February 6, 2015

Anonymous Survey on Spaceport Competitiveness (Source: SPACErePORT)
Are the impediments that gave the Cape a bad reputation in the 1990s still problems today? SPACEePORT is conducting a brief anonymous survey on factors affecting launch industry competitiveness. Do you have a few minutes to answer 10 survey questions? Your participation would be appreciated. Click here. (2/6)

NASA Strategy Will Narrow Aeronautics Focus Over Time (Source: Aviaiton Week)
Any discussion of NASA’s aeronautics research cannot avoid confronting the defining fact: its level of funding. The $571 million sought for aeronautics in 2016 is barely 3% of NASA’s total $18.5 billion budget request, and minuscule next to the $72 billion in 2014 sales by the U.S. civil aircraft industry it is supposed to support. (2/5)

Probe's Views of Ceres Add to Mystery of White Spots (Source: NBC)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is snapping increasingly detailed pictures of the dwarf planet Ceres as it zooms in for next month's rendezvous, but so far the images have only heightened the mystery surrounding bright spots on the surface. The pictures released Thursday show that Ceres — the largest asteroid as well as the closest and smallest known dwarf planet — is pockmarked by craters.

The craters are to be expected: The 590-mile-wide (950-kilometer-wide) mini-world has been pummeled for billions of years by other objects in the asteroid belt. But the white spots? They're a real puzzle.

One spot in particular has shown up prominently in pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope and from Dawn, which was launched back in 2007 to study Ceres and its sister asteroid Vesta. The latest pictures, taken on Wednesday from a distance of about 90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers), appear to show still more bright blips on Ceres. Are they patches of light material or ice at the bottom of craters? Or frost on the top of prominences? (2/5)

NASA Awards Flame Trench Construction Contract at Kennedy Space Center (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to J. P. Donovan Construction of Rockledge, Florida, to construct a new flame deflector and refurbish the flame trench at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use in future launches of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The firm-fixed price contract with two options begins Feb. 5. It has a maximum value of $24.9 million with a potential performance period of approximately one and a half years. (2/5)

Spacecraft Propellant Tank Lands On Brazilian Farm (Source: Aviation Week)
A newspaper in Campo Grande Brazil has reported the Dec. 28 reentry of a piece of space junk that landed on a farm in Santa Rita do Pardo, a town of about 7,000 people in the west-central region of the country. The object, which the Brazilian Space Agency later identified as a spacecraft propellant tank, measures 1.7 meters tall and weighs 50 lbs. It fell 50 meters from a house.

The space agency said it's not clear whether the tank belongs to a satellite or a launch vehicle. It looks a bit like the fuel tanks on the Falcon 9 and Delta 4 Heavy upper stages – both of which launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in December. (2/6)

Space & Rocket Center CEO Barnhart Wins Award (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO Deborah Barnhart was presented the Honeywell Hometown Heroes Award last week during the center's Inventors' Ball in Huntsville. Barnhart, a Huntsville native and graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, rose to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Navy. Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Barnhart to the Alabama Spaceport Authority Advisory Task Force earlier this year. (2/5)

Gore-Backed Satellite Sparked '90s Political Fight (Source: Florida Today)
With the new millennium approaching, then-Vice President Al Gore proposed a small satellite whose view of the entire Earth would be shared on the Internet and help inspire a new generation to protect the planet. More than 15 years later, the spacecraft born from Gore's vision has emerged from a decade exiled in storage with a new name and mission, and is poised to shed its partisan history with a sunset launch Sunday from Cape Canaveral.

"This is probably one of the more unusual stories of a NASA science mission," said Dave Weldon of Indialantic, a former Republican congressman who was an opponent of the mission critics once mocked as "GoreSat." The former vice president is expected to attend the planned 6:10 p.m. Sunday blastoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the mission he named Triana. (2/6)

SLS/Orion Launch Cadence Poses Safety Risks (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) believes the projected low flight rates of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle will create significant safety challenges for the space agency. The independent safety group also raised questions about the safety of flying astronauts on the system in 2021.

“The ASAP and the Agency remain concerned about risks introduced in the currently scheduled frequency of SLS/Orion launches, ” according to ASAP’s 2014 Annual Report. “The plan indicates a launch about every 2 to 4 years. This would challenge ground crew competency. The skills, procedures, and knowledge of conducting the launch, mission, and recovery are perishable. (2/6)

UK's Fast-Track Space Mission to Study Exoplanet Atmospheres (Source: SEN)
Within four years the UK could launch a mission that might peer into the atmospheres of extrasolar planets—planets that reside in solar systems other than our own—and tell us about their chemistry. A workshop on the mission, called Twinkle, is being held today at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. In the future we could discover what sort of planets we should expect to possess nitrogen/oxygen atmospheres like Earth. Such planets are the likeliest candidates for life. (2/6)

Russia Suspends Joint Dnepr Launch Program with Ukraine (Source: Space Daily)
Russia has suspended cooperation with Ukraine over joint space commercial program Dnepr, federal space agency Roscosmos said Monday. "The project for the launch of Dnepr carrier rockets has been suspended. The prospects of this program will be determined later, " Roscosmos said. Roscosmos deputy chief Sergei Ponomaryov said last May that Russia and Ukraine planned to continue cooperation on Dnepr despite aggravated relations.

However, Moscow seemed to change its mind five months later. Local media said, a senior official in Russia's space industry said the country's economic, political and military interests were incompatible with the continuation of the Dnepr launch program. (2/6)

Space Florida Plans Next Egg-Drop Competition for Students (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida's Annual Planetary Lander ‘Egg-Drop’ Competition challenges elementary, middle and high school students and home-school students across Florida to compete for prizes against the brightest youths in the state. Each team is tasked with designing and building their own lander in which a raw-egg will serve as the payload and must survive a drop of almost 20-feet, just as a real NASA lander should on the Moon, Mars or an Asteroid. Click here. (2/5)

India Interested in Russia's Glonass Satellite Navigation System (Source: Sputnik)
Indian partners have expressed interest in Russia's Glonass satellite navigation systems, a spokesperson for Glonass Union said Thursday. "At the moment, India is actively developing the market of telematics services… Governmental organizations, including police service, express interest in navigation technologies," the spokesperson told RIA Novosti. (2/5)

For NASA, Sending a Person to Mars is Simple. Dealing with Congress is Hard (Source: Vox)
NASA is currently embarking on an elaborate, utterly fantastical plan to send humans to Mars. It involves the biggest rocket ever built, a pit-stop at an asteroid, and could cost $100 billion or more over several decades. The agency's engineers think they can make it work. But the biggest obstacle here isn't technological. The biggest obstacle is the insane politics of space exploration.

NASA's current plan for Mars is a result of multiple political compromises over the last decade. The agency is building a new space capsule (called Orion), along with the largest rocket ever (called Space Launch System, or SLS). In the mid-2020s, NASA plans to use those systems to land astronauts on an asteroid that has been redirected by another probe to orbit the moon. Then, as technology keeps advancing, Orion and SLS should be ready for a Mars trip by 2033. Click here. (2/4)

Wave of Constellation Fever Has a Familiar Ring (Source: Space News)
What began as a small but promising nexus between space and the sprawling technology incubator known as Silicon Valley has exploded into something much larger with the rush of filings for bandwidth to deploy large constellations of low-orbiting broadband satellites. Since late November, no fewer than half a dozen registrations have been filed for constellations of anywhere between 10 and more than 4,000 satellites.

The flood of investment capital and the names involved have generated some excitement in the space industry, which would seem to be looking at a bonanza in satellite construction and launch contracts in the not-too-distant future. Even if just one of these proposed mega-constellations comes to fruition, the stimulating effects would be felt far and wide in the space industrial base. Click here. (2/5)

Harris’ Fixed Mesh Reflector Bound to Revolutionize the Satellite Industry (Source: America Space)
Florida’s Brevard County is a popular location for many companies that serve the aerospace and defense industry. New technologies are constantly being developed and launched into space such as last months MUOS-3 satellite that launched out of Cape Canaveral. One of the local companies that worked on the MUOS mission is in the process of creating a new product that will help advance communication systems and lower the cost of satellite launches.

Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, Harris Corporation, or Harris, employs nearly 6,500 people in nineteen locations across seven Florida cities. Nearly $900 million of Harris R&D activities are performed in the Sunshine State with close to 3.5 million square feet of office and manufacturing space. Harris is a prime contributor to Florida’s space and defense industries and the community. It is the largest technology company based in Central Florida.

In collaboration with Vanguard Space Technologies, Harris recently announced that the company will “produce a lightweight antenna reflector product for space borne application that offers technological and mass advantages over other reflector technologies.” This product is called the Harris’ Fixed Mesh Reflector, or FMR, and has over 30 years of expertise behind it. (2/5)

The Space Diet: Authentic Astronaut Food Goes on Sale in Moscow (Source: Sputnik)
The All-Russian Exhibition Center, the famous general trade exhibition center in Moscow, commonly referred as VDNKh, will begin to sell authentic cosmonaut food packed into toothpaste-style tubes, starting Friday. Visitors of All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) will have a chance to try a full-course cosmonaut menu, including four kinds of soups, various meat dishes and a variety of deserts. (2/5)

Oldest Stars in the Universe Actually Younger Than Previously Thought (Source: Space.com)
The very first stars in the universe need to reset their birthday clocks: these ancient objects burst into existence more than 100 million years later than scientists previously thought, according to new research. Click here. (2/5)

House Science Committee To Take Up NASA and Commercial Launch Bills (Source: Space News)
The House Science Committee plans to take up a NASA authorization bill once again in February, followed later in the year by an update to commercial launch law, the chairman of the committee’s space subcommittee said. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) said his committee would move quickly on a NASA authorization bill. “It is my hope that we can begin the process by taking up a NASA authorization later this month,” he said. (2/5)

Turkey’s Gokturk-1 Imaging Satellite in Limbo at Thales Alenia Space (Source: Space News)
Turkey’s Gokturk-1 high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite remains stuck, largely completed, in a production facility in France because of last-minute issues between the Turkish government and the satellite’s French and Italian contractors, government and industry officials said. (2/5)

Huntsville Leads SLS Development Around the Nation (Source: Space Alabama)
The Marshall Space Flight Center is coordinating a national effort to build the Space Launch System (SLS).  In the past few weeks, the SLS has taken major steps to becoming a reality at different locations around the country.  As the SLS program's headquarters, Marshall must coordinate assets and testing in locations thousands of miles away. (2/5)

Avanti Communications Asks Investors for Patience (Source: Space News)
Broadband satellite fleet operator Avanti Communications on Feb. 5 asked its investors for more patience as the company lines up customers in its Europe, Middle East and African coverage areas and awaits a major revenue boost this year. (2/5)

Dark Force Could Keep Milky Way's Neighbors Away (Source: NewScientist)
Dark energy is thought to be ripping apart the fabric of space-time on cosmological scales, but it now seems it is also active on the scale of a single galaxy. If so, it could explain why the Milky Way has fewer dwarf galaxies orbiting it than expected. Astronomers came up with dark energy in the late 1990s as a way to explain the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. But it has so far only been studied on scales spanning a significant fraction of the universe.

"Most people think that on shorter distance scales dark energy doesn't do anything, or it's completely undetectable," says Stephen Hsu. At short distances, the other forces – including gravity – are thought to be strong enough to counter dark energy's repulsive force. That's certainly true of atoms, molecules and even solar systems and the interior of galaxies. But Hsu and his colleagues wondered how far from the center of a galaxy you had to go before dark energy took over. "We were surprised when we ran the numbers," says Hsu. (2/5)

Masten Still Hoping to Come to Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
Dave Masten, in an interview last week, said his company, Masten Space Systems, has had "lots of difficulties" at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, but "hopefully we'll be able to come out there and do something in the not-too-distant future." He seemed OK with the fact that Moon Express has occupied Launch Complex 36 for its lunar vehicle flight tests. The complex had earlier been modified for Masten's use. (2/5)

Private Spending on Space Is Headed for a New Record (Source: Bloomberg)
Call it Space Race 2.0. Almost a half-century since the Apollo moon flights, entrepreneurs are expanding the boundaries of rocket and satellite technology as the U.S. makes room for private enterprise. The result is a wave of innovation that echoes the leap in computing from key-punch mainframes to hand-held devices, with startups from San Francisco to Sydney pursuing new engines and Earth-orbiting probes as small as softballs. (2/5)

NASA Gantry Used to Lift Shuttles Off Jumbo Jets Demolished in Florida (Source: CollectSpace)
One of NASA's last remaining structures unique to supporting the space shuttle is no more. The Mate-Demate Device, which for 35 years was used at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to mount and remove the space shuttles from the back of their transport jumbo jets, has been demolished. The towering gantry was toppled to make way for the Florida space center's current and future needs. (2/5)

U.S. and Russia Preparing for Mars Seek Harmony Missing on Earth (Source: Bloomberg)
The U.S. and Russia are seeking to achieve a level of agreement in outer space that political leaders of the two countries have found increasingly elusive on the ground. U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko lift off March 27 on a record-breaking yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station.

They’ll be running experiments to prepare for a future joint mission to Mars, Julie Robinson of NASA said at the United Nations in Vienna Thursday. “Originally, Russian and U.S. space-development programs developed independently and we each saw different problems,” Robinson, who is NASA’s chief scientist for the space station, told Bloomberg News. “Now we’re bringing that science together. The political sphere and the practical sphere are very separate.” (2/5)

While NASA Gets a Bigger Budget, There May Also Be Big Problems (Source: Houston Press)
NASA has been a rudderless ship since the space shuttle program was canceled a few years ago. In fact, it seemed like the space agency's best days were long behind it, but lately things are looking up for NASA. They have plans to go places and do things. They have a president -- if not necessarily a Congress -- who seems inclined to give them money.

The signs are so favorable right now, they're even claiming they aren't in decline but are ready to flourish. It would all be so encouraging if there weren't already rumblings from a watchdog group that this whole space travel renaissance is maybe being built on some shaky ground. So what has changed? Well, as is so often the case, the biggest part of the deal is money. Click here. (2/5)

No comments: