October 11, 2014

What Ever Happened to Google’s Airfield Lease in Mountain View? (Source: Pando)
In our age of lightspeed speculation over the intentions of a handful of powerful Silicon Valley executives, you’d think there would be more buzz about the deal in the works between Google and NASA to bestow upon Google the rights to a massive government airport adjacent to NASA’s Ames Research Center and a stone’s throw from the Googleplex.

In February it was announced that the federal General Services Administration had selected a bid by Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures to lease the Moffett Airfield and its hangars. After a brief effervescence of Internet reportage the story has gone silent. And now those lease negotiations, originally slated to be finalized July 1, seem to be in limbo.

The deal involves a bewildering array of bureaucracy, politics, and community activism. It remains unknown what Google intends to do with the airfield and adjacent land totaling 1,000 acres in the historic heart of Silicon Valley. The lease agreement carries requirements that Google rehabilitate a vast dirigible hangar to its former steampunk glory, fix up the parcel’s 18-hole golf course, and develop a publicly accessible educational facility on site. Any additional plans and the financials of the lease have been kept under wraps. Click here. (10/10)

Five Years After Augustine (Source: Florida Today)
Five years after a presidential review panel found it was on an "unsustainable trajectory," NASA's human spaceflight program continues to suffer from a mismatch between its budget and goals, the panel's chairman says. "The funding still doesn't match the missions," said Norman Augustine, the former Lockheed Martin CEO who headed the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, in a recent interview. "We've been there before, we know how that movie ends. I just hope we find a way to avoid that."

On the bright side, KSC is leading NASA's push to help companies develop commercial rockets and spacecraft that could resume launches of astronauts from the Space Coast to the International Space Station by 2017. Gloomier in outlook: a revamped exploration program won't launch a crew beyond low Earth orbit before 2021, and then anticipates infrequent launches to unspecified destinations because of limited funding — while claiming to be on a path to Mars in the 2030s. Click here. (10/11)

Cosmic Elevator Could Reach Space on a Cable Made of Diamonds (Source: CNN)
Want to ride an elevator into space? While the idea has been around for more than 100 years, a breakthrough in nanotechnology could mean we will be riding into space on a cable made of diamonds. Scientists at Penn State University in the US released a research paper last month that showed the way forward to producing ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that have a strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers.

A space elevator is not the only non-rocket technology being investigated as a means of getting man-made objects into space. In the past NASA has examined everything from high-velocity artillery to rail-launched maglev projects as a way of getting objects into space. Physicist Stanley Starr of NASA's Kennedy Space Center said for the time being, NASA's emphasis is on developing exploration technologies to be used once a craft is already in space.
"And there are many challenges in that area," Starr told CNN.

Nevertheless, the space agency continues to look at systems -- some of them quite bizarre such as the Slingatron -- that could achieve orbit without the use of fuel-hungry rocket systems. "The space elevator is an interesting concept but will require a breakthrough in materials or the addition of a totally new concept to make it work. I don't foresee space elevator working in my lifetime," Starr said. "I briefly looked at the Slingatron concept and don't believe it is feasible." (10/10)

Still Looking Up: Former NASA Chief Now Nurtures Virgin’s Spaceflight Hopes (Source: Guardian)
George Whitesides, NASA’s former chief of staff, holds up a model of a delicate white spacecraft. With the long narrow wings of a glider, it looks almost too fragile for its intended journey to the edge of earth’s atmosphere. But this slender frame is carrying the dreams of 700 aspiring astronauts: private citizens who have paid up to $250,000 (£155,000) per head to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for the chance to take a trip to the stars. Now chief executive of Galactic, Whitesides’ mission is to turn the British entrepreneur’s vision of a commercial spaceline into reality.

Has Whitesides been given a deadline? “No,” he replies. When will the SpaceShipTwo make its maiden voyage? “Soon.” The answer is understandably guarded. A year ago he told an interviewer the moment was so close he could “taste it”. Then a decision was taken in May of this year to change the fuel in the rocket motor, and a whole new round of tests began.

As a licensed private pilot, and founder of Yuri’s Night, a yearly celebration of the world’s first space flight, his interest is more than professional. In 2005, George and his wife, the astrobiologist Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, were among the first to pay for seats on Branson’s spacecraft. The Whitesides were going to take their honeymoon in space. (10/9)

'Stay With the Station', NASA Boss Urges International Partners (Source: Flight Global)
NASA administrator Charles Bolden on 8 October called on Europe and the UK to stand behind their financial commitments to the International Space Station and work with the USA to keep it flying through 2020 and even 2024 – because the orbiting outpost is humankind’s “springboard” to Mars. Critically, he is calling on European governments to reaffirm their support for the ISS when they meet in Luxembourg in December to approve the next tranche in the European Space Agency’s budget.

After 13 years of continuous occupation, says Bolden, the ISS is showing solid returns in scientific research, especially relating to human health in microgravity and the high-radiation space environment. Bolden says that now is the time for all spacefaring nations to grasp the opportunity to work together in a push to reach Mars in the 2030s.

Editor's Note: For now, at least, the ISS is also the sole destination in orbit for commercial human spaceflight, and provides a major market for cargo-oriented launch services. Without the ISS, several U.S. spaceflight innovators -- SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow, NanoRacks, and others -- would be in a much different position. (10/9)

NASA Resumes Work on Commercial Crew Contracts (Source: Space News)
NASA announced Oct. 9 that it has lifted an order that halted work on commercial crew contracts awarded in September to Boeing and SpaceX, saying that delaying work during an ongoing contract protest could jeopardize the operation of the international space station. In a statement posted to the NASA commercial crew program website, the agency said it was using “statutory authority available to it” to proceed with the $6.8 billion worth of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts it awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and SpaceX.

“The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the ISS crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements,” NASA stated as its reasons for resuming work on the contracts. “These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended.” (10/9)

Angara Complex at Vostochny Spaceport Delayed for Soyuz Work (Source: Itar-Tass)
Builders will be unable to start construction work at the site of a future launch complex of the Angara space rockets at the Vostochny spaceport this year. Valentin Kochetkov said the work to build the Angara rocket launch complex was scheduled to begin next year. “It will not happen this year, because construction work at the first launch pad for the Soyuz rockets is the top priority,” Kochetkov said.

According to his estimates four facilities at the space port worth 0.6 billion dollars worth are to be in place by June - the housing stock, the measurement equipment complex crucial for the first launch, an underground storage for rocket fuel and a waste recycling center. The program for creating the Vostochny spaceport is extended till 2025. A total workforce of 7,000-8,000 from eighteen regions of Russia is employed at the complex. A decision is about to be made to draw additional human resources to eliminate the lagging behind estimated at 30-55 days. (10/10)

Methane Hot Spot in US is 3x Expected Size (Source: AFP)
One area in the southwestern United States is spewing vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere far faster than expected, US space agency researchers said Thursday. Satellite data show more than triple the previously estimated amount of methane is coming from the hot spot located near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The study by NASA and the University of Michigan spanned the years of 2003-2009, before hydraulic fracturing for natural gas began in earnest in the area, signaling that fracking is not to blame. Rather, the persistence of the emissions "indicates that the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing," said the study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. (10/10)

Editorial: A Decade is a Blink of an Eye in Private Space Race (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
While New Mexicans are understandably antsy about seeing a return on their $200 million-plus investment in Spaceport America, they should take a moment to put the space-breaking endeavor into perspective. A decade really isn’t that long in terms of what is trying to be accomplished – the world’s first commercialization of suborbital and orbital space travel.

Although Virgin Galactic was scheduled to send its first manned rocket to the edge of space by the end of this year, it’s been put off until next year for more testing. It’s not the first time the company has adjusted its launch timeline for safety and technological issues. On Tuesday, the company reported making another successful test flight of its SpaceShipTwo.

Pat Hynes, director of the Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University, says the company should be credited with making incremental improvements along the way. “That’s the bottom line. Whether Richard Branson flies this year is irrelevant. Keeping the company flying is what is relevant for our state.” The stakes are high and getting it right is absolutely essential if the commercial space flight industry is to take off successfully. Given the magnitude of the endeavor, a little patience is more than justified. (10/9)

Shining STARGATE, Program Receives $1.2 Million in Grants (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The University of Texas at Brownsville’s STARGATE program received a $1.2 million grant for construction tied to the first research Center of Excellence for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. STARGATE stands for the South Texas Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission. Rick Jenet, associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department, is the visionary behind STARGATE. He is also the founder of the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy, or CARA, which he founded three years ago with the mission of becoming a leader in space exploration.

He said two years ago when SpaceX was first announced that students in the Physics and Astronomy Department banned together to let the community know why it’s so important to have SpaceX in Brownsville. That dream is soon to be a reality. STARGATE serves as a cooperative effort with SpaceX to develop and support commercialization of phase-array technology for satellite and space vehicle communication.

The EDA grant will be used to fund a business incubator for radio frequency laboratories, classrooms, incubator offices, warehouse space and outdoor radio systems at the STARGATE Technology Park located at the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility at Boca Chica Beach. (10/8)

NASA Finds Dead Star 10 Million Times Brighter Than The Sun (Source: Huffington Post)
Think our sun is bright? NASA says its NuSTAR space-based X-ray telescope has detected a dead star that pumps out as much energy as 10 million suns. "You might think of this pulsar as the 'Mighty Mouse' of stellar remnants," Dr. Fiona A. Harrison, professor of physics and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the principal investigator of the NuSTAR mission, said in a written statement.

The super-bright pulsar--the brightest ever recorded--is located about 12 million light-years from Earth in the Messier 82 galaxy. It's an example of a class of mysterious celestial objects known as ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs. The discovery was unexpected, as all ULXs had been believed to be black holes in the process of consuming material from companion stars. (10/10)

NASA Selects All Points Logistics for $20 Billion Contract (Source: All Points)
NASA has selected All Points Logistics LLC for its massive $20 billion Solutions Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) V contract. SEWP V is the fifth iteration of this contract, which is a vehicle for the purchase of Information Technology, Communication, Networking, Security, Conferencing and Audio-Visual products, solutions, and related services. The procurement is a multi-award Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) vehicle, focused on IT products and product-based services.

All Points offers a wide range of advanced technology, including tablets, desktops and servers; IT peripherals; network equipment; storage systems; security tools; software products; cloud based services; video conferencing systems and other IT and Audio-Visual products. Product-based services such as installation, training, maintenance and warranty are also available through SEWP V. As an OMB authorized GWAC, the SEWP contracts are utilized by all Federal Agencies. (10/9)

Air Force Awards $26 Million Extension to Harris for Satellite Control (Source: Space News)
Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Florida, will continue to maintain U.S. Air Force satellite operations facilities under a one-year contract extension valued at $26 million. The extension comes as the Air Force considers how to best operate and maintain the sprawling Air Force Satellite Control Network, which features seven facilities located around the world and is widely viewed as antiquated and badly in need of modernization. (10/9)

Space Florida Sponsors Trivia Night for Charity (Source: SPACErePORT)
A “Trivia” night in aid of United Way of Brevard is being held on Oct. 16 at Nolan’s Irish Pub in Cocoa Beach at 7.30pm. This special Trivia evening is sponsored by Space Florida and special guests will include retired Space Shuttle Astronaut Sam Durrance and Carol Craig, CEO of Craig Technologies.  There will be plenty of free gifts to Trivia participants courtesy of some aerospace entities including Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Craig Technologies. (10/10)

Space Travel and Sandwich Wrappers (Source: Reuters)
As a great photographer once put it, “to take a good picture, come closer to the object.” But how on earth could I take a close-up shot of a Soyuz rocket as it blast off amid orange flames? Especially when, to comply with safety requirements, I was in a photography position over a kilometer away from the rocket. The answer was to leave a remote camera at the launch pad. This led to the second question, due to technical issues photographers can’t control the remote cameras they leave at the launch pad.  Click here. (10/10)

U.S. Halt to Jamming of Cuban Broadcasts Could Aid Efforts to Combat Interference (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government has ceased a decades-long practice of jamming television and radio broadcasts from Cuba, a decision that will strengthen the U.S. position against intentional jamming by Iran, China, Ethiopia and elsewhere, government and industry officials said.

The practice of keeping aloft aircraft south of Florida to assure that Cuban broadcasts are not heard by U.S. audiences has long been a well-known impediment to U.S. efforts to build an international consensus against the kind of jamming that crops up, like a regular fever, in various regions of the world in times of political stress.

The U.S. jamming, which U.S. officials rarely talked about, was often the subject of Cuban protests at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based United Nations affiliate that regulates satellite orbital slots and wireless broadcast frequencies. (10/9)

The Next Decade Could Present FAA with $5B Deficit (Source: AIN)
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will be running a $5 billion deficit by fiscal 2022, according Rich Swayze, the agency's assistant administrator for policy. The FAA is asking for a $15.4 billion budget in fiscal 2015 as the agency lobbies Congress for its next long-term authorization when the current one expires next year. (10/8)

UK Astronaut Could Walk on Mars in Future NASA Mission (Source: Guardian)
A British astronaut could walk on Mars as part of a joint US-UK expedition to the red planet, the head of Nasa Charles Bolden has said. The man who piloted the Hubble telescope said that Britain would be a “perfect partner” for a mission to Mars because of its tradition of aeronautical innovation.

“Much of the earlier work in aeronautics was done right here in the UK, so you have always been among the leaders when it came to taking things from the unknown and making them known and I think the UK is a perfect partner to try to venture off into the far reaches of the solar system with,” the Nasa administrator told ITV News.

Asked if he saw British astronauts being part of a mission he has said he hoped to launch, he said: “I do. I expect that you will see representatives from many nations, particularly the partner nations that we currently have." Bolden, who has previously been an astronaut, as well as a US marine, said that a successful mission to Mars could ensure the survival of the human race. (10/8)

No comments: