May 10, 2015

Four House Commercial Space Bills Span Wide Range of Topics (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will mark up four bills on May 13 dealing with a broad range of commercial space activities. Three of the bills have yet to be introduced. In total, they span everything from regulating commercial human spaceflight to third party indemnification to property rights for mining asteroids to expanding the role of NOAA's Office of Space Commercialization. Click here.

Editor's Note: Space Coast Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) is sponsoring HR-1508, intended to support property rights for asteroid mining, among other things. (5/8)

Harris Corp. Books Space Situational Awareness Contract (Source: Space News)
Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., booked a three-year, $23 million contract for space situational awareness activities from a classified U.S. government customer, the company announced during its quarterly earnings call May 5. The contract is in support of an unspecified U.S. Air Force mission, Harris Chief Executive William Brown said during the call. No further information was available.

The space situational awareness deal was part of $133 million in classified contracts booked by Harris’ Government Communications Systems division during the three-month period ending April 3, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. Most if not all of Harris’ space-related business resides within that division. (5/6)

ESA Inaugurates New Zero-G Plane (Source: Parabolic Arc)
ESA, France’s space agency CNES and the German aerospace center DLR inaugurated the Airbus A310 ZERO-G refitted for altered gravity by running 12 scientific experiments this week. Repeatedly putting the aircraft on an up-and-down trajectory angled at up to 50° creates brief periods of weightlessness. During the climb and pulling out of the descent, the occupants endure almost twice normal gravity.

Editor's Note: This government-backed European operation now competes with U.S.-based ZERO-G Corp. and Swiss Space Systems, both of which intend to offer flights from Florida's Space Coast. ZERO-G currently has 11 Space Coast flights listed on its website through the end of 2015, four of them devoted to research. Meanwhile, NASA has discontinued the use of ZERO-G's services under the agency's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program and its Flight Opportunities Program. (5/10)

Rubio Proposes Change to FAA Commercial Space Permitting & Licensing (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would allow companies developing and operating commercial reusable launch vehicles to hold launch licenses and experimental permits simultaneously. Under current law, a company must give up its FAA-issued experimental permit for a vehicle once it obtains a launch license.

Industry officials say this provision prevents them from testing improvements and repairs to existing vehicles as well conducting flight tests on new spacecraft that come off the assembly line. Rubio introduced Senate Bill 592 in late February. The measure has been read twice and referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Editor's Note: This is an evolved version of the SOARS Act introduced in the House by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL). (5/9)

NASA Seeks Small Launcher Proposals (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA's KSC-based Launch Services Program has issued a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS), which would be commercial launch services for small satellites and experiments on science missions using a smaller than currently available class of rockets.

At present, launch opportunities for small satellites — often called CubeSats or nanosatellites — and small science missions are mostly limited to ride-share type arrangements, flying only when space is available on NASA and other launches. The Launch Services Program seeks to develop alternatives to this approach and help foster other launch services dedicated to transporting smaller payloads into orbit. Click here. (5/8)

Florida Companies Win NASA SBIR and STTR Contracts (Source: NASA)
Projects ranging from telescope mirrors and space propulsion tech to additive manufacturing are among eight selected recently by NASA for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contracts. Click here for details. (5/9)

Stott Addresses Embry-Riddle Class of 2015 (Source: Florida Today)
Students graduating Monday from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach will hear some words of wisdom from NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, the commencement speaker. Stott lived on the International Space Station for three months in 2009 and flew on shuttle Discovery's final mission in 2011.

A Florida native, she earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle in 1987, and is a member of the university's board of trustees. She also earned a master's degree in engineering management from the University of Central Florida in 1992. (5/10)

Former FSU Quarterback Joins Space Florida Board (Source: Florida Today)
A former Florida State University quarterback now has a role in shaping the state's space policy as a member of Space Florida's board of directors. The board recently announced the addition of Drew Weatherford, who called signals for the Seminoles between 2005 and 2008 and is now a partner in the business advisory firm Weatherford Partners. Drew's brother Will is a former Speaker of the Florida House.

Also joining the 14-person board nominally chaired by Gov. Rick Scott was Jason Steele, a former state representative who is now director of government affairs at Melbourne law firm Smith and Associates. Space Florida board members also sit on the board of Enterprise Florida. They are scheduled to meet in Tampa late this month. (5/10)

KSC Plans to Offer LC-39A for Small Launchers (Source:
KSC’s two iconic launch pads are providing an exciting glimpse into the future. Pad 39A is now deep into its preparations to host SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy processing and launch campaigns. Pad 39B has already undergone a major revamp into a “clean pad”, in readiness to host the Space Launch System (SLS) from 2018 onwards.

However, part of the 39B complex is now being worked on under a project to attract small class launchers, utilizing KSC’s facilities before being launched from a mobile pad system. Known as the Deployable Launch System (DLS), the “launch pad in a box” concept is being developed to support small class (thrust<200k lbs) launch systems at 39B.

Home-Cooked Meals, Comfy Chairs and Netflix on Mars? It Could Happen (Source: NBC)
There is no Ikea on Mars. There are no takeout joints or Internet cafes either. Getting to the Red Planet might be half the battle, but staying happy and comfortable there is also a serious challenge. Earlier this week, NASA announced it was offering $5,000 for the best ideas on how to improve social interaction, exercise, food and other necessities on a future Mars base.

Stuck on a cold, barren planet with the same four to six people for two years, little things like home-cooked meals and emails from family members could be vital to keeping astronauts productive. "Our experience is that people really start to care about that stuff," said Kim Binsted of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission, which looks at how people react to being stuck in a tiny habitat for months at a time.

Food matters. Comfort matters. Being connected to the Internet matters. So how do we make those things work for people who will be on average 141 million miles away? Click here. (5/9)

Astronomers Discover Three Super-Earths Orbiting Nearby Star (Source: UC Observatories)
Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a star only 54 light-years away with the Automated Planet Finder (APF) at Lick Observatory and ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Arizona. The team discovered the planets by detecting a wobble of the star HD 7924, a result of the gravitational pull of the planets orbiting around it. All three planets orbit the star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15, and 24 days. (5/8)

IDA Receives National Environmental Award (Source: IDA)
International Dark-Sky Association is honored to announce that it has received a 2015 National Environmental Excellence Award for its innovative International Dark Sky Places program. The award, granted by the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP), was given for outstanding environmental contributions in the area of public involvement and partnerships. (4/30)

Open Issues Need Not Halt Falcon 9 Certification (Source: Space News)
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket could earn Air Force certification to launch national security satellites even with several issues outstanding if the company presents a mutually acceptable plan and schedule for resolving them. The Air Force has amended its Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with SpaceX that lays out a new path to certification. The changes are based on recommendations from an independent expert committee that was tasked to review the certification process, which has taken far longer than anticipated. (5/8)

Orbcomm to SpaceX: Launch our Satellites Before October (Source: Space News)
Satellite machine-to-machine messaging provider Orbcomm Inc. on May 7 said it had secured a commitment from SpaceX to launch 11 second-generation Orbcomm satellites between mid-August and late September. The launch, from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, will be the second or third flight using the full-thrust performance of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage engines.

Orbcomm said it fixed the new launch date with SpaceX on April 13 through an amendment to the existing contract. The contract’s total value of $42.6 million remained unchanged. Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc Eisenberg said he is now assuming a mid-August SpaceX flight. But that date appears optimistic given the demands on the SpaceX launch manifest, the usual time delays accompanying the use of an engine — even a well-tested one — in new ways, and spaceport availability constraints. (5/8)

We'll Detect Alien Life in the Next Decade, But Not Where You Might Think (Source: Business Insider)
Tiny, microbial life could be swarming deep below the surface of Mars or swimming in the underground oceans on Saturn's moon Enceladus, but that's not where we're likely to find the first life forms beyond earth. The bad news is that the first alien life forms humankind will likely discover will be too far away to ever visit. But the great news is that we could detect these exotic beings extremely soon.

There are more earth-like exoplanets in our galaxy than in our solar system. Indeed, earth is the only real earth-like planet nearby, with Mars as a close but pretty disappointing second. As of right now, there are over 45 exoplanets in our galaxy thought to be potentially habitable. Sscientists can search for life on exoplanets more inexpensively and efficiently with instruments on earth than searching for them in our solar system.

With powerful telescopes on earth, scientists can sniff out alien life across the galaxy by inspecting the different cocktail of gases in these planets' atmospheres. Only planets with certain key elements and molecules will have the potential to spawn and sustain life. However, scientists are still debating what that perfect cocktail is. (5/8)

Rocket Explosion Dashes BU Students’ Space Hopes (Source: Boston Globe)
It’s the sarcastic refrain when someone fails at a task that just doesn’t seem like it should be that hard: “It’s not rocket science.” But what about when a hardworking team experiences a huge setback on something that is really hard — such as building a rocket that can reach the edge of space? Failure, it turns out, is an essential part of rocket science.

For three years, ambitious Boston University engineering students have been working to be the first amateur group to launch a hybrid rocket into space. The undergraduate members of the BU Rocket Propulsion Group put in long hours to design, build, test, and raise funds for the project. In early May, they attempted a static test of their newest, most powerful rocket engine. That meant they wanted the engine to burn, but no lift-off. The engine would be anchored to the ground.

The engine alone takes two hours to fuel. Expectations and excitement were high — this was an important test before a planned cross-country tip this summer to hopefully use the engine to launch their Starscraper rocket to the edge of space. Unfortunately, the test didn’t go as planned. A software crash led to a valve getting stuck open. There was an explosion. The fire was quickly extinguished by the fire department. (5/8)

A Consensus on Going To Mars, But Not How To Get There (Source: Space News)
While NASA argues there is a growing consensus that the agency’s long-term human spaceflight goal should be landing people on Mars, a recent conference suggested there is less agreement about exactly how NASA should accomplish that goal. NASA's Charles Bolden argued there was now widespread agreement with NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars as soon as the 2030s, a goal established by President Obama.

NASA has been deliberately vague about how it intends to send humans to Mars. Agency officials said earlier this year it would be some time before they would be ready to revise the latest detailed Mars mission architecture, last updated in 2009. NASA has talked about performing human missions in cislunar space, which the agency has dubbed the “proving ground,” to gain experience before human missions to Mars. (5/8)

NASA Selects Advanced Space Technology Concepts for Further Study (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 15 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that aims to turn science fiction into science fact through the development of pioneering technologies. The chosen proposals cover a wide range of inventive concepts, selected for their potential to transform future aerospace missions. 

Such transformational technology holds promise of accelerating NASA’s progress toward its goals of exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, and missions to an asteroid and Mars. NIAC Phase I awards are valued at approximately $100,000, providing awardees the funding needed to conduct a nine-month initial definition and analysis study of their concepts. If the basic feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase II awards, valued up to $500,000 for two additional years of concept development. Click here. (5/8)

Russia, China Agree on Joint Use of GLONASS, Beidou Navigation Systems (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia and China have agreed on the mutual operation of the GLONASS and Beidou navigation systems. A joint statement to this effect was signed at a special ceremony following negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Kremlin on Friday.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the two countries were coming close to joint production of receivers for the Beidou and GLONASS navigation systems. In his opinion, cooperation between national navigation systems looks reasonable at a time when NATO member-countries jointly use similar resources.

"The Chinese navigation system is finding its feet. For the time being it has regional coverage only, but in the longer term it will go international. While the GPS and Galileo function as a pair of navigation systems available to all NATO member-countries, we see chances of active cooperation by Russian and Chinese navigation systems. The more so, since China’s satellite cluster is the world’s largest," Rogozin said. (5/8)

Scientists at Keck Measure Farthest Galaxy Ever (Source: Keck Observatory)
An international team of astronomers, led by Yale and the University of California, Santa Cruz, pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the Universe was only five percent of its present age. The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the 10-meter Keck I telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. (5/5)

€15 Million Boost for European Astronomy (Source: Astron)
Astronomers and astroparticle physicists today are celebrating a €15 million EU funding boost European telescopes with the launch of the ASTERICS project, which will help solve the Big Data challenges of European astronomy and give members of the public direct interactive access to some of the best of Europe's astronomy images and data. Astronomy is experiencing a surge of data from its current generation of observatories, with a size and complexity not seen before. (8/5)

The Democratization of Space (Source: Foreign Affairs)
Building a basic satellite is no longer considered rocket science. Thanks to the availability of small, energy-efficient computers, innovative manufacturing processes, and new business models for launching rockets, it has become easier than ever to launch a space mission. These advances have opened up space to a crowd of new actors, from developing countries to small start-ups.

In other words, a new space race has begun, and in this one, nation-states are not the only participants. Unlike in the first space race, the challenge in this one will not be technical; it will be figuring out how to regulate this welter of new activity. Click here. (5/8)

Latin America Earth Observation Data Market to Exceed $350 Million by 2024 (Source: Euroconsult)
Euroconsult's newly released report, Earth Observation Requirements & Solutions in Latin America, the Latin American Earth observation market is undergoing significant expansion brought about by growing demand for Earth observation data and services, and governments' growing investment into the application to support this demand and help to develop national Earth observation industries. In this regard, the region is considered one of the most dynamic markets globally. Click here. (5/7)

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