May 13, 2014

Russian Engine Denial: Impact for NASA, Commercial Users? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Russia's decision to bar the export of RD-180 and NK-33 engines for U.S. military use will certainly affect U.S. Air Force plans, but the impact on non-military Atlas-5 and Antares missions is unclear. With a 'two-year inventory' of RD-180s in hand, ULA and the Air Force might begin shifting Atlas-5 payloads onto Delta-4 (and Falcon-9?) rockets to prolong the inventory for national security missions.

Meanwhile, ULA can continue to buy the engines for Atlas-5 NASA and commercial missions (including Commercial Crew). And Orbital ATK is already looking at alternatives to replacing the NK-33 engines used for Antares and seems likely to opt for ATK solid rocket motors.(5/13)

Four Shuttle Engines Selected for SLS Maiden Flight (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The four RS-25 engines selected for the debut launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) are veteran Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) with a rich history of successful flight. The four engines will be delivered to the Michoud Assembly Facility in the second half of 2015, ahead of being installed on the core stage of the Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) SLS. (5/13)

Russia Plans Closure of GPS Ground Stations (Source: Reuters)
Beginning in June, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would suspend operation of the 11 GPS ground stations on its territory. Rogozin said Russia seeks talks with Washington on opening similar sites in the United States for Russia's own satellite navigation system, Glonass. He threatened the permanent closure of the GPS sites in Russia if that is not agreed by September. (5/13)

Australian University Uses NASA Images to Protect Reef (Source: Economic Times)
Researchers at James Cook University in Australia are using images from NASA satellites to help protect the fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. "Despite technical challenges, satellite time series provide the spatial and long-term window necessary for understanding water quality variability inside Great Barrier Reef coastal waters, and provide the baseline information to assess changes to important ecosystems, such as sea-grass beds," said researcher Caroline Petus, Ph.D. (5/13)

China to Deter Unauthorized Use of Radio Frequency (Source: Space Daily)
Chinese individuals and organizations involved in unauthorized use of radio frequency and satellite resources will be subject to severe punishment, according to a draft regulation released by authorities on Tuesday. The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council published the draft amendment to the regulation on radio management to solicit public opinions. (5/12)

Space Exploration Propels Scientific Discovery, Tourism, Mining, the Economy (Source: Brookings)
It is a period of extraordinary discovery for space exploration. Increasingly, space exploration features a significant role for private companies. Yet there remain unresolved questions regarding the future of space exploration. What role should private companies play? How should government contracts be awarded, and should there be competitive bidding on major contracts? Who should set priorities between manned and unmanned missions?

Questions about the space program take on special importance during a period of budget scarcity and uncertainty regarding future missions. For example, should exploration focus on Mars or asteroids that have the potential to devastate Earth? There are both economic and environmental benefits of exploration. Click here. (5/13)

Quebec's Aerospace Sector Recovers Jobs Lost During Economic Crisis (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Employment in Quebec's aerospace sector has fully recovered from financial crisis despite ongoing economic challenges that are constraining aircraft orders, a provincial association representing Montreal-based aerospace companies, educational and research groups said. The industry employed more than 43,500 workers in the province last year, up 1,000 from 2012 and nearly nine per cent above the bottom reached in 2010. (5/12)

New Research Contradicts Comet Impact Theory (Source: SMU)
Controversy over what sparked the Younger Dryas, a brief return to near glacial conditions at the end of the Ice Age, includes a theory that it was caused by a comet hitting the Earth. As proof, proponents point to sediments containing deposits they believe could result only from a cosmic impact. Now a new study disproves that theory, said archaeologist David Meltzer. Meltzer is lead author on the study and an expert in the Clovis culture, the peoples who lived in North America at the end of the Ice Age.

Meltzer’s research team found that nearly all sediment layers purported to be from the Ice Age at 29 sites in North America and on three other continents are actually either much younger or much older. Scientists agree that the brief episode at the end of the Ice Age — officially known as the Younger Dryas for a flower that flourished at that time — sparked widespread cooling of the Earth 12,800 years ago and that this cool period lasted for 1,000 years. (5/12)

Russia to Deny Export of Engines for Antares and Atlas-5 (for Military Missions) (Source: Reuters)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would bar Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites. Moscow took the action, which also included suspending operation of GPS ground stations on its territory from June, in response to U.S. plans to deny export licences for high-technology items that could help the Russian military.

Moscow's response would affect NK-33 and RD-180 engines which Russia supplies to the U.S., Rogozin said. "We are ready to deliver these engines but on one condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites," he said. At a time when Moscow is struggling to reform its accident-plagued space program, Rogozin said U.S. plans to deny export licences for some high-tech items were a blow to Russian industry. "These sanctions are out of place and inappropriate," Rogozin said. "We have enough of our own problems." (5/13)

Russia Targets Space Station Project in Retaliation for U.S. Sanctions (Source: Reuters)
Russia cast doubt on the long-term future of the International Space Station, a showcase of post-Cold War cooperation, as it retaliated on Tuesday against U.S. sanctions over Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would reject a U.S. request to prolong the orbiting station's use beyond 2020. "We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicizes everything," Rogozin said.

Washington wants to keep the $100 billion, 15 nation space station project in use until at least 2024, four years beyond the previous target. While six years away, the plan to part ways on a project which was supposed to end the "space race" underlines how relations between the former Cold War rivals have deteriorated since Russia annexed the Crimea in March. (5/13)

Delta-4 Set to Launch GPS Satellite From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Their services have permeated daily lives for countless millions of people, and now the latest Global Positioning System satellite is awaiting blastoff Thursday to bolster the navigation network. Liftoff of the GPS 2F-6 spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral is planned for 8:08 p.m. EDT at the opening of an 18-minute window. (5/12)

Russia Endorses Deal on Space Cooperation with Cuba (Source: RIA Novosti)
A commission on legislative drafting has approved the ratification of an agreement with Cuba on cooperation in research and in the peaceful uses of outer space. “This is a framework agreement, defining necessary principles, norms and conditions for developing bilateral relations in the sphere of space activity, including in protection of intellectual property rights, information exchange and data protection,” the government said in a statement.

The commission says the agreement is in the best interests of Russia, including the installation of Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) on the territory of the Republic of Cuba. The document will be considered at government session. The Cabinet of Ministers said the agreement with Cuba needs to be ratified as it contains “other rules” than those defined by the country’s legislation. Russia plans to build 50 GLONASS stations in several dozen countries across the world. (5/13)

China Aids in Reducing Space Debris (Source: Xinhua)
China has made remarkable progress in controlling and reducing the impact of space debris on exploration and will strengthen cooperation with other nations, according to a senior official. "A [Chinese] surveillance and early warning system has taken shape, [and is] beginning to provide technical support to our manned space exploration and satellite operation."

"China requires its domestic institutions to conduct space activities in accordance with the work plan of the IADC and urges the Chinese space agency and enterprises to abide by its own guidelines on mitigation of space waste." Space debris is a serious issue that demands multinational participation and collaboration, said Charles Philip Brinkman with the US Federal Aviation Administration. (5/13)

AT&T Aiming at Comcast With Planned $50-Billion DirecTV Merger (Source: TIME)
AT&T wants DirecTV but the proposed $50 billion telecom deal, which would be the largest in years and reshape the television business at a time of rapid change in the industry, would pose headaches for regulators already mulling a Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable.

DirecTV has the second largest pay-TV subscriber base in the country but lacks a competitive broadband-Internet offering of its own. AT&T is moving ahead with its own broadband plans, but DirecTV’s satellite-TV business would be a major prize. (5/12)

Texas Airport's Spaceport License Only Months Away (Source: KOSA)
The Midland Spaceport Development Corporation will hold an open public meeting Thursday at City Hall to discuss progress of the Spaceport. The board will receive a presentation from Kaplan, Kirsh and Rockwell regarding the City’s obligations under federal law and FAA regulations to take actions to prevent incompatible land uses in the vicinity of Midland International Airport. Sara Higgins said if all goes according to plan, the city could have it’s Spaceport license as early as mid-September. (5/12)

Commercial Crew Needs Competition (Source: Space News)
We strongly recommend that the following considerations guide the Commercial Crew Program: 1) A minimum of two complete, technologically independent commercial crew systems should be brought to operational status. Commercial Crew can only be fully successful with real competition between multiple U.S.-based service providers. 2) The value of Commercial Crew lies not just in providing the means of transporting astronauts to the ISS without relying on Russian spacecraft, but also in significantly strengthening the U.S. commercial orbital access industry.

There has long been a strain of criticism in Congress that calls for an immediate down-select in Commercial Crew to a single contractor in the name of saving money and moving forward more rapidly. Traditionally, NASA has run “competitive” procurement processes in which a number of proposals are considered, and then one is chosen to be developed into a flight article. This approach, although a reasonable one for experimental or some operational vehicles, is not the best approach for building a new industry. (5/12)

Satellite Operators to Proceed with Launches From Russia (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Satellite industry executives say U.S. government sanctions restricting the export of defense articles to Russia, a broad category which includes satellite components, are unlikely to disrupt near-term plans to launch spacecraft on Russian rockets. But there looms a threat that the U.S. State Department could revoke export licenses for satellites to Russia that contain parts from the U.S. In the globalized space industry, that includes almost all commercial satellites. (5/12)

Asteroid Strike Spurred Quick Chill that Led to Dinosaurs’ Demise (Source: Science News)
A space rock slammed into Earth 66 million years ago, setting off a chain of events that led to the demise of the dinosaurs. New evidence supports the idea that the impact caused global cooling in the months to decades afterward that drove mass extinction. The huge asteroid collided with Earth near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico.

Scientists studied lipids from ocean microbes preserved in silt and sand in the Brazos River region of central Texas to reconstruct sea surface temperatures from around the time of the asteroid’s impact. Before the impact, the waters were warm, around 30° Celsius. But in the months to decades afterward, sea surface temperatures fell an average of 2 degrees. This result supports the idea that the impact shot dust and other particles into the air, blocking light and heat from the sun.

The analysis also shows that sea surface temperatures then warmed to roughly 32° C just a few decades to a century after the impact. Such a quick, dark chill followed by a period of global warming, acid rain and increased greenhouse gases matches the pattern of extinction of organisms from tiny plankton all the way up to tyrannosaurs and pterosaurs. (5/12)

Crowd-Funded Satellite Falters After Launch; Solar Radiation Blamed (Source: Space News)
A blast of solar radiation appears to have doomed a recently launched crowd-funded satellite, which now looks like it will re-enter the atmosphere and burn up before it has a chance to fulfill its mission release more than 100 tiny satellites, or sprites, the project’s university-based sponsor said.

KickSat was designed by Zachary Manchester, a graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The satellite, funded by 315 donors via the Kickstarter crowd-funding website, launched as a secondary payload April 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket’s primary payload was SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule, which successfully berthed with the international space station April 20. KickSat reached its intended orbit of 355 kilometers after launch.

KickSat, a three-unit cubesat, was successfully deployed to orbit at an altitude of 355 kilometers. It was supposed to release a cache of postage-stamp-sized sprite satellites, each containing a microcontroller, a radio transmitter, and solar power cells, on May 4. But something caused the satellite to reset its master clock, making the satellite believe it would not be ready to deploy the sprites for another 16 days. (5/12)

Big Bang Result May Fizzle, Rumor Suggests (Source: Science)
The biggest discovery in cosmology in a decade could turn out to be an experimental artifact—at least according to an Internet rumor. The team that reported the discovery is sticking by its work, however. Eight weeks ago, researchers working with a specialized telescope at the South Pole reported the observation of pinwheel-like swirls in the polarization of the afterglow of the big bang, or cosmic microwave background (CMB). Those swirls are traces of gravitational waves rippling through the fabric of spacetime a sliver of a second after the big bang.

However, scientists cautioned that the result would have to be scrutinized thoroughly. And now a potential problem with the BICEP analysis has emerged, says Adam Falkowski, a theoretical particle physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of Orsay in France and author of the R├ęsonaances blog. The BICEP researchers mapped the polarization of the CMB across a patch of sky measuring 15° by 60°. Click here. (5/12)

U.S.-Australian Partnership Could Help Hypersonics Take Off (Source: Space News)
The coming of the U.S. Marine Corps for a six-month rotation in the training areas of Northern Australia is a concrete manifestation of the United States and Australia deepening their working relationship in shaping 21st-century Pacific defense capabilities. The Aussies are engaged in significant defense modernization projects, such as the KC-30A Airbus tanker, the Wedgetail air battle management system and the F-35.

Along with these projects, the Aussies are engaged in significant research in the field of hypersonics and have partnered with the U.S. on some of the basic research. However, going forward the United States should consider extending the excellent working relationship with Australia in this area. (5/12)

Another Perspective on Space Debris (Source: Space News)
Amir Gohardani astutely observed that space debris might be approached as waste management and epidemics. The similarities are more profound than he stated. Two dramatic similarities have escaped attention: that physical systems seek equilibrium and that humankind inevitably diminishes its environment. Debris in near-Earth space and beyond is a natural phenomenon. Mankind adds to the population but does not necessarily unbalance it. Click here. (5/12)

Lessons Learned from Columbia (Source: Space Safety)
Shortly after the last Shuttle flight in 2011, I shared a short elevator ride with one of the world’s best test pilots, Maj. Gen. Joe Engle. I asked him, “Joe, could you tell me what you believe was the biggest lesson learned from the Space Shuttle Program?” Without pause, he answered: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til you fly it!”

When I hear people talk about flying a very short flight test program with the next human spaceflight system development, and then declaring it “operational,” I cringe.

The fact is that the Shuttle never was purely “operational.” In retrospect, it was a 30-plus year flight test program during which NASA performed a variety of operational mission objectives. It would have been good for us to periodically remind ourselves and our stakeholders of that fact before, not just after the big accidents. (5/12)

Lava, Not Water, May Have Formed Mars Canyons (Source: ETH Zurich)
Primeval lava flows formed the massive canyons and gorge systems on Mars. Water, by contrast, was far too scarce on the red planet to have cut these gigantic valleys into the landscape. This is the conclusion of several years of study by ETH geoscientist Giovanni Leone. (5/12)

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