July 29, 2014

State Department: China Tested Anti-Satellite Weapon (Source: Space News)
The United States claims China conducted a “non-destructive” test of an anti-satellite missile July 23 and called for China to end the development of such capabilities. “We call on China to refrain from destabilizing actions — such as the continued development and testing of destructive anti-satellite systems — that threaten the long term security and sustainability of the outer space environment, on which all nations depend,” the State Department said in a July 25 email.

A State Department spokesman said the United States has “a high confidence” in its assessment that the test took place. China state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported July 24 that the military had announced a successful missile intercept test. The test “achieved the preset goal,” China’s Ministry of National Defense said on its website, according to Xinhua. (7/28)

Cuts to Space Program Leave U.S. Adrift (Source: Tampa Tribune)
The heroism and bravery of Neil Armstrong and his crew mates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin — along with the astronauts who flew before and after that historic feat — should serve as an enduring act of pride for our nation. But the fact that we have not been back since Gene Cernan knelt on the lunar surface in December 1972 and traced his daughter’s initials into its dust should serve as a marker of shame for the politicians who turned their backs on the promise of what could have been.

Is President Obama entirely to blame for the dangerous predicament we find ourselves in? Not at all. He is simply the worst offender in a list of presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson who cared little or not at all about the critical need for the United States to establish and maintain preeminence in space.

Because nature hates a vacuum, The People’s Republic of China is eagerly stepping into the void. As China now openly sets its sights upon everything from Earth orbit to the moon’s surface, it’s important to remember its entire manned space program is controlled by its military and every objective is geared toward creating a military edge over the U.S. Editor's Note: Why is it assumed that China has no legitimate interest in space exploration (regardless of how they've structured their space program) and only seeks military dominance? (7/28)

Kiwi Launches World-First Cheap Rocket (Source: SBS)
A Kiwi entrepreneur has rocketed into the records with the world's smallest, fastest cut-price spacecraft designed to send satellites into space. Aerospace company Rocket Lab has unveiled its carbon-composite launch vehicle, named Electron, at its facility in south Auckland. Measuring just 18 metres in length but reaching speeds of 27,500km/h, Electron will be the smallest, fastest rocket to ever hit space.

But Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck is most excited about another figure, the $NZ5 million ($A4.65 million) price tag which confirms Electron as the cheapest satellite carrier in the world. It is designed to deliver payloads up to 100kg into low earth orbits, taking advantage of a new trend of putting smaller satellites into space. The commercial world is clearly enthused. Electron's first 30 launches have been pre-booked by paying customers.

Mr Beck, who founded the US firm in 2007, said that rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and affordable. Geographically, New Zealand is ideally positioned for launches into different types of orbits, with the company investigating several locations to build a space port on home soil. (7/29)

NASA Moves to Protect Whistleblowers (Source: The Hill)
NASA is looking to protect whistleblowers at NASA contractors and subcontractors who shine a light on corporate corruption. Government contractors will not be allowed to fire, demote or otherwise discipline employees who blow the whistle on their own companies for abusing their authority by mismanaging a NASA contract, wasting NASA funds, or endangering public health or safety, the agency said Monday. (7/28)

Next-Generation Thirty Meter Telescope Begins Construction in Hawaii  (Source: TMT)
Following the approval of a sublease on July 25 by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) announces the beginning of the construction phase on Hawaii Island and around the world throughout the TMT international partnership. Contingent on that decision, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Directors, the project's new governing body, recently approved the initial phase of construction, with activities near the summit of Mauna Kea scheduled to start later this year. (7/28)

Dinosaurs Fell Victim to Perfect Storm (Source: U. of Edinburgh)
Dinosaurs might have survived if the asteroid that killed them had struck slightly earlier or later, scientists say. A fresh study led by Edinburgh uses up-to-date fossil records and improved analytical tools to help palaeontologists build a new narrative of the prehistoric creatures’ demise, some 66 million years ago. They found that in the few million years before a 10km-wide asteroid struck what is now Mexico, Earth was experiencing environmental upheaval. (7/29)

Once Thought Impossible, Scientists Create Cold Fires In Space (Source: Motherboard)
Lighting fires within a contained environment shared with considerable amounts of highly flammable materials that also happens to be traveling 200 miles above Earth may not seem like the wisest pastime. Nonetheless, a group of researchers based at UC San Diego has been hard at work igniting large droplets of heptane and methane fuel in a wide variety of environments aboard the International Space Station, ranging from ones typical of Earth to those saturated with helium, carbon-dioxide, or nitrogen.

The result: “We observed something that we didn’t think could exist,” Forman Williams, the research team's leader and co-author of  a new open-access paper describing the findings, said in a statement from UCSD. As the researchers watched the flames seemingly extinguish themselves—within the safe confines of the station's  Multiuser Droplet Combustion Apparatus—as they would on Earth, what they discovered is that their fires continued to burn, albeit invisibly, for a would-be impossible period of time. (7/28)

Editorial: SpaceX in the Cross Hairs (Source: Space News)
As it gains momentum, SpaceX’s bid to shake up the U.S. government launch business has stirred up a fair amount of noise lately among Washington stakeholders in the status quo. The latest case in point is the push by some lawmakers for details on anomalies that have occurred in past launches of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Not surprisingly, these lawmakers hail from states that host facilities operated by ULA, from which SpaceX is trying to wrest a share of the mostly Defense Department business.

In a July 15 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that was released to media, Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) demanded information on what they characterized as an “epidemic of anomalies” with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule. The lawmakers cited the fact that the vehicles are funded by U.S. taxpayers in calling for public release of details in unredacted form. (7/28)

The Resilience of U.S. Military Space Power (Source: Space News)
In May 2013, the Pentagon, referring to a Chinese rocket launch, said: “It was a ground-based missile that we believe would be [China’s] first test of an interceptor that would be designed to go after a satellite that’s actually on orbit.” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Monica Matoush added: “The launch appeared to be on a ballistic trajectory nearly to geosynchronous Earth orbit.” Earlier, on Jan. 11, 2007, China had successfully launched an anti-satellite missile against one if its own weather satellites in low Earth orbit.

So what do these launches imply? Has China established dominance in space? Does this mean the U.S. would now be unable to use its satellites in a military engagement with China, say, in the Taiwan Straits? Not necessarily. In the case of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites that operate predominantly in low Earth orbit, the availability of alternate systems limits the possible gains from anti-satellite attacks.

The U.S. possesses an extensive array of airborne platforms that can duplicate and likely outperform certain battlefield missions conducted by ISR satellites, including the U-2, E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), RC-135 Rivet Joint, EP-3 (Aries 2), E-3 Sentry and E-2C Hawkeye. Click here. (7/28)

New Fort Knox: A Means to a Solar-System-wide Economy (Source: Space News)
Creating an economic zone of influence that encompasses our solar system will be the single most difficult endeavor the human race has ever attempted. The biggest hurdle isn’t even the engineering; it’s not that we don’t dream big enough, and it has little to do with national governments — it’s that we simply cannot comprehend the economics. Let’s put it another way: We will not achieve this until we convince the investment community that there is substantial return-on-investment (ROI).

Any economic zone of influence needs trade, finance, banking, manufacturing, consumption and all basic needs that those processes encompass and rely upon: food, shelter, ability to raise families and, most importantly, the pursuit of happiness, which makes it all possible. To hear the dreamers speak of mining asteroids or building power stations in space is to realize that we do indeed, as a species, dream big.

The problem is connecting the dots, from an economic viewpoint, so that finance-ability allows the business case to close and sustain-ability allows the endeavor to continue, unabated. In other words our community doesn’t talk investment banker speak. So, how do we get the investment community to commit the staggering sums required to mine an asteroid, so as to therefore transform a company with a dream and some fancy engineering? Click here. (7/28)

France Uncertain About Adopting Galileo’s Encrypted Service (Source: Space News)
The French government is not yet convinced that the encrypted, government-only signal to be carried on Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites will be secure enough to permit its wide adoption by French defense forces, the head of the French arms procurement agency, DGA, said.

The French position, outlined even as the U.S. military prepares to make wide use of Galileo alongside the U.S. GPS constellation, suggests that what remains one of Galileo’s most promising domestic markets — European militaries — has not yet been fully won over. (7/28)

GPS 3 Storage Costs Could Eat Into Block-buy Savings (Source: Space News)
The Air Force’s current generation of GPS satellites is lasting longer on orbit than expected, and that the service already has eight of the next-generation GPS 3 satellites on order from Lockheed Martin. As the service considers buying additional satellites, it faces a buildup of inventory on the ground that could prove costly since spacecraft must be stored in specially controlled environments.

“Substantial savings can be achieved by providing a stable, long-term commitment and a stable production environment for the prime contractor and its supply chain,” the report said. But a “healthy constellation reduces the need for larger annual buys of GPS 3 satellites in the near term,” the report said. “In addition, early-to-need procurement would require unnecessary funding for satellite storage. In a budget-constrained environment, the Air Force would not procure more GPS 3 satellites than are needed to maintain the constellation.” (7/28)

Europa Clipper Would Wash Out Other Nuclear-powered Missions (Source: Space News)
If NASA sends a nuclear-powered probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa, it would launch no sooner than 2024, and effectively rule out other nuclear missions to the outer solar system before then by tying up the specialized infrastructure required to produce plutonium-powered spacecraft batteries, a senior NASA official said.

“If the Europa mission goes nuclear, it needs four or five [Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators],” Curt Niebur, a program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said. “That’s quite a few. If Europa needs that many, that sucks up all the output for the production line between now and 2024. There’s no more left.” (7/28)

World View to Loft Experiments on Balloon Test Flights This Year (Source: Space.com)
A near-space balloon company is about to take its fledgling test campaign to the next level. Arizona-based World View, which aims to loft passengers to the stratosphere by late 2016, will start launching research and education payloads on its unmanned test flights later this year, company officials said. "This is meant to show how serious we are," World View chief scientist and co-founder Alan Stern told Space.com. "We're not just talking about flying payloads. We're starting it ourselves." (7/28)

Want to Colonize an Alien Planet? Send 40,000 People (Source: Space.com)
If humanity ever wants to colonize a planet beyond the solar system, it's going to need a really big spaceship. The founding population of an interstellar colony should consist of 20,000 to 40,000 people, said Cameron Smith, an anthropologist at Portland State University in Oregon. Such a large group would possess a great deal of genetic and demographic diversity, giving the settlement the best chance of survival during the long space voyage and beyond, he explained. (7/28)

U.S.: Satellite Images Show Russian Attack on Ukraine (Source: AP)
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence says satellite images show that Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Moscow has denied any involvement in eastern Ukraine, but U.S. officials say craters on the images show artillery activity from within both Russia and Ukraine. (7/27)

Rocket Enthusiasts Gather in Colorado for National Meet (Source: The Gazette)
About 300 amateur rocket designers and builders are gathering in Colorado this week for the 56th annual National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet. "Any educational field, including mathematics, modeling, science and engineering, can be incorporated into rocketry," said David Virga, president of the Colorado Springs Rocket Society. "It's a powerful way to get children interested in fields and careers that help push our country forward." (7/28)

Filmmakers Wait for FAA to Clear Drones for Takeoff (Source: Tampa Tribune)
The camera swoops through downtown like a bird, over the Tampa Museum of Art, into Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, up past the buildings that make up the city’s distinctive skyline. “Mesmerizing,” “cool,” “beautiful,” say some of the people who have helped push the online views of the video recording past 60,000.

Illegal, too, in the view of the Federal Aviation Administration, if producer Ben Bradley and his Right Hand Films try to make money from the video. But Right Hand Films, like production companies big and small that are using cameras mounted on drones, has little to fear from the FAA. At least not yet. (7/27)

Opportunity Rover Breaks Off-World Driving Record (Source: Space.com)
NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars has now boldly gone farther than any vehicle has before on the surface of another world, space agency officials announced today (July 28). As of Sunday (July 27), the Opportunity rover has driven 25.01 miles (40.2 kilometers) on the Red Planet, NASA officials said. The distance record had been held by the Soviet Union's remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 rover, which covered 24.2 miles (39 km) on the moon back in 1973. (7/28)

ULA & Air Force Launch 3 'Space Neighborhood Watch' Satellites (Source: Space.com)
The United States Air Force has launched three satellites designed to help the country keep better tabs on its valuable space assets, as well as those of other nations. The three spacecraft — two of which are fully operational and one of which is an experimental satellite — blasted off today (July 28) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 7:28 p.m. EDT, riding toward a near-geosynchronous orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket. (7/28)

Landing Sites An Upcoming Focus for SpaceX (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
“At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment,” added SpaceX. The next Falcon 9 to sport landing legs and aim for a controlled return to Earth will be F9S1-013, tasked with launching the CRS-4/SpX-4 Dragon. The following two flights will up the stakes, aiming for a propulsive landing on a “solid surface." It has since been confirmed the return will be aiming at the deck of an unnamed barge.

“We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success,” SpaceX continued. “Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success.” However, there are rumors SpaceX may go for the barge landing as early as the CRS-4 mission. Eventually, the huge milestone of a core stage launching and returning to land for reuse will be conducted – an achievement that was previously dismissed by critics as almost impossible.

SpaceX is also evaluating first stage landing sites at its  West coast launch location at Vandenberg. SpaceX may be looking at an island downrange of the West Coast launch site for returning Falcon Heavy cores, in the event a high payload penalty negates a return to SLC-4W. (7/28)

SpaceX Roadmap Building Rocket Business Revolution (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Following the recent success of the Falcon 9 launch with six ORBCOMM spacecraft, SpaceX is in the midst of speedy turnaround of its Cape Canaveral launch site, ahead of the ASIASAT-8 mission. While SpaceX remains on track for a record year, CEO Elon Musk believes the time is coming where there will be thousands of launches each year – as humanity becomes multi-planetary.

“Long term, we really want to get to the point where there can be thousands of space flights a year, and ultimately where we can have a base on the Moon and a base on Mars and become a multi-planet species and a true space-faring civilization. That’s where things need to go in the long term.”

Although the Falcon Heavy vehicle has been delayed from its initially planned 2013 debut, Elon Musk sees it as an enabler to reach the 20 launches per year mark. “Ten Falcon 9 rockets and ten FH rockets in any given year – 20 launches a year is not a crazy number,” he noted. Falcon Heavy is set to debut from the newly acquired Pad 39A, which is already undergoing redevelopment to host the large rocket.

SpaceX Plans Super-Heavy Lift Rocket with Raptor Engines (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With the eventual goal of creating the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) launch system, SpaceX is expected to build a family of Super Heavy Launch Vehicles (SHLVs) driven by nine Raptor “full flow methane-liquid oxygen” rocket engines. The potential of utilizing Complex 39 past Falcon Heavy has several caveats, with many intimations that – at the very least – the largest versions of the Raptor rocket would require an entirely new launch complex due to their huge thrust levels.

SpaceX is currently preparing to begin initial testing on Raptor hardware at Stennis Space Center, while a plan of action, per the creation of the MCT architecture, is already in the early phase of evaluation – such as the potential to refuel the monster rocket’s second stage in orbit.By the time the Raptor driven “BFR” is roaring into the heavens, SpaceX believes its launch rate will already be far and above the current near term goal of 20 launches per year. (7/28)

Exploration and the Private Sector (Source: Space Review)
For decades, it’s been widely accepted that human space exploration—missions beyond Earth orbit to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere—lay in the exclusive domain of government agencies like NASA. The cost of performing such missions, estimated by multiple reports to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars over decades, was far beyond what private entities could be expected to afford.

That calculus may be changing, however. Buoyed by the success of its program to develop commercial cargo capabilities to support the International Space Station, NASA is increasingly open to working with the private sector in its human space exploration plans. Click here. (7/28)

Vision 2069 (Source: Space Review)
The fitting way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing would be to return to the Moon not to reenact Apollo 11, but in a fashion that demonstrates 50 years of progress and points to the potential of what can be achieved in the next 50. Click here. (7/28)

Mad Men… in Space (Source: Space Review)
And so now we have “Ascension,” a new show debuting on the SyFy Channel in November. The show’s premise is that President Kennedy was so rattled by the near extinction of humanity during the Cuban Missile Crisis that he created a project to send 600 people into space aboard a large spacecraft named Ascension, headed toward the planet Proxima. Click here. (7/28)

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