April 3, 2014

Florida Legislators Consider Funding for Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: SPACErePORT)
As Space Florida awaits action from NASA Headquarters on a draft agreement for transfer of the Shuttle Landing Facility to the state, Florida legislators are preparing for the eventual transfer by adding $2.5 million to Space Florida's budget. The money would be used to prepare the facility for the growing list of potential users now considering it as a base of operations.

In the Florida Senate, $2.5 million has been added as a stand-alone line item. In the Florida House, $2.5 million would be allowed for this purpose within a larger $7 million "Investment Fund" intended for leveraged financings for space industry recruitment/expansion in the state. Meanwhile, however, the Senate's $2.5 million may now be earmarked to fund a $500,000 space transportation research project proposed by the Florida Institute of Technology. Click here to keep track. (4/3)

Space Florida Deal Gives Tax-Free Ride to Mystery Company (Source: Florida Today)
An aerospace company considering a project to create 1,800 high-paying jobs at Melbourne International Airport would not have to pay county, city or school taxes on the $500 million project, as part of a deal with Space Florida. Under the complex agreement with Space Florida and other governmental bodies, Space Florida would own the buildings and much of the equipment involved in the project, then lease them to the unidentified company, known as "Project Magellan," for the company's "aircraft development work."

Editor's Note: As a "Special-Purpose Entity" (SPE), Space Florida can provide off-balance-sheet financing that offers liquidity, depreciation and interest benefits. This involves facility lease-backs that allow the SPE to finance and own the facility, leasing it to a company until the debt is paid, at which point ownership may transfer to the company. This was done with other Space Florida/Spaceport Authority projects at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and elsewhere. (4/3)

Bring Ukrainian Rockets to U.S.? (Source: SPACErePORT)
As the U.S. considers ways to thwart Russia and assist Ukraine, maybe consideration should be given to something Ukraine's Yuzhnoye has proposed in the recent past: allowing Ukrainian rockets to launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. A delegation from Ukraine visited Florida a couple years ago to explore the potential for their proposed Mayak family of rockets to be assembled and launched from the Cape.

The plan would have involved a majority-U.S. corporate entity to manage the operation, allowing the vehicles to carry both commercial and U.S. government payloads. Turning the Cape into a true international spaceport (using Shiloh?) would introduce new competition, reducing prices, generating jobs, and broadening the user base at the spaceport. (4/3)

NASA Suspends Contact with Russia Over Ukraine Crisis (Source: The Verge)
Citing Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereign and territorial integrity, NASA told its officials today that the agency is suspending all contact with Russian government representatives. In an internal NASA memorandum obtained by The Verge, the agency said that the suspension includes travel to Russia, teleconferences, and visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities. NASA is even suspending the exchange of emails with Russian officials.

Ongoing International Space Station activities are exempt from this suspension, however, as are meetings with other countries held outside of Russia that include the participation of Russian officials. The directives come directly from Michael O'Brien, the agency associate administrator for International and Interagency Relations. (4/2)

ULA Celebrates 80th Successful Launch with California Atlas Mission (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP-19) payload from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg AFB in California. This is the third mission of 15 scheduled for 2014 and the 80th mission since ULA was formed in December 2006. (4/3)

Missile Warning Sensor Not Early Candidate for Hosted Payload (Source: Space News)
The Air Force has identified six candidate payloads — half of which come from civilian agencies — that could be matched with commercial host satellites through the service’s soon-to-be-awarded Hosted Payload Solutions contract. However, a follow-on to the recently concluded Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload mission, in which an experimental missile-warning sensor was flown on a communications satellite, will not be among them, said Air Force Col. Scott Beidleman. (4/3)

Norwegian Skydiver Nearly Struck by Meteorite (Source: NRK)
One summer day in 2012, Anders Helstrup and several other members of Oslo Parachute Club jumped from a small plane. Helstrup, wearing a wing suit and with two cameras fixed to his helmet, released his parachute. On the way down he realized something was happening.

“I got the feeling that there was something, but I didn’t register what was happening,” Helstrup explained. Immediately after landing, he looked through the film from the jump, which clearly showed that something did happen. Something that looks like a stone hurtles past Helstrup – clearing him by only a few meters. Click here. (4/2)

On-Pad Mishap Delays Sea Launch Mission (Source: Space News)
A mishap that occurred during vehicle processing led Sea Launch to delay the planned April 15 launch of Eutelsat’s Eutelsat 3B telecommunications satellite, Sea Launch announced March 31. A lateral plate housing on the interstage truss of the Zenit 3SL launch vehicle incurred mechanical damage due to what the company characterized as a “discrepancy in the nominal movement” of the plate and a cable mast assembly. The incident occurred as the fully integrated rocket was being raised on its ocean-going launch pad at Sea Launch’s Long Beach, Calif., home port. (4/2)

How to Dodge a Space Bullet in Three (Not So Easy) Steps (Source: National Journal)
Getting to space isn't easy. Dodging bullets once you get there is even harder. Thanks to carelessness and satellite collisions, Earth's atmosphere is littered with a half-million or so pieces of debris. And they're all traveling 17,500 miles per hour—roughly 10 times the speed of a bullet. Even a golf ball at that speed could take out a satellite system.

The dangers of space debris are not lost on NASA, particularly as it attempts to protect the International Space Station and the astronauts who live inside it. In fact, just this month NASA had to move the International Space Station to avoid a potential collision. Click here. (4/3)

National Air and Space Museum Receives $30 Million from Boeing (Source: SpaceRef)
The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum announced that Boeing is donating $30 million to support the museum's educational activities and exhibitions, including an extensive renovation of its main hall, "Milestones of Flight." It will be completed in time for the museum's 40th anniversary in 2016, which is also the aerospace company's 100th anniversary. (4/3)

Discovery, Science to Televise Live Moon Landing (Source: Hollywood Reporter)
The sibling networks will serve as the broadcast home for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a $30 million competition for privately funded teams to land an unmanned craft on the moon. Discovery and Science Channels are headed to the moon. The sibling cable networks have signed on to chronicle the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition for privately funded teams to land an unmanned craft on the moon by Dec. 31, 2015.

The networks will chronicle the historic race with a miniseries event that follows teams from around the world as they race to complete the requirements for the grand prize: landing a craft on the surface of the moon, traveling 500 meters and transmitting live pictures and video back to Earth. (4/3)

GLONASS Gone . . . Then Back (Source: GPS World)
In an unprecedented total disruption of a fully operational GNSS constellation, all satellites in the Russian GLONASS broadcast corrupt information for 11 hours, from just past midnight until noon Russian time (UTC+4), on April 2 (or 5 p.m. on April 1 to 4 a.m. April 2, U.S. Eastern time). This rendered the system completely unusable to all worldwide GLONASS receivers. Full and correct service has now been restored.

“Bad ephemerides were uploaded to satellites. Those bad ephemerides became active at 1:00 am Moscow time,” reported one knowledgeable source. For every GNSS in orbit, the navigation messages include ephemeris data, used to calculate the position of each satellite in orbit, and information about the time and status of the entire satellite constellation (almanac); this data is processed by user receivers on the ground to compute their precise position. (4/2)

Kicza Stepping Down as NOAA Satellite Chief (Source: Space News)
Mary Kicza, the head of NOAA’s satellite division, is retiring from federal service in July. Her last day in the office will be in mid-June. Kicza became assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Services (NESDIS) division in 2007 following a two-year stint as NESDIS deputy. NOAA’s statement said Mark Paese, currently Kicza’s deputy at NESDIS, will replace her on an acting basis. (4/2)

VAB Preparing for Key Role During SLS Processing Flow (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
KSC's iconic Vehicle Assembly Building may have fallen silent over recent years, but behind the scenes teams are working on a “roadmap of operations” for the giant building, ahead of its primary role with the integration of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft. The VAB has been the focal point for mating NASA launch vehicles since the days of the Saturn through to the 30 year career of the Space Shuttle.

The building’s role has been secured for decades to come, providing the role for SLS integration with its payloads. With oversight from the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program, the VAB is being slowly transformed into becoming a key part of the SLS and Orion flow. (4/3)

Moon Gets Younger Age Estimate (Source: Science News)
The moon may have formed about 95 million years after the birth of the solar system, up to 70 million years later than some scientists previously predicted. That makes the moon about 4,470 million years old. Researchers derived the later date by combining simulations of the early solar system with abundances of iron-loving elements in the Earth’s crust, which must have arrived after the collision that formed the moon. (4/3)

NASA’s About to Give Away a Mountain of Its Code (Source: WIRED)
Forty years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, NASA open sourced the software code that ran the guidance systems on the lunar module. By that time, the code was little more than a novelty. But in recent years, the space agency has built all sorts of other software that is still on the cutting edge. And as it turns out, like the Apollo 11 code, much of this NASA software is available for public use, meaning anyone can download it and run it and adapt it for free. You can even use it in commercial products.

But don’t take our word for it. Next Thursday, NASA will release a master list of software projects it has cooked up over the years. This is more than just stuff than runs on a personal computer. Think robots and cryogenic systems and climate simulators. There’s even code for running rocket guidance systems. This NASA software catalog will list more than 1,000 projects, and it will show you how to actually obtain the code you want. (4/3)

Editorial: Freeze on Russia-NASA Space Cooperation to Have Global Backlash (Source: RIA Novosti)
Washington's decision to freeze cooperation between the NASA space agency and its Russian counterpart on a slew of joint projects will hurt global space partnership but won't be the end of the Russian space program, Director of the Space Policy Institute Ivan Moiseyev told RIA Novosti Thursday.

NASA issued a statement saying it put most of its joint missions with Russia on hold indefinitely. The only exception is the "operational International Space Station activities," the agency's associate administrator Michael O'Brien said in a memo. "The statement was way too harsh," Ivan Moiseyev told RIA Novosti. He warned NASA that its move would have a "rather significant" impact on space exploration projects globally.

"Modern space science is a global phenomenon that benefits all countries," Moiseyev noted. "It means that many large-scale projects require an international effort. A freeze on cooperation will spur a serious backlash against the international space program." (4/3)

NASA Nulling Fate of Nine Astrophysics Missions (Source: Space News)
A NASA Senior Review panel will decide in June how to prioritize funding for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 among nine astrophysics initiatives that currently cost a combined $65 million a year to keep in service. “The missing money is probably on the order of about $10 million,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director told members of a NASA Advisory Council panel March 27.

Six of the projects vying for extended funding are U.S.-based. Three are overseen by international space agencies and have U.S. partners. The NASA missions are: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope; the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array X-ray observatory; the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope; the Swift Telescope, which tracks gamma-ray bursts; a proposed Kepler space telescope follow-on mission known as K2; and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which was brought out of hibernation last year to help search for asteroids on a collision course with Earth. (4/3)

The Science of Escaping Super-Fast Space Trash (Source: National Journal)
Getting to space isn't easy. Dodging bullets once you get there is even harder. Thanks to carelessness and satellite collisions, Earth's atmosphere is littered with a half-million or so pieces of debris. And they're all traveling 17,500 miles per hour—roughly 10 times the speed of a bullet. Even a golf ball at that speed could take out a satellite system.

The dangers of space debris are not lost on NASA, particularly as it attempts to protect the International Space Station and the astronauts who live inside it. In fact, just this month NASA had to move the International Space Station to avoid a potential collision. Click here. (4/3)

Morpheus Completes Test with New Sensors at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
At KSC today, NASA's prototype Morpheus lander completed its first free flight carrying a sensor package designed to detect and avoid hazards on the ground. The four-legged, liquid methane-fueled vehicle lifted off at 4:21 p.m., climbed 800 feet and flew down range 1,300 feet before landing in a cloud of dust in a hazard field north of the shuttle runway.

The 96-second flight was Morpheus' first carrying expensive sensors and software called Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT, and followed a series of test flights to prove the vehicle's flight worthiness. The laser-guided system scanned the hazard field and ranked safe landing options, but did not control the flight as is planned in future tests expected to run through May. (4/2)

Private Company Breathes Life Into Former Shuttle Hangar (Source: Florida Today)
Paint peeling from its sliding high bay doors at first suggests 56-year-old Hangar N is another piece of aging infrastructure that NASA is struggling to maintain. But through those doors, the NASA facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station instead reveals itself to be an example of a new way of doing business that is key to the space agency's post-shuttle future.

The eight-person team of former shuttle contractors now operating the hangar work for a private company, Minnesota-based PaR Systems, which hopes to market their skills and the facility's specialized testing equipment to government and commercial customers in the space industry and beyond.

We're seeing new ways of using the hangar's capabilities," said Brian Behm, PaR's president of aerospace robotics. "And I've got to tell you, some of them are extremely exciting." Behind Behm in one corner was a large robotic X-ray machine, like a giant, high-tech version of one in a dentist's office, able to move up or down and rotate around large pieces of hardware. Click here. (4/3)

Grounded: Branson's Desert Launchpad Awaits First Passenger (Source: FOX News)
A $208 million project that was supposed to put Truth or Consequences, N.M., on the map -- and well-heeled adventurers into space -- is home to little more than tumbleweeds nearly a decade after it was proposed. Spaceport America is still supposed to one day send civilians into space for $250,000 tours as part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise. But the billionaire Brit has been plagued by a failure to launch, and the promise of the project has been stalled on the pad.

“It’s taking Branson a whole lot longer to get this launched; he’s going through a learning process,” Sierra County Manager Marc Huntzinger said of Virgin Galactic, which is supposed to be the anchor tenant for the Spaceport. “Not only have the flights not materialized, the Spaceport is struggling to keep the lights on.”

“The sooner your reservation is made, the sooner you will be traveling to space,” reads the “reservations” tab. But no one has left Earth so far and only a handful of test launches of vertical rockets have taken off. Sierra County Commissioner Walter Armijo said any boost to the local economy of the taxpayer-subsidized project remains a mirage. "It’s a beautiful facility sitting in the middle of nowhere,” Armijo said. (4/3)

Senators Urge Review of U.S. Air Force Satellite Launch Program (Source: Reuters)
U.S. senators on Wednesday urged the Air Force to allow more competition in the multibillion-dollar market for launching government satellites, citing rising costs and concerns about Russian-made engines that power some of the U.S. rockets. Lawmakers said the Air Force's 2015 budget plan reduced opportunities for SpaceX and others to gain a foothold in a program now dominated by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told Air Force officials it was "unacceptable" to reduce competition while the cost of the EELV program were rising sharply. "I'm worried about the costs going up exponentially," she told a defense subcommittee. Feinstein and five other senators also sent a letter to SecDef Chuck Hagel urging him to ensure that the launch program allowed competition in FY2015 as planned. The GAO said the cost of each new EELV launch had more than tripled to $420 million. (4/3)

The Billionaire's Race to Harness the Moon's Resources (Source: CNBC)
As a child growing up in rural India in the 1960s and 1970s, Naveen Jain would gaze up at the moon and imagine a life beyond his modest surroundings. Today he's still gazing at the moon, but for far different reasons. Jain, 55, is co-founder of Moon Express, a company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year. This serial entrepreneur believes that the moon holds precious metals and rare minerals that can be brought back to help address Earth's energy, health and resource challenges.

Among the moon's vast riches: gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste. It's an exciting prospect, considering supply on Earth for such rare minerals as palladium—used for electronics and industrial purposes—is finite, pushing prices to $784 an ounce on April 2. (4/3)

Hubble Spots Comet Heading Toward Mars (Source: LA Times)
Hubble has spotted a comet named Sliding Spring spewing gas and dust into space as it zooms to a close encounter with Mars in October. Researchers working with the Hubble Space Telescope recently released two images of the comet. Click here. (4/2) 

Suborbital Space Facility to Be Built in Indonesia (Source: Jakarta Post)
A suborbital space tourism facility, which offers short-time zero gravity and Earth view from space, will be built in Palu, Central Sulawesi, according to Deputy Mayor Andi Mulhanan Tombolotutu. Andi said that the plan to build the facility had been conveyed to the municipal administration by Norul Ridzuan Zakaria, founder and president of Malaysian Tourism Space Community, through a letter dated March 29.

He said a team from Malaysia and the UK would arrive in Palu to further discuss the matter. Quoting the letter, Andi said that the Malaysian institution had been conducting research to develop such tourism in Southeast Asia. The first step would be developing a local suborbital flight in which a suborbital ship will carry passenger vertically over 100 kilometers above the sea level, giving passengers a micro gravity experience, to see Earth from space.

According to research, Andi said, a site located on a big lake or ravine, where the water was relatively calm, would offer a beautiful view and a secure vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). “From discussions and research conducted, Palu Bay in Central Sulawesi was considered suitable for such an operation,” Andi added.

ABC's ‘Astronaut Wives Club’ to Be Reworked (Source: The Wrap)
“Astronaut Wives,” the upcoming drama from “Gossip Girl” executive producers Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, has been moved from the summer schedule to the fall midseason. Adapted from Lily Koppel's book of the same name, “Astronaut Wives Club” follows the “real story” of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history during the height of the space race.

The drama has been re-conceived from covering just the Mercury mission to including the Gemini and Apollo missions, as well. It will be moving its production start from summer to fall in order to broaden Season 1 for a premiere in the midseason. (4/3)

Kazakhstan and Russia Plan to Use Ukrainian Rocket for Joint Space Project (Source: Trend)
Kazakhstan and Russia still plan to use Ukrainian carrier rocket Zenith at the joint space rocket complex Baiterek, Kazakh news agency Kazinform reported. This announcement was made following the meeting of Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov with his Russian Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on April 3.

The parties discussed bilateral space cooperation in detail, including interaction at the Baikonur cosmodrome and Baiterek launch complex. "The Baiterek project should be continued. We have a common understanding that the current situation in Ukraine should not affect the Baiterek project," Idrisov said. Lavrov in turn said that neither Russia nor Kazakhstan plan any changes in the Baiterek project, including rejection of Zenit rocket carrier. (4/3)

Will Living on Mars Drive Us Crazy? (Source: The Atlantic)
When human space travel made its transition from pipe dream to reality, one of the unknowns humans contended with concerned not just the physics of space, but the psychology of it. How would the human mind react to the final frontier? Would microgravity, combined with the isolation of a spaceship, cause a kind of claustrophobia?

Would propulsion outside of Earth's bounds, in the end, cause astronauts to experience a psychic break? Was there such thing, as science fiction writers had long feared, as "space madness"? Space, fortunately, does not drive us crazy. But that doesn't mean we've stopped caring about the effects its new environments will have on our psychology. The new version of the old "space madness" question is how time away from our home planet will affect us—in the long term.

What could life on Mars do to that that other cosmic mystery: the human emotional state? NASA is hoping to find out. This week, in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the agency launched the latest version of its Mars simulation experiment, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission. (4/3)

NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts on One-Way Missions (Source: Motherboard)
It goes pretty much without saying that flying to Mars is a dangerous proposition. In fact, right now, any deep space mission easily fails NASA’s minimum safety requirements. Regardless, the agency is planning (eventually) to send humans out to an asteroid and to Mars, so something's gotta give. NASA’s going to have to change its safety guidelines.

There’s no conceivable way that, within the next few years, our engineering capabilities or understanding of things like radiation exposure in space are going to advance far enough for a mission to Mars to be acceptably “safe” for NASA. So, instead, the agency commissioned the National Academies to take a look at how it can ethically go about changing those standards. The National Academies said that there are essentially three ways NASA can go about doing this, besides completely abandoning deep space forever:

It can completely liberalize its health standards, it can establish more permissive “long duration and exploration health standards,” or it can create a process by which certain missions are exempt from its safety standards. The team, led by Jeffrey Kahn, concluded that only the third option is remotely acceptable. But liberalizing health standards across the board would completely undermine the standards in general, which are “based on the best available scientific and clinical evidence, as well as operational experience.” (4/3)

Brooks' Statements on Obama, NASA, BRAC, 'Endangering' District, Opponent Says (Source: Huntsville Times)
Over the last few weeks, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) has been in the news...and it hasn't been pretty. He has made public statements that are irrational, illogical and false. He has shown a lack of command of the facts and a lack of discipline for leadership. This should be disturbing for the voters in this district. His deficiencies have, and continue to, hurt the citizens of North Alabama during his time in office.

Congressman Brooks' irresponsible statements about NASA, BRAC, the Russian annexation of Crimea and of President Obama are not only are factually inaccurate, they are needlessly endangering the economic welfare of the 5th District of Alabama. The greatest threat to the economic future of Alabama is a polarized federal government locked in stalemate. Our Congressman has shown an inability to build relationships or lead people to consensus.

On March 20, the Congressman stated on live radio that President Putin invaded Ukraine "because Obama has shown America to be weak by lying about Obamacare". Seriously? The only purpose for making such a statement is the Congressman's perception that he must pander to a dwindling base craving hateful rhetoric over real solutions. (4/3)

Maybe Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandkids Will Live On Exoplanets (Source: Huffington Post)
Colonize Mars? Meh. While some space enthusiasts are vying for a chance to create a human colony on the Red Planet, others say exoplanets like "Kepler-22b" and "Gliese 667Cc" may be more suitable for life -- human or alien, that is. Just check out this infographic for a list of 10 exoplanets that the University of Puerto Rico's Planetary Habitability Lab considers most habitable. (4/3)

Gaggle of Dwarf Planets Found by Dark Energy Camera (Source: New Scientist)
Our solar system just got a little more crowded, thanks to discoveries from a huge digital camera designed to study dark energy. Last week astronomers reported the discovery of 2012 VP113 – nicknamed "Joe Biden" after the vice president, or VP, of the US. This potential dwarf planet was spotted on the outer fringes of the solar system, in a region called the inner Oort cloud. Days later, the same team reported two more potential dwarfs, known as 2013 FY27 and 2013 FZ27. (4/2)

Bill Clinton: 'I Wouldn't Be Surprised' by Alien Visit (Source: NBC)
Former President Bill Clinton said he “wouldn't be surprised” if Earth was eventually visited by aliens. “I don’t know,” he said when quizzed on the subject by talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday. “But if we were visited someday I wouldn’t be surprised. I just hope that it’s not like Independence Day.”

He added: “We know now we live in an ever-expanding universe, we know there are billions of stars and planets out there and the universe is getting bigger." However, Clinton also explained that he had reviewed the subject during his time in the White House and found no evidence of alien life. (4/3)

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