January 14, 2014

Eastern Range Supported Four Submarine Launches in 2013 (Source: SPACErePORT)
45th Space Wing Commander Nina Armagno during a luncheon on Tuesday said the Eastern Range supported 14 launches in 2013. This is four more than I had counted for the year. The additional launches were submarine-based missile tests, of which she said three were conducted on a single day and the fourth was on the following day.

She also reiterated the Space Wing's commitment to continuous improvement of Eastern Range competitiveness and efficiency, saying if there's something wrong, we'll fix it... if a rule is out of date, we'll revise it. (1/14)

Air Force Expects More Cape Canaveral Launches in 2014 (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast could see as many as 21 launches this year, the Air Force's 45th Space Wing reported today. That would be a 50 percent increase over last year, which saw 14 launches of spacecraft on Atlas V, Delta IV and Falcon 9 rockets, plus submarine-launched Trident missile tests.

The 45th Space Wing is also launching what it calls a "year of innovation," striving to improve efficiencies and performance with a tighter budget, said its commander, Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, during a presentation to the National Space Club Florida Committee in Cape Canaveral. (1/14)

It's Becoming Too Expensive for the Military to Go Into Space (Source: Defense One)
Launching military assets into space – a “core element of national security” – is becoming too expensive and bureaucratic and could render the Pentagon’s space program “ineffective,” warns the director of DARPA. "I think we're in the middle of a self-inflicted surprise in some senses in space today, it’s a very different kind of surprise but it’s one that is rendering us ineffective and putting us in a place where we simply cannot afford to be," DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said.

Per-launch costs have soared into the tens of millions of dollars, and take years to plan and execute. The biggest barriers to cost-effective military spaceflight: a shortage of launch locations, and an inability to use existing infrastructure and takeoff points. "There's also something going on inside the national security community in space that's actually quite troubling,” Prabhakar said. “That has to do with how slow and costly it is for us today to do anything we need to do on orbit for national security purposes. (1/14)

Budget Bill Hits Military Satellite Programs (Source: Space News)
Five U.S. military satellite programs stand to lose a combined $376 million compared to last year under the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill now before Congress. The bill also recommends spending $327 million on space situational awareness, an $80 million increase from last year but some $91 million less than the White House requested for 2014.

The Space Based Infrared System,stands to receive $873 million — $45 million less than the program’s 2013 budget and $90 million less than the request. GPS 3 would get $652 million — roughly $130 million less than last year and $47 million below the request. Work on the GPS 3 ground system, meanwhile, would get $327.8 million, which is about $7 million more than last year but about $55 million less than the White House says the project needs.

The military’s rapid-response space office, known as the Operationally Responsive Space Office, would get $10 million. The Air Force is seeking to dismantle the office and transfer its activities to Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles. The office is funded by the Air Force but directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. (1/14)

Budget Supports EELV Program (Source: Space News)
Several military space programs — chief among them the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program — were spared cuts but will have to make due with much smaller increases than the White House requested for 2014. The bill also divides the EELV budget into an $809 million budget line covering the hardware and services associated with individual launches and a $678 million line for infrastructure and various other activities.

Senate appropriators called for the change last year, saying the move better reflects the Air Force’s EELV contracting arrangement with United Launch Alliance of Denver, and is designed to increase visibility into the program’s finances. The EELV program’s rising costs have drawn heavy congressional scrutiny in recent years, and the Pentagon has acknowledged that the program’s complicated contracting arrangements — one contract for launch services, one for infrastructure and other activities — has made it difficult to identify potential cost savings. (1/14)

NASA Budget: Flat is the New Up (Source: Parabolic Arc)
More than three months into the fiscal year, Congressional appropriators have finally released the FY 2014 omnibus budget. If approved, NASA would do very well given the constrained fiscal environment, with essentially a flat budget of $17.65 billion that is only marginally lower than the $17.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama.

Orion and the Space Launch System are fully funded at more than $3 billion, the commercial crew program gets nearly $700 million but far less than requested, and a provision prohibiting space cooperation with China would remain in place. Click here. (1/14)

Florida Defense Day Planned on Feb. 11 in Tallahassee (Source: FDCA)
Florida defense businesses bring important issues directly to state lawmakers and leaders during the state's legislative season each year on Defense Day. Defense Day brings together companies of all sizes, from all over the state to educate the legislature and general public on the economic impact of the defense industry within the state, and the high-wage, high-tech jobs the industry provides.

Defense Day allows participants to advocate economic development proposals that will make Florida the best place for defense companies to conduct and grow business, and network with other Florida defense businesses and defense professionals. The Florida Defense Contractors Association invites you to attend Florida Defense Day on February 11, 2014, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (1/14)

Reaction Engines Signs Cooperative Agreement with USAF Lab (Source: Space Daily)
The CRADA provides a framework to assess the performance, applications and development paths for REL's SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, a new class of aerospace engine designed for low cost, responsive space access and high speed atmospheric flight. This CRADA is the first U.S. government formal relationship with Reaction Engines Ltd. and will be used to inform U.S. government stakeholders about the SABRE engine's potential for hypersonic vehicle applications.

Alan Bond, Managing Director commented - "The signing of this agreement with AFRL builds on an extraordinary period for Reaction Engines Ltd which has seen the successful demonstration of SABRE's ultra-lightweight high performance heat exchanger technology and a UK Government commitment of $100m towards the next phase of development of the SABRE engine."

AFRL/RQ project manager Barry Hellman stated that "This CRADA opens the door for joint development and testing to help AFRL understand the SABRE engine's technical details, and whether it may offer unique performance and vehicle integration advantages when compared to traditional hypersonic vehicle concepts. We look forward to exploring the engine and its lightweight heat exchangers which have the potential to enable hypersonic air-breathing rocket propulsion." (1/14)

Bolden Tours Facility Where New Deep Space Rocket is Being Built (Source: Space Daily)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Monday visited the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to see the progress being made on the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built that will take American astronauts into deep space, first to an asteroid beyond the Moon and eventually on to Mars.

Bolden, who was joined by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, toured construction of Michoud's advanced welding facility, the Vertical Assembly Center. There, 27.5-foot diameter cylinders, domes, rings and other elements will be brought together to form the fuel tanks and core stage of SLS, which is targeted for its first flight test in 2017. When completed in March, the Vertical Assembly Center will be home to one of the largest welding tools of its kind. (1/14)

Space Agencies Plan Future Joint Manned Mars Mission (Source: Mashable)
The world’s leading space agencies kicked off this year with a bold new plan to put humans on Mars in the coming decades. At a Jan. 9 meeting of the International Space Exploration Forum in Washington, D.C., countries including the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, as well as the European Union, agreed that putting humans on the red planet should be a longterm joint priority.

Although the group did not decide on a specific date for a manned mission to Mars, the meeting of space-faring nations affirmed the expedition as a serious goal. "Nations participating in the ISEF recognized that human and robotic space exploration generates benefits for people on Earth, and will be most successful by building on accomplishments and expanding partnerships with the long-term goal of human exploration of Mars," the ISEF said in a statement. (1/14)

Japan to Test 'Magnetic Net' to Catch Space Junk (Source: South China Morning Post)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) is teaming up with a company that manufactures fishing equipment to create a net that will sweep the heavens of the man-made debris orbiting our planet. The first test of the equipment is scheduled to start in late February, when a rocket will be launched and a satellite developed by researchers at Kagawa University will be deployed.

Once in orbit, the satellite is designed to unreel a wire net some 300 metres long that will then generate a magnetic field and - theoretically - attract some of the debris that is circulating beyond our atmosphere. And there is a growing need for outer space to undergo a good clean-up, with experts estimating that 100 million bits of man-made junk zipping around the earth. (1/14)

'Max Goes to the Space Station' and More Otherworldy Adventures on the ISS (Source: America Space)
“5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … Liftoff! We have liftoff of Max the Dog, the first dog to visit the International Space Station!” Although these words weren’t part of Orbital Sciences’ live coverage of its recently launched resupply mission to the Space Station, they will nevertheless be voiced from astronauts onboard the orbiting complex. The "Story Time From Space" project is the brainchild of science and math educator Patricia Tribe and NASA astronaut Alvin Drew.

Together they conceived the idea of having astronauts in space videotape themselves, while reading science education books for children and conducting simple demonstrations for better comprehension of the science being presented in the stories. The videos would then be downlinked to Earth and stored on online libraries for access by elementary school teachers and parents.

To help implement this idea the team contacted astrophysicist and author Jeffrey Bennett in October 2010. They were impressed by the author’s work on his award-winning large-format picture Science Adventures with Max the Dog book series, named after the astrophysicist’s real-life dog, Max. “My goal would be for the book to connect with kids on three levels: education, perspective and inspiration.” (1/14)

The NASA Studies on Napping (Source: Priceonomics)
It's popular these days to make the claim that napping is good for you. This author has even built an entire startup on the premise that we should nap more and better. But what data is this conclusion based on? One important study by NASA for the most part.

In the 1980s and 1990s, NASA and the FAA were studying whether or not in-cockpit napping could improve the job performance and safety of pilots flying long haul routes. The results are somewhat technical, but almost all contemporary news articles citing a measurable increase in on-job performance due to napping are actually based on this data.

In the study, NASA teams first picked out a group of commercial airline flight pilots flying a standard itinerary between Hawaii, Japan and Los Angeles. They then divided the pilots into two groups: A Rest Group (RG) that was allowed a 40 min cockpit nap during the cruise portion of each flight and a No Rest Group (NRG) that was not allowed a mid-flight nap. Click here. (1/14)

Commercial Crew Would Get Boost in Omnibus Spending Bill (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program would get up to $696 million — its highest annual budget yet — under an omnibus spending bill drafted by Congress for the remainder of 2014. But the allocation is still considerably less than the $821 million sought by President Obama and also comes with a string attached: $171 million of the funds would be held in reserve until NASA completes an independent cost-benefit analysis of the program. That would temporarily keep the program funded at about $525 million, the same level it got in 2013. (1/14)

New Rocket Expands Russian Space Launch Capabilities (Source: RIA Novosti)
The maiden mission of a new Russian lightweight rocket was a “huge success,” the director of the factory that built the launcher said. “This is the first modern Russian rocket in the lightweight class with liquid rocket engines,” Alexander Kirilin said in an address to workers at the Progress Factory in the Volga City Samara.

The Soyuz-2.1v rocket lifted off from Russia’s northern Plesetsk space center on December 28. It can carry up to 2,800 kg of payload into orbit and is powered by rocket engines left over from the Soviet Union’s lunar program.
The Soyuz-2.1v was specifically built for Russian launches, Kirilin told RIA Novosti. (1/14)

Florida Gets New Lieutenant Governor (Source: Sunshine State News)
After 10 months of going it alone at the Capitol, Gov. Rick Scott has found a lieutenant governor: veteran of the Legislature and current Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera. The position had been vacant since March when Jennifer Carroll resigned after her name was linked with a federal probe of Internet gambling.

Expecting a tough battle in November, Lopez-Cantera makes sense politically for Scott in terms of a running mate in November and as the point man for his legislative agenda. While he is a political veteran, Lopez-Cantera is still fairly young for one of the leading politicians in the state. He just turned 40, has close ties to the current crop of legislative leaders from his time as House majority leader from 2010-2012.

Lopez-Cantera could also help Scott reinforce his image as a job creator. As the Panama Canal expansion project nears completion, the Port of Miami is set to be the hub for major economic growth. Lopez-Cantera has been a strong supporter of readying the port for the canal expansion and would be ready to argue that job creation. Editor's Note: Lopez-Cantera will also assume a statutorily established leadership role on Space Florida's board of directors. (1/13)

First CASIS-Sponsored Payloads Berthed to the Space Station (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), is proud to announce its first sponsored payloads berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) on Jan. 12. Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus capsule successfully berthed with the ISS on first full ISS resupply mission.

CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Research on board Orbital’s Cygnus capsule included a range of experiments from physical science, life sciences and education related payloads. Click here for details. (1/13)

Hubble Telescope Sees Star That May Explode Soon (Source: Space.com)
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a striking new photo of a doomed star poised to explode in a devastating supernova event. The Hubble photo of the star, known as SBW2007 1 (or SBW1 for short) reveals the star surrounded by its own expelled gas to create what appears to be a "lidless purple eye, staring back at us through space," NASA officials wrote. SBW1 is located more than 20,000 light-years away from Earth. (1/13)

Few Asteroids are Worth Mining, Suggests Harvard Study (Source: BBC)
A new study might contain some bad news for companies hoping to mine asteroids for their valuable ores. In the last couple of years, start-ups - including one backed by Sir Richard Branson - have announced plans to extract resources from space rocks. But calculations by Dr. Martin Elvis suggest our cosmic neighborhood might not be such a treasure trove after all.

The Harvard astrophysicist argues just 10 near-Earth asteroids might be suitable for commercial-scale mining. But Eric Anderson, co-founder of asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, told BBC News that the values quoted in the study were off - conservatively - by a factor of 100. Advocates of asteroid mining say it could turn into a trillion-dollar business, but some experts have been sceptical of the idea.

In the latest study, Dr. Elvis worked out the factors that would make an asteroid commercially viable to mine and what fraction of known space rocks met these requirements. He emphasised there were large uncertainties in the values and called for more thorough surveys of what's out there. He assumed that mining operations would want to focus on iron-nickel asteroids (known as M-type), considered the most promising targets for finding so-called platinum-group metals. Click here. (1/13)

High-Throughput Satellite Market Still Expanding (Source: Aviation Week)
Growth in high-throughput communications satellite capacity continues with the Dec. 9 launch of the first of Inmarsat's four Global Xpress Ka-band spacecraft. By the end of 2014, when three of the new Inmarsat-5s are planned to be in orbit, Inmarsat will be the first operator to provide global Ka-band services to fixed and mobile terminals with speeds up to 50 Mbps.

The Global Xpress constellation of Boeing 702HP satellites, which includes a fourth spacecraft on order to provide redundancy and additional capacity, represents a $1.6 billion investment by Inmarsat in the mobile broadband market. Satellites are a popular solution for mobile communications, such as to aircraft in flight and ships at sea. Carriers such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue plan to add Wi-Fi across their entire fleets of aircraft. (12/30)

Virgin Galactic Promises to Reach Space in 2014 (Source: Flight Global)
Virgin Galactic has promised to make it to space in 2014, following a successful third supersonic flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocketplane. The 10 January test flight, from Virgin's Mojave development center, saw SpaceShipTwo drop-launched from 46,000ft (14,000m) before a 20s rocket motor burn pushed it to Mach 1.4 and 71,000ft – its highest altitude to date.

Although avoiding recent promises to begin commercial operations, Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson says: “2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space." SpaceShipTwo will achieve maximum altitude by expending its rocket fuel, reaching space as it glides over the top of a ballistic path before dropping back into the atmosphere, giving occupants approximately 6min of microgravity and spectacular views of Earth. (1/13)

KSC/FIT/MIT Experiment Among NASA Cargo on Space Station (Source: NASA)
An experiment designed by NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Florida  Institute of Technology, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is among the cargo that arrived at the International Space Station Sunday on the Orbital-1 cargo resupply mission. The experiment, entitled "SPHERES-Slosh," is part of the SPHERES-Slosh payload. This experiment seeks to examine how liquids move around inside containers in microgravity.

This investigation will allow middle-school and high-school students to control the Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) as part of a  planned outreach program to continue to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. (1/13)

Melbourne School Experiment among NASA Cargo on Space Station (Source: NASA)
An experiment designed by West Shore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne, Fla., is among the cargo that arrived at the International Space Station Sunday on the Orbital-1 cargo resupply mission. Designed by students in grades 10-12, the experiment, entitled "A Study of How Microgravity Affects the Activity of Enzymes in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis using the Model of Papain and Gelatin," is part of the NanoRacks-National Center for Earth and Space Science Education-Falcon II payload. (1/13)

Morpheus Preparing to Fly Again at KSC (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Morpheus lander wil be at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a series of flight tests scheduled to occur through April 2014. Morpheus is a prototype lander engineers can use to incorporate technologies for future spacecraft that could land on a variety of destinations in our solar system. The project integrates NASA’s automated landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT, with an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, or “green” propellants, into a fully operational lander that could deliver cargo to asteroids and other planetary surfaces. (1/13)

The Axis of Orbit: Iran and North Korea Space Cooperation (Source: 38 North)
In 2012, I attended a Track II meeting with some North Koreans where they mentioned a series of space launches. A series, I asked? They didn’t want to say more, but left me with the distinct impression that we’ll be seeing a lot more launches from the DPRK. After that meeting, North Korea tried twice—a failed launch in April and then succeeding in December 2012.

Iran, too, has been launching satellites—and monkeys—into space. While I am sure most North Koreans and Iranians dream of the stars, it is understandable for those of us in the United States to wonder whether they have more earthly aims. One need not be a cynic to look askance at North Korean and Iranian aspirations regarding the peaceful use of outer space.

Given the state of relations between North Korea and Iran, the mind tends to wander onto the subject of missile cooperation between the two. Part of the fascination is simply the joy of a super villain team-up. The better part, though, is a question about whether a negotiated agreement with either can work in isolation. Can we reach an agreement with Iran to deal with its worrisome nuclear and ballistic missile programs if there are no constraints on North Korea? How about the other way around? Click here. (1/13)

When the Nearest Help is 34 Million Miles Away (Source: Air & Space)
The dreaded “red-eyed pumpkin head” (the result of bodily fluid shifts), deep space radiation, and a (literally) shrinking heart are just some of the risks humans will face when journeying 34 million miles to Mars. These hazards, and more, are outlined in the Smithsonian Channel’s newest episode of Space Voyages: Surviving the Void, which premieres on Jan. 13. Click here. (1/13)

Russia to Launch Seven Space Vehicles in Two Months (Source: Xinhua)
Russia plans to launch seven space vehicles by March, the federal space agency Roscosmos said. "Preparations for the 2014 program have started today," Roscosmos said on its website. The fueling of a Briz-M booster and a Progress M-22M cargo ship has started at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, said the space agency.

In February, a Soyuz-U rocket carrier mounted with the Progress, as well as a Proton-M rocket carrier with Turkish communications satellite TurkSat-4A and another Proton-M with two Russian Express satellites, will be launched from Baikonur.

In March, a Soyuz-FG rocket will put on orbit a Soyuz TMA-12M manned spaceship. On unspecified dates within the two months, Russia also prepares to launch two space rockets, Soyuz-2.16 and Rokot, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northwestern region of Arkhangelsk and another Soyuz-ST-A rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana, South America. All of the rockets will be mounted with commercial payloads. (1/13)

Galaxies’ Missing Mass May Hide in Gas Clouds (Source: Science News)
Vast reservoirs of previously undetected gas account for much of galaxies’ mass, according to research presented January 7 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The finding could explain why earlier studies found far less mass in galaxies than cosmologists’ theories had predicted. (1/13)

Ladies And Gentlemen, Boot Your Robots! (Source: NASA JPL)
Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., was the place to be late last month for an unusual two-day competition: the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. The 16 robots participating in the challenge moved more like the tortoise than the hare, as they performed such tasks as opening doors or climbing a ladder; tasks aimed to speed the development of robots that could one day perform a number of critical, real-world, emergency-response tasks at natural and human-made disaster sites. Click here. (1/13)

SAIC Spinoff Jeopardizes Its $1.8 Billion Contract With NASA (Source: Bloomberg)
A U.S. government mediator upheld a challenge to a health-services contract awarded by NASA to SAIC Inc., saying the company’s corporate spinoff invalidated the award valued at as much as $1.76 billion. The Government Accountability Office, which arbitrates such disputes, concurred with the protest by the losing bidder, Wyle Laboratories Inc., which said SAIC’s proposal was inaccurate because it didn’t reflect the company’s plan to split into two entities.

The GAO, in its decision, said NASA should either award the contract to Wyle or seek new bids for the work. “This decision could have ramifications for other companies that are restructuring in the face of declining defense spending,” said Brian Friel, who cited plans by Exelis Inc. to spin off a services unit this year. “Competitors could use this ruling to challenge other awards to SAIC and Leidos.” he said. (1/13)

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