May 14, 2014

Space Exploration Fuels Potential Insurance Snags (Source: IBA)
All of the increased demand and new product offerings for space transport mean amplified insurance complications. says Sima Adhya, Head of Space with Torus. Coverage like “launch plus one”—which covers the insured from the point of ignition—is a bit underpriced.

“The space market has been fairly profitable over the last decade, but unfortunately, rates are very competitive right now,” Adhya said. “We’re being asked by brokers to insure things that previously, we would have been able to have exclusions for. There’s a lot of rate pressure right now.”

The low coverage prices are the result of rapid technological development, an influx of manufacturers into the space and insurers eager to cover those vehicles. In the last few years alone, Adhya has seen two to three new market entrants in the space insurance market. (5/14)

Hadfield's 'Space Oddity' Removed From YouTube (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A year ago, while commander of the ISS, the Canadian covered David Bowie’s 1969 tune ‘Space Oddity’ from orbit. Now the Youtube video of the performance is to be taken down. Hadfield’s recording was no spur of the moment inspiration. It was made over a period of six months and involved Canadian producer Joe Corcoran, who did the musical arrangement, and compatriot film-maker Andrew Tidby, who engineered the classy video, later watched by an Internet audience of 22 million. Playing the piano intro was Emm Gryner – a member of Bowie’s band in 1999-2000.

The video was released onto Youtube, with Bowie’s blessing and a one-year license, upon Hadfield’s return to Earth. The license expires today and the five-and-a-half-minute recording, which has attracted more than 22 million plays, will no longer be watchable on-line. Yet it has helped inspire a new generation of spaceflight enthusiasts with its spectacular views both inside and outside the ISS backed by one of the most iconic tunes of the Space Age. (5/14)

Boeing: No New Russian RD-180 Engines Needed For ULA Bulk Buy Deal (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance (ULA), which operates the embattled Atlas V, has enough of the rocket’s Russian engines in storage to meet its commitment to the U.S. Air Force in the company’s 36-booster bulk buy inked in December, according to a Boeing executive.

"We believe we can deliver on the block buy with the engines we have," says Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems. ULA has 16 RD-180s on U.S. soil, according to an industry official. Should it run short of RD-180s, ULA and U.S. Air Force, its customer, can shift some launches from the Atlas V manifest to Delta IV. "That is not our desired approach," Krone says. "We’d just as soon not move the manifest." (5/14)

New Techniques Could Help Find Exomoons Orbiting Distant Planets (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Exoplanets orbiting distant stars are now being discovered in the thousands, with a new discovery made almost every week now. But what about exomoons? In our own solar system, moons far outnumber planets, so it should be considered likely that many of those other planets out there would also have moons.

The problem is size; moons tend to be much smaller than planets in most cases, so detecting them orbiting such far away worlds is very difficult. Thankfully, however, technology is now at the point where just such detections should begin to be possible. A new technique how now been proposed that could allow astronomers to bring exomoons from theoretical concepts to reality.

Previous techniques being tried could realistically only detect moons which were several times the mass of the largest moon in our solar system, Ganymede. The new technique however, could find smaller moons typically found in our solar system by using a unique eclipsing effect of moons when viewed against the background radiance of their host stars. (5/14)

Japan Plans to Have a Power Plant in Space in a Decade (Source: Motherboard)
Japan, where the disastrous Fukushima meltdown heightened the search for safe, sustainable alternative energy, is answering that need by sending a power plant into space. Actually, the plan to power the globe with gigantic space-based solar panels has been kicking around since the '60s. But thanks to a perfect storm of technological advances—strong but lightweight tether materials, swarming worker robots that can self-assemble, more efficient solar panels, and cheaper payload launches—this thing is actually looking feasible. (5/14)

Russia Is Turning Elon Musk into Tony Stark (Source: Bloomberg)
If the Ukraine crisis did not exist, Tesla founder Elon Musk would want to invent it. The new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia is helping Musk realize his dream of wresting the U.S. space launch market from behemoths Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which control it through their United Launch Alliance. Musk's biggest helper? A spiteful, nationalist Russian politician named Dmitri Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the country's defense industry.

Like Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, Musk wants to be the U.S. government's favorite high-tech supplier and has been rather successful so far: His projects, including SpaceX, have received generous subsidies. More surprising than Musk's public lobbying is Rogozin's boorish cluelessness as to his country's interests. Russia, a leader in rocket technology, does not want to get locked out of the U.S. market, as China is.

Yet the head of Putin's military-industrial complex threatens to halt engine sales, stop funding the International Space Station after 2020, and switch off GPS terrestrial measuring stations in Russia. Musk should be paying the man a salary for providing him with the business opportunity of a lifetime. (5/14)

Embry-Riddle Brings Land, Air, Water Vehicles to Unmanned Systems Demo (Source: ERAU
A Ford Escape Hybrid, equipped by a team of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students and faculty with a GrayMatter Autonomous Vehicle System, navigated around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center track on its own on May 11. The car uses GPS and a scanner with 64 lasers to detect its position and environment.

The university also pitted its Androne aircraft against 10 other organizations’ unmanned drones, and displayed its Minion boat, a fully autonomous Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel. The demonstrations were part of Embry-Riddle’s involvement in the Space Florida Unmanned Systems Demonstration on May 11 at the spaceport. (5/14)
Embry Riddle Team Competes in NASA Robotic Mars Mining Competition (Source: ERAU)
An Embry-Riddle robotics team will travel to Kennedy Space Center again May 19-23 to compete against 40 other teams at the fifth-annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition. Machines must cross a simulated Martian landscape, excavate surface materials and deposit them into a collector bin within 10 minutes. The winning team will receive a trophy, Kennedy Space Center launch invitations and a $5,000 scholarship. Technology concepts developed by the teams could be the forerunners to robots mining resources in space. Click here. (5/14)

Giant Planet Found Orbiting Dwarf Star (Source: CBC)
A gigantic planet-like object like no other has been found circling a tiny star at a record distance. The object is a kind of "super Jupiter" – a gas giant about 10 times bigger than the biggest planet in our solar system, says Marie-Eve Naud, a PhD student at the University of Montreal and lead author of a scientific report describing the planet. The study is being published in the Astrophysical Journal this week.

GU PSc b is 2,000 times farther from its star than the Earth is from the sun, 67 times farther than Neptune and 50 times farther than Pluto — more distant than any planet ever discovered by a long shot, said RenĂ© Doyon. But despite the vast distance between them, the planet is bound to its star via gravity. The researchers estimate that the planet completes its orbit around the star about once every 80,000 years. (5/14)

Testing Satellites … By Nuking Them (Source: Medium)
Here’s the challenge. You want to make sure your military satellite is tough enough to withstand the radiation from a nuclear blast. Here’s the problem. You can’t just put the sat in orbit and nuke it. That’s illegal and dangerous. Plus, you’ll need to study the spacecraft after the test in order to get the results—something hard to do if it’s a cloud of radioactive shrapnel. So how do you do it? With clever thinking and big, wacky hardware, is how. Click here. (5/14)

The U.S. Must Speed Up its Space Rocket Development (Source: Daily Star)
NASA's Commercial Crew approach has been controversial. In 2010, astronauts Gene Cernan (Apollo 17), Jim Lovell (Apollos 8 and 13), and Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11) protested NASA’s approach in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama. They warned that failure to pursue an aggressive government-funded space program “destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature.”

The debate is still raging. There are those who argue that we need to maintain a traditional approach to human spaceflight, with NASA owning and operating the launchers through contractors. Others embrace the private-sector option, which allows entrepreneurial firms to pursue innovative approaches to human spaceflight. The success demonstrated thus far heartens many, but if NASA’s approach fails, the United States may find itself indefinitely relying on the Russians for access to the ISS.

To avoid reliance on good Russian-American relations, the U.S. must accelerate the development of an American rocket. Bolden has already asked for this, telling the U.S. Congress that “the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to American soil or continue to send millions to the Russians.” Thus far, Congress has not acted to accelerate the development of an American-built rocket. (5/14)

DigitalGlobe's New Bird Needs Government OK to Sell Close-Up Images (Source: Denver Post)
To remain globally competitive, DigitalGlobe needs the federal government to lift restrictions on commercial use of the high-resolution images captured by WorldView-3, its newest satellite. Boulder-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies hosted the last public viewing of the 6,200-pound bird that it built for DigitalGlobe. Ball is finishing its final tests on the satellite and preparing to ship it to the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (5/14)

Ex-Im Bank’s 2013 Deal of the Year award for ABS-2 Satellite (Source: The Lawyer)
Allen & Overy has been presented with the 2013 Deal of the Year award by the Export-Import Bank of the US (US Ex-Im) at the bank’s 39th Annual Conference in Washington DC. The firm advised US Ex-Im as lender in the $471m (£280m) debt financing to Kingsbridge, the holding company of Asia Broadcast Satellite’s (ABS’s) group of operating companies, for the procurement, construction, launch and operation of three new satellites.

Bermuda’s Kingsbridge, the head of company of ABS Group, signed the three-tranche credit facility, worth $471m, with a tenor of 12.5 + 8.5 years with US Ex-Im and achieved financial close in February 2014. According to Allen & Overy, the hybrid corporate and project financing structure features a unique part-export refinancing feature for an existing $215m bank loan as well as a substantial new capex financing, allowing the company to fund construction, launch and insurance of three new-built satellites into a single long-term committed debt package. (5/14)

Why “Exoatmospheric War Zone” is Part of the Outlook for Space Companies (Source: Quartz)
SpaceX claims it is making great progress toward a reusable rocket, while Russia and the US are playing a tit-for-tat game of space sanctions, refusing each other rocket engines and satellite tracking stations. Together, this is a recipe for space war, at least according to the geo-strategic consulting firm Wikistrat.

In a new report released today, the firm revealed its efforts to forecast the future of the private space industry with a two-week simulation created by 75 analysts and led by Dr. Bruce Wald, the former director of the US Navy’s space research program. Wikistrat uses an online platform to conduct crowd-sourced strategic analysis for corporate and government clients, including NATO.

The simulation identified two overriding trends that will determine the future of the private sector outside of earth: The level of international tension, which will determine the types of activities occurring outside of earth’s atmosphere, and the cost of putting stuff in space, which will determine how much of it is done. Based on that rubric, the simulation found four possible scenarios for the latter half of the 21st century. Click here. (5/14)

US Eases Export Control Norms on Satellites, Components (Source: The Hindu)
In a move that could open the door for greater India US collaboration, the Obama Administration on Tuesday said it would relax its export control norms on satellite and its components. These changes have been made part of the US President’s Export Control Reform Initiative, and will increase the competitiveness of cutting-edge, well-paying manufacturing and technology sectors by better aligning export controls with national security priorities, the State Department said.

According to the new regulations, these changes allow most commercial, scientific, and civil satellites and their parts and components to move to the Department of Commerce’s Commerce Control List. This revision removes from the US Munitions List communication satellites that do not contain classified components. (5/14)

Onward to Europa (Source: Aeon)
Europa is roughly the same size as Earth’s Moon, and some researchers thought that it too might have an ancient, inert surface scarred by giant impact craters. Instead, they were surprised to see Europa bearing a bright and icy crust relatively free of blemishes, a sign that its outer shell is active enough to hide the telltale craters that scar the face of a world over geological time. Click here. (5/14)

Inside Lockheed Martin's New Space Research Center (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin's R&D facility in Palo Alto is an aerospace fantasy camp, with 37 labs working on technologies like 3-D printing, nanotechnology and thermal sciences. The 82,000 square-foot space houses 130 Lockheed engineers working on problems like how to 3-D print a small satellite rather than hefting school-bus sized hunks of metal into orbit. Lockheed's center, which opened this spring, recently renamed itself to STAR Labs, standing for Space Technology Advanced Research and Development Labs. (5/12)

We’re Not Impressed With Your Space Tantrum, Mr. Putin (Source: TIME)
Here’s why we’re not impressed: First of all, you’ve conveniently scheduled the shutdown of your Soyuz taxi service for 2020, four years before we plan to abandon the ISS anyway. Why wait until then? Could it be the cool $76 million we pay you per seat? But, as you surely know, at least two American companies will all but certainly have their own spacecraft flying well before then, and even NASA may be back in the game by 2020.

In other words, you’re going to quit selling us a service we weren’t planning to use anymore anyway. As for the engines: yes, it’s true that the NK-33 and D-180 are nice bits of hardware and the Atlas does rely on them. But the Atlas pre-dates you, Vlad. You don’t want the revenue that comes from globalized trade? OK, so we’ll in-source our engines again and keep the cash at home.

History will decide if your Ukrainian adventure was a winning hand. But the Space Race is over and America won. Even decades after the glory days of the moon landings, it’s still NASA that’s got spacecraft approaching, orbiting or on the surface of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto and multiple asteroids. Russia? Not so much. The world will have to reckon with you for as long as you choose to misbehave in Europe and anywhere else your eye may wander. But in space? We’re fine without you. Tranquility Base, out. (5/13)

Russia's New Space Sanctions Mean SpaceX Is About to Get Paid (Source: Motherboard)
Russia will stop supporting ISS six years from now, which isn't entirely urgent. But Bolden has to be worried about how American astronauts are going to get to and from the ISS if Russia next decides to pull out of its already-signed contracts to sell rides to Americans through at least 2017. As of now, there’s no indication that Russia plans to cut the US out immediately, but the ISS is now clearly in the diplomatic playing field.

And that brings us to SpaceX. The company stands to gain greatly from both bits of news Rogozin announced today. If ULA is blocked from buying Russian engines for their Atlas V and Delta IV from the other side (it’s worth noting that both countries have threatened to ban the companies from buying Russian engines), the Air Force once again has incentive to look at SpaceX as a legitimate option to launch military satellites. (5/13)

Intergalactic Entrepreneurs Prepare for Blast-Off (Source: MIT Technology Review)
It was a rare meeting of minds. Representatives from 13 commercial space companies gathered on May 1 at a place dedicated to going where few have gone before: the Explorers Club in New York. Amid the mansions and high-end apartment buildings just off Central Park, executives from space-tourism companies, rocket-making startups, and even a business that hopes to make money by mining asteroids for useful materials showed off displays and gave presentations. Click here. (5/13)

Japan's First Space Station Commander and Crewmates Head Home (Source: Reuters)
The first Japanese to command a space mission and crewmates from the United States and Russia wrapped up a 188-day stay aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday and headed back to Earth. Returning space station commander Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin climbed inside their Russian Soyuz capsule and departed the orbital outpost at 6:36 p.m. EDT. Touchdown was near the town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at about 10:00 p.m. EDT. (5/13)

Boeing Tries to Build a Ship Space Tourists Won't Hate (Source: Popular Mechanics)
In the not-too-distant future, when private space is an established industry, different carriers will provide distinctive customer experiences for space tourists—just as Jet Blue and Delta airlines provide different inflight amenities. At least that's what Boeing is banking on with its recently unveiled interior designs for the CST-100 space capsule.

The CST-100 (CST stands for Crew Space Transportation) is Boeing's gumdrop-shaped candidate for NASA's Commercial Crew Development program. The seven-seater capsule is intended to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and later, perhaps, to tourist destinations in orbit, such as the Bigelow inflatable space hotel. Click here. (5/13)

NASA Considering Recycling Plastic for 3D Printing on ISS (Source: GigaOM)
When NASA sends a 3D printer to the International Space Station, it will dramatically improve the crew’s ability to fix unforeseen problems like broken parts and supply shortages. It will also reduce how much mass needs to be carried into space; instead of having a spare copy of everything, astronauts can just print parts as they are needed.

NASA is considering taking that reduction in material one step further by putting a plastic recycler on the ISS. The Made in Space printer that will board the ISS later this year prints in ABS plastic, which is the same type used in Legos and other common items. A recycler would allow the ISS crew to turn broken parts and other unneeded items back into the raw material on which the printer relies.

NASA is supporting research into a recycler with two $125,000 grants. One went to Made in Space, which is developing a recycler known as R3DO. The other was awarded to Tethers Unlimited, a company based outside Seattle that is pursuing robotics-based systems that could 3D print and assemble large structures in space. (5/13)

KSC's Future Hinges on Space Launch System (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center's future hinges on a rocket and spacecraft NASA is developing to send astronauts beyond Earth's orbit, the center's director said. "This is our only reason to exist," Bob Cabana told the National Space Club Florida Committee in Cape Canaveral. "If we do not have this capability to fly beyond our planet to explore on a government rocket —something that is way too expensive for a commercial company to do — we don't need KSC anymore." (5/13)

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