July 17, 2014

China and Europe in Talks on Space Exploration Program (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Senior Chinese and European space officials have been discussing potentially wide-ranging cooperation on manned exploration programs, a prospect that threatens to further complicate the future of the international space station. Jean-Jacques Dordain, director-general of the European Space Agency, said in an interview that the two sides have talked about the issue of extensive in-orbit cooperation in some detail, without coming to any resolution. (7/17)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Green Spacecraft Propulsion System Passes Test (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne completed a successful test of its new green propellant for spacecraft. The company has been working with NASA and other technology companies to develop an alternative to hydrazine thrusters. Hydrazine is an effective fuel, but exposure to hydrazine is extremely toxic to people, and in some forms hydrazine is dangerously unstable. Hydrazine is used in many industrial applications, such as making polymer foams, and it is one of the two compounds that mix to fire an automotive airbag. (7/17)

NASA Awards $65M KSC HQ Contract to Hensel Phelps (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA has awarded a $64.8 million, two-year contract to Orlando-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to build a new 450,000-square-foot, energy-efficient headquarters facility at Kennedy Space Center. The project also will involve demolishing about 900,000 square feet of buildings and infrastructure in the KSC Industrial Area. NASA expects to save $400 million during the next 40 years due to cutting its square footage in half, as well as lower operation and maintenance costs. (7/17)

How Satellites Give Clues About Malaysia Jet Attack in Ukraine (Source: NBC)
A family of satellites known as the U.S. Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, was probably key to determining that a surface-to-air missile took down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jet over Ukraine on Thursday. The satellites fly in geosynchronous orbit, 22,300 miles above the planet, and use infrared sensors to detect heat sources on the ground, such as rocket or missile plumes. Five are operational at all times, and they're supplemented by infrared sensors on other satellites that are part of the Defense Support Program, or DSP. (7/17)

Orbital Sciences Books First GeoStar-3 Orders, Nears Antares Engine Decision (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has booked the first two orders for its higher-power telecommunications satellite product, the GeoStar-3, and it has made a second bid to use its new Antares rocket for a commercial mission. CEO David W. Thompson said a decision has just about been made on a long-term supplier for the Antares first-stage propulsion system, and that a formal announcement was imminent.

Antares is currently powered by the AJ-26 engine built by NK Engines of Russia and refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California. The current supply of these engines is running out and Dulles, Virgina-based Orbital is faced with making a fresh order to restart production, or choosing an alternative supplier. Among other options, Orbital is weighing an engine to be built by ATK’s Aerospace and Defense Groups, with which Orbital is merging. The transaction is expected to close late this year. (7/17)

SES Jumps on Electric-Propulsion Bandwagon (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on July 17 said it had selected Airbus Defence and Space to build a large Ku-/Ka-band broadcast satellite for East Asia that will use electric propulsion both for in-orbit station-keeping and initial orbit-raising. The satellite, SES-12, will carry a backup chemical propellant system but nonetheless puts Luxembourg-based SES firmly on the still-small list of companies that are using electric propulsion to shave hundreds of kilograms of launch weight from large-capacity satellites. (7/17)

U.S. Government Officials Tout Benefit of Space Technology Export Reforms (Source: Space News)
U.S. Commerce and State department officials on July 15 sought to persuade Europeans that the U.S. government is taking concrete steps to make it easier for space commerce to crisscross the Atlantic without large legal teams to oversee compliance with technology-transfer rules. Officials said the U.S. National Space Transportation Policy of 2013 and modifications of space technology-export rules that take effect in November both favor international trade in space goods and services.

Ken Handelman, deputy assistant secretary for defense trade controls at the State Department said reform of the U.S. Munitions List, which for nearly 15 years has included virtually all space hardware and technology, is “a major milestone” for the industry. “Nov. 10 is going to be a big deal,” he said.

Many space-related goods and services that were on the State-administered Munitions List are being moved to the more trade-friendly Commerce Control List, which is regulated by the Commerce Department, on that date. Space-related goods are just one of 21 categories on the U.S. Munitions List, but they proved to be among the most difficult to modify, Handelman said. Not everything will change. For example, the State Department will continue to have responsibility for licensing space launch services. (7/17)

White House Seeking $40 Million To Explore Engine Options (Source: Space News)
The White House is asking Congress for $40 million next year to examine options for a new U.S.-built rocket engine, according to a U.S. lawmaker. The proposed amendment to the 2015 defense budget request, originally submitted in February, was disclosed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) July 16 during a hearing on U.S. space launch capabilities. U.S. government witnesses agreed during the hearing that developing a new U.S. rocket engine is a priority, but were unable to map out a clear path forward. (7/17)

Rocket Science for Lean Times: Boeing's New Game (Source: CNBC)
The last decade has seen a renewed interest in space, thanks to private sector billionaires with deep pockets and a long time horizon: Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Paul Allen, Robert Bigelow, Jeff Bezos. They've changed the way the space business is conducted, and NASA has adapted to survive. So have older partners like Boeing.

"What we will do in the future has been less certain," said John Elbon, Boeing's VP and general manager for space exploration. "There's been a lot of morphing, a lot of new competition, a lot of change in programs, and so that's changed the way we approach things."

One of new approaches is the way NASA is only partially funding three competitors for a space taxi to take astronauts to the International Space Station. One of the bidders is Boeing, and if it loses the contract to a relative start-up like SpaceX or Sierra Nevada, it will further signal that a past relationship with NASA doesn't guarantee a future one. (7/17)

Canadian Technology Takes Aim at Asteroid (Source: CSA)
Treasury Board President Tony Clement announced a significant contribution to Canadian space innovation. In partnership with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is advancing Canada's leadership in the niche technologies of Light Detection and Ranging systems (Lidar) through Canada's first international mission to return a sample from an asteroid to Earth. (7/17)

To Make A Spacecraft That Folds And Unfolds, Try Origami (Source: NPR)
Scientists and engineers at NASA are using origami techniques to help solve a fundamental dilemma facing spacecraft designers: How do you take a big object, pack it into a small container for rocket launch, and then unpack it again once it arrives in space — making sure nothing breaks in the process. Brian Trease, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says one way is to use something called the Miura fold, named for its inventor, Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura. Click here. (7/17)

CASIS Teams With Texas Emerging Technology Fund to Support ISS Research (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF), and the Governor’s Office of Aerospace and Aviation today announced a collaboration in support of entrepreneurial ventures in Texas seeking to use the International Space Station (ISS) for development of innovative commercial projects capable of improving life on Earth. (7/17)

CASIS Teams With Boston Red Sox Foundation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Boston Red Sox Foundation announced a collaborative partnership with CASIS, the manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. As part of an initial Partnership with the Red Sox Foundation, CASIS will add its support of the ongoing World Series Ring Raffle by adding a once-in-a-lifetime, VIP trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

The winner and three guests will receive a private tour of ISS Mission Control and the Astronaut Training Facility, as well as four passes to Space Center Houston and an authentic CASIS Mission Patch that has orbited the Earth. Airfare and hotel accommodations are also included. (7/17)

Is the Universe a Bubble? (Source: Perimeter Institute)
Never mind the big bang; in the beginning was the vacuum. The vacuum simmered with energy (variously called dark energy, vacuum energy, the inflation field, or the Higgs field). Like water in a pot, this high energy began to evaporate – bubbles formed.

Each bubble contained another vacuum, whose energy was lower, but still not nothing. This energy drove the bubbles to expand. Inevitably, some bubbles bumped into each other. It’s possible some produced secondary bubbles. Maybe the bubbles were rare and far apart; maybe they were packed close as foam. Click here. (7/17)

Boeing Signs $2.8 Billion Contract to Build Rocket at Michoud (Source: WWLT)
Boeing just signed a 10-year contract with NASA to build the 200-feet tall rocket core. "What is it like to sign a $2.8 billion contract? It is making history, so signing a $2.8 billion contract is a momentous occasion," said Virginia Barnes. Three hundred people are building the rocket using high-tech equipment.

"I'm very thrilled to be here, this is a dream for me," said Space Launch System Manufacturing Engineer James Randolph. "At the end of the day, we're probably going to have 450 people working down here," said NASA's John Honeycut. NASA Deputy Program Manager John Honeycut showed the 170-feet tall welding machine used to assemble the huge rocket. (7/17)

Sanctions on Russian Launchers Confers Advantage to Others (Source: Space Daily)
Even though Russia's rocket industry is forced to operate under Western sanctions, thought these punitive measures can eventually do the industry more good than harm, Russia's deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, Interfax-AVN reports on Saturday.

"Russia's space rocket industry and other innovative sectors are working under sanctions today," Rogozin stated at the Khrunichev space center that is currently developing the newest Angara rocket. "This is something new that has stormed our life, creating conditions which are not quite civil in their essence. It is an instance of unfair competition. I am convinced, however, that we will win in the long run," Rogozin said. (7/16)

U.S. Needs to Weigh Rocket Engine Options, General Says (Source: Bloomberg)
The U.S. needs to consider ending its reliance on the Russian-built rocket engines used to launch Pentagon satellites, a top Air Force official said. While the Russian engine “has served us well, current uncertainty highlights the need to consider other options for assured access to space,” General William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command, said in remarks prepared for a Senate hearing today.

Shelton warned that developing a replacement would be a multiyear effort requiring “significant congressional support to maintain adequate funding.” The Obama administration has said a substitute might cost as much as $4.5 billion and take eight years to complete. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee, said the U.S. must take action. “We simply cannot rely on the vicissitudes of a foreign supplier in a foreign nation for our national security,” he said at the start of the hearing. (7/16)

UAE Plans Unmanned Mission to Mars by 2021 (Source: Reuters)
The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday it planned to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, in the Arab world’s first mission to another planet. A UAE Space Agency will be set up to supervise the mission and develop a space technology industry in the country, a government statement said. It did not give details such as the cost of the probe or how it would be designed and built. (7/16)

China's Fast Trac to Circumlunar Mission (Source: Space Daily)
China seems to be planning a circumlunar flight for the near future, which will involve sending an astronaut around the far side of the Moon without landing. An upcoming test flight involving a scaled-down replica of a Shenzhou astronaut descent module adds weight to this theory. China would gain a lot of kudos by launching an astronaut to the Moon and back. This feat has not been performed by the USA in more than 40 years, and has never been achieved by the Russians. (7/16)

Two Big Dark Matter Experiments Gain U.S. Support (Source: Science)
For a change, U.S. particle physicists are savoring some good news about government funding. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on Friday that they will try to fund two major experiments to detect particles of the mysterious dark matter whose gravity binds the galaxies instead of just one. The decision allays fears that the funding agencies could afford only one experiment to continue the search for so-called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. Click here. (7/16)

Shoot for the Stars: Step Inside Boeing's CST-100 Space Taxi (Source: NBC)
Tony Castilleja is working on the Boeing CST-100, which stands for Crew Space Transportation vehicle. Its purpose is to ferry crew and cargo into low Earth orbit. A prototype stands inside a facility in Houston, not far from Johnson Space Center. NASA has already paid the company $460 million to get this far, but Boeing won't know for another month if it will go any farther. Click here. (7/16)

Two Satellites for India to be Made in Russia (Source: Itar-Tass)
Two space satellites for India will be manufactured in Russia - the agreement on the design and production of the spacecraft was signed in the UK on Wednesday at the Farnborough International Airshow. The customer is India’s telecommunications company Aniara Communications Pvt. Ltd. and the contractor - Dauria research and production enterprise, Russian unit of the Dauria Aerospace private space company. (7/16)

Russian Communication Satellite Yamal-201 Lost (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian communication satellite Yamal-201 could not be repaired after a malfunction in June and is deemed lost. “The satellite will not work anymore,” Gazprom Space Systems (GKS), which owns the satellite, told ITAR-TASS. “The traffic that was serviced by Yamal-201 has been referred to other GKS satellites.” Launched in 2003, Yamal-201 made by the Space Rocket Corporation Energia is the oldest among the GKS space assets and was supposed to operate until 2015. It malfunctioned on June 5, 2014. (7/16)

Asteroid Vesta to Reshape Theories of Planet Formation (Source: EPFL)
EPFL researchers have a better understanding of the asteroid Vesta and its internal structure, thanks to numerical simulations and data from the space mission Dawn. Their findings question contemporary models of rocky planet formation, including that of Earth. With its 500 km diameter, the asteroid Vesta is one of the largest known planet embryos. It came into existence at the same time as the Solar System.

Conclusion: the asteroid's crust is almost three times thicker than expected. The study does not only have implications for the structure of this celestial object, located between Mars and Jupiter. Their results also challenge a fundamental component in planet formation models, namely the composition of the original cloud of matter that aggregated together, heated, melted and then crystallized to form planets. (7/16)

Comet Probe Discovers its Target is Double (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta is rapidly closing on its target – the snappily named comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – at the start of what promises to be the space highlight of the year. But three weeks before it is scheduled to enter orbit around 67P/C-G it has already made a startling discovery: the nucleus of this comet consists of not one object but two. (7/16)

Astronomers Find Seven Dwarf Galaxies with New Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
Meet the seven new dwarf galaxies. Yale University astronomers, using a new type of telescope made by stitching together telephoto lenses, recently discovered seven celestial surprises while probing a nearby spiral galaxy. The previously unseen galaxies may yield important insights into dark matter and galaxy evolution, while possibly signaling the discovery of a new class of objects in space.

For now, scientists know they have found a septuplet of new galaxies that were previously overlooked because of their diffuse nature: The ghostly galaxies emerged from the night sky as the team obtained the first observations from the "homemade" telescope. (7/16)

Curiosity Finds Iron Meteorite on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
This rock encountered by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is an iron meteorite called "Lebanon," similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Lebanon is about 2 yards or 2 meters wide (left to right, from this angle). The smaller piece in the foreground is called "Lebanon B."

This view combines a series of high-resolution circular images taken by the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) of Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument with color and context from rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam). The component images were taken during the 640th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (May 25, 2014). (7/16)

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