February 18, 2015

Senate Bill Seeks To Increase Oversight Of New Mexico Spaceport Authority (Source: KRWG)
State Senator Lee Cotter is hoping to provide more oversight for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, and a local government agency is hoping to support him. Dona Ana and Sierra Counties both approved a GRT tax increase to help pay for the construction bonds purchased by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

After the bond payments are made each year, money is left over and the Spaceport Authority has been using it to help fund their operation costs. Many have questioned this, and Senator Lee Cotter’s bill hopes to prevent them from using the funds for operations. Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, says that what they are doing is common. (2/17)

5 New Space Programs on DARPA’s Agenda, But Funding Down (Source: Space News)
DARPA hopes to start as many as five new space development programs next year in areas including space threat awareness and satellite propulsion technology. The agency’s total budget request for space-related activities is about $126 million for fiscal year 2016. Despite the new starts, that is about $53 million less than the agency received from lawmakers in 2015 and about $43 million less than the agency expected to spend on space programs a year ago. Click here. (2/16)

With Wider Focus, Exelis Environmental Business Taking Off (Source: Space News)
After more than four decades of focusing almost exclusively on building weather monitoring instruments for U.S. government clients, Exelis’ weather business located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is waging a campaign to broaden its product line to include environmental monitoring tools and to expand its customer base.

Exelis — which is being acquired by Melbourne, Florida-based Harris Corp. in a deal announced Feb. 6 — is hiring engineers, scientists, researchers and technicians to accommodate its growing workload, which includes building the primary environmental monitoring sensor for Japan’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (Gosat)-2, a radiation measurement instrument for NASA’s Earth Science Division, a ground-based laser for the U.S. Energy Department and an airborne lidar for a NASA mission. (2/17)

Can Indian Space Industry Expect a Repeat 50% Budget Increase in 2015 (Source: Business Insider)
In 2014 the Union Government of India allocated a 50% increased budget to ISRO granting Rs 6,000 crores (US$1.2 billion) planned and Rs 1,238 crores (approx US $ 25.75 million) unplanned. ISRO had a total of Rs 7,238 crores (approximately US$1.3 billion) as compared to the previous year budget allocation.

2014 was a successful year for ISRO with PSLV, GSLV launch vehicles for launching of satellites, Chandrayaan (Moon) probe and the recent wonder of the Mangalayaan or MOM ,the Mars probe, proving the combined efforts of ISRO and the Indian Space industry are on the right track. The encouraging factor is that most of the missions have been accomplished the first time and on almost shoe-string budgets (Mars probe cost India just US $ 74 million) when compared to worldwide space programs. (2/18)

Signals to Alien Worlds Pose No Threat of Invasion (Source: Space Daily)
Using powerful radio telescopes to broadcast "greetings messages" into space will not result in an alien invasion, said a chief scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. Astronomers have been listening for messages from possible alien civilizations since 1960, without any tangible success. But under a proposal, known as "Active SETI", scientists plan to transmit powerful radio messages into potential habitable regions around stars. (2/18)

Paul Allen's Mammoth Stratolaunch Aircraft Nearly Half Completed (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen's dream to build the world's largest airplane based on the remains of two used Boeing 747s is 40 percent complete. Scaled Composites President Kevin Mickey confirmed the progress in an email Tuesday from that company's headquarters in Mojave, Calif., where the aircraft is being built.

The aircraft is the centerpiece of Allen's Stratolaunch Systems company, which is intended to reduce the cost of space launches by carrying a launch vehicle 30,000 feet in the air slung under the mammoth plane, then igniting the rocket motors. Scaled Composites is building the Stratolaunch for Allen by harnessing six former 747 engines for power, and matching them to a twin-hull composite aircraft, with a wingspan of 380 feet. (2/17)

NASA Says ‘Mega Droughts’ Could Last For Decades (Source: WJZ13)
Mega droughts lasting decades. That’s the future NASA scientists see coming, as climate change increases extreme weather events. In 2012, just a few months of drought impacted crops in Maryland. “I’ve never seen corn go downhill so fast in all my life.” Think what a mega drought lasting decades would mean. “These droughts represent events nobody in the history of the United States has had to deal with,” said Ben Cook, NASA Climate Scientist. (2/17)

Life on Other Planets: Alternative Chemistries of Life (Source: Space Daily)
Ideas about directing evolution of life forms on Earth and finding life on other planets are rapidly morphing from science-fiction fantasy into mainstream science, says David Lynn, a chemist at Emory University. "These areas of science are rapidly coming of age because of our increasing knowledge and advancing technology. It's an exciting time. We're on the threshold of answering fundamental questions including: What is life? Are there forms of life that we haven't even yet imagined? Are we alone in the universe?" (2/18)

Russian Space Agency's Computers Are Hacker-Proof (Source: Space Daily)
Data leakage from the servers and computers of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is not possible, a source in Roscosmos said. On Monday, the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab security experts said they discovered malware placed on high-value computer hard drives in over 30 countries.

"The information security system in the rocket-space industry is formed in a way, which excludes the possibility of access to the Internet from computers containing classified data," the source said. Most strategic establishments in Iran and Russia have been targeted, Kaspersky Labs said. Specifically, the malware was found in the databases of Russia's aerospace companies, energy and infrastructure facilities and government institutions. (2/18)

We Just Blasted $1 Billion Into Space. Was It Worth It? (Source: Bloomberg)
Watching the earth from space has always been an expensive hobby: About $340 million for the storied sun- and earth-watcher that went up Wednesday; More than $900 million for the drought-and-flood monitor that went up two weeks before; More than $150 million for NASA’s next one, an extreme-weather observing mission, expected to go up in October 2016.

Wait, there's more. NASA says that for the half a percent or so the agency takes from the federal budget, such projects contribute more than their share to the U.S. economy, including such innovations as smartphone cameras, which were first developed for spacecraft. But how to quantify the long-term economic gains from these launches? Click here. (2/17)

United Launch Alliance Has Big Plans for 2015 (Source: Denver Post)
United Launch Alliance has big plans for 2015 that include innovative new rockets and launch systems to keep the company at the top of the aerospace game for decades, CEO Tory Bruno said. "We are America's ride to space, and that's the way it's going to be for the next couple of decades," Bruno said. "So whatever the lift mission demands, we're going to be positioned to provide it."

ULA is the supplier of the Atlas and Delta rockets used to send the majority of U.S. missions into space. Bruno has vowed to cut the cost of launch, and time to launch, in half. Bruno, ULA's CEO since August, will unveil ULA's Next Generation Launch System, or NGLS, and the company's reusable-rocket plans at the 31st annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April, the space industry's premier international conference.

The details are secret until then, although Bruno did explain that NGLS will be adaptable for whatever the future holds, whether that's outer planetary exploration, low-Earth orbit science missions, military satellite launches, or eventually ferrying workers to space and back on a daily basis. (2/17)

Americans Want Guys Like Elon Musk to Pay for Space Travel — Not Taxpayers (Source: Washington Post)
The huge advancements made by commercial space companies, which now fly cargo to the International Space Station and should soon send astronauts there, appear to be winning the trust of the country, according to a new poll. Even though space flight has long been the sole province of governments, nearly 6 in 10 say that private companies should be able to build and fly their own rockets, according to the poll, conducted by Monmouth University.

Meanwhile, 42 percent say they support the U.S. spending “billions” on programs destined for the moon, Mars and asteroids. But a large share of the public — 50 percent — oppose spending that much money on space, which was similar to American sentiment in 1967, two years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Still, most respondents in the poll said the U.S. space program has provided long-lasting benefits to society and 51 percent said increased spending would be a good investment.

And despite the advancements in spaceflight, under half believe that ordinary people traveling to space is “very” or “somewhat likely,” the poll found. More than a quarter said they “would like to take a free trip on a private spaceship if it was offered to them,” the poll found. (2/17)

Updated Chart of International Orbital Launchers (Source: SPACErePORT)
I did it again. I added a new rocket and made other changes to the SPACErePORT's chart of international orbital space launch vehicles. This latest version includes Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne, a small satellite carrier designed to be dropped from under the wing of Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. Click here. (2/17)

Atlas 5 Assembled for NASA Satellite Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket that will hurl the four MMS satellites into a highly elliptical Earth orbit on March 12 has completed its basic build up at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility. The spacecraft will fly in formation for the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission to gain new insights into the connections and disconnections of the lines in Earth’s magnetic field. (2/17)

Mars One: 'We're All Going to Die, But it's Important What You Do Before You Die' (Source: CNN)
Mars One, a group that plans to send humans on a one-way trip to Mars, has announced its final 100 candidates. They have been selected from 200,000 applicants and will go on to further testing later this year, which they expect to include team-building exercises and later, isolation.

Eventually, 24 will be selected to make up six crews of four, which Mars One says they hope to launch to the Red Planet every two years from 2024, with the aim of starting a colony there. The Dutch non-profit hopes to use existing technology to carry out the mission. However, the planet has always been a difficult target for exploration, with only around half of all unmanned missions succeeding. Click here. (2/17)

Craig Technologies To Support Orion Space Project (Source: Space Coast Daily)
Under a five year Indefinite-Delivery Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract with Lockheed Martin, Craig Technologies will support fabrication of Ground Processing Equipment (GPE), and provide procurement, machining, and services for the Orion space vehicle project. Craig Technologies is one of Lockheed Martin’s small business partners in the expansive United States supply chain network. (2/17)

SpaceX To Upgrade Drone Ship For Next Falcon Landing Attempt (Source: Aviation Week)
Forced to attempt its Falcon 9 first-stage recoveries at sea, primarily for safety reasons, SpaceX now plans to beef up the seaworthiness of its autonomous spaceport drone ship to handle more extreme weather and sea states. A large northwest swell generated by a storm off the northeastern U.S. seaboard meant the sea was too rough on Feb. 11 for Space X to attempt a landing of the Falcon 9 stage on the drone ship, a converted ocean-going platform. (2/18)

Dwarf Planet's Puzzling Landscape Snaps into View (Source: Discovery)
NASA’s Dawn probe is slowly closing in on its final destination and new observations of the dwarf planet Ceres are revealing a fascinatingly complex little world. “As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser,” said principal investigator Chris Russell. “We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled.” Click here. (2/17)

Our Sun May Experience a Surprisingly Explosive Death (Source: Discovery)
Our sun will not explode as a powerful supernova when it eventually runs out of fuel, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fireworks. When our sun runs out of hydrogen fuel in its core, the star will puff up into a huge red giant and torment itself with powerful stellar winds, eventually stripping its self bare, creating a vast planetary nebula with a small yet dense white dwarf in its core. (2/17)

A Close Call of 0.8 Light Years (Source: U. of Rochester)
A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system’s distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close – five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri. (2/17)

Saudi Cleric Rejects that Earth Revolves Around the Sun (Source: Al Arabiya)
A Saudi cleric has appeared in a recent video rejecting the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun and claiming the opposite holds true, prompting a wave of social media remarks. Answering a student question on whether the Earth is stationary or moving, Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari replied: "stationary and does not move."

He then attempted to support his argument by quoting some clerics and selected religious statements. In separate statements Sheikh al-Khaibari said man never went to the moon, rejecting NASA’s lunar excursion video as Hollywood fabrication. (2/17)

Battle Brewing Over Extending Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A battle is brewing over whether to extend the learning period for the commercial spaceflight industry, with Congress needing to make a decision before October on when the FAA will be allowed to regulate an industry still struggling to get off the ground. On one side are FAA officials, who believe they can begin to craft basic safety regulations based on more than 50 years of human spaceflight experience.

Industry figures dispute this, saying they still don’t have enough experience with their varied vehicles to begin the process. The divide was on display during the FAA’s recent Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., where government, industry and elected officials debated whether to further extend a regulatory ban that expires on Sept. 30. Click here. (2/17)

Space Groups Planning New and Revived Advocacy Activities (Source: Space News)
The beginning of debate on NASA’s 2016 budget proposal is also the kickoff for a new series of space advocacy activities scheduled for the next month, including an invitation-only “space summit” and the resurrection of a grass-roots space lobbying campaign.

The Pioneering Space National Summit, taking place Feb. 19-20, is intended to be a “broadly based gathering of national level decision makers” and others to identify what it calls “strategic knowledge gaps” that prevent greater space development and settlement activities.

Participation in the summit is by invitation only, and is organized by the New Worlds Institute, a project of the EarthLight Foundation, a Texas-based nonprofit organization founded by long-time space advocate Rick Tumlinson. Neither Tumlinson nor others organizing the summit responded to questions about the event. Click here. (2/17)

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