March 29, 2014

FSDC Tracks Florida Legislative Space Issues (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council continues to track the progress of Florida space-related policy and funding issues now being considered during the state's ongoing annual legislative session. Click here for our status chart. (3/29)

India's Mars Mission Explained (Source: The Curious Engineer)
I decided to make this short video which would explain all the basic concepts about India's Mars orbiter mission. The main purpose of making this video is to explain this complex mission in a very simple way and to make people aware that space exploration is far more important than anything else. Click here. (3/29)

California Aerospace Industry Leading the Nation Into Space, Lawmakers Told (Source: Ventura County Star)
If the icons you associate with California are surfboards and orange trees, or even iPhones and driverless Google cars, it may be time to start looking up. In a hearing held to highlight California's dominant role in leading the nation into space, lawmakers on Tuesday were briefed on the extraterrestrial exploits of the state's cutting-edge aerospace industry.

They include highlights such as the Hawthorne-based SpaceX that in 2012 became the first private company to attach a craft to the International Space Station and the Mojave-based Virgin Galactic, which is fast moving toward its goal of building a private fleet of space vehicles to provide space tourism adventures to the wealthy and daring.

"Our goal is to make space travel more affordable and more frequent," testified Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. Whitesides was joined by representatives from NASA, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems and Lockheed Martin at a joint hearing of two select legislative committees on aerospace. The hearing was conducted during a weeklong effort by the $31 billion industry to call attention to its substantial role in the California economy. (3/26)

SpaceX Test-Fires Grasshopper Successor in Texas (Source: Waco Tribune)
SpaceX released video Friday evening of a test — date unknown — of its Falcon 9R prototype, the vertical-takeoff-and-landing successor to its Grasshopper testbed. The 5-second engine firing was a preliminary to later tests in which the craft will take flight.

The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year. Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R), which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. (3/29)

Buzz Aldrin to Speak at Abu Dhabi Aerospace Summit (Source: Arabian Business)
Buzz Aldrin, the world-famous US astronaut and one of the first men to walk on the moon, has been named as a keynote speaker at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi next month. He will be giving an address on the second day of the summit on April 8, providing industry leaders with insight into his vision for space exploration, mission to mars legacy and his views on the latest developments in aerospace and space technology. (3/29)

T-365 to Astronaut, Cosmonaut Spend Year on Space Station (Source: Collect Space)
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has just a year left on Earth. A veteran space station commander and half of history's first pair of twins to fly into orbit, Kelly will leave the planet in 2015 to become the first U.S. astronaut to spend a year in space. "T-365: 1 year to 1 year (in space)," Kelly wrote on Twitter Friday (March 28). "Actually, there are 365.2422 days in a year, but who's counting? Me!" (3/29)

Second Hawaiian HI-SEAS Mars Space Analog Study Begins (Source: University of Hawaii)
A new space odyssey began tonight as the six crew members of the new Hawai‘i Space Exploration and Analog Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission entered their remote habitat on the first night of a four-month-long journey. Under a dark night sky on Mauna Loa, commander Casey Stedman closed the simulated air lock behind the crew, sealing the habitat and cutting off all physical contact with the outside world for the next 120 days. But while the outside world is locked away, the inside world will be closely monitored.

Using surveillance cameras, electronic surveys, crew member diaries and other sources, researchers from the University of Hawai‘i will be keeping an eye on the crew. Researchers are tracking group cohesion and a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional factors. They are particularly interested in how technical, social, and task roles within the group evolve over time and how they affect performance. It’s all part of NASA-funded research to understand how teams of astronauts will perform during isolated, long-duration space exploration missions. (3/29)

In Hawaii, Hefty Rover Marks Potential Next Step in Exploring Space (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
A brand-new planetary rover climbed up steps and trekked over large blocks of wood in front of the state Capitol on Friday — over and over and over again as curious lawmakers, legislative staff and passers-by took turns at the helm of its remote-control panel. The 750-pound vehicle is the first of its kind to arrive in Hawaii as part of the state's Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, or PISCES, which is working on establishing a village of robots to serve as test subjects for international space exploration technology. (3/29)

Is it a Spaceport, or a Space Ghost? (Source: Watchdog.org)
New Mexico taxpayers already have sunk at least $212 million into Spaceport America. But it’s been nearly three years since the facility had its grand opening, which featured billionaire Richard Branson rappelling down the fa├žade of the massive hangar in the desert of southern New Mexico. We’re still waiting for Virgin Galactic — Branson’s company and Spaceport’s anchor tenant — to make its maiden voyage.

Branson’s a good salesman and he’s lined up a host of celebrities and the well-heeled to pay between $200,000 and $250,000 for a promised to be a two-and-a-half-hour flight beyond the earth’s atmosphere, allowing passengers five minutes of weightlessness. After postponing earlier scheduled launches, Branson told reporters last month Virgin Galactic will send commercial passengers into suborbital space from Spaceport America by the second half of 2014. (3/29)

Air Force Provides Details on Range Radar Problem (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A mandatory range asset supporting the NROL-67 launch went offline, March 24, 2014.  An investigation revealed a tracking radar experienced an electrical short, overheating the unit and rendering it inoperable.  The outage resulted in an inability to meet minimum public safety requirements needed for flight, so the launch was postponed.  

Initial assessment indicates repair of the tracking radar will take approximately three weeks.  The Air Force is evaluating the feasibility of returning an inactive radar to full mission capability to resume operations sooner.  The launch schedule impact is to be determined, pending resolution of the anomaly.  Early indications are all launches scheduled for FY14 will be supported. More information will be provided as it becomes available. Click here. (3/28)

Boeing Targets 66 Percent Launch Cost Reduction with ALASA (Source: Space News)
Boeing Defense Space and Security has won a three-way competition for a Pentagon contract worth as much as $104 million to build and demonstrate a low-cost, airborne satellite launching system. The contract is for DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is intended to field a system to launch satellites weighing up to 45 kilograms into low Earth orbit for as low as $1 million each.

ALASA seeks to use a rocket launched from modified fighter-jet aircraft taking off from a standard airport runway. The ALASA rocket, measuring 7.3 meters long, would be attached to the underbelly of a Boeing-built F-15E fighter aircraft. Once the plane reaches an altitude of approximately 12,000 meters, the rocket would be released and then ignite to carry its payload to orbit. (3/28)

NASA Completes Reviews to Convert KSC to Multi-User Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA has been working for the better part of a decade to get back to the business of sending astronauts on missions beyond the orbit of Earth. To help accomplish this, NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program has labored to convert historic Kennedy Space Center (KSC) into what is being described as a multi-user spaceport. The most recent step toward accomplishing this was announced on March 26, with the completion of the initial design and technology development phase. Click here. (3/28)

Space Shuttle 747 to Land in Museum (Source: National Geographic)
The jumbo jet that first carried a space shuttle coast to coast will land in a museum next month, scheduled to forever bear a copy of its most famous passenger. NASA 905 was the first of two Boeing 747 passenger jets modified by the space agency to wing space shuttles from landing runways back to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. With the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, and their delivery to museums in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles, NASA 905′s final landing will come at Space Center Houston, the space museum next to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. (3/28)

NASA Unveils Stunning New Milky Way Portrait (Source: National Geographic)
Talk about an out-of-this-world map! NASA has unveiled a stunning new clickable panoramic portrait of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The zoomable, 360-degree view was constructed from more than two million infrared snapshots taken over the past ten years by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. “If we actually printed this out, we’d need a billboard as big as the Rose Bowl Stadium to display it,” said Robert Hurt. Click here. (3/28)

ESA Orders Nearly $200 Million Weather Instrument from Airbus (Source: Space News)
The European Space agency on March 28 contracted with Airbus Defence and Space to build a large spectrometer to study the atmosphere following a launch in 2021 aboard a European polar-orbiting meteorological satellite. Under the contract, valued at 144 million euros ($197 million), Airbus’ facility in Ottobrunn, Germany, will manufacture an infrared, visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared imaging spectrometer as part of the Sentinel-5 mission. (3/28)

France, China Set Sail on Joint Ocean-surface Satellite Project (Source: Space News)
The French and Chinese space agencies on March 27 confirmed their joint venture in radar ocean-surface research, approving the final construction of a satellite carrying instruments from both nations to be launched in 2018. The China-French Oceanic Satellite, CFOSat, will carry the French Surface Waves Investigation and Monitoring, or SWIM, instrument, a wave-scatterometer spectrometer that has been under development for several years at the French space agency, CNES. (3/28)

NASA Holding Backup Plan for Troubled JWST Component (Source: Space News)
NASA expects to decide in May whether a technically challenging cryogenic cooler needed for one of the instruments on its flagship James Webb Space Telescope can fly with existing valves or if replacements under development as a backup will be used instead. “The cryo-cooler has been a problem for many years,” Eric Smith told members of a NASA Advisory Council panel. “We spent a year getting valves that actually can close,” he said. (3/28)

Refueling the Future: New Tech to Keep Satellites Gassed Up in Space (Source: Space.com)
Robotically refueling and maintaining satellites in Earth orbit will allow government agencies and private companies to dramatically extend the lifetime of these valuable communications and scientific assets, advocates say. When a satellite launches into geosynchronous Earth orbit these days, propellant makes up about half its mass. Lofting a satellite with only a portion of the fuel it would need to complete its mission, with the ability to inject more propellant in the future, would scale costs down considerably and enable more instruments to be packed aboard. Click here. (3/28)

Head of Russian Space Flight Control Relieved of Duty (Source: RIA Novosti)
The head of Russia's space flight control center, Viktor Ivanov, was relieved of duty, a source in the Mission Control Center told RIA Novosti on Friday. "This is in no way connected to the postponement in docking the piloted Soyuz rocket for two days," the source said. (3/28)

State Wants Taxpayers to Give Billionaire Elon Musk $1 Million a Year (Source: LA Weekly)
SpaceX has received a $440 million government grant, $1.6 billion worth of deals with taxpayer-funded NASA and, by its own account, $5 billion worth of satellite launch deals and other commitments. Who could run a business based on those hand-to-mouth revenues? What Elon really needs is for the hardworking people of California to each pitch in and give him more money:

So said the state Board of Equalization this week, which endorsed a proposal by California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi to give Musk's SpaceX the tax break it deserves. Muratsuchi's office says the bill, AB 777, would provide rocket propulsion firms a "business inventory tax exemption." SpaceX, located just outside Muratsuchi's district.

The firm complained that its rockets should be designated as business supplies, which would trigger the property tax exemptions, the Board of Equalization told us. As it is, rockets aren't seen as supplies. The board says this gift would cost the taxpayers of Los Angeles county $1.1 million a year. That extra cash - at a time when L.A. public schools are falling apart - will certainly make a difference to Musk's ability to generate more cash for the people person. (3/28)

Former Astronaut Inspires Students at Florida School (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Growing up, Bruce Melnick wanted to be a fisherman like his father. No one in his family had gone to college, so despite his good grades in math and science at Clearwater High School, he hadn't considered furthering his education. But his mother had other plans. She encouraged him to attend the Coast Guard Academy, where he earned a degree in engineering.

And it paid off. Melnick, 64, later went on to become a NASA astronaut, flying in two missions in space, in 1990 and 1992. Now retired seven years, there is still time to be a fisherman, he told a group of sixth-graders at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa on Thursday. "You all have your whole lives ahead of you," Melnick said. "Go ahead and reach for the stars. I always say, 'the sky is no longer the limit.' (3/28)

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