February 3, 2015

Republicans Reject Obama's $4 Trillion Budget (Source: AFP)
Republicans in control of Congress summarily rejected US President Barack Obama's $4 trillion budget Monday, accusing him of "shamelessly pandering" to Democrats ahead of the 2016 election. The ink was barely dry on Obama's proposal -- which would bypass mandatory spending caps and post a $474 billion deficit -- before Republicans came out en masse to make clear it will not become law. (2/3)

The FAA: Regulating Business on the Moon (Source: GMA)
The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon. According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches. The FAA, in a letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said it intends to “leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.”
 
In other words, experts said, Bigelow could set up one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and expect to have exclusive rights to that territory - as well as related areas that might be tapped for mining, exploration and other activities. However, the FAA letter noted a concern flagged by the U.S. State Department that “the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon.

“We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon. We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications,” said the FAA letter’s author, George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Transportation. (2/3)

Hunting For Big Planets Far Beyond Pluto May Soon Be Easier (Source: NPR)
On a mountaintop in Chile, excavators have just started work on a construction site. It will soon be home to a powerful new telescope that will have a good shot at finding the mysterious Planet X, if it exists. "Planet X is kind of a catchall name given to any speculation about an unseen companion orbiting the sun," says Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Penn State University.

For more than a century, scientists have observed various things that they thought could be explained by the presence of an unknown planet lurking at the edge of our solar system. "There's a huge volume of space in the outer solar system," says Luhman. "We know almost nothing about what might be out there." Click here. (2/3)

SpaceX Vendor Fairs Slated for Texas Spaceport Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Rio Grande Valley companies will have a chance to pitch their products and services to SpaceX at two vendor fairs the space cargo company has scheduled for this month. The first is planned for 9 a.m. on Feb. 24, at the Brownsville Event Center. The second will take place at 9 a.m. Feb. 25, at the McAllen Convention Center.
SpaceX is looking for select products and services from RGV vendors relevant to its core business. (2/2)

Stennis Space Center on Front Lines of Space Exploration Efforts (Source: WDSU)
The future of space exploration is happening right in our backyard. NASA officials at Stennis Space Center explained how the facility is on the front lines of space discovery. Click here. (2/2)

Budget Proposal Would Keep NASA in Alabama Stable in 2016 (Source: Huntsville Times)
Marshall Space Flight Center's director said Monday that the new 2016 NASA budget proposed by the White House Monday will, if passed by Congress, leave his center "on a solid footing" with "no major program cancellations, no staff reductions or contractor layoffs."

Marshall Director Patrick Scheuermann also said Marshall will deliver the first Space Launch System rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in time for a scheduled launch early in 2018. "The answer is yes," Scheuermann said, "and I'm really proud of the workforce we have."

Marshall is involved in more than the propulsion systems it is best known for. The center manages science experiments on the International Space Station and is testing new composite-material fuel tanks, among other things. Scheuermann said NASA has 2,400 civil service employees in Huntsville and employs another 3,600 contractors for a total employment of about 6,000. Its annual budget is about $2.2 billion. (2/3)

Iranian Satellite Serves No Military Purpose (Source: IRNA)
The domestically-made Fajr (Dawn) satellite serves no military purpose, an official said. Director of space projects at Iran Electronics Industries Company Mehdi Sarvi told IRNA that Fajr satellite which was successfully placed into orbit by Safir satellite carrier, serves no military purpose and could be used in the fields of shipping, sea, road, agricultural and meteorological. (2/3)

Virgin Galactic Continues March Toward Space Tourism (Source: MacLean's)
In the four years since its completion, however, the runway has seen little use. No constant roar of jet engines. No screeches from landing gear. Just promises, year after year, that it would shuttle paying passengers to the edges of Earth.

Virgin Galactic had proclaimed 2015 was finally going to be the year. That was until the company’s rocket-powered spacecraft broke apart over California’s Mojave Desert during a test flight last fall, killing one pilot and igniting speculation about the future of commercial space tourism and Spaceport America. Click here. (2/3)

Exelis Wins Range Contract Extension for Launch Range Work (Source: DOD)
Exelis Systems at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, has been awarded an $11,817,799 contract modification to provide launch and test range systems support functions for the Eastern and Western Range. Work will be performed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and is expected to be complete by March 31, 2015. (1/30)

Space Coast Firm Wins California Launch Facility Support Work (Source: DOD)
Call Henry Inc., of Titusville, Florida, has been awarded a $10,400,000 contract modification for launch facility operations support. The company will provide management and support, maintenance and repair, operations and other services, including minor alterations. Work will be performed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2016. (1/14)

Students Selected for Winning Designs of 3-D Printed Tools for Astronauts (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After three months of designing and modeling, a panel of judges from NASA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation (ASME) and Made In Space Inc. have selected the winners of the Future Engineers 3-D Printing in Space Tool Challenge. The winner from the Teen Group is a Multipurpose Precision Maintenance Tool that Robert Hillan of Alabama designed. The winner of the Junior Group is a Space Planter that Sydney Vernon from Bellevue, Washington, designed. (2/2)

Space, the Final Startup (Source: Newsweek)
No venture capitalist is crazier about outer space than Steve Jurvetson, who has been listening to unrealistic space company pitches for two decades. In the early 2000s, he helped back SpaceX. But mostly he’s impatiently waited for space to turn into Silicon Valley’s next playground—the kind of pulse-quickening, virgin land of hope and opportunity that the Internet once was. Click here. (2/2)

Twelve Questions: Jim Kennedy (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Jim Kennedy, former director of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, saw Apollo 11 leave for its moon landing, then spent almost 40 years with NASA. The retiree now travels, speaking on leadership. Click here for the Q&A (2/2)

Orion Test Schedule at NASA Plum Brook Revealed (Source: Sandusky Register)
The road to Mars runs through Erie County. Before NASA officials steer sophisticated spacecraft toward the Red Planet, they must make several pit stops. Next up: The NASA Plum Brook Station. This year at the world-class testing facility, engineers are scheduled to perform several tests on Orion, the manned-spacecraft mission aiming to carry astronauts into deep space. Click here. (2/2)

NASA Takes a Shot at Buzz Aldrin, or Me, or Both of Us (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden took a shot at those who believe NASA is “adrift.” Here are the relevant lines from the speech: "Some have said that NASA is adrift. If you look at everything I talked about today – at the spacecraft of the future behind me and the concrete plans in development for human and robotic exploration in cis-lunar space and beyond."

"If you visit our various NASA and commercial manufacturing facilities where work is ongoing for our future such as Michoud, here at KSC, in Utah, Texas or California. If you travel the world, as I regularly do, and see the enthusiasm I see for NASA everywhere I go, or interact with, as I do regularly, the tens of thousands of students around the world from elementary through graduate school who are excited about the dream of one day traveling into space and visiting Mars, I think you’ll come to a different conclusion."

Buzz Aldrin said of NASA, “I believe that we are — in other people’s terminology — adrift right now.” Overall, today’s budget is good news for NASA and its employees, but the fundamental problem for the space agency remains the fact that it is being given a lot of money to build very expensive tools — the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket — but no money to use those tools for meaningful exploration missions. Until this problem is solved I — and a lot of people in the aerospace community — will continue to believe NASA is adrift. (2/2)

How Spaceflight Ages the Immune System Prematurely (Source: SpaceRef)
As the world waits to see if Mars One can establish a human colony on Mars, scientists are working to determine the long-term consequences of living in low or no-gravity conditions, such as those that might exist on the trip to another planet. New research shows that spaceflight may be associated with a process of accelerated aging of the immune system.

Specifically, researchers found that mice in low gravity conditions experience changes in B lymphocyte production in their bone marrow similar to those observed in elderly mice living in Earth conditions. "This study shows that a model of spaceflight conditions could not only be used to test the efficacy of molecules to improve immune responses following a spaceflight in astronauts, but also in the elderly and bed-ridden populations on Earth," said Jean-Pol Frippiat. (2/2)

White House Proposes $18.5 Billion Budget for NASA (Source: Space News)
The White House is seeking $18.5 billion for NASA in its fiscal year 2016 budget proposal released Feb. 2, including “immediate initiation” of a new Landsat spacecraft and a formal start of a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but could result in the termination of two long-running planetary science missions.

The overall budget request of $18.529 billion represents a $519 million increase from 2015, when NASA received $18.01 billion. That increase is spread across most agency programs except for aeronautics and education, which would be decreased compared to the fiscal year 2015 funding approved by Congress. Click here. (2/2)

NASA’s Budget Request Boosts Commercial Crew (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is asking for $500 million more in fiscal 2016 than it received from Congress last year to try to meet its many obligations, from delivering crews to the International Space Station on private vehicles developed with public funds to restarting the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) it defunded last year to the consternation of its German partners.

The agency seeks $1.2 billion for the push to complete and fly the commercial crew capsules that Boeing and SpaceX are developing to deliver astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS. "They’re not things on paper anymore," said Administrator Charles Bolden on Feb. 2, delivering a "state of the agency" speech to employees at Kennedy Space Center before versions of the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Dragon. "This is tangible evidence of all the work you all have been doing for a number of years now." (2/2)

NASA Hails Spending Boost Under Obama Budget Proposal (Source: Space Daily)
NASA on Monday hailed a proposal by President Barack Obama to boost spending for the US space agency and announced plans for a mission to explore Jupiter's moon, Europa. The agency's administrator, Charles Bolden, said at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that NASA has made strides in the journey toward Mars -- where a human mission is planned for 2024 -- with a "near-flawless" flight test of its new Orion deep space vehicle.

Although Obama's overall $4 trillion US budget plan faces an uphill climb through Republican-controlled Congress, support for the space agency tends to reach across bipartisan lines. Bolden said key areas of focus for NASA are continuing to prepare a manned mission to Mars, as well as developing advanced solar electric propulsion systems needed for an asteroid redirect mission.

"We have identified several asteroids that could be good candidates and will make a decision soon on a capture option." Bolden also touched on a new mission in the works for Jupiter, but gave few details. "Looking to the future, we're planning a mission to explore Jupiter's fascinating moon Europa, selecting instruments this spring and moving toward the next phase of our work." (2/2)

State of NASA Delivered at Kennedy Space Center (Source: WKMG)
Standing in front of what he called tangible proof of NASA's hard work in space exploration, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden delivered the annual State of NASA Monday afternoon from Kennedy Space Center. During the more than 30-minute-long speech, Bolden announced an $18.5 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, which is a half-billion dollars more than last year's.

"I can unequivocally say that the state of NASA is strong," said Bolden. Of that $18.5 billion budget, $2.5 billion focuses on projects at Kennedy Space Center, including the commercial crew program. Also still funded was NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, which is a controversial mission to one day put astronauts on an asteroid. (2/2)

NASA Does About-Face on SOFIA, Requests Full Funding (Source: Space News)
About a year after it proposed grounding the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the White House asked Congress to increase the budget for the telescope-equipped 747 aircraft. As part of the 2016 budget request it released Feb. 2, NASA is seeking some $85 million for SOFIA, which would more than fully restore the roughly 20 percent cut the mission absorbed in 2015 as part of the omnibus spending bill signed in December (when Congress refused to go along with the White House’s plan to ground the mission). (2/2)

5 Favorite Super Bowl Commercials with a Space Twist (Source: Space.com)
Even the Super Bowl had something for space fans. Quite a few advertisers used the glory of outer space to their advantage last night (Feb. 1) during the big game. In an ad for Doritos, for example, a kid figures out a particularly inventive way to make a pig fly: strapping it to a rocket. Click here. (2/2)

NASA May Ax Long-Lived Mars Rover Opportunity Mission Next Year (Source: Space.com)
NASA's long-lived Mars rover Opportunity mission is poised to lose its funding in 2016, but that financial future is not etched in stone, space agency officials say. The White House unveiled its proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2016 on Feb. 2, and it does not include money for Opportunity, according to NASA budget documents. That seemingly signals the impending end of a mission that has been exploring Mars for more than 11 years. (2/2)

Hubble Space Telescope Could Survive Through 2020, Scientists Say (Source: Space.com)
Scientists working with the long-lived Hubble Space Telescope say that the intrepid eye on the sky could continue functioning through 2020, and even beyond. Hubble is currently in good shape. The instruments repaired during the last Hubble servicing mission in 2009 have operated longer since the repairs than they did with the original hardware, said Kenneth Sembach of the Space Telescope Science Institute. (2/2)

Lava Could Have Preserved the Origins of Life on the Moon (Source: New Scientist)
Fossils on the moon may be our best bet for discovering the origins of life in our solar system. New experiments suggest that if the precursors to life arrived on Earth encased in a comet or asteroid, the moon could have preserved a record of it, despite being covered in lava at the time.

The simplest forms of life appeared on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago, but scientists still have no idea how. Since that crucial time, Earth's tectonic forces have destroyed almost all the rocks that might have kept records of the beginnings of life. "Both geology and life are efficient recyclers and hinder preservation," says Mark Sephton. (2/2)

Looking for Microbes on Mars (Source: Cosmos)
Scientists are fossicking in our planet's most unearthly places to practice searching for life on Mars. Click here. (1/29)

Japan Boosts Space Spending In Support of Security Focus (Source: Space News)
In support of a new space policy that places security as top priority for the next decade, Japan’s Finance Ministry has approved a combined space budget of 324.5 billion yen ($2.75 billion) for fiscal year 2015, an 18.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year that ends March 30. The budget, which encompasses the space activity of 11 government ministries, includes sharp rises for two national security-related projects, according to budget documents released Jan. 26 by the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP). (2/2)

Three Atlas 5, Delta 4 Assigned to Military Launches (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Three rockets under the existing Block Buy between the Pentagon and United Launch Alliance have been assigned configurations and payloads. The $382.9 million, fixed-price contract awarded last week covers a Delta 4 rocket and two Atlas 5 vehicles that will launch in the next two years. (2/2)

Russia’s Millimetron Space Observatory to be Launched in 2025 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia’s Millimetron space observatory, aimed at solving “fundamental astrophysical problems”, will be launched into orbit in 2025, Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said. “It is expected that Millimetron will be launched into orbit in 2025, to the L2 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from our planet,” Roscosmos said in a statement Monday. (2/3)

Russian Space Agency Suspends Dnepr Rocket Project (Source: Itar-Tass)
The launches of Russian-Ukrainian conversion-based Dnepr carrier rockers within the Cosmotras international program have been suspended, Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Monday. "Now the project for the launch of Dnepr carrier rockets has been suspended. The prospects of this program will be determined later," Roscosmos said. –°osmotras declined to comment on the statement. (2/2)

Wallops Island Spaceport to Get New Fire Station (Source NASA)
NASA/GSFC plans to issue an Invitation for Bids (IFB) for the construction of a new Wallops Island Fire Station at Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Wallops Island, Virginia. This acquisition will result in a single fixed price construction contract. The order of magnitude for the procurement is $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 and the effort shall be completed within 450 days after notice to proceed. A bid guarantee, performance bond and payment bond will be required. (2/2)

SpaceX Targets Sunday Launch; With Booster Landing (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is targeting a 6:10 p.m. launch on Sunday of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The mission is a collaboration between NASA, the Air Force and NOAA. After launch, SpaceX again will try to land the Falcon 9 rocket booster an ocean platform. The first try last month resulted in the rocket hitting the "autonomous spaceport drone ship" with a fiery crash that did not cause extensive damage. (2/2)

China Eyes Second Place for Number of Interplanetary Missions After 2020 (Source: Itar-Tass)
China could take the second place in the world after the United States for the number of interplanetary unmanned missions after 2020 if it manages to implement just a part of its ambitious plans in this sphere, a Russian expert said on Monday. (2/2)

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