September 18, 2013

45th Space Wing Prepares to Deal with DOD Budget Cut (Source: Florida Today)
There is one thing that’s clear about this coming year’s Defense budget: Lots of uncertainty. With only about two weeks left until the start of the 2014 fiscal year, the military’s budget still hasn’t been approved by a feuding Congress. The proposed budget calls for $900 million less for the coming year, though final cuts could be more or less. But another $52 billion in sequestration cuts also are looming if Congress does not reach a long-term budget deal.

In any case, Patrick Air Force Base officials will have to find ways of launching rockets and fulfilling other missions with fewer resources. The 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base expects its budget to be $152 million for the coming year. That’s a steep drop from the $222 million in 2011. The 2014 Department of Defense proposed budget is $526.6 billion, a reduction of $900 million from 2013. (9/18)

NASA Recruits Volunteers to Spend 70 Days in Bed (Source: The Independent)
Not one for early mornings? Does the thought of an early exit from bed fill you with dread? Never fear - NASA may have the dream (and well-paid) job for you. The US space agency is seeking volunteers willing to lounge about whilst completing minimal activities in the comfort of a bed for a 70-day period.

Successful candidates for this job can expect to earn approximately £3,000 per month and will be expected to remain lying down for 24 hours a day. Recruits are needed as part of Nasa's research into microgravity and the effect it may have on the human body. (9/18)

Pentagon Could Lose "Critical Capabilities" to Budget Cuts (Source: Government Executive)
The Pentagon supply chain could be disrupted by shrinking Department of Defense budgets, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Study author Barry Watts said the current budget climate will make it "very difficult not to cut contractors. Over the next five or 10 years, DoD will be losing critical capabilities." (9/17)

Vision Cast for Ellington as a Future Spaceport (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
Until about nine years ago, you could drive to Ellington Field and buy a Continental Airlines ticket to fly to Bush Intercontinental Airport, on the north side of town. At the time, it was said to be the country’s shortest fixed-wing scheduled commercial air route, approximately 25 miles.

Today: Ellington Field is now Ellington Airport, Continental is now United and the flight destination from Ellington currently generating the most conversation is either space or on the other side of the world, instead of across town. Key to the plan is to add Ellington’s name to the list of eight space ports already operating in this country. The acreage to build the Spaceport, Diaz said, is available on the southeast corner of airport property.
A piece of the growing commercial spaceflight industry is what Diaz is after. (9/18)

Epsilon Success is No Guarantee for Industry (Source: Japan Times)
Saturday’s successful launch of a solid-fuel Epsilon rocket was seen as a breakthrough for Japans’ space industry, marking the culmination of a host of ideas that could lead to major cost reductions in the future. The relatively small rocket was developed with an eye on countries planning to build small, low-cost satellites that are increasingly being used for scientific research and observation.

The immediate business prospects for the rocket, however, do not look so bright amid intensifying international competition. Due to the simplification, the first Epsilon cost ¥5.3 billion, about 70 percent of the cost of the M-5. JAXA aims to lower the cost even further to ¥3 billion by 2017 for Epsilon No. 2 and its successors. JAXA is also planning to incorporate cost-cutting measures for the next generation of large-size rockets, tentatively designated the H-III.

Globally, about 70 rockets are launched every year. Commercial satellites account for about one-third of the launches and nearly all of them are split between Europe and Russia. Competition has intensified recently with the entry of China and U.S. businesses into the market. Japan has yet to capture much of the market other than from the government sector due to high costs and relatively limited launch experience. (9/18)

Private Space Race Heats Up As Orbital Sends Cygnus To Space Station (Source: Forbes)
Orbital Sciences became the second private company to successfully launch a cargo vessel to the International Space Station, heating up the private space race. The next step for the spacecraft is four days of tests while its in orbit. If successful, the mission will culminate with a rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station on Sep. 22.

The launch vehicle is Orbital Science’s Antares rocket, which already had a successful test flight in April. Antares is a two stage (with optional third stage) rocket that’s capable of carrying over 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg) into low Earth orbit.

Docking with the space station will be Orbital Science’s Cygnus spacecraft. The Cygnus isn’t a stretch, design wise. It includes avionics, propulsion and power systems that Orbital Sciences already utilizes in its commercial satellite projects. The Cygnus will be carrying a little over 1300 pounds (about 590 kg) of equipment, including supplies for astronauts. (9/18)

OHB Taps Astrium to Build a German Radar Satellite and Launch it on a Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
OHB AG of Germany on Sept. 18 contracted with its German rival, Astrium Satellites, to build the only phased-array radar reconnaissance satellite planned as part of the three-satellite SARah second-generation Germany military satellite system, Astrium announced.

The contract, valued at $464 million, also covers the ground segment to be developed to handle the satellite’s data. OHB is building the other two SARah satellites and is managing the entire project under an 816-million-euro contract with Germany’s defense procurement agency, BAAINBw, signed in July. The contract also includes the launch of the satellite aboard a SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket as part of a longstanding launch reservation Astrium had with SpaceX. (9/18)

Mikulski to Receive AIA Award (Source: SpaceRef)
The Aerospace Industries Association will present Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) with its prestigious Wings of Liberty Award September 18, in recognition of her longtime support of the nation's aerospace priorities, including national security, aviation, space exploration and weather forecasting programs.

Sen. Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress, is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which allocates funds to meet the most pressing needs and responsibilities of our Federal Government. (9/18)

FIU’s Aquarius Reef Base on Today Show Sep. 18 (Source: FIU)
On Wednesday, Sep. 18, FIU will celebrate the re-opening of the Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory and NBC’s Today Show will be there to report on this historic event. To watch the event, tune in to NBC between 7 and 8 a.m. (9/17)

Shelton: Sequestration Could Break Military Space Program (Source: Space News)
Using his most stark language to date on the topic, the U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed officer for space described the automatic U.S. budget cuts known as sequestration as “silliness” and warned that their compounded effects into 2015 could effectively torpedo the entire U.S. military space enterprise. “You will break every program,” said Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command.

Shelton also said the main payload for the Air Force’s next generation of positioning, navigation and timing satellites faces manufacturing and processing issues and currently has no firm delivery date. The GPS 3 satellites are nominally supposed to start launching in 2015. Shelton spent much of the speech stressing that the military requirements have not changed since the advent of sequestration, but their funding outlook has. (9/17)

NASA and Homeland Security To Demonstrate Disaster Rescue Tool (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are collaborating on a new radar device that detects heartbeats of victims trapped in wreckage. The device, known as the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), can locate individuals buried under as much as 30 feet of crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet of solid concrete, or from a distance of 100 feet in open spaces. (9/17)

Planet Evaporates Due to Stellar Flare (Source: Universe Today)
Solar flares – huge eruptions of charged particles from the Sun – present little threat to Earth. On a few rare occasions these particles may disrupt our communications systems and cause radio blackouts. But they tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than harmful. It’s certainly a sight to be seen as these energetic particles collide with our atmosphere, resulting in a cascade of colorful lights – the aurora borealis.

Fortunately our planet provides the protection necessary from such harmful space radiation. But not all planets are quite so lucky. Take for instance Kepler’s latest object of interest: KIC 12557548b, a super Mercury-size planet candidate. Astronomers have recently found that due to this star’s activity – producing massive stellar flares – the planet itself is evaporating.

Only last year, four different sources published evidence that this rocky planet was disintegrating. Thanks to Kepler, it quickly became clear that the total amount of light from KIC 12557548 as a function of time – the light curve of the system – dropped every 15.7 hours as a planet orbited it. But the amount of light blocked due to the transiting planet varied from 0.2% to more than 1.2%. (9/17)

Surprise! Near-Earth Asteroid Is Actually 'Sopping Wet' Comet (Source:
Scientists spotted a faint atmosphere called a coma around 3552 Don Quixote, an object classified as a near-Earth asteroid. The space rock was thought by some to be a "dead comet" — one that had shed its carbon dioxide and possible water ices long ago, after the ices were evaporated by the sun.

The orbit of Don Quixote resembled that of a comet, an object that originates in the Oort Cloud collection of icy objects far beyond Neptune's orbit. Scientists, however, did not spot any ice bleeding from Don Quixote when it got close to the sun, so they suspected it was a dead comet. That is, until recently, when such a tail was spotted in observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (9/17)

NASA Highlights Asteroid Grand Challenge at World Maker Faire (Source: NASA)
NASA is reaching out to a new community for ideas on how to find and track potentially hazardous asteroids, and protect the planet from their impacts. The World Maker Faire is being held Sep. 21-22 in New York City. The World Maker Faire is a festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness – the exact qualities NASA is looking for to help in solving the global challenge asteroid threats present.

NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck will be on hand to talk about how Makers can help shape space exploration and be a critical player in NASA’s asteroid initiative. "NASA has reached out to industry, academia, stakeholder organizations and private citizens for ideas on how to find, track and deflect asteroids," Peck said. "These partnerships represent a new way of doing business for NASA and a call to action for Makers: join us to become a critical part of the future of space exploration." (9/17)

Cygnus vs. Dragon: How 2 Private Spaceships Stack Up (Source:
Both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have deals with NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station for astronauts living and working aboard the orbiting outpost. compiled this handy cheat sheet to help you keep Dragon and Cygnus straight. Click here. (9/17)

Valentina Tereshkova, 76, First Woman in Space, Seeks One-Way Ticket to Mars (Source: Guardian)
Having reached the age of 76, it might be expected that Valentina Tereshkova would be planning a life of quiet gentility: a bit of gardening, perhaps, or catching up on reading. Far from it. The grande dame of astronautics has no intention of retiring gracefully, she has revealed. Indeed, she has a very different idea of how her future will unfold: she wants to go to Mars, her favourite planet. More to the point, she says she is happy if the mission turns out to be a one-way trip. (9/17)

Did the Google Misuse NASA Gas Privileges? (Source: Silocon Valley Business Journal)
Last week, Google and NASA ended a cushy deal that let the search giant house its private planes at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View in exchange for occasionally using them to run scientific tests for NASA. This week, that same deal is landing them a congressional investigation. The main point of contention for Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is calling for an investigation into the deal, isn't the planes, but the fuel to fly them.

Under the terms of the agreement, Google was able to buy fuel for its six jets direct from NASA's supplier at heavily subsidized government prices. Sen. Grassley has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and wants to know more about the rates Google was charged for fuel since the deal was signed in 2007. He also wants flight manifests for all of the flights the company made. It's unlikely the company or NASA will face repercussions as a result of the inquest, but it certainly doesn't make either of them look very good. (9/17)

Florida Delegation Supports KSC Facilities Approach (Source: Space News)
Two weeks after Blue Origin filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) about NASA’s tenant search for an unwanted space shuttle launch pad, Florida’s entire congressional delegation has banded together in support of NASA’s approach, which has come under fire from another group of lawmakers not keen to see the agency grant an exclusive lease.

“We have an opportunity to recapture the commercial space launch business,” the 27 Florida members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote in a Sep. 16 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “But unnecessary delays could hamper our ability to do that.” Florida’s two U.S. senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, sent Bolden a similar letter Sep. 13. Florida’s House delegation of 10 Democrats and 17 Republicans said they saw no reason to question the particulars of what they called NASA’s “open, competitive process.”

“Given the [Kennedy Space Center’s] expertise, it should be within their purview and judgment to determine what factors to consider and what outcomes to render,” the lawmakers wrote. Rep. Bill Posey, a Republican whose district includes the Kennedy Space Center, was the lead signer. (9/17)

DARPA Spaceplane Shooting for "Aircraft-Like" Operations (Source: DARPA)
The current generation of satellite launch vehicles is expensive to operate, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight. Moreover, U.S. launch vehicles fly only a few times each year and normally require scheduling years in advance, making it extremely difficult to deploy satellites without lengthy pre-planning. Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations.

To help address these challenges, DARPA has established the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The program aims to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space. The vehicle is envisioned to operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. Click here. (9/17)

US Military Wants New Experimental Space Plane (Source:
The United States military is kick-starting a suborbital hypersonic vehicle program that also aims to launch payloads into orbit on the cheap. The new program, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is called Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1. It follows in the footsteps of previous DARPA hypersonic projects, such as the HTV-2 aircraft that reached 20 times the speed of sound in an August 2011 test flight.

Officials want the reusable, unmanned XS-1 to take advantage of capabilities to be showcased under another DARPA initiative, the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which aims to launch small spacecraft (up to 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms) in the 2015-2016 time period for just $1 million per liftoff, including range costs. (9/17)

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