August 4, 2015

NanoRacks to Fly Chinese Experiment on ISS (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A Chinese experiment will fly to the ISS next year thanks to an American company. NanoRacks says it will fly a DNA experiment by a Chinese scientist to the station next year under a $200,000 commercial contract between the scientists and the company. The experiment will be the first Chinese payload to go to the station. NASA is currently limited by law in its ability to cooperate with China, but the deal is crafted in such a way to avoid that restriction. (8/3)

ESA Work on Orion Could Speed Project Schedule (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Development of NASA's Orion spacecraft is currently paced by its European service module. NASA officials said the service module will likely be the last element of the vehicle to be ready for launch. The module, being provided by the European Space Agency, could be delivered to the U.S. prior to its completion to speed up integration with the crew module. A confirmation review, which will refine the Orion program's cost and schedule, is nearing completion, although NASA is tentatively planning the first Orion launch on the Space Launch System in the third quarter of 2018. (8/3)

Arianespace Rocket Part Washes Up on Florida Beach (Source: Sun Sentinel)
A piece of a Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana washed ashore on a Florida beach. The debris, described as the size of a mattress, was spotted on a Fort Lauderdale beach early Sunday. The debris bears the markings of the European Galileo satellite navigation program; those satellites have been launched on Soyuz rockets from French Guiana. The debris is now in the custody of local police and will be examined by the FAA on Monday. (8/3)

A Failure of Foresight and Oversight (Source: Space Review)
The National Transportation Safety Board wrapped up its investigation last week into last year's SpaceShipTwo accident. Jeff Foust reports on new details about the accident released as part of the investigation, and the underlying problems the board found with the vehicle's developer and regulator. Visit to view the article. (8/3)

Building the 21st Century Space Museum (Source: Space Review)
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) regularly opens new exhibits at its downtown Washington building, rotating in new artifacts and displays with specific themes, often for limited times. Last week, the museum opened its latest such exhibit, “Above and Beyond,” an interactive survey of the present and future of aviation and spaceflight, one intended for “visitors of all ages, but especially ages 7–14,” according to a museum statement.

It’s also, museum officials said, a glimpse at the museum’s future. “‘Above and Beyond’ is the most electronics-heavy exhibition ever housed at the National Air and Space Museum,” associate director Roger Launius said at a preview of the exhibit July 30. “As such, it will help shape the future of this particular museum.” Click here. (8/3)

The Engine Problem (Source: Space Review)
The US Air Force is embarking on a program to develop a new engine to replace the Russian-built RD-180 currently used on the Atlas V. Wayne Eleazer explains how this situation is the result of decades of neglect and other problems with the American launch vehicle industry. Visit to view the article. (8/3)

Proton Failure Review Points to Turbopump-Related Vibration (Source: ILS)
International Launch Services says it has completed a review of the investigation of the Proton launch failure in May. The ILS failure review oversight board agreed with the conclusion that a higher than expected vibration environment on the rocket's third stage caused the engine's turbopump to shut down prematurely; that vibrational environment was blamed in turn on "marginal" joints and materials in the turbopump itself. The ILS statement did not announce a return-to-flight date for the Proton, but Russian officials recently said the next Proton launch, of an Inmarsat satellite, is planned for Aug. 28. (8/3)

Lockheed Cuts Costs with Satellite Manufacturing Consolidation (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin believes the consolidation of its satellite manufacturing work will save time and money. The company is in the process of closing a factory in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and moving that work to Denver. The consolidation, the company says, will save six weeks on some Defense Department satellite programs where components were previously built in Newtown and shipped to Denver. The consolidation will also provide unspecified cost savings. (8/3)

Hawaii Hosts Another HI-SEAS Mars Analog Mission (Source: Hawaii News Now)
A group of six scientists will start a year-long stay in a simulated Mars habitat later this month. The six will spend a year in a habitat on Hawaii's Mauna Loa mountain starting Aug. 28 as part of the latest Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission. Previous HI-SEAS crews have spent up to eight months in the habitat to study human factors issues for long-duration spaceflight. (8/3)

Galaxy Quest (Source: Texas Monthly)
When my wife was chosen as one of the Mars One finalists, at first all I could see was my loss. Then I realized it's humanity's gain. So now I'm just taking it one small step for a man at a time. Click here. (7/31)

Escape Dynamics Demonstrates Beamed Energy Propulsion (Source: Space News)
A Colorado startup has achieved a milestone in the development of beamed energy propulsion. Escape Dynamics successfully tested in its laboratory a thruster system that uses beamed microwave energy to heat a propellant, creating thrust with a higher efficiency than conventional chemical propulsion systems. The company is still in the early stages of developing that technology, but envisions it being incorporated into a reusable system for single stage to orbit launches of small payloads. (8/3)

Canada Provides Tech for Next Generation GPS Satellites (Source: Space News)
Canada has agreed to provide search-and-rescue repeaters for the next generation of GPS satellites. Canada's Department of National Defence will begin negotiations with the U.S. Air Force on the Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) project, which will install the repeaters on 24 GPS 3 satellites. MEOSAR promises to more quickly detect distress beacons than existing satellite systems. (8/3)

Private West Virginia University Fined for Misuse of NASA Grant (Source: State Journal)
U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld announced Aug. 3 Wheeling Jesuit University will pay the United States $2,300,000 to settle claims it misused grant funding awarded by NASA, the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Science Foundation. Allegedly, the university improperly characterized costs, incurred impermissible costs and misused federal funds and property acquired with federal funds from 2003 to 2010.

The settlement "resolves False Claim Act violations that the United States was prepared to pursue," according to a news release. "The agreement does not preclude criminal charges against individuals involved in the grant fraud." Also addressed in the settlement in ownership of the National Technology Transfer Center on the University's campus, constructed in accordance with a federal grant from NASA. The University will retain ownership of the building. The allegations came to the surface following an audit by NASA. (8/3)

NSBRI Seeks Proposals to Support Space Exploration Mission Crews (Source: Space Daily)
The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is soliciting for ground-based and analog definition research proposals to develop safe and effective countermeasures and technologies that will reduce the significant biomedical risks associated with human space travel. These discoveries will not only enable safe and productive human spaceflight, but will also have the potential to improve life on Earth.

The Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) announcement entitled "Research and Technology Development to Support Crew Health and Performance in Space Exploration Missions" was released jointly with NASA's Human Research Program on July 31, 2015. NSBRI is soliciting for research proposals of one year in duration to strengthen the project portfolios of its Human Factors and Performance, Musculoskeletal Alterations, Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors, Radiation Effects, and Smart Medical Systems and Technology research teams. (8/4)

Surfing for Science (Source: Space Daily)
Thanks to a new system developed by scientists in the UK, taking to the waves for a spot of surfing can benefit research into the health of coastal waters, and could help confirm satellite measurements of sea-surface temperature. The system, developed by Plymouth Marine Laboratory and partly funded through ESA's Earth Observation Support to Science Element, allows surfers to measure the temperature of the sea every time they head for the surf. Potentially, this could provide 40 million in situ measurements per year around the UK alone, yielding unique information about the coastline. (7/30)

Guarding Space: Russia Creates a New Branch of the Armed Forces – Aerospace (Source: Sputnik)
Russia has added a new branch to its armed forces – the Aerospace Force. The newly created branch has merged the country’s air force, air defense, anti-missile and space forces under one command, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. “The creation of the Aerospace Forces by merging the air force and aerospace defense force is the optimal way of improving the system of the nation's aerospace defense," Shoigu said. (8/3)

KSC's Extreme Access Flyer to Take Planetary Exploration Airborne (Source: NASA)
Swamp Works engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are inventing a flying robotic vehicle that can gather samples on other worlds in places inaccessible to rovers. The vehicles – similar to quad-copters but designed for the thin atmosphere of Mars and the airless voids of asteroids and the moon – would use a lander as a base to replenish batteries and propellants between flights.

"This is a prospecting robot," said Rob Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects at Swamp Works. "The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are. They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent shadow. Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that's far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb." Click here. (7/30)

Is That Really Alien Life? Scientists Worry Over False-Positive Signs (Source:
The search for life elsewhere in the universe is on the cusp of a new era: When scientists will have the opportunity to study the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets with future, technologically advanced telescopes. Humans have no foreseeable way to travel to these worlds to study them up close, but the chemical mixtures that surround them may reveal the presence of life.

There is no single "smoking gun" for life; no atmospheric mixture that can definitively declare, "Something lives here!" (At least, not that scientists know of). And searching for life from afar carries a heavy burden of proof: Any signal that looks like life could actually be created in some clever, non-biological process that scientists haven't yet thought of. (8/4)

MDA Corp. Explains Drop in Satellite Orders, Says Move Out of U.S. Possible (Source: Space News)
Canadian space hardware and services provider MDA Corp. said the shutdown of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the strengthened U.S. dollar and rocket failures have all contributed to a reduced number of telecommunications satellite orders booked industry-wide in 2015. Canada-based MDA, which owns satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SSL) in California, said the dollar’s rise against the euro has so changed the competitive dynamic that the company is considering moving at least part of its satellite operations outside Silicon Valley, and perhaps outside the U.S. (8/4)

Lockheed Touts Benefits of its Satellite Manufacturing Consolidation (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin says it can reduce the time it takes to build payloads and satellites for the U.S. Defense Department by about six weeks as a result of closing its Newtown, Pennsylvania, space system factory planned for later this year. In November 2013, Lockheed Martin announced it was shuttering its Space System division’s operations in Newtown as part of a corporate-wide restructuring. That new organization called for a massive revamping of Lockheed Martin’s Denver facilities and the promise of improved manufacturing, assembly and testing for its space manufacturing arm.

In July, Lockheed Martin announced that the reorganization has led to the creation of what it calls the RF [Radio Frequency] Payload Center for Excellence. Previously some of  the company’s satellite payloads and payload components were developed, built and sometimes tested in Newtown before being shipped and integrated at Lockheed Martin facilities in Denver or Sunnyvale, California. Now, all of that work takes place at the center in Denver, which includes about 150 employees from the Newtown campus. (8/3)

On-Demand Satellites Can Shoot High-Def Video of Your Car (Source: Scientific American)
Pictures from high above Earth’s surface, on display at a New York City press conference in June, were startling not just because of their high definition but because they added a new dimension to satellite imagery—time. The images took the form of videos that showed individual cars moving on highways.

The company behind the images, start-up firm UrtheCast, had a pair of cameras installed on the Russian side of the International Space Station last year and plans to add two more to the U.S. side. At the press conference, UrtheCast announced the coming launch—currently scheduled for later this summer—of an on-demand satellite imagery service that will include video. (8/3)

Startup Makes Progress in Beamed Propulsion for Reusable Launch Vehicles (Source: Space News)
A small Colorado company has successfully tested a new type of propulsion technology that it believes could eventually enable low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles. Broomfield, Colorado-based Escape Dynamics announced July 17 it carried out a small-scale test in the laboratory of its beamed microwave thruster. In that test, the company beamed microwave energy to a thruster, heating helium propellant and generating a small amount of thrust.

“Using microwave-powered propulsion is really what we think is the next giant leap in space access,” said company president Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux. Unlike conventional chemical propulsion, where the energy is stored in the propellants themselves, beamed microwave propulsion stores the energy on the ground and transmits it to the launch vehicle using microwaves. A heat exchanger on the launch vehicle converts the microwaves into thermal energy to heat up a propellant, such as hydrogen and helium, which is then expelled to generate thrust. (8/3)

NASA Solicits Industry Proposals for SLS Stage Adaptor (Source:
NASA is requesting industry proposals for a Universal Stage Adaptor (USA) that will provide options for additional payloads set to ride uphill on the Space Launch System (SLS). The USA will be able to host payloads in-between the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) and Orion, or provide a role for cargo-only missions – the latter required to provide SLS with a viable flight rate. (8/3)

Virgin Galactic Misled Ticket Holders, Public on Complexity of Engine Change (Source: Parabolic Arc)
When Virgin Galactic announced it was switching from the nitrous oxide/rubber rocket engine they had flown on SpaceShipTwo three times to one powered by nitrous oxide and nylon, company officials told ticket holders and the public the change involved only minor modifications to Richard Branson’s space tourism vehicle. A document released last week by the NTSB directly contradicts that claim. In  it, an FAA safety expert describing his concern over “major modifications” that had been made in the suborbital space plane to accommodate the new engine. Click here. (8/2)

NASA Deal Gives Rocket Lab 'World Domination' (Source: 3news)
Rocket Lab's new deal with NASA could see its proposed low-cost launches skyrocket in price. The Auckland-based company hopes to bring the cost of putting a payload in orbit down from $130 million to $5 million, with its groundbreaking Electron rocket. But that assumes launches take place in New Zealand. The deal with NASA will allow the company to use facilities in the US like Cape Canaveral, from which the first US satellites and manned spacecraft launched back in the 1950s and '60s.

Editor's Note: Rocket Lab's initial launches in New Zealand will be conducted from a site there licensed by the U.S. FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. (8/3)

Startups Rocket To The Front Of The Space Race (Source: TechCrunch)
Capitalizing on the falling cost of launch services and the miniaturization of satellites, a new breed of startups are gearing up for the space race under the moniker of NewSpace. At a recent conference in San Jose, Calif., leading figures in this NewSpace movement (a term used to describe the startups that stand in the shadows of space industry giants such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin) discussed their novel approaches to spaceflight and exploration and discovery.

While many in NewSpace have their sights set on lofty dreams of planetary exploration or asteroid mining, the first steps to getting off the planet are completely down to Earth. NewSpace is clearly a decade old but remains a nascent industry. Click here. (8/3)

The Future of Virgin Galactic is Not in Space Tourism (Source: Tech Insider)
Virgin Galactic's fatal crash of SpaceShipTwo last year was largely due to pilot error and safety oversight — not a mechanical malfunction of the craft, according to a recent US government report. But the point of that nine-month investigation might soon be moot. That's because the future of Virgin Galactic is not in space tourism, says Roger Handberg, a political scientist and space policy expert at the University of Central Florida.

It's been 11 years since billionaire Richard Branson founded the company. His original goal was to fly (wealthy) tourists 62 miles above the Earth, where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and take in a spectacular view. In those 11 years, however, Virgin Galactic hasn't completed a single flight with paying customers aboard. Instead, it has issued delay after delay.

The company is developing LauncherOne, a rocket system to send small satellites into low-Earth orbit, or on up-and-down parabolic flight (similar to a sounding rocket). WhiteKnightTwo — the airplane-like mothership that can also carry SpaceShipTwo — would loft LauncherOne to a very high altitude and then drop it. From there the rocket and its payload would launch toward space. (8/3)

Galactic Archaeology Reveals Milky Way's Stellar Migrants (Source: Discovery)
A new map of the Milky Way has revealed a surprising fact about the stars living in our galaxy — nearly a third have moved far from their stellar birthplace. This discovery was made by astronomers using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS), which spectroscopically linked chemical elements in stars with the locations within our galaxy known to be abundant in those specific elements. And it turns out that 30 percent of the stars surveyed have migrated far from home. Click here. (8/3)

Astronomy Conference Skirts TMT Debate (Source: Hawaii News Today)
The International Astronomical Union will name celestial objects, hold events at schools, and swap scientific knowledge amongst its 2,800 attendees. But it's not taking an official position on the controversy surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope.

"Of course, we want to promote astronomy.  But we also are very respectful of traditions," said IAU deputy general secretary Piero Benvenuti. The astronomer's assembly doesn't want to offend those who believe Mauna Kea is a sacred site. Neither does it discount the value it sees in the giant telescope. (8/3)

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