August 25, 2015

There's Peace in Space. Will Earthly Conflicts End It? (Source: MaClean's)
“I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.” Rogozin was in no position to back up this rhetoric. The U.S., after all, has pumped billions into his country’s space program, including payments for Americans’ seats on the Soyuz. (A renowned bloviator, he’s left numerous threats unfulfilled.) And it’s not as if his space agency, Roscosmos, can operate the ISS without the U.S.

Still, those heated words from a Vladimir Putin confidant laid bare tensions straining the fabric of the Russia-U.S. space partnership. Can it survive as relations here on the surface deteriorate? Is mutual dependence enough to hold it together? What happens after the ISS agreement expires? If the two sides part ways, will each honour its long-standing commitment to use space for peaceful purposes? Click here. (8/24)

UAE, Belarus to Explore Mars Together (Source: BELTA)
 The United Arab Emirates considers Belarus as a partner in Mars exploration, BelTA learned from Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, on 24 August. The UAE Space Agency head said: “We plan to launch a mission to Mars. It will be the first such launch in the region. We believe that joint work with Belarus in this field will be promising.” (8/25)

Blue Origin Deal to Launch More Florida Space Business (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Central Florida's space industry is a sleeping giant that is just beginning to stir. It has the potential to open up a new economic engine in government and commercial space flights that also may include an element of space tourism — taking tourists to low orbit in rockets. It's also an opportunity for recruiting different research firms to build local offices that could result in billions of dollars in new development and even more jobs. (8/24)

Alaska Dedicates Launch Facility to Ed Allen (Source: Alaska Aerospace)
The Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska (PSCA) today dedicated the Launch Operations Control Center (LOCC) in honor of Ed Allen.  Mr. Allen started working at the Kodiak Launch Complex in 1998.  As part of the early development team for the launch facility, his leadership and over 50 years expertise in the rocket launch business proved critical in resolving challenging problems with building a complex rocket launch facility at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island.  (8/24)

Editorial: Setting Arbitrary Cost, Schedule Will Never Get People to Mars (Source: Space News)
What is needed is a firm, long-term commitment to pursue the goal of humans exploring and eventually settling on Mars, not for a year or two or for a decade or two, but for as long as it takes. And don’t expect it to cost $5 billion or $30 billion or $50 billion, but plan on allocating a reasonable (and acceptable) fraction of the NASA annual budget every year. Mars isn’t going away, and the important fiscal constraint isn’t the total cost, but the annual cost; i.e., the budget. (8/24)

Editorial: The Price of Ideology (Source: Space News)
Congress’ Ex-Im Shutdown is Already Costing U.S. Companies. It’s not unusual for Congress to break for August recess with unfinished business on its plate, but allowing the U.S. Export-Import Bank to wither on the vine is something else altogether.

First, lawmakers deliberately allowed the Ex-Im’s authorization to expire July 1, making it impossible for the bank to enter into new financing arrangements. Then, they left Washington with no action on the matter, guaranteeing that the bank will remain dormant — it can only fulfill pre-existing agreements — at least until their return Sept. 8, but more likely well into October.

It should be of no surprise to anyone, therefore, that the space industry is beginning to pay the price for the bank’s authorization lapse. The most clear-cut example is Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems’ contract to provide an all-electric satellite to repeat customer ABS. That deal is valued at well over $100 million but contingent on Ex-Im backing. (8/24)

Is Dark Energy a Chameleon? (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Scientists have come up with a couple of ideas for the nature of dark energy. One camp supposes it’s the energy pent up in empty space itself, known as the cosmological constant. True to its name, it should stay constant from the Big Bang onward. But the theory has some problems — most notably it overpredicts the energy density of the cosmic vacuum by 120 orders of magnitude (yikes!).

Another camp instead suggests quintessence, a fifth fundamental force that doesn’t have to be constant — it could have arisen at some point in the early universe and might one day gradually fade away again. But so far scientists have failed to detect this fifth force in the lab. So in 2004 Justin Khoury and Amanda Weltman (both then at Columbia University) suggested a modified scenario: chameleons. Click here. (8/25)

Shiloh-Area Community Reaches Compromise on Land Use (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Oak Hill officials have reached a compromise with those who challenged a change to the city’s land-use plan initially aimed at landing a space manufacturing company (Blue Origin). In May, over the objections of state and local Audubon Society members, the City Commission unanimously approved a land-use change for 423 acres for a space industry manufacturing facility.

Clay Henderson, an attorney and longtime local environmental advocate, challenged the approval, filing a request for a state administrative hearing on behalf of nearby property owner David Hall. That triggered a series of discussions between Henderson and the city attorney and other officials that resulted in a compromise. Concessions from the city will require a 200-foot-wide buffer around any planned construction on the site, an adjusted maximum height of building allowed on the property from 100 feet to 75 feet. (8/25)

Entrepreneur Blasting Off Into Orbit (Source: CBS)
The daily business of outer space, long the exclusive province of NASA, has become a wide-open field for entrepreneurship. Millions of investment dollars are pushing commerce into orbit. A fleet of toaster-sized satellites hitch rides on any rocket headed into space.

"It's great," said Will Marshall, a former NASA scientist and CEO of Planet Labs. "We ask the astronauts to throw our satellites out the window and they do." The satellites, called "doves," cruise in low-Earth orbit, around 400 miles up. Their mission is ambitious: to take a picture of every place on earth every single day. "We have launches 87 satellites to date, which is the largest constellation in human history," said Marshall. Click here. (8/23)

Russian Institute Plans aAll-Female Simulated Moon Mission (Source:
Following from their Mars-500 “long duration” simulation in 2011-2012, the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, Russia, has announced plans to perform an all-female simulated eight-day lunar circumnavigation mission by the end of 2015. The test and flight simulation project is called “Moon-2015".

Currently scheduled for October-November 2015, the experiment will differ from the Mars-500 venture not just in duration but most notably in crew composition. For Moon-2015, all the participants will be women, drawn from the staff at IBMP itself. In their July announcement, IBMP named the ten volunteers from whom the actual crew will be chosen. (8/25)

CubeSats to Mars and Beyond (Source: Space Review)
As CubeSats take on an wider range of missions in Earth orbit, some are looking at how such small spacecraft could be used on interplanetary missions. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts discussed at a recent conference, from serving as a communications relay for a Mars lander mission to being Mars landers themselves. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

Second Horizon (Source: Space Review)
Long before New Horizons lifted off on its mission to Pluto, the project team was proposing the development of a second, similar spacecraft. Dwayne Day discusses that proposal and what happened to it at NASA and in the halls of Congress. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

Major Unfinished Business in the the US Space Program (Source: Space Review)
With less than 18 months left in the current Presidential administration, some argue there's little chance of major new space initiatives from the White House in that time. However, Vid Beldavs, in an open letter to the President, asks him to support a new emphasis on lunar exploration in cooperation with international and commercial partners. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

The Risks of Mars (Source: Space Review)
Many people consider a human mission to Mars with trepidation given the risks involved, including the potential loss of life. Frank Stratford argues that humanity needs to accept and even embrace those risks, given the much greater benefits such missions offer. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

Alcoholic Beverages Sent to ISS to Test Space's Effect on "Mellowness" (Source:
An array of alcoholic beverages is on its way to the International Space Station, but the astronauts won't be imbibing. The five distilled spirits are part of an experiment by Suntory Global Innovation Center of Japan, which is planning to see how microgravity affects the spirits' "mellowness." The samples will be stored in the Kibo module -- some for a year, others for two years or longer -- and will be tested when they return to Earth. (8/20)

Construction Begins on CYGNSS Storm-watching Smallsats (Source: Space News)
Construction has started on the first of eight small satellites in the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) constellation. CYGNSS is NASA’s second principal investigator-led Earth Science Venture-class mission. The constellation is scheduled to launch in late 2016 on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Science operations would begin during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. (8/21)

World's Fastest-Melting Glacier Loses Massive Chunk (Source: Mashable)
One of the world's most rapidly flowing glaciers may have just set another record, and it's not one not that bodes well for low-lying coastal cities and nations around the world, which are vulnerable to sea level rise. During the past month, NASA and European satellites captured images showing a sudden loss of ice, also known as a calving event (or in this case, possibly multiple events) from Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier. It's unclear if this sudden ice loss set a record, according to NASA.

A 2014 study published in the open access journal Cryosphere found that the glacier was moving at average speeds of about half-a-mile per year, or more than 150 feet per day, during the summers of 2012 and 2013. "We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s," said Ian Joughin. "This glacier alone could contribute more to sea level rise than any other single feature in the Northern Hemisphere," according to NASA. (8/23)

First Manned Launch From Russia's Vostochny Delayed Until 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos is postponing the first manned space flight from the new Vostochny Space Center from 2018 until 2025. According to Roscosmos, there is no purpose in launching the older Soyuz ship in 2018. The first launch will be aboard a new Angara-A5B carrier rocket. The first test flight of the Angara-A5B is scheduled for 2023, with a first unmanned operational flight slated for 2024. Earlier statements claimed that the first launch of a new manned spacecraft on an Angara heavy rocket carrier would take place in 2023. (8/25)

Russia's Moon Landing Plan Hindered by Financial Distress (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's moon landing project among other space programs will face further budget cuts and even risk of closure following the government's austerity measures, a senior official of Russia's space industry said Monday. "We don't rule out that further space budget cuts would continue in the upcoming years," said Yuri Koptev, head of the scientific-technical Council of Roscosmos, the governing organ of Russia's space industry.

Russia's moon landing plan requires at least 2.4 trillion rubles (34 billion U.S. dollars) until 2025, according to Koptev. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said in April that Roscosmos would keep implementing space exploration projects despite the economic difficulties and try to help Russian cosmonauts land on the moon no later than 2030. Russia's space strategy charted by Roscosmos until 2030 regards the moon missions as a step toward a manned flight to Mars. (8/25)

Boeing Plans Layoff in Satellite Division (Source: Reuters)
Boeing plans to lay off hundreds of employees in its satellite division. The company said in an internal communication that "multiple" commercial satellite orders have been delayed because of recent launch failures as well as the lapse in authorization of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., forcing the layoffs. The total number of layoffs will be finalized later this year, a company spokesman said, and some employees could find work in other parts of the company. (8/25)

US Army Cancels SWORDS Microsatellite Launcher Program (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Army’s efforts to field a rocket for launching small, low-orbiting satellites on short notice continue to come up empty, even as several commercially oriented companies pursue similar capabilities, the service’s top space official said. Meanwhile, the service has shelved its Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space (SWORDS) program.

In March 2013, the Army awarded Quantum International, based here, a $19 million contract to develop the SWORDS vehicle, with an orbital test flight scheduled for summer 2014. KT Engineering and Teledyne Brown Engineering, both of Huntsville, were subcontractors on the program. But the test flight never happened, and the contract expired in October 2014. (8/24)

NASA Picks Planetary Science Cubesat Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected two planetary science cubesat missions for development. The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper is a 6U cubesat that will map hydrogen abundances near the lunar south pole, while the CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment is a 2U spacecraft that will study particle interactions in microgravity. The two were selected from 22 proposals submitted for the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration, or SIMPLEx, competition earlier this year, for launch in 2018. NASA also selected three other proposals for further technology development. (8/25)

Stem Cells Survive Wild Ride on Prototype Space Capsule (Source:
Despite a rough landing, stem cells riding in a prototype capsule survived a long fall back to Earth during a drop test — part of an initiative to research the cells in space. The RED-4U capsule was created by Terminal Velocity Aerospace to return science experiments to Earth and carried a cargo of adult stem cells, which can grow into any cell type.

The cells, provided by the Mayo Clinic, are thriving despite a parachute's deployment issue, the company's CEO said. The failure's cause is being investigated, but is not related to the parachute design. The capsule was raised and dropped by a balloon to test the system for future use on the International Space Station. The balloon flew to about 20 miles (32 kilometers) before descending on a similar trajectory to something returning from space. (8/25)

Stockholm Fashion Week Turns Island into Mars (Source: The Local)
More than 30 Nordic designers are showcasing the Spring/Summer collections they hope we will be wearing or be inspired by this time next year, with most of the catwalk events happening at Stockholm's Berns, a nineteenth century building that doubles up as a night club, hotel, restaurant and conference venue.
But sports brand Björn Borg instead took over Långholmen island in the Swedish capital on Monday evening, to create a Mars-themed environment complete with red rocks, dust and a giant crator underneath Västerbron bridge, for what is sure to be one of the most talked about catwalks of the entire week. (8/24)

Why We Don't Need Another Space Race (Source: Huffington Post)
We didn't finish the first one yet. We just abandoned it. "Nearly five decades ago we had the ability to extend ourselves into the solar system and beyond," Stephen Petranek says in his new TED book, How We'll Live on Mars. "We simply have not chosen to pursue the opportunity."

These days we talk about human missions to Mars as if a new type of space race has begun, one clearly distanced from the original space race by a good 40 or more years, a race we here in the US of A believe we won, because we sent astronauts to the moon. What if the original race never ended? Abandoning a race that continued without us is "winning" only as Charlie Sheen would see it: a blinders-on, super-subjective judgment with no basis in reality. Click here. (8/24)

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