July 11, 2014

Air Force Launches Competition for B-2 Bomber Replacement  (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Air Force is seeking proposals for a replacement for its B-2 bomber and hopes to choose a manufacturer next spring for up to 100 of the planes. A new long-range strike bomber is "a top modernization priority," said the Air Force, and analysts estimate the total cost for each bomber could range from $550 million to $810 million.

Editor's Note: Local and state leaders speculate that Northrop Grumman will pursue this opportunity and will include their expanding facilities on Florida's Space Coast as major resources for their effort. Florida (including Space Florida) provided major financial incentives to Northrop Grumman to consolidate its aerospace design and development activities in Melbourne, Florida. (7/11)

Space Angels Organizing $6,000 Commercial Space Junket (Source: Space News)
The Space Angels Network is organizing a $6,000, three-day tour of Southern California’s commercial space companies that includes stops at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems and XCOR. The members-only event slated for Sep. 10-12 promises “unique access to some of the most exciting startups and investors in commercial space. Based in Seattle, the Space Angels Network is a managed network of seed- and early-stage investors focused on space companies.

In addition to the company tours, the three-day event also includes a visit to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour, a five-kilometer hike overlooking the Mojave Air and Space Port and a panel discussion on venture capital and aerospace. The $6,000 fee ($5,000 if you register by July 15) includes two nights at the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Ray, ground transportation, and meals. (7/11)

Sun-Studying Spacecraft to Launch Monday (Source: PhysOrg)
A NASA-funded mission to measure the sun's energy output is set for launch Monday from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The launch will carry instruments used in calculating the sun's total extreme ultraviolet energy output, key to understanding how the sun's energy varies and affects space.

Soaring up to 180 miles into Earth's atmosphere, past the layers that can block much of the sun's high energy light, the Degradation Free Spectrometers experiment will have six minutes to observe the extreme ultraviolet and soft x-rays streaming from the sun, in order to measure the sun's total energy output, known as irradiance, in these short wavelengths. (7/11)

Arianespace Facing Shake-Up To Compete With SpaceX (Source: Aviation Week)
In the coming months, Europe’s space community will have to admit it must prepare to pay a high price for a major strategic error. For decades, European Space Agency (ESA)-member states and industrial contractors maintained an outdated structure to develop, produce and market the heavy-lift Ariane booster. Europe acquired a largely dominant market share, despite the former USSR’s ambitions. Then came SpaceX, a brand-new player, which is simply revolutionizing the commercial space launch scene.

In June, it became obvious that Europe has made a major collective error, underestimating SpaceX’s capability to successfully market commercial launches at a fraction of Ariane’s costs. Today everyone is trying hard to maximize the impact of an Airbus Group-Safran initiative to form a joint venture and take control of the Ariane program. Jointly, the two groups own two-thirds of the heavy-lift booster and this is most probably just the beginning of a far-reaching consolidation strategy. Click here. (7/10)

NASA Langley Technology Day at Virginia Center (Source: NASA)
NASA's Langley Research Center will showcase more than two-dozen exhibits that illustrate its vast technology development efforts supporting deep space exploration, science, and aeronautics missions on Tuesday, July 15, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) in Hampton. Consider it a mid-summer's display of cutting-edge technology -- from inflatable heat shields, to Robonauts in space, to down-to Earth lidars. (7/11)

Virginia Governor Talks Trade in China, Heads to Farnborough (Source: WVIR)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is on a trade mission to China to encourage investments in his state, an effort that includes meetings with leaders at the Tranlin Paper Co., which recently announced a major investment in Chesterfield County, Va. After China, McAuliffe will visit the Farnborough International Airshow in London and meet with executives there.

Editor's Note: Florida will have a large presence at Farnborough, with Space Florida joining Enterprise Florida and various Florida aerospace companies. (7/9)

Bipartisan Legislation Promotes Commercial Space Ventures  (Source: Rep. Posey)
U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced bipartisan legislation today to expand opportunities and protections for private space companies looking to explore space. The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 establishes and protects property rights for commercial space exploration and utilization of asteroid resources.

“Asteroids are excellent potential sources of highly valuable resources and minerals,” said Rep. Bill Posey, a Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “Our knowledge of asteroids – their number, location, and composition – has been increasing at a tremendous rate and space technology has advanced to the point where the private sector is now able to begin planning such expeditions. Our legislation will help promote private exploration and protect commercial rights as these endeavors move forward and I thank Representative Kilmer for working with me to help advance this industry.”

Currently, rare minerals used to manufacture a wide range of products are found in a small number of countries. This has left the United States dependent on foreign nations for these resources. The limited supply and high demand for these materials, alongside major advances in space technology and a deeper understanding of asteroids, has led a number of private sector investors to begin developing plans to identify and secure high-value minerals found on asteroids and transport them for use here on Earth. (7/10)

NASA CFO’s Energy Department Nomination Withdrawn (Source: Space Politics)
The White House has withdrawn the nomination of NASA’s current chief financial officer (CFO) to a position at the Energy Department. In a press release Wednesday, The White House said it was withdrawing Beth Robinson’s nomination to be Under Secretary of Energy, nearly a year after first announcing the nomination. No reason was given for the withdrawal, but her nomination faced opposition from one senator because of her tenure as NASA’s CFO.

Last October, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) announced he had placed a hold on her nomination because of concerns he had about withholding of funding for some key NASA projects, like the Space Launch System (parts of which are being built at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans) to comply with the agency’s interpretation of termination liability requirements. (7/10)

Japan-U.S. Space Security Plan Eyed (Source: Japan News)
The government has decided to create strategy guidelines for Japan on the use of space for security purposes, which would be comparable to the U.S. National Security Space Strategy (NSSS). According to informed sources, Japan’s version of the NSSS will likely call for the strengthening of cooperation between Japan and the United States in the space field, including satellite-based maritime surveillance of China, which has been accelerating moves to utilize space for military purposes. (7/8)

Soyuz Rocket Launches Batch of O3b Satellites from French Guiana (Source: Space News)
A Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket on July 10 successfully placed four O3b Networks Ka-band broadband satellites into their unusual medium Earth orbit in the second of three planned four-satellite launches for the company. The third launch is scheduled for early next year.

Operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, the Soyuz-Fregat vehicle separated the satellites two at a time into an orbit with an altitude of some 7,836 kilometers. O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar said shortly thereafter that ground teams had picked up signals from all four satellites. (7/10)

O3b Networks Aims To Connect Emerging Markets To High Speed Internet (Source: Forbes)
Yesterday, an Arianespace Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana. On board were four satellites – and a dream to connect the entire world to the Internet. That, at least, is the stated goal of O3b Networks. The “O3b” in the company’s name is actually an acronym – it stands for the “other 3 billion” people with limited or no access to high speed internet. That’s the market that the company aims to reach with its constellation of satellites. (7/11)

International Maritime Safety Organization To Evaluate Iridium Service (Source: Space News)
Iridium Communications has cleared the first of what will be multiple hurdles to winning approval from maritime regulators to provide Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) subcommittee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue agreed, over the protests of Britain but with the strong backing of the United States, to make an in-depth evaluation of Iridium’s ability to perform to IMO specifications in dealing with maritime emergencies.

One official attending the meeting said the United States was not alone in urging that the IMO perform a technical evaluation of the Iridium satellite constellation. Even nations that remain doubtful of whether McLean, Virginia-based Iridium can meet the IMO standards with Iridium’s current satellite constellation nonetheless supported permitting a full review. (7/11)

Airbus Completes ExoMars Heat Shields as Clock Ticks for 2016 Launch (Source: Space News)
Europe’s ExoMars mission to deliver a telecommunications orbiter, a short-duration descent and landing module and a rover to Mars on Russia-provided launches in 2016 and 2018 has cleared a key hurdle with the completion of the heat shields for the 2016 mission. The shields, ranging from 8 to 14 millimeters in thickness and made up of 180 cork-resin composite tiles, were scheduled to leave Airbus Defence and Space’s plant here for delivery to the ExoMars prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space. (7/11)

Fireball Over Sydney Was a Piece of Space Junk (Source: Sydney Morning Star)
One person will be hit by a piece of space junk and killed in the next 50 years, scientists say. That's the answer for anyone left in awe, but slightly worried, by the fireball that streaked across the sky from Hobart to far northern NSW on Thursday night. But even that statistic is alarmist, said Dr Ben Greene, chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre at Mount Stromlo Observatory. “That’s what we expect, but there’s a higher chance of winning the lottery without buying a ticket.”

Witnesses called the fireball a meteor, others rang triple-O thinking it was a burning plane. But astronomers, astrophysicists and other scientists agreed on Friday it was a chunk of Russian rocket Soyuz, used on July 8 to launch the Meteor-M weather satellite. The seven-meter, three-ton cylindrical object was among more than 300,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth, Dr Green said. (7/11)

Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights (Source: SpaceX)
The Air Force has certified SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch system as having conducted three successful flights, a prerequisite for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.
Under Air Force standards, SpaceX is already qualified to compete for EELV missions, but SpaceX must also be certified by the Air Force before any contract can be awarded to the company. Meeting the criteria for successful flights is a key milestone in the certification process. SpaceX expects to satisfy the remaining certification requirements later this year. (7/11)

Radio-Burst Discovery Deepens Astrophysics Mystery (Source: PhysOrg)
The discovery of a split-second burst of radio waves by scientists using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico provides important new evidence of mysterious pulses that appear to come from deep in outer space. The finding by an international team of astronomers marks the first time that a so-called "fast radio burst" has been detected using an instrument other than the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

Scientists using the Parkes Observatory have recorded a handful of such events, but the lack of any similar findings by other facilities had led to speculation that the Australian instrument might have been picking up signals originating from sources on or near Earth. Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars—a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields. (7/10)

Florida Students Awarded Summer Program Scholarships (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Five students from Fort Pierce Central High were awarded scholarships from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to attend its aerospace and aviation residential summer camps. Kaji Rashad’s scholarship was for Aviation Career Exploration camp, which explores flight training, aviation safety, meteorology, aerospace engineering and space technology using state-of-the-art flight simulators and labs, field trips, classroom instruction and guest speakers. (7/10)

2014: A Mid-Year Look at Atlas and Delta Performance (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
It has been a hectic first six months of the year for the Atlas and Delta families of rockets, flying a combined 7 times so far in 2014. Here is a look at the year to date for United Launch Alliance and the four Atlas missions and three by Delta. (7/9)

How NASA Sold the Moon, and Why It Can't Seem to Sell Mars (Source: NBC)
Forty-five years after NASA's greatest success, the Apollo 11 moon landing, America's space agency is having a hard time getting its message across. It's gotten to the point that even moonwalker Buzz Aldrin is talking about how NASA seems to be "adrift" nowadays. Houston, we have a marketing problem. At least that's the argument that marketing strategists David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek make in their book "Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program."

"The challenge today is one that a professional marketer would look at and say, 'The product life cycle has not been managed well,'" Jurek said. "In a marketing organization, a product manager's job is to look at the future, at that eventual decline, and ask, 'How do we extend that life cycle?' But that was not NASA's job. NASA became a victim of the political football that gets kicked around every four or eight years."

In their coffee-table book, Scott and Jurek don't focus so much on NASA's current hard times, but on the agency's genius for selling the space effort during the 1960s. Back then, all the stars aligned, so to speak. There was a clear motivation for getting to the moon — to beat the Soviets, keep the moon from going red, achieve a peaceful Cold War victory. (7/10)

No comments: