June 9, 2014

Orbital Delays Orb-2 Mission Again as Engine Failure Investigation Continues (Source: Space Policy Online)
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced today that it is again delaying the launch of Orb-2, its second operational cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), while it continues to investigate the failure of an AJ-26 rocket engine during a test at Stennis Space Center.

Orb-2 was originally scheduled for May 6, but was initially delayed when SpaceX had to postpone one of its ISS cargo missions.   The two companies are competitors in the ISS cargo resupply business.  NASA and its international partners manage a dizzying array of missions taking crew and/or cargo to the ISS plus occasional spacewalks and a delay in any one activity can have a domino effect on the others. (6/9)

Would Life Be More Advanced on a World Twice as Old as Earth? (Source: Air & Space)
Kapteyn’s Star and its planetary system are estimated to be 11.5 billion years old—two and a half times older than Earth and only about two billion years younger than the Universe itself. That makes Kapteyn b the oldest planet in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. It currently ranks 16th on the Earth Similarity Index. One can only imagine life on a planet many billions of years older than Earth.

How advanced might it be? Would we expect super-intelligent beings whose actions would appear like magic to us? Can we even be sure that life would have advanced beyond the microbial stage, let alone to a technologically advanced state? The longevity of a planet will positively impact its Biological Complexity Index, but we have no way of knowing for sure whether biological complexity actually exists on this planet. Click here. (6/9)

Thales Alenia Space Expands U.K. Foothold with SEA Acquisition (Source: Space News)
Franco-Italian space hardware provider Thales Alenia Space and Cohort PLC of London on June 9 said they had completed the sale of Cohort’s SEA space division to Thales Alenia Space. The transaction is one of several either announced or being pursued by larger space-sector companies in Europe and the United States looking to establish a presence in Britain following that government’s substantial increase in space spending. A presence in Britain also gives companies access to the larger European Space Agency and European Union markets. (6/9)

NewSat Management Take Salary Cuts amid Revenue Retreat (Source: Space News)
Startup Australian satellite fleet operator NewSat Ltd. told investors to expect a 20 percent decline in revenue and a net loss for the year ending next June 30 as the company suffers the continued effects of the U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan. NewSat said its board of directors had established a spending review committee that will decide where to cut costs in staff and other expenses, with most of the measures to be decided by June 30. (6/9)

UAE, France Try To Restart Satellite Deal (Source: Defense News)
The UAE is insisting on technology transfer before restarting negotiations with France to purchase two spy satellites, according to a high level UAE official. The deal gained international attention in January after Defense News reported that the US $930 million contract signed in July 2013 was in jeopardy after the discovery of US-made components in the system. (6/8)

SpaceX’s Roadmap for Innovating the Global Launch Market (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell outlined how SpaceX’s justifications for suing the United States Air Force (USAF) represent and advance the SpaceX’s broader ambitions. Ms. Shotwell also outlined SpaceX’s current progress in securing and innovating in the global commercial launch market. Click here. (6/9)

SpaceX to Balance Business Realities, Rocket Innovation (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Striving to be ready for an onslaught of launches under contract over the next few years, SpaceX plans to double the launcher production rate in its Southern California factory before the end of the year without compromising its commitments to develop a human-rated commercial spaceship, demonstrate rocket reusability, and further cut the cost of space transportation.

While SpaceX tries to manage a manifest packed with launches for NASA, commercial satellite operators, and perhaps soon the U.S. military, Shotwell said CEO Elon Musk is committed to keeping the company at the forefront of space transportation innovation. "Elements in SpaceX clearly are focusing on operability and production," Shotwell said. "It's a transition that we're meeting the challenges of as we speak, but SpaceX will never be a company that is just operations and production focused." (6/6)

Russian Space Corp. Unable to Complete Overhaul of Space Industry (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's United Rocket and Space Corp. (URSC) cannot carry out a complete audit of all the agencies within the space industry as part of the reform, main works will be conducted in those enterprises, which require financial rehabilitation, the company's head Igor Komarov said.

“An audit of the enterprises, as such, was not conducted. We gathered some information related to their state through research institutes. Moreover, here in the URSC we have neither force nor opportunities to create a complete audit of the entire space industry,” Komarov said as reported by Russian newspaper Kommersant. (6/9)

2 U.S. Tech Firms Shun Inside Defense Game (Source: Politico)
SpaceX and Palantir came to Washington expecting a receptive audience for what they presented as game-changing new products. Instead, the California companies have become mired in Capitol Hill drama. They’ve made enemies of big-name defense contractors. They’ve locked horns with their government customers. And they’ve refused to play by the unwritten rules of federal contracting.

Their battles have put on display a striking culture clash: the Silicon Valley startup mentality, in which disruptive technologies quickly win consumers, versus Washington’s inside game, mastered by long-established companies with deep government connections and knowledge. The companies’ public battles have raised questions in the industry and on Capitol Hill about the Pentagon’s procurement system, which is regularly criticized but rarely changed, and have highlighted the significant role Congress can play in settling these kinds of disputes.

SpaceX and its Washington backers say they had to be aggressive to shake up the Pentagon’s massive and staid acquisition system. Indeed, former Pentagon procurement officials say there’s a high barrier blocking new entrants from government work, including lengthy regulations and stringent accounting standards. Click here. (6/9)

New Report Urges Reforms to keep U.S. Defense on Cutting Edge (Source: Reuters)
To maintain a technological edge, the U.S. military and its suppliers must revamp their practices, becoming more global and open to commercial development, according to a report by the Center for a New American Security. The report calls for more development of satellites and other technology and calls on lawmakers to loosen regulations that prevent U.S. companies from exporting new products and technologies. (6/6)

Nelson Says Army Barking Up Wrong Tree with Plan for Simulation Cut (Source: MS&T Commission)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says he is considering trying to block the U.S. Army’s plan for making deep cuts in the military’s training and simulation programs based in central Florida. “If the U.S. Army is looking to save money they’re barking up the wrong tree,” said Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “In the long run, simulation today is so realistic and is a lot more cost effective.
“News such as this is detrimental to our military preparedness in times of scarce dollars,” the lawmaker added. “I am asking the Pentagon to explain and justify its thinking. I would intend to try to block this when the Senate takes up the defense spending bill next month,” he said. An article on the Army’s plan appeared in the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week.  The news stunned local contractors, the newspaper said. (6/9)

VR Simulation Lab Helps Sharpen Skills of Air Traffic Controllers (Source: Atlantic City Press)
The FAA is using virtual reality to train air traffic controllers who will soon be using the new NextGen air traffic control system. The system will automate some duties, freeing controllers to concentrate on rerouting planes and handling more air traffic. The training uses a virtual mock-up of a control tower to simulate emergency situations and other scenarios. "It's easy to put something in a virtual environment before we put it into actual construction," said Dennis Jefferson, who oversees the lab. (6/8)

NextGen is Progressing But Held Back by Funding Uncertainty (Source: Air Transport World)
Federal Aviation Administration Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker reported to Congress that airlines and passengers already are reaping benefits from some components of the NextGen satellite air-traffic control system. He warned that full deployment of the system could be disrupted if funding is reduced or delayed, noting the sequester had a negative effect on the project. (6/6)

Last Man on the Moon Recalls US Era of Courage to do the Impossible (Source: Guardian)
In 1972 Apollo 17 astronaut Captain Eugene Cernan became the last man on the moon. Cernan, a US Navy fighter pilot handpicked by NASA in 1966 despite not applying for the space program, nor having gone to test pilot school, went on to fly three space missions. He is the only person to have descended to the moon in a lunar module twice and holds the world record for the highest speed attained by a manned vehicle after the crew of Apollo 10 reached 24,791 mph during re-entry.

“When Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon we didn’t know beans about it,” says Cernan, now 80. “We had 16 minutes [of space experience]. Al Shepard went up and came down... At that time I believed – and I think most other people did too – that they were asking us to do something that was impossible. And then all of a sudden we got involved – all of us. And the rest is history. Don’t tell me I can’t do it: I think that’s the America I grew up in.”

It’s this faith in imagination that Cernan suggests the US space program lacks today. NASA has seen its funding decline over the decades since he left the moon. It now receives less than half a percent of the total federal budget. "It’s unfortunate – a half century ago Americans were walking on the moon,” says Cernan. “Today we’ve been told it’s going to take a trampoline to get us back to our own space station. That hurts quite frankly.” (6/9)

A New Pathway to Mars (Source: Space Review)
Last week, the National Research Council's Committee on Human Spaceflight issued its long-awaited report on the future of NASA's human space exploration programs. Jeff Foust examines the report and the key issues it highlights, including whether the government and the public are willing to support a sustained long-term space exploration initiative. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2530/1 to view the article. (6/9)

Why Shelby's Latest Crusade is Self-Defeating (Source: Space Review)
Senator Richard Shelby has proposed that NASA require companies competing for the development of commercial crew systems to submit certified cost and pricing data. Sam Dinkin puts on his acquisition-economist hat to analyze the proposal. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2529/1 to view the article. (6/9)

The Changing Fortunes of NASA Astronomy Missions (Source: Space Review)
A few months ago, the future looked dire for NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory, as it faced a budget cut that would have mothballed it. As Jeff Foust reports, SOFIA's fortunes are improving, but now another mission is facing the threat of termination. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2528/1 to view the article. (6/9)

The Commercial Race Back to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
With just over 18 months to go in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, a few teams are emerging as frontrunners with the best chance to capture the prize. Anthony Young looks at two of the teams that recently received support from NASA, as well as a third company not competing for the prize but also working on commercial lunar mission concepts. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2527/1 to view the article. (6/9)

Editorial: U.S. Needs New Emphasis on Rocket Propulsion (Source: Aviation Week)
The Air Force is rattled about the state of American rocket propulsion. There is entrepreneur-provocateur Elon Musk trying to wedge SpaceX’s commercially developed Falcons into the service’s decades-long embrace of Atlas and Delta rockets. Then there is Russia’s tweeting deputy prime minister, Dimitry Rogozin, who says Moscow will turn off the supply of RD-180 engines that are on the Atlas V, which is used to loft the largest satellites critical to U.S. national security.

Like the morning alarm clock going off, all this may be startling but it is hardly surprising. If the U.S. is serious about wanting a commercial space industry to grow, why would it not expect a newcomer to demand a share of the business that has been going to what are essentially the American equivalents of design bureaus? It may not be nice to sue your potential customer, but it surely will get his attention.

Even more predictable was that someday Washington might regret leaning so heavily on NPO Energomash’s outstanding RD-180 engine for the Air Force’s EELV program. The plan had been for the liquid oxygen/kerosene powerplant to be produced in the U.S. eventually. But that never happened, because the government and industry found it hard to force themselves to put money into developing an indigenous capability when the RD‑180 could be bought directly from Russia for less money. Click here. (6/6)

Editorial: Commercial Exploitation of Space to Bring Economic Development (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
With America’s manned space program adrift after the end of the shuttle era and dependent on Russian craft at more than $70 million a seat for access to the International Space Station, the future status of Houston as Space City USA is increasingly in doubt. With flight assignments for astronauts far fewer and U.S. deep space missions unlikely for years, the spotlight has shifted from the Johnson Space Center to private rocket developers.

While SpaceX has not officially selected the Texas site, there are apparently no other finalists, and Musk had previously indicated that all that stands between Texas and a gateway to orbit was federal approval. According to the FAA report, SpaceX identified South Texas as the only viable location for its future spaceport. The commercial exploitation of space is expected to be a landmark economic development of the mid-21st century. With our rich history as a center of manned spaceflight development, it would only be fitting for Texas to be in on the ground floor. (6/8)

A Chabad House on the Moon? (Source: Jerusalem Post)
As a Japanese sports drink company is working to put a giant soda can on the moon, and Elon Musk is proposing his 'space taxi', perhaps it is time to talk about getting a Chabad House up there too. There is a popular saying that wherever in the world there is Coca-Cola, there is Chabad. So when I saw the headlines about a Japanese sports drink company working to put a giant soda can on the moon, I began to think that maybe a Chabad House should go there as well.

The structure of the house would be modelled after the schematics developed by the designers of "The Moonhouse" project. The intent is not to make this a fully-functional house, but, as they say, an "art project" whose "aim is to inspire people to push through mental barriers and broaden their perception of what is possible."  
If The Moonhouse planners are agreeable, they would be commissioned to design a moonhouse replica of 770 Eastern Parkway, headquarters of Chabad, a building that already has ten or so replicas around the world. Interestingly, the red color of The Moonhouse is remarkably similar to 770. (6/9)

Groundbreaking Set for Wallops Research Park (Source: Washington Post)
Officials are preparing to break ground for the Wallops Research Park on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state, federal and local officials will participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the research park on Monday. The 226-acre park is located adjacent to NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. It will serve companies engaged in the aerospace and defense industries. (6/9)

Boeing Builds First Fully Electric Satellite (Source: Daily Breeze)
Boeing is on track to complete the world’s first fully electric commercial satellite, an innovation that will save telecommunications companies tens of millions of dollars per launch. Electric satellites are only slightly cheaper to produce than traditional satellites but weigh significantly less, allowing launch providers to stack two satellites into one space pod and cut launch costs in half. (6/7)

Virgin Galactic Space Tourists Shed Pounds (and Fears) on Zero-G Flight (Source: NBC)
lying on a zero-gravity airplane makes anyone feel like an astronaut — and for Virgin Galactic's future space tourists, there's the chance to prepare for the even bigger doses of weightlessness ahead. But Sally Akridge had a special perk in mind as she prepared for her encounter with zero-G.

"It's a woman's dream to feel weightless," she said. "What is it? 'You could never be rich enough, or thin enough'? Well, this is my opportunity to feel weightless. Thin!" At the same time, there's a bit of trepidation. Most people who go into zero-G experience a sense of disorientation and even nausea. Anti-nausea medications can help. But as much as New Zealand entrepreneur Derek Handley was looking forward to the flight, he had a nagging worry about how he'd feel afterward. Click here. (6/7)

Chris Nolan’s Interstellar and the Irresistible Pull of Out There (Source: Ars Technica)
Tis not too late to seek a newer world. Behind the Interstellar teaser and trailer lurks the press of that desire—the need to see for ourselves and conquer the overwhelming, threatening, tantalizing unknown. If we set aside the curiosity that drives us beyond horizons, we starve—spiritually and physically. Even though it seems an easier path to turn inward, doing so lessens us. It makes us small. Click here. (6/7)

Of Bucks and Buck Rogers (Source: The Economist)
When the Space Shuttle made its final flight in 2011, America was left without the ability to fly people into space. American astronauts wanting to go to the International Space Station have to hitch a ride with the Russians, at a cost of $71m a seat. That is rather humiliating for the world's premier space-faring nation. But exactly what do about it is the subject of a bitter, drawn-out battle.

On one side are a group of NASA traditionalists in Congress with a fondness for the glory days of the Apollo program. On the other is a gaggle of enthusiasts for the private sector, led by Barack Obama's White House, who argue that the private sector can do human spaceflight better and more cheaply than NASA ever could.

According to Congress, the plan is clear: NASA is building the Space Launch System, a colossal rocket that will be even bigger than the Saturn Vs that flew the Apollo astronauts to the Moon. The eventual plan is to use it to send a crewed mission to Mars by the late 2030s. The price tag is colossal, too: America's General Accounting Office says that the official figure of $22 billion by 2021 is an underestimate, since it does not include the landers and payloads that the rocket would have to carry. Click here. (6/7)

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