June 6, 2015

Telescope Case Taken up by Hawaii Supreme Court (Source: Hawaii Public Radio)
The Hawai‘i Supreme Court has agreed to hear the ongoing court case involving the Thirty Meter Telescope proposed for Mauna Kea.  Richard Wurdeman, attorney for the Mauna Kea Hui, says this move indicates the court views the issues involved as important for the state. The petitioners, who had requested the transfer, contend that the BLNR permit to proceed with TMT development violated due process.  They claim the project fails to meet the criteria required for conservation land use and allowable mitigation. (6/6)

Former Pro Model Becomes NASA Rocket Scientist (Source: Hoboken Patch)
Fashion-model-turned-rocket-scientist Mary Michelle Easter has a message for other females interested in the STEM arts. You can be “girly” and still be a scientist. The former pro fashion model will be setting off for her dream job working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California this August, capping off a remarkable and inspirational career switch. It’s been a long, strange trip - filled with frequent flyer miles - for the native of Highland, Maryland, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. (6/4)

Now NASA Lets You Go to Pluto Without Leaving Earth (Source: Mashable)
NASA is asking people around the world to post their photos taken at "Pluto Time" in their respective locations (preferably next to a local landmark) on social media using #PlutoTime. Once the space agency's New Horizons probe flies by Pluto and its moons, getting a good view of the distant targets, on July 14, NASA will create a mosaic of the dwarf planet and its satellites using Pluto Time images. The mosaic should be released in August.

New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to get a close-up view of Pluto and its five known moons, and scientists are hoping to learn more about the dwarf planet using data collected by the spacecraft. The probe will then continue on, farther into the solar system, studying other icy targets far from Earth. (6/5)

MarkingTerritory in the Infinite (Source: Peeps Forum)
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion and media attention about the International Flag of Planet Earth. A student project from a Swedish design school that proposes a universal flag that would represent the entirety of planet Earth, the creator, in all likelihood, did not create this project with theoretical interplanetary politics in mind.

That being said, as an anthropologist interested in outer space, I was immediately struck by the implications of taking such a flag off of our planet—further solidifying in my mind the argument that anthropology has a justifiable place in every discipline! Click here. (6/6)

LightSail Goes Silent Again (Source: Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft has gone silent again. The spacecraft failed to communicate on any of a series of passes over ground stations Thursday, a day after it extended its solar arrays. Engineers suspect a battery problem of some kind put the spacecraft into a power-conserving safe mode. Controllers had planned to deploy the spacecraft's solar sail today prior to the battery problem. (6/4)

Russian-Built Satellite Officially Dead after 2014 Launch (Source: Sputnik)
A Russian-built Egyptian remote sensing satellite that experienced problems earlier this year is now considered dead. EgyptSat-2, built by RSC Energia and launched in April 2014, is no longer responding to commands and efforts by Egyptian and Russian engineers to revive it have ended. The Egyptian government is now considering buying imagery from Russian satellites to compensate for the loss of its own satellite. (6/4)

LeoSat Awaits Verdict on Constellation’s Feasibility (Source: Space News)
LeoSat is awaiting the results of a feasibility study of its proposed low Earth orbit satellite constellation. The company said Thales Alenia Space expects to complete the study, which will include a cost estimate, by July. LeoSat's current plans call for a system of 80 satellites, later growing to 120, to provide broadband communications. LeoSat has also hired an investment firm for a "modest" initial funding round to take the company through the design phase. (6/4)

Contract Spending by U.S. Government Dropped by $14B Last Year (Source: Government Executive)
Federal contract spending dropped 3% last year, losing $14.5 billion, according to a recent study by Bloomberg Government. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman were the government's largest contractors for the year. (6/5)

Carter Calls for Another BRAC Round Despite Opposition In Congress (Source: Military.com)
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Thursday that another round of base closures was inevitable despite the repeated rejections by Congress. "It must be done," Carter said of the Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC) process. "It's unpopular, I get it," but "we can't let tail and not tooth eat our budget," Carter said. "I'm in an ongoing argument, essentially, with Congress" over the need for another BRAC round, Carter said. "We're going to keep trying. I think at some point we'll get there" and have authorization to shut down bases.

Another BRAC round thus far has been blocked in the versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2016 now working their way through Congress. Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that the administration would look for other ways to close bases if Congress continued to block a BRAC round. (6/4)

United Arab Emirates to Launch Mars Mission by 2021 (Source: Space.com)
The United Arab Emirates' Space Agency has unveiled its official strategy and operational plan, and it takes bold aim at Mars with a planned robotic mission to the Red Planet by 2021. The UAE Mars probe, called Hope, is slated to launch in time for the 50th anniversary of the UAE and forms a major element of the national space agency's official roadmap, which was unveiled on May 25. (6/5)

Airbus Explores Reusable First Stage (Source: Space News)
Airbus's Adeline — short for Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy — imposes a smaller performance penalty on its rocket than is the case for SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 first stage, all the while reusing 80 percent of the stage’s economic value — the engine, avionics and propulsion bay.

Airbus officials said they believe they have resolved some of the issues inherent in SpaceX’s reusability effort, notably the exposure of the first stage engine to high-speed stresses as it descends through the atmosphere to its landing zone. “This is our way of showing that it’s not just America that knows how to innovate,” Isaac said. “We can innovate here in Europe as well and we want our 140,000 colleagues in the rest of Airbus to know about it.”

The Airbus team concluded that SpaceX’s design of returning the full stage to Earth could be simplified by separating the propulsion bay from the rest of the stage, protecting the motor on reentry and, using the winglets and turbofans, return horizontally to a conventional air strip. But... “Ariane 6 is our absolute top priority,” Auque said. “Adeline comes afterwards.” (6/5)

Falcon 9 Co-Passenger Found for SS/L-built PSN-6 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite builder Space Systems Loral (SSL) and its customer, PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) of Indonesia, have found a companion payload to share the launch of the PSN-6 satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2017. Neither SSL nor PSN would disclose the identity of the payload. One official said it is a U.S. government satellite that would be carried into space attached to the PSN-6 before being released. (6/5)

Babin To Take Over House Space Subcommittee (Source: Space News)
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), a first-term House member whose distrct includes NASA’s Johnson Space Center, will take over as chairman of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee, the committee announced June 5. Babin succeeds Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), who had chaired the subcommittee since 2011. A committee aide said it was because Palazzo joined the House Appropriations Committee in March. (6/5)

Russia Conducts Surprise Soyuz 2-1A Launch Carrying Kobalt-M (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Russia has launched its Soyuz 2-1A rocket in a surprise mission from the Plesetsk cosmodrome at 15:24 UTC. The launch, using a rocket that recently failed during the Progress M-27M mission, was clouded under secrecy due to its payload, the Kobalt-M spy satellite – rumored to be the final film-return photo reconnaissance spacecraft. (6/5)

Stott Retires From NASA (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Astronaut Nicole Passonno Stott, a 27 year veteran with NASA, is retiring from the space agency. Stott flew two space missions to the International Space Station (ISS ) including a long-duration stay on board the orbiting lab. Stott will now be pursuing a career as a full-time artist. She also plans to be an advocate for science, technology, engineering, math and art (STEM/STEAM) education.

Stott says she considers Clearwater, Florida, to be her hometown. She received degrees from both Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Central Florida before joining NASA as an operations engineer in the Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. She serves on the Board of Trustees at Embry-Riddle. (6/5)

NASA Plans LC-39C Pad for Small Launchers (Source: America Space)
Earlier this week NASA announced plans to build a new launch complex for small class launch vehicles at Kennedy Space Center. The new launch pad, Launch Complex-39C (LC-39C), will cater to private businesses looking to develop commercial space capabilities for launching small satellites. The development of this new launch complex adds to the versatility of the transforming space center by providing opportunities to ventures and start-up companies in the small satellite industry.

Located within the fence of Launch Pad 39B, which is currently undergoing renovation and construction to support launching NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the smaller LC-39C will have the capability to support small class launch vehicles that produce thrust under 200,000 lbs. A significant increase in the development of small satellites, and the lack of capabilities to launch them, recognizes the need for an appropriate launch complex. (6/5)

Generation Orbit Gains GOLauncher 2 Commitments, Plans GOLauncher 3 (Source: Via Satellite)
Generation Orbit has 11 Letters of Intent (LOI) from prospective customers for its SmallSat air launch system GOLauncher 2. Currently under development, the two-stage rocket system is designed to carry roughly 40 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for a price tag of about $2.5 million. “We have continued to sign potential customers up to GOLauncher 2 flights through letters of intent,” said John Olds, CEO of Generation Orbit.

The GOLauncher 2 uses a Gulfstream business jet to carry the rocket up into the atmosphere, involving a steep flight angle at the point of release where the rocket does the rest of the work to reach LEO. Part of Generation Orbit’s strategy is pursuing emerging and non-traditional horizontal spaceports instead of traditional launch sites where the company would have to vie for attention against larger vertical rockets.

The company has an agreement with Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, and is currently evaluating other options to increase the number of available launch sites. “We have a strong interest in flying out of one of the new horizontal-launch spaceports emerging in the United Kingdom. There is interest from Puerto Rico and Hawaii too,” said Olds, adding that the company expects to sign at least one more MOU by the end of this year. (6/5)

Editorial: Don't Back Down on Russian Sanctions (Source: New York Times)
Barely five months after the Russian engine ban took effect, the Obama administration is urging Congress to ease it. Such a move would harm American credibility and give the Europeans a reason to ease their own sanctions. It would also embolden President Vladimir Putin, who even now refuses to acknowledge that he is sending troops and weapons to expand the war in Ukraine. (6/5)

Mars Research in Utah Leads to Vast Dinosaur Fossil Find (Source: Mars Society)
The Mars Society learned last week that the dinosaur fossil discovery made by the organization in Lith Canyon during Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 1 in 2002 and amplified by further data gathered from subsequent crews by MDRS Director Shannon Rupert, has, upon investigation by professional paleontologists, now led to one of the largest dinosaur fossil finds in history.

Huge quantities of fossils of Jurassic dinosaurs, including Apatosaurus (aka Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, Allosaurus and many other species have been unearthed in the area. According to Dr. Scott Williams of the Burpee Museum of Natural History, who is leading the dig, the find is "as significant as Dinosaur National Monument." (6/5)

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