October 15, 2012

John Glenn, Former Astronaut And Ohio Senator, Cuts Ad For Obama (Source: Huffington Post)
Former Ohio Democratic Senator and astronaut John Glenn appears in a new ad for President Barack Obama, released Monday. Glenn, 91, says to the camera, "Growing up in Ohio, you learn to size up a person by their character." He continues, "And that's why I'm supporting President Barack Obama." "He stood firm against the doubters and helped rescue the auto industry," he says. "He's taken on big corporations and foreign powers when they've threatened our jobs, our freedom, our way of life." "And you know he means what he says -- that's the Ohio way," Glenn says. "Barack Obama has earned my vote, and my trust." (10/15)

The Uncertain Future of Launch Indemnification Legislation (Source: Space Politics)
An obscure, yet important, provision in federal law that supports the commercial space transportation industry is launch indemnification. The law requires commercial launch companies to be financially responsible-—usually through insurance-—for third-party losses in the event of a launch accident up to a “maximum probable loss” (MPL) amount determined in the launch licensing process. Losses above that, up to about $2.7 billion in current-year dollars, would be covered by the federal government before reverting back to the launch provider.

In practice, there’s never been an accident with third-party losses that have exceeded the MPL, but the industry feels having indemnification in place is important to protect the industry and keep it competitive with launch service providers in other nations. The indemnification provision needs to be renewed through legislation on a regular basis, and it’s set to expire at the end of the year unless renewed. However, with two and a half months to go, legislation to extend indemnification has not been introduced in either the House or Senate, let alone passed.

Since Congress has a full slate of work ahead of it when it returns for a lame-duck session after the November elections, there is a risk that the provision could expire, although people in industry as well as on Capitol Hill believe that some kind of extension will pass before year’s end. (10/14)

The Last, Best Hope for Export Control Reform? (Source: Space Politics)
The question of extending launch indemnification isn’t the only space policy issue that Congress will be facing when they return for their lame-duck session next month. Also on their plates will be the ongoing export control reform effort, in the form of legislation returning to the president the authority to remove satellites and related components off the US Munitions List (USML) and thus out of the purview of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The space industry has sought to get such reforms passed for years, and now they’re closer to success than ever before—but with no guarantee they’ll make it past the finish line before Congress adjourns at the end of the year. The most likely way export control reform would make it into law is through the defense authorization bill, formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House version of the NDAA, HR 4310, included a provision returning authority for determining export controls for satellites and related components to the president, reversing the language in the 1999 version of the NDAA that explicitly placed them on the USML.

There is a standalone bill in the Senate, introduced in May by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), that would do the same, but including the language in the NDAA is considered a better path to passage. (There is no requirement that there be a defense authorization bill passed every year, but congressional observers note it’s been decades since a year went by without one.) The Senate has scheduled a week to take up its version of the NDAA during the lame-duck session after the election. (10/14)

ULA Completes Final CCDev 2 Milestone (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA partner United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed the fifth and final milestone for its Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The Hazard, System Safety and Probabilistic Risk Assessment detailed how ULA’s Atlas V rocket launch system hardware would ensure crew safety during launch and ascent.

“The ULA team did an outstanding job outlining how it plans to integrate its launch vehicle with completely different spacecraft designs,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. During the year-long unfunded partnership, five reviews by technical experts from NASA and ULA assessed the company’s design implementation plans, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification, certification and flight data. (10/15)

SpaceX Aims Big with Massive New Rocket (Source: Flight Global)
Launcher developer SpaceX has promised a new engine for a new rocket, larger than the Falcon 9 that NASA expects to become a mainstay of its Earth orbit operations. SpaceX says the new engine would not be based on the 160,000lb-thrust (712kN) Merlin 1 series that powers Falcon 9.

Musk said the new rocket, which he calls MCT, will be "several times" as powerful as the 1 Merlin series, and won't use Merlin's RP-1 fuel. Beyond adding that it will have "a very big core size", he declined to elaborate, promising more details in "between one and three years". Musk declined to say what 'MCT' stands for, and declined to answer further questions on the project.

During an April interview, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell discussed a project with similar characteristics, describing engines with "more than 1.5 million pounds" of thrust. "I think we're still considering vehicle diameter. But the vehicle diameter is large, 7m minimum, multiple engines. These are big rockets." She further noted that the company was examining grouping several of the engines together, as SpaceX has done with the current Falcon 9 rocket. (10/15)

Planet with Four Suns Discovered (Source: BBC)
Astronomers have found a planet whose skies are illuminated by four different suns - the first known of its type. The distant world orbits one pair of stars and has a second stellar pair revolving around it. It remains a mystery how the Neptune-like world avoids being pulled apart by the gravitational forces generated its four stars. The planet, located just under 5,000 light-years away, has been named PH1 after the Planet Hunters site. (10/15)

Is It Time to Create a Mars Exploration Mission Directorate? (Source: Space Review)
A recent report by an independent group for NASA outlined several future directions for the agency's Mars exploration program. Chris Carberry argues that NASA should use this opportunity to consolidate its Mars exploration efforts, both robotic and human, into a separate division within the agency. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2172/1 to view the article. (10/15)

A Space Policy To-Do List for After the Election (Source: Space Review)
Election Day next month doesn't mark the end of politics, or space policy discussions, for this year. Jeff Foust reports on two little-known but key issues regarding space that Congress will have to address after the elections. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2171/1 to view the article. (10/15)

Future Exoplanet Missions: NASA and the World (Source: Space Review)
A wide variety of spacecraft missions, both proposed and under development, can support the discovery and study of extrasolar planets. Philip Horzempa concludes his two-part look at these missions, and the need to better organize and fund exoplanet research at NASA. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2170/1 to view the article. (10/15)

China's Satellite Explores Dangerous Asteroid (Source: ZDNet)
After probing the moon, Chinese satellite Chang'e II left the lunar orbit and began to explore asteroid No. 4179 which is 7 million km away from Earth. The country also set out plans to send retrievable rovers to the moon by 2017. Chang'e II's successful mission of exploring and orbiting the Moon marks one of China's space exploration milestones. The satellite flew to the 4.6km by 4.6km-asteroid No. 4179, which impact could equal that of 500 million Hiroshima atomic bombs should it hit Earth. (10/15)

Mojave Spaceport: The 'Silicon Valley' of Space (Source: BBC)
The first thing you see as you drive into the Mojave Air and Space Port is a reminder of how hard it is to get into space. Towering over the entrance is the white cone of the Rotary Rocket, a radical launch system that is half rocket, half helicopter. The fully reusable craft, developed in the 1990s, was supposed to reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit by a factor of ten. In the end, the rocket failed literally and metaphorically to get far off the ground. But to Stuart Witt, CEO of the spaceport, the vehicle is a daily reminder of the ‘can do’ attitude he hopes to encourage.

The Air and Space Port, two hours drive east of Los Angeles, has become one of the most exciting – and least talked about – places in the modern space industry. Over the last 12 years, this vast expanse of flat, scrubby desert has hosted more than 6,000 rocket tests and is now home to 14 space companies. If you can cope with the blistering heat, a short walk along the runway will take you past hangers, industrial units and sheds that belong to The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace and Masten Space Systems.

So far, the only craft they’ve flown into space is SpaceShipOne, a ship that is the template for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism venture. Nevertheless, the area is now spoken of by some as a new Silicon Valley or, as Witt prefers, a new Kitty Hawk – the North Carolina backwater where the Wright brothers experimented with powered flight. Whatever the comparison, the thrust is still the same. Mojave is a place where people dare to try. (10/15)

Australia Will Soon Have a National Space Policy (Source: The Conversation)
A draft of Australia’s first national space policy was recently considered by federal cabinet and is currently undergoing a consultation process with experts within the space sector. The document, which will likely be called “Australia’s Satellite Utilization Policy”, should be released early next year (though no official date has been announced). The probable title for the report is symptomatic of Australia’s long-held approach to space matters – intense pragmatism. It also points to a continuing nervousness among politicians about the word “space”. (10/15)

ISS Research Competition Underway (Source: Space Florida)
The Space Florida ISS Research Competition got off to a resounding start last week with a tightly packed Workshop audience of researchers and scientists vying to have their research payloads flown to the International Space Station.  With no costs for competition winners to fly their research to the ISS, (other than providing their own payloads), scientists from academia, medical research institutions and the commercial world, were anxious to take advantage of this unique opportunity.  NanoRacks provided all the technical information at the Workshop and the event was recorded and can be viewed in full on YouTube here . (10/14)

Reusable Booster System Business Case Incomplete (Source: National Research Council)
Due to uncertainties in the business case and yet-to-be mitigated technology risks associated with the Reusable Booster System (RBS) concept, it is currently premature for Air Force Space Command to invest substantially in developing RBS, says a new report from the National Research Council. However, the report strongly endorses the continued research and advanced technology development needed for future launch systems and concludes that reusability remains an option in the future.

The RBS concept, an unmanned launch vehicle with an autonomous guidance and control system, was designed to address one of Air Force Space Command's identified four long-term science and technology challenges of providing full-spectrum launch capability at dramatically lower cost. The system consists of a reusable first stage and an expendable second stage. The first stage is designed to return to the launch site so it can be recovered and reused in future launches. (10/15)

Space Florida Receives Another Award for Boeing Project (Source: Space Florida)
This week, Space Florida – the State of Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace development agency – received the 13th Annual H. Bruce Russell Global Innovator's Award by CoreNet Global for recent work with NASA/Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and The Boeing Company in establishing Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program Headquarters and Manufacturing Site for the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft in Florida.
CoreNet Global is the world’s leading association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals, service providers and economic developers. The H. Bruce Russell Global Innovator's Award is CoreNet Global's most prestigious, recognizing business development innovation at the highest level.

In this transaction, State and federal government agencies worked in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the private sector (Boeing) to position Florida for growth and leadership in next-generation human space exploration initiatives. Space Florida first worked with KSC to repurpose excessed Space Shuttle era facilities for commercial use, then formed an agreement with Boeing for use of one of those facilities (KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3, or “OPF-3”) to manufacture, assemble, and test the company’s CST-100 spacecraft. (10/15)

Defense-Spending Shift is Coming, With or Without Sequestration (Source: Reuters)
Whether Congress puts a halt on the sequestration cuts set to go into effect Jan. 2, the defense industry will have to undergo a radical shift due to budget shortfalls, this feature says. Finding a balance between necessary defense spending for safety and the need for a balanced budget has been tricky, and defense contractors are advocating for policymakers to find cuts elsewhere. "Defense has already been cut through the muscle and we are now into the bone," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. (10/13)

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