August 24, 2013

California Races Other States to Capture New Space Industry (Source: Washington Post)
As several new private ventures to take people on trips to space come closer to becoming reality, California lawmakers are racing other states to woo the new space companies with cushy incentives. They are debating a bill now in Sacramento that would insulate manufacturers of spaceships and parts suppliers from liability should travelers get injured or killed on a voyage, except in cases such as gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing.

Last year, the state enacted a law that shields space tourism companies such as Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic from similar lawsuits. Several other states — including Texas, Florida, Virginia, and New Mexico — have passed similar laws, hoping to lure newcomers to the more than $200 billion commercial space flight industry.

California’s latest bill faces opposition from several lawmakers who say the state should not relax its standards since tourists should expect the ships they use to ascend to the heavens are safe. But space tourism companies say the protection is necessary if the state wants to attract and retain the industry’s business. Click here. (8/24)

One-Way Mars Trip: Application Deadline for Martian Colony Nears (Source:
Martian wannabes dust off those resumes: The application deadline for a one-way mission to Mars is almost here. While the prospect is off-putting to many, it's also the dream of a lifetime to some; more than 165,000 people have applied to join the manned Martian colony effort envisioned by the non-profit Mars One Foundation. But the foundation is only accepting applications until Aug. 31. (8/23)

Man Can Set Foot on Mars in Less Than 15 Years (Source: The Hindu)
Man could set foot on Mars in the next 5 to 15 years, says Anita Sengupta, an Indian origin scientist at NASA. “Future manned missions to Mars are an eminently doable feat from the perspective of a scientific endeavour. But a lot depends on sustained adequate budgetary support, supply of resources and a (political) will for the mission,” said Dr. Sengupta, a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a California-based field center of NASA. (8/24)

Falling Far Short (Source: Town Hall)
With its new Asteroid mission, rarely has NASA proposed an idea so controversial among lawmakers, so fraught with technical and scientific uncertainties, and so hard to explain to ordinary people.” Maybe that’s because the mission doesn’t pass the “why?” test. Why would we want to relocate an asteroid? Why would we want to study it? Why should the federal government throw tax money away on this mission. Etc.

Meanwhile, the federal government has decided there are other areas where it won’t shoot for the stars anymore. Public health, for example, where budget cuts are already slowing down the National Institutes of Health. The federal government ought to be able to cut, say, 2 percent of its spending fairly easily. Businesses large and small do so all the time. Plenty of families have cut back more than that since the 2008 recession hit.

There’s a simple way to save money. Slash NASA’s budget, and allow private companies to explore space. There are already millionaires lining up to go into space. Let them pay for it, and take the risks associated with it. Anything they learn about asteroids, or planets, or whether ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space will quickly become public knowledge anyway, whether or not the government paid for it. (8/23)

FAA Issued Waiver to Scaled Composites for SS2 Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Last month, the FAA issued a waiver to Scaled Composites on the experimental permit that allows the company to conduct powered flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. The waiver was because when Scaled applied to renew its one-year experimental permit in March, the company did not full meet requirements for identifying how it would deal with all potential hazards caused by powered test flights from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (8/23)

3 Senior Managers Fired Over Proton-M Crash (Source: RIA Novosti)
Three senior managers at Russia’s Khrunichev space company were dismissed over a Proton-M space rocket’s crash last month, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Friday. The Khrunichev-made rocket, carrying three satellites for the Glonass positioning system, Russia’s rival to the United States’ GPS, fell to the ground in flames shortly after blastoff on July 2. (8/23)

AsiaSat Falters as Competitive Pressure Takes a Toll (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong on Aug. 22 reported flat revenue for the six months ending June 30 after accounting for one-time revenue sources in 2012 and said the rest of the year looks soft given the competitive pressures in its home region.

AsiaSat said revenue and profit for the second half of this year is likely to dip following an agreement in 2012 to accept lower transponder-lease rates from a key customer starting this year. But in a statement submitted to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, AsiaSat Chairman Ju Wei Min said the launches of AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8, scheduled for launch by March and June 2014, respectively, should boost revenue as the company enters new markets. (8/23)

Huge Hole Found in the Universe (Source:
The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise. The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos.

Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale. Astronomers don't know why the hole is there. What we've found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the universe," said Liliya Williams of the University of Minnesota. The gargantuan hole was found by examining observations made using the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, funded by the National Science Foundation. (8/23)

How to Make Reusable Rockets for Cheap Space Travel (Source:
For decades, the aerospace industry has sought to build a fully reusable rocket launch system to bring down the cost of ferrying people and payloads into orbit. Despite dozens of concepts and millions of dollars directed at that goal, no truly reusable system has been created yet.

What does it take to build one? Because of our planet's gravity, getting into low-Earth orbit from the ground is a daunting task, even for rockets that are designed to burn up in the atmosphere, never to be reused again. Click here. (8/23)

Ex-Im Bank Approves $105.4 Million Loan to Finance SpaceX Launch (Source:
Continuing its support of the space industry in America, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized a $105.4 million loan to Space Communication Ltd. of Ramat Gan, Israel, to finance the SpaceX launch of the Amos-6 communications satellite, the purchase of American made-solar arrays, and insurance brokered by Marsh USA.

The transaction is Ex-Im Bank’s third in support of a SpaceX launch, and it will support approximately 600 U.S. jobs in California and elsewhere, according to bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology. In June of 2013, Ex-Im Bank announced that it had approved financing for the launches of two satellites manufactured by Loral, and in November of 2012 the Bank announced that it had approved financing for the launches of two Boeing-manufactured satellites. (8/23)

NASA Looking for Business Partners in Dayton (Source: Dayton Business Journal)
NASA has its arms wide open for potential business partners and Dayton-area companies should take notice. That was the message from Jim Free, director of Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center, who was in town Thursday for a full day of meetings with representatives from business and academia - such as Woolpert and the University of Dayton Research Institute. (8/23)

Boeing Sees Future In GPS Business (Source: Space News)
Boeing is continuing to invest in GPS technologies with an eye toward cashing in as the U.S. Air Force considers alternative approaches to satellite-based positioning, navigation and timing. Craig Cooning, vice president of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, said Boeing was committed to staying in the GPS business. Boeing is prime contractor on the GPS 2F satellites now being launched, but lost to rival Lockheed Martin in the competition to build the next-generation GPS 3 system, slated to begin launching within the next two years.

Lockheed Martin is under firm contract to build eight GPS 3 satellites, and the Air Force in June signaled its intent to buy another 12 from the company.  The Air Force is considering investing in the hardware necessary to launch the GPS 3 satellites two at a time on a single rocket, beginning with the ninth platform. But Gen. William Shelton has raised the possibility of taking the GPS program in a new direction after the satellites already under contract are launched. (8/23)

With Current System Slated for Closure, Air Force Defers Next-gen Space Fence (Source: Space News)
The most far-reaching effects of the budget crunch to date have hit home in the U.S. military space program, as the Air Force is delaying and revising plans for its next-generation space-object tracking system while preparing to shut down the current system. The service cited budget constraints in both cases.

According to an Aug. 15 memo, the Air Force now plans to award the full-scale development contract for its next-generation Space Fence in March 2014, more than a year later than previously planned. The service is also revising the funding profile for the project, which as of July 2012 carried an estimated price tag of $2.4 billion, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Just three days earlier, the Air Force said it expects to save about $14 million a year by shutting down the current space fence, formally known as the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS). Consisting of a line of very-high-frequency radars stretching across the southern United States, the AFSSS is a key component of the overall U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which includes other ground- and space-based sensor assets.

Astronaut Honors JFK's Legacy with Medal in Space (Source: CollectSpace)
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station has paid tribute to John F. Kennedy, flying a medallion to the orbiting outpost that bears the likeness of the 35th President of the United States. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who is serving as a flight engineer on board the space station, sent down photos on Wednesday (Aug. 21) showing the medal floating in front of a window with a view of the Earth below. (8/23)

NASA Studies Effects of Air Pollution on Climate (Source: KUHF)
NASA has started an airborne science campaign to get a better understanding of what affects the composition of the atmosphere and the climate. The project is using specially equipped research planes. Like everything NASA does, this project too is known under an acronym. SEAC4RS stands for "Studies of Emissions, Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys."

Its goal is to investigate how air pollution and natural emissions affect atmospheric composition and the climate. The study combines observations from satellites, aircraft, balloons and sites on the ground. Three research airplanes, which are operated from Ellington Field, measure gases and atmospheric processes in the air. (8/23)

A Counting Conundrum (Source: Aerospace)
The U.S. government has a satellite catalog that it uses to track all manmade items in space — everything from operational satellites to pieces of debris. The catalog contains information such as the launch date, launch site, orbit characteristics, and more. Every item in this database has a unique five-digit number attached to it. For example, the International Space Station is 25544, and AeroCube 2 is assigned number 31133.

With only five digits to work with, there are only 99,999 numbers to assign. However, numbers 70,000 to 99,999 are only used for special items, such as launch processing, breakups, etc. Also, more sensitive sensors are being developed, which can see smaller objects in space. This means more objects to track. So, while 99,999 numbers may have seemed like plenty at the dawn of the space age, it is now anticipated that the numbers may run out in five or ten years, depending on how many items are added to the catalog. (8/23)

China’s Mystery Satellite Could Be a Dangerous New Weapon (Source: Medium)
The SY-7 is one of three Chinese satellites doing some very strange things in orbit. On July 29, a Chinese Long March-4C rocket blasted into space from the northern Taiyuan Space Center carrying three secretive, experimental satellites. Not really all that unusual by itself — a robotic arm reportedly on one of the satellites could be involved in testing for Beijing’s far-off space station program.

But once they were in orbit, the satellites began acting very, very strangely. More precisely, one of the satellites, known as SY-7, was moving all over the place and was appearing to make close-in rendezvous’s with other satellites. It was so strange, space analysts wondered whether China was testing a new kind of space weapon — one that could intercept other satellites and more or less claw them to death.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The U.S. has experimented with anti-satellite weapons, and is even researching how to cannibalize satellites in orbit. China has even blown up one of its own satellites with a missile. That caused an international outcry considering the giant cloud of debris which has come close to imperiling space travel for a century. But a claw might be more discreet. (8/23)

GSLV Relaunch Will Take Several Months (Source: Indian Express)
It would be at least two months before the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle D5 (GSLV D5) blasts off from Sriharikota despite a dismayed Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) working overtime to figure out what went wrong last Monday.

“Even if the defect is found to be a minor one, it would take at least two months. The stages have to be dismantled for examination. If it’s a major problem, it might take longer,’’ an ISRO source said from Sriharikota. Another factor that will have a say in deciding the new launch date is the forthcoming north-east monsoon. The August 19 launch had to be aborted less than two hours to lift-off after a fuel leak was detected in the second stage. (8/23)

NASA Decides Astronaut Twin Brothers Experiment is Worthy (Source: Florida Today)
NASA initially rejected a pitch from identical twin astronauts to serve as test subjects for International Space Station experiments, deeming the proposed research scientifically irrelevant. But the scientist who nixed the idea did an about-face when asked by colleagues to reconsider.

“I’m embarrassed to say that when it first came up in some discussions we were having late last year, I said, ‘Well, that’s a funny idea, but it’s really not of any rigorous scientific interest, in my opinion,’ ” NASA scientist John Charles said. “The way I explain it is, what if we didn’t do it? What if we had this opportunity and did not pursue it? We would also acquire adverse publicity for being unimaginative, and unable to take risks, and all the usual things people say when they complain about NASA,” said Charles. (8/23)

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