April 10, 2014

Atlas 5 Rockets Into Space with Intelligence Payload (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
After a 16-day grounding due to a damaged U.S. Air Force radar, a powerful Atlas 5 rocket soared into space Thursday afternoon to place a clandestine payload into space, possibly headed for geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral occurred at 1:45 p.m. EDT. (4/10)

Senators Told Road to Mars Leads Through Russia, China (Source: Space News)
Amid heightened U.S. tensions with Russia and ever-present concerns about the nature and intent of China’s space program, a former space shuttle astronaut and the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the war hero-turned U.S. president who signed the legislation creating NASA, said cooperation with those countries is key to one day sending human explorers to Mars.

The former astronaut, Leroy Chiao, and Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Group Inc. consulting firm, made the recommendations during an April 9 hearing of the Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee titled, “The Road to Mars.” Chiao and Eisenhower both said that road leads through countries with which the United States has not always had good relations.

When it came to China, both the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and ranking member, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), were particularly wary. However, not even Rubio, who took a more hawkish tack in his questioning than Nelson, appeared wholly opposed to the idea. (4/10)

SES Books SpaceX Falcon 9 for Hybrid Satellite’s Debut (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES, which was the inaugural customer for the Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rocket’s commercial launch to geostationary transfer orbit, is using the Falcon 9 rocket to debut a novel use of chemical and electric propulsion to carry a telecommunications satellite into final orbital position.

Because the Falcon 9 v1.1 is optimized to launch satellites weighing well under 5,000 kilograms, industry officials have been speculating for weeks on the mission profile of the next two satellites that Luxembourg-based SES plans to launch aboard Falcon rockets. The two satellites, SES-9 and SES-10, both weigh about 5,300 kilograms and carry a mix of electric and chemical propellant systems. The question is, what tradeoffs is SES making to be able to fit their launches on the Falcon 9? (4/10)

Putin to Visit Space Museum, Talk with ISS Crew April 11 (Source: Itar-Tass)
President Vladimir Putin will visit the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics on Friday, April 11, to take a tour of its exhibition “Three Days from Gagarin’s Life” marking the 80th anniversary of his birth and talk with the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) via a videoconference, the presidential press service said.

Working aboard the ISS are a resident crew of Commander Koichi Wakata of Japan, flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin of Russia and Richard Mastracchio of NASA; and a visiting crew of flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia, and Commander Steven Swanson of NASA. (4/10)

Close Call: Europe’s Sentinel-1A Dodges Dead Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
Europe’s just-launched Sentinel-1A satellite was obliged to perform a collision-avoidance maneuver some 34 hours after separation from its carrier rocket April 3 to prevent a collision with a dead U.S. satellite, according to the European Space Agency.

The decision to maneuver Sentinel-1A was made following the usual procedure — the U.S. Strategic Command, which manages the U.S. Space Surveillance Network of ground- and space-based sensors notified the European Space Agency’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, of the approach of NASA’s Acrimsat environment-monitoring satellite. (4/10)

Globalstar to be Listed on NYSE (Source: The Advocate)
Shares of Globalstar will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange later this month, 16 months after the stock was delisted from the Nasdaq because its price fell too low. The company announced Wednesday that Globalstar will debut on the NYSE on April 21. The leadership team from the Covington-based company has been invited to ring the opening bell of the stock exchange that day. (4/9)

NASA 'Flying Saucer' for Mars to Land in Hawaii (Source: New Scientist)
In June, while beachgoers in Hawaii sit blissfully unaware, a flying saucer will descend over the island of Kauai. This is not a trailer for an alien invasion movie – NASA is gearing up to conduct the first test flight of a disc-shaped spacecraft designed to safely land heavy loads and one day people on the surface of Mars.

The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will be lofted into the stratosphere from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The inflatable technology is intended to help slow down vehicles after they enter the thin Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds. (4/9)

INTERSPACE Florida Closes on Funding Target (Source: 4 Frontiers)
NewSpace Center closed to within $10 million of its $80 million target after launching a private placement offering in February to finance the first phase. The company is developing a 75 acre site on Florida-designated 'spaceport territory' located near KSC and centered on a real science space themed destination in which guests experience Mars frontier life first hand.

The remaining $10 million funding gap is all in private placement equity, which is the most challenging financial area. Investors are often attracted by its significantly higher returns compared to the other financing tiers, but also must consider somewhat higher risk.

The company's risk management includes retirement of site master planning, zoning, environmental, and traffic impact risks (completed), sophisticated statistically relevant marketing demand analysis (completed), design and construction concepts and estimates by highly respected themed entertainment experts (completed), supplier quotes (completed), multiple local cost and schedule benchmarks against actual complete themed entertainment projects (completed), and many other actions, procedures, and techniques. (4/10)

Exotic Space Particles Slam into Buried South Pole Detector (Source: Scientific American)
A belowground experiment at the South Pole has now discovered three of the highest-energy neutrinos ever found, particles that may be created in the most violent explosions of the universe. These neutrinos all have energies at the absurdly high scale of peta–electron volts—roughly the energy equivalent of one million times a proton’s mass.

The experiment, called IceCube, reported the discovery of the first two—nicknamed Ernie and Bert—last year, and announced the third at the American Physical Society meeting. “Internally, it’s known as Big Bird,” said IceCube physicist Chris Weaver. These neutrinos are valuable because they are extremely standoffish, rarely ever interacting with other particles, and are uncharged, so their direction is never swayed by magnetic fields in the universe. (4/10)

NASA Looks to Go Beyond Batteries for Space Exploration (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals for the development of new, more capable, energy storage technologies to replace the battery technology that has long powered America's space program. The core technologies solicited in the Wednesday call for proposals will advance energy storage solutions for the space program and other government agencies, such as the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) through ongoing collaboration with NASA and industry. (4/10)

Nelson and Rubio Discuss NASA's Plan to Restrict Ties to Russia (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower — the man founded NASA at the start of the Cold War — on Wednesday warned that NASA was making a “counterproductive and damaging” mistake by restricting ties with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Susan Eisenhower, a longtime NASA adviser, said the administration erred last week when it cut off most ties with Roscosmos, Russia’s space program, in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, a former territory of Ukraine.

The only two senators to attend the hearing were both from Florida: Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. Rubio said that Eisenhower brought an “interesting perspective” but that he ultimately supported NASA’s restrictions. “The geopolitical realities of what we’re facing there [in Ukraine] are significant enough that I’m not prepared to criticize the decision that was made,” he said. Nelson took a different tact. “I agree with Susan Eisenhower,” he said. (4/9)

The One Scientific Field Most Likely to Get Humanity Into Space (Source: io9)
If humans are actually going to live on other planets or space stations one day, we're going to need more than rocket fuel and futuristic propulsion systems. We're going to need environmental science. Here are some fundamental reasons why. "Environmental science" can mean a lot of things, from understanding how ecosystems work, to modifying life forms using synthetic biology. It's like understanding how gardens work, but also how to change the soil, plants and insects in your garden to make them grow better.

Environmental science can even overlap with sustainable urban design, helping us build cities that exist harmoniously with the natural world. All these fields deal more or less with how humans interact with the broader web of animals, plants and microbes around us.

So how can science that is about life on Earth help us get into space? Remember that living on other worlds will require a lot more than inventing warp drive or solar sails or some kind of rocket fuel that doesn't rely on fossilized plant matter. We're going to be taking ourselves into space, which means we'll have to take ecosystems along with us. Plants will provide food, energy and possibly atmospheric filtering. Animals will be needed for food, fertilizer and insect control. (4/10)

Cleaning up Saturn IB Good for Alabama's Image (Source: Decatur Daily)
Overdue restoration of the Saturn IB rocket at the state welcome center on Interstate 65 near Ardmore is a welcome reminder of the area's contributions to space exploration, past and future. Rising 224 feet into the rural Alabama sky, the Saturn IB rocket at the Interstate 65 welcome center near Ardmore is the first impression many travelers get of our state.

The rocket is a relic of the final years of the Apollo program. Smaller and less powerful than the Saturn V rockets that blasted America's astronauts to the moon and won the space race, the Saturn IB rockets were used for test missions and, later, to ferry astronauts to the orbiting Skylab space station. (4/9)

Branson Wants to Track Down Inspiration for His Space Ventures (Source: FOX News)
Sir Richard Branson has launched an international search for the child who he says inspired his space exploration ventures during a television show appearance nearly three decades ago. In 1988, the Virgin Group founder appeared on BBC’s Going Live and answered a call from Shihan Musafer, who asked him "Have you ever thought about going into space?"

"I'd love to go into space, as I think pretty well everybody watching this show would love to go to space,” Branson replied. “When you see those magnificent pictures in space and the incredible views, I think there could be nothing nicer. So if you're building a spacecraft I'd love to come with you on it." Branson said after that phone call, he went about registering the name Virgin Galactic, which is now the moniker of his commercial spaceline.

Branson now wants to track down Musafer to give him a personal thank you and make him a VIP guest to witness a spaceflight. The company wrote in a press release that anybody with information on Musafer’s whereabouts is urged to send a twitter message to Branson or Virgin Galatic. Virgin Galatic says its first spacecraft, the “Virgin Spaceship Enterprise”, is nearing the end its supersonic test flight program. (4/10)

Texas County Looks to Mitigate SpaceX Beach Closure Effects (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The Cameron County Commissioners Court will discuss this morning the county’s dune protection plan, which was recently amended to include language concerning beach closings due to space launches. The Texas General Land Office has approved the amendment, which anticipates the usage of Boca Chica Beach for SpaceX launches in the future, but negotiations are still ongoing about other aspects of the agreement, according to Cameron County Parks and Recreation Director Javier Mendez.

While the GLO has approved the plan, Mendez said officials are still working out a memorandum of understanding with the state that could offer ways to mitigate the effects beach closures could have on visitors to the state-owned beach. One such option, he said, is to offer free access to county beaches – like Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island – during beach closures. Mechanisms for notifying the public about the closures are still being determined as well, he said. The approved agreement requires special approval from the GLO for weekend closings during the summer and during major holidays, he said. (4/9)

Unmanned Systems Demo Set for May 11 at Spaceport (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, in collaboration with Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex and the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), will host a full-day Unmanned Systems demonstration on May 11 at Exploration Park. The demonstration will be focused on the value of unmanned air and ground systems in non-defense civil and commercial applications, such as precision agriculture, environmental research, wildfire management, disaster response, and search and rescue.

In close cooperation with the USAF 45th Space Wing and NASA Kennedy Space Center, the systems will have undergone rigorous safety and operational reviews prior to demonstration flights. Approved UAS operators that will participate in the event include: Angel Eyes, Elevated Horizons, Prioria Robotics, and Aurora Flight Sciences. Florida schools such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Central Florida will also demonstrate their systems’ capabilities.

Unmanned aerial systems may not exceed 25 pounds, must launch at a maximum of 55 knots and will operate below 1,000 feet in altitude. Ground systems will demonstrate autonomous vehicle capability on a confined, closed road course. The demonstration will coincide with AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2014 convention in Orlando the following week. For more information and to register to attend the demo, click here. (4/10) 

AUVSI: Drones Could Bring 8,000 Jobs, $6.5B to Texas (Source: GovTech)
Between next year and 2025, commercial drones could bring 8,000 jobs and generate $6.5 billion for Texas, says Michael Toscano, president and CEO of AUVSI, a drone industry group. Toscano spoke recently at the Corpus Christi, Texas, HQ of one of the six sites picked by the FAA to test drones. (4/9)

Drones Could Bring Economic Boom -- to Lawyers (Source: Fortune)
Drone backers tout the economic benefit that unmanned aircraft can bring to the U.S. once the Federal Aviation Administration creates rules for drones, but for now, the most immediate boom may be for law firms. Tim Adelman, co-leader of LeClairRyan's drone law practice group, says "as the official rules come out it's going to be huge. The civilian side [of the drone industry] is a powder keg waiting to explode, and we're just waiting for the FAA to light the fuse." (4/9)

From Rocket to Space Hotel (Source: Space Safety)
Utilizing existing technology and sustainably housing humans in space is a seemingly futuristic concept that already has its wheels in motion today. Space company Tasha9503 is designing hotels to put into low Earth orbit (LEO) using used rocketry and the available technology of today. Click here. (4/9)

An Ancient Impact That Dwarfs The Dinosaur-Killing Blast (Source: SpaceRef)
Picture this: A massive asteroid almost as wide as Rhode Island and about three to five times larger than the rock thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs slams into Earth. The collision punches a crater into the planet's crust that's nearly 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) across: greater than the distance from Washington, D.C., to New York City, and up to two and a half times larger in diameter than the hole formed by the dinosaur-killing asteroid.

Seismic waves bigger than any recorded earthquakes shake the planet for about half an hour at any one location -- about six times longer than the huge earthquake that struck Japan three years ago. The impact also sets off tsunamis many times deeper than the one that followed the Japanese quake. Click here. (4/9)

Map Illustrates 'Russian GPS' Failure (Source: BBC)
The General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland have issued a map illustrating the effects of last week's failure in "Russia's GPS" system. Satellites of the GLONASS network experienced a half-day outage when bad data was uploaded to spacecraft. The GLA map shows a GLONASS receiver at Harwich giving corrupted position fixes that were off by more than 50km. The Authorities say the 2 April event is a timely reminder that alternatives to satellite navigation are essential. (4/9)

Branson Confident of Virgin Galactic Flights This Year (Source: Fusion)
Richard Branson is one of the world's most high profile billionaires. His 40 year career spreads across air travel, mobile, financial services, hospitality and space travel. With a net worth of $5 billion, he tells Fusion's Jorge Ramos, "I think it's very important to use your money to tackle issues you feel could make a difference in the world." And that's exactly what he's doing. After ten years of trying to fulfill his dreams of space travel, he says the Virgin Galactic will get his family on a rocket by September of 2014. (4/9)

Subcommittee Approves New Version of NASA Bill - No ARM Prohibition (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (SS&T) this morning approved a revised version of a new NASA authorization bill, H.R. 4412. The text adopted today contains significant differences from what was posted on the committee's website yesterday. Among the changes for NASA's human spaceflight program: this version does not prohibit spending on development of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a requirement is added for an independent analysis of the Mars 2021 flyby mission championed by House SS&T committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). (4/9)

Navy’s New Railgun Can Hurl a Shell Over 5,000 MPH (Source: WIRED)
The U.S. Navy is tapping the power of the Force to wage war. Its latest weapon is an electromagnetic railgun launcher. It uses a form of electromagnetic energy known as the Lorentz force to hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7. Engineers already have tested this futuristic weapon on land, and the Navy plans to begin sea trials aboard a Joint High Speed Vessel Millinocket in 2016.

Editor's Note: Bullets travel as fast as ~950 MPH. Orbital velocity for satellites is ~17,500 MPH. A now-defunct rail gun R&D program at Eglin AFB in northwest Florida is said to have achieved orbital velocity for 2-pound inert projectiles (but a 'second-stage' propulsion capability would have been required to circularize the payload into a non-ballistic orbit). (4/9)

XCOR Spaceplane's First Cockpit Delivered (Source: Parabolic Arc)
XCOR Aerospace has received its first Lynx Mark I cockpit. The cockpit is the principle major subassembly XCOR needs to begin assembly of the Lynx suborbital spaceplane. Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR added, “Our clients and partners are very happy to see this significant sign of progress. I could not be more happy with our designers, engineers and team who have worked so hard on this major accomplishment. We are that much closer to suborbital operations.” (4/9)

India’s Mars Mission Crosses Half the Distance (Source: The Hindu)
Cruising towards a historic feat, the Indian space mission to Mars on Wednesday crossed half the total distance to the red planet from Earth and was very much along the designated helio-centric trajectory. At exactly 09.50 am (IST), the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft crossed the mid-point of its path to Mars, thereby has travelled 337.5 million km in its elliptical orbit around the sun, ISRO sources said. (4/9)

NASA to Test Innovative Supsonic Decelerator (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space this June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD crosscutting demonstration mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth.

These new technologies will not only enable landing of larger payloads on Mars, but also allow access to much more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher altitude sites. The LDSD is one of several crosscutting technologies NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is developing to create the new knowledge and capabilities necessary to enable our future missions to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. (4/10)

Senate Committee Approves Rubio Bill for Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Sen. Marco Rubio)
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved S. 2140, legislation which would fix outdated laws to allow for more advancement in the commercial spaceflight industry. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Tom Udall (D-NM) last month, changes current laws that are slowing development and progress for the reusable launch vehicle industry to ensure space companies can continue to test and innovate their vehicles.

The bill would allow a commercial space launch company to take a licensed vehicle out of commercial service and use it as an experimental platform for safety and performance improvements when needed, and allow one or more vehicles of the same design to be used for test flights under a permit, while other vehicles of the same design are used in commercial operations under a license.

“This legislation addresses a technical issue that will help the commercial spaceflight industry develop and deploy reusable space vehicles quickly and safely,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. Editor's Note: This bill is similar to the SOARS Act sponsored by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL). (4/9)

Israel Launches Spy Satellite on Shavit Rocket (Source: Globes)
Israel launched the Ofek 10 radar spy satellite from the Palmachim base in central Israel during the night. The satellite was sent to space by the Shavit launcher, which is operated by two main motors manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI). Once the satellite was in orbit, it successfully underwent a series of tests to confirm its serviceability and accurate performance and it has already begun to transmit images. (4/10)

Bolden, Wolf Spar on Commercial Crew (Source: Space News)
According to Rep. Wolf (R-VA), since 2010, “we appropriated almost $2 billion for the [Commercial Crew] program, including increases every fiscal year while the [NASA] top line has simultaneously been decreased... We protected this program.” Bolden did not see things that way.

“The Congress has provided about $2 billion for commercial crew,” the NASA administrator acknowledged. However, “we have requested about $3 billion over time.” Wolf also complained that NASA is seeking $848 million for Commercial Crew in 2015 — nearly $150 more than 2014 appropriation, which was a high water mark for the program — “and cannot tell us with any certainty how many commercial partners can be supported at that level, or what year a final capability would be available.”

Bolden replied that if NASA does not get its $848 million this year, the agency cannot even guarantee that one of the three competing systems now funded under the Commercial Crew Program will be ready to fly by 2017. Bolden also brushed aside an old subcommittee idea, advanced this time by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), of anointing a single Commercial Crew provider so that the program’s budget could be trimmed and the balance poured into the Space Launch System (SLS) and its companion Orion crew capsule. (4/9)

Construction to Begin on NASA Spacecraft Set to Visit Asteroid in 2018 (Source: NASA)
NASA's team that will conduct the first U.S. mission to collect samples from an asteroid has been given the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system, and launch support facilities. This determination was made Wednesday after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). (4/10)

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