July 15, 2014

DARPA Picks Teams for XS-1 Spaceplane Concepts (Source: Space News)
DARPA has awarded contracts to three companies to develop concepts for an experimental spaceplane capable of flying 10 times in 10 days. The companies selected to develop the XS-1 spaceplane concepts are: Boeing, working with Blue Origin; Masten Space Systems working with XCOR Aerospace; and Northrop Grumman with Virgin Galactic.

DARPA’s press release did not announce the contract values, but the agency previously said the awards would be worth roughly $4 million apiece. However, the Federal Business Opportunities website separately posted the value of the Masten contract, which is worth nearly $3 million, and Boeing said the value of its deal was $4 million. (7/15)

Astronauts Challenge Scottish Studentss to Come Up with Space Experiment (Source: The Herald)
About 200 S3-S5 pupils from Renfrewshire are taking part in Mission Discovery, an international educational programme which is being brought to Scotland for the first time. They will be split into groups and will work with former astronauts, scientists and trainers to come up with an idea for an experiment to be carried out in space.

The best idea will be built and launched to the International Space Station, where astronauts will carry out the experiment. Those taking part in the space school include former Nasa space shuttle commander Ken Ham. (7/15)

Space Florida: 'Win Some, Lose Some' (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Space Florida conceded Monday that SpaceX is poised to establish the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch site at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County. “It’s part of the process,” Space Florida’s Chief of Strategic Alliances Dale Ketcham said Monday in a telephone interview. “Eventually, space will continue to grow to be a very large marketplace and Florida, regardless of what happens, we are going to continue to compete and get our share,”

In summing up the likelihood that the commercial launches won’t be in Florida, Ketcham said, “You win some, you lose some.” He conceded that Florida lost this round and his organization is not happy about it, but he added, “You’re not supposed to be happy when you lose.” (7/14)

Florida Braces to Lose Launches (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Dale Ketcham of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, said the organization has been working for nearly a year to show Florida’s current launch pad infrastructure is not prepared for the emerging worldwide commercial launch market. “We’ve been saying it’s real likely that SpaceX is going to Texas as much as we want them to stay here,” he said.

Ketcham explained that the looming presence of Florida’s top launch customers — NASA and the Department of Defense — does not help to attract launch interest from space programs in Europe and Asia. Ketcham said the proposed launch site at BocaChicaBeach would be governed solely by FAA regulations, meaning commercial launches — not government missions — could be prioritized at Musk’s discretion. (7/14)

NASA is Making Britain's Nuclear Weapons More Expensive (Source: The Telegraph)
NASA's decision to end the space shuttle program has inadvertently caused a spike in the cost of rocket fuel used for Britain's Trident nuclear missiles. Both the space shuttle and the nuclear-tipped weapon rely on booster engines containing a powerful form of solid rocket fuel because liquid fuels are too dangerous to store in the confined quarters of a submarine.

NASA was the the largest consumer of solid rocket fuel, buying around 70 percent of all propellant made in the US. Launching a single shuttle into orbit required the fuel equivalent of around 20 Trident missiles. When NASA brought the shuttle program to an end in 2011 after nearly four decades of flight it left American fuel companies desperately short of customers. As a result, fuel prices for the US military spiked by around 80 percent, rising from £6.3 million to £11.2 million in a single year. (7/15)

Defense Subcommittee Supports 'CRIMEA' Rocket Plan (Source: Space Policy Online)
An appropriations subcommittee markup of the Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Act of 2015 includes $25 million to fund a competition to develop a new domestic rocket engine: the Competitive Rocket Innovation - Modern Engine Arrangement (CRIMEA). (7/15)

From Mars, With Curiosity: How We Get Pictures From the Red Planet (Source: TIME)
When Curiosity celebrated its first Martian year on the red planet last month, it beamed back to Earth a selfie. Standing alone in a desolate landscape, with its companions Opportunity and Spirit standing on the other side of the red planet, Curiosity can feel good about itself. Some 100 million miles away, crowds of Earth-based creatures are following its every move and rejoicing at the hundreds of images it’s shared since landing on Mars on August 6, 2012. Click here. (7/15)

Aldrin Talks Mars on Bloomberg Interview (Source: Bloomberg)
Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin explains why he feels those who land on Mars must stay and settle the planet and comments on Elon Musk's SpaceX. He speaks with Trish Regan on "Street Smart." Click here. (7/15)

First Launch of Proton After Crash Scheduled for Sep. 28 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first launch of the Proton-M carrier rocket after the May crash is expected to be carried out on Sep. 28, 2014, Roscosmos' Alexander Ivanov said. The Proton-M previously launched on May 16 from Baikonur space center collided with communications satellite Express АМ4R and burned up in the atmosphere above China, leaving Russia without its most powerful telecommunications satellite. Editor's Note: Collided with a satellite?? (7/15)

Australia Capable of Making Space Instruments (Source: Xinhua)
Australian space scientists have captured two significant contracts to build astronomical instruments for some of the world's leading telescope projects, a senior official said. The Giant Magellan Telescope and a laser ranging telescope will include Australian parts designed and built at the new Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Center (AITC) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, said Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane while launching the second stage of the center. (7/15)

Satellite Maker Welcomes U.K. Spaceport Initiative (Source: Aviation Week)
Surrey Satellite Technology says Britain's new spaceport initiative could lower the cost of launching small satellites and help stimulate the nation's budding space economy, which the government expects to grow to £40 billion ($68 billion) by 2020. (7/15)

NASA Scientists Closer Than Ever to Finding Life Beyond Earth (Source: LA Times)
"Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?" Charles Bolden asked. "I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone." Though some NASA scientists are looking for signs of life in our solar system - most aggressively on Mars, but perhaps soon on one of the ice moons - the scientists on the panel spoke exclusively about looking for signs of life on planets around other stars.

Thanks to data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope, scientists now estimate that nearly every star in our galaxy has at least one planet circling it. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 will help scientists see whether any of those billions of planets have the right chemical fingerprint to suggest they harbor life. Specifically, they are looking for gases in the planet's atmosphere that could only be produced by life. But even with a telescope the size of James Webb, chances of success are low. But as the space telescopes launched by NASA get bigger and bigger, the odds of finding life will get better and better. (7/15)

Space Weather: Fine, with a Chance of Solar Flares (Source: CNN)
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed. Flares that light up the galaxy and eruptions that can be as large as 30 times the Earth's surface occur regularly. During the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, these events can happen several times a day.

The flares and eruptions are collectively known as space weather and although they create dazzling visuals in space, it isn't just a harmless fireworks show for the galaxy. Each burst of energy can have a disrupting effect on systems we rely on every day. With their headquarters next to the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado, a team of forecasters aims to minimize that impact. (7/15)

Get Ready to Learn a Bunch of Awesome New Science About Pluto (Source: WIRED)
One year from today, everybody’s favorite dwarf planet will receive its first man-made visitor. The New Horizons mission, which launched in 2006, will make its closest flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Right now, Pluto is mainly known as that object in the solar system that used to be a planet (some would argue it was never a planet, simply misclassified as one for a long time). Scientists know a fair amount about its basic properties, but once New Horizons sweeps past and observes Pluto with its collection of high-tech instruments, there will be an explosion of new knowledge about the tiny world. (7/14)

EU Courts Support for Space Code of Conduct (Source: Space News)
The attempt at global governance of outer space has been gaining momentum in recent years. There are multiple efforts underway — the European Union-proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, the Russia- and China-proposed draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (a revised text of which was presented June 10 at the Conference on Disarmament) and the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space are the most prominent.

The EU’s code of conduct, in particular, has been gaining considerable momentum. The EU drafted this document back in 2008, but with the exercise being limited largely to the European countries it did not enlist much support from the international community. Initially the EU had set a deadline of 2012 to get an international endorsement, but international criticism of the code was too strong for the EU to ignore. Click here. (7/14)

Two Perspectives on U.S.-China Space Cooperation (Source: Space News)
Cooperation with China is a hot-button issue in political and advocacy circles. Whether or not to engage China in current U.S. outer space efforts is hotly debated on Capitol Hill, in academia and among space advocacy groups. Two experts in the field of space policy with differing views make their case for and against outer space cooperation with China. Click here. (7/14)

Editorial: A Partial Victory for DigitalGlobe (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government’s decision to loosen the regulatory strings on imaging satellite operator DigitalGlobe is best viewed as qualified good news since regulators have reserved the right to apply new restrictions after the company’s newest and most capable satellite is declared operational.

Facing stiff competition from other satellite firms as well as the loosely regulated aerial photography industry, DigitalGlobe last year asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to lift the resolution restrictions on imagery it can sell to non-U.S government customers. At the time, the floor was set at 50 centimeters, or sharp enough to detect objects of that size and larger.

Anything sharper was restricted to U.S. government customers only, a rule that effectively would have rendered the new capabilities to be introduced by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite, which will be capable of distinguishing objects as small as 31 centimeters across in black-and-white mode, irrelevant in the commercial marketplace. (7/14)

Apollo’s Children: The Waiting Is Over (Source: Space News)
July 20 marks 45 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. Forty-five years since the culmination of a national program in which the very best of America was focused on the highest possible achievement. Regardless of the motivation, be it Cold War politics, the seeking of personal legacy or the disguising of a military capability, the choice of actions, the choice of destination and the scale of the challenge — within a dramatically short time frame — made it one of the singular boldest and most important initiatives of human history.

And now, here we are, 45 years later. Having succeeded magnificently, we were unable to stay, became unable to return, and are now unable to even put Americans into space at all. This must not stand. The United States, the greatest nation on Earth, a nation of nations, who when it placed its own flag on the Moon made it clear that it did not claim it but instead did so for all humanity — this nation must lead us back and to the universe beyond. (7/14)

Charlie Duke Offers a Living History of the Apollo Moon Program (Source: Gulf Live)
Looking for a role model for your kids? Forget some guy in a jock strap. Charlie Duke is your man. Duke was valedictorian of his high school class. He earned an undergraduate degree in Naval Sciences from the U.S. Naval Academy. He holds a Masters in Aeronautics from M.I.T. He is an Eagle Scout. Oh, yeah, he also walked on the moon. One of only 12 men to do it. Was the youngest, too.

Duke, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, was in Ocean Springs this past Friday night to participate in the dedication of a "Moon Tree" for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. Best known as the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 16 and as the CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) for Apollo 11, Duke had a role in five of the nine Apollo missions, six of which landed on the moon. (7/14)

Downtown Space Exploration (Source: Palo Alto Online)
People walking through downtown Mountain View might find space shuttles, robots and astronaut suits popping up in the windows of popular businesses. That's because the NASA Ames Research Center is celebrating its 75th anniversary with 17 exhibits sprinkled throughout Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

The exhibits are part of NASA Ames' "Living Museum," which runs the entire month of July and will feature past and present scientific endeavors by the research center. The exhibits range from informational posters and lit-up displays to aircraft models and tools used for space research. (7/14)

Northrop Grumman Breaks Ground on New Space Assembly/ Test Facility in Maryland (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman officially broke ground on a new $20 million Maryland Space Assembly and Test (M-SAT) facility on the back of its Baltimore campus adjacent to Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. In attendance were U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes.

The 25,000-square-foot building is designed to handle space payload integration programs. The M-SAT space assembly, integration and test building will feature the largest clean room facility on the company's Baltimore campus, a three-story high-bay area that will house operations for space programs. Northrop Grumman currently develops and delivers space payloads at its Baltimore campus utilizing several smaller space assembly facilities. This new, larger building will allow for expanded payload production to meet growth in the company's space business. (7/14)

NASA Needs New Plan if Congress Saves Airborne Observatory (Source: Space News)
NASA’s plan for operating the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) will need to be retooled if the U.S. Congress overrides a White House proposal to ground the telescope-equipped 747SP jetliner later this year, the agency’s Office of the Inspector General wrote in a report published July 9. The inspector general also said NASA might be able to reduce SOFIA science and flight operations costs if it switches to a fixed-price contract when the roughly $590 million cost-plus contract the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) has held since 2007 expires in 2016. (7/14)

Roscosmos: Heavy-Lift Angara to be Sent to Geostationary Orbit (Source: Itar-Tass)
“The main purpose of the trial flight of the heavy version of Angara is to test the whole route all the way up to the geostationary orbit”, - Federal Space Agency First Deputy Head Ivanov said. Russia’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle Angara will fly to a geostationary orbit, not along the free-flight trajectory as its light version did, Ivanov said. “The main purpose of the trial flight of the heavy version of Angara is to test the whole route all the way up to the geostationary orbit,” he said. (7/14)

Two More GLONASS Stations to Open in Brazil (Source: RIA Novosti)
Two More GLONASS stations are to open in the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said. “In the field of space cooperation, I would like to note Brazil’s successful experience working with Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system. This system will expand with new stations in the states of Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul, in addition to the existing one at the University of Brasilia,” Figueiredo stated. (7/14)

Station’s First Female Cosmonaut Preparing For September Launch (Source: Space News)
Russia is preparing to launch its first woman to the international space station. Elena Serova, 38, is slated to serve as a flight engineer, along with NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev. The trio is due to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Serova will become only the fourth Russian woman to fly in space and the first since cosmonaut Elena Kondakova joined a 1997 U.S. space shuttle crew to visit the now-defunct Mir space station. (7/14)

Russia Plans Manned Mission to Moon in 2030-2031 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is planning a manned mission to the Moon in 2030-2031, Roscosmos First Deputy Head Alexander Ivanov said. "In our program this [manned mission to the Moon] is scheduled for 2020-2031. This program [Federal Space Program for 2016-2025] is being coordinated now,” he said. When asked when the first settlement might be built on the Moon, Ivanov said this question was much more complex and needed additional attention. (7/14)

How to Terraform the Moon (Source: Slate)
Space fans were startled—and perhaps a little skeptical—in May when the Russians announced that they intend to build a manned moon base. The Russians think the first stage of their project will cost about $800 million, maybe assisted by private-sector investors. Their goal: to dominate “a geopolitical competition for the Moon’s natural resources in the 21st century.” Russia is on the right track. To deliver vast new resources to humanity, we must pioneer and occupy the moon, Mars, and perhaps even beyond.

And inevitably, we will shape those worlds, as we have shaped our own (though not always well, of course). Mars often gets more attention as the second Earth, since it’s larger and has thick ice buried under its sands. But its distance means it will be hard to shape and hard to reach. When it comes to remaking a celestial body in Earth’s image—“terraforming” it—the moon has clear advantages: It gets twice the sunlight of Mars. It’s a three-day trip with current technology, while getting people to Mars would take six months.

Furthermore, the moon is dead and it’s small, so it needs less work and investment to build an atmosphere. Mars has slightly less than the total area of Earth's dry land; the moon has a quarter of it—a bit smaller than all Asia. With the right approach and some luck, it might make a decent place to live. Terraforming our moon will take many decades and vast abilities. Before we can begin, we’ll have to master the resources of our solar system—especially transporting raw masses over interplanetary distances. That means nuclear thermal rockets, advanced robotics and communications, biotech, and sustainable closed environments. Click here. (7/14)

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