October 4, 2013

Commercial Firms Push Alternative Approaches for NASA Asteroid Initiative (Source: Space News)
To develop a new deep-space human exploration program, NASA cast a wide net, hoping to infuse its plans to detect, engineer and ultimately visit an asteroid with fresh mission concepts, alternative technological approaches and, perhaps most important, partners to share costs, build support and enrich educational outreach. But that could spell trouble for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, development of which is costing NASA about $3 billion per year.

In a pair of space exploration workshops in Houston Sep. 30-Oct. 4, several potential partners presented alternative, lower-cost missions that would fly on upgraded Atlas 5 rockets and Falcon Heavy boosters. In addition to finding potentially hazardous asteroids, NASA wants to move an asteroid or a piece of an asteroid into a high orbit around the Moon. While the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) would serve science and spur technology, its primary goal is to give NASA astronauts a destination for an early SLS/Orion test flight.

The private sector-first theme was also featured at a Houston conference organized by Golden Spike, which is developing commercial human transports to the Moon. “I think NASA has a role in all of the commercial space activities in the future,” said Gerry Griffin, former director of the Johnson Space Center who now serves as company chairman. “That may finally free them to push the technologies out in front of us. Let the commercial sector do most of the grinding. If we’re going to go to Mars, we’re not going to do that commercially,” Griffin said. (10/4)

Space Florida President Offers Kudos to Orbital Sciences Corp. (Source: Space Florida)
"It’s an exciting time for the U.S. Space Program, as companies like Orbital and SpaceX continue to prove that commercial launch providers offer cost-effective, reliable services that will undoubtedly keep our country at the forefront of the global space marketplace for many years to come," said Frank DiBello. "Many congratulations to Orbital on your recent achievement. We look forward to watching your continued success!”

Editor's Note: It probably is not a coincidence that Space Florida offers these words of encouragement just as Orbital files a lawsuit against the Virginia Space Flight Authority for $16.5 million. Space Florida has substantial state funding for launch infrastructure investments and could accommodate future Antares missions. Launch Complex 36, which Space Florida is holding for future users, would probably be suitable for Antares. (10/4)

Orbital Plays Hardball With Launch Pads (Source: SPACErePORT)
Orbital's lawsuit against the Virginia Space Flight Authority is not the first example of the company's aggressive maneuvering when dealing with its host spaceport. Launch Complex 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport was modified in the 1990s to accommodate Orbital's Taurus, Lockheed Martin's Athena, and a third rocket that was never developed by ATK.

Orbital's participation in the Spaceport Florida Authority's application for grant funding was key to the project's success. To make the multi-user scheme work, however, Orbital demanded and received promises of deep discounts from the state for their first launches from the pad. Ultimately, the company never used those discounts because they didn't book any equatorial-orbit missions for Taurus. (10/4)

Astrium Contract Boosts Kazakhstan’s Satellite Efforts (Source: Space News)
The Kazakh government is on track to leverage its contract with Astrium of Europe into an ability to build and operate optical Earth observation satellites, according to the company managing the work. Vladimir V. Ten said the two satellites the company ordered from Astrium of France and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Britain are both scheduled for launch, on different rockets, in the first half of 2014. (10/4)

Kidnappings on the Rise, Other Crimes Remain Problematic Across Texas Border (Source: SPACErePORT)
As SpaceX continues to explore the potential for a South Texas spaceport, situated a stone's throw from the border with Mexico's state of Tamaulipas, a new report from Mexico's government raises concerns about the growing threat of drug-fueled violent crime. Updated with numbers for June, the report shows an alarming rate of kidnappings, murder, manslaughter, extortion, robbery, and vehicle theft. The violence south of the border has seeped into border communities in Texas. Click here. (10/4)

Musk Lays Out Plans for Reusability of the Falcon 9 Rocket (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk has laid out his plans for recovery and reusability of the first stage of the Falcon 9. The debut mission to launch the Cassiope satellite into orbit included a number of events that should help SpaceX recover and possibly even reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 in 2014. Click here. (10/4)

SpaceX Customer Ships Satellite Despite Insurers’ Ongoing Concerns (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES has authorized the shipment of its SES-8 satellite to Florida to prepare for the first fully commercial launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket despite the ongoing concerns of insurance officials that the Falcon 9 v1.1’s Sept. 29 demonstration flight did not meet the stated objectives.

Luxembourg-based SES has said it is awaiting more data from SpaceX about why the Falcon 9 upper-stage engine did not complete a second ignition during the Sept. 29 mission. Doing so will be necessary for most commercial telecommunications satellites intended to operate in geostationary orbit.

But in a demonstration of how much it wants Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to establish itself in the commercial launch market, SES on Oct. 2 authorized satellite builder Orbital Sciences to pack SES-8 into a container and bring it to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport by truck. (10/4)

Astrometry: Europe's Star Power (Source: Nature)
In November, a proposal by Lindegren and like-minded scientists will bear fruit when the European Space Agency (ESA) launches Gaia: an astrometric mission that required many compromises and 13 years to complete, and will cost about €1 billion (US$1.4 billion). Gaia will make observations for the next 5 years; the results will extend the reach of high-precision maps from the roughly 2.5 million stars near Earth to at least 1 billion stretching to the edge of the Milky Way or beyond.

For an estimated 10 million of those objects, Gaia's map will be fully three-dimensional: the spacecraft will measure not just the stars' locations on the sky, but also their distances from Earth, accurate to less than 1%. For now, the distances to only a few hundred stars are known at this level of precision. “Gaia will be tremendous and transformational, a huge leap forward both in terms of the number of stars measured and the accuracy of those measurements,” said Michael Perryman. (10/3)

Backers Insist Brazilian Spaceport Is Nearing Launch Readiness (Source: Space News)
The company created to sell commercial launch services aboard Ukrainian rockets operated from a Brazilian equatorial spaceport is seeking to persuade skeptics that it is finally nearing launch readiness. A decade after it was created by a Ukrainian-Brazilian bilateral treaty and after the investment of several hundred million dollars, Alcantara Cyclone Space (ACS) says an inaugural flight from the Brazilian Alcantara site likely will occur in 2015.

In presentations to a finance audience in September in Paris and to a technical audience here Sept. 24 at the 64th International Astronautical Congress, ACS and Ukrainian officials said the issues that have slowed development are in the past. Some three-quarters of the development needed for the Cyclone 4 rocket — using Cyclone 3 and Cyclone 4 first and second stages and a new upper stage designed by Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye — is completed, ACS officials said, and 48 percent of the launch site’s construction has been completed. (10/4)

SM-3 Block 1B Scores another Successful Intercept (Source: Space News)
A Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 1B interceptor engaged and destroyed a medium-range target missile over the Pacific Ocean Oct. 4 in what the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said was the fifth consecutive success for the sea-based system. The test is expected to clear the way for full-rate production of the interceptor, which is built by Tucson, Ariz.-based Raytheon Missile Systems. Raytheon said it was the highest-altitude intercept to date for the sea-based SM-3 Block 1B. (10/4)

Former U.S. Ambassador Elected to Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Board (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Former US Ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Slaughter Andrew, a distinguished attorney, entrepreneur and environmentalist has been elected to the Board of Directors of Ad Astra Rocket Company. The unanimous vote was cast Friday, September 27, 2013, at Ad Astra’s Texas corporate headquarters near Houston during the board’s fourth scheduled meeting of 2013. (10/4)

NASA’s J-2X Engine To Be Mothballed After Testing (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s J-2X engine, once considered the pacing item for the next U.S. human-rated rocket, will go on the shelf after development testing wraps up next year because it will be years before the engine is needed to push humans toward Mars. While the agency is actively seeking other missions for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) in the planetary science and military arenas, most of the human flights it has in sight for the big new rocket probably can be accomplished with an upper stage powered by the RL-10 engine instead of the J-2X. (10/4)

Space and Aerospace Firms Recruit New Hires at Embry-Riddle Career Expo (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle's students are considered to be among the best and the brightest in the country. The Industry/Career Expo attracts numerous companies each year to Daytona Beach and is considered to be a first-class hiring event. The event will feature companies and agencies from A-Z, including NASA Kennedy Space Center, XCOR Aerospace, and others. Click here. (10/4)  

Orbital Sciences Sues Virginia Spaceport Authority for Launch Site Funds (Source: Courthouse News Service)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority refuses to pay Orbital Sciences Corp. $16.5 million for improvements to a launch facility that will serve the International Space Station, according to a lawsuit. According to plaintiff Orbital Sciences Corp., NASA is paying it $1.9 billion to launch supplies to the ISS, and the company chose the Wallops Island MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) as its sole launch site.

But in order for this to happen, Virginia had to improve the site. Unfortunately, Orbital says the project ran into cost overruns that threatened to shut down construction. To prevent that, the company said it lent the money to the authority in the form of an asset purchase in which Orbital bought various pieces of launch pad equipment, including launch pad hydraulics and transporter vehicles. Under the terms of the agreement, Virginia was buy back the assets upon completion.

But the commonwealth failed to hold its end of the bargain, Orbital says. "In the last six years, Orbital has invested of over $150 million in Virginia, and total Orbital headcount in the Commonwealth has increased by almost 200 new employees," the company states. All in all, Orbital says it bought $16.5 million in space gear, "but the Commonwealth and Authority have declined to perform their obligations." (10/4)

Golden Spike and Human Lunar Expeditions: For All Mankind (Source: Examiner)
Golden Spike's current technical model is simple. 1. Adapt a proven rocket such as Atlas 5 or Falcon/Falcon Heavy for lunar missions. 2. Use an existing capsule, such as the SpaceX Dragon, which already has a lunar capable heat shield. 3. Design a new lunar lander, based on modern Mars lander capabilities. 4. Design new lunar suit, which has requirement quite different from modern zero G suits.

The estimated development cost is $7.1 Billion using existing LEO taxis and could drop to $5 Billion with the new Falcon Heavy capability. At a price of $1.5 Billion per flight, about the cost of current robotic missions, 4-5 flights would cover development costs. Testing is planned to low earth orbit in 2018 with an unmanned, robotic lunar landing as early as 2020. Click here. (10/3)

Chinese Engineers Propose Super Heavy Booster (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Although no formal program has been approved, Chinese engineers are eying super heavy boosters designed to send taikonauts to the moon and beyond. The Chinese industry is seeking permission to begin developing a Moon rocket. Studies encompass payloads as low as 70 tons to LEO, says an industry official, suggesting that China may follow the SLS concept by first building a smaller launcher adaptable to enlargement. (10/4)

Eisenhower Revisionism and Sputnik (Source: Launius's Blog)
So what might we make of Eisenhower’s leadership in the Sputnik winter of 1957-1958? There are several important questions that beg discussion. Most important, how did he so miss the psychological implications of Sputnik in the minds of the American people? There are, of course, many other issues of a more sublime nature, but focusing on this question promises a few useful insights.

Failure to appreciate the prestige associated with spaceflight is seemingly unfathomable for an individual of Eisenhower’s savvy, cagey, strategic nature. Both military and civilian observers had been discussing it for more than a decade. Under the Department of Defense and its predecessor a series of important studies on the use of space systems for national security and other purposes pointed this up quite well. Perhaps the key one appeared in 1946 from the newly established RAND Corporation published a Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship.

This study explored the viability of orbital satellites and outlined the technologies necessary for its success. Among its many observations, this one proved especially prescient: “A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century. The achievement of a satellite craft would produce repercussions comparable to the explosion of the atomic bomb.” Moreover, Eisenhower had been explicitly warned of this potential in 1955 in a critical National Security Council document. (10/4)

China Testing New Space Weapons (Source: Washington Free Beacon)
China last week conducted a test of a maneuvering satellite that captured another satellite in space during what Pentagon officials say was a significant step forward for Beijing’s space warfare program. The satellite capture took place last week and involved one of three small satellites fitted with a mechanical arm that were launched July 20 as part of a covert anti-satellite weapons development program, said U.S. officials familiar with reports of the test.

One official described the satellite-grabbing spacecraft as a “mobile satellite launch vehicle.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of the test. But Cynthia O. Smith, the spokeswoman, confirmed that the satellites, designated Payloads A, B, and C, have maneuvered in space since their launch. (10/4)

Ten Reasons Why Australia Urgently Needs A Space Agency (Source: Gizmodo)
In 2008, the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Economics produced a report called Lost in Space – Setting a new direction for Australia’s space science and industry sector. It noted Australia was the only Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country to lack a space agency and it clearly and unambiguously called for its establishment.

What was established was the Space Policy Unit in 2009, which administered the Australian Space Research Program with A$40 million over three years. The Space Policy Unit also produced the federal government’s Satellite Utilization Policy, released this year on April 9 – a policy in which there is no money committed, no space agency and no space program.

An international project, led by the Australian Center for Space Engineering Research and funded by the ASRP, investigated a synthetic aperture radar satellite mission to monitor soil moisture in Australia. We produced thousands of pages of technical reports, some even accessible to non-engineers. Time and again throughout the project, the need for a space agency was confirmed. Click here. (10/3)

Successful Proton Launch Makes Possible Four More Before Year End (Source: Space Daily)
The successful takeoff of a Proton-M Russian heavy launch vehicle from Baikonur on Sep. 30 holds out hope for conducting another four Proton launches from that space center before the end of 2013, a Space Center spokesman said. Proton launches were postponed after the July 2 accident and a number of payloads the launch vehicles were supposed to put into orbit accumulated. (10/3)

Why the Shutdown Could Further Delay NASA's Lease of Pad 39A (Source: Space News)
Prior to the goverhment shutdown, the GAO had been scheduled to rule on the ongoing SpaceX/Blue Origin Launch Pad 39A dispute by Dec. 12. But such deadlines may be extended by up to one day for every day the government remains closed. "Any deadline for an agency filing -- such as an agency report or other filing requested by GAO -- may, upon request, be extended by up to one day for each day that GAO is closed." (10/3)

CASIS, Kentucky Space to Advance Regenerative Research (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which works with NASA to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, announced a partnership with Kentucky Space LLC to facilitate biomedical research on the ISS.

Dr. Mahendra Jain, principal investigator for Kentucky Space, has proposed an experiment to study regeneration in planarians, which are flatworms capable of rebuilding body organs and nervous systems after damage. In partnership with Dr. Michael Levin of Tufts University, Dr. Jain will examine the effects of the space environment on these enhanced healing abilities.

Gravity, and the lack thereof, influences the way cells behave and their ability to rebuild tissue. Studying planarians in space may reveal new aspects of how cells rebuild tissue, which could lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments for humans. For example, regenerative medicine has the potential to treat conditions like Parkinson’s, heart disease, or lost limbs. (10/3)

World Space Week 2013 Launches Friday (Source: Huffington Post)
A seven-day celebration of spaceflight and exploration kicks off Friday (Oct. 4), with hundreds of events scheduled in scores of countries around the world. The 14th annual "World Space Week" runs from Oct. 4 through Oct. 10 — both key dates in space history. The Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on Oct. 4, 1957, while the Outer Space Treaty, which serves as the foundation of international space law, came into effect on Oct. 10, 1967. (10/3)

Russian ‘Pirates’ Offer NASA Help in Times of Crisis (Source: RIA Novosti)
 The Pirate Party of Russia has offered NASA the use of its dedicated servers to temporarily host the US space agency’s website as it has been shut down “due to the lapse in federal government funding.” ... “We would like to offer you bulletproof collocation or dedicated servers on our hosting platform till the end of the crisis,” the Pirate Party said in a statement posted on its website Thursday. (10/4)

Gagarin Space Training Center Ends Cosmonaut Recruitment Contest (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Yuri A. Gagarin State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) has declared the results of the first-ever open cosmonauts selection contest at the Xth International Exhibition of High-Tech and Armaments “VTTV-Omsk-2013”. Oleg Gordienko, the deputy head of the Center's science department, said eight persons aged 23 to 33 had been selected. Half of them have a background in the aerospace industry.

“Last year we announced Russia's first-ever open recruitment contest. We have received a large number of applications from young people employed both in the aerospace industry and other branches of the economy. We have chosen eight - seven young men and one young lady,” Gordienko said. Future cosmonauts have already started getting ready for future missions. (10/3)

3D Printing on Mars Could Be Key for Martian Colony (Source: Space.com)
Mars pioneers could use 3D printing to create a sustainable human colony on the Red Planet, advocates say. A team of scientists is developing a plan to use 3D printing to build locally made houses and food on the Martian surface. These resources would support the lives of people leaving the confines of Earth for the Red Planet. (10/3)

Andean Community Satellite Plan Languishes (Source: Space News)
The five-nation Andean Community, to which international radio frequency regulators gave a satellite orbital slot, appears on the verge of collapse as individual members pursue their own space policies without much concern for what the others are doing, a Colombian space policy expert said.

The five nations — Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela — have been unable to agree to a common approach to developing their orbital resource at 67 degrees west longitude and have narrowly avoided having their rights to the slot revoked for not putting a satellite into it, Camilo Guzman of Sergio Arboleda University said.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has launched one satellite into its own orbital slot following an agreement with China to supply both the launch and the satellite, and has a second spacecraft under construction. Bolivia likewise has agreed to a bundled Chinese satellite and launch contract. Colombia has indicated it wants to do likewise but as yet has not signed a contract. Venezuela left the Andean Community in 2011. (10/3)

Russia Plows Ahead with New Far East Cosmodrome (Source: Space News)
The Russian government is pushing ahead with its massive investment in a new cosmodrome in the Russian Far East as part of a dual strategy of reducing its dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and stimulating economic development in the Far East, according to a senior official from Russia’s Central Institute of Machine Building, TsNIIMash.

TsNIIMash Deputy Director Alexei Ramashkin said the first launch from the new Vostochny spaceport will be of a Soyuz-2 rocket in 2015. By 2020, he said, launches of Russia’s new Angara rocket series are scheduled to start. The smaller version of Angara is scheduled to make its inaugural flight in 2014 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia.

Ramashkin said that over time, Russia plans to position Vostochny to launch a variety of missions including those supporting Russia’s Mars and lunar exploration programs as well as science and Earth observation satellites. Russia has long chafed at having to negotiate with Kazakhstan, and pay an annual lease of the Baikonur site. (10/3)

Is Iran REALLY Planning on Sending a Cat Into Space? (Source: Universe Today)
We did a double take about a week back when a peculiar claim came our way via the Iranian Space Agency. Yes, there is an Iranian Space Agency, and it’s kind of frightening that they remain open for business while NASA is largely shutdown. In mid-September, senior Iranian space program official Mohammad Ebrahimi issued a statement that Iran will attempt another bio-capsule launch “within 45 days”. The unwilling occupant: a Persian cat.

Apparently, a rabbit, a mouse, and another “Space Monkey” were also in the running. Iran’s space program is shrouded in secrecy, and most launches are only announced after they’ve been conducted. This is a convenient political strategy for hiding launch failures that harkens back to the early days of the Cold War. You’re right in guessing that the Iranian Space Agency probably won’t hold a Tweetup for this one. (10/3)

NASA's MAVEN Mission Spared from Shutdown (Source: Planetary Society)
NASA has analyzed the MAVEN mission relative to the Anti-Deficiency Act and determined that it meets the requirements allowing an emergency exception. MAVEN is required as a communications relay in order to be assured of continued communications with the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers. The rovers are presently supported by Mars Odyssey launched in 2001 and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2005. Launching MAVEN in 2013 protects the existing assets that are at Mars today. (10/3)

NBC Series Will Feature Virgin Galactic Spaceflight (Source: Virgin Galactic)
NBC announced an exclusive deal with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, and Mark Burnett’s One Three Media to create the spectacular unscripted series, “Space Race.” “Space Race” is a groundbreaking, elimination competition series where everyday people compete for the ultimate prize – a trip for the winner into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo for a life-changing experience few people have ever enjoyed, all captured on camera.

“Space Race” will have unprecedented access to Virgin Galactic’s home in the state-of-the-art Spaceport America in New Mexico, the departure point and training and preparation center for space flights. (10/3)

Florida Firm to Lay Off 98 in Ohio Following NASA Glenn Contract Lapse (Source: Crain's Cleveland)
Call Henry Inc., a Florida-based technical service company, is laying off nearly 100 employees in Ohio. According to a letter filed Oct. 1 with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Call Henry will lay off 98 employees who had been working at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The company was not awarded a follow-up contract to perform facility operations, repair and maintenance at the center, the letter stated. NASA informed the center of the lapse of the contract on Sep. 27.

The layoffs are expected to be permanent, and union and non-union employees are affected by the decision. The company will permanently close its operations at the center on Nov. 30. Affected employees range from an administrative assistant to a welder to plumbers. The majority of the affected positions listed in the letter are electricians. (10/3)

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