September 27, 2014

Hawaii Scientists to Live in Dome for 8 Months (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
Six scientists will be isolated in a dome habitat on Hawaii's Big Island for eight months to simulate a trip to Mars. They're part of a human performance study funded by NASA. The crew of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission will be monitored using surveillance cameras, body movement trackers and electronic surveys. It's twice as long as the four-month simulation conducted there last spring.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii will study cognitive, social and emotional factors that could impact the team's performance. The study's principal investigator Kim Binsted says once the door is closed the silence and physical separation will leave the crew members feeling far from home. The mission will begin on Oct. 15. The group will have a female commander for the first time. (9/25)

Firefly Gets $1.2 Million Incentive for Texas Relocation (Source: Firefly Space Systems)
Firefly Space Systems announced today that it will receive up to $1,225,000 in incentives and employment grants from The City of Cedar Park Economic Development Corporation following the rocket company’s recent relocation from Hawthorne, California to its new home in Cedar Park, Texas. Firefly’s expansion plans include building its team in Central Texas to 200 employees with an annual payroll of approximately $12 million by 2019.

The company also plans to invest approximately $7.5 million in property, plant and equipment over the duration of the 10-year agreement with Cedar Park. Current negotiations for an undisclosed 20,000-square-foot office location for Firefly are also nearing finalization.

“Two hundred jobs is a very significant project for us. These jobs average out—and the company has committed—to $60,000 per job. That’s above the county median wage, and that is the number we typically focus on to determine if the jobs high-paying” noted Mr. Larry Holt, Cedar Park Assistant Economic Development Director. (9/26)

Will US Have to Look For an All-American Alternative to Russian Rockets? (Source: Flight Global)
ULA has teamed up with Blue Origin, a sort of nascent SpaceX run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and ATK has thrown its hat in the ring. It’s hard to imagine we won’t also hear from Aerojet Rocketdyne. This is where the SpaceX view of the world threatens to collide with reality.

Its rivals are all legacy suppliers working with technologies, government funding models and cost structures left over from the Cold War space race – but that doesn’t mean they are flat-footed. SpaceX may be quick and nimble, but its rocket technology is ordinary; its great advantage has been the fact that it started from a clean sheet. Now, war in Ukraine has reshuffled the deck so everybody can work from a clean sheet. Significantly in this business, size matters; SpaceX is up against giants and its advantages are no longer obvious. (9/26)

NASA Requests Proposals for Follow-on ISS Cargo Contract (Source: Space News)
NASA has released a request for proposals (RFP) for a second round of contracts to transport cargo to and from the international space station, with both current providers and new entrants expected to compete. NASA plans to award one or more Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)2 contracts as a successor to its existing CRS contracts with Orbital Sciences Corp. and SpaceX. Like the existing CRS contracts, CRS2 awards will cover the transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, and the disposal or return to Earth of cargo from the station.

The CRS2 contracts will cover ISS cargo transportation through 2020, with options through 2024. The solicitation requests companies provide pricing information for between one and five missions per year for 2018 through 2024. Each CRS2 contract will cover a minimum of six missions, according to the RFP.  On NASA’s current CRS manifest, both companies are scheduled to fly their final CRS missions by late 2016, although NASA has options for additional missions to 2018.

While Orbital and SpaceX are expected to submit CRS2 proposals, they will likely face competition from other companies. Sierra Nevada Corp. said Sept. 24 that they planned to submit a CRS2 proposal involving their Dream Chaser vehicle after failing to win a commercial crew contract. Boeing, who won a commercial crew contract along with SpaceX Sept. 16, has previously expressed interest in bidding on commercial cargo contracts with its CST-100 spacecraft. (9/26)

SpaceX Bringing the Right Stuff to Patent Slog with Blue Origin (Source: Space News)
One patent attorney said a recently approved Blue Origin patent for landing rockets on water-going barges stands a good chance of being overturned, thanks to a review initiated by SpaceX — the company closest to actually using the technique Blue Origin wants to protect. Examiners approved U.S. Patent 8678321, “Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods,” on March 25, giving Blue Origin the rights to an invention that SpaceX claims is “old hat” in the rocket-engineering world.

“The patent granted is, in my opinion and in SpaceX’s counsel’s opinion, invalid,” said Andrew Rush, a Jacksonville, Florida-based patent attorney who blogs about space-related intellectual property matters at and helped Mojave, California-based Masten Space Systems implement an intellectual property development program during a 2011 internship. “The applications Blue Origin filed were pretty aggressive and pretty broad and written, SpaceX alleges, without a high degree of knowledge and sophistication about the space industry.”

Key for SpaceX, Rush said, is the provision of U.S. patent law that says the mere description of an invention in the public sphere is enough to block another would-be inventor from patenting it. In other words, Blue Origin’s patent “treads on technology that existed way before Blue Origin filed for the patent application,” and should therefore be struck down. (9/26)

Satellite Fleet Operators Lobby to Keep ADS-B Flight Tracking Off Agenda (Source: Space News)
A group including several of the world’s largest commercial satellite fleet operators is proposing that global regulators not extend current radio spectrum allocations for air-to-ground communications links to satellite services. The European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) says “there is no urgent need for action. ... Related to global flight tracking,” and proposes that regulators turn aside efforts to formally adopt a resolution recognizing the satellite link, known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B.

The issue is whether to extend the regulatory protection of broadcasts in the 1090-megahertz frequency, which covers air-to-ground communications, to cover satellite-to-aircraft links. The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines’ Flight 370 in March has given an added motivation to the effort.

Several industry officials said they suspected that Inmarsat of London, whose satellite fleet is offering ADS-B as part of a package of services, wants to avoid any regulatory action that might help competitors get into the business. Iridium Communications of McLean, Virginia, is offering a free ADS-B service on its second-generation satellites, to be in service in late 2017, through Aireon LLC, a joint venture of Iridium and Canadian and European air-navigation authorities. (9/26)

Inmarsat’s Growth Plan Hinges on Emerging Markets (Source: Space News)
Inmarsat told investors that while its U.S. government business is going through a difficult period, sales to other governments and militaries worldwide are likely to grow at double-digit rates for the next decade. The company said its current revenue from military and government customers outside the U.S. is about $126 million a year from 100 nations. But 80 percent of it is from just six nations, mainly advanced economies whose defense and civil-security spending is not growing quickly. (9/26)

NASA Contract Gives Big Boost to Boeing in Houston (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Following the announcement that NASA would award Boeing $4.2 billion to transport crews to the International Space Station, the Houston offices of the aerospace company are gearing up to handle the new job. While the manufacturing Boeing's crew transport pod, the CST-100, will take place at its facility in Florida, the software development and training of the astronauts will happen here in Houston. Boeing is expected to hire an initial 100 high-tech employees to expand its space transportation development in Houston. (9/25)

Is This the Best Time for Space Exploration Since the Moon Landing? (Source: CCTV)
Question for science educator Bill Nye: Is this the best time for space exploration since the U.S. landed on the moon? Bill Nye: “Ah yeah, probably. Keep in mind that space exploration brings out the best in us, space exploration is where we challenge ourselves, and by ourselves, I mean all of humankind…" Click here. (9/26)

Military Suborbital Launch Planned at Virginia Spaceport on Oct. 1 (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
NASA will launch a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility for the Department of Defense on Oct. 1. The launch of the Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket is expected between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m., a NASA news release says. The backup date is midnight to 2 a.m. on Oct. 12. (9/25)

Wallops' Island NASA Facility Generating Housing Boom (Source: DelMarVa Now)
There has been an uptick in the housing market. On Delmarva, the continued growth at Wallops’ Island NASA facility has generated a housing boom, with the addition of over one-thousand new jobs. Dale King, a realtor, said the expansion at the flight facility has clearly been a boon to their business. (9/25)

To Find Alien Life, Expect the Unexpected (Source: Air & Space)
Last week experts from a variety of fields answered a call from Steven Dick, the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress, to meet for two days and discuss the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life and the impact such a discovery would have on society.

There was plenty to talk and think about at the meeting, and it’s not too soon to start the discussion. Some SETI researchers expect to detect intelligent signals within the next 25 years, given the current progress in technology. Who knows, perhaps we’re receiving the signals already, and just don’t see them or know how to interpret them! Click here. (9/25)

Sierra Nevada Challenges Awards to Boeing, SpaceX (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores.

In its 51 year history SNC has never filed a legal challenge to a government contract award. However, in the case of the CCtCap award, NASA’s own Source Selection Statement and debrief indicate that there are serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process. SNC, therefore, feels that there is no alternative but to institute a legal challenge.

The company believes that, in this time of critical budget limits, it is more important than ever to deliver the best value to the American public. With the current awards, the U.S. government would spend up to $900 million more at the publicly announced contracted level for a space program equivalent to the program that SNC proposed. Given those facts, we believe that a thorough review must be conducted of the award decision. (9/26)

ESA Sets Date for Comet Landing (Source: ABC)
The European Space Agency says it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet on Nov. 12. It says the maneuver will take about seven hours starting from the moment its unmanned probe Rosetta releases the 100-kilogram lander at 3:35 a.m. EST. there will be a 28 minute lag for the signal to travel back to Earth. (9/26)

Ostapenko: US Seeks More Space Cooperation with Russia (Source: Itar-Tass)
NASA is ready to increase the number of joint space experiments with Russia, head of Russia’s National Space Agency Roskosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, said on Friday. “Today our American colleagues have offered to widen cooperation regarding the joint experiments in space”, he said, adding that most of the experiments on the International Space Station /ISS/ during the forthcoming year will be conducted with close participation of Russian and American space crews.

Early April, 2014 NASA announced suspending space cooperation with Russia, except for ISS projects, due to the political crisis in Ukraine; however, by the end of the month NASA’s head personally assured his Russian counterpart that no space projects would be suspended and Russia-US space ties remain strong enough. (9/26)

Flat Space Budgets Make Cooperation Tricky (Source: Aviation Week)
 Today the former superpowers maintain a sometimes uneasy joint operation in orbit on the International Space Station (ISS). While the vestiges of a space race remain in the form of export controls on dual-use space hardware—in the U.S. primarily aimed at China for now—the inability of would-be partners to keep their financial commitments is becoming at least as big a problem in setting up space-cooperation deals.

In a sense, that is nothing new. When the ISS was in development, Japanese human-spaceflight officials joked that they started out with the smallest pressurized module on the drawing board and wound up with the largest because the others kept shrinking while Kibo remained the same size. But tight budgets forced by competing priorities have made unpleasant surprises more common. (9/26)

DARPA, Industry Study How To Commercialize Experimental Spaceplane (Source: Space News)
As technical work ramps up on an experimental military spaceplane program, government and industry are studying how to eventually commercialize the vehicle, an effort that includes chartering a study by a space advocacy organization. DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane (XS)-1 program seeks to develop a reusable first stage that, combined with an expendable upper stage, could place payloads of as many as 2,250 kilograms into orbit for less than $5 million per launch.

DARPA awarded Phase One study contracts in July to Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman. “We would like to see this program transitioned to the commercial sector,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA XS-1 program manager, in a presentation at a Sept. 16 meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) systems working group. “We are looking to industry to define a transition path in the future.”

Sponable said he believes there will be significant demand for the XS-1 from both industry and government, given its projected low launch costs and high flight rates. “If we could really introduce this affordable low-cost launch capability, you’re going to see people introduce next-generation broadband systems,” he said, citing one example of a potential XS-1 launch customer. With such demand, he argued that it makes the most sense to have the XS-1 operated by a company, which then sells launch services to NASA, the Defense Department, and commercial customers. (9/26)

Roscosmos: All-Female Space Crew Possible (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia's Federal Space Agency announced on Friday that it is not ruling out that a crew consisting of women could be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in the future. “I hope that women will join the crew, moreover, we are not limiting strictly whether one woman in six months or one in ten years should fly. We make an assessment due to the person’s professionalism and ambition,” Oleg Ostapenko, who heads the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said. (9/26)

First Manned Spaceship to be Launched from Vostochny Atop Angara (Source: Itar-Tass)
The first manned spaceship will be launched from the Vostochny space facility onboard the Angara rocket, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Oleg Ostapenko said on Friday. “This will be the Angara rocket. Everything has been spelled out. We’re working on that basis,” Ostapenko said. Ostapenko said other carrier boosters would be launched from the Vostochny space facility as well. “We don’t rule out that more powerful boosters will be launched,” he said. (9/26)

Designer for Russia's Super-Heavy Booster to be Chosen by Year-End (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos will decide on a leading designer of a super-heavy booster rocket by the end of the year. A competition for the booster rocket has not been held yet, Oleg Ostapenko said. “We’ll hold a conciliatory meeting shortly to decide what [the super-heavy booster] should look like, where the work will be done and who is to lead the way,” he said. Three Russian enterprises - the Progress design bureau, the Energia Rocket and Space Corp., and the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center - are now designing and developing the super-heavy booster, Ostapenko said. (9/26)

No comments: