April 10, 2015

Aerojet Posts Net Loss for Quarter (Source: Space News)
The parent company of Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a net loss of $3.9 million in its fiscal first quarter Thursday. GenCorp also reported a $13.6 million decline in net sales in its aerospace and defense business from the first quarter of 2014 due to timing of RL10 and RS-68 engine deliveries and a slowdown in work on the J-2X engine for NASA. The company did not offer any news on the status of the AJ-26 engine, at the center of the investigation into last October's Antares accident. (4/9)

Blue Origin Eyes Cape Canaveral for Launching - and Building - its Rockets (Source: Florida Today)
A billionaire-backed company that aspires to make human spaceflight more affordable would build and launch rockets at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport if state officials can secure its commitment in the coming weeks. Blue Origin could choose from among several states as soon as next month. Brevard County is a contender to win a rocket manufacturing site and up to 300 jobs in preparation for orbital launches in the next five years.

"I have talked to Jeff Bezos, urging him to come to the Cape," said Sen. Bill Nelson, confirming Blue Origin is the company the state has been wooing under the code name of Project Panther. Blue Origin's arrival would be a boost for the Space Coast's future in the commercial space sector, not long after SpaceX chose Texas as a commercial launch site.

It would also mark a successful conclusion to a deal forced to shift gears late when the company's preferred launch site -- Shiloh -- near Volusia County ran into obstacles, threatening the state's bid. The state's revised proposal would have Blue Origin set up a manufacturing site in Exploration Park near KSC's south gate, and launch from Launch Complex 36, a state-run pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (4/10)

CubeSats are Swarming—and Transforming Space Science (Source: Science)
Why a 10-centimeter cube? The trademark size of the CubeSat emerged somewhat accidently, recalls Jordi Puig-Suari, an aerospace engineer at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Student-built satellites date back to the 1980s, but they were often unwieldy, stuffed with dubious hardware from RadioShack and auto parts stores. Not only were they expensive to launch, but commercial rocketeers were also wary of packing them alongside primary payloads.

In 1999, Puig-Suari met with Bob Twiggs, at the time an aerospace engineer at Stanford University, to discuss ways of getting more student projects into space. “We had to do something to get more opportunities to launch these things,” recalls Twiggs, now at Morehead State University in Kentucky. They focused on slimming down the spacecraft, because weight drives up the cost of reaching orbit.

Twiggs and Puig-Suari sketched out options on a napkin. They thought hard about the potential capabilities of a 10-centimeter cube with a mass limit of 1 kilogram—the size and weight of a liter of water. Clad in solar cells, the cube would eke out perhaps a watt of power, enough to power a small computer and a radio: “a Sputnik,” Puig-Suari says. Back at Stanford, Twiggs found the perfect life-size demonstration model: a plastic box used for storing the insanely popular stuffed animals known as Beanie Babies. Click here. (4/9)

Kids Get Glimpse of Spaceport America's 'Gateway Gallery Experience' (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Twenty middle school students from Doña Ana and Sierra counties had a chance to sample coming attractions Thursday at the futuristic Spaceport America and their verdict was "awesome." The new Spaceport America Gateway Gallery Experience, featuring displays and interactive educational games, won't be open to the public until June.

But chances are, after young adventurers spread the word to their friends and classmates, the nagging of parental units will already be well underway before summer vacations. Thursday's tour included opportunities for students, teachers and members of the media to experience interactive exhibits and ride the G-Shock simulator, the big audience pleaser. (4/10)

Boeing's CST-100 Spaceship Makes a Splash in Test Plunge (Source: NBC)
Boeing's CST-100 crew capsule is supposed to touch down on land when it carries crews of astronauts back down to Earth from the International Space Station — but NASA still wants to make sure the spaceship will be shipshape in the event of an emergency water landing. So, on Thursday, a CST-100 prototype was put through its watery paces during a drop into a glorified swimming pool at NASA's Langley Research Center. (4/9)

Freakish Asteroid Likely Spun So Fast It Exploded (Source: Space.com)
An odd asteroid rotated so fast that it blew itself apart, a new study suggests. Researchers using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii spotted four fragments of the asteroid, known as P/2012 F5, and also determined that it completes one rotation every 3.24 hours. The space rock is thus spinning fast enough to spontaneously break apart, study team members said. (4/9)

Kodiak Launch Complex Repair Work Underway (Source: Space News)
Repairs to an Alaska launch site damaged in a launch last August are underway and should be completed by the end of this year, Alaska Aerospace Corp. said March 31. The state-owned corporation said that workers have cleared all the debris from Launch Pad 1 at the Kodiak Launch Complex, allowing reconstruction of the site to begin in the spring. The majority of the buildings at the launch site are structurally sound, although some siding, structural steel and other items will need to be replaced.

The pad was damaged when a missile launched from the pad Aug. 25 exploded seconds after liftoff during a test for the U.S. Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon program. The repairs are being funded through a state insurance policy.

The Kodiak repairs are planned for completion by December, although Alaska Aerospace currently has no launches scheduled from that pad. “We are maintaining schedule and our budget in order to be ready to launch as soon as possible,” Barry King, director of launch operations for Alaska Aerospace, said in a March 31 statement. (4/8)

Bolden To Lobby Senate For Deputy Administrator’s Confirmation (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said April 9 he plans to talk soon with the Republican leadership of the Senate to secure a vote on the long-delayed nomination of the agency’s deputy administrator. Bolden told members of NASA Advisory Council meeting here that he will seek a meeting next week with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to ask for a vote to confirm Dava Newman’s nomination to the post. (4/9)

How Tiny Satellites Spawned in Silicon Valley Will Monitor a Changing Earth (Source: Science)
Vats of homebrewed porter and brown ale ferment under a lunchroom table. In the corner lie a drum kit and guitar, property of Hank and the Doves, the company's pop cover band. Emma the dog roams—and sheds—freely. In some ways, Planet Labs is your typical Silicon Valley startup. But it's not where you'd expect to see the precision assembly of space satellites.

“In terms of overall cleanliness, we just don't care,” says co-founder Chris Boshuizen, who wears a droopy Santa hat in preparation for an office holiday party on this rainy December day in San Francisco. Boshuizen pushes aside strips of clear vinyl sheeting and enters what he calls the “clean enough” room. He stomps on a mat of sticky tape that helps eliminate static charges that could zap satellite electronics—a rare precaution. Beyond another line of tape, no alcohol is allowed. There a shelf is stocked with the company's product: space telescopes no bigger than a loaf of bread.

Two dozen of these telescopes, called Doves, already orbit the Earth, imaging the ground with a resolution good enough to pick out treetops, roads, and buildings. Another 14 are set to ride into orbit next week on a SpaceX cargo rocket. Although heftier spacecraft can spy on Earth with higher resolution, few can match the repeat rate at which one craft in Planet Labs' swarm passes over the same patch of ground. Click here. (4/9)

Here’s Why Humans Are So Obsessed with Colonizing Mars (Source: Quartz)
For many adventurers, the Red Planet has come to symbolize something more than simply space exploration—a hope for the future of humanity. Perhaps that explains why, throughout history, people have granted Mars a unique spot in our collective consciousness, and and why we’re so obsessed with finally colonizing it.

According to Sydney Do, a doctoral candidate at MIT focusing on space habitation and space life support, Mars’s mythic status probably dates back all the way to the Ancient Roman period; Mars is after all named for the Roman God of War. But historical fascination aside, our quest to colonize Mars says a lot civilization’s constant worrying about its fate. Click here. (4/9)

Branson Sees Year Delay to Virgin Galactic Spaceship After Crash (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic Ltd.’s plans to launch commercial spaceflights will be put back by about 12 months after a fatal crash last year. "There is going to be about a one-year delay,” billionaire owner Richard Branson said. The team for the space-tourism venture is working “day and night” on a replacement craft, he said. “They’re confident that they’re back on track.”

The crash during a test flight in California’s Mojave Desert in October killed the co-pilot and injured the pilot. Previously, Branson said the target for the first commercial flight was spring 2015, and he and his son would be aboard for the initial launch. He said at the time that almost 800 would-be space tourists had signed up for $250,000 trips. The program has suffered numerous setbacks, with three people working for Virgin partner Scaled Composites -- now a unit of Northrop Grumman Corp. -- killed in an explosion in 2007. (4/9)

6 things to Know About Where NASA is Right Now (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot gave an update on his agency this week to a breakfast meeting of the National Space Society's Huntsville chapter. Lightfoot, a former Huntsville resident, was director of the Marshall Space Flight Center before becoming the space agency's top civil service manager in Washington. Here are 6 takeaways from Lightfoot's speech. Click here. (4/9)

Space Colonization Fancies Privileged Rich (Source: Pacific Index)
Dreams of colonizing the moon received a breath of fresh air as researchers at Purdue University released new studies theorizing the existence of giant, city supporting lava tubes under the lunar surface. Twitching apocalypse junkies can breathe a sigh of relief, now when the inevitable end of life on earth arrives they can bank on a solid plan B, that is, if they are rich enough. Click here. (4/9)

GenCorp Reports First Quarter 2015 Results (Source: Gencorp)
Net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2015 totaled $318.6 million compared to $332.1 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2014. Net loss for the first quarter of fiscal 2015 was $(3.9) million, or $(0.07) loss per share, compared to a net loss of $(2.3) million, or $(0.04) loss per share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2014. (4/9)

What Makes a Dragon: A Quick Guide to SpaceX's Capsule (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Dragon spacecraft developed by SpaceX has proven itself useful as a delivery vehicle for supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), and the sixth such operational mission is currently scheduled for Monday, April 13. A crewed variant of the capsule is now under development and testing to carry astronauts to the orbiting lab. In theory, it could even be altered to retrieve samples from the planet Mars. But what is the difference between its variants, and what makes a Dragon a Dragon? Click here. (4/9)

Asteroids Will Fuel Space Travel (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA has so far identified about 12,000 space rocks orbiting in Earth's cosmic vicinity. A small but ambitious group of investors has a novel plan for these celestial neighbors: They hope to mine them for fun and profit. It's an appealing possibility, and not entirely crazy. Asteroids are likely rich in two resources: platinum (and related metals) and water. The metals might be worth a fortune if they could be cheaply transported home.

And the water -- more intriguingly -- could prove instrumental in enabling spacefarers to travel long distances from Earth. It could provide fuel for spacecraft, protection from cosmic radiation and sustenance for intrepid explorers. Fueling up in space, moreover, would drastically cut costs by reducing loads at liftoff. One problem: All this is quite possibly illegal. Click here. (4/8)

What Happened to Space? (Source: Collegian)
What happened to outer space? I sometimes forget that the cosmos exist from the amount of coverage the media give it. I hear about political deadlock and presidential elections far more often than space exploration. Not to say that political deadlock and elections are not important issues, but I fail to understand how that is more exciting than space.

Since a young age, I have been extremely optimistic about one day setting foot on the Moon or Mars. That seems like a far-fetched idea to many, but that is not too crazy these days. Thanks to the privatization of the space industry, companies such as SpaceX, a rocket manufacturing company, and Mars One, a non-profit that plans to put the first humans on Mars, are helping NASA in making progress in space exploration.

Mars missions are starting to become more of a reality these days, but if humanity is ever going to look like “Star Trek,” we are going to have to do better than what we have going on right now. NASA is getting less than 1 percent of the federal budget, and now the destination is much further than the Moon. As a nation, we need to embrace and support space exploration much more. It is the future of humanity. (4/8)

Russia's Angara Becomes Cheaper to Manufacture (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's brand new eco-friendly Angara space launch vehicle will be produced at a plant in the city of Omsk using cutting-edge solutions for manufacturing process, said Andrei Kalinovsky, the head of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. These two factors will help to reduce manufacturing costs.

The Khrunichev Center decided to move Angara's manufacturing to a location better suited for this rocket family. "We feel major backing from the governor and mayor of Omsk. They help us develop housing programs to support our personnel and provide learning opportunities at local universities," Kalinovsky said.

But it is the breakthrough management of the manufacturing process that makes all the difference with regard to cutting production costs. Angara was designed as a modular rocket with interchangeable components used to produce its two first two stages. "The modular design allows us to use an assembly line," Kalinovsky explained. According to the head of the Khrunichev Center, the new manufacturing process is the most efficient and will provide the highest possible return on investment. (4/9)

Russian Government to Maintain Cooperation with West on ISS (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian government will maintain the cooperation with the West on the International Space Station (ISS) project despite current political tensions, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said. "During the period of an uneasy geopolitical standoff, the partnership both with European and American colleagues is continuing. Everyone understands the importance of such work and such cooperation despite the short-term political processes happening in the world," Dvorkovich said.

Russia will increase the support for works aboard the ISS and "try not to cut but to enhance the resource base for such work and such cooperation," Dvorkovich told the conference. Besides, the work aboard the ISS allows preparation for possible future interplanetary voyages, Dvorkovich stressed. (4/9)

NASA/Forest Service Maps Aid Fire Recovery (Source: NASA)
New maps of two recent California megafires that combine unique data sets from the U.S. Forest Service and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are answering some of the urgent questions that follow a huge wildfire: In all the acres of blackened landscape, where are the live trees to provide seed and regrow the forest? Which dead trees could endanger workers rebuilding roads and trails? What habitats have been created for fire-dependent wildlife species?

The maps, so detailed that they show individual trees, cover the areas of two California megafires -- the 2013 Rim fire, which burned more than 250,000 acres (1,000 square kilometers) near and in Yosemite National Park, and 2014's very intense King fire near Lake Tahoe -- before, during and after the active burns. As the Forest Service directs ongoing recovery and restoration projects in the two areas, it is using the maps to target its efforts toward important goals such as reducing soil erosion and protecting wildlife. (4/9)

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