May 23, 2014

TaxWatch Identifies Cecil Field Spaceport Funding as Budget 'Turkey' (Source: TaxWatch)
Florida TaxWatch issues an annual report identifying "turkeys" in the state's newly passed annual budget. Turkeys are line-items in the budget that weren't given sufficent due process, typically added to the budget without first being included in formal House, Senate or Gubernatorial budget proposals. TaxWatch identified $120 million in turkeys within the state's $77.1 billion budget, recommending that they be vetoed by the Governor.

This year's list includes an item added to Space Florida's budget for "Cecil Field Spaceport Infrastructure." The FAA-licensed spaceport near Jacksonville, which will be used by Generation Orbit to launch small satellites, would receive $2 million. Governor Rick Scott has until June 4 to decide whether to veto any items in the budget. (5/23)

Atlas V Rocket Launches Successfully From Florida (Source: CFnews13)
An Atlas V rocket launched Thursday from the Space Coast with a top secret satellite onboard. The rocket took off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 9:09 a.m. The launch, which was originally set for 9:05 a.m., was pushed back four minutes so it would not collide with an object in space. Onboard was a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is in charge of America’s spy satellites. (5/23)

ULA Manager's Sense of Mission Shows in Launch Preps (Source: Florida Today)
Marvin Alderman knows some might tune it out when the national anthem is piped across Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5 p.m. each day, but he doesn't. ...He thinks about the national security satellites ULA launches, and the importance of the communications links, positioning data and intelligence they provide. "Whatever we're working on, it's making a contribution to our world's security and safety," said Alderman, a 52-year-old Rockledge resident. (5/23)

Morpheus Lander 'Auto-Pilot' Test Landing Successful (Source: CFnews13)
A NASA prototype lander soars above the Kennedy Space Center for it's most important test flight yet, and once again, it's successful. The Morpheus Lander blasted off once again into the air at the end of the iconic KSC shuttle landing facility Thursday.

The prototype soared to 800 feet, much like previous tests. But this one was different. The lander's Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology system (ALHAT) was in charge for the very first time. "We've gotten to the point where it's time to close the loop, and let ALHAT do the flying," says Project Manager Greg Gaddis. (5/22)

Russia, China Negotiate Joint Exploration of Mars, Venus (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia and China are negotiating joint projects of Mars and Venus exploration, Roscosmos head Sergey Savelyev said. “We have been engaged in an active dialogue since last year, and our Chinese partners have expressed interest in our proposals for joint implementation of large-scale scientific projects,” he said. “Combined efforts would help to reduce costs and time, and to achieve the objectives of the Russian and Chinese national programs.” (5/22)

Defense Satellites Launched From Plesetsk Reach Final Orbit (Source: Voice of Russia)
A Rokot launch vehicle powered with a Briz-KM upper stage has delivered three defense satellites to a final orbit, Russian Defense Ministry press service and information department spokesman for the Aerospace Defense Forces Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. (5/23)

Leonardo DiCaprio Auctions Space Trip (Source: Variety)
The annual amfAR auction at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc outside of Cannes is known for its extravagant auctions on behalf of AIDS research, but this year the charity event shot into outer space. Leonardo DiCaprio auctioned a space trip in 2015 with him, which sold for 700,000 Euros (almost $1 million). (5/23)

Spaceport America Receives Environmental Certification (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has received gold status from the U.S Green Building Council for its energy-efficient design and construction efforts. The certification was given to the authority for its 110,000 square-foot “Gateway to Space” terminal hangar building at Spaceport America. (5/21)

NASA Will Use Video Games to Rekindle our Love of Space Travel (Source: Engadget)
The Kerbal Space Program folks teaming with NASA was pretty cool, right? Well, it wasn't an accident. The US aeronautics outfit is embracing the space-travel sim as a means to get the public interested in leaving our planet once again -- much like the televised Apollo launches were for generations prior.

Thanks to NASA, the development team has even started a collaboration with educators to create a classroom-focused version of Kerbal, where teachers can assign specific tasks to their students for homework. The development team's efforts as a whole have been a success, and there's proof that the player-base is much more than a handful of space-geeks and Lockheed Martin employees too.

The team said that in a recent survey a staggering number of their players (some 92 percent) weren't involved in the space industry at all, and an even higher amount (97 percent) became more interested in science and space as a direct result of playing. Even better, almost as many said they learned something about astrophysics or rocket science after starting the game. See Dad? Video games aren't melting brains after all. (5/23)

Senate Seeks ‘Balance’ On SpaceX, ULA; Block Buy Remains Intact (Source: Breaking Defense)
SpaceX does not look likely to get what it most wants from Capitol Hill in its battle against ULA and the Air Force: more launches sooner. Support for competition between the two companies remains vibrant, with Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Jim Clapper, director of National Intelligence, separately calling today for increased competition in the business of launching America’s national security satellites.

But Levin’s committee, in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, did not do what SpaceX owner Elon Musk most wanted: break up the block-buy purchase of rocket cores from ULA. Levin said the SASC wants “to get  [SpaceX] certified as quickly as they can so they can compete. Until they’re certified we want to be able to keep the program going and we want to get the benefit of that block-buy program, four billion bucks savings. We try to balance.” (5/23)

Sen. Nelson Pushes for Senate Funding for RD-180 Alternative (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved a plan that would add $100 million to the U.S. military budget to start work on a new U.S. rocket engine and eliminate reliance on a Russian-made engine used to lift big government satellites into orbit. The House Armed Services Committee included a similar provision in its defense authorization bill earlier this month.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, introduced the measure to increase funding as an amendment to the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill, arguing that it was important to ensure U.S. access to space for its astronauts and military satellites. Aerojet Rocketdyne, a unit of GenCorp, has said it is potentially interested in bidding for the work. (5/23)

Clapper Gives "Shout Out" to SpaceX (Source: Space News)
National Intelligence Director James Clapper hailed upstart launch services provider SpaceX during a keynote address at the 30th Space Symposium, endorsing competition in the U.S. government launch industry. “I do want to give a shout out to SpaceX,” Clapper said, offering his support for the competition the upstart company is offering to entrenched government launch services provider ULA — which only hours before Clapper spoke launched a classified NRO satellite from Florida aboard an Atlas-5.

“The way to drive down cost, typically, is through competition,” Clapper said, noting that “launch costs are a huge part of my budget.” In a report last year, the Government Accountability Office forecast the Pentagon would spend about $16 billion on launch services between 2014 and 2018. Citing recent visits to SpaceX’s manufacturing plant in Hawthorne and its launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Clapper praised the company, calling it ingenious, driven and aggressive. (5/23)

U.S., European Space Chiefs Urge Public To Look Past Russian Rhetoric (Source: Space News)
The heads of the U.S., European and German space agencies asked their publics to look past incendiary Russian government statements about ending the space station partnership to see the durable underlying value of the program. These officials, without naming Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin by name, sought to characterize his remarks as noise, and not a signal of Russian intentions.

“We are five partners — five member organizations — in the space station and no one person makes decisions for the station,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “It hasn’t happened in the five years I have been at NASA.” The agency chiefs and a large European space contractor debated how far space cooperation should go with nations that do not share the same cultural values. China and Russia were both mentioned. (5/23)

French Satellite Could Put Sea Launch Back on Track (Source: Orange County Register)
The last time Sea Launch attempted to put a satellite into orbit, it ended quickly and badly. The Zenit-3SL rocket blasted off from its platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean on Jan. 31, 2013. But as 300 workers looked on, the rocket and its Intelsat 27 satellite dove less than 2½ miles from where it started. More than a million pounds of rocket, payload and hard work slammed into the water after 40 seconds of flight.

Sea Launch aims to get back on track Monday, when it is scheduled to launch a French telecommunications satellite. The Odyssey oil rig disembarked last week from the company’s 16-acre facility in Long Beach with the support freighter Sea Launch Commander, giving the ships plenty of time to make Monday’s blast-off point. (5/23)

Planetary Resources to Boost Exploration with Space Gas Stations (Source: GeekWire)
People heading off on an interstellar journey may soon have one of the prerequesites for a road trip: gas stations. Planetary Resources Chairman Chris Lewicki said that his company wants to take asteroids and turn them into interstellar pit stops, where spaceships could stop and refuel. The company believes that it can extract hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen from asteroids and then mix those elements together to create rocket fuel.

Spaceships could then stop by the asteroids and top off their tanks before continuing on further. It’s unclear whether the refueling asteroids will have a mini-mart attached, however. If the plan works, it could significantly extend the range of spacecraft launched from Earth. In addition, Lewicki said that the company will continue to push forward with its plan to mine near-Earth asteroids and send minerals back home. (5/22)

NASA Agreement with Citizen Scientists to Communicate with Old Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has given a green light to a group of citizen scientists attempting to breathe new scientific life into a more than 35-year old agency spacecraft. The agency has signed a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA) with Skycorp, Inc., allowing the company to attempt to contact, and possibly command and control, NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft as part of the company’s ISEE-3 Reboot Project.

This is the first time NASA has worked such an agreement for use of a spacecraft the agency is no longer using or ever planned to use again. The NRSAA details the technical, safety, legal and proprietary issues that will be addressed before any attempts are made to communicate with or control the 1970’s-era spacecraft as it nears the Earth in August. (5/21)

Space Florida Sponsors Financing for Startups with CAT5 (Source: Space Florida)
The 2014 CAT5 Awards competition will take place on June 3. The CAT5 Awards celebrate powerful, disruptive product developments and provide Capital for the Acceleration of Technologies to early stage companies. First place winners will be awarded $100,000 and second place winners will receive an award of $50,000, both from Space Florida’s sponsorship. All 10 finalists will be put through an intense mentor and coaching program to prepare them for their presentations at the Showcase event. Click here. (5/23)

5 False Conceptions About Space (Source: Cosmos Up)
A lot of people have some pretty big misconceptions about space. To be fair, very few of us have ever been, there’s a lot more to study before anybody really knows what’s actually going on up there, and movies tend to give us the complete wrong idea. In the interests of setting things straight, here are 5 common misconceptions about space, and the truth behind them. Click here. (5/23)

Chelyabinsk Asteroid had Collided with Another Asteroid (Source: Guardian)
An asteroid that exploded last year over Chelyabinsk, Russia, leaving more than 1,000 people injured, collided with another asteroid before hitting Earth, research by scientists shows. Analysis of a mineral called jadeite that was embedded in fragments recovered after the explosion showed that the asteroid's parent body had struck a larger asteroid at a relative speed of about 3,000mph. (5/23)

Astronomers Tell Congress They’re Almost Certain ET Exists (Source: ABC)
Two top astronomers told Congress today that it would be “bizarre if we are alone” and asked for continued funding to detect extraterrestrial life. Dan Werthimer, director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley (SETI is short of “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”) also told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he thinks the possibility of microbial life on other planets is close to 100 percent.

Werthimer and his colleague Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute  were on Capitol Hill to discuss the need for continued funding for the search for life in the universe. And they were bullish about the prospects that there is life in outer space. “It would be bizarre if we are alone,” Werthimer told the committee. “If you extrapolate on the planets they discovered, there are a trillion planets in the galaxy. That’s a lot of places for life,” Shostak argued. (5/23)

Pay and Go: 'Soyuz' Space Ticket at $45-50 Million (Source: Voice of Russia)
Anybody willing to go to orbit may travel to the International Space Station for $45-50 million. This is the price tag for a two-week tour, delivery by Soyuz spacecraft, Russia's Energia Rocket and Space Corporation revealed. "A trip to deep space is a trip for a distance of no more than 100 kilometers. Speaking about trips to the orbit, there have been a few tourists, but there are so many interested people," says President of RKK Energia Vitaly Lopota.

"One seat to go to the ISS for about two weeks is about $45-50 million," he added. For comparison, the world's first "space tourist", multimillionaire Dennis Tito and former NASA engineer, bought a seat aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2001 for $20 million. His trip to the ISS lasted for eight days. For now there are 925 applications to go to on suborbital trips, which four American companies share. (5/23)

Craters Could Be Promising Sites to Look for Life (Source: Space Daily)
Asteroid and comet impacts can trigger widespread havoc, killing off life on a global scale. Now, one new study reveals that the molten wreckage of these explosions can entomb the remains of life that once dwelt in the blast zones and preserve them for millions of years, while another study hints that these impacts could even create novel habitats where life can flourish.

These findings suggest that impact craters on alien worlds might be good places to look for past and present signs of life, researchers say. "Impact glass may actually trap and preserve remnants of past life," Schultz said. The fragile plant matter in these glass samples was exquisitely preserved down to the cellular level. Moreover, the glasses at times also preserved organic compounds as well, including remnants of chlorophyll and related pigments. (5/23)

Consequences of EU Sanctions Against Russia for Space Exploration (Source: Space Daily)
EU sanctions are a two-edged knife, aimed at the Russian Federation but hurting Europe as well. Due to western sanctions the Russian leadership has decided to give up the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. Instead, the money and intellectual resources will be spent on cooperation with China in space research. How will Europe cope without Russia? Click here. (5/23)

Russia Working Out National Human Spaceflight Strategy Unrelated to ISS (Source: Space Daily)
Roscosmos is developing a national manned spaceflight strategy to replace the International Space Station program after 2020, Roscosmos deputy chief Sergei Savelyev said. "The development of the national strategy of manned spaceflight is under way now. Along with the Russian Academy of Sciences and the industrial sector, we are preparing a certain concept beyond the ISS," Savelyev said.

Roscosmos views China and Europe as the potential partners in the new strategy, with the key role belonging to Russia, Savelyev said. "The national component will be predominant in this strategy, but this also implies international cooperation. We view China and the European Space Agency as potential partners," he said. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin had said earlier that Russia was not planning to extend the operation of the International Space Station after 2020. (5/23)

Russian Space Agency Set to Resume Glonass Talks with US (Source: Space Daily)
Roscosmos is set to resume negotiations to deploy Glonass navigation system elements in the U.S. "Roscosmos has done paperwork for the Americans and has filed the documents with the Foreign Ministry. They state that our countries have made big progress in bilateral relations and this success should be developed for the sake of partnership and public interests. They propose to resume the consultations shortly and to pursue the path chosen earlier," a Roscosmos source said.

Earlier the sides agreed that the program would have three stages, he said. Stage I stipulates a real-time exchange of data from observation stations. Stage II suggests a broader option in the case the data is not sufficient: additional equipment may be installed at the request of a side so that the other side has more data. Stage III is the deployment of full-scale Glonass stations on the US territory and similar steps of Russia.

The negotiations on cooperation in satellite navigation came to a halt amid the general exacerbation of Russia-US relations, but the Americans continued to receive GPS data from stations deployed on the Russian territory. Initial plans of Roscosmos are to open about 50 data collection stations in over 30 nations, including five stations in the United States (Honolulu, Guam, Denver, Los Angeles and Greenbelt), one in Germany, one in Canada, one in France and one in Japan. (5/31)

Taking Weather Forecasting Into the Future (Source: Space Daily)
The first documents signalling the go-ahead for Europe's fleet of MetOp Second Generation weather satellites were signed in the presence of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Berlin Air Show. Set to debut in 2021, this next generation will comprise three pairs of satellites to secure essential information for weather forecasting through the decades beyond. Not only will MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG) offer continuity of the current MetOp series, today the main source of global weather data, they will also provide better data as well as introducing several new measurements. (5/23)

Crowdsourcing Saves Philly School's Space Program (Source: WCAU)
In recent years, students at Northeast High School have virtually saved mankind from a meteor, discovered water on Mars and repaired the International Space Station. But their current mission to establish a habitat on the moon was nearly aborted because of education budget cuts.

The Space Research Center, started 52 years ago as the first NASA-recognized high school space program, was saved by more than $13,000 in donations after the nearly broke Philadelphia school district could not afford to fund it. The money allowed students Thursday to launch their annual two-day simulated mission, which is staged in an actual Apollo training capsule and 21-foot-long homemade space shuttle simulator. They spent the night at school and planned to finish the mission Friday. (5/23)

NASA's New View of Asteroids (Source: FCW)
NASA now has an extra set of eyes on asteroids. The agency’s latest partnership with Slooh, a private Internet technology company that has a global network of web-connected telescopes, lets citizen scientists and amateur astronauts track and characterize near-Earth asteroids. Citizen scientists without access to professional equipment will now have the opportunity to participate in NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, and find potentially hazardous asteroids and other near-earth objects. (5/23)

Space Launch Deal Puts Spotlight on Revolving Door (Source: NLPC)
Washington's metaphorical "revolving door" keeps on spinning. A recent case involving a former Air Force procurement official is at the center of a dispute over the launching of rockets into space, and the huge contracts that go with them. From March 2011 to January of this year, Roger "Scott" Correll was the official at the Pentagon responsible for procuring launch services from private companies. One of his last official acts before his "retirement" in January was to oversee a deal giving ULA a whopping 36 future launches.

This month, Correll popped up with a new job with Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just happens to supply rocket engines to ULA. His title is Vice President for Government Acquisition and Policy, seemingly more than befitting of his role. Granted, there are not a lot of choices when shopping for firms capable of launching rockets. It comes down to two or three but still, and it is probable that Correll would have been criticized whatever he did.

But what really irks ULA's main competitor - SpaceX is the monopolistic nature of the contract, locking up three-dozen launches for several years to come. A subplot to this story is that Rocketdyne owns half of a company called RD Amross which provides Russian-made engines for the Atlas-5. The other half is owned by a Russia's NPO Energomash, which builds the engines. The appearances here could not be worse. Bad appearances are not all that uncommon, however, nor do they violate the law. (5/18)

Musk Suggests Pentagon Official Got Job For Bulk-Buy Rocket Contract (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX's Elon Musk issued a series of provocative tweets on May 22 suggesting that former Pentagon launch buyer Scott Correll may have taken a lucrative job with Aerojet Rocketdyne as a result of awarding a multi-billion dollar sole-source contract to ULA. Aerojet Rocketdyne provides engines for ULA's rockets. Musk said: "V[ery] likely AF official Correll was told by ULA/Rocketdyne that a rich VP job was his if he gave them a sole source contract."

Musk said Correll first tried to work at SpaceX but was turned down. He also suggested that the situation "deserves close examination by the DoD Inspector General. Senator John McCain in April raised concerns to the DoD Inspector General, requesting an investigation of the EELV program's exponential cost growth and schedule delays. (5/22)

Antares AJ-26 Engine Fails During Stennis Testing (Source:
One of the AJ-26 engines set to launch with a future Antares rocket has failed during testing at the Stennis Space Center on Thursday. Sources claim the engine “exploded” on a Stand located in the E Complex at the famous rocket facility. The failure is currently under evaluation, and it may delay the next Antares launch that is tasked with lofting the the ORB-2 Cygnus to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Antares launch vehicle has enjoyed a highly successful early life, launching three times without incident, with her debut during the A-ONE test flight in April, 2013. A previous failure of an AJ-26 occurred in June, 2011 – when the fourth Antares engine caught fire on the E-1 Test Stand. The fire was caused by a kerosene fuel leak in an engine manifold, with the root cause was subsequently determined to be stress corrosion cracking of the 40-year old metal.

Editor's Note: One concern about these engines has been their age. They were in storage for decades in Russia before being bought by Aerojet. The engines are no longer in production in Russia. (5/22)

Orion in Final Assembly at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin and NASA engineers have started the process of installing the largest heat shield ever built onto the Orion spacecraft’s crew module. The heat shield installation marks one of the final steps in the spacecraft’s assembly leading up to its first test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), later this year. (5/22)

Airbus Gets OK from ESA for Orion Service Module Design (Source: Airbus)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the world’s second largest space company Airbus Defence and Space’s system design of the European Service Module (ESM) for the American human Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) Orion, containing the critical propulsion, power supply and components of the life-support systems of the spacecraft. This approval gives the green light for the implementation phase, meaning that the initial hardware can now be built in the form of a structural test model. (5/19)

Swiss Space Systems Launch the ZeroG Experience (Source: Space Daily)
In 2015, Swiss Space Systems (S3) will put the ZeroG experience within everyone's reach. S3 is launching affordable zero gravity flights from more than 15 locations across the world including, for the first time ever, Asia, the Middle East and Central America. ZeroG flights make it possible to experience true weightlessness, allowing bodies and materials to float free of the earth's gravitational pull.

The S3 parabolic flights are completely safe, and supervised by space professionals and a crew of qualified personnel. All flights last less than 2 hours, during which 15 parabolas are performed, each providing an experience of weightlessness for 20 to 25 seconds. Click here. Editor's Note: S3 plans to open an office at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and to conduct operations from the Shuttle Landing Facility. (5/22)

From Wind Tunnel Tests to Software Reviews, Commercial Crew Advances (Source: Space Daily)
Working in wind tunnels, software laboratories and work stations across America, NASA's Commercial Crew Program partners are making strides in advancing the designs of the American spacecraft and rockets that will carry humans into low-Earth orbit by 2017. Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX are accomplishing milestones established through Space Act Agreements as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 and Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiatives. Click here. (5/22)

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