January 10, 2014

SpaceX Wins JCSAT Commercial Launch Contract (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX was awarded a contract with SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. of Japan to launch the JCSAT-14 communications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket in the second half of 2015. “SpaceX looks forward to working with SKY Perfect JSAT on this mission,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO. “As Asia’s largest satellite operator, we appreciate JSAT’s confidence in our ability to reliably deliver their satellite to orbit.”
JCSAT-14 is a Space Systems/Loral (SSL) telecommunications satellite that will succeed and replace JCSAT-2A, providing coverage to Asia, Russia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands. With 26 optimized C-band transponders and 18 Ku-Band transponders, the satellite will extend JCSAT-2A’s geographical footprint and address fast-growing mobility markets across the Asia-Pacific region. (1/10)

Drone Industry in Florida Sees FAA Decision as Only Slight Setback (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The drone invasion of Florida has been postponed, but probably not for long. Although the state lost a bid last week to become a federal testing ground for drones, Florida officials spun the loss as only a temporary setback and said the Sunshine State already is on its way to becoming a hub for unmanned aircraft, better known as drones. "Florida is committed to developing the capabilities and the environment for this industry to come here, operate here and thrive here," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida.

The quasi-state agency spent about $1.4 million last year in the hope that the Federal Aviation Administration would choose Florida as one of six sites the FAA would use to practice flying drones in U.S. airspace. Once largely a military tool, drones increasingly are seen as a valuable resource for business. Compared with helicopters and airplanes, they're cheap to build and fly. Even small drones can handle jobs such as monitoring crops for a farmer or photographing homes for a real-estate agent.

One industry study estimated that the drone business could have an economic impact of more than $82 billion nationwide by 2025. Although Florida lost its chance to be an FAA test site — to applicants in Alaska and Nevada, among others — DiBello and other backers said the decision is hardly a mortal blow. The sites that won can begin drone flights as soon as this summer, but the FAA award doesn't include any federal funding. Nor does it place any significant restrictions on states looking to independently nurture their own drone industries. (1/10)

Space Station Orbit to be Screened Live on British Television (Source: BBC)
A live broadcast featuring a complete orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) is to be aired later this year, Channel 4 has announced. The show, hosted by Dermot O'Leary, will link live to the astronauts from mission control in Houston as they make a 90-minute circuit of the Earth. The ISS, which orbits 250 miles above the Earth, will send back High Definition live images of the planet. (1/10)

Bill Nye Asks Obama for Space Money (Source: Byte & Chew)
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, along with the Planetary Society, are here and they’re asking the commander-in-chief for $1.5 billion to support planetary exploration. He reasoning is irrefutable. Bill Nye suggests 3 great reasons. Firstly, that the discovery of non-Terran life would fundamentally change history. Secondly, the race to explore would require tech we don’t have yet, which would create new industries, boost business and lift the economy much like the Apollo program in the 1960s. (1/9)

U.S. Navy Document Asks: What Would Captain Kirk Purchase? (Source: Blastr)
Somewhere deep in the byzantine U.S. Navy bureaucracy, a hardcore Star Trek fan has found a job purchasing seriously scary electronic warfare technology. Or at least that's the simplest conclusion after reading a document recently posted to the federal government's contracting website. Either that or Capt. James T. Kirk really has scored funds for photon-torpedo jammers and cloaked-ship detectors.

The goal of the Navy's Electronic Warfare program is "to control the Electro-Magnetic Spectrum by exploiting, deceiving, or denying enemy use of the spectrum while ensuring its use by friendly forces." But as any veteran will tell you, before you can go charging into the battlefield, digital or otherwise, you've got to fill out a lot of paperwork. Click here. (1/9)

US Military Satellites Vulnerable in Future Space War (Source: Russia Today)
US military satellites could be disabled or destroyed in the event of a war in space, an American general has said, citing China’s tests of anti-satellite weapons. To protect US space capability, the satellite park should be reformed, he believes. American satellites are defenseless against a possible attack in space, and their destruction “would create a huge hole” in the country’s capability for high-tech warfare, Gen. William Shelton, the commander of the US Air Force Space Command said.

According to Shelton, most critical are the satellites providing the US Army with survivable communications and missile warning. But each of those $1 billion satellites could be easily blocked or destroyed by anti-satellite systems developed in countries like China.

While electronic jammers could be “a cheap and effective way of blocking our signals from space” and laser attacks could “blind” the satellite imaging or even render it dysfunctional, “direct attack weapons, like the Chinese anti-satellite system, can destroy our space systems,” Shelton stressed. (1/9)

Surprising New Class of “Hypervelocity Stars” Discovered Escaping the Galaxy (Source: Vanderbilt)
An international team of astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of “hypervelocity stars” – solitary stars moving fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy.

“These new hypervelocity stars are very different from the ones that have been discovered previously,” said Vanderbilt graduate student Lauren Palladino. “The original hypervelocity stars are large blue stars and appear to have originated from the galactic center. Our new stars are relatively small – about the size of the sun – and the surprising part is that none of them appear to come from the galactic core.” (1/9)

ESA Governments Approved Reduced Budget for 2014 (Source: Space News)
European Space Agency (ESA) governments have approved a budget of 4.1 billion euros ($5.7 billion) for 2014, a 4.2 percent decline from 2013 mainly due to a sharp reduction in funding expected from the European Union’s executive commission. The 20 ESA governments’ investment in the agency will remain flat this year from 2013 at 3.12 billion euros. (1/9)

Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight (Source: SpaceRef)
Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2).

In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay. Mackay, along with Scaled Composites' (Scaled) Test Pilot Mark Stucky, tested the spaceship's Reaction Control System (RCS) and the newly installed thermal protection coating on the vehicle's tail booms. All of the test objectives were successfully completed. (1/10)

DOD Rocket Launches Scheduled Jan. 14 From Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceRef)
Three Terrier-Orion suborbital rockets are scheduled for launch between 1 and 5 a.m. EST January 14 for the Department of Defense from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The backup launch days are January 15 through 18.  The rockets, which will be launched within a 20-second period, may be visible to residents in the mid-Atlantic region.

At the request of DoD project managers, no real-time status updates will be available. The launch will not be shown live on the Internet nor will launch status updates be provided on social media once the countdown begins.  The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for viewing the launch. (1/10)

Will Florida's 2014 Launch Manifest Grow Beyond 10? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Cape Canaveral Spaceport hosted 10 launches per year In 2011, 2012, and 2013. So what will 2014 bring? Thus far there are 14 Florida launches on the manifest maintained by SpaceFlight Now, four each for Atlas and Delta and six for Falcon. (All Atlas and Delta missions are for U.S. government customers, while three of the Falcon missions are for commercial customers.) But 2013 was also expected to include 14 launches, only to have technical and schedule issues delay some missions into 2014. Meanwhile, SpaceX's internal manifest for 2014 includes about a dozen Falcon missions that could be launched from Florida. (1/10)

Com Dev Builds a Backlog Despite Slowdown in U.S. Defense Spending (Source: Space News)
Satellite component builder Com Dev of Canada on Jan. 9 reported a modest increase in revenue but a 26 percent increase in backlog for the 12 months ending Oct. 31 and said its commercial satellite business is flourishing even as its U.S. division suffers from defense budget cuts.

The commercial outlook is so favorable that Com Dev announced it would begin paying a shareholder dividend this year even as it scouts for acquisition targets among smaller satellite-component builders. The company’s majority-owned exactEarth business, which is building a global satellite-based maritime identification network, grew revenue by 23 percent in 2013 and expects to report similar growth this year, Com Dev said. (1/10)

Could Scotland House European Spaceport? (Source: BBC)
The north of Scotland is being considered as a possible base for a European spaceport. Supporters say the base could be used by companies taking tourists into space, as well as to launch satellites. Space tourism is moving closer to becoming a reality, with Virgin Galactic's maiden flight due to depart from New Mexico in a matter of weeks. Click here. (1/10)

Dream Chaser’s European Deal Points to Multi-Role Ambitions (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The new European allies of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser have officially announced “cooperative understandings” that not only combine a transatlantic engineering boost for the baby orbiter, but may also result in Dream Chasers hitching rides atop an Ariane rocket. More importantly, the announcement provided extra details on the vehicle’s future ambitions.

The vehicle’s ability to launch both crewed and uncrewed, to various orbital freeways and destinations has won the affections of numerous entities, in turn providing a level of financial security, in the event Dream Chaser fails to win continued NASA funding from the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The outline of the agreement is centralized on the potential application of European technologies to both the current Dream Chaser design, and advanced derivative versions of the vehicle.

Jan Woerner of the German space agency (DLR) appeared to confirm studies into launching Dream Chaser on an Ariane rocket. “It could even be possible to launch the Dream Chaser – with some minor changes – from within the fairing,” Woerner said, clearly citing an unmanned mission for the spacecraft. “But that would mean the Dream Chaser would have to be changed a little bit, because the wings are a little bit too big. “Or we could put it on top of the launcher, like it is with Atlas V, but then we would have to recalculate all the aerodynamics.” (1/10)

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Launch to Space Station (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is proud to announce its first sponsored research payloads have launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus cargo capsule. This launch marks a historic moment for the nonprofit responsible for promoting and managing research on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, as a variety of investigations under the CASIS manifest are aboard Cygnus.

Orbital was selected by NASA to begin ISS resupply flights under the Commercial Resupply Service contract which authorizes eight missions to carry approximately 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the station over time. On its test flight in September 2013, the Cygnus capsule transported three CASIS-funded education payloads from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). However, this flight signifies the first major payloads that CASIS brokered through its own outreach activities. (1/9)

Groups Plan Washington Legislative Blitz on Feb. 23-25 (Source: NSS)
The 2014 SEA Legislative Blitz is a few short weeks away. You can actually visit Congress and make your vision for space known!  The National Space Society will be participating in the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) 2014 legislative blitz in Washington DC. NSS encourages all members to sign up for and participate in the SEA Blitz. Click here. (1/9)

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (Source: Huggington Post)
I applied with NASA to become an astronaut 15 times. That's right, 15 times. Once per year, for 15 years, I dutifully submitted all of my application information to the governmental monolith I revered, only to be rejected by a few choice words on a small, white, NASA-addressed postcard. Kicked to the curb 14 of those 15 years, I was finally selected in 1998. I felt like the epitome of "never give up, never surrender."

It's time for America to do the same with her space program. It is time for all of us to step up and proclaim that we will "never give up and never surrender" our pre-eminence in space leadership. It is time for us to contact our representatives and voice our opinions that NASA is worth it. Yes, there are naysayers out there; people who believe that NASA is its own intergalactic "collapsing star," where U.S. tax dollars disappear like rays of light into a black hole's event horizon, with little to no visible benefits. (1/9)

U.S., French Governments Close on SSA Data Accord (Source: Space News)
The U.S. and French governments are expected to sign a finalized space situational awareness (SSA) data-sharing agreement this year, hopefully by spring, according to an official with the French Embassy. The two sides already have a preliminary framework SSA agreement that was signed in 2011.

Once the finalized pact is concluded, France would join a growing list of nations that have signed bilateral SSA data-sharing accords with the United States. These countries include Japan, Italy, Australia and Canada. France’s main SSA asset is the ground-based GRAVES radar, which was originally fielded as a low-cost technology demonstrator but has proved useful for tracking and identifying large objects orbiting at altitudes up to 1,000 kilometers. (1/9)

Earthly Politicians Seek Roadmap for Space Exploration (Source: Space Daily)
Seeking to boldly go where few politicians have gone before, ministers and officials from more than 30 space-faring nations gathered here Thursday to draw up a map to explore the stars. The US State Department hosted the talks, bringing together high-level envoys from both American allies and from countries traditionally seen as rivals in the race to conquer space.

"We all share a deep stake in extending humanity's reach further into the solar system, advancing innovation further and faster and extending the benefits of discovery to more people in more places," Deputy Secretary Bill Burns said. Countries such as Brazil, China, Japan, India and Russia have all sent delegations to the first ever such ministerial-level meeting focusing on space exploration.

While many countries already work together on space projects such as the $100-billion International Space Station, the aim is to set out guidelines for global cooperation for future efforts to explore deep into our solar system, and maybe even beyond. (1/9)

Wisconsin Astronaut Uses Space Expertise to Train Others (Source: Duluth News Tribune)
Col. Jeffrey Williams, a NASA astronaut from Winter, Wis., is preparing for his fourth flight to the International Space Station in 2016. As he prepares, he’s training others for orbital flight. Williams has logged almost a year in space on three flights since 2000. But he’s focusing on helping other astronauts and cosmonauts from Japan, Russia, Canada and half a dozen European nations to get ready for a Soyuz mission.

Williams conducts training in Houston; Star City, Russia; and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. “There’s a lot of little details that folks appreciate knowing about in advance,” Williams said. Williams said the last leg of training is in Baikonur, the once-secret launching site of Sputnik satellites. They start with a fit check in the Soyuz capsule. Much of his expertise is technical, but some of his advice is down-to-earth. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” Williams said. “Stay humble. Enjoy the experience. Be safe, be deliberate. Keep your alert level high. Keep your guard up. Be a team player. Build the team.” (1/9)

NASA, Boeing Test Space Launch System Software (Source: WAFF)
NASA and its aerospace partners are planning beyond the end of the International Space System's service life in 2024. They are developing a rocket at the Marshall Space Flight Center called the Space Launch System (SLS) that should take them to an asteroid, the moon, and Mars. Specifically, NASA and Boeing unveiled the central nervous system of the new rocket - the avionics hardware - and the software that controls it.

The cutting-edge, state-of-the-art navigation system will guide the SLS from pre-launch well into space. Its brains are borrowed from the latest and most advanced spacecraft flying. That helped engineers get well ahead of schedule and not have to re-invent the "ring." The software that engineers are using integrates all the functions in the rocket, so in simulations, they are literally throwing all sorts of scenarios at the rocket to test its capability and response ahead of a critical design review in a few months' time. (1/9)

Energia Taps Sea Launch for Dual-satellite Mission (Source: Space News)
Sea Launch AG, in a rare dual-satellite mission, will launch the AngolaSat telecommunications satellite and the Energia 100 broadband satellite aboard a Sea Launch rocket in the first half of 2016, Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said Jan. 9. The contract was signed in 2013 but the mission was listed with an unnamed customer on Sea Launch’s manifest.

Energia is majority owner of Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch. The Kaliningrad, Russia-based company is also a major space hardware builder and in recent years has been trying to crack the commercial satellite business. Both satellites are being manufactured by Energia, which is responsible for securing the launch services as well. (1/9)

Falcon 9 v1.1 Appears on Fast Track To Qualify for Air Force Missions (Source: Space News)
With its successful launch of the Thaicom-6 commercial telecommunications satellite Jan. 6, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) appears to have met the U.S. Air Force’s requirements to bid for national security launches and challenge the market incumbent, United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver.

While SpaceX has not received formal certification to launch operational national security satellites aboard its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said he has not seen anything from the vehicle’s three flights to date to prevent that from happening. (1/9)

Chamber Banks On Spaceport In 2014 (Source: KRWG)
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions recently released a report on the state of the workforce.“New Mexico lags in economic trends…some thought that we may be rebounding…same way in economic decline.” Bill Allen, CEO of the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce echoes this statement. “I think in our area, we were late to get into the recession and as a result I think we were coming out of the recession. I’m hoping that 2014 is a better year…I actually think it will be.”

For 2014, Allen is relying on one project in particular to boost southern New Mexico’s economy… Spaceport America. "From the chamber’s perspective…small business council…allocate resources to the Spaceport opportunity in and of itself.” Other than what local businesses could make from a project that shoots for the moon, Allen is betting on what stars…that is…celebrities…can bring to the area. (1/9)

Congress Renames NASA Flight Center After Armstrong (Source: Collect Space)
Lawmakers have renamed NASA's primary flight research center to honor the first man to walk on the moon. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday (Jan. 8) passed a bill that redesignates the space agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California the "NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center." (1/9)

'Hand Of God' Spotted By NASA's NuSTAR Space Telescope (Source: Space.com)
Religion and astronomy may not overlap often, but a new NASA X-ray image captures a celestial object that resembles the "Hand of God." The cosmic "hand of God" photo was produced when a star exploded and ejected an enormous cloud of material, which NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, glimpsed in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the photo. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory had imaged the green and red parts previously, using lower-energy X-rays. Click here. (1/9)

Fort Campbell Soldier (and Embry-Riddle Student) Makes Mars First Cut (Source: Leaf Chronicle)
A Fort Campbell officer received what she considers the most important email of her life on Monday morning, when she was informed she had made the first cut of applicants for the Mars One project. Heidi Beemer, a first lieutenant with Fort Campbell’s 63rd Chemical Company, was among only one-half of one percent of people chosen from an international applicant pool of more than 200,000 seeking to become the first humans to establish a permanent space colony on another planet.

Altogether, 1,058 applicants remain from over 120 countries, with the biggest pool being in the U.S. Beemer, 25, has been waiting for the opportunity to become a “Martian” since she was 8 years old and saw a newspaper article about a Mars Rover mission. How did it feel to get the email that might make her lifelong dream come true? “Oh man,” she said with uncharacteristic emotion, “it was so great. (12/31)

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