January 14, 2015

NASA: Possible ISS Leak Prompts Evacuation (Source: Florida Today)
Crew members are safe in the Russian segment of the International Space Station after an alarm prompted the evacuation from the U.S. section, according to NASA. An alarm signaled at 4 a.m. that sometimes can be indicative of an ammonia leak forced Expedition 42 crew members to wear masks and seal themselves in the Russian segment. They were then allowed to remove their masks. (1/14)

NSS to Honor Indian Mars Team (Source: The Hindu)
The National Space Society based in Washington DC has chosen the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) team, headed by M. Annadurai, for its 2015 Space Pioneer Award. The society announced on Monday that a representative of the team would be presented the honour in the science and engineering category during its annual international conference in Toronto in May. (1/13)

Firefly Space Systems Inks Space Act Deal With NASA (Source: Forbes)
Texas-based Space startup Firefly Space Systems announced today that the company has signed a Space Act agreement with NASA. Founded in January 2013, Firefly is focused on building a reusable launch system that is geared towards the small satellite market. Its first rocket, Firefly Alpha, is planned to be able to lift 453 kg into low Earth orbit and is slated to launch in 2017. It will be followed by its second system, Firefly Beta, which will be able to deliver 1114 kg to low Earth orbit.

Four years from start to launch is an aggressive schedule for any space company. That’s one area where the agreement with NASA comes in. Under this agreement, NASA and Firefly have agreed to collaborate on the engineering and design of the Firefly Alpha system. (1/13)

Input Wanted on Spaceflight at Houston's Ellington Field (Source: Houston Chronicle)
In 2013, Houston City Council approved funding for consultants to help the Houston Airport System submit an application to the FAA's commercial space division to obtain a launch site operator license for Ellington Airport. The license will permit the airport system to operate a number of commercial spaceflight activities out of Ellington, including sub-orbital commercial flights, zero-gravity scientific and medical research, astronaut training and development, space tourism and more.

The FAA will be holding an open house-style public meeting 5:30- 8:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Space Center Houston, Silvermoon Conference Room, 1601 NASA Parkway. Members of the public will be able to speak to project representatives from the Houston Airport System and FAA one-on-one and submit written comments or provide oral comments to a stenographer. (1/13)

NASA Live Stream Cuts Out After Alien UFO Sighting, Claims Blogger (Source: Houston Chronicle)
UFO watchers are looking for anyone who might have been tracking NASA's live feed of the International Space Station on Jan. 6. According to Disclose.tv, veteran UFO hunter Toby Lundh spotted what he determined was an unidentified flying object just outside the space station as he was monitoring the live feed on his laptop.

According to Lundh's text messages, he has found through persistent viewing that there are "always some UFOs showing up." Likewise, he said, NASA always cuts the feed when a UFO gets close to the station. UFO watchers claimed to see some object outside the space station during an Oct. 7 space walk by astronauts Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst. (1/13)

How Do Astronauts Weigh Themselves in Space? (Source: Air & Space)
For astronauts floating high above Earth, determining if last night’s meal of thermostabilized turkey and freeze-dried cornbread dressing has caused a bit of a belly is far from simple. The first obstacle is that in the microgravity of space, their weight is essentially zero, all the time. But astronauts still have mass, which they can measure to determine what their weight on Earth would be, and to let medical researchers track changes in body mass due to deconditioning in space.

Currently, crews on board the International Space Station (ISS) use two devices to calculate their weight. The first is NASA’s Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD), which relies on Newton’s Second Law of Motion. The other device is Russia’s Body Mass Measurement Device (BMMD). The astronaut rides the BMMD somewhat like a pogo stick, and the oscillation of a spring is used to measure mass. (1/13)

U.S. Court Denies Motion to Dismiss SpaceX Lawsuit (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. federal claims court on Tuesday denied a motion by United Launch Alliance seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by privately held SpaceX against the company and the U.S. Air Force. Judge Susan Braden said she denied the motion because the case was still ongoing, and none of the actions taken by Congress or the Air Force in recent weeks invalidated the SpaceX lawsuit.

SpaceX is challenging the Air Force's decision to award 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. She said the court would not rule on pending motions for discovery or on the merits of the case until after the end of a mediation process that is due to begin this month. (1/13)

SpaceX, U.S. Air Force To Enter Mediation over ULA Block Buy (Source: Space News)
SpaceX and the Air Force will enter mediation later this month to resolve a lawsuit SpaceX filed contesting an $11 billion sole-source contract the Air Force gave ULA to produce enough rocket cores to launch dozens of military satellites, according to court documents. The new documents also raise questions about when the Air Force will make its first competitive launch contract award in nearly 15 years. (1/13)

Launch Campaign Resumes for ESA Space Plane (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Engineers are resuming preparations to launch an experimental European re-entry test vehicle on a Vega rocket Feb. 11 after a two-month delay ordered by safety authorities to analyze risks posed to the public by the booster’s unique trajectory after liftoff from French Guiana.

The safety review ordered by CNES — the French space agency — prompted a delay in the launch of the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle from Nov. 18 to Feb. 11. CNES is responsible for the safety of the public and infrastructure at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s spaceport located on the northeast coast of South America. (1/13)

Angara May Replace Ukraine’s Zenit in Sea Launch Project (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s new heavy-lift Angara-A5 rocket may replace the Ukrainian Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project, a source in the space and rocket said. The announcement was made at the recent board of directors meeting of the RKK Energia space corporation. “The documents have already been submitted to the United Rocket and Space Corporation,” the source said. (1/14)

Competitiveness Key for Future Space Rockets (Source: DW)
If you look at rocket technology either being developed or operated from Europe, or by other people in the world - like the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese, India or Japan - you would be amazed to see that most of the technology being used is in a way an old technology, because it's similar to what was developed in the 60s and 70s. Click here. (1/14)

Boeing Wins U.S. Patent for Stacking Electric Satellites on Rocket (Source: Space News)
Boeing Space and Intelligence has received a U.S. patent on a process that places one electric-powered satellite atop another under a rocket’s fairing, without the need for a satellite support structure. In the patent, Boeing describes how it will take advantage of the substantial weight savings offered by all-electric satellites — and those using a chemical/electric mix — by placing two of them on a rocket that otherwise could carry only one satellite at a time. (1/13)

Cruz Takes Space, Rubio Takes Earth: How Senate Flip Could Undermine Science (Source: Climate Progress)
The reversal of the U.S. Senate’s majority party is falling into place, and there is reason for concern over how new committee chairs will influence the agencies they oversee. Right now two big reasons are garnering the most attention: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will chair the subcommittee that oversees NASA, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will chair to the subcommittee that oversees NOAA. Both have gone on record denying human-caused climate change. (1/13)

Seattleites Could Build Satellites for SpaceX (Source: Xconomy)
SpaceX's Seattle office could eventually employ “several hundred people, maybe a thousand people,” in what would be a major boost to Washington state’s commercial space industry. Elon Musk made the comments in an interview with Bloomberg. Bloomberg reports that the company is focused on building a commercial satellite business to generate revenue and expertise in communications to further its “ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars...We’re going to try and do for satellites what we’ve done for rockets,” Musk said. (1/13)

Moving Forward after SpaceShipTwo Crash (Source: Popular Science)
At this point, it’s unclear how the crash might affect Virgin Galactic (VG)—already behind schedule and over budget—but it will almost assuredly alter how we approach sending civilians to the thermosphere. Upstart space-tech firms like VG, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and XCOR Aerospace pride themselves on moving faster and more efficiently than NASA and its cadre of contractors, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Rather than the billions of dollars associated with manned spaceflight missions before it, VG had reportedly spent an estimated $500 million. That’s admirable—and certainly efficient—but it’s far too little to create a fleet of reusable vehicles that ferry passengers into suborbit several times a week.

Consider, for example, the humble business jet. Dassault Aviation, a company with decades of experience in aircraft design and manufacturing, likely invested upwards of a billion dollars to develop a single plane, according to industry analysts. Its new Falcon 5X carries a comparable number of passengers with SS2 and doesn’t have to go to space. (1/13)

NanoRacks Proves Agility of Commercial Space (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks successfully manifested payloads onto SpaceX-5 in record time: nine days. Historically, it takes months, years even, to successfully manifest a payload for delivery to the International Space Station. But that speed is too slow for the agile commercial space industry.

NanoRacks was able to manifest CubeSats under a nine day deadline, and MixStix experiments in under one-month. That’s how little time there was to manifest payloads onto SpaceX-5 after the loss of Orb-3, and the company, working side by side with NASA and our customers, made it happen. (1/14)

Cape Canaveral May Be World's Busiest Spaceport in 2015 (Source: Reuters)
Florida's Cape Canaveral expects to be the world's busiest spaceport this year with up to 24 rocket launches, the U.S. Air Force’s operations commander said on Tuesday. The 2015 launch lineup would give the Cape Canaveral Spaceport its busiest year since 1992, said Thomas Falzarano, commander of the operations group for the Air Force’s Eastern Range.

Fourteen launches on the 2015 schedule would be for privately held SpaceX. Ten launches would be for United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. For 2016, 36 launches already are on the schedule, Falzarano added.

In 2014, there were 18 launches from Cape Canaveral, all successful. The world’s busiest spaceport in 2014 was the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which had 21 launches, 19 of which were successful. (1/13)

Senate to Vote on Whether Climate Change is Happening (Source: The Hill)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet. At his weekly press briefing, McConnell said "nobody is blocking any amendments" to legislation that would approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The GOP leader had promised to allow an open amendment process on the Keystone bill. But a measure proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had raised questions about whether he would stick to that commitment. The Sanders measure asks whether lawmakers agree with the overwhelming consensus of scientists who say climate change is impacting the planet and is worsened by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. (1/13)

SpaceX Will Give Reusuable Rocket Another Shot (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The launch? Flawless. The return? Not so much. The barge received some damage in the hard landing, and Musk said the company will try again in February. (1/12)

The Microscopic Parasite Helping to Solve Astronaut Bone Density Loss (Source: C/Net)
Investigations by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency aboard the ISS may help figure out how bone and muscle deterioration occurs -- and what may be done to prevent it. The team will be studying the effects of microgravity on Caenorhabditis elegans -- a millimeter-long roundworm that is often used in research as a model for larger organisms.

The team will be conducting two different studies. The first, called Alterations of C. elegans muscle fibers by microgravity, taking place in early 2015 will monitor the worm's muscle fibres and cytoskeleton to observe how they change in response to Zero-G. The worms will be grown in two environments: microgravity, the natural gravity level on the ISS; and in a centrifuge that simulates One-G (the level of gravity on Earth). This will allow the researchers to compare the two to see the precise difference between the effect of Earth gravity and the effect of microgravity. (1/12)

Russia to Decide on Future Participation in ISS in May (Source: RBTH)
Russia will decide on its future involvement in the International Space Station (ISS) project in 2020-2024 only in May, although the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) was supposed to provide an answer back in December 2014. The main reason for the delay was that the deadline for submitting the draft federal space program for 2016-2025 to the government was postponed from December until May this year, according to a source at Roscosmos. (1/13)

Despite Virgin Galactic Setback, Spaceport Can't Take No for an Answer (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico's Spaceport America doesn't have the luxury of implementing a well-evolved marketing strategy backed up with a $10 million budget for marketing and recruitment. Their leadership must act now. Those involved with the spaceport are moving quickly given this new environment. They are responding to unplanned change.

This is an extreme example that we are right in the middle of as residents of Doña Ana County. Spaceport America is one of only nine FAA licensed spaceports. This is the total number of licensed commercial spaceports that exist since humans have been on the Earth. Building and operating a spaceport is in itself a risky proposition. No risk, No reward. (1/12)

Bengalurean is New ISRO Chief (Source: Times of India)
AS Kiran Kumar, director of Space Application Center, Ahmedabad, which developed payloads for Mars Orbiter Mission, was on Monday appointed secretary of the department of space, and chairman, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). (1/13)

Emerging National Operators Help Drive Satellite Manufacturing Business (Source: Space News)
The determination of Bulgaria and Afghanistan to have their own telecommunications satellites and the long-expected awakening of the Indonesian market were highlights of the commercial satellite market in 2014.

Afghanistan is leasing an in-orbit Eutelsat spacecraft, moving it to 38 degrees east, before ordering its own. But less-developed nations’ continued appetite for their own satellites has been key to the robustness of the global satellite manufacturing market. Early indications are that 2015 will be another strong order year even if the major fleet operators in Europe and North America are on the down side of their capital spending cycles. (1/12)

Arianespace, SpaceX Battled to a Draw for 2014 Launch Contracts (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch service providers in 2014 booked 19 orders open to competitive bidding for satellites to launch into geostationary orbit. Another eight satellites, including Indian and Chinese spacecraft, were booked, or soon will be, by national launch providers in deals for which no competitive bids were sought.

Another contract, for Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus space station supply freighter, was signed with United Launch Alliance after what Orbital said was a competitive bid evaluation process. The most striking feature of the 2014 contract tally is the absence of Russian and Russian-Ukrainian launch service providers International Launch Services and Sea Launch. (1/12)

Falcon Heavy Poised to Fly This Year (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
One of the most anticipated flights of 2015 is still on track according to representatives from SpaceX. The first flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy booster, is on track for a third quarter launch. A SpaceX spokesman confirmed that it was on track and that both the vehicle and its launch site, historic Launch Complex 39A, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, were moving ahead with a launch currently planned for sometime in the third quarter of 2015. (1/13)

Investigation of Failed Virginia Suborbital Launch (Source: WMDT)
The rocket failure investigation for Terrier-Improved Malemute Sounding rocket at Wallops Island is now complete. The rocket which crashed into the Atlantic ocean just 19 seconds after lift off on July 3, 2014. Investigators determined that the rocket's motor igniters failed during the mission and evidence reportedly revealed that the igniter wasn't installed properly. According to NASA officials say, instructions on how to build and install the igniter are being updated to fix the issue. (1/12)

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