May 30, 2014

SpaceX Unveils New Dragon Capsule (Source: Washington Times)
SpaceX has announced unveiled a “space taxi” to shuttle NASA astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station. SpaceX, one of three companies vying for the right to taxi astronauts into space, showcased its Dragon V2 manned spacecraft Thursday night at the company’s headquarters in California. CEO Elon Musk described his space taxi as a “big leap forward in technology.” He said the Dragon V2 will have the ability to land compulsively, with the accuracy of a helicopter.

Sleek and dome shaped, the Dragon V2 has landing gear that allows it to autonomously settle itself on a variety of surfaces. The engines will be able to produce 1,600 pounds of thrust and parachutes will also be required during the landing process, Mr. Musk said. “That is how a 21st century spaceship should land,” he said. “We are on schedule to launch our first orbital flight in November of 2016, which will mark the beginning of the restoration of U.S. crew capability to low-Earth orbit,” he said. Click here for photos. (5/30)

Dragon V2 Will Land Exactly Where it Wants To (Source: Daily Beast)
The latest version takes a major leap in the way it lands. In contrast to previous capsules, which use parachutes to slow down, Dragon V2 will fire retrorockets and land gently, and, for the first time, have the ability to choose exactly where it touches down.

Among the other improvements are better “heat shield” coatings, which burn off as the Dragon reenters the atmosphere, much like car hoods are designed to crumple to safely absorb energy. And this capsule will be able to dock itself, without needing the ISS to grab ahold and guide it in.

SpaceX is akin to a startup, throwing what has largely been a government-centered launch industry into disarray—and rattling the cages of more established companies in the process. What was a simmering hostility between SpaceX and more established companies, tempered by mutual respect, has recently erupted into open warfare. (5/30)

U.S. and Russia Should Avoid Star Wars (Source: Bloomberg)
Ironically, the Russian commitment to space now looks set to expand, not contract. On the same day that the Russians cast doubt on the ISS, Moscow boosted the budget of its space program by $52 billion over six years. Russia may be looking for new partners for this bulked-up program: Two weeks ago in Beijing the respective heads of the Russian and Chinese space programs signed a protocol to establish “strategic projects” in space, including “projects that can replace the ISS.”

SpaceX and other private operators will happily launch -- but not develop and operate -- scientific missions that have no clear profit outcome. Those kinds of mission require national space agencies, and in an age of shrinking budgets, international partners. Russia is a troubling candidate for partnership, but the U.S. has been collaborating with the country and occasionally sanctioning it for decades. There’s no reason to stop now. (5/30)

Google-Backed Global Broadband Venture Secures Spectrum for Satellite Network (Source: Space News)
A company in Britain’s tax-friendly Channel Islands and backed by Google and the founder of satellite broadband trunking provider O3b Networks has secured radio-spectrum rights to build a low-orbit satellite constellation to provide global broadband to individual consumers, industry officials said.

The company, which uses the name L5 in its regulatory filings and is registered in St. Helier, Jersey, under the name WorldVu Satellites Ltd., has picked up Ku-band spectrum initially planned for use by a now-defunct company called SkyBridge to launch a constellation of 360 small satellites for a global Internet service.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based United Nations affiliate that regulates satellite orbital slots and wireless broadcast spectrum, shows L5 filings as promising to start service in late 2019. The satellites, tentatively designed to operate in a circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator, have been given regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service. (5/30)

'Cosmic Inflation' Pioneers Snag Prestigious Kavli Prize (Source:
Three physicists who helped further the theory that the universe expanded rapidly right after it was born were awarded the prestigious Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. Alan Guth of MIT, Andrei Linde of Stanford University and Alexei Starobinsky of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics shared the prize for their work on the theory of cosmic inflation, which posits that the universe underwent a period of rapid expansion in the first few moments after the Big Bang. (5/30)

Defense Industry: Export Reforms Don't Go Far Enough (Source: National Defense)
Defense and aerospace companies, while pleased the White House is moving ahead to reform export rules, say that the changes are moving too slowly and don't go far enough to make exporting simpler. One of the big problems, companies say, is federal response to export requests is disorganized. "You run the gauntlet sometimes with uncoordinated offices and departments saying different things. Anybody can say 'no,'" said Remy Nathan, vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association. "We have to get away from that." (5/28)

InSight Will Burrow Beneath Martian Surface (Source: Extreme Tech)
The InSight lander, which is ready for construction, will visit Mars in 2016, becoming NASA's tool for uncovering the secrets locked inside the Red Planet. The stationary lander will dig deep beneath the ground for two years, measuring temperature, quakes and other details. (5/28)

Is America's Space Administration Over the Hill? Next-Gen NASA (Source: Popular Mechanics)
It has been 40 years since NASA first placed man on the moon. Not only was the space agency still young, but most of its employees were fresh out of college. Today, less than 20 percent of NASA's employees are under the age of 40, leading one report to call the agency "mono-generational." This leads to a disturbing question: As the baby boomers retire, who will get astronauts back to the lunar surface? Click here. (5/26)

Simulation Practices First Flight of New Orion Program (Source: Space Daily)
In just a matter of months, NASA will send a new spacecraft into space for the first time. And back here on the ground, the Mission Control Center in Houston will be at the helm. "It's the first flight of a brand new program," said Mike Sarafin, lead flight director for Orion's Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). "There's been a lot of testing done on the ground, but we're going to really, no kidding, prove that this thing can fly."

It's a milestone for which Sarafin's flight control team of about two dozen people has been preparing for two years, and this week they participated in their first joint integrated simulation, along with the Mission Management Team, the Test and Launch Control Center and the Engineering Support Team, all located in at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (5/30)

Orion Service Module Back on Track for 2017 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After some delays, the European-built service module for the new Orion crew-transport vehicle is now back on track and should be ready for a test launch of Orion in late 2017. “The preliminary design review for the service module has been successfully concluded and that is a key milestone in the consolidation of the schedule,” according to European Space Agency Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain. (5/29)

5 Things to Know About SpaceX's Flight Plans (Source: ABC)
SpaceX has made supply runs to the International Space Station under a NASA contract. Now it's eyeing carrying astronauts to low-Earth orbit. NASA is depending on private companies to fill the void left by the retirement of its space shuttle fleet. Click here. (5/30)

SpaceX: 'Hopeful' About Building Launch Pad on Boca Chica Beach (Source: Valley Morning Star)
“Although Cameron County remains a finalist for the development of a commercial orbital launch complex, the decision will not be made until all technical and regulatory due diligence is complete," said a SpaceX spokesperson. "Following the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the FAA will issue a final Record of Decision (ROD). Pending the ROD, there would be several other criteria that will need to be met before SpaceX makes a decision," she said.

While the timing of some of these critical steps is not within SpaceX's control, we are hopeful that these will be complete in the near future,” she added. The proposed site on Boca Chica beach continues to be the only preferred location for building the world’s first private commercial vertical launch site, according to the FAA’s final environmental impact statement issued Wednesday and now available for public review. (5/29)

Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America Sign Agreement for Airspace (Source: Spaceport America)
Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have signed a joint agreement with the FAA that helps clear the path for commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo. The historic agreement sets out the parameters for how routine space missions launched from Spaceport America will be integrated into the National Airspace System.

Specifically, the agreement spells out how the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority will work with Virgin Galactic to smoothly and safely provide clear airspace for SpaceShipTwo. “Our team is working hard to begin routine and affordable space launches from Spaceport America and this agreement brings us another step closer to that goal,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (5/29)

The agreement provides procedures for the safe integration of commercial, licensed space launch operations into the National Airspace System from Spaceport America. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority also has an agreement in place with the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range to support space launch activities within WSMR airspace. (5/29)

World View Launches Emblem Design Contest for Near-Space Balloon Trips (Source:
An Arizona company that aims to send thrill-seekers to high-altitude balloons for rides to the edge of space wants a new emblem, and it's asking the public for help. The Tucson-based company World View announced that it's seeking a mission emblem to represent its future passengers, or "Voyagers." The winning designer will be awarded $500 cash and a paid trip to World View's inaugural Voyager Gala. (5/29)

Arabsat Traces Intentional Jamming to Ethiopian Source (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on May 29 said it has suffered intentional jamming on multiple television channels on its fleet at 26 degrees east longitude and has succeeded in localizing the source of the interference in Ethiopia. Riyadh-based Arabsat said it would use the full force of the law to collect damages from the jamming parties, without detailing how this might be achieved.

The company said it has notified the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate, and the Arab League of the action. In addition to expressing its anger, Arabsat said it was “surprised by the vandalism” because its fleet carries neither Ethiopian nor Eritrean programming. The company speculated that the jammers were aiming at one or more satellites nearby and were affecting Arabsat by accident. (5/29)

Voyager Probes Still Healthy After Nearly 4 Decades in Space (Source:
NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft are still going strong after nearly 37 years in space. "Both spacecraft are still operating, still very healthy. I guess as healthy as we are at the table right now," Suzanne Dodd, the Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said. (5/29)

Russia-Ukraine Space Program Proceeding as Planned (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and Ukraine plan to continue joint commercial space launches despite aggravated relations between the two countries, Russian space agency Roscosmos said Wednesday. Roscosmos deputy chief Sergei Ponomaryov said Russia would launch a Dnepr rocket carrying a cluster of 30 micro-satellites on June 19, with Ukraine's Yuzhmash enterprise engaging in the ongoing rocket construction.

Ponomaryov said the Makeev rocket design bureau was a possible substitute for the Dnepropetrovsk-based Yuzhmash. Currently, Makeev bureau designs submarine-based ballistic missiles. Yuzhmash also produces the silo-based Voyevoda (SS-18, or Satan in NATO classification) inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of carrying an eight-piece nuclear warhead. (5/29)

Russia Ratifies Deal on Aerospace Cooperation with Kazakhstan (Source: Space Daily)
Upper house parliamentary lawmakers have ratified a Russia-Kazakhstan agreement on cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The accord was signed in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, in May 2008, aiming to establish organizational and legal procedures for working together. Russia's lower house ratified the agreement on May 23.

The document stipulated principles, norms and conditions covering distribution and protection of intellectual property rights, export control, defense of property and technology, and customs clearance procedures. Moscow and Astana also will sign a memorandum on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, Russia's presidential aide Yuri Ushakov has said. (5/29)

Big Island’s Role in Apollo Missions Commemorated (Source: Big Island Now)
Hawaii’s role in the momentous first landing on the moon has been recognized by state lawmakers, and in photographs taken decades ago. July 20 marks the 45th anniversary of the historic 1969 landing of the Apollo 11 lunar module on what would become known as Tranquility Base, for its location in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. That “sea” is actually a broad flow of basalt lava.

So it was only logical that scientists with NASA would look for a similar landscape to train astronauts for that and subsequent Apollo missions, and the Big Island’s volcanic terrain turned out to be ideal. From 1965 to 1972, that training was carried out in nine locations, including the Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. (5/29)

Swedish Artist Wants To Put a Little Red House on the Moon (Source: NBC)
Man first set foot on the moon decades ago, so isn't it high time to build a house up there? Swedish artist Mikael Genberg thinks so. He is trying to raise $15 million via global crowdfunding to send a self-assembling house to the moon next year. The ‘Moonhouse” will be red with white gables — resembling “a typical Swedish red cottage,” Genberg says — measuring 2 by 3 meters (6 ½ by 10 feet) at the base. It will be more of an “art project” than actual human living quarters. (5/29)

Lockheed Martin to Buy Astrotech Space Operations for $61 Million (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Corp. announced a major step in its strategic evolution with the signing of a definitive agreement to sell the assets constituting its Astrotech Space Operations business (ASO) to Lockheed Martin, including the assets of its wholly owned subsidiary, Astrotech Space Operations, for $61 million.

"We are very excited about what this transaction means for our shareholders," stated Thomas B. Pickens III, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Astrotech Corporation. "This represents the beginning of a new era for Astrotech Corporation as the company can now concentrate our efforts on high growth business opportunities while having the needed resources to develop and fulfill the potential of our 1st Detect mass spectrometer product line." (5/29)

“No Evidence For or Against Gravitational Waves” (Source: Nature)
The astronomers who this spring announced that they had evidence of primordial gravitational waves jumped the gun because they did not take into proper account a confounding effect of galactic dust, two new analyses suggest. Although further observations may yet find the signal to emerge from the noise, independent experts now say they no longer believe that the original data constituted significant evidence. (5/29)

We Are Now In Command of the ISEE-3 Spacecraft (Source: Space College)
The ISEE-3 Reboot Project is pleased to announce that our team has established two-way communication with the ISEE-3 spacecraft and has begun commanding it to perform specific functions. Over the coming days and weeks our team will make an assessment of the spacecraft's overall health and refine the techniques required to fire its engines and bring it back to an orbit near Earth. (5/29)

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