September 22, 2014

New Jobs, More Companies in the Works at Midland Spaceport (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
It has always been the goal of the Midland Development Corp. since its formation in 2002 to diversify Midland’s job market and economy beyond the dominant oil and gas industry. With the official acquisition of an FAA-issued spaceport license on Wednesday, and the previous efforts made to lure space companies to the Tall City, Midland International Air & Space Port might be MDC and the city’s key to job diversity.

Because the commercial spaceflight industry is still maturing, MDC wanted to be at the forefront of the industry’s growth. Rendall predicts that, just as how local oil expertise and knowledge have been exported throughout the world, expertise gained at the spaceport also will be exported. Rendall also compared the two industries by way of their engineer and technician workforces. “And those skills transfer back and forth very well,” Rendall said.

XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters are the first two tenants of the spaceport. XCOR, the anchor tenant, plans to launch suborbital flights from the spaceport by late 2015, and Orbital Outfitters plans to build spacesuits for XCOR’s vehicles and operate a multi-use altitude chamber complex from the spaceport. MDC incentivized both companies to come to Midland with multi-million dollar agreements -- $10 million for XCOR and $7 million for Orbital Outfitters. Both agreements were made with the intent that both companies will create more jobs for Midland. (9/22)

Virgin Galactic Still Isn't Ready Six Years After Promised Blast-Off (Source: Nigeria Daily News)
The extraordinary array of facilities, called Spaceport America, was built on an 18,000-acre patch of remote ranch-land between 2006 and 2011. No expense was spared. Indeed, it cost local taxpayers, who footed the entire bill, almost a quarter of a billion U.S. dollars. Remarkably, every penny of this huge sum, every brick that was laid, and every tonne of publicly-funded concrete poured into the desert, has been devoted to a singular cause: putting Sir Richard Branson into space.

Back in 2005, the British billionaire convinced New Mexico’s Governor, Bill Richardson, to finance the entire construction of Spaceport America on the basis that it would become the bustling headquarters of his ambitious new space tourism company, Virgin Galactic. The $225 million cost of construction was therefore, Branson argued, less an expense, more a canny investment. Virgin Galactic had committed itself to launching at least 100 space flights a year from Spaceport America from 2010 onwards, they were told.

It would put New Mexico at the epicenter of a great technological leap forward which was, under Sir Richard’s stewardship, about to reshape the global travel and transport industries. Voters in the deprived region were promptly asked (and agreed) to approve special taxes to pay for the project, swayed by promises that the facility would earn their community a lucrative place in the history books. Click here. (9/22)

India Eyes to Beat China in Race to Reach Mars (Source: India TV)
China has beaten India in space in almost every aspect but when it comes to explore the plant Mars, India sees the Mangalyaan, its first Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), as an opportunity to beat its regional rival China in reaching the Red Plant. Past records say that probes to the Red Planet have a high failure rate. And if the Rs 450 crore mission turns out to be a success, India will be the first Asian nation to have reached Mars in the first shot itself and ISRO will be the fourth space agency in the world after the United States, Russia and Europe to have undertake a successful Mars mission.

In November 2011, a Russian mission carrying the Chinese satellite, Yinghuo-1, to Mars failed. Japan also failed in a similar effort in 1998. On Monday, ISRO will perform the crucial fourth trajectory correction manoeuvre and test fire of the main liquid engine on the spacecraft. Mangalyaan is scheduled to leave the solar orbit and enter an orbit around Mars in the early hours of September 24. (9/22)

Commercial Crew and Commercial Engines (Source: Space Review)
Last week, NASA made its long-awaited announcements about the companies that will develop commercial crew transportation systems. Jeff Foust reports that this announcement had to share the spotlight with a surprise commercial partnership that could affect the future of space launch. Visit to view the article. (9/22)

The ASTEROIDS Act and Hearing: Observations on International Obligations (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month, a House Science Committee hearing examined legislation that would grant some types of property rights to space resources. Charles Stotler explores some of the international space law issues associated with that bill. Visit to view the article. (9/22)

In Space No One Can Hear You Sigh (Source: Space Review)
The cover story of the latest issue of "Newsweek" claims to tell newly-revealed stories about the US-USSR Space Race. Dwayne Day notes that these stories aren't that new or properly told. Visit to view the article. (9/22)

Are Solar Power Satellites Sitting Ducks for Orbital Debris? (Source: Space Review)
Proliferation of orbital debris could have adverse effects not just on existing spacecraft but future ones as well. Three authors examine some of the technical and other solutions needed for cleaning up orbital debris that are essential to making applications like space-based solar power possible. Visit to view the article. (9/22)

Editorial: SpaceX Deal Bodes Well for New Mexico (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
New Mexico may have lost out on Tesla’s $5 billion battery plant, but its link to launching Americans into space again from U.S. soil grew stronger with NASA’s selection of Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX, another enterprise of Tesla’s daddy, billionaire Elon Musk, has a contract with New Mexico’s Spaceport America to test its reusable rocket.

For years, the goal has been for NASA to use private companies for space station transportation and to focus on getting astronauts into true outer space. These contract awards are one more big step for mankind toward that goal. And that is good economic news for New Mexico and a big boost to Spaceport America’s place in space travel. (9/22)

Indian Orbiter Enters Mars Influence (Source: Financial Express)
Cruising towards its historic rendezvous with the red planet, India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) today entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence ahead of its scheduled orbit insertion on September 24. After being launched from ISRO's spaceport of Sriharikota on November 5 last year, the MOM had left Earth's orbit on December 1 and began its historic voyage to put India on the list of elite nations, which has sent a mission to Mars.

"MOM has entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence this morning and we will perform certain procedures on the mission today. The fourth trajectory correction manoeuvre and test firing of Main Liquid Engine will be test fired for 3.968 seconds," an ISRO official told PTI. Now that the spacecraft has entered the Mars' influence, its velocity has to be controlled so that it does not escape the Mars' influence, he said, adding, the spacecraft is scheduled to enter the Mars Orbit Insertion at 7.30 AM IST on September 24. (9/22)

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Set to Enter Orbit at Mars (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
On the final stretch of a marathon 442 million-mile voyage, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will perform a make-or-break rocket burn Sunday to slip into orbit around Mars and begin an extensive study of the red planet's atmosphere. The critical engine firing is due to begin at 9:50 p.m. EDT. (9/21)

NMSU Grads to Lead NASA 'Space Taxi' Program (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Two of three team leaders in the recently announced deal that will see Boeing, SpaceX and NASA working together to once again ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station are New Mexico State University graduates and both spent early portions of their careers working at White Sands Missile Range test facility. They are John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of commercial programs for Boeing, and Kathy Lueders, program manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

How did two NMSU graduates end up in leading roles for the new partnership? Was it our proximity to White Sands? Was it our university turning out such talented leaders? Was it our budding space tourism industry? Yes. But those weren't the first response from the project leaders. "It probably has something to do with the green chile," said Mulholland. "New Mexico has always felt like home to me," Lueders added. (9/21)

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