September 12, 2014

Cecil Airport is Poised to Become a Player in Space Industry (Source: Florida Times-Union)
SpaceX's decision to build the nation’s first private launch facility in Texas was clearly disappointing news for Space Florida officials, who had aggressively pursued the project. This will serve only to galvanize and solidify Space Florida’s pursuit of commercial space opportunities. But all is not lost for Florida’s commercial space industry here in Northeast Florida, considering the status of the Cecil Airport and Spaceport facility.

Cecil Airport, the former Naval base now owned and managed by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, is well on its way to becoming a player in the exciting space industry. Cecil is one of the few airports in the U.S. — and the only one in Florida — licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a horizontal launch spaceport. Last year, JAA signed an agreement with its first commercial space operator, Atlanta-based Generation Orbit.

What’s driving the industry now is the development of small satellites using nanotechnology. The industry has even created a standard format known as CubeSat, a 4-inch cube weighing just shy of 3 pounds. These tiny satellites are engineered and built by companies such as Planet Labs, Spire and Skybox in Silicon Valley. Click here. (9/12)

California Rocket Company to Move to Texas (Source: Daily Breeze)
A company filled with rocket scientists has bought in to Texas’ push to promote itself as a business-friendly, anti-regulation locale. Firefly Space Systems of Hawthorne, California, on Wednesday confirmed its relocation to the Austin area. The company says it’s negotiating with Cedar Park officials to make that city its headquarters. It said it already purchased 200 acres of farmland in Burnet County near the unincorporated community of Briggs.

The announcement comes just weeks after SpaceX announced it would create the world’s first commercial site for orbital rocket launches in South Texas. Firefly will test small rocket engines at the Briggs location. PJ King, the company’s chief operating officer, expects to hire up to 200 workers, mostly engineers. “These are all high-paying jobs,” he said. King said Firefly was attracted to Texas partly because of its business and regulatory climate. It will also develop its rocket engines in collaboration with the University of Texas.

Firefly is attempting to build a satellite launching system that would cost customers $8 million to $9 million. It said that’s less than half the cost Russia charges. King says the company will not test the rockets in Burnet County. He says the company is looking for a launch site, preferably on the coast. Burnet County Commissioner Russell Graeter said he welcomes Firefly to the rural county of a little more than 42,000 people. (9/11)

Stung by Russian Launch Failures, RSCC Moves Toward In-Orbit Delivery Deals (Source: Space News)
Russia’s largest satellite operator said it is revamping the way it purchases satellites and rockets to widen its choice of suppliers — especially launch vehicles. Moscow-based Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), whose financial performance in the past two years has been hobbled by multiple launch and in-orbit satellite failures, said that by 2016 it will bundle satellite and rocket orders through in-orbit delivery contracts with satellite builders. In other words, the satellite manufacturer, not RSCC, would select the rocket.

Recent failures have affected RSCC and the Russian government more than any other Proton customers. Neither has had much choice in the matter as missions that are part of the Russian Federal space program — including commercial telecommunications satellites like RSCC’s — are automatically placed on Proton. Pivnyuk said Sept. 8 that RSCC would judge future proposals on their financial, technical and schedule merits without entering directly into the launcher decision. (9/12)

After a Two-Year Trek, NASA’s Mars Rover Reaches Its Mountain Lab (Source: New York Times)
After two years of Mars enthusiasts asking, “Are we there yet?” the mission managers for NASA’s Curiosity rover can finally yell back, “Yes, we’re there!” The Curiosity rover has reached the destination where it will begin its main science investigations, the base of a three-mile-high mountain that the science team has named Mount Sharp. As the rover makes it way up the mountain, it will cross layers of rock that contain clues to the early geological and environmental history of Mars when it was warmer and wetter. (9/12)

3 Space Station Astronauts Return to Earth (Source: ABC)
An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5½ months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA reported that everything went well; the crewmen smiled and chatted as they were helped out of their spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and Russian crewmen Oleg Artemiev and Alexander Skvortsov flew to the orbiting outpost in March. Their departure leaves three men still up there: an American, Russian and German. "We had a lot of fun," Swanson said before heading home. (9/11)

Embry-Riddle’s Aerospace Engineering is No. 1 in Nation for 15th Straight Year (Source: ERAU)
For the 15th consecutive year, the Best Colleges guidebook published by U.S. News & World Report ranks Embry-Riddle’s specialized undergraduate aerospace engineering program No. 1 in the nation and honors the university for continued excellence in undergraduate engineering.
Additionally, the annual compilation has named Embry-Riddle the Best Southern University for veterans and active service members for the second year in a row. Also in the South, Embry-Riddle has climbed to the No. 10 spot among the 122 ranked best regional universities, landing in the top 13 for 10 years now. In a new honor, the university has tied for No. 6 in the elite group of Best Southern Universities considered “up-and-comers” exhibiting the most promising changes in academics, faculty, student life, campus or facilities. (9/11)

Orion Moves to PHSF in Preparation for First Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Orion spacecraft took its next giant leap towards space today, Thursday, Sept. 11. After departing from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Orion preceded to make the mile-long journey to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) where it will be fueled for flight. Liftoff of Orion's maiden voyage, Exploration Flight test-1 (EFT-1), is expected to take place at sunrise on December 4. (9/11)

It’s OK to Cheat on Your Space-Traveling Spouse (Source: WIRED)
In the future, when astronauts are voyaging at close to the speed of light to other solar systems and gone for decades at a time, should their spouses have to wait for them? No, no, no, no, no. Absolutely not, and let me tell you why. Or rather, let Mary Roach, best-selling author of Packing for Mars, tell you why. Click here. (9/11)

WhiteKnightTwo Touches Down at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A picturesque New Mexico sky dotted with clouds Wednesday set the scene for a visit of the WhiteKnightTwo to Spaceport America — its first trip to the facility in three years. Officials with Virgin Galactic, which owns the 38,000-pound plane, said the visit was a preview of things to come, as they continue a ramp-up toward suborbital commercial spaceflights — likely next spring — from the taxpayer-owned facility in southeastern Sierra County.

Company officials said the trip served as an early practice run for the WhiteKnightTwo, expected to eventually launch from the spaceport with SpaceShipTwo and paying passengers in tow. The plane, which carries the spaceship for a mid-air launch into suborbital space, up until now has mostly been at a spaceport in Mojave, California. (9/11)

DiBello Selected to Chair Spaceflight Federation (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that it has elected Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, as its new Chairman succeeding Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air & Space Port. At its semi-annual Board of Directors meeting this week in Jacksonville, Florida, the CSF also elected Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace and Sean Mahoney of Masten Space Systems to the Executive Committee of the Board, joining DiBello, Tim Hughes (SpaceX), Rob Meyerson (Blue Origin) and Mark Sirangelo (Sierra Nevada Corporation), who were reelected.

Also at the meeting, the full Board approved adding Miami-based Interflight Global Corporation to the associate membership of the organization. “I look forward to taking the helm of this organization during this dynamic period in our industry,” said new Chairman Frank DiBello. “I’m thrilled to be working with the new CSF staff leadership and member companies to promote the continued development and success of the commercial spaceflight sector.” (9/11)

Russia Announces Plans To Upgrade Nuclear, Air Defense Forces (Source: Defense News)
Russia will respond to the United States' "prompt global strike" program designed to take out targets within an hour by upgrading its nuclear and space defense forces, its deputy prime minister said. "Our response to the prompt global strike strategy is upgrading our strategic nuclear forces and resources — the strategic rocket forces and the naval ones — and also developing air and space defense resources according to the plans we have finalized," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees defense, was quoted as saying. (9/11)

Putin Takes Direct Control of Russian Military Industrial Complex (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russian Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin has tightened his already tight control over Russia’s military industrial complex, taking personal control of the commission responsible for carrying 0ut Russia’s defense orders and demoting Dmitry “Trampoline Rocket” Rogozin in the process. Putin warned of burgeoning security threats facing Russia as he took personal control of the Military-Industrial Commission. Under Rogozin, the commission has been unable to break a cycle of “widespread corruption, inefficiency and incompetence” that have made it difficult for contractors to deliver as promised. (9/11)

All-Star Astronauts From U.S., China Mull Prospect of Space Cooperation (Source: NBC)
Astronauts from the US and China talked friendship and cooperation in a rare gathering of international planetary all-stars in Beijing - despite a U.S. law banning official cooperation with China’s ambitious space program. Buzz Aldrin was among more than 30 prominent space explorers from the US, including active NASA astronauts acting in their “private capacity,” who joined a large contingent of astronauts and cosmonauts from 16 countries at the first space conference hosted by China in cooperation with the Association of Space Explorers (ASE).

In addition to Aldrin, Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space and who served as commander of the International Space Station, was among the astronaut all-stars. China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, American astronaut Mario Runco Jr. and space expert Andy Turnage discussed the potential benefits of spaceflight cooperation among different countries. They expressed hope that space could be a new frontier for U.S.-China cooperation, reviving the old debate on whether the U.S. and China should be working together in and outside of orbit. (9/11)

China Eyes Cooperation with Other Countries on Space Station (Source: China Daily)
China is open to cooperation with foreign nations on its manned space station project, according to a senior space official. "We reserved a number of platforms that can be used for international cooperative projects in our future space station when we designed it," said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency. "In addition to collaboration in applied experiments, we also designed adapters that can dock with other nations’ spacecraft," he said. (9/10)

China Completes Constructiron of Advanced Space Launch Site (Source: China Daily)
China has finished building of its fourth and most advanced space launch center, a senior space official said. Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said in Beijing on Wednesday that infrastructure construction on the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan has been completed and that the station will soon become operational.

"The center is basically ready for spacecraft launches," he said. Yang also said the nation's space program is progressing in the development of the Tiangong-2 space lab, the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft and the Long March 2F-Y11 rocket as astronauts and ground facilities begin preparing for new missions. (9/11)

Jellyfish Flames on the ISS (Source: NASA)
Fire is inanimate, yet anyone staring into a flame could be excused for thinking otherwise: Fire dances and swirls. It reproduces, consumes matter, and produces waste. It adapts to its environment. It needs oxygen to survive. In short, fire is uncannily lifelike. Nowhere is this more true than onboard a spaceship. Click here. (9/10)

Roads to Close for SpaceX Launch Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Cameron County is continuing this morning to pave the way forward for SpaceX to come to Boca Chica Beach, as commissioners will consider the closing and abandonment of four areas of right-of-way near the company’s proposed launch pad construction site. The roads are being considered for closing in whole or in part to make way for SpaceX, the new owner of the property. Officials have said a groundbreaking at the site is expected soon, and the City of Brownsville announced a special event Sept. 22 to celebrate the coming of SpaceX. (9/11)

Air Force Planning Three-satellite Replacement for SBSS (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is planning a three-satellite constellation to replace an existing space surveillance satellite and hopes to launch sooner than the 2021 timeline previously expected. The Air Force spent the past year defining a follow-on program to the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 pathfinder satellite launched into a 630-kilometer, sun-synchronous low Earth orbit in 2010. The next iteration would likely use three smaller satellites in low Earth orbit to keep tabs on objects in the geosynchronous belt. (9/11)

Using Cameras and Fancy Algorithms to Track Spinning Space Junk (Source: WIRED)
A team from MIT has come up with an algorithm that could let cleanup crews measure a target’s movement so they can plan an approach to safely snatch it up. The team sent their algorithm up to the International Space Station, where astronauts tested it using two SPHERES satellites, volleyball-sized bots being tested as swarming space helpers. As one satellite floated and spun, another filmed the action using a pair of linked cameras, spaced slightly apart.

As the cameras captured the spinning satellite the algorithm mapped features on its surface and compared the images seen through the left and right lenses. Frame by frame, the algorithm measured slight discrepancies in distance and angle between each lens’ view of the features, and used these calculations to make a 3-D map of the object rotating in space (your brain does roughly the same thing with the feeds coming from your eyes). (9/11)

Ariane 5 Launches with Optus 10 and MEASAT-3b (Source:
An Ariane 5 ECA has successfully launched two telecommunication satellites on Thursday. Optus 10 and MEASAT-3b both rode uphill on the Arianespace workhorse out of the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, following lift off late in the launch window – due to two technical holds – at 22:05 GMT. (9/11)

Proton Can Compete with Falcon on Price (Source: RIA Novosti)
Future commercial launches of Russian Proton launch vehicles will be able to compete with the US SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets but on certain conditions, the Deputy Director General in charge of Economics and Finance of the United Rocket and Space Corporation said Thursday. “If SpaceX enters the market with the prices and features it is talking about, if it can launch the Falcon 9 to a geostationary transfer orbit for $55.5 million, then it aims for the below 4.5-ton satellite segment, which is a quite large segment," Pavel Popov said.

"We can reach this cost price, not exactly this one, a little bit higher,” Popov told journalists. He added that should the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle with its $81 million price tag be successful, then a different price format would prevail on the market but the Russian corporation would still be able to compete. (9/11)

Russia Plans to Launch 5 Angara Heavy Rockets Per Year by 2025 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) is planning to start launching five Angara heavy rockets a year by 2025, according to the program of financial recovery at the Khrunichev Center, presented by the URSC Deputy CEO Pavel Popov. "Since 2021, Proton [carrier rocket] will be used almost exclusively for commercial launches. Angara is to be used for federal launches, starting in 2018. There will be seven launches per year between 2023-2025. But on average, we'll have about five of them," Popov said. (9/11)

Putin Promises Probe into Vostochny Spaceport Funding Suspicions (Source: Itar-Tass)
President Vladimir Putin promised a police investigation into funding suspicions concerning the new Vostochny Cosmodrome Russia is building in the Far East. He admitted that “although the project is in the focus of our special attention, problems abound”.

“I will have to hand over some issues to law enforcement agencies to get them sorted out and clarified,” Putin said. Funding is provided regularly but the funding procedure itself needs special attention, he said, referring to “quasi and semi-criminal schemes”. He asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to think about how to concentrate funding on concrete projects to avoid its being spread thinly. (9/10)

Space Industry Sees Little Effect From Western Tensions With Moscow (Source: Aviation Week)
As Western powers weigh further support for Kiev in the battle against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, global space industry leaders say the effect of mounting tensions with Moscow has so far been minimal. Robert Cleave, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, says Atlas 5 supplier United Launch Alliance (ULA) has seen no slowdown in deliveries of the Russian RD-180 engine that powers the rocket’s core stage.

In the meantime, other launch service providers that utilize Russian and Ukrainian hardware say worsening tensions are so far not being felt at the industry level. Phil Slack, president of International Launch Services (ILS), which markets commercial missions of Russia’s Proton, says the Reston, Virginia-based company was initially concerned that a State Department hold on spacecraft shipping licenses could disrupt the ILS manifest. (9/11)

U.S. Dismisses Space Weapons Treaty Proposal As “Fundamentally Flawed” (Source: Space News)
A U.S. review of an updated Chinese-Russian treaty proposal to ban weapons in space finds that it suffers from the same problems that made the original version unacceptable, an American diplomat said.

Ambassador Robert Wood, the U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said Sept. 9 that the United States had completed an in-depth review of the revised treaty, formally known as the “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects” and generally referred to as PPWT. China and Russia had submitted an update to their original 2008 proposal in June.

“According to the U.S. analysis, the draft PPWT, like the earlier 2008 version, remains fundamentally flawed,” Wood said. Wood cited a number of issues with the PPWT, including the lack of a verification mechanism and no restrictions on the development and stockpiling of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons on the ground. That means, he said, a nation “could develop a readily deployable space-based weapons break-out capability” should it decide to withdraw from the treaty. (9/11)

NASA Officials Defend Curiosity’s Criticized Science Plan (Source: Space News)
Shaking off the criticism of a senior review panel that said the Mars Science Laboratory mission was at risk of underperforming, a pair of NASA officials said Sept. 11 that the mission team has a solid science plan that will ensure a good return on the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover that has been exploring the red planet the past two years.

Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, and John Grotzinger, project scientist for Curiosity, said the rover’s productivity is not defined solely by the number of surface samples it collects with its drill bit and scoop — a metric scientists honed in on in a report detailing the results of a senior review of planetary science missions, which despite harsh words for Curiosity recommended a two-year, $115 million extension for the flagship rover that landed on Mars in August 2012. (9/11)

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