June 10, 2013

HASC Wants Answers on DOD Use of Foreign Commercial Satellites (Source: Space Policy Online)
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) has released the text of the draft FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) his committee will markup on Wednesday. Among the provisions in the 426-page bill, H.R.1960, is one that requires the Secretary of Defense to answer questions about why DOD leases communications satellite services from certain countries subject to U.S. sanctions.

At a hearing before HASC's Strategic Forces subcommittee in April, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Doug Loverro revealed that DOD is leasing services on a Chinese-owned communications satellite. The revelation came as a surprise considering that many House Republicans are opposed to civilian space cooperation with China and the law prohibits NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from spending any money in connection with China unless certain conditions are met. No similar restrictions have been placed on DOD, however. At least not yet. (6/3)

Is Catching An Asteroid The Best Way To Mars? (Source: Aviation Week)
Frustrated lawmakers on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee may force a public debate on U.S. human spaceflight plans as they prepare a new authorization bill for NASA this summer. Their efforts may actually bring an important discussion about what the U.S. is doing in civil space out of closed government meeting rooms and into the view of taxpayers, who ultimately will fund it. At issue, as stated with unusual clarity by science-panel leaders in a May 21 hearing, is the best way to send humans to Mars.

Members of both parties were lukewarm at best in their assessment of the space agency's new plan to capture a small asteroid and divert it into lunar orbit for astronauts to study from an Orion capsule. Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee, said he worries the asteroid-capture plan is “a detour” on the way to Mars. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the space panel, warns that “before we look at interim steps, we need first to understand what it takes to get to Mars.” (6/3)

Bolden Lacks Faith in America (Source: Citizens in Space)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has explained his recent comment that NASA is not going back to the Moon. In the process, he demonstrates a certain myopia: "I have never said the United States is not going back to the lunar surface. I just said that in the foreseeable future, given the budget that NASA currently has and given where we are and what we need technologically if we’re going to go to Mars, then it will not be the United States that leads an expedition to the lunar surface."

Editor's Note: I think Bolden was referring to NASA when he said "United States." Obviously there are U.S. commercial efforts aimed at the Moon and NASA will likely support them. (6/4)

Experimental Radar at KSC Keeps Eye on Asteroids (Source: Florida Today)
In a remote area of Kennedy Space Center, NASA lifted the veil on a project that could lead to a sophisticated early-warning system — one that could save the world from inbound asteroids that could slam into the planet and snuff out the human species. “This is a technology demonstration that could help us identify some of those objects,” said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot – the agency’s highest ranked civil servant.

And the three-year project also could help NASA spot an asteroid to go fetch for a human expedition outlined in President Barack Obama’s proposed $17.7 billion budget for NASA in 2014. Situated near alligator-infested swamps and lakes at KSC, three 40-foot-diameter radar antenna dishes stand in a triangular formation, each 197 feet apart.

Antenna operators put them through the paces, commanding the dishes to make slight, repeated movements to track the sun. A slow, audible whoosh-whoosh washed over the site. It sounded like a giant windshield wiper at work. Mark Seibert, a manager with the technology development office at KSC, said the three antennas are linked together by computers and custom-made algorithms. (6/5)

Space Solar Power: Key to a Livable Planet Earth (Source: NSS)
National Space Society (NSS) announces a new space solar power international initiative. NSS endorses this initiative and will work to forge an international organization involving America, India and other nations to develop space solar power. This has the potential of solving humanity's energy needs and greatly mitigating climate change.

The following is a joint statement of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of the Republic of India and Mr. Mark Hopkins, Executive Committee Chairman, National Space Society. We, Dr. Kalam and Mr. Hopkins, have long shared humanity's dream of all nations living together in prosperity and peace and moving forwards through global collaboration in space to meet the challenges that now face our Planet Earth.

We are conscious that all nations have to strive to make our planet livable again, after centuries of devastation of its environment and ecosystems and rapid depletion of its precious mineral resources, including fossil fuels and fresh water. Today, we begin working together to realize such a 21st Century global collaboration; and together help to lay the structural foundation for an international collaboration to develop and deploy space solar power systems. (6/10)

NASA Looks to 'Discover New Worlds' with Consumer Technology (Source: Wall Street Journal)
NASA is turning to consumer technology to help cut costs for missions. The agency is suffering financially from the effects of sequestration. "We want to discover new worlds with consumer devices that make the missions more affordable," said Tom Soderstrom of JPL. The agency has created an "IT petting zoo" where it experiments with emerging consumer technology. Click here. (6/4)

Sierra Nevada Begins Dream Chaser Hybrid Motor Testing (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada announces the successful start of the latest phase of hybrid rocket motor qualification testing for the Dream Chaser flight vehicle. SNC completed two tests this week at its rocket test facility in San Diego. A motor firing and ignition test was completed in preparation for upcoming motor tests under the current Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) award. SNC will conduct another series of hybrid motor firings to meet the next CCiCap contracted milestone beginning this summer.

After required modifications were completed, the test firing was conducted in order to validate Dream Chaser’s motor test stand. This was after required modifications were completed and to ensure that SNC can move forward with the future heavy weight motor test series with minimal test stand risk. The Dream Chaser version of the hybrid rocket motor was last tested in 2010 under the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev1) Space Act Agreement during which SNC completed three successful test firings of a single hybrid motor in one day. (6/10)

U.S. Air Force Soliciting Input on Launch Services (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is asking industry for feedback on ways to enhance competition in the national security launch market, according to a notice published in the Federal Register May 29. The feedback is being requested by the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, Richard McKinney, as part of an ongoing strategic National Security Space Launch Assessment.

The notice asks launch companies for information including short- and long-term plans for offering launch services to the Defense Department, any critical issues of concern and recommendations for improving or lowering the cost of launch services. The Air Force procures launch services under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, whose costs have soared in the past several years.

Currently, the Air Force is negotiating the purchase of up to 36 rocket cores over five years from the incumbent EELV contractor, United Launch Alliance of Denver, and plans to competitively award an additional 14 missions to give newcomers such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. a chance. (6/3)

Chinese Shenzhou Spacecraft Set to Launch in Mid-June (Sources: SpaceFlightNow.com, NASA Watch)
Chinese engineers transferred a 191-foot-tall Long March rocket to the launch pad Monday as officials gear up for liftoff of China's next human spaceflight in mid-June, state media reported. The Long March 2F rocket rolled about one mile from an assembly building to the launch pad at the Jiuquan space center, a military-run base in northwest China's Gobi desert.

It took an hour to complete the rollout, according to China's state-run CCTV television network. Sitting atop a mobile launch platform, the Long March 2F was towed along dual rail tracks amid throngs of employees and guests at the remote launch base. The rocket and China's Shenzhou 10 spacecraft reached the launch pad at about 10:15 a.m. Beijing time, according to an update posted online by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The Shenzhou-10 manned spacecraft will be launched at 5:38 p.m. Tuesday, said China's manned space program spokeswoman on Monday. The spacecraft will take three astronauts, two male and one female, into the space, said Wu Ping, the program's spokeswoman. (6/10)

NASA Announces 2013 Space Technology Research Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 65 graduate students as the 2013 class of Space Technology Research Fellows. This third class of space technology graduate students will conduct research relevant to agency technology challenges aligned with NASA's space technology roadmaps, while pursuing degrees in related disciplines at their respective institutions. Editor's Note: One Florida student was selected. Drew Burgett from USF will study radiation-resistance and power efficiency for nano-magnetic logic. (6/10)

China Reveals First Space-Based Quantum Communications Experiment (Source: MIT Tech Review)
The Chinese claim another small victory in the quantum space race. Jian-Wei Pan at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai and a few pals say they've bounced single photons off an orbiting satellite and detected them back on Earth. That's significant because it simulates a satellite sending single photons from orbit to the Surface, crossing off another proof-of-principle milestone in their quantum checklist.

"... Why publish it now? The answer may be a small but significant detail revealed in the final paragraph of the paper. Here Jian-Wei and co announce that they plan to launch the first quantum science experiment into space. The spacecraft is called the Chinese Quantum Science Satellite and it is scheduled for launch in 2016." (6/10)

Suborbital Research Enters a Time of Transition (Source: Space Review)
For the last several years, scientists and spaceflight advocates have been promoting suborbital reusable launch vehicles as an ideal platform for research. Now, Jeff Foust reports, those efforts may finally be paying off as those vehicles get closer to flight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2311/1 to view the article. (6/10)

"We Don't Take Girls": Hillary Clinton and Her NASA Letter (Source: Space Review)
Former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said on multiple occasions that she wrote to NASA as a girl and was told she could not become an astronaut. James Oberg examines what records exist of that era to see how likely it would have been for NASA to send such a letter. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2310/1 to view the article. (6/10)

A Values-Based Approach Toward National Space Policy (Source: Space Review)
A long-standing challenge in national space policy is developing compelling rationale for human spaceflight. Matt Greenhouse argues that human spaceflight can provide value by supporting missions of discovery. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2309/1 to view the article. (6/10)

Red Dreams (Source: The Economist)
Mars has always been Shangri-La for space buffs. Two new private missions show that its lure is as strong as ever. Two privately run organizations in particular—Inspiration Mars, brainchild of Dennis Tito, an American tycoon who became the world’s first space tourist in 2001, and Mars One, run by Bas Lansdorp, a Dutch entrepreneur—have announced plans to send people to Mars without relying on the resources of a state.

Mr Lansdorp admits that, on hearing about his plans, people’s first response is that he must be crazy. But both he and Mr Tito (who started his career as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena, which runs NASA’s unmanned Mars missions) insist they are serious. Technical studies have been done, astronaut applications are being processed and deals are being signed with the firms that will build the spacecraft. Click here. (6/1)

Craig Keeps Crucial Technology Operating (Source: Florida Today)
Craig Technologies recently showed off a shuttle-era facility it plans to use to capture new business in what a NASA official called a good example of public-private cooperation. Nearly a year after reaching an agreement with the space agency that allowed Craig Technologies to take possession of hundreds of pieces of machine shop and lab equipment used in the space shuttle program, the company opened its facility for a public peek.

Craig Technologies’ five-year Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center led to the company consolidating its operations in Melbourne and at Port Canaveral into the 161,000-square-foot property formerly known as the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot in Cape Canaveral. The company, which employes about 340 people, intends to use the equipment to service private companies’ space ventures, and to provide other aerospace and manufacturing services.

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, who joined about 125 community leaders for a tour of the facility, said the unique arrangement with Craig Technologies was mutually beneficial. Cabana said the arrangement with Craig Technologies is saving NASA about $3.4 million. “I think that’s fantastic,” he said. (6/4)

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