February 24, 2015

45th Space Wing Commander Speaks at Orlando Warfare Conference (Source: Space Daily)
"Our budget proposal actually busts the sequestration caps," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said. "For the Air Force this represents the difference between an Air Force that our combatant commanders require, and our nation expects, as compared to an Air Force that with $10 billion less, will not be able to meet the National Defense Strategy - period."

She also talked about something that's been in the Leaders share messages, priorities at AFA Symposiums for the people who live and work here on the Space Coast - and for us here in the 45th Space Wing - when she discussed open competition in the space business.

"In my experience, both in government and industry, competition always drives down costs and improves innovation," she said. "We want both. We want less cost and we want more innovation. We also want a third very important thing - mission assurance." Click here. (2/20)

SpaceX Launch of Eutelsat Slips to NET March 1 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX has opted to push back the launch date for the flight of the Eutelsat 115 (Satmex 7) and ABS 3A satellites from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The mission, originally scheduled to take place on Feb. 28, is now slated to occur no-earlier-than  Mar. 1 at 10:49 p.m. EST. SpaceX will have a 40 minute window in which to get the rocket and its precious cargo off the pad - and into the sky. (2/24)

Bolden Names New Space Technology Mission Director (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Steve Jurczyk as the agency’s Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The directorate is responsible for innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use on future NASA missions. Jurczyk has served as Center Director at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, since April of 2014. (2/24)

Mars One Loses Television Deal (Source: Space News)
A private venture to send humans on a one-way journey to Mars has suffered another setback with the loss of a television deal, although the venture’s leader said it won’t affect the ongoing selection of crews for the mission. Mars One chief executive Bas Lansdorp said Mars One had terminated an agreement with entertainment company Endemol announced in 2014 to develop a “worldwide TV event” for the selection of the first Mars One crews.

Under the agreement, Mars One would grant Endemol's DSP production company exclusive access to the astronaut selection process, up though the launch of the first crews. At the time of the announcement, broadcasts of the selection process were to begin in early 2015. DSP did not respond to a request for comment on the canceled agreement.

While DSP primarily produces documentaries, Endemol is best known for producing a variety of reality television shows, including “Big Brother.” The original announcement raised speculation at the time that the Mars One selection process could also become a reality show competition. (2/24)

Red Planet or Bust? Private Mars One Mission Faces Earthly Challenges (Source: NBC)
The Dutch-based Mars One venture is closing in on choosing its crews for one-way trips to the Red Planet, but will they be all dressed up in spacesuits with no place to go? Over the past week, there's been a string of reports that highlight the huge challenges facing Mars One.

The project's leaders haven't followed up on concept studies for robotic missions aimed at sending a lander and an orbiter to Mars in 2018. Mars One's deal with Endemol's global TV production team has fizzled out. Meanwhile, one of Mars One's initial supporters, astronomer Gerard 't Hooft, said the mission "will take quite a bit longer and be quite a bit more expensive" than advertised. Click here. (2/24)

Cruz's Mission for NASA: More Space, Less Earth (Source: National Journal)
If Ted Cruz is NASA's Grim Reaper, he doesn't talk like it. To hear the new chairman of the Senate's Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee talk about NASA is to hear none of the budget-slashing zeal that comes out when he talks about, say, the IRS. Instead, he talks at length about putting more Americans in space and sending them farther than ever before. He gushes about the agency that has "excited the spirits of every person in this country, every boy and girl."

NASA, Cruz says, needs saving. And if doing so provides him with another cudgel to batter the Obama administration, well, it's no surprise that he's eager to have that fight. The potential 2016 presidential contender laughs off skepticism as typical partisan attacks, then quickly launches into one of his own. "I am deeply concerned that the Obama administration has undervalued space exploration, has diverted NASA from its core priorities," he says. "We need to get back to the central mission of NASA." (2/23)

At the Helm of the World's Fastest, Farthest Space Mission (Source: Arizona Daily Sun)
Alan Stern is coordinating more than 100 people on a $722 million, 15-year project that aims to pull off a pioneering mission to explore our solar system’s most distant planet. And the hardest part about all of it? Waiting the more than nine years for the mission's New Horizons spacecraft to travel three billion miles through space, Stern said. Click here. (2/22)

Space Adventures Plans Tourism Flights with Armadillo Aerospace (Source: Tingvoa)
An American space tourism company that arranges multimillion-dollar treks to the International Space Station for the ultra-wealthy has struck a new deal to offer suborbital spaceflights for nearly half the going cost. The price is still steep, though: $102,000 for the works.

Virginia-based firm Space Adventures has signed an exclusive deal with Armadillo Aerospace, a Texas-based company founded by computer game entrepreneur John Carmack, to sell space tourist seats on new suborbital rocket ships that are currently in development at Armadillo.

Flights aboard Armadillo's vertically-launched rocket ship in development will depart from a spaceport in the United States and take passengers to regions above 62 miles (100 kilometers), where space begins. After the engine is shut down, those aboard will experience up to five minutes of weightlessness and will have the opportunity to gaze out at 360-degree views into space and Earth's horizon below. (2/21)

Editorial: Let’s Fix the Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
Congress is about to begin consideration of NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget request, which includes $220 million for the controversial Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Two years after it was proposed by the Obama Administration, ARM still has few supporters. Why, and what can be done to change the equation? Fundamentally, ARM is two good ideas kluged together into one bewildering idea that NASA itself seems unable to explain effectively.

How does moving a rock from one place in the solar system to another get us to Mars? ARM involves developing high-power solar electric propulsion (SEP). Good idea. It has many uses in Earth orbit and deep space, including support of human exploration of Mars. ARM involves sending astronauts to cis-lunar space (between the Earth and the Moon) for up to three weeks at a time. Good idea. Breaking the umbilical cord to Earth is a necessary step to Mars. ARM involves moving an asteroid to lunar orbit. Huh? Click here. (2/23)

Houston? Where is the Closest Hospital? (Source: Space Safety)
While it might seem as a place very close to home, flight proven, and under control, the International Space Station is already a dangerous place when it comes to guaranteeing the well being of astronauts. It may come as a surprise to many, but the probability of the International Space Station being hit by a debris or a micrometeorite that will actually penetrate the pressurized habitat is over 50% over its lifetime, a worse chance than tossing a coin. Click here. (2/23)

Space Travel is Bad for Your Health (Source: Cosmos)
With the planned launch of Mars One only a decade away, the race is on to find ways to keep the astronauts strong while they take the seven month trip. We already know human muscles and bones waste away in zero gravity -- even when astronauts spend up to a quarter of their time exercizing. Now researchers suggest these brittle bones can weaken the immune system. Click here. (2/23)

ATV’s Re-Entry Camera Returned No Images (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A camera packed inside Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle failed to transmit images from inside the disposable supply ship as it plunged through Earth’s atmosphere Feb. 15 and broke apart over the South Pacific Ocean. The robotic cargo freighter carried a camera and instrument package cocooned inside a miniature heat shield to survive the temperatures and pressures of re-entry. While telemetry indicated the camera took nearly 6,000 pictures, none of the images were received by engineers. (2/22)

Interplanetary Contamination and Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Space Safety)
Interplanetary Contamination is the introduction of biological material from one planetary body (planet, moon, asteroid) to another. Biological material can be everything from simple organic carbon molecules via parts of genetic code or proteins up to full microbial life forms.

Astrobiology, an interdisciplinary field that also deals with contamination, studies two types of contamination: Forward and Backward Contamination. Forward Contamination is the artificial delivery of biological material from Earth to a planetary body with space probes or human space missions, while Backward Contamination describes the possible introduction of alien material environment through extraterrestrial probes returning back to Earth. Click here. (2/23)

Comets Are Like Deep Fried Ice Cream (Source: Space.com)
NASA researchers think they understand why comets have a hard, crispy outside and a cold but soft inside — just like fried ice cream. Two NASA spacecraft have interacted with a comet surface, and both found a crunchy exterior and somewhat softer, more porous interior. Scientists know that comets are made of a mixture of rock and ice, but up until now they could not fully explain this change in texture from the inside to the outside. Click here. (2/23)

Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne Point Man (Source: Space News)
As if trying to establish the world’s first suborbital space tourism business weren’t enough of a technical and market challenge, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic venture also wants to get in the game of launching small satellites. The company, whose backers include Aabar Investments, also has been plugging away quietly on a dedicated air-launched rocket that would deliver small satellites to low Earth orbit for $10 million or less. Click here. (2/23)

NASA Sets Next $1 Billion New Frontiers Competition for 2016 (Source: Space News)
Competition for the next mission in NASA’s New Frontiers line — a cost-capped class of $1 billion robotic solar-system explorers — will begin in 2016. The long-awaited announcement of opportunity for the fourth New Frontiers competition will appear some time after Oct. 1, the start of the U.S. government’s 2016 fiscal year.

NASA is also looking ahead to the fifth New Frontiers competition, which would begin by 2020. New Frontiers missions are managed by a single principle investigator, who is responsible for keeping the mission’s development cost under $1 billion. The cost cap does not include the price of a launch vehicle, which is covered under the NASA Launch Services Program. (2/23)

Editorial: Coming Around Slowly on ORS (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department’s space-related budget blueprint for 2016 contained at least one pleasant surprise in the form of a funding request, albeit a small one, for the Air Force-led Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office. In its three previous requests, the Air Force proposed shuttering the office, which was stood up to demonstrate new methods and technologies for developing and deploying space capabilities quickly.

The Air Force had argued that ORS could live on in the service’s primary space acquisition shop, the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, which typically procures large, expensive satellite systems using a strict and often cumbersome set of rules. Each time, however, Congress blocked the move, either in recognition that ORS would die a quick death at SMC or because it simply wanted to keep the office and the associated work at Kirtland Air Force in New Mexico.

Lawmakers provided $10 million for the office in 2014 and $20 million in 2015. It now appears that the Air Force has conceded the point — the service is seeking just under $6.5 million for the ORS Office for next year. (2/23)

Worker Injured in Fall at NASA Langley Research Center (Source: WGNT)
A worker at NASA Langley Research Center was injured Sunday morning when he fell 18 feet onto a concrete floor. The man, a contract employer from Jacobs Engineering, was working at the facility’s steam plant when the second level metal grating he was walking on gave way. He sustained multiple injuries as a result of the fall and was transported to Riverside Regional Medical Center. (2/23)

'NASCAR on the Moon': 2 Teams Partner in Private Moon Race (Source: Space.com)
This is definitely a new kind of space race: Two teams competing in a private moon competition have teamed up to get to the lunar surface by the end of next year, potentially sowing the seeds for a sort of lunar NASCAR race. The new Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) partnership between the U.S.-based team Astrobotic and the Japanese group Hakuto means that the two teams — and perhaps even additional groups, if they decide to sign on — could duel it out in a "Formula 1 race on the surface of the moon," said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton.

Astrobotic and Hakuto are currently competing against each other, and 16 other teams, in the GLXP, which offers a $20 million grand prize to the first private team to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, move it 1,640 feet (500 meters) and beam back photos and video to Earth. At the moment, GLXP representatives require that at least one team have a launch scheduled by Dec. 31, 2015. The deadline for completion of the prize itself is exactly one year later, on Dec. 31, 2016. (2/23)

NASA Upgrades KSC's Historic Crawler-Transporter for New Rockets (Source: MyNews13)
Before a rocket or space shuttle could launch from the Kennedy Space Center, it had to be moved there, and for the last 50 years, NASA's crawler-transporters have done the job — steadily, but slowly. Now, the massive crawlers have been upgraded and tested to continue their legacy. The crawler's upgrades include more powerful locomotive engines, capable of carrying NASA's new heavy-lift rocket. Also new are computers and equipment to keep the platform stable as it carries rockets to the pad. (2/23)

First Manned Commercial Suborbital Research Program Graduates Scientist Astronauts (Source: PRWeb)
The PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Qualification Program, designed by former NASA astronaut instructors and hosted by the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, has graduated its first class of eight Scientist-Astronauts. PoSSUM provides its candidates with the skills required to effectively conduct research on commercial space vehicles as part of an international research campaign dedicated to the study of global climate.

The PoSSUM candidates learned about upper-atmospheric and noctilucent cloud science while participating in realistic mission simulations developed in partnership with Embry-Riddle. These simulations were designed to train candidates to effectively use PoSSUM imager systems and instrumentation to study noctilucent clouds in suborbital flight. Candidates received comprehensive spacesuit training, high-altitude and hypoxia awareness training, and aerospace physiology training. Click here. (2/23)

Wall Street Grills Fleet Operators Over Mega-Constellation Threat (Source: Space News)
Wall Street analysts are peppering established satellite fleet operators with questions about how they plan to survive after the likes of Google, SpaceX, Facebook and OneWeb have launched hundreds or thousands of satellites, drones, balloons and other Internet-delivery platforms.

Demonstrating a penchant for staying ahead of a curve that may or may not exist, some analysts take it as a given that these companies will raise the billions of dollars of infrastructure costs, clear regulatory hurdles and bring platforms into service before the end of the decade. Click here. (2/23)

The Dark Future of American Space Exploration (Source: Vox)
One by one they flickered to life. Venus, first, in 1962, and two and a half years later, Mars. Our spacecraft flew by those planets, orbited them, and became manmade meteors streaking toward the first soil we couldn’t generically call "earth." Later, when we grew ambitious and confident in our abilities, humanity reached for the outer planets, probing Jupiter and Saturn in 1973 and 1979.

Each mission turned conjecture into fact, invalidated old assumptions, and brought us closer to one day answering the two fundamental questions of existence: where did all this come from, and where is it headed? Mission successes don't happen in a void. For every newly lighted world there are crashed probes, lost spacecraft, and rockets destroyed on launch pads.

The exploration of other worlds is a cumulative art, and with a steady cadence of missions comes an institutional knowledge for scientists and engineers. Every setback is its own library of insights. In 1964, when probe Mariner 3 missed Mars, its target, due to equipment failure, Mariner 4 was three weeks behind, and succeeded where its twin had failed. Click here. (2/23)

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