November 22, 2014

U.S. Partners To Have Indirect Access to Space Fence Data (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department’s expanding network of international partners in space surveillance will have indirect access to data from the Pentagon’s next-generation Space Fence tracking system, a top U.S. military official said. To date, Strategic Command has announced data-sharing agreements with at least seven countries and 44 companies, but few details about those agreements have been made public. (11/21)

Pegasus Selected to launch ICON Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has selected an Orbital Sciences Corp. air-launched Pegasus XL rocket to place a small research satellite in orbit in 2017 to study the connection between Earth’s weather and space weather. The Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, mission will orbit 360 miles above Earth to investigate the boundary region between space and the atmosphere.

A Pegasus XL rocket dropped from the belly of an L-1011 carrier airplane will launch the ICON spacecraft in June 2017. The aircraft will take off from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands, then fly over the Pacific Ocean to deploy the three-stage Pegasus rocket. The refrigerator-sized satellite will weigh nearly 600 pounds fueled for launch.

NASA said the launch contract is worth approximately $56.3 million, including spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry and other launch support requirements. Editor's Note: $56.3 million seems expensive for such a small payload. Pegasus was supposed to be inexpensive because it avoided the cost of launching from a typical vertical pad and spaceport. (11/21)

Astronauts to Have Coffee Machine Delivered to Space Station (Source: Guardian)
Ristretto or lungo? Not a question astronauts on the International Space Station normally have to contemplate, but that is about to change thanks to a new zero-gravity coffee machine being delivered this weekend. The ISSpresso machine is set to boldly go to the orbital station this weekend, carried there by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. (11/20)

NASA May Send Quadcopter and Mothership to Titan (Source: Quadcopter Universe)
Titan, one of Saturn's 62 moons, is one of the most interesting spots in our solar system. With a thick atmosphere that could potentially harbor alien life, it's definitely on NASA's exploration list. But finding a good way to explore lots of territory and also obtain samples has been a major barrier. Now they might actually have a solution: a large 22 pound quadcopter that can fly quickly, retrieve samples from the surface, and dock with a mothership to recharge and pass the samples.

According to Larry Matthies, a Senior Research Scientist and Supervisor within the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a quadcopter may be the only solution for achieving the mission objectives on Titan. At least after cost and safety are taken into consideration. (11/21)

Virginia May Seek Federal Funds for Wallops Spaceport Repairs (Source: Space News)
After the failure of an Orbital Sciences rocket caused as much as $20 million in damage to a state-owned launch pad, Virginia’s two U.S. senators said they may seek federal funds to cover repair costs. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, said they would work with members of both parties in the House and Senate to identify funding to pay for the damage to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia.

“Sens. Warner and Kaine are working with their colleagues from both parties, both chambers, and both states to see if there may be federal resources available to help rebound from this setback,” the statement said. MARS is a joint venture of the states of Maryland and Virginia. Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, said the spaceport was still finalizing damage assessments, but believed it had a good handle on what repairs were needed and their costs.

“The estimate is probably no more than $20 million,” he said. Much of the planned repairs, he said, involve concrete and other structural damage to the pad, as well as plumbing and related systems. “A lot of electrical systems and sensors are fried,” he said. Among the most visible damage to the site involves the four lightning towers, resembling tall flagpoles, surrounding the pad. Two of the four poles fell in the explosion, Nash said, and all four will likely be replaced. (11/21)

A Mission to Europa Just Got a Whole Lot More Likely (Source: Planetary Society)
A future NASA mission to Europa became more likely today with the news that Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) will assume leadership of the House's Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee. This committee writes the House's version of the yearly funding bills that include NASA and the NSF, and is extremely influential, particularly for smaller federal agencies like NASA.

Culberson is one of the most vocal proponents of a NASA mission to explore Jupiter's moon Europa, previously helping to provide tens of millions of dollars for crucial pre-project design studies. NASA, under pressure from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has hesitated in requesting official status for a major Europa mission after slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Planetary Science Division. (11/21)

Humanity Has Made the Moon Into a Garbage Pile, Wants to Keep Doing It (Source: Washington Post)
The moon, an endless point of fascination for human curiosity, is a symbol of our ingenuity, our desire for exploration, and the natural human instinct to turn everything into a pile of hot garbage. Since America conquered the moon and rendered it our property via eminent domain in 1969, we have turned the moon into a galactic landfill, replete with bags of vomit (yuck), a Lunar Roving Vehicle (the Cadillac of space cars), 100 2-dollar bills (unsure on lunar conversion rates), a Bible (every aliens need faith) and so much more.

No big deal, right? Totally! According to the BBC, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that governs the moon ("governs" the moon) doesn't have a "Please pick up after yourself" clause. So littering all over the moon is not only American, but A-okay in the eyes of the law. So why are we even talking about this? (11/21)

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