March 24, 2015

Space Issues Gain Traction in Tallahassee, But Senate Has Issues (Source: FSDC)
Space Florida's budget is in play during the ongoing Legislative Session in Tallahassee. The agency typically receives $10 million for its operations, which the House has budgeted, but the Senate offers only $8 million this year. Furthermore, the Senate's budget language would prohibit any spending on the Shiloh launch site  until after an FAA environmental impact report is issued, vetted by Florida's environmental agency, and a summary shared with the Cabinet and legislative leadership.

Another Senate amendment seeks to prohibit Space Florida spending for the operation of federal spaceport assets without first being reviewed by the state's military support organizations to ensure the infrastructure will be available for military purposes. Also, the Senate would take an additional $2 million from Space Florida's operating budget to fund Cecil Spaceport infrastructure. The House would fund the Cecil investments at the same amount, but without earmarking it from within Space Florida's budget.

Meanwhile, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University program for high-school based Aerospace Institutes would receive $3 million in the House budget and $6.5 million in the Senate's. And a Florida Tech space research institute would receive $2.5 million in the Senate's budget, but the House offers zero. Click here for FSDC's regularly updated chart. (3/24)

What's Next for the Dawn Mission (Source: Popular Science)
Her online alias is Planetary Keri, but in real life she is Keri Bean. An engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, Bean has won the hearts of her Twitter followers who rely on her regular science-themed tweets to keep them informed. A space meteorologist by trade, Keri now writes the code that tells the Dawn spacecraft when and how to collect science data. Click here. (3/24)

The Final Frontier of Net Neutrality (Source: Slate)
A heavenly Internet is taking shape above our heads. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic both announced plans for “megaconstellations” of low-Earth orbit, or LEO, satellites delivering broadband to every inch of the inhabited world. Instead of greed, this Internet is said to be propelled by philanthropic purpose. Click here. (3/24)

Rockets for Commercial Crew Launches Coming Together (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The codes AV-073 and AV-080 may not mean much to many, but they mean a whole lot to former astronaut Chris Ferguson and the team of engineers and technicians who will assemble the first Atlas V rocket to launch a crew to the International Space Station. That test and a precursor flight without crew are part of the final development work Boeing is completing with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to certify a new crew transportation system for low-Earth orbit.

On its factory floor in Decatur, Alabama, United Launch Alliance, or ULA, is beginning to fabricate parts for the two rockets that are to launch Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft in 2017. “The last time we were at this stage of development for a human spacecraft was in the 1970s when we were building the shuttle,” Ferguson said. “I have Apollo manuals on my desk — not to copy designs but to understand how they did it and to validate the decisions we’ve made." (3/23)

One Astronaut Will Help Answer NASA's Biggest Question (Source: Houston Chronicle)
When NASA astronaut Scott Kelly launches on Friday he's got one long-range goal in mind. "We're trying to get to Mars," said Kelly. "I won't go, but the next generation has a chance."

To reach Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun and the only other body in the solar system even remotely similar to Earth with land, ice caps and a thin atmosphere, NASA faces a host of challenges. It must design complex vehicles to fly people there, and safely land them. It must also build a political consensus for such a mission and obtain hundreds of billions of dollars in funding.

But even if NASA does all this, there remain an array of threats to the health of its astronauts along the way. An absence of gravity weakens muscles and bones, and some male astronauts have returned from the space station with impaired vision. Beyond Earth's protective magnetic field, radiation could damage their bodies, and the psychology of spending a long time, in a cramped space, far from home is a big unknown. Click here. (3/23)

Fishing in Outer Space for Bigger Junk (Source: Voice of America)
Going back in time to tackle 21st century problems, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been testing the effectiveness of some old fishing net technology as a way to grab and retrieve larger pieces of debris in space such as inactive satellites or spent rocket boosters. The space agency tested the old fishing net technology, which has been dated to 8,300 BC, aboard a Falcon 20 aircraft that produced 20 seconds of weightlessness by flying in parabolic arcs. (3/23)

Air Force Releases Results of SpaceX Space Launch Process Review (Source: USAF)
The Air Force announced phase one results of the independent review panel tasked by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James to review the process for certifying SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) provider.

“To ensure we are fully capitalizing on our joint lessons learned, I directed an independent review of our certification process,” James said. “Our goal was to assess not only our current processes but also to recommend improvements.”

The panel recommended ways that the Air Force’s New Entrant Certification Team could better focus the process on the new entrant's ability to deliver qualified hardware, support, and processes to meet requirements. As a result of this review, the Air Force and SpaceX will revise the June 2013 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to immediately adopt these recommendations. (3/23)

Shotwell Talks Raptor, Falcon 9, CRS-2, Satellite Internet and More (Source: Aviation Week)
Shotwell was asked about an upgrade to the Falcon 9 v1.1 that will increase the rocket's performance with optimized Merlin 1D engines and other enhancements. She said SpaceX will conduct four more launches on the existing rocket before the upgrade debuts this summer with the launch of a commercial communications satellite for SES.

She said the Falcon Heavy will comprise three Falcon 9 core stages, though the central stage will be more robust than the boosters on either side. “Falcon Heavy is two different cores, the inner core and then the two side boosters, and the new single stick Falcon 9 will basically be a Falcon Heavy side booster. So, we're building two types of cores and that's to make sure we don't have a bunch of different configurations of the vehicle around the factory.

In the meantime, SpaceX is working on a new LOX/methane engine that will power the company's Mars rocket (also known as the “BFR”) at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. “We call it Raptor, it will be the engine that should take folks to Mars, that's the plan. The vehicle architecture to do that is a little bit in flux. So the engine performance is in flux. But it'll be a big engine." Click here. (3/23)

Falcon Heavy May Require Continued Use of Landing Barge (Source: SPACErePORT)
With their development of a new multi-core landing complex at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, one might have thought the company's Jacksonville-based landing barge would soon be obsolete. But Gwynne Shotwell said that Falcon Heavy missions might use the barge to recover the center core, while the two outside-core "boosters" would return to the Cape for landing.

That's probably because the outside boosters would separate from the center core earlier in flight -- and closer to the spaceport -- allowing them to return. Meanwhile, the center core would carry the payload further downrange before separating with the upper stage, perhaps too far to allow flight back to the spaceport's landing complex. The barge might be needed to recover these cores. (3/23)

Launch. Recover. Repeat. (Source: Air & Space)
SpaceX started 2015 with an attempt to recover the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket. If it succeeds—enough has been demonstrated so far to make that likely—SpaceX will become the first to launch a rocket-powered first stage to orbit, then land it under control.

The Falcon 9 will be the second partly recoverable launch vehicle. The first was the space shuttle, but it has been retired in favor of the expendable rockets it was supposed to replace. “Within a decade from now most of America’s inventory of conventional throwaway launch rockets will have been replaced by a more elegant and hopefully cheaper ladder to orbit,” reported Flight International in 1975, back before the orbiters had been built.

Some people will tell you that recovering a space launcher is so difficult that the economics can’t work, and use as evidence the failure of the shuttle to deliver its advertised savings and the collapse of other reusable spaceplane projects. In my view, a few organizations could have made a reusable launcher work, and the reasons they failed were political rather than technical. The most influential of those organizations was NASA. Click here. (3/23)

SpaceX’s Competitors Emphasize Schedule Reliability (Source: Space News)
Challenged to compete with SpaceX on price, other commercial launch providers are emphasizing an alternative attribute they believe makes them more competitive: the ability to launch on time. That focus on schedule reliability, a theme during a launch services panel at the Satellite 2015 conference, coincided with a delay by SpaceX in a commercial launch of the Thales-built TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT satellite.

At the conference panel, executives of other companies, while not directly mentioning the SpaceX launch delay, took pains to emphasize their ability to launch on schedule. “We do not have unexpected events before the launch,” said Arianespace chief executive Stéphane Israël.

Steve Skladanek, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, emphasized the schedule performance of the Atlas 5 rocket, a vehicle that is a workhorse for the U.S. government but only a bit player on the commercial market. “Atlas is one of the most reliable systems available to the commercial market space to deliver on time,” he said. (3/23)

China Completes Second Test on New Rocket's Power System (Source: Xinhua)
The second ground test of the power system of China's next-generation carrier rocket was completed Monday, ahead of its first flight in 2016. Using non-toxic, non-polluting liquid propellant, the engines of Long March-5 were test-fired on the ground to test current technology, said Tan Yonghua, head of the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology. Long March-5 was first test-fired on Feb. 9 this year. (3/23)

Sierra Nevada and NASA Amend CCiCap Partnership for Dream Chaser (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada has amended its current Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA, adding a significant development milestone to the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) partnership. The amendment, which extends the period of performance through March 2016, introduces unfunded Milestone 41, Design Analysis Cycle-6 Closeout Review – demonstrating the advancement of the Dream Chaser Space System design from a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) level of maturity toward a Critical Design Review (CDR) level. (3/23)

Astrotech Acquires Imaging Technology (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech has completed the acquisition of key assets and intellectual property from Image Trends, Inc., during a bankruptcy auction. “With the acquisition of these technologies, intellectual property, and know-how, coupled with selected high performance space imaging technologies, we have created Astral Images, Inc., revolutionizing the film to digital conversion process for the new Ultra-High Definition 4K standards,” stated Thomas B. Pickens, CEO of Astrotech. (3/23)

Europe Produces Another Zero-G Flight Venture (Source: Flight Global)
Repeatedly pulling 1.8g in fiercely steep climbs and dives is no way for an airline to treat its customers, but for one of the world’s most specialised operators, that’s exactly what they’re paying for. And, Bordeaux Merignac-based Novespace is set to give even more passengers just such a thrill, now that it’s taken delivery of a new aircraft.

Novespace is a subsidiary of the French space agency, CNES, and also counts ESA and Germany’s DLR aerospace agency as its main customers. The plan is to continue to provide them with about 18 flights a year, but Gharib says that a program of public “weightlessness discovery” flights introduced in 2013 through a Novespace operation called Air Zero G will expand to six sorties per year. (3/23)

Orbital ATK Wrests JPSS Business From Ball (Source: Space News)
In an upset for incumbent Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Orbital ATK won a NASA contract to build a U.S. civilian polar-orbiting weather satellite, and possibly two more after that in a deal potentially worth $470 million, the space agency announced March 23. (3/23)

Terminal Velocity’s Down-to-Earth Cargo Delivery Aspirations (Source: Space News)
In late April or early May, Near Space Corp. plans to use a high-altitude balloon to carry Terminal Velocity Aerospace’s soccer-ball-size re-entry device to 30,000 meters and drop it. This will be an important test of the firm’s new product, RED-4U, an aeroshell designed to protect everything from space-based biological experiments to asteroid samples on journeys through Earth’s atmosphere.

RED stands for Reentry Device. Eventually, the company hopes RED-4U and a suite of similar products will shepherd payloads through other planetary atmospheres as well. “If this company is around in 25 years, it will be shipping things through space similar to how UPS and FedEx ship things on Earth,” said Dominic DePasquale. Click here. (3/23)

Construction Underway for Air Force Space Fence Radar in the Marshall Islands (Source: Lockheed Martin)
In a special February ceremony on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean – more than 2,100 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu – the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin broke ground at the future six-acre site of the new Space Fence radar system.

The event marks the official start of construction for the S-band ground-based radar system, designed to replace the 1960s Air Force Space Surveillance System to improve the way objects are tracked in orbit and increase our ability to predict and prevent space-based collisions. (3/23)

NASA Announces Teams for 2015 Human Exploration Rover Challenge (Source: NASA)
Nearly 100 high school and college teams from around the world will race against each other during NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge April 17-18 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Participating teams are from 15 states and Puerto Rico, as well as international teams from Mexico, Germany, India and Russia. Editor's Note: Escambia High School in Pensacola is the only Florida-based team. (3/23)

Rocket Carrying Student Experiments to be Launched from Virginia (Source: Washington Post)
A NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital rocket carrying student experiments is scheduled to be launched Friday morning from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA says the experiments were developed by undergraduate students at Virginia Tech, the University of Colorado, Northwest Nazarene University, the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Nebraska. (3/23)

KSC Pads Continue Preparations for Future Vehicles (Source:
Both of the iconic pads at the Kennedy Space Center are being revamped for their roles with new launch vehicles. Pad 39B is set to receive additional Catacomb Roof reinforcements to cope with the massive SLS Block 1B rocket, while Pad 39A’s landscape continues to change with modifications at the pad and the construction of a new Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) for SpaceX. Click here. (3/22)

Ten Months, Four Florida Launches to Finish GPS Deployment (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The final year of launches in the current breed of Global Positioning System navigation satellites kicks off Wednesday afternoon aboard a Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral. GPS 2F-9 is slated for liftoff during a window of 2:36 to 2:54 p.m. EDT and will follow a flight azimuth of 46 degrees, heading up the Eastern Seaboard.

Four GPS launches over the next 10 months, through next January, will complete the deployment of Boeing-built Block 2F spacecraft that feature improved accuracy, additional signals, enhanced anti-jamming and longer design lives. (3/23)

OneWeb Taps Rockwell Collins For Low-Cost Satcom Phased Array (Source: Aviation Week)
Rockwell Collins plans to bring low-cost electronically scanned arrays (ESA) to civil aircraft to enable high-speed broadband communications via a proposed constellation of almost 650 small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). The avionics manufacturer has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be the exclusive developer and provider of airborne satcom terminals for startup OneWeb’s global broadband service. (3/23)

Potentially Life-Friendly Nitrogen Compounds Found on Mars (Source: Science News)
Mars’ surface contains a form of nitrogen required for building biological molecules such as DNA and proteins. In samples of fine-grained deposits and drilled mudstone, the Mars rover Curiosity discovered “fixed” nitrogen – a chemical form in which the ultrastrong bond in nitrogen gas, or N2, has broken.

On Earth, fixed nitrogen comes from atmospheric nitrogen primarily with the help of enzymes (or industrial processes). The researchers think volcanic lightning or the heat of ancient impacts on Mars’ surface were responsible for nitrogen fixation on the Red Planet. (3/23)

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