September 30, 2014

China Space Tourism: Galactic Getaway (Source: Space Daily)
The sky's no longer the limit for Chinese tourists. Space is the final frontier for the country's wealthy travelers. Most have already traveled to the ends of the Earth - many, like Beijing banker Tong Jingjing, have visited the poles - and some seek to journey even farther.

About 10 percent, or 32, of the people who've signed up for private space flights offered by the US company XCOR Aerospace are Chinese. "There is new wealth being generated in China with much of it being young wealth, (people) who want to show off and be adventurous," Space Tourism Society founder and president John Spencer says. "This is the same pattern that always happens in growing economies." (9/29)

California Lawmakers Urge Speed on Russian Engine Replacement (Source: Space News)
The U.S. should accelerate development of a replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, a bipartisan group of House members from California says. "We strongly encourage you to recognize that the United States -- and specifically, California -- today produces technology that exceeds any capability offered by Russian systems," said the letter, which was sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. "It is time for the Department to look to these existing U.S. engine manufacturers and launch vehicle providers." (9/28)

Virgin Galactic Wants to Fly You from L.A. to Tokyo in One Hour, Through Space (Source: ZME Science)
After working on the first commercial spaceport and helping NASA fly into orbit, Virgin Galactic wants to revolutionize commercial air flights. Namely, they want to fly people from L.A. to Tokyo in no more than one hour, through space. The shuttle concept would be pretty similar to the company’s SpaceShipTwo.

A large plane lifts the shuttle, raises it a few km above ground level, then “drops it”; the shuttle’s hybrid rocket engine ignites, heading it to space and whatever the destination may be. The system would ensure incredibly low durations for the flights – L.A. to Tokyo in 1 hour, and the U.K. to Australia in 2 hours. Virgin Galactic’s CEO, George Whitesides declared:

“You can imagine a SpaceShipThree or a SpaceShipFour going outside the atmosphere, then coming back down outside an urban area and landing,” Whitesides said. “We don’t have to accept the status quo. We can imagine a vehicle using liquid oxygen or liquid hydrogen to get us across the Pacific in an hour. You could do that.” (9/25)

Musk Argues We Must Put a Million People on Mars (Source: Aeon)
Whatever else might be said about him, Musk has staked his fortune on businesses that address fundamental human concerns. And so I wondered, why space?

Musk did not give me the usual reasons. He did not claim that we need space to inspire people. He did not sell space as an R & D lab, a font for spin-off technologies like astronaut food and wilderness blankets. He did not say that space is the ultimate testing ground for the human intellect. Instead, he said that going to Mars is as urgent and crucial as lifting billions out of poverty, or eradicating deadly disease.

‘I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary,’ he told me, ‘in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, “Good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren’t any humans left.”’ (9/29)

China to Improve Earth Observation Service (Source: Space Daily)
China will promote the application of satellite earth observation technologies to better serve the economy, officials and experts said. China has already built a network of satellites and other facilities for earth observation in pursuing its space programs including manned space navigation, lunar probe and Beidou navigation system, but officials said much remains to be done in the actual application of the technology.

Remote sensing via satellites and other technology has played an important role in the national economic and social development, said Xu Dazhe, head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence at a recent conference. The administration will promote the construction of a high-definition earth observation system and the spatial data infrastructure, he said. (9/30)

NASA-Funded Rocket Has Six Minutes to Study Solar Heating (Source: Space Daily)
On Sept. 30, 2014, a sounding rocket will fly up into the sky - past Earth's atmosphere that obscures certain wavelengths of light from the sun -- for a 15-minute journey to study what heats up the sun's atmosphere. This is the fourth flight for the Very high Angular Resolution Ultraviolet Telescope, or VAULT, will launch from the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The instrument, now called VAULT2.0, has been refurbished with new electronics and an imaging detector to capture images more frequently than before. While in space, VAULT2.0 will observe light emitted from hydrogen atoms at temperatures of 18,000 to 180,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (9/30)

Texas: Still at Heart of Space Race (Source: Gov. of Texas)
Texas was mission control throughout NASA's victorious race to the moon in the 1960s, and the Johnson Space Center remains vital today, heading up operation of the International Space Station and numerous other efforts revolving around manned spaceflight. Joining them is a new wave of private-sector space pioneers establishing themselves in exciting and innovative ways, and Texas continues to be at the center of it all. Click here. (9/30)

3D Printing a Better Rocket (Source: Fortune)
NASA and the U.S. Army are now using additive manufacturing to manufacture lighter, cheaper, and better-performing aircraft parts. Consider the injector. It’s a lowly little engine part about as big as a basketball, small compared to the more photographic components that surround it. Its job, however, is big. On a rocket, it shoots hydrogen gas and liquid oxygen into a combustion chamber to create the thrust needed to send that rocket into space. It also needs to endure the trip.

A conventional rocket engine injector may be comprised of a hundred different pieces, making it costly to assemble. On an object that costs several hundred thousand dollars per launch, and billions in development costs, any savings are welcome. It’s one reason why the cash-strapped NASA has been toying around with rocket parts made using an additive manufacturing process, better known as 3D printing. (9/30)

Cassini Watches Mysterious Feature Evolve in Titan Sea (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan. It has now been observed twice by Cassini's radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.

The mysterious feature, which appears bright in radar images against the dark background of the liquid sea, was first spotted during Cassini's July 2013 Titan flyby. Previous observations showed no sign of bright features in that part of Ligeia Mare. Scientists were perplexed to find the feature had vanished when they looked again, over several months, with low-resolution radar and Cassini's infrared imager. (9/30)

Crist: Scott Dropped Ball with SpaceX (Source: WMFE)
In an interview with WMFE radio, gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, pledged to work hard with federal partners to re-focus the space program's direction in Florida. He blamed Gov. Rick Scott for not working with SpaceX to support the development of commercial space enterprise in the state. (9/30)

A Highway's Ending is a Spaceport's Beginning (Source: Space Review)
Last week, SpaceX and local officials formally broke ground on a new commercial spaceport the company will build outside of Brownsville, Texas. Jeff Foust reports on the event and the company's plans to develop and use the site over the next several years. Visit to view the article. (9/29)

ULA, Blue Origin and the BE-4 Engine (Source: Space Review)
One of the big space developments of the last month was the surprise announcement that United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are partnering on a new rocket engine. Anthony Young examines the program and its prospects for both companies and the space industry in general. Visit to view the article. (9/29)

Fixing the Curse of Incumbency: Reward Excellence to Achieve Best Value (Source: Space Review)
Government space procurements can be particularly challenging for incumbent companies to win again because of pressures by competitors to lower prices, perhaps unrealistically. Thomas Taverney explains the problem and how it can be solved to ensure the government really does get the best value, not just the lowest bid price. Visit to view the article. (9/29)

Editorial: U.S., China Should Cooperate In Space (Source: Aviation Week)
The upsides of China cooperation can be significant. The downsides can be managed. And holding spacefaring rivals at arm’s length often does nothing but engender resentment. Among space professionals on both sides, the history of US/Russia cooperation is universally regarded as positive and successful. And despite serious tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and some blustering about the export of rocket engines, joint operations of Soyuz and the International Space Station continue smoothly.

The chief objection to cooperating with the Chinese civil space program has been that it is a fundamentally military operation. Yet cooperation with the Chinese military is exactly what is needed to promote good relations, and if that cooperation is in a field that is an intense source of national pride like space, then all the better. The troglodytes in the military are ones the West needs to persuade to act more responsibly. It is absurd that the U.S. Navy can conduct joint exercises with the Chinese navy but Congress bars NASA from working directly with Chinese engineers and scientists. (9/30)

Texas Incentives for SpaceX a Regional Effort (Source: Valley Morning Star)
The incentive package for SpaceX stands at about $30 million and speaks of the Rio Grande Valley’s regional effort to woo the launch site. Most recently, SpaceX, which plans to develop the world’s first commercial and private vertical rocket launch complex at Boca Chica in Cameron County, also secured incentives from the city of McAllen and the Point Isabel Independent School District.

The McAllen City Commission, as recommended by the McAllen Economic Development Corp., pitched in with $500,000 and the Point Isabel ISD Board of Trustees approved an agreement in exchange for an eight-year limitation on the taxable property value for that portion of the taxes for maintenance and operations, not for debt service.

The Harlingen City Commission provided $450,000; the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. provided $5 million; Cameron County provided a tax abatement with a value up to $1.4 million; the state is providing $15.3 million; the Cameron County Space Port Development Corp. submitted an application for $1 million from the Texas Department of Agriculture and another $9 million was pitched to advance STARGATE, including $4.4 million from the state, $4.6 million from the University of Texas System, and $500,000 from GBIC. (9/27)

Gerstenmaier: Commercial Crew Contract Awards: “Roughly” Fit Within Budget (Source: Houston Chronicle)
I wanted to ask Bill Gerstenmaier about the commercial crew contract NASA had awarded to Boeing and SpaceX to develop space taxis to the International Space Station. NASA will give $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX to complete development of their spacecraft, and begin flying as soon as 2017. My understanding was that NASA had about $4 billion to award, so i was surprised when it gave $6.8 billion in awards.

I asked Gerst, who made the final decision on the contract awards, about this and here was his response: "The thing that’s kind of confusing in the contract structure is that’s the maximum value of the contracts. That includes six flights for each one of the offers, and some of that is in the crew transportation language in the ISS. So when you look at that and you spread it out over the entire duration it kind of roughly fits within the budget. We’ve still got some details to do, some phasing to do, but that’s where it is."

Essentially I think he’s saying that the contracts are longer than originally anticipated, and instead of covering three flights they cover six flights. It wasn’t until late Friday night that I found out why Gerst might have been unhappy. That’s when the losing bidder, Sierra Nevada Corp., filed a legal challenge against NASA saying it improperly awarded the contracts. Sierra Nevada contends that its bid was $900 million less than Boeing’s, and that on technical merits the bids were of equal value. If that’s the case, the legal challenge could get interesting. (9/27)

SSTL Demonstrates New Ocean Winds and Waves Measuring Method (Source: Space Daily)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has successfully demonstrated an innovative method of measuring winds and waves from space, using GNSS Reflectometry. This paves the way for a cost effective satellite system supporting the maritime sector and the organizations that rely on this information and it also offers improvements to weather services and climate research.

The measurements were taken from an instrument developed by SSTL, the SGR-ReSI, (Space GNSS Receiver Remote Sensing Instrument) which is flying on-board TechDemoSat-1, a technology demonstration satellite which was launched in July 2014. SSTL's SGR-ReSI collects the signals from GPS and other navigation satellites after they have been reflected off the ocean surface and processes them into images called Delay Doppler Maps, from which ocean roughness and wind speed measurements at the sea surface can be interpreted. (9/29)

Sierra Nevada Outlines "Global Project" for Dream Chaser (Source: SNC)
The Global Project spaceflight program offers SNC clients a unique turn-key spaceflight capability based on the Dream Chaser crewed space vehicle. SNC’s Global Project offers clients across the globe access to low Earth orbit (LEO) without the time, resources and financial burden of developing the necessary capabilities or infrastructure to support a mature human spaceflight program. The Dream Chaser spacecraft can be customized by the client for an array of missions to support government, commercial, academic and international goals.

The individual mission customization of the Global Project can be applied to both crewed and uncrewed variants for a single dedicated mission or suite of missions. In addition to offering customized access to LEO, SNC has also developed a tailored, world-class training program based on NASA’s strict certification standards that includes preparation for crewed flights, payload and vehicle safety operations.

Dream Chaser astronauts undergo training at SNC’s Dream Chaser Training Facility and Space Operations Center. Individuals complete pre-flight, ground, payload and mission control training, and obtain mission briefings in addition to other necessary training as determined by the mission. SNC can also assist clients in setting up in-country training programs as needed. (9/29)

China Completes New Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Chinese officials have announced the completion of the nation’s fourth launch center, one that has a distinct advantage over the other three: rockets stages will fall over the ocean rather than on land. Located in the southern island province of Hainan, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center has the advantage of being at a latitude of 19 degrees north of the equator, which is lower than China’s other launch centers in Sichuan and Shanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The location is better for launching communications satellites, which are sent to positions over the equator. Wenchang will also be ideal for launching the heavy-lift Long March 5, which is now under development. Stages for the larger rocket can be transported to the launch site by water. Rockets must travel by rail to the three inland launch facilities. (9/29)

Orlando Considered for 2017 IAC Event (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida and the Space Foundation are attending the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Canada, with a joint booth aimed at promoting Orlando as a location for the IAC event in 2017. IAC brings several hundred international space program officials together from industry, government and academia. The event will be held next year in Israel and then in Mexico City in 2016. (9/29)

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