October 28, 2014

10 Years On: A Progress Report on Spaceport America (Source: New Mexico Watchdog)
It has cost New Mexico taxpayers $218.5 million to construct and its anchor tenant, headed by a flamboyant billionaire, has yet to get off the ground. Nonetheless, backers of Spaceport America remain confident the investment in the first site built specifically for commercial flights going into suborbital space will pay off.

“When it comes to the whole commercial space industry, I don’t think it’s a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of Spaceport America, located essentially in the middle of nowhere in a desert basin in southern New Mexico — 45 miles north of Las Cruces, 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences and just west of the White Sands Missile Range.

Anderson said SpaceX has already spent $2 million on infrastructure improvements on its Spaceport site. Musk’s team is working on what Anderson called “the holy grail of vertical launch,” its Falcon 9R  that’s designed to lift off and instead of having the first stage of the rocket get discarded into the ocean, returns the ground to be used again. SpaceX is testing the rocket in Texas and suffered a malfunction in August, but plans to conduct its launches in New Mexico. (10/28)

Plane Carrying European Satellite Makes Emergency Landing in Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
A plane carrying a European satellite on the way to the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan has made an emergency landing at the airport of Ulyanovsk in Russia. The reason for the Antonov An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft's forced landing in Ulyanovsk was the failure of one of the engines. (10/28)

2014 Canadian Aerospace Summit Planned on Nov. 18-19 (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
The 50 year old, largely unofficial Canadian partnerships which tied together government, business and academia to define and inform our Canadian aerospace and space activities are about to split apart just in time for the expected Federal election tentatively scheduled for October 19th, 2015. And, the best place to watch the explosion is the fast approaching Canadian Aerospace Summit, which will be held in Ottawa, Ontario from November 18th - 19th. (10/20)

Partnership Formed to Propel Ontario’s Aerospace Industry (Source: Canadian Manufacturing)
A trio of organizations are teaming up to increase innovation in Ontario’s aerospace sector. Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC) are partnering with the newly formed Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) to identify and develop opportunities for increased industry-academic research and development collaborations in the province, home to Canada’s second largest aerospace sector. (10/27)

Canadian Company Works to Develop Space Drill (Source: CBC)
A Greater Sudbury mining innovation company is getting to literally take some of its equipment out of this world. Deltion Innovations Limited is in the process of developing a drill for the Canadian Space Agency and the goal is to have the drill mine for water and ice on the moon.

CEO Dale Boucher said the drill is being developed in the company’s test facility in Capreol. Testing is being done by using a liquid nitrogen tank that is used to cool down the sample, filled with simulated moon dirt and water, he said. This test phase involves trying to drill through material at liquid nitrogen temperatures — about minus 180 degrees Celsius. (10/20)

NASA Seeking Ultra-Lightweight Materials to Enable Missions to Mars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA is seeking proposals to develop and manufacture ultra-lightweight materials for aerospace vehicles and structures of the future. Currently and in the recent past, manufacturers have been using composite "sandwich" materials. Composite sandwich structures are made by attaching two thin skins to a lightweight honeycomb or foam cores. Today this type of composite is used extensively within the aerospace industry, automotive industry and almost anywhere where reducing weight and cost while maintaining structural strength is desired. (10/28)

Virgin Galactic Has Plans for Satellites (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
No one knows for sure when any tourists will be flying on a Virgin Galactic craft taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico. But that's not stopping the company from talking about doing even more. The company is developing a new vehicle to launch satellites into orbit. "We're doing great things in the Mojave Desert, although it's less in the spotlight than our testing of SpaceShipTwo," Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides said. (10/27)

Finding the Right Rocks (Source: Space News)
The NASA inspector general (IG) recently excoriated the agency’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program, finding that the effort to locate potentially Earth-threatening asteroids and comets was poorly resourced and far behind its mandated detection goals. In 2005 Congress tasked NASA with locating 90 percent of NEOs 140 meters in size and larger, but currently only 10 percent of this population has been found.

The IG concluded that program management and funding for the planetary defense effort were insufficient for the task at hand. Unfortunately, the IG’s audit missed a much broader and far more important point: NASA is not looking for the right rocks. Click here. (10/27)

Construction Takes Wing at NASA Glenn in Brook Park (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
NASA Glenn Research Center's first new office building in a few decades is a glassy, gleaming, energy-efficient sign of the federal government's continued commitment to Brook Park. The Mission Integration Center, which opened in late July, is the biggest result to date of a 20-year master plan approved in 2007. Construction crews are creating a "downtown Glenn" for key operations and moving other jobs, such as shipping and receiving, to the fringes.

The mission center cost $29 million, counting design, construction and furnishings. It provides common ground for workers from different Glenn enterprises, including space flight and conventional flight. Many of the building's roughly 300 occupants have labs elsewhere on campus but offices here. (10/27)

Film Review: ‘Interstellar’ (Source: Variety)
The date is an unspecified point in the near future, close enough to look and feel like tomorrow, yet far enough for a number of radical changes to have taken hold in society. A decade on from a period of widespread famine, the world’s armies have been disbanded and the cutting-edge technocracies of the early 21st century have regressed into more utilitarian, farm-based economies.

“We used to look up in the sky and wonder about our place in the stars,” Cooper muses. “Now we just look down and wonder about our place in the dirt.” And oh, what dirt! As “Interstellar” opens, the world — or at least Cooper’s Steinbeckian corner of it — sits on the cusp of a second Dust Bowl, ravaged by an epidemic of crop blight, a silt-like haze hanging permanently in the air.

And as the crops die, so the Earth’s atmosphere becomes richer in nitrogen and poorer in oxygen, until the time when global starvation will give way to global asphyxiation. But all hope is not lost. NASA (whose massive real-life budget cuts lend the movie added immediacy) still exists in this agrarian dystopia, but it’s gone off the grid, far from the microscope of public opinion. Click here. (10/27)

Wayward Boat Scrubs Antares Launch (Source: Space News)
A boat that entered restricted waters forced Orbital Sciences Corp. to postpone the launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft Oct. 27. The launch of the Antares rocket, scheduled for 6:45 pm EDT, was scrubbed when a sailboat entered a restricted zone off the coast from the launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. The boat was not able to leave the zone before the ten-minute launch window closed.

There were no technical issues reported with the Antares rocket or the Cygnus spacecraft prior to the scrub, and weather conditions were favorable. Orbital Sciences and NASA announced the next launch attempt would be Oct. 28 at 6:22 pm EDT. Forecasts call for a 95 percent chance of acceptable weather at the new launch time. (10/27)

Mojave Spaceport Board Candidate Dies in Plane Crash (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Michael Hill, who was director of business operations at the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Air and Space Port, was killed on Friday along with student pilot Ilam Zigante in the crash of a two-seat, single-engine aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash. Hill had been a candidate for one of two short-term seats on the Mojave Air and Space Port Board of Directors. (10/26)

Disruption and Destruction in the Launch Business (Source: Space Review)
One of the most popular business buzzwords today is "disruption"; does it apply to the launch business? Jeff Foust reports on the effect one company is having on the business and what its quest for reusability could mean for the industry. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2628/1 to view the article. (10/27)

The Space Pioneer Act (Source: Space Review)
Advanced in commercial space ventures have raised new questions about the need for property rights and ownership of resources in space. Wayne White makes the case for legislation that could accomplish this within the limitations of current treaties. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2627/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Why India is a Major New Market for Military Space Systems (Source: Space Review)
India has achieved major advanced in civil space systems, such as its recent Mars mission, but lags in military space systems. Kiran Krishnan Nair argues that improved relations between India and the US provide an opportunity to sell India reconnaissance and other military satellite systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2626/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Lessons from Apollo for Mars One (Source: Space Review)
The plan by Mars One to send people to Mars one-way has attracted its share of attention—and criticism. James C. McLane III examines what Mars One could learn from the challenges faces a half-century ago by Apollo. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2625/1 to view the article. (10/27)

Another View on Cubesats and Debris (Source: Space News)
In response to recent articles regarding cubesats and space debris, I would like to offer some input from a stakeholder in the cubesat community in order to provide balance and continue this important discussion on the sustainable use of the space environment.

ISIS — Innovative Solutions In Space has been active in the cubesat sector for nearly a decade, and the company has been involved in debris mitigation technology development, such as drag sails and deorbit motors, since 2007. Through our own missions and our ISILaunch Services, we are subject to various aspects of space debris; the sustained use of space is a daily aspect of our activities, and as such is a growing concern.

From the active debris removal studies we have been involved in, the key contributors to the debris problem were always large objects (defunct upper stages and large satellites) that still carry unused fuel with associated fragmentation risk. These objects have a large acceleration effect on the debris growth and are the prime targets for debris removal missions to curb the growing collision risk in low Earth orbit. Click here. (10/27)

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