February 5, 2015

From Mercury to Pluto: the Year Ahead in Planetary Exploration (Source: The Conversation)
2015 is already shaping up to be a big year in astronomy and planetary exploration, with the best yet to come. Here are some highlights to keep your eye on throughout the year. Click here. (2/4)

SHAR Plans to Launch 180 Micro Satellites (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
Talking about ISRO launching the Sky Box satellite for Google, Shar director Dr M.Y.S. Prasad said that Sky Box Imaging had approached them to launch one of its satellites and had also informed that they had plans to place 180 micro satellites in orbit.

“They may launch one or two experimental satellites before going ahead with their agenda. Although they want to us to launch a single satellite now, there is good potential for the future. This is the first US-based satellite being launched by ISRO,” Dr Prasad said. (2/5)

UAE Space Agency Explores Areas of Coordination with Europe (Source: Zawya)
 A high level delegation led by HE Dr Khalifa Mohammed Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency board and the agency's Director General, HE Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi visited key stakeholders within the space sector in several European countries. The meetings aimed to strengthen the framework of cooperation and partnership between the UAE Space Agency and important stakeholdersacross Europe. (2/4)

Virginia Spaceport Awaiting Federal Funding to Make Repairs (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Repairs on the damaged Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport may have to halt in two weeks unless money arrives from a federal spending bill approved by Congress late last year. Dale K. Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, told a legislative subcommittee he is “about two weeks away from getting to the point we can’t go further” in repairing damage at the spaceport from the Oct. 28 Antares explosion.

“We really can’t go and finish without funding,” Nash told the Senate Finance transportation subcommittee. The delay is tied to carrying out the omnibus federal spending bill’s $20 million appropriation for NASA to ensure that the money goes to repair of the spaceport, which operates at the national space agency’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. (2/4)

Senator Wants Sally Ride Statue at U.S. Capitol (Source: Press-Telegram)
State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, announced today that he has introduced a measure to honor the late astronaut Sally Ride by adding a statue of her likeness to the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. “Dr. Sally Ride is a California native, American hero and stratospheric trailblazer who devoted her life to pushing the limits of space and inspiring young girls to succeed in math and science careers,” Lara said in a statement.

Each state is allowed to be represented by two historic figures in at National Statuary Hall. California is currently represented by Spanish missionary Junipero Serra and former President Ronald Reagan. Lara has proposed to place a statue of Ride in Serra’s place. (2/4)

California Town Supports $300M Visitor Center Near Vandenberg Spaceport (Source: Lompoc Record)
The Lompoc City Council agreed to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with a group planning to build a $300 million educational space center on city land. City staff recommended against approving the project because they said the application did not meet its qualification criteria.

The chief concern that staff had was that the space center proposal omitted significant information including: financial statements, identification of the development team, a list of partners that might provide equity including percentages, a list of prior partners and letters of support showing commitment to the project.

Eva Blaisdell, who submitted the proposal, said her project has huge potential for the city, and pointed to the recent NASA satellite launch from Vandenberg Village as an example of a lost opportunity. “You lost revenues there because no one was here,” she said. Blaisdell said that those type of launches could translate to opportunities when her Space Center is built, as it will bring in numerous visitors. (2/4)

Wallops Group Emphasizes Non-Military Attractions (Source: DPR)
There’s been a name change for a group supporting the development of the Wallops Flight Facility. The business group is now called the Wallops Island Regional Alliances. That’s a shift from the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance. Chairman of the organization Peter Bale said the group wanted to move away from the emphasis on the military applications.

The flight facility has placed more emphasis on private commercial rocket launches. A recent study found that the economic benefits of the NASA facility to have been more than $248 million in Virginia last year. (2/4)

DOD Budget Request Ups Competition for Fewer Dollars in Space Projects (Source: Via Satellite)
In the recently released budget request for FY2016, the Department of Defense asked for $177.5 billion, of which $7.1 billion would be allocated specifically to space-based systems. This is approximately $300 million less than what was granted in FY15 for space-based systems funding. However, while lowering the amount requested, DOD is increasing its focus on space industry competition, specifically with the Global Positioning System 3 (GPS 3) satellite program and with launches. (2/4)

Texas Town Finalizing Incentive Grant to ULA (Source: Valley Morning Star)
The City Commission on Wednesday gave the nod to a proposed economic development agreement with United Launch Alliance, which is expected to be executed soon. The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors and the Valley International Airport Board of Directors also will be voting on the proposed incentive package to ULA. ULA is located on property that it leases from the city near Valley International Airport.

The proposed incentive package is referred to as a 380 Agreement, which according to the state, is allowed by Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code. It authorizes cities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development. The state statute provides for offering loans and grants of city funds or services at little or no cost to promote state and local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity. The details of the proposed agreement will not be released until all the parties to it, including ULA, sign off on it. (2/4)

Lunar Lunacy (Source: The Economist)
The law, you might think, is quite clear. The Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 by America, among others, says that the Moon “is not subject to national appropriation”. But, as any creative lawyer will tell you, the fees are in the loopholes. And a loophole is what Bigelow Aerospace’s lawyers believe they have found. Appropriation and ownership are not the same as exploitation. No one, for example, owns the oceans, but many exploit them.

The firm has its eye on the Moon, however, and seems, according to plans it has submitted to NASA, to think $12 billion will be enough to put a base there by the 2020s. Presumably a Moon base would not, of itself, count as appropriation. But even if $12 billion is a realistic estimate of the cost, which many doubt, it is a lot of cash for a holiday camp. So Bigelow would like to be able to mine stuff when it gets there. It thus applied to the FAA, which regulates America’s nascent private space industry, for a “payload review” that would permit it to do so.

Michael Gold, Bigelow’s director of “operations and business growth”, likens the agency’s decision to the Homestead Act, a law that let American settlers take ownership of land appropriated from native American tribes by occupying and farming it for five years. Click here. (2/5)

Super Sizing NASA's Pegasus Ship for SLS Core Transport (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The famous Pegasus Barge is deep into its jumboization phase, as work continues to prepare it for a role in transporting the massive Space Launch System (SLS) stages from their birth place the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF). The upgraded Pegasus is set to transport the first major SLS hardware from New Orleans to the Stennis Space Center for testing as early as next year.

Pegasus was specially designed and built for Shuttle External Tanks (ETs), making the 900 mile trip 41 times between 1999 and 2011. Its final role in Shuttle support operations came via the shipping of the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) ground support equipment to Stennis from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Pegasus was then mothballed at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in 2011.

At 260 feet long, 50 feet wide and 15 feet high Pegasus simply isn’t large enough for the role of transporting the large core stages of the SLS. “Modifications were needed to the barge due to the sheer size of the SLS – which is more than 50 feet taller than the shuttle." (2/4)

Scientists Predict Earth-Like Planets Around Most Stars (Source: ANU)
Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life. The new research, led by PhD student Tim Bovaird and Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver from The Australian National University (ANU), made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea to the thousands of exo-planets discovered by the Kepler space telescope.

They found the standard star has about two planets in the so-called goldilocks zone, the distance from the star where liquid water, crucial for life, can exist. “The ingredients for life are plentiful, and we now know that habitable environments are plentiful,” said Associate Professor Lineweaver. (2/4)

17 Space Questions Posed to Ash Carter by Senate Panel (Source: Space News)
As part of his Senate confirmation process, Ashton Carter — President Obama’s pick to be the next U.S. secretary of defense — submitted written answers to 328 questions, including 17 about space. The questions — and Carter’s 91-pages of answers — were posted on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s website as Carter’s confirmation hearing got underway Feb. 4. Click here. (2/4)

Russian Satellite Comes Back to Life After Unknown Glitch (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s space satellite Express-AM33 has come back to life. "At 15:00 on February 4 the Satellite Communications state enterprise and the Reshetnev Company "Information Satellite Systems" managed to fully restore the operation of the Express-AM33 satellite and resume communication and broadcasting services provided on its basis," the press-service said.

Earlier, a source in the space rocket industry told TASS an unidentified glitch had upset the satellite’s operation. Express-AM33 was put in orbit in January 2008 and went operational in April 2008. According to information available from open sources, the satellite is a joint product of the Reshetnev Company "Information Satellite Systems" and Thales Alenia Space. (2/4)

At Wallops, a Growing Financial Impact that Resonates (Source: 13News Now)
A group of business leaders who support the missions of Wallops-area agencies is changing its name after more than a decade. The change is one telling detail from a year that saw significant strides in business activity in the Wallops area in northern Accomack County.

The name change — from the Eastern Shore Defense Alliance to the Wallops Island Regional Alliance — came about in January at a standing-room-only meeting. "The board decided we'd outgrown the defense alliance (name). We are really representing regional interests," said Chairman Peter Bale, a leader in the unmanned aerial systems industry and senior vice President of SRS GRP. (2/3)

Virgin's Launcher One Snatches World's Biggest Satellite Launch Deal (Source: E&T)
The not yet fully developed Virgin Galactic’s rocket Launcher One has snatched the world’s most ambitious satellite launch deal after the company’s CEO Sir Richard Branson stepped in as the principal investor of the planned world’s largest satellite network. The OneWeb satellite constellation, proposed by O3b Networks founder Greg Wyler, would consist of nearly 650 low-weight, low Earth orbit satellites providing high-speed Internet connectivity directly to users in remote areas.

As part of the deal, Virgin has taken on what may become the world’s most ambitious satellite launch job. The company’s not yet fully developed LauncherOne has been announced as the number one launch vehicle for the constellation. OneWeb was previously rumoured to be in talks with SpaceX to do the job with its well-proven Falcon 9. (1/16)

The NASA Diet: It's Food, but Not as We Know It (Source: CNN)
Around 400 kilometers above the Earth's surface, the International Space Station continues its orbit of the planet. Since the first crew arrived in November 2000, more than 200 astronauts from 15 different countries have visited the ISS. At its core, it's a floating lab, where for six months at a time six crew members work, exercise, sleep -- and eat.

Providing NASA astronauts with a nutritious diet is the job of food scientists at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston. There, Maya Cooper is part of the team responsible for about 40% of the food sent to the astronauts. She says her team tries to strike a delicate balance between providing home comforts and healthy food. Click here. (2/4)

Indian Space Applications Lack User Connect (Source: The Hindu)
India has done a lot to utilize space applications, the DRDO has the technology, but somehow this is not available to the soldier on the field, Prof. MGK Menon said. We as engineers have not done enough for the security of the country. Take the example of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, our best commando forces did not have the gadgets while the terrorists had satellite phones and were happily monitoring our television to get the latest update, the result is history, we lost some fine officers, Mr. Goel said. (2/3)

Huckabee in Huntsville Supports NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
Sounding like a presidential candidate on the campaign trail, Mike Huckabee hit perhaps the right notes during a brief press conference in Huntsville on Tuesday night. Considering a run to win the Republican nomination for the White House in 2016, the former Arkansas governor said he supported NASA, opposed gay marriage and criticized the economic policies of President Obama.

As for NASA, Huckabee said the benefits have gone beyond advances in space exploration. "Because of the advances that were originally made necessary by the miniaturization and optimization because of the space program," Huckabee said, "we now have technology that every day saves our lives in hospitals, improves our lives in the way we live and how convenient we can live." (2/3)

The Paradoxes That Threaten To Tear Modern Cosmology Apart (Source: 2/3)
Revolutions in science often come from the study of seemingly unresolvable paradoxes. An intense focus on these paradoxes, and their eventual resolution, is a process that has leads to many important breakthroughs. So an interesting exercise is to list the paradoxes associated with current ideas in science. It’s just possible that these paradoxes will lead to the next generation of ideas about the universe. Click here. (2/3)

Export Licensing of Space Systems (Source: LaunchSpace)
The export of U.S. space systems is governed by the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). On May 13, 2014, DDTC and BIS issued interim final rules that transfer export controls on certain space systems, including commercial communication satellites, remote sensing satellites and planetary probes and rovers.

This transfer would be from DDTC to BIS, but strict end-use controls would remain on the transfer of these items to certain countries. The purpose of this change is intended to improve the global competitive position of the U.S. satellite industry. The transition effective date was November 10, 2014, with exceptions for certain radiation-hardened chips with licensing by the Commerce Department starting in mid-2014. (2/4)

McCain: Air Force “Actively Keeping Out” SpaceX (Source: Space News)
U.S. Sen. John McCain opened Ashton Carter’s confirmation hearing Wednesday morning (Feb. 4) with a list of complaints about wasteful Pentagon spending, including accusing the Air Force of “actively keeping” SpaceX out of the national security launch market.

“The cost of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle has exploded from around $100 million per launch to $400 million per launch over the last 15 years after the Air Force allowed years of sole-source contracts while, especially over the last few months, actively keeping out any other companies from competing,” the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman told Carter, President Obama’s choice to succeed Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

“Hopefully this year we will see the Air Force certify a new entrant, and this competition can finally bring down costs and end our reliance on Russian rocket engines,” McCain said in his opening statement. Although McCain did not mention SpaceX by name, there can be little doubt who he was talking about. (2/4)

First SpaceX Dragon Capsule to ISS on Display at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The first SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to visit the International Space Station is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex this weekend. SpaceX made history in May 2012 when it launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule to the ISS on a resupply mission for NASA. That capsule is available for public viewing at the Visitor Complex from Friday of this week to Monday, Feb. 9. (2/4)

Three Dnepr Launches Due in 2015 Despite Program Suspension (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Cosmotras international program will fulfill its contract obligations with regard to launches of the Dnepr carrier rockets with foreign-owned spacecraft, said the program's CEO Alexander Serkin. Serkin said preparations are being made for launching South Korea's Kompsat-3A satellite that is due in March. According to him, two more launches are planned this year, and the program's partners have nothing to fear as all obligations will be met. (2/3)

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