October 23, 2013

Golden Spike Workshop Advances Human Lunar Mission Concepts (Source: Golden Spike)
A two-day workshop led by Golden Spike—the world’s first company planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries and corporations around the world—attracted scientists from four continents who proposed exciting new human Moon mission concepts. The workshop, held at the Lunar and Planetary Science Institute in Houston focused on landing sites, sample returns, and aspirations of the international lunar scientific community.

The aim of the event was to communicate the planned capabilities of Golden Spike’s planned lunar expeditions and receive feedback from the international scientific community. Workshop sponsors included the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the Southwest Research Institute, the Space Frontier Foundation, and the University Space Research Association.

Among the new concepts advanced were robotic-human missions where a country could send its own rover to collect and store samples from the Moon’s surface ahead of a crewed Golden Spike expedition to retrieve the robot’s cache. A Golden Spike lander would later touch down on the lunar surface near the rover. The crew would also conduct Moon walks nearby to explore, sample, and experiment. (10/23)

NASA Event Looks at Virginia Region's Energy Future (Source: SpaceRef)
Industry leaders will share their outlook on the future of energy for Southeastern Virginia on Oct. 23 at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Leaders from three major regional energy companies will give their energy forecast for Hampton Roads. Among other topics, presenters will discuss Virginia's offshore wind energy efforts, where the solar market is headed, and the role of nuclear power. The NASA Energy Action Month presentations will be followed by an interactive panel discussion with the audience. (10/23)

Orion Hardware Prepared for 2014 Test Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The design and fabrication of critical flight hardware that will be used to keep NASA’s Orion spacecraft safe during launch was recently completed at Janicki Industries. The hardware arrived Sep. 26 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for final preparations before Orion’s first mission planned for September 2014. Orion’s stage adapter diaphragm serves as a barrier between the upper-stage of the launch vehicle and the spacecraft, preventing hydrogen gas build up from the rocket beneath the spacecraft before and during launch. (10/23)

American Exceptionlism in Outer Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Imagine that the U.S. is indeed falling behind in space. The romantic bygone era of winning the Space Race is in the past. Wouldn't it make a stronger case for NASA funding if we were more honest about our competitive positioning -- especially given how much pride Americans take in being "the best?" We can bash them all we like, but there is a reason countries are so eager to work with China, and it's certainly not because the Chinese are failing.

This is not to downplay the geopolitical implications and complexities of the U.S.-China relationship. But they aught not be reduced to tools for political posturing. In a conference hall full of multinational teams of scientists and engineers working towards a peaceful and collaborative future for humanity in space, platitudes simply do not resonate. Instead, they stop the conversation in its tracks. They create false boundaries. (10/22)

International Space Commerce Summit Planned for Next Week in London (Source: SpaceLand)
The number of commercial space businesses are growing and business models are steadily emerging that are fit for the evolution of private space travel. With this in mind, the ‘International Space Commerce 2013 Summit’ is designed as a senior-level summit to map the way forward for commercial companies operating in the space sector. Click here to view the program. (10/23)

GAO: FAA Needs to Budget Better for NextGen (Source: FedWeek)
The Federal Aviation Administration budget doesn't adequately account for the operations needs of the new NextGen air traffic control system, a new General Accounting Office report says. The GAO is recommending that the FAA needs better information on its infrastructure needs so it can set priorities for spending on NextGen and current systems. (10/22)

DOD Awards $6.3 Billion in Contracts During Shutdown (Source: NextGov)
The Defense Department awarded $6.3 billion in contracts during the government shutdown, including deals for satellite-bearing rockets produced by United Launch Services, technology contracts awarded by the Navy to a range of suppliers and an engineering support award to Aerospace Corp. by the Air Force. During the shutdown, the Pentagon continued to award contracts but did not announce them until the government reopened. (10/21)

Some GOP Lawmakers See Sequester as Key Tool (Source: Fox News)
Sequestration may have given the Republicans a way to rein in -- and cut -- government spending. Though GOP lawmakers agree that the sequester is an imperfect tool, cutting good and bad programs equally, some see it as proof that spending cuts can be made. "What the [Budget Control Act] showed is that Washington actually can cut spending. And because of this law, that's just what we've done. For the first time since the Korean War, government spending has declined for two years," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (10/23)

Spaceflight Federation Congratulates Paragon on Partnership with World View (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation congratulates Paragon Space Development Corp. on its partnership with World View Enterprises. Paragon will be the primary vehicle developer of the space-qualified capsule. The FAA recently determined that World View’s spacecraft and its operations will fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). (10/23)

Russian Space Agency Declares War on Asteroids (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's state-run space agency and the national academy of sciences have announced they are going to bang heads on a comprehensive project to ward off deadly asteroids that may threaten the earth. Oleg Ostapenko, who leads the federal space agency, Roskosmos, said the two institutions that spearhead the country's space science would look closer at the asteroid threat forecast for 2032.

Russia's deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin has urged the space industry to think of a way to avert the impending doom, which he described as an "ultimate goal." Mr. Ostapenko said his agency would work on an efficient way to tackle the asteroid scare, although he sounded more curious than concerned. (10/23)

Ukraine's Space Exports Unlikely to Drop After Joining EU (Source: Itar-Tass)
Ukraine’s export potential in the space industry totals about $300-350 million a year, and the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association agreement is unlikely to have any negative effects in this respect, said the Chairman of State Space Agency of Ukraine, Yuri Alekseyev. Alekseyev sees the roots of skepticism about the future of the Ukrainian space industry in “politics” and “politicians’ emotions.”

He cited some very successful Ukrainian-Russian successful space co-operation programs. “None of the agreements with the Russian Defense Ministry or with the Russian Federal Space Agency has been annulled. The usual thorough work is underway,” he assured. He expressed the certainty the coming 2-3 years would see no considerable changes or any production decline in the industry, as Ukrainian facilities are subcontractors providing parts and components for both Soyuz and Proton rockets.

Speaking about future co-operation with Russia, Alekseyev said Ukraine was keen to participate in the Russian project to launch a new heavy rocket complex. "Engineers at the Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine and the Russian rocket and space corporation Energia are exchanging notes and pushing ahead with research," he said. (10/23)

Embry-Riddle STEM Partnership Boosts Aerospace Education in Nevada (Sources: ERAU, SPACErePORT)
More than 70 students from Clark County’s Rancho High School in Nevada are part of an elite group who, thanks to a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, will graduate from high school with up to 24 college credits, highly valuable skills and university-level experience in aerospace and aviation education.

By participating in the program, students can earn college credits while in high school. Classes are taught by high school faculty trained by Embry-Riddle professionals. Embry-Riddle supports seven of these STEM programs at schools in the Southwest, and seven other similar Aerospace Academies in Florida and Illinois. Plans are underway to expand the program at several additional Florida high schools, with funding provided by the Florida Legislature. (10/23)

NASA and JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement Mission Gets Anime Treatment (Source: JAXA)
An international satellite mission to be launched by NASA and JAXA in 2014 will set new standards for precipitation measurements worldwide using a network of satellites united by the GPM Core Observatory. JAXA released this anime video to explain things. (10/23)

Texas Solicits Proposals to Receive $15 Million for Spaceports (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Office of Aerospace & Aviation within the Economic Development & Tourism Division with the Office of the Governor is soliciting proposals for projects that provide for the development of spaceports in Texas. The purpose of this solicitation is to provide infrastructure necessary or useful for establishing a spaceport.

A Spaceport Trust Fund containing $15 million is administered the Economic Development & Tourism Division. The source of funding is an appropriation by the Texas Legislature from General Revenue funds for fiscal year 2014. I imagine this solicitation will attract competing proposals from spaceport advocates in Midland (for XCOR), Houston's Ellington Field, Boca Chica (for SpaceX), and Van Horn (for Blue Origin). Click here to view the solicitation. (10/23) 

XCOR Moving Forward With Move to Midland, Airport Working to Get Licenses (Source: NewsWest 9)
An aerospace company based out of California is blasting its way into the Basin. But before they land, the Midland International Airport needs to get the green light for the space port. XCOR Aerospace is moving ahead with plans to move its research and development center to the Midland International Airport.

However, the Midland Spaceport Development Corporation is still in the works. The City of Midland must file an application with the federal government to receive a license to have a space port. But Midland Airport Director, Marv Esterly, explained it may not be as easy to get the spaceport off the ground in the Basin.

"Well, there's two separate issues... Our application [for an FAA license] to have a spaceport. And in order to file for funding from the Texas SpacePort Trust Fund you have to have a... spaceport development corporation formed. And that's what we did recently and that first meeting of that corporation was held this (Tuesday) morning," Esterly said. (10/23)

Near-Space Balloon Trips to Launch in New Mexico (Source: KRQE)
It's a balloon ride far different from what you'd experience at Balloon Fiesta. Arizona-based World View Enterprises says it plans on launching balloons to near-space, about 19 miles up, from New Mexico's Spaceport America as early as 2016. The setup that would take paying customers to new heights looks fairly similar to what took Felix Baumgartner 24 miles high during his record-breaking Red Bull Stratos jump last October.

Tickets cost $75,000. The helium balloon would launch with eight people inside a capsule attached underneath. Initially, six passengers and two crew members would fly, although a World View spokesperson says the company intends to eventually adjust that to seven passengers and one crew member. After one to two hours of ascent, the balloon would level off for another one to two hours while customers enjoyed the view.

Editor's Note: At over 100,000 feet, the World View vehicle would operate well above the current ceiling of the National Airspace System (NAS), which helps explain why the FAA intends to regulate it as a commercial launch system. The vehicle will rise 3.5 times the height of Mount Everest, but won't go as high as Felix Baumgartner's recent balloon platform (128,000 feet), or Virgin Galactic's planned suborbital altitude of 360,000 feet. (10/23)

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin Will Revamp Spaceflight . . . One Day . . . Soon? (Source: Bloomberg)
Here’s the near-term future for Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s commercial space startup: Any day now, the company will begin making suborbital flights. Blue Origin will let researchers and other companies take a payload up into space—topping out at 100 kilometers—for about three to four minutes. The hope is that Blue Origin will be able to do this at a moment’s notice and do it often.

“You will tell us that you need to get on the pad that morning,” Erika Wagner, the business development manager at Blue Origin, said during a commercial space conference held last weekend in Silicon Valley. “We will roll out of the garage. We will do a countdown and go. This is gas and go. This is not sitting on the launchpad for months.” Click here. (10/22)

Boeing Plans to Move Into Former Shuttle Hangar This Spring (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing plans to move into a former shuttle hangar at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the spring of 2014, where it will assemble CST-100 commercial crew capsules. One of three companies competing to launch NASA crews to the International Space Station, Boeing hopes to launch a first test flight of the CST-100 in 2016.

In a press release, Boeing said it had finalized a lease agreement with Space Florida, which took over Orbiter Processing Facility 3, a former shuttle main engine shop and adjacent office facilities from NASA. That deal and Boeing's plans to lease the facilities were announced two years ago.

A first phase of renovations to OPF-3, now renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or C3PF, was completed in February, and second phase began this summer. Boeing has said its commercial crew operations could eventually bring over 500 jobs to KSC. (10/22)

Clear Obstacles for China-US Space Cooperation (Source: Xinhua)
The decision by U.S. space agency NASA to lift the ban prohibiting Chinese scientists from attending an upcoming conference has been lauded by China. The move clears obstacles and opens up a channel for bilateral cooperation on space exploration between China and the U.S., which is conducive to the Chinese people, the American people and the human race as a whole.

While this obstacle has seemingly been removed, there could be more in future, hindering the progress of China-U.S. cooperation on space. The ban was based on a controversial law passed in 2011 by Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, which prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities.

This "Wolf Clause" discriminating against Chinese scientists could still be employed whenever politicians consider it useful. Gregory Kulacki at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists believes that this is a wake-up call for some members of Congress, including Rep. Wolf. The law is "so broad, and the legal and financial penalties associated with potential violations so threatening, that even U.S. organizations not directly administered by NASA are afraid to reach out to colleagues in China." (10/23)

New Roscosmos Chief to Inspect Construction of Vostochy Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
The new chief of Roscosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, arrived in the Amur Region to confer with Governor Oleg Kozhemyako and then proceeded to Uglegorsk to inspect the new Vostochny spaceport. Together with a group of specialists, he plans to inspect the launch and engineering complex and review the process of building a residential development and township. (10/23)

Building at NASA Langley Evacuated Because of Chemical Spill (Source: WVEC)
HAZMAT teams were at NASA Langley on Tuesday to deal with a chemical spill. It happened around 10:35 a.m. About 70 people were asked to leave a materials sciences building as a precaution, but no one was exposed to the chemical. A NASA Langley spokeswoman characterized the spill as "small" and that it was contained to one room. (10/22)

NASA Contractors Not Reimbursed for Shutdown (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
While roughly 800,000 federal government workers will collect pay for furlough time they took during this month's government shutdown, another large cadre of workers who were idled during the impasse will not be as lucky. The Oct. 16 legislation that reopened the government provided back pay for workers who draw federal government paychecks, but didn't address the plight of government contractors who were also forced to stay home during the shutdown. (10/22)

NASA Defends Decision to Idle J-2X Engine, Says it Wasn't a '$1.2 Billion Mistake' (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has spent $1.2 billion to design, build and test a powerful new upper-stage rocket engine for the future called the J-2X. But after final testing next year, the new engine will wait to see if there's a mission for it. And the decision to park the J-2X has the space agency trying its first week back from shutdown to get out in front of criticism that it wasted money by the boxcar-load on an engine it may never use.

The J-2X wasn't a waste to develop, a NASA spokeswoman said in Huntsville Monday, and it was never intended for the new rocket launcher NASA is developing now at Marshall Space Flight Center. When America decides to go to Mars or somewhere else beyond the moon, NASA said, it will need a larger rocket, and the J-2X could still be the upper-stage engine that powers it. (10/22)

Russia Retires Faulty Glonass-M Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
A satellite in the fleet of Russia’s answer to GPS has been decommissioned because of a terminal malfunction, space officials said Tuesday. The Federal Space Agency said it stopped receiving signals from Glonass 728 on July 1 and has kept the satellite in maintenance mode ever since. (10/22)

ULA Workers Raise Charity Funds with Poker Tournament (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance held their annual Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament to raise money for United Way of Brevard. A total of 21 Cape ULA employees came to challenge the playing skills of their teammates in a charity match of No-Limit Texas Hold’em Poker. The tournament took approximately 3 & 1/2 hours and raised $710 for United Way. ULA’s campaign is still open and so far, Cape ULA has the highest increase in giving of any ULA site in the country. (10/23)

India Plans November 5 Launch for Mars Mission (Source: Times of India)
India's prestigious mission to Mars will be launched on November 5 from Sriharikota. Called the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), an advance version of the highly-proven, four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, called the PSLV-XL, will be the rocket used for the Rs 450-crore mission.

The decision to launch was taken at the second meeting of ISRO's launch authorization board, which met at Sriharikota on Tuesday. The launch window opens on October 28 and closes on November 19. Originally, it was to open on October 21, but was moved to October 28 for operational reasons. (10/23)

Component Alert Forces ESA To Postpone Gaia Launch (Source: Space News)
A manufacturer’s alert about a satellite transponder component has caused the European Space Agency to pull its Gaia star-mapping science satellite from the manifest of the Europeanized Soyuz launch vehicle, scrapping a planned Nov. 20 liftoff. The satellite will remain at Europe’s Guiana Space Center but the digital box in question will be removed and returned to Europe for replacement or repair, officials said. (10/23)

Mars Air Turned to Stone to Cool Planet (Source: New Scientist)
Turning a greenhouse gas into stone is a climate change technofix some have suggested for Earth. Now it seems it may have dramatically cooled the Red Planet 3 billion years ago. The conclusion comes from a study of minerals in a Martian meteorite. "It has big implications for global warming and CO2 reduction in our own atmosphere," says Tim Tomkinson. "By understanding how this occurred on Mars we can gain insights into how we can do it on Earth."

These days the Martian atmosphere is thin and about 95 per cent CO2, but it is thought that around 3 or 4 billion years ago the planet's gassy envelope was much thicker and even richer in carbon, making its surface warm enough to support liquid water - and therefore, possibly, life. Just what happened to all the CO2 is a bit of a mystery, says Tomkinson. It could have been blown into space by the solar wind or frozen in the dry ice caps at the poles, but that wouldn't account for all the carbon.

Another possibility is that the CO2 was sucked into rocks, in a process called carbonation which also occurs naturally on Earth. Tomkinson and colleagues studied a meteorite known as Lafayette, thought to have landed on Earth roughly 3000 years ago. Using a scanning electron microscope they found veins of carbonate minerals. These form when carbon dissolved in liquid water seeps into rocks containing the mineral olivine. The carbon replaces the olivine, locking it away. (10/22)

Golden Anniversary for Space-Based Treaty Verification (Source: LANL)
Fifty years ago this month, Los Alamos National Laboratory sensor technology lifted off into space to help verify that world Superpowers were abiding by the newly signed Limited Test Ban Treaty—a pledge by the United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater or in space.

“For the past 70 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory has serviced the country and provided technical solutions to the some of biggest national security challenges facing the nation,” said Terry Wallace, Principal Associate Director for Global Security at Los Alamos. "[After Sputnik] Space became a national-security concern; Los Alamos played the key role in providing a space platform to monitor nuclear weapons testing and treaties, and 50 years later the lab still has this role. (10/22)

Incoming Space Station Commander to Treat Crew to Sushi (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first-ever Japanese commander of the International Space Station said Tuesday he plans to treat fellow residents at the orbital outpost to traditional Japanese food, including sushi. JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio are scheduled to blast off on the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft on November 7 for a 190-day mission at the space station as part of Expedition 38/Expedition 39. (10/23)

Amateur Astronomers See a Comet “Explode” in Brightness (Source: Hobby Space)
Almost 450 million km from Earth, Comet C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) has exploded. Amateur astronomers are reporting a 100-fold increase in the comet’s brightness compared to predictions, and the comet’s atmosphere or “coma” now resembles that of exploding Comet 17P/Holmes in 2007. The comet may not have literally exploded but instead a vein of water ice or other volatile material may have become exposed and erupted, creating a cloud of material around the object. (10/23)

NASA Laser Comm System Sets Record with Lunar Data Transmissions (Source: NASA)
NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon. (10/22)

Time is Ripe for Fire Detection Satellite (Source: UC Berkeley)
As firefighters emerge from another record wildfire season in the Western United States, University of California, Berkeley, scientists say it’s time to give them a 21st century tool: a fire-spotting satellite. Such a satellite could view the Western states almost continuously, snapping pictures of the ground every few seconds in search of hot spots that could be newly ignited wildfires. Firefighting resources could then be directed to these spots in hopes of preventing the fires from growing out of control and threatening lives and property.

The UC Berkeley scientists have designed such a satellite using state-of-the-art sensors, written analysis software to minimize false alarms, and even given it a name – the Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit (FUEGO). They’re hopeful it can be built for several hundred million dollars, either by government or private entities. (10/22)

Lockheed Q3 Earnings Rise Despite Sales Drop (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin saw its third-quarter sales slide 4% during a military-spending slowdown compared to the same quarter last year. However, through plant consolidations and layoffs, Lockheed managed to cut costs enough that its net earnings from continuing operations climbed 15%. Earnings per share of $2.57 were up 16.3%, beating analysts' expectations, and the company raised its full-year forecast to as much as $9.70 earnings per share. (10/22)

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