April 30, 2014

NASA Invests in Hundreds of U.S. Small Businesses to Enable Future Missions (Source: NASA)
Recognizing the critical role of American small businesses and research institutions play as innovation engines for new space technologies that will enable future space exploration, NASA has selected 383 research and technology proposals for negotiations that may lead to contracts worth a combined $47.6 million. The proposals, from 257 U.S. small businesses and 29 research institutions, are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.

Editor's Note: Seven Florida small business projects were selected for Phase-One SBIR awards. Of the STTR projects (which require collaboration with universities), three projects involving one Florida small business and two Florida universities were selected. Click here for a list. (4/30)

Lessons for Space Safety from Life on Earth: Design Reviews (Source: Space Safety)
Because design and operational changes occur throughout development, safety activities must be integrated with the system development life cycle. Hazard analyses are meant to be updated as engineering proceeds to completion, and then they are updated as the system enters operation. In each program phase additional information is provided, hazards are refined, risks are reevaluated, mitigation measures are updated, and test plans are improved. For example, NASA typically uses the following distinctions for phased development as follows, with example safety activities at each step. Click here. (4/30)

Boeing Showcases Future Commercial Spacecraft Interior (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has unveiled a new interior of its Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) next-generation manned space capsule, showing how people other than NASA astronauts may one day travel to space. Boeing and partner Bigelow Aerospace highlighted the future commercial interior of the capsule it is developing for NASA, while Bigelow showcased a full-scale model of its BA 330 commercial space habitat. Click here. (4/30)

Texas Honors Citizen-Astronaut Candidates (Source: Citizens in Space)
Two citizen-astronaut candidates have been honored by the state of Texas. Edward Wright and Maureen Adams are among the latest Texans to be awarded commissions as Admirals in the Texas Navy by Governor Rick Perry. Admirals Wright and Adams are two of the five astronaut candidates currently being trained by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, to fly on the Lynx spacecraft.

Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx, currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace. Each flight will carry up to 10 experiments, with a citizen astronaut acting as experiment operator. The Lynx is a reusable, suborbital spacecraft designed to fly four times a day. In 2012, Governor Perry announced that XCOR Aerospace would move its flight-test center to Midland, Texas.

The move is expected to occur later this year. XCOR could conduct as many as 520 spaceflights each year from Midland, according to the city’s FAA launch-site license application. The Texas Navy was reactivated as an honorary organization by the Governor of Texas in 1958. The flagship of the Texas Navy, the retired battleship USS Texas, does not sail but is on static display at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas. (4/30)

Earth's Oldest, Biggest Impact Crater Yields New Secrets (Source: Huffington Post)
Geologists say they've discovered rocks long thought vanished, the youngest remains of the oldest and biggest impact crater on Earth. In the abraded heart of South Africa's Vredefort impact crater lurk striking green-black rocks, some of the only remnants of a magma sea that once filled the gaping crater, according to a study to be published this May in the journal Geology. Until now, geologists thought nearly all of these "impact melt" rocks were lost to time. Some 6 miles (10 kilometers) of Vredefort crater has worn away since it was whacked open 2.02 billion years ago. (4/30)

Russia-US Space Launches Unaffected by Sanctions (Source: RIA Novosti)
Joint Russia-US space launches will not be affected by the latest round of sanctions against Russia, representatives of the Sea Launch and Inmarsat companies told RIA Novosti Wednesday. Sea Launch, the world's only ocean-based space launch company, said it does not anticipate any impact on operations for the foreseeable future.

“All the necessary licenses have already been secured by Sea Launch’s US prime contractor, Energia Logistics, Ltd. and remain in effect. It is our view that the commercial launch services provided by Sea Launch do not meet the criteria established by the latest US State Department sanctions,” Sea Launch spokesman Peter Stier told RIA Novosti.

Stier added that although some joint operations with Russia might be in question, the EUTELSAT 3B launch schedule will not be impacted as a result of the latest round of US sanctions announced on April 28. Inmarsat reported that they too anticipate no ill effects from the sanctions. (4/30)

Length of Alien Planet's 'Day' Clocked for 1st Time, an 8-Hour World (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have measured the rotation rate of an alien planet for the first time ever, finding that a huge Jupiter-like world called Beta Pictoris b has a day lasting just eight hours. The equator of Beta Pictoris b, a gas giant about 10 times more massive than Jupiter, is moving at about 62,000 mph (100,000 km/h), researchers said — far faster than that of any planet in our solar system. In fact, Beta Pictoris b is the fastest-spinning planet yet seen. (4/30)

Quantum Telescope Could Make Giant Mirrors Obsolete (Source: Physics World)
Quantum mechanics, rather than a huge telescope, could be the best route to high-resolution space images, according to new research carried out in the UK. If confirmed, a telescope of any size could resolve ever-smaller features of the night sky, allowing astronomers to discover exoplanets and other distant objects much more easily than is currently possible.

The diffraction limit for a telescope aperture is set per photon – but if there were many identical, cloned photons arriving at the same time, the diffraction limit would be reduced by a factor equal to the square root of their number. To achieve this, Kellerer proposes that a quantum "non-demolition" measurement is performed upon each photon passing through the pupil of the telescope. (4/29)

Can Asteroids Be Mined for Satellite Fuel? (Source: Bloomberg)
Planetary Resources Co-Chairman and Co-Founder Eric Anderson discusses mining asteroids and the company’s business model from the 2014 Milken Global Conference on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” Click here. (4/29)

Brazilian Fisherman Finds Rocket Debris in Amazon (Source: BBC)
A fisherman in Brazil's Amazon region has found a large piece of debris from a European space launch. The man said he found the metal object floating on a remote river in the municipality of Salinopolis. The debris has been confirmed as coming from a satellite launched from the Kourou base, in neighbouring French Guiana, last July. The piece bears the logo of the UK Space Agency and Arianespace and ws was from the launch of Europe's largest telecommunications satellite last year. (4/29)

SpaceX Releases Rocket-Cam View of 'Soft Splashdown' Test (Source: NBC News)
A video camera mounted on the first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket captured a view of something that was never seen before: the engine firing that eased the stage's splashdown into the Atlantic after a supersonic fall from outer space. Imagery from the history-making feat was beamed back to SpaceX's team, cleaned up and tweeted out on Tuesday. The company is making the raw image data available for further processing, with the hope that crowdsourced expertise can improve the video quality. Click here. (4/30)

Falcon-9 Booster Flyback Complicates Range Safety (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made a point last week to praise the Eastern Range for its support to the company's plans for powered landings of the Falcon-9 first stage. Musk mentioned that multiple sites on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport are under consideration as future landing sites. SpaceX's powered-landing approach is a big departure from previous booster fly-back concepts studied by NASA and the Air Force, which focused on winged flight and runway landings.

Like those concepts, SpaceX's approach could put new constraints on range safety and launch weather criteria... not dissimilar to the RTLS (return-to-launch-site) contingency requirements for Space Shuttle launches. While a normal rocket might be able to launch during a momentary break in bad weather, accommodating a booster return flight would require a wider window of good weather, and possibly a different set of weather/wind conditions for landing than would be required for launch.

Also, such missions will essentially involve two different vehicles with substantially different flight characteristics, requiring a lot more analysis from range safety officials. The single-stage return-vehicles will behave differently than the larger multi-stage ascent vehicles in the same flight environment. Wind conditions, for example, will have different impacts on the lighter, slower-moving return-vehicle than they will on the heavier, faster-moving ascent vehicle. This will all lead to a more complex and constrained environment for future Falcon-9 missions, wherever they may be launched. (4/30)

Budget Cutbacks Spurring Defense Mergers (Source: LA Times)
With protracted federal budget cuts at the Pentagon and NASA on the horizon, aerospace companies across the nation are choosing to combine forces as they vie for fewer dollars and brace for the tough times ahead. In the first quarter of this year, there were 56 merger and acquisition deals announced, according to Irvine aerospace investment bank Janes Capital Partners. This was a 14% increase from last year. (4/30)

Universe Is Expanding Symmetrically, 'Real-Time' Analysis Shows (Source: Space.com)
The universe is expanding — and it is doing so at the same rate in all directions, according to new measurements that appear to confirm the standard model of cosmology. Astrophysicist Jeremy Darling of the University of Colorado Boulder came to this conclusion after employing a research strategy known as "real-time cosmology," which seeks out the tiny changes in the universe that occur over human timescales. (4/30)

Medical Risks on a Mission to Mars (Source: MedGadget)
Humans are going to Mars, and they are going to need some medical support in order to survive the trip, at least according to a panel held last week at a conference in Washington DC. The discussion, at the Humans to Mars Summit held last week at George Washington University, covered some of the biomedical risks of a potential human trip to Mars and the countermeasures required to arrive healthy (and maybe return to Earth, but not all trips include that option). Click here. (4/30)

$17.9 Billion NASA Budget Proposed by House CJS Appropriators (Source: Space News)
NASA would get $17.9 billion in 2015 under a spending bill the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider April 30. The bill sets NASA up for a slightly larger budget increase than the White House requested and maintains congressional spending priorities on big accounts including the heavy-lift Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule.

The proposed NASA budget, part of a $52.1 billion Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, would also relabel the agency’s multibillion Cross Agency Support account “Safety, Security and Mission Services.” The House Appropriations Committee posted the draft legislation on its website April 29. Overall, the NASA budget proposed in the CJS bill is nearly 1.5 percent higher than the 2014 appropriation, and nearly 2.5 percent more than the approximately $17.5 billion the White House is seeking. (4/29)

US, EU Space Missions Depend on Russian Tech (Source: DW)
If Russia were to boycott space missions due to the Ukraine crisis, the results would be dramatic for the United States and Europe. Without Russian technology, Western countries' missions couldn't get off the ground. Six people are currently on board the International Space Station (ISS): three Russians, one astronaut from Japan and two Americans. They each headed up by way of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

A sudden stop to cooperation with Russia in space would mean nothing short of an end to the ISS. Astronauts from Europe and the United States could no longer go into space, and Russia would lose technical and financial support from the US that facilitates communication, equipment and the provision of materials for the space station.

NASA pays around $70 million (50.7 million euros) for each astronaut's journey in a Soyuz rocket. The flow of this cash to Russia has to be specially approved on a case by case basis by Congress. At a recent congressional hearing, Bolden said these journeys to the ISS are not simply a matter of routine but are indispensible for future space missions. (4/30)

NASA Losing Hold of Public Imagination (Source: Daily Cardinal)
Abe Lincoln said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.” In 1989 Americans celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Then President George H. W. Bush stated, “Before the 50th anniversary of our first flight landing on the Moon, the American flag should be planted on Mars!”

We are now five years from the former president’s dream, and it appears all too certain that we will not be planting the American flag on Mars anytime soon. So what happened? When did we decide as a society our thirst for space exploration was quenched on the moon?

When proposing an increase in funding for NASA, the first question people ask is, “Why should we spend tax dollars up there?” as they point to the sky. This statement reflects a fundamental lack of understanding regarding what our space program does for our country, not just “up there” but for people on Earth as well. Click here. (4/30)

Thaicom to Launch Satellite Number Eight in 2016 (Source: RapidTV News)
Thaicom is to launch its eighth satellite in the first half of 2016 to meet growing demand in the broadcasting industry. The new satellite will follow Thaicom 7, which is scheduled for launch in the middle of this year to the 120 degrees East orbital slot. (4/30)

Third Successful Launch for Europe's Vega Rocket (Source: SEN)
Europe’s newest launch vehicle, Vega, proved its worth for a third time today by lifting an Earth-observation satellite into orbit. Flight VV03 was carrying the DZZ-HR satellite for Kazakhstan when it raced away from the tower at Kourou, French Guiana. Once operational, it will be renamed KazEOSat-2. (4/30)

Planned Spaceport in Brownsville Could Impact Texas Region (Source: KRIS)
In the next few years, Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville could be transformed into a launch pad for commercial space ships. "(Commercial space flight) is coming, and it will need other industries to support it," said David Hudgins, an assistant economics professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. "So just having a launch pad is not going to stop there."

Hudgins explained that when one business makes its home here, others follow to support it. "The service industry..the banking industry..agricultural industry; there's a give and a take. Overall the space industry is a growing industry." (4/30)

Spaceport America Will Attract 200,000 Tourists a Year (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
New Mexico tourism secretary Monique Jacobson visited Las Cruces last week to speak at the annual Spaceport Membership Update Luncheon there. She talked with us about Spaceport America’s economic development potential for New Mexico. "'New Mexico True' is a celebration of what makes New Mexico different as a state. It’s a celebration of what makes us special, what makes us unique. The beauty of it is, it fits perfectly with Spaceport."

"First, with regards to media, the attention we have received is great but nothing compared to what we will receive once that first launch goes up. Second is the really rich tourists. We want them spending that money in New Mexico... And they can tell all their very rich friends all about New Mexico. Thirdly, the average person will come to New Mexico and also spend their money here and follow up. They expect about 200,000 people [annually]."

Editor's Note: Parabolic Arc comments that Spaceport America budget cuts have negatively impacted the tourism experience at Spaceport America, which will likely result in fewer visitors, as indicated in the spaceport's own master plan. Virgin Galactic's delayed flight schedule has reduced the spaceport's revenues. (4/30)

How Do We Clean Up the Junkyard Orbiting Earth? (Source: UAH)
The biggest-sized junkyard in the world orbits it, and a University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) aerospace systems engineering graduate student says it's time to get active about reducing the debris field before we reach a tipping point beyond which we may not be able to do much. Click here. (4/30)

Recycling Waste Heat Can Power Spacecraft Systems (Source: SEN)
A team of senior engineering students have invented an exchange system that can return energy to spacecraft from waste heat in the form of electricity. Heat created by electronics aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is currently lost into space. But new technology to turn heat into power would make it possible to put it back to work to run the myriad of systems onboard. (4/30)

California Governor Approves Space Property Tax Exemption (Source: LA Times)
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a 10-year exemption from state taxes for certain property used for space flight operations in California. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced the bill to help the state retain businesses including Elon Musk’s Hawthorne-based SpaceX, which has booked nearly 50 launches on its rockets. This new law codifies a Board of Equalization advisory opinion that rocket propulsion systems qualify for the business inventory tax exemption. The exemption does not apply to land. (4/30)

Subcommittee Proposes $220M for U.S. Alternative to RD-180 Engines (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Strategic Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will markup its section of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Apr. 30. A draft provides $220 million to DOD to begin development of a U.S.-built liquid rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 engines used for the Atlas V rocket.

The draft also explicitly supports DOD's December 2013 block buy of rocket cores from ULA for the Altas V and Delta IV rockets.  SpaceX, which is trying to compete against ULA for government launches, filed suit against the Air Force yesterday on the basis that the contract should have been awarded competitively rather than on a sole source basis. (4/29)

Kentucky Space Brings PocketQube Workshop to Cape Canaveral (Source: Kentucky Space)
Kentucky Space, with support from Space Florida, the Florida Space Grant Consortium, and CASIS, is sponsoring a hands-on workshop on May 14 in Cape Canaveral focused on PocketQube satellites. PocketQubes are a new class of microsatellite, smaller than CubeSats. Click here. (4/30)

NASA IG Finds Budget Problems for Space Network (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA's Inspector General released a report examining NASA’s efforts to modernize its Space Network, a constellation of nine satellites and three ground stations by which NASA, other Government agencies, and commercial companies communicate with spacecraft operating in low Earth orbit. Without these Network services, space hardware worth tens of billions of dollars would be little more than orbital debris.

"... because of budget reductions and the loss of other expected revenue, in FY 2016 the Space Network will not have sufficient funding to meet all planned service commitments. Although NASA agreed to provide free access to Space Network services for some customers beginning in FY 2014 in exchange for their contributions to the design and development of two satellites several years earlier, the Agency failed to adequately plan for the resulting approximately $70 million per year in lost revenue. Consequently, the Space Network has a projected $63 million budget shortfall in FY 2016 and even larger estimated shortfalls in subsequent years." (4/29)

House Appropriators Propose Increase for NASA, Including Europa (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House Appropriations Committee released a draft of the FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that will be marked up by the CJS subcommittee tomorrow (April 30). It proposes a substantial increase for NASA compared to the President's request and funding for a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa would be one beneficiary of the increased spending.

The recommendation for NASA is $17,896 million, $435 million above the President's request of $17,461 million. It is about $250 million more than NASA's current (FY2014) level of $17,647 million. The draft bill provides little detail of the changes the subcommittee wants, but includes increases compared to the President's request for the Europa mission, aeronautics, Orion, and the Space Launch System (SLS), and decreases for space technology, exploration ground systems, and space operations.

The bill does not specify how much money would be allocated to commercial crew, one of the more controversial aspects of NASA's budget request, or for the International Space Station. The draft bill continues the cap on development funding for the James Webb Space Telescope at $8 billion as well as the prohibition on NASA or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from spending funds related to space cooperation with China unless certain conditions are met. (4/29)

Russian Space Official Tells NASA to Take a Flying Leap (Source: NBC News)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a target of U.S. sanctions sparked by the Ukraine crisis, said Tuesday that those sanctions would boomerang against America's space effort and essentially told NASA to take a flying leap ... on a trampoline. "After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline," Rogozin said via his Russian-language Twitter account. (4/29)

US Wants to Drive Russia Out of Launch Market by Sanctions (Source: Voice of Russia)
Under the guise of sanctions the United States was trying to push its Russian rivals out of the international space launch market, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of space and defense industry said Tuesday. "The Americans want to eliminate us from the space services market, to put into question the capability of our companies to produce carrier rockets and put foreign satellites into orbit," Dmitry Rogozin said.

He said the US sanctions against Russia will also affect its partners in Europe, namely the European Space Agency. "In fact, under the guise of fighting against Russia, the Americans are also fighting with their European rivals. Today, they are trying to kill Europe. If the Europeans choose to stagger behind the Americans, they will lose not only their good name and reputation, they will also lose a great deal of their own economic potential," the Russian deputy premier added. (4/29)

U.S. Space Restrictions on Russia May Strike Back (Source: Moscow Times)
Never at a loss for words, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the Russian space industry, mocked U.S. policy, saying that "they do not understand that these sanctions will boomerang back on themselves." Although the license restrictions effectively prevent Russia from purchasing Western space hardware, Moscow is free to pursue commercial interaction with industries not regulated by ITAR, such as China's space industry, providing further impetus for Russia to pursue closer defense and space relations with China. (4/29)

The Nixon Administration and Shuttle Safety (Source: Space Safety)
Many people know that the initial design of the Space Shuttle was a matter of dispute between the NASA engineers and officials on one hand and the Nixon White House and the budget hawks within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the other. The final design, after much negotiation, was a compromise between cost and performance. NASA was able to keep a large 4.5 by 18 meter cargo area, but was convinced to use a solid fuel booster strap-on to propel the shuttle into orbit.

This combination of a solid booster with the liquid fueled Shuttle orbiter was intended to reduce cost but over time it proved to increase cost while adding major risk elements. In the United States, 1972 was a presidential election year and the big space question at the time was “What comes after Apollo?” President Nixon wanted to sustain an American lead in the space race against the Soviet Union, but did not want to spend big bucks to do so. Click here. (4/29)

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