April 7, 2014

What's in a Code? Putting Space Development First (Source: Space Review)
While a code of conduct for outer space activities has the backing of governments in the Europe and the US, there's less support of the proposed code among Asian governments. Peter Garretson examines what issues are impeding the code in Asia and how a greater emphasis on space development could garner greater support for it there. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2487/1 to view the article. (4/7)

Symbolism and Substance in US-Russian Space Relations (Source: Space Review)
NASA made headlines last week when it announced it was suspending cooperation with Russia, with the notable and very large exception of International Space Station operations. Jeff Foust examines how much of an effect that ban will really have versus its symbolic effect in an era of tense US-Russian relations. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2486/1 to view the article. (4/7)

Competing Forums: an Asteroid or the Moon? (Source: Space Review)
While some people believe that the next destination for humans beyond Earth orbit should be a return to the Moon, NASA is working instead on a human mission to a captured near Earth asteroid. Tom Chinick discusses how advancing capabilities in the commercial sector could allow human exploration and development of both. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2485/1 to view the article. (4/7)

Dennis Tito's "Spaceship to Everywhere" May be a Dead-End for NASA (Source: Space Review)
Dennis Tito, the former space tourist now backing a proposal for a human Mars flyby mission, recently spoke out in favor of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion to carry out that and other missions. Rick Boozer argues that flaws with SLS/Orion could doom its use for Inspiration Mars and more. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2484/1 to view the article. (4/7)

Europa on the Cheap (Source: Space Review)
NASA's 2015 budget proposal included, for the first time, a small amount of funding to support studies of a proposed mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA leadership may finally be warming to a mission that already has support among many in the scientific community as well as in Congress, it's also seeking ways to do that mission less expensively. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2483/1 to view the article. (4/7)

FAA Orders Search-and-Rescue Firm to Stop Using Drones (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a Texas firm that deploys drones for volunteer search-and-rescue missions to cease the use of drones. Tim Miller, the founder of Texas EquuSearch, said drones "save a tremendous amount of time" in searches for missing persons, a situation where time is of paramount importance. An attorney for Texas EquuSearch said the firm plans to sue in federal court if the FAA fails to rescind its order. (4/6)

Makers in Space: What Was Old Is New Again (Source: Make)
In 2010 we first  presented readers with a glimpse of the start of a new “Maker” era of space satellite development. This new era was being driven by the invention of smaller and smaller “CubeSats” and the realization that compact, high-powered computers and sensors such as those found in smartphones were providing incredible new opportunities for the development of satellites.

It is now 2014, and the space satellite is still firmly in the hands of the maker community. During these four years, satellites made of smartphone parts and even Arduinos have flown and burned up on fiery reentry to earth. New companies now exist to accept makers’ payloads and launch them into space. Today, multiple fleets of satellites stand ready to be deployed in constellations never before dreamed of being possible, much less affordable.

Even with the advent of inexpensive technology ‘repurposed’ for satellite development, space exploration is still hard and it is still expensive. Some DIY satellite developers have been able to leverage crowdfunding platforms to help overcome the financial barriers to entry, a fact that has not gone by unnoticed by the venture capital community seeking to turn these makers’ projects into the next big profitable investments. Click here. (4/7)

New Experimental Permit Measure Introduced in Congress (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (R-NM) has introduced a measure that would allow experimental permits issued for commercial reusable launch vehicles to remain active after a launch license is issued for the vehicles. Currently, the experimental permits are no longer valid after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a launch or re-entry license. This arrangement makes it more difficult for companies to flight test vehicles and make changes in them.

The proposed measure also broadens the definition of what is covered from “suborbital rocket design” to “suborbital rocket or rocket design.” Heinrich’s bill is similar to the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced in the House in December. McCarthy’s measure, which also includes “a demonstration project…to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities,” is currently before the House Subcommittee on Space. (4/7)

Orion Avionics System Ready for First Test Flight (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Testing of the Orion spacecraft’s avionics system has concluded at the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Operations & Checkout facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After powering on and sending commands to more than 20 different critical systems installed on the spacecraft’s crew module, NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers have verified the avionics for Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) are ready to support a successful flight and re-entry of the spacecraft.

Following the initial power on of the Vehicle Main Computer in October, engineers have since methodically installed additional harnessing, wiring and electronics onto the crew module—completing the avionics system that serves as the eyes, ears and brains of the spacecraft. During these tests, engineers one-by-one activated and sent commands to the pyrotechnics, batteries, thermal control, cameras, guidance and navigation, propulsion, and environmental control life support systems, all while evaluating signal quality, on-board system responses, and data production. (4/7)

Living in Space: Radiation (Source: Space Safety)
As we push toward a space settlement future, some of the earliest safety questions will regard deadly radiation. How will people live safely in space for extended periods of time amidst the ocean of cosmic rays that surrounds our planet and permeates space beyond the protective bubble of Earth’s magnetosphere? What methods of protection will the people living and working in space colonies need, and how capable are we of providing those protections now?

Surprisingly, the question of radiation is a relatively short term one. It is thought that around six feet of soil or around two meters of water works as an effective radiation shield[1], and the citizens of a large scale space colony would have a great deal more mass than that between them and the invisible rays bombarding their home. The risk of radiation is one that the earliest pioneers would have to face: the asteroid miners, construction workers, and architects working and living in the orbital equivalent of pre-fab offices and living spaces. Click here. (4/7)

NASA Offers World’s First Wind Tunnel for Engine-icing Tests (Source: AIN Online)
Scientists in the propulsion system laboratory (PSL) at NASA’s Glenn research center in Cleveland, Ohio, have developed a test facility that can recreate high-altitude engine icing, a long-awaited capability that should equip the aviation industry to tackle a poorly understood hazard. The researchers have adapted a variable-pressure wind tunnel that was capable of simulating altitude for engine tests and modified it to generate ice crystals at simulated altitudes up to 40,000 feet and airspeeds up to Mach 0.8.

The modified test chamber can lower temperatures to -60 degrees F (-51 degrees C). As part of the process, water is introduced via spray bars that allow the researchers to control the size and amount of ice in a “cloud” it creates. The ice particles generated are spherical frozen droplets, said Dr. Judith Foss Van Zante, icing engineering technical lead. (4/5)

2014 Sacknoff Prize for Space History (Source: Lanius's Blog)
First awarded in 2011, the annual prize is designed to encourage students to perform original research and submit papers with history of spaceflight themes. The winner receives a $300 cash prize, a trophy, and the possible publication in the journal, Quest: The History of Spaceflight. It is open to undergraduate and graduate level students enrolled at an accredited college or university. Click here. (4/7)

Teams Study Solar Array Snag on Air Force Weather Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Engineers are studying a problem that caused the power-generating solar array on a newly-launched U.S. military weather satellite to only partially deploy, but officials said Friday the anomaly has so far not affected operations of the polar-orbiting spacecraft. The $518 million satellite was successfully boosted into orbit from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Thursday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
The satellite apparently hit a snag in one of its first post-launch tasks when it unfurled its solar array.

Kathryn Sullivan, administrator of NOAA, said Friday that controllers were sorting out a problem with the solar array boom. "It's about 30 degrees shy of full deploy on the solar array boom, but we're not working that as a contingency, so we'll see how that goes," Sullivan told the National Research Council's Space Studies Board on Friday. (4/7)

Alone in the Cosmos (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)
In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, in which he revived the ancient Greek speculation that Earth did not sit motionless at the center of creation but, instead, orbited the Sun. Our cosmic self-esteem has been in decline ever since. Within decades of the publication of Copernicus’s book, it was almost commonplace, although dangerous, to speculate that the Sun was an ordinary star and that planetary systems orbited other stars too.

Four hundred years later, in the mid-20th century, we demoted our planet even further as we came to realize that our galaxy of a quarter-trillion stars or more was merely one "island universe" among billions. And now, thanks to NASA’s Kepler telescope, 2014 will go down in history as the year we finally knew for sure that most stars harbor planetary systems of their own. Click here. (4/7) 

California Startup Launches Art Exhibit in Space (Source: Bold Italic)
For a startup founded by three ex-NASA scientists, you’d think its biggest feat to date would be launching 28 small satellites that are currently orbiting the Earth. But the SOMA-based firm Planet Labs is responsible for an equally remarkable accomplishment — putting one of the first art exhibits of its kind in outer space. Click here. (4/7)

How to Target NASA $2B Opportunity (Source: Washington Technology)
NASA offers among the best opportunities for technology sales in the federal marketplace at the moment, with a considerable budget for technology. Navigating that organization, however, can be a challenge worthy of a rocket scientist. NASA’s fiscal 2014 IT budget was around $1.44 billion, a figure fairly similar to their 2013 levels of $1.43 billion. That seems to be a solid chunk of change – but it doesn’t tell the whole NASA story. Click here. (4/7)

Space Superiority Remains Vital to National Security (Source: USAF)
Gen. William Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, highlighted a successful satellite launch to the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces during a budget hearing for national security space activities here, April 3. “Just this morning, we had a very successful Defense Meteorological Satellite Program launch out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, (Calif.), on an Atlas V,” Shelton said.

He stressed the importance of space, not only to those on American soil, but to the warfighters of partner nations. “It underpins DOD capabilities worldwide,” he said. “It enables U.S. global operations to be executed with precision, on a worldwide basis, with reduced resources, fewer deployed troops, lower casualties, and decreased collateral damage. Space empowers both our forces and those of our allies to win faster, and bring more of our warfighters home safely.”

Satellite launches, like the one at Vandenberg AFB, and units like Joint Forces Component Command for Space, provide the various capabilities necessary to maintain space superiority now, and in the future, officials said. DOD and AF leaders agree the key to a successful space program, and an enduring advantage in space is innovation, as well as the appropriate budget to accomplish mission requirements. (4/7)

For Space Projects, Zero Gravity (Source: New York Times)
Opportunity, NASA’s resilient rover, just keeps rolling across Mars even though it landed a decade ago. It has survived mechanical malfunctions, computer glitches, tricky sand traps, ferocious dust storms and long, frigid Martian winters. But maybe not the budget ax. The Obama administration’s baseline budget proposal for the fiscal year 2015 has an ominously low number for Opportunity: $0. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, now circling the moon, also crashes to zero in the budget proposal.

This spring, they and five other long-lived robotic missions are up for what the space agency calls a “senior review” to ensure that they are still producing enough science to justify the cost of continued operations. Proposals are due on Friday, with decisions coming in June. But planetary scientists are asking whether the budget numbers suggest that NASA has already written off the two spacecraft. Click here. (4/7)

Colorado Scientist Gets NASA Grant to Study Twins Scott and Mark Kelly (Source: The Gazette)
A Colorado State University health researcher has received a NASA grant for a radiation study in which the subjects will be one twin in space and his brother back on earth. In an announcement Monday, the university said the project by Susan Bailey is among 10 to receive NASA funding to measure the impact of space travel on the human body. The associate professor in CSU's Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences received $150,000 from NASA.

Bailey's research focuses on chromosomal features called telomeres that protect the body from the cancer-causing effects of radiation. Radiation is a concern during space flight. Starting next March, Scott Kelly will spend a year on the space station, while his brother Mark remains on earth. (4/7)

NASA Pushes Spinoffs From Asteroid Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
No one ever went broke raising the fear level in Washington. All you need is a credible Red Menace, organized-crime Mob or jihadist terror cell, and Congress will have little choice but to throw money at it until it goes away. In fear-mongering circles, few threats can top extinction-level events—witness the treasure spent on strategic nuclear deterrence during the Cold War. But so far NASA and its backers on Capitol Hill haven't gotten much traction raising the fear level on a demonstrated planetary life-ender—the impact and aftermath of an asteroid collision.

Scientists are pretty sure that a space rock at least 10 km (6 mi.) across slammed into Earth 66 million years ago, lowering the curtain on the Cretaceous era and the terrestrial dinosaurs that had thrived in it. Impacts may have caused earlier mass die-offs; the evidence is less clear. A few years back a small coterie of politicos in Congress and at NASA got the bright idea that “planetary” defense would sell as well as the regular kind, so the asteroid redirect mission (ARM) concept was born. (4/7)

Space Exploration and the iPad Are a Match Made in Gaming Heaven (Source: WIRED)
Two fantastic things have happened to one of the best space-captain simulators on the market. First, FTL: Faster Than Light launched its Advanced Edition, a free update that adds a plethora of new content. Second, you can now get the game on iPad. FTL is a space-exploration roguelike for PC, Mac, and Linux.

You control a single ship and a crew tasked with outrunning an enemy fleet on a randomly generated series of star systems as you attempt to deliver critical intel to your allies. Originally Kickstarted for $200,000, most of the game plays out through ship-to-ship combat where you control weapon, defensive, and support systems by moving your crew throughout the vessel. (4/7)

Editorial: U.K. Proposal To End Satellite Insurance Tax is Right Thing To Do (Source: Space News)
The UK’s proposal to end an insurance tax currently levied on domestic satellite operators is concrete evidence that London is making good on promises to create a more business-friendly environment for the commercial space industry. Currently, companies like Avanti Communications are required to pay a 6% tax on satellite and launch insurance premiums. That might not sound like a lot, but insurance typically is the third-largest expense, behind satellites and launch vehicles, that these operators incur.

So if, for example, a company takes out a $300 million insurance policy on an upcoming launch, the premium might be 6 percent, or $18 million. The tax on that comes out to about $1 million, which for a company the size of Avanti is a significant expense. What’s more, comparable industries including commercial aviation and shipping are already exempted from the Insurance Premium Tax.  Given that, it seems a bit unfair and arbitrary that satellite operators are not. The barriers to entry in the satellite business are high enough without the tax. (4/7)

U.S. Should Take a Cold, Hard Look at Space Code of Conduct (Source: Space News)
The International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which succeeded the European Union code of conduct and was publicly released as a draft in September 2013, represents an evolution from the original EU code of conduct. The EU code was rejected by the US for several reasons, including national security concerns, but even though the code of conduct has been substantially overhauled it still does not offer the United States tangible benefits and potentially places greater burdens and restrictions on the US.

The issue of space debris is a substantial focus of the code. Section 4 focuses specifically on the issue and would require a subscribing state to refrain from actions that could create space debris, to take appropriate measures to minimize collisions and to implement the UN Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, which were endorsed by the UN in General Assembly Resolution 62/217 in 2007. Considering the impact and potential future threat of space debris, this a valid set of principles to abide by.

The US unquestionably has contributed significantly to the current space debris environment; however, the US has also led the way in space debris mitigation. NASA was the first space agency in the world to develop orbital debris mitigation guidelines in 1995 and two years later developed Orbital Debris Mitigation Practices. Click here. (4/7)

Mars on Earth? Planned Titusville Attraction Simulates Red Planet (Source: Bay News 9)
In an area known for theme parks, here comes a new one that’s out of this world. A Florida-based company is now aiming to build a Mars-themed land in Brevard County. “It will be the largest simulated Mars environment in the world,” said Mark Homnick, President of 4Frontiers Corporation. “It’s over 22,000 square feet and there will be a Mars yard there where they can experience the surface of Mars.”

New Port Richey-based 4Frontiers Corporation is devoted to settling Mars. Nearly a decade ago, Homnick and his team assembled 70 researchers, scientists and engineers to develop the technology required to settle the red planet. “We feel we even know more about it than NASA,” said Homnick. While they do want to go to Mars, the company decided in the meantime they should apply that technology to create a Martian landscape here on earth, and allow a limited number of guests to live and stay in the indoor Mars yard.

They call it Interspace Florida. “Some of the guests can even elect to stay for several days on the surface,” said Homnick. “And they will be a settler, they’ll live and work just like a settler so they can experience life in the early space frontier, on Mars.” The company’s subsidiary, NewSpace Center, LLC is just $10 million shy of its $80 million goal to begin construction on phase one, which will be located near I95 at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. (4/6)

Challenger Center Welcomes New Board Members (Source: Challenger Center)
Officials with Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) today announced three new members to its board of directors. Virginia “Ginger” Barnes of The Boeing Company, Dr. W. Michael Hawes of Lockheed Martin and international best-selling author, Kevin J. Anderson. (4/2)

Chairman Smith Responds to NASA's Bolden on Mars Flyby Mission (Source: Rep. Lamar Smith)
“In comments before the National Academies, Administrator Bolden today misrepresented a Mars Flyby 2021 mission.  The Administrator indicated that a Mars Flyby is not a worthy stepping stone to an eventual Mars landing because it doesn’t demonstrate technologies. That is factually incorrect. Experts have testified that a Mars Flyby mission would utilize the Space Launch System, architecture that will be central to a Mars landing."

"He further contended that the Obama administration’s proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is a better stepping stone to Mars. However, the administration has not provided any details of how it fits into a larger exploration roadmap. The ARM mission lacks support from the stakeholder community and NASA’s own advisory bodies. It is a mission without a realistic budget, without a destination and without a certain launch date." (4/3)

Asteroid Strike! Asteroid Mining! Will the Air Force Have a Role? (Source: ASPJ)
In 2008 Doug Kaupa and I wrote an article for Air and Space Power Journal that laid out potential roles for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Air Force regarding planetary defense. We followed a tradition of Airmen before us who did some of the most important thinking on the subject. A visionary Air Force of two decades ago foresaw a future role and mission of protecting planet Earth.

I hosted the first multiagency “war game” designed to determine how the US government might realistically attempt to deflect an impending asteroid strike. Participants included the National Security Council, Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, NASA, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Missile Defense Agency, Coast Guard, and Department of Homeland Security.

I laid out in an internal memorandum Air Force equities and potential organizational implications of the service’s role in planetary defense. I argued that the mission was highly consonant with our other war-fighting requirements (space situational awareness [SSA] and space control) and that it would offer the Air Force a deep-space mission which would create requirements advancing propulsion, proximity operations, and noncooperative capture. Click here. (4/6)

Palazzo Threatens to Cut “Costly and Complex Distractions” From NASA’s Budget (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) has released a rather ominous statement in which he uses frayed relations between the United States and Russia to take a hatchet to NASA’s budget. It includes this phrase: "Only when the budget has been stripped of costly and complex distractions will it once again reflect the priorities of the sole government agency tasked with space exploration." What could those distractions be? Click here. (4/6)

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