June 16, 2014

Space Policy Via the Rearview Mirror (Source: Space Review)
The release of the final report by National Research Council's Committee on Human Spaceflight, evaluating the future of human space exploration, kickstarted a new round of debate about what that future should be. Dale Skran offers his assessment of the report, including where it falls short in assessing technical and commercial developments that could alter the report's proposed pathways. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2535/1 to view the article. (6/16)

The Commercial Remote Sensing Boom (Source: Space Review)
Two years ago, weak demand for commercial imagery and reduced government budgets drove consolidation among providers of such images; today, a number of startups are trying to get into the field. Jeff Foust reports on this new wave of interest, including one company's recent acquisition by an Internet giant. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2534/1 to view the article. (6/16)

Planetary Orbit Insertion Failures (Source: Space Review)
One of the most challenging aspects of planetary exploration, short of landing on another world, is entering orbit around it. In the first of a two-part article, Andrew LePage examines some of the missions that failed, at least on their first try, to achieve orbit around another solar system body. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2533/1 to view the article. (6/16)

NASA's Big Rocket Gives Putin a Big Advantage (Source: Space Review)
Tensions with Russia have generated interest in Congress and elsewhere to develop a new large rocket engine to replace the Russian-built RD-180. Rick Boozer argues that such an engine might be available today, or very soon, had Congress not derailed NASA's proposed launch vehicle development plans in 2010. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2532/1 to view the article. (6/16)

Ageless: Aerospace Work Became Regal-Like (Source: Florida Today)
After working for a law firm on Merritt Island in the late '60s, I decided it would be way more exciting to go to work at the Cape. So I went to an employment agency and was told I was eligible to work for Pan Am on Complex 13 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where I could "serve coffee to the guys and answer the phone." I wasn't sure I could handle that much excitement, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I was issued an ID badge, which I assumed was just something you use to get on base.

As soon as I got to work, I would take it off and throw it in my desk drawer. After working on Complex 13 for a few weeks, never once serving coffee to anyone, one of my co-workers asked if I'd like to have a short tour of the area in case I needed to find my way to some of the other complexes. We even had time to go to the VAB and see the view from the top. I thought this was a capital idea, so we drove to the VAB first, went up several elevators and walked out on the roof. Just about that time my co-worker took one look at me and said, "Where is your badge?" Click here. (6/16)

SpaceX and Orbcomm Schedule Florida Launch on Jun. 20 (Source: Orbcomm)
SpaceX and Orbcomm are currently targeting launch of OG2 Mission 1 aboard a Falcon-9 rocket on  June 20 at 6:08 pm ET at launch pad LC-40, with a back-up date of Saturday, June 21. (6/16)

Water Options Limited for SpaceX (Source: Valley Morning Star)
It’s easier for SpaceX to access space than water at the proposed site of the world’s first commercial and vertical rocket launch complex at Boca Chica Beach. Despite advances in spaceflight, drinking water would likely be available at the site through the decades-old way on Earth for isolated locations: trucking it in. This is gleaned from public documents regarding the proposal. Septic tanks would be required, too.

The FAA is expected to issue in early July its decision on SpaceX’s request for permits for launches from the Cameron County site. Drinking water for employees, contractors and temporary workers at the proposed site is not the only consideration. Thousands of gallons of industrial water would be required for the project’s deluge water system dubbed “Niagara.” (6/16)

Station Crew Wraps Up Week With Medical Research (Source: Space Daily)
The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station wrapped up another workweek in space Friday supporting medical and physics research, maintaining station systems and gearing up for next week's spacewalk.

Following the crew's normal 2 a.m. EDT reveille, Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst participated in a variety of experiments aimed at understanding the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body and developing countermeasures to mitigate the health risks. This research is vitally important as NASA works toward sending humans on longer voyages beyond low Earth orbit. (6/16)

ISS Getting Coffee Machine (Source: WIRED)
An espresso machine is being installed in the International Space Station to satisfy astronauts' craving for social situations when hurtling around the Earth at seven kilometers per second. The ISSpresso -- that's what they called it, we swear -- was built by Italian coffee kings Lavazza in conjunction with Argotec and the Italian Space Agency. The machine, which weighs 20kg with all the additional safety mechanisms, will be accompanying Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti -- Italy's first woman into space -- in November this year. (6/16)

NASA Wishes to Carry on ISS Cooperation After 2020 (Source: Interfax)
The United States hopes to carry on the International Space Station (ISS) cooperation project with Russia after 2020, Izvestia wrote on Monday, quoting NASA ISS Flight Program Manager Sean Fuller. Fuller told the newspapers the partners had built a remarkable orbital laboratory and hoped to continue using it after 2020 for the sake of further space exploration and new technologies. Negotiations on the ISS use after 2020 will continue, he said. (6/16)

Space the Last Frontier for This 92-Year-Old (Source: News-Press)
At the age most people retire, Sarah Sciple sledded so fast in Switzerland that the luge crashed and she broke her leg. Months later, she was still on crutches but managed to totter across the Great Wall of China. She zip-lined in Costa Rica at 85 years old. If she had her druthers, next on her agenda would be space, preferably Mars, "if I could live long enough for the trip." (6/16)

Spaceport Sheboygan Opens New Location to Public (Source: Sheboygan Press)
It was an accident, but the Pray family from Bloomington, Ill., was one of the first visitors inside the long-awaited new Spaceport Sheboygan. “It’s beautiful,” said Lindsay Pray, as her kids Izzy, 8 and Henry, 2, checked out the interactive displays. “We’re excited to be here for sure.”

Unaware of the history behind the new Spaceport Sheboygan or that Saturday was the facility’s “soft opening,” Izzy and her father, Ryan, were eyeing up a zero-gravity chair. “(Space) is pretty interesting,” said Izzy. “If it didn’t take a million years to get to a galaxy I’d probably go to a different one and live in it.” (6/16)

European Astronauts Will Take Plunge for Space Training (Source: SEN)
Becoming a good astronaut requires testing yourself in as many challenging situations as possible. Prospective spacefliers therefore find themselves in a lot of different environments: going supersonic in a jet plane, or crawling in narrow underground caverns, or living in an underwater habitat for a few days. Luckily for two European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts, they will get the chance to return to the ocean Aquarius habitat this summer as part of two NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) missions.

Andreas Mogensen and Thomas Pesquet each previously spent five days in the facility, which is located off the coast of Florida, and will make returns in separate missions this July and September. The goal of NEEMO is to test technologies that could be used on future missions, particularly missions to other locations in the Solar System. NASA is aiming to send astronauts to an asteroid in the coming years, so part of what the astronauts do on these missions is to see what sorts of tools could be useful in this sort of a situation. (6/16)

Russia Eyes Soyuz Upgrades for Mission Around the Moon (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Space Adventures says two customers have paid deposits for a flight around the moon on a Soyuz spacecraft. The lunar mission would be commanded by a Russian cosmonaut. Two paying passengers would make for a $300 million mission. The trip requires major changes to the vehicle, which has seen only incremental upgrades in recent decades. "We are going to have to change the heat shield because you're re-entering at a significantly higher speed" on a lunar mission, Tom Shelley said.

"We're basically taking the same Soyuz that flies to the space station, making a few modifications to allow it go around the far aside of the moon, and adding an extra habitation module to make it more comfortable for the passengers," Shelley said. The probable flight plan calls for a stop at the space station for a few days, then a rendezvous with a habitation module and Block DM propulsion stage launched separately atop a Proton booster.

Space Adventures has a partnership with Boeing Co. to put tourists in its CST-100 crew capsule if NASA gives it the green light to fly to the space station. Boeing is competing against SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. for government funding under NASA's commercial crew program. (6/16)

NASA Seeks New Approach for Zero-G Aircraft Rides (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA is divesting internal capabilities for microgravity flights that use NASA owned and operated aircraft. NASA's current operational concept has NASA acquiring Reduced Gravity Aircraft services through outside sources. Currently, aircraft contracted by NASA are operated in accordance with FAA "Public Aircraft Operations" requirements. NASA is responsible for determining the airworthiness and flight safety of the Contractor's reduced gravity aircraft operations and maintenance.

Contractors for NASA Reduced Gravity Aircraft services are currently required to maintain a program that allows sufficient NASA insight to approve FAA regulatory deviations for the NASA mission while the Contractor aircraft is operated as Public Use. NASA would like to change this operational concept and obtain these services on a purely commercial basis, wherein the provider bears full responsibility for airworthiness, flight safety, and mission assurance. Click here. (6/13)

Virginia Spaceport Authority Gets Spaceport and UAS Funding (Source: SPACErePORT)
Virginia's legislature on June 12 approved a budget that includes substantial funding for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA), for maintaining and operating its facilities and to develop a new UAS test range. $15,800,000 will be provided to VCSFA each year for two years. Within that topline appropriation, $800,000 each year will be used for shoreline protection at the spaceport, and $5,800,000 will be used by VCSFA only in the first year to develop an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test range at Wallops Island.

The UAS test range activity will require VCSFA to negotiate a lease with NASA for the required property. The appropriation bill still must be signed by the state's governor. Click here. (6/16)

Sausages and Space Policy (Source: Space Safety)
Otto von Bismark famously remarked that if you like sausages and law, then don’t watch either of them being made. If he were alive today, he would probably add space policy to the list. Recent months have seen some astonishing developments in the evolution and debate of space policy, especially in the USA. It’s been a demon ride through a blitz of cost blowouts, budgetary pressures, international tensions, policy goals, public versus private, politics and pork-barreling.

Space policy has never been pretty to behold, but this latest round has the graphic immediacy of a grisly autopsy. Members of the space community are growing impatient and disheartened by the overall situation. We’ve been waiting decades to see the sort of progress that would transform spaceflight from an elitist, niche activity to something that everyone can experience. Click here. (6/15)

Continuing Saga Of Planet X: Could Massive Planets Hide Beyond Pluto? (Source: America Space)
Just like the proverbial cat with nine lives, the notion of an unseen planet orbiting beyond the known limits of the Solar System, seems to be coming back from the dead once more. The recent discovery of 2012 VP113, a dwarf planet candidate with a highly elongated orbit and the largest known perihelion to date, has led astronomers to theorize about the possible existence of a more massive planetary body in the far reaches of the Solar System.

Now, a new study comes to give more credence to these speculations, by concluding that not one but two such planets could indeed be circling the Sun, in the vast expanses beyond the orbit of Pluto. Not to be confused with the crackpot predictions of doomsayers and conspiracy theorists, the real scientific search for the hypothetical Planet X had been ongoing even before the discovery of Pluto by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Click here. (6/16)

Bid to Talk to Aliens Could Doom Us All (Source: Daily Mail)
A recent newspaper story about the discovery of a huge Earth-like planet 560 light-years away was headlined: ‘New planet brings hope of life in space.’ A few years ago, that sort of claim would just have been laughed off. But this has changed in recent times. ...With blithe and sunny optimism, many scientists from projects like SETI seem to believe any ETs out there who pick up our signals and come to visit will be something like the cuddly chap in the Steven Spielberg film.

The optimists have even begun another program called Active SETI, or METI — Messaging to Extra-terrestrial Intelligences. This means not just listening, but deliberately shouting out at top volume, explaining who we are and where in the galaxy we live. Not all scientists are sanguine about this, however. One has even called it ‘insanely risky, given the dearth of information we have about the nature of Extra-terrestrial Intelligence’.

John Billingham, a senior figure at SETI and NASA, even called for a global moratorium on such programs because of the potential risk to humanity’s future. Is this paranoia? Hardly, if you remember the lessons of our history. For when an advanced people meet a less technologically sophisticated people, the results for the latter are generally catastrophic. (6/16)

Airbus, Safran to Merge Space Launcher Businesses (Source: Highlands Today)
Airbus Group and French engineering company Safran have agreed to merge their rocket launcher businesses into a new joint venture aimed at helping the European space sector stay globally competitive. The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding for the plan, for which financial figures were not disclosed, and that they hope the venture can start operating by the end of this year. Shares in the companies rose after the news.

The statement says the new venture would focus on developing the next generations of Ariane rockets and safeguarding "Europe's autonomous and reliable access to space." French President Francois Hollande, whose government helps finance Ariane rockets, gave the proposed venture his blessing at a meeting with representatives of both companies Monday morning. (6/16)

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