January 21, 2014

California Drone Backers Dismayed by Lost FAA Bid (Source: Long Beach Business Journal)
California lawmakers didn't give the state's Federal Aviation Administration drone test site bid the full press it needed, according to this analysis, and the state needs the jobs the drone industry could provide. "When new industries start to emerge, it's critical we grow the manufacturing sector as a whole in California going forward," said Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. "We've got to make sure we get people to invest here and scale up here." (1/20)

Congress Sees the Departure of Defense Hawks (Source: The Hill)
A growing number of defense backers are departing Congress, leaving uncertainty about the level of support the Pentagon and defense industry may face in the future. "We're seeing a fundamental turnover, except there is no one on the other side," said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. "Individually, the members who have moved up and are about to take positions of leadership — for example, possibly Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-TX — are in the tradition of that older generation. But collectively, the hemorrhaging of this group is significant." (1/19)

Israel Said to Eye Sending Second Astronaut Spaceward (Source: Times of Israel)
Officials from the Israel Space Agency and the Science, Technology and Space Ministry are in negotiations with a number of countries with space programs over the possibility of sending an Israeli astronaut on a mission to the International Space Station. Despite progress in the talks, several obstacles remain, which indicate that it will be years before an Israeli can be sent into space.

For one, the US, Russia, Europe and China have a lock on all the seats available on the scheduled flights to the ISS for the next two years. It would also take many years of advanced training to prepare an Israeli astronaut for a mission, and such training would come at significant expense, the report noted. (1/21)

It's Time We Commit to Send Humans to Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
There is growing support for human missions to Mars within the next two decades. This has been fueled by the remarkable success of NASA missions such as the Curiosity rover as well as a growing desire that our nation show that we are still capable of bold and historic endeavors. Not all are convinced of this goal, however.

In a recent meeting, I was asked, "Why such a hurry to get to Mars? Mars isn't going away." I thought about this comment after the meeting. I realized that humans will never travel to Mars -- or achieve any ambitious goals -- if the world's space agencies were to embrace such an attitude. A sense of urgency is required, perhaps more now than we have ever required since the Apollo program in the 1960s. Without a firm goal, humans will never land on Mars. (1/21)

SwRI Appoints New Space Science Leader (Source: San Antonio Business Journal)
The Southwest Research Institute has named Dr. Stephen A. Fuselier the director of the Space Science Department in the institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division. He was previously a program director. As the department director, he will lead a staff of 122 people who are working on a wide range of projects in astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary science and Earth Science. He first joined SwRI in 2011 after working in the Space Physics Department at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center. (1/21)

Spaceflight Liability Changes Advance in California Legislature (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The California State Senate is moving forward with changes to a law that limits the liability of spacecraft operators and their suppliers for any injuries or deaths they cause to participants. The measure, sponsored by State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), would require spacecraft operators to enter into a “reciprocal waiver of claims with its contractors, subcontractors, customers, participants, and contractors and subcontractors of the customers or participants” to hold each other blameless in the event of an incident. (1/21)

NASA Finds 2013 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend (Source: NASA)
NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which analyzes global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated report Tuesday on temperatures around the globe in 2013. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience temperatures warmer than those measured several decades ago. (1/21)

NASA, Roscosmos to Sign New Transportation Services Contract by Summer (Source: Interfax)
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and NASA will sign a contract extending the period of transportation of foreign astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by Russia's Soyuz spaceships by summer, Energia Corporation President and General Designer Vitaly Lopota said.

"NASA plans to extend its order for transportation of astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA spaceships. Negotiations may be held in the beginning of 2014 in order to sign adjusted contracts in the first half of the year and to start the construction of the spaceships and the selection and training of joint crews," he said. (1/20)

Space Florida and Israel's Chief Scientist Seek R&D Projects (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and MATIMOP (Israel’s industrial center for research and development), on behalf of the Israeli Chief Scientist Office, issued a joint Request For Proposals for research and development projects sponsored by companies in both states. In October 2013, the States of  Florida and Israel formed a $2 million joint industrial research funding program to support research, development and commercialization of aerospace and technology projects that benefit both States. (1/20)

Jacksonville Company Explores Unmanned Aircraft Market (Source: Florida times-Union)
Most of the unmanned aircraft under consideration for commercial use now weigh less than 55 pounds, similar to recreational model unmanned aircraft. But the potential for development could broaden to aircraft that could be nearly as large as manned airplanes. The applications can range from crop dusting and monitoring of agricultural land, to observation of devastated areas after a disaster, to helping police get a fix of the area in hostage situations, among other uses.

ASEC officials hope to become a testing and research company, one that the aircraft manufacturers and developers will employ to refine the systems. In the meantime, ASEC is providing in-kind services for Space Florida, which is developing space and aeronautical commercial interests in the state. Government-funded Space Florida is based at Cape Canaveral.

Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis said many in the business community are following the unmanned-aircraft developments closely. He acknowledged that many are unaware of the potential commercial impact, but the unknowns make the drone development attractive. (1/19)

The Year Ahead for NASA’s Commercial Crew Partners (Source: Parabolic Arc)
With just over seven months to go, NASA’s commercial crew partners are racing to complete 14 remaining milestones in this phase of the competition to launch Americans into orbit on U.S.-built spacecraft. The coming months will see SpaceX conduct to abort tests of its Dragon spacecraft and Sierra Nevada  conduct at least one additional drop test of its Dream Chaser shuttle. Boeing will conduct three critical design reviews and a comprehensive safety review of its CST-100 spacecraft. (1/20)

Virgin Galactic Space Tourists Could be Grounded by FAA (Source: CBC)
Nearly 700 people have already paid $250,000 for a ticket to ride Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceship, and the company is hoping this is the year that those space flights finally take off. One potential glitch: the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has not granted Virgin Galactic a commercial operator's licence. What’s more, the FAA has not laid out safety rules like those for airlines and their planes, and there are no plans to do so until at least October 2015.

"We have to have an operator's licence to take people into space, and it's obviously something that we need to deal with," says Stephen Attenborough, the company's commercial director. Known as a Reusable Launch Vehicle Mission Licence, this little document is the final piece of the commercial space travel puzzle that Virgin Galactic began assembling in 2004. Without it, only test-flight personnel like former astronauts and military pilots can fly aboard SpaceShipTwo, the most recent evolution of the company's supersonic craft. (1/20)

The Final Frontier’s Financial Limits (Source: New York Times)
A decade after swinging into orbit around Saturn, NASA’s venerable Cassini spacecraft is still working, well beyond the four years of science the space agency had hoped to get. But the spacecraft is running low on maneuvering fuel, and its managers want to end with a scientific bang — an ambitious agenda that includes 22 orbits through a gap between the planet and its innermost ring before sending the craft on a death plunge into Saturn in 2017.

For several months, however, scientists have worried that NASA, financially squeezed like the rest of the federal government, could terminate the mission sooner. This spring, agency officials, as they do every two years, will conduct a review of the spacecraft that have outlived their original missions. For the 2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, NASA faces particularly tough choices. Click here. (1/20)

NASA Plans Renewal of Wallops Commercial Spaceport Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA/GSFC intends to award a 5-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) task order contract to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) for launch site services supporting missions conducted from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). VCSFA, under the commercial name of Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), operates a commercial spaceport at the only NASA-owned launch range located at WFF through the 30-year Reimbursable Space Act Agreement, which was signed on February 18, 1997.

VCSFA currently owns two orbital launch pads on the NASA WFF Launch Range that are currently suitable for launching orbital payloads and supporting equipment and has the only FAA license to operate a launch site at WFF to conduct government and commercial launches. VCSFA maintains significant specialized technical knowledge related to national launch system designs and processes; and since the two launch pads are owned and operated by VCSFA, NASA will not have the ability to use either of those two launch pads for NASA-sponsored launches beyond May 3, 2014, the expiration of current contract. (1/20)

Light From Ancient Quasar Reveals Intergalactic Web (Source: Nature)
Astronomers have discovered the largest known gas cloud in the Universe. The mammoth nebula may be the first imaged filament of a spidery arrangement of galaxies, gas and dark matter that traces the large-scale structure of the cosmos. The team used a brilliant quasar, seen as it appeared when the Universe was less than 3 billion years old, to illuminate the faint gas in the beacon’s neighbourhood.

The flood of light from the quasar (one of a class of intensely bright galaxy cores, thought to be black holes going through a spurt of growth) prompts hydrogen atoms in the gas to emit a characteristic wavelength of ultraviolet radiation. As the Universe expands, the radiation subsequently stretches into longer wavelengths, becoming visible light. (1/19)

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