June 25, 2014

NASA's $2.5 Billion Curiosity Rover Reaches Prime Mission Threshold (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA's Curiosity rover achieved prime mission status on June 24 as the rover also known as the Mars Science Laboratory logged one Martian year, 687 Earth days, on the surface of the red planet. The $2.5 billion mission quickly achieved one of its primary mission objectives, detecting evidence of a past Martian environment conducive to the rise of microbial life, at a site dubbed Yellowknife Bay soon after touching down. (6/24)

Rocket to Launch Saturday from Wallops Island Spaceport (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
A launch on Saturday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility will test new suborbital rocket technologies. The launch is expected between 4 and 5 a.m., a NASA news release says. If weather delays the flight, the backup launch days are Sunday and July 2. The technologies include a deployment system for forming vapor clouds that help track winds and improvements in telemetry and flight recorders to increase the rates for data collected and transferred during flight. (6/24)

Why are Space Companies Flocking to Colorado? (Source: CNBC)
The Aug. 13 launch of the WorldView-3 satellite-imaging space mission will mark a big milestone for a triad of Colorado giants: DigitalGlobe, United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace. In a state that bills itself as a "mile closer to space," Colorado will celebrate the mid-August takeoff as further proof that it's a major U.S. aerospace industry player—a position that dates back seven lucrative decades.

Today some 400 companies count 70,000 employees in the military, civil and private sectors of the Colorado aerospace industry. Space-related enterprises accounted for almost a $9 billion contribution to the state economy in 2011, according to the Brookings Institution. That's 4 percent of Colorado's private-sector gross domestic product.

Indeed, the state generally identified more with buckaroos than rocket scientists is home to many of the industry's bigger names, including Sierra Nevada, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, the U.S. Air Force Space Command and the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. (6/24)

Restrictions on NASA Contracts Compromise U.S. Leadership (Source: Huffington Post)
For the majority of the Commercial Crew Program, NASA has used Space Act Agreements to provide funding for the development of spacecraft and launch vehicle systems. These agreements are competitive, milestone-based and, most importantly, fixed-price. In this way, the commercial company is responsible for achieving success and for any additional work required, while NASA invests a fixed amount to develop pre-determined capabilities.

Compared to the conventional approach of full-cost-plus-fee, these fixed-price contracts have saved NASA hundreds of millions of dollars while leveraging private investment and private expertise. NASA's published standards, by which all Commercial Crew competitors will be judged, ensure that safety is always the top priority. NASA pioneered this approach in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which produced two cargo suppliers for the International Space Station under unprecedented budget constraints.

However, certain forces on Capitol Hill are combining to make sure these rousing successes can never be duplicated. In May, the House approved a funding bill that required NASA to select only one company in the next round of competition, destroying the competitiveness that has enabled the successes to date. And the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would require the competitors to provide certified cost and pricing data for the final development phase of the commercial crew program, an odd and unnecessary provision in a competitive, fixed-price program. (6/24)

Editorial: Be Very Wary of Galileo Mandates (Source: Space News)
European governments should tread carefully as they weigh whether to mandate the use of their own Galileo satellite navigation services across Europe. The advertised rationale for doing so is to jump-start the market for Galileo-based receivers and services. But there also might be underlying concerns about relevancy, since Galileo likely will be the last of the four global positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) satellite services to become available after the U.S. GPS, Russian Glonass and Chinese Beidou systems.

The problem is that it is difficult to predict how some of these other national operators will react to a Galileo mandate for European Union members. The most obvious — whether or not it is the most likely — possibility is that these countries will issue similar mandates for their territories, leading to a regionalization of PNT services. (6/24)

NASA Asks: How Would You Commercialize Our Technology? (Source: Washington Post)
Think you can come up with a new way to use NASA’s technology? Thanks to NASA’s new crowdsourcing program, you — or anybody — can submit ideas to the agency about how to commercialize its virtual reality software. NASA plans to split royalties with the inventor if the product is developed and sold.

NASA, one of the first government agencies to try this kind of crowdsourcing, is partnering with Edison Nation, an online company that helps other groups gather ideas from the public. Edison Nation normally partners with retailers and manufacturers, allowing Internet users to submit ideas for new products. The site is free to join but charges a $25 fee for submitting ideas, intended to cover the cost of product development, procuring intellectual property and other expenses. (6/24)

NASA's Giant Leap to Mars Is One Big Joke (Source: Bloomberg)
The moon in 2020 will be just as round as it is today, but if the geeks at the NASA have their way, it won’t orbit the Earth solo. The U.S. space agency is hoping to divert a small asteroid from elsewhere in the galactic neighborhood and robotically place it into orbit around the moon. With the rock in proximity to Earth -- if a small asteroid can’t be found, NASA will hack off part of a larger one instead -- NASA intends to land astronauts on it and take samples for further scientific study.

NASA claims this Asteroid Redirect Mission will build technologies and capabilities that “will help astronauts reach Mars in the 2030s.” The idea doesn't have much support from the scientific community. A lengthy report by the National Research Council issued earlier this month notes repeatedly that NASA should be focusing instead on returning to the moon itself, which has “significant advantages over other targets as an intermediate step on the road to the horizon goal of Mars.”

Blame for the asteroid boondoggle can be laid on several presidential administrations, but it ultimately falls on President Barack Obama, who canceled the George W. Bush administration’s mission to return to the moon by 2020, saying: “We’ve been there before.” In its place, Obama proposed a series of manned missions that would slowly expand the U.S.'s presence and capability in deep space. (6/24)

Global Space Governance Can Fuel New Business and Innovations (Source: Space News)
From May 29 to May 31, some of the world’s leading experts on space laws, policies, regulations and standards assembled at the McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law in Montreal to consider launching an initiative to bring an improved system of global governance to the burgeoning field of space commercial exploitation, use and scientific exploration. This effort will also undertake new efforts known as planetary protection.

Some 125 participants from 22 countries reviewed the rather dismal landscape of recent efforts to reach agreement on new space treaties or any type of consensus of international law for outer space. It was widely acknowledged that there have been no major treaties widely agreed upon since the 1970s. Click here. (6/24)

Editorial: Mission for NASA’s Space Launch System (Source: Space News)
Now may be a propitious time to raise the question: Is it better to undertake an occasional manned mission, at a cost of many billions of dollars, to explore asteroids, return to the Moon and journey to Mars, or should we stay close to the planet and exploit a region that so far has been only touched upon, despite the availability of the hugely expensive but sparsely manned international space station.

...The new paradigm envisions bustling near-Earth activity, with perhaps hundreds of people in orbit doing valuable work in multiple stations, and at the same time proceeding with robotic exploration of the outer regions, which is being done now with spectacular success. This is the only plausible scenario that will ensure a requirement for SLS flights at a reasonable rate. For other proposed missions, flights will be few and far between — possibly years apart. Thus they will be very expensive. (6/24)

Satellite Industry Anticipates Arrival of Ultra HD TV (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operators and teleport owners disagree on how quickly ultra-high-definition television (Ultra HD TV) will become a mass-market business but share the view that Ultra HD TV, with super-sharp picture quality and color resolution, will follow the HDTV growth model and not fall into the niche status of 3-D television.

As was the case with HDTV, these officials said, an entire ecosystem needs to be put into place — signal compression to bring down the cost of Ultra HD TV satellite bandwidth, the availability of Ultra HD TV-compatible television screens at mass-market prices, and the programmers’ adoption of Ultra HD broadcasts beyond the initial sporting events. (6/24)

Ukraine is Ready to Continue Supplying Zenit Rockets for Sea Launch (Source: Interfax)
Ukraine has no plans to suspend the supply of Zenit-3SL launch vehicles for the international Sea Launch partnership in the Pacific Ocean, Yuriy Alekseyev, the head of the Ukrainian State Space Agency, told Interfax. "Ukraine has supplied and is ready to supply everything needed for the Sea Launch," Alekseyev said, commenting on reports stating that Sea Launch may be postponed until 2016 due to a shortage of Zenit launch vehicles. (6/24)

Puzzling X-Rays Point to Dark Matter (Source: ESA)
Astronomers using ESA and NASA high-energy observatories have discovered a tantalising clue that hints at an elusive ingredient of our Universe: dark matter. Although thought to be invisible, neither emitting nor absorbing light, dark matter can be detected through its gravitational influence on the movements and appearance of other objects in the Universe, such as stars or galaxies.

Based on this indirect evidence, astronomers believe that dark matter is the dominant type of matter in the Universe – yet it remains obscure. Now a hint may have been found by studying galaxy clusters, the largest cosmic assemblies of matter bound together by gravity. Galaxy clusters not only contain hundreds of galaxies, but also a huge amount of hot gas filling the space between them. However, measuring the gravitational influence of such clusters shows that the galaxies and gas make up only about a fifth of the total mass – the rest is thought to be dark matter. (6/24)

No comments: