May 12, 2015

UAE Moving To Become a Player in Outer Space Activities (Source: Space News)
A significant first step was taken in the sphere of space law and policy by the United Arab Emirates with the inaugural meeting of the UAE Space Agency Working Group on Space Policy and Law on March 16. The purpose of this temporary working group, which was led by Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE space agency, is to discuss common goals and responsibilities for interested parties in order to identify suitable priorities to implement government directives.

The group will also encourage cooperation and coordination between a variety of stakeholders within the UAE space sector with the ultimate goal of creating a national space policy, federal laws to implement that policy and any necessary regulations. The step toward a national space policy is important as it not only positions the UAE to coordinate its domestic space program but also ranks the UAE as a player in the arena international outer space law and policy. (5/11)

How a $1.4-Billion Scientific Project Ran Into a Cultural Buzz Saw (Source: LA Times)
Astronomers looking for sites for their giant telescopes must account for numerous conditions -- accessibility, distance from cities (sources of light pollution), minimal atmospheric turbulence -- and increasingly, cultural concerns. The last of these is what's roiling plans for one of the world's largest telescopes, the $1.4-billion Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea.

Construction of the telescope, which in some ways is expected to be superior to the Hubble Space Telescope, was halted in April, soon after it began, in the face of protests from local cultural and heritage groups. The stoppage was initially scheduled to last one week; it has now lasted a month, and a date for the restart hasn't been set.

What's new in the TMT story is the willingness of the scientist/builders to hear and address local concerns. In connection with the Thirty Meter Telescope, "conversations are happening," says Michael Bolte, an astronomy professor at UC Santa Cruz and member of the TMT's board of governors. "We know if we press too hard, that's not the right path." (5/11)

Students Stand for Mauna Kea Amidst Telescope Controversy (Source: Whitman Pioneer)
There is nowhere like it in the world,” said sophomore Sean Terada about the mountain. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii, standing 13,796 feet above sea level. Located on the island of Hawaii — the “Big Island” — its peaks are shrouded in blankets of snow.

Mauna Kea is not only a place with cultural significance, but it is also said to be one of the best places for stargazing and astronomy. First-year Tehani Louis-Perkins, who is from Haleiwa, Hawaii, recalls looking up into a sky studded with stars, unpolluted by the glare from urban lights. “I remember being on the mountain and being amazed. It’s like you are in another world because above you all the stars are in the sky — it’s so clear,” said Louis-Perkins.

The mountain is so great for stargazing that 13 telescopes have already been built on its slopes. Another one, named the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), is currently proposed. It would be massive, spanning five acres at its base and 18 stories in height. Canada, the United States, India, China and Japan have invested in the building of the telescope, which will be completed in 2024. (5/11)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Lays Off 65, With More Cuts Possibly on the Way (Sourcre: SpaceFlight Insider)
According to sources within the aerospace industry, rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne laid off an estimated 65 of its workers this past week. The decision to close out these positions comes at a time when the company is recovering from issues encountered with the aerospace firm’s AJ26 rocket engine, which was involved with last year's loss of Orbital ATK’s Antares booster.

In 2013, reported that Aerojet Rocketdyne could bring as many as 5,000 new aerospace engineering jobs to Huntsville, Alabama, the location of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. However, since that time, several events have transpired that appear to have altered the company’s trajectory. The Sacramento Bee reported on March 9 that the company was planning on laying off as much as 10 percent of its workforce, including as many as 250 jobs at its Sacramento facilities alone. (5/11)

Historic Shuttle Access Arm Reaches Out to Public on Temporary Display (Source: CollectSpace)
A large piece of a space shuttle launch pad has landed on temporary display, where the public visiting NASA's Florida spaceport may catch sight of it.

The orbiter access arm and "white room" that for 30 years served as the astronauts' walkway into the space shuttles poised on Launch Pad 39A was recently moved outside of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The public may have the chance to see the gantry arm while on bus tours departing from the center's visitor complex, even getting up-close on one of the paths. (5/11)

Space Cups For All! Company Crowdfunds Zero-g Coffee Containers (Source: CollectSpace)
The company that put the "cup" in the first space cup of coffee now wants to put one in your hands. IRPI, the makers of the specially-designed "Space Cups" now being used on the International Space Station, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to commercially make the capillary-flow containers. The Oregon-based R&D firm is seeking at least $50,000 to give everyone the chance to drink like an astronaut. (5/8)

Editorial: Launching the Small-Satellite Revolution (Source: Space News)
Smaller and cheaper satellites are important for national security, for the space industry and for our planet. They also happen to be great investments. Innovators in industry, academia and government have already proved that small satellites can be built quickly and affordably while still being capable of doing significant things.

Such satellites are now in space sending back high-definition video, providing important climate data, helping to track the world’s maritime shipping assets, expanding our knowledge of the universe and helping test advanced technologies that will someday be used in the biggest satellites.

To some, bullish projections of the small-satellite industry call to mind the unfulfilled visions of the 1990s. But thanks to dramatic improvements in processing power, data storage, camera technology, compression, solar array efficiency and propulsion, there are myriad reasons why today’s end result will be very different from yesterday’s. Click here. (5/11)

Mars One Execs Dispute Criticism of Red Planet Colony Mission (Source:
Higher-ups at Mars One are disputing allegations by a former astronaut candidate that the colonization effort judges its applicants unfairly and is unable to finance itself. While its finances are not fully firmed up yet, Mars One representatives have said they will use capital from private investors, coupled with sponsorship deals, to bankroll the project. In March, the organization pushed back its first manned Red Planet landing by two years to 2027, citing a delay in investment funding. Click here. (5/11)

How Tom Cruise Cast Himself in an Unlikely Role With NASA (Source: Space News)
If you’ve been a fan of NASA’s website for more than a decade, you can thank an unlikely space geek: actor Tom Cruise. Or so says former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, who ran the agency from 2001 to 2004. O’Keefe said it was the “Top Gun” and “Mission: Impossible” star who encouraged him to redesign NASA’s website.

Cruise — who narrated the 2002 IMAX documentary “Space Station 3D” — also lent members of his production team to the effort, according to O’Keefe. "You’ve got this great website with tons of information on it and it’s perfectly designed for a lot of research faculty across the globe," said Cruise. "I guess, that is going to be of interest to them. But to the rest of us it’s three clicks to oblivion and you go the next thing and you find yourself nowhere." (5/11)

The 15 Moonshot Technologies NASA is Funding to Nake Science Fiction a Reality (Source: Quartz)
Each year, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program awards funding to a set of research projects on the bleeding edge of technology. These aren’t your everyday “disruptive” apps and social networks; we’re talking interstellar exploration, nanotube comet sensors, and robot squids.

Each of these Phase I award-winners is given around $100,000 in funding to do proof-of-concept studies; if those are successful, they can apply for Phase II awards, which are worth up to $500,000. Here are the 15 Phase I selections, which read straight out of a science-fiction novel. Click here. (5/11)

9 Ways Science Fiction Is Becoming Science Fact (Source: Thought Catalog)
The changes we’re talking about in this article aren’t unfolding in millions of years; they’re unfolding in a handful of decades. Moreover, these changes are far more radical than anything that came before. And none of these trends appear to be slowing down. Click here. (5/11)

What You Need to Know About the Laws of Space (Source: Engadget)
Neil deGrasse Tyson has said he loses "sleep at night wondering whether we are intelligent enough to figure out the universe." It's a valid concern. We've put a man on the moon, landed on a comet and roved around on Mars, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg. There's so much that we haven't seen and don't know, it seems almost impossible to fully understand the universe.

It's not for lack of effort, though. People and spacecraft keep going up into space investigating the unknown, hoping to glean something new, or finding the Holy Grail -- a place that can sustain life. And as human beings become a more frequent presence in the cosmos we've had to establish rules to ensure that places like the International Space Station don't deteriorate into complete bedlam and that we're not fighting wars over uninhabitable swaths of Martian desert.

The international community has actually come together and written regulatory guidelines for space exploration and laws that keep the final frontier from turning into the Wild West. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which is tasked with promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, space law is the "body of law applicable to and governing space-related activities." Click here. (5/11)

Space Launch System Program Moving Forward with Critical Design Review (Source: NASA)
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) Program is kicking off its critical design review May 11 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This new rocket will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever built. It is designed to be sustainable and evolve to carry crew and cargo on deep space missions, including an asteroid and ultimately to Mars. Click here. (5/11)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Team Wants to Take Over Atlas-5 (Source: Reuters)
Aerojet Rocketdyne and two other firms on Monday said they are exploring options for obtaining the data rights to the Atlas 5 launch vehicle and swapping out its Russian-built engine with the AR1 engine that Aerojet Rocketdyne is developing. Aerojet Rocketdyne's announcement raises the possibility that a third team could compete for rocket launches.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, private research firm Dynetics Inc, and Schafer Corp, an engineering firm headed by former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter about the data and production rights of the Atlas 5, and use of its launch facilities, in a letter dated April 29. ULA officials say they own the data rights to the Atlas 5, since the Air Force hired the company to provide launch services instead of buying the rockets outright. (5/11)

What Orbital ATK Needs Is Time And 'Space' (Source: Seeking Alpha)
The stock price for Orbital ATK has appreciated 16% since the merger of Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Aerospace and Defense groups of Alliant Techsystems Inc. was finalized in February 9, 2015. With a strong backlog and anticipated merger synergies, Orbital ATK will continue to maintain its position in the defense market and extend its presence into the commercial space industry. Click here. (5/11)

Best View Yet of Ceres' Spots (Source: BBC)
The fascinating bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres have come into sharper view. What were initially thought to be just a couple of brilliant, closely spaced features at one location now turn out to be a clutch of many smaller dots. The latest pictures were acquired by the US space agency's Dawn spacecraft on its first full science orbit since arriving at Ceres on 6 March. The spots were seen from a distance of 13,600km. Click here. (5/11)

Contemplating Life, Sex And Elevators In Space (Source: NPR)
The possibility of humans colonizing outer space may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but British astronomer Chris Impey says that if the U.S. were pumping more money into the space program, the sci-fi fantasy would be well on its way to reality. "I think we might actually be living on the moon and Mars," Impey said. "Maybe not many of us, but we might have our first bases there. We'd have robust commercial space activity or people routinely in orbit." (5/11)

Astrotech Posts Quarterly Results (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech posted third quarter fiscal year 2015 net income of $(2.1) million, or $(0.11) per diluted share, compared with a third quarter fiscal year 2014 net income of $(2.8) million or $(0.14) per diluted share. It also posted year to date fiscal year 2015 net income of $18.8 million. (5/11)

House Bill Would Revive Dormant Missile Defense Kill Vehicle Project (Source: Space News)
The House Armed Services Committee wants to quickly resurrect a shelved U.S. Missile Defense Agency concept to place several miniaturized kill vehicles atop a single interceptor to address a key weakness in the current U.S. missile shield.

The multi-object kill vehicle, or MOKV, is a long-term technology the MDA would put into place after it completes work on its top priority: a redesigned kill vehicle expected to be ready around 2020, industry officials said. (5/11)

NASA Seeks Bids for Small Rockets to Launch Tiny Satellites (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA outlined a deal Monday to encourage private rocket companies to develop small rockets to launch an emerging market of tiny satellites. NASA is seeking proposals this summer from upstart rocket companies interested in sending two small satellites into low Earth orbit by 2018.

Both satellites will be small — about 130 pounds each — so NASA wants companies to propose rockets so efficient they could develop into profitable vehicles for other small space payloads. Based on what's now under development by the commercial industry, the rockets could be as small as 30 feet tall, said Mark Wiese of NASA's Flight Projects Branch in the Launch Services Program's business office at Kennedy Space Center..

NASA is calling them "Venture Class" launch services. They are needed, NASA officials said, because electronic-miniaturization technology is producing nanosatellites that are becoming powerful and sophisticated enough to gather Earth and deep-space data while in orbit and to communicate with Earth. (5/11)

Tiny Cubesats Set to Explore Deep Space (Source:
Tiny space probes are set to make a giant leap away from Earth's neighborhood. Small and economical "cubesats" already eye our planet from orbit. But such bantam craft are about to start pushing out into deep space, helping researchers study and explore the moon, asteroids and other distant bodies. Click here. (5/11)

Venus Plane Pushed for Next NASA Next Frontiers Mission (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman is developing an inflatable, propeller-powered aircraft for a years-long cruise in the sulfurous skies of Venus and is gearing up to enter the concept in NASA’s next New Frontiers planetary science competition. That Northrop believes its Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, or VAMP, could be ready to compete for about $1 billion in NASA funding as soon as Oct. 1 is a testament to the company’s confidence in the concept. (5/11)

Suborbital Vehicle Developers Looking Ahead To Orbital Systems (Source: Space News)
Two entrepreneurial space companies best known for their work on suborbital reusable launch vehicles say they are in the early stages of development of orbital launch systems. In a presentation at the Space Access ’15 conference here May 2, XCOR Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason said he is starting to spend more time on the design of an orbital vehicle as development of the company’s Lynx suborbital spaceplane begins to wind down.

Another Mojave-based suborbital vehicle company, Masten Space Systems, is also working on orbital vehicle concepts. In a conference talk May 2, Masten Chief Technology Officer Dave Masten unveiled a reusable orbital vehicle concept called Xephyr, based on work the company is doing on the Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) program for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. (5/11)

The Trouble with Space Junk (Source: The Economist)
NASA says the skies high above the Earth are cluttered up with around 23,000 pieces of man-made space junk measuring 10cm or more across, zipping along at great speed and posing a threat to working satellites. The European Space Agency (ESA) reckons that collision alerts arising from worn-out satellites, defunct rockets and other clutter (such as launch adapters, lens covers, copper wires and the odd glove) have doubled in the past decade. Every such collision spawns more junk. Click here. (5/11)

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