June 20, 2015

Dear Industry, Time to Leave Ex-Im Behind (Source: Aviation Week)
Everything old is new again in Washington, from threats of sequestration spending caps setting in this fall to shutting down the government due to a lack of fresh appropriations. Like those arguments, another key issue for the aerospace and defense sector that has not been solved but is running up against yet-another artificial deadline is the fate of the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Come June 30, it is clear that – well, actually, it is not clear what will happen, and that is the issue.

The betting money around the nation’s capital these days is that Ex-Im lives to fight another day. Either a short-term extension of the bank’s authorization is tacked on to another unrelated albeit popular bill, like the annual defense authorization measure, and the bank continues to issue new loans and make deals. Or, the bank is not reauthorized but not forced to shut down, either, meaning it would not have to unwind old loans.

It behooves industry, in turn, to begin to look beyond Ex-Im. Like companies that have factored in sequestration, instead of counting on another so-called Ryan-Murray budget compromise, A&D providers like Air Tractor, Boeing and General Electric that have been helped by Ex-Im should genuinely learn to live without, as should their suppliers and partners. (6/19)

Startups Could Hold the Key to Space Travel's Future (Source: PRI)
Sure, NASA’s budgets have been steadily shrinking. But Jim Bell, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, who was also involved in the Mars Rover mission, sees a future in space for a whole lot more of us, thanks to private startups. Click here. (6/19)

NASA Going to Jupiter Moon Europa to Hunt for Water, Keys to Life (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Wednesday marked the first full day of operations for NASA's mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons where scientists suspect there may be water under the surface. Broken down scientifically, NASA plans on sending a satellite to the Jupiter moon some time in the 2020s. The satellite will have enough instrumentation on board to get a better understanding of the Jupiter moon.

Wednesday's milestone marked the move in the mission to a developmental phase called formulation after passing NASA review. NASA's 2016 fiscal budget earmarks $30 million for the formulation phase. NASA announced in May the experiments that would be on board the probe. Click here. (6/20)

Space Florida Trying to Lure More People to Watch Rocket Launches (Source: MyNews13)
The next rocket launch from the Space Coast is a week away, and the state of Florida is pushing more money into the space tourism budget to make sure more people watch the launch in person. The campaign, dubbed "We are go," plays off the phrase that's said just before all rockets blast off. The campaign is part of a $1.5 million budget for space tourism provided by the Florida Legislature.

"We hope to have clocks on billboards around Orlando and elsewhere that reminds people that if you're in Florida — if there's a launch in four days and they hadn’t thought of that — they'll go, 'Hey, let's go over and catch a launch,'" said Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida. Although rockets are unmanned, SpaceX and United Launch alliance are making sure Cape Canaveral's schedule is packed with launches. (6/19)

The Mysterious 'Lakes' on Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: NASA JPL)
Saturn's moon Titan is home to seas and lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, but what forms the depressions on the surface? A new study using data from the joint NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) Cassini mission suggests the moon's surface dissolves in a process that's similar to the creation of sinkholes on Earth.

Apart from Earth, Titan is the only body in the solar system known to possess surface lakes and seas, which have been observed by the Cassini spacecraft. But at Titan's frigid surface temperatures -- roughly minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 180 degrees Celsius) -- liquid methane and ethane, rather than water, dominate Titan's hydrocarbon equivalent of Earth's water. (6/20)

US-Argentine Earth Science Spacecraft Fails in Orbit (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A four-year-old Earth sciences satellite developed by the United States and Argentina has failed in orbit, NASA announced this week. The Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC)-D satellite, built by Argentina and carrying a NASA science instrument called Aquarius, suffered a malfunction of hardware that controls the spacecraft's power and attitude control systems on June 8, and the spacecraft was declared lost June 17.

SAC-D/Aquarius launched in June 2011 on a Delta 2 on a three-year mission to study the salinity of the ocean surface. The spacecraft completed its prime mission last November, but continued to operate and had a five-year design life. (6/20)

NASA’s Space Launch System – the Essential Next Step in Space Exploration (Source: The Hill)
The Obama administration wisely charted two continuing missions for the U.S. space community – deep space discovery and exploration and a pivotal human mission to Mars. Both these missions require major technological leaps, however, including above all a new rocket with the enormous heavy-lift and deep space launch capability required to safely and effectively propel a vehicle further into our solar system than ever before. 

NASA has taken up this call, and is working diligently on the powerful new launcher needed to go further into space called the Space Launch System (SLS) – which will have the highest thrust system and largest payload capacity ever developed.  When complete, SLS will launch more than twice the payload mass and 6 times the payload volume of any other American rocket. It will provide approximately 10 percent more lift than the Saturn V – the only other rocket ever launched able to carry humans beyond the orbit of the earth.

A larger rocket means fewer launches and less risk to our astronauts, since launch is one of the most challenging aspects of any mission.  It also drives down cost by reducing the number of missions needed to get a full complement of mission components into space. The SLS also allows for faster transit times to deep space locations, reducing mission cost and allowing us to do more at our destination. (6/19)

Vega Prime Contractor Avio Expects To Find Strategic Owner This Year (Source: Space News)
The prime contractor for Europe’s Italian-led Vega small-satellite launcher said 2015 will be the year when the company finds a strategic owner and helps settle the broader European space-launch puzzle. Pier Giuliano Lasagni, chief executive of Avio SpA, said that while he could not speak for private-equity investor Cinven, which has been trying to sell its 81-percent Avio stake for more than two years, all the pieces of a transaction appear to be coming into place. (6/19)

Commercial Crew Budget Debate Centers On Program Schedule (Source: Space News)
Despite warnings from NASA that any cuts to commercial crew funding would delay the program, Senate appropriators slashed nearly $350 million from the agency’s request because they believed the program was already suffering delays. The Senate Appropriations Committee provides $900 million for NASA’s commercial crew program. That amount is $344 million below the administration’s original request and $100 million less than what the House approved June 3.

In a report accompanying the bill, appropriators argued that the current round of commercial crew contracts was already suffering delays. A schedule of milestones published by NASA in an April presentation to the NASA Advisory Council showed that some of the milestone dates have shifted for both companies. (6/19)

Air Force Confirms ULA Position on Atlas 5 Production Rights (Source: Space New)
The U.S. Defense Department has told a consortium of three companies, including propulsion provider Aerojet Rocketdyne, that the government does not own the design or production rights to United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, a ruling that would appear to thwart an early effort to add another competitor to the launch business.

In May, the consortium asked the Secretary of Defense about the possibility of obtaining production rights to the rocket, a military workhorse that ULA plans to replace by the end of the decade. In theory, the consortium would use the Aerojet-designed AR1 engine to replace the controversial Russian-made RD-180 engine used on the Atlas 5 today.

But the Defense Department said it did not own the design or production rights for the rocket, nor did it own the intellectual property rights, according to a June 19 statement from Capt. Annmarie Annicelli, an Air Force spokeswoman. Lockheed Martin and ULA say they own different elements of the Atlas 5 design. (6/19)

Equipment Installation Starts at New Russian Spaceport's Command Post (Source: Tass)
Installation of equipment for the carrier rocket prelaunch procedure has started at the command post of the Vostochny cosmodrome. "All the premises for the installation of the support equipment, assembly of the first floor of the command post of the Vostochny cosmodrome have been handed over to specialists of the Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure (TsENKI)." (6/19)

Kepler Data Helping Hone In on ‘Other Earths’ (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Astronomers have used data pulled from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope to find a world about half the size and a tenth of the mass of Earth. Estimated to be roughly the size of the planet Mars, the world called Kepler-138b - is the first exoplanet to be detected using a new method of planetary discovery that yields not only a planet's potential size - but also its mass. This recent discovery also opens the door to finding other terrestrial worlds like our own. (6/20)

National Space Society Video Salutes Arrival of New Horizons Spacecraft (Source: NSS)
On July 14th, NASA's New Horizons mission will make its closest approach to the Pluto system, completing the first reconnaissance of the Solar System, begun over 50 years ago by NASA. With the completion of the Pluto flyby by New Horizons next month, NASA will have completed successful missions to every planet in the Solar System from Mercury to Pluto. Click here. (6/16)

Alien Rights (Source: Aeon)
When we meet aliens, it won’t be a friendly encounter nor a conquest: it will be a gold rush. Can we make sure it’s ethical? A long-distance discovery of alien life, which astronomers are already scanning for, is the most likely contact scenario, since it doesn’t require us going anywhere, or even sending a robot. But its consequences will be purely theoretical. Click here. (6/19)

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