August 10, 2014

Industry-Leading Satellite to be Launched Wednesday from California (Source: Lompoc Record)
A commercial satellite that is the most advanced of its kind is slated to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard an Atlas 5 rocket Wednesday morning. The launch will send a WorldView-3 satellite into orbit. The satellite, which was built by DigitalGlobe, will the first multipayload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite sent into space. It will allow DigitalGlobe to support its customers across a variety of industries, including agriculture, mining, and oil and gas. (8/10)

Cities Negotiate SpaceX Incentives (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Economic development and school district groups in the Rio Grande Valley have been working on incentives for SpaceX, which plans to inject up to $85 million in the local economy in developing a rocket launch complex at Boca Chica Beach. The Star has learned that the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. and the McAllen Economic Development Corp. have been working on incentive packages that have not been finalized.

According to sources close to the matters, Harlingen EDC and McAllen EDC are negotiating possible incentives ranging from $400,000 to $500,000 each to be spaced out over a number of years. Officials are not releasing the amounts pending negotiations. And according to the Brownsville Economic Development Council, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. has agreed to provide SpaceX with $5 million. Brownsville EDC also recently pointed out that Cameron County is providing SpaceX a property tax abatement of approximately $1.6 million. This total estimated tax abatement would cover a period of 10 years, the Star further learned. (8/9)

The Enemy of An Asteroid Is My Friend (Source: The Atlantic)
Last week’s news that the U.S. would freeze a landmark nuclear cooperation accord with Russia hardly came as a shock. It was only the latest in a series of ambitious, years-in-the-making initiatives that have collapsed, one by one, in the five months since the Crimea annexation. And like other recent rifts, this one had potentially galactic implications. The deal, struck last September, also envisioned U.S.-Russia collaboration on “defense from asteroids,” which The New York Times described as “shorthand for a proposal to recycle a city-busting warhead that could be aimed at an incoming earth-destroyer.”

The paper made sure to point out that Hollywood had this idea—twice—nearly 15 years ago. But the report that real-life planet-salvation, too, might have fallen through the widening cracks in the U.S.-Russia relationship was startling. Whither asteroid defense?

This literal nuclear option, like the figurative ones, is a controversial last resort. The first two methods require extended time horizons of roughly a decade or more to spot the ill-intentioned asteroid, get to it, and change its orbit. Nuclear weapons are a potential backup for when there’s less time, and their use in space, in addition to being illegal under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, carries a risk of generating a spray of radioactive rocks that might hit Earth anyway. (8/10)

Extreme Space Weather Threatens to Leave the U.S. in the Dark (Source: Washington Post)
Scientists have been predicting an upswing in volatile solar behavior, resulting in “space weather” that poses a surprisingly dangerous threat to modern society. A big “coronal mass ejection” is one of the least commonly discussed natural hazards humanity faces, but experts warn that “everything that plugs into a wall socket” could be at risk if the products of one hit the planet.

But maybe the probability of an extreme coronal mass ejection hitting Earth is low enough to allay concern? Alarmingly, the budding science of space weather tentatively suggests otherwise. NASA cited an analysis concluding that the chances Earth will be hit by a large solar event in the next decade are a too-high-for-comfort 12 percent. That’s higher than the probability that a major earthquake will strike the San Francisco area over the same time period. (8/9)

South Carolina Project Took Flight When Fueled by NASA Grant (Source: The State)
The new projects in the $23 million renovation/expansion of the S.C. State Museum might never have been built without the early backing of NASA. The agency pledged $2 million to the project in 2000. When the museum fundraising campaign stalled with the sour economy, the original deadline for spending the money passed, but the space agency extended the offer.

Willie Calloway, executive director of the museum, said NASA support was critical in persuading state legislators that matching funds could be raised if the state committed tax dollars to the project. “Their donation was the stake in the ground to get it started,” he said. But what’s in it for NASA?

“NASA is interested in the education of children,” said Charles Duke, a former astronaut and the 10th man to walk on the moon. “This project isn’t just about the history (of space flight), it’s about what’s in the future. The kids are the next generation, and if we don’t get them motivated about space, what is the future for NASA?” (8/9)

Dragon Set for Another ISS Spacewalk Save (Source:
SpaceX’s next Dragon spacecraft has been recruited to deliver a replacement set of batteries to the International Space Station (ISS), after an issue during ground testing caused NASA to postpone a set of upcoming EVAs. The utilization of September’s CRS-4/SpX-4 mission is not the first time a Dragon has come to the aid of the ISS’ spacewalk plans. (8/9)

NASA Ready to Wrap Up Spacewalk Scrutiny (Source: Florida Today)
A year after one of its scariest spacewalking incidents, NASA on Monday hopes to prove it is ready to resume normal spacewalk activity outside the International Space Station. Officials will meet at Johnson Space Center in Houston to review measures taken to prevent problems like the spacesuit water leak that could have drowned Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano during a July 16, 2013, spacewalk.

The spacewalk was aborted when Parmitano reported water sloshing around his helmet, making it difficult for him to see and breathe. He returned to an airlock to safely conclude what a NASA mishap report later called a "high-visibility close call." Since then, astronauts have completed several unplanned or "contingency" spacewalks to repair critical station systems, with new precautions in place including a sponge and snorkel in suits should another leak occur.

But no planned spacewalks could proceed until the root cause of the malfunction was determined and the proposed changes implemented. Monday's review is expected to conclude with a go-ahead to resume normal spacewalking operations from Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's human spaceflight programs. (8/9)

China to Test Recoverable Moon Orbiter (Source: Xinhua)
China is preparing for the launch of an experimental recoverable moon orbiter, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The orbiter arrived in Xichang via air in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Sunday and then transported to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch will take place before the end of this year, it said. The plan is for the orbiter to be launched into lunar orbit and return to Earth at an escape velocity of 11.2 km per second. (8/10)

Florida Launch Manifest Update, and Comments (Source: SPACErePORT)
Thus far in 2014, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport has hosted 10 launches, including four Atlas-5 missions (three for DOD and one for NASA), three Delta-4 missions (all for DOD), and four Falcon-9 missions (one for NASA and three commercial). If all goes as planned, according to one published manifest, six more launches will be conducted before year's end, including two Atlas-5 missions (both for DOD), one Delta-4 mission for NASA, and three Falcon-9 missions (two for NASA and one commercial).

Sixteen total launches in 2014 would be pretty good, considering only 10 were conducted in each of the prior three years. Unfortunately, with SpaceX moving its commercial launches to Texas (ultimately up to a dozen per year), Florida must depend on ULA and potential other new launch companies to capture new commercial business. Can they compete against SpaceX?

Meanwhile, with DOD budget constraints -- and longer lifespans for DOD satellites -- the pace of DOD launches is not likely to rise. We will, however, see some growth in NASA missions with Commercial Crew, possibly enough to offset the loss of SpaceX launches and keep our annual manifest at or near present levels. Further out, we wait for flights of NASA's Space Launch System and Orion; Elon Musk's heavy-lift Mars program; Robert Bigelow's commercial space stations; Alan Stern's Golden Spike lunar program; and a few commercial asteroid/lunar mining projects. Am I missing anything? (8/10)

Space is a Statewide Effort in Texas (Source: Star-Telegram)
In addition to SpaceX's Boca Chica spaceport and Van Horn test site, Houston, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is trying to convert Ellington Field into a commercial spaceport. Likewise, Midland has earmarked $10 million to get in the space tourism business with XCOR Aerospace flying its winged Lynx rocket from the Midland airport, and Orbital Outfitters, which makes spacesuits.

In Van Horn, in far West Texas, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is testing rockets built by his company, Blue Origin. Austin will also get in the act, with Firefly Space Systems, a California startup, considering moving to the Austin area to design, build and test smaller rockets that would launch the next generation of satellites. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce is studying whether Central Texas can leverage its strengths in mobile computing, clean energy, digital security surveillance and aerospace research to become a part of the emerging space economy. (8/5)

NASA Is Building the World's First 3D-Printed Space Cameras (Source:
NASA is already using 3d printing to make rocket engine parts, a space pizza maker and even physical photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. But by the end of September, one NASA engineer expects to complete the first space cameras made almost entirely out of 3D-printed stuff.

Jason Budinoff is building a 2-inch (50 millimeters) camera for a cubesat — a miniature satellite. The camera will have to pass vibration and thermal-vacuum tests next year to prove that it's capable of space travel. Budinoff is also using 3D printing to build a 14-inch (350 mm) dual-channel telescope. (8/8)

NASA Plans Parachute Redesign After Supersonic Decelerator Tests (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is preparing to repeat tests of a large, inflatable deceleration device designed to help land large payloads on Mars after incorporating lessons learned from a mostly successful initial test over the Pacific on June 28. The test, launched by helium balloon from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, was part of NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology demonstrator project.

The devices will be needed to slow larger, heavier landers from the supersonic speeds of Mars atmospheric entry to subsonic approach speeds for safe, controlled landings. Although the decelerator device inflated and deployed as planned, the parachute was ripped to shreds after being pulled from its housing into the supersonic slipstream of the test unit as it decelerated to around Mach 2. (8/8)

China Launches Remote-Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
A Long March-4C carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan XX remote-sensing satellite blasted off from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, on Aug. 9, 2014. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters. (8/9)

They Shoot Satellites, Don't They? (Source: Foreign Policy)
I understand if you missed it, what with all the missiles flying around these days. But China conducted another missile defense test in late July. Even for a terse statement clocking in at a mere 64 words, the official announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Defense is marvelous for how little it says. Let me try to convince you that it is worth about 2,800 words of wonky exegesis. I promise, it's worth it.

This is the third so-called missile defense test that China has conducted. More importantly, it is at least the fourth test of something called the "SC-19" -- China's direct-ascent interceptor, first tested against a satellite in 2007. There is a big debate about whether the SC-19 is intended to shoot down missiles or satellites.

In fact, it's supposed to do both. Or neither. The pointy end of the SC-19 -- the part known as a "kill vehicle" -- is best understood as a technology that can be used for many missions. China's development of a specific technology -- "exoatmospheric kinetic intercept" or, in English, "hit-to-kill" -- represents a new, disturbing trend in the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons. Click here. (8/8)

Russia to Give 'Tough' Response to Western Sanctions Soon (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will soon unveil a series of protective economic measures - including in the sensitive space industry - aimed at taking the edge off recent Western sanctions, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday. "All our measures will be aimed, primarily, at protecting our economy," Rogozin, who oversees the defense and space industry, told reporters. "We will protect ourselves in a tough, persistent and active manner," Rogozin said, adding that the measures will be announced soon. (8/8)

Google Helps ‘Citizen Scientists’ Recover Data from Abandoned Satellite (Source: Venture Beat)
“Citizen scientist” group Skycorp managed to resurrect a disco-era zombie satellite that had been decommissioned due to NASA’s meager budget, and now tech giant Google is helping to make sure all the data it collects gets out to the public. Google is helping to disseminate data collected from ISEE-3 via a newly launched website SpacecraftForAll.

“There’s a tendency at NASA for scientists to sit on data collected, because they want to make sense of it before releasing it [to the public],” ISEE-3 reboot co-leader and former NASA astrobiologist Keith Cowing told Venturebeat in an interview. “What we’re trying to do is toss everything we have out there, all the data collected by the satellite, and hopefully people will do interesting things with it.” (8/8)

NASA to Launch Two Rockets from Wallops Island (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
Two Terrier-Lynx suborbital rockets will be launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in the next two weeks. The launches, for the Department of Defense, will happen about a week apart between Tuesday and Sept. 24, a NASA news release says. Launch windows vary from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday to 4 to 6 a.m. on Sept. 24. (8/8)

US Looks to Japan Space Program to Close Pacific Communications Gap (Source: Space Daily)
Tokyo's space initiative, set for launch in 2019, is turning into an effort to enhance ties with Washington in the cosmos. The US, shifting its military strategy to the Asia-Pacific, is looking for partners to extend its satellite links in the region. The program would start as a means for protecting communication and surveillance satellites from thousands of pieces of space junk, including old satellites and rockets, now orbiting Earth. (8/7)

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