May 22, 2015

Smith: America Must Lead in Space (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
I recently hosted Apollo astronaut and fellow Texan Gene Cernan in the U.S. Capitol. Gene is one of only 12 people to have landed on the moon, and he was the last to leave 42 years ago. He is a strong advocate for U.S. space leadership, and he has a message for lawmakers: America needs to continue to lead the world in space.

That’s become increasingly difficult. The Obama administration has consistently tried to cut NASA’s space exploration budgets in order to fund increases for earth science programs. Just this year, the president proposed drastically cutting NASA’s exploration systems by more than $440 million while earth science accounts have increased by 63 percent during the past eight years. (5/20)

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Capsule Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean (Source:
SpaceX's Dragon capsule returned to Earth Thursday, wrapping up the company's sixth cargo mission to the International Space Station. The unmanned Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 12:42 p.m. EDT, about 5 1/2 hours after departing the orbiting lab. SpaceX personnel will soon retrieve the capsule — which brought down more than 3,100 lbs. (1,400 kilograms) of science experiments and other gear — by boat. (5/21)

ULA Needs Commercial Orders to Survive (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on Thursday said it would go out of business unless it won commercial and civil satellite launch orders to offset an expected slump in U.S. military and spy launches. ULA President Tory Bruno said the company must attract those kind of orders to remain a "viable economic entity."

ULA is scrambling to restructure and develop a new rocket that in seven or eight years could launch satellites twice as fast at half the current cost. ULA is also under pressure from a federal ban on using Russian RD-180 engines for national security launches. Bruno said the number of U.S. military and intelligence satellite launches would likely drop in coming years to about five launches a year from 10 to 12, with the smaller number to be split among two or more rivals.

Editor's Note: Until Vulcan is ready, Atlas could survive on NASA, NOAA and commercial launches after it is barred from launching DOD missions. (5/21)

Three Soyuz-2 Launch Sites to be Built at Russia's Plesetsk Spaceport by 2019 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Three launch sites for the Soyuz-2 carrier rockets will be built at the military cosmodrome Plesetsk in north-western Russia by 2019, Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman for the Aerospace Defense Forces Colonel Alexey Zolotukhin said on Thursday. The spaceport currently has only one launch site (launch Unit No 4) for the Soyuz-2 rocket. (5/21)

NASA Solicits Partnerships for 'Tipping Point' and Emerging Space Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA announced Thursday two opportunities for public-private partnerships to achieve the agency’s goals of expanding capabilities and opportunities in space. Through both solicitations, NASA is seeking industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. Click here. (5/21)

NASA Invites Universities to Submit Innovative Early-Stage Technology Proposals (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals from universities for early stage technology development that will support the agency's long-term plans for human exploration of Mars and scientific study of our solar system and beyond. The Early Stage Innovations NASA Research Announcement calls for innovative space technology proposals that could benefit NASA's space program, other government agencies and the greater aerospace community. Click here. (5/21)

DigitalGlobe Sees No Competitive Threat from Earth Imagery Startups (Source: Space News)
Satellite geospatial services provider DigitalGlobe Inc. on May 19 dismissed the threat potential of the numerous startup Earth imagery providers, saying those that survive the inevitable shakeout could become DigitalGlobe imagery partners, much as competitor Airbus Defence and Space of Europe is today. (5/21)

Search for Life Should Propel Mission to Mars (Source: Space News)
I read with great interest both Rick Tumlinson’s and Robert Zubrin’s op-eds about the cost and reasons for exploring Mars. One calls for another John F. Kennedy moment in which the US would mount a very large exploration program. The other argues that we must set up a permanent base there so as not to disappoint future generations. Each says we have to send humans to Mars because — well, because this sort of thing is in our nature.

We believe there will almost certainly never be another Kennedy moment. The world has changed. There is no Cold War. NASA’s budget is a line item in the federal budget, competing with every other program our government supports.

We want to explore Mars to look for signs of life. Everyone, Mr. Tumlinson and Dr. Zubrin included, would agree that if we were to discover evidence of ancient life on Mars, let alone if we were to discover something still alive there, it would change the course of human history. (5/21)

ULA Execs Say RD-180 Ban Blocks Path to Vulcan (Source: Space News)
The willingness of United Launch Alliance’s parent companies to fund a next-generation rocket hinges on winning relief from the ban on the Russian-made engine that powers its current government workhorse, the Atlas 5, ULA executives say.

In separate appearances, ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno  (above left) and Chairman Craig Cooning tied investment in ULA’s planned Vulcan rocket to the congressionally imposed ban on the future use of Russian-made engines to launch military payloads. The Atlas 5 is used today to launch most U.S. military payloads and virtually all of the nation’s scientific satellites. (5/21)

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