March 15, 2014

State's Part of Embraer Incentives Could Hit $50M (Source: Florida Today)
The state of Florida could provide as much as $50 million in incentives for a proposed expansion by a U.S. division of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer at Melbourne International Airport, according to a Melbourne economic development official. Editor's Note: Melbourne is on Florida's Space Coast and the company now employs many former Space Shuttle workers. (3/14)

Swiss Company to Use KSC's Shuttle Runway (Source: Florida Today)
Swiss Space Systems, known as S3, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Space Florida to use KSC’s three-mile Shuttle Landing Facility, which the state is in negotiations with NASA to take over and operate for commercial users. S3 will perform zero-G flights of people or experiments on an Airbus A300. The aircraft is also being developed to air-launch a reusable, suborbital space plane to deploy small satellites weighing up to about 550 pounds. The company will evaluate KSC as a primary site for satellite launches that could begin in 2018.

Editor's Note: S3 claims their Airbus A300 aircraft, which uses automated fly-by-wire controls, will provide a smoother ride and better-quality parabolas than Zero-G's modified 727 aircraft. The company's incremental approach includes near-term parabolic flight operations (FAA approval is expected this year), followed by air-launch satellite missions, and leading ultimately to point-to-point spaceflight for high-value cargo and people. (3/14)

Zero-G Flights Planned in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
Zero Gravity Corp.'s G-Force One 727 will fly multiple missions from Florida this year, including May 17 and July 19 at Titusville, and May 24 at Miami. Fourteen other flights will be conducted outside of Florida, in Texas, Nevada, New York, Washington, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. (3/14)

Jade Rabbit Wakes Up Again (Source: Arab News)
China’s troubled Jade Rabbit moon rover “woke up” again early Friday, though the mechanical troubles that have plagued it remain unfixed, the government said. The rover, called Yutu in Chinese, turns dormant and stops sending signals during the lunar night, two-week periods when the part of the moon’s surface it is on rotates away from the sun and temperatures turn extremely cold. (3/15)

Branson Space Museum Closes (Source: Branson Tri-Lakes News)
Effective immediately, the Explore Space Museum in Branson is closed. I got an email last week announcing the “edutainment attraction” was in trouble. Earl Mullins, curator, founder and president of the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, which is the parent company of the Explore Space Museum in Branson, said the main reason they decided to open a museum in Branson was to help with funding.

“We are a not-for-profit, we were ill-funded in the first place and we felt like by going to Branson we were hoping to get the kind of venue we needed to produce revenue to continue our work,” Mullins said. “We feel like our work is very important, not only in Branson, but in our home location as well.” Mullins said by the time they got approval to open, the season only had a few months left and the museum never got the opportunity to raise enough funds to carry it through the winter. (3/14)

EFT-1 Orion Slips to December – Allows Military Satellite to Launch First (Source:
Orion’s first trip into space has been delayed by nearly three months, following a manifest decision that prioritized the launch of a military satellite for the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness (GEO SSA) system. Due to manifest pressure and spacing requirements between Delta-4 launches, a USAF manifest board moved to ensure to the military satellite was given the best chance of launching this year, causing Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) to move to December.

The launch date has slipped numerous times. However, the September target had held firm, with the numerous elements of the flow towards launch remaining on target. The USAF manifest now places EFT-1 on a December 15 target. ULA has a a very busy 2014 manifest, which wasn’t helped by a long stand-down of the Delta-4 caused by further investigations into an earlier Upper Stage issue. (3/15)

Orion Launch Slip Leaves Wrong Impression About Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Orion launch delay decision, at least in some articles, gives the incorrect impression that the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is overcrowded with launches and military missions are able to take slots previously confirmed for other users. This was not a capacity issue at the spaceport. Both payloads are manifested on Delta-4 rockets, and NASA's readiness was becoming an issue (although on the schedule for Sep. 18, NASA was looking at a broader September-October timeframe).

As the keeper of the official Range manifest, the Air Force often gets blamed for schedule changes that really are the fault of launch companies, payload companies, or other users like NASA. And often, users that are experiencing their own launch vehicle or payload delays can conveniently and indirectly shift the blame to the Air Force. It's a game that's been played for years and it ends up leaving the impression that the Eastern Range is overcrowded and difficult to deal with. The Air Force is partially to blame here, as they have a tin ear for marketing and protecting/improving their image at the spaceport.

With a typical annual manifest of only 10-15 launches per year and four operational launch pads (soon six) plus a horizontal launch/landing strip, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is not nearly as busy as it could be. Also, with recent upgrades, the Eastern Range can reconfigure for new launches and launch rehearsals in a matter of hours, allowing more missions per year than ever before. For more cheerleading, click here. (3/15)

Air Force Analyzing Building RD-180 Engines In U.S. (Source: Defense Daily)
The Air Force is performing a “business case analysis” of how much it would cost to produce the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine in the United States, Air Force Under Secretary Eric Fanning said March 11. According to a source familiar with production lines, the cost to start a production line to produce the RD-180 is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and could possibly approach $1 billion.

United Launch Alliance CEO Michael Gass said that as part of a deal the company signed with RD AMROSS, the joint venture of United Technologies and NPO Energomash created to distribute the engine to the US, ULA could co-produce the engine. ULA bought all the blueprints and specifications and translated them from Russian to English over the last several years. Gass said ULA invested “hundreds of millions” of dollars to prove that it has the capability to develop the engine in the US.

Editor's Note: A Florida-based Pratt & Whitney RD-180 production line was planned early-on for the EELV program. Although Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne was sold to Aerojet last year, and much rocket work was removed from their West Palm Beach factory, an official with the company confirmed to me that this location would be high on the list of sites considered for domestic RD-180 production. Seems like this might be an opportunity for Florida. (3/15)

Four Ways to Make Money in Space (Source: Marketplace)
NASA is increasingly reliant on private contractors to get goods to and from space. Here are four ways the rich are trying to get richer in the final frontier: Transportation; Space Tourism; Asteroid Mining; and Garbage Collection. Click here. (3/14)

'Budget' XCOR Set to Launch in 2016 Will Let You Pilot Ship for $95,000 (Source: Daily Mail)
Space enthusiasts keen to explore the skies but deterred by the hefty price tag will soon be able to board a rocket for a fraction of the cost. Passengers in the XCOR Lynx will be able to experience weightlessness and view the earth from over 300,000 ft above the Earth - for a 'bargain' price of $95,000. This may sound expensive, but is almost two thirds cheaper than a ride on Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Plus, the Lynx spacecraft seats just two people - compared to Sir Branson's six-seater - and passengers are encouraged to help pilot the ship. 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 180,000ft.’ You are going more or less straight up at about Mach 3. (3/15)

Keeping James Webb Space Telescope on Track, Budget a Complex Task (Source: Baltimore Sun)
At NASA Goddard Space Flight Center last month, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and space agency Administrator Charles Bolden stressed the importance of maintaining budget support for the James Webb Space Telescope, keeping it on track for a 2018 launch. Sticking to that schedule is the job of the Webb telescope's project manager, Bill Ochs, who, from his office on the Greenbelt campus, oversees all of the moving parts slated to come together and be blasted into space in 41/2 years.

It's a complicated job, Ochs acknowledged, but since new development and spending plans were approved three years ago for the delayed and over-budget project, things have been running smoothly. That was helped when the project got its requested $627.6 million for 2013, despite the across-the-board federal cuts known as sequestration. Click here. (3/14)

Brazil to Launch Satellite in December (Source: Xinhua)
Brazil will launch a new satellite in partnership with China in December. The Cbers-4 satellite is expected to launch from China in the first half of December. Cbers-4 was originally scheduled to be launched in 2015, but the date was brought forward following the failed launch of the Cbers-3 satellite in December, which did not reach its planned orbit after the rocket carrying it malfunctioned. Under the pact, each of them finances 50 percent of the project. Cbers-4 will have the same mechanisms as Cbers-3, but with more modern cameras to observe the Earth. (3/15)

Russia Blames Ukraine for Satellite Interference (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media has detected the source of interference in the work of a Russian television satellite. Appropriate services have detected the exact location of the source in Ukraine’s territory, the ministry said, noting the attempt to use radio-electronic war means against a Russian relay satellite was a violation of the International Telecommunication Union's charter of December 22, 1992. (3/15)

Looking for Life on Planets Outside Our Solar System (Source: BBC)
The University of Warwick is taking the scientific lead in a mission to build a one billion euro planet-hunting, space telescope. The new Warwick-led mission called Plato will overcome Kepler's limitations by being able to scan huge chunks of sky and look at brighter stars. This opens up some very exciting new possibilities in our search for these planets. (3/15)

Tim Peake's International Space Station Mission Seeks Name (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency is asking people to choose a name for British astronaut Tim Peake's next mission. Citizens and residents of all the Agency's member nations are eligible to enter the competition. The winning entry needs to be short and snappy and will be the official mission name and incorporated into the logo. Major Peake is due to go to the International Space Station towards the end of 2015 and spend six months there carrying out scientific experiments. (3/14)

How Gas Stations in Space Could Fuel Solar System Exploration (Source:
Voyaging spaceships may soon be able to top off their fuel tanks in space, just as cars and trucks do here on Earth. Engineers at MIT are suggesting establishing off-Earth propellant depots to fuel future missions to the moon. Such en-route stations would mean spacecraft could launchwith less fuelon boardand hencecarryheavier loads, such as largerscientific experiments.

This is not a new idea, but previous proposalsto solve the problemhave usually been pricey. One, for example, explored the possibility of setting up a fuel-manufacturing station on the lunar surface, from which tankers would be sent to refill floating depots. The latest suggestion, however, is more cost-efficient, claims the team led by Jeffrey Hoffman.

The researchers suggest relying on so-called "contingency propellant" — backup fuelloaded onto spacecraft to use in an emergency. NASA's manned Apollo lunar missions carried it, and the idea was to either leave unused backup fuel on the moon or burn it in the atmosphere on the way back. The MIT team suggests two scenarios for putting contingency propellant to use. Click here. (3/14)

The Dark Side of Space: How Capitalism Poses a Threat Beyond Earth (Source: Financial Times)
If any sovereign state dared to break the UN Outer Space Treaty, say by invading the Moon, they would, without a shadow of a doubt, find themselves testing the international community, and consequently the established nuclear power balance here on Earth. That means, for as long as a space colony depends on Earth-based ties, the incentive for a nation-state to abide by Earth-based rules remains. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for private enterprise.

A power-hungry space baron could feasibly argue that the UN treaty does not apply to them since they are not a sovereign state. Then there is also the caveat that the treaty only refers to celestial rather than man-made bodies. This is what you could call the dark side of space commercialization. The point at which open access to space creates a Pandora’s box effect that in the name of competition compromises space co-operation and disrupts the power balance we’ve achieved both in space and on Earth. The point when a power-hungry billionaire could find a legal path to building his own Death Star.

To Musk, access to space should be treated the same way access to commodities is treated on Earth. The only problem with this analogy is that private corporations competing for commodities still have to abide by national rules. Commercial space enterprises, it seems, would prefer it if sovereign states became dependent on private enterprise instead – the surest way of exposing Earth to the risk of a megalomaniac that wants to rename Mars one day. (3/14)

Viasat and Loral Posture, Others Watch Closely, as Patent Trial Approaches (Source: Space News)
Eight U.S. citizens or residents plucked from the streets of San Diego to form a court jury will spend three weeks starting March 26 determining whether satellite broadband provider ViaSat is right in claiming $800 million in patent-infringement damages from satellite builder Loral Space and Communications. The trial follows the Feb. 2012 lawsuit filed by ViaSat.

The lawsuit was prompted by the sale by what was then Loral’s satellite-building division, Space Systems/Loral (SSL), of a high-throughput broadband satellite to ViaSat’s principal U.S. satellite-broadband competitor, Hughes Network Systems, now owned by EchoStar Corp. The Hughes satellite, Jupiter/EchoStar 17, bears a strong resemblance to ViaSat’s Loral-built ViaSat-1 satellite. ViaSat-1 has been in service since January 2012; Jupiter/EchoStar 17 entered service in October 2012.

ViaSat’s case may be summarized as this: We purchased our ViaSat-1 high-throughput satellite from SSL and during design and construction gave SSL information that has since been the subject of three ViaSat patents. SSL then turned around and sold a nearly identical satellite, Jupiter/EchoStar 17, to our competitor and has made sales to other customers using our technology. (3/14)

SES Leans on Arianespace To Give Galileo Launch Slot to O3b (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES is threatening to cease future dealings with Arianespace unless SES’s O3b Networks broadband satellites are given a spring launch slot also coveted by the European Commission for Galileo spacecraft, industry officials said. SES is further saying that a launch before late this year of a second four-pack of O3b satellites — the first four were launched in June 2013 — is crucial to the business’ health because a defect on the in-orbit spacecraft is at risk of taking one or more of them out of service at any moment.

O3b began offering commercial services the week of March 10 with its first four satellites, but needs a six-satellite constellation to provide the full suite of fixed and mobile broadband services. A failure of one of the current satellites would shut down the commercial service, creating an urgency at SES and O3b for the second launch.

SES has enlisted the aid of the Luxembourg government to battle the European Commission for priority access to the Europeanized Russian Soyuz launch vehicle ahead of the two Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites, which like the O3b spacecraft are behind schedule. (3/14)

Orion Makes Testing, Integration Strides Ahead of First Launch to Space (Source: NASA)
Orion is marching ever closer to its first trip to space on a flight that will set the stage for human exploration of new destinations in the solar system. The Orion team continues to work toward completing the spacecraft to be ready for a launch in September-October. However, the initial timeframe for the launch of Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) has shifted from September-October to early December to support allowing more opportunities for launches this year.  

Completing the spacecraft according to the original schedule will allow many engineers and technicians to continue transitioning to work on the Orion spacecraft that will fly atop the agency's Space Launch System. It will also ensure that NASA's partners are fully ready for the launch of EFT-1 at the earliest opportunity on the manifest. (3/14)

US Glam or Soviet Grunge? Vintage Spacesuits on Sale (Source: New Scientist)
Want to channel your inner Sandra Bullock? Now you can, thanks to the shiny beauty of a spacesuit above, which is up for auction on 8 April at Bonhams in New York. It was developed for Project Mercury, and Alan Shepherd wore one like it when he became the first American in space in May 1961.

Mercury suits date back to 1959, when the best-dressed astronauts sported silver. The color comes from an aluminium powder glued to green nylon fabric. This suit comes complete with a fiber-glass helmet, gloves and boots. It is 160 centimeters tall and was designed to be a snug fit. Bonhams's guide price is $8000 to $12,000.

For the George Clooney in your life, Bonhams has a Soviet Strizh spacesuit dating back to 1988. It was developed for the crew of the Buran, the Soviet Union's answer to the US space shuttle, and was designed to protect cosmonauts in case they had to eject in an emergency. The Buran made only one trip, without a crew, before the program was canceled in 1993. Bonhams expects the olive suit with detachable gloves to go for $15,000 to $20,000. Click here. (3/14)

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