January 29, 2015

ULA to Freeze Pension, Change Time-Off Policy (Source: Washington Business Journal)
ULA is the latest company to decide to freeze its defined-benefit pension plan starting in 2016, offering contributions to retirement savings accounts in its place. The company's parents, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both froze their own pensions in the last year. ULA will also transition its 3,400 employees from a policy that offered separate vacation, sick and personal leave to a single pot of paid time off starting in July. (1/28)

Why the Startup Space Race is Good for You (Source: Reuters)
Space might soon become crowded, and that could be good news for you. This week Boeing and Lockheed Martin reported strong earnings for the fourth quarter of 2014 on a combination of strong civilian and military airplane orders. Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush said last week that he does not expect the Department of Defense to assent to consolidation among the companies, but owing to the disruptive nature of startups in the industry, it is competition, not consolidation, that traditional aerospace firms should watch. Click here. (1/29)

Japanese Businessman Set to Resume Space Tourist Training (Source: Space Daily)
A Japanese businessman, who used to shoot space TV commercials at a cosmonaut training facility near Moscow, said he was happy to return to Star City as a space tourist, preparing for his flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The space tourist said that being a cosmonaut had been his dream since he was six. However, he gave up his dream as he needed glasses and began a career in business instead.

While shooting a commercial with two Russian cosmonauts, Takamatsu found out that Russian people are kind and nice. Takamatsu, a founder of the Space Travel and Space Films companies, is going on a space tour with British singer Sarah Brightman, who arrived in Moscow on January 19 for a six-month preparation course prior to her 10-day stay on board the ISS. (1/29)

Japanese Launch Postponed by Poor Weather (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A threat of thick clouds kept a Japanese H-2A rocket from launching Thursday with a government-owned radar reconnaissance satellite. Japanese officials did not set a new target launch date, and said the liftoff would be rescheduled based on forecast weather conditions over the next few days. (1/28)

British Satellite to Be Launched by Russian Proton-M (Source: Sputnik)
The launch on Sunday will be the first in this year’s program. The contract to orbit the Inmarsat 5F2 was inked by the Russian-American International Launch Services Company ILS. The Inmarsat-5F2, developed by Boeing for Britain’s satellite communications operator Inmarsat, is the second of three 5th generation Inmarsat satellites. It is designed to provide communications services in North and South America, as well as in the Atlantic region. (1/29)

Spaceport America Opening to Pilots for Valentine’s Day Fly-In (Source: KRQE)
Love is in the air at the New Mexico Spaceport. On Valentine’s Day the facility will host its first-ever Private Pilots Fly-In. The event costs $500 per plane and it includes a private tour of the Spaceport and lunch for the pilots and their passengers. Spaceport officials say the goal is to create a new kind of tourism at the facility. Right now, it’s facing a $1.7 million shortfall and the fly-in is just one of the many ways it’s trying to make up that money. (1/28)

JPL Seeking $30 Million from NASA for Mars Drone (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is seeking $30 million from NASA to build a Mars drone expected to survive at least one month in a harsh environment. For the past year and a half, JPL scientists have been studying the Mars Helicopter, a low-flying scout that could triple the distance Mars rovers travel in a single Red Planet day, study scientist Matthew Golombek said.

“It’s too cheap not to put it on (a rover), or so we hope,” Golombek said, adding that the Mars 2020 rover is budgeted at $1.5 billion and the Curiosity rover mission is working with $2.5 billion in funding. The 2.2-pound prototype looks like a medium-size, cube tissue box. With a 3.6-foot blade span, the Mars Helicopter would provide a much-appreciated aerial view to complement the limited field of vision currently available from cameras aboard rovers. (1/28)

'Technological Independence' is Key to EU Space Policy (Source: The Parliament)
The first steps mankind made in space were the result of the cold war struggle between the US and Russia. For a long time, space was one of the many areas of competition between them. Although the situation today is different, countries from all over the world now participate in the space race in order to pursue technological advances. However, we are also aware of the rapidly changing international environment, as we face new challenges to common security. Click here. (1/29)

Space 2020: What Does the Future Hold? (Source: BBC)
Space has not been this exciting since the 1960s. In the decade from 2020, can we look forward to a glorious new space age of Moon bases, Mars colonies and more remarkable cosmic discoveries? To try to find out, we canvassed the opinions of an expert panel for their predictions beyond 2020. Click here. (1/29)

Air Force Awards $383 Million Launch Deal to ULA (Source: Reuters)
The Air Force on Wednesday awarded a $383 million contract for more launch services to United Launch Alliance, bringing the total value of the contract to $4.08 billion. The Air Force said it was adding three pre-priced launches to the existing contract, including the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite that SpaceX had hoped to win.

United Launch Alliance said its "100 percent mission success record" with 92 consecutive launches made it "the unquestionable choice for reliable, affordable launches." SpaceX declined comment. (1/29)

Elon Musk Lands on 'The Simpsons,' But Also Misses (Source: Washington Business Journal)
It's nothing new for a celebrity to lend their voice to an episode of "The Simpsons." So, what made Elon Musk's voice work on episode No. 564 so unique? The appearance by the SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO wasn't just a cameo — it was a full-blown starring role. Click here. (1/28)

France Celebrates Illustrious Aerospace History With New Museum (Source: Aviation Week)
The long-awaited Aeroscopia aviation museum was finally inaugurated in January at Blagnac, on the grounds of Toulouse Blagnac Airport. This milestone is yet another indication of how France protects and honors its aerospace history. The southwest sector of the country has played a vital role in technical innovation dating back to Aeropostale’s Breguet XIV, a pioneering postal biplane. (1/29)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Cranking Up Expendable SSME (Source: Aviation Week)
A critical leftover from the space shuttle program is scheduled to continue flying well into the 2020s, but with a key difference. NASA has 16 space shuttle main engines (SSMEs), plus two ground-test articles, and it plans to use them all—four at a time—to power the first stage of its heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS). Designed for multiple flights, the reusable powerplants will get one more mission each before winding up in the ocean.

Work on the big new rocket is moving toward a first flight in 2018, paced by the Orion crew capsule that will ride it to orbit). Three more missions with the surplus engines are planned after that. Now NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJR), successor to the companies that helped develop the engine in the 1970s, are beginning work in earnest on a throwaway version of the shuttle engine that conceivably could power human missions to Mars. (1/29)

Does Your Airport Have the Wright Stuff to Become a Spaceport? (Source: Airport)
Many U.S. airports are considering using their existing facilities as spaceports since the high costs and schedule risk associated with federal launch ranges are causing private commercial space transportation companies to turn to the use of existing airports as alternatives.

Privatization, increased efficiency and lower costs contribute to the anticipated advantages of commercial spaceports. From a community perspective, a spaceport can diversify local employment and can expand education and tourism opportunities. Spaceports also provide a new source of revenue for the airport sponsor.

Several different revenue streams can be marketed by airport sponsors to improve U.S. space competitiveness in the global marketplace. Suborbital space tourism is the largest initial market — and the one that gets the most attention. Depending on how quickly this industry matures, it has the potential to complete hundreds of flights per year. Click here. (1/27)

Orion Could Mean Big Things for UCF Knights (Source: Central Florida Future)
It was an early morning in December when the Orion spacecraft lit up the sky just east of UCF. A Delta IV heavy rocket propelled the test capsule into space, where it would later return to Earth with a giant splash into the Pacific Ocean. After the success of the test flight, it was official — the mission to Mars would move full speed ahead. But what exactly will a mission to Mars and the Orion spacecraft mean to us down the road?

The Central Florida Future chatted with UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is part of the Florida Space Institute at UCF and a research collaborator at Kennedy Space center, as well as Jon Cowart, a project manager at NASA, to narrow down just what this could mean not only for college students in the future, but civilization as a whole. Click here. (1/27)

Barges a Temporary Solution for SpaceX Landings (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX released a video showing how its Falcon-Heavy missions will lift off from Launch Complex 39A, with stages returning to a conceptual landing complex on the south side of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company has been in discussions with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing to develop and operate such a complex, while NASA has identified property on the Cape's north side for vertical landings. Click here. (1/28)

Sequestration Bill Is Due for Air Force Space Launch Infrastructure (Source: Space Policy Online)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III told a Senate committee today that the bill has come due for a number of infrastructure activities that were postponed because of sequestration, including space launch infrastructure.  By law, sequestration returns in FY2016 and Welsh and the other military service chiefs warned about the impacts if the law is not changed.

Even though the last two years, when sequestration budget caps were relaxed, have permitted improvements, there is a "broader readiness issue" involving infrastructure, including space launch infrastructure, that was "intentionally underfunded" in order to ensure individual and unit readiness instead. "That bill is now due, but [sequestration] caps will make it impossible to pay," Welsh warned.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert also mentioned space capabilities as an area of concern saying that "we're slipping behind and our advantage is shrinking very fast" in "electronic attack, the ability to jam, the ability to detect seekers, radars, satellites ...." Click here. (1/28)

Florida Governor Seeks to Overtake Texas in Economic Development (Source: EOG)
Florida’s goal is to be the number one destination for jobs in the world. Today, Texas is our number one competitor for jobs – but Governor Scott has set the goal of unseating Texas by 2020 and taking this top spot. Because of Florida’s low tax environment, smart regulatory structure, and educated workforce, Florida is well positioned for growth in science, technology, engineering and math fields such as advanced manufacturing, medical research, and other high-tech research and development.

The governor's budget request includes about $122.4 million for economic development public-private partnerships, including Enterprise Florida, Space Florida, and Visit Florida. In addition, $85 million is provided for economic development incentives such as the Quick Action Closing Fund, the Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund, and the Innovation Incentive Program. (1/28)

Averting Space Doom: Solving the Orbital Junk Problem (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
We are closer than ever to witnessing the “Kessler syndrome,” a scenario proposed in 1978 by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in which the high density of objects and debris in low Earth orbit creates a cascade of collisions that renders space travel and satellite use impossible for decades. However, how close we really are is a matter of debate. Click here. (1/28)

Google Won Moffett Field, But East Bay Firm Was in the Running (Source: San Francisco Business Times)
In the hunt to lease Moffett Federal Airfield, Google Inc. faced competition from one other entity hoping to land the deal: An East Bay developer that was targeting the iconic base's enormous hangars as a unique commercial real estate play for science and technology tenants.

Orton Development Inc., a firm with a long history of historic renovations, was the only other potential lessee whose response to NASA's 2013 request for proposals to lease the airfield was "deemed responsive." Google, through its Planetary Ventures LLC affiliate, won the lease last year, agreeing to pay hundreds of millions to improve the property and $1.16 billion in rent over 60 years. (1/28)

What Would It Be Like to Live on Mercury? (Source: Space.com)
With its extreme temperature fluctuations, Mercury is not likely a planet that humans would ever want to colonize. But if we had the technology to survive on the planet closest to the sun, what would it be like to live there? To date, only two spacecraft have visited Mercury. Click here. (1/28)

DoD ‘Wedded’ to Commercial Satellites, Lawmaker Assured (Source: Space News)
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the military’s response to new technology, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) did his bit to remain one of the commercial satellite industry’s favorite new lawmakers. Bridenstine took advantage of one of the committee’s first hearings of the year to ping Pentagon acquisition czar Frank Kendall  — and the three-star U.S. Air Force general testifying alongside him — about the Pentagon’s use of commercial communications satellites.

In the lead-up to his question, Bridenstine pointed to commercial communication satellites that he said provided significant technological upgrades over the military-owned Wideband Gapfiller Satellites, currently built by Boeing. “My question for you is: as we go forward, will we get proposals from the Department of Defense to take advantage and leverage these assets that already exist and, of course, the rapid advancements technology that are happening right now?,” Bridenstine asked. (1/28)

Fire Ends Mock Mars Mission in Utah Desert (Source: Space.com)
Four crewmembers simulating a mission on Mars dealt with a real-life emergency late last month — a greenhouse fire so strong that flames reached at least 10 feet high. On Dec. 29, the first day of their mission, the crew noticed an unusual power surge in their habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), in the Utah desert near the small town of Hanksville.

A few minutes later, somebody spotted smoke coming from the greenhouse. Crew commander Nick Orenstein, an experienced camper who has built bonfires in the past, ran outside to take a look. He said he figured the group could take on the fire, because the smoke was blowing away from the habitat, and only one shelf inside the greenhouse was aflame. At that time, the fire was about the size of three overstuffed chairs.

"This is a moment where instinct took over, the instinct of fight or flight, and we had fight," Orenstein told Space.com. "There really wasn't a question at the moment." It took the crew about half an hour to bring the fire under control. (1/28)

Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: NASA Remembers Fallen Astronauts (Source: Florida Today)
An Israeli student delegation was among those honoring fallen astronauts today during a ceremony at the KSC Visitor Complex's Space Mirror Memorial. Some of the more than 40 students attended the same school as Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was among the seven-person crew lost when shuttle Columbia broke apart during its re-entry from space on Feb. 1, 2003.

Today is NASA's annual Day of Remembrance to honor the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters, all of which occurred around this time of year, and others. The 43-foot-tall and 50-foot-wide granite mirror, a national memorial, is engraved with the names of 24 astronauts killed during space missions, training accidents and one commercial aircraft crash. (1/28)

Boeing Beats Profit Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
Boeing posted a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates and predicted that it would make good in 2015 in converting a record jetliner-order backlog into cash. The shares jumped in early trading. Fourth-quarter profit excluding pension expense was $2.31 a share, Chicago-based Boeing said Wednesday, topping the $2.10 average estimate among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Free cash flow this year will be about $6.2 billion, according to the company. (1/28)

ATK Reports FY15 Third Quarter Operating Results (Source: ATK)
Alliant Techsystems reported operating results for the third quarter of its Fiscal Year 2015. Third quarter sales were $1.3 billion, up 4 percent from the prior-year quarter of $1.2 billion, due to increased sales in the Defense and Aerospace Groups. Operating profit in the third quarter was $105 million, compared to $146 million in the prior-year period. (1/28)

Boeing: SpaceX Drives Prices Down, Makes Boeing a Better Competitor (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing is watching SpaceX over its shoulder as Elon Musk's fast-growing company becomes Boeing's newest rival. "I have respect for SpaceX. They offer more limited mission types than we do at this stage," said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. Lowering launch cost has been a driving focus for SpaceX, and McNerney alluded to that in his comments.

The competition has come much closer to home for Boeing recently. Musk announced two weeks ago that he is opening a Redmond office where he plans to assemble a team of engineers – some of them likely poached from Boeing – to design a earth-orbiting swarm of telecommunications satellites. "Their combination of a focus on gaining capability at improved cost is going to benefit the market," he said. "It will make us a better competitor in some segments where cost has become more important." (1/28)

U.S. and Germany Agree to Share Space Services, Data (Source: USAF)
U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) signed a technical arrangement with Germany to share Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services and information, Jan. 9. The arrangement will enable and enhance each nation’s awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of their spaceflight operations. (1/28)

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