June 13, 2015

National Space Society Opposes Senate Gutting of Commercial Crew Program (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) strongly opposes the Senate Appropriations Committee’s $344 million (27%) cut of the 2015 Commercial Crew budget requested by the Administration. The Senate cuts were $100 million more than those recently passed by the House.

NSS stands with NASA administrator Charles Bolden when he said “By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts into space – and to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.” The two winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX, have been making excellent progress. Both are on track to fly astronauts in 2017 assuming funding is provided. (6/12)

Hawaii Students' Invention Selected for NASA Launch (Source: Hawaii News Now)
An aluminum case holds an interconnection of wires, sensors and receptors, and the hopes of 16 UH community college students. "We're ready for launch," Windward student Cale Mechler said.

Mechler and his fellow students were part of Project Imua. They collaborated on building an ultraviolet spectrometer. NASA will put the payload on a rocket and send it 100 miles into space. The device will measure the intensity of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. (6/12)

Texas Congressmen Should Flex Muscles to Put NASA on Proper Course (Source: Houston Chronicle)
After several years of being lost in space as far as Washington was concerned, the Johnson Space Center may be emerging from its discouraging eclipse. Its unlikely ally, as the Chronicle's Eric Berger reported on Friday, is a tea-party Republican dentist from Woodville who's just taken over as chairman of the influential House subcommittee on space. (6/12)

Internet by Satellite Is a Space Race With No Winners (Source: WIRED)
Extreme latency—the gap in time between a satellite receiving a request and responding—is a problem for space-based Internet, making it impractical for real-time or near real-time applications. Both Musk and Wyler plan to eliminate that latency by placing their satellites in low Earth orbit. The catch is the signal from those lower-altitude satellites won’t be able to cover as much of the planet.

That means the companies will have to launch far more satellites to make up for the difference. Wyler told Business Week earlier this year that OneWeb plans to build a network of around 700 satellites to blanket the earth. Musk, on the other hand, told the magazine SpaceX is planning a network of 4,000 or so. The real trouble with these plans is that they could be astronomically expensive.

Controlling costs is especially important since SpaceX and OneWeb will be going after people in developing countries. That means everything from the subscription cost to the satellite dishes must be cheap. Plus, both fiber optic internet connections and wireless mobile data plans are spreading rapidly throughout the world. It could end up being far cheaper to connect these billions of unserved people with an old-fashioned wire. (6/12)

Astronauts Invade Seattle: Spacesuited Art Statues for Museum (Source: CollectSpace)
Some two dozen astronauts are landing under Seattle's Space Needle and if you can snap a selfie with one or more of them, you could win your own ticket to fly. The Museum of Flight on Friday (June 12) launched its "Astronauts on the Town" public art program by beginning to place 25 six-foot-tall spacesuit-clad statues around the "Jet City."

"Prepare for an astronaut invasion!" the museum declared on its art project's website. "You may have started to see fiberglass giants emerging from the museum's shadows. As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, the museum is launching... 'Astronauts on the Town.'"

Similar to other art installations that have featured painted cows, sports team mascots and even space shuttles, The Museum of Flight's "Astronauts on the Town" showcases suited statues decorated by local artists and presented in locations and businesses in the surrounding area. (6/13)

Meet the Tea Party Congressman Leading the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Fusion)
As a kid growing up in Houston, John Culberson wanted to be an astronaut. But he had “flat feet, bad eyes, and I was no math whiz,” as he puts it, and so he went into politics instead.

Now, as a conservative Republican congressman and the chair of the House subcommittee responsible for funding NASA, Culberson is getting a second chance to plot the course of the nation’s space policy. And his fixation on finding life in space could reshape NASA’s priorities.

Culberson has dramatically increased funding for NASA’s mission to Europa, the Jupiter moon that experts believe could support extraterrestrial life. Last week, he passed a budget through the House that funded $140 million for the plan, more than four times what President Obama requested, while cutting funding for other NASA projects. (6/13)

NASA is Starting to Upload 4K, 60fps Videos to YouTube (Source: The Verge)
The vast beauty of space is about to look even more beautiful on your computer screen. Starting today, NASA will offer "4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD)" videos on YouTube, taking advantage of the site's relatively new ability to serve up 4K videos at a super smooth frame rate of 60 frames-per-second.

The first UHD video, seen above, is a (frustratingly) short tease of the beautiful moving images that are sure to come. It was posted to one of NASA's YouTube accounts, ReelNASA, which is a home for much of the International Space Station's video content. (6/12)

Smallsat Developers Enjoy Growth In Launch Options (Source: Space News)
After struggling for years to hitch rides to orbit, companies and organizations developing small satellites now say it’s easier for them to pick and choose from a growing number of launch options. That growth in launch options, including both the development of new dedicated smallsat launch vehicles and increased availability of secondary payloads on larger launch vehicles, is helping companies with plans to launch constellations of hundreds of satellites in the next several years. Click here. (6/12)

NASA Issues Request for Proposals for New Class of Launch Services (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Launch Services Program has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for new commercial Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) for small satellites, often called CubeSats or nanosatellites, and experiments on science missions using a class of rockets smaller than any currently available to the agency.

NASA plans to award one or more firm fixed-price VCLS contracts to accommodate 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of CubeSats in a single launch or two launches carrying 66 pounds (30 kilograms) each. The launch provider will determine the launch location and date, but the launch must occur by April 15, 2018. (6/12)

At present, launch opportunities for small satellites and science missions are primarily limited to ride-share type arrangements, flying only when space is available on NASA and other launches. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) seeks to develop alternatives to this approach and help foster other launch services dedicated to transporting smaller payloads into orbit. The services acquired through such a contract will constitute the smallest class of launch services used by NASA.

Huntsville Leaders to Make Announcement About Sierra Nevada, Dream Chaser (Source: WAFF)
The city of Huntsville is expected to hold a news conference Monday morning to announce news regarding Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spacecraft.The news is also related to the Huntsville International Airport. The announcement will be come at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. According to a news release, city leaders and other stakeholders will be there to discuss the details of the announcement.

Editor's Note: My guess is that they'll announce Huntsville's airport as a potential landing site for Dream Chaser, as was done for Ellington Field near Houston. (6/12)

'Astronaut Wives Club' Fails to Achieve a High Orbit (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
When a network delays the launch of a series, it's often a flashing warning light indicating big problems. Sometimes, with judicious tinkering and a few design modifications, the problems get fixed and the new prime-time vehicle takes off like, well, a rocket.

More often, you get a mess like ABC's adaptation of Lily Koppel's best-selling book, "The Astronaut Wives Club." A long time getting to the launch pad, writer-producer Stephanie Savage's much-anticipated series was announced for the 2013-14 television season. It got pushed back.

Then it was expected to air last summer. It got pushed back. Then speculation was that it would surface during the 2014-15 regular season (September to May). OK, you get the idea. Those aren't just signs of trouble. Time to cue the "Lost in Space" robot: "Danger! Danger!" (6/12)

Satellite Companies Keen To Avoid a SpaceX, Arianespace in Duopoly (Source: Space News)
Peter B. de Selding, Paris — Two of the three largest commercial satellite fleet operators on June 12 said they would do what it takes to assure that a third viable rocket remains in the business to compete with SpaceX and Arianespace.

Karim Michel Sabbagh, chief executive of Luxembourg-based SES, and Michel de Rosen, chief executive of Paris-based Eutelsat, agreed that a duopoly between Arianespace and SpaceX was not viable. “We will go the whole nine yards ­— the full distance — to make it work,” Sabbagh said of the effort to add a third launcher into the regular commercial rotation. (6/12)

Cubesats Heading to Mars on NASA Mission (Source: Space News)
Two tiny cubesats, the first NASA plans to send to another planet, will keep watch on the agency’s InSight mission as it descends to the Martian surface in September 2016, an agency official said June 9.

The Mars Cube One (MarCO) satellites are 6U cubesats, meaning each is built from six standard cubesat modules that measure 10 centimeters on a side and weigh just over 1 kilogram each. MarCO will be NASA’s first interplanetary cubesats, according to the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which is building the spacecraft. (6/12)

Moon Settlers Could Have Access to Water (Source: Big Think)
Before we went to the moon, we looked at it in awe. After we went to the moon, we thought about how to inhabit it. Now, we are quite adamantly looking for ways to survive on it. According to new calculations, future lunar colonists need to worry about one less thing: their water supply.

As sunlight hits the surface of the moon, frozen water molecules from the surface warm up and evaporate. The water vapour then cools and condenses into a frost. It is this frost that could lead to a steady supply of drinking water. The problem, up till now, was that this water was either buried beneath the surface or located in the moon's cold, dark craters.

NASA scientist, Tim Livengood, and his colleagues are suggesting that there are simpler ways to harvest the moon's water; simply set up solar distilleries, which are clear plastic domes that can be placed over parts of the lunar surface to capture water vapour and provide a solid surface for it to condense on. (6/12)

Bill Would Create Coin to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 (Source: Rep. Posey)
U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL) John Culberson (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX) and Rod Blum (R-IA) introduced legislation to recognize and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a Commemorative Coin. July 20, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission moon landing.

The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin would celebrate not only the innovative spirit and resolve that defined the Apollo program but also the estimated 400,000 Americans across the country who contributed to its extraordinary success.

Proceeds from the coin will support college scholarships for students pursuing science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees, educational initiatives that promote space exploration, the Astronauts Memorial that honors the astronauts whom have fallen in the line of duty, and the National Air and Space Museum’s new “Destination Moon” exhibit– all at no cost to taxpayers. (6/11)

Space Center Houston Taps Lamm for Newly Created Position (Source: Space Center Houston)
Space Center Houston adds Tracy L. Lamm to the newly created position of chief operating officer in the midst of great growth for the nonprofit museum and education foundation. “Tracy brings a wealth of experience in business operations and executing long-range business plans,” said Richard Allen Jr., president and CEO of the nonprofit. “He will play a key role in ensuring program growth and leading operational excellence at Space Center Houston.” (6/11)

Senate Panel Passes $576 Billion Defense Spending Bill (Source: The Hill)
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 27-3 on Thursday to pass a $575.9 billion defense spending bill, setting the stage for a fight over budget caps. Only three Democrats voted against the bill, but Democratic leaders say they will block the bill when it hits the floor next week.  "Democrats will vote against the motion to proceed ... not because we want to be pugnacious ... but because we want to end sequester," said the committee's top Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Democrats object to the bill, since it keeps in place sequester budget limits but skirts those caps on defense by boosting a Pentagon war fund. Democrats are pressing Republicans to lift the caps for nondefense spending as well and say they will block consideration of all spending bills until GOP leaders agree to a budget summit. (6/11)

SpaceX’s New Hangar at KSC Takes Shape (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX released a new photo showing the progress the company is making on an assembly hangar at Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A. The company says the building will be big enough to house five Falcon rockets at once. The launch pad is being outfitted for missions by the Falcon Heavy and for Commercial Crew flights using the Falcon 9 rocket launching Crew Dragons to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts on board. Click here. (6/12)

Complex Terrain Of Pluto Gets Clearer In New Horizons' Pics (Source: Forbes)
The surface of Pluto is coming into focus as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gets closer to its flyby next month. A series of new pics snapped by the probe’s onboard Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at the end of May and start of June show that Pluto’s has a complex terrain, with very bright and very dark areas as well as grades in between. (6/12)

DISA Likely To Lose Commercial Satcom Role to Air Force SMC (Source: Breaking Defense)
Who buys the bandwidth? Today the military has two separate, unequal, and inefficient systems for acquiring communications. But Congress is pushing hard to consolidate — probably at the expense of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

“I have been in situations where we needed to have SATCOM [satellite communications] and we didn’t have the right terminal for the right satellite… because the architecture is not integrated between commercial and military,” Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot, said this morning at the Capitol Hill Club. That’s more than inefficient: It’s a potential battle-loser. (6/12)

'Time Traveling' at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A Travel Channel show will be exploring the past, present and future of Kennedy Space Center during an episode airing Monday night. Travel Channel’s new series “Time Traveling with Brian Unger” is focusing on KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which the series declares is "where the Space Race was won." (6/12)

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