March 4, 2014

White House 2015 Budget Seeks $100M More for SLS (Source: Huntsville Times)
The 2015 budget proposal for NASA released by the White House today proposes to spend $100 million more each next year on space station research, new space technology and a new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule, plus $250 million more to develop commercial crew carriers. The total budget line for NASA is $17.5 billion, down slightly from this year's $17.6 billion. (3/4)

NASA Budget Would Ramp Up Asteroid Mission (Source: Asbury Park Press)
NASA’s proposed budget for 2015 would ramp up funding to fly astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 as part of a stepping-stone approach to Mars. The $133 million for the mission, which would deflect a small asteroid into near-Earth orbit so astronauts could practice landing on it and study its characteristics, is part of the space agency’s proposed $17.46 billion budget released by the administration Tuesday.

Fiscal 2015 begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30, 2015. The budget also includes funding to continue NASA’s other top priorities: a deep-space Space Launch System rocket and the Orion multi-purpose vehicle it will carry to Mars, the James Webb Space Telescope due for launch in 2018, and the Commercial Crew Program that helps fund private efforts to send astronauts from the U.S. to the International Space Station.

The budget is about $185 million below the fiscal 2014 level but roughly $600 million more than NASA received in fiscal 2013, when sequestration cut discretionary spending across the board. NASA could have access to another $900 million as well -- its share of a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that would be separate from the regular budget. (3/4)

Launch of Two Hundred 437MHz Satellites Aboard Next SpaceX Mission (Source: Southgate)
The largest ever launch of 437 MHz satellites is planned for March 16 at 0841 UT when 200 Sprite satellites will be launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS 3 mission. They will be deployed into a 325×315 km 51.5 degree inclination orbit. A Sprite is a tiny, 3.5 by 3.5 cm, single-board spacecraft that was developed by Zac Manchester KD2BHC. It has a microcontroller, radio, and solar cells and is capable of carrying single-chip sensors, such as thermometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers. Click here. (3/4)

Paradox Solved? How Information Can Escape from a Black Hole (Source:
Every black hole conceals a secret — the quantum remains of the star from which it formed, say a group of scientists, who also predict that these stars can later emerge once the black hole evaporates. The researchers call these objects "Planck stars" and believe that they could solve a very important question in modern physics: the information paradox, or the question of what happens to information contained in matter that falls into a black hole. Click here. (3/4)

Tito: Inspiration Mars Sets Sights on Venus/Mars Flyby in 2021 (Source: Space News)
The past year has been one of hard work and due diligence for the Inspiration Mars Foundation (IMF), working toward the goal of providing America with a viable, challenging and inspirational mission to Mars that would accelerate our nation’s plans and progress for deep-space exploration.

In that time, the foundation funded and led a significant team effort involving industry, NASA centers, advocacy groups and academia to study and validate the goal of a fast, free-return human mission to Mars and define the best mission architecture to accomplish it. In the process, many of the original mission architecture assumptions have been revised through collaboration and consensus building. And as a result, the mission and vision of IMF are even more viable and still very much alive. Click here. (3/3) 

Space Florida Picks New Government Relations Chief (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida is pleased to welcome Sharon Spratt, the organization’s new Senior Director of Government Relations. Spratt will report to the president of Space Florida from Tallahassee and will oversee coordination of all federal, state, and local government relations and legislative initiatives for the organization. She will serve as Space Florida’s lead advocate to the Florida Legislature and Congress, and will also serve as the primary organizational point of contact to the Florida Governor’s office.
Prior to joining Space Florida, Ms. Spratt served as the director of government relations for Enterprise Florida (EFI) for four years and led the development and execution of EFI’s annual legislative agenda. In that position, she also conducted regular analyses of Florida’s economic development programs as they compared to other U.S. states, making recommendations to enhance Florida’s competitiveness in the marketplace. Prior to her work with EFI, Spratt served as a senior legislative assistant in the Florida House of Representatives. (3/4)

Pentagon Budget Scraps, Delays Lockheed Satellites, Postpones Others (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Defense Department said its 2015 budget request includes $7.2 billion for satellites and other space-based programs but saves $2.1 billion over the next five years by scrapping plans for two Lockheed Martin Corp communications satellites.

Given difficult budget pressures, the Pentagon said the Air Force decided to skip buying the seventh and eighth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites that Lockheed was slated to build. It said it also planned to postpone work on two Global Positioning System III satellites, also to be built by Lockheed, until after fiscal 2019, since the GPS satellites already in orbit were lasting longer than forecast. (3/4)

DOD Budget Reveals Fear of Falling Behind (Source: Reuters)
The Pentagon's budget reveals in its details that the U.S. is prepared to cut troops and make other sacrifices in order to maintain the nation's technological advantage over rival nations. American dominance, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned recently "can no longer be taken for granted." The budget, which calls for a slimmer fighting force and retiring some aircraft and vehicles, seeks to tilt the spending balance toward new weapons systems and stronger cyber defense. (3/4)

Hadfield: Why Canada is Winning the Space Race (Source: Globe and Mail)
We seem to punch above our weight in terms of space contractors. Why do you think that is? "Well, we’ve been in the game longer than just about anyone, apart from the Soviet Union and the United States. We built world-class hardware from the very beginning." Click here. (2/27)

Canadian Scientist Joins NASA-Funded Simulated Mars Mission in Hawaii (Source: Montreal Gazette)
A Kelowna, B.C., scientist is joining the crew of a NASA-funded simulated mission to Mars after beating out hundreds of applicants from around the world. Ross Lockwood and five others will spend four months inside a sealed environment high on the slopes of a Hawaiian mountain. The main purpose of the mission, starting March 28, is to help the space agency develop psychological guidelines that will be used to select future astronauts capable of making a real trip to Mars. (2/27)

Canadian Province Commits To Growing Province’s Aerospace Sector (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
In its annual budget released Feb. 18, the BC government confirmed its commitment to the growth of the aerospace sector in British Columbia, saying that it would work with AIAC Pacific to deliver on its $5 million campaign promise in last year’s provincial election. (3/1)

Europe Explores Ideas to Clean Up Space Junk (Source:
A new European proposal to get rid of space junk adds to a growing list of ideas to get rid of the manmade pollution currently orbiting the Earth. Called e.DeOrbit, the debris-hunting spacecraft would zoom to a polar altitude of between 500 and 620 miles (800 and 1,000 kilometers) and then approach a piece of debris. After using sensors to move in close, it would then capture the junk in some way, perhaps using a net, or harpoon, or tentacle.

The CleanSpace initiative from the European Space Agency is just one of several proposals to get rid of space junk, however, with other ideas ranging from lasers to electrical currents to even air bursts. As engineers work through the technical issues, week by week the issue is growing. (3/4)

Orbcomm Has 17 Satellites Slated To Launch in 2014 (Source: Space News)
Satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging services provider Orbcomm on March 3 said its long-delayed second-generation satellite constellation is now scheduled for launch on two Falcon 9 rockets operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the first in mid-April and the second in November.

The first of the two launches, which is now second in SpaceX’s 2014 manifest behind a NASA-purchased cargo delivery run to the international space station, scheduled for mid-March, will carry six second-generation Orbcomm satellites. The second, set for November, will carry the remaining 11 satellites, Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc J. Eisenberg said. (3/4)

Orbital Sciences Examining 2-3 Russian Alternatives to Antares’ AJ-26 Engine (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences is investigating “two or three alternatives,” all of them Russian, to the current AJ-26 engine that powers the company’s Antares rocket, Orbital Chief Financial Officer Garrett E. Pierce said March 3. Orbital’s exploration includes filing suit against United Launch Alliance of Colorado in an attempt to break ULA’s exclusivity contract with the makers of Russia’s RD-180 engine, which powers the first stage of ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket.

Orbital and its suppliers have enough AJ-26 engines to complete Orbital’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) space station cargo-supply contract with NASA, which totals eight Antares missions, and several additional missions as well. (3/4)

European Commercial Space Plane Prototype Set for May Drop Test (Source:
A European space plane project will take to the skies a few months from now for a crucial test. Europe’s biggest aerospace manufacturer, Airbus Group, plans to drop its scale-model prototype prototype Spaceplane from an altitude of 10,000 feet over Singapore in May. If that trial goes well, another unpowered drop test — this time from 100,000 feet — should follow next year, officials said. Click here. (3/4)

Band Seeks Space Gig (Source: Team Rock Radio)
Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler wants his band to be the first to play a show in space. He's hoping he can persuade Virgin mogul Richard Branson to let them fly on his Virgin Galactic spaceship when commercial flights begin. Adler tells Metal Injection he came up with his space plan after Metallica beat him to his ambition to play in Antarctica. "I think if we approached Richard Branson in the right way, we could help them prove how safe it is," the drummer explains. (3/4)

Nearly Every Star Hosts at Least One Alien Planet (Source:
The vast majority of stars in our Milky Way galaxy host planets, many of which may be capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study suggests. Astronomers have detected eight new exoplanet candidates circling nearby red dwarf stars, which make up at least 75 percent of the galaxy's 100 billion or so stars. Three of these worlds are just slightly bigger than Earth and orbit in the "habitable zone," the range of distances from a parent star where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface.

The new finds imply that virtually all red dwarfs throughout the Milky Way have planets, and at least 25 percent of these stars in the sun's own neighborhood host habitable-zone "super-Earths," researchers said. "We are clearly probing a highly abundant population of low-mass planets, and can readily expect to find many more in the near future — even around the very closest stars to the sun," study lead author Mikko Tuomi said. (3/4)

Declassified Air Force Program will Launch from Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A newly declassified military space program will place satellites on the lookout for threats to national-security spacecraft high above Earth. Four satellites launched in pairs, the first late this year from Cape Canaveral on a Delta IV rocket, will provide new eyes on exactly what is flying in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles up.

And should an adversary’s spacecraft move too close to U.S. assets — to learn more about them or potentially launch an orbital attack — the action won’t go unnoticed. Gen. Shelton said the program was made public as a deterrent. The hope is that if other countries know these spacecraft are up there, they might be less inclined to consider an aggressive move. (3/3)

NASA’s Gravity Dilemma (Source: WIRED)
The phenomenal success of the film Gravity, which culminated with seven Academy Awards on Sunday night, represented a unique challenge for NASA’s PR team. On the one hand, the $270 million (and counting) in box office reflects and enhances a broad public interest in space and space exploration. On the other hand, the portrayal of the final frontier wasn’t particularly sympathetic. It was one part awe-inducing exploration, 99 parts terrifying wasteland, accentuated by a hyperventilating Sandra Bullock careening through a vast emptiness.

Add to that the scientific errors made in the name of artistic license, and there is plenty of ammo with which space evangelists might attack the film. So what was the best way to parlay Gravity’s popularity into a positive public impression for NASA? A full embrace would seemingly endorse the film’s inaccuracies and space-based vision of overwhelming anxiety. Ignoring the moment would appear tone deaf and aloof, a missed opportunity to engage a large demographic. Sniping over imprecise plot elements would come off as petty and bitter.

The smart play, and the one NASA seems to have embraced, is a three-part strategy: acknowledge, support, and deflect. Over a series of 31 tweets that began a few hours before the Oscars telecast and ended after midnight eastern time, NASA congratulated the film and pointed followers to images of real astronauts in action via the hashtag #RealGravity. Click here. (3/4)

NASA Officials Visit Winnebago Tribe to See Contract Revenue at Work (Source:
Ho-Chunk, Inc., which has secured a handful of federal government contracts over the past year and is owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, recently hosted two officials from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA officials Verron Brade, director, and Lori Moore, business management specialist, arranged the visit to Ho-Chunk’s headquarters in Winnebago, Neb., to better understand how the corporation and its subsidiaries reinvest government contracting revenue into the Winnebago community. (3/3)

What Happens If Russia Refuses to Fly U.S. Astronauts? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
With tensions escalating between Russia and Ukraine, the pressure is on President Obama to do more than issue stern warnings to the Russian government. Economic sanctions are one possible action, but one that could put the squeeze not only on Russia but also the U.S. manned space program.

NASA has relied on the Russian Federal Space Agency and its Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars per seat. Any strong move by the U.S. in response to the Crimean crisis could spell the end of Americans flying on Russian spaceships, at least until tensions ease. NASA and its commercial partners have some projects in the works that can fill the gap, should Russia refuse to fly our astronauts. But these are at least two to three years from operational status.

Depending on how the Russian-Ukraine crisis develops, those could be two to three years with no Americans in space. The big question is: Could NASA accelerate this schedule if it had to? We asked Jeff Foust, an analyst with the Futron Corporation and a long-time observer of the commercial spaceflight industry. "I don't think you would be able accelerate it that much," he says, "maybe 2016, maybe 2015. (3/3)

Former NASA Commercial Crew Chief Ed Mango fined $2,000 (Source: Florida Today)
A federal judge today imposed a $2,000 fine on Ed Mango, a senior Kennedy Space Center official who had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of trying to influence a matter in which he had a financial interest. Facing up to six months in prison, based on recommended sentencing guidelines, Mango told U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton he took responsibility for his actions and was sorry, and wanted to continue his work in human spaceflight.

"I know I went over the line," said Mango, who stepped down last fall as manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "It will not happen again." Mango entered the courtroom with a dozen supporters. Several spoke on his behalf, including former astronaut Jim Voss and former shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach. (3/3)

NASA Will Seek Funds For Europa Flyby, Dark Energy Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s upcoming $17.5 billion request for funds in fiscal 2015 will include a request for “pre-formulation” work on missions to exploit recently discovered water geysers over the south pole of Europa and sophisticated techniques to gauge the effects of dark energy on the observable Universe, along with stay-the-course spending on continuing major programs.

Internal NASA budget documents indicate space science would get almost $5 billion under the new budget to continue work on the James Webb Space Telescope and a Curiosity-based Mars rover to launch in 2020. But it includes some funding for a Europa mission spurred by the possibility that water found high in space over Europa’s south pole could give an unexpectedly quick look at the makeup of the Jovian moon’s subsurface ocean with a spacecraft designed to fly through it. (3/3)

Strange Signal From Galactic Center Is Looking More and More Like Dark Matter (Source: WIRED)
The more that scientists stare at it, the more a strange signal from the center of the Milky Way galaxy appears to be the result of dark matter annihilation. If confirmed, it would be the first direct evidence for dark matter ever seen. Dark matter floats throughout our galaxy, but is more concentrated at its center. There, a dark matter particle can meet another dark matter particle flying through space. If they crash into one another, they will annihilate each other (dark matter is its own antiparticle) and give off gamma rays. (3/3)

Why Google Might Launch the World’s Largest Constellation (Source: Big Think)
In 2011, NewSpace Global learned that some interesting players in Silicon Valley were exploring the potential of Cisco’s Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) project. Apparently, the technology had been proven viable; although questions concerning the 2nd Screen remained. Thus, when NSG sources indicated this month that a Silicon Valley tech giant – perhaps Google – may soon announce plans to launch a massive constellation of satellites, we were not surprised.

Although unconfirmed, sources indicate that this may result in “160 Skybox-sized” satellites launched at first, followed by hundreds more to total 1600 satellites. Yes, this would be more satellites than are currently operational. Yes, this is possibly apocryphal. No, we do not know if these satellites will be used for Earth observation or communications or both. But what we do know is that this story makes sense. On the next page are 10 reasons why NSG Analysts would not be surprised were GOOG to announce such plans. Click here. (3/3)

Ukraine: An international Space Situation (Source: Medium)
There are only two countries in the world today with the capability to send humans into space -- Russia and China. The US lost that capability on 21 July 2011 when the space shuttle was retired. The shuttles had been ferrying astronauts to and from our planet since 1981. Today, the US relies solely on Russia’s Soyuz craft to get NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

That puts the US in a precarious position. Despite widespread international condemnation, the Russian army has occupied the Crimean peninsula and looks set to stay for the forseeable future. President Obama has called this a breach of international law. Tensions are high. Three hundred and seventy kilometers above, looking down on the conflict, the NASA astronauts on the Space Station, Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, must be getting a little worried. Their flight home is dependent on Russia and the US getting along, and their commander, Oleg Kotov, is from the Crimea.

Let’s be clear: all-out conflict between the United States and Russia is a virtual impossibility at this stage. However, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has been known in the past to use all the leverage available to him to pressure his opponents into submission. It’s not inconceivable that the International Space Station may play some part in this, either by denying the US the use of Soyuz, or simply by charging exorbitant amounts for it. (3/3)

Russia Crisis Raises Space Station Questions, But NASA Has Options (Source: NBC)
hanks to its reliance on Russia, NASA is once again confronted with the nightmare of a diplomatic roadblock in a project originally made possible by diplomacy: the U.S.-Russian partnership in space exploration. And if Russia's confrontation with Ukraine and the West turns into the worst diplomatic crisis of our generation, as feared, it could have equally profound and disturbing consequences for space exploration. Click here. (3/3)

Ukraine: We Shouldn't Be Surprised (Source: Medium)
It’s not like the US wasn’t warned this might become a possibility. In 2008, when Russia marched into its tiny neighbor Georgia and the space shuttles were on the verge of retirement, US Senator Bill Nelson warned that the country’s space program would be severely limited without the capability to transport astronauts into space.

What’s more, the United States has a law -- the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act -- that prohibits the country from buying space-related goods and services from Russia while the nation exports nuclear technology to Iran. NASA was granted a waiver to this law in 2005, and this was extended in 2009, but expires again in 2016. The light at the end of the tunnel is NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is funding several American companies to build manned spacecraft.

The most famous is SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which has successfully docked with the International Space Station but isn’t yet ready for manned flight. If the conflict drags on, it’s likely that funds will be pumped into the program and development on the Dragon capsule, as well as other manned spacecraft, will be significantly accelerated. But that won’t bear fruit until at best 2016, and there are multiple European and American astronauts that are scheduled to make the trip on ten different Soyuz launches until then. (3/3)

South Africa's Cubesat Encounters Space Debris (Source: Xinhua)
South Africa's first nano- satellite experienced two very close encounters with defunct satellites in the past few days after three months in orbit, authorities said on Monday. The nano-satellite, the ZACUBE-1, came within an estimated 185m of the defunct Russian COSMOS 2151 satellite over Antarctica on Wednesday, the South African Department of Science and Technology (SADST) said in a statement.

Remarkably, a second warning was received on Thursday, with ZACUBE-1 predicted to come within 85m of yet another defunct Russian satellite, METEOR 2-5, over Brazil. ZACUBE-1 was developed by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and launched on Nov. 21 2013. The CPUT has independently confirmed with its ground station that ZACUBE-1 is still beaconing and has survived both close encounters. (3/3)

Virginia Spaceport Official Talks Wallops' Future, Florida Workers (Source: Space News)
We’re talking to other launch providers, but we’re under nondisclosure agreements. But, for example, it’s easy to go from MARS’s Pad 0B, which is for solid rockets. In fact, we have plans to modify the pad so it can launch Orbital’s Minotaur 6. If we modify the pad for Minotaur 6, it could also accommodate Lockheed Martin’s Athena or Athena 2. For Pad 0A, we certainly tried to design it such that it could accommodate other liquid-oxygen, kerosene rockets. We’ve also done studies on what it would take to do a hydrogen-fueled rocket, or a methane-fueled rocket.

There’s a pretty good core of our workforce who are Florida people. We have this remarkable workforce that has been impacted in a very big way by the shutdown of the shuttle. Some of those, not a lot, we’re talking smaller numbers, but a key group of Florida people with 25, 30 years of experience are working for us at MARS, or are subcontractors in Virginia. And we’re building around that with a lot of smart, young talent out of the local area.

You find people who are older and don’t necessarily want to sell their home in Florida but want to work another five or 10 years. So they’ll come up here and live. It isn’t driving back and forth every weekend. They are paid in Virginia, or Maryland, live here, and will go back once every couple of months. We have some subcontractors who, as we surge, will bring in people from Florida who will go back there. (3/3)

Incredible Technology: Inflatable Aircraft Could Cruise Venus Skies (Source:
A big robotic airship could ply the skies of Venus for up to a year, giving scientists an unprecedented look at Earth's hellishly hot "sister planet," the craft's developers say. For the past year, engineers at aerospace firms Northrop Grumman and L'Garde have been working on an unmanned concept vehicle called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform. Using a mixture of powered flight and passive floating, VAMP could stay aloft for long periods, collecting a variety of data about Venus and its atmosphere. (3/3)

Asteroid Hunter Discovers Comet 'Weirdo' (Source: Discovery)
NASA’s reinvigorated Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has discovered its first previously unknown comet since its reboot last year. But it turns out that this particular "dirty snowball" is a little… different. “This comet is a weirdo,” said NEOWISE principal investigator Amy Mainzer. “It is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”

Although this is the first comet discovery of the new NEOWISE mission, the infrared space telescope discovered 21 other comets during its primary mission between 2009 and 2011 before its cryogenic hydrogen depleted. In September, the mission was switched back on to asteroid- (and now comet-) hunting duties — a task it can easily fulfill without the ultra-low temperatures its onboard coolant provided. (3/3)

NASA, Honeywell Celebrate 10 Years of Inspiring Students with FMA Live! (Source: NASA)
NASA and Honeywell kicked off the 2014 tour of "FMA Live! Forces in Motion" with middle school students at Wunderlich Intermediate School in Houston today. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this innovative collaboration designed to ignite students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
FMA Live! is a high-energy live show that features actors, hip-hop dance, music videos, interactive scientific demonstrations and video interviews with NASA scientists to teach Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion and universal laws of gravity. The name of the show comes from Newton’s second law of motion: force = mass x acceleration. (3/3)

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