October 25, 2013

Former 45th Space Wing Commander Takes FAA NextGen Post (Source: AIN)
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta appointed Maj. Gen. Edward Bolton to the position of NextGen assistant administrator, which had been filled by an interim administrator since Victoria Cox retired earlier this year. Bolton formerly commanded the 45th Space Wing and directed the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., which supports missile and rocket launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Editor's Note: Bolton's familiarity with launch operations and the Eastern Range make him a potential advocate for integrating space traffic management capabilities into NextGen, including ADS-B tracking/situational awareness technology to support spaceflight vehicles as well as aircraft flying through and above the National Airspace System. (8/23)

House GOP Members Call for End to Defense Sequester (Source: Roll Call)
House Armed Services Committee Republicans have sent a letter to members of the joint House-Senate budget conference urging an end to sequestration, warning that it is hurting military readiness and will mean "a hollowing of the force." The letter, signed by 30 of the 34 GOP members of the HASC, calls for budget conferees to replace defense cuts with cuts to entitlement programs. (10/24)

Sequester May Become Bargaining Chip, GOP Lawmaker Says (Source: The Hill)
Republicans may soon use sequestration cuts as a bargaining point to push Democrats toward entitlement-program cuts the GOP has long been seeking. "We're going to try to push for some substantial reforms on entitlement spending and our backstop is sequestration," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., describing what he said were the sentiments of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during a recent meeting. (10/23)

Near-record Profit Margins at Lockheed’s Space Systems Division (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin reported lower revenue and operating profit at its Space Systems division for the nine months ending Sep. 30 but said its space business continues to run at near-record operating profit margins. Lockheed officials also said they expected hefty new Space Systems orders between now and the end of the year. Lockheed officials said the effects of DOD budget cuts and sequestration are having much less effect on the company’s business than had been feared.

Lockheed said Space Systems revenue for the nine months ending Sept. 30 was $6 billion, down 5.5 percent from the same period a year ago. Some $315 million of the decrease was due to the fact that Lockheed delivered no commercial telecommunications satellites in 2013, compared to two in 2012. Another $210 million of the revenue decline was attributed to lower sales relating to NASA’s Orion crew-transport vehicle. (10/25)

Embry-Riddle Rocket Chart Updated (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle's chart of international space launch vehicles has been updated to reflect the successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon-9 v1.1, and the ongoing development of India's GSLV MK-2 rocket. The chart provides information on LEO lift capacity, launch sites, and rocket sizing. Click here. (10/25)  

Proton-M Launches with Sirius FM-6 Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
International Launch Services (ILS) have conducted another launch of the Russian Proton-M launch vehicle, this time carrying the Sirius FM-6 satellite on a multi-hour flight to its transfer orbit. Launch from the from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was on time at 18:08 GMT, the second flight of the Proton since its dramatic failure earlier in the year.

The Proton booster launching the Sirius FM-6 satellite is 4.1 m (13.5 ft) in diameter along its second and third stages, with a first stage diameter of 7.4 m (24.3 ft). Overall height of the three stages of the Proton booster is 42.3 m (138.8 ft). The Proton vehicle has a heritage of nearly 400 launches since 1965 and is built by Khrunichev Research and State Production Center, one of the pillars of the global space industry and the majority owner of ILS. (10/25)

Gov. Scott Signs MOU With Israel Supporting Tech Projects (Source: EOG)
Governor Rick Scott and Israeli Consul General Chaim Shacham signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Florida and Israel to support research, development, and commercialization of projects related to aerospace and other technology sectors. Florida’s $1 million will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Israel, to create a $2 million joint research fund.

Editor's Note: Florida's $1 million was appropriated this year by the Florida Legislature to flow through Space Florida for funding joint aerospace projects. (10/24)

Chinese Scientist Promotes Military Aspects of Lunar Program (Source: Lunar Enterprise Daily)
Ziyuan Ouyang‘s views on a military role for the Moon seems like a throwback to the 1950s at the start of the Space Race. He cites the Moon's "military strategic position" and its potential use as a "contemporary space warfare military platform." Ouvang is the chief scientist for the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program , which intends to land the Chang’e 3 rover on the Moon later this year.

Frankly, it’s silly to claim the Moon can offers any benefits to the Chinese military, particularly as long as space transportation costs are so absurdly expensive. And nothing China is currently doing in rocketry will lead to lower costs. I expect his comments are primarily to attract funding for the lunar program. (10/25)

Chinese Lunar Rover Looks Too Much Like NASA's Opportunity (Source: South China Morning Post)
The launch of China's most ambitious lunar probe, scheduled for sometime in December, will likely be a proud moment for many in the nation. But for some scientists, at least one of whom was directly involved in the project, the event will be frustrating. The rover, they say, shows little technological innovation, and borrows heavily from American and Soviet-era designs.

The rover, they note, looks similar to NASA's Opportunity, which has roamed Mars for nearly a decade. Both feature a flat back with solar panels, a long neck fronted by cameras and a robotic arm set at the front chest. Only their wheels are different. For that part, the Chinese rover seems to have borrowed heavily from the Lunokhod 1 - the first lunar rover launched by the Soviet Union in 1970. (10/25)

Chinese Long March 4B Lofts Shijian-16 Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Chinese have conducted another surprise launch, this time orbiting the Shijian-16 satellite via the Long March-4B (Chang Zheng-4B) rocket. The launch took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Friday. The launch was not scheduled on official manifests, with only hints as to what the mission may involve on Chinese forums. Following launch, state media did confirm the satellite will be used for “space environment measurements and technology testing”. (10/25)

Symbolism in Space (Source: Space Safety)
Space is replete with symbolism of every variety. Heroism and survival. Racing into orbit as a war for supremacy. A flag on the Moon. A flag on every rocket. Stars falling from the sky. Aliens standing in for anyone we don’t understand on Earth. This fall there was some very poignant symbolism on view aboard our more-than-symbolically cooperative international space station.

A couple weeks ago, ISS astronauts peered out the window and spotted a large and unusual sight. The strangely close-seeming blooming cloud turned out to be the test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Although crisply clear out the window, the missile was not anywhere near the space station and the crew was never in danger.

Nevertheless, one wonders what it must be like to float above the planet in a fragile, life supporting bubble on a once in a lifetime journey of a few short months, dedicated to advancing your nation’s scientific endeavors and exploratory capability with your trusted colleagues from around the globe – and to watch as one of those beautiful green continents below practices killing people. (10/25)

Saving Face in U.S.-China Space Relations (Source: CFR)
It is also important for Congress and NASA to understand the shifting dynamics in the world of international space research and exploration. Major funding and support from Beijing for its domestic space industry suggest that the CNSA could someday surpass its Russian and U.S. counterparts.

China’s potential dominance in space within the next decade or two suggests that NASA must begin to strategically assess possibilities for cooperation, rather than exclude the U.S. from what are bound to be pivotal future developments in space exploration and technology. If the U.S. is shrewd about collaborative opportunities with the Chinese, then it may stand to secure access to crucial resources over the long term. Click here.

Editor's Note: One maxim that might make Chinese collaboration more acceptable to hawks like Congressman Wolf: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." (10/25)

Orbital Debris: Visualizing Space Policy Failure (Source: Huffington Post)
Imagine cutting a hard baguette, and recall the amount of flaky crumbs that fall from it. Then, imagine that this baguette is a large rocket launching into space, separating during its launch and releasing lots of "crumbs" in the form of screws and paint chips into orbit. Also consider that these seemingly benign "crumbs" are now lethal bullets traveling at 5 miles per second, shooting through the same area of space several times a day for many years to come.

Debris collision scenarios have actually played out many times over, and the worst is yet to come. Space is one of the hardest global policy issues, and one where a failure of imagination can create irreparable ruin. For example, a 2007 anti-satellite missile launch by China created a debris cloud that will last for centuries and consistently rain down close to other satellites. But with most other debris, it's difficult to know which country generated it, and which country is liable for collisions between objects of unknown origin.

It's hard to imagine what the containment of human civilization feels like. But after we feel the effects of an unusable space environment following an orbital debris crisis, it will be too late to imagine its prevention. Fortunately, the United States has led international space policy innovation. Through a series of debris mitigation guidelines, including better launch procedures (think crumb-less baguettes) and rules for de-orbiting old satellites, existing space-farers will reduce the future generation of debris. (10/25)

The Economics of Interstellar Flight (Source: Economist)
Starships are a fantastical subject. Yet when engineers design them, they try to be as rigorous as possible. After all, the laws of physics apply to a starship just as much as they apply to bridges or motorbikes. It is not just scientists who enjoy technically rigorous speculation, though. Economists have investigated interstellar travel as well. One of the best-known papers was written by Paul Krugman, a trade theorist, in 1978, in between his duties as an “oppressed assistant professor”.

“The Theory of Interstellar Trade” describes itself as “a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics”. Dr Krugman, a science-fiction fan, ponders how trade might work between two widely separated planets, Earth and Trantor. Such trade will be affected by relativity theory, which shows that beings on Earth (or Trantor) will see time pass at a different speed from those who are on board cargo ships moving between the two. Click here. (10/25)

NASA Still Probing Cause Of Spacesuit Water Leak (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station resumed efforts on Oct. 24 to identify the cause of the leak that flooded the helmet worn by European Space Agency colleague Luca Parmitano with water during a mid-July spacewalk.

The station astronauts removed a cooling system pump and small contaminants found in the garment’s Primary Life Support System plumbing. The old fan pump separator and the preserved contaminants, including a 1-cm. piece of plastic, will return to Earth aboard Russia’s TMA-09M crew transport late Nov. 10 with Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and ISS Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin. (10/25)

Private Spacecraft Investing a Giant Leap for Aerospace Industry (Source: Wealth Daily)
It's little more than a large metal cylinder with solar panel wings for generating power. Designed to be used once and then discarded, it's really not a whole lot more than a 17-foot-long aluminum soda can... And yet, the Cygnus cargo ship marked a major milestone in space exploration when it completed its first test docking with the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this week.

What does the future hold for companies like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences? Well, all indicators point to a growing fleet of versatile, compact, modular vehicles that can be launched from a variety of platforms and bases of operation, both land- and sea-based. Long-term plans include fulfilling both manned and unmanned functions in servicing the ISS, the construction of future space stations, and the establishment of lunar bases as refueling stations and jumping-off platforms for deep space missions to Mars and the outer planets. (10/25)

North Pole of Saturn Moon Looks Like Utah (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
Saturn's moon Titan hosts the equivalents of Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats – dried lake beds strewn with compounds left behind by evaporation – over a much wider expanse of the moon's north polar region than previous observations indicated, according to scientists. (10/24)

Astronomers Puzzled by Alien Planetary Construction Site (Source: SEN)
Europe’s new ALMA observatory, working with the Herschel space telescope, has discovered a new-forming solar system whose confused character has shed new light on current models of planetary formation. Planets form in swirling disks of gas and dust around new-born stars. But to the surprise of astronomers, the disk around a star called HD 21997 is in a hybrid, intermediate state of evolution.

Contrary to what they expected, the disk contains both primordial gas left over from the star’s own birth and dust produced in collisions between the rocky building blocks called planetesimals that collect to form much larger planets. Click here. (10/25)

Generation Orbit Wins First Prize in NewSpace Business Plan Competition (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Generation Orbit has won the $100,000 first prize in the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace Business Plan Competition. The Atlanta-based company is developing an air-launched rocket system to serve the micro- and nanosat market. Fund for the first prize was put up by the NASA Ames Emerging Commercial Space Office.

ELIGOS of Princeton, N.J., claimed the $25,000 second prize, which was sponsored by ATK. ELIGOS has developed a new type of electric space propulsion unit with the goal of powerful, efficient electric space propulsion for all space propulsion needs; focused on the lucrative satellite orbit raising and maneuvering market.

Raptor Space Services won the $5,000 third prize provided by the NASA Ames Emerging Commercial Space Office.  Raptor has been formed to address the demand for cost effective orbital transfer of cubesats from the International Space Station (ISS) to more desirable orbits. The Raptor solar electric propulsion spacecraft can carry 50 cubesats for deployment to higher orbits and inclinations in early 2016. Two vehicles, for 100 cubesats, will initially be built. (10/24)

Spacecom Reports Amos 5 Satellite Fault (Source: Globes)
Spacecom Satellite Communications has reported another breakdown in the power supply of its Amos 5 communications satellite. "There has been a breakdown in the satellite's No. 2 power supply affecting its ability to control two more engines," said the company, controlled by Shaul Elovitch's Eurocom Group, in a notice to the TASE.

The breakdown follows two earlier breakdowns, which halved the Amos 5's No. 1 power supply, and a breakdown in the No. 2 power supply, which left only half of the satellite's eight engines operational. The breakdown will shorten the satellite's lifespan by eleven months. (10/22)

The Private Mission To Save Planet Earth (From Asteroids) (Source: PlanetSave)
Our Solar system is a potentially world-altering place when it comes to asteroid impacts; planetary scientists continue to find plentiful evidence of multiple and massive asteroid impacts on other planets and the various moons that orbit them…And, of course, there is evidence of “extinction level” impacts occurring in the distant past here on Earth.

Into the asteroid-tracking void has stepped a rather unique private foundation — calling itself the B612 Foundation. Founded in 2001 by small group of former astronauts and respected space scientists, the foundation’s mission is ambitious and straight-forward: identify half a million NEOs from a vantage point near the planet Venus. Click here. (10/24)

China Supports Satellites for Disaster Response/Reduction (Source: Xinhua)
Another China-Brazil satellite will be launched from China at the end of this year to collect data for disaster prevention and environmental protection. The satellite, the third to be launched under the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite Program (CBERS), is the latest international advance in disaster reduction, with functions in agriculture, meteorology and the environment, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

CBERS images are used for a variety of purposes, including measuring deforestation and urban planning. More internationally backed, high-resolution satellites for disaster mitigation are on the way, according to Li Guoping, deputy director of the CNSA's system engineering department, on Wednesday. In April, China sent up a high-resolution observation satellite with civilian applications.

"More open data policies will be adopted" so that Chinese satellite resources are shared by the international community when disaster strikes, Li said. The Beijing office for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) has become an open source for China to help other countries manage disasters through space-based solutions. (10/24)

A Super Ball Bot for Titan (Source: Astrobiology)
It was a baby’s toy, of all things, that sparked a new spacecraft design concept to explore the murky surface of one of Saturn's moons. Adrian Agogino and Vytas Sunspiral, who both work in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center, were batting around a "tensegrity" in the office a few years ago.

Similar to a bicycle wheel, but with more corners to it, a tensegrity shape has a system of wires and cables that deform when you press on it, then spring back when the pressure is released. This makes it perfect for small children to bash the toys against their head, other people, or the floor without causing damage. The toy fell to the ground, sparking the question: why not use that design to land on Titan? Click here. (10/24)

President Obama Recognizes NASA Employees' Public Service (Source: NASA)
President Obama met with two NASA employees and 32 fellow public servants in the East Room at the White House in Washington to express gratitude and acknowledge their selection as recipients and finalists of the prestigious 2013 Samuel J. Heyman Service of America Medals. The medals are presented annually by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service to recognize the outstanding achievements of federal workers and their significant work for our nation. (10/24)

Just 2 Weeks in Orbit Causes Changes in Eyes (Source: Houston Methodist)
Just 13 days in space may be enough to cause profound changes in eye structure and gene expression, report researchers from Houston Methodist, NASA Johnson Space Center, and two other institutions. The study, which looked at how low gravity and radiation and oxidative damage impacts mice, is the first to examine eye-related gene expression and cell behavior after spaceflight.

Since 2001, studies have shown astronauts are at increased risk of developing eye problems, like premature age-related macular degeneration. Experts suspect the cause is low gravity, heightened exposure to solar radiation, or a combination of the two.

In Nov. 2011, a NASA-sponsored Ophthalmology study of seven astronauts showed that all seven had experienced eye problems after spending at least six months in space. Doctors saw a flattening of the back of the eyeball, folding of the choroid (vascular tissue behind the retina), excess fluid around and presumed swelling of the optic nerve, or some combination of these. (10/24)

Raytheon Reports Third Quarter 2013 Results (Source: Raytheon)
Raytheon reported third quarter net sales of $5.8 billion, down 3 percent from $6,045 million in the third quarter 2012. Year-to-date net sales were down less than 1 percent. Operating cash flow from continuing operations for the third quarter 2013 was $895 million compared to $1,111 million for the third quarter 2012. (10/24)

Commercialization of Space Travel Will Bring Down Costs (Source: Institutional Investor)
Entrepreneurs are figuring out how to do things more cheaply, says Scott Larson of UrtheCast. "When the cost of putting something into space comes significantly down, like its doing, it really reduces the barriers to entry," he says. "We're heading in the right direction." (10/24)

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