November 18, 2014

In Murky Pentagon Deal with Russia, Big Profit for a Tiny Florida Firm (Source: Reuters)
The Air Force relies on rocket engines made by a company overseen by associates of Vladimir Putin. Documents show a U.S.-Russian middleman stands to make $93 million on the contract. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine.

That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine. Click here. (11/18)

Philae Managers Say Recovery Possible as Comet Approaches Sun (Source: Space News)
Managers of Europe’s Philae comet lander, which went into hibernation Nov. 15 after its battery drained 56 hours after touchdown, made a virtue of a necessity in saying Philae’s overly shadowed location will be an advantage as Comet 67P approaches the sun in the coming months. At that point, they said, it is “probable” that the increased doses of solar power will warm the lander, permitting its secondary battery to power up sufficiently to renew communications. (11/18)

CACI Wins Digital Mapping Contract From NGA (Source: SpaceRef)
CACI International Inc. has been awarded a $32 million contract to provide digital mapping and charting services to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) under the GEOINT Data Services (GDS) Maritime Atlantic Region program. (11/18)

Object 2014-28E – Space Junk or Russian Satellite Killer? (Source: Financial Times)
It is a tale that could have come from the cold war. A mysterious object launched by the Russian military is being tracked by western space agencies, stoking fears over the revival of a defunct Kremlin project to destroy satellites. For the past few weeks, amateur astronomers and satellite-trackers in Russia and the west have followed the unusual maneuvers of Object 2014-28E, watching it guide itself towards other Russian space objects.

The pattern appeared to culminate last weekend in a rendezvous with the remains of the rocket stage that launched it. The object had originally been classed as space debris, propelled into orbit as part of a Russian rocket launch in May to add three Rodnik communications satellites to an existing military constellation. The US military is now tracking it under the Norad designation 39765. (11/18)

No Easy Way (Source: Huffington Post)
Would-be private astronauts will continue to buy advanced tickets with Virgin, XCOR and other "New Space firms." These buyers are more than customers. They feel vested in a mission that go far beyond the excitement of their own brief journey into space. New Space is a community working on something much bigger than building high-tech toys for wealthy thrill-seekers.

While these firms, while working hard to earn a return for their investors, they are also doing their part to expand the potential of the entire human race. They are moving our vantage point one step beyond humanity's zero sum squabbles over Earthly resources. (11/18)

Medvedev: Russia's Vostochny Spaceport Has Construction Problems (Source: Sputnik)
Actual problems exist in the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s Far East will be discussed with the leadership of Roscosmos space agency, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. He reminded the ministers that the construction of the cosmodrome is "in its active phase", although works are behind schedule.

He also stressed that Vostochny Cosmodrome will be of significant importance for advancing science and the economy of Russia's Far East region, as well as for developing its geopolitical clout. The cosmodrome’s construction began in January 2011 and is expected to be completed by 2018. The first launch was scheduled to take place in July 2015, and the first launch of a piloted spacecraft is expected in 2018. (11/10)

Medvedev Orders to Speed Pp Vostochny Construction (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered to speed up the Vostochny space center construction not to be behind schedule. “The active phase of the construction is underway, but as I understand, it is behind schedule, and certainly it is bad. It must be made up for,” the premier told his deputies during a meeting. The work must go on according to schedule if possible, he added. (11/17)

SpaceX Laying the Groundwork for Falcon Heavy Debut in Florida (Source:
SpaceX has confirmed it is now into the construction phase of converting Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A for its Falcon Heavy debut, with a large amount of work now taking place to build a new vehicle facility at the complex. The former Apollo and Space Shuttle pad is being re-purposed to host the maiden flight of SpaceX’s new rocket, set to launch as early as next summer. (11/17)

Sex in Space: What Does Future Hold When Space Tourism Catches On (Source: GLP)
Evidence for normal post-spaceflight pregnancy dates back as early as 1963, when cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. After spending nearly 71 hours in orbit age 26, Tereshkova returned to Earth. Five months later, she married another cosmonaut, Andrian Nikolayev, who had spent more than 94 hours in orbit. The next year, in 1964, Tereshkova gave birth to a healthy infant girl after a normal pregnancy.

What about actually getting pregnant in orbit? Traditionally, two issues are suggested as obstacles against fertilization of an ovum and implantation of the resulting blastocyst in the wall of the uterus. These two issues are space radiation and weightlessness, although other factors such as stress and disrupted circadian rhythms also may come into play.

On Earth, moderate to high doses of ionizing radiation, encountered in the context of cancer treatment are known to reduce fertility in both genders. In males, this is due to effects both on the quantity of sperm cells and the quality (for instance, how well they swim). In women, ionizing radiation is thought to harm ova before they are fertilized, but also to interfere with implantation, even should exposure occur subsequent to fertilization. (11/18)

Meteor? UFO? Flash Over Russia May Have Earthly Origin (Source: NBC)
Video of the sky lighting up over Russia's Sverdlovsk region last Friday calls to mind the enormous fireballs that fell over Chelyabinsk in early 2013 and Murmansk in April. But at least one expert seems sure that this particular phenomenon may not be celestial in origin. A meteor-watching blog quotes Marco Langbroek of the Dutch Meteor Society: "I doubt this one is a meteor."

He points out that the onlookers already seemed to be aware of a red glow in the sky before the flare-up — and that when the light does appear, it's stationary. "To me, it looks like a fire or series of small explosions and subsequent large explosion or flash fire reflecting on a cloud deck," he concluded. Click here. (11/18)

China's Space Law Ready for Lift Off (Source: Asia One)
China will speed up legislation covering activities in space to make better use of the nation's assets and boost space-related industries, according to senior officials. "As China puts more and more assets into space, conflicts involving our increasing number of activities, limited resources and space debris have become noticeable," said Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration.

"The safety of our assets in space depends largely on the enforcement of international space law and our domestic law that governs space activities," Tian said, adding that the laws also play an important role in managing and fostering space-related industries, which have been enjoying rapid growth in China. "The market for space-related technologies, data and intellectual property is expanding very fast and has a promising future, so now is the right time for us to make and implement a space law to regulate the market," Tian said. (11/18)

UK Space Agency Opens £32 Million Kitty (Source: WIRED)
A new multi-million pound grant has been announced to bolster the UK's space industry following the phenomenal success of the European Space Agency Rosetta mission. Grants will be awarded to British companies working with international partners developing satellite technology for humanitarian causes.

A total of £32 million will be made available by the UK Space Agency with match funding also provided by industry. More than 5,000 jobs have been created in the UK space industry in the last two years, with over 34,000 people now directly employed.

Running over the next two years, the International Partnership Space Programme (IPSP) will support UK companies in an attempt to further grow the country's space sector. It is hoped that the money will encourage development of new satellite technology to tackle flooding, deforestation and humanitarian crises in the developing world. (11/18)

The Revolving Door of Canadian Space Agency Presidents (Source: SpaceRef)
Presidents of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) can serve a term of five years which can be renewed. The problem however is that since its foundation, only one president has completed one full term. In fact, under the current government, which has been in power for nearly 9 years, there have been four interim presidents and a total of seven presidents.

Why has there been a revolving door at the head of Canada's space agency since the Conservatives took power in 2006? Bad luck? Poor selection? Or something else? Click here. (11/18)

Hotel Sales Boom as NASA's Orion Sets for Launch (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA's Orion spacecraft launch is bringing in plenty of tourists for the Space Coast, and hoteliers couldn't be happier. News 13 reports that almost all hotels in Cocoa Beach and Titusville area are sold out for most of the days surrounding the Dec. 4 launch. (11/17)

Industry Doesn’t Expect Consolidation of Commercial Space Regulation (Source: Space News)
As the U.S. Congress considers proposals to grant government agencies with additional commercial space regulatory authority, industry and government officials believe it is unlikely those efforts will lead to a broader consolidation of regulatory power.

Representatives from companies and agencies, speaking at a forum on the topic of on-orbit jurisdiction organized by the University of Nebraska College of Law here Nov. 3, agreed that while there is a need to address issues such as space traffic management and property rights, it is unlikely overall regulation of commercial space activities will soon be consolidated into a single agency. Click here. (11/18)

NASA ‘Capability Leaders’ Coming in Latest Attempt at Right-Sizing (Source: Space News)
In February, NASA will appoint at least five “capability leaders” to help steer the agency’s latest bid to trim costs and reduce duplication of effort across its 10 regional field centers, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a Nov. 3 interview.

It will be a big step for the Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) that since April 2012 has been studying ways to make NASA more efficient at a time when its budget is trending flat, major programs such as the James Webb Space Telescope and Space Launch System are hitting peak spending years, and the agency has been barred by Congress from laying off civil servants.

Lightfoot said the team’s ongoing review is about finding efficiencies, not consolidation. However, he acknowledged some NASA infrastructure “could be closed or moved” as a result of the effort. As examples, Lightfoot cited the demolition of wind tunnels at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, earlier this decade and an April decision to cease NASA-operated parabolic jet flights for microgravity research and astronaut training and instead rely on contractor Zero Gravity Corp. of Arlington, Virginia, for that service. (11/18)

ATK, Orbital Sciences Postpone Merger Vote to Late January (Source: Space News)
ATK on Nov. 17 said its special due-diligence assessment of Orbital Sciences following the Oct. 28 failure of Orbital’s Antares rocket has concluded that the merger of ATK’s Aerospace and Defense group with Orbital remained a good idea. Orbital and ATK jointly announced that they are nonetheless giving their shareholders additional time to evaluate the merger, and that the planned Dec. 9 votes by both companies had been rescheduled for Jan. 27. (11/18)

NASA Extends Commercial Crew Agreement with Blue Origin (Source: Space News)
NASA announced Nov. 14 that it has extended its unfunded agreement with Blue Origin to support to that company’s effort to develop a commercial crew spacecraft, even though the company is not competing for a NASA contract to provide transportation to the international space station.

NASA and Blue Origin signed an extension Oct. 31 of their existing Space Act Agreement, originally part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) award made in April 2011. This extension, like previous ones dating back to February 2013, is an unfunded one where NASA provides technical guidance but no money to Blue Origin.

One milestone covers an in-flight test of a “pusher” escape system, where rocket engines at the base of the vehicle would push the spacecraft away from its launch vehicle in the event of an abort. Under the CCDev2 milestone, NASA personnel would review data and video from the test, which would use an unspecified subscale booster. (11/18)

Germany Agrees to Forgo Ariane 5 Upgrade in Favor of Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
The German government has agreed to drop its demand that Europe develop a long-planned upgrade of today’s Ariane 5 rocket and instead proceed with a new-generation Ariane 6 that borrows heavily on Ariane 5 technology, Germany’s space minister said.

The decision ends an impasse that has bedeviled the European Space Agency for more than two years as it prepares for a Dec. 2 conference of its governments. While noting that certain funding details and a clarification of industry’s risk-taking guarantee remain to be ironed out, Brigitte Zypries said Germany and France now agree to back Ariane 6 and to scrap the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) rocket that European governments have been developing for several years. (11/17)

Satellite Internet From SpaceX Coming Soon? (Source: Nasdaq)
SpaceX's upcoming satellite announcement holds any number of implications for SpaceX's competitors. For example, Musk's tweet didn't specifically confirm the assertion that the satellites will provide Internet service. But if that's Musk's goal, then cheap, ubiquitous satellite Internet service from SpaceX could threaten the expensive terrestrial Internet businesses built up over years by Comcast and other Internet giants.

If SpaceX both launches satellites, and also builds them, then this gives the company's launch business a built-in customer. Simultaneously, it diversifies SpaceX's business. In addition to existing revenue streams from rocket building and rocket launching, SpaceX will add a third revenue stream from satellite building -- and potentially from satellite Internet streaming as well.

The addition of one (or two) new revenue streams will significantly strengthen SpaceX's viability as a company. It will also make SpaceX stock much more attractive to own when the company finally does its IPO. Which we're still waiting for, by the way. (11/18)

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Continue System Advancements (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's industry partners continue to complete development milestones under agreements with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The work performed by Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX during partnership and contract initiatives are leading a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations. Click here. (11/17)

ESA Commissions Airbus as Contractor For Orion Service Module (Source: Space Daily)
Airbus Defence and Space, the world's second space company, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development and construction of the service module for Orion, the future American human space capsule. The contract is worth around 390 million euros. The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule. (11/18)

Savvy Media Use Turned Comet Mission Into Tale of Space Heroics (Source: Space Daily)
When Rosetta was launched more than a decade ago, it was a dry-as-dust science story -- an unmanned spacecraft and its research payload were being launched to investigate a comet. But when the Rosetta mission last week reached a climax, the story had changed from the humdrum to an event that captivated the world.

It had become a tale of heroics in deep space, with the secrets of the Solar System at stake. After a trek of 6.5 billion kilometers (four billion miles), alone in the bitter chill of deep space, the little robot Philae battled to survive and complete its task while its mother ship orbited anxiously above. Drama and romance had been stitched into the fabric of the Rosetta mission way back in 1993. That was when European space ministers gave the risky, 1.3-billion-euro ($1.6-billion) scheme their approval.

"Rosetta marks a watershed" in ESA's strategy to connect with the public, ESA communications chief Fernando Doblas said. "We are living in a world where people no longer want to receive information passively. You have to be active in your information." Slick webcasts from mission control in Germany combined with easy-on-the-astrophysics talks about the importance of the mission. (11/18)

Lost in Space City (Source: Medium)
Most towns find it hard to identify the moment they lost their mojo. Titusville, though, can pinpoint its spiral to a very specific date: February 1, 2003. Seven astronauts were killed that day when the Columbia space shuttle, having completed a 16-day orbital mission, disintegrated upon re–entry over the southern United States. Just 20 miles northwest of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Titusville used to have a proud nickname: Space City USA.

It couldn’t help but be bolted to the dizzying boom of the 1950s and ‘60s, and the local space industry helped create myriad jobs by giving work to nearby aerospace companies. There were so many jobs, in fact, that the local population ballooned from around 6,000 in 1960 to just over 30,000 in a decade. Longtime residents, however, can tell you with acute pain exactly how their hometown has plummeted in the last few years.

“Shoot, I don’t even know what’s going on out there anymore,” says Matt Whiting, a 41-year-old who’s kicked around the area most of his life. He’s watched with dismay the silencing of the once awesome “exploding rockets.” “It’s been difficult,” admits Titusville’s mayor, Jim Tulley, wearily, about his city’s post-shuttle economics. “Maybe not as difficult as when the Apollo programs ended, but…we’ve certainly had to diversify.” Click here. (11/13)

Names in Bottles: a New Tool for Exploration? (Source: Space Review)
It has become almost commonplace for space missions to offer to take with them the public's names or other digital items. Dan Lester wonder how effective this approach is for making the public feel like they're a part of space exploration. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

Almost Astronauts (Source: Space Review)
Being an astronaut is a life-long aspiration for many, but what happens when you apply and just miss the final cut? Jeff Foust reports on how three people rebounded when their bids to fly in space fell short. to view the article. (11/17)

Witnesses: Space Historiography at the Handover (Source: Space Review)
This is a critical time for historians chronicling the early Space Age, as many of the key people from that era pass away. In the first of a multi-part article, David Clow examines this issue from the perspective of those who worked in mission control. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

Enhancing the Field of Exoplanetary Research (Source: Space Review)
The search for, and study of, extrasolar planets is one of the hottest topics in astronomy, but one that is also not well coordinated among various participants. Thomas Godard and Daniel Long make the case for establishing an organization to help support exoplanet studies and reach out to broader communities about its work. Visit to view the article. (11/17)

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