September 9, 2014

Zero G Splits with Amerijet, Suspends 2014 Flights Amid Lawsuit (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The air cargo company that maintained Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft ended its management services agreement (MSA) with the parabolic flight provider on May 4, and subsequently repossessed the three jet engines it owns from Zero G’s Boeing 727, according to court records. Amerijet also has sued Zero G for alleged breaches of the management services and engine lease contracts, seeking to recover unpaid fees, expenses and damages. Amerijet alleged that it is owed more than $127,000 in a July 10 court filing, which Zero G has disputed.

Zero G provides parabolic flight services to NASA under an exclusive contract and to private individuals and companies on a commercial basis. Individual tickets cost $4,950 plus a 5 percent tax. The dispute has left the company’s grounded for a period of time, with the current status of G-FORCE ONE uncertain. A look at Zero G’s website has a notice that reads, “2015 Schedule Coming Soon!”

Zero G his disputed Amerijet’s claims. It has told the Texas court that the $127,435.66 the company is seeking is offset by losses suffered by Zero G as a result of the legal action. Amerijet filed a separate lawsuit in Florida because this is where the engine lease agreement specifies that any disputes be settled. However, Zero G claims the two cases are overlapping and accuses Amerijet of “forum shopping.” Zero G has filed a motion to have the Florida case dismissed or transferred to Texas. Click here. (9/9)

Mission Impossible (Source: Space KSC)
The September 7 launch of AsiaSat 6 occurred 33 days after the AsiaSat 8 launch. AsiaSat 6 was supposed to launch on August 27, but was delayed eleven days after a developmental rocket test failed at the SpaceX site in McGregor, Texas. Although there was no suspicion that the incident had anything to do with the Falcon 9 version on the Cape's Pad 40, SpaceX founder Elon Musk ordered a delay anyway just to “triple-check.”

The tentative launch date for Commercial Resupply Services flight 4 (CRS-4) to the International Space Station had been tentatively scheduled for September 19. With the AsiaSat 6 launch delayed eleven days, I suspected the CRS-4 mission would be delayed too. But never assume SpaceX will pass up a challenge. SpaceX still intends to try to launch CRS-4 on September 19.

The urgency is due a Russian Soyuz launch scheduled for September 25 to deliver the next crew rotation to the ISS. If SpaceX pulls it off, it will have been twelve days between launches. One might have to go back to the 1960s to find a faster turnaround. During the Gemini program, NASA launched Gemini 6 eleven days after Gemini 7, a rendezvous practice mission improvised after the Gemini 6 Agena Target Vehicle exploded after launch. (9/9)

Embraer Engineering & Technology Center Opens on Space Coast (Source: Space Florida)
Embraer celebrated the opening of its newly constructed Engineering & Technology Center here today. The 75,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind outside Brazil, where the Company is headquartered, and part of Embraer’s strategy to expand its global footprint. The event was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by more than 250 State, community and elected officials, news media and distinguished guests.

The new Center will conduct engineering and development activities for both product and technology development across Embraer’s business lines with the first assignments primarily focused on executive jet interiors. It will include a laboratory for the development and testing of materials and interior components. Features include 3D Computer Aided Design, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Finite Element Modeling, 3D Virtual Reality Center, prototype capabilities and sophisticated laboratories and test equipment. (9/8)

Editorial: A Breach Waiting To Happen (Source: Space News)
NOAA  has literally let its guard down with respect to its polar-orbiting weather satellite program. According to an Aug. 21 report by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General — released, interestingly, at the height of hurricane season — the ground segment for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System is rife with vulnerabilities that the agency’s software engineers have been too slow to fix.

Despite the fact that most of the security gaps are relatively easy to close through software updates and other measures, many have remained open for more than a year, whereas program requirements specify 30 days. The report cited 9,100 instances in which the system was exposed in some way for some period of time.

Clearly the JPSS ground segment has not been getting the attention it requires. Although it probably isn’t possible to completely eliminate vulnerabilities for such a complex piece of infrastructure, the issues outlined in the report argue for a reordering of NOAA’s priorities. Hardly a day passes without news of a major network security breach, be it in the government or private sector. (9/8)

Editorial: So You Want To Build a Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Visionary governors are just one of the essential components in the nation’s growing commercial space transportation industry. As states increase their interest in commercial space enterprise, spaceport development has become the leading indicator of the growth of the commercial space transportation industry. Likely, the U.S. will continue to lead in the development of the spaceport network for the next 10 years, as the space transportation industry begins to grow on a global scale.

In considering that future, launch activity to orbit is not necessarily where the long-term growth will come for the states. Building a spaceport and related infrastructure for the suborbital launch business might be the best bet. The gold standard for a transportation industry is to get humans in the loop. When the suborbital vehicles begin to fly they will create supply. Supply creates its own demand. When thousands of humans go to space, they will create demand for support infrastructure.

As new launch sites will likely be in remote locations because of noise and protection of the uninvolved public for the near-term, good roads, access to water and good communications are essential. Blending of all modes of transportation — ground, water, rail and air, along with space — is necessary. States would be wise to involve transportation departments as well as economic development departments in the early planning. Click here. (9/8)

Blucker, Fairey and Lytle to Receive Space Club Lifetime Achievement Awards (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club (NSC) of Florida recently announced that Rick Blucker, Chris Fairey and Brice Lytle are the 2014 annual Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. They will be recognized for their distinguished roles in the space community at the Sep. 9, monthly luncheon meeting. Bill Chardavoyne will also be recognized as the 2014 Rising Star Honoree. The event will be held at the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral, at 11:30 am.

“Rick, Chris and Brice each have made significant contributions to the space community through their impressive careers,” said Jim McCarthy, NSC Board Chairman. “The Space Club is proud to acknowledge their achievements.” The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes people for life-long achievement and contributions to the U.S. Space Program.

The NSC’s Rising Star Award recognizes younger professionals for their “above and beyond” accomplishments in the space program during the past year. “We are excited to also acknowledge Bill Chardavoyne with URS,” said McCarthy. “Bill’s dedication to his career and his strong community outreach is an inspiration for our current and future space professionals.” Click here. (9/5)

NASA Selects 4 Companies for Flight Opportunities Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere. The selected companies are: Masten Space Systems, Paragon Space Development Corp., Up Aerospace Inc., and Virgin Galactic. (9/8)

XCOR Selling Tickets to Wealthy Chinese (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The New York Times reports on XCOR’s progress in selling suborbital space tourism flights to wealthy Chinese citizens: "Already, more than 30 mainland Chinese have purchased or made down payments of 50 percent on tickets for journeys offered by XCOR Aerospace, a company based in Mojave, Calif., that plans to begin operating suborbital flights late next year. The tours went on sale in China in December, two years after the company began selling them elsewhere, and one in 10 of all bookings have been by Chinese citizens, according to Dexo Travel, the Beijing-based sales agent in China for the trips." (9/7)

NASA Completes First Orion Crew Module (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s first completed Orion crew module sits atop its service module at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The crew and service module will be transferred together on Wednesday to another facility for fueling, before moving again for the installation of the launch abort system. At that point, the spacecraft will be complete and ready to stack on top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space on its first flight in December.

For that flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth – farther than any spacecraft built to carry people has traveled in more than 40 years – and return home at speeds of 20,000 miles per hour, while enduring temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (9/8)

Polish Teams Dominate First Ever European Rover Challenge (Source: Astrowatch)
The first ever European Rover Challenge (ERC) is over and the Scorpio Team from Wrocław University of Technology can now celebrate their victory over 9 other contestants plus a $1,000 cash prize. The challenge was to design, construct and operate a rover that most successfully complete a number of Mars-exploration themed tasks designed by the organizers. "A year of hard work is now finally fulfilled," said Jędrzej Górski of the Scorpio Team.

"Our efficiency is the result of our cohesive team." The second spot was secured by Polish crew also, the Impuls Team from Kielce University of Technology. Lunar and Mars Rover Team from Cairo University in Egypt scooped the 3rd place. A special bonus award was given to the Robocol Team of Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). ERC 2014 took place in Podzamcze, Poland on Sept. 5-7. (9/7)

NASA Sending Tweets Into Space (Source: Washington Post)
When NASA sent its “Golden Record” out into space in 1977, the gold-plated phonograph time capsule was programmed full of mankind’s greatest achievements: a photograph of the Taj Mahal, a map of DNA’s complex double-helix structure, the music of Beethoven, Bach and Louis Armstrong. In two years the space agency will be sending another time capsule off into the void. Only instead of featuring great discoveries and works of art, this extraterrestrial message will be composed of tweets.

NASA’s “Asteroid Time Capsule” contest, which it announced last week, invites fans to speculate about the future of communication and space travel on Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #AsteroidMission. The best predictions will be embedded in a microchip accompanying the spacecraft Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, affectionately known as OSIRIS-REx, on its trip to the asteroid Bennu. (9/8)

As NASA Considers New Spacecraft, Ukraine Complicates Russian Relations (Source: WUSF)
Escalating unrest in the Ukraine is adding urgency to NASA’s decision on the space craft that will replace the shuttle. The space agency is expected to announce any day the space craft that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Two candidates – Boeing’s CST-100 and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser – rely on the Atlas V rocket to launch into space. But the rocket is powered by the Russian-built RD-180 engine. (9/8)

NASA List Shows Nearly 1,800 Space Act Agreements (Source: Space News)
A list of active NASA Space Act Agreements — which allow the agency to formalize deals with public and private entities without having to abide by normal Federal Acquisition Regulations — shows the agency has nearly 1,800 such deals in place with domestic and international entities. According to the lists, published online by NASA and current as of June 30, NASA’s 1,779 active Space Act Agreements include 1,086 deals with domestic entities and 693 with international entities.

NASA can use Space Act Agreements to award funding, or to give non-NASA entities access to agency facilities, personnel and property, either for a fee or free. Under a nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement, NASA foregoes a fee if the agency thinks the government will benefit from whatever activity the agreement authorizes. Counting funded Space Act Agreements and the approximate dollar value of nonreimbursable deals, active Space Act Agreements are costing the agency roughly $36 million, the list shows.

NASA was directed to disclose its active Space Act Agreements in a report accompanying the 2014 omnibus spending bill that funds federal agencies through September. The report language, which does not carry the force of law as bill language does, was drafted by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee. Wolf has been critical of Space Act Agreements since 2009, when the agency began its commercial crew program and awarded several such pacts to pay for development of crewed spacecraft.  (9/8)

Pace Picks Up for NASA's Giant Space Launch System Rocket (Source: America Space)
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has now reached a point in the program’s development that the agency’s cancelled Constellation program did not, with the recent completion of a major SLS review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C)—something that no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the United States built the space shuttle in the late 1970s. With the KDP-C now completed, the SLS program is transitioning from formulation to development.

Operations supporting the SLS are picking up pace at several NASA centers across the country. And while NASA announced the launch date of the SLS program’s first mission, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), just one of the SLS program’s many unknowns, will occur “no later than” November 2018, looking at the funding levels Congress has given the SLS program over the last four years points to a launch date in early 2017. (9/8)

Making a Difference: U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) (Source: Space News)
Things were looking up for the U.S. Defense Department’s tiny Operationally Responsive Space Office at the beginning of 2013. A little less than a year earlier, after a period of mixed messages about what the future held in store for the joint program, the Air Force formally proposed shuttering the ORS Office at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Congress fought the closure, using the National Defense Authorization Act that President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 2, 2013, to direct the Air Force to keep the ORS Office open. The victory was short-lived. When the Air Force sent Congress its 2014 budget request a few months later, the service again proposed terminating the program. By last September, ORS personnel began receiving layoff notices.

That was too much for New Mexico’s freshman senator. Martin Heinrich — who assumed office just one day after Obama signed the 2013 defense authorization bill into law — put a hold on the president’s nomination of Deborah Lee James as secretary of the Air Force until he got the answers he wanted to questions about the ORS cuts. (9/8)

Making a Difference: Silicon Valley (Source: Space News)
This past June brought confirmation of a months-old rumor that Silicon Valley technology giant Google would purchase satellite imaging startup Skybox for what turned out be a surprisingly high price: $500 million. The acquisition, which came as a Google-backed venture called WorldVu secured spectrum rights for a 360-satellite broadband constellation, officially marks Silicon Valley’s arrival as an engine for innovation and growth in the entrepreneurial space industry. Click here. (9/8)

Preservation of U.S. Space Leadership for National Security (Source: Space News)
Space threats are relevant to current and future U.S. national defense objectives. In pace with unparalleled investments of spacefaring nations, technological advances and unmonitored intentions of space utilization, the key question that arises is: Are U.S. space defense resources adequate to provide sufficient national defense capabilities?

The answer is rooted in pieces of information concealed within myriad U.S. defense capillaries. Collectively, these flows of information add up to the U.S. remaining a global leader. Yet global leadership also comes with a great deal of challenges. New developments in the global arena justify continuously re-evaluating and prioritizing national security objectives. Click here. (9/8)

Possible Meteorite Strike in Nicaragua Puzzles Experts (Source: The Guardian)
Nicaraguan officials have appealed for witnesses to a meteorite strike that left a 12m-wide crater near Managua's international airport on Saturday night. Residents reported a loud boom as the meteorite crashed but scientists said no one had come forward who had seen the streak that a speeding space rock would score across the sky.

"I was sitting on my porch and I saw nothing, then all of a sudden I heard a large blast," Jorge Santamaria told the Associated Press. "We thought it was a bomb because we felt an expansive wave." (9/8)

Ex-Im Bank's Satellite Push Complicates its Fight for Survival (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Export-Import Bank, caught in a rare political storm over its mission, is fighting for survival and its best line of defense is to debunk criticism that the 80-year-old institution favors corporate giants over small businesses. Yet even as bank officials showcase their work for the little guy, they have also been focusing their energy on global satellite deals geared towards space giants like Lockheed Martin and SpaceX, building that sector into the faster growing bit of Exim's portfolio.

According to the bank, it has approved $4.8 billion in satellite deals since 2002 – almost all of that in the last three years. That has supported $5.5 billion in exports but only $36 million, less than 1 percent, has gone to companies the agency designated as small businesses. Lawmakers are due to decide by the month's end whether to renew the bank's mandate and what used to be a low-key procedure has turned into a tense political confrontation between the Democrat administration and Republican Party conservatives. Click here. (9/8)

A Brief History of Animal Death in Space (Source: Science News)
Back in July, Russia launched a satellite into space that carried a harem of geckos so scientists could study sex in weightlessness. But bad news came this week with the report that the “sexy space geckos” had not survived the trip. The pithy moniker may have helped the geckos get publicity, but humans have a long history of sending animals into space.

At first, the animals were sent up simply to test the survivability of spaceflight, then how aspects of life in space — such as radiation and weightlessness — might affect animals’ biology. Later, scientific questions — such as how animals might have sex in a weightless environment — drove the choice of creatures sent up.

The first journey, in 1947, was actually a success: Fruit flies carried aboard a V-2 rocket were recovered alive. Since then, however, the success rate has been spotty. About a third of all animals sent up didn’t make it, according to one estimate. (This really shouldn’t be surprising. After all, spaceflight has proved deadly for humans — something to remember before signing up to go to Mars.) Here’s a list of just some of the spacecraft that have carried animals into space whose biological payloads didn’t survive the journey. Click here. (9/8)

Norm Setting for Outer Space (Source: Space News)
Norms are standards of proper or acceptable behavior. They establish expectations and clarify misbehavior, thereby helping to isolate, limit and sanction bad behavior. Without norms, there are no norm breakers. They can be codified in treaties and other legal instruments, or they can be less formal, such as those embedded in international codes of conduct. When less-formal norms become customary international practice, they gain standing in international law.

Norms can be particularly helpful when they encourage transparency, because transparency measures can lead to important negotiating breakthroughs. Extraordinary treaties that drastically reduced nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union were enabled by a slightly regarded, multilateral agreement in 1983 in which the Kremlin permitted foreign observers to attend conventional military exercises.

Not everyone will sign up to norms right away, and there will always be outliers. Even so, norms can discourage unwanted behavior, even by holdouts — but not for die-hard outliers. The speed and effectiveness of norm building depends on the attitudes and actions of major powers, not outliers. The most reluctant major power is usually China. (9/8)

Profile on Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (Source: Washington Post)
"I’d like the organization to be the standard bearer for commercial space flight. When people think about humans going into space and payloads going into space, I want them to look to us. I want to be the leadership on safety regulations. I want to ensure that there are not huge barriers put up by the government. Of course, there’s got to be a regulatory infrastructure and safety is paramount. But the government needs to help, not hinder this industry. I want to see the U.S. leadership in space again." Click here. (9/7)

Arianespace Nets Four Commercial Launch Contracts After Cutting Prices (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Arianespace has snatched up contracts to launch four commercial communications satellites, the French launch services firm announced Monday, after taking aim on rival SpaceX by slashing prices. The satellites will put in orbit by Ariane 5 rockets launched from French Guiana in 2016 and 2017, riding in the lower berth of the Ariane 5's payload fairing, which is tailored two launch two communications satellites on one flight.

The contracts are for KTsat's Koreasat 7 satellite, the Hylas 4 satellite owned by Avanti Communications, the Intelsat 36 communications satellite, and JCSAT 15 from Japan's Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. Arianespace announced the launch deals Monday on the opening day of Euroconsult's World Satellite Business Week in Paris. (9/8)

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