June 5, 2014

KSC Vision Garners Support, Skepticism (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center’s proposed sites for new launch pads, seaports and a runway drew support and scrutiny Wednesday during the first of two meetings being held to hear public opinion about the center’s new master plan. Some of the roughly dozen speakers from among 120 meeting attendees at Eastern Florida State College thanked NASA for containing the potential development within its secure area south of State Road 402, also known as Beach Road.

But significant concerns remained about the potential for lost wetlands, frequent closures of Playalinda Beach, and why NASA’s sites would appeal to the commercial operators seeking more autonomy from NASA and the Air Force. “What makes this plan attractive to users like SpaceX?” said Laura Seward, outgoing president of the Florida Space Development Council. Some also asked why the KSC plan ignores Space Florida’s Shiloh proposal. (6/5)

Starfighters, Final Frontier Design Partner on Flight Suit Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Starfighters Aerospace and Final Frontier Design (FFD) have entered into a strategic partnership to integrate and optimize the FFD 3G Space Suit for Starfighters’ F-104 supersonic jets. The 3G Space Suit is an Intra-Vehicular Activity (IVA) safety garment designed to protect pilots in a high altitude environment. Integration with life support and ejection systems, as well as design optimization for the fighter’s cockpit, will take place in 2014.

The 3G suit will enable high altitude research flights and suborbital point-to-point F-104 pathfinder missions within the next year. The Lockheed F-104 is listed as the best No Gravity Platform Environment according to NASA D-3380 documents, and is capable of speeds up to Mach 2.2. Starfighers owns and operates eight F-104s out of the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

FFD has been awarded 3 NASA contracts over the last 3 years to develop their pressure garment technology. Their 3G Space Suit is an advanced full pressure garment with a flame- and tear-resistant cover layer, integrated communications, cooling, and mobility systems, and a highly size adjustable layout. The 3G is designed to be extremely lightweight, mobile, and comfortable, even under pressure. (6/5)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Targets $25 Million Per Pair For AR-1 Engines (Source: Aviation Week)
Aerojet Rocketdyne is targeting a cost of $20-25 million for each pair of new AR-1 engines as the company continues to lobby the government to fund an all-new, U.S.-sourced rocket propulsion Aerojet Rocketdyne has spent roughly $300 million working on technologies that will feed into the AR-1. The effort to build a new, 500,000-lb. thrust liquid oxygen/kerosene propulsion system would take about four years from contract award and cost roughly $800 million to $1 billion.

Such an engine is eyed for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket as well as Orbital’s Antares and, possibly, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1. This is roughly the same price cited for the cost of standing up U.S. co-production of the RD-180 engine. ULA would not release the per-unit cost of the RD-180 for the Atlas V.

Editor's Note: With ATK now merged with Orbital, it seems unlikely that Antares would switch to a new liquid-fuel engine. It seems even more unlikely that SpaceX would turn to an external engine supplier. Also, according to earlier reports, the current contracted per-unit cost from Russia for RD-180 engines is $10 million per unit. (6/5)

Scientists Expect Extraterrestrial Life Answer Within 25 Years (Source: Aviation Week)
Scientists believe that if there is life in the Solar System, they will find it in the next 25 years. Missions underway, planned or under study to Mars, Enceladus, Europa and other potential watery places around the Sun should be able to settle the age-old question “Are we alone?” in that timeframe, essentially by following the exploration approach that has been followed at Mars for almost 40 years. (6/4)

Ride and Tereshkova Changed the Course of Space Exploration (Source: Space Safety)
This week marks the anniversary of two significant events in the history of space exploration–the flight of Valentina Tereshkova 50 years ago on June 16 and of Sally Ride 30 years ago on June 18. With the exception of the single flight by Tereshkova, human spaceflight during the early years of the space race was the province of men only.

Women demonstrated their ability to withstand the rigors of space missions, and indeed a hardy group of American women pilots passed the same medical tests as the Mercury 7 with excellent scores. However, NASA policy at the time required qualification as a military test pilot. The policy, originally established by President Eisenhower in December 1958, stood until the mid-1960s when the first scientist-astronauts were selected.

Although the Eisenhower selection policy did not specifically discriminate on the basis of gender, the fact that there were no women military pilots (never mind test pilots) made it clear that women would not become U.S. astronauts at that time. For its part, the Soviet Union decided to send a woman into space in order to score propaganda points against the U.S. In April 1962, five women were chosen for the program. Among them only the 25-year-old Valentina Tereshkova ever flew in space. (6/5)

NASA Helps 'Angry Birds Space' Find Asteroids Deeper in Space (Source: NASA)
After a couple of years and hundreds of millions of downloads, the space-based struggle between birds and pigs moves beyond the International Space Station and Mars, and deeper into the final frontier. The latest update from Rovio Entertainment sends Angry Birds Space into NASA’s next target for future human exploration – asteroids! “Beak Impact” takes flight Thursday. It is a new astronomical struggle that blends the excitement of the world’s most popular mobile gaming application with the science, technology, and information surrounding the agency’s future missions into deep space. (6/5)

Big Brother Creator Developing Mars Mission Reality Show (Source: WIRED)
Big Brother creator Endemol has signed the global rights to turn the Mars One crew selection process into a reality TV show. The so-called "world's toughest interview" will pick six teams of four out of the current list of 705 candidates -- whittled down from the 200,000 who originally showed interest.

The broadcasting agreement, which is crucial to securing the £3.6 billion in private funding for the one-way mission, will see UK-based Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) filming the amateur astronaut hopefuls as they are put through their paces. The selection process will have the participants "tested to the extreme in one of the most extraordinary and challenging job interviews ever seen".

The Mars One mission aims to put four astronauts on the Red Planet by 2025, where they will establish a new society from scratch, growing their own food in inflatable pods and extracting water from the frozen, -60C soil. Once the colony is set up, additional teams of four would be sent out every two years -- at a cost of £2.3 billion per trip -- in order to swell the community to 20 people by 2033. (6/5)

How Innovation Will Get U.S. to Mars 2020 (Source: Space.com)
Following the magnificent success of the complex sky crane system that delivered Curiosity to Mars in August 2012, and the rover's successes since then, NASA is working briskly on plans for another Curiosity-class Mars rover to visit the red planet, it is hoped, during the 2020 launch opportunity.

Functionally, the 2020 rover is a virtual clone of Curiosity . It will even utilize the backup nuclear power source from Curiosity (one of the few left in the U.S. inventory). This results in over a billion dollars in estimated cost savings by reducing development costs. Yet, despite this reliance on current technology, engineers will need to innovate many new designs for this mission to be successful. Click here. (6/5)

Russia Mulls Privatizing ERA-GLONASS Emergency Network (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian government will consider privatizing the state-owned ERA-GLONASS emergency calls network. A source in the know told Kommersant Thursday, a plan to privatize ERA-GLONASS, a real-time satellite service for reporting and responding to traffic accidents, was recently discussed at a Kremlin meeting attended by President Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. (6/5)

Tensions Threaten U.S.-Russia Space Deals (Source: US News)
"We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicizes everything," Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin said. That feeling seems mutual among some in Congress, as the House recently passed a National Defense Authorization Act with $220 million set aside to help develop U.S. alternatives to space technology currently supplied by the Russians, including the RD-180 engine that powers ​the American-built Atlas V rocket.

Tensions with Russia also are impacting long-term strategies for the U.S. government and the contractors supporting them, says Celeste Ford of Stellar Solutions. “The near-term projects are continuing and being worked to resolution on a case-by-case basis,” Ford says. “For example, the State Department recently issued shipping licenses for two commercial satellites scheduled to launch on a Russian rocket. The Canadian government, however, has pulled a Canadian satellite from a Russian launch.”

Private companies could more effectively supply governments with space gear and services, but obtaining federal contracts in the U.S. space sector can be difficult for some new entrants as opposed to large, established companies​, Ford says. “Our challenges revolve around being consolidated or bundled into large contracts under large companies who tend to maintain the status quo, rather than innovate. The end result is competition based on cost rather than value, which is lowering the quality of the workforce supporting the government.” (6/5)

Here’s What’s Behind Washington’s Strange Mars Report (Source: TIME)
Space travel ain’t about coach seats. It costs lots of money—but that’s something most people knew without being reminded. The National Research Council (NRC) just released a 286 page report making the point that America is not yet able to go to Mars. This might also leave you wondering why U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) raced to issue a triumphal statement the moment the report was released, announcing in its opening line that the study was the handiwork of, well “U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.”

The NRC study was mandated by a piece of 2010 pro-NASA legislation that Nelson co-sponsored with former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Why the common cause between the Democrat and Republican in the first years of the hyper-partisan Obama era? Geography. He’s from Florida, she’s from Texas, the twin lode stones of the American space community. The 2010 bill provided multi-year funding for NASA at a level sufficient to keep at least a slow-walked manned program going.

Under the plan, NASA would aim for deep space destinations, while private industry handled the low-Earth orbit work. The NRC report that was just released appears to have been tucked into the act as a sort of time-released capsule that would open in a few years and remind people that if we really want to achieve all of this cool stuff the funding spigot would have to remain open. And which two states would get a lot of that money again? (6/5)

SpaceX: We Have 'No Regrets' About Suing Air Force (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX sued the Air Force in April to try to void the service’s contract with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that has a lock on the military’s satellite launches. Peter Cook reports SpaceX may be open to settling the suit on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.” Click here for the video. (6/4)

SpaceX President Says Life at Risk Without Space Travel (Source: Bloomberg)
Failure to invest in the next frontier of human space travel would be both a “big disappointment” and a danger to mankind, said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. “It’s really risk management for humans,” said Shotwell. “I’m pretty sure there will be a catastrophic event, and it would be nice to have humans living in more than one spot.”

Among SpaceX’s goals are transporting astronauts to Mars. “Since we demonstrated our technical chops with our launch success, now we’re talking about Mars,” Shotwell said today. She said “it seems like a big disappointment” not to explore beyond Earth. (6/5)

SpaceX Expects Launcher Certification This Year (Source: Defense News)
SpaceX is on track for certification on national security launches by the end of the year despite the company’s lawsuit against the US Air Force, the company’s president said on Wednesday. Gwynne Shotwell insisted she has not seen “any impact” on the certification process since her company launched its protest against the Air Force's sole source procurement of ULA rockets.

“There are two elements here,” Shotwell said. “There’s the procurement end and then there’s certification. We’ve been working with the Air Force on the certification side. There’s been a lot of rhetoric about it, but if you were to ask [Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the head of Space and Missile Systems Command] and myself, we are moving forward regardless of the activity on the other side. “The certification process is new. We’re kind of grinding it out together, paving the way for the next set of new entrants.”

Shotwell expressed confidence that the Falcon 9 will be certified before the end of the year, but acknowledged the new certification process is putting strain on the service. Because of that, SpaceX has held off on beginning the certification process on its Falcon Heavy system. “I have to tell you, we are overwhelming the Air Force with data and documents for review right now, so we want to keep that [Falcon 9 certification] piece on track, and we could like to enter into Falcon Heavy certification as soon as we can thereafter.” (6/5)

ULA's Common Upper Stage Engine to Fly This Year (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
United Launch Alliance plans to debut a new version of the venerable RL10 upper stage engine on an Atlas 5 rocket flight in December in a step toward the development of a common upper stage across the company's Atlas and Delta launcher fleets, a move officials say will reduce costs and increase performance.

The first flight of the RL10C upper stage engine is scheduled for an Atlas 5 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in December. Developed with U.S. Air Force funding and private investment, the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine will accelerate satellites into orbit after boosts from first stage engines on the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rocket. (6/5)

Another Delay Pushes Antares ISS Mission to June 17 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
First postponed due to another delay that set back SpaceX’s CRS-3 launch at Cape Canaveral, NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. has announced yet another for their upcoming Antares ORB-2 launch. This time, the delay comes from a failed test of the AJ-26 Aerojet Rocketdyne engine. The rocket, first set to launch from Pad 0A out of Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 6, is now slated to launch no earlier than June 17 to give the team ample time to assess the extent of the engine failure. (6/3)

No Bids for Hammergren’s Spaceship (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Apparently nobody wants to buy a spaceship, at least not for $200,000. St. Louis-based auction company Regency-Superior reported no bids on Wednesday for former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren’s 1960s Apollo Command Module Block 1 mock-up, which was a fixture in the retired neurosurgeon’s eclectic collection since he acquired it in the mid-1970s.

Hammargren had nearly 20 items up in the ongoing auction, including a 1940s Pratt & Whitney R-4360 WASP Major Engine, a letter from Howard Hughes discussing the sale of the Silver Slipper casino, and Russian space art, including a 1995 oil painting by Russian Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space. Regency-Superior estimated the command module’s value at $400,000 to $600,000. The minimum bid was $200,000. (6/5)

Students Test Concrete in Space (Source: Independent)
It started as a discussion in construction studies class. Now a group of Limerick Transition Year students are holding an experiment in space that could help astronauts to build houses on the Moon. Led by teacher Gavin Doyle, the four lads from St Nessan's Community College are working out whether reinforced concrete solidifies and holds together well in space. Next Monday, their elaborate project will be blasted off into space in a rocket by NASA.

The equipment will be transferred from the rocket to the space station, and the concrete will be mixed by astronauts, following the instructions of the students. The test devised by the Limerick boys will take place over 30 days as the space station orbits the earth. At the same time, the students from St Nessan's will be monitoring proceedings from "Ground Control", the construction studies room in the school. They will be the first Irish students to carry out a science experiment in space and it is a major coup for the school. (6/5)

KSC Visitor Complex Changes Along With Space Program (Source: Miami Herald)
At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex east of Orlando, getting ready for tourist season is a little more complicated than at the theme parks. What visitors can see depends on what’s happening with government and commercial space launches. Two behind-the-scenes tours of launch pads and the Vehicle Assembly Building, initiated about 2 1/2 years ago after the space shuttle program ended, were cancelled early this year.

Both facilities, unused after the shuttle program ended, were temporarily opened to the public. Now, NASA and private companies need the facilities for the next generation of the space program, which is well under way. Ending public access was bittersweet, said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the visitor complex, but “the next chapter is being written inside” the Vehicle Assembly Building.

A tour of the Launch Control Center continues to include Firing Room 4, where shuttle and Apollo launches were supervised. However, NASA is modernizing the firing room, so the tour no longer goes to the lower level of the room. The tour is limited to the upper level, from which visitors can see the work stations on the lower level as well as a terrific view of the launch pad three miles away. Click here. (6/5)

Intelsat Readies For ‘Epic’ Foray Into Military SatCom (Source: Breaking Defense)
For more than a decade, the US military has fumbled and groped and stumbled and, gradually, figured out ways to buy a mix of commercial satellite communications and dedicated military satellites so it could communicate and watch video from Predator, Global Hawk, and Reaper drones in theaters where military bandwidth was precious. Click here. (6/5)

Florida Governor Signs $77 Billion Budget, Vetoes $69 Million (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Gov. Rick Scott signed a $77 billion state budget Monday, the largest in Florida history, packed with hundreds of millions of dollars in popular election-year projects championed by his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. Scott's use of the line-item veto was his most surgical yet. He trimmed only $69 million in spending as he approved money for parks, museums, festivals, elderly meals programs, water and sewer projects, and a gun range for police officers.

"Sixty-nine million dollars in vetoes? That's not even accounting dust," said a Tea Party leader. "Be it Democrats in Washington or Republicans in Tallahassee, I can't really tell the difference." Even projects Scott vetoed last year won his support this time. In his first year as governor he vetoed $615 million. Asked what role election-year politics played in his newfound generosity, Scott said: "My focus is on what's good for taxpayers."

Editor's Note: Here is FSDC's final tally of space-related budget and policy issues considered by the Governor and Legislature this year. Gov. Scott vetoed one space-related item, a "Governor's School for Space Science & Technology" for gifted students. Overall, the Governor and Legislature provided strong support for space. (6/4)

FSDC Membership Elects Officers, Including New President (Source: FSDC)
Jillianne Pierce, a government affairs executive with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, has been elected to serve as president of the Florida Space Development Council (FSDC), replacing Laura Seward who held the position since the National Space Society chapter was re-activated in January 2013. A short bio for Ms. Pierce is available here. Also elected to the FSDC board are Edward Ellegood (vice president); William Allen (secretary); and Randy Pruitt (treasurer). (6/4)

Space Florida and UCF Announce $150K CAT5 Winners (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and UCF's Office of Research and Commercialization hosted the “CAT5 Awards,” a forum developed to match potential financing sources with small, Florida-based, high-tech businesses. In addition to providing this unique networking opportunity to 10 selected companies, Space Florida also awarded the top two companies with $150,000 in monetary awards. Those two companies are:
Hysense Technology, a Rockledge-based manufacturing company specializing in color-changing pigment and tapes for flammable gas leak detection, received Space Florida’s $100,000 first place award. Hysense's technology was originally developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and UCF. Paracosm, a Gainesville-based company, received the $50,000 second place award for its 3D mapping technology of indoor spaces. This technology has a number of broad applications. (6/4)

Planetary Society Offers Stronger Endorsement of Asteroid Mission (Source: Space Politics)
Last year, The Planetary Society announced a “conditional” endorsement of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (AMR), calling it an “intriguing idea” but arguing that it needed to know more details about the concept. “The Planetary Society is concerned that the detailed goals, costs, and implementation plan for this asteroid mission are not yet well defined,” it said in its May 2013 statement, also emphasizing the need for stable long-term funding for the program.

Late last month, the organization revisited that conditional endorsement and removed some, but not all, of those conditions. “In the past year, NASA has made commendable progress in developing its plans” for the ARM, the society said in its revised endorsement. However, it added it’s still seeking “a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation” of ARM. “We worry that the ARM effort will prove a great deal more expensive than is currently being suggested.” (5/29)

Russian Ancestors of SpaceX's New Dragon (Source: Popular Mechanics)
In 1985, Soviet designers drafted a top-secret project of a manned spacecraft called Zarya (Dawn), capable of carrying up to eight people to the Mir space station. The capsule-like vehicle resembled the enlarged descent module of the Soyuz spacecraft. But instead of landing under a parachute, it featured powerful liquid-propellant engines.

A total of 24 nozzles surrounding the bell-shaped capsule would fire during the descent. And instead of ablative thermal protection burning away layer by layer during the reentry into Earth's atmosphere, Zarya would be covered with reusable tiles that would allow the spacecraft to make between 30 and 50 missions into space. Click here. (6/4)

'Final Frontier' Now Complex Domain for Space Safety Culture (Source: USAF)
Space, long thought to be  America’s final frontier, has transformed over the past several decades into a complex domain the Air Force must operate in safely. History has proven the dangers of space and launch operations with examples of failed missile launches, exploding rockets on the launch pad, two Space Shuttle mishaps, and even a 'mid-air' collision in space. Today, these tragedies and mishaps emphasize the need to develop and mature a safety culture for Airmen operating in the space domain.

According to the Air Force’s top safety chief, space safety continues to grow as a vital industry among space professionals worldwide. A newly-defined mission set within Air Force safety circles, the Space Safety Division (SES) at the Air Force Safety Center, recently obtained full authority to develop space safety policy, guidance and initiatives to help prevent Air Force space mishaps.

Drawing parallels to flight, ground, and weapons safety programs, SES seeks opportunities to improve space situational awareness, or SSA. Improved SSA can, in turn, potentially mitigate the risk of future mishaps. According to Mark Glissman, SES director, space hazard mitigation, explained as SSA with a safety focus, offers unique challenges to Air Force operations, since space is a shared, global domain requiring international collaboration and management. (6/4)

Light From Huge Explosion 12 Billion Years Ago Reaches Earth (Source: Science Daily)
Intense light from the enormous explosion of a star 12.1 billion years ago -- shortly after the Big Bang -- recently reached Earth and was observed by a robotic telescope. Known as a gamma-ray burst, these rare, high-energy explosions are the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life. Astronomers can analyze the observational data to draw further conclusions about the structure of the early universe. (6/4)

U.S. Needs to Reexamine NASA's China Exclusion Policy (Source: Xinhua)
The U.S. government needs to reexamine its space policy that blocks its space agency NASA from working on bilateral projects with China, a 286-page report mandated by U.S. Congress said Wednesday. "This policy, while driven by congressional sentiment, denies the U.S. partnership with a nation that will probably be capable of making truly significant contributions to international collaborative missions," said the report from the U.S. National Research Council (NRC).

"It may be time to reexamine whether this policy serves the long-term interests of the United States," according to the report titled "Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U. S. Program of Human Space Exploration." U.S. space agency NASA is prohibited from bilateral cooperation with China, due to a federal law first introduced in 2011 by Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA. (6/4)

To Send Astronauts to Mars, NASA Needs New Strategy (Source: Space.com)
The NRC committee found that in order to reach the Red Planet, NASA's current budget-driven, capability-based exploration strategy needs to be replaced by one that is guided forward by interim destinations, including possibly the moon. NASA is currently pursuing a path to Mars that omits a return to the lunar surface in favor of sending astronauts to a redirected asteroid by 2025, followed by sending a crew to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s. (6/4)

SpaceX Aims to Boost Rocket Production to Two Per Month by Year’s End (Source: Space News)
The president of SpaceX responded June 4 to nagging questions about the company’s ability to keep pace with its growing launch manifest, saying the proof will come this summer. “Can we fly the missions we say we can fly?” Gwynne Shotwell said in a speech to the Atlantic Council here. “I think we’ll prove that over the coming months.”

SpaceX currently has up to a dozen launches on its manifest for the remainder of 2014, according to its website. Shotwell said the company has a backlog of 46 missions worth $4.2 billion. "We need to meet our cadence this year,” she said. SpaceX has been producing about one Falcon 9 rocket per month, Shotwell said. By the end of the year, she said, the company hopes to boost that rate to two per month. (6/4)

Expert Panel to Report on Proton Crash Cause Next Week (Source: RIA Novosti)
A state panel of experts, investigating the cause of last month’s launch failure of a Proton-M carrier rocket and the loss of an advanced telecoms satellite, will report to the government after completing its probe Sunday. “The commission will complete its probe on June 8. After that, the results will be reported to the government,” state commission chief Alexander Danilyuk said Wednesday. (6/4)

Russia to Conduct ‘Extreme Space’ Research Aboard Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is preparing to launch a scientific satellite that will, for the first time ever, give astrophysicists unique insight into the nature of extreme astrophysical phenomena such as cosmic gamma-ray bursts, according to the director of an institute participating in the study. The Lomonosov satellite is to be put into orbit in 2015 as part of the inaugural launch at Russia’s brand-new Vostok space center. (6/4)

NASA Invites Universities to Submit Innovative Early-Stage Technology Proposals (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals from universities to advance the agency's plans for exploration to deep space and Mars. The Early Stage Innovations NASA Research Announcement calls for innovative space technology proposals that could benefit the space program, other government agencies and the greater aerospace community.

Aligned with NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps and priorities identified by the National Research Council, NASA selected topic areas that lend themselves to pioneering approaches where U.S. universities can help solve tough space technology challenges. Click here. (6/4)

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