May 4, 2014

Nine Launches Set for May (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Nine launches are scheduled worldwide for the month of May. The manifest includes three launches by American providers, three by Russia, one joint Russian-Ukrainian flight, and one launch each by Japan and Europe. The U.S. launches include six Orbcomm OG2 communications satellites by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and a pair of military satellites to be launched by ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. (5/4)

Can NextGen Handle Space? High-Flying U-2 Breaks ERAM (Source: NBC)
On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region’s major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.

The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it. Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.

Editor's Note: Spaceflight vehicles ascending to and descending from space may have similar impacts on our current and planned traffic management systems for the National Airspace System (NAS). Whether technologies intended to upgrade the NAS under the FAA's NextGen program can accommodate traffic at the velocities and altitudeds required for spaceflight remains to be seen. (5/3)

Magic Dust (Source: Economist)
If all goes well, it and 103 identical siblings, known as sprites, will be scattered into space on May 4th from a mother ship (itself a mere 10cm by 10cm by 30cm) that rode shotgun on a rocket put up last month by SpaceX, a private rocketry firm, to resupply the International Space Station. These sprites, which weigh 5 grams and cost $25 a pop, are the creation of Zac Manchester of Cornell University. Each has a microprocessor, a radio powerful enough to transmit a message to Earth, two aerials, a solar cell, a magnetometer and a gyroscope to tell the satellite in which direction it is pointing. Click here. (5/3)

Urgency Network Offers Ride to Space (Source: Urgency Network)
Urgency Network and VICE Media's Motherboard bring you Ticket To Rise: an experience that gives earth dwellers the chance to win a private trip to space! You'll travel to the edge of space on the XCOR Lynx Mark II spacecraft, reaching an altitude of 100 km (338,000 feet). The 100km altitude line (the “von Karman Line”) is generally recognized by the international community as the threshold of space. Participants on the XCOR Lynx Mark II flight may claim the title ‘Astronaut’ upon their return.” Click here. (5/3) 

Potential Spacecraft Neighbors in Cameron County Locked in Firefight (Source: Rio Grande Valley Morning Star)
Trailblazing powerhouse SpaceX and giant aerospace contractor United Launch Alliance are poised to become earthbound neighbors in Cameron County. When SpaceX challenged ULA nose cone-to-nose cone in court this past week, sparks flew. ULA assembles the Atlas and other rockets at several locations, including Harlingen on property that it leases from the city near Valley International Airport.

Less than 50 miles away, SpaceX intends to develop the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville on lands it leases and owns. The challenge revolves around ULA’s business with Russia and its corner on the market on national security launch contracts from the U.S. Air Force. Amid their differences, ULA’s presence in Harlingen and SpaceX’s intent to settle nearby at Boca Chica continue to place the state and Cameron County at the forefront of space exploration and transportation in the world. (5/3)

NASA Eyes CubeSats for Deep Space Missions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
So far, CubeSats have been used exclusively in Earth orbit. But, imagine a fleet of these tiny spacecraft fanning out to the moon and other deep-space destinations. That’s what NASA has in mind. The space agency has just committed about $1.1 million to fund nine research projects that address different deep-space cubesat technologies. The funding is part of the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Select Phase 1 grants announced earlier this week. (5/3)

With Less Funding, Hawaii's PISCES to Scale Down Plans (Source: West Hawaii Today)
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems will scale down some of its plans after lawmakers approved less funding than it requested, Executive Director Rob Kelso said. The Hilo-based space research office will receive $900,000 in funding for the next fiscal year. It sought $1.7 million. Among its requests, PISCES sought funding to acquire land for a research park and matching funds for a planetary sustainability research partnership with California. Neither was approved.

But the state will chip in $250,000 for an engineering assessment on a proposed laser optical communication station on Mauna Loa. PISCES is partnering with NASA on the project, estimated to be complete in 2020 if approved. Kelso said PISCES, which operates under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, is assessing how to move forward with the amount of funding it will receive.

“The impact is going to be on the project work,” he said, adding he understands the state is limited on funds. “We won’t be able to add some additional staff that we wanted to.” Currently, PISCES has a staff of nine. PISCES is also moving ahead on a demonstration project with Hawaii County. That will involve the construction of sidewalk pads built out of basaltic rock with similar methods that could be used one day on the moon or Mars. The county Department of Research and Development is contributing $25,000, he said. (5/3)

Spaceport America, the Crazy-Efficient Space Hub of the Future (Source: Read/Write)
There are a lot of crazy things apparently hidden in the desert expanses of New Mexico, and the world's first dedicated commercial spaceport is one of them. Spaceport America, which is exactly what it sounds like—an airport for space travel—is the first of its kind. Click here. (5/2)

See More of KSC Land-Speed Run (Source: Florida Today)
Remember the "supercar" that topped 270 mph on Kennedy Space Center's shuttle runway in February? Hennessey Performance promises a behind-the-scenes look at the Venom GT's record-setting run in "Breaking Barriers," a documentary airing at 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday on the National Geographic Channel. A press release says the one-hour documentary "showcases men with the vision, grit and determination to shatter records and realize dreams of speed." (5/4)

Florida Lawmakers Approve Budget, Adjourn Session (Source: Space Coast Daily)
Lawmakers passed an election-year budget of $77.1 billion — the largest state spending plan in history — before closing out the 2014 legislative session and heading home to campaign. Lawmakers approved the budget by lopsided margins — 102-15 in the House and a unanimous 40-0 in the Senate. Moments after the final votes, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz brought down the final gavels of the legislative session, ending the annual meeting at 10:40 p.m. Friday.

Editor's Note: All subject to approval or veto by the Governor, the budget includes $14.5 million for Space Florida operations and projects, including earmarks within that amount for an Israel/Florida aerospace partnership ($1M); space tourism marketing ($1.5M); and a Florida Tech program for space transportation research ($500K). Another $5 million is approved for Space Florida economic development financing/investment projects, of which $2.5M may be used for the Shuttle Landing Facility.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University would receive $3 million for aerospace projects. And, though not called out specifically in the budget, Florida's Dept. of Transportation would use $20 million for space transportation infrastructure projects. Click here for a state budget tally by the Florida Space Development Council. (5/4) 

Rocket Put on Launching Pad at Plesetsk Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
A space rocket Soyuz-2.1a was delivered and put on a launching pad at northern Russia’s Plesetsk spaceport, where the launch crew will make a cycle of tests of on-board systems and units of the rocket and launching equipment, Defence Ministry’s spokesman for Aerospace Defence Troops Col Aleksey Zolotukhin told Itar-Tass. (5/4)

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