July 3, 2013

SpaceX Passes New Hurdles in CCiCap Push Toward USCV-1  (Source: America Space)
With the launch of the first U.S. Crew Vehicle (USCV-1) mission now scheduled for no earlier than November 2017, it might seem easy to express pessimism about the future for the three finalists in NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. Yet since the announcement of SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada, last August, to continue development of their Dragon, CST-100 and Dream Chaser vehicles, all three companies have taken giant strides toward ensuring that their respective craft are ready to support a resumption of crewed missions from U.S. soil before the end of the present decade. Click here. (7/3)

Why You Can't Name New Moons And Planets Anything You Want (Source: NPR)
A dispute over the names of two new moons of Pluto is highlighting a broader battle over who names what in our solar system and beyond. On one side is the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a venerable consortium of astronomers who have set the naming rules for the better part of a century. On the other side, a growing number of astronomers who feel the IAU has unfairly designated itself as the intergalactic naming police. Click here. (7/3)

Ocean Satellite Dies After 11.5 Year Mission (Source: AP)
Jason-1, a satellite that for more than a decade precisely tracked rising sea levels across a vast sweep of ocean and helped forecasters make better weather and climate predictions, has ended its useful life after circling the globe more than 53,500 times. The joint U.S. and French satellite was decommissioned this week after its last remaining transmitter failed. Launched on Dec. 7, 2001, Jason-1 was designed to have a lifespan of three to five years but it lasted for 11 ½ years.

Every 10 days, its instruments scanned the ocean surface, mapping sea level, wind speed and wave height for more than 95 percent of the planet's ice-free ocean area. It was one of three oceanographic satellites that contributed to a 20-year record of sea-level changes, NASA said. (7/3)

Arianespace: Still Time To Squeeze Proton, Falcon 9 Customers into 2014 (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium is ready to add one or two Ariane 5 launches to its 2014 manifest if commercial customers make themselves known quickly enough. After the July 2 Proton launch failure, Arianespace said it still has time to order as many as two additional heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicles for launch in 2014.

Russia’s Proton, marketed commercially by International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., is the biggest competitor to Ariane 5 for launching satellites in the 6,000-kilogram weight class. But the failure, which occurred just seconds after liftoff, nonetheless is likely to ground all Proton missions until a root cause is determined. That could leave an opening for Arianespace to fill the Ariane 5 vehicle’s upper position with one or two satellites whose owners cannot afford to wait for Proton’s return to flight. (7/3)

NASA Wants More Spaceport Infrastructure Opened to Private Sector (Source: Space News)
An internal legislative wish-list shows that NASA, mired in a U.S. budget crunch that has dimmed prospects for new authorization and appropriations bills this year, is looking for ways to give private space companies more sway over critical national space infrastructure — so long as they are willing to pay for the privilege. The undated 35-page legislative proposal — which also contains many noncommercialization suggestions for Congress to consider — was crafted by NASA in response to the draft NASA authorization bill unveiled June 19 by the Republican leadership of House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee.

The list was also shared with the U.S. Senate, where staffers are busy drafting that chamber’s version of NASA’s next authorization bill. Authorizing legislation sets funding guidelines, which are not always heeded, for the congressional appropriations committees that determine NASA’s annual budget. Typically, such bills also contain policy directives.

Among the authorities NASA wants this year is something the Defense Department got last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013: the ability to accept money from commercial entities who wish to incorporate their own upgrades into government-owned spaceports. The change would “allow NASA to accept funding from the private sector in order to develop, enhance, or maintain the U.S. Government’s launch, range instrumentation, and reentry sites,” the agency said in its list of legislative proposals. Click here. (7/3)

There May Already be Aliens on Mars (Source: New Scientist)
The likelihood of contamination from Earth may ironically be a boost to the search for Martian life. Almost everywhere you go on Earth, you encounter alien species that were introduced – often inadvertently – by humans. Now it seems possible that we have done the same to Mars. Despite stringent rules designed to prevent contamination, Earth microbes may have reached the Red Planet.

That might look like a blow for efforts to detect Martian life. But, ironically, it may end up being the opposite. Some planetary scientists argue that if contamination is already likely, we should now throw caution to the wind. The strict rules actually hamper the search for life by adding unnecessary costs to missions, they say. Is there a case for relaxing the rules? Perhaps. If Mars has its own life, it should be different enough from Earth life for us to recognize it. (7/3)

NASA Selects Electrical Systems Engineering Services Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to ASRC Federal Space & Defense (AS&D) for the Electrical Systems Engineering Services II (ESES II) for the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. This is a cost plus award fee, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract with a maximum ordering value of $475 million. This contract has a 30-day phase-in period with a 5-year effective ordering period from the date of award, which was Tuesday, July 2. (7/3)

Astronaut Chris Hadfield to write 'Guide to Life on Earth' (Source: Collect Space)
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who in May returned from the International Space Station as both a veteran commander and social media star, has landed a two-book deal to share his space experiences. In "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth," to be published this fall worldwide by Little, Brown and Company and by Random House Canada in his home country, Hadfield will take his readers "deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible."

Hadfield's "entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises" are used to explain "how conventional wisdom can get in the way of real achievement — and happiness," his publishers said in a description of the book. (7/3)

Bringing Rocket Ships and Electric Cars to Virginia? (Source: Times Dispatch)
Just in time for the Fourth of July: the rockets-red-glare approach to political deal making. Bending Virginia’s legislature to your will often depends on whom you know, not what you know. It’s about relationships, usually between lobbyists and lawmakers. And that can be defined by the flow of corporate cash to campaign treasuries.

Tesla, the electric-car company started by Internet billionaire Elon Musk, is trying to plug into the Virginia market by relying on the strength of its message, not the size of its checkbook. It may prove naïve. There could be another way, one that has nothing to do with automobiles and everything to do with another form of transportation: rocket ships. It’s a scenario that’s more science fiction than political science — at least that’s what Musk’s people suggest. (7/3)

Spaceport May Be in Georgia's Future (Source: Brunswick News)
The Camden County Commission wants to show it is in the race to bring a space port to the county. Commissioners voted, 5-0, Tuesday to hire Holland & Knight, a Washington, D.C.,-based consulting firm, to represent the county with real estate, environmental counseling and government affairs services to help convince SpaceX that Camden County is the best location among three finalists to build a commercial space port.

"I think we're going in the right direction to give this a chance to be a reality," Commissioner Gary Blount said. "It's encouraging." The consultant will review and analyze an environmental impact statement and comments from interested parties, assist the Camden County Joint Development Authority in negotiations to acquire land for the launch facility, off-site launch control and viewing facility from the current owners, Union Carbide and Bayer CropScience.

The consultant will also evaluate options for the off-site facility, analyze and evaluate options regarding acquisition and construction financing, determine off-site easements needed and address any political or administrative concerns or issues with the Federal Aviation Administration, Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies. The consultant will work with state and federal officials for funding. (7/3)

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