July 6, 2014

Shuttle Runway Management Deal Unfinished After One Year (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center has transferred a historic launch pad, several shuttle hangars and various other facilities it no longer needs to new tenants. But after more than a year of discussion, a deal to transfer control of the former shuttle runway — arguably the centerpiece of KSCs transformation into a multi-user spaceport — remains months away.

Negotiations with Space Florida to take over management of the Shuttle Landing Facility, or SLF, are still in their early stages, with the parties hoping for an agreement by the end of NASA’s fiscal year Sept. 30. The three-mile runway’s anticipated use from space planes to drones has made the deal more complex than previous partnerships involving a single user and poses an important test of KSC’s ability to attract commercial operations.

“I think it’s a very big test case,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida. “We have to make this partnership work.” NASA says it shares the state’s goal to turn the runway into a hub for horizontal rocket launches and landings. Scott Colloredo, head of KSC’s Planning and Development office, said ongoing negotiations involved “strategic questions concerning how we’re going to operate in the future.” Click here. (7/5)

Angara Re-Launch May Take Place on July 9 (Source: Voice of Russia)
The re-launch of Russia's Angara space rocket from Plesetsk may take place on July 9, the Kommersant newspaper reports. "A special commission will meet on July 5 to decide on the rocket's launch readiness," the source said, adding that there were no objective reasons for a further postponement. The maiden lift-off of the Angara, Russia's first carrier rocket of post-Soviet design, was automatically cancelled seconds before launch after the system detected a fault in a pressure valve in a liquid oxygen tank. (7/5)

Ariane 6: Customers Call the Shots (Source: BBC)
Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant. More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.

America's SpaceX - there's no need to whisper the name - is wooing satellite operators with rides on its Falcon 9, for ticket prices that substantially undercut the Ariane 5. Efforts have been made to push forward with a next-generation European rocket - an Ariane 6 - that could be made much more cheaply. But the concept, which has been studied for the past 18 months, has left most observers flat. (7/5)

Diamandis: Entrepreneur Reaches to Skies to Benefit Earth (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Peter Diamandis stands at a whiteboard in an empty conference room at Moffett Field and excitedly sketches a diagram of the solar system, with messy lollipop-like dots for Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. His eyes light up when he draws a certain asteroid known to come close to Earth every few years.

"We're going to send out a flotilla of small spacecraft, dock on the asteroid, prospect it and lay claim to it," Diamandis said. "The goal is to make rocket fuel from a class of asteroids rich in hydrogen and oxygen, and use 3-D printers in space to build the equipment to mine the rock for rare metals like platinum."

The benefits, he said, will be nothing less than protecting planet Earth, creating the world's first trillionaires, and paving the way for humans to live off the planet. "About 50 percent of near-Earth asteroids are easier to reach than getting to the moon's surface and back," Diamandis said. (7/5)

British Engineer Would Revolutionize Space Travel (Source: The Independent)
Some time in the middle of the next decade a revolutionary new engine will propel a reusable space plane called Skylon towards the heavens, hopefully changing the way we escape our atmosphere for ever. The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) isn't a product of NASA or a super-wealthy space entrepreneur. It's the brainchild of a quiet, British engineer called Alan Bond.

From its base in a science park near Oxford, Bond's company Reaction Engines is getting closer to perfecting its design. Bond has spent his working life trying to solve a problem that most people haven't even considered; space crafts powered by traditional rockets are far too expensive and unreliable, and will never provide humankind with the tools to explore our solar system and beyond.

There is strict security at the site with a sign warning of an "elevated" threat, though this is more to do with an Atomic Energy Research Establishment site next door. Bond is furtive crossing the car park to the test site though, admitting that there is an undisclosed UK military interest in Sabre. He won't go into details, pointing out that of far greater concern is corporate espionage against the £360m project; the idea behind Sabre is truly revolutionary. Click here. (7/6)

Still Behind the World, India Must Be Pushed Harder (Source: Business Standard)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's presence at the successful launch of the Indian Space Research Organization's latest rocket last week, his words of praise for ISRO and the suggestion that the organization work towards building a "Saarc satellite" may have given the impression that something special had been achieved.

Certainly, ISRO deserves praise for its continued ability to compete in the international satellite launch market. ISRO has launched, so far, 35 satellites from 19 countries. Last week, the backbone of ISRO's commercial capability, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C23, put five satellites from France, Germany, Canada and Singapore into orbit in less than 20 minutes. It was a textbook mission, something the ISRO has achieved many times before.

Thus, ISRO and its backers should not become complacent about its achievements riding on the cost advantage - an advantage that may not sustain for long unless ISRO also increases its load-carrying capacity several times. But, for that, PSLV technology is not enough. What ISRO will need is to get its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) operational. GSLVs can put satellites with a mass of more than two tonnes into orbit. However, ISRO has repeatedly failed with the GSLV. (7/6)

FireFly Space Systems Announces First Smallsat Launch Vehicle (Source: Parabolic Arc)
FireFly Space Systems, a ground-based, small satellite launch company, has officially announced its first launch vehicle, “FireFly Alpha.” This efficient, brand new vehicle is capable of carrying 400kg into low earth orbit and will be the world’s first dedicated light satellite launch vehicle in this mass class.

Following its official launch and seed funding in January, FireFly has aggressively moved forward in its mission to lower the prohibitively high costs of small satellite launches to Low Earth and Sun Synchronous Orbits with the goal of revolutionizing broadband data delivery and earth observation missions. (7/5)

The High Cost of Lunar Living (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Buddy Loans, a professional guarantor loan company in the UK, has released an infographic that shows the cost of living on the moon for one year. It was created in honor of the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. As a company spokesperson explained, some people believe that the next “giant leap for mankind” will involve the colonization of our closest celestial neighbor. For those thinking about one day trading in their vehicle for a spaceship to the moon, the infographic provides some important info about how costly such a venture would be. Click here. (7/6)

World Cup Football Provides Lessons in Aerodynamics (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Fans across the globe have been cheering on their team during the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 2014 World Cup tournament. These fans include NASA engineers, who used the lead-up to the tournament to test the aerodynamics of this year’s new ball design, developed by Adidas and dubbed the Brazuca ball.

Although NASA is not in the business of designing or testing balls, the tournament provides an opportunity to explain the concepts of aerodynamics to students and individuals less familiar with the fundamentals of aerodynamics. Click here. (7/6)

Celestial Suds: Brewery Introducing 'Planets' Beer Series (Source: Space.com)
In the universe of Bell's Brewery, Mars is a strong beer, Uranus a crafty potion mix and Mercury — that lightfooted messenger — a nimble brew. Such is the thinking behind "The Planets" series of beers that Michigan-based Bell's is pioneering this August, with a limited-edition set based on the famous orchestral suite by English composer Gustav Holst. New offerings will be released every two months through July 2015. (7/6)

NASA Evaluating MMOD Strike Damage on ISS Radiator Panel (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
International Space Station (ISS) managers are currently evaluating what appear to be MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) impact to a panel on the Potential P4 Photovoltaic Radiator (PVR). While the situation is being monitored, data suggests there isn’t a leak from the system as a result of the 12 inch long puncture to the cover sheet.

The hardware in question is one of the key elements of the heat rejection systems utilized by the orbital outpost. The four 1650-pound PVRs consist of seven 6 ft. x 11 ft. panels, deployed by an electric motor driven “scissor” mechanism. The PVRs also internally flow liquid ammonia coolant and are capable of rejecting at least nine kilowatts of excess heat. (7/4)

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