February 7, 2012

Ex-NASA Exec: Gingrich Moon Colony Lost in the Laughter (Source: CNN)
Lost in the laughter over the past two weeks has been Newt Gingrich's core point about America's future in space. We shouldn't just explore space, we should develop and even settle it, using the same enterprise-friendly approaches that helped open the West and the skies. As a former NASA executive, it is clear to me that most commentators don't understand this is now possible, let alone necessary. David Frum's recent viewpoint that a moon colony is a waste of money is eerily similar to what critics have said about other visionary ideas during America's history.

In 1844, Asa Whitney proposed to Congress that America build a transcontinental railroad. U.S. Sen. Thomas Benton responded that it was "an imposture, a humbug; it could have emanated only from a madman." The golden spike was pounded into the ground in Utah just 25 years later. In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward proposed that America purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Horace Greeley mocked Seward, calling it "a frozen wasteland." Alaska was one of the best investments America ever made.

To be fair, Frum makes a point that must be addressed: "With the greatest respect," Frum wrote, "'the wonder and glory of it' is not a very compelling answer to the question: 'What do I get for my hundred billion bucks?'" The answer is that we shouldn't spend that much, and certainly not for "wonder and glory." Gingrich's core point is that we must change how and why we do space by leveraging the power of free enterprise. Whatever misgivings you might have about Gingrich, in this case he is right. (2/7)

Illinois Congressman Urges Action on Satellite Export Controls (Source: Dan Manzullo)
Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL), a leader on export control reforms in Congress, urged the Obama Administration to expedite a required risk assessment on U.S. satellite exports so Congress can lift export restrictions and allow more sales of non-sensitive satellites overseas, creating more American jobs. Manzullo, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia & the Pacific, participated in a hearing of the full Foreign Affairs Committee exploring export control reforms.

Manzullo is the lead Republican sponsor of legislation (HR 3288) that would lift excessive export controls from the U.S. manufacturers of commercial satellites and components so they can sell more of their products overseas and create more American jobs. The Safeguarding United States Satellite Leadership and Security Act of 2011, sponsored by Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), would restore the President’s ability to determine what export restrictions should apply to commercial satellites and related components. (2/7)

Mobile Launcher Tests Confirm Designs (Source: NASA)
The 355-foot-tall mobile launcher, or ML, behaved as expected during its move to Launch Pad 39B at NASA"s Kennedy Space Center in November 2011, an analysis of multiple sensors showed. The top of the tower swayed less than an inch each way. The tests showed that computer models used in designing the massive structure were correct. The actual results varied less than 5 percent of what was predicted. (2/7)

Astronaut Janice Voss Dies (Source: NASA)
NASA astronaut Janice Voss passed away from cancer overnight. One of only six women who have flown in space five times, Voss' career was highlighted by her work and dedication to scientific payloads and exploration. "As the payload commander of two space shuttle missions, Janice was responsible for paving the way for experiments that we now perform on a daily basis on the International Space Station," said Peggy Whitson. (2/7)

Man Who Warned of Challenger Disaster Dies at 73 (Source: AP)
Roger Boisjoly, a NASA contractor who repeatedly voiced concerns about the space shuttle Challenger before it exploded, has died. He was 73. Boisjoly died of cancer on Jan. 6. The 1986 Challenger tragedy shocked the nation. Seven astronauts, including a schoolteacher, were killed when the shuttle disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff. Boisjoly, an engineer at rocket-builder Morton Thiokol Inc., warned in 1985 that seals on the booster rocket joints could fail in freezing temperatures. (2/7)

Our Planet, Tangled in Magnetic Spaghetti (Source: Discovery)
OK, so it's not real spaghetti -- it's a computer visualization of the complex magnetic field that creates Earth's magnetosphere -- but it sure looks tangled. Using the awesome power of a Cray XT5 Jaguar supercomputer, a team of space physicists are unlocking some of the biggest mysteries surrounding how the sun's magnetic field interacts with our planet's magnetosphere. They basically want to understand what happens when global magnetic fields become tangled to the extreme. Space physicists categorize these interactions under "space weather," and they are responsible for some of the Earth's most powerful (and beautiful) atmospheric events. Click here. (2/7)

NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer in Standby Mode (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or Galex, was placed in standby mode today as engineers prepare to end mission operations, nearly nine years after the telescope's launch. The spacecraft is scheduled to be decommissioned -- taken out of service -- later this year. The mission extensively mapped large portions of the sky with sharp ultraviolet vision, cataloguing millions of galaxies spanning 10 billion years of cosmic time. (2/7)

NASA Chief Joins President Obama at White House Science Fair (Source: Space.com)
Top NASA officials, including space agency chief Charles Bolden, joined President Barack Obama on Feb. 7 to welcome students from across the country to the second annual White House Science Fair. Bolden and other senior space agency officials attended the national science fair to support the innovative students chosen to showcase their experiments in the East Wing of the White House. The White House Science Fair is an effort to spur student-interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (2/7)

Mars-Bound Rover Carries Penny for Camera Checkup (Source: NASA JPL)
The camera at the end of the robotic arm on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has its own calibration target, a smartphone-size plaque that looks like an eye chart supplemented with color chips and an attached penny. When Curiosity lands on Mars in August, researchers will use this calibration target to test performance of the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI. MAHLI's close-up inspections of Martian rocks and soil will show details so tiny, the calibration target includes reference lines finer than a human hair. This camera is not limited to close-ups, though. It can focus on any target from about a finger's-width away to the horizon. (2/7)

Plan Unveiled for Spaceport America Visitor Centers (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors reviewed plans today to design, build and program the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. The plan includes two off-site Welcome Centers located in the Village of Hatch in Doña Ana County and in Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, plus an on-site Visitors Center and specially developed behind-the-scenes tours as well as the chance to visit the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.

The Spaceport America Visitor Experience will be a professionally designed immersion into the excitement of the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. Guests will be invited to explore the history, adventure, potential and inspiration of both the next space-age. Officials project attendance will grow to more than 200,000 visitors annually. Click here. (2/7)

USA’s Exit Sends NASA in Search of New Steward for Shuttle Equipment (Source: Space News)
Amid signs space shuttle operator United Space Alliance (USA) may not be around to do the job, NASA is seeking an industry steward for millions of dollars worth of high-tech support equipment housed in the Shuttle Logistics Depot, a 15,000-square-meter facility just a short drive from KSC. The privately owned facility is currently leased to USA and would not be part of the deal. The facility houses machine shops and specialty labs previously used to keep the shuttle flying.

USA’s plan called for putting the equipment to use for non-NASA customers, such as the Defense Department, until it was needed again to support a next-generation space transportation system. But new business was slow to materialize and that strategy finally imploded in December when USA’s parent companies barred it from seeking any new business. USA made only limited progress in using the Depot for military and commercial customers, and the “small contracts” it did win to demonstrate the depot’s capabilities are set to expire in the fall, a spokeswoman said.

The depot, which employed around 400 USA workers when the shuttle was still flying, is down to a staff of 55. Whether the equipment at the depot will find a home with some other caretaker or return to Kennedy is yet to be determined. The quipment ranges from specialized manufacturing tools and avionics test equipment to desktop computers. Officials said there were some entities mulling the possibility of taking over the whole Shuttle Logistics Depot and maintaining it much as USA did. However, they would not say who these entities were. (2/7)

NASA to Hold Industry and Academia Day to Discuss SLS Advanced Development (Sources: NASA, SPACErePORT)
During a speech in Houston last fall, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that with heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), the agency would be "using students to help us develop [SLS] modules, which we did not do before ... really integrating students and academia into this." As it turns out, NASA is focusing on integrating academic involvement in only one element of the SLS program, the "Advanced Development" element.

NASA will host an industry and academia day Feb. 14 at Marshall Space Flight Center to share information on SLS Advanced Development research opportunities. The SLS vehicle will require advanced developments in the areas of concept development, propulsion, structures, materials, manufacturing and avionics, and software. These efforts will focus on affordability and sustainability of the SLS as it evolves from the 70-metric-ton vehicle to the 130-metric-ton vehicle. Click here. (2/7)

ISS Managers Working to Realign Busy Launch Manifest (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
International Space Station (ISS) Program managers at space agencies around the world are currently in the process of ironing out an extremely complex and busy integrated schedule of comings and goings at the station, in light of recent delays to Soyuz launches and the inaugural station visit by SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Following what was an extremely challenging 2011 due to numerous hardware Russian failures, Roscosmos continues to have bad luck in its quest to get its programs back on track. Click here. (2/7)

Santorum Rejects Reagan Space Legacy (Source: American Spectator)
I like Rick Santorum. My former senator, whom I voted for three times and have written about here and here is conservative, a great family man, smart and passionate about his beliefs. So… I hate to say this, but at the moment: what a disappointment. This is his strategy to be The Conservative Alternative to moderate Mitt Romney? By joining Romney in rejecting the Reagan space legacy? Just as everybody is reminded both of Ronald Reagan's 101st birthday and the late January 1986 Challenger tragedy?

Santorum wrote an op-ed on the subject, mocking the Reagan beliefs by comparing them to the cartoon character George Jetson. Earlier he'd said: "I promise you: no moon colonies, I promise." The week that the nation is be celebrating Ronald Reagan's 101st birthday -- that would be Feb. 6 -- Rick Santorum has selected that exact moment to present himself as the anti-Reagan? With the nation still recalling the tragedy that was the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle 26 Januarys ago, Rick Santorum sides with... Barack Obama and Mr. Obama-Lite Mitt Romney? But says he's the most "authentic conservative"?

If Rick Santorum is going to try and become The Conservative Alternative at the expense of the Reagan space legacy -- he should stop and get out of the campaign right now before he inflicts any more damage to himself and the conservative cause. Click here. (2/7)

Editorial: Rather Than Race To The Moon, The U.S. Should Set Its Sights On Mars (Source: Forbes)
Both leading Republican presidential candidates, along with many others of us, agree that the U.S. sorely needs a bold, well defined and stable long-term space plan…one that will inspire innovation and revitalize unabashed recognition of American exceptionalism. But with regard to the moon, our nation has been there…done that…left our citizens’ footprints behind decades ago.

Is there any real point in returning? Will doing so again provide a much-touted “stepping stone” pathway into deep space exploration, or galvanize sufficient public interest to support sustainable progress? Would it open up future commercial markets and investments to significantly offset taxpayer burdens?

The scope of the next U.S. space goal should be scaled to a vision of the nation we are committed to become, one that will inspire and guide our children and theirs to fulfill and expand. As articulated by a previous American leader, that goal should be something we choose to undertake not because it is easy, but rather, because it is difficult. (2/7)

Orbiter Discovers Evidence of Primordial Ocean on Mars (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The radar on Europe's Mars Express orbiter detected sediments beneath the red planet's surface strongly indicative of an ocean floor that formed billions of years ago, scientists announced this week. The sediments could have been deposited by an ocean 4 billion years ago, when Mars was warmer and supported abundant liquid water, according to researchers.

Another scenario involves a temporary sea that formed when a large comet or asteroid struck Mars, melting subsurface ice and creating outflow channels draining the water into a giant basin. The material was discovered by the MARSIS radar on Mars Express. Imagery from satellites circling Mars have shown formations resembling ancient shorelines before, but scientists using Mars Express may have found the floor of a primordial ocean. (2/7)

Vega Debut Slips To End Of Launch Window (Source: Aviation Week)
Pushing the limits of a six-day launch window, ESA has shifted the debut of its new Vega rocket to Feb. 13 from Feb. 9, allowing ample time to prepare the flight-qualification campaign. Vega’s flight-readiness review board met Feb. 2 to evaluate mission-preparation status. The Vega will lift off from Europe’s Guiana Space Center. “In fact there is no delay,” ESA spokeswoman Brigitte Kolmsee says, explaining that within Vega’s Feb. 9-14 launch window, Feb. 9 was a working date. (2/7)

Loral Lands Two-satellite Contract with Australia’s NBN (Source: Space News)
Loral will build two Ka-band broadband satellites for Australia’s government-owned NBN Co. following a long competition that featured many of the world’s satellite and ground hardware manufacturers, according to industry officials. An announcement of the contract is expected in the coming days. The satellites, to be delivered in time for launch in 2015, will complement the broadband service that NBN is rolling out across Australia with fiber and terrestrial-wireless links. (2/7)

"Ping-Pong" Planets Bounce Between Stars (Source: Astronomy Now)
A gravitational ping-pong match lasting up to one million years could be in play between nearby binary stars, say Cambridge University scientists. It is widely accepted that planets can be ejected completely from a solar system, especially during the dynamically chaotic period early in the solar system's life where planets are jostling for the most stable orbits (see Jumping Jupiter ejected giant planet and Free-floating planets more common than stars?).

Recently, exoplanets have been found in two and even three-star systems, and in the new study, Nickolas Moeckel and Dimitri Veras of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, show that a planet ejected from orbit around one star could find itself passed onto its binary companion. Furthermore, the planet may get "bounced" between the stars, providing one possible explanation for the eccentric orbits of some exoplanets. (2/7)

VC Turns Office Into Apollo Museum (Source: CNET)
The last time I went to talk with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, I spent more time ogling his museum of NASA Apollo gear than I did talking about his startup investments. So I made an appointment to go see him again, with enough time to snap pictures of the equipment in his office in Palo Alto, Calif., office. Click through our slideshow for a view into this small, private, and unique collection of space artifacts. (2/7)

New Meaning of ‘Desperate’ — Asking Russia for a Ride to Mars (Source: National Post)
Facing enormous budgetary pressures and expecting still further cuts, NASA has reportedly told their counterparts at the European Space Agency that it anticipates being forced to withdraw from two planned robotic missions to Mars. NASA was set to provide communications gear, scientific equipment and two rockets to launch the respective missions on their way. But due to expected cuts to their Mars exploration budget, NASA has given early notice that it doesn’t think it will be able to participate.

The Europeans, however, have already spent hundreds of millions of euros on the project, which it considers its flagship program. Looking for a way to keep the program alive, it has reached out to Russia’s space agency to see if the Russians might provide the money and technological capabilities that America is no longer good for. If that doesn’t spell desperation, it’s hard to imagine what would. The Russians aren’t exactly coming off of a winning year in the annals of space exploration. (2/7)

Lost Treasures: President Nixon's Moon Rocks (Source: New Scientist)
By weight, the moon rocks collected during the Apollo missions are worth far more than diamonds, and in any case, they have a priceless historical value. They are relics of humanity's greatest adventure to date. Not all are properly accounted for, however. That's why Joseph Gutheinz, a former NASA investigator, has spent much of his career tracing moon rocks that have gone missing: he's even staged elaborate stings to lure would-be illegal sellers. And there's one particular group of moon rocks that Gutheinz is keen to recover. Click here. (2/7)

NASA Budget Looms Ahead (Source: Daily Press)
President Obama is expected to release his 2013 budget in the coming days — with it will come a funding plan for NASA. Cuts appear likely. How they might affect Langley Research Center and Wallops Flight Facility is uncertain. Langley hasn’t been forced to make mass layoffs as seen at KSC, which shed thousands of jobs after NASA retired the space shuttle. Still, it has laid off a small percentage of its contract workforce in recent years. Meanwhile, contract labor at Wallops is expected to grow because the facility is home to a $1.9 billion program that will ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (2/7)

Do Aliens Go Invisible by 'Going Green'? (Source: Discovery)
As we discover more and more planets around other stars, the Fermi Paradox is becoming, well, more paradoxical. The Fermi Paradox simply asks the question "where are they?" Our Milky Way galaxy is so big and so old -- and we are estimated to be accompanied by at least 100 billion planets -- that aliens should have visited us by now. Instead, when we peruse the heavens, we are faced with the Great Silence, which is one of the biggest challenges to modern astronomy.

There have been numerous solutions to the Fermi paradox, but none of them are satisfactory. A few diehards like Harvard astronomer Howard Smith are emphatic that we are completely alone in the universe. As much as I disagree, there isn't a shred of evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, I do wholeheartedly agree with my colleague Seth Shostack of the SETI Institute who says that it would be a miracle if we didn't find advanced life out there.

Picking up on this idea, Canadian science fiction writer Karl Schroeder has come upon a novel solution to the failure of astronomical observations to solve the Fermi Paradox. He proposes: "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature." In other words, smart aliens have "gone green" and generate no waste products that we could detect. They therefore blend into the galaxy. Therefore, "artificial and natural systems are indistinguishable,” writes Schroeder. (2/7)

Final Frontier: Work Begins on Space Port (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Kennedy Space Center will be turned into a multi-purpose space port during the next two years, starting with more than $15 million worth of upcoming projects at Cape Canaveral. And at least one future commercial space flight tenant is expected to create up to 550 permanent high-tech jobs. That’s good news for Brevard County, which has a 10.8 percent unemployment rate and was hit hard by the 2011 closure of the space shuttle program and the loss of more than 9,000 high-wage space industry jobs. (2/6)

NASA Aims For Commercial Crew Demo Flight by Mid-Decade (Source: Hobby Space)
NASA's revamped Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities Program (CCiCap) will advance multiple crew-capable launch systems and could include a crewed orbital demo mission by mid-decade. Within the CCiCap "Base Period" of Aug. 2012 - May 2014, NASA hopes to make multiple awards of between $300-500 million. A second "Optional Milestones Period" could include the demo flight and would include $400 million per year to support milestone achievements by selected contractor(s). (2/7)

FAA Learning Period for Spaceflight Regulation Extended Though 2015 (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Congress's passage of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which includes a key provision granting regulatory stability to the commercial spaceflight industry. The new law's provision extends a regulatory "learning period" that was created when Congress originally passed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) of 2004. This learning period was established in law in December of 2004 to allow for several years of flight test and early commercial operation of new human spaceflight vehicles.

Congress's intent was to allow for industry and the FAA to build a database from actual flight experience of what design features, technologies, and operating practices contributed to safety, and initially regulate only those system elements in which safety issues arise. The Federation extends its thanks to Senate Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Rockefeller, Chairman Cantwell, Chairman Nelson, and Ranking Member Hutchison, as well as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Chairman Mica, Chairman Petri, Chairman Hall, Chairman Palazzo, Ranking Member Costello, and Representative Rohrabacher for their assistance in reaching this agreement. (2/7)

Lawmakers Brace for Defense Cuts in Home States (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)
Some lawmakers are trying to minimize the effect of defense cuts on their home states. "Make no mistake: The savings that we are proposing will impact on all 50 states and many districts, congressional districts, across America," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Obama plans to submit the fiscal year 2013 budget to Congress on Monday. (2/7)

Export Rules May Have Cost U.S. Firms $21 Billion (Source: AIA)
A report by the Aerospace Industries Association says limits on U.S. exports may have cost defense firms $21 billion in lost sales since the late 1990s. "Instead of preventing other countries from developing space capabilities, barriers to export for U.S. satellite products have prompted numerous countries to create indigenous space capabilities and leverage their growing market share" for research and innovation, said the AIA. (2/7)

High School Robotics Challenge Returns to Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
Robots return to Embry-Riddle Saturday, Feb. 18, when hundreds of teens from around Florida flock to the Daytona Beach campus to participate in FIRST Tech Challenge’s Florida Championship Tournament. They will be competing in the daylong event to win regional recognition for design excellence, sportsmanship and teamwork, and to advance to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship. Engineering students and faculty members from Embry-Riddle will volunteer as judges and referees. The event, which will be held in the ICI Center, is free and open to faculty members, staff, students and the public. (2/5)

Suing Loral Costing ViaSat $1 Million Per Quarter (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband product and service provider ViaSat Inc. said Feb. 6 it is spending around $1 million per quarter on its patent infringement and breach-of-contract lawsuit with satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) and that the cash outlay for legal fees could go higher. In a conference call with investors, ViaSat officials said they are ready to settle with SS/L if possible but that they are also prepared for a long court case if necessary. (2/7)

Private Spacecraft Move Forward as Soyuz Struggles (Source: New Scientist)
All eyes are on commercial space companies in the wake of the latest setback for Russia's space programme, which has delayed the launch of the next crew to the International Space Station. A recent flight of a private rocket bodes well for the fledgling industry, but the coming weeks should reveal whether the industry can really take off.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos reported last week that the Soyuz capsule meant to take astronauts to the station on 30 March sprang a leak when the air pressure inside it was accidentally pumped too high during a test. Another Soyuz capsule is being prepared for launch in its place but will not be ready to fly until 15 May.

It's just the latest in a string of problems for Russian space vehicles. In August, for example, an uncrewed Soyuz rocket crashed to Earth. That temporarily threw the space station's future into doubt because the same type of rocket is the only craft used to launch crews to the outpost. Click here. (2/7)

Avanti Secures Financing for Third Satellite (Source: Financial Times)
Avanti Communications is planning to become one of very few space-related companies listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, after securing financing for the launch of its third satellite. David Williams, chief executive, said the Aim-quoted company that provides broadband internet services to remote areas via satellite, would seek to move to the main market in early 2013. The company would join Inmarsat as the only other main-market listed satellite operator in the UK. (2/7)

Where SETI Meets Intelligent Design (Source: Smart Planet)
Mankind is, at least for the moment, listening for its neighbors again. The decades-old search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) was interrupted last year when funding to operate the 42 radio telescopes in the Allen Telescope Array, with which the SETI Institute of Mountain View, Calif., listens to emissions from space. Private funds and a deal with the U.S. Air Force resurrected the program in December, which is news that gladdened the hearts of many of us hopeful of finding intelligent alien life out there somewhere. How long the SETI Institute can keep the lights on is still unclear.

People will no doubt continue to argue about whether SETI is worthwhile or a waste of money. Even its staunchest proponents acknowledge that the chances of imminent success are low — though the impact would be huge on science and humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos. Meanwhile, its fiercest opponents would have to admit that the money spent on SETI is trivial: the program costs about $2.5 million a year, about 1/30th the cost of a small Learjet or about 1/3,000th of what the world spends on iPads.

What makes the debate particularly curious is that notwithstanding a great many numbers that get thrown around on the topic, estimates of the odds of SETI’s eventual success are almost meaningless and beside the point. And in their pursuit of alien intelligence, SETI researchers can find that they have strange bedfellows in certain creationists, who try to make similar arguments — but with less scientific merit. Click here. (2/7)

Space Debris is Making Rocket Launches Dangerous (Source: NewsOK)
Last month, the International Space Station, an orbiting space laboratory as big as a football field, had to move. A piece of space junk 10 centimeters (four inches) across was aimed at it. To ensure the safety of the crew, its engines were fired for 54 seconds to move it to an orbit 1,000 feet higher. Such is life in Earth orbit. This was the 13th time the ISS had to be moved to avoid potential damage from a collision with space debris. The piece of space junk was moving faster than a bullet and could have caused significant damage had it hit certain critical parts of the space station. And that's just one piece of space debris, one of many. (2/7)

Limit on Colorado Spaceport Liability Advances (Source: Denver Business Journal)
A critical piece of Colorado’s efforts to develop a spaceport at Front Range Airport sailed unanimously through its first legislative committee Monday, despite expected opposition. Senate Bill 35, sponsored by state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, creates a limited liability for companies that would operate space flights out of the facility. It heads next to the Senate floor. SB 35 mimics similar laws in place in Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Virginia — all prime competitors for spaceport business. (2/7)

Spaceport Board to Hear Visitors Center Talk (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority will meet Tuesday in Truth or Consequences to hear a presentation about proposed welcome centers and a visitors center related to Spaceport America. The agency also will approve its state Open Meetings Act resolution, which spells out how it will notify the public in advance of meetings, according to the authority's agenda. (2/7)

Aerospace Report Hits Rules on Exports (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Satellite makers and their suppliers are stepping up demands for changes to U.S. export controls, painting in stark economic terms the impact of what they insist are regulations curbing their ability to compete for commercial orders against European and other foreign satellite makers. On Tuesday, industry trade group Aerospace Industries Association is expected to release details of a report concluding that U.S. export controls on commercial satellites may have cost tens of thousands of American jobs and up to $21 billion in lost sales for aerospace companies since the late 1990s. (2/7)

NASA Wants Small-satellite Demo Proposals (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s new technology-development organization is seeking proposals for low-cost, short-development, flight-test projects that will demonstrate communications and proxiimty operations with satellites weighing less than 400 lb., and for propulsion systems for cubesats. With a March 4 deadline for executive summaries of proposals, the agency hopes to award one or more contracts in the fall under its Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Program. Winning projects should be ready to fly “within two or three years at a total cost of no more than $15 million,” the agency said Feb. 2. (2/7)

Aerojet’s Confidence in Next Generation Engine and Green Propellants (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Californian aerospace company Aerojet believes they are in a good position to continue their advancements in the development of rocket engines, ranging from the Next Generation Engine (NGE) for the US Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, through to environmentally “green” propellants for propulsion hardware. While Aerojet is already involved in a wide range of propulsive requirements for launch vehicles and spacecraft, work is already well under way for their effort to become the provider of the Next Generation Engine (NGE), a process started via the Air Force’s Request For Information (RFI) over a year ago.

Aerojet recently noted they had successfully completed a major milestone in the development of a ground demonstrator for the Next Generation Engine (NGE) program, announcing the completion of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the turbopump assembly. The engine under development – which is yet to receive a name – would not be restricted to just US Air Force/EELV use, according to Julie Van Kleeck.

Aerojet – who previously noted it has been decades since there has been an open engine competition in the United States – added they are unable to compare their new engine to an RL-10 derivative at this stage. However, they are confident they can present their NGE as a major step forward. “We don’t know many specifics about RL-10 derivatives since little has been made public. Aerojet believes that our offering for NGE will make major improvements over the current RL-10 in cost and reliability and have equal or greater performance depending on configuration,” added Ms Van Kleeck. (2/7)

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