June 6, 2014

Does KSC Have an Ace Up its Sleeve? (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's long-term plan for turning KSC into a multi-user spaceport includes new launch pads, an additional runway, and a vertcal landing area for spacecraft. Not included is Space Florida's Shiloh launch site, proposed for companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin who want to avoid NASA and Air Force interference. So, as one local commenter put it: “What makes [KSC's] plan attractive to users like SpaceX?”

Good question. If companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin want unencumbered access and minimal federal involvement, can KSC shed its inclination to "help" them with assigned mission-assurance personnel and facility management support? Can KSC provide an independent range safety capability, easy access to foreign-national customers, facility lease arrangements that don't favor the government's interests, and operational requirements that don't duplicate or exceed the FAA's?

The answer is maybe, but it will mean working against decades of inertia and entrenched practices. Perhaps NASA is ready to take the first step, by declaring that the Webb-McNamara agreement (which makes the Air Force responsible for launch safety assurance) will not apply to commercial launches from KSC. For the other challenges, a better approach might include closer interaction with the state-established spaceport authority, whose job is to maximize commercial and government access to spaceport infrastructure and services. (6/6)

Lack of Commercial Spaceport in NASA Plans Draws Praise, Pleas (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Several dozen Volusia-area residents turned out for a NASA public hearing Thursday night, with a sharp divide between those happy to learn the agency’s immediate plans don’t appear to include development of a commercial spaceport in southern Volusia County and those who disappointed at the lack of it.

The plan is of special interest in Volusia County because Space Florida, is in the midst of trying to establish a commercial launch site on NASA-owned land at Shiloh. NASA is cooperating in an environmental review process the FAA is conducting with Space Florida at Shiloh, a former citrus community straddling the Volusia/Brevard county line.

Local business leaders have widely supported Space Florida’s proposal, citing the expected economic benefits and spin off businesses. Environmentalists, historians and boaters and fishermen have protested the plan, fearing a loss of access and because of concerns about the potential impacts on natural and cultural resources. (6/6)

State Budget Signed, Small Defense Businesses Left Behind (Source: FDCA)
With a record breaking state budget signed this week, the legislature let down Florida small defense businesses who are poised to take the brunt of federal defense cuts. $3.3 million from the state would have repumped $2.5 billion in direct economic impact to Florida small businesses through the "Defense Works in Florida" (House Bill 155) proposal that died during the final week of the legislative session.

It is unfortunate that businesses, in many cases, started and owned by veterans and which hire veterans more than other industries could not find favor with legislative leadership in 2014. Florida Defense Contractors and our over 100 members throughout the state hope the next incoming legislative leadership will be more open to an economic development proposal of this magnitude and urgency. (6/6)

Senate Defense Bill Urges Expansion of Launch Competition (Source: Space News)
The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. Air Force to reconsider plans to include a missile warning satellite in a batch of launches awarded on a sole-source basis to ULA. In a draft version of the 2015 defense authorization bill, the committee urged the Air Force to examine the feasibility of launching the Space Based Infrared System GEO-4 satellite, as well as others, on a competitively selected rocket.

SBIRS GEO-4, the fourth geostationary orbiting satellite in the missile warning constellation, previously was among 14 satellites whose launches were to be awarded on a competitive basis rather than being sole-sourced to ULA, which has had a virtual monopoly in the U.S. national security launch market since its creation in 2006. (6/6)

Hundreds of Jobs Coming to Michoud with $220 Million Project (Source: WWLT)
It is a multi-million dollar decision that is expected to keep hundreds of jobs at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East. Thursday in Washington, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved more than a billion dollars for the new space launch system at the NASA site, bringing hope to an area hungry for development. (6/5)

Clock Starts for SpaceX Texas Spaceport (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Today marks the start of a 30-day consultation period ahead of a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration on SpaceX’s proposal to develop the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site in Cameron County at Boca Chica Beach. The period begins with today’s publication in the Federal Register of the “Notice of Availability” of the final environmental impact statement for the Texas launch site.

At the end of the 30 days, the FAA’s determination, called a “Record of Decision,” could then be issued. The ROD also will be published in the Federal Register. The review of the FEIS ends July 7. (6/5)

VAFB Helps Make ‘Rocket Day’ a Blast (Source: Lompoc Record)
Five visitors from Vandenberg Air Force Base treated 92 second-graders at Solvang School to an all-day event of photos, launch videos, real countdown audio, demonstrations, quizzes and a team challenge on rockets, satellites, the solar system and outer space May 30 on “Rocket Day.” For the fourth year, Lt. Col. “Lefty” Pakulski brought the program to the school. This year was the biggest student audience to date, he said. (6/6)

Blast and Fire at Mojave Spaceport; No Injuries Reported (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At just after 5:15, I got a rather alarming text message. “Loud boom from airport, followed by billowing black smoke.” At the airport? That’s where I was. I thought I’d heard something. An engine explosion in the test area? A plane crash? I ran out the door and around the building when I saw it. Thick black smoke rising from the ground outside the old Derringer hangar — now used as storage area for nitrous oxide and equipment by Virgin Galactic. Clearly not a test failure.

Then the voice of an airport security officer brought me back to reality. Evacuate the airport now, he called out from his car. The fire was near a large nitrous tank, and there could be a blast if the tank ruptured. The fire was extinguished fairly quickly, and there are no reports of injuries. No word on what caused the fire. From what I could see, there doesn’t appear to be any damage to the hangar itself. The area is cordoned off while firefighters do clean up, so I couldn’t get very close.

Something large appears to have burned up in the fire. At about 8 p.m., I saw a group of men trying to secure tarps over what appeared to be a large object on a flatbed trailer parked on the street outside the site of the fire. They were having a tough time because the Mojave winds had come up. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it seemed sizable. (6/5)

Russia, US Expected to Agree on GLONASS, GPS Stations (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin hopes Russia and the United States will agree on deployment of GLONASS and GPS stations before September 1. "I hope we have been heard not only in navigation departments, but first of all in Washington. I hope we will find full understanding by September 1, or we will have to do something with the stations," Rogozin said.

Cooperation with the United States in the area of navigation should continue despite problems, Rogozin said. "Despite some difficulties we have with the United States, we believe it is necessary to continue cooperation," the deputy prime minister stressed. (6/6)

Russia Says GLONASS Accuracy Could Be Boosted to Two Feet (Source: RIA Novosti)
GLONASS accuracy could be boosted from nine to two feet by 2020, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at the "Tekhnoprom" forum in Novosibirsk. "In 2013, our main task was to ensure the stable operation of the GLONASS system, and this has been achieved. Further development of the system implies a fourfold increase in the precision of navigation equipment," Rogozin said. (6/6)

A Submarine for Saturn's Moon Titan? NASA Backs Way-Out Ideas (Source: NBC)
NASA has approved funding for a dozen way-out science projects, including a proposal for a robotic submarine that could plumb the depths of the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, a smog-shrouded moon of Saturn. "It's a very far-out idea, but it's something that I think we can definitely do engineering-wise," Steven Oleson of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland told NBC News.

The Titan submarine project is just one of 12 proposals selected for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program — which is the space agency's equivalent of DARPA. Phase I grants are worth about $100,000, paid to recipients over the course of nine months. If the initial studies are successful, projects can go on to Phase II and receive up to $500,000 for two more years of concept development. (6/6)

SpaceX to Help End Launch Delays (Source: Advanced Television)
Two of the world’s major satellite launch businesses are stymied through no real fault of their own. International Launch Services (ILS) is stuck waiting for the official report into last month’s catastrophic Proton launch failure (which it had no control over), while France’s Arianespace rocket system is waiting while modifications are made to an Optus satellite, thereby leaving its giant Ariane rocket standing idly by.

However, California-based SpaceX says it is to ramp up its own rocket production to two a month by the end of this year. SpaceX has about 12 launches on its manifest for the rest of this year, and a contract backlog of 46 missions worth $4.2 billion. One of SpaceX’s problems is the lack of launch facilities. Currently SpaceX launches from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg AFB in California. The company is hoping to build an all-new facility near Brownsville, Texas, almost on the US-Mexico border. (6/6)

"Integrated Space Plan" Renewal Seeks Crowdsource Backers (Source: ISA)
In the late 1980s, an Integrated Space Plan (ISP) was developed to give a visual representation showing how the major space infrastructure elements fit together. The original plan adorned many walls at research institutions, universities, and aerospace companies, and even the wall of the NASA administrator’s office. We understand that a few copies of the ISP are still to be found on the walls of some NASA Field Centers.

Our goal is to introduce to the public the breadth and complexity of our efforts on space exploration and development. For that purpose, this project will re-introduce the Integrated Space Plan format and its benefits as a visualization tool. We will update the ISP to reflect today’s programs and the current view of how our future in space will develop. It will be inclusive in nature containing commercial, national, academic, military, and non-profit projects.

The renewed ISP will be published on a public website to allow in-depth exploration of the connections across the entire industry. It will be a valuable tool for people in the industry to understand the desired space infrastructure, and its influence on our economy. Click here for info and to donate. (6/6)

Air Force To Close Satellite Processing Facilities at Launch Sites (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin’s recently announced acquisition of Astrotech Space Operations, which specializes in the prelaunch processing of satellites, comes less than two months after the Air Force said it plans to shut down its own processing facilities by the end of 2016. In an April report, the Air Force said it “plans to shut down its organic processing capability and utilize commercial payload processing facilities.”

The decision was made by Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, according to the report, dubbed “Satellite Payload Processing Plan.” The Air Force said it hopes the planned shutdown increases demand for commercial services and promotes competition. Processing typically includes satellite transport, testing, fueling and final adjustments in preparation for integration with the launch vehicle.

The Air Force is also studying transferring some of the equipment at the government facilities — including overhead cranes, clean processing areas, propellant loading bays, diagnostic equipment and specialized air conditioning systems — to commercial users, the report said. “This may create opportunities in the commercial market while supporting long-term usage,” the report said. (6/5)

Intelsat is Buying Boeing Satellites for Military Use (Source: Breaking Defense)
Intelsat, the world's largest commercial satellite firm, is buying satellites made by Boeing that will allow it to greatly expand the coverage it offers to the military. The first of the six Epic satellites will launch next year, and Intelsat General President Kay Sears predicts the military can gradually "transition" to using these wide-bandwidth commercial satellites. (6/4)

Arabsat, Inmarsat Order Dual-purpose Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operators Inmarsat of London and Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on June 5 said they have contracted with manufacturer Thales Alenia Space for a satellite carrying a mainly Ku-band satellite-television payload for Arabsat and an S-band mobile communications payload for Inmarsat.

The satellite, which Inmarsat calls EuropaSat and Arabsat calls Hellas-sat 3 — it will be located at 39 degrees east longuitude for the Arabsat-owned Hellas-sat satellite operator of Greece — will be launched in late 2016 aboard a vehicle that Inmarsat has yet to select formally. (6/5)

Inmarsat to Deliver In-Flight Connectivity Across EU (Source: Inmarsat)
Inmarsat is to deploy a unique integrated telecommunications network delivering aviation passenger connectivity across the EU. The company has placed an order for a new S-band satellite, called Europasat, and expects to complement this satellite with a fully integrated air-to-ground network across the European Union. Inmarsat’s new aviation network will deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the continent. (6/5)

UCF Project Selected to Fly on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (Source: UCF)
UCF experiment and a 3-D printer for space developed by a UCF graduate will fly on the first NASA-funded commercial research flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. NASA and Virgin Galactic announced Tuesday that 12 university experiments, two industry-developed technologies and two NASA projects were selected for the mission.

Joshua Colwell, a UCF physics professor and assistant director of the Florida Space Institute , leads the UCF experiment, which will look at how a projectile launched into simulated moon dust or asteroid material will behave in weightlessness. The knowledge of this behavior will help in understanding future operations on asteroids or low-gravity moons for scientific study and resource collection. (6/5)

Astronomers Turn Habitable Planet Find Into Sci-Fi Short Story (Source: WIRED)
Astrophysics can sometimes be far less glamorous than its fantastical name suggests, with many of its groundbreaking discoveries coming down to number printouts rather than spying on stars. But every now and then a touch of fiction can really bring the science to life.

And that's just how an international team of astronomers, led by Queen Mary's University astrophysicist Guillem Anglada-Escudé, has chosen to reveal its latest finding: by commissioning a sci-fi short story. The discovery -- two planets orbiting our closest red-dwarf neighbour, Kapteyn's star, within the habitable zone -- is told through the eyes (eye?) of a sentient drone humans have dispatched on a search for extraterrestrial life. (6/5)

Nanosats Are Go! (Source: Economist)
On November 19 Orbital Sciences launched a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It carried 29 satellites aloft and released them into low-Earth orbit, a record for a single mission. Thirty hours later, Kosmotras, a Russian joint-venture, carried 32 satellites into a similar orbit. Then, in January 2014, Orbital Sciences carried 33 satellites up to the International Space Station (ISS), where they were cast off a month later.

Many of these 94 satellites were built in a standard format known as a CubeSat, a 10cm (4 inch) cube weighing 1.3kg (2.9lb) or less. Some comprised units of two or three cubes. After a decade of fits and starts, during which some 75 CubeSats were launched, satellites of this scale and other small satellites are moving from being experimental kit to delivering useful scientific data and commercial services.

In the next five years or so some 1,000 nanosats, as small satellites of 1-10kg are called, are expected to be launched. Some will be smaller than a CubeSat; others bigger and heavier. Some are like a matryoshka doll: the Russian launch included a satellite that launched eight smaller ones, including four PocketQubes (a 5cm cube format). One of these smaller satellites, developed in Peru, released its own tiny bird. Click here. (6/6)

Commercial Space Advocates Concerned About NASA Spending Bill (Source: Florida Today)
Advocates of aerospace firms delivering cargo to the International Space Station and vying to transport crews are concerned that language in a Senate spending bill that a key committee passed Thursday could make it more difficult and expensive to carry out those missions.

The provision, sponsored by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, would require firms in the commercial crew and commercial cargo programs to submit “certified cost and pricing data” similar to what’s required in traditional contracts NASA uses for other services.The Senate spending plan also includes $805 million for commercial crew. Private rockets already are delivering cargo to the orbiting lab.

In an effort to keep costs down and speed development, the agency has opted to use Space Act agreements instead of traditional contracts for both crew and cargo programs. Under the agreements, NASA pays companies to achieve certain milestones but leaves details largely to the contractor. It costs less, but the firms get to keep the intellectual property rights of their products, and there’s a risk a problem could go undetected until later in the development process. (6/5)

Zero2Infinity Looking to Raise $16.4 Million (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Zero2inifinity is looking to raise $12 million euros ($16.4 million) for its Bloon project, which is designed to carry passengers in a pressurized cabin on high-altitude trips. Founder José Mariano López-Urdiale said the company has 7 million euros ($9.5 million) in commitments if it can close the 12 million euro round of funding. (6/5)

Measat’s Ariane 5 Launch Pushed to September by Co-passenger Delays (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Measat of Malaysia on June 5 said its Measat-3b telecommunications satellite, already delayed from May to June because of issues with its Ariane 5 rocket co-passenger, Optus-10, will not launch before September. Measat-3b will remain in storage at Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport, on the northeast coast of South America, awaiting the availability of a launch slot aboard Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket. (6/5)

Russian Carrier Rockets to Send Six Satellites into Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is preparing to launch a group of Soyuz-ST carrier rockets of various payloads from the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Kourou space center in French Guiana in June and July of this year. “The cluster launch of a Soyuz-ST, with a Fregat-MT upper stage, and four scientific satellites is set for July 10. Another Russian Soyuz-ST will put two European satellites into orbit to expand the navigation constellation Galileo,” the source said. (6/5)

Traces of Another World Found on the Moon (Source: BBC)
Researchers have found evidence of the world that crashed into the Earth billions of years ago to form the Moon. Analysis of lunar rock brought back by Apollo astronauts shows traces of the "planet" called Theia. The researchers claim that their discovery confirms the theory that the Moon was created by just such a cataclysmic collision. The accepted theory since the 1980s is that the Moon arose as a result of a collision between the Earth and Theia 4.5bn years ago. (6/5)

Bits of Earth-Shattering Impactor Found on the Moon (Source: Discovery)
Scientists have found telltale chemical fingerprints of the Mars-sized body that is believed to have crashed into baby Earth, pulverizing itself into debris that later formed the moon. Evidence for the so-called giant impact theory comes from studies of oxygen isotopes in Apollo moon samples. The team studied several lunar meteorites and three basalt rock samples brought back by the crews of the Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 missions, which took place between 1969 and 1972. (6/5)

The Retro Rocket Look (Source: The Economist)
Around 230,000 votes were cast in a recent online competition held by NASA to choose one of three designs for the American space agency’s new Z-2 spacesuit. It was not the technology that people were invited to vote for, but the style of the outer layer. The winner features vivid-blue electroluminescent wire and patches, exposed bearings and natty collapsing pleats to improve an astronaut’s mobility. Click here. (6/5)

No comments: