August 8, 2013

Veteran SpaceXer Moonlights as DC Bar Owner (Source: Washington City Paper)
Running a bar may not be rocket science, but there’s actually a rocket scientist behind this one. Thomas Foolery, the wacky new spot that replaced Zeke’s DC Donutz in Dupont Circle last week, is the brainchild of SpaceX Director of Advanced Projects Steve Davis. The aerospace expert, who also owns frozen yogurt shop Mr. Yogato, is a 10-year veteran of the private space transportation company.

“I’m just a normal engineer,” Davis says. “I work on the capsules, I work on the rockets, I work on the launch sites.” He also has quite a resume for a yogurt shop and bar owner: finance and mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, a particle physics degree from the University of Durham in England, an aerospace engineering degree from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University.

Editor's Note: Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida, is also an owner of Nolan's Irish pub in Cocoa Beach. The pub has hosted various space events and is a popular night spot for space industry folks. (8/8)

SpaceX Will Launch German Military Satellites From California (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX will provide the launch services for Germany’s second-generation radar reconnaissance satellite system. The satellites, provided by OHB and Astrium will replace the current constellation and will be delivered to orbit by two Falcon 9 rockets in 2018 and 2019 from Vandenberg AFB in California.
"SpaceX looks forward to working with OHB and Astrium, and we appreciate their confidence in SpaceX to reliably deliver these satellites to orbit,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO. “These missions are very meaningful for SpaceX as the first contracted for a European government.” (8/8)

Vulnerable Military Satellites Creating a ‘Maginot Line’ in Space (Source: National Defense)
While the possibility of anti-satellite weapons, jamming and cyber-attacks aimed at the U.S. military’s fleets of communication satellites is making them vulnerable to adversaries, declining defense budgets constitute an equal threat to the space architecture the services rely upon, according to a report released July 24.
Like the Maginot Line that gave the French a false sense of security prior to the German Blitzkrieg in World War II, the U.S. military has assumed since the end of the Cold War that no one would dare launch an physical attack on its satellites because that would violate international norms. Just as the Germans did away with such niceties and invaded France through a neighboring country, an adversary could go after one of the military’s biggest Achilles’ heels, its space-based communication system. Click here. (8/8)

Satellite Tracking of Zebra Migrations in Africa is Conservation Aid (Source: Space Daily)
NASA says satellites can help track zebras migrating in the African nation of Botswana, one of the world's longest migrations of the striped creatures. Predicting when and where zebras will move has not been possible until now, researchers said, but with rain and vegetation data from satellites they can track when and where arid lands begin to green, and for the first time anticipate if zebras will make the trek, the space agency reported Wednesday. (8/7)

Climate Science Boost with Tropical Aerosols Profile (Source: Space Daily)
Australia's biomass burning emissions comprise about eight percent of the global total, ranking third by continent behind Africa (48 percent) and South America (27 percent). Lead researcher, CSIRO's Dr Ross Mitchell, said fine particles generated by burning of the tropical savanna of Northern Australia are a globally significant aerosol source, with impacts on regional climate and air quality.

"Aerosols play a very important role in modulating climate, yet the knowledge of perhaps the most basic piece of information - the seasonal climatology - remains undetermined for many aerosol producing regions. Our latest research defines the aerosol climatology of the Australian savanna - by combining observations from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology monitoring stations across northern Australia, spanning 12-14 years. (8/6)

Strange Mars Craters Created By Ice? (Source: National Geographic)
A four-decade long Martian mystery surrounding the origins of double-rimmed craters may have been cracked. New research suggests that their strange spill patterns seen around some impact sites on Mars may be directly linked to giant ice sheets that could have blanketed the Red Planet sometime in its ancient past. As their theory goes, when material from the original meteor impact blast was thrown onto the surface, it would spill over the steep crater walls and slip down the lower slopes which were covered by a sheet of ice. This then created a set of unique features on the surface. (8/7)

Shuttle Hangars May Soon Be Back in Business (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program. The agency's board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.

As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money. Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said a customer is lined up to use the hangars that NASA no longer needs.

The spacecraft are built by The Boeing Co., which under a separate deal plans to lease a third shuttle hangar from the state for assembly of the CST-100 crew capsule, which is being developed to fly NASA and private astronauts. Space Florida said it recently began the first phase of renovations to the other two hangars, a process that will include demolition of shuttle-specific infrastructure like access platforms. The second phase would modernize the facilities for the new tenant to use for “spacecraft assembly, refurbishment and testing.” The new tenant will match half the refurbishment project’s cost. (8/8)

Schiff: Deficit Hawks in OMB to Blame for Planetary Science Cuts (Source: NASA Watch)
One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration.

Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science. And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. In an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities. (8/8)

Virginia Objects to NASA's Spaceport Funding, Lease of LC-39A (Source: NASA Watch)
Virginia's Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, in a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, says his state's investment of over $80 million to turn Wallops into a "true multi-user facility" is jeopardized by NASA's uneven allocation of 21st Century Space Launch Complex (21CSLC) funding and its plans to lease KSC's LC-39A to a commercial provider. Connaughton complained that NASA has sent the lion's share of 21CSLC funding to Florida, despite the fact that Virginia will launch half of the agency's commercial ISS resupply missions.

He also complains that NASA's proposed lease of LC-39A "for a de minimis amount" to a commercial provider will unfairly ignore the true cost of the facility, and that NASA should demand fair market value for the lease. "Without such action, it will be extremely difficult for MARS, as well as other launch facilities and commercial launch providers, to succeed in the aerospace market as well as provide the sustained, duplicative national launch capability that NASA and Congress has said it desires," he wrote. Click here to read the letter.

Editor's Note: As a transportation secretary, Connaughton should be familiar with the government's role in providing transportation infrastructure for commercial and public use...often without user rates designed to amortize the public's investment. Again, though, here's an opportunity for Space Florida to step in and serve as a transportation authority rather than have NASA lease the infrastructure to a for-profit company. Also, since the 21CSLC funding is not solely tied to ISS resupply launch requirements, NASA's focus on upgrades at KSC (the nation's busiest spaceport) is entirely sensible. (8/8)

Delta-4 Lofts WGS Military Comsat Into Orbit (Source: CBS)
A United Launch Alliance Delta-4 rocket carrying the latest in an international fleet of military communications satellites -- this one paid for by Australia -- climbed into orbit Wednesday after a picture-perfect launch from Cape Canaveral. The 21-story-tall Delta 4, equipped with four solid-fuel strap-on boosters for extra liftoff power, roared to life on time at 8:29 p.m. and quickly climbed away from launch complex 37B at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (8/7)

Senate Spending Bills Express Continued Concerns Over EELV (Source: Aviation Week)
Although Senate appropriators and authorizers didn’t cut the 2014 request for the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), they are intensifying their scrutiny of the program and how new competitors in the launch market are received. In the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying the fiscal 2014 defense spending bill, the committee says it “continues to be concerned by the lack of visibility in the funding requests to support the EELV program.”

Since passage of the final 2013 spending bill in March, the Air Force has managed program procurement under two separate line items: Launch Services, which covers the launch vehicles, and Launch Capability, which supports launch infrastructure and other work to maintain assured access to space. The 2014 request documents don’t reflect this separation yet, but the 2015 documents will, the service says.

The 2013 bill cut the $1.68 billion request slightly, and directed $805 million for launch services and $655 million for launch capability. “The conferees direct that none of the recommended reduction to the EELV Launch Capabilities program be applied against mission assurance activities,” a conference report said. (8/7)

Agreement Will Foster South African Science Collaboration with the US (Source: SKA)
South Africa's SKA Project (SKA SA) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the US have agreed to continue their collaboration across a broad front to advance cutting-edge radio astronomy projects in both countries over the next five years. An agreement signed in Cape Town paves the way for the organizations to pool resources and expertise in high-level projects related to the development and implementation of software, data processing and archiving and state-of-the-art receiving systems.

SKA SA and NRAO will exchange staff and students and hold joint workshops, and also plan to establish joint research and development activities. "Radio astronomy in both countries will benefit from sharing expertise resulting from recent expansions and upgrades to several radio astronomy facilities in the USA and the construction of the KAT-7 and the MeerKAT in South Africa," said Dr. Bernie Fanaroff. (8/7)

Olympic Torch Will be Launched Into Space (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Olympic flame will travel 65,000 kilometers, with a route going through the North Pole and even outer space, before finally reaching Sochi where the Winter Olympic Games will be held next February, Sochi-2014 Organizing Committee Chair Dmitry Chernyshenko said. “On October 6, the Olympic Flame is to arrive in Moscow to start the longest race in the Olympic history that will last 23 days and cover 65,000 kilometers - one equator and a half - and travel through almost 3,000 locales,” he said. (8/7)

Mohawk Guy on Bringing Cool to NASA (Source: CBS)
Bobak Ferdowsi's patriotic Mohawk -- sported during the landing of the Mars Rover "Curiosity" last year -- earned him the name "Mohawk Guy," and gave NASA a serious dose of cool. The MIT grad and NASA Mars Rover flight director, looking back over his year of fame, from his 60,000 plus Twitter followers to his invitations to the Inaugural Parade and State of the Union Address, said. "It's all in context. If I was working at Starbucks, you wouldn't notice the hair. People aren't used to seeing that in NASA. There's a lot more guys like me working at NASA than a lot of people realize." (8/7)

Wolf: Being In Space 'So Extreme' It's Nearly Indescribable (Source: Huffington Post)
As a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly five months aboard a Russian space station, David Wolf is one of the few people on the planet who know what it's like to leave it. Wolf has done seven space walks and gotten the full space experience. "In a sense, zero gravity is as though you stepped off a building and just fell forever, but your mind quickly adapts to that and you do not feel like you're continuously falling," Wolf said.

Eventually, zero gravity actually felt comfortable. "You feel very natural in the absence of gravity. You can fly," Wolf said. Wolf's body felt better as he spent more and more time in space and his body adjusted to the circumstances, he said, but he also experienced an "isolation element" and craved contact with Earth. Click here. (8/7)

Costa Rican NASA Astronaut Leads Development of Plasma Engine (Source: Costa Rica News)
Costa Rica’s former astronaut, Franklin Chang, announced today that it surpassed its goal of raising $46,000 for the creation of a documentary that explains the features of a plasma rocket engine developed in its laboratories located in Costa Rica and the U.S. The money was raised through the campaign “Animating VASIMR: The Future of Spaceflight”, which started in July through and will finish next Monday. Through the initiative anyone can offer voluntary donations to support the cause and so far contributions for a little over $ 54,000 have been registered. (8/7)

If We Landed on Europa, What Would We Want to Know? (Source: NASA JPL)
Most of what scientists know of Jupiter's moon Europa they have gleaned from a dozen or so close flybys from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979 and NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1990s. Even in these fleeting, paparazzi-like encounters, scientists have seen a fractured, ice-covered world with tantalizing signs of a liquid water ocean under its surface. Such an environment could potentially be a hospitable home for microbial life.

But what if we got to land on Europa's surface and conduct something along the lines of a more in-depth interview? What would scientists ask? A new study in the journal Astrobiology authored by a NASA-appointed science definition team lays out their consensus on the most important questions to address. Click here. (8/7)

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