June 8, 2015

NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge: The Future in a Shoebox (Source: Space News)
Cubesats, the complete satellite platform that fits in a shoebox, offer unique advantages and interesting opportunities. This satellite platform is measured in millimeters and grams, dollars and cents. I exaggerate but only slightly; procurement and operating costs for cubesats are cheap enough, in fact, to fall within the budgetary scope of many smaller companies, laboratories and university departments across the United States.

A plethora of companies now will happily sell you all of the kit you need to outfit a fully functional nanosatellite at prices that put traditional satellite component manufacturers to shame. The question until now has been what to do with this growing platform. Click here. (6/8)

NASA Spacecraft Detects Impact Glass on Surface of Mars (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.

During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass here on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina. Schultz suggested that similar processes might preserve signs of life on Mars, if they were present at the time of an impact. (6/8)

SpaceX Achieves Pad Abort Milestone Approval by NASA (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has approved a $30 million milestone payment to SpaceX under the agency’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with the company following a recent and successful pad abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Data gathered during the test are critical to understanding the safety and performance of the Crew Dragon spacecraft as the company continues on the path to certification for crew missions to the International Space Station, and helping return the ability to launch astronauts from the United States. (6/8)

SpaceX Records Fall to Earth with a GoPro (Source: WIRED)
When you drop a GoPro from space, two pretty obvious things happen. One is that the camera gradually descends back to Earth, turning and twisting gracefully at first before plunging, screaming, back to our planet. The other is that you get some very nice video footage indeed.

While remembering to focus on the important task of building, landing and supplying Nasa with rockets, Elon Musk's private orbit-explorers SpaceX recently carried out exactly this "experiment". It placed a GoPro inside a fairing on one of its recent Falcon 9 launches -- it has not specified which -- and recorded the fall back to Earth. Click here. (6/8)

3D Printing Just Made Space Travel Cheaper (Source: CNBC)
Companies looking to launch satellites into space typically spend anywhere from $10-50 million per launch but thanks to 3D printing, those costs are set to drop in a big way. For $4.9 million, businesses can use RocketLab to send small satellites into orbit. The firm's engine, called the Rutherford, is powered by an electric motor and is the first oxygen and hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all its primary components.

The New Zealand company is set to begin test flights this year and aims to launch weekly commercial operations next year. "Our 'Electron' launch vehicle is designed with the purpose of liberating the small satellite market. The whole program is predicated on reducing costs and increasing launch frequency, making space more accessible to everyone" CEO Peter Beck said. (6/7)

Jordanian Students Work with NASA to Seek Life on Jupiter’s Moon (Source: wamda)
In Jordan campus violence has indeed become a dangerous phenomenon. A study by the Jordanian Political Science Association said that seven students were killed between 2010 and 2013. So, in a bid to counter this new stereotype, the country’s Crown Prince, Hussein bin Abdullah, launched an initiative last summer, that would see Jordanian engineering students intern at NASA. Four students from four universities in different provinces were selected and got to spend two months with the program. (6/8)

Vulcan Added to Launcher Chart (Source: SPACErePORT)
I have added a version of ULA's Vulcan rocket to my chart of international orbital launch vehicles, operational, in-development, and proposed. I deleted the Liberty rocket, although I'm not totally certain it isn't still alive somewhere within Orbital ATK. I had to estimate the Vulcan's length and LEO lift capability, with some suggestions offered via Reddit. Click here. (6/8)

SpaceX Planning Series Of Experimental Communications Satellites (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is planning to launch a series of experimental low Earth orbit communications satellites starting next year to test technologies for a future low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation the company announced earlier this year.

In a May 29 filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX sought an experimental Ku-band communications license for two spacecraft, named MicroSat-1a and MicroSat-1b, that it plans to launch in 2016 on a Falcon 9. The satellites will operate in near-polar orbits at an altitude of 625 kilometers. (6/5)

House Intelligence Panel Boosts Spy Satellite Funding (Source: Space News)
The U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence increased funding for the country’s spy satellites as part of its annual intelligence authorization bill, which passed June 4. The bill, which is used to authorize funding for intelligence programs, passed by a voice vote. The overall funding recommendation for intelligence programs was about 1 percent below the president’s recommended budget, the release said. (6/8)

Scientists in Europe, China Seek Full Collaboration on Solar Wind Mission (Source: Space News)
European and Chinese space scientists, in what would be their first full-collaboration mission, have recommended that their governments join forces to build a satellite to study the solar wind’s effects on the Earth’s magnetosphere. The Solar Wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer, or SMILE, mission would be launched in 2021 pending final approval late this year by the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (6/5)

AF Secretary Describes Space Flight Milestones, Challenges (Source: Space Daily)
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James outlined the Air Force's contributions to human space flight advancement and discussed projected milestones and investments in space. James delivered the keynote address at the Center for American Progress at an event marking the 50th anniversary of Air Force Maj. Ed White leaving his Gemini 4 spacecraft to become the first American to walk in space. Click here. (6/8)

Ohio Team Wins Manufacturing Tech Consortium for Aerospace (Source: OAI)
The Ohio Aerospace Institute is pleased to announce that it has received a $499,994 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to form a consortium that will leverage public-private partnerships to close technology gaps in advanced manufacturing in the aerospace sector. Team members include RP+M, Lorain County Community College, Alcoa, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies-Aerospace Systems, NASA Glenn Research Center, MAGNET, and the FAA. (6/8)

‘Bullet Hole’ Found in Door of Mauna Kea Observatory (KHON)
Hawaii Island police are investigating a possible shooting at one of the telescopes atop Mauna Kea. Nobody was hurt, but police say there was damage. This comes at a time when native Hawaiians continue to protest against the construction of a giant telescope at Mauna Kea, but protesters say this goes against everything they believe in and would never condone anything like this. (6/8)

Costs Increase for FAA-Required Fire Protection at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America is like a small village isolated in the New Mexico desert. Like any village that is an hour away from emergency response, they need on-site security, firefighting and emergency medical service — especially since this village is known for igniting large amounts of explosives, deals with hazardous materials and is charged with securing millions of dollars of infrastructure and high-tech aerospace vehicles.

The spaceport has those facilities and services available in the form of a contract with Fiore Industries. The emergency and security services are housed in the spaceport and were part of the original building cost included in the initial $218.5 million project. Since then, the spaceport has purchased a $650,000 firefighting truck that is specially equipped to handle several types of fires and respond to incidents involving a wide range of fuels. Also purchased were an ambulance and a brush truck, both in the $100,000 range.

The state now pays Fiore to staff the facility around the clock, seven days a week. The first year Fiore was selected to provide staffing services, 2011, the cost was $500,000. Last year, with activity increasing at the spaceport and additional staff being required to man the post, the cost has risen to $2.2 million. (6/8)

Editorial: NASA Venture-Class Procurement Could Nurture, Ride Small Sat Trend (Source: Mil-Tech)
NASA in recent years has demonstrated a willingness to embrace innovations in the space industry to everyone’s benefit, hosted payloads being one example. The latest case in point is its proposed Venture Class Launch Services procurement, in which the agency is attempting to simultaneously leverage and support the ongoing cubesat revolution.

In a draft request for proposals released May 5, NASA said it is seeking one or two dedicated launches to carry 60 kilograms of U-class spacecraft — more commonly known as cubesats — to low Earth orbit in 2018. No specific mission was identified, but NASA has about 50 scientific cubesats awaiting rides to orbit under its Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program.

As everyone knows, cubesats have become hugely popular and, with the march of technology, are capable of performing ever more demanding missions, including space and Earth science. Typically they are launched as secondary payloads or deployed from ports on the International Space Station, but Garrett Skrobot, director of NASA’s nanosatellite launch program, said cubesats are increasingly being designed for complex science missions that require dedicated launches to specific orbits. (6/8)

Dawn Enters New Orbit Closer to Ceres (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA’s Dawn asteroid explorer has arrived at its new perch 2,700 miles from the dwarf planet Ceres, a vantage point scientists say will yield better views as the probe continues to step closer to the surface. Dawn is now flying about 2,700 miles, or 4,400 kilometers, from Ceres after spiraling closer to the Texas-sized dwarf planet over the last four weeks from an altitude of 8,400 miles. (6/7)

Stratolaunch Dumps Orbital ATK Rocket as Aircraft Encounters Problems (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stratolaunch Systems has quietly dumped Orbital ATK’s rocket from its air-launch system: "As recently as last fall, Beames spoke about a plan to put a human-crewed spacecraft developed by Sierra Nevada on the tip of the Orbital booster rocket. But now that human spaceflight plan is shelved, along with Orbital’s planned rocket."

"Beames said Orbital’s rocket “was not hitting the economic sweet spot to generate revenue,” so Vulcan has reopened the design plan and is “evaluating over 70 different launch vehicle variants.” This shift won’t affect the timetable for flying the carrier plane, he said, but it could mean “maybe a little delay” in the plans to use it to launch spacecraft into orbit. Launching a manned spacecraft will be even further out, “in 10 years,” he said.

Meanwhile, reports out of Mojave indicate that building a twin fuselage aircraft with 385-foot wing span is turning out to be a lot more difficult than engineers thought. Word is they’re experiencing all sorts of problems. (6/7)

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