February 22, 2015

Frank DiBello: Pushing for a Florida Spaceport for Private Liftoffs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
We actually are pretty enthusiastic about the marketplace and are positioning Florida for these next-generation projects. We're not alone. Clearly history does not guarantee our future. So we're going to have to fight for it. We have tended to work with most of the new start ups that are interested in locating in a place where flight operations are important.

All of them are talking about setting up operations here in Florida because we represent the knowledge and know-how for more routine commercial operations. We also represent an environment where there is already a market. This is the place where researchers come to fly their payloads. It's the place where eventually the space tourists will come. The citizen explorers will want to fly out of Florida. Click here. (2/22)

Goodbye, Morpheus (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s prototype lander Morpheus departed Kennedy Space Center this week, officially concluding its run of more than a dozen technology demonstration flights dating to late 2013. The lander’s test hops near the KSC’s former shuttle runway brought smoke and fire back to KSC, at least in short spurts, after the shuttle’s retirement. Morpheus flights lasted up to about 100 seconds and climbed more than 800 feet. After the last flight in December there was some talk about trying another one, but funding didn’t materialize. (2/22)

SpaceX Commercial Launch Planned for Friday, Without Stage Landing (Source: Florida Today)
If schedules hold, SpaceX late next Friday will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral for the second time in 16 days. The mission to launch two commercial communications satellites follows the company’s Feb. 11 launch of a space weather satellite into deep space science for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Liftoff from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for 11:01 p.m. Friday, the opening of a window that extends to 11:46 p.m., according to the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. The satellites owned by Eutelsat and Asia Broadcast Satellite are bound for geosynchronous orbits. Because of the propellant needed for the high orbits, SpaceX will not attempt to land and recover the Falcon 9 rocket booster. (2/22)

Spaceport America Chief Sets Facts Straight for Senator (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
I would like to address some of the misleading comments being circulated by state Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, who has introduced Senate Bill 75 seeking to revoke the Spaceport Authority's power to issue bonds and to restrict how excess gross receipts taxes are used.

Spending at Spaceport America is not hidden from anyone. The fiscal year 2015 and 2016 operations budgets were briefed to several legislative committees, including the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee on Oct. 20, 2014, where Senator Cotter was present.

The taxpayers of Sierra County and Doña Ana County generously passed a tax to support bonds that were issued in 2009 and 2010 in the amount of $76.4 million to allow the spaceport to become a reality. The New Mexico Finance Authority manages the payment of those bonds. Click here. (2/22)

World View’s Parafoil Flies to Record Altitude of 102,000 Feet (Source: Venture Beat)
Imagine you and seven other people sitting inside a pressurized cabin, swinging gently below a balloon that could swallow an entire football stadium. At 102,000 feet above the ground. That vision might sound like something from the distant future, but it might not be as far away as you think. Yesterday, a company called World View conducted a test that it says could help it make that vision a reality by the end of next year.

World View is in the space tourism business, and it is hoping that by the end of 2016, it will be ferrying people to the edge of space underneath its giant balloons for $75,000 a pop. But before it can get there, it has to prove — to itself, to regulators, to passengers, and others — that it can safely get them to that lofty altitude, keep them there for an hour or two, and then get them back right to the desired landing spot.

That’s why Friday’s test was an essential step forward, explained Sebastian Padilla, World View’s chief engineer. World View has been developing a proprietary parafoil system that will allow it to control the flight of its payloads as they head back towards Earth. Until now, the world record altitude for parafoil flight was about 50,000 feet. (2/21)

Texas Museum Seeks Witnesses to Matagorda Island Launches (Source: Victoria Advocate)
The Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College is seeking people who witnessed spacecraft launches at Matagorda Island more than 30 years ago. On Sep. 9, 1982, Space Services, Inc. successfully launched the 36-foot Conestoga 1 rocket from the south section of Matagorda Island.

Conestoga 1 contained 40 pounds of water to simulate the weight of a satellite. It was carried 321 miles during a 10.5-minute, suborbital flight that reached an elevation of 195 miles. This was the first privately-funded rocket to reach space.

A year earlier, on Aug. 5, 1981, the 59-foot Percheron rocket, a low-cost commercial test vehicle, was fired from Matagorda Island but exploded at launch due to a malfunction. Witnesses include people working at the site, those who saw a launch, or anyone who was involved in any way with the launch efforts. (2/21)

Fireball Meteor Booms Over Jacksonville (Source: AMS)
The American Meteor Society received over 90 reports so far about a bright fireball event in northern Florida just east of Jacksonville. Observers from as far north as August GA reported seeing a bright light in the sky. Over 15 of the reports described a window rattling delayed boom. (2/22)

Launches Postponed from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (Source: SpaceRef)
The launch of three Terrier-Oriole suborbital rockets scheduled for launch Feb. 23 for the Department of Defense from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia has been postponed. The new launch date is Feb. 24 between 12:30 and 4:30 a.m. Back-up launch dates are Feb. 25 through 27. (2/22)

Nebraska Governor Invests (Personally) in Space (Source: Omaha.com)
In the past decade, a new crop of wealthy investors have aimed their sights skyward, with visions of sending tourists into space on privately built spaceships and mining asteroids for rare metals. They believe that if the final frontier is to be truly explored, it will be done through the private sector. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is one of them.

The Nebraska Republican has invested in several high-risk space companies that are sprouting up on California’s Mojave Desert with warp-drive speed. One company Ricketts is backing is XCOR, a leader in the race to send a paying customer into suborbit for $95,000 a trip. Ricketts also has put his checkbook behind a far-out enterprise known as Planetary Resources.

Ricketts acknowledges that his “excitement” about space fuels his space investments, but at the end of the day, he said, he expects to see a profit. All the companies he has invested in are actively working on projects. (2/22)

Lockheed Gets NASA Funding for the SR-72 Hypersonic Spy Drone (Source: Popular Mechanics)
NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a modest $892,292 earlier this month to study the feasibility of developing an unmanned hypersonic spy plane called the SR-72. This superfast recon drone, first teased in November 2013, would fly at speeds of Mach 6.0, or 4,500 mph. That's almost double the speed of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which made its first flight 50 years ago.

Neither Lockheed Martin Skunk Works nor NASA Glenn Research Center officials are talking about the recent award. But a Lockheed Martin website notes that the company has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne to find a way to integrate a turbine engine, which would get the plane up to Mach 3, with a supersonic ramjet engine, or scramjet, to push it to Mach 6. (12/23)

European Spaceplane Test Makes Thales Alenia Proud (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On February 11, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), atmospheric reentry demonstrator, successfully completed its first test flight, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The spacecraft traveled to an altitude of approximately 250 miles and left one aerospace company in particular bursting with pride over the very successful test. Click here. (2/22)

Hawaii Students Shoot For The Moon With PISCES, NASA (Source: Big Island Video News)
Two Hawaii schools have been selected to work on a lunar project in partnership with NASA. ‘Iolani School and Kealakehe High School have been invited participate in a project to fly a dust shield experiment to the moon. The opportunity was spearheaded by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), and will be a collaborative effort between the schools, NASA, and a Google XPRIZE team. Click here. (2/20)

Why Can’t We Design the Perfect Spacesuit? (Source: Universe Today)
So far, every spacesuit humans have utilized has been designed with a specific mission and purpose in mind. As of yet, there’s been no universal or “perfect” spacesuit that would fit every need. For example, the US ACES “pumpkin” suits and the Russian Sokol are only for launch and reentry and can’t be used for spacewalks.

And the Apollo A7L suits were designed with hard soled boots for astronauts to walk on the Moon, while the current NASA EMU and the Russian Orlan are designed for use in space, but with soft soled booties so as not to damage the exterior of the space station.

What would constitute the perfect spacesuit that could be used for any mission? It would have to be lightweight while being impervious to rips, impacts and radiation, but also be flexible, fit multiple sizes, and be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time. Click here. (2/18)

America's Space Program in a Black Hole - Or Is It? (Source: CBN)
The United States sure is a different country today than it was decades ago. Besides our deteriorating culture, America's space program seems to be sagging as well. But is hope on the horizon? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich joins the chorus of Americans in asking, 'What happened to America's space dominance?'

"It should be seen as a pretty big scandal, that after all the billions we spend every year we're currently sending Americans into space on Russian rockets," Gingrich told CBN News. "We literally could not get an American into space on an American vehicle now."

Factors, including lack of vision, money, and public support led to America falling behind other countries. But NASA employees, like Andrea Farmer, remain steadfast. "That vision has changed," she said. "It's expanded throughout the years and there are different reasons for it, whether it's economic or political. But at the end of the day NASA's about exploring." It also has become about something else: government red tape. Click here. (2/20)

Spaceport America: Economic Engine or Taxpayer Boondoggle? (Source: New Mexico Watchdog)
Some New Mexico lawmakers are starting to talk about Spaceport America the way they used to talk about the Rail Runner, the Santa Fe to Albuquerque commuter train long regarded as a taxpayer-funded boondoggle likely to go on draining state coffers into the foreseeable future.

Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, began his pitch to the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee to ditch the Spaceport on Thursday with a comparison to the Rail Runner. Muñoz’s SB267 would require the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to sell the Spaceport, located on 1,800 acres of land leased from the state adjacent to White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, for fair market value.

Christine Anderson, executive director of NMSA, told the committee that would create problems because NMSA has an agreement with WSMR and a license from the Federal Aviation Administration that could not just be transferred to a private buyer. (2/20)

Russian Intel Ship Sits Off Jacksonville Coast During SpaceX Landing Attempt (Source: Free Beacon)
A Russian intelligence-gathering ship is again plying the waters off the southern United States in operations aimed at spying on U.S. ballistic missile submarines based in the area, defense officials said. The intelligence collection ship, Viktor Leonov, has been closely watched by U.S. Navy ships and aircraft for the past several days near Jacksonville.

“It’s been all in international waters and all perfectly legal,” said a defense official. “But it’s interesting that it is operating, collecting on us where it is.” This week, the Leonov was spotted anchored about 22 miles off the Florida coast, southeast of Kings Bay. The ship, known as an AGI in military parlance, is equipped with high technology gear designed to pick up electronic communications and underwater signals. Editor's Note: The ship may have been well positioned to monitor SpaceX's Falcon-9 landing attempt on Feb. 11. (2/13)

The Hills Have Ice... on Mars, That Is (Source: Discovery)
Scientists have been hunting for evidence of water on Mars ever since they started looking at the Red Planet through telescopes. But Mars does have water, and lots of it; solid water in the form of ice locked up in its polar caps and buried under its surface. And, if observations made by ESA’s Mars Express are indicative of similar processes seen on Earth, Mars' ancient hills may also hide hidden deposits of ice. (2/21)

Why Photos of Space Should Belong to Everyone (Source: The Atlantic)
Unlike photos captured by NASA, photos taken aboard commercial spacecraft are not in the public domain. What does that mean? You are not supposed to take these images and put them on an album cover or hang them on your wall or order yourself a T-shirt with it or publish it on a magazine cover.

This is a delight long extended to consumers of NASA imagery. Because cultural works produced by the government are publicly funded, U.S. copyright law takes the view that they are already publicly owned. Thus, you can do anything you want with NASA photos—you own them.

As Mike Masnick writes, other space agencies do not take the same approach. The European Space Agency, for instance, has taken images out of circulation by appealing to copyright law. It is Europe’s loss. The American approach of public works becoming public property has reaped riches for the commonwealth. (2/21)

Secrets of The Space Race: Rare NASA Photos Hit the Auction Block (Source: Daily Beast)
The largest sale of NASA photographs in the world ever brings together an astonishing collection of 700 photographs, documenting six decades of space exploration. It started with a single photo. Cameras on a V-2 rocket launched from the New Mexico desert captured a grainy, black-and-white depiction of Earth on October 24, 1946—years before the Soviet Union sparked the space race by propelling Sputnik into orbit.

The images revealed only a portion of our planet, split distinctly into two parts: a slice of the Earth’s surface, rendered in shades of grey, on the lower right; the vast blackness of infinite space on the top left. In the six decades that have passed, countless numbers of similar images have been captured, as cameras move further and further into the abyss. Slowly, the entire globe came into focus and lit up with color. Click here. (2/21)

'Firefly' Starship to Blaze a Trail to Alpha Centauri? (Source: Discovery)
Robert Freeland wants to launch an interstellar probe -- not 100 years from now, but within his lifetime. As Icarus Board Member and Deputy Project Leader, Freeland presented at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) in November, to propose a design for an starship that has all the things he likes: speed, elegance, and a short lead time.

"Firefly" (named so for its bright tail) is almost too pretty. It doesn't seem right, after decades of tin can projects by NASA, to envision elegance in a practical design. But let the hard science fans be reassured: the entire morphology of the vessel follows directly from physical constraints. Even the pretty curve of the radiators was chosen to follow the actual heat load from the drive, while minimizing pumping distance and pipe/coolant mass. The design is backed by as much hard science as is available today. Click here. (2/20)

A Planet You've Probably Never Heard Of (Source: CNN)
Way out beyond Mars, but before you get to Jupiter, is a planet. You read that right. There's a planet between Mars and Jupiter. You may not have heard of it, but it was discovered in 1801 -- 129 years before Pluto. It originally was called a planet, then later an asteroid and now it's called a dwarf planet. Its name is Ceres (pronounced like series) and you'll likely be hearing a lot more about it in the coming weeks.

Ceres is one of five named dwarf planets recognized by NASA and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The other four are Eris, Pluto, Makemake and Haumea. But Ceres is the first of these worlds to get a visitor from Earth: NASA's Dawn spacecraft is arriving on March 6. (2/21)

Summiteers Adopt U.S. Mission Statement (Source: NASA Watch)
Something has emerged from the Pioneering Space National Summit held last week in Washington DC. Over 100 invited participants from academia, government and industry came together at the event to discuss the nation's vision for human space exploration. Below is a statement they all agreed to release:

"The long term goal of the human spaceflight and exploration progam of the United States is to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit in a way that will enable human settlement and a thriving space economy. This will be best achieved through public-private partnerships and international collaboration." (2/21)

Commercial Crew Program Expecting Exciting Two Years Ahead (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Kathy Lueders, who previously served as NASA’s ISS Program’s Transportation Integration manager, is uniquely suited to direct CCP’s steps toward sending crews aloft on commercially-produced spacecraft. Following the departure of Ed Mango, CCP’s prior program manager, Lueders has worked to direct the program as it prepares for critical test flights which are set to take place as early as 2017. Click here. (2/21)

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