February 10, 2015

Military Uneasy About Small Satellite Debris Threat (Source: Via Satellite)
The United States Strategic Command (Stratcom) wants better tracking for small satellites as the number of them in orbit continues to skyrocket. Speaking Feb. 6 at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event, Admiral Cecil Haney, commander of Stratcom, said the growing quantity of small satellites is making space more congested at a pace much faster than before.

Haney said the number of objects tracked that are the size of a softball or larger has now surpassed 17,000. Approximately 1,200 of the objects tracked are satellites. But while the overwhelming majority of tracked objects are debris, the number of small spacecraft picked up by JSpOC is on the rise. (2/9)

White House Budget Bumps Allocation for NextGen ATC (Source: Aviation Today)
The White House 2016 budget proposal includes $845 million for NextGen Air Traffic Control systems, a $53 million increase from the current budget, an indication that the administration is looking to speed up the program. (2/9)

Why Elon Musk Sees Brownsville, Texas as His Gateway to the Universe (Source: Quartz)
Before Portland and San Francisco became appealing to hipsters and business investors, the first was considered the filthiest city in the northern states, and the latter was lawless and wild. But then the Gold Rush and Lewis and Clark changed their fate. Growing up in the south of Texas, I wondered whether similar fortune would ever come our way.

Unlike other border towns, Brownsville, Texas, never reached its full “border potential.” It currently stands as an underdeveloped town with a poverty rate of 36%, compared to the country’s overall figure of 15.9%. However, similar to San Diego, Brownsville has a vast land of 147.5 square miles, a year-round subtropical climate, and is only 30 miles away from the beach. Click here. (2/10)

Europe Orders Six More Russian Soyuz for Kourou (Source: Itar-Tass)
Europe’s Arianespace company has ordered from Russia six more Soyuz-ST carrier rockets for launches from the Kourou space center in French Guiana in the next four years, Alexander Kirilin, CEO of the Progress Rocket and Space Center in the Volga city of Samara, said on Tuesday. (2/10)

Two Days, Two Launches and Three Landings (Source: Planetary Society)
It’s going to be a busy week of spaceflight. Within a two-day span, there are two rocket launches and three ocean landings scheduled—one of which involves an autonomous spaceport drone ship. SpaceX will have recovery operations taking place in both the Atlantic and the Pacific—possibly within a span of two hours. A space weather satellite is headed to the far reaches of Earth’s gravitational influence, and on Wednesday, the European Space Agency is testing an experimental vehicle that could pave the way for new types of reusable spacecraft. Here’s a brief roundup of everything expected to happen. (2/9)

Military Releases Few Details on Kodiak Rocket Explosion, Finds 'No Issues' with State Range (Source: ADN)
The military says it knows why a rocket launched from the state-owned Kodiak rocket range had to be destroyed four seconds after launch last August, but refuses to release the report or disclose specific details of its contents other than to say “an external thermal protective cover designed to regulate motor temperature interfered with the launch vehicle steering assembly.”

Because of the steering problem created by the support equipment, the test range flight safety officer made the correct decision to blow up the rocket just after launch, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

A statement said the failure review board found “no issues” with the Kodiak range, which is operated by the state-owned Alaska Aerospace Corp., or with the rocket motors or the payload, a glider designed to fly at thousands of miles per hour within the upper atmosphere. (2/6)

West to East Coast: SpaceX Ready for Extreme Multitasking (Source: Discovery)
Breaking new ground is nothing new for SpaceX, but how about launch and landing operations on opposite sides of the country at the same time? The launch of the spacecraft, nicknamed DSCOVR, is now pegged for 6:05 p.m. EST Tuesday, which overlaps with the return flight of a Dragon cargo ship from the International Space Station.

The capsule has been docked at the station since Jan. 12, two days after it blasted off aboard the last Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. Dragon is due to make a parachute return into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 7:44 p.m. EST. If simultaneous rocket launches and capsule landings weren’t enough, SpaceX also hopes to recover the first-stage of the Falcon rocket launching Tuesday. (2/9)

Spaceport Wing Commander to Get Second Star (Source: USAF)
Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, Commander, 45th Space Wing, and Director, Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. has been nominated for promotion to the rank of Major General. Since assuming command here in June 2013, she continues to be responsible for the processing and launching of U.S. government and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

She is also the final approval authority for all launches on the Eastern Range, a 15-million-square-mile area which supports launches aboard Delta, Atlas, Falcon, Navy and emerging launch vehicles. In addition, she manages wing launch and range infrastructure supporting NASA, commercial, and missile test missions. (2/9)

India to Launch US Satellite for First Time (Source: Hindustan Times)
Space collaborations between India and US are taking on a new shape. While there is already a joint working group of NASA and ISRO on Mars, the space agency is now preparing itself to launch the first satellite of a US based company from Sriharikota. Skybox Imaging is a Silicon Valley based  private company providing commercial high-resolution satellite imagery, high-definition video and analytics services. (2/10)

Small Rocket Startups Eye Mega-Constellation Opportunity (Source: Space News)
A groundswell of interest in large constellations of small satellites, some backed by financial heavyweights, has buoyed the hopes of aspiring small rocket makers. But during a panel discussion Feb. 4 here at the annual winter meeting hosted by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, there was some acknowledgment that established operators of big rockets can make enticing offers to launch these satellites by the dozen. Click here.

Editor's Note: This is deja vu for me. Florida invested millions in the 1990s to convert Launch Complex 46 for a new crop of small-class launch vehicles angling to launch Iridium, Globalstar, and Teledesic constellation satellites. Those satellite ventures either tanked or determined that larger launch vehicles were able to more-economically deploy the payloads in larger clusters, instead of one or two at a time. Will the individual cubesat market change the equation this time? (2/9)

ATK and Orbital Complete Merger (Source: SpaceRef)
Alliant Techsystems has completed the tax-free spin-off of its Sporting Group business to ATK stockholders as a newly formed company named Vista Outdoor Inc. Following the spin-off, ATK and Orbital Sciences Corp. successfully completed the tax-free, all-stock merger of ATK’s Aerospace and Defense Groups with Orbital.

Upon consummation of the merger, the combined company’s name was changed to “Orbital ATK, Inc.” Today, ATK stockholders received two shares of Vista Outdoor common stock for every share of ATK common stock held on the record date, February 2, 2015. Orbital stockholders received 0.449 shares of Orbital ATK common stock for every one share of Orbital common stock. (2/9)

Florida Tech Involvement Key in NASA’s Orion Program (Source: FIT)
More than a dozen Florida Institute of Technology students, faculty and alumni are working on Orion and the Space Launch System propulsion system as Florida Tech continues to play a vital role in the United States’ evolving space programs. Click here. (2/9)

A Business Plan for Space (Source: New York Times)
Who can own the moon? Or an asteroid? Or a homestead on Mars? According to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, no nation can claim sovereignty over any part of any celestial rock. But the treaty is less clear on what a company or an individual can do in space -- possibly because in the 1960s, the drafters of the treaty might have thought it hard to imagine a space race led by entrepreneurs rather than governments. Click here. (2/9)

Carter Says He’d Hasten Launch Certification, Address China Threat (Source: Space News)
The White House’s nominee to lead the Defense Department told lawmakers that China could soon threaten the military’s space capabilities and that under his leadership the Pentagon would certify new companies to launch national security satellites “as quickly as possible.” (2/9)

Jabiru-1 Launch Slips as NewSat, Creditors Haggle Over Financing (Source: Space News)
Startup satellite fleet operator NewSat of Australia appears to be entering a make-or-break year as it struggles to raise the cash its lenders are demanding in return for restarting payments to its satellite and launch service providers. NewSat, which has been a high-wire act for several years, has already been forced by financial constraints to delay the launch of its first fully owned satellite, Jabiru-1, from the original date of 2014 to mid-2016 at the earliest.

NewSat said in 2014 that it was in “technical default” of the nearly $400 million in loans underwritten by the U.S. and French export credit agencies, which as a result froze further payments to continue work on Jabiru-1, a large Ka-/Ku-band spacecraft under construction at Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California. (2/9)

Germany To Invest in French Recon Satellite for Access to Full Constellation (Source: Space News)
France’s long search for a European partner and co-investor in its next-generation optical reconnaissance satellite system has paid off with the agreement by Germany to help finance a third satellite in return for access to the full three-satellite system, said the head of the French arms-procurement agency, DGA. (2/9)

Amateur Space Scientists Get Second Chance After Rocket Explosion (Source: NBC)
Young students who watched in devastation as their science projects exploded along with an unmanned Antares rocket bound for the International Space Station in October have gotten a second chance. Astronauts finally conducted their experiments in space over the past few weeks, and the results are slated to head back to Earth for students to study on Tuesday. (2/9)

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