March 1, 2014

Space Coast Man Gets 5 Years in NASA Fraud (Sources: Florida Today, AP)
A Merritt Island man was sentenced to 60 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $4.4 million in NASA and other government contract payments that should have gone to disadvantaged small businesses. Michael Dunkel, 60, will also serve two years of supervised release after leaving prison and pay a $12,500 fine and almost $3 million in forfeiture. Dunkel had pleaded guilty on May 23, 2013, to one count of major government fraud.

Dunkel admitted he agreed to pay Security Assistance Corporation (SAC) a fee in exchange for SAC allowing Dunkel to use its 8(a) status. Prosecutors said that although SAC was required to perform at least 50 percent of the work on the contracts and had represented it would do so, none of its employees performed any work. Dunkel submitted fraudulent proposals and invoices, used a third-party company’s Federal Employer Identification Number to prevent reporting of his contractor income to the IRS, and did not pay any income taxes.

Dunkel is the eighth person convicted in the scheme. The five-year term imposed at Friday's sentencing hearing was slightly less than the seven years sought by prosecutors, who said that Dunkel, a commercial pilot, profited personally from the scheme by $2.4 million. The money helped fund a lifestyle that included two private airplanes, a $350,000 race car and nearly a dozen other luxury vehicles and motorcycles, prosecutors said. (3/1)

NASA Begins Process to Rename Center for Neil Armstrong (Source: Collect Space)
With the flick of a digital switch, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center has been renamed for the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. NASA on Friday (Feb. 28) got off to an early start adopting the new name, updating its website addresses and social media handles, before the name officially goes into effect Saturday (March 1). The redesignation comes two months after President Obama signed legislation enacting the change and 20 years (to the day) after the center's last renaming. (2/28)

U.S. Space Assets Face Growing Threat From Adversaries (Source: Space News)
U.S. military and intelligence satellites face a growing threat from nations actively developing counterspace capabilities, the head of U.S. Strategic Command warned a Senate panel Feb. 27. U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil Haney’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee marked the third time in recent weeks that a senior U.S. military or intelligence official has publicly sounded the alarm about the threats U.S. national security space assets face from adversaries abroad. (2/28)

Satellite Financing Emerges as U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Fastest-Growing Sector (Source: Space News)
Satellite financing has become the fastest-growing sector at the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, rising from $50 million annually to $1 billion per year since 2010, Ex-Im Bank President Fred Hochberg said. “You heard that right: Satellites are our biggest riser at Ex-Im,” Hochberg said in a Feb. 20 speech to the Washington Space Business Roundtable. “Not energy, not airplanes, not infrastructure — satellites.”

The emergence of Ex-Im as a challenger, and occasional partner, to the French Coface export-credit agency (ECA) has been one factor in the rise of low-interest ECA satellite funding in recent years. Once used mainly by customers of limited financial strength, ECA financing has now become a tool for even the most well-heeled satellite fleet operators. And on at least one occasion, Ex-Im approved a loan after the decision to use a U.S. satellite builder had already been made by the foreign customer. (2/28)

Tackling Tumors with Space Station Research (Source: NASA)
In space, things don't always behave the way we expect them to. In the case of cancer, researchers have found that this is a good thing: some tumors seem to be much less aggressive in the microgravity environment of space compared to their behavior on Earth. This observatio could help scientists understand the mechanism involved and develop drugs targeting tumors that don't respond to current treatments. This work is the latest in a large body of evidence on how space exploration benefits those of us on Earth.

Research in the weightlessness of space offers unique insight into genetic and cellular processes that simply can't be duplicated on Earth, even in simulated microgravity. "Microgravity can be approximated on Earth, but we know from the literature that simulated microgravity isn't the same as the real thing," says Daniela Gabriele Grimm, M.D. To maximize use of the space station's unique microgravity platform, in 2011 NASA named the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) as manager of the station's U.S. National Laboratory.

By selecting research and funding projects, connecting investors and scientists and improving access to the station, CASIS accelerates new technologies and products with the potential to benefit all humanity. CASIS recently requested proposals for research on the effects of microgravity on fundamental stem cell properties. That request, says Patrick O'Neill, communications manager, generated a terrific response from the research community - larger than any other CASIS proposal to date. (2/28)

Russia Moves to Reinforce Space Ties With Kazakhstan (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia has tentatively approved a new agreement to strengthen space ties with Kazakhstan, which currently hosts Russia’s largest launch facility. The deal is set to provide a general framework to bolster bilateral collaboration, even as Russia inches closer to completing a new domestically based space center to reduce its dependence on its former Soviet neighbor. (2/28)

China Pushing Ahead on Hi-Res Satellite System (Source: Space News)
China’s push into high-resolution optical Earth observation through its seven-satellite CHEOS system is slightly delayed but will see the launch of a second satellite this year and three more satellites by 2016, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The China High-Resolution Earth Observation System, whose first satellite, Gaofen-1, was launched in April 2013 aboard a Chinese Long March 2D rocket, includes airborne instruments and what CNSA calls a “near-space airship,” apparently a high-altitude balloon, equipped with optical, laser and synthetic-aperture radar payloads, CNSA said. (2/28)

China Has No lunar Base Project (Source: Xinhua)
The world's third country to soft-land on the moon has no plan to build a lunar base there, a leading scientist of China's lunar probe mission told Xinhua Saturday. But Ye Peijian, chief scientist of the Chang'e-3 program, also said that since man can land on the moon and stay there briefly, there will be the day when they can stay there for long time. (3/1)

China Capable of Exploring Mars (Source: Xinhua)
China has the capability of exploring the planet Mars, Ye Peijian, a top scientist with the Chang'e-3 program, the country's lunar probe mission, told Xinhua. China is capable of sending a probe to circle Mars and having it land on the planet, Ye said, adding that the country has no problems with tracking control and communications technology.

China's space missions have seen systematic development. The Chang'e-3 lunar probe, a part of the second phase of the country's lunar program, soft-landed on the Moon on Dec. 14, with the nation's first moon rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) aboard. Ye said China improved ground stations and tackled many problems concerning control and communications especially during the second phase of its lunar program. "But the time to go [to Mars] will depend on the country's budget and decision," the scientist said. (3/1)

UK Cadets Wanted as Space Engineers (Source: BBC)
Apprentices are being invited to take one giant leap for mankind and sign up for elite space engineering training. The first degree-level apprenticeship in the field is being launched by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock at the National Space Center in Leicester. The program aims to encourage more scientists and engineers into the UK's space industry, expected to be worth £30bn in the next two decades. (2/28)

The New Market Space: Billionaire Investors Look Beyond Earth (Source: Financial Times)
Here we are more than a decade into the 21st century and we’re still not there. To be a child of the 1960s and 1970s was to daydream not only about traveling in space but also about settling there, indefinitely. National space agencies planned inflatable lunar cities. Space was where we were all going to live and work – Moon bases and hotels, everything in Stanley Kubrick’s futuristic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“Investment in commercial space flight has become one of the big trends among the super-rich,” says Liam Bailey, head of global research at Knight Frank. The property agency has identified more than 70 ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs – people with at least $30m in net assets) investing in commercial space travel, 13 of whom are billionaires with a combined wealth of $175bn. Click here. (2/28)

An Alien March Madness: Is There Life in Space? (Source: New York Times)
It’s not an invasion from space, but it is an invasion about space. A batch of programs related to the heavens and what might or might not be lurking in them are coming in March, and the Science Channel gets things started on Sunday with a week of offerings on the theme “Are We Alone”? The answer, of course, is, “We have no idea,” but in exploring the question the Science programs at least prove one thing: No camera angle is too odd when the subject is extraterrestrials. (2/28)

Mars Flyby Schedule Reset for 2021, But Will It Ever Fly? (Source: NBC)
A privately funded effort aimed at sending two astronauts flying past Mars has officially shifted its target launch date from 2018 to 2021, but the Inspiration Mars mission would still depend on a heavy-lift NASA rocket that has yet to be built. Inspiration Mars' current plan for a 582-day round trip was the subject of a congressional hearing before the House Science Committee on Thursday.

The project, conceived by millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito, calls for liftoff of NASA's Space Launch System with a modified Orion capsule on Nov. 22, 2021, with a Venus flyby in April 2022, a Mars flyby in October 2022, and then a return to Earth on June 27, 2023. Doug Cooke, a former NASA executive who has served as an adviser to Inspiration Mars, told lawmakers that the trip would give astronauts "40 hours of looking at Mars" when it's at least as big as the moon as seen from Earth.

Tito, a former space engineer, proposed the Inspiration Mars project with the aim of kickstarting deep-space exploration a la Apollo and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. He initially laid out a 501-day mission taking off in 2018, but mission planners determined that the requirements for the trip couldn't be met by then. (2/28)

Taiwan Engineers Around Export Restrictions, Winds Up with Better Satellite (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Since it launched its first satellite in 1999, Taiwan has been operating at a disadvantage. It’s had to maneuver through a thicket of export restrictions from European countries, such as France, Germany, and the U.S. to acquire a key component, without which its satellites would be lost. That component, a space-based GPS receiver helps fix the flying direction for a satellite and accurately calculate which way a spacecraft’s antenna should point.

Dealing with those countries' export restrictions regarding space systems could take up to six months, and the lengthy process has seriously hampered Taiwan’s satellite projects. Three years of hard work by Lin’s team resulted in the creation of Taiwan’s first home grown space-based GPS receiver. What’s more, the receiver is actually better than what Taiwan had been able to import in several ways. (2/28)

No comments: