November 9, 2013

Designing A Luxurious Balloon Ride Into Space (Source: Fast Company)
Virgin Galactic is capturing the public’s imagination with an exhilarating, 2,500 mph rocket ride into space. But NASA contractor Paragon--with their special expertise in pressurized capsules--has a different vision. For $75,000, they’d like to offer a more scenic experience called World View: A serene, half-day balloon ride 100,000 feet into the stratosphere.

To envision this new form of space travel, Paragon tapped designers at Priestmangoode--a company known for crafting high end interiors (and even some exteriors) for airlines, cruise ships, hotels, and rail. Click here. (11/9)

Today’ Show to Air Branson’s First Commercial Space Flight (Source: The Wrap)
The “Today” show will be taking viewers to infinity and beyond in 2014, with more than a little help from Sir Richard Branson. NBCUniversal inked an exclusive multi-platform partnership with Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, to televise the inaugural commercial space flight of SpaceShipTwo, the network announced on Friday’s morning show.

Next year, Branson and his adult children, Holly and Sam, will be the first private passengers to travel into space on SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic’s terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (11/8)

DoD “Strategic Pause” as Distinction Between Military, Civilian Comsats Blur (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is taking a “strategic pause” to determine where to go in its next-generation military satellite communications at a time when the frontier between what is military and what is civil/commercial has been blurred almost beyond distinction, government and military officials said.

Whereas it used to be clear that some frequencies were all-military and some not, the recent incursion into military Ka-band, X-band and UHF-band frequencies by commercial operators has made it difficult to maintain the distinction. Some systems, such as MUOS, AEHF and WGS constellations, retain an all-military coloration. But Intelsat’s decision to place a UHF-band payload on the IS-22 commercial satellite, and Telesat’s move to put an X-band payload on its Anik G1 satellite, are two examples of the commercial sector moving into a military realm. (11/8)

Helms Set to Retire (Source: Air Force Times)
Lt. Gen. Susan Helms will not be the vice commander of Space Command after a prominent Democratic lawmaker successfully blocked her nomination for overturning a sexual assault conviction. Helms has applied for retirement, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said on Nov. 8. (11/8)

Obama Withdraws Helms Nomination (Source: Space News)
President Barack Obama has withdrawn the nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, a former astronaut, to become the next vice commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Helms’ nomination, which had been held up since May by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) over questions about Helms’ decision to overturn a jury conviction in a sexual assault case, was withdrawn Nov. 7. (11/8)

NASA Administrator Bolden to Hail Success of Commercial Cargo Program (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will discuss the success of the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) initiative on Nov. 13. Through COTS, NASA's partners SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. developed new U.S. rockets and spacecraft, launched from U.S. soil, capable of transporting cargo to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. (11/8)

Small-Business Set-aside Cited in Delay of LISC Award (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s decision to delay until 2014 the awarding of a multibillion-dollar contract to support the nation’s two main launch ranges was made to buy time for setting aside a portion of the work for small businesses, according to service’s main space procurement shop.

Proposals for the Launch and Test Range System Integrated Support Contract (LISC) — a 10-year deal that consolidates three contracts currently supporting the Air Force’s launch ranges at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. — were due in May. At least four industry teams are believed to have bid for the main contract, potentially valued at $2.5 billion to $3 billion. (11/8)

SLS Budget ‘Reasonable,’ ATK Boss Assures Investors (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program appears to be in good shape both politically and financially, ATK Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung told investors and analysts on a Nov. 7 earnings call. “The SLS program is very well supported with bipartisan support and a reasonable budget level,” he said. NASA spent $1.4 billion of its $1.8 billion SLS budget for 2013 on vehicle development, down from the $1.5 billion it spent in 2012.

ATK's Aerospace Group saw year-to-year operating profits rise 9.4 percent to $40.6 million on nearly flat sales of $319 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 29, is the prime contractor for the heavy-lift launcher’s twin solid-rocket boosters. (11/8)

Lockheed Study Pours Cold Water on Disaggregation (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has concluded that disaggregation of space assets to render them less vulnerable to attack is not all it’s cracked up to be and that one way to cut space program costs is to limit government attendance at program reviews to two rental cars.

In an internal Space Enterprise Resilience Study conducted by Lockheed’s Newtown, Pa.-based operation, the company — which is the U.S. Defense Department’s largest space-hardware contractor — attempted to measure space programs by how vulnerable they were to different types of threats. (11/8)

U.S. Allies’ Access to MUOS Debated after North Pole Satcom Demo (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Defense Department MUOS satellite in geostationary orbit has successfully maintained telephone links with an aircraft flying over the North Pole — 89.5 degrees north latitude — in a demonstration that can only whet the appetite of U.S. allies, which for now do not have access to the relevant MUOS capacity. Whether and when access to MUOS — the Mobile User Objective System — will be extended to U.S. allies was debated on Nov. 6-7 during the Global Milsatcom conference. (11/8)

Exelis: GPS Navigation Payload Solved (Source: Space News)
Problems with the Exelis-built navigation payload on the U.S. Air Force’s next generation of positioning, navigation and timing satellites appear to be solved, according to a company spokeswoman. Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said in September that the GPS 3 navigation payload had no firm delivery date due to manufacturing and processing issues. While the payload’s woes had not yet delayed the GPS 3 program schedule, “we’re running right up against our margins,” Shelton said at the time. (11/8)

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