September 8, 2014

Space Traffic Control Architecture (Source: LaunchSpace)
The number of organizations using the near-Earth space environment for applications ranging from exploration to exploitation and national security is impressive and continues to grow. Safety is a prime concern for both equipment and personnel. For government operators, the control of risk is mandatory. For commercial operators, operational efficiency and favorable cost/benefit considerations are paramount. In recent years several government agencies have been studying space traffic management, i.e., regulation of orbital traffic.

To date, there has been little control over what is placed into orbit. Each space-faring nation is able to operate independently and with little, if any, international coordination. This is quite different from the international air traffic management system that allows the free-flow of airline traffic over a major part of the world. Every airliner uses designated airspace that is protected during its flight by air traffic controllers. Most airliners travel at comparable speeds and collisions are avoided by horizontal and vertical separation standards. This ensures that mid-air collisions are, indeed, rare.

The management of space traffic is a daunting challenge. At the moment, we lack much of the required technology, there is little international cooperation or collaboration regarding space traffic planning, and the political environment is not amenable to creating a space traffic control architecture. We lack the ability to accurately track and predict the precise movement of satellites and large debris objects. (9/8)

Florida Tech and UCF Join NASA Robotics Mining Competition (Source: NASA)
NASA's annual Robotics Mining Competition now includes 25 teams from universities and colleges nationwide. Among them are the Florida Institute of Technology and the University of Central Florida. Click here for the complete list. (9/8)

Inadvertent Release of Cubesats from Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
The NanoRacks CubeSat Deployers (NRCSD) attached to the International Space Station has inadvertently released its payloads into space. After the first such incident, utilizing the JEM Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), ground controllers performed an emergency stop shake test on the NRCSD. No deployments were observed during this time. However, after roughly 7 hours, an additional door (#7) was observed to be open, implying an inadvertent deploy during the morning of the crew workday.

The JEMRMS and deployer were still pointed in the nominal deploy direction so there is no recontact risk to the ISS. Imagery is being retrieved and ground teams are working to acquire and track the deployed satellites. Two deployers (4 and 8) remain closed and undeployed. Ground teams are discussing options for future NRCSD operations. (9/5)

Challenger: A Management Failure (Source: Space Safety)
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was probably the most significant event, in terms of its impact on the US space program, in the history of spaceflight. On the bitter cold morning of January 28th 1986, seven astronauts on-board Space Shuttle Challenger lost their lives in front of family, friends, and millions of TV viewers. The vehicle broke up 73 seconds into the flight, burning nearly 2 million liters of fuel in just a few seconds that created a sinister cloud of gas. Click here. (9/8)

Chinese Long March 4B Lofts Yaogan-21 in Surprise Launch (Source:
The Chinese have conducted another surprise launch, this time with the Long March 4B rocket reported to have lofted a new satellite in the Yaogan Weixing series. The Yaogan-21 satellite was launched at 03:22 UTC on Monday from the LC9 launch complex at the Taiyuan satellite Launch Center. As usual for this type of satellite, the Chinese media is referring to the new satellite as ‘a new remote sensing bird that will be used for scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.’ (9/8)

NASA's New Carbon Observatory Will Help Us Understand Alien Worlds (Source: Space Daily)
On July 2, NASA successfully launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), a remote sensing satellite on a mission to precisely measure carbon dioxide levels in our planet's atmosphere. As a bonus OCO-2 will also help prepare us for eventually probing the atmospheres of alien worlds in sharper detail. Why study carbon dioxide? This gas essentially serves as Earth's thermostat.

As a "greenhouse gas," carbon dioxide absorbs radiation emitted by the planet's surface that would otherwise escape into space. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer Earth gets. Over geological history, carbon dioxide levels have waxed and waned, driving hotter and cooler climatic epochs. Occasionally, the scales have tipped too far in either direction, pushing life on Earth to the brink. The "snowball Earth" period of 650 million years ago and the hot-tub tropical waters of the early Triassic period are just two examples. (9/8)

Pentagon Wants to Move to Free-Market Model for Suppliers (Source: National Defense)
The Defense Department is hoping to create more of a free-market mentality among its suppliers, winning low-cost, high-quality bids by encouraging increased competition and better-written requirements. "We get a better deal when we can compete," says Richard Ginman, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy. "In the commercial marketplaces, the rule is that prices go down and quality goes up. I would love to be in that situation." Among the steps the DOD plans to take is better scrutinizing why companies express interest in projects but then fail to bid. (9/7)

Martian Skies to Get Busier (Source: Aviation Week)
Mars will see an influx of activity soon when India's Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission heads to the skies above the Red Planet to study its atmosphere and NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission explores what happened to Mars' onetime surface water. They'll be followed by a comet -- the ice-loaded Oort Cloud, which will fly past at 34 miles per second. (9/8)

MOL's Mysteries (Source: Space Review)
The declassification of some information about the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory program has answered some questions about that effort, but raised new ones. Dwayne Day looks at what we know about the companies involved in MOL from the declassified information. Visit to view the article. (9/8)

Reaching Mars: Is It About Great-Power Status? (Source: Space Review)
Later this month, India's first Mars mission is scheduled to enter orbit around the Red Planet. Ajey Lele says missions like this might demonstrate that India is an emerging "great power" here on Earth. Visit to view the article. (9/8)

The Startup-ification of Commercial Space (Source: Space Review)
As the commercial space industry evolves, many of its most entrepreneurial ventures are taking on different forms. Jeff Foust reports on how many space startups look increasingly like other Silicon Valley technology startups. Visit to view the article. (9/8)

How a Few Technical Failures Can Spell Success for SpaceX (Source: Space Review)
Last month, an experimental SpaceX vehicle was destroyed during a test flight at the company's Texas test site. R. D. Boozer explains why such failures should be expected in a development program that is successful in the long term. Visit to view the article. (9/8)

Editorial: Tone Down the Partisan Rhetoric on Space Issues (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The partisan divide in America is deep and frightening. There seems to be little, if any civil discourse between the two prevailing political ideologies of the day—liberal and conservative. And since President Obama canceled the Constellation Program, many on the right have attempted to claim the space platform as their own.

What they don’t realize is that they are sabotaging their own efforts. It is generally assumed that if a person supports a particular portion of a given political agenda, then he supports the entire platform. For example, if a person defends President Obama’s economic record, it is assumed that he therefore supports all that Obama, and indeed the entire Democratic Party stand for.

Likewise, if a person defended George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, it is assumed that he stands for everything the Republican and Conservative platform stands for. Debate becomes virtually impossible when a single stance on a single issue inevitably results in being called a “right-wing fascist Confederate nut,” or a “godless left-wing Commie hippy drug-taking liberal.” The nice thing about space is that it need not degenerate into such mindless talking-point arguments. Space is one thing Americans can come together on. Click here. (9/8)

Suborbital Space Flight for Tourists: When will it Happen? (Source: Gulf Times)
After a piggy-back lift into the skies atop an airplane, the space plane suddenly breaks away and its hydrogen-powered rockets send it hurtling up towards the heavens. Higher and higher the space vehicle goes, more than 100 kilometers up. A soothing woman’s voice talks to passengers over the intercom and now, the stars are visible as the glider with its panorama windows flies in a parabolic trajectory.

Some time later, it lands back on earth. Such is the vision. As projected by V-Plane, a Hamburg company that designs small aircraft, the space ride would cost 150,000 euros ($185,000) per person. The idea has been partially developed, but so far, it’s only virtually available, as a video film, because the project isn’t making much headway.

“It’s simple in principle,” says Joachim Lau, chief executive of V-Plane as he sits in his office. Next to him is a model of the so-called suborbital aircraft, which would carry eight passengers. Its initial ascent, on a regular plane, would take it to an altitude of 12 kilometres, before the rockets fire. For five minutes at the top of the trajectory, the passengers would experience weightlessness. Booster, an international consortium based in Belgium, commissioned the Hamburg company six years ago to help it conceive the project. Click here. (9/6)

Tuscon Company: Capsule Will Take Travelers to Space (Source: Arizona Central)
A Tucson company that is developing a high-altitude balloon capsule for space travel could help solidify Arizona as a destination for adventure tourism. World View Enterprises says its capsule will take travelers more than 100,000 feet above Earth for a view that would cost $75,000. The operation would join a growing roster of adventure-tourism-related operations in the state, including the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving and Desert Splash Adventures, which offers aerial tours in Arizona. The Grand Canyon and houseboating on Lake Powell offer less expensive opportunities for adventure. Click here. (9/6)

SpaceX Achieves Back-to-Back Successes for AsiaSat (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Putting on a late summer sky show along Florida's Space Coast, a Falcon 9 rocket climbed into space after midnight Sunday with a commercial communications satellite to connect growing markets in China and Southeast Asia. The mission began at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) Sunday with the fiery ignition of the 224-foot-tall launcher's nine Merlin first stage engines.

Once the kerosene-burning engines ramped up to full power, the Falcon 9 rocket soared away from Cape Canaveral atop a flickering pillar of red-hot exhaust, piercing through clouds before arcing east over the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX declared the launch a success shortly after 1:30 a.m. EDT, when the Falcon 9 was programmed to release AsiaSat 6 into an egg-shaped transfer orbit. (9/7)

Lockheed Martin Unveils Dual-launch Satellite Platform (Source: Space News)
As part of an initiative to make its primary satellite platform more competitive in both commercial and government markets, Lockheed Martin is now offering variants of its A2100 bus that can be launched together in a side-by-side configuration and also be reprogrammed on orbit.

The dual-launch option will enable customers to save on launch costs without sacrificing capability, Lockheed Martin said. The payload reconfiguration capability will allow customers to adapt to changing mission requirements and operating environments over the satellite’s lifetime, the company said. (9/8)

Hughes Becomes First Satellite Internet Provider to Surpass One Million Active Users (Source: SpaceRef)
Hughes has become the first company to exceed one million active users in North America for satellite Internet connectivity. This total includes all Hughes retail and wholesale subscribers and additional users receiving services through third-party service operators with capacity arrangements.

Hughes, the company that invented satellite Internet, has seen strong demand for high-performance connectivity in residential and commercial markets across North America--through its HughesNet® service and through partners--reaching customers in areas unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband. Surpassing one million active users makes Hughes by far the largest provider of satellite Internet connectivity in the world. (9/8)

NASA Makes Rocket Engine Using 3D-Printer (Source: RIA Novosti)
NASA has managed to build complex rocket injectors using 3D-printing technology. "We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3D-printing could revolutionize rocket designs for increased system performance," said Chris Singer, director of the Engineering Directorate of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The “printed” injectors contain 40 various spray elements, constructed as a single component, rather than produced separately. In an ordinary manufacturing process, 163 single parts have to be combined to build a similar injector. Additive manufacturing - or 3D printing technology - allows them to be produced from just two parts.

In the space industry, the application of 3D printing will significantly simplify the manufacturing process when compared with traditional methods of production. According to tests, 3D-printed rocket components are comparable in quality to their traditional analogues, and can function “within operating specifications for the engines”, Tech Times reports. (9/8)

1st Lt. in Contest to Launch with Private Mars Mission (Source: Army Times)
When it comes to post-service plans, 1st Lt. Heidi Beemer has a clearer picture than most: She’s going to win a global contest, get launched into space, become one of the first humans to land on Mars, and stay there. There are still a few hurdles between Beemer and her childhood dream, but she is one of roughly 700 candidates in the running to make up six four-person Mars One astronaut crews, the first of which organizers plan to launch in 2024 for an arrival the next year.

Beeme is the decontamination platoon leader for US Army's 63rd Chemical Company, 83rd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade. She will participate in her first face-to-face selection interview with Mars One officials later this year. She’s received support from her command and from fellow soldiers. She’s talked with about 4,000 grade-schoolers, either in person or via Skype, about the science behind a mission to Mars and the program she hopes will get her there. She’s pursuing a master’s degree in aerospace science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (9/7)

ViaSat and SS/L Settle Bitter Dispute (Source: Advanced Television)
The legal wrangling over alleged misuse by Loral Space and its subsidiary Space Systems/Loral of patented intellectual property owned by ViaSat of California has been settled. ViaSat gets $100 million in compensation and all the litigation ceases. The initial award to ViaSat of £283 million has been set aside. The writs, claims and counter claims between the protagonists have been bouncing back and forth for months, but a statement in the early hours of Sunday morning said:

“Under the terms of the settlement, in consideration of a current payment to ViaSat of $40 million and future payments of $60 million over 2½years with interest, ViaSat has agreed that SSL and its customers will be free from any lawsuits with respect to SSL’s future use of the ten patents-in-suit and certain other patents and patent applications and with respect to breach of certain contracts that were the subject of the suit. The settlement also releases Loral, SSL and their customers from all claims for patent infringement and breach of contract brought in the lawsuits.” (9/8)

Jupiter’s Moon Europa Just Got Even Cooler (Source: Time)
The more they look at other worlds in the Solar System, the more scientists discover that Earth isn’t as special as we earthlings like to think. Our planet has active volcanoes—but so does Jupiter’s moon Io. We have geysers—and so does Saturn’s moon Enceladus. We have lakes, rivers and rain, and so does Titan, another moon of Saturn’s. Now one more geological feature thought to be unique to Earth may not be after all.

Using images from the Galileo spacecraft, planetary scientists think they’ve found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa—a world that’s already on astrobiologists’ radar because the ocean that lies beneath the moon’s thick rind of ice could conceivably host life of some sort.

Plate tectonics is the same process that causes continents to drift slowly around on the surface of the Earth. If plates are indeed shifting on the Jovian moon, it explains a longstanding mystery. Europa’s surface is crisscrossed with cracks where the thick ice has spread apart and the resulting gaps have been filled in by new slushy ice oozing up from the water deep below. (9/8)

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