March 5, 2014

U.S. Ready to Go It Alone on Russian Sanctions (Source: Washington Post)
At the same time the U.S. is trying to give Russian President Putin an easy exit from Crimea, it is readying unilateral economic sanctions on businesses and individuals while trying to persuade European partners to do the same. Secretary of State Kerry also has announced a $1 billion aid package to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Rep. Edward Royce, R-CA, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged immediate sanctions against Russia. "We must place crippling sanctions on Russian high-ranking officials, state-owned banks and commercial enterprises," Royce said, "and key individuals behind the Russian intervention."  (3/4)

FAA NextGen Funding Drops 7.2% in Proposed Budget (Source: Aviation Week)
Base funding for the NextGen system will get a 7.2% cutback under the Federal Aviation Administration's 2015 budget request, a request that is down an overall $350 million from last year's budget. The $15.4 billion FAA budget also would trim funding for the Airport Improvement Program. (3/4)

Preparation for Mars: NASA Boosts Asteroid Mission (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's latest budget would funnel $133 million to a plan to push an asteroid close enough so that astronauts could land on it -- serving as practice for a later manned mission to Mars. The space agency's fiscal 2015 budget request totals $17.46 billion and preserves funding to key projects such as Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. (3/4)

B612 Foundation & Broken Bells Partner to Protect Earth (Source: SpaceRef)
Broken Bells are proud to announce an exciting partnership with the B612 Foundation beginning with the band's April West Coast tour. During these dates, $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to the B612 Foundation to help fund their Sentinel Mission, one of the most important space missions for humanity—one that seeks to protect Earth while preparing for future exploration. (3/5)

Lack of EELV Price Transparency Could Hamstring Launch Negotiations (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department may not be able to take full advantage of new competition in the national security launch market because it cannot determine an accurate price for an individual launch by United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver, according to a new report from a congressional watchdog agency. The Government Accountability’s March 4 report, “The Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Competitive Procurement”, examined the EELV contract structure and forthcoming competition for new entrants.

“Minimal insight into contractor cost or pricing data meant DoD may have lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices,” the report said. “Coupled with uncertainties and possible instability in the launch vehicle industrial base, EELV program costs were predicted to rise at an unsustainable rate.” (3/4)

NASA Selects Stellar Interns as Student Ambassadors (Source: NASA)
NASA has inducted 105 top-performing interns, representing 29 states and 67 universities, into its 2014 Student Ambassadors Virtual Community. The NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community (NSAVC) is an online network designed to foster greater interaction and mentorship among outstanding interns of NASA higher education projects, thereby increasing student retention through the NASA educational pipeline and into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. (2/28)

Space Station Orbit to Be Raised Ahead of New Manned Mission (Source: RIA Novosti)
The orbit of the International Space Station will be raised next week by 1.5 kilometers to ensure safe docking of a Russian manned spacecraft. The thrusters on Russia’s Progress space freighter, currently docked with the ISS, will be fired up on March 13 for 218 seconds, giving the station a boost of 0.49 meters per second, the source said.
As a result, the average altitude of the ISS, which currently vacillates between 412 and 430 kilometers, will be increased by 1,500 meters. (3/5)

Travel Destinations for Science Buffs (Source: Discovery)
Given that most of the United States is still feeling the icy grip of winter, we'll begin our list with the state where many northerners are headed this time of year anyway, Florida. Just an hour away from Walt Disney World in Orlando is a place where dreams really did come true: the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Kennedy Space Center launched the rockets from which American astronauts would first leave the Earth and later land on the moon. Later, it would be the launch site of space shuttle missions until the cancellation of the program in 2011. Visitors to the center can see the astronaut hall of fame, tour Saturn V Complex, and get an up-close view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. (3/5)

Winklevoss Twins Book SpaceShipTwo Trip With Bitcoin (Source: NBC)
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, bitcoin investors and villains of "The Social Network," have signed on to be the 700th and 701st passengers on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane. And in keeping with their evangelism for the virtual currency, the twins paid their fare in bitcoins.

"Cameron and I contemplate our tickets into space — as seed capital supporting a new technology that may forever change the way we travel," Tyler Winklevoss wrote in a blog post, "purchased with a new technology that may forever change the way we transact." (3/5)

NASA Plots Daring Flight Mission To Europa (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter's watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life. The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.

NASA will look at many competing ideas for a Europa mission, so the agency doesn't know how big or how much it will cost, Robinson said. She said a major mission goal would be searching for life in the strange liquid water under the ice-covered surface. Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said going to Europa would be more exciting than exploring dry Mars: "There might be fish under the ice." (3/5)

SpaceX to Compete for Air Force Launches This Year (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX says its Falcon 9 v1.1 medium-class launcher is expected to receive U.S. Air Force approval this year to compete against Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets for launches of sensitive national security payloads. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says Falcon 9 certification is expected this year, "in time to compete for the first round" of Air Force contracts to be awarded in 2014 under the EELV program. “We anticipate awards in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2014," she said.

Shotwell said in addition to three successful Falcon 9 v1.1 launches required by the Air Force, SpaceX is dealing with “much stricter” requirements than those imposed on Boeing and Lockheed Martin when they sought Air Force certification for Delta and Atlas launch vehicles more than a decade ago. Beyond that, she said SpaceX is subject to a comparable level of government scrutiny. (3/4)

Does The Future Of Humanity Lie In Space? (Source: Planet Save)
World-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, and Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, are united by a common belief. They are members of an influential group of scientists and visionaries who believe that the long-term future of the human race lies in space, and that we need to grow beyond the confines of our home planet in order to ensure our long-term survival.

The logic behind this viewpoint is that sooner or later the Earth will inevitably endure another planetary catastrophe, such as the asteroid collision that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Failing that, they believe we have a pretty good chance of accomplishing our own extinction through mismanagement of the planet. Click here. (3/5)

World is Not Enough: Millionaires Bet on Space Travel (Source: CNBC)
The world's super-rich could soon switch from setting up home in the traditional property hot spots such as London to heading for outer space. Sub-orbital space travel — where a spacecraft breaches space but does not launch into orbit — could radically shift global markets, eradicating the premium for properties in major commercial cities, according to an annual report from Knight Frank. (3/4)

90-Foot Asteroid Doesn't Faze Astronomers (Source: USA Today)
Space is really, really big. But that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of rocks whizzing around in it. Which is why astronomers aren't packing up their cars and heading to the hills as a 90-foot asteroid swings between the Earth and Moon on Wednesday afternoon. This latest one goes by the name 2014 DX110. It's getting a lot of attention as a "close approach," but NASA is urging the public to take it all with a grain of salt. (3/5)

Japan Moves Forward with Replacement for H-2A Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Armed with an initial tranche of government funding for a next-generation rocket, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to partner with a private company to lead development of a launcher to replace Japan's H-2A rocket by the early 2020s. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the prime contractor for Japan's current H-2A and H-2B rockets, is almost certain to lead the industrial consortium to develop, manufacture and operate Japan's new H-3 rocket.

The budget still needs approval from Japan's parliament, the Diet. Development of the H-3 rocket is predicted to cost about $1.9 billion, or 190 billion yen, over the next eight years. Once the H-3 rocket is operational, JAXA hopes it will cut the H-2A rocket's $100 million launch cost to between $50 million and $65 million. JAXA says such savings could be achieved by exploiting commonalities in avionics and solid rocket motors with Japan's Epsilon rocket, which debuted last year and is tailored for launches of small satellites. (3/5)

Incredible HD Video of Earth From Space Brings Maps to Life (Source: WIRED)
The video above was taken by a satellite, from space. It has enough resolution to watch individual cars move down the road and identify specific planes at the Beijing airport. The footage is from Skybox Imaging, a company that has just started offering customers 90-second video of any point on Earth from its SkySat-1 satellite, upping the ability to monitor what’s going on down here on Earth from space.

In this clip, the SkyBox video sits on top of a static layer of satellite imagery and is overlain by a map layer from Mapbox, based on OpenStreetMap. The combination makes it super easy to see precisely where the planes and cars are headed. Based on the exact time the video was taken, a plane that has just landed could be identified using public flight logs. Click here. (3/4)

Musk: Europe Can't Handle Our NASA Contract (Source: Aviation Week)
The success of back-to-back launches of commercial communications satellites on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets in December and January has drawn barbs from competitors in the commercial launch industry. Stephane Israel, chairman and CEO of European launch service provider Arianespace, has repeatedly criticized SpaceX for charging its U.S. government customers roughly twice the cost of a commercial Falcon 9 launch. SpaceX currently advertises Falcon 9 v1.1 mission to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) starting at $56.5 million per launch.

European Space Agency (ESA) Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain has also suggested SpaceX’s $1.6 billion fixed-price contract with NASA to deliver 20,000 kg (44,000 lb.) of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) is keeping Falcon 9 prices artificially low. Both officials assert SpaceX is billing NASA an estimated $120-140 million per launch, a range likely derived from a contract spec that calls for 12 such cargo runs by the end of 2015.

Elon Musk responded to the criticism, asserting that while NASA pays $120 million to SpaceX for each cargo flight, the price tag covers more than a Falcon 9 launch, including the cost of SpaceX’s recoverable Dragon cargo vessel and its safe return to Earth. He said Arianespace would be hard-pressed to execute SpaceX's contract with NASA. He added that Arianespace currently relies on $135 million in annual price supports from the 20-nation ESA just to break even. (3/4)

IG Report Finds Flaws in NASA's Mobile Device Management (Source: FCW)
NASA is not doing a good job managing its mobile devices, according to a new report authored by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. The space agency's mismanagement of its 16,900 agency-issued tablets, smartphones, cell phones and AirCards came with a hefty price tag for taxpayers in 2013. About 2,300, or 14 percent of all agency-issued devices, went unused for seven months while costing taxpayers $679,000, according to the report. (3/4)

NASA Budget Proposal Would Mean Stability for in Alabama (Source: Huntsville Times)
Here's a look in seven numbers and two quotes at President Obama's 2015 budget proposal as it affects NASA's major Alabama center, the Marshall Space Flight Center. First, a quote from Marshall Director Patrick Scheuermann: "This is a good budget for Marshall Space Flight Center and it provides stability for our workforce, programs and projects."

Next, the numbers: $2.15 billion comes to Marshall. It's about the same as last year. $1.4 billion for the Space Launch System, also "consistent with last year." $193 million for space operations at Marshall, like the Payload Operations Center for the ISS. $41 million for Marshall's technology work including its centennial challenges and similar programs. $140 million for science at Marshall including solar research, climate research, etc. $71 million for construction and revitalization on the center in 2015. (3/4)

NASA Budget Puts Emphasis on Getting Astronauts Into Space Again (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA officials on Tuesday unveiled a $17.5 billion budget plan that makes launching astronauts into space a priority once again — though that goal still remains several years away. Under the 2015 funding proposal, which still requires the approval of Congress, NASA would pour billions of dollars into two programs aimed at solving a problem that has existed since the last shuttle flew in 2011 from Kennedy Space Center: NASA has no way of launching its own people into low Earth orbit, or beyond.

Instead, NASA has been forced to rely on Russia to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station — an expensive arrangement that has drawn extra attention in recent days because of the standoff between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine. "We need to get going with giving America its own capability … so we are not dependent on any other nation," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said during a budget briefing. (3/4)

Terminal Velocity Wins NASA Contract for Prototype Payload Return Capsule (Source: TVA)
Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC (TVA) has been awarded a contract by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) for development of a prototype small payload return capsule. Designed as a high-altitude drop test article, the prototype will demonstrate mission-enabling communications technologies and verify integrated performance, including functionality of its parachute recovery system.

This effort is directly in alignment with TVA's plan to develop a small reentry device (RED), called RED-4U, capable of returning the payload mass and volume equivalent of four CubeSats, commonly referred to in units of "U." Development of the prototype and its subsequent suborbital flight test will demonstrate two low-cost communications and tracking technologies, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Iridium, in flight conditions representative of an Earth entry, descent, and landing application.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, having flown multiple ADS-B payloads for NASA and the FAA on suborbital platforms, is supporting this program with TVA. (3/4)

Bolden: Americans and Russians Still Getting Along Fine in Space (Source: Washington Post)
There’s a place where the United States and Russia are still getting along swimmingly: About 250 miles above the surface of the Earth, where three Russians, two Americans and an astronaut from Japan are aboard the international space station. “Everything is nominal right now with our relationship with the Russians,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden during a teleconference Tuesday. (3/4)

Russia, India to Discuss Space Cooperation (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and India have agreed to hold consultations on space cooperation and joint projects in this field, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "We also discussed GLONASS and think there is an enormous potential for cooperation in this area and the joint use of space services in general," Rogozin, who is co-chair of the Russian-Indian inter-governmental commission on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation, said. (3/3)

Yutu Moon Rover Unable to Properly Maneuver Solar Panels (Source: Universe Today)
The serious technical malfunction afflicting the life and continued operations of China’s Yutu moon rover since the start of its second Lunar Night time hibernation in late January 2014 has been identified as an inability to properly maneuver the life giving solar panels, according to a top Chinese space official. “Yutu suffered a control circuit malfunction in its driving unit,” according to a newly published report on March 1 by the state owned Xinhua news agency. (3/3)

Funding for US-German Airborne Observatory Cut (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
NASA plans to mothball its infrared airborne observatory unless it can get some financial help from international partners. President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2015 released Tuesday slashes funding for the U.S.-German project from $84 million to $12 million. (3/4)

NASA Budget Would Begin Work on New Science Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA’s 2015 budget would remain essentially flat at $17.5 billion under a White House spending proposal unveiled March 4 that would hold the line on the agency’s biggest space programs while laying the groundwork for major new astrophysics and planetary science missions. The budget request seeks about 1 percent less for NASA than what Congress approved for 2014 in an omnibus spending bill signed in January, but $600 million more than what the agency received in 2013, when automatic budget cuts known as sequestration were in full effect.

As part of the roughly $5 billion Science budget the administration proposed for 2015 — about $180 million less than the 2014 appropriation — NASA’s Astrophysics division would get $607 million, $14 million of which would be for preliminary work on the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope: a dark-energy and exoplanet observatory that would utilize one of the two 2.4-meter telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2012. Planetary Science, meanwhile, would get nearly $1.3 billion, about $65 million less than Congress approved for 2014. (3/4)

Editorial: British Investment in Environmental Sats Continues Positive Trend (Source: Space News)
The UK continues to raise its profile in space activity, most recently with a commitment to invest 15 million British pounds ($25 million) in a pair of international environmental satellite projects, both involving France. As part of a bilateral framework agreement between the two nations, Britain and France agreed to partner on the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer Next Generation instrument for the latest Metop polar-orbiting weather satellites being built for Europe’s Eumetsat weather satellite organization.

That investment totals 5.5 million British pounds. The U.K. also agreed to sink 7.5 million British pounds into the U.S.-European Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. Slated to launch in 2020, SWOT is the follow-on to the long-running series of U.S.-French Jason satellites whose once-experimental ocean topography measurements have become indispensable to weather forecasters. (3/3)

Why Aren’t We on Mars Yet? (Source: Space News)
One can only imagine what Wernher von Braun would have said if had he known, back in the days of Apollo, that not only would we not have landed humans on Mars by the year 2014, but we would still be decades away from achieving that goal. Undoubtedly, his reaction would have included stunned disbelief. Frankly, we should also be in a state of disbelief. After all, von Braun has not been the only prominent person to advocate for sending humans to Mars since the dawn of the Space Age.

Indeed, U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush each attempted to launch programs to land crews on Mars, and President Barack Obama has stated that Mars is the “ultimate” destination. Yet we seem no closer than when von Braun was advocating the humans-to-Mars goal so many decades ago. Click here. (3/3)

NASA Langley Wins, Loses Under Obama's FY15 Budget Request (Source: Daily Press)
NASA Langley Research Center would take a small fiscal haircut but come away with funding for a cutting-edge science lab under the president's proposed FY2015 federal budget. NASA Langley's budget would come in at $760 million, or $10 million leaner than last year, but the Hampton center would receive an additional $94 million to build a Measurement Sciences Laboratory for aeronautics research as part of its 20-year revitalization plan.

The trim would also mean about 30 fewer full-time employees at the center by 2015, and Deputy Director David Bowles said those losses are expected to come from routine attrition among their 1,880 employees. (3/4)

Budget Would Boost NASA Glenn (Source: Cleeland Plain Dealer)
Even though all the numbers in President Obama's $3.9 trillion budget blueprint for 2015 are subject to drastic change, NASA Glenn Research Center Director James M. Free was pleased with the 3.6 percent increase the proposal would give his facility over its 2014 funding. He said the proposed $587.7 million budget for Glenn, up by $20.5 million from last year, would keep Glenn's workforce around its current level of 3,000 civil servants and contractors -- if it becomes law. (3/4)

Why Companies are Lining Up to Test Golf Clubs (and Other Products) on the ISS (Source: Fast Company)
Since its launch in 2000, the space station has mainly served as a place in which astronauts from NASA and foreign space agencies conduct experiments involving health and the physical sciences. It was never intended to help private companies improve their products and market share. That's about to change. In 2011, following a directive from Congress, NASA handed off management for a portion of the space station's U.S. research modules to the specially ­created not-for-profit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

Congress wanted to broaden access to the station and utilize it as a platform for innovation. In essence, that meant executives at the Melbourne, Florida–based CASIS would sell the virtues of the space station to American businesses, not-for-profits, and ­academics--sort of like you might sell office space in Silicon Valley, except with a profoundly more complicated commute. "There really is no business model for this," says Duane Ratliff, COO of CASIS, which now has 33 employees and a federally funded $15 million budget. "Our first challenge was: Can we identify the value that microgravity research has?"

That's hardly obvious. Soon after they started, the CASIS team concluded that use of the station should be geared toward pharmaceutical and material-science researchers. At least theoretically, a microgravity environment can be a unique place for drug companies to test medications for diseases that cause muscle wasting and bone loss (both conditions have been associated with low-gravity environments). "The biggest challenge," says Ratliff, "is getting someone like Merck or Novartis, who have never done research in space or even contemplated it, and explaining it to them." Click here. (3/4)

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