April 24, 2014

Defense/Aerospace Firms See Strong Profits on Cost-Cutting Wave (Source: Reuters)
Defense firms reported robust profits this week, buoyed by efficiency gains and cost-cutting campaigns. While sequestration remains a tough challenge, companies such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics reported higher-than-expected profits and raised their full-year projections. Share repurchases and international sales also served to aid performance at some companies. (4/23)

Why Few People are Paying Attention to Today’s Spacewalk (Source: Washington Post)
Engineers and officials prefer to project competency and the sense that everything is always under control and every contingency has been anticipated. It’s the code of competency. Never let them see you sweat. Take emotion out of the equation (awe and wonder are allowed but never, for example, anxiety). Keep telling everyone that the situation is “nominal.”

And thus we get lulled into the sense that this is ordinary stuff, because usually it works out. And it’s simply a fact that a spacewalk going as planned is never going to be a big story. That’s the news business. I expect we won’t have any big news from today’s spacewalk, because these folks are very good at what they do. But we ought to pause for a moment and appreciate their work, out there in space, circling the planet every hour and a half. (4/24)

Citizen Science and Space Exploration at MakerCon (Source: Sys-Con)
Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has joined the lineup for MakerCon, which takes place at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood City on May 13-14, 2014. MakerCon is a premiere event organized by Maker Media, publisher of Make magazine and producer of Maker Faire. MakerCon brings together the leaders at the forefront of the maker movement. (4/3)

No, We’re Not All Gonna Die From An Asteroid (Source: Time)
First of all, remember that “exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere” part? That’s no small thing. The atmosphere has been pretty effectively protecting us from harm for a long, long time. Picture the surface of the moon; now picture the surface of the Earth. That’s the difference between a world that stands exposed to the shooting gallery of space and a world that, in effect, wears a bullet-proof vest. (4/24)

How Close is NASA to Putting an Astronaut on Mars? (Source: FOX News)
NASA says it's not a question of if we're going to Mars, but when. And that "when" isn't so far away. "It's the place to go," astronaut Mike Massimino said. "We can learn a lot about planet Earth by going to Mars... They were very similar planets at their early stages, and they just went in different directions." NASA anticipates humans getting to the Red Planet in the 2030s, and Massimino explained how the agency is preparing to make the years-long mission happen.

"We're going to be very confident when we go there of keeping people healthy and safe because of what we're doing on the International Space Station now," he said. "We've learned a lot about keeping people in space for a long time." "We're going to be up there for at least another 10 years on the station to do the research and develop the technology we need to get us to Mars." Click here. (4/24)

The Space Sorority (Source: Time)
The assumption was that humanity would reach the moon someday, and it was simply a given that the first historic step would indeed be taken by a man. “This country should commit itself, before this decade is out,” President Kennedy declared in 1961, “to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” There was no need for the gender-neutral “landing a person on the moon,” no clumsy “and returning him or her safely to the Earth.” Astronauts were supposed to be men and they jolly well would be.

But only until they weren’t. The boys-only rule ended fast, just two years later, when the Soviet Union sent Valentina Tereshkova into orbit for a flight that lasted just minutes shy of three full days. In the half century since Tereshkova’s flight, 57 other women have strapped in and blasted off, representing nine different countries—most recently China. The U.S. did not join the space sorority until 1983, when Sally Ride flew, but America made up for that dallying, sending a total of 45 women into space since then. (4/24)

Russia to Launch New Navigation Satellite in June (Source: RIA Novosti)
“The next launch of a GLONASS-M [satellite] is scheduled for June 14 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome,” Roscosmos deputy chief Anatoly Shilov said. The Global Navigation Satellite System, which came online in 1993, is a Russian equivalent to the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The GLONASS network provides real-time positioning and speed data for land, sea and airborne receivers. The constellation of 24 operational GLONASS satellites provides navigational coverage to the entire globe. (4/23)

Russian Spacecraft to Test New Docking System on Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian Progress unmanned cargo spacecraft has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) to test a new automated approach and docking system, a spokesman for Russia’s Mission Control Center said Wednesday. “The cargo ship undocked from the ISS in an automatic mode using the Kurs-NA system. At 4:16 p.m. Moscow time on Friday, Progress M-21M is expected to re-dock with the station to test the work of Kurs-NA,” the spokesman said. (4/23)

Russia Adds Space Corporation to List of Strategic Companies (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Wednesday to add Russia’s newly formed United Rocket and Space Corporation to the list strategic enterprises entitled to preferential government support. "The United Rocket and Space Corporation has been added to the list of strategic enterprises,” the Kremlin said in a statement. The main goal of the corporation is to “ensure the country’s long-term competitiveness in the space sector.” (4/23)

Houston's Space Problem: JSC Has Lost Its Identity and Purpose (Source: Houston Press)
The fake space shuttle, renamed Independence, arrived in Galveston in June 2012. People lined the docks and watched as workers hauled the inert, gleaming white thing as if it were a dead whale being tugged to shore. When it was decreed that JSC would get the old shuttle replica NASA officials hired a towing company to move the craft up the Gulf Coast from Florida.

For most cities, getting the fake shuttle would have been an honor, but this was Houston, Space City, the home of Johnson Space Center manned space flight. For more than 50 years, this was where astronauts trained, where missions were controlled. NASA was the leader in space exploration, and JSC was at the center of NASA. Now NASA has become a space program without direction, and JSC has become a shadow of itself. Click here. (4/23)

Boeing Profit Beats Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
The world’s biggest planemaker beat estimates today with a first-quarter profit, raised its 2014 forecast and showed $615 million in free cash flow. The “sigh-of-relief” results buoyed the stock, said Jeff Morris. “There was a fair amount of anxiety going into the earnings release,” Morris said by phone from New York. “The thing the market was really focused on was the free cash flow, with some expectations it might be negative in the quarter” because of production issues that damped 787 deliveries. (4/23)

Embry-Riddle To Host UAS Workshop in San Diego (Source: AIN Online)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Worldwide Campus will offer a workshop on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in San Diego, Calif., on April 24-25. Faculty with specific UAS operations and research experience will teach the workshop. Topics include an introduction to and discussion of the impact of UAS, design issues, legislation, certification and regulation, applications, operational profiles, business opportunities and the future of UAS. Continuing education units are available. (4/21)

Win a Free Trip to Space by Supporting Astronauts for Hire! (Source: A4H)
Astronauts for Hire is pleased to announce that it is a participating nonprofit organization in the Ticket to Rise campaign. Ticket to Rise is a 90-day fundraising initiative from the Urgency Network that gives anyone a chance to win a trip to space by donating to one of over 100 participating nonprofit organizations. For more details and to support Astronauts for Hire as the nonprofit of your choice, click here. (4/23)

CASIS and Boeing Collaborate for MassChallenge Startup Research (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Boeing announced a collaboration that will provide support to entrepreneurial researchers through the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator. MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs without taking any equity. Its four-month program offers world-class mentorship, free office space, $1 million in cash awards, and up to $10 million through in-kind support. (4/23)

Top SLS, Orion Official Leaving NASA July 1 (Source: Space News)
Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, will leave the agency effective July 1, a NASA spokesman confirmed April 21. Dumbacher, who has been with NASA since 2000, is returning to his alma mater Purdue University to take a faculty position in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has been the top Washington-based official for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion programs since 2010. (4/23)

NASA Offers QuickLaunch Licensing (Source: NASA)
NASA is pleased to offer a specially selected portfolio of technologies available for commercial nonexclusive licensing. These QuickLaunch licenses have a set initial fee, annual royalty and standard terms. With QuickLaunch licensing NASA has a goal of quickly turning your license application into a license agreement and transferring the technologies to you. For many technologies you may request an evaluation license for a short term prior to requesting a commercial license. Click here. (4/23) 

Power System Failure Could Prompt $100M Insurance Claim (Source: Space News)
The power system failure on the Hispasat Amazonas 4A satellite is likely to result in an estimated 50 percent loss of capacity and an insurance claim equivalent to 50 percent of the satellite’s insured value of 145 million euros ($199 million), industry officials said.

Amazonas 4A was built by Orbital Sciences and launched in March. Its power system failure — which Orbital, without describing it in detail, has said is specific to Amazonas 4A and does not threaten other Orbital-built satellites — occurred in early April. Satellite operators often specify that new satellites are built with more power than is needed to fulfill their business plans, in part because solar array efficiency degrades over time, and in part to protect against in-orbit anomalies. (4/23)

Aldrin Wants NASA Astronauts to Visit Asteroid in Deep Space (Source: Space.com)
While moonwalker Buzz Aldrin thinks that a mission sending humans to an asteroid is a good idea, the Apollo astronaut isn't so happy with NASA's current plan to use a robot to shrink-wrap a space rock and park it near the moon. The space agency's asteroid plan centers on launching a robotic mission that aims to capture an asteroid and deliver it to an orbit around the moon where astronauts can visit and sample it sometime in the 2020s. Aldrin would rather see NASA launch astronauts on a mission to an asteroid still in deep space.

"I sure do not think bringing a rock back is better than what the president said — a human mission to an asteroid in 2025 — but send a robot there first so the two get there at the same time," Aldrin said. Under Aldrin's model, NASA would send an astronaut crew to an asteroid using the space agency's Space Launch System rocket and Orion space capsule. The astronaut crew would be able to operate the asteroid-exploring robot with no time delay. (4/23)

Why the Mars Mission is Shaking Up International Space Law (Source: Factor)
Manned missions to Mars are becoming a serious prospect, with NASA chief Charles Bolden suggesting yesterday that they could turn humanity into a multi-planet species. However, according to the research professor of space policy and international affairs at the George Washington University, Dr Henry Hertzfeld, space law has a lot of catching up to do if it is to address the issues raised by missions to the red planet.

“There’s nothing, nothing at all that prohibits us from going to Mars in the space treaties,” explained Hertzfeld. “In fact they are organized for exploration, for scientific purposes, for freedom of access, for international cooperation and of course, underlying all of them, for peaceful purposes. But there are a couple of issues which we’ll have to deal with.”

One of the issues is the matter of sovereignty. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prevents governments from claiming ownership of celestial bodies such as the moon or other planets. If Mars becomes colonized, this could muddy the waters. Would the inhabitants be permitted some form of ownership similar to earth? Or would ownership be treated differently from its equivalent on our home planet? Other issues relate to the role of private companies in space travel. Click here. (4/23)

Mission to Mars is Necessary for ‘Survival of Human Race’ (Source: Metro)
A manned mission to Mars is necessary for our ‘species to survive’, says NASA chief Charles Bolden as he plots a three-step plan to land humans on the red planet by 2030. Speaking at the Humans to Mars summit, Mr Bolden told The Times: ‘If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species. We need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems.’ (4/23)

Must We Colonize Mars to Survive as a Species? (Source: SPACErePORT)
I tend to agree that there's no existential urgency to colonizing Mars in the near-term, and we're far from being able to afford or technically sustain a human Mars base. The same is generally true of the Moon. We should increase our robotic exploration of the Solar System and continue our telescope-based search for exoplanets.

To maintain and expand our human spaceflight capabilities, we should conduct an asteroid mission and consider opportunities for international collaboration on missions to other destinations (Moon, Mars, Phobos), avoiding the impulse to simply 'plant a flag' for national pride. Meanwhile, NASA should also actively support efforts by the U.S. private sector to pursue human spaceflight ventures that are in the nation's interest.

Debates in Congress on identifying a major human spaceflight mission -- usually arguing for a flag-planting race or a long-term base on the Moon or Mars -- don't provide a reasonable justification, in my opinion. If forced to choose one, however, I would go with a U.S.-led flag-planting mission to Mars or Phobos... letting NASA assist private sector players to the Moon. (4/23)

Orbital Hopes To Parlay Stratolaunch Work into More-Capable Antares (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp.’s contract with startup Stratolaunch Systems on a rocket to be launched from beneath a large aircraft will produce an enhanced version of Orbital’s Antares rocket capable of handling 15-25 percent more payload, depending on the orbit, CEO David Thompson said. Thompson said Stratolaunch, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, “is one of our most exciting programs” and will lead to an operational vehicle in three or four years.

The air-launched version of Orbital’s existing Antares vehicle, which debuted in early 2013 and is now focused on sending cargo to the international space station under a NASA contract, will be able to carry between 7,000 and 8,000 kilograms of payload into low Earth orbit. Thompson said, there is no need for Orbital to continue to add muscle to Antares beyond the Stratolaunch-enhanced performance. The market for launch services carrying 10,000 to 20,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit “is sufficiently served by other operators,” he said. (4/23)

Occultist Father of Rocketry 'Written Ou' of NASA History (Source: WIRED)
Jack Parsons was a founding member of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, with some crediting him as being one of the " fathers of rocketry" and others joking that JPL was actually Jack Parsons' Laboratory, but you won't find much about him on NASA's websites. Parsons' legacy as an engineer and chemist has been somewhat overshadowed by his interest in the occult and, and has led to what some critics describe as a rewriting of the history books.

"He's lived in the footnotes since his death. He's a forgotten figure," says biographer George Pendle, author of Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parson (Jack's full name). Pendle did an "archeological dig" into Parsons' life after finding a mention of him in a science book. "The more I dug, the more bizarre and extreme the story seemed."

In short: Parsons played a critical role in the formation of rocket science and was instrumental in building the rockets that were eventually used in the Space Race. However, he also believed in magic, was involved in the early stages of Scientology and had an extremely colourful sex life. For that reason, Pendle speculates, Parsons' was a figure who didn't fit into the mold of the Industrial Complex. Click here. (4/23)

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