August 20, 2014

Exquadrum Receives 2014 Tibbetts Award (Source: Exquadrum)
Exquadrum was one of 25 high-technology companies selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for the prestigious Tibbetts Award. The Tibbetts Award honors outstanding small businesses who participate in the SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs. Exquadrum has offices in Jupiter, Florida.

The Tibbetts Award recognizes Exquadrum’s outstanding technical innovation in the development of the Kinetic Fireball Incendiary (KFI). The KFI was developed to neutralize chemical and biological weapons. The KFI uses multiple technical innovations across Exquadrum’s rocket propulsion, incendiary, and munitions technologies. These munitions have been proven by testing at DoD laboratories to successfully destroy weapons of mass destruction an order of magnitude more effectively than previous generation systems while protecting civilian populations. (8/19)

Marshall Center Recognizes NASA Employees with Honors Day (Source: WAAY)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, today held its 2014 Honor Awards ceremonies, recognizing more than 240 individuals and members of nearly 90 teams who supported a variety of programs, projects and activities for Marshall and NASA in 2013-14.

Those honored, said Marshall Center Director Patrick Scheuermann, "exemplify the dedication, drive and innovation that underpin all our work at NASA and Marshall and help to ensure success for the agency's continuing mission of discovery and exploration." (8/19)

Stennis Employees Receive NASA Honor Awards (Source: Gulf Live)
Stennis Space Center Director Rick Gilbrech and NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Lesa Roe presented annual NASA Honor Awards to center employees during an onsite ceremony Aug. 19. In addition to presenting awards, Gilbrech, a resident of Slidell, La., also received NASA's Equal Employment Opportunity Medal for outstanding leadership qualities in promoting diversity and inclusion at Stennis. (8/19)

Security Expert Discovers Hole In Satellite Communications (Source: NBC)
A cyber security expert tells NBC5 Investigates he has found a way to hack into the satellite communications systems used in multiple industries. "These devices are wide open right now," said Ruben Santamarta, a security consultant based in Madrid, Spain with IOActive. Pilots, ship captains and military personnel rely on satellite networks to communicate when there are no phone lines or wireless networks available. Click here. (8/19)

Startup Suggests Penetration Probes for Mars (Source: WIRED)
Despite the fact that we have one of the most sophisticated rovers trundling around the surface of Mars, digging and investigating its geology, one non-profit thinks it can trump NASA's extraordinary scientific feat. The answer? Penetrator probes. These lightweight arrow-like devices could be fired into the Red Planet's surface, explains Explore Mars in an Indiegogo campaign.

It would use excess kinetic energy from the journey towards Mars to achieve this. Once it hits the surface, it is designed to break in two. The top part remains stuck on the surface and is a radio transmitter that can translate data back to an orbiter. The tip of the penetrator probe continues into the ground to embed a "life-detection experiment" a couple meters beneath. The system is designed to detect if any microorganisms are living on Mars. (8/19)

Cooperation With U.S. Not Affected by Ukraine, Russian Official Says (Source: Moscow Times)
A senior Russian space official has said cooperation with the U.S. on the International Space Station has not suffered from the Ukraine crisis, despite indications tensions may be imposing themselves on the otherwise resolutely apolitical space partnership. "[The International Space Station] is in absolutely no way affected [by the Ukraine conflict]," Vladimir Solovyev said. "How could there be sanctions, when the ISS is an international project in which everyone is tied to each other? The Russian side provides the station's transportation service," he added. (8./19)

Fresh Swag and New Toys: Russian Cosmonauts Gear Up For Space (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's iconic golden Orlan spacesuits will be replaced with upgraded fifth-generation models aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, next year, as senior space official said, adding that jetpacks are in the works as well. "The suits will be on ISS in the fall of 2015," said Vladimir Solovyev, the Federal Space Agency's head of the Russian segment of the space station.

Russia's Orlan series of extravehicular spacesuits — worn by cosmonauts on space-walks outside the space station — are massively popular among both cosmonauts and astronauts, their non-Russian equivalents. In comparison to the U.S. suits, the one-piece Orlan design is easier to put on and take off, as the suit features a hatch on the back. The Orlan suits currently used by cosmonauts aboard the ISS are the fourth-generation Orlan-MK suits, but they are nearing the end of their lifespan. They will be replaced with the newer Orlan-MKS models. (8/19)

After Acquiring QinetiQ North America Unit, Vencore Warns of Layoffs (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Vencore, the company formerly known as The SI Organization Inc., lost a NASA contract that it picked up through a recent acquisition — a loss that translates to as much as $250 million and about 200 employees and subcontractors in Maryland. NASA awarded to Sierra Lobo Inc. the Environmental Test and Integration Services II contract — or ETIS II — for engineering and technician test and integration support services at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Valued at up to $250 million, it’s the larger follow-up contract to one held by QinetiQ North America, which counted about 200 employees and subcontractors supporting the contract that had a maximum value of $190 million. The loss is now felt by Vencore, the company that emerged soon after then contractor The SI Organization acquired Qinetiq NA’s services and solutions group in May. The combined company counted about 4,800 employees when the acquisition closed. (8/19)

NASA Delays Award of Multibillion Dollar SEWP V Contract (Source: Federal Times)
NASA has postponed the award of its $20 billion Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) V contract until September, according to the agency. The delay is primarily due to the large volume of proposals the agency received, which required a lengthy review and selection process, according to NASA spokeswoman Sonja Alexander. There are about 70 contractors on the SEWP IV contract. (8/19)

SNC Abandons Own Hybrid Motors on Dream Chaser (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sierra Nevada won’t be using its own hybrid rockets for its Dream Chaser space shuttle, making it the second company in recent months after Virgin Galactic to dump the nitrous oxide-rubber motors. Kathy Lueders, program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, revealed the change at a meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP).

"SNC has also baselined a new propulsion system design (a pure liquid system design rather than a hybrid) in conjunction with their purchase of ORBITEC,” according to the meeting minutes. Dream Chaser would have used two small hybrid motors per flight. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo would have used one larger nitrous oxide-rubber hybrid motor.  Charles Lurio said SNC decided that ORBITEC, which SNC recently acquired, had a better engine solution.

I’m skeptical of whether that is the full story. The Virgin Galactic contract would have been quite lucrative for Sierra Nevada assuming a high launch rate for the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle. It also would have offset some of the fixed costs for the Dream Chaser engines, which would likely produced in much smaller numbers. A liquid engine for Dream Chaser would be less expensive than a hybrid one assuming it could be reused multiple times. The hybrid engine would have to be replaced after each flight. (8/19)

Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Spaceplane Design for DARPA (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program. XS-1 has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft.

The company is defining its concept for XS-1 under a 13-month, phase one contract valued at $3.9 million. In addition to low-cost launch, the XS-1 would serve as a test-bed for a new generation of hypersonic aircraft. A key program goal is to fly 10 times in 10 days using a minimal ground crew and infrastructure. Reusable aircraft-like operations would help reduce military and commercial light spacecraft launch costs by a factor of 10 from current launch costs in this payload class. (8/19)

Russia Reignites Its Rocket Industry with New Angara Booster (Source:
Russia's recent maiden launch of its new Angara rocket is a harbinger of bigger boosters to come. The successful test flight also marked the country's first new launch vehicle to be built from scratch since the fall of the Soviet Union. The July 9 suborbital flight of the light-lift Angara 1.2ML rocket lifted off from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the country's northern Arkhangelsk region. (The "ML" stands for "maiden launch.")

The test flight, which lasted roughly 21 minutes and was not intended to reach orbit, launched the Angara rocket over Russian territory on a ballistic trajectory. A "mass/dimensional payload simulator" topped the Angara, attached to the rocket's second stage. That booster ultimately fell back to Earth over a targeted impact area of the Kura Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula over 3,500 miles (5,700 kilometers) from the launch site. (8/19)

Just How Rare is Intelligent Life in the Universe? (Source: New Scientist)
Special – but not unique. In 2000, Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee argued in Rare Earth that intelligent life on Earth relied on so many unlikely accidents that we are probably alone in the universe. This is a step too far for Scharf, and rather like saying that a spectator at a baseball game lucky enough to catch a ball must therefore be alone in the stadium.

In a big enough universe, extraordinary things happen all the time. Our solar system is a case in point: the latest exoplanet research suggests that its orderly arrangement of planets is exceptionally rare, with rocky planets closer to the sun and gas giants farther out. (8/19)

Universal Space Travel (Source: CNBC)
The current high cost of human space transportation is largely tied up in rocket stages that are destroyed after a single use. There are two ways to go about solving this problem, XCOR's Greason said. The first: Recover, refurbish, and reuse rocket stages (SpaceX has developed and tested reusable rocket stages, and other companies, like Blue Origin, have patented related technologies). SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has predicted that if his company can make rocket reusability a reality, it could lower launch costs via its Falcon 9 rocket—currently advertised at $61.2 million—by an order of magnitude.

The other path to reusability is single-stage systems: those that go to space and back all in one piece without shedding rocket motors and fuel tanks along the way, allowing them to be reused over and over again. XCOR is pursuing the latter paradigm with its winged rocket-powered Lynx, a reusable space vehicle that will take off from a conventional runway and blast into suborbital space (roughly 330,000 feet, or 63 miles) powered by an onboard rocket motor before flying back to Earth and landing on a conventional runway. (8/19)

No comments: