June 30, 2015

Where Would You Land Humans on Mars? NASA Seeks Proposals (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA has decided to give science communities a chance to discuss potential landing sites for future crewed missions to Mars. During the Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars to be held Oct. 27-30, 2107 015, NASA will seek proposals for locations where humans could land, live, and work on the Martian surface.

The potential locations, dubbed Exploration Zones (EZ), are a collection of Regions of Interest (ROIs) that are located within approximately 60 miles (100 km) of a centralized landing site. Each EZ needs to offer compelling science research possibilities while also providing resources that astronauts could take advantage of during their stay on Mars. (6/29)

Chinese Ground Station in Argentina is for Peaceful Purposes (Source: Xinhua)
The government of Argentina says that a Chinese ground station being built in the country will be used only for peaceful purposes. The Ministry of Federal Planning denied reports in the country's media that the agreement between Argentina and China regarding the ground station included secret clauses that could allow it to be used for military purposes. The station, they said, will primarily be used to support China's lunar exploration program. (6/30)

Russian Breaks Space Record (Source: Guardian)
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka set a new record for the most time spent in space Monday. Padalka, currently on the ISS, broke Sergei Krikalev’s record of 803 cumulative days in space. Padalka is on his fourth visit to the ISS, plus one earlier trip to the Mir space station, and will have spent 878 days in space by the time he returns to Earth in September. (6/30)

Asteroid Day Raises Threat Awareness (Source: SEN)
Today is "Asteroid Day," an effort to raise awareness about the threats posed by near Earth objects. The event is timed to the anniversary of the 1908 "Tunguska Event" in Siberia, a massive explosion likely caused by a small asteroid impact. Event organizers hope to win more support and funding for search efforts, with a goal of increasing the asteroid discovery rate by a factor of 100. (6/30)

String of Cargo Disasters Puts Pressure on Space Industry (Source: Space Daily)
The global space industry is reeling after three cargo disasters in less than a year have delivered a costly blow to efforts to supply astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday also raised new questions about whether US rockets are safe enough to start launching astronauts to space as planned in 2017. (6/29)

SpaceX's Useful Failure (Source: Bloomberg)
The failure -- the third for a resupply mission in less than a year -- is a blow to the space station's scientific mission. It's yet another challenge to NASA's plans to let private companies handle such launches as it trains its sights deeper into space. And it's a setback to SpaceX’s ambitious plans to deploy reusable rockets.

The recent failures should be recognized as the cost of making progress in spaceflight. New rocket systems fail as often as they succeed. And the string of recent (and unrelated) accidents in supplying the space station -- Orbital Sciences lost a rocket in October, and a Russian mission failed in April -- convey important lessons of their own as the space program ramps up for more ambitious exploration.

Upending things can work wonders in the marketplace. In space, it can all too easily lead to tragedy. SpaceX is learning that lesson. The good news is that SpaceX still has a few years to perfect those rockets before they're scheduled to carry people into the cosmos. (6/29)

Despite Setback, Cecil Spaceport Optimistic About Launches (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
It's a setback, but not a major one. That's the mentality Jacksonville Aviation Authority has regarding last week's veto of $1.5 million for Cecil Spaceport. “It's a setback, but not something that breaks down the spaceport plan,” Michael Stewart, director of external affairs for the JAA, said in a sit-down with the Business Journal.

The most necessary thing for the spaceport to be operational — the taxiway and ramp — has already begun construction and will be completed by the end of August, Stewart said. That works for anyone who wants to temporarily use the facility, including Generation Orbit, which has an agreement to use the spaceport as testing for its horizontal launches.

But the funding requested from the state — which was originally $5 million — would go to designing and building out permanent facilities, including a hangar. They won't have to be built until a permanent tenant is found. In the meantime, Stewart said, the JAA would “retool and go for the full amount” for the next legislative session. (6/30)

Nelson: Budget Cuts Harm Commercial Space Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, said Monday that the failure of the unmanned SpaceX launch on Sunday is not a reason to pull back on commercializing the space program. To the contrary, Nelson said, budget cuts for the commercial crew program – for resupply of the International Space Station and other low orbit missions – will damage the program.

According to NASA’s website on the commercial crew program, SpaceX has received $3.144 billion through the life of the commercial crew programs which started in 2010. The commercial crew program is one of the components for a revitalized space program and more launches in Central Florida.

He said he didn’t think the U.S. should be relying on the Russian Soyuz capsule for launches “at a time when we have such a rocky relationship with Vladimir Putin.” Nelson noted that the House and Senate have both cut more $200 million from the commercial crew appropriations. (6/29)

What Was Lost Aboard Dragon (Source: Florida Today)
In addition to the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, which was set to attempt a landing on an uncrewed barge in the Atlantic; and the uncrewed Dragon cargo capsule, here is what NASA says was lost in the explosion: 366 pounds of ​spacewalk gear, including a spacesuit; a 1,160-pound ​International Docking Adapter to connect future versions of crewed capsules to ISS; 1,490 pounds of crew supplies, including provisions, food and personal packages for the crew members; and 1,016 pounds of ISS vehicle hardware, ranging from life-support and health-care gear to electrical and flight equipment.

Also included were 1,166 pounds of science investigations for the U.S., Europe and Japan and 77 pounds of computer and camera equipment. Among the experiments lost were: 30 student experiments, some of which were replacements for experiments lost in October's explosion of an Antares rocket in Virginia; an experiment that would have studied the composition of meteorites; Veggie, a vegetable-production system; and an investigation by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on combustion. (6/29)

SpaceX Failure Leaves Long List of Customers in the Lurch (Source: Space News)
The June 28 failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is almost certain to deal a blow to the revenue projections of numerous SpaceX commercial customers that had been basing their results on being in orbit this year or early in 2016. Commercial operators whose scheduled launches are now under threat include: SES, Orbcomm, Eutelsat, Iridium Communications, ViaSat, Spacecom, and JSat. (6/29)

The Aftermath of a Launch Failure (Source: Space Review)
On Sunday, SpaceX suffered the first failure of its Falcon 9 rocket in 19 launches, losing a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on what's known about the failure and its implications for the company, the space station, and broader space policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2780/1 to view the article. (6/29)

Untangling the Knot: Fix Congress, Pioneer Space (Source: Space Review)
Developing a coherent, sustainable space policy in the US is made challenging by changing administrations and a Congress often stuck in partisan gridlock. Clark Cohen describes how an alternative approach to congressional representation could end that gridlock and help space policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2779/1 to view the article. (6/29)

Way Out There in The Black: Orbiting Pluto (Source: Space Review)
In just over two weeks, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will speed past Pluto in the first spacecraft reconnaissance of that distant world. Dwayne Day describes an ambitious mission concept from the 1980s to send a nuclear-powered orbiter, with landers, to Pluto. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2778/1 to view the article. (6/29)

McCain: Spurn Russia Rocket Engines Despite SpaceX Failure (Source: Reuters)
The failure of a SpaceX rocket over Florida on Sunday should not lead U.S. officials back to Russia to look for a rocket engine that can get military equipment into space, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said. "This mishap in no way diminishes the urgency of ridding ourselves of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine," McCain said.

The U.S. has placed tough constraints on new deliveries of the Russian-made engines for U.S. military projects, such as launching satellites into space. The move came last year after pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were suspected of getting aid from Moscow. McCain's warning came on the same day that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the U.S. should reconsider its sanctions. "In space, there is no room for politicking," Rogozin wrote on Twitter. (6/29)

Failure Leaves SpaceX Launch Schedule in Tatters (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX on Monday was searching for what destroyed its Falcon 9 rocket after liftoff over the weekend, leaving customers still loyal but unsure when their satellites might fly. SpaceX has nearly 50 launches, worth more than $7 billion, on its schedule.

Current customers include NASA, which uses Falcon 9 and SpaceX Dragon cargo ships to fly supplies to the International Space Station, and about 20 commercial and other satellite operators, many of which have contracts for multiple flights. With prices that are 25 percent to 30 percent less expensive than competitors in Europe and Russia, privately-owned SpaceX has brought the United States back into the commercial launch marketplace. (6/29)

How Tiny Satellites are Invading the Solar System (Source: Discovery)
From the size of a milk crate to the size of a car, NASA’s Mars rovers have gotten bigger and more powerful since the first such landing in 1997. The latest effort, Curiosity, landed at Gale Crater in 2012 and is expected to last the better part of a decade. But its durability and powerful rock-analyzing laboratory came at a price of $2 billion.

Curiosity’s science return so far includes finding extensive evidence of organics and water in its zone, although critics have said its drill is under-used. NASA is now planning a similarly sized rover to leave for Mars in 2020. But is there a way to add more science without overburdening on cost?

As multi-million dollar spacecraft crawl across our solar system, they could bring smaller passengers with them. These tiny vehicles are called CubeSats and they’ve done a great job colonizing low Earth orbit since 2003. (At least one launched that year, from the University of Tokyo, was still operational as of 2014.) Click here. (6/29)

Failure Part of SpaceX Progress (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Falcon 9, which has launched successfully 18 times, is only a first step. Central Florida will be along for the ride. Our economy is still inextricably linked to the space program. Though Musk wants to move a big chunk of his cargo business to a new launch site in Texas, Cape Canaveral will remain the hub of manned space missions.

The goal is 2017. The return of manned missions will, hopefully, also restore more public enthusiasm for the space program. It's not a long shot. Remember how jazzed everyone was just three years ago over the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? (6/29)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Mishap: More Details Emerge (Source: SpaceRef)
If you watch launch video, you can see that first stage continues to function steady and stable even while the front end of the rocket was destroying itself. That in and of itself is impressive. According to SpaceX telemetry received from the Dragon spacecraft showed that it too was functioning after the mishap occurred and telemetry continued to be sent back from Dragon for a significant period of time.

SpaceX now confirms that the U.S. Air Force Range Safety Officer did initiate a destruct command but that this command was sent 70 seconds after the mishap occurred, as a formal matter of process. There was nothing left to destroy at that point. (6/29)

Senate Bill Provides Partial Funding Increase For FAA Commercial Space Office (Source: Space News)
A Senate appropriations bill approved last week provides a modest increase in funding for the federal office that licenses commercial launches, but industry officials argue that the office requires more funding, particularly after the recent SpaceX launch failure.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a transportation and housing and urban development bill June 25 on a 20–10 vote. The bill, which funds the Federal Aviation Administration among other agencies, includes $17.425 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the office that regulates commercial launch activities in the United States.

That funding is a partial victory for the FAA. The office, which received $16.6 million in fiscal year 2015, requested $18.1 million for 2016 in order to hire additional personnel to keep up with what it argued was a growing workload of license application review and oversight of launches. (6/29)

Government Agencies Differ on Use, Usefulness of Cubesats (Source: Space News)
As interest in the use of cubesats continues to grow, U.S. government agencies are taking very different approaches regarding their use, with some openly embracing them as useful scientific tools and others more skeptical about their effectiveness.

A June 22 meeting of an ad hoc committee of the National Research Council (NRC) on the scientific utility of cubesats also revealed different approaches in how agencies manage cubesat development efforts, with some taking a far more decentralized approach than others. Click here. (6/29)

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