May 8, 2013

Northrop Grumman Completes Lunar Lander Study for Golden Spike (Source: Golden Spike)
Northrop Grumman has completed a feasibility study of new commercial lunar lander configurations for the Golden Spike Company, conceiving of a novel low-mass ascent stage concept for Golden Spike, dubbed “Pumpkin.” Northrop Grumman was contracted by Golden Spike in 2012 to help with the design of a new lander that fits within Golden Spike’s “head start” commercial lunar expedition architecture.

Golden Spike aims to use existing or emerging rockets and commercial-crew spacecraft to provide a safe and efficient lunar transportation system that allows nations, individuals, and corporations to mount their own expeditions to the surface of the Moon. The lander is the only significant part of the architecture that needs to be designed from the ground up. In addition to confirming the viability of various lander concepts for Golden Spike’s lunar expedition architecture, the study identified novel options using a minimalist pressurized ascent pod and descent stage with a surface habitat.

The study also determined there are more options for cryogenic propellants compared with storable propellants for Golden Spike’s mission architecture, but that multiple storable propellant options are possible. Cryogenic propellants have higher performance but are more difficult to contain for the Golden Spike mission duration than storable propellants such as those used in the Apollo program. (5/8)

Virgin Galactic Aims to Fly SS2 in Abu Dhabi in 2-3 Years (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Virgin Galactic could be transporting fee-paying astronaut tourists into near space from its Abu Dhabi spaceport in around two-three years time. That was the message from Steve Landeene, Virgin Galactic's Chief Advisor, Abu Dhabi Spaceport, when talking to Arabian Aerospace at this year's Global Space and Satellite Forum.

Landeene, who was Virgin's director at Spaceport America from 2009 to 2010, said that proposals for the Middle Eastern spaceport in the emirate have been put forward to both the Virgin Galactic board and financial backer Aabar Investments. He added that it is conceivable MENA-based missions could start one or two years after Virgin starts its commercial activities out of New Mexico, USA. (5/7)

Former Indian President Wins Von Braun Award (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society's prestigious Wernher von Braun Memorial Award will be presented to Dr. Abdul Kalam on May 24 at the 2013 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). Dr. Kalam is being honored for his long-time work in and support of India's space program, and his support for space development. Dr. Kalam's life's work parallels that of Dr. Wernher von Braun in many ways. India first developed rockets for military use, but Kalam, like von Braun, has been in the forefront of "turning missiles into space launch vehicles." (5/8)

Senate Dean Blocks SpaceX Bill (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A must-pass proposal for the state to keep entertaining the idea of SpaceX building a rocket launch site in South Texas has met its first roadblock in the Legislature: Senate dean John Whitmire. House Bill 2623 by state Rep. Rene Oliveira would temporarily close Boca Chica Beach during rocket launches if SpaceX decides to invest roughly $100 million to build the equivalent of an airport for rocket ships at a site near Brownsville.

Without the legislation, billionaire entrepreneur and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will gift the launch site to another state competing for the project. So far, the measure has had a smooth ride through the Legislature, passing the full House without any opposition. The smooth sailing came to an abrupt halt Monday — when the proposal hit a snag in the form of the senate’s longest-serving member, who protested that closing down a beach for a private company to launch rockets could set a bad standard. (5/7)

Community Discusses Impact of SpaceX Launch Plan (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Nearly a year after a public hearing concerning the possible SpaceX project at Boca Chica Beach the topic again attracted more than 500 attendees as FAA officials shared the results of the agency’s draft environmental impact statement. Dozens shared their views on the project, which showed a general consensus of cautious optimism that the project — which aims to construct a vertical rocket launch site at the eastern end of State Highway 4 — will bring jobs while making a minimal impact on the environment.

The preliminary FAA study, which was released April 15, shows that while the construction of a launch site would affect wildlife along the shore, those effects could be minimized through certain actions if the federal agency were to grant SpaceX a permit to construct a launch site. SpaceX has said in reports that its launch site would create 1,000 jobs indirectly or directly, all paying in excess of $55,000.

Chuy Abete expressed his concern about the impact the project would have on wildlife, noting that the very structure the hearing was held in had affected the wildlife population — birds, reptiles and more — in the area when it was built decades ago. “You don’t see them anymore,” he said. The 78-year-old cited fishing trips during his childhood when wildlife was abundant at Boca Chica, saying that fishing and other development had reduced those populations as well. “This thing will do the same thing over there,” he said of the SpaceX project. “It’s only common sense.” (5/8)

History of Robotic Red Planet Missions (Source:
Every 26 months there is an opportunity to send a vehicle from Earth to the planet Mars along an efficient, low-energy trajectory. The trip can take six months or more. Probes to Mars often fail; as of July 2012, the success rate was 47 percent. Click here for an infographic showing who's launched what, when, and how they fared. (5/8)

Sounding Rockets Launched from the Marshall Islands (Source: SpaceRef)
The Equatorial Vortex Experiment (EVEX) was successfully conducted during the early morning hours (eastern time) May 7 from Roi Namur, Republic of the Marshall Islands. A NASA Terrier-Oriole sounding rocket was launched at 3:39 a.m. EDT and was followed by a launch of Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket 90 seconds later. Preliminary indications are that both rockets released their vapor clouds of lithium or trimethyl aluminum, which were observed from various locations in the area, and all science instruments on the rockets worked as planned. (5/7)

Virginia’s McAuliffe Boosts Spaceport in Gubernatorial Bid (Source: VTS)
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe officially launched his campaign today in front of a crowd of about 200 in Norfolk laying out his transportation plan and vision for how the next Governor of Virginia can help strengthen and diversify the Commonwealth's economy.

McAuliffe opponent Ken Cuccinelli has not been outspoken on the spaceport. With six months before Virginians go to the polls both gubernatorial candidates will have ample opportunity to reach out Virginians commercial space launch firms scientists rocket and satellite engineers spaceport infrastructure  workers and space enthusiasts to raise the commercial space launch ante. (5/7)

78,000 Apply for Private Mars Colony Project In 2 Weeks (Source:
Huge numbers of people on Earth are keen to leave the planet forever and seek a new life homesteading on Mars. About 78,000 people have applied to become Red Planet colonists with the nonprofit organization Mars One since its application process opened on April 22, officials announced today (May 7). Mars One aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony, with more astronauts arriving every two years thereafter. (5/7)

Military Communications Satellite Put Atop Delta 4 (Source:
Pushing forward with plans to launch the Air Force's fifth Wideband Global SATCOM communications satellite on May 22 to give the expanding constellation worldwide coverage, the craft departed its cleanroom Monday night and headed for the Delta 4 rocket's launch pad. United Launch Alliance workers at Cape Canaveral's Complex 37 hoisted the spacecraft atop the booster on Tuesday to complete assembly of the 217-foot-tall rocket. (5/7)

SES-6 Launch Campaign Begins at Baikonur Spaceport (Source: SES)
SES S.A. announces that the SES-6 satellite has safely arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft is now being processed for launch on board an ILS Proton Breeze M rocket scheduled to lift-off on June 3, 2013. (5/7)

Time to Get Serious About Going to Mars, NASA Says (Source:
If NASA is to land humans on Mars by the 2030s, as President Barack Obama has directed, there's not much time to settle on a plan and develop the technologies required, agency officials said Monday. In the 1960s, America seized an opportunity to go to the moon, and succeeded. A second opportunity for a leap forward in space is upon us now, said NASA chief Charles Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars Summit.

Sending astronauts to the Red Planet will likely require at least three missions: one to launch the crew and the vehicle that will take them to Mars, one to launch the habitat humans will live on at the planet's surface, and one to launch the vehicle that will lift off from Mars to take the crew home, said Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate who now heads a space consulting firm.

Overall, about 200 to 400 metric tons of equipment will have to be launched from Earth's surface for the project — a mass roughly equivalent to that of the International Space Station. And about 40 metric tons of that mass will have to be delivered to the surface of Mars at one time. So far, NASA has been able to land only 1 metric ton at a time — a feat recently accomplished in nail-biting fashion when the agency landed the Curiosity rover last summer. (5/7)

ESA Approves Biomass Satellite to Monitor Earth's Forests (Source: BBC)
A satellite that can "weigh" the Earth's forests has just been given the go ahead by the European Space Agency. Biomass, as it will be known, is expected to launch in 2020. The spacecraft will carry a novel radar system that is able to sense the trunks and big branches of trees from orbit. Scientists will use Biomass to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the world's forests, and to monitor for any changes over the course of the five-year mission. (5/7)

Chiao: Don't Let Them Hijack Our Dreams (Source: Discovery)
National Public Radio (NPR) recently reported that funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH) has been cut so much that, while previously one in three proposals would get funded, now only one in ten are expected to receive research money. So much for advancing the state-of-the-art in medical research.

And this is just one area of meaningful public funding that is being cut. Don’t get me started about the U.S. Space Program. I understand that the world has changed since the terror attacks of 911, and I certainly support the need for funding national security needs. I also understand that news media need to cover what interests the public, for both service and business survival reasons.

However, I have come to realize that terrorists and criminals are not only affecting our security concerns, they are also hijacking our future dreams. Nothing good happens without funding, and if the public and politicians don’t hear about the good things that the funding creates, it ends. Let’s not let them win. Let’s make a decision to go on with pushing forward in our lives, instead of hunkering down. Let’s go on to advance the state-of-the-art in interesting things that are beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole. (5/7)

A New Direction For Japan’s Space Program? (Source: Aviation Week)
The first order of business for new Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) leader Naoki Okumura will be to reorient his nation's space program from advanced development to activities that may produce some commercial return on investment. Based on the latest five-year “Basic Plan” for space promulgated by the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP), the new direction is putting pressure on JAXA to cut, postpone or reduce to research and development some or most of the agency's flagship science, technology and manned spaceflight programs. (5/7)

Sierra Nevada Passes Second NASA Commercial Crew Checkpoint (Source: Flight Global)
Sierra Nevada has achieved its second milestone under NASA's commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) program to develop the Dream Chaser, earning the company $45 million as the vehicle prepares for glide testing. The company has completed the program implementation review and the integrated system baseline review, the first two of ten CCiCap goals. Upon completion of the tenth and last milestone and delivery of the final payment, the company will have received a total of $212.5 million, roughly half that of fellow awardees (and competitors) Boeing and SpaceX.

The milestone completions come as the first Dream Chaser, a winged lifting body, is packed for shipping to Edwards AFB from the company's factory in Louisville, Colorado. At Edwards AFB the aircraft will be lifted to altitude by a helicopter and glide back to the runway, testing its aerodynamic performance. A second Dream Chaser, the first example capable of spaceflight, is under fabrication at Lockheed Martin's Michaud factory in Louisiana. (5/6)

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