February 11, 2015

Inside the Europa Clipper Mission (Source: Popular Science)
On Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden gave an exciting update on the state of America's space agency, detailing the Obama Administration’s proposal to give NASA $18.5 billion for the 2016 fiscal year. Embedded in that budget is a small—yet significant—detail: About $30 million will be allocated to fund a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

For the scientific community, that’s huge news, as Europa is probably the top candidate for finding potential life elsewhere in our solar system. Scientists theorize (well, they’re pretty damn sure) that underneath Europa’s icy surface, there lies a vast salty ocean, holding more than twice the amount of water as all the oceans of Earth. And if that ocean does exist, its conditions may be just right for it to be home to an entire ecosystem. Click here. (2/10)

Reaction to FAA-AST Decision on Bigelow’s Payload Safety Review (Source: LawofShaefer)
In a decision reached Dec. 22 but only recently made public, the FAA-AST wrote to Bigelow Aerospace on their payload safety review request stating that the FAA would leverage its launch licensing authority as best it can to protect facilities, hardware and personnel through zones of non-interference for safety. Here are some reactions to major questions surrounding the FAA-AST’s response: Click here. (2/10)

NASA Prepares New Sounding Rocket Motor For First Test Firing (Source: Space Daily)
NASA engineers are preparing a new Peregrine sounding rocket motor for its first hot-fire test set for February 10 in the east test area at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Peregrine sounding rocket motor started as a NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) project and was designed in-house by NASA engineers, but was built in cooperation with commercial suppliers from across America. (2/10)

Russian Micro-Satellite Company Dauria Aerospace Closing Offices in Europe, US (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s private space company Dauria Aerospace, which develops and manufactures micro-satellites, is planning to close its representation offices in Europe and the United States, the company’s president said. "Currently, we focus on the Russian part of business and the export potential of space systems manufactured in the Russian subdivision of Dauria Aerospace," Mikhail Kokorich said.

"The European and US parts [of business] are currently gradually scaling down up their activity and will practically halt their activity in the near future," he said linking the plans to the uneasy political and economic situation in the world, which negatively affects the Russian company and its ability to attract financing. (2/10)

The Gigafactory Approach to Space (Source: Space News)
Elon Musk gets compared to Steve Jobs a lot these days. Maybe it’s the showmanship, or the iconic popularity of each company’s products, or maybe it’s just the need for popular culture to focus on one charismatic technology torchbearer above all else. Maybe there’s a logical progression in some people’s eyes from phones and tablets to cars and spaceships.

But for all the similarities and dissimilarities between the two, there’s one that often gets ignored — their strategies for getting their stuff made. Steve Jobs’ Apple was not the first to use extreme procurement strategies as part of product development, but it was the one to turn it into fine art. Click here. (2/10)

NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef)
SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean about 7:44 p.m. EST Tuesday 259 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, with nearly 3,700 pounds of NASA cargo, science and first-of-its-kind technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA. Dragon will then be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing. (2/10)

Ukraine Space Industry on Verge of Collapse (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The following letter to employees of Yuzhmash was published on Oct. 10: “Pivdenmash [Yuzhmash] is in deep financial crisis, the main factor which is a precipitous decline in production. The current crisis is not irreversible, but the situation is close to the point of no return. The actual bankruptcy of the enterprise will result in the loss of Ukraine’s status as a space power, failure of the obligations of the State to enter into international agreements, irreversible loss of proven technologies.”

This was four months ago. And by all accounts, matters have only gotten worse. The fighting eastern Ukraine has intensified. The government’s finances haven’t improved. And employees were given two-month unpaid leaves in late January. That came after many months of 3-day work weeks and partial pay.

Yuzhmash is involved in the following programs: first stage of Antares for Orbital Sciences Corporation; Zenits for Sea Launch and Land Launch; fourth stage for ESA’s Vega; Dnepr launch vehicle; and Cyclone-4 for Alcantara Cyclone Space. Russia announced last week that it would no longer purchase Zenit boosters and would end cooperation on the Dnepr program after flying out its manifest this year. (2/10)

Google Gives Lick Observatory $1 Million (Source: UC Berkeley)
Google Inc. has given $1 million to the University of California’s Lick Observatory in what astronomers hope is the first of many private gifts to support an invaluable teaching and research resource for the state. The unrestricted funds, spread over two years, will go toward general expenses, augmenting the $1.5 million the UC Office of the President gives annually to operate the mountaintop observatory for the 10-campus UC system. (2/10)

Dark Matter Seen in the Milky Way's Core (Source: Physics World)
An international team of astronomers has found the best evidence yet that the inner core of the Milky Way contains significant quantities of dark matter. The result confirms the long-standing belief that the center of the Milky Way is rich in dark matter, just like its outer regions. While the researchers have deliberately avoided using any specific models of dark matter in their analysis, they are confident that further studies of the galactic core could help identify which models are most viable. (2/10)

SpaceX Leases Florida Launch Pad for Falcon Landings (Source: Space News)
SpaceX plans to convert a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, into a landing pad for the reusable rocket boosters it is developing to power its Falcon family of rockets. The U.S. Air Force announced Feb. 10 that SpaceX has signed a five-year lease for Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 13, which was used to launch Atlas rockets and missiles between 1956 and 1978. In its new role, it will serve as a landing pad for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy booster cores launched from Florida.

SpaceX’s plan calls for constructing a 60-meter by 60-meter square concrete landing pad surrounded by four additional 45-meter diameter “contingency” pads, according to a 2014 environmental impact statement prepared for SpaceX and the Air Force. “The contingency pads would only be utilized in order to enable the safe landing of a single vehicle should last-second navigation and landing diversion be required. There are no plans to utilize the contingency pads in order to enable landing multiple stages” (2/10)

House Approves NASA Authorization Bill (Source: Space News)
The House of Representatives passed a NASA authorization bill Feb. 10 that its sponsors acknowledge is “largely identical” to a bill the chamber passed in 2014, hoping its passage sets the stage for work on a more ambitious bill later in the year. On a voice vote, the House passed H.R. 810, the NASA Authorization Act of 2015, after a half-hour debate on the House floor where no members spoke in opposition to the bill.

The bill directs NASA to carry out a number of studies in various topics, including development of a human exploration “roadmap” that defines specific technologies and other capabilities needed for humans to eventually reach the surface of Mars. NASA would be required to deliver that roadmap to Congress 180 days after the bill became law, and update it every two years thereafter. (2/10)

Google SpaceX Investment is $900 Million (Source: Space News)
Search engine giant Google Inc. said it invested $900 million in SpaceX “to support continued innovation in areas of space transport, reusability and satellite manufacturing.” In a Feb. 9 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Google confirmed what had been widely presumed — that it was responsible for the lion’s share of the recently announced billion-dollar investment in rocket builder SpaceX that included Fidelity Investments. (2/10)

What Would It Be Like to Live on the Moon? (Source: Space.com)
The idea of building a lunar outpost has long captured people's imaginations. But what would it really be like to live on the moon? Click here. (2/10)

ESA Re-Entry Vehicle Could Pave Way for Reusable Launcher (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
European engineers are eager to test an experimental re-entry demonstrator Wednesday to validate technologies for future robotic exploration probes, winged space planes, and reusable rocket boosters. ESA’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle — about the size of a family car — will take off at 8 a.m. EST Wednesday aboard a Vega rocket from the Guiana Space Center on the northern coast of South America.

Built by Thales Alenia Space of Italy, the European mini-shuttle weighs nearly 2 metric tons — about 4,000 pounds — and measures 5 meters long, or more than 16 feet. The IXV’s aerodynamic lifting body shape will help the craft steer its way to a landing point in the equatorial Pacific Ocean nearly 3,000 miles west of Colombia. Tumino says the mission will help Europe perfect space systems that work from launch, through in-space operations, then return to Earth. (2/10)

Earth Pelted by More than 600 Large Debris Items in 2014 (Source: Space News)
More than 600 dead satellites, spent rocket stages and other debris re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 2014 — more than 100,000 kilograms of mass that caused no reported casualties or sizable property damage, NASA has told a United Nations conference. The rain of junk was more substantial in 2014 than in previous years because of a peak in solar activity, which expands the atmosphere and captures dead satellites and other garbage that otherwise would have remained in orbit longer. (2/10)

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