May 10, 2013

Hurricanes and Launch Pads: Advantage Shiloh? (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA spent some $15 million to shore-up their Wallops Island spaceport after Hurricane Sandy's storm surge damaged some of the service areas and facilities around the new Antares launch pad. This damage was likely one cause of the launch pad's delayed availability to Orbital Sciences for its first Antares mission. Beach erosion and storm surge from summer hurricanes are chronic problems for Wallops Island and at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, but Texas' proposed Boca Chica launch site could be particularly vulnerable.

The sand-blasted Boca Chica location has clearly seen its share of water coming over the dunes, as shown in this aerial shot of the site, and this satellite image. If SpaceX builds a launch pad there, they'll have to do some serious storm-proofing--something that has already been done at existing Cape Canaveral launch pads--and even then they could see their investment washed away with another direct-hit in the Brownsville area.

Meanwhile, the Shiloh site proposed for SpaceX and other users in Florida sits in a forest of scrub oaks, pines and orange trees, across the Indian River from a barrier island, and is at a higher elevation than Boca Chica. Among the options being reviewed by SpaceX, only Georgia's proposed spaceport site might offer better natural protection from hurricane storm surge, but this site is also vulnerable. (5/10)

Sequestration Could Slow NASA, NSF Search for Planets (Source: Florida Today)
Even the search for extraterrestrial life could be hampered by sequestration spending cuts. Officials from NASA and the National Science Foundation told a key House panel Thursday they probably will be forced to scale back space observatory missions or cede important planetary discoveries to other countries unless Congress averts another year of the cuts.

Sequestration already has forced a delay of several months in NASA's plans to perform an "all-sky survey" to look for nearby planets -- from Earth-sized to gas giants -- outside the solar system, said John M. Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. "If we continue into a sequestered environment, then we're going to have to look at perhaps turning off an operating observatory or cutting back further on the development of new missions," he told members of Congress. (5/10)

What's Coming for NASA's Hangar S? (Source: Florida Today)
Before NASA’s first astronauts rocketed into space, they trained, slept, received medical exams and donned spacesuits in Hangar S. Their Mercury capsules were processed in the same facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which was built to support the nation’s first satellite program. President John F. Kennedy honored John Glenn’s pioneering orbital flight there in 1962.

Despite a history dating from the space program’s origins through the shuttle era, Hangar S has not yet made the cut as one of the nearly 100 local properties NASA recognizes as historically significant. Now an Indiana man’s objection to that perceived slight has forced Kennedy Space Center to take another look at its facilities and at least delay the hangar’s date with a wrecking ball.

“I just can’t see how one can escape the conclusion that Hangar S is, in fact, historic,” said Steven Kovachevich, a 55-year-old lawyer and real estate broker from Gary, Ind. Similar debates are sure to play out as Kennedy continues a massive post-shuttle transition that will see dozens more facilities either repurposed or demolished, some historic. Click here. (5/10)

$100-million Space Shuttle Atlantis Opening June 29 at KSC (Source: KSCVC)
The countdown is on for the launch of Space Shuttle AtlantisSM, the new $100-million, 90,000-square-foot home of the historic spacecraft, opening June 29 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This one-of-a-kind experience delivers extraordinary access to Space Shuttle Atlantis – from only a few feet away, guests of all ages will be awed and inspired with an up-close, 360-degree view of this priceless artifact, the wear of its 33 missions apparent on its protective external tiles. (5/10)

Intelsat Feeling Sequestration’s Pinch (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on May 9 added its name to the list of commercial satellite owners whose business is feeling the effects of forced U.S. government spending cuts, known as sequestration, saying its government business would almost certainly shrink this year compared to 2012.

In a May 9 conference call with investors, officials from Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat said that so far, the reductions in U.S. military spending on commercial satellite bandwidth have mainly affected Intelsat’s “off network” revenue, meaning contracts managed by Intelsat that feature satellite capacity provided by other fleet operators. (5/10)

Shiloh: Part of Cape Canaveral Spaceport? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's efforts to establish a new non-federal launch site at the north end of NASA's Kennedy Space Center (on ~150 acres managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) have gained support from local governments and grassroots organizations. But the final decision on whether the property will be transferred to Space Florida rests with NASA, possibly pending the outcome of FAA-supported feasibility reviews.

If the property is released and the project moves forward, would Shiloh become a separate spaceport, or will the launch pad(s) become part of the "Cape Canaveral Spaceport"? The current boundaries for the Cape Canaveral Spaceport--as established in Chapter 331, Part Two, Florida Statutes--include the Shiloh property up to the Brevard County line. But Shiloh rests on the border of Brevard, spilling into neighboring Volusia County. Establishing the entire Shiloh site as part of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport would require only a minor statutory change during an upcoming Legislative Session in Tallahassee. (5/10)

DigitalGlobe’s NGA Contract Shielded from Sequestration (Source: Space News)
Satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe has received word from its principal U.S. government customer that the company’s centerpiece imagery-delivery contract will not suffer from the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration that are sweeping through U.S. government agencies. The notification came in a letter from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). DigitalGlobe is guaranteed a monthly revenue stream from the EnchancedView contract if it meets performance milestones and concludes investments including remote ground stations and a new satellite, called WorldView 3. (5/10)

International Space Station Ammonia Leak 'Very Serious' (Source: The Telegraph)
Russian and US space experts were scrambling to address a "very serious" ammonia leak outside the International Space Station that may require astronauts to perform an emergency spacewalk, a Russian official said on Friday. "Indeed, they have a serious defect, very serious," Vladimir Solovyov, flight director for the Russian segment of the space station was quoted as saying. NASA earlier said the leak of ammonia used to cool the station's power system, did not pose a danger to astronauts on board. (5/10)

Vietnam to Launch 2nd Remote Sensing Satellite Into Orbit by 2017 (Source: Xinhua)
Vietnam plans to launch the second remote sensing satellite, VNREDSat-1B, into orbit by 2017, after successfully launching the first of this kind on May 7. Vietnam and Belgium reached an agreement upon which Belgian companies under the auspices of Spacebel will manufacture the VNREDSat 1B, which will help monitor the natural resources, natural disasters, and improve management of the territory and main natural resources sources. (5/10)

Dream Chaser Completes Safety Review (Source: America Space)
The Dream Chaser space plane, in development by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), under NASA’s commercial efforts to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station – is one milestone closer to launch. Dream Chaser has wrapped up the Integrated Systems Safety Analysis Review, including reports detailing hazard, safety and reliability plans for the major elements that relate to the Atlas V rocket which will be used to send Dream Chaser to orbit. (5/9)

Ammonia Leak Observed Outside International Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
At around 10:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday, the Expedition 35 crew reported seeing small white flakes floating away from an area of the International Space Station's P6 truss structure. The crew used handheld cameras and Mission Control used external television cameras to gain additional imagery in an attempt to narrow down the leak's location.

The crew reports, along with imagery and data received by flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston, confirmed that the rate of the ammonia leaking from this section of the cooling system has increased. Ammonia is used to cool the station's power channels that provide electricity to station systems. Each solar array has its own independent cooling loop. This ammonia loop is the same one that spacewalkers attempted to troubleshoot a leak on during a spacewalk on Nov. 1, 2012. It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time, was not visible. (5/9)

NASA Advisory Group Opposes Shifts in Education Programs (Source: NASA Watch)
The result of this long-term dedication to education and public outreach is an extremely efficient process where scientists and educators routinely collaborate on developing high-impact content for education and public engagement. In contrast, the proposed realignment shifts all education and outreach efforts far from the actual science being communicated.

The end result may appear to improve the process by removal of functional redundancies, but actually separates the content providers at NASA from the agencies tasked with providing EPO programs. This will likely necessitate new layers of personnel to interface between NASA scientists and educational professionals in the Department of Education, NSF, and the Smithsonian. Furthermore, the new implementation effectively counteracts the astrophysics community's long-standing dedication to outreach and education, by clearly making these activities "somebody else's job. (5/9)

Air Force-Developed Propellant Could Usher In Next Era of Space Travel (Source: US News)
The agency will test out AF-M315, a new class of propellant, in 2015. AF-M315 is about twice as powerful as existing spacecraft propellants and doesn't damage the environment, according to Tom Hawkins, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Aerospace Systems Directorate. The propellant has been under development for more than 10 years by scientists at the Air Force's Office of Scientific Research and the AFRL.

AF-M315, on the other hand, is known as an "energetic ionic liquid" – it's essentially a type of salt in a liquid state. If swallowed, AF-M315 is about as dangerous as coffee and has a "negligible" toxicity if inhaled. It has very little, if any, environmental impact. Hawkins says its costs will be similar to that of hydrazine-based propellants after the 2015 launch, and the propellant will be ready for widespread use.

"The 2015 launch will put into orbit a spacecraft that will demonstrate the propulsion system for the first time in actual use," Hawkins says. "From then, it'll be on the shelf for other launch opportunities." Editor's Note: This article neglects to clarify that the propellant is for in-space use aboard satellites and other spacecraft...not launch vehicles. (5/9)

Lawmakers Urge NASA to be Mindful of Budget Constraints (Source: The Hill)
Lawmakers on Thursday urged NASA to be more realistic about developing space technology in light of budget constraints. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) chided NASA for not making the cost of projects clear to Congress and warned the agency that it risked having them axed entirely. Rohrabacher pressed NASA scientists to give their estimates for a booster for the Space Launch System (SLS) in Huntsville, Ala., but they were unable to provide one.

“There’s a lot of people pushing for the SLS launch system and we don’t even know what the budget is, and we don’t even know where the money is coming from. And it’s really possible if we do that, we’ll just defund all the things the SLS is supposed to carry. Meaning your projects," Rohrabacher said. (5/9)

Lunar Sample Studies Point to Meteorites as Common Earth, Moon Water Source (Source: Aviation Week)
New evidence gathered from studies of lunar magma samples collected by the Apollo 15 and 17 mission astronauts suggest the moon and Earth share a common primary source of water, the carbonaceous chrondrite meteorites from the region of the asteroid belt rather than colliding comets that originated in the more distant regions of the solar system. (5/9)

Vega’s Second Success ‘Confirms Functionality’ (Source: Flight Global)
The European Space Agency and its launch operator, Arianespace, have declared their new light launcher, Vega, to be "fully functional" following its second flight success in two attempts. Vega's second successful flight was described by ESA and Arianespace as an "intricate mission" demonstrating the launcher's flexibility, requiring five upper-stage burns to deliver three satellites - including Vega's first commercial passenger - to two different Sun-synchronous orbits. (5/9)

NASA Plans to Support New Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (Source: NASA)
The Obama Administration is launching competitions to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes supported by five federal agencies -- NASA, the National Science Foundation and the departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce. 

"The president's announcement today of three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes continues the momentum needed to address a crucial competitiveness challenge – the need to close the gap between research and development activities and the deployment of technological innovations that benefits American manufacturers and American-made goods.

"Through NASA's ongoing participation in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, we are assuring the aerospace community, and all American manufacturers, have access to the new knowledge and technology capabilities that are essential for turning research discoveries, inventions and new ideas into better or novel products. Advanced manufacturing, for and in space, holds great promise for NASA as we move forward with our exploration efforts." (5/9)

Students Aim High at NASA Space School (Source: IOM Today)
Two Isle of Man sixth-form students will head to Space school this summer for an experience guaranteed to be out of this world. Castle Rushen High School student Christopher Clarke-Halewood and Alex Eaton, of Queen Elizabeth II High School, will take their place alongside students from 21 other countries at NASA’s United Space School, in Houston, Texas. Working in cooperation with the Department of Education and Children, island-based ManSat has been offering these annual scholarships since 2000. (5/9)

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