March 13, 2015

India to Build Third Launch Pad at Sriharikota (Source: FirstPost)
The Indian space agency has proposed to set up its third rocket launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, parliament was informed on Thursday. The third launch pad is intended to support increased launch frequency, launching requirements of future advanced launch vehicles and also serve as a redundant launch pad for the GSLV MIII class of rockets. (3/13)

Orbital ATK Stock Can Rocket Higher (Source: Barron's)
In just over a month, shares of satellite and weapons specialist Orbital ATK have climbed more than $10 to $75.36. They could rise by at least $20, or 27%, in the next year as investors begin to focus more on the company’s swelling free cash flow and less on a fiery launch disaster it suffered last fall. (3/12)

NASA Cargo Flights Would Boost Rocketmaker ULA (Source: Denver Business Journal)
United Launch Alliance could be a big winner in NASA's competition for billions of dollars of flights delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Three companies that use the Atlas V rocket made by ULA are vying for some of NASA's ISS cargo resupply business. Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems, Boeing, and now Lockheed Martin, which unveiled an ambitious proposal Thursday. (3/13)

Suddenly, It Seems, Water is Everywhere in Solar System (Source: New York Times)
Oceans trapped under ice appear to be pretty common in the solar system and one of them, on a small moon of Saturn's, appears to be quite hot. Meanwhile, another team reported signs of another under-ice ocean, on Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter's moons. Scientists are already convinced that Jupiter's moon Europa has a large ice-covered ocean. (3/13)

NASA Chief has Perfect Comeback to Ted Cruz's Attack on Earth Science (Source: Mashable)
"In your judgment, what is the core mission of NASA?" Cruz asked. Bolden replied: "Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place."

"I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission," said Cruz. Bolden replied: "We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it — and that's understanding our environment," Bolden said, in a clear reference to global warming-related sea level rise. (3/13)

S3 Plans IPO (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Swiss Space Systems (S3) announced last September negotiations with investors. This process was a success and will conclude with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to come later in 2015, enabling S3 to consolidate its financial status and to grow in order to reach its goals.

Before its Initial Public Offering, Swiss Space Systems wishes to give the opportunity to the general public to take part in this unique entrepreneurial space adventure. 5% of the equity will be opened, with 1% to be distributed to its employees. S3 will later on give the opportunity to the general public to enter its equity, up to 4%. (3/12)

Deep Space Industries Forges Partnership with Bitcoin Pioneer (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin pioneer and CEO of Dunvegan Space Systems (DSS) announced he has signed a contract with Deep Space Industries (DSI) to build a 24 BitSat satellite constellation as the first element of a new strategic alliance between the two firms. The nanosats to be used in the Dunvegan constellation designed by DSI provide an order of magnitude cost advantage over traditional telecommunication satellites. (3/13)

SpaceX Links with University of Texas (Source: Valley Morning Star)
The first infrastructure project that will link the University of Texas System to SpaceX’s rocket-launch complex at Boca Chica in Cameron County is on the horizon. The project will tie UT buildings and Elon Musk’s complex, which will house the world’s first commercial, vertical and orbital rocket launch facility. UT also owns land at Boca Chica that will house the STARGATE research facility.

UT has been requesting proposals for a fiber optic infrastructure project — which would provide a high-speed communication system — linking university facilities in Brownsville to its facility at Boca Chica and to the nearby site of SpaceX’s control center and to the rocket-launch pad. Earlier this year and in a collaborative research initiative with SpaceX, the Brownsville Economic Development Council donated property at Boca Chica to the UT system for the STARGATE Technology Park. (3/12)

Aerojet Rocketdyne to Cut Staff by 10% (Source: LA Times)
Aerojet Rocketdyne, the rocket engine maker with a factory in Canoga Park, will cut 10% of its staff, according to its parent company, GenCorp Inc. About 500 jobs will be eliminated over the next four years across the company, according to a statement from GenCorp, which has its headquarters in Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova. Aerojet has about 1,300 employees in Canoga Park. GenCorp did not say how many of those workers would be laid off. (3/13)

Lockheed Martin Pitches Reusable Tug for Space Station Resupply (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin confirmed March 12 that it submitted a proposal for NASA’s commercial cargo competition, offering a system that includes a reusable tug that can be used for other applications, including supporting human missions beyond Earth orbit. The company’s system features two key components: a reusable tug called Jupiter and a cargo module called Exoliner.

Initially, the two would be launched together on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket  and berth with the International Space Station in much in the same way as existing commercial cargo vehicles. At the end of its mission at the ISS, the cargo vehicle would depart and fly independently for weeks or months. During this time it would be able to carry out additional missions, such as the deployment of small satellites or remote sensing of the Earth.

Follow-on cargo missions would launch only Exoliner modules. Jupiter and the old Exoliner would rendezvous with the Centaur upper stage carrying the new Exoliner module, and Jupiter would use its robotic arm to swap the modules. Many key systems, such as sensors and other electronics, are incorporated into Jupiter and thus need to be built only once. (3/13)

ULA Launches MMS From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
An Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched four NASA space science satellites Thursday night. The Atlas 5 lifted off on schedule at 10:44 pm EDT, and released the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) satellites into orbit nearly two hours later. The spacecraft will study powerful phenomena called magnetic reconnection events in the Earth's magnetic field. (3/13)

Clear Lake Residents Question Spaceport (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Traffic congestion, space travel and commercial development were on the minds of Clear Lake-area residents who took part in a March 3 town hall meeting hosted by Houston District E City Councilman Dave Martin. A hot issue is development of a Houston spaceport at Ellington Field, which proponents say would serve as an economic generator for the city and enhance the region's position as a key player in the aerospace industry.

Sherrie Matula, a longtime educator and president of the Middlebrook Community Association, questioned the logic of bringing a spaceport to Ellington Field, which is surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods. "Out of the 10 (spaceport) sites that are there, there is not a single one in the United States that is in this much of a residential area as the one that is being proposed with our spaceport," she said. (3/12)

Orbital ATK to Finish Rocket Explosion Probe by end March (Source: Reuters)
Orbital ATK expects to complete an investigation into the Oct. 28 explosion of its Antares rocket by the end of March, the company's chief executive said. The company last month said the "accident investigation board," which includes officials from NASA and the FAA, had identified a number of credible causes for the explosion, including the possible presence of foreign object debris in the rocket's engine. (3/12)

Inside The World's First Space-Based Commercial Laser-Relay Service (Source: Aviaton Week)
The European Data Relay System (EDRS) is a new space-based commercial data-relay service that will use laser-beam transmissions between low-Earth-orbiting (LEO) spacecraft and communications satellites in geostationary orbit to reduce the time it takes to get large quantities of imagery and data to the ground.

Orbiting at nearly 800 km altitude, Earth observation spacecraft transmit data routinely, but only when passing over ground stations in a handful of regions around the globe. Geostationary satellites, however, hover 36,000 km above Earth, with ground stations in permanent view, which means they can relay data from LEO to Earth at anytime. (3/12)

Galaxy Of Players Looking To Make Commercial Space A Big Business (Source: Forbes)
All being well, Golden Spike will begin marketing manned missions to the Moon as early as 2021 for a cool $750 million per passenger. “As space travel seeps into public conversation, individuals will want I’ve-been-to-the-Moon bragging rights,” Alan Stern, a former senior official at NASA and the co-founder and CEO of Golden Spike, said in an interview with Mergermarket.

While Golden Spike’s ambitions may sound like science fiction, the company is one of several startups in the commercial space sector including Firefly Space Systems, Ad Astra Rocket Company and Masten Space Systems that are attracting interest from investors eager to break into the final frontier of moneymaking. Click here. (3/12)

Japan Firm Marks One Small Step for Solar Energy in Space (Source: Space Daily)
A major Japanese machinery company said Friday that it has succeeded in transmitting energy wirelessly, marking a step toward making solar power generation in space a reality. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it used microwave technology to send 10 kilowatts of power -- enough to run a set of conventional kitchen appliances -- through the air to a receiver 500 meters (1,640 feet) away. (3/13)

Russia Puts Off Super-Rocket, Focuses on Angara Upgrades (Source: SEN)
Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided. (3/13)

NASA Will Be Taking Augmented Reality Glasses Into Space (Source: Forbes)
NASA is teaming up with military tech company Osterhout Design Group (ODG) to bring augmented reality into space. The space agency plans on equipping its astronauts with smart glasses that overlay the world with digital information. ODG’s glasses include a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and sensors for figuring out where the user is looking. The pair of glasses have been primarily used by various United States military agencies.

For NASA, equipping astronauts with these specs could make space flight a lot more manageable for astronauts. The main use would be sending instructions straight to the user’s eye for maintaining and repairing equipment on space shuttles instead of having to carry around stacks of index cards. (3/12)

NASA Running Out of Nuclear Fuel For Batteries (Source: Sputnik)
The radioactive material NASA uses to power spacecraft for its deep space missions is now in short supply. The Agency says it only has enough to power three more batteries, leaving the future of American space exploration in jeopardy.

Plutonium-238 (Pu-238), a hot radioactive isotope that’s a byproduct of the process of making nuclear weapons, is in short supply. NASA has access to only about 77 pounds of the material, with only 37 pounds of that being of a high enough grade to be useful in its Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), a kind of battery that the Energy Department makes for the Agency. (3/12)

Push for Pluto Hasn’t Plowed to a Stop Yet in Kansas (Source: Hutch News)
Kansas schoolchildren who want Pluto designated an official state symbol are taking the long view. If no legislation is introduced this year, there’s 2016. Students at Sublette Middle School, Sublette, and Plains Elementary School, Plains, have studied the planets and think Pluto’s discovery by Kansan Clyde Tombaugh makes Pluto deserving of special recognition.

When Sublette Middle School eighth-grade students take a field trip in about two weeks to the Statehouse, they’ll wear T-shirts calling attention to “The Mission: Pluto” and promoting “State Dwarf Planet for Kansas,” according to Sublette teacher and Student Council sponsor Paul Trigg. Student Council president Lindsay Withers designed the shirts. (3/11)

Station Trio Returns to Earth After 167 Days Aloft (Source: CBS)
Three space station fliers -- the outgoing NASA commander and two Russian cosmonauts -- undocked and returned to Earth Wednesday, ending a 167-day stay in space with a nail-biting communications blackout that left the crew out of contact with Russian flight controllers during much of the trip home.

The cause of the communications dropout was not immediately known, but during a brief exchange with recovery crews during the final stages of the descent, spacecraft commander Alexander Samokutyaev reported all three crew members were in good shape and proceeding to an on-target touchdown on the snowy steppe of Kazakhstan. (3/11)

Lockheed Poised To End Dry Spell with Arabsat Order (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia has selected Lockheed Martin Space Systems to build two telecommunications satellites following an international competition, industry officials said. Riyadh-based Arabsat has apparently set aside an award of a third satellite until further notice, officials said. One official said the award is for one satellite for the Arabsat-owned Hellas Sat of Greece, and the other for Arabsat’s Middle East-focused fleet. (3/12)

Bigelow Shows Off Space Module (Source: KLAS)
A North Las Vegas based private space company is showing off a spacecraft habitat that will soon be attached to the International Space Station. It will be the first privately built module to be attached to the station. Called the BEAM, for Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, will be launched, then attached to ISS in September. The craft is inflated with oxygen and nitrogen once it is in orbit. It is about 13 feet long and 11 feet wide. It will catch a ride on the Space X rocket. (3/12)

Mitskevich to Receive Prestigious Debus Award (Source: NSCFL)
Amanda Mitskevich, Program Manager of the NASA/KSC Launch Services Program has been selected by the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) to receive its 2015 Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award. Mitskevich will be honored at the Debus Award Dinner on Saturday, April 18. The formal event, which begins at 6 pm, will be held at the Debus Conference Facility at the KSC Visitor Complex. (3/12)

Billionaire Teams Up With NASA to Mine the Moon (Source: NBC)
Moon Express, a California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016, said company co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain.

Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing their deep well of lunar know-how with the company. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources. In addition to Moon Express, NASA is also working with Astrobotic Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to develop commercial robotic spacecrafts. (3/11)

The Cape's New Multi-Vehicle Support Center - Feature or Flaw? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Air Force has converted a former Delta-2 launch control facility at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station into a multi-vehicle launch support center, linked to data streams from the Cape's Delta-4, Atlas-5 and Falcon-9 launch sites. "We have the ability to see what [the launch companies] see," said 1st Lt. Sean Mochocki. "If they're talking about a valve that's having a problem, then we can go look at the data they're looking at, we can look at the pressures, the voltages."

That's a nice capability for the Air Force, obviously useful for their mission-assurance and vehicle certification needs, but does it improve or impair the Cape's competitiveness for commercial launches? Will this facility require active technical support from ULA, SpaceX, and other prospective users? If so, it seems like the kind of requirement that SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other prospective launchers are trying to avoid. (8/13)

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