July 1, 2015

Russian Progress Cargo Launch Will Help ISS, But Not Much (Source: Aviation Week)
Russia’s next Progress resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) offers little if any direct relief after more than 5,500 lb. of pressurized and unpressurized cargo bound for the outpost rained down on the Atlantic Ocean in fragments following the June 28 launch failure of SpaceX’s seventh NASA-contracted Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-7) mission. (6/30)

‘Too Early To Assess Any Impact’ Of Launch Failure on National Security (Source: Breaking Defense)
Boom. The explosion that destroyed CRS-7 as it headed to orbit could mean Elon Musk’s fevered efforts to win the highly lucrative business of sending intelligence and Air Force satellites into space are, if not endangered, then at least in question.

While the failure of SpaceX’s resupply mission to the International Space Station isn’t directly tied to national security launches, the certification process his company underwent included all launches and their reliability — except this one.

So far, the Air Force is being extremely cautious in its response. “At this time it’s too early to assess any impact that the Space X launch failure has on future DoD launch missions. The Department is firmly committed to smoothly transitioning our launch enterprise with a continued strong focus on maintaining assured access to space for National Security Space missions,” a deliberately anonymous spokeswoman said in an email. (6/29)

Stop Saying 'Space is Hard' (Source: The Verge)
How we handle our technology’s failure defines us as much as the fact that we created the technology at all. When a commercial plane crashes — a thankfully rare occurrence these days — we don’t just stand idly by. A team of analysts quickly swoop in, determine the root cause of the plane’s demise, and then decide what precautions should be taken so that a similar accident doesn’t occur again. The general attitude for these scenarios is often the same: "We should have done better."

But when technological failure occurs during spaceflight, the public’s attitude isn’t nearly as chastened. Yes, teams of engineers and researchers immediately analyze the problem in order to pinpoint the origin of the failure. And updates are almost always made so as to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future. But in the immediate postmortem of a lost rocket, a familiar excuse always seems to surface, pardoning the debacle: "Space is hard."

We heard that following Orbital Sciences’ Antares explosion in October 28th, 2014, as well as the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crash on October 31st. It’s time to stop saying that. Because of course spaceflight is hard. As President Kennedy said, it’s why we pursue it in the first place. No one in their right mind could possibly think shooting cargo and people into lower Earth orbit at over 21,000 miles per hour is a simple task. (6/30)

CST-100 and Atlas-5 Crew Access Tower Taking Shape at Cape (Source: America Space)
With two years left before an expected inaugural CST-100 launch there is still a lot of work to be done, but one visible sign of progress at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is the new Boeing/ULA crew access tower now being built just down the road from ULA’s Atlas launch pad (LC-41), which is where Boeing’s flights will take place from atop the proven ULA Atlas-V rocket.

The entire tower will be erected over six to seven weeks this summer. The first segments are already rising above the Cape’s flat landscape, and, when finished, the tower will stand over 200 feet tall. The tower will be comprised of seven major tier segments, or levels, and each will measure about 20 foot square and 28 feet tall. Building them away from the pad allows ULA to maintain their busy Atlas launch manifest. (6/30)

New Plan Proposed to Send Humans to Mars (Source: EurekAlert)
A new, cost-constrained U.S. strategy to send humans on Mars, could be achieved within projected NASA budgets by minimizing new developments and relying mainly on already available or planned NASA assets. This approach is described in "A Minimal Architecture for Human Journeys to Mars," published in New Space, a peer-reviewed journal. Cick here. (6/30) 

Would Astronauts Have Survived the SpaceX Rocket Explosion? (Source: Space.com)
Astronauts likely would have survived the rocket explosion that scuttled SpaceX's unmanned resupply mission to the International Space Station on Sunday, company representatives said. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket broke apart about 2 minutes after launching. If the mishap had occurred during a crewed launch of the "Dragon V2" capsule variant, it likely would not have caused any fatalities, said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell.

"The escape system slated for the second version of Dragon would have — should certainly have taken the astronauts to a safe place after an anomaly like this," Shotwell said. "In fact, it's designed to take a far more energetic event and get the astronauts safely away." (6/30)

All Eyes on Progress: Russian Spacecraft to Deliver Supplies to ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With the complete loss of a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket with its payload of a Dragon spacecraft, the attention of the international spaceflight community is now focused on the launch of Russian Progress M-28M cargo vessel. Lift-off is currently scheduled for July 3 at 12:55 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

With the events of this past weekend, the situation in terms of ferrying experiments, crew supplies and cargo to the International Space Station has now entered into a troubling period. On Monday, the orbital module of the Soyuz-U, containing Progress M-28M, was transported from the spacecraft processing facility for integration with the launch vehicle. (6/30)

Preventing a Space War (Source: New York Times)
The United States sees space conflict as a vital security issue. "Potential adversaries understand our reliance on space and want to take it away from us," a senior Pentagon official told Congress in March. And while everything from control of nuclear weapons to weather forecasting to cellphone use could be affected, the U.S. "is not adequately prepared for a conflict" in space with countries like China and Russia, he acknowledged. Click here. (6/30)

Mars One to Debate MIT Critics at Mars Society Convention (Source: Mars Society)
The Mars Society is pleased to announce that a formal debate will be held at its 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. August 13-16, 2015 on the proposition: “Is Mars One Feasible?”
 
Leading the affirmative team will be Mars One President Bas Lansdorp. The negative proposition will be argued by Sydney Do and Andrew Owens, two members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team that published a headline-making critique of the Mars One plan late last year. (6/30)

June 30, 2015

Where Would You Land Humans on Mars? NASA Seeks Proposals (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA has decided to give science communities a chance to discuss potential landing sites for future crewed missions to Mars. During the Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars to be held Oct. 27-30, 2107 015, NASA will seek proposals for locations where humans could land, live, and work on the Martian surface.

The potential locations, dubbed Exploration Zones (EZ), are a collection of Regions of Interest (ROIs) that are located within approximately 60 miles (100 km) of a centralized landing site. Each EZ needs to offer compelling science research possibilities while also providing resources that astronauts could take advantage of during their stay on Mars. (6/29)

Chinese Ground Station in Argentina is for Peaceful Purposes (Source: Xinhua)
The government of Argentina says that a Chinese ground station being built in the country will be used only for peaceful purposes. The Ministry of Federal Planning denied reports in the country's media that the agreement between Argentina and China regarding the ground station included secret clauses that could allow it to be used for military purposes. The station, they said, will primarily be used to support China's lunar exploration program. (6/30)

Russian Breaks Space Record (Source: Guardian)
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka set a new record for the most time spent in space Monday. Padalka, currently on the ISS, broke Sergei Krikalev’s record of 803 cumulative days in space. Padalka is on his fourth visit to the ISS, plus one earlier trip to the Mir space station, and will have spent 878 days in space by the time he returns to Earth in September. (6/30)

Asteroid Day Raises Threat Awareness (Source: SEN)
Today is "Asteroid Day," an effort to raise awareness about the threats posed by near Earth objects. The event is timed to the anniversary of the 1908 "Tunguska Event" in Siberia, a massive explosion likely caused by a small asteroid impact. Event organizers hope to win more support and funding for search efforts, with a goal of increasing the asteroid discovery rate by a factor of 100. (6/30)

String of Cargo Disasters Puts Pressure on Space Industry (Source: Space Daily)
The global space industry is reeling after three cargo disasters in less than a year have delivered a costly blow to efforts to supply astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday also raised new questions about whether US rockets are safe enough to start launching astronauts to space as planned in 2017. (6/29)

SpaceX's Useful Failure (Source: Bloomberg)
The failure -- the third for a resupply mission in less than a year -- is a blow to the space station's scientific mission. It's yet another challenge to NASA's plans to let private companies handle such launches as it trains its sights deeper into space. And it's a setback to SpaceX’s ambitious plans to deploy reusable rockets.

The recent failures should be recognized as the cost of making progress in spaceflight. New rocket systems fail as often as they succeed. And the string of recent (and unrelated) accidents in supplying the space station -- Orbital Sciences lost a rocket in October, and a Russian mission failed in April -- convey important lessons of their own as the space program ramps up for more ambitious exploration.

Upending things can work wonders in the marketplace. In space, it can all too easily lead to tragedy. SpaceX is learning that lesson. The good news is that SpaceX still has a few years to perfect those rockets before they're scheduled to carry people into the cosmos. (6/29)

Despite Setback, Cecil Spaceport Optimistic About Launches (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
It's a setback, but not a major one. That's the mentality Jacksonville Aviation Authority has regarding last week's veto of $1.5 million for Cecil Spaceport. “It's a setback, but not something that breaks down the spaceport plan,” Michael Stewart, director of external affairs for the JAA, said in a sit-down with the Business Journal.

The most necessary thing for the spaceport to be operational — the taxiway and ramp — has already begun construction and will be completed by the end of August, Stewart said. That works for anyone who wants to temporarily use the facility, including Generation Orbit, which has an agreement to use the spaceport as testing for its horizontal launches.

But the funding requested from the state — which was originally $5 million — would go to designing and building out permanent facilities, including a hangar. They won't have to be built until a permanent tenant is found. In the meantime, Stewart said, the JAA would “retool and go for the full amount” for the next legislative session. (6/30)

Nelson: Budget Cuts Harm Commercial Space Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, said Monday that the failure of the unmanned SpaceX launch on Sunday is not a reason to pull back on commercializing the space program. To the contrary, Nelson said, budget cuts for the commercial crew program – for resupply of the International Space Station and other low orbit missions – will damage the program.

According to NASA’s website on the commercial crew program, SpaceX has received $3.144 billion through the life of the commercial crew programs which started in 2010. The commercial crew program is one of the components for a revitalized space program and more launches in Central Florida.

He said he didn’t think the U.S. should be relying on the Russian Soyuz capsule for launches “at a time when we have such a rocky relationship with Vladimir Putin.” Nelson noted that the House and Senate have both cut more $200 million from the commercial crew appropriations. (6/29)

What Was Lost Aboard Dragon (Source: Florida Today)
In addition to the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, which was set to attempt a landing on an uncrewed barge in the Atlantic; and the uncrewed Dragon cargo capsule, here is what NASA says was lost in the explosion: 366 pounds of ​spacewalk gear, including a spacesuit; a 1,160-pound ​International Docking Adapter to connect future versions of crewed capsules to ISS; 1,490 pounds of crew supplies, including provisions, food and personal packages for the crew members; and 1,016 pounds of ISS vehicle hardware, ranging from life-support and health-care gear to electrical and flight equipment.

Also included were 1,166 pounds of science investigations for the U.S., Europe and Japan and 77 pounds of computer and camera equipment. Among the experiments lost were: 30 student experiments, some of which were replacements for experiments lost in October's explosion of an Antares rocket in Virginia; an experiment that would have studied the composition of meteorites; Veggie, a vegetable-production system; and an investigation by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on combustion. (6/29)

SpaceX Failure Leaves Long List of Customers in the Lurch (Source: Space News)
The June 28 failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is almost certain to deal a blow to the revenue projections of numerous SpaceX commercial customers that had been basing their results on being in orbit this year or early in 2016. Commercial operators whose scheduled launches are now under threat include: SES, Orbcomm, Eutelsat, Iridium Communications, ViaSat, Spacecom, and JSat. (6/29)

The Aftermath of a Launch Failure (Source: Space Review)
On Sunday, SpaceX suffered the first failure of its Falcon 9 rocket in 19 launches, losing a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on what's known about the failure and its implications for the company, the space station, and broader space policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2780/1 to view the article. (6/29)

Untangling the Knot: Fix Congress, Pioneer Space (Source: Space Review)
Developing a coherent, sustainable space policy in the US is made challenging by changing administrations and a Congress often stuck in partisan gridlock. Clark Cohen describes how an alternative approach to congressional representation could end that gridlock and help space policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2779/1 to view the article. (6/29)

Way Out There in The Black: Orbiting Pluto (Source: Space Review)
In just over two weeks, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will speed past Pluto in the first spacecraft reconnaissance of that distant world. Dwayne Day describes an ambitious mission concept from the 1980s to send a nuclear-powered orbiter, with landers, to Pluto. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2778/1 to view the article. (6/29)

McCain: Spurn Russia Rocket Engines Despite SpaceX Failure (Source: Reuters)
The failure of a SpaceX rocket over Florida on Sunday should not lead U.S. officials back to Russia to look for a rocket engine that can get military equipment into space, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said. "This mishap in no way diminishes the urgency of ridding ourselves of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine," McCain said.

The U.S. has placed tough constraints on new deliveries of the Russian-made engines for U.S. military projects, such as launching satellites into space. The move came last year after pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were suspected of getting aid from Moscow. McCain's warning came on the same day that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the U.S. should reconsider its sanctions. "In space, there is no room for politicking," Rogozin wrote on Twitter. (6/29)

Failure Leaves SpaceX Launch Schedule in Tatters (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX on Monday was searching for what destroyed its Falcon 9 rocket after liftoff over the weekend, leaving customers still loyal but unsure when their satellites might fly. SpaceX has nearly 50 launches, worth more than $7 billion, on its schedule.

Current customers include NASA, which uses Falcon 9 and SpaceX Dragon cargo ships to fly supplies to the International Space Station, and about 20 commercial and other satellite operators, many of which have contracts for multiple flights. With prices that are 25 percent to 30 percent less expensive than competitors in Europe and Russia, privately-owned SpaceX has brought the United States back into the commercial launch marketplace. (6/29)

How Tiny Satellites are Invading the Solar System (Source: Discovery)
From the size of a milk crate to the size of a car, NASA’s Mars rovers have gotten bigger and more powerful since the first such landing in 1997. The latest effort, Curiosity, landed at Gale Crater in 2012 and is expected to last the better part of a decade. But its durability and powerful rock-analyzing laboratory came at a price of $2 billion.

Curiosity’s science return so far includes finding extensive evidence of organics and water in its zone, although critics have said its drill is under-used. NASA is now planning a similarly sized rover to leave for Mars in 2020. But is there a way to add more science without overburdening on cost?

As multi-million dollar spacecraft crawl across our solar system, they could bring smaller passengers with them. These tiny vehicles are called CubeSats and they’ve done a great job colonizing low Earth orbit since 2003. (At least one launched that year, from the University of Tokyo, was still operational as of 2014.) Click here. (6/29)

Failure Part of SpaceX Progress (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Falcon 9, which has launched successfully 18 times, is only a first step. Central Florida will be along for the ride. Our economy is still inextricably linked to the space program. Though Musk wants to move a big chunk of his cargo business to a new launch site in Texas, Cape Canaveral will remain the hub of manned space missions.

The goal is 2017. The return of manned missions will, hopefully, also restore more public enthusiasm for the space program. It's not a long shot. Remember how jazzed everyone was just three years ago over the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? (6/29)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge (Source: SpaceRef)
If you watch launch video, you can see that first stage continues to function steady and stable even while the front end of the rocket was destroying itself. That in and of itself is impressive. According to SpaceX telemetry received from the Dragon spacecraft showed that it too was functioning after the mishap occurred and telemetry continued to be sent back from Dragon for a significant period of time.

SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point. (6/29)

Senate Bill Provides Partial Funding Increase For FAA Commercial Space Office (Source: Space News)
A Senate appropriations bill approved last week provides a modest increase in funding for the federal office that licenses commercial launches, but industry officials argue that the office requires more funding, particularly after the recent SpaceX launch failure.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a transportation and housing and urban development bill June 25 on a 20–10 vote. The bill, which funds the Federal Aviation Administration among other agencies, includes $17.425 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the office that regulates commercial launch activities in the United States.

That funding is a partial victory for the FAA. The office, which received $16.6 million in fiscal year 2015, requested $18.1 million for 2016 in order to hire additional personnel to keep up with what it argued was a growing workload of license application review and oversight of launches. (6/29)

Government Agencies Differ on Use, Usefulness of Cubesats (Source: Space News)
As interest in the use of cubesats continues to grow, U.S. government agencies are taking very different approaches regarding their use, with some openly embracing them as useful scientific tools and others more skeptical about their effectiveness.

A June 22 meeting of an ad hoc committee of the National Research Council (NRC) on the scientific utility of cubesats also revealed different approaches in how agencies manage cubesat development efforts, with some taking a far more decentralized approach than others. Click here. (6/29)

June 29, 2015

Docking Adapter, Satellites, Student Experiments Lost In Dragon Failure (Source: Space News)
The cargo lost on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft when its Falcon 9 launch vehicle failed June 28 range from a key piece of hardware for future commercial crew spacecraft to an experiment developed by middle school students, but NASA officials said none of the cargo was critical to the near-term operations of the International Space Station.

The Dragon, flying on the seventh mission under SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, carried 1,867 kilograms of pressurized cargo intended for the ISS, a total that increases to 1,952 kilograms when the weight of the cargo’s packaging is included. That total included 676 kilograms of crew supplies, 461 kilograms of hardware for the ISS, and 529 kilograms of scientific investigations.

The largest, and perhaps most valuable, item lost on the Dragon was an International Docking Adapter (IDA), a 526-kilogram item transported as unpressurized cargo in the “trunk” section of the Dragon spacecraft. The IDA, one of two built by NASA, would have been attached to the station to serve as a docking port for future commercial crew vehicles and potentially other spacecraft. (6/28)

Can Planets Be Rejuvenated Around Dead Stars? (Source: Space Daily)
For a planet, this would be like a day at the spa. After years of growing old, a massive planet could, in theory, brighten up with a radiant, youthful glow. Rejuvenated planets, as they are nicknamed, are only hypothetical. But new research from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified one such candidate, seemingly looking billions of years younger than its actual age.

How might a planet reclaim the essence of its youth? Years ago, astronomers predicted that some massive, Jupiter-like planets might accumulate mass from their dying stars. As stars like our sun age, they puff up into red giants and then gradually lose about half or more of their mass, shrinking into skeletons of stars, called white dwarfs. The dying stars blow winds of material outward that could fall onto giant planets that might be orbiting in the outer reaches of the star system. (6/28)

China's Beidou Navigation System More Resistant to Jamming (Source: Space Daily)
China has made breakthroughs in the anti-jamming capability of its Beidou satellite navigation system (BDS), the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily said. The new technology, developed by Wang Feixue and his team from the National University of Defense Technology, has made the satellites 1,000 times more secure, the newspaper said.

The first BDS satellite was launched in 2000 to provide an alternative to foreign satellite navigation systems. In December 2012, the system began to provide positioning, navigation, timing and short message services to China and some parts of the Asia Pacific. The BDS global network will have 35 satellites, five of which will be in geostationary orbit. The complete network should be installed by 2020. (6/28)

Editorial: Broadband from Space (Source: Financial Express)
While the developed world is already a well-connected place, there are still large swathes of the developing world that are not connected to the world wide web. These unconnected areas are emerging as the next battlefront for some of the leading technology companies that are looking to provide broadband to everyone, everywhere. Over the next five years, these corporations are looking to provide last-mile broadband connectivity to the unconnected world satellites.

That’s what OneWeb, a global consortium comprising Airbus, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Coca-Cola, Mexico’s Totalplay and Virgin plans to do. OneWeb has closed a $500 million funding round to build a global satellite network comprising 648 low-earth orbiting satellites that will provide affordable broadband services. The satellites will be connected to $250 solar-powered OneWeb user terminals on the ground, which will extend the reach of the mobile network with embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and WiFi access.

If all goes right the first of the satellites made by Airbus would be launched by Virgin Galactic (39 launches) and Arianespace (21) sometime in 2017. That’s a huge boost to Virgin which has yet to complete a space flight for paying passengers. What is not clear at the moment is the investment needed to roll out this program. That could well be critical to its success. (6/29)

High Schoolers' Experiment Lost Again on Launch Failure (Source: ABC)
Three high school students were going to get the science lesson of a lifetime by flying their experiment in space. Instead they got a life lesson about loss, but more importantly about determination, as they watched their experiment get wiped out for the second straight time by a rocket failure on Sunday.

The students from North Charleston, South Carolina, had come up with an intricate electronics circuitry experiment. It was supposed to fly last October to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket out of Wallops Island, Virginia. But it blew up as they watched from only 1.7 miles away. Joe Garvey was knocked over by the blast coming off the launch pad. Rachel Lindbergh felt the heat on her face.

Eight months passed. Every other student team got to fly their experiments again, but finally Sunday was the turn for Joe, Rachel and Gabe Voigt, and their teacher, Gabe's mother, Kellye. They drove down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and joked about their luck. But Rachel, the eldest of the three students and a physics major headed to the University of Chicago, doesn't talk about luck. She talks about independent events and variables. (6/28)

Rocket Failure a "Huge Bummer" for Southern California Students (Source: NBC Los Angeles)
Students from Damien High School in La Verne designed an experiment to send to the International Space Station with the SpaceX Falcon rocket, which was carrying 23 other student experiments and supplies for astronauts at the station. "It is a huge bummer for them... but at the same time being a part of this experience has been exciting for them," said Charity Trojanowski, the co-director of the Students Spaceflight Experiments Program at Damien High School. (6/29)

Google’s Lunar XPrize Sparks $140 Million Race (Source: Bloomberg)
At least a dozen teams are racing to win Google Inc.’s $20 million prize for getting to the moon. They are likely to spend more than seven times that amount, betting the boost to their moon ventures will be worth even more. Google’s Lunar XPrize will go to the first privately funded team to land on the moon, then travel 500 meters and beam high-definition video back to Earth. Detecting water earns a bonus $4 million. Click here. (6/29)

$1 Billion Satellite Project to Use Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome has booked its first high-profile commercial satellite launches as part of a contract worth more than $1 billion between Russian space agency Roscosmos and French and British space companies, news agency TASS reported Friday.

French space launch provider Arianespace on Thursday announced it would purchase 21 Russian-built Soyuz rockets to launch between 650 and 720 microsatellites built by British firm OneWeb. The satellites will provide Internet services to all corners of the globe. The news is a major boost to Russia's space industry, which has suffered a series of embarrassing launch failures in recent years. (6/29)

Earth's Rotation is Slowing, so Everyone Gets an Extra Second This Week (Source: Mashable)
In case you need a little extra time this week, the last minute of Tuesday, June 30 will contain 61 seconds instead of the usual 60. Atomic clocks around the world will coordinate the leap second, which is necessary to keep Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) — the system that guides most international civil times systems — synced with the Earth's rotation. On Tuesday, atomic clocks should read 23:59:59, then 23:59:60, before switching over to Wednesday with 00:00:00. (6/29)

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan to Save Earth from the Next Giant Asteroid (Source: Mashable)
For an outpost tasked with preventing mass extinction, the pace is certainly relaxed here at Catalina. Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn’t take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call."

If 1989FC had hit Earth, it is unlikely that many humans would have survived the post-impact fallout. Perhaps more frightening than its proximity was the fact that we had no idea it was even coming. The existence of the asteroid wasn’t discovered until eight days after it had zipped by at around 46,000 mph.

After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak. If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. Click here. (6/28)

June 28, 2015

Debris Warning Along Northern Florida Coastline (Source: USAF)
After a successful liftoff from the Eastern Range, 45th Space Wing, Space X and NASA officials experienced an anomaly of the Falcon 9 CRS-7 mission June 28 at approximately 148 seconds into flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Range officials are currently evaluating the data to determine the exact cause of the anomaly and additional information will be released as it becomes available.

The anomaly occurred over the Atlantic Ocean and as a result of tide movement over the next several hours, debris may begin washing ashore. If you spot debris in the water or see it washed up anywhere along the Eastern Florida shore report it to either NASA's debris reporting hotline at 321-867-2121 or Patrick Air Force Base at 321-494-7001 or contact your nearest local law enforcement official. (6/28)

U.S. Reliance on Russia for ISS Ops Grows With Falcon 9 Loss (Source: Aviation Week)
This much was clear as investigators began to probe the loss of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon resupply mission loss: The U.S. is at least temporarily without a means of launching astronauts and cargo to the six-person International Space Station, placing a growing burden on Russia to do what it can to keep the outpost minimally equipped and staffed.

So far, tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's intrusion into Ukraine have not seeped into the deceptively tenuous U.S.-led day-to-day operations of the 15-nation station program. However, Russia, too, is recovering from the failed April 28 launch of its Progress M-27M/59 ISS cargo mission. That compounded the re-supply difficulties triggered by the Oct. 28 launch explosion of Orbital ATK's third Antares/Cygnus mission as it lifted off from Wallops Island with 4,800 pounds of supplies and science experiments.

Editor's Note: Some of the experiments lost on this Falcon/Dragon flight were duplicates of those lost in October's Antares/Cygnus explosion. What a sad situation for the scientists and students who have watched their projects blow up before they could get to the Space Station. (6/28)

Falcon Could Be Grounded for Months (Source SEN)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket failed minutes after liftoff Sunday, claiming a Dragon capsule loaded with cargo for the International Space Station. After a trouble-free countdown, the rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 10:21 a.m. and soared out over the Atlantic Ocean heading toward space. But SpaceX ground controllers lost contact with the rocket two minutes and 19 seconds later, just before the rocket's first stage was slated to separate and make a landing attempt on a platform in the ocean. 

The rocket exploded in the sky, victim to what appeared to be an overpressurized oxygen tank in its upper stage, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said later on Twitter. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said she expects Falcon 9 to be grounded for "a number of months, or so" while an accident investigation is under way.  "We must find the cause of the failure. We must fix it and we obviously are goig to get back to flight," Shotwell said.

How the accident will impact SpaceX's ambitious launch schedule is unknown. The company was making its seventh flight of the year -- surpassing its six-flight 2014 schedule -- when the accident occurred. It also recently won certification of the Falcon 9 to fly military payloads. (6/28)

Southern Road to Spaceport America Hits Snag (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Though a key step toward improving a roughly 24-mile-long southern road to the $218.5 million Spaceport America was set to wrap up this summer, Doña Ana County staff said last week the start of construction will be delayed because of an error in plans. A problem cropped up because surveying work for the proposed construction didn't align with a corridor that was studied as part of a key environmental review — one pending before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — of the route.

"It's unclear why. I can't tell you that," he said during a staff input session at a county commission meeting. "The final design was done; we want to make that clear. But we're having to redesign the roadway to match the corridor." The BLM's Environmental Assessment is a critical step for the county to get a permit for upgrading the road from its current dirt state to a quasi-paved surface. That entails various reviews of resources on public lands — such as historical artifacts — that could be affected by an improved road. (6/27)

ISS Logistics Not Halted with Dragon Mishap (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA worked to assuage concerns that the station might be running low on supplies by noting that Russia is scheduled to launch the Progress M-28M spacecraft on July 3 and that a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV spacecraft is scheduled to launch later this summer. (6/28)

SpaceX Loses Falcon, Dragon in Launch Anomaly (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Although it’s not clear what happened, the rocket blew up 2 minutes and 19 seconds into its launch this morning. No humans were on board but the spacecraft carried 4,000 pounds worth of supplies to the International Space Station. Moreover, that’s the third cargo ship bound for NASA’s International Space Station with supplies lost in the last eight months: Orbital’s Antares rocket, Russia’s Progress spacecraft and now SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Beyond that SpaceX had planned to use the Falcon 9 rocket to carry an upgraded version of its Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard into space by 2017. SpaceX has had a remarkable track record of success with its Falcon 9 rocket up until now, and it has captured about 50 percent of the global launch business because of the lower cost service it provides. Because of its expanding business it has announced plans to build a spaceport in southern Texas.

All of that will now come into question for the company. And as for NASA, it will face some hard questions about keeping its astronauts on board the space station fully supplied. (6/27)

'Forever Remembered' Memorial Opens at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
They were two of the most traumatic experiences of a program that lasted 30 years. The names “Challenger” and “Columbia” will forever be tied to the 14 astronauts who lost their lives on STS-51L and STS-107 – and they will also be forever memorialized by a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Kept secret, even from many employees at the Visitor Complex, the “Forever Remembered” exhibit was presented to the world on the morning of June 27. The event was opened by two officials within NASA – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana – each of whom has deep ties to those who were lost as they, too, were shuttle astronauts. Family members of the crews were present at the small opening ceremony.

The families of the crews of STS-51L and STS-107 collaborated with NASA to create a memorial to remember and honor the astronauts, the lost orbiters, and the importance of learning from the past. The new exhibit covers nearly 2,000 square feet, with personal items from the flight crews as well as recovered hardware from Challenger and Columbia. (6/27)

Air Force: RD-180 Replacement Timeline Could Limit Competition (Source: Defense News)
​Pentagon and Air Force officials warned lawmakers that a congressional push to limit the use of a Russian-made rocket engine, and the development of a U.S.-made alternative, is likely to extend beyond the 2019 deadline. It might eventually push the United Launch Alliance out of national security space missions altogether.

Representatives from possible entrants into the selection for the new engine – ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Blue Origin – told the committee they could get their rockets ready by the 2019 deadline. However, Hyten warned, those rockets would still need to be certified, and launch systems would need to be adjusted to work with the new rockets, adding years until a new launch system would be ready.

Editor's Note: SpaceX's launch failure will add fuel to the Air Force's argument that there is too much risk in having only one qualified launch provider available. Also, what vehicle is Orbital ATK offering? Their Antares also uses Russian engines. Maybe they are planning to replace it with whatever new engine is developed by the Air Force and/or Aerojet Rocketdyne. (6/28)

Kauai to Host Hawaii's 1st Space Launch (Source: TGI)
Hawaii's first space launch — aimed at testing a low-cost launch system for small satellites — will blast off from Kauai's military base on Oct. 29. The ORS-4 mission, sponsored by the Operationally Responsive Space Office in collaboration with the University of Hawaii and the Pacific Missile Range Facility, sets to test the rail-launched rocket Super Strypi, which will deploy a UH student-made satellite.

"Ideally, this launch will be a gateway to a future of space-type applications, developed from the colleges and perhaps even branching off commercial-type development companies from this," said Marcus Yamaguchi, lead student at the Kauai Community College ground tracking station at the Daniel K. Inouye Technology Center.

"The overall goal is to try and develop something that can help bring high-tech business to the islands to help establish something for us here that's specific and kind of a niche to our islands because of our access to the missile facility at PMRF," he added. (6/27)

Wallops Celebrates 70 Years (Source: WMDT)
Wallops NASA celebrated it's 70th birthday today and opened its doors to let the public peek inside. NASA officials say that over Wallops long and decorated history, the base has become one of the best in the agency. Last week the flight operations program was recognized as the best of all the federal aviation programs.   

Today, despite the cloudy weather, tons of people still showed up to see the sights that are normally blocked off from the public. Wallops opens its door every five years to the public, so if you missed it the next time you'll be able to see the base won't be until. (6/27)

June 27, 2015

The Fuzzball Fix for a Black Hole Paradox (Source: WIRED)
In the late 18th century, the scientist John Michell pondered what would happen if a star were so massive, and its gravity so strong, that its escape velocity would be equivalent to the speed of light. He concluded that any emitted light would be redirected inward, rendering the star invisible. He called these hypothetical objects dark stars.

Michell’s 1784 treatise languished in quiet obscurity until it resurfaced in the 1970s. By then, theoretical physicists were well acquainted with black holes—the dark star idea translated into Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. Black holes have a boundary called an event horizon that represents the point of no return, as well as a singularity, a point of infinite density within. Click here. (6/27)

What if Property Disputes Extend to Space? (Source: Madison Journal)
Of course, there’s not a lot of talk about NASA now, because our financial woes have stifled our space ambitions for the time being. But the space age is far from dead. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. But it’s entering a different, more fragmented age, in which NASA might not be the dominant player. Our technology is getting better and better. And this allows many individuals and groups of people to join the game.
And there’s a lot of money above.

For instance, think about how much money is tied up in satellites right now. If you have a dish, then you’re reliant on those signals from satellites. You’re paying good money every month to someone who maintains those satellites. Think about all the GPS systems.

Think about how satellite imagery is getting better and better. With high-definition cameras from satellites aimed on the world, think of all the money that can be made, all the information available to individuals, businesses or governments. We have predator drones now. But we’re working hard on laser technology, too. What if those drones were eventually topped by a greater technology, lasers from satellites? Click here. (6/27)

Japan to Launch New Group to Study Extraterrestrial Materials (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch a new organization Wednesday specializing in the study of extraterrestrial materials to further investigate how the solar system developed, agency officials said Saturday. JAXA, as the agency is known, will establish the new organization within its Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The group is expected to analyze mineral grains brought back to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa by the Hayabusa probe, as well as rocks taken from asteroid 1999 JU3 by the Hayabusa2, which is expected to arrive in three years and return with the samples by the end of 2020. (6/27)

What Is the Space Program Good For? (Source: Air & Space)
We look back on the Apollo era today and think that all Americans were united in the quest to reach the moon. But it wasn’t necessarily so. On October 10, 1968, the eve of the first crewed Apollo launch, rocket pioneer and NASA executive Wernher von Braun addressed a group of honorees and their families at a Manned Flight Awareness program dinner at the Kennedy Space Center. 

The MFA program, launched two years earlier as a recognition and quality assurance program, had assumed even greater importance in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of three astronauts in January 1967. Following that tragedy, critics in Washington and in the media had sharpened their attacks over the mounting cost and risks associated with spaceflight, even as NASA regrouped and prepared to return to flight. Click here. (6/26)

U.S. Air Force Mulls Plans to Replace Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Reuters)
A U.S. Air Force competition to develop a rocket propulsion system to end dependence on Russian rocket engines drew broad response from companies, the Air Force said on Friday. “There is interest,” Lt. General Samuel Greaves, who heads the Air Force’s Space and Missiles Systems Center, said during a webcast hearing of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Congress has banned imports of the RD-180 as part of trade sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine. “We do not have the capability within the United States today to replace (the RD-180) engine, so whatever we come up with will be a new engine,” Greaves said. Click here. (6/26)

How to Become an Astronaut (Source: Aol)
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When the BBC asked 14,000 children about their ambitions back in 1969, many mentioned becoming an astronaut - and many more reckoned they'd at least be able to holiday on the moon. However a recent survey showed that only 1% of today's children harbor the same career ambition, the same number as want to be politicians or work in retail. Click here. (6/27)
   
Rosetta Detects Exposed Water Ice on Comet’s Surface (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Scientists using the high-resolution science camera on board the European Space Agency's (ESA ) Rosetta spacecraft have identified over a hundred patches of water ice a few meters in size on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerssimenko. (6/27)

Road to Hawaii Telescope to be Cleared, Governor Says (Source: Pacific Business News)
The Mauna Kea access road to the Thirty Meter Telescope project will be cleared for public access, according to a statement released by Hawaii Gov. David Ige Friday afternoon. After 12 protesters were arrested on Wednesday, others were persuaded to remove the rock structures they themselves created, according Ige. (6/26)

BRAC, Budget Dominate Summit Discussion (Source: Military Times)
Another round of base realignments and closures looks to be out of the question for now, but BRAC — and its potential costs — dominated some discussions at a summit on the future of military communities. The Association of Defense Communities summit was the backdrop for exchanging ideas on how the private sector could get more involved in the installations of the future, to the point of perhaps even managing military bases.

Ongoing talk of budget constraints in the near future has led the Defense Department and the services to seek another BRAC round, to reduce unneeded infrastructure that costs precious dollars to maintain. But Congress is standing firm against that idea, even as budget constraints complicate efforts to operate and maintain bases, summit participants said.

If the current budget climate rolls on over the next few years, base facilities will be increasingly at risk, said Robert Hale, former DoD comptroller. Some facilities already are failing, said John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment. Hale said he thinks another BRAC round will happen eventually, focusing on depots, as well as "significant underutilization" of some military hospitals. (6/26)

Here’s Why Coca-Cola is Investing in OneWeb (Source: Space News)
Whether Internet goes better with Coke is anyone’s guess, but Coke is going with OneWeb. The giant soft drink maker is an equity investor in OneWeb LLC and one of the surprises of the June 25 OneWeb briefing on London. Coca-Cola was not there to explain its decision, but OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said the company has a program called Five by 20 that seeks to promote women’s employment in areas of the world where OneWeb will have connectivity.

Wyler said Coca-Cola has 25 million sales and distribution points around the world, including remote rural areas where OneWeb’s core market resides. The OneWeb-Coke Ekocenters will put OneWeb terminals atop a snack bar, serving both companies’ interests. (6/26)

Student Experiments Fly on Suborbital Rocket at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Several student experiments were successfully launched by NASA Thursday, June 25 using the agency’s Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket. The lift off took place at 6 a.m. from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket took the students’ payload to an altitude of 71.4 miles (115 kilometers) and then the payload descended by parachute into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, where it was recovered by NASA. (6/26)

Sierra Nevada Matures Dream Chaser Thermal Protection System (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has successfully completed several significant Thermal Protection System (TPS) material development tests for its Dream Chaser spacecraft. The TPS is responsible for protecting crew members and cargo from the high temperatures the spacecraft will experience during re-entry.

The TPS tests were completed at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Johnson Space Center under reimbursable Space Act Agreements (SAA). The tests provided critical data needed to support the upcoming TPS subsystem Critical Design Review (CDR) and to validate Dream Chaser TPS manufacturing readiness. Additional TPS certification testing is also planned at the centers beginning in the fall of 2015. The Dream Chaser tiles are being manufactured on Florida's Space Coast. (6/26)

Lawmaker Wants U.S. Air Force to Focus on New Engine, Period (Source: Space News)
The chairman the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee wants the U.S. Air Force and launch industry to focus narrowly on replacing the Russian-made main engine on United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket, as opposed to investing in various launch vehicle technologies.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) pointed out that Congress authorized $220 million in 2015 specifically for a new engine. But the Air Force, wary of investing in an engine that none of its certified launch service providers — currently ULA and newcomer SpaceX — wants, has proposed spending that money more broadly on launch vehicle technology.

Editor's Note: As with NASA's Space Launch System, this is an example of Congressional Republicans ignoring their usual faith in the wisdom of industry and instead opting for a government-driven, taxpayer funded solution. (6/26)

Japan Hatches Plan to Land Probe on South Pole of Moon (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan's science ministry plans to land an unmanned probe at the south pole of the moon in the early 2020s in an attempt to enhance the nation’s standing in the space exploration business. Examination of rocks at the pole could provide clues to the origin of the moon, and there is also the chance of water or ice being found that could be used for astronauts in future missions. (6/26)

Russia Aims for Moon Landing, Leaves Mars to NASA (Source: Bloomberg)
Russia’s state space agency chief is shooting for the Moon, three years after a predecessor warned that the country was on the verge of losing its competitiveness in the industry. A manned lunar mission in 2029-2030 is Russia’s priority, while there are no “current stage” plans for a journey to Mars, Igor Komarov, head of the Federal Space Agency or Roscosmos, said in an interview in St. Petersburg last week.

“NASA has Mars as the priority,” Komarov said. “We at this stage are making the Moon our priority. We can be good in rounding each other out and working jointly on this program.” Komarov’s ambition of landing a Russian on the Moon contrasts with former Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin’s warning in 2012 that the country’s space industry risked being uncompetitive within three or four years without “urgent measures.” (6/26)

Alan Stern's Worldly Ventures (Source: Science)
Alan Stern's salesmanship helped get New Horizons to Pluto. He has a few other things for sale as well: a trip to the moon for $1.55 billion, and naming rights to a crater on Mars for $5. Those are the signature products of Golden Spike and Uwingu, two of his companies.

Golden Spike plans to send a two-seat lander to the moon, staging material in Earth orbit using commercial rockets. Governments with space ambitions—the target customers—have not lined up to buy tickets, but Stern insists that the company has made progress. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he says.

Uwingu has had more immediate impact, albeit on a smaller scale. Uwingu raises money for space research through campaigns, such as selling naming rights to martian craters on an unofficial Uwingu map (the bigger the crater, the more expensive the name). Founded in 2012 with a nearly $80,000 crowdsourcing campaign, Uwingu is a for-profit company. Half of the revenues go into a fund for scientific grants—between $130,000 and $150,000 in 2014, Stern says. (6/26)

SpaceX is on a Roll, But Here’s Why the Pressure is Really On (Source: Washington Post)
It exploded seconds after takeoff, the majesty of a rocket launch erupting suddenly into a shrapnel-spewing fireball. Then, months later, another unmanned launch went catastrophically awry: A Russian rocket spun wildly out of control after it reached orbit, eventually burning up in the atmosphere as it crashed back to Earth.

Two rockets incinerated. Millions of dollars wasted. Several tons of food and cargo destined for the International Space Station gone. Now, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preparing to resupply the orbiting laboratory on Sunday. And with the failures of the Orbital ATK Antares rocket and Russia’s Progress 59 spacecraft, the pressure is on. Not just for the billionaire’s upstart space company, and its streak of seven straight successful launches to the station, but the future of the private space industry that SpaceX’s improbable success has helped spawn. (6/26)

OneWeb’s Powerful Partners in Their Own Words (Source: Space News)
Start-up satellite Internet provider OneWeb LLC addressed many of the issues that skeptics had used to question its seriousness. The company announced $500 million in equity coming from Indian and Mexican telecommunications providers, ground segment builders, the satellite prime contractor and even from an ostensible competitor in satellite fleet operator Intelsat. Intelsat will now be a OneWeb partner, with the two companies sharing customers and spectrum. Click here. (6/26)

Launch Options were Key to Arianespace’s OneWeb Win (Source: Space News)
Arianespace won the largest commercial launch contract ever signed — a $1-billion-plus deal to launch between 650 and 720 of OneWeb LLC’s low-orbiting satellites aboard Russian Soyuz rockets —  by offering launch bases both at Europe’s spaceport in South America and Russia’s spaceport in Kazakhstan. The Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, which has a Soyuz launch installation, also may be used if needed, Arianespace said. (6/26)

June 26, 2015

SpyMeSat App Offers Fresh, On-Call Satellite Imagery (Source: Space News)
A company that offers a smartphone app for ordering satellite imagery plans to incorporate more satellites into its product. The SpyMeSat app by Orbit Logic currently uses images from Israel's EROS-B satellite, but the company's president said she is considering adding imagery from other satellites, also from non-U.S. companies. The app itself costs $1.99, but a "freshly tasked" image starts at $500. (6/25)

Longest Test Yet for SLS Engine (Source: NASA)
NASA performed the longest test yet Thursday of the engine that will power the Space Launch System. The RS-25 engine, a modified version of the engine used on the space shuttle, fired for 10 minutes and 50 seconds during a test at NASA's Stennis Space Center. Three more tests are planned for July and August, including one on Aug. 8 that NASA will open to both traditional and social media. (6/25)

NOAA Cubesat Caught in Crossfire Between Congress, White House (Source: Space News)
NOAA’s plan to launch an experimental weather cubesat in 2016 is in doubt because the agency staked funding for the effort to a program that fared poorly in recent budget bills. In 2016, NOAA wanted to “actually spend some money and do a demonstration on a microwave sounder cubesat,” said NOAA's Tom Burns.

As part of a $380 million Polar Follow-on program the White House proposed in its annual budget request in February, NOAA sought $10 million for the 2016 cubesat demo. The Polar Follow-on program would allow NOAA to start work next year on the final three Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft, which will provide global weather coverage.

But on June 3, the House passed a NOAA budget that included no Polar Follow-on money at all. In the Senate, a NOAA budget awaiting a floor vote provided only $135 million for Polar Follow-on. If the funding doesn’t materialize, it will put a cramp in NOAA’s plans to press a 12U microwave-sounding cubesat designed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory of Lexington, Massachusetts, into operational weather service in 2019 as part of the JPSS program. (6/25)

NASA, Microsoft Collaborate to Bring Science Fiction to Science Fact (Source: NASA)
NASA and Microsoft are teaming up to develop Sidekick, a new project using commercial technology to empower astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Sidekick uses Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth, for the Earth. A pair of the devices is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station on June 28.

The goal of Sidekick is to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space. (6/25)

China Launches Earth Observation Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China launched an Earth imaging satellite early Friday. The Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 2:22 a.m. EDT Friday and placed the Gaofen-8 satellite into orbit. The satellite, according to state media, is part of a civil system to provide high-resolution images of the Earth, although previous information about that system made reference to only seven such satellites. The launch was not announced by the Chinese government in advance. (6/26)

Humanoid Robots on Mars (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
The first being to walk on Mars might not be a human. NASA is working with universities to advance the technology in the agency's Valkyrie humanoid robot, with plans to hold a Space Robotics Challenge to see how to develop such robotic for space exploration applications. That could include, NASA believes, sending a cargo of Valkyrie robots to Mars to prepare a base in advance of a human mission there and handle maintenance of it after humans arrive. (6/26)

New Era of Space Collaboration Between Australia and US (Source: Space Daily)
On June 18, 2015 in Canberra, Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia signed a comprehensive new partnership to maximize land remote sensing operations and data that can help to address issues of national and international significance. (6/25)

NASA: Electric-Propulsion X-Plane Is Just First Step (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has made some expansive claims about the high efficiency, low noise and emissions and overall transformative potential of electric aircraft propulsion. Now its engineers are being given the chance to show whether those claims are supportable.

The research agency has approved a three-year, $15 million project to fly a distributed electric propulsion (DEP) X-plane. The demonstrator will be based on a light general-aviation aircraft but, if the technology proves out, NASA has aggressive plans to follow up with a nine-seat commuter demonstrator that could pave the way for a 60-90-seat hybrid-electric regional airliner. (6/26)

U.S. Readies War Operations Center for Space (Source: UPI)
The Pentagon will soon complete a new operations center for potential warfare in space, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work announced. Work explained the center, to be open within six months, will reinforce space defense activities at the military's Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB. Geospatial intelligence, he added, is necessary to strengthen the U.S. technological advantage over Russia and China, two countries practicing intelligence and anti-satellite activities in space. (6/25)

June 25, 2015

Genesis of New Vulcan Rocket Borne of Fierce Commercial, Political Pressures (Source: Universe Today)
Fierce commercial and international political pressures have forced the rapid development of the new Vulcan launcher family recently announced by rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA). Vulcan’s “genesis” and development was borne of multiple unrelenting forces on ULA and is now absolutely essential and critical for its “transformation and survival in a competitive environment” moving forward

“To be successful and survive ULA needs to transform to be more of a competitive company in a competitive environment,” ULA VP George Sowers told Universe Today in a wide ranging interview regarding the rationale and goals of the Vulcan rocket. Click here. (6/24)

McCain Accuses Shelby of Funding Putin in Rocket Engine Spat (Source: Daily Beast)
The senator wants to end U.S. reliance on Russian engines to get to space. Some fellow Republicans claim that’s not technically feasible—an argument McCain’s in no mood to hear. Hundreds of millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars could be spent on Russian rocket engines if a tiny section slipped into the annual defense spending bill is ultimately passed.

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is furious, calling it a benefit to “Vladimir Putin’s cronies”—and accusing a fellow Republican of trying to keep the cash flowing to Moscow. But the reality is there may not be an alternate to the Russian engines—at least not in the short term.

The apparent bid to weaken McCain’s prohibition is being led by the powerful chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, a fellow Republican. “I know why,” McCain said. But he didn’t want to expound on whatever knowledge he might have. Nor did Shelby want to discuss the matter. (6/24)

Inside the Race to Create the Next Generation of Satellite Internet (Source: Quartz)
Is the sky big enough for two multi-billion dollar satellite internet projects? In the next two years, we’ll find out if entrepreneurs driven by human betterment—one looking up at the heavens and humanity’s future, the other looking down to the earth’s neediest—can share a shot at creating the next big space product.

The two contenders, Greg Wyler’s OneWeb and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, both say that within the next three years they will build, launch and operate hundreds, if not thousands, of satellites flying in a low orbit around the earth to provide broadband internet. It’s an ambitious attempt to double the number of satellites orbiting earth—and succeed at a business that tends to break companies. Click here. (6/24)

Shower of the Future Uses Certified Space Technology (Source: Space Foundation)
The Space Foundation's international Space Certification program has added a new technology. Orbital Systems' "Shower of the Future" shares the same water purification technology that NASA uses in space. As one of many components in a larger closed loop system, Orbital Systems has modified and brought forward a new solution that makes the system commercially suitable for Earthly water applications for non-potable use. (6/25)

Bizarre Cometlike Alien Planet Is First of Its Kind (Source: Space.com)
A Neptune-size planet appears to be masquerading as a comet, with a gargantuan stream of gas flowing behind it like a comet's tail. The bizarre find is the first of its kind ever discovered by astronomers. The strange, cometlike planet, known as GJ 436b, is orbiting a red dwarf star and is about 22 times as massive as Earth. Astronomers detected the giant gas cloud around the planet using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. (6/24)

Hawaii Governor Halts Thirty Meter Telescope Construction, Again (Source: Pacific Business News)
Hawaii's governor halted construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope project Wednesday after hundreds of protesters opposed to the $1.4 billion observatory blocked work crews from reaching the construction site at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, resulting in the arrests of 11 people. Gov. David Ige, who said last month that he supported the project, issued a statement through his chief of staff, Mike McCartney, late Wednesday afternoon calling for construction to be placed on hold "until further notice." (6/24)

VC Nolan Using What He Learned at SpaceX at Founders Fund (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Space isn't the only focus of Scott Nolan's investments at Founders Fund, but it has long been a passion for him. He was lucky enough to be the first intern hired at Elon Musk's SpaceX back in its early days in 2003. Click here. (6/24)

Spaceport America Well-Suited for Satellite Ground Stations (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America recently announced a preliminary agreement that is the first step in bringing a commercial satellite ground station to the spaceport. We have excellent connectivity to the fiber optic backbone, we have unimpeded views of the sky, and major signal disruptions caused by extreme weather such as hurricanes are very rare. Ground stations are environmentally friendly, and they provide a steady and dependable source of revenue. Since they rely on satellites, they really are part of the larger space industry.

Furthermore, the ground station industry expects continuing growth, especially in the market segment that uses small antennas at the customer end. X2nSat, Spaceport America's first satellite ground station tenant, concentrates on just that market segment. We see this as a win-win situation and are vigorously pursuing other ground station operators as well. (6/24)

Rep. Bridenstone: NOAA’s Commercial Data Policy (Source: Space News)
Technology is rapidly developing to improve tornado warning times sufficiently to enable zero deaths from tornadoes. As chairman of the House Science environment subcommittee, with the responsibility to conduct oversight of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I am committed to doing everything possible to develop and deploy such technology to save the lives of my constituents. They deserve it and America should expect it.

I am convinced that private-sector weather data can augment current government weather data, assimilate into our numerical weather models and substantially improve our ability to predict severe weather. I am also convinced that a competitive, commercial market for weather data will drive innovation, reduce costs and increase the quantity and quality of data. (6/25)

Russia's Space Industry Needs Over 100,000 Young Engineers by 2025 (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's space industry needs to recruit over 110,000 university graduates in the next decade to revive the sector's fortunes, said a senior United Rocket and Space Corporation official. The lack of young talent pursuing jobs in the space sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, which has seen an increasing number of embarrassing accidents and rocket failures in the past five years.

The acting head of United Rocket and Space Corporation, Yury Vlasov, said in Wednesday's statement that the company was prepared to offer graduates with technical educations interesting and high-paying work in the space industry to achieve the goal of hiring over 110,000 young specialists by 2025.

The state-owned company, which unites most of Russia's space design and production bureaus under its roof, said last year that the number of people employed in the space industry would rise to 200,000 people by 2016. At the height of the Soviet space program in 1989, over 1 million people were employed in the space sector. (6/25)

Suiting Up (MIT Technology Review)
MIT’s Dava Newman says colonists will have to be “extreme athlete explorers”—always ready to hop on a rover, climb down a crevasse, or comb through a crater for potential resources. And such physical tasks would be extremely difficult to carry out while wearing traditional heavy, puffy space suits. Today’s suits, which use gas to create the pressure needed in zero gravity, haven’t evolved much since Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their legendary moonwalk. Click here. (6/24)

NASA Tests a Drone Designed to Automatically Avoid Collisions (Source: Engadget)
Drones would need to incorporate the ability to detect and avoid nearby aircraft to safely fly in civilian airspace. NASA is now testing a modified Predator drone equipped with upgraded sense-and-avoid equipment by flying other aircraft into its path. The drone is designed to issue an alert or swerve to avoid collision. (6/23)

OneWeb Places 'Largest Commercial Launch Order in History' (Source: Space News)
OneWeb announced Thursday a $500 million funding round and a contract with Arianespace and Virgin Galactic for satellite launches. OneWeb said it raised the funding from a group that included Airbus, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Virign Group, and Coca-Cola.

OneWeb said in a statement that it will use the funding to "further key technologies" for its broadband satellite system. OneWeb also said it is placing the largest commercial launch order in history, including 21 Soyuz launches from Arianespace and 39 LauncherOne launches from Virgin Galactic. The Virgin Galactic order also includes options for 100 additional launches. (6/25)

NASA Warns GOP on Cuts to Space Program (Source: The Hill)
GOP-backed legislation pending in Congress would thwart NASA’s push to end U.S. dependence on the Kremlin to send astronauts to the International Space Station, the agency is warning. For years, NASA has relied on Russia to send American astronauts to the station, but the space agency is developing a plan to wean the United States off of that arrangement.

The plan provides for two companies — Boeing and SpaceX — to create vehicles to send Americans to the space station by the end of 2017. However, the House and Senate bills to fund NASA, other science agencies, and the departments of Commerce and Justice would delay that plan, NASA contends.

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own,” Charles Bolden said. (6/24)

Russia to Centralize Rocket Engine Development (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia is proceeding with plans to centralize the development of rocket engines. Igor Komarov, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said Wednesday that NPO Energomash, best known as the manufacturer of the RD-180 engine, will be merged with other engine companies in the country into a single firm. The consolidation, Komarov said, is intended to result in "the elimination of redundancies and the strengthening of enterprises' horizontal connections." (6/25)

China Law Would Support Peaceful Use of Space (Source: Xinhua)
Space is included in a draft national security law under consideration in China. The law, which received a third reading Wednesday by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, supports the peaceful use of outer space, as well as polar regions and seabeds in international waters. The report did not go into greater detail about the law's space-related provisions. (6/25)

Eumetsat Nations Agree to Fund Next-Generation Polar Satellite System (Source: Eumetsat)
The 30 member nations of Eumetsat agreed to pay for development of the Eumetsat Polar System Second Generation. Members also provided partial support for Jason-CS, the next in a series of ocean science satellites, with members pledging more than 75% of the funds needed for the mission. (6/24)

Deep Space Explorers to Train Underwater in Florida University Habitat (Source: NASA)
NASA will send an international crew to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean this summer to prepare for future deep space missions during the 14-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition slated to begin July 20.

NEEMO 20 will focus on evaluating tools and techniques being tested for future spacewalks on a variety of surfaces and gravity levels ranging from asteroids to the moons of Mars and the Martian surface. The NEEMO crew and two professional habitat technicians will live 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat 6.2 miles (5.4 nautical miles) off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. (6/24)

Meet the U.S. Cities Vying To Be Spacecraft Landing Sites (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Dream Chaser has not made a single flight or carried any cargo into space. Yet space-savvy American cities are already rolling out the aeronautical equivalent of a red carpet, hoping to entice Sierra Nevada to land its spaceplane at their airports. If the engineers say the airport can handle it, the next step would be obtaining an FAA license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation to operate a reentry site.

In March, Ellington Airport in Houston announced it was obtaining an FAA license to land the spaceplane. Last week at the important Paris air show, city officials from Huntsville announced the start of an engineering study to examine whether the spaceplane could set down at their airport. It's going to run them $200,000, a cost that is being eaten by Huntsville, several nearby cities, and the state of Alabama.

Sierra Nevada wants to rent the Dream Chaser to private companies that would test components or run experiments in orbit. And while the spaceplane takes off via a rocket launch in Florida, it can set down on any runway long enough for a 737 to land. (6/24)

Senate Gets Sane with Support for Earth Science (Source: Aviation Week)
It appears that some U.S. senators understand what some of their colleagues in the House of Representatives don’t get—science is facts, not opinions. The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to restore the funds chopped out of NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget request for space-based Earth science by a bunch of ideologues on the House Science Committee. (6/24)

Port Canaveral Rejects Maglev Study (Source: Florida Today)
Port Canaveral commissioners on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposal to allow a company to study the feasibility of introducing a magnetic-levitation train system in and around the port. Georgia-based American Maglev Technology Inc. had proposed doing the study at no charge to the port.

But port commissioners had qualms about focusing on one company, rather than having an independent comprehensive study of options to move cruise passengers and others around the port property and to nearby beaches and hotels. (6/25)

Governor Vetoes Space Walk of Fame Funding (Source: Florida Today)
Charlie Mars, president of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, said he was very disappointed that the governor vetoed a $200,000 funding line that would have meant the preservation of the state's space history. The money would have helped fund operating cost for the next three to five years and extend science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. "We were obviously looking ahead for the future of our museum," he said. "It's mainly the preservation of our space history that he struck down." (6/25)

Florida Institute of Technology Space Funding Gets Veto (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Institute of Technology Vice President for Research Frank Kinney said Florida Tech officials were disappointed Gov. Scott decided to veto $2.5M in funding which would have helped create a new institute there to lead efforts to attract more space-related research. Kinney said Florida Tech would have committed $4.7 million over the next three years to the institute, which would have opened this fall had the governor not vetoed the items. (6/25)

Space Coast Rocket Launch Parties Aim to Promote Space Tourism (Source: Florida Today)
The local tourism community plans to capitalize on social media to tout the Space Coast as continuing to be the place to see rocket launches — and will start having launch-viewing parties around the county. The first such event will be Sunday morning at Space View Park in downtown Titusville, starting an hour before the scheduled 10:21 a.m. launch of the SpaceX rocket. The rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an International Space Station resupply mission.

During the Space View park launch party, there will be giveaways of commemorative T-shirts, sunscreen and other items. Party participants will be asked to promote the launch through messages, photos and video on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #WeAreGoFL. “We’re trying to spread the word that there are still launches from the Space Coast, even without the Space Shuttle program,” said Eric Garvey, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.

The Space Coast Office of Tourism is working with Space Florida on the new space tourism initiative. “Lots of places have great beaches and wonderful nature,” Garvey said. But launches are, “something unique to the Space Coast, and very, very cool.” (6/25)

Intelsat Enters Alliance with OneWeb Low Earth Orbit Venture (Source: SpaceRef)
Intelsat has entered into a commercial agreement with OneWeb, the venture planning to build, deploy and operate a low earth orbit ("LEO") Ku-band satellite constellation. Under the agreement, Intelsat will partner with OneWeb to use OneWeb's LEO platform, once established, to complement Intelsat's geostationary orbit ("GEO") satellite services, resulting in the first and only fully global, pole-to-pole high throughput satellite system. (6/25)

Space Policy and Regulation Becoming Significant Industry Issue (Source: Zawya)
International aerospace and space experts will convene in Abu Dhabi next March at the third Global Aerospace Summit to discuss the rapidly changing shape of space policy and regulation. "As the international space industry continues to grow, questions on space regulation and policy also increase; the Summit will be looking to unearth some of the answers," said Oisin Commane. (6/24)

Bolivia's Chinese-Made Satellite Brings in $16 Million (Source: Xinhua)
Bolivia's Chinese-made Tupac Katari satellite has generated $16 million of income in a little more than a year in orbit. "It's an approximate figure," said director of the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) Ivan Zambrana. "Last year we were close to $10 million and so far this year, we must be around $6 million," said Zambrana.

Bolivia's first satellite, named after a historical figure, was launched on Dec. 20, 2013 from China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, and began operating commercially in April 2014, following a series of tests. Currently, $20 million are earmarked a year to pay the project's debt. (6/24)

Did The Soviets Build A Better Shuttle Than We Did? (Source: Jalopnik)
For some reason, my social media feeds lately have been filled with images of “Russia’s secret space shuttles” that have fallen into ruin. This is a little puzzling, since those shuttles haven’t been ‘secret’ for decades, and they’ve been in terrible condition for over 20 years. But that got me thinking — was it a better Space Shuttle than the American one?

The Soviet space shuttle program came about as a direct response to the U.S. Space Shuttle program, because the Soviets saw the U.S. shuttles as primarily military spacecraft, ones that would eventually be configured to carry nuclear bombs. As a result, the Soviet program was highly military in nature, with all manner of strange and ominous mission plans and Buran variants (even some really odd wingless versions) being developed to create in-space nuclear weapon launchers and military space stations.

What’s the biggest difference there? Look at the rear of the orbiters. You’ll notice that the U.S. shuttles have five total engines at rear — two orbital maneuvering engines (OMS) and three very large main engines, used at launch. The Buran has only the two orbital maneuvering engines, along with a bunch of smaller attitude control thrusters. So, why the difference? The answer has to do with the launch vehicles. The US shuttle uses those three main engines to launch it from the earth into orbit. Click here. (6/24)

World Launch Markets Look Toward Rocket Reusability (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
What was once thought to be a pipe dream of having a reusable system of rocket and rocket components to reduce the overall cost of spaceflight is now gaining significant traction, as SpaceX leads the way toward a fully reusable first stage, while ULA and the European Space Agency move toward reusability to compete in the ever-changing launch market. Click here. (6/24)

11 Arrested as TMT Crews Fail to Get to Mauna Kea Summit (Source: KITV)
Construction crews for the Thirty Meter Telescope advanced roughly 300 yards up Mauna Kea before they were met by protesters Wednesday morning. The TMT crews were crossing onto a portion of the road managed by the state.  That's where Department of Land and Natural Resources officers were waiting to take over the escort.

There were hundreds more protesters lining the mountain in front of them and multiple people were arrested. In total, 11 people were arrested, according to West Hawaii Today.  One protester was arrested by Big Island police and the rest were arrested by DLNR staff. The man arrested by Big Island police was identified as 44-year-old Ulises Consuegra.  Police say he blocked access to construction workers heading to work on the TMT project. (6/24)

Lockheed Martin Can Recoup Cleanup Costs From Rocket Factories (Source: Law360)
A pair of industry groups threw their weight behind Lockheed Martin Corp. in a D.C. Circuit case Monday involving the cleanup of Lockheed's California rocket factories, saying contractors have to be able to recuperate some cleanup costs from the federal government to be competitive. (6/24)

New Mars Colony Mission to be Crowdfunded (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A new international project aiming to establish humans on a Mars colony – will be crowdfunded. The MarsPolar venture, which plans to create the first settlement on the Red Planet around 2029, is hoping it will be able to raise enough money to cover the costs of the pioneering journey. “I hope that we will have enough to contract the rover teams, to start preparing our first mission of sending two rovers to Mars,” said Arteum Goncharov, the co-founder and CEO of MarsPolar. (6/24)

US Rocketeers Take Home Championship (Source: Space Daily)
Seven students from the Russellville City Schools of Russellville, Ala., won first place in the International Rocketry Challenge at the 2015 Paris Air Show on June 19. The U.S. team, sponsored by Raytheon, beat teams from the United Kingdom, who came in second place, and France, who took home third. (6/25)

June 24, 2015

Boeing Names Muilenburg CEO, Succeeding McNerney (Source: Reuters)
Boeing Co on Tuesday named Dennis Muilenburg as chief executive officer, effective July 1, succeeding Jim McNerney. Muilenburg, 51, who has been president and chief operating officer since 2013, had been widely seen as McNerney's successor.

McNerney, 65, will retire at the end of next February. He will continue as an employee until then "to ensure a smooth transition of his CEO responsibilities," Boeing said. He will also remain chairman indefinitely, the company said. Muilenburg, who previously headed Boeing's Defense, Space and Security business, was also elected to Boeing's board, the company said. (6/23)

Embry-Riddle Benefits From Florida Budget Investments (Source: ERAU)
In a historic show of support for the future of STEM education, Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a 2015 budget that includes $3 million in funds for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s public high school partnership program providing in-demand technical skills and free college course credits. Since its creation in 2004, Embry-Riddle’s Gaetz Aerospace Institute has grown to more than 40 Florida high schools.

It offers free college credits and hands-on experience in courses focusing on key growing industries including aviation, unmanned systems, aerospace, engineering, computers and business. More than 2,300 high school students have or are currently participating in the program, providing superior talent for state and local businesses.
 
Florida is ranked No. 1 in the nation by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in aviation manufacturing attractiveness. It also is nationally ranked as the No. 2 largest aviation, aerospace and space establishment by the U.S. Department of Labor. Also approved in the 2015 state budget was the tax-free aviation fuel item. Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees Chairman Hosseini noted this will result in an estimated $158,000 in savings annually that will be passed on to students. (6/23)

Smallsat Operators Have Yet To Allay Concerns about Space Junk (Source: Space News)
The projected increase in the launch of small satellites, particularly cubesats, has raised new concerns about the growth of orbital debris, despite statements by ventures developing such satellites that they will be responsible citizens in low Earth orbit.

“There’s been a lot of concern the last couple of years about small satellites and their proliferation. There are those in the industry who derisively refer to cubesats as ‘debris sats,’” said Ted Muelhaupt, one of several Aerospace Corp. officials who discussed the issue during a session of the Small Payload Rideshare Symposium. “There’s some justification for that.”

One problem with cubesats is that their small size makes them difficult to track, and thus difficult to predict when they might come close to another satellite. “Because of tracking uncertainties, cubesats have about as big an uncertainty volume as a normal satellite, so you have to avoid them just as much,” said Brian Hansen, who leads Aerospace’s Debris Analysis Response Team. (6/24)

NASA’s Interest in Removal of Orbital Debris Limited to Tech Demos (Source: Space News)
NASA’s policy of paying companies to develop technology designed to eliminate orbital debris but not to pay for in-flight demonstrations has space companies searching for new backers. NASA adopted a policy in June 2014 to support development of orbital debris removal technology but not of operational systems. Specifically, the space agency backs projects with Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1 through 4, which means NASA’s support for projects ends once components or prototypes work in a laboratory setting. (6/24)

Hot Lava Flows Discovered on Venus (Source: Space Daily)
ESA's Venus Express has found the best evidence yet for active volcanism on Earth's neighbor planet. Seeing the planet's surface is extremely difficult due to its thick atmosphere, but radar observations by previous missions to Venus have revealed it as a world covered in volcanoes and ancient lava flows.

Venus is almost exactly the same size as Earth and has a similar bulk composition, so is likely to have an internal heat source, perhaps due to radioactive heating. This heat has to escape somehow, and one possibility is that it does so in the form of volcanic eruptions. (6/22)

NASA Joins North Sea Oil Cleanup Training Exercise (Source: Space Daily)
NASA participated for the first time in Norway's annual oil spill cleanup exercise in the North Sea on June 8 through 11. Scientists flew a specialized NASA airborne instrument called the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) on NASA's C-20A piloted research aircraft to monitor a controlled release of oil into the sea, testing the radar's ability to distinguish between more and less damaging types of oil slicks. (6/22)

PlanetiQ Selects Blue Canyon Technologies For Smallsat Constellation (Source: Space News)
PlanetiQ has selected a Colorado company to build its planned constellation of small satellites to provide weather data, with the first satellites to be launched in late 2016. Maryland-based PlanetiQ said Blue Canyon Technologies of Boulder, Colorado, will build a set of 12 satellites, each carrying a Global Positioning System radio occultation payload. The companies did not disclose the value of the contract. (6/24)

Spaceport America Experience Tour Opens (Source: Spaceport America)
Spaceport America – the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport announced today the new Spaceport America Experience tour is open for visitors. Guests gathered to create a celebratory atmosphere in the street outside the new Spaceport America Visitor Center located in the historic hot-springs district of the City of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. (6/24)

More Students Are Going to Space School (Source: Science.Mic)
There's never been a better time to want to build a rocket ship for a living. Private companies are exploring how to mine asteroids, how to create new satellite networks and how to manufacture tools with 3-D printers to enable greater space exploration. In 2012 alone, the U.S. aerospace industry added $118.5 billion in export sales to the economy, and investors are bullish on the prospects of the new space economy.

As America moves further into space and begins to reap the benefits, custom education programs designed to train the future space workforce are popping up. Unlike general programs, these schools are designed specifically around helping students learn how to turn space dreams into space careers. One of the earliest Aeronautical Universities, Embry-Riddle, offers more than 40 different degrees, from space policy and law to the more popular aerospace engineering and aeronautical science. In 2013, Embry-Riddle added a commercial space operations program to meet the rising demand for classes on the business of space. (6/24)

Hopes For A Woman To Be Next Malaysian Astronaut In Space (Source: Malaysian Digest)
42-year-old Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor spent 11 in space, conducting experiments on liver cancer and leukaemia cells as well as experiments on crystallization of various proteins and microbes. The former orthopedic surgeon said he is committed to fostering the younger generation's interest in the the field of science.

"Society's awareness of the development in science and the pursuit of scientific knowledge still lag far behind. There are many aspects about science that students are not aware, especially in aerospace exploration. Therefore, I am passionate when it comes to promoting science education as well as to foster interest in science and technology education especially among the younger generation."

Dr Sheikh will also be hosting a camp called "Space Science Camp" in September this year. He said, although there is no assurance yet that Malaysia will qualify to send a second representative to space but he sincerely hopes that women will be given the opportunity in the next space exploration mission. (6/23)

Aerojet Wins Lockheed Work for In-Space Propulsion Systems (Source: Aerojet)
Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne have signed a contract for satellite propulsion systems. Aerojet will provide XR-5 Hall Effect and MR-510 Arcjet electric thrusters, and monopropellant rocket engines, to Lockheed for use on its A2100 satellites. The propulsion systems will be incorporated into two A2100 spacecraft Lockheed is building for Arabsat. (6/23)

Mauna Kea Officials Grapple with Increased Visitor Traffic (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
Mauna Kea officials are discussing ways to manage increased visitor traffic. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports about 100,000 more people visited last year than in 2010 and University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says it’s probably due to improved access.

Meisenzahl said completed improvements on Saddle Road are one example. "You couldn't take your rental car there before," Meisenzahl said. The Office of Mauna Kea Management is hosting open houses this week on its administrative rules process. Managing public access will be part of discussions. (6/22)

Maglev Train Project Considering Port Canaveral (Source: Florida Today)
American Maglev Technology Inc. is exploring the idea of a train linking Port Canaveral's cruise terminals with the port Cove restaurant and retail area, nearby beaches and hotels — and possibly Orlando International Airport. Port commissioners on Wednesday will consider approving a non-binding letter of intent that would allow American Maglev to study the ridership potential for such a system. (6/22)

Europe Teams up for Next-Gen Mission Control Software (Source: SpaceRef)
Together with national space agencies and industry, ESA is working to develop next-generation software for spacecraft control and monitoring. The initiative is a strategic and technological jump, and will see most space organizations in Europe adopting a common infrastructure, which will improve efficiency, lower technical risk and deliver a major boost to European industrial competitiveness. (6/23)

NASA, Partners Test Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA, working with government and industry partners, is testing a system that would make it possible for unmanned aircraft to fly routine operations in United States airspace. Through the agency’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System (UAS-NAS) project, NASA, the FAA, General Atomics and Honeywell are flying a series of tests which began on June 17 and will run through July at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. (6/23)

Bessemer VC Sunil Nagaraj on Jump Into New Space Investing (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Bessemer Venture Partners enjoyed one of the early successes in the "New Space" race when Google acquired Skybox Imaging last year for $500 million. New Space is the term coined for the group of venture-backed companies that promise to open up space to private investment in a way that was unthinkable 10 years ago and that could dramatically cut the cost of launches even further.

Bessemer followed that success earlier this year by leading the Series B funding of Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab and is reportedly about to add a third Bay Area company to its space tech portfolio. Click here. (6/23)

Jurvetson on Why He Invested in SpaceX, Planet Labs (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Steve Jurvetson was a space and rocket enthusiast long before he got to invest in his first New Space company at Draper Fisher Jurvetson. "So I've been always of the opinion that it would be a good idea to invest in space. But for about 10 years I wasn’t really active searching, but was open to the idea. Every science business team that had anything to do with space, I'd take a look at it. But for 10 years, I never saw anybody or any group that seemed to warrant a second meeting." Click here. (6/23)

Is Space Tourism Traveling Faster than Space Law? (Source: The Conversation)
Space tourism is fast becoming the new frontier in the transportation business. Driven by profit-making private venture capital, the push to offer customers some direct or indirect experience with space travel is no longer the stuff of comic books or science fiction. The worry is that the legal architecture for this nascent industry has barely got its foundations in order.

There seems to be a sound business case for the industry. Market studies indicate that there are more than one thousand sub-orbital passengers per year and this is capable of generating global market figures topping $1 billion by the end of this decade. Supporting infrastructure for space tourism has already been installed in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida. The United Kingdom has recently also unveiled eight potential space ports.

Developments are hurtling ahead with dizzying speed whereas the body of space law upon which space tourism must be based remains clunky, and is designed by and large to apply only between sovereign states. A rare spirit of international legal and scientific socialism has infused space law since its inception by statesmen, international bureaucrats and enthusiastic scientific advisors who were awe-struck by the rapid achievement and prospects of space travel. Click here. (6/23)

Orbital Outfitters to Install Pressure Chambers at Texas Spaceport (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
The new Orbital Outfitters building at Midland Air & Space Port has received one of its more expensive -- and fragile -- pieces of equipment: a two-person pressure chamber. The chamber, which is 6 feet in diameter and weighs 6,500 pounds, will give the company the ability to test its suits in near-vacuum before being sent into space. The hypobaric chamber is one of three that will be installed in the chamber room at Orbital Outfitters. (6/23)

Third Spacecraft in Troubled Persona Series Launched on Jun. 23 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Russian Aerospace Defence Forces launched the newest Persona electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, also known as Kvarts (Quartz), on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The rocket will fly in the Soyuz 2-1b configuration with a modernized digital flight control system and upgraded third stage engine.

The launch of Persona-3 was initially scheduled for April 30, but was postponed due to the investigation into the April 28 Progress cargo craft launch anomaly.

Persona-3, built by Progress State Research and Production Space Centre (TsSKB-Progress ), is derived from the Resurs DK commercial Earth observation satellite. The Persona-3 satellite will carry a laser data-transmission system, BA MLSPI, which enables it to send information to the ground via a special relay satellite located in a geostationary orbit. (6/22)

Empty Promises On NASA's Road to Mars (Source: SpaceRef)
These days you can't seem to go anywhere in the Internet without seeing #JourneyToMars slapped on Tweets about, well, everything that NASA does - regardless of how it is actually related to sending humans to Mars. It's in press release titles, on posters, YouTube videos. NASA is all about the "Journey To Mars" these days and its marketing campaign reflects a concerted effort to make you truly believe that this is happening - except ... it is not. Click here. (6/22)

SpaceX Gears Up for its Next Rocket Landing Attempt (Source: The Verge)
This Sunday, a routine SpaceX launch could turn revolutionary, as the spaceflight company tries for a third time to safely land its Falcon 9 rocket after takeoff. The uncrewed booster will be carrying the company’s Dragon cargo capsule, packed full of science experiments and supplies to bring to the crew of the International Space Station. Yet many will be waiting eagerly after the launch is over to see if the rocket finds its way to its landing pad.

SpaceX holds a contract with NASA’s Commercial Cargo Resupply (CRS) program to launch a number of cargo resupply missions to the station through 2017. The upcoming launch marks the seventh planned mission for SpaceX under the program. Click here. (6/22)

Silicon Valley Startups Enter the Space Race (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
When Scott Nolan was an undergrad at Cornell studying aerospace engineering, he saw two ways to further the passion he had developed while building and launching rockets as a teen. “The two options looked like going to work at NASA or going to work with a large corporation that was fulfilling space contracts with the government — a Boeing, a Lockheed or Northrup,” said the partner at San Francisco-based Founders Fund. Click here. (6/23)