July 10, 2013

Was Russia’s Rocket Disaster a Putin Conspiracy? (Source: Bloomberg)
After a Proton-M rocket carrying three navigation satellites exploded 32 seconds after it was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 2, Russians laughed. “Three Glonass navigation satellites have been successfully launched,” blogger Evgeny Kuznetsov tweeted. “The smoke from the place where they fell allows us to determine the precise location of the launchpad.” Another Twitter user, Givi Dzhashi, parodied MasterCard ads: “Morning coffee, 70 rubles. A croissant with jam, 100 rubles. Watching $200 million blow up live on the air -- priceless!”

President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said in an infamous interview in November 2012 that he had known of the graft since 2010 yet tolerated it so it could be properly investigated. Coincidentally, he used a similar phrase as the Russia 24 announcer: “I suspected that something was going wrong.” The ever-expanding investigations have caused some bloggers to speculate that the July 2 launch was never meant to be successful. “Many people think the satellites were not operational and the accident was planned,” wrote blogger Alexander Trifonov.

The corruption fighter Alexei Navalny also blamed the Proton disaster on graft: “If everything has been stolen, it won’t fly.” References to theft as the reason for any failure are a knee-jerk reaction in today’s Russia. Yet more “seems to be going wrong” with the space program. “It was the hope that Russian aerospace would overcome its crisis that burned down in the explosion,” Viktor Myasnikov wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “The reasons are clear: Incompetent management, the loss of production culture, technological backwardness, the aging personnel and equipment.” (7/10)

A Conversation With Buzz Aldrin on Space Exploration (Source: Forbes)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has published a new book titled “Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration” (National Geographic Books) which presents a bold plan to restore much-needed and long-overdue American direction and leadership.  Of course everyone knows of Buzz as the second human to walk on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969 with companions Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins. Fewer are aware of his truly major contributions to making that mission possible as the Gemini 12 mission pilot in 1966. Click here. (7/10)

Nye: The Goal is Mars (Source: Planetary Society)
he Planetary Society strongly supports human exploration of space. The planet Mars is the goal. There, humans will explore efficiently and make discoveries that would utterly change the world. While our robotic missions accomplish remarkable and often astonishing things on Mars, they are precursors in exploration. Astronaut researchers on Mars will make discoveries and create stories that will be shared by all humankind for generations to come. Click here. (7/10)

ISRO Gets Busy with GSLV Launch (Source: The Hindu)
After orbiting its nine-day-old navigation satellite, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) now turns full steam on its next and high-stakes test, the flight of the Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) medium-lift satellite launcher. ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary K. Radhakrishnan on Monday said the launcher, numbered GSLV-D5, was planned for launch in the second week of next month but not before August 6.

The GSLV, which is so crucial for the country’s space program, is being resumed after two-and-half years. Two consecutive launchers flown in 2010 failed, setting back the program and putting the vehicle and the indigenous cryogenic stage through rigorous checks and tests. It will be also the second outing of the homemade cryogenic stage, in place of the Russian stages that powered six of the seven previously flown GSLVs. (7/10)

Lawmakers Propose Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act (Source: NY Daily News)
Houston, we have a gift shop. A pair of lawmakers are pushing a plan to establish a new national park that would be quite literally out of this world — a full 250,000 miles away from this world. Experts, however, say the bill may both duplicate and conflict with elements of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. and Soviet Union signed off on at the height of the space race.

The treaty – joined by the Russian Federation and 100 other counties – establishes that all space objects remain property of the nation that launched them. The treaty also bars any claim of national sovereignty on lunar territory – for park space or otherwise. (7/10)

Russian, Kazakh and Ukranian Space Agencies Agree on Bayterek Rocket (Source: Itar-Tass)
The space agencies of Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine have confirmed their intention to develop the Bayterek rocket, which is a modernized Zenit launch vehicle. The Kazakh National Space Agency's head Talgat Musabayev, Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin and Ukraine’s State Space Agency head Yuri Alexeyev signed the joint protocol, after discussing issues related to cooperation and the prospects for the implementation of the Bayterek project at the Baikonur space centre, the press service said.

According to the document, the space agencies confirmed their interest in the development of tripartite cooperation on the commercial use of the Zenit system in the Bayterek development project, the press service said. The document envisages that the parties will work out terms and mechanisms of the participation and cooperation of all the interested companies and organizations in the process of the Zenit commercial use in the Bayterek project at all the stages, beginning from the rocket production to launch services.

In accordance with the agreement, the Ukrainian space agency will present its proposals to the Kazkosmoc and Roskosmos on the prospects of cooperation in the Bayterek project. Decision on the project will be taken after the proposals are considered. Ukraine is interested in the Zenit rocket use in the Bayterek development project, Ukrainian space agency head Alexeyev noted. It will allow consolidating market and image positions of the Zenit rocket and broaden international cooperation with Kazakhstan in the space area, he said. (7/10)

NASA Alters 1st Orion/SLS Flight – Bold Upgrade to Deep Space Asteroid Mission (Source: Universe Today)
NASA managers have announced a bold new plan to significantly alter and upgrade the goals and complexity of the 1st mission of the integrated Orion/Space Launch System (SLS) human exploration architecture – planned for blastoff in late 2017. The ambitious first flight, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), would be targeted to send an unpiloted Orion spacecraft to a point more than 40,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) beyond the Moon as a forerunner supporting NASA’s new Asteroid Redirect Initiative.

The EM-1 flight will now serve as an elaborate harbinger to NASA’s likewise enhanced EM-2 mission, which would dispatch a crew of astronauts for up close investigation of a small Near Earth Asteroid relocated to the Moon’s vicinity. Until recently NASA’s plan had been to launch the first crewed Orion atop the 2nd SLS rocket in 2021 to a high orbit around the moon on the EM-2 mission, said NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver at the Kennedy Space Center. (7/9)

Commercial Weather Provisions in NOAA Bill Survive First Vote in House (Source: Space News)
A bill that would create inroads for commercial weather satellites at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cleared an early legislative hurdle July 9 after a House panel approved the proposal by a voice vote. The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 2413) would amend a U.S. law barring the privatization of taxpayer-funded weather satellites to make it clear that NOAA is allowed to buy commercial data and host government weather instruments on commercial satellites, and vice versa. (7/9)

Newly Unveiled Ariane 6 Rocket Design Yields a Few Surprises (Source: Space News)
The French and European space agencies on July 9 disclosed the design of a future Ariane 6 rocket that sacrifices performance on behalf of cost to replace today’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 and medium-lift Russian Soyuz vehicle at Europe’s spaceport starting in the early 2020s.

The vehicle — which as expected leans heavily on solid propulsion, with cryogenics used only on the upper stage — is designed to lift a payload weighing no more than 6,500 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, the destination of most telecommunications satellites. Earlier Ariane 6 designs referred to maximum payload values of 8,000 kilograms to that orbit. More recently, Ariane 6 backers had talked of a 7,000-kilogram maximum.

Officials from the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) were not immediately available to discuss the trade offs that ultimately resulted in a vehicle with a more-modest performance than the one originally presented to European governments in 2012. These governments will meet in late 2014 to decide whether to proceed with full development of Ariane 6, an investment that is likely to be between 2.5 billion and 3.5 billion euros over the seven-year period starting in 2015. (7/9)

Dems Pitch National Park on the Moon (Source: The Hill)
Two House Democrats have proposed legislation that would establish a national historical park on the surface of the moon to mark where the Apollo missions landed between 1969 and 1972. The bill from Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) would create the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park. The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions.

The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future. Under the legislation, the park would be established no later than one year after the bill passes and would be run jointly by the Department of the Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (7/9)

Objective of 2020 Mission to Mars: Signs of Life (Source: CNN)
Life on Mars? That's the question facing the NASA team responsible for putting together the objectives for 2020 rover mission to Mars. "We're still on the quest to answer the grand question: Is there life somewhere else in the universe?" John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, said. Previous missions to Mars have found definitive signs that water once flowed in a crater and rock samples that show signs of clay minerals.

"We really needed to go back to the surface, and go to the next stage. ... Did Mars ever have life?" Grunsfeld said as he previewed a 160-page report prepared by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team, a group assembled by NASA to outline the objectives of the mission. The 2020 rover mission to Mars is considered essential to meeting President Barack Obama's challenge to send a manned mission to the planet in the 2030s. (7/9)

Ball Aerospace and NASA Team on New Green Propellent Test Mission (Source: Denver Post)
NASA and Boulder-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies have teamed up to invest in a new green propellant program with the hopes of bringing the more efficient, less hazardous technology to the commercial space market. The Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) will launch in early 2015 aboard a small Ball satellite, built in Boulder, and will conduct two months of tests. Ball is the prime contractor and Aerojet Rocketdyne, based in Washington state, has developed the propellent. (7/9)

Europe’s ATV-4 to Raise Space Station’s Orbit by 1.6 Miles (Source: RIA Novosti)
The European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) will readjust the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roscosmos said. “ATV-4 engines will be started at 9:35 a.m. Moscow Time [5:34 GMT]. They will work for 593 seconds [almost 10 minutes]. As a result of the maneuver, the ISS’s orbit will be raised by about 2.5 kilometers [1.6 miles],” the spokesman said adding that the station’s orbit will total 417.3 kilometers (259.3 miles). (7/9)

Proton Accident Caused by Control System Malfunction (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Proton-M booster rocket accident occurred because of control system malfunction, an aerospace source said. "Of course, it's a human factor. During the assembly of the rocket, wrong parameters were set, which resulted in incorrect command to the rocket control system," the source said. "The Proton-M was given the wrong input because of sloppy work. Perhaps, the control system itself is beyond reproach, and the error was made during the assembly," the aerospace official added. (7/9)

GPS System Improved as New Boeing Satellite Enters Service (Source: Boeing)
The Global Positioning System, which  millions of people use every day for precise navigation and timing, recently became more accurate and reliable as the fourth Boeing [NYSE: BA] GPS IIF satellite began operating in the U.S. Air Force network. Launched May 15, that satellite was handed over to the Air Force after 19 days of post-launch validation to stabilize the vehicle and activate the navigation payload, and set healthy on June 21. (7/9)

House Appropriators Propose $16.6 Billion for NASA (Source: Space Politics)
The House Appropriations Committee released Tuesday night its proposed Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, scheduled to be marked up by the CJS subcommittee Wednesday morning. The bill offers just under $16.6 billion overall for NASA, compared to $17.7 billion in the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget request. A comparison of the House bill and the administration’s proposal is posted here. (7/9)

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