November 10, 2014

ULA Chief Anticipates 40% Launch Cost Reduction (Source: Space News)
"We’re going to do it within the decade. We’re on track right now to take 30 percent out of our costs. I can see a path through not just those efficiencies but through technology updates and innovations that will take us easily to 40 percent. Then from there, we’ll find the rest of the way... In this environment we’re moving into, there’s going to be a lot more competition and new entrants coming in needing to make a name for themselves. ... You’re going to see ULA have a much higher-profile presence. We don’t do so well with flamboyance and rhetoric but we’re pretty good about talking about facts and the real story."  (11/10)

Atlas-5 to Get Thicker with Blue Origin Engines (Source: Space News)
The thing that is most different about the Blue Origin engine is it burns methane, liquefied natural gas. We’re going to have to change the booster, the first stage, to accommodate that. Because of the density difference we’re going to need a larger tank. We’re going to have a larger diameter tank that may or may not be longer.

There will be software modifications to accommodate the different performance and timing because this engine is going to produce a lot more thrust than we currently have with our RD-180. But beyond that it’s all the same. My vision is to update the technology. The trades for what that vehicle family looks like are still underway and they’ll be completed about the end of the year.

[As for the RD-180's future,] it takes years to develop an engine and a liquid-oxygen system that fits with it. You need to allow for a graceful transition for your own national interests. That means we’re going to need to continue to buy RD-180s for several years — five, six, seven-plus years. And we will fly them for a couple of years after we’re done buying them. (11/10)

Bruno: Senate Language to on Russian Engines is Too Restrictive (Source: Space News)
Unfortunately, the way [the legislation] was worded, I believe inadvertently, it even prohibits us from offering Deltas because we use the RD-180 for Atlas. It would just be terrible. It would actually be so anticompetitive because it would take your most important provider, ULA, and say, well, you can no longer participate. For a whole class of missions, it immediately becomes a monopoly for the other supplier. The upper-end missions to the highest orbits would be unable to be fulfilled at all...It would just be a disaster. (11/10)

Virgin Galactic's Fliers Reassess Plans After SpaceShipTwo's Crash (Source: NBC)
After Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed into California's Mojave Desert, killing one test pilot and injuring the other, some of the people who planned to ride the rocket plane to the edge of outer space asked for their money back. Others said they were unfazed. And then there was the customer who wasn't sure.

On the night of the accident, that customer made a phone call to Craig Willan, a veteran of the aerospace industry who's No. 8 on Virgin Galactic's passenger list. Without disclosing the caller's identity, Willan told NBC News that the man had been planning to cancel his reservation the following Monday.

"I told him, 'Don't,'" Willan recalled. "Don't do it. You don't want to get into that for a couple of reasons. One is, it would be a potential run on the bank. And the second thing is, it sends the wrong signal to humankind. This is a very important phase in the gestation of something new, and we don't want to screw up this pregnancy. (11/10)

Plan Developing to Boost Spaceport America Business (Source: Washington Times)
State officials have vowed to push on to ensure Spaceport America becomes a success despite a recent tragedy that has delayed commercial space flights by Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant at the taxpayer-financed spaceport in southern New Mexico. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is developing a plan that includes hiring more staff to boost marketing efforts aimed at diversifying the spaceport’s client base.

Christine Anderson says it’s important to remember that it’s not the Virgin Galactic Spaceport, but rather Spaceport America. “Up to now, we were focused on building the spaceport, which was a humongous task,” she said, acknowledging that it was designed around Virgin Galactic’s needs. “We have to now adjust our business strategies.” (11/9)

Google Subsidiary Signs 60-Year Lease on Moffett Field (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In an effort to reduce costs and shed surplus property, NASA today signed a lease with Planetary Ventures, LLC to manage Moffett Federal Airfield (MFA), an agency facility located in Moffett Field, California, and rehabilitate its historic Hangar One. NASA estimates the lease will save the agency approximately $6.3 million annually in maintenance and operation costs and provide $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term.

MFA, currently maintained by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, includes approximately 1,000 acres of land located on South San Francisco Bay. The land includes Hangars One, Two and Three, an airfield flight operations building, two runways and a private golf course.

After a fair and open competition, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and NASA selected Planetary Ventures, LLC as the preferred lessee in February 2014 and began lease negotiations. The negotiated lease, which is neither a procurement action nor a government contract, will put Hangar One to new use and eliminate NASA’s management costs of the airfield, with the federal government retaining title to the property.  (11/10)

Family Calls for Branson to Scrap SpaceShipTwo Before Anyone Else Dies (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The destruction of SpaceShipTwo brought back painful memories for the families, friends and colleagues of three Scaled Composites engineers killed in 2007 during a test of the vehicle’s propulsion system. The family of one of them, Todd Ivens, has called for Richard Branson to scrap the program before anyone else dies. Mr Ivens’s sister Tara Ford, 41, said: “Yet another good man has lost his life to Branson’s plan. Personally, I would have scrapped it when the first three died, but then that’s just practical thinking."

“Seeing as it was figured out the boys were not properly trained for what they were doing back in 2007, it makes me wonder if things are going how they are supposed to.” ... "It is understood that Scaled Composites conducted its own an internal review of what went wrong although those findings have never been made public. The cause of the accident was also never made public... I got that ‘not again’ feeling when I saw the news last week." (11/10)

Secluded North Carolina Tracking Spot Could Play Larger NASA Role (Source: Outer Banks Voice)
For eight years, NASA has used a secluded spot south of Nags Head to track and retrieve critical trajectory and other telemetrics from vehicles launched into space from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The space agency is expected to continue gathering the data there and potentially bring new space-related businesses, educational and tourism opportunities to the Outer Banks in the future.

The location, near Coquina Beach on National Park Service land, is “ideally situated to provide tracking as a temporary off-access site for solid-propellant vehicles.” Steve Kremer said Coquina is one of two major sites used for launch-day tracking. The other is on Bermuda, off the North Carolina coast. Why Coquina? Kremer said the Outer Banks site is critical to the nation’s space missions because it can track rockets from a side angle, after they go below WFF’s horizon. (11/9)

Three Space Station Crewmen Return Safely to Earth in Kazakhstan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A veteran Russian cosmonaut and two International Space Station crewmates, one from the United States and one from Germany, returned safely to Earth on Sunday with a parachute landing of their Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan, ending 5-1/2 months in orbit. Maxim Suraev, who was commander of the station during the mission, climbed into the Soyuz craft with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and German flight engineer Alexander Gerst descended through cold, windy and overcast skies to touch down on the frozen steppes northeast of Arkalyk. (11/10)

SpaceX Proves Challenging To China's Long March Launcher (Source: Aviation Week))
For more than 40 years, China has relied on a rocket technology the rest of the world has largely dropped for main space-launch propulsion. But now, moving from hydrazine propellant and its easily developed engines to the harder technology of kerosene, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the Chinese industry is introducing a family of launchers that should be more efficient and therefore more cost effective.

Consistent with that, SpaceX sees its most intense competition for low-Earth orbit (LEO) space launch services coming from China. But it looks like CASC, the Chinese government’s main space industrial group, cannot match SpaceX when it comes to cost. This is especially important for what will probably be the key member of the new Chinese family, the Long March 7, a medium-heavy launcher in the class of the SpaceX Falcon 9 that, according to the 2013 schedule, was due to fly this year.

The Falcon 9 can deliver 13.15 metric tons to LEO; the equivalent Long March 7 version, with two engines of 260,000-lb. thrust in the core first stage and one in each of four boosters, is intended to throw 13.5 tons to LEO. SpaceX quotes a standard price of $61.2 million for a launch in 2016. CASC has not published a price for the Long March 7, but Tauri says that the most powerful of the current Chinese launchers, the Long March 3B—capable of launching 12 tons to low Earth orbit—is $70 million a shot. (11/10)

Russia Likely to Continue Supplying RD-180 to U.S. (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is likely to continue supplying RD-180 engines for US Atlas carrier rockets despite cooling relations between Moscow and Washington, Russian and US physicist Roald Sagdeev told Sputnik. "The Russian series RD-180 engine was being used for the American Atlas carrier rockets. And for some time here [in the U.S.] there was a state of confusion, with people wondering whether the use of RD engines in US carrier rockets would be affected by the prevailing atmosphere of bilateral relations."

According to Sagdeev, "recent events confirm that Russia still won't interrupt the supply of these engines, and this work will continue. This is a very good sign that even in such a sensitive area relating to defense use, the obligations of cooperation will still be fulfilled," the scientist said. (11/10)

Florida Student Loses Experiment in Antares Explosion (Source: Florida Today)
A southwest Florida student is working to restart a science experience lost when an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded after liftoff last month. Braden River High School sophomore Harley Wade developed the experiment with his former classmates at Fayette Academy in Somerville, Tennessee. They were testing microgravity's effect on reishi mushrooms' ability to weaken, damage or destroy cancer cells.

The experiment was lost along with more than a dozen other student projects when Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket blew up Oct. 28 over the Virginia coast. Wade tells The Herald that "the excitement of the launch turned to shock." Wade and his former classmates now are working to restart the experiment in time for the launch of another rocket Dec. 9 at Cape Canaveral. (11/10)

Swiss Space Systems Concludes Drop-Test Flight Campaign (Source: SpaceRef)
During the week-long flight test campaign, various helicopter flight profiles were successfully performed in order to evaluate the flight systems, which will ultimately be integrated into a reduced scale mock-up of the SOAR suborbital shuttle. The fully-equipped mock-up and flight-tested jig system will be used in the spring of 2015 for captive flights from a helicopter.

These first test flights were done with the purpose of testing and validating avionics systems, drone systems, Guidance-Navigation-Control instruments and various sensors. All system components were inserted into an avionics system container suspended by a local custom-manufactured flight support and release jig structure.

The flight support and release jig structure was custom-manufactured by North Bay Machining Center and assembled at the Canadore College Aviation Campus by Canadore College faculty in collaboration with the S3 design team. The first phase of a drop-test flight campaign in North Bay included contributions from seven local companies, with all work completed and delivered on-time and on-budget. (11/10)

Angara-5 Rolls Out to Russian Launch Pad (Source: Russian Space Web)
The first Angara-A5 rocket, which will become the most powerful space booster in the Russian fleet, was rolled out from the assembly building to the launch pad at Site 35 in Plesetsk on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced. The testing on the pad, including electric checks of the rocket and tests of launch equipment, was scheduled to continue for seven days in preparation for the maiden launch of the new rocket in December, the Russian military said. (11/10)

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