December 5, 2013

Embry-Riddle Graduates First Ph.D. Students in Engineering Physics (Source: ERAU)
When 535 Embry-Riddle students graduate in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona, ceremonies this month, the university will reach a proud milestone – eight of those students will be the university’s first-ever Ph.D. graduates. Three earned a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics, including work on theoretical physics with practical engineering and problem-solving with a focus on space. (12/5)

Academia and Entrepreneurial Space Companies Seek Closer Ties (Source: Space News)
Early stage space companies and universities, which have tended to operate in separate orbits, should find ways to work more closely together to take advantage of innovations each side can offer, representatives of both communities recommended recently.

“When we talk about connections and relations between academia and industry, especially engineering-oriented industries, the conversations tend to focus around workforce training,” said Ariel Anbar, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University, during an event titled “Space Exploration: How and Why?” organized by the university and held here Nov. 15. Click here. (12/5)

Commercial Space Race Revolutionizing Business Off Planet Earth (Source:
Space offers plenty of business opportunities, at least in the eyes of the space enthusiasts coming to the International Space Commerce 2013 Summit in London, where entrepreneurs, investors and state-sponsored space organizations gathered to discuss ways of making space exploration profitable. Click here. (12/5)

Are the Days of NASA's Science Flagship Missions Over? (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had a tough message for the space science community today – forget about flagship missions, they’re not affordable these days. At the very same time on Capitol Hill, however, the chairman of one of NASA’s key committees was expressing enthusiasm about a mission to Europa – unquestionably a flagship mission. The disconnect could not be more stark.

Flagship missions are NASA’s most expensive (over $1 billion) and risky space science missions, but offer exceptional scientific payoff. In a “lessons learned” briefing on one of NASA’s most recent flagship missions – the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) with its Curiosity rover - noted that it was two years late and significantly over budget.

Bolden’s message to the NAC Science Committee was unambiguous: “We have to stop thinking about … flagship missions. … The budget doesn’t support that.” Bolden went on to explain that he and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan have talked about “the importance of cadence,” flying “more, less expensive types of missions.” (12/4)

Hawaii's PISCES Signs MOUs with Honeybee Robotics, Made in Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) has expanded its list of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s) to eleven, after officially partnering with Honeybee Robotics and Made In Space. PISCES will partner with the companies on the Center’s 3D laser printing projects. The signing took place at the PISCES Board of Director’s meeting on October 6th in Honolulu – the day before the Hawaii Aerospace Summit. (12/5)

California's Steve Knight Weighs Run for Congress (Source: Parabolic Arc)
California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire. McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term.

The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.

If elected, Knight would join Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) as another supporter of commercial space in the House of Representatives. McCarthy, who is the House Majority Whip, represents the adjacent 23rd District, which encompasses the northern part of the Antelope Valley. The district includes the Mojave Air and Space Port, NASA Dryden, and Edwards Air Force Base. Both Knight and McCarthy have worked with Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt on measures to advance commercial space activities. (12/4)

Future Astronauts Face Changing Career Landscape (Source: Kansas City InfoZine)
With all of NASA’s recent unmanned launches, kids are looking to new space events for inspiration. “What inspired me was the Apollo program … now we have a whole new generation of young people saying SpaceShipOne,” Steve Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic, said.

If Virgin's initial flights go well, there could soon be an industry for commercial space flight pilots, giving kids a new career option for getting into space. Pilots of these flights may face less competition and more lax standards than at NASA. The federal space agency’s standards include having a bachelor's degree, at least 1,000 pilot hours and passing a NASA space physical (which requires a height between 5-feet-2-inches and 6-feet-3-inches). (12/5)

Florida Space Industry to Visit Capitol on March 12 (Source: Florida Space Day)
Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 12, 2014, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. "Aerospace means business and that translates into high tech, high paying jobs for Florida,” said Patty Stratton, chair of Florida Space Day 2014. “The decisions made in both Tallahassee and Washington D.C. in regard to the space program will greatly affect the state.”

Florida has the third largest space industry in the nation. “It’s imperative that Florida’s legislators, local officials and the business community continue to work together to position the state to capture new opportunities as this industry transitions,” said Stratton.

This year’s event is critical, as the state’s space industry continues to expand and change to face the dynamic international marketplace. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the Governor, to discuss the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead. (12/5)

FSDC Supports Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) is involved in planning and implementation of Space Day, which is scheduled for March 12 in Tallahassee, at the start of the state's annual Legislative Session. As it did during the 2013 Legislative Session, FSDC will track the status of space-related policy and funding initiatives as they work their way through the legislative process. Regular updates will be distributed by FSDC until the end of the session. The preliminary "advocacy agenda" is posted here. (And here's a copy of the final 2013 legislative summary.) (12/5)

UCF's Race to Space (Source: UCF)
Ruben Nunez was featured as an alumni spotlight earlier this year, and explained that his company, Earthrise Space, formed Omega Envoy, one of 22 teams competing to be the first to land a robot on the surface of the moon, hoping to win $30 million in Google’s Lunar X PRIZE competition. Since then, Omega Envoy (made up of numerous UCF alumni and students) has been featured in the planetarium dome show “Back to the Moon for Good,” which is being shown in 80 locations in 19 countries. Nunez and his team have also been awarded the Congressional Rising Star in Technology, in recognition of their success and benefit to the regional technology community. (12/5)

Congress Nearing its Deadline to Pass Defense Budget (Source:
Congress is nearing its deadline to pass the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act to fund the Defense Department next year. The department has asked for a base budget of $527 billion and another $79 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The request does not take into account the automatic sequestration budget cuts that would shave another $52 billion from the budget after Jan. 1. The House passed the budget, but amendments have bogged the measure down in the Senate. (12/4)

Budget Deal Includes Some Relief for Pentagon, Source Says (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. bicameral budget committee is nearing a deal, according to a defense lobbyist. The deal would include "$85 billion of cuts and revenues," the lobbyist said. The deal includes relief for the Pentagon with “appropriations bills for two years that give us stability and some sequester relief." (12/4)

China’s Space Launches Send People Below Running for Cover (Source: ABC News)
A day after China trumpeted the successful launch of its first-ever robotic lunar rover, state media reported a sobering footnote: more than 180,000 residents of southwestern Sichuan and southern Hunan provinces were evacuated to keep them from being hit by falling debris. No casualties were reported, but two farmhouses in Hunan were damaged.

The “fallout” from this latest space mission is another example of a massive and prestigious state-funded project whose risks to local populations are often overlooked. Yang and Yuan’s village is located in Suining County, Hunan province. Rocket debris often rains down from the sky on this area. A county official told local media that since 1990, the villagers have been evacuated ahead of 30 rocket launches from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (12/5)

Let the Space Price War Begin (Source: Bloomberg)
Eleven years in, the grand entrepreneurial experiment called SpaceX still has to prove itself. On Tuesday evening it reached a major milestone, sending a satellite for paying customer SES into geostationary orbit. SpaceX has flown its Falcon 9 rocket seven times and shown that it can reach orbit, dock with the International Space Station, and bring cargo home. Now it’s put a satellite 22,236 miles above the earth’s surface for a fraction of the going price.

This latest launch is bad news for Russia, Europe, Boeing (BA), and Lockheed Martin (LMT). SES paid $55 million to SpaceX for the launch; rivals typically charge $100 million to $200 million. SpaceX has a backlog of about $4 billion worth of launches, many for commercial customers that it can now begin to serve. One more successful flight should open the way for the company to handle some of the military work that has gone to Boeing and Lockheed through their joint venture, United Launch Alliance.

We’ll really get a sense of SpaceX’s abilities over the next year. The company plans to launch rockets at a much more ferocious clip, to refine their reusability and to prepare for sending humans to the International Space Station. You can also expect to see SpaceX tormented by politicians with ties to existing launch contractors and military suppliers. May we live in interesting times. (12/5)

Overhaul Pending in Russian Space Sector (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia appears to have learnt some lessons from its failures in outer space and started a fundamental reform of the related industry, now in an acute crisis. After the recent reshuffle President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to set up a United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC).

The reform splits the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) into two — an agency responsible for the state space policy and a corporation that will be comprised of most of the sector’s manufacturing companies. Roscosmos will be preserved with its research institutes and ground infrastructures. The state-run URSC will take over the production of rocket and space equipment, while the state contract, coordination and operation will still be Roscosmos’ domain.

Putin has approved the plan proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of the military-industrial complex issues. The URSC is being established on the basis of the Research Institute for Space Instrument Engineering, which, Rogozin said, had sufficient resources to include rocket and space industry’s stocks. (12/5)

How India’s Cryogenic Program Was Wrecked (Source: Russia & India Report)
India was all set to master Russian cryogenic rocket technology when the United States – in cahoots with its moles in the Indian Intelligence Bureau – set in motion a series of events that implicated India’s leading space scientists on cooked-up charges. To understand the extent of damage caused to India’s space program because of the ISRO spy case, one has to first look at how close India was to mastering cryogenic rocket technology.

Cryogenic rocket technology involves the use of super-cooled liquid fuels to produce massive amounts of thrust in order to lift heavy payloads into space. It will be at the heart of India's GSLV rocket, which will carry future Indian astronauts to the moon. Without a reliable GSLV India will continue to pay heavy launch fees to foreign space agencies. Because it takes several hours to fuel up a cryogenic rocket, such a rocket cannot be used as a ballistic missile.

This leads to two questions. One, if the United States is really concerned about India developing long-range ballistic missiles, then shouldn’t it try and stop the guys at the Defence Research & Development Organization, which makes the Agni missiles? Secondly, why would the United States want to delay the development of India’s heavy lift commercial rockets? India is the only developing country with heavy lift ambitions and its ultra-low cost model could one day put the likes of NASA out of business. (12/5)

Lawmakers Want NASA to Keep Looking for Life in Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Scientists are stepping up the search for “tenacious” forms of primitive life on planets orbiting distant stars, with promising technologies that could begin assessing 3,500 candidate planets within five to ten years, three astrobiology experts told Congress Wednesday.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, called the prospect “inspiring,” adding that confirmation of distant life would transform mankind’s understanding of life on earth and human beings’ place in the universe. The scientists and lawmakers from both parties readily agreed that despite the budget squeeze, NASA needs more money to pursue the pioneering research, and national leaders need to build stronger public support for the spending.

The best chance of spying signs of life would be a direct imaging mission that relies on a next generation, space-based telescope and a so-called “star shade” that would screen out stars’ light to enable the telescope to get a better shot of orbiting planets, said Sara Seager of MIT. (12/4)

Ice on Ceres: 'An Interesting Paradox' (Source: Astrobiology)
Orbiting in the asteroid belt, a little more than three times as far from the Sun as Earth, Ceres is thought to contain an icy mantle that makes up approximately a third of its mass. "Ceres is very different and very exciting in a lot of ways, totally different from any place that we've been," Britney Schmidt said. "It may be the only primarily icy planet that's out there, at least within reach." (12/5)

Turkey Keen on Space Cooperation with China (Source: Space Daily)
Turkey is keen on space cooperation with China, especially in lunar missions and outer space exploration, scientists said here on Wednesday after China's launching of lunar probe Chang'e-3. The scientists watched the launching of Long March-3B rocket, which carried Chang'e-3 lunar probe and Yutu lunar rover, on Monday. The scientist said the areas that Turkey and China should expand cooperation are satellite projects, lunar mission projects and exploration of the outer space. (12/5)

China's Most Moon-Like Place (Source: Space Daily)
The desert of fine, soft sand ripples with low dunes and not a plant is in sight. Simmering under a ceaseless noonday sun, the Kumtag desert descends through chill to extreme frigidity as night falls. This is the most moon-like place in China. It was here in northwest China on the boundary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Gansu Province that Chinese scientists built the testing ground for moon rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit). (12/5)

Satellite Cooling System Breakthrough Developed by Lockheed Martin (Source: Space Fellowship)
Scientists and engineers at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) have developed the lightest cryocooler, (satellite cooling system) ever built. The breakthrough is seen as a game-changer in the design of affordable, advanced-technology flight systems, as it costs up to ten thousand dollars a pound for a satellite to orbit the Earth. Known as a microcryocooler, the new cooling system weighs approximately 11 ounces, three times lighter than its predecessor, and is expected to have an operating life of at least ten years. (12/4)

NASA Advisory Council Reorganizes for Greater Effectiveness (Source: NASA)
The NASA Advisory Council (NAC), an independent group of scientists and aerospace experts who provide external guidance to NASA, will be restructured in the coming months to more accurately reflect the Agency’s structure and to improve its ability to deal with issues that cut across the Agency. The restructuring process, resulting from a recent internal review conducted under the direction of the NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, will begin immediately and will be fully realized over the next several months. Click here. (12/4) 

Heat Shield for Orion Spacecraft Arrives at KSC (Source: NASA)
NASA's Orion spacecraft is just about ready to turn up the heat. The spacecraft's heat shield arrived at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday night aboard the agency's Super Guppy aircraft. The heat shield, the largest of its kind ever built, is to be unloaded Thursday and is scheduled for installation on the Orion crew module in March, in preparation for Orion's first flight test in September 2014. (12/24)

Atlas V Scheduled for Nighttime Launch on Thursday from California (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Over the last few months, residents along the East Coast have been treated to a series of spectacular nighttime rocket launches from SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation. This week, it’s time for the West Coast to shine. An Atlas V is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Thursday at 11:13 p.m. PST. The ULA rocket will carry a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload (NROL-39) into polar orbit. (12/4)

Visit National Parks on Other Planets With These Fantastic Posters (Source: WIRED)
Come see the ice geysers of Enceladus, the searing volcanoes of Io, or the secluded canyons of Mars! The wonders of the solar system have never looked so wonderful. That’s the sense you get from looking at this fantastic collection of planetary posters from astronomer and artist Tyler Nordgren of the University of Redlands in California. The posters manage to be futuristic and classic at the same time. Click here.

Editor's Note: The posters describe a "U.N. Department of the Exterior" as the authority for managing these parks. Not a bad idea! Maybe they could take steps to protect Apollo and other historic sites on the Moon, since the U.S. arguably cannot do it on their own based on international treaties and sovereignity concerns. (12/4)

Cassini Captures Amazing High-Res Animation of Saturn’s Mysterious Hexagon (Source: WIRED)
NASA’s Cassini mission has captured an incredible high-resolution animation of the psychedelic jet stream known as Saturn’s Northern Hexagon. The strange polygonal object is a continent-sized six-sided hurricane with 200 mph winds that spins around Saturn’s north pole. Scientists are at a loss to explain exactly how the hexagon gets its perfect shape but they suspect that it has to do with the way the jets interact with Saturn’s gaseous atmosphere. Click here. (12/4)

Thales Alenia Space Opens New Plant at Quake-Damaged Site (Source: Space News)
Thales Alenia Space on Dec. 3 inaugurated a new Italian satellite antenna and electronics component center not far from where the predecessor facility was destroyed by an earthquake in April 2009. The new facility, which will be fully operational by February, was financed mainly by Thales Alenia Space, which spent around 65 million euros ($88.4 million) of its own funds cleaning up the destroyed site and building the new 16,080-square-meter plant. (12/4)

Alien-Hunting Equation Revamped for Mining Asteroids (Source: New Scientist)
The solar system is littered with millions of asteroids, but only a few can be profitably mined for valuable metals and water using current technology. That is the conclusion of a new analysis inspired by the search for life on other planets. Recent years have seen two US companies – Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries – established with the intent of one day mining space rocks. NASA also has asteroid ambitions, with a plan to drag one into lunar orbit for astronauts to study.

But it is still unclear which rocks will make the best targets. To tackle the problem, Martin Elvis adapted a tool used to study another cosmic puzzle: the Drake equation, used in the hunt for alien life. Dreamed up in 1961 by astronomer Frank Drake, the equation provides an estimate of the number of detectable alien civilizations in the Milky Way. You just need to plug in realistic guesses for the equation's various factors. Click here. (12/4)

Russia’s Future Space Launchpad Violated Construction Laws (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that a probe revealed environmental, labor and building violations in the construction of what is slated to become the country's main space launch site. The far-eastern Vostochny cosmodrome, to take the bulk of Russian space launches from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur, experienced the numerous violations due to the work of construction companies, the Prosecutor General’s Office said Wednesday, without elaborating.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin harshly criticized the slow progress in the construction of Vostochny, scheduled to launch its first carrier rocket in 2015. The cosmodrome is intended to host 45 percent of Russia’s space launches and all its manned flights as of the year 2020, according to Roscosmos. Baikonur’s share of Russian space launches is expected to fall from 65 percent to 11 percent, with the remainder of launches taking place at the Plesetsk space center in Russia’s north. (12/4)

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