July 24, 2014

Federal Auditors Say NASA Doesn't Have Funds for SLS (Source: Space Daily)
One of NASA's headlining programs is the Space Launch System, a giant rocket program aimed at eventually delivering astronauts to the moon, Mars, asteroids and the deep space beyond. The space agency signed a long-term deal with Boeing earlier this summer to continue work on the mission.

But a new report by federal auditors at the Government Accountability Office say NASA and its contracting partners are unlikely to meet their goal of a December 2017 test flight. Officials with the federal watchdog agency claim NASA's allotted spending figures aren't realistic, and that the mission likely needs at least another $400 million to reach its initial 2017 launch date on time. (7/23)

ISS May Move to Avoid Space Junk (Source: Itar-Tass)
The International Space Station may have to move to avoid space debris, the Russian Mission Control Center said on Wednesday. The station and its crew are in no danger but the move may be necessary, the mission control said. A fragment of the Briz-M upper stage, which was used in a failed launch of Russian and Indonesian satellites from the Baikonur space centre in August 2012, will fly by the ISS at 1.16 pm GMT on Wednesday. The upper stage mishap took the satellites into a wrong orbit and later fell into more than 80 pieces of space debris. (7/23)

Russian Scientists Support Extension of ISS Operation Until 2024 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian scientists have supported the extension of the International Space Station (ISS) operation until 2024, Director of the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences Igor Ushakov told ITAR-TASS in an interview on Wednesday. “The scientific community will support this decision,” he said. (7/23)

Now We Can Test for Multiple Universes (Source: Voice of Russia)
The question of the size and limits of our universe can fry our mind without reading into it. Still more amazing, some among us always believed that we live in multiple, parallel universes. Now scientists think they can prove the fantastic hypothesis. There is testable science, and then there is fantasy and beautiful fairytales. Mathew Johnson of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, has a mission to take on one of the most impossible beliefs of the latter and place it firmly in the former category.

Johnson's tactic is quite simply to establish a way of testing for different scenarios of how universes might collide, if they exist. He develops a computer model that simulates collision of physical bubble-like objects on a small, workable scale. The metaphor for the multiverse used in the study is then quite similar to ordinary, observable processes here on Earth. Imagine watching a pot of boiling water slowly simmer and form bubbles. Some of these bubbles grow into bigger ones, others split up, bump into each other, interact etc. (7/22)

Progress M-24M Launches to the International Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Roscosmos carried out the latest launch of the uncrewed Progress M-24M cargo vehicle, to the International Space Station (ISS), on July 23. The supply ship blasted off at 5:44 p.m. EDT (July 24, 3:44 a.m. local time) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz-U carrier rocket. (7/23)

White House Defends Limited Access to Apollo Crew (Source: The Hill)
Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s critical statements before his death did not influence a decision to limit media access to a meeting between President Obama and the surviving Apollo 11 crew and family members on Tuesday, the White House said. Armstrong was critical in 2011 testimony of the administration's move to cancel the Constellation program, which would have returned humans to the moon.

But the White House said the comments "absolutely" did not contribute to the decision to allow only photojournalists — and not print or TV reporters — into the Oval Office meeting with Armstrong's widow and Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

The president said that today "the men and women of NASA are building on that proud legacy by preparing for the next giant leap in human exploration — including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars — all while partnering with America’s pioneering commercial space industry in new and innovative ways." (7/23)

Statement of President Obama on Meeting Crew and Families of Apollo 11 (Source: White House)
Today, under Administrator Bolden’s leadership, the men and women of NASA are building on that proud legacy by preparing for the next giant leap in human exploration — including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars — all while partnering with America’s pioneering commercial space industry in new and innovative ways.

The United States of America is stronger today thanks to the vision of President Kennedy, who set us on a course for the moon, the courage of Neil, Buzz, and Michael, who made the journey, and the spirit of service of all who’ve worked not only on the Apollo program, but who’ve dared to push the very boundaries of space and scientific discovery for all humankind. (7/22)

New Space Race? US Eyes Asteroids as Other Nations Shoot for the Moon (Source: Space.com)
"NASA is not currently considering a human return to the moon and remains focused on the asteroid-retrieval mission," said James Clay Moltzs at the Naval Postgraduate School. "The Obama administration made the calculation that [Constellation] was unaffordable and that, in terms of science, there was nothing 'new' offered by returning to the moon," Moltz added. "A Mars mission is still a U.S. goal, but it remains a long way off."

While John Logsdon said going to the moon would be primarily for national prestige, Moltz added that it would be a "useful environment" to test how to live outside Earth. Unlike going to Mars, he added, it would be relatively easy to mount a rescue operation, since it would take just a few days to send help there. "In my opinion, yes, the moon should be our main focus in order to establish a semi-permanent research base and to build our capabilities for long-duration spaceflight and settlements," Moltz said.

Both Logsdon and Moltz said that with enough money and dedication, several different countries could conceivably go back to the moon one day. Both China and Russia, for example, have sent humans into Earth orbit. Russia also knows about long-duration spaceflight through its former Mir space station and participation in the International Space Station program. (7/23)

China's Biggest Moon Challenge: Returning to Earth (Source: Xinhua)
China's lunar probe, Chang'e-5, will be launched around 2017 and its mission to collect samples from the moon and return to earth is the most challenging yet, according to Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program. The last phase of the three-phase lunar exploration program - after orbiting and soft-landing - requires a larger and more complex system, Wu said at an exhibition on China's lunar exploration program in Hong Kong.

Phase three will use a new launch site, rocket, and lunar probe. The team faces four major technical challenges: moon surface sampling; taking off from moon; lunar orbit rendezvous; and high-speed re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. In sampling, the drill could hit rocks, and technicians must make ensure the soil layer structure was unharmed. Taking-off from the moon would require repeated adjustment of latitude and stability.

Lunar orbit rendezvous had to be very precise as the rendezvous would take place nearly 400,000 km from earth. High-speed re-entry of Chang'e-5 over the designated landing spot was also difficult as other countries had lost communication with their explorers in this stage. (7/23)

Air Force Will Provide Assured Access to Space (Source: AFSPC)
Gen. William L. Shelton stressed the importance of maintaining assured access to space to a Senate Subcommittee on July 16. "The loss of even one national security payload - both in terms of financial loss and operations impact - would make our mission assurance costs look like cheap insurance," he said. "We will continue to place emphasis on tough mission assurance principles to do all that is humanly possible to guard against launch failure."

"The nation requires robust, responsive and resilient space transportation capabilities that enable and advance our space operations," Estevez said. "The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program has provided launch services for critical national security payloads since 2002 with an unprecedented record of success." The growing costs of the EELV program caused the Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to look at restructuring options, to provide the best capabilities at the lowest cost to the American taxpayer. (7/23)

Shelton: US Can’t ‘Stick Our Heads In The Sand’ On Space Threats (Source: Breaking Defense)
The head of Air Force Space Command said the heavens aren’t the “peaceful sanctuary” they once were. Nothing short of a nuclear missile could pull the plug on a satellite constellation as robust as the Global Positioning System (GPS), Gen. William Shelton said. But American policymakers, commanders, and citizens need to stop relying blithely on 100 percent performance from space systems, he went on, because potential adversaries pack an increasingly sophisticated arsenal that ranges from computer viruses to jamming to lasers to anti-satellite missiles. (7/23)

Russia Said to Launch New Missile-Attack Warning Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
After years of delay, Russia plans to deploy this year the first satellite of its new constellation replacing the space component of the early warning system, Russian media reported. It will also double as an emergency communication satellite. The satellite was developed for the military, so naturally little is known about it. Identified by disambiguation 'product 14F142', it is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The spacecraft will be the first in a constellation, aimed to replace the old Oko-1 early warning system, which allows Russia survey countries possessing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and detect possible launches. Oko-1 is currently in bad shape. To be fully operational, it needs four 73D6 satellites in placed in a highly elliptical orbit, dubbed 'Molnya' (lightning) orbit, to provide full-time coverage of the area of interest, and an additional backup satellite in a 71X6 geosynchronous orbit. (7/22)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Revenue Down 11 Percent (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin on July 22 said its Space Systems division revenue dropped by 11 percent in the three months ending June 29 compared to the same period a year ago on sales declines in U.S. Defense Department satellite programs. Lockheed said revenue from the Advanced EHF and Mobile User Objective System military communications satellite constellations have dropped from a year ago as they move to deployment.

Space Systems revenue was $1.85 billion for the three months ending June 29, down from $2.09 billion last year. Despite the sales dip, Space Systems operating profit dipped only marginally. As a percent of sales operating profit actually increased, to 13.4 percent from 13.2 percent. (7/22)

Lockheed’s Second-Quarter Profit Beats Analyst Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin topped analysts’ estimates for second-quarter profit and sales on the strength of its aircraft division. Net income rose 3.5 percent to $889 million, from $859 million a year earlier. Sales declined less than 1 percent in the quarter to $11.3 billion, and beat the average $11.1 billion estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. (7/23)

Boeing Reports Second-Quarter Results and Raises 2014 EPS Guidance (Source: Reuters)
Boeing reported second-quarter revenue of $22 billion, cash flow of $1.8 billion, and liquidity of $11.3 billion. "Strong operating performance across our production programs and services businesses drove revenue and earnings-per-share growth and healthy operating cash flow, which supported $1.5 billion in additional share repurchases in the quarter," said Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney. (7/23)

Northrop Grumman Profit Up 5 Percent (Source: Reuters)
U.S. weapons maker Northrop Grumman reported a 5 percent rise in quarterly profit and raised its 2014 earnings forecast. The company's net income rose to $511 million in the second quarter ended June 30, from $488 million a year earlier. Revenue fell 4 percent to $6.04 billion. (7/23)

SpaceX Critics in the House Keep the Pressure On (Source: Space News)
SpaceX’s bid for access to the U.S. Defense Department launch market has many champions on Capitol Hill, but the chairman of the House Armed Services strategic force subcommittee, which oversees military space activities, remains firmly in the skeptics’ camp. Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-AL), whose home state hosts a major production facility of SpaceX archrival United Launch Alliance, said California-based SpaceX “has a ways to go” before it can be entrusted with billion-dollar national security satellites.

Rogers cited a letter from Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James that responds to questions he had about anomalies on past Falcon-9 flights and about the Air Force’s pending certification of that vehicle. In her May 20 letter, James says one of the most significant anomalies on a SpaceX certification flight occurred on the maiden launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 variant Sep. 29. The mission successfully placed a satellite into low Earth orbit, but a postdeployment reignition of the rocket’s upper stage — intended to demo the Falcon 9’s ability to deploy geostationary spacecraft — did not take place as planned.

Rogers is not the only lawmaker to raise questions about rumored anomalies on Falcon 9 missions, all of which have been successful to date. On July 15, Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) wrote a letter to Bolden seeking information on what they characterized as an “epidemic of anomalies” with the Falcon 9 as well as SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule. ULA is headquartered in Denver and has its main production facility in Decatur, Alabama. (7/23)

U.S. Commercial Weather Hopeful Secures NOAA Operating License (Source: Space News)
Tempus Global Data, which is seeking to deploy a global network of sounder instruments aboard geostationary satellites and sell the data commercially, has received its operating license from NOAA. “This license by NOAA is the first in a series of significant milestones that we expect in the coming months that will enable Tempus to provide critical weather data with an unprecedented level of accuracy and detail,” said Tempus CEO Alan Hall. (7/23)

Why Has the Sun Gone So Quiet? (Source: Discovery)
Although the sun is our nearest star, we certainly don’t have it all figured out. Take, for example, that last week or so — the sun’s disk has been mostly sunspot-free and the X-ray output of the sun has plummeted since the beginning of July. This is in stark contrast to all the fireworks in the first few months of 2014.

To make the whole matter even more confusing, the sun should be at its peak activity, but just one look at the various images from solar observatories show a quiescent, blank solar disk, save for one sunspot (as of July 22). What’s going on? The best answer is: we don’t really know. However, that doesn’t come as a surprise to many solar scientists. (7/22)

4-Month Mock Mars Mission Wraps Up in Hawaii Friday (Source: Space.com)
Six mock Mars mission crewmembers are preparing to come back to the real world at the end of the week. The second Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation mission, known as Hi-SEAS 2, wraps up on Friday (July 25), ending four months of simulated Mars exploration on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.

Commander Casey Stedman and his five crewmates entered their "Mars habitat" — a 36-foot-wide (11 meters), solar-powered structure — on the night of March 28, tasked with helping bring a bona fide manned Red Planet mission a bit closer to reality. HI-SEAS "is a program designed to operate a simulated environment to test what will be necessary for future astronauts to live on the surface of Mars for an extended period of time," Stedman said. (7/22)

This Red Greenhouse Grows Veggies for Mars (Source: NBC)
Researchers are pioneering menus for Mars by growing vegetables under hot-pink lights in an experimental greenhouse in Germany. The project is being conducted by engineer Daniel Schubert and his colleagues at the German Aerospace Center in Bremen. Lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables bask in the light provided by Heliospectra's LED system. The plan is to create an environmentally closed food production system, where urine is recycled to produce fertilizer. (7/23)

SpaceShipOne's White Knight Airplane Makes Final Flight (Source: NBC)
The world's first private-sector space plane, SpaceShipOne, is hanging in the Smithsonian — and now the White Knight mothership that carried it into history is in a museum as well. When SpaceShipOne was retired in 2004, Scaled Composites used the White Knight for other flight experiments at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. But on Monday, the twin-boom plane flew in to Paine Field in Everett, Washington, to become part of software billionaire Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Collection. (7/22)

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