January 29, 2013

SpaceX to Launch Amos-6 Commercial Satellite in 2015 (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX and Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom) announced an agreement to launch Spacecom's AMOS-6 satellite on SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The AMOS-6 agreement is the latest in a series of wins for SpaceX. The company closed out 2012 having signed 14 launch contracts -- maintaining the company's position as the world's fastest growing launch services provider.

The AMOS-6 satellite, to be built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), will provide communication services including direct satellite home internet for Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. AMOS-6 will replace AMOS-2, which is expected to end its service in 2016. The AMOS-6 mission is targeting a 2015 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (1/29)

Space Insurers Continue to Make Profits...But for How Much Longer? (Source: Flight Global)
Perhaps the ultimate in "risk takers" in the insurance profession are space underwriters. As they try to match premium income against the risk of losses, their annual results and even their job prospects can sometimes hinge on a single spacecraft or on a single rocket launch. Following the recent trend, 2012 was again a profitable year with a net underwriting result (i.e. before costs and expenses are deducted) of circa $400 million. But practitioners in this most glamorous and devil-may-care class are worried that the good times may not continue for long.

For most space risks, several underwriters provide the cover. Space Insurance is involved in covering space risks from before launch to several years into the lifespan of a satellite depending on the economics of doing so.  Usually, the most important in terms of financial value are launch insurance policies. These usually cover a space risk from the intentional ignition of a launch vehicle right up to the end of the first year in space. 

Subsequent to this, the in-orbit life of a satellite is usually covered, like automobile insurance, on an annual renewal basis. Some underwriters also cover third party liability risks involved with launching and operating satellites and also the related pre-launch "cargo" insurance involving transport of satellites to the launch site. Click here. (1/29)

NASA Nets $15 Million in Sandy Relief Bill (Source: Space Politics)
The Senate passed on Monday HR 152, a $50.5 billion appropriations bill to cover damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last October. The House passed the bill earlier this month after a previous disaster relief bill died in the previous Congress. Included in the bill is $15 million for NASA’s “Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration” account, to cover damage to NASA facilities caused by the hurricane.

The bulk of that money is expected to go to the Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast, which experienced heavy rains and storm surges as the hurricane moved up the coast (some will go to the Kennedy Space Center.) Space News reported that Wallops officials have estimated repair costs at $26 million from the storm. (1/29)

Why Do We Still Send Animals into Space? (Source: Space.com)
A gray rhesus macaque made history yesterday (Jan. 28) when the primate reportedly flew into space in an Iranian mission. It also became part of a long line of animal astronauts. But since science has proved time and again that humans can survive the extra-terrestrial trip, why do countries bother sending monkeys and other living creatures up into space at all these days?

In the case of Iran, the demonstration is "more of a show," said Kenneth Halberg, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen who studies aquatic bugs' ability to survive spacelike conditions. "There's nothing new about sending a monkey in space." But sending other animals into space can provide valuable scientific lessons for interplanetary travel and space greenhouses, he said. Click here. (1/29)

Mars One Secures First Investments (Source: SpaceRef)
Interplanetary Media Group, the Mars One daughter company which manages the intellectual property and media associated with the human mission to Mars, has received its first investments. These funds will be used to finance the Conceptual Design Studies and the launch of the global Astronaut Selection Program.

Kai Staats of Mars One states, "Organizing a human mission to Mars is a tremendously complex venture. There are many engineering hurdles to overcome and the total funds required are tremendous. Raising a few million [US dollars] in the coming months may seem insignificant in the shadow of the pending billions required, but we are taking it one step at a time. These first few bring tangible demonstration to nearly two years in planning. For us, committed funds in this phase of development are an important indicator we are moving in the right direction."

In the first half of 2013, Mars One will award the Conceptual Design studies to industry suppliers. These are sophisticated engineering bids, technical plans which lay the foundation for the major components such as the transport vehicles, space suits, life support systems and living modules on Mars. These will substantiate the Mission plan with real-world engineering designs and data. Click here. (1/29)

Site of South Korean Launch to Become Home of Space Program (Source: Yonhap)
The Naro Space Center, the site of South Korea's planned space rocket launch, will be further developed into the home of South Korea's space development program that seeks to produce an indigenous space rocket by 2021. The center, located 485 kilometers south of Seoul, sits on 5.11 million square meters of land after its first development plan was completed in June 2010. Naro's development cost 331.4 billion won ($301 million), according to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the state-run operator of the center.

It is equipped with a state-of-the-art mission director center, flight safety control facilities and a launch pad. It also has a meteorological observatory and a rocket assembly facility, along with radar and optical tracking systems that can follow the trajectory of rockets fired. A second 582.7-billion-won development plan began in 2009 to further expand the center and build an engine combustion test facility, which is an essential component for the development of the country's indigenous rockets, according to KARI.

The second five-year program, along with the ongoing Naro development plans, are part of a long-term goal that seeks to develop a 300-ton thrust engine that can carry a 1.5-ton satellite into space by 2021. To this end, KARI seeks to launch 14 new projects, costing a total of 1.61 trillion won, which will include the construction of a space vehicle test center, as well as a training facility for astronauts.

Gas Flares From Bakken Fracking are Visible From Space (Source: New Scientist)
This sparkling view of American cities from space reveals a town with a different kind of night-life. One of the bright regions that sits alone in the darkness of the northern plains isn't a bustling city at all - instead, this blaze is a night-time view of fracking in action. Seen in this photo taken by NASA's Suomi NPP satellite, the glow comes from hundreds of flares from rigs drilled into the Bakken formation of North Dakota. The huge amount of unwanted gas being burned off from the production of shale oil creates a light the size of metropolitan Boston.

Bakken is a 360-million-year-old tectonic plate made primarily of shale rock. Fracking has liberated the oil that lies within it, propelling North Dakota to the second-largest oil producing state in the US, behind Texas. Flaring is a way to burn off excess natural gas during oil production, but the process effectively wastes a natural resource while simultaneously emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As of 2011, more than 35 percent of North Dakota's natural gas production was burnt off in flares, according to a study done by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The same study reported that in 2009, on average, less than 1 per cent of the total amount of natural gas produced in the US was lost to flaring. By those standards, the Bakken formation in North Dakota sticks out as a staggeringly flaring-heavy drilling site and the island of light in this picture only helps make that case. Click here. (1/29)

How the Columbia Disaster Changed Spacecraft Safety Forever (Source: Space.com)
Ten years after the devastating Columbia space shuttle accident that took the lives of seven astronauts, NASA is building a new spacecraft that will take humans farther into space than ever before, and will incorporate the safety lessons learned from the disaster that befell the agency Feb. 1, 2003. That day, the shuttle Columbia disintegrated about 200,000 feet (61 kilometers) over Texas.

Later analysis found that Columbia was doomed during its launch, when a small bit of foam insulation broke off the shuttle's external fuel tank and tore a hole in the orbiter's wing. That hole prevented Columbia from withstanding the scorching heat of re-entry. Afterward, the independent team that investigated the accident, called the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), found a number of factors, from the safety culture at NASA to the design of the shuttle, that led to the disaster. Click here. (1/29)

Animal Astronauts: the Unsung Heroes of Space Exploration (Source: Guardian)
From intrepid turtles to pioneering jellyfish, a host of animals have made their mark as the unsung heroes of space exploration. Early animal astronauts were used to test the effects of zero gravity and extreme pressure on the body, and their modern-day counterparts are used in experiments on board the International Space Station. Click here. (1/29)

How Much Will it Cost to Live on Mars? (Source: Discovery)
As more and more private companies announce plans for space exploration ventures, the more it looks like the first humans to set foot on the moon (again) or Mars (for the first time) in the near future won’t be wearing suits emblazoned with a blue NASA meatball, but rather the logo of a privately owned and operated company. Many of these tech-savvy startups, running lean and mean without the burden of decades of red tape, are promising efficient and safe space travel at cut-rate prices.

So the bottom line is this: getting to Mars from Earth won’t likely ever be cheap. But if we make it a priority to colonize beyond our own planet — truly stepping “out of the cradle” — it’s a doable feat, even with the resources currently available. And only by making that first step will we learn the skills and develop the know-how needed to survive outside our finite world. Click here for a Living on Mars infographic. (1/29)

North Korea Muddies ESA's Aim to Clean-Up Space (Source: Flight Global)
A new degree of complexity has been added to the international effort to tackle orbiting debris by North Korea's emergence as a spacefaring nation. European Space Agency director general Jean-Jacques Dordain underscored the urgency of the debris problem - and revealed that North Korea is not, as yet, expected to take part in a landmark conference on the problem to be hosted at ESA's Darmstadt, Germany ground control centre in late April.

This eagerly-awaited event will explore potential technologies for mitigating a problem which, spaceflight experts routinely stress, threatens to deny access to many orbits critical to Earth observation, scientific and telecommunications satellites - and poses a mortal threat to manned missions, including trips to the International Space Station (ISS).

Dordain says the first priority is to prevent new space debris. All space agencies are working "very hard" to design launchers in which stages reaching the greatest altitudes do not explode - a common source of debris - and that can be controlled after payload delivery to ensure they are de-orbited. (1/29)

Record Number of Space Agency Heads to Visit Israel (Source: Israel Hayom)
A record number of 14 heads of space agencies from around the globe will arrive in Israel on Tuesday to participate in the seventh annual international Ilan Ramon Space Conference. This year's conference is the biggest in its seven-year history, and marks the 10th anniversary of the fatal Columbia space shuttle voyage in which Ramon, Israel's first astronaut and the man after whom the conference is named, was tragically killed, along with six other crew members, in a re-entry accident. (1/29)

Up is the New Up for ESA (Source: Planetary.org)
We have a saying around here that "flat is the new up," when referencing science budgets in the United States. We've been arguing for the last year to maintain NASA's Planetary Science Division funding at 2012 levels – about $1.5 billion per year – for the next five years. No growth for inflation. No additional money. That's not too bad given the current economic situation. But now maybe "up" is the new up (or maybe up is the new flat?). Space News reports that the European Space Agency's budget will receive a 6.5% increase. (1/28)

Orbital Sciences Corporation Stock Upgraded (Source: The Street)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, attractive valuation levels, increase in net income and growth in earnings per share. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity. (1/29)

MSFC Director: Commercial Space Should Be Serious About Huntsville (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Recently appointed Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Director Patrick Scheuermann believes there is a buoyant future for the Alabama facility, citing the Center’s role with the Space Launch System, whilst noting commercial companies who are “serious” about space, should consider partnering with Huntsville’s engineering base.

Replacing the popular Robert Lightfoot – who left to take up the role of associate administrator at NASA Headquarters – Mr Scheuermann is now entering his first full year at the helm of Marshall. Marking the start of what will prove to be another challenging year for NASA, Mr Scheuermann is in a positive frame of mind for his Center’s forward path, citing the three key areas MSFC is involved with, all of which are at the very heart of NASA.

“I want to ensure that the workforce understands that we have incredible clarity in our mission,” Mr Scheuermann remarked on his short term goals for Marshall in a Q&A published by the Center. “The NASA administrator has said time and time again there are three priorities for the agency: the Space Launch System, International Space Station, and the James Webb Space Telescope. Marshall Space Flight Center plays a role in all three. (1/29)

LaHood Will Step Down at USDOT (Source: The Republic)
Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has announced that he will leave President Barack Obama's administration. However, he will stay in his position until a successor makes it through the confirmation process. (1/29)

In a Week of Space Tragedy Anniversaries, We Must Continue to Venture Onward (Source: Slate)
Today marks the second in a week of three tragic anniversaries in space exploration. On Jan. 27, 1967, we lost three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire. On Feb. 1, 2003, seven astronauts died when Columbia broke apart upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. And Jan. 28, 1986 is when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven astronauts on board. All three of these events were horrible. All three were the results of unlikely chains of events that seemed inevitable afterward. All three sparked immense debate over the dangers and value of exploring space.

And all three should show us how important it is that we carry on that exploration. There are two ways to look at why slipping loose the surly bonds of Earth is so critical. One is practical. Going into space has given us tremendous advantages in life. Global communication. Weather forecasting. Technology spinoffs that have generated vast economies. The list goes on and on. How many dangerous regimes have collapsed because we can directly see and talk to those being oppressed?

How many lives have been saved by advance knowledge of crippling weather events? How much have our lives improved due to the wonderful technology generated? The money spent on space exploration has literally paid us back many fold. That argument alone is more than enough to support both automated and crewed space exploration. But there’s more. Click here. (1/29)

Orbital Closing in on Inaugural Launch of Antares (Source: SEN)
Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital), one of the contractors under NASA's cargo transport program, has been busy testing its Antares rocket ahead of the launcher's inaugural flight which is being planned for March. If the test flight goes according to plan, Antares could send Orbital's cargo freighter, Cygnus, to the space station in May or June. Orbital has been working under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program to develop a cargo transport system that can deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The company also has a Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) contract, awarded in 2008, for eight cargo resupply missions to the ISS. However, before it can begin fulfilment of its CRS contract it must pass the development and demonstration phase of COTS. To deliver cargo to the space station, Orbital has been busy building a new rocket, called Antares, and a cargo ship called Cygnus. Orbital has completed all but one cold flow test (wet dress rehearsal) of Antares, and the final test will take place any day now. (1/29)

U.S. Questions Iran 'Monkey Launch' (Source: Radio Free Europe)
The United States says Iran may have violated a United Nations resolution if its claims of successfully launching a live monkey to the edge of space are true. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she could not confirm whether the Iranian launch had actually occurred. "We don't have any way to confirm this one way or other with regard to the primate, but our concern with Iran's development of space-launch vehicle technologies are, obviously, well-known," Nuland said.

"Any space-launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles as well as SLV [satellite launch vehicle] technologies." She added that UN Security Council Resolution 1929 bars Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” The Iranian launch was announced as the Islamic republic and world powers continued to wrangle over a date and venue to resume talks over Iran’s nuclear program. (1/29)

Iran On Track to Sending Humans to Space (Source: PressTV)
Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi says the successful mission of Pishgam (Pioneer) spacecraft, which successfully carried a monkey into space, is the first step for Iran towards sending humans into space. "Sending a spacecraft and returning it is the first step towards sending humans to space in later stages,” Vahidi said on Monday.

On Monday, Iran launched Pishgam (Pioneer) spacecraft, which took a primate to the altitude of 120 kilometers, and returned it safely to Earth. Iran sent its first bio-capsule of living creatures into space in February 2010, using the indigenous Kavoshgar 3 (Discoverer 3) carrier. The country successfully launched its first indigenous data-processing satellite, Omid (Hope), into orbit in 2009.

Iran is one of the 24 founding members of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which was set up in 1959. The Iranian defense minister said Iran would also inaugurate the country’s space observatory, named after Shia’s sixth Imam, Imam Sadeq (PBUH), in February. (1/29)

New Mexico Spaceport Liability Bill Fast-Tracked (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
A measure aimed at breaking a lingering disagreement over extending liability protections for commercial spacecraft manufacturers rocketed through a New Mexico Senate committee Monday, setting up a likely full Senate vote this week. The 9-0 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a different liability bill sought by Spaceport America died last year, came after the chairman of a separate Senate panel formally requested that the bill bypass his committee. Senate Democratic Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen said the accord reached by Virgin Galactic, the Spaceport’s anchor tenant, and the state’s Trial Lawyers Association paved the way for quick action on the measure this time around. (1/29)

Virgin Galactic Shuns Binding Spaceport Lease (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Virgin Galactic has agreed to start paying New Mexico rent on the nearly quarter-billion dollar spaceport the state built the company, but it says it is doing so under protest and without waiving its right to walk away from the project, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. In a Jan. 16 email to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), Virgin Galactic said it does not believe the state has finished the work necessary to trigger activation of its $1 million annual rent obligation.

The company said if the work is not complete to its satisfaction by March 31, it "may either stop paying rent, pay reduced rent or give notice to terminate" its lease. Virgin Galactic has publicly expressed concerns about the state's inability to attract more businesses to the project and has hinted it could leave if lawmakers refuse for a third year in a row to expand liability exemptions for the commercial space industry. The Legislature is in session until mid-March.

The dispute also comes as questions mount about whether the company will be able to start flying later this year or early next year, or whether it expects further delays in getting its $200,000-per-head spaceflights off the ground. In a response to Virgin Galactic, NMSA said it "confirms its current right to demand User Fees for a minimum number of missions or terminate the lease if VG fails to fly at least 25 missions in a calendar year...While the starting date is ill-defined in the lease, I think this highlights the need for VG to provide NMSA accurate flight projections with frequent updates as appropriate." (1/28)

Hey Axe Apollo! Women are Astronauts Too (Source: SpaceKate)
Look, I know that Axe is predominantly a male brand. I know that their advertising generally consists of massive sexual stereotypes, I even understand why they use such tactics. They obviously get results (whether the same can be said of their antiperspirant, I wouldn’t know). But here’s the thing that gets me, advertising and cheap stereotypes aside, you’re messing with SCIENCE now. Don’t do that.

As if scientific disciplines don’t have a legacy of sexism inherent in them already, now we have a global, big bucks advertising campaign to reinforce the idea that science is a male domain. In case you weren’t aware, women are astronauts too – not just drooling airheads trying to bag ourselves a high profile guy in a space suit. It reminds me of when I first got excited about space and I talked to my neighbour about it. “Oh!” She said, eyes wide, “you want to marry an astronaut?”. (1/28)

Space & Rocket Center Won't Ax Axe Space Contest, But Will Protect Brand (Source: Huntsville Times)
The executive committee of the board that controls the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is holding a special called meeting late today to discuss its response to a men's care company's plan to send 22 civilians to space. The grooming company Axe has already pre-released a Super Bowl commercial touting the contest. According to the Axe commercial, winners will be flown into space in 2014 aboard a flight operated by Space Exploration Company of Amsterdam.

Axe says some of the finalists will be taken to an Axe Apollo Space Academy in Florida for training. However, Space Academy and Space Camp are longstanding programs operated by the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Space & Rocket Center Executive Director Dr. Deborah Barnhart said the museum and Axe have been talking and "have found common ground" that will be good for both parties and for interest in space travel. The museum is always supportive of interest in space, Barnhart said, but it has longstanding brands and trademarks to protect. (1/29)

Does AXE Super Bowl Ad Prove Space Tourism Now Passé? (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer)
You know space tourism is becoming mainstream (pass̩, even) when ... you get an ad for men's toiletries, running during the Super Bowl, in which you can win a trip into space. "Leave a man. Come back a Hero," AXE's parent company Unilever exclaims on its website. "Axe is recruiting a few brave civilians for the opportunity of a lifetime Рa trip to space. As in, actual space." But they better launch soon, because there's a lot of people gearing up to blast into orbit (low or otherwise).

If you win, AXE writes in its contest rules, you can expect to take flight between now and Dec. 1, 2020. If they don't get you into space by 2020, they'll pay you the $86,000 value of the trip in cash. Oh, and you'll have to undergo a three-day training and "bonding" program at XCOR's training facility. Of course, if you've got the money, some Seattle bazillionaire will have a ship ready for you to board in a few years ... at your leisure. (1/29)

Harris Corp. Releases Earnings for Second Quarter (Source: Florida Today)
Melbourne-based Harris Corp. reported revenue in the second quarter of fiscal 2013 of $1.29 billion compared with $1.31 billion in the prior year. GAAP income from continuing operations was $142 million, compared with $136 million for the prior year. (1/29)

Pickens Joins MoonEx as Chief Propulsion Engineer (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Tim Pickens is now working full time as the Chief Propulsion Engineer for Moon Express, which is pursuing the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) as well as long term commercial lunar projects. Tim designed the propulsion system for SpaceShipOne with Burt Rutan and in 2004 he founded Orion Propulsion, which was bought by Dynetics in 2009. Dynetics formed the Rocket City Space Pioneers team to compete for the GLXP. Last December Moon Express acquired Rocket City Space Pioneers in a Teaming Agreement with Dynetics. (1/29)

Third Time's a Charm, but Naro Still Faces Difficult Odds (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea is set to make its third attempt to join the global space club this week, but it still faces a task that has proven extremely difficult for many before. The country plans to launch its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) from its Naro Space Center on Wednesday. It will be the country's third launch of the KSLV-1 after two earlier attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure.

The first attempt on Aug. 25, 2009, ended in what the Korea Aerospace Research Institute called a half-success, as the rocket, also known as Naro, reached its target altitude but was unable to deploy the satellite it carried due to a problem with the fairings that protect the payload. The second launch of the space rocket on June 10, 2010, ended in utter failure when the rocket exploded only 137 seconds after liftoff. The cause of the explosion is still unknown after several rounds of joint investigations by South Korean and Russian experts. (1/29)

Iran Claims Successful Suborbital Launch of Monkey, But U.S. Cannot Confirm (Source: Space Policy Online)
Iran revealed today that it successfully sent a monkey into space on a suborbital flight and retrieved it alive as a first step in sending humans into space.  The U.S. State Department, however, said it could not confirm that a launch took place or that a monkey was aboard.

The Fars News Agency reported today that the Defense Ministry's Aerospace Industries Association sent a monkey in a biocapsule aboard a Pishgam (Pioneer) rocket.  The rocket reached 120 kilometers in altitude before returning to Earth.  The monkey was "safe and sound" according to Fars. The Washington Post published this photo of the monkey apparently taken before its flight. (1/28)

The Intersection of Public and Private Spaceflight (Source: LA Space Salon)
The landscape of private endeavors into space has evolved considerably over the past several years and we can not help but feel a sense of accomplishment over acheievments once thought to be unlikely within the scope of non-governmental agencies. As we start to lay claim to new frontiers, it is important to remember the massive foundation, financial incentive, and technical expertise NASA has provided for small space startups and growing companies alike.

Our January Space Salon will explore the relationship between NASA and SpaceX during one of the most exciting times in human history. Over the course of 2006 to 2012, $396 million was awarded to SpaceX by NASA, as a part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. This program culminated with the historic delivery of cargo to and the return of cargo from the International Space Station by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft- a feat, until this point, only accomplished by a small number of national agencies.

This monumental accomplishment by a relatively small private company was achieved with NASA as a vital partner every step of the way thorugh an innovative approach to a public-private partnership in the space industry. And leading that charge is our esteemed speaker, Mike Horkachuck, the COTS Project Executive for NASA, responsible for leading this partnership from the NASA side. His belief in, and coordination with, SpaceX, was vital in making this all a reality. Click here. (1/28) h

Commercial Crew Certification Effort Kicks Off (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Jan. 22, NASA took a crucial next step toward launching astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States. Beginning the first phase of the Commercial Crew Program’s (CCP) certification efforts, three companies now are conducting activities that will confirm commercial spacecraft are safe to carry crews to the station. This landmark comes as the agency celebrates the 45th anniversary of an essential stage in sending Americans to the moon.

Launched Jan. 22, 1968, Apollo 5 was the first unpiloted flight of an Apollo lunar module successfully flown from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, establishing the module’s ability to perform as designed. The mission also helped certify that the spacecraft could safely fly with astronauts on its next mission.

Similarly, through May 30, 2014, three companies are working under contract with CCP to develop products to implement the agency’s flight safety and performance standards and requirements. The Certification Products Contracts (CPC) will establish standards across all aspects of commercial crew systems, including design of the spacecraft, launch vehicles, and ground and mission operations. (1/28)

Davos: The Future of Space (Source: Scientific American)
Space: the beneficial frontier. That was the underlying theme of a panel called “The Future of Space,” which I moderated at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland. It was the first such session on space services in the formal part of the program at this meeting of leaders in policy and business—and its focus was decidedly down to Earth.

“We want to educate people about the utility of space,” noted panelist Brian Weeden, technical adviser, Secure World Foundation. The panel discussed applications of orbiting satellites, including weather observations, climate studies, GPS location services, security—and even preserving cultural artifacts. “Many of the world’s great global challenges can be effectively addressed by space-based satellites,” added panelist Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. Click here. (1/28)

SSTL to Build Weather Satellite Constellation (Source: BBC)
British satellite manufacturer SSTL will build the follow-on spacecraft for an innovative weather forecasting system run by Taiwan and the US. The Cosmic constellation derives information about the atmosphere from the way it disturbs GPS signals. A clutch of spacecraft currently provide this service, and SSTL has been contracted to provide up to 12 more satellites.

The intention is to launch a new batch in 2016. "It's a great win for the company, beating off international competition, and it's also a very interesting project," said Alex da Silva Curiel from SSTL. "It involves operational meteorology, good climate science and ionospheric science," he told BBC News.

The Cosmic project is a joint initiative between the National Space Organization (NSPO) of Taiwan and the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It relies on a smart observation technique known as radio occultation. (1/28)

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