February 25, 2015

Earth's Moon May Not Be Critical to Life (Source: Space Daily)
The Moon has long been viewed as a crucial component in creating an environment suitable for the evolution of complex life on Earth, but a number of scientific results in recent years have shown that perhaps our planet doesn't need the Moon as much as we have thought. Click here. (2/25)

New Life for New Frontiers (Source: Space Review)
While discussions about the NASA planetary science budget have focused on the inclusion of a Europa mission and possible termination of existing missions, the budget also supports the start of another mid-sized New Frontiers mission. Jason Callahan explains why a new New Frontiers mission is so important. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2701/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Objects in Space: LOSAT-X and QuickStar (Source: Space Review)
Long before the current surge in interest in small satellites, plans for space-based missile defense fostered an earlier wave of smallsat work. Dwayne Day examines the brief history of one such effort in the early 1990s. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2700/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Issues in Commercial Launch Law (Source: Space Review)
As a Senate subcommittee holds a hearing this week on human spaceflight and commercialization, one topic that may come up is an update to existing commercial launch laws. Jeff Foust reports on some of the major long-running issues likely to be considered in any such legislation. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2699/1 to view the article. (2/24)

The Second Mars Affordability and Sustainability Community Workshop (Source: Space Review)
Late last year, a group of experts met to follow up on earlier discussion on developing affordable pathways for human exploration of Mars. Harley Thronson and Chris Carberry summarize the outcome of that effort. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2698/1 to view the article. (2/24)

Launch Date for First of Xprize Lunar Racers Set for 2016 (Source: E&T)
Two teams competing in the Google Lunar Xprize have partnered to secure a ride to the Moon aboard a SpaceX rocket in late 2016. Japanese Hakuto and US Astrobotic have become the first of the 18 contenders for the $30m prize to announce firm launch plans. Astrobotic will be the main launch procurer with its Griffin lander carrying not only the company's rover called Andy but also providing room for two Hakuto rovers named Moonraker and Tetris traveling as a piggyback. (2/24)

Why Having Babies On Mars Will Be No Small Feat (Source: Forbes)
Parenting is tough enough here on Earth. Imagine being the parent of a toddler confined to a modular Martian habitat on the dusty plains of Tharsis. With nary a “jungle gym” in sight, could human parents on Mars cope with the stress of raising kids in such an alien environment?

Because there are not yet any hard and fast answers to such questions, it came as a shock to many that just last week a young British astrophysics student said she hoped to become the first Mars mother. Maggie Lieu, a 24 year-old student at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., told Britain’s The Independent newspaper that she thought it would be “really exciting” to give birth to the “first real Martian.” Click here. (2/25)

SES Announces New Launch Agreements with SpaceX (Source: SES)
SES announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch two new satellites in 2017 – SES-14 and SES-16/ GovSat – using the Falcon 9 rocket. SES had announced the order of the two new satellites last week. SES-14 is a hybrid satellite to be positioned at 47.5/48 degrees West with C- and Ku-band wide beam coverage, as well as Ku- and Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) coverage, across the Americas and the North Atlantic region. (2/25)

India, Russia Planning to Launch a Research Station Toward the Moon in 2015 (Source: RBTH)
India and Russia are planning to launch a research station towards the Moon in 2015 – the Chandrayaan-2. This was learned from the list of key projects for the current year, released on Tuesday by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The main task of the second Indian moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2, being carried out jointly by ISRO and Roskosmos, is to study the chemical composition of the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite. To do this, they will launch an orbiter station to the Moon, which will then send a lander craft with an on-board Lunokhod. It will collect soil samples and carry out chemical analyses, transmitting the data to Earth. (2/24)

India, UAE Discuss Possible Cooperation in Space Technologies (Source: Khaleej Times)
India and the UAE have discussed possible cooperation in the field of space and related areas to strengthen and diversify their existing strong bilateral relations. The UAE’s Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST)’s top executives led by Director General Yousuf Al Shaibani recently met Indian delegates headed by Anurag Bhushan, Consul General of India in Dubai, according to EIAST statement.

They discussed possible cooperation between EIAST and India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organization in the field of space and related areas. “India is in the midst of a massive national development campaign and one of the areas of focus is harnessing space technology for more diversified growth. ISRO, the national space agency of India has formal cooperative agreements with more than 35 countries. (2/25)

Space Exploration Key for National Security, Economic Growth in UAE (Source: The National)
The UAE has invested more than Dh18 billion into its space programmes, the director general of the country’s newly-established space agency said on Tuesday. Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi said the space market, estimated globally to be worth $340 billion in 2013 and growing at an annual rate of 7 percent, had long been identified by the Government as a sector for development. (2/24)

NASA Scientist Encourages Florida Students to Study Science (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
A NASA scientist’s talk Tuesday night at Mainland High School about the search for other planets like Earth left 12-year-old Aaliyah Battle with one question. “Is the Earth dying?” the Campbell Middle School 7th-grader asked Firouz Naderi. “No, it is not, but if we don’t take care of it, then it can die,” Naderi said.

Naderi, director of Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was the guest of Food Brings Hope, a Daytona Beach nonprofit organization that helps homeless children attending public schools in Volusia. Naderi was in Daytona Beach for a presentation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, so organizers took the opportunity to have him speak to elementary, middle and high school children so they get interested in different fields of study. (2/24)

Inside Roc's Lair with Stratolaunch (Source: Aviation Week)
The massive size of the carrier aircraft now in assembly at Mojave for Stratolaunch Systems’ space launch program is apparent for the first time from footage shot for a recent news story by KGET 17. The NBC affiliate was granted unprecedented access to film the gargantuan vehicle, dubbed ‘Roc’ after the giant bird of prey in Middle East mythology, as part of an overview report on space-related developments at Mojave.

Built for Stratolaunch by Scaled Composites (now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman), the Roc will be the largest aircraft ever made, with a wingspan of 385 ft. This compares to 320 ft for the Hughes H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose), 290 ft for the six-engined Antonov An-225, 262 ft. for the Airbus A380, and 225 ft. for the Boeing 747-8. Click here. (2/25)

Antares Failure Review Still ‘Weeks’ Away (Source: Aviation Week)
It will be "weeks" before a failure review board reports its findings on what caused an Orbital ATK Antares launch vehicle to fail seconds after lifting off from its Wallops Island, Virginia., pad on Oct. 28, 2014.

To fulfill its NASA contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, the company says it is on track with plans to use a United Launch Alliance Atlas V to lift its next Cygnus pressurized cargo carrier to the station this fall. And it is moving ahead with plans to refly the medium-lift vehicle on a cargo mission to the ISS in March 2016. (2/24)

Space is Cool, but NASA's Cheeseburgers Look Gross (Source: Mashable)
Kids, you may want to rethink your dreams of becoming an astronaut. Sure, the view from space may be awesome and you'll have endless bragging rights, but the cheeseburgers are terrifying. NASA X tweeted a photo of astronaut Terry Virts' "cheeseburger" on Tuesday, murdering all that is sacred in the land of delicious cheeseburgers. Click here. (2/25)

XCOR Gets Engine Test Stand with Midland Lease Amendment (Source: NewsWest 9)
New equipment is in the works for XCOR Aerospace. The company will be receiving a rocket engine test stand. The Midland City Council approved amending an Economic Development agreement with XCOR to provide funding for it. Up to $200,000 will be coming from the midland development corporation for the project. Officials say the test stand will be the airport's property but part of XCOR's lease. It'll be used as part of the research and development operations of the spaceport. (2/24)

Spaceport America Vows to Move Forward (Source: KVIA)
A $1.7 million dollar budget shortfall at Spaceport America emerged after Virgin Galactic's recent flight test tragedy--from canceled flights and special events, including a Lady Gaga concert. Virgin Galactic is building a new launch vehicle while the crash investigation continues. Test flights could begin by summer but the commercial flight timeline is unclear. The facility says it's talking with 5 companies about potential leases.

"We're expanding our business sectors a bit. Besides the space launch area which obviously we're continuing to pursue and talk to a number of people on. Hopefully we'll get another tenant in FY16... We're also looking at drones and new A.V's," Christine Anderson said. A second anchor tenant, SpaceX, says test flights of its reusable rocket will begin in just a few weeks. The spaceport's also booking events and filming commercials. In December, Kawasaki shot a commercial on the 12,000-foot long spaceway. (2/25)

NASA Eyes New Mars Orbiter for 2022 (Source: Space News)
NASA will launch a new telecommunications orbiter to the red planet in 2022 to follow the sample-caching Mars 2020 rover, the agency’s new Mars czar said. This Mars 2022 orbiter may use experimental technologies such as high-power solar-electric propulsion or an optical communications package that could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems, said Jim Watzin, NASA’s Mars exploration program director. (2/25)

Space Florida Among Seed Investors in Ardusat (Source: Prehub)
Ardusat, an education company focused on enhancing student engagement through hands-on experimentation, announced it has secured a total of $1 million in seed funding from Space Florida, Fresco Capital, Spire and other investors. The capital will finance the expansion of Ardusat’s Experiment Platform, which enables K-12 and higher education students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through custom experiments conducted in space or on earth.

“Immersive programs, like the ones Ardusat is implementing, are just what we need in our school system to get more students excited about STEM careers,” said Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello. “It’s critical to engage our next generation of scientists and engineers early on. Providing hands-on opportunities to create and execute experiments in space is a wonderful way to make that happen. We are looking forward to seeing these programs implemented in Florida schools.” (2/25)

Texas County Moves Forward with Space Plan, Appoints Board (Source: Waco Tribune)
Seven people were appointed Tuesday to a board created to bring state funds to McLennan County to encourage local space development. McLennan County commissioners voted to approve the incorporation of an entity — along with its bylaws and board of directors — that officials say will be the third of its kind in the state.

County Judge Scott Felton said grant funding is available from the state to assist in the creation and development of a spaceport, which is an area to be used for spaceflight activities, including research, development, testing and more. SpaceX and its McGregor facilities are involved in spaceflight activities, as is the Texas State Technical College campus, which serves to train and research for spaceflight activities. (2/25)

America’s New Rules for Drones Will Keep Some Businesses Grounded (Source: Economist)
Like driverless cars, pilotless aircraft also promise to be a huge business if regulatory obstacles can be overcome. This week, after years of delay, America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came out with its draft rules for commercial drones. Although not as draconian as some had feared, unmanned aircraft will continue to have their wings clipped.

There had been worries that the FAA would require drones to undergo an expensive and lengthy process to be certified as airworthy, as happens with manned aircraft; and that the person on the ground operating the drone would need a pilot’s licence. Instead, the agency is proposing that drones weighing less than 25kg (55lbs), that are well-maintained and checked before flight, can be flown without certification by operators who have passed a basic aeronautical test.

The drones, however, would have to stay below 500 feet, fly only in daylight and remain in view of their operators at all time. And they could not be flown over people. This is a “good first step”, said the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, a lobby group. It would allow, say, an estate agent to take aerial photographs of a house being put up for sale, or a farmer to survey a crop for signs of disease—and do so for a lot less than hiring a helicopter. But not being allowed to fly over crowds might prevent television companies from filming sporting events with drones. (2/24)

Moon Space Law: Legal Debate Swirls Around Private Lunar Ventures (Source: Space.com)
Without a legal framework, proponents of lunar business say that investors won't develop the financial and technical wherewithal to build industry on the moon. There's need for assurance from the United States government that private-sector activities will be approved and protected when they aim for the moon.

First, Congress needs to revisit the Commercial Space Launch Act and amend it so that the FAA has broader authority between the launch and re-entry phase of future commercial activities. The FAA and Congress need to consider how potential laws like the proposed Asteroid Act will affect the Commercial Space Launch Act and specifically how it will affect international treaty obligations.

Second, the executive branch, specifically the State Department, will need to work with the FAA and Congress to determine how future commercial activities such as Bigelow's will affect not only international treaty obligations but the geopolitical sphere as well. Click here. (2/24)

Russia to Build Its Own Orbital Station After 2024 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia will continue using the International Space Station (ISS) until around 2024 and is planning to build its own orbital outpost using the existing ISS modules, Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said Tuesday. "The configuration of a multi-purpose lab module, a docking module and a scientific-energy module allows us to build an orbital station to ensure Russia's access to outer space," Roscosmos Science and Technology Board said in a statement. (2/24)

Blakey Leaving AIA For Rolls-Royce North America (Source: Aviation Week)
Marion Blakey, the longtime face and voice of U.S. aerospace and defense industry concerns in Washington, is leaving her lobby perch to take over European engine-maker Rolls-Royce’s North American (RRNA) operations. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the company announced the move separately on Feb. 24. She will become CEO and president of RRNA and chair its U.S. board of directors. (2/24)

Reentering Chinese Rocket Sparks North America Fireballs (Source: Discovery)
The third stage of a Chinese rocket, which blasted off in December to put a remote sensing satellite into orbit, returned into the atmosphere in grand fashion Monday night, sparking a family of spectacular fireballs as it incinerated over the western part of North America. (2/24)

Using Jupiter as an Alien World Analog (Source: Discovery)
Owing to its size, fascinating chemistry and system of varied moons, Jupiter is one of the most studied planets in the solar system, though many mysteries remain. But a new study has taken a look at the gas giant from a whole different perspective — as an alien, living far beyond the solar system, would see it. Click here. (2/24)

Next Launch of Angara Heavy Lift Rocket Planned for First Half of 2016 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The next launch of the Angara-A5 heavy lift carrier rocket will be carried out in the first half of 2016, a rocket and space industry source said. "The next Angara flight is scheduled for the first half of 2016," he said. The rocket’s general designer Vladimir Nesterov said previously that the second heavy Angara rocket would be delivered to Russia’s military on late 2015. (2/24)

Despite JWST Progress, A Key Subsystem Faces Delays (Source: Aviation Week)
The $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope program is on track to run a series of environmental tests this summer on key instruments, with plans to begin a final three-month cyro-vacuum test of the JWST’s Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), according to NASA. The program’s ISIM team says it has overcome a series of challenges plaguing all four of the module’s instruments, as well as a cryocooler subsystem that supports the Mid-Infrared Instrument. (2/24)

Defeatism, Cynicism and Mindless Conservatism Didn't Get Us to the Moon (Source: USA Today)
NASA is necessarily risk-averse. The space agency carefully scripts the activities of astronauts, safely planning extravehicular activities and scientific investigations aboard the International Space Station. And that's perfectly appropriate for the times we live in.

These days the big picture — the longer-term benefit to humanity of taking risks to achieve something extraordinary such as Apollo — is rarely what motivates congressional appropriations. Instead, parochialism and near-term thinking determine what Congress authorizes NASA to do.

Settlement of Mars in our lifetime demands a different approach. Mars One sets a clear and audacious goal: a self-sustaining colony on Mars. It has already begun working with traditional aerospace contractors, including Lockheed Martin. However, unlike Apollo, Mars One will use market forces and the ingenuity of the settlers to make it happen. (2/23)

Two UCF Students Among Mars One Finalists (Source: Central Florida Future)
Two UCF students have made it one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars. On Feb. 16, Mars One foundation announced the Mars 100 Round Three candidates to colonize Mars. Among them are UCF students, computer science major Taranjeet Singh Bhatia and Ph.D. physics student George Hatcher. (2/24)

NASA Successfully Launches Three Rockets for DOD (Source: WAVY)
Early Tuesday morning, NASA Wallops Flight Facility successfully launched three Terrier-Oriole suborbital rockets for the Department of Defense. The rockets were launched between 2:30 a.m and 2:31 a.m. from the flight facility on the Eastern Shore. These rocket launches were the first since the Antares rocket launch explosion from Oct. 28, 2014. (2/24)

Virgin Galactic’s Sales Numbers Don’t Add Up (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I’ve been doing a bit of research into Virgin Galactic over the last few days. I’ve come to a realization that the company’s ticket sales and cancellation numbers don’t add up in the wake of SpaceShipTwo’s crash. Prior to the crash, Richard Branson was claiming the company had 800 ticket holders, or close to that number. He reiterated the figure three days after the crash.

So, assuming an even 800 ticket holders, Virgin Galactic would have been left with 778 people still signed up for trips to space [after 24 cancellations, as reported by BetaWired]. Here’s the interesting thing. The number dropped to around 700 by the beginning of 2015. That’s according to NBC's Alan Boyle. So, what could account for such a sharp drop? There are two possibilities. Click here. (2/24)

Editorial: Alaska Spaceport Plays Vital, Growing Role (Source: News Miner)
When the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) was created by the Legislature almost two decades ago, the direction for the company was clear: “... (S)pace-related economic growth, thereby ensuring a stable and dynamic research and business climate by attracting space-related businesses to locate within and utilize the opportunities provided in the state ...” (Alaska Statute 26.27.090)

For 15 years, we were not particularly imaginative and somewhat content having a single Department of Defense military customer dominate launch site activity and revenue creation. That was the aerospace world back then. Today, we steadily are moving forward toward corporate independence, with a goal of operating without a need for state assistance. We are forecasting our place in a dynamic modern aerospace launch market that is building up ultimately to a tempo of launches per week, not launches per year.

Our elected officials are looking for alternatives to just cutting jobs from state government to cover expenses. AAC is engaged in building revenue generation and job creation while it has been reducing its operating costs by $2 million per year, each year, on the way to zero. (2/24)

Like to Chase Space Probes? Track All Active Ones From Moon and Beyond (Source: C/net)
When Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard took a look around space-related Internet sites recently, they discovered something missing. There weren't any sites that provided a comprehensive picture of all the space probes drifting through our solar system. So on Thursday, February 19, the women launched a mission of their own: Spaceprob.es.

The new website delivers the details on 29 active space probes. These, Waldman told me, include any satellite with which we still have communication. To be included on the site, the probe must also be at least as far away as the moon. Earth-orbiting satellites don't count. Click here. (2/24)

2015 to Become Record-Breaking Year for Soyuz-2 Launches (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is planning to conduct 19 launches of Soyuz-2 carrier rockets this year, breaking the record of 14 missions in 2014, the director general of the Yekaterinburg-based manufacturer of equipment for the space-rocket hardware said on Tuesday. (2/24)

Could Ionized Gas Do A Better Job of Sterilizing Spacecraft? (Source: Astrobiology)
Earth’s microbes are a hardy bunch. They can survive in extreme environments, such as inside hot springs at the bottom of the ocean. Some have even remained alive despite being exposed to the ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, extreme low temperatures, and vacuum of space. This is why planetary protection advocates are so concerned about our exploration of other planets in the Solar System.

Concerns about the contamination of the icy moon Europa, for example, prompted controllers of the Galileo mission to crash the spacecraft into Jupiter in 2003 so that microbes wouldn’t accidentally take seed on what could be a habitable moon. Despite the best efforts of spacecraft cleaners, some microbes seem to survive conventional cleaning processes. This is why a new method is emerging that uses ionized gas to kill the microbes.

“Plasma sterilization is a process not only compatible with modern spacecraft, but it also enables successful removal and inactivation of most resistant microbial species isolated in spacecraft assembly facilities,” wrote Moeller. “The method is very fast. Full spore inactivation of 100 million of bacterial spores was achieved in five minutes, even with spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, which encounters the highest resistance to UV radiation and further sterilization methods,” wrote Katharina Stapelmann. (2/24)

Spaceport to be Discussed at Meeting in Clear Lake on March 3 (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Residents and business owners in Clear Lake and southeast Houston will have a chance to voice concerns about such projects as a spaceport at Ellington Field, at a joint Capital Improvement Project meeting on Tuesday, March 3.

The development of a Houston Spaceport at Ellington Field would serve as an economic generator for the city and enhance the region's position a key player in the aerospace industry. The key to the spaceport's success is securing continued funding at the state level, said Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. (2/24)

Let’s Go Back to the Moon. No, Mars. No, the Moon. The Debate Continues. (Source: Washington Post)
To the moon again? Or Mars? The questions have hung over NASA for years, and emerged again at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. Under President George W. Bush, the target was the moon. Under Obama, who said “we’ve been there before,” Mars became the mission.

But now as his term nears its end, there is some increasingly vocal criticism of that decision, saying there isn’t the funding or political will to get to Mars. Focusing on Mars is a “flawed policy direction,” said Scott Pace. The moon, he says, “is the next logical target for all of our potential international partners.”

Russia has endorsed sending astronauts there, he said. China sent an unmanned rover to the moon, and unveiled designs for a new heavy rocket for deep space exploration. It even has plans to build its own space station. “Growing space powers such as the Republic of Korea and India have their own unmanned lunar ambitions,” Pace said, while adding that the private sector has also made huge advancements. Click here. (2/24)

This Astronaut Wants to Fly You to Space (Source: Huffington Post)
Becoming an astronaut is easily the dream of many but sometimes that's all it ever is -- a dream. For Leland Melvin, who happens to be the 13th African American astronaut, that all became a reality through patience, hard work, and a knack for problem solving. About 14 years after Melvin joined NASA, he flew two missions on the Space Shuttle Atlantis -- first as a mission specialist in February 2008 and then as a mission specialist 1 the following year. Click here. (2/24)

Aerojet Rocketdyne to Research Next Generation Green Propellants (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded a contract to research and develop environmentally sustainable monopropellants and gas generators for rocket and missile propulsion and Divert Attitude Control Systems.
The company is working with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base; and the U.S. Army Medical Command to develop a new family of high-performing liquid propellants. The effort is funded through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, an office of the Department of Defense. (2/24)

Cruz Wants the U.S. to Embrace Space (Source: Bellingham Herald)
Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz ran his first subcommittee hearing today as a surprisingly bipartisan lovefest on space exploration. “As chairman, my first priority for the space portion of the subcommittee is helping NASA refocus its priorities,” said Cruz in his opening remarks. “It is imperative that America has the ability to get to the International Space Station without the assistance of the Russians.”

As Cruz spoke, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who was seated next to Cruz, smiled and nodded. Nelson then said, “Blossoms are breaking out all over Washington. What you just said – you and I completely agree on.” Cruz nodded his head often when Nelson spoke, too, about the need for commercial development of space travel. The Florida senator said the subcommittee had always been “non-partisan.” (2/24)

Harris CapRock Touts Maritime Service That Automatically Switches to Best Network (Source: Space News)
Managed telecommunications solutions provider Harris CapRock has put together a new maritime service that company officials say will keep users connected by automatically switching them to the best available network, satellite or terrestrial, at any given location. (2/24)

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