March 19, 2015

Audit: KSC Faces Challenges Readying for SLS Launch (Source: Florida Today)
KSC faces "significant" challenges getting ready for a first test flight of NASA's new SLS rocket in late 2018, according to an internal audit. The center has made steady progress renovating launch pad 39B, a Vehicle Assembly Building high bay, a mobile launch tower and other infrastructure to support the first liftoff of a Space Launch System rocket by Nov. 2018, according to the report by NASA's Office of Inspector General.

But the ability of KSC's Ground Systems Development and Operations program to stay on schedule — at a projected cost of $2.8 billion — depends heavily on input from the programs separately developing the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule, whose designs are not finished. As a result, the ground systems program "has limited control over many of the items that continue to represent risk to launching SLS by November 2018," the report says. (3/18)

After Flirtation with SpaceX, Airbus Taps Ariane 5 for EDRS-C (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space on March 18 contracted with Arianespace to launch the EDRS-C laser-optical data-relay satellite in early 2017, a deal that follows contract discussions with rival launch-services provider SpaceX that drew fire from the French government.

At the contract signing ceremony, Evert Dudok, head of Airbus’ Communications, Intelligence and Security division, conceded that the company faced political pressure to pick the European launch-service provider, but insisted that Airbus management had resisted it. (3/18)

Proton Launches Express AM-7 Satellite for Russian Government (Source: Space Daily)
Lifting off from Baikonur at 01:05 am Moscow Time on Thursday, March 19, the Proton-M integrated launch vehicle (ILV) successfully orbited the Airbus DS-built Express AM-7 telecommunications satellite for Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC). (3/19)

China Plans Record 20 Launches This Year (Source: Daily Mail)
China's space authorities have announced plans to launch over 40 different spacecrafts into orbit in 20 separate launches this year. One of the vessels to be launched is the ground-breaking Yuanzheng 1 - also known as the 'space bus' - which can launch 10 different satellites at once. 2013 was a massive year for China whose scientists launched 16 spacecraft to firmly establish their cosmic credentials. (3/19)

11 Questions about the Future of Space Tourism Answered (Source: Conde Nast)
Despite recent setbacks, space tourism will happen. The technology to put humans into space has existed for decades; more than 500 astronauts have flown. And the Russian government took seven paying civilian customers to the International Space Station in the previous decade—and has plans to do so again this year.

As former astronaut Kathy Thornton, a veteran of four space shuttle missions and currently an advisor to Space Adventures, said upon retiring from NASA,"The next time I go into space, I’ll be able to take my family with me.” While we’re waiting for that day, the logistics of space tourism remain open questions. How will we book? How will we board? And will the TSA be involved? We asked experts in the nascent field for their answers about what to expect once space tourism takes off. Click here. (3/19)

United Launch Alliance Wins $389.1 Million NASA Contract (Source: Denver Business)
United Launch Alliance landed a $389.1 million contract to launch the upcoming Solar Probe Plus mission, NASA announced Wednesday. The probe will blast off aboard a ULA-made Delta IV Heavy rocket on its way to fly through the sun's outer atmosphere, studying the star closer than ever before. (3/18)

Air Force Initiative To Put Commercial Seats in JSpOC (Source: Space News)
Commercial representatives could sit side-by-side with U.S. Air Force personnel in the Defense Department’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) by the end of the year under an initiative designed to give military operators a more complete and accurate picture of the space environment.

Having a so-called commercial integration cell within the JSpOC, the Defense Department’s nerve center for space operations, would give the Air Force a better sense of how commercial satellites are operated and how they could more closely coordinate with military space capabilities, according to the Air Force and industry sources. (3/18)

UAE Space Agency Forms Working Group for Space Policy and Law (Source: Zawya)
During its inaugural meeting, the UAE Space Agency Working Group on Space Policy and Law discussed the national space policy development plan, space law in the UAE and organizational regulation. The meeting, which was held in the agency's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, was led by Dr. Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency. Representatives and experts from the relevant UAE stakeholders were also in attendance.

In that context, Dr. Al Ahbabi said that the working group was conceived as a temporary group which would discuss common goals, responsibilities and prerogatives for all interested parties in order to identify suitable priorities to implement government directives. Likewise, the group will work towards encouraging cooperation and coordination between the various stakeholders for the space sector inside the UAE. (3/18)

Milky Way May Host Billions of Planets in 'Habitable' Zones (Source: Space Daily)
The Milky Way galaxy may be home to billions of planets orbiting their host stars in a "habitable zone" where life could theoretically exist, researchers said Wednesday. Researchers from the Australian National University and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen attempted to calculate how many stars in the Milky Way could have planets in their habitable zones where liquid water could exist -- the prerequisite for life whether primitive or complex.

"The calculations show that billions of the stars in the Milky Way will have one to three planets in the habitable zone, where there is the potential for liquid water and where life could exist," said a statement from the Niels Bohr Institute. (3/18)

Ninkasi's Beer Brewed with Space Yeast is Ready for Release (Source: Portland Business Journal)
Ninkasi is producing an ale using yeast that's left Earth's atmosphere. "After almost two years of research, development, lab time, and two separate rocket launches to garner space yeast, we have finally completed our mission," said Nikos Ridge, Ninkasi.

While the Eugene brewery's Ninkasi Space Program took two rocket launches to retrieve a living specimen, a limited release of Ground Control will hit shelves April 13 in 22-ounce bottles at select stores. Members of the Ninkasi team loaded yeast into vials and ventured to New Mexico's Black Rock Desert, the site of Spaceport America.

he first rocket, launched by the Civilian Space eXploration Team and Team Hybriddyne, successfully left the atmosphere, however the payload landed somewhere in the desert and wasn't recovered for nearly a month. The yeast didn't survive. A second launch opportunity popped up in October, this time by UP Aerospace Inc. After traveling more than 77 miles above Earth's surface, six yeast specimens were successfully recovered and cold-transported back to Ninkasi HQ. (3/17)

US Military Losing Edge In Space (Source: Breaking Defense)
After more than a year of saying that the United States is losing its relative edge in military technology to China and Russia, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer upped the ante today and said that the top American advantage — space — “is particularly bad” because both Russia and China are fielding a suite of anti-satellite capabilities. Click here. (3/17)

Sierra Nevada Unveils Dream Chaser Cargo Version (Source: Space News)
The Dream Chaser Cargo System is similar to the crewed vehicle the company had been developing, but with an additional cargo module on the back and foldable wings, allowing it to fit within a 5-meter payload fairing. The company argues that the vehicle meets or exceeds all NASA requirements for carrying cargo to and from the ISS. Five companies are competing for at least two contracts NASA will award by June for ISS cargo transport. (3/18)

Spaceport Bills Expected to Die in Committee (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Two bills that would dramatically change state support for Spaceport America will not advance from the Senate Finance Committee, the chairman of that committee said Tuesday. One bill calls for the state to put Spaceport America up for sale. Another would prohibit the Spaceport Authority from using revenue from the local gross receipts tax left over after making bond payments for operations at the spaceport. It would also prevent the Spaceport Authority from issuing bonds or taking out loans.

Both bills passed through the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee in the first month of then session, but have not been heard in Senate Finance. They will likely remain there until the session ends at noon Saturday, said Finance Committee Chairman Sen. John Arthur Smith. "Behind the scenes, there wasn't much support for either bill." (3/18)

Severe Solar Storm May Disrupt Power, Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
A pair of solar eruptions over the weekend have unleashed a severe geomagnetic storm that could disrupt power and communications on Earth, US officials said Tuesday. The storm ranks as a G4 on the NOAA scale of one to five, with five being the worst. (3/17)

Broadband Providers Brook No Concern about Capacity Bubble (Source: Space News)
Current and would-be providers of Ku- and Ka-band satellite broadband on March 18 said they have no concern that the high-throughput spacecraft on the way will cause a glut of in-orbit capacity. Given the applications yet untapped, they said, demand at this point might be considered almost limitless — and certainly beyond the capacity of even the highest-throughput satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbit. (3/18)

OneWeb Weeks Away from Picking Prime Contractor (Source: Space News)
OneWeb LLC Chief Technology Officer Dave Bettinger on March 18 said the company is within weeks of selecting a prime contractor for its 900 low orbiting Internet delivery satellites and that the first launches would occur in 2017.

Bettinger said a launch-service provider would be selected within a couple of months and that the company’s major launch year — 2018 — now appears to include sufficient capacity among the available launch-service providers. (3/18)

Air Force Wary of Swapping ULA’s Monopoly for a Different Sort of Dependence (Source: Space News)
Defense Department officials and some House members fear a law passed by Congress last year could inadvertently create separate launch monopolies for two critical classes of national security payloads — intermediate and heavy. The result could leave the Air Force one failed launch away from being without guaranteed access to space for certain missions beginning around 2019, officials warned.

Mitch Mitchell, a vice president at Aerospace Corp. and a retired Air Force major general, laid out a scenario in which the Air Force, due to the Russian-engine ban and other factors, would be solely dependent on the Falcon 9 for intermediate-class payloads and Delta 4 Heavy for the largest payloads.

One way to avoid this scenario, these officials said, would be for Congress to allow ULA to purchase additional Russian-made RD-180 engines. The current law bans the use of Russian engines that were purchased after February 2014 for national security launches. (3/18)

After Flirtation with SpaceX, Airbus Taps Ariane 5 for EDRS-C (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space contracted with Arianespace to launch the EDRS-C laser-optical data-relay satellite in early 2017, a deal that follows contract discussions with rival launch-services provider SpaceX that drew fire from the French government.

“Clearly the political pressure was there but our management gave us a free hand,” Dudok said. “Each party made the necessary effort to make this happen and the contract we have signed is within the original investment volume foreseen.” (3/18)

NASA Spacecraft Detects Aurora and Mysterious Dust Cloud around Mars (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere. The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted.

Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars. "If the dust originates from the atmosphere, this suggests we are missing some fundamental process in the Martian atmosphere," said Laila Andersson of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospherics and Space Physics (CU LASP), Boulder, Colorado. (3/18)

Why Everyone Loves ISRO (Source: IBN Live)
The most emotional, goose bumps moment in the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year Awards last night was when the entire audience gave a standing ovation for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for winning the Lifetime Achievement Award. On stage were the former and current Chairmen of ISRO, Dr. K Radhakrishnan and Dr. AS Kiran Kumar. Nothing came close to that moment in the entire 90 minute program. The entire hall was filled with admiration for these two scientists and the incredible work that their organisation has done. (3/18)

Volunteers Get Taste of Mars in Hawaii (Source: VOA)
For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. NASA and other space agencies have announced plans to send people to the Red Planet. But such a manned mission is years away. In the United States, some volunteers are learning how people will react to months of separation from other humans on a Mars base.

What would it be like to live on the planet Mars? Volunteers are spending eight months in an area that looks much like the surface of Mars. But actually, they are living in Hawaii.Six people are isolated high on top of Mauna Loa, a volcanic mountain on the Big Island of Hawaii. They are living on a simulated, or make-believe, Mars Base. NASA has provided financial support for the work. The project is called HI-SEAS, or Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. (3/18)

Culberson Pledges Protection for Lunar Orbiter, Mars Rover Missions (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that funds NASA said March 17 that he would protect two NASA planetary missions whose futures were placed in jeopardy by the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request.

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee, said at a Space Transportation Association event here that he opposed a move by NASA to zero out funding for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Mars rover Opportunity missions in its 2016 budget request. (3/18)

Ceres' Bright Spots: Icy Volcanoes? (Source: USA Today)
Mysterious bright spots on Ceres could turn out to be icy volcanoes that blast water vapor into space, raising the possibility that a life-giving ocean exists beneath the surface of the dwarf planet, according to images from the Dawn probe. Another possibility is that the plumes result from sun-warmed icy patches, much like the tail of a comet. (3/18)

Russian Proton-M Launches with Ekspress-AM7 Mission (Source:
A Russian Proton-M was in action on Wednesday, lofting the Ekspress-AM7 communications satellite on what is a multi-hour flight to a geostationary orbit via its Briz-M Upper Stage. The Russian workhorse launched from its traditional home at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 22:05 UTC on a nominal first leg of the flight. (3/18)

Fast-Spinning Young Earth Pulled the Moon into a Yo-Yo Orbit (Source: Science News)
The Earth and moon’s celestial dance was a lot wilder during the pair’s youth. By simulating the early moon’s orbit, researchers have reconstructed what the moon’s phases would have looked like during the solar system’s early years. The result reveals a moon that alternated rapidly between its sunlit and shadowy sides and bounced like a ball toward and away from Earth. (3/18)

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