April 28, 2015

Russian Cargo Ship Experiences Problems After Launch (Source: SEN)
Russia dispatched its second cargo supply mission of the year to the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday morning—but it immediately ran into problems. A Soyuz-2-1a rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan exactly as scheduled, carrying the Progress M-27M cargo ship to the outpost with 2.5 tons of supplies for six members of the 43rd long-duration expedition onboard the station.

The spacecraft reached orbit less than nine minutes after liftoff and deployed its power-generating solar arrays and a trio of communications antennas. However, the mission control in Korolev was not able to confirm a successful opening of a pair of the Kurs rendezvous antennas onboard the seven-ton vehicle, as data coming from the spacecraft had become sporadic, NASA said.

According to the official Russian press, only two out of five antennas had been deployed. As a result, the mission was immediately switched to a longer, 34-orbit rendezvous profile with the ISS, which would give ground controllers extra time to troubleshoot the issue. If they resolve the issue, the docking of the cargo ship at the station will take place around 9:03 UTC on Thursday April 30, NASA said. (4/28)

Habitats Could Be NASA’s Next Commercial Spacecraft Buy (Source: Aviation Week)
The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle is designed to take humans to Mars, but with less than 20 cubic meters of pressurized volume for a crew of four it could get more than a little cozy en route. Commercial cargo vehicles designed to supply the International Space Station (ISS) may add some elbow-room for the long haul to the Red Planet.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK all have won small NASA contracts to study how their commercial cargo vehicles could be modified as habitats for Orion crews in the exploration “proving ground” near the Moon. Bigelow Aerospace, which has orbited two “expandable” habitat testbeds, and is scheduled to berth another one at the ISS this fall, is also running a study, and three other companies are studying advanced environmental control and life-support systems (Eclss) for future habs. (4/24)

Two-satellite Arabsat Order Ends Lockheed’s Commercial Drought (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on April 28 said it had entered into contracts valued at $650 million with satellite builder Lockheed Martin Space Systems and launch provider Arianespace for the construction of two satellites and the launch of one of them in 2018. (4/28)

Arabsat and Lockheed, in separate statements, said the contracts are with not only the satellite fleet operator, but also with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, KACST, which will spearhead Saudi efforts to stimulate a domestic space industry. The contracts end a long dry spell for Lockheed, whose officials have said repeatedly that they would reduce the cost and delivery time of the company’s A2100 satellite frame to return to a competitive position in the commercial satellite market. (4/28)

Dueling 'Vulcan' Space Projects Prompt Rocket Name Quandary (Source: Space.com)
Call it a rocket builder's Vulcan death grip. There appears to be a bit of a row between United Launch Alliance's (ULA) just announced new Vulcan rocket and the Paul Allen Vulcan Aerospace enterprise, the big and bold Stratolaunch aircraft. ULA launched a name-the-new rocket competition that allowed Americans to vote on their favorite name for the company's Next Generation Launch System.

Over a million votes later, the Vulcan was the top choice. A reaction to that title stirred up some name calling! "Vulcan is a trademark of Vulcan Inc. and we have informed ULA of our trademark rights," said Chuck Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace, a division of Paul Allen-backed Vulcan Inc.

ULA's Vulcan is geared "to transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible," according to a ULA press statement. Vulcan Aerospace is busy building the world's largest aircraft to send rockets from the aerial platform into low Earth orbit. (4/27)

SpaceX Rocket Launches Turkmenistan Satellite (Source: NBC)
SpaceX launched Turkmenistan's first telecom satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, after taking a chance on some touch-and-go weather in Florida. The launch of the TurkmenÄlem 52E spacecraft came just 13 days after SpaceX used a different Falcon 9 to send a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station. (4/27)

Russia's New Rocket Will be Named Fenix (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Roscosmos plans to begin in 2018 the development of a medium-class carrier rocket to replace the Soyuz rocket family the creation of which had started during the USSR times when Sergey Korolev was the country’s chief rocket engineer, a rocket and space industry source said. In the period from 2015 to 2018 Roscosmos plans to spend more than 30 billion rubles (almost $600 million) on the project.

Another source in the industry said the initiative of the new rocket development belongs to the Samara-based Progress rocket space center. According to preliminary data, it will be a one-piece carrier rocket with the capacity of carrying at least 9 tons of payload to a low-Earth orbit, that is, it will take a niche between the existing Soyuz and Zenit rockets. (4/27)

Over $400 Million More Needed for Russia's New Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos believes it is necessary to allocate an additional 22 billion rubles (around $430 million) for the completion of all facilities of the launch and technical complexes for the Soyuz-2 rocket at the Vostochny cosmodrome that is currently under construction in the Far East, the Space Agency chief Igor Komarov said on Monday. (4/27)

Disaggregation Giving Way to Broader Space Protection Strategy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force appears to have cooled on a space architecture concept that entails distributing capabilities across a larger number of satellite platforms. The philosophy, known as disaggregation, has been in vogue among U.S. Defense Department officials and in think tanks for years. Air Force and industry officials have viewed it as a major factor as the service plans its next-generation satellite programs. (4/26)

On Hubble's 25th, Looking at the Next 25 Years (Source: Space Review)
NASA celebrated last week the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, looking back on the scientific accomplishments of that famous space telescope. Jeff Foust reports on what the next 25 years in space astronomy might look like beyond Hubble. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2740/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Commercial Lunar Transportation Services: A Speculation (Source: Space Review)
There remains interest in carrying out human missions to the surface of the Moon, even though that is not an official goal of the Obama Administration. Anthony Young discusses how a commercial model for lunar transportation, based on the COTS and commercial crew programs, might be the most cost-effective, and perhaps the only, way to carry out such missions. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2739/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Humans to Mars: Further Delay Undermines Support (Source: Space Review)
Recent proposals have offered missions architectures to get humans to the vicinity of Mars, if not necessarily on the surface of the planet, by some time in the 2030s. Joe Webster argues that to maintain public support, those timelines need to be accelerated with a modest amount of additional funding. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2738/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Battle of the Collossi: SLS vs Falcon Heavy (Source: Space Review)
Many in the space community like to debate the merits of two heavy-lift vehicles under development, NASA's SLS and SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. Dale Skran offers a tale of the tape of the two heavyweights, comparing their planned capabilities and costs. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2737/1 to view the article. (4/27)

House To Introduce 2-year NASA Authorization Bill (Source: Space News)
The House Science Committee will mark up a two-year NASA authorization bill on April 30 that proponents argue “restores much-needed balance” to the agency by shifting funding from Earth sciences and space technology to planetary science and exploration systems.

According to a fact sheet about the bill released by the committee April 24, the bill would authorize funding for NASA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and include both “aspirational” and “constrained” funding levels depending on whether spending levels set by the Budget Control Act are amended or retained. (4/24)

Ex-NASA Man to Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones (Source: The Independent)
A drone start-up is going to counter industrial scale deforestation using industrial scale reforestation. BioCarbon Engineering wants to use drones for good, using the technology to seed up to one billion trees a year, all without having to set foot on the ground. 26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted.

If successful, the initiative could help address this shortfall in a big way. Drones should streamline reforestation considerably, with hand-planting being slow and expensive. "The only way we're going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren't available to us before," CEO and former NASA-engineer Lauren Fletcher said.

"By using this approach we can meet the scale of the problem out there." BioCarbon's system for planting is really quite sophisticated, and should provide better uptake than traditional dry seeding by air. First, drones flies above an area and report on its potential for restoration, then they descend to two or three metres above ground and fire out pods containing seeds that are pre-germinated and covered in a nutritious hydrogel. (4/27)

Prestwick Airport Frontrunner to Become Britain's First Spaceport (Source: Herald Scotland)
According to reports, MSPs are set to recommend it becomes Scotland's "preferred bid" to become the European hub for commercial space flights. If approved, Prestwick would be used as the take-off point for space tourism under proposals from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and XCOR Space Expeditions.

MSPs from all parties are expected to approve a motion later this week which says Prestwick should be promoted as as Scotland's preferred bidder. John Scott, a Conservative MSP who will lead a members debate at Holyrood said: "I am very grateful for the cross-party support this has achieved. (4/26)

Senate Confirms NASA Deputy (Source: The Hill)
Senators approved Dava Newman to be NASA's next deputy administrator on Monday. Senators voted 87-0 on the nomination. Thirteen senators missed the vote, which remained open for roughly an hour. Newman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was nominated in October of last year for the post. She was favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last month. (4/27)

Mikulski Vows To Increase NASA’s 2016 Budget (Source: Space News)
Calling the Obama administration’s 2016 budget request for NASA “too skimpy,” the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee said April 27 she would seek to provide additional funding to the agency. Speaking at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon here, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she would seek to add an as-yet undetermined amount of money to NASA’s 2016 budget request of $18.5 billion. (4/27)

Thornberry Pushes To Accelerate U.S. Engine Development (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has proposed that the U.S. Air Force spend $100 million more than the service has budgeted next year to replace the Russian-made rocket engine used to launch most U.S. national security satellites.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) recommended that the Air Force spend $185 million next year on activities leading to an American-made replacement for the RD-180, the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force requested $85 million for that effort in its 2016 budget proposal released in February. (4/27)

April 27, 2015

Mismanagement and Favoritism in ISRO Stifle India's Communication Dreams (Source: The Week)
September 29, 2012, was a red letter day for the Indian Space Research Organization. GSAT-10, India's heaviest communication satellite, was launched into space on board the Ariane-5 rocket from the European spaceport in French Guiana on that day.

The satellite, which weighed 3,435kg, carried 30 transponders (12 Ku-band, 12 C-band and 6 extended C-band). It was expected to augment India's communication capabilities, especially in the direct to home (DTH) sector. Yet, nearly three years later, the Indian satellite communication space is in disarray and remains reliant on foreign satellites, despite launching two more satellites in the GSAT series. Click here. (4/27)

Abu Dhabi Forum to Highlight Space Education (Source: Trade Arabia)
Regional and international leaders from the space sector will be highlighting the importance of investing in space education and development at the upcoming Global Space & Satellite Forum (GSSF) 2015 in Abu Dhabi. The fifth edition of the forum will run on May 26 and 27 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.

It will discuss topics such as space technology applications, innovative solutions; low-cost satellite developments such as macro and nano satellites; and how satellite systems are improving lives – ranging from life-saving developments in the field of disaster management to the delivery of entertainment media via handheld consumer devices. (4/26)

Mexico Postpones Satellite Launch After Flaw Found in Similar Model (Source: Latin American Herald Tribune)
Mexico’s Communications and Transport Secretariat, or SCT, has postponed the launch of the Centenario satellite, the second orbiter of the state Mexsat communications system and previously scheduled for April 29, at the request of the manufacturing company, which detected a flaw in a similar system.

In a communique, the SCT said Friday that the request was made by Boeing Satellite Systems International, which had detected an operations failure in a satellite with characteristics similar to the Centenario, and which could have implications for the Mexican satellite. (4/27)

NASA Awards EPSCoR Grants for Research, Technology Development (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded 26 grants totaling $9.9 million to help bolster the capacity and competitiveness of 28 states and territories (jurisdictions) in the area of technology research and development. Through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, NASA awards Research Infrastructure Development (RID) grants every three to five years to jurisdictions that have not, in the past, participated equitably in aerospace and aerospace-related research activities.

The grants have a three-year period of performance, with renewal each year contingent on annual performance. Each awardee receives $125,000 per year, with the exception of Hawaii and South Carolina, each which receive $150,000 a year in order to also provide funding to the territories that fall under their program purview (Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, respectively). (4/27)

Internet Billionaires Face Off in Renewed Texas Space Race (Source: AP)
An isolated edge of vast West Texas is home to a highly secretive part of the 21st-century space race, one of two being directed in the Lone Star State by Internet billionaires whose personalities and corporate strategies seem worlds apart. The presence of Blue Origin, LLC, the brainchild of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, barely registers in nearby Van Horn, a way station along Interstate 10, a full decade after he began buying land in one of Texas' largest and most remote counties.

At the opposite end — of Texas and the competition — is the highly visible SpaceX venture, led by PayPal co-founder and electric car maker Elon Musk. His company contracts with NASA to resupply the International Space Station and is building a launch site about 600 miles from Van Horn, on the southernmost Texas Gulf coast, with the much-publicized goal of sending humans to Mars. SpaceX and Blue Origin are among several U.S. companies engaged in the private space business. Click here. (4/26)

Lockheed, Arianespace Challenge NewSat Bankruptcy Plan (Source: Law360)
Two of Australian satellite company and Chapter 15 debtor NewSat Ltd.'s most important contractors, Lockheed Martin Corp. and space launch firm Arianespace SA, launched challenges Friday to the Delaware bankruptcy court's temporary order last week halting creditor action, both arguing it shouldn't apply to their agreements as is. (4/27)

Blaming Valve, SpaceX Plans Another Falcon 9 Recovery Attempt (Source: Aviation Week)
Undeterred by three failed attempts, SpaceX in June will try again to recover the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster after a launch. But later this summer the company may move the landing site to firm ground, rather than a floating platform off the U.S. East Coast. Slower-than-expected throttle valve response was the cause of the latest failure on April 14, SpaceX founder and Chief Technology Officer Elon Musk tweeted on April 18.

Biotech’s Not Lost in Space (Source: GEN)
GEN’s first-ever List of 10 experiments carried out in space features applications for human health or drug R&D. The 10 are among a sample of the hundreds of research topics and experiments carried out in space in recent years. Each experiment topic is listed alphabetically by its title, with additional information on purpose, partners, principal investigator(s) and other investigators/collaborators, dates and distinctions, and links for more information. Click here. (4/27)

April 26, 2015

NASA Selects Small Business CubeSat Projects for Funding (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected three projects for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards that focus on propulsion, laser communications and attitude control for advanced CubeSat missions. Digital Solid State Propulsion of Reno, Nev., and QorTek of Williamsburgh, Pa., was selected for a SBIR awards worth up to $750,000 apiece for their propulsion and attitude control proposals., respectively. Fibertek of Herndon, Va., was chosen for a SBIR Select award worth up to $1.5 million. (4/26)

NASA STTR Phase 2 Grant Supports Small Launch Vehicle Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories (GTL) and the University of Tennessee Space Institute for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II award to develop a new small-satellite launch vehicle.
“GTL has developed the conceptual design for the Advanced Cryogenic Expendable (ACE) nano-launch vehicle,” according to the program’s technical abstract. “The 7700 lb gross lift-off weight ACE vehicle is capable of delivering a 154 lb payload to 400 nmi circular orbit at 28.5 deg inclination.

“With a launch cost of less than $1M at low launch rate, ACE is directly competitive with existing large launch vehicles on a $/lb basis. This affordability is enabled by a combination of high performance, reduced stages and parts count, and simplified operations,” the abstract reads. (4/25)

Next Wave of Space Coast Rockets Will Pack More Power (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
New, bigger, bolder and more advanced rockets — most built by private companies — are coming to a spaceport near you. This next generation of boosters is key to transforming the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into the 21st-century multiuser launch center that officials have been talking about since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

First up will the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX hopes to debut its newest, most-powerful rocket, with a test launch from Cape Canaveral later this year. Earlier this month the United Launch Alliance unveiled plans for its next generation rocket, called Vulcan. In 2018, NASA hopes to debut its new rocket, the Space Launch System, which the agency plans to use to send astronauts into deep space and eventually to Mars.

Finally, Blue Origin, which like SpaceX is a private company run by an enigmatic billionaire, is preparing to announce plans later this spring for its first rocket, also set to compete with SpaceX and also likely to be launched from Cape Canaveral. While most of the new rockets still are several years away, competition for the space launch business is heating up now. (4/26)

Cosmic Tsunami Wakes Up Comatose Galaxies (Source: Science Daily)
Galaxies are often found in clusters, which contain many 'red and dead' members that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers have discovered that these comatose galaxies can sometimes come back to life. If clusters of galaxies merge, a huge shock wave can drive the birth of a new generation of stars -- the sleeping galaxies get a new lease of life. (4/24)

Arianespace Launches Thor 7 and Sicral 2 Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On Sunday, April 26, an Ariane 5 ECA rocket roared off the launch pad and into the skies above Kourou, French Guiana. This rocket was originally scheduled to launch on April 15 but was scrubbed due to an issue that occurred on a fluid connector to the cryogenic upper stage. The mission successfully launched the THOR 7 and SCIRAL 2 satellites into their respective geostationary orbits. (4/26)

Space Tourism Industry Already Planning How to Entertain You in Space (Source: Epoch Times)
It’s the dawn of commercial space travel and an entire industry has spawned to service tourists who will travel to the final frontier. There are at least seven companies in the United States in the race to transport customers into space. Plans are being drawn up for pleasure cruises, space hotels, and even a new galactic currency, PayPal Galactic, to pay your off-Earth bills. Click here. (4/20)

In Defense of Space Control (Source: Marshall Institute)
Speaking on April 15 about the growing threat from China, Russia, and others against U.S. military satellites at the 31st National Space Symposium, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work told his audience that, “[w]hile we rely heavily on space capabilities, in both peace and war, we must continue to emphasize space control as challenges arise.”

Judging by the heated reaction to Deputy Secretary Work’s use of the term ‘space control,’ one could be forgiven for thinking that he had just made up U.S. policy on the fly — and that preparations are finally underway to build the Death Star. Deputy Secretary Work was hardly speaking off the cuff, nor is he the first to mention the term “space control” in recent months – that honor goes to the commander of the 14th Air Force, Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, in testimony he gave to Congress in late March.

The fact is that space control – the ability in peace, crisis and war to assure access to and use of space – has been an enduring feature of U.S. national space policy for several decades. The need to train, equip and prepare to exercise space control, should it be required, has been a continuing and consistent facet of national space policy since at least the Eisenhower administration, including the current one. (4/20)

Space Congress Returns to Cape Canaveral (Source: Florida Today)
Started in the Apollo era, the Space Congress once drew more than 1,000 aerospace industry professionals from around the country and even internationally to Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral for panel discussions and exchanges of technical papers. Buses shuttled guests to multiple hotels and the Congress leadership team could be identified by their colorful blazers.

But over the past decade, for reasons no one is entirely sure about, the event faded and stopped being held regularly. The National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, held for the 31st time earlier this month, rose to prominence as the industry’s main annual gathering. The Space Congress returns to the Space Coast this week, as local organizers try to revive the once-proud event and build momentum in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing four years from now.

“Without Space Congress, without some local annual or even biannual conference of that sort, there’s a real void locally that needs to be filled,” Edward Ellegood said. “It brings visibility to the area, and it allows the local community to become engaged and aware of what’s going on at the Cape.” (4/26)

Space Firms Fined by Feds (Source: Valley Morning Star)
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this year closed inquiries into two events at SpaceX facilities, while it initiated another inquiry at a ULA facility, public records reflect. The serious safety issues resulted in the issuance of citations and fines. The maximum penalty OSHA can assess, regardless of the circumstances, is $7,000 for each serious violation and $70,000 for a repeated or willful violation.

OSHA cited SpaceX for three serious safety violations and fined it $17,400. OSHA opened its first of two inquiries involving SpaceX on June 26, 2014, following the death of a SpaceX employee at the McGregor, Texas, site. A complaint took OSHA to Florida's LC-40 launch pad, where SpaceX received three citations for serious safety violations of rules that address the prevention of falls.

OSHA’s four inquiries into events at ULA facilities led to a combined six violations for serious safety and health concerns for ULA and fines totaling $6,235. Two electricians at Vandenberg had been injured while servicing the electrical substation. OSHA opened another ULA case on Feb. 12 based on a safety issue at the facility in Decatur, Alabama, where ULA’s manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located. (4/25)

AT&T Returning to Space with DirecTV Deal (Source: Providence Journal)
Half a century after helping launch the satellite communications industry, and later retreating, AT&T is on the verge of getting back into space. When its deal for DirecTV closes, possibly by midyear, the telecom giant will own a multibillion-dollar fleet of advanced satellites that relay television signals to millions of customers on Earth.

The transaction, initially valued at $67 billion including debt, also unites descendants of companies that played major roles in commercializing space, which began in 1962 with the AT&T-financed launch of Telstar. DirecTV traces its lineage to billionaire Howard Hughes and his Hughes Aircraft Co., which developed the Syncom satellites that orbited much higher than Telstar. Syncom 2, launched in 1963, was the first to travel in sync with the Earth's rotation. (4/26)

Replacing Hubble with Hubble 2.0 (Source: Space News)
[I have] spent significant time and energy considering what to do when Hubble reaches the end of its lifetime, I will discuss reasons why a servicing mission idea may not be in the best interests of the astronomical science community or the taxpaying public, and describe an alternative to servicing Hubble — namely, build Hubble 2.0.

Conducting another servicing mission to Hubble flies in the face of the National Research Council’s recommendations in the so-called decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics. This in itself is the reason why NASA’s astrophysics program is not pursuing any sort of Hubble servicing options within its highly constrained budget. Click here. (4/22)

Egyptian Space Authority Denies Losing Control of EgyptSat Two Satellite (Source: Sputnik)
On Thursday, the Russian Izvestiya newspaper reported, citing a source in the RSC Energia (Russian rocket and space corporation), that EgyptSat 2 on April 14 did not respond to commands from the Earth and control over the satellite was lost. Human factor was cited as the possible cause behind the loss of the satellite. "What was reported about is in fact a regular technical failure. It happens every now and then to all the satellites. The problem will be fixed in the next few hours," Medhat Mokhtar said. (4/25)

Legal Challenge Awaits Space Manufacturing Site in Volusia County (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
While a land-use change that could pave the way for an aerospace manufacturing facility in Oak Hill awaits a final vote from city leaders, an almost certain legal challenge looms. “I can’t wait to get this case in front of an administrative law judge,” Clay Henderson, a New Smyrna Beach attorney and environmentalist opposed to the land use change, said Thursday.

The Volusia Growth Management Commission — after a six-hour public hearing that stretched from Wednesday night into Thursday morning — approved by an 11-6 vote an amendment that would allow manufacturing on the site. Volusia County and state economic development officials have worked for months with a consultant who is scouting potential sites for aerospace-related manufacturing, but those officials referred to the project only as “Project Panther,” and have not confirmed the company is Blue Origin. (4/23)

April 25, 2015

Russia to Reduce Launches of Progress Spacecraft to Three a Year as of 2016 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The annual number of launches of cargo spacecraft Progress will be reduced to three a year from four as of 2016, the new draft of the federal space program for 2016-2025 says. In 2018 and 2019 one Progress spacecraft will be launched not from Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, but from the new spaceport Vostochny, currently under construction.

Under the new program the dates for re-equipping the orbital cluster of socio-economic and research satellites of a new generation are postponed by two to five years. (4/24)

Russia's New Orbital Station to Have Five Modules (Source: Itar-Tass)
A new Russian orbital station, which will likely replace the International Space Station and which is expected to consist of three modules in the initial phases of the project, will be augmented with convertible and energy modules by 2016, says a revised draft of the Federal Space Program slanted for the years 2016 through to 2015.

Earlier reports said an agreement on extending the operational life of the International Space Station through to 2024 had been reached. In 2017, Russia will augment its segment at the ISS with a laboratory module. Other appendages to the ISS will come in the form of an orbital node in 2018 and a research energy unit in 2019. No decisions on the destiny of the ISS after 2024 have been taken so far and the Russian side does not rule out it will separate its three new modules from the orbital complex to set up a national orbital station on their basis. (4/23)

Russia May Propose New Space Station in Alliance With BRICS Nations (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is ready to propose to the BRICS group member states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) the creation of a joint orbital station, Roscosmos official Yuri Koptev said. The joint orbital station development may be started if the International Space Station (ISS) operation is stopped due to political disagreements between the current ISS partners. (4/22)

Russia Offers to Take Ukraine’s Place at Brazilian Alcantara Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia has offered to take Ukraine’s at the Alcantara Launch Center, which has been practically severed through Kiev’s fault, Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said. "Brazil is trying to develop its own spaceport. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Ukraine has practically lost its engineering potential, the Brazilian-Ukrainian project on the use of the Tsyklon rockets on the cosmodrome on Brazil’s northern Atlantic coast has been practically curtailed," Rogozin said.

"But Russia has offered its own options," he added. "Rogozin recalled that Russia had already deployed several GLONASS stations to Brazil. "And we have ideas how to help Brazil in terms of developing space ports," the vice-premier noted. (4/24)

Russia Plans Search for Alien Life (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia plans to include astrobiology in its space program plans for the next decade. The Russian space agency Roscosmos will launch "several devices designed to search for alien life" over the next decade, without offering more specifics about those missions. That plan for the period 2016–2025 also includes Earth science missions and plans to look for potentially hazardous near Earth objects. (4/24)

What Would Happen if There Were a War in Space (Source: Vice)
DOD officials announced that the Pentagon is looking for $5.5 billion to build up its space defense systems by 2020, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James straight up admitted that, looking at the layout of modern space exploration, the US now believes it's facing new and evolving threats to everything it owns above earth. This isn't just bluster from one corner of the government.

This year, Congress urged the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence to start studying offensive space weapons in addition to defensive systems. The US and Soviets saw that putting a nuclear weapon in orbit would be hugely destabilizing. There was a nuclear test called Starfish Prime [in 1962] that set off a 1.2 megaton nuclear warhead in low-earth orbit and it killed like a third of the satellites in orbit at the time, including a couple of American satellites.

So everyone quickly realized that setting off nuclear detonations in orbit was not going to be a good idea.... The next level up would be the kinetic attacks, where you're trying to destroy or damage the object. Some of those might not have a big effect. If you had a laser that was powerful enough to burn a hole through a critical part of a satellite to render it inoperable, the satellite itself wouldn't be useful, but it wouldn't explode into a whole bunch of debris. Click here. (4/24)

Former Shuttle Manager to Lead Boeing's SLS Work (Source: Boeing)
Former shuttle program manager John Shannon will take over Boeing's work on the Space Launch System. Boeing named Shannon Thursday to the position of vice president and program manager for SLS, replacing the retiring Virginia Barnes. Shannon was at NASA for 25 years, serving as shuttle program manager for the final 14 missions, then served as deputy associate administrator for exploration planning. (4/24)

Clouds in the Forecast for Monday’s Falcon 9 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Forecasters will be watching clouds and rain showers during the countdown before Monday’s launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite. The 22-story rocket is set to lift off from Cape Canaveral during a 90-minute launch window opening at 6:14 p.m. EDT. (4/25)

Ariane 5 Launch Scrubbed Due to Rocket Issue (Source: Space News)
The Arianespace launch consortium has canceled today’s planned launch of a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket due to an unexplained issue on the rocket that appears to be unrelated to the previous issue that scrubbed the planned April 15 launch. (4/24)

17 of Hubble's Greatest Photos (Source: BBC)
The Hubble space telescope is 25 years old. It has been inspiring and astounding us by capturing previously unseen secrets from far-away galaxies, stars and black holes. In its lifetime it has circled our own planet 137,000 times and given us a clearer insight into the majestic nature and age of our Universe. Hubble truly has brought us a "golden age" of astronomy. Click here. (4/25)

Buzz Aldrin Impressed by Purdue’s Plan for Mars (Source: JC Online)
A human colony on Mars could be just 25 years and several steps away. Fifty-one Purdue University students in a senior spacecraft design class this year compiled a 1,000-plus page report detailing the resources and actions necessary to colonize Mars by 2040.

The students used famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s book as a jumping off point. In “Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration,” Aldrin focuses on the small accomplishments needed to work toward a permanent colony, such as first establishing a base on the moon and on Phobos, one of two moons orbiting Mars.

“The class works as a single team to achieve a specified space mission goal, which in this past I have dictated as the customer,” professor James Longuski said. “This time was a little different. ... In this particular project, the students were given a unique opportunity to work with Buzz Aldrin and his concepts for colonizing Mars.” (4/23)

First Booz Allen Satellite Will Observe Air Force Laser (Source: Space News)
Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm better known for pushing paper than building hardware, is launching a tiny satellite from the International Space Station this summer that could help the U.S. Air Force clear the air about a laser the service uses to calibrate one of its ground-based telescopes.

Booz Allen’s Centennial-1, a single-unit cubesat, is the first spacecraft the 100-year-old company has ever built. Centennial-1’s Air Force-designed photon detector will track a sodium guide star laser beamed into space from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. (4/24)

NASA IG Scrutinizes Seldom-used Plum Brook Test Facilities (Source: Space News)
All but one of the five big test facilities at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, have few or no customers, and the situation is unlikely to change any time soon, according to an April 23 report from NASA’s inspector general (IG).

A “majority of the test facilities are underutilized, with the level of use and funding for these facilities depending on NASA programs and external customers choosing to perform testing at Plum Brook rather than at other NASA or private facilities,” the IG wrote in the 28-page report, “Audit of NASA’s Requirements for Plum Brook Station.”

Some of the facilities, most of which date back to the 1960s, are so rundown they require millions of dollars in repairs — costs that must be borne by prospective customers who show no sign of materializing, the IG wrote. The inspector general recommended NASA create a long-term strategy for either maintaining or disposing of underutilized infrastructure at Plum Brook. (4/24)

Launch Date Set for 4th Flight of X-37B Spaceplane (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force says it will launch an unmanned X-37B spaceplane for a fourth mission no earlier than May 20. Built by Boeing, the X-37Bs are reusable unmanned orbital maneuvering vehicles that launch atop an expendable rocket and return to Earth much like NASA’s now-retired space shuttle and glides in for a runway landing. (4/24)

ULA Execs Spell Out Logic Behind Vulcan Design Choices (Source: Space News)
By the time ULA’s corporate parents, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, tapped Tory Bruno to take over the government launch services provider last July, the handwriting was on the wall: ULA was going to need a new rocket if it hoped to remain in business for the long haul. Click here. (4/24)

How China Joins Space Club? (Source: Xinhua)
In the autumn of 1958, Zhao Jiuzhang and other scientists were given a cold shoulder when they visited the Soviet Union to study space technology. China had to be self-reliant to develop a satellite. China lacked the technological industry support that was necessary for the research and development of satellites. Realizing this, the scientists decided to begin with a sounding rocket. Click here. (4/23)

Volusia County Leaders Hope to Lure Space-Related Industry (Source: WFTV)
central Florida's spaceport, but leaders in Volusia County want a piece of the action, and to do that, they want to make some big changes to a small city. Oak Hill could be one step closer to joining the high-tech industry of commercial space flight and exploration. Local leaders said they have cleared the way for that by approving land in southeast Volusia County that could be used as the site for a manufacturing plant.

It's the area county councilwoman Deb Denys represents. "It's not just about us. It's about the state of Florida competing for commercial aerospace," Denys said. quiet, undeveloped countryside, but county leaders said the area is crucial to having an aerospace industry in the county. Denys said a facility could bring 300 jobs paying an average of $75,000 a year.

which builds rockets and capsules to send humans to space, is just one company looking at sites in Florida. Some environmentalists oppose such a project being built a short distance from the Canaveral National Seashore. Others said they are skeptical, calling on leaders to be more transparent about the process of bringing manufacturing to the area. Click here. (4/24)

Russia Drops Plans to Create Nuclear Space Engine (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is planning to shut down works on developing a megawatt-class nuclear propulsion system for long-range manned spacecraft, a source in the rocket and space sector told TASS on Friday. "The new draft of the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 envisages the closure of all the research and development works on creating high power nuclear propulsion systems," he said. (4/24)

Wanted in Space: A Better Drinking Experience (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With the help of geometry scientists are hoping to give astronauts on the International Space Station a more Earth-like sipping experience. Last week the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivered supplies to the ISS including the ISSpresso and six specially designed cups for the Capillary Beverage experiment. Astronauts drink out of a bag with a straw now, like a Capri Sun.

The idea of zero-gravity coffee cups came about when Astronaut Don Pettit complained about drinking out of a bag all the time. Pettit created the first prototype on board the International Space Station and showed it’s possible to replace the feeling of gravity through container shape. The cups will be 3D printed and reusable, to help save on trash. Waste disposal in Space isn’t just a walk to the bottom of the driveway like on Earth. (4/23)

Vancouver Firm Will Take Your Picture from Space (Source: Star Phoenix)
A Vancouver company is promising a unique summer photo-op - a view from space of your backyard party or golf tournament. But its joint venture with NASA for high-resolution, nearreal time photo and video coverage of Earth from the orbiting International Space Station also offers less selfregarding activity.

"I've spoken with several astronauts and they all say going to space changes them - they see the planet without borders, how small it is in the universe - and we want to stream a little bit of that feeling out to the rest of the world," said Scott Larson, chief executive and founder of UrtheCast Corp. For the past four years, UrtheCast has been developing what it calls the world's first Ultra HD video feed of Earth, streamed from space in full color. (4/24)

Pentagon Looks Beyond Disaggregation in Space Asset Protection (Source: Jane's)
The Pentagon is devising new concepts for protecting its space assets from attacks, the US Air Force's outgoing military acquisition chief said. "We have to put some resources and some focus on protection capability," said USAF Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski. However, she added that cultural change and updates of existing operational concepts will be just as important as funding.

"Now as we look out and look at the threat … we have to make these changes, much like we had to go from cavalry to tanks," she said. "Otherwise we'll be the Polish army greeting the Germans on our horses as they come in." Click here. (4/22)

NASA May Have Accidentally Created a Warp Field (Source: Mysterious Universe)
NASA and other space programs were working on prototypes of the EmDrive or RF resonant cavity thruster invented by British aerospace engineer Roger J. Shawyer. This propulsion device uses a magnetron to produce microwaves for thrust, has no moving parts and needs no reaction mass for fuel. In 2014, Johnson Space Center claimed to have developed its own low-power EmDrive.

Which brings us to today’s warp field buzz. NASA has a tool to measure variances in the path-time of light. When lasers were fired through the EmDrive’s resonance chamber, it measured significant variances and, more importantly, found that some of the beams appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. If that’s true, it would mean that the EmDrive is producing a warp field or bubble. Here’s a comment from a space forum following the tests. (4/24)

Can Nuclear Waste Help Humanity Reach for the Stars? (Source: Planetary Society)
The heat from the plutonium is able to keep essential systems warm and to also be converted to electricity using the thermoelectric Seebeck effect. With a half-life of 87.7 years, the plutonium has the potential to provide heat and electricity for well over a century. However, making plutonium-238 is expensive and difficult. You need a reactor with the right neutron flux and a supply of neptunium-237 feedstock to produce the plutonium.

You also need a small nuclear reprocessing plant to separate the plutonium chemically from the highly radioactive fuel. Over the years, plutonium-238 has been produced by a number of countries including the USA, Russia, and the UK. Historically, some material has even been used to provide the electrical power in heart pacemakers. In the case of plutonium for space applications, stocks of the material are now running low.

The USA is restarting production, but the current stocks and production rate in the near term are unlikely to be high enough to support the broad range of space missions that the US science community might wish to target. In Europe, without the neptunium-237 feedstock and necessary processing facilities, the production of plutonium-238 is considered too expensive. As a consequence, Europe has decided to focus on an accessible alternative material that could power future spacecraft: americium-241. (4/23)

April 24, 2015

Habitats Could Be NASA’s Next Commercial Spacecraft Buy (Source: Aviation Week)
The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle is designed to take humans to Mars, but with less than 20 cubic meters of pressurized volume for a crew of four it could get more than a little cozy en route. Commercial cargo vehicles designed to supply the International Space Station (ISS) may add some elbow-room for the long haul to the Red Planet. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK all have won small NASA contracts to study how their commercial cargo vehicles could be modified as habitats. (4/24)

Three Rockets to Deliver New Russian Modules to ISS (Source: Itar-Tass)
Two new modules for the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) will be put in space with Proton-M rockets, said the president of the space rocket corporation Energia, Vladimir Solntsev. "Protons will be employed to deliver the multi-functional module and other heavy modules. The Uzlovoy Module (Nodal Module) will be launched with a Soyuz-2 rocket," Solntsev told TASS in an interview. (4/23)

2015 Economic Action Plan Supports Canadian Space Initiatives (Source: Market Wired)
Essential funding for the Canadian space industry and a program to develop the Canadian supply chain were included in today's federal Economic Action Plan (EAP), which was praised by the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) for its leadership on the important contributions the industry makes to Canada's economy.
The government committed $30 million over four years, starting in 2016-2017, to the Canadian Space Agency to support research and technology development through the ARTES program at the European Space Agency. They also announced the extension of Canada's participation in the International Space Station (ISS) mission until 2024. (4/21)

NASA Officials Defend Study of Climate Change (Source: MyNews 13)
It's Earth Day, and NASA is hoping to spread awareness about the work the agency does to help people better understand the world. But members of Congress are criticizing NASA, stating the space agency should be focused on human space exploration instead of studying climate change. At an Earth Day event over the weekend in Washington, D.C., NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told the crowd the work NASA does is a key to understanding climate change. (4/22)

Australia, Japan, Korea, Russia May Join with India for Satellite Navigation (Source: IBC)
Countries including Australia, Japan, Korea and Russia have expressed interest for cooperation in satellite navigation and applications with India. Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions, Jitendra Singh in a written reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha today said that “the cooperation will be pursued on receiving specific proposals from these countries”.

He added, in the area of satellite navigation, India has established GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system primarily for the use by aviation sector. GAGAN provides improved position accuracy over the Indian region. This system is based on Global Positioning System (GPS) of USA. (4/23)

ULA Needs Commercial Business to Close Vulcan Business Case (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
United Launch Alliance will need to lure commercial customers to ensure the economic viability of its new Vulcan rocket, which is set to debut in 2019 just as the rate of U.S. military satellite launches is due to take a dip. The Vulcan rocket must fly at least 10 times per year to keep factory and launch crews operating at the efficiencies needed to reach ULA’s price goal of $100 million per mission, according to Tory Bruno.

ULA says the Vulcan rocket can be ready for its debut launch in 2019, and the company plans to introduce the new launcher over several years while still flying the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 boosters in ULA’s existing inventory. The Vulcan may not be certified to send up the most expensive national security payloads until 2023, so ULA plans to rely on commercial business for the new rocket’s early launches. (4/22)

April 23, 2015

Orlando Plans Nation's Largest Solar System Model (Source: Chad Miller)
A proper model of the solar system can never fit between your hands, or even in one room. Space is big. This will be the largest model of the solar system in the United States. Fourth largest in the world. We are going to use our city and region and state to make a model that brings extraordinary scale into intuitive grasp, and inspires citizens to think in perspectives outside the mundane.

The fountain in Lake Eola represents Orlando in many minds, and the fountain dome is a perfect stand-in for the Sun, an anchoring center of our metropolis and of our model star-system. Imagining the Sun as the fountain dome implies a scale that places planets and their moons in and around Orlando. By fantastic coincidence, almost all orbits cross a public school or park or public space. Click here. (4/23)

Raytheon Reports Solid First Quarter 2015 Results (Source: SpaceRef)
Raytheon's first quarter 2015 net sales were $5.3 billion compared to $5.5 billion in the first quarter 2014. Operating cash flow from continuing operations for the first quarter 2015 was $55 million compared to $659 million for the first quarter 2014. (4/23)

Shuttle External Tank Model Stuck in Rural Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A full-scale model of a Space Shuttle orange External Tank which once resided at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is sitting in Green Cove Springs, west of St. Augustine. The component which once wowed tourists, now sits rusting as it awaits the last leg of its journey to its new home and it is unclear when it will be leaving.

The tank – also known as STA – was the third and final test tank for the Space Shuttle program and was used for structures/stress testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama between 1977 and 1980. After it had completed this tasks the tank was on display at MSFC and later at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It was then moved to the KSC Visitor Complex in 1997 were it was visible to the public until April 2013.

The tank measures in at 154 foot long. This is part of the reason why the tank has had its final journey delayed to the Wings of Dreams museum, 56 miles away. Officials still don’t know when the tank can start its trip to the museum. “We’ll have to close two state highways to travel from the Port of Green Cove Springs to our museum. Clay Electric Company has three divisions working on the logistics of taking down 34 pages of power lines,” said the Wings of Dreams Museum’s Bob A. Oehl. (4/22)

NASA Selects Commercial Suborbital Firms to Test Space Technologies (Source: NASA)
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected seven space technology payloads for flights on commercial, parabolic or suborbital launch vehicles to demonstrate new space technologies. These flights provide a valuable platform to mature cutting-edge technologies, validating feasibility and reducing technical risks and costs before infusion into multiple future space missions.

Six of these new payloads will ride on parabolic aircraft flights, which provide brief periods of weightlessness. One will fly on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle flight. The flights are expected to take place in 2015 and 2016, and will be purchased by the selectees using grants negotiated with the program. The selectees have proposed flights on both Zero-G Corporation and Integrated Spaceflight Services parabolic aircraft and Masten Space Systems’ suborbital reusable launch vehicle. (4/23)

First Piloted Launch From Vostochny Spaceport Postponed (Source: Space Daily)
The launch of the first piloted spacecraft from the Russian Vostochy space complex will be postponed from 2018 to 2020, Kommersant newspaper reported Friday, citing space industry and governmental sources. (4/23)

China's Satellite Navigation System to Expand Coverage Globally by 2020 (Source: Xinhua)
The Beidou satellite navigation system will be fully operational worldwide by 2020, said Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Thursday. The system has been successfully tested in the general aviation sector, which includes all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services, as well as by general aircraft including helicopters and private jets. (4/23)

Tough Times Ahead for Aerojet Rocketdyne (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Even before the Oct. 2014 Antares accident, Orbital Sciences was making plans to move away from the AJ-26 to a new engine. As a matter of fact, it is possible that the AJ-26 encountered not one, but two failures on the test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The AJ-26 is not alone in terms of encountering problems. In October of 2012, an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine – located in the upper stage of a United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Delta IV M+ 4,2 – experienced a fuel leak which caused a lower-than expected thrust. The payload for the mission, the third GPS Block IIF satellite to be sent aloft, was placed into the correct orbit thanks to the sufficient fuel margins that allowed for compensation of the leak. Click here. (4/22)

Stiffed by U.S., Russia Plans GLONASS Station in Cuba Instead (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is ready to hold talks with Cuba on placing signal calibration stations there that will service its GLONASS global positioning system, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "In a situation where the US has refused to place GLONASS ground-based stations for signal calibration on its territory, we're ready to hold talks with Cuba and thus solve the problem of furnishing GLONASS customers with the required high-precision signals." he said. (4/22)

Russia Planning Manned Flight Around Moon in 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia is planning to carry out a manned mission around the Moon in 2025 and conduct a manned landing in 2029, according to a draft plans for 2016-2025. "As a result of the implementation of the program [in 2025], a piloted flight around the Moon will be carried out," while "the landing of cosmonauts on the Moon's surface is expected to take place in 2029," the document says. Editor's Note: 2025? This probably isn't the same flight that Space Adventures is selling to one or more of its wealthy customers. (4/23)

Rocket Crashes After Launch in Northern Russia (Source: Space Daily)
A surface-to-air missile crashed shortly after being launched in northern Russia on Wednesday, Russian news agencies said, in a failed test that will be seen as an embarrassment for the country's military forces. An official said the incident had involved an experimental military rocket, but state-owned weapons manufacturer Almaz-Antey was later quoted as saying it was an Antey-2500 missile that fell back to the ground. (4/22)

NASA to Launch West Virginia's First Satellite (Source; SpaceRef)
As part of the White House Maker Initiative, NASA aims to launch 50 cubesat satellites from all 50 states in the next five years. West Virginia is the first of 21 “rookie states” that have not previously participated in NASA’s CubeSat program to be chosen. This will also be the first time a mission from West Virginia will orbit Earth. It is slated to launch as an auxiliary payload on a NASA rocket in mid-2016 through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative program. (4/22)

Boeing Reports 38% Rise in Net Profit (Source: BBC)
Boeing has reported a 38% rise in net profit to $1.34 billion in the first three months of the year, helped by increased production of commercial aircraft. Overall revenue grew 8% to $22.15 billion in the quarter, Boeing said. But its defence business suffered as tight budgets hurt sales. Cutbacks in US defense spending led to a decline in Boeing's defense and space business, with revenue down 12% compared with a year earlier to $6.71 billion. (4/22)

Russian Government to Close Two in Every Five Universities (Source: University World News)4
The number of Russian universities will be cut by 40% by the end of 2016, according to Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov. In addition, the number of university branches will be slashed by 80% in the same period. The institutions are being axed under a federal plan for the development of education during 2016 to 2020.

Ministry of Education and Science data indicate that at present there are 593 state and 486 private universities, which have 1,376 and 682 branches respectively. Collectively, the universities cater for seven million students, of whom two million are holding state-funded places at an estimated average cost of $3,500 per student. (4/17)

Russia Abandons Plans to Build Super-Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will not develop a super-heavy space launch vehicle in the near future, but will modify a heavy Angara-A5 rocket to lift super-heavy loads, Roscosmos said Wednesday. "We have re-allocated funds for launch vehicles, especially in the super-heavy category, but ensured that all payloads planned until 2030 will be launched to orbit," Roscosmos head, igor Komarov told reporters. (4/22)

Russia Cuts Budget for New Space Program by $15Bln Due to Crisis (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 envisions budget cuts by more than 800 billion rubles ($15 billion) to 2 trillion rubles ($37 billion), Roscosmos said Wednesday. "The cost of the program's projects has changed significantly in the past year due to current economic conditions, exchange rate fluctuations and changes in inflation rates," Roscosmos head, Igor Komarov, told reporters. (4/22)

SpaceX Targets May 5 for Dragon Pad Abort Test (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX as soon as May 5 will shoot a Dragon capsule from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a test of a key safety system needed for astronaut launches in the next two or three years. The so-called "pad abort" test will launch a prototype crew spacecraft from a stand at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40, simulating a launch pad emergency. (4/22)

First Visible Light Detected Directly from an Exoplanet (Source: Physics World)
The first-ever direct detection of the spectrum of visible light reflected from an exoplanet has been made by an international team of astronomers. Using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile, the astronomers studied light from 51 Pegasi b – the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. (4/22)

Proposed Bill Language Puts Brakes on Weather Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
Citing a looming gap in geostationary weather satellite coverage of a strategically important area of the world, a House military space oversight panel has recommended the U.S. Air Force go “back to the drawing board” on its next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite program.

The subcommittee recommended withholding the full funding requested next year for the Air Force’s Weather Satellite Follow-on program until the secretary of defense briefs members on plans to provide continuing weather coverage the Middle East and Afghanistan. (4/22)

Proposed Bill Language Clarifies RD-180 Engine Restrictions (Source: Space News)
Under the most conservative reading of the law, ULA would have only five RD-180 engines available for the competitions, which are slated to begin later this year and could cover nine launches over the next three years. By the time the law went into effect, ULA had ordered a large number of the engines to fulfill existing launch contracts and compete for new ones.

But DOD lawyers were concerned that the engines that had yet to be paid for in full as of Feb. 1, 2014, would be swept up in the ban. The proposed new language specifies that the engines in question only had to be under firm contract as of that date to avoid the ban, a clarification that could make more RD-180s available for the competition. (4/22)

Falling Meteor May Have Changed the Course of Christianity (Source: New Scientist)
Nearly two thousand years ago, a man named Saul had an experience that changed his life, and possibly yours as well. According to Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the biblical New Testament, Saul was on the road to Damascus, Syria, when he saw a bright light in the sky, was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus. Changing his name to Paul, he became a major figure in the spread of Christianity.

William Hartmann, co-founder of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has a different explanation for what happened to Paul. He says the biblical descriptions of Paul's experience closely match accounts of the fireball meteor seen above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013.

He analyses three accounts of Paul's journey, thought to have taken place around AD 35. The first is a third-person description of the event, thought to be the work of one of Jesus's disciples, Luke. The other two quote what Paul is said to have subsequently told others. "Everything they are describing in those three accounts in the book of Acts are exactly the sequence you see with a fireball," Hartmann says. (4/22)

April 22, 2015

ISS is Open for Business (Source: Popular Science)
Last week’s SpaceX launch jettisoned an espresso machine into space for the first time ever. Called the ISSpresso, the coffee maker is about the size of a microwave, and all it needs is a pouch of water and a capsule of espresso to make a great pick-me-up for sleepy astronauts. While space-faring coffee machines may make for interesting cargo, the Falcon 9’s Dragon capsule also held other precious freight.

Embedded within the capsule, five experiments--ranging from musculoskeletal and neurological research on rodents to synthetic muscles--made their way to the International Space Station. The sponsors of this research? Private companies including Novartis, Merck, and Ras Labs.

The station’s primary function is to serve as a research laboratory. Its sterile microgravity environment, surrounded by the harshness of space, makes it a unique place for testing the behavior of various materials, as well as experimenting with the growth of biological tissues and crystals. NASA has conducted a significant amount of research on the station, but now the space agency is beginning to understand how the ISS could help the private sector as well. Click here. (4/21)

Robots Will Extend Human Explorers’ Capability (Source: Aviation Week)
Engineers are using industrial robots and an ingenious gripper developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to pick up simulated bits of asteroid generated by mining experts in West Virginia, while a testbed the size of a dorm-room refrigerator cooks in a thermal vacuum chamber in preparation for a trip to the International Space Station.

Dubbed Raven, it will perch on the Earth-facing side of the main station truss to practice the feats of machine vision that will be needed at an asteroid, using the Russian, Japanese and U.S. “visiting vehicles”—Soyuz, Progress, HTV, Cygnus and Dragon—as targets. Click here. (4/22)

Scaled-Up Version of Our Solar System 130 Light-Years Away (Source: Science Daily)
The planetary system of HR8799, a young star only 30 million years old, was the first to be directly imaged, with three planets found in in 2008 and a fourth one in 2010. "This star was therefore a target of choice for the LEECH survey, offering the opportunity to acquire new images and better define the dynamical properties of the exoplanets orbiting," said Christian Veillet. Click here. (4/20)

NASA Assembles Unprecedented Scientific Team to Find ET Life (Source: Venture Beat)
NASA is launching an interdisciplinary effort aimed at searching for extraterrestrial life. Known as the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (or “NExSS”), the project will bring together a wide range of scientists, researchers, and academics to try to “better understand the various components of an exoplanet [a planet around a star], as well as how the planet stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.”

NASA’s new project, run by its Science Mission Directorate, will bring together earth scientists, planetary scientists, heliophysicists, and astrophysicists “in an unprecedented collaboration to share their perspectives, research results, and approaches in the pursuit of one of humanity’s deepest questions: Are we alone?” (4/21)

SpaceX CRS-6 Mission to Assist in Osteoporosis Research (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Until recently, Florida residents Sally and Don have been quite ambivalent about space exploration. The launches at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center take place a mere 70 miles away from their home, but did not pay them much mind. That changed on April 14, when NASA and SpaceX delivered another collection of experiments to the Space Station. One is aimed at discovering new treatments for osteoporosis.

“After the Shuttle Program concluded in 2011, we just lost interest in anything related to space,” Sally said.  “We’ve already been to the Moon, and we just don’t see the value of the government spending more billions of dollars on going to an asteroid or Mars.  But that was before we read about the experiment seeking new discoveries to treat bone density loss.”

Sally is among the estimated 10 million Americans who have osteoporosis, a condition marked by low bone mass (a thinning of the bone), which can lead to a weakening of the bone architecture and increased susceptibility to fracture (usually of the hip, wrist and /or spine). (4/22)

Thales Alenia Space Inks Elaborate Tech Transfer Deal with Brazil (Source: Space News)
Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space of Europe, as part of what may be the most elaborate satellite technology-transfer contract ever signed, will be joining forces with Brazilian companies to develop local expertise in satellite thermal control, onboard propulsion, solar arrays and ground support, the company’s chief representative in Brazil said. (4/22)

SpaceX Faces Another Proposed Labor-Focused Class Action Suit (Sources: Parabolic Arc, Space News)
A former clerical employee hit SpaceX with a proposed class action in California court on Monday, accusing the company of shorting him overtime and minimum wage pay as well as proper break periods. Plaintiff Sebring Whitaker alleged in his complaint that SpaceX didn’t adequately pay him and similar nonexempt employees for normal and overtime work and didn’t adequately provide required meal and rest breaks.

The suit seeks class action status, claiming at least 100 current or former employees qualify. SpaceX was sued last year by employees who said they did not receive proper notices of layoffs or also did not get breaks as required by state law. (4/21)

Russia to Increase Orbital Grouping to 181 Satellites (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's orbital grouping will be expanded to 181 satellites as a result of the implementation of the new Federal Space Program for 2016-2025, the head of the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, said on Wednesday. According to Igor Komarov, the number of communications satellites will be doubled, while the number of scientific satellites will be tripled. (4/22)

More Embezzlement Alleged at Russia's New Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian officials are investigating another case of embezzlement involving work at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Russia's Interior Ministry said Wednesday it's looking into the "misappropriation" of nearly $1 million by one of the contractors building the spaceport in Russia's Far East. That company received an advance payment "and spent the funds for its own financial and business needs and for personal purposes." (4/21)

UCSD Crowdfunds Small Rocket Engine (Source: UT San Diego)
Student engineers at UC San Diego are off to a fast start in trying to raise $15,000 on Kickstarter to develop a small engine that's designed to propel their Vulcan-1 rocket almost two miles into the atmosphere. The local chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) generated more than $7,000 on April 21st, the first day of their campaign to underwrite an engine that would be produced with 3-D printing.

The SEDS team -- which is composed entirely of undergraduates -- says the engine could produce about 750 pounds while lofting the 16-foot tall rocket. The engine would be fueled by liquid oxygen and RP1 (kerosene). If the rocket development proves to be successful, the team will attempt to launch Vulcan-1 in June from Green River, Utah. (4/21)

New Mexico Tech tests rocket at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport officials announced the April 18 launch of the New Mexico Tech Rocket Design Team's experimental rocket. The nearly 10-foot-long experimental rocket was designed and built by the students in the Mechanical Engineering Department at New Mexico Tech. The launch took place from Spaceport America's vertical launch area. The student rocket lifted off at 8:03 a.m. and attained its predicted 11,500-foot altitude, according to Spaceport officials. (4/23)

Space Commander Urges Progress on Automated Flight Safety (Source: AFSPC)
General John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, recently identified several key actions to be taken to ensure U.S. strength in space for the future. One concern for assured access to space is the state of the launch ranges, which he said are not structured to support the launch business today because of the aging infrastructure of radars, telescopes, telemetry systems that track launches. 

He said, "We have to build an automated flight safety system and get that approved." An automated flight safety system will use GPS tracking for launches, reducing maintenance and sustainment costs for aging telemetry and tracking systems. In addition, an automated flight safety system will make the ranges more responsive to industry and government launch requirements.

Editor's Note: I don't know why this hasn't been done yet. It has been an Air Force priority for the past decade. Perhaps this is a symptom of the Air Force's broader budget priority problems. Money for range upgrades has often been cut in favor of funding other programs, or to deal with cuts from sequestration and other belt-tightening. (4/21)

The Next Great Gold Rush Won't Be Taking Place on Earth (Source: Mic)
There's a new gold rush heating up, but the hunt isn't for oil, gas or tech stocks — it's for asteroids. There are more than 10,000 near-Earth asteroids shooting by at any given moment, and many of them contain valuable resources like water, platinum and iron. While water and iron don't seem worthy of a gold rush by Earth standards, their value skyrockets due to their scarcity in space and the challenge of extracting them.

If private companies can figure out a sustainable way to mine and sell these cosmic assets, they could make a killing in the new space economy and help fuel the next stage of galactic pursuits in the process. Already, private companies are betting big on the potential of asteroid mining and working hard to get there first. Japan launched its own asteroid mining operation last year. Serial entrepreneur and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis believes the first trillionaire will be made in space. (4/21)

Japan Eyeing Asian Space Rivals, Ponders Moon Landings, Unmanned or Manned (Source: Toronto Star)
Japan’s space agency is considering an unmanned mission to the moon by 2018 or early 2019, part of an effort to beef up aerospace technology and keep pace with China and other emerging powers. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, included the possibility of a lunar landing in the fiscal year that begins April 1, 2018, in its summary of moon exploration plans by Japan and other countries.

Japanese media reported Tuesday that JAXA presented the proposal to a government panel of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Monday. The agency still needs to win funding for the project. But it is raising hopes for a revival of space exploration. And the public broadcaster NHK showed satellite images of the Japanese islands, alit at night, and of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, as possible attractions for passengers of space flights. (4/21)

Canada's Federal Budget Extends Support For International Space Station (Source: Huffington Post)
The Harper government has made a commitment to extend Canada's participation in the International Space Station mission for another four years — until 2024. The announcement was included in Tuesday's federal budget. The United States and Russia have already announced their continued support until 2024. (4/22)

Audacity in the Dust (Source: Airport Business)
The main things Mojave has going for it, are that 1. it’s very dry and 2. in the middle of nowhere. With those two somewhat underwhelming advantages, it’s fair to say that to run an airport like Mojave successfully, you need a ‘can do’ entrepreneurial spirit at the helm – someone who sees the opportunity at the heart of a problem. Enter Stuart Witt, the CEO & General Manager at Mojave. Click here. (4/20)

Appropriations Committee Chair Encourages NASA Support for Stennis (Source: Sen. Cochran)
Amid questions about U.S. space policy priorities, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is seeking assurances that sufficient resources will be available to continue on-time development of the Space Launch System and to support rocket engine testing like that done at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center.

Cochran highlighted the importance of the role of Stennis Space Center to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday. Bolden testified on the FY2016 NASA budget request. At the hearing, Cochran sought Bolden’s guidance on how that panel could better serve NASA’s mission and the Stennis Space Center. (4/21)

Man Behind Moore’s Law Bankrolling Cubesat Mission (Source: Space News)
Clyde Space of Scotland will build two 4-kilogram cubesats to be launched in 2017 to study ocean color worldwide in a mission financed by a private U.S. foundation, Glasgow-based Clyde announced April 20. The two satellites, intended as precursors for the Sustained Ocean Observation for Nanosatellites (SOCON) constellation, will carry sensors designed and built by Cloudland Instruments of Santa Barbara, California. T

Clyde Space, whose UKube-1 spacecraft was launched in July to study radiation effects on satellites, will provide the satellite’s platform, system design, integration and prelaunch testing. The satellites will be launched on separate rockets – yet to be chosen – for redundancy and to permit their operation in different orbits.

The mission’s total value is $1.675 million. Program managers are aiming at a launch in early 2017. Financing is from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, created by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife. (4/21)

NASA Reaches Out to Universities for Smallsat Technology Collaborations (Source: NASA)
NASA is extending an opportunity to college and university teams to propose small spacecraft technology projects that they can conduct in collaboration with NASA researchers. This is the second time NASA has issued this type of call after the highly successful efforts that emerged from the first call in 2013.

The Small Spacecraft Technology Program is issuing the Smallsat Technology Partnerships solicitation as an appendix to the Space Technology Mission Directorate's NASA Research Announcement for 2015. This is opportunity will engage university students and graduate researchers in advancing technology of value to NASA and the nation and help strengthen our high-tech workforce. Proposals are due by June 5, 2015. (4/20)

ULA Launch Capability Payments Still an Issue as Competition Nears (Source: Space News)
Both United Launch Alliance and rival SpaceX expect the U.S. Air Force to factor the $1 billion in annual overhead payments that ULA receives from the service into upcoming competitions to launch national security satellites, but how that will be done remains unclear.

The issue, one that SpaceX has seen as a major stumbling block to a fair competition, has gotten increased attention from the Air Force since January, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said April 14. SpaceX is poised to end ULA’s monopoly in the U.S. defense launch market, with competitions for a limited number of missions expected to get underway this year. (4/21)

Virginia Launch Pad Slowly Recovering From Antares Accident (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Pad 0A at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia is starting to show signs of recovering over the explosion of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket attempting to carry out the third operational resupply mission (Orb-3) to the Space Station in October of 2014. In terms of Pad 0A, located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia, the damage caused by the rocket’s explosion, while still evident, are fading.

Visually, the Antares launch site, looked in pretty good shape. The lightning towers sustained major damage and are being replaced before the next flight, currently scheduled for March of 2016. The large water tower at the site, also had some minor scorching discoloration, but is structurally sound and survived in relatively good shape. (4/21)

Embry-Riddle Hosts Aerospace Conference (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Plans to attract major aerospace companies to Volusia County could get a boost Thursday and Friday when more than 150 industry leaders come to town for a conference at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It’s the spring meeting for the Aerospace Alliance, which includes aerospace leaders from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

With the presence of big-name companies such as Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and NASA, these states comprise one of the largest aerospace corridors in the world, employing millions throughout the region. This year the alliance will focus on the future of aerospace in the four-state region and particularly the region’s most critical and valuable asset — its educated workforce — and aligning the workforce to meet corporate needs.

Locally it also will give Volusia County an opportunity to make a lasting impression, especially at a time when Embry-Riddle is trying to attract businesses for its upcoming research park under construction on Clyde Morris Boulevard, said Melissa Medley, who works with Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization which is sponsoring the summit. (4/21)

NASA Puts Space Between it and Hyundai Ad Campaign (Source: Globe and Mail)
Should astronauts be in bed with advertisers? NASA thinks not. It is distancing itself from a Hyundai ad campaign that attempted to use the romance of space to sell cars. Earlier this month, Hyundai released an online video showing its cars writing a 5.5-square-kilometer message, “Steph [loves] You!” in tire tracks in the sand of a dried out lake bed.

It was written by a 13-year-old American girl for “her astronaut father working at the International Space Station,” according to Hyundai. According to NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Knotts, no NASA employees appeared in the video. Hyundai’s team would not identify the astronaut’s full name when asked. When Hyundai contacted NASA a number of months ago, “they told us they were going to use an actor to stage the scene [aboard the ISS,]” Ms. Knotts said.

In an e-mail, Hyundai’s global public relations team said it “cannot comment” on questions about Stephanie’s father’s role on the ISS; whether it used NASA’s public domain footage; who filmed any other footage; and if so, how Hyundai secured permission to film aboard the ISS. “All we can say is that it’s based on a real story,” the e-mail stated. However, Ms. Knotts said none of NASA’s astronauts were involved, on an authorized or unauthorized basis. (4/21)

Lockheed Martin Rocket Launches Boost Earnings and Guidance (Source: 24/7 Wall Street)
Lockheed Martin reported first-quarter 2015 earnings with revenues of $10.11 billion. Consensus estimates called for revenues of $10.23 billion. In the company’s aeronautics division sales were down 7% year over year and operating profits were down 6%. Information systems sales were down 2% and profits fell 22%. Missiles and fire control sales were 19% lower and profits were down 18%.

On the plus side, mission systems and training sales were up 1%, but profits fell 12%. Space systems sales rose 5% and profits rose 13%. Included in the space systems division’s profits were equity earnings of $75 million primarily from its United Launch Alliance (ULA) joint venture with Boeing. (4/21)

New Satellite Payload Ensures Safe and Efficient Air Travel (Source: Raytheon)
Thanks to a newly awarded $103 million FAA contract, Raytheon Company will field the newest element in a space-based system which makes air travel safer and more efficient for millions of travelers. The Raytheon-supplied system will be a key feature of the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) which improves the availability and accuracy of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals to enable use by commercial and general aviation aircraft.

The company will develop a payload to be incorporated into a new geostationary (GEO) satellite and two associated ground uplink stations to support the WAAS system within U.S. airspace. As the original developer of the WAAS system, Raytheon has more than 60 years of experience in providing global air traffic management (ATM) technology, including precision satellite-based navigation products. (4/21)

Editorial: Adjust Schedule for RD-180 Phaseout (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance have a problem with the timetable for enforcing the congressionally imposed ban on the future use of Russian-made engines in launches of U.S. national security space missions. The ban, enacted following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, will effectively shut ULA’s most competitive rocket, the Atlas 5, out of what soon will become a hotly contested military market with the arrival of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Lawmakers are legitimately concerned about feeding Russia’s military industrial complex, and some worry that a relaxation of the current RD-180 phaseout timetable will erode U.S. resolve to stop using the hardware. But it might be riskier still to prematurely force the Atlas 5 out of the national security market. The rocket’s availability ensures competition in the near term, which gives ULA a fighting chance to preserve competition in the long term. Congress absolutely should phase out the RD-180, but on a schedule that does not foreclose this possibility. (4/21)

Satellite Capacity Glut Weighs on APT’s 2014 Profits (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings reported higher revenue but lower pretax profit in 2014 as it made profitable use of a borrowed Chinese satellite but was obliged to reduce prices given the oversupply in the Asia-Pacific.

Hong Kong-based APT said pressure on transponder-lease prices will continue in 2015 as more conventional and high-throughput-satellite capacity enters the region. The company said it is determined to maintain its market share and its satellite fill rates even if that means dropping lease prices. (4/21)

Building an Earth-Size Telescope, 1 Station at a Time (Source: Scientific American)
For years, the Event Horizon Telescope has been operating as a trio of sites in Hawaii, Arizona, and California. (It’s a little more complicated than that—other sites have joined in here and there, and there are actually two telescopes on Mauna Kea that participate—but basically, until this year the EHT was a triangle.)

Its goal is to image Sagittarius A*, the 4 million-solar-mass black hole at the center of the Milky Way, an achievement that could have profound implications for our understanding of the universe. To do that, the EHT needs to grow into a truly worldwide array. That’s a matter of adding the following telescopes to the array. Click here. (4/20)

Russia Accounts for Almost Half of World Space Launches in 2014 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Prime Minister Medvedev said that in the conditions of tough competition Russia has been able to maintain leadership on the world space launch market. "We have made progress in the rocket and space industry, increasing our orbital constellation by 17 satellites and their total number reached 134, which is about 10% of the world’s constellation...[and ] despite the rather tough competition, Russia has maintained its leadership on the world market, carrying out almost half of the total space launches." (4/21)

Blue Origin To Begin Test Flights Within Weeks (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin, the commercial spaceflight company backed by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, will soon start flight tests of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, an FAA official said April 21. George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said he expected Blue Origin to begin test flights in a “couple of weeks.” (4/21)

NASA Delays Award of Commercial Cargo Follow-On Contracts (Source: Space News)
NASA has pushed back by three months a decision on a new series of contracts to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station, claiming it needs more time to review the proposals it received. NASA posted a message April 16 on the procurement website for the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contract stating that the estimated award date was now Sept. 16. The site had previously listed an award date of June. (4/21)

April 21, 2015

Telescope Construction in Hawaii Delayed Indefinitely (Source: Pacific Business News)
Construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano has been delayed for a third time this month, with no official date set to return. TMT spokeswoman Sandra Dawson told PBN Monday it is unclear when construction will resume. “There are conversations happening among various stakeholders so we’re playing it by ear to see those conversations play out and what happens,” she said.

In a statement released Friday evening, Gov. David Ige said that any further construction delays would be up to the TMT Observatory Corp., and that the nonprofit has the legal right to build the $1.4 billion project. "My understanding is that TMT followed an almost seven-year planning and permitting process, which included public hearings and community input,” he said. (4/20)

Hawaiian Protesters Target US Company Behind Controversial Telescope (Source: Radio Australia)
There's been a blockade of the site on Hawaii's Big Island for three weeks, but now a group of protestors have gathered on the Pasadena freeway in Los Angeles outside TMT's headquarters. Journalist Ed Rampell watched the demonstration unfold, and he says the turnout was higher than expected. Click here. (4/21)

Space Lawyers Actually Exist (Source: Lawyers Weekly)
Who is liable if a piece of space junk crashes into the International Space Station? Can corporations mine the moon? What jurisdiction handles space tourists if they break the law in orbit? If you want to find out what’s legal once you leave planet Earth, you’re going to have to talk to a space lawyer.

Over the past 60 years space lawyers have extended humanity’s jurisdiction into zero gravity and earned for themselves one of the coolest titles in the profession. This week space lawyers from all over the world are coming together for the 54th UN Office for Outer Space Affairs Legal Subcommittee meeting in Vienna. (4/21)

Dark Matter May Feel a "Dark Force" That the Rest of the Universe Does Not (Source: Nature)
After decades of studying dark matter scientists have repeatedly found evidence of what it cannot be but very few signs of what it is. That might have just changed. A study of four colliding galaxies for the first time suggests that the dark matter in them may be interacting with itself through some unknown force other than gravity that has no effect on ordinary matter. The finding could be a significant clue as to what comprises the invisible stuff that is thought to contribute 24 percent of the universe. (4/20)

Mysterious 'Supervoid' is Largest Object Ever Discovered in Space (Source: The Telegraph)
Astronomers have discovered a curious empty section of space which is missing around 10,000 galaxies.
The ‘supervoid’, which is 1.8 billion light-years across, is the largest known structure ever discovered in the universe but scientists are baffled about what it is and why it is so barren.

It sits in a region of space which is much colder than other parts of the universe and although it is not a vacuum, it seems to have around 20 per cent less matter than other regions. Although the Big Bang theory allows for areas that are cooler and hotter, the size of the void does not fit with predicted models. Simply put, it is too big to exist. (4/20)

ULA Incorporates 3D Printing Technology into Vulcan Development (Source: ComputerWorld)
United Launch Alliance says its Vulcan rocket will include scores of components that are produced via 3D printer, citing the cost savings of using 3D printer technology. "We have a long list of [parts] candidates to evaluate -- over 100 polymer parts we're considering and another 50 or so metal parts we're considering," said ULA's Greg Arend. (4/20)

Space Solar Power Initiative Established by Northrop Grumman and Caltech (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman has signed a sponsored research agreement with the California Institute of Technology for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million to the initiative over three years. The team will develop the scientific and technological innovations necessary to enable a space-based solar power system capable of generating electric power at cost parity with grid-connected fossil fuel power plants.

SSPI responds to the engineering challenge of providing a cost-competitive source of sustainable energy. SSPI will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. (4/20)

Cosmic Rays Misbehave in Space Station Experiment (Source: Science News)
Installed on the ISS in 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer collects and identifies cosmic rays, charged subatomic particles that permeate the galaxy. A new census of charged particles buzzing through space includes a puzzling feature that challenges predictions about how these particles originate. The results may force scientists to rethink theories that focus on supernovas as the producers of these speedy particles.

Based on the previously measured concentrations of galactic cosmic rays, many scientists suspect that the particles get flung toward Earth in the shock waves of exploding stars. But the new analysis of 300 million protons and 50 million helium nuclei adds a wrinkle to the shock wave explanation. While the number of particles observed generally drops steadily as their energy increases, at an energy of several hundred billion electron volts, the rate of that drop abruptly decreases.

The shock wave scenario doesn’t support that sudden rate change, says University of Wisconsin–Madison particle astrophysicist Francis Halzen. The measurement, which confirms less precise findings from previous experiments, suggests an additional source of cosmic rays. “This structure really challenges our notions about the origin of galactic cosmic rays,” Halzen says. (4/21)

'You can die on Mars. Or you can live in South Dakota.' (Source: Argus Leader)
Someone sitting in a focus group in Minneapolis was asked to describe what it would be like living in South Dakota. The response is not the stuff economic developers dream about. "You could really become a hermit," this person said. "You could really isolate yourself from everyone else." ... "My friends would think I'm crazy to go to either of the Dakotas, because they probably just think it's a barren wasteland, that there's not much to do, not much job opportunities. It gets cold there. Really cold there."

Enter the state's new advertising campaign. It starts about as far from the target market of South Dakota as possible — on Mars. "Mars," the commercial begins. "The air: not breathable. The surface: cold and barren. But thousands are lining up for a chance to go and never come back."

Cut to images of South Dakota as the narrator continues: "South Dakota. Progressive. Productive. And abundant in oxygen. Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?" The final graphic reads: "South Dakota. Plenty of jobs. Plenty of air." (4/21)

India’s Second Moon Mission To Be Fully Homegrown (Source: Aviation Week)
India’s second lunar exploration mission – Chandrayaan-2, to be launched during the next two to three years – will be completely indigenous, the country’s top scientist says. “There have been significant changes in the planned configuration for Chandrayaan-2,” says A. S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). “Originally, the lander was supposed to come from Russia. Now we are developing our own technology. So it will be completely an indigenous system.” (4/20)

How Lasers Could be the Future of Space Cleanup (Source: CSM)
Lasers may be the future of garbage disposal – in space, at least. In a paper published in the latest issue of Acta Astronautica, researchers at the Riken research institute in Tokyo proposed a way to end the growing problem of space debris by shooting them down with lasers. The method would track space debris using the Extreme Universe Space Observatory’s (EUSO) super-wide-field telescope, mounted on the International Space Station.

The telescope, which is based aboard the space station's Japanese Experiment Module, was designed to detect high-energy cosmic rays. The study proposes using EUSO to spot the debris and then shooting them with powerful laser pulses from a high-efficiency fiber laser, also aboard the space station. The pulses would knock objects into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they would burn up. (4/19)

Virgin Galactic Aims to Begin Testing Another Spaceship (Source: CNBC)
Virgin Galactic, the space venture of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, hopes to start testing another spaceship before the end of the year, the company's chief executive has said in one of his few public comments since a fatal crash last year. George Whitesides said the spacecraft would be better because of the lessons learnt from the crash, which occurred when a test pilot unlocked a mechanism meant to slow a descending craft while it was climbing. (4/20)

KSC Director Cabana to Discuss “Pioneering Space” at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Kennedy Space Center Director Robert D. Cabana will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) meeting May 12. His presentation is entitled “Pioneering Space: The Journey Begins at KSC.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral.
Cabana is the tenth director of the KSC where he manages a team of approximately 8,600 civil service and contractor employees.  Prior to his appointment to Kennedy in October 2008, the former space shuttle astronaut served as the director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (4/20)

RocketStar Launches Campaign for Aerospike Engine (Source: RocketStar)
Rocketstar, LLC, a New York City-based rocket engine company, is currently developing a new generation of rocket engines, beginning with an aerospike engine intended to democratize space and unlock its promise of the future by creating a cost-effective; reusable, reliable, environmentally friendly and highly cost effective rocket engine.

RocketStar is launching an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign in an effort to raise $250,000 for completion of a prototype and to conduct a burn test, both of which are required prior to building a full-fledged aerospike engine. Click here. (4/19)

Alaska Spaceport Talking with Potential Customers (Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror)
The Kodiak Launch Complex has also been a recent target of a public relations nightmare after a failed rocket launch on Aug. 25, 2014. Even after its announcement early this month that local construction crews have cleared all of the debris from the aborted launch, opponents still found some ammunition to target the launch complex, which has been renamed the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska.

The site averaged about 35 employees, but with the state budget cuts this year, it will be operating with about 25 to 30 employees. Since the Alaska Aerospace Corp. board was created in 1992, the corporation has received about $50 million from the state. During that time, it also boosted the local economy, bringing about $300 million in economic impact. This year, AAC was hoping to receive $4 million in state funding, tapering off to $2 million the next year as they hope to eradicate dependence on funding from state coffers.

AAC is currently engaged in building revenue generation and in talks with six potential customers. He said he could not divulge whether the six would include the military. "We still have a lot of customers interested, but they will not sign until they have confidence that our launch site will be ready when they need us," Greby said. "This is a very tough dry spell for us, which is why we have to tighten our belts." (4/19)

UAE Opens Space Center to Oversee Mission to Mars (Source: Sputnik)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center on Saturday to oversee preparations of the country’s Mars exploration probe mission. A resolution to this effect was issued by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The MBRSC is affiliated with the Emirates’ institution for advanced science and technology, which was established in 2006 by the UAE government, Xinhua news agency reported from Dubai. The center is assigned to “further research, projects and space investigation, in a manner that supports the UAE's drive to develop this sector and to promote national capacity related to space information and science.” (4/19)

UAE Interested in Buying Sea Launch From Russia (Source: Sputnik)
The United Arab Emirates is interested in the acquisition of the Sea Launch spacecraft launch platform. Several meetings were held between the UAE and Russia. But at the moment the intensity of negotiations regarding the project has decreased possibly due to the fall in international oil prices. Two years ago, the UAE established its own space agency. With the acquisition of "Sea Launch" the UAE would receive technical specialists and an existing infrastructure. (3/24)

Roscosmos Details Russia’s Struggling Space Sector (Source: Space News)
Russia’s space industry reported a 13 percent decline in export revenue in 2014 but is otherwise midway through a broad restructuring designed to improve quality control, the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, said. Export revenue totaled 4.374 billion rubles in 2014, the agency said. It was not until late 2014 that the ruble began a spectacular slide against the U.S. dollar. It has recovered somewhat in recent weeks.

The agency said Russia’s space sector, which including industry and scientific enterprises counted 238,000 employees in 2014, has made good on all its international commitments — starting with the International Space Station — but is still struggling to bring young people into the business. The agency said the average age of a space-sector employ in 2014 was 45, with 44 percent over 50 years old and 22.3 percent 30 years old or younger. Click here. (4/20)

DigitalGlobe Unveils New Tools for Troops, Others to Use Imagery (Source: Reuters)
DigitalGlobe Inc this week unveiled new Web-based tools that could help military troops, relief workers and others use its high-resolution satellite images, social media feeds and other data without needing massive bandwidth. The tools, which are in beta-testing now, give users access to complex data processing done in the cloud, including rapid analysis about everything from helicopter and paratrooper landing sites to social media usage in a specific area.

Accessible on any cellphone, iPad or other portable device, the analytical tools can also be downloaded and cached for later use, even when there is no connectivity, DigitalGlobe Chief Technical Officer Walter Scott said. Scott said DigitalGlobe developed the system to allow users to benefit more from its imagery, which he called the world's highest-quality commercial satellite data, and the growing amount of unclassified information available from sources around the world. (4/19)

Curiosity Detects Possible Liquid Brine in Martian Soil (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Mars, our closest planetary neighbor, is a cold and desolate place. Extreme conditions make it near impossible to support liquid water on the planet's surface, but thanks to recent weather and soil data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover, scientists have their first indirect evidence of the presence of a thin briny film near the equator. Acting as a natural anti-freeze, the brine pulls water from the atmosphere into the soil, but daytime temperatures are too high, and any liquid evaporates. (4/20)

Kiwi Lawyer Says Asteroid Mining is Legal (Source: New Zealand Herald)
A New Zealand-based lawyer specializing in international space law says there are no laws preventing the mining of asteroids for commercial or scientific gains and she expects to see the practice to begin within the next 10 years. Click here. (4/20)

Before Decade Is Out All US Military Satellites May Be Grounded (Source: The Hill)
Today, the launch infrastructure of the United States National Security Space -- comprised of the Department of Defense, the Services and the Intelligence Community -- is teetering on the edge of a gap in capability which, in less than five years, could mean no capacity to launch the bulk of critical national security missions for as long as ten years.

We are close to retiring our existing fleet of launch vehicles without new ones to assure our access to space. America’s enemies operate with the certain knowledge that they have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from American reach. And assured access to space is the key.

The government needs to take ownership and face this problem head on. It needs to define the end state and show commitment to a credible, achievable and affordable solution for national security launch needs in the 2020s and it needs to commit the necessary resources to achieve the desired outcome. It has been said that today’s American military is ‘space based.’ It is our duty to make sure we can support our forces in the next decade with assured access to space. (4/20)

The Lunar “Distraction” (Source: Air & Space)
For years, many in the space community have said the same thing. During planning for the implementation of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, NASA spent more time worrying about their “exit strategy” from the Moon than they did about what they’d been charged to do on the lunar surface once they got there. Eventually, the concept was recast: Missions to the Moon are only valuable to test systems, equipment and procedures for the forthcoming mission to Mars.

Some look at the Moon only as a testing ground for equipment and procedures, and see no compelling reason to conduct human missions there. But recently, the agency has been re-examining the value of the Moon. After several years of the Moon being relegated to “been there, done that” status, perhaps the idea of using lunar resources to learn how to live and work productively in space is again gaining some traction.

The more we learn about the properties of the Moon, the more essential our nearest neighbor becomes in our understanding of the role it can play in our ability to create new spaceflight capabilities and opportunities. The old trope that the Moon is a “distraction” on the way to Mars had it exactly reversed. The Moon contains what we need to create new capabilities in space faring and is critical to achieving Mars and all of the other interesting destinations in the Solar System. (4/20)

A Five-Year Checkup (Source: Space Review)
Last week marked the fifth anniversary of President Obama's speech at the Kennedy Space Center, outlining his vision for the future of NASA's space exploration efforts. Jeff Foust examines the progress NASA has made in various aspects of that vision, and the controversies that linger to this day. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2736/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Phobos Indeed (Source: Space Review)
Recent studies and recommendations by advisory groups have raised interest in a mission to Phobos as a precursor to a Mars mission, perhaps in place of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission. Louis Friedman notes that such interest in Phobos missions is not new, and may also not be that effective for long-term human Mars exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2735/1 to view the article. (4/20)

The Attraction of Space Social Events (Source: Space Review)
Social events like Yuri's Night are increasingly popular, but are they an effective way to increase awareness of and interest in space? Alan Steinberg goes over the results of a survey that explored that issue. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2734/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Moon and Mars are Physically and Fiscally Feasible (Source: Space Review)
In recent weeks, plans for human Mars missions have been criticized for both their technical and financial feasibility. John Strickland argues that these critiques don't hold up when Mars architectures are revised to take advantage of reusable launch systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2733/1 to view the article. (4/20)

‘Golfing on Mars’ Is Not as Far a Drive as You Think (Source: NoozHawk)
Jocelyn Dunn is the first person to play golf on Mars. OK, not really on Mars, but pretty darn close. Sort of. Dunn is part of a six-member crew of faux Martian astronauts living at a facility in Hawaii.

HI-SEAS — the Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog Simulation — is a NASA-funded effort to study the psychological effects of long-duration space travel. The idea is to put astronauts together in a simulated Martian habitat for various periods of time and study what transpires. (4/19)

Hadfield Releasing Album Recorded in Space (Source: Rolling Stone)
Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, whose cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" went viral in May 2013, will release an entire album of songs he recorded while manning the International Space Station. Hadfield laid down the album's guitar and vocal tracks while in orbit – "a human first," according to the press release – with only his acoustic guitar and a computer. (4/20)

NASA's Wild Airship Idea for Cloud Cities on Venus (Source: Space.com)
Astronauts could start exploring Venus in the not-too-distant future — as long as they stay high up in the planet's acid-laced skies. NASA researchers have come up with a plan to send piloted, helium-filled airships cruising through the Venusian atmosphere. The idea, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), could eventually lead to the permanent settlement of Earth's hellishly hot sister planet, its developers say. Here's a video. (4/20)

NASA Extends Contract for Crew Health, Safety Work (Source: NASA)
NASA has extended and increased the value of its contract with Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group of Houston to provide continuing support to the Human Health and Performance Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The cost-plus-award-fee contract modification increases the overall value of the contract by $97 million to $1.5 billion. (4/20)