June 25, 2015

Genesis of New Vulcan Rocket Borne of Fierce Commercial, Political Pressures (Source: Universe Today)
Fierce commercial and international political pressures have forced the rapid development of the new Vulcan launcher family recently announced by rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA). Vulcan’s “genesis” and development was borne of multiple unrelenting forces on ULA and is now absolutely essential and critical for its “transformation and survival in a competitive environment” moving forward

“To be successful and survive ULA needs to transform to be more of a competitive company in a competitive environment,” ULA VP George Sowers told Universe Today in a wide ranging interview regarding the rationale and goals of the Vulcan rocket. Click here. (6/24)

McCain Accuses Shelby of Funding Putin in Rocket Engine Spat (Source: Daily Beast)
The senator wants to end U.S. reliance on Russian engines to get to space. Some fellow Republicans claim that’s not technically feasible—an argument McCain’s in no mood to hear. Hundreds of millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars could be spent on Russian rocket engines if a tiny section slipped into the annual defense spending bill is ultimately passed.

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is furious, calling it a benefit to “Vladimir Putin’s cronies”—and accusing a fellow Republican of trying to keep the cash flowing to Moscow. But the reality is there may not be an alternate to the Russian engines—at least not in the short term.

The apparent bid to weaken McCain’s prohibition is being led by the powerful chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, a fellow Republican. “I know why,” McCain said. But he didn’t want to expound on whatever knowledge he might have. Nor did Shelby want to discuss the matter. (6/24)

Inside the Race to Create the Next Generation of Satellite Internet (Source: Quartz)
Is the sky big enough for two multi-billion dollar satellite internet projects? In the next two years, we’ll find out if entrepreneurs driven by human betterment—one looking up at the heavens and humanity’s future, the other looking down to the earth’s neediest—can share a shot at creating the next big space product.

The two contenders, Greg Wyler’s OneWeb and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, both say that within the next three years they will build, launch and operate hundreds, if not thousands, of satellites flying in a low orbit around the earth to provide broadband internet. It’s an ambitious attempt to double the number of satellites orbiting earth—and succeed at a business that tends to break companies. Click here. (6/24)

Shower of the Future Uses Certified Space Technology (Source: Space Foundation)
The Space Foundation's international Space Certification program has added a new technology. Orbital Systems' "Shower of the Future" shares the same water purification technology that NASA uses in space. As one of many components in a larger closed loop system, Orbital Systems has modified and brought forward a new solution that makes the system commercially suitable for Earthly water applications for non-potable use. (6/25)

Bizarre Cometlike Alien Planet Is First of Its Kind (Source: Space.com)
A Neptune-size planet appears to be masquerading as a comet, with a gargantuan stream of gas flowing behind it like a comet's tail. The bizarre find is the first of its kind ever discovered by astronomers. The strange, cometlike planet, known as GJ 436b, is orbiting a red dwarf star and is about 22 times as massive as Earth. Astronomers detected the giant gas cloud around the planet using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. (6/24)

Hawaii Governor Halts Thirty Meter Telescope Construction, Again (Source: Pacific Business News)
Hawaii's governor halted construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope project Wednesday after hundreds of protesters opposed to the $1.4 billion observatory blocked work crews from reaching the construction site at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, resulting in the arrests of 11 people. Gov. David Ige, who said last month that he supported the project, issued a statement through his chief of staff, Mike McCartney, late Wednesday afternoon calling for construction to be placed on hold "until further notice." (6/24)

VC Nolan Using What He Learned at SpaceX at Founders Fund (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Space isn't the only focus of Scott Nolan's investments at Founders Fund, but it has long been a passion for him. He was lucky enough to be the first intern hired at Elon Musk's SpaceX back in its early days in 2003. Click here. (6/24)

Spaceport America Well-Suited for Satellite Ground Stations (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America recently announced a preliminary agreement that is the first step in bringing a commercial satellite ground station to the spaceport. We have excellent connectivity to the fiber optic backbone, we have unimpeded views of the sky, and major signal disruptions caused by extreme weather such as hurricanes are very rare. Ground stations are environmentally friendly, and they provide a steady and dependable source of revenue. Since they rely on satellites, they really are part of the larger space industry.

Furthermore, the ground station industry expects continuing growth, especially in the market segment that uses small antennas at the customer end. X2nSat, Spaceport America's first satellite ground station tenant, concentrates on just that market segment. We see this as a win-win situation and are vigorously pursuing other ground station operators as well. (6/24)

Rep. Bridenstone: NOAA’s Commercial Data Policy (Source: Space News)
Technology is rapidly developing to improve tornado warning times sufficiently to enable zero deaths from tornadoes. As chairman of the House Science environment subcommittee, with the responsibility to conduct oversight of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I am committed to doing everything possible to develop and deploy such technology to save the lives of my constituents. They deserve it and America should expect it.

I am convinced that private-sector weather data can augment current government weather data, assimilate into our numerical weather models and substantially improve our ability to predict severe weather. I am also convinced that a competitive, commercial market for weather data will drive innovation, reduce costs and increase the quantity and quality of data. (6/25)

Russia's Space Industry Needs Over 100,000 Young Engineers by 2025 (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's space industry needs to recruit over 110,000 university graduates in the next decade to revive the sector's fortunes, said a senior United Rocket and Space Corporation official. The lack of young talent pursuing jobs in the space sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, which has seen an increasing number of embarrassing accidents and rocket failures in the past five years.

The acting head of United Rocket and Space Corporation, Yury Vlasov, said in Wednesday's statement that the company was prepared to offer graduates with technical educations interesting and high-paying work in the space industry to achieve the goal of hiring over 110,000 young specialists by 2025.

The state-owned company, which unites most of Russia's space design and production bureaus under its roof, said last year that the number of people employed in the space industry would rise to 200,000 people by 2016. At the height of the Soviet space program in 1989, over 1 million people were employed in the space sector. (6/25)

Suiting Up (MIT Technology Review)
MIT’s Dava Newman says colonists will have to be “extreme athlete explorers”—always ready to hop on a rover, climb down a crevasse, or comb through a crater for potential resources. And such physical tasks would be extremely difficult to carry out while wearing traditional heavy, puffy space suits. Today’s suits, which use gas to create the pressure needed in zero gravity, haven’t evolved much since Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their legendary moonwalk. Click here. (6/24)

NASA Tests a Drone Designed to Automatically Avoid Collisions (Source: Engadget)
Drones would need to incorporate the ability to detect and avoid nearby aircraft to safely fly in civilian airspace. NASA is now testing a modified Predator drone equipped with upgraded sense-and-avoid equipment by flying other aircraft into its path. The drone is designed to issue an alert or swerve to avoid collision. (6/23)

OneWeb Places 'Largest Commercial Launch Order in History' (Source: Space News)
OneWeb announced Thursday a $500 million funding round and a contract with Arianespace and Virgin Galactic for satellite launches. OneWeb said it raised the funding from a group that included Airbus, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Virign Group, and Coca-Cola.

OneWeb said in a statement that it will use the funding to "further key technologies" for its broadband satellite system. OneWeb also said it is placing the largest commercial launch order in history, including 21 Soyuz launches from Arianespace and 39 LauncherOne launches from Virgin Galactic. The Virgin Galactic order also includes options for 100 additional launches. (6/25)

NASA Warns GOP on Cuts to Space Program (Source: The Hill)
GOP-backed legislation pending in Congress would thwart NASA’s push to end U.S. dependence on the Kremlin to send astronauts to the International Space Station, the agency is warning. For years, NASA has relied on Russia to send American astronauts to the station, but the space agency is developing a plan to wean the United States off of that arrangement.

The plan provides for two companies — Boeing and SpaceX — to create vehicles to send Americans to the space station by the end of 2017. However, the House and Senate bills to fund NASA, other science agencies, and the departments of Commerce and Justice would delay that plan, NASA contends.

“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 to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own,” Charles Bolden said. (6/24)

Russia to Centralize Rocket Engine Development (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia is proceeding with plans to centralize the development of rocket engines. Igor Komarov, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said Wednesday that NPO Energomash, best known as the manufacturer of the RD-180 engine, will be merged with other engine companies in the country into a single firm. The consolidation, Komarov said, is intended to result in "the elimination of redundancies and the strengthening of enterprises' horizontal connections." (6/25)

China Law Would Support Peaceful Use of Space (Source: Xinhua)
Space is included in a draft national security law under consideration in China. The law, which received a third reading Wednesday by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, supports the peaceful use of outer space, as well as polar regions and seabeds in international waters. The report did not go into greater detail about the law's space-related provisions. (6/25)

Eumetsat Nations Agree to Fund Next-Generation Polar Satellite System (Source: Eumetsat)
The 30 member nations of Eumetsat agreed to pay for development of the Eumetsat Polar System Second Generation. Members also provided partial support for Jason-CS, the next in a series of ocean science satellites, with members pledging more than 75% of the funds needed for the mission. (6/24)

Deep Space Explorers to Train Underwater in Florida University Habitat (Source: NASA)
NASA will send an international crew to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean this summer to prepare for future deep space missions during the 14-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition slated to begin July 20.

NEEMO 20 will focus on evaluating tools and techniques being tested for future spacewalks on a variety of surfaces and gravity levels ranging from asteroids to the moons of Mars and the Martian surface. The NEEMO crew and two professional habitat technicians will live 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat 6.2 miles (5.4 nautical miles) off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. (6/24)

Meet the U.S. Cities Vying To Be Spacecraft Landing Sites (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Dream Chaser has not made a single flight or carried any cargo into space. Yet space-savvy American cities are already rolling out the aeronautical equivalent of a red carpet, hoping to entice Sierra Nevada to land its spaceplane at their airports. If the engineers say the airport can handle it, the next step would be obtaining an FAA license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation to operate a reentry site.

In March, Ellington Airport in Houston announced it was obtaining an FAA license to land the spaceplane. Last week at the important Paris air show, city officials from Huntsville announced the start of an engineering study to examine whether the spaceplane could set down at their airport. It's going to run them $200,000, a cost that is being eaten by Huntsville, several nearby cities, and the state of Alabama.

Sierra Nevada wants to rent the Dream Chaser to private companies that would test components or run experiments in orbit. And while the spaceplane takes off via a rocket launch in Florida, it can set down on any runway long enough for a 737 to land. (6/24)

Senate Gets Sane with Support for Earth Science (Source: Aviation Week)
It appears that some U.S. senators understand what some of their colleagues in the House of Representatives don’t get—science is facts, not opinions. The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to restore the funds chopped out of NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget request for space-based Earth science by a bunch of ideologues on the House Science Committee. (6/24)

Port Canaveral Rejects Maglev Study (Source: Florida Today)
Port Canaveral commissioners on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposal to allow a company to study the feasibility of introducing a magnetic-levitation train system in and around the port. Georgia-based American Maglev Technology Inc. had proposed doing the study at no charge to the port.

But port commissioners had qualms about focusing on one company, rather than having an independent comprehensive study of options to move cruise passengers and others around the port property and to nearby beaches and hotels. (6/25)

Governor Vetoes Space Walk of Fame Funding (Source: Florida Today)
Charlie Mars, president of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, said he was very disappointed that the governor vetoed a $200,000 funding line that would have meant the preservation of the state's space history. The money would have helped fund operating cost for the next three to five years and extend science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. "We were obviously looking ahead for the future of our museum," he said. "It's mainly the preservation of our space history that he struck down." (6/25)

Florida Institute of Technology Space Funding Gets Veto (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Institute of Technology Vice President for Research Frank Kinney said Florida Tech officials were disappointed Gov. Scott decided to veto $2.5M in funding which would have helped create a new institute there to lead efforts to attract more space-related research. Kinney said Florida Tech would have committed $4.7 million over the next three years to the institute, which would have opened this fall had the governor not vetoed the items. (6/25)

Space Coast Rocket Launch Parties Aim to Promote Space Tourism (Source: Florida Today)
The local tourism community plans to capitalize on social media to tout the Space Coast as continuing to be the place to see rocket launches — and will start having launch-viewing parties around the county. The first such event will be Sunday morning at Space View Park in downtown Titusville, starting an hour before the scheduled 10:21 a.m. launch of the SpaceX rocket. The rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an International Space Station resupply mission.

During the Space View park launch party, there will be giveaways of commemorative T-shirts, sunscreen and other items. Party participants will be asked to promote the launch through messages, photos and video on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #WeAreGoFL. “We’re trying to spread the word that there are still launches from the Space Coast, even without the Space Shuttle program,” said Eric Garvey, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.

The Space Coast Office of Tourism is working with Space Florida on the new space tourism initiative. “Lots of places have great beaches and wonderful nature,” Garvey said. But launches are, “something unique to the Space Coast, and very, very cool.” (6/25)

Intelsat Enters Alliance with OneWeb Low Earth Orbit Venture (Source: SpaceRef)
Intelsat has entered into a commercial agreement with OneWeb, the venture planning to build, deploy and operate a low earth orbit ("LEO") Ku-band satellite constellation. Under the agreement, Intelsat will partner with OneWeb to use OneWeb's LEO platform, once established, to complement Intelsat's geostationary orbit ("GEO") satellite services, resulting in the first and only fully global, pole-to-pole high throughput satellite system. (6/25)

Space Policy and Regulation Becoming Significant Industry Issue (Source: Zawya)
International aerospace and space experts will convene in Abu Dhabi next March at the third Global Aerospace Summit to discuss the rapidly changing shape of space policy and regulation. "As the international space industry continues to grow, questions on space regulation and policy also increase; the Summit will be looking to unearth some of the answers," said Oisin Commane. (6/24)

Bolivia's Chinese-Made Satellite Brings in $16 Million (Source: Xinhua)
Bolivia's Chinese-made Tupac Katari satellite has generated $16 million of income in a little more than a year in orbit. "It's an approximate figure," said director of the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) Ivan Zambrana. "Last year we were close to $10 million and so far this year, we must be around $6 million," said Zambrana.

Bolivia's first satellite, named after a historical figure, was launched on Dec. 20, 2013 from China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, and began operating commercially in April 2014, following a series of tests. Currently, $20 million are earmarked a year to pay the project's debt. (6/24)

Did The Soviets Build A Better Shuttle Than We Did? (Source: Jalopnik)
For some reason, my social media feeds lately have been filled with images of “Russia’s secret space shuttles” that have fallen into ruin. This is a little puzzling, since those shuttles haven’t been ‘secret’ for decades, and they’ve been in terrible condition for over 20 years. But that got me thinking — was it a better Space Shuttle than the American one?

The Soviet space shuttle program came about as a direct response to the U.S. Space Shuttle program, because the Soviets saw the U.S. shuttles as primarily military spacecraft, ones that would eventually be configured to carry nuclear bombs. As a result, the Soviet program was highly military in nature, with all manner of strange and ominous mission plans and Buran variants (even some really odd wingless versions) being developed to create in-space nuclear weapon launchers and military space stations.

What’s the biggest difference there? Look at the rear of the orbiters. You’ll notice that the U.S. shuttles have five total engines at rear — two orbital maneuvering engines (OMS) and three very large main engines, used at launch. The Buran has only the two orbital maneuvering engines, along with a bunch of smaller attitude control thrusters. So, why the difference? The answer has to do with the launch vehicles. The US shuttle uses those three main engines to launch it from the earth into orbit. Click here. (6/24)

World Launch Markets Look Toward Rocket Reusability (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
What was once thought to be a pipe dream of having a reusable system of rocket and rocket components to reduce the overall cost of spaceflight is now gaining significant traction, as SpaceX leads the way toward a fully reusable first stage, while ULA and the European Space Agency move toward reusability to compete in the ever-changing launch market. Click here. (6/24)

11 Arrested as TMT Crews Fail to Get to Mauna Kea Summit (Source: KITV)
Construction crews for the Thirty Meter Telescope advanced roughly 300 yards up Mauna Kea before they were met by protesters Wednesday morning. The TMT crews were crossing onto a portion of the road managed by the state.  That's where Department of Land and Natural Resources officers were waiting to take over the escort.

There were hundreds more protesters lining the mountain in front of them and multiple people were arrested. In total, 11 people were arrested, according to West Hawaii Today.  One protester was arrested by Big Island police and the rest were arrested by DLNR staff. The man arrested by Big Island police was identified as 44-year-old Ulises Consuegra.  Police say he blocked access to construction workers heading to work on the TMT project. (6/24)

Lockheed Martin Can Recoup Cleanup Costs From Rocket Factories (Source: Law360)
A pair of industry groups threw their weight behind Lockheed Martin Corp. in a D.C. Circuit case Monday involving the cleanup of Lockheed's California rocket factories, saying contractors have to be able to recuperate some cleanup costs from the federal government to be competitive. (6/24)

New Mars Colony Mission to be Crowdfunded (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A new international project aiming to establish humans on a Mars colony – will be crowdfunded. The MarsPolar venture, which plans to create the first settlement on the Red Planet around 2029, is hoping it will be able to raise enough money to cover the costs of the pioneering journey. “I hope that we will have enough to contract the rover teams, to start preparing our first mission of sending two rovers to Mars,” said Arteum Goncharov, the co-founder and CEO of MarsPolar. (6/24)

US Rocketeers Take Home Championship (Source: Space Daily)
Seven students from the Russellville City Schools of Russellville, Ala., won first place in the International Rocketry Challenge at the 2015 Paris Air Show on June 19. The U.S. team, sponsored by Raytheon, beat teams from the United Kingdom, who came in second place, and France, who took home third. (6/25)

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