September 2, 2014

A Mission to Pluto Enters the Home Stretch (Source: Space Review)
It's been more than eight and a half years since New Horizons lifted off, but the spacecraft is now less than a year away from its long-awaited flyby of Pluto. Jeff Foust reports on a milestone the mission achieved last week, and the expectations the science team has for the upcoming encounter. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2590/1 to view the article. (9/2)

Deflecting Near Earth Asteroids with Paint (Source: Space Review)
When the concept of deflecting threatening asteroids comes to mind, it's usually associated with visions of using impactors, or other kinds of weapons, to shove the object off course. Shen Ge describes an ongoing effort to study a far more subtle technique for deflecting hazardous objects. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2589/1 to view the article. (9/2)

Complications of the Legal Definition of "Launching State" (Source: Space Review)
A key tenet of international space law is the concept of the "launching state," the nation or nations responsible for a particular launch. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi examines some complications that the original definitions of the term create as more nations and non-state entities become involved in spaceflight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2588/1 to view the article. (9/2)

Review: Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce (Source: Space Review)
While NASA experiments with the use of public-private partnerships to support the development of space capabilities, such partnerships are hardly novel in general. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines analogies to other such partnerships from American history and the lessons they offer for spaceflight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2587/1 to view the article. (9/2)

Canadian Space Agency to Fund Firms That Will Use Mission Data (Source: The Gazette)
Nine firms, four of them from Quebec, have qualified for funds from the Canadian Space Agency to develop projects that will use data collected by CSA space missions. The “novel concepts ... will capitalize on the use of Earth Observation (EO) data acquired by the CSA,” the St-Hubert-based agency said in a statement.

The nine “contribution agreements ... will support research and development in the field of space technologies. This initiative will also build capacity in Canadian industry and increase the use of radar data, to serve various sectors of the economy.” Click here. (8/26)

Japan Space Agency Unveils Asteroid Hunting Probe (Source: Space Daily)
Japanese space scientists have unveiled the asteroid hunting space probe they hope to launch later this year on a mission to mine a celestial body. The probe, named Hayabusa-2, is expected to be flung into space on a rocket for a mammoth four year voyage to the unpoetically-named 1999JU3 asteroid.

When it gets there, some time in 2018, it will release a powerful cannon which will fire a metal bullet at the asteroid's barren crust, once the probe itself has scuttled to safety on the far side of the rock. It will then return to scoop up material uncovered by the cannon blast. If all goes well, these pristine asteroid samples will be returned to Earth by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020. (9/2)

Britain's High-Flying Aerospace Sector Hits Record Order Book (Source: Telegraph)
Orders for British-made commercial aircraft and engines to power them have surged to a new record, boosted by orders revealed at the Farnborough airshow. Data released today from industry trade body ADS revealed that last month – during which the biennial air show took place – the total orders UK manufacturers have on their books rose by to stand at more than 12,000 aircraft and more than 21,000 engines with a combined value of between £135bn and £155bn. (8/28)

Algal Growth a Blooming Problem Space Station to Help Monitor (Source: NASA)
The green stuff that clouds up fish tanks – it’s not just an aesthetic annoyance. In fact, if you’ve been watching recent news of algal bloom concerns in Lake Erie, you know that the right conditions for algae can lead to contamination of local water sources, potentially impacting aquatic life and humans. What you might not have known is that among the resources to help study this problem you will find the International Space Station’s Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO).

This instrument, mounted to the exterior of the orbiting laboratory, provides a way for researchers to see 90 wavelengths of light not visible to the human eye. This can help with research on harmful algal blooms (HABs) because they, along with other organic materials, have a “spectral signature.” The biological matter emits a unique wavelength as it absorbs and scatters solar energy, resulting in fluorescence and backscattering. Essentially the light reflects back to HICO, which reads the data like a fingerprint. (8/29)

3-D Printer Could Turn Space Station into 'Machine Shop' (Source: NASA)
Riddle: It's the size of a small microwave, and it may alleviate the need for NASA astronauts to wait for resupply ships to arrive at the International Space Station to get some essential items. Answer: A 3-D printer -- the first ever to be flown to space. And it could change the way NASA does business aboard the space station.

The 3-D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration (3-D Printing In Zero-G), led out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, provided a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to Made In Space Inc. to build the first 3-D printer for operation in microgravity. It is scheduled to launch to the station aboard the SpaceX-4 resupply mission. (9/2)

KSC Emergency Response Team Sharpens Edge Through Adaptation (Source: NASA)
Just as NASA requires its launch teams and astronauts to practice complex skills and techniques over and over and over, the center's Emergency Response Team (ERT) members run regular simulations that can focus on a single, specific skill or combine a host of operational needs. After all, even a momentary distraction can cause a finger to slip or a hand to miss the grasp and the trooper to fall a couple stories onto the ground. That's why fellow officers watch each of the simulations closely and bring back a number of corrections and tips for the team to work on.

As the training grows in complexity, it begins to involve the units they work with, such as Kennedy's aerial operations team that flies the helicopters. "This reality-based exercise is the most important training we do. At least once a month we conduct some type of scenario-based training," said Bill Young, commander of the ERT. "We have to know that we can make the right decisions in a very composed way under stressful conditions." Click here. (9/2)

Can Microgravity Disrupt Astronauts’ Genes? (Source: Space Safety)
Results of research conducted on fruit flies suggest that long term space flight might be more dangerous than expected. Molecular Biologists at the Spanish Center for Biologic Research together with physicists from the University of Nottingham in the UK studied fruit flies levitated by powerful magnets, a state that resembles the weightlessness experienced by astronauts in space. The observed insects suffered changes in crucial genes. Scientists are not sure whether it is microgravity itself or the effects of magnetism that is to blame for the condition. Click here. (9/2)

Three Pathways to the 1980s (Source: WIRED)
In the 1966-1967 period, NASA began serious planning for its post-Apollo future. Alas, Apollo was widely seen as a means of demonstrating U.S. technological might on the world stage, not as a first small step beyond Earth. Our society’s rapid abandonment of the moon causes me to question whether we have every truly qualified as a spacefaring people.

Had it been otherwise, what pathway might NASA have followed into the future? There were many possibilities, but in my forthcoming book I will describe in detail only three. I call these “moon base,” “space base,” and “flyby.” All might have led to humans on Mars in the 1980s, though in none of them was this a requirement. A lot would depend on knowledge gained as NASA moved along the pathways. Click here. (9/2)

The Dogs that Conquered Space (Source: Guardian)
Humans were too risky, monkeys too fidgety, so the Soviet Union chose dogs as its first cosmonauts. It is a story of science, sacrifice and – for those that survived – sausage-filled celebrity. Click here. (9/2)

DOD Pricing Chief: Suppliers Must Give Pentagon Market Price (Source: National Defense)
Too many contractors are overcharging the Pentagon for products also supplied to the commercial market, says Director of Defense Pricing Shay Assad. Now, the government will push contractors to prove that they're charging the Pentagon what they would charge the commercial market. "Our policy is simple," Assad says. "If you have a market-based price that can be substantiated through sales in the commercial marketplace, we pay what the market pays." Editor's Note: It will be interesting to see how this might apply to launch services. (9/1)

U.S. Senator Nelson: It's Mars or Bust (Source: MyFOX Orlando)
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says it is time to get to Mars, and he is willing to put taxpayer money where his mouth is. The newest generation of NASA rocket, called the Space Lunch System, or SLS, has been plagued with delays and budget overruns, but Nelson is confident this is the right system and the right time to get it on track again.

"Every time we have always exceeded the expectations. We have kept the space program on the way and on its goal," he says. Senator Nelson says extra money is already in the appropriations budget on the Senate side to boost the timeline for launching a manned capsule by a full year from the President's goal of 2018 to NASA's new goal of December of 2017.

"If you fund it at the level requested by the president, they won't make December of 2017. That's why we are going to put in about $225 million more. Then NASA will have a chance." The SLS system resembles the rockets of America's past, like the Saturn and Apollo rockets. At the end of this year, NASA hopes to test the capsule that will eventually carry astronauts into space. Click here. (9/1)

Orion Outreach on Social Media (Source: This Is True)
...Are they trying to build awareness, or panic? "My god! NASA is shooting a spacecraft at an airliner! 'Did you know' that it'll be going 29,000 MPH (46,670 km/h), which according to NASA is 50 times faster than a passenger jet? There's no way they'll be able to turn fast enough to avoid getting hit!"... Click here. (8/31)

Swiss Space Systems Wins Florida/Israel Aerospace Grant (Source: Parabolic Arc)
S3 USA Operations, a division of Swiss aerospace company Swiss Space Systems – S3, and SpacePharma R&D Lts (Israel) a fully owned subsidiary of Swiss SpacePharma SA, which specializes in solutions for medical experiments in microgravity, announce today having been selected as winners in a prize awarded by Space Florida in the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership RFP for the development of a pioneering 2-way communications platform.

This platform enables live data transfer between microgravity experiments onboard a Zero Gravity aircraft and a ground station. The goal is to finalize this development in September 2015, in order to conduct live tests during S3 Zero Gravity flight campaign to be held from the Kennedy Space Center’s SLF runway. This interactive microgravity solution could later be implemented in other aircraft and for future space communication systems. (9/2)

SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Barge-Landing Patent (Source: SpaceRef)
SpaceX had filled a challenge to the patent owned by Blue Origin for "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods", which was granted earlier this year. Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response. Click here. (9/2)

Signal Sought From Canadian Satellite Gone Astray (Source: Globe and Mail)
About once a day, mission controllers at the University of Toronto’s Space Flight Laboratory point a radio dish at a piece of orbiting space debris and say “Hello” to Montreal. One day they hope to get an answer back. In this case, Montreal is not a city but the name of a small Canadian astronomy satellite launched from Russia on June 19 along with more than 30 others. All, including Montreal’s sister satellite named Toronto, were successfully lofted into orbit by a repurposed Soviet-era missile.

But Montreal failed to signal Earth after launch and has not shown up on radar. Its disappearance has left engineers with a million-dollar mystery. There is also a lingering tension among engineers at the Downsview, Ont., laboratory over how little information they’ve been able to pry from the satellite’s Moscow-based launch provider, ISC Kosmotras. “They sent us some telemetry, but it didn’t tell us anything,” said Robert Zee, the lab’s director. (8/26)

September 1, 2014

Spitzer Telescope Witnesses Asteroid Smashup (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets. Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

“We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona. While dusty aftermaths of suspected asteroid collisions have been observed by Spitzer before, this is the first time scientists have collected data before and after a planetary system smashup. The viewing offers a glimpse into the violent process of making rocky planets like ours. (8/31)

Why One West Virginia Town Has Banned Cell Phones (Source: National Journal)
Only four hours west of Washington, there is a town where cell phones and wireless Internet are outlawed. Commercial radios are banned, and microwaves aren't welcome either. Green Bank might sound like a Luddite's dreamscape, but the West Virginia hamlet's self-imposed blackout is being done all in the name of science: Green Bank is home to the world's largest radio telescope, a 100-meters-in-diameter dish that is the crown jewel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Click here. (8/30)

For Jaded Traveler with $125k to Spare (Source: Asia One)
For $100,000 (S$124,900), an American company is offering the chance to boldly go where no Singaporean has gone before: space. XCOR Space Expeditions, which develops commercial space shuttles, will take travellers to the final frontier from late next year.

A model of the shuttle to be used, the XCOR Lynx Mark II, is now on display outside Shaw House in Orchard Road as part of a roadshow for Swiss watch company Luminox. More than 300 people worldwide, from countries including China and Britain, have bought tickets for the space flight, but so far only three from Singapore have expressed an interest.

One is lawyer Simon Tan, 49, who has dreamt of going into space since he was six. He said: "It has been a fantasy of mine because of characters like Astro Boy and Ultraman. It is not a matter of money but of opportunity and ability. I would do it even if it meant collateralising my investments and mortgaging my house." (9/1)

Space Tourism Set to Take Off? (Source: Asia One)
With the emergence of the XCOR Lynx Mark II space shuttle, the notion of commercial space travel may not seem so far-fetched. This shuttle has the ability to take two people - a pilot and a passenger - on an hour-long sub-orbital flight to as high as 103km above sea level before safely gliding back down and landing. The shuttle was developed by XCOR Space Expeditions, a rocket engine and space-flight development company based in the US. The first space flights are set to be launched by the end of next year. (9/1)

Retired USAF Officer Picked for Simulated Mission to Mars (Source: USAF)
An Air Force Institute of Technology alumnus and retired Air Force officer was selected by NASA and the University of Hawaii as one of nine team members to participate in an upcoming simulated mission to Mars. Edward Fix, who earned a Master of Science in electrical engineering from AFIT, will participate in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission. This eight-month mission begins in October. It is the third in a series for NASA; the first two missions were each four months long, and the fourth will be 12 months.

During this mission, the team will be engaged in a broad variety of research, exploration, engineering, and outreach activities, as well as exercising and carrying out routine housekeeping chores. The research is being conducted for NASA by the University of Hawaii, using a 1,000-square-foot, domed habitat at 8,000 feet elevation in an abandoned quarry on the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The crew will reside there for the duration of the mission. (8/29)

Geckos, Fruit Flies Land Safely in Russia After Space Flight (Source: RIA Novosti)
A biological capsule with geckos, fruit flies and silkworm eggs has returned to Earth, landing on Monday in the Orenburg Region, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced on Twitter. “Foton-M [the biological capsule] and its joyful crew are back on Earth,” Rogozin said in a tweet.

“In a short time the little space travelers will be removed from the capsule and then the scientists will be able to see how they dealt with the burden of the space flight,” a representative from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said. The biological mission of Foton-M included eight experiments that involved monitoring the reproductive activity of geckos in space. (9/1)

Dream Chaser's SUV-Like Flexibility and Runway Landing Offer Advantages (Source: America Space)
The winged Dream Chaser’s “SUV-like” flexibility to act as both a crew transporter and “specialized research laboratory,” combined with a global “runway landing capability,” offer significant competitive advantages in terms of science and safety in the “new space race” to quickly develop a cost-effective “space taxi” for NASA, Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, told AmericaSpace in concluding Part 5 of our exclusive, one-on-one interview series.

Dream Chaser’s spacious and flexible interior design allows a multitude of practical research benefits such as flying a uniquely specialized science lab in orbit for studies that can’t be done inside the International Space Station (ISS), for technical as well as safety factors. The ISS’s entire reason for existence is to benefit science and expand our exploration of the cosmos in ways not otherwise possible. Click here. (9/1)

NASA and Partners Accelerate 3D Rocket Testing (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As NASA prepares the materials and machines to send humans to destinations far beyond the gravitational influence of Earth, the space agency is turning its attention on new game-changing technologies to help them in their efforts. The company’s that enable NASA to accomplish its objectives are also taking an active role in developing new methods to facilitate space exploration initiatives. One technology in particular, additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has come into its own and is being increasingly used to produce rocket engine components. Click here. (9/1)

Asteroid Paper to be Retracted Because of Faulty Analysis (Source: Science)
JAXA is asking Science to withdraw one of the 2006 papers that resulted from the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission because of an error in the data analysis. The retraction won't affect scientists' understanding of the asteroid, however, since other papers have confirmed the study's key conclusions. The Japanese-led team published a collection of 7 papers in a special issue of Science on 2 June 2006 based on observations by 4 instruments as the Hayabusa spacecraft circled asteroid Itokawa in the fall off 2005.

 The paper being retracted, by Tatsuaki Okada and colleagues, presents an analysis of X-ray spectra to determine the elements on the asteroid's surface. The authors concluded "that Itokawa has a composition consistent with that of ordinary chondrites." Chondrites are a type of stony asteroid. For various reasons, the authors felt they could not rely on the calibration of the instrument done on Earth before the spacecraft was launched. Click here. (9/1)

JAXA Hopes to Repeat Asteroid Success with Hayabusa2 (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency unveiled the new asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 to the press over the weekend as it looks to outdo the particle-collecting feat achieved by its predecessor in 2010. “I’m grateful because the new asteroid probe is now nearly complete,” said professor Hitoshi Kuninaka, leader of the Hayabusa2 project team. The agency, he said, is ready to redouble its efforts “for a new voyage.”

The Hayabusa2 succeeds the Hayabusa, which completed a seven-year voyage in June 2010 by bringing particle samples from the asteroid Itokawa back to Earth. Hayabusa2 is slated to be launched later this year from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. Its target is asteroid 1999 JU3, which, unlike Itokawa, contains carbon and water. JAXA hopes particles and other samples from the asteroid will provide clues on the origin of life and how the solar system was formed. (9/1)

What Will It Take to Reignite U.S. Interest in Space? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Few would dispute that NASA has been in turmoil since President Obama canceled the Constellation Program in 2010, or at least in a state of declining activity. Faced with a vague and undefined mission, inadequate funding, poor leadership, and mounting political tension with Russia, the future for NASA looks bleak.

It takes a long time to build a space program, and when the next administration comes along, it’s likely things will change course yet again. In 2003 the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) pointed out that NASA’s consistently low budget, the lack of interest from the Presidents and Congresses since the Apollo Program coupled with the lack of a coherent mission had severely limited the agency’s ability. Click here. (9/1)

August 31, 2014

Three NASA Langley Scientists Receive Awards (Source: Daily Press)
Three senior scientists from NASA Langley Research Center were among four researchers honored at a recent ceremony at NASA headquarters in Washington for distinguished service to the country. Bruce Anderson, Thomas Brooks and Lelia Vann were presented with Distinguished Service Medals on Aug. 14 by NASA chief Charles Bolden and associate administrator Robert Lightfoot. The medals are considered NASA's highest form of recognition for employees whose ability or vision have helped the agency advance the nation's interests, NASA said. (8/31)

SpaceX, Blue Origin Compete for NASA Contract (Source: San Marcos Mercury)
Two private space travel companies working to launch shuttles out of Texas are competing for the same NASA contract that is expected to be handed out in the coming weeks. The contract, called the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, will hire a private company to carry astronauts to space. NASA said the service is similar to “getting a taxi ride,” and four companies have spent the past few months pitching their shuttles and services to NASA.

Blue Origin, funded by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX, funded by billionaire investor Elon Musk, are two of the four private companies competing for the project. Both are working to launch shuttles out of Texas. The Boeing Company and the Sierra Nevada Corp. are also pursuing the contract from NASA. (8/30)

Karin Nilsdotter & Spaceport Sweden (Source: Swedish Startup Space)
Kiruna. One hundred and forty five kilometers north of the arctic circle. Home of the midnight sun, reindeer, iron ore….and orbital space tourism. On actual spaceships. To actual space. It’s a quiet town-so quiet that if you listen closely at times you can literally hear the sky crackling, making it the perfect place for astronomical research, atmospheric sounding, and suborbital tourism. Kiruna is as far north as you’ll ever go, and it’s where Spaceport Sweden is hoping to take you as high up as you’ll ever dream.

That’s precisely why CEO Karin Nilsdotter is here tonight, talking to over 100 Grinders (including a Jawa, R2d2, a Tusken Raider, and of course His Great Dark Highness Lord Darth Vader) about the role Spaceport Sweden will play in the future of astro-tourism. Her company is hoping to become Europe’s portal to the stars, and she’s working with other astropreneurs like Anousheh Ansari (X Prize), Elon Musk (SpaceX), Stuart Witt (Mojave Air & Space Port) and Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) to make that a big fat reality.

Spaceport Sweden is building both literal and figurative launchpads in Kiruna, enacting terrestrial projects that facilitate academic research and foster entrepreneurial growth. They host talks and technical visits, they’ve founded a space camp for children as well as a northern lights academy, all in addition to their northern lights flights, Zero-G­ parabolic flights, and centrifugal G-force training in some of the world’s most advanced long-arm dynamic flight simulators. There is a lot going on here. (8/25)

August 30, 2014

Memory Reformat Planned for Opportunity Mars Rover (Source: NASA JPL)
An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover's flash memory. The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover's planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided. (8/29)

Curiosity, Cassini Among 7 Extended Planetary Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA approved extensions for all seven missions that were vetted by senior scientists in the agency’s 2014 senior review of operating planetary science missions, a senior NASA official told SpaceNews Aug. 27. “We sent out the letters to the projects [and] those letters state that we’re not canceling any missions,” Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, said after a meeting at the National Research Council in Washington.

Green declined to discuss specifics, although he did say NASA would force some of the missions to run “leaner and meaner [by] cutting back in various aspects.” The details of the senior review board’s findings, and NASA’s formal response to those findings, is to be released the week of Sept. 1, Green said. (8/29)

Colorado Aerospace Leaders and CU-Boulder to Host Program on Mars Exploration (Source CU Boulder)
The importance of Mars exploration and how the aerospace industry partners with university researchers to advance one of Colorado’s leading economic sectors will be featured at a free program Monday, Sept. 8, in south Denver. Aerospace leaders will discuss the importance of Mars exploration and the role of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN mission, the involvement of Colorado companies in space exploration and the value of public/private partnerships involving university-based research. (8/28)

New Residents: Renovation Planned for Texas House Linked to SpaceX (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Weems Street at Kopernik Shores, also known as Boca Chica Village, could have a new resident soon. Two building permit applications filed this month with Cameron County show that renovations are planned for a vacant house owned by Elon Musk’s Dogleg Park LLC. The applications say the house’s roof and air conditioning system will be replaced. “Residential use” is listed in both applications. (8/29)

JAXA Asks for Withdrawal of Article on Hayabusa (Source: Japan News)
The space agency said Friday that it has requested the withdrawal of an article published in U.S. journal Science that was based on observation data from its Hayabusa asteroid probe. The article, published in June 2006, contained an error in the data analysis method, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said. But the mistake was not made deliberately and should not be regarded as research misconduct, it said.

The article was lead authored by Tatsuaki Okada, associate professor at JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. Based on observation data for the asteroid Itokawa, collected with X-ray equipment on Hayabusa, the article made the assumption that the elements constituting Itokawa would have the same composition as those of meteorites showering Earth. The error was discovered during a review of the data analysis method in the wake of a failure of similar observation equipment. (8/29)

Looming SLS Delay To Rekindle Debate about NASA’s Priorities (Source: Space News)
A long-running debate between the White House and Congress about funding levels and prioritization of NASA programs entered a new phase last week after a major cost and schedule review concluded the debut of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket may be delayed by nearly a year. The review established an estimated cost of $7.021 billion for SLS development from February 2014 through its first launch.

That is in addition to the several billion dollars NASA has spent on the rocket since being ordered by Congress in 2010 to build it. In a teleconference with reporters, William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the SLS project was still working toward an earlier launch date than November 2018 by mitigating risks raised in the review. “If we don’t do anything, we basically have a 70 percent chance of getting to that date,” he said. “We will be there by November of 2018, but I look to my team to do better than that.” (8/29)

Battle of the Heavyweight Rockets – SLS Could Face Exploration Class Rival (Source: Space News)
With the recent announcement the Space Launch System (SLS) has become challenged by her schedule, the NASA rocket may soon find herself in a battle with a commercial “alternative”. SpaceX’s super powerful Exploration class rocket is targeting crewed missions to Mars up to 10 years ahead of SLS – although both vehicles continue to avoid being classed as competitors. Click here. (8/29)

Heat Protecting Back Shell Tiles Installed on NASA’s Orion EFT-1 at KSC (Source: Universe Today)
Fabrication of the pathfinding version of NASA’s Orion crew capsule slated for its inaugural unmanned test flight in December is entering its final stages at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch site in Florida. Engineers and technicians have completed the installation of Orion’s back shell panels which will protect the spacecraft and future astronauts from the searing heat of reentry and scorching temperatures exceeding 3,150 degrees Fahrenheit. (8/29)

Russia will Cooperate with US on Asteroid Threat (Source: Discovery)
As tensions rise in Eastern Ukraine and the conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Kiev becomes ever more bloody, political volleys between the old Cold War rivals have become increasingly aggressive. But one question has yet to be addressed: If we spot an incoming asteroid, will information be shared between Russia and the US? We can breathe easy, at least according to Russian state media — the nation is willing to capitulate on this particular disaster scenario.

“The exchange of information between crisis centers of Russia’s EMERCOM and the FEMA with respect to emergency situations on the territory of the United States and the Russian Federation has begun,” said an EMERCOM statement on Friday. Generally, this “exchange of information” will cover large-scale natural and man-made disasters. Both FEMA and EMERCOM (Russian Emergency Situations Ministry) “also agreed on cooperating to protect their populations and infrastructures from asteroid and comet hazards and on rescue work at mining facilities.” (8/29)

Restructured OCX Contract Defers Some Capabilities by 2 Years (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has finished renegotiating its contract with Raytheon for the ground system for the service’s next generation of positioning, navigation and timing satellites, hammering out a new deal that postpones some program elements by up to 23 months. Officials with Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services of Dulles, Virginia, said the new timeline would not lead to any delay in services from the Air Force’s GPS 3 satellites, which are slated to begin launching in 2016. (8/29)

Why Isn’t Anyone Interested In Uranus? (Source: American Live Wire)
“Why isn’t anyone interested in Uranus?” you ask? Good question . . . timely too. There have been missions to Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Venus.  Spacecraft is even heading for the demoted, now non-planet Pluto. For some reason though no has really checked out Uranus yet. Click here. (8/29)

Space Station Robot Gets Legs (Source: Florida Today)
Before Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot aboard the International Space Station, could take its first steps later this year, it needed legs. Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson attached them this week, the latest step in a series of "mobility upgrades." Designed by NASA in partnership with General Motors, the "R2" torso arrived at the station in 2011 and has been attached to a pedestal. (8/30)

Scrub of AsiaSat 6 Could Impact SpaceX Mission to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The launch of a commercial satellite, AsiaSat-6, has become one of the factors as to whether-or-not SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will take to the skies on Sep. 19 as is currently planned. With the recent delay of the AsiaSat 6 flight, the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range could potentially see as many three launches – in a time span of about ten days. A KSC spokesperson said that, at present, NASA is moving forward with plans to launch the fourth operational flight to the space station and the fifth flight of the Dragon overall.

“We’re still moving forward with the September 19 launch date. SpaceX says they need a little time to validate some things with their Falcon 9,” said NASA Spokesperson George Diller. “However, if they can launch the F9 with AsiaSat 6 by the middle of the month – we should still be able to carry out the mission on September 19.”

SpaceX's statement on the AsiaSat delay suggests that it could be as long as two weeks. If it is just two weeks, then there should not be a conflict on the Eastern Range (United Launch Alliance has the launch of the CLIO spacecraft slated to take place on Aug. 16, with the CRS-4 mission scheduled to take place three days later). Normally, the U.S. Air Force requires 2-3 days to reset the range to support a launch. (8/29)

The West Wind Blows Afresh (Source: Economist)
It takes chutzpah to tweet “rockets are tricky” shortly after one you have just launched has deliberately blown itself up. But Elon Musk is not a man who lacks self-confidence, and he did just that on Aug. 22 after the terminal malfunction a Falcon 9 vehicle. That Arianespace announced on the same day that two satellites it had tried to launch to join the Galileo constellation (intended to rival America’s GPS), had entered a “non-nominal injection orbit”—in other words, gone wrong—shows just how difficult the commercialisation of space can be.

If spacecraft are so precarious, then perhaps investors should lower their sights. But not in terms of innovation; rather in altitude. Airbus, a European aerospace company, thinks that developing satellite-like capabilities without satellites is the answer. Hence the firm’s recent trial, at an undisclosed location (but one subject to Brazilian airspace regulations) of Zephyr 7, a high-altitude “pseudo-satellite”, or HAPS for short.

Zephyr  is actually an unmanned, ultralight, solar-powered, propeller-driven aircraft. But it is designed, just as some satellites are, to hover indefinitely over the same part of the world. With a 23-meter wingspan and a weight of only 50kg, it is fragile and must remain above the ravages of the weather and the jet stream both by day and by night. It therefore flies at an altitude of around 21km during daylight hours, and then glides slowly down to around 15km when the sun is unavailable to keep it aloft. (8/29)

Capitol Hill Reacts to SLS Delay (Source: Space News)
In the wake of a review of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket that likely pushes its first launch into 2018, two key House members argued that NASA and the Obama administration were not adequately funding the program, while one of the agency’s biggest advocates in the Senate sought support for accelerating that schedule. In a letter released Aug. 28, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS), the chairmen of the full House Science Committee and its space subcommittee, respectively, asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden for additional details.

The letter does not explicitly mention the latest NASA review, but instead references a July report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on potential SLS delays, as well as recent comments by Orion program manager Mark Geyer that he was “struggling” to make a December 2017 launch date. “These findings are surprising to say the least considering the numerous claims of sufficient funding,” Smith and Palazzo write in the letter. “Despite numerous statements over several years that these two national priority programs are sufficiently funded, it now appears that this may not be the case.”

In a brief statement late Aug. 27, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Commerce space subcommittee, offered a more positive spin on the review. “Technically things look good,” he said. “But we need to keep the budget on track so NASA can meet an earlier readiness date — which I think can be done.” (8/29)

U.S. To Keep Closer Watch for Debris Threat to Europe’s Metop Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department will extend its close debris-threat monitoring to two European polar-orbiting meteorological satellites under an agreement announced Aug. 29 by Eumetsat, Europe’s meteorological satellite organization. The agreement between the U.S. Strategic Command and the 30-nation Eumetsat adds a layer of protection to Eumetsat’s two Metop satellites.

NOAA operates two polar satellites of its own as part of the system. The polar-orbiting Eumetsat and NOAA satellites operate in sun-synchronous orbits of around 800 kilometers in altitude, an orbital corridor that includes satellite and rocket debris. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network of ground- and space-based assets tracks the paths of debris large enough to be in its catalogue and warns operators of possible future collisions so that the active satellites can be maneuvered out of the way. (8/29)

Report Cites Vulnerability in NOAA’s Satellite Ground Stations (Source: Space News)
Ground stations for the United States’ next civilian polar-orbiting weather satellite system contain several “significant” and high-risk vulnerabilities to would-be attackers, according to a new report from a U.S. government watchdog. NOAA is taking far too long to address these vulnerabilities, according to the report by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department. (8/29)

X-37B Space Plane Passes 600 Days in Orbit (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. Air Force's mysterious unmanned space plane has winged beyond 600 days in orbit on a classified military mission that seems to have no end. The X-37B space plane is carrying out the Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3) mission, a long-duration cruise that marks the third flight for the unpiloted Air Force spaceflight program. The Air Force launched the miniature space shuttle into orbit on Dec. 11, 2012 using an expendable Atlas 5 rocket. (8/29)

Air Force Awards Eastern Range Contract Extension/Modifications (Source: DOD)
Computer Sciences Raytheon has been awarded a $80,202,071 modification to a previously awarded contract to provide operations, maintenance, and sustainment of critical range and launch processing systems that support the launch processing mission of the 45th Space Wing and its launch customers at Cape Canaveral Air Station. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract is $656,990,192.

lnDyne, Inc. has been awarded a $30,663,645 contract modification for infrastructure operations and maintenance services for non-personal services involving operations and maintenance of the facilities, systems, equipment, utilities and infrastructure primarily for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and multiple Eastern Range annexes in support of the 45th Space Wing and its mission partners. (8/29)

Suborbital Rocket Launch from Wallops Island Tests New Tech (Source: ABC)
NASA is reviewing data from a rocket launch that tested a new sub-payload deployment method for suborbital rockets. NASA says a Black Brant IX suborbital rocket was launched at 5 a.m. Thursday from the agency's Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The new deployment method uses small rocket motors to eject sub-payloads from a rocket's main payload. Thursday's test included releasing vapor traces in space.

The agency says vapor clouds resulting from the test, along with the launch, were seen as far away as southern New Jersey, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The NASA Sounding Rocket Program Office is reviewing data on the test's performance. (8/29)

A 25-Year Lock on Lucrative NASA work? Time to Open Field to Competition (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The Government Accountability Office has said on many occasions that an agency is not required to neutralize or eliminate the natural competitive advantage that an incumbent carries into a competition. In this case, the agency decides that it would promote greater competition if it could neutralize the competitive advantage of a 25-year incumbent. The incumbent protested the terms of a solicitation that did just that.

NMSU has been a 25-year incumbent on a contract for the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, as well as several other balloon launch facilities at various locations worldwide. NMSU protested that the RFP improperly excludes from competition or evaluation the cost of various elements of the agency’s requirements. NASA has apparently been concerned for several years with NMSU’s exclusive teaming agreement with the only balloon manufacturer that is acceptable to NASA for work on this project. Click here. (8/29)

Sparks Fly as NASA Pushes the Limits of 3-D Printing Technology (Source: NASA)
NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector --a highly complex part that sends propellant into the engine -- with design features that took advantage of 3-D printing. To make the parts, the design was entered into the 3-D printer's computer. The printer then built each part by layering metal powder and fusing it together with a laser, a process known as selective laser melting.

The additive manufacturing process allowed rocket designers to create an injector with 40 individual spray elements, all printed as a single component rather than manufactured individually. The part was similar in size to injectors that power small rocket engines and similar in design to injectors for large engines, such as the RS-25 engine that will power NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars. (8/29)

August 29, 2014

KSC Tests Citric Acid on Stainless Steel Alloys at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA)
Who would have thought that oranges and other citrus fruit would be good for more than eating? Now, the citric acid that these fruits contain also could be used to protect stainless steel equipment and structures at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Corrosion of stainless steel is a major concern in Florida. The harsh salt environment has been well-documented to cause damage to many different kinds of metal and metal alloy surfaces along the Space Coast.

One way to prevent corrosion of stainless steel is to create a protective barrier, using a chemical method referred to as passivation. A team at KSC is investigating citric acid as an alternative to nitric acid for protecting a specific set of stainless steel alloys currently used in ground support equipment and structures, including pipes, at the center. When compared to nitric acid, citric acid is safer to apply to metal surfaces, environmentally friendly, bio-based and can be a cost-saver. (8/28)

SpaceShipTwo Conducts Successful Glide Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During a flight test at Mojave SpaceShipTwo was venting something, but I saw no flames nor did I hear the rumbling across the desert that accompanies a powered flight. It was fairly silent out there, except for the distant drone of WhiteKnightTwo’s engine. Virgin Galactic confirmed that the test was a cold flow of gasses used in  powered flight, “an in-flight test of #SpaceShipTwo’s ‘plumbing’ – the pressurization system for the rocket motor.” It was also a dress rehearsal for the next powered flight, which the company promises is “coming soon.” (8/29)

Nanosatellite and Microsatellite Market Analysis (Source: Markets and Markets)
Nanosatellite and microsatellite present an extensive opportunity for space explorations and research related to civil, commercial, government, and military activities. Space-based scientific research activities has been made economically feasible with the use of such low-budgeted small satellites that came into existence with the awareness of micro-electronic devices and that could enable multifaceted and complicated functions with significantly reduced mass and power requirements. This research report categorizes the Nanosatellite and microsatellite market to forecast the market size and analyze the trends in multiple submarkets. Click here. (8/29)

Bold Plan Proposed to Overhaul Mojave Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A detailed plan to turn the Mojave Air and Space Port from a dusty flight and rocket test center into a destination for researchers and tourists alike is making the rounds in the state capital of Sacramento. The plan, created by the Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) Hub at El Camino College, includes the development of passenger terminal at the spaceport, research park, business incubator, special economic zone, space-based education center, and a desert botanical garden.

Once implemented, the spaceport and small town that adjoins it would become a major hub for space transportation, manufacturing, flight testing, research and development, and education. However, the proposal faces two main challenges. The first is not to destroy what makes Mojave ideal as a test center. The spaceport is remote, largely shielded from prying eyes, few people visit, and the small local population don’t complain very much about all the noise from the rocket engine tests.

The second challenge is to raise the nearly $700 million in public and private investment the report estimates would be required to make the vision into a reality. The plan includes some extensive improvements to the Mojave spaceport, which still has the look and feel of the Marine Corps training base it was during World War II. The spaceport would be turned into a special economic zone. Click here. (8/29)

Stunning Images From The Worlds Sharpest Commercial Satellite (Source: Popular Science)
The WorldView-3 satellite, which launched on August 13, has sent back its first images. They’re gorgeous, and kind of creepy. The new satellite can see to a resolution of 31 centimeters. That means each pixel of the camera captures one square foot of land, which is sharp enough to see home plate at Yankee Stadium, to map crops by pattern and type, to identify the type and speed of cars and trucks, and measure population density, all from 383 miles above the Earth’s surface. Click here. (8/29)

Final Frontier Design launches “Space Suit Experience” (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Final Frontier Design (FFD) is proud to unveil their “Space Suit Experience” (SSE), offering the public a chance to wear and train in a real space suit. The SSE includes a historical briefing on space suit development and use, comparison testing in a vacuum chamber glove box, an astronaut-style fitting, and full pressurization in an IVA space suit, both standing and in launch position on FFD’s space flight simulator. The SSE is a unique, immersive event for one person. Click here. (8/29)

When Sputnik Crashed in Wisconsin (Source: Air & Space)
It came from outer space…. and crashed down in the middle of a street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. That surely sounds like the start of a sci-fi movie. But half a century ago, the town was on the receiving end of a 20-pound smoldering hunk of the Soviet Union’s five-ton Sputnik IV satellite. Media reports from the September 6, 1962 event say there were no eyewitnesses, but “there are hundreds if you ask now,” says J. Gregory Vadney, executive director of the Rahr-West Art Museum, which hosts the festival.

Vadney says he heard there were “two police officers on routine patrol when they spotted the piece in the street. They believed it to be a metal ingot from one of the local manufacturing plants, speculated that it fell off a truck, and left it. Following patrol, they returned to the city police station, where they heard that a search had been called for the Sputnik IV spacecraft” and suddenly realized what they’d found.

The metal debris was sent off to the Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which confirmed it was a piece of the satellite and sent a field agent out to collect smaller bits that landed around the area. The Soviet space encounter with an American city is now celebrated at Manitowoc’s annual Sputnikfest. (8/29)

Sen. Udall Visits with NMSU Student Launch Program (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico State University aerospace engineer student Renee Mondragon, 23, operated a drone on Thursday while U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Pat Hynes, New Mexico Space Grant Consortium director, looked on. The demonstration was part of a tour of the consortium allowing Udall to visit with students from the Student Launch Program, which recently received a $500,000 grant from NASA. (8/28)

SpaceX Blames Rocket Explosion on Bad Sensor (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A faulty sensor aboard a prototype rocket likely led to its destruction last week during a flight at SpaceX's test facility in Central Texas, company officials said. The rocket testbed, powered by a modified first stage from the Falcon 9 booster with three engines, flew off of its prescribed trajectory during an Aug. 22 vertical takeoff and landing test flight. The rocket's on-board safety system recognized the problem and issued a self-destruct command. (8/28)

Slung Low, Sweet Satellites (Source: GPS World)
The wording is terse, the intent clear. “Following the failure on Friday August 22nd to inject Galileo satellites 5 and 6 into the correct orbit, the European Commission has requested Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide full details of the incident, together with a schedule and an action plan to rectify the problem.”

This is the only official face showing, but extremely high levels of activity take place behind the curtain, studying what might have caused several million Euros of hardware to end up much lower above the Earth than desired. Meanwhile, active speculation in the satnav blogosphere provides glimpses of possible outcomes from the latest satellite disaster — not exclusive to Galileo, by any means — created in all likelihood by a malfunction aboard its Soyuz launcher and/or the Fregat upper stage thereof. (8/28)

High School Students Tour Orion Facility (Source: Space Coast Daily)
Six students from Merritt Island High School’s da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology got an up-close look at the Orion spacecraft during a special tour by Lockheed Martin management. The tour –at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility – was led by the LM Orion Operations Manager Jules Schneider and LM program planner Kari Peppers. Schneider briefed the students on the spacecraft’s test flight in December as well as plans for the future. (8/29)

Alaska Spaceport Facilities Damaged After Failed Launch (Source: Alaska Dispatch News)
Damage is visible at the Kodiak Launch Complex after a rocket launch was aborted early Monday morning, August 25, 2014, at the site. The rocket was carrying an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a glider that once launched from a rocket flies a non-ballistic trajectory to its target. The flight was terminated less than four seconds after the launch. The launch was controlled remotely -- no people were in the buildings shown in the photo at the time of the launch. Click here. (8/29)

Alaska Spaceport Board Wrestles With Damage Control (Source: Alaska Dispatch News)
With no answers yet about why a rocket launch failed in Kodiak, leaders of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. find themselves wrestling with the tricky question of public relations damage control. At a board meeting Thursday in Kodiak, they discussed whether the state-owned corporation could make any statement that the accident early Monday was not its fault. The short answer: No.

But some members said it would be correct to say that the rocket left the launchpad. And to that extent the support role of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. can be dubbed a success, pending any disclosures to the contrary in the weeks and months ahead. “Is it your understanding at this point that we did our job well and there’s no culpability for the damage that occurred?” asked Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens, an ex-officio board member.

It is too soon to answer that question, as a full report on the cause may not be finished for months, according to Alaska Aerospace President Craig Campbell. But he said it is true that the rocket got off the ground. “That rocket did leave the pad and all our work is the support work to get to that point. And so I’m speculating that our team did awfully good,” said Campbell. (8/29)

NASA Tests Noise Suppression System on Rocket Scale Model (Source: WHNT)
NASA is testing techniques for crew and equipment safety on their new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS.) It’s more powerful than shuttles of the past, with 25-thousand pounds of thrust. But that also means it’s extremely loud– 120-180 decibels loud. That could endanger the crew and even the rocket itself.

Jeremy Kenny, a NASA Acoustics Engineer, put it into perspective. “Those kind of levels not only instantaneously, but permanently, cause human hearing loss,” he said. But it doesn’t just endanger the crew during the launch. “The noise levels can actually vibrate the vehicle structure itself, and fatigue and break it,” said Kenny. (8/29)

Brooks Praises SLS Progress (Source: AL.com)
The U.S. space program is on a "clear path" to explore beyond low-earth orbit and eventually travel to Mars, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks said Thursday. "And SLS is how we'll get there," Brooks said in a statement. Brooks referred to the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift NASA rocket under development at Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal. (8/28)

FSU Scientist Uncovers Mars Climate History in Unique Meteorite (Source: Space Daily)
Was Mars - now a cold, dry place - once a warm, wet planet that sustained life? And if so, how long has it been cold and dry? Research underway at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory may one day answer those questions - and perhaps even help pave the way for future colonization of the Red Planet. By analyzing the chemical clues locked inside an ancient Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty, Florida State University Professor Munir Humayun and an international research team are revealing the story of Mars' ancient, and sometimes startling, climate history. Click here. (8/29)

Waking Up From Alaska's Aerospace Dream (Source: Juneau Empire)
When your head is in the clouds, it’s easy to lose track of your feet. On Monday, the 17th rocket since 1998 lifted off from the state-owned Kodiak Launch Complex. Four seconds after leaving the launchpad, the rocket exploded. The blast damaged the complex — how extensively we do not yet know — and it may be a sign that it’s time to give up on the dream of an Alaskan aerospace industry. Rather than use insurance payouts to rebuild the complex, Alaska Aerospace should consider using that money to demolish it.

When it was envisioned in the 1990s, the Kodiak Launch Complex was to be the centerpiece of a new branch to Alaska’s economy. Built with federal grant money secured by Sen. Ted Stevens, the launch complex would welcome rockets and satellites bound for polar orbits. But Kodiak Launch Complex hasn’t been able to compete with launches from Vandenberg in California, and private companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic haven’t shown much interest in launches from Alaska.

The problem has to do with the market. A contract with the Missile Defense Agency was lucrative for Alaska Aerospace and the Kodiak Launch Complex, but that contract ended years ago and federal budget cuts mean little is available to replace it. Three years ago, Alaska Aerospace (the state-owned corporation that operates Kodiak Launch Complex) began asking the Alaska Legislature for cash to make ends meet. This year, the corporation received $6 million in operating expenses and $2.4 million for capital costs. (8/29)

Undersea Astronaut Crew Will Test Deep Space Comm, Robotics Strategies (Source: Aviation Week)
Simulated spacewalks, communications delays and robotics will play featured roles as U.S., European and Canadian astronauts descend to the Aquarius undersea laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Florida., for a second time this summer to address some of the obstacles human explorers can expect to face as they venture into deep space. U.S. astronaut Randy Bresnik will lead the seven-day training session, NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 19, that is slated to get underway on Sept. 8.

During their excursions, however, the men will also work with 10-minute communications delays in their exchanges with "Mission Control," just as they might expect to if they were on a mission midway between the Earth and Mars, according to Bresnik in a preview provided to NASA TV viewers this week. Most days will be filled with spacewalk activities outside the Florida International University (FIU)-supervised Aquarius. Editor's Note: In addition to FIU, Embry-Riddle will support the NEEMO 19 mission. (8/29)

Mississippi, Louisiana Students Get Out-of-This-World Start to the School Year (Source: NASA)
Students from Mississippi and Louisiana will gather at the INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi, for a long-distance call with NASA astronauts currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station  The special back-to-school education event will take place Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 1:20 p.m. EDT. The students will spend time learning about the orbiting laboratory, rockets and NASA’s new deep space exploration spacecraft, Orion, which is set to make its maiden spaceflight in December. (8/29)

12 Tech Attractions for Teens (Including KSC Visitor Complex) (Source: Family Vacation Critic)
Teenagers can be tough customers when it comes to choosing attractions to visit on your trip. Technology has become an integral part of the teen lifestyle, and many places, from museums to historic sites, have reacted to the times by incorporating more interactive and digital elements to their offerings. Click here. (8/29)

SpaceX Hit With 2nd Class Action Over July Layoffs
(Source: Law360)
SpaceX was hit with another proposed class action in California state court on Tuesday over the aerospace company’s alleged failure to give workers notice of a mass layoff in July, marking at least the second suit over the firings. Former SpaceX employee Laura Barragan claims the Elon Musk-founded company neglected to give her and other workers a written warning of the July 21 mass layoffs at its Hawthorne, California, facility, in violation of the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. (8/28)

Galileo Satellites Incident Likely Result of Software Errors (Source: RIA Novosti)
The failure of the European Union’s Galileo satellites to reach their intended orbital position was likely caused by software errors in the Fregat-MT rocket’s upper-stage, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported. “The nonstandard operation of the integrated management system was likely caused by an error in the embedded software. As a result, the upper stage received an incorrect flight assignment, and, operating in full accordance with the embedded software, it has delivered the units to the wrong destination,” a Roscosmos was quoted as saying. (8/28)

Russia to Launch New Heavy-Lift Angara Rocket in December (Source: Moscow Times)
Having managed to launch its first rocket of post-Soviet design in July, Russia is now getting ready to test a beefed-up version of the vehicle by the end of the year, thereby highlighting the Russian space industry's position as a major global player. Preparations for the launch, which is scheduled for the end of December, are already under way at the Plesetsk spaceport.

Called Angara, the new rocket was commissioned in the early 1990s, when Russian space officials were concerned that an independent Ukraine might withhold deliveries of vital components used in the construction of Russian rockets like the Proton. The Angara rocket launched successfully on July 9, nearly two weeks after the cancellation of the first attempt, which was derailed by a leaky pressure valve.

The rocket's design means that it can be attached to the side of its core booster, which allows the vehicle's lifting capacity to be tailored to the weight of its payload. In this way, the Angara rocket follows the economical approach to rocket design currently employed by U.S-based commercial launch company SpaceX, which is developing a heavy launch vehicle based on its already proven Falcon-9 rocket. The two vehicles will compete on the global commercial launch market. (8/27)

NASA Commits to $7 Billion SLS Development (Source: CBS)
After a detailed engineering and cost analysis, NASA managers have formally approved development of the Space Launch System -- SLS -- heavy-lift rocket, the most powerful booster ever attempted and a key element in the agency's long-range plans to send astronauts to nearby asteroids and, eventually, Mars, officials announced Wednesday.

The SLS development program is projected to cost $7 billion from February 2014 through the rocket's maiden flight, a November 2018 test launch carrying an uncrewed Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, or MPCV, on a three-week-long shakedown mission beyond the moon and back to an ocean-splashdown on Earth.

That target date is a year later than originally envisioned when NASA first laid out a tentative schedule for initial SLS flights. But senior agency managers say the projected cost and launch target are what came out of a detail analysis incorporating a wide variety of factors, including the possibility of unforeseen engineering challenges. (8/27)

Europa: How Less Can Be More (Source: Planetary Society)
Three factors make exploring Europa hard. First, we want to explore an entire complex world, and mapping its features requires acquiring vast amounts of data. Second, Europa lies far from the Earth, which necessitates capable communications and power systems (expensive) to return the data. Third, Europa lies within the harsh radiation fields of Jupiter, which requires significant radiation hardening (expensive) and limits the life of any spacecraft that explores this world. These factors can make a mission concept that seems like less actually be more. Click here. (8/26)

Commercial Crew Choice Will Lead To Flight-Testing (Source: Aviation Week)
Even if NASA selects Dream Chaser for the next phase of its public-private crew vehicle development project, NASA will need to flight-test its Orion crew capsule. Dream Chaser already has flown a free-flying glide test marred only by a landing gear failure after a successful approach and touchdown, and the company may tow it behind a C-17 for future tests in the atmosphere. In that sense, its flight-test regime up until launch to orbit will be similar to that of the space shuttle orbiter.

But testing requirements for capsules differ from those of the shuttle, which added ejection seats to the orbiter Columbia on its first spaceflight, and carried pilots on the Enterprise flights. The Dragon is already flying unmanned cargo missions to the ISS, and Boeing plans an unmanned Atlas V flight of its CST-100 capsule before sending a two-person crew to orbit. All three commercial crew contenders have hired retired shuttle astronauts to oversee planning for flight-crew operations. (8/28)

Italy Commits More Funds to Second-generation Radar Satellites (Source: Space News)
The Italian government’s agreement to commit another 66.6 million euros ($88 million) to the design of a second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed radar satellite system will keep the program moving forward but does not assure it will be completed in time to assure continuity with the first-generation system, Italian government and industry officials said.

Thales Alenia Space, Cosmo-SkyMed’s prime contractor, announced Aug. 27 that it and its sister company, ground-services provider Telespazio, had received contracts valued at 43.6 million euros and 23 million euros, respectively, to continue designing the two-satellite system. (8/28)

SES Gives Brazil Timetable for Filling Orbital Slots (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg’s Brazilian affiliate has promised Brazil’s telecommunications regulator that the two orbital positions SES won at auction in May will be filled with satellites within four and six years. Three months after it paid $27 million for rights to 48 degrees and 64 degrees west at an auction managed by Brazil’s Anatel regulatory agency, SES DTH do Brasil agreed to place a satellite at the 48-degree slot within four years for fixed satellite services using Ku-, C- and Ka-bands. (8/29)

Revolution in Spaceflight Requires New Spacesuits (Source: Space.com)
Space suits are created by science, but they can also seem magical, clothes that shield people from the inhospitable conditions of space. Spacesuits are a true paradox in design. They are both a machine and a garment. These suits must withstand large pressure differentials while remaining flexible; they must tolerate vast thermal variations inside and out, without being too heavy or stiff; they must be ultra-reliable and easy to put on. Click here. (8/28)

August 28, 2014

[Suborbital Tourism] Spaceports Will Likely Fail (Source: Financial Times)
It gives me no pleasure to reach the pessimistic, little-Earther conclusion that the rush to get high-net-worth individuals on a wondrous stunt ride into suborbital space is probably doomed. Just look at manned space travel’s record. There are different counting methods, but the consensus is that some 3 percent of 540 astronauts have died flying. Other disasters, notably Apollo 13, were only narrowly avoided.

Include unreported Soviet crashes, ground accidents such as the one that killed three Apollo 1 astronauts, plus suborbital mishaps that are not counted as space accidents, and the proportion of astronauts killed in training or on missions touches 5 percent. These deaths occurred under state auspices. But early evidence of private space enterprise being safer is not forthcoming. Rockets and pioneering space flight are just exceptionally hazardous – probably too much so to be consumerised.

 Government astronauts come from a military culture; death is risked for your country.  Are people joining the likes of Sir Richard and Mr. Musk really going to be prepared to risk dying for them? Furthermore, are private spaceship pilots’ families and lawyers – and those of dead paying passengers – going for patriotic reasons to hold back from suing the butt off corporations? It is hard to imagine. As for the passengers, who will probably have to travel into space uninsured, will significant numbers of them, enough to fill several flights a day, turn out to be the right stuff? I doubt it. (8/27)

XCOR Aerospace's Private Lynx Space Plane to Get New Texas Home (Source: Space.com)
A private space plane born in California is about to get new Texas digs. XCOR Aerospace — the builder of the Lynx space plane — is renovating the main hangar for the spaceship designed to bring paying tourists into suborbital space. Lynx could launch on its first test flights later this year.

The hangar renovations kicked off during an Aug. 15 ceremony in Midland, Texas — the heart of XCOR's development and manufacturing operations — at the Midland International Airport. In the long term, XCOR will transform the airport to a spaceport, according to company representatives.

After completion, the updated hangar will house the spacecraft, the corporate headquarters of XCOR and facilities for research and development. Construction is being performed by N.C. Sturgeon and is expected to finish by 2015. Costs and renovation details were not disclosed in a news release. (8/28)

Costa Rican Wins NASA Award at KSC (Source: Costa Rican Times)
NASA awarded the Costa Rican engineer, Sandra A. Cauffman, a Medal for Extraordinary Leadership. This distinction is given for specific achievements or for substantial improvements made in operations, efficiency, service, financial savings or technological and scientific advances which contribute towards NASA’s motto: “For the Benefit of All”.

The prize went to the woman who is an alumnus of both the Escuela República in Paraguay (Hatillo) and the Liceo Luis Dobles Segreda (San José) for her work as assistant director for a mission involving 400 scientists who, in a few days, will be launching a probe the size of a school bus to monitor the atmosphere around Mars. (8/28)

Steerage To The Stars: The Cheapsat Revolution (Source: Information Week)
As secondary payloads lower effective launch costs, the "cheapsat" revolution will rapidly expand, diversify, and differentiate the commercial, military, and scientific exploitation of space. The spacecraft -- variously called cheapsats, small satellites, smallsats, microsatellites, or nanosats -- are dedicated, single-user, and limited-use satellites that fit under some threshold. Click here. (8/28)

Investigators Still Looking into July 2 Suborbital Launch Failure at Wallops (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Investigators are still looking into why a sounding rocket launched July 2 from NASA Wallops Flight Facility crashed 19 seconds into its flight. "We cannot comment on the investigation's findings until it is completed," a Wallops spokesman said. The failure has not affected the remaining nine sounding rocket missions scheduled in 2014. The latest launch from Wallops was a Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket successfully launched for a Department of Defense mission Aug. 23.

The Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket that is the subject of the investigation was launched July 2 at 4:36 a.m. but crashed into the oceanic hazard zone 19 seconds later. "Range controllers detected a flight anomaly with the second stage Improved Malemute motor," NASA said in a release. The rocket flew to an altitude of 27,000 feet and crashed about one nautical mile downrange. (8/27)

No US Commitment To Replace Russian RD-180 Rocket Engine, Yet (Source: Breaking Defense)
When the Air Force issued an RFI about an engine to replace the RD-180 it began to look as if they were serious about committing to build the first new rocket engine in decades. But we also received two new RD-180 engines from Russia the same day as the RFI went out, ULA announced. That bolstered those who argue that Russia needs the revenue so much and is so committed to space cooperation that our sanctions against Russia to punish them for Ukraine will not stop the flow of the cheap, highly reliable engines.

Three more engines are due to arrive this fall, and I’m betting they arrive. Just to make sure the Air Force or OSD hadn’t snuck something past us, I checked to see if any policy decisions had been made or memos approved to allow spending for a new engine. According to a USAF spokesman: “No, there has not been a policy decision made to buy a new engine;” and “No, the decision for a new budget line has not been made.”

The answer about the budget line is intriguing. It certainly seems to indicate that a new budget line is being discussed. As any acquisition aficionado knows, creation of a budget line is tantamount to authorizing a new program. (8/28)

U.S., China are Testing Hypersonic Weapons (Source: National Defense)
The Pentagon's cancellation of a hypersonic weapons test due to a glitch doesn't derail the U.S. push to develop such a weapon, say analysts. That push is gathering momentum after China's second successful test of a ultra-high-speed missile. "China and the United States are seeking to develop the same range of hypersonic weapons, both boost-glide or hypersonic glide vehicles, and future air-breathing hypersonic vehicles, such as scram jets," said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. (8/27)

Composite Rocket-Fuel Tank Passes Test, Offers Cost and Weight Savings (Source: Birmingham Business Journal)
For the first time, a rocket-fuel tank made of composite materials has sustained the temperature and pressure needed to contain liquid hydrogen. The NASA-Boeing project is seen as a breakthrough that will reduce tank weight 30% and cut production costs 25%. Applications are also seen for other industries. (8/27)

Masten Space Systems Aims High on XS-1 Military Space Plane Project (Source: Space.com)
When Dave Masten, founder of California-based aerospace startup company Masten Space Systems, read the requirements for the U.S. military's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1), there was one requirement he knew his company could definitely meet: flying 10 times in 10 days.

The company has released an artist's conception of its XS-1 entry. The artwork shows a VTVL system taking off vertically from a launchpad with wings and a tail fin, which are elements that are not standard on any of the company's previous vehicles. "It's an artist's representation, and so the purpose of Phase 1 is to come to a design, and we're going through a lot of different design ideas as part of that phase," Mahoney explained. "What it will do is meet the requirements that DARPA set out. Click here. (8/27)

Pan-Arab Space Agency: Pipe Dream or Real Possibility? (Source: Via Satellite)
The Middle East, especially the Arabian Gulf, is fast becoming a heavyweight in the international space industry. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and, more recently, Qatar are developing their respective space and satellite-related initiatives at various speeds and to different degrees of investment.

In 1976, the twenty-one member states of the Arab League established Arabsat, the Saudi-based satellite communications operator at a time when the communications industry in MENA was government owned and dominated. The liberalization of the MENA telecommunications industry in the 1990s gave the MENA satellite industry room and air to grow.

Consequently, it is especially buoyant now and shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. Satellites whose footprints cover the MENA region and then some are congested with all manner of TV channels not to mention the other communications functionalities provided by such satellites (i.e., Internet and telephony). (8/26)

What Lit Up the Universe? (Source: UCL)
New research from UCL shows we will soon uncover the origin of the ultraviolet light that bathes the cosmos, helping scientists understand how galaxies were built. The study shows how forthcoming astronomical surveys will reveal what lit up the cosmos.

“Which produces more light? A country’s biggest cities or its many tiny towns?” asked Dr Pontzen, lead author of the study. “Cities are brighter, but towns are far more numerous. Understanding the balance would tell you something about the organisation of the country. We’re posing a similar question about the universe: does ultraviolet light come from numerous but faint galaxies, or from a smaller number of quasars?” (8/27)

Political Clout Pays Off Big for Elon Musk’s SpaceX (Source: Free Beacon)
Shortly before a private spaceflight company’s test rocket exploded over southern Texas last weekend, state lawmakers announced millions in subsidies to get the company to continue launching rockets in the Lone Star State. SpaceX will receive more than $15 million in public financing to build a launch pad in Cameron County, near the Mexican border.

The subsidies came after SpaceX’s founder, billionaire tech mogul and pop technologist Elon Musk, made campaign contributions to key state lawmakers and hired lobbyists with ties to Austin. SpaceX is one of a number of innovative and disruptive startups that, though lauded by some free marketeers for making government-run markets more competitive, are finding themselves drawn to political advocacy, whether out of shrewdness or necessity. Click here. (8/27)

August 27, 2014

Russian Defense Ministry to Withdraw From Use of Rokot Boosters in 2016 (Source: Itar-Tass)
In a bid to reduce the dependence on imports, Russia’s Defense Ministry intends to withdraw the Rokot light space launch vehicles from use starting from 2016, Commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces Lieutenant General Alexander Golovko said.

“The launches of the Rokot carrier rockets today are carried out in the interests of the Defense Ministry within the Federal Space Program and international cooperation programs,” Golovko told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. “Four launches are planned in the interests of the Defense Ministry — three in 2015 and one — in 2016. In the future, the Defense Ministry will be able to use the light carrier rockets Soyuz 2.1v and Angara for its tasks,” Golovko said. “Thus we will not depend on imports for light-class rockets,” said Shoigu. (8/27)

Chinese Team is Catching Up in Hunt for Dark Matter (Source: Science)
On Thursday, physicists in China reported the latest result in the search for particles of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity holds the galaxies together. Researchers with the Particle and Astrophysical Xenon (PandaX) detector spotted no sign of their quarry, which isn't surprising because PandaX isn't yet as sensitive as a detector already running in the United States that hasn't seen anything either. Still, the finding is notable because the PandaX detector features a clever design that might enable it to vie for the sensitivity lead in the next year or so.

The new work "is very credible," says Richard Gaitskell, a physicist at Brown University and a member of the team working with the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, the current leader in sensitivity. Rafael Lang, a physicist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and a member of the collaboration building an even more sensitive detector known as XENON1T in Italy's subterranean Gran Sasso National Laboratory, agrees. PandaX researchers "are doing a great job in [catching up] and making extremely fast progress," he says. (8/26)

The Competition for Dollars (Source: Planetary Society)
One of the most common misperceptions about NASA is the amount of money the U.S. government spends on the agency. NASA competes for funding with all of the various entities that make up the federal government, but the agency is now confronting larger economic trends over which the space community has little control.

It’s worth looking into this topic a bit to help understand just what we have received for our investment in NASA over the past fifty years, and why we should continue to invest in space science. In this series of posts, I hope to do so in a way that clearly explains NASA’s position in the federal government and the U.S. economy, and hopefully shed some light on the nature of the budget challenges facing planetary science today. Click here. (8/27)

Regulating Asteroid Mining (Source: Space Daily)
The idea of mining asteroids is definitely in vogue. In the past few years commercial space advocates have been pursuing new private-sector space business activities. Profiting from orbital operations is not a new idea. Commercial space activities started in the early 1960s, with the launch of the first geosynchronous communications satellites.

Many thought these early commercial space ventures were just the beginning of a vast array of other commercially viable space applications. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of potentially profitable concepts have been tested in the financial markets, but few have gotten beyond the drawing board.

Today, some 50 years after the first commercial space success, we can point to only a few sustained and successful private sector space operations. Surprisingly, geostationary communications satellite services remain as the largest commercial benefactor of the natural space environment. Click here. (8/26)

NASA's Asteroid Plan May be Cheapest Route to Mars (Source: USA Today)
NASA's asteroid redirect mission is meant to be a cheaper steppingstone to Mars than landing on the moon, and already scientists have identified three possible asteroids on which astronauts could land. The asteroid plan, would cost between $1.25 billion and $2.6 billion, not including the price of the rocket. Congress is split on support of the mission, which NASA estimates is needed in order to get humans on Mars by the 2030s. Click here. (8/26)

NASA Cancels Plan for Ohio Drone Competition (Source: Dayton Daily News)
NASA has scrubbed the launch of a long-anticipated UAS competition this fall, a program manager at the space agency confirmed Tuesday. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge was set Sept. 10-17 at Camp Atterbury, Ind., about two hours southwest of Dayton. A rescheduled date was not announced.

NASA and Development Projects Inc., an affiliate of the Dayton Development Coalition, organized the two-year competition offering $1.5 million in prize money. Sam Ortega, manager of NASA Centennial Challenges Program, said in an email the space agency and DPI “are reviewing the operations and resources necessary to execute this challenge successfully and fairly for all of the teams registered to date.” (8/26)

California State Senate Approves Drone Privacy Bill (Source: ASA California)
Legislation to protect the privacy rights of Californians passed out of the California State Senate on a bipartisan vote.  AB 1327, authored by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), Senator Ted Lieu (D- Redondo Beach), Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), and Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) protects the privacy rights of Californians by establishing basic restrictions on the government use of unmanned aerial systems, also known as “drones” for surveillance. (8/26)

NASA’s Space Launch System Moves from Design into Construction (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Today NASA announced it has formally switched the Space Launch System program from its “formulation” stage into “implementation,” a Rubicon of sorts known as Key Decision Point-C. This is the large rocket that NASA hopes one day will launch its astronauts to Mars. “We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said today. “And we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.”

Passing this “key decision point” is significant for NASA, and represents a significant commitment to the rocket program. To date NASA has spent only about 30 percent of the SLS’s estimated $9 billion development cost. Bolden’s decision greenlights spending the rest. It’s also worth noting in today’s announcement that the target date for the rocket’s first test flight is now November, 2018, nearly a full year later than the initial target of 2017. (8/27)

Aggressive SpaceX Puts Commercial Space Rivals on Notice (Source: Fortune)
It’s easy to think Elon Musk’s spaceflight company is more hype than reality, but look more closely at its competitors’ moves and you can see evidence of disruption. Last week, rumors concerning the value of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rippled across the Web after tech startup-watcher TechCrunch reported that private investment in the company valued it at “somewhere south of $10 billion.”

SpaceX quickly quashed the rumor. “SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done,” a company spokesman said in a statement. And so SpaceX ended the week just as it began it, despite having briefly enjoyed the status of a $10 billion industry behemoth. Perhaps the best way to evaluate SpaceX and its potential value isn’t in dollar figures or in audacious claims, but by observing what the upstart space firm is already doing to its competition in the commercial space industry.

That competition—mostly European space launch providers like France’s Arianespace and International Launch Services —has largely held a monopoly on commercial space launches since the U.S. retreated from the industry in the early 1980s. The $200 billion satellite industry makes up a huge and growing chunk of SpaceX’s nearly 40-strong launch manifest through 2018. If SpaceX’s competitors in Europe and elsewhere believe all this to be nothing but hype, they have a strange way of showing it. To even the casual observer, SpaceX’s competitors appear to be scrambling. Click here. (8/27)

Spaceport Indiana Offers Adult Space Camp (Source: Spaceport Indiana)
Why should kids have all the fun? That's Not Fair! So we are making it a little more fun for adults as we add a two day space camp just for them! Take a break from the normal weekend and join us on October 11-12. Create your own experiments and payloads and get ready to launch a platform to the edge of space on October 12th! Saturday night includes a BBQ and refreshments and then some rest for a big day of launching, tracking and recovery. This is designed for folks over 21 years of age. Click here. (8/26)

Space Coast Congressional Candidate Seeks NewSpace Development (Source: G. Rothblatt)
Gabriel Rothblatt, a Democrat, hopes to unseat Republican Bill Posey in November to represent Florida's 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Among the issues Rothblatt hopes to champion is the diversification of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to include more "NewSpace" businesses and programs. Click here to see a new video describing his vision. (8/26)

Guardian of the Galaxy: The Woman Planning for a Space Catastrophe (Source: CNN)
When a disaster of a mega-proportion hits a city - from a terror attack to a hurricane - there are procedures in place to deal with the aftermath. Suggest that the source of a serious humanitarian crisis could lie in outer space, however, and many will assume you are talking science fiction. But one woman is on a mission to convince the world -- and especially governments and the United Nations -- to take threats such as potential asteroid strikes more seriously. Click here. (8/26)

NASA Picks Up $120M Option on Jacobs' Marshall Contract (Source: Space News)
NASA picked up a one-year, $120 million option on Tullahoma, Tennessee-based Jacobs Technology’s Engineering and Science Services and Skills Augmentation contract at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The option begins Sept. 27 and continues through Oct. 2, 2015, NASA said. Jacobs won the contract in 2012. Including the two-year base period and three one-year options — one of which has now been exercised — the total potential value of the deal is $600 million. (8/25)

DOD Officials Expand Space-Tracking Website (Source: USAF)
Defense Department officials announced additions to its space situational awareness program’s Space-Track.org website. Maj. Gen. David D. Thompson, U.S. Strategic Command’s director of plans and policy, said the release of new high-quality positional information on space debris of an unknown origin will help owner-operators better protect their satellites from objects and ultimately create less space debris.

“We run a predictive program that shows where the objects are, where they will be in the future, and the potential for these objects to run into each other,” Thompson said. Thompson explained that most of the debris that is considered “objects of unknown origin” resulted from launches or space collisions, but has not been definitively identified by source. (8/26)

Effective Space Solutions Offers Space Towing Services (Source: Globes)
Effective Space Solutions, a new Israeli startup, is developing a solution, which it calls De-Orbiter, for towing satellites sent to the wrong place. Former head of Israel's space directorate and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) space division general manager Arie Halsband founded the company.

The company says that De-Orbiter could have helped the Galileo satellite, which was recently launched in the wrong direction. The company's technology is slated to become operational in 18 months. "We could have saved the satellite," Halsband says. "That was exactly the situation we're aiming at. Our micro-satellite was designed to provide space services, such as changing a location or communications problems between satellites." (8/26)

With Commercial Crew Award Close, Rivals Mull Future without NASA Funds (Source: Space News)
The three companies bidding to succeed the retired space shuttle as NASA’s means of sending astronauts to and from the international space station have different fallback plans for their respective vehicles should they get passed over for a final round of government development funding, the award of which is imminent. Representatives of these companies — Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX — offered their perspectives. Click here. (8/26)

Antares Could Be Ready for Sun-synchronous Launches Next Year (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. expects to have U.S. government approval within about a year for using its Antares rocket to launch payloads to sun-synchronous orbit from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore, a company executive said. “We’ve been working with NASA, the FAA and other agencies to get approval to fly high-inclination missions from the Wallops site,” said John Steinmeyer, a senior program manager at Orbital.

The earliest possible date for such a mission is still “a year or so out,” Steinmeyer said. Orbital has not identified any candidate payloads for a sun-synchronous launch. “Orbital has expressed an interest to NASA Wallops in flying southward to a higher-inclination/sun-synchronous orbit, though no specific mission or date has been proposed to the range,” NASA spokesman Jeremy Eggers wrote in an Aug. 7 email. “As far as what Orbital would need to do to fly this trajectory, that would depend on the details of the mission.” (8/25)

Musk Offers Statement on Launch Delay (Source: SpaceX)
“SpaceX has decided to postpone tomorrow's flight of AsiaSat 6. We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9, nor the interfaces with the Spacecraft, but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again. We expect to complete this process in one to two weeks.

“The natural question is whether this is related to the test vehicle malfunction at our development facility in Texas last week. After a thorough review, we are confident that there is no direct link. Had the same blocked sensor port problem occurred with an operational Falcon 9, it would have been outvoted by several other sensors. That voting system was not present on the test vehicle.

“What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under U.S. law.” (8/26)

Roscosmos Requests $155 Million to Help Europe Get to Mars (Source: Moscow Times)
Russian space agency Roscosmos needs 5.6 billion rubles ($155 million) to complete its share of a large-scale joint Mars exploration project with the European Space Agency (ESA), Interfax reported. The project, called ExoMars, began as a joint project between the ESA and NASA to send a pair of unmanned probes to Mars. But in 2012, budget cuts in Washington forced NASA to withdraw from the project, and Roscosmos was quickly tapped as a replacement.

One of the key objectives of the ExoMars mission is to search for life on the Red Planet. The mission involves two stages: one in 2016 and another in 2018. In both, unmanned probes will hitch rides on Russian Proton rockets. Such rockets, however, have seen a number of launch failures in the last three years.

The requested $155 million will pay for the two launches, as well as finance the completion of the 2018 ExoMars lander, which is being designed by Russia and outfitted largely with Russian scientific equipment, according to a draft federal space strategy for 2016-2025. (8/26)