June 9, 2015

Facebook Scraps Satellite Plans (Source: Business Insider)
Facebook has scrapped plans for a broadband Internet satellite, even before those plans were formally announced. Facebook abandoned plans to develop a broadband satellite in geostationary orbit that would have provided Internet access to underserved regions of the world, like Africa. Cost estimates of the system ranged from $500 million to $1 billion, but the reports did not disclose what was included in those estimates. Facebook may instead lease capacity on other satellites should it seek a space-based approach to its Internet access plans. (6/9)

ISS Dodges Space Debris (Source: NASA)
The International Space Station dodged a piece of space debris Monday. The station shifted its orbit slightly, using thrusters on a Progress spacecraft docked to the station, to avoid a possible conjunction with a Minotaur upper stage left in orbit from a 2013 launch. The stage was projected to come within five kilometers of the station prior to the maneuver. That maneuver does not change plans for Thursday's departure of three ISS crew members on a Soyuz. (6/9)

China to Track Space Debris (Source: Xinhua)
China opened a center Monday to track orbital debris. The center, run by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will use data from Chinese facilities as well as "surveillance data from both home and abroad" to track debris and monitor any threats to Chinese spacecraft. Officials said they have recorded an average of 30 close calls a year, where debris came within 100 meters of Chinese spacecraft. (6/9)

Florida Legislators Split on Incentives, Fight Could Keep Gov. from Paris Air Show (Source: Miami Herald)
Governor Rick Scott's planned trip to the Paris Air Show to recruit aerospace companies to Florida could be canceled as he works to push an increase in incentive funding through a contentious Special Session of the Florida Legislature. Scott wanted $85 million in job incentive money next year for Enterprise Florida even though it already has $86 million in escrow set aside for unfinished deals.

The Senate offered Enterprise Florida $30 million next year and the House abruptly raised its ante from $25 million to $39 million Monday. Enterprise Florida received $66.5 million this year for incentive deals. A Senate analysis shows it spent $9 million through Sunday, but EF's Bill Johnson said $42 million is committed to firms and will be paid after they meet performance criteria of jobs and capital investment.

The Senate analysis showed Enterprise Florida spent $18 million of $98 million budgeted for incentives in fiscal 2014, and $19 million of $156 million in fiscal 2013. Enterprise Florida’s Quick Action Closing Fund is by far the largest of eight incentive programs and the most secretive, with the state approving confidential multimillion dollar grants to companies that agree to relocate to Florida, expand or retain jobs. (6/8)

Planning the Proving Ground of Cislunar Space (Source: Space Review)
NASA is clear about its long-term goal of human spaceflight -- sending humans to Mars -- but has been vague about the next steps beyond low Earth orbit to achieve that goal. Jeff Foust reports how NASA, working with companies and potential international partners, is starting to look at a series of missions in cislunar space in the 2020s as those next steps. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2768/1 to view the article. (6/8)

How Military Space Programs Need to Deal with Change (Source: Space Review)
America's lead in military space capabilities is threatened by a number of internal and external factors. Tom Taverney discusses what those factors are and what the US needs to do to overcome them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2767/1 to view the article. (6/8)

How Much Money Would it Take to Launch Enterprise Into Space? (Source: Space Review)
Estimates of the cost of a NASA Mars mission for six astronauts are north of $100 billion. Sam Dinkin wonders how this cost estimate would change if reusable rocket launches cost what SpaceX predicts they will. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2766/1 to view the article. (6/8)

SpaceX Wants to Fill Wetlands at Texas Spaceport Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
After the public comment period ended Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now will decide whether to grant a permit modification to SpaceX , which has requested permission to fill in an additional 2.13 acres of wetland in order to build a commercial space launch facility at Boca Chica Beach.

USACE issued a permit last September for the placement of 3.3 acres of fill material at the SpaceX site, located in tidal wetlands where State Highway 4 meets the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 18 miles east of Brownsville. SpaceX held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the project site of the project in September. If USACE approves the requested permit modification, 5.43 acres of “special aquatic site,” rather than 3.3 acres, would be directly impacted. (6/9)

Space-Training Company Awaits Congressional Decision (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The future is up in the air for a small commercial space company here unless Congress gives it permission to resume private-astronaut training operations. Starfighters is one of the small space-technology spinoff companies NASA has in mind when its top officials talk about converting Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. Starfighters operates a fleet of former military F-104 jets from a hangar at the shuttle landing facility.

"We were brought out here specifically to help in the development of the commercial space industry," said Starfighters President Rick Svetkoff. "We are literally ready to fly, as we speak." But the company's seven operational aircraft, purchased from the U.S., Jordanian and Italian militaries, don't have FAA approval for commercial passengers and are technically considered experimental aircraft.

Starfighters received a "letter of deviation authority" from the Orlando FAA office, allowing the company to fly paying customers. But in 2011 the FAA in Washington revoked it, saying the agency did not have authority to allow such flights. Now Starfighters is one of the commercial space companies waiting to see what Congress does in the next couple of weeks with a bill to reauthorize the Commercial Space Act. Click here. (6/9)

Garvey Picks Alaska Microsatellite Launches (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Garvey Spacecraft Corp. has selected the Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Pacific Spaceport Complex–Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island as host range for the next phase of the company’s Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) flight test program. Initial efforts will be conducted through a recently awarded NASA Small Business Technology Transfer project in which GSC is teamed with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The NLV is a small launch vehicle focused on providing launches for commercial space companies. According to GSC’s program manager Chris Bostwick, the company has focused on the Kodiak facility in part because “…its location enables routine access to polar orbit – a capability that is not commonly available with existing launch options for the emerging cubesat and nanosat markets.”

Editor's Note: Alaska recently offered some generous incentives for launch companies to use their spaceport. Of course, the site is suited mainly for high-inclination/polar orbits or suborbital missions. (6/9

NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Mars Test Partially Succeeds (Source: USA Today)
NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project completed its second flight test Monday when the saucer-shaped craft splashed down safely off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The decelerator, a flying-saucer shaped craft designed to slow spacecraft in thin atmospheres like on asteroids and on Mars, launched at 1:45 p.m. ET from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility using a large scientific balloon.

After it was carried to an altitude of nearly 120,000 feet, the test vehicle separated from the balloon. An on-board rocket motor ignited and continued to carry the vehicle to nearly 180,000 feet. NASA tested two technologies — a supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator and a supersonic parachute. The decelerator deployed and inflated. The supersonic parachute also deployed, but didn't inflate. (6/9)

Alabama Wants a Spaceport (Source: Motherboard)
Though lawmakers often tout spaceports as a potential economic driver, there’s been little formal investigation into how much a spaceport can help an economy. Spaceports in New Mexico and California have gotten little use so far, but SpaceX’s Texas facility is expected to add several hundred jobs to a small town economy. SpaceX apparently will receive as much as $30 million in incentives to build the spaceport there.

Logistically, it makes sense to put a spaceport in Alabama—the state could put it somewhere along the Gulf of Mexico to allow rockets to abort missions or ditch rocket stages over water. Alabama is already home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Space and Rocket Center. Alabama has previously talked about building a spaceport, but the discussions never led to any sort of formal action. Last week, however, state senator Gerald Dial introduced this legislation, which has already garnered support in committees in the State Senate and House of Representatives.

Editor's Note: The Alabama bill (SB-17) received a 24-1 vote to move forward to its "third reading," but the Alabama legislative session ended without conclusive action. Alabama's governor is expected to call a "special session" in August or September and the bill's sponsor intends to advance SB-17 to its third reading at that time. (6/3)

Cecil Spaceport State Funding at Risk (Source: Florida Times Union)
House and Senate have been wrangling over how much to fund infrastructure improvements at the spaceport at Cecil Airport on Jacksonville's Westside, along with hundreds of other budget items still in dispute. Until this evening, the dispute was over whether to give the repurposed military base $1 million or $2 million in new funding.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, surprised Cecil Spaceport supporters this evening during a budget subcommittee meeting when he said that Cecil had $2 million in unspent funding that would be carried over into the next year instead of giving the spaceport any new state dollars. Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, sprang into action and insisted that Cecil Field's existing dollars were spoken for and new money was needed.

That is when things got interesting. A representative from Space Florida was called to testify and told the budget committee that Cecil Spaceport had not spent its money and would not be able to do so anytime soon. Then Michael Stewart, spokesman for Jacksonville Aviation Authority that operates the spaceport, came forward and said that the money was indeed spoken for. Click here. (6/8)

Harris, exactEarth To Place AIS Gear on Iridium Craft (Source: Space News)
Canada’s exactEarth Ltd. and Harris Corp. of the United States on June 9 announced a strategic partnership in which Harris will use exactEarth-patented technology to mount maritime ship-monitoring payloads on 58 next-generation Iridium mobile communications satellites.

Harris and exactEarth will divide the cost of the payloads, to launch in 2016 and 2017, and will also divide the growing satellite-based Automatic Identification System (AIS) market. Melbourne, Florida-based Harris will have exclusive rights to the technology for the U.S. government market, while Cambridge, Ontario-based exactEarth will market to the rest of the world. (6/9)

XCOR Selects Matrix Corp to Supply Lynx Chine Panels (Source: Parabolic Arc)
XCOR has selected Matrix Composites of Rockledge, Florida as the manufacturer and supplier of the XCOR Lynx Mark I spacecraft composite chine panels. “The chines allow the Lynx fuselage to have a continuous aero surface from the tip to the back of the strakes,” noted XCOR Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason. “Once the strakes are bonded and the nose is installed, the chines will be added to unify the space between the two, with some custom fitting at each end.”

The chine panels, manufactured by Matrix Composites, are an integral part of the structural airframe and will allow access to vital life support and flight control system components that are mounted within the spacecraft. The panels are a carbon fiber and epoxy sandwich laminate with a lightweight foam core. Matrix Composites will manufacture the chine panels in their Rockledge, Florida facility with completion expected by June 2015. (6/9)

Thales Alenia Space Opens Subsidiary in Poland, Expands Presence in Europe (Source: SpaceRef)
Thales Alenia Space has expanded its presence in Europe by creating a new subsidiary in Poland, Thales Alenia Space Polska. Based in Warsaw, company plans to strengthen cooperation with the newly opened Polish Space Agency, local research centers and industry to support Poland in the construction of its own space program and the development of satellite technologies and Earth observation systems. (6/9)

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