Jyly 27, 2014

ULA to Try Fifth Rocket Launch Attempt Monday (Source: Florida Today)
After four launch attempts in four days, a Delta IV rocket and three military satellites remain right where they started – on the launch pad. But after a day off today (Sunday) to give the launch team a break, United Launch Alliance and the Air Force will take another shot Monday, when the weather is expected to improve a bit. Launch on Monday is targeted for 6:43 p.m., the opening of a 65-minute window at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

There's a 60 percent chance of favorable weather – the best odds yet since the mission began trying to get off the ground on Wednesday. Technical problems scrubbed the first try, but thunderstorms and lightning washed out the next three countdowns on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (7/27)

SpaceX Confident Enough to Try Solid-Surface Landing (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX hopes to fly a Falcon 9 rocket booster back to a solid landing platform within a few months, the next step after the company's initial attempts to land boosters in water. The company last week confirmed that the first stage of a Falcon 9 successfully landed softly in the Atlantic Ocean after its July 14 launch of Orbcomm satellites from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

SpaceX has two launches planned in August of broadcasting satellites to high orbits, missions for which fuel can't be set aside for booster recovery maneuvers. The company says those missions eventually will fly on more powerful Falcon Heavy rockets, but until then must continue to fly in "expendable mode" — the mode all previous liquid-fueled orbital rockets have flown in to date.

The next attempt to recover a Falcon 9 booster from the ocean – again with "a low probability of success" – will come during SpaceX's next launch of International Space Station cargo for NASA, tentatively planned in September. The two flights after that "will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success," SpaceX said. (7/27)

Quest for Resources Enters its Space Age (Source: The National)
At a time of hyperbole over energy and resources shortages on Earth, people are inspired to scan the infinity of space for solutions. One concept is to mine the Moon for helium-3, which is gradually deposited in lunar soil by the solar wind. This isotope could be used in fusion reactors to generate zero-carbon energy with almost no nuclear waste - just 140 tons of helium-3 could power the world for a year, the equivalent of 13 billion tons of oil.

But the Moon’s helium-3 is present only in tiny quantities, which would require mining almost 3 billion tonnes of lunar rock per year – the size of the entire Chinese coal industry. Space-based solar power has also attracted attention. Orbiting solar panels, transmitting power to receiving stations on Earth via microwave beams, would receive much higher light intensity, not filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere, and they could be in daylight 99 per cent of the time.

Mining asteroids for materials and rare elements, and perhaps building systems in space itself, is an idea backed by the Google chief executive Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt; the Aliens director James Cameron; and the British entrepreneur Richard Branson. Planetary Resources plans to use low-cost robotic spacecraft to harvest asteroids for platinum, gold, nickel, iron and other metals, as well as water for future space expeditions and for fuelling satellites. (7/27)

Parkes and Narrabri Telescopes May Shut Within Two Years (Source: Guardian)
The radio telescopes at Parkes and Narrabri may shut within two years “without substantial, long-term external investment”, the chief of the CSIRO’s space research division has warned. It was expected that funding for the telescopes would diminish as the next-generation square kilometer array (SKA) telescope comes online between 2020 and 2025.

But the head of the CSIRO astronomy and space science department, Lewis Ball, said the $114m cut to the agency’s funding in the May federal budget “ramps up the pressure and means that we have to make significant changes right now... This is a budget cut for the current financial year, which we only became aware of when the federal budget was announced on 13 May,” he said. “So we’re dealing with a $3m cut, amounting to 15% of our budget, on six weeks’ notice.” (7/27)

Editorial: Fund NASA or Shut it Down (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A recently-issued audit by the Government Accountability Office or “GAO” detailed how NASA lacks the funding to fly the Space Launch System (SLS ) by its scheduled launch date in December of 2017. This is only the latest delay for the successor to the space shuttle, originally ordered by President George W. Bush to fly no later than 2014. Is SLS destined to go the way of Constellation?

Since the termination of the Apollo program in 1972, NASA has limped along with less than 1 percent of the federal budget, and it is usually one of the first targets when Congress wants to reduce spending. Yet in addition to the manned space program, the organization has many other programs across which it is required to spend its diminishing pennies.

If NASA is not to be properly funded, it cannot accomplish its goals—or worst the agency will try to fulfill its obligations with adequate resources. The consequences of these actions were visible during the so-called “faster-better-cheaper” era at NASA. Several spacecraft were lost during this time. (7/27)

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