September 30, 2013

Generation Orbit Awarded NASA Contract for Florida CubeSat Launches (Source: Generation Orbit)
Generation Orbit Launch Services has been selected to launch a group of three 3U CubeSats to a 425 km orbit under NASA’s Enabling eXploration and Technology (NEXT) contract. Under this competitively awarded, $2.1M commercial procurement, NASA will become the inaugural customer for the company’s new GOLauncher 2 vehicle, currently in development. The NEXT flight is scheduled to take place in 2016.

NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center will be responsible for program management. Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida will serve as GO’s initial base of operations.

The GOLauncher 2 is a flexible air-launched system combining a business jet with expendable rocket stages. Generation Orbit’s team of innovative small business partners includes SpaceWorks Enterprises Inc., Ventions LLC, Calspan Corporation, Tyvak Nano-satellite Systems LLC, and mv2space LLC. GO also has key strategic relationships with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. (9/30)

Swiss Space Systems Forms Partnership with Russian University (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Aerospace company Swiss Space Systems – S3 and Bauman Moscow State Technical University (BMSTU) have announced today the signing of their partnership. This new partnership between the Russian university and the aerospace company will enable BMSTU students to have on-site training at S3 and to pursue their research work in relations to S3 propulsion systems, one of the key elements for the SOAR shuttle and its expendable upper stage.

Swiss Space Systems is progressing quickly and as planed in the development of its launch system for small satellites that is based on a standard carrier aircraft and a newly developed SOAR shuttle. Such rapid progresses are due to technologies and know-how inherited from aerospace programs through S3’s international network of partners and technical advisors from Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States. (9/30)

President Obama Scolds House Republicans for Shutdown, Including NASA (Source: New York Times)
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House on Monday afternoon. “You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job.” He said that NASA will shut down “almost entirely” except for mission control operations dedicated to the astronauts on the International Space Station. He said federal office buildings will close, parks and monuments will be shut down, and veterans will find their support services unstaffed. (9/30)

Recycled Rockets. SpaceX to Try Again with Florida Launch (Source: BBC)
The Falcon's first-stage was commanded to reignite three of its nine engines after separation from the rocket’s upper-stage in an attempt to slow its return to Earth. Then, as the stage got closer to the Pacific Ocean, it fired up a fourth engine to limit the descent speed still further. Although the stage lost stability as it approached the water, Elon Musk expressed great satisfaction with the way the experiment went.

“The boost stage did not have landing gear, which helps essentially to stabilize the stage like fins on an aircraft. The stage actually ended up spinning to a degree that was greater than we could control with the gas thrusters, and it centrifuged the propellant. It caused the boost stage to run out of propellant before hitting the water...  We’ve recovered portions of the stage, but the most important thing is we believe we now have all the pieces of the puzzle.”

Those "pieces" comprise the lessons learned from Sunday and the results garnered from SpaceX’s Grasshopper program. Retractable versions will now be incorporated on to the Falcon 9 that launches the company’s next NASA cargo mission to the space station from Florida. And again, once the first-stage has completed its primary tasks on that flight, it will be commanded to reignite its engines and to make a controlled return to Earth. (9/30)

SpaceX Falcon 9 – Possible Explosion (Source: Zarya)
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandeberg AFB carrying Canada’s Cassiope satellite and five smaller payloads (representing six satellites as two of them were joined together to be separated later when on-orbit). Soon after launch SpaceX said the satellites had been released, and the owners of Cassiope and DANDE reported establishment of communications with their satellites. Payload separation seemed to go well.

Normally, SpaceTrack would expect to be listing the six released satellite combinations, the rocket body and maybe a couple of debris items. A few hours after launch, the catalogue was showing 20 items in a scatter of orbit, indicating an explosion. One of the satellites may be the suspect but the most likely culprit is SpaceX’s Falcon 9. It seems to have suffered some kind of failure after the payloads departed.

SpaceX is known to be sensitive about events surrounding its launches. Its web site and press releases are high on technical descriptions but lack detail of events. An earlier Falcon 9 launch suffered a problem that seemed to be acknowledged only because the detail had to be shared with NASA. If that had not been the case, it might never have passed the ‘rumor’ stage. (9/30)

SpaceX Issues Statement on Falcon Explosion Rumor (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX issued the following statement via Twitter in response to reports that its Falcon-9 upper stage may have exploded: "We have no reason to believe there was an explosion of any kind [of second stage]. Based on previous launch experiences we do know its common that the first measurements from Space-Track are not always accurate and sometimes mixed up usually takes a few days for them to sort it all out and that's with fewer objects to track." (9/30)

Space Weather and the Aerospace Leader (Source: ERAU CAAL)
There is weather in space?  The answer is “yes,” and modern aerospace leaders must be fully aware of the wide spectrum of effects that an event 93 million miles away on the Sun can have here in the atmosphere and on the surface of Earth. Solar flares can send out huge amounts of both solar particles (such as protons) and electromagnetic radiation that can have both major immediate and delayed effects on the Sun-Earth system. This is not just a question for space scientists, satellite operators and astronauts.

Given the nature of these solar phenomena – coupled to the complex, interconnected electronic society in which we live – aerospace professionals and indeed ordinary citizens have an interest in what is going on “up there.”  First , spacecraft are very susceptible to solar events above the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere.  Given that much of modern communication depends upon spacecraft, a solar event that disabled even a fraction of satellites in orbit could have significant consequences on our “wired” and inter-connected society. Click here. (9/30)

Non-Orbiting Space Junk
(Source: LaunchSpace)
Ten days ago NASA’s Inspector General, Paul K. Martin, testified before the House about the state of the agency’s infrastructure. Martin started by pointing out that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is dedicated to providing independent, aggressive, and objective oversight of NASA, and in this case we are focusing on the challenges with respect to aging infrastructure and antiquated facilities.

NASA was formed in 1958, with foundations based on the work of The National Advisory Committee for  Aeronautics was founded in 1915 by an act of Congress to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. It survived until the National Aeronautics and Space Act transformed it into NASA. Former NACA assets and personnel were transferred to the new agency. So, some of the NASA facilities and equipment date back to 1915.

As you can imagine the OIG identified the agency’s infrastructure and facilities management as one of its top challenges, one that will remain a top challenge for decades to come. In fact, over the past three years Martin’s office has issued 10 audit reports addressing many of the most pressing infrastructure-related issues. One issue of immediate concern is the demolition or leasing of unused facilities and remediation of environmental contamination at old rocket testing sites. Click here. (9/30)

Astronauts Practice Launching in NASA's New Orion Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
NASA astronauts recently experienced what it will be like to launch into space aboard the new Orion spacecraft during the first ascent simulations since the space shuttles and their simulators were retired. Ascent simulations are precise rehearsals of the steps a spacecraft's crew will be responsible for - including things that could go wrong - during their climb into space. (9/30)

NASA May Slam Captured Asteroid Into Moon (Eventually) (Source:
Decades from now, people on Earth may be gearing up for an unprecedented celestial spectacle — the intentional smashing of an asteroid into the moon. NASA is currently planning out an ambitious mission to snag a near-Earth asteroid and park it in a stable orbit around the moon, where it could be visited repeatedly by astronauts for scientific and exploration purposes.

But the asteroid-capture mission may not end when astronauts leave the space rock for the last time. Seeing it through could require disposing of the asteroid in a safe — and possibly very dramatic — manner, experts say. "You can be comfortable that [the asteroid] will stay in this orbit for 100 years or so," Paul Chodas. "But if that's not enough, I think that, once you're finished with it and you have no further need of it, send it in to impact the moon," he added. "That makes sense to me." (9/30)

10 Weird Things We've Sent to Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Space is a strange place made stranger by our need to rocket the weird and unusual beyond our atmosphere. Space biology, a field which gained interest after World War II, started with meager beginnings with exposing fungus spores to cosmic rays in 1946. In the following decades, the V-2 rocket program progressed from blasting fruit flies into space to sending mice and monkeys. Click here. (9/30)

FAA Would be Hard-Hit in Furloughs, DOT Says (Source: The Hill)
The Federal Aviation Administration could furlough more than 15,000 workers if the federal government shuts down, the Transportation Department says. The FAA would be the area of the DOT most affected by furloughs, which could furlough 18,000 employees department-wide. (9/30)

Super Space Sunday (Source: Space Review)
In the course of less than 12 hours on Sunday, a commercial spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station and two rockets successfully performed critical launches. Jeff Foust recounts the events of that busy day and their significance for those companies and others. Visit to view the article. (9/30)

Back to the Moon, Commercially (Source: Space Review)
Many Apollo-era astronauts have been skeptical of the potential of commercial human spaceflight, but one such astronaut has changed his mind. James Lovell describes why he now supports plans by Golden Spike to develop commercial human missions to the surface of the Moon. Visit to view the article. (9/30)

NASA Tries to Keep an Asteroid Mission in the Bag (Source: Space Review)
This week, NASA is hosting a workshop to discuss ideas for the agency's proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission submitted this summer. Jeff Foust reports on the progress NASA is making on the mission concept and the obstacles it faces selling the mission to the public and to Congress. Visit to view the article. (9/30)

SpaceX Launch Paves Way for Rocket Re-Use (Source: Waco Tribune)
A road that started with flights of SpaceX’s Grasshopper testbed rocket at its McGregor development site is closer to completion after the successful launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket Sunday morning in California. After the second stage separated from the first and lit its single engine to continue on, the first stage relit three of its nine engines to slow it down enough to survive re-entry.

The hitch, Musk said, came as the stage neared the Pacific Ocean, firing its center engine to slow it down further. The stage then went into an uncontrollable spin and hit the water hard, he said. Musk said landing legs that double as stablilizing surfaces — planned to fly on the Falcon 9 for the first time on the next Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station, set for February — could have kept the spin within control by thrusters, allowing the stage to make a softer landing. (9/30)

SpaceX Test Stand Nearly Ready for Falcon Heavy (Source: Waco Tribune)
Elon Musk said construction was nearly complete on the McGregor test stand for the monster Falcon Heavy, essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together for a 27-engine first stage. He said the design of the partly buried new stand would actually make its tests — slated to begin in the second quarter of next year — quieter than the nine-engine tests on the current main stand. He said that a likely decision to locate the company’s next spaceport in South Texas, where SpaceX has bought land near Brownsville, was “waiting for all the final approvals.” (9/30)

Three Scenarios For Funding Interstellar Travel (Source: Forbes)
Mankind’s only chance for survival in the coming millennium is to spread out into space. So argues British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and a score of other eminent physicists, rocket scientists and intellectuals in Starship Century, a collection of essays and science fiction edited by brothers James and Gregory Benford.

Marc Millis, founder of Tau Zero Foundation, and former head of breakthrough propulsion physics at NASA, said that the initial research needed to determine the focus and scope of an interstellar space program can be done for a pittance. “We are probably talking about an investment of less than $10 million a year,” Millis said. Click here. (9/30)

Sci-Fi Scenarios For Interstellar Space Travel That Could Happen (Source: Forbes)
“There are many, many pathways to the stars, and most of them actually get us there,” Schwartz, a director of the Long Now Foundation, told a sold-out audience. “A galactic civilization is almost inevitable.” Unsurprisingly, skeptics abound. “In one hundred years, it won’t happen,” said Cole Miller, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland. “Developing any of the technologies for interstellar spacecraft propulsion is likely to take far more than a century,” he said. Click here. (9/30)

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