July 25, 2013

United Launch Alliance Continues Rapid Launch Rate (Source: SpaceRef)
During the last eight days, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) team has completed five major processing activities, including one launch, on three different launch pads at both the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. On July 17, for the first time, ULA conducted a Delta IV Wet Dress Rehearsal at Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida, for the upcoming WGS-6 launch on Aug. 7, and the same day rolled the Atlas V vehicle to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41, also in Florida, in preparation for the MUOS-2 launch on July 19.

In addition, two spacecraft were attached to boosters in preparation for launch. On July 23, the WGS-6 spacecraft was mated to the Delta IV launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida and on July 24, the NROL-65 spacecraft was mated to the Delta IV Heavy vehicle at Space Launch Complex 6 at VAFB. ULA has already successfully launched six missions this year, with six remaining missions on the manifest and 15 missions scheduled for 2014. (7/25)

Florida Launch Manifest Check (Source: SPACErePORT)
There were 10 launches at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in both 2011 and 2012. At the beginning of 2013 there were 11 launches planned for the year in Florida, though total now is 14. Thus far there have been six launches: four Atlas-5, one Delta-4, and one Falcon-9. Four were military and two were for NASA. Still to come in 2013 are eight launches, including two Atlas-5, two Delta-4, and four Falcon-9. The Atlas and Delta missions are for military and NASA customers, while the Falcon missions include three commercial and one NASA mission. (7/25)

CASIS: Creating a New Generation of ISS Researchers (Source: CASIS)
When Congress designated a portion of the International Space Station (ISS) as a U.S. National Laboratory (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS), the idea was to foster a new era of investigation on the ISS, bringing in new types of researchers, from companies to research facilities, who never thought the idea of doing space research was possible. Additionally, this would provide a platform for investigations to reach microgravity far faster than ever before.

For nearly two years now, CASIS has been promoting the National Lab, and our main goals remain the same: achieve full utilization of the ISS, and inform the general public on the opportunities and benefits realized through station. On top of our mission, CASIS is heavily engaged in educational endeavors to create and support initiatives that inspire our Nation’s youth about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities, ultimately inspiring the next generation of researchers. Click here. (7/25)

Skycorp Introduces GEO Spacecraft Life Extension System (Source: SpaceRef)
Skycorp is introducinge the Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES). The purpose of the SLES is to extend the useful lifetime of Geostationary (GEO) satellites. The SLES accomplishes this by docking and mating with a GEO satellite and then takes over the task of attitude control and station keeping. This is a simple mechanical interface, similar to a tug guiding a larger ship at sea. There is no fuel transferred or electrical connection to the GEO satellite.

Skycorp founder and CEO Dennis Wingo states; "It is the goal of the SLES to provide up to ten additional years of operating life to a geostationary asset for about one third the replacement cost. This provides a clear financial benefit to the satellite operator". Skycorp has worked over the past four years to continue to lower the cost of its original SLES design and the concept of the cooperative operation of two spacecraft in GEO orbit. (7/25)

House OKs 2014 Defense Bill with Bipartisan Support (Source: The Hill)
Tough language that would have defunded National Security Agency's newly revealed surveillance of Americans didn't make it into the final, $595 billion defense spending bill, passed by the House with bipartisan support, but amendments barring civilian furloughs, reducing Afghanistan spending and addressing military sex assault did. The 2014 spending bill now moves to the Senate, but it faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama if it is not part of a larger focus on the national budget. (7/24)

No Immediate Relief with DOD Furlough Ban (Source: Washington Post)
Civilian Defense Department workers who are being furloughed now would not get relief from the recently passed House measure halting sequestration-related furloughs. Several amendments to the 2014 defense appropriations bill address furloughs, but not until the fiscal year beginning in October. (7/24)

After Two Failures, India Eyes GSLV Success in August (Source: Times of India)
Following two successive failures with the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), in April and December 2010, Isro is eyeing success this August. Launching Gsat-14, a 2,050kg communication satellite, the 49-meter tall GSLV will be fired by an indigenous cryogenic engine. The rocket itself has been fully assembled at Sriharikota.

"The launch on August 19 will be an emotional one for all of us," Radhakrishnan has been quoted as saying. According to him, the space agency has carried out nearly 35 ground tests since the April 15, 2010, failure. That setback had led to heartbreak among scientists and engineers since it was the three-stage rocket's maiden flight with an indigenous cryogenic engine. (7/25)

Mars Mission Useless Says Ex-Indian Space Boss (Source: Indian Express)
An Indian Mars orbiter mission, proposed for launch around November will be a dud since it will not achieve anything new in terms of technology or research, according to former chairman of ISRO G Madhavan Nair. Nair, who was forced to give up all roles at ISRO in 2011 in the light of the controversial and now annulled deal to launch satellites for startup firm Devas Multimedia, labeled the mission to send an orbiter to spin around and look at Mars after being launched on the PSLV, "a useless exercise". "It will only be a showpiece," he said. (7/25)

Ex-Astronaut Reappointed to New Mexico Spaceport Authority (Source: Ruidoso News)
Gov. Susana Martinez has reappointed two members of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, including a former astronaut who's the veteran of two space flights. Former astronaut Sid Gutierrez of Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences banker Jerry Stagner will serve four year terms expiring in 2017. The nine-member authority is responsible for the state's commercial spaceport in southern New Mexico.

Gutierrez currently works at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. He piloted a 1991 flight of space shuttle Columbia and was commander of a 1994 mission of the shuttle Endeavor. Stagner is president of Citizens Bank in Truth or Consequences. (7/25)

New Theory: The Universe Isn't Expanding, It's Just Gaining Mass (Source: PopSci)
Whoa. One cosmologist is proposing that the universe isn't actually expanding, as the standard theory goes. Instead, the redshift effects astronomers see could mean that everything is just gaining more mass, while possibly staying in place, or even contracting. The theory hasn't yet been peer reviewed. Interestingly, Nature News also reports that the idea isn't testable because masses are measured relative to one another, so even if the universe were gaining mass, we'd never know, because they'd all still be the same relative to one another. (7/24)

Editorial: Instead of Aiming for the Stars, Vote Puts NASA in Gutter (Source: The Republican)
No more shooting for the stars at NASA. The space program needs a roadmap. When a House committee voted last week to slash a billion dollars from NASA’s proposed budget, effectively killing plans for a manned mission to an asteroid, it was possible to see the vote as merely political. The asteroid plan is part of President Barack Obama’s vision, and as things stand these days, if Obama even offhandedly spoke well of the sun, someone in the House GOP would propose a resolution praising the clouds.

But that is not the whole story. NASA also deserves its share of the blame. NASA has long been an agency badly adrift. After some initial enthusiasm, the space shuttle failed to grab the public’s interest. It made the news only when there was a disaster. And the international space station hasn’t been exactly on the top of most people’s list of scintillating conversation-starters. NASA has got to define what it wants to do. Clearly. Spell out a mission. Explain it. And get the citizens excited about it. (7/25)

New For Space Tourists: A Light, Comfy Space Suit (Source: PopSci)
Final Frontier Design unveiled their new "3G" space suit yesterday on Capitol Hill. The company's previous suit won a 2013 Popular Science invention award, and this third-generation suit builds on four years of research and development. The space suit is safe for both suborbital and orbital commercial space travel. But Final Frontier's intentions reach beyond mere safety: the suit is also "comfortable, lightweight, and inexpensive" compared with other spacesuits, according to a press release.

Here are the cool features: A single-layer pressure garment system (two fused pieces of durable, airtight urethane-coated nylon) makes the suit comfortable and flexible, once inflated. It also has 13 adjustment points for sizing and a carbon-fiber waist ring to make it lighter. Finally, it has cooling loops for your head, chest, hands, and feet (so you don't overheat in there). (7/25)

Golden Spike Gets Favorable Architecture Assessment for Lunar Missions (Source: Zero Point)
This week Zero Point Frontiers Corp. delivered its report analyzing the different approaches that might be used to send people from nations around the world on commercial trips to the Moon. Working with the Golden Spike Company and its various aerospace partner companies, Zero Point Frontiers used the software it developed for NASA to help NASA Johnson Space Center design space missions.

“This was a great test case for us,” said Zero Point Frontiers CEO Jason Hundley. “Golden Spike gave us an opportunity to make apples-to-apples comparisons of multiple commercial space systems. The good news was that we identified several combinations of vehicles that will support Golden Spike’s mission. They were all using several different types of scenarios, rocket stages, crew vehicles, and lunar landers, which made the work challenging.”

The software, called the Beyond LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) Architecture Sizing Tool or BLAST, estimates the size and performance of in-space vehicles based on the number of people aboard, the destination, and the number of maneuvers each piece of the mission must perform. Using this tool, NASA engineers can design lunar, Mars, or other missions in one afternoon as opposed to the current 1-3 months it normally takes. (7/22)

Space Travel, Anyone? (Source: Haute Living)
Fasten your seat belt for the ride of a lifetime! Space travel is no longer a fantasy in George Lucas movies—it is now an attainable reality for adventurous folks who can spare $250,000 on Virgin Galactic or book a flight with Space Expedition Corporation at $95,000 that seems to be a bargain (round trip!).

Recently I attended the closing session of the Aspen Institute Idea Festival, which featured Sir Richard Branson who presented his new concept, Virgin Galactic space travel where he revealed Tom and Margo Pritzker of Hyatt Hotels family and Richard Blum, Senator Diane Feinstein’s financier husband signed up for the trip, among other notable supporters. Click here. (7/24)

Why It’s Next Stop, Mars (Source: The Sun)
Man could set foot on Mars by 2021. NASA say they will get there by 2033 at the earliest, but scientists at Imperial College London have come up with a mission that could land within EIGHT years. Here, the leader of the London team presents the trip that would be the next major step for mankind in space – and create a Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for the 21st Century. Click here. (7/25)

Northrop Grumman Reports Second Quarter Results (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrup Grumman's second quarter 2013 net earnings increased 2 percent to $488 million, from $480 million in the second quarter of 2012. Second quarter 2013 total operating income increased $32 million or 4 percent, and operating margin rate increased 50 basis points to 12.8 percent. As of June 30, 2013, total backlog was $37.7 billion compared with $40.8 billion as of Dec. 31, 2012. Second quarter 2013 new awards totaled $5.5 billion. (7/24)

Raytheon Reports Solid Second Quarter 2013 Results (Source: Raytheon)
Raytheon's net sales for the second quarter 2013 were $6,115 million, up 2 percent from $5,992 million in the second quarter 2012. Operating cash flow from continuing operations for the second quarter 2013 was an outflow of $41 million compared to an outflow of $259 million for the second quarter 2012. The increase in operating cash flow from continuing operations in the second quarter 2013 compared to the second quarter 2012 was primarily due to the timing of required pension contributions. (7/25)

The Next FCC Chairman and Commercial Space (Source: Space Politics)
In May, President Obama nominated Tom Wheeler to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While he has yet to be formally confirmed by the Senate, he did breeze through a confirmation hearing by a “generally welcoming” Senate Commerce Committee in June, and his nomination has broad support.

It also turns out he has—-or, at least, had-—opinions about the administration’s space policy. In a May 2010 blog post, Wheeler, working in the private sector at the time, said the “Space Program” (as he capitalized it) was going through an “analog to digital conversion” analogous to what the telecommunications industry experienced in the past. His reference was not to specific technologies but instead models of doing business and innovation: a shift from a centralized to distributed approach.

“NASA was the Bell Labs of Space,” he wrote. “Like Bell Labs they delivered important innovations and added to our national pride. To continue a 20th Century command-and-control model in an era of distributed development is not in the best interest of NASA, however.” In particular, he expressed support for the administration’s decision to pursue development of commercial crew transportation systems. (7/25)

Parachutes Appear to Work Fine During Orion Capsule Test (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s Orion spacecraft scored an apparent success today during a drop test that simulated a main parachute failure during descent toward an Arizona desert. The full-scale Orion test vehicle was dropped from a military cargo plane 35,000 feet above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground.

Live video broadcast on NASA TV showed the conical capsule descending under three huge red-and-white striped parachutes. The main parachute failed, but the two remaining lowered the craft to what appeared to be a relatively soft landing. “We have touchdown,” NASA test commentator Brandi Dean said. Officials at the site said the test appeared to be a success. The Orion spacecraft is designed to land safely despite a main parachute failure. (7/24)

ISS Producing Some Revenue From Commercial Projects (Source: Aviation Week)
Some early entrepreneurs are starting to see returns on their investments in International Space Station (ISS) business, as the $100 billion orbiting laboratory continues a slow turn away from assembly operations to utilization. Some 28% of U.S. rack space on the station remains unused, NASA officials say.

The station still has not reached its full capacity, in part because worries about how long it will remain in orbit and what happens to intellectual property generated there give pause to some potential users. Those concerns have not stopped Nanoracks LLC, a Houston-based startup that built a low-cost small-payload accommodation based on the cubesat standard and persuaded NASA to install it on the ISS three years ago.

Since then the company has expanded on that model to offer space on several internal and external ISS facilities, and has plans for another significant addition to its revenue stream. The work won Nanoracks the first American Astronautical Society ISS innovation award at the organization's space station research and development conference here last week. But more importantly, the company is moving ahead with a new station app that promises a significant boost in its cash flow—commercial cubesat launches from a multi-unit dispenser of its own design. (7/22)

Posey Talks Space at Tiger Bay Club (Source: Tiger Bay)
The Space Coast chapter of the Tiger Bay Club will host Congressman Bill Posey on Aug. 6 for a luncheon at the Holiday Inn Melbourne/Viera Hotel and Conference Center. Rep. Posey will discuss the future of space from a Congressional perspective. Click here. (7/24)

Australia-Funded WGS-6 Seen as Model for Future U.S. Military Constellations (Source: Space News)
As the U.S. Air Force prepares for the Aug. 7 launch of its sixth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) communications satellite, the service is seeking international space partnerships of the type that helped pay for this satellite. Australia invested approximately $700 million in WGS-6, the last of the second block of satellites in the series. In exchange, Australia’s military will have access to the full 10-satellite constellation at a level that is in proportion to its investment. (7/24)

New Technique Reveals Mars Meteorite's Age (Source: Science News)
Scientists disagree over estimates of meteorites’ ages because it’s hard to distinguish between when the rocks formed and when they got seared from an impact and flung into space toward Earth. Scientists began by examining the structure of a meteorite’s mineral crystals, which differs depending on whether the crystals solidified gradually within a lava flow or rapidly after the intense heat and pressure of an impact. Then they determined the age of the crystals by measuring the ratio of uranium to lead.

The team analyzed the Martian meteorite Northwest Africa 5298 and found large, interlocking crystals about 187 million years old, which suggests that the rock formed during a volcanic eruption back then. The researchers also found zircon crystals that likely formed from an impact no more than 22 million years ago. (7/24)

Curiosity Sets One-Day Distance Record (Source: RIA Novosti)
It looks like a robot, moves like a car, and takes on challenging tasks like a company employee of the year. Now NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has taken its achievements to a whole new level. This week Curiosity traveled further than a US football field in one day for the first time since its mission on Mars began almost a year ago. (7/24)

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