February 23, 2014

US Considers Production of Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Voice of Russia)
The US Air Force is studying the possibility of launching the licensed production of Russian RD-180 rocket engines in the US. The US will begin assessing the licensed production of such engines in the next few weeks. The engines are manufactured by the Energomash. In the US, the RD Amross joint venture adapts the engines for use in the heavy Atlas-V launch systems.

RD-180 is one half of the RD-170 four-nozzle engine, designed for the first stage of the Energia heavy-lift launch system decades ago. An 1997 agreement allowed delivery to the US of 101 RD-180 engines until the end of 2018. By late last year, Energomash had supplied to the US more than 70 engines for $10 million each, which accounted for a sizeable part of the corporation's revenues. Given that Russian demand for the RD-180 yielded hardly any profit at the time, it is safe to claim that the program kept Energomash out of bankruptcy.

Washington could launch production of RD-180 in the US, but the option suffers from a couple of flaws The cost of the engine is estimated to grow by approximately 50% and, secondly, supply of key engine components from Russia call for trust-based relations between the two countries. Energomash's situation could improve due to the recently launched reform of the space industry, whereby Russia is due to launch a lot more rockets in the interests of Russian customers. (2/23)

Brevard Facing Strong Competition for Space Ventures (Source: Florida Today)
"There is real competition out there, and we’re going to have to really fight for maintaining a lead position in this industry,” said Space Florida's Frank DiBello. In comparing the Cape Canaveral Spaceport with Virginia's Wallops Island, Bigelow's Mike Gold had this to say: “Wallops is just right; you’ve got everything you need in terms of legal and regulatory readiness, but it’s not so developed” that the company would encounter a lot of delays."

Those comments came three years after a high-profile local event in which Robert Bigelow said he’d like to manufacture commercial space stations on the Space Coast, potentially employing up to 2,000 people. The station modules would launch here, and crews would follow. “The absolute, ultimate, most important action, I think, that the state of Florida can take, beginning now, is to secure launch facilities to be used exclusively by the new commercial space industry, and to provide all possible political support,” Bigelow said then.

Meanwhile, the near-term prize the Shiloh site hopes to attract — launch company SpaceX — has strengthened its interests in a competing site on Texas’ Gulf Coast. Through its Dogleg Park LLC subsidiary, SpaceX this year has bought 28 new lots surrounding the proposed complex at Boca Chica Beach, bringing its holdings to 88 lots totaling roughly 36 acres, in addition to 56.5 acres it has leased. (2/22)

Would You Pay $45,000 for Waypoint2Space Space Tourist Training? (Source: Fusion)
Prices for commercial space flights will start dropping as it becomes more commonplace, but that’s still some time away. For the average American who dreamed of space, but has zero chance of being an astronaut, there are few options. Waypoint2Space's mission is to “focus on training the tourist that would need to go up, said founder Kevin Heath. "The space market is all about tourism and commercial launches; nobody was looking at the tourist training.”

Waypoint2Space calls itself “astronaut training” for tourists, and is set to open this summer, teaching future space tourists how to handle space environments. It costs $45,000 for one week of "level one" training (he offers three levels). Based out of Houston, Waypoint2Space rents offices from NASA in the Johnson Space Center. All training however, is scheduled to take place at an offsite facility which is still being furnished.

But on Waypoint2Space’s website it currently says, “We are proud to be leading the evolution of Commercial Spaceflight Training through our collaboration with NASA centers." But so far, no such agreements have been signed with NASA. “We’re two weeks away with signing a deal from them,” Heath said. (2/21)

India's Crew Module Flight by May-June (Source: New Indian Express)
India is inching closer to launch its ambitious human space mission with the first experimental unmanned flight of the crew module on the newly developed Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III in May-June from Sriharikota, said Dr K Radhakrishnan, chairman ISRO and secretary, Department of Space. The GSLV-MK-III is being developed as a heavy-lift vehicle capable of placing satellites weighing up to 5,000 kg in geosynchronous orbit. (2/23)

NASA's Moon Dust Spacecraft Beams New Lunar Photos (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA's newest moon probe has beamed its view of the lunar surface back to Earth for the first time. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft (called LADEE for short) beamed the new moon photos — which NASA released Feb. 13 — to ground controllers on Earth earlier this month. The new images show stars and a pockmarked lunar landscape. Click here. (2/22)

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