May 17, 2014

The First Space Colonies Might Be Illegal (Source: Motherboard)
The biggest challenge to getting functioning space hotels and moon colonies might not even be, you know, building them and subsisting in space. Instead, it might be navigating the tricky international legal framework governing off-world ownership. Click here. (5/17)

Space Tango Picks Companies for Space Business Accelerator (Source: Space Tango)
Space Tango, which is implementing the nation’s first space business accelerator specifically for space enterprises and entrepreneurs, today announced the three companies selected for the inaugural program slated to begin in July 2014.   The Space Tango Accelerator is designed for space-driven startups with a goal of helping new and growing businesses to innovate and develop novel applications for diverse markets. Click here. (5/16)

Declare Space Independence from Russia... (Source: USA Today)
...But Congress doesn't seem to think the space program is important enough. There is only one realistic way to end our dependence on the Russians for space transportation: accelerate the Commercial Crew Program established by the Obama administration as a follow-on to the successful Cargo Resupply Services contracts initiated in the Bush administration. For over four years, the administration has been requesting the funding needed to get at least one, and preferably more than one provider capable of delivering crew to and from orbit.

Every year, Congress has refused to adequately fund the program, instead diverting funds to the Space Launch System, a rocket with no defined mission other than keeping some of what remains of the former Shuttle work force employed. As administrator Bolden lectured them a few weeks ago in hearings on the Hill, their failure to provide requested funds has slipped the operational date from what would have been next year, out to at least 2017.

Instead, Congress continues to tell NASA to "save money" by narrowing down from three competitors to a single one immediately, using typical socialist arguments (from Republicans and Democrats alike) of the "inefficiency" of multiple providers. This, of course, ignores the fact that twice during the Shuttle program we were unable to get astronauts to orbit for over two years, because there was no backup to it after the Challenger and Columbia accidents, and that cost reduction comes only from ongoing competition. (5/17)

Russia, China Agree on Working Group for Space Cooperation Projects (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia and China have agreed on three new mechanisms of cooperation, including a working group for space cooperation projects. The arrangement was finalized at Friday’s meeting between Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev and China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, Ulyukayev’s press-secretary Yelena Lashkina has said. (5/17)

European Probe Prepping for Daring Dive into Venus' Atmosphere (Source:
A European spacecraft will plunge into Venus' thick atmosphere next month in a bold maneuver that may bring its lengthy and productive mission to a dramatic end. The European Space Agency's Venus Express probe, which has been circling Earth's hellishly hot "sister planet" for eight years, is running low on fuel. So mission officials wrapped up routine science operations this week to begin preparing Venus Express for a deep dive into the planet's fast-swirling air. (5/17)

Delta-4 Launches GPS Craft Amid Questions Over Constellation Health (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force launched its sixth GPS 2F positioning, navigation and timing satellite May 16 amid confusion over the overall GPS constellation’s health that has led Congress to request information on the service’s fleet replenishment plan. The GPS 2F-6, built by Boeing, launched aboard a ULA Delta 4 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The GPS 2F satellites provide better accuracy and resistance to jamming than the previous generation of GPS satellites, most of which are still in operation. The launch helps bolster a GPS fleet whose satellites are beginning to show their age, Air Force officials say. The overall health of the GPS constellation is unclear, in part because of what the Air Force acknowledges have been its own seemingly contradictory statements on the matter.

In its budget request for 2015, the Air Force slowed its procurement of GPS 3 satellites, citing budget pressures and the fact that earlier-generation GPS satellites are lasting longer on orbit than expected. At the same time, officials have talked about the age of many satellites in the constellation, some of which are 21 years old. (5/17)

Event Explores the Evolving Role of Satellites in Aviation Safety (Source: Space Safety)
Given the prominent role satellites have played in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the Secure World Foundation (SWF) hosted “Beyond Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The Evolving Role of Satellites in Aviation Safety,” a panel discussion in Washington D.C. The event, held two months after the start of the search for the missing aircraft, focused on examining the technical, operational and political challenges of this disaster, while examining how space assets play an increasing role in aviation safety. Click here. (5/16)

How Soon Can We Check in to a Space Hotel? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
NASA started down the path [of inflatable habitats] but they just never spent the money to develop it. They abandoned it based almost purely on politics. They’ve been looking at soft [materials] since the ‘50s, and they started pursuing it pretty hard in the mid-’90s. That [research] program was fairly focused on a Mars mission. Then politics got in the way, and Congress decided that anything Mars had to go. The technology had gotten wrapped up in being associated with Mars, rather than being a technology that we should pursue for other reasons. Click here. (5/16)

Cosmic Lifestyle Corp. Introduces Zero Gravity Cocktail Project (Source: Cosmic Lifestyle)
The Zero Gravity Cocktail Project is an attempt to bridge the gap between the space tourism vision and mainstream reality. By creating a fun object that appeals to many people, we hope to show that space tourism is not an abstract concept but a stepping stone for improving the way people live, work, and play beyond planet Earth. The Zero Gravity Cocktail Project is going to be the flagship project for the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation. Click here. (5/17)

Threatened Bird Wont Stop Spaceport Coming to Midland (Source: NewsWest 9)
Spaceport Development Corporation Director Marv Esterly discussed the environmental study that has to be completed before the Midland airport is granted the spaceport license. "We are making progress on the environmental assessment, that is a portion of the license process. After we had our license published and registered, the Lesser Prairie Chicken was actually put on the threatened species list," Esterly said.

The airport wanted to be sure the bird will not be affected when XCOR starts sending spaceships skyward. "We talked to the office of Commercial Space Transportation. They came back and said, since we were already published, we still should take a look at that. Even though no one thought there was going to be an issue with it," Esterly said. The thing they were most concerned about was the noise, the boom space crafts make when leaving and then reentering. Turns out the sonic boom is so high in the atmosphere, that people or even the Lesser Prairie Chicken on the ground wont be affected. (5/17)

Musk Making 'Progress' Toward Goal To Colonize Mars (Source: Hollywood Reporter)
Elon Musk said he hopes with SpaceX's next generation of rocket technology — powered by a methane-based based system — it might "enable someone to move to Mars for about $500,000, maybe less. There will be those who can afford to go and those who want to go … if we can achieve that intersection, I think it will happen -- hopefully before I’m dead.” (5/17)

NASA Rushing To Get Mars 2020 Contracts Signed (Source: Space News)
NASA is rushing to award sole-source contracts to some 25 vendors for the planned sample-caching Mars 2020 rover, which is based closely on the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover now operating on the red planet. John McNamee, the Mars 2020 project manager at JPL, named some of the companies already under contract, including Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Click here. (5/16)

Inmarsat Says Rocket Failure Likely to Delay New Network (Source: Reuters)
British satellite company Inmarsat said the failure of a Proton rocket would likely delay the planned launch of the two satellites it planned to put into orbit later this year to complete its new Global Xpress network. A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a $275 million telecommunications satellite failed and burned up shortly after launch on Friday, the second failure for the vehicle in less than a year.

Inmarsat, which has a contract with International Launch Services using Proton, said while an investigation would determine the impact on its program, a delay in the launch of both the Inmarsat-5 F2 and F3 was now likely, which would delay the launch of GX services on a global basis. (5/16

Space Insurers Brace for First Money-losing Year Since 2007 (Source: Space News)
Space insurance underwriters reported $775 million in premiums in 2013 but may end up paying as much as $806 million in claims, making it the first money-losing year since 2007 and the second since 2001, insurers said. With premiums continuing to fall even as the average amount of coverage on insured satellites continues to rise, several veteran underwrites are reducing their participation in the business out of concern that premium rates are insufficient to cover a big loss.

Insurers are unlikely to know until July whether 2013 will end up as profitable for them. It was the year of the largest-ever insurance claim, $406.2 million for the loss of the Intelsat 27 telecommunications satellite — carrying a UHF payload intended for government customers — in a Sea Launch rocket failure. (5/16)

Where No Man Has Gone Before (Source: PJ Media)
James Van Allen, after whom the radiation belt is named, asked in 2004 whether human spaceflight is a legacy dream, a survival of some outdated science-fiction notion, now overtaken by harsh reality: "Does human spaceflight continue to serve a compelling cultural purpose and/or our national interest? Or does human spaceflight simply have a life of its own, without a realistic objective that is remotely commensurate with its costs? Or, indeed, is human spaceflight now obsolete?" Click here. (5/17)

'Watershed' Financial Achievement, Allows Upgraded Space Camp Facilities (Source: Huntsville Times)
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has positioned itself to ease the burden of more than 20 years of debt and the financial crisis that has hounded the museum. What that means for the state's top tourist attraction is an upgrade in Space Camp facilities, the continuation of temporary exhibits and continued overall improvements. "It's a watershed moment," center CEO Deborah Barnhart said. (5/16)

Lockheed Machinists On Strike at Stennis in Mississippi  (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Lockheed Martin said it was disappointed that just over 100 union-represented workers at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center had decided to go on strike after rejecting the company's contract offer. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) began picketing outside NASA's Stennis Space Center on Friday after rejecting Lockheed's offer, which seeks to replace worker pensions with 401K retirement accounts. (5/16)

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