December 10, 2013

Stars Align for Space in Florida Legislature (Sources: SPACErePORT, St. Petersburg Times)
Florida Republican legislators formally designated Andy Gardiner as Senate President for the 2015-16 legislative sessions. Sen. Gardiner's district includes the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and he has been a strong supporter of space-related funding and policy issues in Tallahassee. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, whose district also includes the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, will become House Speaker for the 2015-2016 sessions.

Their ascent to legislative leadership in 2015 will provide substantial empowerment in 2014, with other legislators, the Governor's Office, and Tallahassee power brokers wanting to build positive relationships with the 2015 gavel-holders. Another Space Coast state senator, Thad Altman, remains chairman of the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security. (12/10)

NASA Will Go to Mars, But Not Before Bagging an Asteroid (Source: Marketplace)
The NASA Advisory Council's Human Exploration and Operations Committee will meet to discuss what's next for human space exploration. Right now the answer seems to be Mars, but the first step in getting to the red planet is heading back toward the Moon on the Orion spacecraft for a planned practice run.

Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems, says the exercise will involve capturing an asteroid. He describes the way NASA will capture the asteroid in the same way dog owners might describe picking up after their pooches. "You could think of putting a baggie around it -- a large baggie -- and cinching that together, and that's one option," Dumbacher says. "Once we capture the asteroid, then the plan is to use what we call solar-electric propulsion to bring that asteroid back to the stable orbit around the moon where we'll meet up with the crew." (12/10)

NASA’s Asteroid Mission Captures Industry Ideas (Source: Aviation Week)
Outside experts are responding to NASA's call to lasso an asteroid, providing the agency's Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) planners with new momentum for the two-phase strategy to resume U.S. human deep-space exploration while demonstrating capabilities to find and deflect asteroids that pose an impact threat to Earth.

NASA's 2014 budget plans include $105 million to ramp up a notional scheme for the 2018 launch of a robotic spacecraft that would corral a yet-to-be-selected asteroid in the 5-10-meter, 500-metric-ton range. Once captured, the asteroid would be maneuvered into a distant, stable, retrograde orbit around the Moon. Astronauts launched on the first piloted test flight of the Orion/Space Launch System crew exploration vehicle/heavy-lift rocket combination would rendezvous with the asteroid over a three-week mission, perhaps as early as 2021. (12/10)

NASA Researchers Cranking Up Giant 'Can Crusher' to Design Better Rocket (Source: Huntsville Times)
If you've ever crushed a soda can, you understand the principle behind how NASA rocket engineers in Huntsville are making tomorrow's space ship hulls safe and affordable. They're putting the squeeze on until something gives. The test under way at the Marshall Space Flight Center this week is called "Can Crusher II."

The results this week will be compared to the original 2011 test, and that will lead to better rocket designs. It will specifically help with designing the Space Launch System, the new heavy-lift rocket being developed at Marshall for NASA. See a video of last year's test below. (12/10)

Mars Findings 'Make Space Travel Important' says Parmitano (Source: Gazzetta Del Sud)
Astronaut Luca Parmitano, who became the first Italian to walk in space earlier this year, said Monday that the findings that Mars could have hosted life make it even more necessary to one day send a human to the planet. "Now the reason to put our feet in the red sand of Mars is even stronger," he said. Earlier Monday Science magazine reported that the rover Curiosity had found traces of the basic building blocks needed to sustain simple bacteria on the Red Planet. (12/10)

Stevenage UK Joins Space Race and Prepares Manned Mission to Mars (Source: Mirror)
Houston may have a problem – as Britain looks to steal a march on space travel by launching a manned mission to Mars from Stevenage. Science Minister David Willetts wants the UK to head the race to get a man on the Red Planet. And where NASA’s Cape Canaveral in Florida, left off, he hopes the Hertfordshire town can take over.

The MP said: “It’s such a big project that it probably requires global cooperation. If you got the major powers working together, it is possible. "In the old days it was Cape Canaveral, in the future it will be Stevenage at the heart of the global space effort.” (12/10)

Space Mission 'Should Put Woman On Moon' (Source: Sky News)
Any "smart" space exploration programme would put a woman on the Moon next and not a man, according to the Government's science minister. David Willetts was speaking as he announced that Britain could join forces with China to get the first person on Mars within the next 30 years.

He said that following discussions with Chinese counterparts during his relationship-building trip to the country with David Cameron, they would first establish a base on the Moon, then travel to Mars. And, he said Britain would be part of that mission, predicting British robotics experts based in Hertfordshire would be "at the heart of the global space effort". (12/10)

Colorado Boy on Mission to Save NASA (Source: KGO-TV)
Connor Johnson says he wants to discover "asteroids and stuff" but first, the 6-year-old Colorado boy's on a mission to save NASA. Connor got hooked on space when he was just three -- He loves NASA and wants to be an astronaut. But when he learned Congress was cutting funding to the space program, he decided to do something. First, he donated $10.41. Then, he donated his whole piggy bank. And now, he's behind an online petition on the White House website.

"And to get a response from the White House, I need 100,000," he said. 'I would be very sad. NASA is mostly the only space station, like, space company, I've known," he said. So far, Connor's got about 4,000 signatures. He needs 100,000 by December 29. (12/10)

Tourist Trips to the Moon by 2043? (Source: CNN)
Imagine the delight at unwrapping your Christmas present in 2043 and discovering you've been gifted a trip around the Moon. It may seem a little far-fetched right now but it could become a reality if space companies like Virgin Galactic realize their aspirations over the next 30 years or so.

Richard Branson and his children are due to fly in his company's spaceship on its first commercial flight currently slated for 2014. But speaking to CNN outside a space conference in the UK last week, the company's CEO George Whitesides said their ambitions extended beyond sub-orbital flights for those first customers.

"If we can make significant progress on the challenge of reusable space access then I think that opens up all kinds of opportunities in the future," he said. "One of the directions that might open up is high-speed point-to-point travel on Earth -- so that you could go from London to Singapore in an hour or go from London to Los Angeles in a couple of hours. (12/10)

UK Might Go to Mars with China, Willetts Says (Source: E&T)
British robotics experts could cooperate with China to put the first man on Mars, the UK’s science minister David Willetts suggested. Speaking shortly after joining Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to China, Willetts said cash from a £80m Government fund for space co-operation could be used to support deals with Chinese companies aiming at the development and commercialization of space activities.

"I discussed that with members of the Chinese government during the trip," said Mr Willetts. "We are now going to work on projects that we can work together on. That could include things like putting British science experiments on vehicles launched from China. The ambitious idea of a manned mission to Mars, foreseen to take place in 25 to 30 years, is, according to Willetts, one of the ventures that could potentially benefit from UK expertise. (12/10)

Morpheus Returns to Cape Canaveral Spaceport for KSC Test Flights (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Project Morpheus prototype lander arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 21 and was transported to a support building at the Shuttle Landing Facility to be prepared for tethered and free-flight testing. The lander is a test bed to demonstrate new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology, which could enable new capabilities for future human exploration of the solar system.

Nearly six months of Morpheus tethered tests were accomplished at the Vertical Testbed Flight Complex near NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston before the lander was packed and shipped to Kennedy. “All of the testing we accomplished at JSC was preparing us for the free-flight tests at Kennedy,” said Jon Olansen, the Morpheus project manager at Johnson.

Now, Morpheus will be tested at the north end of the Kennedy landing facility, where a realistic crater-filled planetary scape awaits. The 100-square-meter field, called the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) Hazard Field, contains rocks and other hidden hazards designed to mimic as closely as possible the landing conditions on surfaces such as the moon or Mars. (12/10)

RD-180 Lawsuit Headed for Trial after Judge Rejects ULA's Motion (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp., which is suing United Launch Alliance (ULA) and one of its main vendors for access to the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, could have its day in court as soon as May after a federal judge on Dec. 6 rejected ULA’s argument that the suit should be thrown out.

Court documents filed after the hearing in Alexandria, Va.,show U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied motions brought by ULA and engine reseller RD-Amross to dismiss the suit. The companies argued, among other reasons, that Orbital had no case under U.S. antitrust laws because the Dulles-based rocket- and satellite-builder has viable alternatives to the RD-180. (12/10)

Editorial: Ready or Not, Drones are Here (Source: Daily Journal)
The Federal Aviation Administration is hard at work studying how to integrate drones into the domestic airspace, but the industry is moving so fast that regulators will need to play catch up, this editorial argues. "[E]ven a casual look at news accounts shows that businesses are already way ahead of the FAA in deploying drones, legally or not," the commentary states. "The drones aren't just coming, they're here. If authorities want to avoid the aerial equivalent of the Wild West, they would do well to move their rule-making along." (12/9)

Nevada Ready with Funding for Drone Site (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
If the Federal Aviation Administration chooses Nevada as one of its domestic drone test sites, the state will be ready with $1.46 million in funding for the effort, following approval of the funding by the Nevada legislature's Interim Finance Committee. The money would help launch the drone-testing program. (12/9)

Air Force Banking on Ohio Study of Drone Use (Source: DOD Buzz)
As it looks for guidance in integrating drones into the domestic airspace, the Air Force will be relying on findings from The Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study, under way now. The state-funded study, due out next year, aims "to solve military airspace requirements in a way that meets the needs of other airspace users," says Maurice McDonald, executive vice president for Aerospace and Defense of the Dayton Development Coalition, which is administering the study. (12/9)

Florida Awaits FAA Decision on UAS Test Ranges (Source: SPACErePORT)
A Florida-wide proposal effort was led by Space Florida to capture one of six planned FAA Test Sites for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). If successful, Florida would host UAS flight demonstrations and research aimed at integrating UAS vehicle operations into the National Airspace System. Multiple sites around the state were proposed for different types of UAS systems. A decision is expected from the FAA before the end of the year. (12/10)

Missile Defense Gets More Money in Compromise Bill (Source: Reuters)
A proposed defense spending bill would add funds for missile defense at home and overseas, increasing funds for U.S. anti-missile research and development, a possible U.S. missile intercept site and a joint missile-defense project with Israel. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are proposing the compromise bill, which would increase missile defense spending overall by $358 million to a total of $9.5 billion. (12/9)

Defense Bill Addresses Glonass Proposal, Commercial Satellite Services (Source: Space News)
A compromise defense bill cobbled together by congressional leaders includes language that would potentially bar the installation of Russian Glonass satellite ground stations in the United States, among other space-related provisions.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to go to the House floor this week and the Senate floor as early as next week, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Dec. 9. Lawmakers are hoping to get the measure passed and signed into law before the end of the year. Click here. (12/10)

Even Eased, Sequester Means Bleak 2014 (Source: Washington Post)
Even if lawmakers agree on a compromise to ease some of the sequestration's pain next year, the automatic spending cuts will still present a serious challenge for defense chiefs, experts say. A compromise would avert less than half of the $109 billion in sequestration cuts and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has warned the cuts will eat into military readiness. (12/9)

EADS Restructuring To Eliminate Nearly 2,500 Astrium Jobs (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Astrium space hardware and services company will shed 2,470 jobs in the next three years as it merges with parent company EADS’s Cassidian and Airbus Military divisions to form Airbus Defense and Space, EADS officials said Dec. 10. The job cuts will occur during three years and will mainly involve negotiated voluntary departures and the nonreplacement of retiring employees, EADS officials said. (12/10)

Team Phoenicia Inks Deal for Space Traffic Control Services (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Team Phoenicia LLC, a space payload services provider, announced today an agreement with Space Exploration Engineering Corp. to provide “space traffic control” for the multiple spacecraft to be launched on the 2015 Phoenicia-­‐1 launch.

The Phoenicia‐1 launch will be one of the most complex missions ever attempted. With multiple spacecraft simultaneously heading to the Moon, each of these spacecraft will require simultaneous tracking and maneuver planning, which requires shared ground tracking resources and cooperative collision avoidance. This requires a system similar to Air Traffic Control used for commercial aviation. Space Exploration Engineering (SEE) will provide “space traffic control” for the Phoenicia‐1 launch. (12/10)

Antares, Cygnus Prepped for Dec. 18 Cargo Run to ISS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Preparations for next week’s launch continue at the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) on Wallops Island, Virginia. Yesterday, Antares was lifted onto the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL). The TEL acts as a support structure as Antares is transported on the approximately 1 mile route from the HIF to Pad 0A. At the pad, hydraulic erection actuators rotate the TEL and the rocket to a vertical position, where the TEL functions as Antares’ umbilical support structure.Click on Images & Videos for more. (12/10)

Lockheed Martin, SSTL Selected for Mars One's First Unmanned Mission to Mars (Source: Mars One)
Mars One has contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for its first unmanned mission to Mars. The mission, slated for a 2018 launch, will include a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) will develop mission concept studies. The Mars lander will be built by Lockheed Martin and the communications satellite will be built by SSTL.

This 2018 mission will be a demonstration mission and will provide proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a permanent human settlement on Mars; the ultimate goal of the non-profit Mars One foundation. The lander will also carry the winner of a worldwide university challenge that Mars One will launch in 2014 and items from several Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education challenge winners. (12/10)

Bolden on NASA's Commitment to Flagship Missions (Source: NASA Watch)
"NASA remains committed to planning, launching and operating flagship missions that meet the challenging objectives of our science, technology and aeronautics communities as identified through decadal surveys, advisory groups, the Administration and Congress. We are dedicated to pursuing the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this goal in order to provide balance with an increased cadence of missions that vary in size, destination and complexity." (12/10)

Investing in NASA, Advancing American Leadership in Space (Source: SpaceRef)
The Obama Administration has proposed a record five-year investment of nearly $92 billion in NASA to maintain America's leadership in space exploration and spur scientific and technical discovery here on Earth.  Although not all of this funding has been approved, NASA has still been racking up extraordinary accomplishments. Click here. (12/10)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Video of ISS Anniversary Celebration (Source: KSCVC)
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will have video available of the International Space Station (ISS) 15th anniversary celebration today. The Visitor Complex today is hosting members of the crew of the first space shuttle mission, STS-88, to the ISS. STS-88 crewmembers attending include Kennedy Space Center Director and mission commander Robert Cabana, and mission specialists Jerry Ross and Nancy Currie. All three astronauts will participate in an ISS panel discussion. (12/10)

Golden Spike Partners with Honeybee Robotics for Rover Design (Source: Golden Spike)
The Golden Spike Company—the world’s first enterprise planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries, corporations and individuals —announced today a partnership with Honeybee Robotics—a premier provider of robotic systems for space—to design unmanned rovers capable of enhancing the next human missions to the Moon. (12/10)

Elusive Dark Matter May Have Already Been Found (Source:
The mysterious dark matter that makes up most of the matter in the universe may already have been detected with superconducting circuits, researchers say. Dark matter is currently one of the greatest mysteries in the cosmos — an invisible substance thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe.

The scientific consensus right now is that dark matter is composed of a new type of particle, one that interacts very weakly at best with all the known forces of the universe, except gravity. As such, dark matter is invisible and nearly completely intangible, mostly only detectable via the gravitational pull it exerts. Ongoing experiments based on massive sensor arrays buried underground are attempting to identify the weak signals dark matter is expected to give off.

Theoretical physicist Christian Beck suggests that smaller benchtop detectors might be capable of detecting axions, which are leading theoretical candidates for dark matter particles. Recent theoretical research suggests axions may condense together, essentially forming super-particles that physicists call Bose-Einstein condensates. "I started thinking not about the behavior of single axions, but [about] the collective behavior of many axions coupled together," Beck said. (12/10)

NASA Developing Legs for Space Station's Robonaut 2 (Source: NASA)
NASA engineers are developing climbing legs for the International Space Station's robotic crewmember Robonaut 2 (R2), marking another milestone in space humanoid robotics. The legless R2, currently attached to a support post, is undergoing experimental trials with astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since its arrival at the station in February 2011, R2 has performed a series of tasks to demonstrate its functionality in microgravity.

These new legs, funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates, will provide R2 the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station. The goal is to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research. (12/10)

Editorial: Spaceport Tax Should Help Educate All Local Students (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
There are 24,872 Las Cruces Public School District students enrolled by the most recent head count published on the LCPS website. The NMSU and Dona Ana College websites indicate there were a total combined 24,099 students enrolled in 2012. We have almost the same number of students in the public school system as in the higher education system.

Tuesday, the Dona Ana County Commissioners will meet to vote on a resolution against proposed changes to the state law that may be used to remove the benefit of the sales tax dollars going to the local public schools. Just so no one is confused, only half the students in the county are benefiting directly from the spaceport tax. (12/9)

Virgin Galactic Could Bring Jobs to Rural New Mexico (Source: Public News Service)
New Mexico's rural economy could get a boost after Virgin Galactic starts its flights into space. The company founded by Sir Richard Branson is expected to start flying passengers into the final frontier next summer from Spaceport America. The launch site is located about 30 miles from Truth or Consequences (T or C) and is near the White Sands Missile Range. Truth or Consequences City Commissioner Steven Green said he expects hundreds, maybe thousands, of new jobs to be created by the tourism.

"I think there's enough business that Virgin Galactic will create, directly and indirectly, that we will all be very, very happy," Green said. Tourism has increased since Spaceport America opened, he added, due to people watching the regular rocket launches. According to its website, Spaceport America has clients, including NASA, and "is the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport designed to enable affordable, efficient and effective space access and unlock the potential of space for everyone."  (12/9)

Editorial: Make Space Launch Indemnification Permanent (Source: Space News)
Key senators and representatives are working to extend the secretary of transportation’s legal authority to promise to pay for “excess third-party claims” in the very unlikely event of an accident with a licensed launch or re-entry causing unusually high damages to uninvolved third parties. (Congress originally created this arrangement in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988, which modified the original Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984.)

Many people claim indemnification helps American launch firms compete abroad against foreign nations that are more generous in shielding their industry from lawsuits. Some argue that U.S. companies shouldn’t have to “bet the company” on every launch, and should get some protection from the risk of a worst-case launch accident. These and other talking points are true, but they’re beside the point. The reality is that indemnification provides huge benefits to the government, and therefore to the taxpayer. Click here. (12/9)

FAA Helps NASA Deliver Presents More Efficiently with Satellite Launches (Source: FAA)
The FAA has granted launch licenses for three rockets carrying Santa's private navigation satellites. The satellites, Rudolph 1, 2, and 3, will launch from the FAA-licensed Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Did you know multiple satellites that work together are called a constellation? Rudolph 1, 2, and 3 will form the Evolved Location Flight System (ELFS) constellation.

Once in orbit, the satellites can track Santa's location at any given time. Then, a transmitter will send Santa's location to Mrs. Claus at the North Pole Mission Operations Center (NPMOC). Santa needs your help to launch these satellites! Click here. (12/9)

Rover Findings Prompt New Search Strategy for Organics (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Exploring an ancient lakebed on Mars -- a now-vanished, fresh-water lake that increasingly confirms the past habitability of the red planet -- NASA's Curiosity rover is looking for areas where erosion may have uncovered pristine layers in which organic compounds -- and possibly remnant traces of life -- might still be found, scientists said Monday.

"Really what we're doing is turning the corner from a mission that is dedicated to the search for habitable environments to a mission that is now dedicated to the search for that subset of habitable environments which also preserves organic carbon," said Principal Investigator John Grotzinger. (12/9)

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