October 14, 2014

Aerojet Rocketdyne Takes Loss on AJ-26 Engine Problems (Source: Space News)
The parent company of Aerojet Rocketdyne announced Oct. 10 that it took a $17.5 million loss in its latest fiscal quarter because of issues with the AJ-26 rocket engine that it provides for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares launch vehicle. GenCorp Inc. reported a net loss in the company’s fiscal third quarter, which ended Aug. 31, of $9.5 million.

The company also reported a net loss for the year to date of $61.8 million. GenCorp singled out the AJ-26 engine, a refurbished version of the Soviet-era NK-33, as a major reason for the loss. The company said it took pre-tax contract loss of $17.5 million on the program in the latest quarter, and $31.4 million loss on the program for the year to date. (10/13)

Private Space Habitat to Blow Up on ISS Next Year (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Until someone manages to figure out how to get a space elevator up and running, sending stuff into space is going to remain enormously expensive. Payloads are also limited by size: if it doesn’t fit inside a rocket, it’s not going to make it into orbit. This places significant restrictions on large space structures like the International Space Station, which have to be made up of lots of tiny little modules stuck together, meaning that you don’t have access to a lot of open space.

Fifty years ago, NASA experimented with launching inflatable spacecraft that could be carried into space wadded up inside small rockets, and then pumped up to enormous sizes once they reached orbit. It was a fantastic idea that was in the running for a habitat on the ISS until funding for it was axed by the U.S. Congress. But Bigelow Aerospace has taken up the idea, and reconfirmed its plan to test an inflatable module on the ISS in 2015.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will fly up to the ISS inside the unpressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule sometime next year. The station’s Canadarm2 will attach the BEAM to an airlock on the Tranquility module, where it will be slowly inflated. The BEAM has an internal volume of about 16 cubic meters, which is just enough room for one astronaut to comfortably do a mostly stationary acrobatic routine, and it’s scheduled to remain attached to the ISS for two full years. (10/14)

India’s Impressive Space Program (Source: The Diplomat)
India recently made history, when its Mars Orbiter Mission successfully entered the Martian orbit. In doing so, it became the first country to enter Mars’ orbit on its first attempt and also the first Asian country to reach the red planet. Missions to Mars have rarely been successful. Before India’s Mangalyaan (Sanskrit for Mars-craft), only the United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe had entered Mars orbit. India is part of an elite club.

What makes India’s Mars mission all the more remarkable is its low cost. With a price tag of just $70 million, it is the least expensive inter-planetary mission ever. The U.S. Maven orbiter, which arrived at Mars two days before Mangalyaan, cost NASA a whopping $671 million in comparison. Experts have pointed out that the enormous cost difference between Mangalyaan and Maven is because the Indian Mars-craft is far simpler than Maven. “They’ve kept it small,” Andrew Coates, who will be a principal investigator on Europe’s Mars rover in 2018, said of the Indian Mars mission. (10/13)

New Horizons' Reach Could Extend Past Pluto (Source: Space.com)
NASA researchers could get a peek past Pluto if the New Horizons probe's mission gets extended and the spacecraft explores even smaller objects than the dwarf planet. "These are objects that are much smaller than Pluto, and probably much more primitive in terms of their chemistry and their appearance," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. "These are objects the size of counties, for example, not the size of planets. They're very faint." (10/13)

'Astronaut Wives Club' Begins Filming for 2015 Launch on ABC (Source: Collect Space)
The first meeting of the Astronaut Wives Club — the made-for-TV-version, that is — has convened in New Orleans. Filming began Thursday (Oct. 9) on the 10-episode series, which ABC plans to air next spring. "The Astronaut Wives Club" is based on author Lily Koppel's best-selling book by the same title, which tells the real story of the women who stood beside the United States' first spacemen. (10/13)

The Spaceman of Afghanistan (Source: Guardian)
The Spaceman of Afghanistan is the uplifting story of Abdul Ahad Momand who on 29 August 1988 became the first – and so far only – Afghan to journey into space. He was a beneficiary of the Russians’ desire to keep hold of Afghanistan as an ally when unrest in the country increased their vulnerability to the US. He entered their cosmonaut programme and spent a week in the Mir space station helping to map the uncharted regions of his country and note geological features that would help his people predict earthquakes. Click here. (10/14)

GPS Modernization Continues with Quick Pace of Launches (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A new satellite launched Aug. 1 has joined the U.S. Air Force's GPS navigation network to help guide everything from bombs to road trippers to their destinations, with final preparations on track to send up another GPS spacecraft at the end of October. It was the seventh of 12 Boeing-built GPS 2F-series satellites to launch. The rest of the GPS 2F spacecraft, which have been manufactured and are in storage at Boeing's satellite factory in El Segundo, Calif., are due to launch by mid-2016. (10/14)

Space Debris Fell From The Sky Nearly Killing Two People (Source: MY9NJ)
Workers at the Water Treatment Plant in Secaucus, New Jersey, were startled when an object fell from the sky and nearly struck them. Operations Foreman Steve Bronowich said the falling piece of debris nearly hit and killed two of his employees. “They said like, what the heck is that, they haven't ever seen anything like that, it made a loud noise and then bounced,” Bronowich said.

After some research online, the crew at the plant came to the conclusion that the falling debris was a heat tile from a space shuttle. “It was a white tile, it had three layers, there was ceramic, then a piece of metal, and then some kind of a rubber underneath it, and it was brown because it looked like it was burnt,” Bronowich described. NASA issued a statement and said it is unlikely that the object is from a space shuttle, since one hasn't been flown since 2011. Editor's Note: Maybe this is a reason that the military X-37B is returning to Earth this week. (10/14)

Space Concordia Rub Shoulders with the Astronautical Elite (Source: Concordia University)
Extra-planetary travel. Hurtling through space. Next-generation satellites. These are abstract concepts for most of us mere mortals. Then there's Space Concordia, the award-winning student association that builds satellites and imagines the future of space travel and exploration. This year, for the first time, Space Concordia was invited to present at the International Astronautical Congress, held in Toronto. (10/11)

Russian Luna-25 Mission to Cost Billions (Source: Space Daily)
The Luna-25 exploration mission will cost tens of billions of rubles, an official from Russian Federal Space Agency said Friday. "Let's say, we are talking tens of billions of rubles because it's a resource-heavy project, complex in terms of technical feasibility," Roscosmos' strategic planning chief Yuri Makarov said at a press conference in Moscow. (10/14)

The United Arab Emirates Space Program (Source: Space Safety)
There are dozens of emerging space nations around the world seeking to capitalize on dramatic increases in space technology accessibility. We take a look at one such nation, the United Arab Emirates, exploring the opportunities and challenges they face on the road to achieving space capability. Click here. (10/13)

Greatest Long-Term Threat To Boeing Is The Loss Of Talent (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) CEO Chris Chadwick termed the company's moves out of Seattle as “necessary if we are going to differentiate ourselves from competitors and stay ahead of a rapidly changing global defense environment.” He is exactly right. The problem is that Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) is positioned very differently from BDS, and yet corporate management is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to labor relations. Click here. (10/13)

SpaceX's Lower Cost Defies Boeing's Past (Source: Investors Business Daily)
If SpaceX delivers on its plan to send astronauts into space for nearly 40% less than Boeing can, NASA could reap even bigger cost savings as the upstart company challenges decades-old practices in the industry. Under the contracts announced last month, Boeing (BA) could get up to $4.2 billion to ferry passengers to the International Space Station (ISS), while SpaceX will get up to $2.6 billion for the same requirements.

While NASA is looking to reduce costs, the rejection of Sierra Nevada's cheaper bid and the inclusion of Boeing's pricier one also points to the space agency's other priority: reliability. Boeing has worked with NASA since the dawn of the space age and has a proven track record that allowed it to command a higher sum. Its Apollo command module put Neil Armstrong on the moon. But Boeing's history may be weighing on its costs.

"Boeing's cost structure is higher than SpaceX — that's just a fact," said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at the Teal Group. Because the aerospace giant has been around longer, it most likely has an older, more experienced workforce with higher wages and labor costs, he added. SpaceX is a vertically integrated company, building all of its parts in-house, with no subcontractors. Boeing employs numerous subcontractors to build components, which adds to costs. (10/13)

Profile: Thomas Markusic of Firefly Space Systems (Source: Space News)
Firefly Space Systems is part of a new wave of launch services startups looking to capitalize on a small-satellite boom fueled, at least in part, by a combination of advances in microelectronics technology and Silicon Valley investment capital. The company’s founder, Tom Markusic, believes the boom is still in its early stages and envisions the day when companies like Google fulfill long-articulated but unrealized visions of darkening the skies with satellites. Cheap access to space will help make that vision a reality, he says.

"Flights will start happening probably in the 2016 time frame. There are places like Spaceport America in New Mexico, or Midland, Texas, with pretty low costs and regulations where we could do suborbital checkout flights. And for those flights we’ll be looking for more funding from venture capitalists and institutional investors. Then beyond the suborbital flights there will have to be another series of investment for the first orbital flights."

Which launch sites are you considering for revenue-generating commercial launches? "I think the northern launch sites like Kodiak, Alaska, are attractive to us. We hired a veteran SpaceX launch guy, Bradley Obrocto, who had worked at SpaceX since 2008 at places like Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific — everywhere, really. His first task will be to go out and look and see where we can get the best deal." (10/13)

NASA Braces For Comet's Close Encounter With Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
A comet will give Mars a close shave on Sunday, Oct. 19, and NASA isn't taking any chances. Comet C/2013 A1, or 'Siding Spring,' is expected to come within 87,000 miles of the red planet, making its closet approach around 2:27 p.m. EDT. To keep debris from the comet's long trail from hitting the three NASA spacecraft now in orbit around Mars, the space agency has adjusted their positions so that they'll be on the planet's far side when the comet approaches.

"We're going to hide behind Mars," Rob Lock, the orbiter studies lead for the Mars program office, says in the video above. "So, kind of like diving under your desk--there's an earthquake and flying glass around--it's exactly the same sort of thing. We're not going to take any chances." The Sliding Spring flyby will also give NASA its first-ever close-up look at a comet from the Oort Cloud, a spherical "cloud" of icy objects in the solar system's outer reaches. The space agency hopes that by studying the comet's trajectory, scientists will gain a better understanding of comets that whiz close to Earth. (10/13)

The Incredible, Expendable Mars Mission (Source: Space Review)
Five years ago, NASA published its latest detailed architecture for human missions to Mars. John Strickland explores that architecture and discusses several ways it could be improved to make it more robust and less expensive. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2618/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Canadian Space at a Crossroads (Source: Space Review)
Two weeks ago, Canada hosted the global space community at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. Jeff Foust examines how that conference, which sought to play up Canada's unique capabilities in space, also raised questions about the country's long-term future in areas like human spaceflight and planetary exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2617/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Women of Space (Source: Space Review)
A documentary airing on PBS this week examines the history of women in America's space program. Dwayne Day reviews the show and examines both the issues it covers and topics he wished it included. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2616/1 to view the article. (10/13)

The Role of International Cooperation in China's Space Station Plans (Source: Space Review)
China's human spaceflight program has, to date, been an independent pursuit, with little interest in cooperation with, let alone dependence on, other nations. Jeff Foust reports that view may be changing with China's plans to develop its own space station. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2615/1 to view the article. (10/13)

A Second Look: Safe Is Not An Option (Source: Space Review)
A book published earlier this year offered an alternative, and at time provocative, examination of the issues of risk in spaceflight. Michael Fodroci offers a different perspective on the issues the book raises from his experience working safety and mission assurance issues at NASA. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2614/1 to view the article. (10/13)

Smith to Bolden: Why Not Orion for Commercial Crew? (Source: Space News)
House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) wants to know when NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule will be ready to provide backup crew and cargo delivery services to the international space station and whether the Lockheed Martin-built vehicle should replace one of the two commercial crew taxis NASA is now funding. “If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in an Oct. 7 letter co-signed by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee. (10/12)

No Romance on Mars: Sex and Romance in a Mission to the Red Planet (Source: Space Safety)
Imagine the following scenario. The first batch of Martian colonists has settled on Mars. There are only ten of them currently residing on the Red Planet, both men and women, living together in a confined station only a few meters across. They see each other first thing in the morning, they share their meals, they work together, they have only each other to talk to and spend their free time with. The contact is incredibly close and intense – it’s no surprise that they soon start feeling like much more than just co-workers, more like a family, as if they have known each other for ages.

Add the pressure of the hostile alien environment and the notion that anything can go wrong at any time making them dependent on each other for their very lives, and you get an intensity of emotions that one would hardly ever experience on Earth and that may bring about some surprises even for these well trained, rational astronauts. At the end of the day, they are not robots. One can’t blame them for having basic human needs – like the occasional hug and, of course, sex (even though NASA strictly prohibits that).

“The bottom line is that, like hunger and thirst, sex is a basic biological motive,” Jason Kring, human factors researcher at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 2008. “The potential round-trip mission to Mars could take three years. It doesn’t make sense to assume that these men and women are going to have no thoughts of it for three years.” Kring suggested a solution that he said was frequently used by polar explorers: temporary relationships with colleagues that end with the mission. Click here. (10/7)

Editorial: Debris Cloud Gathers Over Cubesat Party (Source: Space News)
A new and fast-growing contributor to hazardous clutter, particularly in low Earth orbit, is cubesats that are literally being launched by the dozen these days. Fueled by advances in microelectronics and in many cases by Silicon Valley venture capital, the cubesat revolution is dramatically expanding applications for space systems while toppling the long-associated cost barriers.

A recent example of just how bad it is already is Europe’s Sentinel 1A environment-monitoring satellite, which, after being left in a lower than expected orbit, had to make eight collision avoidance maneuvers during its climb to its operating orbit. The cubesat sector deserves special attention, however, both because it is relatively new and thus not as attuned to the problem as longtime players, and because it is populating low Earth orbit at a dizzying rate.

According to another study presented at the conference, some 150 cubesats will be deployed during 2014 when all is said and done, a 63 percent increase over 2013, which saw a threefold increase over 2012. Moreover, the number of conjunctions — or relatively close orbital passes — involving cubesats is growing rapidly. In 2007, cubesats accounted for just 1 percent of the total; for the first nine months of 2014, that percentage was up to 5. (10/13)

Cubesats May Hitchhike on Mission to Europa (Source: Discovery)
As NASA steps up its plans for the Europa Clipper concept to visit the icy Jupiter moon, JPL has asked for cubesat proposals from universities that could complement the primary Clipper payload. As we have a mission going to Europa, why not attach some cubesats for the ride? NASA has outlined some key science objectives these axillary cubesats should be able to carry out, including “reconnaissance for future landing sites, gravity fields, magnetic fields, atmospheric and plume science, and radiation measurements.” (10/13)

Lunar Volcanoes Suggest the Moon May Still be Warm (Source: New Scientist)
The man in the moon may still have some fire in his belly. A new study argues that magma erupted onto the lunar surface less than 100 million years ago – nearly a billion years later than previously thought. If confirmed, the finding suggests that radioactive elements may be keeping the moon's innards toasty even today. (10/13)

Editorial: Keep ISS Alive! (Source: Space News)
In the 1990s as a leader of the Space Frontier Foundation, I worked to cancel what was then called Space Station Freedom. Announced in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, the original concept had been pitched at around $8 billion. Based on what we saw happening to what might have been a good idea, we were the only space organization to come out against the project. We believed that if the president’s goal was to open the frontier as stated, there were much better and lower-cost ways to do so that were more directly evolvable and supportive than where it seemed the station was going.

We were right. By the time construction stopped (notice I did not say “completed” — as it never has been) NASA and its  partners had spent over $100 billion on what we now call the international space station. Actually, the cost may be much higher, depending on whose numbers you believe, and if they do or do not count the space shuttle in the total. (Given that over 75 percent of all shuttle flights were in some way in support of the station, we probably should.)

[Now] not only do I believe we must dramatically increase the maximum use of the space station by any and all, it is my stand that it never, ever under any circumstances should be brought back down to Earth — period. The debate over the current use and future fate of ISS cuts directly to the core of what we are going to do there. If space is a government program, then throw it away and let’s try and raise the money for the next one. If it is our intention to open space as a frontier to the people of Earth, then it is hugely important that we treat our first permanent outpost as a treasured resource, both figuratively and literally. (10/13)

A Declaration of Space Jurisprudence Interdependence (Source: Space News)
It is essential to have a driving, underlying philosophic construct recognized and accepted globally for pursuing space activities in support of humankind’s migration off-Earth. It also is critical for space jurisprudents or philosophers — as well as space law practitioners — to recognize the biochemical/biological underpinnings directing the opportunity potential for space exploration and migration, dispersal and settlement that are critical for the survival of the human genome.

The motivating construct for implementing these opportunities — individually and collectively, shared by all cultures, all societies and all civilizations — is species and, ultimately, specieskind’s survival. The substantive underpinnings of this approach relate cultural institutions, such as “the law,” to the empirically premised migratory dispersal and evolutionary principles of biochemistry and biophysics underlying organic life and its evolution as it is presently known and understood. (10/13)

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