March 14, 2014

New Trailer for Google Lunar XPRIZE Show (Source: SPACErePORT)
Actor Tim Allen is teaming up with XPRIZE to narrate Back To The Moon For Good, an educational fulldome planetarium show debuting this November at digital planetariums around the world. The 25-minute digital film highlights the history of exploring the Moon and provides an insider’s look into the teams vying for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized prize in history. Click here. (3/14)

Shuttle Workers Honored On Walk of Fame Pylons (Source: SPACErePORT)
The U. S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation takes great pride in preserving our history as space workers and that of the U. S. Space Program through its Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and (in work) Shuttle monument displays. All of these beautiful tributes to the space worker are located in Space View Park, downtown Titusville and the U. S Space Walk of Fame Museum.

The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo monuments have been completed and the Shuttle monument will be dedicated in the fall of this year. We currently have 7 Shuttle pylons with names of Shuttle space workers and look forward to have many more in place before the dedication. We ask that you consider adding your name to those already engraved as part of our recognition of the efforts we all expended over the years on Shuttle. Click here. (3/14)

Charlie Floyd Selected for Space Club's Debus Award (Source: NSCFL)
Congratulations to Charlie Floyd for being selected this year's Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award. The 2014 Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award Dinner will be held Saturday, April 26 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Debus Center. Click here. (3/14)

Space Florida Signs MOU with Swiss Space Systems for Use of Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: Space Florida)
Aerospace company Swiss Space Systems (S3) inaugurates its new U.S. subsidiary, S3 USA Operations (Florida) Inc., at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. S3 has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Space Florida for future utilization the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and associated infrastructure for its flight operations, which are slated to begin in 2015 with zero gravity flights. S3 will also evaluate the SLF as a main site for satellite launches beginning in 2018.
Swiss Space Systems currently has more than 60 employees in Switzerland, Spain and the U.S. S3’s engineering team, supported by its industrial and academic partners, is steadily progressing on the research & development phase of an innovative small satellite launching system, the SOAR, based on an Airbus aircraft lofting the sub-orbital reusable shuttle on its back. S3 has already established an initial footprint at the Kennedy Space Center, leasing offices at Space Florida’s Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) in Exploration Park.

The establishment of this new subsidiary further reinforces S3’s presence in the United States, after the creation of the S3 USA office in Washington DC. Frank DiBello, CEO and President of Space Florida stated, “We are pleased to welcome Swiss Space Systems to Florida. We believe strongly in the enormous potential of the markets they are pursuing including small satellites and suborbital operations. We look forward to working with S3 to enable their growth and expansion in our state.” (3/14)

Industry Descends on Tallahassee to Promote Spaceflight Awareness (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It is not every day that you see representatives from what were just a day prior highly-competitive companies sit down and work together for a common goal. Such is the power of Florida Space Day. On Wednesday, March 12, representatives from Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and other prominent aerospace firms grouped into teams and worked to impart the importance of space matters to Florida’s legislature.

The event, started the evening prior with opening remarks made by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, Space Florida’s President Frank Dibello and Abacus Technology’s Patty Stratton. The nearly 20 separate teams were then provided with their marching orders and began organizing for the following day.

The importance of this year’s Florida Space Day was increased with the rise of space ports at other locations, in other states across the nation. A fact underscored by one of the leaders of this annual effort. “I call it our, ‘we are not alone’ – campaign and I’m not talking about aliens or UFOs – there are a number of states who would like to assume the same role that Florida has had for the past 50 years,” said Space Florida’s President and CEO Frank DiBello. Click here. (3/12)

Why Space-Themed Action-Adventure Movies Died 30 Years Ago (Source: Huffington Post)
Nineteen Eighty-Four marked what would become the death throes for action-adventure movies set in space. There had been a flood of lesser movies trying to capitalize on the tone set by the original “Star Wars” trilogy: there was “Krull,” "The Last Starfighter,” “Megaforce,” and even a little-known gem that tried to capitalize on both “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” titled, of course, “Space Raiders.”

In 1977, space movies were getting nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. By 1984, “space movies” were dumb. That’s not to say there wasn’t sci-fi, but the space adventures in theaters seemed, for all purposes, dead. Now, television picked up the slack. So much, in fact -– with shows like “Firefly” and “Battlestar Galactica -- that you may not even realize the dearth (other than the “Star Wars” prequels and “Star Trek” movies) that was levied upon the space opera.

In the last year, things have changed dramatically. It’s easy to point at “Gravity” as a turning point for these types of movies. And it certainly helps, but its action still occurs pretty close to Earth and -– as unbelievable as some scenes may actually be –- it’s still based in at least some sort of hyper-stylized version of reality. (3/14)

Astronaut's Mother Helps Overturn Murder Conviction (Source: CNN)
After almost 17 years in prison, this was it: This was The Moment. Gloria Killian's murder conviction had been overturned. Carrying a small bag of her belongings, she walked out of prison as a free woman. For Killian's friend Joyce Ride (mother of Sally Ride), then in her late 70s, picking up Killian was also very emotional. "Seeing her walk out was a really great joy," Ride told CNN, recalling that day in 2002.

"It was like a load was lifted off my shoulders." The two women noticed a crowd of inmates and visitors had gathered to watch this magic moment. Suddenly the inmates started waving goodbye. The sendoff was sort of a thank-you note. "Gloria was very popular," Ride said. Killian had used her education as a former law student to perform legal work for some of the inmates. Click here. (3/15)

Competition Coming for Zero Gravity Corp. (Source: Space News)
Swiss Space Systems is setting up a U.S. division to offer parabolic airplane rides from the Kennedy Space Center, the company announced March 14. The flights would be similar to those conducted by Zero Gravity Corp, which is owned by the Arlington, Va.-based tourism firm Space Adventures. Since 2004, Zero Gravity Corp has been operating a Boeing 727 that flies parabolic arcs to simulate weightlessness, similar to NASA’s now-retired KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft.

Zero Gravity Corp. provides reduced gravity flights for NASA and sells rides to outside researchers, businesses and tourists. Its website lists ticket prices as $4,950 plus tax per person. Swiss Space Systems’ fares were not immediately available. The company’s new subsidiary, S3 USA Operations, signed an agreement with Space Florida to use Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for flight operations, which are scheduled to begin next year. NASA is turning over the SLF to Space Florida to develop it for commercial use. (3/14)

Swiss Space Systems Gains Access to Russian Engines (Source: S3)
Swiss Space Systems (S3) has entered into a new partnerships with Russian companies specializing in space propulsion systems. This constitutes a key milestone towards the realization of S3’s project. JSC Kuznetsov will provide the rocket engine used for the suborbital shuttle developed by S3, while RKK Energia will study the conception of the upper stage destined to place satellites in low earth orbit.

This is the first time that a European company collaborates with Russian companies specializing in the development and manufacturing of propulsion systems. This agreement with the creators of the world’s best rocket engines constitutes a decisive milestone achieved by the Swiss aerospace company. Swiss Space Systems (S3) is progessing rapidly in the development of its satellite launch system based on an Airbus aircraft and a reusable suborbital shuttle, the SOAR, with first commercial missions beginning in 2018. (2/19)

Super-Habitable World May Exist Near Earth (Source: Astrobiology)
Earth is the only known example of an inhabited planet in the universe, so the search for alien life has focused on Earth-like worlds. But what if there are alien worlds that are even more habitable than Earth-like planets? These so-called "superhabitable" worlds One such planet might even exist around the stellar system closest to Earth Alpha Centauri B. Click here. (3/14)

Americanized Ariane 5 Among Game-Changing Scenarios Execs Foresee (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch service providers on March 11 raised the possibility of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket becoming American, Sea Launch becoming Russian and Japan's high-cost H-2A becoming cost competitive. The scenarios would mean radical changes for the current systems and address problems that each has in maintaining or establishing a position in a market featuring no more than 20-25 geostationary commercial telecomm satellites being competed for launch in a given year.

“As far as the employment aspect, we are ready to see how we could Americanize our rocket in return for U.S. government business,” Israel said, adding that U.S. rockets occasionally launch European government satellites. Israel did not detail how the Ariane 5, launched from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, might be sufficiently “Americanized” to pass muster with the U.S. government and qualify for government satellite business. (3/14)

Sea Launch Shift Could Position Company for Russian Govt. Missions (Source: Space News)
Sea Launch AG of Bern, Switzerland, is owned by an affiliate of RSC Energia of Korolev, Russia, which is Russian government-owned. Its home port is Long Beach, California. But the Sea Launch Zenit-3 SL rocket is operated from a floating equatorial platform in the Pacific Ocean in international waters, disqualifying it as a Russian rocket. Russian government officials in recent months have raised the possibility of relocating Sea Launch to Russian territorial waters, a move that would give it access to Russian government missions.

Sea Launch Chief Executive Sergey Gugkaev said he would have no problem with a move to an ocean location off Russia’s Far East, but only if the move came with a guarantee that Sea Launch could bid for large Russian government satellites against Khrunichev Space Center’s Proton rocket. Gugkaev said discussions about Sea Launch’s possible move to Russia are “part of the big reform in the Russian space industry. Our opinion is that if these changes would allow us to get more market share — more Russian satellites from Roscosmos — then it would be a good thing for us.”

Editor's Note: Sea Launch has conducted 36 FAA-licensed commercial lauches. Though it uses a foreign-made launch system, the company's manifest has represented a significant proportion of the U.S. share of the international commercial launch market. If Sea Launch is effectively 'nationalized' by Russia and moves away from Long Beach, I wonder how this would impact the FAA's licensing and forecasting. (3/14)

Contamination Issue Delays SpaceX Flight (Source: Space News)
An oily residue on thermal blankets that protect the trunk of the Dragon cargo capsule is the cause of SpaceX's launch delay, according to a source. Engineers were concerned the substance could outgas once the capsule was in orbit and potentially contaminate experiments in the unpressurized trunk, which also houses Dragon’s solar panels. (3/14)

Germany Not Happy with SOFIA Cut by NASA (Source: NASA Watch)
"As part of the current budget statement of NASA it has now let announced from Washington that the continued operation as of 2015 could no longer be financed. That would not only be a major blow for the science that has planned many interesting astronomical research for the coming years, but also for the relationship between NASA and DLR." (3/14)

Arecibo Observatory Back in Action Following Earthquake Damage (Source: Universe Today)
Damage to the iconic Arecibo Observatory from an earthquake earlier this year has been repaired and the telescope is now back to full service. On January 13, 2014, the William E. Gordon radio telescope sustained damage following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that was centered 37 miles northwest of Arecibo. A large cable that supports the telescope’s receiver platform had “serious damage,” according to Bob Kerr, the Director of the Arecibo Observatory. (3/14)

Retirement Wave Will Hit Aerospace Hard, Companies Warn (Source: Reuters)
An aging workforce is a looming threat to the aviation and aerospace industries, leaders of that sector told Congress this week. The testimony -- during which executives from Boeing and elsewhere detailed the percentage of their skilled workforce due to retire soon -- was part of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security's attempt to understand the industry's workforce needs. "We are seeing competitors move up behind us," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. (3/13)

FAA Budget Sacrifices Some NextGen Funding (Source: Aviation Week)
The Federal Aviation Administration's 2015 budget cuts overall spending, but notably in the FAA's flagship program to evolve air traffic control in the U.S. to a satellite-based system. The NextGen project may be a high-profile effort, but it will also sustain a 7.3% cut in funding under the proposal, as the FAA refocuses on goals it can achieve more quickly.

Editor's Note: During the recent FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, NextGen Chief Edward Bolton (a former commander of the Air Force 45th Space Wing) described how elements of NextGen will support future space transportation integration into the National Airspace System (NAS), and potentially enable space traffic management above the NAS. (3/10)

Kansas Firm Tapped for NASA Drone Work (Source: Miami Herald)
NASA has contracted with Lawrence, Kan.-based KalScott Engineering to build a drone that can take measurements for NASA's earth science work and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The drone, which will provide high-altitude air sampling, also could be used for civilian surveillance or crop surveys. (3/14)

XCOR Hoping to Win the Space Race (Source: Belfast Telegraph)
Space enthusiasts keen to explore the skies but deterred by the hefty price tag will soon be able to board a rocket for just a fraction of the cost. Passengers in the XCOR Lynx will be able to experience weightlessness and view the earth from over 300,000 feet up with a just a pilot for company.

Seating just two people, the spacecraft takes off and lands vertically, using its reusable rocket propulsion system to launch from the same runways used by commercial aeroplanes. More than 200 tickets for a trip on the Lynx have already been sold, at a cost of $95,000 (£57,000), considerably cheaper than the $250,000 (£155,000) tickets for trips into space inside Sir Richard Branson's six-passenger Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.

Passengers will put on white space suits two hours before boarding the spacecraft and embarking on the 40 to 50-minute flight. Randy Baker, a vice president at XCOR, said things move very quickly: "There is just 15 seconds between lighting the engines and take off, then 50 seconds after lighting the engines you go supersonic and very close to vertical and are pushed back in your seat. Then three minutes after lighting the engines you are at 180,000 feet." (3/14)

FSDC Engages With Governor, Legislators on Space Day (Source: SPACErePORT)
Officials from the Florida Space Development Council joined dozens of other aerospace industry leaders from around the state to promote continued state investment and attention for space industry development. FSDC President Laura Seward and Vice President Edward Ellegood were assigned to teams that met with virtually every legislator's office in the Capitol, during the second week of the state's annual Legislative Session. FSDC will track the progress of space-related issues during the Session, using this chart. (3/14)

NASA Names New Chief Technologist, Acting CTO (Source: FCW)
The first few months of 2014 have seen a shuffle in the highest levels of NASA's information technology roster. On March 13, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named David W. Miller, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as NASA's new chief technologist. Miller will not have to relinquish his professorship at MIT. He will serve NASA through an intergovernmental personnel agreement with the university. Miller succeeds Mason Peck, who returned to his position at Cornell University in early 2014 after two years as NASA's chief technologist. (3/13)

GPS 3 Prime Contractor Solicits Info on Alternative Navigation Payload (Source: Space News)
As many as six aerospace companies have responded to a request for information from Lockheed Martin to develop a space-based navigation payload similar to the one that has delayed the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS 3 system. The moves come as the Air Force leaders, already unhappy with delays to the GPS 3 program, have complained about a lack of competition in space-based navigation payloads. Exelis Corp. has been the sole provider of GPS payloads since the program’s beginning. (3/14)

Major Fleet Operators Continue To Bend Rules, Orbital-Slot Boss Says (Source: Space News)
Major satellite fleet operators continue to bend the rules to safeguard orbital slots to which they have no legitimate rights, a situation that will not help the satellite industry as it prepares to battle terrestrial wireless operators for radio-spectrum rights. Yvon Henri, chief of the space services department at the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Radiocommunication Bureau, said he was surprised to hear satellite executives brag about their prowess in playing fast and loose with the rules.

ITU governments in 2012 agreed to tighten regulations with respect to “bringing into use” a satellite network, which is ITU lingo for validating a slot reservation within a certain deadline. Under the new rules, a satellite needs to remain at a given orbital position, and broadcast in the frequencies reserved for the network, for three months.

It has become commonplace in the industry for satellite operators to lease aging spacecraft to other operators for the express purpose of validating an orbital position for three months before being returned to their original owners. Some companies in the past have sought to “bring into use” several orbital positions by moving a satellite from slot to slot. (3/13)

'Mystery' Aerospace Company Mulls Move to Melbourne Airport (Source: MyNews 13)
"A "secret" company is considering a big move to Melbourne International Airport in what's considered one of the biggest economic developments in the nation. The mystery company, which has been only identified as "Project Magellan" by the Space Coast Economic Development Commission, specializes in aerospace.

According to documents, the business would invest a half-billion dollars to base its aircraft development work at the airport, creating 1,800 jobs with an average annual wage of $100,000. "With downsizing at the space center, we have people here that need jobs, and aerospace is just natural for us to continue to develop that cluster, with all of our space expertise that our county has," said Debbie Goode, the Economic Development Commission's chairwoman-elect." (3/13)

Dragon Contamination Cleanup Forces Launch Delay (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an unmanned cargo ship bound for the International Space Station has been delayed from Sunday to no earlier than March 30, because of what sources described as apparent contamination that could pose problems for research hardware carried by the Dragon cargo craft.

SpaceX engineers were preparing the rocket for launch at 4:41 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Sunday to boost the Dragon capsule, loaded with about 4,600 pounds of equipment and supplies, on an automated flight to the International Space Station. But the launch was put on hold, sources said, when engineers noticed contamination of some sort on the Dragon's lower unpressurized trunk section.

Two of six electrically powered payloads aboard the Dragon are mounted in the trunk section -- a first for this mission -- and engineers were concerned the contamination might "outgas" in orbit and cause problems for the station-bound hardware. (3/13)

The Search for Aliens Is Just Getting Started (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Seth Shostak, SETI senior astronomer, tells PopMech why it's no surprise our search for alien life has so far come up empty—and why, if there really is intelligent life out there, we'll find it within the next few decades. "A lot of people do think of and refer to this as a silence, but I certainly don't. Because of the limitations in equipment and money, we've carefully explored very little of the sky," he said.

"Yes, the first SETI experiment was done more than a half century ago, but you probably have to look at a few million star systems at very high sensitivity before you score a success. We haven't carefully examined anywhere near that number—a few thousand at most." Click here. (3/12)

Do Neutrinos Change Flavor at Night? (Source: Discovery)
A fascinating observation has been tentatively announced by scientists using the Japanese SuperKamiokande neutrino detector. After analyzing 18 years of data it appears that neutrinos generated by fusion in the sun’s core ‘flip’ flavors when detected on the night-side of Earth.

Neutrinos are the chargeless ‘ghosts’ of the quantum world. They have very little mass and travel near the speed of light. They are so weakly interacting with normal matter that they can blast through our entire planet, from one side to the other, without hitting a thing. The only force they interact with is the weak force. Although they may seem impossible to detect, physicists have devised a means to snare stealthy neutrinos should they score a direct hit with terrestrial matter.

Neutrinos can come in three different flavors — “electron,” “tau” and “muon” — and, through a quantum quirk, oscillate between these flavors. The nature of this oscillation has been the focus of physics studies for decades. The fascinating thing about neutrino flavor is that only electron neutrinos are detected by Japan's SuperKamiokande detector. Click here. (3/14)

The Putin Problem: U.S. Needs Russian Engines to Launch Spy Satellites (Source: Washington Times)
Call it the Crimea conundrum or the Putin problem: the US needs Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine for national security-oriented satellite launches. The U.S. Air Force recently confirmed that Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX has completed the first of three missions required to qualify for carrying National Security Space payloads, but as of now the sole certified provider for such tasks belongs to a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing — and Atlas V boosters need the Russian technology.

“The partnership we’ve had with Russia [for] that engine has been very important, I think, to both of us, but there are number of concerns the Air Force has and others have anytime we’re relying on such an important piece of equipment from vendors outside of the United States,” Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning said. “We have enough of those engines to support launches well into 2016 but are monitoring closely any suggestions that are taking place in the current bilateral situation that might impact our supply.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said a “a very serious series of steps” would occur if the Crimean Peninsula, currently occupied by Russian military hardware and thousands of troops, votes to rejoin Russia. He did not get into specifics as to what those steps might be, only saying to a Senate Appropriations Committee panel that there would be “a response of some kind.” (3/14)

'The Ultimate Reality Series' Is Becoming a Reality (Source: TV Week)
The idea from Dutch billionaire Bas Lansdorp was hailed as a concept for “the ultimate reality series”: a group of people trained for a one-way mission to Mars to create the first human colony. But now the idea is becoming an actual reality TV show, Andreeva writes. Liongsate TV is working with Lansdorp’s Mars One for an unscripted TV series to track the mission. Lionsgate won the project in a “competitive situation,” the report notes. The untitled project will be shopped to networks soon.

“Mars One calls for new groups of four to be sent to Mars every two years, beginning no later than 2024. Announced last year, the scientific project already has received almost 300,000 applications from all all over the world, which are being whittled down. Lionsgate TV is expected to start its own casting search, with the two selection processes ultimately merged.” The series would track progress over the next several years, including different stages of preparation and selection of the finalists, who will undergo eight years of training. (3/14)

Holidays to Mars, Ultimate Honeymoon: McBride Makes Space Tourism Predictions (Source: Daily Mail)
"I think it’s very feasible. There’s an awful lot of technology already, so why not turn it over to folks and let them benefit from it. It may pay back some of the investment we made 50 years ago. Sir Richard Branson and his folks can take these people up, and they’ll be paying taxes...If I was a billionaire, and I had the money, I’d probably go do it every week."

"It’s not too outlandish to sit here today and think that in 100 years’ time we may have routine access to the moon, that we may have colonised it with hotel complexes and tour operators – that you could take your new bride up into space for a real ‘honey-moon’, three nights for the price of two, and all those kinds of things. It’s not too outlandish at all... We may have people on Mars in the next 30 years. It’s the next conquest. Someone in the next ten years will decide whether the next big project is back to the moon, capturing a rogue asteroid, or going to Mars. It’s all there." (3/14)

In 10 Years I Hope to Live on Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
I want to leave the planet. In particular, I'd like to live on Mars. Is that a strange goal? It's my job to convince people that it's not, because if everything goes according to plan, I could be saying goodbye to Earth as soon as 2024. As an astronaut candidate for a manned mission to Mars, I'm prepared to spend the next ten years training for a new reality. Click here. (3/14)

Rare Mineral Points to Vast Oceans Beneath the Earth (Source: Astrobiology)
It might be the ugliest diamond you'll ever see, but within this brown sliver of carbon is a gem of a find for a University of Alberta scientist working to unravel an ocean-sized mystery deep beneath the Earth. An international team of scientists led by Graham Pearson, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources at the U of A, has discovered the first-ever sample of a mineral called ringwoodite.

Analysis of the mineral shows it contains a significant amount of water--1.5 per cent of its weight--a finding that confirms scientific theories about vast volumes of water trapped 410 to 660 kilometres beneath the Earth, between the upper and lower mantle. "This sample really provides extremely strong confirmation that there are local wet spots deep in the Earth in this area," said Pearson. Click here. (3/14)

UF Researchers to Send Plants to International Space Station (Source: Independent Alligator)
Two UF scientists will send off the SpaceX-3 Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center. Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, faculty members in the Horticultural Sciences Department of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will monitor the capsule containing an experiment that they hope will aid them in understanding how plants function in space. (3/14)

KSC Director Bob Cabana Presents Memento to Six-Year-Old (Source: NASA)
Dreams do come true. Six-year old Connor Johnson, Denver, Colo., will have the opportunity to meet with astronauts, see space vehicles and witness his first launch while at Kennedy Space Center this weekend. KSC Director Bob Cabana will present a memento to inspire the youngster at the KSC Visitor Complex.Connor Johnson is continuing his dream of becoming an astronaut as a guest of the visitor complex. He and his family are making their first visit to the space center. (3/13)

In-Space Propellant Storage/Transfer Fares Poorly in New Budget Proposal (Source: Innerspace)
One program going nowhere fast with NASA is the Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer Experiment, which according to the new budget justification has been downgraded from a sub-scale orbital demonstration to ground level demonstrations in support of SLS. For proponents of economically sustainable space exploration, this change may be particularly disheartening. Arguably, there is no greater enabling technology to be achieved with less overall investment than cryogenic propellant storage and transfer.

While we currently have the ability to conduct long term deep space missions using storable hypergolic propellants, their relatively low performance is a critical limiting factor in both robotic and crewed space missions. Developing and demonstrating the ability store high performance cryogenic propellants in space for long periods of time without significant boil-off is nothing less than a necessity for long term exploration. Taken together with the closely related challenge of transferring cryogenic propellants from one container to another in zero-g, as well as accurately measuring the amount of fluid in a storage vessel, the net result is leveraging effect with stunning capacity.

In fact, as the Augustine commission determined: “In the absence of in-space refueling, the U.S. human spaceflight program will require a heavy-lift launcher of significantly greater than 25 mt capability to launch the EDS and its fuel. However the picture changes significantly if in-space refueling is used.” Furthermore “Studies commissioned by the Committee found that in-space refueling could increase by at least two to three times the injection capability from low-Earth orbit of a launcher system, and in some cases more." (3/13)

Embry-Riddle and Other Florida Universities Support In-Space Fuel R&D (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida universities like Embry-Riddle, Florida Tech, and the University of Florida have supported various projects aimed at enabling in-space fuel storage and transfer. Embry-Riddle has been working with companies like United Launch Alliance and with NASA to develop and fly prototype hardware aoard parabolic aircraft and soon aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two as part of NASA's suborbital flight opportunities program.

Plans are evolving toward tests aboard the International Space Station. Embry-Riddle faculty and student researchers met this week at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport with NASA (Goddard & KSC) engineers and scientists to explore further opportunities for collaboration. Here's a photo of Embry-Riddle's prototype test article. (3/13)

Materials for NMSU Space Program Lost (Source: KFOX)
A storage and work room full of materials for New Mexico State University’s Space Grant Consortium, a NASA supported program, went missing Thursday. A student went to one of the work research areas to find it had been emptied out. “They’re irreplaceable. The things that have been to space. They are gone,” said Dr. Pat Hines the director of the program. Almost $40,000 worth of work, tools and materials were lost.

Hynes said they immediately called police. It was determined that the workrooms were mistakenly cleaned out by NMSU facilities and administrative error was to blame. Apparently, the university records did not have the Space Grant Consortium identified as using that space. “This is a research area that's been mistakenly cleaned out. These are two ongoing federal grants and the (NMSU) president and the provost immediately said, ‘Fix it’,” said Hynes.

Most of the materials ended up in the dumpster. Some were salvageable but a majority was a total loss.   “As a general rule, anything that's been in the dumpster doesn't go back to space,” said Hynes. Hynes said this won't affect the program's impending space campaign. Everything they intended to send to space this summer had already been moved. “There were no materials that were scheduled for flight that were impacted,” said Hynes. The tools and materials were all bought through two federal grants;. Hynes said the university pledged to replace them. (3/13)

SpaceX Delays ISS Resupply Launch to Mar. 30 (Source: SpaceX)
To ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance and allow additional time to resolve remaining open items, SpaceX is now targeting March 30  for the CRS-3 launch, with April 2nd  as a back-up.  These represent the earliest available launch opportunities given existing schedules, and are currently pending approval with the Range.

Both Falcon 9 and Dragon are in good health; given the critical payloads on board and significant upgrades to Dragon, the additional time will ensure SpaceX does everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch. Additional details on exact liftoff time, press activities, etc. will be available as we get closer to launch. (3/13)

Ukraine Response: Russian Engine Use Gets U.S. Review [And U.S. Production?] (Source: Bloomberg)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a House defense panel that Russia’s actions in Ukraine will lead the Pentagon to reassess the use of Russian-made engines on Atlas V rockets. “This is going to engage us in a review of that,” Hagel told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. “No question about that.”

United Launch Alliance uses Russian-made engines on Atlas V rockets the Pentagon depends on to launch military satellites. Tensions over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region has sparked questions about that supply connection. ULA has an engine supply of more than two years in the U.S., Michael Gass, president and chief operating officer of the company, said at the same hearing.

“We bought all the blueprints and specifications, brought them into the country,” and demonstrated “that we can take the blueprints and specifications” and replicate the engines if needed, Gass said. “We invested hundreds of millions of dollars to prove that we have the capability to demonstrate our ability to build that exact engine.” (3/13)

Lockheed Martin Backs Atlas 5 Launches with Warranty (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Seeking to improve the Atlas 5 rocket's position on the commercial launch marketplace, Lockheed Martin announced that non-governmental customers purchasing a flight on the workhorse booster would get a money-back guarantee or a reflight in the event of a launch failure. Lockheed Martin has three Atlas 5 launch contracts for non-U.S. government customers, including WorldView in August, DigitalGlobe in 2016, and Mexico's Morelos in 2015.

Editor's Note: Hopefully this will attract additional commercial launches to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, allowing customers to reduce (though probably not eliminate) their costs for launch insurance. The warranty apparently will allow a free re-flight or a refund of launch service costs, but it is unclear whether it will pay to replace a lost satellite, or the revenues that satellite would have generated in orbit if it would have been successfully launched when intended. (3/13)

Russian Space Exploration Projects to be Insured Against Risks (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s losses from failed launches of uninsured space vehicles and orbital flights exceeded 20 billion rubles ($547.4 million) since 2010. A total of hundred launches have been carried out over the last four years. Six of them were deemed unsuccessful or wrecked, with at least five uninsured. Roscosmos preferred to insure only the unique spacecraft like Phobos-Grunt, not the serial satellites such as GLONASS, sources said.

It was faults in serial carrier rockets and upper stages that often disrupted the launches. “The human factor and imperfect control over manufacturing of space hardware, including faults in assembly and inadequate factory tests, have been the main reasons behind space accidents in recent years,” said RAAKS Vice President Pavel Shutov. First Deputy Chairman of the Sogaz insurance group, Nikolai Galushin, lists other reasons like software errors, mistakes in assembly and installation of carrier rockets, problems with upper stages.

The law on insurance against space risks proposed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is to mend the situation. The RAAKS letter says it will insure not only launches and operation in orbit but also the testing of rocket engines. (3/13)

NASA's Latest Smartphone Satellite Ready for Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's preparing to send its fifth in a series of smartphone-controlled small spacecraft into orbit. PhoneSat 2.5 will ride into space as part of the SpaceX-3 commercial cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Once in Earth orbit, the tiny spacecraft will demonstrate the power of smartphone components to support space-based communications systems and survive the radiation environment of low Earth orbit.

The technology demonstration mission also will pave the way for a constellation of cooperative small satellites scheduled to launch later this year. Although we buy a smartphone off the shelf, much like the one in your pocket or purse, we take it apart and repackage it to fit in the cubesat form and work in space. This differs from the first PhoneSat, that packed in the entire smartphone." (3/13)

Renowned Painter and Sculptor to Fly on Sunjammer (Source: Celestis)
One of the world's leading artists will fly on board the Celestis Sunjammer memorial spaceflight -- a mission into deep space currently projected to launch in 2015. Luise Kaish was an American sculptor and painter whose work was shown in such prestigious venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian. Ms. Kaish passed away in 2013, but a portion of her cremated remains will fly into space with Celestis.

Reservations are open for the Sunjammer mission, and for Celestis' upcoming Earth Rise and Earth orbit missions. The next opportunity to commemorate your loved one on a Celestis memorial spaceflight is rapidly approaching. Liftoff of the Conestoga Flight is scheduled for June 2014. Although reservations for this mission close April 15, there is limited space on board. Click here. (3/13)

NASA Offers KazCosmos to Participate in Research Projects (Source: Tengri News)
KazCosmos, the national space agency of Kazakhstan - will have joint projects with NASA, Tengrinews reports citing the press-service of the agency. Representatives of KazCosmos met with NASA on March 12, 2014. Sean Fuller, Director of NASA’s Human Space Flight Program in Russia, represented the American organization.

At the meeting the NASA representative offered Kazakhstan to participate in research projects that are being conducted at the International Space Station (ISS), including the study of effects on body and mind of human spaceflights, remote sensing of the Earth and other projects of mutual interest. (3/13)

Medieval Cosmology Meets Modern Mathematics (Source: Science News)
When imagining medieval Europe, most people envision knights and castles and maybe cathedrals. Science is usually nowhere in the picture. Apart from monks copying manuscripts, intellectual activity in the Middle Ages was supposedly on the same level as that of 21st century politicians. But actually, a few medieval minds were busy building modern science’s foundations. Some sophisticated thinkers realized that nature should be understandable using human reason rather than superstition. Click here. (3/13)

Long-Term SatComm Lease Among 'Pathfinders' Considered at Pentagon (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Department of Defense is considering a number of experimental projects including a long-term transponder lease and using capacity aboard an aging satellite in inclined orbit as it seeks ways to be a smarter buyer of commercial bandwidth, industry sources said. The industry has long urged the Defense Department to be more receptive to multiyear satellite leases and to make up-front commitments to procuring capacity at a given location, even if that bandwidth is not immediately needed. (3/13)

Officials Update Congress on Military Space Policy, Challenges (Source: DOD)
If potential adversaries are to challenge the United States, they must do so in the space domain, the Defense Department’s top space policy official told Congress. Douglas L. Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, joined by Air Force Gen. William L. Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee on the department’s space program posture.

“Over the last 15 years, other nations have watched us closely,” he said. “They have recognized that if they are to challenge the United States, they must challenge us in space. And they are endeavoring to do so. The United States has successfully addressed such challenges before in air, sea and land domains, and now we must, likewise, respond in space.”

This must be done against the backdrop of decreasing budgets that challenges both the ability and speed with which the United States can act, he said, adding that this in no way diminishes the importance of successfully sustaining the crucial advantages that space provides. “Our strategic approach for these issues remains consistent with what we outlined in the 2011 National Security Space Strategy and reaffirmed in DOD space policy in 2012,” Loverro said. (3/12)

NASA Joins Hunt for Missing Malaysian Jetliner (Source:
NASA has joined the search for a Malaysian commercial jetliner that vanished into thin air over the weekend. On Monday, NASA began examining ways it can contribute to the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. "Activities under way include mining data archives of satellite data acquired earlier and using space-based assets, such as the Earth-Observing-1(EO-1) satellite and the ISERV camera on the International Space Station, to acquire new images of possible crash sites," said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel. (3/13)

Satellites Picked Up "Pings" from Malaysia Jet, Sources Say (Source: Reuters)
Communications satellites picked up faint electronic pulses from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after it went missing on Saturday, but the signals gave no information about where the stray jet was heading and little else about its fate, two sources close to the investigation said. But the "pings" indicated that the aircraft's maintenance troubleshooting systems were switched on and ready to communicate with satellites, showing the aircraft was at least capable of communicating after it lost touch with Malaysian air traffic controllers. (3/13)

Astronaut Nicole Stott Inspires Students at Tampa Museum (Source: BayNews 9)
A Clearwater astronaut is helping to shape a future generation of space enthusiasts. Astronaut Nicole Stott spoke to young Bay area students at the Tampa History Center Wednesday. She said when she was their age, she never thought she'd wear a spacesuit. "As a kid growing up, I thought it was a really cool thing and I was impressed by what was going on, but I never thought it was a reality thing," Stott said.

With hard work and perseverance, NASA became a reality for Stott. Two space missions later, the astronaut told the students they can live out their dreams too. Students were thrilled about her visit. "It was really nice meeting a female astronaut because I don't think I've met a female astronaut before," said Sofia Starke, an eighth grader at Stewart Middle Magnet School. "I mean, I know they're there but I've never actually met them."

Stott's visit coincides with the "Suited For Space" exhibit that's being showcased at the Tampa History Center. The exhibit displays spacesuits worn by astronauts through the years. The exhibit runs through April 27th. (3/13)

Tampa Museum Hosts Smithsonian Space Suit Exhibit (Source: Tampa History Center)
In 1961 President John F. Kennedy declared the United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. To achieve this ambitious goal, astronauts would need not only a spacecraft to launch them safely into space, but a spacesuit that would protect them. Without the proper clothing to keep them alive while traveling, living, and working beyond the bonds of Earth, space exploration would not be possible.

Suited for Space, a new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum explores the history and technology used to design NASA’s spacesuits. This one-of-kind exhibition takes visitors on a journey through nearly a century of spacesuit design and development, from the earliest high-altitude pressure suites to the iconic white suites of the Apollo mission.

Suited for Space comes to the History Center via the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The History Center is one of twelve Smithsonian Affiliate Institutions in Florida. Suited for Space is at the History Center through April 27. Click here. (3/13)

KSC Hosts Robot Rocket Rally (Source: KSCVC)
The first ever Robot Rocket Rally at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be a three-day festival celebrating the latest in robotic technology from NASA, industry leaders and universities. Robot Rocket Rally, March 14-16, will allow visitors to explore the fascinating world of robots with examples of NASA-developed robots, discover how robotic technology is lending more than just a helping hand to benefit mankind, meet working robots, hear from robotics experts and even operate a robot. (3/13)

How Did Life Arise? Fuel Cells May Have Answers (Source: NASA JPL)
How life arose from the toxic and inhospitable environment of our planet billions of years ago remains a deep mystery. Researchers have simulated the conditions of an early Earth in test tubes, even fashioning some of life's basic ingredients. But how those ingredients assembled into living cells, and how life was first able to generate energy, remain unknown. A new study led by Laurie Barge of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory demonstrates a unique way to study the origins of life: fuel cells. Click here. (3/13)

New Mexico Spaceport Earns Architecture Award (Source: KRQE)
New Mexico’s spaceport isn’t doing much business yet, but its architecture is getting a lot of attention. The Virgin Galactic terminal hangar has been given this year’s Jeff Harnar award for contemporary architecture in New Mexico. Virgin hopes to start flying passengers from the spaceport to the upper edges of the atmosphere later this year, but there are still hurdles to clear. (3/13)

No comments: