August 3, 2014

Which Commercial Crew Vehicle is in Florida’s Best Interest? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX all have made significant investments and commitments in Florida to operate their Commercial Crew systems at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. As early as this month, NASA will pick two of them to provide rides for astronauts (and some mission-related cargo) to and from the International Space Station. All three have been given financial and other assistance from the state (mainly through Space Florida), but which would bring the most positive impacts to the state?

Boeing already has a major presence at the spaceport, including about 100 CST-100 workers, and planned CST-100 processing operations in a former Space Shuttle hangar. But the company has already signaled plans to lay off up over 200 workers if it loses the Commercial Crew contract, which suggests they wouldn’t remain in the commercial human spaceflight game if they lose. Meanwhile, SpaceX appears committed to commercial human spaceflight regardless of a Commercial Crew loss, though they would likely do much (if not most) of their Dragon capsule processing in California or Texas.

Sierra Nevada, on the other hand, has maybe one current Dream Chaser person in Central Florida, so their Commercial Crew footprint would grow by perhaps hundreds of people (in a former Shuttle hangar). Their Dream Chaser vehicle also could land at the Cape, meaning more local jobs and more on-site processing work. Furthermore, the Dream Chaser seems a bit more complex than CST-100 or Dragon, so partnerships with local firms like Craig Technologies could grow to provide specialized processing services. (8/3)

Atlas Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: CFL13)
A late night launch went off without a hitch from the Space Coast Friday night. An Atlas V rocket blasted off at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport right at the window's opening -- 11:23 p.m. On board the rocket is a GPS IIF satellite, which will provide better time, location and velocity information for the U.S. military. The satellite, built by Boeing, is the seventh in a series of 12 designed for the U.S. Air Force. (8/2)

Potential Replacement For Space Shuttle Being Built In Fort Worth (Source: CBS DFW)
Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation showed off components for the Dream Chaser spacecraft in Fort Worth Friday.  The companies have been working on the project since 2006 hoping NASA will choose their product to replace the space shuttle program which ended in 2011. They call it the space shuttle’s little brother.  The Dream Chaser is about the size of a regional jet and there’s a good reason why.

“What we really need now is what we like to call our space utility vehicle or SUV,” says Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems.  “The ability to bring up the crew, bring up the critical cargo and go back and forth in a more efficient manner and in a more rapid manner.” (8/1)

New Zealand Launch Pad Up in Air (Source: SunLive)
Great Mercury Island's future as the launch site for Rocket Lab's new rocket designs is up in the air following this week's announcement on the company's new 10-ton Electron rocket. Rocket Lab has scheduled three test flights to get the rocket into space, says Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck. But the launch location is yet to be confirmed. (8/2)

NASA Nativists Will Never Get to Mars (Source: Bloomberg)
The days when the U.S. could fund space exploration on its own arguably ended with the Apollo moon landings. NASA is well-funded, but not nearly to the degree necessary to fulfill its ambitions or those of its supporters. Fortunately, the U.S. isn’t alone in its space aspirations, and for decades NASA has invited financial, technical and scientific contributions from international collaborators eager to work with the world’s premier space program.

It’s a good deal for everyone. NASA gains knowledge and funding (either direct or in-kind); its collaborators gain access to expensive and technically sophisticated NASA missions. As NASA’s ambitions grow into the 21st century, and especially as it considers launching humans to Mars and the asteroids, those collaborations will become even more important. Unfortunately, the agency seems to be closing doors on old and potentially new partners.

At the moment, for example, NASA scientists are prohibited by law from having bilateral discussions with their Chinese counterparts because of national-security concerns. More worryingly, in early July, NASA announced a misguided rule that restricts the ability of foreign collaborators to contribute scientific instruments to certain types of American planetary space probes. (8/1)

Don’t Buy Stock in Impossible Space Drives Just Yet (Source: Ars Technica)
The limit that space thrusters face is purely classical: to push something along at a higher velocity, you need to push against something else. So typical thrusters push against the mass of the burning fuel that they're explosively expelling behind them. Even the most sophisticated, efficient thrusters—ion drives—act as particle accelerators that shoot ions out in the opposite direction of the way they're accelerating. Click here. (8/1)

Startling Discovery on ISS May Lead to Cleaner Ignition in Cars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After the heptane fuel was ignited, the flames burned for a time, then cooled and appeared to be extinguished. But then sensors showed that it was still burning, but invisibly and at temperatures of 500K to 800K. As a point of comparison, on Earth normal visible flames burn at 1500K to 2000K. “That’s right—they seemed to be burning without flames,” Williams said. “At first we didn’t believe it ourselves.” Click here. (8/2)

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