June 12, 2015

Telescope Partners to Expand Programs for Hawaii Students (Source: Pacific Business News)
International partners of the Thirty Meter Telescope project atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island announced Wednesday their intent to support Hawaii’s students as they pursue science and technology degrees.

The California Institute of Technology and Chinese Academy of Sciences have pledged to create scholarships, summer internships, graduate program fellowships, and research assistant positions for Native Hawaiian and Hawaii students. (6/11)

Private Companies Collaborate with U.S. Military Space Operations Command (Source: Air Force Times)
U.S. Strategic Command has selected six companies to work at the Joint Space Operations Center on a trial basis to help monitor operations and satellite launches, and provide technical insights. Inmarsat, ES Government Solutions, Eutelsat, DigitalGlobe, Intelsat and Iridium Communications are participating. (6/10)

Whole Hog (Source: SpaceKSC)
In a Congress of porkers, Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the prize pig. Citizens Against Government Waste named him Porker of the Month in August 2003, October 2007, June 2010, and October 2014. The Republican Party took control of the Senate in 2015, and has controlled the House since 2011, so now the GOP (and Shelby) is in a position to dictate both NASA's budget and the appropriation funding the agency actually receives. Click here. (6/11)

Get Putin Out of Our Rockets (Source: Roll Call)
International policy decisions that seemed reasonable in an earlier time can often look ill-advised as facts on the ground change and relations evolve. Or, more to the point, as those relations devolve into outright hostility, as is the case recently between the United States and Russia.

Why, then, at a time when the United States is squaring off with Vladimir Putin over his Ukraine power-grab and other international misdeeds, would our government continue to fund Putin’s corrupt regime with American taxpayer dollars by buying legacy Russian rocket engines known as RD-180s? Fortunately, lawmakers will have an opportunity this month to correct this now stunningly outdated national-security mistake.

As Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently put it, Americans “are paying millions of dollars to companies that have done no work but merely served as a ‘pass-through’ to corrupt Russian businessmen connected with Vladimir Putin.” More importantly, our reliance on Russian RD-180 engines has left us at a severe disadvantage as we attempt to check Russia’s military aggression. That the Putin government has so much power over America’s national security operations is unacceptable. (6/10)

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Hits the Eject Button. Time for Investors to Panic? (Source: Motley Fool)
By all rights, these should be boom times for the CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne. Since taking the reins at the company (which was known as GenCorp at the time) five years ago, President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Seymour has grown its revenues 85% and generated positive operating cash flow every year he's been in charge.

He's turned one of the leading rocket-engine makers in the country into the leading rocket-engine maker, absorbing Aerojet rival Rocketdyne in 2013. And he's led that company to the very edge of winning a multibillion-dollar U.S. Air Force contract to rebuild the stage 3 motors for America's Minuteman III ICBM force -- and given it a fighting chance at building the next generation of heavy lift rockets for United Launch Alliance as well. So why is he leaving the company? Click here. (6/11)

Space Whisky Making Victory Rounds at Toronto Bars (Source: The Star)
To boldly go where no malt has gone before. This honor belongs to Ardbeg, a whisky launched into space in October 2011 to spend nearly three years at NASA’s International Space Station. This highly acclaimed, super-peaty single malt has crossed that final frontier to become the world’s first “space whisky.” And now it’s home, with a wee dram of it making the victory rounds at Toronto bars. (6/12)

Russian, US Scientists to Cooperate in Space Exploration Despite Sanctions (Source: Sputnik News)
A delegation of the Russian Academy of Sciences representatives visited the US and held talks on cooperation with American scientists. A number of joint projects will be implemented in the near future. They reached an agreement to develop joint projects on space exploration, including the exploration of Venus. (6/12)

NASA and Aerojet Fire Up Stennis With Full Duration SLS Engine Test Fire #3 (Source: America Space)
NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne fired up their RS-25 development engine for the second time in as many weeks today, sending a thunderous roar across Stennis Space Center as the engine successfully carried out its third test fire for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS); the colossal 320-foot tall rocket which will launch astronauts to destinations farther from home than any human in history has ever been to serve NASA’s deep space ambitions over the coming decades. (6/11)

Think Tank Turns Its Attention To Mars As 2016 Election Looms (Source: Space News)
As NASA develops a long-term strategy to support human missions to Mars, one think tank is turning its attention to how to make that strategy sustainable into the next presidential administration and beyond. A forum on human space exploration, hosted by the Center for American Progress on June 3, was the organization’s first major foray into space policy, but one that officials there say will not be their last.

“What we’re really trying to do in this program today is to frame the big building blocks that can lead to consensus,” said Rudy deLeon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who organized the 90-minute event. “We can then see how those decisions, that consensus, can lead to an executable program with clear objectives and goals.”(6/12)

Babin Becomes Johnson Space Center's Third New Ally in Congress (Source: Houston Chronicle)
With the ascendency on Thursday of freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Babin to the chairmanship of the influential House subcommittee on space, Johnson Space Center gained yet another powerful Texas ally in Congress after a difficult half-decade in which its share of the NASA budget has dramatically declined. (6/11)

Images Show Our Favorite Little Lander on Its Comet…Maybe (Source: WIRED)
ESA released images that may point to the final resting place of its lovely lost lander, Philae. Philae landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12 last year, after a 10 year journey as part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. Unfortunately, upon touching down on the dirty iceball, Philae’s harpoons failed to fire correctly. (The landing, meant to trigger the harpoons, was softer than expected.)

Instead of anchoring to the landing site, Philae bounced, became airborne for about two hours, touched down again, became airborne a second time, this time for a few minutes, and eventually came to permanent rest more than a kilometer away from its initial touchdown point.

Images that Philae beamed back to the spacecraft Rosetta suggested the lander had settled in some kind of ditch. The walls around the lander blocked out sunlight, depriving Philae of the ability to recharge its batteries. Since then ESA researchers have been poring over before and after pictures, taken with Rosetta’s cameras, of areas where the lander is suspected to have come to rest. Click here. (6/12)

The Internet in Space? Slow as Dial-Up (Source: The Atlantic)
Outer space has its perks. But super-speedy Internet is, so far, not one of them. Connection speeds from the International Space Station are “worse than what dial-up was like,” the astronaut Scott Kelly said on Twitter. (His colleague, Reid Wiseman, agrees: “We have a very slow internet connection, but reliable email,” he said back in February.)

What makes the connection so slow compared with broadband Internet speed on the ground? The easiest way to understand it is to consider the distance that data has to travel. When an astronaut clicks a link on a website in space, that request first travels 22,000 miles away from Earth, to a network of geosynchronous satellites far beyond the relatively close station. The satellites then send the signal down to a receiver on the ground below, which processes the request before returning the response along the same path. (6/12)

Committee Rejects Mikulski Amendment to Fully Fund Shuttle Replacement Program (Source: USA Today)
A key Senate committee voted Thursday to narrowly reject a proposal to add $300 million to the program that will replace the space shuttle, despite NASA's insistence it needs the money to end U.S. reliance on Russia for rides to the Space Station. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 along party lines against an amendment by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski that would have increased funding for the Commercial Crew program from $900 million to $1.2 billion in fiscal 2016.

The proposal was part of a $3 billion package of increases Mikulski tried adding to a $51 billion bill to fund the Commerce and Justice departments as well as science agencies in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Republican senators rejected the package, citing a budget deal that spells out how much money is available to spend across all agencies. (6/11)

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