May 12, 2014

Replacing the RD-180 (Source: Space Review)
The RD-180 engine used by the Atlas V is technically very good, but its Russian origins have become problematic from a policy standpoint in recent months. Jeff Foust reports on recent court action involving imports of the engine and studies to either develop a domestic production of the engine or develop an American-designed replacement. Visit to view the article. (5/12)

Red Planet Dreams (Source: Space Review)
Last week, British planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, best known as the principal investigator on the failed Beagle 2 Mars lander, passed away. Dwayne Day looks back at Pillinger and his controversial role on the ill-fated mission. Visit to view the article. (5/12)

Remembrances of Conferences Past (Source: Space Review)
Later this week space professionals and advocates with gather in Los Angeles for the NSS's annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC). Jeff Foust takes a page -- literally -- from history by looking at the proceedings of an ISDC held nearly thirty years ago to see what's changed and what hasn't. Visit to view the article. (5/12)

Building a Bridge to Space Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
A long-running challenge to the concept of space-based solar power is the high costs inherent in generating it versus terrestrial alternatives. David Dunlop and Al Anzaldua examine approaches to develop key technologies and address the cost issue through a stepping-stone approach. Visit to view the article. (5/12)

Race to Colonize Space Includes Indians (Source: Live Mint)
Forty-four Indians were shortlisted last week by Mars One, which aims to send four people on a one-way trip to Mars in batches beginning in 2024. The non-governmental organization aims to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet as crews of four will depart every two years. They will start with an unmanned mission in 2018 after which Mars One will send a demonstration mission, communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions to establish living conditions before the astronauts leave earth.

India too is taking steps towards human space exploration, even if they are small ones. In July, ISRO will carry out an experimental launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III with the capability to launch 4.5 to 5 tonnes weight. The GSLV will also be testing the crew module which could eventually carry astronauts to space. But the crew module testing is still at a very nascent stage. (5/12)

Georgia Students Win Team America Rocketry Challenge (Source: AIA)
Students from Creekview High School of Canton, Ga. outperformed hundreds of their peers from across the country Saturday to earn first place at the twelfth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). TARC is the world’s largest student rocket contest and the aerospace and defense industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to pursue study and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). (5/10)

KT Sat Picks Thales Alenia Over Orbital Sciences for Two-Satellite Order (Source: Space News)
Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy will build two telecommunications satellites for KT Sat, the satellite operating division of KT Corp. of South Korea. After a long dry spell for Thales Alenia Space in the geostationary-orbiting commercial satellite sector, the company bested a crowded field of competitors that, in the end, came down to a two-way battle with Orbital Sciences Corp. (5/12)

Northrop Could Bring Bomber Work to Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush to learn more about the company's newly announced plans to design the military's new long-range bomber at an expanded facility in Brevard County. Nelson told reporters Friday the Air Force is expected to award a contract for its new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) "within a year" to either Northrop Grumman or a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. (5/12)

A Multi-Billion Dollar Military Satellite Market (Source: Space Daily)
A new research report by Euroconsult provides a comprehensive analysis of the how and why of the military's usage of satellite communications, which saw tremendous growth over the past 15 years. Satellite capacity usage by the U.S. DoD has increased fivefold over 2000-2012 to over 10GHz, primarily driven by the two large conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report, Military Satellite Communications, covers one of the commercial satellite operators' key markets. Commercial satellites supply approximately 70% of the capacity now used for military satellite communications worldwide.

Beyond operators, the increasing use of satellite communications has nurtured an entire ecosystem of players along the Milsatcom value chain including satellite service providers, terminal and antenna manufacturers, satellite manufacturers, and system integrators, transforming military satellite communications into a multi-billion dollar industry. (5/11)

Russia Launches Military Satellite Into Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
Russia on Tuesday launched a carrier rocket from its northern Plesetsk space center to put a military satellite in orbit, the Defense Ministry said. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying a classified military satellite lifted off on schedule at 5.49 p.m. Moscow time. (5/11)

Russia to Train Iranian Cosmonauts, Build Recon Sats (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and Iran have reportedly signed a secret deal on wide cooperation in space exploration, ranging from training Iranian cosmonauts in Russia to possible production of Earth observation and telecommunication satellites for Iran. The alleged deal was boosted by the West's sanctions targeting Russia in retaliation for its position on the Ukrainian crisis.

The satellite part of the agreement is of greatest interest for Tehran. Russia pledged to provide sample images of earth gathered by its Resurs-DK and Resurs-P satellites, which allow taking photos with resolution up to 70 cm per pixel, Izvestia said citing the text of the protocol it obtained. Iranians plan to build domestic communication stations capable of receiving information from the Russian constellation of satellites.

Russia may also provide its facilities and expertise to help Iran with its manned space exploration program. "The Iranian side is preparing a request for training of cosmonauts, to which the Russian side will respond with an offer in a matter of a month." Ironically, if Russia does train Iranians to go to space, it would be done at the same site where NASA astronauts are trained before taking a trip to the International Space Station. (5/12)

Air Traffic System Failure Caused by Computer Memory Shortage (Source: Reuters)
A common design problem in the U.S. air traffic control system made it possible for a U-2 spy plane to spark a computer glitch that recently grounded or delayed hundreds of Los Angeles area flights, according to an inside account and security experts. In theory, the same vulnerability could have been used by an attacker in a deliberate shut-down, the experts said, though two people familiar with the incident said it would be difficult to replicate the exact conditions.

The error blanked out a broad swath of the southwestern United States, from the West Coast to western Arizona and from southern Nevada to the Mexico border. As aircraft flew through the region, the $2.4 billion system made by Lockheed Martin Corp, cycled off and on trying to fix the error, triggered by a lack of altitude information in the U-2's flight plan, according to the sources.

Editor's Note: The same thing could happen with suborbital and orbital spaceflight vehicles flying at super high velocities at and above the boundaries of the National Airspace System. (5/12)

Researchers Send Experiments to Tap Zero Gravity’s Potential (Source: Washington Post)
Get ready for the rodents in outer space to outnumber the humans. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is increasingly green-lighting research projects for the International Space Station. The organization expects that the unique conditions of outer space could lead to research breakthroughs. The organization approved 28 projects in 2013 and expects to launch more this year. In 2011 it began managing the U.S. lab on the International Space Station for NASA. Click here. (5/9)

West Antarctic Glacier Loss Appears Unstoppable (Source: NASA)
A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica "have passed the point of no return," according to Eric Rignot. (5/12)

Suborbital Science (Source: CaseyStedman)
The emerging space tourism industry has already given rise to a spin-off market for hosting scientific payloads.  Companies that are developing space vehicles to fly wealthy adventurers to the edge of space will also be capable of carrying experiments- even research specialists- in place of passengers.  Opportunities to to fly meaningful science into space may soon become commonplace. Click here. (5/5)

Is a Google-Virgin Galactic Deal in the Works? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Overt the past month, Virgin Galactic conducted a series of Google Hangouts about its space tourism program in conjunction with the Google Science Fair. One hangout featured VG Vice President William Pomerantz and Richard Branson’s son, Sam; a second had three engineers live from The Spaceship Company’s FAITH hangar in Mojave, Calif; and a third featured two ticket holders who will be aboard future SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism flights.

On Friday, the Internet colossus returned the favor by sending Megan Smith of Google[x] — the company’s secretive advanced research unit — to participate in a Virgin Disruptors panel discussion on innovation that was also streamed as a Google Hangout. So, four Google hangouts that promoted both companies. That doesn’t sound like much, you say. In and by itself, it’s not. But, my sources tell me there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. (5/12)

Texas College Considers Training Programs for SpaceX, ULA (Source: Morning Valley Star)
Texas State Technical College is training local students to one day join the skilled workforce of aerospace giants.
TSTC-Harlingen already has plenty of training programs that could fill the needs of companies like SpaceX, which is proposing to build a launch site at Boca Chica Beach, and United Launch Alliance, which for many years has had a large facility in Harlingen.

For TSTC students, the prospect of having such companies in the area means opportunity. TSTC officials say the college is prepared to custom-design whatever programs might be needed to meet market’s needs. “If SpaceX does locate down here, we already have the programs in place to complement whatever Harlingen already has,” said Mike Reeser, chancellor of the TSTC system. (5/11)

SpaceX Launch Date Uncertain Due to Range Crowding (Source: Lurio Report)
What could have been a minor slip in the SpaceX Orbcomm launch date seems to have turned into a major one, with the presently foreseen next chance in late May. That’s because of two other scheduled flights from the Cape and the cycling times required for them. Is this any way to run a spaceport?  Space launch range capabilities have remained truly antediluvian; SpaceX’s hoped-for third launch site and other dedicated commercial locations can only provide considerable improvements. (5/12)

Will A Suit By SpaceX Get Off The Ground? (Source: NPR)
An Atlas V costs anywhere between $100 to $300 million more to launch (depending on who you ask) than a Falcon 9. So why has the U.S. Air Force just signed a contract to buy dozens of rockets like the Atlas V from a single supplier? That question is at the heart of a pitched legal battle between the makers of the two rockets. ULA's Michael Gass says that it's not uncommon for the government to pay a single company for a big ticket item. "Submarines, airplanes, tankers, you name the large programs and it typically gets down to one sole source supplier," he says.

In the case of rockets, a lot of it comes down to the rules: Military satellites can be delicate, expensive things, and so there are lots of rules about the rockets that launch them. For example, the rockets used for national security launches must have exceptional vibration isolation to protect their payloads from shaking too much on the way up.

The rules actually created the monopoly. It used to be that two companies competed to launch the military and spy satellites. But Gass of ULA says getting both of the launch firms to operate at the exacting standard of the Air Force was actually costing the government more. Click here. (5/12)

Living In Space 4: Mental Wellbeing and Day To Day Living (Source: Space Safety)
While asteroids and radiation are truly some of the biggest challenges we face in human expansion into space, there is one often overlooked aspect that could be of even greater importance – the Human Element.  A community of thousands would live among the largest of these colonies, and their day-to-day lives would have to be one of the most important considerations in such an endeavor.

Even the smaller colonies, the asteroid mining camps and construction housing, would require a large number of people to live together in an incredibly harsh environment for a long period of time. Space may sound like an exciting place, and while the splendor it provides is beyond compare, there is also crushing isolation, being cut off from friends and family, and the constant reminder of danger lurking just outside the protection of your small home. Space can be scary. Click here. (5/12)

Milky Way Galaxy's Magnetic 'Fingerprints' Revealed In New Map (Source: Huffington Post)
Scientists using a European space telescope have created the best map yet of our Milky Way galaxy's magnetic field, a set of cosmic "fingerprints" that may lead to better understanding of how stars form, researchers say. The magnetic map of the Milky Way was stitched together from observations from the European Space Agency's Planck space observatory. The Planck map shows how specially-oriented polarized light is emitted from interstellar dust. Click here. (5/12)

Editorial: Mars One - Our Destiny in Space or an Insane Pipe Dream? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It’s hard to believe that such an audacious and daring mission was conceived and is being executed in today’s cynical, timid, profit-minded world, yet the Mars One team is dead serious, and has had more than 78,000 applicants registered in just the first two weeks of the selection program. Are the Mars One team bold pioneers of a new era of space colonization, or are they crazy?

For certainly the odyssey of the Mars One astronauts will garner continuous news coverage in 2024 via whatever instant media is available at that time. What, then, will be the consequences to the world if the mission fails? Time may prove Mars uninhabitable; the colony may get off to a great start and then suffer one malfunction after another and slowly wither away and die.

Or it may succeed. We may witness the long-delayed, but much-anticipated reawakening of the dream of the conquest of space, and see Mars become a thriving sister world within our lifetimes. Even if the people of Earth lose their nerve, the Mars colonists will be prepared to live on their own without their mother planet. (5/12)

Astronomers Find First Sibling of the Sun (Source: SEN)
A team of researchers has identified for the first time a star directly related to the Sun, one almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust. The find will help astronomers look for other solar siblings. It could lead to an understanding of how and where our Sun formed, and how our Solar System became hospitable for life. “We want to know where we were born,” Ivan Ramirez said. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the Sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”

Additionally, there is a chance, “small, but not zero,” Ramirez said, that these solar siblings could host planets that harbor life. In their earliest days within their birth cluster, he explains, collisions could have knocked chunks off of planets, and these fragments could have traveled between solar systems, and perhaps even may have been responsible for bringing primitive life to Earth. “So it could be argued that solar siblings are key candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life,” Ramirez said. (5/10)

Drones on Display at Spaceport (Source: Bay News 9)
Drones are on display Sunday at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport during a one-of-a-kind demonstration. It's all ahead of a massive tradeshow in Orlando this week about unmanned aerial systems. Space Florida said that as soon as the FAA comes out with some rules for drones, the flood gates will open with more drones in the skies above us. And they want drone technology to grow here in Florida, too.

"It's a huge potential opportunity, and Space Florida's job as the state's aerospace economic development entity is designed to help foster the growth of that industry throughout the state,"said Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida. The FAA estimates that in the next five years, 7,500 drones could be flying in U.S. airspace at any given time. (5/11)

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