April 19, 2014

Five Cubesats and 104 Sprites Launched on Falcon-9 (Source: SEN)
2014 is turning out to be the year of the CubeSat. Almost 100 of the pint-sized satellites were added to launch manifests last year, and we are already seeing close to half of that figure being launched just four months into 2014. February saw the largest deployment of CubeSats ever, with 33 units being deployed directly from the International Space Station. Click here. (4/19)

Officials Can See End of the Long Road to Export Reform (Source: National Defense)
For the past two years, federal officials have been methodically revising the lists of U.S. defense technologies that require special export licenses. The goal has been to remove goods or services that no longer pose a threat to U.S. forces if they should fall into the wrong hands, and to maintain safeguards for sensitive items that do.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed overhauling the system at the outset of the Obama administration. He eschewed the overly broad, catch-all system that was both failing to keep sensitive technologies from making their way to overseas rivals and putting restrictions on those that were no longer cutting edge, which in turn made U.S. industries less competitive. (4/19)

India to Overhaul Satellite Communications Policy (Source: Economic Times)
The Department of Space in consultations with the telecom department (DoT)_will shortly overhaul India's 17-year old satellite communications policy to pave the way for auctioning satellite bandwidth. It will also frame new rules for allocating and pricing satellite transponders and explore ways to deal with applications seeking use of foreign orbital slots, according to a finance ministry note. (4/19)

Low-Cost Launches May Boost Chances For Space Solar Power (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch drew close attention from solar power satellite (SPS) advocates, who know that low-cost reusable launch is one key to realizing their dream of providing abundant electric energy from space. While they are taking different approaches to developing SPS, the small but international group of participants at the SPS 2014 conference agreed that their goal continues to be an end to the increasingly dangerous struggle to meet the energy needs of a growing world population.

They see space solar power as an alternative to burning fossil fuel, and the military cost of securing supplies in unstable regions. Like SpaceX, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) researching reusable launch as a way to cut the cost of space launch drastically. Japan is the only nation that has made beaming solar power collected in space back to Earth a goal of its space policy, and JAXA engineers calculate reusable launch is one way to reduce the up-front investment needed to put gigawatt-class power stations in geostationary orbit.

Using a 2003 JAXA reference model with a 1-gigawatt station weighing 10,000 tons, Sasaki says power would cost a prohibitive $1.12/kwh at a launch cost to low Earth orbit (LEO) of $10,000 per kilogram. That is in the ballpark of what space launch costs today. Cut that to $1,000 a kilogram—in the ballpark for a reusable launch vehicle (RLV)—and electricity from space drops to 18 cents/kwh. (4/19)

Buzz Aldrin: Man on a Mission (Source: Arabian Business)
“Every five years I get invited to the White House,” Buzz Aldrin says. “Sometimes I get a hotdog, sometimes I get to say something.” The legendary US astronaut is in an expansive mood as he reflects on the upcoming 45th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing that made him and the man who walked one small step ahead of him on 20 July 1969 household names.

At the age of 84, the man who spent 12 days, one hour and 52 minutes in space over his nine-year career with NASA is by no means ambivalent about the significance of the title afforded him almost five decades ago following the most famous of his two missions for the US space agency.

Accepting it is another matter. “No,” he says when asked if he is okay with his place in history behind Apollo crew mate Neil Armstrong. “But I can’t do anything about it. I was told by a very wise person: you can’t change history, you can’t change the way people label things, the way newspapers want big winners or big losers. (4/19)

SpaceX Launches, Wallops Launch Likely Delayed (Source: Daily Press)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched at last from Cape Canaveral Friday afternoon to get badly needed cargo to the International Space Station, which means the May 6 Antares launch from Wallops Island will be delayed until June. Probably.

"Well, we don't know yet," Barron "Barry" Beneski, spokesman for Antares rocket-maker Orbital Sciences Corp., said in an interview from Dulles minutes after the Falcon blasted off at 3:25 p.m. Friday. "Once the SpaceX capsule berths with the station successfully, that's the point we know it will be in June," Beneski said. "It's looking more and more likely we'll be in June, but the mission's not complete until they arrive at the station." (4/19)

Kazakhstan’s Space Future (Source: Trend)
Kazakhstan has a great past in space development, and its future in this field is expected to be just as glorious. he Baikonur Cosmodrome is being leased by the Kazakh government to Russia until 2050 and is managed jointly by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Space Forces. Moreover Russia will likely work at Baikonur even after 2050, according to official statements from both countries.

In particular in early 2014 Kazakh Space Agency head Talgat Musabayev said that Kazakhstan wanted Russia to remain at Baikonur forever and expressed interest in implementation of joint strategic projects in space industry in the future. In fact, nowadays Kazakhstan has not enough specialists to develop the cosmodrome on its own. Moreover its maintenance requires huge investment and Kazakhstan needs partners to share this financial burden.

Earlier Russia's full control over the cosmodrome partially hindered its development. Russia was not sure about its future at Baikonur and did not want to invest a lot in new long-term projects outside its borders. Much was invested in the construction of Vostochniy Cosmodrome in Siberia instead. Kazakhstan in turn was not interested in spending money on projects run by Russia. Click here. (4/18)

Shotwell Leads SpaceX Into New Frontiers (Source: Easy Reader)
Last year, Gwynne Shotwell,  president and chief operating officer of aerospace giant SpaceX, spoke to a room of Chapman University students in Orange County as part of a TEDx program. Her address was titled “Engineering America” and discussed the rise and fall of the United States as the global leader in science and technology. “Let’s talk about an engineer who is actually known as an inventor, Thomas Edison,” said Shotwell. “The only reason he is known as an inventor and not an engineer is because engineers suck at marketing themselves.”

The comment was an aside and got laughs from the college crowd, as intended. But there was a kernel of absolute truth within it. Engineers are not known for gregariousness, and developing new technology does very little for a company if it doesn’t have a successful way to sell it. Selling high-tech space equipment, for example, requires a salesperson that not only understands the product intricately, but can relate to clients on a personal level and close the deal.

That’s where Shotwell comes in. She joined SpaceX in 2002 when it was a tiny startup with big money and even bigger dreams. The space transport company was founded by billionaire business magnate Elon Musk of Tesla and PayPal fame. Shotwell became his seventh employee and the vice president of business development. Eight years later, she closed the single biggest commercial rocket launch deal in history: a $492 million contract with Iridium. Click here. (4/18)

Company Wants to Offer Rides from Arizona to Space (Source: Yuma Sun)
 A Tucson firm is hoping to launch Arizonans toward the edge of space – or maybe somewhere close to that – from Southern Arizona. Now they need state lawmakers to clear the path. The plan by Paragon Space Development Corp. is to use a balloon to float passengers up 20 miles in a capsule, leave them there to ooh and aah at the view for about two hours and then parachute the whole mechanism back to earth. They could wind up 300 miles downrange but would be flown back to the launch site. (4/18)

Florida Space Budget Items Advance as Session Nears End (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida legislators in the state's House and Senate have finalized their respective budget proposals and now plan to come together in conference committee to hash out a compromise budget before the annual Legislative Session ends on May 2. Tens of millions of dollars are included in both budget proposals for space-related projects. The Florida Space Development Council has tracked the progress of these items on this chart. (4/18)

Astronauts to Reveal Sobering Data on Asteroid Impacts (Source: Phys.org)
This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… three to ten times more, in fact. A new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, to be unveiled by B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu during the evening event at Seattle's Museum of Flight, shows that "the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid is blind luck." (4/17)

SpaceX Optimistic on First-Stage Landing (Source: NBC News)
After the launch, Musk reported via Twitter that the first stage executed a good re-entry burn and was able to stabilize itself on the way down. However, the rough seas were a problem. "I wouldn't give high odds that the rocket was able to splash down successfully," he said.

Later updates were more positive: "Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Several boats enroute through heavy seas," Musk tweeted. "Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal." Recovering and reusing rockets are key parts of Musk's strategy for reducing the cost of spaceflight and eventually sending colonists to Mars. (4/18)

Kourou a Lot Like Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Cape Canaveral is suitable as a location for a spaceport because of two major geographical advantages over other sites in the continental United States: It is about as close to the equator as practical, and it has uninhabited territory (in this case, open sea) to the east, which allows the lower stages of rockets to safely splashdown and ensures that debris from launch failures won't land on anyone.

The Space Coast's counterpart for the French and European space programs is the spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana. Operational since 1968, it has similar geographical advantages. It is even closer to the equator and also has open sea to the east. Click here. (4/18)

April 18, 2014

SpaceX Launches 3rd Station Delivery Mission for NASA (Source: NASA)
After a series of delays, including one prompted by a glitch that forced the company to replace a faulty helium valve on the core stage of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX. launched its third contracted cargo delivery mission to the international space station April 18. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, laden with more than 2 metric tons of cargo, is due to rendezvous with station April 20.

The mission is the third of 12 SpaceX owes NASA under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008. While Dragon is berthed with station, where it was slated to stay for about a month, astronauts will perform a spacewalk to replace an external computer — a so-called External-2 Multiplexer/Demultiplexer — that failed April 11. The spacewalk is scheduled for April 23. The failed computer controls, among other things, the positioning of the space station’s massive solar arrays. Those functions were passed to a backup computer after the April 11 failure. (4/18)

Boeing-Built Fighter Jets Could Launch US Military Satellites Into Space (Source: Space.com)
And you thought space launches couldn't get any cooler: The next generation of small satellites may blast into orbit from the belly of a fighter jet. DARPA gave Boeing a $30.6 million contract last month to develop a 24-foot (7.3-meter) launch vehicle that would attach to the bottom of an F-15E Strike Eagle.

The concept calls for the jet to drop this vehicle when it reaches an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), at which point the craft's rocket engines would kick on, carrying onboard satellites into orbit. This launch system could slash the cost of launching small satellites — those weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms) — by 66 percent if all goes well, Boeing officials said. (4/18)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concept Program Seeks Phase II Proposals (Source: NASA)
NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals for technologies that could be used on future exploration missions. The new proposals will build on the most promising ideas developed in the program's first phase. The NIAC program funds cutting-edge concepts that have the potential to transform future missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems.

NIAC's Phase II studies provide an opportunity to develop the most promising Phase I concepts. These are aerospace architecture, mission, or system concepts with transformative potential. They must continue to push into new frontiers, while remaining technically and programmatically credible. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse efforts advances aerospace technology in many areas, including construction, human systems, transportation, imaging, and robotic exploration. (4/18)

Last-Ditch Efforts to Salvage China's Stricken Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover (Source: South China Morning Post)
Engineers are desperately trying to revive China's crippled lunar rover Jade Rabbit as fears grow that its mission could be over. It broke down six weeks into its three-month mission in late January because of "mechanical control abnormalities". And it has been parked up on the moon's surface for more than two months after travelling just 20 meters. Engineers now say a blockage in the power circuitry is to blame and are looking to bypass it. (4/18)

UAE's Role in the New Space Race (Source: Arabian Business)
In November last year, the skies around the Yasny launch base in the Russian province of Orenburg lit up as a Dnepr-1 rocket lifted off. Included on that rocket’s payload was DubaiSat-2, an advanced electro-optical Earth observation satellite. Ever since the launch, the satellite has been quietly tested, and at some point last week, it became fully operational.

The event was covered briefly in the local press, but in truth, the steady flow of satellite launches has become commonplace. Yet only five years ago the UAE was merely a blip on the global space radar. While quietly building up the industry with launches of Etisalat-backed satellite phone company, Thuraya, in 1997 and Yahsat by Abu Dhabi investment vehicle Mubadala 10 years later, the country’s endeavours have been on a slow, though steady, trajectory. (4/18)

A Galaxy Full of Earths? (Source: CNN)
The amazing discoveries from NASA's Kepler planet-hunting space telescope keep rolling in. The latest, announced this week by astronomers, is the discovery of a planet just 10% larger than the Earth orbiting in the so-called "habitable zone" of the star Kepler-186. In our solar system, Earth is the only planet in the habitable zone -- the distance from the sun where liquid water can exist on the surface without boiling away (like on Venus), or turning to ice (like on Mars).

Even if it doesn't turn out to be Earth-like, the number of actual Earth-like extrasolar planets out there appears to be staggering. During its four-year mission, Kepler observed just a tiny, random, average piece of the sky, one you would cover with your fist held at arm's length. More than 1,000 planets have been discovered so far from just the nearby stars in that tiny patch of the sky. (4/18)

Musk's Reusable Rocket Launches And Lands Itself In Texas (Source: Business Insider)
Elon Musk's private space company, SpaceX, has been experimenting with reusable rockets since last year. Because the cost of fuel is much less compared to the cost of building a rocket from scratch every time, Musk and his team are trying to master reusable rockets so they can get closer to their goal of making commercial space travel more affordable.

The company just posted an amazing video on YouTube of its Falcon 9 Reusable rocket lifting off, rising 250 meters, hovering, and landing on the ground right next to the launch pad. Even cooler, the video was shot by a drone. Click here. (4/18) 

Russian Tug: Supporting Submarines or Observing SpaceX Launch? (Source: Aviationist)
The Russian tug “Nikolay Chiker” is an ocean tug that has often deployed alongside Russian Navy’s high value assets. According to Information Dissemination, the ship accompanied Russia’s spy ship Viktor Leonov to Cuba last month, before moving off Florida, where it was parked on Mar. 15, ahead of the launch of Dragon spacecraft (Space Shuttle Orbiter replacement) on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket scheduled of Mar. 16 from the SLC-40 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Editor's Note: So what would happen if a Russian vessel like this one purposefully loitered in the launch danger zone to violate launch safety constraints? (4/17)

Turn Your SatNav Ideas into Business (Source: ESA)
Propose a great satnav idea and win a prize with ESA support to create your own business. Previous winners are now running companies with systems for athlete tracking and indoor navigation, and many are supported by ESA’s Business Incubation Centers. Launched this week at the European Navigation Conference in Rotterdam, the annual European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) recognises products, services and innovations designed to improve our daily lives with the help of satellite navigation. (4/17)

Orbital Evaluating Three Bids for Antares Engine (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. said it is evaluating three bids — two Russian, one U.S. — to produce main-stage engines for Orbital’s Antares rocket. The engines being offered include the Russian-built, U.S.-modified engine currently used for Antares. Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson said his company has a sufficient supply of the current Russian-built engines for three more years of Antares operations. Orbital has three Antares first-stage structures, built by a Ukrainian manufacturer, at an Orbital facility, with two more to be shipped soon. (4/18)

Orbital: Amazonas Glitch is Permanent (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket builder Orbital Sciences Corp. on April 17 said the electrical failure on the Orbital-built Amazonas 4A satellite launched in March appears likely to result in a permanent reduction in the satellite’s capacity but that there is no risk of similar failures on other satellites in orbit or in production. (4/18)

Urgent Spacewalk Must Dance Between Dragon and Progress Spacecraft (Source: Universe Today)
It’s a good thing that next week’s urgent spacewalk is pegged as a short one, because the coming days will be hectic for the Expedition 39 crew. Finding a spot for even a 2.5-hour excursion on the International Space Station was extremely challenging, NASA officials said, because crew time also is needed for two cargo spacecraft: the SpaceX Dragon launch scheduled for today and subsequent Progress undocking/redocking on station. (4/18)

Russia to Test Launch New Angara Rocket June 25 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The date of the maiden launch of Russia’s new Angara rocket has been set for June 25, an official with the Russian Space Agency told RIA Novosti Friday. “The launch is set for June 25, with the 26th as a backup date,” the official said.
He added the rocket would be fired without an orbital payload from the Plesetsk space center, located about 800 kilometers north of Moscow. The Angara family of rockets, in development since 1995, is planned to be built in light, semi-heavy and heavy versions to lift a variety of payloads between 2 and 40 metric tons into low earth orbit. (4/18)

Russia to Keep Working With Astronauts From US, Europe, Japan (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian cosmonauts will continue to work with their colleagues from the US, Europe and Japan, despite a number of recent NASA statements about curtailing space cooperation, the head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center said. "I have been flying with these guys, with the Americans and the Europeans, my friends have been flying as well," Yuri Lonchakov, a former cosmonaut, said.

Lonchakov was appointed head of the cosmonaut training center earlier this month. He said he had accepted the offer by Roscosmos to focus on creating a new organization for the strategic development of Russian manned spaceflight, which would be established on the basis of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building, Roscosmos' leading spacecraft scientific center. (4/18)

Despite Sanctions, Russia is Getting a $457.9M Check from NASA (Source: Washington Post)
Despite ongoing sanctions, Russia is about to get a big infusion of cash from the U.S. government. NASA recently renewed a contract that allows Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. The U.S. is, essentially, cutting Russia a $457.9 million check for its services -- six seats on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, training and launch prep, landing and crew rescue and limited cargo delivery to and from the International Space Station. This contract also adds additional support at the Russian launch site. (4/18)

Russia, China Eye Cooperation of GLONASS and BeiDou Navigation Systems (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia and China see prospects of cooperation related with satellite navigation systems GLONASS and BeiDou in regional support and development of chipsets, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. Rogozin was taking part in a meeting of co-chairs of Russian-Chinese committee for preparation of regular meetings between the countries’ prime ministers. (4/18)

Despite Crisis, Yuzhnoye Officials Say It’s Business as Usual (Source: Space News)
Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Office is continuing to produce engines and other rocket components for customers in the United States, Brazil, Russia, Europe and elsewhere with no interruptions stemming from the crisis in Ukraine’s relations with Moscow, Yuzhnoye officials said April 10.

Addressing the Space Access conference here, the officials said Yuzhnoye, based in Dniepropetrovsk — in the eastern part of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently referred to as Novorossiya, or New Russia — has become accustomed to maintaining its operations regardless of political turmoil. “We have been able to survive all this, including the years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, because we operate with almost complete independence from the government. This is essential,” said Yuzhnoye’s Oleg Ventskovsky. (4/18)

German Study Finds Pros, Cons to Different Commercial Models for Station Resupply (Source: Space News)
It is a story of two companies with similar contracts from NASA to carry 20,000 kilograms of payload to the international space station. Both develop new rockets and capsules to do the work. Both are behind schedule but otherwise are delivering the goods. NASA is content and seems ready to buy more services from both. But the similarities between SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. end there.

A comparative analysis performed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is in the thick of the debate in Europe about how to adapt the Ariane rocket system to the changing commercial launch market while meeting the launch requirements of European governments. At the center of the discussion is whether the current Ariane 5 rocket production landscape of more than 100 contractors spread around Europe should be abandoned in favor of a much smaller supply chain located in a handful of nations.

In examining NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) work by SpaceX and Orbital, DLR wanted to determine whether the companies’ very different make-or-buy strategies have yielded a winner. Not yet, said DLR’s Alexander Weiss. “For commercial cargo supply under the NASA contract, both companies are competitive,” Weiss said. “There is no clear evidence that one approach is better.” (4/18)

Muratsuchi: Support California’s Aerospace Industry (Source: Daily Breeze)
As your Assembly member representing the South Bay, and as chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace, I introduced legislation to support and grow one of the most exciting new industries in California, commercial space flight. Private companies like Space X are building rocket ships and creating thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs right here in Southern California. We want these companies to invest and grow in our state.

That is why I am fighting for Assembly Bill 777, a bill that provides a property tax exemption for the commercial space flight industry. The California Chamber of Commerce has dubbed my bill a job creator. The California Legislature made a significant step forward last week when the Senate came together with a strong bipartisan vote for AB 777. The bill will come back to the Assembly for one more vote before it hopefully moves on to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. (4/18)

Ancient Plants 'Frozen in Time' by Space Impacts (Source: BBC)
Ancient plant material has been preserved in the glass formed by asteroids hitting the Earth, scientists report. The "frozen in aspic" appearance of what are apparently fragments of grass is spectacular enough. But a team writing in Geology journal says that delicate organic chemicals have also been conserved inside. Incredibly, the searing heat generated by the impacts was responsible for the remarkable preservation. (4/18)

US Firm is Taking Space Tourism to Luxurious New Heights (Source: South China Morning Post)
The prize is the panoramic curvature of the earth against the starry scenery of space, but passengers on the HK$550,000-per-ticket World View Experience trip to the edge of space won't have to keep the privileged view to themselves. In-flight internet access is guaranteed for all "citizen space explorers" who make the gas balloon-powered trip, which from 2016 will take paying passengers on suborbital flights. Click here. (4/18)

Purdue Students Pitch Moon Colony Plan to NASA (Source: Lafayette Journal Carrier)
A Purdue University senior design class has a plan to colonize the moon. The catch? It would cost an estimated $550 billion — well above NASA’s annual $18 million budget. A 40-member team of aeronautics and astronautics students outlined its plan Thursday to a crowded room, including a few NASA administrators listening in via speakerphone from Houston.

Project Artemis is spelled out in a hefty 1,100-page final report. It’s the senior project for the AAE 450 capstone class and is designed to offer a possible steppingstone to eventual colonization of Mars. Mars colonization faces several challenges that NASA hasn’t yet addressed, said professor James Longuski, who has led the class since 2001. No one expects NASA to adopt the proposal in its entirety, considering the price tag. But there’s nothing stopping NASA from taking ideas or portions of the project. (4/17)

Marshall Prepares for Dynamic Year with Space Launch System (Source: WAAY)
The Marshall Space Flight Center says, over the next several years, it could break new ground, when it comes to all kinds of discoveries. As NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center enter next year's budget year, they're poised to tackle more than ever before. The Marshall Space Flight Center, the area's third largest employer, has 6,000 employees, and has a two and half billion dollar impact on Madison County.

And they're growing, with more contracts with outside companies for the Space Launch System. "we attract the best from around the country to work on NASA missions, and people, from wherever they are, want to come to Huntsville, Alabama because they know we're embarking on some earth changing things from what we're doing on the rocket that will be the most powerful ever, getting us further into the oceans of space than we've ever been,” says Patrick Scheuermann, the Director at the Marshall Space Flight Center. (4/17)

Cyclone-4 Development Not Affected by Ukraine Turmoil (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The current events in Ukraine have not impacted the Cyclone-4 Project development. Currently, the Launch Vehicle development is progressing as scheduled, and it will be ready for delivery to Alcantara in the second half of 2015. A significant portion of the Launch Site civil construction activities has been completed as well. Most of Ground Support Equipment has been contracted, and some has already been received in Alcantara.

According to Azovmash, one of ACS’s main contractors responsible for development, manufacturing and delivery of many key systems required for the Cyclone-4 Launch Site operation, the major part of the Cyclone-4 systems under Azovmash’s responsibility has already been manufactured, and the other part is at the final stage of fabrication. All activities are on schedule. Click here. (4/17)

Solar Power Satellites: A Visual Introduction (Source: WIRED)
Of all the spaceflight concepts NASA has seriously studied, the most enormous was the Solar Power Satellite (SPS) fleet of the 1970s. Czech-born physicist/engineer Peter Glaser outlined the concept in a brief article in the esteemed journal Science in November 1968, and was awarded a patent for his invention on Christmas Day 1973. In October 1976, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA began a three-phase, four-year joint study of the SPS concept. Total cost of the study was $19.6 million, of which DOE paid 60%. Click here. (4/18)

NASA's Moon-Orbiting Robot Crashes Down as Planned (Source: ABC News)
NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more. Flight controllers confirmed Friday that the orbiting spacecraft crashed into the back side of the moon as planned, just three days after surviving a full lunar eclipse, something it was never designed to do. Researchers believe LADEE likely vaporized when it hit because of its extreme orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater. No debris would have been left behind. (4/18)

Editorial: SpaceX Could Soar in South Texas (Source: The Monitor)
On a spit of beach, 25 miles from downtown Brownsville sits a parcel of coastal land that SpaceX might one day develop into the nation’s first commercial space launch facility. At least that’s the hope.

Because the prospects of what this could mean for this region are mind boggling. Of course, given the undeveloped, unadulterated coastal landscape that presently exists there now and how vastly such a launch site could transform the region — economically and geographically — it’s understandable that this possibility is almost too much to comprehend.

But it’s worth imagining. It’s worth dreaming. It’s worth believing this into reality. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic. But that’s because for the past 11 years, I lived in McGregor, near Waco, which is home to SpaceX’s rocket-engine testing facility. I saw firsthand the economic and intellectual benefits and worldwide recognition that this private company brought to that Central Texas community. Click here. (4/18)

How the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Terrorism in Space (Source: National Journal)
Space terrorism is a growing threat to U.S. national security, according to a new report. And an attack on a U.S. satellite—or damage to one from another country's debris—could have astronomical effects on national security, says the report from the Council on Foreign Relations. The U.S. is more reliant on space than any other nation to carry out critical national security functions, such as precision attacks on suspected terrorists and image analysis of nuclear-weapons programs, according to the report.

But countries like China, North Korea, and Iran are developing their military space capabilities, increasing the risk of a dangerous situation for the U.S, says the report. For example, if one of these hostile countries acquires advanced space capabilities, they could feasibly attack a U.S. satellite to gain an upper hand in negotiations, hold off potential hostile acts, or as an act of defense, says Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the CFR and the report's author. But, according to Zenko's report, terrorists take a back seat to another space threat: accidents. Click here. (4/17)

Intel Community Willing to Allow Higher Resolution Commercial Imagery (Source: Space Politics)
For the last few years, commercial satellite remote sensing company DigitalGlobe (and, before its merger with DigitalGlobe, GeoEye) has been lobbying the government to allow it to sell sharper satellite imagery that it’s currently allowed. DigitalGlobe is currently restricted to selling imagery with resolution no sharper than 0.5 meters per pixel, but has been pushing to change that limit to 0.25 meters.

The company argued that companies in other nations, not subject to US regulations, are providing imagery that is starting to approach DigitalGlobe’s sharpness, and thus the company needs the ability to sell sharper images to compete. This week, government officials have the strongest indication to date that they’re willing to change the resolution limits. Speaking in Florida, James Clapper said that the intelligence community had reached “consensus” on supporting DigitalGlobe’s call for revised resolution regulations. (4/17)

A Space Prepper’s Guide to the End of the Earth (Source: Space Safety)
If Planet Earth was doomed and you escaped to space….could you survive? With this handy guide at the ready, you might just have a chance. Click here. (4/16)

Small Satellites and Space Junk (Source: Space Safety)
Small satellites seem to have so many advantages, but are there any downsides? Admittedly, there are so many missions and projects that cannot be scaled down to these small proportions. Big birds will always fill our skies. The only potential problem that one could suggest for the small satellite revolution is the potential for more space junk. But will this really be a serious problem?

Let’s consider the orbits. Most CubeSats fly at fairly low altitudes. They will not stay in orbit for decades. Furthermore, their trajectories can be controlled from launch, and they can be tracked fairly easily with radar. We know where they are, and where they are going.

Most small satellites contain no propellants or explosive components. They will remain intact until they reenter. Fragmentation due to impacts with other objects is unlikely due to their small size. In contrast to some other spacecraft, small satellites are normally deployed with a minimum of jetsam. They are often popped out of launch tubes with no other items released in the process. There will be fewer springs, bolts or rings to clutter nearby space. Click here. (4/16)

Test Running a Landing on Mars (Source: Space Safety)
In 2012, NASA made a big splash when it premiered a new landing system – Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL)  to be precise – that successfully put Curiosity on Mars. It was a complicated, staged system, much more involved than the prior approach of crashing spacecraft with cushioning airbags. But that complexity allowed NASA to land a more massive rover than had ever been previously attempted. Click here. (4/17)

NASA Administrator and Senior Leaders to Outline NASA's "Path to Mars" (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will outline NASA's human exploration path to Mars during a keynote address at the Humans to Mars Summit 2014 at 9 a.m. EDT on Apr. 22. The conference, sponsored by Explore Mars, will be held April 22-24. Other senior NASA officials speaking at the event include NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik and NASA Ames Center Director S. Pete Worden. (4/17)

Florida DOT Officials Visit Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation will visit the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Apr. 21-22 for meetings with Space Florida and NASA Kennedy Space Center. FDOT manages a multi-million dollar annual fund for spaceport infrastructure. The group will visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Apr. 23 to discuss the university's aviation and space transportation programs. (4/17)

Unexpected Teleconnections in Noctilucent Clouds (Source: Space Daily)
Earth's poles are separated by four oceans, six continents and more than 12,000 nautical miles. Turns out, that's not so far apart. New data from NASA's AIM spacecraft have revealed "teleconnections" in Earth's atmosphere that stretch all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again, linking weather and climate more closely than simple geography would suggest. (4/17)

NASA Gears Up for Next Set of SLS Engine Tests at Stennis (Source: Space Daily)
The RS-25 engine that will power NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), off the launch pad and on journeys to an asteroid and Mars is getting ready for the test stand. And it is packing a big punch. Engineers at NASA's Stennis Space Center are now focusing their attention on preparing the RS-25 engine after completing testing of the J-2X engine April 10. (4/17)

'Tilt-a-Worlds' Could Harbor Life (Source: Space Daily)
A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. That's because such "tilt-a-worlds," as astronomers sometimes call them - turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets - are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed. (4/17)

April 17, 2014

One In Three Think We'll Develop Space Colonies By 2064 (Source: Huffington Post)
What will the world be like in 2064? Just imagine: Will we have robot caregivers? Will we be able to teleport using a transporter just like on the TV show "Star Trek?" Those may be things only seen in Hollywood productions... for now. Many Americans think they will be a part of our future in mere decades, according to a new Pew Research Center study.Thirty-three percent of Americans believe humans will build long-term space colonies in the next 50 years. (4/17)

The Insane, Probably Fake, Plan to Brighten the Moon (Source: Mashable)
It sounds like the plot of a James Bond movie: There's a plan afoot to make the moon brighter in the night sky, potentially saving the world billions of dollars in power costs running street lamps. How would such an ambitious idea even be possible? By strategically placing highly reflective material on the lunar surface. A lot of it. The project is called Brighter Moon, and Swedish parent company Foreo says it has already secured more than $52 million in funding. Click here. (4/17)

Bright Points in Sun's Atmosphere Mark Patterns Deep In Its Interior (Source: NASA)
New research that uses data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to track bright points in the solar atmosphere and magnetic signatures on the sun's surface offers a way to probe the star's depths faster than ever before. The technique opens the door for near real-time mapping of the sun's roiling interior – movement that affects a wide range of events on the sun from its 22-year sunspot cycle to its frequent bursts of X-ray light called solar flares. (4/17)

NRO Eyes Lidar For Space Deployment (Source: Aviation Week)
Light detection and ranging (lidar), one of the latest sensor technologies to get a boost thanks to the Afghanistan war, could make its way to space. Lidar could follow in the footsteps of wide-area motion imagery, full-motion video and hyperspectral technologies that have also garnered interest and funding due to their ability to be tested and prove their value in Iraq and Afghanistan. (4/16)

Virgin Galactic Hands Global PR Duties to Edelman (Source: PR Week)
Virgin Galactic has picked Edelman to handle its six-figure global PR account in the build-up to its first commercial flight into space. The agency was selected after a nine-month search involving pitches in both the UK and US, with the brief covering everything from consumer and corporate messaging through to brand partnerships. It is understood that Virgin Galactic is still using Griffin Communications for some work though its nature is not clear. (4/16)

GAO: NASA Improving its Project Management (Source: FCW)
Although NASA has shown improvement on managing project costs and schedules, the Government Accountability Office said its acquisition management still needs attention. "GAO has designated NASA's acquisition management as a high-risk area because of NASA's history of persistent cost growth and schedule slippage in the majority of major projects," GAO's April 15 report states.

NASA has begun launching an earned value management system for several major projects after GAO previously recommended improving the agency's EVM efforts. In 2013, NASA took several additional steps to more effectively manage its portfolio, including maintaining a set-cost performance level for major projects. (4/17)

Vitamin B3 Made in Space, Delivered to Earth by Meteorites? (Source: NASA)
Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

"It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it's possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful," said Karen Smith. "Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin." (4/17)

China Issues First Assessment on Space Activities (Source: Xinhua)
A leading space research group in China released the country's first assessment of the current situation and future trends of international space activities on Thursday. The report was compiled by the research group of the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Launch Vehicle Technology. The report showed that space activities have flourished in recent years. Big space powers led in terms of satellite launch attempts and in-orbit assets. Click here. (4/17)

Last Day for Contributing to Simulated Mars Mission (Source: Mars Society)
The Mars Society, the world’s largest space advocacy group dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, launched a special Indiegogo crowd-sourcing campaign on Feb. 20 to help fund the organization’s Mars Arctic 365 (MA365) program, a historic one-year simulated human Mars mission in the Canadian Arctic. The online campaign, scheduled for 60 days, is seeking to raise $100,000 to support this never before attempted Mars research initiative. The deadline for giving is Monday, Apr. 21 at 11:59 p.m. PDT. Click here. (4/17)

FAA to Mandate Switch from Radar Tracking to GPS (Source: Daily Tech)
By 2020, all planes will need to be traceable via GPS, the FAA has decided, a move that comes as the search continues for the wreckage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. Currently, planes are tracked with ground-based radar, which can have coverage gaps. Under the new regulation, air traffic facilities will switch to Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), which uses satellites. (4/15)

Sequester Will Take $14.2B Bite From Aerospace (Source: Flight Global)
If sequestration cuts aren't eliminated, aviation programs will face a $14.2 billion reduction in the next five years, affecting the F-35 fighter jet, helicopters, air lifters, research on a fuel-efficient supersonic engine and other programs, the Defense Department says in a new report. In total, 16 aviation and munition programs would face cuts under the current budget, the report says. (4/16)

DOD: R&D, Procurement will be Slashed Under Federal Caps (Source: Defense News)
Without a change to federal spending caps, defense research and development and upgrades to equipment and weaponry will be slashed, a new Pentagon report reveals. The $66 billion cut to R&D and procurement would affect a wide swath of programs, from the F-35 jet to purchases of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles to the Boeing KC-46 tanker program. (4/16)

NASA Wants Ideas to Recycle Oxygen on Deep-Space Voyages (Source: Space.com)
When humans leave Earth to explore planets like Mars and other hostile environments in outer space, they'll need to supply their own breathable oxygen. NASA says the ability to recycle oxygen will be critical for future manned missions. NASA already has systems in place on the International Space Station to recycle around 40 percent of the astronauts' air supply.

But NASA is looking for new technology that can increase the oxygen recovery rate to at least 75 percent. NASA doesn't just want to improve its oxygen recovery rate. The new technology must also be lighter or take up less space and reduce power consumption, compared with the current air-making system, space agency officials said. (4/16)

First Potentially Habitable Earth-Sized Planet Confirmed (Source: Phys.org)
The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars. Click here. (4/17)

Another Falcon-9 Delay Could Delay Antares Mission to ISS (Source: Daily Press)
If this were a film with Matthey McConaughey, it would be called “Failure to Launch.’ SpaceX scrubbed its mission to the International Space Station on Monday, meaning that a May 6 resupply launch from Wallops Island will be even less likely. The launch was scrubbed because of a helium leak. SpaceX has another launch window on Friday, but the weather on that date “isn’t ideal.” The delay will push the launch of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket to mid-June. (4/15)

Up and Down and Up Again (Source: The Economist)
Rocket scientists have long dreamed of making something able to fly more than once. Such a reusable machine, they hope, would slash the cost of getting into space. The only one built so far, America’s space shuttle, proved a dangerous and costly disappointment, killing two of its crews and never coming close to the cost savings its designers had intended. But hope springs eternal, and several of America’s privately run “New Space” firms are planning to try again.

The furthest advanced is SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, an internet mogul. On April 18th it is due to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a cargo-carrying trip to the International Space Station (ISS), something it has done twice before. This time, though, the main story is not the ISS mission, but the modifications the firm has made to the rocket itself. Click here. (4/17)

Spaceport Body of Knowledge Library Goes Live (Source: Parabolic Arc)
As part of the FAA Center of Excellence in Commercial Space Transportation, New Mexico State University has published a collection of spaceport-related documents, a.k.a., the “Body of Knowledge for Commercial Spaceport Operations”. This is an evolving collection of documents and information that represents available documentation of industry best practices. The collection was created and made accessible by a multi-agency, multi-partner research team led by NMSU and funded by the FAA. Click here. (4/16)

Sierra Nevada Plans Additional Dream Chaser Flight Tests in Fall (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sierra Nevada Corp. will conduct additional drop tests of its Dream Chaser space shuttle at Edwards Air Force Base in the fall. The approach and landing tests will be conducted using an upgraded engineering test vehicle that glided to a landing at Edwards last October. The upgrades will include the avionics, software, and guidance, navigation and control systems designed for use on the orbital Dream Chaser spacecraft. (4/16)

Dick Rutan Resigns From Mojave Spaceport Board (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Long-time Mojave Air and Space Port board member Dick Rutan has resigned from that body, citing a business opportunity he had become involved in that could present a conflict of interest with his governing duties.
“It has been challenging and rewarding to be part of this team as we have transitioned from an airport to a Space Port, and it is with a heavy heart that I separate myself from this incredible assemblage of visionaries, fellow flyers and friends,” Rutan wrote in his resignation letter. (4/16)

Discount Tickets Offered for NSS ISDC Conference (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Online adventure deals site, Rush49, in association with the National Space Society will offer a series of exclusive admission tickets to attend the 33rd annual ISDC conference, one of which includes entrance to an awards presentation dinner, with recipient Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors on Friday, May 16th, 2014.

Rush49.com, a southern California-based online adventure and adrenaline deals site, in exclusive partnership with the National Space Society, is now expanding its repertoire of high-octane racing/driving experiences and themed outdoor events and excursions to include a foray into the final frontier—space. Click here. (4/16)

Space Exploitation (Source: Hazlitt)
As the diplomatic Neil deGrasse Tyson knows well, scientific advancement isn’t driven by the search for knowledge but rather the pursuit of capital. So how to explain the success of the Fox TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a giddy, near-Hanna-Barbera celebration of discovery over commerce, which pulled 8.5 million viewers in its series launch this year, the only Top 10 show in the history of television with the word spacetime in its title? Click here. (4/17)

Military Towns: 'Turn Your Alert Buttons On' (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
As the military restructures under sequestration, some military communities could be faced with the loss of personnel or facilities. That would mean lost economic opportunities. The Defense Department has repeatedly called on Congress to set up a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission for 2017. Lawmakers are firmly against it ... ahead of midterm elections.

But, there are laws on the books that give DOD authority to close facilities without BRAC or Congress. Inside Title 10 of the U.S. Code is Section No. 2687. It gives the services authority to close bases after “notification” of Congress. It’s a major political risk. (4/17)

Return to Sequestration Would Hit GPS 3, Missile Defense Efforts (Source: Space News)
The Air Force’s planned purchase of next-generation GPS satellites, already slowed by budget woes and a healthy existing constellation, would shrink a bit more if defense budgets return to sequestration levels in 2016 and beyond, according to a DOD report. In addition, the Missile Defense Agency would lose a combined $1.2 billion from 2016 through 2019 for work on a new kill vehicle for its primary interceptor program and for a new ground-based sensor, the report said. (4/16)

Study Confirms High Toxicity Near ISRO Plant (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
A  high rate of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) has been confirmed among the people of Keezhamd near Aluva where water bodies have a  dangerously high level of perchlorate, a highly toxic chemical found in rocket fuel and fireworks. Over 65 wells in the area where  ISRO's Ammonium Perchlorate Experimental Plant is located are contaminated , but more studies will have to be done before the hyperthyroidism can be linked to the presence of the toxic chemical in the water bodies. (4/17)

Russian Soyuz Launches Egyptian Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Egypt’s second “spy” satellite was successfully launched today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan using a Russian Soyuz-U rocket with no upper stage. Launch from complex 31 – The second Soyuz launch pad at Baikonur – was right on time at 16:20 GMT. The third stage then placed the Egyptsat-2 satellite in a 700 kilometer orbit about 8 minutes and 40 seconds after launch. (4/16)

Russia and the Moon: When Crimea Isn't Enough (Source: Al Jazeera)
In recent months, “internal colonization” — as the prominent Cambridge University scholar Alexander Etkind called it — got a new ticket to life. The notion of the “near abroad” — say, Ukraine or Moldova, still interpreted by Vladimir Putin as Russia’s sphere of influence — could be easily manipulated to fit the country’s imperial profile. A similar case could be made for adjacent Finland and even the Arctic, which Putin, many say, has been eying possessively.

The Moon, on the other hand, is a completely different story. It neither borders Russia nor comes with a substantial Russian minority. What is more, it has a vexing history of stars and stripes flying over it. Establishing a “permanent foothold” on the Moon is Russia’s next objective. In an article published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (the Kremlin's mouthpiece) on April 11, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that Russia had completed the theoretical phase of space exploration. It is now ready to put all that knowledge to use — that is, to colonize and exploit. (4/17)

Russia to Boost Manpower on New Space Center Construction Site (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will significantly boost the number of workers involved in the construction of its new Far Eastern Vostochny space launch center, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at a meeting Wednesday. “We are going to increase by several fold the manpower currently engaged at the site, disregarding climate or weather conditions," said Rogozin, who oversees the space and defense industries.

The minister added that night work shifts would be added so that construction can be carried out round-the-clock. The new Vostochny cosmodrome is being built near the town of Uglegorsk in Russia’s Far East. Its first launch pad is planned to become operational next year, with a maiden operational launch slated for 2018. (4/16)

Merkel Gets Tough on Russia with Satellite Tech Sanctions (Source: Business Week)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wasn’t in a hurry to inflict economic pain on Moscow. Cautious, pragmatic, and mindful of her country’s business ties to Russia, she doggedly tried to defuse the Ukraine crisis through back-channel diplomacy and frequent phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those efforts failed—and now Merkel looks ready to embrace the hit-’em-where-it-hurts sanctions that some U.S. politicians have been pushing for.

In mid-April, Germany stopped granting licenses for arms exports to Russia and put on hold a plan for Airbus Group to sell $973 million worth of satellite technology to Moscow. Europe “shouldn’t be filled with fear” that sanctions could provoke retaliation, Merkel said in Berlin on April 5. (4/17)

The Time for a New, All-American Advanced Liquid Rocket Engine Is Now (Source: Roll Call)
In 1972, President Richard Nixon committed the United States to a space shuttle to meet all launch needs for America’s space program — for national security, civil space, human spaceflight and the commercial marketplace. Now, the consequences of this decision and others emphasizing globalization fundamentally threaten America’s vital access to space.

Because we put all our launch eggs in one basket with the shuttle, the United States delayed by two decades any development of new launch capability. When we restarted a program in new launch technologies, our emphasis on globalization left our space launch infrastructure without a critical element, namely a large, advanced-hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine.

A new advanced liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket engine could be the replacement engine for updated Atlas, Delta, Antares and Falcon launch vehicles, power strap-on boosters for SLS, and enable future low cost reusable launch systems. By utilizing the engine across launch vehicles, efficient rate production can assure affordability for all. Such an advanced engine can be developed and in production in under four years. (4/17)

Mini Satellites Prove their Scientific Power (Source: Nature)
A tiny box orbiting Earth is sending home big data. Built mostly by undergraduate students for less than US$1.5 million, the 10 centimetre × 10 cm × 30 cm satellite, called Firefly, is now beaming back information on terrestrial γ-ray flashes — energetic bursts that are triggered by lightning and fired out into space. Click here. (4/16)

SSL To Build Two More Satellites for JSat (Source: Space News)
Sky Perfect JSat of Japan on April 17 said Space Systems/Loral (SSL) will build the operator’s Ku-band JCSat-15 and Ku-/Ka-band JCSat-16 telecommunications satellites, both for launch in 2016. The announcement follows the June 2013 contract with Palo Alto, Calif.-based SSL for the JCSat-14 satellite, a contract win that replaced Lockheed Martin Space Systems, a long-preferred JSat supplier, with SSL. (4/17)

Orbital Announces First Quarter Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2014. First quarter 2014 revenues were $323.3 million, compared to $334.8 million in the first quarter of 2013. First quarter 2014 operating income was $23.0 million, compared to $31.1 million in the first quarter of 2013. Net income in the first quarter of 2014 was $13.8 million, compared to net income of $19.6 million in the first quarter of 2013. (4/17)

Airbus Takes On DigitalGlobe With New SAR Product (Source: Aviation Week)
Airbus Defense and Space is hoping to further eat into DigitalGlobe’s domination of the U.S. market for commercial satellite imagery with a new product called WorldDEM. The company boasts that the WorldDEM, a synthetic aperture radar-based digital elevation model (DEM) of the Earth, will far surpass its earlier products by delivering data with 12-meter-per-pixel resolution, says Bernhard Brenner, the company’s head of geospatial intelligence. The product is “seamless,” meaning no gaps in the collection swaths. The company unveiled WorldDEM at the 10th annual Geoint conference in Tampa, Florida (4/15)

ATK Wins $178 Million ULA Contract for Composite Rocket Structures (Source: ATK)
ATK has reached agreement on a $178 million contract award as part of the Air Force's Phase 1 EELV buy from United Launch Alliance. The order value includes hardware for both of the current EELV launch vehicles, the Atlas V and Delta IV. The initial contracting period includes large composite structures with deliveries commencing in AFY14 and continuing into early AFY18. The option period includes hardware deliveries in AFY17 through AFY19. (4/16)

SpaceX + LC-39A = No Eastern Range? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Kudos to NASA for approving a whopping 20-year lease of Launch Complex 39A to SpaceX. One unreported aspect of the deal is how it could introduce some efficiency-enhancing competition for the Air Force's 45th Space Wing. NASA has been developing a legal opinion on whether the 1963 Webb-McNamara Agreement must apply to commercial launches from Kennedy Space Center property, which includes LC-39A and Shiloh.

Webb-McNamara put the Air Force (Eastern Range) in charge of ensuring public safety for all launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. I have heard that NASA has indeed drafted a legal opinion that Webb-McNamara won't necessarily apply to commercial launches from KSC property. If so, KSC or SpaceX could establish their own alternative range safety system...and perhaps allow the FAA to serve as KSC's range safety authority for commercial missions.

What would happen to the Eastern Range if an alternative FAA-approved range safety system were deployed alongside it and was found to perform at a much lower cost? Although potentially more costly, the Eastern Range could be much more capable, with systems that might be required for national security launches but not commercial ones. Would Eastern Range costs rise with fewer users, or would the competition lead to lower costs? (4/16) 

Corruption Case Opened Against Space Company Chief (Source: Moscow Times)
Investigators have opened a corruption case against Energia Rocket and Space Corporation chief Vitaly Lopota following an inquiry into the organization's financing of an international joint venture. Lopota is suspected of causing Energia to incur losses of 41 million rubles ($1.1 million), Izvestia reported Wednesday.

An unidentified security official told Izvestia that Energia took out two loans in 2010 totaling 5.2 billion rubles with an 8 percent annual interest rate. The funds were misappropriated when Lopota allegedly ensured that two of Energia's subsidiaries got loans that were unprofitable for the company because their interest rates were lower. Lopota faces up to four years in jail if convicted of abuse of office. (4/16)

GAO Details Issues with ICESat-2 Sensor (Source: Space News)
The science instrument for a troubled NASA ice-monitoring satellite will be delivered at least nine months late and continues to face development challenges, according to a new GAO report. The April 15 report comes as NASA prepares new cost and schedule estimates for the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)-2, a high-priority program whose difficulties surfaced in October. The new estimates are expected in May, but NASA recently indicated that it expects the launch to slip to from 2016 to at least 2018. (4/16)

April 16, 2014

$4B Over Budget, Four Years Late: Meet Northrop's Problem Program (Source: Wash. Business Journal)
More than a decade after a prime contract was awarded for the development of the Hubble Space Telescope's successor, NASA's largest science project remains on shaky ground. First, the good news: Program costs for the James Webb Space Telescope being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. have remained stable for the last few years, ever since the project was rebalanced with a 78 percent increase to the cost estimate.

That, of course, propelled total program costs to $8.83 billion, from a baseline estimate in 2009 of about $5 billion. Unfortunately for Northrop, most of the budget increase was to accommodate ballooning development costs. Those went from $2.58 billion in 2009 to $6.19 billion with the 2011 rebalancing — a 140 percent change. (4/16)

The Coolest Spaceships Ever Built, Compared by Size (Source: WIRED)
There are a lot of online resources for information about space history, but none can rival the combination of thorough and adorable you’ll find at Historic Spacecraft. The site is full of information about recent and past launches, old space programs, and much more, but it owes its unique charm to the drawings of spacecraft that appear on its pages. There’s something about their simplified lines and geometric orientations, reminiscent of a childhood textbook, that is perfect. Click here. (4/16)

Meet the Next Generation of Planetary Rovers (Source: Motherboard)
Want to go scuba diving on the Saturnian moon Enceladus? Get in line. When NASA announced the discovery of a subsurface ocean the size of Lake Superior on the tiny moon it inspired a new rush of speculation about how we might land a rover on Enceladus' alluring surface.

“There’s such a large amount of interest in this small body,” Luciano Iess, lead author of the Endeladus study, told Motherboard last week. “You could deploy a rover that could penetrate through this rather thick ice layer with heat. You can melt the ice and then by gravity, the submarine would get pushed down and would, sooner or later, end up in the ocean. It’s complicated, but that’s the target.” Click here. (4/16)

Beer-Drinking Fundraiser for Shuttle Aircraft Exhibit (Source: Huntsville Times)
Only in Huntsville would craft beer and a shuttle training aircraft used to train astronauts somehow fit together without raising a lot of eyebrows. Drink a Monkeynaut India Pale Ale or any brew from Straight to Ale on Thursday night and a portion of your purchase will help support the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's efforts to land the Gulfstream II (G-II) Shuttle Training Aircraft in Huntsville. (4/16)

NASA Langley in Hampton and Virginia Partner on Feasibility Studies (Source: Daily Press)
NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton and the commonwealth are collaborating on research projects to address environmental issues in agriculture, ecological forecasting, water resources and air quality. According to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office Tuesday, NASA participants in its Applied Sciences' DEVELOP Program will co-locate temporarily within the office of the Secretary of Technology in Richmond to help design feasibility projects to address community concerns and public policy issues. (4/16)

Pentagon Threat Assessor Feels Better about Space Assets (Source: Space News)
A top Pentagon intelligence official said April 15 he is more confident today than he was a year ago about the intelligence community’s understanding of U.S. national security space systems and the threats they face. For the past several months, top Defense Department leaders have told Congress that U.S. military and intelligence satellites face a growing threat from nations actively developing counterspace capabilities. (4/16)

Egyptian Satellite to be Launched (Source: SIS)
"Egypt Sat" will be launched on April 16. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said the new satellite will be launched by Russia from the base of Baikonur in Kazakhstan. He noted that Egypt Sat would serve industrial, agricultural, mineral, planning and environmental fields in Egypt. It can also help to support development projects in the Arab region, he added. (4/16)

NASA Has Good Reason Sending Germs From Dinosaur Into Space (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA is known for sending astronauts into space. Now it's sending germs. The strange-but-true space mission is intended to give scientists a better sense of how bacteria behave in microgravity -- important knowledge as the space agency gears up for long-duration manned missions into deep space. Just check out this YouTube video from University of California, Davis researchers, who are leading the effort. Click here. (4/15)

Student NASA Design Fits Like a Glove (Source: The Battalion)
For their senior design project, a group of eight engineering students from different disciplines are working on a virtual reality glove to be utilized while training future NASA astronauts. Matthew Torres, senior electrical engineering major, said NASA is trying to build a virtual environment that will help astronauts get acquainted with their work environment — space.

“Right now they build full-scale mock-ups of the environments in space that they train in and they are scaling it down to a virtual environment that is contained in a 12-foot dome.” The team is composed of three electrical engineers, a computer engineer and four industrial engineers — twice the size of a normal senior design group. Senior electrical engineering major Ivan Gomez said NASA was initially asked for a way to interact with the virtual environment, but the group members decided to take it to the next leve. (4/15)

Curiosity's Priority Switches from Driving to Science (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Beginning its most extensive scientific survey in a year, the Curiosity Mars rover is employing cameras, mineral-sniffing spectrometers, a rock-zapping laser and potentially its impact drill at a study site named "the Kimberley" on the robot's trek toward Mount Sharp. The rover is taking a break from sustained driving campaign across the floor of Gale Crater, a 96-mile-wide impact basin just south of the Martian equator.

Scientists designated the Kimberley site as one of several waypoints on Curiosity's route from Yellowknife Bay, a shallow depression where the one-ton rover's instruments found an environment that was once habitable to microbial life, toward the mission's ultimate objective at Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mountain believed to harbor layered clay minerals, an indicator of a wetter time on ancient Mars. (4/15)

SpaceX Plans 2015 Heavy-Lift Launch at LC-39A (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX signed a 20-year lease Monday to operate and maintain one of Kennedy Space Center's historic launch pads, and the company plans to debut the world's most powerful rocket at the facility next year. The agreement turns over control of Launch Complex 39A to the commercial space transportation firm, which plans to use the launch pad for the the initial flights of the Falcon Heavy, a mega-rocket featuring 27 first stage engines generating nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. (4/16)

Can This 1970s Spacecraft Explore Again? (Source: io9)
The countdown is on to rebuild communications with a spacecraft before it drifts past this summer. The craft has functional instruments, but NASA has no budget to reactivate the program, so it's up to private donors and dedicated volunteers to recapture the abandoned spacecraft. Launched in the 1970s, repurposed & renamed in 1980s, the ICE/ISEE space explorer still had 12 of 13 functional instruments in the 1990s.

Now it's flying past the Earth, beeping out its willingness to chat, but we ripped out the Deep Space Network antenna array in 1999, and no longer have the ability to respond. An international team of engineers is working on a private solution, but needs funds to rebuild the past and send new commands to slide the spacecraft into a new orbit. Click here. (4/16)

Can NASA Sustain its Golden Age of Planetary Exploration? (Source: Planetary Society)
Lately, multiple news outlets have reported on the possible cancellation of the Opportunity rover, the longest-running Mars surface mission in history. Less reported, but equally important, is that NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), currently orbiting the Moon, is in the same situation.

Most people find this mind-boggling. The cost to run both missions is around $25 million dollars per year, about 2% of the budget of NASA's Planetary Science Division, and approximately 0.15% of NASA's total budget. For missions that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and launch, surely we can find a small amount of money to keep them running? Click here. (4/16)

An Inside Look at NASA's Deep Space Network (Source: Motherboard)
Eccentric chemical engineer and Jet Propulsion Lab co-founder Marvel "John" Whiteside Parsons was born a century ago this year, while JPL itself first got its name 70 years ago. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of the Moon landing which, it goes without saying, remains one of humankind's most significant accomplishments yet. But these other touchstones aside, this month NASA/JPL highlighted a much less publicized landmark in its history. Click here. (4/15) http://motherboard.vice.com/read/an-inside-look-at-nasas-deep-space-network

Bolden: Congress Should Invest in NASA, Commercial Space Program (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
Strained relations with Russia created new concerns for NASA officials recently, who are calling for measures to end dependence on the Soyuz rocket to get American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). At a JSC news conference, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden faced questions from reporters about the issue and his recent testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations.

Bolden lobbied lawmakers for NASA’s $848 million budget request at last week’s hearing, which he said would fund commercial space partnerships to enable American spacecraft to fly crews to low Earth orbit by 2017. Pointing to successful partnership with private companies such as Space X, Bolden said it was time for lawmakers to invest in NASA and the U.S. commercial space industry. (4/15)

Capitalism and Politics...in Space! (Source: American Spectator)
NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization mission not only includes efforts to robotically capture and manipulate an asteroid into the moon’s orbit, but also aims to land humans on an asteroid by 2025. If the mission is successful, it will be the first time humans have left low earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972. This mission will serve to build capabilities in robotics and launch technology for the eventual goal of landing on Mars in 2030.

“Great nations do great things,” Senator Marco Rubio said of the U.S. space program, insinuating that the Chinese government has a lot of soul-searching to do before it can be qualified as great. In a hearing last week, Sen. Rubio asked how we are supposed to invigorate a new generation in the same way our parents' generation experienced the lunar landing. Could it be as simple as publicizing the asteroid initiative? It's not like NASA is trying to sell overpriced health plans to young people. They are robotically manipulating our solar system! (4/15)

Now Hear This (Source: Space KSC)
Last week while I was in Washington, D.C., three space-related hearings were held on Capitol Hill. I didn't attend any of them, much as I would have liked, but all three are now archived on my YouTube channel if you want to watch. Click here. (4/15)

China's President Xi Urges Greater Military Use of Space (Source: Reuters)
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis. Click here. (4/14)

Canadian Space Chief Says Business as Usual on ISS, Despite Russian Sanctions (Source: Times Colonist)
The head of the Canadian Space Agency says sanctions taken against Russia for its invasion of Crimea are not affecting operations on the International Space Station. NASA is continuing co-operation related to the space station but has severed its ties with Russia and forbidden its employees from travelling to the country. (4/15)

April 15, 2014

Saturn Spotted Giving Birth to New Moon (Source: WIRED)
According to an April 14 release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small, icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon. Additionally, the new object may provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.

Images captured with Cassini’s narrow angle camera show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s A ring, which is the most distant of the planet’s large, luminescent rings. One of these disturbances is an arc measuring approximately 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles long and six miles wide. Scientists also discovered unusual protuberances in the typically smooth profile at the ring’s edge. Scientists believe the arc and protuberances are caused by the gravitational effects of a nearby object.

Scientists say that the object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart.  However, the process of its formation and outward movement aids in our understanding of how Saturn’s icy moons, including the cloud-wrapped Titan and ocean-holding Enceladus, may have formed in more massive rings long ago. (4/15)

Students Creating Satellite in Kazakhstan (Source: Tengri News)
A sophomore spacecraft inventor Nazifa Baktybayeva from Kazakhstan's Pavlodar is working on creation of a real satellite. Ms. Baktybayeva has been working on the the in-orbit satellite along with her fellow students from the Kazakhstan State Technical University. “The work is almost finished. Technical documentation has been completed and is in full compliance with the state regulations.

We are planning to start buying the materials soon and then start assembling the spacecraft,” the young scientists said. The satellite with a symbolic name Polytech #1 will give an opportunity for students to conduct research based on materials obtained from space. (4/14)

Texas Rocketry Students Taking a Shot at Nationals (Source: Morning Valley Star)
Six members of the Harlingen High School Engineering and Technology Club are preparing their rocket to compete in next month’s the national finals for the Team America Rocketry Challenge in Manassas, Va. Some of the students have been members of this extracurricular club for two and three years, and this is the first time they‘ve qualified to compete in the national event. (4/14)

Foreign Ministry: Ukraine is Not Going to Sell Rocket Tech (Source: LB.UA)
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denies talks on the sale of the production technology of 'Satan' intercontinental ballistic missiles. "Information about the alleged conduct negotiations with enterprise managers" Pivdenmash "(Dnepropetrovsk) with representatives of foreign countries about selling technologies intercontinental ballistic missiles does not correspond to reality," - said the diplomat. (4/9)

Sierra Nevada Ranked as Space Innovator (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. announced that Fast Company magazine ranked SNC as one of the “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space.” Fast Company recognized SNC for “resurrecting the spaceplane” calling SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft the, “…biggest contribution to the nascent commercial spaceflight industry” and the “…smaller, and arguably smarter take on the defunct Space Shuttle.” (4/15)

Canadian (B.C.) Aerospace Industry Gets $1M in Help (Source: Global News)
British Columbia’s aerospace industry is getting a $1-million lift from the provincial government, in a bid to expand the sector in the face of “unprecedented global growth.” The money is being given to the Pacific division of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a non-profit group that advocates for its members on policy issues. The announcement was made in the Vancouver Island community of Sidney, B.C., Tuesday, the home of Viking Air Limited, which manufactures de Havilland aircraft products. (4/10)

Startup Aims To Pair Old Satellites with Operators Needing Quick Capacity Boost (Source: Space News)
Four commercial satellite industry veterans have formed a company designed to match aging in-orbit satellites whose owners are willing to lease them with satellite operators in need of short-term capacity in advance of launching their own asset. Gapsat Development Group Ltd., headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, expects to broker its first deal this year, said Gregg Daffner, the startup’s chief executive. (4/15)

Europe Weighs Galileo-compatibility Mandate for Smartphones (Source: Space News)
The European Commission, fearing that marketing its Galileo satellite navigation system will not be enough to ensure adoption of the service, is now weighing whether to mandate Galileo adoption not only in European critical infrastructures, but also in selected areas including smartphones. (4/15)

Google Tried to Design a Space Elevator (Source: Fast Company)
A working space elevator is still, sadly, not a reality. But sci-fi geeks may be excited to know that some of the most intelligent and imaginative minds on Earth have indeed looked into the logistics of building such a fanciful contraption. Rich DeVaul, head of Google X's Rapid Evaluation team, has confirmed for the first time ever that Google's super hush-hush R&D lab actually tried to design one. Click here. (4/15)

Hawthorne Unveils SpaceX Rocket Monument (Source: Daily Breeze)
Hawthorne city leaders on Monday afternoon unveiled a towering monument of a rocket on the city’s main drag to honor its most celebrated corporate citizen — the space transportation company SpaceX. “Space X is not just a tenant, they are a partner in the city of Hawthorne,” Mayor Chris Brown said during a brief address before the unveiling.

The monument is a 25-foot replica of a Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. Resting at a 45-degree angle on a thick support column, the tip of the rocket reaches 37 feet at its highest point. At night the rocket is backlit by 27 red LED lights emulating thrusters. A light in the front casts a green glow onto the monument, which weighs a hefty two tons. (4/15)

Homeless Vets Get Day at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
"It is great that these people are doing this for us," said the 59-year-old veteran, who is homeless. "It's something that will stay with us. I can tell this to my grandkids. I'll go back to the camp and think about what I saw today." Greene was one of three homeless veterans who were treated to a special day at the space center Monday. The idea was sparked by a KSC employee, Trudy Veach, who also is an American Legion Auxiliary volunteer who helps homeless veterans.

Greene, who served in the Navy from 1974 to 1978, and the others cheered after getting off the Space Shuttle Experience attraction. "I'm so happy," Pierce said after the first two hours at KSC. "They need to feel they are part of the community. They deserve every moment of happiness we can give them. Yes, they are going back to the woods, but they've had a chance to have a good day and enjoy this." (4/15)

DubaiSat-2 Fully Operational (Source: Gulf Today)
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (Eiast) has announced that DubaiSat-2’s in-orbit commissioning is complete and the satellite is now fully operational. The satellite had undergone the Launch and Early Operations Phase (Leop) starting last Nov 21, 2013. This phase requires testing for the satellite to verify and validate the operation of the system and subsystem level electronics of the spacecraft and how they function under the harsh space environment. (4/15)

Land Rover Announces Global Partnership With Virgin Galactic (Source: Land Rover)
Land Rover, the British brand synonymous with adventure, has revealed a long-term global partnership with Richard Branson's pioneering commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic. Demonstrating their shared vision of pioneering spirit, technological innovation and sense of adventure, the partnership was announced against the backdrop of SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial passenger carrying spacecraft, together with Land Rover's new Discovery Vision Concept vehicle.  

The partnership will see Land Rover vehicles become part of daily life for the Virgin Galactic team and for all 'Future Astronauts', the space experience will now begin with Land Rover as they arrive in New Mexico for training, and continue to the moment they drive from the space terminal building to the waiting spaceship. Land Rover will base a fleet of vehicles at the Virgin Galactic test center in the Mojave Desert, California and at its astounding operational New Mexico base, Spaceport America. (4/14)

Former Astronaut Aims to Create Rocket Engine to Allow Speedy Travel to Mars (Source: Washington Post)
Franklin Chang Diaz got hooked on space exploration in 1957, when he was 7 and fascinated by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik. Eleven years later, Steve Nadis writes in Discover magazine, Chang Diaz came from his homeland of Costa Rica to live with relatives in the U.S.; he had $50 in his pocket and knew barely a word of English.

Within a decade he had earned a PhD in plasma physics from MIT. He became an astronaut, completing seven space shuttle missions and logging some 1,600 hours in space. He spent 25 years with NASA, then retired to work full time on a goal he’d had ever since graduate school: creating a super-fast rocket engine.

His VASIMR VX-200 — the name stands for “variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket” — has the potential to get astronauts to Mars in 39 days, he says, more than three times as fast as current engines could. His company, Ad Astra, says it “is engaged in a friendly competition with his former employer, trying to create the rocket of the future.” (4/14)

NASA Signs Deal with SpaceX for Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: SEN)
After four months of negotiations, NASA on Monday signed a lease with Space Exploration Technologies to take over one of the mothballed space shuttle launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center. Terms of the agreement were not immediately available, though NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said the property agreement runs for 20 years. “As part of the agreement, SpaceX will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the pad at their own expense,” Beutel wrote.

NASA selected SpaceX over a rival bidder, Blue Origin, a startup rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin filed a protest over the selection process, postponing NASA’s decision until December. The U.S. space agency had hoped to have a lease signed by Oct. 1, saving itself about $100,000 a month in maintenance costs. (4/14)

Recovery Crews Positioned to Retrieve Falcon 9 First Stage (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Soon after the Falcon 9's first stage shuts down and separates from the launcher's upper stage -- a milestone expected to occur less than three minutes after liftoff -- the cylindrical 12-foot-diameter first stage will relight some of its engines for a braking maneuver. A few minutes later, the stage will ignite an engine again just above the water for a landing burn to set the rocket down into the sea at a slow velocity.

The splashdown is expected a few hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, roughly due east of the Georgia-South Carolina border. The rocket is fitted with four landing legs made of carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb. The 25-foot-tall legs will extend down and outward, deploying during the first stage's descent. "We have a boat downrange, and we will perform an entry burn and a landing burn," Hans Koenigsmann said, adding the test will pretend the Atlantic Ocean is actually a landing pad.

Teams are standing by to pluck the intact stage or fragments from the water and return them to SpaceX for analysis. The company hopes to achieve a controlled return of a Falcon 9 first stage to a precision landing in a touchdown zone near rocket's launch site before the end of 2014, but Koenigsmann admitted that is ambitious and will depend largely on how Monday's attempted water landing works out. (4/14)

Meteorite Impacts Could Have Fostered Life on Early Earth (Source: Science)
Could meteorite impacts on Earth have provided a habitat for early life? That’s the question being raised by a new study, which reports the first possible identification of fossil microbial traces from within an impact crater. The researchers were looking at rocks from the Ries crater (inset) of southern Germany, a 24-kilometer-wide depression formed about 14.6 million years ago by a meteorite crashing into Earth with the force of 1.8 million Hiroshima bombs.

The energy of impacts that create such craters can be high enough to melt rock; these melts cool rapidly, forming impact glass—a smooth, dark rock, similar to its volcanic cousin, obsidian—which contains various microscopic structures and crystals. Among the structures in the Ries glasses are peculiar curved and tubular features, about one-millionth to three-millionths of a meter in diameter. While previously thought to be simply unusual types of crystals, the team’s study revealed that the tubules may be biological in origin. (4/14)

Eutelsat To Pay Down Debt of Satmex Subsidiary (Source: Space News)
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat will redeem $360 million in bonds, carrying an average 9.6 percent annual interest, from bondholders in Eutelsat Americas, the former Satmex fleet operator that Eutelsat purchased in January. In an example of the kind of transaction that was beyond the reach of the former Satmex, Eutelsat is redeeming the bonds three years ahead of their May 2017 maturity date for 104.75 percent of their principal value, or $377 million, plus accrued and unpaid interest to May 15 of this year. (4/14)

Satellite Operators Press ESA for Reduction in Ariane Launch Costs (Source: Space News)
European commercial satellite fleet operators, including the world’s four largest by annual revenue, have written the European Space Agency urging that it find immediate ways to reduce Ariane 5 rocket launch costs and, in the longer term, make the next-generation Ariane 6 vehicle more attractive for smaller telecommunications satellites.

ESA governments are scheduled to decide in December whether to proceed with full development of an Ariane 6 rocket, to fly starting in 2021. The rocket’s principal design objective is that, by its 15th launch, it can be built and launched for a cost of no more than 70 million euros, or $96 million at current exchange rates. (4/14)

Recently Launched Amazonas 4A Suffers Power-System Glitch (Source: Space News)
Hispasat’s Amazonas 4A telecommunications satellite, launched March 22, has suffered an anomaly in its power system but is stable in orbit, Madrid-based Hispasat announced April 14. Built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Amazonas 4A is intended to expand Hispasat’s presence in Latin America. Hispasat has declined to say where the satellite ultimately will be operated, but it is being tested at 51 degrees west longitude.

One industry official said the satellite has been unable to fully deploy one of its solar arrays. A Hispasat spokeswoman on April 14 said this is not the case, but that a power subsystem aboard the satellite has malfunctioned. Hispasat and Orbital have begun an investigation into the cause of the defect and a possible solution is being devised but it is too soon to determine what happened and whether it can be corrected, the spokeswoman said. (4/14)

Rogozin Invites Best Minds to Create Anti-Asteroid Technology (Source: Space Daily)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said there was no means capable of diverting asteroids from Earth and invited the best minds to help create such a technology, Itar-Tass reports. "This is a dangerous phenomenon. Those who think that we know everything about the far reaches of deep space and that no catastrophe will happen are seriously wrong," Rogozin said. (4/14)

German Space Research Center Under Espionage Attack (Source: Space Daily)
Germany's aeronautics and space research center has for months been the target of a suspected cyber attack by a foreign intelligence service, a German news weekly reported. Der Spiegel said that several computers used by scientists and systems administrators at the Cologne-based DLR center had been infiltrated by spy programs. "The government classes the attack as extremely serious because it, among other things, is aimed at armament and rocket technolgies," Spiegel said. (4/14)