May 20, 2014

Human Error Likely Cause of Proton-M Failure (Source: Space News)
Human error likely led to the recent failure of a Proton-M rocket carrying Russia’s most powerful telecommunications satellite, a source in the space industry close to the commission investigating the incident said. “The human factor during the carrier assembly is the main reason of the ascent abort. The commission is drawing up several versions of the events, including the problem with the control engine, which could have led to the malfunction of the third stage of the Proton-M and the lift-off abort of the launcher,” the source said. (5/20)

Florida Lawmakers OK $42.5 Million for Space Projects (Source: Space News)
Florida legislators authorized $42.5 million for space-related programs for the state’s 2015 budget year that begins July 1, including revamping the space shuttle’s runway and landing facilities at the Kennedy Space Center for commercial users.

The proposed aerospace spending includes $20 million in the Florida Department of Transportation budget for space transportation infrastructure; $9.5 million for operations and programs of the Space Florida economic development agency; $5 million for Space Florida financing funding, half of which can be used on the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF); and $3 million for educational programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Other projects funded by Florida legislators include $2 million to continue development of a commercial spaceport at Jacksonville’s Cecil Field; $1.5 million for space tourism and marketing campaigns; $1 million for a Space Florida partnership with Israel; and $500,000 for a space transportation research project. Click here. (5/20)

Slow Going for Shuttle Runway Transfer (Source: Space News)
As NASA seeks to divest facilities idled by the shutdown of the shuttle program, Space Florida is positioning itself to become de facto landlord to a broad range of commercial companies and other entities interested in Kennedy Space Center’s amenities. Space Florida already has agreements with NASA for Orbiter Processing Facility hangars and is in negotiations to lease the SLF, whose 4,500-meter runway is one of the world’s longest.

“It was not unanticipated that this was going to be a long and agonizing process, but we both have a vested interest in success and we’re pretty confident we’re going to get there,” Dale Ketcham said. “NASA’s having to come to grips with something it has not had to do before, but Space Florida was pretty much created, empowered and chartered to do exactly this."

In anticipation of new facilities being built near the runway, NASA has submitted an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to dredge and fill about 16 hectares of wetlands located near both ends of the shuttle’s runway. “There are a number of customers who are interested in using the Shuttle Landing Facility. In order to accommodate them, we’re going to need some additional hangars, taxiways, utilities, sewer, water and all that other stuff. That’s going to be needed one way or another,” Ketcham said. (5/20)

Why Elon Musk, Others Should Build Rocket Engines in Central Florida (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A huge Central Florida business opportunity arises from Russia's cold shoulder — that is, if anyone is up to taking the leap. "We should immediately start a factory in the U.S. to produce a variant of the RD-180 and not be dependent on the Russians to control that supply," said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida.

DiBello told me there's a short list of companies in Florida — none in Central Florida — that can fully manufacture rocket engines. Companies like SpaceX have their own engines, but those are built in facilities outside of the state. ...It would help the U.S. space industry make a leap into becoming fully commercialized, which can help reduce cost and keep Central Florida's space industry in business. But for now, DiBello said his group will continue to promote Florida as a center for more space-related growth. "Florida is a perfect site for such a manufacturing effort, we would support that." (5/20)

Shelton: Time for “Pause” in RD-180 Debate (Source: Space Politics)
A week after Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin ignited a firestorm with a claim that Russia would ban the use of RD-180 engines for launching American military payloads, Space Command's Gen. William Shelton said that operations were proceeding as usual and urged a “pause” in the debate. “There have been no official pronouncements out of the Russian government on the RD-180. There has been the one ‘twitter’ out of one government official that has caused everybody concern,” he said.

Others noted Rogozin made the comments at a press conference in Moscow. Shelton, though, said there was still a need to understand the official government position. “I think it’s a time to pause and find out if that’s the official position,” he said. Shelton, though, said he personally supported proposals to develop a new large “hydrocarbon boost” rocket engine in the US. “There’s a debate to be had, and I think it will occur over the next four to five months,” he said.

As for the SpaceX lawsuit, Shelton said this: “Generally, the person you want do business with, you don’t sue them.” But as others have noted, contract protests and other suits over government business are hardly uncommon in the industry. (5/20)

Boeing, Lockheed Not Strangers to Sueing Government (Source: SPACErePORT)
According to a 2011 report, bid protests filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) "have received increased congressional scrutiny due to protests of high-profile awards and reports that the number of protests is increasing. The potential delay of contract award or performance triggered by a GAO protest, coupled with the increasing number of GAO protests, has also prompted concerns about the impact of protests upon agency operations, especially in the Department of Defense."

The GAO website lists nine Lockheed Martin federal bid protests since 2013, five for Boeing, and hundreds more for other contractors. Click here. (5/20)

With Questions Swirling, ULA Hastens Delta 4 Production (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
United Launch Alliance is accelerating production of the Delta 4 launcher to ensure U.S. national security satellites can get to space in case imports of Russian rocket engines are halted. The decision to ramp up Delta 4 rocket production was part of a contingency plan adopted by ULA under the U.S. Defense Department's policy of assured access to space.

If the Atlas 5 continued to launch at the same rate as recent years -- assuming no more RD-180 engine imports -- the supply would run out some time in 2016. The Atlas 5 is scheduled to launch U.S. military communications satellites, GPS navigation spacecraft, intelligence-gathering payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office, a NASA lander to Mars, and at least two commercial satellites over that period. (5/19)

Space Tourism: 'I Need My Space' Campaign Promotes Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County officials are hoping to drive visits to the Space Coast through a stepped-up focus on social media, targeting families with a jingle that declares, "I Need My Space." The Office of Tourism plans a contest, asking people to create the best short video using the promotional song. The winner will get a five-day trip for four to the Space Coast, including airfare, ground transportation, hotel rooms and tickets to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Click here. (5/20)

Citizen Space Advocates Make Grassroots Appeals to Congress (Source: SPACErePORT)
For the past 23 years, representatives from Citizens for Space Exploration have traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress or their staff to discuss the benefits of space exploration. From May 20-22 travelers several states urged congressional support for national and commercial programs ensuring American leadership in space exploration.

The Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is one of the founding partners of the annual grassroots campaign and organized participation by local businesspeople and students, including students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Florida Institute of Technology. (5/20)

New Meteor Shower Influenced by Jupiter's Gravity (Source: USA Today)
A first-of-its-kind meteor shower is expected to occur Friday night and into early Saturday morning. The Camelopardalid meteor shower is a first because Earth has never run into the debris from this particular comet. The Comet 209P/LINEAR is a very dim comet that orbits the sun every five years and was discovered in 2004. Unlike other meteor showers expected to be visible around the same time of year, the Camelopardalid is unique because its debris is strongly influenced by Jupiter's gravity, which constantly alters the orbit of this comet's debris. (5/19)

AT&T-DirecTV Deal Churns Regulatory Waters (Source: New York Times)
Many supporters of the blockbuster Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday, when AT&T and DirecTV announced plans to merge, thinking the latest pairing would divert some regulatory scrutiny of the other high-stakes deal. Perhaps some gasps of concern were also in order.

On Monday, opponents of the consolidation in the telecommunications industry — including on Capitol Hill — latched onto the AT&T and DirecTV deal, arguing that such rapid merging in the markets for cable television, high-speed Internet and telephone service should lead regulators to hit the brakes on all such deals. (5/20)

Dauria, Elecnor To Offer New Earth Imagery Provider Constellation (Source: Space News)
Dauria Aerospace and Elecnor Deimos of Spain announced plans May 12 to establish a nine satellite constellation called Deimos Perseus to offer multispectral Earth imagery with widespread applications, including agriculture, forestry and business operation monitoring. The constellation will include eight Perseus-O satellites, Dauria’s moderate-resolution Earth imaging spacecraft, as well as Deimos-1, a remote sensing satellite launched in 2009 by Elecnor Deimos. (5/19)

Can Nigerian Satellites Find Kidnapped Girls? (Source: Mad Spaceball)
Nigeria has not just one, but two imagery satellites orbiting the Earth in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  Not only that, but the reporters for Nigeria’s media are asking some questions regarding those satellites and their benefits to the country of Nigeria, including whether the satellites are useful for finding the kidnapped girls. (5/14)

One Giant Leap … Down (Source: Weekly Standard)
Responding to mild U.S. sanctions on Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced on May 13 that U.S. astronauts would no longer be welcome to ride to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russian rockets. “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline,” said Rogozin.

The taunt is witless. But the truth behind it is incontestable. Obama administration space policy has wrung the manned element out of the U.S. space program with few alternatives, save Russia’s good will, to loft American astronauts into space. Demonstrating a surprising and uncharacteristic faith in the private sector, Obama initially set aside 1/340th of NASA’s $17 billion dollar budget for entrepreneurs to develop vehicles for manned space travel. This political sleight-of-hand worked.

Editor's Note: Here's another (purposefully) inaccurate article suggesting that President Obama is responsible for our reliance on Russian rides to space. It also wrongly suggests that the U.S. is banned from Russian flights to the ISS, and implies that President Obama and his NASA are responsible for underfunding Commercial Crew. (5/20)

Embry-Riddle Professor Bringing Harsh Mars Living Conditions Lab (Source: ERAU)
“Human Factors Psychology was the perfect marriage of my infatuation with space and my love of psychology and research,” Dr. Kring said. His areas of focus — human behaviors in extreme environments, gender composition and team performance, cultural challenges in space flight, and habitability — have coalesced into his newest project, Embry-Riddle’s Mobile Extreme Environment Research (MEERS) Lab.

Amazing things are happening in the 1976 Airstream Travel Trailer, which sits in Embry-Riddle’s Research Park adjacent to the Daytona Beach Campus. The MEERS Lab serves as a hands-on classroom and test bed, where students develop and enhance the lab with new technologies. This controlled environment will be used to simulate the types of challenges humans will face during extended space travel, like a mission to Mars. Click here. (5/20)

Space Mining Is Awesome, Will Change Life on Earth. That’s Only Half Right. (Source: New Republic)
Space Mining is awesome. To read about these ambitious plans, and to contemplate the scale of human brainpower and industriousness required to pull them off, fills one with awe. These new companies talk about space in a way that sounds unfamiliar to the civilian ear accustomed to the reverent tone of planetarium field trips; rather than the vastness of space, the companies emphasize its accessibility.

What’s misleading about these projects isn’t that they’re subject to budget problems and delays, but that they come couched in overblown rhetoric about their potential to radically alter human life, to do away with the notion of scarcity and deliver us to a future of plenty and peace. It’s a pattern that has become familiar in Silicon Valley: develop a plan for a business that will do something cool and make a lot of money, but describe it instead as something that will change the world. (5/20)

Rising Sea Levels Are Destroying NASA's Multi-Billion Dollar Facilities (Source: AFP)
Sea level rise is threatening the majority of NASA's launch pads and multi-billion dollar complexes famous for training astronauts and launching historic missions to space, scientists said on Tuesday. From Cape Canaveral in Florida to mission control in Houston, the US space agency is busily building seawalls where possible and moving some buildings further inland.

Five of seven major NASA centers are located along the coast. Experts say that proximity to water is a logistical necessity for launching rockets and testing spacecraft. Many NASA centers have already faced costly damage from encroaching water, coastal erosion and potent hurricanes, said a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Click here. (5/20)

Editorial: We Can't Afford to Leave NASA Up In Air (Source: SunHerald)
If you want to see the price of our dysfunctional government, just look up -- up toward the International Space Station. It once was a symbol of international cooperation but it is now caught in a web of intrigue that threatens its existence. We have a single seat on each flight of a Russian craft -- at a cost of $71 million per trip. Only one third of the crew at the station at any given time is American, even though the U.S. paid for most of the station's $140 million price tag.

There is plenty of blame to spread around. President Bush decided in 2004 that NASA's mission should be a return to the moon. That plan retired the shuttle in favor of building deep space rockets, leaving a gap between the end of the shuttle program and the launch of new spacecraft. President Obama decided we needed a quicker way for ferry astronauts to the station and left it up to commercial interests to figure out how to do it. Congress balked and underfunded the commercial program.

Too often in recent years, those in Congress have put themselves first. It's clear America doesn't like that approach -- Americans' opinion of Congress could get lower, but not much. It's time to stop the bickering and put America back where it belongs, in the lead of space exploration. (5/20)

Editorial: A Mission Worth a Closer Look (Source: Space News)
Congressional deliberation on the second-to-last budget request of the Obama administration is well underway, and there’s every indication that this exercise will be as futile as all previous ones in terms of resolving the human spaceflight policy gulf between the White House and Capitol Hill.

The administration continues with what appears to be a half-hearted effort to sell a plan to capture an asteroid and haul it into lunar space for inspection by astronauts who would be delivered by the congressionally mandated Orion deep-space capsule and Space Launch System. The administration’s latest argument, as dubious as previous ones, is that the mission will advance the state of the art in space technologies sought by the commercial sector.  

Congress, meanwhile, insists on spending $3 billion per year on Orion and SLS, even if that comes at the expense of the program to restore independent U.S. access to the international space station. SLS and Orion proponents couch their arguments in lofty rhetoric about U.S. leadership in space exploration, but it’s no coincidence that the support base for SLS and Orion is dominated by lawmakers whose states and districts directly benefit from these programs. Click here. (5/19)

French Space Minister Open to Ariane 6 Design Changes (Source: Space News)
French space minister Genevieve Fioraso, in an apparent overture to Germany, said France is willing to entertain modifications to the design of the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket so long as the changes stick to the established credibility criteria and are in hand by July 8. Ministers from the 20-nation European Space Agency are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg in December to make a final decision on what direction Europe’s launcher sector will take.

On the table is a mainly solid-fueled Ariane 6, which with a new launch pad and related ground infrastructure is estimated to cost 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) over seven years; an upgrade of the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, with a price tag of 1.2 billion euros; and enhancements for Europe’s new Vega small-satellite launcher. One European industry official said that in launch vehicles alone, the total package is not far from 10 billion euros over 10 years. (5/20)

Forced To Think Small, Canadian Space Agency Focuses on Microsatellites (Source: Space News)
With little solid funding for new large-scale programs on the horizon, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has embarked on a number of smaller potential projects focused on microsatellites. Industry sources say the CSA is not expecting any major funding for large projects for the next several years, beyond proceeding with the Radarsat Constellation Mission, or RCM.

But on April 29 the CSA awarded five contracts to Canadian firms and universities to perform feasibility studies on five potential future microsatellite missions. These studies will investigate whether the five concepts are technically viable and suitable for the use of a microsatellite platform, according to the space agency. The proposed missions would be in areas of security, health, forest fire surveillance, weather surveillance and water quality monitoring. (5/19)

Armadillo Aerospace Vets Start New Space Company (Source: Space News)
Several former employees of suborbital spaceflight company Armadillo Aerospace have formed a new company to carry on Armadillo’s work developing reusable suborbital launch vehicles. Exos Aerospace formally announced its plans at an event May 14 at Armadillo’s former facilities at the Caddo Mills Municipal Airport northeast of Dallas.

Exos Aerospace, according to the company website, plans to develop “state-of-the-art reusable vehicles” for commercial suborbital spaceflight applications, but has not disclosed additional details about their plans. The company’s founders include Russell Blink, who was vice president of engineering at Armadillo Aerospace, and Phil Eaton, the former vice president for operations at Armadillo.

Armadillo had also been developing reusable suborbital launch vehicles, with the last test flight of its STIG-B rocket in early 2013 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. In August, company founder John Carmack announced that he had put the company into “hibernation mode” because of a lack of funding. (5/19)

Russia, China Sign Space Exploration Agreement (Source: Moscow Times)
With a summit meeting between the Russian and Chinese presidents due to begin Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin has followed last week's rhetorical bombshell — that Russia was not interested in extending operation of the International Space Station, or ISS, beyond 2020 — by trumpeting a future of increased cooperation with the emerging Chinese National Space Agency.

Meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Wang Yang, in Beijing on Monday, Rogozin announced on Twitter that he had signed "a protocol on establishing a control group for the implementation of eight strategic projects." In a later Facebook post, he said "cooperation in space and in the market for space navigation" were among the projects.

Rogozin and Wang agreed to hold a meeting between the heads of their respective agencies "in the near future," so that Beijing and Moscow could sow the seeds of a potential space partnership. Analysts doubted Russia's ability to be a reliable and fruitful partner to China beyond 2020, as Russian capabilities in space have drastically withered in the 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Russian space program lacks clear direction or goals. (5/19)

NASA: Russia Alone Can’t End Space Station Work (Source: Washington Post)
Friction between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine won’t spell the end of the International Space Station, the head of NASA said, dismissing concerns that one of the world’s most prestigious scientific endeavors could fall victim to political disagreement. The comments by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden come a week after Russia warned that it could cease cooperating with the U.S. on the project after 2020.

Although Japan, Europe and Canada are also members, all currently depend on Russian Soyuz capsules to take astronauts to the space station since NASA retired its shuttle fleet. “There is no single partner that can terminate the international space station,” Bolden said. Asked whether there might be an opportunity to bring on board China, which NASA is currently banned from cooperating with on human space flight, Bolden said: “There is nothing that I see in the tea leaves that says our relationship is going to change.” (5/19)

Raytheon Debuts Mobile App Based on VIIRS Satellite Imagery (Source: SpaceRef)
Available for iPhone, iPad and Android, VIIRS View provides mobile device users a look into the type of data meteorologists and climatologists use every day to track the weather and monitor Earth’s environment. Based on data generated by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite aboard Suomi NPP, VIIRS View combines visible light imagery, low-light nighttime imagery and ocean chlorophyll concentration onto a full Earth globe, rotatable and zoomable on any location on the planet. (5/19)

NASA May Bring Orion Test Flight Forward (Source: SEN)
The maiden flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft could be brought forward to September, Administrator Charles Bolden said in an interview. The unmanned mission, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is currently scheduled for December this year. It was put back three months from the original target date to make way for the launch of military surveilance satellites for the US Air Force. Bolden revealed that the original launch slot could be reinstated and NASA was keeping all options open. The team is working to have the spacecraft in place to launch in September, whatever date is finally picked. (5/19)

Aerojet Rocketdyne to Provide Upper-Stage Propulsion for Stratolaunch (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has received a contract from Stratolaunch Systems Corp. to provide six RL10C-1 production engines, with an option to provide an additional six at a later date, for the third stage of a revolutionary commercial air-launch system. The inaugural launch of Thunderbolt, the air-launch vehicle designed and developed for SSC, is scheduled for 2018.

The design concept for The Eagles Launch System involves the launch of an unmanned rocket dubbed Thunderbolt, carrying a commercial or government payload from beneath the fuselage of a giant carrier aircraft. According to the concept, the carrier aircraft will be powered by six Boeing 747 class jet engines and have a wingspan greater than the length of a football field. Upon reaching a prescribed altitude, the rocket will be dropped from the aircraft, at which point two stages of solid rocket boosters will fire and propel the rocket skyward. (5/19)

Companies Welcome Satellite Export Reform (Source: Satellite Today)
Satellites and their parts will no longer be treated like weapons when it comes to overseas export, following changes in the U.S. Munitions List, a revamp long sought by the U.S. satellite industry. The change is welcomed by the industry, which says it's suffered as a result of products facing tougher rules for export. The Aerospace Industries Association said that considering satellites as weapons cost U.S. industry $21 billion in revenue from 1999 to 2009. (5/16)

Sierra Nevada Completes Critical Wind Tunnel Tests for Dream Chaser (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. announces the successful completion of the latest milestone in its NASA Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. NASA awarded SNC full value of $20 million for the passage of CCiCap Milestone 8, Wind Tunnel Testing. To date, SNC has received over 80 percent of the total award value under the CCiCap agreement and is on track to complete the program later this year. (5/19)

Lockheed Eyes Avatars, 3D Printing to Lower Satellite Costs (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon's biggest supplier, is ramping up its use of 3D printing and virtual reality simulators to drive down the huge costs of producing national security satellites and safeguard profits in the face of reductions in U.S. defense spending. The company expects to finalize a government contract to buy two new missile-warning satellites in coming weeks for 40 percent less than projected by the Pentagon due to changes in its manufacturing methods, plant closures and layoffs. Analysts say the deal will be worth around $2 billion.

Lockheed executives say additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, could trim the weight of key components on spacecraft, allowing the government to pack on more sensors, or launch satellites on smaller, less expensive rockets. Lockheed engineers are evaluating which satellite components could be made with an in-house 3D printer instead of sending specifications to outside suppliers. (5/18)

How NASA Scientists Created an International Space Orchestra (Source:
What do you get when you combine brilliant space scientists with musical instruments? Why, an International Space Opera, of course. The International Space Orchestra (ISO) is the brainchild of French director Nelly Ben Hayoun, who has the colorful title "designer of experiences" at the SETI Institute (short for Search for Extraterrestrial Life) in Mountain View, Calif.

In the summer of 2012, Ben Hayoun assembled the orchestra using scientists from the NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute, Singularity University and the International Space University joined forces. They performed "Ground Control: An Opera in Space," a 27-minuted musical extravaganza that reenacted the drama of NASA's mission control during the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. (5/12)

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