June 13, 2014

We're #1! (Source: SpaceKSC Blog)
“American exceptionalism” is a popular rhetorical phrase among political conservatives. The phrase is used to suggest that the United States is somehow [often by divine intervention] superior to other nations on Earth.
The phrase, ironically, was coined in the 1920s by Soviet leader Josef Stalin to disparage the notion that the U.S. was somehow exempt from a Communist revolution. In any case, there are those who believe that the United States must eternally demonstrate its superiority to the rest of the world.

Some claim that the U.S. has lost its space superiority. Space Coast Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) says “ our nation’s leadership in space is being threatened by Russia, China, India and others.” Sandy Adams, a Republican whose district included Kennedy Space Center until redistricting, wrote in 2011 that “the Obama Administration's budget willingly ceded that leadership to China, Russia and India — countries that understand the importance of human space exploration.

Gennady Padalka and Vladimir Popovkin would disagree. Cosmonaut Padalka commanded the International Space Station when the SpaceX Dragon flew its commercial cargo demonstration flight in May 2012. That and other American technology aboard the ISS left an impression upon him. When he returned in September 2012, he blasted his own nation for its technological inferiority. "Our partners have launched a rover on Mars. They are testing commercial spacecraft, Mars rovers, unique landing equipment. I would like that to also happen in Russia." Click here. (6/12)

Orbcomm Payload Issue Delays SpaceX Launch Again (Source: Orbcomm)
ORBCOMM's 6 OG2 satellites were re-encapsulated on Wednesday, June 11, and we are proceeding toward a static test fire of the rocket on Friday, June 13. All six satellites have completed additional testing and are functioning as expected. In an effort to be as cautious as possible, it was decided to perform further analysis to verify that the issue observed on one satellite during final integration has been fully addressed. The additional time to complete this analysis required us to postpone the OG2 Mission 1 launch. We are working with SpaceX to identify the next available launch opportunity, and we will update the schedule shortly. (6/13)

Kennedy Space Center Director Visits Huntsville (Source: WAFF)
The director of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida made a visit to the Rocket City on Thursday. Bob Cabana gave a presentation at the Space and Rocket Center. He talked about his history as an astronaut and the future of NASA, including the Space Launch System, or SLS. Cabana said NASA is becoming more efficient by doing more with less.

"Our number one priority is supporting NASA programs," Cabana said. "Our number one priority, the reason the Kennedy Space Center exists, the reason we have Launch Complex 39, is to support SLS and get us to Mars, to explore beyond Planet Earth." The Orion crew vehicle of the SLS will perform its first test flight in December. Cabana said NASA is very excited about this project. (6/13)

New NASA Space Observatory to Study Carbon Conundrums (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's first spacecraft dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere is in final preparations for a July 1 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will provide a more complete, global picture of the human and natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their "sinks," the natural ocean and land processes by which carbon dioxide is pulled out of Earth's atmosphere and stored. Carbon dioxide, a critical component of Earth's carbon cycle, is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's climate. (6/13)

Radio Signals from Jupiter Could Aid Search for Life (Source: Space Daily)
Powerful radio signals that Jupiter generates could be used to help researchers scan its giant moons for oceans that could be home to extraterrestrial life, according to a recent study. Click here. (6/13)

Chat with SpaceX Head Fuels Texas Spaceport Optimism (Source: Brownsville Herald)
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, on Wednesday got to explore SpaceX’s new Dragon V2 manned space capsule, on display in Washington D.C. He described the experience as “really cool.” During a brief chat with Musk, SpaceX’s chief expressed gratitude for the level of support from Brownsville, Cameron County and the state during the company’s search for a commercial rocket launch site.

Vela said he thanked Musk “for what he’s doing for us, for South Texas.” Vela said Musk also mentioned the space program at the University of Texas at Brownsville. “He was really impressed with what the kids are doing in the astrophysics department,” he said. Boca Chica beach appears to be the leading contender for a new SpaceX launch site. (6/13)

Russian Soyuz-2.1b Rocket to Undergo Final Testing (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces proceeded to the final cycle of prelaunch tests of Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket, installed onto the Plesetsk State Testing Cosmodrome. The rocket differs from all previous models in its digital control system, which significantly increases the accuracy of orbiting over a point on the Earth. (6/13)

Air Force Official Says RD-180 Replacement Not a “Done Deal” (Source: Space Politics)
A top Air Force official said Friday that the Defense Department is implementing the near-term recommendations of a recent study regarding the availability of the RD-180 engine used by the Atlas V, but would not yet commit to that study’s long-term recommendation of developing a domestic replacement. “I think it’s in the mix, but it’s not a done deal that it’s going to happen or not happen, because to go ahead and do it is a very expensive proposition,” said William A. LaPlante. (6/13)

Lockheed Aims for Small Satellite Launches with Athena Rockets (Source: Via Satellite)
Lockheed Martin is aiming for up to 12 launches of small satellites per year with its Athena 1 and 2 rockets. "We're developing our financial plans and our business plan, so it's a little bit early to be specific at this time, but the market that the Athena class serves is the one that really excites us," said Robert Cleave, president of Commercial Launch Services for Lockheed.

The first generation Athena 1 and Athena 2 rockets started operations in 1995. Cleave said the rocket family was pulled from the market for several years for strategic reasons, but it was brought back in 2010 with a renewed focus on the burgeoning small satellite movement. Lockheed Martin and other commercial partners privately financed the rockets in their entirety. Launch opportunities have been available since 2012, with rideshares offered since 2013. Despite the lack of recent launches, Cleave expressed confidence that the market is full of opportunity.

Lockheed Martin commissioned an independent report to analyze the market and determine what frequency of launches a dedicated small satellite launcher could achieve. “When we look at the market, we believe that it could be as high as, and if not higher than 10 to 12 [launch] opportunities a year both domestically and internationally. But also if the launch vehicle is there and it’s got the right parameters, price schedule and reliability, then we could see even more people investing into space-based solutions that would drive that demand up,” said Cleave. (6/12)

NewSpace Business Plan Competition Changes Format, Offers $30K (Source: SpaceRef)
The 2014 edition of the NewSpace Business Plan Competition, a Space Frontier Foundation project, has changed its format. This years competitors will compete in a "Lightning Pitch" event with $30,000 in cash prizes sponsored by ATK. Companies interested in the event had until June 7 to summit their executive summaries. Yesterday the competition released the 8 finalists. Click here.

Editor's Note: Terran Sciences Group of Orlando is among the finalists. They are described as "a small company with revolutionary ideas - like safe havens on the Earth, moon, or Mars built from local regolith and a big laser!" Click here for more on Terran. (6/13)

As KSC Maps Future Plans, Rubio Worries About Competitiveness (Source: Space Politics)
“My hope is that NASA’s management plans for Kennedy do not put Florida at a competitive disadvantage, or deter or hamper commercial space entities from making full use of the facility and other potential launch sites in Florida,” Rubio said, adding that he received assurances from Cabana that would not be the case.

However, those efforts might be too late for perhaps the biggest target of Florida’s pursuit of additional launch business. Last week the FAA formally announced the availability of the final environmental impact assessment for the proposed spaceport near Brownsville, Texas.

The company will continue to launch from Florida, such as NASA commercial cargo and (if selected) crew missions, as well as other government work, but launches like the Falcon 9 ORBCOMM mission slated to take place from Cape Canaveral in the coming days would shift to Texas in a few years, regardless of how KSC’s or Space Florida’s master plans turn out. (6/13)

Florida Officials Tour Spaceport on June 23-24 (Source: SPACErePORT)
Officials from Florida's governor's office and legislature will visit the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on June 23-24 for a series of tours and briefings on Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The visit is intended to familiarize elected officials and their staffs on Florida's involvement and evolving interests in commercial and government space transportation programs. (6/13)

Tour Around Boeing’s CST-100 Spaceliner to LEO (Source: Universe Today)
On  June 9, Boeing revealed the design of their CST-100 astronaut spaceliner aimed at restoring Americas ability to launch our astronauts to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017. The full scale CST-100 mockup was unveiled at an invitation only ceremony for Boeing executives and media held inside a newly renovated shuttle era facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Click here. (6/13)

Inside Virgin Galactic's Newest Passenger Spaceship (Source: CNN)
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history. The company, led by billionaire Richard Branson, allowed CNN unprecedented access to a "SpaceShipTwo, Serial Two" spacecraft which was being carefully assembled by workers at a secure facility in the high desert north of Los Angeles.

This invention spun from carbon fiber and imagination is designed to fly tourists some 60 miles high to the edge of space. In 2008, Branson predicted the company would be launching paying passengers by 2010. Obviously that hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile, more than 700 people -- reportedly including astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher -- are awaiting to gain official status as Space Cowboys. Click here. (6/13)

More Than 300 Wealthy Chinese Buy XCOR Lynx Spaceflight Tickets (Source: SCMP)
More than 300 Chinese space enthusiasts have booked tickets costing nearly US$100,000 for a five-minute trip to outer space. The 305 buyers snapped up tickets for a trip with Dutch firm Space Expedition Corp (SXC) when they went on sale on Taobao, an online retail website, the state-run China Daily reported.

The trips will take place in a two-man craft that remains in space for five to six minutes, giving the tourist a rarely seen view and the experience of weightlessness, the report said. The tickets were sold for 599,999 yuan (HK$756,152) it said, adding that four entrepreneurs from the southwestern city of Chengdu and two from the commercial hub Shanghai were among those who signed up. (6/13)

Suspicions Over Space Trip Offer (Source: ECNS)
A space travel offer by a United States company which promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore space on a "spaceplane" is proving controversial. Tour packages range from $95,000 to $220,000 and two Shanghainese entrepreneurs have booked ones priced at $100,000 and paid a 50 percent deposit. But as this is cheaper than earlier spaceflight offers, some web users wonder if it is all a promotional stunt.

"I don't think it is reliable, and sounds more like a promotion," said a Shanghai office worker Yang Shuo. "Even if I am sent to space, I would fear whether I could return," he added. However, organizers say costs are lower because it is a suborbital flight. Space tourists will have to wait until next year as the two spaceplanes, Lynx Mark I and II, are still under development by the private California-based company XCOR Aerospace.Lynx Mark I is expected to undergo a trial run in September with commercial operations next year.

The trip has been offered by Zhejiang-based Dexo Travel for Chinese mainland tourists since last December and went online on Taobao's travel platform yesterday. Dexo is the authorized Chinese agent of Dutch company Space Expedition Co, which has launched the program globally. The spaceplanes will take off from the United States. The Lynx is projected to carry one pilot and a ticketed passenger. (6/13)

ESA Combats Ground Interference to Earth Observation Satellites (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency has modified the frequencies used by some of its radar Earth observation satellites to reduce the signal interference from ground-based wireless systems that are often operating illegally, ESA Earth Observation Director Volker Liebig said. The interference is one reason the 20-nation ESA and other space agencies are joining operators of telecommunications satellites in fighting attempts by wireless broadband network operators to be granted use of spectrum now reserved for satellites. (6/13)

USA v Germany Will Be Out of This World for ISS Astronauts (Source: Reuters)
For many fans the experience of seeing their team in the World Cup will be out of this world, but for the American and German astronauts aboard the International Space Station it will literally be the case when their teams clash in the tournament. Americans Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson and German Alexander Gerst will be watching from 230 miles above the earth when their teams meet in their final Group G game at the Pernambuco arena in Recife on June 26. (6/12)

“The Beast” Asteroid Blazes Path Past Earth (Source: National Geographic)
Asteroids zip by Earth all the time, but not many make as big an impression as “The Beast,” which caromed past our astronomical neighborhood about a week ago. Now, radar observations released by NASA reveal the hidden looks of asteroid HQ124 (the formal designation of The Beast). They were taken at its closest approach to Earth on June 8.

They show that the potato-shaped asteroid measured at least 1,200 feet long (375 meters) and was slowly spinning as it passed within 776,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) of Earth. That’s a little more than three times the distance to the moon. “This may be a double object, or ‘contact binary,’ consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape,” said astronomer Lance Benner. (6/12)

Intelsat To Co-finance New Satellite with South Africa’s MultiChoice (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on June 11 said it had reached an agreement with African pay-TV provider MultiChoice to build a C- and Ku-band satellite to be co-located at an existing Intelsat orbital slot and launched in late 2016.

Under the agreement, Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat is leasing to MultiChoice the satellite’s entire Ku-band payload of around 30 transponders for the satellite’s full 15-year service life. Called Intelsat 36, the spacecraft will be co-located with the Intelsat 20 satellite at 68.5 degrees east. Intelsat will have the use of the approximately 10 C-band transponders. (6/12)

Dream Chaser Space Plane Prototype to Fly Again in 2014 (Source: Space.com)
A protoype of a space plane being developed to fly astronauts to and from the ISS will take to the skies again later this year. The prototype of Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser vehicle has already been through some drop tests and a free flight in 2013, which ended when the Dream Chaser skidded off the runway. The new series of flights will include several automated ones, followed by piloted trips, said Mark Sirangelo. (6/12)

Bulgaria Signs Agreement with European Space Agency (Source: Balkans.com)
Bulgaria's MPs approved the draft of the Agreement between the Bulgarian government and the European Space Agency. The ESA is an intergovernmental organization that implements space policy in Europe. Among its members are Switzerland, Norway and Canada, while other countries are negotiating on membership. Of all EU member states only Bulgaria and Croatia have not signed agreements with the ESA.

The country's integration within the activities of the Agency will provide access of Bulgarian enterprises and research organizations to projects for development and implementation of high-tech products and services. Due to the lack of an agreement with the agency Bulgarian enterprises and research organizations are not allowed to participate in projects funded by it to date, even as subcontractors. (6/12)

Massive Solar Flares Threaten GPS (Source: Space Daily)
The Sun has recently emitted two enormous and potentially harmful X-class flares during an active stage of its weather cycle. On Tuesday, the Sun emitted he so-called X-class flares, one of which might damage communication systems for up to an hour. According to the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) such intense radiation could cause temporary radio communications blackouts on Earth. (6/13)

Submarines for Saturn, Comet Hitchhikers, Asteroid Wranglers and Other Fantasies (Source: Washington Post)
If you thought Elon Musk was the only person coming up with innovative ideas for the exploration of outer space, you’d be wrong. NASA recently announced the 12 winners of its Innovative Advanced Concepts program to fund early-stage space technology initiatives, and there are some incredibly creative concepts in there, such as a submarine to explore the methane sea of Saturn’s moon Titan, a new technology to capture an asteroid, and a way to catch a ride on the back of a comet. Click here. (6/13)

Move Fast on Rocket Choice, Europe Space Chief Says (Source: Space Daily)
European space boss Jean-Jacques Dordain on Wednesday called on the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket to be deployed "as swiftly as possible" and preferably before 2020. Quizzed by the European Affairs Commission in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, Dordain urged European space ministers to press ahead vigorously with the program when they meet in Luxembourg in early December.

"As far as I am concerned, we need to have an Ariane 6 available as swiftly as possible, and if possible before 2020," he said. Dordain, director general of ESA, described the Ariane 6 as being of "strategic value" for Europe, capable of meeting demands for satellite launches from governments and the private sector. ESA's mainstay launcher is the Ariane 5, a heavy rocket that is highly reliable but is heavily subsidised—it has to carry two large satellites to be profitable. (6/12)

Gaga vs. Brightman: Who'll be First (Professional) Musician to Sing in Space? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The battle of singing space divas is on! In this corner, British soprano Sarah Brightman, who is paying $52 million to fly to the International Space Station in September 2015. And in the other corner, the always interesting and frequently controversial Lady Gaga, scheduled to blast into space aboard Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo as part of the Zero G Colony music festival in early 2015. Wait? What? How could Brightman get there first if Gaga is flying earlier?

Good question. Brightman’s trip looks pretty set. It has been arranged by Space Adventures, which has already sent eight millionauts to the station on nine different voyages aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Brightman is already in training, and barring anything unusual happening, the mission should take place as scheduled in September 2015. After she arrives, she plans to sing in space. Lady Gaga’s plans are not quite as certain.

Zero G Colony announced itself to the world in November as a three-day “galactic music experience” combining the best of today’s artists with high technology. It is to take place at Spaceport America in New Mexico early next year, and feature a suborbital flight by Lady Gaga aboard SpaceShipTwo. That was seven months ago. There’s been precious little news about the festival since then. The event’s website consists of a single page with an email signup for updates and links to the festival’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. (6/12)

SpaceMETA Signs MOU With Alcantara Cyclone Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceMETA and Alcantara Cyclone Space announced an agreement toward the launch of the SPACEMETA-LUMEM – Lunar Micro Explore Mission as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE.  According to the MOU, ACS delivers the SpaceMETA payload, called “SOLITAIRE”, into the basic orbit for subsequent translunar orbit injection using the payload’s own propulsion. The spacecraft, which has been designed in Brazil, will have the capability to detect water-ice thought to be present in regions under the lunar surface.

ACS is a bi-national Brazil-Ukraine company, responsible for the commercialization and operation of the CYCLONE-4 Launch Vehicle for the national space programs of Brazil and Ukraine, as well as for commercial customers. The Cyclone launcher family boasts a total of 222 successful launches. (6/12)

The Solar Wind Breaks Through the Earth's Magnetic Field (Source: Space Daily)
Space is not empty. A wind of charged particles blows outwards from the Sun, carrying a magnetic field with it. Sometimes this solar wind can break through the Earth's magnetic field. Researchers at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) in Uppsala now have an answer to one of the questions about how this actually occurs.

When two areas with plasma (electrically charged gas) and magnetic fields with different orientations collide, the magnetic fields can be "clipped off" and "reconnected" so that the topology of the magnetic field is changed. This magnetic reconnection can give energy to eruptions on the solar surface, it can change the energy from the solar wind so that it then creates aurora, and it is one of the obstacles to storing energy through processes in fusion reactors. (6/12)

Marco Rubio Urges Florida to Remain Competitive on Space (Source: Sunshine State News)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, met with KSC Director Bob Cabana and stressed that Florida needs to remain active on space exploration, including allowing more opportunities from the private sector. “Since our space program began, Florida has been America’s spaceport, and we must continue playing a central role in 21st century space exploration,” Rubio said.

“The main concern I raised with Director Cabana is how we can get commercial space companies to launch from Florida so they can utilize the infrastructure and workforce that make Florida a unique, and ideal, place to conduct launches,” Rubio added. “My hope is that NASA’s management plans for Kennedy do not put Florida at a competitive disadvantage, or deter or hamper commercial space entities from making full use of the facility and other potential launch sites in Florida."

"He assured me that would not be the case, but this is something I’ll continue exploring in consultations with the different stakeholders. The competition for commercial space industry activity is furious among states like Florida, Texas and Georgia,” Rubio continued. “Florida has many decades of proven experience as a space launch hub, but we must keep working aggressively to keep it that way.” (6/12)

Why Extroverts Could Cause Problems on a Mission to Mars (Source: Live Science)
As NASA focuses considerable effort on a mission to send humans to Mars in the coming decades, psychology researchers are looking at what types of personalities would work the best together on such a long trip. Now, a new study finds that on long-term space missions — such as missions to Mars, which could take as long as three years to complete a round trip — having an extrovert on board could have several disadvantages.

For example, extroverts tend to be talkative, but their gregarious nature may make them seem intrusive or demanding of attention in confined and isolated environments over the long term, the researchers say. "You're talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces," said study researcher Suzanne Bell. "Extroverts have a little bit of a tough time in that situation." If one person on a crew always wants to talk, while the other members are less social, "it could actually get pretty annoying," in that environment Bell said. (6/12)

To Mars with China? Not These Days, Says Nelson (Source: Space News)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who parlayed a 1986 guest flight aboard the space shuttle into a leading congressional space policy role, has a bone to pick with the National Research Council (NRC) report advocating a stepping-stone path to human missions to Mars. The 286-page report, which was released June 3, urged the U.S. to consider adding China to the global space partnership that will be essential for a human expedition to Mars.

Ideally, a human mission to Mars would include China, Nelson said, but “I just don’t trust them at this point. The Chinese would like to steal everything we have.” “We’ll see. Things can change. I mean whoever thought we’d have the cooperation with the former Soviet Union — despite czarist Putin,” Nelson added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and ongoing tensions stemming from Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. (6/12)

House and Senate Find Common Ground on NOAA Budget (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on June 5 approved a budget bill that would give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about $5.4 billion in 2015, including some $2.1 billion for its major weather satellite programs — a small increase over 2014 that is about even with the White House’s 2015 request and what House appropriators included in a competing bill approved in May.

Senate and House appropriators now seem to be more or less on the same page when it comes to the weather agency’s 2015 budget, even if they do not agree fully with the White House — or each other — on every detail. Senate appropriators, like their counterparts in the House, agreed to give NOAA’s two major weather satellite programs the roughly $130 million boost the White House requested in March. (6/12)

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