March 3, 2015

Buzz Aldrin's 1966 Space Selfie Sells for $9,200 (Source: C/Net)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is still the king of all selfies. He took a self-portrait during the Gemini 12 mission in 1966 with the blue curve of the Earth behind him. A vintage print of that extravehicular space selfie sold for around $9,200 at an auction conducted by auction house Dreweatts & Bloomsbury in London.

Aldrin's photo predates the current selfie craze by decades. He hasn't been shy about staking his claim to selfie history. In a Twitter post sharing the photo in July 2014, he referred to the image as the "best selfie ever." The auction photo is an 8x10 chromogenic print on fiber-based Kodak paper. (3/3)

China's Moon Rover Yutu Functioning but Stationary (Source: Xinhua)
China's first lunar rover Yutu (the Jade Rabbit) is still working but cannot move, a scientist with the lunar probe mission told Xinhua. The rover, named after the pet of a Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, was launched in late 2013, but its control mechanism failed on its second lunar day before becoming dormant in January 2014. (3/3)

SpaceX's Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (Source: Maritime Professional)
The deck barge Marmac 300 (CG No. 1063184) was built in 1998 by Gulf Coast Fabrication in Pearlington, Mississippi for McDonough Marine Service, a tug and barge company based in Metairie, Louisiana. As built, it was 288 feet in length, with a 100 foot beam and a depth of almost 20 feet. In 2014, it was chartered by SpaceX for use as a landing pad for returning first-stage rockets after launching objects into orbit.

The upper deck of the Marmac 300 was extended to a length of 300 feet and the width was extended to 170 feet. Azimuthing thrusters with modular diesel-hydraulic-drive power units and a modular controller manufactured by Thrustmaster were installed, with one thruster on each corner of the barge. The thrusters may be operated autonomously or by remote control from a nearby service vessel. With an onboard electronic navigation system, the barge is capable of precision positioning in either the autonomous or remote control mode. The barge is currently based in Jacksonville. (3/3)

Flight (With UNF Experiment) Brings Balloon-Powered Space Tourism Closer (Source: WIRED)
Late last week, a company came one step closer to sending tourists to the edge of space using ginormous balloons, breaking a record for the world’s highest parafoil flight. Arizona-based World View carried the parafoil—a large, wing-like parachute—to the edge of space using its ballon, and had it fly back to the ground. It also carried experiments designed by students from Montana State University and the University of North Florida. Click here. (3/3)

ULA Ready to Compete Against SpaceX (Source: Washington Post)
Faced with mounting pressure from SpaceX, ULA’s new chief executive said he has been re-configuring the company in order to compete, slashing the cost of national security launches and developing a new launch system. Tory Bruno said that since he was named CEO of ULA last summer his job has been “to literally transform the company,” and he took a jab at his upstart competitor, saying it was risky to rely on SpaceX for national security launches.

Bruno said that since ULA's inception, the company "has cut the price of launch in half, and I'm going to cut it in half again." While he declined to provide specific numbers, he vowed to "be competitive with SpaceX's prices." In addition to the new engine, Bruno said ULA is working on an entirely new launch system that would ultimately replace its Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. He declined to discuss details, saying they would be unveiled in April. Click here. (3/3)

Military Bases Ruled Out as Potential Sites for First UK Spaceport (Source: STV)
Three Scottish military bases have been ruled out as potential sites for the UK's first spaceport. However, three Scottish airports have taken a step closer after a consultation by the UK Government. Westminster revealed eight possible locations in July last year for the planned state-of-the-art facility. Six of the eight locations were in Scotland and now the options have been narrowed down to five. Click here. (3/3)

Industry Backs UK Government’s Spaceport Plans (Source: Gov.UK)
A spaceport consultation outcome has been published, paving the way to make UK commercial spaceflight operations a reality. Publishing the outcome of a 3 month consultation with a range of interested parties, the government confirmed widespread support for its plans. This paves the way towards making commercial spaceflight operations in the UK a reality. Click here. (3/3)

20-year-old Military Weather Satellite Wasn’t First of its Kind To Explode (Source: Space News)
The 20-year-old military weather satellite that apparently exploded Feb. 3 was not the first satellite in its production run to break apart after a long, otherwise successful run. In April 2004, a 13-year-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft dubbed DMSP-F11 experienced a similarly catastrophic breakup that produced 56 pieces of cataloged space debris.

In contrast to DMSP-F13 — the 20-year-old, semi-retired satellite that Air Force Space Command told SpaceNews last week apparently exploded after its power subsystem experienced a sudden temperature spike — DMSP-F11 was no longer operational when it exploded. (3/3)

How Would The World Change If We Found Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Space Daily)
In 1938, Orson Welles narrated a radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" as a series of simulated radio bulletins of what was happening in real time as Martians arrived on our home planet. The broadcast is widely remembered for creating public panic, although to what extent is hotly debated today.

Still, the incident serves as an illustration of what could happen when the first life beyond Earth is discovered. While scientists might be excited by the prospect, introducing the public, politicians and interest groups to the idea could take some time. Click here. (3/3)

What Harris-Exelis Merger Tells Us About the U.S. Defense Sector (Source: Aviation Week)
Mergers and acquisitions have an interesting side effect: They often bring to the surface things that otherwise would remain hidden or unnoticed. The recently announced merger of Harris Corp. and Exelis is a case in point. Beyond the usual M&A lingo (“transformational,” etc.), this transaction brings back to light some fundamental truths about the U.S. defense sector that otherwise tend to be forgotten.

The first truth is that it has become increasingly hard to sort out what—in this type of transactions—is financial engineering versus industrial engineering. That is not to say this is the case for the Harris-Exelis transaction, but the business story does not look as compelling as the financial one. The reality is that Harris and Exelis have experienced declining revenues for several years, and merging them can be seen as an artificial way to boost their bottom lines.

Harris’s revenues will soar to $8 billion from $5 billion today. However, a back-of-the-envelope analysis shows that the aggregate revenues for these companies have been declining slowly but surely for the last five years. Another truth is that, sometimes, when companies struggle to revive their top-line growth in a tough market environment, the only way forward is to reshuffle the cards and perform a “strategic reframing.” This is the most positive spin we can put on it. But we might worry that it is another example of a nicely packaged, financially engineered zero-sum deal. (2/27)

The Curious Adventures of an Astronomer-Turned-Crowdfunder (Source: MIT Tech Review)
If you want to name a star or buy a crater on the moon or own an acre on Mars, there are numerous websites that can help. The legal status of such “ownership” is far from clear but the services certainly allow for a little extraterrestrial fun. There is one nonprofit organization, however, that uses this kind of crowdsourcing to raise funds for astronomical research.

And instead of selling stars or craters that it does not own, the White Dwarf Research Corporation allows anyone to adopt a star on the clear understanding that they do not own it. This is rather like the adopt-a-highway schemes run in many countries to help fund the cleanup of roads.

Today, Travis Metcalfe, an astronomer at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, tells of the many adventures he has had in setting up and running the White Dwarf Research Corporation. His story is an entertaining read. Click here. (3/3)

Russian Spacecraft Lifts ISS Orbit by 750 Meters (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian resupply spacecraft Progress M-26M has lifted the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by 750 meters in order to create optimal conditions for docking of the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft, Moscow-based Mission Control Center (MCC) told TASS on Tuesday. (3/3)

NACA Turns 100 (Source: Motherboard)
Today marks the centennial of the founding of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that would eventually evolve into NASA. Its establishment represents the United States government’s first serious efforts to explore the skies and space, forming the bedrock of the thriving contemporary American space community. (3/3)

US, China Space Rivalry Grows as Race for Orbital Commerce Takes Off (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
Mobile phone communication. Point-of-sale transactions. Just-in-time supply chains and the GPS screen in your car. Consider for a moment how much satellite-dependent technology has become embedded in our lives. Much of a modern economy, in fact, relies on the peaceful, almost routine nature of the business of satellite launches and communication, while science has come to expect open international collaboration.

That's why the space community held its breath last year when amid tensions over Ukraine, Russia dangled the idea of cutting US astronauts off from flights to the International Space Station, a service Moscow has provided since the Space Shuttle program was scrapped in 2011. It appeared for a moment that the single outpost of humanity in low earth orbit could be in jeopardy and with it much research and international goodwill. Click here. (3/2)

Air Force Considers Extending OSP-3 Launch Contracting Vehicle (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is planning to modify its current contracting vehicle for launching its mostly experimental small- and medium-class payloads due to a hiatus in activity that is expected to last for at least a third consecutive year. In 2012, the Air Force awarded Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts that created a stable of vehicles qualified to launch the small and medium-sized satellites.

Actual launch missions under the Orbital-Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract are awarded on a case-by-case basis. The program is intended to enhance launch vehicle competition and to give the government flexibility in choosing rockets for specific missions based on cost and risk. But since the initial two such awards in 2012 — both to SpaceX — the Air Force has not used the contracting vehicle. Further, the Air Force does not anticipate awarding any task orders this year.

In light of that, the service said it is considering extending the OSP-3 performance period from 2017 to 2019. The Air Force also is considering adding as many as two more providers to the pool of qualified providers in 2016, the posting said. The OSP-3 contract vehicle has a $900 million ordering ceiling. (3/2)

Laporte Named President of Canadian Space Agency (Source: Space News)
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Feb. 27 the selection of Sylvain Laporte as the next president of the Canadian Space Agency, effective March 9. Laporte had served as the commissioner of patents and registrar of trade-marks for Industry Canada since 2011, and previously held several positions within Industry Canada, Canada Post Corp. and the Royal Canadian Air Force. (3/2)

Fierce ‘Superflares’ from the Sun Zapped an Infant Earth (Source: Astrobiology)
Our young sun may have routinely blasted Earth with gobs of energy more powerful than any similar bombardments recorded in human history. Huge bursts of these particle and radiation “showers” ignited by these so-called “superflares” could have penetrated Earth’s protective magnetic fields and bathed our planet’s atmosphere, a new study has shown. Superflares, therefore, likely had profound impacts on the development of life on our planet. (3/2)

NASA Probe to Land on Ceres to Check Out Mysterious Bright Spots (Source: Sputnik)
The Agency’s Dawn spacecraft, which snapped photos of mysterious bright lights on the dwarf planet Ceres last week, will be landing on the planet Friday to determine what those intriguing flashes are all about. Recent images of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, show two small points of light NASA scientists have dubbed “bright spots.”

They believe these spots could be clues as to how Ceres formed and whether the planet’s surface is changing. "Dawn is about to make history," said Robert Mase, project manager for the Dawn mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Our team is ready and eager to find out what Ceres has in store for us." (3/2)

March 2, 2015

Rebooting Space Advocacy (Source: Space Review)
Space advocates have struggled in recent years for major victories in their efforts to increase NASA's budget or enact other space policy changes. Jeff Foust reports on how a new alliance of space organizations, and the outcome of a separate space summit, seek more targeted efforts to support space development and settlement. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2705/1 to view the article. (3/2)

Journey to Whatever (Source: Space Review)
The new movie "Journey to Space" follows in the footsteps of previous space-themed IMAX films. Dwayne Day saw the film and finds it lacks the inspirational message that some of its predecessors had. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2704/1 to view the article. (3/2)

Understanding the Legal Status of the Moon (Source: Space Review)
As government and commercial activity at the Moon ramps up, it raises questions about the legal status of some of those efforts, particularly the extraction of resources. Urbano Fuentes examines what one particular phase used in treaties regarding the Moon could mean for those activities. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2703/1 to view the article. (3/2)

Space Economy Trends in the United States and Europe (Source: Space Safety)
The global space economy reached $314.17 billion in 2013, growing of 4% from the 2012 amount of $302.22 billion. The commercial sector, including space products and services and commercial infrastructure, was responsible for the majority part of this growth. Revenue of commercial space products and activities, commercial infrastructure and support industries increased respectively by 7% and 4.6% since 2012.

Government spending faced different evolutions worldwide, with a substantial reduction in U.S. space spending and budgetary increase in other countries, such as India, Russia, South Korea, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Space Foundation’s 2014 Report indicated that the total of the space economy in 2013 can be schematized as: 24% of government spending (13% USA, 11% non-USA) and 76% commercial (37% commercial infrastructure and support industries, 39% commercial products and services). Click here. (2/23)

Feedback Time! (Source: SPACErePORT)
Having switched the FLORIDA SPACErePORT e-newsletter distribution over to MailChimp, I also had to change the newsletter's format in some minor ways. The SPACErePORT goes out weekly to over 1500 subscribers and includes a calendar of space-related events in the Sunshine State. Is there anything I can do to improve the newsletter? Please respond with any comments or suggestions. (3/2)

Mikulski Plans Retirement from Senate (Source: SPACErePORT)
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has announced she will not seek reelection in 2016. Mikulski is a "Cardinal" in the Senate, one of the powerful appropriators who control the budget allocations for  government agencies and programs, including space. As the Ranking Member (and previous chairwoman) of the Appropriations Committee, she took a particular interest in NASA's budget and actively supported the growth of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility as a commercial spaceport. (While not in her district, Wallops is near the Maryland border and employs many Maryland residents.)

Mikulski has long served as a political counterweight and frequent budgetary collaborator with Alabama Republican Richard Shelby (also on the Appropriations Committee). Sometimes the Mikulski/Shelby alliances were consistent with Florida's interests, but often they were not. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson (Ranking Member of the committee responsible for NASA authorizations) was sometimes viewed by his constituents as getting the short end of the stick after Mikulski and Shelby cut their budget deals. (3/2)

SpaceX Improves Launch Tempo (Source: SPACErePORT)
Until recently, SpaceX had gained a reputation for an inability to keep up with its aggressive launch schedule. Yesterday's launch was the company's third mission in three months, with another planned in only three weeks. In 2014 the company launched only six missions total. According to one report in January, SpaceX has as many as 17 missions planned for 2015 (including some from Vandenberg AFB in California).

Based on their progress so far this year, it seems SpaceX is going to easily surpass their launch tempo from last year. To meet the challenge, they are hiring dozens of new workers at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to support their launch operations. (3/2)

Spaceport’s Visitor Centers Evolved from Modest Beginnings (Source: Florida Today)
It was the early 1960s when NASA permitted the public to drive their personal vehicles on weekends through certain areas of the Kennedy Space Center and adjacent Cape Kennedy, later renamed Cape Canaveral. Also at that time, NASA opened an interim — and primitive by today’s standards — exhibit area in a trailer. It consisted mainly of static displays, including photographs and other items on tables.

A year or so later, when the two-man Gemini orbital space missions were under way, this exhibit area moved to a temporary indoor warehouse. This new site housed additional displays and exhibits, but it was still in a warehouse mainly used to store cables. At that time, I and other NASA public affairs contract support writers were additionally tasked with overseeing these weekend public visits to this modest warehouse facility. Click here. (3/1)

FSDC Board Selects New President (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) has new leadership for 2015. Gabriel Rothblatt has been selected by the FSDC Board of Directors to serve as the organization's next president, leading the organization's development of new programs in support of Florida's continued space industry expansion and diversification.

"As home to our nation's most capable spaceport, Florida should be a center for space industry innovation and growth," said Mr. Rothblatt. "But while our state has historically been a leader in the development of pro-space policies and programs, other states have moved ahead of us, attracting business, investment and talent away from Florida."

Mr. Rothblatt has already engaged in national space advocacy on behalf of FSDC, participating in the Pioneering Space National Summit, held in Washington, D.C., on February 19-20, which produced a consensus statement to guide human space exploration policy. Mr. Rothblatt will return to Washington on March 15-19 to represent the FSDC in the newly formed Alliance for Space Development (ASD), to promote policies that support the space launch industry and facilitate a sustained human presence beyond low Earth orbit. (3/2)

Space Tourist Sarah Brightman to Wear Cornflower Blue Spacesuit (Source: Itar-Tass)
Sarah Brightman will fly to the ISS dressed in a velvet-blue space suit with an emblem of the UK flag. The details of the costume of the next space tourist were disclosed by Alexander Yarov of Kentavr-Nauka, the main designer of space outfits for Russian cosmonauts. "During a short space flight Sarah Brightman intends to wear a spacious polo-style shirt, a light suit, a Kentavr space suit intended to minimize the pressure of space load during the flight and a Bracelet elastic belt," Yarov said. (3/2)

Midland Approves $200K Engine Test Facility for XCOR (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
MDC and City Council furthered its investment into XCOR Aerospace’s relocation to Midland with an approval last week for a $200,000 rocket engine test stand facility at Midland International Air and Space Port. The additional facility will be used for XCOR’s research and development operations and for testing the rocket engines.

MDC board chairman Robert Rendall said XCOR wants the testing facility in Midland to be identical to the one in Mojave, California. Midland International Air and Space Port will be the owners of the facility, but XCOR will be leasing it. (3/2)

NASA Astronauts Venture Outside ISS for the Third Time in 8 Days (Source: New York Times)
NASA astronauts took their third spacewalk in eight days outside the International Space Station, pushing forward with work to prepare for new docking ports that would be used for commercial spacecraft. (3/1)

Why Is The ISS So Important? (Source: Test Tube)
Russia has decided to continue to fund the ISS until the year 2024, but is it worth it? What do we gain by keeping the space station open? This remains a hotly debated subject. A few things to keep in mind when considering its value: it's the only microgravity lab humanity has, and simply by existing it's fostering political cooperation between 15 countries and creating jobs around the world. Building the ISS was no simple task, and that drove people to invent new technology. Click here. (3/2)

SpaceX Launches Commercial Satellites from Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX has launched its third Falcon 9 of the year. The rocket is carrying a pair of communications payloads for Eutelsat and Asia Broadcast Satellite. The rocket launched at 10:50 p.m. from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Separation of the two satellite payloads was confirmed at around 11:27 p.m. (3/1)

CASIS and Shackleton Sign ISS Agreement for Re-Entry System (Source: SpaceRef)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) to design, develop and test in space a variety of new, highly capable reentry vehicles enabling on-demand, rapid return to Earth of time-critical experiments from Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

SEC's re-entry vehicles (technically described as Mini Space Brakes - MSBs) will be developed using novel aerobraking and flight dynamics control systems. The SEC team will leverage US federal technology investments and work closely with CASIS, NASA Centers, FAA, DoD and private partners to achieve its goals.

With this MOA, CASIS intends to support SEC with facilitation of payload integration activities, launch to ISS and deployment of MSBs from the station to test these miniaturized, highly intelligent, deployable maneuvering reentry vehicles (RV) for the purposes of providing real flight data to guide optimization of a compact, lightweight, low cost commercial on-demand reentry capability. (3/1)

March 1, 2015

Scooby Doo Gets Commercial Space Mission (Source: Reel Life with Jane)
A new Scooby adventure was just released on DVD and Digital HD, “Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness,” in which Scoob and the gang blast off for an epic journey into outer space! After winning the last five seats in a lottery, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma are off to space in billionaire Sly Barron’s brand new ship, the Sly Star One, a space tourism vessel setting off on its inaugural voyage.

It’s all gravity-free fun until a mysterious alien begins to destroy the ship. As the vessel breaks down, the crew is forced to land on Sly Baron’s base – located on the dark side of the moon. Will the gang unravel this alien mystery? Will Scooby and Shaggy find snacks on the moon? Hop aboard, fasten your seat belts, and get ready to travel to the outer limits with Scooby-Doo to find out.

Bonus Features include the featurette, “Space Travel is Groovy!” Join Mindy Cohn, the voice of “Velma,” as she introduces viewers to some of the real world technology and training that is part of modern space flight. Click here. (2/28)

Hawaii Legislature Considers 3 Space Measures (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In early February, the Pacific International Center for Space Exploration Systems (PISCES) submitted three legislative bills intended to further the Center’s project goals and development. The first bill, SB 672, appropriates general funding for the Center to continue its planetary surface systems work enabling Hawaii to move to the forefront of the aerospace sector, as well as an additional appropriation for the acquisition of a central headquarters and testing facility.

SB 671 is a PISCES-led basalt rebar initiative requesting funds for an engineering study to determine how volcanic basalt can be used as an asset and potential new industry in the state of Hawaii.  The study will assess if Hawaii’s basalt can be used as a material in manufacturing basalt rebar – a considerably lighter, and stronger alternative to steel rebar – while investigating the necessary energy support needed for production. The bill requests federal matching funds for the engineering study, to be conducted over a one-year period.

Special Fund bill SB 1158 proposes the establishment of a special fund for the operation, maintenance, and management of all PISCES projects, facilities, services, and publications.  The bill also provides the ability for the Center to accept outside revenue. (3/1)

Land, Sea and Space: Naval Aviators Have Led the Way (Source: Rocket STEM)
The United States Navy and NASA have had a working relationship for over 55 years now and they continue to complement each other in many different aspects of space exploration. This relation was forged way back in the late 1950s when NASA first began to look for pilots to become Astronauts that would eventually fly aboard their new Mercury spacecraft. Click here. (2/17)

Rocket Lab Gains Development Funding (Source: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab USA has completed a Series B financing round. In addition, Lockheed Martin will make a strategic investment in Rocket Lab to support the exploration of future aerospace technologies. Rocket Lab will use the funding to complete the Electron launch system and plans to begin operations as a commercial launch provider as early as 2016.

David Cowan has joined Rocket Lab’s Board as part of BVP’s funding. “On the South Pacific islands of New Zealand, a world class team of engineers is designing a rocket that will revolutionize aerospace,” says Cowan. “With unprecedented economy, reliability, fuel efficiency and frequency, Electron is the transformational launch option that small satellite constellations need to usher in a new era of space colonization.”

Rocket Lab expects to reveal further details about the Electron launch system in April 2015 at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. (3/2)

Lockheed Invests in Rocket Lab (Source: Rocket Lab)
“Lockheed Martin pursues technology investments that help us keep pace with innovation across the industry,” said Lockheed Martin’s Chief Scientist Ned Allen. “Rocket Lab’s work could have application in a number of aerospace domains, and we look forward to working with them to complement our overall efforts in small lift capabilities and hypersonic flight technologies.” (3/2)

Rocket Crafters Taps New CEO (Source: Florida Today)
Rocket Crafters Inc., a Titusville-based company developing a suborbital spaceplane, has tapped former NASA astronaut Sidney Gutierrez as its new chairman and CEO. Gutierrez, a retired Air Force colonel, piloted space shuttle Columbia's STS-40 mission in 1991 and led the STS-59 mission aboard Endeavour in 1994. The New Mexico resident previously served as chairman of the company's board.

"There is no question in my mind that the type of dedicated small satellite launch system Rocket Crafters is developing is crucial to the expansion of space commerce," Gutierrez said in a statement. "We are developing a system that is an order of magnitude more responsive and economical than the vertically launch, multi-stage rockets we have used for over half century." (3/1)

Space Department Gets Rs 6000 Crore; Focus on Launch Vehicle Tech (Source: New Indian Express)
The government has allocated Rs 6000 crore for the Department of Space for 2015-16, with a major thrust on Launch Vehicle Technology projects. With the emphasis on Launch Vehicle Technology projects, the government has allocated Rs 2148 crore for developments in this direction. For Total Launch support, tracking the satellites, the government has allocated Rs 651 crore. For operations of the INSAT programs that includes the GSAT and INSAT satellites, Rs 1281 crore has been allocated. (2/28)

Ticket to Space for Research (Source: Slate)
We’re at the doorstep of cheaper, more reliable access to space. Ticket prices are within reach of wealthy individuals and, perhaps more importantly, companies that do science. A lot of Dan Durda’s experiments can be done easily in the few minutes of weightlessness these suborbital flights provide. Click here. (3/1)

Chris Hadfield's Flight Suit Found in Thrift Store (Source: CBC News)
A flight suit once worn by astronaut Chris Hadfield is apparently now the property of a Toronto doctor who found it in — of all places — a local thrift store. "I thought, wow, what is a flight suit like that doing up there?" Dr. Julielynn Wong told CBC News, recalling how she stumbled upon the bright blue jumpsuit in one of the many second-hand stores on Queen Street West. Then she saw the name stitched on the left-hand side: Chris Hadfield.

She says she bought it for $40, marked down from $80. The suit looks just like the one the former commander of the International Space Station is seen wearing on the back cover of his book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. "[Hadfield] started asking questions. He said, 'Well, does it have a puncture marks in the badge?'" It did. And other details also matched up. Hadfield said it was, indeed, his old suit. "That's a mystery to me as to how it got there," he wrote. (3/1)

Hands-On Activities, Children's Camp Launch Texas Space Exploration Exhibit (Source: Victoria Advocate)
"3-2-1 Blast Off!" might sound like a rocket's countdown, but at the Museum of the Coastal Bend, it's a day of hands-on workshop activities launching the opening of the Museum's new exhibit. The exhibit is "Above Texas Skies: Space Exploration in the Coastal Bend." (3/1)

NASA Spacecraft Arrives at Dwarf Planet Ceres This Week (Source: Space.com)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft will begin orbiting the mysterious dwarf planet Ceres this week, ending a deep-space chase that lasted 2 1/2 years. Dawn is scheduled to reach Ceres — the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — on Thursday night (March 5). The probe has been headed for Ceres since September 2012, when it departed Vesta, the asteroid belt's second-biggest denizen. (3/1)

Air Force Eyes 28 Launches, Shared Investment for Next Rockets (Source: Global Post)
The U.S. Air Force may kick off a multibillion-dollar competition for 28 launches of government satellites this spring to help end U.S. reliance on Russian-built rocket engines, according to an Air Force document. The Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center mapped out the possible tender, which would include government and private sector investment, in a request for information sent to selected companies on Feb. 18, with responses due March 20.

The Air Force said it may award contracts between the first quarter of fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2018. The first rockets would launch no later than 2022. The contracts would cover about 28 launches of military and intelligence satellites. The issue is being closely watched by ULA and SpaceX, which hopes to be certified to do at least some DOD launches by mid-year. Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne have also expressed interest.

The Air Force plan follows an approach taken by NASA to use commercial providers to ferry cargo and crew to the ISS, a strategy favored by the White House. It is at odds with Congress, which hopes to develop a U.S. rocket engine as a national asset with the government to own the design and make it available to all launch providers. Editor's Note: So Orbital ATK would not be able to offer the Antares with its Russian engines. Maybe this is an opportunity for their hibernating Liberty rocket, which would share LC-39B with NASA's SLS. (3/1)

Space Coast Pitch Series: Where Ideas Become Realities (Source: SCTC)
Making your idea a reality just got easier. The Space Coast PitchSeries offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to get exposure to the know-how and networks needed to take their idea to the next level. This series of four networking and workshop events is free and aims to connect innovators with a diverse panel of serial entrepreneurs and subject-matter experts. Click here. (2/28)

Brevard Man Finalist for One-Way Trip to Mars (Source: Florida Today)
George Hatcher of Merritt Island recently advanced to the final round of 100 candidates vying to be selected as astronauts by the Mars One Foundation, which wants to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet in the next decade. The NASA KSC engineer was his son's age when dreams of spaceflight took hold, after his mother gave him a Lego set that included a spaceman. (3/1)

Hyperloop Gets Its First Commercial Contract For Short Track In California (Source: Forbes)
The first commercial agreement to build a working hyperloop was announced between Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) and Quay Valley, a 12-square-mile ecotopia planned along a desolate strip of grassland on Interstate 5. The hyperloop, you may recall, is a transportation concept pitched in 2013 by industrialist Elon Musk, in which passenger or cargo capsules shoot through tubes at speeds of up to 750 miles an hour.

HTT is a loose federation of 200-plus volunteers working on different parts of the project for equity. It recently announced plans to issue $100 million in public stock in the fall in a Dutch auction. A part of that money will pay for construction of the Quay Valley track. A second contender, Hyperloop Technologes of Los Angeles, is backed with $8.5 million and a dream team of investors from Silicon Valley. The third effort is by Musk himself, who has agreed to fund the construction of a sub-scale test track in Texas.

HTT’s plan is to sell tickets to earn a return on investment, says HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn, but more important is the opportunity this represents to iron out the many remaining technical challenges such as how to load and unload the 28-capsule passengers from the capsule every 30 seconds and how to maintain a consistent near-vacuum in a miles-long tube. (2/26)

Nimoy And Why Space Needs Real Spocks (Source: Forbes)
Maybe it was those Vulcan ears. But news of Leonard Nimoy’s passing automatically triggered memories of the 83 year-old actor’s most celebrated role as Mr. Spock — both the Starship Enterprise’s first officer and science officer.

Try as he might to break free of being typecast as the dispassionate half human/half Vulcan we all came to know and love, audiences never let Nimoy forget that it was his role as Mr. Spock that continually got under their skins. How could such a cool customer like Spock capture the hearts and minds of so many over the last half century? Click here. (2/27)

Life 'Not As We Know It' Possible on Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: Phys.org)
A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell University researchers. Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world - specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn.

A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells. Their theorized cell membrane is composed of small organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero. (2/27)

Florida ‎Legislative Leaders Need Challenging Space Goals (Source: FSDC)
Going into the 2014 annual Legislative Session in Tallahassee, the Speaker of the Florida House and the President of the Florida Senate both have the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in their districts. This is an encouraging development for the state's space industry because these leaders will understand the importance of supporting smart space-focused policy and funding decisions by the Florida Legislature.

Unfortunately, they aren't yet being asked to do much heavy lifting. We'll know more when their own separate House and Senate budget drafts are released, but thus far Governor Rick Scott's budget request includes less than was appropriated last year. Gov. Scott currently wants only enough to keep Space Florida operational and hasn't requested, for example, continued funding for commercializing the Shuttle Landing Facility, which should soon be transferred by NASA to Space Florida. (2/28)

India to Increase Satellite Launch Capabilities (Source: Deccan Herald)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has ambitious plans to increase its satellite launching capabilities, said S K Shivakumar, Director, ISRO Satellite Center. Since 1975, India has launched 72 satellites on its own, through 45 launch vehicle missions.

He said that the objective of increasing the number of satellite launches was to expand the space program taken up by ISRO. Earlier, ISRO used to launch four to five satellites every year. From the current year, the space agency will launch ten satellites into orbit every year, he said. (2/27)

How Much Earth Science Should NASA Be Doing? (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA is talking proudly on its website today about the five Earth-observing satellites it has launched in the last two years. Agency leaders are pointing to accomplishments like the first global rainfall and snowfall map as examples. NASA says Earth missions expand our view of the home planet. In addition to global rain and snowfall, the agency says new satellites are measuring "atmospheric carbon dioxide, ocean winds, clouds, and airborne particles called aerosols."

But is this too much Earth science and not enough space science? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says it is, and Cruz is now in a position to do something about it. So, is it either Earth science or space science for NASA? Or should it be both? But if it's both, which is most important in a tight budget environment? It's an ongoing debate and a question that space enthusiasts will put to both candidates running for president in 2016. (2/27)

NanoRacks Resumes ISS Satellite Deployment (Source: Forbes)
Last summer, satellite deployers on board the International Space Station belonging to space science company NanoRacks developed issues that prevented some cubesats deployed into their orbits. After several months of work and repair, that company has been able to solve those issues and celebrated a deployment of two satellites belonging to Planet Labs on Friday.

The satellite deployment system allows commercial space companies to deliver cubesats – small satellites just a few inches around – into orbit at a low cost. The cubesats get delivered to the space station during its normal cargo runs and then are deployed by astronauts from the station itself. The satellite deployers were developed and built by NanoRacks. (2/27)

NASA Storms Ahead With Urgent Space Fix (Source: Forbes)
NASA has hit a breakthrough on an urgent in-space software fix, empowering its Mars exploration. The space agency on Tuesday uploaded an highly-inventive, rigorously tested software patch to the Mars Rover Opportunity vehicle, which was experiencing severe flash memory problems on one bank of memory. The issues had been leading the Rover to constantly reset and lose data. (2/26)

DARPA Seeks Tiny Satellites to Map Terrain for US Troops (Source: Sputnik)
An American defense contractor is developing small satellites capable of quickly providing US ground troops with images of their surroundings. In December, DARPA awarded a $1.5 million contract to Raytheon to develop the satellites. The technology has been named the SeeMe satellite – after DARPA's quest for Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements. It is about the size of a water cooler and is cheaper to make and launch than the typical hardware sent into orbit. (2/28)

Are We Winning the War for Talent? (Source: SSPI)
 The Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) today released Are We Winning the War for Talent? The 2015 International Satellite Industry Workforce Study. It is the satellite industry's first multi-company, multinational study of workforce practices, employee compensation and engagement, and the make-up of the industry’s workforce. Click here. (2/24)

Are We Alone? Do We Want to Know? (Source: Washington Post)
Some SETI researchers are pushing a more aggressive agenda: Instead of just listening, we would transmit messages, targeting newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars. Through “active SETI,” we’d boldly announce our presence and try to get the conversation started. Naturally this is controversial, because of . . . well, the Klingons. The bad aliens.

“ETI’s reaction to a message from Earth cannot presently be known,” states a petition signed by 28 scientists, researchers and thought leaders, among them SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “We know nothing of ETI’s intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether ETI will be benign or hostile.”

This objection is moot, however, according to the proponents of active SETI. They argue that even if there are unfriendlies out there, they already know about us. That’s because “I Love Lucy” and other TV and radio broadcasts are radiating from Earth at the speed of light. Aliens with advanced instruments could also detect our navigational radar beacons and would see that we’ve illuminated our cities. (2/28)

February 28, 2015

NASA Employee Arrested for Assaulting Police Officer (Source: Dayton Daily News)
A NASA employee has been arrested for reportedly assaulting a University of Dayton police officer as he was being arrested during an incident at off-campus housing Friday morning. David I. Hawbecker, 34, of Maryland, was arrested. Campus police along with Dayton officers were dispatched to a UD student’s residence on the report of an assault, according to university officials. He is listed as the laboratory chief for the NASA Office of Inspector General at their headquarters in Washington D.C. (2/27)

Timing of Russian Engine Ban Puts ULA, Air Force, in a Bind (Source: Space News)
The new U.S. law barring the Air Force from using Russian-made rocket engines starting in 2019 could force the DOD’s primary launch services provider to battle for future military business with its least competitive product. Although Congress provided money for the Air Force to start work on a new U.S.-built main engine this year, service officials are doubtful that it will be ready by 2019.

Even if it is, which industry officials argue is possible, the engine would still have to be certified by the Air Force to carry national security payloads, a process that one executive said could take more than two years. That scenario would leave United Launch Alliance in a weak competitive position relative to its rising nemesis, SpaceX. SpaceX is on the verge of earning certification for its low-cost Falcon 9 rocket and also hopes to demonstrate a heavy-lift launcher this year.

The problem for ULA is that its lowest-cost rocket, the Atlas 5, is powered by the Russian-built RD-180 engine. ULA’s other main rocket, the Delta 4, is powered by an American-made engine and is technically capable of launching all of the satellites on the Defense Department manifest. But in addition to being far more expensive than the Atlas 5, the Delta 4 is often viewed as an inferior rocket. (2/27)

What Big Bang? Universe May Have Had No Beginning at All, Study Claims (Source: Sputnik)
Two theoretical physicists have suggested nothing like the Big Bang played a role in the start of our universe 13.8 billion years ago, refuting Edwin Hubble’s 1929 theory that the universe was contained in a single point in space and some violent event caused it to expand. “Our theory suggests that the age of the universe could be infinite,” said study co-author Saurya Das. (2/27)

20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Apparently Exploded in Orbit (Source: Space News)
A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit Feb. 3 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite Feb. 27.

The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation. The Air Force still has six DMSP satellites in service following the launch last April of DMSP-F19. (2/27)

Harris Leaving Brevard for Virginia? Both Have a Lot to Offer (Source: Florida Today)
As Harris Corp. executives contemplate moving the headquarters out of Brevard County - possibly to Northern Virginia's Fairfax County -- to be closer to Washington, D.C.'s power brokers -- we thought we'd make a quick comparison of the two areas. Click here. (2/27)

Khrunichev Signs 15-Year Deal with Gazprom Space Systems (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Khrunichev Space Center and OAO Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) signed a number of documents envisaging expanded strategic cooperation between the two companies. In furtherance of the Company Rehab Program, company officials met at Khrunichev’s Proton assembly facility to sign an agreement on strategic cooperation, and a contract for a Proton launch of GSS’s Yamal-601 communications satellite. (2/27)

Curiosity Confirms Mars Methane, Which May Hinting at Life (Source: U. of Granada)
The tunable laser spectrometer in the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument of the Curiosity rover robot has unequivocally detected an episodic increase in the concentration of methane in Mars' atmosphere after an exhaustive analysis of data obtained during 605 soles or Martian days. This puts an end to the long controversy on the presence of methane in Mars, which started over a decade ago when this gas was first detected with telescopes from Earth. (2/27)

5 New NASA Missions Tracking Changes on Planet Earth (Source: KPCC)
Over the past year, NASA turned much of its focus from space and launched five new missions aimed at studying planet Earth. Thursday, the space agency shared some preliminary findings from those missions, showing a picture of a planet changing due to man made green house gases. This suite of new missions includes three satellites and two instruments aboard the International Space Station. Click here. (2/27)

NASA OKs Sunday Spacewalk Despite Water Leak in Helmet (Source: CFLnews13)
Astronauts on the International Space Station will head out for another spacewalk this weekend despite a water leak in one astronaut's helmet Wednesday. NASA on Friday cleared astronaut Terry Virts' spacesuit for Sunday's spacewalk, the last of three to route hundreds of feet of cable needed for the new, American-made spacecraft set to fly to the space station starting in 2017. (2/27)

February 27, 2015

Major Aerospace Project Considering Volusia, with Tie to Shiloh (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Project Panther — a major economic development project being considered for Volusia County — involves aerospace-related metal manufacturing that could support a proposed spaceport at the Volusia/Brevard county line or possibly commercial spaceflight operations elsewhere. The name of the company is evaluating potential locations and remains anonymous, but interviews with several Volusia County civic leaders this week revealed it’s an aerospace company looking to build a manufacturing facility.

Economic development boosters say the project is pivotal to efforts to attract higher-paying jobs and tap into the growing commercial space market that NASA and Space Florida are trying to develop in the region. A project consultant met recently with Clay Henderson, a local attorney who has been among those opposed to Space Florida’s proposed Shiloh project. “He identified himself as a site selection consultant for an entity that was interested in developing a commercial spaceport at Shiloh,” Henderson said. Click here. (2/27)

Russia Installs Nanny Cam at Siberian Spaceport (Source: Air & Space)
We wrote last year about the Vostochny cosmodrome in Siberia, planned to be a partial replacement for the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan after constuction is finished this summer. Russia hopes that switching to the eastern spaceport will lessen its reliance on another country for launch services.

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin is not happy with the pace of construction at Vostochny, however. Not happy at all. So he ordered webcams to be installed at the launch site, so the public could keep watch over the workers. There, that should speed things up. Live scenes from Vostochny are now available. Click here. (2/27)

The Big Melt: Antarctica's Retreating Ice May Re-Shape Earth (Source: AP)
From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth. Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice, melting it where it hits the oceans. As the ice sheets slowly thaw, water pours into the sea — 130 billion tons of ice (118 billion metric tons) per year for the past decade, according to NASA satellite calculations.

That's the weight of more than 356,000 Empire State Buildings, enough ice melt to fill more than 1.3 million Olympic swimming pools. And the melting is accelerating. In the worst case scenario, Antarctica's melt could push sea levels up 10 feet (3 meters) worldwide in a century or two, recurving heavily populated coastlines. Parts of Antarctica are melting so rapidly it has become "ground zero of global climate change without a doubt," said Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica. (2/27)

Russia Launches Spy Satellite Atop Soyuz From Plesetsk (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A Soyuz-2-1a rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the town of Mirny, north of Moscow, Russia, carrying the first Bars-M spy satellite for the Russian military. (2/27)

CubeSats Offered Deep-Space Ride on ESA Asteroid Probe (Source: Space Daily)
Think of it as the ultimate hitchhiking opportunity: ESA is offering CubeSats a ride to a pair of asteroids in deep space. Teams of researchers and companies from any ESA Member State are free to compete. The selected CubeSats will become Europe's first to travel beyond Earth orbit once the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) is launched in October 2020. (2/27)

India Plans to Test-fly Reusable Launch Vehicle by Mid-2015 (Source: Indian Express)
Taking India’s ‘space shuttle’ dreams a notch closer to reality, ISRO plans to test-fly the Re-usable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) by the middle of 2015. “The test-flight will take place either by the end of the first half of this year or the beginning of the second half. Work is progressing satisfactorily,” ISRO’s new chief A S Kiran Kumar said. “This first test is one of a segment. Work on the RLV is progressing in steps,” he said. (2/27)

Who's Paying £34 Million to Blast Sarah Brightman Into Space? (Source: Daily Mail)
Just before 11am on September 1, a mighty Soyuz‑FG rocket will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome deep in the desert steppes of Kazakhstan. On board will be a space capsule containing three highly-trained cosmonauts bound for the International Space Station (ISS), including Sarah Brightman, who ironically once fronted Hot Gossip for their 1978 smash hit I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper.

It seems like a joke. But the star, who has sold more than 30 million albums, is deadly serious. Recently, she was shivering in sub-zero temperatures in a forest outside Moscow during survival training with her fellow cosmonauts. Brightman may well have been prepared by the man she has most recently been romantically linked to, a flaxen-haired Californian inventor and aeronautics engineer called Dezso Molnar. With or without his help, Brightman passed through Star City with flying colors.

However, we must return to that thorny question of who is paying for all this. One clue could be found at the press conference in Moscow in October 2012 when Brightman announced her stellar ambitions. Sitting alongside her was a man called Neil Ford, who is the director of the sector for external relations and public information of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). As it happens, Brightman is a UNESCO ‘Artist for Peace’, which means she is an international advocate for its work. Click here. (2/27)

Spaceflight Growth Means New Opportunities for Aspiring Aerospace Engineers (Source: Spartan Daily)
The future is looking bright for aerospace students looking for jobs in the next few years. Large shifts in some of the industries that employ large numbers of aerospace engineers, most notably the spaceflight and unmanned aerial system industries, will make it easier for many people to get jobs.

According to Demarest, college-level engineers will occasionally get jobs with large companies right out of college. He referenced a rare event when Elon Musk, the founder of prominent spaceflight company “SpaceX” visited Stanford and pulled some engineers out of its aerospace department to work for him. (2/27)

University of Texas Creates Master's Degree Program for Space Entrepreneurship (Source: Daily Texan)
The University is planning to offer a master’s degree in space entrepreneurship beginning in May.
The program will be a part of the larger Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization program, which began in 1996, according to program director Gary Cadenhead. The space entrepreneurship degree, first announced earlier this semester, will be tailored directly to students who want to learn about combining space exploration and business management. (2/27)

Astronaut Speaks with Space Alabama Group From ISS (Source: WAAY)
Expedition 42 Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts, the two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station, spoke with SpaceAlabama.com the morning of February 26, 2015. The interview covered 3D printing in space, working with ground teams at the Marshall Space Flight Center, living and working in space and of course, spacewalking. (2/27)

Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83 (Source: New York Times)
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83. (2/27)

Early Space Exploration Artifacts on Display at California Spaceport (Source: Lompoc Record)
When Jay Prichard first entered the main building at Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex-10 nearly 23 years ago, the Air Force veteran likened the scene to cracking open the vault of a time capsule. “I pried that door open with a crowbar in June of 1992 because it was literally rusted shut,” Prichard said this week while standing in the nondescript building that, prior to his crowbar, had essentially gone untouched since 1981. Click here. (2/27)

Space Intel Gives France Policy Independence (Source: Defense News)
France draws on its own system of military intelligence satellites to deliver geospatial intel, a resource seen as key to political independence and used for sharing valuable data with the armed forces and allies, a defense official said. That geospatial or geointel capability is intended to support an "autonomous appreciation" of conflicts such as Ukraine by the French Defense Ministry, the chiefs of staff and political leaders, the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. (2/27)

Ron Garan Thinks We Should Colonize The Moon Before Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
As the Dutch-based Mars One venture continues to narrow down candidates for its one-way mission to the red planet, the idea of a permanent human settlement in space is seeming less far-fetched. But NASA astronaut Ron Garan revealed that he thinks there's a better option than Mars for a first attempt at interplanetary colonization: the moon.

"I think we have a long, long way to go both figuratively and literally to get to Mars," Garan told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. "There's many steps, I think, and I think personally what makes sense as a next step in space exploration is to establish a transportation infrastructure between the Earth and the moon and to determine a permanent human presence on the moon."

Providing routine missions to the moon and creating a base for humans there will offer a means of exploring "the entire solar system, including Mars," Garan said. For instance, with a natural supply of water, spaceships could refuel on the moon. Click here. (2/27)

Moon Versus Mars: Are They Really That Different for Settlers? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Mars settlers won't be able to wander the planet without space suits. They'll have to use airtight habitat structures and closed-loop life support systems. The same will be true on the moon. Sure there are some major differences, but if the objective for an initial habitat/settlement is to gain experience and perfect requisite life support technologies, the moon seems like the faster, lower cost option. The moon also is close enough to Earth to allow more feasible escape/abort/rescue plans. (2/27)

Engility Acquires TASC, Expands Into Analysis of Space (Source: Intelligent Aerospace)
Engility Holdings has completed its acquisition of TASC Inc. for approximately $1.3 billion, creating “a leading government services provider with a customer footprint that spans the federal services market,” officials say. (2/26)

NASA Satellites Start Tracking Down the Sources of Climate Change (Source: NBC)
NASA scientists are showing off some of the first results from a fresh crop of satellites and space station sensors designed to track the factors behind climate change and extreme weather on a near-real-time basis. Some of the observing instruments are still being calibrated, but they're already providing data for weather forecasts and climate modeling, the scientists said. Click here. (2.26)

US Needs a Mars Colony, Buzz Aldrin Tells Senators (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. must do more than just plant a flag on Mars if it wants to continue as a leader in the field of space exploration, Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin told senators this week. "In my opinion, there is no more convincing way to demonstrate American leadership for the remainder of this century than to commit to a permanent presence on Mars," Aldrin told members of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. (2/26)

Worden Leaving NASA To Pursue Private Sector Dreams (Source: Space News)
Simon “Pete” Worden, the retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general who transformed NASA Ames Research Center into an incubator for innovative public and private space projects, is stepping down as the director of the Silicon Valley facility “to pursue some long-held dreams in the private sector,” he announced. Worden said he does not have a job lined up, but that he has his eye on academia. (2/26)

Best 3D View of Deep Universe Reveals Astonishing Details (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have just released a brand-new, best-ever 3D view of the deep universe, and it's a doozy. The amazing new photo, released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) reveals never-before-seen cosmic objects in a relatively small patch of sky. The MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile spent 27 hours staring at the Hubble Space Telescope's Deep Field South region, helping scientists learn more about far-flung galaxies. Click here. (2/26)

Virginia Launch Pad Repair Set to Halt in Funding Spat (Source: Reuters)
Work to repair a Virginia-owned launch pad damaged by an Orbital ATK rocket explosion is about to halt amid a debate about who should pick up the bill, according to officials in the dispute. The Oct. 28, 2014 accident at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, Virginia, caused about $20 million in damages to the state-owned launch pad.

Orbital was launching its third Antares rocket for NASA under a $1.9 billion contract to fly cargo to the International Space Station. Orbital had insurance to cover its losses at Wallops, as well as damage to federal property and other entities as required by the FAA. That insurance, however, does not cover the MARS pad owned by Virginia, according to spokespeople for the company and the FAA. “We looked at insurance for the pad, but the coverage was inadequate to our needs, and to the extent it was available, was exorbitantly costly,” MARS Executive Director Dale Nash wrote. (2/26)

Boeing's Satellite Launcher Gives Rockets a 'Butt Boop' (Source: Popular Science)
Elon Musk isn’t the only one interested in reusing his rocket launch systems. Now Boeing, a fellow winner of NASA’s Commercial Crew contracts along with SpaceX, just successfully patented a reusable launch system for getting satellites into lower Earth orbit. The patent seems to be the result (update: Boeing has clarified that it is a different initiative) of the company's partnership with DARPA, which contracted Boeing to come up with a novel airborne satellite launch vehicle.

The patent is for a first-stage supersonic aircraft, as well as a second-stage hypersonic aircraft, which carries a satellite-toting rocket. The first stage vehicle actually shoves its nose up into the butt of the second stage vehicle; the combined aircraft are then mounted onto a carrier aircraft, such as a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress or a Scaled Composites White Knight. Click here. (2/26)

510 Smallsat Launches Planned Over Next Five Years (Source: SpaceRef)
According to Euroconsult's newly released research titled Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, a total of 510 small satellites, or smallsats (meaning nanosats, cubesats, microsats and minisats) are to be launched in the next five years, a two-third increase in the average number of smallsats per year versus that of the past decade. This total includes 14 constellations of different sizes and capabilities that represent a total of 140 satellites. (2/26)

Air Force Leaders Visit Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: AFSPC)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody visited the Morrell Operations Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Feb. 8 for the scheduled launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Deep Space Climate Observatory. During their visit, they had the opportunity of interacting with range, weather and launch teams at work before the launch. (2/25)

Quilty Handicaps the Silicon Valley-fueled Space Race (Source: Space News)
The recent flood of investment in audacious commercial space projects is spookily reminiscent of the late-1990s satellite gold rush, which famously turned into a rout. Google stepped up last year with its nearly $500 million purchase of satellite imaging startup Skybox and followed that up with a $900 million investment in SpaceX’s newly announced plan to deploy a 4,000-satellite Internet-delivery constellation, which is also being backed by Fidelity Investments. Meanwhile, chipmaker Qualcomm and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group have cast their lot with the 650-satellite OneWeb Internet venture led by O3b founder Greg Wyler.

Proposed mega-constellations bear a striking resemblance to the Teledesic and Skybridge Internet-in-the-sky ventures of yesteryear, which never got off the drawing board. By contrast, mobile telephony ventures Globalstar — Qualcomm was a ground-floor investor — and Iridium, along with machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging service provider Orbcomm, did manage to launch large low-orbiting constellations, only to declare bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

The new crop of financiers, a combination of venture capitalists, institutional investors and well-heeled technology giants, are not oblivious to the history — clearly they are betting that a different set of circumstances will carry the day this time around. Click here. (2/26)

New Alliance To Promote Space Development and Settlement Policies (Source: Space News)
On the heels of a closed-door meeting that concluded space development and settlement should be long-term goals of the United States, a group of 11 organizations announced a new coalition that will promote policies to achieve those goals. The Alliance for Space Development (ASD), led by the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation, plans to advocate for legislation and other initiatives to achieve its goal of accelerating the development and settlement of space. (2/26)

February 26, 2015

Hawaii Students Selected for Lunar Flight Experiment (Source: Hawaii 24/7)
When state legislators provided funding for the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), a Hilo-based state government aerospace agency under the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), they hoped the education arm of the entity would encourage Hawaii’s students to shoot for the moon.

Little did they expect that goal to be taken literally. But a partnership between PISCES and NASA will task students from Honolulu’s Iolani School and the Big Island’s Kealakehe High School to design and operate an experiment on the surface on the moon by the end of 2016. The experiment involves electrodynamic dust shield technology and the selected Hawaii students will be mentored by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (2/25)

Congress Wants to Send a Person to Mars — but Doesn't Want to Pay the Bill (Source: Vox)
Congress has given NASA a mandate to put a human on Mars. It hasn't, however, given the space agency enough money to do it. Outside experts have been pointing out this absurdity for some time. On Wednesday, Congress heard it directly from NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin, the person charged with overseeing the space agency.

The problem is simple: NASA is currently developing a space capsule (called Orion) and rocket system (called SLS) that could theoretically take astronauts to Mars, as ordered by Congress. But as Martin explained in his testimony before the House, lawmakers haven't given NASA enough money to develop the technology needed to use these systems for a Mars mission. Click here. (2/25)

Vandenberg: Blasting Off Into the Future (Source: Lompoc Record)
For many Central Coast residents, Vandenberg Air Force Base is sort of a hidden gem. We know it’s there, but its presence somehow flies below most of our radars. Every so often, however, VAFB bursts back onto our radar screen, usually when a giant rocket is lifting off from the base’s launch complex. And we must admit, there are few sights more thrilling than watching one of those rocket-propelled behemoths roar into the heavens. Click here. (2/25)

Russia Plans to Put Man on Moon by 2030 (Source: Daily Mail)
Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, said it would launch the manned missions after reviving its lunar program with unmanned spacecraft. The news comes three years after a leaked document from the federal agency suggested a manned mission to the moon was in the pipeline. (2/25)

NASA Administrator Visits Peru (Source: Peru This Week)
The Administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, will arrive in Lima on Friday to speak on the pending Solar System and Mars Exploration mission, according to the Embassy of the United States in Peru. Bolden will express his support in Peru’s development of scientific research and technological development. As well, he arrives to explain the plans of the ambitious Solar System and Mars Exploration project during a colloquium.

While visiting Peru, Bolden is scheduled to meet with various authorities from academic institutions involving science such as the National Council for Science, Technology and Innovation Research (CONCYTEC) and the National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (CONIDA).

Last year Peru launched its first satellite “Chaski 1” and thus solidified its presence in the world as a participant in space exploration. The National University of Engineering sent the satellite into orbit with temperature reading and photograph-taking capabilities to send information back to earth. (2/25)

China Gets to Build Argentina Satellite Tracking Station for Moon Missions (Source: SCMP)
Argentina’s Congress has approved the installation of a Chinese satellite tracking station in the South American country’s Patagonia region. The measure passed in the lower house with 133 votes in favor and 107 against. Opposition lawmakers questioned the possible military use of the base and a tax exemption that will benefit the station for 50 years. (2/25)

NASA Spending Panel Chairman Keeps Focus on China (Source: Space News)
The new chairman of the House subcommittee that funds NASA served notice Feb. 25 that he shares his very vocal predecessor’s concerns about Chinese efforts to siphon sensitive technical information from the civil space agency.

Amid a back-and-forth with NASA Inspector General Paul Martin about China, restrictions on foreign visitors at NASA’s field centers and cybersecurity, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, produced a virtual echo of the retired Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who held the gavel last year. Culberson, who in the hearing called Wolf “a hero of mine,” pledged to continue the ban on bilateral cooperation between NASA and China that Wolf tacked on to every federal spending bill passed since 2011.

“The Chinese space program is owned lock, stock and barrel by the People’s Liberation Army,” Culberson said. “It’s really important that we keep the Red Chinese out of our space program.” (2/26)

Would You Take a Balloon to the Edge of Space? (Source: CSM)
The idea of extending the tourist industry into space is not new, but it has picked up steam in the last few years. It is no longer seen as an impossibility that, someday, a human could go to space without needing a science degree or tens of millions of dollars.

There remains, however, the matter of hurtling oneself out of the stratosphere in a rocket at thousands of miles per hour, which is not for everyone. For those seeking a gentler ascent, an Arizona-based company called World View is developing an alternative form of travel, namely, lofting passengers more than 100,000 feet up in a huge balloon. Click here. (2/26)

Swiss Space Wants to Build EU60 Million Spaceport in Croatia (Source: SWI)
Swiss Space Systems, a commercial space travel and research company, known as S3, wants to build a 60 million-euro ($68 million) spaceport in Croatia to offer tourists zero-gravity flights, Danko Bosanac, head of office at S3’s Croatian unit, said.

The Payerne, Switzerland-based company is seeking investors to build the port in Udbina in southern Croatia, by 2017, Bosanac said in an interview in Zagreb on Feb. 23. It’s awaiting a license from the local authorities, he said. This would be the second such project in Europe for S3, which plans to offer zero-gravity flights from its Swiss base later this year. (2/26)

India Signs Agreement in Space Technology for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (Source: Business Standard)
Government of India and its national space body, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) of Department of Space (DOS) has signed agreement with other developing/developed countries and their space bodies for peaceful uses of outer space including Research and Development (R&D) in space science, technology and applications.

Currently, such cooperative arrangements are in place with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, The Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America and Venezuela. (2/26)

NASA Hopes to Continue Cooperation on ISS Until 2024 (Source: Sputnik)
NASA is ready to continue to cooperate with its International Space Station (ISS) partners, including Russia, for at least nine more years, the space agency has said in a statement. "The Obama administration is committed to extending operation of the International Space Station to at least 2024," NASA said in the statement, adding that it welcomes "continued cooperation" from its ISS partners in support of this extension and looks forward to working with them on the ISS "until at least 2024". (2/26)

Leaks Show South Africa Spied on Itself for Details of Joint Satellite Project (Source: Sputnik)
South Africa’s intelligence agency relied on a spy who had access to Russian military intelligence to uncover details of its own government’s involvement in a $100 million joint satellite surveillance program with Russia.

The satellite system, called Project Condor, was launched into orbit last December by the Russians and provides surveillance coverage of all of Africa. The project has been shrouded in secrecy, with Russia originally refusing to reveal who its client was. To find out more about the venture, South African intelligence turned to an agent “with direct access to the Russian government,” according to an August 2012 top-secret report, obtained by the Guardian. (2/26)

Laughing Gas and Rubber: A Recipe for Suborbital Flight? (Source: The Register)
This summer, the skies above Nevada will thunder to the sound of a mighty hybrid rocket motor, as the Boston University Rocket Propulsion Group (BURPG) sends its Starscraper vehicle past the symbolic 100km Kármán line. Having recently tin-rattled its way to a healthy $17k down at Kickstarter, BURPG is poised to hit the heavens burning rubber and laughing gas.

The group describes hybrid motors as "relatively underdeveloped" rocket tech. We spoke to BURPG's Jeremy Pedro – a sophomore engineering student – who explained the group's choice. He said: "Solid motors experience high forces and vibrations, but are fairly simple to fabricate. Liquid engines are complex and very expensive. Hybrid motors combine the two and give a best-of-both-worlds scenario. (2/26)

New SpaceX Launch Contracts Will Be First for Texas Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Two communications satellites owned by SES are booked to fly into orbit from South Texas on a pair of Falcon 9 rockets in 2017, giving SpaceX its first two confirmed payloads assigned to launch from the new commercial spaceport, officials said Wednesday.

Industry officials familiar with the launch deal said both satellites are planned to lift off from SpaceX’s new launch site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas. It was not clear whether another commercial SpaceX launch could occur from the Texas spaceport before the SES 14 and SES 16/GovSat missions are ready for liftoff in 2017. (2/25)

Astronomers Find Impossibly Large Black Hole (Source: ANU)
An international team of astronomers has found a huge and ancient black hole which was powering the brightest object early in the universe. The black hole’s mass is 12 billion times that of the Sun, and was at the center of a quasar that pumped out a million billion times the energy of our Sun.

“Forming such a large black hole so quickly is hard to interpret with current theories,” Fuyan Bian said. A quasar is an extremely bright cloud of material in the process of being sucked into a black hole. As the material accelerates towards the black hole it heats up, emitting an extraordinary amount of light which actually pushes away material falling behind it. (2/25)

DigitalGlobe's Satellite Pics Are So Good They're Almost Illegal (Source: NBC)
For the first time, DigitalGlobe is showing off satellite images that are so high-resolution they used to be illegal. Previously, the U.S. government banned companies from offering commercial satellite views with a pixel resolution better than 50 centimeters (20 inches). Sharper images could be sold only to the government.

Last year, the Commerce Department gave the company the go-ahead to market images with 30-centimeter (12-inch) resolution — but not until this month. Now the ban has been lifted, and on Wednesday, DigitalGlobe announced the full availability of 30-centimeter pictures. (2/25)

Air Force Secretary Casts Doubt on RD-180 Replacement Schedule (Source: Space News)
Three months after the U.S. Congress ordered the Air Force to wean itself from a Russian-built rocket engine routinely used to launch national security satellites, a top service official told lawmakers that the 2019 deadline set in the legislation is probably not feasible.

In December, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 that contained a measure mandating that the Defense Department replace the Russian RD-180 engine with an American-made alternative by 2019. The RD-180 is the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, one of two vehicles the company uses to launch most U.S. government satellites and virtually all national security missions.

Air Force officials have since raised doubts about the 2019 timeline. Almost immediately after the bill’s passage, Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, described the schedule as “aggressive” and “challenging.” Editor's Note: With both SpaceX and ULA developing their own engines commercially, why should taxpayers develop yet another one? What rocket would use it? (2/25)

Have Americans Given Up on Going to Space? (Source: Mashable)
It has plenty of close contenders, but I can't think of a more depressing statistic from the last week than one contained within a survey on public perceptions of space travel, conducted by Monmouth University. On the one hand, the poll was good news for space nuts: 56% of respondents think that the space program thus far has brought us "lasting benefits," and that number is pretty much the same across Democrat, Republican and Independent lines.

At least, in a time of utter political polarization, we can agree that our past escapades in space were a good thing. A very slim 51% majority want to increase NASA funding. But that drops to 42% in favor when the public were asked if they want to send astronauts to the Moon, Mars or asteroids — suggesting we're fine with sending probes, but less cool about sending people.

But here's the truly depressing statistic: Only 28% of us say we would care to go to space personally, even if the trip was entirely paid for. Some 3% said it depends, a mere 1% didn't know, leaving a full 69% who have not the slightest desire to slip the surly bonds of Earth's gravity. Apparently we'd rather not trespass on "the high untrespassed sanctity of space" or touch the face of God, thanks. (2/25)

Going to Space Doesn't Mean What It Used To (Source: SPACErePORT)
That survey that found people don't want to go to space? I can understand it. Space exploration isn't what it used to be. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was an expectation that humans would go to Mars soon, that missions to Europa were just around the corner, just like in the movies. Those dreams turned stale after decades of Space Shuttle missions turned "exploration" into astronauts circling in low Earth orbit while the media wondered what music was being played to wake them up every morning.

Today, "exploration" is being pitched to many as suborbital rides for wealthy tourists, with the potential for disaster for every mission. There's talk of returning to the moon and maybe going to Mars, but there is no consensus, no national imperative, no clear vision. I can understand why many people think human spaceflight is uninteresting, pointless, or not worth the risk. (2/25)

Ceres’ Bright Spot has a Dimmer Companion (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is set to insert itself into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres on March 6, 2015. The enigmatic body has puzzled astronomers since its discovery in 1801. The probe's latest images, taken from a mere 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) from Ceres, reveal that the bright spot first detected in previous images, may not be alone. Astronomers do not yet know what these bright spots are. (2/25)

Ceres' Mystery Bright Dots May Have Volcanic Origin (Source: Discovery)
As NASA’s Dawn mission slowly spirals in on its dwarf planet target, Ceres’ alien landscape is becoming sharper by the day. And, at a distance of only 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers), the robotic spacecraft has revealed multiple bright patches on the surface, but one of the brightest spots has revealed a dimmer bright patch right next door.

“This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations.” Regions of higher than average albedo (reflectiveness) have been long known to exist on Ceres, but the low resolution of the observations have prevented planetary scientists from interpreting what they could be. But with the slow arrival of Dawn, these bright spots turn out to be discrete locations that might indicate surface ice features — possibly evidence for cryo-volcanism. (2/25)

Rocket Lab Founder Wins New Zealand Honor (Source: NZ Newswire)
Rocket Lab's Peter Beck has been named New Zealand's Innovator of the Year at a ceremony led by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English in Auckland on Wednesday night. (2/25)

There Will Be Beer On Mars (Source: Playboy)
The Mars crew hadn’t had water, power or fuel for 24 hours. Communication was down, space suits needed to be repaired and life support systems were not functioning. But the beer? The beer was just fine. Earlier this month a team of scientists and space enthusiasts locked themselves into the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a simulated Red Planet base in Hanksville, Utah.

The base is one of four in the world run by the Mars Society, a nonprofit that wants humans to settle on Mars. Thirteen crews of volunteers will rotate through the bases from November 2014 through May 2015, helping advance the science still needed for colonization.

At the remote base in Utah, the seven surrogate astronauts were testing vital space research, such as emergency response procedures, extraplanetary terraforming and ballistic-launched aerial imaging. And, of course, how to brew beer on other planets. (2/25)

Don't Panic, But the Sun Will (Far) Outlive Earth (Source: Space.com)
In a few billion years, the sun will become a red giant so large that it will engulf our planet. But the Earth will become uninhabitable much sooner than that. After about a billion years the sun will become hot enough to boil our oceans.

The sun is currently classified as a “main sequence” star. This means that it is in the most stable part of its life, converting the hydrogen present in its core into helium. For a star the size of ours, this phase lasts a little over 8 billion years. Our solar system is just over 4.5 billion years old, so the sun is slightly more than halfway through its stable lifetime.

It is widely understood that the Earth as a planet will not survive the sun’s expansion into a full-blown red giant star. The surface of the sun will probably reach the current orbit of Mars – and, while the Earth’s orbit may also have expanded outwards slightly, it won’t be enough to save it from being dragged into the surface of the sun, whereupon our planet will rapidly disintegrate. (2/25)

Russia To Quit ISS In 2024, Take Modules to Build Space Base In LEO (Source: Aviation Week)
Moscow says it will extend participation in the International Space Station (ISS) to 2024, after which it plans to disengage three modules from the Russian segment of the orbiting outpost and use them to develop a national space station in low Earth orbit.

The plan, according to Roscosmos, is to develop a “Russian space base on the basis of separated ISS modules.” The new space station would be configured to incorporate Russia's multipurpose laboratory module, nodal module and scientific power module, leading to “a promising Russian space station that meets the challenges of providing secure access to space.” (2/25)

NASA Offers Space Tech Grants to Early Career University Faculty (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of outstanding early-career faculty members who are beginning independent research careers. The grants will sponsor research in specific high-priority areas. Aligned with NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps and priorities identified by the National Research Council, the agency has identified topic areas that lend themselves to the early stage innovative approaches U.S. universities can offer for solving tough space technology challenges. (2/25)

Case of the Missing 'Failed Star' Has Scientists Stumped (Source: Space.com)
A new alien planet-hunting tool has found no trace of a brown dwarf more than 100 light-years from Earth, despite evidence that the misfit failed star is eclipsing its partner, a team of puzzled astronomers says. European Southern Observatory's (ESO) new SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research) on the Very Large Telescope didn't find a sign of a brown dwarf near the double star V471 Tauri, despite the fact that scientists were pretty sure they would find one. (2/25)

Water Pools in US Astronaut's Helmet After Spacewalk (Source: Space Daily)
An American astronaut found water pooling inside his helmet after he finished a six-plus hour spacewalk on Wednesday, raising new concerns about the safety of NASA's spacesuits. Terry Virts was not harmed during the incident, which the US space agency described as "minor" compared to the near-drowning of an Italian astronaut when a similar problem occurred in 2013. (2/25)

February 25, 2015

Earth's Moon May Not Be Critical to Life (Source: Space Daily)
The Moon has long been viewed as a crucial component in creating an environment suitable for the evolution of complex life on Earth, but a number of scientific results in recent years have shown that perhaps our planet doesn't need the Moon as much as we have thought. Click here. (2/25)

New Life for New Frontiers (Source: Space Review)
While discussions about the NASA planetary science budget have focused on the inclusion of a Europa mission and possible termination of existing missions, the budget also supports the start of another mid-sized New Frontiers mission. Jason Callahan explains why a new New Frontiers mission is so important. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2701/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Objects in Space: LOSAT-X and QuickStar (Source: Space Review)
Long before the current surge in interest in small satellites, plans for space-based missile defense fostered an earlier wave of smallsat work. Dwayne Day examines the brief history of one such effort in the early 1990s. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2700/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Issues in Commercial Launch Law (Source: Space Review)
As a Senate subcommittee holds a hearing this week on human spaceflight and commercialization, one topic that may come up is an update to existing commercial launch laws. Jeff Foust reports on some of the major long-running issues likely to be considered in any such legislation. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2699/1 to view the article. (2/24)

The Second Mars Affordability and Sustainability Community Workshop (Source: Space Review)
Late last year, a group of experts met to follow up on earlier discussion on developing affordable pathways for human exploration of Mars. Harley Thronson and Chris Carberry summarize the outcome of that effort. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2698/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Launch Date for First of Xprize Lunar Racers Set for 2016 (Source: E&T)
Two teams competing in the Google Lunar Xprize have partnered to secure a ride to the Moon aboard a SpaceX rocket in late 2016. Japanese Hakuto and US Astrobotic have become the first of the 18 contenders for the $30m prize to announce firm launch plans. Astrobotic will be the main launch procurer with its Griffin lander carrying not only the company's rover called Andy but also providing room for two Hakuto rovers named Moonraker and Tetris traveling as a piggyback. (2/24)

Why Having Babies On Mars Will Be No Small Feat (Source: Forbes)
Parenting is tough enough here on Earth. Imagine being the parent of a toddler confined to a modular Martian habitat on the dusty plains of Tharsis. With nary a “jungle gym” in sight, could human parents on Mars cope with the stress of raising kids in such an alien environment?

Because there are not yet any hard and fast answers to such questions, it came as a shock to many that just last week a young British astrophysics student said she hoped to become the first Mars mother. Maggie Lieu, a 24 year-old student at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., told Britain’s The Independent newspaper that she thought it would be “really exciting” to give birth to the “first real Martian.” Click here. (2/25)

SES Announces New Launch Agreements with SpaceX (Source: SES)
SES announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch two new satellites in 2017 – SES-14 and SES-16/ GovSat – using the Falcon 9 rocket. SES had announced the order of the two new satellites last week. SES-14 is a hybrid satellite to be positioned at 47.5/48 degrees West with C- and Ku-band wide beam coverage, as well as Ku- and Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) coverage, across the Americas and the North Atlantic region. (2/25)

India, Russia Planning to Launch a Research Station Toward the Moon in 2015 (Source: RBTH)
India and Russia are planning to launch a research station towards the Moon in 2015 – the Chandrayaan-2. This was learned from the list of key projects for the current year, released on Tuesday by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The main task of the second Indian moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2, being carried out jointly by ISRO and Roskosmos, is to study the chemical composition of the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite. To do this, they will launch an orbiter station to the Moon, which will then send a lander craft with an on-board Lunokhod. It will collect soil samples and carry out chemical analyses, transmitting the data to Earth. (2/24)

India, UAE Discuss Possible Cooperation in Space Technologies (Source: Khaleej Times)
India and the UAE have discussed possible cooperation in the field of space and related areas to strengthen and diversify their existing strong bilateral relations. The UAE’s Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST)’s top executives led by Director General Yousuf Al Shaibani recently met Indian delegates headed by Anurag Bhushan, Consul General of India in Dubai, according to EIAST statement.

They discussed possible cooperation between EIAST and India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organization in the field of space and related areas. “India is in the midst of a massive national development campaign and one of the areas of focus is harnessing space technology for more diversified growth. ISRO, the national space agency of India has formal cooperative agreements with more than 35 countries. (2/25)

Space Exploration Key for National Security, Economic Growth in UAE (Source: The National)
The UAE has invested more than Dh18 billion into its space programmes, the director general of the country’s newly-established space agency said on Tuesday. Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi said the space market, estimated globally to be worth $340 billion in 2013 and growing at an annual rate of 7 percent, had long been identified by the Government as a sector for development. (2/24)

NASA Scientist Encourages Florida Students to Study Science (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A NASA scientist’s talk Tuesday night at Mainland High School about the search for other planets like Earth left 12-year-old Aaliyah Battle with one question. “Is the Earth dying?” the Campbell Middle School 7th-grader asked Firouz Naderi. “No, it is not, but if we don’t take care of it, then it can die,” Naderi said.

Naderi, director of Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was the guest of Food Brings Hope, a Daytona Beach nonprofit organization that helps homeless children attending public schools in Volusia. Naderi was in Daytona Beach for a presentation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, so organizers took the opportunity to have him speak to elementary, middle and high school children so they get interested in different fields of study. (2/24)

Inside Roc's Lair with Stratolaunch (Source: Aviation Week)
The massive size of the carrier aircraft now in assembly at Mojave for Stratolaunch Systems’ space launch program is apparent for the first time from footage shot for a recent news story by KGET 17. The NBC affiliate was granted unprecedented access to film the gargantuan vehicle, dubbed ‘Roc’ after the giant bird of prey in Middle East mythology, as part of an overview report on space-related developments at Mojave.

Built for Stratolaunch by Scaled Composites (now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman), the Roc will be the largest aircraft ever made, with a wingspan of 385 ft. This compares to 320 ft for the Hughes H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose), 290 ft for the six-engined Antonov An-225, 262 ft. for the Airbus A380, and 225 ft. for the Boeing 747-8. Click here. (2/25)

Antares Failure Review Still ‘Weeks’ Away (Source: Aviation Week)
It will be "weeks" before a failure review board reports its findings on what caused an Orbital ATK Antares launch vehicle to fail seconds after lifting off from its Wallops Island, Virginia., pad on Oct. 28, 2014.

To fulfill its NASA contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, the company says it is on track with plans to use a United Launch Alliance Atlas V to lift its next Cygnus pressurized cargo carrier to the station this fall. And it is moving ahead with plans to refly the medium-lift vehicle on a cargo mission to the ISS in March 2016. (2/24)

Space is Cool, but NASA's Cheeseburgers Look Gross (Source: Mashable)
Kids, you may want to rethink your dreams of becoming an astronaut. Sure, the view from space may be awesome and you'll have endless bragging rights, but the cheeseburgers are terrifying. NASA X tweeted a photo of astronaut Terry Virts' "cheeseburger" on Tuesday, murdering all that is sacred in the land of delicious cheeseburgers. Click here. (2/25)

XCOR Gets Engine Test Stand with Midland Lease Amendment (Source: NewsWest 9)
New equipment is in the works for XCOR Aerospace. The company will be receiving a rocket engine test stand. The Midland City Council approved amending an Economic Development agreement with XCOR to provide funding for it. Up to $200,000 will be coming from the midland development corporation for the project. Officials say the test stand will be the airport's property but part of XCOR's lease. It'll be used as part of the research and development operations of the spaceport. (2/24)

Spaceport America Vows to Move Forward (Source: KVIA)
A $1.7 million dollar budget shortfall at Spaceport America emerged after Virgin Galactic's recent flight test tragedy--from canceled flights and special events, including a Lady Gaga concert. Virgin Galactic is building a new launch vehicle while the crash investigation continues. Test flights could begin by summer but the commercial flight timeline is unclear. The facility says it's talking with 5 companies about potential leases.

"We're expanding our business sectors a bit. Besides the space launch area which obviously we're continuing to pursue and talk to a number of people on. Hopefully we'll get another tenant in FY16... We're also looking at drones and new A.V's," Christine Anderson said. A second anchor tenant, SpaceX, says test flights of its reusable rocket will begin in just a few weeks. The spaceport's also booking events and filming commercials. In December, Kawasaki shot a commercial on the 12,000-foot long spaceway. (2/25)

NASA Eyes New Mars Orbiter for 2022 (Source: Space News)
NASA will launch a new telecommunications orbiter to the red planet in 2022 to follow the sample-caching Mars 2020 rover, the agency’s new Mars czar said. This Mars 2022 orbiter may use experimental technologies such as high-power solar-electric propulsion or an optical communications package that could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems, said Jim Watzin, NASA’s Mars exploration program director. (2/25)

Space Florida Among Seed Investors in Ardusat (Source: Prehub)
Ardusat, an education company focused on enhancing student engagement through hands-on experimentation, announced it has secured a total of $1 million in seed funding from Space Florida, Fresco Capital, Spire and other investors. The capital will finance the expansion of Ardusat’s Experiment Platform, which enables K-12 and higher education students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through custom experiments conducted in space or on earth.

“Immersive programs, like the ones Ardusat is implementing, are just what we need in our school system to get more students excited about STEM careers,” said Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello. “It’s critical to engage our next generation of scientists and engineers early on. Providing hands-on opportunities to create and execute experiments in space is a wonderful way to make that happen. We are looking forward to seeing these programs implemented in Florida schools.” (2/25)

Texas County Moves Forward with Space Plan, Appoints Board (Source: Waco Tribune)
Seven people were appointed Tuesday to a board created to bring state funds to McLennan County to encourage local space development. McLennan County commissioners voted to approve the incorporation of an entity — along with its bylaws and board of directors — that officials say will be the third of its kind in the state.

County Judge Scott Felton said grant funding is available from the state to assist in the creation and development of a spaceport, which is an area to be used for spaceflight activities, including research, development, testing and more. SpaceX and its McGregor facilities are involved in spaceflight activities, as is the Texas State Technical College campus, which serves to train and research for spaceflight activities. (2/25)

America’s New Rules for Drones Will Keep Some Businesses Grounded (Source: Economist)
Like driverless cars, pilotless aircraft also promise to be a huge business if regulatory obstacles can be overcome. This week, after years of delay, America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came out with its draft rules for commercial drones. Although not as draconian as some had feared, unmanned aircraft will continue to have their wings clipped.

There had been worries that the FAA would require drones to undergo an expensive and lengthy process to be certified as airworthy, as happens with manned aircraft; and that the person on the ground operating the drone would need a pilot’s licence. Instead, the agency is proposing that drones weighing less than 25kg (55lbs), that are well-maintained and checked before flight, can be flown without certification by operators who have passed a basic aeronautical test.

The drones, however, would have to stay below 500 feet, fly only in daylight and remain in view of their operators at all time. And they could not be flown over people. This is a “good first step”, said the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, a lobby group. It would allow, say, an estate agent to take aerial photographs of a house being put up for sale, or a farmer to survey a crop for signs of disease—and do so for a lot less than hiring a helicopter. But not being allowed to fly over crowds might prevent television companies from filming sporting events with drones. (2/24)

Moon Space Law: Legal Debate Swirls Around Private Lunar Ventures (Source: Space.com)
Without a legal framework, proponents of lunar business say that investors won't develop the financial and technical wherewithal to build industry on the moon. There's need for assurance from the United States government that private-sector activities will be approved and protected when they aim for the moon.

First, Congress needs to revisit the Commercial Space Launch Act and amend it so that the FAA has broader authority between the launch and re-entry phase of future commercial activities. The FAA and Congress need to consider how potential laws like the proposed Asteroid Act will affect the Commercial Space Launch Act and specifically how it will affect international treaty obligations.

Second, the executive branch, specifically the State Department, will need to work with the FAA and Congress to determine how future commercial activities such as Bigelow's will affect not only international treaty obligations but the geopolitical sphere as well. Click here. (2/24)

Russia to Build Its Own Orbital Station After 2024 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will continue using the International Space Station (ISS) until around 2024 and is planning to build its own orbital outpost using the existing ISS modules, Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said Tuesday. "The configuration of a multi-purpose lab module, a docking module and a scientific-energy module allows us to build an orbital station to ensure Russia's access to outer space," Roscosmos Science and Technology Board said in a statement. (2/24)

Blakey Leaving AIA For Rolls-Royce North America (Source: Aviation Week)
Marion Blakey, the longtime face and voice of U.S. aerospace and defense industry concerns in Washington, is leaving her lobby perch to take over European engine-maker Rolls-Royce’s North American (RRNA) operations. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the company announced the move separately on Feb. 24. She will become CEO and president of RRNA and chair its U.S. board of directors. (2/24)

Reentering Chinese Rocket Sparks North America Fireballs (Source: Discovery)
The third stage of a Chinese rocket, which blasted off in December to put a remote sensing satellite into orbit, returned into the atmosphere in grand fashion Monday night, sparking a family of spectacular fireballs as it incinerated over the western part of North America. (2/24)

Using Jupiter as an Alien World Analog (Source: Discovery)
Owing to its size, fascinating chemistry and system of varied moons, Jupiter is one of the most studied planets in the solar system, though many mysteries remain. But a new study has taken a look at the gas giant from a whole different perspective — as an alien, living far beyond the solar system, would see it. Click here. (2/24)

Next Launch of Angara Heavy Lift Rocket Planned for First Half of 2016 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The next launch of the Angara-A5 heavy lift carrier rocket will be carried out in the first half of 2016, a rocket and space industry source said. "The next Angara flight is scheduled for the first half of 2016," he said. The rocket’s general designer Vladimir Nesterov said previously that the second heavy Angara rocket would be delivered to Russia’s military on late 2015. (2/24)

Despite JWST Progress, A Key Subsystem Faces Delays (Source: Aviation Week)
The $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope program is on track to run a series of environmental tests this summer on key instruments, with plans to begin a final three-month cyro-vacuum test of the JWST’s Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), according to NASA. The program’s ISIM team says it has overcome a series of challenges plaguing all four of the module’s instruments, as well as a cryocooler subsystem that supports the Mid-Infrared Instrument. (2/24)

Defeatism, Cynicism and Mindless Conservatism Didn't Get Us to the Moon (Source: USA Today)
NASA is necessarily risk-averse. The space agency carefully scripts the activities of astronauts, safely planning extravehicular activities and scientific investigations aboard the International Space Station. And that's perfectly appropriate for the times we live in.

These days the big picture — the longer-term benefit to humanity of taking risks to achieve something extraordinary such as Apollo — is rarely what motivates congressional appropriations. Instead, parochialism and near-term thinking determine what Congress authorizes NASA to do.

Settlement of Mars in our lifetime demands a different approach. Mars One sets a clear and audacious goal: a self-sustaining colony on Mars. It has already begun working with traditional aerospace contractors, including Lockheed Martin. However, unlike Apollo, Mars One will use market forces and the ingenuity of the settlers to make it happen. (2/23)

Two UCF Students Among Mars One Finalists (Source: Central Florida Future)
Two UCF students have made it one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars. On Feb. 16, Mars One foundation announced the Mars 100 Round Three candidates to colonize Mars. Among them are UCF students, computer science major Taranjeet Singh Bhatia and Ph.D. physics student George Hatcher. (2/24)

NASA Successfully Launches Three Rockets for DOD (Source: WAVY)
Early Tuesday morning, NASA Wallops Flight Facility successfully launched three Terrier-Oriole suborbital rockets for the Department of Defense. The rockets were launched between 2:30 a.m and 2:31 a.m. from the flight facility on the Eastern Shore. These rocket launches were the first since the Antares rocket launch explosion from Oct. 28, 2014. (2/24)

Virgin Galactic’s Sales Numbers Don’t Add Up (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I’ve been doing a bit of research into Virgin Galactic over the last few days. I’ve come to a realization that the company’s ticket sales and cancellation numbers don’t add up in the wake of SpaceShipTwo’s crash. Prior to the crash, Richard Branson was claiming the company had 800 ticket holders, or close to that number. He reiterated the figure three days after the crash.

So, assuming an even 800 ticket holders, Virgin Galactic would have been left with 778 people still signed up for trips to space [after 24 cancellations, as reported by BetaWired]. Here’s the interesting thing. The number dropped to around 700 by the beginning of 2015. That’s according to NBC's Alan Boyle. So, what could account for such a sharp drop? There are two possibilities. Click here. (2/24)

Editorial: Alaska Spaceport Plays Vital, Growing Role (Source: News Miner)
When the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) was created by the Legislature almost two decades ago, the direction for the company was clear: “... (S)pace-related economic growth, thereby ensuring a stable and dynamic research and business climate by attracting space-related businesses to locate within and utilize the opportunities provided in the state ...” (Alaska Statute 26.27.090)

For 15 years, we were not particularly imaginative and somewhat content having a single Department of Defense military customer dominate launch site activity and revenue creation. That was the aerospace world back then. Today, we steadily are moving forward toward corporate independence, with a goal of operating without a need for state assistance. We are forecasting our place in a dynamic modern aerospace launch market that is building up ultimately to a tempo of launches per week, not launches per year.

Our elected officials are looking for alternatives to just cutting jobs from state government to cover expenses. AAC is engaged in building revenue generation and job creation while it has been reducing its operating costs by $2 million per year, each year, on the way to zero. (2/24)

Like to Chase Space Probes? Track All Active Ones From Moon and Beyond (Source: C/net)
When Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard took a look around space-related Internet sites recently, they discovered something missing. There weren't any sites that provided a comprehensive picture of all the space probes drifting through our solar system. So on Thursday, February 19, the women launched a mission of their own: Spaceprob.es.

The new website delivers the details on 29 active space probes. These, Waldman told me, include any satellite with which we still have communication. To be included on the site, the probe must also be at least as far away as the moon. Earth-orbiting satellites don't count. Click here. (2/24)

2015 to Become Record-Breaking Year for Soyuz-2 Launches (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is planning to conduct 19 launches of Soyuz-2 carrier rockets this year, breaking the record of 14 missions in 2014, the director general of the Yekaterinburg-based manufacturer of equipment for the space-rocket hardware said on Tuesday. (2/24)

Could Ionized Gas Do A Better Job of Sterilizing Spacecraft? (Source: Astrobiology)
Earth’s microbes are a hardy bunch. They can survive in extreme environments, such as inside hot springs at the bottom of the ocean. Some have even remained alive despite being exposed to the ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, extreme low temperatures, and vacuum of space. This is why planetary protection advocates are so concerned about our exploration of other planets in the Solar System.

Concerns about the contamination of the icy moon Europa, for example, prompted controllers of the Galileo mission to crash the spacecraft into Jupiter in 2003 so that microbes wouldn’t accidentally take seed on what could be a habitable moon. Despite the best efforts of spacecraft cleaners, some microbes seem to survive conventional cleaning processes. This is why a new method is emerging that uses ionized gas to kill the microbes.

“Plasma sterilization is a process not only compatible with modern spacecraft, but it also enables successful removal and inactivation of most resistant microbial species isolated in spacecraft assembly facilities,” wrote Moeller. “The method is very fast. Full spore inactivation of 100 million of bacterial spores was achieved in five minutes, even with spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, which encounters the highest resistance to UV radiation and further sterilization methods,” wrote Katharina Stapelmann. (2/24)

Spaceport to be Discussed at Meeting in Clear Lake on March 3 (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Residents and business owners in Clear Lake and southeast Houston will have a chance to voice concerns about such projects as a spaceport at Ellington Field, at a joint Capital Improvement Project meeting on Tuesday, March 3.

The development of a Houston Spaceport at Ellington Field would serve as an economic generator for the city and enhance the region's position a key player in the aerospace industry. The key to the spaceport's success is securing continued funding at the state level, said Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. (2/24)

Let’s Go Back to the Moon. No, Mars. No, the Moon. The Debate Continues. (Source: Washington Post)
To the moon again? Or Mars? The questions have hung over NASA for years, and emerged again at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. Under President George W. Bush, the target was the moon. Under Obama, who said “we’ve been there before,” Mars became the mission.

But now as his term nears its end, there is some increasingly vocal criticism of that decision, saying there isn’t the funding or political will to get to Mars. Focusing on Mars is a “flawed policy direction,” said Scott Pace. The moon, he says, “is the next logical target for all of our potential international partners.”

Russia has endorsed sending astronauts there, he said. China sent an unmanned rover to the moon, and unveiled designs for a new heavy rocket for deep space exploration. It even has plans to build its own space station. “Growing space powers such as the Republic of Korea and India have their own unmanned lunar ambitions,” Pace said, while adding that the private sector has also made huge advancements. Click here. (2/24)

This Astronaut Wants to Fly You to Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Becoming an astronaut is easily the dream of many but sometimes that's all it ever is -- a dream. For Leland Melvin, who happens to be the 13th African American astronaut, that all became a reality through patience, hard work, and a knack for problem solving. About 14 years after Melvin joined NASA, he flew two missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis -- first as a mission specialist in February 2008 and then as a mission specialist 1 the following year. Click here. (2/24)

Aerojet Rocketdyne to Research Next Generation Green Propellants (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded a contract to research and develop environmentally sustainable monopropellants and gas generators for rocket and missile propulsion and Divert Attitude Control Systems.
The company is working with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base; and the U.S. Army Medical Command to develop a new family of high-performing liquid propellants. The effort is funded through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, an office of the Department of Defense. (2/24)

Cruz Wants the U.S. to Embrace Space (Source: Bellingham Herald)
Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz ran his first subcommittee hearing today as a surprisingly bipartisan lovefest on space exploration. “As chairman, my first priority for the space portion of the subcommittee is helping NASA refocus its priorities,” said Cruz in his opening remarks. “It is imperative that America has the ability to get to the International Space Station without the assistance of the Russians.”

As Cruz spoke, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who was seated next to Cruz, smiled and nodded. Nelson then said, “Blossoms are breaking out all over Washington. What you just said – you and I completely agree on.” Cruz nodded his head often when Nelson spoke, too, about the need for commercial development of space travel. The Florida senator said the subcommittee had always been “non-partisan.” (2/24)

Harris CapRock Touts Maritime Service That Automatically Switches to Best Network (Source: Space News)
Managed telecommunications solutions provider Harris CapRock has put together a new maritime service that company officials say will keep users connected by automatically switching them to the best available network, satellite or terrestrial, at any given location. (2/24)