"We reserved a number of platforms that can be used for international cooperative projects in our future space station when we designed it," Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Engineering and China's first astronaut, said at the event, which was held in China for the first time. "In addition to collaboration in applied experiments, we also designed adapters that can dock with other nations' spacecraft."

China has initiated a multistep space station program, sending the Tiangong 1, its first space lab and still-operating spacecraft, into orbit in September 2011. And the liftoff of China's Tiangong 2 space lab, scheduled for 2016, is intended to sharpen China's space station construction skills. A Shenzhou 11 crewed spacecraft and a Tianzhou 1 cargo spacecraft would then be launched to dock with that facility. (10/16)

ISS Spacewalkers Replace Power Regulator, Move Equipment (Source: Space Daily)
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 16, 2014 - Two NASA astronauts wrapped up a 6-hour, 34-minute spacewalk at 2:50 p.m. EDT Wednesday to replace a failed power regulator. Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore also relocated equipment on the station's exterior to begin setting the stage for a reconfiguration of the orbiting complex to accommodate future commercial crew vehicles. (10/16)

Huge Flock of Minisatellites Aims to Photograph Entire Earth Every Day (Source: WIRED)
Tracking what’s happening on Earth from space is becoming more and more feasible as Earth-observing satellites increase in number and resolution. The USGS’s Landsat mission has an incredible 40-year record of the planet’s changing landscape, with virtually every spot imaged every eight days. It’s an incredible scientific asset. But what if you could see every bit of the globe, every single day? That opens a new range of possible uses for satellite imagery. Click here. (10/14)

Hurricane Threat Pushes Antares Launch Back to Oct. 27 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA and Orbital Sciences agreed to postpone the launch of Orb-3 to no earlier than Oct. 27 today. Both agencies are closely monitoring Hurricane Gonzalo and will be tracking it as it continues to develop. Last week, the launch date was changed to no earlier than Oct. 24 to allow for more pre-launch prep time. (10/27)

Orbital Announces Third Quarter 2014 Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported its financial results for the third quarter of 2014. Third quarter 2014 revenues were $338.2 million, compared to $322.0 million in the third quarter of 2013. Third quarter 2014 operating income was $33.3 million. Adjusted operating income* in the third quarter of 2014 was $36.5 million, or 10.8% of revenues, compared to $25.6 million, or 8.0% of revenues, in the third quarter of 2013. (10/16)

Astrotech Downgraded From Hold to Sell (Source: The Street)
Astrotech has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from Hold to Sell with a ratings score of D+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation: "This is driven by some concerns, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its feeble growth in its earnings per share, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity." (10/16)

NASA Has More Science Bound for ISS than Crew Can Handle (Source: Space News)
There are more science experiments headed to the international space station than NASA astronauts have time to conduct, an agency official said here Oct. 7 at a meeting of the National Research Council’s committee on biological and life sciences in space.

“If you ask me, we’re at a crew-time max,” Rod Jones, manager of NASA’s ISS Research Integration Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said at the meeting. “We are literally going into an increment coming up where we have allocated to us 875 hours [of research time], and I have about 1,400 hours of research.” (10/16)

Russia’s Space Agency Joins Search for Missing Helicopter (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has joined the search operation for a Mi-8 helicopter that went missing in the republic of Tyva, East Siberia, on October 10. A Roscosmos spokesman told TASS on Wednesday that the agency had arranged to space survey of the area where the helicopter might have crashed. Detailed photos of a territory with an area of 45,000 square kilometers were made available to the emergencies ministry, which is in charge of the search operation. (10/16)

October 15, 1014

Sierra Nevada Wins DOD Satellite Contract (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems division has been competitively selected to develop a next-generation science and technology demonstration satellite. Known as STPSat-5, the satellite is for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program (STP). The satellite will carry a total of four scientific payloads to low-Earth orbit in order to further the DOD’s understanding of the space environment. (10/14)

Futuristic: Here and Now! (Source: Washington Post)
People seem to want to save futurism for other planets. I say bring it on home. No no no, I don’t have a bias against space exploration, but people think I do. Even friendly commenters here think I ‘don’t like’ outer space, or am ‘not interested’ in it. Let me clarify, even though I’ve been very clear already.

Yes I have some opinions about the cost/benefit aspects of exploring space with people instead of robots, but my principle objection is with the following formulation: “We can/will destroy the earth, and therefore we can/should solve that by planetary colonization”. And yes, I hear variations on that all the time. That is just bad thinking, for a million practical reasons. But it’s biggest problem is that it gives us the implicit OK to wreck earth. That is a suicide pact we make with ourselves.

But I digress backwards to old arguments, when I want to get on to a new one. Why can’t we build futuristic travel here on the home planet, as well as to far ones? Apparently other countries can. When I start tirading against the impracticalities of space colonization, people counter with, well why can’t we do BOTH? Why can’t we do cool stuff here AND in outer space? Okay! Here’s my offer to you today. When someone proposes a budget for a colony on Mars AND spectacular transit all over America, I’ll support it! (10/15)

Space-Based Solar Power: the New Space Race (Source: E&T)
Today's agenda for space is no longer focused on merely getting there. The modern space race is about getting the engineering in place to exploit space-based solar power (SBSP). But how will energy be beamed back down to Earth without breaking the bank?

As the UK increasingly relies on energy imports, a sustainable and renewable energy solution needs to be found sooner rather than later. In Britain we are facing the distinct possibility of power cuts this winter, following Ofgem's announcement that the margin of spare capacity could be as low as 5 per cent if we have a particularly cold winter. One solution to our increasing power needs is to create renewable energy in space. The idea is not new. But are we anywhere near generating endless power in space? Click here. (10/13)

Hadfield’s 2013 Memoir to Become a Television Sitcom (Source: National Post)
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield may soon keep company with a whole new type of star as his 2013 memoir An Astronaut’s Guide To Life on Earth is reportedly being adapted into a sitcom by Warner Bros. The planned series, which has reportedly earned a pilot commitment from ABC and which will share a title with Mr. Hadfield’s book, will chart an astronaut’s transition from life in space to life back on Earth, which “might be the hardest mission he’s ever faced.” (10/14)

Spaceport America has 'Gold Mine' Future, Industry Leader Says (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Stuart Witt, chief executive officer and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, had a message Tuesday for all those who have started to get cold feet about Spaceport America: We're committed.

Speaking at the Community Partnership Luncheon on the opening day of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, Witt stressed the business opportunities available at Spaceport America, even as anchor tenant Virgin Galactic continues testing on the vehicles expected to take passengers into sub-orbital space from there.

"When I read in the papers and I hear, 'do we want to continue to invest, it's going to be a while before (Virgin Galactic) is operational.' Well, let me tell you what, you're in it," Witt said. "You made a $200 million investment, and you're sitting on a facility like I've never seen. "You're sitting on a gold mine at Spaceport America." (10/14)

Virginia Air and Space Center Head Gets NASA Recognition (Source: Daily Press)
For the past three years, the officials visitors center for NASA Langley Research Center wasn't run by a federal administrator, NASA scientist or even someone with a background in running museums. Brian DeProfio is a special projects manager for the city of Hampton, and he was called upon in 2011 to oversee the ailing museum after its executive director left the position with the facility sitting under millions of dollars in debt and reoccurring revenue losses.

The Virginia Air and Space Center announced in September that it has hired Robert Griesmer of the New Children's Museum in West Hartford, Conn., to run the Hampton facility, meaning DeProfio will move back into City Hall. Griesmer is scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

NASA Langley Director Stephen G. Jurczyk honored DeProfio on Oct. 8 for putting the museum back on more solid financial footing with NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal. The medal is the highest award bestowed by the agency to non-government personnel. For Star Trek fans, William Shatner received the same honor in April. (10/14)

Russia Plans to Send Manned Mission to Moon after 2030 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia will send a manned mission to the Moon after 2030 under the country’s far space exploration program, a deputy head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday. “The manned flight (to the Moon) will start from 2030, that’s why it is not included in the federal space program. But technologies that will be developed to perform it are in the federal program,” Denis Lyskov said at the Open Innovations Forum in Moscow. (10/15)

Firefly Hires Spacecraft Design Veteran as Chief Technical Officer (Source: Firefly)
Firefly Space Systems, Inc., a ground-based, small satellite launch company, announces the hiring of spacecraft design veteran Shey Sabripour as its Chief Technical Officer. Mr. Sabripour brings over two decades of experience as Director of Spacecraft Design at Lockheed Martin and will be taking responsibility of the company’s launch vehicles as well as avionics design and development. (10/14)

Garn Unhappy with NASA Spending Cuts (Source: Standard Examiner)
Utah former Sen. Jake Garn spoke about his experiences in space and the future of space exploration, mixed in with a politics, on Saturday at the Hill Air Force Base Museum’s weekly “Plane Talks” series. Garn spent a week in space in 1985 while he was a U.S. senator and told the group that the experience was “life changing” for him.

Many asked what he thought about the future of space exploration and of the government’s decision to reduce funding to NASA. “I don’t like it at all,” Garn said. He noted that only eight tenths of one percent of the government’s spending has ever been on NASA. He also talked about the many achievements on Earth that have come about because of space exploration. (10/14)

Fusion Breakthrough? Lockheed Plans Compact Reactor in a Year (Source: NBC)
Lockheed Martin Corp said Wednesday that it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade. Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were going public to find potential partners in industry and government.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of a 100-megawatt reactor seven feet by 10 feet, which is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire said. The company said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year and build a prototype in five years. Success would mark a breakthrough in a promising field that has not yet yielded viable power systems. (10/15)

Space Exploration: A Catholic Perspective (Source: OpEd News)
Blessed Paul VI remind us of what the manned missions to the moon were really all about. God has put within human beings a natural curiosity and desire to explore and learn about His creation here on Earth and beyond. That's the whole point of the scientific adventure--it's a search for the truth about the natural world and the universe around us. The ever-accumulating treasury of scientific knowledge, gradually refined and perfected over time, is passed on from one generation to the next as a gift and a responsibility.

In recent decades, the explosive development of modern technology has greatly quickened the pace of scientific discovery. The more we learn through scientific research about God's painstakingly designed, carefully ordered, and magnificently beautiful creation, the closer we are drawn to our Creator and the more clearly we perceive His infinite wisdom, power, and glory. And when used properly, scientific knowledge is of great benefit to the human family.

It was the medieval Catholic Church that gave the world the principles on which true science rests, laying the foundation for the modern scientific method with its endless cycle of observation, theory, and experiment. Thus it should be no surprise that, despite the claims of some of her detractors, the Catholic Church is and always has been supportive of genuine scientific investigation, including space exploration, so long as it is conducted in the proper spirit and oriented to the true good of the human person and society. (10/14)

October 14, 2014

Aerojet Rocketdyne Takes Loss on AJ-26 Engine Problems (Source: Space News)
The parent company of Aerojet Rocketdyne announced Oct. 10 that it took a $17.5 million loss in its latest fiscal quarter because of issues with the AJ-26 rocket engine that it provides for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares launch vehicle. GenCorp Inc. reported a net loss in the company’s fiscal third quarter, which ended Aug. 31, of $9.5 million.

The company also reported a net loss for the year to date of $61.8 million. GenCorp singled out the AJ-26 engine, a refurbished version of the Soviet-era NK-33, as a major reason for the loss. The company said it took pre-tax contract loss of $17.5 million on the program in the latest quarter, and $31.4 million loss on the program for the year to date. (10/13)

Private Space Habitat to Blow Up on ISS Next Year (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Until someone manages to figure out how to get a space elevator up and running, sending stuff into space is going to remain enormously expensive. Payloads are also limited by size: if it doesn’t fit inside a rocket, it’s not going to make it into orbit. This places significant restrictions on large space structures like the International Space Station, which have to be made up of lots of tiny little modules stuck together, meaning that you don’t have access to a lot of open space.

Fifty years ago, NASA experimented with launching inflatable spacecraft that could be carried into space wadded up inside small rockets, and then pumped up to enormous sizes once they reached orbit. It was a fantastic idea that was in the running for a habitat on the ISS until funding for it was axed by the U.S. Congress. But Bigelow Aerospace has taken up the idea, and reconfirmed its plan to test an inflatable module on the ISS in 2015.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will fly up to the ISS inside the unpressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule sometime next year. The station’s Canadarm2 will attach the BEAM to an airlock on the Tranquility module, where it will be slowly inflated. The BEAM has an internal volume of about 16 cubic meters, which is just enough room for one astronaut to comfortably do a mostly stationary acrobatic routine, and it’s scheduled to remain attached to the ISS for two full years. (10/14)

India’s Impressive Space Program (Source: The Diplomat)
India recently made history, when its Mars Orbiter Mission successfully entered the Martian orbit. In doing so, it became the first country to enter Mars’ orbit on its first attempt and also the first Asian country to reach the red planet. Missions to Mars have rarely been successful. Before India’s Mangalyaan (Sanskrit for Mars-craft), only the United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe had entered Mars orbit. India is part of an elite club.

What makes India’s Mars mission all the more remarkable is its low cost. With a price tag of just $70 million, it is the least expensive inter-planetary mission ever. The U.S. Maven orbiter, which arrived at Mars two days before Mangalyaan, cost NASA a whopping $671 million in comparison. Experts have pointed out that the enormous cost difference between Mangalyaan and Maven is because the Indian Mars-craft is far simpler than Maven. “They’ve kept it small,” Andrew Coates, who will be a principal investigator on Europe’s Mars rover in 2018, said of the Indian Mars mission. (10/13)

New Horizons' Reach Could Extend Past Pluto (Source: Space.com)
NASA researchers could get a peek past Pluto if the New Horizons probe's mission gets extended and the spacecraft explores even smaller objects than the dwarf planet. "These are objects that are much smaller than Pluto, and probably much more primitive in terms of their chemistry and their appearance," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. "These are objects the size of counties, for example, not the size of planets. They're very faint." (10/13)

'Astronaut Wives Club' Begins Filming for 2015 Launch on ABC (Source: Collect Space)
The first meeting of the Astronaut Wives Club — the made-for-TV-version, that is — has convened in New Orleans. Filming began Thursday (Oct. 9) on the 10-episode series, which ABC plans to air next spring. "The Astronaut Wives Club" is based on author Lily Koppel's best-selling book by the same title, which tells the real story of the women who stood beside the United States' first spacemen. (10/13)

The Spaceman of Afghanistan (Source: Guardian)
The Spaceman of Afghanistan is the uplifting story of Abdul Ahad Momand who on 29 August 1988 became the first – and so far only – Afghan to journey into space. He was a beneficiary of the Russians’ desire to keep hold of Afghanistan as an ally when unrest in the country increased their vulnerability to the US. He entered their cosmonaut programme and spent a week in the Mir space station helping to map the uncharted regions of his country and note geological features that would help his people predict earthquakes. Click here. (10/14)

GPS Modernization Continues with Quick Pace of Launches (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A new satellite launched Aug. 1 has joined the U.S. Air Force's GPS navigation network to help guide everything from bombs to road trippers to their destinations, with final preparations on track to send up another GPS spacecraft at the end of October. It was the seventh of 12 Boeing-built GPS 2F-series satellites to launch. The rest of the GPS 2F spacecraft, which have been manufactured and are in storage at Boeing's satellite factory in El Segundo, Calif., are due to launch by mid-2016. (10/14)

Space Debris Fell From The Sky Nearly Killing Two People (Source: MY9NJ)
Workers at the Water Treatment Plant in Secaucus, New Jersey, were startled when an object fell from the sky and nearly struck them. Operations Foreman Steve Bronowich said the falling piece of debris nearly hit and killed two of his employees. “They said like, what the heck is that, they haven't ever seen anything like that, it made a loud noise and then bounced,” Bronowich said.

After some research online, the crew at the plant came to the conclusion that the falling debris was a heat tile from a space shuttle. “It was a white tile, it had three layers, there was ceramic, then a piece of metal, and then some kind of a rubber underneath it, and it was brown because it looked like it was burnt,” Bronowich described. NASA issued a statement and said it is unlikely that the object is from a space shuttle, since one hasn't been flown since 2011. Editor's Note: Maybe this is a reason that the military X-37B is returning to Earth this week. (10/14)

Space Concordia Rub Shoulders with the Astronautical Elite (Source: Concordia University)
Extra-planetary travel. Hurtling through space. Next-generation satellites. These are abstract concepts for most of us mere mortals. Then there's Space Concordia, the award-winning student association that builds satellites and imagines the future of space travel and exploration. This year, for the first time, Space Concordia was invited to present at the International Astronautical Congress, held in Toronto. (10/11)

Russian Luna-25 Mission to Cost Billions (Source: Space Daily)
The Luna-25 exploration mission will cost tens of billions of rubles, an official from Russian Federal Space Agency said Friday. "Let's say, we are talking tens of billions of rubles because it's a resource-heavy project, complex in terms of technical feasibility," Roscosmos' strategic planning chief Yuri Makarov said at a press conference in Moscow. (10/14)

The United Arab Emirates Space Program (Source: Space Safety)
There are dozens of emerging space nations around the world seeking to capitalize on dramatic increases in space technology accessibility. We take a look at one such nation, the United Arab Emirates, exploring the opportunities and challenges they face on the road to achieving space capability. Click here. (10/13)

Greatest Long-Term Threat To Boeing Is The Loss Of Talent (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) CEO Chris Chadwick termed the company's moves out of Seattle as “necessary if we are going to differentiate ourselves from competitors and stay ahead of a rapidly changing global defense environment.” He is exactly right. The problem is that Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) is positioned very differently from BDS, and yet corporate management is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to labor relations. Click here. (10/13)

SpaceX's Lower Cost Defies Boeing's Past (Source: Investors Business Daily)
If SpaceX delivers on its plan to send astronauts into space for nearly 40% less than Boeing can, NASA could reap even bigger cost savings as the upstart company challenges decades-old practices in the industry. Under the contracts announced last month, Boeing (BA) could get up to $4.2 billion to ferry passengers to the International Space Station (ISS), while SpaceX will get up to $2.6 billion for the same requirements.

While NASA is looking to reduce costs, the rejection of Sierra Nevada's cheaper bid and the inclusion of Boeing's pricier one also points to the space agency's other priority: reliability. Boeing has worked with NASA since the dawn of the space age and has a proven track record that allowed it to command a higher sum. Its Apollo command module put Neil Armstrong on the moon. But Boeing's history may be weighing on its costs.

"Boeing's cost structure is higher than SpaceX — that's just a fact," said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at the Teal Group. Because the aerospace giant has been around longer, it most likely has an older, more experienced workforce with higher wages and labor costs, he added. SpaceX is a vertically integrated company, building all of its parts in-house, with no subcontractors. Boeing employs numerous subcontractors to build components, which adds to costs. (10/13)

Profile: Thomas Markusic of Firefly Space Systems (Source: Space News)
Firefly Space Systems is part of a new wave of launch services startups looking to capitalize on a small-satellite boom fueled, at least in part, by a combination of advances in microelectronics technology and Silicon Valley investment capital. The company’s founder, Tom Markusic, believes the boom is still in its early stages and envisions the day when companies like Google fulfill long-articulated but unrealized visions of darkening the skies with satellites. Cheap access to space will help make that vision a reality, he says.

"Flights will start happening probably in the 2016 time frame. There are places like Spaceport America in New Mexico, or Midland, Texas, with pretty low costs and regulations where we could do suborbital checkout flights. And for those flights we’ll be looking for more funding from venture capitalists and institutional investors. Then beyond the suborbital flights there will have to be another series of investment for the first orbital flights."

Which launch sites are you considering for revenue-generating commercial launches? "I think the northern launch sites like Kodiak, Alaska, are attractive to us. We hired a veteran SpaceX launch guy, Bradley Obrocto, who had worked at SpaceX since 2008 at places like Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific — everywhere, really. His first task will be to go out and look and see where we can get the best deal." (10/13)

NASA Braces For Comet's Close Encounter With Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
A comet will give Mars a close shave on Sunday, Oct. 19, and NASA isn't taking any chances. Comet C/2013 A1, or 'Siding Spring,' is expected to come within 87,000 miles of the red planet, making its closet approach around 2:27 p.m. EDT. To keep debris from the comet's long trail from hitting the three NASA spacecraft now in orbit around Mars, the space agency has adjusted their positions so that they'll be on the planet's far side when the comet approaches.

"We're going to hide behind Mars," Rob Lock, the orbiter studies lead for the Mars program office, says in the video above. "So, kind of like diving under your desk--there's an earthquake and flying glass around--it's exactly the same sort of thing. We're not going to take any chances." The Sliding Spring flyby will also give NASA its first-ever close-up look at a comet from the Oort Cloud, a spherical "cloud" of icy objects in the solar system's outer reaches. The space agency hopes that by studying the comet's trajectory, scientists will gain a better understanding of comets that whiz close to Earth. (10/13)

The Incredible, Expendable Mars Mission (Source: Space Review)
Five years ago, NASA published its latest detailed architecture for human missions to Mars. John Strickland explores that architecture and discusses several ways it could be improved to make it more robust and less expensive. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2618/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Canadian Space at a Crossroads (Source: Space Review)
Two weeks ago, Canada hosted the global space community at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. Jeff Foust examines how that conference, which sought to play up Canada's unique capabilities in space, also raised questions about the country's long-term future in areas like human spaceflight and planetary exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2617/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Women of Space (Source: Space Review)
A documentary airing on PBS this week examines the history of women in America's space program. Dwayne Day reviews the show and examines both the issues it covers and topics he wished it included. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2616/1 to view the article. (10/13)

The Role of International Cooperation in China's Space Station Plans (Source: Space Review)
China's human spaceflight program has, to date, been an independent pursuit, with little interest in cooperation with, let alone dependence on, other nations. Jeff Foust reports that view may be changing with China's plans to develop its own space station. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2615/1 to view the article. (10/13)

A Second Look: Safe Is Not An Option (Source: Space Review)
A book published earlier this year offered an alternative, and at time provocative, examination of the issues of risk in spaceflight. Michael Fodroci offers a different perspective on the issues the book raises from his experience working safety and mission assurance issues at NASA. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2614/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Smith to Bolden: Why Not Orion for Commercial Crew? (Source: Space News)
House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) wants to know when NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule will be ready to provide backup crew and cargo delivery services to the international space station and whether the Lockheed Martin-built vehicle should replace one of the two commercial crew taxis NASA is now funding. “If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in an Oct. 7 letter co-signed by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee. (10/12)

No Romance on Mars: Sex and Romance in a Mission to the Red Planet (Source: Space Safety)
Imagine the following scenario. The first batch of Martian colonists has settled on Mars. There are only ten of them currently residing on the Red Planet, both men and women, living together in a confined station only a few meters across. They see each other first thing in the morning, they share their meals, they work together, they have only each other to talk to and spend their free time with. The contact is incredibly close and intense – it’s no surprise that they soon start feeling like much more than just co-workers, more like a family, as if they have known each other for ages.

Add the pressure of the hostile alien environment and the notion that anything can go wrong at any time making them dependent on each other for their very lives, and you get an intensity of emotions that one would hardly ever experience on Earth and that may bring about some surprises even for these well trained, rational astronauts. At the end of the day, they are not robots. One can’t blame them for having basic human needs – like the occasional hug and, of course, sex (even though NASA strictly prohibits that).

“The bottom line is that, like hunger and thirst, sex is a basic biological motive,” Jason Kring, human factors researcher at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 2008. “The potential round-trip mission to Mars could take three years. It doesn’t make sense to assume that these men and women are going to have no thoughts of it for three years.” Kring suggested a solution that he said was frequently used by polar explorers: temporary relationships with colleagues that end with the mission. Click here. (10/7)

Editorial: Debris Cloud Gathers Over Cubesat Party (Source: Space News)
A new and fast-growing contributor to hazardous clutter, particularly in low Earth orbit, is cubesats that are literally being launched by the dozen these days. Fueled by advances in microelectronics and in many cases by Silicon Valley venture capital, the cubesat revolution is dramatically expanding applications for space systems while toppling the long-associated cost barriers.

A recent example of just how bad it is already is Europe’s Sentinel 1A environment-monitoring satellite, which, after being left in a lower than expected orbit, had to make eight collision avoidance maneuvers during its climb to its operating orbit. The cubesat sector deserves special attention, however, both because it is relatively new and thus not as attuned to the problem as longtime players, and because it is populating low Earth orbit at a dizzying rate.

According to another study presented at the conference, some 150 cubesats will be deployed during 2014 when all is said and done, a 63 percent increase over 2013, which saw a threefold increase over 2012. Moreover, the number of conjunctions — or relatively close orbital passes — involving cubesats is growing rapidly. In 2007, cubesats accounted for just 1 percent of the total; for the first nine months of 2014, that percentage was up to 5. (10/13)

Cubesats May Hitchhike on Mission to Europa (Source: Discovery)
As NASA steps up its plans for the Europa Clipper concept to visit the icy Jupiter moon, JPL has asked for cubesat proposals from universities that could complement the primary Clipper payload. As we have a mission going to Europa, why not attach some cubesats for the ride? NASA has outlined some key science objectives these axillary cubesats should be able to carry out, including “reconnaissance for future landing sites, gravity fields, magnetic fields, atmospheric and plume science, and radiation measurements.” (10/13)

Lunar Volcanoes Suggest the Moon May Still be Warm (Source: New Scientist)
The man in the moon may still have some fire in his belly. A new study argues that magma erupted onto the lunar surface less than 100 million years ago – nearly a billion years later than previously thought. If confirmed, the finding suggests that radioactive elements may be keeping the moon's innards toasty even today. (10/13)

Editorial: Keep ISS Alive! (Source: Space News)
In the 1990s as a leader of the Space Frontier Foundation, I worked to cancel what was then called Space Station Freedom. Announced in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, the original concept had been pitched at around $8 billion. Based on what we saw happening to what might have been a good idea, we were the only space organization to come out against the project. We believed that if the president’s goal was to open the frontier as stated, there were much better and lower-cost ways to do so that were more directly evolvable and supportive than where it seemed the station was going.

We were right. By the time construction stopped (notice I did not say “completed” — as it never has been) NASA and its  partners had spent over $100 billion on what we now call the international space station. Actually, the cost may be much higher, depending on whose numbers you believe, and if they do or do not count the space shuttle in the total. (Given that over 75 percent of all shuttle flights were in some way in support of the station, we probably should.)

[Now] not only do I believe we must dramatically increase the maximum use of the space station by any and all, it is my stand that it never, ever under any circumstances should be brought back down to Earth — period. The debate over the current use and future fate of ISS cuts directly to the core of what we are going to do there. If space is a government program, then throw it away and let’s try and raise the money for the next one. If it is our intention to open space as a frontier to the people of Earth, then it is hugely important that we treat our first permanent outpost as a treasured resource, both figuratively and literally. (10/13)

A Declaration of Space Jurisprudence Interdependence (Source: Space News)
It is essential to have a driving, underlying philosophic construct recognized and accepted globally for pursuing space activities in support of humankind’s migration off-Earth. It also is critical for space jurisprudents or philosophers — as well as space law practitioners — to recognize the biochemical/biological underpinnings directing the opportunity potential for space exploration and migration, dispersal and settlement that are critical for the survival of the human genome.

The motivating construct for implementing these opportunities — individually and collectively, shared by all cultures, all societies and all civilizations — is species and, ultimately, specieskind’s survival. The substantive underpinnings of this approach relate cultural institutions, such as “the law,” to the empirically premised migratory dispersal and evolutionary principles of biochemistry and biophysics underlying organic life and its evolution as it is presently known and understood. (10/13)