December 21, 2013

CASIS Partners with Angelus Fund for Start-Up Support (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has partnered with Angelus Funding to identify and possibly fund new and intriguing start-up commercial projects destined for the International Space Station (ISS) that are capable of benefitting life on Earth. Angelus Funding is a network of members who come from the financial, technology, medical and legal industries.  

Angelus Funding members evaluate and invest in a broad range of start-up to early stage opportunities across a range of disciplines, including technology, energy, and life sciences. This partnership leverages Angelus Funding’s considerable access to capital and collection of professionals capable of identifying opportunistic commercial projects that result from the unique environment provided on the ISS National Lab. (12/19)

Defense Bill Preserves ORS Office, Examines Space Security (Source: Space Politics)
The Senate passed the FY-14 defense authorization bill after the House approved the final compromise version of the bill last week. The bill covers some space issues, including the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, a DOD office whose future has been uncertain in recent years as the Air Force sought to close it. The bill requires the DOD to undertake a study on responsive, low-cost launch options, reviewing past and current efforts, a technology assessment for such systems, and the military utility of such systems.

The bill also addresses larger launch vehicles, requiring an Air Force plan for allowing new entrants into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which the Air Force has already indicated a willingness to allow. The plan must include “a general description of how the Secretary will conduct competition with respect to awarding a contract to certified evolved expendable launch vehicle providers,” including cost, schedule, performance, and mission assurance attributes.

Several other sections of the bill deal with Congress’s concerns about threats to US satellites. One section requires the head of US Strategic Command to provide notification to Congress within 48 hours of any “intentional attempt by a foreign actor to disrupt, degrade, or destroy a U.S. national security space capability,” with a more detailed report to follow 10 days after that attempt. Click here. (12/20)

India Hints at Second Mars Mission Using GSLV (Source: Indian Express)
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) may go in for a more sophisticated sequel to the Mars mission by 2016 if the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is ready and proven by then, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director S Ramakrishnan said. “The project is not yet approved. But we are planning a second mission to Mars with a more powerful launch vehicle in two years. The GSLV will be ready by then and also the GSLV Mk-III version,” he said. (12/21)

Sailing Satellites Into Safe Retirement (Source: ESA)
When satellites reach the end of their working lives, they may pose a threat to other spacecraft as they continue to orbit in a dormant state for many decades. But now a new way to deorbit ageing satellites in a safe manner is nearing its first test in space.

In the future, satellites might carry a packaged ultra-lightweight ‘gossamer sail’ to open as they head towards retirement. The increased aerodynamic drag would pull the craft out of orbit to burn up in the high atmosphere, reducing the risk of catastrophic collisions and creating a sustainable space environment for future generations. (12/20)

Failure to Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
 Our inability to take our own astronauts to space may not have dramatically interrupted access to low Earth orbit, but its demoralizing effects are felt much wider than Cape Canaveral. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if a disagreement with Putin over Syria or Snowden resulted in the Russians refusing to host American astronauts just to flex some muscle. Politicians have done far more in response to much less.

Thankfully, on November 19 NASA announced it was another step closer to restoring the American political ego. A Request for Proposal (RFP) went out calling for companies to submit bids for the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), a typically American blend of business and government intended to get astronauts to space on crafts once again carrying the stars and stripes. (12/21)

Bolivian Satellite in Orbit After Successful Launch From China (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Bolivia's first communications satellite, named for an indigenous fighter who opposed Spanish colonial rule, launched Friday on a Long March rocket from China. Weighing 5.2 metric tons, the Tupac Katari satellite launched at 11:42 a.m. EST on a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang space center in southern China's Sichuan province, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency. (12/20)

Space Flight Revs Up in 2014 (Source: EE Times)
Within a year or two, the number of humans who have been to space may double, says William Pomerantz of Virgin Galactic, the company who hopes to make that happen. Sometime in 2014, entrepreneur Richard Branson and his two children aim to be on the first commercial flight of SpaceShip Two, Virgin Galatic's rocket for propelling eight people 100 kilometers above the Earth.

Long term "Sir Richard's ultimate interest is not going straight up and down but going from say, San Jose to London in 45 minutes -- that’s a much harder problem to solve, but we are learning about it in bite-size fashion," he said. So are regulators. "Since we are doing this for the first time, the FAA requires us to educate customers and tell them risks and how we mitigate them," William Pomerantz said. (12/20)

Thaicom 6 Launch to Kick Off SpaceX's Busy 2014 Manifest (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
With a busy manifest next year stacked with up to 10 launches for NASA and commercial customers, SpaceX is targeting Jan. 3 to launch the Thaicom 6 telecommunications satellite from Cape Canaveral. It will be the second Falcon 9 launch in a month, following a successful mission to deliver the SES 8 television broadcasting satellite to orbit Dec. 3. (12/21)

Object Parachuting Into Ocean Off Morro Bay Was SpaceX Test (Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune)
Morro Bay residents caught an unusual sight Friday morning. SpaceX, a private spacecraft manufacturing company based in Hawthorne, finished three days of operations Friday morning that involved dropping a capsule into the ocean off Morro Bay to simulate a space capsule splashing down.

Plans called for a large helicopter to lift the capsule from the Morro Bay Power Plant parking lot and take it several miles offshore, where it would be dropped from 10,000 feet, said Polly Curtis, office assistant with the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol. Several support helicopters were also used. (12/20)

33% See China’s Moon Landing as Bad for U.S. (Source: Rasmussen Reports)
The Chinese landed a lunar probe earlier this week, the first manned landing on the moon in nearly 40 years, but U.S. voters show no greater enthusiasm for returning to the moon than they did a year ago. Just six percent of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s good for the U.S. that China has landed a space vehicle on the moon, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey. Thirty-three percent see the Chinese lunar probe as bad for this country, but a plurality (45%) feels it has no impact. Fifteen percent are not sure. (12/19)

Six Reasons NASA Should Build a Research Base on the Moon (Source: National Geographic)
America largely lost interest in walking on the moon after the Apollo program ended in the 1970s. But the situation is changing, says Christopher McKay, a planetary scientist with NASA. "Things are starting to really heat up in terms of exploration of the moon." McKay argues that America should set up a permanent manned research base on the moon. Click here to see why. (12/20)

Is the United States Losing its Edge? (Source: Politico)
You might have missed it amid all the political folderol and holiday good cheer, but last weekend, China crossed a major milestone when it landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. Never mind that the U.S. put Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon way back in 1969—the landing of the Chang’e 3 and the deployment of its rover are impressive achievements. And they are one more very visible indication that Beijing is pursuing a modestly paced but ambitious long-term space program aimed at making China a major spacefaring country.

There are indeed threats to continued U.S. space leadership—but not particularly because of what China is doing in space. The threats come from questions of U.S. political will. The United States is without doubt the current leader in space; the issue is whether it has the determination to maintain that leadership. Click here. (12/21)

Rogozin: Manned Angara Launch in 2018 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s heavy-class rocket Angara carrying manned spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome, the Amur region in Russia’s Far East, in 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television channel. “By 2018 we should be absolutely ready, we have such plans and they will be translated into reality,” he said. “We will make a manned flight on heavy-class Angara from the second launch pad of the Vostochny cosmodrome.” (12/21)

Aireon Air Traffic Navigation Venture Nets $120 Million Investment (Source: Space News)
Air navigation service providers in Denmark, Ireland and Italy have taken equity stakes in the Aireon satellite-based aircraft tracking and routing venture, committing a combined $120 million in fresh capital that will see company through to the start of operations in 2017. Aireon said air navigation service providers (ANSPs) Enav of Italy, the Irish Aviation Authority and Denmark’s Naviair have joined Nav Canada and Iridium as investors in Aireon.

Canadian ANSP Nav Canada in 2012 agreed to invest about $150 million in the service, while Iridium Communications, which will host the Aireon payloads on its Iridium Next low-orbiting communications satellites, is kicking in $12.5 million. (12/20)

Xtar Wins $5.6 Million Renewal of U.S. Army Satellite Telecom Contract (Source: Space News)
Xtar LLC will continue providing X-bandwidth from its Xtar-Eur satellite for U.S. Army aviation end users for one year under a $5.6 million contract renewal with L-3 Communication Systems West of Salt Lake City, Utah. (12/20)

Heavy Metal Asteroid is a Spacecraft Magnet (Source: New Scientist)
If Jules Verne were alive, he'd raise a toast. In a twist on his notion to journey to the centre of the Earth, a proposed spacecraft may get to visit the core of a proto-planet that was long ago stripped of its rocky outsides and cast adrift in the solar system. Asteroid 16 Psyche was discovered in 1852, but it was not until the 1980s that it was recognised as an oddball. Radar observations made from Earth revealed that Psyche is about 200 kilometres across and is made of 90 per cent iron and nickel, with 10 per cent silicate rock.

This composition is strikingly similar to that of Earth's metal core. That means Psyche could have started life as a small rocky world with a metal core and a silicate mantle, similar to the large asteroid Vesta. And astronomers think larger planets like Earth and Venus could have formed when such nascent worlds collided and merged.

But other times, incoming asteroids might have stripped a proto-planet of its soft outer layers. Psyche could have fallen victim to a series of hit-and-runs that robbed it of its mantle, leaving just the metallic core behind. If that core had been liquid at some point, it would have given the object a strong magnetic field. In fact, Psyche could still have a remnant field almost as strong as the Earth's. (12/20)

Why Outer Space Really is the Final Frontier for Capitalism (Source: Guardian)
The private sector is far more timid than it appears, so if we want to mine the untold riches of the moon, international socialism must step in. Such is the state of advanced capitalism: we can't pay our bills, but China's on the moon. In fairness, the Chinese government is doing humanity a favor.

The race to populate space has been staggeringly slow, and the idea that someone would finally think to scan below the moon's surface for precious minerals is rather moving. For so long, the moon had appeared to us as merely a dull, lifeless wodge of dust and space-shit. To think of it as being radiantly packed with precious minerals is actually quite romantic. One can imagine poems being written about it.

The question is, why haven't the moon's resources been thoroughly plundered by now? Why hasn't it provided us with the energy necessary to colonize the rest of space? I'll tell you why: it's because capitalism is weak and timid. In principle, it shouldn't be this way. There needs to be a non-capitalist outside to appropriate – new land, new resources, to provide profitable investment opportunities. Click here. (12/21)

Mercury Crater Named After John Lennon (Source:
Beatles legend John Lennon, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" author Truman Capote and sculptor Alexander Calder are among the 10 artists and writers now immortalized on Mercury with impact craters bearing their names. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the global authority for all planetary and satellite nomenclature, approved the new monikers this week. (12/21)

NASA Solves Helmet Leak With Makeshift Snorkels (Source: New York Times)
NASA, in preparation for a spacewalk on Saturday, has devised makeshift snorkels that would allow an astronaut in a spacesuit to continue breathing even if a sudden water leak should fill the helmet, as happened to an Italian astronaut who almost drowned in July. (12/20)

Johnson Space Center Might Soon Gain a Powerful Ally in Congress (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Johnson Space Center's political fortunes are on the rise. Houston Republican John Culberson is the odds-on favorite to replace Frank Wolf as chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA. Culberson says he's devoted to the space agency.

"NASA is going to be at the top of my list," Culberson said. "I am going to ensure that NASA gets the money they need to remain the global leader in space." From its peak during the space shuttle era, Johnson Space Center has shed more than 4,000 jobs from a workforce of about 17,500 civil servants and contractors.

Politically, Obama has had little reason to favor the Texas-based space center, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University. And Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's retirement, in 2012, also reduced the center's influence in Congress. (12/20)

Florida Defense Industry Group Seats New Board (Source: FDCA)
The Florida Defense Contractors Association (FDCA) named over 20 new directors to its Board of Directors to complete its establishment as the leading defense industry network and voice in Florida. Directors and member defense companies from Florida League of Defense Contractors (FLDC), established in 2010, and Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA), established in 2008, formed the FDCA to address the unique challenges and increasingly difficult business climate facing the industry today. (12/18)

Softened Sequester Boosted Aerospace in 2013 (Source: Defense News)
The aerospace industry had a stronger year than might have been expected, and that's in part because of companies reducing payroll and a reduction in sequestration, the Aerospace Industries Association says. "The fact is that we had a much different year than we anticipated because the sequester in 2013 was reduced and mitigated," AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said at the association's annual year-end lunch this week. Net profits for 2013 rose 17% in the industry, reaching $23 billion. (12/19)

Overseas Sales Loom Large for EADS (Source: Washington Post)
EADS wants overseas contracts for its defense and space business to account for 40% of the business' sales, up from today's 28%, a goal prompted by a slowdown in U.S. and European defense spending. Meanwhile, EADS is cutting jobs in the defense and space unit and expects to announce a sale soon of the military test and services business that's part of the unit. (12/19)

States Poised to Capture Drone Business (Source: Washington Post)
The FAA's soon-to-be-released decision on the six test sites for domestic drones is awaited with eagerness by the 24 states that have applied, hoping for a big economic boost. "This is a really big deal," said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose state has applied. "It could mean billions of dollars in new investment, thousands of technical jobs for our state. It [would] make us an anchor tenant in a new and growing industry." (12/19)

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