May 19, 2014

Australians Report Flaming Object Falling From Sky (Source: Space Daily)
Residents of northeastern Australia have reported seeing a flaming object plummeting to Earth, police said Friday, adding that the incident remains a mystery as no evidence of a crash has been found. Queensland state police said they received several reports from the northern city of Townsville on Thursday evening about a burning object falling from the sky, possibly hitting the ground near Ross River Dam.

"(It was reported as) something about the size of a small plane travelling at a very high speed with a reddish-green flame coming out of the back or it," a police spokesman said. "It was traveling at a very high velocity." "This thing hit like a bomb -- it was huge," said a resident. "I don't know how big it was, but in the sky it looked like half a dozen jumbo jets falling out of the sky at the same time," he said. (5/19)

Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dynetics Form Partnership (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dynetics are announcing a strategic partnership to enhance collaboration in aerospace technologies and systems. Based on marked success supporting NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and/or Risk Reduction (ABEDRR) program, AR and Dynetics plan to expand the existing partnership to include: high-temperature, lightweight materials; next generation additive manufacturing technologies; in-space propulsion systems and high performance booster rocket engine systems. (5/19)

Life in Space is Impossible (Source: Space Review)
Several recent movies have provided a negative view of space, including Gravity's opening message that "life in space is impossible." Dwayne Day compares those messages with the promise of an upcoming film, Interstellar, and the challenges of getting a positive space message out to the public. Visit to view the article. (5/19)

The Future of NASA's Commercial Partnerships (Source: Space Review)
With the end of the COTS program and the transition of commercial crew to more conventional contracting arrangements, NASA is exploring new ways to partner with the commercial sector. Jeff Foust provides an overview of several of those relatively small-scale efforts. Visit to view the article. (5/19)

The Quest for On-Orbit Authority (Source: Space Review)
An issue of some concern in the commercial space industry is the concept of giving one or more government agencies "on-orbit authority" over spacecraft operations, including measures related to orbital debris mitigation. Jeff Foust reports on some of the ideas for such regulation and the willingness of Congress to grant it. Visit to view the article. (5/19)

Hidden Greenland Canyons Mean More Sea Level Rise (Source: NASA)
Scientists at NASA and the University of California have found that canyons under Greenland's ocean-feeding glaciers are deeper and longer than previously thought, increasing the amount of Greenland's estimated contribution to future sea level rise. "The glaciers of Greenland are likely to retreat faster and farther inland than anticipated, and for much longer, according to this very different topography we have discovered,” said Mathieu Morlighem. (5/19)

OmniEarth Team Announces $250M Small-Sat Imagery Venture (Source: Space News)
Draper Laboratory, Dynetics and Harris Corp. are joining forces with startup OmniEarth LLC to build, launch and operate a constellation of 18 small satellites to provide global, high-resolution Earth imagery on a daily basis. The team is seeking additional partners, investors and customers for the business venture, which is expected to carry a price tag of roughly $250 million, said Lars Dyrud, OmniEarth president and chief executive.

“We are committed to obtaining scientific quality multispectral imagery everywhere, everyday and making that available to customers on a subscription basis,” said Dyrud, who also leads Draper’s Earth and Space Sciences Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (5/19)

Father-Son Chat Leads to First-of-its-Kind NASA Spacecraft (Source: CNN)
One Friday evening in 2009, NASA engineer Stephen Altemus arrived home from work feeling, well, kind of frustrated. Altemus, chief engineer at Johnson Space Center, believed the agency was under "incredible pressure and scrutiny" for allegedly high budget costs. NASA's ambitious Constellation program to develop a next-generation rocket was about to be canceled. "The environment was a sense of uncertainty and chaos and redirection," Altemus said.

Engineering, he believed, wasn't being used to contribute to NASA's future. "That responsibility to make sure every dollar is spent exactly right within the agency sometimes causes a stifling of innovation," Altemus said. "What NASA needed was an innovative fire that made it OK to try and fail and learn from mistakes."

Altemus' 15-year-old son noticed something was wrong. " 'You never talk bad about NASA, Dad,' " Altemus recalled his son saying. The conversation that followed, the engineer said, was a "moment of inspiration -- instigated by my son." They talked about how to "put NASA back on the map with a bold mission that seemed nearly impossible." A short time later, Altemus created a few charts and his son put together an illustrative YouTube video. Monday morning at his office, Altemus made his pitch to his NASA leadership team. Click here. (5/19)

Santa Fe Scientist Sharpens Plan for Clearing Space Debris (Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
Claude Phipps, a Santa Fe scientist who specializes in high power laser ablation — moving objects in space, by heating, or ablating, a thin layer of molecules on a surface, which gives a directional, jet-like push to the object. “I think you could bring down nearly all the little debris that you saw in Gravity in about six months.” Click here. (5/19)

CryoSat Finds Sharp Increase in Antarctica's Ice Loss (Source: ESA)
Three years of observations from ESA’s CryoSat satellite show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tonnes of ice each year – twice as much as when it was last surveyed. The polar ice sheets are a major contributor to the rise in global sea levels, and these newly measured losses from Antarctica alone are enough to raise global sea levels by 0.45 mm each year. (5/19)

Why AT&T is Buying Into the Dying Satellite TV Business (Source: Mashable)
In a rare moment of candor from a chief executive, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen told attendees at an industry conference in 2012 that even his own kids at college don't pay for TV and probably won't after they graduate. "I think people are cutting the cord," he said. “There is a reason that tobacco companies give away free cigarettes at colleges."

While Dish is caught up in the same macro trend that's bedeviling cable companies, some analysts consider it a more attractive purchase for AT&T than DirecTV. That's because Dish holds billions of dollars in wireless spectrum. DirecTV is hardly a basket case. It had 20.25 million U.S. subscribers at the end of 2013 and its Latin American business grew 12% that year to 11.57 million. (5/19)

Spaceport Could Limit City’s Growth Options (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
At an XCOR Aerospace reception last year at Midland Tower, CEO Jeff Greason delivered a line that could shape the future of Midland’s westside development. "Encroachment is the bane of space flight,” he said. “Protect your dirt.” That’s a tall task for a city feeling the growing pains of a fast-growing economy. But Midland International Airport — expecting a spaceport license this year — has started laying the foundation for future airport zoning. (5/18)

SpaceX Logs Successful Dragon Splashdown (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX began the Pacific Ocean recovery of the company's third commercial re-supply mission to the International Space Station Sunday afternoon, capping a month-long round trip that featured the delivery of nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo and the return of more than 3,500 pounds of station hardware and scientific equipment, including perishable research samples. Dragon splashed down under parachute 350 miles west of Baja, Calif., at 3:05 p.m., EDT. (5/18)

Proton Rockets to be Used Until 2025 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia will not stop using Proton-M rockets until 2025, a space industry source told ITAR-TASS on Monday.
Up to 130 Proton rockets might be manufactured over the period, he added. Former Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said Proton rockets would not be launched after 2020. "However, the situation is such that Protons surely will be used ip to 2025," the source said. (5/19)

NASA Would Speak Out if Private Manned Missions to Mars Too Risky (Source: Guardian)
It’s like an interplanetary re-telling of the famous tortoise and hare story. NASA and the world’s other space agencies are pursuing a careful, long-winded program aimed at landing astronauts on Mars by 2035. Private organizations, such as the not-for-profit Mars One, are claiming that they can do the same thing by 2025. This distinct two-speed approach begs questions. Is NASA being over-cautious? Are the private organizations being reckless?

Over-caution could mean over-spending, and with space budgets around the world continuing to be under pressure, expensive programmes mean delays and even cancellation. On the flip side, trying to do things quickly could mean cutting corners and with space being such an unforgiving environment, that would almost inevitably cost lives. With current technology, a voyage to Mars and back would take around three years. That’s a lot of time for things to go wrong, and to encounter unexpected difficulties. Click here. (5/19)

CubeSats Poised to Disrupt Aerospace Industry (Source: Daily Breeze)
Just as SpaceX has shaken up Southern California’s anemic aerospace industry, space entrepreneurs are starting to use miniature satellites to provide Earth-monitoring services at a fraction of the cost of more established aerospace companies. Click here. (5/19) 

China Says Proton Space Wreckage Recovered (Source: Global Post)
Objects that crashed to the ground in China have been identified as space debris, state media reported, after a Russian rocket carrying a communications satellite fell back to Earth minutes after lift-off. Qiqihar city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia's far east, reported that several objects appeared to have fallen from the sky on Friday. After analysis, experts have concluded they were "parts from a carrier rocket or a satellite", according to the China National Space Administration. (5/19)

Russian Rocket Failure Hits Satellite Operators (Source: Advanced Television)
Last week’s failure of a $275 million Russian rocket is severely impacting other satellites waiting for launch. London-based Inmarsat was the first satellite operator to admit that its upcoming pair of launches of its Global Xpress craft (Inmarsat-5 fleet) will be delayed. The first Inmarsat-5 satellite (“5-F1”) was successfully launched using Proton in December 2013 and remains on track to begin commercial operations in July 2014.

One of the Inmarsat launches will likely slip into 2015. But Inmarsat is not alone. The next commercial launch due was to have been Astra 2G, originally slated for launch in June but more recently moved to September because of launch demands from Russia for priority access to Proton rockets. Sources at Arianespace say they are fully booked until mid-2017 with satellites, and thus the likelihood of current Proton customers switching to Arianespace is extremely limited. (5/19)

As NASA Seeks Next Mission, Russia Holds the Trump Card (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Such is today’s space Realpolitik that, while the United States paid for most of the $140 billion space station, launched nearly all of it into orbit, and controls most of its day-to-day operations from Houston, Russia still holds the trump card: access. “They have us right where they want us,” said three-time NASA astronaut Mike Coats.

“Astronaut to cosmonaut, scientist to scientist, engineer to engineer, we’ve had a wonderful working relationship with the Russians,” he said. “But politically, if they see an opportunity to exercise an advantage they have to do it. It’s in their makeup. They view weakness as something to be taken advantage of. It’s difficult dealing with Russians from a position of weakness, and we’re doing that.” (5/18)

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