April 28, 2015

Russian Cargo Ship Experiences Problems After Launch (Source: SEN)
Russia dispatched its second cargo supply mission of the year to the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday morning—but it immediately ran into problems. A Soyuz-2-1a rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan exactly as scheduled, carrying the Progress M-27M cargo ship to the outpost with 2.5 tons of supplies for six members of the 43rd long-duration expedition onboard the station.

The spacecraft reached orbit less than nine minutes after liftoff and deployed its power-generating solar arrays and a trio of communications antennas. However, the mission control in Korolev was not able to confirm a successful opening of a pair of the Kurs rendezvous antennas onboard the seven-ton vehicle, as data coming from the spacecraft had become sporadic, NASA said.

According to the official Russian press, only two out of five antennas had been deployed. As a result, the mission was immediately switched to a longer, 34-orbit rendezvous profile with the ISS, which would give ground controllers extra time to troubleshoot the issue. If they resolve the issue, the docking of the cargo ship at the station will take place around 9:03 UTC on Thursday April 30, NASA said. (4/28)

Habitats Could Be NASA’s Next Commercial Spacecraft Buy (Source: Aviation Week)
The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle is designed to take humans to Mars, but with less than 20 cubic meters of pressurized volume for a crew of four it could get more than a little cozy en route. Commercial cargo vehicles designed to supply the International Space Station (ISS) may add some elbow-room for the long haul to the Red Planet.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK all have won small NASA contracts to study how their commercial cargo vehicles could be modified as habitats for Orion crews in the exploration “proving ground” near the Moon. Bigelow Aerospace, which has orbited two “expandable” habitat testbeds, and is scheduled to berth another one at the ISS this fall, is also running a study, and three other companies are studying advanced environmental control and life-support systems (Eclss) for future habs. (4/24)

Two-satellite Arabsat Order Ends Lockheed’s Commercial Drought (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on April 28 said it had entered into contracts valued at $650 million with satellite builder Lockheed Martin Space Systems and launch provider Arianespace for the construction of two satellites and the launch of one of them in 2018. (4/28)

Arabsat and Lockheed, in separate statements, said the contracts are with not only the satellite fleet operator, but also with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, KACST, which will spearhead Saudi efforts to stimulate a domestic space industry. The contracts end a long dry spell for Lockheed, whose officials have said repeatedly that they would reduce the cost and delivery time of the company’s A2100 satellite frame to return to a competitive position in the commercial satellite market. (4/28)

Dueling 'Vulcan' Space Projects Prompt Rocket Name Quandary (Source: Space.com)
Call it a rocket builder's Vulcan death grip. There appears to be a bit of a row between United Launch Alliance's (ULA) just announced new Vulcan rocket and the Paul Allen Vulcan Aerospace enterprise, the big and bold Stratolaunch aircraft. ULA launched a name-the-new rocket competition that allowed Americans to vote on their favorite name for the company's Next Generation Launch System.

Over a million votes later, the Vulcan was the top choice. A reaction to that title stirred up some name calling! "Vulcan is a trademark of Vulcan Inc. and we have informed ULA of our trademark rights," said Chuck Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace, a division of Paul Allen-backed Vulcan Inc.

ULA's Vulcan is geared "to transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible," according to a ULA press statement. Vulcan Aerospace is busy building the world's largest aircraft to send rockets from the aerial platform into low Earth orbit. (4/27)

SpaceX Rocket Launches Turkmenistan Satellite (Source: NBC)
SpaceX launched Turkmenistan's first telecom satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, after taking a chance on some touch-and-go weather in Florida. The launch of the TurkmenÄlem 52E spacecraft came just 13 days after SpaceX used a different Falcon 9 to send a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station. (4/27)

Russia's New Rocket Will be Named Fenix (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Roscosmos plans to begin in 2018 the development of a medium-class carrier rocket to replace the Soyuz rocket family the creation of which had started during the USSR times when Sergey Korolev was the country’s chief rocket engineer, a rocket and space industry source said. In the period from 2015 to 2018 Roscosmos plans to spend more than 30 billion rubles (almost $600 million) on the project.

Another source in the industry said the initiative of the new rocket development belongs to the Samara-based Progress rocket space center. According to preliminary data, it will be a one-piece carrier rocket with the capacity of carrying at least 9 tons of payload to a low-Earth orbit, that is, it will take a niche between the existing Soyuz and Zenit rockets. (4/27)

Over $400 Million More Needed for Russia's New Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos believes it is necessary to allocate an additional 22 billion rubles (around $430 million) for the completion of all facilities of the launch and technical complexes for the Soyuz-2 rocket at the Vostochny cosmodrome that is currently under construction in the Far East, the Space Agency chief Igor Komarov said on Monday. (4/27)

Disaggregation Giving Way to Broader Space Protection Strategy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force appears to have cooled on a space architecture concept that entails distributing capabilities across a larger number of satellite platforms. The philosophy, known as disaggregation, has been in vogue among U.S. Defense Department officials and in think tanks for years. Air Force and industry officials have viewed it as a major factor as the service plans its next-generation satellite programs. (4/26)

On Hubble's 25th, Looking at the Next 25 Years (Source: Space Review)
NASA celebrated last week the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, looking back on the scientific accomplishments of that famous space telescope. Jeff Foust reports on what the next 25 years in space astronomy might look like beyond Hubble. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2740/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Commercial Lunar Transportation Services: A Speculation (Source: Space Review)
There remains interest in carrying out human missions to the surface of the Moon, even though that is not an official goal of the Obama Administration. Anthony Young discusses how a commercial model for lunar transportation, based on the COTS and commercial crew programs, might be the most cost-effective, and perhaps the only, way to carry out such missions. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2739/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Humans to Mars: Further Delay Undermines Support (Source: Space Review)
Recent proposals have offered missions architectures to get humans to the vicinity of Mars, if not necessarily on the surface of the planet, by some time in the 2030s. Joe Webster argues that to maintain public support, those timelines need to be accelerated with a modest amount of additional funding. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2738/1 to view the article. (4/27)

Battle of the Collossi: SLS vs Falcon Heavy (Source: Space Review)
Many in the space community like to debate the merits of two heavy-lift vehicles under development, NASA's SLS and SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. Dale Skran offers a tale of the tape of the two heavyweights, comparing their planned capabilities and costs. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2737/1 to view the article. (4/27)

House To Introduce 2-year NASA Authorization Bill (Source: Space News)
The House Science Committee will mark up a two-year NASA authorization bill on April 30 that proponents argue “restores much-needed balance” to the agency by shifting funding from Earth sciences and space technology to planetary science and exploration systems.

According to a fact sheet about the bill released by the committee April 24, the bill would authorize funding for NASA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and include both “aspirational” and “constrained” funding levels depending on whether spending levels set by the Budget Control Act are amended or retained. (4/24)

Ex-NASA Man to Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones (Source: The Independent)
A drone start-up is going to counter industrial scale deforestation using industrial scale reforestation. BioCarbon Engineering wants to use drones for good, using the technology to seed up to one billion trees a year, all without having to set foot on the ground. 26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted.

If successful, the initiative could help address this shortfall in a big way. Drones should streamline reforestation considerably, with hand-planting being slow and expensive. "The only way we're going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren't available to us before," CEO and former NASA-engineer Lauren Fletcher said.

"By using this approach we can meet the scale of the problem out there." BioCarbon's system for planting is really quite sophisticated, and should provide better uptake than traditional dry seeding by air. First, drones flies above an area and report on its potential for restoration, then they descend to two or three metres above ground and fire out pods containing seeds that are pre-germinated and covered in a nutritious hydrogel. (4/27)

Prestwick Airport Frontrunner to Become Britain's First Spaceport (Source: Herald Scotland)
According to reports, MSPs are set to recommend it becomes Scotland's "preferred bid" to become the European hub for commercial space flights. If approved, Prestwick would be used as the take-off point for space tourism under proposals from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and XCOR Space Expeditions.

MSPs from all parties are expected to approve a motion later this week which says Prestwick should be promoted as as Scotland's preferred bidder. John Scott, a Conservative MSP who will lead a members debate at Holyrood said: "I am very grateful for the cross-party support this has achieved. (4/26)

Senate Confirms NASA Deputy (Source: The Hill)
Senators approved Dava Newman to be NASA's next deputy administrator on Monday. Senators voted 87-0 on the nomination. Thirteen senators missed the vote, which remained open for roughly an hour. Newman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was nominated in October of last year for the post. She was favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last month. (4/27)

Mikulski Vows To Increase NASA’s 2016 Budget (Source: Space News)
Calling the Obama administration’s 2016 budget request for NASA “too skimpy,” the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee said April 27 she would seek to provide additional funding to the agency. Speaking at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon here, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she would seek to add an as-yet undetermined amount of money to NASA’s 2016 budget request of $18.5 billion. (4/27)

Thornberry Pushes To Accelerate U.S. Engine Development (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has proposed that the U.S. Air Force spend $100 million more than the service has budgeted next year to replace the Russian-made rocket engine used to launch most U.S. national security satellites.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) recommended that the Air Force spend $185 million next year on activities leading to an American-made replacement for the RD-180, the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force requested $85 million for that effort in its 2016 budget proposal released in February. (4/27)

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