May 2, 2015

Massive Cuts Proposed to NASA Earth Science Budget Draw Protest (Source: Washington Post)
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), introduced a new spending bill that would slash NASA’s earth science programs by more than $300 million. Advocates for earth science monitoring and research have voiced strong objections to this proposal.

The Planetary Society, which the House Science Committee press release suggests supports the bill, has submitted clarifying information that it actually does not. “The Society supported language related to Planetary Science funding contained in the bill, not the full bill itself,” said Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society. “This was a subtlety expressed in the press release that we want to reiterate. The Earth Science cuts prevent us from supporting the full bill.” (5/2)

Remote Utah Outpost Serves as Stand-in for Surface of Mars (Source: ABC)
This rocky corner of Utah bears such a resemblance to the red planet that it's become a hot spot for scientists and engineers to run imaginary missions to Earth's neighbor. They've been coming here for more than a decade, hoping their research someday helps put humans on the Martian surface.

This site and others that allow crews to mimic interplanetary missions are helping to raise buzz about Mars to an all-time high as advancements in science and engineering convince space enthusiasts that the 140-million-mile trip is a realistic possibility in this century. The research center is run by the nonprofit Mars Society, an advocacy group that believes getting people to Mars to be the great challenge of our time. The group is not affiliated with NASA or the federal government. (5/1)

Space Control Finally Gets A Boost (Source: Aviation Week)
The White House has requested that $5 billion be allocated for new initiatives over the next five years for space control, reflecting a realization sharpened since China’s latest anti-satellite test last year that allied spacecraft are no longer safe once lofted into orbit. The funding speaks to the urgency behind the mission. It comes as the Pentagon is being pressured to reduce defense spending. It is not “new” money but has been generated by cutting other projects. (5/1)

India to Launch 6 More Satellites in 2015-16 (Source: BGR)
India will launch six more satellites — two comm satellites, three navigation satellites and a space science satellite — in 2015-16, parliament was informed on Thursday. “Six more satellites are planned to be launched during 2015-16. These are two communication satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-15, three navigation satellites IRNSS-1E, IRNSS-1F and IRNSS-1G, and one space science satellite ASTROSAT,” said Jitendra Singh.

In addition, India also plans to launch 13 more satellites belonging to four countries using the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). As of April 2015, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has launched 74 satellites. Of these, seven failed to reach orbit due to launch failure while three failed in orbit, the minister said. (5/1)

What Next for Blue Origin? (Source: Quartz)
The company presents its vehicle and capsule both as a space tourism play, with Bezos asking for potential astronauts to sign up for opportunities to buy tickets and boasting of the largest windows on any spacecraft, and as a zero-gravity science lab for researchers.

The open question here is price: How much will it cost to launch the New Shepard? Unless the company can significantly undercut competitors like SpaceX on price—if it can get reusability solved, for instance—its best bet to escape being labeled as another mogul’s vanity space business may be as a rocket engine supplier, not an independent space access company. (5/1)

Scottish Airbase "Best for Spaceport" (Source: The Herald)
It was once rumored to be a base for top secret UFO investigations and has already served as an emergency landing site for a US space shuttle. Now the community-owned airbase in Machrihanish in Kintyre has launched its official bid to be named the UK's first spaceport, citing the previous support of Virgin Galactic and the advantage of its 3000ft runway. Three of the shortlisted sites are in Scotland, including Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport, but the agency behind its bid believe the Machrihanish is the leading candidate. (5/1)

Embry-Riddle Offers New Online Degrees (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is offering two new online degrees. The Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy is developed and delivered by faculty in the Department of Security Studies and International Affairs. The Master of Science in Human Security and Resilience utilizes an interdisciplinary approach for the understanding global affairs. The degree is delivered and developed by faculty in the Security Studies and International Affairs Department. (5/1)

SpaceX to Fire Dummy a Mile High to Test Life-Saving Capsule (Source: Guardian)
SpaceX is just days away from shooting up a crew capsule to test a launch escape system designed to save astronauts’ lives. Buster, the dummy, is already strapped in for Wednesday’s nearly mile-high ride from Cape Canaveral, Florida. He will be alone as the mock-up capsule is fired from a ground test stand and soars out over the Atlantic, then parachutes down.

The eight rocket engines on the Dragon will fire in unison to propel the capsule off the makeshift stand, just as they would fire atop a rocket on the pad or in flight. The stand occupies a launch pad at Cape Canaveral air force station. Called SuperDracos, the engines were made from 3-D printing. It will be the first time that SpaceX fires all eight of them at the same time.

The capsule, rigged with sensors and cameras, is expected to soar more than 4,500ft high and come down 6,000ft offshore, due east. Buster will be subjected to four times the force of Earth’s gravity. SpaceX plans an in-flight abort test sometime later this year from California. (5/2)

Russia to Create World's First Rocket Engine Manufacturing Holding (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) is drafting a proposal on creation a unique holding, which is set to unite several manufacturers of engines for rockets and missiles, Russia's daily newspaper Izvestia reports on Tuesday. The exact structure of the holding and its head-enterprise are yet to be defined.

The holding is likely to incorporate at least seven enterprises, which differ significantly from one another. Among those named are: NPO Energomash, which primarily develops and produces liquid propellant rocket engines; Keldysh Rocket Research Center; "Proton-Perm Motors" company, which also specializes in liquid propellant rocket engines, and others. (5/1)

Rocket Lab: The Electron and The Rutherford (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
High-frequency, low-cost launches is the goal of Rocket Lab, a small aerospace company that suddenly gained attention after announcing the details of its Rutherford engine, named for the New Zealand-born British physicist Ernest Rutherford, at this year’s Space Symposium. SpaceFlight Insider had the opportunity to speak with Peter Beck, the company’s CEO and founder, about Electron launches and about the company itself. Click here. (5/2)

Into the Blue (Source: SpaceKSC)
Unlike SpaceX, Blue Origin plans to offer suborbital adventure tourism flights aboard New Shepard. That would put them in competition with Virgin Galactic and XCOR. Jeff Bezos refers to New Shepard as a “she” and describes “her Very Big Brother” as “an orbital launch vehicle that is many times New Shepard’s size and is powered by our 550,000-lbf thrust liquefied natural gas, liquid oxygen BE-4 engine.”

Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36 is one possible launch site for Blue Origin's orbital operations. Blue Origin has also been mentioned as a possible user of the Shiloh launch site proposed at the north end of KSC. In 2013, Blue Origin lost a bid to lease Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A, after NASA selected SpaceX. Blue Origin's bid was supported by ULA, which now is partnered with Blue Origin to use its engines for Vulcan. (4/30)

Astronomers Discover Giant Jupiter-Like Exoplanet Too Big for Its Star (Source: Sputnik)
Five hundred light years from Earth floats a small red dwarf known as HATS-6. Emitting only a fraction of the light of our own sun, these kinds of stars are common, but difficult to study because of their dimness. Which is why it was so surprising when scientists from the Research School of Astrophysics and Astronomy detected a slight softening of its already faint light.

That observation was made with small robotic telescopes at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory. To confirm their suspicions, the team called in for assistance from one of the world’s largest observatories, the Magellan Telescope in Chile. In this way, scientists were able to confirm that the reduction in light had been caused by a passing planet. But measurements indicated that the extraterrestrial body was large. Not the biggest planet ever discovered, but certainly too large to orbit so close to a red dwarf. (4/17)

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Rescinds Telescope Support (Source: Hawaii News Now)
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is rescinding support of building one of the world's largest telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea. But the vote by board of trustees Thursday was only to rescind their 2009 stance and not to outright oppose the project. The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope is facing opposition from those who say building it on Mauna Kea would desecrate sacred land.

Public opposition has been mounting since dozens of protesters blocking the construction site were recently arrested. The company building the telescope agreed to extend a construction moratorium. It's unclear how OHA's position could affect the project. Representatives for the telescope didn't immediately comment on the vote. The board voted even though there were still some 40 people waiting to testify in support or opposition. (4/30)

Iridium Meets 1Q Profit Forecasts (Source: AP)
Iridium Communications reported first-quarter profit of $21 million. The company said it had profit of 17 cents per share. The results met Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was also for earnings of 17 cents per share. The satellite phone company posted revenue of $97 million in the period, missing Street forecasts. (4/30)

UAE to Unveil Mars Mission Plan (Source: The National)
The UAE will unveil the scientific and logistical details of the first Arab mission to Mars next week. The plan for the spacecraft’s seven to nine-month journey across the solar system will be released during an event on Wednesday. It will be attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and high-ranking officials. (4/30)

Why it Matters That Japan is Going to the Moon (Source: Washington Post)
Only three nations have ever soft-landed on the moon – the United States, the Soviet Union and China — and now Japan wants to be the fourth. Japan’s equivalent of NASA – the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) – has established a target date of 2018-2019 for an unmanned moon landing and a 2025 target date for a manned mission to the moon.

While there’s the obvious prestige factor for Japan of getting to the moon, the move has another important implication — it could lead to the more rapid exploration of the moon’s commercial potential. There are enormous innovation benefits from having as many players as possible competing to get back to the moon. More competition means more innovation, especially when you take into account Japan’s rich history as a space-faring nation. (4/30)

House Panel Advances Bill to ‘Restore Balance’ to NASA (Source: The Hill)
The House Science Committee approved a two-year NASA policy bill on Thursday that aims to refocus the space agency away from studying the Earth, and instead force it out toward the stars. The party-line, 19-15 vote highlights an ideological fracture over the future of the space agency and hints at the partisan divide over the role of federal agencies in responding to climate change.

“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has led the world in space exploration,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said in a statement after the vote. “We must restore balance to NASA’s budget if we want to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years." (4/30)

NASA Authorization Bill Advances on Party Lines (Source: Space News)
Sparks flew on Capitol Hill April 30, where a NASA authorization bill that recommends deep cuts for Earth science made it out of a sharply divided committee on a party line vote. The Republican-authored NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 (HR 2039) garnered not a single Democratic vote in the House Science Committee. (4/30)

Eumetsat Disputes Air Force Claim that It Reversed Itself on Indian Ocean Coverage (Source: Space News)
The head of Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite organization on April 30 denied a U.S. Air Force allegation that Eumetsat had reneged on a promise to maintain weather coverage over the Indian Ocean, thus forcing the Air Force to scramble to find replacement capacity. (4/30)

Virgin Galactic Considering Changing SpaceShipTwo Fuels Again (Source: Space News)
Nearly one year after changing the fuel used on its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, a Virgin Galactic executive said the company was open to switching back depending on its performance. Will Pomerantz said the company has an “internal horse race” between a rubber-based fuel, formally known as hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), originally selected for SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket motor and a nylon-based one the company switched to last year.

The company announced in May 2014 it was switching the hybrid rocket motor’s fuel from rubber to nylon. “We just saw better performance on a few different criteria,” Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said in an interview when the company announced the fuel change. (4/30)

Boeing, SpaceX Seek to End Reliance on Russia (Source: Florida Today)
A failed resupply mission this week has again highlighted the International Space Station reliance on a single Russian spacecraft to fly astronauts up and down from orbit. If problems forced an extended grounding of Russia's Soyuz crew vehicle, which shares some common systems with the robotic Progress cargo freighter lost in orbit after its launch Tuesday, no other ride would be available in the near-term. In a worst-case scenario, the station might have to be abandoned. Click here. (4/30)

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