February 19, 2015

New Rocket, White Tails In ULA’s Long-Term Strategy (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance’s plan to field a new rocket engine with Blue Origin called the BE-4 is only step one of a larger strategic plan to take the company from a sole-source benefactor mentality to competing in a burgeoning commercial market. With that plan, ULA’s current launchers – the Atlas V (developed originally by Lockheed Martin) and Delta IV (developed originally by Boeing) – will likely be supplanted by a new, yet-to-be-named rocket design within the next decade.

The Atlas V and Delta IV are the workhorse rockets for DOD and have been since the early 2000s. But both have a limited future. Last year, former ULA's Mike Gass said the per-unit cost of an Atlas V 401 mission was $164 million; a Delta IV heavy mission was priced at $350 million. These prices are averages for the 36-core deal signed between ULA and the Air Force. Delta IV has a stellar launch record but is more expensive. Nonetheless, its heavy variant is one of a kind and is the driving reason why the family will remain active into the future.

That is until ULA or another company can build a replacement. ULA CEO Tory Bruno says the company is also developing a new upper stage to take the place of the legacy RL-10 built by Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dynetics that now mates with the Atlas V and Delta IV. He is also reducing the company’s infrastructure from five launch pads – supporting both launch vehicles – to two. One will be on each coast and will support operations for the Next-Generation Launch System (NGLS) as well as support the last Atlas V and Delta IV missions, Bruno. (2/17)

Companies Developing Training For New Human Spacecraft (Source: Aviation Week)
There are at least seven human spacecraft under development in the U.S., as the government hands off civil access to low Earth orbit to the private sector. The diversity of the vehicle designs—capsules for Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and SpaceX; suborbital spaceplanes for Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, and an orbital lifting body for Sierra Nevada—is matched by that of the passengers lining up to fly on them.

No longer will the government select space travelers solely for intelligence and physical fitness. Most astronauts will select themselves, largely on the basis of their ability to buy a ticket. Dr. Jim Vanderploeg, a former NASA flight surgeon who has worked with Virgin Galactic on what it will take to screen passengers before they fly on SpaceShipTwo, says the customer list shows the spaceflight cohort has expanded beyond prime-of-life astronauts to the “18-to-high-80s” age group, with “the entire gamut” of health and fitness. Click here. (2/19)

New Horizons Spots Small Moons Orbiting Pluto (Source: Space Daily)
Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh's historic discovery of Pluto, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter the icy planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto. The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from Jan. 27-Feb. 8, at distances ranging from about 125 million to 115 million miles (201 million to 186 million kilometers). (2/19)

From Vomit Comet to CubeSat (Source: Space Daily)
Several small-scale experiments aboard NASA's vomit comet have led to a NASA grant to study early planet formation aboard a satellite in low-Earth orbit for a year or more. University of Central Florida physics professor Joshua Colwell this month landed a grant to place a thermos-sized experiment aboard a satellite as part of NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative. UCF landed two of the 14 grants awarded. Click here. (2/19)

Research With Space Explorers May One Day Heal Earth's Warriors (Source: Space Daily)
Growing bone on demand sounds like a space-age concept-a potentially life changing one. Such a capability could benefit those needing bone for reconstructive surgery due to trauma like combat injuries or those waging a battle with osteoporosis. Related research is hardly science fiction, as a study into a key bone-growing protein was recently funded to take place in orbit aboard the International Space Station. Click here. (2/19)

Scientists Alarmed at Short-Term Ozone-Eroding Gases (Source: Space Daily)
Environmental scientists raised concern Monday at rising levels of gases that attack Earth's protective ozone layer, including manmade chemicals not covered by a key UN treaty. Researchers at Leeds University in northern England said two computer models highlighted the impact of so-called "very short-lived substances" -- VSLS -- that deplete the stratospheric shield.

The damage they do to the ozone layer is significant and likely to increase, they said, as emissions of man-made chlorine gases rise. Ironically, one of the chemicals named in the report, dichloromethane, is used in the manufacture of substitutes for ozone-depleting gases outlawed by the UN's 1987 Montreal Protocol. VSLS are gases that have a short lifetime, usually breaking down in less than six months. (2/16)

Satellites Help Predict Outbreaks of Disease (Source: Space Daily)
Satellites can help scientists follow parasites and viruses, and in some cases predict months ahead of time an outbreak of dengue fever or malaria, researchers said Sunday. "Some diseases are highly sensitive to their environment, especially parasitic diseases," said Archie Clements, director of the school of population health at the Australian National University in Canberra.

"With remote sensing you can identify places where disease flourishes," Clements said. "This information is useful for decision makers to help them ensure scarce resources are targeted to where they are most needed," he said, noting that tropical diseases affect millions of people each year particularly in less developed nations.

Scientists use data transmitted by satellite on temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, vegetation type and land use, then analyze that information in a computer model. "The result is maps that are accessible to countries with limited capacity for managing disease data, tailored to their local needs," Clements said. (2/16)

ISS to Get Docking System Upgrades for Commercial Crew (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Commercial Crew program will take another step forward as the space agency prepares to install docking equipment on the International Space Station (ISS). A series of three spacewalks will be conducted starting Feb. 20 and concluding on March 1 of this year.

Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts, two NASA astronauts, will perform the spacewalks from the ISS. Their tasks will include installing cables and communications equipment for new docking ports. These new ports will allow future U.S. commercial crew vehicles to dock with the space station. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the spacewalks, which are also referred to as extravehicular activity (EVAs). (2/19)

Barbree Wins the Space Society’s 2015 Pioneer Award for Mass Media (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society announces that NBC space news correspondent Jay Barbree is the winner of its 2015 Space Pioneer Award for mass media. This award will be presented at the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference, the 34th ISDC, to be held in Toronto, Canada, at the Hyatt Regency Toronto (downtown). The Conference will run from May 20-24, 2015. (2/17)

2015 Inductees Named for Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On it's silver anniversary, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame will induct four space shuttle astronauts as part of its 2015 class. John Grunsfeld, Rhea Seddon, Steven Lindsey, and Kent Rominger will join the ranks of previous inductees including Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, and John Young in a ceremony on May 30 at Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex (KSCVC). (2/18)

Keeping America Safe -- From a Million Miles Away (Source: Huffington Post)
When it comes to keeping America's communities and businesses safe and secure, we can't take our eyes off the sun. That vigilance is ensured with last week's successful launch of DSCOVR -- the Deep Space Climate Observatory. DSCOVR will operate 24/7, alerting forecasters when large magnetic eruptions are headed toward Earth from the red-hot star at the center of our solar system. Click here. (2/17)

Rising Sea Levels Are Already Making Miami’s Floods Worse (WIRED)
You don’t have to look 85 years into the future to see what a sinking world looks like—you only need to look as far as Miami. Climate scientists have been warning the world about sea level rise for years, pleading with governments to cut back on carbon lest all our coastal cities go the way of Venice.

In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fifth Assessment Report, predicting that oceans would rise more than 3 feet by 2100. But the flooding is already happening in Florida. At the University of Miami, Brian McNoldy and other researchers have been accumulating sea level data from Virginia Key (a small island just south of Miami Beach) since 1996. Over those nineteen years, sea levels around the Miami coast have already gone up 3.7 inches.

In a post updated yesterday, McNoldy highlights three big problems that follow from those numbers—and they should worry all of us. First: Sea level rise is accelerating—perhaps faster than the IPCC has projected. When McNoldy tracked the average daily high water mark, when flooding events are most likely to occur, he saw it increase over time—but he also saw the rate of that increase go up. Click here. (2/18)

Profile on Rep. Jim Bridenstine (Source: Space News)
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is a growing presence in the Washington space policy scene. The 39-year-old sophomore from Tulsa made a splash in his first term as an ally for the budding commercial weather satellite industry, and his voice on this issue only figures to carry more weight in his second term. That is because Bridenstine has been appointed chairman House Science environment subcommittee, which oversees NOAA.

Bridenstine is not a complete newcomer to space. Prior to his election, the former naval aviator was the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, where he led what he acknowledged was a “long shot” bid to win one of NASA’s retired shuttle orbiters. He was also involved with the short-lived Rocket Racing League, which tried to apply the business model of auto racing to rocket planes. Click here. (2/18) 

Successful Flight of Angara-A5 Marks New Era for Russia's Ambitions (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
The little-noticed launch of a Russian rocket just before last Christmas deserves a lot more attention. A new model of a space booster called the Angara-A5 blasted off from the Plesetsk space center in northwestern Russia, and its launch says a lot about the often unclear state of the Russian space industry.

Although it took years of agonizing delays and redesigns to get the medium class booster—on par with the most powerful rockets currently produced by the United States, Japan, and Europe—the Angara-A5 flew flawlessly on its maiden launch: It was the most powerful rocket ever launched from anywhere in Europe, and the first rocket launched from Europe to send a payload into 24-hour geosynchronous orbit.

Politically, it was a demonstration that Russia’s uncomfortable dependence on the Baikonur spaceport in independent Kazakhstan is being significantly reduced. But the technological implication of the flight is the most profound, and it is this: however much the Russian space industry has been suffering under a string of military generals performing reorganizations or enhancing discipline for inadequate quality control, Russian aerospace engineers still have what it takes to expand their capabilities. (2/17)

Moon Express Puts Space Launch Complex-36 Back in Business (Source: America Space)
A private commercial space company headquartered in California recently announced it has signed an agreement to use the historic Space Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The agreement leads to an immediate creation of about 25-50 new jobs, with the potential for hundreds of direct/indirect new jobs over the next five years. A number of robotic spacecraft will be launched to the Moon for exploration and commercial development under the company known as Moon Express, or MoonEx.

The agreement, signed Jan. 22, allows Moon Express to begin using SLC-36 for spacecraft development and flight operations this year. The agreement also permits Moon Express and the state of Florida to invest in the refurbishment of the launch site. Moon Express reported in a press release that the company plans to make an initial capital investment of up to $500,000 into the iconic launch pad.

“We are honored to have an opportunity to establish permanent operations at Cape Canaveral SLC-36, at the place where the U.S. first went to the Moon,” said Bob Richards, Moon Express co-founder and CEO. “The Moon is rising again in Florida thanks to the unequivocal support of Space Florida, NASA, and the USAF 45th Space Wing in helping us create a home for manufacturing, integrating, and testing our lunar lander test vehicles and spacecraft.” (1/25)

Space Coast Teachers Can Get Funding for Yuris Night Events (Source: Yuri's Night)
Yuri’s Night events combine space-themed celebrating with education and outreach. These events can range from an all-night mix of techno and technology at a NASA Center, to a movie showing and stargazing at your local college, to a gathering of friends at a bar or barbecue.

During the historic Orion EFT-1 launch, a fundraiser was held to help create Yuri's Night events all over the Space Coast. Some of the funds raised are available for teachers in Brevard County (the Space Coast) to help create local events and inspire student interest in space exploration! The maximum grant is $100/event/host and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Click here. (2/18)

What FAA Drone Rules Could Mean for South Florida Firms (Source: South Florida Business Journal)
People approach Coral Springs retailer Urban Drones daily, hoping a drone can help them map a golf course, inspect a building or film an ad — and CEO Alex Rodriguez has to turn them down. "All the restrictions are so ridiculous that I'm losing that customer," he said. Urban Drones will likely be part of a surge in drone business when FAA rules proposed Sunday eventually go into effect, making it easier for commercial drones to take to the skies.

Florida stands to benefit more than almost any other state, as new regulations would bring 3,000 new jobs and $632 million in economic impact to the state by 2017, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Only California, Washington and Texas would have larger drone industries, the organization indicates in its report. Click here. (2/18)

Astrotech Reports Second Quarter 2015 Financial Results (Source: Astrotech)
Net income of $20.9 million (attributable to Astrotech Corp.) for the year to date fiscal 2015. Astrotech initiated a $5 million share repurchase program. Through the end of calendar year 2014, we repurchased $0.4 million of Astrotech stock. Astrotech recruited leading industry executive Bob Kibler to be CEO of 1st Detect. 1st Detect released a key new product, the iONTRAC, to the petrochemical industry. (2/18)

Spacecraft Grab Closer Views of Ceres, Comet (Source: SEN)
Somewhere beyond the orbit of Mars, two spacecraft are busily getting up-close to their targets—a dwarf planet and a comet—to teach scientists more about how the Solar System came to be. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is currently hurtling towards Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Ceres is so huge that many consider it a dwarf planet, although the world is relatively tiny, only 950 km (590 miles) in size.

Dawn will arrive at Ceres later in 2015. Meanwhile, the European Rosetta spacecraft swooped closer than ever to its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Its minimum altitude of six km (3.7 miles) in its orbit is producing high-resolution pictures that will generate years of research. Click here. (2/18)

Why Wolf is Wrong About U.S.-China Space Cooperation (Source: Space Policy Online)
Joan Johnson-Freese explained to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission today why former Rep. Frank Wolf was wrong to effectively ban all U.S.-China bilateral space cooperation. Wolf retired at the end of the last Congress, but his successor as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA holds similar views.

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Wolf's successor as chairman of the CJS subcommittee, said: "We need to keep them out of our space program, and we need to keep NASA out of China. They are not our friends." But Johnson-Freese's contention is that "the United States must use all tools of national power" to achieve its space-related goals as stated in U.S. National Space Policy, National Security Strategy, and National Security Space Strategy.

Wolf's restrictions on space cooperation simply constrain U.S. options, she argues: "Limiting U.S. options has never been in U.S. national interest and isn't on this issue either." She disagrees with Wolf's assumption that the United States has nothing to gain from working with China: "On the contrary, the United States could learn about how they work -- their decision-making processes, institutional policies and standard operating procedures. This is valuable information in accurately deciphering the intended use of dual-use space technology, long a weakness and so a vulnerability in U.S. analysis." (2/18)

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