May 25, 2015

Audit Reveals $1.8 Billion Financial Violations at Russia's Space Agency (Source: Moscow Times)
Russian auditors have uncovered 92 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) in financial violations committed by federal space agency Roscosmos last year, the head of Russia's Audit Chamber, Tatyana Golikova, said Friday. The Audit Chamber, a government spending watchdog, released its annual report on Friday detailing investigations into misspending by Russian government agencies and ministries.

Golikova singled out Roscosmos as one of Russia's worst offenders, saying: "At first, I didn't believe my inspectors, because the value of the financial violations identified [at Roscosmos] was 92 billion rubles," news agency TASS reported. The violations included inefficient use of funds, misuse of appropriated funds, and violations in fiscal reporting methods, according to Golikova. (5/24)

Russian Space Program Costs Soar 30% Over Sanctions (Source: Space Daily)
The total costs of Russia's Federal Space Program have increased 30 percent because of Western-imposed sanctions, Roscosmos Statistics Secretary Denis Lyskov said Thursday. "In the current economic conditions, Roscosmos has ended up in a difficult situation. We had to completely overhaul the entire space program because of these figures," Lyskov said. (5/25)

Some 100 Russian Space Industry Officials Fired Over Three Years (Source: Tass)
Some 100 officials working in the space industry have been fired or become defendants in criminal cases over the past three years, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on the Rossiya-1 TV channel. He said "these are managers who were caught stealing" or made violations when implementing instructions of the country’s leadership. (5/25)

First Suspect Under House Arrest Over Embezzlement in Russia’s Space Sector (Source: Tass)
Moscow’s Basmanny court ruled on Monday to place under house arrest a director general of a firm that was involved in embezzlement schemes of the Khrunichev Space Research & Production Center, a core company of Russia’s space industry. "The court satisfied a motion of the investigator on placing Dmitry Dyakonov under house arrest until June 25," the court’s spokesperson said.

Dyakonov, the head of Ecopravo firm that worked under a contract with the Khrunichev company, has been charged with embezzlement or misappropriation of funds carried out either by an organized group or in a large-scale amount. According to media reports, Dyakonov signed a contract with Alexander Ostroverkh, a deputy of the then-head of the Khrunichev company, on providing auditing and legal services to it and received 22,000 euros per month plus 5% from the sums. (5/25)

Source Says Russian Rocket Crash Caused by Human Error (Source: Tass)
The results of the work of the commission investigating the causes of the Proton-M carrier rocket crash that occurred on May 16 will be reported to the government on Friday, May 29, a Russian space and industry source said. "The commission will complete its work and report the results to the Russian government on May 29," the source said.

According to him, the emergencies commission working at the Khrunichev Center (Proton manufacturer) has exposed a number of violations in the carrier rocket production. "This is, undoubtedly, a human error. The fault occurred in the rocket manufacturing process," he said. (5/25)

Russia, China to Unify Space Technologies for Manned Lunar Missions (Source: Tass)
Russia and China have begun joint work with the aim to devise a set of unified standards to be used in manufacturing space technologies, including those crucial to a future manned mission to the Moon, a space industry source told TASS on Monday.

"The sides have agreed to begin cooperation beyond low-Earth orbits, including manned lunar programs. The mode of such cooperation and its guidelines are still to be negotiated," the source said. The two sides will analyze issues of standardization in the sphere of manned flights. They will develop standards for docking units, electrical connectors and spacecraft atmosphere. A special working group will be set up for that purpose, the source added. (5/25)

Blue Origin May Build New $220m Rocket Factory in Florida (Source: The Manufacturer)
Private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, has expressed interest in expanding its rocket production in Florida. The company, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has reportedly been vying for at least $8m in local-level incentives in order to build a new rocket manufacturing complex very close to the Kennedy Space Center.

Competing for these financial incentives in secret under the name ‘Project Panther’, Blue Origin’s plans for the site were revealed by Senator Bill Nelson last month. Documents filed with the local government indicate that Blue Origin plans to invest $205-220m in the project which will reportedly employ around 330 people. Click here. (5/25)

What's Behind the Dream of Colonizing Mars? (Source: New Yorker)
Stephen Petranek envisions a multistage settlement program. The first pioneers on Mars, not unlike the American frontiersmen, will have to struggle to survive. Just to have drinking water, they’ll need to plow up the planet’s soil—known as regolith—melt down its ice, and distill the results. To breathe, they’ll have to separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen, then mix the oxygen with an inert gas—argon, perhaps—which they’ll get from, well, somewhere.

Eventually, Petranek imagines a shift in the balance. Instead of adjusting to life on Mars, humans will adjust Mars to their needs. They will re├źngineer the atmosphere and warm the planet. As the regolith thaws, ancient streams will flow again and life will flourish along their ruddy banks. More and more people will be drawn to Mars, until there will be whole cities of them. Click here. (5/25)

Google Lunar XPRIZE Deadline Extended to End of 2017 (Source: XPRIZE)
XPRIZE and Google have officially confirmed a further extension of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. We continue to see substantial progress from our teams, and after months of discussion, we have decided to provide additional time for teams to plan and make arrangements for a future launch. Securing an available window with a launch provider is a calculated logistical process that can be many months in the making, in some cases more than a year, so an extended schedule will benefit our teams a great deal as they move towards taking the next step in the competition. Click here. (5/25)

New Study Reassesses Habitability of Exoplanets Around Multiple Star Systems (Source: America Space)
One defining scientific revolution of our generation is undoubtedly the discovery of thousands of exoplanets around other stars, which has transformed our view of the Solar System from being the only one in existence in a vast and immense Universe, to being just one between millions or even billions in our home galaxy alone.

This plurality of worlds has forced scientists and non-scientists alike, to ask the next big question: how many of them harbor planets that could sustain life? In the absence of hard evidence, this topic has been the subject of a multitude of theoretical studies throughout the years, with many of them often reaching a variety of different conclusions.

A new research based on data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offers a new insight into this fascinating subject, by presenting evidence that many of the extrasolar worlds that have been previously deemed as being potentially habitable, might actually not fit the bill. Click here. (5/25)

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