August 16, 2013

Texas Discussion to Address Commercial Spaceflight Potential (Source: Galveston Daily News)
The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership will have a public discussion on the future of commercial spaceflight Sept. 4 at Space Center Houston. Much of the discussion will revolve around a proposal to turn Ellington Airport into a licensed spaceport. Last month, the Houston City Council approved a $718,900 contract authorizing consultants to push for a license that would allow the airport to serve as a hub for commercial spaceflight.

Houston Airport System Director Mario Diaz, the keynote speaker at the event, has said Ellington could obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration next year. The FAA has licensed eight commercial spaceports in the U.S., and Diaz sees Ellington as a potential port for space tourism and other commercial space endeavors. (8/15)

Harris Wins $150M Deal to Take Air Traffic Data Digital (Source: Air Traffic Management)
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Harris Corp.'s $150 million contract to help air traffic control data move from analog systems to digital, a project aimed at making air traffic control safer. The seven-year Data Communications Network Services project will allow air traffic controllers and pilots to have data integrated with regular voice communication. (8/15)

Embry-Riddle Scientist Wins NSF CAREER Grant for Space Research (Source: ERAU)
Dr. Matthew Zettergren has received the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for junior faculty members, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Grant, to support his research on the near-Earth space plasma environment, known as the ionosphere, and its potential impact on space weather.
Zettergren, an assistant professor of engineering physics at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, will receive nearly $470,000 over the next five years from the NSF award program that encourages the activities of teacher-scholars judged likely to become leaders in academic research and education. (8/16)

Aldrin's Vision of Space Tourism for the Masses (Source: CNN)
Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is one of the privileged few to have walked on the moon, but he hopes space tourism will be much more of an equal-opportunity experience. More than 40 years after the historic moon landing, Aldrin is now consulting for the U.S. government about the future of the country's space program and how to make space more accessible to everyday people.

NASA has driven space exploration for decades, but with the rise of Virgin Galactic, Space X and other companies that focus on suborbital flights, the private sphere and government programs are appearing to intersect in the realm space travel. "Private wants a return on investment, a profit. I think there's some profits to be made by going to the moon," Aldrin says. Click here. (8/16)

CU-Boulder Research Effort Selected as NASA Grant Recipient (Source: Daily Camera)
The University of Colorado has added another entry to its portfolio of aerospace honors with the announcement that professor Scott Palo is one of 13 recipients of a NASA grant for small satellite collaborative projects. Palo's project will focus on the development of a communications system that is compatible with the current CubeSat standard, and will support high data rate downloads. (8/15)

Navy, NASA Successfully Test Capsule Retrieval (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
Thirty-eight years after its last astronaut retrieval, the Navy demonstrated that it still has the right stuff to pluck a space capsule from the sea after splashdown. In an updated version of the partnership that collected astronauts after Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, the Navy on Thursday flooded the well deck of a ship and floated a mock-up of NASA's Orion spacecraft into it. (8/16)

Proton Rocket to Resume Flights in September (Source:
Russia's Proton rocket is scheduled to resume launches in September after a fiery mishap of the expendable booster destroyed three Russian navigation satellites at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in July, the Proton's U.S.-based commercial sales firm announced Wednesday.

ILS, which was not involved in the botched July 2 launch, said Wednesday it agreed with the conclusions of Russian investigators. The ILS oversight board included technical experts, customer representatives and insurance underwriters. The Proton's return-to-flight mission is set for Sept. 15 with the ASTRA 2E communications satellite owned by SES of Luxembourg, according to ILS. (8/16)

Cash-Strapped? Try the Poor Man's Space Travel With a Parabolic Flight (Source: CNN)
Part of the imagined charms of space flight is not just the view from the window. It is also the thrill of breaking the shackles of gravity and free-floating. Now taking a break from Newton's laws is easier (and cheaper) than ever. For years, the European Space Agency (ESA) has used a Novespace-owned Airbus to run parabolic, aka "zero-gravity" flights for scientists and astronauts-in-training.

Last March, Novespace started selling seats to the general public for a relatively reasonable $7,932. "I've been doing this for 20 years, and every flight, there's always this 'wow' impression," says Vladimir Pletser, the parabolic flight manager at the ESA, and a Guinness record holder for most aircraft flown in parabola. "It's like you get born again in a new environment. Words are not enough to describe it. You have to live it." (8/16)

What Does a $250,000 Ticket to Space with Virgin Galactic Actually Buy You? (Source: CNN)
A ticket aboard SpaceShip Two doesn't come cheap -- a seat currently costs $250,000 -- Stephen Attenborough maintains that as things stand, the fare is a relative bargain. "It's still about 1% of the price you would have needed to pay to go to space as a private citizen before now," said Attenborough.

The experience starts with three days of training at Spaceport America in New Mexico. "There's a lot to do with getting you psychologically prepared for a trip that is absolutely about sensory overload," says Attenborough. The flight itself accommodates six passengers, lasts two and a half hours, and culminates with congratulatory champagne at the spaceport. Space travelers get to leave their seats to experience several minutes of zero-gravity, and perhaps the most iconic view ever afforded mankind. (8/16)

Petition to Halt Shiloh Project Fails to Attract Signatures (Source: SPACErePORT)
A "We the People" White House petition drive organized by opponents of Florida's plans to develop a new launch pad at "Shiloh" near Kennedy Space Center's northern boundary has failed to attract the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a formal response from the White House. The petition argued that the project's environmental impacts will be too severe. (8/16)

Loral to Build Star One D1 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Loral will build the tri-band Star One D1 telecommunications satellite for Brazil’s commercial satellite fleet operator, Star One. Loral's parent MDA Corp. of Canada had told investors in July that it had won a contract for an undisclosed customer to provide television and broadband services to rural regions. Star One is that customer.

Brazil in recent months has been the focus of an extraordinary attention on the part of global satellite fleet operators and satellite builders. The government is embarking on an ambitious space program that is tied in part to the 2016 Olympic Games to take place in Rio de Janeiro. (8/15)

Florida to Secret Military Space Project: Land Here! (Source: Discovery)
Space Florida doubled its budget to refurbish two old space shuttle hangers in an effort to lure a secretive military project to the Kennedy Space Center. Space Florida board members  agreed to add $4 million to the project, with is aimed at relocating the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles to Florida from California.

The 29-foot-long robotic spaceships are experimental vehicles the military has been flying since April 2010. The program’s third mission, launched on Dec. 11, 2012, remains under way. The Air Force has not disclosed what the X-37B is doing in orbit, nor when or where it will land. Two prior X-37B missions lasted 224 days and 469 days respectively, and landed autonomously at Vandenberg in California. The program currently consists of two vehicles. (8/15)

Orbital Plans Antares/Cygnus Mission to Space Station on Sep. 15 (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is targeting Sep. 15 as the first opportunity to conduct the Antares/Cygnus COTS Demonstration Mission to the International Space Station, originating from the Virginia-based Wallops Island spaceport. In the event that weather or other operational factors require the date to shift, the company will seek to carry out the launch no later than Sep. 19.

Currently, the Antares rocket for the COTS Demonstration Mission is completing testing at the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at Wallops and will soon begin integration with the Cygnus spacecraft. Orbital anticipates that it will roll out the Antares rocket with the integrated Cygnus spacecraft to Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on or about September 11 to be ready for a September 15 launch. (8/16)

Loud SpaceX Texas Test Planned; ISS Launch Pushed to Early 2014 (Source: Waco Tribune)
Between Aug. 16-19, SpaceX is planning a louder-than-usual rocket motor test at their Texas test site. Meanwhile, reports that SpaceX's next Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station has been postponed from this December to next January, a move confirmed on the Goddard Space Center mission database. (8/15)

SpaceX Buys More Texas Land Near Spaceport Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
The list of SpaceX’s property holdings in Cameron County continues to grow. The space exploration firm based in California that is considering development of a rocket launch facility near Boca Chica Beach purchased four more lots. The purchase follows a commitment of $15 million and other legislation from the state aimed at luring SpaceX to Texas.

The firm now owns 12 lots in Cameron County. The most recent purchases were made in July from a private investor who bought the four lots in 2007 at property tax sales, according to public records. SpaceX’s practice is not to comment on land purchases pending the finalization of the environmental impact statement and a decision about the launch location. The time-frame for public comment on the environmental impact statement concluded June 24. (8/16)

NASA Seeks 'Plan B' for Planet-Hunting Probe Kepler (Source: CNN)
So, got any ideas for what to do with a used space telescope? NASA hopes to find a new job for its planet-hunting Kepler probe after efforts to restore precision control of the orbiting telescope have failed. Kepler has been sidelined since mid-May, after the second of four devices used to aim the spacecraft's telescope gave out. Controllers have been trying to restart at least one of those two devices, known as reaction wheels, since July.

Their failure means Kepler's original science mission -- the search for Earth-like planets far beyond our solar system -- is over, said Paul Hertz, the head of NASA's astrophysics division. But the space agency is trying to figure out whether it can find other missions that don't require that kind of pinpoint control -- and if so, "whether that science is compelling enough to justify continued investment in Kepler operations," Hertz said.

The roughly $600 million mission has so far confirmed 135 planets and identified nearly 3,500 possible planets. It findings have led scientists to believe that most stars in our galaxy have planets circling them. Two of them -- found about 1,200 light-years away -- are considered the best candidates so far for hosting life. (8/15)

Private Space Race Heats Up With Some Key Breakthroughs (Source: WIRED)
For all the debate among pseudo rocket scientists arguing whether carrying the fuel needed to return to Earth is a worthwhile proposition, those signing the checks still need to develop the technology to make it work. Musk is doing just that. He’s made it clear that reusing the first stage of a rocket will greatly improve the economics of delivering payloads to space, and his engineers continue making some impressive flights even as his critics continue piling on doubt.

The Grasshopper test is a big deal because there aren’t, at the moment, any rockets in use capable of the kind of lateral maneuvers SpaceX showed off Tuesday. Some smaller rockets have done it, but none of them even approaches Grasshopper’s size. The ability to make significant corrections to the trajectory is a key part of developing a reusable rocket, as the first stage will return to Earth at hypersonic speed. The only way to decrease its lateral speed, and guide it to a landing site, is through such moves. Click here. (8/15)

Failure to Launch: Military Space Programs in Search of New Direction (Source: National Defense)
Satellite communications are in short supply. Networks are defenseless against cyber attacks. Spacecraft cost too much. And the acquisition process is out of touch. This is only a partial list of what ails military space programs. Across the military, demand for satcom services, weather data and other space products is growing, but the U.S. government has fallen short in its ability to keep up.

New requirements for space systems are coming at a most inopportune time, as the military faces draconian budget cuts that already have led to the demise of several big-ticket programs. The fiscal crunch, however, might be the catalyst that forces the military to rethink how it buys space systems and to inject fresh ideas into programs, said space industry executives. (8/15)

Raytheon Gets Contract for Key JPSS-2 Sensor (Source: Space News)
NASA has awarded Raytheon a $198 million contract to build an imager for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)-2 civilian weather satellite, which is slated to launch in 2022. The announcement comes just days after NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will operate the NASA-procured JPSS system, confirmed a March 31, 2017 launch date for the JPSS-1 satellite. (8/14)

Globalstar Reports Rebound in Telephone Service (Source: Space News)
Recovering mobile satellite services operator Globalstar on Aug. 13 reported slightly lower total revenue but increased use of its two-way voice service — the most profitable of its businesses — as its second-generation constellation of 24 satellites entered service.

All but one of the satellites, whose final batch of six was placed into low Earth orbit in February, are now operational, with the last one set to begin commercial service in late August, Globalstar said. Globalstar’s voice business has been crippled in recent years by a likely radiation-caused issue aboard its first-generation satellites that degraded two-way voice service. (8/15)

NASA to Give FAA Software to Increase Departure Efficiency (Source:
NASA plans to give the Federal Aviation Administration a prototype version of software called Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC). "[W]ith PDRC working in concert with other tools the FAA has available, we hope to better take advantage of all the opportunities to safely make flying more efficient," said John Cavolowsky, director of NASA's Airspace Systems Program, in a statement. (8/14)

Florida: 2,000 Aviation & Aerospace Companies (Source: EFI)
Home to virtually every major aerospace and defense contractor, Florida already has the resources you need on the
ground. The state's low corporate taxes, 0% personal income tax and pro-business regulatory environment make it easy to be in business in Florida. Additionally, the state's aerospace talent pool of over 87,000, including ex-military and "badgeable" personnel, provide the qualified workers you need to ramp up fast. And with the #1 infrastructure in the U.S., Florida helps you move your supplies and products at the speed of sound. (8/15)

NASA IG Worries About Funding Constraint Risk to Orion (Source: Space Policy Online)
On the same day that NASA and the U.S. Navy tested operations for recovering the Orion spacecraft from an ocean landing, NASA's Inspector General (IG) issued a report warning that NASA's incremental development of Orion adds program risk.

The report did not criticize NASA program managers, conceding that they are doing the best they can under current funding constraints. Instead it reiterated warnings that incremental funding increases program risk and urged NASA program managers to be "as transparent as possible when discussing the issues" facing the program.
Funding constraints that force program managers to "adopt a less-than-optimal incremental development approach in which elements necessary to complete the most immediate steps are given priority" and other elements are pushed out into the future "increases risks." (8/15)

Groundbreaking Space Exploration Research at UH (Source: University of Hawaii)
On the desolate slopes of Mauna Loa on the Big Island, 8,200 above sea level, sits a geodesic dome. A remote habitat where the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and Cornell University are performing ground breaking research on long duration space travel.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation program (HI-SEAS) reached a significant milestone on August 13, 2013, when six researchers emerged after being isolated in the habitat for 118 days. “It’s been a great success and it’s paved the way for three more years of this kind of research,” said Kim Binsted, a UH Mānoa associate professor. “NASA is thrilled with what we have done so far and is looking forward more.” (8/15)

Spaceflight Alters Bacterial Social Networks (Source: NASA)
When astronauts launch into space, a microbial entourage follows. And the sheer number of these followers would give celebrities on Twitter a run for their money. The estimate is that normal, healthy adults have ten times as many microbial cells as human cells within their bodies; countless more populate the environment around us. Although invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms – some friend, some foe – are found practically everywhere.

Microorganisms like bacteria often are found attached to surfaces living in communities known as biofilms. Bacteria within biofilms are protected by a slimy matrix that they secrete. Skip brushing your teeth tomorrow morning and you may personally experience what a biofilm feels like.

In two NASA-funded studies – Micro-2 and Micro-2A – biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that is commonly used for biofilm studies. The study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities. Click here. (8/14)

Leading the End of One Space Era, and the Beginning of Another (Source: Washington Post)
Administrator Charles Bolden led the end of an era for NASA–the shuttering of its longstanding space shuttle program. A year later, he oversaw the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars, and the beginning of a new phase for America’s exploration of space. Now, a year after that, he reflects on the leadership challenges and the organizational changes that have accompanied NASA’s shift. Click here. (8/15)

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