January 22, 2013

NASA Selects Experimental Commercial Suborbital Flight Payloads (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 cutting-edge space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, balloons and a commercial parabolic aircraft in 2013 and 2014. The flights will allow participants to demonstrate their technologies to the edge of space and back, before committing them to the harsh and unforgiving conditions of spaceflight.

The vehicles that will carry these payloads will include Las Vegas-based Zero-G Corporation's parabolic airplane and high altitude balloons from Near Space Corp. in Tillamook, Ore. They also will include reusable launch vehicles from Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif.; UP Aerospace in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; and Virgin Galactic in Las Cruces, N.M.

Among the selected payloads is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University prototype ADS-B transmitter. Dr. Richard Stansbury at Embry-Riddle will fly the ADS-B technology on multiple suborbital vehicle types. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle operates a fleet of aircraft equipped with ADS-B, which is a key element of the FAA's NextGen program. ADS-B could ultimately be used aboard spacecraft for spaceflight situational awareness, and potentially space traffic management. (1/22)

FSDC Member Among Directors of New Asteroid Mining Venture (Source: SPACErePORT)
Stephen Covey, a St. Augustine-based member of the Florida Space Development Council (FSDC), is on the Board of Directors of Deep Space Industries (DSI), a startup devoted to mining asteroids in space. Covey hinted at his involvement in DSI during a "Space Locals" discussion sponsored by FSDC (under its previous name) in November. (1/22)

China’s Focus on Aerospace Raises Security Questions (Source: New York Times)
When Airbus executives arrived here seven years ago scouting for a location to assemble passenger jets, the broad, flat expanse next to Tianjin Binhai International Airport was a grassy field. Now, Airbus, the European aerospace giant, has 20 large buildings and is churning out four A320 jetliners a month for mostly Chinese state-controlled carriers. The company also has two new neighbors — a sprawling rocket factory and a helicopter manufacturing complex — both producing for the Chinese military.

The rapid expansion of civilian and military aerospace manufacturing in Tianjin reflects China’s broader ambitions. As Beijing’s leaders try to find new ways to invest $3 trillion of foreign reserves, the country has been aggressively expanding in industries with strong economic potential.

Aerospace represents the latest frontier for China, which is eyeing parts manufacturers, materials producers, leasing businesses, cargo airlines and airport operators. The country now rivals the United States as a market for civilian airliners, which China hopes to start supplying from domestic production. (1/21)

Grants From Airport Improvement Program Can End (Source: AIN)
A 2011 survey by Airports Council International estimated that annual capital investment needs at U.S. airports total $16 billion for runways, taxiways, terminals and other projects through 2015. Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, generated by passenger ticket taxes, fuel taxes and other fees, account for just 22 percent of airports’ capital funding sources, the study notes.

Revenue bonds backed by airport operating revenues, including local passenger facility charges (PFCs), now federally capped at $4.50 per enplaned passenger, provide more than half of capital funding. The AIP also “cross subsidizes” airports. Larger, hub airports that host 70 percent of passengers receive just 17 percent of AIP grants; the balance gets distributed among smaller hubs, non-hubs and general aviation airports.

Editor's Note: The concept of opening up the AIP program for funding spaceport infrastructure was considered a potential legislative pursuit in the 1990s. One roadblock was the fact that spaceports don't contribute to the program with fees and tax revenue. Florida specifically exempts commercial space transportation operations from fuel taxes. (1/21)

Arianespace at Hawaii Telecomm Conference (Source: SpaceRef)
Arianespace is participating in the PTC'13 conference organized by the Pacific Telecommunications Council in Honolulu from January 20 to 23, reaffirming its position as today's benchmark launch services company for the world's leading satellite manufacturers and operators. PTC'13 is the 2013 edition of the annual event in Honolulu that brings together communications and information technology professionals from throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Following an especially successful year in 2012, Arianespace starts 2013 with the stated objective of further bolstering its world leadership in the satellite launch market. (1/22)

Payload Elements Come Together in Starsem's Final Globalstar Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
The Soyuz launch campaign for Globalstar's final batch of second-generation satellites has entered a new phase at Baikonur Cosmodrome, with the "stack" of six spacecraft now positioned in the facility for its mating with the launcher's upper stage and encapsulation in the payload fairing. Starsem's upcoming mission is set for Feb. 4, and is the final of four launches currently contracted via Arianespace for Globalstar's second-generation constellation. (1/22)

Orbital Updates its COTS and CRS Milestone Schedule (Source: Orbital)
Completion of cold flow testing (aka wet dress rehearsals); "Hot Fire" test of Antares first stage; Test Flight of the Antares rocket from MARS/Wallops; etc. Click here for an update on Orbital's schedule for its Antares launcher. (1/22)

Curiosity and Orion Parade for Presidential Inauguration (Source: Space Safety)
On January 21, Barack Obama was cermonially inaugurated into his second four year term as president of the United States. In celebration, states and organizations from around the country sent their delegations to walk in the inaugural parade. Although this inauguration did not produce an iconic satellite image like Obama’s first, it did feature life size models of Curiosity and Orion accompanied by six astronauts and Curiosity Flight Director Bobak Fedowski sporting his promised new ‘do. Click here. (1/22)

Schools, Firm Eyeing ‘Space’ Partnership; Students to Lobby for Spaceport Bill (Source: Raton Range)
Commercial space-flight company Virgin Galactic and Raton Public Schools are in discussions that both sides hope will lead to a partnership that will provide unique educational opportunities. Raton schools Superintendent Dave Willden and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides got connected through a friend of Willden’s who worked as a construction manager for Virgin Galactic.

Willden agreed to get involved with the Save Our Spaceport Coalition — which is working to get legislation passed in support of the spaceport — and asked that Virgin Galactic in return agree to develop a “space education” program with Raton schools. Whitesides was receptive to the idea and the two men have been discussing it and trying to hammer out specific plans. Willden is hopeful some introductory endeavors could begin before the current school year concludes, with additional activities happening next school year.

He hopes to have a “full-bore” program going by the fall of 2014. The program’s goal, according to Willden, is to encourage students in the areas of math and science and present information about space-related careers. Willden suggested a “career pathways” program could potentially be developed as a result. (1/22)

Spaceport America's Runway Rivals El Paso Airport's Longest (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The roaring and rumbling of dirt-laden trucks at Spaceport America on a recent day overpowered even the noise from a rushing cold winter wind that swept across taxpayer-owned facility. Earth-hauling equipment and a dirt sweeper zoomed past the terminal-hangar, turning the runway into a mini highway, as they headed for their destination: the southern end of the 10,000-foot, take-off and landing facility. They left a wake of dust.

The length of the Spaceport America runway, post-extension, will be on par with the El Paso International Airport's longest runway. In all, 200 feet of concrete is being added to the southern end of Spaceport America's runway, while another 800 feet are being added to the north end, spaceport executive director Christine Anderson said. That will take the total length to 12,000 feet of concrete, the preferred material in the aviation industry. (1/21)

Space Florida Supporting UAS Test Range Initiative (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Space Florida is working with Volusia County, as well as Embry-Riddle, to develop Volusia as an "active research and development location" for unmanned systems. The FAA is under a mandate from Congress "to do the homework necessary to understand what technologies are going to be required" to allow that to happen and to have it done by 2016, Ketcham said. Congress directed the FAA to establish six test ranges where those policies could be worked out.

But, that process is moving forward more slowly than originally planned. The FAA is collecting screening information it will use to choose the test sites. The agency received 228 public comments over the summer. Once the screening policies are in place, the agency will seek responses from entities that want to manage the test sites, FAA officials said last week.

Space Florida's plan is to "propose the entire state as a test range, not a single location," Dale Ketcham said. That would include military bases where drone activity is already under way and has been for decades, the Gulf of Mexico, already used as a test range, and Daytona Beach, home of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which hopes to be a major player in that industry as it moves forward. Florida only has to come in sixth to win, Ketcham said. (1/21)

ISS Robotic Refueling Mission Demo Underway (Source: NewSpace Watch)
The NASA Robotic Refueling Mission program is halfway through a six day demonstration on the ISS that aims to show that a satellite can be refueled in space tele-remotely even if it was not designed to be refueled. Such a capability would benefit spacecraft of all kinds, including commercial communications satellites. Companies like MDA are keen to offer in-space refueling and servicing and MDA's robotic arms are key players in the RRM project. (1/22)

Asteroid Mining 2022 a $1 Trillion Bet for Earth (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Billionaire capitalists saving the Earth? You bet. While environmentalists regularly accuse giant capitalist entities like ExxonMobil, Cargill, Koch, Massey and others of depleting nonrenewable energy and other natural resources, a new enlightened class of capitalists is betting new space-age technologies will discover and restore resources and make them a fortune while saving the world from a disastrous ending.

And Planetary Resources is the solution. “I would love to take the company public someday,” says company Co-Chairman Eric Anderson, an aerospace engineer and pioneer in the commercial space-flight industry, along with Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X Prize and Singularity University. So get on a list if you want to get a piece of the IPO action later.

Another big reason: Google CEO Larry Page and many of his billionaire friends are backing this new Planetary Resources asteroid-mining venture, a potentially multitrillion-dollar company. Remember Google’s original share price went from $85 in 2004 to over $700 today. Yes, but the biggest reason you need to take this venture to heart is because Planet Earth is rapidly running out of natural resources. As a result, the success of Planetary Resources is also vital to America’s national security as well as the survival of our civilization. (1/22)

DeGrasse Tyson to Headline House Science & National Labs Caucus Event (Source: Rep. Hultgren)
Congressman Randy Hultgren announced that the first speaker for the newly created,bipartisan House Science and National Labs Caucus will be world-famous astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Tyson is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Tyson will lecture on scientific exploration and the importance of our national investment in science. Co-sponsors of the event include the conservative Republican Study Committee and the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus. (1/18)

Another Asteroid Mining Company Announces its Plans (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Last year Planetary Resources made a big splash when the startup company announced plans to develop a series of spacecraft to prospect and, eventually, extract resources from near Earth asteroids. Now another company plans to get into this long-term market, although many key details about their plans remain to be revealed.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) includes some familiar names for those who have followed past space entrepreneurial efforts, including Rick Tumlinson, chairman of DSI; and David Gump, who is CEO. The company’s team also features Geoffrey Notkin, star of the TV show “Meteorite Men”, although his role with the company isn’t specified.

DSI plans to follow a path similar to Planetary Resources, with a fleet of small spacecraft to prospect asteroids. FireFlies, weighing 25 kilograms, will launch starting in 2015 on two- to six-month missions to study asteroids, while 32-kilogram DragonFly spacecraft will launch starting in 2016 on two- to four-year missions to return samples weighing up to twice as much as the spacecraft itself. (1/22)

India Loses Russia for Next Lunar Mission (Source: The Hindu)
India has decided to go it alone in its second lunar mission, the Chandrayaan-2, which was originally proposed as an Indo-Russian venture. According to an agreement signed on November 12, 2007 between ISRO and Roskosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, ISRO had the primary responsibility to provide both the orbiter and the rover, while Roskosmos was to design and build the lander for this combined orbiter-rover-lander mission.

However, following the failure in December 2011 of Roskosmos’ Phobos-Grunt mission, there was a delay in the construction of the Russian lander. The mission had a lander to return soil sample from the Martian satellite Phobos. This resulted in a complete review of technical aspects connected with the Phobos-Grunt mission, which were also used in the lunar projects such as the lander for Chandrayaan-2. Due to this, as well as financial problems, the Russian agency apparently expressed its inability provide the lander to meet even the revised time frame of 2015 for the Chandrayaan-2 launch. (1/22)

We Have Ignition in Russia/Kazakhstan Baikonur Conflict (Source: Voice of Russia)
Only 12 Proton-M launches were approved by Kazakhstan for 2013 instead of the planned 17. The decision has put the future of Russian-Kazakh space cooperation under further threat. What does fate have in store for the famed launch pad in the near future? It seems the status quo, which has survived in the space world for several decades, is to face an imminent challenge.

Once again, Baikonur cosmodrome, Russia's main launch pad, is at the center of the conflict. Kazakhstan has refused to approve the limit of 17 Proton launches that Russia asked for in 2013, allowing only 12, even fewer than in 2012. Russia's response could be to reduce the annual rent paid to Kazakhstan for the site.

Proton-M, currently the heaviest launcher in the Russian space program, provided 10 of the 24 launches in 2012 (plus an additional Proton-K launch, also from Baikonur). Its capabilities could only be replaced by Angara, which is still-under-development. Moreover, as Russian space officials have announced, no launch pads for Protons are available other than those at Baikonur. Should the available number of launches diminish, a good deal of the contracts with launch operators will come under threat of termination or penalty sanctions. (1/22)

The Rise and Fall of Artificial Gravity (Source: BBC)
It seems humans have not evolved for life in space. As a result, there are several ongoing initiatives to try to understand - and minimise - the impact of weightlessness. The European Space Agency, for instance, recently ran a series of bed rest studies, examining the effects on volunteers of 21 days of inactivity. And a forthcoming year-long joint Nasa/Russian mission to the International Space Station (ISS), is designed to put the latest theories on combating weightlessness, such as improved exercise and nutritional regimes, to the test.

However, if mankind is to travel to Mars, the moons of Jupiter, Saturn or beyond, we may need more extreme solutions. And one of those includes resurrecting plans all but abandoned by Nasa in the 1970s: spacecraft with their own artificial gravity. Early designs for space stations all assumed that artificial gravity – generated by enormous spinning wheels - would be the norm in the future. Click here. (1/21)

NASA's Alien Planet Archive Now Open to the World (Source: Space.com)
Scientists with NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft have revamped the mission's online archive of alien worlds, opening up the database for the entire world to see. Researchers are now posting all exoplanet sightings by the Kepler observatory into a single, comprehensive website called the "NASA Exoplanet Archive." Instead of going through the long planet confirmation process before making data publicly available, since December of last year, scientists have started shoveling out all the data Kepler collects into a comprehensive list. (1/21)

Sea Launch Prepares for the Launch of Intelsat 27 (Source: SpaceRef)
The Sea Launch vessels have departed Sea Launch Home Port in Long Beach, Calif., for the equator, in preparation for the launch of the Intelsat 27 satellite. Liftoff is scheduled for 22:56 Pacific Standard Time on January 30, 2013 (06:56 UTC, on January 31st) at the opening of the 58-minute launch window.

Upon their arrival at the launch site at 154 degrees West longitude, the Sea Launch team will initiate a 72-hour countdown. After ballasting the launch platform Odyssey to launch depth, the team will roll out and erect a Zenit-3SL rocket on the launch pad, execute final tests and proceed with fueling operations and launch. Prior to fueling, all personnel on the launch platform will transfer to the Sea Launch Commander for the duration of the mission. The team monitors both marine and launch operations remotely from the ship, positioned about four miles up range of the platform. (1/21)

FAA Struggles to Keep Up with New Technology, Critics Say (Source: ABC News)
Some critics are questioning whether the Federal Aviation Administration has the technical expertise to oversee advancements such as the composite Boeing Dreamliner 787. However, Boeing defended the FAA's methods. "We are confident in the regulatory process that has been applied to the 787 since its design inception," said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel. "With this airplane, the FAA conducted its most robust certification process ever." (1/20)

Rockwell Collins Reports Q1 Profit of $132 Million (Source: Reuters)
Rockwell Collins has reported a profit of $132 million for its fiscal first quarter, compared with a profit of $130 million for the same quarter of the prior year. The company supplies avionics and other electronic systems for aircraft, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (1/21)

Cargo Cult Exploration (Source: Space Review)
As a new study on the rationale for human spaceflight gets underway, many people are likely to consider historical parallels in exploration as one justification for sending people into space. Dan Lester argues that doing so without taking into account our evolving robotic capabilities is tantamount to, and likely to be as successful as, a cargo cult. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2223/1 to view the article. (1/21)

The Benefits (and Limitations) of Space Partnerships (Source: Space Review)
Last week NASA announced a deal with ESA to provide the service module for the Orion spacecraft and a contract with Bigelow Aerospace to send an inflatable module to the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on these developments and how they show the strengths of such partnerships, but also how they risk being oversold. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2222/1 to view the article. (1/21)

Cislunar Transportation: the Space Trucking System (Source: Space Review)
Why establish "waystations" at the Earth-Moon L1 point or other locations in space, as some have proposed? John Strickland draws an analogy to terrestrial transportation systems to explain how such facilities could make space exploration and development more affordable. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2221/1 to view the article. (1/21)

An Airborne Telescope Prepares for Takeoff (Source: Space Review)
Infrared astronomy is difficult to do from the ground because of the atmosphere, so astronomers seek to get above with both satellites and aircraft. Jeff Foust checks on the status of a NASA airborne observatory that is finally ready to begin regular science flights. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2220/1 to view the article. (1/21)

With Obama Inauguration, NASA's Deep-Space Mission Continues (Source: Space.com)
With President Barack Obama taking the oath of office to begin his second term today, it kicks off four more years for NASA to pursue its audacious goal of sending astronauts farther into deep space than ever before. Two major pieces of NASA's deep-space exploration program — full-size replicas of the agency's new Orion space capsule and Mars rover Curiosity — made an appearance during Obama's inaugural parade. (1/21)

Sticky Wheel Forces Kepler Mission Safe Mode (Source: Discovery)
Concern is mounting for NASA’s prolific Kepler exoplanet-hunting space telescope — a reaction wheel critical for stabilizing the spacecraft’s position is showing signs of increased friction, forcing mission managers to switch the mission into a 10-day “safe mode.”

“Earlier this month during a semi-weekly contact with the spacecraft, the team detected an increase in the amount of torque required to spin one of the three remaining reaction wheels,” said Kepler mission manager Roger Hunter in a mission update on Jan. 17. “Increased friction over a prolonged period can lead to accumulated wear on the reaction wheel, and possible wheel failure.” (1/21)

Charlotte Museum Getting NASA Artifacts From Shuttle Program (Source: Charlotte Observer)
Pieces of NASA’s space shuttle program soon will be landing in Charlotte. In a key acquisition of space history, an emergency escape basket – designed to whisk astronauts away from the launch pad in event of trouble – will become part of the permanent collection at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, Shawn Dorsch, the museum’s president, said Monday. It is part of a cache of items from the shuttle program that the space agency is assigning to prominent museums across the nation, Dorsch said. Other shuttle equipment is expected to be earmarked for the Charlotte museum soon, he said. (1/21)

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