July 22, 2015

Keep Space Code of Conduct Moving Forward (Source: Space News)
The European Union’s proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities has been making progress for several years now. Responding to U.N. General Assembly resolutions 61/75 (2006) and 62/43 (2007) on Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities, and a request from the U.N. secretary general for concrete proposals for TCBMs, the EU initiated a draft proposal for an international code of conduct.

After preliminary consultations within the EU, a more formal draft was released in December 2008 and thereafter in 2010 with the expectation of a large-scale endorsement by 2012. The code has come a long way since then and the negotiations are set to begin soon. Many countries have been making demands on the EU to start actual negotiations and a drafting process instead of consultations where states were simply offering their views.

While the need for international rules of the road in the area of outer space is unquestionable, the code ran into troubled waters primarily owing to the fact that this was prepared by the EU on its own without consultation even with other major spacefaring powers or their space agencies. (7/21)

These Weird Pants May Be the Key to Getting to Mars (Source: Popular Mechanics)
​The Year in Space study currently in progress will give NASA a pretty good idea of what it will take to survive a trip to Mars. One  of the biggest obstacles: Weightlessness in microgravity could cause Mars explorers' vision to degrade en route as fluids shift up to the skull, placing strain on the eyes.

To combat this potential condition, NASA is launching a Fluid Shifts investigation. The study includes tests using a Russian-made lower body pressure negative suit. "Suit" is a bit of a misnomer, though–really it's a giant set of rubber pants from which air may be removed, pulling the blood from the upper torso to the legs. It could relieve fluid pressure in the head and behind the eyes, thereby slowing some of the worst effects of long-duration weightlessness.

The pants are sometimes called a Chibis suit. The only Chibis suit currently aboard the International Space Station is kept on the Russian side of the station, while many of the sensors for the test are on the international side. As Americans and Russians work out a shared custody arrangement for the ISS Chibis suit, NASA must turn to more terrestrial forms of testing. One workaround? Strap a person into these ridiculous-looking pants and have them lie head-down on a tilted bed. (7/21)

Seattle Company Seeks to Advance Humanity (and Profits) with Asteroid Mining (Source: Seattle Weekly)
On October 28, 2014, a massive fireball torched the evening skies over Virginia’s eastern shore. The source of the explosion was a refurbished Aerojet engine left over from the Soviet Union’s failed moon program, retrofitted to fuel the flight of an unmanned rocket called the Antares.

Just seconds after liftoff from a NASA space-flight center on Wallops Island, the mission was lost, and with it more than 5,000 pounds of food, supplies, and science experiments bound for the International Space Station. It was a particularly distressing time for the 30-plus engineers at Planetary Resources, for also on board that ill-fated spacecraft was the Arkyd 3, a telescope devised by the Pacific Northwest start-up to explore space and identify the potential riches that might one day be extracted from asteroids. (7/21)

Blue Origin Signing Up Space Tourists Online (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Blue Origin has started a new marketing phase, encouraging people to ante up for a brief flight to the edge of space. The Washington space launch company, founded by Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, has been extremely low-key until now. But a new set of videos and graphics on the company's website, called the "astronaut experience," offer vivid images of what a flight on the company's rocket to the edge of space will be like.

The new Blue Origin website also includes a place for would-be astronauts to sign up for a flight. While Blue Origin has long been behind Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which has been taking deposits from future passengers for several years, the new information on the Blue Origin site opens up a new phase for company. People can now sign up to get early pricing information when ticket sales start. There's no indication of just how much this trip will cost, and a visit to the Amazon site yielded only a video about Blue Origin. (7/21)

Spaceport at Houston's Ellington Airport Could Spur Development (Source: Houston Chronicle)
With the selection of Ellington Airport as the nation's 10th commercial spaceport, business leaders are looking forward to a big boost in the local economy, anticipating the designation will lure new companies and prompt others to relocate to the area. The FAA on June 30 granted the Houston Airport System a launch license for Ellington, which could eventually be the site for take off and landing of airplane-like spacecraft.

Sierra Nevada's Space Systems announced this year that it hopes to land its Dream Chaser spacecraft, which looks like a small version of the space shuttle and is designed to carry humans, at Ellington. Intuitive Machines is looking to be a tenant at Ellington and is developing a Terrestrial Return Vehicle that could return from space to land at Ellington. Chris Clark, president of the South Belt-Ellington Chamber, expects to see new home sales jump as spaceport employees and private contractors move in. (7/21)

Intuitive Machines Plans Landings at Houston Spaceport (Source: Intuitive Machines)
Intuitive Machines in cooperation with NASA has been selected by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop a Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV) that will enable on demand, rapid return of experiments from the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory.

The company plans to be an anchor tenant at the new spaceport and is investigating the possibility of landing their TRV at the spaceport. TRV allows for frequent delivery opportunities with same day delivery of samples from ISS to the researcher’s laboratory. Intuitive Machines will provide this service to a wide range of customers including scientific, academic, commercial, and government.

Editor's Note: This company seems like a good candidate for landing at Space Florida's Shuttle Landing Facility, with the Space Life Sciences Lab situated a short distance away from both the launch pads and landing strip. (7/21)

UK Shifts its Space-Science Strategy (Source: Nature)
Britain has long contributed to ESA programs involving robotic probes and space telescopes, which tend to focus on astronomy and planetary science. But it is the only country of the G8 industrialized nations not to have put an astronaut on the ISS. The UK began to extend its space interests in 2012, when it pledged €20 million ($22 million) to the ISS and €16 million over four years for ESA’s European Program for Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS). An extra £49.2 million (US$76 million) for the space-station program followed in 2014.

UK research teams took the two top places in a ranking of the latest applications for new European life-sciences experiments to be carried out on the ISS. “That [achievement] is from a standing start, not having been involved before,” notes Kuh. One of the teams, led by Donna Davies at the University of Southampton, UK, plans to build a 3D model of human bronchi to see how a lack of gravity affects the respiratory system.

Even counting its contributions to ELIPS and the ISS, the UK government still spends less on space as a proportion of gross domestic product than does Germany, France or Italy. Johann-Dietrich Wörner, who took over as director-general of ESA at the start of July, believes that the UK government is focused on getting a direct return for its businesses from any investment, rather than on the “full chain of innovation”, which includes fundamental research. (7/22)

Angara to Launch Commercial Missions (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
International Launch Services (ILS ) has announced that it will offer the new Russian Angara 1.2 rocket for commercial launches starting as early as 2017. The launches will be conducted from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia and could mark a major change in terms of what type of boosters that the launch service provider uses to deliver payloads to orbit.

“We are excited about these new offerings. Angara 1.2 has significantly higher performance than Vega and other small launchers, at a more affordable price tag,” said Phil Slack, ILS President. ILS possesses exclusive rights to market the Angara vehicle to commercial customers. The company believes the Angara family of launch vehicles will attract customers with their ability to support virtually all spacecraft to all orbits, altitudes and inclinations for the low, medium and heavy-lift spacecraft market. (7/22)

NASA Wants Robots to Mine the Moon for Fuel to Send Humans to Mars (Source: News.com.au)
NASA says it wants to build a lunar stepping stone base to Mars. How? Perhaps with terraforming robots. The idea is ambitious: Put people back on the Moon by 2021. And have them living up there by the 2030s. Why? To save NASA billions of dollars in recurring launch costs. How? By mining ice buried in the dark depths of Moon craters and converting it into rocket fuel. Click here. (7/22)

Musk Says SpaceX Could Have Been a Victim of its Own Success (Source: Washington Post)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the company's first launch failure in seven years could have been caused in part by complacency. "The vast majority of the people at the company today have only ever seen success," he said. "You don't fear failure quite as much." Musk cited the failure of a single steel strut as likely leading to the incident. The faulty strut is manufactured by a supplier, not SpaceX, Musk said. He declined to name the supplier.

Editor's Note: As a start-up, SpaceX pointedly avoided hiring people with years of launch industry experience, opting instead for 'new thinking' that would bring innovation to their operations. So in addition to their success, they have had to re-learn a lot of things by making rookie mistakes along the way. Their early Falcon-1 failures were good examples of mistakes that more seasoned rocketeers would have avoided. (7/20)

Regulators Near Approval of AT&T DirecTV Merger (Source: New York Times)
Federal regulators are set to approve AT&T's merger with satellite television broadcaster DirecTV. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Tuesday that commissioners are reviewing a proposed order that would approve the merger, but with conditions involving broadband services and net neutrality. The Justice Department also said Tuesday it was closing its antitrust review of the merger. The companies announced the $48.5 billion merger more than a year ago. (7/21)

Intelsat Seeks to Block SpaceX Satellites Due to Frequency Issues (Source: Space News)
Intelsat asked the FCC to block a SpaceX launch of two small satellites to test technologies for a future low-orbiting Internet-delivery constellation. Intelsat claims SpaceX has refused to disclose sufficient information relating to potential frequency interference and collision risk. SpaceX has apparently accepted at least part of Intelsat’s argument and has disclosed specific data on how its satellites will avoid interference with Intelsat and other geostationary-satellite fleet operators. (7/21)

NOAA Data Sharing Troubles Companies Wanting to Sell Weather Data (Source: Space News)
Concerns about data sharing could pose an obstacle to U.S. government purchases of commercial weather data from spacecraft. A NOAA official told the House Science Committee last week that the U.S. has an obligation under World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40 to freely share data it gets from weather satellites. That could pose a problem for ventures interested in selling data to NOAA, or force NOAA to pay a premium for that data to compensate companies for lost international sales. However, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chairman of the committee's environment subcommittee, said he believes that NOAA's international commitments are "much more nuanced" than what agency officials said. (7/21)

ULA: SpaceX Strut Problem Not an Issue with Atlas, Delta (Source: Space News)
The failed strut that appears to have caused the loss of SpaceX's Falcon 9 last month is not a problem for United Launch Alliance's vehicles. ULA CEO Tory Bruno told a Texas newspaper that there are no similar struts in the upper stage propellant tanks of its Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets since neither vehicle has helium bottles in those tanks that need to be held in place by struts. Bruno said those propellant tanks are self-pressurizing, eliminating the need for helium pressurization. (7/21)

Haze Above Ceres Spots Suggests Ice Sublimation (Source: Nature)
Scientists have detected a mysterious haze above a crater on Ceres known for its bright spots. Christopher Russell, principal investigator for NASA's Dawn mission currently orbiting the dwarf planet, said at a conference Tuesday said that the haze covers about half of the crater Occator and stops at the rim. The presence of haze could mean the the bright spots seen in the crater are made of ice that is sublimating, and not salt deposits as some have speculated. (7/21)

Georgia County Ready to Kick Off Environmental Study for Spaceport (Source: Business in Savannah)
Backers of a Georgia spaceport say they'll soon start an environmental impact study of the proposed site. The 18-month study, expected to get underway in the next month, will examine any environmental issues with the planned 4,000-acre site in Camden County, on the Atlantic coast. Camden County Manager Steve Howard said launches from the site could be possible in four to five years, although no customers have signed up to use the facility yet. (7/21)

Embry-Riddle Student Teams Dominate NASA Astronautics Competition (Source: ERAU)
Two teams of students from Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus placed first in their categories in the Revolutionary Advanced Aerospace Systems – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) design competition sponsored by NASA and the National Institute for Aerospace (NIA).
One of the Embry-Riddle teams also placed second overall, earning the opportunity to present a paper detailing their research at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space Conference in Pasadena, Calif., in September. Sixteen teams competed in the contest, which challenges students to solve real-life space exploration challenges.

This year, the competition asked teams to develop a mission with innovative approaches and new technologies allowing astronauts to be less dependent on resources transported from Earth, choosing from four categories: Earth independent Mars pioneering; Earth independent lunar pioneering; Mars moons prospector; and large-scale Mars entry, descent and landing (EDL). (7/22)

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