May 30, 2015

Hawaii's Thirty Meter Telescope Protesters Vow to Stay (Source: ABC)
Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea is set to continue despite a wave of protest, after Governor David Ige announced his reluctant support for the project. But the Governor is insisting on major changes to stewardship of the mountain which is held sacred by indigenous Hawaiians.

The leaseholder, The University of Hawaii, will have to decommission at least three or four of the 13 telescopes already on Mauna Kea, by the time TMT is ready to go into operation. The university is also required to make a commitment that no more land on the mountain will be set aside for non-cultural reasons. So is it some sort of victory for the protesters or a defeat? Click here. (5/29)

Orbital ATK: Growth in Commercial Satellites, No Political Heat for Russian Engines (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket builder Orbital ATK on May 28 said its commercial geostationary-orbit satellite business is showing accelerated revenue and profitability as the company hits its stride with a higher-power product. The company said it is on track to start launches of its Antares rocket — whose October failure accelerated Orbital’s plans to replace the rocket’s Russian-made main engine — with a new Russian engine in March.

Orbital apparently has felt little or no pressure from the U.S. Congress about its choice of a Russian engine, despite congressional demand that United Launch Alliance of Denver phase out its use of a Russian engine to power the company’s Atlas 5 rocket, which launches U.S. military payloads. (5/29)

NASA Developing Plans for Human Missions to Cislunar Space in 2020s (Source: Space News)
While NASA does not yet have specific plans for human missions beyond 2021, the agency is in the early stages of developing a sequence of missions in cislunar space in the 2020s to prepare for later missions to Mars. Those plans, which could involve both international and commercial partners, would test out habitation modules and other technologies on missions around the moon ranging from several weeks to a year.

“The concepts that we’re working on today call for us to begin in the early ’20s with a set of missions involving Orion to get some early experience in cislunar space, leading to a series of longer missions,” said Skip Hatfield.

Although NASA has notional plans for a series of Orion missions launched by the Space Launch System in the 2020s, the last firm mission on the agency’s books is Exploration Mission (EM) 2, the first crewed SLS/Orion flight, scheduled for 2021. One of those future missions would likely send astronauts to an asteroid placed in lunar orbit as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission, but the date of that mission depends on when — or if — that asteroid arrives in cislunar space. (5/29)

Hurricane Forecasting to be Aided by Mini-Satellites (Source: WTXL)
Though hurricane forecasting techniques have improved by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, additional tools are in the works to refine outlooks even further. Engineers from the University of Michigan are working along with NASA to launch the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, also known as CYGNSS.

CYGNSS will consist of eight "micro-satellites" that will measure wind speeds over the oceans, taking information based on GPS satellite signals. This method of measurement is expected to result in broader measurement coverage of the Earth, with the ability of the satellites in the system passing over a point on the Earth every 12 minutes, at a lower overall cost than previously technology. (5/29)

SLS Engine Tested at Stennis (Source: Space News)
NASA tested an engine Thursday intended for the Space Launch System. The agency fired an RS-25 engine for 450 seconds on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The test represented a full-duration burn of the engine, which will be used on the core stage of the SLS. The RS-25 is a modified version of the space shuttle's main engine, and Thursday's test evaluated the performance of a new controller for the engine. (5/29)

Central Florida Company Working on Lighter Space Telescopes (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Iagine, Nelson Tabiryan hypothesized, if powerful space telescopes didn't have huge glass lenses and mirrors cut and polished to microscopic precision, weighing tons and costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, what it if they were made of much less-expensive and lighter liquid crystal film sprayed on thin, glass sheets?

Intrigued by the notion, NASA awarded this month one of its 15 annual "innovative advanced concept" grants to Tabiryan's Winter Park company, called BEAM Engineering for Advanced Measurements, so that it can study the technology more. (5/29)

Latest Proton Failure Leaves Customers, Insurers in a Bind (Source: Space News)
Peter B. de Selding, PARIS — Satellite owners and insurance underwriters who have booked or insured launches aboard Russia’s Proton rocket in the coming months have little choice but to stick with the rocket despite the fact that the vehicle’s May 16 failure was its fourth since mid-2012.

The failure destroyed the Mexican government’s Centenario mobile communications satellite. The Mexican government, in what now looks like a prescient move, took the unusual step of purchasing full insurance coverage for the launch — $300 million for the Boeing-built satellite and $90 million for the Proton launch. Most governments do not insure noncommercial launches. (5/29)

India's GPS Augmentation Is Up and Ready (Source: The Hindu)
On May 19, GAGAN, the Rs. 774-crore Indian ‘augmentation’ to GPS, beamed its first signals and became fully ready for use. India becomes the first country to offer satellite-based fine-tuning of GPS in the challenging equatorial region of severe ionospheric variations. GAGAN is built over the US military's location-telling Global Positioning System. It reached fruition on April 21 when it was certified for APV1 — or precision vertical guidance for planes to land safely. (5/29)

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