April 7, 2015

As Ex-Im Battle Brews, Novel Satellite Export Deals Stir Pot (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Congress is gearing up for yet another debate over whether to renew the authorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank at a time when other nations appear to be retooling their export-credit agencies to help their industry. In the latest example of an export-credit agency’s regulatory dexterity, Export Development Canada (EDC) has agreed to finance a loan of about 140 million euros ($170.2 million) to satellite fleet operator Hispasat of Spain.

Hispasat is purchasing its Amazonas 5 telecommunications satellite (shown above) from Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California, one of the world’s top commercial telecommunications satellite exporters. SSL is owned by MDA Corp. of Canada. This link is apparently sufficient for EDA to approve the financing. A similar loan was approved for an earlier SSL-built Hispasat satellite in mid-2014. (4/7)

China to Launch Three or Four More BeiDou Satellites This Year (Source: Space Daily)
China plans to launch three or four more satellites for its indigenous global navigation and positioning network this year, the network's chief designer said. A complete network will take shape by 2020, Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), was quoted saying. (4/7)

Canada Invests in Mega-Telescope Partnership (Source: Globe and Mail)
One of the biggest telescopes ever conceived to gaze upon the cosmos will be doing a substantial share of that gazing on behalf of Canadian astronomers. That’s the upshot of an announcement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday that officially committed Canada to membership in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) — a massive astronomical observatory to be constructed on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Mr. Harper said Canada would provide $243.5-million towards the telescope, corresponding to a 15 to 20 per cent share in the roughly $1.5-billion project. Much of the money will be spent within Canada, in part on the observatory’s 56-meter tall movable steel dome, which is slated to be built by Dynamic Structures for about $150 million. (4/6)

Blue Origin Completes Acceptance Testing of Engine for Suborbital Flight (Source: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin recently completed acceptance testing of its BE‑3 rocket engine, the first new hydrogen engine to be developed in the United States in more than a decade. The 110,000-lbf BE‑3 will power Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital system, and later, will be modified for upper stage applications.

"The BE‑3 has now been fired for more than 30,000 seconds over the course of 450 tests,” said Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin founder. “We test, learn, refine and then test again to push our engines. The Blue Origin team did an outstanding job exploring the corners of what the BE‑3 can do and soon we’ll put it to the ultimate test of flight.”

The BE‑3 can be continuously throttled between 110,000-lbf and 20,000-lbf thrust, a key capability for vertical takeoff and vertical landing vehicles. The testing profile included multiple mission duty cycles, deep throttling and off-nominal test points. (4/7)

NASA Joins Forces to Put Satellite Eyes on Threat to U.S. Freshwater (Source: NASA)
NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.

Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie. (4/7)

Doing Humans to Mars on -- and Within -- a Budget (Source: Space Review)
Recent studies have indicated you can either do human Mars missions in the 2030s with more money that NASA current receives, or wait until mid-century on NASA's current budget. Jeff Foust reports on a new study that finds, although with few details, that humans to Mars by the 2030s can fit within NASA's current budgets. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2726/1 to view the article. (4/6)

"Moon to Moon to Mons": Synergies for Moon and Mars Development (Source: Space Review)
The Moon, and the moons of Mars, have previously been proposed as key steps towards getting humans on Mars. Al Anzaldua and Dave Dunlop propose an approach that involves those bodies, as well as Martian volcanoes, as key steps in a sustainable long-term exploration strategy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2725/1 to view the article. (4/6)

Sarah Brightman Chases Her Dream to the International Space Station (Source: Space Review)
Singer Sarah Brightman is in the midst of training for a September flight to the International Space Station as a space tourist. Anthony Young discusses her interest in spaceflight and her plans for her ten-day trip to space. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2724/1 to view the article. (4/6)

The Weird Ones (Source: Space Review)
Launches can suffer from any number of conventional, well-known problems. But, as Wayne Eleazer recalls, there are plenty of, well, weird incidents involving launches and preparations for them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2723/1 to view the article. (4/6)

Yes, NASA is Reconsidering the Moon, and Here’s Why That’s Important (Source: Houston Chronicle)
William Gerstenmaier, the chief of human exploration for NASA, does not see the existing plan of a direct, 900-day mission to the red planet as achievable. Most significantly, Gerstenmaier believes large amounts of ice at the lunar poles may provide an important reservoir of oxygen and hydrogen fuel to propel rockets and spaceships across the 40 million miles of space to Mars. This may involve human activity on the moon’s surface.

Additionally, NASA officials have begun talking about an “Evolvable Mars Campaign,” which recognizes the technical and financial challenges of reaching Mars, and the likelihood that the United States would not support an all-out, Apollo-like plan. NASA has not laid out details of how it will actually get humans to Mars, and the lack of concrete plans has caused much consternation among the spaceflight community. Despite the lack of detail so far, it is clear that until relatively recently NASA wasn’t contemplating serious and prolonged activities on and near the moon.

Editor's Note: A driving question here is (or should be) whether we want a flag-planting Apollo-style trip to Mars, or a sustainable exploration/habitation program (which could include the Moon). Both are hugely expensive, but a sustainable program is more aligned with our long-term national interests. If we choose only to plant a flag on Mars, I believe it should be an international project, while a lunar program might involve the U.S. private sector working with NASA. (4/7)

Fly Me to the Moon! (Source: Huffington Post)
This is the song that NASA should be singing right now. Yes, I know the current push by NASA on social media is #JourneytoMars, but are we ready? Really ready? Nope, I don't think we're even close. Most agree that Mars is the ultimate destination. And so do I. Theorists laud its "in situ" capabilities, with NASA Ames Research Center claiming (circa 2007) that "... in-situ resource utilization will enable the affordable establishment of extraterrestrial exploration and operations by minimizing the materials carried from Earth."

All this is well and good. But how do we do it? How do we process these wonderful life-sustaining elements to make our reality begin to look like the solar-powered, potato-rich, inflatable habitat reality experienced by fictional Astronaut Mark Watney in Andy Weir's highly acclaimed novel The Martian? We need companies like Caterpillar, Inc., John Deere, Ditch Witch and The Culligan Man to lead the way. Partnerships relying on these stalwart corporations would truly be space commercialization at its finest. Click here. (4/6)

Orbital ATK Cuts 61 Jobs, Including Some from Florida (Source: Deseret News)
Defense contractor Orbital ATK announced Monday that the company has laid off 61 workers. The cuts were from the propulsion systems department in divisions located in Alabama, Florida and Utah. "This reduction was driven by a business need to reduce costs, streamline and become more efficient while maintaining the appropriate skill level to run our business in the future," said spokeswoman Jennifer Bowman. (4/6)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Wins NASA Contract for Deep-Space Propulsion (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has won a $18 million contract from NASA to develop a deep-space propulsion system. The company makes all kinds of in-space propulsion for satellites in orbit, but this contract from the Glenn Research Center will be for interplanetary propulsion. It opens a potential new line of business for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is often a subcontractor for defense companies. In this case Aerojet is a direct contractor for NASA. (4/6)

NASA Hosts Student Rocket Fair, Helps Students Launch High-Power Rockets (Source: NASA)
More than 30 high school, college and university teams will launch student-built rockets during the 15th annual NASA Student Launch event April 10-11 in Huntsville, Alabama. Middle school and high school teams will launch their rockets to an altitude of one mile, deploy onboard science experiments and land safely using a system of recovery parachutes. University and college teams will participate in either the Mini-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Mini-MAV) or the Maxi-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Maxi-MAV) divisions.

Mini-MAV teams must use a robotic system to autonomously load a payload into their rocket, launch to half a mile and eject the payload during descent. Maxi-MAV teams, competing for a share of $50,000 in prize money, will attempt to meet more autonomy requirements before also launching to a half mile. (4/6)

Baseball Stadiums Photographed From the Ultimate Nosebleed Seat: Space (Source: NBC)
It's opening day of baseball season, and Terry Virts has a nosebleed seat to beat them all: the observation cupola of the International Space Station. The astronaut, photographer and baseball fan is commemorating the start of the season by tweeting a series of pictures showing Major League Baseball's cities, all taken from space. But he only posts the photos — his followers will need to figure out which cities are shown. (4/6)

Spiderlike Robots Could Build Giant Space Structures (Source: Space.com)
Humanity could soon be building huge structures in space one piece at a time, the way spiders spin their webs here on Earth. A company called Tethers Unlimited is developing an in-space manufacturing system called "SpiderFab," which would use arachnidlike robots to put together large objects in orbit or beyond.

SpiderFab could help build big radio antennas, spacecraft booms and solar arrays in the next decade or so, said Rob Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited. But he has an even grander vision for the technology (and associated projects the company is working on) over the long haul. Click here. (4/6)

Lockheed Martin Gets One-Year Extension for ISS Cargo Prep (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin has won a one-year extension of a NASA contract to prepare space station cargo. The extension, valued at $23 million, is the second of four options in a contract awarded in 2010 to handle cargo for delivery to the ISS. The contract is separate from those currently held by Orbital ATK and SpaceX to transport cargo to the station on commercial vehicles; Lockheed is one of several companies competing for a follow-on contract. (4/6)

Space Pact on Modi's Paris Plate (Source: The Telegraph)
India and France are planning to ink a pact for joint interplanetary exploration when Narendra Modi visits Paris on Friday, marking New Delhi's second foray into a space hunt beyond the moon after the Mars Orbiter Mission. The agreement will be a key diplomatic outcome of the Prime Minister's France trip at a time space cooperation has become a foreign policy priority with him, two senior Indian officials independently told The Telegraph.

A French embassy spokesperson said he would not like to comment. Modi and French President Francois Hollande will also discuss defense and nuclear cooperation, the Indian officials confirmed, requesting anonymity. "Using space research and its benefits diplomatically - that's a priority for the Prime Minister," one of the officials said. (4/6)

Swap Could Land Sally Ride Statue in D.C. (Source: UT San Diego)
A statue of the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, could one day replace that of Rev. Junipero Serra inside the U. S. Capitol, under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers this week. Ride, a La Jolla resident who devoted much of her life to science education, died of pancreatic cancer in 2012 at the age of 61.

The proposal to swap out Serra’s statue isn’t without controversy. It comes the same year Serra is set to be canonized by Pope Francis, causing religious leaders to call out what they believe is poor timing by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who proposed the exchange. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is a co-author of the resolution. (4/6)

More Evidence for Groundwater on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
Monica Pondrelli and colleagues investigated the Equatorial Layered Deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra in Firsoff crater area, Mars, to understand their formation and potential habitability. On the plateau, ELDs consist of rare mounds, flat-lying deposits, and cross-bedded dune fields. Pondrelli and colleagues interpret the mounds as smaller spring deposits, the flat-lying deposits as playa, and the cross-bedded dune fields as aeolian. (4/7)

NASA Drives Future Discoveries with New ISS Information System (Source: Space Daily)
A new NASA-designed information system will drive discoveries as scientists and researchers devise future investigations to be conducted aboard the International Space Station.

Specialists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center gathered critical information on the agency's physical science research to create Physical Science Informatics, a knowledge base that will give investigators access to information on previous space station research to boost future research.

Funded by the International Space Station Program, the Physical Science Informatics puts information on past, current and future space station physical science investigations in one digital repository making it easy for investigators to find out what's been done so far in research areas and devise where to go next. (4/7)

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