June 2, 2014

Lockheed Selected To Build USAF Space Fence (Source: Defense News)
Lockheed Martin has won the contract to produce the US Air Force’s Space Fence space-surveillance system, the service announced today. The $914.7 million contract puts the world’s largest defense company in charge of developing the Space Fence system, a key asset in the service’s plans for space situational awareness (SSA). Lockheed was in competition with Raytheon for the program.

The contract awards Lockheed $415 million for RDT&E efforts immediately, while the rest will be earned over the course of the 52 period the company has before it must reach initial operational capability. Space Fence consists of a large S-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean. Due to its proximity to the equator, Kwajalein provides a wide angle for the radar to take in as much of the sky as possible. With the Earth’s rotation, the stationary radar creates a “fence” through which everything in space should pass through over the course of 24 hours. (6/2)

Google to Spend $1 Billion to Boost Global Connectivity (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Google plans to invest more than $1 billion in an effort aimed at getting unreached parts of the globe connected to the Internet, using a fleet of 180 low-altitude satellites. "Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable," said Susan Irwin, president of satellite communications firm Irwin Communications Inc. "Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access." (6/1)

House Boosts NASA Funds, But Shorts Commercial Crew (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will get about $250 million more next year for the civilian space program under a measure passed late last week by the House, but the $17.9 billion funding measure doesn't give the space agency as much money as it says the Commercial Crew Program needs. NASA says the shuttle-replacement program needs $848 million to launch in 2017, but the bill gives it just $785 million, which NASA says means a launch must be pushed back at least a year. (5/30)

Heat Shield Added to Orion Capsule in Preparation for Test Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Crews at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) have achieved an important milestone by successfully attaching the world's largest heat shied to the Orion Crew Capsule. Spanning 16.5 feet in diameter, the heat shield is composed of a single, seamless piece of Avcoat ablator designed to protect crews from temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is slated to be flight tested later this year as part of its mission Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). (6/2)

Space Coast Students Get OK to Build CubeSat (Source: Florida Today)
In a NASA conference room, with expansive views of Kennedy Space Center, 15 students from Merritt Island High take seats in a row of chairs against the windows. They have been working for months to get to this point. Starting last summer and working though winter vacation and spring break, between homework assignments and college applications.

It’s the last step before they can beginto build a small satellite, dubbed StangSat, for the school’s mascot, the Mustang. They must present their project, and satisfy the questioning of a panel of NASA engineers, to proceed to the next phase. The satellite will measure the shock and vibration of the rocket during launch, transmitting data to a sister satellite being built by students at California Polytechnic State University. (6/2)

Copyright in Space is Truly a ‘Space Oddity’ (Source: American University)
What’s better than watching a live version of David Bowie’s 1969 hit ‘Space Oddity?’ Some may say there is nothing better, but a great many more would be likely to say that watching Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield perform the song on YouTube that he recorded in space. During his term manning the International Space Station from December of 2012 to May of 2013, Hadfield recreated Bowie’s classic song and sent it to his son to edit and post on YouTube.  Hadfield also did things by the book, and negotiated a year-long license agreement to keep the video on YouTube.  

After months of negotiating with NASA, the Canadian space agency, the Russian space agency, and Bowie himself, Hadfield recorded and posted this video in May of 2012. This license for the video expired at 11:59 P.M. on May 13th, to the disappointment of 22 million and counting viewers. Luckily for Hadfield, matters of jurisdiction and what is consider ‘publication’ of the video under copyright laws are fairly straightforward because he sought permission before making the recording, and all of the distribution of the song was done on Earth via YouTube.  

This intersection between space law and copyright law, or extraterrestrial copyright law, is also extremely complicated. David Bowie owns the rights to ‘Space Oddity’ and it is protected by copyright in most countries of the world. Hadfield would need a compulsory licensing agreement with Bowie to post the video, which he would have to do for a fee and he would have to keep the lyrics and the music substantively the same as Bowie’s original. It then gets more complicated for Hadfield after securing this license, because depending on what part of the ISS he recorded the song, a different country’s copyright laws would apply. Click here. (6/2)

From Russia with Love: An Iranian Space Odyssey (Source: Al Jazeera)
"Russia and Iran have reportedly signed a secret deal on wide cooperation in space exploration," reports RT, which presumably has an intimate knowledge of such secret deals, further adding that the terms of this deal range "from training Iranian cosmonauts in Russia to possible production of Earth observation and telecommunication satellites for Iran." As to what had led to this growing political intimacy between the two countries, we learn from RT that "the alleged deal was boosted by the West's sanctions targeting Russia in retaliation for its position on the Ukrainian crisis".

So it is the geopolitics of the region that is now promoting a joint space project. The satellite part of the agreement, we also learn, "is of greatest interest for Tehran". Russia has "pledged to provide sample images of earth gathered by its Resurs-DK and Resurs-P satellites, which allow taking photos with resolution up to 70 cm per pixel." Is this an echo of the old Cold War, or perhaps a new version of the old Cold War? Click here. (6/2)

World's Cheapest 'Zero G' Flights: Experience Weightlessness For £1,600 (Source: Huffington Post)
At this point going into space is still a dream for most of us. Even if Virgin Galactic does eventually start flying its tourist trips into the very lowest regions of space, 99.9% of people won't be able to afford the £150,000 it costs to buy a seat on board. But now one Swiss company is planning to offer the next best thing for a fraction of the cost.

Swiss Space Systems (S3) has announced it will offer the world's cheapest zero gravity flights, costing just £1,600. In return passengers will get to experience 15 bursts of weightlessness, each lasting around 20-25 seconds. The plane operates exactly like existing 'vomit comet' flights. It rises from 24,000 feet to around 34,000 at 45 degrees, and then levels out quickly -- sending anyone inside into the air for short periods as it proceeds to dive back down at the same angle. Click here. (6/2)

Astronaut: Musk's Capsule a Good Addition to Soyuz (Source: C/Net)
While Chris Hadfield is impressed with SpaceX's 12-year history of multiple unmanned launches to the ISS, as well as with the design concept for its new manned Dragon capsule, he wants people to be clear that NASA's relationship with the Russians is strong, and will continue, regardless of what the Dragon brings to the table. He also said he'd love to fly the new Dragon -- but he'd want to spend a lot of time under the hood to make sure it's safe first, just as he would with any vehicle. Click here. (6/2)

In GPS Battle, Russia Sets Restrictions of Its Own (Source: New York Times)
The deputy prime minister in charge of Russia’s space programs said Sunday that he had started to impose restrictions on Global Positioning System base stations, as retribution for the refusal of the United States to allow similar base stations on American territory that would improve the accuracy of Russia’s navigation system.

The deputy prime minister, Dmitri O. Rogozin, said that as of Sunday the GPS base stations in Russia could not be used for military purposes, and he announced a deadline of Sept. 1 for the United States to agree to allow base stations on its territory for Russia’s navigation system, Glonass. Otherwise, he said, the GPS terminals would be shut down for good. (6/1)

Mars: We're Going to Need a Bigger Parachute, Says NASA (Source: Guardian)
The skies off the Hawaiian island of Kauai will be a stand-in for Mars as NASA prepares to launch a saucer-shaped vehicle in an experimental flight designed to land heavy loads on the red planet. For decades, robotic landers and rovers have hitched a ride to Earth's planetary neighbor using the same parachute design. But NASA needs a bigger and stronger parachute if it wants to send astronauts there.

Weather permitting, the space agency will conduct a test flight Tuesday high in Earth's atmosphere that is supposed to simulate the thin Martian air. Cameras rigged aboard the vehicle will capture the action as it accelerates to four times the speed of sound and falls back to Earth. Viewers with an internet connection can follow along live. (6/2)

KSC Master Plan Charts Aggressive Course (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA KSC has published an aggressive plan for developing new areas of the spaceport, including long-term options for the construction of additional launch pads and horizontal and vertical launch/landing infrastructure north of LC-39 A&B. Also included are: major expansion at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF); new port facilities in the Indian River; and a rail line connecting KSC with Port Canaveral's cargo operations.

Space Florida's plan for new commercial launch pads at the Shiloh site are not featured in the plan, and the SLF improvements go well beyond what has been planned by Space Florida as part of the pending handover of the site for commercial use. Given that all of this is being planned by NASA, it appears that KSC intends to establish itself as the operator of a commercial spaceport, with the roles of Space Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation unknown.

The plan has been published for public comment in advance of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which should be interesting given recent opposition to Shiloh, and stronger opposition in 2008 to a proposed KSC Commercial Vertical Launch Complex located south of Shiloh. Compared to Shiloh, KSC's new plan, if fully developed, would require substantial beach-access closures. KSC's plan (unlike Shiloh) would also involve major developments in multiple wetland areas. Public scoping meetings are planned on June 4 in Titusville and June 5 in New Smyrna. (6/2)

Should NASA be a Landlord? (Source: SPACErePORT)
A paper presented at the 30th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, authored by an official from Space Florida and a former commercialization development/planning official from KSC asks: "In an era of tightening federal budgets, is NASA’s mission focus on exploration beyond earth orbit impeded by its ownership and 'landlord' responsibilities for an extensive real estate footprint?"

The paper suggests that NASA's space exploration mission might be better executed if the agency conveyed such real estate to a non-federal partner to provide access for both government and commercial users. Of course, this describes Space Florida's intended (and broadly empowered) role as a spaceport authority. But today's post-Shuttle KSC views stewardship of a multi-user spaceport as a central part of its mission.

The paper concludes: "NASA has more important things to do than to worry about leasing its empty space. This is especially so when there are non-federal partners that will join with the agency and with the private sector to renew, refocus, and sustain some this nation’s best space transportation assets for a future where the U.S. can regain and keep its leadership in the exploration and development of the space frontier." Click here. (6/2)

Editorial: War of the Worlds - To the Moon or Mars? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The space community is deeply divided. One group believes we need to focus our manned space efforts on returning to the Moon. Another believes we should bypass the Moon and go straight to Mars. The two groups see one another as enemies, but there is no reason for this to be so. The pro-space community is small and has minimal impact in Washington. Since we all want the same thing—permanent human presence in space (and, in fact, on Mars)—there is certainly enough common ground for us to unite. Click here. (6/1)

Mars One Teams with Endemol for Worldwide TV Event (Source: Mars One)
Mars One and multi-award winning factual producer DSP (an Endemol company) have entered an international partnership to screen the mission to send the world’s first one way astronauts to Mars. DSP becomes the exclusive worldwide production partner for the Mars One astronaut selection and training program, which will see people from all walks of life undergo one of the most extraordinary and challenging assessment processes ever seen.

705 highly motivated candidates, shortlisted from over 200,000 who applied to become future inhabitants of Mars, will be tested to the extreme as part of an elite training program run by a panel comprised of pre-eminent scientists, adventurers and astronauts. DSP will document the aspiring pioneers’ astonishing journeys every step of the way in the lead up to the mission, which will see the winners become the first to make the 300 million-mile, one way trip to establish permanent human life on the red planet. (6/2)

Intersputnik Negotiating Joint Ventures for Unused Orbital Slots (Source: Space News)
The 26-nation Intersputnik satellite telecommunications organization reported $87.3 million in revenue in 2013, up 9 percent over 2012, and said it is negotiating with several satellite fleet operators on joint ventures using Intersputnik orbital slots and frequency reservations.

Moscow-based Intersputnik, which through its governments has regulatory reservations at multiple orbital positions that to date have remained unused – but which face the threat of revocation if they are not used by certain deadlines – said it is focusing on partnerships rather than the outright purchase of its own satellites. “We are indeed in… negotiations with potential partners aiming at deploying, in the Intersputnik orbital slots, new spacecraft for joint operation,” Intersputnik said. (6/2)

More Details on Dragon V2 (Source: Aviation Week)
The "V2" version, revealed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at the company’s Hawthorne, Calif, facility on May 29, is designed to carry a crew of seven and differs considerably from the cargo variant currently flown to the ISS.  “We wanted to take a big step in technology – a step change in space travel,” Musk says.  “It really takes things to the next level,” he adds.

Configured with eight side-mounted SuperDraco thruster engines clustered in pairs, and supported on extendable landing legs protruding through the heat shield, the vehicle is designed to be able to land under its own power “anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter. "When it reaches a certain altitude just before landing it will test the engines, and verify they are all working and proceed to a propulsive landing.  But if any anomaly is detected it will then deploy the parachutes even in the event of the propulsion system not working.”

The vehicle can lose up to two engines and still make a safe landing, according to Musk, who considers the development of the 16,000-lb.-thrust SuperDraco thruster as the most significant technical challenge involved in the development of the Dragon V2. “That’s an engine that has to produce a tremendous amount of thrust and yet be very light. It’s also got to throttle over a wide range, and it’s got to react very quickly. It was quite a tricky thing to develop.” (6/2)

And Still More on Dragon V2 (Source: Aviation Week)
The regeneratively SuperDraco cooled engine is not only capable of deep-throttling but is designed for multiple restarts, and is produced from inconel using an additive manufacturing, direct metal laser sintering process. “This will be the first fully printed rocket engine to see flight,” Musk says. Each one is contained in a protected nacelle “in case anything goes wrong. The reason this is important is it enables rapid reusability of the spacecraft," Musk says. "You can just reload propellant and fly again."

He envisages up to 10 flights per vehicle before significant refurbishment. Other highlights noted by Musk included the composite overwrapped titanium spheres containing the pressurized helium for the propulsion tanks for the SuperDraco engine.  The engines operate at a chamber pressure of around 1,000 psi and are fed from propellant tanks located around the base of the vehicle.

The new Dragon also features the third generation of the SpaceX-specific phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA-X) heat shield technology. “It ablates less as it enters the atmosphere” Musk says. Inside the vehicle are flat panel display and control screens, with mechanical switches and knobs for key functions. (6/2)

Rush a Light Wave and You'll Break its Data (Source: Space Daily)
Quantum information can't break the cosmic speed limit, according to researchers* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland's Joint Quantum Institute. The scientists have shown how attempts to "push" part of a light beam past the speed of light results in the loss of the quantum data the light carries. The results could clarify how noise might limit the transfer of information in quantum computers. (6/2)

Russia Preparing to Launch Okno Space Surveillance System (Source: Voice of Russia)
State tests of the Okno (Window) complex for tracking and monitoring man-made space objects in Tajikistan will take place during the summer months in the interests of the Russian aerospace defence troops. After that the facility will be put on duty, representative of the aerospace defence troops Colonel Alexey Zolotukhin said. According to sources, the facility is part of the Russian space control system and consists of ten substations. The smaller part of them took up duty in March 2004. (6/2)

NASA Widens 2014 Hurricane Research Mission (Source: Space Daily)
During this year's Atlantic hurricane season, NASA is redoubling its efforts to probe the inner workings of hurricanes and tropical storms with two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft flying over storms and two new space-based missions. NASA's airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission, will revisit the Atlantic Ocean for the third year in a row. The NASA Global Hawks will be piloted remotely from Wallops Island. They are well-suited for hurricane investigations because they can fly for as long as 26 hours and fly above hurricanes at altitudes greater than 55,000 feet.

Editor's Note: I can't figure out why this activity is based at Wallops Island instead of KSC, which is much closer to the likely location of hurricanes in both the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. (6/1)

Will Anyone Recover Apollo 13’s Plutonium? (Source: Space Safety)
Somewhere among the jagged trenches of the South Pacific sits a graphite fuel cask containing 3.9 kg of plutonium from Apollo 13. The fate of the radioactive plutonium-238 has long been overshadowed by the successful return of the three NASA astronauts on board the ill-fated mission. The plutonium was supposed to fuel the System for Nuclear Auxiliary Power, or SNAP-27 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), designed to power a set of experiments on the lunar surface.

But after an explosion crippled the craft and forced the crew to abandon plans of a lunar landing, the plutonium became yet another problem for mission control. Officials from NASA confidently told The New York Times that the biggest risk was that the 40-pound generator might hit someone when it fell to Earth. “It will keep a few fish warm,” a NASA official said. Click here. (6/1)

UK Takes Aim at Commercial Spaceflight, Spaceport Possible by 2018 (Source: Space.com)
The United Kingdom could have a spaceport by 2018. Pending a regulatory report to be published this July and a technical feasibility study that is underway with the country's National Space Technology Program (NSTP), it is possible that the country could host a spaceport within the next five years.

A new National Space Flight Coordination Group, chaired by the U.K. Space Agency, will oversee these reports and the future work for this U.K. spaceport. Government officials hope this will be the start of commercial spaceflight for the country. The group and the 2018 date were announced with the publication of the "Government Response to the U.K. Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2014-2030." (6/1)

NASA Decelerator Test Planned in Hawaii (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Technology Demonstration Mission will conduct full-scale, stratospheric tests of breakthrough technologies high above Earth to prove their value for future missions to Mars. The test will take place at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The first launch opportunity is the morning of June 3. LDSD was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and shipped to Kauai for final assembly and preparations. Click here. (5/30)

Mitigation Steps Key to Minimizing Texas Launch Impacts (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Perhaps the only definitive takeaway from the SpaceX project’s environmental impact statement by the FAA is that the construction and operation of a commercial space launch pad within a stone’s throw of a national wildlife refuge in Cameron County will have at least some impact on the environment. What the report truly outlines is how SpaceX can minimize its impact on the land, flora and fauna surrounding the proposed site near Boca Chica Beach.

Officials with environmental groups are saying that the degree of these mitigation measures and how closely they are followed will ultimately determine whether the project will harm the environment. The report, which was released last week, is part of the pre-application phase ahead of SpaceX requesting FAA licenses and permits to launch rockets near the eastern end of State Highway 4, east of Brownsville. Click here. (5/31)

Stakeholders Rally Behind New U.S. Rocket Engine (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An independent review panel commissioned by the Secretary of Defense, a top Air Force general and lawmakers in both houses of Congress have thrown their support behind the development of a new U.S.-built hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engine to wrestle America's space launchers free of reliance on Russian rocket propulsion. Significant details, such as the technical design of the engine, an industrial team, and how to shape design and development contracts, remain unresolved.

Although insiders predict debate on those points, government and industrial officials have quickly reached consensus in recent weeks that the U.S. can no longer rely on Russian rocket engines to launch the military's national security satellites. A military oversight committee in the Senate approved a bill last week directing the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to produce a high-thrust liquid-fueled rocket engine for production by 2019, earmarking $20 million this year and an additional $100 million in 2015 to fund engineering design work.

Both committees put forward language requiring military to hold a competition open to industry to bid on developing and producing the engine. The rocket engine provision was included in each committee's version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which still needs passage by the full chambers of the House and Senate. (6/1)

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