September 23, 2014

Hawaii Plans Lunar Conference Nov. 9-13 (Source: DBEDT)
The State of Hawaii will be hosting a multinational conference on the Big Island of Hawaii this fall to explore options for developing sustainable pathways to space, with an emphasis on leveraging our Moon’s strategic assets (e.g., near-Earth location, diverse regolith, orbital periodicity, gravitational field) in ways that can minimize the risks of space exploration/development/utilization while maximizing returns on investment.

The primary goal will be to characterize and detail cost-effective strategies that can accelerate the maturation of revolutionary technologies to both extend humanity’s reach through the solar system (to asteroids, Mars and its moons, and beyond) and enhance the qualities of life on our home planet. Click here. (9/23)

Space Station Crew Captures Dragon Cargo Capsule (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station successfully carried out a successful robot arm capture of the latest SpaceX Dragon re-supply capsule as it rendezvoused with the orbiting science laboratory early Tuesday. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst made the grapple with the station's 58 foot long Canadian robot arm at 6:52 a.m., EDT, while he was positioned at a control console in the Cupola observation deck. NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman was at his side to assist. (9/23)

Virgin Galactic Finds Patience Wearing Thin (Source: Parabolic Arc)
One customer, who had paid a deposit of $150,000, said: “I think it will fly, but I am not sure whether it will get me into space as I was promised. If they don’t get above 60 miles I will certainly be withdrawing my money. I don’t think you can be considered an astronaut unless you cross that [Karman] line.” The Karman line is actually at 62.1 miles (100 km). Virgin Galactic had long advertised SpaceShipTwo as being capable of reaching that altitude and above in its marketing materials. However, Virgin’s contract with ticket holders only stipulates a minimum altitude of 50 miles (80.4 km).

Virgin Galactic officials now say they are aiming to reach 50 miles, with the Karman line as an aspiration. Sources have told Parabolic Arc that the lower altitude is a result of performance issues with the hybrid engine and modifications that have added weight to SpaceShipTwo. Despite the lower altitude, the company claims passengers will still become astronauts because the 50-mile limit is the standard the U.S. used to award astronaut wings to pilots who flew the X-15 rocpket plane in the 1960's.

That position seemed clear enough until Branson muddied the waters by appearing to contradict his own employees in an interview published on Saturday. Branson cracks a joke, flashes his trademark grin and says it would be “pretty foolish” if, as some sceptics attest, his spaceship won’t get high enough to breach the Karman Line between the Earth’s atmosphere and true space. (9/23)

Melbourne Air & Space Show Hosts First Aviation & Aerospace Career Day (Source: NASSF)
The National Air, Sea & Space Foundation, organizers of the 2014 Melbourne Air & Space Show, will host its inaugural Aerospace & Aviation Career Day on Oct. 3 at the Melbourne International Airport. This science, technology, engineering and math-based (STEM) initiative will take place just prior to the Melbourne Air & Space Show, which will be held Oct. 4-5. The show is sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Corp.
The Aerospace & Aviation Career Day, held in cooperation with the Brevard Schools Office of Career and Technical Education and the Melbourne Regional Chamber of Commerce, will provide approximately 250 students with a behind-the-scenes look at the show, general assembly discussions, aircraft tours and more. For more information about the 2014 Melbourne Air & Space Show and the Aerospace & Aviation Career Day, please visit (9/23)

Russia Faces Years of Stagnation (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia faces years of stagnation because of the Ukraine crisis and is ducking decisions needed to achieve a new economic model, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said Monday. Kudrin, a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is one of the weightiest figures questioning government policy at a time when Russia is feeling the economic chill from confontation with the West over Ukraine.

A leading 'liberal', he shepherded Russia's finances for over a decade before resigning in 2011 in a row over rising government spending. "There will be stagnation, like now. There could be recession. We will be balancing on the edge of recession all the time," he said, adding there would need to be a "renewal" of the government to achieve change. Even if Western sanctions were not intensified further, he said, economic growth would be 1 percent lower than it would have been for at least three years. (9/22)

CSS-Dynamac's New Science Concierge Service Prepares SyNRGE3 Experiment for ISS (Source: CSS-Dynamac)
CSS-Dynamac, the forerunner for providing science processing services to commercial space flight payloads, is pleased to announce that pre-flight preparations are complete for Drs. Michael Roberts and Gary Stutte, and the research is onboard the SpaceX-4 Dragon headed to the International Space Station (ISS). Click here. (9/23)

Ex-Tesla and NASA Engineers Make a Light Bulb That’s Smarter Than You (Source: WIRED)
Sometime in early 2013, one of the supply chain engineers at Tesla leaned back in his chair and took a look around the Silicon Valley office. “It was a sunny day, and I looked up and I thought, ‘Why are these lights on with full power, when full sunlight is coming through the window?’” says Neil Joseph. An online search for a better, responsive bulb only yielded a few expensive commercial products.

That October, Joseph (who says even as a kid, his two fascinations were lights and cars) left Tesla to start his own lighting company. Embedded in his new light’s light diodes are sensors for motion, occupancy, and ambient light. This meant cofounder Jovi Gacusan, who worked on sensors at NASA, had to create a new core technology, because in order to work efficiently Alba has to both read and react to available light. (9/23)

Grey Goose Partners with Virgin Galactic (Source: Grey Goose)
Grey Goose vodka announced an official partnership with Virgin Galactic. Formed from a shared philosophy that extraordinary achievement comes from acting on your beliefs, the partnership was revealed by Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, Global Category Director Premium White Spirits Ben Farlow and GREY GOOSE creator and Maître de Chai François Thibault, at the Rose Space Center and Planetarium in New York. (9/23)

NASA Using 3D Printing to Design Mars Spacesuit (Source: Tech Republic)
One of the most recognizable tech wearables, the spacesuit, is being redesigned and 3D printing is helping the development process. Amy Ross, NASA's leading designer for the Z-series spacesuits, provided details of the Z-2 spacesuit, the follow-up to the earlier Z-1 spacesuit that she also designed. 3D scanning and printing is a significant step in the development of the Z-2. A sub-contractor was used for the 3D work. "We used Solid Concepts in Austin Texas. The process used was Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) with Glass filled Nylon 12," Ross said. (9/18)

Canada's North Bay Poised for S3, More Space Industry Announcements (Source: Bay Today)
“People should get ready for some good news announcements from Swiss Space Systems in the passenger field that will further create jobs...I’m really excited” MP Jay Aspin says. “There is a commitment to launch and promote passenger services.” However, the MP was coy on further details, deferring the announcement to S3.

North Bay effectively entered the space sector when the company announced on June 26th that it would test and launch sub-orbital satellites in the development phase of a reusable suborbital shuttle. At the time, Aspin announced funding for a partnership between Canadore Aviation and Swiss Space Systems (S3) as part of a $10 million project that will see  the development of a composite materials facility followed by the launch of private sector sub-orbital satellites from the region. (9/15)

Commercial Crew = Big Opportunity for World’s Only Commercial Space Ops Degree Seekers (Source: ERAU)
As Boeing and SpaceX work with NASA to bring manned space flights back to the Space Coast, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students are set to fill the need for uniquely qualified graduates. Launched only a year ago, the CSO program at the university’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus is the only degree program of its kind in the world. Created in response and in coordination with organizations’ and companies’ specific needs in the emerging industry, the CSO’s enrollment has tripled since its 2013 inception. (9/22)

Space Club Plans "Celebrate Space" Event at Atlantis Exhibit on Oct. 18 (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club (NSC) of Florida will hold their annual Celebrate Space Event at the KSC Visitor Complex beneath the Shuttle Atlantis on Oct. 18. The event begins with a reception at 6:30 pm and the buffet dinner follows at 7:30 pm; dancing and the Atlantis Exhibits will continue The theme of the Celebrate Space Event is 1980’s recalling the early Space Shuttle program years. Click here. (9/23)

NASA: Spinning Off Since 1962 (Source: Great Business Schools)
Studies estimate that for every $1 the U.S. government spends on NASA, the economy is boosted by $7-$14. That means that with NASA’s current budget of $17.6 billion, the U.S. economy will get an injection of anywhere from $123.2 billion to $246.4 billion. Click here. (9/23)

Young Egyptian Scientists Win ISS Biomedical Research Project (Source: TUM)
Two Egyptian researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) have won the “International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition” in the US with their project Egypt Against Hepatitis C Virus (EGAHEP). As their prize, the two scientists will see the ISS crew perform experiments for the project on the space station free of charge. The project, launched to the ISS last week, involves crystallizing two proteins of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) under microgravity conditions.

The ISS Research Competition is organized by Space Florida – the state´s aerospace development organization of Florida – in conjunction with the company NanoRacks LLC. The TUM team submitted their project to the judges in 2012. Just eight projects were chosen to be sent to the ISS from over 600 submissions. EGAHEP was the only project to be chosen from outside the US and will be the first experiment involving Egyptian scientists to be conducted on the ISS. (9/21)

DOD Procurement Change Sharpens the Focus on R&D (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon is reshaping the way it buys goods and services with a key aim: to get better technology, faster. That's the message that Defense Department procurement chief Frank Kendall is taking to industry, and it's coupled with a new focus on making sure the military is investing wisely in research and development.

The new buying initiative is "motivated in part by my continuing concern with technological superiority and the fact that our capabilities in the world are being contested by others -- people developing, modernizing, and building systems that threaten our superiority," said Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. (9/19)

American Airlines Saves Fuel with NASA Weather Software (Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
American Airlines is using software developed by NASA to use the most efficient flight paths available to avoid severe weather. The carrier is testing the software, called Dynamic Weather Routes, and says the program has saved it 3,500 flying minutes on 500 flights. (9/19)

U.N. will Study Protection of Commercial Space Vehicles (Source: Reuters)
The safety of commercial space taxis soon will get the scrutiny of the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization's governing council. And some expect the body to lead on a policy governing space debris cleanup and similar issues. "People have just begun to think about it, but how it is to be instituted is not clear yet," said Prashant Sukul, India's representative on ICAO's governing council. "If it's not ICAO, then who is it going to be?" (9/19)

Space Coast Slowly Regaining Lost Space Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Space Coast's post-shuttle economy appears to be on its way to recovery, buoyed most recently by NASA's big "space taxi" contract award last week. Winners of the multibillion-dollar deal plan to add hundreds of Space Coast jobs. Other big expansions are already underway in Brevard County by Northrop Grumman, Embraer and other tech companies.

But even if you tally up all the new jobs expected when those expansions are complete, Brevard County will be far short of its peak employment before the Great Recession of six years ago and the shuttle program loss in 2011. The latest figures indicate Brevard still has 20,000 fewer jobs than it had in 2006, said Michael Slotkin, an economist at Florida Tech. That's despite the county's recent gains: In July, for example, Brevard gained 1,200 jobs over the previous year as unemployment fell to 6.6 percent from 8 percent in July 2013.

Clearly, Boeing's expansion at the Cape (550 to 600 new jobs planned) and, to a lesser extent, SpaceX (its job plans haven't been disclosed) will help sustain the recovery, he said. The same goes for Northrop and Embraer, which could add up to 2,800 jobs and 1,200 jobs, respectively, over the next five years. But it will take a long time for the Space Coast to fill the crater left by the loss of the shuttle program and the Great Recession. The end of the shuttle alone resulted in 7,000 to 10,000 lost jobs, according to economic-development estimates. (9/21)

ULA Use Of Blue Origin Rocket Engines Would Mean Big Changes (Source: Forbes)
The government’s leading provider of launch services announced it would team with a non-traditional space company started by internet entrepreneur Jeff Bezos to develop the next generation of U.S. rocket engines. Nobody saw that coming, even though government-funded ULA and privately-funded Blue Origin had been working together on efforts such as NASA’s capsule program since their inception. 

What stunned many observers was that ULA, with a nearly flawless record of lofting military and intelligence satellites into orbit, would team with a relatively untested startup to replace the Russian RD-180 engines that power its most important launch vehicle. ULA didn’t just pick an unexpected partner for its future engines, it picked an unexpected technology. Like the RD-180, the BE-4 engine Blue Origin has been developing for three years would be an “oxygen-rich, staged-combustion” engine.

The BE-4 would use liquefied natural gas — LNG — as its fuel in combination with liquid oxygen, and that’s something that hasn’t been done before.  Blue Origin says LNG, a commercially available form of methane, would be relatively inexpensive and eliminate the need for complex pressurization systems used in existing engines. using liquefied methane and oxygen in the new engines necessarily entails cryogenic handling.  That means significant changes to the design of the Atlas first stage and ground infrastructure. So while LNG would simplify the challenge of pressurizing tanks, it would complicate other aspects of the launch system. Click here. (9/22)

Air Force Excited but Cautious on New ULA-Blue Origin Partnership (Source: Space News)
Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, told reporters Sept. 17 here that he was excited about the Blue Origin-ULA partnership on a replacement for the RD-180 engine that powers ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, but wondered when the new engine might be ready.

Blue Origin says its planned BE-4 engine has been in development for three years and builds upon the company’s smaller BE-3, which has racked up more than 10,000 seconds of firing time on the test stand. Bezos and Bruno said the BE-4 is fully funded and will be ready to fly in four years. “I’m excited to have more U.S. competition in the business,” Hyten said. “I look forward to getting into the details and finding out more about what it really is. I’m a big fan of methane technology. I’m a big fan of hydrocarbon technology. (9/22)

Editorial: Actions Speak Louder than Words (Source: Space News)
U.S. government officials are correct to dismiss the latest space weapons ban proposed by China and Russia as unacceptable, particularly in light of the fact that China, U.S. officials say, continues to test anti-satellite weaponry. The updated “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects” is, like previous versions, all but impossible to verify, primarily because any maneuverable satellite could double as an anti-satellite weapon.

The same goes for long-range ground-based missiles, which aren’t even addressed in the proposed treaty and which, according to U.S. government officials, pose the greatest threat today to satellites in Earth orbit. Moreover, the proposed treaty puts no restrictions on the development and stockpiling of space-based weaponry, meaning a signatory could position itself to rapidly deploy such capabilities and simply withdraw from the pact.

Russia and China  continue to propose the treaty, perhaps for no other reason than to put the United States in the position of having to reject it. Because of the military advantages that superior satellite capabilities provide, the United States has the most to lose should Earth orbit become a combat zone. But China has rapidly built up its own space capabilities over the last decade or so, meaning it now has a major, and growing, stake in keeping space free from weapons and warfare. (9/22)

Political Mechanics (Source: Space News)
As recently as the last turn of the century, any space program that didn’t have a link to the U.S. was no space program at all. But in Beijing, at the 64th International Astronautical Congress last year, America’s absence due to the budget crisis did little to dull the hum of deals being brokered. One participant suggested it was “what a post-American space regime would look like,” with the United Arab Emirates and South Korea cooperating on space ventures and giving many other aspiring space actors a chance to stand out. The flip side was criticism of the United States’ ability to execute a comprehensive and effective foreign policy.

America’s international affairs aren’t doing so well. The nation’s increasing distaste (from both necessity and circumstance) for foreign involvement provides others with opportunities to advance. This decade will see the continued rise of powerful regional actors, and in large part its history will be determined not by others’ advanced planning but by our inability to act, or react. Click here. (9/22)

To Explore or Pioneer? (Source: Space News)
On May 29, NASA released a white paper titled “Pioneering Space: NASA’s Next Steps on the Path to Mars.” The paper’s first page makes an important distinction: “Explorers go with the intent of returning to tell their story and point the way for future forays. Pioneers go with the intent to establish a permanent presence.” This student of history and interplanetary human spaceflight architecture suggests NASA can go farther from Earth and achieve more in space by exploring rather than pioneering.

To maximize human space exploration entails a strategy devoting more effort to interplanetary human transport (including cargo logistics with supporting infrastructure) and less to operating on planetary surfaces. Surface operations, particularly those requiring specialized elements for access and habitation on major bodies like the Moon and Mars, are best left to commercial partners.

Now imagine NASA is unshackled from the martian surface as its horizon goal and freed to explore Mars from its moons and explore asteroids as far from Earth as possible. Although these small bodies constitute a diverse and prolific breed of potential destinations, they all pose nearly identical environments for approach, “landing” and habitation because their gravity fields and atmospheres are virtually nonexistent. Interplanetary transport technology required to reach the vicinity of Mars is therefore easily adapted and scaled to access myriad small bodies near and far from Earth. Click here. (9/22)

Military Efforts Help Drive Proposed Spending Boost in Japan (Source: Space News)
Japan’s Cabinet is asking the nation’s finance ministry for a 19.4 percent increase, to 327 billion yen ($3.05 billion), in space spending for the upcoming fiscal year to support projects that include a laser-optical data-relay satellite and a civilian Earth-observing satellite carrying a missile warning sensor as a hosted payload. The request, which encompasses the space activity of 11 government ministries, also includes 13.7 billion yen to complete a seven-satellite Quasi Zenith regional navigation system and 13 billion yen for the next-generation H-3 launcher, scheduled for a 2020 debut, according to budget documents. (9/22)

SpaceX Breaks Ground in Texas, But Major Construction Waits Until Latter Half of 2015 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 22 for its new Texas commercial launch site, but the company’s chief executive said work to build the facility will not ramp up until the second half of 2015. SpaceX held the groundbreaking, attended by local officials and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on the site of the planned spaceport at Boca Chica Beach on the Gulf of Mexico east of here. The site is planned to host launches of the company’s Falcon 9 and future Falcon Heavy rockets, primarily carrying commercial satellites to geostationary orbit.

“We thank you for having the vision to see that this is where you needed to be,” Perry said to SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk at the event. “The future of South Texas takes off right behind us.” In his August announcement, Perry said the state government would be providing $15 million to support construction of the spaceport. However, SpaceX will be providing the bulk of the money needed to build the launch facility. “We expect to spend on the order of about $100 million” during the next three to four years to build the site, Musk said. (9/22)

NASA Spacecraft Enters Mars Orbit (Source: Space News)
A NASA spacecraft entered orbit around Mars as planned late Sept. 21, the first of two spacecraft scheduled to arrive at the planet in a three-day period. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft fired its main engine for 34 minutes, slowing the spacecraft down enough to be captured into orbit by the gravity of Mars. Confirmation of the successful burn and orbit insertion came at approximately 10:30 pm EDT Sept. 21. (9/22)

What's Next for MAVEN? (Source: CS Monitor)
Based on initial data coming back from MAVEN, the craft's orbit is very close to the 35-hour orbit that planners had hoped to achieve, with the craft's closest approach to Mars bringing it within about 236 miles of the planet's surface. Beginning in a day or two, controllers will gradually shrink MAVEN's orbit until it takes about 4-1/2 hours and brings the craft within about 93 miles of the surface. This is the orbit that MAVEN needs to reach to fulfill its science goals.

While controllers gradually dial down MAVEN's orbit, the scientist team will test and calibrate the craft's suite of eight instruments. The team will also test communications gear aboard the orbiter that will allow it to act as a radio-relay station between Earth and the rovers Curiosity and Opportunity. (9/22)

More Criticism of Study Detecting Ripples From Big Bang (Source: New York Times)
Stardust got in their eyes. In the spring a group of astronomers who go by the name of Bicep announced that they had detected ripples in the sky, gravitational waves that were the opening notes of the Big Bang. The finding was heralded as potentially the greatest discovery of the admittedly young century.

But some outside astronomers said the group had underestimated the extent to which interstellar dust could have contaminated the results — a possibility that the group conceded in its official report in June. Now a long-awaited report by astronomers using data from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite has confirmed that criticism, concluding that there was enough dust in Bicep’s view of the sky to produce the swirly patterns without recourse to primordial gravitational waves. (9/22)

Space Elevator Advocates Take Lofty Look at Innovative Concepts (Source:
Sure, it's a stretch. Envision a thin, vertical tether extending from the Earth's surface to a mass far out in space. Scooting up the tether are electric vehicles, climbers that are energized by a combination of sunlight and laser light projected from the ground. Here's the kicker: Carrying payloads and people, the climbers travel at speeds comparable to those of a fast train — taking several days of transit time — but are launched once per day. These space elevators have the potential to be a revolutionary way to access space less expensively than possible with chemical rocket technology.
And innovators today are working to make that happen. Last month, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) held its annual meeting here at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, with a theme focused on space elevator architectures and road maps. The meeting featured mini-workshops on global cooperation and marine node designs to anchor the elevator on Earth. Click here. (9/22)

ISS Expected To Take Back Seat to Next-Gen Ariane in Europe (Source: Space News)
The space ministers of France, Germany and Italy are scheduled to meet Sept. 23 in Zurich to assess how far they are from agreement on strategy and funding for Europe’s next-generation Ariane rocket, upgrades to the light-lift Vega vehicle and — as a lower priority — their continued participation in the international space station. France, Germany and Italy account for most European space spending, and they are the three biggest backers of Europe’s launch vehicle and space station programs. (9/22)

Aireon to Offer Satellite Tracking Free to Help Search for Missing Planes (Source: Reuters)
Aireon LLC, a provider of satellite-based aircraft monitoring, said on Monday it will offer its tracking data for free to help authorities search for future missing planes. The system will go live in 2017, when its parent company Iridium Communications Inc finishes installing 66 next-generation satellites plus spares that will provide real-time data to air traffic control centers.

While Aireon's system might not have prevented the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished from radar on March 8 and is presumed to have crashed, killing 239 people, it could have vastly improved the search. Existing technology can track aircraft flying over seas every 10 minutes, while Aireon says its upcoming system will transmit location data twice per second, using what's known as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B. (9/22)

Is Pluto a Planet? Popular (But Unofficial) Vote Says Yes (Source:
Pluto should still be a planet — at least according to a recent and decidedly unofficial popular vote. Pluto was demoted to dwarf-planet status in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved the following definition of "planet:" A celestial body that orbits the sun, is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity and has "cleared its neighborhood" of most other orbiting objects. (Pluto failed on this last count, since it shares the distant Kuiper Belt with many other large, frigid bodies.) (9/22)

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