May 14, 2015

On-Target SpaceX Launch Positioned Satellites for Faster Start (Source: Space News)
The two commercial geostationary-orbit telecommunications satellites launched March 1 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket — a launch that debuted the rocket’s dual-launch-to-geo capability and a new all-electric satellite design by Boeing — are expected to reach their final orbits at least a month ahead of schedule, their owners said.

The owners, ABS of Bermuda and Eutelsat of Paris, said a particularly good launch injection by the Falcon 9 is the main reason why the ABS-3A and the Eutelsat 115 West B spacecraft will reach their operating stations in late August and late September, respectively. (5/14)

House Science Committee Approves Four Commercial Space Bills (Source: Space News)
Most of the discussion during the three-hour session revolved around an update to commercial launch law called the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship, or SPACE, Act. The legislation was introduced by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), along with committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and space subcommittee chairman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS).

The bill’s central provisions included an extension of both third-party launch indemnification and the “learning period” that limits regulation of commercial human spaceflight safety through the end of 2023. The learning period is set to expire on Oct. 1, while launch indemnification runs through the end of 2016. Click here. (5/14)

House Subcommittee Seeks Cuts at NASA, NOAA, and NIST (Source: Science)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) would get a small increase, and NASA’s science programs would see a tiny cut, under a draft 2016 appropriations bill released today by a U.S. House of Representatives spending panel. But it would boost funding for NASA’s planetary science missions above the White House’s request.

The bill, released by the House commerce, justice, and science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee, also proposes cuts to science programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and a cut in the overall budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (5/13)

Persuasive Reasons Needed for Japan's Moon Project (Source: Japan News)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced plans to land a space probe on the moon. Moon landings have been proposed repeatedly in the past but all fell through. This time the plan may finally fly. Its aim is to launch in 2018 or 2019 using the small-scale rocket Epsilon. Total costs will range from ¥10 billion to ¥15 billion.

The goal is to acquire the technology to land the probe exactly in the targeted area. There are no ambitions to investigate moon resources or gather rocks, but the project has garnered much attention nonetheless. Some are asking whether the latest project can include scientific research, not just a landing. The key point is whether this is worthy of an investment of over ¥10 billion. (5/13)

Cape Canaveral Fuels Up for a Record Year of Launches (Source: Orlando)
The heart races, the ground trembles, the sound envelops and the smoke and fire are a sight to behold. Then the lump in your throat forms. Godspeed, you whisper to no one in particular. “I love just being out there, waiting on the Causeway,” Jeremy Maready, 35, of Lakeland said of watching Kennedy Space Center launches. “I love hearing the crackling of the rocket.”

Whether you were lucky enough to catch the magic of a space shuttle launch off the east coast of Florida or have never witnessed a liftoff, now is a perfect time to catch a rocket launch. 2015 is a record year for launches, with 24 scheduled. (5/13)

KSC’s ‘Then and Now’ Tour Canceled Following Increased Threat Level (Source: WFTV)
A popular tour on the Space Coast has been canceled. The Then and Now tour took guests from Kennedy Space Center to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cancelation was in response to increased threat level at military bases. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex would take about 50 guests by bus over to Cape Canaveral. (5/13)

NASA Has Big Plans for the Next 20 Years—But Can Its Budget Keep Up? (Source: National Journal)
Space suits that are built for humans to take more interstellar strolls outside the confines of their spacecraft. Spacecraft that have the ability to make smooth landings on Mars despite that planet's inhospitable terrain. A digital-tracking system that keeps tabs on flights scattered across our increasingly congested skies.

These are only a fraction of the many high-tech projects NASA outlined in a new series of draft 2015 Technology Roadmaps. Released Monday, the document offered a detailed examination of the agency's anticipated missions and technological advancements over the next two decades. Click here. (5/13)

Life in Space? The Odds Just Went Up (Source: TIME)
If ever there was a time to disobey HAL, the coolly sociopathic computer that stole the show in both 2001: A Space Odyssey and the 2010 sequel, it’s now. At the end of that second movie, the universe unfolds before a group of astronauts exploring the Jupiter system, and as they marvel at it, HAL gives them a simple warning: All these worlds are yours—except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

That’s a rule that’s getting harder not to break. Europa is one of the four large moons of Jupiter, and easily its most compelling. Its entire surface is covered in a thick rind of water ice, with what is almost certainly a deep, globe-girdling ocean of liquid water underneath. Now, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters offers new evidence that the ocean could be home to—or at least hospitable to—extraterrestrial life.

It’s not easy to keep water in a liquid state out in the cosmic provinces where Europa lives. The little world’s surface temperature averages -280º F (-173º C), with the sun little more than a very bright match head 483 million mi. (779 million km) away. But you don’t need sunlight to generate warmth when you’ve got what’s known as tidal flexing. (5/13)

Clooney, Astronauts Mark 45th Anniversary of Apollo 13 (Source: AP)
George Clooney has joined astronauts Jim Lovell, Tom Stafford and Eugene "Gene" Cernan at a gala in Texas to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. The event took place Tuesday night at an airport hangar in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

Clooney is a brand ambassador for Omega, which sponsored the event and outfitted the astronauts on the mission with watches. The event culminated with dinner in a room designed to mimic the surface of the moon. (5/13)

More Russian Engines for Launches Sought by Carter, Clapper (Source: Bloomberg)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and intelligence chief James Clapper are asking lawmakers to clarify restrictions on using Russian-made rocket engines to power American military space missions. Carter and Clapper want to clarify the provision, which they say would allow the use of as many as 18 RD-180 engines that the joint venture had pledged to buy for its Atlas V rockets before Russia annexed Crimea and intervened in Ukraine.

McCain said the letter from Carter and Clapper “failed to mention some very important facts,” including that there are no restrictions on NASA buying the Russian engines for commercial missions. He said the restriction on military launches prevents more than $300 million in “precious U.S. defense resources from subsidizing” Putin “and the Russian military-industrial base.” McCain’s committee is scheduled to finish its work by Friday. The two bill versions would then be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee. (5/13)

Crowdfunding to Save the World: Asteroid Defense Group Seeks $200k (Source: Guardian)
Deflecting asteroids before they smash into the earth and kill hundreds of millions of people? That’s what Bruce Willis is for, surely? But now there’s an alternative strategy being touted by a body called the Emergency Asteroid Defence Project (EADP).

The Danish non-governmental organization is trying to raise $200k on crowdfunding website Indiegogo to continue its research into hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicles (HAIVs) designed to “deflect or disperse asteroids and comets with only a few days’ warning”. (5/13)

Bill Nye Launches Kickstarter to Push Solar Sailing Cubesat to Space (Source: CollectSpace)
Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") wants you to be a part – and get a part – of a "revolutionary solar sailing spacecraft" mission. As leader of The Planetary Society, a non-profit dedicated to the exploration of the solar system, Nye has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the LightSail, a "citizen-funded flight by light" that will demonstrate a space travel concept first popularized by Carl Sagan nearly 40 years ago. (5/13)

Launch System for Soyuz-2 to be Ready at Vostochny Spaceport in July (Source Itar-Tass)
Specialists of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and contractor organisations have assembled about 60% of the launch system for the Soyuz-2 rockets at the Vostochny cosmodrome that is under construction in the Russian Far East. The work should be completed in July.

Roscosmos said that all the necessary equipment had already been delivered to the launch site, and its installation would begin immediately after the commissioning of the necessary facilities. At the moment, 34% of the equipment has been installed in nearly 60 premises of the launch complex, the press service said. (5/13)

Spaceport America’s Revenue Plan Gets Go-Ahead (Source: KRQE)
Spaceport America launched a new business plan Wednesday to find ways to generate revenue as it tries to get out from under the shadow of struggling client Virgin Galactic. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s board of directors officially approved the five-year plan proposed by Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson.

According to documents released by Spaceport, the futuristic facility intends to generate profit by luring resources in fields within and outside of aerospace. At the same time, the company intends to ramp up suborbital spaceflight activity in 2017 and make New Mexico the place for “more annual non-test spaceflights than any other state by 2020.” Click here for a copy of the new Business Plan. (5/14)

Russian Proton Selected to Launch US Commercial Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will launch a US communications satellite from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan this year, the government said in a statement on Monday. The Intelsat DLA-2 satellite, also known as Intelsat 31, will be put into orbit by Russia's Proton Breeze M launch vehicle. (5/14)

Advances In Lightweight Composite Tanks For Launchers (Source: Aviation Week)
Lightweight composite structures, manufactured “out of autoclave” without pressurized curing, are a major goal in NASA’s latest technology road map, but the shape of the tanks is bringing a degree of difficulty to this process.

Engineers working on two different NASA-backed composite cryogenic tank demonstrations at Marshall Space Flight Center say strong composite structures can be produced with heat-curing alone, as long as there are open edges that can vent water vapor and other gases that would otherwise create voids when the composite material hardens. In a cylindrical launch-vehicle propellant tank with a dome on the end, those edges do not exist. (5/13)

China Advances In Satellite-Based Aircraft Landings (Source: Aviation Week)
China leapfrogged its international peers in late April with what is arguably the world’s most advanced display of a precision navigation capability—satellite-guided curved approaches with multiple glideslopes that seamlessly terminated in automatic landings.

The one-day demonstration on April 29 took place at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport using a China Eastern Airlines Airbus A321 and a Shangdong Airlines Boeing 737-800 with senior officials from China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) and air traffic management bureau onboard. Anchoring the capability is a Honeywell SmartPath ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) that has been operating at the airport since January. (5/12)

Sarah Brightman Postpones Trip to Space Station (Source: Independent)
British singer Sarah Brightman has postponed her planned trip to the International Space Station. She had been training in Star City near Moscow, and was due to blast off in a Russian Soyuz rocket on a tourist flight on September 1. But a statement on the soprano's website said she was setting the plans aside, and that for "personal family reasons" her intentions had changed. (5/13)

Can SpaceX Win the Multibillion-Dollar Global Rocket War? (Source: CNBC)
In an industry in which change traditionally happens at a crawl, Elon Musk's commercial space venture SpaceX has proved that even the most entrenched status quo is vulnerable to upheaval. As the privately-held company and its Falcon 9 rocket gets closer to receiving U.S. Air Force certification to launch military and spy satellites, fierce competitors are nipping at its heels in hopes of grabbing a piece of the $5.4 billion niche market SpaceX continues to grow.

Just five years ago, its Falcon 9 rocket—a two-stage launch vehicle capable of hauling nearly 30,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit—had never made the journey to space. Now it regularly services the International Space Station, enjoys a multiyear backlog of commercial payload missions worth billions and could soon begin carrying humans into outer space for NASA by 2017. A key safety test of its Dragon crew capsule last week went off without a hitch. Now the question is: Will archrivals disrupt SpaceX? (5/13)

Rohrabacher: 'I Wouldn’t Set Foot on Commercial Spacecraft' (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) dropped a bomb today on his supporters in the commercial space industry by declaring that he would not personally fly on a commercial spacecraft. The admission came on Wednesday during the House Science Committee’s markup of four commercial space measures.

During a discussion relating to liability waivers, he admitted he wouldn’t fly on commercial space vehicles but feels that those who want to should be able to waive their rights to sue spaceflight operators and related parties. The conservative House member is one of the commercial space industry’s biggest boosters on Capitol Hill. His backers might find his lack of faith disturbing. (5/13)

Texas Locals Approve of Cruz-Nelson Space Bill (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
The press release from Cruz’s office included statements of support from XCOR’s Jeff Greason and Midland Development Corp.'s Pam Welch. “I’m very pleased that with the myriad of issues Congress has to deal with, they recognize that continuing the regulatory approach which has placed the United States firmly in the lead in the development of commercial space transportation is worth their time and attention,” said Greason.

Welch expressed support for the legislation that she said would update the Commercial Space Launch Act, an initiative that was first undertaken by President Ronald Reagan. Other people from the private space industry who voiced their support included Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, SpaceX and Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson. (5/13)

McCain Rejects Pentagon Push for More Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Reuters)
U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain rejected a request by U.S. officials for changes in federal law to let ULA use more Russian rocket engines to compete for military satellite launches against privately held SpaceX. McCain's comments reflect frustration among some lawmakers about the Pentagon's failure to halt purchases of the RD-180 Russian engines after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper urged McCain in a letter dated May 11 to amend federal law so the Pentagon can retain "assured access to space". This is a legal requirement that mandates availability of two satellite launch vehicles so the U.S. military can always get satellites into space, even if one of the rockets is grounded due to a catastrophic failure.

The current dispute centers on a clause in the 2015 defense authorization law banning use of Russian engines that were not paid for before Russia's annexation of Crimea last year. The Air Force - and now Pentagon leaders - have asked Congress to change the law to include engines that ULA had ordered, but not paid for, at that time. ULA is seeking the relief because it is phasing out most of its U.S.-powered Delta 4 rockets because they are too costly, and its new Vulcan rocket won't be ready until 2022 or 2023. Click here. (5/13)

McCain: With RD-180 Ban, NASA Could Step In to Launch DOD Payloads (Source: Reuters)
In his rebuttal of the DOD letter requesting extended use of Russian engines, McCain said the letter ignored NASA's role in providing assured access to space, and the law did not prevent NASA from continuing to use the Russian rocket engines. That meant NASA could always step in to help in the event of a crisis, he said.

The House Armed Services Committee has already proposed a change to Section 1608 of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act to allow ULA to use more Russian engines. Air Force Secretary Deborah James last month said changing the law would allow ULA to compete against SpaceX for 18 of 34 launches between 2015 and 2022, versus just five launches.

Editor's Note: So if the Falcon-9 is grounded for some reason, and Delta-4 is retired, would NASA then procure the Atlas-5 (with RD-180 engines) to launch DOD payloads? (5/13)

Arianespace Assures French Parliament it Can Outcompete SpaceX (Source: Space News)
The head of Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium on May 12 said the company can beat competitor SpaceX in the open market with a euro/dollar exchange rate at today’s levels and the planned 5-6 percent reduction in Ariane 5 rocket production and launch costs.

Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel also said a fresh canvassing of large commercial satellite fleet operators has found that SpaceX’s planned reuse of its Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage — designed to cut Falcon launch costs — at this point presents no real threat to Arianespace. (5/13)

Boeing CEO: “Is Sillicon Valley Going To Destroy Your Space Business?” (Source: Space News)
Boeing Chief Executive James McNerney on May 12 asked whether the company’s space division could meet the challenge of Silicon Valley. Interrupting the question-answer session with analysts at the Boeing 2015 Investor Conference, McNerney threw a zinger at Chris Chadwick, head of the Boeing Defense, Space and Securty division. “Is Silicon Valley going to destroy your space business?” McNerney asked Chadwick.

“No, actually we see that as an opportunity. You look at Elon Musk and what he’s doing. He’s brought some new energy into the space business and we’ve competed head to head very successfully. Look at the last two and one-half years. We’ve been rock solid in [Ground-Based Missile Defense], solid on launch and won SLS, won commercial crew” — as did SpaceX — “with very good contractual deals.

“We know that ‘More For Less’ is the world that’s coming at us and we’re going to get ahead of that. At the same time we’re going to leverage where we can the technology that’s coming out of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook and see how we can compete going forward. There’s a lot of innovation inside of BDS.” (5/13)

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