February 16, 2014

Future of Italian Rocket Company Intwined With Ariane 6 Decision (Soure: Parabolic Arc)
The status of Italian rocket builder Avio S.p.A., whose future is dependent on its owners efforts to sell it and ESA’s decision later this year on whether to proceed with development of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. France has been arguing that Ariane 6′s design should be reconsidered, with liquid stages replacing the solid-fuel ones in the current design.

The uncertainty over Avio’s future comes as the Italian space agency ASI was rocked by the resignation of its president, Enrico Saggese, in the midst of a broad-based corruption investigation targeting ASI and the aerospace industry. The allegations involve the misuse of ASI funds and irregularities in contract awards. (2/16)

Russian Spy Satellite Burns Up in Earth’s Atmosphere (Source: Russia Today)
The Kosmos-1220 – a military signal intelligence satellite – whose fragments were expected to crash somewhere on Earth, has burned up on reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere, Russian Space Command said. The fragments burned up at 17:58 Moscow time (13:58 GMT), said Colonel Dmitry Zenin, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Kosmos-1220 is a Soviet signal intelligence satellite launched into orbit in November 1980 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, then part of the Soviet Union. Its mission ended in 1982. The satellite was part of the Soviet naval missile targeting system. Editor's Note: Reports from Saudi Arabia say the satellite reentered somewhere on that nation in the early morning. (2/16)

Sochi Olympic Transport Controlled from Space Using GLONASS (Source: Space Daily)
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Feb 16, 2014 - Road security in Sochi will be controlled from space. New passenger buses, equipped with the global navigation satellite system (GLONASS) have appeared in the capital of the Winter Olympics. The new equipment will enable traffic controllers to establish the location of buses, to control the observance by drivers of speed regimes and the technical condition of the city transport. (2/16)

Spaceport America Tax Bill Worries Some (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A bill that could wind up curtailing the impact of Spaceport America sales tax dollars for public schools in Doña Ana and Sierra Counties passed in the state House last week, stirring unease among supporters of the dollars going to extra science and math education. The bill's progress in a sluggish legislative session surprised some of its opponents.

"It's not time to fall on our sword or jump off the ledge, but it does create significant concern," said Terry Dean, assistant superintendent of finance for the Las Cruces Public Schools. At issue, school officials have said, is that House Bill 13 would shrink the benefit of spaceport sales-tax dollars by 75 percent. It would change the way they were accounted for by wrapping the money for the first time into the state's school funding formula.

Though the measure cleared the House, it also would have to pass the Senate before noon Thursday — the end of the legislative session — to have a chance at becoming law. Doña Ana County officials, who route a portion of spaceport tax dollars to local schools, mostly said that for now, they're waiting to see what happens over the next few days. (2/15)

Cosmonauts Join Video Game Industry to Create "Space Pioneer" (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
Space Pioneer is an exciting new video game being created by real world astronauts, cosmonauts, scientists and architects. The design team includes a trio of cosmonauts; Sergei Krikalev, Aleksandr Lazutkin, and Sergei Avdeyev. Together, the three have spent a total of 1735 days in space, with Krikalev holding the current record of 803 days, 9 hours, and 39 minutes.

Teamed with Space Enigma Studios, a talented group of writers, journalists, designers, programmers, and musicians, the group aims to construct a game that will be the most accurate virtual representation of our universe to date. The game is best described as a space sim, with real time strategy and city building mechanics. Space Pioneer focuses on interstellar exploration; it is based on images and resources from the Hubble telescope, ESA/NASA, and numerous well known observatories. (2/16)

Launch Complex 46 to Receive Upgrade (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida has awarded ATK contracts worth $2.6 million to upgrade communications systems at Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, one of two state-operated pads. The work is the third phase of a refurbishment and modernization project begun in 2010 with a $500,000 grant.

The launch complex will host a pad abort test of NASA’s Orion exploration capsule planned in 2018. Space Florida says the pad could also support small- to medium-class, solid-fuel rockets, including Lockheed Martin’s Athena family, Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur and Taurus, or other commercial, NASA or military launch vehicles.

This “would increase the annual launch rate from (the Cape) and result in sizable, positive economic impact for our area,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. The U.S. Navy built Launch Complex 46 in 1985 to support land-based testing of Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and began sharing the pad with the state in 1993. The bulk of the new contract’s funding came from the state Department of Transportation. (2/16)

Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle (Source: NASA JPL)
Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January. Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier.

More recent images show the original piece of rock struck by the rover's wheel, slightly uphill from where Pinnacle Island came to rest. "Once we moved Opportunity a short distance, after inspecting Pinnacle Island, we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. "We drove over it. We can see the track. That's where Pinnacle Island came from." (2/14)

Jade Rabbit, Run! China Delights as Lunar Rover Shows Signs of Life (Source: Guardian)
Johnson-Freese said that since the beginning of its space programme China has prepared citizens for the worst. In 2003, when the American space shuttle Columbia disintegrated while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, killing seven astronauts, the Chinese coverage was remarkably sympathetic – possibly to show that "this is hard, missions fail, and people die", she said. "So with [the Jade Rabbit], this is the first example of that."

She added: "Whether its going to be fully operable, or partially, or not at all, that's going to be playing out over the next few days. And I think Chinese media are going to play it out in a very heroic way." (2/14)

Astronauts Flush Chocolates Down the Toilet (Source: ABC)
This Valentine’s Day, when many on Earth are giving chocolates to their sweethearts, the astronauts on the International Space Station are flushing them down their toilet -- all in the name of science. It's part fun and games on the space station and part science. There's a little kid in every one of us who wants to know how you “go" in space.

Astronaut Cady Coleman spent much of her time on orbit honing her plumbing skills –- if the toilet isn’t working, well, Houston, we have a problem. One day when she finished her repairs, she started playing with candy coated chocolates and the toilet. Coleman said it turned into a giant physics experiment. Click here. (2/14)

NASA Sees Potential for Port Rail Deal (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is "cautiously optimistic" a deal can be worked out to allow cargo trains to rumble through the heart of Kennedy Space Center to Port Canaveral. Security is a significant concern, as the trains would roll for miles through the center's restricted area and pass close by some spacecraft processing facilities. But, at a hearing this week at the KSC Visitor Complex, members of a congressional panel made clear they wanted the rail service -- and 5,000 jobs the port says it would create -- to happen.

"When you said 5,000 jobs, if that doesn't make you salivate, nothing will," U.S. Rep. John Mica told Canaveral Port Authority CEO John Walsh. Mica also prodded the Air Force to work with the port, which has asked to lease some Cape Canaveral Air Force Station property to enable continued growth. If the cargo rail connection did generate 5,000 jobs in five to seven years, it would wipe out much of the roughly 7,500 jobs lost due to NASA's 2011 retirement of the shuttle program.

The proposed rail project would complement the port's expansion of some of its cargo piers and its plan to install two large cargo cranes this spring. The project also would lead to inland shipping and warehousing jobs in the Titusville/Port St. John/Cocoa corridor. "It's still in the study phase, but we're cautiously optimistic that we'll get to a solution that's a benefit to both of us," KSC Director Bob Cabana told the panel. "And I believe that we can make security work." (2/14)

Project Would Extend Existing Railway, Require New Bridge (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is awaiting the results of a feasibility study before deciding whether to partner with the port on an environmental study of the rail route, which the port would need to extend from its current rail terminus in KSC's Industrial Area. NASA used the old railroad tracks to transport solid rocket booster segments and other shuttle hardware, spending $4.5 million annually to operate and maintain them.

The tracks are now inactive, dropping the cost to $2 million over five years, but NASA expects to resume booster shipments to assemble its Space Launch System rocket, which is targeting launches in 2017 and 2021. Walsh said rail line cooperation was a win-win that would reduce the space agency's rail costs by sharing the line and boost economic development for the region.

The proposed new route would run over NASA's Jay Jay Bridge near Mims over the Indian River Lagoon to Merritt Island, south through KSC to about Kars Park, and then across a new bridge over the Banana River to the port. This was deemed the best of five options explored with NASA and the Air Force, and could begin operations as soon as 2016 or 2017. (2/14)

Future of Rep. Posey's SOARS Act Unclear (Source: Space Politics)
Last August, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, legislation that they say would “streamline” commercial spaceflight regulations. There’s been little action on the bill, though, since its introduction, other that brief testimony about the bill that McCarthy—the House Majority Whip—gave to the House Science Committee in November.

At a recent FAA conference, Congressional staffers were noncommittal about the fate of the legislation as either a standalone bill or incorporation into something like a planned update of the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA). Tom Hammond of the House Science Committee staff noted that some provisions of the SOARS Act, such as allowing a vehicle that obtains a launch license to retain its experimental permit, have also been discussed for inclusion in the proposed CSLA update.

Ann Zulkosky of the Senate Commerce Committee staff said she was unaware of any member of the committee interested in a Senate companion bill to the SOARS Act, with plans instead to address those issues in a CSLA update. (2/12)

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