June 18, 2013

Small Satellites Soar in High-Altitude Demonstration (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Four tiny spacecraft soared over the California desert on June 15 in a high-altitude demonstration flight that tested the sensor and equipment designs created by NASA engineers and student launch teams. The CubeSats lifted off from the Friends of Amateur Rocketry launch site in the Mojave Desert aboard a Prospector 18 rocket, built by Garvey Spacecraft Corp. of Long Beach.

Data recorded by the CubeSats' onboard sensors during Saturday's flight test will help characterize the environment and loads the small satellites encountered during flight -- information that's critical to the scientists and engineers developing similar spacecraft for future missions. While they typically fly as secondary payloads on larger missions involving bigger spacecraft and rockets, the goal is to eventually have the option of launching them as the primary payload on smaller rockets.

Editor's Note: Among the Cubesat payloads on this rocket was StangSat, developed by students at Merritt Island High School (Go Mustangs!) on Florida's Space Coast. (6/18)

Skylon Testing Success for Fine Tubes and Reaction Engines (Source: SpaceRef)
After a decade of work with Reaction Engines - developers of the Skylon reusable space plane - Fine Tubes can announce that testing of its contribution has been a success. The company manufactured over 2000km of tubing for Skylon, with each tube at a wall thickness of just half the diameter of a human hair.

Reaction Engines' objective is so challenging that a lot of goals had to be met; the tubes had to be lightweight, highly heat and pressure resistant, and have a strength that could cope with thermal expansions. The resulting heat exchangers are 100 times lighter than existing technologies and enable the cooling of airstreams from over 1000°C to -150°C in less than 1/100th of a second. (6/18)

Did You Just Say "a Space Elevator" ?! (Source: Spaceward)
First, travel to space becomes a very straightforward matter. There are no intense gravity-loads during the trip, no acoustic vibration, no onboard fuel, nor any of the rest of the drama (and cost) associated with rocket launches; it might feel something like riding a modern train. Thus the entire process of going to space becomes much more mundane, simple and cheap.

Second, payload size is practically unlimited because space elevators can be built to any scale. Replace the quarter-inch tether with a 2.5-inch tether, and the elevator could lift 100 times the weight. That's more than 1,000 tons in this case -- about 40 shipping containers or three complete International Space Stations -- per day!

Last but not least is the cost. By using a combination of solar power and ground-based lasers to power space elevator climbers, the direct cost of propulsion could be just dollars per kilogram, whether you're going to orbit or launching yourself all the way to Mars. Click here. (6/18)

DART High Speed Taxi Test at KSC Runway Uses Starfighters Jet (Source: Earthrise Space)
Over the Atlantic Ocean lurks an enormous air current that continuously carries 50 MILLION METRIC TONS of African dust and microbes over the Atlantic Ocean and deposits it on Florida's East Coast every year. For the most part, this air mass is poorly understood.

To address this issue, Earthrise Space, Inc. (ESI) in Orlando, Florida, developed a method of collecting dust particles from the upper atmosphere. Mounted to the wing of a Kennedy Space Center F-104 Starfighter, ESI's DART capsule (Dust Altitude Recovery Technology) will be flown into the upper atmosphere to capture specimens for study on the ground.

The exercise depicted in this video constitutes ESI's first benchmark test of that technology. At the runway formerly used for space shuttle landings, the DART pod underwent a series of critical high-speed taxi tests to verify its aerodynamic integrity. Having successfully passed this first test, ESI can continue to move forward with the final design. (6/18)

Draft NASA Authorization Bill Would Create 6-Year Term Administrator (Source: Space Policy Online)
The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). Click here for a summary of the draft bill. (6/18) http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/pages/images/stories/NASA%20Auth%202013%20draft%20summary%2061713.pdf

UP Aerospace Prepares for Friday's Launch From Spaceport America (Source: NewSpace Watch)
UP Aerospace will fly their SpaceLoft XL from Spaceport America on Friday, June 21st. The payloads are sponsored by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. Here's a list and description of the seven payloads. This includes two payloads from the New Mexico Space Grant Education Launch Program. Editor's Note: It also includes an ADS-B navigational payload for the FAA, supported by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (6/18)

FSDC Refutes Arguments Against Shiloh Launch Site (Source: FSDC)
In a June 16 op-ed (posted here in the Daytona Beach News-Journal) opposing the proposed development of a new launch site at "Shiloh" on the border of Volusia and Brevard Counties, Clay Henderson offers several arguments that don't quite hold water. FSDC has published a point-by-point response on its website. Click here. (6/18)

Embry-Riddle Inks Deal to Bring Diamond to Daytona Beach (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Diamond Aircraft Industries signed a partnership agreement to establish the global manufacturer’s presence at the university’s Daytona Beach Campus. As part of the agreement, Diamond will expand its current international Research & Development program and other initiatives working with Embry-Riddle students, staff and faculty from the university’s engineering and aviation colleges as well as its Eagle Flight Research Center.
Diamond is slated to start on-site operations by October 2013, with a later expansion into the 90-acre Embry-Riddle Research and Technology Park adjacent to the Daytona Beach Campus on Clyde Morris Boulevard. The partnership of the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace with the world’s third-largest general aviation aircraft manufacturer is expected to be an economic boost for Volusia County where the university is headquartered as well as the state of Florida.
“Florida is proud to have Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University helping our state lead the way in aerospace innovation, and I was honored to present Dr. John Johnson with a Governor’s Business Ambassador Medal at the Florida Pavilion Grand Opening yesterday,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said. “Private and public partnerships, such as Embry-Riddle and Diamond Aircraft, are critical to job creation, and this agreement demonstrates that our business development missions are working by providing job opportunities for Florida families.” (6/18)

NASA Moves Toward Small-Business VAB Modification for SLS/Orion and Other Users (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA/KSC is seeking capability statements from all interested parties, including Small, Small Disadvantaged (SDB), 8(a), Woman-owned (WOSB), Veteran Owned (VOSB), Service Disabled Veteran Owned (SD-VOSB), Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) businesses, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)/Minority Institutions (MI) for the purposes of determining the appropriate level of competition and/or small business subcontracting goals for Modify Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 3 for SLS, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

This will involve construction of a new adjustable structural steel platform system for the VAB High Bay 3. This system is being designed to accommodate multiple users through the vertical and horizontal adjustability of the platforms. The function of the adjustable platforms is to facilitate the assembly, testing, check-out, and servicing of the SLS Vehicle and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) Space Craft with flexibility for yet to be determined other spacecraft. (6/18)

Musk: Humans on Mars Before SpaceX Goes Public (Source: Space News)
Investors eager to own a piece of SpaceX could face a very long wait. According to a recent tweet by Elon Musk, there will be no initial public offering (IPO) of SpaceX stock before humans have begun to settle Mars. “No near term plans to IPO SpaceX,” Musk wrote in a short message posted to Twitter June 6. “Only possible in very long term when Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly.”

The Mars Colonial Transporter is a conceptual vehicle that Musk has discussed as part of his company’s stated long-term goal: sending human settlers to Mars. This is a change in tone for Musk, who up until the June 6 tweet had said that SpaceX would go public in the near-term, as his other two companies, Solar City and Tesla Motors, have. As recently as February 2012, Musk told Bloomberg News that he might take SpaceX public in 2013. (6/18)

White House, NASA Want Help Hunting Asteroids (Source: Washington Post)
The White House and NASA on Tuesday will ask the public for help finding asteroids that potentially could slam into the Earth with catastrophic consequences. Citing planetary defense, the administration has decided that the search for killer rocks in space should be the latest in a series of “Grand Challenges,” in which the government sets an ambitious goal, helps create public-private partnerships and sometimes offers prize money for innovative ideas.

“This is really a call to action to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. She said the asteroid hunt would help prove that “we’re smarter than the dinosaurs.” There is a second, overlapping agenda at work here: The NASA human spaceflight program needs to find a target rock for what is now being called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (formerly the Asteroid Retrieval Mission), or ARM.

The proposed mission, which is early in the planning stages, would send astronauts to visit an asteroid that had been redirected into a high lunar orbit. But first a robotic spacecraft would have to rendezvous with the asteroid and capture it. And even before that, scientists would have to find the right asteroid. The target rock has to be moving at a leisurely pace relative to the Earth, and ideally would come close to the Earth-moon system sometime in the early 2020s. (6/18)

Foundation Seeks Support for Scott Carpenter Station Restoration (Source: Space Foundation)
Scott Carpenter is probably best known for his ride into outer space as a Mercury astronaut, not as an aquatic adventurer. But in 1965, Carpenter broke the record of human underwater habitation by spending 30 days in SEALAB II, an experimental underwater habitat developed by the United States Navy and used, among other purposes, to prove the ability of humans to live in isolation for extended periods of time.

Flash forward many years and imagine an important space-related artifact named for Carpenter languishing in a warehouse. When the Space Foundation learned the Scott Carpenter Station was available, it was acquired for the new Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs where it is currently on display.

The Scott Carpenter Station needs work to restore it to its original appearance. In addition to rust removal and a new paint job, the Space Foundation is also raising funds to create an appropriate exhibit space that simulates an ocean environment. The Space Foundation has launched a crowd-funded restoration effort for the Scott Carpenter Station via indiegogo, with a goal of raising $35,000. Click here. (6/14)

Florida Flying High at Paris Air Show (Source: Sunshine State News)
High-flying Florida is flashing its colors and its famous sunshine this week at the world's premier commercial and military aviation and space trade fair, and it's paying off for Gov. Rick Scott and the nearly 80 Florida-based companies, educational institutions and state agencies he's taken to Paris with him. The Sunshine State has the largest of the United States' 34 state pavilions at the 50th annual International Paris Air Show, and even in the second day the effort is paying off measurably.

On Tuesday Scott and president and CEO of Vision Systems, Carl Putman, announced that Vision Systems, a Lyon, France-based tier one supplier for the aeronautics, marine, and automotive industries, will open its first U.S. subsidiary on the Space Coast. This is expected to offer 40 new jobs and nearly $1.2 million in capital investment in the Melbourne community.

Earlier in the day Scott announced that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University President Dr. John P. Johnson and Diamond Aircraft Industries’ CEO and owner Christian Dries signed a partnership agreement that will establish the global manufacturer’s presence at the University’s Daytona Beach campus. On Monday, Scott joined the cheerleading squad for jet-manufacturer Embraer, which procured aircraft orders for as many as 365 twin-engine passenger jetliners. Embraer's U.S. headquarters is based in Fort Lauderdale. (6/18)

Volusia Chamber Hosts Luncheon for Shiloh Update (Source: SPACErePORT)
On June 26th at 11:30 a.m. the Port Orange / South Daytona Chamber will host a luncheon with Dale Ketcham of Space Florida, the state's public/private space development corporation designed to clear the way for independent aerospace companies to locate in Florida. Space Florida recently received a 6 to 1 yes vote from the Volusia County Council to proceed with an environmental study to determine if a new launch complex can be built at Shiloh on the Volusia/Brevard border. Wildlife and conservation agencies are not in favor of this site's use for the project.
Space Florida's objective is to bring companies like SpaceX to develop a commercial spaceport to bring the future space industry here. This is a forum to bring Space Florida and the public together so that we can get information directly from the source and ask the questions we want and need answered. The chamber is providing an opportunity to get the facts and understand how we can prepare to be a part of the opportunities that may present themselves if this project comes to our area. Click here. (6/17)

Time to Plan for a Mission to Alpha Centauri (Source: Discovery)
Late last year a team of European astronomers announced that they had found a planet located in the nearest star system to our sun, Alpha Centauri. I will boldly predict that the Alpha Centauri system has a number of planets and at least one should be habitable. The details of this system will be exciting and extraordinary in the same way European explorers marveled at the New World.

The system is so old that, under the right planetary conditions, Darwinian evolution has kicked in and there is an alien world that is covered with an extraterrestrial Serengeti of multi-celled creatures that make Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park look like a petting zoo. Could intelligent life be there too? Unfortunately, in a lousy coincidence, the star system is too far south to be observed by the powerful Arecibo radio antenna in Puerto Rico, or the new Allen Telescope Array in northern California, that can easily look for any artificial radio transmissions. (6/17)

SpaceX: Engine Anomaly Overview (Source: Aviation Week)
An exhaustive review of all available data by both SpaceX and NASA suggests the engine anomaly experienced on CRS-1 was likely the result of an undetected material flaw in the engine chamber jacket. The material flaw was most likely introduced during engine production. For Merlin 1C, the engine chamber jacket is formed by an electroplating process, and this particular chamber required extra plating cycles during production.

This re-plating process is not uncommon, but does have the potential to introduce flaws in the jacket that can be difficult to detect. In addition, during testing, the main combustion chamber on this engine experienced a unique combination of environments as compared to the other engines. While none of these observations exceeded demonstrated qualification margins, the combination of these environments likely exacerbated the material flaw on  the engine’s main combustion chamber jacket. (6/17)

Herschel Telescope Switched Off (Source: BBC)
The billion-euro Herschel space telescope has been switched off. Controllers on Monday emptied the satellite's fuel tanks and commanded the observatory to sever all communications. The "passivated" spacecraft is now in a slow drift around the Sun, about 2.14 million km from Earth. With its 3.5m mirror and three state-of-the-art instruments, Herschel was the most powerful observatory of its kind ever put in space.

In its four years of operations, it gathered pictures and other data at far-infrared wavelengths that have transformed our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution. The great distance to Herschel meant it took six seconds for the radio message to reach the observatory and a further six seconds for ground stations on Earth to confirm the loss of signal. (6/17)

ESA's Orion Service Module Overweight, Delaying PDR (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency (ESA) and its industrial partners need to reduce the weight of a service module they are developing to fly on NASA’s Orion multipurpose crew exploration vehicle in 2017, a hurdle that will delay preliminary design review of the project by a little more than three months. The service module is roughly 0.5 metric tons overweight, but that the agency is working closely with NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin to reduce mass ahead of a preliminary design review now slated for October or November.

Based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the service module is to be led by Astrium Space Transportation, the prime contractor on the ATV. Astrium has been working on the effort since shortly before ESA’s 20 member states approved a first tranche of around €250 million ($330 million) in funding for the service module at a ministerial budget meeting last November. (6/17)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Might Bring 5,000 Aerospace Jobs to Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
When the president of the newly formed Aerojet Rocketdyne aerospace company told state leaders at the Paris Air Show Sunday that a new NASA rocket engine could mean 5,000 engineering jobs for Huntsville, he got people excited. Aerojet has one of four contracts NASA has awarded for studying the next-generation propulsion system America will need to go to Mars. Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, the second part of the new company, is the major subcontractor for another of those contracts held by Dynetics of Huntsville. (6/17)

Antares First-stage Engines Available Long Term, Aerojet Says (Source: Space News)
The president of the newly formed Aerojet Rocketdyne said the company has secured an agreement with the manufacturers of Russia’s NK-33 engine, which powers the U.S. Antares rocket in a version called AJ-26, to assure its long-term supply. Warren Boley said Orbital Sciences Corp. has only to sign a contract by this fall to assure that deliveries of the new engines can begin in 2016.

Originally developed for the Soviet Union’s abandoned lunar program, the NK-33 has been out of production since the 1970s. In an undated white paper making the rounds in Washington, Orbital says that after deciding to go with the NK-33/AJ-26 for Antares, the company “learned that the available AJ-26 inventory was more limited than had previously been thought due to technical issues, additional costs to make the engines flightworthy and Russian restrictions.”

The questionable availability of the AJ-26 has been of such concern to Orbital that the company is asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to void, on antitrust grounds, the agreement that gives rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) exclusive U.S. access to Russia’s RD-180 engine. Orbital wants to purchase RD-180 engines, calling them “the only currently viable long-term engine solution” for Antares, which successfully debuted in April. (6/17)

NASA Authorization Cycle Begins with Asteroid Retrieval in House’s Crosshairs (Source: Space News)
A draft authorization bill from the House Science space subcommittee would cap NASA spending at about $16.87 billion for the next two years, prohibit a proposed asteroid retrieval mission, overhaul the agency’s management structure and raise the spending cap for Commercial Crew activities while increasing congressional oversight of the program.

The bill, as Republican lawmakers have been hinting during House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearings all year, also aims to steer the nation’s human spaceflight program back to the Moon, and provide more money for robotic exploration of the solar system at the expense of NASA’s Earth observation program. (6/17)

Virgin Galactic Signs Female Space Tourist as 600th Customer (Source: Space.com)
On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space, Virgin Galactic announced today (June 17) that it has booked a female space tourist from the United Kingdom as its 600th customer. Virgin Galactic officials said Marsha Waters, the 42-year-old owner of a Blackpool-based accounting services company, embodies the next generation of women in space: "private individuals who are passionate about experiencing space travel for themselves."

Of the space tourists who have so far signed up for a suborbital flight on SpaceShipTwo, 98 are women, a spokesperson said. That list includes actress Angelina Jolie and pop singer Katy Perry. A seat aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo costs $250,000, but the space plane is still in its testing phase, with crewed flights expected to begin by the end of this year. (6/17)

Russian Aerospace Company Hopes to Prolong Kourou Launches Contract (Source: Itar-Tass)
TsKB Progress, the Russia-based producer of Soyuz rockets, hopes to prolong the contract on launches from the Kourou spaceport, TsKB Progress general designer Ravil Akhmetov said. "Our stands presents a range of rockets; also, during the air show, we intend continue talks over further rocket launches from Kourou," Akhmetov said. "We have contracts for the next few years; we wish to look at further terms," he noted. Akhmetov declined to elaborate on how far the plans to launch rockets from French Guiana might extend. (6/17)

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