June 17, 2013

NEAP: 15 Years Later (Source: Space Review)
Companies today seeking to prospect and mine asteroids aren't the first such ventures. Rex Ridenoure examines the history of SpaceDev and its proposed Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) mission. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2315/1 to view the article. (6/17)

Export Control Reform Enters the Home Stretch (Source: Space Review)
For over a decade, the US space industry has been fighting to reform the restrictions that made it difficult for companies to export satellites and related components. Now, Jeff Foust reports, that battle is nearly over, although not without some last-minute concerns about what technologies will remain under ITAR. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2314/1 to view the article. (6/17)

ISRU Rocket Hopper: an Idea Whose Time has Come? (Source: Space Review)
New technologies and approaches will be required to advance future robotic or human exploration of Mars. Eric Shear outlines how a rocket-powered "hopper" spacecraft, using propellants manufactured on Mars, could accomplish missions a rover or orbiter cannot. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2313/1 to view the article. (6/17)

Earthrise Space and UF Test DART at KSC Runway with Starfighters Jet (Source: GLXP)
Earthrise Space Inc. (ESI) announced today their joint DART (Dust Altitude Recovery Technology) program with Univ. of Florida scientists has passed a critical testing phase by completing a high-speed taxi run at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The DART system is designed to collect atmospheric dust and airborne microorganisms up to 45,000 ft.  Its primary mission will be to collect African dust transported to Florida each year in large-scale dust storm events.

Attached to the underside of an F-104 Starfighter jet, the DART dust collection pod was subjected to G-forces and wind resistance similar to those which it will experience during its eventual flight into the upper troposphere. The DART project is funded by grants from the Florida Space Grant Consortium and the Florida Space Institute.

“The high speed taxi test allowed us to verify our aerodynamic models and mechanical interface,” said Joseph Palaia, ESI’s Chief Operating Officer and Co-Investigator on the project. “With this critical data, we can continue to move the design and construction forward and prepare for our first test flight on the F104 this summer.” (6/17)

Earthrise Space: The Importance of Collaboration for Space Exploration (Source: GLXP)
Partnerships like ESI's Space Act Agreement with Swamp Works are important to the health of the industry, and they are vital to the future of space exploration. Competitions such as the Google Lunar XPRIZE and NASA's Commercial Crew Program serve as a basis for initiating innovation and driving down costs. Indeed they are the fuel injection needed to jump-start America's budget-strapped space industry. However, the true prize is not monetary; the true prize is collaboration. The innovative partnerships that develop as a result of these 'space races' is the driving force behind such competitions.

Isn't that ironic? Competition fosters teamwork. It is often said that if you want to beat your enemy, align with the enemy of your enemy -for he is your friend. As anyone who enters the space industry soon realizes, the enemy is not the other team. The enemy is not the other company. The enemy is not NewSpace, nor is it OldSpace. The enemy isn't even the other country. The enemy is gravity. (6/6)

Michoud Retooled for SLS Development (Source: NASA)
NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier and other agency officials will debut a new machine for manufacturing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and check on development progress with the heavy-lift rocket at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on June 21. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for the vertical weld center, where friction-stir weld tooling will be used to assemble the SLS core stage. (6/17)

Satellite Industry Grew by 7% in 2012 (Source: NASA Watch)
The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its 2013 State of the Satellite Industry Report, showing a 7% growth in world satellite industry revenues in 2012, up from 5% growth in 2011. Globally, 2012 revenues for the satellite industry totaled $189.5 billion, up from $177.3 billion the previous year.

All four industry sectors grew, led by satellite services, the traditional driver for the industry. Both satellite manufacturing and launch services saw significant revenue increases, and satellite ground equipment revenues also continued to expand. (6/17)

Tweaking Export Control Reforms for Hosted Payloads, Suborbital Vehicles (Source: Space Politics)
Last month, the Obama Administration released a draft version of the revised Category XV of the US Munitions List (USML), which covers satellites and related components. Release of the draft started a comment period that lasts until early July, after which officials will review the comments before making any final decisions on what items should remain on the USML and which should be taken off, a process that also requires Congressional notification.

The satellite industry largely sees the proposed revisions to Category XV as a net positive, although not without some concerns. In particular, they’re concerned about the inclusion in the revised USML of “Department of Defense-funded secondary or hosted payload”, which are government payloads—-sensors or communications transponders, typically—-incorporated onto commercial satellites as a secondary payload.

The NewSpace industry is concerned about the inclusion of another items on the proposed Category XV: crewed suborbital spacecraft, which are included as part of the “man-rated sub-orbital, orbital, lunar, interplanetary or habitat” provision in the draft rules. For US companies developing suborbital vehicles, that would mean dealing with ITAR when trying to sell, or even operate, such vehicles outside the US, as well as sharing technical information about them to non-US persons. Click here. (6/17)

Among Engineers, NASA is Still the Cool Place to Work (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The research company Universum recently asked 9,770 undergraduate engineering majors in the United States which employers they would most like to work for. The research firm found that NASA is not only still No. 1 in terms of being the most listed employer, but its share of responses is growing, from one-in-six respondents in 2012 to nearly one-in-five this year.

According to the company, the rankings “reveal how attractive an employer is among students and indicates a company’s position in relation to other ideal employers in the recruitment market.” Despite the fact that it hasn’t flown humans beyond low-Earth in 40 years, and its seeing a declining share of the federal budget and there are serious questions about the stability of its future rocket programs, NASA remains incredibly popular with the general public. (6/17)

Animated GIF to be Beamed Into Space (Source: The Verge)
In 2008 NASA decided to send one of the heights of modern art — The Beatles' 1969 track "Across the Universe" — into the cosmos. And for 2013, one of the pillars of internet folk art is preparing for takeoff: An animated GIF is about to be sent into space for the first time ever. The message will be beamed over a giant radio dish in California tomorrow as part of the inaugural transmission of Lone Signal, a project that's hoping to communicate with extraterrestrials. The GIF will be sent toward Gliese 526, a potentially habitable solar system 17.6 light years away. It should arrive there around 2031.

The GIF features a balding man scratching his ear and has been titled "Humans watching Digital Art." Lone Signal specifically invited the GIF's creator, conceptual artist Kim Asendorf, to contribute a message for the satellite's debut transmission. If you're disappointed with what may be aliens' first impression of Earth, you have reason both for concern and relief — for a nominal cost, Lone Signal will soon allow anyone to send their message of choice out toward the stars. Click here. (6/17)

China Lifts Off Past Europe in Space Travel (Source: DW)
China's advancing technological prowess has reached the point where it has overtaken Europe in the fields of space research and travel. Germany is also finding ways to assist the Asian nation's missions. China's latest space mission to dock with an orbiting space station began this week as three astronauts blasted into orbit on a 15-day mission. Once docked, the three aboard the capsule, two men and one woman, will carry out medical and scientific experiments at China's experimental space laboratory, Tiangong 1. Tiangong is illustrative of the political ambitions China has to pursue its aims in space.              

Scientific experiments at zero gravity will not play a major role in this mission. With their unmanned mission, Shenzhou-8 in 2011, China was able to collaborate with German scientists. The German Aeronautics and Space Research Center (DLR) provided the SIM-box, or Science in Microgravity for the orbital flight. During the mission, 17 biological and medical experiments were conducted.

At the time, Gerd Gruppe, executive member on the space mission board gushed about the cooperation with China. "We managed to jump over the Great Wall of China and land Germany a new partnership in human space flight," he said. China, meanwhile, has overtaken Europe when it comes to space travel and is placed third behind only Russia and the United States among the countries sending people into space. "We are looking at opportunities to use the Chinese space station," Thomas Reiter, head of the European Space Agency's human spaceflight operations, said last month. "Some of our ESA astronauts are already learning Chinese." (6/17)

With Chinese Option Blocked, European-built Satellite to Fly Atop Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
Franco-Italian satellite builder Thales Alenia Space has selected a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch Turkmenistan’s first telecommunications satellite after being blocked by U.S. export rules from shipping the satellite to China for launch, European officials said.

The decision, which was expected, signals at least the temporary end of what has become known as Thales Alenia Space’s “ITAR-free” communications satellite design, which has been used in the past decade to launch about a half-dozen Thales-built satellites and satellite electronics payloads aboard Chinese Long March rockets. This hardware was touted as devoid of U.S. components and thus beyond the reach of U.S. export policy, which bars the shipment of U.S. space technology to China. (6/17)

NASA Selects 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class (Source: NASA)
After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system. Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees.

The 2013 astronaut candidate class comes from the second largest number of applications NASA ever has received -- more than 6,100. The group will receive a wide array of technical training at space centers around the globe to prepare for missions to low-Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars. Click here for brief bios on the four men and four women who were selected. (6/17)

James Webb Space Telescope Gets a Backbone (Source: SEN)
NASA's next big telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, is a step closer to completion with the recent addition of the backplane support frame, a fixture that will be used to connect all the pieces of the telescope together.

The backplane support frame will bring together Webb's centre section and wings, secondary mirror support structure, aft optics system and integrated science instrument module. It will also keep the light path aligned inside the telescope during science observations. ATK of Magna, Utah, finished fabrication under the direction of the observatory's builder, Northrop Grumman Corp. (6/17)

China's Space Program Less Costly (Source: Xinhua)
China's manned space program has achieved rapid development in a "less costly way," a U.S. astrophysicist said Sunday. "China did a great job in successfully sending another three astronauts into space," George Smoot said while visiting the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Smoot, who also received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research into the Big Bang, made the remarks while speaking to the press following a speech he delivered to HIT students and faculty. (6/17)

Ariane 5 Rocket Upgrades Could be Accelerated (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Arianespace's new leader is pushing to accelerate modifications to the Ariane 5 rocket to match a trend toward larger communications satellites equipped with electric propulsion systems, company leaders said. The European launch provider says the Ariane 5's payload accommodations should be adapted to carry satellites with more volume. Future communications spacecraft that replace conventional chemical rocket thrusters with electric propulsion, such as a new Boeing satellite platform, will need more room inside launch vehicles.

"The research shows that if we have a little more volume, it will be a positive thing," said Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel. The push for a "limited adaptation" of the Ariane 5 rocket's payload fairing is Israel's first major initiative since taking over the top job at Arianespace in April. (6/17)

Tiny Submersible Could Search for Life in Europa's Ocean (Source: Space Daily)
One of the first visitors to Jupiter's icy moon of Europa could be a tiny submarine barely larger than two soda cans. The small craft might help strike the right balance between cost and capability for a robotic mission to look for alien life in the ocean beneath Europa's icy crust.

The idea for the incredible shrinking submarine originally came from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and Uppsala University in Sweden. Such a vehicle would help keep mission costs low at a time when launching objects into space can still cost tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. The mission concept also would have the advantage of only requiring a small borehole drilled through the ice covering Europa's surface. (6/13)

NASA Awards Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge Prize (Source: Space Daily)
After two days of extensive competition, Team Survey of Los Angeles was awarded $5,000 in prize money after successfully completing Level 1 of the Sample Return Robot Challenge, a part of NASA's Centennial Challenges prize program. The event, hosted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on June 5-7, drew robotics teams from the United States, Canada and Estonia to compete for a total of $1.5 million in NASA prize money.

Eleven teams arrived to compete at WPI; 10 teams passed the initial inspection and took to the challenge field. After two rounds of Level 1 competition, Team Survey met the $5,000 prize requirements and was declared the winner of this year's competition. (6/12)

LADEE Arrives at Wallops for Moon Mission (Source: Space Daily)
The NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) arrived last week at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to begin final processing for its trip to the moon later this year. LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well. LADEE has three science instruments and one technology demonstration onboard. LADEE's scheduled Sep. 5, 2013, launch will mark several firsts. It will be the first payload to launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp., and the first deep space mission to launch from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility. (6/10)

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