December 1, 2014

Spacecraft Bound for Pluto Set to Awake Nine Years After Launch (Source: ABC)
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to awake on Dec. 6 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods and prepare for its initial approach towards Pluto, which will take place on Jan. 15. The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto on July 14, 2015 -- the closest any man-made object has come to the dwarf planet.

The mission marks the first visit outside Neptune's orbit to the Kuiper Belt, which consists of Pluto and thousands of objects that have not yet been identified. New Horizons is currently 2.9 billion miles from earth and was launched in January 2006 atop an Atlas V rocket. Pluto at the time was still considered a planet, with scientists later that year voting to demote its status to that of a dwarf planet. (12/1)

Boeing Completes First Milestone for Commercial Crew Systems (Source: NASA)
NASA has approved the completion of Boeing’s first milestone in the company’s path toward launching crews to the International Space Station from the United States under a groundbreaking Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract.

The Certification Baseline Review is the first of many more milestones, including flight tests from Florida’s Space Coast that will establish the basis for certifying Boeing’s human space transportation system to carry NASA astronauts to the space station. The review established a baseline design of the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and associated ground and mission operations systems. (12/1)

The Promises and Perils of Space-Based Additive Manufacturing (Source: Space Review)
Last week, a commercially-developed 3D printer produced its first item on the International Space Station, an achievement hailed by many as a major milestone in space manufacturing. Bhavya Lal examines a recent report on 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in space that puts that effort into a better perspective. Visit to view the article. (12/1)

Orion's Time Finally Arrives (Source: Space Review)
After years of development, NASA will launch its Orion spacecraft later this week on a brief, uncrewed test flight. Jeff Foust reports on what NASA and Lockheed Martin hope to achieve on this unique flight, even as the spacecraft's long-term future remain uncertain. Visit to view the article. (12/1)

The Enigma of Presidential "Space" Politics (Source: Space Review)
The 2014 Congressional elections took place only a month ago, but many people are already looking ahead to the 2016 Presidential campaign, and its implications for space policy. Chris Carberry argues that Presidential leadership in space policy, long sought after by space advocates, may no longer be as important. Visit to view the article. (12/1)

Space Ambition (Source: Space Review)
The recent accidents involving an Antares rocket and SpaceShipTwo have raised new questions about commercial spaceflight and its appetite for risk. Tony Milligan examines those two accidents and compares them to recent achievements elsewhere in space. Visit to view the article. (12/1)

American Flag Carried Into Lunar Orbit on Apollo 10 Sold for $54K (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
An extremely rare and highly-desirable flown oversize American flag, carried into lunar orbit aboard Apollo 10 in May 1969, sold for $54,412. Originating directly from the collection of Thomas P. Stafford, all proceeds from the sale of this item will go towards raising funds for the building of a 1:1 scale X-1 model at the Stafford Air and Space Museum, in Weatherford, OK.

The oversize fabric American flag, measuring 18 x 12, is signed in black ink on the lowermost white stripe by two members of the Apollo 10 crew, “Flown to the moon on Apollo X, May 1969, Tom Stafford,” and “Gene Cernan.” Accompanied by a photo of Stafford holding the item, as well as a signed letter of authenticity from Stafford. (11/30)

Russia Puts Second GLONASS-K Satellite Into Orbit: Defense Ministry (Source: Sputnik)
The second new-generation GLONASS-K Russian navigation satellite has been put into orbit, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said. "The Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket…has successfully put the new-generation Russian navigation satellite 'Glonass-K' into orbit," Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. The satellite was launched from the Russian Plesetsk spaceport on December 1. (12/1)

NASA Animation Beautifully Details Every Step of Orion’s First Launch (Source: Universe Today)
It’s not Science Fiction! It’s Not Star Trek! No. It’s a really, really big NASA Mission! It’s Orion! In fact, it’s the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion’s First Launch! Click here. (11/30)

Firefly Space Systems Charges Full-Speed Toward Low Earth Orbit (Source: Ars Technica)
Firefly’s Alpha rocket is being designed to have a relatively small payload capability to low Earth orbit—roughly 500 kilograms. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but both Markusic and Sabripour explained that there’s tremendous commercial potential in starting out with that low mass target. There are, as they told us, a very large number of tiny payloads that companies and universities want to put into orbit.

"One hundred Falcon 9 rockets today would not have enough missions," Markusic summarized. The launch vehicle market of today is built to service a small number of enormous heavy payloads, and smaller less-expensive payloads have to hitchhike. There isn’t enough big stuff that needs to get into low Earth orbit to justify the cost of building and launching that many Falcon 9 vehicles. "But one hundred Alphas would have payloads," he finished.

Firefly at this point expects to have its first Alpha launch within the next two years, and it will follow along with a second rocket—named, predictably, β (Beta)—which will likely be made up of a number of Alpha bodies in parallel staging and have a cargo capability of 1.1 metric tons. The company expects that they’ll be able to do enough small satellite business to be cash-flow positive within four years (by 2018). Click here. (11/30)

NASA's Orion Capsule Set for Critical Test Flight (Source: Florida Today)
After 30 years circling in low Earth orbit with the space shuttle, Orion represents NASA's attempt to return astronauts to deep space, with the moon, an asteroid and eventually Mars as potential destinations. After the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, President George W. Bush unveiled a new strategy to retire the shuttle and return astronauts to the moon. The Apollo-like Orion capsule and two Ares rockets emerged as the centerpieces of NASA's Constellation program.

By 2009, a White House panel found that Orion's Ares I rocket was years behind schedule, as was any moon mission. It said NASA needed billions more annually to sustain a viable human exploration program. The Obama administration called for a reboot, canceling Constellation. NASA would focus on developing low-cost private spacecraft to taxi astronauts to the Space Station, and on technologies that could make deep space missions safer and more affordable.

Until new exploration missions were set, there was little point in keeping Orion except for the jobs it created, said Lori Garver, then NASA's deputy administrator and now head of the Air Line Pilots Association. "What's it going to do? What's its mission?" she said. "Setting a design and a technology at a point in time when you don't know where you're going or when does not make a lot of sense." Click here. (11/30)

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