May 21, 2015

House Version of NASA Budget Would "Guarantee" Continued Reliance on Russia (Source: USA Today)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says the House Appropriations Committee's budget for the space agency "would guarantee we will continue to send millions of dollars a year to Moscow instead of investing that money in the United States, creating jobs and once again launching Americans from U.S. soil." His blog comments came following the panel's decision to cut planned expenditures for Earth science research and the Commercial Crew program. (5/20)

NASA Enlists Satellites To Watch for Harmful Algal Blooms (Source: Space News)
In August 2014, officials in Toledo warned 400,000 residents not to drink, cook with or bathe in the city’s tap water for three days due to an algal bloom in Lake Erie that tainted water flowing into the city treatment plant. The algal bloom, caused by excessive levels of nutrients in Lake Erie’s warm shallow water, produced green slime on the water’s surface and a type of cyanobacteria dangerous to people and animals.

To identify other harmful algal blooms in freshwater ecosystems in the continental United States, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey are beginning a five-year $3.6 million research campaign that relies on space-based sensors originally designed to detect variations in ocean color. (5/20)

520 Days Locked in a Room to See If We Could Live on Mars (Source: Motherboard)
As it turns out, one needn’t travel to the endless darkness of Antarctica in order to carry out a space analog study on isolation. In fact, the longest running isolation study took place in a warehouse in the middle of the 8th largest city in the world. For 520 days, six test subjects from Russia, France, Italy, and China were locked in a module in Moscow to test the effects of isolation on small group dynamics and individual psychology. Click here. (5/19)

Space Tourism Campaign to Feature 'Dirty Jobs' Host Mike Rowe (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Space Florida and Paradise Advertising, Digital & Entertainment plan to unveil a national multimedia campaign this week to promote Florida as the rocket launch capital of the world. The campaign features the voice of Mike Rowe, host of CNN's Somebody's Gotta Do It and Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs. The aim: To raise awareness that America's space program is alive and strong, and that Florida is the premier destination to experience rocket launches. Click here. (5/21)

Alleged Airplane Hacker Also "Messed Around with the Space Station" (Source: Popular Science)
Last month, security researcher Chris Roberts was removed from a United Airlines flight, after the airline claimed he had endangered his fellow passengers by tweeting a message about potential security vulnerabilities aboard the aircraft. In 2012, Ars Technica reports, Roberts claimed to have hacked into the International Space Station, according to a recently discovered video.

He explained at a November 2012 hacker convention how he had managed to change the temperature of the International Space Station several years prior using the same controls that NASA uses to manage the ship’s temperature. Roberts then claimed to have been “yelled at” by the space agency. (5/19)

Senate Committee Approves Space Bill As House Prepares To Vote On Its Own (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee swiftly approved a commercial launch bill May 20 as the House 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.

The rapid approval of the Senate’s bill stands in contrast to the lengthy debate by the House Science Committee on four commercial space bills May 13, including the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act. The SPACE Act, like the Senate bill, extends the learning period and launch indemnification, but through 2025 rather than 2020.

It also allows companies to hold a permit and license at the same time and, like the Senate bill, defines the term “government astronaut” for NASA and other agencies’ astronauts, who would be treated differently on commercial spacecraft than private individuals. Click here. (5/20)

Administration, Others Have Issues with Space Resources Language (Source: Space News)
While supporting commercial space resource exploitation and utilization in general, the OMB notes, “the Administration is concerned about the ability of U.S. companies to move forward with these initiatives absent additional authority to ensure continuing supervision of these initiatives by the U.S. Government as required by the Outer Space Treaty.”

Some commercial space advocates have also raised questions about the space resources section of the bill. They said the bill could allow companies to make “expansive territorial claims” on asteroids far greater than what other nations would consider acceptable. At the same time, they considered the bill too restrictive since it is limited to resources obtained from asteroids.

“Centuries of common law could be based on this space property rights bill, yet this bill hasn’t even had a hearing,” Berin Szoka said. "Space property rights are too important to rush.” (5/20)

Congress Can Help the Launch Industry if We’re All Willing To Work Together (Source: Space News)
Unfortunately, I and other Democratic members have had to oppose H.R. 2262. The issues being dealt with in this bill are not straightforward. They are complex and require thoughtful consideration. With so much interest in the commercial space industry from the private sector, the federal government and interested stakeholders abroad, it seems only reasonable that we take the proper steps to understand the ramifications of policy decisions before solidifying them into law.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), is not the bill I would have written. It is not the bill that the House majority wrote. But it is a bill that advances the legitimate interests of the commercial space launch industry while ensuring that the rights and safety of both the public on the ground and the future passengers of these spacecraft will be protected. It is a bill that I and other Democratic members can support. Click here. (5/20)

Dragon Capsule Departs ISS to Return Experiments, Cargo to Earth (Source: NASA)
The Dragon arrived to the space station April 17 after an April 14 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport carrying over 4,300 pounds of supplies and elements to support about 40 of more than 250 scientific investigations the crew members of Expeditions 43 and 44 will conduct.

Release of the spacecraft by the station’s robotic arm Thursday morning allows the Dragon’s return to Earth carrying more than 3,100 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities sponsored by NASA and CASIS. (5/21)

Japan to Improve Cargo Spacecraft (Source: Japan News)
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry unveiled plans to develop an improved version of the Kounotori unmanned cargo transporter that delivers supplies to the International Space Station. The ministry said manufacturing and maintenance costs will be halved from about ¥20 billion by reducing the spacecraft’s current weight of 10.5 tons by about 30 percent while maintaining its transport capacity of six tons. The development period is still undecided. (5/20)

ViaSat Sees Falcon Heavy as Pacing Item in Growth Plans (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and service provider ViaSat Inc. on May 19 said it is facing capacity limits on more than half the beams on its ViaSat-1 satellite and that the situation will worsen until ViaSat-2 is in orbit. ViaSat-2’s launch, aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket built by SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is scheduled to occur no later than September 2016.

A SpaceX spokesman said May 21 that the company still expects to conduct the vehicle’s inaugural flight by the end of this year. ViaSat expects to be the third or fourth customer for the Falcon Heavy. ViaSat’s contract with SpaceX gives ViaSat a seat at SpaceX Falcon Heavy design reviews as the vehicle completes its flight certification milestones. (5/20)

Boeing Doesn't See Business Case Yet for RD-180 Replacement (Source: Flight Global)
Boeing’s president of network and space systems says he’s yet to see the business case for developing an alternative rocket engine to the Russian-built RD-180 that powers the Atlas V rocket, even as lawmakers press the US military to develop an American-made alternative by 2019. "If that [RD-180] supply is cut off, it’s going to be very difficult for a business case to be made.”

Cooning says the government wants to maintain two rockets for assured access to space, but that’s complicated by the planned phase-out of the Delta IV and a legislative block on the continued supply of RD-180s for the Atlas V. Cooning says the air force could lean more heavily on the Delta Heavy for space launches, even though that launch vehicle is more expensive than the Atlas. “We could do all the mission for national security space on the Delta, and you’d end up using more Delta Heavies than you historically would if you had a mix of Atlas and Delta,” he says. (5/20)

North Korea in Space: The Prestigious Frontier (Source: NK News)
North Korean media has increased coverage of its controversial space program, with a recent announcement of a newly built satellite control center signalling its intentions to continue launches in the face of UN sanctions. The DPRK is not prohibited from putting satellites in orbit, though launching rockets capable of doing so also provides data for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) programs.

Despite the political backlash however, North Korea looks set to continue pursuing its space program and the prestige it associates with the ability to build and launch its own satellites into orbit. There certainly appears to be no technical hurdle preventing another North Korean satellite launch. “I don’t see any obstacle. It’s probably a matter of resources and timelines. They are stating very clearly that they are going to launch more satellites,” said Uzi Rubin. (5/21)

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