May 24, 2015

SpaceX Dragon Helping FAA Free Up More Airspace (Source: Aviation Week)
The FAA is beta-testing a new air traffic tool with the help of data from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, a task that signals a major shift in how the agency will manage restricted airspace around future space launches and reentries. The effort is meant to limit the size and amount of time airspace remains off limits to commercial airlines or other National Airspace System (NAS) users during space vehicle ascent or return operations.

It also aims to automate the non-optimal procedures that air traffic controllers perform by hand today during a launch or recovery. “We’re starting to see a significant increase in the frequency of spaceflight operations, so that model won’t work anymore,” says FAA's Daniel Murray. “In the past, there were only a couple of places in the country where a launch could take place ... and given that there were only 6-12 launches a year, there was not a big emphasis on the effects on the NAS.”

Their solution, called the Space Data Integrator (SDI), automates the manual process by ingesting telemetry data from vehicle tracking systems and sending the information directly to a traffic flow management situational display where the current and projected positions, as well as the projected areas where airspace must be protected, are plotted and managed. Along with the new technology, Murray says the FAA also is developing processes and procedures for air traffic managers and controllers to use the information. (5/23)

New ​SpaceShipTwo Stands on its Own (Source: KRQE)
Space tourists who plan to someday ride Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered space liners are one small step closer to being launched from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. At a factory in California, a second SpaceShipTwo, replacing the first craft that crashed last year, is now standing on its own for the first time. This past week, the airframe of the second SpaceShipTwo was lowered from its factory support fixture and parked on its own landing gear. (5/23)

Official Launch of UAE Space Agency (Source: Zawya)
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE Space Agency will launch its official strategy and operational plan this week in Abu Dhabi on 25 May. The official launch event will showcase the aims of the strategy and plan, which are to strengthen the foundations of the space sector and work towards creating a developed and integrated industry that will enable the UAE to become one of the leading countries in space science exploration. (5/23)

Space Program Yields Tools for Life on Earth (Source: Columbia Tribune)
During our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida we became more aware of the many world-changing spinoffs that have resulted from our space program. NASA is justifiably proud of the contributions space exploration has made to our lives.

The space program was started because of the military advantages of controlling space. Out of that need to control the sky for military purposes has come an untold number of applications that benefit us in environmental management, industrial productivity, communication, medicine, recreation and transportation.

Much of the time many of us don’t even recognize that something we are using was originally developed as part of the space program. Here are a few examples of the many innovations that are a direct outgrowth of that program. Click here. (5/24)

Editorial: Wide Gap Between Reality and Promises at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Another week, another tidbit of desperate hope that the Dusty Desert Spaceport will pay off soon. Start-up Exos Aerospace Systems and Technologies has bought Armadillo Aerospace's assets and supposedly will develop and launch its new gizmo from Dusty Desert.

Armadillo, founded and financed by video game honcho John Carmack, spent years building a sub-orbital craft, then went "into hibernation mode" in 2013 following a crash and other reverses. One story was headlined "Pipe Dream Meets Reality." But Exos COO John Quinn says the craft was so near "commercial viability" that Armadillo would have succeeded with one more launch. (Carmack appears not to be involved in Exos.)

The new gizmo, SARGE, would be basically the old STIG-B with a few modifications. The STIG-B crashed last time they flew it; but Orville and Wilbur had plenty of early screw-ups too. Quinn says the problem has been addressed and a redundant backup system has been added to ensure success. If SARGE flies, we'll find out. Click here. (5/24)

Space Coast Pads Transitioning for the New Era (Source:
Physical changes to a number of historic pads located on Florida’s Space Coast are progressing apace, with Cape Canaveral’s LC-41 now enjoying modification work to prepare it for crewed launches of Boeing’s CST-100. The work is being conducted at the same time as two nearby pads – LC39A and 39B – continue their conversations to host SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

While the nature of 39B’s “clean pad” will allow for launches of other launch vehicles – along with the potential for small launchers to set sail from inside the complex – only SLS has been confirmed as a future tenant of the former Saturn V and Space Shuttle pad.

Editor's Note: There's also LC-36, which is being prepped for Moon Express and also potentially Blue Origin. Also, LC-46 is supposedly being prepped for a 2018 Orion "Ascent Abort" test atop a modified Peacekeeper first stage motor provided by Orbital ATK. (5/24)

Feds Seek $10.6M Forfeiture For Research Grant Fraud (Source: Law360)
Federal prosecutors asked for a $10.6 million forfeiture judgment in Florida federal court Wednesday against a husband-and-wife pair of scientists convicted of ripping off the government by submitting dozens of fraudulent research grants over the course of a decade.

Patent for Navy Small Space Debris Tracker (Source: Space Daily)
A U.S. Navy device that detects small debris in space and provides data on their trajectory has been granted a U.S. patent. The Optical Orbital Debris Spotter from the Naval Research Laboratory is compact in size, uses low power and can be integrated into larger satellite designs or flown independently onboard nano-satellite platforms, the Navy said.

The device concept is the creation of a continuous, permanent light sheet by using a collimated light source, such as a low-power laser. All particles intersecting the light sheet will scatter the light from the source, independent of the time of intersection with the plane of the light sheet. (5/22)

China Plans First Ever Landing on the Far Side of the Moon (Source: Space Daily)
The Chang'e-4 mission, part of China's Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), plans to land the probe and accompanying rover on the far side of the moon. "We are currently discussing the next moon landing site for Chang'e 4," Chief lunar exploration engineer Wu Weiren said. "We probably will choose a site that is more difficult to land and more technically challenging. Other countries have chosen to land on the near side of the moon. Our next move probably will see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon." (5/22)

India to Test Plane-Shaped Reusable Launch Vehicle in July (Source: NDTV)
Come second half of July, India's space agency is likely to test a small model of reusable launch vehicle shaped like an aeroplane, said a senior official. "It is going to be an important engineering experiment for the Indian space agency. A small aeroplane-shaped vehicle would be launched from here sometime during the second half of July," M.Y.S.Prasad, director, Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) said. (5/23)

NASA's SLS Gets Big Push from House Appropriations Committee (Source: Huntsville Times)
The House Appropriations Committee has passed a NASA budget for 2016 that tells the space agency Congress is serious about the big new rocket being developed in Alabama, wants it used more, and is ready to spend more money to build it.

The budget passed Wednesday by a voice vote gives NASA $519 million more than 2015 and the Space Launch System $150 million of that. SLS would get $1.85 billion in 2016 compared to $1.7 billion this year. The bill also designates SLS as the launch vehicle for NASA's planned mission to the Jupiter Europa moon in 2022 and provides $50 million to advance work on its permanent upper stage. SLS will fly first with a modified Delta rocket stage on top. (5/21)

What Would It Take to Send People to Pluto? (Source:
Suppose, this coming July, that New Horizons were to discover something truly wild as it flashed past Pluto. What if it revealed a bizarre surface chemistry that, like the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere, could only be the result of some biological process? Is a manned Pluto mission within humanity's near-term technological grasp, at any cost? Click here. (5/22)

Bruno: RD-180 Waiver Likely; Gap Of 5 Engines Between House, Senate (Source: Breaking Defense)
The still-newish CEO of the United Launch Alliance, Tory Bruno, faces tough questions from his board of directors. He faces tough questions from the House and the Senate about his use of Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines. But his biggest short-term problem — being allowed to use enough RD-180 engines to get his company from here to initial deployment in 2017 of the new Vulcan launch system it plans to build — may have an answer.

I asked Bruno if he thought he had a strong case to obtain a Defense Department waiver to allow use of all the RD-180s has under contract but which last year’s National Defense Authorization Act currently bars him from using. He noted that it’s the Air Force who would make the recommendation for a waiver: “I think [the Air Force Secretary] could make a very strong argument based on what she has said” for a waiver for ULA to use the RD-180. (5/22)

County Board OK's $9.7 Million for Lockheed, Blue Origin on Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
A Space Coast economic development board approved $9.7 million in incentives for two companies that each would bring hundreds of jobs to North Brevard County. But one of the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board members, Paula Cardwell, said one of the projects was too risky for her to support with taxpayers' money.

In that project, the board voted 8-1 to approve $8 million in incentives for rocket company Blue Origin. The company — being referred to by the code name "Project Panther" — is considering building a 330-employee facility at Exploration Park, near the Kennedy Space Center. Separately, the board voted 9-0 in favor of a $1.735 million grant for Lockheed Martin Corp., which is considering a 300-employee expansion in Titusville.

Lockheed on Tuesday also will ask the Brevard County Commission to consider property tax abatements totaling $397,043 a year over a 10-year period for its project. Both companies say their new jobs would pay an average of $89,000 a year. (5/22)

The House Just Passed a Bill About Space Mining. The Future is Here. (Source: Washington Post)
The United States has already shown its penchant for claiming ownership of space-based things. There are not one, not two, but six U.S. flags on the moon, in case any of you other nations start getting ideas. So it only makes sense that American lawmakers would seek to guarantee property rights for U.S. space corporations.

Under the SPACE Act, which just passed the House, businesses that do asteroid mining will be able to keep whatever they dig up: "Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law."

This is how we know commercial space exploration is serious. The opportunity here is so vast that businesses are demanding federal protections for huge, floating objects they haven't even surveyed yet. But it's actually important that we're talking about this now, because we don't want to wind up in a situation where multiple companies are fighting for the same patch of rock without having a way to resolve it. (5/22)

Space Crayons and Parachuting Dogs—a New View of the Soviet Space Program (Source: Quartz)
Some time last week, Ian Blatchford, director of London’s Science Museum, received a text message about a Russian spacecraft. “Vostok 6 has cleared customs at Dover,” it read. Vostok 6 is no ordinary spacecraft. It is one steeped in history, having carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, into space (and back).

It has faced much harder crossings than British customs officials. But its latest journey is a significant one: It marks the first item to arrive in London for what will be the most complete collection of artefacts showcasing the history of the Soviet space program outside of Russia. Click here. (5/23)

Air Force Master Plan Focuses on Agility, Flexibility (Source: Defense News)
The Air Force has identified 12 long-term goals in its newly released Strategic Master Plan. The plan focuses on agility and flexibility, with some of this focus already becoming evident in its next-generation air dominance development. "There is a universal recognition that the strategic environment is really shifting underneath our feet and we're starting to see some of the boxes we're being hemmed into, with respect of not as much flexibility to shift out of what we've been doing for the last 20 or 30 years," said Maj. Gen. David Allvin. (5/23)

XCOR Receives Funding From Chinese Venture Capital Firm (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Chinese venture capital firm Haiyin Capital just finished dispersing its third fund of $50 million into mostly U.S. tech startups like energy storage startup LightSail Energy, based in the Bay Area, solar tech startup 1366 technologies, located just outside of Boston, private space flight company XCOR Aerospace, in Mojave, Calif., and crowdfunding company AngelList. (5/22)

Aspiring Astronauts Live Under Hawaiian Dome for 7 Months to Simulate Life on Mars (Source: ABC)
Six aspiring astronauts have spent the last seven months living in a geodesic dome on Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to simulate a spaceflight mission to Mars. The stark, rocky slopes of Mauna Loa are about 225 million kilometres away from Mars, but for NASA researchers wanting to find out how humans might survive in a Martian environment, it is the closest thing they have to the red planet. Click here. (5/23)

China Ranked 4th Among World Space Powers (Source: Xinhua)
China's space capabilities are ranked the fourth in the world, and the gap between the leading powers is narrowing, according to a report issued recently by a Chinese research organization. China is at a crucial period developing from a major power to a great power in space, says an evaluation by the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information, affiliated to the China Academy of Space Technology. (5/22)

NASA Begins Modification of Test Stand for SLS at Stennis (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The B-2, a vertical, static-firing stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, originally built to test Saturn rocket stages, is being modified to test the Space Launch System (SLS ) core stage in late 2016 and early 2017, prior to its first unmanned mission flight. The work began on May 13 with the lifting of large structural steel sections onto the stand.

The modification includes repositioning and extension of the B-2’s Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA ) framework, which supports the rocket stage for testing. NASA intend to add the large structural steel sections that will extend its height. (5/22)

Russia Starts Losing Commercial Space Launch Market (Source: Interfax)
Russia has "begun to gradually lose" its commercial space launch market, the chief executive of Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center said after the recent abortive mission of a Proton-M rocket. Andrei Kalinovsky said an interdepartmental commission had been appointed to investigate the Proton-M accident and that it included leading space industry experts and was headed by Federal Space Agency chief Igor Komarov.

"The commercial launch market has changed over the past few years. New players have emerged, for example the American company SpaceX. Few people believed that a commercial project would be able to break into the market and create a competitive product, create a carrier [rocket] that's competitive in terms of price and quality. But this has happened and we have to reckon with it," he said.

"It's true that we have reduced our presence in the commercial launch market in recent years. Proton launches have gone down in frequency. And naturally, this is partially the effect of the quality problem. Other problems are delays with launches and pricing," Kalinovsky said. (5/22)

Exelis Shareholders Approve Acquisition by Harris (Source: Exelis)
Exelis shareholders approved the merger agreement providing for the acquisition of Exelis by Harris Corp. during its special meeting of shareholders held today. More than 97 percent of the shares voted at the special meeting voted in favor of the transaction, representing more than 79 percent of all outstanding shares of Exelis.

Exelis also announced today that on May 21, 2015, Exelis and Harris received notification that the Department of Justice had terminated the waiting period applicable to the merger under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. (5/22)

The US has Space Experts Worried About an Extra-Terrestrial Land Grab (Source: Quartz)
Plans to make money in space are missing one of the fundamental ingredients to any business: property rights. If you go mine an asteroid, as several companies plan to do, and bring some minerals back to earth, can you sell them? If you build a moonbase, as entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is contemplating, and someone else wants to land a rocket there, what’s to stop them? Click here. (5/22)

Space Club Seeks Nominations for Space Worker Hall of Fame (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee is accepting nominations for the 2015 Space Worker Hall of Fame. This award is intended to focus on the entire population of space workers regardless of position, discipline or time of service. We intend to award no more than 15 individuals this year. Click here. (5/22)

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