April 6, 2013

SpaceX Public Hearing Tuesday (Source: Brownsville Herald)
A hearing to obtain public comments on SpaceX’s draft environmental impact statement will be held Tuesday at the ITECC on Mexico Boulevard in Brownsville. The hearing will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. and members of the public will be given three minutes each to provide their thoughts about the EIS. The event will begin with a poster presentation from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by a brief presentation from the Federal Aviation Administration and then public comments. There will be a sign-in sheet for people wishing to speak during the public comment period.

The FAA last month released the draft EIS on the proposed SpaceX project in Cameron County and detailed possible ways a rocket launchpad there might affect the environment, including threatened or endangered species. The document also recommended actions that could minimize those effects while still allowing SpaceX to proceed, if a permit were granted by the FAA.

Gilbert Salinas, executive vice president for the Brownsville Economic Development Council, which has been working with SpaceX for about two years on the project, said he’s not sure how many people will attend Tuesday’s hearing. He said he has heard that some schools plan to take their students to the event. More than 500 people turned out for the first public hearing on SpaceX last year. (5/6)

Space Angels Network Launches University Fund Partnership (Source: SAN)
Space Angels Network, the leading source of capital for aerospace and aviation startups, has announced that it is accepting applications for a new level of membership reserved for student managed angel investment funds. Space Angels Network has also announced today that the University of Oxford Saïd Business School Venture Fund and the University of Washington Angel Fund are the first to join the network as part of this new program.

Space Angels Network recognized a growing trend in the number of established university angel funds. Typically founded with initial capital from alumni donors, university angel investment funds are opportunities for students pursuing degrees in finance or economics to gain real-world experience investing in early stage companies. Student fund managers evaluate investment opportunities, perform due diligence and make investments in companies with guidance from professors and notable alumni with experience in private equity investing.

As members of Space Angels Network, university angel funds will gain access to all network benefits including access to pre-screened early-stage aerospace and aviation investment opportunities and virtual and in-person investor events. Click here. (4/17)

NASA Preps for Lunabotics Mining Competition at Florida Spaceport (Source: NASA)
Fifty teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the world will demonstrate their lunar excavator robots May 20 – 24 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Practice sessions for the fourth annual Lunabotics Mining Competition will take place May 20 – 21, followed by the official competition. Media representatives are invited to cover the event on May 22 from 12 – 4 p.m. EDT, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

For access to the facility, journalists should contact Catherine Segar at 321-449-4273 or csegar@dncinc.com. Requests for interviews with NASA representatives must be submitted to Tracy Young at 321-867-2468 or tracy.g.young@nasa.gov. The teams have designed and built remote controlled or autonomous robots that can excavate simulated lunar dirt. During the competition, the teams’ designs — known as lunabots — will go head-to-head to determine which machine can collect and move the most simulated lunar dirt within a specific amount of time. (5/6)

Exploring a Possible Mission to Mars (Source: Washington Post)
Is NASA going to send astronauts to Mars? That’s the agency’s stated goal, though there’s no mission yet, no program per se, certainly no budget (it would probably give lawmakers the jitters) and, at the moment, NASA doesn’t have the technology to land astronauts safely and then bring them back to Earth. So humans-to-Mars is aspirational, with the tough logistical and political issues yet to be resolved.

Amplification of NASA’s long-term Mars strategy came Monday at the outset of a three-day conference at George Washington University called the “Humans to Mars Summit,” or H2M. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden served as the keynoter, and he was soon followed by senior agency officials who have Mars on the mind.

All expressed cautious optimism that the agency is on the right path to get to Mars eventually, though some members of the audience were openly impatient and more than a little dismissive of NASA’s current plan to send astronauts on a mission to inspect a lassoed asteroid. After three senior NASA officials talked extensively of the asteroid mission, an audience member took a microphone and expressed exasperation that they were so focused on the asteroid rather than Mars. (5/6)

SpaceX's Musk has Heart Set on Texas Spaceport (Source: Houston Chronicle)
SpaceX is jockeying for new state laws and a hefty incentive package to build a launch site in South Texas. The company has mounted a growing influence machine this legislative session to lay the foundation for a blockbuster deal with the state. SpaceX CEO and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is flirting with the idea of converting a strip of salt flats in South Texas into a commercial spaceport for rocket ships, a prospect that has state lawmakers drooling over the potential boom.

SpaceX needs the Legislature to pass two bills - one to close a state beach for rocket launches and the other to provide legal cover for noise complaints - and for the state's top officials to craft a worthy incentive package. Without that, the deal could go to one of several competing states, which Musk says are willing to pony up more than Texas. In preparation for the legislative session, SpaceX supercharged its lobbying efforts, spending up to $219,000 this year on contracts, disclosure filings show.

The company's Texas lobbying team is spearheaded by Demetrius McDaniel, long considered one of the most influential lobbyists in the corridors of the state Capitol. During the 2011 session SpaceX spent less than $25,000 to contract with a single lobbyist, according to records. This year, the company shelled out for the first time to fly a powerful state lawmaker - Pitts - and his top staffer to tour SpaceX facilities in California and attend a Lakers game, records show. (5/6)

Drawing the Battle Lines for NASA's 2014 Budget (Source: Space Review)
Last month NASA unveiled a 2014 budget proposal that is largely similar to its 2013 proposal, with the addition of a new asteroid initiative. Jeff Foust reports on the likely key issues, old and new, that will come up as Congress debates the budget in the coming months. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2291/1 to view the article. (5/6)

Revisiting the Preservation of Tranquility Base and Other Historic Lunar Sites (Source: Space Review)
Most people recognize the historical significance of the Apollo landing sites and similar locations on the Moon, but there's little consensus on how to protect them from future explorers. Michael Listner examines some of the proposed ways to provide legal protection to these sites and offers an alternative approach. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2290/1 to view the article. (5/6)

NASA, Export Control, and Collaboration: a Bit of Clarification (Source: Space Review)
Some recent developments have left some observers wondering if NASa and the US government are serious about export control reform and international collaboration. Christopher Stone cautions against jumping to those conclusions. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2288/1 to view the article. (5/6)

FSDC Applauds Florida Legislators' Support for Space (Source: FSDC)
Amid increasing competition from other states and nations for space-related economic development, the Florida Legislature stepped up yet again to expand and diversify the state's aerospace industry. In total, the Legislature approved over $43 million in space-related investments for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Here are some highlights:

$19.5 million for Space Florida operations and economic development programs (including $7 million for innovative financing, a $1.5 million recurring fund for space tourism marketing and $1 million for aerospace collaboration with Israel); $20 million for spaceport infrastructure projects through the Florida Department of Transportation, vetted through a Space Florida-led statewide spaceport system plan. (Another $15 million per year is planned for the following four years.);...

$3.5 million for education and research programs at the Florida Institute of Technology and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, plus a bio-agricultural research project at Kennedy Space Center and an expansion of the annual "space week" program that sponsors K-12 field trips to Kennedy Space Center. Bills were passed to shift revenues from the state's Challenger/Columbia license plate program to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; to establish Space Coast Executive Airport as a state spaceport territory; and to improve access to state tax incentives for aerospace job creation. Click here. (5/6)

Morpheus Lander Back in Action, Returning to KSC (Source: NASA)
The roar of a 5,000lb rocket engine has returned to the Johnson Space Center. The Morpheus team has completed the build-up of our “Bravo” vehicle, conducted numerous integrated tests, and has now stepped into our flight test program. We are picking up where we left off – in fact we never stopped working. We have completed our first major milestone in conducting a 50-second static hot fire of the main engine in the vehicle, including simultaneous demonstration of thrust vector control (TVC) and integrated methane reaction control system (RCS) jet firings.

Thrust vector control is used to balance and fly the vehicle, while the RCS jets are used to keep the vehicle pointed in the correct direction. We will step into dynamic tethered flights soon, in preparation for our return to KSC in Florida this summer. The knowledge and insight we gained over the 27 test firings of the previous vehicle are fully incorporated into the testing we’re beginning now. Although a hardware failure led to the loss of the original vehicle last August, the failure and our internal investigation gave us valuable insight into areas that needed improvement. (5/6)

Antares/Cygnus ISS Demo Flight Slips to August (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Orbital Sciences says that post-flight analysis has confirmed that the Antares rocket performed very well on its first flight. However, the launch date for the Antares/Cygnus demonstration mission has slipped to August because of an engine change-out on the rocket to check a seal. Conflict with the Japanese HTV cargo delivery may mean a further slip to September. (5/6)

Space Florida Budget Increases Following Legislative Session (Source: Space Florida)
State lawmakers have shown strong support for Florida’s aerospace industry in the 2013 Legislative Session by renewing Space Florida’s $10 million operating and business development budget (including the second year of $4 million in recurring funds). This demonstrates that the ongoing, proactive development of the dynamic aerospace industry in our state is a top priority.

In addition to the organization’s operating and business development budget, the Florida legislature also approved the following items for 2014: $7 million for Space Florida’s financing fund requirements for new and expanding aerospace infrastructure statewide; $1.5 million for space tourism marketing; and $1 million to foster collaborative aerospace research, development and commercialization of projects through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor of the State of Israel.

Additionally, a bill was passed to remove of certain limits on tax refund incentives, enabling companies that have existing jobs to Florida the opportunity to continue to benefit through additional job growth. (5/6)

Ultimate Guide to Exploring Space (Source: BBC)
we have created this graphic of every attempt to leave Earth’s orbit and reach a destination in extraterrestrial space – be it with probes, orbiters, rovers, or of course manned missions. Click here. (4/30)

UK Space Agency and NASA Join Forces to Explore the Solar System (Source: Space Daily)
The Sun and our neighboring planet Mars are two destinations that the UK and US will be exploring together in the coming years, following recent agreements for collaboration on three big space projects. Sunjammer - the first collaborative mission scheduled for launch - will see two UK instruments fly on the largest solar sail ever constructed. Due for launch in 2014, this NASA mission will fly towards the Sun demonstrating solar sail technology and a range of other technologies. UK scientists are developing the mission's magnetometer (MAGIC) and wind analyzer (SWAN).

Due for launch in 2016, NASA's Insight mission will also feature an instrument funded by the UK Space Agency, but this one will be going to the Red Planet. Designed to investigate the interior structure and processes of Mars, the SEIS-SP seismometer will listen for Marsquakes and use that information to map the boundaries between the rock layers inside the planet. The data will help determine if the planet has a liquid or solid core and provide some clues as to why its surface is not divided up into tectonic plates as on Earth.

A European Mission with strong UK involvement, Solar Orbiter will travel closer to the Sun than any previous mission, studying the star's Polar regions for the first time. It will also be synchronous with the Sun's rotation, providing long duration observations for the first time and enabling the mission to observe the build up of events such as solar storms. The UK Space Agency recently brokered an agreement for NASA to provide an instrument for the UK-led Solar Wind Analyzer (SWA) suite of instruments. (5/6)

Why Don't We Have Artificial Gravity? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
One thing that nearly all spaceship-based sci-fi movies have in common is their portrayal of an artificial gravity system. People walk around the deck of the USS Enterprise or the Battlestar Galactica like they would on Earth; they aren't floating about the cabin like astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Artificial gravity makes science fiction more relatable, and easier to shoot—the zero-g sequences in Apollo 13, for example, were filmed 23 seconds at a time in the infamous "Vomit Comet").

As a result, it's easy to forget just how much the lack of gravity dictates life for today's space explorers. Motion sickness, difficulty remaining stationary and oriented, and bone and muscle deterioration are just a few of the problems astronauts can face. So why don't we have artificial gravity on ISS?

The most realistic method of producing artificial gravity aboard a space station is using centripetal force to produce a pulling sensation toward the "floor" that would mimic the effects of gravity.  In a rotating spaceship, objects inside would be pushed toward the hull. In a spaceship designed to produce artificial gravity, you'd walk around perpendicular to the "wall" you were stuck to. Click here. (5/3)

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