October 8, 2014

Protesters Disrupt Hawaii Telescope Groundbreaking (Source: Honolulu Star Tribune)
A groundbreaking and Hawaiian blessing ceremony came to an abrupt end before it could really get underway Tuesday because of protesters who oppose plans to build one of the world's largest telescopes near the summit of a mountain held sacred by Native Hawaiians. More than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin near the top of the Big Island's Mauna Kea, the host of the ceremony's live webcast said the caravan carrying attendees up the mountain "hit a snag" and would be delayed. He later said the delay was due to a group of people blocking access to the site.

The groundbreaking for the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope was being shown via webcast because of limited access to the construction site, which is at an elevation of 14,000 feet with arctic-like conditions. Stephanie Nagata, director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management, said several dozen protesters standing, sitting and chanting on the road prevented the caravan of vans from reaching the summit, but some passengers were able to walk the rest of the way to the ceremony. The webcast later showed protesters yelling during attempts to start the blessing. (10/7)

Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Record Maximum (Source: Space Daily)
Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent this year, covering more of the southern oceans than it has since scientists began a long-term satellite record to map sea ice extent in the late 1970s. The upward trend in the Antarctic, however, is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The new Antarctic sea ice record reflects the diversity and complexity of Earth's environments, said NASA researchers. Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, has referred to changes in sea ice coverage as a microcosm of global climate change. Just as the temperatures in some regions of the planet are colder than average, even in our warming world, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing and bucking the overall trend of ice loss. (10/8)

The Fallout of the Obama Space Policy (Source: Examiner)
Passage of the 2010 NASA authorization bill did not extinguish the controversy surrounding the cancellation of Project Constellation. Some commercial space advocates, such as Rick Tumlinson, slammed the heavy lift rocket as the “Senate Launch System.” The critics of the SLS contended that it is an expensive boondoggle imposed on the space agency by Congress to preserve jobs in the district. Opponents of the SLS included the then Deputy Administrator of NASA, Lori Garver, who discretely declined to make her opposition known until after she left the space agency.

Opponents of the Space Launch System pointed to an internal NASA study that suggested that space exploration voyages could be undertaken by existing or soon to exist rockets. The idea was that several launches would be executed to supply an orbiting fuel depot. Then a spacecraft would be launched, would top off at the fuel depot, and then proceed to its destination, the lunar surface or an Earth approaching asteroid. The expense of creating a heavy lift rocket would be avoided. Click here. (10/7)

NASA Selects Advanced Oxygen Recovery Proposals for Spacecraft Missions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected four partners to develop game changing technologies with the potential to increase the oxygen recovery rate aboard human spacecraft to at least 75 percent. These oxygen recovery and recycling technologies will drive exploration and enable our human journey to Mars and beyond. Phase I awards are up to $750,000, providing funding for 15 months to complete the engineering development unit hardware phase. (10/8)

Work Continues on Hybrid Rubber Engine for SpaceShipTwo (Source: Parabolic Arc)
When Virgin Galactic announced in May that it was switching to a nylon/nitrous oxide engine for SpaceShipOne, everyone probably figured the company had finally given up on its  dream of flying with the troublesome rubber/nitrous oxide hybrid. Everybody figured wrong.

There is still work being done by The Spaceship Company (TSC), which Virgin Galactic owns, on a hybrid rubber motor even as Scaled Composites attempts to qualify the nylon motor for human flight, sources report. A static fire was performed last week at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The work is being done without the assistance Sierra Nevada Corp., whose rubber hybrid motor was dropped back in May. 

The nylon engine was developed by Scaled Composites, the builder of SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. A source said although qualification tests of the nylon engine are going well, it would be expensive for Virgin Galactic to switch to that motor 0n a permanent basis. The tooling and equipment purchased for producing the rubber engine would have to be junked, and new investments made for the nylon engine. (10/8)

Globalstar Short Seller Claims Spectrum Is Worthless (Source: Bloomberg)
An investor who’s poised to benefit from a drop in Globalstar's stock released a report today alleging that the satellite communication company’s key assets are worthless. Kerrisdale Capital Management LLC’s 66-page report and accompanying slideshow sought to lay out a case for why Globalstar’s airwaves and equity have no value.

The investment-management firm announced on Oct. 1 that it planned to present its short-selling thesis on a “multibillion-dollar U.S. company” today. Globalstar fell as much as 34 percent on Oct. 1 and rallied as much as 15 percent two days later as investors debated whether the firm was Kerrisdale’s target, and if so, whether the rumored argument about Globalstar’s spectrum being worthless was legitimate.

Kerrisdale’s argument stems from a pending decision from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which said in November that it would consider Globalstar’s request to change the rules to allow the company to offer mobile broadband service over its airwaves reserved for satellite use. The report calls Globalstar shares worthless, even if the FCC approves the changes that would allow its satellite airwaves to be used for land-based mobile networks. (10/6)

Russian Flaw Behind Botched Satnav Satellite Launch (Source: Reuters)
Investigators believe a Russian production flaw was behind the botched August launch of two satellites central to development of European satellite navigation system Galileo, the satellite launch company Arianespace said on Wednesday. Revealing the findings of an inquiry panel that studied why the satellites were put into the wrong orbit after launch from French Guiana last August, Arianespace said Russian firm NPO Lavochkin would correct a production flaw identified by investigators and that launches could resume from December. (10/8)

NASA Sets Aside $50M for Life-in-Space Study (Source: Discovery)
Seven astrobiology groups will study the possibility of life elsewhere in space, courtesy of a $50 million grant from NASA that will be divided among the participants. The teams will help interpret data from Curiosity, Kepler, Mars 2020 and future missions, said Jim Green, director with NASA's planetary science division. (10/7)

XCOR Lynx Spacecraft Development in Pictures (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace is making progress on the path to commercial spaceflight with the integration of the cockpit to the fuselage on XCOR‘s Lynx spacecraft. With the fuselage, pressure cabin and strakes delivered, XCOR is bonding these structures together and integrating sub-assemblies, such as the landing gear, at its hangar in Mojave.'

“The team at XCOR has been working a long time to reach this goal,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “We always knew there would be a day when we could see a spacecraft forming in our hangar. Today is that day. These pictures show our ongoing journey to make commercial space flight a reality.”

In addition, Lynx’s rocket propulsion system continues to be tested on a first generation fuselage that is used to perform cold-flows and hot fires with XCOR’s proprietary rocket propellant piston pump technology. “After 15 years of development, the excitement in the hangar is palpable,” said XCOR President Andrew Nelson. “Teams are working in parallel to finish Lynx. We are hiring shop staff and engineers to prepare for the final stretch leading up to test flights. I’m proud of what the team has accomplished this year.” (10/7)

Canadian Space Agency Contributes to Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Source: CBC News)
Canada is contributing to a new space telescope that one scientist says may help in the search for signs of extraterrestrial life. The Canadian Space Agency is providing a number of devices for the $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is expected to launch in 2018. The contributions include two cameras and one of the four science instruments on board the telescope. (10/6)

Virgin Galactic Poised To Resume SpaceShipTwo Powered Flights (Source: Space News)
A nine-month pause in powered test flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle will end “imminently” as the company plans to take official possession of the vehicle and receive its launch license. “Those are going to start imminently, literally very imminently,” said Mike Moses, vice president of operations of Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipTwo made its last powered test flight Jan. 10.

In May, the company announced it was switching the fuel used in the vehicle’s hybrid rocket motor, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, a form of rubber, to a polyamide-based plastic. Virgin Galactic has tested that new motor in a series of developmental and qualification, or “qual,” tests on the ground, but has not yet flown it on SpaceShipTwo. “We have now one more formal qual in our program of qual fires of the plastic motor,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said. If that test is successful, he said the engine would be ready for flight on SpaceShipTwo. (10/6)

Orbital Shifts Antares ISS Launch to Oct. 24 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Orbital Sciences and NASA announced that their ORB-3 Antares/Cygnus launch has been moved to no earlier than Oct 24 with a target liftoff time of 7:52 p.m. (EDT) from Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. (10/7)

U.S., European Astronauts Resume Scheduled Space Station Spacewalks (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. and European astronauts Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst transferred a bulky failed thermal control system pump module from a temporary storage fixture on the International Space Station to a protective storage platform near the U.S. airlock during a long spacewalk Tuesday. (10/7)

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