January 13, 2015

What Does Ted Cruz Mean for NASA and Human Spaceflight? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Q. How did Cruz, beginning just the third year of his first Senate term, and a thorn in the side of the establishment Republicans who run the Senate, get a plum assignment? A. There are mixed opinions on this, but the best guess is probably that on some level Cruz has agreed with Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn to play ball with his fellow Republicans on key issues.

Q. Is this really a plum assignment? A. Yes, it is. It provides Cruz a platform to grandstand on human-caused climate change, denial of which has become a key belief for many Republicans who vote in primary elections. He can advocate slashing “wasteful spending” on NASA’s climate programs. He also gets a chance to show voters in Texas that he cares about NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Q. What does this mean for human spaceflight? A. Of NASA’s spaceflight programs, Cruz said, “NASA’s core mission is to engage in space exploration, and I’m looking forward to chairing the science and space committee and focusing on the core mission of NASA again.” This is consistent with the Republican view that Obama has not put enough money into spaceflight. As one source told me, “Until I hear otherwise, I will assume he takes pork position of other Space Socialist Republicans: Massive overspending on SLS, Orion is great, Commercial crew is an outrageous Obama subsidy in free market.” (1/13)

Alaskan Suborbital Launch Campaign Planned (Source: NASA)
The interaction of solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more than a light a display. It produces many questions of the role it plays in Earth’s meteorological processes and the impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

To help answer some of these questions, five NASA suborbital sounding rockets carrying university developed experiments will be launched into auroras between 2 and 6 a.m. EST, January 13 through 27, 2015, from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska.

The Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (MTeX), in conjunction with the Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence (MIST) explores the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone. (1/13)

International Space Station Reality Series In Works (Source: Deadline)
Znak&Jones, the recently launched production company of veteran reality producers Natalka Znak and Simon Jones, has Znak Jones Logopartnered with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space — the organization selected by NASA to oversee research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory with the goal of enhancing the health and well-being of people and the planet —  to develop programs centered around the ISS.

Znak&Jones and CASIS already have developed the first show under their collaboration — competition format Sent Into Space. It features modern-day inventors vying for their cutting-edge creations to be tested in space on the ISS. Hopefuls will make their sell to a panel of experts comprised of top flight specialists and ex-astronauts, showing what benefits the tests of their gadgets might have for mankind. (1/12)

Musk Cites Cozy Air Force-ULA Relationship in Falcon 9 Certification Delay (Source: Space News)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said delays in the U.S. Air Force certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are the result of Air Force personnel dragging their feet so as not to offend United Launch Alliance (ULA), which now has a monopoly on military satellite launches.

Musk said the combined lobbying power in Washington of Boeing and Lockheed Martin is such that “if they send them all out, the skies darken. They have entire buildings. We have half of one floor. If this were simply a matter of lobbying power, then we would have no chance.” Musk conceded that at SpaceX, which has grown to slightly more than 4,000 employees, about one-third of the workforce comes from established aerospace companies including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. (1/13)

Musk Plans Satellite Plant in Seattle (Source: Space News)
In an audio interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Elon Musk said he is creating a satellite design plant in Seattle that will employ about 60 people at the outset before growing to several hundred. The idea, he said, is to shake up the satellite production industry in the same way that SpaceX has shaken the launcher sector. (1/13)

Space Commander Talks (Source: Space News)
Even before U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten assumed leadership of Space Command in August, his priorities were clear: prepare the service’s space enterprise for another round of sequestration budget cuts, now slated to take effect in 2016; choose among various alternative constellation architectures for implementation starting in 2017; and position the nation’s space capabilities to operate reliably in a rapidly evolving threat environment. Click here. (1/12)

Sierra Nevada Vows To Continue Dream Chaser Development (Source: Aviation Week)
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) says it “plans to further the development and testing of the Dream Chaser and is making significant progress in its vehicle design and test program,” despite its failure to overturn NASA’s selection of its two competitors—Boeing and SpaceX—in bidding for NASA’s planned commercial crew vehicles.

The Colorado-based company says it plans to propose the reusable lifting-body vehicle for the second-round NASA competition to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and will continue to develop domestic and international partnerships to further the development without federal funding.

“SNC remains fully committed to being a part of returning [U.S.] world-class human spaceflight and enhanced cargo capabilities to low Earth orbit,” the company stated Jan. 5 after Government Accountability Office (GAO) attorneys rejected its bid protest in NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) decision. (1/12)

Is SpaceX’s 2015 Manifest Realistic? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Looking at the 2015 flight calendar for SpaceX shows a lot of activity for the year. The SpaceX launch manifest show no fewer than 15 launches on their docket. Included in the mix is a collection of never before attempted (for SpaceX anyway) orbits as well as the debut of the Falcon 9 Heavy launch vehicle. It is a lot of flights, in some cases barely two weeks separate flights. It marks an aggressive schedule but it is a realistic one?

In 2014, SpaceX had six launches for the year (the ISS mission CRS-5 slipped into 2015), which marked a dramatic uptick in the amount of launches that the California-based company has demonstrated they are capable of carrying out. Even with this increase, SpaceX, on average, has only demonstrated the capability of launching at the rate of 2.3 times a year.

SpaceX also has four missions that will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. To date, SpaceX has only carried out one mission from its VAFB facilities. This new calendar has more than doubled the number of flights that SpaceX carried out in the past year. Our launch calendar has as many as 17 missions possible for the coming year. SpaceX has demonstrated the capability of carrying out approximately one-third to about half of the missions that appear on its initial launch manifest. (1/13)

Roscosmos: Chinese Docking with ISS Highly Improbable (Source: Itar-Tass)
A possibility of a Chinese spaceship docking with the International Space Station looks highly improbable, as is a possible “visit” by a Russian spacecraft to the Chinese space station, Roscosmos chief Sergei Savelyev said “Even if there is consent from all countries participating in the International Space Station program, there will be a lot of outstanding technical aspects linked with both adjustment of China’s Shenzhou spacecraft and the use of a higher inclination of the International Space Station’s orbit, which the Chinese are not used to." (1/13)

UK's Beagle 2 Mars Lander’s Remains May Have Been Spotted (Source: Guardian)
A British Mars lander that was lost on its way to the red planet more than a decade ago may have been spotted by an orbiting spacecraft. The Beagle 2 lander was supposed to touch down on Christmas day in 2003, but after it was released from its mothership, Mars Express, the dustbin-lid-sized craft was never heard from again.

But Beagle 2’s final resting place may finally have been discovered. Scientists operating the HiRise camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is the only camera in Mars orbit that can image the surface in high enough detail to spot missing spacecraft. The HiRise team has already found the twin Viking landers which touched down on Mars in the 1970s and photographed Nasa’s Phoenix, Curiosity and Opportunity rovers. (1/12)

Curiosity Team Denies Claims of ‘Microbe Traces’ on Mars (Source: Russia Today)
The Curiosity team has turned down suggestions made by an outside researcher, who said that she spotted microbe traces on the pictures made NASA’s rover on Mars’ surface. After analyzing Curiosity’s photos from an ancient Martian sedimentary outcrop known as Gillespie Lake, geobiologist Nora Noffke said that she saw similarities to “microbially induced sedimentary structures” (MISS) often found on Earth.

The Curiosity team also noticed the structures, which attracted Noffke’s attention. But the domes, cracks and pockets seen in the rover’s picture “can be explained by natural processes of transporting that sand in water, and the nature of the rocks suggested that it was just a fluvial sandstone,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity mission project scientist, said. (1/13)

Canada Considers New ISS Life Science Capabilities (Source: SpaceRef)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in interested in broadening Canada's contribution to the International Space Station by potentially building a new Life Science Research System capability. The Request for Information (RFI) was issued yesterday and interested parties have until January 20th to submit their interest.

According to the RFI "this new capability, the Life Science Research System (LSRS), consists of a research platform composed of diagnostic technologies that will be deployed on the International Space Station to support the identification, characterization and mitigation of risks to humans in space. (1/12)

Draft Environmental Report Backs SpaceX Landing Facility at Cape Canaveral (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A draft environmental assessment supports a plan to land SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), subject to efforts to mitigate adverse impacts on wildlife. The proposed location is Launch Complex 13 (LC-13), which was used to launch Atlas rockets from 1958 to 1978. The U.S. Air Force has since demolished the blockhouse, mobile launch tower and associated infrastructure.

Editor's Note: NASA KSC's new master development plan also includes an area for vertical rocket landings north of the Launch Complex 39B. (1/12)

Life on Mars – the Evidence Mounts (Source Cosmos)
Methane plumes of unknown origin and carbon-based molecules in sandstone rocks have recently been detected on Mars. Both findings add weight to the case that Mars could once and may still support life. Considering most methane on Earth is produced by microbes, this tantalising finding was widely aired by the world’s media.

Less reported was a second result, soon to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Curiosity unearthed evidence of complex mixtures of carbon-based (organic) molecules in sandstone rocks. The possibility that these complex carbon compounds were produced by life, however unlikely, cannot for now be excluded. Indeed they strengthen the simmering case that life could once have existed on Mars – or perhaps still does below the punishing Martian surface. (1/12)

New U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Satellites Require Great Precision (Source: Space News)
Two high-orbiting U.S. Air Force space surveillance satellites that launched in July must show “unprecedented” maneuvering accuracy given their potential to cause damage in a heavily used belt of Earth orbit, according to a professional journal published by the service. The Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites are capable of approaching and observing nearly 600 satellites in geosynchronous orbit. (1/12)

Musk Says Rocket Landing Test Ran Out of Hydraulic Fluid (Source: Space.com)
Engineers with the private spaceflight company SpaceX are still trying to piece together what went wrong with a reusable rocket test Saturday, but the company's founder Elon Musk said Sunday (Jan. 11) that the rocket's steering fins ran out of hydraulic fluid during the attempt. Knowing that, Musk said that there's a better chance of a successful landing during a future test.

The drone ship is in good shape, but some hardware on the deck needs to be replaced, Musk said. The "hypersonic grid fins" attached to the rocket stage for stability during landing worked well, Musk added, but they ran out of hydraulic fluid just before touchdown.

"Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month," Musk wrote in another post on Twitter. It is not yet clear when exactly SpaceX will attempt another reusability test. (1/12)

Russia-EU Mars Research Program to Be Completed (Source: Sputnik)
Work on the Russia-EU Mars research program ExoMars will be completed, and two missions will be launched in 2016 and 2018, Sergei Savelev, deputy head of Roscosmos said. In 2016 a special Mars orbiter will be launched, and its main goal will be to explore the planet's atmosphere. Moreover, it will serve for the data exchange with the Mars rover," Savelev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in an interview that will be released on Tuesday. (1/12)

Russia Has No Immediate Plans to Build New Space Station (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia does not plan to build a new space station of its own till 2025, Sergey Savelyev, chief of Roscosmos, said. “A possibility of creating a new Russian space station does exist in principle. Such project may be implemented in international cooperation, with China for example. But neither the current, nor the draft of a future federal space program have such provisions. Such project can be linked with the lifecycle of the International Space Station,” he said. (1/12)

No comments: