October 23, 2014

Cruise With Story Musgrave (Source: Central Travel)
Join us on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, featuring Illuminations - the ONLY Planetarium at Sea - for a five night cruise hosted by Dr. Story Musgrave, astronaut, speaker, educator, mentor & consultant. The cruise departs on July 30, 2015, from New York City and returns on August 4. Click here. (10/23)

ULA Earnings Take Sting out of Lockheed’s Lackluster Space Returns (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin on Oct. 22 reported lower revenue and operating profit for its Space Systems division during the nine months ending Sep. 28, but a higher operating profit margin due to increased earnings from government launch services provider United Launch Alliance. Lockheed said the 29 percent increase in ULA earnings, to $90 million from $70 million for the same nine-month period in 2013, will be followed by a drop in 2015 with fewer launches, and launches on lower-profit vehicles. (10/23)

How 3-D Printing Could Help Replace Russian Rockets (Source: Defense One)
As the Pentagon looks to develop a replacement for the Russian engine that blasts the Atlas V rocket into orbit, two U.S. companies have been working on a little-known project that could speed up the process. Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne are already building a replacement engine that could power the Atlas V for military launches and future NASA manned space launches. Much of the engine has been built using a 3-D printing technique know as additive manufacturing. (10/23)

Waypoint 2 Space Kickstarter Campaign for Space Training System (Source: W2S)
METS, or the Modular EVA Training System, is a fully enclosed black chamber that houses a 12 foot high by 10 foot wide Spacecraft Training Module. With Star Field generators above and below, METS allows astronaut trainees to simulate an Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), commonly known as a spacewalk. METS creates the sensation of weightlessness while the astronaut trainee moves around the space module - simulating space walk repairs performed by astronauts at the International Space Station. Click here. (10/23)

Spaceport America: a Convergence of Ideas and Events (Source: RocketSTEM)
The rumble of a rocket engine and then a distant sonic boom break the breezy silence of a remote desert plain. Another unmanned commercial rocket has been launched from Spaceport America. Soon, perhaps in a few months, Virgin Galactic will begin space tourism flights with a futuristic spacecraft air launched from a mothership using Spaceport America’s 12,000-foot runway for takeoff and landing.

How did this, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, come to be built in southern New Mexico? It was the continuation of more than seven decades of space development in a geographic setting ideally suited for it. Click here. (10/16)

What Killed the Space Race? (Source: IAI News)
It was a dream that did not come to pass. Travelling to other planets is something our grandparents did, not something we do. We send tiny, intricately clever machines to fly past the planets instead. Instead of going out there, we have developed immensely ingenious methods for analysing the trickle of data from space that reaches our world. It’s cheaper that way.

Keeping human beings safe in the ultra-inhospitable environment of space is complex and expensive, and we have other things to spend our money on. Big expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t fund themselves, you know. What happened to the dream of space exploration? In a nutshell: people got bored. By “people” I mean the human race, considered globally, not the outliers and eccentrics for whom the dream kept burning in their souls – and they got bored with it depressingly quickly. (10/23)

Commercial Spaceflight Companies Optimistic, but Frustrated, Over Slow Progress (Source: Space.com)
The leaders of commercial space flight companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic remain optimistic, if a bit frustrated, over the slow pace of getting regular space flights off the ground. Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight this month, Virgin Galactic officials said they expect to begin test flights for SpaceShipTwo "quite soon." (10/22)

New Date Set for Antares Launch to ISS From Virginia Spaceport (Source: WBOC)
A date is now set for the next cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket is scheduled for lift off at 6:45 p.m. on October 27. The Orb-3 Commercial Resupply Services mission was delayed because Hurricane Gonzalo hit an area of Bermuda where there is a rocket tracking station. After inspection, NASA and Orbital established the new launch date.

NASA says Orbital is launching the Orb-3 mission to orbit several days earlier than necessary to preserve schedule flexibility and time its arrival at the station to conform to other visiting vehicle operations. According to NASA, the Cygnus spacecraft is fully fueled and loaded with most of its cargo bound for the ISS. (10/23)

Saturn's Moon Mimas May Have an Underground Ocean - or Just a Weird Core (Source: America Space)
It wasn’t that long ago that Earth was thought to be the only place in the Solar System capable of having liquid water oceans, but now we know of several moons that do as well, including Europa and Enceladus, and likely Titan and Ganymede as well. In all these cases, the oceans are below ground, similar to ocean water below ice sheets at the Earth’s poles.

Now there is yet another moon which might be added to this special list: Saturn’s moon Mimas. Like those other moons, Mimas is very cold and icy on the surface, as might be expected in the outer solar system. But also like the other moons, there may be something more happening underground, where more heat could be available. The evidence seems to point to two interesting possibilities: either Mimas has a frozen core shaped like a football or it has a subsurface ocean. (10/23)

Angara Trial Program Includes Ten Test Launches (Source: Interfax)
The trial program of Russia's brand new launch vehicle Angara includes ten test launches, according to materials released by Roscosmos. "The Angara trial program stipulates ten launches, the first two using mockups and the others with real satellites," the materials read. The maiden launch of the heavy-lift Angara-A5 has been tentatively planned for December of this year. (10/23)

Russia Predicts Rivalry for Moon Exploration (Source: Itar-Tass)
Authors of the Russian Moon exploration concept predict that different countries will compete actively for exploration of the Earth satellite in next few decades and suggest Russia taking control over most promising areas on the Moon, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday, noting that the most precious area is the lunar south pole which is planned to be explored by Russia urgently.

Moon development initiatives have already been produced by several organizations involved in Russian space program, including rocket and space corporation Energia, Central Scientific-Research Institute of Machine-Building, the Institute of Space Research and Lavochkin Research-and-Production Association. (10/23)

Spaceport Groups Plans Fall Banquet on Nov. 1 (Source: MSRP)
Days of Future Past will be the theme of the Fall Banquet sponsored by the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers in conjunction with the Cape Canaveral Chapter of the Air Force Association. The Dinner will feature presentations on a CubeSat project, the Challenger program, and lessons learned that help NASA with Commercial Crew and Orion.

The Spring Banquet is set for Nov. 1 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cocoa Beach. The event is open to the public. Social hour starts at 6PM with dinner served at 7PM. Click here. (10/22)

Lingering Doubts Drove Europe To Sideline Galileo Launches until Next Year (Source: Space News)
European governments’ decision to forgo a December launch of two Galileo navigation satellites was fueled both by ongoing concerns about the Soyuz rocket following the August failure and by unresolved performance issues on the two satellites stuck in a bad orbit, European government and industry officials said.

Officials said that despite an inquiry board’s conclusion that the Soyuz Fregat upper stage misdirected the two satellites because of an easily fixable design flaw, the inquiry uncovered several other Soyuz issues that will have to be resolved before they will launch.

In addition, each of the two Galileo satellites placed into the bad orbit initially failed to deploy one of its two solar arrays, for reasons that could be due to the bad orbit but may have some other cause. An investigation is ongoing and has come to no conclusion, officials said. (10/22)

NASA Silent on Smith Request for Information (Source: Houston Chronicle)
On Aug. 27, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden asking for a status report on the new Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle, key projects in returning the nation to preeminence in space.

Other than a cursory acknowledgement that NASA received the letter, Smith got crickets. A September 10 committee deadline passed, and still no reply. So on Wednesday, Smith tried again, firing off a letter to NASA complaining that the agency has ignored a number of requests for information this year.

Similarly, NASA public affairs officials did not respond to media requests asking about Smith’s complaint, which is that the information he seeks is necessary for the committee’s oversight responsibilities. The exchange, or lack thereof, follows allegations by some House Republicans that the Obama administration has underfunded the programs, which are at the center of a debate about NASA’s future focus. For now, Smith has pushed his deadline back to Oct. 28. (10/22)

What’s Cooler Than One Comet? A Storm of Them (Source: TIME)
A stunning sighting around a nearby star offers a glimpse of our own solar system billions of years ago. With some 2,000 planets now known to orbit stars beyond the Sun and thousands more in the can waiting for confirmation, the once-exotic term “exoplanet” is so commonplace it requires no definition for many people. The term “exocomet,” by contrast, is a bit more obscure.

Astronomers have known for years that comets orbit other stars—in particular, the relatively nearby star β Pictoris, which lies about 63 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pictor. But a new paper in Nature is more than a little mindblowing nevertheless. A team of astronomers is reporting the detection of nearly 500 individual comets that passed in front of β Pictoris between 2003 and 2011. (10/22)

NASA Launches Free Sound Library (Source: BBC)
Historical audio from NASA missions has been uploaded to a free sound library. More than 60 samples have been added to the agency's new dedicated Soundcloud account, but listeners are unable to leave comments underneath the files. Astronaut communications, including "Houston, we've had a problem" and "the Eagle has landed", can be heard - as well as some more abstract noises made by working spacecraft and debris. (10/22)

ESA Spaceplane Progressing Towards Vega Launch (Source: Space Daily
Europe's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane has completed another step in its pre-launch checkout process, and is now being readied for fueling ahead of the November 18 flight with Arianespace's lightweight Vega. This activity - which included IXV's fit-check on the adapter that will serve as its interface with the Vega launcher - occurred inside the Spaceport's S1B clean room facility. (10/22)

Intelsat to Study Commercialization of USAF Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
Intelsat is one of four companies awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to study the viability of using commercial facilities and operations expertise for the tracking, telemetry and command (TT and C) of government satellites. The goal of the contract, known as the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) Commercial Provisioning study, is to provide USAF Space Command with a detailed plan for leveraging commercial TT and C facilities and capabilities. (10/23)

New Space Shuttle Monument Dedication in Titusville on Nov. 1 (Source: NSCFL)
The U. S. Space Walk of Fame will dedicate the Shuttle Monument in Space View Park in Titusville on Saturday, November 1st at 10:00 a.m. Bob Crippen, retired astronaut and Kennedy Space Center director will be the speaker. Click here. (10/22)

China's Secret Moon Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Soon, a rocket will launch a Chinese spacecraft to the Moon and back. It's the first time that China has attempted this long and perilous journey. It should be a great achievement for the nation, worthy of extensive publicity. Ironically, this mission has been shrouded in more obscurity than the "secret" X-37B spaceplane operated by the US Air Force, which even had its re-entry pre-announced and covered extensively on video.

It would seem that Chinese President Xi Jinping is tightening the screws on "state secrets" even more than he did in the past. Censorship of China's space program increased soon after he took office, and the situation seems to have deteriorated even further. But there could be other reasons why this specific mission is being treated with such caution by China's state media.

Let's get through some technical details. The spacecraft will probably not enter orbit around the Moon, despite precise statements made in the Chinese media that previously suggested this. It's flying a free-return trajectory that should take slightly over a week to return home. The capsule to be used in this mission is a scale model of the descent module used on the Shenzhou astronaut-carrying spacecraft. The "service module" for the spacecraft is a boxy satellite bus based on the Chang'e lunar orbiter design. (10/23)

Another Possible Anomaly with Proton Launch? (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Russian Proton-M was back in action on Tuesday, tasked with lofting the Ekspress-AM6 communications satellite on a multi-hour flight to a geostationary orbit via its Briz-M Upper Stage. The Russian workhorse launched on schedule from its traditional home at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and apparently successfully deployed the satellite. However, half a day later, questions were raised about its initial orbit.

Sources note the satellite was deployed into the wrong orbit, but officials have not confirmed this issue and have apparently claimed it is in the correct orbit. It is possible the orbit parameter problem – if confirmed – can be solved during the satellite’s propulsive trip to its designated orbital home. (10/22)

NASA Banks on SpaceX, Other Firms for Mars Missions (Source: Universe Today)
NASA's recent recording of footage of one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 reusable rockets in flight demonstrates the way the space agency is hoping to tap the expertise of private companies as it builds the data infrastructure needed to launch missions to Mars. NASA hopes the data it collects from SpaceX will help it lower huge payloads of cargo onto Mars in the future. (10/21)

Boeing Reports Strong Third-Quarter Results (Source: Boeing)
Boeing reported third-quarter revenue increased 7 percent to $23.8 billion. Third-quarter core operating earnings (non-GAAP) increased 13 percent to $2.4 billion from the same period of the prior year. Operating cash flow before pension contributions guidance increased to greater than $7 billion. (10/22)

LHT Modifies Luftwaffe A310 as Zero-Gravity Aircraft (Source: Flight Global)
Lufthansa Technik is converting a former German air force Airbus A310 into a test and research aircraft for French national space center CNES. The twinjet, which previously served as a VIP transport for the German government, will be used for parabolic flights to simulate zero-gravity conditions. It will be operated by CNES subsidiary Novespace in partnership with ESA and Germany's DLR. (10/22)

JSC Media Resource Center to Close (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Johnson Space Center Media Resource Center will close its doors on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. The rationale behind the closing was listed as “funding availability.” The space agency noted that supporting current events at JSC had received “highest priority.” Journalists can now call the JSC Newsroom via telephone to receive access to still and video imagery. Requests can also be submitted electronically or via mail. (10/22)

NMSU Rebids for NASA Scientific Balloon Contract (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico State University has submitted a proposal to re-bid for a NASA contract that will provide an estimated $20 million to $30 million a year toward high-altitude scientific balloon research and scientific work conducted by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, a NASA facility managed by the NMSU Physical Science Lab and located at Palestine, Texas.

The contract is administered by the by NASA's Balloon Program Office at Wallops Flight Facility. The Physical Science Lab (PSL) has held the contract for the past 27 years and has been the principal launcher of high altitude balloons for NASA's Scientific Balloon Program. The previous 10-year contract — NMSU's largest research contract — had a potential value of more than $200 million and was worth $28 million in the most recent year.

The new contract will span five years (including a two-year base period and options for the next three years), said Dan Howard, NMSU executive vice president and provost. "We're confident that we're going to be successful in winning it again and it will be business as usual for us," Ball said. If won, this will be the fifth time the NMSU Physical Science Lab has won the competitive bid process, Ball said. (10/22)

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