July 31, 2013

Embry-Riddle Group Tours Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Students and faculty from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University visited the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Wednesday to tour the Eastern Range control center and other Air Force facilities, followed by a visit with Starfighters Aerospace at the Space Shuttle Landing Facility. The visit included a discussion of plans for a point-to-point spaceflight demonstration project now being planned as a collaboration with Florida spaceport groups. (7/31)

Bolden Says Long-Term Lease of KSC Pad May Be Near (Source: Florida Today)
A long-term lease of a mothballed KSC launch pad may still be near, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden suggested. At least one company and some members of Congress have asked NASA not to award a single company exclusive use of pad 39A, saying it should be made available to multiple rocket launchers. But Bolden said Wednesday that it was the neighboring pad 39B, which NASA is overhauling to support its own exploration rocket, that the agency has always envisioned for shared use.

“We would prefer that the multi-use facility be 39B, and it’s built that way now,” Bolden told the NASA Advisory Council during a meeting at NASA headquarters. “It’s got a flame trench, a blast deflector in it that’s mobile. We think we can handle all takers on 39B.” NASA had been close to a deal with SpaceX to take over pad 39A until Blue Origin submitted a competing bid. Although Blue Origin doesn’t expect to launch its own rockets from KSC until 2018, the company has proposed to modify and manage pad 39A to serve any interested launcher.

Bolden said NASA has no use for 39A, which supported the Apollo and shuttle programs, and planned to demolish it unless there was private sector interest. Editor's Note: ULA has thus far endorsed Blue Origin's bid to turn LC-39A into a multi-user pad...an approach that SpaceX opposes. It has been suggested that ULA's support for Blue Origin may be aimed at forcing SpaceX to invest tens of millions elsewhere. (7/31)

Space Panel Opens Florida Airports Council Meeting (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Airports Council met last week at Disney World and kicked their conference off with a briefing by Space Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation, focusing on spaceports and the space transportation industry. Florida is home to multiple FAA-licensed spaceports, with others in the process of acquiring FAA license. These include the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, the Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, the Space Coast Executive Airport in Titusville, and others.

Space Florida supports a statewide spaceport system plan that provides space transportation infrastructure priorities to FDOT for annual funding consideration (roughly $15 million has been provided yearly), much like seaports and airports are treated within FDOT's funding program. The state has been an innovator in this approach, and we have seen other states take steps to copy Florida's approach. (7/31)

Is it Time for a New Rocket? Paul Allen Bets On It (Source: Alaska News)
Start with the largest aircraft ever built, with a wingspan longer than a football field and a split fuselage fitted with six Boeing 747 jet engines -- enough thrust to get 1.3 million pounds off the ground, about 425,000 pounds more than a fully loaded 747. Sling a 120-foot, three-stage rocket below the aircraft, and when the plane reaches 30,000 feet, fire the rocket into space. Then the plane flies back to Earth.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen calls his newest venture Stratolaunch, a system designed to lift 13,500-pound payloads -- satellites, science experiments, cargo and, eventually, humans -- into low-Earth orbit, where the space shuttle used to fly and where the international space station still dwells. Construction of the aircraft is under way in California, with test flights planned for the end of 2016 and the first mission to occur in late 2017 or early 2018. Click here.

Editor's Note: One early partner in Stratolaunch has left the stage. Huntsville-based Dynetics is no longer involved in the initiative. Dynetics was involved early-on as a systems integration partner, but the company quetly parted ways with Stratolaunch in recent months. (7/31)

All-China Women's Federation Honors (Source: Xinhua)
The All-China Women's Federation has proclaimed Wang Yaping, the only female astronaut to participate in the Shenzhou-10 manned space mission, as one of China's most outstanding women, the federation announced. Wang's performance has greatly inspired China's women, the federation said in a statement. Wang, along with astronauts Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang, was sent into space aboard Shenzhou-10 on June 11 and returned to Earth on June 26. (7/31)

NASA Needs More Women, Top Official Says (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. space agency is in need of more women among its ranks, NASA's second-in-command said last week during a panel on women in space. "Even though we have a flat budget at best, these days we have about 1,000 new hires per year," NASA associate administrator Lori Garver said. "Right now 37 percent of those have been women. We need to increase that." (7/30)

ESA Sets Sights on Small Spaceplane Following Technology Demonstrator (Source: Flight Global)
A European Space Agency bid to develop a small, reusable spaceplane in the 2017-2018 timeframe is on track for a summer 2014 launch to test key re-entry technologies, following a successful helicopter-drop splashdown trial. That June 2013 test, off the east coast of Sardinia, Italy, of a full-scale prototype of the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) left ESA confident that the vehicle will survive splashdown and recovery following its planned suborbital launch on a Vega rocket from Kourou, French Guiana in summer 2014.

The Vega test launch was originally set for 2013, but contract negotiations between industrial partners forced a delay. However, programme head Giorgio Tumino says the recovery test success coincided with a "consolidation" of plans, and integration of the live vehicle is underway at Thales Alenia Space in Turin. Pre-launch testing will be carried out by ESA in the Netherlands before shipping to Kourou. (7/30)

Eutelsat Orders Satellite from Loral for Brazil (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on July 30 said it had ordered a mixed C-, Ku- and Ka-band satellite from Loral to operate starting in 2016 at 65 degrees west longitude over Brazil. Eutelsat had won rights to the slot from Brazilian regulators at auction in early 2012. Eutelsat said the satellite is designed to be operational in time to serve the Brazilian Olympic Games in 2016. (7/30)

Taking Cue from Landsat, GPS Programs, Europe Permits Free Access to Earth Observation Data (Source: Space News)
The European Commission has agreed to permit free access to data from its Sentinel series of Earth observation satellites, concluding that any harm to private-sector satellite operators will be outweighed by the expected growth in value-added services derived from the data.

After a long process of evaluation that included input from the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), an association of private-sector providers of Earth observation data, the commission has agreed to align itself with a policy already adopted by the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA). (7/30)

SpaceX Wins Launch Reservation for Canada's Radarsat Program (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX was awarded a launch reservation contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) to support the largest space program to date in Canada, carrying the three satellites to orbit that will make up the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2018. RCM is a three satellite configuration and will support Canada’s need for maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring. The mission will build on the successes of RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2. SpaceX will conduct its first mission for MDA. this year, launching the CASSIOPE satellite on a Falcon 9. (7/30)

Rumors of Comet ISON ‘Fizzling’ May be Greatly Exaggerated (Source: Universe Today)
A recent paper suggesting Comet ISON may be fizzling out has caused a mild uproar across the astronomy-minded social media outlets and some websites. Any current determination of ISON’s ultimate fate when it gets close to the Sun later this year is speculation at best, (as is the case with almost any other sun-grazing comet) and since no one on planet Earth has seen ISON since it entered the Sun’s glare in June, there is absolutely no way to determine the comet’s current state, either. (7/30)

Planetary ‘Runaway Greenhouse’ More Easily Triggered, Research Shows (Source: U. of Washington)
It might be easier than previously thought for a planet to overheat into the scorchingly uninhabitable “runaway greenhouse” stage, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington and the University of Victoria. In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now.

One estimate of the inner edge of a star’s “habitable zone” is where the runaway greenhouse process begins. The habitable zone is that ring of space around a star that’s just right for water to remain in liquid form on an orbiting rocky planet’s surface, thus giving life a chance. Revisiting this classic planetary science scenario with new computer modeling, the astronomers found a lower thermal radiation threshold for the runaway greenhouse process, meaning that stage may be easier to initiate than had been previously thought. (7/29)

What Caused ISS Astronaut's Helmet Leak? A Spacewalker Explains (Source: LA Times)
When astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet suddenly began filling with water as he floated outside the International Space Station, NASA officials said they’d never seen such a malfunction before. Now, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy explains in a video what happened to make his Italian partner’s helmet leak. Click here. (7/30)

'Star Trek' Shuttle Continues Mission at NASA (Source: USA Today)
Capt. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise had a five-year mission. But one of the starship's shuttles has been on a nearly 50-year mission that ends Wednesday. The shuttle craft Galileo, which appeared in seven episodes of the original Star Trek series, is settling in Wednesday at its final landing place, Johnson Space Center in Houston. It has been a long voyage for this nearly full-size shuttle that was built for "The Galileo Seven" episode, which first aired in January 1967. The historic TV prop might never have made it to the space center if it wasn't for a first-class Star Trek fan.

Over the past few years, management consultant Adam Schneider of Livingston, N.J., satisfied his love of Star Trek with collecting miniatures. Through connections with online Trekkies, he learned about the reappearance of a full-size shuttle craft. Many die-hard fans thought the Galileo lost. Paramount had donated the prop to a school after the series ended, and over the years it had been passed along through several owners before surfacing last year at an auction house in Ohio. (7/30)

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