March 7, 2014

DiBello: International Aerospace Partnerships Bring Jobs to Florida (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
In October, the states of Florida and Israel formed a $2 million joint program to support research, development and commercialization of aerospace and technology projects. This January, Space Florida issued a joint request for proposals (RFP) for R&D projects sponsored by companies in both states. Research funding will be awarded to companies demonstrating the most promising partnerships — those that demonstrate near-term potential for commercialization and economic benefit to both states.

This is part of a larger state strategy to partner with other nations to create tomorrow’s innovation economy. Last fall, we participated in a trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil — another country with similarities when it come to the pursuit of space and aerospace programs. We’ve formed similar partnerships with the U.K. and Spain in recent years.

International trade and cooperation are key to growing Florida’s innovation economy and creating jobs. Space, aerospace, science and technology are growth sectors in the global marketplace that create high-wage jobs, and international aerospace-related markets hold great potential for growth in Florida, as we continue to position our state as the path to the U.S. market for these international technology companies. (3/6)

NASA Budget Keeps KSC Plans on Target (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s proposed $17.46 billion budget in 2015 would keep Kennedy Space Center on track to support the first test flights of new human exploration vehicles, including the first late this year, officials said. “It allows us to stay the course as we continue to transform the center into the multi-user spaceport of the future,” said KSC Director Bob Cabana.

Cabana said just under $2.1 billion from various programs would flow through KSC, a tad more than in the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. Most of the nearly $1.2 billion supporting human spaceflight activity reflects the agency’s $848 million request for the Commercial Crew Program, which is led from KSC and aims to launch astronauts from the Space Coast on private rockets and spacecraft by 2017.

The rest of the exploration-related funding KSC could see in 2015, plus some of the $96 million earmarked for facility construction, would help prepare the Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pad 39B and other infrastructure for a late 2017 inaugural launch of the giant Space Launch System rocket with an uncrewed Orion capsule. The proposed budget also includes $355 million to run KSC. (3/7)

Cabana Seeks Civil-Sector Diversification at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
“As the civil sector grows at KSC, that’s where I’m hoping that more jobs come into the area,” KSC Director Bob Cabana said. “Not necessarily through NASA-funded work, but through actually transforming KSC into a government-commercial spaceport where we have civil operations also.”

The agency had hoped to wrap up deals last month to lease launch pad 39A to SpaceX and turn over operation of the former shuttle runway to Space Florida. In 2015 the center’s Launch Services Program would continue to buy rockets to fly from the Cape and other locations. Basic modernization efforts would continue to power, water and waste water systems. (3/7)

Arabsat To Order Four Satellites (Source: Space News)
Arabsat of Saudi Arabia and Telesat of Canada, in a broadening of their strategic partnership, on March 6 said they would share the use of a new satellite for Arabsat-owned Hellas Sat of Greece and bundle its order with three Arabsat satellites. (3/6)

Space Society Supports 2015 Commercial Crew Budget (Source: NSS)
The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has been a consistent supporter of NASA's Commercial Crew program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).  In the NSS position paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program released today, the Society strongly endorses $848 million in the 2015 NASA budget for Commercial Crew, along with the $250 million supplemental Commercial Crew request. Furthermore, the $171 million "hold" placed on the program last year should be removed. (3/7)

The "Masters" Behind China's Lunar Rover (Source: Space Daily)
In contrast to how much of an influence the virtual persona of China's first moon rover has made on social media home and abroad, little is known about the people behind the loveable character. An unverified user named "Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover", who posts messages in the first-person of the rover, went viral on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo in the past three months. Click here. (3/6)

UNL Microgravity Team Develops Pill to Monitor Astronauts' Vitals (Source: Space Daily)
The Microgravity Team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is making strides in producing technology to aid in the health of astronauts - and NASA is taking notice. The team, which is a part of UNL's College of Engineering, has been working on a non-invasive method of detecting and monitoring human vitals by means of a swallowable pill. Click here. (3/6)

Still No Compesation From Russia for Proton-M Crash (Source: Tengri News)
Russia is still considering the amount of damages requested by Kazakhstan to compensate the environmental harm caused by the Proton-M carrier rocket crash. "We calculated the compensation amount and invoiced Russia; now it is Roscosmos's turn to respond. We are keeping in touch with Roscosmos about the damage compensation issue," Nurlan Kapparov, Minister of Environment and Water Resources, said.

Kazakhstan estimated the damage caused by the July 2013 accident at 13.5 billion tenge ($89.5 million). The calculations were sent to the Russian Federal Space Agency -- Roscosmos -- via a diplomatic channel for consideration and compensation of the environmental damages. Later, Russia said that Roscosmos would conduct its own evaluation and tests to check the calculations. (3/5)

GPS III Program Faces Cuts, More Delays in 2015 Budget (Source: Defense Systems)
The Air Force is planning to slow the development of the Global Positioning System III satellite program as a part of cuts detailed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request that was unveiled on March 5. The Air Force originally planned to purchase two GPS III satellites next year, but now it is only planning on buying one. (3/6)

Arizona Working to Land Own Spaceport (Source: East Valley Tribune)
Arizona's chances of landing a spaceport may be improving. Without dissent the House voted Wednesday to spell out in law that companies offering space travel in the state can ask customers to sign a liability limiting their right to sue. More to the point, HB 2163 says such contracts are valid under Arizona law. Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, who sponsored the legislation, said Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corp. hopes to offer space travel. But it needed the change in law to ensure it could get insurance coverage. (3/6)

Every Red Dwarf Star Has a Planet—200 Billion Such Stars in the Galaxy (Source: Popular Mechanics)
NASA announced 715 new exoplanets in every Dr. Seussian size and makeup imaginable, and nearly doubled the number of exoplanets known to humanity. And more keep on pouring in. With that horde of new worlds, you might have missed a smaller announcement by a group of astrophysicists who just tacked on eight more exoplanets right around the corner in our cosmic neighborhood.

These new exoplanets orbit small stars called red dwarfs, and three are located in their star's habitable zone—the temperate, liquid-water supporting distance from their star. But what's more exciting is the broad implication of their work: The astrophysicists have calculated that nearly every red dwarf—which make up 75 percent of the stars in the universe—has at least one planet. That would account for more than 200 billion planets in the Milky Way alone. (3/6)

NASA Admits to Selling Discount Fuel to Google Execs (Source: NBC Bay Area)
NASA now acknowledges that the government agency has been effectively giving a price break on jet fuel to a private company. In a letter to an Iowa senator, NASA’s associate administrator for legislative and intergovernmental affairs admits the agency was selling jet fuel at below market rates to H2-11, a company owned by the founders of Google.

Senator Chuck Grassley says he received the letter on Thursday although it's dated Feb. 24. In the letter, NASA's Seth Statler writes, “in light of the concerns expressed with those agreements, NASA has reviewed its pricing approach and…is now charging a ‘market rate’ for aviation fuel at Ames research center.” (3/7)

How NASA Would Pull Off Its Mission to Europa (Source: Motherboard)
On Tuesday, NASA released its 2015 budget proposals and requests, and there was a surprise under NASA's Science objectives. 15 million dollars had been set aside for “pre-formulation work for a potential mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa.” The plan is to aim to launch a probe sometime in the 2020s, which would arrive in the Jovian system in the 2030s.

There are ample reasons to dismiss the announcement as another quixotic non-starter from NASA. Jupiter is a radiation factory of epic proportions, and any exploratory spacecraft would have to be tough enough to endure the extreme environment—not to mention that it'd take years to even get there. Close-up Europa missions have been bandied about for decades, but these obstacles have always stopped them short.

Cynicism aside, the tiny fund to get the ball rolling marks the first time a Europa mission has ever been included in a federal budget request. On top of that, Europa's potential for supporting life has made it a popular destination in the public eye, even if the recent film Europa Report predicted some unsavory discoveries (but what space thriller doesn't?). So the more intriguing question is not whether the mission will come to fruition, but how NASA expects to pull it off. Click here. (3/6)

Two-Hour TV Show to be Broadcast 'Live from Space' (Source: Independent)
Dramatic pictures of an astronaut watching the aftermath of 9-11 terror attacks from 250 miles above the Earth are part of a ground-breaking Channel 4 season Live from Space to be shown later this month. The highlight of the season will be an unprecedented two-hour live broadcast from the International Space Station as it makes one of its 92-minute orbits of planet Earth at 17,500 miles per hour. The program is being made in conjunction with NASA, which has given Arrow Media unprecedented access to its astronauts and Mission Control in Houston. (3/7)

Arizona and Colorado Legislatures Consider Space Industry Legislation (Source: Space Politics)
The Arizona House approved this week legislation to provide liability indemnification for commercial spaceflight operators in the state. The bill, HB2163, passed unanimously Wednesday after goes on to the state Senate. The bill is similar to laws in several other states that requires spaceflight participants to sign a liability release agreement, and protects companies in the state, including both operators and suppliers, from lawsuits in the event of an accident.

According to the East Valley Tribune, the legislation improves the state’s “chances of landing a spaceport.” However, the primary beneficiary is World View Enterprises, the Tucson-based company that announced plans last year to carry people on high altitude balloons, and do so under an FAA launch license. The company has proposed performing those flights from near the northern Arizona city of Page, although the company is also considering potential locations in Nevada.

In Colorado, officials with several business organizations pressed the state’s legislature to approve a set of bills to support various industries in the state in a rally outside the state capitol on Thursday. Among the bills they support is HR1178, which would provide a sales and use tax exemption for “qualified property used in space flight.” The bill, introduced in the Colorado House late January, has yet to be considered by the full House, although its finance committee did favorably report it out last month and referred it to the appropriations committee. (3/7)

Judge: FAA Does Not Have Authority to Ban Commercial Drones (Source: Wall Street Journal)
On Thursday, an administrative law judge ruled that the FAA does not hold clear-cut authority to ban commercial drones in U.S. airspace. The judge overturned a $10,000 fine the FAA had levied against a drone pilot in 2012. Ben Gielow, general counsel of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the issue "is finally starting to get the attention it deserves at the highest levels of the FAA." (3/7)

The Future of Drones in the Insurance Industry (Source: Insurance Journal)
After a catastrophe hits, mobile units filled with adjusters are on site to evaluate property damage. Flash forward five years and an insured may never meet the property adjuster handling his or her claim. Instead, a drone is sent to evaluate damage within hours of it occurring. Claims are closed at breakneck speed as adjusters handle a much higher volume. Insurers see fewer workers’ compensation claims as adjusters remain safely ensconced in their cubicles. (3/7)

Galactic Gas Stations (Source: MIT News)
Future lunar missions may be fueled by gas stations in space, according to MIT engineers: A spacecraft might dock at a propellant depot, somewhere between the Earth and the moon, and pick up extra rocket fuel before making its way to the lunar surface. Orbiting way stations could reduce the fuel a spacecraft needs to carry from Earth — and with less fuel onboard, a rocket could launch heavier payloads, such as large scientific experiments. Click here. (3/5)

NextGen Cuts Raise Doubt About Program (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Federal Aviation Administration's plan to shrink funding for its NextGen air-traffic overhaul is raising doubt in some about its commitment to a wholesale modernization of the system pilots use for navigation and safety. The slashed funding creates "new obstacles to meeting program milestones in the next several years," according to a statement from the Aerospace Industries Association. (3/5)

Cassini Marks 100th Titan Flyby (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA's Cassini spacecraft marks its 100th trip past the Saturn moon Titan. The flyby, like the ones before, adds more to our knowledge about the mysterious, nitrogen-rich Titan -- a place that, in some ways, resembles an ancient Earth. "Methane is not only in the atmosphere, but probably in the crust," said Jonathan Lunine, a scientist on the Cassini mission at Cornell University. "It's a hint there are organics not only in Titan’s air and on the surface, but even in the deep interior, where liquid water exists as well." (3/5)

EDC Plans Govt. Contracting Opportunities Event (Source: EDC of FSC)
Join the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) in partnership with the Government Contracting Advisory Team (GCAT) and the Brevard Small Business Assistance Council (BSBAC) for a lunch & learn event focused on secrets to success & opportunities in government contracting. Guest speakers from Harris Corporation and Lockheed Martin Corporation will discuss opportunities for subcontracting and share insight into how to successfully become a vendor/subcontractor. Click here. (3/6)

NASA's Shuttle-Ferrying Jet Dismantled for Move to Space Center Houston (Source: Collect Space)
The historic NASA jumbo jet that ferried retired space shuttles piggyback to their museum homes is now being prepared for its own lift to where it will be put on public display. Parked on a remote tarmac at Ellington Field in Houston, NASA's original Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) can still be recognized as the specially-modified Boeing 747 it is, but the plane's tail (vertical stabilizer), elevons, engine nacelles and landing gear have now been removed.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), which is also known by its tail number "N905NA" or NASA 905 for short, is being readied for its final move. Forever grounded, the jumbo jet will be paired with a high-fidelity, full-scale mockup of the space shuttle (earlier named in a Texas-wide contest the "Independence") as the centerpiece of a $12 million, six-story attraction at the visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center. (3/6)

Asteroid Break-Up Captured on Film for the First Time (Source: Guardian)
The break up of an asteroid has been captured on film for the first time. Experts pictured the P/2013 R3 asteroid breaking into ten pieces using NASA's Hubble space telescope. Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen falling apart as they near the sun, nothing resembling this type of breakup has been observed before in the asteroid belt. The pictures show the asteroid splitting up into smaller fragments between October last year and mid-January. Click here. (3/6)

Nearby Star's Icy Debris Suggests 'Shepherd' Planet (Source: NASA)
An international team of astronomers exploring the disk of gas and dust around a nearby star have uncovered a compact cloud of poisonous gas formed by ongoing rapid-fire collisions among a swarm of icy, comet-like bodies. The researchers suggest the comet swarm is either the remnant of a crash between two icy worlds the size of Mars or frozen debris trapped and concentrated by the gravity of an as-yet-unseen planet.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the researchers mapped millimeter-wavelength light from dust and carbon monoxide (CO) molecules in a disk surrounding the bright star Beta Pictoris. Located about 63 light-years away and only 20 million years old, the star hosts one of the closest, brightest and youngest debris disks known, making it an ideal laboratory for studying the early development of planetary systems. (3/6)

Here’s Why the Europa Mission is Real, and Could Very Well Happen (Source: Houston Chronicle)
One of the intriguing stories to come out of this week’s NASA FY 2015 budget unveiling is the fact that $15 million was included for a Europa robotic mission. The inclusion of this funding left some people asking: Is NASA for real? Or, as Joel Achenbach asked: Is NASA really going to send a probe to Europa? The answer is probably.

How is this possible? Especially in a time of very tight budgets? After all any credible mission to fly a large robotic mission to Europa, land and possibly penetrate the ice to see if life is indeed there would be incredibly expensive. And NASA has said it can afford no more Flagship-class science missions.

It’s possible because some very key members of Congress have expressed their desire to make this happen. And by key Congress people I mean, principally, Houston Congressman John Culberson, who is in line to become the next chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget. Click here. (3/6)

Air Force Leaders Share Space Budget Rollout (Source: USAF)
Space was the topic of discussion for Air Force leaders March 5, during on-going talks about the fiscal year 2015 budget at the Pentagon. Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Dr. Troy Meink and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Director of Space Programs Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry, talked about the future of the space budget for fiscal year 2015.

"While building our FY15 budget," Fanning said, "we focused primarily on capability over capacity across the Air Force portfolio in order to build an Air Force that can fight and win in an increasingly contested environment in all domains. This extended to our space investments.” Space, once called the ‘final frontier,' is no longer a sanctuary; it’s a much more developed terrain, much more congested and contested than ever before. Click here. (3/6)

Boosters for Orion’s Launch Vehicle Arrive to Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The Orion spacecraft has moved another step closer toward its first test flight as the core and starboard boosters for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket contracted by Lockheed Martin for that flight have arrived to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will undergo testing and processing at ULA’s Horizontal Integration Facility to prepare for Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 later this year.

Technicians offloaded the boosters from a specially designed ship called the Delta Mariner, which had traveled 8 days to Florida from the ULA facility in Decatur, Ala. where the rocket is manufactured. Once in the Horizontal Integration Facility, processing and testing will be completed in preparation for rolling the Delta IV Heavy out to Space Launch Complex 37 for launch. (3/6)

Unexpected Winner from Ukraine Crisis? Maybe NASA (Source: CNBC)
Right now there are two American astronauts at the Space Station. They only have one way back to Earth—a Russian capsule. Now, tensions between the two countries over Russia's movements in Ukraine have some worried that Hopkins and Mastracchio could end up stranded, and their American replacements grounded. To be sure, most agree that situation is unlikely:

There's no upside for Russian President Vladimir Putin in holding U.S. astronauts hostage. Plus, there are alternatives. If necessary, the Chinese have the capability of taking humans to and from a space station. However, the big winner in an otherwise losing situation in Ukraine could be NASA. Congress is looking to cut spending across the board, but it could be persuaded to put more money into the space program to accelerate both NASA and private-party efforts to return space station access to Americans. (3/6)

Ukraine Crisis Could End US Space Reliance on Russia (Source: Politico)
In previous budgets, Congress hasn’t fully funded commercial crew requests as a way of finding savings, to the chagrin of its advocates. “The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding,” said Dale Ketcham of Space Florida.

But Russia’s incursion into Crimean region of Ukraine has put the spotlight on the U.S. and Russia’s codependence in space, and could provide the political capital necessary for the program to get full funding this time around. “Hopefully, this project, which was so much the signature program of this president, can now move to full funding given the refreshed ‘anti-Russian’ angle,” Ketcham said. An Obama administration official agreed that recent tensions may help muster support for the commercial crew program. (3/6)

Futuristic Moon Elevator Idea Takes Aim at Lunar Lifts (Source:
An elevator to the moon might not be as crazy as it sounds. A moon-based elevator to space could radically reduce the costs and improve the reliability of placing equipment on the lunar surface. Such a lunar elevator would make the transport of supplies and materials from the surface of the moon into the Earth's orbit and vice versa possible. Indeed, valuable resources could be extracted from the moon, then sent into Earth orbit more easily than if they were rocketed from the Earth's surface.

It's no pie in the sky project according to the LiftPort Group of Seattle, Wash. A LiftPort strategic framework calls for establishing an operational Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure (LSEI). The project would involve commercial, off-the-shelf technology, a Sputnik-like simplicity and a single heavy-lift launch solution. Click here. (3/4)

Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs? Maybe… (Source: New Scientist)
Its name has always made it sound ominous – and now dark matter could have a menacing role in Earth's history. A recent explanation for the identity of the mysterious stuff leads to a scenario in which it could be to blame for the extinctions of dinosaurs, or at least send a few extra comets shooting our way. It is intriguing because it brings together two big open questions: the identity of dark matter and whether there is a pattern to comet strikes on Earth.

It is also almost poetic to think that dark matter, which gets its name from its mysterious nature, could have helped to destroy ancient life on Earth. As the solar system orbits the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, it bobs up and down on a roughly 70 million year cycle. This means it would pass through such a dark matter disc every 35 million years. This cycle was reminiscent of previous analyses of comet impacts on Earth, which revealed that they appear to spike every 35 million years.

When this happens, the disc would exert a stronger gravitational pull on the solar system. Such a pull could disrupt the Oort cloud, a distant collection of frozen material thought to surround the solar system and produce some comets, including comet ISON, which last year caused a stir as it flew towards the sun. "The disc is more dense, so the effect of the gravitational tidal force is bigger," says Randall. (3/6)

NASA To Seek Ideas for $1 Billion Mission to Europa (Source: Space News)
One day after the White House unveiled a 2015 NASA budget request that funds new designs for a robotic probe to Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa, space agency officials said they would be requesting ideas soon for a mission with a price tag of $1 billion or less. “My desire, to be quite honest, would be a ... Europa mission that we could fly for a billion dollars, or less,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “That may or may not be possible,” Bolden conceded, but it will not stop the agency from trying.

“Something we’re going to do post-haste is put out [a request for information] for ideas,” John Grunsfeld, the former astronaut turned associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said at the symposium. NASA will ask for Europa mission concepts that could be done “for around a billion dollars.” Grunsfeld said NASA wants to figure out Europa’s “cost bogey,” meaning the rough cost to do meaningful science at the ice-covered moon. He did not say when the request for information would be released. (3/6)

Inmarsat Remains Confident Global Xpress Will Be a Hit with U.S. Military (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat on March 6 said deployed U.S. military forces will begin using the first Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band satellite this spring, before the satellite is declared operational, to debug the system and whet the military’s appetite in advance of commercial service starting in July.

Inmarsat officials said they remain as confident as ever about Global Xpress’ future popularity with the U.S. Defense Department. The spacecraft, built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, have military and civil Ka-band capacity and are designed to provide up to 50 megabits per second of throughput to mobile platforms using a 60-centimeter antenna.

Boeing has committed to purchasing a big chunk of the early Global Xpress capacity to sell to U.S. government users. Honeywell has made a similar commitment and will build the avionics package to adapt business jets to use Global Xpress. Europe’s Airbus Defense and Space, which is the biggest independent Inmarsat reseller, in December signed on for Global Xpress as well. (3/6)

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