September 16, 2014

Boeing, SpaceX Land NASA Commercial Crew Contracts (Source: CNN)
Boeing and SpaceX have been awarded contracts to become NASA's space taxis, shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station, the agency announced Tuesday. The contracts are worth a total of $6.8 billion. Boeing's share is $4.2 billion and SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion. Both companies' crafts must undergo safety testing before manned flights take place. Once certified for flight, each company will launch between two and six missions, NASA said.

Boeing said the contract means it will build three of its CST-100 crafts at its Kennedy Space Center facility in Florida. Each craft can carry up to seven passengers. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement he is "deeply honored" his company was chosen. Sierra Nevada Corp. was also competing for the NASA contract and has benefitted from Commercial Crew Program money for Dream Chaser, a winged spacecraft designed to fly into orbit. (9/16)

Sierra Nevada Loss a Hit to Space Coast Jobs (Source: SPACErePORT)
While SpaceX and Boeing will surely hire new personnel on the Space Coast to support their Commercial Crew operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Sierra Nevada would have had the largest jobs impact on the area. Unlike Boeing and SpaceX, which both already have a significant presence in the area to support Commercial Crew, Sierra Nevada has virtually no personnel yet at the spaceport and would have had to hire large numbers of local workers.

Sierra Nevada also had forged local partnerships with Lockheed Martin (for use of the Orion processing facility), Craig Technologies (for ground support equipment and other Dream Chaser operations), and ULA (for a test launch of the Dream Chaser vehicle) which would have rippled their contract's impacts through the local economy.

Sierra Nevada has indicated that they may continue to develop and operate the Dream Chaser without the NASA contract, in support of other commercial and international space partnerships. One indicator will be whether they stick with their plans for a test launch aboard a ULA Atlas-5. (9/16)

Blue Origin is Part of Boeing Commercial Crew Bid (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The long-secretive space ambitions of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Inc., suddenly are about to get a lot more public. Blue Origin LLC, the space-exploration startup Mr. Bezos has been quietly toiling over for years, is part of a team led by Boeing that is expected to soon garner a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station. (9/16)

Rocket Engine Presents Unexpected Budget Challenge (Source: Defense News)
Renewed tensions with Russia have made it clear the US Air Force will have to develop a homegrown rocket engine to launch military equipment. The question is: What does that mean for the rest of the service’s budget? Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the Obama administration issued sanctions against top Russian officials. In retaliation, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin threatened to cut off delivery of the RD-180 rocket engine.

Analysts expect it to cost $1 billion or more to develop the new system, turning the RD-180 replacement situation into a test case for how a service must react and adapt its budget strategy when the real world intervenes. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh acknowledged that another major program thrown into his budget isn’t ideal, but described it as the cost of his service’s responsibility to the space mission.

“The world changes, and the plan has to change,” Welsh said. “I do not think there is any question that it is time for us to ensure the nation has the option of a domestically developed engine. I think the world situation is making that clear. So, we will get on with it, and I think there are a lot of people in line to trying to make this happen.” (9/16)

How SpaceX Seeks To End ULA's Russia-Dependent Launch Monopoly (Source: Seeking Alpha)
SpaceX has executed nine successful flights of its Falcon 9 launch system with fifty missions currently contracted at an approximate value of $5 billion. They have met the Air Force's certification requirement of three successful launches and expect to achieve full certification by year's end. This certification is critical as it would allow SpaceX to compete for involvement in the EELV program: which is intended to facilitate access to space for the Air Force and Department of Defense amongst other entities of the Government.

Currently the EELV program is led entirely by the ULA: no other entity is allowed to even compete for any launches let alone facilitate them. The ULA relies heavily on its Atlas 5 rocket as the primary mover of heavy satellites; these are powered exclusively by Russian RD-180 engines, of which there are only sixteen on hand in the US for launch until they're able to procure more. SpaceX can not only remedy this issue with their All-American made Falcon 9 rocket, but can do so at a greatly reduced cost to what is essentially ULA's monopoly. (9/16)

GPS Industries Bolsters Golf Course Digital Content Program (Source: Space Daily)
GPS Industries (GPSI) - the world's leading provider of GPS tracking technology for low speed vehicles (LSV) used in more than 9.1 million rounds of golf annually across America - has established partnerships with marketing firms 2aTEE and Apel. With more than 10 years in the golf business, 2aTEE will customize local and regional sponsored content campaigns across GPSI's Visage Media Network (VMN). Apel, which represents companies and properties in the lifestyle segment, will source national partners. Both firms are headquartered in New York City.

The recently-launched VMN represents the largest connected audience of golfers at golf courses, country clubs, resorts and communities. It leverages GPSI's state-of-the-art Visage fleet management system to deliver sponsored content on the golf course. Hole-by-hole graphics and flyovers, scoring and gaming, on-course food and beverage options, and addressable promotional messages are featured on more than 25,000, 10-inch touch screens mounted to golf carts and other LSVs. Nearly 40 million-plus pages are viewed monthly by golfers. (9/16)

Two O3b Satellites Taken Out of Service as a Precaution (Source: Space News)
Two of the four first-launch satellites of startup broadband service provider O3b Networks have been shut down to preserve their capacity in the event the other two fail, industry officials said. The decision to switch off the two satellites will increase the likelihood that O3b, which now has eight satellites in orbit, will be able to maintain the necessary six spacecraft in operation while waiting for its next four satellites to launch in early 2015, officials said. (9/11)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Unveils Innovative "Rocket Shop" (Source: SpaceRef)
"Rocket Shop is the innovation arm of Aerojet Rocketdyne, specifically designed and staffed to identify unique defense customer solutions and rapidly mature those products from concept to demonstration," said Tyler Evan. "With unmatched capabilities from the combined Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne companies, and a vision to 'Solve Tomorrow's Toughest Problems Today,' Rocket Shop utilizes a highly-specialized workforce and state-of-the-art processes such as rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing to quickly and affordably develop new products that increase our national security."

Aerojet Rocketdyne's Rocket Shop currently has dedicated facilities in Sacramento and Los Angeles, California, and in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as footprints in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Gainesville and Culpeper, Virginia. These sites handle design, fabrication, assembly and testing functions for technology demonstration and risk reduction efforts. Some of the advanced technologies managed through Rocket Shop include hypersonics, divert and attitude control systems, low-cost strategic launch and advanced solid and liquid propellants. (9/16)

Boeing-Lockheed Venture Said Teaming with Bezos on Rocket Engine (Source: Reuters)
A joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin plans to announce on Wednesday that it will team up with Blue Origin, a company run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to develop a new rocket engine, a source familiar with the plans said. Officials at Boeing and Lockheed declined comment. No comment was immediately available from Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed venture that uses Russian-built engines to power some of its rockets.

ULA had sent out a request for information asking the U.S. aerospace industry earlier this year for ideas on how to replace the Russian-built RD-180 that powers ULA's heavy-lift Atlas 5 rockets, which are used to launch many U.S. military and spy satellites. The partnership agreement will pit Bezos against Elon Musk and SpaceX, which is seeking certification from the Air Force for its own Falcon 9 rockets. (9/16)

Russia Says No Plans to Stop Selling Rocket Engines to U.S. (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia is not planning to halt shipments of its RD-180 and NK-33 rocket engines to U.S. aerospace firms in response to the latest round of Western sanctions, the deputy chairman of the government's Military-Industrial Commission said Tuesday. "We do not have such plans. It is not profitable for us. We produce and deliver the [engines], they buy them," Oleg Bochkarev said.

Rocket engines represent one of the greatest U.S. dependencies on Russian technology. The RD-180, for example, is considered to be one of the best engines in the world and is used to power the first stage of the Atlas V rocket. Another powerful Russian rocket engine, the NK-33, is purchased by U.S. firm Orbital Sciences to power their Antares rocket, which is currently contracted by NASA to help resupply the the International Space Station. (9/16)

NASA's Second Shuttle Carrier Jet Lands for Display in California (Source: Collect Space)
For the second time this year, a NASA jumbo jet used to ferry space shuttles across the country has been moved for public display. The younger of NASA's two modified-Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), known by its tail number N911NA, or NASA 911, was towed three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) on Friday (Sept. 12) from an aircraft operations facility to the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, California. (9/15)

Space: Football's Final Frontier (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Barry "Butch" Wilmore tries to follow college football as much as anyone born and raised in the South. At home in Texas, though, he can't seem to watch a full game without being interrupted. His wife limits his time on the couch, he said, while his children make him change the channel on Saturday afternoons. "I wish I could watch more Southeastern Conference football—or any football," he said. "Sometimes, in the middle of the football game, I end up watching 'My Little Pony.' "

But that is about to change. Wilmore is embarking on a business trip that will take him to a magical place where he can watch college football, any game he wants, whenever he has time to himself. He's going to outer space. Wilmore is a NASA astronaut. He is currently far from SEC territory, at a cosmonaut training center in Russia, and he'll soon be much farther. Next week, from a launch site in Kazakhstan, Wilmore will lift off aboard a Soyuz rocket for a mission to the international space station. In one giant leap for mankind, though, Wilmore will tune into college football while in orbit. (9/16)

Female Astronauts Named Space Tech Exchange Ambassadors (Source: Women of China)
Four female astronauts from the US and China were named as Shenzhen space technology exchange ambassadors by a government-sponsored space institute in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, on Sep. 12.Mary Ellen Weber, Anousheh Ansari, Susan Jane Helms, and Wang Yaping received the titles from Shenzhen Space Technology Southern Institute, which was jointly launched on the same day by Shenzhen Government and the Astronaut Center of China. (9/16)

Editorial: Cape 2.0 (Source: Space News)
The imperative to launch five to eight national security missions each year from Cape Canaveral shouldn’t be an impediment to increased joint use of the Cape, particularly when the DoD missions are themselves procured and managed as commercial launches. An ideal solution would be for the state of Florida to collaborate with the Air Force and NASA to fund, develop and deploy much-needed improvements rather than build yet another launch complex at Shiloh.

Refocusing the state investment would have a greater and more immediate economic enhancement factor by giving current and potential commercial customers confidence the Cape will have the capacity to meet their launch requirements, thus leading to more private investment and redevelopment of the underutilized infrastructure that already exists. 

We should resist the temptation to consider the Cape a historical site surrounding a few national security and NASA launch complexes. The nation has a significant investment in the Cape, and with a renewed commitment to collaboration, the Air Force, NASA and the state of Florida can make the Cape an attractive site for frequent space launch operations once again. Click here. (9/15)

Project Aims to Send Applicants to Space (Source: SEG)
Spaceship Earth Grants is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible. We know that aspects of spaceflight can cause a profound shift in perspective that positively influences the way people behave and impact the world. Alongside, our grants are intended to facilitate that positive impact in the world. Spaceship Earth Grants will award grants to individuals and organizations.

The Spaceship Earth Grant project (SEG) offers individual applicants a chance to travel to space themselves and supports organizations making a positive impact on planet Earth. SEG is brought to you by the team at Star Harbor Space Training Academy. Click here. (9/15)

GPS Tracking Planned for Atlas Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Global Positioning System satellites help us figure out where we are during hikes, bikes, drives and boat rides. The same technology now also is tracking the flights of space-bound rockets, including a United Launch Alliance Atlas V set to lift off at 5:44 p.m. Tuesday with a secret U.S. government satellite, to ensure they stay on course. The 19-story rocket will be the first Atlas V to use GPS signals as a primary source of information that enables the Air Force to confirm the rocket is flying where it should — southeast over the Atlantic — and not endangering the public.

Two previous Atlas V missions tested the system, but Tuesday's is the first flying without a beacon on the rocket to communicate with ground radars that until now were required for launches to proceed. That became a problem earlier this year when fire damaged a local radar station, forcing the Eastern Range to shut down for about two weeks while a replacement radar was brought online to support another Atlas V launch.

"The nice thing about the GPS metric tracking system is that we're no longer reliant on the radars," said Rice, a 39-year-old Merritt Island resident. "It increases our launch availability." The GPS data supplements telemetry generated by the rocket's flight computers, providing range safety officers with the two independent sources they need to ensure public safety. (9/15)

NASA Inspector Blasts Asteroid Protection Program (Source: ABC)
NASA's effort to identify potentially dangerous space rocks has taken a hit. On Monday, the space agency's inspector general released a report blasting NASA's Near Earth Objects program, which is meant to hunt and catalog comets, asteroids and relatively large fragments of these objects that pass within 28 million miles of Earth. The purpose is to protect the planet against their potential dangers.

Most near-Earth objects harmlessly disintegrate before reaching Earth's surface. But there are exceptions, like the nearly 60-foot meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013, causing considerable damage. In a 44-page report, Inspector General Paul Martin said the Near Earth Objects program needs to be better organized and managed, with a bigger staff. NASA's science mission chief, former astronaut John Grunsfeld, agreed and promised the problems will be fixed. (9/15)

A Closer Look at the Shuttle That Never Flew (Source: Ars Technica)
The space shuttle Enterprise has been ensconced aboard the USS Intrepid for just over two years. It sits in a silent warehouse, dramatically lit so it appears to be cruising in a dark vacuum. Tourists can wander around or under it at the exhibit; they can even walk up some stairs and get nose-to-nose with the Enterprise, staring down its long axis through a thick layer of glass. While the whole thing evokes space exploration, the Enterprise has never actually made it out of Earth's atmosphere. Click here. (9/15)

ATK Making Progress on SRB Propellant Void Issue (Source:
In the late fall of 2012, as ATK was preparing for the first Qualification Motor (QM-1) test of the new 5-segment variant of the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters, intended for use on the new Space Launch System, small voids between the propellant and the motor casing of the aft segment were discovered during standard x-ray inspections to evaluate an insulation lining material change in the SRB motor segments.

A year later, ATK is making firm progress in their investigation and the mitigating factors toward correcting the issue ahead of the Qualification Motor -1 (QM-1) firing. Solid rocket motor designs utilize a specialized rubber insulation between the external case and the propellant. The bond between the propellant and insulation, which provides thermal protection for the case, is a critical design feature that undergoes rigorous x-ray inspection to assure its acceptability for flight. Click here. (9/15)

Update on Antares AJ-26 Engine Failure (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Rocketdyne's Mike McDaniel was reluctant to classify the May 22 Antares AJ-26 engine failure at Stennis as an “explosion,” but did confirm that the engine “disintegrated” in “one frame” of the video (as yet unreleased) taken of the test and that there was damage to the E-1 Test Stand itself. Based upon McDaniel’s statements, it appears that the damage to the Test Stand was not “structural,” at least not significantly, and consisted, primarily, of damages to conduits, piping and wiring.

McDaniel went on to indicate that the required repairs to the E-1 Stand are currently underway and that they are scheduled to be completed by October. When asked if the failure was due to a “fifty-year-old problem,” as opposed to a problem which resulted from “Rocketdyne modifications” to the engine, McDaniel responded in the affirmative. The AJ-26 is actually an NK-33 engine manufactured nearly fifty years ago by the former Soviet Union. Rocketdyne imports, refurbishes and upgrades the engines for use by Orbital.

Rocketdyne purchased over forty of the NK-33 engines in the 1990′s and Orbital has purchased 20 of them for use on Antares. Rocketdyne has upgraded the engines by adding, among other items, electronics and a gimbaling / steering capability systems. The AJ-26 experienced one prior failure, in June of 2011, when an engine caught fire in the same E-1 Test Stand. The 2011 failure was determined to have been caused by a fuel leak resulting from “stress corrosion cracking of the 40-year old metal” contained in the engine. (9/15)

Martian Meteorite Yields More Evidence of Possibility of Life on Mars (Source: U. of Manchester)
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a ‘cell-like’ structure, which investigators now know once held water, came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece.

While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Dr Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical University of Athens found an unusual feature embedded deep within the rock. “In many ways it resembled a fossilised biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars. Our research found that it probably wasn’t a cell but that it did once hold water - water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact.”

“We have been able to show the setting is there to provide life. It’s not too cold, it’s not too harsh.  Life as we know it, in the form of bacteria, for example, could be there, although we haven’t found it yet.  It’s about piecing together the case for life on Mars – it may have existed and in some form could exist still.” (9/15)

Hispasat Secures Canadian Export Credit Backing for U.S.-Built Satellite (Source: Space News)
Canadian export-credit agency, Export Development Canada, has approved 123 million euros ($160 million) in financial support to Spanish satellite fleet operator Hispasat to build the Hispasat 1F satellite, whose construction will occur mainly at Space Systems/Loral in California. The agreement illustrates the suppleness of the export-credit markets, which have long entered into deals such as the use of the Belgian export-credit agency to finance a launch aboard Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket even though Belgian industry’s role in the rocket is not substantial. (9/15)

Editorial: Space Solar Power: The Missing Link (Source: Space News)
Recent articles have identified the growing promise of space solar power engendered by advancing technology and new approaches to the century-old concept. True, the recent and ongoing studies undertaken by Japan, China, the European Space Agency, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and especially space solar power guru John Mankins do indeed reflect a growing optimism that the delivery of boundless energy from space-based solar power plants may someday come to pass.

There are, however, two missing elements that continue to postpone the realization of such hopes. One has been evident right from the beginning, and does indeed pervade every study conducted to date: the lack of affordable transportation to put large quantities of hardware into Earth orbit. The other missing element in space solar power development is probably the more important one: the lack of investment by deep-pocketed commercial entities seeking to market space solar power products or services. Click here. (9/15)

US Military's Meteor Explosion Data Can Help Scientists Protect Earth (Source:
The U.S. Air Force and NASA have ironed out problems that prevented scientists from obtaining a steady stream of military tracking data on meteor explosions within Earth's atmosphere. Meteor detonations within Earth's atmosphere can be seen by U.S. military sensors on secretive spacecraft. Using this government data, in early 2013, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) launched a new website to share the details of meteor explosion events.

But earlier this year, the site became stagnant, with no new updates. Due to budget cuts and personnel reductions, NASA's military partner was no longer able to carry out the work. However, documents are now in place to ensure that the site is updated with a constant stream of data on meteor explosions, which are also known as bolides. In January 2013, the Air Force Space Command's Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations directorate formalized an agreement with NASA's Science Mission directorate. Click here. (9/15)

Lady Gaga Wants David Bowie on Suborbital Flight (Source: Irish Mirror)
Lady Gaga plans to take her out-of-this-world style to new heights by duetting with David Bowie... in space. The pop queen has been booked to sing on a Virgin Galactic flight in 2015 which will take well-heeled high fliers to the edge of space and back. The Born this Way star, 27, is now after a live-link with reclusive Starman rocker Bowie. “Organisers will have a fortune to throw at him. But getting him to say yes might be another matter.” (9/15)

Big Safety Tests Loom for SpaceX's Manned Dragon Space Capsule (Source:
SpaceX has already met most of the milestones laid out in the most recent round of NASA funding, which is known as CCiCap (Commercial Crew Integrated Capability), and plans to have all the boxes ticked by January. "Pretty soon we'll be left with only the two big-ticket items, if you will, of the whole CCiCap program, which are the abort tests," former astronaut Garrett Reisman, head of SpaceX's commercial crew program, said late last month during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations working group.

"We have a pad abort test planned, and an in-flight abort test planned," Reisman added during the Aug. 27 talk. "The pad abort test is on track for November of this year, and the in-flight abort test is currently scheduled for January." (9/15)

Boeing Takes Lead to Build Space Taxi (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Boeing appears positioned to beat out two smaller rivals for the bulk of a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, according to government and aerospace-industry officials. An award to Boeing would represent a victory over the newer SpaceX, which had been considered a favorite in many quarters because of its lower costs and nimbler approach. (9/15)

Planets With Oddball Orbits (Like Mercury) Could Host Life (Source: Astrobiology)
Mercury has an oddball orbit — it takes longer for it to rotate on its axis and complete a day than it takes to orbit the sun and complete a year. Now, researchers suggest photosynthesis could take place on an alien planet with a similarly bizarre orbit, potentially helping support complex life. However, the scientists noted that the threat of prolonged periods of darkness and cold on these planets would present significant challenges to life, and could even potentially freeze their atmospheres. (9/15)

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