March 19, 2014

Australian Deep Space Center in Canberra Vital for NASA Missions (Source: ABC)
The head of NASA says the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla will be vital for future space missions. NASA administrator Charles Bolden is in Canberra to commemorate Australian involvement in space exploration and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA's deep space network.

The ACT-based site is one of three worldwide that facilitate communication between NASA and its craft, satellites and astronauts across the solar system. The other two sites are in Madrid, Spain and Goldstone, California. (3/19)

NASA Assessing SpaceX 'Payload Contamination' (Source: Aviation Week)
The third SpaceX commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station has been delayed until no earlier than March 30 because of payload contamination that may require some new parts to be installed. Originally set for March 16, the Falcon 9 launch was delayed on March 14 to “ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance and allow additional time to resolve remaining open items,” according to a NASA update.

Sam Scimemi, the ISS director in the Human Exploration and Operations mission directorate at NASA headquarters, elaborated later that day. "We’ve had some issues with payload contamination that we will be addressing,” he said. “We’re going to have to assess that and replace some parts and get the rocket ready for launch again. Our current launch date right now I believe is March 30.” (3/19)

Editorial: Finding Reality In Europe’s Space Sector (Source: Aviation Week)
Much has been said about the emergence of new players in the space sector and the need for Europe to revamp the way it allocates its resources, starting with the “rule of geographic return.” This applies primarily to the launcher segment, where SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is perceived as a major threat to Arianespace's commercial supremacy.
Suddenly there is a sense of urgency—if only the slightest—in the European establishment. Should we improve Ariane 5? Should we move to Ariane 6 as soon as possible? How can we get the price of a launch down to $90 million, from more than $130 million today? These are important questions, not least for the thousands of jobs involved. But they miss the point in several respects.

First, Space X still has a long way to go to become a fully fledged competitor in the market. The company is still in the start-up phase, and industrializing the business will be a whole new game. In fact, it is not the first time a player has come up with a significantly discounted price. In the early 2000s, Proton and Sea Launch brought launch prices down 40%, taking significant market share from Arianespace. But after several failures, prices went back up to their previous level, and Arianespace was back on top. Click here. (3/19)

Check Out NASA's Amazing New Interactive Map of the Moon (Source: LA Times)
NASA has released the largest high-resolution map of our moon ever made, and you are invited to explore its craters and crevices right on your computer or tablet. Images for this massive mosaic were collected over four years by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Click here. (3/18)

How a Big Bang Experiment Turned Into a Reality TV Phenomenon (Source: NBC)
When a video crew recorded Stanford University physicist Andrei Linde's jaw-dropping reaction to the news that hush-hush findings confirmed more than three decades of his theorizing, reality TV couldn't have planned it better. In just one day, the video has attracted 1.2 million views on YouTube and enough kudos to fill a particle collider. Click here. (3/19)

Mojave Board Loses Member (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port’s Board of Directors is now down to four. Long-time board member Marie Walker has resigned, citing pressing business concerns, Board President Dick Rutan announced on Tuesday. Walker is founder and chief executive officer of Fiberset Inc., a composite manufacturing company located at the airport. A notice on the airport’s website says that the Board of Directors will appoint a replacement for Walker. (3/18)

Atlas 5 Rocket Selected for Solar Orbiter Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch the European-built Solar Orbiter mission from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in July 2017, NASA announced Tuesday. NASA is responsible for procuring the launch vehicle for Solar Orbiter, which will study how the sun generates and controls the heliosphere. (3/19)

Tough Choices Ahead for NASA's Planetary Program (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
There is little question some long-lived NASA planetary exploration missions will be at risk of cutbacks or cancellation later this year, but the agency's top planetary science official this week cautioned the science community not to presume which projects, if any, will see funding cuts. NASA's unparalleled fleet of planetary science missions are exploring Mars and Saturn, speeding toward Jupiter and Pluto, mapping the moon and Mercury, and dashing through the asteroid belt.

But the longevity of many of the missions will force difficult decisions for a review committee this spring tasked with deciding which projects NASA should keep funding. Mission managers are finishing proposals to be submitted to NASA in April for consideration in a senior review, a process every two years in which an independent panel of respected scientists rank the value of continuing funding for each project.

The senior review board's recommendations will be announced in June, according to NASA. All of NASA's science divisions use a similar review to decide which missions most deserve continued funding. Scarce funding, always a concern for NASA, is aggravated in this year's senior review cycle by the inclusion of the Curiosity Mars rover, which will complete its primary two-year mission this summer and must ask for approval for extended operations. (3/19)

Franklin Chang Partners with Four Seasons Costa Rica on Space Dinner (Source: Tico Times)
Costa Rica’s most famous astronaut – and arguably the country’s most famous person – has helped the Four Seasons create a space-inspired five-course meal that includes a sauce made with chunks of meteorite. “What if there was a way to experience the wonder of space without ever leaving Earth,” asks Franklin Chang, the first-ever Latin American astronaut and a NASA Hall of Fame inductee, in a promotional video set to celestial music. (3/19)

KAFB’s Space Operation Gets a New Mission (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
An agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, charged with rapidly developing and fielding smaller and cheaper satellites that can be of immediate use to combat commanders, has a new mission that should keep it at Kirtland for at least several more years, according to U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office.

The Operationally Responsive Space Office, set up at Kirtland in May 2007 but targeted twice for closure by the Pentagon, employs about 100 military, government civilians and contractors. The agency was instrumental in developing and launching a surveillance satellite, originally known as ORS-1, which aided military commanders in Afghanistan. It will now oversee development of another satellite, ORS-2. (3/19)

Syrian Cabinet Approves Establishment of Space Agency (Source: Washington Post)
The Syrian news agency announced Tuesday that the cabinet approved a bill creating the Syrian Space Agency, "a public body of a scientific research nature." Countries don't have to have the money and resources of the United States or Russia to mount a space program. India launched an unmanned orbiter to Mars in November for just $74 million, for example.

Nigeria has a national space agency. So does Ukraine. And Syria didn't say what its space program is doing. But the announcement comes just days after the third anniversary of a conflict that has killed more than 140,000 and created 2.5 million refugees. (3/19)

Mojave Spaceport: 24 Months of Inaccurate Financial Reports (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port’s former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Erika Westawski, provided officials with 24 months of inaccurate accounting reports before resigning abruptly last month on the eve of a delayed audit, spaceport CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said. The investigation into the inaccurate financial reports and Westawski’s sudden departure is continuing. The independent auditors of Lance, Soll and Lunghard have been retained to review accounts, and a more detailed report is expected for the April board meeting.

Westawski suddenly resigned in mid-February on the evening before the start of an audit that had been delayed from October. Sources report that Westawski had cleared out her apartment in Tehachapi before her resignation. In a statement last week, spaceport officials said that the initial investigation by Lance, Soll and Lunghard showed that the airport district “remains financially viable and solvent.” Officials did not elaborate, but they did say they are coordinating their investigation with local law enforcement officials.

Editor's Note: When I was with the Spaceport Florida Authority, an audit revealed similar financial irregularities that led to the arrest of our bookeeper. (3/18)

NASA’s SLS Core Stage Passes Major Milestone (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The team designing America’s new flagship rocket has completed successfully a major technical review of the vehicle’s core stage. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will take the agency’s Orion spacecraft and other payloads beyond low-Earth orbit, providing a new capability for human exploration. The core stage preliminary design review (PDR) was held Thursday at Marshall Space Flight Center and included representatives from the agency and Boeing. (3/18)

Pentagon Weaning Itself from Bandwidth Lease with Hong Kong Firm (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department, which was criticized last year for using satellite capacity that was indirectly leased from a company with substantial Chinese government ownership, expects to fully extricate itself from that arrangement by May, a senior official said. (3/18)

China's Hypersonic Vehicle 'Can Travel 10 Times the Speed of Sound' (Source: Want China Times)
China's WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) can travel up to 10 times the speed of sound and can strike any target around the globe within just an hour, reports the Beijing-based Sina Military Network. Various countries including Russia, China and India are also developing their own hypersonic warheads to counter the United States. China has already tested its own HGV on Jan. 9, 2014. (3/16)

Our Universe May Exist in a Multiverse (Source:
The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a period of rapid expansion that occurred a fraction of a second after the Big Bang — also supports the idea that our universe is just one of many out there, some researchers say. This theory posits that, when the universe grew exponentially in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others. This could have created "bubbles" of space-time that then developed into other universes.

The known universe has its own laws of physics, while other universes could have different laws, according to the multiverse concept. "Most models of inflation do lead to a multiverse, and evidence for inflation will be pushing us in the direction of taking [the idea of a] multiverse seriously," said Alan Guth of MIT. Other researchers agreed on the link between inflation and the multiverse. (3/18)

Former Arianespace Chief Says SpaceX Has Advantage on Cost (Source: Space News)
Arianespace and SpaceX dispute which of them charges less to deliver a kilogram of cargo to the space station, but they agree that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is, in general, less costly to build and operate than Europe’s Ariane 5 on a per-satellite basis. According to Le Gall, launching a satellite on an Ariane 5 costs around 100 million euros ($137 million). After subtracting the ESA subsidies to Arianespace, the per-satellite cost drops to about $100 million, he said.

SpaceX, he said, would charge $60 million to $70 million to launch the same satellite aboard the Falcon 9. In fact SpaceX has charged even less than that to its first few commercial customers. Le Gall said the per-launch cost objective for Europe’s future Ariane 6 was fixed at 70 million euros ($96 million) because of the SpaceX price point. While 70 million euros is still more than today’s SpaceX price — Le Gall said Arianespace should be able to trade on its record for reliability and customer service to remain competitive. (3/18)

Questions Swirl Around Future of Europe’s Ariane Launcher Program (Source: Space News)
France’s space minister on March 17 said France has made no judgment about whether both a modified Ariane 5 rocket, favored by Germany, and an all-new Ariane 6, favored by France, can be financed given the current pressure on French and other European government budgets.

Genevieve Fioraso, France’s minister for higher education and research, which with the French defense ministry oversees French space policy, said no formal decision on the Ariane 5 ME enhancement and the Ariane 6 will be made until this summer. In what may have been an unintended remark, Fioraso said that among the factors to consider was the continued viability of France’s cryogenic sector, which for the Ariane rockets is led by Air Liquide of Sassenage, France.

Air Liquide has been fighting for a redesign of the Ariane 6 to include more cryogenic propellant, which would assure the company’s product line and also provide more power to the vehicle. As currently designed, the Ariane 6 features two solid-fueled strap-on boosters and two solid-fueled lower stages — all four of near-identical design — topped by a cryogenic upper stage. (3/18)

Colliding Solar Eruptions Created 'Perfect Storm' in Space (Source:
When two blasts of super-hot plasma from the sun slammed into each other in 2012, they forged a "perfect storm" of space weather so intense, it was stronger than the most powerful solar eruption in the history of the space age, scientists say. A new study of the solar superstorm, which occurred on July 22 and 23, 2012,  as formed by the interactions of two individual coronal mass ejections (CMEs), is providing insights into space weather events with the potential to disrupt life on Earth. (3/18)

Nelson: U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space Will Continue (Source: Florida Today)
U.S.-Russian cooperation in space will continue despite escalating political tensions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said today at Kennedy Space Center. "I think you will not see a hitch in the American and the Russian space program that we share with a lot of other nations as well," Nelson told reporters.

A member of the Senate Armed Services committee and head of the subcommittee that oversees NASA policy, Nelson said Russia can't operate its portion of the International Space Station without U.S. power and communication systems, so would not suddenly deny NASA astronauts rides to the station in Soyuz spacecraft.

He advocated fully funding President Obama's request for nearly $850 million in 2015 to advance development of commercial rockets and spacecraft that would end U.S. reliance of Russia for human access to orbit. (3/18)

What's Up with the Deep Space Network? (Source: NASA)
Check out this site that displays real-time use of NASA's Deep Space Network, a global network of antennas communicating with probes on Mars and other locations beyond Earth orbit. Cool. (3/18)

Ancient Earth Hammered by Double Space Impact (Source: BBC)
We've all seen the films where an asteroid hurtles toward our planet, threatening civilization. What's less well known is that menacing space rocks sometimes come in twos. Researchers have outlined some of the best evidence yet for a double space impact, where an asteroid and its moon apparently struck Earth in tandem. Using tiny, plankton-like fossils, they established that neighboring craters in Sweden are the same age - 458 million years old. (3/18)

Why Commercial Space Ventures Are Good for NASA (Source: Bloomberg)
Edgar Mitchell and Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronauts, discuss the commercial space race. Click here. (3/18)

New TV Show About Astronauts' Wives Filming in Houston (Source: KTRK)
A new TV series that's set to be on ABC is shooting right here in Houston. It's tackling the early days of NASA, especially when it comes to the wives of the astronauts. Producers are looking for classic cars and clothing from that era. The first astronauts selected by NASA were the superstars of their era. Behind the scenes there were the wives, the unsung heroes. "I always felt like they were the ones that really paid the price," former Apollo astronaut Walter Cunningham said.

Cunningham says his memories of those early days of NASA are decidedly different than the scenes portrayed in the book the "Astronaut Wives Club." But that was the objective, a different view of NASA's space program that will now become a television series. Butch Kaplan is one of the producers. "Do you feel Houston has what you're looking for?" we asked Kaplan. "Absolutely. Definitely, this is the best place to do the show," he said. (3/18)

Astronaut: New Satellites Could Track Missing Planes (Source: CNN)
A fleet of tiny satellites released from the International Space Station could be a tool to help solve future aviation mysteries like the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, said retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, who commanded the space station for five months last year. Editor's Note: So could existing satellites. Just put ADS-B or GPS units onboard. (3/18)

China’s Moon Rover a Wake-up Call, Former NASA Division Chief Says (Source: FOX News)
Recently, China landed an unmanned rover on the moon, although the country appears to have lost contact with the vehicle and the outcome is hazy. I applaud any country that wants to explore space and further our understanding of our solar system. China has come a long way since the Mao Zedong era. It has embraced capitalism -- though it still needs to embrace democracy and increase individual freedom.

But I don’t want to cede the moon to China. American achievements have made our lives better and safer and have helped to strengthen our children’s advancements in technological excellence. Americans are the greatest competitors in history. We want to be first -- we don’t like to lose. And, I contend, we and the world’s populations are better for it. Put simply, we make the rest of the world rise to our level if they want to compete. (3/18)

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