April 16, 2015

Comet 67P Springs Magnetic Surprise (Source: Space Daily)
In a new twist in a landmark exploration, Europe's comet-chasing Rosetta mission has found that its target, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has no magnetic field, scientists reported. A robot lab sent down to Comet 67P on November 12 last year, found no evidence that its nucleus was magnetised, they said. The finding could sweep away a key theory on the formation of comets and other solar system bodies, said researcher Hans-Ulrich Auster. It could mean that magnetic forces may not have played a role, as theorised by some, in a crucial stage of planet building. (4/14)

IRS in Space: How Will We Tax a Mars Mission? (Source: Space.com)
Paying taxes is an inescapable reality — even in space. Taxes are going to play a big role in a Mars mission, both in getting there and upon arrival, Adam Chodorow, a law professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, said. "Taxes matter, and the way we colonize space will probably be driven by the tax system," Chodorow told the audience. "We're heading to Mars soon, so we need to be thinking seriously" about the role taxes will play, he added.

Humanity will almost certainly rely on private enterprise to build the ships to get humans to the Red Planet, he said. Companies may go to Wall Street for funding, but investors won't send capital to outer space without making some profit, so the government will probably provide support in the form of tax breaks. (4/14)

'Alien Empire' Search of 100,000 Galaxies Finds... Nothing (Yet) (Source: WIRED)
One of the largest-ever searches for distant alien empires has scoured 100,000 galaxies for signs of suspicious infrared activity and found... nothing. The study by Penn State used data from NASA's Wise ("Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer") orbiting observatory to scour far-off galaxies for radiation which, astronomers theorise, would likely be produced if a civilisation were powerful enough to colonise thousands of stars.

The theory that aliens might be visible on a galactic scale is based on the ideas of physicist Freeman Dyson, who suggested in the 1960s that galactic civilisations would almost by definition use most of the starlight in their galaxy for their own ends. This should be detectable using mid-infrared telescopes. That wasn't possible when Dyson's theory emerged, but NASA's Wise telescope does have the ability to make close measurements for thousands of galaxies, and so allow scientists to study the data for telltale signs of life.

No, they didn't find it. But scientists have found 50 galaxies with unusual radiation signatures, indicating something strange is happening inside many distant collections of stars -- even if it's nothing to do with aliens at all. Jason Wright believes that the sort of tech required by a monumentally successful species would be visible at extreme distances across the universe. He initiated the new research, known as the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT), to test the theory. (4/15)

As Mauna Kea Protests Grow, Some Hawaii Island Residents Worry About Jobs (Source: Civil Beat)
Kathy DeMello, 59, remembers when the first telescope was built on Mauna Kea. It was 1968, and her father was one of the construction workers. “It was exciting,” said DeMello, a third-generation Portuguese immigrant to the Big Island of Hawaii.

On Saturday, DeMello sat at a market in Hilo selling handmade jewelry and chatting with neighbors and friends. Like many in the community, she doesn’t understand the staunch opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope that’s eruptedover the last few weeks. “This is education. It’s jobs,” she said. That means a lot to DeMello: Most of her family has moved away because the Big Island’s tight economy means that there aren’t many jobs available. (4/15)

Orbital, GenCorp Spar Over Cause of October Rocket Crash (Source: Reuters)
Orbital ATK Inc and engine maker GenCorp offered competing explanations for what caused the Oct. 28 explosion of Orbital's Antares rocket, bound for the International Space Station. Ronald Grabe of Orbital ATK told the annual Space Symposium conference that an investigation led by his company had concluded the explosion was caused by excessive wear in the bearings of the GenCorp engine.

GenCorp said its own probe showed that the wear in the bearings was likely caused by debris in the engine. GenCorp spokesman Glenn Mahone said the company's independent investigation would be completed in about three weeks, but the bulk of the work had been done. He said Orbital's statement was "inaccurate and could be misleading." (4/14)

Russia Plans Manned Mission to Moon in 2029-2030 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) intends to send a manned mission to Moon in 2028-2029, Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said on Tuesday. "In 2028-2029 we are planning an unmanned 'visit' to Moon. Manned [lunar] landing [is planned] for 2029-2030," Komarov said. (4/14)

Commercial Space Eyes Greater Share (Source: Defense News)
For years, commercial space providers have pushed the Pentagon for a bigger piece of the military space pie. They may finally get their chance. Commercial providers already handle significant chunks of the bandwidth requirements for the Air Force, particularly its fleet of unmanned systems. But, they argue, moving more work onto their platforms would allow the service to save money while also increasing its security in space by disaggregating crucial assets from big, expensive systems to many smaller, cheaper ones.

In a March interview, service secretary Deborah Lee James indicated to Defense News she was intrigued by the possibility of using more commercial providers to drive resiliency in the space architecture. "There is certainly a commercial role in the overall resilience, in the overall strategy going forward as we continue to protect our assets," she said. Asked whether she expected to see the role of commercial providers expand, James said, "I would hope so." (4/13)

SpaceX To Land Reusable Launcher on Ground (Source: Defense News)
SpaceX hopes that the next attempt to land its Falcon 9 reusable launch vehicle will occur on solid ground. While not providing details of when or where that attempt would occur, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO, told Defense News on Wednesday that the company hopes its next attempted landing will take place on land, not at sea. (4/15)

Stratolaunch Considering Using Multiple Launch Vehicles (Source: Space News)
Stratolaunch Systems, the air-launch venture backed by billionaire Paul Allen, is considering using the giant aircraft it is developing to launch several different types of launch vehicles, and as a result is pausing work on a crewed spacecraft.

In a presentation at the 31st Space Symposium here April 13, Chuck Beames, president of Seattle-based Vulcan Aerospace, the parent company of Stratolaunch Systems, said the company has decided to examine alternative vehicles that could be launched from its aircraft. (4/15)

US General Says Russian, Chinese Launches Demonstrate Growing Space Threat (Source: Space News)
Russia has launched two satellites in the last year, including one “a few weeks ago,” that are viewed as suspicious and potentially threatening, a senior U.S. Air Force officer said. These launches, coupled with China’s launch in July of what U.S. military officials said was an antisatellite missile, are hard indicators that the threat to U.S. satellites is only increasing, said Lt. Gen. John Raymond. (4/15)

Established Companies Feeling ‘Déjà Vu’ on Mega-Constellations (Source: Space News)
Major satellite builders and operators at the 31st Space Symposium invoked the specter of the 1990s space-telecom bust when asked about potentially disruptive low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations planned by upstarts OneWeb and SpaceX. “Many of us who have lived through the decade of the ’90s do have a certain sense of déjà vu all over again,” said Lockheed Martin's Mike Hamel.

Hamel was alluding to the large low-orbiting satellite constellations conceived in the 1990s that either never got off the ground or whose companies went bankrupt shortly after the satellites launched. Hamel was perhaps the most optimistic panelist here. “All that happened in the decade of the 90s were good technical ideas that, because of the time to market, got beat by other forms of terrestrial buildout,” Hamel said. (4/15)

Boeing To Unveil Crew, Spacesuits For CST-100 Test Flight This Summer (Source: Space News)
Boeing plans to announce this summer the crew that will be on a test flight of the company’s CST-100 crew vehicle in 2017, as well as reveal the pressure suits the crew will wear. Boeing's John Elbon said that the company hoped to announce this summer the two-person crew that will fly on that test flight, planned for the middle of 2017. One crewmember will be a Boeing test pilot, and the other a NASA astronaut. (4/15)

President Putin, Please Help Us Get Our Wages (Source: Siberian Times)
Workers building the troubled new Vostochny cosmodrome took to the roofs to write pleading messages to Vladimir Putin after going without pay for months. More than 500 people involved in constructing the multi-billion-rouble Vostochny spaceport – including the likes of fitters, welders, and crane operators - claim they have not received any money for four months.

In desperation, on Monday they scrawled messages on the tops of buildings in the workers' village of Uglegorsk asking the President to intervene. They wrote: 'Dear Vladimir Putin! We have worked four months without a pay check! Save the workers! We want to work!' Pictures of the appeal were then taken by the employees of the JSC Pacific Bridge-Building Company and sent to high profile officials, including the governors of the Amur region, the editors of the local newspaper and to the President's office itself. (4/14)

Air Force Shifts Gears on Future GPS Procurement Strategy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to award multiple contracts worth up to $6 million this year for companies to demonstrate their ability to build the next batch of GPS 3 positioning, navigation and timing satellites. The anticipated value of the contracts is small fraction of the $100 million to $200 million figure the service touted for the effort less than a year ago. (4/15)

Sheikh Mohammed Asks UAE Residents To Name Country’s Mars Probe (Source: Gulf Business)
The UAE’s VP, PM and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has asked all the country’s residents to suggest an Arabic name for the country’s first mission to Mars. The Gulf country plans to send its first unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, becoming the Arab world’s first mission that has been conducted to explore outer space. (4/15)

Conference in Cocoa Beach Aims to Return to Moon (Source: MyNews13)
Space enthusiasts have gathered in Brevard County to figure out how to get back to the moon. Cocoa Beach is hosting the fifth International Workshop on Lunar Surface Applications. “The engineering is very different, the technology has evolved greatly in 40 years, and so we are trying to create a community of people both in the U.S. and around the world, who want to take that cutting edge and go to the moon,” said Russell Cox, an organizer. (4/15)

California Senate Votes to Honor Astronaut Sally Ride with Statue in U.S. Capitol (Source: Collect Space)
A statue of the late astronaut Sally Ride, the United States' first woman in space, could stand in the Capitol, if a lawmaker's proposal continues to advance. The California State Senate on Monday narrowly passed Joint Resolution 4, a "measure [memorializing] the Congress of the United States to place a statue of Sally Ride next to the statue of former President Ronald Reagan in the Congressional collection representing California." (4/15)

Lockheed Leaning on 3-D Printing To Bring Tank Work In-House (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems could eventually replace satellite propellant tanks now built by longtime partner Orbital ATK with 3-D-printed tanks Lockheed would build in-house. Lockheed Martin has been buying titanium tanks from Orbital ATK for years.

All three U.S. Mars orbiters currently circling the red planet were built around Orbital ATK tanks, as was NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex asteroid-sampling spacecraft nearing completion here for its 2016 launch. Likewise, Lockheed’s planned Jupiter space tug, which the company in March proposed building to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, would use an Orbital ATK tank. But if the 3D-printed techniques Lockheed is testing here work as intended, “we may switch to additive manufacturing later” for future spacecraft tanks, said Mike Hamel. (4/15)

Small Colorado Firm To Build Spacecraft For Earth Climate Science Mission (Source: Colorado Space News)
Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) has been awarded a contract to build, test, and operate a new high-performance nano-satellite. BCT will be building this spacecraft for the Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) project, which is led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL).

The BCT XB1 spacecraft will be developed and operated at BCT’s new 18,000 square foot facility located in Boulder, Colorado. BCT’s new office and lab space is designed specifically for high volume production of spacecraft systems and components, with the manufacturing capability to handle large constellations of small spacecraft. (4/15)

Sierra Nevada Unveils Cargo Version of Dream Chaser (Source: Space Safety)
On March 25, Sierra Nevada unveiled the new variant of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, the Dream Chaser Cargo System. The new solution has been developed to bid for in the new NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS2) contract. A crewed version of the Dream Chaser has been already involved with the NASA Commercial Crew Development program since 2009.

“SNC is proud to offer NASA a complete system that exceeds all criteria set forth by NASA in the proposal,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. The Dream Chaser Cargo System is currently approaching the end of the Critical Design Review phase and SNC has already established a cooperation with Lockheed Martin for the manufacturing of the vehicle. (4/15)

Editorial: Putting Space Above Politics (Source: Aviation Week)
Forty years ago this summer, and 15 years before the end of the Cold War, a U.S. Apollo spacecraft carrying a crew of three astronauts docked in space with a Russian Soyuz carrying two cosmonauts. The mission was more of a geopolitical milestone than a technological one—its advertised purpose was to test the compatibility of U.S. and Soviet docking systems and the feasibility of an international space rescue.

The partnership laid an important cornerstone for cooperation between the two adversaries in human spaceflight. Now China has arrived as an economic powerhouse and spacefaring nation. Yet NASA is the only federal agency prohibited by the U.S. Congress from undertaking any bilateral activities with the Chinese. As this magazine has opined, the ban is shortsighted and should be lifted in a careful way that allows Beijing into the club of top-tier spacefaring nations without compromising sensitive military technologies.

Space is an arena in which we must look beyond near-term political disputes and focus on the benefits that could be achieved over the long haul. Washington and Moscow have done that, and space exploration and use are better for it. It is time to bring Beijing in from the cold, too. (4/15)

FAA Plans Careful Look at Orbital Report on Rocket Blast (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will carefully review an Orbital ATK-led investigation into an October rocket explosion to ensure that all possible causes were properly considered, a top FAA official said Wednesday. "We eagerly look forward to seeing what they have to say and making sure we understand it and agree with it before allowing them to go ahead with future launches," said George Nield. (4/15)

LC-39A a Major Part of NASA's 'Master Plan' for KSC (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
Mic Woltman of NASA’s Launch Vehicle Services Engineering revealed that a number of additional launch pads are being considered as part of NASA’s “KSC Master Plan”. The earlier Master Plan, which dates back to 1967, identified two launch pads designated as C and D, to be located North of Pad B. Because of the proximity to Pad B, Pads C and D will be combined into a single major vertical launch pad.

Another major launch pad is also being considered for the area between Pad A to the north, and Pad 41 located on the property of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A third, smaller launch site is being considered as an adjunct to Pad B, presumably one that would utilize some of Pad B’s support facilities.

Editor's Note: Much of the Master Plan seems notional and will await commitments from new users with new launch/landing vehicles. Multiple new users are focusing on the Air Force's side of the spaceport, with Blue Origin and Moon Express at LC-36, SpaceX developing a new landing site, and ULA planning to abandon one of their two pads there (making it available for another user). There are also smaller-rocket launch companies looking at LC-46 on the Air Force side. (4/15)

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