March 6, 2014

Swiss Space Systems Opens Florida Office (Source: Space Florida)
Swiss Space Systems (S3) and Space Florida will hold a March 14 "inauguration event" for S3's new affiliate, S3 Operations USA. The U.S. office will be located at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. “By announcing this strategic partnership with Space Florida, a key state in the U.S. aerospace sector, S3 further reinforces its presence in the United States. S3 plans on becoming a leading player in the small satellite launch industry and suborbital flights, with its innovative & reusable SOAR launch system." Click here. (3/5)

SpaceX, ULA Go Toe-to-Toe Florida Launches (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A miniature space race is underway in Washington, D.C., between execs with United Launch Alliance and SpaceX that may impact Central Florida’s space industry. The two companies, which conduct launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceportand employ many Central Floridians, made a pitch to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense why their respective companies should be considered to handle more than 14 Air Force space payload launches through 2015.

The presentations focused on several aspects of both companies, including SpaceX’s young history, yet cheaper options compared to ULA; and ULA’s use of the RD-180 rocket engine that’s built in Russia, which could cause issues if U.S./Russia relations continue to deteriorate due to other political issues. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk emphasized his company's ability to charge the federal government $90 million per launch, which he said is significantly lower than the cost through ULA.

Despite the back-and-forth, the two executives did agree that a more competitive market would be better for taxpayers. A competitive private space industry is what’s keeping Central Florida’s space industry busy after the federal government shuttered the space shuttle program in 2011. In addition, more launches for either company would increase the need for more workers to assemble, launch and maintain launch vehicles, as well as potentially result in the need for more facilities. (3/6)

Time to End Our Dependence on Russian Spaceships (Source: PJ Media)
As the artillery rolls into Ukraine, and the notion that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is an ally has been revealed to one and all to be a fantasy, it’s time to finally end our policy insanity of relying on Russian spaceships for American access to space. Since the last space shuttle flight two-and-a-half years ago, our only means of getting NASA astronauts (or anyone) to the ISS has been on the Soyuz launch system, at an ever-rising cost, now over $70M a seat as of last August.

Alternate competing U.S. means to replace it are under development in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, but Congress has been continually underfunding the effort in order to instead funnel money to the Space Launch System, a giant rocket with no funded payloads and no apparent mission other than providing job security in the states and districts of those on the congressional space committees.

This issue goes beyond that of sending American taxpayer dollars to the Russian space establishment that could instead be purchasing lower-cost American flights from American providers and creating a new high-tech American industry. What is nuclear non-proliferation worth to us? This shouldn’t be an issue of civil space policy, but it is. The Iran/North Korea/Syria Non-Proliferation Act (INKSNA) states that we will not trade with any nation that supports any of those countries in the development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Russia has been doing both for years. (3/6)

Can Cape Canaveral Rise Again? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Even with the space shuttle in retirement, Cape Canaveral remains a busy spaceport. But can Florida's Space Coast regain its hallowed place as the world's capital of human spaceflight? It would be easy to get the idea that the Florida Space Coast has gone dormant. The space shuttle's retirement in July 2011, along with the nearly 10,000 layoffs that came with it, reinforced the idea that Cape Canaveral and its surroundings are a place fit only for celebrating the past.

In truth, the Cape is still "heavy-lift country," where the Pentagon and NASA turn when they need a critical piece of hardware lofted into orbit. There are rockets rising from the Space Coast, even if people aren't in them. But that's changing. NASA is building a huge rocket to launch astronauts into deep space and has commissioned private space companies to build spacecraft that can carry passengers. That is bringing in new players to the Air Force station and the adjacent NASA spaceport but is also opening up new opportunities. Click here. (3/6)

Why Space Tourism Will Succeed (Source: Eilieen Collins, LinkedIn)
Space tourism will succeed because of two simple reasons: 1. Floating in space is fun; it’s freedom. It’s easy and it makes you feel powerful. That pesky force of gravity is gone, leaving you with plenty of energy to direct elsewhere. There are few limits on the human body when it is in space. I was able to do most Olympic gymnastics moves with a few bars attached to the walls of the international space station.

2. Looking at the Earth from space: It is SO beautiful! Imagine yourself in a spaceship, looking at the planet Earth rotating below you. Put your face up against the window, arch your back, and stretch out your arms. As you fly over oceans, deserts, mountains, and clouds, you feel like a Greek god viewing your planet. You see the curvature of the Earth, the electric flashes of random thunderstorms, and the thin film of air stuck to the surface. Click here. (3/4)

Ignorance Is Indeed a Defense: NASA Ames Edition (Source: Export Law Blog)
The NASA Office of Inspector General completed its investigation of unlicensed releases of ITAR-controlled technology to foreign nationals working at the Ames Research Center and — surprise! surprise! — it found no evidence of any violations of law. According to a summary of the OIG report, ITAR-controlled information was released without proper authorization to foreign nationals working at Ames.

However, this was not a violation of law, just “poor judgment,” which is a nice way of saying that ignorance of the law can be a defense if you work at NASA and are being investigated by the NASA OIG. The reason for this all being just a lapse of judgment and not an export violation is this: "We … found significant disagreement between scientists and engineers at Ames and export control personnel at the Center and NASA Headquarters as to whether the work the foreign nationals were performing at Ames involved ITAR-controlled technology."

For you and me, such confusion means you need to file a Commodity Jurisdiction request with the State Department to clear things up. For NASA workers it means that export controls are hard and engineers can’t be blamed for getting hard questions wrong. This statement is somewhat incredible in the context of this finding in the report: "a senior Ames manager inappropriately shared documents with unlicensed foreign nationals that contained ITAR markings or had been identified as containing ITAR-restricted information by NASA export control personnel." (3/6)

Another Year, Another Set of Bizarre Cuts to NASA's Budget (Source: Slate)
Every year, when NASA releases its White House budget request, I open the report with dread. Will it show that things are roughly the same as last year, or will there be more bad news, with slashes and cuts to vital programs? And this year, like every other, I read it to find … both. The real bad news is that the good news is only so-so, and the worse news is that the bad news is pretty bad.

In these maddening economic times, small cuts can be considered victories. In 2014 NASA got a total of $17.646 billion. The 2015 request is for $17.460 billion, a reduction of $186 million dollars, or about a 1 percent cut. That could’ve been worse. As we’ll see, though, it’s where those cuts are going that are bad. Some areas got more money, like Space Technology. That includes tech that will help the proposed asteroid retrieval mission. I have misgivings about this mission; the goal isn’t yet clear, nor the source of the estimated $2.6 billion it will cost in total. (4/6)

"Gravity" Inspires Chinese Space Scientists (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese spaceship plays a key part in Dr. Ryan Stone's thrilling journey back to Earth in the Oscar-winning film "Gravity." In real life, the chief designer of China's spaceships found the film more than merely entertaining; it was "very inspiring." Zhang Bonan, chief designer of the country's spaceship program, told Xinhua on Thursday that he had a professional interest in the movie.

As a national legislator, he is in Beijing attending the ongoing annual parliamentary session, and was happy to discuss how "Gravity" both reflects and affects his work in the week in which it won seven Oscars. "I am glad a foreign film portrays China's space program," he said. "It is a good promotion of us..The parts in the film about China's space station and spaceship are largely fictional. But I got a few ideas from them." For instance, it is important to prepare for the threats from space debris, especially on the near-Earth orbit, he said. (3/5)

Editorial: Belligerent Russia Could Deny U.S. Access To Space (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Putting an economic and political squeeze on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis could bring another Obama chicken home to roost — our president killed the U.S. space program and made us dependent on Putin. Since 2011, when America's space shuttle fleet was retired and our space program was dispersed to various museums, NASA, which proudly put the first human beings, Americans, on the moon some 45 years ago, has largely been fixated on things like monitoring nonexistent climate change and Muslim outreach. Editor's Note: Today I learned that Investors Business Daily is a hack right-wing publication. (3/5)

SpaceX Board Member: Beginning of Long New-Space Period (Source: CNBC)
What Elon's generally communicating to the government is that SpaceX is here and provides a wonderful alternative and competition globally for launch. They launch commercial satellites, they launch in the future astronauts to space, they bring cargo to space station. and having more than one option is good for competition. And for a sign of how dramatic that is there's been a three-year stretch where the U.S. market share of commercial satellite launch was zero. It was entirely Russians and Chinese launching the satellites. Now that SpaceX is on the scene, the U.S. is competitive once again. (3/5)

Kerbal Space Program and NASA Team for Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: VG247)
Kerbal Space Program and NASA have teamed up to create a new Asteroid Redirect Mission based on the real exercise of the same name. It’ll feature realistic rocket parts and insight from the group. The content is due to be unveiled during a live presentation at SXSW, and is based on this real NASA project due to be completed in 2022. It involves a manned mission to an asteroid beyond Earth’s Moon.

The content will see players identifying asteroids ripe for redirection, then build a suitable rocket to move it. You’ll then have to position the craft precisely to line up the new trajectory and send your Kerbals down to the asteroids to conduct experiments and gather data while screaming through space as tremendous speeds. (3/6)

NASA's Going to Try to Lasso an Asteroid Before Congress Can Stop It (Source: Motherboard)
NASA’s new budget calls for an acceleration of its plan to capture an asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit, making the controversial idea more likely to happen. If you’ve forgotten, the plan is to send a robotic, solar-powered spacecraft to lasso an asteroid and bring it into orbit around the moon. From there, NASA will send a crewed mission to take samples of the asteroid and return them to Earth.

It’s an audacious plan and one that has more than a few detractors. Several members of Congress have gotten behind bills that would forbid the agency to do it, calling it a mission that “appears to be a costly and complex distraction” and Buzz Aldrin has said the whole thing is a waste of time. “Bringing an asteroid back to Earth? What’s that have to do with space exploration?” Aldrin asked at the Humans to Mars Summit last May.

“If we were moving outward from there and an asteroid is a good stopping point, then fine. But now it’s turned into a whole planetary defense exercise at the cost of our outward expansion.” To that NASA has said whatever, guys.
In NASA’s 2015 budget request, the agency has asked for $705.5 million for “Space Technology,” which includes the asteroid retrieval mission, a 22 percent increase over the amount it received in 2014. (3/6)

ULA and SpaceX Face Off in Congressional Hearing (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA's Mike Gass and SpaceX's Elon Musk were featured witnesses at a Mar. 5 Senate hearing in Washington DC. With questioning from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the back-and-forth was filled with sharply pointed barbs. Shelby seemed to take a posture of defending ULA, which builds rockets in his state, while Mikulski asked questions that allowed SpaceX to put its intended points forward.

Musk argued that ULA's monopolistic situation has caused its prices to rise unaccepably, leading to billions in wasted tax dollars. He offered that billions could have been saved if SpaceX rockets were used, and suggested that Falcon rockets should replace Atlas rockets (with their Russian engines) in the EELV program. He criticized the cost-plus contracting approach used by the Air Force to procure Atlas and Delta launches, recommending fixed-price contracts as the alternative.

ULA asserted that SpaceX's offered numbers were false, and said that Atlas and Delta reliability were key to meeting national security needs for assured space access. He explained that the reliability comes at a cost, and that fixed-price contracting doesn't work well for mission requirements that tend to shift. He said frequent schedule changes require contractor flexibility that cannot be priced adequately with fixed-price contracts. (3/5)

Near-Term Pool of Competitively Awarded EELV Launches Shrinks for SpaceX (Source: Space News)
Should SpaceX earn certification to launch U.S. national security payloads aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, the company will be eligible to bid on seven such missions from 2015-2017, half as many as originally expected, a top U.S. Air Force space acquisition officer said March 5.

The reduction is driven in part by a slowdown in procurement of GPS 3 navigation satellites beginning in the 2015 budget year, primarily because earlier-generation GPS satellites are lasting longer in orbit than expected. Another factor is a delay in the delivery of the first GPS 3 spacecraft to 2016, he said. (3/5)

Falcon 9 Performance: Mid-size GEO? (Source: Aviation Week)
Last month commercial fleet operator SES said it plans to launch the 5.3-ton SES-10 communications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2016. The problem, however, is that SpaceX caps the advertised GTO performance of Falcon 9 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 4,850 kg. Elon Musk says while Falcon 9 is capable of lofting more mass to orbit than advertised, he says the current performance from the Cape is closer to 3,500 kg, due to latitude and plane changes.

Musk said while the Falcon 9 is able to compete in the mid-sized geosynchronous satellite range, it is “not quite at the 5-ton (5,000-kg) level when you consider plane-change maneuvers and higher altitude.” But given SpaceX's plan to gradually introduce fully and rapidly reusable first-stage rocket cores, both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy will see weight penalties affect performance. (3/5)

2015 NASA Budget DOA In Congress (Source: America Space)
Since 2010, the Obama Administration’s proposed annual NASA budget for human spaceflight (HSF) has been rejected by Congress. The Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2015 NASA budget will likely meet the same fate. Past proposed NASA HSF budgets by the Obama Administration, specifically the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 budgets, died in large part because Congress was unwilling to accept proposed cuts to NASA’s human spaceflight programs, specifically the Orion and Space Launch System programs, in favor of a larger Commercial Crew program budget.

Given that history, Congress will surely be surprised by the Administration’s proposal to dramatically increase the Commercial Crew program budget from $696 million to nearly $1.1 billion while cutting the Orion and SLS programs by 7 percent. (3/4)

Rep. Schiff Calls Obama’s Proposed NASA Budget ‘Insufficient’ (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
In President Barack Obama 2015 proposed budget, funds set aside for science, NASA and planetary exploration fell below what some hoped to see. The fiscal budget calls for $1.28 billion in planetary exploration and $17.5 billion for NASA, slightly off from the $1.3 billion and $17.6 billion set aside for planetary science and NASA, respectively, in fiscal 2014.

“It’s plainly insufficient,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, “In order to meet the priorities the administration has laid out, we need a better budget for overall planetary science.” Schiff said the budgets, while “fine,” aren’t substantial enough and could impact endeavors like the 2020 Mars mission or the future mission to Europa, Jupiter’s moon. (3/4)

Mojave Spaceport Investigates Mysterious Resignation of CFO (Source: Parabolic Arc)
For the past two weeks, officials at the Mojave Air and Space Port have been investigating a mystery: Why did long-time Chief Financial Officer Erika Westawski suddenly resign on the morning that a financial audit was to begin? Westawski’s sudden departure caught everyone at the airport by complete surprise, CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said. Airport staff and an outside financial team have been working on an emergency audit to determine if anything is amiss with the airport district’s finances. (3/5)

'Cosmos' TV Series Is Coming to Fox (Source:
When Carl Sagan's beloved 13-part "Cosmos" series first aired in 1980, it was broadcast on PBS. But a new reboot of the show, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, hasn't been pigeonholed in the realm of educational programming; it will launch in a much splashier fashion when it premieres on Fox and National Geographic Channel this weekend. (3/5)

Russia Plans to Launch New Glonass Satellite on March 24 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is planning to launch another Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit on March 24, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. Glonass is Russia’s answer to the US Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. (3/6)

NASA Awards Contract to Modify KSC's Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Hensel Phelps Construction Co., of Orlando, Fla., to modify High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the processing of the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Hensel Phelps will receive a fixed-price contract for $99.57 million, consisting of the base amount and three options. The period of performance is 782 calendar days, or about 2 years and one month. The potential maximum value of this contract is $112.70 million, if additional awarded options are exercised. (3/5)

Forget a Soft Landing, Let’s Just Harpoon That Asteroid (Source:
To make in situ asteroid sampling easier, students at the University of Washington have been developing the Sample Return Systems for Extreme Environments (SRSEE). Comprised of a rocket impactor that would burrow into a target, the SRSEE’s impact would be so great that it would bore several meters into a target. Once planted inside an asteroid, ports on the SRSEE’s nose would capture samples of alien rock and deposit them in a capsule safely nested inside the once-ballistic impactor.

After gathering all the material it can, the interior capsule would be reeled in via tether to a satellite floating nearby. That satellite could then conduct experiments and beam its findings pack to earth, or begin its return journey home. While this whole plan seems like it might be a little too farfetched to be true, NASA has deemed it feasible enough to garner a $500K Innovative Advanced Concepts grant.

In fact, the U. Washington team developing the SRSEE project has already begun real world experiments testing the validity of their design. Earlier this year in the Black Rock Desert a number of SRSEE prototypes were floated to an altitude of 914m (3000ft) and sent crashing back to Earth. While the SRSEE prototypes survived their test Washington researchers determined they hadn’t reached a high enough altitude for “proper performance testing.” (2/26)

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