July 25, 2014

$7 Million Added to Senate Defense Bill for Spaceports/Ranges (Source: SPACErePORT)
Added to the Senate Defense Appropriations Bill for 2015 is $7 million for "spaceports or launch and range complexes that are commercially licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and receive funding from the local or State government." It is unknown which senator(s) are behind this addition, but they aren't from Florida. "These funds shall be used to develop the capacity to provide mid-to-low inclination orbits or polar-to-high inclination orbits in support of the national security space program." Click here. (7/25)

Christian Fundamentalist Wants to End U.S. Space Program (Source: Salon)
Sunday marked the 45th anniversary of that momentous Apollo 11 mission. The event left some pondering the next steps for U.S. space exploration. Not everyone, however, is so thrilled about the U.S. space program. On Sunday, Ken Ham, president and founder of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis (best known for debating Bill Nye), wrote a blog post calling for the end of the U.S. space program.

Why? Well, according to Ham, who also runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there’s no point in spending money on finding extraterrestrial life for a couple of reasons: First, the search is a deliberate rebuking of God, and second because aliens are already damned to hell. “I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote.

“Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!... And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel,” Ham wrote. “You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation." (7/21)

Alabama Candidate: America's Space Future Bright as Commercial Market Emerges (Source: AL.com)
As the U.S. celebrated the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing over the weekend, a Huntsville aerospace engineer running for Congress said he believes the space program has more highlights ahead. Mark Bray, who has qualified as an independent candidate to challenge incumbent Mo Brooks in the 5th Congressional District race, pointed to the emergence of a commercial market in space. Bray also cited medical developments made in space by NASA.

Bray also said the U.S. is positioned to reaffirm its status as the leader in space exploration as NASA develops the Space Launch System next-generation rocket at Marshall Space Flight Center as well as the continued growth in the commercial rocket business. The key to America's space vision, Bray said, is to be looking forward and not back. (7/23)

Congressional Subpoena Reaches Orbit (Source: Kitsap Sun)
Kitsap County (WA) congressman Derek Kilmer asked two American astronauts hurtling through space Thursday how the International Space Station is preparing mankind for a mission to Mars and what lies ahead in space exploration. "As we look out on this century, what's on the horizon; what other frontiers do you think we're going to visit and how many other planets are we going to discover?" the Gig Harbor Democrat asked.

Others on the Science, Space and Technology Committee asked to the astronauts to justify the investment in scientific research and what students aspiring to a career in space need to do to prepare. "What we get out of this are new products, new ideas, new science, new research; we generally help the country in the future, may 10-15 years down the road," said Swanson, an engineer who has Ph.D. in computer science. "We think we inspire a new generation ... and we explore, which, again, helps the whole human race." (7/24)

Tuskegee University Joins Sierra Nevada Corp. Dream Chaser Team (Source: SNC)
Tuskegee University (TU) and Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems announce they have signed a Letter of Cooperation to initiate collaborative efforts related to SNC’s Dream Chaser Orbital Transportation System. The purpose of this relationship is to jointly promote aerospace engineering education, research, and development, scientific exploration and recruitment and training of a diverse workforce. (7/24)

Why DARPA Wants An Experimental Spaceplane (Source: Popular Science)
So DARPA wants a reusable spaceplane. I mean, who doesn't? For decades, space experts have tried to design quick-turnover, reusable launch systems. So far, however, no one has made one that works. "There really isn't any kind of vehicle today that does exactly what they're asking people to do," Micah Walter-Range, director of research and analysis at the Space Foundation, tells Popular Science. "You can certainly compare it to existing vehicles, but it seems to be a new class."

Here's how the dream goes: Our fictional rocket would blast off at hypersonic speeds. Once it reached the right altitude, it would release any upper stages (and payload) it might have. Then it would turn back toward the Earth and land gently someplace where engineers would be able to fetch it, polish it up, and stick it back on the launch pad. Theoretically, reusable rockets should cut the costs of launches enough to open up space to more groups, such as students and startups, and ease NASA's financial burdens. (7/25)

NASA Seeks Help with Earth-Mars Data Links (Source: BBC)
NASA is asking for help to get data back from its science missions orbiting Mars or roaming its surface. The US space agency is acting now to close a potential communications gap that is set to occur in 2020. It currently has no plans to launch orbiters capable of taking over data relay duties from existing, ageing spacecraft. NASA is seeking input from universities and companies about better ways to relay the data back to Earth. (7/24)

India’s Space Diplomacy (Source: The Diplomat)
On June 30, India celebrated another successful launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). This time, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in attendance. His SHAR speech emphasized the role of technology in aiding development and referenced the humble beginnings of the ISRO. Among the many points he made, two were geopolitically significant.

First, he observed that the satellite being launched, SPOT 7, belonged to a developed nation: France. Second, he challenged the ISRO to develop a satellite that would serve the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations. Those thoughts coincide with two of the three major foreign policy issues that confront India, as noted by Shivsankar Menon: its relations with major powers and its need for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood. (7/25)

Virgin Galactic Adds Space Pilot to Payroll (Source: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Todd ‘Leif’ Ericson, former Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force (USAF) has joined the company’s cadre of space pilots. (7/24)

Virgin Galactic Gears Up for Resumption of Flight Tests (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After a six-month gap in flights, it looks as if SpaceShipTwo will once again fly in the Mojave sky, possibly as early as Friday morning. On Wednesday, SpaceShipTwo was outside on the tarmac underneath its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship for what Virgin Galactic described as a “dry run” for upcoming test flights. There is a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) indicating that the Mojave Air and Space Port’s tower will be open early on Friday morning. It’s possible this is being done to accommodate a SpaceShipTwo test flight, although sometimes the tower opens early for other reasons. (7/24)

U.S. Air Force Ponders Accelerating Delta 4 Rocket Production (Source: Space News)
In the face of escalating tensions with Russia, the U.S. Air Force is examining what it would take to accelerate production of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 rocket to ensure continued access to space for military satellites. Gen. William Shelton told reporters that he asked the service’s acquisition arm, the Space and Missile Systems Center, to look at what type of contract modifications are necessary to ramp up production of Delta 4 rockets. (7/23)

RD-180 Decision Will Not Be Made By Space Community (Source: Space Policy Online)
Just as the decision to rely on the RD-180 engine was driven by “geopolitical interests,” rather than “space community necessity,” the answer of whether to continue to use the Russian engine or build a U.S. alternative will not be “in the space community’s hands,” says a member of Air Force’s RD-180 Alternative Study. (7/24)

FSDC Opens Nominations for 2014 Bumper Award (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council invites nominations for the 2014 Bumper Award, provided annually to individuals or organizations that have had the greatest positive impact on Florida's space industry, or to Floridians who have had the greatest impact nationally. FSDC members and non-members are encouraged to submit 2014 nominees using a simple online form, available here. Nominations will be accepted through November 1, 2014.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was selected for the award in 2013, based on her company's growing role as a disruptive force for positive change at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and as a catalyst for boosting Florida's state and local government support for the space industry.

Launched on July 24, 1950, the Bumper was a modified German V-2 rocket with a U.S. WAC Corporal upper stage (built by Douglas Aircraft Co.). After a series of Bumper test launches at New Mexico's White Sands Proving Grounds in 1948 and 1949, Bumper-8 became the first rocket launched at Florida's new Joint Long Range Proving Ground, from Launch Complex 3 on what is now the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (7/24)

Recent SpaceX Landing is a Game Changer (Source: Versus)
SpaceX has announced that they have for the first time been able to conduct a controlled landing of one of their Falcon 9 rockets. After delivering its payload into orbit, the rocket fell back towards Earth, before being slowed, not by a parachute, but rather by a series of retro-rockets. These managed to bring the craft down to near-zero velocity, allowing it to conduct a soft, vertical landing on the ocean surface.

As this was merely a test of the system, not conducted on dry land, or a floating platform, once the rocket had ‘landed’ it topped over in heavy seas, and exploded. Despite this, the landing is massive news for the space industry. Fundamentally, it represents a working proof of concept for the vertical landing of rockets. (7/23)

The Rise of Boutique Rocket Firms Inspired By SpaceX (Source: Motherboard)
One of the most interesting byproducts of SpaceX’s success is the wealth of opportunities left in its wake. New spaceflight niches are beginning to be filled by a wave of specialized rocket startups, looking to provide solutions for modest satellite manufacturers with limited launch options. Firefly Space Systems is of the youngest of these upstart private space companies. Founded in January 2014 by veteran engineer Tom Markusic—who has previously developed spaceflight systems at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin—Firefly aims to be a kind of boutique rocket company, catering to smaller satellite payloads and missions. Click here. (7/24)

Gamers Launch New 3-Day Space Travel Event (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Central Florida’s video game industry will gather this weekend to launch a new event focused on space travel and exploration. The Indie Galactic Space Jam is a three-day conference where gamers and other tech people will quickly design new games based on space travel. On Sunday evening, the games will be showcased, played and distributed for free to all who registered.

The space connection is very real. People from NASA and other space-related companies like Titusville-based Rocket Crafters will be there, according to Kunal Patel, organizer. Patel is CEO of Phyken Media and founder of Orlando’s biggest regular gaming event, the monthy Indienomicon, which is held at the Orlando Public Library downtown. Other organizers of the Space Jam include Corey Cochran, CEO of ThatWhichIs Media, and Peter Smith, professor at University of Central Florida. (7/23)

LightSail-A Has a Blown Radio Amplifier. Now What? (Source: Planetary Society)
LightSail-A, The Planetary Society's solar sailing spacecraft slated for a possible test flight in May 2015, has a blown radio amplifier. While this doesn't affect the project's full-fledged 2016 mission that will fly on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, it adds an unwelcome obstacle to the test mission's ever-shortening timetable. The LightSail team has less than a month to repair the radio, figure out why it failed and prepare the spacecraft for a battery of tests. The LightSail-A test mission is still on, but its schedule margin is now razor-thin—any new snafus could ground the flight. (7/23)

Solar Probe Plus Trading Atlas 5 for Bigger Launch Vehicle (Source: Space News)
Solar Probe Plus, a flagship heliophysics mission NASA expects to cost some $1.5 billion to build and launch around July 2018, needs a bigger rocket than United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5, according to a senior official at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the solar observatory is being built.

“The plan we had was to go on an Atlas 5, but the problem is that required us to develop a new, high-performance custom upper stage, and that represented a fairly significant risk for the project,” Michael Ryschkewitsch, head of APL’s Space Sector, said in a July 22 interview here. “Our team made the case to NASA headquarters that the overall risk to the mission would be lowered if we went to a heavy class launch vehicle. The obvious players right now are Delta 4 Heavy and Falcon Heavy.” (7/24)
Launch of Delta IV Scrubbed Due to Ground Support Issues, Weather (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Delta IV Medium+ 4,2 carrying the AFSPC-4 mission was scrubbed for two attempts on Wednesday and Thursday. The Wednesday scrub was due to problems with the ground support equipment environmental control system that is used to support the launch vehicle prior to liftoff. A second attempt on Thursday evening was scrubbed due to weather issues. (7/24)

Russian Satellite Fail Leaves Geckos and Fruit Flies Lost in Space (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's mission control center has lost communications with the Photon-M research satellite carrying various biological and life sciences experiments less than a week after its launch. The Photon-M was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 19. It continues to transmit details on the spacecraft's location and performance of its systems, but is not responding to mission control commands. "So, there is only one-way communication," a spokesperson from the mission control center said. Engineers were trying to restore contact, he added.

An unidentified Roscosmos official told newspaper Izvestia that while the satellite may still be recovered, "carrying out the program of scientific experiments that had been planned is already at risk." The disruption follows a massive equipment failure aboard the Bion-M satellite last year that killed most of the gerbils, mice and fish it was carrying, and the crashing down to Earth of the Phobos-Grunt probe shortly after its launch in 2011 on an ambitious mission to collect surface samples from one of the Martian moons. (7/24)

Biological Tests Onboard Russia’s Foton-M Satellite Held as Planned (Source: RIA Novosti)
Biological experiments onboard of Foton-M, a research spacecraft carrying life in space, are being held according to schedule despite a communication breakdown with the spacecraft, Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) press secretary Oleg Voloshin said. “The biological experiments started as soon as the satellite was launched. The scientific equipment used for the experiments operates properly. We receive the telemetry data from the spacecraft and analyze it. … The current tasks have so far been fulfilled,” he said. (7/24)

Iranian Satellite Jamming Causes Storm Of Controversy (Source: Radio Free Europe)
The Iranian regime has long used signal jamming to disrupt the flow of information into the Islamic republic, but it couldn't have forecast the strategy's deadly consequences. Satellite-jamming technology is being blamed for disrupting Iran's ability to predict a major dust storm that hit Tehran in June, killing five people. In a report presented to parliament this week, the Iran Meteorological Organization claimed it was unable to forecast the massive dust storm because of signals emitted by jamming devices, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency on July 22. (7/23)

What the UK Space Agency Can Teach Australia (Source: The Conversation)
Australia has had an active civil space program since 1947 but has much to learn if it is to capture a bigger share of growing billion dollar global space industry. The potential size and scope of the Australian space sector compares well against several other space nations, notably the United Kingdom and Canada. But both those nations have more effective space sectors that are centrally administered by a single government body, whereas Australia space activities are not strategically managed by a central entity.

In particular the UK has recently adopted an agency approach to managing civil space activities, after decades of committee administration. There are lessons for Australia in the approach that the UK took in creating its agency. Australian civil space activities are currently overseen by the Department of Industry’s Space Coordination Office (SCO), which last year replaced the Space Policy Unit. The SCO is tasked with coordinating all of Australia’s national and international civil space activities. (7/24)

This Aspiring Astronaut Might Be The World's Most Amazing Teen (Source: NPR)
At age 7, Gideon Gidori knew exactly what he wanted to be: a rocket ship pilot. The only thing was, he was living in a tiny Tanzanian village where schools only went through grade six and books about space (or, for that matter, any books) were scarce. But that didn't stop him. Now 15, Gidori is determined to become Tanzania's very first astronaut.

Gidori has always been fascinated with stars and spent his boyhood nights staring at the clear skies above his hometown. "I think there is much more up there than there is down here, and I want to know what that is," he says. When he becomes an astronaut, he hopes his first stop will be the moon — one of Jupiter's moons, that is. "They say that on Europa, there's life," he says. "I want to be part of the crew that investigates it." (7/24)

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