January 29, 2015

ULA to Freeze Pension, Change Time-Off Policy (Source: Washington Business Journal)
ULA is the latest company to decide to freeze its defined-benefit pension plan starting in 2016, offering contributions to retirement savings accounts in its place. The company's parents, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both froze their own pensions in the last year. ULA will also transition its 3,400 employees from a policy that offered separate vacation, sick and personal leave to a single pot of paid time off starting in July. (1/28)

Why the Startup Space Race is Good for You (Source: Reuters)
Space might soon become crowded, and that could be good news for you. This week Boeing and Lockheed Martin reported strong earnings for the fourth quarter of 2014 on a combination of strong civilian and military airplane orders. Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush said last week that he does not expect the Department of Defense to assent to consolidation among the companies, but owing to the disruptive nature of startups in the industry, it is competition, not consolidation, that traditional aerospace firms should watch. Click here. (1/29)

Japanese Businessman Set to Resume Space Tourist Training (Source: Space Daily)
A Japanese businessman, who used to shoot space TV commercials at a cosmonaut training facility near Moscow, said he was happy to return to Star City as a space tourist, preparing for his flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The space tourist said that being a cosmonaut had been his dream since he was six. However, he gave up his dream as he needed glasses and began a career in business instead.

While shooting a commercial with two Russian cosmonauts, Takamatsu found out that Russian people are kind and nice. Takamatsu, a founder of the Space Travel and Space Films companies, is going on a space tour with British singer Sarah Brightman, who arrived in Moscow on January 19 for a six-month preparation course prior to her 10-day stay on board the ISS. (1/29)

Japanese Launch Postponed by Poor Weather (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A threat of thick clouds kept a Japanese H-2A rocket from launching Thursday with a government-owned radar reconnaissance satellite. Japanese officials did not set a new target launch date, and said the liftoff would be rescheduled based on forecast weather conditions over the next few days. (1/28)

British Satellite to Be Launched by Russian Proton-M (Source: Sputnik)
The launch on Sunday will be the first in this year’s program. The contract to orbit the Inmarsat 5F2 was inked by the Russian-American International Launch Services Company ILS. The Inmarsat-5F2, developed by Boeing for Britain’s satellite communications operator Inmarsat, is the second of three 5th generation Inmarsat satellites. It is designed to provide communications services in North and South America, as well as in the Atlantic region. (1/29)

Spaceport America Opening to Pilots for Valentine’s Day Fly-In (Source: KRQE)
Love is in the air at the New Mexico Spaceport. On Valentine’s Day the facility will host its first-ever Private Pilots Fly-In. The event costs $500 per plane and it includes a private tour of the Spaceport and lunch for the pilots and their passengers. Spaceport officials say the goal is to create a new kind of tourism at the facility. Right now, it’s facing a $1.7 million shortfall and the fly-in is just one of the many ways it’s trying to make up that money. (1/28)

JPL Seeking $30 Million from NASA for Mars Drone (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is seeking $30 million from NASA to build a Mars drone expected to survive at least one month in a harsh environment. For the past year and a half, JPL scientists have been studying the Mars Helicopter, a low-flying scout that could triple the distance Mars rovers travel in a single Red Planet day, study scientist Matthew Golombek said.

“It’s too cheap not to put it on (a rover), or so we hope,” Golombek said, adding that the Mars 2020 rover is budgeted at $1.5 billion and the Curiosity rover mission is working with $2.5 billion in funding. The 2.2-pound prototype looks like a medium-size, cube tissue box. With a 3.6-foot blade span, the Mars Helicopter would provide a much-appreciated aerial view to complement the limited field of vision currently available from cameras aboard rovers. (1/28)

'Technological Independence' is Key to EU Space Policy (Source: The Parliament)
The first steps mankind made in space were the result of the cold war struggle between the US and Russia. For a long time, space was one of the many areas of competition between them. Although the situation today is different, countries from all over the world now participate in the space race in order to pursue technological advances. However, we are also aware of the rapidly changing international environment, as we face new challenges to common security. Click here. (1/29)

Space 2020: What Does the Future Hold? (Source: BBC)
Space has not been this exciting since the 1960s. In the decade from 2020, can we look forward to a glorious new space age of Moon bases, Mars colonies and more remarkable cosmic discoveries? To try to find out, we canvassed the opinions of an expert panel for their predictions beyond 2020. Click here. (1/29)

Air Force Awards $383 Million Launch Deal to ULA (Source: Reuters)
The Air Force on Wednesday awarded a $383 million contract for more launch services to United Launch Alliance, bringing the total value of the contract to $4.08 billion. The Air Force said it was adding three pre-priced launches to the existing contract, including the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite that SpaceX had hoped to win.

United Launch Alliance said its "100 percent mission success record" with 92 consecutive launches made it "the unquestionable choice for reliable, affordable launches." SpaceX declined comment. (1/29)

Elon Musk Lands on 'The Simpsons,' But Also Misses (Source: Washington Business Journal)
It's nothing new for a celebrity to lend their voice to an episode of "The Simpsons." So, what made Elon Musk's voice work on episode No. 564 so unique? The appearance by the SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO wasn't just a cameo — it was a full-blown starring role. Click here. (1/28)

France Celebrates Illustrious Aerospace History With New Museum (Source: Aviation Week)
The long-awaited Aeroscopia aviation museum was finally inaugurated in January at Blagnac, on the grounds of Toulouse Blagnac Airport. This milestone is yet another indication of how France protects and honors its aerospace history. The southwest sector of the country has played a vital role in technical innovation dating back to Aeropostale’s Breguet XIV, a pioneering postal biplane. (1/29)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Cranking Up Expendable SSME (Source: Aviation Week)
A critical leftover from the space shuttle program is scheduled to continue flying well into the 2020s, but with a key difference. NASA has 16 space shuttle main engines (SSMEs), plus two ground-test articles, and it plans to use them all—four at a time—to power the first stage of its heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS). Designed for multiple flights, the reusable powerplants will get one more mission each before winding up in the ocean.

Work on the big new rocket is moving toward a first flight in 2018, paced by the Orion crew capsule that will ride it to orbit). Three more missions with the surplus engines are planned after that. Now NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJR), successor to the companies that helped develop the engine in the 1970s, are beginning work in earnest on a throwaway version of the shuttle engine that conceivably could power human missions to Mars. (1/29)

Does Your Airport Have the Wright Stuff to Become a Spaceport? (Source: Airport)
Many U.S. airports are considering using their existing facilities as spaceports since the high costs and schedule risk associated with federal launch ranges are causing private commercial space transportation companies to turn to the use of existing airports as alternatives.

Privatization, increased efficiency and lower costs contribute to the anticipated advantages of commercial spaceports. From a community perspective, a spaceport can diversify local employment and can expand education and tourism opportunities. Spaceports also provide a new source of revenue for the airport sponsor.

Several different revenue streams can be marketed by airport sponsors to improve U.S. space competitiveness in the global marketplace. Suborbital space tourism is the largest initial market — and the one that gets the most attention. Depending on how quickly this industry matures, it has the potential to complete hundreds of flights per year. Click here. (1/27)

Orion Could Mean Big Things for UCF Knights (Source: Central Florida Future)
It was an early morning in December when the Orion spacecraft lit up the sky just east of UCF. A Delta IV heavy rocket propelled the test capsule into space, where it would later return to Earth with a giant splash into the Pacific Ocean. After the success of the test flight, it was official — the mission to Mars would move full speed ahead. But what exactly will a mission to Mars and the Orion spacecraft mean to us down the road?

The Central Florida Future chatted with UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is part of the Florida Space Institute at UCF and a research collaborator at Kennedy Space center, as well as Jon Cowart, a project manager at NASA, to narrow down just what this could mean not only for college students in the future, but civilization as a whole. Click here. (1/27)

Barges a Temporary Solution for SpaceX Landings (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX released a video showing how its Falcon-Heavy missions will lift off from Launch Complex 39A, with stages returning to a conceptual landing complex on the south side of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company has been in discussions with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing to develop and operate such a complex, while NASA has identified property on the Cape's north side for vertical landings. Click here. (1/28)

Sequestration Bill Is Due for Air Force Space Launch Infrastructure (Source: Space Policy Online)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III told a Senate committee today that the bill has come due for a number of infrastructure activities that were postponed because of sequestration, including space launch infrastructure.  By law, sequestration returns in FY2016 and Welsh and the other military service chiefs warned about the impacts if the law is not changed.

Even though the last two years, when sequestration budget caps were relaxed, have permitted improvements, there is a "broader readiness issue" involving infrastructure, including space launch infrastructure, that was "intentionally underfunded" in order to ensure individual and unit readiness instead. "That bill is now due, but [sequestration] caps will make it impossible to pay," Welsh warned.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert also mentioned space capabilities as an area of concern saying that "we're slipping behind and our advantage is shrinking very fast" in "electronic attack, the ability to jam, the ability to detect seekers, radars, satellites ...." Click here. (1/28)

Florida Governor Seeks to Overtake Texas in Economic Development (Source: EOG)
Florida’s goal is to be the number one destination for jobs in the world. Today, Texas is our number one competitor for jobs – but Governor Scott has set the goal of unseating Texas by 2020 and taking this top spot.
Because of Florida’s low tax environment, smart regulatory structure, and educated workforce, Florida is well positioned for growth in science, technology, engineering and math fields such as advanced manufacturing, medical research, and other high-tech research and development.
 
The governor's budget request includes about $122.4 million for economic development public-private partnerships, including Enterprise Florida, Space Florida, and Visit Florida. In addition, $85 million is provided for economic development incentives such as the Quick Action Closing Fund, the Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund, and the Innovation Incentive Program. (1/28)

Averting Space Doom: Solving the Orbital Junk Problem (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
We are closer than ever to witnessing the “Kessler syndrome,” a scenario proposed in 1978 by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in which the high density of objects and debris in low Earth orbit creates a cascade of collisions that renders space travel and satellite use impossible for decades. However, how close we really are is a matter of debate. Click here. (1/28)

Google Won Moffett Field, But East Bay Firm Was in the Running (Source: San Francisco Business Times)
In the hunt to lease Moffett Federal Airfield, Google Inc. faced competition from one other entity hoping to land the deal: An East Bay developer that was targeting the iconic base's enormous hangars as a unique commercial real estate play for science and technology tenants.

Orton Development Inc., a firm with a long history of historic renovations, was the only other potential lessee whose response to NASA's 2013 request for proposals to lease the airfield was "deemed responsive." Google, through its Planetary Ventures LLC affiliate, won the lease last year, agreeing to pay hundreds of millions to improve the property and $1.16 billion in rent over 60 years. (1/28)

What Would It Be Like to Live on Mercury? (Source: Space.com)
With its extreme temperature fluctuations, Mercury is not likely a planet that humans would ever want to colonize. But if we had the technology to survive on the planet closest to the sun, what would it be like to live there? To date, only two spacecraft have visited Mercury. Click here. (1/28)

DoD ‘Wedded’ to Commercial Satellites, Lawmaker Assured (Source: Space News)
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the military’s response to new technology, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) did his bit to remain one of the commercial satellite industry’s favorite new lawmakers. Bridenstine took advantage of one of the committee’s first hearings of the year to ping Pentagon acquisition czar Frank Kendall  — and the three-star U.S. Air Force general testifying alongside him — about the Pentagon’s use of commercial communications satellites.

In the lead-up to his question, Bridenstine pointed to commercial communication satellites that he said provided significant technological upgrades over the military-owned Wideband Gapfiller Satellites, currently built by Boeing. “My question for you is: as we go forward, will we get proposals from the Department of Defense to take advantage and leverage these assets that already exist and, of course, the rapid advancements technology that are happening right now?,” Bridenstine asked. (1/28)

Fire Ends Mock Mars Mission in Utah Desert (Source: Space.com)
Four crewmembers simulating a mission on Mars dealt with a real-life emergency late last month — a greenhouse fire so strong that flames reached at least 10 feet high. On Dec. 29, the first day of their mission, the crew noticed an unusual power surge in their habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), in the Utah desert near the small town of Hanksville.

A few minutes later, somebody spotted smoke coming from the greenhouse. Crew commander Nick Orenstein, an experienced camper who has built bonfires in the past, ran outside to take a look. He said he figured the group could take on the fire, because the smoke was blowing away from the habitat, and only one shelf inside the greenhouse was aflame. At that time, the fire was about the size of three overstuffed chairs.

"This is a moment where instinct took over, the instinct of fight or flight, and we had fight," Orenstein told Space.com. "There really wasn't a question at the moment." It took the crew about half an hour to bring the fire under control. (1/28)

Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: NASA Remembers Fallen Astronauts (Source: Florida Today)
An Israeli student delegation was among those honoring fallen astronauts today during a ceremony at the KSC Visitor Complex's Space Mirror Memorial. Some of the more than 40 students attended the same school as Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was among the seven-person crew lost when shuttle Columbia broke apart during its re-entry from space on Feb. 1, 2003.

Today is NASA's annual Day of Remembrance to honor the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters, all of which occurred around this time of year, and others. The 43-foot-tall and 50-foot-wide granite mirror, a national memorial, is engraved with the names of 24 astronauts killed during space missions, training accidents and one commercial aircraft crash. (1/28)

Boeing Beats Profit Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
Boeing posted a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates and predicted that it would make good in 2015 in converting a record jetliner-order backlog into cash. The shares jumped in early trading. Fourth-quarter profit excluding pension expense was $2.31 a share, Chicago-based Boeing said Wednesday, topping the $2.10 average estimate among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Free cash flow this year will be about $6.2 billion, according to the company. (1/28)

ATK Reports FY15 Third Quarter Operating Results (Source: ATK)
Alliant Techsystems reported operating results for the third quarter of its Fiscal Year 2015. Third quarter sales were $1.3 billion, up 4 percent from the prior-year quarter of $1.2 billion, due to increased sales in the Defense and Aerospace Groups. Operating profit in the third quarter was $105 million, compared to $146 million in the prior-year period. (1/28)

Boeing: SpaceX Drives Prices Down, Makes Boeing a Better Competitor (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing is watching SpaceX over its shoulder as Elon Musk's fast-growing company becomes Boeing's newest rival. "I have respect for SpaceX. They offer more limited mission types than we do at this stage," said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. Lowering launch cost has been a driving focus for SpaceX, and McNerney alluded to that in his comments.

The competition has come much closer to home for Boeing recently. Musk announced two weeks ago that he is opening a Redmond office where he plans to assemble a team of engineers – some of them likely poached from Boeing – to design a earth-orbiting swarm of telecommunications satellites. "Their combination of a focus on gaining capability at improved cost is going to benefit the market," he said. "It will make us a better competitor in some segments where cost has become more important." (1/28)

U.S. and Germany Agree to Share Space Services, Data (Source: USAF)
U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) signed a technical arrangement with Germany to share Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services and information, Jan. 9. The arrangement will enable and enhance each nation’s awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of their spaceflight operations. (1/28)

January 28, 2015

Orbital's Shareholders Approve ATK Merger (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Orbital Sciences Corporation's stockholders have approved a merger with the Aerospace and Defense Groups of Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK ), based out of Utah. The newly-formed Orbital-ATK will officially begin operations on Feb. 10 - the day after the merger is officially closed. (1/27)

Deadline Approaching for Ellington Field Spaceport Comments (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Houston Airport System has worked with the FAA to complete a Draft Environmental Assessment evaluating the proposal's potential impacts. The plan would allow the airport system to operate a number of commercial spaceflight activities out of Ellington, including sub-orbital commercial flights, zero-gravity scientific and medical research, astronaut training and development, space tourism and more. The deadline for feedback is Jan. 31.

Editor's Note: SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell, during comments in Houston about their commercial crew flights for NASA, said she looks forward to one day landing the company's Dragon capsules at Ellington Field. (1/28)

SpaceX Unveils Falcon Heavy Launch and Flyback Video (Source: Discovery)
SpaceX on Tuesday released a new animated video clip of its Falcon Heavy rocket launching from Florida. The booster, which is comprised of three Falcon 9 first-stage boosters, is shown blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, what will be SpaceX’s second Florida launch pad.

Currently, Falcon rockets fly from a leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the NASA center. SpaceX has a second lease with NASA for one of the space shuttle’s mothballed launch pads. The company plans its first flight from the historic Launch Pad 39A this year. The mission will be the first test flight of the heavy-lift Falcon rocket. Click here. (1/27)

Kepler Finds Oldest Known Planetary System (Source: KUSA)
The Kepler space telescope has discovered what is considered the oldest planetary system in the galaxy. At 11 billion years old, "Kepler-444" is being dubbed one of the biggest discoveries in the history of space science. To say the discovery is exciting would be an understatement. Here in Colorado, astronomers and scientists are thrilled. The Space Science Institute in Boulder played a big role in helping discover the system. (1/26)

Lockheed Martin Tops 4th Quarter Forecasts (Source: AP)
Lockheed Martin reported fourth-quarter earnings of $904 million. The aerospace and defense company posted revenue of $12.53 billion in the period, also topping Street forecasts. Analysts expected $11.87 billion. For the year, the company reported profit of $3.61 billion. Revenue was reported as $45.6 billion. (1/27)

Five New Space Missions Observe Earth (Source: Voice of America)
NASA is preparing a Thursday, January 29, launch of the first U.S. satellite to observe Earth’s water cycle. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) will help scientists better predict extreme weather, climate change, flood and droughts. The new instrument will join four others in what has been the U.S. space agency’s busiest 12-month period in more than a decade. Click here. (1/27)

This Planet’s Rings Make Saturn Look Puny (Source: Washington Post)
When J1407 was discovered in 2012, it seemed like a  fairly run-of-the-mill star. But the researchers who spotted it saw signs of a strange eclipse -- a period when the star had dimmed and re-brightened. These sudden, drastic brightness changes went on for two months.

According to analysis published in Astrophysical Journal, a ringed planet like Saturn is in the star's system. But unlike Saturn, this ringed planet is a real bruiser. Its rings are massive and opaque enough to occasionally block out the star's light. (1/26)

How Richard Branson Has Been Funding Virgin Galactic (Source: Parabolic Arc)
For anyone wondering how the Virgin Group has been funding Virgin Galactic over the past decade, the Financial Times had an excellent overview back in early November just after SpaceShipTwo crashed. It seems that Virgin Galactic had sucked in up to $600 million in investment by that point, with nearly two-thirds of it from Abu Dhabi. The Virgin Group also has been funding the rest using profits from other parts of Sir Richard Branson’s empire. Click here. (1/26)

£348k Fund Explores Link Between Space Travel and STEM Uptake (Source: WIRED)
In recent months the UK has seen a spate of space-inspired projects with the dual aim of unraveling the mysteries of the universe and encouraging the public, and especially kids, to get more interested in STEM subjects.

Now, a team of science education researchers at the University of York have received £348,000 in funding from the UK Space Agency and Economic and Social Research Council to investigate if human spaceflight actually inspires school kids to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The study, kickstarting this January, aims to gather views from students and teachers from a selection of 30 primary and 30 secondary schools, as well as from space scientists. The goal is to glean a broad view of existing space science resources, and think of possible ways of revamping them in the future. (1/26)

NASA Langley Research Robot Ready to Roll (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
The seven-ton, two-story robotic arm unveiled by NASA Langley on Monday looks like it belongs on a Transformer. But ISAAC - which stands for Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites - has nothing to do with sci-fi or alien machines. The $3 million system - one of just three of its kind in the world, and the only one dedicated to research - turns 3-D computer drawings into precisely made, lightweight, super-strong components suited for spacecraft. (1/27)

Why the Time Seems Right for a Space-Based Internet Service (Source: MIT Tech Review)
Providing Internet access from orbiting satellites—a concept that seemed to have died with the excesses of the dot-com boom—has returned thanks to SpaceX founder (and dot-com billionaire) Elon Musk. And while such a service would be expensive and risky to deploy, recent technological trends mean it’s no longer so out-of-this-world. Click here. (1/27)

Lunar Xprize Competitors Get $5.25 Million for Milestones (Source: Engadget)
The Lunar Xprize challenge isn't just meant to reward the first team that lands a private rover on the Moon -- it's there to give some encouragement along the way, too. Accordingly, Google and Xprize have just handed out a total of $5.25 million to five competitors for hitting milestones in imaging, mobility and landing technology. Astrobotic Technology is the big winner, having scooped up $1.75 million across all three areas. Not that the others are exactly hurting. Hakuto, Moon Express, Part-Time Scientists and Team Indus all snagged between $500,000 to $1.25 million each. (1/27)

ULA's Tory Bruno Takes to Twitter (Source: Defense News)
When Tory Bruno took over as CEO of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) in August, analysts predicted a change in how the launch company did business. But maybe not at this level. Last week, Bruno began using his personal Twitter account to reply to questions from journalists. While other industry leaders maintain Twitter accounts, they are generally used to push press releases or quick soundbites; it is pretty rare to see one that is willing to engage with reporters in an open forum — and with critics as well. Click here. (1/26)

January 27, 2015

Swarm of Microprobes to Head for Jupiter (Source: Space Daily)
A swarm of tiny probes each with a different sensor could be fired into the clouds of Jupiter and grab data as they fall before burning up in the gas giant planet's atmosphere. The probes would last an estimated 15 minutes according to planetary scientists. Transmitting 20 megabits of data over fifteen minutes would be sufficient to allow scientists to get a picture of a large part of the atmosphere of the planet.

"Our concept shows that for a small enough probe, you can strip off the parachute and still get enough time in the atmosphere to take meaningful data while keeping the relay close and the data rate high," said John Moores. The team suggests that the presence of the European Space Agency (ESA) JUICE orbiter in the Jovian system set to begin in 2030 might facilitate a tandem mission that carried micro satellites to the planet. (1/27)

SLS Solid Booster Ready for Test (Source: Space Daily)
A full-scale version of the booster for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, is ready to fire for a major ground test and is paving the way on NASA's journey to Mars. When completed, two five-segment boosters and four RS-25 engines will power the SLS to orbit and enable astronauts to explore destinations in deep space, including an asteroid and the Red Planet.

The two-minute, full-duration static test -- scheduled for March 11 at booster prime contractor ATK's test facility in Promontory, Utah -- is a huge milestone for the program and will qualify the booster design for high temperature conditions. Editor's Note: The ATK solid fuel boosters would initially be used on SLS, but they may be replaced with liquid fuel boosters as the SLS design evolves. (1/27)

Asteroid That Flew Past Earth Has Moon (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach today (Jan. 26, 2015) at 8:19 a.m. PST (11:19 a.m. EST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.

The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Jan. 26, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across. (1/27)

M-TeX and MIST Experiments Launched from Alaska (Source: Space Daily)
The Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment, or M-TeX, and the Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence, or MIST, experiment were successfully conducted the morning of Jan. 26, 2015, from the Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska.

The first M-Tex rocket, a NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket, was launched at 4:13 a.m. EST and was followed one-minute later by the first MIST experiment payload on a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion. The second M-TeX payload was launched at 4:46 a.m. EST and also was followed one minute later by the second MIST payload. (1/27)

It Takes Vision to Build a New Industry (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
I agree with the governor's optimism: Here's why. The New Mexico Legislature has been in session for two weeks now. Reports are coming from Santa Fe about southern New Mexico. More debate is occurring about the future of our spaceport. Establishing a new industry like commercial space transportation requires demand for its products and services.

Commercial products of the commercial space transportation industry include new launch vehicles, satellites and their related technologies. A new industry also requires leaders who are committed and have the ability to articulate and advocate. There is a way to separate advocacy from hype: results.

Yet, local attention is growing into a gathering storm as more legislators begin to discuss again, what are we doing with this spaceport? While the spaceport has been a subject of controversy, the legislators are becoming more familiar with the project, but are they familiar with commercial space? Click here. (1/27)

Commercial Space Rides for U.S. Astronauts to Save Millions (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. space program should save more than $12 million a seat flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station on commercial space taxis rather than aboard Russian capsules, the NASA program manager said on Monday. In September, NASA awarded contracts worth up to a combined $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to fly crew to the station.

NASA expects to pay an average of $58 million a seat when its astronauts begin flying on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon capsules in 2017, Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, told reporters. “I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017, hopefully,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

For its manned test flight, Boeing plans to fly one as-yet-unnamed company astronaut and one NASA astronaut. SpaceX said it is still deciding on a test flight crew. Though schedules show SpaceX being ready ahead of Boeing to fly operational missions, NASA currently expects Boeing to begin flight services first in December 2017, Lueders said. (1/26)

ULA's Challenge is Good News for Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA seems committed to driving down costs for its launch services at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Redesigning the Atlas may be one way to achieve this, but the company's quest should include efforts -- alongside SpaceX, other users, and stakeholders like Space Florida -- to make the spaceport more competitive. So in addition to potentially winning new commercial launch contracts, ULA may become a more aggressive ally for tackling some of the impediments historically blamed for making the Cape unattractive to commercial users. (1/27)

Weird X-Rays Spur Speculation about Dark Matter Detection (Source: Scientific American)
Many major discoveries in astronomy began with an unexplained signal: pulsars, quasars and the cosmic microwave background are just three out of many examples. When astronomers recently discovered x-rays with no obvious origin, it sparked an exciting hypothesis. Maybe this is a sign of dark matter, the invisible substance making up about 85 percent of all the matter in the universe. If so, it hints that the identity of the particles is different than the prevailing models predict. (1/26)

The Limits of Cruz Control (Source: Space Review)
During a slow time in space policy in recent weeks, one topic that has attracted attention and controversy is the selection of Ted Cruz to chair a Senate subcommittee on space. Jeff Foust discusses what the senator can, and can't, do from his new chairmanship. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2684/1 to view the article. (1/26)

Mars One, the "Third Quarter Effect" (Source: Space Review)
Long-duration expeditions, on Earth and in space, can suffer from psychological issues, particularly just beyond the halfway point of the mission. John Putnam argues that those issues could be more serious for a mission that does not have an end at all. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2683/1 to view the article. (1/26)

Spacewalking Through America's Attic (Source: Space Review)
The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum doesn't just place space artifacts on display; it also restores them. Dwayne Day describes some of those artifacts under restoration the museum showed off during a recent open house. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2682/1 to view the article. (1/26)

Asteroid Mission Makes Sense (Source: BayNews 9)
Space experts said the asteroid redirect mission as it’s called would be a cheaper endeavor than other options being considered. "To me, the asteroid mission make sense because I don't think Congress is ever going to give us the money necessary to go to the moon or Mars any time in the distant future," said Dale Ketcham, from Space Florida. By landing on an asteroid, NASA also hopes we can learn how to avert a future collision. However, scientists are more worried about the space rocks we cannot detect. (1/26)

Orbital Sciences Expects First RD-181 Engines To Arrive by July (Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. expects to take delivery of the first pair of its newly purchased Russian rocket engines in June or July, with a second pair arriving before the end of the year, under a contract whose value Orbital said has been overstated in the Russian press.

Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital, mindful that using of Russian rocket hardware raises eyebrows in some quarters given U.S. and European sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine, also said it stands ready to swap out its Russian hardware with a U.S. supplier should a suitable product be made available for Orbital’s Antares medium-lift rocket. (1/26)

‘Orange is Not Going To Be the New Black for Shotwell’ (Source: Space News)
At a NASA press conference Jan. 26 to discuss the U.S. space agency’s commercial crew transportation efforts, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that SpaceX anticipated performing at least 50 launches of its Falcon 9 rocket before the first test flight of a Dragon spacecraft carrying crew, planned for early 2017.

During a question-and-answer session that followed, one reporter asked Shotwell if that estimated number of Falcon 9 launches included Air Force missions that the company might win as a result of a settlement the Air Force and SpaceX reached Jan. 23, about which neither side has revealed many details. Shotwell, in her response, indicated no desire to get into trouble with the government by offering more details about that settlement.

“Much of the agreement between the Air Force and SpaceX remains embargoed, and orange is not going to be the new black for Shotwell. So I can tell you that we did not anticipate a huge number of Air Force missions in my 50-flight assessment prior to flying crew, but we were obviously pleased with the outcome of the discussions.” (1/26)

Registration Opens for 43rd Space Congress on Space Coast (Source: CCTS)
The 43rd Space Congress is planned for April 28-30 in Cape Canaveral. The event is being organized by the Canaveral Council of Technical Societies and will feature panel, paper and poster sessions focused on the future of space and aerospace in our state. Click here for information and registration. (1/26)

NASA Observes Day of Remembrance (Source: NASA)
NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's annual Day of Remembrance Wednesday, Jan. 28. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Following the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, various NASA centers will hold remembrance events for their employees. Kennedy Space Center in Florida will hold a brief ceremony. (1/26)

January 26, 2015

Details on Boeing and SpaceX Crew System Schedules (Source: Space News)
Most of Boeing’s major CST-100 test milestones are scheduled for 2017. A pad abort test is planned for February 2017, followed by an uncrewed flight to the Space Station in April. Boeing will then fly the first crew on the CST-100 — one Boeing test pilot and one NASA astronaut — in July 2017. If all those tests are successful, the first operational mission to the ISS, carrying four NASA astronauts, is planned for December 2017.

SpaceX offered a slightly more accelerated schedule for completing the crewed Dragon spacecraft. A pad abort test is now scheduled “in the next month or so” at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, followed by an in-flight abort test later this year. SpaceX plans an uncrewed flight of the upgraded Dragon to the ISS in late 2016, with a crewed test flight in early 2017. SpaceX will have flown more than 50 Falcon 9 missions prior to that crewed test flight.

When SpaceX unveiled its crewed Dragon design in May 2014, one feature it highlighted was the vehicle’s ability to perform “propulsive” landings under rocket power. Gwynne Shotwell said that while such landings are an “ultimate goal” of the vehicle, initial crewed missions will return to Earth in much the same way as the current Dragon cargo spacecraft. “We won’t be certifying the propulsive landings initially,” she said. “We will be certifying the water landings with parachutes.” (1/26)

Roscosmos to Review Project Cost Due to Exchange Rate Shift in Rouble (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos plans to review the cost of its projects because of a shift in rouble exchange rate, the newly appointed head of the agency Igor Komarov said. “We’re now seriously considering what happened after a shift in dollar exchange rate, what happened to credit interest rates and inflation. I think that all this will make us review the cost of our projects by the end of the first quarter,” he said. Komarov added that the credit interest rates are being reconsidered now. “We’re discussing some ideas how to constrain interest rates for new projects. I am confident that we will make the decision,” he said. (1/26)

Sorry, Skeptics: NASA and NOAA Were Right About the 2014 Temperature Record (Source: Washington Post)
Last week, in an announcement that not only drew massive media attention but was seized upon by President Obama in his State of the Union address, NASA and NOAA jointly declared that 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded, based on temperature records that go back to the year 1880.

Why revisit all of this? Because since the announcement there has been a strong reaction, and a lot of climate “skeptics” have suggested that really, 2014 might not have been the hottest year after all. Consider, for instance, this article in the UK’s Daily Mail, whose first sentence reads, “The Nasa climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38 percent sure this was true.”

So what’s up with this 38 percent figure, and does it really undermine the idea that 2014 was the hottest year on record? NASA scientists noted that there was a 38 percent chance that 2014 was the hottest year, but only a 23 percent chance that the honor goes to the next contender, 2010, and a 17 percent chance that it goes to 2005. NOAA’s scientists were even more confident in the 2014 record, ranking it as having a 48 percent probability, compared with only an 18 percent chance for 2010 and a 13 percent chance for 2005. (1/23)

Planetary Society Announces Test Flight for LightSail (Source: Space Daily)
The Planetary Society today announced the first of its LightSail spacecraft will embark on a May 2015 test flight. Funded entirely by private citizens, the solar sail satellite will hitch a ride to space aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida.

The mission will test LightSail's critical functions, a precursor to a second mission slated for 2016. That second flight will mark the first controlled, Earth-orbit solar sail flight and ride along with the first operational launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. (1/26)

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Eyes Role for Small Satellites (Source: Aviation Week)
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is in the early stages of crafting a strategy to leverage the influx of imagery available from what agency director Robert Cardillo calls an “explosion” of new information services providers. The strategy will include money, but how much is not yet known. Policymakers are pondering how to take advantage of this new market, which intends to field many small Earth-observation satellites.

Though not offering the high-resolution products provided by the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) secret satellites or DigitalGlobe’s commercial fleet, the types of spacecraft being developed by providers such as Skybox, UrtheCast and Planet Labs are intended to “darken” the skies with sensors. Their advantage is the ability to revisit a target multiple times a day, offering more intelligence on the patterns of life and activities taking place there. (1/26)

California Launch of Delta 2 Rocket with NASA Probe Thursday (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Liftoff is scheduled for 6:20:42 a.m. local time in California (9:20:42 a.m. EST) at the opening of a three-minute window on Thursday for NASA's Soil Moisture Mapping satellite. A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will serve as the launch vehicle to deliver SMAP into space. The Delta 2, making its 153rd launching, will fly in a configuration with two stages, three strap-on solid-fuel boosters and a 10-foot composite payload shroud. (1/26)

Manned Mission to the Moon's Far Side? (Source: CRI)
Let's forget about Mars for a while. The European Space Agency says our future can be built on the Moon, particularly the far side of the Moon. Due to tidal locking, the Moon has one side that permanently faces Earth. In 2009, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera took high-definition photos which gave scientists a detailed glimpse of the Moon's other side. The same year, NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite discovered frozen water in a shadowed crater near the lunar southern pole.

The European Space Agency believes that if we explore, more water can be found on the lunar surface. On the far side of the Moon is the South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest impact craters in our solar system. While parts of the crater are in perpetual darkness, its rim features huge mountainous peaks that are constantly bathed in sunlight. In its planned missions, ESA wants to send robots to these peaks and eventually humans. (1/26)

The Official and Unofficial Stories of Google in Space (Source: Guardian)
Much like Google Earth’s satellite imagery collection, this is a project where the business model is not clear - yet. It is an extreme case of first-mover advantage: the exact advantage that has made Google ubiquitous today. By building a pervasive digital infrastructure, a job previously reserved for national governments, Google became an everyday verb.

Google actively encourages ‘moonshot thinking’ through their Solve for X platform. There is a sense that if you don’t dream big, you won’t get even half way there. The same ethos is behind the tech giant’s speculative R&D lab Google X. They have talked about investigating space elevators almost since the company began.

In 2012, Google founders invested in Planetary Resources, a company that develops technology for asteroid mining. So far, it’s not clear that anything more that this ambition distinguishes the company from other space engineering firms specialising in communication and avionics devices. Click here. (1/26)

Spacecraft's Double-Take Reveals Changes on Mars (Source: Discovery)
Here today, gone tomorrow; a bright layer of frost lining a crater wall is vanquished by the springtime sun — and seen by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter high overhead. Click here. (1/26)

USAF To Boost Launch Competitions as SpaceX Shelves Lawsuit (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX has agreed to drop its lawsuit against the Air Force. In return, the service is vowing to increase the number of launches it plans to compete. SpaceX is working to break a long-held monopoly on national security space missions held by ULA, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed in 2006. ULA builds the Air Force’s Atlas V and Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV).

The Air Force and SpaceX, however, are mum on how many launches SpaceX will have the opportunity to win in the near term. Last year, the Air Force said it expected to open 14 launches up for competition; that later was halved due to changes in the manifest. This trend only bolstered SpaceX’s claims that it was unfairly excluded from work. (1/26)

ULA's Tory Bruno Talks Next Generation Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA ) is preparing to move away from established, and aging, launch vehicles such as the Delta II (which is set to conduct its last launch this year), Atlas V and Delta IV. Instead, the joint venture, between aerospace titans Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, has stated that it will produce the Next Generation Launch System or “NGLS” booster. Click here. (1/26)

EU Space Policy Needs Innovation to Stay in 'Race' Against US (Source: The Parliament)
There is so much more to a well-developed space policy than just landing on the moon or a desire to one day land on Mars. Telecommunications, traffic surveillance, navigation, earth observation, danger prevention and even weather forecasts - the space industry is one of the main driving forces of innovation, the benefits of which can be felt by all. However, there is very little room at the top and the competition never sleeps.

Last year, the organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD) examined data from over 40 countries with space programs. The US remains the leader and is able to afford the largest space program. Worldwide in 2013, there were at least 900,000 people employed in the space industry - not including universities and research facilities.

It goes without saying that the EU needs to collaborate with the European space agency (ESA) and find new ways of holding its ground against the growing competition. Europe can look back on 50 successful years in European space travel - and we need to build on this. We need to make Europe more competitive. Politicians can establish the right framework conditions, but the impulse needs to come from the economy itself. Click here. (1/26)

Team Indus Wins Google Lunar XPrize of $1 Million (Source: Economic Times)
Bengaluru headquartered space startup Team Indus has won a $1 million prize for completing an intermediate milestone as it competed with teams from across the world to become the first private enterprise which will land a robot on the moon.

Team Indus is one of the five teams in the $30-million Google Lunar XPrize, that crossed a major milestone of developing a robot that can land on the moon and travel 500 meters on its surface and send data back to earth. "This is good news for India for sure, but it is a better news for the mankind because it shows that governments no longer have a monopoly on space exploration," said entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa in a statement.

Team Indus is up against large private funded companies like the Moon Express, Astrobotic —a spinoff from the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute and Israel-based Space-IL backed by several top Israeli institutions. (1/26)

Israel Space Week Lifts Off as Google Space Race Intensifies (Source: Times of Israel)
Israelis are looking to the stars once again, as Space Week begins Sunday, with exhibits, lectures, contests, demonstrations and more showing off Israel’s prowess in space tech. The event is perhaps more relevant this year than ever, according to Dr. Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency (ISA), because this year the core tech that will bring Israel to the moon needs to be finished.

“Israel sees space technology as an incentive to advancement and a key to a highly developed information economy which will attract high-quality professionals and skilled workers,” he said. “SpaceIL’s initiative is the first of what we expect will be many Israeli innovations in space exploration.”

That exploration, along with all things space, will be celebrated this week in dozens of special events marking Space Week in Israel. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the tragic death of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on February 1, 2003, when the NASA space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry. Space Week is being held for the third time this year. (1/26)

Moon Express Puts Space Launch Complex-36 Back in Business (Source: America Space)
A private commercial space company headquartered in California recently announced it has signed an agreement to use the historic Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The agreement leads to an immediate creation of about 25-50 new jobs, with the potential for hundreds of direct/indirect new jobs over the next five years. A number of robotic spacecraft will be launched to the Moon for exploration and commercial development under the company known as Moon Express, or MoonEx.

Moon Express has been undergoing flight tests of their MTV-1X lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center. The agreement, signed Jan. 22, allows Moon Express to begin using SLC-36 for spacecraft development and flight operations this year. The agreement also permits Moon Express and the state of Florida to invest in the refurbishment of the launch site. Moon Express reported in a press release that the company plans to make an initial capital investment of up to $500,000 into the iconic launch pad.

“This historic site, from which U.S. lunar exploration began, is beginning a new mission as a commercial facility that will help take us back to the Moon,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “We are proud to partner with Moon Express on the development of SLC-36 and a new generation of exploration technologies in Florida.” (1/26)

Houston Has a Solution (Source: SpaceKSC)
In July 2011, as the Space Shuttle flew for the final time, I wrote a column titled “Houston Has a Problem.” It was primarily about the whining out of Space City because it didn't receive a Space Shuttle orbiter for display. Former Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale wrote in his April 14, 2011 blog article: "Houston is blasĂ© about the shuttles. Houston and Texas have come to regard NASA and JSC as entitlements. We deserve JSC and the shuttle just because of who we are."

More than three years later, it appears that some in Houston have figured out that they have to compete in the real world just like the rest of us. KPRC-TV Channel 2 in Houston reported on January 22 about the comment period about to end for a proposal to certify Houston's Ellington Field as a commercial spaceport.

The video falsely claims that “All of manned flight, every one of them, has been managed, has been controlled, has been guided from Houston.” Mario Diaz, the Director of the Houston Airport System who made the false statement, apparently never heard of the Russian and Chinese human space flight programs. Here in the United States, all six Project Mercury missions were “managed” and “controlled” from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as well as the first crewed Gemini flight. (1/25)

More Astronauts for China (Source: Space Daily)
The next Chinese crewed space mission won't fly until 2016. China is expected to send a crew of three astronauts to the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, which is expected to launch in the same year. Right now, nobody knows who will be aboard the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry these astronauts to the laboratory. The Chinese themselves probably won't even have a rough idea for at least another year.

But other questions about China's astronaut corps need to be explored. A changing of the guard must happen at some point in the next few years. New astronauts must be selected. Old ones must also be retired, even if they remain officially listed as active. So far, China has done an impressive job of preserving its small corps of astronauts. There has been no attrition, at least not officially. We can probably say with confidence that some of China's astronauts will never fly in space again, and are secretly forbidden from doing so. (1/26)

January 25, 2015

SpaceX Assigns Science Fiction Names to Landing Barges (Source: TOR)
While he’s working on getting humans into space, SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk hasn’t forgotten the greats who propelled us out of the stratosphere through fiction long before him. Today, Musk tweeted that he’s named two of his spaceport drone ships in the most fitting way: after ships from science fiction writer Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels.

SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships are custom-built ocean platforms designed to accommodate the landing of booster rockets after they have sent spacecraft into orbit. "Just Read the Instructions" and "Of Course I Still Love You" are two of the sentient, planet-sized Culture starships which first appear in Banks’ The Player of Games. Just as the Minds inhabiting each Culture ship choose their names with care, you have to imagine that Musk did the same here. (1/24)

Europe, China Issue Call for Joint Science Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Europe and China are planning a joint robotic space mission for launch in 2021, and officials are asking scientists to propose projects aimed at research in astronomy, exploring the solar system, or investigations in fundamental physics. ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences released a joint call for mission proposals Monday after crafting an outline for a cooperative space project during two workshops held in China and Denmark last year. (1/24)

Data Collective Tapped Its New Growth Fund for Planet Labs Deal (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Data Collective, a venture firm known for its investments in very young startups, tapped its new growth fund for the first time earlier this month to lead a $70 million round for satellite company Planet Labs Inc. Planet Labs’ post-money valuation well exceeded the $500 million price that Google agreed to pay for another satellite imaging startup, Skybox Imaging Inc., for an investment in mid-2014. “It is materially above what Google paid,” Matt Ocko said, declining to be more specific. (1/23)

Virgin Galactic Appoints Mark Stucky As Pilot (Source: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic is pleased to announce the appointment of Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky as pilot. Stucky will join Virgin Galactic’s commercial flight team responsible for flying WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo: Chief Pilot Dave Mackay and pilots Frederick ‘CJ’ Sturckow, Michael ‘Sooch’ Masucci, and Todd ‘Leif’ Ericson, who is also Virgin Galactic’s Safety and Testing Vice President. His first day with Virgin Galactic is February 2.

Stucky brings valued hands-on experience with Virgin Galactic’s fleet of vehicles having served in a number of roles in Scaled Composites’ WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo development program, ranging from engineering test pilot for both vehicles to technical adviser, design engineer, instructor pilot, project pilot and mentor. (1/23)

NASA Alters Orion Heat Shield for 2018 Flight (Source: America Space)
NASA and Lockheed Martin have decided to change a critical component of the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield for its next test flight in 2018 to include an advanced 3-D woven thermal protect system fabric that will help insure maximum safety for our astronauts returning from deep space expeditions as the vehicle experiences blistering reentry heating. It’s a must-have for Destination Mars. (1/24)

The Astronaut Beach House (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It is perhaps one of the least-covered (in terms of the press) components of astronaut “life” at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the adjacent Kennedy Space Center – the Astronaut Beach House. However, just going to the historic site – really wouldn’t allow one to get a feel for the true background of the place. For that, one would need to speak with people who have actually done that. Click here. (1/25)

To Be or Not to Be? Our Exodus to the Stars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Today, Earth is a very accommodating and hospitable place for us to live. Temperatures are just about right. There is more than enough oxygen for us to breathe. Pure drinking water falls from the skies. Food grows on trees. For what more could we ask?

These near-ideal conditions are dependent upon our nearest star, the Sun. Our understanding of solar physics and astronomical observations of other stars tells us that since its formation the Sun has grown 30 percent brighter. Over the course of time this increase in brightness will continue. 10 percent brighter than today and the increased radiant energy will have vaporized the oceans. Click here. (1/25)

NASA Awards Power System Upgrade Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to A. West Enterprise of Albany, Georgia, to implement various safety and reliability upgrades to the institutional power system at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The firm-fixed price contract begins Jan. 23. It has a maximum value of $8.8 million with a potential performance period of approximately two and a half years. (1/23)

Mixed Messages to Alien Intelligence (Source: Aeon)
Our latest message to ET could be full of LOLcats and celebs. We should try to do better, or keep quiet altogether. Once NASA's New Horizons mission is complete, NASA will wipe its memory and wave goodbye as the shuttered spacecraft continues on into deep space, forever.

But the craft will then take on another kind of cargo: memories of home. Engineers plan to upload the ‘One Earth’ message, the first crowd-sourced portrait of biological Earth, to the New Horizons’ hard drive some time in 2016, after all the data from the Pluto flyby have been downloaded. In the meantime, anyone with an internet connection can submit prospective images, audio, video, text and 3D renderings for the message, and a crowd will vote on what makes the final cut.

Right now, the One Earth message website asks visitors for just one term describing ‘the aspect of life on Earth [they] think should be included in a message to the Universe’. I recently logged on to make my own entry, and found it a difficult task. Click here. (1/24)

No, Astriobiology Hasn't Made the Case for God (Source: New Yorker)
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

So doesn’t that mean we must have come from a miracle at the hand of God? “Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?” Metaxas writes. (1/24)

There’s a Crack Forming on Rosetta’s 67P. Is it Breaking Up? (Source: Universe Today)
Rosetta’s comet 67P, the Rubber Duckie comet, has a crack in the neck that raises concerns. Some comets may just fizzle and uniformly expel their volatiles throughout their surfaces. They may become like puffballs, shrink some but remain intact. Comet 67P is the other extreme. The expulsion of volatile material has led to a shape and a point of no return; it is destined to break in two. The images show an approximate 100 meter (328 foot) fissure in the neck of the two lobe comet. Click here. (1/24)

NASA KSC Director Robert Cabana to Receive the 2015 National Space Trophy (Source: NASA)
The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation has selected Colonel Robert D. Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, former NASA astronaut on four space shuttle missions, and retired United States Marine Corps Colonel, to receive the 2015 National Space Trophy on April 24, 2015, at the Houston Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas. (1/20)

January 24, 2015

Editorial: Spaceport America Needs Continued Boost from Lawmakers (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
This legislative session figures to be a critical one for the future of Spaceport America. State lawmakers, many of whom have been skeptical about the spaceport from the start, had expected Virgin Galactic to begin launches in the past year, with all of the revenue those launches are expected to generate. Convincing lawmakers from other areas of the state to continue investing in the spaceport in this environment may be difficult, but those investments are now more vital than ever. (1/24)

Asteroid Found with Rings! First-of-Its-Kind Discovery Stuns Astronomers (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have made a stunning discovery in the outer realm of the solar system — an asteroid with its own set of rings that orbits the sun between Saturn and Uranus. The space rock is the first non-planetary object ever found to have its own ring system, researchers say.

The pair of space rock rings encircle the asteroid Chariklo. They were most likely formed after a collision scattered debris around the asteroid, according to a new study unveiled today (March 27). The asteroid rings also suggests the presence of a still-undiscovered moon around Chariklo that's keeping them stable, researchers said. (1/24)

Russian Bank Chair: 'Entire Economy Will Be Under Control Of The State' (Source: Business Insider)
The chairman of one of Russia's biggest state-owned banks said that if the authorities don't take control of the situation, the economy will continue to nationalize. "We will have one big state; our entire economy will be under the control of the state," Sberbank's chairman and president German Gref said.

He said lenders' property would go to the banks, the state would capitalize the banks, and then the banks would purchase enterprises, turning into "finance industry" groups. Additionally, Gref said it was "obvious that the banking crisis will be enormous," citing the current average oil prices. (1/14)

Virgin Galactic to Test New Rocket Scaled Composites (Source: LA Times)
After last year's fatal crash, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will now test its new SpaceShipTwo rocket without its longtime aerospace partner that designed and built the first plane. Since 2005, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, a firm famous in the industry for designing the aircraft that won the coveted X-Prize, had worked together to build and test SpaceShipTwo. Their goal: blasting wealthy tourists into space.

The tests of the new spaceship, which is under construction in a hangar in Mojave, will be conducted by Virgin's own team of pilots, George Whitesides, the company's chief executive, confirmed Friday. Those tests are expected to begin later this year. Scaled will still be connected to the project in some way, Whitesides said. "My guess is that we stay involved with Scaled for years to come." (1/23)

US Emergency Services to Depend On Russian Satellites? (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system may be used in the US to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones. Trey Forgety, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association, explained that GLONASS would be required because US systems fail to cover enough territory.

"Our view is that we ought to be leveraging anything that is available to find someone in an emergency," he said. GLONASS is thought to be more accurate than its American counterpart GPS, which uses technology on cellphones that reportedly works well outdoors but badly indoors, according to the Washington Times. The GLONASS system, which was launched into orbit in 1982, currently comprises a network of 28 satellites. (1/23)

Scientists Slow Down Light Particles (Source: Space Daily)
The speed of light is a limit, not a constant -- that's what researchers in Glasgow, Scotland, say. A group of them just proved that light can be slowed down, permanently. Scientists already knew light could be slowed temporarily. Photons change speeds as they pass through glass or water, but when they exit the other side and return to a vacuum (like outer space) they speed back up.

In a new experiment at the University of Glasgow, however, scientists were able to permanently manipulate light's speed by passing photons through a device that alters their structure. The device, created in collaboration with researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, is a filter of sorts that the scientists refer to as a mask. (1/23)

Economic Crisis in Russia Lowers Prices for Space Tourism (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines)
The economic crisis and the falling ruble have forced Russian space startups to reconsider their plans. Pavel Pushkin, who runs private space tourism company KosmoKurs, told RBTH that his company might reduce prices for tickets to outer space, which currently run from $200,000-$250,000.

KosmoKurs set that price in fall 2014 after researching the international market and analyzing global market supply. Tickets are already being bought, despite the fact that testing is not even scheduled to start until 2018 and the first tourist will not have liftoff until at least 2020. According to Pushkin, China offers the best market prospects for the space travel industry. (1/24)
   
Students to Send Life to Mars on Mars One Lander in 2018 (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
The first step to establish a permanent colony on Mars could be taken in 2018 when a group of European students will send its project to the Red Planet. The team composed of students from Portugal, Spain and Netherlands has won the Mars One University Competition which offers a one way ticket to Mars for a scientific payload. The winning project which aims to germinate the first seed on the Red Planet, will fly to the surface of Mars on board the Mars One unmanned lander scheduled to be launched in 2018. (1/24)

Florida Gets New Economic Development Chief (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Gov. Rick Scott is losing another top adviser — his prized chief jobs recruiter. Surprised business leaders learned Wednesday of the resignation of Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope, who will leave next month for an unannounced job in the private sector. Gov. Scott tapped Miami-Dade's longtime port chief to run Florida's economic-development arm on Thursday. Bill Johnson will be the CEO of Enterprise Florida, a post that also comes with the title of commerce secretary. (1/23)

Texas Officials Tour ULA Manufacturing Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
State legislators on Thursday stood in awe inside the United Launch Alliance manufacturing facility in Harlingen: before them was a payload fairing that will ultimately launch a communication satellite to space. Minutes later, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III noted, “Exposure and seeing and feeling and smelling an area really gives you the best possible perspective about why it is important for the state of Texas for that area to prosper.”

State Rep. Rene O. Oliveira’s legislative director Tony Gray noted that ULA is a large employer, and that the state is making every effort to try to develop commercial launch activities all across the state. “It is happening all over the state, and it is very prudent to promote it as we move into the 21st century,” Gray said. Approximately 40 legislators were on hand, hosted by the partnership, city, and Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce. (1/22)

ULA To Unveil Revamped Atlas 5 Details at Space Symposium (Source: Space News)
U.S. government launch services provider United Launch Alliance has completed the conceptual trade studies for its revamped Atlas 5 rocket and plans to unveil details in April, Tory Bruno, the company’s president and chief executive said Jan. 22. ULA is working with Blue Origin, the secretive rocket-making venture led by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos,  to develop a new engine, dubbed the BE-4.

That engine would replace the Russian-made RD-180 that powers the first stage of ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket. "We’re going to have to change the booster, the first stage, to accommodate that. Because of the density difference we’re going to need a larger tank," said Bruno. We’re going to have a larger diameter tank that may or may not be longer."

"There will be software modifications to accommodate the different performance and timing because this engine is going to produce a lot more thrust than we currently have with our RD-180. But beyond that it’s all the same. My vision is to update the technology. The trades for what that vehicle family looks like are still underway and they’ll be completed about the end of the year." (1/23)

SpaceX, U.S. Air Force Reach Settlement on Rocket Program (Source: Venture Beat)
SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force have reached a settlement on a dispute involving the military’s expendable rocket program. In a post this afternoon, SpaceX wrote that it had come to an agreement with the Air Force over a lawsuit the private space company filed last year, alleging an unfair bidding system for launch services under EELV program.

The settlement, SpaceX said, “improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches.” Last April, SpaceX protested the ULA contract, alleging it had not been permitted to compete for the government contract, which it said, “was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers.”

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, “the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner. … The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations.” (1/23)

NASA Not Ready To Update Mars Mission Architecture (Source: Space News)
Despite a desire by industry and policymakers for more details about NASA’s long-term plans to send humans to Mars, agency officials say they have no immediate plans to revise a Mars mission architecture last updated in 2009.

In presentations to a NASA Advisory Council committee Jan. 13 and the full council Jan. 14, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations William Gerstenmaier said the agency still had more to learn, including studies ongoing with academia, before it would be ready to update those earlier plans. NASA last published a human Mars exploration plan, called a design reference architecture, in July 2009. (1/23)

NASA Advisory Council Remains Skeptical of Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
As NASA continues to weigh two options for the robotic portion of its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), the agency’s advisers say they are still unconvinced about the general ARM concept and its relevance to the long-term goal of sending humans to Mars.

At a recent meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, agency officials said they had not yet made a selection between two approaches for moving a small asteroid, or a boulder off a larger asteroid, into lunar orbit. NASA had planned to make a decision in December on the two choices, known simply as Option A and Option B.

In Option A, a spacecraft would shift the orbit of a small asteroid, up to ten meters across, into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. In Option B, a spacecraft would grab a boulder a few meters across from the surface of a larger asteroid and move that into lunar orbit. In both options, a crewed Orion spacecraft would then visit the asteroid. (1/23)

Did Water Once Flow on Vesta Asteroid? (Source: SEN)
Vesta, one of the largest members of the asteroid belt, has no atmosphere, but probably saw brief spurts of water flow across its surface to produce curved gullies visible in the eyes of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The conclusion came after researchers examined the mysterious flows in eight craters, some of which also included deposits that appeared similar in shape to those associated with water-borne deposits of silt on Earth.

Rosetta Mission Reveals Secret Life of Ancient Comet (Source: Sputnik)
The early findings of the Rosetta mission, which was sent to observe the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, are showing space scientists that comets are much more than the "dirty snowballs" they have been labelled; they are more diverse than previously thought and home to a variety of features which offer information on the origins of our planetary system.

The findings so far indicate that the comet, which measures four kilometers in length and takes 6.5 years to orbit the sun, has a complexity which "suggests that the comet-forming regions of the early solar system were more turbulent and chemically diverse than theorists have thought," the journal reported on Friday. (1/23)

NASA Testing Helicopter Drone for Mars (Source: The Verge)
Rover teams still have a tough time with the Martian surface even though they're flush with terrestrial data. The alien surface is uneven, and ridges and valleys make navigating the terrain difficult. The newest solution proposed by JPL is the Mars Helicopter, an autonomous drone that could "triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day," according to NASA. The helicopter would fly ahead of a rover when its view is blocked and send Earth-bound engineers the right data to plan the rover's route. (1/23)

NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres: What Is It? (Source: Space.com)
A strange, flickering white blotch found on the dwarf planet Ceres by a NASA spacecraft has scientists scratching their heads. The white spot on Ceres in a series of new photos taken on Jan. 13 by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which is rapidly approaching the round dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

But when the initial photo release on Monday (Jan. 19), the Dawn scientists gave no indication of what the white dot might be. "Yes, we can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery," said Marc Rayman, mission director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission. (1/23)

Apollo 13 Astronaut Visits DeFuniak Springs (Source: My Panhandle)
Because of the Hollywood blockbuster, most Americans -- young and old -- are familiar with the ill-fated Apollo 13 space expedition. Friday morning, one of the astronauts from the mission visited our area to recall his experiences. Humble, smiling, and friendly, former astronaut Fred Haise arrived at Walton High School as the keynote speaker for the Florida Chautauqua Assembly.

He was one of three astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 space expedition in 1970 forced to come home early after an oxygen tank exploded two days into the mission. Despite limited power, heat, and oxygen, the crew safely splashed down on earth with the nation watching. Haise downplays the drama of the event, crediting his crew on board and in Houston for getting him home safely. (1/23)

Satellite Internet Schemes, In Order of Apparent Implausibility (Source: Quartz)
Billionaires are fighting to launch wildly expensive business plans in a sector marked by failure on the frontier of technology. We speak of the satellite internet business, a graveyard for ambitious ventures. Official spokespeople for the new ventures are keeping quite mum on the details. That’s in part because of issues surrounding the radio spectrum companies license to transmit messages to and from orbit.

The last time we checked in, itinerant satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler had left Google to form a new satellite company. In the last week, news broke that Wyler’s start-up OneWeb has secured an investment from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Paul Jacobs’ Qualcomm to launch an internet satellite constellation, while SpaceX announced its own satellite internet plan—and a $1 billion investment round led by Google and Fidelity that valued the company $10 billion.

“Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture," said Elon Musk. "We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.” We’re talking about competition between a $5 to $10 billion, multi-thousand satellite constellation from SpaceX and a $2 billion, 648 satellite effort from OneWeb. That would more than double the existing number of artificial satellites orbiting earth. Click here. (1/23)

SpaceBillboard, First Billboard in Space Ready for Launch (From Brazil) (Source: SpaceBillboard)
SpaceBillboard, a supporter of innovative space research, is set to launch the world’s first billboard in space in a milestone that marks the increasing importance of CubeSats in Space Exploration. Researchers at KU Leuven University in Belgium came up with the novel idea of launching a real billboard into space to help fund their research on a new line up of NexGen satellites called CubeSats.

Tjorven Delabie, co-founder of SpaceBillboard said: “We are talking about an out-of-this-world project, that allows companies to bring their brand into space.” “The idea is catching on, and SpaceBillboard has already secured a number of contracts for companies to have their message on their own billboard in space.”
The launch of the billboard is scheduled for the beginning of 2016, to be launched from Alcântara in Brazil. (1/23)

Meet the Asteroid Mining Executive of Davos: No Joke (Source: Fortune)
In Davos, you meet a lot of people who do interesting and unusual things. After all, those who are part of the global elite dream big. On a shuttle, I sat across from someone who was fighting corruption in Angola and elsewhere. Next to me was the photographer Platon (he goes by one name), who chased Edward Snowden for a year. But Chris Lewicki has by far the most out there (literally) job of anyone I have ever met at the World Economic Forum. He is an asteroid miner, or at least he wants to be one. Click here. (1/23)

ESA Readies Vega for IXV Spaceplane Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The first launch this year of Europe's Vega rocket is planned for next month, on Feb. 11, when it will loft the European Space Agency's (ESA) unmanned spaceplane on a suborbital flight to test reentry technologies for future space vehicles. The  ESA's Intermediate eXerimental Vehicle (IXV) mission is scheduled to launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission will gather data that will aid in the development of reentry technologies for future vehicles. (1/23)

Linking NASA and the Private Sector to Further Space Exploration (Source: Washington Post)
Following the termination of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA needed a new, safe and reliable method of transporting experiments, supplies and crew to and from the International Space Station. To answer that challenge, Alan Lindenmoyer created a new way for NASA to partner with the private sector to build rockets and spacecraft at a dramatically reduced cost to taxpayers.

In the process, he has reenergized the U.S. launch industry and is making it possible for our country to continue to lead the world in space research and exploration. Tapping into his broad NASA experience in both technical engineering and contract management for the International Space Station, Lindenmoyer designed and managed a novel program that allows NASA to contract for orbital transportation services rather than purchase the space vehicles. Click here. (1/22)

Proposal Would Transform Ellington Field Into Futuristic Spaceport (Source: Click2 Houston)
A new page in exploration for the Space City is on the horizon that would see nearly 100 year old Ellington Field transformed into a futuristic spaceport. It's a site that could one day support space tourism and eventually suborbital commercial flights that would cut international travel time by more than half. Click here. (1/22)

January 23, 2014

Congressman’s Office Claims That Relying on GLONASS Jeopardizes US Lives (Source: Sputnik)
Depending on a Russian satellite system to route US emergency phone calls, as outlined in a proposal being considered by the US government’s main communications agency, would endanger the lives of American citizens, US Congressman Mike Rogers’ spokesperson Shea Miller told Sputnik.

“Using Russian technology could make any emergency situation even worse because Russia doesn’t play by the rules and we put American lives in jeopardy by relying on them,” the spokesperson said on Thursday, after being asked to comment on the plan to use Russia’s GLONASS satellite system to support US emergency calls. (1/23)

NASA, Microsoft Collaboration Will Allow Scientists to 'Work on Mars' (Source: Phys.org)
NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to develop software called OnSight, a new technology that will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens. Developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, OnSight will give scientists a means to plan and, along with the Mars Curiosity rover, conduct science operations on the Red Planet.

"OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices," said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover."

OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission's existing planning tools by creating a 3-D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet. Program scientists will be able to examine the rover's worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand. (1/22)

GAO Forecasts NOAA Weather Satellite Delays (Source: Space News)
NOAA continues to face technical issues, delays, cost growth and the potential for gaps in coverage on its two primary weather satellite systems, according to a pair of Government Accountability Office reports. NOAA has made progress on both its polar and geostationary-orbiting satellite programs, but also is juggling multiple risks, the GAO said. (1/22)

Orbital Sciences Signs Contract for New Antares Engines (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Orbital Sciences Corp. and Energia have signed a contract worth approximately $1 billion for up to 60 Russian-made RD-181 rocket engines to power the redesigned first stage of the commercial Antares launcher. The deal includes a firm agreement for 20 engines — enough to cover 10 Antares launches — with the first two units due for delivery to Orbital Sciences in June, according to a statement released by Moscow-based RSC Energia. (1/22)

Turf War Seen at Heart of Russian Space Industry Shake-Up (Source: Moscow Times)
An ambitious drive by a friend of President Vladimir Putin’s to take control of Russia’s defense industry may be behind a shock announcement this week that Russia would merge its federal space agency with a major industry group, analysts said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took industry observers by surprise on Wednesday night with the announcement that the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), a state corporation that manufactures space equipment, would be merged with Roscosmos, the federal agency that dictates and enacts space policies.

But while the new agency will also be called Roscosmos, it will be headed not by aerospace veteran and Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko, but by URSC chief Igor Komarov, whose last job was in the commercial sector as the head of Russia’s largest carmaker, AvtoVAZ. (1/23)

Comet Close-Up Reveals a World of Surprises (Source: Science)
A boring lump of ice and dust it's not. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—already the best explored comet ever—turns out to be pocked with pits, incised by cracks and cliffs, and decorated with ripples and flows of dust: all signs of an extraordinarily active place.

Five months after the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta spacecraft arrived at 67P—and 2 months after the spacecraft dropped the Philae lander to the surface—the mission team this week publishes a suite of papers in Science that detail a surprising diversity of features on the 4-kilometer-long duck-shaped comet. Click here. (1/23)

Mountain-size Asteroid Glides Past Earth (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Asteroids that buzz close by Earth make the news either by being especially close or especially large. The one that's going to miss us on the night of January 26-27 is especially large as near-Earth objects go, and it will become bright enough to follow with a 3- or 4-inch telescope as it moves among the stars. While most known Earth-grazers are just meters across, this one is roughly a half kilometer wide. (1/22)

2014: A Difficult Year for Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year. Click here. (1/22) 

FAA Aims To Make Tag-along Payloads a Lighter Burden for Launch Providers (Source: Space News)
The FAA office that licenses U.S. commercial space launches is set to eliminate a paperwork obstacle SpaceX had to negotiate in order to tote a couple dozen tag-along student experiments on a 2012 cargo run to the International Space Station.

Among the cargo to be loaded into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule for that supply run were NanoRacks standardized pallets – essentially powered boxes that slot into empty racks on station — hosting student-designed experiments NASA put on the flight as part of its Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Click here. (1/22) 

NASA Space Technology Chief Leaving for Ball Aerospace (Source: Space News)
NASA space technology chief Michael Gazarik is moving to Boulder, Colorado, to lead technology development efforts at spacecraft builder Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Gazarik, an electrical engineer who has spent the past 11 years at NASA including the past two years as associate administrator for space technology, is slated to begin as director of Ball’s Office of Technology effective March 2. (1/22)

Planetarium Seeks Crowdfunding for Moon Exhibition (Source: Nasdaq)
The Adler Planetarium launched its first crowdfunding campaign to support the reimagination of its Mission Moon (formerly Shoot for the Moon) exhibition. With support from the public, the Adler will create an exciting, interactive and unique educational experience for visitors that better tells the story of America's first steps into space. Through Indiegogo.com, the Adler hopes to raise $95,000 to support a dramatic redesign of Mission Moon, which will open on April 11, 2015, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. (1/22)

GAO Denies Protest of NASA Commercial Space Contracts (Source: Federal Times)
The Government Accountability Office denied a protest of NASA's commercial near-Earth orbit flight contract awards, stating that the space agency took into account the appropriate considerations when choosing Boeing and SpaceX as its commercial partners. Aeronautics technology company Sierra Nevada Corp. filed a protest days after the contracts were awarded in September, however a court later ruled that NASA could move ahead with its plans due to safety concerns. (1/22)

Private Moon Firm to Sign Deal for Test Flights at Cape (Source: Florida Today)
The developer of a commercial moon lander will lease a Cape Canaveral launch complex from which some of the nation's first robotic lunar orbiters and landers took flight, bringing up to 50 jobs to the Space Coast this year. Silicon Valley-based Moon Express tomorrow will announce plans to sign a five-year lease with Space Florida to base its propulsion and test flight operations at Launch Complex 36, the site of former Atlas pads that launched NASA spacecraft to the moon and Mars.

Editor's Note: LC-36 was modified by Space Florida for test flights intended by Masten Aerospace. The Masten flights never happened. LC-36 can accommodate multiple programs of the scale of Moon Express and Masten, so maybe co-location remains an option. Meanwhile, the big prize for LC-36 is a medium-class vertical launch vehicle, for which the pad was originally built. (1/22)

Google Lunar XPrize: Blasting off with Moon Express at KSC (Source: C/Net)
The criteria for winning the grand $20 million Google Lunar XPrize seems fairly straightforward: land on the moon, cross a distance of 500 meters and send back high-definition footage to Earth along the way. The natural solution to the problem, indeed the one that most of the GLXP competitors have envisioned, is to gently deposit a rover on the lunar surface and then let it pick its way across the required distance, dodging rocks and other moon junk along the way.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Moon Express team, however, is taking a rather different approach. If all goes according to plan, the team's lander will make a soft, controlled landing on the moon, look around in high-definition, then lift off again. The lander will touch down a second time at a location at least 500 meters away from the first, completing the challenge and, if it does it before any of the other teams, taking home the $20 million Grand Prize. (1/22)

Could Our Galaxy Host a Wormhole? (Source: NBC)
Could our Milky Way galaxy contain a giant wormhole like the faster-than-light rapid transit system shown in the movie "Interstellar"? Theoretically, maybe so — but don't pack your bags or your rocket ship anytime soon. The question is given serious consideration in a study published by the Annals of Physics. Researchers from Italy, India and the U.S. determined that when you include dark matter, the mysterious stuff that accounts for about 80 percent of the universe's mass, the density could be great enough to allow for the creation of a wormhole at the center of the galaxy's dark matter halo. (1/22)

FAA Official Refuses To Give Date For UAV Rule (Source: Roll Call)
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith tried hard at a hearing Wednesday to get the Federal Aviation Administration to say when it will issue its rule on commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicle. But James Williams, the FAA official in charge of integrating UAVs into the nation’s airspace, repeatedly refused to commit to a date. (1/22)