December 16, 2014

ULA Year in Review (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A record number of Atlas 5 launches, the return of Delta 2 and a Delta 4-Heavy at the dawn of a new space exploration era highlighted 2014 for United Launch Alliance. The company performed 14 missions this year from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California using nine Atlas rockets, four Delta 4 vehicles and one Delta 2. ULA’s customer lineup for the year included a half-dozen launches for the U.S. Air Force, three for the National Reconnaissance Office, three commercial flights, and two for NASA. (12/16)

Lockheed Martin, Boeing to Explore Deep Space Together with Russia (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Space Corporation Energiya and Lockheed Martin plan adapting the newest US manned spaceship Orion for dockings with Russian spaceships, Vladimir Solntsev, the president of the corporation said. “The space ships should be adapted to one another and common sense prompts us we should be able to dock them,” he believes.

“It’s important to know how to lend shoulder to each other because any kind of situations may emerge. And the Orion should also have capability to dock with other ships as it performs deep-space missions,” Solntsev said. Energiya representatives discussed prospects for joint cooperation with counterparts from Lockheed Martin and Boeing last week. (12/16)

Space Club Invites Nominations for Annual Debus Award (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club's Florida Committee presents its premier award, the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, for significant contributions to the advancement, awareness, and improvement of aerospace in Florida. This award will be presented at our annual Debus Dinner on April 18, 2015. Whether as a Space Club member or friend of the aerospace program, we encourage you to submit nominations for the 2014 Debus Award. Click here. (12/15)

Astronaut Winston Scott Featured at Tech Council Anniversary Breakfast (Source: SCTC)
The Space Coast Tech Council will be having a very special event on January 15th, 2015. It is our One-Year Anniversary Breakfast. The theme is The Spirit of the Entrepreneur. Each of our speakers will share how they applied this spirit to invent, re-invent, or propel themselves into their career or business. Click here. (12/15)

Bristol SpacePlanes Launches Crowdfunding Campaign (Source: Bristol Post)
Bristolians are being invited to help launch planes into space in a new crowd-funding campaign. Bristol SpacePlanes, a local firm which hopes to one day make space travel affordable, wants to raise £10,000 to build the first model of its Ascender space plane.

Founder David Ashford believes organisations such as NASA having being going about space travel the wrong way and that it could become much cheaper by reviving some old ideas from the 1960s. “The main barrier is not the technology, but changing people’s mindset” he said. “The technology is proven it’s just a case of getting people to believe. “Support us and you will, we truly believe, be helping us to bring spaceflight to the masses within 15 years.” (12/16)

Australian Students Aim to Generate First 'Breathable' Air on Mars (Source: Xinhua)
A Mars One astronaut candidate and a team of Western Australian students aiming to generate the first breathable air on Mars have reached the finals of the international competition that will land vital experiments on the Red Planet. Josh Richards, a physicist from Perth, plans to send a system that produces oxygen from water to the Martian surface, as part of the Mars One project that aims to establish a human colony on Mars. (12/16)

Eutelsat To Order Geostationary Spacecraft from Small-Sat Specialist Surrey (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat is purchasing the inaugural geostationary-orbiting spacecraft from small-satellite builder SSTL of Britain following a technology risk-reduction program financed by SSTL, Airbus and ESA. The satellite design, called Eutelsat Quantum, employs an Airbus-built analog on-board signal processor and a phased-array antenna design, also by Airbus, fitted onto SSTL’s Geostationary Multi-mission Platform for Telecommunications, or GMP-T, satellite bus. (12/7)

The Transformation of MDA Into a Multinational Player (Source: SpaceRef)
In 2007 MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) made the assessment that the domestic space market wasn't growing and that there was no long-term commitment to space by the Conservative government. As well, access to the U.S. market, critical for growth, was being stymied by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and security issues. At the same time MDA's Information Products group was growing nicely year to year. The decision was made to sell its Information Systems and Geospatial Service operations.

In January 2008 MDA announced the sale of these assets to Alliant Techsystems (ATK). MDA was effectively getting out of the space business. The assets would be moved into a new group at ATK to be called ATK Space Systems. Nearly seven years later, MDA is still in the space business and has transformed itself into a multinational player. How did they do it? Click here. (12/15)

No More Space Race (Source: Pacific Standard)
A far cry from the fierce Cold War Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, exploration in the 21st century is likely to be a much more globally collaborative project. Click here. (12/15)

NASA Analysis: 11 Trillion Gallons to Replenish California Drought Losses (Source: NASA)
It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) -- around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir -- to recover from California's continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data. The finding was part of a sobering update on the state's drought made possible by space and airborne measurements and presented by NASA scientists.

Such data are giving scientists an unprecedented ability to identify key features of droughts, data that can be used to inform water management decisions. A team of scientists used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to develop the first-ever calculation of this kind -- the volume of water required to end an episode of drought. (12/16)

Moon Express Testing Compact Lunar Lander at Kennedy Space Center (Source: NASA)
NASA is working with U.S. industry to develop the capabilities and cutting-edge technologies that will help send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. To achieve this goal, space travelers will need the resources to survive during long-duration missions to an asteroid, Mars and other outer planets.

Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, California, is one of three companies selected for the agency's new Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) initiative to advance lander capabilities that will enable delivery of payloads to the surface of the moon.

Moon Express will base its operations at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and is using facilities and the automated landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT field at the Shuttle Landing Facility, to perform its initial lander test development. (12/15)

NASA’s $349 Million Monument to its Drift (Source: Washington Post)
In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. Then, NASA did something odd. As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially “mothballed” — closed up and left empty — without ever being used.

The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010. But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse. The empty tower in Mississippi is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve. (12/16)

Garver: There's No Why? in NASA Anymore (Source: Washington Post)
“The Space Station was sold as an $8 billion program. It ended up costing $100 billion. The Webb telescope was sold as a $1 billion program. It’s now up to $8 billion,” said Lori Garver, who served as the number two official at NASA from 2009 until last year. “It usually works out for them,” she said, meaning the contractors get paid, even when they raise the price.

Decision-making about NASA was twisted, she said, because of a mismatch between its huge funding and its muddled sense of purpose. “There’s no ‘why’ ” in NASA anymore, Garver said. Instead, she said, there was only a “how,” a sense that something big still needed to be done. “And the ‘how’ is all about the [construction] contracts and the members of Congress.” (12/16)

Hurricane-Forecast Satellites to Keep Close Eye on Tropics (Source: U-Michigan)
A set of eight hurricane-forecast satellites being developed at the University of Michigan is expected to give deep insights into how and where storms suddenly intensify – a little-understood process that’s becoming more crucial to figure out as the climate changes, U-M researchers say. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016.

U-M researchers released estimates of how significantly CYGNSS could improve wind speed and storm intensity forecasts. Because of their arrangement and number, the observatories will be able to measure the same spot on the globe much more often than the weather satellites flying today can. CYGNSS’s revisit time will average between four and six hours, and at times, it can be as fast as 12 minutes. Conventional weather satellites only cross over the same point once or twice a day. (12/15)

Russian Ruble Crashes to World's Worst-Performing Currency (Source: Moscow Times)
The ruble collapsed by 10 percent against the U.S. dollar Monday earning the Russian currency the dubious laurels of the world’s worst-performing currency this year. The Russian currency has now fallen 49.3 percent against the greenback since January, according to data from the Moscow Exchange. The drop takes it below the Ukrainian hryvna, which has weakened 47.9 percent in 2014.

Monday’s plunge was the largest single-day fall for the ruble since the financial crisis of 1998 when Russia was forced to default on its debt after exhausting its reserves in a fruitless bid to prop up the currency. In evening trading Monday the ruble was worth 64.4 against the dollar and 78.8 versus the euro. The currency earlier dropped past 100 rubles to the British pound. (12/15)

Station Experiment May Hold Key to Alzheimer's Cause (Source: NASA)
An experiment housed in a 4-inch cube destined for launch to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-5 cargo resupply mission could become a key step in the progress toward understanding Alzheimer's disease and similar conditions and ultimately figuring out a way to stop them.

Called SABOL, short for Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life: A Study into Alzheimer's, the research project seeks to decipher how proteins construct themselves into long linear fibers. In some people, these fibers choke off nerve and brain cells and may cause the onset of Alzheimer's and similar brain and nervous system diseases. The experiment will test a new theory developed by Florida Institute of Technology biochemist Shaohua Xu. (12/15)

How to Think About… The Big Bang (Source: New Scientist)
The edge of the observable universe is some 46 billion light years away. Within that volume there are anything between 100 and 200 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars. If that weren't mind-blowing enough, according to the big bang theory – our best stab at explaining how it all came to be – everything exploded into being from nowhere, about 13.8 billion years ago. An infinitesimal pinprick of unimaginable heat and density has slowly stretched and cooled into the cosmos we know today. (12/14)

Assessing the Asteroid Impact Threat (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
“Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour,” could be still an actual description of our ability to predict asteroid threats to Earth. This sentence, pulled from the Bible (Matthew 25:13), provides a reminder of a vast number of the more than 1,500 potentially hazardous objects, floating in space, that meander throughout the solar system. Click here. (12/15)

Solar Wind Probably Leaches Mars’ Lower Atmosphere (Source: Science News)
Particles blasted from the sun probably spring leaks in the lower Martian atmosphere, new research suggests. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN probe, or MAVEN, has detected high-speed particles in the solar wind penetrating deeper into the planetary atmosphere than previously thought possible, mission scientists announced. The particles could give an energetic kick to atmospheric gases, causing them to escape into space and helping to strip away the planet’s atmosphere, the researchers hypothesize. (12/15)

Most Detailed Map of Mars Yet (Source: SEN)
Detailed imaging of the surface of Mars from orbit has allowed space scientists to produce the most detailed geological map yet of part of the Red Planet. The new map was released on Friday, 12 December, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to show the structure and nature of rocks in a martian grand canyon.  It was produced using data sent back from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has been studying the planet since 2006. It was launched in August 2005. Click here. (12/14)

Life on Mars? Chinese Scientists Find New Evidence (Source: Xinhua)
Did Mars ever harbor life? Scientists have found new evidence for possible life on the Red Planet in a piece of Martian meteorite that landed on Earth after about 700,000 years of space travel. According to research carried out by teams of Chinese, German, Swiss, and Japanese scientists, more than 10 pieces of coal-like carbon particles, thinner than one-tenth of the width of a strand of hair, were found in a thumb-sized piece of the meteorite.

"We used advanced equipment to determine the carbon particles are organic matter, and to rule out the possibility of graphite, which is inorganic," said Lin Yangting, a lead scientist of the research team from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. "Furthermore, we found an enrichment of the light carbon isotope in the organic matter," said Lin. "It's so exciting! This could be a promising indicator of life on Mars." (12/15)

2015 Will Be Busy Year for India in Space (Source: Gulf Times)
The year 2015 is shaping to be a busy year for the Indian space agency. It will launch five foreign satellites apart from its own four navigation satellites and a communication satellite. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will also launch a heavy communication satellite, GSAT-15, with around 40 transponders - automatic receivers and transmitters for communication and broadcast of signals using the Ariane rocket of Arianespace from French Guiana. (12/15)

Russia Doubles Satellite Launches in 2014 (Source: Xinhua)
Russia has launched 37 satellites in 2014, two times as many as the year before, the federal space agency Roscosmos said. "In 2014, we've conducted 26 launches with 37 space vehicles having been put on orbit," said Oleg Ostapenko, head of Roscosmos. The majority of these satellites have been designed for defense-related purposes, he said. (12/15)

Russia Again Hints at Leaving ISS, Building Separate Station (Source: Xinhua)
Roscosmos looks forward to re-channeling funds released after its withdrawal from the ISS for the creation of its own space station, which could serve as a base for future Moon missions, according to Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko. In November, the agency refuted media leaks about its plans to build a Russia-only space lab, saying the new orbital modules currently under construction were intended to be docked with the ISS by 2017, not to comprise Russia's own orbital station. (12/15)

Milestone Proton Launch Opens Queue of Grounded Commercial Missions (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Russian communications satellite lifted off from a snow-covered launch pad in Kazakhstan on Monday, marking the 400th flight of a Proton rocket and the launcher’s first commercial mission in 10 months. International Launch Services, which arranged Yamal 401’s launch on a Proton rocket, confirmed a successful mission early Monday.

Launches of Russian communications satellites are usually managed by the Russian government as part of the country’s federal space program, but Gazprom has elected to negotiate with ILS for commercial launch services for three payloads. ILS plans a busy schedule of commercial Proton launches in 2015 to catch after delays in 2014. (12/15)

Russia Planning to Cut Financing of Space Program (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is cutting by several billion dollars its state space program for 2016-2025, a source in the space sector said. "The total budget will make 2.4 trillion roubles ($42 billion), of which 2.15 trillion ($38 billion) will come from the budget. One of the reasons to cut the budget is the Finance Ministry’s order to reduce at least by 5% the state spending.

Thus, financing of the space program will be cut by several hundred billion roubles,” the source said. In October, a source in the space sector said the authority requested from the federal budget 2.1 trillion roubles ($37 billion), and about 250 billion roubles ($4.39 billion) would come from owned assets and revenues from space projects. Thus, against the program for 2006-2015, Roscosmos plans to attract threefold financing both from the budget and from other sources. (12/15)

Russian Space Agency Says No Plans to Cut Budget, Drop Any Projects (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian space agency Roscosmos is not planning to cut its budget or abandon any projects amid the unstable economic situation in the country, Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said. “No budget cuts in Roscosmos are planned, and we are not going to abandon or cut any projects,” Ostapenko said. A source in Russia's space sector earlier said that financing of the state space program for 2016-2025 is going to be cut to $42 billion. (12/15)

Cleaning Up Space Junk (Source: Space Review)
Although current efforts to deal with space debris have focused on limiting the growth of new objects, some argue it's time to focus on actively removing debris objects. Jeff Foust recaps the discussion on this topic at a recent conference, including the technical, legal, and financial obstacles such efforts face. Visit to view the article. (12/15)

From Michigan to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
Al Worden is one of only 24 humans in history to have flown to the Moon. Shane Hannon sat down with the former test pilot and NASA astronaut during a recent visit to Ireland to discuss his remarkable life. Visit to view the article. (12/15)

Of Budgets Past and Future (Source: Space Review)
Last week Congress finally wrapped up a fiscal year 2015 spending bill, one that provides NASA with $18 billion. Jeff Foust reports that while the bill is largely good news for many key NASA programs, the agency still faces uncertainties about those programs, and its long-term fiscal future. Visit to view the article. (12/15)

ESA Ministerial, Orion Debut Close 2014 with a Flourish (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency’s ministerial meeting and the maiden flight of NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule capped a topsy-turvy 2014 — a year marked by controversy and failures — on a positive note. Both successes must be qualified, however — mostly in Orion’s case given the reality that the capsule won’t fly again until 2018.

ESA’s Dec. 2 ministerial, meanwhile, though successful in resolving some difficult funding issues, raised new questions about the agency’s future role in the international space station. Click here. (12/15)

Intelligence Bill Authorizes New Satellite Projects (Source: Space News)
U.S. lawmakers passed an intelligence bill for fiscal year 2015 that authorizes new satellite projects and reiterates the nation’s need to wean itself from the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine. The bill, which authorizes funding for intelligence programs, passed the House Dec. 10 and at press time Dec. 12 was awaiting the president’s signature. The bill passed the Senate by a voice vote Dec. 9. (12/15)

BAE To Acquire Space Electronics Firm (Source: Space News)
BAE Systems announced Dec. 11 it has reached agreement to acquire Eclipse Electronic Systems, a manufacturer of space-qualified signals intelligence gear, from Easterline Corp. for $28 million. In its press release, BAE of Arlington, Virginia, said Texas-based Eclipse provides highly advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products and services to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities. (12/15)

DalBello Leaves White House for Virgin Galactic (Source: Space News)
Richard DalBello, the assistant director of space and aeronautics at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), is leaving to take a position with Virgin Galactic. DalBello will become vice president of business development and government affairs for the commercial spaceflight company.

His roles will include managing business development, particularly for the company’s LauncherOne small-satellite launch vehicle, and being responsible for the company’s interactions with the U.S. government. DalBello joined OSTP in October 2013 after spending several years at Intelsat General Corp., most recently as its vice president of government affairs. He previously worked in a similar position at OSTP from 1993 to 1997. (12/15)

Orion Flight Test Generated 200 GB Of Engineering Data (Source: Aviation Week)
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on NASA’s Orion crew capsule, is distributing 200 gigabytes of high-resolution data from the vehicle’s first exploration flight test (EFT-1) for engineers around the country to use as they prepare a second vehicle for an unmanned flight around the Moon in 2018.

Managers at the company and NASA say they are well pleased with the performance of the test article on the $370 million mission Dec. 5. In 4 hr., 24 min. the heavily instrumented Orion orbited Earth twice after its launch on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral. It reentered the atmosphere from an apogee of 3,604.2 mi. at a velocity calculated as 84% of what it will face after its lunar swingaround. (12/15)

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