July 18, 2015

New Launch Pad Opens at Kennedy Space Center (Source: BayNews 9)
A new launch pad is opening up at the Kennedy Space Center, and NASA hopes it will attract new businesses and jobs to Brevard County. Launch Pad 39C will be used by a smaller class of rockets. It officially opened Friday, July 17. The new mini-pad is located in the southeast area of pad 39B, which is where Orion and the Space Launch System rocket will launch in the coming years.

SpaceX is currently leasing pad 39A for its launches. NASA officials said the smaller 39C pad will be useful for companies that are interested in flying small satellites to space. The overall goal is to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. NASA hopes commercial companies will bring new activity to the space center — which hasn't seen a launch since the last space shuttle four years ago. (7/17)

Rubio Loves NASA's Pluto Work, But Has Supported Budgets That Cut NASA Funding (Source: Huffington Post)
Like many Americans, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) celebrated NASA's successful spacecraft visit to Pluto this week. The images that New Horizons captured "represent a historic achievement for U.S. space exploration," said Rubio in a statement. "My hope is that many young people across this country and the world will see these images of Pluto and feel that American science, ingenuity and daring are alive and well."

"Space exploration is and has always been an important venture for our country," the 2016 Republican contender continued. "It opens the door for an unparalleled level of innovation, research and understanding. By investing in our nation’s brightest scientists and ambitious endeavors, we can accomplish ground-breaking space missions like this probe visit to Pluto."

But Rubio has voiced support for budgets, such as the 2012 budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), that included funding cuts for NASA in the past -- cuts that NASA said could imperil core programs. He's argued for maintaining funding at sequester levels, which would have meant major funding cuts for the agency. (7/17)

NASA Gave Foreigners Access To Controlled Tech (Source: Law360)
A 2008 transfer of export-controlled missile defense technology between the Pentagon and NASA was in compliance with federal policies, although NASA wrongly allowed two foreign-national contractors access to the technology after the transfer, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday. (7/16)

Generation Orbit Completes Second Flight Test for Microsatellite Launch System (Source: Generation Orbit)
Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) completed a second flight of its GO-Flight Experiments Testbed (GO-FET). The flight test is a key milestone on the company’s roadmap to develop affordable air-launched rocket systems for access to space and for hypersonic flight research.

GO’s Flight Experiments Testbed serves as a captive-carry research platform for maturing mechanical, thermal, avionics, and communications technologies for future spacecraft and rocket applications. Typical flights reach high altitudes and provide a wide range of maneuvers and flight loads of interest to the aerospace community. Onboard the flight was a primary research payload for a third-party customer, experiments related to heat transfer measurements, and propellant tank insulation materials.

Also included was proprietary ground-to-space communications technology for our partner company SpaceWorks under its new project Blink Astro. Another ride-along experiment was included by a team of five local Atlanta high school students. Generation Orbit is committed to providing similar flight opportunities onboard its GO-FET to future student CubeSat teams throughout Georgia and Florida. (7/16)

Maneuvering Russian Satellite Has Everyone’s Attention (Source: Space News)
A Russian military satellite launched in March has made at least 11 close approaches to the rocket upper stage that released it into orbit, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force. Such maneuvering capability is consistent with, but not necessarily indicative of, an on-orbit anti-satellite weapon.

Air Force officials previously said they were closely watching the satellite, and independent space tracking experts and policy analysts have joined the vigil. The maneuvers started in April, and the most recent occurred in early July, experts said, adding that in at least one case the satellite appears to have nudged the upper stage to a higher orbit. (7/17)

Spaceflight Networks and Spire Partner on Smallsat Ground Network (Source: Space News)
Spaceflight Networks is partnering with smallsat developer Spire on a network of ground stations that will provide a low-latency communications system for such satellites. Seattle-based Spaceflight Networks, a subsidiary of Spaceflight Industries, said it will market and offer communications services using a network of ground stations that Spire is developing for its own constellation of GPS radio occultation satellites. Spaceflight will add those ground stations to its existing network of stations in Seattle, Alaska and New Zealand. (7/17)

exactEarth’s IPO Plans Coming into Focus (Source: Space News)
Satellite component builder Com Dev of Canada and partner Hisdesat of Spain are selling 40-45 percent of their jointly owned exactEarth space-based maritime surveillance company in an initial stock offering expected to yield $69.2 million. exactEarth described to investors how it expects to average 30 percent annual revenue growth over the next few years to capture a market that is expected to quadruple in size in the coming decade. (7/17)

China Eyes Purchase of Sea Launch Assets (Source: Space News)
Struggling commercial launch-service provider Sea Launch AG and its owner, Energia of Russia, are in talks with the Chinese government on selling the Sea Launch command ship and launch platform to Chinese interests that would station the system in international waters offshore China, industry officials said. A sale to China would need to traverse a minefield of regulatory and political issues in Russia, China and the United States. Sea Launch is headquartered in Bern, Switzerland, but its home port is Long Beach, California.

A sale to China would need to traverse a minefield of regulatory and political issues in Russia, China and the United States. Sea Launch is headquartered in Bern, Switzerland, but its home port is Long Beach, California. The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket is built by state-owned Ukrainian and Russian manufacturers, with Boeing acting as the company’s original prime contractor. Sorting out the effects of U.S. technology-transfer restrictions relating to satellite and rocket hardware – the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regime – would be complicated, officials said.

The situation likely would not be simple in China, either, where the Chinese Long March rocket family has demonstrated a reliable track record based almost exclusively on China’s domestic demand. China is denied access to most of the commercial market because ITAR rules forbid any U.S. satellite parts from being exported to China. (7/17)

Orbital ATK Retains JPSS Work as GAO Strikes Down Ball Protest (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has denied a protest from Ball Aerospace that sought to overturn the award of a U.S. weather satellite contract worth up to $470 million to rival Orbital ATK. On March 24, NASA announced it awarded Orbital ATK a contract to build at least one and as many as three Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft for NOAA. The pact includes a firm $253 million order for JPSS-2, with a $130 million option for JPSS-3 and an $87 million option for JPSS-4. (7/17)

Hypothetical ‘Hyper Orbiter’ Faces Long Road to Pluto (Source: Space News)
Before NASA had confirmation that the New Horizons probe had completed its historic Pluto flyby July 14, the mission’s principal investigator Alan Stern admitted he is already contemplating a follow-on mission: A Charon lander that could study the surface Pluto’s largest moon while remotely observing the dwarf planet as an orbiter would. (7/17)

New Venture Fund Aimed at Europe’s Space Start Ups (Source: Space News)
A British venture-capital company has secured cash investment from five European space-hardware and services companies to launch a venture capital fund to invest in promising European – mainly British – start-up space companies. London-based Seraphim Capital, using a technique employed in other sectors such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, will draw on the expertise of the fund’s founding investors without letting any of them steer investment choices. (7/17)

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