April 4, 2014

Indian GSLV to Soar With Crew Capsule in June (Source: The Hindu)
India’s huge Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV- Mark III) will soar into the sky with a crew capsule from Sriharikota in June, signalling that the country is getting ready to send its own astronauts into space. It will be an experimental mission and it will carry no astronauts. This crew capsule will return to the earth with parachutes.

It would be identical to the “final crew capsule in structural and thermo-structural parts,” said S. Ramakrishnan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram. “We will take it beyond the atmosphere, make it re-enter the earth’s atmosphere, decelerate it and make a soft touchdown in the Bay of Bengal off the Andaman coast. We will make efforts to recover it.” (4/4)

India Launches Second Navigation Satellite (Source: Space News)
The Indian Space Research Organization successfully launched the second of a planned seven regional navigation satellites April 4 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, aboard its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) will feature three satellites in geostationary orbit, two in inclined geosynchronous orbit and two spares. The first satellite, IRNSS-1A, launched July 2, 2013, and is functioning. (4/4)

India to Launch Two Navigation Satellites in 2014, Three in 2015 (Source: Business Standard)
After launching the second navigation satellite, K Radhakrishnan, chairman, ISRO said, "The launch was successful and it was injected very preciously. I thank the entire ISRO team that made this major milestone for the country, proving it again India's PSLV as a place of pride". PSLV C24 injects IRNSS 1B into the intended orbit with remarkable precision, he said.

Radhakrishnan added that two more IRNSS (1C and 1D) will be launched in 2014, with that for enabling accurate measurements on the ground using receivers. Three more satellites will be launched in by mid 2015 after which India would have seven constellations of seven satellites carrying out important services for the country. (4/4)

India's ISRO Plans a New Business Model (Source: Business Standard)
ISRO said it would arrive at a business model, which would increase private sector participation in Indian space research programs. This could help ISRO focus on its other core activities, according Chairman K Radhakrishnan. He said, “We are working at a possible model for investment, sharing of technology and responsibility with industries.

The response from the industries — public and private — is positive so far. It will take three or four years to arrive at a proper model.” Nearly 400 companies, including large, medium and micro, are working with ISRO currently to manufacture launch vehicles. Some are involved in fabricating and testing, while some are in assembling work.

He added, ISRO held discussion with the Confederation of Indian Industry, which had a large number of companies participating in various launches. To a question whether the model will be public-private-participation (PPP) model he said: “I don’t want to say one model. We will have a model that will work in India.” The increase in private sector participation in the manufacturing of satellites and launch vehicles, will allow ISRO to increase its focus on other core areas. (4/4)

Galileo Delay Could Save Arianespace from Difficult Decision (Source: Space News)
A confrontation between the European Commission and the world’s second-largest commercial satellite fleet operator about priority access to a June launch slot appears to have been resolved with delays in the delivery of the commission’s spacecraft, government and industry officials said.

As a result, a June slot for a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket is all but certain to be given to O3b Networks, a startup broadband satellite operator that badly needs to add to its in-orbit constellation. Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, O3b’s biggest shareholder is SES of Luxembourg, one of the biggest customers for European Ariane 5 heavy-lift rockets, which are operated alongside Soyuz and the small-satellite Vega launcher at Europe’s spaceport here on the northeast coast of South America. (4/4)

Military Drone Crashes Near School (Source: NBC Philadelphia)
Military officials say an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, crashed near a central Pennsylvania school and a hotel. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Joan Nissley said no one was injured when the RQ-7 Shadow drone crashed in Lebanon County around 3:30 p.m. Thursday and was run over by a civilian vehicle.

Nissley said the aircraft crashed during training operations at nearby Fort Indiantown Gap. It came down on Fischer Avenue, between Lickdale Elementary School and a Comfort Inn. The drone weighs 375 pounds and has a 15-foot wingspan. The cause of the crash is under investigation. (4/4)

Virginia Tech Research to Aid FAA Drone Regulations (Source: Roanoke Times)
Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., is one of six test sites for drones designated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The university flies drones over a historic farm located 10 miles away from campus. "The data will go to the FAA and help them craft regulations that will enable us to use these things safely and responsibly," said Craig Woolsey, director of the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems. "There are cases in other countries where people are doing this commercially and viably." (4/2)

TARC Competition Aims to Spark Interest in Science (Source: Imperial Valley Press)
The 2014 Team America Rocketry Challenge will feature more than 725 student teams from across the U.S. competing to build and fly the best-designed model rockets. "The TARC competition is not only about building the best rocket, it's about sparking a life-long interest in joining a science and technology workforce that is the foundation of a strong American aerospace and defense industry," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. (4/3)

Land a Lunar Laser Reflector Now! (Source: Space Daily)
As we consider the next spacecraft to land on the Moon, let's not overlook an increasing problem in scientific research. The laser reflectors already on the Moon are getting old, and need to be replaced. Laser reflectors are collections of prisms or mirrors that bounce light back in exactly the same direction of its arrival. This means that it's easy to fire a laser beam at the reflector and see the beam travel straight back to you.

Laser reflectors were placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts and were also carried aboard the Lunokhod robot rovers landed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. They have no moving parts and need no power source. Thus, these laser reflectors are the only experiments left on the Moon by those missions that still work. Scientists have been using the laser reflectors regularly since they were placed on the Moon. They have shown that the Moon is steadily moving away from the Earth by a few centimetres each year, as it has been doing for millions of years. (4/4)

Senators Take Aim at Alabama's Military Satellite-Launching Business (Source: Huntsville Times)
Powerful Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and six other senators are pressing the military to open launches of military satellites to competition as early as 2015. The sole source of those launches now is the 800-employee United Launch Alliance plant in Decatur, Ala.

SpaceX is the company pushing hardest to join ULA in launching surveillance and communications satellites for the military. The Air Force, which controls those launches now, had planned to open the business to competition. But Feinstein said in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the Air Force doesn’t plan to compete any launches in 2015 and only seven in 2015-2017, half the number it originally planned. (4/3)

New Frontier: Streaming HD Video From Space (Source: Bloomberg)
UrtheCast Director of Technology Dan Lopez discusses streaming UltraHD from outer space and installing cameras on the ISS. He speaks with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television’s “Taking Stock.” Click here. (4/3)

NASA Researcher Explores Idea of Space Colonization (Source: Michigan Daily)
Space: the final frontier? Well, that’s what Al Globus, a NASA researcher, thinks, anyway. Globus is a strong advocate of space colonization. At a lecture Thursday night hosted by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, he told students why living in space is the next step for humanity. Click here. (4/3)

Star Birth Sparked at the Galaxy's Edge (Source: Scientific American)
For the first time astronomers have detected stars in an enormous stream of gas shed by the Magellanic Clouds, the two brightest galaxies that orbit our own. Sought for decades, the newfound stars are young, which means they formed recently, while the Magellanic gas collided with gas in the Milky Way. The newborn stars offer insight into processes that occurred in the ancient universe, when small, gas-rich galaxies smashed together to give rise to giants like the Milky Way.

"This is the one and only galaxy interaction we can model in very much detail," says Dana Casetti-Dinescu, an astronomer at Southern Connecticut State University, who notes that other collisions of gas clouds between galaxies are farther away and thus harder to observe. "For more distant systems that interact, we don't have the wealth of information." (4/4)

Global Hawk Expands Satellite Communications Capability (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has completed a series of ground and air demonstrations at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., expanding the adaptability of the Global Hawk system to use an additional Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link to improve the transfer of mission data. (4/3)

Arianespace, Roscosmos Agree on Soyuz Production for Kourou Launches (Source: Itar-Tass)
France’s Arianespace and Russia’s Roscosmos have signed an agreement on the supply of seven Russian Soyuz rockets for the launches from the Kourou spaceport in 2016-2019. “I would like to personally thank Roscosmos head Oleg Ostapenko for his active participation in the preparation of this agreement and for the general contribution to cooperation between Europe and Russia, between Arianespace and Roscosmos,” the French corporation head stressed. (4/4)

‘We Did Not Tell NASA to Stop Cooperation With Russia’ – US State Department (Source: RIA Novosti)
The US State Department did not call upon NASA to suspend its contacts with Russia, a spokesperson for the State Department said Thursday. NASA announced on Wednesday that amid tensions over Ukraine it would freeze cooperation with Russia, excluding collaboration on the International Space Station.

"I know that there were false reports on Thursday claiming that the US State Department told them to do that. As much as I would have liked to give orders to NASA, we do not do that," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. The Verge network reported that the space agency's decision was made based on instructions sent by the State Department to all federal agencies, including NASA.

Editor's Note: I believe it was the White House, not the State Department, that issued the government-wide directive. Russian state-owned media have been working overtime to generate and spin several news stories that are favorable to Russia's interests (or disfavorable to the U.S.) in the ongoing Ukriane crisis. I now question the credibility of news items from RIA Novosti, Itar-Tass, and Russia Today. (4/3)

NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads, Total Tops 130 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. These flights provide cutting-edge technologies with a valuable platform to conduct tests, before they enter use in the harsh environment of space.

This latest selection represents the eighth cycle of NASA’s Announcement of Flight Opportunities, and raises the total number of technologies selected for test flights facilitated by the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to 138. Click here. (4/2)

Pensacola Astronaut/Scientist to be Featured at Inaugural STEM Symposium (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
Veteran shuttle astronaut Tom Jones, a senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition will be a featured speaker at the first X-STEM: Extreme STEM Symposium in Washington, D.C., on April 24. The symposium opens the third annual USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo and Book Fair on April 26-27, hosted by sponsor Lockheed Martin. (4/3)

UA Hits the Space Sciences Trifecta in Research (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
The University of Arizona hit the space science trifecta this year, attracting postdoctoral researchers from three separate NASA-funded programs named for Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. Click here. (4/4)

KSC Visitor Complex Offers Best Public Viewing of Atlas V Launch (Source: KSCVC)
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests can experience the breathtaking sights and sounds of the launch of an Atlas V rocket as it lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Visitors may enjoy a front row seat to view the launch from the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the closest possible public viewing area, and from viewing areas at the Visitor Complex. Launch viewing is included in daily admission. (4/4)

Range Fix Raises Cost Questions (Source: SPACErePORT)
With one of the Eastern Range's Multiple Object Tracking Radars (MOTR) out of commission due to an electrical fire, launch activities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport have been delayed for three weeks. A typical EELV launch scrub can cost as much as $1 million per day. The solution being pursued by the Air Force is reactivating a similar radar that had been mothballed. I have heard (unconfirmed) that the mothballed radar was originally taken offline to reduce Eastern Range costs in response to Air Force budget cuts (sequestration, etc.).

The Air Force would otherwise have had a ready, redundant backup capability after the MOTR failure on March 25. The costs for the Atlas scrub and multi-week delay, indirect costs to other delayed missions like SpaceX's Falcon-9, costs for the radar reactivation, and the ripple impact on other activities at the spaceport, could run into multiple millions of dollars. The question I have is do these costs outweigh the cuts imposed on the 45th Space Wing by Air Force budget reductions? (4/4)

Midland Texas Airport Looks to Space Industry Growth (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Midland's race for space began in 2012 when the Midland Development Corp. struck a deal with XCOR Aerospace, a private company that develops rocket engines, rocket propellant piston pumps, valves and other components. Its flagship product, the Lynx, is a suborbital spacecraft. XCOR is currently testing the Lynx and plans to continually launch the spacecraft out of Midland’s spaceport. A single flight will cost $95,000 per person. The City Council approved the MDC’s $10 million incentive package for XCOR in 2012, citing the need for job diversification beyond the oil industry.

Meanwhile, MDC struck another deal with a second space company, Orbital Outfitters, which specializes in space suits and vehicle mockups. The $7 million incentive deal that Orbital Outfitters received included funding for the creation of an altitude chamber complex, a facility that MDC board members and staff said could have practical applications not just for the space industry, but for other sectors such as the medical field. “Wherever XCOR is, we need to be there,” said Jeff Feige, chief executive officer of Orbital Outfitters.

Esterly said he never expected that Midland International would house a spaceport. But after meeting with XCOR in 2012, he found out that it was a good fit for the airport. “With our economic base expanding to include the commercial space flight industry, Midland can even say that the ‘sky is no longer the limit,’” Burns said. “I really believe our business community will be greatly strengthened by the addition of XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters. This may be just the beginning. MDC and the staff at MAF have done a terrific job in laying the groundwork for Midland to become the place for aerospace and related industries.” (4/2)

Asteroid Redirect Missions with Kerbal Space Program (Source: HobbySpace)
NASA’s Asteroid Initiative to redirected a small asteroid into the Earth-Moon system has not quite gotten off the ground yet, at least in terms of broad political support. However,  with the Kerbal Space Program you can now go retrieve an asteroid on your own. Click here. (4/3)

Ocean as Large as Lake Superior Found on Enceladus (Source: Newsweek)
In an unlikely corner of our solar system, scientists have discovered evidence of what they believe is a subterranean ocean. The water means a tiny moon orbiting Saturn could be one of the few places in the solar system with the right ingredients for life. The moon Enceladus is only 300 miles wide. It’s a mini-world with a bright, icy, frigid surface, and it is just one of an astounding 62 moons orbiting the ringed planet. But it is not just a static, boring ice ball.

Fractures on the moon’s surface—evocatively named “tiger stripes”—emit jets of frozen water that help form one of the bands in Saturn’s rings. Scientists now say the likely source of those jets is a hidden ocean. Because of the subterranean sea, and other clues such as salts and simple carbon molecules found in the moon’s plume, the inside of Enceladus is “a very attractive potential place to look for life,” says Jonathan Lunine. (4/3)

XCOR Hires Brian Binnie as Newest Test Pilot (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace announced today that celebrated aviator, test pilot, engineer and commercial astronaut Brian Binnie has joined the company as Senior Test Pilot. As Senior Test Pilot, Binnie will be working with another celebrated pilot and astronaut, XCOR Chief Test Pilot and former Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander, US Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Richard (Rick) Searfoss.

“Combining our backgrounds as government and commercial astronauts and our broad experience across a number of rocket powered craft, I feel this builds on XCOR’s strong culture that emphasizes safety and professionalism,” said Searfoss. Binnie is a decorated aviator having piloted the Ansari X-Prize award winning flight that broke the winged aircraft altitude record previously held by the X-15. The vehicle used for that flight was SpaceShipOne, which is the basis for the craft now being developed for Virgin Galactic.  

Binnie was also the pilot of a unique prototype of a single stage to orbit system, the Roton Rocket Atmospheric Test Vehicle, from Rotary Rocket.“Brian, Dan DeLong and I worked together at Rotary Rocket,” said XCOR Founder and CEO Jeff Greason. “He was a consummate professional and leader there, and we’ve stayed in close contact over the years, so I know he will make a great contribution to our efforts at XCOR and getting the Lynx flying soon.” (4/3)

Space Apps Challenge Planned on Space Coast, April 12-13 (Source: EDC of FSC)
The International Space Apps Challenge is a two-day hackathon where teams of technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students across the globe collaborate and engage with publicly available data to design innovative solutions for global challenges. Click here. (4/3)

Space Tourism: KSC Visitor Complex Extends Hours for Summer (Source: KSCVC)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has extended its hours of operation to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, now through Sep. 1. The Visitor Complex previously closed at 5 p.m. Since the opening of the $100-million Space Shuttle AtlantisSM attraction last year, there is more to see and do than ever before at the Visitor Complex. Guests can now spend a full day exploring the past, present and future of the U.S. Space Program. (4/3)

Ukraine Crisis Brings MDA Project to a Halt (Source: Space Daily)
A Canadian communications and information company says the political and military crisis in Ukraine is having an adverse effect on its business there. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. said Russia's occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region has caused it and an unidentified Ukranian customer to declare force majeure in regard to a contract for a ground segment project of a communications satellite program. (4/3)

American Exceptionalism (Source: SpaceKSC)
Russian defense minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted: "NASA suspends cooperation with Roscosmos apart from work on the ISS... Yet, apart from over the ISS we didn't cooperate with NASA anyway." If Rogozin is right, then the suspension would appear to be largely symbolic. It also leads me to wonder if someone in the White House sees the crisis as an opportunity to coerce Congress into properly funding commercial crew.

According to the New York Times: "The Obama administration’s decision was made easier by the dwindling nature of the nation’s space program. Grand plans for international space programs have largely withered, as the space shuttle program has ground to an end. 'There’s a sense that we don’t need the space relationships the way we once did,' a senior government scientist said, 'because we don’t have as much going on in space.' "

The authors are fundamentally wrong about a “dwindling” space program... The objective is to create a new economy here in the U.S. based on opening low Earth orbit to the private sector. The U.S. space program isn't NASA. It's NASA plus all its private-sector partners. Editor's Note: OSTP's Richard Dalbello said today that all U.S. agencies were instructed to curtail Russian interactions, not just NASA. The Space Station was exempted. (4/3)

Station Conducts Debris Avoidance Maneuver (Source: NASA)
On Thursday, flight controllers conducted a Debris Avoidance Maneuver to steer the International Space Station clear of orbital debris. Aboard the orbiting complex, the Expedition 39 crew prepared for the departure of a cargo craft Thursday and tackled a variety of experiments, including the checkout of device that incorporates electrical impulses to keep muscles fit in the absence of gravity.

Playing it conservatively, flight controllers conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) Thursday to raise the altitude of the International Space Station by a half-mile and provide an extra margin of clearance from the orbital path of a spent payload deployment mechanism from an old European Ariane 5 rocket. (4/3)

Europe's Earth Observing System Launches from Kourou on Soyuz (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The first spacecraft in a multi-billion dollar fleet of European environmental satellites launched from French Guiana on a Soyuz rocket Thursday to begin supplying global radar coverage for scientists and security institutions to track maritime threats, manage resources and respond to emergencies. (4/3)

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