August 26, 2014

SpaceX AsiaSat 6 Launch Postponed (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Tonight's launch of the AsiaSat 6 satellite by SpaceX has been scrubbed, with no new date yet given. SpaceX has not yet provided a reason for the delay. Liftoff was originally scheduled for August 26, 12:50 a.m. EDT (0450 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. It slipped to August 27, 12:50 a.m. EDT, due to the recent in-flight failure of the Falcon 9 Reusable test article, and has now been delayed again. SpaceX had already requested August 28 as an additional backup date, but so far, the new launch date is still TBA. (8/26)

Army Rocket Exploded Seconds After Liftoff at Alaska Spaceport (Source: Alaska Dispatch)
Seconds after a rocket carrying a test weapon was launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex Monday morning, the rocket self-destructed, causing an unknown amount of damage on the complex grounds, officials from the Department of Defense said. The rocket was carrying the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a glider that, once launched from a rocket, flies a non-ballistic missile trajectory toward its target -- in this case in the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. (8/25)

Embry-Riddle and International Space University Reinforce Cooperation (Source: ERAU)
The Commercial Space Operations program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and International Space University (ISU) recently executed a new memorandum of understanding, solidifying a relationship in place since 2003 that provides new opportunities for both institutions and their students.

Embry-Riddle’s pioneering program, offering the only interdisciplinary commercial space operations undergraduate degree program in the world, is designed to meet the needs of the burgeoning commercial space industry. The world-renowned International Space University is a private nonprofit institution specializing in providing graduate-level training to the future leaders of the emerging global space community at its central campus in Strasbourg, France, and at locations around the world. (8/26)

NASA Mission Control Looks To Human Spaceflight Comeback With EFT-1 (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s unpiloted first test flight of the Orion crew capsule promises to turn a page for the control of human space flight, with upgrades and changes to the agency’s mission control center that build on lessons learned from Apollo through the space shuttle era. The agency has slated Dec. 4 for the launch of Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, an uncrewed 6 1/2 hour flight with a Pacific Ocean splashdown off the California coast.

The space agency and Lockheed Martin, the Orion prime contractor and lead for EFT-1, expect to emerge from the test flight with a better understanding of Orion’s heat shield, flight control systems and other elements designed to manage risks—much as NASA and North American Rockwell did from the uncrewed 1967 Apollo Saturn 501 flight that opened a pathway to the lunar surface for U. S. astronauts.

Though not as visible as work on the flight elements, upgrades to NASA’s Mission Control at Johnson Space Center here have been underway since the shuttle program’s retirement in 2011. The Mission Control Center for the 21st Century project is intended to set the stage for a U.S. human spaceflight comeback. (8/22)

European Commission Summons ESA, Arianespace on Galileo Launch Failure (Source: Space News)
The European Commission, acknowledging that the Aug. 22 launch of two of its Galileo navigation satellites aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket was a “failure,” on Aug. 25 said it had summoned the European Space Agency and Arianespace to Brussels the first week of September to explain what happened.

The Brussels, Belgium-based commission, which is the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union and owns the Galileo positioning, navigation and timing system, said it had created its own internal task force to monitor the investigation into what went wrong with the launch, from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America. (8/26)

Heads Continue to Roll in Russian Space Industry (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Changes at the top of the Russian space industry have continued as Roscosmos announces a new director for the military projects it oversees, and the acting head of the organization that runs the nation’s spaceport is replaced, according to Russian media reports. Roscosmos deputy head Anatoly Shilov, the man responsible for managing some of the agency’s most sensitive projects — such as military space launches and the development of military and intelligence satellites — will leave the post he has held since 2009. (8/24)

Botched Satellite Launch Shakes Russia's Space Rocket Industry (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has launched an independent investigation into the cause of Friday's botched launch of two brand-new European navigation satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket amid fears that the accident will destroy already weak consumer confidence in the country's space industry.

Four years behind schedule, Friday's launch in Kourou, French Guiana, of the first two fully operational Galileo satellites — the EU's answer to the U.S. GPS and Russian Glonass satellite navigation systems — was supposed to be a momentous occasion for the European space community. But after initially hailing the launch as a success, flight engineers on the ground noticed that the rocket had delivered the satellites into the wrong orbit. (8/25)

House Gearing Up for CR to Last Until December (Source: Space Politics)
With no sign of progress on appropriations bills stalled in the Senate, the House is making plans to pass a “clean” continuing resolution that will keep the government running at least into December, a top House member said this week.Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that he expected the House to take up a CR when it reconvenes in early September that will fund the government “until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking.”

 That CR will be a “clean” one in the sense that it will not include any controversial policy provisions that could spark opposition from Democrats. “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down,” Ryan told Roll Call. (8/22)

The Line Between Prudence and Excess (Source: Space News)
A recent congressional critique of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office’s buying habits paints a portrait of an overly risk-averse organization that relies too heavily on industrial-base information provided by its prime contractors to determine how many of a given type of satellite it needs to procure.

The result, according to the bipartisan report released by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is that the NRO, motivated by an understandable desire to keep key component suppliers in business, winds up buying and launching more satellites than it actually needs, costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. These costs dwarf any per-satellite savings achieved by ordering in bulk, the report said. (8/25)

Apollo Astronauts Describe Lunar Aroma (Source:
he moon has a distinctive smell. Ask any Apollo moonwalker about the odiferous nature of the lunar dirt and you'll get the same answer. With NASA's six Apollo lunar landing missions between 1969 and the end of 1972, a total of 12 astronauts kicked up the powdery dirt of the moon, becoming an elite group later to be tagged as the "dusty dozen."

From the modest 2.5 hour "moonwalk" of Apollo 11 to the forays totaling just over 22 hours outside a spacecraft on Apollo 17, NASA's Apollo landing crews could not escape tracking lunar material inside their moon lander homes. “All I can say is that everyone's instant impression of the smell was that of spent gunpowder, not that it was 'metallic' or 'acrid'. Spent gunpowder smell probably was much more implanted in our memories than other comparable odors," said Apollo 17's Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. (8/25)

Rethinking Space Debris Mitigation (Source: Space News)
We should reconsider the scope and application of measures to mitigate space debris. The same constraints need not and probably cannot be imposed on all satellites. Space debris is a serious environmental threat. The consequences of collisions between satellites may be unacceptable. We must mitigate low-probability, high-consequence events.

However, not all mitigation guidelines may be required for all satellites, and some classes of satellites cannot satisfy all of the guidelines. Voluntary debris mitigation guidelines were published in 2002 by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). Click here. (8/25)

NASA Rainfall Satellite Out of Fuel, Continues to Provide Data (Source: NASA)
Pressure readings from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission's (TRMM) fuel tank on July 8 indicated that the satellite was nearly at the end of its fuel supply. As a result, NASA has ceased maneuvers to keep the satellite at its operating altitude of 402 kilometers (~250 miles). With its speed decreasing, TRMM has begun to drift downward. A small amount of fuel remains to conduct debris avoidance maneuvers to ensure the satellite remains safe. TRMM's slow descent will continue over the next 2 to 3 years. It will continue to collect useful data as its orbit descends to about 350 (217.5 miles) over the next 18 months. (8/25)

Tower Used to Lift Shuttles Being Dismantled (Source: Collect Space)
The historic steel tower that for 30 years was used to mount NASA space shuttles atop jumbo jets to fly them cross-country after they landed in California is now being demolished. The gantry-like, gray and red Mate-Demate Device (MDD) at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in southern California stood for four decades. Now, three years after the shuttle program ended and six years since it last supported the turnaround of an orbiter landing at Edwards Air Force Base, the 110-foot (34-m.) structure is disappearing from the dry lake bed's skyline. (8/25)

SpaceX Fail? Great! (Source: Huffington Post)
Congratulations are due to Elon Musk and SpaceX for generating an amazingly cool explosion over Central Texas Saturday morning when an experimental Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) self-destructed after an in-flight anomaly. This temporary setback involved no risk to humans and followed an impressive number of successful tests on the path to dramatically lowering space launch costs via the development of a reusable launch vehicle.

SpaceX has been pushing to completely redefine the economics of space by returning the first and possible second stage assemblies and engines safely back to Earth. If perfected, such a system could reduce the cost of launching payloads or astronauts by an order of magnitude. Testing a truly new rocket has always involved failure. In fact, the development of any complex and innovative product should feature an iterative development process. By definition such a process is "failure driven." As with learning to ski, if you're not falling down you're just not getting any better.

However, rocket failures are exciting and highly visible in a way that most other products are not. How many secretly awful prototypes of the iPhone did Steve Jobs privately dismiss as "crap" before his team delivered the beautiful world-shaking final product? There were dozens if not hundreds of silent "explosions" in Apple's hidden labs. Each time, Apple's talented engineers analyzed their disasters and returned with a better product, or sometimes not. (8/25)

SpaceX Rocket Explosion Keeps Space Community on Edge (Source: Houston Press)
A SpaceX rocket exploded in the skies above McGregor, Texas, during a test flight on Saturday. Though a nonchalant Elon Musk waved the mishap with a short tweet acknowledging that "Rockets are tricky," the fact remains that explosions are scary and tend not to reflect well on companies. The company stated it would review flight records and update the space community on what really happened after a full assessment.

Donald Barker, a Johnson Space Center employee on furlough, called on the space community to give SpaceX breathing room to do so. The Falcon 9 explosion was just part of the learning process and why companies conduct tests, he said. "If SpaceX is open and honest about the event, the results and show safe and reliable progress than it is not a problem," Barker said. "It may make things run a little slower for a while, while they assess the causes and make fixes, but that is expected." (8/25)

SpaceX Alum Goes After Falcon 1 Market With Firefly (Source: Aviation Week)
As entrepreneurial “New Space” grows up, veterans of its early days are finding innovative ways to tackle old problems and enter emerging markets that did not exist when their industry was an infant—a decade ago. Thomas E. Markusic, a propulsion engineer who cut his New Space teeth running Elon Musk’s flight-test center in Texas and later held senior posts at Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, has kicked off a startup called Firefly Space Systems that is developing  a low-cost Falcon 1-class launch vehicle to launch small satellites using a methane-fueled aerospike engine and composite cryotanks.

Going from a standing start early this year, Markusic and a handful of like-minded entrepreneurs have self-funded a rapid buildup to 30 employees. They have opened facilities in Austin, Texas, and Hawthorne, California (not far from the SpaceX factory), and started buying fiber-winding gear for composite tanks to be built using an out-of-autoclave process tested at Marshall Space Flight Center this summer. They have also bought land for a test site within commuting distance of Austin.

“One thing I learned at SpaceX, if you don’t have your own test site you’re not going to go anywhere, really,” says Markusic. “I wanted to keep everything co-located too. Austin allowed me the possibility to have a relatively closely co-located test site, so right now we’re in a suburb of Austin with our engineering offices, and we just bought a 215-acre test site in Briggs, Texas.” (8/25)

Chinese Satellite Shows Stunning Views of Country From Above (Source: NBC)
China's Gaofen-1 satellite has been in operation for several months now, and the government just released some of its most impressive shots. The images, provided by the China National Space Administration, show a variety of high-resolution views of China from above. Don't worry, the country's not actually mint green and red — that's just the false color scheme given to help pick out different types of vegetation and landmarks. Click here. (8/25)

Comtech Looking at Sale or Merger Options (Source: Space News)
Satellite ground communications equipment manufacturer Comtech Telecommunications Corp. on Aug. 25 said it is “exploring strategic options … including the possible merger or sale of the company.” Melville, New York-based Comtech, which has been refocusing its business away from the U.S. government since its 2010 loss of a big U.S. Army communications contract, has said in the past it would review strategic alternatives. (8/26)

Update on Galileo Launch Injection Anomaly (Source: SpaceRef)
Work at ESA’s ESOC control center continues relentlessly on the two Galileo satellites. Despite the non-nominal orbit, the satellites are safely under control after they were released from the launcher upper stage and their orbital position was determined by the European ground teams deployed at ESOC. Controllers there, in cooperation with the satellite manufacturer OHB, confirm the good health and the nominal behaviour of both satellites.

A procedure to deploy the solar arrays that had remained folded on both satellites was successfully executed on the first satellite in the course of Monday night. A similar procedure will be executed soon on the second satellite. Both satellites continue to be kept in a safe state, correctly pointing to the Sun, properly powered and fully under control of the ESA/CNES integrated team and the teams of OHB deployed at ESA’s control center. (8/26)

At Multiverse Impasse, a New Theory of Scale (Source: Quanta)
Tough galaxies look larger than atoms and elephants appear to outweigh ants, some physicists have begun to suspect that size differences are illusory. Perhaps the fundamental description of the universe does not include the concepts of “mass” and “length,” implying that at its core, nature lacks a sense of scale.

This little-explored idea, known as scale symmetry, constitutes a radical departure from long-standing assumptions about how elementary particles acquire their properties. But it has recently emerged as a common theme of numerous talks and papers by respected particle physicists. With their field stuck at a nasty impasse, the researchers have returned to the master equations that describe the known particles and their interactions, and are asking: What happens when you erase the terms in the equations having to do with mass and length? Click here. (8/26)

Australian Company Signs Deal to Track Space Junk (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
It's a worst case scenario - a piece of space junk obliterates a satellite, creating an avalanche of junk that wipes out more satellites until they're all gone. There'd be no weather, communication, navigation or spy satellites in Earth's orbit. Dr. Ben Greene says NASA and all major space agencies believe there is a reasonable risk of this occurring within 15 years.

Part of the solution is a new agreement between Dr Greene's company Electro-Optic Systems (EOS) and aerospace firm Lockheed Martin to develop a new network to track space junk. With a global system of sensors, initially at EOS at Mount Stromlo, Canberra, and a new facility in Western Australia, operators can be informed of the risk of damage from space debris so they can move satellites. "We consider the strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin a major step towards the achievement of critical mass of sensors, data and services," Dr Greens said. (8/26)

Orbital Outfitters Propels Midland's Space Industry Forward With Suits, Training (Source: KWES)
It's the kind of thing you'd see at NASA but it's coming to West Texas. You've heard about XCOR setting up shop in Midland for space flights. But just as important are the other companies that help make their mission successful. Orbital Outfitters is one of those businesses heading to the Tall City. They're not just about making space suits, they also give travelers an out of this world experience right from the ground. It's all part of the training they offer, according to CEO Jeff Feige.

"You can be sitting in a seat that is exactly like your real seat on the spaceship, you can be doing it in your real spacesuit, hooked to the real life support system and then we'll be able to simulate the entire range of everything from a leaky valve to a broken window. We're going to be able to do all that in one location," he said.

That one-of-a-kind place will be at the company's future building. The airport is taking on the reins to build the facility smack dab between the XCOR hangar and the runways. It'll be the only private center in the U.S. that's able to offer those experimental services. "It's also the only place where you can fly into an airport and go to the other side of it and go do your test," Livingston Holder, a partner with Holder Aerospace, said. (8/23)

Even With Tight Budgets, Space Exploration Still Inspires (Source: Post & Courier)
Some decried the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 and periodic cuts in NASA's funding, which has dramatically decreased as a percentage of the federal budget since its high in 1966, as detrimental to the scientific community and national security. But even on tight budgets, the U.S. and its partners in space exploration continue to make important and thrilling discoveries.

The debate will continue over the wisdom of using public resources to study distant worlds, particularly when much of our own planet, including roughly 95 percent of the ocean floor, remains unexplored. But as long as supermoons rise and meteor showers light up the night sky, mankind will dream about what lies beyond our home planet. The government's role in fulfilling those dreams deserves a healthy debate, but it is unquestionably in the best interest of an ever-curious humanity to continue exploring the universe. (8/26)

Roscosmos Wants $440 Million to Build Inflatable Space Stations (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has requested 16 billion rubles ($440 million) for the development of inflatable space station habitats, Interfax reported Monday, citing a copy of the proposed federal space program for 2016-2025. The program, which Russian media reports say was submitted to the government last week, contains proposals for a number of ambitious projects, including moon bases and super-heavy lift rockets.

Two inflatable space station modules — which are generally made by surrounding a flexible air bladder with interwoven layers of Kevlar and Mylar, and are lighter and cheaper to launch than metal-cylinder versions — were tested by U.S.-based Bigelow Aerospace in 2006 and 2007. NASA is also looking to develop its own inflatable modules for the International Space Station and future space station projects.

Roscosmos, whose involvement in the International Space Station program through 2020 is hanging in the balance due to the Ukraine crisis, wants to build its own inflatable module with a five-year lifespan and a pressurized compartment volume of 300 cubic meters that would be ready for launch in 2021. It is unclear whether the Russian module would be part of the International Space Station program or an independent Russian space station. (8/26)

We Must Prepare Now to Take Full Advantage of Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Virgin Galactic will succeed. Keep your eyes on their test program. When you see WhiteKnight2 and SpaceShip2 at Spaceport America know it will be too late for our community to prepare. To keep our competitive edge, we need a road to the spaceport providing access from the west and south.

There is a road for travelers coming from the north, Albuquerque business leaders are preparing. Providing access to the spaceport is job one now. Put first things first. We need that road. Government, industry leaders, must work this out this legislative session. In the beginning, we made some decisions that now are being revisited. The spaceport tax was always intended to be an investment. The original language in the legislation was broadly written.

Funds distribution must be revisited. Think big, don't worry about investing in small bits and reiterating. What are we doing to create a visitors experience in this community to retain the hundreds of people who will come here? We have time now. Let Virgin Galactic polish the rock. Business leaders, take some little bets to create a destination home for this new industry. (8/26)

Transatlantic Space Travel to the US Could Become Reality for Scots (Source: Herald Scotland)
SCOTS holidaymakers could jet across the Pond in minutes under plans for commercial transatlantic spaceflights signed off by the UK and US Governments. The move comes weeks after Scotland topped the shortlist for potential spaceport hubs, with six of the eight preferred UK bases located north of the Border.

A Memorandum of Cooperation agreed by government agencies either side of the Atlantic has expressed their desire to "encourage commercial transatlantic space travel" between the two nations. The document has been signed by representatives of the Department for Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority and the UK Space Agency and, in the US, by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, part of the Federal Aviation Administration. (8/26)

Kiwi Astronauts Begin Space Training Program (Source: Showroom)
Nine Kiwi space tourists have embarked on a rigorous astronaut training program to prepare themselves for their upcoming space flight on Virgin Galactic’s new extra-terrestrial service. Official Space Travel Agent Katrina Cole from House of Travel says a recent acceleration in test flights and preparation of local accommodation for the international guests to the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico is a strong indicator the launch date will be within the coming months.

These developments have seen the Kiwi space tourism contingent eager to complete their astronaut training before take-off, says Cole. She says the centrifuge and zero gravity training will help the astronauts to prepare for space travel before the launch of the inaugural Virgin flight. The Virgin Galactic three day training program involves a thorough medical examination, and detailed outline of the experience for the passengers, she says. (8/26)

Ontario Students Join Canadian Space Agency for Mock Mission (Source: Sun News Network)
Students from universities in Toronto, London, and Kingston, Ontario have partnered with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to conduct a simulated Mars rover mission. The simulation has been ongoing with two teams of students: one based at "mission control" in London and a second with the rover at the CSA's Mars yard in Saint-Hubert, QC. The mission is designed to mirror a genuine Mars mission, with mission controllers in one location while the rover is elsewhere. (8/25)

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