September 14, 2014

Engine Makers Pushing AM, Other Technologies For RD-180 Replacement (Source: Aviation Week)
Rocket-engine developments that evolved from preparations for an advanced strap-on booster to lift the largest version of the planned Space Launch System (SLS) could push a prototype 500,000-lb.-thrust U.S. replacement for Russia’s RD-180 to the test stand in 2.5 years, contractors say.

Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJR) have joined forces on risk-reduction work growing out of NASA’s SLS advanced booster program and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Hydrocarbon Boost effort. The goal is to hasten the AR-1 hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine being proposed by AJR in hopes that Congress and the Pentagon will decide to go all-out on a U.S. powerplant for national security space launch in place of the RD-180.

Dynetics and AJR have merged their work for NASA and the Air Force in hydrocarbon rocket technology. The new technologies could remove some of the uncertainty that would go into replacing the 860,000-lb.-thrust RD-180 manufactured in Russia by NPO Energomash with the proposed AR-1, a 500,000-lb.-thrust oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion engine that could be twinned for vehicles requiring more thrust. (9/14)

Fourth SpaceX Cargo Mission to ISS Dragon Scheduled for September 20 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of the next SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) has been scheduled for September 20. The fourth SpaceX cargo mission to the ISS will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida at 2:16 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft will take over 5,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including food and necessities as well as scientific experiments, for example a 3-D printer. (9/13)

Colorful 1st Map of Rosetta Probe's Comet Target Revealed (Source: Space.com)
The European spacecraft Rosetta made history last month when it entered orbit around a duck-shaped comet. Since then, the probe has captured such detailed views of the comet's landscape — its jagged cliffs, craters and boulders — that scientists have drawn their first map of the celestial object.

The European Space Agency (ESA) released the colorful map this week that shows the different regions of the 2.5-mile-long (4 kilometer) comet as seen by Rosetta. The map will help scientists pick out the best landing spot for Philae, a small probe riding aboard Rosetta, which is set to touch down on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. Philae's final landing site and a backup will be announced on Monday (Sep. 15). (9/12)

Updated List of NASA's Commercial Crew Partner Milestones (Source: Planetary Society)
Since most of us aren't privy to NASA's behind-the-scenes decision making process, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at each company's CCiCap milestones. All three companies received fixed-price funding awards tied to a series of progress milestones. When a company completes a milestone, it earns another portion of its award. Finding an up-to-date list of these milestones is surprisingly difficult, so I created my own. Click here. (9/12)

ISS Serves As Eagle Eye For Earth (Source: Aviation Week)
Engineers managing the International Space Station are preparing to kick off a new use for the orbiting outpost that has not been seriously considered for human spaceflight since the old U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory and Soviet Almaz military reconnaissance space stations were defunded in the 1960s and ’70s—monitoring the home planet.

Cold War military planners figured out that robotic spacecraft could deliver more imagery, thereby stretching funding dollars. Now scientists are finding that the massive multipurpose ISS has a little something for everyone, including oceanographers, climatologists and meteorologists, and at lower cost than custom-built birds. Click here. (9/14)

Water-Splitter Could Make Hydrogen Fuel on Mars (Source: New Scientist)
Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow are developing a device that zaps water with electricity to release oxygen, then a silicon-based chemical mediator dissolved in the water mops up stray protons and electrons. When it is full, the mediator turns blue, letting a human operator know it can be removed and stored for later. When the hydrogen is needed, putting the mediator in contact with a platinum catalyst allows those electrons and protons to recombine to make hydrogen gas.

The whole process uses a single whack of power, and patchy renewable energy will suffice for this, says Cronin. In return, he says, 30 times as much hydrogen can be made than from existing systems. The device could find uses generating power in developing countries or for making fuel on Mars to power a rocket back to Earth. (9/12)

Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The chief aerodynamicist credited with designing SpaceShipTwo is departing the program on the eve of a crucial series of flight tests designed that Virgin Galactic hopes will lead to the start of commercial suborbital space tourism operations early next year. Multiple sources have confirmed that Jim Tighe announced on Thursday that he would be leaving his position as chief aerodynamicist at Scaled Composites in two weeks for a job at an unnamed aerospace company. It is not clear what prompted the move.

Tighe has been at the very center of the development of SpaceShipTwo, which Scaled Composites has built and is testing for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company. Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has credited Tighe with having designed the suborbital spacecraft. Tighe also played a central role in the design, development and testing of Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne predecessor, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 as the first private vehicle to reach space twice in two weeks. (9/12)

Lucky Golfer to Win Trip to Space on Lynx (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It has been announced that the first player to make a hole-in-one on the 15th hole of the KLM Open will win a trip into space courtesy of XCOR Space Expeditions. As part of a prize package worth US$100,000 this latest offering for an ace is sure to make an unprecedented impression on players and spectators of the event, held at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club from the September 11-14. (9/10)

Embry-Riddle Students Get Hands-On Experience With NASA (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
It wasn’t an ordinary boat ride for Jonathan Jaworski. It was a rare chance for the Embry-Riddle freshman to show NASA astronauts what he’s been working on in the college classroom. He was in Key Largo on Friday moving over choppy water. A 4-foot-long automated submarine called an ecodolphin was in tow and when he arrived at the destination, he put it in the ocean and showcased its functions to a group of NASA astronauts and researchers.

“We (students) actually constructed the ecodolphin. Being able show it off for NASA validates all of our hard work,” he said during a phone call as soon as he returned to dry land. “I think NASA is really excited about the dolphin. It’s a cute little submarine, so it’s been getting a lot of attention.” Jaworski is one of the Embry-Riddle students involved in a three-part research project with NASA and its Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).

NEEMO is a training program in which a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists live in an undersea research station for three weeks at a time. NASA believes the habitat, which sits in about 60 feet of water nearly three miles off Key Largo, simulates what it’s like to be in space. The aquanauts suit up, escape the habitat for a “spacewalk” and roam throughout the water. The mission is over Sunday and students on the mission, who have been getting up at 6 each morning, are looking forward to going home. (9/14)

The Competition in Space Continues to Heat Up (Source: Behind the Black)
Reports coming out a commercial satellite conference in Paris that indicate that SpaceX has closed 9 deals, including several more for its as yet unflown Falcon Heavy. Also, a replacement for the destroyed Falcon 9R test vehicle will be shipped to McGregor for testing in less than two months. Considering how long it takes governments to build and fly test vehicles, getting this replacement in shape for flight mere months after the failure a few weeks ago is quite impressive. (9/13)

Panel: Pluto a Planet (Source: Arizona Daily Sun)
Tucson scientist David Grinspoon joined a panel recently talking about NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto – but the scientists were most animated when talking about the feud over the status of the recently classified “dwarf planet.” Long sought by Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory as Planet X, and classified as the solar system’s ninth planet in 1930, Pluto took a hit in 2006 when it was downgraded to the new category, upsetting Pluto’s defenders.

“Dwarf people are people. Dwarf planets are planets,” said Fran Bagenal, a panelist and University of Colorado astrophysicist, when asked about Pluto’s current status. Panelists – NASA officials, academics and contractors overseeing the New Horizons mission – were unanimous in their support of the position that the littlest planet should still be called a planet, without qualifiers. (9/13)

China to Select Astronauts for Space Station in Next Two Years (Source: CRJ)
China plans to select its third batch of astronauts in the next two years, said deputy director of China's Astronaut Center on Saturday. Wang Weifen said that the third batch of astronauts are mainly selected for the construction of its space station, which is scheduled to be completed in 2022. "We will have a high standard for their physical, psychological capabilities and professional knowledge," said Wang.

Wang added that different from the first two batches of astronauts, who are mainly pilots from China's Air forces, the third batch of astronauts will also include doctors, psychologists and engineers from departments relevant to manned space research. No female astronauts are planned to be selected this time, said Wang. (9/13)

The $80m Virginauts Stranded on Earth (Source: Sunday Times)
Richard Branson is facing a backlash from aspiring astronauts who have booked $250,000 seats on his space rocket after he revealed the latest in a series of delays to the inaugural flight. News of the latest setback to Branson’s commercial space program came in an interview last week when the he said he hoped to take the first commercial trip into space on Virgin Galactic in “February or March or next year”. He has previously said that he would be traveling into space by the end of this year. The latest delay led to claims that the project was in crisis with some customers questioning whether the rocket would ever get into space. (9/13)

Up Aerospace, Born in Colorado Garage, Shoots Rockets for NASA (Source: Denver Post)
This is the story of a boy who dreamed of being an astronaut who now shoots rockets into space for NASA. In the late 1990s, Jerry Larson started Up Aerospace in his Highlands Ranch garage with the goal of inspiring high school and middle school kids to embrace science.

On Monday, Up was one of four U.S. companies picked for the latest round of contracts for NASA's Flight Opportunities program. This award means experiments from around the globe will ride into space aboard an Up Aerospace rocket, with the goal of providing data for future aerospace development. Click here. (9/14)

Companies Tied to Spaceport Up for Space Contract (Source: AP)
Two of the three companies competing for more than $3 billion to launch "space-taxi" flights have ties to southern New Mexico's Spaceport America. SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada (a rocket-system supplier for Virgin Galactic) are vying for the lucrative contract to take astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017 in space taxis. SpaceX also has a contract with Spaceport America to test its reusable rocket. (9/14)

Vostok-1 Rocket Fragment With Gagarin's Signature Sold in for $9,700 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Vostok-1 rocket fragment with the signature of Yuri Gagarin has been sold at the auction in Berlin for 7,500 euros [about $9,700]. The Soviet Space Memorabilia Auction is held by the auction house Auctionata. The fragment of the rocket is a lot at No. 69, a small piece of metal the size of 2.2-1.7 inches. The starting price of the lot was designated as 3,000 euros [about $3,877]. (9/14)

Nicaragua Asks U.S. for Help Investigating Meteorite Crater (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers, including experts at NASA, have questioned whether the blast and crater, reported earlier this week outside the Nicaraguan capital, were actually the product of a meteorite. Initial reports, including information issued by the Nicaraguan government, suggested a piece of space rock broke off from a larger asteroid passing between the Earth and its moon -- creating a sizable crater, measuring roughly 40 feet across, near Managua's international airport.

But NASA officials say the lack of eyewitness accounts raises doubts about that scenario. Plus, astronomers say, the timeline doesn't work out. Nicaraguan officials are apparently now quite confused themselves, and have asked the U.S. to help sort the whole thing out. It's not yet clear whether the U.S. will provide investigative assistance -- or what the assistance would look like. (9/14)

Two Space Coast Launches On Tap This Week (Source: Florida Today)
A 19-story Atlas V rocket is scheduled to roll to its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad Monday morning in preparation for a 5:44 p.m. Tuesday blastoff with a secret U.S. government satellite. The mission called CLIO is not attributed to any agency, and spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin won't discuss it. The payload is described only as a "commercially based communications satellite."

The launch could be the first of two from the Cape this week. SpaceX's next launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule packed with International Space Station cargo is planned at 2:16 a.m. Saturday. The mission is SpaceX's fourth of 12 under a $1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. (9/14)

The Space Store Moves from Denver, Opens on Space Coast (Source: MyNews 13)
Brevard County has made good progress in attracting aerospace companies. But they’re not the only space-related businesses relocating to the Space Coast -- a new store has opened hoping to attract space junkies. NASA baby socks, Apollo 11 action figures and space bingo; items that don’t appeal to the average person. But then again, Florida’s Space Coast isn’t home to average people.

“I think it’s a good time to be here and start up a store here, especially compared to being in Denver, so I saw an opportunity to be in Brevard County that it would be the best place to be,” said Brett Anderson, Owner, The Space Store. For eight years, Brett Anderson has operated his space-related merchandise and apparel store online, from Colorado. But he wanted a physical store for The Space Store. So he moved to Brevard County, America’s gateway to space for the past five decades, hoping to appeal to the county’s space enthusiasts. (9/13)

Prince Sultan Receives ASE Order and Award (Source: Arab News)
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) awarded Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), ASE’s Order and Award in recognition of his extensive efforts made in the field of space. The award was conferred on the prince on Wednesday in Beijing during its 27th Assembly. A statement from SCTA’s media head revealed that Prince Sultan is the first to receive the prestigious award for an astronaut outside of the United States and Russia. (9/14)

UAE Mission to Mars! (Source: Ahlan Live)
The UAE could send a spacecraft to Mars by as early as 2021, it’s been announced. Such a project would benefit all of humanity, said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, adding that the mission’s findings would be made available to all countries who might wish to use them.

Presiding over a brainstorming session held on Saturday,13 September, Sheikh Mohammed said the goal of the project is to develop knowledge within universities and research centres and to build national capabilities in the aerospace field. Developing the Mars project would requires a great deal of scientific study and would lead to a host of long-term benefits, including boosting the UAE economy and developing technology in the fields of telecommunications, satellites and data transfer, he added. (9/14)

September 13, 2014

Stennis will Help Launch US Into Deep Space (Source: SunHerald)
"We're going to Mars," was the message Friday as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Stennis Space Center. The path to deep space travel and Mars -- "It comes right through Hancock County, Mississippi," said Robert Lightfoot's, NASA's associate administrator. Every rocket that has lifted manned space flights from Earth was tested at Stennis and the Space Launch System for Orion, the next phase of space travel, also will be tested at Stennis' B-2 test stand. (9/12)

Michoud Proudly Reveal Monster Welder for SLS Cores (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) is continuing its lengthy transition towards its new flagship role, marked by ribbon cutting event on Friday for a huge tool that will help construct the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS). Known as the Vertical Assembly Center (VAC), the tool is the centerpiece of the new era for the New Orleans facility. (9/12)

Es’hailSat Taps Mitsubishi for 1st Fully-owned Satellite (Source: Space News)
Qatar’s new satellite fleet operator, Es’hailSat, selected Mitsubishi (Melco) of Japan to build the Es’hail 2 satellite after a competition in which, to the surprise of many, Melco bested its U.S. and European competitors with a price between 10 and 15 percent lower. Ali Al-Kuwari said the bidding competition, which was the first for Es’hailSat opened his eyes to the rough-and-tumble aspects of the satellite industry, where spreading blatantly false rumors about competitors is a regular feature. (9/12)

Aerospace, Defense Face Labor Shortage (Source: AIA)
Just as they're being hit with a wave of retirements, the aerospace and defense industries are facing a serious shortage of new workers entering the fields, warns Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. "We do not have a robust pipeline of young people with the right skills and training coming into the workforce," said Blakey, speaking this week at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit. She added that industry would like to see beefed-up science, technology, engineering and math skills in its job candidate pool. (9/11)

Contractors: RD-180 Engine Replacement Possible in Under 3 Years (Source: Aviation Week)
It could be possible to test a prototype rocket engine that would replace the Russian-made RD-180 in 2 1/2 years, say engine makers, especially with advanced risk-reduction work. Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne are working to accelerate development of the AR-1 hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine they hope can replace the RD-180. (9/12)

Spaceflight Conference Scheduled for Las Cruces (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
The International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight will hold a two-day conference in Las Cruces next month. The meeting, to be held on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16, will be the 10th annual conference sponsored by the ISPCS.

“Over the past 10 years, commercial space companies have demonstrated the will to channel and control not only physical power but also political and economic power to build successful launch companies, manufacture space vehicles, and construct spaceports,” said Pat Hynes, ISPCS chair. (9/12)

Win a Trip to Space with Three Friends (Source: Virgin.com)
As part of their partnership with Virgin Galactic, Land Rover have announced a very special competition which could see you and your friends blasting off into space...  “We are inviting aspiring adventurers from all over the globe to enter our Galactic Discovery competition to win a trip to space,” explain Land Rover. “Simply by submitting a short film or photographic entry in response to the question ‘What does the spirit of adventure mean to you?’ you could be among the first pioneering travelers to view the Earth from space and experience out-of-seat zero gravity.” (9/12)

Elon vs. Richard: How a Friendly Rivalry Led Virgin Galactic to Bitcoin (Source: UpStart)
Richard Branson was one of the first notable investors to get in on bitcoin. In November of last year, Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, began accepting bitcoin for advance sales of tickets, beginning with a bitcoin-rich flight attendant from Hawaii, and in March selling two more bitcoin tickets to space to Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the co-founders of Winkdex, a bitcoin index.

Branson tells the story of how just the thought of one of his competitors and friends, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, helped inspire him to accept the cryptocurrency. “I’m not foolish,” he told Bloomberg in the video. “If people have got lots of bitcoins and they want to go to space I’d much rather they spend that money on a Virgin Galactic spaceship than Elon’s spaceship.” Elon isn't even selling tickets to space, so Branson's concern was only about the possibility of such competition. (9/12)

Musk Won't Take SpaceX Public Because He Wants a City on Mars (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Those sci-fi concepts you dreamt about as a kid seem to be on the cusp of reality more and more these days. From DARPA’s tanks that duck and self-healing implants (just like Wolverine) to Martine Rothblatt’s glance into digital immortality, these are all concepts people are taking so seriously that they’re closer to truth than fiction. In that same vein, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors, appears to be our real-life Ray Bradbury character.

In something straight out of “The Martian Chronicles,” Musk said he has repeatedly eschewed an initial public offering for SpaceX because of his impressively outlandish endgame, according to Bloomberg. The reason I haven’t taken SpaceX public is the goals of SpaceX are very long-term ... to establish a city on Mars,” the science impresario said this week in Tokyo. (9/12)

WhiteKnight Two Lands in El Paso for Training Exercise (Source: KFOX)
Virgin Galactic’s spaceship carrier WhiteKnightTwo landed in El Paso on Thursday as part of a training exercise. Mike Moses, who is the company’s vice president of Operations, told KFOX14, “El Paso is an airfield we’ll use in a divert situation.”

Moses said the aircraft could be rerouted to El Paso International Airport if there was a situation on the runway at Spaceport America in Las Cruces. Michael Massucci is one of the plane’s pilots and said, “There’s always the possibility that the runway won’t be usable when we need it.” (9/11)

ThalesAleniaSpace Replacing U.S. Parts on Satellite for Russia (Source: Wall Street Journal)
U.S. and European sanctions against Russia haven't been a major headache for most Western companies yet, but they are sending some executives scrambling for ways to avoid getting snarled up in them. The latest example: One of Europe's leading satellite makers, ThalesAleniaSpace, is replacing U.S. components from a Russia-bound spacecraft to avoid running afoul of American sanctions against Moscow. (9/12)

Russian Recon Satellite Fails in Orbit Above U.S. (Source: US News)
Russia insists one of its reconnaissance satellites is fully operational and still circling the Earth, despite U.S. assertions it fell out of orbit and burned up in the skies over the U.S. mainland last week. The Russian rebukes stem from a string of eyewitness reports from Montana to New Mexico of a mysterious fiery object in the sky the night of Sept. 3, compiled by the American Meteor Society, a nonprofit organization that tracks such sightings.

Science blog SpaceFlight101.com matched the sightings to local news reports of people who witnessed a bright object in the sky, and imaging that shows something re-entering the atmosphere. The U.S. military units that oversee space operations confirm that the Russian satellite, also spelled Cosmos-2495, did indeed fail, drop out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. (9/12)

Russia Denies Spacecraft Cosmos-2495 Exploded Over US Territory (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia's Air and Space Defense (ASD) troops have dismissed reports of an explosion of the spacecraft Cosmos-2495 over the US territory. "All spacecraft of Russia's orbital group are functioning in designated orbits in established modes and are steadily monitored by ground means of the space monitoring system of the Main Space Situation Exploration Center of the ASD Space Command.

There are no malfunctions or deviations in the standard operation of Russian spacecraft," Colonel Alexey Zolotukhin, ASD spokesman, told ITAR-TASS. "Statements by a spokesman for the Strategic Command of the US Armed Forces about an alleged fact of a Russian spacecraft exploding, the Cosmos-2495, over the US territory was yet another attempt at finding out the position of a Russian space object lost by them," Zolotukhin added. (9/12)

Space Control Airmen Ensure Constant Communication (Source: AFSPC)
Air Force Space Command's 16th Space Control Squadron in partnership with the Air Force Reserve Command's 380th SPCS is responsible for ensuring the Defense Department has uninterrupted global satellite communications. Located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., two squadrons are responsible for operating space control capabilities to rapidly achieve flexible and versatile space superiority in support of theater campaigns and U.S. Strategic Command's space superiority mission.

To accomplish this, Airmen operate a variety of antennas deployed globally to detect, characterize, geo-locate and report sources of radio frequency interference on Defense Department and commercial satellites supporting combatant commanders. "Adversaries [have] identified that communication is one of our primary keys to being successful as a military organization," said Capt. Andrew Buck. "They are working on depriving and degrading our abilities to actually use satellite communication." (9/12)

September 12, 2014

Cecil Airport is Poised to Become a Player in Space Industry (Source: Florida Times-Union)
SpaceX's decision to build the nation’s first private launch facility in Texas was clearly disappointing news for Space Florida officials, who had aggressively pursued the project. This will serve only to galvanize and solidify Space Florida’s pursuit of commercial space opportunities. But all is not lost for Florida’s commercial space industry here in Northeast Florida, considering the status of the Cecil Airport and Spaceport facility.

Cecil Airport, the former Naval base now owned and managed by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, is well on its way to becoming a player in the exciting space industry. Cecil is one of the few airports in the U.S. — and the only one in Florida — licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a horizontal launch spaceport. Last year, JAA signed an agreement with its first commercial space operator, Atlanta-based Generation Orbit.

What’s driving the industry now is the development of small satellites using nanotechnology. The industry has even created a standard format known as CubeSat, a 4-inch cube weighing just shy of 3 pounds. These tiny satellites are engineered and built by companies such as Planet Labs, Spire and Skybox in Silicon Valley. Click here. (9/12)

California Rocket Company to Move to Texas (Source: Daily Breeze)
A company filled with rocket scientists has bought in to Texas’ push to promote itself as a business-friendly, anti-regulation locale. Firefly Space Systems of Hawthorne, California, on Wednesday confirmed its relocation to the Austin area. The company says it’s negotiating with Cedar Park officials to make that city its headquarters. It said it already purchased 200 acres of farmland in Burnet County near the unincorporated community of Briggs.

The announcement comes just weeks after SpaceX announced it would create the world’s first commercial site for orbital rocket launches in South Texas. Firefly will test small rocket engines at the Briggs location. PJ King, the company’s chief operating officer, expects to hire up to 200 workers, mostly engineers. “These are all high-paying jobs,” he said. King said Firefly was attracted to Texas partly because of its business and regulatory climate. It will also develop its rocket engines in collaboration with the University of Texas.

Firefly is attempting to build a satellite launching system that would cost customers $8 million to $9 million. It said that’s less than half the cost Russia charges. King says the company will not test the rockets in Burnet County. He says the company is looking for a launch site, preferably on the coast. Burnet County Commissioner Russell Graeter said he welcomes Firefly to the rural county of a little more than 42,000 people. (9/11)

Stung by Russian Launch Failures, RSCC Moves Toward In-Orbit Delivery Deals (Source: Space News)
Russia’s largest satellite operator said it is revamping the way it purchases satellites and rockets to widen its choice of suppliers — especially launch vehicles. Moscow-based Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), whose financial performance in the past two years has been hobbled by multiple launch and in-orbit satellite failures, said that by 2016 it will bundle satellite and rocket orders through in-orbit delivery contracts with satellite builders. In other words, the satellite manufacturer, not RSCC, would select the rocket.

Recent failures have affected RSCC and the Russian government more than any other Proton customers. Neither has had much choice in the matter as missions that are part of the Russian Federal space program — including commercial telecommunications satellites like RSCC’s — are automatically placed on Proton. Pivnyuk said Sept. 8 that RSCC would judge future proposals on their financial, technical and schedule merits without entering directly into the launcher decision. (9/12)

After a Two-Year Trek, NASA’s Mars Rover Reaches Its Mountain Lab (Source: New York Times)
After two years of Mars enthusiasts asking, “Are we there yet?” the mission managers for NASA’s Curiosity rover can finally yell back, “Yes, we’re there!” The Curiosity rover has reached the destination where it will begin its main science investigations, the base of a three-mile-high mountain that the science team has named Mount Sharp. As the rover makes it way up the mountain, it will cross layers of rock that contain clues to the early geological and environmental history of Mars when it was warmer and wetter. (9/12)

3 Space Station Astronauts Return to Earth (Source: ABC)
An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5½ months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and Russian crewmen Oleg Artemiev and Alexander Skvortsov flew to the orbiting outpost in March. Their departure leaves three men still up there: an American, Russian and German. "We had a lot of fun," Swanson said before heading home. (9/11)

Embry-Riddle’s Aerospace Engineering is No. 1 in Nation for 15th Straight Year (Source: ERAU)
For the 15th consecutive year, the Best Colleges guidebook published by U.S. News & World Report ranks Embry-Riddle’s specialized undergraduate aerospace engineering program No. 1 in the nation and honors the university for continued excellence in undergraduate engineering.
 
Additionally, the annual compilation has named Embry-Riddle the Best Southern University for veterans and active service members for the second year in a row. Also in the South, Embry-Riddle has climbed to the No. 10 spot among the 122 ranked best regional universities, landing in the top 13 for 10 years now. In a new honor, the university has tied for No. 6 in the elite group of Best Southern Universities considered “up-and-comers” exhibiting the most promising changes in academics, faculty, student life, campus or facilities. (9/11)

Orion Moves to PHSF in Preparation for First Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Orion spacecraft took its next giant leap towards space today, Thursday, Sept. 11. After departing from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Orion preceded to make the mile-long journey to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) where it will be fueled for flight. Liftoff of Orion's maiden voyage, Exploration Flight test-1 (EFT-1), is expected to take place at sunrise on December 4. (9/11)

It’s OK to Cheat on Your Space-Traveling Spouse (Source: WIRED)
In the future, when astronauts are voyaging at close to the speed of light to other solar systems and gone for decades at a time, should their spouses have to wait for them? No, no, no, no, no. Absolutely not, and let me tell you why. Or rather, let Mary Roach, best-selling author of Packing for Mars, tell you why. Click here. (9/11) http://www.wired.com/2014/09/mr-know-it-all/

WhiteKnightTwo Touches Down at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A picturesque New Mexico sky dotted with clouds Wednesday set the scene for a visit of the WhiteKnightTwo to Spaceport America — its first trip to the facility in three years. Officials with Virgin Galactic, which owns the 38,000-pound plane, said the visit was a preview of things to come, as they continue a ramp-up toward suborbital commercial spaceflights — likely next spring — from the taxpayer-owned facility in southeastern Sierra County.

Company officials said the trip served as an early practice run for the WhiteKnightTwo, expected to eventually launch from the spaceport with SpaceShipTwo and paying passengers in tow. The plane, which carries the spaceship for a mid-air launch into suborbital space, up until now has mostly been at a spaceport in Mojave, California. (9/11)

DiBello Selected to Chair Spaceflight Federation (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that it has elected Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, as its new Chairman succeeding Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air & Space Port. At its semi-annual Board of Directors meeting this week in Jacksonville, Florida, the CSF also elected Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace and Sean Mahoney of Masten Space Systems to the Executive Committee of the Board, joining DiBello, Tim Hughes (SpaceX), Rob Meyerson (Blue Origin) and Mark Sirangelo (Sierra Nevada Corporation), who were reelected.

Also at the meeting, the full Board approved adding Miami-based Interflight Global Corporation to the associate membership of the organization. “I look forward to taking the helm of this organization during this dynamic period in our industry,” said new Chairman Frank DiBello. “I’m thrilled to be working with the new CSF staff leadership and member companies to promote the continued development and success of the commercial spaceflight sector.” (9/11)

Russia Announces Plans To Upgrade Nuclear, Air Defense Forces (Source: Defense News)
Russia will respond to the United States' "prompt global strike" program designed to take out targets within an hour by upgrading its nuclear and space defense forces, its deputy prime minister said. "Our response to the prompt global strike strategy is upgrading our strategic nuclear forces and resources — the strategic rocket forces and the naval ones — and also developing air and space defense resources according to the plans we have finalized," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees defense, was quoted as saying. (9/11)

Putin Takes Direct Control of Russian Military Industrial Complex (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russian Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin has tightened his already tight control over Russia’s military industrial complex, taking personal control of the commission responsible for carrying 0ut Russia’s defense orders and demoting Dmitry “Trampoline Rocket” Rogozin in the process. Putin warned of burgeoning security threats facing Russia as he took personal control of the Military-Industrial Commission. Under Rogozin, the commission has been unable to break a cycle of “widespread corruption, inefficiency and incompetence” that have made it difficult for contractors to deliver as promised. (9/11)

All-Star Astronauts From U.S., China Mull Prospect of Space Cooperation (Source: NBC)
Astronauts from the US and China talked friendship and cooperation in a rare gathering of international planetary all-stars in Beijing - despite a U.S. law banning official cooperation with China’s ambitious space program. Buzz Aldrin was among more than 30 prominent space explorers from the US, including active NASA astronauts acting in their “private capacity,” who joined a large contingent of astronauts and cosmonauts from 16 countries at the first space conference hosted by China in cooperation with the Association of Space Explorers (ASE).

In addition to Aldrin, Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space and who served as commander of the International Space Station, was among the astronaut all-stars. China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, American astronaut Mario Runco Jr. and space expert Andy Turnage discussed the potential benefits of spaceflight cooperation among different countries. They expressed hope that space could be a new frontier for U.S.-China cooperation, reviving the old debate on whether the U.S. and China should be working together in and outside of orbit. (9/11)

China Eyes Cooperation with Other Countries on Space Station (Source: China Daily)
China is open to cooperation with foreign nations on its manned space station project, according to a senior space official. "We reserved a number of platforms that can be used for international cooperative projects in our future space station when we designed it," said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency. "In addition to collaboration in applied experiments, we also designed adapters that can dock with other nations’ spacecraft," he said. (9/10)

China Completes Constructiron of Advanced Space Launch Site (Source: China Daily)
China has finished building of its fourth and most advanced space launch center, a senior space official said. Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said in Beijing on Wednesday that infrastructure construction on the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan has been completed and that the station will soon become operational.

"The center is basically ready for spacecraft launches," he said. Yang also said the nation's space program is progressing in the development of the Tiangong-2 space lab, the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft and the Long March 2F-Y11 rocket as astronauts and ground facilities begin preparing for new missions. (9/11)

Jellyfish Flames on the ISS (Source: NASA)
Fire is inanimate, yet anyone staring into a flame could be excused for thinking otherwise: Fire dances and swirls. It reproduces, consumes matter, and produces waste. It adapts to its environment. It needs oxygen to survive. In short, fire is uncannily lifelike. Nowhere is this more true than onboard a spaceship. Click here. (9/10)

Roads to Close for SpaceX Launch Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Cameron County is continuing this morning to pave the way forward for SpaceX to come to Boca Chica Beach, as commissioners will consider the closing and abandonment of four areas of right-of-way near the company’s proposed launch pad construction site. The roads are being considered for closing in whole or in part to make way for SpaceX, the new owner of the property. Officials have said a groundbreaking at the site is expected soon, and the City of Brownsville announced a special event Sept. 22 to celebrate the coming of SpaceX. (9/11)

Air Force Planning Three-satellite Replacement for SBSS (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is planning a three-satellite constellation to replace an existing space surveillance satellite and hopes to launch sooner than the 2021 timeline previously expected. The Air Force spent the past year defining a follow-on program to the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 pathfinder satellite launched into a 630-kilometer, sun-synchronous low Earth orbit in 2010. The next iteration would likely use three smaller satellites in low Earth orbit to keep tabs on objects in the geosynchronous belt. (9/11)

Using Cameras and Fancy Algorithms to Track Spinning Space Junk (Source: WIRED)
A team from MIT has come up with an algorithm that could let cleanup crews measure a target’s movement so they can plan an approach to safely snatch it up. The team sent their algorithm up to the International Space Station, where astronauts tested it using two SPHERES satellites, volleyball-sized bots being tested as swarming space helpers. As one satellite floated and spun, another filmed the action using a pair of linked cameras, spaced slightly apart.

As the cameras captured the spinning satellite the algorithm mapped features on its surface and compared the images seen through the left and right lenses. Frame by frame, the algorithm measured slight discrepancies in distance and angle between each lens’ view of the features, and used these calculations to make a 3-D map of the object rotating in space (your brain does roughly the same thing with the feeds coming from your eyes). (9/11)

Ariane 5 Launches with Optus 10 and MEASAT-3b (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
An Ariane 5 ECA has successfully launched two telecommunication satellites on Thursday. Optus 10 and MEASAT-3b both rode uphill on the Arianespace workhorse out of the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, following lift off late in the launch window – due to two technical holds – at 22:05 GMT. (9/11)

Proton Can Compete with Falcon on Price (Source: RIA Novosti)
Future commercial launches of Russian Proton launch vehicles will be able to compete with the US SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets but on certain conditions, the Deputy Director General in charge of Economics and Finance of the United Rocket and Space Corporation said Thursday. “If SpaceX enters the market with the prices and features it is talking about, if it can launch the Falcon 9 to a geostationary transfer orbit for $55.5 million, then it aims for the below 4.5-ton satellite segment, which is a quite large segment," Pavel Popov said.

"We can reach this cost price, not exactly this one, a little bit higher,” Popov told journalists. He added that should the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle with its $81 million price tag be successful, then a different price format would prevail on the market but the Russian corporation would still be able to compete. (9/11)

Russia Plans to Launch 5 Angara Heavy Rockets Per Year by 2025 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) is planning to start launching five Angara heavy rockets a year by 2025, according to the program of financial recovery at the Khrunichev Center, presented by the URSC Deputy CEO Pavel Popov. "Since 2021, Proton [carrier rocket] will be used almost exclusively for commercial launches. Angara is to be used for federal launches, starting in 2018. There will be seven launches per year between 2023-2025. But on average, we'll have about five of them," Popov said. (9/11)

Putin Promises Probe into Vostochny Spaceport Funding Suspicions (Source: Itar-Tass)
President Vladimir Putin promised a police investigation into funding suspicions concerning the new Vostochny Cosmodrome Russia is building in the Far East. He admitted that “although the project is in the focus of our special attention, problems abound”.

“I will have to hand over some issues to law enforcement agencies to get them sorted out and clarified,” Putin said. Funding is provided regularly but the funding procedure itself needs special attention, he said, referring to “quasi and semi-criminal schemes”. He asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to think about how to concentrate funding on concrete projects to avoid its being spread thinly. (9/10)

Space Industry Sees Little Effect From Western Tensions With Moscow (Source: Aviation Week)
As Western powers weigh further support for Kiev in the battle against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, global space industry leaders say the effect of mounting tensions with Moscow has so far been minimal. Robert Cleave, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, says Atlas 5 supplier United Launch Alliance (ULA) has seen no slowdown in deliveries of the Russian RD-180 engine that powers the rocket’s core stage.

In the meantime, other launch service providers that utilize Russian and Ukrainian hardware say worsening tensions are so far not being felt at the industry level. Phil Slack, president of International Launch Services (ILS), which markets commercial missions of Russia’s Proton, says the Reston, Virginia-based company was initially concerned that a State Department hold on spacecraft shipping licenses could disrupt the ILS manifest. (9/11)

U.S. Dismisses Space Weapons Treaty Proposal As “Fundamentally Flawed” (Source: Space News)
A U.S. review of an updated Chinese-Russian treaty proposal to ban weapons in space finds that it suffers from the same problems that made the original version unacceptable, an American diplomat said.

Ambassador Robert Wood, the U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said Sept. 9 that the United States had completed an in-depth review of the revised treaty, formally known as the “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects” and generally referred to as PPWT. China and Russia had submitted an update to their original 2008 proposal in June.

“According to the U.S. analysis, the draft PPWT, like the earlier 2008 version, remains fundamentally flawed,” Wood said. Wood cited a number of issues with the PPWT, including the lack of a verification mechanism and no restrictions on the development and stockpiling of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons on the ground. That means, he said, a nation “could develop a readily deployable space-based weapons break-out capability” should it decide to withdraw from the treaty. (9/11)

NASA Officials Defend Curiosity’s Criticized Science Plan (Source: Space News)
Shaking off the criticism of a senior review panel that said the Mars Science Laboratory mission was at risk of underperforming, a pair of NASA officials said Sept. 11 that the mission team has a solid science plan that will ensure a good return on the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover that has been exploring the red planet the past two years.

Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, and John Grotzinger, project scientist for Curiosity, said the rover’s productivity is not defined solely by the number of surface samples it collects with its drill bit and scoop — a metric scientists honed in on in a report detailing the results of a senior review of planetary science missions, which despite harsh words for Curiosity recommended a two-year, $115 million extension for the flagship rover that landed on Mars in August 2012. (9/11)

September 11, 2014

ACME Produces Commercial SiC Wafers in Microgravity (Source: Parabolic Arc)
ACME Advanced Materials, Inc. today announced the successful commercialization of its process to produce large quantities of low loss, electrically defect free (EDF) Silicon Carbide (SiC) wafers in a microgravity environment.

This development creates a new grade of SiC wafer, S Grade, that are electrically defect free of the mid-gap states known to cause power loss and reliability issues in SiC devices by impeding current flow through these electrical scattering centers. (9/10)

NanoRacks Investigates Cubesat Deployment Anomalies (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The investigation of the anomalies on the CubeSat deployers continues and has three main components: to understand the root cause of the behavior of the deployers; to put corrective actions into place; and to plan a resumption in CubeSat deployments. We believe we are making progress in understanding the root cause of the anomalies. The team of NanoRacks and the CubeSat deployer manufacturer Quad M are now able to duplicate on the ground the anomalies observed in space.

Yesterday we showed the results to a NASA working group. In addition, NanoRacks has brought in a team from the Aerospace Corporation to assist NanoRacks in the investigation and in finding a pathway for future deployments. All parties are reviewing historical and new test data to validate the preliminary root cause we have identified. At the same time, the broad root cause analysis continues as NASA and NanoRacks explore all possible causes. (9/10)

World’s Biggest Satellite Fleet Operators Want Europe To Build Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
A group including the world’s largest commercial satellite fleet operators has written the European Space Agency urging that it approve a new-generation Ariane 6 in time for a first launch in 2019 or face relegating the European rocket to commercial also-ran status.

The letter to ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain makes clear that these fleet operators have a ho-hum view of the Ariane 5 ME vehicle that ESA governments are weighing alongside a new-generation Ariane 6. Given the advent of electric propulsion and the dramatic launch-cost reduction offered by SpaceX, the operators say, the new Ariane 6 needs to be in service by 2019 or face the risk that Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium will be permanently sidelined. (9/10)

Hyperspectral Imaging Startup Orders First Satellites From Boeing (Source: Space News)
Boeing has landed the first contract for its 502 Phoenix small-satellite platform in a partially vendor-financed deal with a hyperspectral imaging startup called HySpecIQ. The deal calls for Boeing to deliver two Phoenix platforms equipped with high-resolution hyperspectral imaging sensors that would be ready for launch within several months of one another starting in the first quarter of 2018. (9/10)

Hearing Raises Questions About Asteroid Mining Bill (Source: Space News)
A bill that would grant property rights and other protections for commercial asteroid mining ventures received a mixed reception at a House space subcommittee hearing. H.R. 5063, the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, would grant U.S. companies the rights to resources they extract from asteroids. It also allows companies to take legal action if they suffered “harmful interference” during those activities by other entities under U.S. jurisdiction.

One space law expert raised questions about the bill’s language. “My professional opinion is that the ASTEROIDS Act, as written, is very, very vague,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz. “Strictly from reading the text, and based on legal knowledge, it definitely needs work...It’s a completely novel application of that term of art,” she said. That, she said, could raise questions about what constituted such interference.

She added that international legal opinion is divided on whether an entity that extracts space resources then owns those resources, ownership that the bill would recognize. “There will be a great deal of political and legal discussion catalyzed by this.” One key member suggested that, because of those issues, the committee delay work on the bill until next year. However, co-sponsor Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) said: “If we wait for years to address the issue, the business is just going to go somewhere else.” (9/10)

Loan Covenants Put NewSat in Chicken-and-Egg Situation (Source: Space News)
Australian startup broadband satellite operator NewSat Ltd. on Sept. 10 said it is not in a “work-out” situation with its major lenders, the U.S. and French export-credit agencies, but that the company is going through an acknowledged rough period as it builds its first satellite and contends with lower revenues in its historic teleport business.

NewSat Chief Executive Adrian Ballintine said the company had been faced with a classic chicken-and-egg situation in which lenders demanded technical and management expertise as a condition of their loans, all the while setting loan covenants that limited NewSat’s ability to hire new talent. NewSat’s first satellite, Jabiru-1, is under construction by Lockheed Martin and scheduled for launch in late 2015 or early 2016. (9/10)

SpaceX, Loral Win Bulgarian Broadcast Satellite Deal (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Bulgaria's first communications satellite will be built and launched in the United States with financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Space Systems/Loral will manufacture the television broadcasting spacecraft and a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the satellite in 2016. The satellite will broadcast direct-to-home television signals in the Balkans and other European regions for Bulgaria Sat, an affiliate of Bulgarian television and mobile operator Bulsatcom. (9/8)

Who Can Mine That Asteroid? Posey Says Rules Needed (Source: Florida Today)
Whizzing asteroids aren't simply objects to avoid. They're also resource-rich treasures to explore. With commercial space companies itching to mine these space rocks, Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida has introduced a bipartisan bill that would set up what he calls a "legal framework" to determine what rights private interests would have to extract and control whatever they find.

Hundreds of asteroids spotted buzzing near Earth are believed to contain valuable metals and rare minerals. Their most coveted resource might be frozen water that could be converted into liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel that would make a trip to Mars or other astral bodies easier and cheaper.

Posey, whose central Florida district includes NASA's Kennedy Space Center, said that's engendered a lot of interest. "We have Americans ready, actually waiting right now to pursue asteroids as we speak — not in two or three years," Posey said during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on his bill. (9/10)

Space Fashion Week: How Slow Factory Makes NASA Photos Into Clothes (Source: Space.com)
Celine Semaan Vernon isn't a scientist or a fashion designer by training, but somehow she found herself at an unlikely nexus between those two careers. Vernon will show off a line of silk scarves artfully printed with free-to-use, barely altered NASA images of Earth and space as part of New York Fashion Week. Her two-year-old boutique, Slow Factory, has already earned her fans among NASA scientists and space enthusiasts seeking to express their geekery.

Now, Vernon will try to impress the fashion world. Slow Factory auspiciously launched the same day NASA's Curiosity Mars rover landed on the Red Planet in August 2012. The Martian landscape — uncannily Earth-like and alien at the same time — inspired Vernon's latest collection of sustainably made scarves called "Mars, Revealed." (9/10)

A Significant Flare Surges Off the Sun (Source: NASA)
The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground.  However -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. (9/10)

Exelis Successfully Tests GPS Threat Detection Product (Source: Business Wire)
Signal Sentry 1000, an Exelis product that detects and locates GPS interference sources, was deployed and tested during GPS jamming trials that occurred at Sennybridge, United Kingdom, last month. Signal Sentry 1000 was able to detect and geolocate stationary and moving jammers in both open and obstructed environments. (9/10)

September 10, 2014

"Enterprise in Space" Initiative Sponsored by Space Society (Source: NSS)
The multi-pronged mission of the Enterprise In Space project is to design, build, fly, and eventually return to earth an orbiter containing student experiments. This project will be a tribute to the many great visionaries of science and science fiction. It will demonstrate and pioneer new technologies while inspiring and encouraging space enterprise.

It will promote the development of educational curricula and activities contributing to related future endeavors in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). In general, this project is intended to engage and inspire the next generation – all ages and walks of life – by igniting a renewed interest in space exploration and development. Click here. (9/10)

Utah Celebrates its Aerospace Heritage (Source: Standard-Examiner)
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will address executives in the state's aerospace and defense industries in upcoming ceremonies intended to celebrate the state's long heritage in the world of aerospace. "We benefit from a collaborative relationship between our aerospace and composite companies, local communities, defense contractors, academia and state government leaders," says Herbert, who will be on hand in Layton, Utah on Monday to address an Air Force Association Industrial Associates luncheon as part of National Aerospace Week, held Sept. 14-20. (9/9)

Atomic Space Propulsion and Power (Source: Space Safety)
After the Manhattan Project birthed the first atomic reactor, the first uranium bomb, and the first plutonium bomb, the same engineers went on to design a variety of undersea and outer space nuclear propulsion systems during the 1950s. Among these were the first solid core nuclear thermal rocket engines under Project Rover. The engines were mounted upside down on their test stands at the Nevada test site with the rocket plume firing upward into the atmosphere.

Aerojet General and Westinghouse Electric developed and ground tested the final engine design at the Nevada test site in 1969 under the NERVA (Nuclear Energy for Rocket Vehicle Applications) contract through NASA’s Space Nuclear Propulsion Office. This NERVA-1 engine was designed to power the first NASA manned Mars mission that was then projected to launch in 1981. Click here. (9/10)

Branson Says First Flight From New Mexico in February or March (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In an interview on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson says he will be on the first flight of SpaceShipTwo from New Mexico in February or March 2015. (9/10)

Eutelsat, SES To Add Plasma-Fueled Spacecraft To Fleets (Source: Aviation Week)
In March 2012, when Boeing announced the sale of the world’s first all-electric satellites, the company sparked a trend in the commercial telecom industry, lighting a fire under competitors in Europe and Asia as they scrambled to catch up. But two years on, Boeing has yet to announce a follow-up deal for its xenon-ion fueled 702SP satellite bus, while European competitors once thought to be years behind the curve are gaining ground. Within months of the Boeing announcement, the European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled plans to fund codevelopment of the new Electra all-electric satellite bus with European industry. (9/9)

First Evidence for Water Ice Clouds Found Outside Solar System (Source: Space Daily)
A team of scientists led by Carnegie's Jacqueline Faherty has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now. At the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Faherty, along with a team including Carnegie's Andrew Monson, used the FourStar near infrared camera to detect the coldest brown dwarf ever characterized. (9/10)

No Easy Parking Spot for First-Ever Comet Landing (Source: New Scientist)
Landing on a comet will be even harder than we thought. The strange shape of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko does not present as many safe landing sites for the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft as mission planners had hoped. "Its shape is exciting scientifically but it [creates] a lot of challenges," says project scientist Matt Taylor. He calls the comet "the duck" because from some angles it resembles a rubber one.

The probe arrived at 67P on 6 August after a 10-year journey. The plan is to release a probe called Philae to land on the comet's surface on 11 November. ESA announced five candidate touchdown sites on 25 August, but on 8 September the team admitted that none of the sites looked very safe. "All landing sites are worse than expected because of the shape of the body," said the lander's lead scientist, Hermann Böhnhardt of the Max Planck Institute.

Worse means smaller. Philae is designed to land within an ellipse 1 kilometer in length. Of the five shortlisted sites, only site B (pictured below), at the "head" of the duck, meets that requirement. There are some larger, smoother sites on the base of the duck's "body" but they are too poorly lit to let the lander recharge its batteries during its four-month mission. (9/9)

The DIY Spaceship Simulator That's More Immersive Than Virtual Reality (Source: Motherboard)
As our spaceship swung somewhere past Mars, I frantically flicked switches and slammed buttons to keep control of the onboard nuclear reactor, to prevent a power blackout in the cabin, and to keep alien intruders out. The screen in front of me flashed and beeped, asking for the code that would bring me and my team back to safety as the whole ship shook around us. I flipped through the vehicle’s manual and typed in what I thought was the relevant sequence. The door behind me opened and a red tentacle shot out. “You Are Dead,” the screen read.

While virtual reality games are often called “immersive,” this experience showed that the most captivating experiences don't have to involve wearing goggles. I was inside the LHS Bikeshed spaceship simulator, a DIY, sci-fi styled caravan that takes immersive gaming to the next level.

Unlike VR, the game delivers its real kicks through off-screen elements. When the ship shakes, the whole caravan actually physically shakes. When you have to plug in an emergency cable to save the ship, you have to actually, physically get up and plug the right cable into the right port. It's not virtual reality, it's real-life reality—and that's what made it the best space simulator I've ever set foot in. Click here. (9/10)

Why ViaSat Settled Its Patent Case against Loral for $100 Million (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. Chief Executive Mark D. Dankberg on Sept. 10 defended his company’s decision to settle a two-year patent-infringement lawsuit against Loral Space and Communications, saying the $100 million settlement sends a clear enough message to the industry. “We think that’s enough to make the point,” Dankberg said here during the World Satellite Business Week conference organized by Euroconsult.

“The technology [subject to the lawsuit] is old. We would rather focus on new technology than on fighting over old technology.” New York-based Loral and Space Systems/Loral, which is now owned by MDA Corp. of Canada, have agreed to pay $40 million immediately and then $60 million, plus interest, over two and one-half years as part of the settlement. (9/10)

Angara-5 Might Need New Place to Crash its Boosters (Source: Russian Space Web)
A recent trip of a surveillance team to the locations where URM-1 boosters were to be dropped during the first launch of the Angara-5 rocket, deemed them unacceptable for the mission. The group discovered that an extremely dense forest at those sites would make it impossible to recover the remnants of the boosters. The return of the hardware for post-launch analysis was a likely requirement during the flight testing. If confirmed, the issue could require mission planners to find more suitable sites and re-program the launch sequence in order to drop boosters at the new locations.

According to a typical flight profile, four strap-on boosters of the Angara-5 rocket separate at an altitude of around 82 kilometers around three and a half minutes in flight. They would fall around 850 kilometers to the east from the rocket's launch site in Plesetsk. The central (core) module would separate less than two minutes later at an altitude of 148 kilometers and then would crash 2,320 kilometers downrange. (9/10)

Volusia Historic Board to Weigh In on Spaceport Impacts (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
The voice of Volusia County’s Historic Preservation Board will be among those weighing in on the potential impacts of a commercial spaceport at Shiloh in Southern Volusia. The board, one of several groups invited by the FAA to take part in a formal review of how a spaceport could affect natural, historic and cultural resources, voted unanimously last Thursday to participate.

“We feel we need to be involved because of the historical and social impacts of what is there now,” board chairman Jim Yates said. “It’s our job to help preserve these important places.” Space Florida would like to obtain 200 acres from NASA — outside the formal boundaries of Kennedy Space Center — to develop a spaceport at Shiloh, straddling the Volusia/ Brevard County line south of Oak Hill. Click here. (9/9)

Golden Age of Unmanned Space Travel (Source: Huffington Post)
It has been over 45 years since the first Moon landing. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made a journey for the ages as the Apollo 11 mission rocketed humans to another world. But, what have we done lately? Click here. (9/9)

Where to Grab Space Debris (Source: MIT News)
Objects in space tend to spin — and spin in a way that’s totally different from the way they spin on earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any number of actual or potential space missions, from cleaning up debris in the geosynchronous orbit favored by communications satellites to landing a demolition crew on a comet.

In a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Field Robotics, MIT researchers will describe a new algorithm for gauging the rotation of objects in zero gravity using only visual information. And at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this month, they will report the results of a set of experiments in which they tested the algorithm aboard the International Space Station.

On all but one measure, their algorithm was very accurate, even when it ran in real time on the microprocessor of a single, volleyball-size experimental satellite. On the remaining measure, which indicates the distribution of the object’s mass, the algorithm didn’t fare quite as well when running in real time — although its estimate may still be adequate for many purposes. But it was much more accurate when it had slightly longer to run on a more powerful computer. (9/10)

Is Space Law the New Frontier? (Source: Legal BisNow)
Even with its 2,600 lawyers in 79 offices, there was one practice area mega-firm Dentons was missing. Now, Dentons has launched a space law practice. US managing partner Mike McNamara tells us the firm wanted to be part of shaping the new industry. Commercial space is a growing industry, as private sector companies pick up lucrative contracts from NASA for rocket parts or to launch cargo up to the International Space Station.

The new practice has "two hearts," Del tells us: space business (applying M&A, litigation, and IP to issues around space and satellites) and space law and public policy (tying together new rules and regulations, international treaties, memoranda of understanding, and diplomacy). Another big issue is the future of the American presence in space. (9/10)

Space Services Acquires Odyssey Moon (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Services Holdings, Inc. (SSHI) of Houston, Texas, is acquiring Odyssey Moon Ltd. and adding key industry veterans to its Board of Directors, signaling an ambitious expansion in the global commercial space market. Space Services, already an established space industry leader with its iconic Celestis memorial spaceflights, makes these announcements on the heels of exclusive commercial partnerships with NASA and NOAA for the Sunjammer solar sail mission.

The acquisition of Odyssey Moon, an Isle of Man headquartered company, situates Space Services as an emerging global pioneer in commercial lunar missions as well. Joining the Space Services Board of Directors from Odyssey Moon is incoming SSHI chairperson Christopher Stott, founder and chairperson of Isle of Man satellite company ManSat Ltd.  Mr. Stott also serves on the Board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and as president of the Society of Satellite Professionals and the International Institute of Space Commerce. (9/9)

Planetary Scientist Joins Asteroid Mining Company Planetary Resources (Source: IT Wire)
Dante Lauretta, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, is joining Planetary Resources, Inc., an asteroid mining company, as its science advisor. Dr. Dante Lauretta is the principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, the first asteroid sample return mission for NASA. OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer.
 
The OSIRIS-Rex mission is scheduled to launch in 2016 and rendezvous with the asteroid 101955 Bennu (commonly called Bennu). Bennu is an asteroid classified as a potential Earth impactor, and is listed as one of most likely asteroids to potentially impact the Earth from 2169 and 2199. (9/10)

Airbus Supports South Korean Weather Satellite Program (Source: SpaceRef)
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a €45 million contract to deliver important subsystems and equipment for the two GEO-KOMPSAT-2 (GK2, Geostationary Earth Orbit Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite) platforms. GK2 is a South Korean government program to develop and operate two geostationary civilian satellites, GK2A and GK2B, for numerous missions, among them meteorological, environmental and ocean monitoring.

Airbus will deliver the complete propulsion subsystem and the structure of the medium-sized/small geostationary satellite platforms, which have a launch mass of three to four tons. The Electronics Business Line of Airbus Defence and Space will supply the GK2 satellites with power and avionics units, while the Space Systems Business Line will provide them with a fully integrated propulsion subsystem consisting of the central cylinder structure, the chemical propulsion and the associated thermal control system. (9/10)

Orbital Selected by Yahsat to Build Satellite (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has been selected by Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, a UAE-based satellite operator,  to build the Al Yah 3 Ka-band communications satellite. Based on Orbital’s GEOStar-3 satellite platform, the Al Yah 3 satellite will be designed, manufactured and tested at Orbital’s satellite manufacturing facility in Virginia. The satellite will extend Yahsat’s commercial Ka-band coverage to an additional 600 million users across Africa and Brazil. This will be the 28th Orbital-built satellite launched into orbit aboard an Ariane rocket. (9/10)

Orbital Sets Launch of Third Cargo Mission (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Orbital Sciences Corp.’s third cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station will launch in mid-October from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The mission will launch no earlier than 12:10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, according to NASA. This is the third of eight planned cargo missions to the space station under a contract Orbital has with NASA. (9/9)

China in Cooperation with Other Countries in Manned Space Program (Source Xinhua)
China cooperates with Russia and Europe in its manned space program, with future plans for possible coordinated space module dockings, the country's first astronaut said Wednesday. Yang Liwei, deputy chief of China's Manned Space Agency, said at a press conference at the annual meeting of the Association of Space Exploration (ASE) that China has hosted many astronaut exchanges with the United States, Russia and Europe.

In the past few years, a training exchange was conducted between the China Astronaut Center and European Astronaut Center. Yang also said China is willing to cooperate with other countries in space mission, as it has designed interfaces that would allow Chinese space modules to dock with those from other countries. China looks forward to cooperating with other countries in space station technology, astronaut training, program design, equipment research and development, and even holding joint missions, he said. (9/10)

China's Space Station to be Established Around 2022 (Source: Xinhua)
The deputy chief of China's Manned Space Agency has announced an ambitious space program timetable building up to the country establishing its first space station around 2022. Yang Liwei, also China's first astronaut, said at a press conference of the annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers that after the launch of the Tiangong-2 space lab around 2016, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft and Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft will be launched to dock with it.

Around 2018, a core experimental space module will be launched ahead of the space station being completed in around eight years' time, according to Yang, who became China's first astronaut in 2003, in the Shenzhou-5 manned space mission. A new launch center in the southernmost province of Hainan is almost completed and can already launch space vehicles, he added. (9/10)

China to Launch Second Space Lab in 2016, Official Says (Source: AFP)
China will launch its second orbiting space laboratory in two years' time, a top official said Wednesday, the latest step in an ambitious space program Beijing says will one day land a Chinese man on the moon. Astronaut Yang Liwei, who in 2003 became China's first man in space and is now deputy director of the country's manned space program, made the announcement at the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) congress in Beijing.

"We are going to launch the spacelab Tiangong-2 in 2016, and then we will launch Shenzhou-11 and then Tianzhou-1 cargo spaceship to dock on the spacelab," he said. It is the first time China has hosted the annual meeting, which has drawn nearly 100 astronauts from 18 countries to Beijing, in a marker of the country's scientific progress.

Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space program as a symbol of its rise and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation. Yang added that Beijing plans to launch an experimental core space station module in 2018 and finish construction of a Chinese space station around 2022. Around the same time the rival International Space Station, operated by the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe, is due to be retired. (9/10)

Can We Jump-Start A New Space Age? (Source: NPR)
Jon Morse, former astrophysics division director at NASA, can remember the exact moment he knew things had to change. It was the late spring of 2011. After one particularly long planning meeting, Morse headed to the elevators with some high-ranking budget officials. As they waited for the next car, Morse asked the officials about a draft plan he and his staff had been working on for months; its goal was implementation of recent National Research Council recommendations for a menu of exciting new space science missions. The plan, however, was going to require extra resources.

Morse says he can still remember the sting of their response. "[They] laughed, got on the elevator and said, 'Don't even bother. Then the elevator doors closed." That was when Morse decided he'd seen enough doors closing on the "high frontier." Fast-forward to today, when he and a group of other space science experts, including a former astronaut, are taking off in a new direction. Together, they created the BoldlyGo Institute whose mission is to chart a new path for getting space science into space. Click here. (9/9)

Moonlets Created and Destroyed in a Ring of Saturn (Source: SETI Institute)
There is an ongoing drama in the Saturnian ring system that causes small moons to be born and then destroyed on time scales that are but an eyeblink in the history of the solar system. SETI Institute scientists Robert French and Mark Showalter have examined photos made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and compared them to 30 year-old pictures made by the Voyager mission. They find that there is a marked difference in the appearance of one of the rings, even over this cosmologically short interval, a difference that can be explained by the brief strut and fret of small moons. (9/9)

Arianespace Claims 60% Of The Commercial Launch Market (Source: Forbes)
Today, European commercial launch provider Arianespace has announced that it has signed four new commercial launch contracts. This marks an impressive 11 launch contracts signed so far this year for the company, with two current contracts under negotiation to be completed by the year’s end.

According to the company, these four contracts bring Arianespace’s total launch backlog to 38 satellite launches for 29 different customers. The value of these combined orders exceeds $5.82 billion. The company claims to now hold 60% of commercial launch market. (9/9)

Funds Shortage Has NASA Simulator Collecting Dust (Source: The Battalion)
It was supposed to open summer 2013, but Texas A&M has yet to unpack components of NASA’s retired shuttle simulator, let alone assemble it. NASA and Texas A&M signed an agreement in 2011 to transfer ownership of the Shuttle Motion Simulator, SMS, to the University’s hands, but three years later the shuttle’s components still lay in storage. Building space and funding problems continue to stall the simulator’s assembly, and students who remember the original transfer announcements are left with questions of when, if ever, Texas A&M will open the simulator to the public. (9/9)

Astronaut Helps Launch Watches Designed for Private Space Explorers (Source: CollectSpace)
A new wristwatch designed to be worn by the future crew members of a commercial space station has received the signature of approval of a former NASA astronaut. "I especially like the signature on the back!" wrote retired astronaut Clay Anderson, describing a photo of his autograph etched onto the stainless steel caseback of Giorgio Fedon 1919's new "Space Explorer" watches. "I am proud to be [their] Global Ambassador."

Anderson, who in 2007 spent five months living aboard the International Space Station, was at the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair on Sept. 4 to help launch the timepieces, which feature day and date dials, stopwatch functions and eight hours of luminescence. (9/9)

Bulsatcom to Launch Own Satellite, With SpaceX Launch (Source: Broadband TV News)
Bulgaria Sat, an affiliate of Bulsatcom, has commissioned Space Systems/Loral (SSL) to build the craft that will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 2016. The satellite, known as BulgariaSat-1,will be equipped with two Ku-band FSS transponders and 30 Ku-band BBS transponders for fixed satellite and advanced TV services, such as HDTV. It’s based on the SSL 1300 satellite platform that has been used by operators including Intelsat and DirecTV. (9/9)

Google May Lead Tech Firms Into Aerospace World (Source: Aviation Week)
With its experiments in drone delivery, Google may be poised to join the aerospace industry, and other firms -- retailer Amazon and social media giant Facebook -- are venturing into unmanned aviation as well. Google's "Project Wing" research is moving out of the exploration phase and into development, the firm says. "As we figure out exactly what our service will deliver, and where and why, we will look at a variety of vehicle options, both homemade and off-the-shelf," says Google. (9/8)

NASA to Narrow List of Mars Landing Sites (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have proposed a list of more than 50 possible sites for the next Martian rover, and now NASA must study the contenders to narrow down the possibilities for the 2020 mission. The rover will drill into rocks in search of signs of ancient life that may once have existed on Mars. (9/8)

God Particle Could Destroy Universe, According to Hawking (Source: Space Daily)
In the preface of an upcoming book, Starmus, Stephen Hawking claims the Higgs Boson particle, a.k.a. the "God particle," could destroy the universe. As first discovered by the Sunday Times of the United Kingdom, Hawking claims if enough energy is directed at the particle, it could cause space and time to completely collapse. He also claims that we "wouldn't see it coming."

The Higgs Boson particle is said to be the particle that gives matter its mass. "The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts (GeV)," Hawking writes. He claims that under such conditions, it is theoretically possible the particle would cause an unstoppable vacuum to form that would expand at the speed of light. (9/8)

University of Tennessee Space Institute Celebrates 50 Years (Source: Daily Journal)
The University of Tennessee Space Institute is celebrating its 50-year anniversary in Tullahoma this week. The Space Institute was founded as a support arm of the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center in 1964, offering study and research in engineering, physics, mathematics and aviation systems. Since its founding, the institute has awarded more than 2,000 graduate degrees, including more than 250 doctorates. Among the institute's alumni are nine current or former NASA astronauts, including NASA's Barry Wilmore, the next commander of the International Space Station. (9/9)

Canada's Open Space Orbital Crowdfunded Campaign Falls Short (Source: SpaceRef)
For Open Space Orbital (OSO) the mission continues to raise funds to build Canada's first orbital space launch company. Unfortunately their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign did not resonate with the public and since Kickstarter has an all or nothing policy when it comes to meeting fundraising goals, OSO comes away without any funds.

While Kickstarter is the highest profile and most popular of the crowdfunding companies its policy of all or nothing is somewhat controversial. So for Open Space Orbital they won't even get any of the $5,568 they raised. Other crowdfunding companies like Indiegogo and RocketHub don't have that policy. OSO founder and CEO Tyler Reyno said "moving forward with the same action steps on the agenda, we're adjusting our focus to entrepreneurial funding (Futurpreneur, CEED, etc.) and federal grant money." (9/9)

Graphene as the Next Great Miracle Material for Space (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
On August 20th, Ottawa-based Grafoid Inc., a company involved in the research, development and production of graphene, opened a 225,000 square foot production facility in Kingston, Ontario. The move has Canada positioned to become a world leader in the production of the much-hyped super-material, with effects on many industries, not the least of which is aerospace. (8/31)

Canada's Future in Space: To the Moon and Beyond (Source: CBC)
Canada has a future in space exploration, including sending people to the moon and to Mars, Industry Minister James Moore agreed Friday in an interview with astronaut Chris Hadfield.He was concurring with Hadfield's assessment that "moving humans off Earth to the solar system" is what lies ahead in U.S. and Canadian space programs.

"This is what's next," Moore said. "We're technologically capable of doing it." He added:"The global aspiration to get into space and to move beyond what is contemporarily known is the great curiosity of man." (9/9)

Modeling Supports ExoLance Concept of Search for Life on Mars (Source: Explore Mars)
ExoLance, a project of Explore Mars, Inc., is developing and testing a system that will search for microbial life on Mars by utilizing penetrator technology. Using sophisticated computer modeling software, Aerojet Rocketdyne has shown that the ExoLance penetrator design should achieve a depth of more than one meter below the Martian surface. This is a significant breakthrough in the search for life on Mars as well as advancing other scientific goals on Mars and elsewhere.

One meter is the minimum depth at which many scientists believe life could be discovered on Mars. In a recent statement, planetary scientist Chris McKay said, "Once we have a capability to reach 1 meter and it has been tried and tested, we can use it at many places on Mars and begin the systematic search of the Mars underground for signs of life."

The computer simulations have conducted sensitivity analysis on the penetrator impact velocity to determine the depth of penetration over a range of impact velocities.  The results give us encouragement that the ExoLance design will be able to reach the targeted 1 meter depth. (9/9)

Can Terraforming Venus Be The Solution To Population Growth? (Source: Singularity)
It seems to me that Aubrey de Grey is not a big fan of one of the possible solutions to the spiraling population expansion of the human race. That solution is to move at least some of us to other planets. Admittedly, such ideas may look like total science fiction  and up to now have usually been focused on Mars. Thus today there are considerable numbers of serious people interested in terraforming the red planet.

University professors, intellectuals and adventurers support the colonization idea because a one-way trip to Mars would be probably half as expensive as a full round-trip mission. Thus, it is reasoned that Martian colonies should be set up there from the beginning. (Before colonizing Mars, however, we ought to fully utilize remote places such as Antarctica, Northern Canada, and Siberia, since those are much easier to begin with.)

Aubrey de Grey may be right in thinking that sending substantial number of humans into space is not a realistic idea for this century. Nevertheless it might not be as hard to start extraterrestrial colonies as some people think, especially if up to now we have been looking in the wrong direction. I propose that instead of Mars, we ought to consider the Earth’s Twin – Venus. Click here. (9/9)

Boeing's New Spaceship Makes Strides Ahead of NASA Space Taxi Decision (Source: Space.com)
If chosen for the contract, Boeing representatives already have a specific plan for how they are will get astronauts flying from American soil aboard a CST-100 spacecraft. Company representatives are planning to launch a pad abort test in 2016, with an uncrewed flight scheduled for early in 2017. The first crewed flight to the station should take place in mid-2017.

The CST-100 program recently completed a major milestone. The spacecraft made it through its critical design review of integrated systems, paving the way for the final design that could fly to space. The company met all of its CCtCap goals on time and on budget ahead of the announcement, Mulholland said. (9/9)

Crimea Catch-22: Russia Space Training May Put NASA in a Bind (Source: NBC)
As the International Space Station gets ready for a routine change of crew using Russia’s Soyuz spaceships, the Russian government seems to be initiating a subtle gambit to force the US into a diplomatic trap over the status of Russian-occupied Crimea. Here’s how it works: Either the US acknowledges the legitimacy of the recent Russian annexation of that Ukrainian province, or it will be forced by existing agreements to disqualify NASA astronauts from flying aboard Russia’s spaceships.

The challenge appeared this week in an innocent-looking Russian press report, saying that crew survival training for Soyuz spacecraft could be transferred back to the Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. Until about 10 years ago, this was the traditional site of splashdown survival training for all cosmonauts. But as space budgets dwindled, that training was transferred to a small lake near Moscow that was deemed adequate for the basics.

Here's the kicker: Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip. (9/9)

September 9, 2014

Zero G Splits with Amerijet, Suspends 2014 Flights Amid Lawsuit (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The air cargo company that maintained Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft ended its management services agreement (MSA) with the parabolic flight provider on May 4, and subsequently repossessed the three jet engines it owns from Zero G’s Boeing 727, according to court records. Amerijet also has sued Zero G for alleged breaches of the management services and engine lease contracts, seeking to recover unpaid fees, expenses and damages. Amerijet alleged that it is owed more than $127,000 in a July 10 court filing, which Zero G has disputed.

Zero G provides parabolic flight services to NASA under an exclusive contract and to private individuals and companies on a commercial basis. Individual tickets cost $4,950 plus a 5 percent tax. The dispute has left the company’s grounded for a period of time, with the current status of G-FORCE ONE uncertain. A look at Zero G’s website has a notice that reads, “2015 Schedule Coming Soon!”

Zero G his disputed Amerijet’s claims. It has told the Texas court that the $127,435.66 the company is seeking is offset by losses suffered by Zero G as a result of the legal action. Amerijet filed a separate lawsuit in Florida because this is where the engine lease agreement specifies that any disputes be settled. However, Zero G claims the two cases are overlapping and accuses Amerijet of “forum shopping.” Zero G has filed a motion to have the Florida case dismissed or transferred to Texas. Click here. (9/9)

Mission Impossible (Source: Space KSC)
The September 7 launch of AsiaSat 6 occurred 33 days after the AsiaSat 8 launch. AsiaSat 6 was supposed to launch on August 27, but was delayed eleven days after a developmental rocket test failed at the SpaceX site in McGregor, Texas. Although there was no suspicion that the incident had anything to do with the Falcon 9 version on the Cape's Pad 40, SpaceX founder Elon Musk ordered a delay anyway just to “triple-check.”

The tentative launch date for Commercial Resupply Services flight 4 (CRS-4) to the International Space Station had been tentatively scheduled for September 19. With the AsiaSat 6 launch delayed eleven days, I suspected the CRS-4 mission would be delayed too. But never assume SpaceX will pass up a challenge. SpaceX still intends to try to launch CRS-4 on September 19.

The urgency is due a Russian Soyuz launch scheduled for September 25 to deliver the next crew rotation to the ISS. If SpaceX pulls it off, it will have been twelve days between launches. One might have to go back to the 1960s to find a faster turnaround. During the Gemini program, NASA launched Gemini 6 eleven days after Gemini 7, a rendezvous practice mission improvised after the Gemini 6 Agena Target Vehicle exploded after launch. (9/9)

Embraer Engineering & Technology Center Opens on Space Coast (Source: Space Florida)
Embraer celebrated the opening of its newly constructed Engineering & Technology Center here today. The 75,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind outside Brazil, where the Company is headquartered, and part of Embraer’s strategy to expand its global footprint. The event was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by more than 250 State, community and elected officials, news media and distinguished guests.

The new Center will conduct engineering and development activities for both product and technology development across Embraer’s business lines with the first assignments primarily focused on executive jet interiors. It will include a laboratory for the development and testing of materials and interior components. Features include 3D Computer Aided Design, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Finite Element Modeling, 3D Virtual Reality Center, prototype capabilities and sophisticated laboratories and test equipment. (9/8)

Editorial: A Breach Waiting To Happen (Source: Space News)
NOAA  has literally let its guard down with respect to its polar-orbiting weather satellite program. According to an Aug. 21 report by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General — released, interestingly, at the height of hurricane season — the ground segment for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System is rife with vulnerabilities that the agency’s software engineers have been too slow to fix.

Despite the fact that most of the security gaps are relatively easy to close through software updates and other measures, many have remained open for more than a year, whereas program requirements specify 30 days. The report cited 9,100 instances in which the system was exposed in some way for some period of time.

Clearly the JPSS ground segment has not been getting the attention it requires. Although it probably isn’t possible to completely eliminate vulnerabilities for such a complex piece of infrastructure, the issues outlined in the report argue for a reordering of NOAA’s priorities. Hardly a day passes without news of a major network security breach, be it in the government or private sector. (9/8)

Editorial: So You Want To Build a Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Visionary governors are just one of the essential components in the nation’s growing commercial space transportation industry. As states increase their interest in commercial space enterprise, spaceport development has become the leading indicator of the growth of the commercial space transportation industry. Likely, the U.S. will continue to lead in the development of the spaceport network for the next 10 years, as the space transportation industry begins to grow on a global scale.

In considering that future, launch activity to orbit is not necessarily where the long-term growth will come for the states. Building a spaceport and related infrastructure for the suborbital launch business might be the best bet. The gold standard for a transportation industry is to get humans in the loop. When the suborbital vehicles begin to fly they will create supply. Supply creates its own demand. When thousands of humans go to space, they will create demand for support infrastructure.

As new launch sites will likely be in remote locations because of noise and protection of the uninvolved public for the near-term, good roads, access to water and good communications are essential. Blending of all modes of transportation — ground, water, rail and air, along with space — is necessary. States would be wise to involve transportation departments as well as economic development departments in the early planning. Click here. (9/8)

Blucker, Fairey and Lytle to Receive Space Club Lifetime Achievement Awards (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club (NSC) of Florida recently announced that Rick Blucker, Chris Fairey and Brice Lytle are the 2014 annual Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. They will be recognized for their distinguished roles in the space community at the Sep. 9, monthly luncheon meeting. Bill Chardavoyne will also be recognized as the 2014 Rising Star Honoree. The event will be held at the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral, at 11:30 am.

“Rick, Chris and Brice each have made significant contributions to the space community through their impressive careers,” said Jim McCarthy, NSC Board Chairman. “The Space Club is proud to acknowledge their achievements.” The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes people for life-long achievement and contributions to the U.S. Space Program.

The NSC’s Rising Star Award recognizes younger professionals for their “above and beyond” accomplishments in the space program during the past year. “We are excited to also acknowledge Bill Chardavoyne with URS,” said McCarthy. “Bill’s dedication to his career and his strong community outreach is an inspiration for our current and future space professionals.” Click here. (9/5)

NASA Selects 4 Companies for Flight Opportunities Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere. The selected companies are: Masten Space Systems, Paragon Space Development Corp., Up Aerospace Inc., and Virgin Galactic. (9/8)

XCOR Selling Tickets to Wealthy Chinese (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The New York Times reports on XCOR’s progress in selling suborbital space tourism flights to wealthy Chinese citizens: "Already, more than 30 mainland Chinese have purchased or made down payments of 50 percent on tickets for journeys offered by XCOR Aerospace, a company based in Mojave, Calif., that plans to begin operating suborbital flights late next year. The tours went on sale in China in December, two years after the company began selling them elsewhere, and one in 10 of all bookings have been by Chinese citizens, according to Dexo Travel, the Beijing-based sales agent in China for the trips." (9/7)

NASA Completes First Orion Crew Module (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s first completed Orion crew module sits atop its service module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The crew and service module will be transferred together on Wednesday to another facility for fueling, before moving again for the installation of the launch abort system. At that point, the spacecraft will be complete and ready to stack on top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space on its first flight in December.

For that flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth – farther than any spacecraft built to carry people has traveled in more than 40 years – and return home at speeds of 20,000 miles per hour, while enduring temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (9/8)

Polish Teams Dominate First Ever European Rover Challenge (Source: Astrowatch)
The first ever European Rover Challenge (ERC) is over and the Scorpio Team from Wrocław University of Technology can now celebrate their victory over 9 other contestants plus a $1,000 cash prize. The challenge was to design, construct and operate a rover that most successfully complete a number of Mars-exploration themed tasks designed by the organizers. "A year of hard work is now finally fulfilled," said Jędrzej Górski of the Scorpio Team.

"Our efficiency is the result of our cohesive team." The second spot was secured by Polish crew also, the Impuls Team from Kielce University of Technology. Lunar and Mars Rover Team from Cairo University in Egypt scooped the 3rd place. A special bonus award was given to the Robocol Team of Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). ERC 2014 took place in Podzamcze, Poland on Sept. 5-7. (9/7)

NASA Sending Tweets Into Space (Source: Washington Post)
When NASA sent its “Golden Record” out into space in 1977, the gold-plated phonograph time capsule was programmed full of mankind’s greatest achievements: a photograph of the Taj Mahal, a map of DNA’s complex double-helix structure, the music of Beethoven, Bach and Louis Armstrong. In two years the space agency will be sending another time capsule off into the void. Only instead of featuring great discoveries and works of art, this extraterrestrial message will be composed of tweets.

NASA’s “Asteroid Time Capsule” contest, which it announced last week, invites fans to speculate about the future of communication and space travel on Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #AsteroidMission. The best predictions will be embedded in a microchip accompanying the spacecraft Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, affectionately known as OSIRIS-REx, on its trip to the asteroid Bennu. (9/8)

As NASA Considers New Spacecraft, Ukraine Complicates Russian Relations (Source: WUSF)
Escalating unrest in the Ukraine is adding urgency to NASA’s decision on the space craft that will replace the shuttle. The space agency is expected to announce any day the space craft that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Two candidates – Boeing’s CST-100 and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser – rely on the Atlas V rocket to launch into space. But the rocket is powered by the Russian-built RD-180 engine. (9/8)

NASA List Shows Nearly 1,800 Space Act Agreements (Source: Space News)
A list of active NASA Space Act Agreements — which allow the agency to formalize deals with public and private entities without having to abide by normal Federal Acquisition Regulations — shows the agency has nearly 1,800 such deals in place with domestic and international entities. According to the lists, published online by NASA and current as of June 30, NASA’s 1,779 active Space Act Agreements include 1,086 deals with domestic entities and 693 with international entities.

NASA can use Space Act Agreements to award funding, or to give non-NASA entities access to agency facilities, personnel and property, either for a fee or free. Under a nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement, NASA foregoes a fee if the agency thinks the government will benefit from whatever activity the agreement authorizes. Counting funded Space Act Agreements and the approximate dollar value of nonreimbursable deals, active Space Act Agreements are costing the agency roughly $36 million, the list shows.

NASA was directed to disclose its active Space Act Agreements in a report accompanying the 2014 omnibus spending bill that funds federal agencies through September. The report language, which does not carry the force of law as bill language does, was drafted by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee. Wolf has been critical of Space Act Agreements since 2009, when the agency began its commercial crew program and awarded several such pacts to pay for development of crewed spacecraft.  (9/8)

Pace Picks Up for NASA's Giant Space Launch System Rocket (Source: America Space)
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has now reached a point in the program’s development that the agency’s cancelled Constellation program did not, with the recent completion of a major SLS review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C)—something that no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the United States built the space shuttle in the late 1970s. With the KDP-C now completed, the SLS program is transitioning from formulation to development.

Operations supporting the SLS are picking up pace at several NASA centers across the country. And while NASA announced the launch date of the SLS program’s first mission, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), just one of the SLS program’s many unknowns, will occur “no later than” November 2018, looking at the funding levels Congress has given the SLS program over the last four years points to a launch date in early 2017. (9/8)

Making a Difference: U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) (Source: Space News)
Things were looking up for the U.S. Defense Department’s tiny Operationally Responsive Space Office at the beginning of 2013. A little less than a year earlier, after a period of mixed messages about what the future held in store for the joint program, the Air Force formally proposed shuttering the ORS Office at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Congress fought the closure, using the National Defense Authorization Act that President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 2, 2013, to direct the Air Force to keep the ORS Office open. The victory was short-lived. When the Air Force sent Congress its 2014 budget request a few months later, the service again proposed terminating the program. By last September, ORS personnel began receiving layoff notices.

That was too much for New Mexico’s freshman senator. Martin Heinrich — who assumed office just one day after Obama signed the 2013 defense authorization bill into law — put a hold on the president’s nomination of Deborah Lee James as secretary of the Air Force until he got the answers he wanted to questions about the ORS cuts. (9/8)

Making a Difference: Silicon Valley (Source: Space News)
This past June brought confirmation of a months-old rumor that Silicon Valley technology giant Google would purchase satellite imaging startup Skybox for what turned out be a surprisingly high price: $500 million. The acquisition, which came as a Google-backed venture called WorldVu secured spectrum rights for a 360-satellite broadband constellation, officially marks Silicon Valley’s arrival as an engine for innovation and growth in the entrepreneurial space industry. Click here. (9/8)

Preservation of U.S. Space Leadership for National Security (Source: Space News)
Space threats are relevant to current and future U.S. national defense objectives. In pace with unparalleled investments of spacefaring nations, technological advances and unmonitored intentions of space utilization, the key question that arises is: Are U.S. space defense resources adequate to provide sufficient national defense capabilities?

The answer is rooted in pieces of information concealed within myriad U.S. defense capillaries. Collectively, these flows of information add up to the U.S. remaining a global leader. Yet global leadership also comes with a great deal of challenges. New developments in the global arena justify continuously re-evaluating and prioritizing national security objectives. Click here. (9/8)

Possible Meteorite Strike in Nicaragua Puzzles Experts (Source: The Guardian)
Nicaraguan officials have appealed for witnesses to a meteorite strike that left a 12m-wide crater near Managua's international airport on Saturday night. Residents reported a loud boom as the meteorite crashed but scientists said no one had come forward who had seen the streak that a speeding space rock would score across the sky.

"I was sitting on my porch and I saw nothing, then all of a sudden I heard a large blast," Jorge Santamaria told the Associated Press. "We thought it was a bomb because we felt an expansive wave." (9/8)

Ex-Im Bank's Satellite Push Complicates its Fight for Survival (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Export-Import Bank, caught in a rare political storm over its mission, is fighting for survival and its best line of defense is to debunk criticism that the 80-year-old institution favors corporate giants over small businesses. Yet even as bank officials showcase their work for the little guy, they have also been focusing their energy on global satellite deals geared towards space giants like Lockheed Martin and SpaceX, building that sector into the faster growing bit of Exim's portfolio.

According to the bank, it has approved $4.8 billion in satellite deals since 2002 – almost all of that in the last three years. That has supported $5.5 billion in exports but only $36 million, less than 1 percent, has gone to companies the agency designated as small businesses. Lawmakers are due to decide by the month's end whether to renew the bank's mandate and what used to be a low-key procedure has turned into a tense political confrontation between the Democrat administration and Republican Party conservatives. Click here. (9/8)

A Brief History of Animal Death in Space (Source: Science News)
Back in July, Russia launched a satellite into space that carried a harem of geckos so scientists could study sex in weightlessness. But bad news came this week with the report that the “sexy space geckos” had not survived the trip. The pithy moniker may have helped the geckos get publicity, but humans have a long history of sending animals into space.

At first, the animals were sent up simply to test the survivability of spaceflight, then how aspects of life in space — such as radiation and weightlessness — might affect animals’ biology. Later, scientific questions — such as how animals might have sex in a weightless environment — drove the choice of creatures sent up.

The first journey, in 1947, was actually a success: Fruit flies carried aboard a V-2 rocket were recovered alive. Since then, however, the success rate has been spotty. About a third of all animals sent up didn’t make it, according to one estimate. (This really shouldn’t be surprising. After all, spaceflight has proved deadly for humans — something to remember before signing up to go to Mars.) Here’s a list of just some of the spacecraft that have carried animals into space whose biological payloads didn’t survive the journey. Click here. (9/8)

Norm Setting for Outer Space (Source: Space News)
Norms are standards of proper or acceptable behavior. They establish expectations and clarify misbehavior, thereby helping to isolate, limit and sanction bad behavior. Without norms, there are no norm breakers. They can be codified in treaties and other legal instruments, or they can be less formal, such as those embedded in international codes of conduct. When less-formal norms become customary international practice, they gain standing in international law.

Norms can be particularly helpful when they encourage transparency, because transparency measures can lead to important negotiating breakthroughs. Extraordinary treaties that drastically reduced nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union were enabled by a slightly regarded, multilateral agreement in 1983 in which the Kremlin permitted foreign observers to attend conventional military exercises.

Not everyone will sign up to norms right away, and there will always be outliers. Even so, norms can discourage unwanted behavior, even by holdouts — but not for die-hard outliers. The speed and effectiveness of norm building depends on the attitudes and actions of major powers, not outliers. The most reluctant major power is usually China. (9/8)

Profile on Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (Source: Washington Post)
"I’d like the organization to be the standard bearer for commercial space flight. When people think about humans going into space and payloads going into space, I want them to look to us. I want to be the leadership on safety regulations. I want to ensure that there are not huge barriers put up by the government. Of course, there’s got to be a regulatory infrastructure and safety is paramount. But the government needs to help, not hinder this industry. I want to see the U.S. leadership in space again." Click here. (9/7)

Arianespace Nets Four Commercial Launch Contracts After Cutting Prices (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Arianespace has snatched up contracts to launch four commercial communications satellites, the French launch services firm announced Monday, after taking aim on rival SpaceX by slashing prices. The satellites will put in orbit by Ariane 5 rockets launched from French Guiana in 2016 and 2017, riding in the lower berth of the Ariane 5's payload fairing, which is tailored two launch two communications satellites on one flight.

The contracts are for KTsat's Koreasat 7 satellite, the Hylas 4 satellite owned by Avanti Communications, the Intelsat 36 communications satellite, and JCSAT 15 from Japan's Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. Arianespace announced the launch deals Monday on the opening day of Euroconsult's World Satellite Business Week in Paris. (9/8)