August 2, 2013

Researchers Get NASA Funding to Study How to Propel and Control Tiny Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA hopes to expand scientific understanding of the Earth and the universe, but current small satellites that gather vital information can’t be controlled once they’ve been released into space. Two researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology think they may have discovered a fix for the problem.

Dr. Josh Rovey and Dr. Xiaodong Yang, assistant professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T, propose using plasmonic force propulsion to move and precisely position these tiny spacecraft. Plasmonic force is created when sunlight hits a metal under certain circumstances, generating a density wave of the electrons on its surface. (8/2)

Suborbital Rocket to Study Active Regions of the Sun (Source: NASA)
At NASA's White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a sounding rocket is being readied for flight. Due to launch on Aug. 8, 2013, the VERIS rocket, short for Very high Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, will launch for a 15-minute trip carrying an instrument that can measure properties of the structures in the sun's upper atmosphere down to 145 miles across, some eight times clearer than any similar telescope currently in space. (8/2)

SpaceX Appetite for U.S. Launch Sites Grows (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is awaiting word from NASA about whether it can take over one of the space shuttle’s launch pads at the
Cape Canaveral Spaceport. But even if its proposal is accepted, bringing its current U.S. launch complex tally to three, the company will still pursue another site, most likely in Texas, for its growing commercial business. “Each of the pads has its own niche and we have plenty of business to fill each pad,” said Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut who now oversees SpaceX’s commercial crew programs.

NASA is evaluating at least two proposals for Launch Pad 39A, the other being from Blue Origin which said it would like to lease the complex on a non-exclusive basis. Reisman said SpaceX wants the pad whether or not it wins the next and final round of NASA’s commercial crew development program. The company is competing against Boeing and Sierra Nevada, both of which plan to fly their spacecraft on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rockets.

Reisman said SpaceX wants to use Launch Complex 39A’s access tower, escape system and bunker for launching people, saving the time and cost of upgrading its existing Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad for crewed missions. The company also would fly its planned Falcon Heavy rockets, in addition to Falcon 9s, from the Kennedy Space Center, Reisman added. (8/2)

Sullivan Gets Support for NOAA Top Job (Source: CAP)
Today the Center for American Progress’s John Podesta issued the following statement in response to the nomination of Kathryn Sullivan as the next National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, administrator: "Dr. Sullivan’s background, combined with her unassailable leadership skills, will provide the nation with an unparalleled blend of knowledge and ability. Who better than an oceanographer and astronaut to address NOAA’s joint mandate of managing our oceans and tracking the skies? President Obama has shown great foresight in once again nominating a scientist to run America’s foremost ocean science agency." (8/1)

New Images Show SLS/Orion at KSC (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has releases new artist concepts of the SLS and Orion spacecraft including being stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Modifications of the Vehicle Assembly Building are underway to support the SLS and Orion spacecraft, which also will result in the ability to process multiple types of launch vehicles. Click here. The agency also released a promotional video for the Commercial Crew program. Click here. (8/2)

Roscosmos Chief Reprimanded for Failures (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Is Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin on the way out? Russia media are reporting that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev officially reprimanded Popovkin for incompetence on Friday following a series of embarrassing launch failures. The official reprimand essentially represents a warning to Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin that he faces the sack if he does not rectify the stated shortcomings in his work. Popovkin took over Roscosmos in 2011 after his predecessor, Anatoly Perminov, was fired after a series of launch failures. (8/2)

NASA To Pair Space Taxi Development with Tickets To Ride (Source: Space News)
The company or companies that win the next round of NASA commercial crew development funds will do more than build, test-fly and certify their spaceships. The agreements also are expected to cover up to six operational missions per vendor to ferry crew to the international space station, program managers said at an Aug. 1 industry briefing to discuss a draft solicitation for the program’s next phase.

Bidders also will have an opportunity to showcase their spacecraft’s cargo capabilities and other attributes beyond NASA’s core requirements to safely, reliably and cost-effectively transport crew members to and from the space station by 2017.

NASA does not plan to replace the cargo flight services it currently buys from Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corp. SpaceX already has made a test flight and two cargo runs to the station. Orbital Sciences plans its debut station mission in September. (8/2)

Budget May Cut Air Force Squadrons (Source: Air Force Times)
The Pentagon says that budget limits may mean the Air Force has to cut five of its 55 tactical squadrons, most of its C-130 fleet, and future investment. That scenario was laid out in the Pentagon's recent budget review, which seeks to present options for meeting sequestration cut requirements. The Air Force flies A-10s, F-15s and F-16s in its tactical squadrons. (7/31)

Armadillo Aerospace Suspends Vehicle Development Work (Source: Space News)
Suborbital vehicle developer Armadillo Aerospace has suspended work on its reusable launch vehicles and is in a “hibernation mode” while it looks for new investors, the company’s founder said Aug. 1. John Carmack said he had supported Armadillo using “crazy money” he set aside from his video game business earnings, but is now actively looking for outside investors to restart the company’s operations. “I’ve basically expended my crazy money on Armadillo,” he said, “so I don’t expect to see any rockets in the real near future unless we do wind up raising some investment money.” (8/2)

Senate Panel OKs Defense Bill Over GOP Protest (Source: The Hill)
Despite some Republican protests that it ignores sequestration requirements, a $594 billion defense appropriations bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The panel has approved appropriation bills that exceed sequestration caps, triggering frustration by some GOP members. (8/1)

Europa Report is a Space Opera that Gets it Right (Source: io9)
About halfway through Europa Report, you may find yourself holding your breath. Partly that's because you'll be feeling the tension in this psychologically intense story of the first humans to visit Jupiter's moon Europa. And partly that's because this small indie manages to show you visions of space that are heart-wrenchingly beautiful. (8/2)

Carmack: Armadillo Aerospace in “Hibernation Mode” (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Armadillo Aerospace, the suborbital vehicle company founded and funded by video game designer John Carmack, has kept a low profile in recent months. The company did not participate in the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, an event where Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace all had special sessions.

The last news from the company was in late February, when it reported on the launch of its STIG-B rocket at Spaceport America in early January. That launch failed when the main parachute snagged and didn’t deploy properly, causing the rocket to hit the ground at high speed. There is a good reason for that silence over the last five months: the company is, for the time being, effectively out of money.

“The situation that we’re at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode,” Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. “I did spin down most of the development work for this year” after the crash, he said. The current situation was the result of a decision Carmack said he made two years ago to stop accepting contract work and push for the development of a suborbital reusable sounding rocket. (8/1)

Why Iridium Communications Shares Plunged (Source: Motley Fool)
Shares of Iridium Communications have plunged today by as much as 19% after the company reported earnings that fell short of expectations. Revenue in the second quarter added up to $94.7 million, a bit light compared to the consensus estimate of $99.3 million. Net income was $15.4 million which also looked soft. Declining revenue and higher projected warranty costs adversely affected results. (8/1)

Scare in the Sky: India's Latest Satellite Almost Got Lost (Source: NDTV)
Minutes after the INSAT-3D satellite was launched last month to help forecast weather and predict natural disasters, scientists at the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) were in nail-biting agony. The satellite, which weighs nearly 2000 kilos and cost 200 crores, exhibited "anomalous behavior" - it started spinning at a much higher rate and then all communication between the satellite and the Master Control Facility at Hasan in Karnataka "was lost for a short duration."

Not being able to talk to the satellite, which was launched using a French rocket in French Guiana, means it could have spun out of control. ISRO says it used "contingency measures" to move the satellite back onto its planned orbit. Grateful scientists today told NDTV that the satellite is "healthy and has reached its final resting place above Earth" and will be functional in a week, most likely. (8/1)

NASA Bill tied to New Mexico Heads to Full Senate (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
The U.S. Senate will consider a bill to fund NASA that includes an amendment supporting the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program that provides support for experiments conducted by New Mexican companies and schools.
The amendment was sponsored by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), a member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The bill cleared the committee Tuesday, allowing it to be taken up by the full Senate. The Senate, however, will be in recess from Aug. 5 to Sept. 6.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program partners with aerospace industries such as UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and Armadillo Aerospace at Spaceport America to give students and small businesses an opportunity to test various technologies. “New Mexico students and faculty will have three opportunities to fly their experiments in space this fall semester because of the Flight Opportunities Program that is now working with Up Aerospace at Spaceport America,” said New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Director Patricia C. Hynes. (8/1)

Asteroid Pinpointed as Likely Source of Russian Meteor (Source: New Scientist)
Who's been taking potshots at Earth? A new study shows how a 200-meter-wide cluster of rocks, first spotted by scientists in 2011, could have spawned the Chelyabinsk meteor which exploded over Russia earlier this year. If correct, that means we may need to watch out for further impacts from other fragments of the cluster, which are still at large, in orbit around the sun.

The meteor that exploded over Russia on 15 February, scattering debris across the Chelyabinsk region and injuring hundreds, came as a complete surprise. Since then researchers have traced it to the Apollo asteroid family, but no one had matched it to a particular member of the group. Now researchers in Spain are pointing the finger at asteroid 2011 EO40. Roughly 200 meters wide, it is a rock – or cluster of rocks – previously listed as potentially hazardous by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. (8/1)

NASA Awards Contract for Gaseous Nitrogen Supply for Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to Air Liquide Large Industries U.S. LP of Houston to supply gaseous nitrogen to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This will include the continued operations and maintenance of the KSC pipeline system.

The firm fixed-price contract includes an economic price adjustment clause. The total approximate value is $69 million over the potential 10-year life of the contract. The base period of performance, which begins on Aug. 1, will last two years. The contract also contains four two-year options that could extend the contract through 2023. (8/1)

NASA's Space Launch System Completes Preliminary Design Review (Source: NASA)
NASA has achieved a major milestone in its effort to build the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle by successfully completing the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review. Senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluded Wednesday the design, associated production and ground support plans for the SLS heavy-lift rocket are technically and programmatically capable of fulfilling the launch vehicle's mission objectives.

NASA is developing the SLS and Orion spacecraft to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, with the flexibility to launch spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, including to an asteroid and Mars. This review concludes the initial design and technology development phase. The next milestone in the continuing verification process is Key Decision Point-C, in which NASA will grant the program authority to move from formulation to implementation. (8/1)

Ousted From First Orion, Circular Solar Arrays Still Set For Cygnus (Source: Space News)
Orbital Science Corp.’s Cygnus space tug will head to the international space station (ISS) in September powered by a pair of rectangular solar arrays from Dutch Space, but by the time the European-built tug makes its fifth flight to the orbital outpost, it will be sporting a distinctive pair of circular arrays ATK Aerospace developed for NASA’s Orion deep-space crew capsule.

Loosely scheduled for 2014 or 2015, Orbital’s fifth space station resupply mission coincides with the introduction of an enhanced version of Cygnus that can carry as much as 2,700 kilograms, up from the original 2,000 kilograms, according to Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski. (8/1)

Congressional Debate on NASA’s Asteroid Plan Ignores Agency’s Real Problem (Source: Houston Chronicle)
There’s a lot of buzz in and around Congress right now about NASA’s proposed mission to capture an asteroid, which Republicans are disinclined to support. The issue has gotten considerable news coverage because NASA is rarely a partisan issue. However, Republicans do not like NASA’s plans to send a robotic spacecraft to an as-yet unidentified asteroid and tow it into the vicinity of the moon, where humans can visit it.

Being the subject of congressional infighting, of course, does NASA no good. But this battle is a distraction from NASA’s real problem, which neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to acknowledge. Namely, the space agency is being tasked with building a huge and powerful rocket it will not be able to afford to fly. A couple of weeks ago John Strickland analyzed the launch costs of NASA’s Space Launch System. Strickland concludes that the SLS system would likely launch, on average, every four years, at a cost of more than $14 billion per launch. Click here. (8/1)

Defense Stocks See Some "Bounce Back" (Source: Bloomberg)
Defense companies are seeing some improvement in their stock prices, following turmoil during the lead-up to sequestration. Stocks of small defense firms are "seeing a little bit of bounce back ... because the sky is not falling and companies are not going out of business," said Mark Jordan, a St. Louis-based analyst at Noble Financial Capital Markets. Still, 84% of defense firms surveyed by the Aerospace Industries Association saw sales or profits fall because of budget cuts and 62% curtailed production. (8/1)

First Liquid Hydrogen Tank Barrel Segment for SLS Core Completed (Source: Space Daily)
The first liquid hydrogen tank barrel segment for the core stage of NASA's new heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), recently was completed at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The segment is considered a "confidence" barrel segment because it validates the vertical weld center is working the way it should. (7/31)

In Switch, Telesat Buys Satellite from Astrium (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada on Aug. 1 announced that its Telstar 12 replacement satellite will be built not by Space Systems/Loral (SSL), which no longer shares corporate parentage with Telesat, but by Astrium Satellites of Europe. Canada-based Telesat had bought satellites exclusively from Loral when the two companies were majority-owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York. Telesat had said it was free to choose its own suppliers, and that it just happened that SSL was selected during the period of Loral’s ownership. (8/1)

NASA Completes First Review of Asteroid-Capture Concepts (Source:
NASA has made its first internal review of ideas for its ambitious asteroid-capture mission. The review team, composed of NASA leaders from around the country, met July 30 to gauge the technical and programmatic aspects of different concepts proposed by researchers within the agency. NASA will continue developing the most promising ideas to formulate a baseline asteroid-capture mission concept, officials said.

While Tuesday's review focused on internally generated ideas, the team also talked about the 400-plus proposals submitted by industry researchers, academics and the general public, officials said. Those responses flooded in after a June 18 request for information, in which NASA sought input about how to achieve the asteroid-capture mission. The space agency is currently evaluating those outside ideas, officials said. (8/1)

SpaceX Will Send Nine-Engine Rocket for Reusability Tests in New Mexico (Source: Flight Global)
SpaceX has confirmed it will bring a nine-engine vehicle to Spaceport America in New Mexico to test reusable technology, rather than the Grasshopper reusability test bed currently flying in Texas. In contrast to Grasshopper, which flies with one Merlin 1D engine and associated tankage, the new vehicle will closely resemble the Falcon 9-R core stage that had its first firing at SpaceX's test stand in McGregor, Texas, with nine engines and eventually a potential second stage.

In contrast to the Texas site, Spaceport America is an FAA-certified spaceport with relatively open airspace. Grasshopper is certified to fly up to 11,500ft at the McGregor site, and would require additional certifications or waivers to fly higher and faster; flights from Spaceport America will not require such certifications. "New Mexico will have testing ongoing, but we haven't announced when," says the company. (8/1)

Astronaut Twins Volunteer for Spaceflight Experiments (Source: Florida Today)
Twin astronauts will serve as test subjects for human spaceflight experiments when one of the brothers flies a yearlong expedition on the International Space Station while the other leads a normal life on Earth. Space station-bound U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and his sibling, former astronaut Mark Kelly, volunteered for the unique opportunity. In fact, it was their idea.

“This opportunity originated at the initiative of the twin astronauts themselves,” NASA said in a solicitation for research proposals this week. NASA's call for proposals for the scientific project: “Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors” has a deadline of Sept. 17. (8/1)

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