March 25, 2015

ULA Delta Launches GPS at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Delta IV Medium launched today, March 25, from Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37), carrying with it the ninth GPS IIF satellite for the U.S. Air Force. Liftoff occurred right on time and at the beginning of an 18-minute window at 2:36 p.m. EDT. (3/25)

Cruz Says Satellite Data Show Globe Isn’t Warming. Satellite Scientist Disagrees (Source: Washington Post)
Now that Ted Cruz is a presidential candidate, his views on science are getting a lot of scrutiny. That’s particularly the case in that while he does seem to acknowledge the reality of at least some amount of climate change, he nonetheless seems a skeptic of the idea that human-caused climate change is happening right now, or has been happening lately. "Satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever," he said.

Cruz doesn’t say why we should trust satellite data over, say, ground-based weather station data, or sea-based buoy data. Based on such surface temperature measurements, NASA and NOAA both called last year the warmest on record, followed by 2010, followed by 2005, and then only maybe followed by 1998.

Individual years can vary in temperature, but decades tell you more about trends. Using this approach, the World Meteorological Organization has ably demonstrated that the decade of the 2000s was warmer globally than the 1990s, which was in turn warmer than the 1980s. So while 1998 may have been one of the top four or five hottest years on record, that hardly means the globe hasn’t been warming in the past 17 years. (3/24)

NASA Announces Next Steps on Journey to Mars: Progress on Asteroid Initiative (Source: NASA)
NASA announced more details in its plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago.

For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars. The agency plans to announce the specific asteroid selected for the mission no earlier than 2019, approximately a year before launching the robotic spacecraft.

Before an asteroid is considered a valid candidate for the mission, scientists must first determine its characteristics, in addition to size, such as rotation, shape and precise orbit. NASA has identified three valid candidates for the mission so far: Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5. The agency expects to identify one or two additional candidates each year leading up to the mission. (3/25)

NASA Offering $35,000 in Prizes for Programming Help Detecting Asteroids (Source: Circa)
NASA and Planetary Resources, a private space mining company, announced the "Asteroid Data Hunter" contest at SXSW on March 10. The contest is looking for programmers to help build better software to analyze data collected from the network of telescopes used in the Near Earth Object program. (3/25)

Era of Reusable Rockets (Source: CNBC)
Inside United Launch Alliance's rocket facility, with CNBC's Jane Wells. ULA is planning to create a reusable rocket. Click here and here for videos on ULA's reusability plans, and rocket manufacturing in Alabama. (3/25)

Russia’s Dnepr Rocket Tasked with Korean Satellite Mission (Source:
Kosmotras is set to launch a Russian Dnepr rocket from Dombarovsky on Wednesday, carrying the Kompsat-3A satellite for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The launch – which nearly fell foul of a proposed shutdown of Dnepr utilization – is scheduled for 22:08 UTC. (3/25)

Vega To Launch Peruvian Imaging Satellite Along with Skybox Craft (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium will use a Vega small-satellite rocket to launch Peru’s high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite in the first half of 2016 under a contract signed March 25 with Airbus Defence and Space, the satellite’s builder. Airbus won the PeruSat-1 contract in April 2014 after a heated competition among European and Israeli satellite builders. (3/25)

The Sad Decline of Florida's Space Coast (Source: WIRED)
Florida's Space Coast was a popular destination for sightseers and dreamers who came to see humanity reach for the stars. It drew its identity from Kennedy Space Center, and the end of the shuttle program left it struggling to redefine itself. KSC was for two generations the public face of a space program that ended when the shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time in 2011.

Thousands of NASA employees lost their jobs, Kennedy was essentially mothballed and Space Coast became a shadow of itself. There’s still hope. Last year Kennedy Space Center released a 20-year master plan that includes new launch pads and a new runway. Click here. (3/25)

US Prepares for Space Warfare, Citing Chinese Success (Source: Sputnik)
Anti-missile technologies tested by China over the last decade have caused alarm for US officials. In terms of space defense, the United States may be losing out in the futuristic "counterspace" campaign. "But just seeing the nature of these types of activities show how committed they are to a counter-space campaign," Admiral Cecil D. Haney, head of the Omaha-based nuclear forces command, said during a news conference at the Pentagon on Tuesday. "So we have to be ready for any campaign that extends its way into space." (3/25)

SpaceX’s Shotwell Walks Back Musk’s Cronyism Charge (Source: Space News)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell’s tour of Washington found her occasionally doing the work of the circus shovel brigade. When you work for a guy who shoots from the hip as often as SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, it’s an unavoidable part of the job.

Musk spent part of 2014 and early 2015 making extraordinary allegations that competitor United Launch Alliance, its shareholders Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force and anyone else involved in certifying SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket for government missions were all in cahoots to keep SpaceX out of the game and feather their future employment and retirement nests.

Musk went so far as to issue a near-libelous public accusation against a specific individual, formerly with the Air Force and now with a SpaceX competitor, who he said slow-rolled Falcon 9 certification to get his private-sector job. Since then, SpaceX has dropped its lawsuit against the Air Force and focused on the complicated task of certifying its rocket to carry U.S. government missions. It was time for a peace offering. Click here. (3/25)

Space Day 2015 Celebrates Aerospace at Florida Capitol (Source: SaintPetersBlog)
“There’s a lot of synergy among Pensacola, Tampa, Jacksonville and the Space Coast (Brevard County) (on this),” said state Sen. Thad Altman. “It’s why we call it Space Day — We don’t call it Brevard day.” The aerospace industry is a $19.2 billion industry in Florida employing more than 141,000 people. An aerospace company is operating in every county in the state, employing anywhere from four people (Liberty) to as many as 22,000 (Brevard).

Florida once had space mostly to itself. There were facilities in Houston and California but Florida was the focus of the nation with the moon and shuttle programs. Nowadays, space is a growing industry. Commercial launch facilities are scattered across the nation, in Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, and Georgia is exploring the possibilities. (3/25)

Spaceport America Sculpture 'Genesis' Reaches for the Stars (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
A $200,000, 11,000-pound, 40-foot-long by 5-foot-deep steel sculpture titled “GENESIS” has been installed in a roundabout at the entrance of the Spaceport America property. It’s a large arc facing upward. Inlaid into the metal are round glass pieces containing mirrors that represent the stars.

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson said she’s “really pleased with it” and said it will help to add to the tourism element of the spaceport. “I think it’s very uplifting,” she said. (3/25)

Thales Alenia Proceeding with Euro-Russian ExoMars, Other Projects (Source: Space News)
Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space said its Russian and Turkish satellite production programs are back on track after delays and that its close-quarters work with Russian companies on Europe’s ExoMars missions to Mars is proceeding on schedule despite the current hostility between Russia and the West.

The Franco-Italian company also said it is about to launch the first-ever commercial geostationary telecommunications satellite carrying 3-D-printed components, and that it had introduced robots onto its satellite manufacturing floor this year. (3/24)

Florida & Space Coast Leaders Urge Harris Corp. to Stay Put (Source: MyNews 13)
Brevard County is fighting to keep one of the Space Coast's largest companies headquartered in Melbourne. Federal, state and local leaders have drafted a letter to Harris Corp., which recently announced its largest acquisition ever, worth over $4 billion. With Harris' purchase of defense contractor Exelis, it's possible the new, larger company could relocate its headquarters to Washington, D.C. That could also relocate many jobs, although that number was not immediately known.

In the open letter, published in Wednesday's edition of Florida Today, Brevard County leaders urged the multibillion-dollar, deeply rooted company to keep its hub on the Space Coast. The letter starts by congratulating Brevard's largest company, which has been located in Melbourne since 1974, on its recent acquisition of Exelis. The deal creates an $8 billion tech company with 23,000 employees, including 9,000 engineers and scientists. (3/18)

Massive Housing, Business Development Denied Near Wallops Island Spaceport (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Two applications for a proposed massive, mixed-use development in northern Accomack County have been turned down by the Board of Supervisors. The board defeated 3-6 both a rezoning request to move 77 acres from agricultural to residential and a conditional use permit amendment to increase the capacity of a wastewater treatment plant for the planned development, called Town Center at Wallops Island Spaceport.

Among factors that apparently influenced the decision were reservations a NASA official expressed about locating a high density residential neighborhood so close to an active airfield at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. "Airplanes don't know lines, necessarily," said Caroline Massey, assistant director for management operations at Wallops. (3/23)

Comsys Survey Sees No Letup in Maritime Market Growth (Source: Space News)
The maritime satellite broadband market continued its sharp upward march in 2014, surpassing 20,000 ships with installed terminals despite the headwind of lower crude-oil prices and generating about $1.3 billion in revenue, according to an industry survey by Comsys of London. The installed base has nearly doubled since 2010 and shows no sign of a growth slowdown, according to Comsys. Once considered a luxury, broadband connectivity is now viewed as a must-have for ship fleets seeking to retain qualified personnel. (3/25)

Sierra Nevada and Houston Airport System Announce New Landing Agreement (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada and the Houston Airport System announced a new follow-on agreement to utilize Ellington Airport’s Spaceport as a future landing site for SNC’s Uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft - SNC’s solution for NASA’s Cargo Resupply needs and other critical space operations.

“Entering into this new agreement with HAS will lead to enabling all variants of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land in Houston, offering the ability to return cargo and science to Houston directly from space,” said Mark Sirangelo. (3/24)

Will Ellington Field Get Its Spaceport? (Source: Houstonia)
Earlier today, Houston Airport System Director Mario Diaz addressed industry representatives, city leaders, and members of the media at the organization's annual "State of the Airports" address. Much of Diaz's talk, which was live-tweeted. One tweet was of special interest to all: Houston's further progress in the space race:

"Houston Airport System has filed its application to become nation’s 10th licensed commercial spaceport," he tweeted. "We’ll have our answer no later than June 28, but we are extremely optimistic."

License approval is just one piece to the puzzle. Further studies, designs, and business will all be required before any construction (a la New Mexico's Spaceport America, spearheaded by Virgin Galactic) can occur. Still, it would be a personal victory for Diaz, who first presented an early plan to convert Ellington Field into a burgeoning spaceport in 2013. (3/23)

USAF, SpaceX Focus on Second Stage Engine to Wrap Up Certification (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force said on Monday it was on track to certify privately held SpaceX to launch U.S. military and spy satellites by June, with the final efforts focused on qualifying the second stage engine and structure of its Falcon 9 rocket. (3/23)

Hawaiian Debut Flight of Rail-Guided Space Launcher Slips to October (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The first flight of a new rail-guided satellite launch system from a military missile range in Hawaii has been delayed until late October due to problems with the rocket’s first stage motor, according to a U.S. Air Force official. The rail-launched Super Strypi launcher is awaiting an opening in the range schedule at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

[Ironically,] the mission aims to demonstrate a concept to accelerate launch preparations, cutting processing time from months to weeks and slashing the cost of launching small satellites into orbit. The launch was originally set for October 2013, but Anttonen said in the mission appears on track for liftoff in late October 2015 from a new launch pad on Kauai. (3/23)

Russia to Resume Space Tourism in 2018 (Source: ABC)
Russia officials say they will resume space tourism in 2018 after years of sending into space only professional cosmonauts and astronauts. Russia had sent seven paying guests to the International Space Station since 2001 before curtailing the program in 2009. Sending a tourist has been all but impossible since 2011 when the United States shut down its Space Shuttle program and had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets in order to get into orbit.

Russia, however, has made an exception for British soprano Sarah Brightman who is due to blast off on Sept. 1. RKK Energia, a state-controlled rocket manufacturer, said in a quarterly report released on Tuesday that it plans to make up for an expected drop in demand for manned flights by resuming space tourism in 2018. (3/24)

No Word From the Philae Lander Until April at the Earliest (Source: Washington Post)
It's been months now since the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft, currently orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, dropped its little lander Philae onto the surface and made history. Just days after its bumpy landing -- the first controlled landing of any manmade object on a comet -- Philae disappeared.

It didn't have enough sun exposure to keep itself operational, and Rosetta wasn't able to spot it on camera during its passes over the presumed resting place. So after several days of furiously acquiring data and running tests, Philae went to sleep.

On March 12, scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Lander Control Center began sending signals out to Philae. They kept trying for eight days. But on March 20, they announced they would have to try again sometime in April. They're in the process of calculating when Rosetta will next be in a good position to reach out to Philae. (3/23)

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