February 7, 2015

Launch Industry Watching SpaceX's Rocket-Landing Plans (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
SpaceX plans to try again Sunday night to land its used rocket on an unmanned barge in the Atlantic Ocean after launching it into space, an experiment seen as a big step toward making space launches dramatically less expensive. The company is scheduled to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:10 p.m., to carry a space-weather monitoring satellite into space.

Minutes after the rocket's launch, SpaceX will attempt to land its next big dream, with ramifications for the space industry worldwide. At stake is SpaceX's plan to make its rockets reusable, which would revolutionize launches and reduce costs. If SpaceX succeeds, industry watchers think a price-driven space competition could spur a new boom in private and government satellite launches. (2/7)

First SLS Flight to Prep for Moon, Asteroid Missions (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Outside of the fact that NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1 ) will be the first flight of NASA’s new super heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System (SLS) and the second flight of the space agency’s Orion spacecraft – not much has been said about the 2018 mission. Until now that is. When the first SLS takes to the skies – it will advance NASA’s aims of capturing either an asteroid or part of an asteroid and towing it into lunar orbit where a crew will rendezvous with it. Click here. (2/6)

Astronaut and Girlfriend Prepare for Ultimate Long-Distance Relationship (Source: KHOU)
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is spent his last night in Houston Friday before leaving for a week of training in Germany. He's making history as NASA's first astronaut to spend an entire year in space. Kelly and his twin brother Mark will be part of more than 400 science experiments in an effort to understand how the human body copes with a year in zero gravity.

But the life that Kelly leaves behind includes his relationships, which will have to defy the test of time. It will be the ultimate long-distance relationship. "I'm ready, yeah," Kelly said with a laugh. "She's ready for me to go." Kelly said the hardest part of his upcoming mission is leaving behind his girlfriend Amiko Kauderer. Click here. (2/6)

Japanese Craft to Get Second Chance After Missing Venus in 2010 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Five years after a balky valve kept it from entering orbit around Venus, Japan’s Akatsuki space probe is again approaching the sweltering planet for another shot at completing its science mission in December. The robotic spacecraft has spiraled around the inner solar system since it missed Venus in December 2010, as engineers on the ground meticulously planned for another chance to loop into orbit around Earth’s sister planet this year.

Akatsuki is on track for a critical maneuver Dec. 7 to position the spacecraft for capture by planet’s gravity, allowing the probe to enter an egg-shaped orbit stretching several hundred thousand miles from Venus at its farthest point — up to five times the planet’s diameter. (2/7)

Lawmakers Push to Increase Obama’s Spending on NASA (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Days after President Barack Obama submitted his 2016 budget to Congress, a bipartisan group of lawmakers including San Antonio Republican Lamar Smith is pushing to increase funding for NASA space programs. In an effort to keep to the original 2017 launch date for the new Space Launch System rocket and Orion space vehicle, the lawmakers will introduce legislation next week that would steer more than $460 million of NASA’s current budget to those programs.

Smith said the added funding would balance the long-term goal of sending humans to Mars with the immediate needs of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. The House passed similar legislation in the last Congress 401-2, but it was never passed by the Senate. (2/6)

Moon Was a First Step, Mars Will Test Our Capabilities, but Europa is the Prize (Source: The Conversation)
The icy moon Europa is perhaps the most tantalising destination in our solar system. Scientists have been trying for years to kickstart a mission to Jupiter’s most enigmatic moon, with very Earth-like concerns over costs keeping missions grounded until now. Click here. (2/6)

DARPA's Jet-Assist Microsatellite Launcher Making Progress (Source: DARPA)
Through its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, DARPA wants to get small satellites into orbit more economically on short notice. Several accomplishments have been made for the program, including successful completion of Phase 1 design, and selection of Boeing as prime contractor for Phase 2, which includes conducting 12 orbital test launches of an integrated prototype system. Click here for a video. (2/5)

Colorado Remains at Top of National Aerospace Employment in 2014 (Source: Denver Post)
Despite a decrease in overall aerospace industry employment nationwide, Colorado in 2014 retained its No. 1 ranking in the nation for private aerospace employment as a percentage of total employment, according to data from the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

The state also retained its No. 3 rank in total private-sector aerospace employment, behind Florida and California. The 2014 Colorado Aerospace Industry Cluster Profile doesn't contain many "aha" moments. In fact, it reveals that statewide aerospace employment actually decreased by 0.2 percent. However, the decline was minimal compared with the nation overall.

Editor's Note: So apparently Florida is number 2 in total (not per-capita) aerospace employment, behind California, with Colorado in the third spot. (2/6)

Beijing's Rocket Plans Reveal Ambitious Space Program (Source: Want China Times)
China has scheduled a test launch of the Long March 5 this year, touted to have the same payload as the US launch systems Delta IV, Atlas V and Falcon 9. Beijing considers its billion-dollar space program as a sign of its rising international status and technological improvement as well as evidence that its ruling party has successfully turned the country's fate around.

The People's Liberation Army has plans to establish a permanent space station in 2020 and eventually launch a manned mission to the moon. China has already been evaluating the possibilities and requirements for the Long March 7's next generation, new multi-stage rocket named Long March 9. The rocket aims to have a payload equivalent to the US launch vehicle Jupiter, with a maximum payload of 130 tons, according to Liang Xiaohong. (2/7)

Is the US Leasing Out the Moon to Corporations? (Source: Motherboard)
“We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon,” George Nield said. “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 US company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications... We recognize the private sector’s need to protect its assets and personnel on the moon or on other celestial bodies."

In other words, the FAA is preparing the space community for a new milestone: the first commercial launch license request that includes a payload intended for establishing lunar facilities. This shouldn’t come as a particular surprise, considering that Bigelow has been open about its plan to set up inflatable structures on the Moon for years, and will even be testing its designs on the International Space Station later in 2015. But it does suggest that after decades of false starts, the age of Moon-based business is finally nigh. (2/6)

The Empire Strikes Back (Source: Space KSC)
NASA's proposed FY16 budget was released less than a week ago, but the members of the House Science Committee have already responded with a “bipartisan bill” that once again seeks to undercut the commercial crew program. NASA's proposed FY16 commercial crew budget requests $1.2 billion, or about $370 million more than what was projected a year ago.

Now the House Science Committee once again intends to force NASA to down-select to only one commercial crew provider. The bill would direct NASA to “assist in building at least one Commercial Crew system.” It also states a “reiteration of Congressional direction that Orion serve as a backup system to support the ISS if necessary.” (2/6)

Committee Announces Bipartisan 2015 NASA Authorization Act (Source: Space Policy Online)
Top Republicans and Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) committee today announced details of a new bipartisan NASA Authorization Act that will be introduced next week. The bill avoids budget issues by authorizing funds only for FY2015, for which funding already has been appropriated.

House SS&T Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steve Palazzo (R-MS) and Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Space Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) issued a joint press release laying out the major provisions of the legislation. Click here. (2/6)

Air Force Poised To Award $200M in Rocket Studies (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to spend $500 million over the next five years, with roughly $200 million to be committed in February, to develop a new liquid-fueled rocket engine to replace the Russian-made engine that currently launches many national security missions, according to new White House budget documents.

The spending plan also calls for the service to hold competitions for nine satellite launch contracts — one more than officials were planning for a year ago — and distinctly refrains from committing to future wideband and protected communications satellites. The new engine is the most high-profile addition to the budget.

The Air Force says it plans to plans to award about $204 million worth of contracts in February to study concepts including alternate manufacturing processes, launch system architectures, risk reduction for key propulsion components, advanced propulsion technologies, and material and manufacturing development. (2/6)

Rocket Lab Looks at Cape, Other Spaceports for Microsatellite Launcher (Source: Florida Today)
A new rocket company toured Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday to evaluate its potential as a site for small satellite launches and rocket engine manufacturing. Rocket Lab USA is developing the 59-foot-tall, liquid-fueled Electron rocket for orbital launches of satellites weighing roughly 220 pounds. “It’s a giant sounding rocket, basically,” said CEO Peter Beck, who founded the company in 2007.

Beck in 2013 raised money from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, and says word about a second financing round is coming soon. Technically a U.S. company with most of its employees (about 50) based at a New Zealand subsidiary, Rocket Lab has done work for DARPA and traditional aerospace contractors.

The company hopes to launch a test flight late this year from a private range in New Zealand and begin commercial service next year, and has commitments to launch more than 30 satellites. Of course, the company is exploring opportunities in other states, presumably including at Wallops Island in Virginia and a proposed spaceport in Georgia. Executives met Friday with representatives from Space Florida, which might offer access to the one of the two Cape pads it operates, and NASA and the Air Force. (2/6)

Florida-Based Harris HQ Could Move with Exelis Acquisition (Source: Washington Business Journal)
The acquisition of Exelis Inc. by Harris Corp. could have major implications for Greater Washington — namely, a new headquarters for one of the biggest defense companies. Indeed, Harris confirmed that the integration of the two companies following the $4.75 billion deal will mean an evaluation of the best location for headquarters operations. Currently Harris is located in Melbourne, Florida. Exelis is in McLean. (2/6)

NASA Issues Sole Source Notice for Six Soyuz Seats (Source: Space News)
Hedging its bets on commercial crew, NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Feb. 6 issued a formal notice of its intent to buy six more round-trip seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station in 2018. (2/6)

UK Wants EU To Lead, But Not Sign, Space Conduct Negotiations (Source: Space News)
The British government has reaffirmed its support for the European Union-coordinated International Code of Conduct on Outer Space Activities but said its services would remain on the alert to stop the EU from actually negotiating any European commitment to it.

In response to a Parliamentary inquiry published Jan. 30, Britain’s Minister for Europe, David Lidington, sought to assuage concerns that the 28-nation EU might substitute itself for individual European governments when negotiating adoption of the code. (2/6)

Neil Armstrong Had Hidden Bag of Apollo 11 Artifacts (Source: Collect Space)
Neil Armstrong had a secret stash of moon landing mementos. The first man to walk on the moon kept a bag full of small parts from the lunar module "Eagle" that he and his Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin famously piloted to a landing at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969. The stowage bag was discovered by Armstrong's widow after he died in 2012.

The bag, itself flown to the moon, was referred to as the "McDivitt purse," after the Apollo 9 astronaut whose idea it was to include aboard the spacecraft. For whatever reason, Armstrong seemingly kept the bag a secret for more than four decades. Even when questioned about mementos by his authorized biographer, Armstrong made no mention of the historic artifacts that were tucked away in his closet. (2/6)

NASA Picks University CubeSat Mission Candidates, Two From UCF (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected more than dozen small research satellites that each could fit in the palm of your hand to fly in space on future rocket launches. They will enable unique technology demonstrations, education research and science missions, and will study topics ranging from how the solar system formed to the demonstration of a new radiation-tolerant computer system.

The 14 CubeSats selected are from 12 states and will fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets planned to launch in 2016, 2017 and 2018. They come from universities across the country, non-profit organizations and NASA field centers. As part of the White House Maker Initiative, NASA is seeking to leverage the growing community of space-enthusiasts to create a nation that contributes to NASA’s space exploration goals.

Editor's Note: UCF in Orlando will build two, including the CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment (Cu-PACE), and the SurfSat. Click here. (2/6)

Harris to Buy Defense Contractor Exelis (Source: Reuters)
Communications equipment maker Harris Corp said it would buy defense contractor Exelis Inc in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $4.75 billion. The offer values the company at about $4.44 billion based on Exelis's shares outstanding as of Oct. 28. Exelis makes electronic warfare systems and radar and sonar equipment.

Editor's Note: Exelis services a current Air Force contract to support the Eastern Range. Also, we can now expect Harris to angle for incentives from Virginia (Exelis' home) and Florida to secure the relocation of jobs from one location to the other, including the company's headquarters. (2/6)

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