May 14, 2013

China Reportedly Performs ASAT Test Disguised as Suborbital Rocket (Source: Space Safety)
China conducted a test of new anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon on Monday according to officials. The missile, which was identified as the new Dong Ning-2 ASAT missile, was launched from the Xichang Space Launch center. While Chinese authorities have not officially acknowledged the test, they have confirmed that a test of a sounding rocket was performed on Monday. However, an official familiar with intelligence reports stated that it is very likely this was a disguised test of an ASAT and potentially represents a significant advance in Chinese abilities to interfere with both civilian and military satellites belonging to the United States. (5/14)

FSDC Urges Governor to Sign Space Bills, Approve Space Funding (Source: FSDC)
With Florida's Legislative Session now ended, a collection of space-related bills and funding items has been sent to Governor Rick Scott for his approval. The Governor has broad power to veto individual items within the state's $74.5 billion budget and he is likely to target items that were not part of the original budget requests put forward by his office and the House and Senate leadership. Some of the Legislatively approved space items fall in that category.

The Florida Space Development Council has delivered a letter to Gov. Scott urging him to approve the bills and appropriations that would promote statewide space industry expansion and diversification. Here is a copy of the letter, and here is FSDC's chart summarizing the space-related issues that were considered by the Legislature this year. (5/14)

Lockheed Still Awaiting Sequestration Guidance (Source: Space News)
More than a month after Congress and the president agreed to a budget for the remaining half of the current fiscal year, Lockheed Martin, the largest U.S. space and defense contractor, is still awaiting guidance from its government customers on how to implement the indiscriminate across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, the company’s top official said.

The Department of Defense, which is facing a sequestration cut of some 8 percent to all of its programs, is asking Congress for the flexibility to shuffle funding among different accounts to preserve its top priorities. Cuts of that size could disrupt major development and production programs, forcing delays and driving up costs. Lockheed Martin officials have said they expect sequestration to lead to about $825 million in lost revenue this year. (5/14)

Two New Centers to Drive UK Space Activity (Source: BBC)
Two major elements in Britain's space strategy have been officially unveiled in Oxfordshire. One is the European Space Agency's (ESA) first technical center in the UK, to be known as the European Center for Space Applications and Telecoms.

The other is the Satellite Applications Catapult, one of seven new government initiatives intended to drive innovation in growing areas of the British economy. Both centers are on the Harwell campus. Their co-location is quite deliberate. The Oxfordshire science park, most visible for its giant Diamond synchrotron facility, is already home to a lot of space activity, not least the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which builds and tests satellite equipment. (5/14)

Bigelow Aerospace: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
Robert Bigelow has stated that his ultimate goal is to use his inflatable modules as the core of a Moon spacecraft and base, and later on a Mars spacecraft and base...the original objectives of the NASA Transhab project [which introduced the concept of inflatable habitats]. Should this be achieved, Transhab will have come full circle.

In many ways, the evolution of TransHab technology has also served as the template for the NewSpace industry of today. A game-changing technology initially developed under government auspices, then passed on to the private sector to be refined and monetized, in turn driving new industries forward.

Transhab’s journey has been a long and near-fatal one. Though a good idea, its success was anything but assured. Inflatable habitats were a technology preserved and refined by people who foresaw a time when they would be needed. This time is now upon us. In the words of Victor Hugo, ‘No army can withstand the power of an idea whose time has come’. (5/14)

Space Florida and NASA-KSC Host Egg-Drop Competition for Florida Students (Source: Space Florida)
On Saturday, May 18, Space Florida and NASA Kennedy Space Center (NASA-KSC) will hold the 4th Annual Planetary Lander Egg-Drop Competition at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, Florida. This annual event will engage 15 high school teams, 19 middle school teams and 10 elementary school teams from various Florida counties.

Each team will build “planetary landers” from which a raw egg, symbolizing a payload, must remain intact as it drops nearly 20 feet, just as a real NASA lander would deliver a payload on the moon, Mars or an asteroid. Teams will build their planetary landers to fit into a 10x10x12-inch container, and the landers may be constructed of all forms of aluminum, plastic, wood or soft foam. (5/14)

Cabana Provides KSC Budget Specifics (Source: Florida Today)
During a luncheon sponsored by the National Space Club's Florida Committee, KSC Director Bob Cabana provided a rundown of KSC's $2.29 billion budget allocations for FY-2014. The KSC money is divided into four categories, including $1.127 billion for Exploration (including Commercial Crew at $779M; Exploration Ground Systems at $317M; Advanced Exploration Systems at $18M; Orion/MPCV at $8M; and SLS at $3.6M); $187M for Space Operations (including 21st Century Launch Complex at $38M; Launch Services Program at $77M; and ISS at $71M); $394M for LSP Science procurements; and $20M for Space Technology (SBIR and STTR at $10M; and "Cross-cutting at $10M). (5/14)

Orbcomm Blasts Iridium’s ”Confusing and Optimistic” Caterpillar Claims (Source: Space News)
Satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) services and hardware provider Orbcomm has come out swinging at competitor Iridium’s claims that Iridium has locked up most of heavy-equipment builder Caterpillar’s future satellite M2M business, spiriting away a major Orbcomm customer. In occasionally blistering remarks delivered during a conference call with investors, Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc J. Eisenberg said the Iridium claims were “confusing and optimistic.” (5/14)

Florida Among States Poised to Dominate the Drone Economy (Source: CNN)
Florida possesses a lot of the same advantages as California -- a robust existing aerospace and military presence, a vast maritime environment for UAS testing, easygoing year-round weather for flight testing. But there's another reason to like Florida: Education. Between NASA's Space Coast and a sizeable military aerospace presence, Florida is already home to a workforce of highly-skilled aerospace personnel -- many of whom are currently looking for something new to occupy them as the Space Shuttle program has wound down -- and it's generating more all the time.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach is one of the few American universities offering a specialized program in UAS design and operations -- something UAS designers and manufacturers desperately need as their industry grows. AUVSI lists Florida as No. 4 in its ranking of states poised to benefit from the integration of UAS into the national airspace, but with such a solid aerospace engineering foundation, it wouldn't be surprising if it were to challenge Texas for its number three slot. (5/13)

Christmas Day Lift-Off for Virgin Galatic and Abu Dhabi (Source: The National)
Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group co-owns Virgin Galactic, told media in Dubai that he would be on board the first public flight on December 25. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher are believed to have also bought tickets for the flight. The news follows the first successful test of SpaceShipTwo, that took off from a space port in the Mojave Desert in California on April 29. (5/14)

ISS Crewmates Ride Soyuz Capsule Safely Back To Earth (Source: Huffington Post)
A Soyuz space capsule with a three-man crew returning from a five-month mission to the International Space Station landed safely Tuesday on the steppes of Kazakhstan. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Thomas Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko landed as planned southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:31 a.m. local time Tuesday. (5/14)

Jeff Bingham To Leave Senate Commerce Committee (Source: Space News)
Jeff Bingham, a key staffer in congressional decisions about the future of NASA's program for the past eight years, has announced that he is leaving the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Bingham will continue to work with the committee over the next several weeks transitioning his responsibilities to a new team led by Bailey Edwards.  He plans to remain deeply involved in space issues, but his specific plans were not announced. (5/13)

How Living in Space Affected Chris Hadfield’s Health (Source: Global News)
Space travel can wear out the human body – that’s why astronauts are limited to spending just six months orbiting about 400 kilometers above Earth. Calcium is stripped from the bones. Muscles atrophy. And the sense of “up” and “down” is affected, at least temporarily, according to the Canadian Space Agency.

Zero gravity does a number on their bodies – it’s akin to breaking your leg and staying in bed with a cast on, said Dr. Richard Hughson, a University of Waterloo professor and principal investigator in a few Canadian Space Agency sponsored projects. “We know that if you take away activity then muscle, bone and cardiovascular systems all start to deteriorate,” Hughson said.

“Some people come back from space really having lots of difficulty with their regulation of blood pressure and they feel dizzy easily, others come back and they feel pretty good.” “If (Hadfield) needs to move a 100-kilogram object in space, he just pushes it with his finger and it floats away. You don’t do the same thing on Earth,” Hughson said. “When he is moving and spinning around, the actual energy cost of that is almost like rolling around in bed. It really is a dramatic reduction in the energy expenditure,” Hughson explained. (5/13)

EADS First-Quarter Profit Rises (Source: Bloomberg)
European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. (EAD) posted higher first-quarter earnings as its Airbus unit more than doubled profit on higher deliveries of commercial jets. Earnings before interest, tax and one-time items rose 56 percent to 741 million euros ($963 million), while Airbus profit on that basis increased to 608 million euros, EADS said in a statement today. Profit at EADS exceeded an estimate for 607 million euros in a survey of analysts by Bloomberg. The company maintained its outlook for this year. (5/14)

Sun Uncorks Double-Barreled Blast (Source: USA Today)
The sun has unleashed a pair of solar flares accompanied by twin solar storm outbursts, NASA reported on Monday. The blasts aren't aimed at the Earth, so we shouldn't feel their effects, but they do represent the first "X-class" solar flares of the year, the strongest class of solar eruptions. They clocked in at X1.7-class and an X2.8-class flares, according to NASA. The strongest one yet recorded in the current solar cycle of sunspot activity was an X6.9 in 2011. (5/13)

SpaceX's Spaceport America Lease Worth $237,000 (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will owe New Mexico $6,600 per month on its new lease at the Spaceport America complex. SpaceX is planning to test is reusable rocket, the Grasshopper, at Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico. Last week the company announced it has signed a three-year lease with the state. That lease will bring in $237,000 to the Spaceport, said David Wilson, a Spaceport America spokesman.

The real money will come when SpaceX starts launching the Grasshopper 1.1 The fee is $25,000 for every launch. SpaceX said it is unsure when, exactly, it will start testing at Spaceport America, or how many launches are planned. So far, the 10-story Grasshopper 1.1 rocket, which lands on six retractable legs, has flown several hundred feet and landed successfully in the California desert. (5/13)

The Time To Organize Space Is Now (Source: Space News)
The time to organize space is now, and it can be done quickly if the leading spacefaring countries finally gather the political will to do so. There is a valid model of international cooperation: the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which safeguards national sovereignty while effectively achieving the results that we all witness daily in managing air traffic.

The ICAO Convention was drafted and agreed to within a matter of months in Chicago toward the end of World War II, when the military potential of aviation was fully demonstrated and the civil aviation we know today was only a visionary’s dream. The ICAO Convention made aviation into the success story we all know.

Let's address space safety and sustainability concerns separately from security issues. There are different levels of cooperation that can be achieved in these fields, and they are orders of magnitude apart. Let’s establish a global civil space traffic and environment management framework while developing a minimum set of civil and military traffic interoperability rules. It was done for air traffic, and it can be done for space traffic. Let’s give civil/commercial space traffic a chance to get organized quickly. We cannot wait another 30 years to get an ICAO for space. (5/13)

'Einstein's Planet': New Alien World Revealed by Relativity (Source:
Einstein's special relativity has proven more useful than ever, as scientists have now used it to discover an alien planet around another star. The newfound world — nicknamed "Einstein's planet" by the astronomers who discovered it — is the latest of more than 800 planets known to exist beyond our solar system, and the first to be found through this method.

The planet, officially known as Kepler-76b, is 25 percent larger than Jupiter and weighs about twice as much, putting it in a class known as "hot Jupiters." The world orbits a star located about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The researchers capitalized on subtle effects predicted by Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity to find the planet. The first is called the "beaming" effect, and occurs when light from the parent star brightens as its planet tugs it a nudge closer to Earth, and dims as the planet pulls it away. Relativistic effects cause photons to pile up and become focused in the direction of the star's motion. (5/13)

15 Aircraft Set to Ensure ISS Crew Lands Safely (Source: RIA Novosti)
Fifteen aircraft and six rescue vehicles will be deployed to ensure the safe recovery of the Soyuz TMA-07M landing capsule when it brings back to Earth three members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew early on Tuesday, the Russian aviation agency Rosaviatsia said. The spacecraft is expected to land in a designated area in Kazakhstan at around 06.31 Moscow time. The aircraft include three planes and 12 Mi-8 helicopters, Rosaviatsia said in a statement on Monday. (5/13)

Was Henry Ford II Right on Transmission Demand? (Source: Space News)
Henry Ford II was a strong advocate of telecommunications services. He had observed that the cost of transportation continued to rise while the cost of communication dropped. In 1976 I had the opportunity for a private meeting with the Ford Motor Co. chairman after winning the competition for Intelsat 5. I described the rapid growth in demand for Intelsat voice circuits. The graphic showed steady geometric growth into the future.

Mr. Ford said, “When will this demand begin to saturate? Surely it will grow at slower rates in the future. Every process saturates eventually. You must figure out when that will happen. It will be important for your business.” Henry Ford was literally correct. The circuit-switched telephony or trunk traffic business of Intelsat came to an end. It was replaced by fiber optic cables under the sea and across the land. The number of voice circuits, which were examined by Mr. Ford, has indeed dropped dramatically, essentially toward zero.

On the other hand, over the past 35 years, it appears that Henry Ford was generally wrong. What has happened is that the types of communications services have changed from voice to data. Telecommunications growth has expanded for decades in an almost unrelenting fashion. There have been brief periods in the early 1980s and early 2000s when demand declined slightly. (5/13)

UCF Professors Awarded NASA Grants for Psychology Research (Source: Central Florida Future)
For two UCF professors, the days of space exploration are far from over. NASA has awarded UCF $56.8 million in grants for space research. In April, Eduardo Salas received two grants from NASA totaling in $1.8 million, and Richard Eastes received $55 million from NASA. The grant marks the first Florida university-led NASA science mission. It’s the largest grant to be received by UCF for an individual project. Click here. (5/13)

Governor Considers Former Congressman Allen West for Lt. Governor (Source: Huffington Post)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) opened the door to a comeback for former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) Friday, saying he'd be a "great" pick for his second in command. Scott said he believes West would be a good pick to fill the lieutenant governor's office, vacated in March by former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R). Scott has indicated he will name Carroll's successor soon, and had planned to wait until after the state Legislature adjourned last week.

Scott told WFLA that he had not settled on a pick for lieutenant governor, but then praised West, saying that the former congressman "is a great American and a great patriot ... he'd be a great lieutenant governor." Scott's pick for lieutenant governor would likely be his running mate in 2014. He is facing an uphill reelection campaign, with only a third of Floridians saying that he should win a second term. Editor's Note: The new Lieutenant Governor will also lead Space Florida's board of directors. (5/13)

Who Has the Right to Mine an Asteroid? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Suddenly, the idea of asteroid mining is everywhere. As a recent feature here in Popular Mechanics noted, asteroid mining has gone from a "someday" idea to a business plan for more than one company. As a professor who's been writing, teaching, and practicing space law since the 1980s, I say, why not? Asteroids are valuable, they're out there, and they are free for the taking. Or are they?

Asteroids are certainly available, and they're valuable. More than 750,000 asteroids measure at least 1 kilometer across, and millions of smaller objects are scattered throughout the solar system, mostly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even a comparatively small asteroid is potentially quite valuable, both on Earth and in space. But if you go get an asteroid and bring it back, is it yours? On Earth, of course, no one would open a mine without being sure they owned the land or at least the mineral rights. The same is true in space.

But while mining law on Earth is pretty much settled, asteroid-mining law isn't so clear yet. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prevents nations from making territorial claims beyond Earth: "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means," it states. But what is "national appropriation"? And what is a "celestial body"? Click here. (5/13)

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