November 23, 2013

A Make-or-Break Launch for SpaceX (Source: Popular Mechanics)
SpaceX might reach another watershed moment in its young life on Monday if it can successfully launch a satellite to geosynchronous orbit. This would be the first time the company has done it, and success would validate SpaceX as reliable launch company despite its cut-rate prices—and better position it against foreign competitors.

Elon Musk's upstart will launch a broadcast satellite for Luxembourg-based SES. The SES8 sat needs to be deployed in geostationary orbit where it can deliver direct-to-home television for a wide swatch of Asia. Monday's launch will cost SES about $60 million. That's $200 million less than proven European provider Arianespace charges. (11/22)

New Release: Florida Aviation & Space Law Report (Source: Ravich Law)
Ravich Law Firm in Miami has released the 2014 edition of fits Florida Aviation & Spacec Law Report, including items focused on recent FAA regulatory waivers for SpaceX and Scaled Composites. Click here. (11/23)

U.S. Space Exploration, Once Championed By JFK, Faces Diminished Priority In Washington (Source: Forbes)
“We choose to go to the moon” President Kennedy said on September 12, 1962 at Rice University. It was a simple, telegraphic phrase in one of the greatest speeches in Presidential history. Those seven words encompassed not just an idea or a program but an underlying philosophy. Those seven words are now locked into history for how they changed the world.

On this somber anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy I offer my thoughts on America’s space program.  So much about the why and how America reached the moon epitomizes what was, and still is great about this nation. Now with the Obama administration’s decision to cancel funding for putting humans in space, America abandons a half-century of baby steps toward mankind’s only frontier.

We have big problems on Earth to be sure, like health care and energy, but the pursuit of space is both bigger than our Earthly tribulations and important for addressing them. The debate now underway over whether to privatize the utilitarian aspects of putting stuff in low-Earth orbit is beside the point. Reaching the Moon was as much about the utility of space as Vasco de Gama reaching India in 1498 was about ensuring the existence of the $60-billion-a-year Maersk Company today with its global fleet of container ships. (11/23)

In the Mojave, a Scientist-Entrepreneur Works to 'Re-Create Martians' (Source: LA Times)
The sun is fading, the temperature is dropping and this desert party is just getting started. They're prying open beer bottles and blasting rock music from an RV. Motorcycles rest on kickstands beside an ancient lava flow while revelers talk excitedly about alien worlds, teleportation and the creation of life.

It's a spectacle that easily could be part of Burning Man, but this gathering is even more mind-blowing than anything you might find at the New Age festival. On this sun-blasted tract of sand 14 miles south of Baker, molecular biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter is field-testing a technology that he says will revolutionize the search for extraterrestrial life. Click here. (11/22)

Rockot Launches ESA Space Science Satellites (Source: Space Today)
A Russian Rockot vehicle placed three European Space Agency satellites into orbit Friday mo a mission to study the Earth's magnetic field. The Rockot booster lifted off in foggy conditions at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Friday and released the three Swarm satellites into polar orbits an hour and a half later. The three satellites, built by Astrium and weighing 500 kilograms each, will fly in a formation at two different altitudes to perform detailed studies of the Earth's magnetic field. (11/23)

3, 2, 1, Contract: NASA Will Soon Select Builders (Source: Florida Today)
NASA has opened the final phase of a competition that will determine which U.S.-built commercial spaceship will fly astronauts to the International Space Station — and there is a chance it could be more than one. The space agency this week invited companies to submit proposals for contracts that will lead to the first crewed commercial flights to the ISS, which are expected to launch from Florida by the end of 2017.

“We are going to have in 2017 a U.S. capability to fly our crews to the International Space Station,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “It will happen.” Based at KSC, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is now helping three companies complete designs of their spacecraft: capsules by Boeing and SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser mini-shuttle. That design work will wrap up next summer. (11/23)

Scientists Create Low-Cost Watter Splitter (Source: Stanford)
Stanford researchers have developed an inexpensive device that uses light to split water into oxygen and clean-burning hydrogen. The goal is to supplement solar cells with hydrogen-powered fuel cells that can generate electricity when the sun isn't shining or demand is high. Click here. (11/14)

SpaceX Plans Crucial Satellite Launch on Monday (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX conducted a successful static fire of its Falcon 9 rocket on the pad at Cape Canaveral on Thursday, paving the way for a crucial launch on Monday designed to prove the vehicle’s worth in the lucrative communications satellite industry.

The task on Monday: to deliver the SES-8 satellite to geosynchronous orbit, a first for the company. The drama revolves around whether engineers have correctly diagnosed and fixed the problem that resulted in the second stage failing to re-light during a demonstration flight in September. (11/22)

House Authorization Bill Would Cut $130M for Space (Source: Space Policy Online)
Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced that the Committee’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 3381 passed the Committee by a voice vote.

The bill provides resources for critical national security programs, including those that prevent terrorist attacks against Americans. The total intelligence funding authorized by the bill is slightly below the level the President requested. It includes a reduction of more than $130 million in space programs. (11/21)

Russian Upper Stage Misfire After Successful Swarm Deployment? (Source: Russian Space Web)
Following the release of the Swarm trio, the Briz upper stage was supposed to conduct a series of maneuvers to lower its orbit. However the live telemetry from the vehicle indicated that the second attitude control maneuver preceding a planned braking engine firing and planned to be completed in 3.3 minutes ended around 52 minutes prematurely.

There was no data on the first attitude control maneuver or on any of two 10-second braking engine firings. It could indicate a problem with the telemetry transmission or with the maneuver itself. However, the western radar found the Briz-KM in a 461 by 472-kilometer orbit instead of the planned 429 by 473-kilometer final orbit, likely confirming that orbit-lowering maneuvers had not been completed as planned. (11/22)

Maven Heralds Humans On Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA's Maven mission to Mars is symptomatic of the global effort to put humans there—ambitious, but constrained by tight funding that demands international collaboration to cover costs. Increasingly, former competitors in the space arena are accepting cooperation as the only way humans will ever reach Mars, and are willing to drop short-term gain for long-term success.

“We should take the best stuff available on the Earth,” says Vitaly Lopota, president and general designer of Russia's RSC Energia, which builds all of Russia's human-spaceflight hardware. “Beyond Earth, in deep space, we will be on the same route, and we should jointly implement it.” (11/23)

NASA Was Among Hardest-Hit Agencies During Shutdown (Source: Washington Post)
NASA was one of the government agencies hit the hardest during the shutdown last month, according to a website for accountants seeking master's degrees. NASA joined several other agencies that sent at least 94% of workers home during the shutdown. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense fared better as it sent a lower percentage of workers on furloughs. (11/21)

Earth a Bit Safer From Random Traveling Asteroids (Source: eTN Daily)
Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to design and implement crowdsourcing algorithm challenges in the effort to detect, track, and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs). All data compiled and used for these challenges will be open-sourced and publicly available.

Under the non-reimbursable agreement, Planetary Resources will guide the development of challenges, facilitate the online availability of NASA-funded sky survey data sets, and help support the competition and review results. NASA will develop and manage the contests, and explore use of the best solutions for enhancement of existing NASA-funded survey programs. (11/21)

Embry-Riddle Plans Conference on International Aerospace Research (Source: ERAU)
The Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace International Research (A³IR) Conference will be held in Phoenix, AZ on Jan. 17-18. Presented by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, the conference is designed to bring together industry and academic leaders for presentations and discussions covering topics on the cutting edge of aerospace thought and technology, including commercial spaceflight systems and safety. Click here. (11/22)

New Space Launch Policy Emphasizes Competition (Source: Space News)
The White House released a long-awaited U.S. national space transportation policy Nov. 21 that calls for increased competition to launch government missions and encourages the use of hosted payloads. Specifically, the new policy language no longer explicitly requires the Defense Department to fund the annual fixed costs of launch services providers.

The previous version of the policy, released in 2004, called for funding “the annual fixed costs for both launch service providers,” referring to Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The companies have since merged their government launch businesses to create the United Launch Alliance (ULA) joint venture. Critics have charged that some EELV funding, totaling about $1 billion annually, amount to a subsidy for ULA.

“U.S. commercial space transportation capabilities that demonstrate the ability to launch payloads reliably will be allowed to compete for United States Government missions on a level playing field, consistent with established interagency new entrant certification criteria,” the new policy said. The new policy also calls for the expanded use of hosted payload and other ride-sharing opportunities. (11/22)

New Policy Encourages New Competitors, May Harm ULA (Source: SPACErePORT)
In addition to the obvious benefits to SpaceX, companies like Orbital Sciences Corp. and ATK stand to gain from the new National Space Transportation Policy. By relieving the Air Force from its long-term commitment to cover current EELV (ULA) "Launch Capability" costs, the service may be more inclined to welcome "new entrants" like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and ATK (if their Liberty vehicle remains viable) into the national security launch market.

But by removing the policy-driven commitment for the Air Force to cover ULA's annual fixed costs, the company will surely have to find savings through workforce reductions (expected in January 2014), a realignment of engineering and technical staff responsibilities, and reduced investments to operate and maintain facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (11/23)

ESA Work on Orion Propulsion System Delayed Six Months (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 22 announced that its work on the propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew-transport vehicle has been slowed by a further six months as it considers design tradeoffs. As a result, ESA said, the preliminary design review for the Orion propulsion system will not be completed until May 2014. “The overall effect on the project’s schedule is still under investigation,” ESA said. The first flight with the ESA-produced propulsion module for Orion had been scheduled for 2017. (11/22)

Fixed-Price Contracts Contained Impact of Copernicus Cost Growth (Source: Space News)
Managers of Europe’s Copernicus program of satellite-based Earth observation have been able to use firm fixed-price contracts with industry to limit the damage from cost overruns associated with program delays, European government officials said Nov. 22.

As a result, while Thales Alenia Space, Astrium Satellites and the dozens of other companies building Copernicus’ Sentinel satellites may have seen their profit margins narrow, the cost to the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) is only 2.75 percent above the budget set seven years ago. (11/22)

Increased Space, Cyber Threats Top Concerns for AF Space Command (Source: AFSPC)
There are increased threats to the Air Force's space and cyber capabilities, said an Air Force senior leader during Air Force Association's 2013 Pacific Air & Space Symposium, Nov. 21. Gen. William L. Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, discussed the heavily contested space and cyberspace arenas during the symposium in Los Angeles, Calif.

The cyber and space arenas have made significant strides during the Air Force's lifespan. The first desktop computers the Air Force employed were originally used just for word processing. Slowly, the Air Force began to network those computers together, creating the network we now use daily. (11/22)

Acting SecAF Highlights Challenges of Pacific Rebalance, Space Operations (Source: USAF)
“Despite our success, we can see the security landscape change before our eyes,” Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric K. Fanning said. “It is very rare that any operation, on any level, is not somehow dependent on space or cyberspace capabilities we, the Air Force, provide.”
The degree of U.S. and allied reliance on precision, forward operations, global communication networks and remotely piloted aircraft increases the need for a robust and modern space architecture, he said, while making space assets valid targets for adversaries and malicious actors. “Just about anyone from the president to the JTAC in the field depends on space capabilities the Air Force provides,” he said. “However, the threat is becoming more acute ... We must protect our current space capabilities, and prepare to operate the space systems of the future.” (11/22)

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