May 20, 2015

ULA Launches Military Spaceplane from Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With dire weather predictions as well as terror threats looming over Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), the United States Air Force and United Launch Alliance unleashed the 501 version of the venerable Atlas V booster at 11:05 a.m. EDT – the very opening of a four-hour long launch window. The payload for the launch vehicle was the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B space plane. (5/20)

Artists Need Your Help Improving Space Food (Source: Brooklyn Paper)
Brooklyn artists will take on the challenge of developing foods for a human mission to Mars. A pair of artists is setting up "The Menu for Mars Test Kitchen" at a Brooklyn gallery later this month, allowing visitors to concoct recipes that will later be sent to NASA for their evaluation. The ingredients will be limited to "powdered, freeze-dried, or heat-treated" items, they say: "it’s not really a farm-to-table thing." (5/20)

ExoMars Team Press on as Inquest Begins Into Proton Crash (Source: SEN)
Russia’s latest rocket failure will have caused some anxiety among European Space Agency (ESA) scientists because a similar vehicle is due to launch its first ExoMars probes to the Red Planet in January next year. The Proton fleet is effectively grounded for the moment. But ExoMars must launch between Jan. 7 and 27, 2016, to reach Mars, as it and the Earth draw closer together on the same side of the Sun. (5/19)

Spaceport America Attracts Satellite Communications Company (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Spaceport America has tenatively signed a new tenant in the field of satellite ground communications — a win for one of its targeted business segments. California-based X2nSat, a provider of turnkey satellite systems, has reached an agreement to lease land at Spaceport for a satellite ground station development. The long-term lease agreement is expected to be finalized this summer, with groundbreaking slated for later this year.

X2nSat provides wireless network communications via satellite to a range of industries including healthcare and environmental monitoring. In a joint statement, X2nSat Chief Executive Garrett Hill said Spaceport “has everything we need” to build infrastructure for the next generation of satellite communications, including “stable and dry weather, a southern latitude, 24/7 security, plentiful real estate, minimal electromagnetic interference and extremely low horizons in all directions.” (5/19)

India Aims for Venus Probe in 2-3 Years (Source: Asian Age)
Venus beckons India’s space scientists after their successful outing to Mars, and if everything goes according to plan, a home-grown probe should be cruising towards the brightest and hottest planet in the solar system in about two-and-a-half years, in yet another shot at understanding the evolution of the world. This mission to Venus could have a French connection as Prof. Jacques Blamont has offered to help the Indian Space Research Organization with gigantic balloons carrying several instruments but designed to pop in and out of the extremely hot atmosphere of the planet after being unfettered from the orbiter. (5/20)

Russia Discloses $182-Million in Corruption in Space Industry Company (Source: Space Daily)
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, one of Russia's leading companies in the space industry, has been exposed by the country's investigators of mismanaging and embezzling around $182 million in 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday.

"An investigative group from the Russian Investigative Committee has launched eight criminal cases, where facts of embezzlement and abuse of office were exposed that led to economic damage to the company at an amount exceeding 9 billion rubles," Rogozin said. The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center produces spacecraft and space-launch systems, including the Proton and Angara rockets. (5/20)

Rogozin Attacks Russian Space Industry with Reform Bill (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's deputy prime minister lambasted the country's beleaguered space industry as inefficient and corrupt, as he presented proposed reform measures to parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the industry was plagued by "morally decayed" officials and underpaid personnel. He reserved the most biting criticism for the Khrunichev space center, which produces the Proton rockets.

Khrunichev employs 13 times the people working at Orbital Sciences, a US firm which launches supply missions to the International Space Station, Rogozin said, while in general the US space industry is "nine times more efficient" than the Russian one.

The hawkish deputy prime minister presented bills that the government believes will begin to fix the problems. The Duma lower house swiftly passed the reform package in its initial reading, which would amend a total of 23 different laws. The bill would need to go through two more readings before it could be approved by the upper chamber and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (5/20)

Has Russia Lost its Way in Space? (Source: Moscow Times)
The long-brewing crisis in Russia's space industry is getting worse. After numerous investigations and industry reform initiatives following a 2010 crash, rockets that had performed for decades without incident are still exploding and failing at alarming rates.

On Saturday, a Progress spaceship docked to the International Space Station failed to ignite its engines to boost the orbit of the outpost. A few hours later, a commercial launch Proton rocket experienced a catastrophic failure for the seventh time in five years. So many problems in such a short period of time have cast doubts on the ability of the nation that pioneered space exploration to continue its march forward. "You can compare it to the fall of the Roman Empire," said space industry analyst Pavel Luzin. "The Russian space industry is collapsing." (5/19) 

Boeing's CST-100 Escape System Undergoes Tests (Source:
Boeing has begun testing the astronaut-safety system for its CST-100 spacecraft, which can hold up to seven passengers or a mix of passengers and cargo. Boeing is developing the CST-100 capsule to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, under a $4.2 billion contract with the space agency.

The crew-carrying vehicle features a "pusher abort system" designed to get the CST-100 out of harm's way in the event of a problem during launch. Boeing has been testing out components of this system at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. (5/18)

The Moon or Mars: Flawed Debate, False Choice (Source: Space Daily)
The Moon or Mars debate continues despite every single report or recommendation from NASA, NRC or other independent study that point to the Moon as the next logical destination for human space exploration and settlement. Once we hone the technologies to live there, "this time to say" as the Bush administration of yore put it, we would have all the tools to live on Mars.

We would be able to return resources from the asteroids, homestead on Ceres or even the much prettier outer gems in our solar system like the satellites of Jupiter or Saturn, where the vistas are far more spectacular and seasonal changes more dynamic than anything that Mars or Venus can offer.

Current technology allows us to ply rocketships in cislunar space every day while there are only very limited windows of opportunity to depart Earth to go to Mars. Rocketships to the Moon are much smaller, ten to hundred times smaller, depending on what and how many crew you wish to carry, especially propellant, food and potable water. And mission control can keep check almost instantaneously round the clock. We can even mount rescue or emergency missions in short order, should the need arise. Cick here. (5/20)

Senate Committee Approves Commercial Space Bill (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee swiftly approved a commercial launch bill May 20 as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a more expansive, and also more controversial, version of the bill later this week. The Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, during a brief markup session May 20. (5/20)

House Budget Cuts NASA Earth Science By More Than $250 Million (Source: Space News)
A NASA spending bill that the House Appropriations Committee will consider May 20 cuts the agency’s Earth science program by more than $250 million and provides no funding for a gapfiller satellite included in the administration’s request. The bill provides Earth science with $1.683 billion for 2016, a reduction of $264 million from the administration’s request in February.

Planetary science, in contrast, receives an increase of $195 million over the administration’s request, to $1.557 billion. That includes $140 million for a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, $110 million more than requested. The Mars Rover 2020 mission receives $32 million more than requested, to $250 million. (5/19)

House Appropriations Bill Hits Military Space Procurement (Source: Space News)
A House defense spending panel has recommended $649 million less than the Pentagon requested next year for a space procurement account that includes eight major programs. The Air Force requested $2.58 billion for the account, for critical missile warning, communications, weather and navigation satellites, as well as for rockets and other activities. In a draft spending bill released May 19, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee recommended $1.935 billion for that budget line. (5/19)

House Would Add Nearly $1 Billion For Space Launch System (Source: Aviation Week)
The House Appropriations Committee is drafting a 2016 NASA spending bill that would add nearly $1 billion for the SLS heavy launch vehicle, while again cutting funding for the space agency’s plan to launch its commercial crew program in 2017. The administration requested $1.2 billion to cover fixed-price contract payouts for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon space capsules in fiscal 2016. Editor's Note: Cutting Commercial Crew when Russian space access is threatened seems like a bad idea. (5/19)

NASA SLS Welding Snafu Sets Back Schedule (Source: Aviation Week)
As NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System enters 10 weeks of critical design review, the program manager’s main technical concern lies with correcting an alignment problem with the massive friction-stir-welding tool built to manufacture tanks for the vehicle, and not with the design itself. Two of the four 200-ft.-tall steel plates designed to position and support the launch vehicle’s large aluminum tank sections as they are friction-stir-welded together are out of alignment. (5/20)

X-37B Headed Back to Orbit on a (Mostly) Secret Mission (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s secret X-37B spaceplane will embark on its fourth mission May 20 when it launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force does not discuss the X-37B missions, which can last well over a year, beyond acknowledging the program and releasing photographs of the two orbital vehicles.

The launch will carry a secondary payload package of 10 cubesats, nine of which are sponsored by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which manages the nation’s spy satellites, the other by NASA. NASA’s cubesat will demonstrate an on-orbit deployment mechanism for a solar sail. (5/19)

NASA Pluto Probe May Carry Crowdsourced Message to Aliens (Source:
A NASA Pluto probe may end up with one final mission after its work exploring the outer solar system is done — carrying a message to advanced alien civilizations. NASA is considering allowing a team of researchers, teachers, artists and engineers to upload an interstellar message to the agency's New Horizons spacecraft, which will perform the first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14. (5/19)

Russia Missile Warning System is On Schedule (Source: Sputnik)
Work on the creation of Russia's unitary space system of early warning missile strikes is currently on schedule, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia's space industry, said Tuesday. "We have got no questions on the state defense order. The schedule prescribes work in progress on the creation of a unitary space system that provides a full space tier system of missile approach warning. We are meeting the schedule," Rogozin said. (5/19)

Rogozin: Proton-M Crash Caused by Old Deficiency in Engine Design (Source: Itar-Tass)
An old deficiency in the construction of the engines was the cause for Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket on May 16, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday. According to him, the recent crash "is miraculously similar" to the crashes in 1988 and 2014, when the state commission also failed to establish the exact causes for malfunctions. (5/19)

Russia's New Space Corporation to Deal with Both Military and Civil Projects (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Roscosmos state corporation will deal with both civil and military projects, Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said. He noted that the state-owned Makeyev Rocket Center, which manufactures liquid-fuel ballistic missiles, has already become part of the United Rocket and Space Corporation on whose basis Roscosmos is being formed. The Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology working on solid-fuel rockets will be integrated into the general structure at the end of 2016. (5/19)

Putin Orders Designing Russian Space Station (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered designing a Russian space station, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. The head of the science and engineering council of Russia’s Roscosmos agency, Yuri Koptev, in April confirmed Russia's plans of orbiting a new space station saying it may happen in the middle of the next decade. (5/19)

Lockheed Considers 300-Employee Expansion in Titusville (Source: Florida Today)
Lockheed Martin is looking to make an $80 million investment in expanded facilities in Titusville -- formerly used by Astrotech for payload processing -- and could add up to 300 high-paying jobs. The company, however, also has been considering other locations for the expansion, including Georgia.

Lockheed Martin is seeking incentives from Brevard County and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone totaling more than $5.7 million to help pay for its proposed Titusville project. Although the company said it hopes to create up to 300 jobs paying an average of $89,000 a year, its commitment for the property tax incentives is tied to creating 50 jobs by the end of 2017, including 31 in aerospace project and parts manufacturing and 19 in engineering services.

Documents filed with the county did not specify exactly what Lockheed would manufacture at the Chaffee Drive site. This is the third major corporate expansion proposed in Titusville tied to incentives from the North Brevard Economic Development Zone. Two others include "Project Panther" [Blue Origin] seeking $8 million for a 330 employee facility at Exploration Park, and "Project Eagle" seeking $2.5 million for a manufacturing facility in Titusville. (5/19)

No comments: