June 30, 2013

Change the Columbus Day Holiday to "Explorers Day" (Source: We The People)
The goal of this petition is to expand the coverage of the Columbus Day holiday to include all of the American explorers who have risked their lives to chart the unknown on the behalf of our country and humanity. Our National folklore is replete with legends of pioneering individuals like Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Lewis & Clark, and later the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. We have always celebrated the spirit of exploration, and the courage that goes with it. Click here. (6/30)

NOAA’s 2013 Op Plan Leaves COSMIC-2 in a Lurch (Source: Space News)
A U.S.-Taiwan weather satellite program was dealt another setback in late May when the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opted to use the COSMIC-2 program as a “bill payer” to cover a $13.7 million budget shortfall the agency previously planned to cover with a four-day employee furlough.

NOAA originally sought to pay for its 2013 share of the COSMIC-2 mission development cost using $13.7 million in disaster relief money Congress approved in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the U.S. East Coast in October. However, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, rejected that proposal in early May, telling the agency to seek funding for the constellation of 12 GPS radio occultation satellites through the normal appropriations process instead. (6/27)

House, Senate See Different Paths To Improving Missile Shield (Source: Space News)
The push in the U.S. House of Representatives for an early start on a third missile interceptor site on U.S. territory is meeting opposition in the Senate, which is recommending an alternative that features additional sensors to better discriminate between incoming warheads and decoys.

In marking up its version of the 2014 defense authorization bill June 14, the Senate Armed Services Committee recommended investing $30 million in additional X-band radars or other sensors to track incoming missiles, according to a press release issued by the committee. “This addresses the highest future investment priority identified by the Missile Defense Agency and the warfighter community for improving our homeland missile defense,” the committee said.

Overall, the Senate bill recommends $9.3 billion for missile defense programs, a $150 million increase over President Obama’s request. The Senate bill directs the Pentagon to deliver to Congress a report on the merits of options for enhancing the U.S. territorial shield, including the third interceptor site. At the White House’s direction, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is studying options for the third site, but the Republican-led House would like to see it built sooner rather than later. (6/28)

Atlas Rockets Being Prepped To Reprise Human Spaceflight Role (Source: Space News)
Today’s Atlas rockets bear little resemblance to those used to launch John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper into space in 1962 and 1963, but the boosters, now built by United Launch Alliance (ULA), once again are being prepared to carry humans into orbit.

The company is working for two firms developing commercial space taxis, with an eye toward flying NASA astronauts to the international space station within about four years. Another potential customer is privately owned Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing free-flying orbital outposts that would be staffed by company astronauts and available for lease by researchers, businesses, educational institutes, agencies and tourists.

ULA plans to demonstrate its commercial human spaceflight service in 2016, a date that is driving development of several rocket upgrades and a crew access tower for its Cape Canaveral launch complex. “We had a preliminary design review of the crew access tower design, heading toward critical design review later this year to make sure that all of the safety and accommodation features are included,” said ULA VP John Mulholland. (6/28)

Ariane 5 Manifest Unsettled for Remainder of 2013 and into 2014 (Source: Space News)
The Arianespace commercial launch consortium, juggling the operation of three vehicles and the often last-minute changes in satellite arrival dates, will not be able to set a launch manifest for the rest of the year and into 2014 until late July, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said June 25.

Briefing reporters at the Guiana Space Center spaceport here June 25 while preparing the first of four planned launches in 2013 of the Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket, Israel said Evry, France-based Arianespace in all likelihood will be limited to five heavy-lift Ariane 5 launch campaigns in 2013, three more medium-lift Soyuz launches and one Vega small-satellite campaign, which was conducted in May.

The year’s third Ariane 5 mission is scheduled for launch in late July carrying the large Alphasat satellite for mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London and the European Space Agency (ESA); and India’s Insat-3D telecommunications satellite. (6/26)

Editorial: Forward, Not Backward, on Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
A report urging the European Space Agency (ESA) to abandon its chosen design for the future Ariane 6 rocket appears to be driven more by industrial base considerations than the competitiveness of Europe’s commercial launch industry. The report, prepared by a working group of Europe’s Air & Space Academy, said ESA should scrap the Ariane 6 design that features a solid-fueled first stage. A vehicle with a liquid-fueled first stage, the report argues, can more easily be upgraded to meet the ever-evolving needs of the commercial satellite industry.

Composed of former ESA directors and space industry officials, the working group further argued that pursuing the current Ariane 6 design would cause upheaval in Europe’s propulsion industry, possibly causing Germany, which hosts substantial liquid-fueled engine manufacturing facilities, to withdraw from the program. Instead, the report said, ESA should upgrade the existing Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket and spend the next four years designing an Ariane 6 vehicle with a liquid-fueled first stage. (6/17)

India’s Space Science To Be In Public Good (Source: IANS)
As India gears up for the July 1 launch of its first dedicated navigational satellite, Y.S. Rajan says the nation’s future innovations in the field will be largely civilian applications and in the “public good”. “Space technology to a very great extent will be application-driven. It will require investments. Some of them will give returns like television, communication, whereas some of them will be for public good like remote sensing, cyclone tracking. So given that, it will be predominantly around application, but it will not stop at that,” Rajan said.

Rajan, who has made significant contributions to Indian space science in his former role as scientific secretary to ISRO, reckons that after the country has satiated its thirst for advancements in the current areas of interest (communication, television, remote sensing, navigation, etc.), it will concentrate on space sciences like trying to understand asteroids. (6/30)

Wrong Reality: If an American Was First in Space (Source: Discovery)
There are key moments in spaceflight’s history that, in retrospect, defined the subsequent course of events. Take Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight in 1961, for example. When Gagarin became the first man in space, America responded with the manned lunar landing challenge, which led to the Apollo program. But what if Gagarin hadn’t been first? What if American astronaut Al Shepard became history’s first man in space? It’s an interesting question, one that conjures an alternate reality where we may not have gone to the moon at all. Click here. (6/29)

Private Launchers Fear New US Rules (Source: Florida Today)
The private space industry is in the formative years of its development, and over-regulation easily could stunt its growth. Case in point: The U.S. State Department is proposing new rules that would add private manned spacecraft to a Department of Defense list of “munitions” technology that some in the industry fear would all but prevent any use of those vehicles on foreign soil.

The rule, made public in late May and open for public comment through July 8, is part of the government’s long-standing effort to keep all technology that could be used to develop weaponry out of the hands of potential adversaries. The rule is getting a cold reception from private space startups such as XCOR, a space tourism company that just this week said it plans to start suborbital test flights from Kennedy Space Center by 2015. Why? Because XCOR, and every other space tourism company, is operating on a business model that requires an international customer base.

Editor's Note: The Florida Space Development Council waded into this debate a couple weeks ago by formally voicing their opposition to the rulemaking move. "The proposed addition of human spaceflight vehicles to the DOD list would negatively impact efforts by U.S. companies to build a U.S.-dominated international market for such vehicles," according to FSDC's comments. Click here. (6/30) 

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