July 14, 2015

India Hopes to Increase Launch Rate (Source: PTI)
India's space agency is planning to increase its launch rate to 10 a year. The Indian Space Research Organisation said it plans to carry out seven to eight launches by next March, and do up to 10 launches in 2016. Those upcoming launches include a suborbital test of a reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator, scheduled for October. (7/14)

NASA Launches Suborbital Experiments (Source: Space Digest)
On July 7 NASA successfully launched Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket carrying two space technology demonstration projects. The rocket carried SOAREX-8 Exo-Brake Flight Test from NASA's Ames Research Center, and the Radial Core Heat Spreader from NASA's Glenn Research Center. Preliminary analysis shows that data was received on both projects. (7/14)

Orion Umbilical Installed at KSC (Source: Space Digest)
The Orion Service Module Umbilical has been installed on to the Launch Equipment Test Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. The milestone marks the first umbilical to undergo testing ahead of being installed on the redesigned Mobile Launcher that will host the Space Launch System (SLS) for its maiden launch in 2018 (7/14)

Launch Providers Step up to Commercialize ORS Super Strypi (Source: Via Satellite)
Several companies have expressed interest in commercializing the Super Strypi dedicated small satellite launch vehicle currently under development by the U.S. Air Force Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office. Colonel John Anttonen, director of ORS, said the rail-launched rocket has attracted the attention of industry, which could use the rocket to conduct launches for both the military and commercial sector.

ORS recently sent out a Request for Information (RFI) to industry inviting them to witness and participate in launch activity. Anttonen said ORS wanted industry participants in order to give companies a chance to see how it conducts operations on the launch side. That effort has helped draw interest in the Super Strypi launch system, which is slated for its first demonstration mission later this year.

Super Strypi is designed to launch low mass payloads to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at a price point of $15 million. ORS, now part of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), is developing the launch system together with Aerojet Rocketdyne, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Hawaii, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility. ORS is hoping that the completed system will give the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) a means of buying launch services from a commercial operator for dedicated small satellite missions. (7/10)

SpeedCast Buys Assets from NewSat (Source: Space Digest)
Australian satellite internet company SpeedCast International bought land, buildings and equipment from rival NewSat, handing the embattled vendor a financial lifeline while expanding its local footprint. The companies did not disclose a price, but the sale will come as a partial relief for NewSat, which went into receivership in April after a backer withdrew support for a $650 million satellite launch. (7/14)

Ecuadorian Astronaut Expands Role (Source: Space Digest)
Ronnie Nader, the first cosmonaut of Ecuador and Director of Space Operations at Ecuadorian Space Agency (EXA), became a new member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is the first Ecuadorian citizen to be elected to this role. (7/14)

Export Revenue to Help Russian Space Industry Cut Expenditures (Source: Sputnik)
Export revenue will help the Russian space industry ease its budget expenditures on modernization, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said. “One of the state corporation’s goals that was set by the government was the decrease of budget expenditures by increasing export potential of space production. We are now working on export that will allow us to decrease budget expenditures in reforming the industry,” Komarov said. (7/7)

Never Get Lost on Mars Again With NASA's New Red Planet Map (Source: Space Daily)
An application called 'Mars Trek', which was released by NASA on Friday, lets you explore the red planet from your computer or mobile phone. The volcanos and craters of Mars can now be explored on a mobile phone or computer, thanks to a new application recently released by NASA which combines data from several Mars missions to produce a map of the red planet. Click here. (7/14)

China's Beidou Navigation System to Track Flights (Source: Space Daily)
China will use its homegrown Beidou satellite navigation system (BDS) to track civil flights, in an attempt to avoid disasters like the Malaysian MH 370. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said the BDS will be tested on general aviation first before it is used to monitor passenger or cargo flights. The BDS, which boasts navigation, positioning and short message services, is able to trace aircrafts and aid search and rescue operations. (7/14)

How Pluto Won Over NASA's Critics (Source: Politico)
NASA rarely gets an easy win.  When the space agency began proposing human missions to Mars, critics slammed it for ignoring a return trip to the nearby Moon. Ted Cruz has publicly flogged it for focusing too much on climate change. Budget hawks have found plenty of reasons to complain as taxpayer dollars get spent on everything from the International Space Station to monkeys sent into orbit.

Now NASA is in the headlines again, for a mission costing nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars to visit a block of ice some 3 billion miles from Earth. The New Horizons probe seemingly has all the markings of a boondoggle: after all, during the course of this nine-plus year journey, Pluto even lost its status as an official planet. So where are the critics now? Lining up behind it.

But the reaction to the Pluto mission also gives a clear window into just what kind of project keeps NASA clear of the asteroid hazards of Washington politics. The lengthy mission, launched during the George W. Bush administration, is returning the first-ever detailed images of Pluto and its moons, and in the coming years should deliver potentially more information about the mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, which orbit beyond the planets. (7/13)

Ottawa Company Sells Space Technology in Europe (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Space technology with roots in Ottawa will soon fly on a pair of European satellites that will stare toward the sun to study its super-hot corona. Neptec UK Ltd. is building the system, a laser-based device that will allow two satellites to fly in close formation, 150 meters apart. The company operates in Canada, including Ottawa, as Neptec Design Group. Neptec’s job is to keep the distance between the satellites precise, measuring down to millionths of a meter. It’s like a very fancy version of a golfer’s laser rangefinder. (7/10)

Sen. Nelson's Cancer Surgery Was Successful (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office says his surgery for prostate cancer has been a "complete success." Nelson had the surgery Monday in Washington, five days after he publicly disclosed that he had prostate cancer. The 72-year-old Florida Democrat had said the cancer was discovered early during a routine medical exam and scans showed no evidence that the cancer had spread. (7/13)

Should We Build a Village on the Moon? (Source: BBC)
Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner has been in his new job as Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) for a week. In charge of a €4.4 billion annual budget, the former Chair of the German space agency is ultimately responsible for everything at ESA. Europe’s new observation, weather, communication and navigation satellites; astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS); missions to Mars, Mercury and Jupiter; and a sleepy lander on a duck-shaped comet all come under his remit.

When I ask him about his intentions for ESA, I expect a predictable and politically nuanced answer about the economic and social benefits of space or maybe the importance for science of exploring the unknown Universe. Instead, Woerner surprises me with a vision for a future of space exploration that is both ambitious and audacious.

“We should look to the future beyond the International Space Station,” he tells me. “We should look for a smaller spacecraft in low-Earth orbit for microgravity research and I propose a Moon village on the far side of the Moon.” Yes, a village on the Moon. Just the sort of daring vision that took NASA from a standing start to the Moon in the 1960s, but today – possibly constrained by its political masters – the US space agency appears to be lacking ambition. (7/13)

Regulatory Challenges Undercut Power of Thaicom’s High-Throughput Satellite (Source: Space News)
At a time when high-throughput satellites, in both Ku- and Ka-band, appear about to disrupt the conventional satellite business, Thaicom’s experience with Thaicom-4/IPStar offers lessons. IPStar was launched 10 years ago in August. At the time, its 45-gigabits-per-second capacity was huge.

Thaicom now says it has measured IPStar capacity as equivalent to 881 36-megahertz transponders on a conventional satellite — such as the Thaicom 5, 6 and 7 satellites also in orbit. Thaicom said that when Thaicom 8 is operational in late 2016, the company’s four conventional satellites will have a total of 115 transponders.

But after a decade in orbit, and with a first-mover advantage so great it might have been a liability, IPStar’s growth has been stunted by the enormous regulatory challenges. A well-muscled satellite is one thing; getting landing rights in every nation in the satellite’s footprint is another. (7/13)

Editorial: Commercial Crew Relapse (Source: Space News)
Just when Congress finally seemed to be getting the message on the funding requirements of NASA’s commercial crew program come a pair of disheartening marks for the activity next year in spending bills drafted in the House and Senate. Congress provided $805 million in 2015 for the commercial crew program, which will restore NASA’s independent ability to transport crews to and from the International Space Station. That figure, while short of the $848 million requested by NASA, is still the largest amount appropriated to date.

NASA upped its request to $1.24 billion for 2016, a peak development year. Boeing and SpaceX signed full-scale development contracts last year for competing vehicles that are scheduled to begin flying in 2017. But the House version of the 2016 commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds various agencies including NASA, recommends $1 billion for commercial crew. The Senate version is even stingier, providing only $900 million.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in the report accompanying its version of the bill — which eventually must be reconciled with the House measure — cited program delays as justification for its proposed mark. Milestones in NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, or CCtCap, contracts with Boeing and SpaceX have already been delayed and more challenging ones lay ahead, the report said. (7/13)

Gogo Pushes New Tech for Aircraft Broadband (Source: Space News)
Airline broadband connectivity provider Gogo Inc. said it looked at the Ku- and Ka-band product offerings of SES, Intelsat, ViaSat, Hughes, Inmarsat and others before deciding to launch its own proprietary 2Ku product, to be introduced commercially this year. Chicago-based Gogo has contracted for capacity aboard Intelsat and SES satellites to introduce 2Ku, first on a Gogo-owned Boeing 737 test plane and then commercially later this year.

Gogo said it has more than 500 aircraft in various stages of being fitted with 2Ku antennas. In a June 25 presentations to investors, Gogo managers said that while they wait for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules on the allocation of the 14-gigahertz section of spectrum, they are pushing ahead with 2Ku worldwide. (7/13)

NASA, Agriculture Department Sign Agreement for Earth Science, Agricultural Research (Source: NASA)
NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will establish a framework for enhanced cooperation in the areas of Earth science research, technology, agricultural management, and the application of science data, models and technology in agricultural decision-making. The agencies also seek to better collaborate on education and communication activities that inspire youth in America to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (7/13)

Russian Cosmonauts Train in Crimea (Source: Tass)
Russian cosmonauts enlisted in 2010 and 2012 have carried out a practice flight in Crimea as part of preparations for a future space mission. Their task was to observe the terrain from a plane, a source at the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center told TASS on Monday. During the flight, the cosmonauts observed and registered various objects including natural reserves, mountain groups and valleys, rivers, water reservoirs and water canals, glaciers, mud volcanoes, cities and infrastructure as well as hydraulic engineering installations. (7/13)

Pluto is a Bit Bigger Than We’d Thought (Source: Washington Post)
NASA's New Horizons makes its closest flyby of Pluto on Tuesday morning, but that doesn't mean we aren't already seeing exciting data from the spacecraft. At a briefing held Monday morning at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory -- mission control for New Horizons -- the team announced that it's now more certain of Pluto's diameter than ever before.

According to the latest photos of the hitherto unvisited dwarf planet, Pluto measures 2370 km (about 1472.6 miles) across, give or take 20 km (12.4 miles). It was previously measured to be 2368 km (1471.4 miles) across, with the same margin of error. (7/13)

PSLV has Launched Over 40 Satellites for 19 Countries (Source: Times of India)
Despite the success of the PSLV programme, India was not capable of launching INSAT type heavy communication satellites in geosynchronous orbits. Such capability was only possible after the development of cryogenic engines based on liquefied gas.

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) program started in the 1990s and according to a 1991 agreement, a Russian company was supposed to provide the engine for the cryogenic stage of the launch. In 1992, the US imposed sanctions and the Russian company backed out of the deal. Later, Russia agreed to sell seven cryogenic engines to India. These were used to fuel the early GSLV launches. In 2014, India succeeded in a GSLV launch using indigenous cryogenic technology. (7/13)

What Kind of Person Wants to Live — and Certainly Die — on Mars? (Source: Washington Post)
Mars One hired Norbert Craft, a cardiologist who has studied the physical and psychological challenges of long-duration space travel, and he took advantage of NASA’s several studies of what kind of people are least likely to become depressed, unstable or even violent in close-quarter isolation.

One example is a mock mission called Mars 500, in which six men were isolated in a faux spaceship in Moscow for 520 days. One developed severe insomnia, another began to exhibit “impulsive behavior” and another became depressed. “One of the six,” she writes, “did survive quite well.”

Faye Flam also introduces us to a couple of Mars One finalists. George Hatcher, a 35-year-old aerospace engineer, was rejected twice by NASA’s astronaut program and is choosing this route to the stars. A convert to the Baha’i faith, Hatcher says he sees the mission as an inspiration to unify humanity in support of a magnificent goal, and notes that he would not have applied if his faith didn’t include a belief in an infinite afterlife. Click here. (7/13)

Reaction Engines Reveals Inner Secret Of Sabre Propulsion Technology (Source: Aviation Week)
Details of the critical technology at the core of an innovative hybrid hypersonic propulsion system for air and space systems have been unveiled for the first time by its British-based developer, Reaction Engines. The company’s Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) is designed to power a vehicle from a standing start to Mach 5.5 in air-breathing mode, and from the edge of the atmosphere to low Earth orbit in pure rocket mode.

The system chills incoming air from more than 1,000C to minus 150C in less than 1/100th of a second before passing the pre-cooled air through a turbo-compressor and into the rocket combustion chamber, where it is burned with sub-cooled liquid hydrogen.

Reaction Engines decided to go public with the frost control technology because of pending patent applications. “The trigger for patenting was the awareness that to execute this program we are going to have to involve other companies,” says Mark Thomas, former chief engineer for technology and future programs at Rolls-Royce, who recently took the reins as managing director of Reaction Engines. “You can’t keep trade secrets very long in that situation, so it is better to be protected formally and legally on the clever stuff.” (7/13)

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