July 23, 2014

Actor Morgan Freeman Talks Mars Trips & More with NASA Astronauts (Source: Space.com)
Actor Morgan Freeman grilled NASA astronauts on the International Space Station about how their work can get humans to Mars someday. "So you guys are out there, floating around, tossing that microphone back and forth there cleverly," Freeman said during a webcast Friday featuring the station's Expedition 41 NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson. Before Freeman could finish his question, Wiseman did a backflip.

"Showoff," Freeman retorted as the audience at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California laughed. "All right, one of my bucket list things is going to be to get up there with you so I can just try that." Swanson thinks that the International Space Station is a good place to practice for an eventual trip to Mars. Astronauts can learn more about how to make life support systems work for three years continuously, and even how to survive the radiation blast of a trip to the Red Planet. (7/21)

Sierra Nevada Announces Potential DreamChaser Collaboration with Japan (Source: SNC)
 Sierra Nevada Corp. will expand its Dream Chaser global partnership to include Asia and the Pacific Rim through a recently signed memorandum of cooperative understanding with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). SNC will work with JAXA on potential applications of Japanese technologies and the development of mission concepts for the Dream Chaser spacecraft. 

Additionally, SNC and JAXA will explore the possibility of launching and landing the Dream Chaser spacecraft in Japan. This international collaboration will widen the breadth of the global capabilities offered by SNC’s Dream Chaser reusable, lifting-body spacecraft. JAXA joins the expanding SNC international team that includes the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Space Agency (DLR). (7/23)

DigitalGlobe's Before and After Images of MH17 Crash Site (Source: Aviation Week)
The three images of the MH17 crash site (below) were taken by U.S. commercial remote-sensing services provider DigitalGlobe in October 2012 using its WorldView-1 satellite. Scroll down to see images of the same site taken by WorldView-1, WorldView-2 and QuickBird July 20 and 21. Click here. (7/21)

Space Tango Business Accelerator Launched This Week (Source: Lane Report)
Space Tango Inc. of Lexington has just kicked-off the nation’s first business accelerator specifically for space enterprises and entrepreneurs. The accelerator is designed for space-driven startups with a goal of helping new and growing businesses innovate and develop novel applications for diverse markets. Click here. (7/22)

U.S. Needs to Build its Own Rocket Engine, Says USAF Chief (Source: National Defense)
Even if Russia doesn't stop supplying the U.S. with the RD-180 rocket engine, it's time for the U.S. to create its own, says Gen. William Shelton, outgoing head of the US Air Force Space Command. "For our industrial base, for our leadership in rocket propulsion, it would be interesting to do a national program on a new engine to regain what I think is required world leadership," Shelton said in remarks Tuesday. (7/22)

NASA Software Puts FAA Closer to Implementing NextGen Air Traffic Control (Source: AL.com)
A new software tool from NASA will help the Federal Aviation Administration implement the new Next Generation Air Transportation System. The software can manage space between planes as they approach airports, saving fuel and improving traffic flow at airports. The FAA plans to install the software at one airport by 2018, if funding is approved. (7/21)

Editorial: Only Collective Action Can Save Near-Earth Space (Source: Aviation Week)
For the first several decades of human space activity, the economically and militarily valuable region of near-Earth orbit seemed like an infinite resource. But in the 21st century, the rapid increase in countries, companies and even private individuals active in space has made us realize how finite this region actually is, raising risks of collisions and conflict. In short, the space community today faces a “collective action” problem—too many people using a shared resource without adequate and enforceable rules. Will safe access to near-Earth space be put into jeopardy?

Sustainable development will require clearer rules, more transparency and greater engagement with international partners to create common standards for licensing of human spaceflight, registering and identifying cubesats, deorbiting low-Earth-orbit spacecraft sooner than current 25-year guidelines and allocating mining claims to ensure responsible management. (7/22)

Innovation Coast Announces Innovation Awards Finalists (Source: Space Florida)
Concluding the initial round of evaluations, the 2014 Innovation Awards Business Competition is excited to announce the top 10 finalist companies that will compete on Nov. 7 for a chance to win cash and prizes valued at $215,000 and present their business cases before a live audience including venture capitalists, angel investors and financiers. The 1st place cash award is $100,000, while the 2nd place winner will receive a $50,000 cash award. These awards are provided by Space Florida. The 3rd place prize is equal to $5,000 in business services courtesy of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. (7/22)

OmniEarth Signs MOU With Spaceflight Inc. for Launch Services (Source: Parabolic Arc)
OmniEarth LLC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Spaceflight Inc. for rideshare launch services related to its planned constellation of up to 18 satellites. Under the agreement, Spaceflight Inc. will identify launch opportunities and provide associated pre-launch support to OmniEarth. Spaceflight has strong partnerships with prominent launch vehicle providers, such as SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Roscosmos, and Virgin Galactic, and is well-suited to facilitate launch accommodations for OmniEarth. (7/23)

UK Seeks Additional Advice on Spaceport Locations (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At this stage we are not consulting on local communities’ and stakeholders’ preferences regarding a potential spaceport in any of these locations; we will ensure that the views of local people are taken into account and seek their buy-in to any proposed location that may be identified before any decisions are taken to proceed with a UK spaceport. We are not consulting on the highly technical aspects of the CAA’s report. Rather, we are seeking views on the strategic position to be adopted by government on the location of a spaceport. The consultation period began on 15 July 2014 and will run until 6 October 2014. (7/23)

SpaceX Soft Landing for Falcon-9 First Stage (Source: SpaceX)
Following last week's successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity. After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position. The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight. Click here. (7/22)

NanoRacks Teams with MDA's SSL for Air Force Hosted Payloads (Source: NanoRacks)
The United States Air Force has awarded a five year IDIQ contract opportunity to SSL under the Hosted Payload Solutions Program (HoPs) in order to facilitate the placement of payloads designed for Geostationary (GEO) and Low-Earth (LEO) orbit. (7/22)

Mars Mission: Red Ink for the Red Planet (Source: New American)
In breathless wonder, NASA tells us of the technological marvels that will occur on our way to the Red Planet: the New Horizons mission that will "fly by Pluto," the "robotic mission to rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid," the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble, that will "extend our senses farther into space and time, to see light from the universe's first stars."

What we don't see with our earth-bound eyes is a dollar sign anywhere in this exciting news. Visionaries aren't fond of mundane concerns such as the costs of their pet projects. George W. Bush, who was never very good at counting costs, urged the nation to embrace the Mars mission in 2004. Bob Park of the American Physical Society recalled at the time that the president's father was boosting a Mars mission when he was in the White House in 1989.

Cost estimates of the Mars mission appear to be rarer than moon rock and wide as the solar system, ranging from $6 billion to $500 billion or more. The race to put men on the moon has been pegged at $100 billion. The space station cost another $100 billion. In the famous words of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen (adjusted for inflation), a hundred billion here and a hundred billion there, and "pretty soon you're talking about real money." (7/22)

Government Inefficiency Has Stymied Space Travel (Source: TRNS)
The dreams and drama of space travel have been stymied by government inefficiency and bureaucracy. America hasn’t been back to the moon for 42 years. We’ve been to the Moon and nobody else has. The first manned landing was July 20, 1969. The last was December, 1972. And since 2011 our astronauts have reached the space station only by hitching rides on a Russian rocket.

Why? Government bureaucracy and inefficiency. With an annual budget of almost $18-billion, NASA sends unmanned missions to the planets and that’s it. A possible mission to Mars remains 20 or more years away. Future space travel must depend on the private sector. Tourist trips to the edge of space will start soon. And there’s a $20-million Google Lunar X Prize for the first to land a robot on the Moon that can move about and send high-def images back to Earth. That’s why the next man in the moon will probably be a civilian. (7/22)

A Case for More Footprints (Source: Washington Post)
We put up with a great deal from the baby boomers, including a constant barrage of anniversaries and commemorations, from JFK’s assassination to the Beatles landing. Tread anywhere on the calendar and you will awaken a Date of Significance to the boomers and it will go rampaging onto your TV screen for hours and hours, devouring all but the worst possible news.

It’s odd to feel nostalgic for manned space travel. Audiocassettes and vinyl records and leg warmers, sure. Things of the past! But space travel? That was supposed to be a thing of the future. And it’s not even that we feel nostalgic for visits to the moon. We don’t remember them at all. It seems unfair that the closest thing we recollect to a Big Space Event was when our shuttles touched down for the last time and the voyagers returned.

As an ardent procrastinator, I know how it can be — you say you will be on the moon again in five years, on Mars in 10, and then two more decades pass and instead you have just dawdled around in low-earth orbit singing “Space Oddity.” I get it. But it’s been 45 years since the first moon landing. It is time we did something. (7/21)

Stu Witt to Remain Head of Mojave Spaceport for Extra 6 Months (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt is postponing his retirement by six months. Witt had planned to step down no later than July 1, 2015. However, last week the Mojave Spaceport Board of Directors approved a six month extension until January 2016. The extension is apparently related to the board’s meandering effort to replace Witt, who announced his intention to step down last year. Board President JoAnn Painter told the Antelope Valley Press the board is still working on a “template for managing the succession” that would be put into place six months before Witt departs. (7/22)

India's Human Spaceflight Program Ruled Out of Five Year Plan (Source: DNA)
India too for long has been aspiring to become part of the elite club of nations like USA, Russia and China by having its own human spaceflight mission. During second half of the last decade, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) expressed its intent to have undertake a human space flight mission which will carry a two or three member crew to the Low Earth Orbit and return them to a predefined destination on earth.

This mission was expected to take off by the year 2015. While the government had given the nod for the program which is said to cost Rs 12,500 crore it has been releasing funds in phases. So far only Rs 149 crore has been for this mission. Further the mission does not find a place in the 12th five year plan (2012-2017). Hence the programm has been ruled out until 2017. (7/21)

Space Florida & Northrop Grumman (Source: Forward Florida)
Brevard County’s Project Magellan is a case study in bringing the deal home. In May, with much fanfare, Northrop Grumman Corp. announced the intention to bring a critical segment of its Defense Department-related business to Florida. As many as 1,800 high-paying jobs and $500 million or more in infrastructure and equipment investment would go into a secret military aviation program housed at Melbourne International Airport.

Aside from the airport, many economic development entities stepped up to secure this opportunity for Florida and Melbourne — from the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast to Enterprise Florida, CareerSource Florida, CareerSource Brevard and others, who each played a critical role in bringing the opportunity to fruition. Yet one entity was especially low profile in all the hoopla: Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace economic development agency. Space Florida often plays a behind-the-scenes role in big projects of this nature. This time was no different.

Not many economic development organizations have the robust charter Space Florida has. The ability to create tax efficiencies (including local and federal), as well as to provide conduit financing and unique leaseback terms that can save a company like Northrop millions of dollars in the coming years, put Florida in the best position to prevail over fierce competition from other states. Over the past few years, Space Florida used these advantages to facilitate some of the area’s largest development projects. Click here. (7/20)

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