August 11, 2014

Small Satellites, Small Launchers, Big Business? (Source: Space Review)
Interest in small satellites is bigger than ever before, given the numbers of such satellites launched and plans for future systems. Jeff Foust reports on what the future may hold for smallsat applications, and whether this growing demand could support development of dedicated smallsat launch systems. Visit to view the article. (8/11)

ARM and the Mars-Forward NASA (Source: Space Review)
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has been widely criticized as a "dead end" on the path towards eventual human missions to Mars. Martin Elvis argues that ARM is, in fact the best first step to demonstrate technologies needed for Mars and for other applications in space. Visit to view the article. (8/11)

The 2014 PPWT: a New Draft But With the Same and Different Problems (Source: Space Review)
In June, China and Russia introduced a new draft of a proposed treaty that would ban the placement of weapons in outer space. Michael Listner and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan examine the proposal and find that it has many of the same issues and flaws as the earlier version. Visit to view the article. (8/11)

For the Future of Mars Exploration, the Past is Prologue (Source: Space Review)
As Curiosity enters its third year on Mars, several other missions are either en route to the planet or under development. Duane Hyland recaps the discussion about Mars exploration from two panels at a conference last week. Visit to view the article. (8/11)

Air Force Wants To Learn More About All-electric Satellites (Source: Space News)
The cost savings potential of replacing the U.S. Air Force’s current fleet of satellites with all-electric versions apparently has piqued the service’s interest, at least enough to invite industry in to discuss the idea. According to Jay Penn, an engineer with the Aerospace Corp., David Madden, executive director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, has invited industry experts to come to the El Segundo, California, facility Aug. 21.

The invitation was prompted, Penn said, by an Aerospace report saying replacing the Air Force’s navigation, communications and missile-warning satellites with all-electric versions would cut the life-cycle costs of the combined fleet by 15 percent. Penn presented a summary of the report, “Re-Imagining SMC’s Fleet with High-Power Solar Arrays and Solar Electric Propulsion,” Aug. 6 here at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2014 conference. The Aerospace Corp. of El Segundo is an Air Force engineering think tank specializing in military space. (8/11)

Space-based Missile Defense: Advancing Creativity, Protecting Lives (Source: Space News)
For decades, people considered the deployment of space-based missile defense to be the stuff of science fiction. That view began to dissolve in 1983, when President Reagan announced a new mission for the U.S.: the “ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles.” A year later, the nation stood up the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), dedicated to the task of making nuclear-armed ballistic missiles “impotent and obsolete.”

Despite initial skepticism, SDIO funded research on the boost surveillance and tracking system, directed-energy weapons, ground-based interceptors, radars, command and control systems, and space-based interceptors. Significant progress was made in each of these fields. Yet the program as envisioned by President Reagan was not fully implemented. Click here. (8/11)

Editorial: Russia Playing Hard-to-Get on ISS Extension (Source: Space News)
The international space station partnership has long endured the ups and downs in relations between Russia and the West, but recent events and statements might be worrisome to those who favor extending the life of the orbital outpost beyond 2020, as the United States has proposed.

On the day before the launch of Europe’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo freighter to the station, a senior official with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency cited tensions over Ukraine as the reason Moscow has yet to approve continued participation beyond 2020. Alexey Krasnov, head of the space station program at Roscosmos, said he is eager to begin ordering the hardware necessary to extend the station’s life but not optimistic of securing government approval to do so this year. (8/11)

No Case for a U.S.-China Space Race (Source: Space News)
While estimates of China’s annual space budget vary, most sources agree that China has been increasing its allocations across various space related civilian and defense programs. Its space program serves to promote China’s economy, national pride and international prestige. However, it is also accepted that the United States still far exceeds China — and most of the rest of the world, for that matter — in space funding.

It should also be noted that China’s space activities are primarily divided between two different agencies and are not encompassed under a NASA-equivalent agency. Human spaceflight missions reside under the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), which is part of the PLA’s General Armaments division. Robotic missions reside under the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which is part of the civilian Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The two are not mutually exclusive, but what’s key here is that CNSA, not CMSA, operates and develops the recently highly publicized robotic lunar missions like the Chang’e-3 lander and the Yutu lunar rover. While such technologies may one day have dual use for a manned landing, CNSA is currently not setting the stage for manned follow-on missions, but is rather focused on its own Moon strategy, which next calls for a lunar sample-return mission set for 2017. (8/11)

More Tasks for China's Moon Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Later this year, China will launch a robotic spacecraft to the Moon and back. We have known about this mission for some time, and we know roughly what the mission hopes to achieve. A bell-shaped re-entry capsule will be carried by a boxy spacecraft out to the Moon, and it will then return for a soft landing on Earth. This is intended as a test of technology to be used on a future Chinese mission to return rock samples from the Moon. That's China's official explanation for the mission, and it seems right. (8/11)

Astrophysicists Detect Destruction of Three Stars by Black Holes (Source: MIPT)
Researchers from MIPT and the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences have reported registering three possible occasions of the tidal destruction of stars by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. The astrophysicists used data obtained by X-ray orbiting observatories ROSAT and XMM-Newton. The former was put into orbit in 1990 and served until 1999, when XMM-Newton took over. The two satellites gathered enough information to detect very rare events, the destruction of stars by supermassive black holes. (8/11)

Court Overturns Damage Award in ViaSat Lawsuit Against SSL, Orders New Trial (Source: Market Wired)
Loral Space and Communications Inc. announced that the trial court on Aug. 8 issued decisions on the post-trial motions filed in the breach of contract and patent infringement lawsuit brought by ViaSat against Loral and Loral's former subsidiary, Space Systems/Loral, LLC (SSL).

In its decisions, the court, finding that the jury's damages award resulted in a miscarriage of justice, vacated in full the $283 million jury verdict against SSL. The court ordered that a new jury trial be held on the amount of damages and has tentatively scheduled the trial to proceed in November 2014. The court deferred, until Aug. 26, argument on ViaSat's motion seeking an injunction to prevent the manufacture and sale by SSL of additional satellites that infringe ViaSat's patents. (8/11)

Rotation of Planets Influences Habitability (Source: Astrobiology)
There are currently almost 2,000 extrasolar planets known to us, but most are inhospitable gas giants. Thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission, a handful of smaller, rockier planets have been discovered within the habitable zones of their stars that could provide a niche for alien life. The habitable zone of a star is typically defined as the range from a star where temperatures would allow liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet.

At the inner edge of this zone, the star’s blistering heat vaporizes the planet’s water into the atmosphere in a runaway greenhouse effect. At the outer edge of the habitable zone, temperatures are so cold that clouds of carbon dioxide form and the little solar energy that does arrive bounces off the clouds, turning the planet into a frozen wasteland.

However, this concept is rather simple. In reality, many other factors come into play that could affect a planet’s habitability. New research has revealed that the rate at which a planet spins is instrumental in its ability to support life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, it can also tug on the winds that blow through the atmosphere and ultimately influence cloud formation. (8/11)

Florida Launch Manifest Update, and Comments (Source: SPACErePORT)
Thus far in 2014, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport has hosted 11 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)

Overhaul Proposed for Spaceport America Sales Tax Money for Education (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday will vote on overhauling a share of Spaceport America sales-tax dollars that go to education. The dollars, which amount to 25 percent of the total spaceport tax collected in the county, have been dispersed directly to three Doña Ana County school districts in recent years.

The proposed overhaul still would direct the share of money to education projects, but in a different way. The revenue would be distributed as follows: 20-25% for college scholarships; 10-12.5% for "curriculum development and post-graduate studies" for school teachers in sciences; 10-12.5% for NMSU fellowships for graduate studies in "space-related outstanding college graduates from around the nation;" 7.5-10% for an NMSU endowed chair of space-related business development; and at least 40% for school enrichment programs to promote STEM among middle and high school students. (8/10)

SLS Manager: Program Still on Track (Source: Space Politics)
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket remains on track for a first launch in December 2017 despite GAO warnings about cost and schedule problems, the program’s manager said. Todd May said the program was at or ahead of schedule as it works through a series of critical design reviews (CDRs) for the SLS and its major systems.

“We said four years ago we’d be at critical design review on the core [stage] this November. I’m glad to report that we actually completed that last month,” he said, a statement that generated an impromptu round of applause from the couple hundred attendees of the session. The CDR on the booster stages was completed just this week, he said, and the CDR for the full SLS is on track for the spring of 2015. (8/8)

NASA Postpones Two Spacewalks Due to Spacesuit Battery Problem (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA is postponing two U.S. spacewalks planned for Aug. 21 and 29 because of concerns about fuses in the batteries used in the U.S. spacesuits. A Russian spacewalk remains on track for August 18. New Long Life Batteries for the U.S. spacesuits are to be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) on the next SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission -- SpaceX CRS-4 -- in September.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman said that although he is "a little sad" the spacewalks were postponed, it is OK because "when I go out the door I want [the spacesuit] to be in a good clean configuration." Wiseman also will replace a fan pump separator in one of the U.S. spacesuits next week. A malfunctioning fan pump separator caused a dramatic end to a July 16, 2013 spacewalk when ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano's helmet filled with water. (8/9)

Forecast: 1,155 Satellites to be Built & Launched Through 2023 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
According to Euroconsult’s newly released research report, Satellites to be Built & Launched, 115 satellites will be launched on average yearly over the next decade (2014-2023). In comparison with last year’s forecast, the number of satellites is stable while market value is growing, thus translating the growing economic importance of the sector, for both governments and commercial satellite companies. (8/10)

Cecil Spaceport Summit Set for September (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Sep. 11th, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority will host its biannual Cecil Spaceport Summit at the Jacksonville Hyatt. While the first event in 2012 was more focused on educating legislators on issues pertaining to the commercial space industry, the upcoming Summit will take on more of a workshop format for interested launch site operators and launch providers. The goal will be to not only address key industry questions but also increase the visibility and offerings of the Cecil Spaceport. Click here. (8/10)

Melbourne Air & Space Show Announces Line Up (Source: NASSF)
Officials with the National Air, Sea & Space Foundation announced the first round of military and civilian acts that will perform at the Melbourne Air and Space Show, sponsored by Northrop Grumman. Known as Central Florida’s largest spectator event, the 2014 show will move to a new home at Melbourne International Airport (MLB) and will take place Oct. 4-5, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. (8/11)

Editorial: the Future Past of American Space (Source: Mark Bray for Congress)
This weekend past, we celebrated the 45th anniversary of man walking on the moon. The achievement, set forth as a goal by President Kennedy, was significant for American culture because of its grand contrast to the other happenings of that decade. It served as a reminder of the best of humanity and what we can achieve when we set out to do the seemingly impossible. It set a tone for geopolitical discussion regarding the contrast of the visions of the two great ideologies engaged in the Cold War – forced collectivism versus voluntary cooperation.

The Apollo Program set the stage for technological advancement that ultimately drove the Soviet Union into collapse. [But] the promises for human space exploration appear to have gone unfulfilled. A moon base by 2000 and a man on Mars by 2010 were the visions of many in the 1980s. In light of the apparent decline in American advancement in space, and the reliance of Russian spacecraft to utilize the International Space Station, many question whether we have lost our edge and even our identity as a leader in space. Click here. (8/11)

US Space Capabilities: Maintaining the High Ground (Source: Fair Observer)
Since the middle of the 20th century and continuing into the first decades of the 21st, the US has possessed an unparalleled command of outer space. That command, in turn, has brought with it immeasurable national security benefits. Capabilities the US has come to take for granted such as rapid transport, modern and clear communications across vast distances, and unparalleled surveillance facilities all depend, in whole or in part, on space-borne assets.

In both the civilian and military realms, and at strategic and tactical levels, US dominance in space is and will continue to be a vital element of the nation’s overall strategic position. However, ongoing cost trends and declining competitiveness threaten to put those capabilities in jeopardy, and will impose an increasing strain on America’s ability to maintain its accustomed advantage in space. This degradation in US capability could not come at a worse time, as the country faces a rising space-faring challenger in China.

The biggest contributor is, without a doubt, the current configuration of the military space launch system. The same two defense contractors — Boeing and Lockheed Martin — have been the main providers of launch services for decades, allowing the system to ossify, removing most pressure to keep costs low. (8/11)

How to Look for Alien Life in Space Geysers (Source: New York Times)
The moon of Jupiter has twice as much seawater as the earth, and although its surface is covered in a thick crust of ice, below it is liquid water. Europan water is kept liquid by the “gravitational action” of the moon’s orbit around Jupiter. The orbital period is only 85 hours — meaning a month on Europa is equivalent to about three earth days. This rapid orbit keeps the moon’s oceans moving, and thus relatively warm, despite the sheath of solid ice above it.

How does the Science Guy suggest we test Europan water for signs of life? It’s 390,400,000 miles from earth, and manned missions have gone only as far as our moon. Even if NASA were able to get an unmanned craft that far, it would then have the arduous (and pricey) task of drilling through as much as about 31 miles of ice to sample this potentially life-giving seawater.

Not a problem, Bill Nye insists. The “gravitational action” on Europa is so intense that “geysers” literally shoot its water into space. “Instead of landing there and building some exotic drill and declaring the whole mission way to expensive to ever do,” NASA could build a more modest craft to fly through the spray. If the water is indeed teeming with alien microorganisms, it would be like “looking at bugs on a windshield.” (8/11)

Navy Christens New Research Ship for Sally Ride (Source: Collect Space)
The U.S. Navy has honored America's first woman in space, christening its newest research ship after the late astronaut Sally Ride. Tam O'Shaughnessy, Ride's life partner and successor as chief executive officer at the science education company Sally Ride Science, broke the traditional champagne bottle across the bow of the R/V Sally Ride during the naming ceremony held at the Dakota Creek Industries shipyard in Anacortes, Washington on Saturday (Aug. 9). (8/11)

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