July 3, 2015

Satellite Operators Hope to Sustain Three Viable Launch Options (Source: Aviation Week)
At a time when Russia’s heavy-lift Proton has lost the confidence of the commercial market, the June 28 failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket raises long-standing questions as to how many launch vehicles the market needs to remain healthy, and how many it can sustain over time. Up to now only rockets with strong government backing have been able to survive on the roughly 20-25 commercial geostationary satellites launched to orbit each year. (7/2)

Scaled Composites Continues Rutan’s Innovation Culture (Source: Aviation Week)
The model for fast-paced development and testing in aviation has long been Scaled Composites, and that has survived both acquisition by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman and involvement in the massive Stratolaunch project, say insiders. “The innovation and culture, the creativity and environment that we work so hard to protect is really the constant here,” says Kevin Mickey, president of the Mojave, California-based aircraft design and flight-test company. (7/2)

You Don't Have to be Elon Musk to Invest in Space (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX's rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station may have exploded into a million pieces this past weekend, but the company's dream of sending up manned spaceflights in 2017 are undaunted, according to the company. Since SpaceX is still a private company, investors don't pay for the woes of failed missions. But some other public space exploration competitors are worth investing in because they're more diversified, say analysts. Click here. (7/3)

The Odds Of The Next Rocket Failure Are Not Small (Source: Buzzfeed)
Despite more than half a century of space launches since the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, rockets still blow up, go off course, or otherwise misbehave with a steady regularity. Why? “Most rockets are experiments,” engineering risk expert M. Elisabeth Paté-Cornell of Stanford University told BuzzFeed News.

A handful of launches doesn’t really qualify as the full-blown kind of testing that other machines get, she said. Because there are so few opportunities for trial and error, the odds that a rocket will fail increase with each launch — until there is a failure, after which scientists can figure out what isn’t quite right. (7/3)

Editorial: A Frustrating Setback on Spaceport Road (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The oft-frustrated efforts to construct a much-needed southern road to Spaceport America suffered another setback recently when it was discovered that the county's proposed corridor for the roadway did not align with the corridor being reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management.

County Engineer Robert Armijo told members of the County Commission that it was "unclear" how the mistake was made. But the consequences of the mistake are clear — more delays. The county now has two choices, redesign its plans to match those of the BLM, or extend the environmental review process to the new area, with all the additional delays and uncertainty that will bring. County officials have wisely chosen to redesign their route, but that will add another two or three months to the process. (7/2)

Orbital ATK Chosen To Launch U.S. Air Force’s ORS-5 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK has won a $23.6 million contract to launch a small space surveillance satellite for the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space Office in 2017. The announcement did not say which rocket Orbital would use to launch the ORS-5 satellite or where the launch would take place. The Air Force, in an April 2014 posting to the Federal Business Opportunities website, detailed ORS-5 launch requirements that fit the performance of Orbital’s Pegasus XL or the Minotaur rockets. (7/3)

Russia Launches Progress M-28M Cargo Load to ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos ) successfully launched the Progress M-28M cargo craft on July 3, with approximately 2.4 metric tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station. The cargo spacecraft’s lifted-off atop a Soyuz-U rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (7/3)

Arianespace Delays Launch (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace has postponed the launch of two satellites scheduled for next week. The company announced Friday that the Ariane 5 launch of the Star One C4 and MSG-4 satellites, scheduled for July 8, will be delayed by a few days to perform "additional checks." The company did not disclose the nature of those checks, or when the launch would be rescheduled, but an industry source said the check was due to a "minor issue" on Star One C4 that will delay the launch about a week. (7/3)

Federal Contractors Must Report Inversions Under New Rule (Source: Law360)
The Department of Defense, NASA and the General Services Administration have finalized changes to acquisitions rules requiring contractors newly incorporated overseas to come clean to contracting officers about their domestic inversion status, part of the Obama administration’s efforts to keep federal contractors based stateside. (7/2)

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test Moves From California to Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA announced that SpaceX’s in-flight-abort test would move from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E in California – to Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The test will likely take place later than this fall, when the test had been scheduled to take place.

Before the in-flight-abort test takes place, SpaceX will launch an orbital test flight of the crew-rated dragon (without the crew). Once that mission has been completed and that Dragon has been recovered and restored – it will be used on the in-flight-abort test. Whereas the May 6, 2015 pad-abort-test demonstrated the crew-rated Dragon’s ability to lift astronauts away from an accident at the launch site, the in-flight-abort test will validate the craft’s ability to do the same – from a launch vehicle on ascent. (6/2)

SpaceWorks Shoots for the Moon...and Mars (Source: Reporter Newspapers)
He still sets his sights on space travel and the moon, but now he and others at his 15-year-old company also think about Mars, or asteroids, or high-altitude flight. Olds, a former Georgia Tech professor, is owner and CEO of SpaceWorks Enterprises Inc., a Dunwoody-based, private aerospace engineering company. SpaceWorks consults with NASA, the U.S. military and private aerospace companies about engineering problems such as how to set up refueling stations around the moon or how to divert an asteroid headed toward Earth.

Olds started SpaceWorks while  teaching at Georgia Tech. He says he learned about science from his father, but he was inspired to go into business by his entrepreneurial grandfather, who lived in Tennessee. “I wanted to try my hand at owning my own business.” About a decade ago, he moved to SpaceWorks fulltime. “We had maybe five people and I would come in on Fridays,” he said. “Then we had a couple of big projects from NASA and I thought, ‘I need to be more involved in that.’”

SpaceWorks now employs about 15 people, he said. They’re looking 15 to 20 years into the future, Olds said. “I can’t remember what I wore to work yesterday, but I can imagine what 10 years from now will look like,” Olds said. “It’s a little bit science fiction and a little bit science.” Click here. (7/3)

NASA Met Unprecedented Challenges Sending Spacecraft to Pluto (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's New Horizons mission presented challenges like no other, but its goal also was unprecedented. The spacecraft will soon begin a study of the farthest reaches of the solar system. It was an historic journey of over 3.6 billion miles that began at the agency's Florida spaceport.

Plans call for New Horizons to send the first-ever, close-up images and scientific observations of distant Pluto, its system of large and small moons, and the Kuiper Belt. A region of the solar system beyond the planets, the Kuiper Belt consists mainly of small planetary bodies.

To reach its primary target, the New Horizons spacecraft has traveled farther away and a longer time - more than nine years - than any previous space mission. The flight through the Pluto system is planned to begin July 14, 2015. (7/3)

Rocket Lab Commits to Protect New Zealand Environment (Source: RadioNZ)
The company proposing a rocket launch pad on Canterbury's coast says it is committed to protecting the environment. Rocket Lab's proposed site on Kaitorete Spit was officially unveiled this morning in front of Prime Minister John Key and representatives from the Department of Conservation. Rocket Lab's chief executive, Peter Beck, said the company is all about reducing the cost of reaching space.

"New Zealand is not known for space, but we became the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to launch a rocket into space." He told those gathered for the unveiling that the firm is committed to protecting the environment around Kaitorete Spit. "I acknowledge the spit is special from a ecological stand-point and a cultural stand-point, so we want to be excellent tenants on the land." (7/3)

The End of the Universe: Dependent of Gooeyness? (Source: Huffington Post)
The Big Rip, the Big Crunch, the Big Freeze, it pretty much sounds like a list of 'big' Hollywood B-movies. Funny as they may sound, these are some of the most fundamental theories for the beginning and the ending of the Universe. Viscosity, that sticky, gooey consistency of things, could actually hold the key for astrophysics to determine how it will all end billions of years into the future.

The Big Freeze, for example, considers that all available material in the Universe used to form new stars will have been used up; existing stars would eventually burn out. Being the main producers of thermal energy, the cosmic eternity would then suffer from the cold vastness of space. Black holes, those enigmatic consumers of everything that crosses their path, will eventually evaporate --through a process called Hawking radiation-- as space becomes a cold living ground. Click here. (7/2)

Resolution to Replace California's Statue in U.S. Capitol Put on Hold (Source: LA Times)
A measure calling for the statue of Father Junipero Serra in the U.S. Capitol to be replaced with one of NASA astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was shelved in the Legislature on Thursday. The measure has been controversial since it was introduced in January. Roman Catholics in particular have criticized the proposal to remove the likeness of Serra, an 18th century Franciscan friar who created the California mission system and whose legacy has been controversial. (7/2)

Editorial: NASA Needs Clearer Mission, More Money (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Exploring in the unforgiving environment of space will always present daunting challenges. That's why NASA's vision needs to be robust and clear. President Barack Obama vacillated early in his tenure before calling on the space program to envision a manned mission to Mars. But the money to pursue that lofty goal has not materialized.

The focus instead has shifted to replacing the shuttle program with a new commercial crew capsule to ferry astronauts to the space station, thus relieving the need to buy seats on Russian Soyuz capsules. America's space conversation is sadly unimaginative, with more chatter about space tourism for billionaires than a real strategy for putting Americans into deep space. NASA's budget of about $18 billion is not expected to increase markedly before 2020.

Private contractors have long played a major role in America's space program. But NASA needs to be more of a driving force in setting this nation's agenda in space. There is nothing wrong with helping to build a strong commercial space industry; few states have as large a stake in that effort as Florida. But NASA needs to get a firmer grip on the many moving parts of the space program and better define what frontier America will explore and when. (7/2)

Preparations Underway at Wallops for Orbital ATK Antares Return to Flight (Source: America Space)
Seven months after an Antares rocket carrying the doomed Orb-3 mission plummeted onto its launch pad, reconstruction efforts are in full swing in preparation for the rocket’s return to flight.

As catastrophic as the accident appeared, the damage to Launch Complex 0A was not as extensive as expected. Antares impacted just feet from the north wall of the flame trench. The reinforced concrete structure protected much of the launch pad from the force of the resulting explosion. Fortunately, the nearby storage tanks on the north side of the pad were also spared in the accident.

Orbital ATK will soon take delivery of the new RD-181 engine from NPO Energomash, which will replace the Aerojet AJ-26 that powered the first stage of Antares. In the meantime, preparations are underway in the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to modify an existing booster core to accept the RD-181. Launch pad renovations are expected to be completed in time for a 29-second static test firing of the new Antares booster by the end of the year. The first launch of the upgraded Antares is on track for next spring. (7/2)

Ex-Im is Closed to New Business; Will the U.S. Space Industry Suffer? (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Export-Import Bank, as expected, closed its doors to new business July 1 following the U.S. Congress’s inability to renew bank authorization, but said all existing loans and guarantees will be maintained and carried to their maturity. ​​The same U.S. industry officials who had hoped Congress would approve an 11th-hour reauthorization said Ex-Im is likely to be shuttered only for a few months, the time needed for congressional backers to regroup.

Congressional opponents to Ex-Im have marshaled several arguments on their behalf, but the common thread – backed by some U.S. airlines — is that the bank is an unnecessary government hand on the scales of the free market. (7/2)

U.S. Spending on Space Protection Could Hit $8 Billion through 2020 (Source: Space News)
Emerging threats from Russia and China and an eye-opening government study known as the Space Portfolio Review have led the White House to add as much as $8 billion to intelligence and defense budgets over the next five years for activities to improve the resiliency of U.S. national security space capabilities, sources told SpaceNews.

Previously, Defense Department officials said they had budgeted $5 billion in fiscal years 2016-2020 for what they describe as space protection activities, a broad category that includes space surveillance. The funding is contained in both classified and unclassified budget projections, these officials have said. (7/2)

ULA Makes Space Look Easy, But it’s Not (Source: Decatur Daily)
As NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending almost a year on the ISS, said via Twitter after Sunday’s failed launch, “Space is hard.” It’s not surprising Congress tends to forget exactly how hard it is. United Launch Alliance has had a monopoly on military launches since it was formed in 2006 out of a merger of the rocket divisions of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Since then, it has had a phenomenal 96 successful launches. Both its Atlas V and Delta IV rockets have near-perfect success rates, both before ULA was formed and since.

ULA has been a victim of its own success. Its reliability is so high its successful launches have become boring to the nation. Space is hard, but ULA makes it look easy. ULA rockets are expensive. Because ULA’s success has lulled many into the assumption the nation can count on rockets getting their payloads into orbit, Congress has begun to focus on cost. Monopolies are bad, many in Congress figure, even monopolies tightly controlled by NASA and the Defense Department. Competition is good, because it decreases cost and encourages innovation. (7/2)

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