November 13, 2013

DARPA Seeks Spaceplane Proposals (Source: Space News)
DARPA is gearing up to award $14 million next year to get industry started on a concept for a reusable spaceplane that could debut in 2018 and ultimately fly 10 times in 10 days to boost payloads into low Earth orbit for less than $5 million a launch, according to a call for proposals DARPA posted Nov. 12.

The program, known as the Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1, aims to develop a reusable first stage — DARPA is open to winged and nonwinged designs — that could carry an expendable upper stage capable of placing payloads weighing up to 1,800 kilograms into orbit. The agency plans to award at least one contract for a 13-month effort to develop a demonstration concept and a preliminary design review is targeted for the second quarter of 2015. (11/13)

'Space Junk' Re-Entry Almost a Weekly Event (Source: Florida Today)
This time the hunk of metal splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean — but what about next time? Some 6,600 satellites have been launched. Some 3,600 remain in space but only about 1,000 are still operational, according to ESA. Not all are still intact, and the U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracks some 23,000 space objects. A lot of junk comes down unnoticed, said ESA. Statistically, “roughly every week you have a re-entry like GOCE.” (11/13)

Spaceport Advocates Ask for Support from Volusia Businesses (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
The proponents of private spaceport development in Southeast Volusia held an invitation-only meeting Tuesday to enlist support from area businesses in the lead-up to a public scoping meeting in January – with the caveat that they’ll only support the project if the environment is kept safe.

Those environmental concerns, which have yet to be addressed by an ongoing environmental impact study for the FAA, are key factors that will determine whether the Shiloh site on the Volusia-Brevard county line will ever host a commercial launch site. “We want to be at the forefront of what is the next century of space transportation,” private spaceport consultant Jim Ball told a group of business and local government leaders hosted by the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Ball is consulting for Space Florida. He said the county is facing competition from sites in Texas, Georgia and Puerto Rico, all of which have their own environmental concerns. Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t public, although it was attended by some public officials like Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, a vocal supporter of attracting private aerospace. She, too, stressed the need to balance environmental concerns. Click here. (11/13)

ViaSat’s Military Business Still Growing Despite U.S. Government Cutbacks (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. said its military business continues to grow as if the U.S. government’s budget cutbacks did not exist, and that its U.S. consumer satellite broadband service was closing in on 600,000 subscribers. ViaSat said its partnership with satellite manufacturer Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems to sell Boeing-built ViaSat-2 high-throughput satellite look-alikes around the world is showing promise. (11/13)

ViaSat Lawsuit May Have Driven Wedge Between SSL’s Current and Former Owners (Source: Space News)
ViaSat may have succeeded in driving a wedge between the current and former owners of satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SSL) by filing a fresh patent-infringement lawsuit that lists only SSL as the defendant. The new lawsuit covers much of the same ground as the February 2012 claim. It alleges that SSL illegally used ViaSat proprietary information, gleaned during SSL’s construction of the ViaSat-1 high-throughput satellite, to sell satellites to other customers including EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes.

But unlike the first lawsuit, in which SSL and its then-owner, Loral Space and Communications of New York, were both named, the second is aimed solely at SSL. MDA Corp. of Canada purchased SSL in a billion-dollar transaction that closed in November 2012. As a condition of the sale, MDA obliged Loral to, in effect, retain possession of the lawsuit and its related costs, up to an undisclosed ceiling, by indemnifying SSL and MDA for any litigation costs incurred. (11/13)

China Unveils Space Station Research Plans (Source: Space News)
China is positioning itself to provide orbital laboratory space, experiment racks and facilities to scientists worldwide following the completion of the U.S.-led international space station program. “China Space Station (CSS) will operate in orbit from 2022 to 2032. This period will provide much more opportunities to scientists in China and all of the world after the international space station,” said Gu Yidong, president of the China Society of Space Research.

The station’s core module is slated to launch in 2018, followed by two laboratory modules in 2020 and 2022. The outpost will be located in an orbit ranging from 350 kilometers to 450 kilometers above Earth and inclined 42 degrees relative to the planet’s equator. The international space station, by comparison, flies about 400 kilometers above Earth in an orbit inclined about 51 degrees. (11/13)

Successful Proton Launch Sets Stage for December Inmarsat Mission (Source: Space News)
A Russian Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket on Nov. 12 successfully placed a Russian military communications satellite into geostationary orbit, setting up a commercial Proton mission in mid-December carrying an Inmarsat Ka-band mobile broadband satellite. Launched from the Russian-run Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage separated the Raduga-1M satellite into orbit some nine hours after launch. (11/13)

SpaceX’s CRS-3 Dragon Recruited for ISS Spacesuit Relay (Source:
SpaceX’s next Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will involve the delivery of a replacement Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), allowing for the return of a faulty suit on the same vehicle when it returns to Earth. Notably, the returning suit won’t be Luca Parmitano’s EMU, after its water leak issues were resolved via successful troubleshooting efforts. (11/13)

UP Aerospace Launches Experiments From New Mexico Spaceport (Source: Spaceport America)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced the launch of the second NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket from Spaceport America. The public launch of SpaceLoft XL 8 (SL-8), which was designed to reach sub-orbital space, took place this morning from Spaceport America's Launch Complex-1. This was the 20th launch at Spaceport America and the 12th flight conducted by UP Aerospace, a long-term spaceport customer.

The successful launch of NASA’s SL-8 commercial-space, research payload rocket took place at approximately 9:15 AM (MDT), which was within the dedicated 2.25-hour launch window, and flight data indicates the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 116 km or 72.2 miles. The parachute recovery system brought the SpaceLoft™ rocket and its payload safely back and it was recovered intact 40 km approximately 25 miles downrange on White Sands Missile Range as planned.

The NASA-sponsored flight was designed to fly payloads for NASA and other government agencies, as well as for educational institutions and the private sector. Some of the “Flight Opportunities” payload customers for this launch included: New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, FAA, NASA, SatWest and the Department of Defense. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle flew an ADS-B air/space traffic management instrument as part of the FAA's payload. (11/13)

Orbital Sciences Corporation Educates Gilbert Students (Source: Gilbert AZ)
Business and educational partnerships in Gilbert are teaming up in an effort to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Mesquite High School students who are participating in Project Lead the Way had the opportunity to tour the Orbital Sciences Corporation satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, getting a first-hand look at how satellites are manufactured and tested. (11/13)

New Type of Quasar Found, Baffling Scientists (Source:
The most luminous objects in the universe keep getting more mysterious. Astronomers have discovered a new type of quasar — an incredibly bright galactic core powered by a supermassive black hole — that current theory fails to predict. Click here. (11/13)

Women in Space: Beyond Gravity (Source: Guardian)
The acclaimed movie "Gravity" focuses on the exploits of a female astronaut, but the real life history of women in space is no less enthralling. The critical and commercial success of Gravity will, with any luck, not only herald more films centring on complex, capable female characters, but also shine a light on the stories of real women in space, and inspire curiosity in those who imagine following in their footsteps. Click here. (11/13)

Aerospace Firms Face Wave of Retirements (Source: CNN)
The workforce of the U.S. defense industry is aging and a shortage of incoming talent is posing a challenge to companies. Young workers increasingly are being drawn to other fields, say experts. "Younger folks are taking a keen interest in industry outside aerospace; in health care, technology, and the Googles of the world," says Annalisa Weigel, a senior aerospace policy and economics lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (11/12)

Embry-Riddle Flies Space Traffic Management Payload (Sources: Parabolic Arc, SPACErePORT)
Among the payloads on this week's UP Aerospace suborbital launch from New Mexico was a project representing the second phase of flight testing to evaluate a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) based (978MHz) Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transmitter developed to support commercial space transportation.

Embry-Riddle aims to flight test this payload on three platforms: (1) Near Space Corporation (NSC) High Altitude Shuttle System (HASS) to evaluate the performance of the payload for a greater flight duration and range, (2) Masten Xaero to assess operation and demonstrate success onboard a VTVL rocket vehicle, and (3) Up Aerospace SpaceLoft XL to assess payload performance in the significantly more hostile, dynamic flight environment (vibration, rotation, and g-loading) of a sounding rocket. (11/13)

MacFarlane Donates to Carl Sagan’s Notes Collection (Source: Washington Post)
Did you know Seth MacFarlane was a science geek? The “Family Guy” creator and Oscar host was front and center Tuesday at the Library of Congress for the introduction of Carl Sagan’s papers to the national collection. The astronomer’s papers — 798 boxes of documents meticulously saved since high school, including vast amounts of correspondence with other scientists and with ordinary people — are available for researchers under the name “Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive.”

MacFarlane landed in the title because he donated the money that allowed the library to purchase the papers from Druyan (Sagan’s widow). MacFarlane said he’s concerned that science literacy is fading. A couple of decades ago, he says, TV programs focused on space and other scientific topics, but now they’re more likely to be about witches, vampire and angels: “It’s all become a bunch of fluff. That is a symptom of the bizarre fear of science that’s taken hold.” (11/13)

NASA to Store Climate Data in the Cloud (Source: Federal Computer Week)
NASA will move data valuable to researchers, teachers and the public to the Amazon cloud, making the scientific information more readily available to those who want to use it. "NASA continues to support and provide open public access to research data, and this collaboration is entirely consistent with that objective," said NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan.

"Earth science research is important to every person on the planet, and we welcome contributions from all researchers in improving our understanding of Earth and its climate." (11/12)

Private Property Rights in Space: Still a Bad Idea (Source: Doctor Linda)
I’m not sure why the FAA would be the place to go in government for validation of private property rights in space. It seems to be that the Department of State would be a more logical place. In my view, the United Nations Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies – which is the law of the land according to the U.S. Constitution – prohibits private property claims in space.

Lawyers and others have been arguing about this point for decades. I hope that neither the U.S. government nor any other government advocates for allowing corporations to “own” parts (including resources) of the Moon or any other celestial bodies. Do we want to live in a “Snow Crash” world where megacorporations take over the roles of nation states? I surely don’t. We’re already too far gone down that road, and it’s time to stop. (11/13)

Watch Where You Step on the Moon (Source: Air & Space)
Should those on Earth control and restrict the use of off-Earth real estate or should people use and profit from what they find in space?  We have conducted reconnaissance and mapping of celestial bodies for centuries using telescopes, orbital and landing spacecraft, and (forty years ago) explored it with people.  

Earth’s scientists have studied the returned data and we’ve dreamed of returning to the Moon and to new places where humanity has never set foot.  Entrepreneurs and social engineers see a time in the near future when we will make that next step and they each hold somewhat different views — some want to develop and capitalize on their investment, some want to preserve and permit only limited access. Click here. (11/9)

Alien Life May Flourish on Purple Planets (Source: New Scientist)
Find a purple planet, and you may have spotted alien life. Some of the first Earthlings were purple bacteria that ruled the planet about 3 billion years ago. If any Earth-like exoplanets host similar microbes, their distinctive hue will be visible from space.

Previous work showed that we might be able to detect the infrared signature of vegetation on exoplanets, based on the signal given off by trees and other plants on modern Earth. Other studies suggest sniffing for gases in alien atmospheres that would only be given off by life. But we are more likely to find microbial aliens than other kinds, because these life forms thrived on Earth for aeons before larger life forms evolved, and they will survive long after complex life dies out. (11/12)

Soviet Cosmonaut Alexander Serebrov Dies (Source: Itar-Tass)
Soviet cosmonaut Alexander Serebrov died at his apartment in Khovanskaya street in Moscow on Tuesday. He was 69. His death was sudden, a source from Cosmonauts' Training Center told Itar-Tass. (11/12)

No Stuxnet Infection, but Space Station is Vulnerable (Source: Discovery)
The International Space Station has its own isolated network of computers that run everything from critical life support systems to scientific experiments. Just because its isolated from the veritable electronic ecosystem that is the terrestrial Internet, however, it doesn’t mean it’s safe from being attacked by malware or succumbing to a viral epidemic.

This was the ‘shocking’ revelation revealed by anti-virus guru Eugene Kaspersky earlier this month. During his presentation, the outspoken Russian businessman discussed the cyber threats to global security and economy. However, he did not say that Stuxnet had infected the International Space Station, as some news outlets incorrectly assumed.

Using the International Space Station as an example of an isolated critical infrastructure, Kaspersky pointed out that despite being in space, it is still vulnerable to attack. In fact, on a number of occasions over the years the orbiting outpost’s computers have become infected by malware. (11/12)

One Way or the Other (Source: Space KSC)
Two media events held November 12 in Washington, D.C. offered complementary visions for NASA's future. One event touted a big government rocket as the key to humanity leaving low Earth orbit. The other acknowledged the reality that Congress will not fund a big government rocket adequately to perform any significant missions.

The common link between the two events was William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations. Present at both events, “Gerst” as he's known at NASA did his best to walk the politically correct line, knowing that members of Congress have their knives sharpened for any NASA executive who questions the wisdom of the big government rocket.

In the afternoon, Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow joined Gerstenmaier for a media event at a local hotel. Bigelow was asked if Space Launch System was a possible launcher for his inflatable habitats. Bigelow said it might have a possible use for larger habitats he has on the drawing board. My speculation is that NASA intends to quietly pursue more commercial initiatives without raising red flags that would draw further ire from a Congress. (11/13)

Kepler's Scientist Rcognized by President Obama (Source: Mountain View Voice)
NASA's Kepler mission was a dream that NASA Ames scientist William Borucki shared with Carl Sagan and others -- a telescope floating in outer space that could peer deeper into the heavens than ever before. For his work on Kepler last month Borucki was awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Service of America Medal by President Barack Obama, an annual award known as the "Oscars for public service." (11/12)

With Tight Budget, NASA May See More Private Partnerships (Source: USA Today)
Call it opportunity. Call it cold reality. The nation's space program is increasingly reliant on private partners to send astronauts into space as its slice of the federal budget diminishes. And an industry report issued Tuesday suggests that trend must continue if the U.S. wants to maintain its global leadership in space exploration.

The agency's role as the world's trailblazer in space could disappear within a decade because it lacks the resources for missions beyond low earth orbit "without significant help," said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, which produced the report released Tuesday. "If there is no outside help over the next 10 years, only a very modest human exploration effort is possible," Bigelow told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. (11/12)

New “Space Fence” Will Improve Security (Source: Heritage Foundation)
The number of objects in orbit, including satellites and space debris, continues to increase, and these objects need to be tracked in order to reduce the risk of collisions. The number of participants who are operating systems in the space domain is also growing, which reduces the level of security in space.

It is necessary to improve the monitoring capability of the Air Force, known as “space situational awareness” (SSA), in order to improve space security and safety for all responsible spacefaring nations. Thankfully, the Air Force is acquiring the next generation of the Space Surveillance System (more often referred to as the “Space Fence”).

However, the budget impasse, including the automatic defense funding reductions under sequestration, has led Air Force Space Command to discontinue full operation of the current Space Fence and postpone the next generation Space Fence final contract award date until next year. Given that improved security in space is a matter of critical importance to the U.S. military, NASA, and commercial space operators, this program should be put back on track. (11/13)

Editorial: U.S. Must Reboot Space Exploration (Source: Iowa State Daily)
The U.S. has been a global leader for decades. In the aftermath of the World Wars, the U.S. rose to the pinnacle of power, and has held the figurative crown of the world ever since. In the area of space exploration and aeronautics, the story has not been much different. After the early successes of the USSR — which include the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and the first manned mission to space — the U.S. took a commanding lead.

Many commenters bemoan the U.S. space program as a shadow of its former glory. Instead of leading the charge into the uncharted depths of the universe, we now seem barely ahead of the pack — if we are ahead at all — in the space race. Although this might be disappointing, it might not be the devastating problem some make it out to be.

Budget cuts to NASA and a rollback of our cosmic goals is often touted as evidence that we as a nation have lost our way. Unfortunately, just throwing money at a program that no longer captures our imagination is not a fool-proof plan to regain what we have now lost. Perhaps a rejuvenated space program could again mold the U.S. together into a single, world-changing actor. Perhaps the age of such things left the world shortly after we did, never to return. (11/13)

Dh367,000 for an Hour in Space: Dubai Chosen for Aerospace Program (Source: Gulf News)
Dubai: At 4,000 kph, outer space is just four minutes away and the thrill of a lifetime could be all yours for an hour at a cool Dh367,000. Dutch aerospace firm, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), has launched a campaign to sign up people from the UAE for their ambitious space tourism program that will see four daily trips to space and back from April 2014.

As many as 250 people have already signed up globally, including one from Dubai, apart from several celebrities such as rockstar Bob Geldof, world renowned DJ Armin Van Buuren as well as the second man to step on moon Buzz Aldrin. (11/13)

Planes Actually Have Best Potential for Space Travel (Source: Bristol Post)
A Bristol company believes going back to the future is the key to winning the space race. Bristol Spaceplanes aims to use 1960s concepts to help the space tourism industry finally take off. Managing director David Ashford's first job was in Bristol firm Hawker Siddeley Aviation's space plane design team back in 1961 and he believes the industry has lost sight of what it could achieve.

"The best ideas from the 1960s are way ahead of anything that's been built since or that is proposed now," he said. The basic idea is for a plane rather than a vertical launch rocket. "Expendable vehicles cannot be made much safer because so many components have to work right first time. For larger numbers of people to visit space, these low safety standards are not acceptable. Space planes offer greater safety because they are aeroplanes in engineering essentials."

His Spacecab space plane would take off like an aeroplane then use rockets to reach speeds of Mach 4, when a smaller piggy back plane would launch to reach outer space. Both planes would be able to land intact, and therefore fly again, reducing the costs. (11/13)

Companies Want a Piece of the Moon (Source: Discovery)
Corporations are interested in partnering with NASA for lunar and other deep-space initiatives, but will want property rights in exchange. Robert Bigelow intends to request that the FAA, which oversees commercial space flight in the U.S., review the controversial issue of lunar property rights. A 1967 United Nations treaty governing the exploration and use of outer space provides a framework for international space law, but does not specifically address private property rights.

“Companies and their financial backers must know that they will be able to (1) enjoy the fruits of their labor relative to activities conducted on the moon or other celestial bodies, and (2) own the property that they have surveyed, developed and are realistically able to utilize,” a Bigelow report states. “Without property rights, any plan to engage the private sector (in lunar and deep space exploration) … will ultimately fail,” the report warns. (11/13)

NASA Set to Launch Orion Into Orbit in 2014, a Precursor to Mars Missions (Source: NY Daily News)
It’s still decades away, but NASA will begin prepping a passage to the Red Planet. The space agency plans to catapult the space capsule Orion for a test run over the Earth next September — what would be a precursor for future manned missions to Mars. The four-hour test launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will send the craft — unmanned — orbiting twice around the Earth about 3,600 miles above the surface. (11/13)

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