December 17, 2013

Inmarsat Acquires Florida-Based Maritime Service Provider Globe Wireless (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat is purchasing U.S. maritime communications services provider Globe Wireless for $45 million in cash in a bid to transform Globe Wireless’ 6,000-ship customer base into future Inmarsat Global Xpress broadband users. Palm Bay, Fla.-based Globe Wireless, which Inmarsat said reported $91 million in revenue in 2012, currently is a customer for Inmarsat’s Fleet Broadband low-speed maritime service products and uses Inmarsat competitor Iridium’s OpenPort service as well. (12/17)

Arianespace Orders Two Vega Launchers for Unidentified Customer (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium on Dec. 17 said it had signed a commercial contract with a single customer for two Vega vehicles, with the launches to occur in 2017 and 2018. Arianespace did not name the customer, but the dates correspond to when the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) plans to launch its next Earth observation spacecraft — one optical, one equipped with an X-band radar imager.

Europe’s Vega small-satellite launch vehicle has made just two flights, both of them successful. On the second, VAST’s VNREDSat-1 Earth observation satellite was one of the passengers. Vietnam has an active Earth observation satellite development program designed in part to nurture a national capability to build spacecraft without recourse to foreign providers. (12/17)

CST-100 Launch-Abort Engines Complete Testing Milestone (Source: Space News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif., wrapped up development testing on a pair of launch-abort engines for the space capsule Boeing is developing to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station. The latest round of tests took place near Mojave, Calif., during the second half of October. A pair of engines, each capable of generating about 39,000 pounds of thrust, were fired for a combined 29.7 seconds. The successful development tests clear the way for qualification tests, in which each engine will be fired for 11 seconds — double their design requirement. (12/17)

With Cooling Fix Still Elusive, Orbital Cargo Mission Slips Again (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. rolled its Antares rocket out to the launch pad Dec. 16 in preparation for its first contracted cargo mission to the international space station, but an ongoing issue with the outpost’s cooling system has pushed the liftoff date to no earlier than Dec. 21 and possibly into next year.

The mission, the first of eight that Orbital owes NASA under a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008, could be postponed until January so astronauts can conduct spacewalks to replace a faulty flow-control valve on one of the station’s two ammonia-filled coolant loops. The station relies on liquid ammonia to cool its internal and external systems. (12/17)

Morpheus Flies Again at KSC (Source: SPACErePORT)
Engineers from NASA JSC and KSC supported another flight of NASA's Morpheus vertical take-off/landing test vehicle at Kennedy Space Center at about 1:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Morpheus is a testbed for advanced spacecraft technologies. Click here. (12/17)

Virginia's Wolf Won't Seek Reelection (Source: Washington Post)
Longtime Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) announced Tuesday that he won't seek reelection in 2014. Wolf's departure gives Democrats a great pickup opportunity in 2014. Wolf has easily held down the Northern Virginia suburbs and exurbs for decades, despite their increasing purple tone. Democrats have already recruited Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust for the race.

Wolf currently serves as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, responsible for NASA's budget. A staunch China hawk, he's also the one who authored legislation that severely restricts U.S. space-related outreach and collaboration with China. (12/17)

In Memoriam: The Space Robots We Lost This Year (Source: WIRED)
At the end of every year, news sites publish memorials for all the important people the world has lost. But nobody ever mentions the space robots. Yet in 2013, we had to say goodbye to a lot of great scientific space missions. Far too many space-based telescopes and Earth-observing satellites were either decommissioned, faced unexpected hardware failures, or simply ran out of fuel. That, coupled with the fact that NASA has fairly few future plans for robotic exploration, means a tremendous loss for researchers. Click here. (12/17)

States Eager for Imminent Drone Sites Decision (Source: Aviation Week)
States and industry are waiting with anticipation for the Federal Aviation Administration's soon-to-be-made decision on which states will be test sites for integrating drones into the commercial airspace. The FAA is set to select the six states by year's end. (12/16)

DARPA Wants Sensors To Find Low-Orbiting Debris (Source: Aviation Week)
In a bid to boost the ability to track orbital debris that could endanger satellites, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking methods for the uncued detection of objects in low-inclined low Earth orbit (LILO). The LILO project is part of DARPA’s OrbitOutlook (O2) program to bolster the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) with new sensor, database and validation capabilities. The SSN is tasked with observing and tracking space objects.

The agency is seeking proposals for new or modified sensors that can be deployed within 12 months of contract award. They are to be capable of detecting objects 10 cm or larger at 1,000 km, without prior knowledge of their location or trajectory, with an astrometric precision of better than 6 arcsec. and a timing accuracy of less than 10 millisec. (12/13)

Start-Ups Compete for 150,000 From Space Florida (Source: Space Florida)
Representatives from Space Florida and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Office of Research and Commercialization (ORC) announced 20 finalists for the “CAT5 Awards,” an event that will match financing sources with small, Florida-based, high-tech businesses.

The “CAT5 Awards,” (which stands for “Capital for the Acceleration of Technologies in early stage companies) will enable the 20 selected companies to present their business models to venture capitalists, angel investors and strategic corporate investors that may have interest in supporting their businesses. In addition, the top 10 finalists will compete to receive one of two monetary awards totaling $150,000 – through Space Florida sponsorship. Click here. (12/16)

Kiwi Contenstant Won't Fly, Provides Details on AXE "Training" in Florida (Source: Aukland Now)
Andy Pierce's space ambitions have fallen short. The Redvale resident returned after a week at the AXE Global Space Camp in Florida with a disheartening result. He wasn't one of the 23 chosen to take a ride into space after winning a competition. Andy says the trip was disappointing although he has some good memories from it. One hundred and seven people from more than 60 countries traveled to Florida to compete for a ride to space on the new XCOR Lynx commercial reusable launch vehicle.

The group was promised to be pushed to the limit to test if they could handle space travel conditions, but Andy says they didn't get to do half of it. "We didn't get the opportunity to go on a zero gravity-inducing aircraft or on a fighter jet ride." The group did ride in a jet prop combat trainer. "The confidence course we did, which they called an ‘assault course', was timed but ended with a zip line where we had to wait in a queue. I had to wait so long I had fully recovered from doing the course.

"Things like that all along the way made me feel like they had chosen people they wanted from the start," Andy says. He says the group spent much time waiting while a company filming for a documentary orchestrated the visitors' programs. Even the G-force centrifuge was only pushed to 3Gs. "I could have gone in with a cup of tea it was so gentle," Andy says. "The second day we did a tourist trip to the Kennedy launch pad. We did some pretty cool sightseeing out there and went into the launch pad and building where they assemble rockets. (12/17)

ISRO Warns Against Fake Social Media Pages (Source: Deccan Herald)
It appears people on social media are trying to con ISRO and the general public by creating pages in the name of the space agency. Making it clear that it has no truck with such pages, ISRO has stated that “many pages in social media (Facebook and Twitter) being floated in the name of ISRO/Department of Space/Mangalyaan, have no authenticity and ISRO does not take any responsibility for any content hosted on these pages.” (12/16)

NASA Inc.: Current Woes Don’t Mean Disaster (Source: TIME)
The agency that could once do no wrong (that would be NASA — back in the glory days) has for a long time now been the agency that can barely put its sneakers on without tripping over the laces. The unmanned space program continues to be a bright spot, with smart, nimble, surprisingly affordable spacecraft dispatched all over the solar system.

But the manned program? Well, let’s start with what manned program? Since the last shuttle was mothballed in 2011, we’ve had no way even to get our own astronauts up to our own International Space Station (ISS), relying instead on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Without our old space-race rivals, we’d be grounded.

NASA’s solution? Outsource, of course. If the government can’t get its own rockets off the ground, why not let the free market — with its vaunted invisible hand — sort things out? The prison system is doing it, military security is doing it. So how ’bout the space program? Click here. (12/17)

Sierra Nevada Corporation Completes CCDev2 Contract with NASA (Source: SNC)
SNC today announced that the company has successfully completed all milestones under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) phase. Milestones achieved include a systems requirement review, flight simulator development, creation of a vehicle avionics integration laboratory, system definition review, flight control integration laboratory, preliminary design review and the first free-flight test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. (12/16)

Minuteman Launch Scheduled at California Spaceport (Source: Launch Alert)
An operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for Tuesday between 1:39 and 7:39 a.m. from Launch Facility-04 on north Vandenberg. Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, said: "This is our last launch for 2013. "We've had 11 successful launches this year and 2014's schedule looks to be just as busy. (12/16)

Church Arson Suspect Now Homeless, Was Once a Space Pioneer (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A homeless man who describes himself as a "visionary entrepreneur" and was once considered a commercial space pioneer is accused of setting fire to a downtown church. Orlando police said Drazen Premate, 57, started a fire at the H20 Church on West Livingston Street because he was "tired of the mosquitoes."

A man at the church Saturday afternoon saw Premate add wood to a fire, which then grew out of control. According to an arrest report released Monday, there was "substantial" damage to the rear of the building. Premate told authorities he started the fire because of "bug bites." He was arrested on an arson charge and remains in the Orange County Jail.

Premate told the Orlando Sentinel in 1986 that he earned a master's degree in space technology from Florida Institute of Technology and had been struggling to get his ideas into orbit ever since. At the time of the interview, Premate and an associate ran International Space Corp. in Melbourne, which won a joint endeavor agreement from NASA to fly experimental crystal-growing furnaces on six to eight shuttle voyages. (12/16)

Russia to Send Woman to Space in 2014 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will send a female cosmonaut into space for the first time in two decades next year, an official at the space training centre said Wednesday. Yelena Serova, 36 and a professional cosmonaut, "is getting ready for a space flight in the second half of 2014," said Alexei Temerov. (12/16)

NASA Sees 'Some Success' with Space Station Fix (Source: Space Daily)
NASA engineers are still trying to fix an International Space Station cooling problem and have not yet decided whether spacewalks will be necessary, the US space agency said Monday. The NASA team on the ground is "having some degree of success" at working on a faulty valve that has disrupted the equipment cooling system aboard the orbiting research outpost, said a NASA official. (12/16)

Johnson Space Center Seeks Bold Ideas for Technology Development (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Johnson Space Center is looking for bold ideas for collaborative development to mature technologies required for NASA's future missions and to enhance life on Earth. As a means to accelerate technology development and strengthen commercialization of federally funded research and development, JSC is looking to partner with other public agencies, private companies and academia on the development of broadly applicable technologies. (12/16)

Air Force Awards Lockheed Contract for Two More GPS III Satellites (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin more than $200 million in contract options to complete production of its fifth and sixth next-generation Global Positioning System satellites, known as GPS III. In February, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a fixed price $120 million contract to procure long lead parts for a second set of four GPS III space vehicles (SV 05-08). This new award provides funding to complete the first two satellites (SV 05-06) in this order.  Full production funding for the next two space vehicles (SV 07-08) is expected in 2014. (12/16)

Lockheed May Revise 2014 Outlook if U.S. Budget Deal Passes (Source: Reuters)
U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT) may revise upward its financial outlook for 2014 if Congress passes a two-year budget deal that would blunt the effect of mandatory budget cuts, according to Marillyn Hewson, the company's president and chief executive officer. Hewson said she hoped the U.S. Senate would approve the agreement, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week, and was optimistic that further cuts required under sequestration could be eliminated as the U.S. economy improved. (12/16)

JWST Development Still Faces Challenges (Source: Aviation Week)
Despite recent technical progress, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is headed into its peak year of spending with less schedule margin and fewer funding reserves than anticipated for the $8 billion flagship astronomy mission as it advances toward a planned 2018 launch.

Less than three months into the current fiscal year, NASA says the JWST program has lost one of 14 months from its development-schedule margin due to the October government shutdown, which interrupted the first of three thermal vacuum tests and bumped the spacecraft's critical design review (CDR) to January from December. (12/16)

The Trials And Torments Of Space School (Source: Popular Science)
Sending people to space has always involved a frank assessment of their defects, and in the early days, it was a matter of finding people without any. First it was fighter pilots—calm in a crisis, physically perfect, unquestioning in their execution of mission control’s instructions. Then, as it became clear that space was more than a military objective, space agencies began to train scientists for flight, placing otherwise reasonable researchers into fighter jets and swimming pools and screening them relentlessly for defects of vision, circulation, or character.

Now a new category of space traveler is headed beyond the stratosphere. Not the combat pilots and astrophysicists who train for at least two years just to get a shot at a trip, but the rest of us, with our carry-on bags, our iPads, our motion sickness. Folks. Citizens. Regular people.

On a sweltering summer day in southeastern Pennsylvania, I turn into the entrance of the National AeroSpace Training and Research (Nastar) Center, the only privately run spaceflight-training facility in the country. It looks rather humdrum, a warehouse surrounded by strip malls and office buildings, but it’s one of the few places where aspiring astronauts can endure the twin trials of liftoff and reentry without leaving Earth. Click here. (12/16)

China’s Great Wall Cites Fuel-flow Issue in Rocket Failure (Source: Space News)
China’s launch service provider on Dec. 16 said the Dec. 9 failure of its Long March 4B rocket was caused by the premature shutdown of the second of two third-stage engines because of reduced fuel flow. China Great Wall Industry Corp. said the failure investigation, headed by Wang Haoping of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, was continuing to determine the reasons behind the reduction in fuel supplied to the engine. (12/16)

Did Asteroid Fracking Cause Earth's Worst Extinction? (Source: New Scientist)
Earth, 255 million years ago. The curtain is falling on a Lost World fantasy. At its peak, our Palaeozoic planet boasted lush forests packed with 30-meter-tall relatives of the tiny club mosses and horsetails that exist today. Giant 2.5-meter-long millipedes scuttled across the ground, while dragonfly-like insects with wing spans of 70 centimeters flitted through the skies.

Some 252 million years ago, this world was gone – transformed by the most traumatic wave of extinctions life on our planet has ever experienced. The mass killing that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago grabs all the headlines, but it snuffed out only three-quarters of plant and animal species. (12/16)

NASA Receives Third Consecutive Clean Audit Opinion (Source: NASA)
NASA on Monday released its Fiscal Year 2013 Agency Financial Report detailing financial results, performance highlights, and its third consecutive unmodified, or clean, audit opinion. An independent auditor found NASA has no material weaknesses, resolved the last significant deficiency carried over from fiscal 2012, and complied with applicable laws.

An unmodified opinion is the highest rating that may be received from an external auditor. It affirms NASA's financial statements fairly present the agency's financial position and result of operations. The independent assessment of the agency's financial stewardship of taxpayer resources demonstrates the agency's strong financial foundation as it continues to launch cutting-edge science and technology missions and prepares to embark on a new chapter of exploration. (12/16)

Ham the Astrochimp: Hero or Victim? (Source: Guardian)
Last week, I had the great privilege of meeting primatologist Dr Jane Goodall. (I am writing a profile of her for the Wellcome Trust’s exciting new online life science magazine Mosaic, due to launch in the new year). In our conversation we briefly touched on the life of Ham, a chimpanzee who has interested me for several years. Goodall’s dismay at Ham’s treatment has caused me to reconsider how his story should be told.

If you’ve never heard of Ham, he was one of hundreds of experimental animals unwittingly enrolled into NASA’s Project Mercury, a programme that sought to put a (hu)man into space. Shortly after he was born in 1957, in what was then French Cameroons, the US Air Force engaged collectors to source some chimps from the native forest. Three years later, more than a dozen animals flew from Africa to the US, entering into what was referred to as the “School for Space Chimps” at the Holloman Air Force Base in Alamagordo, New Mexico.

One of them – subject 65, aka Ham (Holloman Aerospace Medical Center) –was head of the class. He was fit, was comfortable being strapped into his “couch” and quickly learned the lever-pushing tasks required of him. “He was wonderful,” recalled his handler Edward Dittmer for a book entitled Animals in Space. “He performed so well and was a remarkably easy chimp to handle. I’d hold him and he was just like a little kid.” Click here. (12/16)

Could Europa Discovery Spur Life-Hunting Mission? (Source: Discovery)
As we celebrate China’s successful Chang’e 3 landing on the moon, the world’s media is abuzz with images of rocky, dusty alien landscapes once more. Granted, the images are notable in that we haven’t seen new photographs from the lunar surface since the last soft moon landing some 36 years ago, but, like the images from NASA’s Mars missions, it’s all parched rock and dust for as far as the eye can see.

Wouldn’t it make a change to see visas filled with huge blocks of broken ice potentially laced with organic chemistry? In light of last week’s announcement of Hubble’s detection of huge plumes of water vapor over Europa’s south pole, this could be the motivation the world needs to send a life-hunting mission to Jupiter’s mysterious icy moon. Click here. (12/16)

Europa May Have First Evidence for Active Plate Tectonics on an Alien World (Source: WIRED)
Scientists may have spotted the first evidence for active plate tectonics on another world. Jupiter’s moon Europa is covered in an ice crust bearing scars that may reveal movement similar to that of Earth’s rocky plates. Europa was already considered to be among the most scientifically intriguing bodies in the solar system and one of the most promising places to hunt for life in the solar system because of the liquid ocean that resides beneath its crust.

If the latest findings turn out to be true, it could be another point in favor of the moon’s potential habitability by providing a way to get nutrients from the surface down into the ocean. Europa’s icy surface has been estimated to be between 40 million and 90 million years old, making it one of the youngest surfaces in the solar system, and far younger than the moon itself, which is more than 4 billion years old. This means that somehow the crust is being refreshed either by resurfacing or recycling of old crust. (12/16)

NASA Debates Space Station Repairs or Restocking (Source: AP)
Spacewalk or space delivery? That's the question facing NASA as space station flight controllers try to revive a crippled cooling loop. Half of the International Space Station's cooling system shut down last Wednesday because of a bad valve that made the line too cold. NASA is using a different valve to try to control the temperature, with some success, Kenny Todd, a space station manager said Monday.

"Whether or not it will be enough ... we can't tell yet," said Todd. The two American astronauts on board, Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, may need to make spacewalking repairs, beginning Thursday. That's the same day an unmanned rocket is supposed to hoist a space station cargo ship from Wallops Island. NASA expects to decide Tuesday which should take priority — repairs or restocking. (12/16)

Russia May Resume Ten-Day Flights to ISS (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roskosmos may renew short-term ten-day flights to the ISS when a new generation of U.S. spacecraft enters service. Also, long-term missions to the ISS are to be prolonged to nine months as soon as upgraded Soyuz spacecraft are commissioned in 2015. Long-term flights will be possible three times a year, not four, with short-term flights to be embedded in between with the use of new spacecraft Russia’s ISS counterparts will have at their disposal. Month-long flights will also be possible, Krasnov added.

Editor's Note: Could this be a hint that Russian-sponsored space tourism flights to ISS will resume soon? (12/16)

Soviet Oko Satellite May Fall on Earth on December 18 (Source: Interfax)
An old Soviet satellite, a part of the OKO system, which was a space echelon of the missile attack warning system, may fall to Earth on December 18, the information analysis center of the Interstate Joint-Stock Corporation (MAK) Vympel (part of the concern PVO Almaz-Antei) told Interfax-AVN on Monday. (12/16)

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