March 28, 2015

ISRO Rockets to Make Safe Landings Too (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
If Indian space scientists were giddy with success when they steered the orbiter to Mars (MOM) in the maiden effort last year, such feelings could soar higher when they launch an improvised version of the space shuttle from the country’s space port, Sriharikota Range, in three months. This new rocket, designed to bring down the cost of launch of satellites substantially, could be used over and over again because it will return to earth and touch down like an aircraft.
In its first flight in June, it will be propelled into space at about six times the speed of sound by a booster, and return after touching an altitude of 70 km. The booster and the reusable launch vehicle (RLV) will plummet into the Bay of Bengal, but once operational both will touch down on return, Dr A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, Isro, told Deccan Chronicle, adding “ground tests are on for the first flight scheduled for the end of the first half of this year.” (3/27)

Galileo Nears Operation (Source: Guardian)
Europe has launched two more navigation satellites on Friday – the seventh and eighth spacecraft in the £4.4bn Galileo navigation program. This will bring Galileo to the verge of operation. Galileo is a European satellite navigation system. By 2020 it will consist of up to 30 satellites, most of them operational, but with six orbiting spares. (3/26)

Two for Two! Dual Launches of Soyuz Booster (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It's not every day that two rockets take to the sky. Even rarer is the flight of two of the same family of boosters during that same time frame. Today was just such a day for the Soyuz rocket. In fact a mere two hours and four minutes after a NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts lifted off for the International Space Station atop their Soyuz booster – another Soyuz, this one launching from the Spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, thundered off the launch pad and into the sky. (3/27)

Orbital ATK’s Surprise JPSS-2 Win Means Work for Arizona Plant (Source: Space News)
Five years after acquiring General Dynamics Corp.’s satellite facility at a fire-sale price, Orbital ATK nabbed a U.S. civilian weather satellite contract that typifies the kind of medium-sized spacecraft the company hoped to compete for when it bought the Gilbert, Arizona, plant.

In what struck some industry insiders as a surprising upset for incumbent Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Orbital ATK will build one, and possibly three, Joint Polar System Satellite (JPSS) spacecraft under a NASA contract announced March 24 and worth up to $470 million. (3/27)

Melbourne Tracking Dome Finds New Home in Florida Museum (Source: Florida Today)
The domed roof of the Air Force telescopic tracking station that stood for decades off State Road A1A near Melbourne Beach has finally found a permanent home. Sunday, volunteers will move the disassembled dome via flatbed trailer to Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum at Keystone Heights Airport, about 10 miles southeast of Starke. (3/27)

Air Force Moving Ahead on Satellite Modems for Protected Communications (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to release a final request for proposals in the coming weeks for modems compatible with a new protected tactical waveform that the service developed as part of a long-term strategy to bolster its ability to provide protected communications via military or commercial satellites. (3/27)

AsiaSat Results Reflect Troop Withdrawals, Capacity Glut (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat reported a 9 percent drop in revenue and a 27 percent drop in new and renewal contracts in 2014, saying declining military sales and a regional oversupply are putting downward pressure on transponder-lease prices. The company said changes in the way its customers download video suggest that a high-throughput satellite with multiple spot beams and frequency reuse may be in order, but not yet. (3/27)

Soon, Humans Will Follow Robots Into Deep Space (Source: WIRED)
Robots are having all the fun. “Uncrewed” spacecraft have ventured to almost every corner of the solar system, and—at this very minute—are exploring alien worlds from asteroids and comets to planets and dwarf planets. Which makes it tempting to declare that space exploration should be the realm of robots, not humans. People are expensive, hard to maintain, and they can die. Who needs the grief?

Well, we do. The crewed space program and the robot space program are two different things with two different purposes. And we need them both. Yes, when it comes to science, robots kick butt. They’re tough, cheap, and no one besides sci-fi sentimentalists cares if they never come home. Everywhere you look in the solar system, a robot is there.

The human space program, on the other hand, has never been about science. The driving force behind Apollo—the pinnacle of the human space program—was to show up the Soviet Union. The Cold War is over; the human space program no longer has an existential purpose. Which is why it’s struggling. But we humans are perpetually in jeopardy if we stay on Earth, whether from nuclear war, climate apocalypse, or a good old-fashioned killer asteroid. If humanity is to survive, we have to spread out. (3/27)

Long Beach is Part of a ‘Quiet Revolution’ in Aerospace (Source: Press Telegram)
Long Beach will be part of the “quiet revolution” that sends small satellites into orbit, said Virgin Galactic President Steve Isakowitz. “There’s a lot or really exciting emerging opportunities, and we decided to tap into that market to build actually, a rocket, a launch vehicle,” he said.

Virgin Galactic’s operations in Long Beach are expected to begin in 2016. The company held a job fair earlier this month at the former Boeing site where the company plans to assemble rockets. Although Virgin Galactic had only 100 jobs on its immediate hiring list, Isakowitz said some 6,000 people showed up to the event. (3/26)

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