November 19, 2014

Spaceport Advocates Take Leadership of Florida Legislature (Source: FSDC)
The new President of the Florida Senate and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives were voted into their leadership positions this week, and both have the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in their districts. Senator Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, will each serve two year terms. Among their top jobs will be crafting a state budget, which last year totaled a record $77 billion. In recent years, both legislators have supported the state's investment in space, including nearly $25 million annually for Space Florida and spaceport infrastructure projects.

There are no high-profile space issues looming for the 2015 legislative session in Tallahassee, but space industry leaders, including Space Florida, have been meeting regularly to discuss their needs and priorities in advance of Florida Space Day, which is planned on March 25 at the state capitol building. Click here for a scorecard of space-related issues considered during the past two sessions in Tallahassee. (11/19)

Virginia Wants Orbital, NASA to Help Fund $20M Repairs to Launch Pad (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia wants Orbital, NASA to help pay for up to $20 million in repairs to launch pad damaged in rocket explosion. Repairs at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Eastern Shore could run between $13 million and $20 million. Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne says rocket explosion could happen again, and launch partners need to share in the risk.

The $145 million spaceport might be located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore, but Layne said it benefits the entire nation. "So right now we're suggesting that Orbital and NASA contribute to this," Layne said. "Because obviously this could happen again, and we believe that a sustainable operation would be more sharing of risk."

Under a memorandum of understanding between Orbital and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority that oversees MARS, Orbital is responsible for its own assets in such mishaps, while the flight authority is responsible for the rest. Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski has said the company's assets are covered by insurance. The launch pad is self-insured by the space authority. (11/19)

Virginia Wants Federal Funds for Spaceport (Source: Washington Times)
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration may seek to renegotiate a memorandum of understanding and launch services agreement with Orbital Sciences, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane Jr. said. Lane said the administration supports the commercial spaceflight initiative but wants to ensure that the state’s assets are protected.

“We’re not going to have a repeat of this in the future,” Lane said. McAuliffe also has asked U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine to look for federal funds to help pay for repairs. Warner and Kaine pledged in a statement issued Tuesday that they would work with “colleagues from both parties, both chambers … to see if there may be federal resources available to help rebound from this setback.” (11/18)

Florida Project a Winner Among CASIS Materials Sciences Grants (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has announced grant awards for three projects focused on materials science from the International Space Station (ISS), totaling approximately $800,000 in funding. Among the winners is a project for Eclipse Energy Systems in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Florida project will examine how variable emissivity devices (VEDs) interact with the punishing environment of space. VEDs could be used on Earth in energy-saving smart-roofing technology. Click here. (11/19)

Lawmakers are Frustrated by Slow Progress Toward NextGen (Source: Washington Post)
Members of the House Transportation Committee expressed frustration at the Federal Aviation Administration's slow pace in building and implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System. "I think NextGen is either in a stall or a reverse. That's not acceptable," said Rep. John Mica, R-FL, former chairman of the committee. (11/18)

Why Christians Should Get On Board with Space Exploration (Source: The Week)
Joshua Ambrosius found that church attendance actually decreases a person's support for space exploration. (Among Christians, Roman Catholics were most open and evangelicals were most resistant.) But Christians have no cause for resisting space exploration. Here are three bad reasons why Christians oppose space exploration — and one good reason they should get on board. Click here. (11/18)

EPA Finds No Show-stoppers with Radioactive Battery for Mars 2020 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found no show-stoppers with NASA’s plan to put a nuclear battery aboard the Mars 2020 sample-caching rover, according to a Final Environmental Impact Statement the space agency published on its website Nov. 6.

The NASA-led environmental review will not technically be complete until at least Dec. 19 — the soonest federal regulations allow NASA to post a formal record of its decision to use nuclear material on the mission — but the lack of red flags from the EPA is a signal that the way is essentially clear for NASA to proceed with its plan to power Mars 2020 with a multimission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG). (11/17)

Editorial: Congress Should Support Federal Weather Programs (Source: Space News)
Let me be perfectly clear: The National Weather Service is a crown jewel in the U.S. federal government and the envy of national weather services all over the world. The agency deserves to be seen by the public — and public servants in Congress — with nothing but pride and admiration. And, I should add, its sister agencies of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and Air Force Weather are also well deserving of this appreciation and admiration.

Congress needs to back up this admiration with the financial resources to maintain our overall second-to-none operational weather services, and that includes continuing to support the satellites, both civil and defense, that make those services possible by assuring continuity of essential observational data to feed the models. Even in a constrained fiscal environment, this is a tremendous bargain. Accurate, life-saving forecasts are priceless.

Back-To-Back Spaceflight Failures Were A Coincidence, Not An Indictment (Source: Aviaiton Week)
The inevitable has happened in the U.S. attempt to move the economy off the planet. That it happened twice in less than a week is driving a needed element of reality into the endeavor. With hope, the marketing sunshine that accompanied the Obama administration’s decision to expand space-commercialization programs that were started under President Bush will give way to wider public understanding and acceptance of the risks of spaceflight. Click here. (11/19)

Russia's Isn't the Only 'Satellite Killer' in Space (Source: Moscow Times)
A previously unknown Russian spacecraft conducting maneuvers characteristic of a satellite killer has sparked concerns that Russia's military provocations may soon extend to space, but experts say Russia is not the only major space power developing agile — and potentially deadly — capabilities in Earth's orbit.

Western space agencies, militaries and amateur observers are tracking a mysterious Russian satellite that could be a satellite hunter — a spacecraft that trails enemy satellites and then destroys or disables them, The Financial Times reported on Monday.

Amid Russia's showdown with the West over Ukraine the discovery looks ominous, but all the big space-faring nations — Russia, China and the U.S. — are developing similar capabilities, Robert Christy, a veteran amateur satellite tracker, told The Moscow Times by phone. "In a nutshell, you've got all three countries doing the same thing," he said. (11/18)

Requirements for Orbital to Complete Its Commercial Cargo Contract (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA representatives say Orbital is not obligated to re-fly a failed mission – but it does have other obligations it must meet. The company does not have to conduct a specific number of flights – but, rather, a specific amount of cargo. “The contract is for the total metric tons to be delivered...Orbital is not obligated to re-fly the cargo lost on this mission. They ... and are working with NASA on alternate ways to satisfy the terms of the contract at no additional cost to NASA,” Stephanie Schierholz stated.

This issue stems from the Oct. 28 accident which saw the loss of the Antares rocket, Cygnus spacecraft and the 5,000 lbs of cargo that the Cygnus was carrying. Fortunately, the cargo that is sent to the orbiting lab is meant to be replaceable – for just such an occasion. Through the CRS contract, Orbital is required to deliver 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station.

CRS contractors are paid for the milestones that they complete on a successful flight. Due to the fact that Orbital was unable to meet the CRS-3 milestone – it will not receive the final contract milestone payment for that flight. (11/18)

Rosetta Probe Philae Discovers Organic Molecules (Source: Inernational Business Times)
The Philae space probe was powered down earlier than expected, but not before an instrument discovered an organic compound that was first detected in the comet’s atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal reoirted. The find is extraordinary considering the organic compound contains the carbon atom, which is the basis of life on planet Earth.

Further research is being conducted to see if there are complex compounds like amino acids or simple ones like methane and methanol, considered “building blocks” for proteins. The research “will help us to understand whether organic molecules were brought by comets to the early earth,” Stephan Ulamec, the Philae’s landing manager said, according to the Journal. (11/18)

We Fall in Love With Space Robots Because They Act Like Animals (Source: Smithsonian)
Just look at the way that we talk about Philae: the robot takes a journey to the comet; to get out of a jam, it hops and cartwheels and improvises. And even under the tough conditions, Philae “performed magnificently,” says Lander Maneger Stephan Ulamec. If Philae is animal-like, though, it is a particulary smart animal. (Your dog might be intelligent, but does it fetch data?) It's also controlled by humans.

ESA’s PR team has cleverly and adorably capitalized on humans' ability to emphathize with Philae and Rosetta. Both have Twitter accounts, and they chatted with each other until Philae went dead. But, if you're feeling sad about the end of Philae, fear not. There are more robots to root for. The New Horizons spacecraft, which has been in hibernation on its long journey to Pluto, is scheduled to "wake up" soon. (11/18)

Student Launch Will Continue Community Use of Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Developing a much needed set of metrics for measuring business development at the spaceport is a process that is just getting starting. The spaceport was not built by a small team sitting alone in an office. Literally hundreds of people all across the state have worked on this project over the years. Creating success requires many minds working together in harmony toward a common purpose.

As the community comes together to look toward larger development of the asset we call Spaceport America, we can look to another recent event as an example of our community coming together for greater good. Recent discussions with the The Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts (FLARE) a small, but very active rocketry group have provided a new on-ramp for a small, intrepid team of teachers and faculty involved right now building experiments to go to space from the spaceport.

With community support, including that of the spaceport team, we will have a launch event in March or early April. And, we hope to get back to these annual launch events at the spaceport. Chris Anderson is interested in getting this annual event to be part of their business plan. (11/18)

Canada Looks to Future From Space (Source: Calgary Herald)
High-resolution imagery taken from space provides some of the best views back here on Earth. Whether they're used in assessing the aftermath of tragic and deadly industrial accidents, detecting potential environmental disturbances, or monitoring the status of oil and gas pipelines, those images can be incredibly valuable.

Earth Observation, or EO, is a fast-growing industry, with revenues expected to reach $5 billion in the next decade. In a bid to ensure Canada gets its share, 12 companies here have been granted contracts totalling just under $6.7 million to deliver new products and services to the EO marketplace. (11/12)

Ontario Firm Building Rocket Engines for Spaceport America (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
Cesaroni Technology doesn't only build rockets. It also manufactures a variety of other products for the the aerospace, defence, and automotive industries. Jeroen Louwers of Cesaroni is a rocket scientist who originally came from the Netherlands, where he earned his PhD in propellant chemistry. Prior to his employment with Cesaroni, Louwers worked at a Dutch company that sold electronics (such as altimeters and accelerometers) to model rocket makers.

During his tenure at Cesaroni, Louwers has been involved in the building of ablative insulators. Ablative insulators are used in the interiors of solid rocket motors to prevent damage from the intense heat of a rocket's thrust. Other projects at Cesaroni include a design study on behalf of the Department of National Defense (DND) for a Canadian launch vehicle and a design study for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for an indigenous launch vehicle utilizing a thrust vectored hybrid rocket motor. (11/10)

SpaceX Dilemma: Where the Shores Meet the Cosmos (Source: Michael Gonzalez)
Lay off the moon rocks people. SpaceX recently announced plans to construct a launch pad near Boca Chica Beach. This decision has brought national attention to Brownsville, TX. However, no one seems to be worried about what it means to us avid beach-goers. In light of all the excitement, it appears that five pressing legal questions remain omitted from public discussion—lets launch in. Click here. (9/20)

Limits on Boca Chica Beach Closures will Narrow SpaceX Options (Source: Michael Gonzalez)
When is it not allowed to close down Boca Chica Beach? There is no short answer here. At first glance, the current law prohibits beach closure on the following list of days: the Saturday or Sunday preceding Memorial Day; Memorial Day; July 4; Labor Day; or a Saturday or Sunday that is after Memorial Day but before Labor Day. However, the law allows for beach closure even on these days if the Cameron County Commissioners Court obtains prior approval from the General Land Office. (9/20)

NASA Receives Fourth Consecutive Clean Audit Opinion (Source: NASA)
NASA has received an unmodified, or “clean”, audit opinion on its fiscal year 2014 financial statements, marking the fourth consecutive year of “clean” opinions.The auditor's unmodified opinion on our financial statements in FY 2014 concludes NASA's financial statements fairly present the agency's financial position and results of operations. An unmodified opinion is the highest audit opinion that may be received from an external auditor. (11/17)

NASA Announces Grants for Early Stage Innovations Space Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 11 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high priority needs of America's space program. The selected proposals address unique, disruptive, or transformational technologies, including: advanced thermal protection materials modeling, computational materials, in situ utilization of asteroid materials, mobile robotic surface probe concepts for planetary exploration, and kinetic penetrators for icy planetary moons. Click here. (11/18)

Is Dark Energy Eating Dark Matter? (Source: Physics World)
A tantalizing hint that dark matter could be slowly changing into dark energy has been uncovered by a team of cosmologists in the UK and Italy. While the specific nature of the interaction driving the conversion is not known, the process could be responsible for slowing the growth of galaxies and other large-scale structure in the universe across the past eight billion years. If the conversion continues at the current rate, the universe's ultimate fate as a cold, dark and empty place could come sooner than expected. Click here. (11/18)

Boeing Aims to Make Missile Defense More Like Space Programs (Source Reuters)
Boeing is working with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to address quality and reliability issues with the sharply criticized $41 billion homeland missile defense system by adopting controls from space programs. Craig Cooning, head of the Boeing division that includes satellites and missile defense, said he was working out a new approach to the system with Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring.

"With Admiral Syring, we are looking to make what we do in missile defense more like space programs and less like defense weapons programs. There’s a higher design reliability in space than there historically has been in some weapons programs," he said. U.S. officials and several reports have been critical of the lack of a rigorous systems engineering approach in the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system run by Boeing. (11/18)

Crowdfunded Lunar Mission Aims to Put Donors’ Hair on the Moon (Source: Guardian)
A crowdfunded moon lander that will drill deep into the lunar surface to study rocks that formed soon after the birth of the solar system has been announced by a British organisation. Lunar Mission One aims to transform how space exploration is done by covering the costs of expeditions with millions of small payments from the public instead a major investment from national space agencies.

Its leaders have turned to Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, to raise the £600,000 ($1m) needed to get the project off the ground. Enough support over the next month will see planning and fundraising ramp up in 2015. (11/18)

Weather Delays Morpheus Test at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Weather will keep NASA's Morpheus lander grounded today at Kennedy Space Center. Weather @NASAKennedy is not favorable today for tether test, so we're targeting tomorrow!" the project reported on Twitter. The Morpheus team had hoped to perform a tether test today, firing the prototype lander's liquid methane-fueled rocket engine while the vehicle remained attached to a crane. (11/18)

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