September 17, 2013

Nelson, Rubio Weigh In On NASA Pad Lease at KSC (Source: SpaceRef)
Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, encouraging NASA to "continue the unbiased, transparent, and competitive implementation" of the agency's efforts to identify non-NASA users for its facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, including LC-39-A. They conveyed that NASA's efforts are consistent with Congressional direction to reduce O&M costs and support national and regional economic development. Click here. (9/13)

Lynx Space Plane Taking Off (Source:
In an old World War II-era hangar here in this blistering-hot town, a passionate group of young aerospace engineers is building a private spaceship called Lynx. Developed by XCOR Aerospace, Lynx is the main competitor of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, built by Scaled Composites, also in Mojave. Commercial flights of the Lynx space plane are expected to commence in 2015, mainly through the Dutch company Space Expedition Corporation. Click here. (9/17)

How a Comet Impact May Have Jump-Started Life on Earth -- and Elsewhere (Source: LA Times)
Did life on Earth come from space? The scientific evidence is mounting. A new report suggests amino acids, the chemical building blocks necessary for life as we know it, may be scattered throughout the solar system, created when high-speed comets smacked into the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and rocky planets like our very own Earth.

"Amino acids have very basic starting materials -- you need some kind of carbon source like methane or carbon dioxide, a nitrogen source like ammonia, and water ice," said Nir Goldman at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Comets have all these things in abundance." (9/17)

Virginia's Bet Brings Big Launches to Spaceport (Source:
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, nestled on a quaint stretch of Virginia's rural coastline, has an active autumn launch schedule this year, one sign a nearly $150 million investment by state and federal governments is starting to pay off. With four space missions planned for liftoff in a span of about three months, the Virginia spaceport is operating at a pace unmatched since the heady days of the Space Race in the 1960s.

According to its website, the NASA-owned facility has launched more than 14,000 rockets since it was established in 1945. But the bulk of those launches were of lightweight sounding rockets lofted on suborbital trajectories. Only a few dozen of the launches put satellites in orbit. For the first time since the 1970s, Wallops has a steady lineup of space launches over the next few years as Orbital Sciences Corp. begins flying resupply missions to the International Space Station. (9/16)

Church of Chelyabinsk Meteorite Founded in Russian Urals (Source: RIA Novosti)
The meteorite that hit Russia’s Urals Mountains in mid-February contained “scriptures” that can usher in a new age on Earth, say followers of a new religious group in Russia, local media reported. But mishandling the meteorite could cause harm throughout the world and may already be fueling the bloody civil strife in Syria, said Andrei Breivichko, founder of the Church of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite. (9/16)

Space Weather May Be To Blame For Satellite Failures (Source: MIT)
Is your cable television on the fritz? One explanation, scientists suspect, may be the weather — the weather in space, that is. MIT researchers are investigating the effects of space weather — such as solar flares, geomagnetic storms and other forms of electromagnetic radiation — on geostationary satellites, which provide much of the world's access to cable television, Internet services and global communications.

The team analyzed space weather conditions at the time of 26 failures in eight geostationary satellites over 16 years of operation. The researchers found that most of the failures occurred at times of high-energy electron activity during declining phases of the solar cycle. This particle flux, the scientists theorize, may have accumulated in the satellites over time, creating internal charging that damaged their amplifiers — key components responsible for strengthening and relaying a signal back to Earth. (9/16)

Chocolate Coming on Next Space Station Delivery (Source: AP)
A Virginia company makes its debut this week as a space station delivery service, and the lone American aboard the orbiting lab is counting on a fresh stash of chocolate. NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg said she can't wait for this weekend's arrival of a new cargo ship named Cygnus. It will be the first shipment by Orbital Sciences Corp. to the International Space Station. (9/16)

Lemonade From Banana Peels (Source: Space News)
Why do critical space systems decline despite concrete reasons to expand and improve them? The U.S. Air Force has issued irrevocable direction to permanently disable the only true surveillance capability in the Space Surveillance Network, the Air Force Space Surveillance System, also known informally as the Space Fence. Fewer objects will be perceived, diminishing manpower and analysis need, and saving more money.

What we don’t know could hurt us and all spacefaring nations. Is there liability for damage caused by what we could and should have seen? The information loss and mission impact have been studied several times with various conclusions. They all agree that there will be serious impact if there is nothing else. At present, there is nothing else, and the closure has encouraged Congress not to support anything else.

Almost every senior officer and decision maker in the last two decades has stated that space surveillance capabilities are inadequate for well-defined, essential missions. One reason space surveillance loses the budget battle is that this is rocket science. Those who understand are busy using to best advantage what they have to work with. There are so few that they cannot be spared to defend the needs in terms that decision makers, let alone Congress, can understand. (9/16)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Executive Member (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) is proud to announce that Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has joined CSF’s Executive Membership. The company had been an Associate Member since January 2012. Planetary Resources’ President and Chief Engineer Chris Lewicki will be the newest addition to CSF’s Board of Directors. (9/16)

Editorial: End of WWII Model Shakes Up Aerospace Industry (Source: Space News)
Efforts undertaken to arm the United States to fight as part of World War II are almost beyond criticism in American politics. It may be surprising to many of us then that the policies and efforts employed over 70 years ago still affect our industry today and are in many ways at the heart of the current malaise that is plaguing our domestic aerospace industry.  

Following World War I, the military was anxious to demobilize its forces rapidly as it had done after every war in the past. By 1920, many Americans clearly sought a return to quieter times and more traditional values. Politicians were also weary and carried their constituents’ sentiments to the House floor. The result was two decades of meager investment in military readiness and technology. During this period, the U.S. military relied upon advances in the commercial industry at large and adopted advances in aviation and electronics to meet its mission requirements as little military-funded technology development was to be had.  

On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War II, with war already raging in Europe, the U.S. military began rearming and supplying its allies in Europe to win against a technologically superior German army and air force. The priority for military funding in the early 1940s was building enough armaments to meet the challenge from Nazi Germany. As the war progressed, new military thinking emerged to develop technology as a response to German war technologies and their effectiveness on the battlefield. Click here. (9/16)

Editorial: Don’t Squander This Opportunity (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon initiated a 90-day commercial satellite bandwidth study focusing on three areas: future demand, current utilization rates and better buying practices. Such a timetable conveyed a sense of urgency, and industry sensed an inflection point was at hand. But the study took several months to get underway and the Pentagon acknowledges that it will not be completed in 90 days as originally envisioned.

Of far greater concern is that the exercise appears to have bogged down on the question of how efficiently the Pentagon utilizes the commercial bandwidth it leases today. The study appears in danger of becoming an audit rather than a forward-looking examination of measures that would help truly integrate commercial bandwidth into the military’s overall satellite communications architecture. (9/16)

SES Declares Victory in Dispute with Eutelsat over Ku-band Frequencies (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES appears to have won its long-running battle with European rival Eutelsat over access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band broadcast frequencies over the heart of Europe following separate rulings of a German court and the International Chamber of Commerce, the two companies announced Sep. 16. (9/16)

New ULA-Lockheed Relationship Helps Atlas 5 Compete for Commercial Launches (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin’s surprise contract to launch the Mexican government’s Morelos 3 telecommunications satellite aboard an Atlas 5 rocket was made possible by a new relationship with supplier United Launch Alliance (ULA) that will enable it to offer more-competitive pricing and better manifest flexibility, Lockheed Martin officials said.

Though highly reliable, Atlas 5 has been all but absent from the commercial geostationary launch services market for several years due to its high cost and the difficulty of squeezing commercial missions into ULA’s crowded government manifest. But Robert Cleave of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, said things are changing on both fronts and that the company expects to be able to capture two commercial contracts per year starting in 2015.

The Atlas 5 was last used to launch a commercial satellite in 2009. The contract for that launch preceded the 2006 creation of ULA, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture focused almost exclusively on the U.S. government market. Lockheed Martin currently has just two other commercial missions under contract, both of them imaging satellites owned by DigitalGlobe and scheduled to launch in 2014 and 2015. (9/16)

Atlas: Renewing Focus On Commercial Launches/Satellites (Source: Aviation Week)
Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 launch vehicle is known for being reliable, accurate and usually on time. But affordable? Not so much. In 2011, under NASA's five-year launch services agreement with ULA, the company can charge $101-334 million per Atlas launch. Those prices could be reduced by 2015 if ULA and the U.S. Air Force can negotiate a bulk buy of Atlas 5 and Boeing Delta 4 core stages.

But for the past several years, with only two commercial missions in backlog, Atlas 5 has not been a serious commercial contender. In 1988, when the first Atlas vehicle was launched, 40% of Lockheed Martin missions were commercial. Since 2006, when ULA was formed, the rockets' manifests have primarily been held by dozens of national security and civil space missions for the company's anchor tenant.

A combination of economies expected from the core-stage block buy, and ULA's aggressive efforts to negotiate more favorable pricing with suppliers, has helped reduce the cost of an Atlas 5 commercial launch by “north of 20%” in the past year, making it more attractive to non-U.S.-government customers. With looming defense cuts and the emergence of new launch vehicles aimed at government business—notably the SpaceX Falcon 9—Lockheed Martin wants back in the game. (9/16)

China Aims to Train Astronauts From Other Countries (Source: Reuters)
China aims to train astronauts from other countries who will conduct missions with their Chinese counterparts. China will also share the technological achievements of its manned space program with other countries, especially with developing ones, said Wang Zhaoyao, head of the country's manned space program office. "Cooperation should be either bilateral or multilateral, with diversified and flexible models based on peace and a win-win cooperation," he said. (9/16)

Asteroid Will Buzz Earth This Week Inside the Moon's Orbit (Source:
A tiny asteroid discovered just last week is set to zip by Earth on Wednesday (Sept. 18), passing between our planet and the moon. It is small enough and distant enough that it poses no threat to people, scientists say. The asteroid measures only 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 meters) across, and it is expected to pass at a safe distance of more than 148,000 miles (230,800 kilometers) away from Earth when it makes its closest approach on Wednesday at 6:20 p.m. EDT.  (9/16)

Intelligent Machines to Space Colonies: 5 Sci-Fi Visions of the Future (Source:
Humanity has reached a bottleneck this century: Technical developments could cause catastrophic damage to the planet, or they could save humanity from its man-made quandary. The future of civilization could be a dystopia of ruined ecosystems and malevolent machines, or a paradise of eternal life and intergalactic culture. Click here. (9/16) 

Russia Mulls Super-Heavy Launcher (Source: Russian Space Web)
In August 2013, RKK Energia confirmed that it was participating in preliminary studies of a super-heavy launcher conducted within the industry. In an interview to the semi-official Interfax news agency, the president of RKK Energia Vitaly Lopota expressed hope that the work in the U.S. on the SLS rocket would influence the strategy and the timeframe for the development of a similar Russian vehicle. (9/16)

European Space Agency Wants to Send a Snake Robot to Mars (Source: ABC)
Snakes are crafty animals. They can be found slithering in the desert, swimming in the ocean and even flying in the air. But how would they deal with another planet altogether? Researchers in Norway aren't planning to launch the legless reptiles on a spaceship, but they are using them as inspiration for a new type of Mars exploration robot. They are conducting a feasibility study for the European Space Agency, examining how a snake robot would fare on the red planet. (9/16)

DIY Space Travel: to Boldly Go Where no Amateur has Gone Before (Source: Telegraph)
Once upon a time, science and exploration were the stuff of the obsessive amateur, tinkering in his private laboratory. The glory days of the Victorian gentleman genius messing around with dangerous chemicals – and occasionally discovering something earth-changing – may have long passed. But now, two Danish engineers are trying to follow in their footsteps.

In a disused submarine hangar in Copenhagen, Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson of Copenhagen Suborbitals have been building a space rocket from cork and duct tape (and steel, polyurethane, liquid oxygen, etc.). The cork will form the heat shield (wood is an excellent ablative material, and rumour has it that the Soviets used it on their early probes), and the pilot’s space suit, they told the media this week, is made from “valves and pipes from the hardware shop”. Click here. (9/17)

The Final Frontier (Source: UD Review)
NASA’s slow (and planned) decline over the last several years has opened the doors to a new market: commercial space flight. Entrepreneurs all over the country are coming up with innovative ways to explore and traverse space, and are challenging the government monopoly that was NASA. (9/17)

UA Rocket Girls Aim Higher (Source: Crimson White)
For the last three years, the University of Alabama Rocket Girls have represented UA at NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative, one of the most challenging, high-caliber competitions in rocketry for university students. Although NASA will not be hosting USLI this year as they have in the past, the team members have many plans for how they want the team to move forward from here. (9/17)

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