November 4, 2014

Challenges for a South Texas Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
While the successful conclusion of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Boca Chica launch site has given forward momentum to the project, SpaceX, the FAA and other stakeholders have several non-trivial challenges to resolve before launch operations can be hosted there. Click here to download the paper, written for the 1st annual Space Traffic Management conference at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (11/4)

Can Anyone Make Space Safe for Civilians? (Source: Daily Beast)
Restarting the test program will depend on two things: The findings of the National Transportation Safety Board investigations, which could call for extensive changes to the design, and the availability of a replacement SpaceShipTwo.

The second vehicle is nearing completion by Mojave-based company Scaled Composites. This was due to be handed over to Galactic early in 2016 after Scaled Composites pilots completed test flights. Apparently some structural improvements have been made to the new craft on the basis of experience gained with the one that crashed.

In order to provide the kind of regular passenger service as imagined by Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic would need to build a fleet of the craft. That process cannot begin without first gaining Federal Aviation Administration certification to operate the vehicles with passengers—and having the financing to resume manufacturing. Click here. (11/4)

The Monkey Astronaut Who Helped Pave the Way for Manned Spaceflight (Source: Slate)
When Peruvian-born, U.S.-raised astronaut Miss Baker died in 1984 at the age of 27, she had been to space once and married twice. Her grave, located at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, sits alongside those of her first husband, George, and her second husband, Norman. Atop Miss Baker’s headstone sits a pile of bananas, each one placed by an admirer. They make a fitting tribute to a fallen pioneer: Like any other squirrel monkey, Miss Baker loved bananas. Click here. (11/3)

Why We Can't "Backup Earth" On Mars, the Moon, Or Anywhere Else in Our Solar System (Source: Science 2.0)
If something did happen to make humans extinct on Earth, or nearly extinct, and you had anyone, anywhere in the solar system who survived the disaster - where do you think they would want to go to set up home and rebuild after the disaster? Earth. Mars or the Moon? So where is the best place for the backup? Click here. (11/4)

Can Spaceport America Recover, or Was Taxpayers’ Money Lost in Crash? (Source: Watchdog)
Friday’s Virgin Galactic crash is a setback for Spaceport America, the $218.5 million facility that New Mexico taxpayers funded. The question is, how big a setback? “I’m very concerned about what kind of effect this will have on New Mexico and the Spaceport,” said state Rep. Luciano Varela, chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee. “The whole issue about the Spaceport is something we’re going to have to keep our eyes on.”

Just last week, Spaceport executives told members of the state’s Legislative Finance Committee the facility could face a $1.5 million budget shortfall in fiscal 2015 if Virgin Galactic didn’t start sending customers into suborbital space by next July.

Under the terms of its contract, Virgin will pay the Spaceport Authority between $25,000 and $75,000 per launch. Early in the project, Branson predicted a couple of launches per week, with the number rising to 700 per year by 2015 from Spaceport America,in the remote desert of southern New Mexico just west of the White Sands Missile Range. (11/4)

SS2 Debris Spread Over 35 Miles (Source: NBC)
ghtweight debris from last week's in-flight breakup of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane has been found as far away as 30 to 35 miles from the main crash site, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday night. The dispersal of debris testifies to the thoroughness of the plane's disintegration, after an anomaly that occurred on Friday during a flight test high above California's Mojave Desert. (11/4)

What Richard Branson Can Learn From the Virgin Galactic Tragedy (Source: Time)
I accused Branson of too much hucksterism and too much hubris. I meant what I said, and I stand by it. Branson's acolytes like to invoke [aviation/space legends of the past when defending his program,] especially the Wright brothers. The Wrights were genuinely attempting to accomplish something that had never been done before—powered flight—as opposed to simply coming up with a new way to fly a manned suborbital mission that was first checked off humanity’s bucket list in 1961 when Alan Shepard pulled it off.

And if you’re going to make the argument that Branson is trying to democratize (the go-to word) spaceflight, making it available to everyone as opposed to just the elite, I would argue that you have to be pretty darned elite to be able to plunk down $250,000 for a 15-minute vacation—which factors out to a cool $16,666 per minute.

It’s a hard and tragic truth that [last week's] death, unlike the Apollo 13 breakdown, was foreseeable. So too is the risk of a ship full of paying tourists suffering the same fate if Branson’s enterprise ever gets off the ground. It shouldn’t. (11/4)

Why Branson Should Not Quit (Source: Huffington Post)
In an age where rockets still blow up on the launch pad for no immediately obvious reason, and test pilots for private companies plummet from the sky and no one knows why, we have to recognise the gap between our dreams and reality. Space is close, but our victories there are still small, and hang on a knife edge. And we will probably not live to see them all completed. But that - as ever - is no reason not to try, or to give up before the fight is over.

We explore space to educate and inspire and to learn. We explore to escape, and survive. We explore because we are human, and we mourn those who die in the attempt because we admire their courage, and fear the unknown. But even for those of us sold on the dream, it is worth dwelling on the cost - and the context.

We may have to be content with commonplace, simple victories, and celebrate them with equal pride as we did Apollo 11: the invention of a better fuel pump, an unbreakable gasket or a slightly more efficient cargo mission to the Space Station. And one day, yes, the ability to lift a fee-paying celebrity to the edge of space. They all get us closer. The value might not be obvious. The destination might not be clear. But when it comes to space even acts of ego and expressions of wealth take us closer to something bigger than we could imagine. (11/4)

Georgia Legislative Forum to Hear Pitch for Spaceport (Source: Brunswick News)
Camden County Administrator Steve Howard has been selected to serve as a panelist for the Aerospace Policy Forum at the 2014 Technology Association of Georgia Legislative Roundtable in Atlanta Nov. 12. “My focus is to showcase Camden County,” he said. “But this is not just a Camden project. This will impact the region and the state.”

Howard said the goal is to get more support for a spaceport in the site, about 10 miles east of Interstate 95. Information from the forum will be used by state lawmakers in attendance to help prepare for the legislative session that begins in January.

“It’s an asset no one else has,” he said of the Camden County location, which is on a peninsula surrounded by saltwater marsh and has ideal launch and trajectory angles to send spacecraft into space. Howard said he will emphasize the importance of cooperation from the state when the time comes for help with studies to prepare for a spaceport. “We will be ready to launch it forward full throttle,” Howard said. “We need to move forward on this.” (11/4)

SLS Manifest Targets Europa and Mars Sample Return Missions (Source: NasaSpaceFlight)
NASA is moving up a gear with its manifest planning for the Space Launch System (SLS). A new internal manifest portrays a tag team approach, alternating SLS between crewed missions for Orion and major flagship science missions that includes sending a spacecraft to Europa and conducting a Mars Sample Return mission, all before the middle of the next decade.

The launch rate for NASA’s new Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) has been a concern for some time, with Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, claiming SLS will have to launch at least once per year, as a “necessary” requirement. The reasons for ensuring “repetitive cadence” relates to multiple engineering, safety and budgetary factors, but also to build public inspiration for NASA’s future goals. Click here. (11/3)

The Importance for Commercial Spaceflight to Recover and Respond (Source: Space Review)
The commercial space industry was hit by tow major accidents last week, including one that cost one test pilot his life. Jeff Foust reviews what's currently known about the accidents, and what the industry needs to do to recover and respond in the face of current and likely future criticism. Visit to view the article. (11/4)

Destination Deimos (Source: Space Review)
Sending humans to Mars is at the limits of what is feasible in space exploration given current technical capabilities and the various challenges such missions face. James S. Logan and Daniel R. Adamo, in the first of a two-part article, make the argument that going not to Mars itself but instead one of its moons is a more viable approach. Visit to view the article. (11/4)

A Spaceport in Limbo (Source: Space Review)
Last month, officials in New Mexico were optimistic that the long wait for Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flights at the state's custom-built commercial spaceport might be nearing an end. As Jeff Foust reports, Friday's accident puts those plans, and the future of Spaceport America itself, on hold. Visit to view the article. (11/4)

International Space Station Agency Heads Issue Joint Statement (Source: NASA)
The heads of the International Space Station (ISS) agencies from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Paris to discuss how the international partnership is increasing scientific output of the space station through collaboration to meet the needs of the expanding user community and serve as a foundation for future exploration endeavors.

The ISS partner agencies are working through their respective governmental procedures for continued ISS utilization through at least 2020 and noted the U.S. commitment to extend to at least 2024. They also noted the ongoing work by other governments for a similar extension. The agency leaders noted the stable, solid, and robust ISS partnership that will serve as the basis for working together in future human exploration. (11/4)

Moon Express to Test Hardware at NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Moon Express, one of the primary competitors under the Google Lunar XPRIZE or "GLXP" - is poised to begin vehicle testing of the team's MX-1 spacecraft. To help them gain critical data regarding the flight characteristics of the toroidal-shaped (think donut) spacecraft, Moon Express Inc. (Moon Ex), will conduct testing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility or "SLF" - which has sported a hazard avoidance area for the past three years. (11/3)

Life Can Survive on Much Less Water Than You Might Think (Source: Astrobiology)
“Follow the water” has long been the mantra of our scientific search for alien life in the Solar System and beyond. We continue seeking conditions where water can remain liquid either on a world’s surface or elsewhere within a planetary body. This approach makes a lot of sense. Life as we know it requires water for the complex chemistry that enables growth and reproduction. Where there is water, we believe life has a chance.

“Basically, all active cellular systems live in watery environments,” said John Hallsworth. “Without an aqueous milieu both inside the cell and outside, microbes can die, or, at best, manage to survive in an inactive state.” A good question to ask, then, is how much water at a minimum does life need? As a recent study explains, the answer is not simply one of water quantity, but rather of its concentration. Click here. (11/4)

Support Grows for Russia’s UN Space Weapons Ban Initiative (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s United Nations General Assembly draft resolution for no-first placement of weapons in the outer space lays the groundwork of practical steps to keep the outer space free of any weapons and ensuring opportunities equal for all countries for peaceful use of the outer space, Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday over the vote on Russia’s draft of the new resolution at a UN General Assembly session.

“During the vote procedure on documents of the First Committee at the 69th UN General Assembly session the Russian draft of the new UN General Assembly resolution on no-first placement of weapons in the outer space was approved by an overwhelming majority,” the diplomatic agency said. “As many as 126 UN member-states voted for the Russian resolution project. Only the United States, Israel, Georgia and Ukraine voted against it,” the ministry noted. (11/4)

NASA-Funded Sounding Rocket to Gather 1,500 Sun Images in 5 Minutes (Source: NASA)
A suborbital rocket outfitted with technology to gather 1,500 images of the sun over its five-minute mission is preparing to launch in early November 2014. Capturing five images per second, the RAISE mission will focus in on the split-second changes that occur near active regions on the sun – areas of intense and complex magnetic fields that can give birth to giant eruptions on the sun that shoot energy and particles out in all directions.

"Even on a five-minute flight, there are niche areas of science we can focus on well," said Don Hassler, a solar scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Director of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France. "There are areas of the sun that need to be examined with the high-cadence observations we can provide."

RAISE – short for Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment – creates a kind of data product called a spectrogram, which separates the light from the sun into different wavelengths. The different wavelengths correspond to differing temperatures and velocities of the material. Therefore, analyzing the intensity of light at each wavelength gives scientists much needed information about how material is being heated and moved around on the sun. (10/31)

COM DEV Wins Contract for Asian Telecomm Satellite (Source: SpaceRef)
COM DEV has been awarded a fully-funded contract valued at approximately $6 million to deliver Ku-band equipment, including multiplexers, switches and ancillary equipment to be used on a high throughput communications satellite. The satellite is being built to replace an existing satellite and provide direct-to-home television broadcasting and telecom services throughout Asia. In addition, it will have multiple beams enabling it to provide broadband services in an area encompassing Africa to Russia, Japan and Australia. (10/31)

Grant Anderson Named President and CEO of Paragon Space Development Corp. (Source: SpaceRef)
Just prior to the record-breaking, near space dive by the Paragon StratEx team and Google Executive, Alan Eustace, Paragon’s Board of Directors announced that Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum had resigned from their positions as President and CEO in order to become leaders of World View Enterprises, a space tourism vanguard opportunity incubated within Paragon. Grant Anderson, former Paragon COO, has since been named Paragon’s new President and CEO while Ron Sable was elected Chairman of the Paragon Board. (11/3)

Aerospace Corp. Announces Leadership Changes (Source: SpaceRef)
The Aerospace Corporation has announced several leadership changes, effective Nov. 1, 2014. Kevin Bell, general manager for the Systems Engineering Division in Engineering and Technology Group, will replace Glenn Davis as general manager for the Imagery Programs Division in National Systems Group. As previously announced, Davis was promoted to vice president, Strategic Space Operations.

Todd Nygren, general manager of Developmental Planning and Architectures, Systems Planning Engineering, and Quality, will replace Bell as general manager, SED, ETG. Andrew Dawdy, principal director of the Engineering Directorate, Space Systems Group, will be promoted to general manager and will replace Nygren in Developmental Planning and Architectures. (11/3)

Coburn Includes NASA Projects in 'Wastebook' (Source: Roll Call)
NASA draws criticism from Sen. Coburn in a few areas, with Coburn skeptical of the costs associated with the International Space Station itself, including the presence of experiments designed by students. “Some of the other studies being conducted on the space station are designed by elementary and high school students rather than scientists."

"Fifteen student projects were launched to the space station in July as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP),” the report said. “While encouraging young people to take an interest in science is an important goal, the billions of dollars being borrowed to support space station science fair experiments could make a bigger impact in the lives of these and other children in many other more cost efficient ways.” (10/22)

Manber: Privately-Funded Space Research Leverages Scarce Public Funding (Source: Roll Call)
Roll Call recently reported on Sen. Tom Coburn’s final “Wastebook” with negative descriptions of two of my company’s customers’ use of the International Space Station. Coburn went on to call for canceling the ISS entirely, which he claimed would save $3 billion, not understanding these two projects are mostly privately funded. What the good senator and other readers of Roll Call may not realize is that ISS utilization is changing dramatically. Click here. (10/30)

Hydrogen-Detecting Innovation Earns National Honors (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A hydrogen-detecting pigment attached to tape, developed by a team of scientists at the University of Central Florida and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, has been selected as one of the year's top new technologies. The invention, called "Intellipigment," is being produced as a safety innovation for use in the aerospace, power-generation and oil- and gas-production industries.

A UCF start-up company called HySense Technology is doing the marketing. The compound detects the presence of hydrogen, which is invisible and odorless. NASA had asked UCF to help develop a hydrogen-leak-detection technology. The process took nearly a decade. Chemical manufacturers and hydroelectric and nuclear power plant operators also evaluated the invention. In June, HySense Technology won the $100,000 grand prize in the CAT5 competition, sponsored by Space Florida and UCF's Office of Research and Commercialization.

Because hydrogen is highly flammable, a leak could cause millions of dollars in damage to equipment, force plant shutdowns, damage the environment and injure or kill workers, said Nahid Mohajeri, a chemist on the team that developed Intellipigment and president and chief executive officer of HySense Technology in Rockledge. (11/3)

'Interstellar' Black Hole is Best Black Hole in Sci-Fi (Source: Discovery)
Christopher Nolan’s movie ‘Interstellar’ will be an epic space adventure encapsulating humanity’s need to explore the Universe, but it’s the visual effects for the movie that are garnering early attention. By combining the help of one of the world’s leading black hole physicists with a cutting-edge visual effects (VFX) team, ‘Interstellar’ will depict the most scientifically accurate black hole in science fiction history. And, during production, some new discoveries were made as to how a black hole would appear if we could view it up close. (11/3)

Test Pilot's Workplace a Cold, Harsh Environment (Source: CNN)
It's an unforgiving place, 45,000 feet above the Earth. It's brutally cold up there, as low as 59 degrees below zero, and there's so little air to breathe, it takes just seconds to pass out. It's at least 10,000 feet above the typical cruising altitude for a passenger jet, a full 3 miles above the peak of Mount Everest, and a staggering 6 miles higher than your typical skydiving altitude.

This is where SpaceShipTwo disintegrated Friday, high above the Southern California desert. Pilot Peter Siebold survived the crash. Co-pilot Michael Tyner Alsbury died. Why one died and the other lived is unknown, said CNN aviation consultant Miles O'Brien. "There's a million things," he said. "What's amazing is that Siebold is alive," he said. "There must be an amazing story of either luck or sheer will that he's living." (11/3)

Exelis Wins Range Support Contract Modification (Source: DOD)
Exelis Systems Corp. has been awarded a $21,341,441 cost-plus-award-fee modification for launch and test range system support to the Eastern and Western Ranges. Work will be performed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Fiscal 2015 operations and maintenance; research, development, test and evaluation; and other procurement funds in the amount of $13,921,755 are being obligated at the time of award. (10/31)

NASA Alumni League Event Features Update on KSC Visitor Complex (Source: NALFL)
On Nov. 18, the NASA Alumni League will host a meeting at the KSC Visitor Complex. The event features Therrin Protze, who will provide insights into plans for future additions at the Visitor Complex, as well as ideas for how we can work together to better share the NASA story with others. There will be opportunities to become more involved for those who wish to do so, and just plain fun opportunities for all. Click here. (11/3)

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