February 27, 2014

Ye Olde Space Race (Source: The Economist)
The space industry is led by companies, not governments. But nations remain more active than ever. The number of countries with activities in space has doubled in the past decade. Nearly 60 nations now have satellites and projects, and around 20 others have investment plans. Government spending on civil space programmes reached $44 billion last year, driven in part by poor countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

When military programs are included, however, total spending fell for the first time since 1995, estimates Euroconsult, a space consultancy. (Many budgets are veiled, so a proper reckoning is hard.) Governments cut back as part of austerity measures, particularly in America. But in recent years America's spending has hit stratospheric levels. It still accounts for more than half of all government space spending, albeit down from three-quarters. Here's a chart. (2/18)

Taiwan Builds Sensitive Satellite Equipment (Source: Space Daily)
Taiwan has successfully developed a key satellite component whose export is controlled by space powers, an official said Tuesday, calling it a "milestone" in efforts to build its own space technology. Three Taiwanese research and weather satellites launched between 1999 and 2006 were designed abroad. A fourth scheduled to be launched next year will be 60 percent locally made.

But Taiwan had not previously managed to build equipment to receive signals from global positioning systems. On Tuesday the National Space Organization (NSPO) announced it has developed the equipment, which is on the export control list of space powers like the United States, France and Germany. "This is truly a milestone in efforts to build our own space technology," said an official at the NSPO flight control division. (2/25)

NASA Spacesuit Mishap Board Sounds All Too Familiar Themes (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA released the report of an independent Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) that looked into the July 2013 incident when European astronaut Luca Parmitano’s spacesuit helmet filled with water during a spacewalk. The board’s conclusions sounded familiar themes about schedule and other pressures creating an environment where people did not want to question assumptions or perceptions about matters that could literally make the difference between life and death. Perhaps most troubling is a determination that this “mishap” could have been avoided if a previous incident a week earlier had been properly investigated. (2/27)

NASA, FAA Cooperate on Commercial Crew Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA and the FAA have complementary and interdependent interests in ensuring that commercially developed human space transportation systems for low-Earth orbit are safe and effective. The FAA regulates the U.S. commercial space transportation industry for public safety during launch and re-entry. NASA is enabling the development and demonstration of human space transportation systems via the Commercial Crew Program.

To facilitate these complementary interests, NASA and the FAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in June 2012 to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The MOU was the first step in the process to provide a stable framework for the U.S. space industry, avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and advance both public and crew safety.

Since the signing of the MOU, NASA and the FAA have been working closely together to implement its objectives and policies. The two agencies established a program-level working group with the responsibility to identify potential issues related to NASA astronauts flying on FAA-licensed vehicles. Additionally, a NASA-FAA legal “harmonization team” was established to address specific legal questions and issues identified by both teams. (2/27)

Boeing Commercial Crew Milestones Status (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Click here for a rundown of Boeing's CCiCAP milestones, including NASA award funding that has been provided, and is still pending, for milestone completions. (2/26)

Russia to Build Equipment for European Jupiter Probe (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian scientists will construct equipment for a European Space Agency probe to Jupiter, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology said Wednesday. Along with observing the solar system’s largest planet, the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer is to visit three of the four Jovian moons discovered by Galileo: Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.

The spacecraft is planned to carry 11 scientific instruments, one of which will include a radiation detector built by Russia. The detector would be the first Russian device to visit the outer solar system and will help scientists characterize wind patterns on Jupiter as well as analyze gases escaping from Europa. (2/27)

India Poised to Emerge as a Player in Global Space Business (Source: Economic Times)
Despite being among the small number of space powers in the world, India has very few entrepreneurs who have built companies recently in this domain. When it comes to building a good international business, this number reduces to nearly one, if you exclude those who have minor contracts.

The lone exception, however, was created just six months ago, when a Hyderabad-based space entrepreneur decided it was time to go international. What Subba Rao Pavuluri then did was inconceivable even a year ago: he took the first steps towards becoming an international satellite operator, by signing a $300-million deal (about Rs 1,800 crore) with Russian company Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems. (2/27)

Eastern Shore Encouraged to Cash In on Wallops Flight Facility (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Maryland officials should get more economic bang from the Wallops Flight Facility — just over the line in Virginia — by capitalizing on space tourism and the potential from unmanned aircraft, according to a new study. The report, commissioned by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said NASA's complex on Wallops Island already has an effect on Maryland's Eastern Shore. But there's potential for more.

One possibility: attracting more people to see rockets blasted into space from Wallops. Columbia-based LJT & Associates, an aerospace services firm that prepared the report, said it saw a "tremendous growth opportunity" there for Maryland's Eastern Shore and suggested that both government agencies and businesses should work to build up such tourism from the Northeast. "Instead of traveling to Florida, interested viewers will be capable of day trips and overnight trips to the area to view the launch," LJT wrote in the report. (2/24)

DigitalGlobe Sees Opportunity in Global Oil Exploration (Source: Denver Business Journal)
DigitalGlobe's acquisition Wednesday of Boulder-based Spatial Energy aims to get both companies deeper into oil exploration and production around the world and shows how the satellite imaging company is trying to expand beyond imagery and date sales into services.

Spatial Energy has been building technology to help exploration firms plan and manage the workflow — mitigating risks, providing environmental impact data, and containing costs — in areas being developed into oil and gas fields with 20- to 40-year lifespans, said Kenneth “Bud” Pope, co-founder and president of Spatial Energy. (2/26)

Bride-to-Be Would Leave Fiance for One-Way Trip to Mars (Source: DNAinfo New York)
They could be the ultimate star-crossed lovers. A Brooklyn resident is willing to say goodbye forever to Earth — and her fiancĂ© — so she can be part of an elite crew of interplanetary explorers who take a one-way trip to Mars. Kellie Gerardi, 25, was notified on Dec. 31 while on a trip to Hawaii with her beau that her application made it to the next round of the selection process for the Mars One mission, a Netherlands-based nonprofit program that plans to colonize the red planet in 2025.

The only hitch for Gerardi is that she’s getting hitched. The same day she learned she had advanced in the selection process, her boyfriend, Steven, popped the question. Gerardi said yes, but she is willing to have a really, really long-distance relationship with him if it means achieving her dream of rocketing to another world. (2/27)

Without Test Range Designation, Ohio Presses On With Drones (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Ohio wasn't chosen as one of the Federal Aviation Administration's drone test sites, but that isn't deterring backers of drone technology. Sinclair Community College in Ohio is hoping to hear from the Federal Aviation Administration by mid-April on whether it can test a quadcopter drone at Springfield and Wilmington airports. (2/25)

Texas Drones Aloft at Test Site (Source: KLTV)
Texas A&M Corpus Christi and other Texas campuses are testing drones now as part of the Federal Aviation Administration's program to study how to integrate drones into the commercial airspace. Texas boasts one of the largest drone test sites, and one of the most varied in terms of landscape. "The reason Texas is one of the six selected is because of geographic diversity," said John Valasek, Texas A&M Center for Autonomous Vehicles And Sensor Systems. "Texas has mountains, prairies, deserts, forests and seashore, and that's a unique combination." (2/27)

Connecticut Governor Wants Unused Tax Credits for UTC (Source: Patch.com)
United Technologies would expand its operations in Connecticut under a deal that would have the state approving UTC's use of $400 million in unused tax credits, a deal backed by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The tax offsets would aid UTC's expansion, which includes a headquarters for Pratt & Whitney, capital improvements for Sikorsky as well as a customer training center. (2/26)

Air Force Choice on Satellite Terminals May Come in Q2 (Source: National Defense)
The Air Force may make a decision in the second quarter on a manufacturer for new Family of Advanced Beyond Line of Sight Terminals (FAB-T) program, which connects the terminals to Advanced-Extremely High Frequency satellites, providing secure communications even in cases of nuclear war. Boeing has wrapped up testing on its FAB-T offering and is competing for the work with Raytheon. (2/26)

Sequestration Harms Nevada Aerospace, and Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Projects (Source: RGJ.com)
After Nevada's recent designation as a FAA drone test site, expectations for growth in Nevada's aerospace industry have soared. This contrasts with state employment statistics for aerospace and defense that show a steep drop of more than 1,000 jobs between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.

Tom Wilczek, industry specialist for aerospace and defense with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said, “It was all due to what I call the specter of sequestration.” What ended up happening,” Wilczek said, “is the federal calendar year starts Oct. 1 so a lot of the federal entities weren’t renewing their contracts or additional task orders to the contractors.... Most all big defense contractors instituted layoffs and those layoffs have a trickle-down effect.”

This hurt Northern Nevada’s aerospace sector even before the sequestration went into effect last year. Alan Gertler, the Desert Research Institute’s chief science officer and vice president for research, said, “The sequestration delayed the whole FAA designation and had a significant impact at DRI. The majority of our funding comes from federal grants and contracts, and we took a major hit.” Greg Cox from Sparks-based Sierra Nevada Corp. said, “SNC is continuing to grow, but our growth rate has been impacted by sequestration and some federal budget cuts.” (2/26)

SpaceX Commercial Crew Milestones Status (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Click here for a rundown of SpaceX's CCiCAP milestones, including NASA award funding that has been provided, and is still pending, for milestone completions. (2/26)

SpaceX Moves Closer to Air Force Launches (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX was a big step closer to competing for lucrative U.S. Air Force launches after the military branch’s review of one of the company’s launches. The Space and Missile Systems Center, the Air Force’s El Segundo-based purchasing arm for rocket launches, said late Tuesday that a SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 v1.1 on Sept. 29 of last year will count toward the company’s certification to carry Air Force payloads. (2/26)

Lunar Lion Raises $133,768 in First Round of Crowdfunding (Source: Onward State)
Penn State’s Lunar Lion team is now $133,768 closer to landing on the moon at the conclusion of its first round of crowdfunding, which started on Jan. 20 and ended on Feb. 24. The $133,768 raised will help fund the development of a prototype moon lander, which will be used to test and simulate the actual landing of the Lunar Lion on the moon that is scheduled for Dec. 2015. (2/25)

How a San Francisco Company Bootstrapped its Way to Launching a Satellite (Source: Gigaom)
The team at Southern Stars, a small software company in San Francisco, had always been interested in space. They make stargazing apps after all. “It’s been a spectator sport for us. We like to read about NASA landing Curiosity on Mars, but we never thought about it from a participatory angle,” founder Tim DeBenedictis said in an interview. “We’re all space nerds. It’s kind of been in our blood for a long time.”

Then, one day, DeBenedictis’ friend took him to see a shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was inspiring. Then DeBenedictis heard of CubeSats–tiny satellites that can collect data and send back photos from space–and realized Southern Stars could build one. They knew how to write software and how to build a microcontroller. They just needed the money to get it into space. Click here. (2/24)

The Dark Matter Poltergeist (Source: Slate)
Electromagnetism governs every interaction we have with the world—touch, sight, even smell and taste when you consider that the chemical reactions we perceive through these senses are changes in (electromagnetic) molecular bonds. How strange, then, that the evolution of the universe, the motions of galaxies, the formation of massive objects on the largest scales, are all governed by something that appears to have no interaction with electromagnetism at all.

Dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up more than 80 percent of the matter in the universe, is literally untouchable. It passes right through you, through the planet, through stars and gas and everything in the universe that we can see. It is invisible, at the most fundamental level. But it does have gravity, which is the defining property of things we call matter. And it is so abundant that “luminous” matter—the stuff we can see and touch—is little more than an afterthought in the large-scale structure of the cosmos. Click here. (2/26)

New Orders Eclipsed Flat Revenue in 2013 at Airbus Space Division (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space’s space division on Feb. 26 reported flat revenue but higher profit for 2013 and said order intake for the year exceeded revenue for the first time in years. The space division, formerly known as Astrium, was able to post a record pretax profit margin of 6 percent despite lower revenue from its services business, which has suffered from a decline in military satellite telecommunications services contracts in the United States and elsewhere, and more competition for geostpatial imagery-based services. (2/26)

Uwingu Selling Mars Naming Rights To Raise Money for Space Science (Source: Space News)
The latest campaign by the crowdsource startup Uwingu to sell the naming rights for 500,000 martian craters appears likely to draw the ire once again of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the Paris-based organization responsible for determining official names for celestial bodies. Uwingu announced plans Feb. 26 to invite the public to select names for previously unnamed geographic features on Mars, including craters measuring more than 350 kilometers across.

With prices starting at $5, Uwingu hopes to raise more than $10 million for space research and education grants. If the project succeeds, it would produce the world’s largest private space grant initiative, said Alan Stern, Uwingu founder, planetary scientist and former associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. A similar Uwingu campaign announced in November 2012 that charged people $4.99 to suggest exoplanet names and 99 cents to vote for their favorite drew a rebuke from IAU officials who warned the public about organizations that solicit funds in exchange for naming rights. (2/26)

New Baikonur Head Appointed (Source: Tengri News)
Russia’s Roskosmos National Space Agency has appointed Mikhail Vardanyan to head the Kazakhstan-based Baikonur cosmodrome. “The decree to appoint him the new head came into force February 25”, the statement reads. Evgeniy Anissimov, the ex Head of Baikonur cosmodrome, resigned mid-February “for personal reasons”.

According to an unidentified source of Kommersant.ru, Mr. Anissimov was called to Moscow to meet Oleg Ostapenko, Head of Russia’s Roskosmos National Space Agency. He arrived for the appointment; however, there were no actual talks. Reportedly he was suggested to resign. 54-year-old Vardanyan has spent his entire career in the industry, including 30 years at the Kazakhstan-based Baikonur launch facility as a military engineer and manager. (2/26)

DigitalGlobe Stock Tumbles (Source: The Street)
DigitalGlobe shares are tanking on Wednesday after the company issued soft guidance and announced it had acquired energy imagery tech firm Spatial Energy for an undisclosed amount. By noon, the stock had taken off 25.9% to $30.47. Before the bell, the geospatial tech company reported fourth-quarter net income of 18 cents a share, 11 cents higher than analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected.

Revenue of $169.7 million was 35.3% higher than a year earlier but fell short of consensus by $16.2 million. Over fiscal 2014, management forecasts revenue between $630 million and $660 million, lower than analyst expectations of $710.26 million. The Longmont, Colo.-based business gave no explanation as to the soft guidance. (2/26)

MDA Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results (Source: MDA)
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2013. For the fourth quarter of 2013, the Company reported consolidated revenues of $476.7 million compared to $372.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2012. Operating earnings¹ this quarter increased to $48.3 million, from $39.0 million for the same period of 2012.

For the full year 2013, the Company reported consolidated revenues of $1.8 billion, up from $879.9 million for 2012 primarily due to the acquisition of SSL. Correspondingly, operating earnings increased to $180.0 million from $124.4 million for 2012. The Company ended the year with total funded order backlog of $3.0 billion, up from $2.2 billion at December 31, 2012. (2/26)

Airbus Posts Higher 2013 Profit (Source: AP)
European jetmaker Airbus Group said Wednesday record demand for its civilian jetliners from airlines around the world drove higher sales and profits last year. Airbus said net profit rose 22 percent to 1.47 billion euros ($2 billion) in 2013, up from 1.2 billion euros the previous year. The company, which competes with Boeing in the multi-billion-dollar market for large civilian aircraft, forecast jet deliveries to remain at about the same level this year as last year when it sold 626 aircraft. (2/26)

'Super-Earths' May Not Be So Super for Life (Source: Science)
A nice neighborhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your house is livable. Likewise, even if a planet orbits within the so-called Goldilocks zone surrounding its parent star where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold, its atmosphere may be hostile to life, a new study suggests. Even “super-Earths,” orbs with masses that fall between one and 10 times that of our planet and therefore offer some semblance of similarity to Earth, might be uninhabitable. Click here. (2/26)

Musk to Testify on Capitol Hill Next Week (Source: Market Watch)
Elon Musk, head of both private rocket company SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is scheduled to testify at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about national security space launch programs on March 5. A spokesman for the committee said Musk will join a four-person panel that also includes the CEO of the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. (2/26)

Orbital CEO Sees More Private-Public Space Ventures (Source: Bloomberg)
David Thompson, chairman and chief executive officer of Orbital Sciences Corp., talks about the company's business and the future of the space industry. He speaks with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." Click here. (2/26)

Wallops Employees Seek to Decertify Union (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA civil servants working at Wallops Flight Facility have been seeking to decertify the existing union there since June 2013. They claim that union representation is no longer necessary at that location. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) has not yet decided if they will conduct a special secret ballot election among those civil servants to decertify the current union at Wallops. (2/26)

Spacesuit Leak: Why It Took NASA 23 Minutes To Send Astronaut To Safety (Source: Universe Today)
The 23-minute gap of time between when Parmitano first sent a report of water in his helmet, to when NASA told him to go back to safety, exposed the astronaut “to an increased level of risk”, a new report said. While Parmitano emerged from the incident safely, in his last minutes inside the spacesuit the water was covering his eyes, getting close to his nose and mouth, and affecting the communications equipment.
“There wasn’t an issue of anything being hidden or surprised. It was a lack of understanding about the severity of the event. It was believed a drink bag caused the leak,” said Chris Hansen, the chair of the mishap investigation board, in a press conference. This misunderstanding, added Hansen (who is also the chief engineer of the International Space Station Program), also led to a problem when a leak occurred in the same suit just the week before.

Parmitano’s water leak occurred July 16 when he and Chris Cassidy were preparing a part of the International Space Station for a new Russian module. Until today, however, few knew about the existence of a second leak in the same spacesuit that happened on July 9, when Cassidy and Parmitano were doing another spacewalk together. (2/26)

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