December 13, 2014

'Star Trek' Suds: Canadian Company Boldly Brews a Klingon Ale (Source:
A new "Star Trek"-themed beer warped into stores in Canada in November, and it's making a splash. A Klingon ale concept made it big last month after a Canadian brewery heard that it had approval from "Star Trek" creators to make the beer. A company in Vulcan, Alberta, collaborated with Nova Scotia's Garrison Brewing to create the Klingon Warnog Roggen Dunkel Ale in time for a comic convention in Halifax in November. (12/12)

Yuri's Night Preparations Underway for 2015 (Source: Yuri's Night)
Join tens of thousands of people around the world this April to dream about where we’re going, explore where we are, and celebrate where we’ve been at Yuri’s Night, the World Space Party. Get involved by starting an event, finding an event, or donating. Click here to find and register a party in your area. (12/12)

NASA Releases "All About That Space" Parody Video (Source: NDN)
Interns and employees at Johnson Space Center in Texas have produced a parody video of the popular "All About That Base" song. Watch it here. (12/12)

Support Sought to Make ISS a LEGO Set (Source: SPACErePORT)
In "Gravity" you have seen it being smashed into pieces. Question is: Would you like to rebuild it? We are gathering support for an idea at "LEGO Ideas" to establish the ISS as an official LEGO set, for sale around the world. As soon as a project raises 10 000 votes at this crowd sourcing portal of LEGO it will be considered for official set status. Click here. (12/11)

Atlas Launches From California With New Upper Stage Engine (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After an early scrub was called due to multiple weather violations on Thursday, Dec. 11, NROL-35 was carried into the black on Friday, Dec. 12, for its secret mission for the National Reconnaissance Office at 7:19 p.m. PST. It launched from Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, despite just a 30 percent chance of favorable weather conditions as the launch time approached.

The prevailing theory is that the payload is the next generation of the Trumpet and Trumpet F/O electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites. The guess is based on details like the long and bulbous payload fairing, the inclination of the launch and the extra-powerful rocket that was used to launch it. Of course, the fact that this was the payload for NROL-35 remains unverified speculation, as the NRO is unlikely to confirm any correct guesses.

This launch was also the debut of the RL10C to power the Centaur upper stage. It’s the newest generation of the RL10 engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, which have a long history of reliability. In June of 2013, it passed its final flight qualification, and ULA plans to use it as the standard upper-stage engine for future launches of both the Atlas V and Delta 4. The one exception is the two-engine version of the Centaur, as two RL10C engines cannot fit side-by-side as that configuration would require. (12/13)

Secretive Vandenberg Launch Caps 14-Mission Banner Year for ULA (Source: America Space)
The heavyweight NROL-35 payload required the “541” variant of the workhorse Atlas V, equipped with a 17.7-foot-diameter (5.4-meter) payload fairing, four strap-on solid-fueled rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage. Capable of delivering up to 38,450 pounds (17,440 kg) into low-Earth orbit and up to 18,230 pounds (8,290 kg) into geostationary transfer orbit, the 541 is the second most powerful Atlas V variant currently in active service and was previously employed on just two occasions.

This was ULA’s 14th mission of 2014, placing this year in second place for the highest number of vehicles ever launched by ULA in a single 12-month period. Only 2009 and its impressive tally of 16 Atlas V, Delta II and Delta IV flights stands ahead of it, although that record is expected to be tied in 2015, when ULA plans an ambitious salvo of three Delta IVs, one Delta II and as many as 12 Atlas Vs, including its first Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus cargo mission to the ISS. (12/13)

SpaceX Seeks Incentives for Texas Expansion (Source: Waco Tribune)
The SpaceX plant in McGregor is poised to spend $46 million on an expansion that would create 300 new full-time jobs. Waco City Council on Tuesday will vote on giving SpaceX up to $1.5 million in economic development money. McLennan County commissioners will vote later this month on allocating $1.5 million to SpaceX for the project, giving the company a total of $3 million from the Waco-McLennan County fund used to attract and keep industry.

SpaceX began in 2003 using land in McGregor’s industrial park for research and rocket testing, and recently expanded its lease from 922 acres to 4,280 acres. In a report prepared by the city of Waco’s economic development staff, SpaceX is proposing to invest $46.3 million in the site during the next five years. That will consist of about $32.4 million in real property improvements and $13.9 million in personal property improvements.

SpaceX will add 300 new jobs by Dec. 31, 2018, with employees receiving benefits and an average hourly wage of $28.85, or about $60,000 a year. To receive incentive money, the company must fill 240 positions with people living in McLennan County, and 120 must reside in Waco. (12/13)

Lockheed Martin Wins Alaska Funds for Athena Launches from Kodiak Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Alaska Aerospace Corp. has selected Lockheed Martin to use a renovated launch pad at the Kodiak Launch Complex for the company’s Athena 2S launch vehicle. Alaska Aerospace selected Lockheed Martin from four proposals it received in November to provide medium-lift launch services from the spaceport. The state was offering up to $25 million, appropriated by the state legislature in 2012, to companies willing to using Kodiak for launches of their vehicles.

The Athena 2S will use Launch Pad 1 at Kodiak, which was damaged in a failed test of the U.S. Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon in August. Repairs to the launch pad, paid for out of the state’s insurance plan, are underway. Upgrades to the pad to support the Athena 2S will be incorporated into those pad repairs, at an estimated cost of $3-5 million. That work will be completed by October 2015.

The upgrades will be paid out of the $25 million, he said, with the option to use the remaining funds to develop an integration facility in Anchorage to support Athena launches and other aerospace activity, which Lockheed Martin included in its proposal. (12/12)

Movement Likely on Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
After a very lengthy back-and-forth with NASA (KSC and Headquarters), a finalization of the agreement for Space Florida to take control of the Shuttle Landing Facility is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2015, perhaps as early as January when Space Florida's board meets and could approve the document. The agreement will allow Space Florida to improve, market and manage leases at the horizontal launch/landing complex for non-NASA users. (12/13)

Florida Spaceport Gets Upgrade for New Rocket (Source: Scientific American)
In the works is a gigantic rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), shown here as an inflatable model, intended to be the largest booster ever built. Due to make its first liftoff in 2018, SLS will pack 10 percent more thrust than the Saturn 5 rockets that launched moon-bound Apollo missions. The VAB -- the largest single-story building in the world -- will stay the same on the outside, but NASA is remodeling some of the building’s internal architecture to accommodate the new SLS rocket’s dimensions. Click here. (12/12)

Airbus Upbraided for Shopping SpaceX (Source: Space News)
A French senator publicly upbraided Airbus Defence and Space Dec. 9 for even thinking about launching a telecommunications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket two years from now, saying the company’s move was “scandalous, unacceptable.”

The senator, Alain Gournac, who is a veteran member of the French Parliamentary Space Group, said he had written French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron to protest Airbus’ negotiations with California-based SpaceX for a late 2016 launch instead of contracting for a launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket. (12/12)

Editorial: Outer Space Belongs to Science (Source: Japan Times)
A recently disclosed draft of the government’s new basic plan for space projects gives top priority to use of outer space for national security purposes. While it also stresses the importance of developing the space business, it only briefly touches on scientific exploration.

The policy for the coming decade carries the danger of weakening the foundation of scientific research of the universe, in which Japan has accomplished quite an achievement at relatively low costs. Such a shift in the policy direction could accelerate the militarization of outer space. The Abe administration should rethink its space policy. (12/13)

Federal Bill Includes $20M for Wallops Repairs (Source: DelMarVa Now)
A federal spending bill before Congress includes $20 million in funding to help NASA Wallops Flight Facility rebound from damage caused to the launch facility by an Antares rocket failure. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the money is included in compromise legislation scheduled to be considered by both the Senate and the House this week.

The funds if approved would help pay for repairs to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. “We are proud of our work with partners in the House and across the aisle to secure $20 million in federal funding that will help Wallops Island rebound from the launch failure this fall,” the senators said in a joint release.

They called Wallops Flight Facility “a key asset to Virginia that will continue to play a major role in the future of NASA and space exploration.” Kaine and Warner thanked Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, calling the Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee “a key supporter and advocate of NASA and the Wallops facility.” (12/12)

Google, France Partner On Balloon-Powered Internet (Source: Aviation Week)
French space agency CNES will join Google in the online-search giant’s ambitious project to launch a fleet of stratospheric balloons to provide Internet access to rural and underserved parts of the globe. Dubbed Project Loon, the fleet of balloons would be carried by winds some 18 to 20 km above the Earth – higher than commercial airlines and weather – and powered by solar panels. (12/12)

NASA’s Chief Scientist: The Future of Space Exploration Is International Partnerships (Source: Slate)
NASA’s goal to put astronauts on Mars by the 2030s could be a unifying project. And not only in the U.S. Exploration in the 21st century is likely to be a far more globally collaborative project than it was during the fierce Cold War Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Why has the idea of reaching Mars captured the world? A trip to Mars is a priority for many scientific reasons—some believe it’s the planet that most resembles our own, and one that could answer the age-old question of whether we’re alone in the universe.

The spirit of trans-border ownership and investment seems set to continue. One key part of this is the Global Exploration Roadmap, an effort between space agencies like NASA, France’s CNES, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, among many others. The partnership is intended to aid joint projects from the International Space Station to expeditions to the Moon and near-Earth asteroids—and of course, to reach Mars. Click here. (12/12)

Boots and Flags, or Habs (Source: SPACErePORT)
The cancelation of Apollo confirmed that the overarching goal of that program was to demonstrate U.S. technological superiority in the unique environment of the Cold War. Dreams of continued human exploration, and even habitation, were shelved in favor of more pressing terrestrial priorities. The Space Shuttle and International Space Station were served up as placekeepers, keeping humankind in orbit but without the political will or funding to reach further into space.

As China and other nations rachet up their space programs, many U.S. politicians support a return to Apollo-style exploration, urging a race back to the moon or to Mars primarily to win a geopolitical contest or gain some supposed military advantage. They don't like NASA's current stepping-stone focus on asteroid missions (possibly because China hasn't claimed this as their own priority).

A flag-planting race to the moon or Mars wouldn't be nearly as expensive as creating a permanent base there, but would it be a worthwhile exploration goal? I don't think this question has been thoroughly considered by some lawmakers. Meanwhile, NASA continues to develop capabilities it might need for any exploration goal, while focusing on an asteroid mission considred to be less costly yet challenging enough to justify the effort. (12/12)

Swarms of Pluto-Size Objects Kick Up Dust around Adolescent Sun-Like Star (Source: NRAO)
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) may have detected the dusty hallmarks of an entire family of Pluto-size objects swarming around an adolescent version of our own Sun. By making detailed observations of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star known as HD 107146, the astronomers detected an unexpected increase in the concentration of millimeter-size dust grains in the disk's outer reaches.

This surprising increase, which begins remarkably far -- about 13 billion kilometers -- from the host star, may be the result of Pluto-size planetesimals stirring up the region, causing smaller objects to collide and blast themselves apart. (12/12)

Russia’s GLONASS Union May Set Up $100 Million Joint Venture in India (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian non-profit partnership GLONASS Union and India’s Eirene Systems may set up a joint venture to develop and produce satellite navigation receivers for the ERA GLONASS emergency response system, with about $100 million investments, the union’s President Alexander Gurko said.

The joint venture can be established if India decides to implement the ERA GLONASS emergency response system, which can be finished within four to five years, like it was done in Russia. The establishment of a joint stock company GLONASS is being finished in Russia, and it will start operations in January-March 2015, he said. After that final agreements on the joint venture with India may be reached, he added. (12/11)

India's Team Indus Goes for the Moon Shot (Source: Times of India)
"Even if Team Indus launches later than the deadline of Google Lunar XPrize, India will salute you," Vedachalam, a retired senior official of ISRO said. It's a line that nobody in the young team that Narayan leads can forget. And it's accolades like these that are keeping the team going, and which have considerably strengthened their determination to beat the Google Lunar XPrize deadline. (12/12)

Orion, Risk Taking & Limits (Source: Real Clear Politics)
Risk taking has been frequently on my mind lately as both the highs and lows of pushing the space frontier have been much in the news. Nobody ever won a race, introduced a new product, fielded a new technology, built a better customer experience or revolutionized the state-of-the-art without taking a risk. Yet, we have reached a point where much of society in the developed world expects to be able to live a risk-free existence. The causes of this societal timidity can be debated: Is it fear-based because of our litigiousness?

Have sophisticated insurance and assurance industries marketed so well to us that we believe all risk can be eliminated from life? Have government "security net" programs become so pervasive that we believe no one, and no thing, can ever be allowed to fail? Or has the sense of entitlement that defines the baby boom generation altered our reality in a way that the "greatest generation" -- those heroes of duty, honor and courage -- would disdain? Click here. (12/12)

Florida Delegation Splits on 'CRomnibus' 14-13 (Source: Sunshine State News)
The U.S. House voted to pass the $1.1 trillion omnibus federal spending bill on Thursday by a narrow margin, 219-206, with the Florida delegation breaking along unusual lines: 14-13. Florida Republicans Gus Bilirakis, Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Jolly, John Mica, Rich Nugent, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland and Ted Yoho backed the measure. They were joined by Florida Democrats Patrick Murphy and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Standing against the measure were Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey and Dan Webster as did Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Alan Grayson, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson. (12/12)

Cosmic Mystery Solved? Possible Dark Matter Signal Spotted (Source:
Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe. While poring over data collected by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft, a team of researchers spotted an odd spike in X-ray emissions coming from two different celestial objects — the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster.

The signal corresponds to no known particle or atom and thus may have been produced by dark matter, researchers said. "The signal's distribution within the galaxy corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter — that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges." (12/12)

How to Think About… Space-Time (Source: New Scientist)
Space-time. Often described as the fabric of reality, this four-dimensional amalgamation of space and time was set at the heart of physics by Einstein (see "How to think about… Relativity"). But what is it? A popular way of envisaging space-time is as a stretchy rubber sheet that deforms when a mass is placed on it, with the varying curvature analogous to the warping of space-time by gravity.

It's a picture that might lead us to believe space-time is itself something physical or tangible. But the physical manifestation of the dimensions we move through is, if anything, the fields they contain. For most physicists, space-time itself is a lot more abstract – a purely mathematical backdrop for the unfolding drama of the cosmos. (12/12)

ULA Looks to Revamp Atlas as Russian Engine Ban Looms (Source: SEN)
“We’re going to have to accelerate development of our replacement engine,” ULA chief executive Tory Bruno said during an interview before last week’s launch of the company’s Delta 4 Heavy rocket carrying NASA’s Orion capsule on a test flight. ULA also will look to shift some Atlas 5 military missions onto the pricier Delta rockets, which use U.S.-made Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engines.

Bruno declined to say how much ULA is investing in Blue Origin’s engine work. The appropriations bill, which funds most of the U.S. government through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year, also includes $220 million for work on a new U.S. engine. (12/12)

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