February 23, 2015

Weather Team: The Airmen Behind Every Space Launch (Source: Air Force Times)
About half of the attempts to send rockets into space from this slice of Florida are called off — based on information from a small group of airmen and civilians holed up in the Air Force's most advanced weather station. Cape Canaveral has been the nation's premier spaceport since its first space launches in the late 1950s. The Air Force, along with NASA and spaceflight companies such as ULA and SpaceX, depend on the airmen and civilians in the 45th Space Wing to get their equipment up to space.

Most of the pressure is on the 26 airmen and 13 civilians of the 45th Weather Squadron to pass along their advice and readings on the weather of the country's "lightning capital." The 45th Weather Squadron is an Air Force weather flight on steroids. Most bases have smaller units, or flights, responsible for ensuring aircraft are taking off and flying safely in weather conditions. But the airmen on Cape Canaveral have more equipment and expertise than other units simply because of the importance and complexity of launching rockets from the base. Click here. (2/22)

This Future Astronaut Believes Space Exploration is Worth the Cost (Source: Huffington Post)
Humanity as a whole-the developing and the developed world with their respective problems-broadly sees space exploration as an expression of being human and a vote for technological progress as a potential if unpredictable solution to many problems homegrown and abroad.

No more than we demand a civilization put all art, music, and pleasure on hold until all of its human rights issues are solved can we demand that space exploration be relegated to that hypothetical place and time of a post-scarcity of problems. This is precisely because cultural development is a human right itself, and exploration of the cosmos is a prime form of that. (2/23)

After 6 Years, Goldman Sachs Drops Bullish View on Aerospace (Source: Street Insider)
Goldman Sachs analyst Noah Poponak is making waves on Wall Street Monday after downgrading the Aerospace sector and behemoth Boeing to Sell with it. Poponak said after being positive on the sector for 6 years they are now moving to Neutral. While they still view Aerospace as a long-term growth industry, downside risk has been heightened after substantial outperformance. (2/23)

DARPA Proposes $127 Million in Space Spending (Source: Parabolic Arc)
DARPA has proposed spending $126.7 million on 10 space programs in FY 2016, including two initiatives designed to radically reduce the cost of launching payloads into space and a number of programs focused on in-orbit satellite servicing. The budget is $53.2 million less than the $179.9 million will spend in the current fiscal year. While three programs would see major reductions in funding, DARPA would also start three new programs, including one focused on advanced propulsion technologies. Click here. (2/23)

Mars Missions Are A Scam (Source: BuzzFeed)
Despite claims by NASA and private outfits such as Mars One, we don’t have the know-how or funding to send people to the Red Planet, according to many scientists, policy experts, and one outspoken lawmaker. “To say we have put the cart before the horse is an understatement,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said. Click here. (2/23)

Texas Space Development Initiative on County Agenda (Source: Waco Tribune)
McLennan County commissioners Tuesday will discuss creating an entity that would seek out state funds to aid businesses that want to pursue space development in the area. Kris Collins, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of economic development, said the entity, dubbed the McLennan County Spaceport Development Corp., would allow the county to apply for state funds held in a Spaceport Trust Fund.
If commissioners move forward and the corporation is approved by the state, it will be the third of its kind, Collins said. Midland and Cameron counties so far are the only municipalities to have spaceport development corporations. “There’s a lot to gain and nothing to lose with it,” Commissioner Ben Perry said. Click here. (2/23)

Should New Mexico Go Forward with the Spaceport? (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
We’ve often disagreed on the wisdom of financing visionary programs like stealth bombers, nuclear submarines, the railgun and particle accelerators. Locally, we have our own dilemma to deal with: Spaceport America. Seems that our Legislature is toying with the idea of cutting off its funding after having acquired quite a bit of land and spending millions on building a really terrific looking modern facility.

If we choose to de-fund the Spaceport other states will surely take up the slack and Sir Richard probably won’t be too interested in visiting the Land of Enchantment any time soon, either. If that should happen, it wouldn’t be all bad. We would still have a nifty futuristic building that we could turn into a Space Fantasy museum, for example. Think of all the Star Wars and Star Trek stuff we could pack into the place. Then there’s all the Trekkie confabs we could host.

We could even install a centrifuge and weightlessness simulator and sell tickets! The possibilities are endless. Space is not empty after all. (2/23)

United Launch Alliance is Ready to "Fight for Business," CEO Says (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance plans to cut costs and seek out new growth markets as the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin faces rising competition from SpaceX. "We're not the least bit afraid of competition," said CEO Tory Bruno. "It's not a huge marketplace, but I'm happy to get in there to compete and fight for business." (2/20)

The 5 Coolest NASA Missions that Never Happened (Source: Vox)
NASA is full of ambitious dreamers. But those dreams cost money. And Congress has to approve them first. Ever since the end of the Apollo program, this tension has meant that many of NASA's ideas are killed before they ever progress much beyond concept drawings. These ideas have ranged from far-fetched fantasies to financially prudent missions. Some were just sketches and equations on paper, while others materialized into models and test materials. But they all share one characteristic: they never happened. Click here. (2/23)

Safe May Not Be an Option, but Risk Mitigation Is (Source: Space Safety)
Rand Simberg thinks we’re wimps. Or at least the people in charge of space exploration, who, he implies, should be willing to accept a higher body count in the name of expanding the space frontier. In “Safe is Not an Option” he lays out the case that our experience in human space exploration to date has led us to a point where we are unwilling to accept the risks we will encounter in advancing the human exploration of the solar system.

His premise is that we have become “obsessed” with safety, and are unwilling to accept that, for instance, a mission to Mars might carry risks that we are unwilling to face. Ultimately, I think Simberg fails to make his case, and there are a couple places where I think he gets it dead wrong. In the first place, although they may struggle with what exactly it signifies in terms of the likelihood of loss of crew or loss of mission, safety is not given “an almost infinite value” in NASA spaceflight programs, as Mr. Simberg repeatedly alleges. Click here. (2/23)

Firefly's Markusic Talks Space Startup on Hedgeye TV (Source: Hedgeye TV)
In this edition of Real Conversations, Firefly Founder and CEO Tom Markusic talks with Hedgeye's Keith McCullough about the growing demand for efficient & inexpensive small satellite launches, his experiences working with entrepreneur Elon Musk, and why Firefly is poised to disrupt the new space landscape. Editor's Note: Markusic talks a bit at 9:02 on the video about his choice to locate Firefy operations in Texas, after working in several different states and receiving incentives to base the company in Austin. Click here. (2/19)

Florida Legislative Priorities Come Into View as Session Nears (Source: FSDC)
Florida's 2015 Legislative Session will begin on March 3 and end on May 1 in Tallahassee. The biggest task for elected officials will be to approve a $77 billion spending plan, including millions of dollars for space-related programs. Governor Rick Scott in January revealed his proposed budget, which includes $12.5 million for Space Florida programs.

The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) has tracked the progress of annual space-focused funding and policy issues in Tallahassee. FSDC is gearing up for the 2015 Session with an updated chart of space-related issues, a chart that is sure to evolve several times over the next two months. Click here to see it, including the final status of decisions from 2014 and 2013. (2/23)

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