July 29, 2015

SpaceTEC Plans Educator Workshop (Source: SpaceTEC)
The purpose of this 4 hour course is to teach aerospace technology instructors, STEM educators grades 6-12, and college STEM instructors how to set up their own student focused “space program” utilizing the Mini-Cube Program. With this STEM Project Based Learning Activity, students can have the unique, affordable, and challenging opportunity to send experiments and/or technology projects via high altitude balloon to an altitude of 100,000 feet (20 miles), commonly known as the “edge of space.” Click here. (7/28)

Russia Delays ISS Supply Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia is pushing back the next launch of a cargo mission to the ISS by 10 days. The Progress M-29M mission, previously scheduled for launch on Sept. 21, is now scheduled for Oct. 1. Russian officials did not explain the delay. Meanwhile, Khrunichev confirmed Wednesday that its Proton launch vehicle will return to flight August 28, carrying a satellite for Inmarsat. (7/28)

Russia Considers Angara for Sea Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia is considering using the Angara launch vehicle for Sea Launch. Khrunichev officials said they are looking at options to either modify the Sea Launch system to accommodate the A3 variant of the Angara, or modifying the Angara A3 to use the current Sea Launch system. Sea Launch has previously used the Zenit-3SL, manufactured in Ukraine. The future of the overall Sea Launch venture has been in question, including recent reports it could be sold to China. (7/28)

Observatory Chief Resigns Unexpectedly (Source: Science)
The head of a large observatory under development unexpectedly resigned Tuesday. Edwards Moses, president of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, is stepping down from the post because of "family matters," the organization said in a statement. The organization is developing a giant telescope in Chile made of seven mirrors, each 8.4 meters across, that will make it among the largest in the world when completed in the mid-2020s. (7/28)

Frick Leaves NASA (Source: NASA)
Astronaut Stephen Frick has left NASA, the agency announced this week. Frick left the astronaut corps July 13 "to accept a position in the private sector," according to a NASA statement. Frick was a pilot on the STS-110 mission in 2002 and commander of STS-122 in 2008. He is the second astronaut to leave the agency this month. (7/28)

Kickstarter Success Has Smithsonian Seeking Funds for Second Spacesuit Restoration (Source: CollectSpace)
Having won funding to "reboot" one spacesuit, the National Air and Space Museum is seeking to restore another. The museum's Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, launched last week to restore Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 suit, passed its $500,000 goal in just four days. The museum is now seeking to raise an additional $200,000 to restore Alan Shepard's Mercury spacesuit. The fundraising campaign runs for 20 more days. (7/28)

ISS Crew Ducks Debris as EVA Preparations Move Forward (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Members of the Expedition 44 crew had to move out of the way of satellite debris late in the evening of Saturday, July 25. The most recent reminder that the environment above our world is becoming increasingly cluttered, did not impact crew safety or operations and, in fact, it might even get the station’s current residents a little ahead in terms of scheduled tasks.

The six space flyers that are currently serving on the station hail from the U.S., Russia, and Japan. There are three reboosts of the orbiting outpost scheduled between now and the next flight of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with members of the Expedition 45 crew. That flight is currently scheduled to take place on Sept. 2 of this year. (7/29)

Ex-Im is Left Out of House GOP Hhighway Funding Extension (Source: Roll Call)
House Republicans are calling for a three-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund that does not include reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The proposed extension would preempt a Senate plan that would attach Ex-Im's reauthorization to federal highway funding. (7/28)

Once-Rejected Electromagnetic Propulsion is Now a Promising Space Drive (Source: Telegraph)
A technology dismissed years ago as impossible has been proved both possible and practical and could be the key to interplanetary space travel. British inventor Roger Shawyer's electromagnetic propulsion drive works by using solar power to "generate multiple microwaves that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber," producing inexhaustible power that could take astronauts to the moon in four hours. (7/28)

As Sir Richard Branson Plunges Deeper Into the Space Race, Don’t Hold Your Breath (Source: The Times)
As ever with Sir Richard Branson, the project lacks neither ambition nor vision. The Virgin founder announced in January that he was joining an enterprise aiming to bring high-speed internet and telephony services to communities that lack them by building, launching and running a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation.

The business, OneWeb, is led by Greg Wyler, a satellite industry veteran who previously worked on something similar at Google. Taking part alongside Virgin, whose involvement is via its Virgin Galactic division, is Qualcomm, the American chip and mobile technology giant, with Sir Richard describing the pair as “the principal investors in OneWeb”. (7/28)

Virgin Galactic Craft Design Ignored Pilot Risk, Probe Finds (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft designers failed to anticipate that pilots might trigger its brakes too early, leaving the ship vulnerable to the error that led to last year’s fatal crash, investigators said. The National Transportation Safety Board focused on pilot training Tuesday in a hearing into the Oct. 31 accident that grounded Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture months before it was to start taking customers to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere.

Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed when the vehicle was torn apart after he prematurely unlocked a braking mechanism. The failure by Scaled Composites LLC, the craft’s designer, to consider and protect against the mistake was a probable cause of the crash, the NTSB determined. Scaled Composites knew the vehicle would be destroyed if the mechanism was deployed too early but assumed that only systems, and not humans, would cause an error, the NTSB found.

The FAA’s oversight also was “deficient,” the board said. The probe is the first detailed look into the new generation of space vehicles straddling the line between experimental flight and rockets. The NTSB findings “will help make the fledgling commercial space industry safer and better,” said Branson, the 65-year-old U.K. billionaire founder of Virgin Group, said in a blog post Wednesday. (7/28)

Earth Could Get Just 12 Hours' Warning of Damaging Solar Storm (Source: Guardian)
Humanity would only have a 12-hour warning about the arrival of a “coronal mass ejection” that could damage the National Grid, pipelines and railway signals, according to a newly released document from the UK Cabinet Office. In a report worthy of a Bruce Willis film, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has set out the nature of the risk to the UK from “severe space weather”, which it says results from various types of solar activity.

The report, the Space Weather Preparedness Strategy, states: “Solar activity can produce x-rays, high-energy particles and coronal mass ejections of plasma. Where such activity is directed towards Earth there is the potential to cause wide-ranging impacts. These include power loss, aviation disruption, communication loss, and disturbance to (or loss of) satellite systems.” (7/28)

Lockheed and Boeing Announce Quarterly Results (Source: Space Digest)
Lockheed Martin reported 2nd quarter 2015 net sales of $11.6 billion, compared to $11.3 billion in the 2Q 2014. Net earnings in the 2Q 2015 were $929 million, or $2.94 per share, compared to $889 million, or $2.76 per share, in the 2Q 2014. Meanwhile, Boeing reported that 2nd quarter revenue increased 11% (compared to 2Q 2014) to $24.5 billion on record commercial deliveries. Defense, Space & Security department's 2Q revenue was $7.5 billion, compared to $7.7 billion a year ago (3% decrease). (7/28)

When a Rocket Blows Up —1 in 20 Fail—Who Pays For It? (Source: CNBC)
Companies and governments spend huge sums to get things into space, but an average of about 1 in 20 launches will fail. That's why many of today's launches—especially those putting commercial satellites into orbit—are covered by space insurance policies to prevent catastrophic financial losses.

But insuring a payload on the tip of a rocket is entirely different from insuring a home, boat or car. There are only about 50 insured launches each year paying about $750 million in premiums to a handful of companies. If just a few big accidents pile up, there is a real risk of the industry ending up in the red—and it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a tough year.

"The nature of this business is very volatile," said Chris Kunstadter, senior vice president and global underwriting manager for space at XL Catlin. "You don't have many losses, but when you do, they're large." Not only are the potential losses huge, but there are too few launches each year to do the same sort of actuarial math as in other types of insurance. A few bad launches in an unlucky year can cause the failure rate to bounce between 3 percent and 10 percent, and accidents tend to be total losses. (7/28)

Meet the Badass Woman Who Will Put Humans on Mars (Source: Boston.com)
Since Dava Newman left her MIT teaching position in May to become deputy administrator of NASA (the agency’s second-in-command), things have been “a little hectic,” she told Boston.com. That’s understandable. It’s been a bumpy summer. Click here. (7/27)

China's Supercomputer to Support World's Largest Radio Telescope (Source: Xinhua)
Supercomputer Skyeye-1, capable of a quadrillion computing operations per second, will support space exploration by the world's largest radio telescope based in southwest China's Guizhou Province. Assembly of the telescope, with a dish the size of 30 football fields and located deep in the mountains of Guizhou, has got underway, according to Dawning Information Industry Co., which participates in its construction.

When it is completed in 2016, the five hundred meter aperture spherical telescope (FAST) will be the world's largest, overtaking Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, which is only 300 meters in diameter. A radio signal as far as tens of billions of light years away could possibly be caught by the telescope, which will extend China's space tracking scope from moon's orbit to the outside edge of the solar system upon its completion next year. (7/28)

Russia to Carry Out 10 Test Launches of Angara Heavy Lift Rocket by 2020 (Source: Tass)
Russia will test launch around 10 Angara heavy carrier rockets in the next few years, the general designer of the rocket’s manufacturer, Khrunichev Center, Alexander Medvedev, told TASS. "We plan to complete test launches of the carrier rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome by 2020 and to start the serial Angara production after that," Medvedev said. He stressed that Angara rockets will carry spacecraft during test-launches. The first test launches of Angara heavy and light rockets were held in 2014 with simulated payloads. (7/28)

Spaceship Pilot Describes Harrowing Free Fall After Breakup (Source: ABC)
Free-falling miles above the desert, his test spaceship ripped to pieces and the frigid air hard to breathe, pilot Peter Siebold struggled through crippling injuries to turn on his oxygen and just to stay conscious. Siebold was aware that Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo had violently disintegrated but then blacked out. When he awoke, still far above the California desert, he repeatedly tried in vain to activate his backup oxygen.

He next remembered the jolt of his parachute automatically opening and the sensation of just having woken up. His account came from a written summary of a January interview done by accident investigators as part of their inquiry. Though bad, his injuries were not life-threatening — his right leg broke in four places, as did his collarbone. He was cut up, extensively bruised and had trouble seeing. (7/28)

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