May 5, 2015

NASA to Seek Private Rocket Companies for Future KSC Launch Sites (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA said Monday that it wants proposals from companies to build privately run rocket-launching sites at Kennedy Space Center, which would accelerate the transformation of Kennedy and Cape Canaveral into a public-private spaceport used by NASA, the military and commercial space interests.

It's part of the agency's newly revised master plan for redevelopment of Kennedy Space Center during the next 20 years. The master plan includes eventual development of two new vertical pads for launches and two horizontal sites for spaceships that use runways. NASA expects to solicit proposals for the vertical sites this summer and could pick winners by late summer or early fall, said Scott Colloredo.

The launch-site proposals alone likely would not bring many jobs, but NASA is counting on the launches to support rocket, spacecraft and payload development and assembly. It will be reviewing proposals looking for that potential. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-FL, hailed the move as "a positive step in reaching out to commercial space companies to bring more industry to the Cape." (5/5)

Planned 40-satellite Constellation Would Monitor Earth and Space (Source: Space News)
A Canadian company is targeting commercial and government markets with a proposed constellation of 40 low Earth orbiting satellites designed to keep tabs on the environment both in space and on the ground. NorStar Space Data’s planned NorthStar satellites would fly in an orbit that is similar to — but higher than — the one used by Iridium, providing near-ubiquitous coverage using sensors that look both up and down.

The dual nature of the mission means the company will not have to depend on a single customer set or sector for revenue, they said. Government agencies like the U.S. and Canadian defense departments are viewed as the most likely users. (5/4)

Visiona Emerges as Brazilian Space Sector’s Industrial Champion (Source: Space News)
Brazil has experience in building small research satellites and, with China, 2,000-kilogram-class Earth observation satellites. It also has a space agency and a long-term space development program, called PNAE, with a detailed roadmap for satellite development. What it lacked was an industrial champion. Now it has one. Visiona Tecnologia Espacial SA, a joint venture with aircraft manufacturer Embraer and Brazil’s telecommunications operator, Telebras. (5/4)

MDA Corp. Worried Canada is Losing its Edge in Space Robotics (Source: Space News)
MDA Chief Executive Daniel Friedmann told investors MDA and Canada will be largely on the sidelines over the next 10 years with respect to space-based robotics programs. “It’s very problematic,” he said. “Canada has passed on every single international cooperation opportunity in robotics in the last year and a half. We’re out – until past 2024. Our role has been picked up by the Germans and the Japanese and so on.” (5/5)

NASA’s Orion Gains New Windows – and Loses Weight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Orion spacecraft will offer excellent visibility and extra protection to crewmembers as they journey to the International Space Station or on missions beyond low Earth orbit to cislunar space and elsewhere. Traditionally, the windows of crewed spacecraft, such as the Apollo capsule and the Space Shuttle, have been made entirely of glass. But for Orion, engineers are taking a new approach that will make the vehicle’s windows not only stronger but also lighter and less expensive. (5/5)

NASA Authorization Bill Advances on Party Lines (Source:
HR 2039 now awaits a vote on the House floor. The bill authorizes 2016 funding under two scenarios. In the so-called aspirational scenario, where sequestration spending caps are lifted, NASA would get $18.53 billion: Exactly what the White House requested in February. In a "constrained" scenario, where sequestration stays in place, the bill would authorize $18.01 billion for NASA in both 2016 and 2017, the same amount appropriated for 2015, but $519 million less than the aspirational scenario for 2016. (5/4)

Beer From Space? Ninkasa Launches "Ground Control" (Source: Las Vegas Weekly)
Space beer is here, and it’s outta this world. In a gimmicky but irresistibly fun collaboration, Ninkasi Brewing Co., of Eugene, Oregon, went where no brewer has gone before by teaming with amateur rocketeers to send yeast to space—and then brew with it. The result, Ground Control Imperial Stout, launched May 1 at Mandalay Bay. (5/4)

Colonize Mars? Not Until We Learn Some Lessons Here on Earth (Source: Fusion)
The desire to see humans expand into the broader universe makes sense because the threats to humanity are many: Asteroids or comets crashing on the earth’s surface; nuclear war; perhaps a highly contagious and fatal disease. (The movement to leave the planet has been gaining momentum since the late 1990’s when an asteroid passed close enough to Earth that we were six hours away from major impact.)

Among space and planetary science circles, the prevailing narrative is that colonizing Mars is imperative – that Mars represents our best chance for our continued existence beyond Earth. But is it right to think about the galaxy as a playground that is ours for the taking? History is full of examples of how of individuals and governments exploit others in order to gain access to limited resources like land, gold, water, and oil. Click here. (5/4)

Traffic Around Mars Gets Busy (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely.

Last year's addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India's Mars Orbiter Mission joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA: the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The newly enhanced collision-avoidance process also tracks the approximate location of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, a 1997 orbiter that is no longer working. (5/5)

3D Printer Making Chinese Space Suit Parts (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese researchers have used 3D printing technology to make a safer space suit for astronauts while spacewalking. A research center under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation used a 3D printer to create the vent pipes and the flanges connecting the pipes used on extravehicular space suit, according to a recent report from China Space News. (5/4)

Why Hawaiians are Protesting Construction of the World's Second-Largest Telescope (Source: Vox)
The telescope is being built on Mauna Kea, which is one of the most sacred sites in the world for many Native Hawaiians and is covered with hundreds of ancient shrines. Already, 13 other telescopes have been built on the mountain. For those who consider Mauna Kea sacred, the new TMT is the final straw — and in April, the protests they've staged on the mountain forced the state governor to put construction on hold.

Work on the telescope has been halted for nearly a month now, without any obvious resolution imminent. As far back as the 1990s, groups of Native Hawaiians began to protest construction of telescopes on the grounds that the land is sacred. Although the state began to require environmental impact assessments for all new telescopes, it hasn't done nearly as much to take into account the wishes or cultural needs of local residents. (5/5)

NASA Satellite Captures First Full View of New South Pacific Island (Source:
A NASA satellite is giving us our first full view of a brand new landmass. Constant eruptions from an underwater volcano in the South Pacific Ocean starting in December created a new island, but ash obstructed aerial photography at first. Months later, the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite was finally able to get a clear picture of the island, and the results are incredible. Click here. (5/4)

The Politics and Science of NASA's Budget (Source: AOL)
Congress' proposed 2016 NASA budget rebalancing is getting pushback before it even goes to markup, because it puts the majority of the agency's funds toward space exploration. Wait, what? The boosts to the exploration budget would come at the expense of NASA's wide-ranging earth sciences program.

NASA's 2016 budget would dedicate $1.947 billion of its total funds to the official study of earth. The version in Congress would chop that allotment down to $1.45 billion. NASA would probably feel a 25 percent cut. Yes, it's a space agency, but it also works to understand our home planet. NASA currently operates a fleet of 20 Earth-facing satellites. (5/3)

House Committee's Defense Appropriations Bill "a Win for Industry" (Source: The Hill)
The House Armed Services Committee is proposing more funding for Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets and helicopters for the National Guard in its latest budget proposal. "As far as authorization bills go, it's a win for industry," said Gordon Adams, a former Clinton administration official. "Industry likes to add up authorization chips so they can say to the appropriators, 'Look what they promised us.' " (5/3)

Australia's NewSat Gets Creditor Shield In Ch. 15 (Source: Law360)
Australian satellite company NewSat Ltd. on Friday received relief from a Delaware bankruptcy judge that shields it from creditors while its Chapter 15 petition is pending, and reached a deal that keeps Lockheed Martin Corp. working on its key project for the near future. (5/1)

The Mission of Zond 2 (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this week, the Soviets declared a mysterious Mars-bound mission called Zond 2 a failure. Andrew LePage examines the history of the program to uncover what Zond 2's mission really was. Visit to view the article. (5/4)

Antares and SpaceShipTwo, Six Months Later (Source: Space Review)
Six months ago, the commercial spaceflight industry suffered a double dose of accidents, just days apart. Jeff Foust reports on the progress made in the investigations of the Antares and SpaceShipTwo failures, and plans for them to resume flights. Visit to view the article. (5/4)

The Future and the Past: Comparing Dragon and Orion (Source: Space Review)
On Wednesday, SpaceX is scheduled to perform a pad abort test of the crewed version of its Dragon spacecraft it is developing as part of NASA's commercial crew program. Rick Boozer compares the capabilities of Dragon with NASA's own Orion spacecraft. Visit to view the article. (5/4)

Renewing India's Space Vision: a Necessity or Luxury? (Source: Space Review)
India's space program has achieved a number of major milestones in recent years, but still is a secondary player in the global space field. Narayan Prasad and Prateep Basu argue that India needs to encourage entrepreneurial space activities and better delineate civil and military space applications to further grow its space industry and be more competitive in the global market. Visit to view the article. (5/4)

Knowledge of Mercury Grew with Messenger (Source: Pittsuburgh Post-Gazette)
With its fuel tank empty and NASA’s bag of tricks for keeping it aloft exhausted, the Messenger spacecraft succumbed last Thursday to Mercury’s gravitational death grip after four years of photographing the planet up close. NASA had managed to prolong the craft’s life by a few months, but scientists were not able to head off the inevitable spiral to Mercury’s hot, rocky surface at 8,700 mph.

The four-month delay in Messenger’s fiery demise gave NASA a chance to load up on high-resolution images of the planet that would not have been possible on the $450 million mission’s original timetable. Thanks to Messenger, Earthlings now have better views of craters and geologic formations and know more about hidden ice formations on the planet’s dark side. (5/4)

How Big Bird Escaped Death on the Space Shuttle (Source: The Telegraph)
Big Bird, the giant yellow-feathered Sesame Street character, was offered a place on the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission but had to withdraw because his oversized costume would not fit in the craft. The extraordinary revelation is contained in a new documentary I Am Big Bird, which tells the story of the Jim Henson creation and the man who has played him for 45 years, Caroll Spinney.

Big Bird - with Mr Spinney in full costume – was selected initially to take part in the 1986 Challenger mission as part of a Nasa initiative to encourage children to become more engaged in the US space program. When the logistical problems of trying to send an eight-foot, two-inch character into space became clear, the idea was scrapped. (5/3)

Here’s How Coffee Cups in Space Could Help Save Lives on Earth (Source: TIME)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station can now enjoy a much-needed hot cup of joe with their very own espresso machine and six specially designed microgravity coffee cups. But NASA says these Space Cups will do a lot more than lift espresso to an astronaut’s lips. They will also provide scientists with data on how complex fluids (such as coffee or tea with sugar) move in zero gravity. (5/4)

UK Beats Italy to Host SKA Headquarters (Source: Physics World)
Member countries building the world's largest radio telescope – the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) – have chosen the Jodrell Bank site near Manchester in the UK to host the observatory's headquarters. The decision has delighted UK astronomers but is a huge disappointment to their Italian counterparts, who say that their Padua-based bid was backed by the project's site-selection panel. (5/4)

New Name for Space Launch System Gets Backing of Lawmakers (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A push to give NASA’s Space Launch System a new name is garnering support from lawmakers, who have written into legislation provisions that would order NASA to rename the heavy-lift rocket through a competition among schoolchildren. Language in the authorization bill would direct NASA to “conduct a well-publicized competition among students in elementary and secondary schools to name the elements of the administration’s exploration program.” (5/3)

Russia Plans New $198 Million Mars Probe in 2024 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos plans to launch a new sample soil expedition to Mars’ satellite Phobos, according to a draft of Russia's new space program for 2016-2025. Under the document, the Mars-Grunt (Soil) expedition is planned for 2024 to deliver soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos to the Earth. The project is estimated at 10.3 billion rubles ($198 million). (5/4)

Russia to Continue Development of Nuclear Engine for Deep Space Flights (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will continue its plans to create a nuclear engine for deep space flights, according to the country's 2016-2025 Federal Space Program. A number of news agencies earlier said that Roscosmos was apparently planning on closing down its work on creating a megawatt-class nuclear engine meant for deep space flights. The creation of the nuclear engine is scheduled for 2029-2030. (4/29)

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