May 11, 2015

SAIC Buys Its Way Back into Spying Business (Source: The Nation)
With upwards of 70 percent of the surveillance state’s budget directed to private contractors, some of the most reliable sources for tracking intelligence trends are the companies themselves. Case in point: the recent acquisition by SAIC, a prime government contractor, of Scitor Corporation, the most secretive and least-known of the companies that collect and analyze signals intelligence for the Pentagon.

Scitor, of Reston, Virginia, is “the biggest company you never heard of,” a former high-ranking National Security Agency officer told me when I first stumbled upon the company in 2007. By buying Scitor (for cash), SAIC is returning to the secretive world of SIGINT and satellite imagery after losing that business to Leidos, which was created in 2013 when SAIC was split into two separate companies. The $790 million SAIC-Scitor deal was finalized on May 4. (5/11)

Exos Seeks To Revive Armadillo Rocket Technology (Source: Space News)
Two years after Armadillo Aerospace suspended operations, a new company featuring many of the same people is planning to resume development of its reusable suborbital launch vehicles. Exos Aerospace Systems and Technologies of Caddo Mills, Texas, is planning to begin launches of a reusable sounding rocket called the Suborbital Active Rocket with Guidance (SARGE) next year from Spaceport America in New Mexico. (5/11)

USAF EELV Procurement Plan Riddled With Pitfalls (Source: Aviation Week)
The Air Force is on the cusp of an unplanned and, until recently, undesired procurement of a new generation of rocket systems that are needed to maintain superiority in space for decades to come—to the tune of billions of dollars. This procurement comes as the launch market is in the throes of a major shift.

Legacy providers are working to shed a business model that is heavily dependent on the government’s coffers. And new entrants—such as SpaceX and Blue Origin—appear to respond more nimbly to market demands, thanks to an influx of private investment. This begs the question: Is USAF—at times sensitive about its a slow recovery from a decade of procurement foul-ups—equipped to navigate the uncharted territory ahead in acquiring new Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV)?

A key question will be how the Air Force can objectively judge procurement bids that all have vastly different levels of risk and disparate public-private funding requirements. And if Aerojet Rocketdyne gets its way, that company will require direct management of a propulsion system, whereas the Air Force hopes to simply manage procurement of entire rocket services, not directly oversee engine work. Click here. (5/8)

Google Prize Creating New Generation of Lunar Landers (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With the help of Google’s Lunar X PRIZE, four companies are developing their own unique landers with a goal of touching down on the lunar regolith – as early as 2016. With their own designs and goals, the companies are working towards a new era in lunar exploration.

One of these, Moon Express, is developing a lander (MX-1) designed to reach the Moon’s surface from a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Hitching a ride on a commercial rocket as a secondary payload on a commercial rocket, the lander is powered by a 90 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. Click here. (5/11)

Making Good on the Promise of Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
Once on the cutting edge of commercial spaceflight, suborbital vehicles have been overshadowed in recent years, in part due to their development delays. Jeff Foust reports that, finally, some of these vehicles are entering, or about to enter, flight tests. Visit to view the article. (5/11)

Debunking the Invalid Claims of a Space Radiation  (Source: Space Review)
A recent study found that cosmic radiation astronauts would be exposed to on Mars expeditions could cause brain damage, resulting in dementia or other disorders. Robert Zubrin takes issue with the study's methodology and argues the radiation risk to humans is far less serious than what the study concludes. Visit to view the article. (5/11)

Inspirational Asphyxiation (Source: Space Review)
Space exploration has the ability to inspire students to pursue careers in science and engineering, as demonstrated by Apollo. However, Blake Ortner warns that inspiration could be suffocated by plans that take far too long to carry out. Visit to view the article. (5/11)

NASA Unveils Latest Technology Roadmaps for Future Agency Needs (Source: NASA)
NASA has released the agency’s 2015 technology roadmaps laying out the promising new technologies that will help NASA achieve its aeronautics, science and human exploration missions for the next 20 years, including the agency’s journey to Mars. The agency is seeking public comment on the draft roadmaps to increase awareness, generate innovative solutions for space exploration and scientific discovery, and inspire public involvement in America's space program. Click here. (5/11)

FAA Creates New Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Source: Vertical)
After a rigorous competition, the Federal Aviation Administration has selected a Mississippi State University-led team as the FAA’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE UAS). The COE will focus on research, education and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace.

In addition to Mississippi State University, the other team members include: Drexel University; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Kansas State University; Kansas University; Montana State University; New Mexico State University; North Carolina State University; Oregon State University; University of Alabama, Huntsville; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of North Dakota; and Wichita State University. (5/11)

Risks and Rewards in Commercial Spaceflight (Source: LaunchSpace)
Commercial Spaceflight has had its ups and downs and will almost certainly continue to have high and low points (please excuse the puns). There is no doubt about the risks, but many questions remain about the potential rewards. The industry is surely in that phase of life when there is a great deal of uncertainty. Just last fall two commercial space ventures, by Orbital ATK and Virgin Galactic, experienced serious failures.

In addition to the activities of Orbital ATK and Virgin Galactic, there are at least a dozen other commercial space adventurers vying for business in this field. One key question is: "How many of these will succeed?" Only the future will tell us the answer. (5/11)

Tennessee Group Plans Lunar Base Analog (Source: Waypaver Labs)
WayPaver Labs is a nonprofit based in Chattanooga, TN with a mission of pushing the boundaries of human exploration, both here on Earth and beyond. We’re working to establish a sustainable lunar settlement within the next 15 years. In doing so, we’re building a world class Lunar Research Park to research, develop, and test new technologies needed for a sustainable habitat. Click here. (5/11)

Legislation Could Result in California Spaceport Authority (Source: Parabolic Arc)
California State Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) has introduced legislation that would require the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to establish a space enterprise development program to promote the state’s industry. Fuller’s measure would likely lead to the establishment of a California Spaceport Authority to oversee the efforts.

SB-506 would also establish the California Space Enterprise Competitive Grant Program that would provide funds to improve the competitiveness of companies and organizations conducting space activities in the state, and give the Governor’s Office the authority to contract with a non-profit group to provide technical assistance and support.

The space provisions are part of a larger bill that also establishes a Military and Aerospace Program within the Governor’s Office to focus on “state and local defense retention, conversion, and base reuse activities, including developing and recommending to the Governor and the Legislature a strategic plan for state and local defense retention and conversion efforts.” Fuller’s bill would establish a Military and Aerospace Account in the Special Deposit Fund in the State Treasury that would be able to accept private funds. (5/10)

SpaceX Launch Site Activity Picks Up in Boca Chica Area (Source: Valley Morning Star)
A second fence encompassing a greater amount of land has been placed along the perimeter of partial property that Elon Musk’s SpaceX owns at BocaChicaBeach, signaling increased activity at the planned site of the world’s first commercial and vertical orbital launch site.

Cameron County Judge Pete Sepulveda Jr. said he understands the larger fence delineates the site of the complex’s command or control center. Sepulveda said he believes the command center would be constructed first. “That’s the plan,” the county judge said. SpaceX’s construction office consisting of a double wide trailer was established last year and is functional. It also is fenced and is within the larger fenced area. (5/10)

No comments: