November 20, 2013

Government Shutdown Delayed New Satellite Export Regulations (Source: Space News)
U.S. government officials expect to complete in early 2014 a final draft of regulations that will remove some satellite hardware and technology from the U.S. Munitions List, a registry of militarily sensitive technologies whose exports are tightly controlled by the U.S. Department of State.

The work had been expected to be completed by the end of 2013, but was delayed by the government shutdown in October, said Kevin Wolf, assistant U.S. secretary of commerce for export administration. Items removed from the Munitions List would be placed on the Commerce Control List, which is administered by the less-restrictive Commerce Department. (11/19)

Former Head of NASA's Commercial Crew Program Faces Federal Charge (Source: Florida Today)
After stepping down last month as the head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Ed Mango has pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge that he improperly intervened to help a colleague to whom he had loaned money. Mango loaned undisclosed amounts starting in October 2012 to the colleague – identified in court records as “C.T.” – including funds to hire a lawyer after her arrest last December, according to a plea agreement.

The charge of attempting to influence a matter in which Mango had an undisclosed financial interest carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal prosecutors have recommended adjusting the sentence downward multiple levels, and Mango’s lawyer, Kepler Funk, will argue for no prison time.

According to court documents, when the colleague, who also worked for the Commercial Crew Program, faced discipline by NASA, Mango contacted senior Kennedy Space Center officials – including the center director and director of human resources – urging them to limit the financial impact of any punishment to “C.T.” In the court documents, “C.T.” is described as a single mother. (11/20)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Best Public Viewing of SpaceX Launch (Source: KSCVC)
As the sun sets in the west, a Falcon 9 rocket will light up skies on the east coast during the dramatic SpaceX liftoff scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests may view the dusk launch from the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the closest possible public viewing area, or special areas at the Visitor Complex. (11/20)

Tito Plans Manned Mars Mission with Possible 2017 Launch (Source: Washington Post)
Billionaire Dennis Tito, tired of being told that we can’t send humans to Mars just yet, on Wednesday revealed his scheme for launching two astronauts to the red planet as early as December 2017. Dubbed “Inspiration Mars,” it would be a 501-day fly-by mission, no landing, and would exploit a rare alignment of Earth and Mars that minimizes the amount of rocket fuel required.

“We propose to send a spacecraft bearing two astronauts, a man and woman, to the far side of Mars and return them to Earth, a voyage of 314 million miles in 501 days, in collaboration with NASA, in the name of America, and for the good of humanity,” stated the “Architecture Report Study” released by the Inspiration Mars team Wednesday. (11/20)

What $671 Million Can Buy You (Source:
An Atlas V rocket lifted NASA's Maven spacecraft into the heavens Monday afternoon, the start of a mission that should offer the closest look ever at the Red Planet's atmosphere, and perhaps furnish clues as to how global climate systems change over eons. We couldn't help but note the price tag for this mission: $671 million. That's about the same price that was initially placed on the website set up to help Americans sign up for insurance under Obamacare.

The Maven mission is still in its early stages, as well, but is off to a flying start, unlike the Obamacare website, whose problems have been widely documented. We're no fans of Obamacare, but we do hope the website gets fixed so that the program can proceed and Americans can find out whether it will succeed or fail on grounds other than technological glitches.

As for the latest mission to Mars, we're delighted to see that some government programs do work as designed, and that Americans of all political persuasions now have another high-tech science project to keep their eyes on. (11/20)

China Launches Remote-Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China on Wednesday sent a remote-sensing satellite into scheduled orbit, according to the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The Yaogan XIX satellite was launched at 11:31 a.m. on the back of a Long March 4C carrier rocket from the launch center in north China's Shanxi Province, according to a press release from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters, the center said. (11/20)

Universe's Largest Structure is a Cosmic Conundrum (Source: Discovery)
Astronomers have found a mind-bogglingly large structure -- so big it takes light 10 billion years to traverse -- in a distant part of the universe. The discovery poses a conundrum to a fundamental tenet of modern cosmology, which posits that matter should appear to be distributed uniformly if viewed at a large enough scale. The newly found structure is more than double the size of the previous record-holder, a cluster of 73 quasars referred to as the Huge-LQG, or Large Quasar Group, which spans 4 billion light-years. It is six times larger than the 1.4-billion-light year diameter Sloan Great Wall. (11/20)

Astrotech CFO Exits asFirm Reports Year-over-Year Sales Increase (Source: Space News)
Satellite payload processing services provider Astrotech reported higher revenue and operating profit for the three months ending Sep. 30 compared to a year ago on the strength of increased launch services to commercial customers. Austin, Texas-based Astrotech, which is in the middle of a broad evaluation of its business, nonetheless said it may need to amend debt covenants with its bank lenders because a single commercial customer’s launch has been delayed.

The company did not name the customer, but SpaceX has repeatedly delayed the launch of its new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch, which will be Falcon 9’s first to the geostationary transfer orbit used by most telecommunications satellites, is now scheduled for late this month. In a Nov. 14 filing with the SEC, Astrotech said Chief Financial Officer Carlisle Kirkpatrick resigned as of Oct. 30 and will be replaced by Eric Stober, the company’s former vice president for corporate development. (11/20)

Gilat Again Lowers Revenue Forecast, Cites Snag in Spacenet Sale (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and services provider Gilat Satellite Networks lowered its 2013 revenue and profit forecast for the second time in four months as expected Latin American contracts were delayed and its U.S. Defense Department business continued to suffer from pressure on U.S. military spending. (11/20)

As Minotaur Completes 29-Satellite Mission, Dnepr Stands Ready to Break Record (Source: America Space)
Slightly later than intended, Orbital Sciences Corp. has successfully flown its 25th Minotaur vehicle, with a spectacular liftoff from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va.

Shortly thereafter, the process to deploy no fewer than 28 small “CubeSats” got underway, marking out yesterday’s flight as the largest number of satellites ever successfully dispatched by a single rocket launch. However, the Minotaur’s record should not endure for long. According to present plans, it will be broken tomorrow (Thursday), when a Dnepr booster lifts off from the Yasny launch site in Russia’s Orenburg Oblast, carrying 32 discrete satellite passengers. (11/20)

SpaceX: South Texas Launch Site More Likely (Source: Citizens in Space)
A SpaceX launch site near Brownsville in South Texas is looking more likely, according to news reports. Elon Musk said “I think Texas is looking increasingly likely,” although the final go-ahead is still dependent on environmental and regulatory approval. SpaceX believes it has enough business to justify four launch pads: two in Florida, and one each in Texas and California.

The Texas launch site would be dedicated to commercial launches, while NASA missions would continue to be launched out of Florida. SpaceX currently uses pad at Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and is also bidding on Pad 39A, the former Apollo/Shuttle launch pad. SpaceX has nearly 50 missions scheduled over the five-year lease period it is seeking at Pad 39A. SpaceX believes this is sufficient to justify developing and maintaining four launch pads. This demand is based on both the Falcon 9 and proposed Falcon Heavy.

An interesting question is now the reusable Falcon 9R, now in development, would affect these pad requirements. The answer to that question is unknown to us and, we suspect, probably unknown to SpaceX. Editor's Note: Another question whether the timeline for the year-long environmental assessment of Florida's proposed Shiloh launch site will be consistent with SpaceX's site selection schedule. (11/20)

McCarthy, Posey Push SOARS Act for Suborbital Regulatory Streamlining (Source: SPACErePORT)
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently introduced the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, which amends commercial space launch licensing requirements to promote the suborbital spaceflight industry.

SOARS revises the definition of "launch services" to include activities involved in the preparation of a launch vehicle (as under current law) or element thereof, including space flight participant training for a launch. It authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to issue a single license or permit for flight of a launch or reentry vehicle, or element thereof, in support of a launch or reentry, even when the vehicle or element is not being launched or reentered. Click here. (11/20)

ISS Thriving After 15 Years Of Science, Extreme Construction, Tricky Repairs (Source: Universe Today)
Extreme conditions surround the International Space Station’s scientific work, to say the least. It takes a rocketship to get there. Construction required more than 1,000 hours of people using spacesuits. Astronauts must balance their scientific work with the need to repair stuff when it breaks (like an ammonia coolant leak this past spring.)

But amid these conditions, despite what could have been show-stoppers to construction such as the Columbia shuttle tragedy of 2003, and in the face of changing political priorities and funding from the many nations building the station, there the ISS orbits. Fully built, although more is being added every year. The first module (Zarya) launched into space 15 years ago tomorrow. Humans have been on board continuously since November 2000, an incredible 13 years. Bonus: here's an ISS infographic. (11/19)

Orbital’s Minotaur I Lofts Multitude of Payloads (Source:
Orbital Sciences Corp. hs launched the ORS-3 mission for the US military, using a Minotaur I rocket to demonstrate technology aimed at reducing costs for future missions. The rocket lofted a record 29 satellites, as well as two attached payloads, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island on Tuesday.

Editor's Note: Among the payloads was SwampSat, a CubeSat developed by the University of Florida. "SwampSat will demonstrate miniaturized gyroscope systems for future CubeSat missions. A single-unit satellite, was located in slot B of PPOD 7." Click here for information on SwampSat. (11/20)

Grissom Letter Shows Competition Among NASA Astronauts (Source: WFIU)
“I probably would call you, because it’s been so long since I’ve called or written, but I’ve got some news I don’t think I should talk about over the phone.” That’s an excerpt from a letter written by Gus Grissom to his parents 52 years ago that’s up for sale in the Space and Aviation Autograph and Artifact Auction this week.

Gus Grissom is a Mitchell, Indiana native and was one of the original seven astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight, as well as the second American in space. The two page letter written on Project Mercury letterhead reveals the fierce competition between astronauts in the early years of human spaceflights. Grissom was frustrated that he was not selected for the mission and concerned that he was not getting much credit for the mission, but may be subject to the majority of the blame if something were to go wrong. (11/19)

CBO: Ending U.S. Human Spaceflight Program Would Save Billions (Source: Space News)
Ending NASA’s human spaceflight program could save the United States roughly $73 billion between 2015 and 2023, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Pulling the plug on human spaceflight was just one of 103 politically challenging policy options the CBO analyzed in its latest examination of options for decreasing federal spending or increasing federal revenue during the next decade.

The nonpartisan agency, created in 1974 under then-President Richard Nixon to provide Congress with objective, nonpartisan and timely analysis of budget matters, presents arguments both for and against abandoning human spaceflight. (11/20)

VASIMR Rocket Engine Could Tackle Mars Trips, Space Junk and More (Source:
Scientists are making progress on an advanced space propulsion system aimed at a variety of uses, including reboosting space stations, cleaning up space junk and powering superfast journeys that could reach Mars in less than two months. Ad Astra Rocket Co. is developing the versatile, high-tech engine, which is known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR for short. Click here. (11/19)

Many Benefits from International Cooperation, But Not Cost Savings (Source: Space Policy Online)
At a panel discussion yesterday, representatives from four major space agencies highlighted the many benefits of international space cooperation, even while noting that working with foreign partners is neither easy nor does it lead to cost savings.

The event was organized by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and featured representatives of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).  All are partners in the International Space Station (along with Russia).  ISS was cited as the most successful example of international cooperation to date. Click here. (11/20)

Curiosity for Life on Mars: Our Place is in Space (Source: New America)
Mars has become a very busy place, being orbited by satellites and crisscrossed by Land Rovers. As if that's not enough, Curiosity, a roving science laboratory, just successful landed at the planet's ancient crater to probe for signs that the planet was life-friendly in the past. Indeed, we are mapping and processing our neighboring planet so extensively that it feels as if Mars has already been colonized.

There is even a Google Mars website if you want to see the planet's surface in technicolor. Man, despite our earthly crises, remains enthralled by the cosmos. NASA is planning manned missions to Mars in the 2030's- with the cooperation of Japan and Europe - and plans to establish a permanent station on the moon. China, too, hopes to have a manned station orbiting the moon, having sent a moon orbiter in 2010 to map it out and in 2013, it'll send a landing rover. Click here. (8/8)

New Bacterial Life-Form Discovered in NASA and ESA Spacecraft Clean Rooms (Source: Scientific American)
High atop a platform inside a clean room at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launch site in South America, scientists painstakingly searched for microbes near the Ariane 5 rocket due to launch the Herschel space telescope in May 2009. Only very unusual organisms can survive the repeated sterilization procedures in clean rooms, not to mention the severe lack of nutrients available.

But the scientists’ careful inspection was fruitful, turning up a type of bacteria that had never been seen before. Two years later this same bug surfaced 4,000 kilometers away in the clean room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers were preparing the Mars lander Phoenix for launch. Afterward the teams behind the two discoveries joined forces to analyze the bacterium, and found it was so different from known organisms that it constituted not just a new species, but a new genus. Click here. (11/20)

NASA Outlines the Final Steps in Plan for Next Manned Spaceships (Source: NBC)
As promised, NASA issued the formal invitation on Tuesday for a competition leading to new types of commercial spaceships that could carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Three of the invitees have a multimillion-dollar head start.

NASA expects the final phase of the competition — known as the Commercial Crew Transport Capability program, or CCtCAP — to result in a fleet of commercial spacecraft that are certified to transport crew by 2017. The space agency would prefer to have more than one provider for those transport services, but that might depend on how much funding is available.

The timetable and resources available for commercial spaceships are key sticking points that are left unresolved in Tuesday's request for proposals. Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called on Congress to provide the full $821 million requested for the current fiscal year "to keep us on track to begin these launches in 2017." Congress, however, has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars less. Click here. (11/19)

Outer Space Tax: Get Ready to Pay Otherworldly Money (Source: Main Street)
Your tax dollars have been hard at work since the 1950s pushing the frontiers of space exploration funding government agencies like NASA. Yet that progress has come at a price: mankind has polluted space with waste. Lots of it. Reaching up to 1,242 miles from the earth's surface, hundreds of thousands of pieces of orbiting litter are increasingly making operations in space riskier.

Some experts want taxes to be levied to finance a space cleanup, especially before the anticipated boom in "commercial space exploration" becomes a reality. Is that feasible? Are we exaggerating the problem? The answer to the second question is easier and clearer—yes, space debris is a huge problem. So huge that NASA already spends a lot of money on the Orbital Debris Program Office both to monitor the problem and to suggest solutions. (11/19)

Britain Sees Continued Growth in Demand for Military SatComm (Source: Space News)
The British Defense Ministry has concluded that it will need more communications capability in a decade than it uses today even if there are no more long-term engagements such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The ministry has also concluded that a core piece of future communications capacity must meet strict sovereignty requirements that likely will force it to be British-owned rather than owned as part of a bilateral or multilateral partnership. (11/19)

Volusia County, Florida Need Private Launch Site (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A private spaceport in Volusia County would ensure Florida remains a space state and that the Space Coast remains what it is. The Space Coast has lost a little of its identity since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. And the retirement of the shuttle program came at an inopportune time, as the private space sector is growing worldwide.

The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce realizes this, and backs a private spaceport at a Shiloh site, near Oak Hill on the Volusia-Brevard county line. The 200-acre site has caused some controversy because it is in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Kennedy Space Center.

Environmentalists argue the land was set aside as part of the federal government’s space program. An environmental impact study begins in January. The environmental study should be useful, especially in view of growing concerns about the overall health of the Mosquito Lagoon system. But there are strong arguments for NASA approving the Shiloh site as a private launch facility. (11/19)

Colorado’s Left-Brain, Right-Brain Contributions to the MAVEN Mission (Source: Colorado Independent)
The Mars probe “MAVEN” launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday with lots of help from Colorado. The unmanned spacecraft, which will study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, was designed and built by Lockheed Martin in Littleton. Centennial-based United Launch Alliance built the rocket that lifted it into space. University of Colorado professor Bruce Jakosky is leading the mission on behalf of NASA. And the University of Colorado’s Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics designed two of the instruments that will be used to measure Mars. (11/19)

XS-1: The Government’s Latest — and Sanest? — Attempt to Reduce Launch Costs (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In the era of bell bottoms and Richard Nixon, there was the space shuttle. When Ronald Reagan ruled the roost, all hope rested in the National Aerospace Plane. During the Bill Clinton era, there were the X-33 and Venture Star. In Barack Obama’s first term, the Air Force pursued its Reusable Booster System (RBS).

Five programs. One objective: to radically reduce the cost to orbit. More than $14 billion spent on development. And the result? A super expensive shuttle program. Four vehicles that never flew. And access to space just kept getting more expensive. The latest program is know as the Experimental Spaceplane — or XS-1.

The objective “is to demonstrate a reusable first stage launch vehicle capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage that inserts 3,000 to 5,000 lb. payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), designed for less than $5M per launch for an operational system.” The system has to be able to perform with aircraft-like operations. And demonstrate the ability to fly 10 times in 10 days. It needs to reach Mach 10 at least once. And provide the basis for next-generation launch services and “global reach hypersonic and space access aircraft.” Click here. (11/19)

NASA Family Out of This World (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Doug Hurley was quarantined for his inaugural space shuttle flight when his wife shared the big news: She was pregnant. "It was a very, very special moment," he said. It was also fitting for a child, born in early 2010, whose formative years have been contoured by spaceflight. Just a few months after Jack's first birthday, in the summer of 2011, Hurley flew again, piloting the final shuttle flight.

And shortly after Jack turned 3, his mom, Karen Nyberg, 44, would spend six months aboard the International Space Station. She returned to Earth on Nov. 10. Jack's unprecedented upbringing offers rare insight into the lives of astronauts, who have both off-world lives and live very much in the real world of Houston. Click here. (11/19)

The ISS: 15 Years of Groundbreaking Achievements (Source: Space Safety)
Humanity has big plans for its presence in space. Following the end of the U.S. space shuttle program, President Obama announced that NASA plans to send manned missions into deep space to visit nearby asteroids and eventually Mars. The International Space Station, which celebrates 15 years since its first component was launched on November 20, will play a vital role in making those dreams a reality.

“The ISS,” says senior NASA scientist Harley Thronson, “is the essential demonstration site and steppingstone for a sustained future in space with humans.” With an estimated price tag of $100 billion, the station is one of the most expensive objects ever built. Its construction also required over 100 rocket and shuttle launches, 160 spacewalks and involved contributions from the U.S., Russia, Canada, the European Space Agency and Japan. Click here. (11/20)

Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday? (Source: PBS)
The asteroid that exploded over Siberia—injuring more than 1,000 and damaging buildings in six cities—was a shocking reminder that Earth is a target in a cosmic shooting range. From the width of a football field to the size of a small city, these space rocks have the potential to be killers. In a collision with Earth, they could set off deadly blast waves, raging fires and colossal tidal waves.

But some audacious entrepreneurs look up at asteroids and see payday, not doomsday. Some asteroids are loaded with billions of dollars’ worth of elements like iron, nickel, and platinum. NASA is planning an ambitious mission to return samples from a potentially hazardous asteroid, and would-be asteroid miners are dreaming up their own program to scout for potentially profitable asteroids. Will asteroids turn out to be our economic salvation—or instruments of extinction? Click here. (11/19)

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