June 2, 2015

World's Most Important Spaceport [Baikonur] Turns 60 (Source: The Diplomat)
The Baikonur Cosmodrome, which sits on the Kazakh steppe, costs Russia $115 million each year to lease. Built by the Soviets, and inherited by virtue of geography by Kazakhstan, Baikonur is one of the most important space launch facilities in the world. This week, it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Although the decree establishing the cosmodrome was issued by the Soviet government in February 1955, the still-operating facility marks June 2 as its official anniversary. The complex  was originally used as a test site for the R-7, the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Although the R-7 never saw operational use, a modification of the missile was used as the launch vehicle that delivered Sputnik, the first artificial satellite and the starting flare in the Cold War space race, into orbit in 1957. (6/2)

Kazakh Space Agency Says Baikonur Cosmodrome Restructuring Needed (Source: Tass)
The Baikonur cosmodrome may need restructuring for its preservation, Deputy Chairman of the Aerospace Committee (Kazcosmos) of the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan Meirbek Moldabekov said. After Russia puts into operation its Far Eastern Vostochny cosmodrome, he said, "Russia's participation in the activities of the Baikonur cosmodrome will decrease significantly."

"All federal launches will be carried out from Vostochny, so Baikonur can only rely on Kazakh satellite launches and commercial launches. The latter can only take place if Kazakhstan with its strategic partners invests in the Baikonur cosmodrome with a view to maintaining competitive world market prices for launches," said the deputy head of Kazcosmos. (6/1)

Russia’s Participation in Baiterek Launch Complex Creation is Decisive — Kazcosmos (Source: Tass)
Kazakhstan is ready to continue the implementation of the project for the creation of the Baiterek space rocket complex and its further financing even with increases costs, Deputy Chairman of the Aerospace Committee (Kazcosmos) of the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan Meirbek Moldabekov said. However, he said, it is possible only on the condition of the "preservation of the status of the joint project and the Russian side’s participation in it on a parity basis."

"We are currently in negotiations with Roscosmos (Russia’s Federal Space Agency) on these two key issues. We expect to hear Roscosmos’ official position tentatively in the first half of June," Moldabekov said. Referring to the change in the project cost, he said that it is currently "impossible" to specify the sum. (6/1)

Johnson Space Center to Consolidate Campus (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Kirk Shireman, deputy director of the Johnson Space Center, to discuss how the campus is evolving as space travel becomes an industry for private, as well as public, entities. It's a changing landscape for NASA, which is part of the reason why we'll start to see the Johnson Space Center consolidate some of its buildings in the coming years, Shireman said.

"That's the trend of the future. … We're eventually going to tear down seven other buildings," Shireman said. The consolidation is part of a full facilities plan to refurbish or rebuild outdated facilities on the sprawling campus in southeast Houston. One of the projects, which is out for procurement right now, is a new human health and performance facility. (6/2)

What the Commercialization of Space Travel Means for JSC (Source: Houston Business Journal)
The commercialization of space travel has been a hot topic over the past several years, and NASA's Johnson Space Center will have a significant role in it. JSC provides mission support and training for astronauts, and will continue to play a role in space research in the future. While no flights will take off out of JSC come 2017, when the U.S. will start launching astronauts to the International Space Station, it's still a big milestone for the program.

JSC is one of the Galveston and Bay Area's largest employers, and that likely won't change, Shireman said. Despite about a $1.5 billion decrease in JSC's budget since 2010, JSC's employment count will stay about the same going forward, Shireman said. All of the commercial space travel could conceivably make one of Houston's most storied industries one of its most profitable. It's part of the reason why a new space conference based on commerce will come to Houston in November. (6/1)

UH Ready to Move Quickly on Ige’s Mauna Kea Proposals (Source: Honolulu Civil Beat)
The University of Hawaii appeared ready on Monday to move quickly in implementing virtually all of the changes called for last week by Gov. David Ige in management of its activities on Mauna Kea, where Native Hawaiian protestors have sought for weeks to block further work on the Thirty Meter Telescope project.

University leaders apologized in a statement released Monday morning for not fully meeting their obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community. UH President David Lassner and UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney said managing all the moving parts in the governor’s proposal will be challenging, as “each has a life of its own.” But they also made clear they appreciate the urgency behind the governor’s words.

The university pledged to restart its environmental impact statement process for the lease renewal and modify its extension request to be “substantially” less than 65 years. Lassner said talks with the Department of Land and Natural Resources will begin this week on relinquishing control of land the university is not using for astronomy. The current lease covers more than 11,200 acres, only 525 of which are devoted to the astronomy precinct at the summit, with additional acreage supporting a visitor center and roadway. (6/2)

NASA Delays Approval on Space Station Projects (Source: Space Daily)
The United States has spent almost $43 billion to develop, assemble and operate the ISS over the past two decades, the GAO said. "The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has not been able to fulfill its responsibility in the cooperative agreement to interact with the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee," the report read on Wednesday.

Staffing its representation on CASIS is required by the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. CASIS, which manages the ISS National Laboratory, has evaluated 206 proposals and awarded $20 million in grants to 77 research projects through January 2015, the GAO said.

The GAO noted that NASA's refusal to staff the committee had prevented CASIS from reviewing "any report or recommendations" submitted to the program. By contrast, the GAO said CASIS has "taken steps to fulfill its management responsibilities contained in its cooperative agreement with... NASA." (5/31)

Canada Invests $13.1 Million in Technology Development Projects (Source: SpaceRef)
Recently, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario) announced at the headquarters of COM DEV International that the government had selected 22 companies and 38 research and development projects to fund as part of the Canadian Space Agency's Space Technology Development Program. (6/1)

Ottawa to Make New Funding Pledge to ISS as Canadian Astronauts Set to Fly (Source: Globe & Mail)
Two more Canadian astronauts are headed into space, the government will announce on Tuesday as it commits about $350-million to the International Space Station to secure a continued presence in the orbiting research laboratory. This pledge will ensure that both Lieutenant-Colonel Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques, the two Canadians training as astronauts, can make the trip to the station, which circles the Earth at an altitude of about 400 kilometers. (6/1)

RD-181 Engines Prepared for Shipment to U.S. for Antares (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The first pair of RD-181 rocket engines set to launch on Orbital ATK’s redesigned Antares rocket are in the final stages of acceptance testing in Russia ahead of their export to the United States in early July, officials said. The RD-181 engine completed its certification program May 7 with the last of seven hotfire tests in Russia, according to NPO Energomash of Khimki, Russia, the engine’s manufacturer. (6/1)

NASA Langley Takes On Regional Economic Development (Source: Daily Press)
NASA Langley Research Center is taking an active role in regional economic development, searching for opportunities to solve technological problems for businesses. "This region has so much potential," Christina Moats-Xavier, NASA Langley's lead for regional economic development, told attendees of the Virginia Aerospace Business Association's Technology Days in May. "We want to be an important part of the growth. We want to contribute what we have." (6/2)

The Rise and Fall of Giant Balloons on the Edge of Space (Source: The Conversation)
The giant balloon brought down on a cattle station in remote south-west Queensland in April was part of a NASA mission to test the feasibility of using specialised balloons flown in the stratosphere for scientific research.

While this mission ended in misadventure, these super-pressure balloons have a number of advantages over conventional Earth-orbiting satellites. For one, they are capable of remaining afloat above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere for periods of up to six months. They thus provide a vehicle for carrying instruments, mainly in the field of astronomy and astrophysics. And they can do this at a small fraction of the cost of placing such instruments on satellites. (6/2)

Florida and Virginia Push for Commercial Launch Insurance Reform (Source: Space News)
Florida and Virginia, ordinarily competitors for space business, have become allies in a little-heralded legislative push to better protect state-operated spaceports from catastrophic events such as launch failures. The initiative appears to have been motivated, at least in part, by the October explosion of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket that damaged state-owned property at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore.

Language tucked into the U.S. House-passed Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2262), a commercial space bill approved in a May 21 floor vote, urges state spaceports to “seek to take proper measures to secure their investments and the safety of third parties from potential damages that could be suffered from commercial launch activities.”

Couched softly in a Sense of Congress clause that is not legally binding, the directive could motivate launch providers to include state-owned property in federally mandated insurance policies they must carry for commercial launches regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, spaceport officials from Florida and Virginia say. (6/2)

Beachcomber Finds SpaceX Rocket Wreckage in Bahamas (Source: Space News)
On May 29, Twitter user Kevin Eichelberger scored what will probably go down as the find of his beach-combing career: the briny, barnacle-encrusted wreckage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Eichelberger, who according to his Twitter bio runs a Charleston, South Carolina-based e-commerce company called Blue Acorn, said he’d mail whatever hardware he could pry off the wreckage back to SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California. (6/2)

What's Up With These Weird Blue Patches on Mars? (Source: Mashable)
The red planet seems like it's turning blue. A European probe in orbit around Mars just photographed two deep blue patches on the Martian surface, but while they might look like lakes to the untrained eye, don't be deceived. The spots are actually layers of dark, volcanic rock that appear blue in the photo taken by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Click here. (6/1)

Senate Bill Puts Hold on Weather Sat Launch, Tightens Screws on ULA (Source: Space News)
A newly drafted Senate defense bill would bar the U.S. Air Force from launching the last of its legacy weather satellites pending assurances that the mission is necessary and would direct the service to discontinue certain payments to its primary launch provider that critics have branded as a subsidy.

The Air Force recently said it intended to proceed with the DMSP F20 launch despite the recommendation by an internal study, completed this past fall, against doing so. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the polar-orbit satellite, built in the 1990s, is needed to help plug a looming gap in weather coverage.

The use of Russian engines to launch such satellites was banned by the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015, but how that ban will affect the upcoming competitive phases of the Air Force’s Expendable Launch Vehicle program remains an open question. (6/1)

Diamonds are Forever (Source: Space Review)
The most recent International Space Development Conference, like many of its predecessors, held sessions on space based solar power. Yet, as Dwayne Day notes, there's been little progress in the field in recent years, and no sign that this long-term dream of space advocates is close to becoming reality. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2764/1 to view the article. (6/1)

What Price Europa? (Source: Space Review)
Last week NASA announced the instruments it plans to fly on a future mission to Europa, while the House of Representatives is expected to approve a bill this week that would sharply increase funding for the mission. Jeff Foust reports, though, that as proponents attempt to make the mission more ambitious, they could also make it a target in future budget debates. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2763/1 to view the article. (6/1)

The Moon and Mars: a Flawed Article's False Choice (Source: Space Review)
A recent essay argued for going to the Moon now because of the considerable challenges of sending humans to Mars. David Whitfield critiques the article and argues that there are ways to accomplish human missions to both worlds. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2762/1 to view the article. (6/1)

NASA Awards Wallops Island Fire Station Construction Project (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has awarded a contract to Facility Support Services, LLC of Richmond, Virginia, for the Wallops Island Fire Station construction project. This work will be performed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia. (6/1)

Jim Rose Passes Away (Source: NASA Watch)
James Turner Rose, 1935-2015, known throughout the space community to have been an early pioneer of space as a place for commercial pursuits, Jim Rose was among the first to develop a business proposition that involved capturing the advantages of microgravity. James T. Rose, long-time member of Florida's space community, passed away on Sunday, May 24, with his beloved wife, Daniele, at his side. Jim lost his battle with cancer and passed from this life surrounded by his wife and dear friends, Nancy, Curtis, Ian, Kathryn, and Sabrina Bree. (6/1)

NASA Tests Aircraft Wing Coatings that Slough Bug Guts (Source: SpaceRef)
Bug guts create drag, and drag increases fuel consumption. But aircraft of the future could be made more fuel-efficient with non-stick coatings NASA recently tested on Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 757. NASA and Boeing engineers spent about two weeks in Shreveport, Louisiana, testing non-stick wing coatings designed to shed insect residue and help reduce aircraft fuel consumption.

Researchers with the Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project assessed how well five different coatings worked to prevent insect remains from sticking to the leading edge of the airplane's right wing. Most insects fly relatively close to the ground. So, to test the coatings, the 757 made 15 flights from the Shreveport Regional Airport that each included several takeoffs and landings. Shreveport was chosen in part because of its significant bug population. (6/1)

An Abrupt Departure for Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO (Source: Space News)
Scott Seymour, president and chief executive of Aerojet Rocketdyne, abruptly retired from the company June 1 and has been replaced by an executive who joined the company only three months ago. Neither the 64-year-old Seymour nor the company offered an explanation for his sudden retirement, announced by the company June 1.

Replacing Seymour as president and chief executive is Eileen Drake, who joined the company as its chief operating officer in early March. Drake, a former U.S. Army aviator, previously worked for more than a decade at United Technologies Corp., including serving as president of a Pratt & Whitney AeroPower. (6/1)

Will NewSat’s Failure Dim Ex-Im’s Appetite for Satellite Deals? (Source: Space News)
Satellite operators on June 1 expressed concern that the U.S. Export-Import Bank and France’s Coface, the world’s two most-active export agencies (ECAs) in funding satellite projects, might reduce their support for the industry in light of the failure of start-up satellite operator NewSat of Australia.

But these operators were far from unanimous about whether the failure, in which the Ex-Im Bank has definitively lost well over $100 million, would have a long-term chilling effect on ECA financing for satellite projects. (6/1)

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