March 4, 2013

Blue Origin Fires Up New Engine, Extends Cooperation with NASA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Blue Origin successfully fires the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen rocket engine. As part of the company’s Reusable Booster System (RBS), the engines are designed eventually to launch the biconic-shaped Space Vehicle the company is developing in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Meanwhile, NASA and Blue Origin signed an agreement last week to extend their Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) partnership in an unfunded capacity. Between now and mid-2014, the company will continue to advance subsystems for its biconic-shaped spacecraft. The company also will test fire its liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen fueled BE-3 engines at its West Texas Launch Site. This CCDev2 extension will allow NASA to provide expert feedback to Blue Origin as the company works through additional milestones. Click here. (3/4)

Lawmakers May Work on Overtime Sequester Bill (Source: Defense News)
Sequestration cuts now under way could be halted if a deal is hammered out within a 26-day window. That's because the law requires an evaluation March 27, the date by which cuts must be made. Bipartisan discussions are going on now that could lead to sequester-fix legislation, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI. (3/3)

FAA Will Detail Plans for Sequestration This Week (Source: AVweb)
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to announce details this week on measures to trim $600 million from its budget. The budget cuts are required by sequestration, which went into effect Friday. The FAA previously announced plans to furlough employees and close or cut back on operations at 160 towers. (3/3)

Spaceflight Legislation in Texas (Source: Citizens in Space)
Several pieces of legislation affecting commercial spaceflight are on the docket of the Texas legislature this session. House Bill 417, sponsored by Rep. John Davis--whose district includes JSC--would require the Texas Transportation Commission to appoint one member from the commercial spaceflight industry to its aviation advisory committee.

Senate Bill 267 and House Bill 278 would clarify that municipal liability for airport operations includes airport operations related to spaceflight. The bills also specify that a municipality has no vicarious liability due to participation in a joint venture that involves the use of municipal airport for spaceflight activities.

The most significant bill is probably House Bill 1791, which would extend and modify the Limited Liability for Space Flight Activities passed by the legislature last term. It would expand the definition of “space flight activities” to include research, development, testing, or manufacture of launch vehicles, reentry vehicles, spacecraft, and their components. Component manufacturers would be added to the definitions for preparation and postlanding recovery of vehicles. (3/3)

Pensioners To Go To Mars – Why The Old Ones Are The Best (Source: The Conversation)
Apart from the psychological issues it is difficult to shield astronauts from damaging cosmic radiation on the long trip, but oldies can be sacrificed because we have little to lose. Think of it as voluntary euthanasia – if the worst happened it would be a spectacular way to go. Implicit in the proposal is that the couple be heterosexual, perhaps so they would be representative of most of humankind.

The idea is to find two people who could tolerate each other for 501 days inside a sardine can. If they survived, maybe we could conclude that younger explorers would have an even better chance. On the other hand, youngsters tend to be more argumentative. They would have to occupy themselves somehow. How about some very fine needlework while listening to audio versions of those books they always wanted to read? (3/4)

Tech Transfer Propagates Earth-Observation Programs (Source: Aviation Week)
Chile has one. So do Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). By the end of April Vietnam could, too. Over the next decade more than 280 Earth-observation-satellite systems are expected to be launched into orbit, with roughly 30% lofted for developing space programs in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East—regions where technology transfer is key to fostering fledgling industries, according to Paris-based Euroconsult.

Earth-observation satellites and the increasingly sharp imagery they produce are the fastest-growing segment of a commercial remote-sensing industry currently dominated by Western suppliers, a market that is projected to generate nearly $4 billion in annual revenue by 2021. But as emerging space economies gain technological know-how—much of it via satellite contracts with European and Asian manufacturers—established companies in the U.S. and Europe will navigate an increasingly dynamic competitive landscape. (3/4)

NASA Selects SAIC for Safety, Health, Environmental and Mission Assurance (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to provide safety, health, environmental and mission assurance services at the agency’s Glenn Research Center and Plum Brook Station. The contract begins April 1 with an 18-month base performance period. It includes options to extend the work through March 31, 2018. If NASA exercises all options, the maximum potential value for the five-year, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract is $42 million. (3/4)

Mystery Structure Surrounds Black Hole (Source: Sky & Telescope)
When giant stars reach the end of their lives, they explode in a spectacular fashion, flinging their outer layers away in butterfly-like wisps while the inner layers implode to a darker fate. In Swift J1357, this dense, imploded core has three times the mass of the Sun, meaning it’s definitely a black hole. Long after the surrounding wisps of gas flew away, the companion M dwarf star donated gas to a thick disk that feeds the black hole. The visible light and X-rays seen from this disk give away the presence of the black hole lurking inside. Astronomers have confirmed 18 of these black hole binaries in the Milky Way galaxy, and another 32 candidates exist. (3/4)

Commercial Space Travel: a New Frontier for Health (Source: The Conversation)
As the industry grows (and barring safety concerns, it surely will), the cost of space travel will decrease and we’ll see increasing numbers of travellers going into space. But tourists planning to visit the final frontier should be aware of the strain on their body during their out-of-this-world trip.

With tourism expanding into space, you may soon find yourself making an appointment with your family doctor to get some health advice about space travel. Because, like travellers to the various corners of the planet, it’s going to be just as important that paying “astronauts” seek travel health advice before going into space.

General practitioners will need to keep pace with what we know about the potential exposure travelers will have to low gravity, high acceleration and radiation – all well-known hazards of space travel. Click here. (3/4)

Newly Found Asteroid Passes Within Moon’s Orbit on March 4 (Source: Universe Today)
A newly found asteroid will pass just inside the orbit of the Moon, with its closest approach on March 4, 2013 at 07:35 UTC. Named 2013 EC, the asteroid is about the size of the space rock that exploded over Russia two and a half weeks ago, somewhere between 10-17 meters wide. The asteroid that sparked the Russian meteor is estimated to have been about 17 meters wide when it entered Earth’s atmosphere. (3/3)

Why Are We So Desperate to Find Extraterrestrial Life? (Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Every time NASA’s rover on Mars scratches the surface, it seems that some large portion of humanity veritably holds its breath in anticipation of the space agency finally declaring it has found signs of life – dead or alive. In November when a NASA scientist said they would have a report that was “one for the history books,” the Internet exploded with anticipation and speculation. But then NASA officials jumped in and calmed everyone down. Turns out they found some stuff, but not direct signs of life.

But, it feels inevitable we’ll find it, doesn’t it? Also, it doesn’t seem to matter if we find past signs of life or even remnants of life, “life” itself or just strangely organized stuff that acts like “life.” It’s just a matter of degrees of excitement – if we find direct signs of life then it stands to reason finding something alive would be soon in coming. Click here. (3/4)

Australia Picks Arianespace to Launch 2 Satellites (Source: Space News)
Australia’s two national Ka-band broadband satellites will be launched on European Ariane 5 rockets in 2015 following a contract signed March 4 between NBN Co. of Australia and Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium, both companies announced. Under the contract, which NBN said is valued at up to 300 million Australian dollars ($306 million), the 6,000-kilogram satellites will be launched in early 2015 and late 2015, the companies said. (3/4)

Tito's Inspiration Mars: The Fly in the Flyby Ointment (Source: The Street)
Private enterprise can do a manned flyby of Mars with existing technology every 15 years, and the first one could happen in 2018. The ramp-up to launch is fast and furious, reckless for a space project of this magnitude. But, as Tito pointed out, so was the Apollo program. Between 1961 to 1968, NASA went from "How do we do this?" to Apollo 8's historic flyby of the moon. A huge accomplishment.

Tito didn't mention that a flash fire on the launch pad of Apollo 1 killed three of NASA's finest. Seems relevant. With new undertakings of this complexity, the devil is in the detail. This requires the right stuff, a disciplined team of hardline achievers, focused engineers, do-or-die warrior-genius adventurers. Do we have that? Sort of... well, no, not really. Click here. (3/1)

What in Space Are We Doing? (Source: Proactive Investors)
Most of the time, most of us give little thought to the fact that our home planet is located somewhere in space, and that out there is what used to be called the "final frontier." When we think about space at all, we tend not to envision it as something to explore, like we used to back in the early days of NASA and the race to the moon. More likely, it's just the place where all those satellites are – the ones that enable us to post trivial Facebook messages to pals on the other side of the world.

At Casey Extraordinary Technology, we are constantly monitoring the tech field, looking for potential. We love finding undervalued companies with cutting-edge products and services that promise to bring substantial change to the way we live. The kind that stock our portfolio. Right now, there are few if any investment possibilities in space exploration and development, unless you have very deep pockets and all the right connections.

But that may change as this budding industry really gets humming, companies go to the market for cash, and technologies that have earthly applications get spun off. If there is money to be made, you can be sure we'll be there. Click here. (3/1)

NOAA Takes Over Operation of Suomi NPP Satellite (Source: Space Policy Online)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took over operation of the Suomi NPP satellite on February 22. The satellite was built and launched by NASA as a technology testbed, but delays in NOAA's polar orbiting weather satellite program resulted in it becoming part of NOAA's operational environmental satellite constellation. (3/4)

A Martian Adventure for Inspiration, Not Commercialization (Source: Space Review)
Last week, a new organization founded by a pioneering space tourist announced plans for a crewed Mars flyby mission to launch in 2018. Jeff Foust describes the background of the mission and the various challenges to turn this unique concept into an actual voyage. Visit to view the article. (3/4)

Taking a Page from Maritime Practice to Self-Regulate the Commercial Space Industry (Source: Space Review)
Regulating the safety of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry poses challenges given the lack of experience and concerns about government overregulation. Three authors suggest that one approach is to take a page from the maritime industry and establish organizations that can perform a type of self-regulation. Visit to view the article. (3/4)

China's ASAT Enigma (Source: Space Review)
China attracted the world's attention in 2007 with a test of a anti-satellite weapon that created thousands of pieces of debris. Dwayne Day reports on a recent forum that describes the challenges in knowing what China is doing today with ASATs, and why. Visit to view the article. (3/4)

The Future of the US Human Spaceflight Program is Not Reliving its Past (Source: Space Review)
Civil space policy, in particular human spaceflight, was not an issue in last year's presidential election. Roger Handberg argues that space advocates must stop believing that the president restore the agency to the glory years of the 1960s but instead focus on what's needed to create a more sustainable program for the future. Visit to view the article. (3/4)

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