January 31, 2015

Indian Startups Beginning to Make their Mark in Space (Source: Economic Times)
India's space industry, after drawing global attention for the thrifty innovations that propelled its Mars mission, is getting additional boost from an unlikely quarter: a handful of tiny startups with grand ambitions to revolutionize the sector. Fledgling companies such as small-satellite developer Dhruva Space are already drawing attention as they prepare to develop and launch satellites for non-telecom commercial applications.

Dhruva signed a collaboration with German company Berlin Space Technologies last week to establish India's first factory for small satellites. It is expected to be operational later this year with capacity to manufacture 10-12 satellites annually. Aerospace startup Axiom Research Labs' Team Indus, the only Indian team competing in the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition, won a $1 million prize money in the 'Landing Milestone' category. (1/31)

We Paid For It: Oklahoma's Space Initiative (Source: KWTV)
Hopes of space flights launching from an air strip near Burns Flat have fizzled for now. Lawmakers created the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA) in 1999 to turn an abandoned air strip at the Oklahoma Air & Spaceport Clinton-Sherman (KCSM) airport into an area for future space tourism. Since that time, Oklahoma taxpayers have spent millions of dollars toward this initiative which has yet to become a reality, as far as space flights.

In fact, we paid approximately $18 million in tax incentives to Rocketplane Global to become the Spaceport's anchor tenant, a company that recently went bankrupt. In the 15 years of OSIDA's existence, they have received $7,065,549 in state appropriations, used for general operations. In fact, lawmakers this year voted to give the space development authority another $372,887, mostly for general operation costs.

While none of the money has helped spur space tourism, the multi-purpose, federally funded aviation facility, conducted 35,000 flight operations each year. Along with flight operations, OSIDA officials said it also generates revenue, everything from leasing hangars to selling fuel. It also handles the wastewater for approximately 900 homes located on site and has the potential of developing 2,000 acres of industrial park space. (1/30)

Japan to Launch New Spy Satellite (Source: The Nation)
Japan’s government said it will launch a back-up spy satellite on Sunday, after cancelling an earlier lift-off due to bad weather. Tokyo put spy satellites into operation in the early 2000s after its elusive neighbour North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the western Pacific in 1998. Four Japanese intelligence satellites are currently in orbit - two optical satellites and two radar satellites. (1/31)

Melbourne Man Trying to Preserve NASA Tracking Dome (Source: CFL News 13)
It's a beachside relic with deep ties to America's space program, and it has been a Melbourne Beach man's mission to save it from the scrap heap before it's too late. But Bob Nolan, a preservationist, is running out of time to save the 1,000-pound pile of metal and bolts next to the Melbourne Beach Old Town Hall and History Center.

"I said, 'They're going to destroy that dome, and the telescope that's been taking pictures of all the shuttles,'" Nolan said. That's what Nolan thought eight years ago as he looked across the street from his golf game at Spessard Holland Golf Course. The tracking station that had documented decades of shuttle and rocket launches back to the days of Mercury was being taken down. (1/30)

Virgin Galactic's Launcher-1 Progressing, Likely Won't Launch From Spaceport America (Source: SPACErePORT)
Virgin Galactic Vice President Will Pomerantz was in Cocoa Beach last week addressing participants at a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) meeting. Among the topics covered was Virgin's development of a new expendable launch vehicle, Launcher-1, that would carry 225 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit after being dropped from the company's White Knight mothership.

In offline comments, Pomerantz said it is unlikely that Launcher-1 missions could be conducted at Spaceport America, as the facility is currently limited to suborbital operations. Virgin is looking at various locations for Launcher-1 missions, including Florida, though traditional launch ranges may not be needed due to the rocket's air-launch approach. The Launcher-1 vehicle design is currently based on liquid-fuel engines, instead of the hybrid motor design used for SpaceShip-2. (1/30)

Boeing’s CST-100 Part of NASA’s Intertwined Forward Path (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Boeing Vice President John Elbon believes the CST-100 spacecraft is part of an intertwined forward path for NASA, centralized around the International Space Station. Boeing is currently working towards launching American astronauts to the orbital outpost on its CST-100 capsule, in tandem with developing the Space Launch System (SLS) that will allow for a return to crewed deep space exploration. Click here. (1/30)

NASA's Next Space Race: SpaceX vs. Boeing (Source: Space.com)
Two American spaceflight companies are quietly competing in a space race for the new era. SpaceX and Boeing are vying to become the first private firms to fly astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA sometime in 2017. NASA chose both companies as part of the agency's commercial crew program, which may effectively end NASA's current sole reliance on Russian vehicles to get astronauts to and from the orbiting outpost.

Both companies are currently moving toward launching in 2017. At the moment, Boeing is targeting the end of 2017 for its first crewed flight to the station, but SpaceX might make it there before then, depending on how test flights in 2016 go. NASA is providing SpaceX and Boeing with funds to develop the crewed Dragon and CST-100 spacecraft. SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion of the $6.8 billion total in the contract, and Boeing will get $4.2 billion. (1/30)

Lawmaker Launches Idea of Selling Spaceport America (Source: KRQE)
There has been setback after setback and not much confidence that things will take off at Spaceport America anytime soon. This legislative session, the Spaceport Authority is asking lawmakers for more money to stay afloat but one lawmaker has a very different idea, sell it. “I think the clock is almost at empty,” Senator George Munoz said. “The sand glass is almost out.”

“We know we have opportunities down there, we have great opportunities, but we’re seeing them slide by,” Sen. Munoz said. “I think a lot of it is lack of management, lack of try.” New Mexico spent $220 million to build it and Senator Munoz now says the state has come up short. “It’s not a revenue stream and they don’t know how to get that revenue stream and that’s what needs to change,” he said.

He said a private company would do a better job behind the controls and believes there is a buyer out there.
“I’m not ready to just go out and sell it yet,” fellow Senator Bill Soules of Las Cruces said. “I’m not sure it’s time to bail, but it’s time to start looking at how much is this going to continue to cost and when do we start seeing the real returns.” This year, Spaceport officials are seeking an emergency $1.7 million from lawmakers. (1/30)

NASA Launches Satellite to Get the Dirt on Earth's Dirt (Source: Space.com)
NASA launched its newest Earth-observing mission Saturday (Jan. 31), sending a satellite to the ultimate height to study the dirt below our feet. The space agency's new Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP) satellite successfully launched to space atop an unmanned United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 9:22 a.m. EST.

SMAP is designed to map the moisture levels in topsoil around the world to help scientist better predict droughts, floods and other weather factors. The spacecraft soared into space and deployed its solar arrays after a flawless launch, NASA officials said. (1/31)

5 Lunar X Prize Teams Land Payday; Only 2 Landed Hardware (Source: Space News)
The X Prize Foundation awarded more than $5 million in intermediate prizes to five teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize competition Jan. 26, but those teams’ achievements varied widely, even in the same category of the competition. The foundation handed out $5.25 million in “milestone prizes” at a San Francisco ceremony to five of the eighteen teams competing in the overall prize competition.

Three teams each won $1 million by demonstrating landing system technologies: Astrobotic of Pittsburgh; Moon Express of Mountain View, California; and Team Indus of Bengaluru, India. Astrobotic, Hakuto of Tokyo, and the multinational team Part-Time Scientists each won $500,000 for their mobility systems. Astrobotic, Moon Express, and Part-Time Scientists also won $250,000 each for their imaging systems. (1/30)

After Canceling NRO Launch Competition, Air Force Dangles Plums for SpaceX (Source: Space News)
The Air Force on Jan. 28 called off a high-profile competition to launch a spy satellite but now intends to put as many as 10 individual launch contracts up for bid between now and the end of 2017. An official said the seven to 10 missions to be awarded competitively — previously seven or eight such contracts were planned through 2017 — would include an unspecified number of GPS 3 satellites.

SpaceX previously submitted an unsolicited bid to the Air Force to launch the navigation satellites, which appear well suited to the capabilities of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The question now becomes when the Air Force might award its first competitive launch contract in some 15 years. (1/30)

Air Force To Order Two More Lockheed GPS 3 Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to order two more GPS 3 satellites under its existing contract with Lockheed Martin but envisions putting subsequent positioning, navigation and timing satellites up for bid. In addition, the Air Force intends to buy just one GPS satellite — be it from Lockheed Martin or some other contractor — in 2017 rather than the three that are included in the current budget blueprint. (1/30)

Dust Erases Evidence for Gravity Wave Detection (Source: Science News)
An elusive signal from the dawn of the cosmos is officially still elusive. Galactic dust accounts for much of the signal that researchers originally interpreted as ripples in spacetime imprinted on the universe’s first light, a new analysis confirms. The study, conducted by the BICEP2 team that claimed the discovery and scientists with the Planck space telescope, nullifies a result that would have provided the first direct evidence of cosmological inflation, a brief moment after the Big Bang when the universe rapidly ballooned in size. (1/30)

GenCorp Records Profit in Fourth Quarter; Sales Decline (Source: Sacramento Bee)
The parent of Aerojet Rocketdyne said it earned $10.1 million in the quarter. That compared to a loss of $3.7 million a year ago. However, revenue dropped to $439.6 million from $485.3 million. GenCorp blamed the revenue decline on lower sales in three significant contracts with NASA and the military. For the full year, the company reported a $53 million loss, compared to profits of $167.9 million a year earlier. Revenue grew to $1.60 billion from $1.38 billion. (1/30)

No comments: