August 24, 2015

Why NASA Still Can’t Put Humans in Space: Congress Is Starving It of Needed Funds (Source: Slate)
On Saturday, just a few days from now, it will have been 1,500 days that NASA has been relying on Russia to hitch a ride to the International Space Station. It was that long ago when the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center—the last Shuttle flight to the ISS, and in fact the last Shuttle flight of them all. That was the last time an American rocket carried humans into space.

As I have made clear many times, I do not begrudge President Bush for canceling the Shuttle program, nor President Obama for canceling its replacement, the Constellation program, which was running severely over budget and behind schedule. What I do begrudge is a Congress that has made this situation far worse by underfunding the Commercial Crew Development program, which was specifically designed to allow commercial companies to pick up the slack and get Americans back into space on board American crewed vehicles.

Every year, NASA works with the White House to create a budget. The amount the president has asked to fund Commercial Crew over time would have been enough to begin the first launches this year, 2015. But over the past five years, Congress has consistently underfunded Commercial Crew, usually by several hundred million dollars every year, as much as 25 percent of the requested funds. The total amount that’s been shorted is about $1 billion. (8/24)

Why NASA's Space Lettuce is a Game Changer (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While a lot has been said about how NASA used the VEGGIE experiment on the International Space Station (ISS), the why of it has been discussed to a lesser extent. The fact is, this little experiment could be a game changer for space exploration. The most obvious way to highlight the importance of this is by asking a question: “What takes up less weight and volume on a spacecraft, prepared meals for crew members, or a packet of seeds?” Click here. (8/24)

Bezos to Visit Cape for 'Significant' Announcement on Sep. 15 (Source: Florida Today)
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire CEO and founder of private space company Blue Origin, will visit Cape Canaveral next month to make a "significant announcement regarding the commercial launch industry," according to a media invitation. The announcement is expected to confirm Blue Origin's intent to build rockets on the Space Coast and launch them from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The company has been negotiating a package with Space Florida and other agencies that would result in construction of a manufacturing facility in Exploration Park just south of Kennedy Space Center's secure area on Merritt Island, and eventual launches of orbital human spaceflight missions from Launch Complex 36.

Space Florida's board last week gave its approval for the state economic development agency to finalize the terms of an agreement, referring only to the deal's code name of "Project Panther." Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello then said he thought the deal would be made public within a month or so. Bezos' visit is scheduled for Sept. 15. (8/24)

Space Command Chief Wants Satellite Control Consolidation (Source: Space News)
The head of Air Force Space Command wants to revamp ground control systems for military spacecraft. Gen. John Hyten said the top-to-bottom review of satellite control infrastructure is driven by a desire to lower costs and reduce the number of personnel involved in routine spacecraft operations. Hyten previously said it was the "dumbest thing in the world" that five satellite systems each have their own, separate ground stations at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. (8/24)

Elysium Signs Customer for Lunar Memorial Service (Source: TechCrunch)
A California company has signed up its first customer for a planned lunar memorial service. Elysium Space will fly remains in small cubes affixed to a lunar lander being developed by Astrobotic Technology. The first customer will be a Tennessee woman who passed away of cancer. The company is offering the memorial service at $9,950, a $2,000 discount over regular prices, for its first 50 customers. (8/23)

XCOR Juggles Work at Mojave, Midland. Flight Possible in 6-9 Months (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
XCOR Aerospace has moved half of its staff to Midland, Texas as it attempts to juggle manufacturing demands back in Mojave, California. “There’s a lot going on in Mojave,” said XCOR mechanical engineer Mark Peck. “That’s one of the reasons for not moving everyone right now is because we just don’t want to take a month out of the build schedule.”

Peck estimated that XCOR is six to nine months away from the Lynx 1’s first flight. The main structure is complete and the wing mounts are being made. Once the craft is put together, the team in Mojave will do ground testing at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Peck cited the longer runway at Mojave and the ability to do extensive testing there without shutting down a commercial airport as reasons for doing the test back in California. (8/23)

Despite Setback, SpaceX Still Shaking Up Market (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After increasingly losing customers to SpaceX for satellite launches, Arianespace is planning to lower the cost per flight to about $96 million. This new price range could be implemented when the new Ariane 6 launcher is developed, which could deliver 11 metric tons to GTO, making Arianespace’s offer more affordable. The first flight of the Ariane 6 is currently slated to take place in 2020.

“Unless the other rocket makers improve their technology rapidly, they will lose significant market share to the Falcon 9,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and chief designer. SpaceX is also expanding its portfolio by developing a heavier version of the Falcon booster. The Falcon Heavy should allow the company to send a record-breaking payload of 53 metric tons to LEO and slightly more than 21 metric tons to GTO for some $90 million.

SpaceX and Arianespace aren’t the only players aspiring for their share of the launch market. International Launch Services (ILS), a U.S.-Russian joint venture, is planning to use the Angara booster being developed by Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center to help them compete in this lucrative market. ILS already employs the Russian-built Proton booster, and has added the Angara as the newest addition to its commercial fleet. (8/24)

Editorial: Artificial Gravity Would Solve Most Space Problems (Source: Aviation Week)
The partial and ever-growing list of the harmful effects of weightlessness on the human body includes muscle atrophy, heart shrinkage, heart rhythm irregularities, reduction in blood volume and red cell production, bone mass loss, brain swelling, anemia, endothelial dysfunction, sleep deprivation, kidney stones, space sickness, weakening of the immune system and, most recently discovered, permanently impaired vision. (8/21)

Nicaragua to Host Russian Glonass Ground Stations (Source: Space Daily)
The Nicaraguan Institute for Telecommunications has signed an agreement with Russia on the construction of Russian Glonass satellite navigation network ground stations in Nicaragua. The stations are expected to become operational by July 2016. Initially, the work of the Glonass stations will be handled by Russian specialists and will then be gradually passed on to Nicaraguan workers as they finish their training. (8/24)

What's for Dinner? BioFood! (Source: Space Daily)
While Mars and other planets await the arrival of humans, the question of how to maintain astronauts' food supplies remains a major obstacle for such missions. NASA is granting $200,000 per year to find a way to turn human excrement into nourishment.

Building a closed-cycle food supply with the help of synthetic biology could be crucial for manned travel to Mars and other long-range missions to be conducted in the future. Grants awarded to Blenner's team, as well as seven others, "could transform space exploration," according to a NASA press release. (8/24)

Orbital ATK to Produce Satellite Propellant Tanks for Lockheed Martin (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital ATK signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to produce propellant and pressurant tanks for Lockheed Martin’s updated A2100 satellite platform. The five-year contract continues a 20-year relationship between Orbital ATK and Lockheed Martin for satellite fuel tanks produced by the company’s Space Systems Group. (8/24)

Astronauts Found Something Troubling in Shots From Space (Source: Tech Insider)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are snapping photos of Earth to measure light pollution, and they've found something surprising: Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) — which are touted for their energy-saving properties — are actually making light pollution worse. And the change is so intense that ISS crew members can see it from space. Click here. (8/21)

Mars - The Only Known Planet Inhabited Solely by Robots (Source: Writing Chimp)
It struck me as a lonely life, if a robot could have such a feeling, but an industrious life all the same. Curiosity isn’t completely alone though, he has a few redundant friends such as Opportunity and Spirit, who also reside on Martian land, but there are no people, making Mars, as far as we know, the only planet to be inhabited solely by robots. Click here. (8/23)

Russia's Space Program in Crisis After Decades of Brain Drain, Neglect (Source: NBC)
It might be the only country that can rocket humans into space, but Russia's once-great space program is being dragged back to Earth by decades of brain drain and financial hardship. "The Russian space industry is in an obvious state of crisis," said Asif Siddiqi, a professor at Fordham University in New York and an expert on Russia's space program.

The latest sign that that the Kremlin's space program was creaking came on May 7, when a Progress M-27M unmanned spacecraft burned on re-entry over the Pacific. Russia has lost 15 spacecraft since 2010, with assembly mistakes blamed in most cases. It hasn't always been this way. Click here. (8/23)

Our Biggest Year in Space, Ever (Source: IEET)
We’re looking outward… toward the vast, vast majority of all there is. And after decades of doldrums, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration.  Have any of you been keeping track on a scorecard? Click here. (8/21)

Oxford Space Systems Among UK Companies in US Trade Mission (Source: This Is Money)
Oxford Space Systems, a firm using origami as inspiration for its satellite components, has won a deal to supply a major provider to the International Space Station. Founder Mike Lawton was one of nine entrepreneurs taking part this month in a trade mission by Government agency Innovate UK to Utah, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A second is planned to take place in Houston this autumn. (8/22)

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