May 16, 2015

Russia Races to Replace British Singer Sarah Brightman as Space Tourist (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
Russia's space officials are rushing to find a replacement for British singer Sarah Brightman after she pulled out as the next ISS tourist four months ahead of her planned trip. The singer said on Wednesday she was suspending her plans to fly to the Space Station for "family reasons", reportedly her mother's poor health.

Speculation in Russia centered on whether Brightman pulled out because of safety fears after an unmanned supply ship to the ISS was lost after its launch last month. Brightman wanted to fly "on condition of complete safety -- she didn't want to risk a hair", said Igor Marinin. Reports also questioned whether Brightman had failed to raise sufficient funds from sponsors to cover the trip.

Space Adventures, the US company which books space tourists, "has a few days or a week to find another tourist", another space industry said. "Otherwise they'll send a young Russian first-time cosmonaut." It was unclear whether a Japanese businessman who has been training with Brightman could step in. The businessman, Satoshi Takamatsu, signed a contract to undergo training, not a far more costly ticket to the ISS, a space industry source said. (5/15)

America’s Impenetrable Congress Does It Again (Source: Parabolic Arc)
There’s a great scene in “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” in which Dmitri Moiseyevich (Dana Elcar) asks Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) what scientists had learned about the monolith brought back from the moon. "Nothing,” Floyd replies. “It’s impenetrable. We’ve tried lasers, nuclear detonators. Nothing worked.” I reached that same conclusion about Congress this week. The institution seems impermeable to facts, reasoned arguments, and even potential threats to the lives of America’s brave astronauts.

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee’s commerce, justice, and science subcommittee reported a spending bill for NASA. Legislators one again took a substantial cut out requested funds for the Commercial Crew Program, reducing the budget from the requested $1.243 billion to $1 billion. That’s almost a 20 percent cut. Now, we’ve seen this same movie year after year. We’ve seen NASA ask for a requested amount, Congress cut it, the program slip further into the future, and the space agency write ever larger checks to the Russian government to ensure access to the ISS. (5/15)

ULA Lays Off 12 Executives in Major Reorganization (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance is cutting its executive ranks by 30 percent through what it called voluntary departures by 12 executives. Tory Bruno said the layoffs were part of ULA's ongoing efforts to adapt to what he called "an increasingly competitive business environment" and redesign its leadership team. Bruno announced the layoffs internally on Wednesday in what some employees have dubbed the "Mother's Day Massacre," given its timing.

"ULA's back is to the wall," said defense consultant Loren Thompson. "Unless it gets relief from the congressional mandate on getting off Russian rockets and it can't speed up its alternative, then its business model is severely impaired." Bruno said Boeing and Lockheed could halt investment in the new Vulcan rocket unless the company got permission to use a number of Russian engines ordered but not paid for before the invasion of Crimea. (5/15)

NASA and Virginia Look to Orbital ATK to Dig Deeper for Launch Pad Repairs (Source: Space News)
A Virginia-owned launch pad damaged in October when Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket exploded is almost fixed, but the company is at loggerheads with the state and the federal government over who should pay the last $2 million owed in repairs. The accident, blamed on an engine failure, caused about $13 million worth of damage to the pad alone, according to Dale Nash, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

NASA has covered about $5 million of the repair tab, while Virginia-based Orbital ATK provided another $3 million. Virginia contributed too, committing roughly $3 million of the state-funded spaceflight authority’s $16 million annual operating budget. Virginia spent $90 million to develop the launch pad.

Another $2 million or is needed to complete repairs of pad, in a state-leased corner of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The pad was developed to support Orbital ATK’s cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station under the company’s eight-flight, $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Virginia wants to finish pad repairs by September, but is funded only through August, due to the $2 million shortfall, Nash said. (5/15)

Despite $20 Million Funding Boost, NASA Not Interested in Virginia Pad Repair (Source: Space News)
NASA is not interested in picking up what is left of the tab to rebuild Virginia's launch pad, despite the fact that agency wound up with an extra $20 million in its 21st Century Launch Complex budget as part of the 2015 omnibus spending bill signed in December.

Ahead of the bill’s passage, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine  and Mark Warner — former Virginia governors who supported Pad 0A through conception and construction — took credit for plussing up the 21st Century Launch account, announcing in a joint press release the money should be used to repair the damage Antares caused when it exploded on what would have been its third paid cargo run.

NASA, which was not obligated under the bill to use any of the money to fix Pad 0A, sent $5 million to Wallops before washing its hands of the matter. Editor's Note: Virginia's earmark of NASA's budget came at the expense of Kennedy Space Center, specifically KSC's weather office, or so I've heard. (5/15)

NASA's SLS Team Processing Thousands of CDR Documents (Source:
The Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is underway, with managers and engineers wading through huge piles of documentation. The process is expected to last through the summer and is expected to pass without any major technical issues, as the vehicle prepares for her maiden launch in 2018. (5/15)

Engineers Test Hydrogen Burn-off Igniters for Space Launch System (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has a certain "flare" when it comes to safety on the launch pad. Those flares are called hydrogen burn-off igniters - which resemble celebratory sparklers - and were successfully used to mitigate risk to a launch vehicle for space shuttle missions.

A team of engineers is testing hydrogen burn-off igniters for NASA's Space Launch System at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the program is managed for the agency. SLS 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 placed in lunar orbit, and ultimately to Mars. (5/15)

SpaceX Gets Certified to Launch NASA Science Missions (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has formally certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch all but the space agency’s most costly robotic science missions, beginning with a a U.S.-French oceanography satellite set for liftoff from California in July. NASA’s Launch Services Program, which manages the agency’s rocket procurements for research missions, concluded the multi-year certification effort Tuesday. Editor's Note: Does it make sense that DOD and NASA have totally separate certification processes? (5/15)

McCain Bill Would Put SpaceX in Driver’s Seat (Source: Space News)
A defense authorization bill just drafted in the U.S. Senate would leave United Launch Alliance with fewer Atlas 5 rocket engines than the company says it needs to stay in the competitive national security launch arena until its next-generation rocket becomes available around the end of the decade.

Under the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, ULA would have as few as five of the Russian-made RD-180 engines available for upcoming competitive rounds of the Air Force’s EELV program. In a best-case scenario, ULA could have as many as nine of the engines, which are being phased out due to the downturn in relations with Russia.

ULA and Defense Department officials say the company needs 14 RD-180s to compete with SpaceX until its next-generation Vulcan rocket begins flying. The Vulcan, featuring a U.S.-made engine, is expected to make its first flight in 2019 and be certified to launch DOD missions by 2021. The House version of the 2016 defense authorization, which was approved May 15, would grant ULA access to the 14 RD-180s it says it needs to stay in the game until the Vulcan is ready. (5/15)

Airbus Safran’s Ariane 6 Bid is In but CNES Buyout is Unresolved (Source: Space News)
Airbus Safran Launchers has submitted its formal bid to design and build Europe’s next-generation rocket, a contract to be valued at around 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion) that the European Space Agency hopes to sign by the end of June. The contract does not include a new Ariane 6 launch pad, a contract with an estimated value of about 600 million euros that is under the responsibility of the French space agency, CNES, not the industry team.

Airbus Safran’s bid, submitted May 7, will be put on a fast-track evaluation at ESA, which with Airbus Safran Launchers has already determined most of the details. The goal is to develop the vehicle in time for an inaugural launch in 2020.

What remains unclear is how large a portion of the 3.2-billion-euro total development cost will be shouldered by industry. Both Airbus Safran Launchers and its principal subcontractors. ESA and Airbus had, in effect, agreed to disagree in mid-March about an ESA-requested industrial contribution of up to 400 million euros. (5/15)

Egyptian Space Tourism Agency Books Space Trips (Source Cairo Scene)
Many dream of the opportunity to relinquish the shackles of gravity but only a few have ever managed to reach its alienating vacuum. However, technology continues to advance with each passing day and has finally reached the point where space is but another tourist destination. Surprisingly this celestial destination is currently being made available to Egyptians, and we sat with the CEO of Triptanza Space, Shady AbdelGaliel, to learn more about the packages offered

Someone living in Om el Donia is on the brink of being named as the first Egyptian to reach space. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Mohammed Salem has been shortlisted as a candidate on a possible one-way trip to Mars scheduled for 2025. This week, local media suggested that the first Egyptian to reach space, or the edge of it, will be Grand Slam adventurer Omar Samra, scheduled to leave in 2016. However, according to Shady AbdelGaliel, the first Egyptian heading to space has booked their ticket with Triptanza Space and will be departing September 22nd of this year. (5/15)

New Earth Science Decadal Survey Faces Complex Challenges (Source: Space News)
The next decadal survey for space-based Earth science, preparing to get underway this summer, will be challenged to meet wide-ranging science requirements from several agencies and incorporate new technologies while staying within realistic budgets, according to those involved in the study. The National Research Council’s governing board approved the task statement for the Earth science decadal survey earlier this month, allowing for work on the 10-year roadmap to begin in July. Click here. (5/15)

OHB Revenue Down as Fresh Galileo Satellite Order Weighed (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket-component builder OHB SE of Germany on May 13 reported a sharp drop in revenue for the three months ending March 31 but said it remains on track to meet its full-year revenue goal. Revenue from the company’s principal division, Space Systems, was down 22 percent compared to the same period a year ago, to 118.3 million euros. (5/15)

Potentially Revolutionary Mission Heading for 2016 Launch (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA mission that embodies the virtues of faster, less expensive access to space has sailed past all major development milestones and is scheduled to be delivered to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on time for its October 2016 launch. NICER/SEXTANT, selected in 2013 as an Explorer Mission of Opportunity, is a one-of-a-kind investigation that not only will gather important scientific data, but also demonstrate groundbreaking technologies. Click here. (5/15)

NASA Challenges Students to Design 3-D Space Containers (Source: Space Daily)
Calling all students! NASA needs your help to design containers that could be used in space. The 3-D Space Container Challenge is the second in series of Future Engineers Challenges where students in grades K-12 will create and submit a digital 3-D model of a container that they think astronauts could use in space. (5/15)

Why Colonize Mars? Sci-Fi Authors Weigh In (Source:
Settling Mars could help humanity escape and mitigate the problems our species is facing here on Earth, several science-fiction authors said. Writer Tom Ligon, who publishes mostly in the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact, pointed out that Mars has many hazards, but no rattlesnakes, earthquakes, terrorists or wars. Click here. (5/15)

Musk’s Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla (Source: Bloomberg)
In late October 2001, Elon Musk went to Moscow to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile. He brought along Jim Cantrell, a kind of international aerospace supplies fixer, and Adeo Ressi, his best friend from Penn. Although Musk had tens of millions in the bank, he was trying to get a rocket on the cheap. They flew coach, and they were planning to buy a refurbished missile, not a new one. Musk figured it would be a good vehicle for sending a plant or some mice to Mars. Click here. (5/15)

India to Assemble Key Vehicle for Human Spaceflight (Source: Times of India)
The Indian Space Research Organization is inching closer towards its Human Space Mission. It is test launching a version of its Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) later this year, following a successful test of the crew module last year. The agency has already transported and positioned boosters for the launch expected in second half of this year. It will begin assembling the vehicle in 8-10 weeks. (5/15)

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