October 27, 2013

Sierra Nevada Statement on Dream Chaser Flight Test (Source: Sierra Nevada)
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) performed its first free-flight approach-and-landing test of the Dream Chaser® spacecraft. The vehicle successfully released from its carrier aircraft, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter, as planned at approximately 11:10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Following release, the Dream Chaser spacecraft automated flight control system gently steered the vehicle to its intended glide slope. The vehicle adhered to the design flight trajectory throughout the flight profile.

Less than a minute later, Dream Chaser smoothly flared and touched down on Edwards Air Force Base’s Runway 22L right on centerline. While there was an anomaly with the left landing gear deployment, the high-quality flight and telemetry data throughout all phases of the approach-and-landing test will allow SNC teams to continue to refine their spacecraft design. SNC and NASA Dryden are currently reviewing the data. As with any space flight test program, there will be anomalies that we can learn from, allowing us to improve our vehicle and accelerate our rate of progress. (10/26)

Chinese Rocket Sent to Spaceport for Unmanned Moon Landing Mission (Source: Xinhua)
A Long March-3B carrier rocket is being transported towards the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China, after left Beijing Sunday morning, to prepare for the upcoming launch of Chang'e-3 moon probe. The carrier rocket left the capital aboard a train and is scheduled to reach the launch center on Nov. 1, said a statement from the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The Chang'e-3 moon probe is designed to carry China's first moon rover and soft-land on the moon. Its launch is scheduled at the end of this year. It is part of the second stage of China's three-stage lunar probe program, orbiting, landing, and analyzing lunar soil and stone samples. (10/27)

India Not Engaged in Space Race with China (Source: The Hindu)
Indian Space Research Organization Chairman K. Radhakrishnan does not believe the November 5 ‘desi’ Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) will fuel a space race with China which has not yet attempted such a venture to the red planet. He said each country — whether it’s India, the US, Russia or China — had their own priorities. “There is no race with anybody. If you look at anybody, they have their own direction. So, I don’t find a place for race with somebody. But I would say we are always on race with ourselves to excel in areas that we have chalked out for ourselves,” he said. (10/27)

Iridium Wins U.S. Military Contracts (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications has been awarded a contract with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to support DOD's Enhanced Mobile Satellite Service (EMSS) Gateway in Hawaii. The Gateway Maintenance and Support Service (GMSS) contract value for the initial year is $7.2 million with four additional one-year options available for a potential total value of $38 million.

Iridium has also been awarded a $400 million, multi-year, fixed-price DISA contract to provide satellite airtime services to meet DOD communications needs. This five-year contract renews the provision for delivering Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) airtime effective Oct. 22.  Iridium will provide unlimited global secure and unsecure voice, low and high-speed data, paging and Distributed Tactical Communications System (DTCS) services for an unlimited number of DoD and other federal government subscribers. (10/27)

For "Gravity", the Gravitas of Commercial Spacecraft (Source: Huffington Post)
Budget overruns and delays have already forced NASA to abandon Constellation, and the agency is currently pushing a less ambitious project known as the Space Launch System (SLS). With the government flipping ever more rapidly from sequestration, to shut down, to the brink of default, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone to believe any traditional, government run space program can be funded to completion. So, we were not surprised that director Alfonso Cuarón chose not to use the government's Orion capsule in his film Gravity.

However, Cuarón might have maintained Gravity's sense of realism and captured relevance by flying our heroine to orbit in one of America's new commercial spacecraft. A SpaceX Dragon capsule, Boeing CST-100 or Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser space plane would have offered an exciting and modern space transportation choice. While private spacecraft might sound like science fiction to some, these vehicles, along with their proven launch systems, the SpaceX Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance Atlas V, are very real solutions currently undergoing NASA certification and testing in preparation for manned flights in the next few years. (10/27)

Spaceport Wars: More States Joining New Mexico in Space Industry Quest (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
As Spaceport America gets its finishing touches, awaiting the day that Virgin Galactic launches passengers beyond the stratosphere, more states are looking at entering the space industry, with a spaceport at the cornerstone of their plans. “It almost looks like wildflowers growing across the U.S., if you look at all the ones talking about it,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of Spaceport America.

Hawaii, Georgia, Alabama and Puerto Rico are mulling spaceports. Two spaceport projects are in the works in Texas, in Midland and Houston. Spaceport Colorado expects to apply for a FAA commercial license by year end. The motivation driving these projects is the chance to get an early edge in an emerging commercial space flight industry that – beyond space tourism for the few who can afford it – could have sweeping commercial, civil and military applications.

But the risks are big, too: Of the eight U.S. locations that currently hold commercial licenses to fly into space, only a few are active, while others have languished as the industry makes its slow march toward successfully flying people to space and back. “I think they’re seeing a nascent industry, and they want to get in on the ground floor and be there for the growth,” said Art Waite, who directs the aerospace division of BRPH Architects-Engineers Inc., which builds spaceport facilities. Click here. (10/27)

New Mexico: We Must Take Full Advantage of Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
When Virgin Galactic suggested in April 2012 that a luxury hotel and other top-end amenities would be needed for the wealthy passengers who will be blasting off from Spaceport America, the reaction of many was to scoff at the notion. The reaction was not to heed that advice and begin working toward catering to what will be a unique clientele unlike any we've had before. With Virgin Galactic now months from beginning launches from the spaceport, that's starting to look like a missed opportunity -- or, at the very least, a delayed one. (10/27)

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