August 2, 2014

Baikonur Cosmodrome Could Stop Receiving Financing in 2016 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian Ministry of Finance might stop financing Baikonur cosmodrome in 2016, Izvestia newspaper reported Friday citing a source in Roscosmos. “In previous versions of draft budget for 2016 it was planned to allocate a $705 million (2.5 billion rubles) subsidy for Baikonur maintenance. The money was supposed to be spent on salaries and field maintenance. We asked for more. But when our representative in Ministry of Finance was shown the final draft there was zero,” said a Federal Space Agency official. (8/1)

Alabama Space Museum Sued in Labor Class Action (Source: National Law Journal)
Three employees of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center have filed a proposed federal class action accusing the state of Alabama of allegedly ripping them off for decades by not granting them the same holidays other state workers get, including Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day. Current and former employees and plaintiffs allege they have been cheated out of five holidays a year the state gives the others, or compensatory time or pay if forced to work.

In addition to the eight annual holidays generally recognized as national days off, the putative class has missed out on Alabama’s official holidays of Lee’s birthday and the Civil War rebel memorial day, along with Jefferson Davis’ birthday, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday and American Indian Heritage Day, according to the complaint. The employees learned of the days-off discrepancy in January with the release of a state audit. The investigation also revealed the space and rocket center employees have not been receiving annual longevity bonuses of between $100 and $700.

Unable to afford across-the-board raises for years, Alabama lawmakers have substituted additional holidays in lieu of pay boosts for state employees, the complaint states. About 120 employees currently work at the center. Wernher Von Braun in 1965 persuaded the Alabama legislature to establish the museum. Owned by the state of Alabama, the museum opened in 1970. It operates one of the world’s largest museums of space exploration history and artifacts, including a renovated original Saturn V rocket. (8/1)

Composite Structure Unveiled for Dream Chaser Flight Article (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada and Lockheed Martin unveiled the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft composite airframe. This structure will be used to conduct the first orbital launch of the Dream Chaser spacecraft due to launch in November, 2016, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Earlier this year Lockheed Martin began fabrication of the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft structure at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana. (8/1)

ETL to Double Size of British Headquarters (Source: Space News)
Satellite ground equipment manufacturer ETL Systems of Britain is doubling the size of its U.K. headquarters and increasing staff by 25 percent within the next two years on the back of revenue increases averaging 20 percent in the past five years. (8/1)

Mystery Galactic Gamma-ray 'Bubbles' Defy Explanation (Source: Discovery)
In 2010, astronomers announced the discovery of two vast — and very mysterious — bubbles of gamma-ray emissions towering above and below our galaxy’s disk. Four years on, after oodles of analysis, the source of these bubbles is as mysterious as ever. The scale of these gamma-ray structures is truly mind-blowing. Apparently originating directly from the galactic core, the two lobes extend tens of thousands of light-years into intergalactic space. They both generate gamma-ray radiation at an astonishing luminosity.

The discovery was made by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory that orbits the Earth away from our planet’s gamma-ray absorbing atmosphere. Without Fermi, we wouldn’t have even been aware of these giant structures. Since their discovery by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT), it was assumed that an ancient eruption by the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole may have energized galactic matter, inflating these two energetic bubbles. But since astronomers have been studying the nature of these features, their origin is as foggy as ever. (8/1)

SpaceX is Launching Rockets Made with Parts Produced by a 3-D Printer (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX is printing rocket parts, including the thrust chamber on the engines for its Dragon V2 spacecraft, which it hopes will one day deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne rocket maker announced Thursday that a Falcon 9 launch in January marked the first time it flew a part into space that was created using an additive manufacturing technique, popularly known as 3-D printing.

One of nine Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 included a printed part, known as a main oxidizer valve body, that houses the valve controlling the flow of liquid oxygen into the engine’s combustion chamber. It operated successfully under super-cold temperatures and high vibration, the company said. (8/1)

Russia to Hold First Cosmonaut Rescue Drills at Sea (Source: RIA Novosti)
Military Air Forces and Air Defense Forces of Russia’s Eastern Military District together with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, and the Pacific Fleet rescue service are holding Russia’s first joint exercises to rescue cosmonauts at sea. A number of exercises aimed at working through the actions of the crew of a manned Soyuz-TMA transport spacecraft during parachute descent and landing are scheduled for August, 5. (8/1)

Old Soviet Cosmos Satellite to Go Off Orbit on August 2 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Cosmos-903, an old Soviet satellite, is to go off orbit and be burnt in the upper atmosphere on August 2, a spokesman for Russia’s aerospace defence forces told Itar-Tass on Friday. “Specialists of the aerospace defence forces are constantly monitoring changes in parameters of orbiting fragments of the spacecraft Cosmos-903. (8/1)

Smith Statement on NASA Advisory Council Recommendations (Source: Rep. Smith)
Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith: "Contrary to this administration’s rhetoric, the President’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has many skeptics within the scientific community. And the experts who advise NASA recently stepped up their criticism. The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA ‘runs the risk of squandering precious national resources’ if they move forward with ARM."

"One expert, Mr. Tom Young, went so far as to say that the ARM proposal ‘dumbed down NASA.’ For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA’s technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously.” (8/1)

Early Earth Suffered 500-Million-Year Asteroid Storm (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists say early Earth would have technically been inhabitable, but it wouldn't have been a very pleasant place to live. Researchers say little pockets of calmer life-sustaining water likely existed amid the boiling seas and giant magma fields. But any organisms brave enough to carve out a niche on early Earth would have needed to endure extreme conditions, including an asteroid storm that peppered the planet for 500 million years. Some asteroids were as small as football field. The big ones were 1,000 times the size of Manhattan. (7/31)

NASA’s Next Mars Rover Will Generate Oxygen, Return Rocks to Earth (Source: GigaOm)
NASA plans to send a new rover to Mars in just six years. And while its body will look very similar to the Curiosity robot already rolling across Mars‘ surface, today NASA officials outlined the scientific instruments the rover will carry that give it a totally new set of abilities.

The 2020 rover will complement Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity’s missions to determine if life ever could have or did exist on Mars, but will also help humans come into contact with Martian soil for the first time. It will carry a caching system for storing interesting rock samples that could someday be carried back to Earth for analysis. (8/1)

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