February 17, 2014

Examining the Impact of the Space Race (Source: NBC)
NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw chronicles the Cold War space race that took place during the 1950s, 60s and 70s between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, the Cold War tension fueled the passion behind the 'Miracle on Ice' at the Lake Placid Games. Click here. (2/17)

Manned Missions From Wallops? (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
A private space company wants to use the spaceport at Wallops for manned missions, a company representative told members of the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance at their quarterly meeting. “We are prepared to make a proposal that will include human spaceflight from Wallops,” said Michael N. Gold, director of D.C. Operations for Bigelow Aerospace, a private company based in Las Vegas.

The company is talking to NASA about the possibility of conducting a demonstration mission that would involve human spaceflight — and Bigelow wants to use Virginia’s spaceport as its base. Kennedy Space Center in Florida has “so much activity that commercial activity will be bumped,” while developing a new launch facility takes years, Gold said. “This is an unparalleled economic development and job creation opportunity for the Eastern Shore, and everything’s in place, particularly if you look politically,” Gold said. Click here.

Editor's Note: The Cape is too busy? That's funny. Bigelow has been in discussions to use Atlas-5 rockets, and there have been efforts to lure ULA and Atlas to Virginia, but the Atlas is too big for Wallops (or so recent studies have suggested). Perhaps Bigelow's paying customers could fly atop Orbital Sciences' Antares rockets, but I've heard that's a stretch too. And what of Space Florida's 2011 agreement with Bigelow? Is Bigelow chasing Virginia incentive money, or trying to get Sen. Mikulski's support for something unrelated? (2/17)

Spaceport Tax Debate Reaches Climax in New Mexico this Week (Source: Space Politics)
In April 2007, voters in Doña Ana County, New Mexico voted for a quarter-percent gross receipts tax that would be used primarily help fund construction of Spaceport America, with a portion going towards educational programs. A year later, voters in Sierra County approved the same tax. Now, however, both uses of the tax are under fire in the New Mexico Legislature, with bills pending to alter the use of those tax funds that must pass before the legislature adjourns on Thursday or die.

In the state Senate, Sen. Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) introduced SB 172, a bill that would require funds collected by the tax for the spaceport (three quarters of the tax revenue) be used solely for debt service on the bonds sold for spaceport construction or to begin paying off those bonds early. Currently, any excess if funds after interest is paid—currently about $600,000 per year—is used to support spaceport operations. The bill has made it through one Senate committee and is pending approval of another.

HB 13 would count that revenue when making calculations of what state aid the districts receive; in essence, the bill would reduce the aid districts in the two counties receive by the amount of funding they get from the spaceport tax—a cut from what they’re getting now. That bill has already passed the New Mexico House and is in committee in the state Senate. That is causing concern in Las Cruces, although the impact of the bill -- even if it does pass and is signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez -- remains unclear. (2/16)

SLS Launch Rate Requires Repetitive Cadence (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will launch at least once per year, as a “necessary” requirement, according to Bill Gerstenmaier. NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations recently addressed concerns over the near term schedule for the monster rocket, which will not launch humans until the next decade. Click here. (2/17)

Yuri's Night Parties Wanted! (Source: Yuri's Night)
We are still in the early part of event registration for Yuri's Night 2014, so you still have time to organize one of the first events on our list! You can plan your own event or encourage local science centers, schools, or other interested groups to help you set up a great event this year. We want to help you out as much as we can, so we put together a how-to web page to guide you in creating your Yuri's Night event. Also be sure to visit our link-laden resources page for videos, music, and graphics that you can use at your event. Click here. (2/16)

Google to Launch 1600 Satellites? (Sources: NewSpace Watch, Parabolic Arc)
NSG Analysts have heard from several usually reliable industry sources that a major company, possibly “Google or Facebook,” could be announcing the launch of a very large constellation of satellites in the near future. “Very large constellation” is defined as up to 1,600 small satellites. Based on information Parabolic Arc has received, the story seems to be true. Google appears to be pursuing a plan to provide global broadband services that is similar to a failed attempt by a company called Teledesic. (2/16)

Navy to Recover Orion Spacecraft (Source: UT San Diego)
The amphibious warship San Diego heads to sea this week to practice recovering the Orion spacecraft, a key step in NASA’s development of a new vehicle for carrying astronauts far beyond Earth and bringing them home safely. The 26-foot long spacecraft will be released from the flooded well deck of the ship and later reeled back aboard with help from teams in high speed boats. The exercise is a dress rehearsal for a mission in September in which an unmanned Orion will parachute into waters off Baja California after a brief trip into space. (2/15)

China's Moon Rover still Facing Troubles (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
China's moon rover, Yutu, is still experiencing technical problems after waking from hibernation during the icy-cold lunar night. One of the solar panels that was supposed to retract before hibernation apparently is malfunctioning, according to unconfirmed reports. (2/14)

10 Cool Things About the U.S. Space Program (Source: Space KSC)
Still running into people who think the U.S. space program is over? Here are ten really cool things you can tell them to show the U.S. space program is alive and well...although most of them are only facilitated, not led, by NASA. Click here. (2/17)

Monster Asteroid to Whiz by Earth on Feb. 17 (Source: Florida Today)
Earth gets a close encounter Monday as an asteroid as big as three football fields whizzes by at 27,000 mph. The asteroid isn't a threat — it will miss the Earth by 2 million miles. Dubbed 2000 EM26, it's about 885 feet in diameter. Asteroid 2000 EM26 will begin its close pass, monitored by Slooh's robotic telescope on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. (2/17)

EELV's Era of Transition (Source: Space Review)
The US Air Force announced recently a "bulk buy" of EELV rockets from United Launch Alliance that it claims will save the government billions of dollars. Stewart Money argues that such savings may prove elusive and that the government's EELV strategy should be reconsidered given the rise of new entrants like SpaceX. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2455/1 to view the article. (2/17)

Who Framed Jade Rabbit? (Source: Space Review)
For a time last week, Western media widely reported that China's Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit," lunar rover had died, only to have officials sources state that the rover was alive, if not completely well. Jeff Foust examines both the faults in the erroneous media coverage and the lack of official information about the mission. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2454/1 to view the article. (2/17)

"All-American Boy": Walt Cunningham Speaks on Apollo 7 and More (Source: Space Review)
He may have flown only once in space, but Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham remains one of the better-known figures of that era and beyond. Shane Hannon interviews Cunningham about both Apollo 7 and more contemporary topics, including his thoughts on the future of human space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2453/1 to view the article. (2/17)

Private Satellites Raise Profits, Privacy Concerns (Source: Al Jazeera)
Planet Labs has more than two dozen pint-size orbiters in space. As of Friday, 10 of them had been pushed out the door of the International Space Station while the rest sat aboard waiting to be released over the next several days. The effort is the most ambitious yet to build a business on the back of so-called nano-satellites.

Satellite imaging raises inevitable concerns about privacy. No one wants to be spied on when he’s outside. While the concern is legitimate, it’s one that some experts believe can’t be reversed. “The privacy ship has sailed,” said Gary Hudson of the Space Studies Institute. “No one can block access to the ground from orbit. And the genie is out of the bottle with respect to capabilities such as reconnaissance, signals intelligence, etc. It can’t be put back in.”

Planet Labs’ cameras, on the other hand, aren’t powerful enough to see humans, Marshall said, and instead pick up only bigger objects such as trees, trucks and houses. “We can’t see a person in their backyard bathing,” Marshall said. The decision not to use higher-resolution optics was as much practical as dictated by privacy concerns, he said. Using more powerful cameras would have made photographing broad swaths of territory slow going. (2/17)

UCF Students to Ride ‘Vomit Comet’ for NASA Research (Source: Central Florida Future)
This July, six UCF students will take a ride in NASA’s reduced-gravity aircraft — nicknamed the vomit comet. They will fly in a modified plane to experience zero-gravity conditions in the name of science, and possibly vomit. The students who make up the team include: Aerospace Engineering junior Allyson Whitaker; Aerospace Engineering senior Kelly Lai; junior physics major Christopher Tiller; junior photonic science and engineering major Sam Benjamin; senior Aerospace Engineering major Brad Hoover; and marketing junior Sara Lane. (2/17)

Downey Space Museum is Struggling to Survive (Source: LA Times)
City officials doled out $8 million in municipal funds to open the Columbia Memorial Space Center in 2009. The sleek, futuristic-looking building, packed with relics from the nation's space program, was built as a museum, hands-on learning center and a national memorial. The space center sits on part of the once-sprawling 177-acre Apollo and Space Shuttle manufacturing site.

But as memories of the Apollo and shuttle programs fade, the space center is struggling to attract visitors and donors. Now, city officials are looking for new ways to fund the struggling institution. Its deficit of more than $500,000 — an improvement over past years — is coming out of city funds. "Our city government is not in the business of running museums," said Fernando Vasquez, mayor of the city in southeast Los Angeles County.

City officials want to wean the museum off city money and find more sustainable funding sources. They have taken steps to address some of its lingering issues. Critics — including some in City Hall — say lack of leadership has contributed to the museum's problems. (2/17)

Satellites Tracking Volcano Ash, Grounding Air Travel (Source: ESA)
The Kelut volcano on Indonesia’s Java island erupted late last night. While disaster-management authorities are busy on the ground, satellites are tracking the major cloud of ash and sulphur dioxide as it spreads in the atmosphere. (2/14)

NSS Issues Position on Protecting Earth From Cosmic Impacts (Source: NSS)
Millions of objects in space, including asteroids and comets, are in orbits around the Sun that cross Earth's orbit. When they approach Earth, they are referred to as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). Some NEOs are large enough to cause significant damage if they impact the Earth. Many such objects have struck Earth in the past, inflicting damage ranging from trivial to global catastrophe. While a future large strike with catastrophic consequences is certain, we do not know whether it will happen in 150 million years or fifteen months.
The National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of actions to defend our home planet from such events. In a position paper released today, the Society focuses attention on the near-term need and the opportunity to significantly improve our ability to detect and track collision threats to the Earth. While recognizing that this is a global problem, the paper focuses on recommended actions for the United States. Click here. (1/17)

Another Vega Launcher for Arianespace Takes Shape at Kouruou Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
The launcher for Arianespace's initial Vega flight of 2014 began its build-up this week at the Spaceport in French Guiana, marking the first step in a mission campaign that will lead to its orbiting of the DZZ-HR high-resolution observation satellite. (2/17)

Russian, Kazakh Space Agencies' Chiefs to Discuss Baikonur in Moscow (Source: Interfax)
The heads of the Kazakh and Russian space agencies, Talgat Musabayev and Oleg Ostapenko, respectively, will meet in Moscow to discuss a plan for use of Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2014-2016, Kazakhstan President's Central Communications Service (CCS) spokesman Altai Abibullayev said. (2/17)

U.S.-French Deal Gives Green Light to UAE Observation Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government, after months of indecision, has agreed to permit the export of U.S. satellite components for a French contract to provide two high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), European industry officials said. The decision, which they said came only after the U.S. State Department first agreed to the deal and then withdrew its agreement and passed the subject to the White House, should enable the $1.1 billion Falcon Eye contract to begin its production phase. (2/13)

U.S. Export Controls Complicate French Satellite Deal With UAE (Source: Aviation Week)
A team of French aerospace manufacturers may have to renegotiate details of an €800 million ($1.08 billion) contract awarded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year to build and launch a pair of high-resolution Earth observation satellites, after the companies failed to meet a Jan. 29 deadline for obtaining U.S. export licenses for some components that will be used to build them.

Jean-Loic Galle of Thales Alenia Space, and Francois Auque at Airbus Defense and Space, say U.S. approval for the necessary export licenses did not come until Feb. 12, on the sidelines of French President Francois Hollande’s state visit to the U.S. Consent from the U.S. comes almost nine months after the UAE awarded Airbus and Thales a contract to build and launch its twin-satellite Falcon Eye system.

The award followed a procurement process lasting more than a decade, which included offers from U.S. companies allowed to participate with U.S. State Department blessing. Among these were bids from Lockheed Martin, Ball, and Raytheon. Galle said the fact that approval for the U.S. parts had to be addressed during a Franco-American summit is an indication that sore losers were interfering in the deal. “U.S lobbying does its utmost to prevent the only real competitor it has in this business, which is Europe, to export products to places the U.S. has decided it does not want to export,” Galle said. (2/13)

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