June 29, 2014

SpaceX DOD Certification Moving Foward (Source: Defense News)
Elon Musk's complaints are a familiar refrain to those who have been tracking the Air Force’s ongoing attempt at introducing competition into the national security launch market. The Falcon 9 has successfully launched, Musk’s supporters say, so what’s the hold up? But according to Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the head of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), the certification process is much more involved than simply reviewing documents.

While sympathetic to the slowness of the process, Pawlikowski said Musk should be aware of what he signed up for. She said Musk signed an agreement with “great, great detail” on what information SpaceX would have to provide. “The document is actually a little over 200 pages long,” she said. “So there’s not any secrets about what the expectation is to be certified.” The key to speeding up certification may lie in a decision made early in the process.

At the start of certification, a company can choose from four options for the number of launches it will undertake: two, three, six or 14. The more launches, the less technical data it has to submit to the Air Force. “There is a lot of information that we require to see when you only have three launches versus 14 launches,” Pawlikowski said. “If they had put forward that they wanted to go into that 14-launch column, then we would have required a lot less in-depth understanding of their processes, both manufacturing and design.” (6/28)

County Preps for Southern Road Construction Into Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Doña Ana County officials are nearly ready to launch a bidding process for an improved southern road to Spaceport America. The process, which opens the project up for contractors to bid on building the first of two phases for the roughly 24-mile road, could kick off within two to four weeks, county officials said. The $14.5M budget won't allow for a fully paved road.

But the exact time line will hinge upon an impending decision that must be made by U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials, who oversee land over which the road will be built. "We're just waiting for some additional information from BLM," said County Engineer Robert Armijo. (6/28)

The People of Earth Need You to Hunt for Asteroids (Source: Mashable)
Humans have difficult relationships with asteroids. Take a cultural study of films like Armageddon, and you can see we're terrified of one sneaking undetected into a path with Earth. To be more asteroid conscious, a new citizen science project called Asteroid Zoo asks you, the peaceful citizens of planet Earth, to lend your hands in finding in the depths of space. The project pulls night sky photo series from the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., and asks users to identify how many asteroids, if any, are in the frames. (6/29)

NASA Has Nothing on These Moon-Bound Robots (Source: Venture Beat)
Space startup Astrobotic Technology stands a golden chance of taking home the coveted Google Lunar XPrize when it begins sending robots to the moon. That’s because Astrobotic’s autonomous Autolanding System successfully directed a suborbital rocket called the Xombie to perform a simulated moon landing remotely and without astronauts at the controls at a remote landing strip in the desert of Southern California. Click here. (6/28)

Netherlands World Cup Team Could Win XCOR Lynx Space Rides (Source: Pro Soccer Talk)
The $30 million World Cup winers receive in prize money pales in comparison to the renown and legacy that accompanies soccer’s most prestigious team honor, but that doesn’t mean others can’t get creative with how they incentivize their teams at Brazil 2014. Take Dutch company Ruimtevaartbedrijf SXC. If you haven’t heard of them, there are a couple of reasons.

Not only is there that name, but the company’s in the still nascent commercial space flight industry, with their service’s first flight not scheduled to lift off until next year. That hasn’t stopped SXC from soliciting its first passengers: The Dutch national soccer team. If the Oranje bring home the nation’s first world title, SXC is prepared to send all 23 players and head coach Louis van Gaal into space. Give SXC credit, though. This is a tried-and-true way to get your name out there: Offer something free and slightly outlandish to the winners. (6/29)

NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Lands in Pacific After Successful Test (Source: NBC)
NASA’s “flying saucer” device made a hard landing in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, ending what the agency deemed a successful test after attempts earlier in June were cancelled due to high winds. A large helium balloon lifted the device, called a low-density supersonic decelerator, 120,000 feet. During its descent, an inflatable so-called “doughnut” apparatus functioned properly, but a newly-designed supersonic parachute failed to deploy.

The trial, which began at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, took about three hours and was meant to test the new parachutes’ capabilities. The supersonic parachute, twice the size of the one used to land the Curiosity rover on Mars, is about 110 feet in size. The test’s results will help NASA prepare for future Mars missions, which may ultimately include astronauts and require stronger parachutes to ensure a safe descent onto the red planet. Since the 1976 Viking spacecraft landed on Mars, NASA has used the same parachute design. (6/28)

Video: NASA's Most Compelling ISS Research & Development Results (Source: NASA)
NASA Public Affairs Dan Huot interviews ISS Chief Scientist Julie Robinson about the most compelling results from the International Space Station in 2013. The results were presented at the third annual ISS Research and Development Conference. Click here. (6/28)

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