April 8, 2014

Florida House Approves $75.3 Billion Budget (Source: Miami Herald)
The Florida House of Representatives passed HB 5001, the 2014-2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which totals $75.3 billion. The Florida Senate is expected to take up a rival nearly $75 billion spending plan this week as well. The competing budget plans will then be reconciled by a conference committee of House and Senate members. Lawmakers have until early May to pass a final budget.

Editor's Note: The competing budgets both include tens of millions of dollars for aerospace programs, including spaceport infrastructure, space-related economic development, and space-related education and research projects. (4/8)

Mercury Capsule Shipping Overseas for German Exhibit (Source: Collect Space)
A historic American spacecraft that spent decades sunken under the ocean will soon ship overseas for an exhibition that explores the "space between art and science." Liberty Bell 7, the NASA Mercury capsule that Virgil "Gus" Grissom launched onboard in 1961 to become the second U.S. astronaut to fly in space, will travel this summer from its home at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas to the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn. (4/7)

The Next Big Thing: The Age of Space Tourism Begins (Source: Telegraph)
Could recreational space travel become a commonplace reality within our lifetime? Recent innovations could make it so. Following delays, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic “spaceline” is expected to launch by the end of this year; its first commercial passengers will be hurtled into space for $250,000.

A less publicized and relatively inexpensive alternative is due to begin operations in 2016. That is when the Arizona-based World View Enterprises expects to launch the first World View flights, billed by the company as a “transformative space travel experience”. Forgoing the thrust and distance provided by rockets, the service will instead rely on an immense, high-altitude balloon to lift a pressurised capsule some 100,000ft. (4/7)

Scientists Find Species Which Live Like Life on Mars (Source: Darlington & Stockton Times)
Scientists searching for signs of life on Mars may have made a key discovery while carrying out investigations at a North-East mine. Conditions in Britain’s deepest mine at Boulby, North Yorkshire, are similar to those on Mars – and experts are looking at whether life can exist in the extreme conditions in a £2m research program.

Professor Charles Cockell has found species of micro-organism in the potash mine which are currently being DNA-tested as part of the Mars Analogues for Space Exploration program. It is believed streams of brine run across the surface of Mars which could be teeming with similar microbes. (4/7)

Why There are No Fish on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus (Source: Washington Post)
The solar system is full of desert worlds, ice worlds, gaseous worlds and forbidding hunks of rock, but lately it’s been looking a bit wetter and potentially more congenial to life beyond our own water world. The Cassini spacecraft, which has been exploring the Saturn system for a decade, has provided data suggesting that there’s a Lake Superior-size sea below the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Cassini had already seen plumes of water vapor coming from the south pole of the moon. New data suggest that there’s a reservoir of liquid water underneath roughly 20 miles or so of ice and on top of a rocky core. Which raises obvious questions: Is there life in that cold, dark sea? Maybe even something as frisky as a fish? You wouldn’t want to bet the ranch, or even your aquarium, that there’s any complex life-form there. Microbes are conceivable, though. (4/7)

NASA Photo Captures Strange Bright Light Coming out of Mars (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A NASA camera on Mars has captured what appears to be artificial light emanating outward from the planet's surface. The photo, beamed millions of miles from Mars to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was taken last week, apparently by one of two NASA rovers on the red planet. Although the space agency hasn't issued any official statement yet about the phenomenon, bloggers and NASA enthusiasts have started chiming in. Click here. (4/7)

GLONASS Failure Confirms Urgent Need for Backup (Source: Space Daily)
The world's global positioning industry watched in disbelief on April 2, 2014, as all of the 24 GLONASS satellites that make up Russia's equivalent of the GPS system failed at once. This unprecedented and deeply worrying total disruption of what is one half of the world's operational global navigation satellite constellations shook the industry, and unequivocally confirmed the public warnings that have been voiced for years by Locata Corporation and other prominent industry experts.

The navigation and timing functions of the global positioning systems are integrated into the core of almost every modern technology. Society has come to rely on these technologies as a foundation for global commerce and communication. Everyone has become very familiar with the signals being used for personal applications, such as navigating to an address or finding the closest sushi restaurant.

Yet few understand that satellite navigation and timing signals now underpin the world's banking systems, stock exchanges, digital TV and Internet, cell phone networks, and, in some cases, the national electricity supply. GPS, in particular, plays a crucial role in transportation, shipping, and logistics, serving as the enabling technology for critical functions like air traffic control. Reliability is therefore not just important; it is essential across all applications. (4/8)

China Preps Satellite to Help Detect Quakes (Source: Space Daily)
China's first test satellite for detecting electromagnetic anomalies from space will launch in 2016 in a move that is aimed at improving the country's earthquake monitoring network and moving its seismological science forward. Yuan Shigeng, project manager for the satellite, said the polar-orbiting device will carry eight payloads, including a search-oil magnetometer, electric field detector, energetic particle sensors designed by China and Italy, and a Langmiur probe and plasma analyzer. (4/7)

NASA to Hurt Itself by Cutting Ties with Russia (Source: Voice of Russia)
NASA posted on its Twitter and Facebook accounts a statement announcing the suspension of cooperation with Russia in a move to side with Washington administration's sanctions against Russia. A unilateral decision of NASA to halt cooperation with Russia would be to the detriment only for the American space agency, Alexander Koptev, a NASA representative with the Russian Mission Control Center, said on Thursday. (4/7)

Ukrainian Situation Won't Change Russian-Kazakh Baiterek Project (Source: Space Daily)
The Baiterek space project will not undergo adjustments over the Ukrainian situation, the foreign ministers of Russia and Kazakhstan pledged, the Voice of Russia correspondent Kira Kalinina reports. "We have discussed the issue today in the context of Baikonur as a whole and the Baiterek project. Neither Russia nor Kazakhstan are planning to alter the Baiterek project, including its shift to Zenit launch vehicles," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. (4/7)

USAF Reserve Squadron Temporarily Assumes Command of Nation's Weather Satellites (Source: USAF)
In a lead up to the recent launch of America's 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, or DMSP, spacecraft, Air Force Reservists here took full command and control of the nation's inventory of weather satellites across the globe. The 6th Space Operations Squadron, which provides support to NOAA's DMSP mission as a "hot backup" location, took over the weather satellite mission on April 3. The squadron is expected to maintain operational control of the satellites until April 7. (4/7)

Breakfast in Abu Dhabi, Lunch in LA? That’s Virgin Galactic’s Goal (Source: The National)
The Abu Dhabi-backed space enterprise Virgin Galactic is already looking beyond space tourism and is considering offering point-to-point space travel as a means of drastically reducing long-haul travel times, according to the chief executive George Whitesides. Mr Whitesides said that the company, which is part-owned by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investment, is studying a series of concepts that will slash travel times by offering space flights from spaceports.

“It’s very interesting that the global aerospace industry has not created a Mach 3-5 transport,” he said yesterday on the sidelines of the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi. “I really think that that’s the iceberg, if the tip is our initial group of human space flight customers.” (4/8)

Games Could Help Put Ship on the Moon (Source: Gamasutra)
Game industry veteran Chris Crawford has been selected as one of the three finalists of the Games for Change Festival's Shoot for the Moon design challenge. The contest challenged developers to make a game that could capture real-world data that might be useful to SpaceIL -- a nonprofit organization which seeks to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon -- and drum up player interest in space exploration.

Crawford's pitch, titled Rocket Science, appears to be a straightforward rocket design/launch simulator in the vein of Kerbal Space Program that can be played in a browser. Rocket Science is the only prototype without a public demo -- the other two finalists, Moon Rush and SpaceIL Academy, are playable right now. Both were developed in Unity -- the former by a student team at Ohio State University, the latter by indie studio Theorify. (4/7)

ESA Unlike NASA to Continue Cooperation with Russia (Source: Itar-Tass)
The European Space Agency has no intentions at all of reviewing its space cooperation with Russia, despite the latter’s merger with Crimea and NASA’s recent announcement of pulling out from joint projects with Moscow. NASA’s decision to suspend the majority of space cooperation projects with Russia was accepted not only with bewilderment among Russian space experts, but also drew criticism inside the US space agency as well.

American astronaut Ronald Garan, who was a member of an international crew aboard the ISS in 2011, wrote in particular in his Twitter account that during the crisis, the worst thing to do is to stop talking with each other. (4/8)

Editorial: Journey to Mars Only Possible With International Cooperation (Source: RIA Novosti)
No single country has the resources to carry out an expedition to Mars, but together mankind does have the technological capability required to realize such an endeavor, according to Russian professor Vyacheslav Turyshev. “These tasks cannot be tackled by any single country individually, but if we manage to motivate our respective space agencies and the governments of different countries to start a shared expedition preparation program, then I think we’ll move up the date of the actual flight,” said Turyshev. (4/8)

Sierra Nevada and Houston Airport System Discuss Dream Chaser Partnership (Source: SNC)
Houston Airport System (HAS) and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will host a joint news conference to provide an update on plans to support the Houston Space Port. Media will have the opportunity to speak with HAS officials and SNC’s Dream Chaser® senior leadership, and learn about the potential benefits of any future partnership between HAS and SNC. The Dream Chaser spacecraft has the capability of landing on commercial runways virtually anywhere in the world. Click here. (4/7)

Navy Seeks Sub Replacement Savings: From NASA Rocket Boosters (Source: Breaking Defense)
This is rocket science. As the US Navy tries to keep its crucial 1990-vintage Trident D5 nuclear-capable missile viable for decades to come, it’s working with everyone from the Royal Navy to the US Air Force to NASA to keep costs down and technology up to date. Meanwhile, the design team for the new nuclear missile submarine that will carry those Tridents after 2031 is already down in such low-tech weeds as salvaging launch tube doors from the existing Ohio-class nuclear subs as they retire from service.

“The issue with NASA [is] it takes 10 Trident missiles to make up one Space Shuttle booster,” in terms of the rockets’ relative size, explained Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, Navy director of Strategic Systems Programs, when I asked him about it after his remarks this morning at the massive Sea-Air-Space conference. “So when NASA dropped the Space Shuttle program [in 2011], the industrial base took a significant impact,” the admiral said. There’s no way the Navy’s much smaller demand for nuclear missile boosters can make up for the loss of Space Shuttle booster business.

The viability of the rocket booster industrial base and the affordability of the Navy’s nuclear missiles depends in large part on the decision NASA must make circa 2016 about [whether to use solid rocket boosters on its new heavy-lift rocket]. Benedict and his staff are “working closely” with NASA, but ultimately it’s not the Navy’s decision to make. (4/7)

Finding Profits on the Final Frontier (Source: Investing Daily)
Looking for new growth opportunities in an overbought market? Look to the stars. When seeking aerospace plays, investors tend to focus on the commercial or military aircraft segments and ignore the satellite industry. However, the accelerating commercialization of outer space for navigation and telecommunications should afford continued growth for the companies that develop, build and operate satellites.

This 21st century space race makes satellite leader DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI) a compelling long-term play on both technology and aerospace. Colorado-based DigitalGlobe owns and operates a constellation of satellites that provide high-resolution space imagery and geospatial content to commercial and military customers. (4/7)

Progress Spacecraft, Undocked from ISS, to Function as Temporary Science Lab (Source: Itar-Tass)
The resupply spacecraft Progress M-21M will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday and set out on a "free flight." "The spacecraft's undocking is scheduled for 17:58, Moscow time. In a period from April 13 to 18 a Radar-Progress experiment will be performed by means of the spacecraft. Later on, the Progress spacecraft will be deorbited and dumped in a non-navigable area of the Pacific Ocean,"the FCC official related. (4/7)

Russian Export Sanction Would Hurt Sea Launch, ILS, Maybe Arianespace (Source: Aviation Week)
With Moscow consolidating its hold on Crimea, the U.S. State Department is suspending approval of defense exports to Russia, a move that could prevent the launch of U.S. commercial communications satellites on Russian rockets. “State will continue this practice until further notice,” the department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) said in a March 27 announcement on its website.

DDTC export licenses are required to launch U.S. satellites—or foreign-built satellites containing U.S. components controlled by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)—on Russian launch vehicles. If the ban on issuing such licenses remains in effect, the effects would be felt most immediately by International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., and Sea Launch International of Nyon, Switzerland; ILS markets launches on Russian Proton vehicles, while Sea Launch manages flights on Russia’s Zenit launcher.

“ILS will have trouble getting new programs started now under the current freeze,” a launch industry source said. However, the hold could potentially affect Soyuz launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, where European launch consortium Arianespace manages commercial launches of the four-stage, medium-lift Russian rocket. (4/7)

Will The Pentagon’s Secret Space Plane Ever Return to Earth? (Source: Daily Beast)
Nearly 500 days into its mission, the Pentagon still won’t say what its drone space shuttle is doing in orbit, or when it might come back. The Air Force’s secret space plane has been up in orbit for nearly 500 days—a space endurance record. But nearly a year and a half into the mission, the Pentagon still won’t say what the X-37B is doing up there, or when it might come back.  

The U.S. Air Force boosted the robotic X-37B atop the nose of an Atlas-5 rocket in December 2012. Since then it’s orbited the Earth thousands of times, overflying such interesting places as North Korea and Iran. Similar to the Space Shuttle in appearance, the diminutive X-37B is about a quarter the size of the old shuttles. But there are major differences. Lacking a crew, the spacecraft has no cockpit windows. The X-37B has a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed. (4/7)

Mikulski: NASA’s 2015 Budget Will Be No Worse than Flat (Source: Space News)
Although the White House has proposed cutting NASA’s 2015 budget by $185 million, the U.S. space agency won’t lose a single dollar next year if the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee gets her way. “My goal for NASA is to make sure we’re at least at the 2014 level,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) told the Maryland Space Business Roundtable during an April 7 luncheon here. “And if we can find more money I will take you above that. We’re not going to go backward.” (4/7)

Millennium Space Systems Opens New Factory in California (Source: Space News)
Small-satellite manufacturer Millennium Space Systems has opened a new 6,300-square-meter headquarters facility in El Segundo, Calif., that will combine engineering, manufacturing and operations activities that previously were carried out at two separate sites, the company announced March 31. (4/7)

Space Cooperation: A Vital New Front for India-U.S. Relations (Source: Space News)
Indian scientists preparing to launch their Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in November 2013 received an usual message — “lucky peanuts” from scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL scientists bring a jar of peanuts to mission countdown — a tradition that goes back to the 1960s, when NASA had multiple mission failures in its Ranger lunar probes. During the launch of Ranger 7, someone in mission control was eating peanuts and passing the container around.

The mission finally was a success and the credit went to those peanuts. NASA was sharing its tradition with the Indian Space Research Organization when it posted a message on ISRO’s MOM Facebook page saying, “Good luck peanuts from NASA to ISRO!” “Go MOM!” and “Dare Mighty Things.”

The message showcases the recent elevated U.S. interest in India’s space program and the growing cooperation between the two space agencies. India’s earlier Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, had two instruments from the United States: the Mini Synthetic Aperture Radar from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an imaging spectrometer from Brown University and JPL. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper sensor was used in determining the existence of water molecules on the lunar surface. (4/7)

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