May 13, 2015

Florida Senators Join in Sponsoring Bipartisan Space Competitiveness Act (Source: U.S. Senate)
Building upon the Commercial Space Launch Act that was first passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the bipartisan U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act reflects the needs of a changing and growing industry and aims to encourage the competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry. Click here. (5/13)

New Mexico Locals Opposed to Spaceport America Visitor Complex Site (Source: KOB4)
The work is already underway to bring more Spaceport tourism to Truth or Consequences, but a group of upset families may stop it, claiming the city is still breaking the law. The group cleared a major hurdle Tuesday in its fight. The people who have had a longtime relationship with the Lee Belle Johnson Senior Recreation Center say it belongs to them, not a tour company that plans to offer tickets to visit the Spaceport.

The city agreed in February to lease out a portion of the building to Follow the Sun Tours for $950 a month, utilities included. That's why people like Ron Fenn put together a petition drive to try and stop it. "There was no connection with the people here, no representation of the people," Fenn said. (5/13)

Editorial: Renewed U.S. Competitiveness in Space (Source: Space News)
There’s no question that the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry has grown considerably since the passage of the historic Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) in 1984, which set the precedent for the private sector to make commercial spaceflight a reality.

The commercial space sector is vital in contributing to our space industrial base, but the demonstrated growth and capabilities come with the need to readdress the regulatory framework for this sector. Without the proper regulatory environment, the United States will quickly fall behind international competitors also aiming for the stars. Click here. (5/13)

Space Florida, NASA Near Deal for Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: Florida Today)
A deal for the state to take control of Kennedy Space Center's former shuttle runway is now in Space Florida's hands, KSC Director Bob Cabana said. After nearly two years of negotiations, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello plans to present a tentative agreement to his board late this month in Tampa. "The ball is in his court," Cabana said.

Space Florida's approval would be the first major step toward commercializing the three-mile runway with the goal of attracting companies that launch space tourists and satellites, and possibly others that want to test drones. DiBello said the state would take over the facility immediately, focused initially on seamlessly continuing existing flight operations such as deliveries of satellites and other mission hardware or astronauts visiting during training.

"The real future of the Shuttle Landing Facility is developing it for a new class of users, because right now it is only a landing facility," he said. "The future is to make it the flagship for the U.S., as far as I'm concerned, horizontal takeoff and landing, special purpose aviation spaceport." Click here. (5/12)

With Failures Piling Up, Russia Looking to Retry Phobos-Grunt Mars Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Russia's Roscosmos has not had the best of luck lately in launching things into orbit, let alone to points beyond. However, with the recently announced plans to send another spacecraft to the Martian moon Phobos, the agency appears poised to make a second attempt – at a very difficult target. Roscosmos’ plans were unveiled via a budget proposal that detail’s the agency’s funding over the course of the next decade. In that proposal was a push to reignite the failed 2011 Mars-Grunt (Soil) mission. (5/13)

US Fears 'Bad' Chinese, Russian Anti-Satellite Weapons (Source: Space Daily)
The US fears Russian and Chinese aggression as both countries have been rapidly modernizing their anti-satellite weapons. The US has more than 500 satellites in space which, according to Commander of the US Air Force Space Command John E. Hyten, are exposed to a major threat, as China and Russia have made significant progress in space research, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten reported.

China in particular is expanding its space research activities and developing effective anti-satellite weapons. The country is continuing to carry out tests which US officials view as a potential threat to their country's security. The US fears that China may carry out attacks on its satellites in the event of a conflict between the two nations. (5/12)

Proba-V Maps World Air Traffic From Space (Source: Space Daily)
As ESA's Proba-V works quietly on its main task of monitoring vegetation growth across Earth, the minisatellite is also picking up something from a little higher: signals from thousands of aircraft. Launched two years ago, Proba-V has picked up upwards of 25 million positions from more than 15 000 separate aircraft. This is a technical world-first, demonstrating the feasibility of follow-on orbital constellations now being readied for operational aircraft monitoring. (5/13)

Embraer Moving All Phenom Assembly to Florida (Source: AIN Online)
Embraer is transferring all Phenom assembly to its facility in Melbourne, Fla., over the next year, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer announced today. Its plant in Botucatu, Brazil, will continue to manufacture and export the wing and fuselage for the Phenom 100 and 300.

Since opening the Melbourne facility in February 2011, Embraer has been assembling the light jets in both the U.S. and Brazil. The plant capacity and workers in Brazil are now needed for assembly of the company’s new E2 airliners. The company’s Melbourne facility has the capacity to assemble up to 96 Phenoms per year, just above the 92 delivered by Embraer last year. Embraer’s Melbourne plant is also currently being expanded to accommodate Legacy 450/500 assembly, which will begin there in the second half of next year. (5/13)

NASA Wallops Takes Step Toward Manned Space Flights (Source: USA Today)
One small step at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility could turn into one giant leap for the facility's commercial aspirations. Wallops officials say they will study the potential environmental consequences of landing reusable booster rockets and manned spacecraft at the Accomack County space center.

Such a review is a regulatory must if the facility is to host either program, said Bruce Underwood, Wallops' deputy director. There are no imminent plans to land spacecraft of any kind at the facility, but several government agencies and private space companies have expressed interest in landing craft there over the past decade. Last year, a representative of Bigelow Aerospace publicly signaled the company's interest in conducting manned space flights at Wallops.

The facility's staff had considered incorporating the landing and manned-flight proposals into a site-wide environmental impact statement that's been underway since 2011, but it had remained outside of the review. "We said, 'Well, gee, if the states are going to ask for them, most definitely we should add that in,'" Underwood said. (5/12)

From Outer Space to Silicon Valley (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Robert Witoff needs to boldly go where no one has gone before. The unassuming 28-year-old from San Francisco joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at 22 after graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in aeronautical engineering. At NASA’s facility in Pasadena, Calif., he managed the first laser communications system for the International Space Station.

When the laser project wound down, Witoff told his bosses that he wanted to leave to work on the blockchain—the decentralized online ledger system underpinning the bitcoin virtual currency. “I deeply believe that the blockchain is one of the most important innovations ever,” he said. “It can democratize the world, and our finances.”

NASA asked him to stay and lead data science at JPL, saying he could modernize the group’s internal applications and bring the organization’s operations onto the cloud. NASA wasn’t yet on the cloud at 2013, struggling to comply with regulations, security and data-protection issues. He stayed for another two years at JPL. Click here. (5/11)

Skating Rinks on Ceres? Ice Could be Source of Bright Spots (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Scientists studying fresh pictures from NASA’s Dawn mission say gleaming dots seen on the dwarf planet Ceres may be from icy patches reflecting sunlight back into space. The bright spots caught the attention of Dawn’s science team as the solar-powered probe approached Ceres early this year, fueling speculation the dots at the bottom of a crater could be from ice volcanoes or frozen material exposed by a violent impact with another object. (5/11)

No Warp Drive Here: NASA Downplays 'Impossible' EM Drive Space Engine (Source:
Despite the fevered reports rocketing around the Internet recently, NASA is not on the verge of developing a fuel-free, faster-than-light propulsion system, space agency officials stress. NASA is downplaying the research and its potential to deliver a huge propulsion breakthrough in the near future.

A team based at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston reportedly tested a prototype engine system in a vacuum recently and determined that it produced a small amount of thrust. This news was disclosed on a forum earlier this year, and last week, it hit the broader Internet with a vengeance, as some pieces linked the technology to a long-sought "warp drive." (5/11)

DOD Report Cites China's Growing Anti-Satellite Capabilities (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Defense Department's annual report on China's military power highlights successful tests of anti-satellite capabilities. "The tough question is what to do, [and] some of the potential options could make the situation worse instead of better," said Brian Weeden, technical advisor to the Secure World Foundation. (5/11)

The Mad Plan to Clean Up Space Junk With a Laser Cannon (Source: WIRED)
If a team of astronomers has its way, the International Space Station will be outfitted with a spiffy laser-wielding telescope. No, no, hold on—it’s not to kill aliens or rebel civilizations. It’s to clean up a huge mess. The European Union is supporting a project called Stardust which is analyzing how to handle space debris and threatening asteroids (items they call “non-cooperative targets”)—and may settle on lasers as the best plan.

"Everyone is afraid you are going to weaponize space.” Don Kessler says (he lends his name to “Kessler syndrome,” a scenario in which colliding debris begins a cascade of increasing debris and destruction). If you can take out a derelict satellite or rocket body, you also have the ability to kill a working satellite. And given how important satellites are to militaries, an attack could prompt a war. (5/12)

NASA Selects Final Frontier Design to Develop EVA Glove (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected Final Frontier Design for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to develop a high-pressure extravehicular activity (EVA) glove. “Final Frontier Design’s (FFD) High Pressure EVA Glove (HPEG) is a game changing technology enabling future exploration class space missions,” the company said in its proposal.

“The high operating pressure allows astronauts to conduct EVAs without a pre breathe penalty, greatly increasing efficiency. The HPEG increases astronaut comfort and reduces fatigue by allowing for a large Range of Motion with low joint torque throughout.” (5/12)

House Measure Would Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period by 8 Years (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The House Science Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would extend the commercial spaceflight learning period for another eight years while requiring a series of progress reports on safety from the FAA. The proposed extension to the end of 2023 is three years longer than one in a measure introduced in the Senate.

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA AST) wants the moratorium on regulating the industry to expire as scheduled at the end of September 2015. McCarthy’s Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (or SPACE Act of 2015) also contains several other key provisions, including the extension of launch liability indemnification cost sharing provisions and a rule change that would allow companies to hold experimental permits and launch licenses simultaneously. (5/12)

Ferrari Designer Creates a La Ferrari-Inspired Spaceship (Source: Driving)
Eventually, mankind will likely get tired of traveling from point A to B on Earth. When that happens, Ferrari has us covered. Turns out, Ferrari design head Flavio Manzoni is a bit of a sci-fi geek. His latest vision reflects that, straying considerably from the sultry four-wheeled transportation typically grounded by gravity. Click here. (5/7)

International Space Station Partners Adjust Spacecraft Schedule (Source: NASA)
NASA and its international partners agreed Tuesday to set a new schedule for spacecraft traffic to and from the International Space Station. The partner agencies agreed to adjust the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency's (Roscosmos) preliminary findings on the recent loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft.

The exact dates have not yet been established, but will be announced in the coming weeks. Roscosmos expects to provide an update about the Progress 59 investigation on Friday, May 22. The return to Earth for NASA's Terry Virts, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov now is targeted for early June.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka will remain aboard the station to begin Expedition 44. The next Russian cargo craft, Progress 60, will launch in early July to deliver several tons of food, fuel and supplies. The space station has sufficient supplies to support crews until the fall of 2015. (5/12)

Climate Denialists in Congress Acting as NASA's Kryptonite (Source: NPR)
Quick: List the first four words that pop into your mind when you hear NASA. If you are like most folks, you hit some mix of astronauts, moon landings, space telescopes and Mars probes. Those are pretty positive images representing accomplishments we can all feel proud about. NASA does superhero stuff in the eyes of most people.

It's also stuff that's universally recognized to be the kind where you absolutely, positively can't afford to be wrong. And that is why NASA is a real problem for climate denialism. If you are intent on convincing people there is no climate change, then the last thing you want is NASA — with all its heroism and accuracy — telling folks climate change is real. So, faced with this dilemma, climate denialist's have come up with a clever solution: Get NASA out of climate change science.

Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA? The answer is pretty clear. (5/12)

Editorial: Bill Would Not Restore Balance to NASA (Source: Space News)
The committee’s Republican majority said the bill “restores much needed balance” to the nation’s civil space program. But that balance already is heavily tipped in favor of SLS and Orion, which in 2015 received a combined $3.25 billion, compared with $1.77 billion for Earth Science. With the addition of SLS and Orion, NASA’s human spaceflight budget, which also includes International Space Station operations, is more than $7.3 billion, or 40 percent of the agency’s overall 2015 spending.

President Obama’s 2016 request doesn’t really change the equation. SLS/Orion funding would drop to $2.8 billion, but the human spaceflight program would continue to account for roughly 40 percent of the agency’s total proposed budget. Earth Science spending, meanwhile, would increase to $1.95 billion, or about 10 percent of the total — roughly the same as this year. (5/12)

No comments: