May 25, 2015

Audit Reveals $1.8 Billion Financial Violations at Russia's Space Agency (Source: Moscow Times)
Russian auditors have uncovered 92 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) in financial violations committed by federal space agency Roscosmos last year, the head of Russia's Audit Chamber, Tatyana Golikova, said Friday. The Audit Chamber, a government spending watchdog, released its annual report on Friday detailing investigations into misspending by Russian government agencies and ministries.

Golikova singled out Roscosmos as one of Russia's worst offenders, saying: "At first, I didn't believe my inspectors, because the value of the financial violations identified [at Roscosmos] was 92 billion rubles," news agency TASS reported. The violations included inefficient use of funds, misuse of appropriated funds, and violations in fiscal reporting methods, according to Golikova. (5/24)

Russian Space Program Costs Soar 30% Over Sanctions (Source: Space Daily)
The total costs of Russia's Federal Space Program have increased 30 percent because of Western-imposed sanctions, Roscosmos Statistics Secretary Denis Lyskov said Thursday. "In the current economic conditions, Roscosmos has ended up in a difficult situation. We had to completely overhaul the entire space program because of these figures," Lyskov said. (5/25)

Some 100 Russian Space Industry Officials Fired Over Three Years (Source: Tass)
Some 100 officials working in the space industry have been fired or become defendants in criminal cases over the past three years, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on the Rossiya-1 TV channel. He said "these are managers who were caught stealing" or made violations when implementing instructions of the country’s leadership. (5/25)

First Suspect Under House Arrest Over Embezzlement in Russia’s Space Sector (Source: Tass)
Moscow’s Basmanny court ruled on Monday to place under house arrest a director general of a firm that was involved in embezzlement schemes of the Khrunichev Space Research & Production Center, a core company of Russia’s space industry. "The court satisfied a motion of the investigator on placing Dmitry Dyakonov under house arrest until June 25," the court’s spokesperson said.

Dyakonov, the head of Ecopravo firm that worked under a contract with the Khrunichev company, has been charged with embezzlement or misappropriation of funds carried out either by an organized group or in a large-scale amount. According to media reports, Dyakonov signed a contract with Alexander Ostroverkh, a deputy of the then-head of the Khrunichev company, on providing auditing and legal services to it and received 22,000 euros per month plus 5% from the sums. (5/25)

Source Says Russian Rocket Crash Caused by Human Error (Source: Tass)
The results of the work of the commission investigating the causes of the Proton-M carrier rocket crash that occurred on May 16 will be reported to the government on Friday, May 29, a Russian space and industry source said. "The commission will complete its work and report the results to the Russian government on May 29," the source said.

According to him, the emergencies commission working at the Khrunichev Center (Proton manufacturer) has exposed a number of violations in the carrier rocket production. "This is, undoubtedly, a human error. The fault occurred in the rocket manufacturing process," he said. (5/25)

Russia, China to Unify Space Technologies for Manned Lunar Missions (Source: Tass)
Russia and China have begun joint work with the aim to devise a set of unified standards to be used in manufacturing space technologies, including those crucial to a future manned mission to the Moon, a space industry source told TASS on Monday.

"The sides have agreed to begin cooperation beyond low-Earth orbits, including manned lunar programs. The mode of such cooperation and its guidelines are still to be negotiated," the source said. The two sides will analyze issues of standardization in the sphere of manned flights. They will develop standards for docking units, electrical connectors and spacecraft atmosphere. A special working group will be set up for that purpose, the source added. (5/25)

Blue Origin May Build New $220m Rocket Factory in Florida (Source: The Manufacturer)
Private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, has expressed interest in expanding its rocket production in Florida. The company, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has reportedly been vying for at least $8m in local-level incentives in order to build a new rocket manufacturing complex very close to the Kennedy Space Center.

Competing for these financial incentives in secret under the name ‘Project Panther’, Blue Origin’s plans for the site were revealed by Senator Bill Nelson last month. Documents filed with the local government indicate that Blue Origin plans to invest $205-220m in the project which will reportedly employ around 330 people. Click here. (5/25)

What's Behind the Dream of Colonizing Mars? (Source: New Yorker)
Stephen Petranek envisions a multistage settlement program. The first pioneers on Mars, not unlike the American frontiersmen, will have to struggle to survive. Just to have drinking water, they’ll need to plow up the planet’s soil—known as regolith—melt down its ice, and distill the results. To breathe, they’ll have to separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen, then mix the oxygen with an inert gas—argon, perhaps—which they’ll get from, well, somewhere.

Eventually, Petranek imagines a shift in the balance. Instead of adjusting to life on Mars, humans will adjust Mars to their needs. They will re├źngineer the atmosphere and warm the planet. As the regolith thaws, ancient streams will flow again and life will flourish along their ruddy banks. More and more people will be drawn to Mars, until there will be whole cities of them. Click here. (5/25)

Google Lunar XPRIZE Deadline Extended to End of 2017 (Source: XPRIZE)
XPRIZE and Google have officially confirmed a further extension of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. We continue to see substantial progress from our teams, and after months of discussion, we have decided to provide additional time for teams to plan and make arrangements for a future launch. Securing an available window with a launch provider is a calculated logistical process that can be many months in the making, in some cases more than a year, so an extended schedule will benefit our teams a great deal as they move towards taking the next step in the competition. Click here. (5/25)

New Study Reassesses Habitability of Exoplanets Around Multiple Star Systems (Source: America Space)
One defining scientific revolution of our generation is undoubtedly the discovery of thousands of exoplanets around other stars, which has transformed our view of the Solar System from being the only one in existence in a vast and immense Universe, to being just one between millions or even billions in our home galaxy alone.

This plurality of worlds has forced scientists and non-scientists alike, to ask the next big question: how many of them harbor planets that could sustain life? In the absence of hard evidence, this topic has been the subject of a multitude of theoretical studies throughout the years, with many of them often reaching a variety of different conclusions.

A new research based on data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offers a new insight into this fascinating subject, by presenting evidence that many of the extrasolar worlds that have been previously deemed as being potentially habitable, might actually not fit the bill. Click here. (5/25)

May 24, 2015

SpaceX Dragon Helping FAA Free Up More Airspace (Source: Aviation Week)
The FAA is beta-testing a new air traffic tool with the help of data from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, a task that signals a major shift in how the agency will manage restricted airspace around future space launches and reentries. The effort is meant to limit the size and amount of time airspace remains off limits to commercial airlines or other National Airspace System (NAS) users during space vehicle ascent or return operations.

It also aims to automate the non-optimal procedures that air traffic controllers perform by hand today during a launch or recovery. “We’re starting to see a significant increase in the frequency of spaceflight operations, so that model won’t work anymore,” says FAA's Daniel Murray. “In the past, there were only a couple of places in the country where a launch could take place ... and given that there were only 6-12 launches a year, there was not a big emphasis on the effects on the NAS.”

Their solution, called the Space Data Integrator (SDI), automates the manual process by ingesting telemetry data from vehicle tracking systems and sending the information directly to a traffic flow management situational display where the current and projected positions, as well as the projected areas where airspace must be protected, are plotted and managed. Along with the new technology, Murray says the FAA also is developing processes and procedures for air traffic managers and controllers to use the information. (5/23)

New ​SpaceShipTwo Stands on its Own (Source: KRQE)
Space tourists who plan to someday ride Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered space liners are one small step closer to being launched from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. At a factory in California, a second SpaceShipTwo, replacing the first craft that crashed last year, is now standing on its own for the first time. This past week, the airframe of the second SpaceShipTwo was lowered from its factory support fixture and parked on its own landing gear. (5/23)

Official Launch of UAE Space Agency (Source: Zawya)
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE Space Agency will launch its official strategy and operational plan this week in Abu Dhabi on 25 May. The official launch event will showcase the aims of the strategy and plan, which are to strengthen the foundations of the space sector and work towards creating a developed and integrated industry that will enable the UAE to become one of the leading countries in space science exploration. (5/23)

Space Program Yields Tools for Life on Earth (Source: Columbia Tribune)
During our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida we became more aware of the many world-changing spinoffs that have resulted from our space program. NASA is justifiably proud of the contributions space exploration has made to our lives.

The space program was started because of the military advantages of controlling space. Out of that need to control the sky for military purposes has come an untold number of applications that benefit us in environmental management, industrial productivity, communication, medicine, recreation and transportation.

Much of the time many of us don’t even recognize that something we are using was originally developed as part of the space program. Here are a few examples of the many innovations that are a direct outgrowth of that program. Click here. (5/24)

Editorial: Wide Gap Between Reality and Promises at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Another week, another tidbit of desperate hope that the Dusty Desert Spaceport will pay off soon. Start-up Exos Aerospace Systems and Technologies has bought Armadillo Aerospace's assets and supposedly will develop and launch its new gizmo from Dusty Desert.

Armadillo, founded and financed by video game honcho John Carmack, spent years building a sub-orbital craft, then went "into hibernation mode" in 2013 following a crash and other reverses. One story was headlined "Pipe Dream Meets Reality." But Exos COO John Quinn says the craft was so near "commercial viability" that Armadillo would have succeeded with one more launch. (Carmack appears not to be involved in Exos.)

The new gizmo, SARGE, would be basically the old STIG-B with a few modifications. The STIG-B crashed last time they flew it; but Orville and Wilbur had plenty of early screw-ups too. Quinn says the problem has been addressed and a redundant backup system has been added to ensure success. If SARGE flies, we'll find out. Click here. (5/24)

Space Coast Pads Transitioning for the New Era (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Physical changes to a number of historic pads located on Florida’s Space Coast are progressing apace, with Cape Canaveral’s LC-41 now enjoying modification work to prepare it for crewed launches of Boeing’s CST-100. The work is being conducted at the same time as two nearby pads – LC39A and 39B – continue their conversations to host SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

While the nature of 39B’s “clean pad” will allow for launches of other launch vehicles – along with the potential for small launchers to set sail from inside the complex – only SLS has been confirmed as a future tenant of the former Saturn V and Space Shuttle pad.

Editor's Note: There's also LC-36, which is being prepped for Moon Express and also potentially Blue Origin. Also, LC-46 is supposedly being prepped for a 2018 Orion "Ascent Abort" test atop a modified Peacekeeper first stage motor provided by Orbital ATK. (5/24)

Feds Seek $10.6M Forfeiture For Research Grant Fraud (Source: Law360)
Federal prosecutors asked for a $10.6 million forfeiture judgment in Florida federal court Wednesday against a husband-and-wife pair of scientists convicted of ripping off the government by submitting dozens of fraudulent research grants over the course of a decade.

Patent for Navy Small Space Debris Tracker (Source: Space Daily)
A U.S. Navy device that detects small debris in space and provides data on their trajectory has been granted a U.S. patent. The Optical Orbital Debris Spotter from the Naval Research Laboratory is compact in size, uses low power and can be integrated into larger satellite designs or flown independently onboard nano-satellite platforms, the Navy said.

The device concept is the creation of a continuous, permanent light sheet by using a collimated light source, such as a low-power laser. All particles intersecting the light sheet will scatter the light from the source, independent of the time of intersection with the plane of the light sheet. (5/22)

China Plans First Ever Landing on the Far Side of the Moon (Source: Space Daily)
The Chang'e-4 mission, part of China's Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), plans to land the probe and accompanying rover on the far side of the moon. "We are currently discussing the next moon landing site for Chang'e 4," Chief lunar exploration engineer Wu Weiren said. "We probably will choose a site that is more difficult to land and more technically challenging. Other countries have chosen to land on the near side of the moon. Our next move probably will see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon." (5/22)

India to Test Plane-Shaped Reusable Launch Vehicle in July (Source: NDTV)
Come second half of July, India's space agency is likely to test a small model of reusable launch vehicle shaped like an aeroplane, said a senior official. "It is going to be an important engineering experiment for the Indian space agency. A small aeroplane-shaped vehicle would be launched from here sometime during the second half of July," M.Y.S.Prasad, director, Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) said. (5/23)

NASA's SLS Gets Big Push from House Appropriations Committee (Source: Huntsville Times)
The House Appropriations Committee has passed a NASA budget for 2016 that tells the space agency Congress is serious about the big new rocket being developed in Alabama, wants it used more, and is ready to spend more money to build it.

The budget passed Wednesday by a voice vote gives NASA $519 million more than 2015 and the Space Launch System $150 million of that. SLS would get $1.85 billion in 2016 compared to $1.7 billion this year. The bill also designates SLS as the launch vehicle for NASA's planned mission to the Jupiter Europa moon in 2022 and provides $50 million to advance work on its permanent upper stage. SLS will fly first with a modified Delta rocket stage on top. (5/21)

What Would It Take to Send People to Pluto? (Source: Space.com)
Suppose, this coming July, that New Horizons were to discover something truly wild as it flashed past Pluto. What if it revealed a bizarre surface chemistry that, like the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere, could only be the result of some biological process? Is a manned Pluto mission within humanity's near-term technological grasp, at any cost? Click here. (5/22)

Bruno: RD-180 Waiver Likely; Gap Of 5 Engines Between House, Senate (Source: Breaking Defense)
The still-newish CEO of the United Launch Alliance, Tory Bruno, faces tough questions from his board of directors. He faces tough questions from the House and the Senate about his use of Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines. But his biggest short-term problem — being allowed to use enough RD-180 engines to get his company from here to initial deployment in 2017 of the new Vulcan launch system it plans to build — may have an answer.

I asked Bruno if he thought he had a strong case to obtain a Defense Department waiver to allow use of all the RD-180s has under contract but which last year’s National Defense Authorization Act currently bars him from using. He noted that it’s the Air Force who would make the recommendation for a waiver: “I think [the Air Force Secretary] could make a very strong argument based on what she has said” for a waiver for ULA to use the RD-180. (5/22)

County Board OK's $9.7 Million for Lockheed, Blue Origin on Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
A Space Coast economic development board approved $9.7 million in incentives for two companies that each would bring hundreds of jobs to North Brevard County. But one of the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board members, Paula Cardwell, said one of the projects was too risky for her to support with taxpayers' money.

In that project, the board voted 8-1 to approve $8 million in incentives for rocket company Blue Origin. The company — being referred to by the code name "Project Panther" — is considering building a 330-employee facility at Exploration Park, near the Kennedy Space Center. Separately, the board voted 9-0 in favor of a $1.735 million grant for Lockheed Martin Corp., which is considering a 300-employee expansion in Titusville.

Lockheed on Tuesday also will ask the Brevard County Commission to consider property tax abatements totaling $397,043 a year over a 10-year period for its project. Both companies say their new jobs would pay an average of $89,000 a year. (5/22)

The House Just Passed a Bill About Space Mining. The Future is Here. (Source: Washington Post)
The United States has already shown its penchant for claiming ownership of space-based things. There are not one, not two, but six U.S. flags on the moon, in case any of you other nations start getting ideas. So it only makes sense that American lawmakers would seek to guarantee property rights for U.S. space corporations.

Under the SPACE Act, which just passed the House, businesses that do asteroid mining will be able to keep whatever they dig up: "Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law."

This is how we know commercial space exploration is serious. The opportunity here is so vast that businesses are demanding federal protections for huge, floating objects they haven't even surveyed yet. But it's actually important that we're talking about this now, because we don't want to wind up in a situation where multiple companies are fighting for the same patch of rock without having a way to resolve it. (5/22)

Space Crayons and Parachuting Dogs—a New View of the Soviet Space Program (Source: Quartz)
Some time last week, Ian Blatchford, director of London’s Science Museum, received a text message about a Russian spacecraft. “Vostok 6 has cleared customs at Dover,” it read. Vostok 6 is no ordinary spacecraft. It is one steeped in history, having carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, into space (and back).

It has faced much harder crossings than British customs officials. But its latest journey is a significant one: It marks the first item to arrive in London for what will be the most complete collection of artefacts showcasing the history of the Soviet space program outside of Russia. Click here. (5/23)

Air Force Master Plan Focuses on Agility, Flexibility (Source: Defense News)
The Air Force has identified 12 long-term goals in its newly released Strategic Master Plan. The plan focuses on agility and flexibility, with some of this focus already becoming evident in its next-generation air dominance development. "There is a universal recognition that the strategic environment is really shifting underneath our feet and we're starting to see some of the boxes we're being hemmed into, with respect of not as much flexibility to shift out of what we've been doing for the last 20 or 30 years," said Maj. Gen. David Allvin. (5/23)

XCOR Receives Funding From Chinese Venture Capital Firm (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Chinese venture capital firm Haiyin Capital just finished dispersing its third fund of $50 million into mostly U.S. tech startups like energy storage startup LightSail Energy, based in the Bay Area, solar tech startup 1366 technologies, located just outside of Boston, private space flight company XCOR Aerospace, in Mojave, Calif., and crowdfunding company AngelList. (5/22)

Aspiring Astronauts Live Under Hawaiian Dome for 7 Months to Simulate Life on Mars (Source: ABC)
Six aspiring astronauts have spent the last seven months living in a geodesic dome on Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to simulate a spaceflight mission to Mars. The stark, rocky slopes of Mauna Loa are about 225 million kilometres away from Mars, but for NASA researchers wanting to find out how humans might survive in a Martian environment, it is the closest thing they have to the red planet. Click here. (5/23)

China Ranked 4th Among World Space Powers (Source: Xinhua)
China's space capabilities are ranked the fourth in the world, and the gap between the leading powers is narrowing, according to a report issued recently by a Chinese research organization. China is at a crucial period developing from a major power to a great power in space, says an evaluation by the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information, affiliated to the China Academy of Space Technology. (5/22)

NASA Begins Modification of Test Stand for SLS at Stennis (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The B-2, a vertical, static-firing stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, originally built to test Saturn rocket stages, is being modified to test the Space Launch System (SLS ) core stage in late 2016 and early 2017, prior to its first unmanned mission flight. The work began on May 13 with the lifting of large structural steel sections onto the stand.

The modification includes repositioning and extension of the B-2’s Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA ) framework, which supports the rocket stage for testing. NASA intend to add the large structural steel sections that will extend its height. (5/22)

Russia Starts Losing Commercial Space Launch Market (Source: Interfax)
Russia has "begun to gradually lose" its commercial space launch market, the chief executive of Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center said after the recent abortive mission of a Proton-M rocket. Andrei Kalinovsky said an interdepartmental commission had been appointed to investigate the Proton-M accident and that it included leading space industry experts and was headed by Federal Space Agency chief Igor Komarov.

"The commercial launch market has changed over the past few years. New players have emerged, for example the American company SpaceX. Few people believed that a commercial project would be able to break into the market and create a competitive product, create a carrier [rocket] that's competitive in terms of price and quality. But this has happened and we have to reckon with it," he said.

"It's true that we have reduced our presence in the commercial launch market in recent years. Proton launches have gone down in frequency. And naturally, this is partially the effect of the quality problem. Other problems are delays with launches and pricing," Kalinovsky said. (5/22)

Exelis Shareholders Approve Acquisition by Harris (Source: Exelis)
Exelis shareholders approved the merger agreement providing for the acquisition of Exelis by Harris Corp. during its special meeting of shareholders held today. More than 97 percent of the shares voted at the special meeting voted in favor of the transaction, representing more than 79 percent of all outstanding shares of Exelis.

Exelis also announced today that on May 21, 2015, Exelis and Harris received notification that the Department of Justice had terminated the waiting period applicable to the merger under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. (5/22)

The US has Space Experts Worried About an Extra-Terrestrial Land Grab (Source: Quartz)
Plans to make money in space are missing one of the fundamental ingredients to any business: property rights. If you go mine an asteroid, as several companies plan to do, and bring some minerals back to earth, can you sell them? If you build a moonbase, as entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is contemplating, and someone else wants to land a rocket there, what’s to stop them? Click here. (5/22)

Space Club Seeks Nominations for Space Worker Hall of Fame (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee is accepting nominations for the 2015 Space Worker Hall of Fame. This award is intended to focus on the entire population of space workers regardless of position, discipline or time of service. We intend to award no more than 15 individuals this year. Click here. (5/22)

May 23, 2015

New Videos Excite Viewers on Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
Check out these videos. First is Pioneering Space, a NASA video focused on exploration. Second is SpaceX's newly released video from cameras placed aboard their Dragon during its recent Pad Abort Test at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Third is a news video focused on XCOR's Lynx development at the Mojave spaceport in California. (5/22)

Disney's 'Tomorrowland' Draws Inspiration from NASA's Past and Future (Source: CollectSpace)
In the new Disney film "Tomorrowland," now in theaters, NASA provides the launch pad — literally and figuratively — for the movie's plot to unfold. The feature film, which drew its initial inspiration from the theme park land by the same name, juxtaposes the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011 with the space age future Walt Disney envisioned when he opened the original Tomorrowland in 1955. (5/22)

Lockheed Seeks To End Contract With Aussie Debtor NewSat (Source: Law360)
Lockheed Martin Corp. urged a Delaware bankruptcy judge Thursday to formally reject its $267 million contract to build a satellite for Chapter 15 petitioner NewSat Ltd., saying the Australian satellite company effectively killed the deal by failing to act on it by the agreed-upon deadline. (5/21)

DOD Selects Lockheed to Perform $735M in Satellite Maintenance Work (Source: Reuters)
The Pentagon has announced the selection of Lockheed Martin to perform maintenance and operations functions on Advanced Extremely High Frequency, Milstar and Defense Satellite Communications System satellites for the U.S. military. The contract is worth $735.5 million and runs through November of this year. (5/22)

Draper To Test Spacesuit Tech on NASA-funded Parabolic Flight (Source: Space News)
Draper Laboratory is getting a fresh $250,000 from NASA to test gravity-imitating spacesuit technology on a commercial parabolic research flight perhaps as soon as this fall. The grant from NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program follows a $500,000 award Draper received from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program in late 2012 for a two-year effort to develop technology that could be integrated into an astronaut’s clothing to better adapt to the disorienting effects of weightlessness. (5/20)

India OKs Budget for Building, Launching 15 PSLV Rockets by 2020 (Source: Space News)
The Indian government’s Union Cabinet on May 21 approved a budget of $484 million to build and launch 15 PSLV rockets between 2017 and 2020, meeting a demand for 4-5 launches per year “with the possibility of clinching commercial launch service contracts,” according to the office of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

The budget of 30.9 billion Indian rupees covers the vehicles’ production, program management and the launch campaigns. The rocket has completed 25 operational missions. In addition to carrying Indian government science, navigation and Earth observation satellites, the vehicle has won commercial business from outside India. (5/23)

Silicon Valley Firms Join Forces on Agricultural Imagery Venture (Source: Space News)
Two Silicon Valley startups are preparing to launch four digital imagery satellites in 2016 as they begin forming the Landmapper-BC (Broad Coverage) and Landmapper-HD (High Definition) constellations to gather multispectral imagery for agricultural applications.

Aquila Space, the firm responsible for building, launching and operating satellites in the Landmapper constellations, plans to send the first two spacecraft into sun-synchronous orbit Feb. 26 on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. Aquila Space obtained the launch contract through JSC Glavkosmos, an affiliate of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, that arranges flight opportunities for secondary payloads.

Aquila Space’s partner, Astro Digital, is focusing on imagery processing, storage, distribution and access. Astro Digital is developing software to “make it dead easy to get imagery, regardless of your expertise,” said Bronwyn Agrios, product head at Astro Digital. Aquila Space and Astro Digital are located at NASA Ames Research Park in Moffett Field, California. (5/22)

NASA Trying To Avoid Human-Rating Temporary Upper Stage (Source: Aviation Week)
Managers overseeing development of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) are awaiting the outcome of congressional appropriations action to learn if they will need to human-rate a temporary upper stage for the first flight of the Orion capsule with a crew inside. If the agency receives go-ahead funding for the planned Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), it will avoid spending about $150 million to human-rate what one NASA adviser called a “kludged” upper stage. (5/22)

May 22, 2015

Smith: America Must Lead in Space (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
I recently hosted Apollo astronaut and fellow Texan Gene Cernan in the U.S. Capitol. Gene is one of only 12 people to have landed on the moon, and he was the last to leave 42 years ago. He is a strong advocate for U.S. space leadership, and he has a message for lawmakers: America needs to continue to lead the world in space.

That’s become increasingly difficult. The Obama administration has consistently tried to cut NASA’s space exploration budgets in order to fund increases for earth science programs. Just this year, the president proposed drastically cutting NASA’s exploration systems by more than $440 million while earth science accounts have increased by 63 percent during the past eight years. (5/20)

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Capsule Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX's Dragon capsule returned to Earth Thursday, wrapping up the company's sixth cargo mission to the International Space Station. The unmanned Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 12:42 p.m. EDT, about 5 1/2 hours after departing the orbiting lab. SpaceX personnel will soon retrieve the capsule — which brought down more than 3,100 lbs. (1,400 kilograms) of science experiments and other gear — by boat. (5/21)

ULA Needs Commercial Orders to Survive (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on Thursday said it would go out of business unless it won commercial and civil satellite launch orders to offset an expected slump in U.S. military and spy launches. ULA President Tory Bruno said the company must attract those kind of orders to remain a "viable economic entity."

ULA is scrambling to restructure and develop a new rocket that in seven or eight years could launch satellites twice as fast at half the current cost. ULA is also under pressure from a federal ban on using Russian RD-180 engines for national security launches. Bruno said the number of U.S. military and intelligence satellite launches would likely drop in coming years to about five launches a year from 10 to 12, with the smaller number to be split among two or more rivals.

Editor's Note: Until Vulcan is ready, Atlas could survive on NASA, NOAA and commercial launches after it is barred from launching DOD missions. (5/21)

Three Soyuz-2 Launch Sites to be Built at Russia's Plesetsk Spaceport by 2019 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Three launch sites for the Soyuz-2 carrier rockets will be built at the military cosmodrome Plesetsk in north-western Russia by 2019, Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman for the Aerospace Defense Forces Colonel Alexey Zolotukhin said on Thursday. The spaceport currently has only one launch site (launch Unit No 4) for the Soyuz-2 rocket. (5/21)

NASA Solicits Partnerships for 'Tipping Point' and Emerging Space Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA announced Thursday two opportunities for public-private partnerships to achieve the agency’s goals of expanding capabilities and opportunities in space. Through both solicitations, NASA is seeking industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. Click here. (5/21)

NASA Invites Universities to Submit Innovative Early-Stage Technology Proposals (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals from universities for early stage technology development that will support the agency's long-term plans for human exploration of Mars and scientific study of our solar system and beyond. The Early Stage Innovations NASA Research Announcement calls for innovative space technology proposals that could benefit NASA's space program, other government agencies and the greater aerospace community. Click here. (5/21)

DigitalGlobe Sees No Competitive Threat from Earth Imagery Startups (Source: Space News)
Satellite geospatial services provider DigitalGlobe Inc. on May 19 dismissed the threat potential of the numerous startup Earth imagery providers, saying those that survive the inevitable shakeout could become DigitalGlobe imagery partners, much as competitor Airbus Defence and Space of Europe is today. (5/21)

Search for Life Should Propel Mission to Mars (Source: Space News)
I read with great interest both Rick Tumlinson’s and Robert Zubrin’s op-eds about the cost and reasons for exploring Mars. One calls for another John F. Kennedy moment in which the US would mount a very large exploration program. The other argues that we must set up a permanent base there so as not to disappoint future generations. Each says we have to send humans to Mars because — well, because this sort of thing is in our nature.

We believe there will almost certainly never be another Kennedy moment. The world has changed. There is no Cold War. NASA’s budget is a line item in the federal budget, competing with every other program our government supports.

We want to explore Mars to look for signs of life. Everyone, Mr. Tumlinson and Dr. Zubrin included, would agree that if we were to discover evidence of ancient life on Mars, let alone if we were to discover something still alive there, it would change the course of human history. (5/21)

ULA Execs Say RD-180 Ban Blocks Path to Vulcan (Source: Space News)
The willingness of United Launch Alliance’s parent companies to fund a next-generation rocket hinges on winning relief from the ban on the Russian-made engine that powers its current government workhorse, the Atlas 5, ULA executives say.

In separate appearances, ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno  (above left) and Chairman Craig Cooning tied investment in ULA’s planned Vulcan rocket to the congressionally imposed ban on the future use of Russian-made engines to launch military payloads. The Atlas 5 is used today to launch most U.S. military payloads and virtually all of the nation’s scientific satellites. (5/21)

May 21, 2015

House Version of NASA Budget Would "Guarantee" Continued Reliance on Russia (Source: USA Today)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says the House Appropriations Committee's budget for the space agency "would guarantee we will continue to send millions of dollars a year to Moscow instead of investing that money in the United States, creating jobs and once again launching Americans from U.S. soil." His blog comments came following the panel's decision to cut planned expenditures for Earth science research and the Commercial Crew program. (5/20)

NASA Enlists Satellites To Watch for Harmful Algal Blooms (Source: Space News)
In August 2014, officials in Toledo warned 400,000 residents not to drink, cook with or bathe in the city’s tap water for three days due to an algal bloom in Lake Erie that tainted water flowing into the city treatment plant. The algal bloom, caused by excessive levels of nutrients in Lake Erie’s warm shallow water, produced green slime on the water’s surface and a type of cyanobacteria dangerous to people and animals.

To identify other harmful algal blooms in freshwater ecosystems in the continental United States, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey are beginning a five-year $3.6 million research campaign that relies on space-based sensors originally designed to detect variations in ocean color. (5/20)

520 Days Locked in a Room to See If We Could Live on Mars (Source: Motherboard)
As it turns out, one needn’t travel to the endless darkness of Antarctica in order to carry out a space analog study on isolation. In fact, the longest running isolation study took place in a warehouse in the middle of the 8th largest city in the world. For 520 days, six test subjects from Russia, France, Italy, and China were locked in a module in Moscow to test the effects of isolation on small group dynamics and individual psychology. Click here. (5/19)

Space Tourism Campaign to Feature 'Dirty Jobs' Host Mike Rowe (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Space Florida and Paradise Advertising, Digital & Entertainment plan to unveil a national multimedia campaign this week to promote Florida as the rocket launch capital of the world. The campaign features the voice of Mike Rowe, host of CNN's Somebody's Gotta Do It and Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs. The aim: To raise awareness that America's space program is alive and strong, and that Florida is the premier destination to experience rocket launches. Click here. (5/21)

Alleged Airplane Hacker Also "Messed Around with the Space Station" (Source: Popular Science)
Last month, security researcher Chris Roberts was removed from a United Airlines flight, after the airline claimed he had endangered his fellow passengers by tweeting a message about potential security vulnerabilities aboard the aircraft. In 2012, Ars Technica reports, Roberts claimed to have hacked into the International Space Station, according to a recently discovered video.

He explained at a November 2012 hacker convention how he had managed to change the temperature of the International Space Station several years prior using the same controls that NASA uses to manage the ship’s temperature. Roberts then claimed to have been “yelled at” by the space agency. (5/19)

Senate Committee Approves Space Bill As House Prepares To Vote On Its Own (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee swiftly approved a commercial launch bill May 20 as the House prepared to vote on a more expansive, and also more controversial, version of the bill later this week. The Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, during a brief markup session May 20.

The rapid approval of the Senate’s bill stands in contrast to the lengthy debate by the House Science Committee on four commercial space bills May 13, including the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act. The SPACE Act, like the Senate bill, extends the learning period and launch indemnification, but through 2025 rather than 2020.

It also allows companies to hold a permit and license at the same time and, like the Senate bill, defines the term “government astronaut” for NASA and other agencies’ astronauts, who would be treated differently on commercial spacecraft than private individuals. Click here. (5/20)

Administration, Others Have Issues with Space Resources Language (Source: Space News)
While supporting commercial space resource exploitation and utilization in general, the OMB notes, “the Administration is concerned about the ability of U.S. companies to move forward with these initiatives absent additional authority to ensure continuing supervision of these initiatives by the U.S. Government as required by the Outer Space Treaty.”

Some commercial space advocates have also raised questions about the space resources section of the bill. They said the bill could allow companies to make “expansive territorial claims” on asteroids far greater than what other nations would consider acceptable. At the same time, they considered the bill too restrictive since it is limited to resources obtained from asteroids.

“Centuries of common law could be based on this space property rights bill, yet this bill hasn’t even had a hearing,” Berin Szoka said. "Space property rights are too important to rush.” (5/20)

Congress Can Help the Launch Industry if We’re All Willing To Work Together (Source: Space News)
Unfortunately, I and other Democratic members have had to oppose H.R. 2262. The issues being dealt with in this bill are not straightforward. They are complex and require thoughtful consideration. With so much interest in the commercial space industry from the private sector, the federal government and interested stakeholders abroad, it seems only reasonable that we take the proper steps to understand the ramifications of policy decisions before solidifying them into law.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), is not the bill I would have written. It is not the bill that the House majority wrote. But it is a bill that advances the legitimate interests of the commercial space launch industry while ensuring that the rights and safety of both the public on the ground and the future passengers of these spacecraft will be protected. It is a bill that I and other Democratic members can support. Click here. (5/20)

Dragon Capsule Departs ISS to Return Experiments, Cargo to Earth (Source: NASA)
The Dragon arrived to the space station April 17 after an April 14 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport carrying over 4,300 pounds of supplies and elements to support about 40 of more than 250 scientific investigations the crew members of Expeditions 43 and 44 will conduct.

Release of the spacecraft by the station’s robotic arm Thursday morning allows the Dragon’s return to Earth carrying more than 3,100 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities sponsored by NASA and CASIS. (5/21)

Japan to Improve Cargo Spacecraft (Source: Japan News)
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry unveiled plans to develop an improved version of the Kounotori unmanned cargo transporter that delivers supplies to the International Space Station. The ministry said manufacturing and maintenance costs will be halved from about ¥20 billion by reducing the spacecraft’s current weight of 10.5 tons by about 30 percent while maintaining its transport capacity of six tons. The development period is still undecided. (5/20)

ViaSat Sees Falcon Heavy as Pacing Item in Growth Plans (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and service provider ViaSat Inc. on May 19 said it is facing capacity limits on more than half the beams on its ViaSat-1 satellite and that the situation will worsen until ViaSat-2 is in orbit. ViaSat-2’s launch, aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket built by SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is scheduled to occur no later than September 2016.

A SpaceX spokesman said May 21 that the company still expects to conduct the vehicle’s inaugural flight by the end of this year. ViaSat expects to be the third or fourth customer for the Falcon Heavy. ViaSat’s contract with SpaceX gives ViaSat a seat at SpaceX Falcon Heavy design reviews as the vehicle completes its flight certification milestones. (5/20)

Boeing Doesn't See Business Case Yet for RD-180 Replacement (Source: Flight Global)
Boeing’s president of network and space systems says he’s yet to see the business case for developing an alternative rocket engine to the Russian-built RD-180 that powers the Atlas V rocket, even as lawmakers press the US military to develop an American-made alternative by 2019. "If that [RD-180] supply is cut off, it’s going to be very difficult for a business case to be made.”

Cooning says the government wants to maintain two rockets for assured access to space, but that’s complicated by the planned phase-out of the Delta IV and a legislative block on the continued supply of RD-180s for the Atlas V. Cooning says the air force could lean more heavily on the Delta Heavy for space launches, even though that launch vehicle is more expensive than the Atlas. “We could do all the mission for national security space on the Delta, and you’d end up using more Delta Heavies than you historically would if you had a mix of Atlas and Delta,” he says. (5/20)

North Korea in Space: The Prestigious Frontier (Source: NK News)
North Korean media has increased coverage of its controversial space program, with a recent announcement of a newly built satellite control center signalling its intentions to continue launches in the face of UN sanctions. The DPRK is not prohibited from putting satellites in orbit, though launching rockets capable of doing so also provides data for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) programs.

Despite the political backlash however, North Korea looks set to continue pursuing its space program and the prestige it associates with the ability to build and launch its own satellites into orbit. There certainly appears to be no technical hurdle preventing another North Korean satellite launch. “I don’t see any obstacle. It’s probably a matter of resources and timelines. They are stating very clearly that they are going to launch more satellites,” said Uzi Rubin. (5/21)

May 20, 2015

ULA Launches Military Spaceplane from Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With dire weather predictions as well as terror threats looming over Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), the United States Air Force and United Launch Alliance unleashed the 501 version of the venerable Atlas V booster at 11:05 a.m. EDT – the very opening of a four-hour long launch window. The payload for the launch vehicle was the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B space plane. (5/20)

Artists Need Your Help Improving Space Food (Source: Brooklyn Paper)
Brooklyn artists will take on the challenge of developing foods for a human mission to Mars. A pair of artists is setting up "The Menu for Mars Test Kitchen" at a Brooklyn gallery later this month, allowing visitors to concoct recipes that will later be sent to NASA for their evaluation. The ingredients will be limited to "powdered, freeze-dried, or heat-treated" items, they say: "it’s not really a farm-to-table thing." (5/20)

ExoMars Team Press on as Inquest Begins Into Proton Crash (Source: SEN)
Russia’s latest rocket failure will have caused some anxiety among European Space Agency (ESA) scientists because a similar vehicle is due to launch its first ExoMars probes to the Red Planet in January next year. The Proton fleet is effectively grounded for the moment. But ExoMars must launch between Jan. 7 and 27, 2016, to reach Mars, as it and the Earth draw closer together on the same side of the Sun. (5/19)

Spaceport America Attracts Satellite Communications Company (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Spaceport America has tenatively signed a new tenant in the field of satellite ground communications — a win for one of its targeted business segments. California-based X2nSat, a provider of turnkey satellite systems, has reached an agreement to lease land at Spaceport for a satellite ground station development. The long-term lease agreement is expected to be finalized this summer, with groundbreaking slated for later this year.

X2nSat provides wireless network communications via satellite to a range of industries including healthcare and environmental monitoring. In a joint statement, X2nSat Chief Executive Garrett Hill said Spaceport “has everything we need” to build infrastructure for the next generation of satellite communications, including “stable and dry weather, a southern latitude, 24/7 security, plentiful real estate, minimal electromagnetic interference and extremely low horizons in all directions.” (5/19)

India Aims for Venus Probe in 2-3 Years (Source: Asian Age)
Venus beckons India’s space scientists after their successful outing to Mars, and if everything goes according to plan, a home-grown probe should be cruising towards the brightest and hottest planet in the solar system in about two-and-a-half years, in yet another shot at understanding the evolution of the world. This mission to Venus could have a French connection as Prof. Jacques Blamont has offered to help the Indian Space Research Organization with gigantic balloons carrying several instruments but designed to pop in and out of the extremely hot atmosphere of the planet after being unfettered from the orbiter. (5/20)

Russia Discloses $182-Million in Corruption in Space Industry Company (Source: Space Daily)
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, one of Russia's leading companies in the space industry, has been exposed by the country's investigators of mismanaging and embezzling around $182 million in 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday.

"An investigative group from the Russian Investigative Committee has launched eight criminal cases, where facts of embezzlement and abuse of office were exposed that led to economic damage to the company at an amount exceeding 9 billion rubles," Rogozin said. The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center produces spacecraft and space-launch systems, including the Proton and Angara rockets. (5/20)

Rogozin Attacks Russian Space Industry with Reform Bill (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's deputy prime minister lambasted the country's beleaguered space industry as inefficient and corrupt, as he presented proposed reform measures to parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the industry was plagued by "morally decayed" officials and underpaid personnel. He reserved the most biting criticism for the Khrunichev space center, which produces the Proton rockets.

Khrunichev employs 13 times the people working at Orbital Sciences, a US firm which launches supply missions to the International Space Station, Rogozin said, while in general the US space industry is "nine times more efficient" than the Russian one.

The hawkish deputy prime minister presented bills that the government believes will begin to fix the problems. The Duma lower house swiftly passed the reform package in its initial reading, which would amend a total of 23 different laws. The bill would need to go through two more readings before it could be approved by the upper chamber and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (5/20)

Has Russia Lost its Way in Space? (Source: Moscow Times)
The long-brewing crisis in Russia's space industry is getting worse. After numerous investigations and industry reform initiatives following a 2010 crash, rockets that had performed for decades without incident are still exploding and failing at alarming rates.

On Saturday, a Progress spaceship docked to the International Space Station failed to ignite its engines to boost the orbit of the outpost. A few hours later, a commercial launch Proton rocket experienced a catastrophic failure for the seventh time in five years. So many problems in such a short period of time have cast doubts on the ability of the nation that pioneered space exploration to continue its march forward. "You can compare it to the fall of the Roman Empire," said space industry analyst Pavel Luzin. "The Russian space industry is collapsing." (5/19) 

Boeing's CST-100 Escape System Undergoes Tests (Source: Space.com)
Boeing has begun testing the astronaut-safety system for its CST-100 spacecraft, which can hold up to seven passengers or a mix of passengers and cargo. Boeing is developing the CST-100 capsule to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, under a $4.2 billion contract with the space agency.

The crew-carrying vehicle features a "pusher abort system" designed to get the CST-100 out of harm's way in the event of a problem during launch. Boeing has been testing out components of this system at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. (5/18)

The Moon or Mars: Flawed Debate, False Choice (Source: Space Daily)
The Moon or Mars debate continues despite every single report or recommendation from NASA, NRC or other independent study that point to the Moon as the next logical destination for human space exploration and settlement. Once we hone the technologies to live there, "this time to say" as the Bush administration of yore put it, we would have all the tools to live on Mars.

We would be able to return resources from the asteroids, homestead on Ceres or even the much prettier outer gems in our solar system like the satellites of Jupiter or Saturn, where the vistas are far more spectacular and seasonal changes more dynamic than anything that Mars or Venus can offer.

Current technology allows us to ply rocketships in cislunar space every day while there are only very limited windows of opportunity to depart Earth to go to Mars. Rocketships to the Moon are much smaller, ten to hundred times smaller, depending on what and how many crew you wish to carry, especially propellant, food and potable water. And mission control can keep check almost instantaneously round the clock. We can even mount rescue or emergency missions in short order, should the need arise. Cick here. (5/20)

Senate Committee Approves Commercial Space Bill (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee swiftly approved a commercial launch bill May 20 as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a more expansive, and also more controversial, version of the bill later this week. The Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, during a brief markup session May 20. (5/20)

House Budget Cuts NASA Earth Science By More Than $250 Million (Source: Space News)
A NASA spending bill that the House Appropriations Committee will consider May 20 cuts the agency’s Earth science program by more than $250 million and provides no funding for a gapfiller satellite included in the administration’s request. The bill provides Earth science with $1.683 billion for 2016, a reduction of $264 million from the administration’s request in February.

Planetary science, in contrast, receives an increase of $195 million over the administration’s request, to $1.557 billion. That includes $140 million for a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, $110 million more than requested. The Mars Rover 2020 mission receives $32 million more than requested, to $250 million. (5/19)

House Appropriations Bill Hits Military Space Procurement (Source: Space News)
A House defense spending panel has recommended $649 million less than the Pentagon requested next year for a space procurement account that includes eight major programs. The Air Force requested $2.58 billion for the account, for critical missile warning, communications, weather and navigation satellites, as well as for rockets and other activities. In a draft spending bill released May 19, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee recommended $1.935 billion for that budget line. (5/19)

House Would Add Nearly $1 Billion For Space Launch System (Source: Aviation Week)
The House Appropriations Committee is drafting a 2016 NASA spending bill that would add nearly $1 billion for the SLS heavy launch vehicle, while again cutting funding for the space agency’s plan to launch its commercial crew program in 2017. The administration requested $1.2 billion to cover fixed-price contract payouts for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon space capsules in fiscal 2016. Editor's Note: Cutting Commercial Crew when Russian space access is threatened seems like a bad idea. (5/19)

NASA SLS Welding Snafu Sets Back Schedule (Source: Aviation Week)
As NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System enters 10 weeks of critical design review, the program manager’s main technical concern lies with correcting an alignment problem with the massive friction-stir-welding tool built to manufacture tanks for the vehicle, and not with the design itself. Two of the four 200-ft.-tall steel plates designed to position and support the launch vehicle’s large aluminum tank sections as they are friction-stir-welded together are out of alignment. (5/20)

X-37B Headed Back to Orbit on a (Mostly) Secret Mission (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s secret X-37B spaceplane will embark on its fourth mission May 20 when it launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force does not discuss the X-37B missions, which can last well over a year, beyond acknowledging the program and releasing photographs of the two orbital vehicles.

The launch will carry a secondary payload package of 10 cubesats, nine of which are sponsored by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which manages the nation’s spy satellites, the other by NASA. NASA’s cubesat will demonstrate an on-orbit deployment mechanism for a solar sail. (5/19)

NASA Pluto Probe May Carry Crowdsourced Message to Aliens (Source: Space.com)
A NASA Pluto probe may end up with one final mission after its work exploring the outer solar system is done — carrying a message to advanced alien civilizations. NASA is considering allowing a team of researchers, teachers, artists and engineers to upload an interstellar message to the agency's New Horizons spacecraft, which will perform the first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14. (5/19)

Russia Missile Warning System is On Schedule (Source: Sputnik)
Work on the creation of Russia's unitary space system of early warning missile strikes is currently on schedule, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia's space industry, said Tuesday. "We have got no questions on the state defense order. The schedule prescribes work in progress on the creation of a unitary space system that provides a full space tier system of missile approach warning. We are meeting the schedule," Rogozin said. (5/19)

Rogozin: Proton-M Crash Caused by Old Deficiency in Engine Design (Source: Itar-Tass)
An old deficiency in the construction of the engines was the cause for Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket on May 16, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday. According to him, the recent crash "is miraculously similar" to the crashes in 1988 and 2014, when the state commission also failed to establish the exact causes for malfunctions. (5/19)

Russia's New Space Corporation to Deal with Both Military and Civil Projects (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Roscosmos state corporation will deal with both civil and military projects, Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said. He noted that the state-owned Makeyev Rocket Center, which manufactures liquid-fuel ballistic missiles, has already become part of the United Rocket and Space Corporation on whose basis Roscosmos is being formed. The Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology working on solid-fuel rockets will be integrated into the general structure at the end of 2016. (5/19)

Putin Orders Designing Russian Space Station (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered designing a Russian space station, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. The head of the science and engineering council of Russia’s Roscosmos agency, Yuri Koptev, in April confirmed Russia's plans of orbiting a new space station saying it may happen in the middle of the next decade. (5/19)

Lockheed Considers 300-Employee Expansion in Titusville (Source: Florida Today)
Lockheed Martin is looking to make an $80 million investment in expanded facilities in Titusville -- formerly used by Astrotech for payload processing -- and could add up to 300 high-paying jobs. The company, however, also has been considering other locations for the expansion, including Georgia.

Lockheed Martin is seeking incentives from Brevard County and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone totaling more than $5.7 million to help pay for its proposed Titusville project. Although the company said it hopes to create up to 300 jobs paying an average of $89,000 a year, its commitment for the property tax incentives is tied to creating 50 jobs by the end of 2017, including 31 in aerospace project and parts manufacturing and 19 in engineering services.

Documents filed with the county did not specify exactly what Lockheed would manufacture at the Chaffee Drive site. This is the third major corporate expansion proposed in Titusville tied to incentives from the North Brevard Economic Development Zone. Two others include "Project Panther" [Blue Origin] seeking $8 million for a 330 employee facility at Exploration Park, and "Project Eagle" seeking $2.5 million for a manufacturing facility in Titusville. (5/19)

May 19, 2015

Space is a Win for All (Source: The Hill)
There is an industry capturing the imagination of the public and gaining recognition for creating accessible and reliable spaceflight capabilities. Yes, you read that correctly – commercial companies are developing platforms to take science, technology, and humans to space, and are using innovative technologies to make this service affordable and reliable.

Last week, we saw the markup of several commercial space bills in the House, and are expecting the Senate to follow suit this week. Unlike many dividing issues often in the spotlight, the U.S.’s commercial space competiveness has historically been a bi-partisan effort, with both sides of the aisle recognizing the importance of continued development of the sector. Click here. (5/18)

New Technique to Search for Chemical Evidence of Life on Mars (Source: America Space)
Despite decades of searching, definitive evidence for life on Mars, past or present, has still remained elusive and controversial. Confirmation of such a finding would need to be thoroughly tested and documented, and now researchers at the University of Kansas have developed a new technique that they hope would help to do just that, should that evidence be found by future rovers or landers.

The new technique is designed to improve the way scientists detect condensed aromatic carbon, which is thought to be a chemical signature of life. According to Craig Marshall, Alison Olcott Marshall’s husband and associate professor of geology at KU, “If we’re going to identify life on Mars, it will likely be the fossil remnants of the chemicals once synthesized by life, and we hope our research helps strengthen the ability to evaluate the evidence collected on Mars.” (5/19)

Mexico Plots Way Forward After Loss of Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The Mexican government says it will collect a $390 million insurance payout after losing an advanced communications satellite Saturday aboard a failed launch of a Russian Proton rocket. A similar craft set for liftoff in October will fill the communications gap caused by the launch failure, relieving pressure to immediately order a replacement, said Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s minister of communications and transportation. (5/18)

Russia Recruits 1,000 Student Laborers to Finish Corruption-Ridden Spaceport (Source: Moscow Times)
A group of Russian students on Monday began an unconventional summer vacation laboring to help finish a much-delayed and corruption-riddled cosmodrome construction project in Russia's Far East. The opening ceremony for the student's summer of construction work took place Monday, the Amur regional government said in a statement.

More than 1,000 students will join the construction effort, adding to the more than 8,000 builders already on site, the statement said. About 130 students have already joined the builders, it said. Deputy Construction Minister Leonid Stavitsky said in early April that the students would be paid for their work but did not specify how much, news agency Interfax reported. (5/18)

NASA Scientist: Space Mining Decades Away (Source: My Kawartha)
Prospecting on the moon or on asteroids is probably a couple of decades away, a NASA scientist told a symposium on planetary and terrestrial mining Tuesday. The event, part of the Canadian Institute of Mining's annual convention, heard that issues like ownership and management of resources in outer space still have to be worked out. One of the main problems is that no country owns anything in space. (5/12)

NewSpace Initiative Connects ASU with Space Industry (Source: ASU)
The next big thing in space research is small. Small, agile companies and small, inexpensive devices are changing how we explore the universe. Arizona State University researchers are working with both. Most people have probably heard of such companies as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. The term “NewSpace” is often used to describe them. But what does that word mean?

“It’s commercial entities that are building, designing, operating, thinking about space-related projects and applications, but it’s not always the usual players – the Boeings and the Lockheeds,” said Jim Bell, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and director of the NewSpace Initiative. “It’s usually smaller, more nimble, more entrepreneurial kinds of companies.”

The field is growing rapidly. ASU’s NewSpace Initiative is tracking nearly 900 companies that have entered the industry, up from around 500 just a year ago. These include everything from small start-ups working on technology projects out of someone’s garage to companies with thousands of employees designing and building new rockets. (5/18)

Leave Space Travel (and Surgery) to Robots, Says Expert (Source: The Times)
There is no longer any “practical case” for sending humans into space and the future of interplanetary exploration belongs to swarms of robots, according to the astronomer royal. Within decades machines will also take over most jobs, including the work of middle-class professions such as surgery and the law, leaving the majority of people doing “social” tasks such as gardening and nursing, Lord Rees of Ludlow told The Times. (5/19)

No Financial Help Coming from Aerojet Rocketdyne for Virginia Pad Repair (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It appears that Aerojet Rocketdyne, the manufacturer of the AJ26 rocket engine, will not be providing financial assistance for repairs to Pad 0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility's Mid-Atlantic Spaceport's (MARS). These repairs become necessary after an Orbital ATK Antares exploded approximately twelve seconds into flight in 2014. “The quick answer is that, no, Aerojet Rocketdyne won’t be contributing to the expenses,” said Jennifer Bowman, a spokesperson for Orbital ATK.

The AJ26 was constructed 40 years ago by the Kuznetsov Design Bureau for use on the N-1 Moon rocket. It has encountered at least two failures at NASA’s Stennis Space Center during tests. The fact that these engines were built during the earliest days of the Space Age has been called into question by many experts within the industry. (5/19)

Interview: Gwynne Shotwell (Source: Defense News)
Do you think the relationship between SpaceX and the Air Force was damaged by the decision to sue over ULA's block buy of launches?

A. There's no question that a lawsuit is a tough way to initiate a relationship, right? It hinders relationship-building [because] by definition they can't talk to us, we can't talk to them without lawyers in the room. So it was a difficult time while we were litigating. But frankly I think both sides learned a lot from that process — about what was important to us, we learned what was important to the Air Force — so in a really kind of unfortunate way, it forced a common understanding. I think in the end it was very helpful. Click here. (5/18)

A Space Habitat Created in North Las Vegas (Source: Las Vegas Sun)
Houston may be home to the U.S. space program, but out-of-this-world innovations also are being created right here in Southern Nevada. NASA officials recently visited Bigelow Aerospace’s sprawling 50-acre campus in North Las Vegas to view the completed Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a $17.8 million space habitat billionaire Robert Bigelow and his team invented for the federal government. Click here. (5/18)

E-mail Triggers Row Over Hawaii Telescope (Source: Physics World)
The delay in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, is continuing to cause turmoil within the astronomy community. First, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Regents announced in April that it had withdrawn its support for the telescope. Then, last month, an e-mail forwarded to some 200 astronomy faculty, researchers and students sparked outrage when it claimed that the telescope was being "attacked by a horde of native Hawaiians".

On 6 May, Megan Urry, president of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), released a statement in which she underlined the diversity in the astronomical community. "I tell all of you, very clearly," she wrote, "that racism is unacceptable, that referring to groups as monolithic is not acceptable, and that the AAS is firmly committed to an inclusive, welcoming, professional environment." (5/18)

Boulders Balance on Tiny Tips as Comet 67P Zooms Through Space (Source: Science News)
Balanced Rock in Arches National Park in Utah has cousins on comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three boulders — the largest of which is roughly 30 meters across — are barely in contact with the comet’s surface, researchers report May 18 on the Rosetta blog. The resolute rocks showed up in images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft, which has been orbiting comet 67P since August.

Balancing boulders on Earth are either deposited by glaciers or carved by wind and water erosion — none of which exist on a comet. Researchers speculate that the comet’s boulders might have been relocated by surface material slipping and sliding after being heated by the sun. (5/18)

Bolden Criticizes Aspects Of House NASA Funding Bill (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said May 18 that while he was happy with the overall funding the House is offering the agency in a draft appropriations bill, some elements of it are giving him a case of heartburn. “I’m happy because the top line that we saw with the House appropriations bill is $18.5 billion,” Bolden said. “What causes us some consternation is when you get down inside the budget. That’s where we have a lot of work to do.”

That bill provides $18.529 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, the same amount requested by the Obama Administration in its budget proposal released in February. However, appropriators shifted funding among NASA’s various programs, adding money to the Space Launch System and planetary science and cutting space technology and commercial crew. (5/18)

Hang Gliders on Mars (Source: Space.com)
An innovative concept for tiny probes attached to gliders could one day allow small robots to explore intricate locales on Mars that probes never could reach before, scientists say. The project, called MARSDROP, would send two landers to the Red Planet as hitchhikers aboard a larger spacecraft. The landers would then detach and use a steerable parawing to glide the miniature probes (called "microprobes") down to the surface of Mars. (5/18)

Asteroid Impacts Once Made the Earth's Oceans Boil for A Whole Year (Source: Smithsonian)
Earth’s first 600 million years are called the Hadean eon, a name that offers a big clue as to why the planet’s baby years were not cute. Early Earth was violent, hence the nod to Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. The planet’s surface was still roiling with volcanism and asteroids repeatedly slammed its face. It wasn’t a great place for life, especially when several giant impacts apparently boiled the Earth’s oceans for more than a year. (5/18)

May 18, 2015

Moon Express Lands Payload Deal (Source: Moon Express)
Moon Express announced a multi-mission payload agreement with the National Laboratories of Frascati and the University of Maryland to deliver a new generation of lunar laser ranging arrays to the Moon. Under the agreement, "MoonLIGHT" instruments will be carried on the first four Moon Express missions and used in conjunction with Apollo Cube Corner Retroreflector arrays to test principles of the General Relativity theory, add to scientific knowledge of the Moon, and increase lunar mapping precision that will support the company's future lander missions. (5/17)

New Florida Drone Privacy Law Could Trigger Litigation Wave (Source: Law360)
A drone privacy bill signed into law Thursday by Florida Gov. Rick Scott that bans drone surveillance of private people without their consent could create a wave of litigation for insurance and construction companies that use drones for aerial surveying and trigger First Amendment challenges from news organizations. (5/18)

Riddle of Comet Dust Delivered Back to Earth (Source: SEN)
While the Rosetta space probe studies one comet—67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—like never before, other scientists around the world have been busy examining fragments from another of these ancient relics of the Solar System. They are the teams working in laboratories that were provided with samples from a NASA spacecraft called Stardust which flew through the coma, or dusty atmosphere, of Comet Wild-2 in January 2004.

One team of researchers says it has been presented with something of a riddle. Wild-2 is known to have spent most of its existence in the depths of the Solar System, beyond Neptune, yet it contains material that we know is commonly found in the inner Solar System. (5/18)

Medvedev: Accident Hurts Russia's Reputation (Source: Sputnik)
The Proton-M failure harms the reputation of Russia, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. "The [investigation into the failure] should be brought to the end, [we should] understand both the Soviet and post-Soviet causes [of the Proton accident] because the accident hurts the reputation of our program," Medvedev said during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia’s space industry.

Medvedev said that there were obvious financial implications due to the failed launch on Saturday of the Proton-M carrier rocket that was to orbit Mexico’s MexSat-1 communications satellite. Following the incident, the Russian prime minister ordered to set up a special commission to investigate the causes behind this failure. (5/18)

Roscosmos to Send Additional Resupply Ship to ISS in 2015 (Source: Interfax-AVN)
Roscosmos has adjusted its plans of transportation support to the International Space Station (ISS) following the loss of the Progress M-27M resupply ship launched on April 28, a source in the space industry said. "It has been decided to send three resupply ships to the ISS instead of two before the end of this year, in July, September and November," the source said. (5/18)

NASA Still Living with Nixon Space Policy (Source: Florida Today)
In name and appearance, no place embodies the presidential vision that landed men on the moon more than Kennedy Space Center, whose towering launch pads and processing facilities got those historic missions off the ground. But for decades now, it is really Richard Nixon's vision for space – or lack thereof – that has defined NASA and KSC.

After the successful Apollo 11 moon landing, it was up to the Nixon administration to decide what the nation's space program should do next, space policy expert and historian John Logsdon said during a presentation to a group of KSC employees. "One might have thought that the impact of Apollo 11 would carry over into a positive attitude towards post-Apollo – certainly NASA thought so," said Logsdon. "Didn't turn out that way." (5/18)

Impatience for Mars (Source: Space Review)
NASA says it has a plan for human missions to Mars in the 2030s. Jeff Foust reports that some, though, are pressing NASA for more details about those plans and coming up with alternative concepts that they believe could accelerate those crewed missions to the Red Planet. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2755/1 to view the article. (5/18)

Two Small Steps for Humankind (Source: Space Review)
Getting humans to live beyond Earth in a sustainable manner is a long-term effort with many steps involved. Derek Webber proposes that NASA focus on two initial steps, supporting key technologies that can enable eventual human space settlement. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2754/1 to view the article. (5/18)

Launch Vehicle Development: Learning from Brazil's Experience (Source: Space Review)
Brazil is considering terminating its agreement with Ukraine to launch Cyclone 4 rockets from its spaceport, dealing another setback to that country's space access plans. Ajey Lele suggests that Brazil partner with other nations, including India, to jointly develop launchers. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2753/1 to view the article. (5/18)

Stallmer: Commercial Space Crawling Now, Soon Will Walk, Run (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
We're going to continue to see great success from some of the orbital companies out there such as SpaceX. I think they'll continue launching at a historic rate. As well, the suborbital companies, I think, are going to come on line probably in the fourth quarter of this year with more testing. Within 12 months from now I think we're going to see the first steps of commercial human space flight.

It is going to be a tremendously robust industry. It is going to account for probably 10 times the amount of jobs as today, with exponential revenue. I think there is going to be routine access to space within 10 years from now. I think you'll see some transition with the space station, from a government institution to kind of quasi-public and private partnerships. Click here. (5/17)

Commercial Fishermen Fight to Fish Near KSC (Source: Florida Today)
George Sweetman must follow the crabs. This year, they lure him to the shallows surrounding NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where the beginnings of a blue crab revival crawl inside his steel traps. But the feds say he and others who fish commercially must go because they clash with the government's conservation mission.

In 2018, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore plan to phase out commercial fishing, and it's uncertain where those who sell their catches will be allowed to fish on the federal property. Sweetman and his fellow crabbers say the feds are unfairly stripping their right to eke out a living here, where the space race left behind a vast buffer of unspoiled nature and some of the best crabbing around.

Many see the phase-out as the final blow to a once-proud and prosperous commercial fishing culture in the Oak Hill area. And without access to one of the last havens where crabs and oysters can hang on when the rest of the lagoon fouls, many fear their livelihoods will die, too. Commercial fishing has been allowed since the refuge was established in 1963 and the seashore in 1975. (5/17)

Space Coast Group Gets Grant for Advanced Turbine Manufacturing (Source: Energy Florida)
Energy Florida is pleased to announce that it has been chosen to receive a $499,956 Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortium (AMTech) planning grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to fund the development of the Consortium for Advanced Production and Engineering of Gas Turbines and Rotating Machinery (CAPE). (5/11)

NASA Awards Grant to Manage “Swarmathon” Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected the University of New Mexico (UNM) for a cooperative agreement to manage the agency’s Swarmathon challenge, an innovative swarm robotics competition. The university was selected from among a nationwide pool of 14 proposals after a rigorous peer review by education and technical experts.

The university will receive an award totaling almost $1.8 million over a period of three years, based on the availability of funds and satisfactory performance. The goal of the Swarmathon is to foster the development of integrated hardware and software to support the work done by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. The challenge will be held annually between 2016 and 2018. Editor's Note: Secor Strategies, a Space Coast firm, supported UNM's effort and will assist in execution of the program. (5/13)

SpaceX has ‘Aggressive’ Schedule Leading Up to Crew Flights (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Staying true to a corporate philosophy that favors high-visibility flight tests, SpaceX plans to continue wringing out major parts of the company’s human-rated Dragon spaceship in a sequence of dramatic flights leading up to the capsule’s first crewed mission scheduled for 2017. Click here. (5/18)

Inmarsat Launch on Proton Delayed, Shares Fall (Source: Reuters)
British satellite company Inmarsat Plc (ISA.L) delayed the launch of its third Global Xpress satellite on Monday following a failure by its launch rocket partner at the weekend, knocking its shares and forcing it to trim its outlook. The news sent shares in the group, which counts merchant ships, airlines, the broadcast media and humanitarian aid agencies amongst its customers, down 5 percent at the open of trading. (5/18)

Russia Lifts Station Altitude with Successful Engine Restart (Source: Guardian)
Russia’s space agency said Monday it had managed to restart the engines of the Progress spacecraft and correct the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) which it is attached to, after a failed first attempt. “On Sunday night, the orbit of the ISS was successfully corrected,” Roscosmos told Russian news agencies, 48 hours after the initial attempt to switch on the spacecraft’s engines proved unsuccessful.

ISS is now at the right altitude for its three crew members to return to Earth in early June after the operation by the Progress M-26M cargo vehicle, which began just after 3.30am Moscow time (0030 GMT) and took about half an hour. (5/18)