November 20, 2014

LinkedIn Group Provides Focus on Spaceports, States, Space Transportation (Source: SPACErePORT)
The weekly FLORIDA SPACErePORT can be overwhelming. A hard-copy printout can be 20 pages long! If you want to focus on space transportation issues, spaceports, and what states like Florida are doing in space, you might want to join the SPACErePORT's LinkedIn Group. Click here. (11/20)

Russian Scientists Expect Return of Soviet Reputation in Space Exploration (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will regain its Soviet-era reputation of space exploration leader if the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025, which includes a flight to Mercury, plays out as planned, Lev Zeleny, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute says.

"Russia is currently in a good position… We, our Academy of Sciences, take active part in experiments on the other countries" space crafts — European, American and even Japanese. Our equipment works on the Moon, Mars and Venus" orbits and we are preparing a flight to Mercury," Zeleny said. "If all our plans realize, we will return ourselves the position the Soviet Union had in space research," he added. (11/20)

Comet Orbiter to Deliver Data into 2016 (Source: Bloomberg)
The Rosetta orbiter that delivered the Philae lander to the surface of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet could remain in orbit around the comet until 2016. While the lander has received massive attention, scientists working on the project say the orbiter's technology could, in the long-run prove more valuable. (11/20)

Engineers Cope With SpaceShipTwo Loss (Source: NBC)
ngineers are sometimes stereotyped as emotion-free brainiacs, but that stereotype gets shattered after spending just a few minutes with the engineers who are grieving over the loss of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane and one of its pilots.

The death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury during SpaceShipTwo's breakup on Oct. 31, and the impact of that death on the family he left behind, are foremost in the minds of the team at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. But SpaceShipTwo Serial No. 1 is also being mourned.

"It feels like you physically lost a baby," structural engineer Samira Virani told NBC News at Virgin Galactic's Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar, or FAITH. "You think about it like that. It used to be physically behind me in the hangar, and now it's no more." (11/20)

Virginia and Florida Members Added to House Appropriations Committee (Source: U.S. House)
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), whose district includes the spaceport at Wallops Island, and Rep. David Jolly (R-FL), a defense industry advocate from Tampa, have been added to the House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee for the 114th Congress. (11/20)

Profile on Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) (Source: Space News)
It might seem a bit unusual for a lawmaker from Houston, home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, to be an outspoken advocate of the agency’s planetary science program, which resides half a continent — and in the figurative sense, a full world — away in Pasadena, California.

But Rep. John Culberson is perfectly comfortable in that role, even as he identifies the big-ticket human spaceflight programs that are Johnson’s bread and butter as his top priorities.

Culberson has taken a particular interest in a mission to Europa, the jovian moon whose icy exterior covers what scientists believe is an ocean that might offer the best — if still remote — hope of finding alien life in the solar system. In this, the conservative Texan has what otherwise would be an unlikely ally in Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose Pasadena district includes NASA JPL, which specializes in planetary missions. (10/29)

Ten Years Later East Texas Remembers Columbia (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ten years later, the moment I remember most about the Columbia shuttle tragedy took place in a Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in tiny Alto, Texas. The half-dozen congregants silently passed around photos of pieces of the space shuttle that fell there the day before, when Columbia broke up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

A piece of metal the size of a shoe box in a woman's front yard. A scrap of what looked like scorched heat shield, in the middle of a country road. There was a deep reverence as volunteer firefighter Jeff Duplichain shared the photos he had taken of the debris he helped catalog.

This one-stoplight town was already in mourning that Saturday when they heard the roar that shook their homes. The Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, happened the same day as the funeral for a popular high-school senior — one in a class of just 47 — who had died in a car accident earlier that week. (11/20)

Retired General, Former Astronaut to Advise Canada on Space Policy (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired general Walter Natynczyk were named Wednesday to the government’s space advisory board. Industry Minister James Moore made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada in Ottawa. There has been growing concern among space industry representatives that Canada’s space policy has been severely lacking. (11/20)

No Peace Treaty Hampers Russia-Japan Space Cooperation (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian-Japanese cooperation in space research is underdeveloped because the two countries did not sign a peace treaty yet, director of Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Space Research Lev Zeleny told reporters on Wednesday. “Our cooperation with Japan is underdeveloped. We are working much to share the data with Japanese partners, but no peace treaty hampers us to have treaties on outer space exploration as those we have with Europe, the United States and other countries,” the scientist said.

The Soviet Union and Russia as its legal successor did not ink a peace deal after the end of the Second World War yet. The problem of the Kuril Islands remains main unsettled issue in bilateral ties. (11/19)

The Tricky Ethics of Intergalactic Colonization (Source: WIRED)
Zheng He! Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He set out from China on massive naval expeditions that reached as far as Mecca and Mombasa, journeys with more than 300 vessels and 28,000 crew, excursions far bigger and longer than those of Columbus more than a half century later. Staggering in price, formidable in technical sophistication, unprecedented in level of national commitment—Zheng’s voyages remain the closest functional equivalent to the cost, effort, and risk required to travel into deep space.

Is there a better icon for interstellar voyaging? Trying to picture what settling other planets might entail? After the last Yuan emperor fled in 1368, Zheng became part of an elite group of eunuch adventurers and troubleshooters at the Ming court in Beijing. The Ming government backed Zheng for decades. Seven times the emperor arrogantly overruled his accountants and summoned the vast amounts of material necessary to provision thousands of people on years-long voyages. Click here. (11/20)

Satellite Internet is a Space Business Widow-Maker—So Why Does Elon Musk Want In? (Source: Quartz)
Mobile networks Iridium and GlobalStar, the firms with the largest commercial satellite constellations, both spent time in bankruptcy proceedings before re-emerging as going concerns. Teledesic, a satellite-internet company backed by Microsoft, halted work in 2002, while SkyBridge, an Alcatel satellite internet project, went bankrupt in 2000.

So why is Elon Musk so eager to see his SpaceX commercial space transport company take a crack at a business that has been so troublesome? When it comes to profits in space, the biggest business is happening on the ground: You make money by building satellites and rockets, or by using satellites to beam information back and forth to earth. Orbit is just a place in your supply chain.

Existing satellite internet is expensive and dodgy, though—only 0.2% of internet users in OECD countries in 2012 used satellite broadband. Tests by US telecom regulators show it has 19 times the latency of terrestrial internet, thanks to the long distances it travels, and costs can be high. The technical challenges of managing data and avoiding interference with other satellites also are substantial. Click here. (11/19)

Return to the Moon (Source: Boston Globe)
With NASA and the Europeans focused on robot exploration of distant targets, a moon landing might not seem like a big deal: We’ve been there, and other countries are just catching up. But in recent years, interest in the moon has begun to percolate again, both in the United States and abroad—and it’s catalyzing a surprisingly diverse set of plans for how our nearby satellite will contribute to our space future. Click here. (11/14)

Proposed Port Canaveral Rail Line Cuts Through Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA KSC officials are supporting a series of public meetings that could pave the way for 11 miles of new railroad that would connect Port Canaveral to the Florida East Coast Railway. The rail expansion is included within KSC's new master plan and would cut through Kennedy Space Center, using existing unused rail infrastructure that was built decades ago to transport launch vehicle segments and equipment to the spaceport.

Residents at the public meetings were mostly opposed to the idea, with complaints about noise and other environmental impacts. Port Canaveral officials say the new rail line would support up to four trains per week, each with up to 220 rail cars carrying cargo to and from ships at the seaport. The new rail line might also support the delivery of space-related goods for the spaceport. (11/20)

Arianespace Chief to Austrailia: Focus on Astronauts, Not Space Tourists (Source: Financial Review)
China has triggered a space race and Australia should take part by training astronauts instead of helping space tourist operations like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, according to the commercial space company that landed the robot Philae on a comet this month, Arianespace.

Chief executive Stephane Israel, who visited Australia as part of the delegation of French President Francois Hollande, said recent accidents in the space industry, including the dramatic explosion of an Antares rocket and the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, were tragedies but would not hurt his company or the industry. He said government subsidies and funding should be kept for space programs that focused on helping as many people as possible rather than wealthy space tourists. (11/20)

Aussie Spaceport Advocate Meets with Queensland Officials (Source: Spaceport Australia)
John Moody from Spaceport Australia met on Thursday with Queensland State Government officials from Innovation and Planning, Steve Kanoswki and Greg Fahey. Fahey is a Special Advisor to the the state's Director-General. Mr. Moody spoke about operations and roles which Spaceport Australia would play in Australia, along with lease-back options for the spaceport site. The group will meet again in a month to follow up and keep moving forward to the creation of a spaceport in Australia. (11/20)

Impact Inspection Methods Considered for ISS (Source: Air & Space)
The piece of orbital junk closed in on the International Space Station at 29,000 mph. Six crew members evacuated to two Soyuz space capsules that would be their lifeboats if the debris made contact. The astronauts had no tools designed to find and repair significant damage and had only one option: Undock, and abandon the $100 billion Earth-orbiting laboratory. At 8:08 a.m. on June 28, 2011, the object and the station flew past each other—a harrowing 1,100 feet apart at closest approach.

Engineers and safety officers at NASA have given a lot of thought to the tools that a station crew could use to respond to a significant collision. The first solution is simply being able to inspect the exterior of the station for damage. Astronauts’ inability to adequately survey their spacecraft has been a problem ever since one of Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks exploded on the way to the moon and, more recently, when the space shuttle Columbia burned up on reentry

The goal now is to get real-time observation in as many places in and around the space station as possible. The range of technology that NASA and its partners are working on is broad—from high-definition external cameras to autonomous robots that can fly around or crawl on the outside of the station to investigate and repair damage. Click here. (11/20)

Countdown Clock Retired, Poised for Move to KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The iconic Countdown Clock located at the Kennedy Space Center press site in Florida – ended its decades-long service today. The timepiece, which has provided the exact time before a mission takes flight, as well as the amount of time that missions have spent in orbit – was officially shut down at 3:45 p.m. EDT.

“The new clock will be different, it’s going to be a flat screen, outdoor kind of device and it’s going to be bigger…we’re looking at something that is durable, weather-proof and we’re looking into putting something there that is not just a clock, but something that would allow us to put the NASA TV program out there too. It would be something that you could have some flexibility with,” Lisa Malone said.

The old clock will now join many other historic space artifacts that are located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. NASA meanwhile will work to have the new clock in place for the planned Dec. 4 launch of a test article of the agency’s new Orion spacecraft. (11/20)

Boeing to Issue Layoff Notices for Huntsville Employees (Source: Huntsville Times)
Boeing confirmed Wednesday evening it will begin issuing layoff notices to a small percentage of its 1,000 Huntsville employees on Friday. The layoffs are related to NASA's Space Launch System, a deep space rocket. (11/19)

Fiji Willing to Assist India in Orbit Missions (Source: FBC)
Fiji stands ready to assist India in future orbit missions. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama gave his assurance to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday. Fiji helped India monitor its historic Mars Orbiter Mission. The Mission was launched on 5th November last year and India was the first nation to launch an inter-planetary mission. (11/20)

Excalibur Almaz to Fight Civil Suit in US (Source: IOM Today)
Directors of Manx-registered space exploration company Excalibur Almaz says they will vigorously defend ‘baseless’ claims made against them in a US civil lawsuit. In a civil suit filed in Harris County district court, Texas, Japanese businessman Takafumi Horie alleges Excalibur Almaz founders Art Dula and J Buckner Hightower misled him into investing $49m in a commercial space transportation venture.

In a statement, Excalibur Almaz said: ‘These allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended. 'To set the record straight, Excalibur Almaz is not out of business and is vigorously pursuing a profitable commercial space program utilizing proven Russian flight hardware capable of re-use, contrary to recent allegations.’

This isn’t the first lawsuit filed against Excalibur Almaz. In 2012, Donna Beck sued the company and a number of its directors for allegedly defrauding her and her late husband into investing $300,000 in an asteroid mining scheme. Lawyers for Excalibur said they would mount a ‘rigorous’ defence against the ‘completely unfounded’ claims. (11/20)

Supporting Canadian Aerospace Excellence (Source: Govt. of Canada)
The Canadian aerospace industry is a global success story that is setting new standards for innovation, productivity and competitiveness, Industry Minister James Moore told a lunchtime audience today at the 2014 Canadian Aerospace Summit. The Minister underlined the government's support for aerospace and reiterated its commitment to supporting the manufacturing industry and establishing the right economic conditions for success. These included lowering taxes, cutting the corporate rate from over 22 percent in 2007 to 15 percent today and removing the federal capital tax. Click here. (11/19)

Fragments of Russia’s De-Orbited Progress M-24M Spacecraft Fall Into Pacific (Source: Itar-Tass)
Fragments of Russia’s Progress M-24M cargo resupply spacecraft that were not burnt in the dense part of the atmosphere have fallen into non-navigable waters of the Pacific. The spaceship was de-orbited at 02:00 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday.

After undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on October 27, Progress M-24M took part in a scientific experiment to study the possibility of transmitting optical signals to carry out the researches on the changes of the Earth’s atmosphere. (11/20)

Sarah Brightman May Soon Start Medical Tests for Tourist Space Flight (Source: Itar-Tass)
British singer Sarah Brightman may arrive in Moscow in late December to undergo pre-flight medical tests, the head of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems said. "Medical tests are scheduled for the end of December but Ms. Brightman has not confirmed her arrival yet," Igor Ushakov said. Brightman, 54, will not be allowed to start her pre-flight training in mid-January without permission of medics. Brightman's flight is scheduled for September 1-11, 2015. (11/19)

Comet Landing as a Prelude to Asteroid Mining (Source: Boston Globe)
The success of the Rosetta mission was a banner day for space exploration. It also made one small, quixotic industry suddenly seem a lot less like science fiction: asteroid mining. David Gump is the vice chairman of Deep Space Industries, one company currently planning to send probes on one-year prospecting trips to near-earth asteroids. He said such trips would be “much easier” than Rosetta’s mission, which required a decade of travel past Mars.

Rosetta’s landing, he hopes, will make his company’s plans look more realistic to investors and customers. Asteroid mining is an idea that’s developed over the last decade, as scientists have identified increasing numbers of near-earth asteroids, bodies relatively accessible because their paths around the sun are similar to our own. Click here. (11/14)

As New Space Powers Emerge, NASA More Unreliable as Partner (Source: WPR)
When the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully landed the spacecraft Philae on a comet last week, it accomplished something once thought to be the sole purview of the superpowers. In truth, the ESA—a consortium of 20 formal members—highlights a well-established and accelerating trend: Whereas space was once beyond the reach of all but the U.S. and the Soviet Union, recent decades have witnessed the spread and maturing capabilities of new space powers around the world.

While the United States has reasons to be concerned with that shift related to national security, it also has cause to celebrate, as promoting the peaceful exploration of space by others has been a longstanding U.S. goal. Nevertheless, a series of recent budget-driven cuts and cancellations have jeopardized NASA’s credibility as a reliable partner on international space projects. (11/19)

Launched Russian Satellites to Reach 150 by 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will increase the number of its orbital satellites to 150 by 2025, head of Russia's United Rocket Space Corporation (URSC) said Monday. "According to the federal space program's new project, the number of orbital satellites with social-economic purpose will be doubled to 75, while the number of the satellites for government needs is expected to reach 150 by 2025," Igor Komarov said. (11/19)

Lunar Mission One Aims to Send Crowdfunded Probe to Drill on Moon (Source: Guardian)
Move over, Mars: A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One has begun a crowdfunding effort to send a robotic lander to the moon with a monster drill. The first step of the plan is to raise $950,000 (£600,000) through a Kickstarter campaign. That money would finance Lunar Mission One's planning and management activities during the initial phase of what backers expect will be 10 years of preparation. The plan calls for additional sales, marketing, planning and development efforts to build up toward launch in 2024.

The centerpiece of the fundraising effort is an array of time capsules that Lunar Mission One expects to have its probe bury on the moon. The capsules would contain "digital memory boxes" that serve as extraterrestrial archives for the project's backers. The Kickstarter campaign promises to "reserve your place in space" for a pledge of £60 ($94) or more — but other perks are going for as little as £3, or less than five U.S. dollars. (11/19)

Brownsville Students Learn from SpaceX (Source: KHOU)
SpaceX is set to begin construction of a new spaceport in south Texas in the next few months that will transform the Rio Grande Valley into a commercial space hub and research center. "To say this is a game changer in the area is really an understatement," said Fredrick Jenet, Director of the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy at the University of Texas, Brownsville.

Professor Jenet leads a team of student researchers at the Center that is designed to resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. SpaceX's new launch site will give astrophysics students and faculty at UT Brownsville unprecedented opportunities for space research. Click here. (11/19)

Orbital’s Three Poker Games (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Chief Executive David W. Thompson is not a guy I would ever want to play poker with. Discussing the company’s “go-forward” Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo contract for the international space station and its Antares plans with Wall Street analysts Nov. 5 — less than a week after the smoke had cleared over Wallops Island, Virginia, from the rocket’s Oct. 28 launch failure — Thompson was confident the company would be able cover its commitment to NASA with minimal cost out of its own pocket.

Clearly, Orbital continues to hold cards close to its vest as it juggles not one, not two, but three different hands. And I’m not quite sure where it may be bluffing. The first hand is Orbital announcing it would buy one or two third-party launches for the Cygnus cargo vehicle, with a first flight as early as the second quarter of 2015. Discussions are taking place with two U.S. companies and one European company that Thompson wouldn’t name.

I presume those names are SpaceX, ULA and Arianespace, but I am smelling a bluff already. The least likely candidate in my mind is Arianespace. Ignore integrating Cygnus on a Soyuz or International Traffic in Arms Regulations and clearing customs when moving the cargo spacecraft out of the country. Simply consider logistics plus contracts in flying Cygnus, its support equipment and technicians from Wallops Island to Europe’s Kourou, French Guiana, spaceport. Click here. (11/17)

Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly Of Next Mars Lander (Source: Space Daily)
Lockheed Martin has started the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase for NASA's InSight Mars lander spacecraft. The InSight mission will record the first-ever measurements of the interior of the red planet, giving scientists unprecedented detail into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets. InSight is scheduled to launch in March 2016. (11/19)

NASA Skunkworks Team Set to Deliver Newfangled 6U CubeSat (Source: NASA)
A NASA "skunkworks" team gave itself just one year to develop, test and integrate a newfangled CubeSat that could reliably and easily accommodate agency-class science investigations and technology demonstrations at a lower cost. The team, comprised of engineers and scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, is on track to meet its self-imposed deadline.

The team is expected to begin environmental testing of a six-unit, or 6U, CubeSat in late December. Once the team completes thermal vacuum testing, it will deliver the new CubeSat to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where it then will be readied for launch to the International Space Station for deployment perhaps as early as January 2016. "Rapid advances in the performance and efficiency of miniaturized systems are enabling a future only limited by vision and imagination," Johnson said. "CubeSats are a part of that future."

The CubeSat — known as Dellingr, a name derived from the god of the dawn in Norse mythology — will carry three heliophysics-related payloads. It doubles the payload capability of the ubiquitous and proven three-unit, or 3U, CubeSat pioneered by the California Polytechnic Institute in 1999 primarily for the university community. (11/18)

VCs Eye Ukrainian Space Startups (Source: Ukraine Digital News)
Is the Ukrainian space industry attractive to venture investors? Business magazine Capital has identified examples of successful startups and asked local and international VCs to comment on the matter. There already are space startups at universities in the country. Nanosputnik PolyITAN, developed by students at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as part of the international program QB50, is an example.

PolyITAN-1 was launched into orbit on a Dnepr rocket on June 19 and last month the project received investments of 500,000 hryvnias (just over $32,000) from the Academic V.S. Mikhalevich Fund. Also this year, Ukrainian Pavel Tanasyuk launched a sputnik into orbit as part of the Space BIT project, which makes it possible to issue electronic money and complete operations with it outside the jurisdiction of any country.

The Ukrainian eFarmer project, which gives farmers access to maps of fields, is a resident at the startup incubator of the European Space Agency. These startups, designed to use space to solve earthly problems, are easier to develop because of the low level of risk associated with them. Mark Watt, a partner in the American-Ukrainian asset management firm Noosphere – which has just invested in commerce platform – said the search for such projects is mainly conducted in universities. (11/14)

Anderson: Spaceport Tuning Up for Fiscal Success (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Spaceport America is just getting started. When I assumed the job of executive director of Spaceport America in 2011, New Mexico had already provided over $200 million worth of bonds to build a commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic was the anchor tenant pledging to pay over $50 million in rent over a 20-year period and generate over $200 million in revenue from passenger flights.

In 2006, the state of New Mexico decided to build the world’s first purpose-built spaceport. Building this first-of-a-kind commercial spaceport on the site that was selected, in a remote part of New Mexico that did not have accessible paved roads, water, power or communications, was not a trivial task. It took enormous energy and focus from the spaceport staff of seven to build a 12,000-foot runway, several iconic buildings and all of the infrastructure of a small city.

We did all of that and in addition conducted 21 vertical launches by other customers and attracted SpaceX, the top commercial space launch company in the world, as another tenant who will be conducting Falcon 9 reusable rocket flight tests for the next several years at the spaceport. Click here. (11/19)

Top 5 Companies To Watch (Source: Space News)
This year’s Top 5 Companies to Watch group has a heavy focus on firms facing challenges that could come to a head in the next year or two. They include Virgin Galactic, Globalstar, Orbital Sciences, Sea Launch, and Iridium. Click here to see why. (11/17)

Next SpaceX Launch of ISS Cargo Shifts to Dec. 16 (Source: Florida Today)
NASA today confirmed SpaceX's next launch of International Space Station cargo from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for 2:31 p.m. Dec. 16. The launch previously had been listed as no earlier than Dec. 9. The mission is SpaceX's fifth of 12 under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, and the third launched during 2014. (11/19)

Part Failure Cuts Short Morpheus Test at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
A prototype NASA lander fired its engine today while hanging from a crane at Kennedy Space Center, but the engine quickly cut off. NASA said a non-engine component failure was responsible for aborting the tethered test flight of the Morpheus lander just after 3 p.m. north of KSC's shuttle runway. The four-legged lander measuring about 10 feet tall and 10 feet on each side briefly dangled from side to side before stabilizing. (11/19)

Air Force 'Pretty Optimistic' About SpaceX Certification (Source: Reuters)
A top U.S. Air Force official on Wednesday said she is "pretty optimistic" that privately held Space Exploration Technologies will eventually be certified to launch U.S. military satellites into orbit but declined comment on the timing of such an action. The Air Force is working closely with the company, also known as SpaceX, to satisfy a series of requirements that would allow it to compete to launch costly and sensitive U.S. military and intelligence satellites.

Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski told reporters she could not provide a detailed comment on the SpaceX certification process since a competition for one of those launches is already under way. A contract award for the launch is due in December. (11/19)

Astronaut Reveals What Life in Space is Really Like (Source: WIRED)
There's no way to anticipate the emotional impact of leaving your home planet. You look down at Earth and realize: You’re not on it. It’s breathtaking. It’s surreal. It’s a “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kind of feeling. But I’ve spent a total of 55 days in space, over the course of five missions for NASA, and I’ve learned that being out there isn’t just a series of breathtaking moments. It’s a mix of the transcendently magical and the deeply prosaic. It can be crowded, noisy, and occasionally uncomfortable. Space travel—at least the way we do it today—isn’t glamorous. But you can’t beat the view! Click here. (11/19)

November 19, 2014

Spaceport Advocates Take Leadership of Florida Legislature (Source: FSDC)
The new President of the Florida Senate and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives were voted into their leadership positions this week, and both have the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in their districts. Senator Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, will each serve two year terms. Among their top jobs will be crafting a state budget, which last year totaled a record $77 billion. In recent years, both legislators have supported the state's investment in space, including nearly $25 million annually for Space Florida and spaceport infrastructure projects.

There are no high-profile space issues looming for the 2015 legislative session in Tallahassee, but space industry leaders, including Space Florida, have been meeting regularly to discuss their needs and priorities in advance of Florida Space Day, which is planned on March 25 at the state capitol building. Click here for a scorecard of space-related issues considered during the past two sessions in Tallahassee. (11/19)

Virginia Wants Orbital, NASA to Help Fund $20M Repairs to Launch Pad (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia wants Orbital, NASA to help pay for up to $20 million in repairs to launch pad damaged in rocket explosion. Repairs at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Eastern Shore could run between $13 million and $20 million. Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne says rocket explosion could happen again, and launch partners need to share in the risk.

The $145 million spaceport might be located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore, but Layne said it benefits the entire nation. "So right now we're suggesting that Orbital and NASA contribute to this," Layne said. "Because obviously this could happen again, and we believe that a sustainable operation would be more sharing of risk."

Under a memorandum of understanding between Orbital and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority that oversees MARS, Orbital is responsible for its own assets in such mishaps, while the flight authority is responsible for the rest. Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski has said the company's assets are covered by insurance. The launch pad is self-insured by the space authority. (11/19)

Virginia Wants Federal Funds for Spaceport (Source: Washington Times)
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration may seek to renegotiate a memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital Sciences, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane Jr. said. Lane said the administration supports the commercial spaceflight initiative but wants to ensure that the state’s assets are protected.

“We’re not going to have a repeat of this in the future,” Lane said. McAuliffe also has asked U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine to look for federal funds to help pay for repairs. Warner and Kaine pledged in a statement issued Tuesday that they would work with “colleagues from both parties, both chambers … to see if there may be federal resources available to help rebound from this setback.” (11/18)

Florida Project a Winner Among CASIS Materials Sciences Grants (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has announced grant awards for three projects focused on materials science from the International Space Station (ISS), totaling approximately $800,000 in funding. Among the winners is a project for Eclipse Energy Systems in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Florida project will examine how variable emissivity devices (VEDs) interact with the punishing environment of space. VEDs could be used on Earth in energy-saving smart-roofing technology. Click here. (11/19)

Lawmakers are Frustrated by Slow Progress Toward NextGen (Source: Washington Post)
Members of the House Transportation Committee expressed frustration at the Federal Aviation Administration's slow pace in building and implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System. "I think NextGen is either in a stall or a reverse. That's not acceptable," said Rep. John Mica, R-FL, former chairman of the committee. (11/18)

Why Christians Should Get On Board with Space Exploration (Source: The Week)
Joshua Ambrosius found that church attendance actually decreases a person's support for space exploration. (Among Christians, Roman Catholics were most open and evangelicals were most resistant.) But Christians have no cause for resisting space exploration. Here are three bad reasons why Christians oppose space exploration — and one good reason they should get on board. Click here. (11/18)

EPA Finds No Show-stoppers with Radioactive Battery for Mars 2020 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found no show-stoppers with NASA’s plan to put a nuclear battery aboard the Mars 2020 sample-caching rover, according to a Final Environmental Impact Statement the space agency published on its website Nov. 6.

The NASA-led environmental review will not technically be complete until at least Dec. 19 — the soonest federal regulations allow NASA to post a formal record of its decision to use nuclear material on the mission — but the lack of red flags from the EPA is a signal that the way is essentially clear for NASA to proceed with its plan to power Mars 2020 with a multimission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG). (11/17)

Editorial: Congress Should Support Federal Weather Programs (Source: Space News)
Let me be perfectly clear: The National Weather Service is a crown jewel in the U.S. federal government and the envy of national weather services all over the world. The agency deserves to be seen by the public — and public servants in Congress — with nothing but pride and admiration. And, I should add, its sister agencies of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and Air Force Weather are also well deserving of this appreciation and admiration.

Congress needs to back up this admiration with the financial resources to maintain our overall second-to-none operational weather services, and that includes continuing to support the satellites, both civil and defense, that make those services possible by assuring continuity of essential observational data to feed the models. Even in a constrained fiscal environment, this is a tremendous bargain. Accurate, life-saving forecasts are priceless.

Back-To-Back Spaceflight Failures Were A Coincidence, Not An Indictment (Source: Aviaiton Week)
The inevitable has happened in the U.S. attempt to move the economy off the planet. That it happened twice in less than a week is driving a needed element of reality into the endeavor. With hope, the marketing sunshine that accompanied the Obama administration’s decision to expand space-commercialization programs that were started under President Bush will give way to wider public understanding and acceptance of the risks of spaceflight. Click here. (11/19)

Russia's Isn't the Only 'Satellite Killer' in Space (Source: Moscow Times)
A previously unknown Russian spacecraft conducting maneuvers characteristic of a satellite killer has sparked concerns that Russia's military provocations may soon extend to space, but experts say Russia is not the only major space power developing agile — and potentially deadly — capabilities in Earth's orbit.

Western space agencies, militaries and amateur observers are tracking a mysterious Russian satellite that could be a satellite hunter — a spacecraft that trails enemy satellites and then destroys or disables them, The Financial Times reported on Monday.

Amid Russia's showdown with the West over Ukraine the discovery looks ominous, but all the big space-faring nations — Russia, China and the U.S. — are developing similar capabilities, Robert Christy, a veteran amateur satellite tracker, told The Moscow Times by phone. "In a nutshell, you've got all three countries doing the same thing," he said. (11/18)

Requirements for Orbital to Complete Its Commercial Cargo Contract (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA representatives say Orbital is not obligated to re-fly a failed mission – but it does have other obligations it must meet. The company does not have to conduct a specific number of flights – but, rather, a specific amount of cargo. “The contract is for the total metric tons to be delivered...Orbital is not obligated to re-fly the cargo lost on this mission. They ... and are working with NASA on alternate ways to satisfy the terms of the contract at no additional cost to NASA,” Stephanie Schierholz stated.

This issue stems from the Oct. 28 accident which saw the loss of the Antares rocket, Cygnus spacecraft and the 5,000 lbs of cargo that the Cygnus was carrying. Fortunately, the cargo that is sent to the orbiting lab is meant to be replaceable – for just such an occasion. Through the CRS contract, Orbital is required to deliver 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station.

CRS contractors are paid for the milestones that they complete on a successful flight. Due to the fact that Orbital was unable to meet the CRS-3 milestone – it will not receive the final contract milestone payment for that flight. (11/18)

Rosetta Probe Philae Discovers Organic Molecules (Source: Inernational Business Times)
The Philae space probe was powered down earlier than expected, but not before an instrument discovered an organic compound that was first detected in the comet’s atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal reoirted. The find is extraordinary considering the organic compound contains the carbon atom, which is the basis of life on planet Earth.

Further research is being conducted to see if there are complex compounds like amino acids or simple ones like methane and methanol, considered “building blocks” for proteins. The research “will help us to understand whether organic molecules were brought by comets to the early earth,” Stephan Ulamec, the Philae’s landing manager said, according to the Journal. (11/18)

We Fall in Love With Space Robots Because They Act Like Animals (Source: Smithsonian)
Just look at the way that we talk about Philae: the robot takes a journey to the comet; to get out of a jam, it hops and cartwheels and improvises. And even under the tough conditions, Philae “performed magnificently,” says Lander Maneger Stephan Ulamec. If Philae is animal-like, though, it is a particulary smart animal. (Your dog might be intelligent, but does it fetch data?) It's also controlled by humans.

ESA’s PR team has cleverly and adorably capitalized on humans' ability to emphathize with Philae and Rosetta. Both have Twitter accounts, and they chatted with each other until Philae went dead. But, if you're feeling sad about the end of Philae, fear not. There are more robots to root for. The New Horizons spacecraft, which has been in hibernation on its long journey to Pluto, is scheduled to "wake up" soon. (11/18)

Student Launch Will Continue Community Use of Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Developing a much needed set of metrics for measuring business development at the spaceport is a process that is just getting starting. The spaceport was not built by a small team sitting alone in an office. Literally hundreds of people all across the state have worked on this project over the years. Creating success requires many minds working together in harmony toward a common purpose.

As the community comes together to look toward larger development of the asset we call Spaceport America, we can look to another recent event as an example of our community coming together for greater good. Recent discussions with the The Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts (FLARE) a small, but very active rocketry group have provided a new on-ramp for a small, intrepid team of teachers and faculty involved right now building experiments to go to space from the spaceport.

With community support, including that of the spaceport team, we will have a launch event in March or early April. And, we hope to get back to these annual launch events at the spaceport. Chris Anderson is interested in getting this annual event to be part of their business plan. (11/18)

Canada Looks to Future From Space (Source: Calgary Herald)
High-resolution imagery taken from space provides some of the best views back here on Earth. Whether they're used in assessing the aftermath of tragic and deadly industrial accidents, detecting potential environmental disturbances, or monitoring the status of oil and gas pipelines, those images can be incredibly valuable.

Earth Observation, or EO, is a fast-growing industry, with revenues expected to reach $5 billion in the next decade. In a bid to ensure Canada gets its share, 12 companies here have been granted contracts totalling just under $6.7 million to deliver new products and services to the EO marketplace. (11/12)

Ontario Firm Building Rocket Engines for Spaceport America (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
Cesaroni Technology doesn't only build rockets. It also manufactures a variety of other products for the the aerospace, defence, and automotive industries. Jeroen Louwers of Cesaroni is a rocket scientist who originally came from the Netherlands, where he earned his PhD in propellant chemistry. Prior to his employment with Cesaroni, Louwers worked at a Dutch company that sold electronics (such as altimeters and accelerometers) to model rocket makers.

During his tenure at Cesaroni, Louwers has been involved in the building of ablative insulators. Ablative insulators are used in the interiors of solid rocket motors to prevent damage from the intense heat of a rocket's thrust. Other projects at Cesaroni include a design study on behalf of the Department of National Defense (DND) for a Canadian launch vehicle and a design study for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for an indigenous launch vehicle utilizing a thrust vectored hybrid rocket motor. (11/10)

SpaceX Dilemma: Where the Shores Meet the Cosmos (Source: Michael Gonzalez)
Lay off the moon rocks people. SpaceX recently announced plans to construct a launch pad near Boca Chica Beach. This decision has brought national attention to Brownsville, TX. However, no one seems to be worried about what it means to us avid beach-goers. In light of all the excitement, it appears that five pressing legal questions remain omitted from public discussion—lets launch in. Click here. (9/20)

Limits on Boca Chica Beach Closures will Narrow SpaceX Options (Source: Michael Gonzalez)
When is it not allowed to close down Boca Chica Beach? There is no short answer here. At first glance, the current law prohibits beach closure on the following list of days: the Saturday or Sunday preceding Memorial Day; Memorial Day; July 4; Labor Day; or a Saturday or Sunday that is after Memorial Day but before Labor Day. However, the law allows for beach closure even on these days if the Cameron County Commissioners Court obtains prior approval from the General Land Office. (9/20)

NASA Receives Fourth Consecutive Clean Audit Opinion (Source: NASA)
NASA has received an unmodified, or “clean”, audit opinion on its fiscal year 2014 financial statements, marking the fourth consecutive year of “clean” opinions.The auditor's unmodified opinion on our financial statements in FY 2014 concludes NASA's financial statements fairly present the agency's financial position and results of operations. An unmodified opinion is the highest audit opinion that may be received from an external auditor. (11/17)

NASA Announces Grants for Early Stage Innovations Space Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 11 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high priority needs of America's space program. The selected proposals address unique, disruptive, or transformational technologies, including: advanced thermal protection materials modeling, computational materials, in situ utilization of asteroid materials, mobile robotic surface probe concepts for planetary exploration, and kinetic penetrators for icy planetary moons. Click here. (11/18)

Is Dark Energy Eating Dark Matter? (Source: Physics World)
A tantalizing hint that dark matter could be slowly changing into dark energy has been uncovered by a team of cosmologists in the UK and Italy. While the specific nature of the interaction driving the conversion is not known, the process could be responsible for slowing the growth of galaxies and other large-scale structure in the universe across the past eight billion years. If the conversion continues at the current rate, the universe's ultimate fate as a cold, dark and empty place could come sooner than expected. Click here. (11/18)

Boeing Aims to Make Missile Defense More Like Space Programs (Source Reuters)
Boeing is working with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to address quality and reliability issues with the sharply criticized $41 billion homeland missile defense system by adopting controls from space programs. Craig Cooning, head of the Boeing division that includes satellites and missile defense, said he was working out a new approach to the system with Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring.

"With Admiral Syring, we are looking to make what we do in missile defense more like space programs and less like defense weapons programs. There’s a higher design reliability in space than there historically has been in some weapons programs," he said. U.S. officials and several reports have been critical of the lack of a rigorous systems engineering approach in the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system run by Boeing. (11/18)

Crowdfunded Lunar Mission Aims to Put Donors’ Hair on the Moon (Source: Guardian)
A crowdfunded moon lander that will drill deep into the lunar surface to study rocks that formed soon after the birth of the solar system has been announced by a British organisation. Lunar Mission One aims to transform how space exploration is done by covering the costs of expeditions with millions of small payments from the public instead a major investment from national space agencies.

Its leaders have turned to Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, to raise the £600,000 ($1m) needed to get the project off the ground. Enough support over the next month will see planning and fundraising ramp up in 2015. (11/18)

Weather Delays Morpheus Test at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Weather will keep NASA's Morpheus lander grounded today at Kennedy Space Center. Weather @NASAKennedy is not favorable today for tether test, so we're targeting tomorrow!" the project reported on Twitter. The Morpheus team had hoped to perform a tether test today, firing the prototype lander's liquid methane-fueled rocket engine while the vehicle remained attached to a crane. (11/18)

November 18, 2014

In Murky Pentagon Deal with Russia, Big Profit for a Tiny Florida Firm (Source: Reuters)
The Air Force relies on rocket engines made by a company overseen by associates of Vladimir Putin. Documents show a U.S.-Russian middleman stands to make $93 million on the contract. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine.

That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine. Click here. (11/18)

Philae Managers Say Recovery Possible as Comet Approaches Sun (Source: Space News)
Managers of Europe’s Philae comet lander, which went into hibernation Nov. 15 after its battery drained 56 hours after touchdown, made a virtue of a necessity in saying Philae’s overly shadowed location will be an advantage as Comet 67P approaches the sun in the coming months. At that point, they said, it is “probable” that the increased doses of solar power will warm the lander, permitting its secondary battery to power up sufficiently to renew communications. (11/18)

CACI Wins Digital Mapping Contract From NGA (Source: SpaceRef)
CACI International Inc. has been awarded a $32 million contract to provide digital mapping and charting services to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) under the GEOINT Data Services (GDS) Maritime Atlantic Region program. (11/18)

Object 2014-28E – Space Junk or Russian Satellite Killer? (Source: Financial Times)
It is a tale that could have come from the cold war. A mysterious object launched by the Russian military is being tracked by western space agencies, stoking fears over the revival of a defunct Kremlin project to destroy satellites. For the past few weeks, amateur astronomers and satellite-trackers in Russia and the west have followed the unusual maneuvers of Object 2014-28E, watching it guide itself towards other Russian space objects.

The pattern appeared to culminate last weekend in a rendezvous with the remains of the rocket stage that launched it. The object had originally been classed as space debris, propelled into orbit as part of a Russian rocket launch in May to add three Rodnik communications satellites to an existing military constellation. The US military is now tracking it under the Norad designation 39765. (11/18)

No Easy Way (Source: Huffington Post)
Would-be private astronauts will continue to buy advanced tickets with Virgin, XCOR and other "New Space firms." These buyers are more than customers. They feel vested in a mission that go far beyond the excitement of their own brief journey into space. New Space is a community working on something much bigger than building high-tech toys for wealthy thrill-seekers.

While these firms, while working hard to earn a return for their investors, they are also doing their part to expand the potential of the entire human race. They are moving our vantage point one step beyond humanity's zero sum squabbles over Earthly resources. (11/18)

Medvedev: Russia's Vostochny Spaceport Has Construction Problems (Source: Sputnik)
Actual problems exist in the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s Far East will be discussed with the leadership of Roscosmos space agency, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. He reminded the ministers that the construction of the cosmodrome is "in its active phase", although works are behind schedule.

He also stressed that Vostochny Cosmodrome will be of significant importance for advancing science and the economy of Russia's Far East region, as well as for developing its geopolitical clout. The cosmodrome’s construction began in January 2011 and is expected to be completed by 2018. The first launch was scheduled to take place in July 2015, and the first launch of a piloted spacecraft is expected in 2018. (11/10)

Medvedev Orders to Speed Pp Vostochny Construction (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered to speed up the Vostochny space center construction not to be behind schedule. “The active phase of the construction is underway, but as I understand, it is behind schedule, and certainly it is bad. It must be made up for,” the premier told his deputies during a meeting. The work must go on according to schedule if possible, he added. (11/17)

SpaceX Laying the Groundwork for Falcon Heavy Debut in Florida (Source:
SpaceX has confirmed it is now into the construction phase of converting Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A for its Falcon Heavy debut, with a large amount of work now taking place to build a new vehicle facility at the complex. The former Apollo and Space Shuttle pad is being re-purposed to host the maiden flight of SpaceX’s new rocket, set to launch as early as next summer. (11/17)

Sex in Space: What Does Future Hold When Space Tourism Catches On (Source: GLP)
Evidence for normal post-spaceflight pregnancy dates back as early as 1963, when cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. After spending nearly 71 hours in orbit age 26, Tereshkova returned to Earth. Five months later, she married another cosmonaut, Andrian Nikolayev, who had spent more than 94 hours in orbit. The next year, in 1964, Tereshkova gave birth to a healthy infant girl after a normal pregnancy.

What about actually getting pregnant in orbit? Traditionally, two issues are suggested as obstacles against fertilization of an ovum and implantation of the resulting blastocyst in the wall of the uterus. These two issues are space radiation and weightlessness, although other factors such as stress and disrupted circadian rhythms also may come into play.

On Earth, moderate to high doses of ionizing radiation, encountered in the context of cancer treatment are known to reduce fertility in both genders. In males, this is due to effects both on the quantity of sperm cells and the quality (for instance, how well they swim). In women, ionizing radiation is thought to harm ova before they are fertilized, but also to interfere with implantation, even should exposure occur subsequent to fertilization. (11/18)

Meteor? UFO? Flash Over Russia May Have Earthly Origin (Source: NBC)
Video of the sky lighting up over Russia's Sverdlovsk region last Friday calls to mind the enormous fireballs that fell over Chelyabinsk in early 2013 and Murmansk in April. But at least one expert seems sure that this particular phenomenon may not be celestial in origin. A meteor-watching blog quotes Marco Langbroek of the Dutch Meteor Society: "I doubt this one is a meteor."

He points out that the onlookers already seemed to be aware of a red glow in the sky before the flare-up — and that when the light does appear, it's stationary. "To me, it looks like a fire or series of small explosions and subsequent large explosion or flash fire reflecting on a cloud deck," he concluded. Click here. (11/18)

China's Space Law Ready for Lift Off (Source: Asia One)
China will speed up legislation covering activities in space to make better use of the nation's assets and boost space-related industries, according to senior officials. "As China puts more and more assets into space, conflicts involving our increasing number of activities, limited resources and space debris have become noticeable," said Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration.

"The safety of our assets in space depends largely on the enforcement of international space law and our domestic law that governs space activities," Tian said, adding that the laws also play an important role in managing and fostering space-related industries, which have been enjoying rapid growth in China. "The market for space-related technologies, data and intellectual property is expanding very fast and has a promising future, so now is the right time for us to make and implement a space law to regulate the market," Tian said. (11/18)

UK Space Agency Opens £32 Million Kitty (Source: WIRED)
A new multi-million pound grant has been announced to bolster the UK's space industry following the phenomenal success of the European Space Agency Rosetta mission. Grants will be awarded to British companies working with international partners developing satellite technology for humanitarian causes.

A total of £32 million will be made available by the UK Space Agency with match funding also provided by industry. More than 5,000 jobs have been created in the UK space industry in the last two years, with over 34,000 people now directly employed.

Running over the next two years, the International Partnership Space Programme (IPSP) will support UK companies in an attempt to further grow the country's space sector. It is hoped that the money will encourage development of new satellite technology to tackle flooding, deforestation and humanitarian crises in the developing world. (11/18)

The Revolving Door of Canadian Space Agency Presidents (Source: SpaceRef)
Presidents of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) can serve a term of five years which can be renewed. The problem however is that since its foundation, only one president has completed one full term. In fact, under the current government, which has been in power for nearly 9 years, there have been four interim presidents and a total of seven presidents.

Why has there been a revolving door at the head of Canada's space agency since the Conservatives took power in 2006? Bad luck? Poor selection? Or something else? Click here. (11/18)

Hotel Sales Boom as NASA's Orion Sets for Launch (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA's Orion spacecraft launch is bringing in plenty of tourists for the Space Coast, and hoteliers couldn't be happier. News 13 reports that almost all hotels in Cocoa Beach and Titusville area are sold out for most of the days surrounding the Dec. 4 launch. (11/17)

Industry Doesn’t Expect Consolidation of Commercial Space Regulation (Source: Space News)
As the U.S. Congress considers proposals to grant government agencies with additional commercial space regulatory authority, industry and government officials believe it is unlikely those efforts will lead to a broader consolidation of regulatory power.

Representatives from companies and agencies, speaking at a forum on the topic of on-orbit jurisdiction organized by the University of Nebraska College of Law here Nov. 3, agreed that while there is a need to address issues such as space traffic management and property rights, it is unlikely overall regulation of commercial space activities will soon be consolidated into a single agency. Click here. (11/18)

NASA ‘Capability Leaders’ Coming in Latest Attempt at Right-Sizing (Source: Space News)
In February, NASA will appoint at least five “capability leaders” to help steer the agency’s latest bid to trim costs and reduce duplication of effort across its 10 regional field centers, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a Nov. 3 interview.

It will be a big step for the Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) that since April 2012 has been studying ways to make NASA more efficient at a time when its budget is trending flat, major programs such as the James Webb Space Telescope and Space Launch System are hitting peak spending years, and the agency has been barred by Congress from laying off civil servants.

Lightfoot said the team’s ongoing review is about finding efficiencies, not consolidation. However, he acknowledged some NASA infrastructure “could be closed or moved” as a result of the effort. As examples, Lightfoot cited the demolition of wind tunnels at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, earlier this decade and an April decision to cease NASA-operated parabolic jet flights for microgravity research and astronaut training and instead rely on contractor Zero Gravity Corp. of Arlington, Virginia, for that service. (11/18)

ATK, Orbital Sciences Postpone Merger Vote to Late January (Source: Space News)
ATK on Nov. 17 said its special due-diligence assessment of Orbital Sciences following the Oct. 28 failure of Orbital’s Antares rocket has concluded that the merger of ATK’s Aerospace and Defense group with Orbital remained a good idea. Orbital and ATK jointly announced that they are nonetheless giving their shareholders additional time to evaluate the merger, and that the planned Dec. 9 votes by both companies had been rescheduled for Jan. 27. (11/18)

NASA Extends Commercial Crew Agreement with Blue Origin (Source: Space News)
NASA announced Nov. 14 that it has extended its unfunded agreement with Blue Origin to support to that company’s effort to develop a commercial crew spacecraft, even though the company is not competing for a NASA contract to provide transportation to the international space station.

NASA and Blue Origin signed an extension Oct. 31 of their existing Space Act Agreement, originally part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) award made in April 2011. This extension, like previous ones dating back to February 2013, is an unfunded one where NASA provides technical guidance but no money to Blue Origin.

One milestone covers an in-flight test of a “pusher” escape system, where rocket engines at the base of the vehicle would push the spacecraft away from its launch vehicle in the event of an abort. Under the CCDev2 milestone, NASA personnel would review data and video from the test, which would use an unspecified subscale booster. (11/18)

Germany Agrees to Forgo Ariane 5 Upgrade in Favor of Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
The German government has agreed to drop its demand that Europe develop a long-planned upgrade of today’s Ariane 5 rocket and instead proceed with a new-generation Ariane 6 that borrows heavily on Ariane 5 technology, Germany’s space minister said.

The decision ends an impasse that has bedeviled the European Space Agency for more than two years as it prepares for a Dec. 2 conference of its governments. While noting that certain funding details and a clarification of industry’s risk-taking guarantee remain to be ironed out, Brigitte Zypries said Germany and France now agree to back Ariane 6 and to scrap the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) rocket that European governments have been developing for several years. (11/17)

Satellite Internet From SpaceX Coming Soon? (Source: Nasdaq)
SpaceX's upcoming satellite announcement holds any number of implications for SpaceX's competitors. For example, Musk's tweet didn't specifically confirm the assertion that the satellites will provide Internet service. But if that's Musk's goal, then cheap, ubiquitous satellite Internet service from SpaceX could threaten the expensive terrestrial Internet businesses built up over years by Comcast and other Internet giants.

If SpaceX both launches satellites, and also builds them, then this gives the company's launch business a built-in customer. Simultaneously, it diversifies SpaceX's business. In addition to existing revenue streams from rocket building and rocket launching, SpaceX will add a third revenue stream from satellite building -- and potentially from satellite Internet streaming as well.

The addition of one (or two) new revenue streams will significantly strengthen SpaceX's viability as a company. It will also make SpaceX stock much more attractive to own when the company finally does its IPO. Which we're still waiting for, by the way. (11/18)

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's industry partners continue to complete development milestones under agreements with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The work performed by Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX during partnership and contract initiatives are leading a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations. Click here. (11/17)

ESA Commissions Airbus as Contractor For Orion Service Module (Source: Space Daily)
Airbus Defence and Space, the world's second space company, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development and construction of the service module for Orion, the future American human space capsule. The contract is worth around 390 million euros. The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule. (11/18)

Savvy Media Use Turned Comet Mission Into Tale of Space Heroics (Source: Space Daily)
When Rosetta was launched more than a decade ago, it was a dry-as-dust science story -- an unmanned spacecraft and its research payload were being launched to investigate a comet. But when the Rosetta mission last week reached a climax, the story had changed from the humdrum to an event that captivated the world.

It had become a tale of heroics in deep space, with the secrets of the Solar System at stake. After a trek of 6.5 billion kilometers (four billion miles), alone in the bitter chill of deep space, the little robot Philae battled to survive and complete its task while its mother ship orbited anxiously above. Drama and romance had been stitched into the fabric of the Rosetta mission way back in 1993. That was when European space ministers gave the risky, 1.3-billion-euro ($1.6-billion) scheme their approval.

"Rosetta marks a watershed" in ESA's strategy to connect with the public, ESA communications chief Fernando Doblas said. "We are living in a world where people no longer want to receive information passively. You have to be active in your information." Slick webcasts from mission control in Germany combined with easy-on-the-astrophysics talks about the importance of the mission. (11/18)

Lost in Space City (Source: Medium)
Most towns find it hard to identify the moment they lost their mojo. Titusville, though, can pinpoint its spiral to a very specific date: February 1, 2003. Seven astronauts were killed that day when the Columbia space shuttle, having completed a 16-day orbital mission, disintegrated upon re–entry over the southern United States. Just 20 miles northwest of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Titusville used to have a proud nickname: Space City USA.

It couldn’t help but be bolted to the dizzying boom of the 1950s and ‘60s, and the local space industry helped create myriad jobs by giving work to nearby aerospace companies. There were so many jobs, in fact, that the local population ballooned from around 6,000 in 1960 to just over 30,000 in a decade. Longtime residents, however, can tell you with acute pain exactly how their hometown has plummeted in the last few years.

“Shoot, I don’t even know what’s going on out there anymore,” says Matt Whiting, a 41-year-old who’s kicked around the area most of his life. He’s watched with dismay the silencing of the once awesome “exploding rockets.” “It’s been difficult,” admits Titusville’s mayor, Jim Tulley, wearily, about his city’s post-shuttle economics. “Maybe not as difficult as when the Apollo programs ended, but…we’ve certainly had to diversify.” Click here. (11/13)

Names in Bottles: a New Tool for Exploration? (Source: Space Review)
It has become almost commonplace for space missions to offer to take with them the public's names or other digital items. Dan Lester wonder how effective this approach is for making the public feel like they're a part of space exploration. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

Almost Astronauts (Source: Space Review)
Being an astronaut is a life-long aspiration for many, but what happens when you apply and just miss the final cut? Jeff Foust reports on how three people rebounded when their bids to fly in space fell short. to view the article. (11/17)

Witnesses: Space Historiography at the Handover (Source: Space Review)
This is a critical time for historians chronicling the early Space Age, as many of the key people from that era pass away. In the first of a multi-part article, David Clow examines this issue from the perspective of those who worked in mission control. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

Enhancing the Field of Exoplanetary Research (Source: Space Review)
The search for, and study of, extrasolar planets is one of the hottest topics in astronomy, but one that is also not well coordinated among various participants. Thomas Godard and Daniel Long make the case for establishing an organization to help support exoplanet studies and reach out to broader communities about its work. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

November 17, 2014

Biodiversity and Rocket Launches: Cohabiting at the Guiana Space Center (Source: Space Safety)
The countdown is coming to an end. The engines ignite; the rocket is engulfed by a cloud of fire and smoke, lift off, and in an instant it’s gone… billowing towards the heavens. Launch activity is an essential component of the spaceflight industry. It is impossible to benefit from space science and technology without putting satellites in orbit. But what are those billowing clouds actually made of? And what effect does a rocket launch have on the surrounding environment? Click here. (11/17)

Russian Satellite Constellation to Reach 150 by 2025 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will increase its orbital satellite constellation to 150 spacecraft by 2025, United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) head Igor Komarov said. "According to the Federal Space Program's new project, the orbital constellation of social-economic purpose satellites will increase to 75 [currently 35], 20 of which will be remote sensing satellites … As for the satellites for government needs, their number is expected to reach 150 by 2025," Komarov said, stressing that the spacecraft should meet the highest international standards. (11/17)

Researchers Point to Supermassive Black Hole as Elusive Neutrino Source (Source: Aviation Week)
Physicists may have linked the elusive source for the highest energy neutrinos, abundant sub-atomic particles with no electrical charge that race through the universe, to a black hole -- the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "Sagittarius A-star").

Observations leading to a potential breakthrough in the identification of a source were made with three NASA space telescopes, the 15-year-old Chandra X-ray Observatory, 10-year-old Swift Gamma Ray Burst mission observatory and the 2-year-old NuSTAR (an X-ray observatory), as well as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, which is positioned under the South Pole. IceCube has recorded 36 high-energy neutrinos since the facility became operational in 2010.

"We now have the first evidence that an astronomical source, the Milky Way's supermassive black hole may be producing these very energetic neutrinos," states University of Wisconsin physicist Yang Bai. The Earth is showered by lower energy neutrinos whose origin is the sun. However, neutrinos millions to billions of times more energetic emanate from well beyond the solar system. (11/14)

Russia to Start Deploying Own Space Station in 2017 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will start deploying its own orbital space station in 2017, using part of the modules constructed for the International Space Station (ISS), Kommersant newspaper reported. "The new station will be located geometrically more advantageous, allowing an extended field of view of the Earth's surface. As much as 90 percent of Russia's territory and the Arctic offshore area will be visible from the station," the source said, noting that the ISS' field of view covers no more than 5 percent of the region. (11/17)

Editorial: Flawed Spaceport Strategy Puts New Mexico Lead at Risk (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
One anchor does not a busy shopping mall make. Spaceport America, reeling from the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket in the Mojave desert, is learning that depending on one major tenant isn’t a solid business plan. In fact, it’s discouraging to learn that Spaceport management is only now putting together a marketing plan to try to attract other tenants to the southern New Mexico site.

“We have a plan,” Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said after the crash. “We’ve been working on it all week, but it’s pretty fresh. We’re still developing it.” That comes some eight years after the Legislature acted to create the world’s first commercial spaceport built for that purpose.

The facility is designed around Virgin Galactic’s needs – a horizontal runway, and Virgin’s terminal and hangars. There is a vertical launch pad that a few customers have used to boost payloads to suborbital space. But that seems to have been an afterthought. Now, ramping up that end of the business is on a front burner. (11/17)

Alien Life Could Thrive on 'Supercritical' CO2 Instead of Water (Source:
Alien life might flourish on an exotic kind of carbon dioxide, researchers say. This "supercritical" carbon dioxide, which has features of both liquids and gases, could be key to extraterrestrial organisms much as water is to biology on Earth.

Most familiar as a greenhouse gas that traps heat, helping warm the planet, carbon dioxide is exhaled by animals and used by plants in photosynthesis. While it can exist as a solid, liquid and gas, past a critical point of combined temperature and pressure, carbon dioxide can enter a "supercritical" state. Such a supercritical fluid has properties of both liquids and gases. For example, it can dissolve materials like a liquid, but flow like a gas. (11/16)

Virginia Air and Space Center Director Settling Into New Mission (Source: Daily Press)
Just a few steps inside the Virginia Air and Space Center's employee entrance, Robert Griesmer stopped and took a moment to look up and admire. "There's a feeling you get when you walk in, that this is someplace special," said Griesmer, during an interview held on just his eighth day as the downtown museum's executive director.

A Long Island, N.Y.-native, Griesmer spent more than two decades at museums in Norwalk and West Hartford, Conn., before accepting a job at the Virginia Air and Space Center in September. The initial attraction, he said, was to the museum's mission and the financial support it received in recent years from the city and from NASA. "It's what's inside of institutions like this that people want to pay money for," he said. "We want to reinforce and invest in our core mission and we want to focus on helping the people that help educate children." (11/17)

Is NASA's Orion Launch a Mission to Nowhere? (Source: UT San Diego)
NASA's new Orion spacecraft will bolt off a launch pad in Florida early next month in what could be the first step toward the human exploration of Mars. The gum-drop shaped capsule will briefly orbit Earth, then parachute into the Pacific, where it will be retrieved by a Navy ship from San Diego. But will anyone care?

Three years after the U.S. space shuttle program ended, NASA is struggling to grab and hold the public’s attention as it introduces its next-generation manned spacecraft, a vehicle that has cost at least $6.1 billion to develop so far.

For the moment, the space agency doesn’t have a compelling human story to tell about the launch, which is set for Dec. 4. Space experts said it will be six to seven years before Orion actually carries astronauts. Tight budgets, design issues and policy questions have slowed the program’s development. As a result, NASA doesn’t have definitive plans and clear time tables for manned trips to the moon, an asteroid or Mars. (11/17)

Morpheus Ready for New Series of Flight Tests at KSC (Source: AmericaSpace)
At the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, at the northern edge of KSC's former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), is an area that looks very much like the surface of the Moon, complete with rocks and craters to serve as a site to flight test the agency’s Morpheus prototype planetary lander.

A total of 14 free flight tests have been conducted so far, the last of which took place under cover of darkness on May 28, 2014, and although Free Flight 14 (FF14) concluded Project Morpheus’ flight test campaign the team feels there are some areas they can improve upon, and so operations are again in full swing for a new series of flight tests, the first of which is currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (11/17)

November 16, 2014

MEI Wins Air Force Contract for Hosted Payload Work (Source: MEI)
Millennium Engineering and Integration has been awarded a prime contract under the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) program to provide a rapid and flexible means for the U.S. Government to acquire commercial hosting capabilities for Government payloads. MEI will help the Air Force with alternative ways to deploy space-based capabilities and to standardize the processes and interfaces for placing dedicated military capabilities aboard commercial satellites. The multi-award contract has a combined value of nearly $500M. (11/10)

FAA AST Official Joins MEI (Source: MEI)
Millennium Engineering and Integration has named Alfred Wassel as its new Vice President and General Manager, Integrated Systems Business Unit. Al replaces Mr. Ron Ten Haken who has led the Integrated Business Unit team to new heights in revenue, new customers, and new capability over the last three years. Mr. Wassel, comes to Millennium’s team from his position of Program Manager for the FAA Commercial Space Transportation office. (11/10)

ULA Says Not Yet on Reusable Rockets (Source: Florida Today)
United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno last week reiterated a promise to transform ULA into a more affordable and nimble launch provider as it braces for increased competition from SpaceX. But ULA won't mimic SpaceX's focus on developing reusable rockets any time soon. Bruno said reusable rockets' time will come, but it's not here yet.

"For the near-term, expendable (rocket flight) is going to be the most practical and cost-effective access to space," he said. Why? Bruno said firing engines to control a rocket's flight back to Earth, as SpaceX is now trying to do with its Falcon 9 booster, wastes fuel that could help deliver payloads to orbit. "That's how rocket engineers see the world," he said. "That's all energy you could have used to put a bigger payload in the same orbit, or the same payload further up." (11/15)

Whitesides Vows to Stay the Course, Defends Virgin Galactic’s Approach to Safety (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides reiterated the company’s pledge to move forward with complete construction of the second SpaceShipTwo and begin testing next year. Whitesides also defended the company’s safety procedures and culture in an Los Angeles Times interview. Unfortunately, his comments didn’t really address the actual concerns people have over safety. Click here. (11/15) 

Georgia Legal Quirk Puts Aerospace Engineers in Catch 22 (Source:
Aerospace engineers in Georgia face a no-win legal situation that could be hampering growth of the aviation industry. A legislative committee studying ways to bolster flight-related jobs heard testimony Wednesday about the legal quirk. Georgia law requires anyone designing planes, helicopters, rockets or even their major repairs to be professionally licensed by the state.

But the FAA oversees the operation of aircraft, so the state stopped giving licensing exams more than a decade ago. Aerospace engineers who want a state license have no way to get one unless they opt for a general-engineering test on topics like concrete, soil erosion and building ventilation. Florida is the only state that exempts aerospace engineers from the legal requirement to be licensed, and that likely had its origins in the NASA-related work at Cape Canaveral.

Editor's Note: In 2003, the Florida Engineering Society supported legislation in Tallahassee aimed to prevent non-licensed engineers from using "engineer" in their titles. The aerospace industry objected and obtained an exemption allowing its employees to be identified as engineers despite not having professional licenses. The exemptions are included in Ch. 471.003 and 471.031, Florida Statutes. (11/15)

Georgia, the Next Great Space State? (Source: Savannah Now)
Georgia is a great aerospace state with over 800 companies and 88,000 workers in some aspect of the business. We are a world leader in aerospace exports and have many of the world’s leading aerospace companies. When analyzing these capabilities, however, we find that our strength is in the aeronautics side of the ledger, but we also have great assets and capabilities on the astronautics side that have not been explored, developed or marketed.

Most Georgians don’t know or remember that in 1960, when NASA was looking for a location for the nation’s launch facility, Georgia was on the short list. But NASA picked Cape Canaveral. What has happened to the area surrounding Cape Canaveral since 1960? It was a sparsely populated ribbon of sand with alligators, sea grass, mom and pop businesses and 17,000 people in the entire county when it was chosen by NASA.

Today, it is a thriving, developed area with high-tech businesses, homes, churches, shopping, highly educated people in high paying jobs, a nation-leading tourist trade and 700,000 people. That could have been Georgia. In the 1960s, the largest rocket engine was tested in Camden County and we made history then. Let’s make history again by developing a world-class spaceport that will create a competitive advantage for Georgia to become the leader in the aerospace marketplace. Click here. (11/14)

Call for Papers for 43rd Space Congress in Cape Canaveral (Source: CCTS)
The Canaveral Council of Technical Societies (CCTS) is accepting technical papers for the 43rd Space Congress, to be held on April 28-30, 2015 in Cape Canaveral. The theme for this Space Congress is "A Showcase of Aviation, Space, Technology, Logistics and Manufacturing," celebrating our area's leadership in aerospace and aeronautics.

The CCTS is seeking presentations on technologies, logistics and manufacturing infrastructure, and workforce skills that support the development, processing and delivery of air and space vehicles. This call invites persons wishing to present to provide us with a 100-200 word abstract by December 15, 2014, for consideration. Click here. (11/13)

Space Vehicle Failure Brings Sarasota Man Back Down to Earth (Source: Herald Tribune)
Within hours of the catastrophic failure of the world’s first emerging space tourist vehicle, Miguel Iturmendi was working his sources at Virgin Galactic, demanding his $200,000 back. Nearly a decade of waiting, and in a flash, in the Halloween sky above California’s Mojave Desert, it was over.

As a paying customer who’d made a six-figure ticket reservation, in cash, back in January 2005, Iturmendi was a frequent visitor to Virgin Galactic’s headquarters, and he got to know its partners nearby at Scaled Composites, charged with designing and building the flying machine.

But for the 43-year-old Sarasota resident, the Oct. 31 accident that resulted in the destruction of SpaceShip Two — designed to ferry tourists to a height of 60 miles for a five-minute, weightless, panoramic glimpse of Earth — was merely the final straw that inspired his request for a refund. “Believe it or not,” says Iturmendi, “my biggest concern was not safety. My main reason for walking away is the contract. They can take that escrow money and apply it to anything for any reason. (11/15)

Crisis and Context for Virgin Galactic (Source: Huffington Post)
Richard Branson had it right when he complained about people who knew nothing about the crash of SpaceShipTwo diving in front of cameras to analyze what must have gone wrong in the Mojave Desert. Welcome, Sir Richard, to the "Fiasco Vortex." The Fiasco Vortex is a public relations virus where immediately upon a major news event, pundits spontaneously emerge to declare the crisis to have been mismanaged and the principal -- in this case Branson's space venture -- dead in the water.

To be clear -- commenting on crises and stirring debate is an industry. After all, you only get to go on TV if you can feed the Vortex either with allegations of mismanagement or hints that the principal knew something very sinister all along and covered it up. Not so fast... Most crises come with assets and liabilities, advantages and disadvantages, and the SpaceShipTwo tragedy is no exception. Much of crisis management is about context, or the circumstances surrounding the event. Click here. (11/15)

DirecTV 14 Set for December 4 Launch (Source: Broadband TV News)
Arianespace’s sixth Ariane 5 for launch in 2014 is now ready to receive its two satellite passengers after the vehicle was moved to the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building in French Guiana. DirecTV 14 is a high-capacity spacecraft that will use Ka-band and the new “Reverse” DBS band to expand HD and other new consumer services. This satellite will provide service for users across the US (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Puerto Rico. (11/15)

Weatherman: Orion Effort Will Come Full Circle with Test Flight (Source: Florida Today)
In less than three weeks, get ready to watch a piece of history from your own backyard. While the Space Coast has served as the backdrop to hundreds of launches, Lockheed Martin’s EFT-1 Orion test flight, scheduled for Dec. 4, may be one of the most historic launches to lift off here for a number of reasons. Orion marked the beginning of spacecraft assembly and checkout operations for our community.

A team of aerospace advocates in 2005, led locally by the Economic Development Commission, brought Orion to the Space Coast and mitigated one of the worst economic challenges the Space Coast has ever faced. The Vision for Space Exploration detailed a bold new mission, which included landing humans on the moon, paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond. It also meant the loss of thousands of Space Coast jobs after the Space Shuttle's retirement.

At the heart of the win strategy was the notion of capitalizing on Florida’s strengths, including multibillion-dollar infrastructure, a highly technical workforce, and making our local resources easy to integrate into NASA’s new plan. The notion of increasing and expanding our services made its way to the top of our pitch. To capture these services, in tandem with launches, would bring an entirely new dynamic and new economic opportunity to the local aerospace community. Click here. (11/16)

Let's Take Care of Our OWN Planet Before Messing About in Space (Source: Mirror)
Can you believe that 300 ­million miles from Earth, a craft called Philae has landed on a comet travelling at 24,600 miles an hour? A task, scientists say, that’s equivalent to a fly trying to land on a speeding bullet. So, high-fives all round at the European Space Agency. Perhaps because no one else was even trying to land on a comet. After all, what’s the point?

Spending all that money chasing a speeding lump of rock halfway around the universe to land on it, take a few pictures and then die. I know it wasn’t supposed to die but what are the chances of such an impossible mission being 100% successful? Ten years’ work and billions of pounds so a few scientists can slap each other on the back and marvel at their little place in the history books.

I just don’t see how the human race actually benefits from knowing any of that stuff. It’s not going to save us from ourselves, is it? I mean, here we are on this miraculous planet, with the gift of sustainable life and all its beauty and we don’t respect it. We continue to procreate in record numbers, plundering the planet to keep everyone alive. (11/15)

ULA Gathers Russian Engines While Rushing New Model (Source: Bloomberg)
United Launch Alliance is stockpiling Russian-made rocket engines even as it speeds development of a homegrown version. ULA expects to receive eight Russian-built RD-180 engines in 2015, three more than planned, after getting five motors this year, Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno said. (11/14)

Russia Plans to Launch Remote Earth Probe Satellites (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia plans to launch two satellites next year for remote earth probing. The satellites, Resource-P 3, which is under construction now, according to schedule, and Kanopus-V 2, are planned to be launched next year, deputy head of the Roscosmos federal space agency Mikhail Khailov told a conference on remote earth probing on Friday. (11/14)

ULA, Blue Origin Look for Silver Lining in Russian Rocket Woes (Source: SEN)
The announcement that startup space company Blue Origin was teaming with industry giant United Launch Alliance to develop a new rocket motor seems prescient and pre-emptive in light of renewed U.S. concerns about Russian rocket motors. Click here. (11/14)

Russia's Energomash Dreams Up Reusable Rocket Engine Design (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's NPO Energomash, one of the world's leading rocket engine manufacturers, has cooked up an ambitious plan to make its engines reusable up to ten times. Reusability is the buzzword of the modern space industry. Born of exorbitant Cold War budgets, space programs across the globe have struggled over the last two decades to survive with less funding — and reusability is the key to radically cutting down costs.

Energomash has devised a novel, albeit limited, solution to the problem of returning rocket parts safely to Earth. The company proposes housing its RD-191 engine in a capsule attached to the bottom of Russia's Angara rockets. After the engine has exhausted its fuel, the capsule will detach and fall back to Earth, protected by a heat shield on one side.

A parachute will deploy once the capsule hits the atmosphere, allowing the engine to land safely either with the help of a special airbag or small rockets to slow its descent. The added weight of this recovery system would knock 2.6 percent off of the Angara rocket's payload capacity, or the maximum weight it can lift to a given altitude above the earth. (11/14)

ViaSat Hopes To Lure Rural Subscribers with Unlimited Bandwidth (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and services provider ViaSat outlined its strategy for penetrating more deeply into DSL- and cable-served areas once its ViaSat-2 satellite is in orbit, a strategy it has begun to test now in low-demand areas.

As is the case with its competitor, the EchoStar-owned Hughes Network Systems’ HughesNet service, ViaSat’s Exede consumer satellite broadband growth is slowing as high-demand areas fill up the beams allocated to them. ViaSat has said in the past it is determined not to open up new capacity on these beams by reducing service quality, meaning the only path to growth in the next two years will be luring customers in regions where demand has been lowest — the rural areas of the U.S. (11/14)

ViaSat-2 Launch Contract Goes to SpaceX as Arianespace Sits Out Competition (Source: Space News)
Arianespace declined to submit a bid for launching ViaSat-2 because ViaSat Inc. had stipulated a mid-2016 launch date. Arianespace has said for months that its heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket is fully booked into 2017, with a couple of possible spots late in 2016. Ariane 5 typically launches two satellites at a time, a heavier payload in the upper berth and a lighter one in the lower position.

ViaSat-2, an all-Ka-band satellite built to add capacity to ViaSat’s consumer broadband service in North America, would be for Ariane 5’s upper position as it is expected to weigh about as much as ViaSat-1, which was 6,740 kilograms at launch. SpaceX won the competition with a bid for its Falcon Heavy rocket, to be introduced in 2015, despite the company’s own crowded manifest. (11/14)

Manufacturing Issues Plague James Webb Space Telescope (Source: Space News)
Manufacturing difficulties plagued major elements of the James Webb Space Telescope this year, forcing prime contractor Northrop Grumman to rebuild key structural elements declared unfit for flight while continuing to grapple with a persistently problematic cryogenic compressor needed to keep JWST’s infrared sensors cold. Despite the latest setbacks, launch remains on track for October 2018. (11/14)

Capitalizing on Stunning Success of Philae (Source: Space News)
Landing the Philae probe on the surface of a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth after a 10-year voyage that included 30 months of satellite hibernation is a made-in-Europe masterstroke — all the more striking given how few thought it would work. Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan — an aphorism that might explain the absence of many high-ranking political officials at the various landing events.

The odds, after all, were that Philae would fail. Political calculus would argue against taking the risk of associating too closely with it. The challenge for Europe’s space sector, and especially for the 20-nation ESA, is how to translate the momentum generated by the success into the kind of political capital that funds budgets and seeds the ground for future Philaes. ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain, who is retiring in 2015, could not have dreamed of better exit music for himself, or better timing for the agency. (11/14)

Habitable Exomoons Born in Cosmic Collisions (Source: New Scientist)
From Endor in Star Wars to Pandora in Avatar, habitable moons are science fiction staples. Trouble is, they appear hard to make in the real world. But hit-and-run accidents involving planets could create moons able to hold on to an atmosphere.

Previous studies suggested that a world must be at least 0.2 times Earth's mass to sustain an atmosphere. If moons form out of the dust disc surrounding a planet left over from the planet's formation, then it seems only planets 10 times the mass of Jupiter will end up with moons heavy enough to have air. Click here. (11/14)

Two Travelers From Far Beyond Neptune Return Home (Source: Science News)
Two visitors from the edge of the solar system appear to be returning to their birthplace. One is made of rock, the other slathered in organic compounds; neither looks like other bodies from the Oort cloud, the icy debris field that envelops the solar system. The objects may be relics from the solar system’s formative years, thrown to the Oort cloud while the planets were still forming over 4 billion years ago.

One body, designated C/2013 P2 Pan-STARRS, is making a rare appearance as it loops around the sun once every 51 million years. Karen Meech, a planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and colleagues discovered the object in August 2013, when it was about three times as far from the sun as Earth is. (11/14)

A Distant Planet May Lurk Far Beyond Neptune (Source: Science News)
Out beyond Neptune, the solar system resembles the deep ocean: dark, remote and largely unexplored. To an Earth-bound observer, even the brightest objects, such as Pluto, are 4,000 times as faint as what the human eye can see. An undiscovered planet could easily lurk out there unnoticed, a possible fossil from a time when the giant planets jockeyed for position 4 billion years ago, scattering planets and asteroids in their wake.

But even the largest telescopes would struggle to find such a faint spot of light. Most likely, the clues would be entangled in the distorted orbits of faraway ice boulders tumbling around the sun. Astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott Sheppard provided a hint about how such a world might reveal itself last March when they announced the discovery of a 450-kilometer-wide dwarf planet just outside the Kuiper belt.

Their find, designated 2012 VP113, is on a course that loops around the sun in a vastly elongated orbit far from the known planets. It has thousands of neighbors but shares its odd trajectory only with Sedna, another dwarf planet, discovered in 2003. “These objects couldn’t get out there with what we currently know.” Something had to drag the two dwarf planets from their original, smaller orbits. Except nothing is close or massive enough to take the credit. At least, nothing astronomers are aware of. Click here. (11/14)

A Still Mysterious Solar System (Source: Science News)
When Christopher Crockett suggested his Planet X story, it was the aura of mystery that hooked me. First, there is the surprise that parts of our own solar system remain opaque, even as we find planets around distant stars and see the cosmic radiation from the universe’s first light. How could our blind spot be so large? Second, there is a real mystery here: Scientists don’t understand what caused the strange, loopy orbits of two dwarf planets beyond the Kuiper belt. In the past, attempts to explain orbital anomalies led to the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto.

Whether or not a Planet X exists, the puzzle, like a good mystery, delights the mind. But better than any novel, the puzzle’s solution has the potential to reveal something new and unexpected about our solar system. The appeal is that “tomorrow they could discover something that changes everything.” Eight planets or nine. Newtonian physics or Einstein’s general relativity. What’s known or what we can only guess at. (11/14)

Uranus Might Be Full of Surprises (Source: Washington Post)
Scientists used to think that things were pretty chill over in the south hemisphere of Uranus. In fact, they thought it was one of the calmest regions of any of the gas giants. But in analyzing images taken nearly three decades ago by NASA's Voyager-2 spacecraft, researchers think they've found a kerfuffle of activity — which might indicate that there's something unusual about the planet's interior.

Erich Karkoshchka believes that Uranus's southern hemisphere rotates in a way never before seen in gas giants. A gas planet's thick atmosphere, filled with clouds, typically shows the same rate of rotation at the top and bottom. But on Uranus, it seems, the southern hemisphere is cycling much more quickly than up north — as much as 15 percent faster. (11/14)

Rosetta Lander is Dead — At Least for Now (Source: Washington Post)
After just over two days of working tirelessly, the Rosetta spacecraft's lander -- the indomitable Philae -- finally went to sleep. The probe stopped working at 7:36pm Eastern Time -- just before it was schedule to lose touch with mission control anyway. When Philae landed, it bounced off the ground several times instead of anchoring. While it initially hit right on its target landing spot, it ended up in a shadier area -- and its solar panels didn't get enough light.

Scientists decided to do as much research as possible with Philae's borrowed time, and even pulled a daring move to try to reposition the probe. Mission control ordered Philae to move its landing gear as a sort of arm, pushing it into a new position. It moved, but the battery was too close to dead for this repositioning to make a difference.

Philae sent back data until its final moments. In the coming hours and days, the Rosetta team will interpret this information to learn more about the comet. We may even know more later tonight. "Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," lander manager Stephan Ulamec said. (11/14)

China Launches New Remote Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
A Long March-2C rocket carrying the Yaogan-23 remote sensing satellite blasted off from the launch pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, Nov. 14, 2014. The satellite, which was launched at 2:53 a.m. Saturday, will be used for scientific experiments, natural resource surveying, estimating crop yields and disaster relief. The launch marks the 198th flight of the Long March rocket series. (11/15)

Jesuit Astronomer Confesses Youthful Error (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
On Thursday, Brother Guy Consolmagno gave a talk at the University of Arizona about how scientists embrace contradictions of their findings in the interest of furthering knowledge. On Friday, Consolmagno tested that premise as he presented evidence that contradicted his own 40-year-old conclusions and those of a NASA space mission that characterized the giant asteroid Vesta as an intact protoplanet just two years ago. Click here. (11/14)

Separation of Church and Space? (Source: UDayton)
Whether you believe the Philae probe's landing on a speeding comet is a monumental advance or a colossal waste might depend on your religion, according to a University of Dayton researcher. Many in the space community see the landing as a critical step in colonizing the solar system, such as NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green who said, "I truly believe that a single-planet species will not survive long. It's our destiny to move off this planet."

Yet Evangelical Protestants are much surer Jesus will return in the next 40 years than that humans will make significant strides in space exploration, according to research by University of Dayton political science assistant professor Joshua Ambrosius. "Evangelicals have been hesitant to recognize the discoveries of modern science — from evolutionary origins to climate change," Ambrosius said. "The data show that this overall attitude extends into space." (11/14)

GAO's Pace to Space (Source: AstroWatch)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in July that warned of cost and schedule risks to NASA’s newly designed Space Launch System (SLS). That wasn’t the first time this year when NASA received criticism from GAO. In May, the office slammed the agency’s cost estimating for SLS and the Orion spacecraft. Despite the fact that recommendations detailed in the reports are not mandatory for NASA, the agency “is required to respond to the Congress on how it plans to address the recommendations.”

GAO will also decide on the Sierra Nevada Corp.’s protest over NASA’s commercial crew contracts. The company’s bid for crew transportation to the International Space Station (ISS) was rejected by NASA in September, when the agency chose Boeing and SpaceX.

“The first thing to know is that a protest is a litigation. This is completely different from GAO’s role as an audit agency,” said Ralph White, GAO’s Managing Associate General Counsel for Procurement Law. “There will be no audit report issued from this, as is issued by the audit teams. There will be a legal decision on the outcome of the arguments raised.” GAO has 100 calendar days to resolve the case, so the decision must be made by Jan. 5, 2015. (11/14)

Hawaii Astronomer Shares $3 Million Breakthrough Prize (Source: U. Hawaii)
UH astronomer John Tonry has been named a recipient of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. He shares the award with the other members of the High-Redshift Supernova Search Team and with members of the Supernova Cosmology Project.In all, 50 astronomers played a role in the research, and each will get a piece of the $3 million prize, which will be split between two research teams. (11/14)

Mining Entrepreneur Julian Malnic Joins Deep Space Industries’ Board (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries is pleased to announce the election of Julian Malnic, accomplished entrepreneur and business leader, to its Board.  Julian is a recognized leader in the global mining industry, having founded both Nautilus Minerals Inc. and Direct Nickel, an emerging nickel producer with a revolutionary and dramatically lower cost extraction technology. In his new role with DSI, Mr. Malnic will add invaluable experience, perspective and drive to the Board of Directors. (11/13)

New Map Shows Frequency of Asteroid Impacts (Source: NASA JPL)
 map released today by NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) Program reveals that small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere with random distribution around the globe. Released to the scientific community, the map visualizes data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013. Click here. (11/14)

NASA Needs a Reality Show (Source: Gwinnett)
The human race achieves yet another historic milestone in the exploration of space, and all most of these humans care about is boobs, butts and f-bombs from other media headlines. So it got me to thinking: Maybe we’re going about space exploration all wrong. What we need to finally get the world interested is a reality show. We stock it with housewives and Kardashians, sit back and watch the ratings soar — and the money roll in.

Think about it: the Kim Kardashian video game — which lets you pretend to live a celebrity life — made $43 million in just three months. People actually paid good, hard-earned money to pretend to buy a vacation home or dine at a classy restaurant. In contrast, NASA warned recently that budget shortfalls could put cargo shipments to the International Space Station in jeopardy.

How fast do you think we could get the funding for a rocket U-Haul to the ISS if, instead of astronauts in need of food and water, we had a couple of Kardashians up there in need of make-up and jewelry? Perhaps a housewife in need of a facelift? I guess we could go with pretty much any self-absorbed “celebrity” in need of attention. (11/14)

Oklahoma Space Alliance President: Spaceport Has Substantial Value for State (Source: NewsOK)
The U.S. military developed Oklahoma's spaceport site during World War II. The Strategic Air Command used it later. The site acquired by Oklahoma for $1 is valued today at more than $900 million. The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA) negotiated an agreement with the Department of Defense, which uses the facilities jointly with general aviation.

Defense pays 90 percent of airport maintenance and operations. Approximately 35,000 operations occurred last year. The site is a full-function airport with active FAA tower and fire and rescue facilities. With the support from the Department of Defense, OSIDA’s funding is far less than that required to operate a similar airport.

OSIDA established spaceport capabilities, including operation control center, FAA-approved spaceport license and FAA- approved horizontal launch corridor. Spacecraft capable of using the Oklahoma Air and Spaceport are being developed. They should be in production within the next two years. The spaceport is well prepared to support flights of these spacecraft. (11/14)