September 7, 2013

Small Defense Companies Taking Sequester Hit (Source: Reuters)
The sequestration cuts to defense are taking a serious toll on small defense companies, with some even facing closure, says Marion Blakey, Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO. "The small companies don't have the same access to capital, they don't have the strong internal financials," said Blakey, speaking at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit this week. BAE Systems U.S. CEO Linda Hudson said her firm even is prepared to step in and invest in suppliers to ensure they don't shut down. (9/5)

FAA NextGen Initiative Could Be Put On Hold Due to Budget Cuts (Source: AIA)
The NextGen initiative could be put on hold due to sequestration. The program, which will shift air-traffic control systems to global positioning satellites from radar, will cost about $1 billion a year before it can be completed in 2025. "The investment that's required can be derailed in the course of a single year -- 2014 -- by the sequestration cuts," said Marion Blakey, chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association and a former Federal Aviation Administration administrator. (9/6)

Three Big Discoveries Made by the International Space Station (Source: SciShow)
We all know it's awesome, and we could watch Chris Hadfield sing all day, but do you know about the awesome science that's being done on the International Space Station? Hank explains three big discoveries made on the ISS that you should know about. Click here. (9/6)

Picture this: NASA on Instagram (Source: FCW)
NASA inaugurated its Instagram page on Friday, in time for the launch of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, scheduled to take off for the moon Friday night from the Wallops Flight Facility. NASA also has pages on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Reddit and other sites. Instagram was added in July to the more than 60 GSA-approved tools and apps available to federal agencies. (9/6)

LADEE Spacecraft Blasts Off Successfully From Virginia Spaceport (Source: Guardian)
NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late on Friday night in an unprecedented moonshot from the state of Virginia. The Ladee spacecraft, which is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, soared aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket a little before midnight. It was a change of venue for Nasa, which normally launches moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Florida. But it provided a rare light show along the east coast of the US for those blessed with clear skies. (9/7)

Minotaur 5 Rocket Tailored for Moon Mission (Source:
NASA's new moon mission, designed to survey the little-known lunar atmosphere, will blast off from Virginia on Friday aboard a U.S. Air Force Minotaur 5 rocket assembled from stockpiled Peacekeeper missile motors originally built to hurl nuclear weapons at targets across the globe.

The Minotaur 5 rocket, standing 80 feet tall, is making its first flight Friday, but the five-stage launcher leans heavily on proven technology used on previous rockets which have successfully launched 23 times since 2000. Conceived as a relatively inexpensive answer to rising launch costs facing U.S. military space programs, the Minotaur rocket family was developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. under contract with the Air Force.

Editor's Note: The Air Force has identified Launch Complex 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a qualified site for Minotaur launches. Space Florida operates LC-46, which is configured for types of multiple launch vehicles. (9/6)

Destination Space (Source: Harvard Gazette)
When Jessica Meir was in first grade, her teacher asked the students to draw pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Meir drew an astronaut. Three decades later, Meir has stepped into that picture. In June, she was selected from more than 6,100 applicants to be one of eight in NASA’s latest astronaut class, the first selected in four years. (9/6)

Inflatable Antennae Could Give CubeSats Greater Reach (Source: MIT)
The future of satellite technology is getting small — about the size of a shoebox, to be exact. These so-called “CubeSats,” and other small satellites, are making space exploration cheaper and more accessible: The minuscule probes can be launched into orbit at a fraction of the weight and cost of traditional satellites.

But with such small packages come big limitations — namely, a satellite’s communication range. Large, far-ranging radio dishes are impossible to store in a CubeSat’s tight quarters. Instead, the satellites are equipped with smaller, less powerful antennae, restricting them to orbits below those of most geosynchronous satellites.

Now researchers at MIT have come up with a design that may significantly increase the communication range of small satellites, enabling them to travel much farther in the solar system: The team has built and tested an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit. (9/6)

Strike Freezes ALMA Observations (Source: Sky & Telescope)
For the past 15 days, new observations at the world’s largest ground-based telescope have been suspended as its workers go on strike. The mostly Chilean engineers, technicians, and administrative staff that support the observatory are employees of an American company: Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI).

AUI employees’ three-year contracts were due for renewal in August, but negotiations became tense when AUI turned down the requests of a union representing 195 of the 270 staff members. Despite intervention from the Chilean Department of Labor, mediation fell apart and 102 union members voted in favor of striking, with only two voting against. The strike began on Aug. 22, and just three days later, the situation intensified as workers announced they intended to camp out at the observatory’s base camp.

The union originally demanded a 15% pay increase, shorter work shifts, and bonuses for time spent at the antenna array’s high-altitude site at 16,500 feet. The current average monthly salary is $2,000 for 45-hour weeks; nine workers earn less than $1,000 per month, and five workers earn around $6,000 per month. (9/7)

Wallops Island: The Little Spaceport That Could (Source: Popular Mechanics)
As Dale Nash takes his position to speak to a gaggle of space press, corporate VIPs, and social media guests, he has a dramatic backdrop: About 50 feet behind him stands a stark white 80-foot rocket loaded with a lunar orbiter and tucked inside a rectangular building but visible through massive, open doors.

The next day—today—the structure will ease away from the pad to enable the launch of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). As he begins speaking, the dozens of guests are distracted by the gleaming launch vehicle and the sight of Orbital Sciences engineers in hard hats waving from the work levels of the 127-foot-high gantry. Click here. (9/6)

Russia to Outdo NASA With ‘Space Toilet’ (Source: RIA Novosti)
A new Russian spaceship for trips to the moon or the International Space Station will have at least one crucial advantage over its American rival – a toilet, one of the craft’s developers said Friday. “I don’t think I need to elaborate on how a waste-collection system is much more comfortable than the diapers that astronauts aboard the [US spacecraft] Orion will have to use,” said Vladimir Pirozhkov. (9/6)

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