November 7, 2014

Austrialian Airport Site for Lynx Launches? (Source: Morning Bulletin)
Along with beef and pineapples, spacecraft could become a Rockhampton icon... if our airport is deemed suitable enough for a spacecraft terminal. It also depends on whether former Rockhampton man John Moody has success with his proposal to build a $45 million spaceport, which could horizontally launch spacecraft like the XCOR Lynx from Rockhampton Airport. Click here. (11/7)

Space Florida, Israel Issue Joint Call for Projects (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Earlier this week, Space Florida and MATIMOP (Israel's industrial center for research and development), issued a joint call for projects to fund research and development sponsored by companies in both states. Florida and Israel formed the annually recurring $2 million joint program in October 2013 as a way to support research, development and commercialization of aerospace and related technology projects that benefit both.

Applying teams must submit a completed application, including a bi-lateral cooperation form that describes the project and the collaboration envisioned. Applications are due no later than Monday, March 16, 2015. According to a release from Space Florida, applicants must present a proposal that incorporates joint R&D projects in several explicit areas. Click here. (11/7)

Mission to Jupiter's Moon Gains Support in Congress (Source:
Scientists who want to explore Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa have some allies in high places. Several influential congresspeople are among those calling for a mission to Europa, which is regarded by many scientists as the best place to search for life beyond Earth. "We don't need to wait to go find life in another solar system," Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said in July. "It's right here in our own backyard."

Culberson spoke at "The Lure of Europa," a public meeting organized in Washington, D.C., by nonprofit group The Planetary Society. His words came just one day after NASA scientist Kevin Hand stated at a public NASA forum that he thought humans would find life in the universe in the next two decades, and on the same day that NASA released its call for scientific instruments for a planned Europa mission.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House of Representatives' Science, Space and Technology Committee, kicked things off at "The Lure of Europa" by wishing the world could see how excited attendees were about the Jupiter moon. Some members of the audience remained standing, while others sat on the floor. (11/6)

NASA Tests Revolutionary Shape Changing Aircraft Flap (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's green aviation project is one step closer to developing technology that could make future airliners quieter and more fuel-efficient with the successful flight test of a wing surface that can change shape in flight. This past summer researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces.

Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings. The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project is a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), using flaps designed and built by FlexSys, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan. (11/7)

Why Orion Capsule's Test Flight Is a 'Big (Freakin') Deal' for NASA (Source: NBC)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is the last person you'd expect to drop the F-bomb in public, but when it comes to next month's test flight of the space agency's Orion deep-space capsule, he's willing to come perilously close. "That's a big deal," Bolden said in Huntsville. "As the vice president would say, and I'm not going to say it, that's a B.F.D."

So why does Bolden think Orion is a big freakin' deal? "It is the first time this nation has produced a vehicle intended to carry humans beyond Earth orbit, into deep space, in more than 40 years," he said. "More than 40 years! That's a B.F.D., OK?" "EFT-1 is absolutely the biggest thing that this agency is going to do this year. I may be partial, because it's in my area. ... This is really our first step in our journey to Mars," Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, said at Kennedy Space Center.

As ambitious as that sounds, Orion's EFT-1 is just one small step in a development effort that began eight years ago and currently costs $1 billion a year. The cone-shaped craft looks like a bigger version of the Apollo moonship of the 1960s, but it's not expected to be ready for astronauts until the 2020s. (11/7)

Engineers Recommend Changes to Orion Heat Shield (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Lessons learned during preparations leading up to the first orbital test flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft in December have prompted engineers to recommend changing the design of the crew capsule’s heat shield for future missions to the moon, Mars, or an asteroid. The change centers on how technicians put together the Orion crew module’s heat shield, which protects the capsule during its descent through the atmosphere.

The Orion heat shield’s titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin is augmented with a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb structure. More than 330,000 individual cells make up the honeycomb, with each of the cells filled by hand with a material called Avcoat. The Avcoat insulation is supposed to ablate away during the Orion spacecraft’s re-entry, protecting the underlying structure from searing temperatures.

But a review of the heat shield on the Orion spacecraft set for launch Dec. 4 revealed the Avcoat was slightly more uneven than expected, according the crew module director at Lockheed Martin. Now Lockheed is recommending changes to the heat shield’s design that allows for different contraction rates between the Avcoat and the composite heat shield substrate. (11/7)

Space Station Seen As ‘Priceless” For Exploration Development (Source: Aviation Week)
After the astronauts have installed a special 3-D printer in the glovebox, and set up the high-definition video cameras that will watch its extruder and work platform from two different angles, controllers at a small startup company in the research park at Moffett Field, California, will send signals to begin making things in orbit.

The first test articles will be simple plastic coupons preloaded into the system’s memory. Those will give engineers at Made In Space, the company that built the microwave-size printer, and at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, data on how well the system performs in the full-time microgravity environment uniquely available on the space station.

The on-board manufacturing is a classic example of how NASA is using the space station to test the hardware it must develop for deep-space human exploration. In a sense, the station is the perfect analog for a Mars mission. It has continuous microgravity, which mimics the gravity loads crews and their equipment will experience en route to and from the red planet, and its mass and pressurized volume match what a crew is likely to need to survive the trip. (11/7)

Forget ‘Interstellar’: America’s Doing Less to Travel to Space Than Ever Before (Source: Washington Post)
Interstellar is likely to spark imaginative discussions about space and how far we'll travel as a civilization. The latest data points aren't good on that matter, though. We now spend less on NASA -- relative to the wealth of overall economy -- than at any point in history.

Although exploring space has been an iconic part of the American imagination for decades, it's never registered high on the list of the public's priorities. Dating back to the 1970s, Americans have consistently said we're spending too much on space. Equally interestingly, though, Americans seem to be aware of how much less we're spending today. As recently as 2012, polling showed that more Americans than ever before thought that we were spending too little. (11/7)

China is Now Positioned to Dominate the Moon (Source: Air & Space)
The only piece missing from their lunar mission architecture is rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit. Since the Chinese manned program has already done this multiple times in Earth orbit, odds are that they will be successful in applying this expertise to their lunar mission. Click here. (11/7)

Subcontractor Sued by Orbital Sciences Offers To Turn Over Hardware (Source: Space News)
The owner of a company accused of delaying ground-support upgrades at the Virginia spaceport Orbital Sciences uses for launching its Cygnus cargo tug offered to turn over some of the components Orbital claims are being held hostage. Kevin Huber, managing director of Integrated Systems and Machinery, said the firm is “willing to release a partial shipment which would allow [Orbital] to get going” on the upgrades.

How soon Orbital needs to get going on the upgrades, and even whether the upgrades can proceed as planned, is an open question. The components Huber’s firm has been withholding were ordered by Orbital in 2012 as part of a long-planned upgrade for the Transporter Erector Launcher that Orbital uses to haul Antares out to the pad and hold it upright for liftoff. But the mobile launch platform was among the equipment damaged Oct. 28 when Antares failed 15 seconds after liftoff and came crashing back down.

What is more, Orbital Sciences will not launch from Virginia’s Wallops Island again until at least 2016, when a redesigned Antares with a new core stage is expected to debut. Huber said Integrated Systems and Machinery refused to ship the cylinder and other hardware because its contract with Orbital calls not only for delivery of the equipment, but for testing and other support services that have not yet been performed. That means “we can’t release it unless they [Orbital] release us from liability for shipping a line-item incomplete,” Huber said. (11/7)

Dnepr Launches Japanese Satellites (Source:
A Dnepr rocket successfully placed several Japanese spacecraft into orbit on Thursday. The Dnepr rocket, a converted SS-18 ballistic missile, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying the Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation (ASNARO) satellite and several secondary payloads. ASNARO is a high-resolution Earth imaging spacecraft. Four smaller spacecraft, developed by various Japanese universities, also launched on the Dnepr to perform Earth observation and astronomy missions. (11/7)

Russia Thinking of Moving its Out of Kazakhstan (Source: Economist)
These days the land around Baikonur is littered with rusty metal. Russia pays about $115m a year to lease the remote chunk of steppe. Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, launches most of its rockets from Baikonur: between 22 and 25 each year. Until America develops a new space taxi, the Soyuz is the only way to get people to the 15-nation International Space Station.

But Kazakhstan and its tenant are bickering. The chief of the Kazakh space agency, Kazcosmos, has threatened to tear up the lease. And Russia is building a new spaceport on its own territory, threatening to make the cosmodrome redundant.

Some Kazakhs would be happy to see the Russians leave. In July 2013 a Proton rocket carrying navigation satellites exploded after lift-off—the fourth Proton disaster at Baikonur in 14 years, say Kazcosmos officials. Kazakhstan tried to limit Proton launches because the rocket uses an especially toxic fuel. But Russia needs its workhorse. Thanks to the Proton, which launches only from Baikonur, Russia has held a third of the commercial space-launch market over the past decade. Click here. (11/7)

Manned Commercial Spaceflight: The Final Unregulated Frontier (Source: Washington Post)
The FAA does have the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, also known as AST. However the office does not certify the safety of spacecrafts the same way the FAA certifies the safety of passenger airliners. Instead, it licenses launches, but that licensing is all about the safety of people on the ground or making sure the spacecrafts do not hit other crafts in the air.

"What AST does is protect third parties and property from damage by activities in space -- they do not regulate the actual space flight and payloads except to require enough insurance of safety that third parties will not be injured," said John Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.

"The FAA is prohibited from regulating launch or reentry vehicle occupant safety until late in 2015, barring a death, serious injury, of or close call that can be attributed to a design feature or operating practice, under Commercial Space Launch Act," said FAA spokesperson Hank Price. (11/6)

U.S. Space Industry Girds for More Oversight After Accidents (Source: Reuters)
Last week's incidents have raised questions about the commercial space industry, and will likely trigger congressional hearings and bids to increase oversight, according to industry executives, congressional aides and analysts.

Mark Sirangelo said the accidents were tragic but should be viewed in the context of the overall space business, and not as an indictment of new ventures being developed by the commercial sector. He said the airplane industry had also suffered great losses during its first decade. "This is catalyst. Things happen that make us better," Sirangelo said.

"We don't get better cars if we don't realize that cars have crashes and then we improve them." He said the commercial space business was already subject to strict oversight, but industry should respond by being "even more open. What we need to do ... instead of running away from it, is confront it, explain it, and be open and honest - maybe even more open than we have been in letting people understand what happened." (17)/

Can These Satellite Images Save Lives? The U.N. Thinks So (Source: Washington Post)
As new crises erupt around the world and old conflicts smolder, the images that emerge are usually taken by photographers on the ground. But there is another perspective: the view from space. Satellite images can be an accurate and fast way to analyze situations in countries where international aid workers or observers are unable to operate. They can also show dramatic change.

"Satellite images can absolutely save lives," explains Einar Bjorgo, the manager of UNOSAT, which is part of the U.N. Institute for Training and Research. Bjorgo's team provides nongovernmental and governmental agencies with detailed satellite pictures and analyses that are used to plan emergency responses and direct teams on the ground. Often, the images are made available in almost real time. Click here. (11/6)

Australian Spaceport Proposals Met with Strong Opposition (Source: The Morning Bulletin)
Spaceport proposals in Australia have been off the radar for many years, since one proposed at a site near Cape York in the 1980s. In 1986 and 1987, the Queensland Government commissioned feasibility studies for a launch site on Cape York. The studies were used in a proposal document in 1987 with a call for expressions of interest.

The advantages of Cape York as a possible Spaceport site included its proximity to the Equator, its weather and geographical situation, which were similar to Cape Canaveral in Florida. The idea eventually flopped. There were many reasons for the demise of the Cape York project, including: little political interest shown by the Australian Government, high taxpayer-funded costs to set up the infrastructure and strong opposition from the Cape York Land Council. (11/7)

China's Moon Missions Explained (Source:
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) to explore the moon has several phases, with the ultimate goal of returning moon rock samples to the Earth. Click here for an infographic and list of China's lunar projects. (11/6)

California Observatory Wins Back Funding (Source: Nature)
The University of California (UC) system has reversed its decision to pull funding from Lick Observatory, ending a year of budgetary angst for the astronomical research site atop Mount Hamilton in California. “Now we can get over this hanging on by our fingernails,” says Claire Max, an astronomer at the university’s Santa Cruz campus. “We all have a future now.”

The 29 October decision caps several years of bitter battles between UC astronomers, who are spread among the state’s flagship campuses, and the university president’s office in Oakland. In September 2013, the president’s office said that it was following expert advice when it ordered UC Observatories to find outside funding and management for Lick and to begin transitioning it away from UC monies by 2017. (11/6)

ESA Maps out How Ariane 6 Would Save Everyone Money (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency is proposing to inject 8 billion euros ($10 billion) into Europe’s launch sector over 10 years starting in 2015, including some 4.3 billion euros on a new Ariane 6 rocket, on the basis of a contract arrangement with industry in which ESA guarantees five government missions per year and, in return, industry fends for itself on the wider commercial market.

The proposal, delivered in the form of a 19-page response (see below) to Ariane 6 questions posed by Germany — the only big ESA member that has resisted the program — says the new Ariane 6 will cost ESA governments less to use than the current Ariane 5 and Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket.

And unlike Ariane 5, which requires around 100 million euros per year of government support to keep launch service provider Arianespace from suffering financial losses, the Ariane 6 proposal says ESA will pay a marginal support cost only for government missions, and none for commercial launches. (11/6)

Rogue Stars Outside Galaxies May be Everywhere (Source: Science)
You’ve heard of rogue planets, floating through the universe untethered to any solar system. Now meet rogue stars, which drift through space with no galaxy to call home. A new study has come to the startling conclusion that as many as half of all stars in the universe may be rogue, having been ejected from their birthplaces by galaxy collisions or mergers. (11/6)

Swiss Space Systems Sends Autistic Child's Dreams Soaring (Source: Bay Today)
A 12 year old North Bay boy got the surprise of his young life Wednesday evening, and it turns out to be a wonderful story. Austin Wasylkiw, a student at F.J. Fricker, has a very keen interest in space. His dad Alex confirms that his son has been reading books about space since he was four. So Austin was very interested to read a story in BayToday about a space company, new to North Bay, called Swiss Space Systems or S3.

"Our CEO was very touched ... and wanted to do something very special," said Robert Feierbach, the head of S3 USA. "He felt it was important to motivate someone very, very young who is obviously very interested in space." So when the S3 executives were in the city Wednesday, they planned a surprise visit, bringing gifts and a special video from the S3 CEO to their youngest fan. (11/5)

By Outsourcing ISS Cargo Flights, Orbital Will Likely Bring Cygnus to Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
With Orbital Sciences Corp.'s decision to halt its use of the Russian rocket engines suspected to have failed on Antares, the company has advised NASA it will outsource two launches to other rockets capable of carrying its Cygnus cargo modules to the Space Station. That means flying Cygnus atop the SpaceX Falcon-9 and/or the ULA Atlas-5 or Delta-4, from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (11/6)

America Can't Afford to be Lost in Space (Source: Washington Examiner)
NASA has all but handed over the field of spaceflight to the private sector. Indeed, coming on the heels of President Obama’s termination of the space shuttle program in 2011, both events had people wondering if the end of America’s decades-old dominance of space flight is really finally here.

What the pessimists missed, however, was the successful launch last Friday of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster, carrying a GPS satellite into orbit — the fiftieth such successful launch — and powered by the same kind of seventies-era RD-180 engine that blew up on the Orbital Science platform. All of which proves we’re far from down and out in the space race, and that even old technologies work when we’re committed to their success.

But commercial companies, no matter how skilled or innovative, can’t conquer space alone. It may be hard for some conservatives to admit, but there are still things government does best, because it can muster more critical resources — technological, scientific, and monetary — than the market can readily supply. Defense is one such area; space is another. And the two are closely related. (11/5)

A Good Night for Mojave as Steve Knight Heads to Congress (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In Mojave election news, State Sen. Steve Knight — a big commercial space supporter — is heading for Congress. In a much watched race, Knight defeated fellow Republican Tony Strickland to represent the 25th Congressional District, which includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster. Knight will replace Buck McKeon, who is retiring. Knight has been a prominent supporter of aerospace and commercial space measures. He is the son of the late X-15 pilot William “Pete” Knight. (11/5)

NASA Rocket Experiment Finds the Universe Brighter Than We Thought (Source: NASA)
A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned stars flung out of galaxies. The findings redefine what scientists think of as galaxies. Galaxies may not have a set boundary of stars, but instead stretch out to great distances, forming a vast, interconnected sea of stars.

Observations from the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, are helping settle a debate on whether this background infrared light in the universe, previously detected by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, comes from these streams of stripped stars too distant to be seen individually, or alternatively from the first galaxies to form in the universe. (11/6)

CASIS and Boeing Partner on MassChallenge Awards (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Boeing awarded three entrepreneurial researchers financial support through the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator. In April, both entities announced their intention to collaborate on the “Technology in Space” sidecar prize through MassChallenge. Click here. (11/6)

Bigelow Hiring Again (Sources: SPACErePORT, Bigelow Aerospace)
After cutting its workforce in half in 2011, Bigelow Aerospace executives said they were retaining a "core group" to preserve key capabilities during a slowing-down period. That core group included just over 50 people. Now Bigelow is hiring again, with about 100 positions advertised on their website, presumably for work at their North Las Vegas facility. Click here. (11/6)

Astronauts Submerge GoPro Inside a Floating Ball of Water On ISS (Source: IFL Science)
Curious about the behavior of water surface tension in microgravity, three astronauts aboard the International Space Station decided to stick a GoPro camera inside a floating ball of water. They also filmed the event using a 3D camera. The men—Steve Swanson, Reid Wiseman, and Alexander Gerst—captured the videos sometime during summer 2014 as part of Expedition 40. Click here. (11/6)

How Can Commercial Space Flights be Regulated? (Source: Washington Post)
In 2014, with a rocket exploding near one coast and a futuristic spaceship crashing near the other, there’s another new frontier: regulating corporate America’s rush to capitalize on the vacuum created when NASA retired from hands-on space flight. Into that void, Congress thrust the FAA, charging it with setting the guidelines for a fledgling industry that has drawn more than a half dozen companies with a variety of goals.

“It’s a little bit different than the rest of the aviation oversight that we do,” said an FAA official, “because the industry is kind of where the Wright brothers were in aviation.” The fact that Antares and SS2 flew under two different FAA guidelines underscores the nascent nature of space flight regulation. It also reflects the challenge federal regulators face in governing emerging technologies: Step in too soon with a heavy hand and it may stifle creative thinking.

The future regulatory challenge will require dealing with a variety of designs and intentions. Virgin's SS2 accident will be the first time the NTSB has led an investigation into a space launch with passengers on board. Part of the NTSB investigation, said its chairman, Christopher Hart, will be “to see whether the oversight was adequate, to the extent that there is oversight in this industry.” Click here. (11/5)

Editorial: Private Firms Not the Problem in Rocket Crash (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
The place where civilian space flight needs more scrutiny from the public sector is in safety oversight, the kind that NASA provided for astronauts, if imperfectly. Though pilot error may turn out to be the cause of last week’s crash, experimental fuels that were used — including a form of nylon and highly volatile nitrous oxide — are controversial among spaceflight engineers. The LA Times reports that last year Virgin Galactic’s safety chief resigned and has not been replaced. The FAA and NTSB, which is investigating the crash, need to insist on a commitment to safe flying. (11/6)

Wax Fuel Gives Hybrid Rockets More Oomph (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Solid-propellant rockets have the fuel and oxidizer already mixed and held together in a polymer binder. That reduces complexity, but it doesn’t eliminate the dangers: Cracks or imperfections in the solid fuel or its packaging can cause uncontrolled combustion and explosion.

Hybrid rocket motors store the oxidizer as a liquid and the fuel as a solid, a configuration that is mechanically simple and reduces the opportunity for chemical explosion, both in flight and during ground operations. That makes hybrids safer than solid-fueled rockets. Our fundamental innovation is a change in the composition of the solid fuel that’s used. Instead of the usual rubbery polymer, we use ordinary paraffin wax. Yes, wax.

Paraffin-based fuels give hybrid rockets more oomph, because the fuel that is exposed to combustion melts, atomizes, and becomes entrained in the flowing oxidizer. This enlarges the surface area over which the fuel can vaporize and react. (11/5)

McAuliffe Calls for Full Financial Review of Spaceport Deal with Orbital (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has ordered a fresh look at the financial arrangements between a Virginia spaceflight authority and Orbital Sciences Corp. He expressed concern over the state’s apparent financial liability for damage to the pad under an agreement between Orbital and the Virginia Commercial Space Authority, as well as the state’s ongoing budget support of the authority and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Orbital CEO David Thompson said Orbital will support efforts by the spaceport and NASA, which leases a portion of Wallops Island to the authority, to repair damage “so as to allow Antares launch operations to resume there in early to mid-2016 and continue for the long term.” The company’s plan to launch supply missions from other sites, using the Cygnus cargo spacecraft on other rockets, came as a surprise to Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr., one of two state officials on the nine-member authority board. (11/6)

Raytheon-Led Team Wins Air Force Range Contract (Source: SpaceRef)
The Air Force awarded the Launch and Test Range Integrated Service Contract (LISC) to RGNext. The total contract value, including all potential options and potential award fee is $2.0 Billion. LISC will provide the Government with a single prime contractor responsible and accountable for operations, organizational- and depot-level maintenance as well as sustainment at Cape Canaveral AFS and Vandenberg AFB.

Editor's Note: RGNext is a Raytheon-led team. This long-delayed contract was originally targeted for award in 2013, after proposals were submitted in May of that year. It consolidates three previous contracts that supported range operations in Florida and California. (11/6)

Market Forces Should Guide Future of Oklahoma Spaceport (Source: The Oklahoman)
The crash of a Virgin Galactic rocket, which followed the explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket, immediately brought to mind one Oklahoma lawmaker’s past warnings. In a 2007 debate, state Rep. John Wright noted the dangers associated with commercial space ventures, saying there was a pragmatic reason NASA flights launch off the Florida coast. “They launch those rockets out over the ocean,” Wright said, “because every once in a while, one doesn’t make it. It blows up.”

Wright made those comments while discussing potential space flights in Oklahoma. The Virgin Galactic tragedy shows Wright wasn’t engaging in hyperbole. It also illustrates the need to carefully limit where such activity is conducted. This doesn’t mean private businesses shouldn’t be allowed to innovate, even in high-risk developing industries such as commercial space.

But those industries should rise or fall based on market realities. The problem in Oklahoma (and other states) is that lawmakers have tried to tip the economic scales in favor of commercial space ventures through significant taxpayer subsidies. Wright’s above-noted comments were made while debating against such subsidies in Oklahoma. The millions of taxpayer dollars spent on an Oklahoma spaceport have not only failed to generate a single rocket flight or new economic activity, but may have undercut local economic development. (11/6)

ATK Offers Solid Motor Option to Replace RD-180 on Atlas (Source:
ATK has provided additional details about its domestic alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 engine currently in use on the venerable Atlas V rocket of United Launch Alliance (ULA). While ULA has aligned with Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine, ATK's proposal of a solid-fueled first stage – as a reliable, cost-effective, and commercial alternative to the RD-180 – provides insight into the wealth of American-built engine options.

According to ATK, manufacturing and testing of the solid fueled solution for the RD-180 replacement would take place within the United States using tooling and infrastructure already in place across the country. The solid fueled first stage could also be designed to specifically meet the Atlas V launch vehicle and payload requirements, including the upcoming requirement to ferry crew aboard Boeing’s CST-100 capsule. (11/6)

Insurers Are Likely to Close Space Tourism Loophole (Source: NBC)
While private pilots and skydivers have to take out extra life insurance to cover the added risk of their pursuits, space tourists do not need special policies on their high flying rides. That loophole is likely to disappear, slowly, after last week's fatal crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane during a test flight.

The loophole exists because U.S. life insurance policies don't ask about space tourism or exclude it from coverage, meaning insurers probably would have to pay if the holder died on a space trip, insurance industry veterans said. Insurance companies are likely to start adding questions about space travel and may even explicitly exclude spaceflight coverage, the industry observers said. (11/6)

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