March 27, 2015

ULA Adds Two Names to NGLS Naming Competition (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
United Launch Alliance (ULA ) has added two more options to the competition to name the company's new launch system (currently dubbed the Next Generation Launch System or "NGLS"). The two new names, "Vulcan" and"Zeus" join the three earlier names, "Eagle", "Freedom" and "GalaxyOne." (3/27)

SpaceX Can’t Jettison Mass Layoff Class Action (Source: Law 360)
A California judge on Thursday rejected SpaceX’s bid to end a putative class action alleging it laid off hundreds of workers last year without a state-mandated warning and shorted their final paychecks, ruling the plaintiffs had sufficiently pled their labor law claims. At a hearing on Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle found that the plaintiffs had been sufficiently specific in their allegations that SpaceX laid them off to cut costs. (3/26)

Increasing Canada's International Role in Space Exploration (Source: Govt. of Canada)
Industry Minister James Moore and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Astronaut Jeremy Hansen announced that the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), is investing an additional $2.6 million towards Canada's contribution in the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever built. (3/26)

Japanese Sat Keeping an Eye on Kim Jong-un (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On Thursday, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA ) successfully launched its fifth IGS optical satellite (IGS-Optical 5) today atop a H-IIA F28 launch vehicle. The launch occurred at 5:00 p.m. EST (6:00 a.m. JST) from the space agency’s Yoshinobu Launch Complex on Tanegashima Island. At the time of launch, Tanegashima Island saw clear, blue skies and no delays in the launch procedure. (3/26)

International Cooperation Could Reduce Asteroid Mission Cost (Source: Space News)
International cooperation could help reduce the cost to NASA for its Asteroid Redirect Mission, an agency official said Thursday. Speaking at an event hosted by USRA and GWU's Space Policy Institute in Washington, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said the agency had some expressions of interest from several countries about partnering on ARM.

Lightfoot didn't go into specifics about the countries beyond that they include "typical partners" for NASA, nor provide details on the technologies or other capabilities they provide. Those partners, he said, could help reduce NASA's costs for carrying out ARM, which Lightfoot said earlier this week would be no more than $1.25 billion, plus launch, for the robotic phase. (3/27)

Raytheon Shifts 70 Satellite Jobs From Colorado to Maryland (Source: Daily Record)
Raytheon has moved 70 positions from Aurora, Colorado, to the company’s Riverdale facility as part of a plan to upgrade its support of NASA and NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System Common Ground System. Raytheon said the move concludes a strategic milestone that brings the support team for the program in close proximity to NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. (3/26)

Astronaut Twins Study Raises Questions About Genetic Privacy (Source: Nature)
When NASA astronaut Scott Kelly launches on a one-year mission to the International Space Station on 28 March, he will also launch an unprecedented study into the biological changes that occur during human spaceflight. Researchers will gather reams of genomic, molecular, physiological and other data on Kelly and compare it to his Earth-dwelling identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Differences between the brothers could reveal how the body copes with extreme environments.

But results from the US$1.5-million twin study may never see the light of day. The Kellys are having their entire genomes sequenced, and if they discover sensitive medical information they do not want shared — such as susceptibility to particular diseases — the results may never be published. “This is such new territory, we can’t anticipate what will happen,” says Craig Kundrot, deputy chief scientist of the human research program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. (3/26)

SpaceX’s Fight With U.S. Air Force Called a Clash of Perceptions (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force suffered from a “stark disconnect in perceptions” over the company’s efforts to win approval to compete for military satellite launches, according to an independent review. “There is also a lack of common understanding” of “some basic objectives and definitions” spelled out in a 2013 agreement on the steps toward certifying SpaceX, retired Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch said in the review.

While the two sides have become conciliatory and say they expect SpaceX to be certified for launches by June, the report lays out a cultural collision between Musk’s entrepreneurial impatience and the Air Force’s methodical bureaucracy. It’s also emblematic of the larger difficulties the U.S. defense and intelligence bureaucracies are having developing and adopting new technologies as fast as private entrepreneurs have been doing. (3/26)

Japan's H-2A Rocket Achieves Fourth Launch in Six Months (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A new surveillance satellite equipped with a high-resolution optical camera blasted into space aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket Thursday, joining a fleet of spy stations in orbit to track military activity in North Korea and other locations around the world. The H-2A rocket steered south from Tanegashima to deploy its payload into polar orbit. The launcher aimed to release the satellite in an orbit about 300 miles above Earth. (3/25)

Northrop Balks at Agency’s Request To Interview JWST Workers (Source: Space News)
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) prime contractor Northrop Grumman last year denied what it has since characterized as an unprecedented request by the U.S. Government Accountability Office for one-on-one interviews with employees overseeing key elements of the program, insisting instead that the workers’ supervisors be present, the congressional watchdog agency said.

The interviews, part of a running series of GAO audits of the NASA flagship observatory, which is billions of dollars overbudget and years behind schedule, were intended to identify potential future trouble spots. But Northrop Grumman Aerospace, which along with NASA says the $9 billion project is back on track, cited concerns that the employees, 30 in all, would be intimidated by the process. (3/25)

Revised SpaceX, USAF Certification Plan To Focus on ‘Trust’ (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force and SpaceX are modifying the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) signed two years ago to outline what has become the contentious process to certify the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket for use in launching national security payloads. The changes are needed to refocus the certification process on establishing top-level trust and confidence that the company can deliver a launch as planned. (3/25)

SLS, JWST Account for 70% of NASA's Development Costs (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Two programs — one led by Northrop Grumman and the other Boeing — account for 70 percent of NASA’s development budget, leaving 10 other major programs to fight for the leftovers.

Interestingly, the $6.19 billion James Webb Space Telescope under development by Northrop Grumman, which has faced its fair share of challenges, was overtaken as the most costly program in NASA’s portfolio, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office. The Space Launch System being developed by Boeing as the replacement of the Space Shuttle for human space exploration is now the costliest. (3/26)

New Evidence May Identify Mystery Object at Milky Way Galaxy's Core (Source:
New observations may finally reveal the identity of a mystery object circling around the monster black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy — or not. Known to many as "G2," the unidentified object could be a cloud of gas, or it could be a star, depending on who you ask.

Discovered in 2011, G2 captured the attention of scientists because it was on its way to making a tight swing around the black hole — potentially providing the dark monster with a snack. The new observations of G2 show that it has remained compact during its swing around the black hole, according to the authors of the new research.

Since a gas cloud would likely be smeared out by the gravitational pull of the black hole, the scientists conclude that the object is a star. But the group that discovered G2 says the new results are not enough to make a definitive statement about the identity of this peculiar blob. (3/25)

Titusville Still a Hub for Space Fans (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
There may be no more shuttle launches, but Titusville is still a hub for fans of space and history. Once upon a time, the world's attention would turn to Titusville, where crowds sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands would line the banks of the Indian River to witness America's technological audacity. The crowds in Titusville are smaller for today's SpaceX and Air Force missions, but visitors can still get a sense of the glory days.

The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum is, as the name suggests, a collection of artifacts and memorabilia — much of it donated by people who worked for the space program — that chronicle the region's nearly six-decade connection to space. If you're looking for the space program's equivalent of a theme park, go visit the KSC Visitor Complex down the road. (3/25)

Military Gears Up for Space Warfare (Source: Washington Free Beacon)
Pentagon, military, and intelligence officials outlined plans on Wednesday for warfare in space and warned China not to attack U.S. satellites in any future conflict. “The threats are real, they’re technologically advanced and they’re a concern,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond in testimony before a House subcommittee. “We are quickly approaching the point where every satellite in every orbit can be threatened.”

Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said that the threat of attacks on satellites in orbit is no longer a theoretical concern. “Quite frankly, it’s one thing to anticipate an imaginary threat,” Loverro said. “It’s another thing to see that threat develop, watch it be exercised as with the Chinese on several occasions, recognize what it can do to our capability, and react to that. And that’s what we’re doing right now.” (3/26)

How NASA Got Stuck with an Uninspiring Asteroid Mission (Source: Houston Chronicle)
ASA outlined some of the details of its Asteroid Redirect Mission on Wednesday afternoon. The space agency will launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020 to visit an asteroid far away from Earth, likely 2008 EV5, grab a rock up to 13 feet across from its surface, and return to a location near the moon. Then, at the end of 2025, two NASA astronauts will fly to the vicinity of the moon, spacewalk over to the rock, and take some samples.

In 2010 President Obama told NASA it would send astronauts to an asteroid in 2025. So being the diligent engineers they are, NASA tried to do that. But there was no way NASA could pull off such an ambitious deep space mission, and had to water the mission down a couple of times. If this small boulder is no longer an asteroid, then NASA isn’t meeting the President’s mandate.

For now the ARM mission is just a concept. But NASA will need $1.25 billion over the next five years to ready a spacecraft for a 2020 launch to go and bag the rock. Congress will have to decide whether to appropriate those funds. This seems unlikely. (3/26)

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