June 10, 2015

Japan Plans Mission to Martian Moons (Source: Kyodo)
Japan's space agency, JAXA, is studying a mission to return samples the moons of Mars. The agency said Tuesday it is proposing a robotic mission to collect samples from the moons Phobos and/or Deimos and return them to Earth. Technical details, and a budget, for the proposed mission have yet to be disclosed. (6/10)

Russian Space Agency Reschedules 6 Flights to ISS for 2015 (Source: Space Daily)
Russian space agency Roscosmos has rescheduled launches to the International Space Station (ISS) to include six more for 2015. The decision was made after the Progress M27-M cargo ship carrying fuel, oxygen, food and scientific equipment to the ISS failed to dock, going into an uncontrolled spin on April 28. The spacecraft was soon declared irretrievable and burned up in the atmosphere during reentry. (6/10)

Russian Spacecraft Glitch Shifts Orbiting ISS (Source: Space Daily)
The orbiting International Space Station has shifted in position after an engine glitch on a docked spacecraft which is due to bring astronauts back to Earth this week, Russia said. The engines of the Soyuz spacecraft "switched on unscheduled which led to an insignificant change in the position of the ISS," according to Russia's space agency. (6/10)

Air Force Bosses Reveal Hypersonic Planes (Source: Daily Mail)
Air Force bosses have revealed they hope to have a hypersonic plane capable of crossing countries in minutes by 2023. Several tests of hypersonic projectiles have already been carried out. Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley told Military.com that the Air Force and DARPA, the Pentagon's research entity, plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023. (6/3)

Boeing Wants Russia's Energia Sanctioned (Source: Law360)
Boeing has asked a California federal judge to sanction Russia’s state-controlled space company for allegedly withholding core evidence in a $350 million lawsuit over their failed Sealaunch venture, saying SP Korolev Rocket and Space Corp. Energia’s brazen defiance of a court order “makes a mockery of the American legal system.” (6/10)

NASA Tests a Quicker Way to Predict Destructive Solar Storms (Source: Engadget)
Solar geomagnetic storms could sometimes cause telecommunication disruptions and power outages -- problem is, we can only predict if they're destructive 30 to 60 minutes before they arrive. Now, galactic weatherman NASA Goddard scientist Neel Savani has started testing a new forecast model that will allow the agency to warn utility or telecommunication companies 24 hours beforehand.

The agency says these damaging storms are caused by coronal mass ejections (CME), or massive bursts of gas and materials from the sun, which are aligned in the opposite direction of the Earth's magnetic field. We unfortunately don't have the tools to figure out a CME's configuration until it's close enough to the planet.

Once Savani figured out that previous models assumed CMEs come only from the most active spot on the sun, he was able to solve the issue and include other spots that also burp out solar materials into his measurements. He can now use those measurements to predict what a CME's configuration is with help from coronographs taken by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. (6/10)

DiBello: Cape Must Compete for Commercial Space Business (Source: Florida Today)
Cape Canaveral must continue to adapt to attract emerging commercial space businesses, or else watch them choose to launch from other states, Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said. "Our goal must be to not just lure an occasional billionaire here, but more importantly to become a business location which the broader capital markets and our successful business leaders find attractive," DiBello said.

He cited concerns about inconsistent rules for safety oversight and insurance coverage of commercial launches, and growing competition from states such as New Mexico, Georgia, North Carolina and, most recently, Alabama. "New approaches to governance at the spaceport are necessary to reduce and eliminate where possible practices that unnecessarily inhibit commercial operations," said DiBello.

DiBello suggested that the Cape should be defined less by federal boundaries and operate more like a commercial airport that attracts a wide array of customers and services. He expressed confidence that the state would soon approve a deal with NASA to take over responsibility for KSC's shuttle runway, operating it as a commercial spaceport for horizontal launch and landing. Space Florida's board is scheduled to review a tentative agreement on Monday. (6/9)

Scotland Lures Smallsat Builder Spire to Glasgow with Grant (Source: Space News)
Small-satellite builder Spire of San Francisco has received a grant from the Scottish government to build nano-satellite design and production plant in Glasgow that will create 50 new jobs. The grant of 1.9 million British pounds ($3 million) was announced in a speech by Scottish First Minister Lena Wilson, who is also chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, at a New York investor event. (6/10)

Advanced Thruster Enables New Cubesat Apps (Source: Aviation Week)
Busek, a spacecraft-thruster shop in Natick, Massachusetts, has delivered a new kind of technology to NASA for testing that could increase the utility of cubesats dramatically. The basic concept of its electrospray thruster—use high voltage to accelerate charged heavy molecules for thrust—was developed in the 1960s but eventually discarded as impractical. Now new manufacturing techniques and the technology “pull” of cubesats is bringing the electrospray thruster into consideration again. (6/10)

ASAP on Board with Commercial Crew’s Diversified Portfolio (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s key advisory body has heaped praise on the Agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), claiming the “diversified portfolio” of its two major partners will satisfy the requirements of competition. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) believes it will provide a “blessing” to NASA when it faces a future decision of downselecting to one main provider of crew services to the International Space Station.

A softening of the ASAP’s stance towards Commercial Crew has been observed over recent years, not least due to the current success of the program and the increasingly unpalatable reliance on Russia to provide the transportation requirements of NASA astronauts to an orbital outpost that was mostly paid for by the U.S. However, the ongoing mitigation of concerns relating to the certification process appears to be the main reason the ASAP’s turned its Commercial Crew frown upside down. (6/9)

The Parachute on NASA's Flying Saucer Spacecraft Keeps Failing (Source: Mashable)
A giant supersonic parachute attached to a NASA-built UFO-shaped vehicle ripped apart just after it deployed at the edge of space during a test flight on Monday. The vehicle, called the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), is designed to bring large payloads to Mars. The supersonic parachute is a crucial component of the system, necessary for slowing the spacecraft's descent enough to make a safe landing on the red planet.

This was not the first time the parachute failed. The parachute used for the first test flight of the vehicle — which was of a different design, also ripped apart during the flight system's first test flight last year. So, why do these parachutes keep failing? One major problem facing NASA engineers is that you can't actually predict the behavior of a parachute this size (it's the largest supersonic chute ever deployed) with models on Earth. (6/9)

NASA to Request Money for Another ‘Falling Saucer’ Test (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
While NASA experts maintain the flight test of its “falling saucer” was successful, an administrator said a second shredded parachute means the agency must invest more money into the project. NASA must have two successful equipment tests before items are approved for use on a flight to Mars, said Steve Jurczyk. Only one more flight test is included in the LDSD project’s $200 million budget. (6/10)

Ex-Im Hasn’t Given Up on Recovering $100 Million NewSat Loss (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Export-Import Bank insists it may yet recover part of its more than $100 million loss following the bankruptcy of customer NewSat Ltd. and NewSat’s subsequent rejection of its satellite construction contract with Lockheed Martin. Ex-Im officials declined to disclose the legal mechanism by which they might recover the bank’s investment through the sale of the nearly completed satellite. (6/10)

NASA Aiming for Multiple Missions to Jupiter Moon Europa (Source: Space.com)
NASA's highly anticipated mission to Europa in the next decade may be just the beginning of an ambitious campaign to study the ocean-harboring Jupiter moon. "You gotta figure, if the first one works, then we're going to go to Europa again," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

In the early to mid-2020s, NASA plans to launch a mission that will conduct dozens of flybys of Europa, which many astrobiologists regard as the solar system's best bet to host life beyond Earth. Space agency officials hope this effort paves the way for future missions to Europa — including one that lands on the icy moon to search for signs of life. (6/9)

India To Test Launch Reusable Launch Vehicle (Source: Aviation Week)
India is preparing to carry out an experimental flight of its reusable launch vehicle, a senior space scientist says. “Preparations are currently underway to conduct the launch of [the] Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), either by the end of July or in the beginning of August,” Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientist M. Chandradathan says. The exact launch date will be announced soon, he says. (6/9)

A Grand National Space Strategy Could Save NASA (Source: Space.com)
Perhaps the most enduring characteristics of NASA's legendary reputation have been the agency's ability and willingness to embark on extraordinarily difficult challenges, to pursue next-to-impossible journeys and to solve profoundly vexing problems. But more recently, the agency has drifted from that Apollo-like focus that built its credibility and brand.

For example, why does NASA not have any sustained presence on the moon? Why does the United States not have a human-rated rocket? The latest NASA Strategic Plan claims that the International Space Station (ISS) is the centerpiece of NASA's core mission. Yet NASA is planning to crash this $200 billion space structure into the ocean in 2024. Click here. (6/10)

Facebook and Google are Out of the Space Race (Source: Quartz)
Who wasn’t excited to see Facebook and Google battle for dominance of low-earth orbit? Alas, it wasn’t meant to be: both companies are shelving their ambitious plans for satellite internet. There are news reports that Facebook is dropping its plans for a geo-stationary satellite over concerns that it will not recoup costs. Google, which hired satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler to prepare an satellite constellation in 2014, backed out of that plan earlier this year. (6/9)

Of Course Space Exploration is Worth the Money (Source: The Conversation)
iven an environment where phrases such as “pay restraint”, “austerity package” and “falling service provision” are bandied around, it might be thought somewhat profligate to suggest that millions of pounds (euros, dollars) are spent on exploration of space. Why do we need to go to Mars? How many pictures of galaxies do we need? Surely that money could be better spent on more worthy areas, such as health and education? But the millions do not go up in smoke: they are used to pay for jobs and services. (6/9)

Earth: Mars Can't Hear You (Just Temporarily) (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has ceased routine communications with five spacecraft orbiting and roving the surface of Mars through June 21, a period known as solar conjunction. The two week stretch in which Mars is notched behind the sun from the Earth's perspective began June 7. The sun temporarily disrupts commands sent to the Mars spacecraft during the period. (6/9)

Environmental Study, Land Purchase Planned for Georgia Spaceport (Source: Brunswick News)
An agreement to purchase a 4,000-acre tract in Camden County is considered a significant milestone for the creation of a possible spaceport, but there is plenty of work to do. Camden County Administrator Steve Howard said the deal paves the way for an environmental assessment that will ultimately determine if the site is appropriate to launch missiles into space.

Some questions, such as if roads will be closed or boaters will be prohibited from certain areas during launches, may not be answered until a contract is awarded to the company that submits the best bid. “A lot of the details will be done by space operators,” Howard said. “Clearly there will be impacts.”

One of the immediate tasks is to purchase the remaining property surrounding the site to establish a safety arc — a zone near the site at the end of Harrietts Bluff Road where development would be prohibited unless it is directly associated with spaceport operations. The FAA would conduct an environmental assessment before construction of a spaceport could begin. (6/9)

Hole in Door at Mauna Kea Telescope Not Caused by Bullet (Source: SFgate)
It turns out that a hole in a door at a Mauna Kea telescope building wasn't caused by a bullet. Hawaii County police were investigating what appeared to be a bullet hole in a Subaru Telescope door. But on Monday, the observatory said in a statement the hole was caused by strong wind swinging a metal door into an instrument fixture attached to a wall. "We at Subaru Telescope are relieved that this is the case and regret the confusion caused by earlier reports," the statement said. (6/9)

Japan’s Daunting Expedition to Mercury (Source: Japan News)
Moon probe Kaguya and Venus orbiter Akatsuki, as well as asteroid explorers Hayabusa and Hayabusa 2 — Japan continues to observe our solar system’s celestial bodies. The next destination is the closest planet to the sun, of scorching fire and subzero ice: Mercury. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unveiled its Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) during March in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

In a joint exploration mission with the European Space Agency (ESA), the spacecraft is scheduled to be launched with a European probe as early as 2017 from French Guiana. The two probes will travel together to Mercury. Once the probes enter Mercury’s orbit in 2024, MMO will separate and commence observations. (6/9)

Space Age Has Finally Arrived (Source: Huffington Post)
The Space Age has finally come and it promises savings for American taxpayers, new high-quality jobs and economic opportunities we can't predict yet. A sustainable, market driven economy is emerging from the stagnant cocoon of traditional governmental contracting.

California-based SpaceX has been granted certification by the U.S. Air Force for launching military payloads, which will bolster the Hawthorne firm's already robust manifest of commercial and NASA launch contracts. This certification breaks a long-standing monopoly held by Boeing and Lockheed's rocket company conglomerate United Launch Alliance (ULA). Click here. (6/9)

Air Force’s Early Warning Satellites Get No-Cost Update from Lockheed Martin (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. Air Force’s newest infrared surveillance and missile warning satellites will be based on Lockheed Martin’s modernized A2100 spacecraft, an update that improves system affordability and resiliency while also adding the flexibility to use future payloads. The fifth and sixth Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites will receive this advanced spacecraft technology at no additional cost to the existing fixed-price contract. (6/9)

Air Force to Use New Lockheed Spacecraft for Next Satellites (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday it will use Lockheed Martin Corp's updated A2100 spacecraft for the fifth and sixth U.S. missile early warning satellites, with no additional cost to its 2014 bulk purchase contract with Lockheed.

The Air Force said by swapping out the spacecraft for the next two Space Based Infrared System satellites, it will be easier to implement new capabilities, including sensors that would allow troops to see dimmer targets more quickly. The move followed a proposal made by Lockheed last December aimed at lowering costs by increasing commonality with other space systems, making the spacecraft more resilient, and reducing the number of obsolescent parts. (6/9)

Musk: SpaceX Goes Public When Mars Flights Begin (Source: USA Today)
Since the other two companies associated with Elon Musk have publicly traded shares, one might think that it only makes sense that they be joined by the third, rocket maker SpaceX. But Musk, put the dampers on that moon shot of an idea. SpaceX, best known as having won the contract to resupply the International Space Station, will remain private, Musk told shareholders of Tesla Motors, where he is CEO.

The problem, he explained, is that SpaceX's goals are long term. They are longer than the quarterly whims of the stock market where long-term is usually considered to be only several years. Since those inconsistent long-range goals would not be "super loved by the markets," it doesn't make sense to take the California company public.

Yet SpaceX would seem like a strong candidate for investors. It has had a string of successful launches of its Falcon 9 rocket and is working on its Dragon capsule for NASA. So how soon? "It will go public once we have regular flights to Mars," he told investors. Musk is a proponent of exploration of the red planet. (6/9)

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