April 19, 2015

Shuttle Runway Deal in Sight? (Source: Florida Today)
A deal to turn over the operation of Kennedy Space Center's three-mile shuttle runway over to Space Florida has been said to be close for months. It still is, as negotiations approach the two-year mark. KSC Director Bob Cabana this week said lawyers continue to discuss insurance and indemnification, perhaps the last big issue to resolve.

"I think we've reached agreement on just about everything," Cabana told reporters and guests of a NASA Social event before SpaceX's first attempt to launch cargo to the International Space Station. The runway is a key piece of the center's strategy to become a multi-user spaceport supporting government and commercial spaceflight.

Space Florida says it has talked to a dozen or more companies that might be interested in horizontal launches and landings of space planes or their carrier aircraft. Drones also could be tested there. But Cabana said most of those companies weren't ready to fly yet, so the extended negotiations hadn't had any negative impact. "I thought we would have had this by now," he said. "We're very close." (4/17)

National Space Club Honors Mitskevich at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The National Space Club's Florida Committee held its annual gala including the presentation of its top award, named for KSC's first director, Kurt Debus. This year's Debus Award winner is Amanda Mitskevich, manager of NASA's Launch Services Program, which based at Kennedy.

The program oversees the launch of NASA science missions such as the Mars rover Curiosity, and sometimes missions like weather satellites for other government agencies, on expendable rockets from the East and West coasts. Mitskevich has been with NASA for more than 27 years. (4/17)

Space Florida Sponsors Egg Drop Competition (Source: Florida Today)
Plant City may be the "Winter Strawberry Capital of the World," but on Saturday its will be known for falling eggs. More than 250 students from kindergarten through 12th grade will participate in the annual Planetary Lander Egg Drop competition sponsored by Space Florida, hosted by Durant High School.

Students were challenged to design a lander measuring roughly a foot on each side that could enable a raw egg to survive a nearly 20-foot drop. The landers may be made of aluminum, plastic, wood or soft foam. The competition aims to interest students in aerospace technology, engineering and math. (4/17)

Throttle Valve Blamed for SpaceX Landing Failure (Source: Venture Beat)
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk gave the first detailed reason for the failed Falcon 9 landing last Tuesday. In a tweet Saturday afternoon, Musk said, “Cause of hard rocket landing confirmed as due to slower than expected throttle valve response.” Musk added that SpaceX will attempt another launch and landing of the reusable Falcon 9 rocket in two months. (4/18)

CASIS-Sponsored Investigations Berthed to the International Space Station (Source: CASIS)
The fifth series of payloads sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule. CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Click here. (4/17)

Space Symposium Delegates Tour of Colorado Aerospace Sector (Source: Denver Post)
Oakman Aerospace president Stan Kennedy likely didn't expect his small company would get a personal audience with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the same week, on his home turf. But that's exactly what happened when delegations from each agency, along with several aerospace companies from each country, took tours of Oakman's Littleton headquarters last week.

The tours were a side benefit of the 31st International Space Symposium last week in Colorado Springs. The symposium is the aerospace industry's premier trade show, bringing together dozens of countries and hundreds of companies with thousands of attendees from around the globe. Click here. (4/19)

RockSat-X Suborbital Mission Launched From Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The RockSat-X payload was launched into suborbit atop a NASA Malemute sounding rocket from the space agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:01 a.m. EDT. The suborbital rocket lifted off from the Virginia marshlands with a payload of some six experiments from university students and were recovered shortly after the conclusion of the flight. (4/18)

Certification Process Begins for Vulcan to Carry Military Payloads (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The heavy-lift version of the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket will sell for half the price of today’s Delta 4-Heavy and a third of the price tag for the previous Titan 4, while offering a substantial increase in performance for the nation’s largest defense spacecraft.

The bread and butter for the Delta 4-Heavy launcher is classified National Reconnaissance Office payloads — massive eavesdropping platforms. “I have personally communicated to the Air Force and NRO that we will keep the Delta 4-Heavy available until they are able to gracefully transition to the Vulcan. I expect that to be out in the 2023-24 timeframe. But it’ll be up to them,” Bruno says.

By that time, the new Vulcan rocket’s first stage will be four-to-five years old and certified by the Air Force to launch the country’s security spacecraft. “Yes, we’ve already started. You begin the certification process by writing a letter to the Air Force and telling them ‘I’m going to have a new rocket,'” Bruno said of certification. (4/16)

Side-By-Side Video Shows Different Angles for Landing Attempt (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX has released some impressive video during the company’s 13-year history. A recent one, shows a Falcon 9 v1.1, having completed its primary mission of sending a Dragon spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station attempting to land on a platform off the Florida Coast on April 14, 2015. The craft, dubbed the, “Just Read The Instructions” Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, by SpaceX’s CEO and Founder Elon Musk helped to gather video from the attempt as well.

In the video, the booster’s first stage can be see descending out of the sky toward the drone ship, its various thrusters and engines working to steer it to a landing on the floating platform. Just when it seems that all is well and the flight will enter the history books, it becomes obvious that the rocket’s first stage is leaning too far over, it drops, hitting the deck of the ship and explodes. Click here. (4/17)

Cassini Cracks the Code of Saturn’s Massive Storms (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Researchers using data from the Cassini mission  orbiting the planet Saturn, may have solved the mystery of why enormous storms erupt on Saturn every 30 years or so. The researchers found that these storms, which form bright bands that can encircle Saturn, are on a natural timer, which is reset by each subsequent storm. (4/18)

Will Asteroid 2012 TC4 Hit Earth in October 2017? (Source: Space Daily)
On Oct. 12, 2017, the asteroid 2012 TC4 is slated to whizz by Earth dangerously close. The exact distance of its closest approach is uncertain, as well as its size. Based on observations in October 2012 when the space rock missed our planet, astronomers estimate that its size could vary from 12 to 40 meters. The meteor that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, injuring 1,500 people and damaging over 7,000 buildings, was about 20 meters wide.

Thus, the impact of 2012 TC4 could be even more devastating. "It is something to keep an eye on," Judit Gyorgyey-Ries, astronomer at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory, told astrowatch.net. "We could see an airburst maybe broken windows, depending on where it hits." ... "There is one in a million chance that it could hit us," said Detlef Koschny, head of the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Segment at ESA. (4/17)

US Space Providers See Trend Toward Services (Source: Defense News)
With the military space business situation in flux, industry is scrambling to understand not just how to keep profits up, but to stave off an influx of new competitors. From the high-profile issues of space launch down to the analysis of space-based intelligence, this year's National Space Symposium featured an undercurrent of understanding that the changing world environment, coupled with flat budgets, means industry needs to modify longstanding practices and attack challenges in new ways. (4/17)

Rocket Lab Aims to Put Small Satellites in Space for Less (Source: Fortune)
While SpaceX and now United Launch Alliance continue to pursue reusable rocket engine technology, a joint U.S./New Zealand startup aims to cut satellite launch costs by as much as 91%. Using a rocket consisting of 3D-printed parts, Rocket Lab intends to put small satellites weighing as much as 220 pounds into orbit above the Earth, all for a price of $4.9 million per launch. Depending on the type and size of a payload, most launches these days start at $50 million. (4/17)

Mars One Chief Considers UAE for Extraterrestrial Training Site (Source: The National)
The UAE could play host to a mission simulation for Mars One colony candidates early next year, according to the chief executive and founder of the project. Bas Lansdorp said Dubai’s dry weather and its place at the crossroads of the world makes it a potential host city for the prestigious project. “We want to bring together all the remaining candidates in the beginning of next year in a built copy of our Mars outpost here on Earth,” Mr. Lansdorp said. (4/17)

Stennis Center Powering Nation’s Space Dreams (Source: Clarion-Ledger)
Time and time again, this nation has entrusted its space dreams to NASA. Time and again, NASA has designated Stennis Space Center to play a major role in realizing those dreams because of the work performed by the center. Tomorrow will be no different.

Stennis is already testing RS-25 rocket engines to power the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) on its deep-space missions and its journey to Mars. Stennis also will test the SLS core stage to prove it is flightworthy. This is no small responsibility, but one Stennis Space Center has met time after time.

That is not all. Stennis is also taking a lead role in fulfilling the president’s call to enable private companies to make low-Earth space travel easier and more affordable, thus freeing NASA to pursue the nation’s deep-space dreams. In answering that call, companies are turning to Stennis to test rocket engines and components for their commercial flight systems. (4/17)

City of Midland Working Closely With XCOR Regarding Land Restrictions (Source: KWES)
Some of the land over by the Midland International Air and Spaceport is being looked at very closely in the city's comprehensive plan. Once XCOR starts to have spaceships take off and land, there are limitations as to the number of people that can stand under their flight path.

The protective fly zones extend out from the runways that XCOR spaceships will fly over. The City of Midland is restricted on the number of people allowed to be in those zones. No school, churches or homes are allowed. "When you have a subdivision, you could have 300-400 homes with say three people per home, now you start talking a lot of people," said Chuck Harrington, Development Service Director for the City of Midland.

As the city works on the 20 year comprehensive plan, they need keep calculating how many people are in the protective fly zones. Industrial use is allowed in the area, once the building and industrial material is approved by the city. This is in an attempt to making sure the disaster is kept at a minimum should a crash occur. (4/17)

Tethers Unlimited to Create 3D Printer Filament for NASA from ISS Plastic Waste (Source: 3ders)
NASA has announced that their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program has awarded Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) a contract to further develop their "Positrusion" recycling system for converting plastic waste into high-quality 3D printer filament for use in making tools, replacement parts and satellite components aboard the International Space Station. 

The company develops transformative technologies for both Space and Defense Missions.  Among other projects that they have previously worked on include advanced space propulsion systems, frequency-agile software defined radios for small satellites and systems for in-space additive manufacturing of spacecraft components. (4/17)

The Search for Ancient and Habitable (But Dying) Exoplanets (Source: AmericaSpace)
Researchers at Cornell are taking a new approach to the search for alien life: looking for habitable planets older than Earth, “old Earth analogs,” which may be nearing the end of their habitable lifetimes. Astronomers would search for biosignatures from worlds much older than Earth, where lifeforms are dying off due to circumstances such as the planet’s star expanding in its old age. (4/17)

Climate Scientists Join Search for Alien Earths (Source: Nature)
The hunt for life beyond the Solar System is gaining new partners: NASA climatologists. After more than 30 years of studying Earth, a team at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York will adapt its global climate model to simulate conditions on potentially habitable exoplanets. The effort is part of a new NASA push to identify Earth-like worlds.

The next step would be to detect light passing through exoplanet atmospheres, which could hold clues to conditions on these distant worlds. “We have to start thinking about these things as more than planetary objects,” says Anthony Del Genio, a climate modeller who is leading the GISS effort. “All of a sudden, this has become a topic not just for astronomers, but for planetary scientists and now climate scientists.” (4/17)

ULA Sees Clean handover of Boeing Crew Launches to Vulcan Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
United Launch Alliance vows a “seamless” switch from the Atlas 5 to the new Vulcan rocket in launches of Boeing’s astronaut taxis. ULA is the launch provider of Boeing’s CST-100 capsule under NASA’s commercial crew program that will start ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil in 2017.

Due to budget constraints, ULA will develop the rocket in steps, with the first stage coming initially. “Because the front end of the rocket, the top half of it is the same as today’s Atlas, at least in Step 1 (of development), all of the interfaces for the CST-100 at the launch pad and on the rocket are identical for what they are on Atlas,” said George Sowers. (4/7)

U.S. Eyes New Ways to Prepare and Win Future War in Space (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. needs disruptive new technologies, new ways of acquiring equipment and bandwidth, and closer ties with global allies to stay ahead of growing challenges in space from China, Russia and others, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said. General John Hyten said continued anti-satellite testing by potential foes had fueled a fresh sense of urgency about the need to prepare to win a possible war in space.

"We have to figure out what we're going to do and how we're going to do it," Hyten said in an interview, warning that a virtual or physical war in space would be devastating to the global environment and economy. "We're not going to be bested. We will not," he said. Hyten and other leaders challenged industry to develop ways to automate flight safety for rockets, set up a common ground system to track, communicate with and control satellites, and continue cutting costs of multibillion-dollar systems.

He said increasing competition and mounting budget pressures had already prompted big players like Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp to lower costs, embrace emerging technologies such as 3D printing, and adopt commercial business practices. (4/17)

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