January 8, 2014

Space Weather Forces Orbital to Postpone Cargo Launch (Source: Space Daily)
Turbulent space weather forced Orbital Sciences on Wednesday to postpone the launch of its unmanned Cygnus spacecraft on its first regular contract flight to supply the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft had been set to take off at midday atop an Antares rocket carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kilograms) of gear including science experiments, supplies and hardware. (1/8)

Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Members (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the addition of seven new member organizations. The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority joins as the 18th Executive Member. New Associate Members include Ares Corporation, Colorado Space Coalition, Penn State Applied Research Laboratory, QinetiQ North America, Satwest, and Space Coast Spaceflight Alliance. (1/8)

Alliance Promotes Space Coast Space Efforts (Source: CSF)
The Space Coast Spaceflight Alliance is a non-profit alliance comprised of the Space Coast Regional Airport (a Florida Spaceport Territory), the City of Titusville, and the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. Its mission is the advancement of spaceflight in the Greater Titusville area on Florida’s Space Coast.

Its primary activities are to: Advance commercial spaceflight on Florida’s Space Coast; educate, inform and engage the community with respect to the commercial spaceflight industry’s needs, trends and opportunities; support the FAA spaceport application for Space Coast Regional Airport; promote opportunities to attract and retain commercial spaceflight providers to the area; promote the Space Coast Regional Airport and many others. (1/8)

Congress Returns With Full Plate of Space Policy Issues for 2014 (Source: Space Policy Online)
Many pundits label last year as the "do nothing Congress." At the very end, the House and Senate did at least reach agreement on a two-year budget resolution and the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but a lot did not get done. Here is a quick synopsis of the civil, commercial and national security space issues facing Congress in the second session of the 113th Congress as it returns to work this week. Click here. (1/5)

Shelton Offers Glimpse of Future Vision for Space (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed officer for space said Jan. 7 he could envision the Defense Department relying entirely on the private sector for wideband satellite communications services, something commercial satellite operators have long said would lead to substantial cost savings.

In a wide-ranging speech to students at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University here, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, also said the fate of the delayed Space Fence space surveillance system is up to Congress and that the service’s evolving view on disaggregating military space assets could manifest itself in a new weather satellite program. Click here. (1/7)

Hubble Snaps Super-Deep View of Universe (Source: Space.com)
A new set of breathtaking photos reveals a never-before-seen deep view of the universe. Released as the first "Frontier Fields" view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the new images mark the deepest-ever observations of a cluster of galaxies. The photos center on Abell 2744, a group of several hundred galaxies found 3.5 billion light-years away from Earth. Click here. (1/7)

Reinstated Space Mission Quickly Discovers New Asteroid (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
A NASA instrument discovered an asteroid that could prove hazardous thousands of years down the road mere months after coming out of hibernation.The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spotted asteroid 2013 YP139. The object is about 27 million miles from Earth and estimated to be 0.4 miles in diameter and dark as coal. It is circling the sun in an elliptical orbit tilted to the plane of the solar system and classified as “potentially hazardous.” It could orbit as close as 300,000 miles from Earth, almost as close as the moon, according to news release. (1/7)

NASA Marchall Dealing with Frozen Pipes (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's used to dealing with the extreme cold of outer space, but the space agency grapples with cold weather on Earth just like everyone else. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville spent part of Tuesday thawing frozen water sprinkler lines and dealing with pipe damage from the extreme cold over Monday night. (1/8)

No Drone Test Site, but Florida Firms Upbeat (Source: Gainesville Sun)
Even without a Federal Aviation Administration blessing for a drone test site, Florida still has the potential to reap rich economic rewards from its drone industry, say the state's drone manufacturers. "Luckily, in Florida we have such a good organization, such a good coalition of companies that we're already getting attention anyway," said Bryan da Frota, CEO of Gainesville-based Prioria Robotics. "We've already been contacted by all of the test sites to be able to support them.

The company has agreements with landowners and the FAA to conduct its own tests at three sites in Alachua, one in Ocala and at Camp Blanding. Prioria was part of a coalition of manufacturers that supported Space Florida's bid. Da Frota agrees that a test site would have driven more attention to Florida. The Unmanned Forum hosted by the Jax Chamber and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International drew more than 200 people to Jacksonville in December and the association will host its international convention in Orlando in May.

State universities are conducting research into UAS applications such as farming uses. Da Frota said the coalition will continue to try to establish a flight range site at the Kennedy Space Center and he is working to establish one in North Central Florida as well. (1/7)

Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before (Source: Wall Street Journal)
If all goes according to plan, Hollywood icon Leonardo DiCaprio will blast into space aboard the maiden voyage of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceship sometime this year, opening up a new era of civilian space travel. This development might only be remarkable as the fulfillment of a dream long predicted by futurists and technophiles, were it not for the fact that Messrs. Branson and DiCaprio are prominent environmentalist celebrities who have warned of a coming ecological catastrophe if we fail to address our carbon problem. Click here. (1/7)

U.S. Department of State Hosts the International Space Exploration Forum (Source: USDOS)
The U.S. Department of State will host the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF), the first-ever ministerial-level meeting to build political support for global cooperation in space exploration, in Washington D.C. on Jan. 9, 2014. ISEF will bring together Ministers and high-level officials from approximately thirty-five space-faring countries to talk about the opportunities and challenges they share.

It will feature high-level, policy discussions about the future of space exploration, developments in robotic space exploration, extending humanity’s reach beyond low-Earth orbit, and the importance of international cooperation. (1/8)

Congress Makes NASA Finish Useless $350 Million Structure (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA will complete a $350 million structure to test rocket engines at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi early this year. Then, it plans to mothball the 300-foot-high, steel-frame tower for the foreseeable future. The reason: Congress ordered NASA to finish building the facility even though the agency doesn’t need it.

The tower was designed to test a GenCorp engine for a rocket program canceled in 2010. Its funding survived thanks to Mississippi Republican senators led by Roger Wicker, who crafted a provision requiring the agency to complete the work. The test stand is an example of how U.S. lawmakers thwart efforts to cut costs and eliminate government waste, even as they criticize agencies for failing to do so. (1/8)

NASA to Launch Peruvian Satellite (Source: Peru This Week)
Representatives of Universidad Alas Peruanas (UAP) have announced that NASA will launch a satellite designed by faculty and students from the university. This launch will be the first time that NASA has sent a Peruvian satellite into space, but it won’t be the first Peruvian satellite to leave the planet. In November, students and faculty from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru celebrated the launch of their two satellites, the PUCP-Sat 1 and the Pocket-PUCP, the first two satellites constructed completely in Peru to be sent into space. The satellites were launched from the Yasny Cosmodrome in Russia.

Not to be left behind by their counterparts at PUCP, the scholars at UAP designed their own satellite. According to Andina news agency, the satellite, known as UAP SAT-1 will be taken into space by NASA’s Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Antares will take the satellite to the International Space Station (ISS). From the ISS, the satellite will be placed in orbit with the help of a robotic arm. (1/8)

In Which JFK Puts Space Scientists Firmly in Their Place (Source: Houston Chronicle)
This recording, made on Nov. 21, 1962, offers a fascinating glimpse into the way in which President John F. Kennedy viewed NASA, and its scientists. The primary speakers are Kennedy and James Webb, the second administrator of NASA who presided over the space agency during most of the Apollo program. During the exchange Kennedy is seeking to make clear to Webb that the primary goal, above everything else, is to safely send men to the moon and back. Click here.

Editor's Note: With concerns about over-spending on space amid other national priorities, this 1960s situation is quite similar to today's, as the planetary science community laments the unavailability of space funding and policy attention for their research-focused agenda, while NASA is forced -- politically -- to spend instead on developing rockets. Same again with Constellation, which dismantled several space research programs to fund Ares rockets. (1/8)

Sierra Nevada and ESA Pursue Dream Chaser Collaboration (Source: ESA)
ESA and Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), have agreed to identify areas of collaboration with European industry for developing hardware and mission concepts for the Dream Chaser orbital transportation system. ESA will work with Sierra Nevada to identify how European hardware, software and expertise can be used to further the capabilities of the Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle. ESA and SNC will also study the possibilities for creating an industrial consortium including European partners to use Dream Chaser for European missions.

At the end of an initial evaluation and planning phase, which will continue through 2014, the organisations expect to continue the relationship through a long-term agreement leading to flight operations [potentially launching atop Ariane rockets]. Both entities foresee further arrangements to continue the partnership towards the potential use of Dream Chaser for European missions. (1/8)

NASA SLS and Orion Industry Teams Progress Toward Deep Space (Source: Aerojet)
The NASA Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion teams accomplished unprecedented progress in 2013 with the design, development and testing of the next-generation vehicles destined to explore deep space. "Our industry partners have worked tirelessly to help us build the rocket and spacecraft that will enable us to push the boundaries of human exploration," said NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier. Click here. (1/7)

Shotwell Predicts Reusable Falcon Flights at $5-7 Million (Source: Rocketeers)
Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, gives the keynote speech at the Singapore Satellite Industry Forum in June 2013, in which she predicts that a reusable Falcon will have a per-flight cost in the range of $5-7 million. A group of executives from the incumbent launch providers handwave away the disruptive effect of SpaceX on the launch market, and claim that reusability "is a dream." (1/7)

O’Keefe to Step Down as Airbus Chief (Source: Washington Post)
Sean O’Keefe, the chief executive of Airbus Group’s Herndon-based North American unit will step down in March, the company said Tuesday. O’Keefe became chief executive of the unit, which was previously called EADS North America, in late 2009. The former NASA administrator is departing to “fully address ongoing medical issues” related to a 2010 aircraft accident in Alaska, the company said. (1/7)

Europe To Consider Radically Streamlined Supplier Base for Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
A radically simplified European rocket manufacturing organization that cuts the number of companies involved in Ariane rocket construction by two-thirds and permits a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket to meet its aggressive cost targets will be presented to European governments in March. The new vehicle, now under a predevelopment program funded mainly by France, will be presented to European Space Agency (ESA) governments in December for full-scale production approval. (1/7)

Alien Blue Dot Spotted: Imager Opens New Window on Exoplanets (Source: NBC)
The first images from the world's most advanced instrument for seeing planets beyond our solar system show a pale blue dot around an alien star, a faraway dusty disk and a closer-in target: the surface of Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter. The Gemini Planet Imager has been in operation since November at the 26-foot Gemini South telescope in Chile, but the "first light" images didn't go public until Tuesday's big reveal at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Washington. (1/7)

Has the Weirdest Star in the Universe Been Found? (Source: Discovery)
Leave it to astrophysicists to think up some strange stars, many of which remain rooted firmly in theory — or even bordering on science fiction. But astronomers have announced the discovery of a Thorne-Żytkow object, potentially putting a weird “hybrid” star on the stellar map as a very real phenomenon. It is a rare, dying star with a surprise in its core.

Thorne and Żytkow say it is possible for a red supergiant star to collide with a superdense neutron star, the remnant of a supernova, swallowing it. Once the neutron star is eaten, it settles in the core of the supergiant, interrupting normal fusion processes inside the star’s guts. This, according to the theorists, should create a very specific chemical signature in the “host” star’s chemical make up.

What’s more, there should be a few dozen Thorne-Żytkow object specimens in our galaxy. Over the past 40 years, according to Nature News, astronomers have observed a handful of Thorne-Żytkow object candidates, but none have been confirmed. Today, astronomer Emily Levesque has reported the discovery of another Thorne-Żytkow object candidate, the strongest candidate to date. (1/7)

Further Away Planets 'Can Support Life' Say Researchers (Source: BBC)
Earth-sized planets could support life at least 10 times further away from stars than thought, researchers have claimed. The team said cold rocky planets thought uninhabitable might be able to support life beneath the surface. They hope the study will influence other researchers. A planet needs to be not too close to its sun but also not too far away for liquid water to persist, rather than boiling or freezing, on the surface. But that theory fails to take into account life that can exist beneath a planet's surface." (1/7)

Kepler Scientist Pushes Extended Mission Ahead of NASA Senior Review (Source: Space News)
The project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope offered more details here about a plan to resurrect the crippled spacecraft for an extended mission that could last through 2016. Known as K2, the proposed mission would use the hobbled space telescope, which launched in 2009 and lost most of its fine-pointing ability earlier this year when the second of its four reaction wheels broke down, to continue scanning for Earth-like planets orbiting the habitable zone of faraway stars.

The K2 mission would be entirely operated by guest observers, who would compete for observing time on the roughly 1-meter diameter telescope. Under the yet-to-be-approved plan, Kepler would shift its focus from a narrow swath of sky to five or six fields of view aligned roughly with Earth’s orbit, or ecliptic plane. In the K2 configuration, Kepler would scan one field of view for 80 days before beaming data back to Earth. (1/7)

Earth Appears to be an Oddity, Astronomers Say (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers call them super-Earths, and they are abundant outside our solar system. But the more experts learn about them, the weirder our own planet seems in comparison. Planets the size of Earth and up to four times larger are believed to make up about three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

Astronomers have eagerly catalogued some 3,000 of these planets in the hopes that they may point to the existence of life elsewhere in the galaxy. But experts told a meeting of the American Astronomical Society outside the US capital on Monday that while super-Earths and mini-Neptunes are common, they bear little resemblance to the planet we call home. (1/6)

UK Floods Prompt Space Charter Activation (Source: BBC)
Serious flooding in parts of the UK has prompted the government to activate the global charter on space and natural disasters. It means agencies will get immediate access to satellite imagery to help them respond to the problems caused by the stormy weather of recent weeks. It is rare for Britain to activate the charter on its own behalf. But this is the second time in five weeks that it has made a request for satellite imagery. (1/7)

NASA Slowly Amassing List of Potential Targets for Asteroid Retrieval Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA has identified about a dozen potential targets for its proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission, but will make no decision until at least 2017 about which space rock to bring back to the Earth-Moon system to be probed by astronauts, an agency official said.

That means the new robotic spacecraft that will redirect the chosen asteroid into a distant lunar retrograde orbit — where NASA engineers believe it could be stored for close to a century — will launch no earlier than 2018, according to Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA headquarters here. (1/7)

Kids Books Flying to Space Station for 'Story Time' (Source: Collect Space)
The science-packed, storybook space adventures of a dog named Max are blasting off in real life to be read on board the Space Station. The astronauts will record reading the books for children to enjoy and learn from back on Earth. The books, which are part of a new educational program called "Story Time From Space," are launching aboard an Orbital Sciences' unmanned Cygnus spacecraft along with science experiments and supplies destined for the space station. (1/7)

Arianespace Reports Slight Loss for 2013, Girds for Busy 2014 (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium expects to report a ‘slight loss’ for 2013 following a revenue drop of some 27 percent compared to 2012 as a result of lower-than-planned launch activity. The company said it had set aside sufficient reserves to cover most of the loss and will not need to request a fresh cash injection from its shareholders, a group made up mainly of Ariane 5 rocket contractors and the French space agency, CNES.

Arianespace plans to conduct up to 14 launches this year of its three rockets — the heavy-lift Ariane 5, the medium-lift Soyuz and the light Vega. Israel said the 14-launch target may not be met, but added that the company is all but certain to break its previous calendar-year record of 10 launches, set in 2012. Arianespace plans depend on the rockets and their satellite payloads being ready on time. Two Ariane 5 campaigns and three Soyuz launches in 2013 were delayed, all but one to 2014, because of late-arriving satellites. (1/7)

Arianespace Postpones Athena Fidus Launch (Source: Arianespace)
With a change-out of equipment necessary on the VA 217 Ariane 5 ECA launcher, Arianespace has decided to postpone by a few days this mission – originally scheduled for January 23. A new date for the mission will be announced very soon. (1/6)

NASA gets White House Backing to Extend Space Station by 4 Years (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The world's most expensive science project -- the $100 billion-plus International Space Station -- is poised to get four more years in orbit. NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the station's operations by four years until 2024. The decision follows years of pressure by top NASA officials, who consider the station a critical steppingstone to future exploration.

But a four-year extension likely would cost NASA about $3 billion a year from 2021 to 2024. That's a major chunk of the agency's annual budget, which is now about $17 billion, and a longer mission could force NASA to make tough financial decisions in the future. The administration's approval, however, doesn't guarantee that the station will survive past its current end date of 2020. At some point, Congress must approve a NASA budget that includes an extension of the station's life. (1/7)

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