May 21, 2014

Water Found Inside Dragon After Splashdown (Source: Aviation Week)
Technicians found a significant amount of water inside the latest SpaceX Dragon capsule to land in the Pacific after a mission to the Space Station, raising concerns the commercial cargo capsule leaked after splashdown. A NASA official confirmed the anomaly, and said SpaceX shifted the payload-unloading operation it usually conducts at its MacGregor, Texas, facility to the dock at Long Beach, Calif., where the capsule reached land after its recovery at sea.

An investigation into the cause of the problem is underway, according to the official. Witnesses at the port observed significant water as the cold storage containers brought back from the ISS were removed, and there was a report the capsule’s internal humidity sensors tripped, according to an industry source. The Dragon carried back water samples for analysis to check the performance of the station’s recycling system, but the amount of water in the capsule appeared to be more than could be accounted for by a burst water-transport bag, according to multiple sources. (5/21)

SpaceX Blames Helium Leak for Falcon 9 Launch Delay (Source: Space News)
The May 9 cancellation of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket static test firing ahead of a planned May 10 launch was caused by a helium leak in an apparently different location from the leak that delayed the April launch of a cargo supply mission. The launch, of six Orbcomm machine-to-machine messaging satellites, has been rescheduled to June 11, with a backup date of June 12 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

After days of maintaining a silence in which was bred multiple industry rumors, Shanklin on May 20 gave a brief summary of what stopped the test firing on the day before the scheduled launch. “The issue was a helium leak in a different location that wasn’t present during earlier tests,” Shaklin said. “We are thoroughly reviewing the stage before clearing it for flight, as we want to make sure that no further such issues occur. (5/21)

Physicist Turned ‘Rocket Man’ Looks to the Sky with SpaceX (Source: Symmetry)
Sam Waldman applied for a job at SpaceX in 2012, after he and his wife, also a scientist, both decided to search for employment in the same geographic area. He found he was well suited for the small, private spaceflight company, which had a similar environment to academia and required good problem-solving skills, broad-based knowledge and experience in building things. Click here. (5/20)

For Iridium, NEXT is PRIME (Source: SpaceRef)
Eight months after announcing Iridium PRIME, a turnkey hosted payload solution, Iridium is proceeding full speed ahead with the venture after garnering enough support from potential customers. Built on the legacy of Iridium NEXT and leveraging the supply chain know-how from that program, Iridium PRIME is the next commercial product in the pipeline.

Iridium NEXT is Iridium's next generation satellite constellation of 66 satellites with 6 onorbit spares and 9 ground spares. The NEXT constellation will be deployed between 2015 and 2017 on SpaceX Falcon 9's and the Russian Dnepr, the converted Russian ballistic missile. The Falcon 9 can launch 10 Iridium satellites at one time while Dnepr can launch two. (5/21)

ATK Brings NASA's Space Launch System One Step Closer to 2017 Flight (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA and ATK are one step closer to meeting a 2017 launch date for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) after completion of a significant structural test of the booster's main attachment mechanism. The article tested was a major load-bearing structure known as the forward skirt. The attach point on the forward skirt is where the main stage attaches to ATK's five-segment solid rocket boosters. (5/21)

Lockheed Machinists at Stennis Vote to End Strike (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin said on Tuesday that more than 100 union members who had been on strike at Mississippi's Stennis space center since late last week voted to accept the company's contract offer and would return to work on Wednesday. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers began picketing on Friday after rejecting a Lockheed contract offer. Stennis is home to NASA's Rocket Propulsion Test Program, which manages the agency's propulsion test facilities. (5/21)

First Seeds to be Planted Soon on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
The first seeds germination experiment is about to be launched on Mars (Mars Plant Experiment, MPX). Greenhouse, small transparent cube, will be attached to the outer surface of the new Mars rover, that will be launched in mid-2020 and will land on the Red Planet in early 2021. Scientists hope that this study will be useful in the development of the Mars exploration program.

During the Martian summer day soil at the equator of the planet is warming up to +20 degrees Celsius. It is tempting to plant the seeds directly into the open ground, close them with the transparent shell and pour them with water from earth. But even if the plant does not freeze at night, it will still die.

The planet's atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide with the absence of oxygen that is essential for plants to grow in the dark. In addition, its pressure is about 160 times lower than on Earth. In such a vacuum cell gas exchange is hardly possible. However, if to open the greenhouse, it is possible to "release" the earth's life outside, violating Martian environment. (5/20)

Scientists Seek Answers With Space Station Thyroid Cancer Study (Source: Space Daily)
The multi-national efforts that go into research aboard the International Space Station show that working together can yield results with universal benefits. This is especially the case when talking about human health concerns such as cancer. Researchers make use of the microgravity environment aboard the space station to seek answers to questions about the nature of cancer cells.

With the Microgravity on Human Thyroid Carcinoma Cells (Cellbox-Thyroid) study, recently conducted in orbit, the hope is to reveal answers that will help in the fight against thyroid cancer. The Cellbox-Thyroid study is enabled through a collaborative effort between NanoRacks, Airbus Defense and Space, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to facilitate the microgravity investigation aboard the space station. (5/21)

Roscosmos Plans Equipment for Monitoring Space Debris (Source: Space Daily)
Roscosmos has announced a tender for the production and supply of optical-electronic complexes for detection and measurement of the movement parameters of space debris; the initial (maximum) price of the state contract is 363 million rubles (over $10.5 million). The works on manufacturing and testing the equipment should be controlled by the military agency of the Russian Defense Ministry, the document says. (5/21)

Shelton Prefers New U.S. Main Engine Over Domestic RD-180 (Source: Space News)
Should recent geopolitical events ultimately prompt the U.S. government to build a domestic alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 engine that powers one of its workhorse rockets, it probably makes more sense to develop one from scratch rather than use the Russian design, according to U.S. Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command. (5/20)

Russian Commission Still Mystified by Cause of Proton Failure (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Russian commission investigating the Proton rocket failure on May 15 remains mystified by the cause of the third-stage malfunction. The head of the investigative commission, Alexander Danilyuk of Tsniiimash, said the guidance system "operated fault-free" and that the commission also ruled out "miscalculation." Meanwhile, Russian space agency head Oleg Ostapenko said that a sharp pressure drop was detected in the third stage control engine's piping, but the reason is unknown. (5/20)

Satellite Services and Manfacturing Revenue Up in 2013 (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) released its annual report on the state of the satellite industry yesterday. The report, prepared for SIA by the Tauri Group, found that global revenues for the satellite industry in 2013 were $195.2 billion, up 3 percent from $188.8 billion in 2012.  Of the four segments of the satellite industry identified in the report, global revenues for only one -- the satellite launch industry -- fell compared to 2012. (5/20)

Space Foundation: Space Economy Grew by 4 Percent in 2013 (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Space Foundation released its annual report on the state of the space economy, asserting that the global space economy grew by 4 percent in 2013 reaching a new record of $314.17 billion. Government spending around the world accounts for less than a quarter of that amount, and was less in 2013 compared to 2012 "as significant cuts in the U.S. space budget were only partly offset by growth in the space budgets of other countries."

The reduction in U.S. Government space spending was both in civil and national security space primarily because of the sequester. NASA's spending dropped from $17.77 billion in FY2012 to $16.85 billion in FY2013, for example. Calculating how much the U.S. spends on national security space is a challenge since so much information is classified and space activities are not grouped together into a single account in the DOD budget. The Space Foundation estimates that it was $21.72 billion in FY2013. Adding in funding for other agencies like NOAA and NSF, it uses $41.257 billion as the total for U.S. government space spending in 2013, 9.4 percent less than 2012. (5/20)

Lockheed Martin Seeks To Americanize Orion’s European Service Module (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin is working to get American parts onto the European service module slated to power the first crewed flight of the Orion deep-space capsule the company is building for NASA. The European Space Agency is providing the service module for that flight, notionally slated for 2021, and for an uncrewed 2017 precursor. Both missions will send Orion to the same distant lunar retrograde orbit.

These service modules will be derived from the Automated Transfer Vehicle ESA used to carry cargo to the space station. ESA agreed to provide Orion service modules in 2013, displacing a domestic option from Lockheed. Now, for financial reasons, ESA prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space may provide only “one and a half” service modules, Larry Price, Lockheed’s Orion deputy program manager, said.

“They may not complete both of them, depending on funding,” Price said. But “we think we can drive Europe’s cost down so they can deliver two complete service modules” by steering the European company toward American suppliers already working on the Orion crew module. “If we use common parts, they can be lower price,” Price said. He added that ESA is set to deliver a full service module for the 2017 flight. (5/20)

Certified Falcon-9 Could Meet DOD Need for Redundancy (Source: Space Politics)
From a reader comment: "If the Air Force wants to continue to have redundant access to space, which is a good thing, then all they have to do is accelerate the certification of the Falcon Heavy. That’s it. And since they would have been spending money to certify the Falcon Heavy at some point anyways, this is essentially a ZERO cost solution for the Air Force. That means the Atlas V ... becomes a third assured access to space system, and no longer the 2nd alongside Delta IV."

Editor's Note: It seems we're moving toward the kind of environment that the Air Force had hoped for at the start of the EELV program, where competitors served both government and commercial launch markets to keep costs low. (5/21)

Should the Government Fund an RD-180 Replacement? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The space blogosphere is alive with opinions on the RD-180 issue. Some ask why the U.S. Government should fund the development of a U.S.-made alternative to Russian-made RD-180s, when the new engine would benefit only one company. (5/20)

Amid Attacks, ULA Outlines Some EELV Pricing (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) says the per-unit cost of its Atlas V 401 – the launcher roughly equivalent in lift capability to SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 bursting into the market – costs $164 million apiece under a newly inked agreement with the U.S. Air Force. ULA CEO Mike Gass shared the figure for the first time in response to unrelenting criticism from rival SpaceX that ULA’s launches cost far too much for the taxpayer.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has cited a per-unit cost for ULA's Atlas V and Delta IV launchers of $460 million. Gass bristles at this figure. He says that number came from a rudimentary look at the annual budget line for EELV divided by the number of launches, but that encompasses sweeping launch costs, including certification funding for SpaceX. And, he says, it is not an accurate "apples-to-apples" cost to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1.

SpaceX advertises a $100 million-per-launch price for the Falcon 9 v1.1, including satisfying $30 million for an added layer of government oversight not included in its commercial launch pricing. SpaceX, Gass says, has an "overcommitted manifest," adding that it is time for the company "to prove its technology [and] match its rhetoric with performance." (5/20)

SpaceX Overcommitted? Focus on Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
Remember Beal Aerospace, the startup launch company founded and bankrolled by a weathy industry outsider in the late 1990s? Beal was developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle intended to cost much less than the Atlas and Delta rockets. Beal closed its doors in 2000, after (among other things) overextending its resources in pursuit of multiple launch sites.

The cost and complexity of SpaceX's launch operations will increase if the company establishes a third launch site in Texas, which could overcommit the company's resources at a time when it should be simplifying and focusing on efficiency. Focusing on expansion at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport would allow SpaceX to use its existing Florida workforce and facilities more efficiently. (5/20)

Inmarsat Used Just 14 Numbers to Determine Flight Path of MH370 (Source: Newsweek)
Inmarsat said it will release all the data it used to determine the final path of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 to help reassure relatives that authorities are searching in the right location. Inmarsat said in a joint statement with Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on Tuesday the data communication logs, or raw data, would be released along with an explanation of the analysis used to work out the route.

In the hours after the aircraft disappeared, an Inmarsat satellite picked up a handful of pings from it, indicating that the plane continued flying for hours and helping narrow the search to an area of the Indian Ocean. An Inmarsat spokesman said the data communications log comprised 14 pieces of data from seven "handshakes," or pairs of numbers, between the aircraft and the satellite. One number is time information, the other is frequency. (5/20)

FedEx Starts 'Space Solutions' Service (Source: FedEx)
FedEx Space Solutions, launched this week, is a turn-key shipping solution for the space industry. Whether a package is headed to a launch site or beyond, FedEx experts can work with space customers to design a plan for moving their sensitive materials safely and quickly. Space Solutions is a one-stop shop for all questions related to shipping assets going to or returning from space.

When a customer calls the Space Desk, we go in to action, answering questions and tapping into the expertise across the enterprise to assemble a customized solution for each space-bound shipment. Click here. (5/20)

Private Team Hopes to Contact 36-Year-Old NASA Probe (Source:
A private crowdfunded team will attempt to make contact with a 1970s-era NASA spacecraft this week, the first major step in an ambitious effort to repurpose the retired probe. Members of the group, which met its $125,000 crowfunding goal last week, have traveled to Puerto Rico, where they'll use the powerful Arecibo Observatory to beam messages to the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 probe, or ISEE-3. The spacecraft launched in 1978 and ceased science operations in 1997.

The team has raised about $132,000 as of today (May 19). Over the weekend, the ISEE-3 Reboot Project extended the fundraising campaign to May 23, asking donors to help meet a "stretch goal" of $150,000. The extra money will be used to rent NASA's Deep Space Network scientific telecommunications system, which the team will use to stay in touch with ISEE-3 spacecraft, project leaders said. (5/20)

No comments: