May 2, 2014

Pentagon Says it Cannot Replace Imported Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Russia Times)
The Pentagon cannot find a replacement for the Russian rocket engines it buys anytime soon, a senior official has revealed. The import of the engines has for now been banned via a court order lobbied by SpaceX and based on sanctions against Russia.

Washington may soon find it problematic to continue launching its military satellites, as a long-time supply connection between Russian and US defense companies has been halted and is being reviewed – all because of sanctions against Moscow in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. Earlier ordered by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the review of US Air Force dependence on the Russian-made RD-180 engine, used in American Atlas V rockets, has not yielded any solutions. (5/1)

Space Florida Hosts "Egg Drop" Competition for Florida Students (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace development organization, will host the 5th Annual Planetary Lander Egg Drop Competition at Palm Bay Magnet High School this Saturday, May 3rd.

Teams of Florida K-12 students will build “planetary landers,” from which a raw egg – symbolizing a space payload – must remain intact as it drops nearly 20 feet to the ground – similar to how a real NASA lander would deliver a payload on the Moon, Mars or an asteroid. (5/1)

Why I Feel Bad for the United Launch Alliance (Sort Of) (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Yes, it’s trendy to hate on ULA. And they are not easy to defend, since they cost a lot of money and, until now, have had no competition. But despite having cornered the market on government launches for years, ULA’s job is not easy. Not many entities can launch payloads for a fickle military and NASA customers as regularly and successfully as ULA has done. The space launch landscape is now shifting under ULA’s feet, leaving it with full manifests but an uncertain future. (5/1)

SpaceX Move Against Atlas-5 Could Impact Other Commercial Crew Systems (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX has targeted the Atlas-5 as the rocket it would most like to replace for launching U.S. military payloads. One consequence of SpaceX's challenge to the Air Force's 'block buy' procurement of Atlas-5 and Delta-4 rockets, is a court-ordered injunction barring further purchases of the Atlas-5's Russian-made engines, consistent with ongoing sanctions against Russia.

Another potential consequence -- if Atlas-5 is forced in the future to limit its launch manifest because of engine issues -- is a delays to non-military missions, including NASA Commercial Crew flights for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and Boeing's CST-100, and flights carrying Bigelow Aerospace space station modules. (5/1)

Iridium Posts Quarterly Results (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications reported financial results for the first quarter of 2014. Net income was $16.5 million for the first quarter of 2014, as compared to $14.9 million for the first quarter of 2013. Iridium reported first-quarter total revenue of $98.0 million. Total revenue increased 10 percent versus the comparable period of 2013, while service revenue grew 7 percent from the year-ago period. (5/1)

New Commercial Crew Craft Will Be ISS Lifeboats Too (Source: NASA)
The next generation of American spacecraft designed to carry people into low-Earth orbit will be required to function as a lifeboat for the International Space Station for up to seven months. This service has not been provided by an American spacecraft since an Apollo command module remained docked to Skylab for about three months from 1973 to '74.

Like a lifeboat on a cruise ship, the spacecraft is not expected to be called into service to quickly evacuate people but it has to be ready for that job just in case. Right now, the lifeboat function on the space station is served by requiring a pair of Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be docked at all times. Each Soyuz holds three people. So with two docked, there can be six people working on the station at any one time.

Editor's Note: Russia's dismissive reaction to U.S. sanctions could strengthen U.S. resolve to develop alternatives to some of the aging Russian hardware we are currently forced to use. Two (perhaps three) crew vehicles will be developed with capabilities that exceed Russia's Soyuz capsules. A domestically produced RD-180 or alternative engine seems less likely, but very possible. (5/1)

No comments: