February 5, 2014

Export Rule Changes Expected on Electronics, Satellites (Sources: Reuters, Space Politics)
The White House this year is likely to unveil changes to rules governing exports of chemicals, electronics and satellites, a move long awaited by U.S. manufacturers eager to capitalize on foreign sales. A federal inter-agency working group already has changed rules for more than half the 21 categories of products on the U.S. munitions list and expects to release updates later this year.

“Satellites will be first, ahead of electronics,” added Brian Nilsson, Director of Non-Proliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council. The administration published a draft of the revised Category XV in late May. While generally well received by industry, given that it moved most commercial satellites and their components off the USML and thus no longer under ITAR, one area of concern was the decision to keep “man-rated sub-orbital, orbital, lunar, interplanetary or habitat” spacecraft on the USML. (2/5)

Audit: NextGen's Location, Data Avionics Behind Schedule (Source: Aviation Today)
It's not likely avionics called for under the FAA's NextGen program will be ready as planned by 2020, a new audit says. The Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General says the systems that let pilots get real-time data about their location and position, called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) In, won't be ready by that date as the FAA is behind on its rule-making process for such systems.

Editor's Note: ADS-B was discussed at this week's FAA Space Transportation Conference as a tool for supporting future space traffic management. Embry-Riddle has been supporting FAA research and testing to demonstrate the technology on rockets and high-altitude balloons. (2/5)

Mikulski to JWST Workforce: "I Saved You from the Tea Party" (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) told workers on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that “I saved you from the Tea Party,” which wanted to cut the $8 billion program as a quick fix to budget challenges. For many years Mikulski has chaired the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and last year rose to also chair the full Senate Appropriations Committee, making her a very powerful figure in determining how much money NASA gets and how it is spent.

An ardent supporter of NASA, and particularly programs at Goddard in her home state of Maryland, Mikulski was upset at significant cost growth and schedule slippage in the JWST program in 2010.  She demanded an independent review of the program. That review, led by John Casani, faulted the program’s “budgeting and program management, not technical performance.” (2/3)

Hearing Reveals FAA-COMSTAC Rift on Learning Period for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Policy Online)
George Nield, FAA’s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, left no doubt today that he disagrees with a recommendation from his advisory committee, COMSTAC, to extend the “learning period” for commercial human spaceflight for eight years beyond when the first such spaceflight takes place.

In 2004, Congress passed a law strictly limiting the FAA’s authority to regulate the nascent commercial human spaceflight industry for eight years.  The idea was that the industry needed a learning period where it could fly people into space on a commercial basis without a heavy regulatory environment that might stifle their business.   Eight years later, however, not a single commercial human spaceflight had taken place, so Congress extended it for three more years, to September 30, 2015.

Now, Congress, the FAA and COMSTAC are debating whether there should be another extension considering that no commercial human spaceflights have taken place by now, either. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) asked Nield if he agreed with COMSTAC’s recommendation that the learning period be set as eight years after the first flight carrying a commercial passenger. “No, I do not agree” Nield replied. The U.S. has 50 years of human spaceflight experience, he explained. “To put that aside and say ‘well, let’s start over’ without taking advantage of what we’ve learned I think is irresponsible.” (2/4)

European Primes Say Component Monopolies Would Enhance Global Competitiveness (Source: Space News)
European space-hardware manufacturers said they relish the idea of gaining access to the U.S. government market through a U.S.-European free-trade agreement but asked for rules to protect against their home markets being flooded with inexpensive U.S. goods.

They also urged European regulators to accept the creation of monopoly suppliers among component manufacturers as a necessary evil in pursuit of greater European satellite exports. The highly competitive worldwide market among prime satellite contractors, they said, and continued competition among primes in Europe, would dampen the negative effects of monopoly suppliers. (2/5)

Florida's Zero Gravity Solutions Opens European Subsidiary (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Zero Gravity Solutions has established a wholly owned subsidiary, Zero Gravity Solutions Ltd (ZGSL), to service the Company’s operations and interests in the European Union (EU) and other international markets. ZGSL has established an office at Harwell Oxford’s Satellite Applications Catapult facility at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK), a major space, biotech and life science development site in the UK. (2/4)

U.S. Spaceflight Regulatory Chief Eager To Begin Rulemaking Process (Source: Space News)
The chief U.S. regulator for commercial spaceflight told lawmakers Feb. 4 he wants to start making rules governing paid passenger flights sooner than some in industry would prefer.  The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), under reauthorization legislation signed in February 2012, is barred from writing detailed safety regulations for commercial human spaceflight until October 2015, unless there is a serious accident in the industry before then. (2/5)

Russian Cargo Ship Launches Express Delivery to Space Station (Source: Space.com)
An unmanned Russian cargo ship launched on a quick trip to the International Space Station today (Feb. 5) to deliver tons of supplies for astronauts living on the orbiting laboratory. The robotic Russian Progress 54 spacecraft blasted off atop a Soyuz rocket on a six-hour accelerated journey to the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (2/5)

Spaceport America Director Unhappy with Senate Vote (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson said she is disappointed that a state Senate committee has supported a bill aimed at stopping a large share of gross receipts tax money from being used for operational costs at Spaceport America.

The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee voted 7-3 Monday to support a bill introduced by state Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, that would require all money raised through a special tax provision in Doña Ana and Sierra counties to be used to pay off the debt on construction of the Spaceport. Anderson said the measure, if approved by the Legislature, would cost the agency about $700,000 at what she called a “critical moment” for the Spaceport. (2/4)

Space Flies Offer Clues About Microgravity's Impact on Astronauts (Source: Space Daily)
Fruit flies bred in space are offering scientists a clue as to how astronauts' immune systems may be damaged during prolonged space travel. A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis and the University of Central Florida has been studying the impact weightlessness has on fruit flies in space.

Fruit flies' innate immune system is similar to that of humans and other mammals and is often used as a model in basic studies. While the negative impact of zero gravity on muscle, bone mass and the immune system has long been documented, exactly how it happens remains a mystery. This study offers a clue into one way the immune system may be affected.

"Our study showed that a biochemical pathway needed to fight fungal infections is seriously compromised in the flies after space flight," said Laurence Von Kalm, a UCF biologist. "More work will be needed to determine if similar effects occur in humans, but this gives us some clues. Getting a better understanding is particularly important, especially as we look to engage in long-term missions such as interplanetary space flights." (2/5)

NASA Selects Physical Science Research Proposals for the ISS (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Physical Science Research Program will fund seven proposals to conduct physics research using the agency's new microgravity laboratory, which is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in 2016. Click here to see the list. (2/4)

Georgia Spaceport Delegates Lobby Atlanta for Spaceport Support (Source: Florida Times-Union)
Sporting grins and Starfleet name tags with the slogan “Live long and prosper,” 20 business and community leaders from Camden County lobbied Tuesday for Georgia to become the home to a commercial space port. They may have seemed a little spacey if lawmakers had not had breakfast that morning with a completely different group of executives from some of the state’s 838 aerospace companies that provide 85,000 jobs. Neither group knew of the other’s plans, which may illustrate how big Georgia’s $50 billion aerospace industry is.

While that includes giants like Gulfstream Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and Delta Air Lines, it also includes start-ups like Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services that seeks to launch small, commercial satellites from airplanes starting in 2016. It helps that Georgia Tech produces more aerospace engineers than any school in the country. Aerospace products are the state’s No. 1 manufactured export with $5.75 billion in overseas sales in 2011. (2/4)

Virginia NASA Centers Move Science, Economy Forward (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
The U.S. space program in Virginia is as strong now as it’s ever been. The two NASA centers in Virginia — Langley Research Center in Hampton and Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore — continue to be at the forefront of the agency’s work in partnering with commercial industry to provide key services in low-Earth orbit while focusing on the tougher challenge of going deeper in space.

Langley and Wallops contribute much to the agency’s efforts in the first A in NASA: aeronautics. We are excited about Virginia Tech’s selection as one of six unmanned aerial system (UAS) test sites, charged by the Federal Aviation Administration to safely and efficiently integrate these systems in the national airspace. (2/5)

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Looks to Jump Sand Dune (Source: BBC)
The Curiosity Mars rover is to try to drive over a one meter-high dune. The sand bank is currently blocking the robot's path into a small valley and a route with fewer of the sharp rocks that lately have been making big dents in the vehicle's aluminium wheels. NASA engineers will take no risks, however. The rover will be commanded initially to climb only part way up the dune to see how it behaves. (2/4)

German Space Nominee Rounds Out All-female European Policy Triumvirate (Source: Space News)
The nomination of Brigitte Zypries as Germany’s new space program coordinator means the near-term future of Europe’s space sector — an industry as male-dominated as the average auto-repair shop — is now in the hands of three women.

Zypries will join Genevieve Fioraso of France and Maria Chiara Carrozza of Italy this year in determining whether Europe invests around 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in new launch vehicles and whether it signals its willingness to continue as a partner with the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada in the international space station.

Zypries, a former German justice minister, is now Germany’s aerospace coordinator in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Fioraso is France’s minister for higher education and research, and Carrozza is Italy’s minister of education, universities and research. (2/4)

Editorial: NASA Crew Plan Fails To Put Safety First (Source: Aviation Week)
Eleven years ago, on Feb. 1, 2003, the U.S. lost the space shuttle Columbia and the seven brave souls onboard. In the aftermath of this tragedy, much effort was devoted to determining the physical cause of the loss as well as the organizational reasons. The result of this investigation was the realization that the cultural and organizational issues at NASA were as much a cause as the small piece of foam that struck the wing during liftoff. Click here. (2/3)

Dark Halo Around Spiral Galaxy Poses Stellar Mystery (Source: New Scientist)
The Pinwheel Galaxy is a darker place than we suspected. Other large spiral galaxies, such as the Milky Way, boast star-speckled outer shells called stellar haloes. But the edges of the Pinwheel Galaxy are mysteriously barren, putting a wrinkle in one of the most widely held theories of galaxy growth. Click here. (2/4)

Eureka! First Life In The Universe (Source: NPR)
The idea of truly ancient "first" civilizations is a staple in science fiction. But when was the earliest moment in the 13.7-billion-year history of the cosmos when life (as we know it) could have first formed? That was the unlikely question that came to Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb as he and his family prepared for their Thanksgiving celebration. The answer, as he told me via email, represents the quintessence of at least one form of creativity in science.

"I got the idea in the shower on Thanksgiving morning, while thinking about the earliest cosmic time when stars may have formed in the early universe (tens of millions of years after the Big Bang). I realized that around that time, the cosmic microwave background had roughly room temperature, which is convenient for life." Click here. (2/4)

Lunar Law Row Hots Up as NASA Enters Private Moon Rush (Source: New Scientist)
Fancy a mining trip to the moon? Talk to NASA. The US space agency is now offering a leg-up in the commercial race to the moon. Having enjoyed a series of successful partnerships with private companies, such as SpaceX, to send cargo to the International Space Station, NASA now hopes to do the same with moon landers. But contention over lunar property rights may still stymie commercial growth. Click here. (2/4)

Switzerland To Join Galileo Program (Source: Space News)
The Swiss government, whose nonmembership in the European Union and membership in the European Space Agency have raised security-related issues at the European Commission, has concluded an agreement with the EU to join Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation program. (2/4)

Mock Mars Mission: Sending Secret Messages On the Red Planet (Source: Space.com)
For two weeks this January, Crew 133 was a caretaker of a habitat on "Mars." The Mars Desert Research Station is a 1,200-square-foot facility in the middle of the Utah desert and is the property of the Mars Society. Crews staying out here, however, are responsible for keeping it clean and safe for simulated missions to the Red Planet.

My crewmembers went over every square inch of this space in our time there. We pulled out the shelves of equipment in the "EVA room" (extra-vehicular activity room) and vacuumed near the walls. We swept out our rooms and wiped down the shelves. Along the way, we discovered some interesting messages. Most are functional, but there are a few fun surprises for crews to discover. Click here. (2/4)

Astrobotic Begins Testing at Masten Space Systems (Source: Astrobotic)
When Astrobotic’s Griffin lander descends to the lunar surface, it will precisely target a small landing ellipse (a small area where it might land) and autonomously maneuver to avoid hazards such as rocks bigger than 25cm and slopes greater than 15°. In last month’s blog post, we introduced the landing sensor package and the concept of map registration – a technique that matches (“registers”) a location in an in-flight image to the same location on a map.

This week, an Astrobotic team led by Kevin Peterson is headed out to Masten Space Systems, located at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA, to fly the landing sensor package and software system on the Masten Xombie suborbital rocket. This is the first of three flights on Masten’s reusable launch vehicles – all made possible by a NASA Flight Opportunities award. (2/3)

Giant Astronaut Statue Envisioned for New Apollo Visitor Center in Texas (Source: CollectSpace)
A new Texas-size tribute to NASA's Apollo manned moon landings may give new meaning to the phrase "giant leap." An 80-foot-tall (24-m) statue of a spacesuited astronaut is planned as the centerpiece for the Apollo Center, a newly-announced visitor attraction in Webster, Texas. Proposed as a 20,000 square-foot (1,860 sq.m) facility located just down the road from NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, the Apollo Center would serve as an education and conference center. (2/4)

Dead or Alive, the Yutu Rover Says Much About How We Relate to Robots (Source: The Conversation)
This weekend, the moon’s fortnightly rotation cycle turns China’s lunar rover Yutu (the Jade Rabbit) and its solar panels toward the sun once again … but whether the rover wakes up or not remains to be seen, as Yutu already announced its impending death to Earth-based watchers with a series of first-person messages on January 25.

The messages were posted on China’s equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, from an unofficial account believed to be run by a group of enthusiasts. Yutu is not the only spacecraft to have a public fan base. Social media such as Twitter and its equivalents play a prominent role in this. Other high profile spacecraft which communicate in first person include @MarsCuriosity and @NSFVoyager2. Click here. (2/4)

MAVEN Thumbs Up Following Checkout en Route to Mars (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has provided an encouraging report card on the initial status of its array of instrumentation, as it continues its journey to Mars. The mission to study the planet’s atmosphere was launched last November, with the spacecraft having already clocked 137 million miles. (2/4)

Will Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Turn into a Wee Red Dot? (Source: Universe Today)
Watch out! One day it may just go away. Jupiter’s most celebrated atmospheric beauty mark, the Great Red Spot (GRS), has been shrinking for years.  When I was a kid in the ’60s peering through my Edmund 6-inch reflector, not only was the Spot decidedly red, but it was extremely easy to see. Back then it really did span three Earths. Not anymore.

Yes, it’s been paler than normal and that’s played a big part in its lack of visibility, but combine pallor with a hundred-plus years of downsizing and it’s no wonder beginning amateur astronomers often struggle to locate the Spot in smaller telescopes. (2/4)

Aerospace Outlook Shows Stark Divide (Source: GCX)
The defense side of the aerospace industry is suffering the effects of slowed government spending and sequestration cuts, but civil aviation sales, drone development and other non-defense sectors have a bright outlook, experts say. "It's a tale of two industries," says Tom Captain, Deloitte's vice chairman and aerospace and defense sector leader.

Aerospace employment took a hard hit in 2013 due to sequestration, says Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, but the AIA projects robust growth in the space and civil sectors for the coming year. (1/31)

NASA Group Refines Asteroid-Capture Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA needs to partner with private groups to better prepare for an asteroid capture-and-study mission, a panel has recommended. That's one of the suggestions to come out of the NASA's 2013 Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop, aimed at refining the space agency's plan to get an asteroid settled into lunar orbit so astronauts can land on it. Among the other recommendations: Get greater United Nations support of missions to protect Earth from dangerous asteroids. (1/31)

Global Space Balloon Challenge (Source: Hobby Space)
Ever wanted to build something and send it to space? The Stanford Student Space Initiative and the Michigan Balloon Recovery and Satellite Testbed team invite you to the Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC)! The GSBC is an international education outreach project to encourage people from around the world to build and launch their own high altitude balloons- teams from 12 countries from 6 continents have already signed up! Click here. (2/4)

Space Squadron Optimizes Wideband Communication Constellations (Source: Space Daily)
Late in 2013, the 3rd Space Operations Squadron's mission -- "Warfighters ensuring reliable wideband communications to national authorities and U.S. and Allied forces" -- was proudly displayed as the unit repositioned its eighth satellite during a nine-month effort to optimize the military wideband communications constellation.

During the last six months, the squadron added the second and third Block II Wideband Global SATCOM vehicles to its fleet of communication satellites. Those vehicles have eight times the capacity of legacy Defense Satellite Communications System vehicles and modernized communications capabilities. (1/31)

Amazing 45 kg Medieval-Armor-Inspired Spacesuit to Help People Walk on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
Dr. Gernot Groomer from Austria has designed a spacesuit for walking on Mars. It takes him three hours to put it on. The suit is made from 10,000 parts and designed for the most treacherous environment to be encountered by human beings. Groomer is an astrobiologist responsible for making a spacesuit for the future explorers of Mars and he is taking inspiration from armour worn by medieval knights.

The 45 kilogram suit incorporates air and power supplies, communication devices, sensors to take biometric readings and ventilation, and also all the facilities that allow the astronaut to eat, drink and even scratch their nose while away from the base. It's a robotic creation with all the life-support systems of a conventional spacesuit but with added capabilities required to operate all alone on a distant planet where fast communication with Earth is impossible. (2/4)

New Technique Could Be Used to Search Space Dust for Life's Ingredients (Source: Space Daily)
While the origin of life remains mysterious, scientists are finding more and more evidence that material created in space and delivered to Earth by comet and meteor impacts could have given a boost to the start of life. Some meteorites supply molecules that can be used as building blocks to make certain kinds of larger molecules that are critical for life.

A team at Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory have recently applied advanced technology to inspect extremely small meteorite samples for the components of life. Analyzing such tiny samples is extremely challenging. "Extracting much less meteorite powder translates into having much lower amino acid concentration for analyses," said Callahan. "Therefore we need the most sensitive techniques available. (2/4)

Getting Ready for Asteroids (Source: Space Daily)
With a mandate from the UN, ESA and other space agencies from around the world are about to establish a high-level group to help coordinate global response should a threatening asteroid ever be found heading towards Earth. For the first time, national space agencies from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa will establish an expert group aimed at getting the world's space-faring nations on the 'same page' when it comes to reacting to asteroid threats.

Its task is to coordinate expertise and capabilities for missions aimed at countering asteroids that might one day strike Earth. Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, more than 10 000 are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, because their orbits bring them relatively close to our path. Click here. (2/4)

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