January 23, 2015

Congressman’s Office Claims That Relying on GLONASS Jeopardizes US Lives (Source: Sputnik)
Depending on a Russian satellite system to route US emergency phone calls, as outlined in a proposal being considered by the US government’s main communications agency, would endanger the lives of American citizens, US Congressman Mike Rogers’ spokesperson Shea Miller told Sputnik.

“Using Russian technology could make any emergency situation even worse because Russia doesn’t play by the rules and we put American lives in jeopardy by relying on them,” the spokesperson said on Thursday, after being asked to comment on the plan to use Russia’s GLONASS satellite system to support US emergency calls. (1/23)

NASA, Microsoft Collaboration Will Allow Scientists to 'Work on Mars' (Source: Phys.org)
NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to develop software called OnSight, a new technology that will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens. Developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, OnSight will give scientists a means to plan and, along with the Mars Curiosity rover, conduct science operations on the Red Planet.

"OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices," said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover."

OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission's existing planning tools by creating a 3-D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet. Program scientists will be able to examine the rover's worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand. (1/22)

GAO Forecasts NOAA Weather Satellite Delays (Source: Space News)
NOAA continues to face technical issues, delays, cost growth and the potential for gaps in coverage on its two primary weather satellite systems, according to a pair of Government Accountability Office reports. NOAA has made progress on both its polar and geostationary-orbiting satellite programs, but also is juggling multiple risks, the GAO said. (1/22)

Orbital Sciences Signs Contract for New Antares Engines (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Orbital Sciences Corp. and Energia have signed a contract worth approximately $1 billion for up to 60 Russian-made RD-181 rocket engines to power the redesigned first stage of the commercial Antares launcher. The deal includes a firm agreement for 20 engines — enough to cover 10 Antares launches — with the first two units due for delivery to Orbital Sciences in June, according to a statement released by Moscow-based RSC Energia. (1/22)

Turf War Seen at Heart of Russian Space Industry Shake-Up (Source: Moscow Times)
An ambitious drive by a friend of President Vladimir Putin’s to take control of Russia’s defense industry may be behind a shock announcement this week that Russia would merge its federal space agency with a major industry group, analysts said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took industry observers by surprise on Wednesday night with the announcement that the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), a state corporation that manufactures space equipment, would be merged with Roscosmos, the federal agency that dictates and enacts space policies.

But while the new agency will also be called Roscosmos, it will be headed not by aerospace veteran and Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko, but by URSC chief Igor Komarov, whose last job was in the commercial sector as the head of Russia’s largest carmaker, AvtoVAZ. (1/23)

Comet Close-Up Reveals a World of Surprises (Source: Science)
A boring lump of ice and dust it's not. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—already the best explored comet ever—turns out to be pocked with pits, incised by cracks and cliffs, and decorated with ripples and flows of dust: all signs of an extraordinarily active place.

Five months after the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta spacecraft arrived at 67P—and 2 months after the spacecraft dropped the Philae lander to the surface—the mission team this week publishes a suite of papers in Science that detail a surprising diversity of features on the 4-kilometer-long duck-shaped comet. Click here. (1/23)

Mountain-size Asteroid Glides Past Earth (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Asteroids that buzz close by Earth make the news either by being especially close or especially large. The one that's going to miss us on the night of January 26-27 is especially large as near-Earth objects go, and it will become bright enough to follow with a 3- or 4-inch telescope as it moves among the stars. While most known Earth-grazers are just meters across, this one is roughly a half kilometer wide. (1/22)

2014: A Difficult Year for Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year. Click here. (1/22) 

FAA Aims To Make Tag-along Payloads a Lighter Burden for Launch Providers (Source: Space News)
The FAA office that licenses U.S. commercial space launches is set to eliminate a paperwork obstacle SpaceX had to negotiate in order to tote a couple dozen tag-along student experiments on a 2012 cargo run to the International Space Station.

Among the cargo to be loaded into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule for that supply run were NanoRacks standardized pallets – essentially powered boxes that slot into empty racks on station — hosting student-designed experiments NASA put on the flight as part of its Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Click here. (1/22) 

NASA Space Technology Chief Leaving for Ball Aerospace (Source: Space News)
NASA space technology chief Michael Gazarik is moving to Boulder, Colorado, to lead technology development efforts at spacecraft builder Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Gazarik, an electrical engineer who has spent the past 11 years at NASA including the past two years as associate administrator for space technology, is slated to begin as director of Ball’s Office of Technology effective March 2. (1/22)

Planetarium Seeks Crowdfunding for Moon Exhibition (Source: Nasdaq)
The Adler Planetarium launched its first crowdfunding campaign to support the reimagination of its Mission Moon (formerly Shoot for the Moon) exhibition. With support from the public, the Adler will create an exciting, interactive and unique educational experience for visitors that better tells the story of America's first steps into space. Through Indiegogo.com, the Adler hopes to raise $95,000 to support a dramatic redesign of Mission Moon, which will open on April 11, 2015, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. (1/22)

GAO Denies Protest of NASA Commercial Space Contracts (Source: Federal Times)
The Government Accountability Office denied a protest of NASA's commercial near-Earth orbit flight contract awards, stating that the space agency took into account the appropriate considerations when choosing Boeing and SpaceX as its commercial partners. Aeronautics technology company Sierra Nevada Corp. filed a protest days after the contracts were awarded in September, however a court later ruled that NASA could move ahead with its plans due to safety concerns. (1/22)

Private Moon Firm to Sign Deal for Test Flights at Cape (Source: Florida Today)
The developer of a commercial moon lander will lease a Cape Canaveral launch complex from which some of the nation's first robotic lunar orbiters and landers took flight, bringing up to 50 jobs to the Space Coast this year. Silicon Valley-based Moon Express tomorrow will announce plans to sign a five-year lease with Space Florida to base its propulsion and test flight operations at Launch Complex 36, the site of former Atlas pads that launched NASA spacecraft to the moon and Mars.

Editor's Note: LC-36 was modified by Space Florida for test flights intended by Masten Aerospace. The Masten flights never happened. LC-36 can accommodate multiple programs of the scale of Moon Express and Masten, so maybe co-location remains an option. Meanwhile, the big prize for LC-36 is a medium-class vertical launch vehicle, for which the pad was originally built. (1/22)

Google Lunar XPrize: Blasting off with Moon Express at KSC (Source: C/Net)
The criteria for winning the grand $20 million Google Lunar XPrize seems fairly straightforward: land on the moon, cross a distance of 500 meters and send back high-definition footage to Earth along the way. The natural solution to the problem, indeed the one that most of the GLXP competitors have envisioned, is to gently deposit a rover on the lunar surface and then let it pick its way across the required distance, dodging rocks and other moon junk along the way.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Moon Express team, however, is taking a rather different approach. If all goes according to plan, the team's lander will make a soft, controlled landing on the moon, look around in high-definition, then lift off again. The lander will touch down a second time at a location at least 500 meters away from the first, completing the challenge and, if it does it before any of the other teams, taking home the $20 million Grand Prize. (1/22)

Could Our Galaxy Host a Wormhole? (Source: NBC)
Could our Milky Way galaxy contain a giant wormhole like the faster-than-light rapid transit system shown in the movie "Interstellar"? Theoretically, maybe so — but don't pack your bags or your rocket ship anytime soon. The question is given serious consideration in a study published by the Annals of Physics. Researchers from Italy, India and the U.S. determined that when you include dark matter, the mysterious stuff that accounts for about 80 percent of the universe's mass, the density could be great enough to allow for the creation of a wormhole at the center of the galaxy's dark matter halo. (1/22)

FAA Official Refuses To Give Date For UAV Rule (Source: Roll Call)
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith tried hard at a hearing Wednesday to get the Federal Aviation Administration to say when it will issue its rule on commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicle. But James Williams, the FAA official in charge of integrating UAVs into the nation’s airspace, repeatedly refused to commit to a date. (1/22)

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