April 25, 2014

SpaceX Files Suit Over EELV Block Buy Contract (Source: Space Politics)
In a sharp escalation of the ongoing debate over military launch contracts, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company was filing suit to formally protest a “block buy” contract it made with ULA. Musk announced that the company was filing suit in the Court of Federal Claims over a 36-core block buy contract the Air Force recently signed with ULA. The contract has been in the works for months, but Musk said the company didn’t formally learn of it until March, and exhausted all approaches other than a formal protest to deal with it.

“This is not SpaceX protesting and saying that these launches should be awarded to us,” he said at one point in the half-hour press conference, which also covered SpaceX’s progress in developing a reusable version of the Falcon 9′s first stage. “We’re just protesting and saying that these launches should be competed. If we compete and lose, that’s fine.” Click here. (4/25)

Next Orbital Sciences Resupply Mission Slips to June (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The second space station resupply run by Orbital Sciences Corp. has been reset for June after NASA officials juggled the outpost's visiting vehicle manifest to accommodate delays in launching a SpaceX cargo craft, the company announced Monday. (4/25)

Baylor Student Building Rocket in Dorm Room (Source: KWTX)
A Baylor sophomore is designing a rocket, right from his dorm room. Kevin Healy is the leader of the Horizon Rocket Project, an attempt to beat the amateur rocket altitude record which currently stands at 72 miles. As a result of the slow de-funding of the NASA space program, Healy also hopes to provide the scientific community with technology that will make space exploration more accessible. (4/24)

Why World War III Could Start In Space (Source: Forbes)
Is space warfare in our future? If one tracks current trends and the increasing rate of military spending on space by a variety of countries, one has to worry. These militaries are going to have to engage in mutual restraint if conflict is going to be avoided. We managed to do so during the Cold War through U.S.-Soviet non-interference pledges, ongoing talks, and a shared belief that satellite security was critical to nuclear stability and arms control.

It is less clear that such restraint will prevail in the 21st century. This decade nearly a dozen countries will have the ability to test space weapons and/or attack enemy spacecraft. The Outer Space Treaty and other agreements have created strong norms of restraint. A current effort—started by the European Union—to create an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities would enhance cooperation in space situational awareness and traffic control...and require yearly consultations among signatories on space security issues.

Whether these mechanisms will be enough to prevent future space conflict and the possible ruination of critical orbits remains to be seen. There are still loopholes for weapons testing and deployment within existing treaties that could create serious future problems. Click here. (4/25)

Why Inflation Didn’t Get the Same Hype as the Higgs (Source: Universe Today)
Last month astronomers provided evidence that the universe underwent a brief but stupendous expansion at the very beginning of time. It was a landmark discovery. And while the media worldwide gleamed with fantastical headlines, I’m left overwhelmed with the feeling that it didn’t quite get the spotlight it deserves. The day of the announcement was ablaze with excitement.

When I first started to cover the news, I told my mother I was writing on something that was bigger than the Higgs boson. That was the best way I could explain the significance of this monumental discovery to someone with very little physics knowledge in a text message. But inflation didn’t get the same hype as the Higgs. Why? Click here. (4/25)

SpaceX Says First Stage Landed Intact in Ocean, But Was Lost at Sea (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX says its recent attempt at a controlled landing of its Falcon-9 first stage off the coast of Jacksonvillle was substantially successful, with a rocket-assisted vertical landing in rough seas, but the weather and wave conditions prevented the stage's recovery, so it was lost at sea. Ultimately, SpaceX hopes to land the stages at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport , allowing the possibility of same-day refurbishing and deep savings in launch costs through re-use.

The stages (with nine engines) represent 70% of the launch cost, so reusability could cut that cost by 60%, says Elon Musk. The stretched length of the newest Falcon-9 core stages allows the carriage of additional fuel to power the landing operation. (Rocket fuels are exempt from Florida tax.) Larger boats are planned to support the stage recovery for the next SpaceX commercial launch in May. (Maybe an unmanned barge platform for a dry landing?)

Conducting a land-based recovery at the spaceport will present some significant range safety challenges, and Elon Musk said the Eastern Range has been "very helpful" in the process. One alternative site is the Shuttle Landing Facility, which could entail a landing fee. The landing operation -- having a lot of characteristics of an unmanned aerial vehicle -- also presents some interesting challenges and opportunities for the FAA. SpaceX believes they can land these stages with the accuracy of a helecopter. (4/25)

Crowdfunding Project Aims to Bring a Forgotten Space Probe Back to Life (Source: Endagadget)
The International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 probe is slated to come home in August after 36 years in space, but a group of engineers wants to use it as a platform for citizen science before it does. Sadly, NASA doesn't have the budget to reactivate a probe's that been decommissioned since 1999 -- so, the team has turned to crowdfunding to get the ball rolling.
For those who've never heard of the ISEE-3 before, it was originally sent to space to study how the Earth's magnetic field and solar winds interact. Thus, it has 13 different scientific instruments on board (for measuring plasma, magnetic fields, waves and particles) that students or just about anyone can use if the group manages to recapture it. (4/25)

Don't Pack Your Bags for Kepler-186f Just Yet (Source: Shawnee News-Star)
Some may be about ready to pack their bags. NASA has announced the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, orbiting another star. Labeled Kepler-186f, this world is actually close in size to the Earth and get this - within the "habitable zone" of the star, where temperatures would allow liquid water to exist! While scientifically fascinating and sure to encourage the ongoing quest to explore the Milky Way, it will also surely fire a lot of imagination.

It can't take long for Kepler-186f to show up in some science fiction movie or novel, or some new space drama on TV! Note, we have no idea if the planet is habitable; there are many other factors that would influence whether we could enjoy life there in short sleeves or be confined to a spacesuit. It is 1.11 times the size of Earth and orbits once around in 130 days. Close to the outer edge of the habitable zone, water would still be close to freezing, unless the atmosphere is thick.

Some researchers probe the heavens for extraterrestrial broadcasts. Forget any quick communication. If we did pick up a signal from Kepler-186f, it left the planet 500 years ago. If we sent a reply, it wouldn't get there for another 500 years. (4/25)

Russia to Launch Coordination Center for New Space Center by May (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Cabinet has tasked Roscosmos with creating a coordination center for the Vostochny space center, currently under construction in the Far East. The instruction asks Roscosmos “to report on the creation of a coordination center for Vostochny Cosmodrome, its personnel, regulations and work agenda to the Government of the Russian Federation in May 2014.” (4/25)

Fate of Florida Space Items Coming into Focus in Tallahassee (Source: FSDC)
Space-related funding items for FY-2015 have fared well in Tallahassee during the state's ongoing Legislative Session. Some other initiatives, however, seem unlikely to pass as the session approaches its end in early May. Click here for a breakdown. (4/24)

Arizona Passes Spaceflight Liability Bill (Source: Space Politics)
The governor of Arizona has signed into law a bill that provides commercial spaceflight companies in the state with liability protections similar to those in several other states [including Florida]. Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB2163 on Wednesday, a day after both the Arizona Senate approved an amended version of the bill and the state House then concurred with the Senate’s version. The bill attracted little opposition in either legislative chamber, with a final House vote of 58-1 in favor of the bill. (4/24)

Donate $10K to Rocket Center Campaign, Fly with Astronaut in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Donate at least $10,000 to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Training Aircraft crowdfunding campaign, and fly with five-time shuttle astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson during a one-hour tour of Huntsville. That's the latest perk the USSRC is offering residents who give $10,000 or more to the "Help Land a Shuttle Training Aircraft" campaign on Indiegogo, a popular crowdfunding website. (4/24)

Virgin Galactic: What Your $250K Flight Will Feel Like (Source: Mashable)
The future of manned spaceflight is coming into focus. Whether it's through NASA's Orion program, its partnerships with private companies or in the form of the quick, space-immersion experiences that Virgin Galatic’s SpaceshipTwo spaceships are soon to offer. Not many people have seen SpaceshipTwo (even an exact replica) in person or know a lot about what it will be like to fly in one of these things. Until now. Click here. (4/24)

Americans Keen on Space Exploration, Less So on Paying For It (Source: Pew Research Center)
Many Americans are optimistic about the future of space travel, but they don’t necessarily want to pay for it. It’s been that way for some time, actually. A Harris survey taken in 1970 – less than a year after the first moon landing – showed that a majority (56%) thought the landing was not worth the money spent.

A separate Harris poll, in 1971, however, found that 81% of Americans agreed with the statement that “nothing can equal seeing the astronauts land and walk on the moon as it happened live on TV.” In fact, as we dug through data archives of the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey – which has been asking the public for 40 years about their views of space exploration and federal funding for it — we found that Americans are consistently more likely to say that the U.S. spends too much on space exploration than too little.  

At no time has more than 20% of the public said that the U.S. spends too little on space exploration. Still, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t optimistic about exploring the possibilities of space. In a Pew Research Center/Smithsonian magazine survey released last week, a third of Americans said they believe there will be manned long-term colonies on other planets by the year 2064, despite evidence suggesting the difficulties of accomplishing that. (4/24)

Liquid Spacetime (Source: Space Daily)
What if spacetime were a kind of fluid? This is the question tackled by theoretical physicists working on quantum gravity by creating models attempting to reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics. Some of these models predict that spacetime at the Planck scale (10-33cm) is no longer continuous - as held by classical physics - but discrete in nature. Click here. (4/24)

Lockheed Space Business To Incur Reorganization Charges (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin expects to incur $135 million in charges related to plant closings, facilities consolidation and severance charges in its Space Systems division. The reorganization, which includes the shuttering of the company’s Newtown, Pa., satellite facility, was announced in November and is expected to ripple through Lockheed Martin’s financial accounts through mid-2015. (4/24)

Boeing Rebuffed in Latest Attempt To Collect on Sea Launch Losses (Source: Space News)
Boeing’s petition to a Swedish court to rule on Boeing’s attempt to collect $356 million in back bills from its former Russian and Ukrainian partners in the Sea Launch commercial launch venture has been rejected, and the company on April 23 said it would now take its case to the Swedish Supreme Court.

At a time when other U.S. space companies are reassuring investors and customers that their Russian and Ukrainian suppliers will continue to deliver hardware for cash on the barrelhead, Boeing is trying to pull cash out of the same region with little apparent leverage. A Swedish appellate court earlier in the month ruled it could not overturn an earlier decision by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. Boeing initially took its case against Energia and Yuzhnoye to the Swedish Chamber of Commerce asking for an arbitration. (4/24)

Russia Eyes Building Glonass Stations in 36 Countries (Source: Space Daily)
Russia plans to build 50 stations for the global navigation satellite system Glonass in 36 countries to guarantee more stable and precise signals. "We will continue promoting Glonass technologies on global markets and increase competitiveness of the Russian navigation services," Kremlin administration chief Sergei Ivanov said. (4/25)

Russia Set to Boost Space Cooperation With India, China (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is set to develop its space cooperation with India and China, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Oleg Ostapenko said. “Recently, we received an invitation from Japan to discuss an array of questions,” he added. The announcement was made amid threats of Russia’s western partners to freeze or cut cooperation with Russia amid tensions over Ukraine and Crimea secession. NASA threatened to cut space ties with Russia, but Roscosmos has yet received no official notifications. (4/24)

Russia Gives Green Light to Super-Heavy Rocket Project (Source: RIA Novosti)
A project to build a new super-heavy carrier rocket was included into the draft new Federal Space Program (FSP) Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said. “A [super] heavy carrier rocket was included into the new FSP. Work is still under way, with the first stage envisaging the construction of a rocket capable of lifting from 70 to 80 metric tons,” Ostapenko said, adding that such rockets would be enough for projects scheduled for the next 20 or 30 years.

The second stage of the project is to build a carrier rocket capable of lifting from 100 to 120 metric tons of payload into the low-earth orbit. A year ago, Russia said that it will develop new technology including huge new rockets for manned flights to the moon and Mars, by the same year that the Americans are aiming for Mars – 2030. (4/24)

No Plans to Produce Zenit Rocket in Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian space agency believes it would be illogical to start the production of Ukrainian-made Zenit space launch rockets in Russia, the agency’s head said. “In regard to the Zenit, I can say that making the same carrier rocket here makes no sense. The situation in Ukraine isn’t fully stabilized so far, but there is no reason to make a stake on the Zenit carrier rocket, but time will tell depending on the development of events,” Oleg Ostapenko said.

“Today we are oriented around our national Russian carrier rockets,” he said. Zenit rockets are manufactured by the State Design Bureau Yuzhnoye in the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, but more than two thirds of the rockets’ components are sourced in Russia. (4/24)

Roscosmos is Planning to Launch Five Soyuz-2, Angara at Plesetsk (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos is planning to launch five Soyuz 2.1v carrier rockets from the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the next two years, Roscosmos Head Oleg Ostapenko said. “Everything will depend on the payload. We are actively working on the payload with the Defense Ministry. We will carry out five qualification launches with a payload from Plesetsk,” he said.

The first trial launch of the Angara rocket from Plesetsk scheduled for June 25 will be executed without payload but with a test weight. The new carrier rocket will be used to launch both civilian and military spacecraft and in international space cooperation projects. A mock-up of the Angara carrier rocket was taken out of the assembly shop at the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome and installed in the launch pad area in February. (4/24)

Crimea’s Space Infrastructure to be Used and Developed (Source: Itar-Tass)
Crimea’s space infrastructure will be used and developed, said Roscosmos' Oleg Ostapenko. Crimea, in his words, “has many interesting things”: an observatory, a unique station near Yevpatoria, and a number of other stations. “We have decided what is interesting for us,” he said.

“We have set up a joint group with a number of other agencies, which have their own visions and possibilities of further use (of Crimea’s space infrastructure). Now we are working on a program on what is to be used and how to develop these facilities in future,” he added. (4/24)

ESA Keeps Eye on Ukraine Crisis as Vega Launch Nears (Source: Flight Global)
As the European Space Agency makes final preparations for the third flight of its new Vega light launcher, unrest in Ukraine will be about as far from its operators’ minds as Kourou is from Kiev – but once VV03 is complete on Monday 28 April, program officials will continue their watch on the tense situation in a country that supplies a critical component of what is otherwise a Western Europe-built vehicle.

Vega program manager Stefano Bianchi stressed that, so far, there has been no indication from either Ukraine or Russia of any threat to supply of the RD-869 restartable rocket motor, which forms the fourth-stage propulsion unit that carries Vega’s payloads to their final orbit. The RD-869 is built by Yuzhnoye in Dnipropetrovsk, just east of the Dnieper river that runs north-south through the country to the Black Sea. (4/24)

High-Voltage Lines to Act as Antenna in Space-Weather Project (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages in the past. Heliophysicist Antti Pulkkinen of Goddard Space Flight Center and his team are installing scientific substations beneath high-voltage power transmission lines operated by Virginia's Dominion Virginia Power this summer to measure in real-time a phenomenon known as geomagnetically induced currents (GICs). (4/25)

Some Astronauts at Risk for Cognitive Impairment, Animal Studies Suggest (Source: Space Daily)
Johns Hopkins scientists report that rats exposed to high-energy particles, simulating conditions astronauts would face on a long-term deep space mission, show lapses in attention and slower reaction times, even when the radiation exposure is in extremely low dose ranges. The cognitive impairments - which affected a large subset, but far from all, of the animals - appear to be linked to protein changes in the brain, the scientists say. (4/24)

Dayton-Area Product Part of Key NASA Test (Source: Dayton Business Journal)
From the cool manufacturing news file: NASA picked a locally-made robot for an important test. Miamisburg-based Yaskawa Motoman Robotics says the space agency recently chose a Motoman SIA50 seven-axis robot to demonstrate a key capability needed for ongoing maintenance of orbiting satellites. (4/24)

NASA Tries Space Kits to Engage Kids in Science and Space (Source: Reuters)
Making mini satellite dishes that collect signals or building remote-controlled mini Rovers such as the kind NASA has used on Mars are the types of activities that could interest kids in science, but their complexity can derail all but the most enthusiastic hobbyist.

Now, NASA, the U.S. space agency, hopes it has found a workaround through new space kits and a collaboration with a New York-based startup called LittleBits. NASA, through its Aura mission to study the Earth's ozone layer and climate, is working with LittleBits to develop activities around a new $189 space kit, announced on Thursday. Using electronic modules such as motors and dimmers that snap together, the creations will perform functions that normally might require hours of tedious tinkering or piles of electronics components. (4/24)

Peru Orders High-Resolution Imaging Satellite from Airbus (Source: Space News)
The Peruvian Defense Ministry on April 24 agreed to purchase, for 150 million euros ($200 million) a high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite from Airbus Defence and Space following a bilateral agreement with the French government. The agreement calls for the satellite to be launched in 2016 and for France to provide, in addition to the satellite, the ground network, a data-processing center and training to Peruvian technicians in satellite operation and image analysis. (4/24)

Israeli Satellite Launch Part of Long and Successful Spacefaring Tradition (Source: WPR)
Israel has a long and successful legacy in space, having developed robust and competitive space industries and applications for national and commercial use. The Israeli Space Agency (ISA) was established in 1983. Historically, Israel’s space activities have focused on high-resolution imaging satellites in low Earth orbits and geosynchronous telecommunication satellites. Ofeq-10 is the 15th satellite Israel has successfully launched into space. Click here. (4/24)

Soviet Space Capsule Up for Sale in Belgium (Source: Space Daily)
For those who have everything, how about a Soviet-era space capsule dating back to the 1970s, when it carried three cosmonauts into space? German firm Lempertz unveiled plans Wednesday for what it says is the first such auction in Europe, with the capsule expected to fetch up to 1.4 million euros ($1.9 million) on May 7. (4/23)

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