August 8, 2015

Crew Members for Missions to ISS in 2017 Announced (Source: Tass)
International Space Station (ISS) participants have announced the crew members for mission to the orbiting laboratory in 2017. This will be the first space flight for four astronauts from the crew - Russian cosmonaut Nikolay Tikhonov, US astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Jack Fischer and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. (8/8)

Astronaut Chris Hadfield Launches Music Career with First Album (Source: Toronto Star)
Even two months away from launch, Chris Hadfield can claim without a trace of immodesty that his upcoming debut album is out of this world. “Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can” will be released Oct. 9, arriving with the weighty honour of being the first album recorded at least partially off planet.

The 11-song collection — buoyed by the bonus inclusion of his famous David Bowie cover, “Space Oddity” — is not intended to rocket Hadfield to musical stardom. Instead, it’s another step in the retired astronaut’s multimedia mission to translate the joy of space travel to the earthbound public. (8/8)

NASA Joins Tumblr to Deliver 'a Regular Dose of Space' (Source: The Verge)
Along with exploring the known universe, NASA is also continuing its expansion into the social media universe. The space agency will now be posting its exploits to Tumblr across four new accounts. The main account will share images and video of NASA's work, while two of the other new pages will focus on specific missions. One page will be dedicated for the Mars Curiosity rover's updates, and another will follow astronaut Peggy Wilson as she trains for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

NASA says it wants to give people a "regular dose of space," and its inaugural post showcases the incredible GIF of the Moon photobombing Earth. The agency has embraced social media for releasing news and updates about its space endeavors; it often encourages the public to participate on Twitter, and recently released one of the first high-resolution images of Pluto on Instagram. (8/8)

Facts Provided About NASA's 'Warp Drive' (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
For those not at NASA or with ties to a major aerospace or physics organization – it all must seem very confusing. The “it” being whether-or-not NASA’s so-called “Warp Drive” actually works. Reports appearing on one site or outlet states that it does – while reports on another say that it does not. Then you have statements a German researcher has confirmed that it works – only to have this statement dismissed by another outlet. So which is it? What is the truth about the EMDrive?

The “EMDrive” is an electromagnetic thruster that has been all the talk in space circles due to the fact that is does not use any reaction mass nor does it emit any type of directional radiation. This means little for those in the public.

What makes this system so exciting is that, for a mission to say, Mars, the flight time would drop from six months or more using conventional chemical-based systems – to just a little more than two months. Although mass, volume and speed are always discussed as being critical in terms of space exploration, perhaps the most important element of all in terms of human space flight – is time. (8/8)

Harris Revenue Grows 15% On Exelis Deal (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Harris Corp. on Friday reported a better-than-expected 15% increase in revenue in the first quarter to include its acquisition of smaller defense-industry rival Exelis Inc., though the company swung to a loss. Harris, which in late May closed on the Exelis deal, has secured some big Pentagon radio contracts this year, notably the $3.9 billion Rifleman deal announced in late April. (8/7)

Reasons to be Truly Outraged by Congressional Stonewalling of Commercial Crew (Source: Houston Chronicle)
You may like Bolden, or dislike him. You may like his boss, President Obama, or you may hate him. You may like NASA’s human exploration plan, or you may have questions about its viability. But you should know this for a fact: Commercial crew, a program allowing SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft and rockets to put U.S. astronauts into orbit, deserves full funding. Here are three reasons why Congressional under-funding of commercial crew is especially duplicitous.

1) Congress is choosing to use Russia instead of American companies; 2) Congress has told the Department of Defense to NOT buy from Russia; and 3) Another rocket (the heavy-lift SLS), for which commercial crew funds are always diverted, doesn’t actually need the money. Click here. (8/7)

Nine Companies Chosen for First EDC/NASA Technology Docking Roadshow Event (Source: EDC of FSC)
Technology Docking, a strategic alliance between NASA and the EDC is a regional initiative and part of NASA’s national pilot program for Regional Economic Development (RED). The partnership provides small and medium-sized manufacturers and technology based companies, access to NASA’s resources both at the Kennedy Space Center and across the nation.

Nine companies were announced to participate in the first annual Technology Docking Roadshow. The Technology Docking Roadshow builds upon a format NASA utilizes to deploy technology, resources and expertise to companies in the Midwest. The Space Coast version is tailored to meet the needs of our regional industry. Each of the companies chosen will be paired with a NASA subject matter expert(s) to assist in solving a company defined technology challenge. Click here.

Editor's Note: This seems a lot like SATOP, a now defunct Florida-based national program aimed at linking NASA experts with small businesses to solve their technology challenges. SATOP was run by the Florida Technological Research & Development Authority, which has since been dissolved. (8/8)

The Would-Be Astronaut (Source: Motherboard)
When Brian Shiro answers the phone, he warns that if an earthquake occurs, and his beeper beeps, he’s going to have to go. “I’m on call 24/7 right now,” he said. Shiro is at work in the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Hawaii’s Ford Island. The Center consists of two World War II-era hangars, retrofitted with green-tech, a gym, and the wood-glass-metal combinations that resemble a hip loft apartment. From this outpost, Shiro warns coast-dwellers about approaching waves.

During his shifts, he sits in front of six connected computer screens, their light bouncing off his floral button-downs. Latitudes, longitudes, and raw seismic data flood the control center, showing what’s shaking around the world. With his mouse moving between the monitors, Shiro looks like the do-good commander of some starship.

And that, actually, is what he would like to be—a spaceman in the new Space Age. Shiro has tried, twice, applying to be a NASA astronaut in 2007 and 2012. NASA, however, declared him merely “highly qualified.” That top-10-percent honor makes a nice resume bullet point but doesn’t get Shiro a seat on the Space Station. Click here. (7/24)

Weighing NASA’s Evolutionary Mars Campaign (Source: Space News)
I spent five days the week of July 27 in the audience at meetings of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). I forgot how much I love committee meetings. They were public meetings in Pasadena, California, so it was easy for me to attend, and with good Internet in the rooms I could multitask during those occasional times when my mind wandered or got bored. However, let me not be too facetious: The discussions were good and informative.

NASA faces many big issues, some about where we are and some about where we are going. The big one that I was especially interested in came across as a theme in many discussions: the tension between those who want a plan and those who want a flexible path for NASA’s human spaceflight program. Click here. (8/7)

Space Profit Soars at Orbital ATK (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK on Aug. 6 reported sharply higher operating profit in its Space Systems division based on improved performance in both military and commercial satellite contracts. The company also said its Antares rocket, to be fitted with new first-stage engines, is on track for a first launch in early 2016 as part of a multi-launch contract with NASA to supply cargo to the International Space Station.

Despite the October 2014 Antares failure on a station-supply mission – tentatively blamed on the older Russian engines Orbital has now scrapped in favor of different Russian engines – Orbital said its NASA station-resupply contract profitability is improving. As is the case with fellow station-resupply contractor SpaceX of Hawthorne, California – whose latest resupply mission in June resulted in failure – Orbital has won an extension of its contract, which will now stretch until mid-2018.

Orbital officials declined to disclose the value of the station-resupply extension, but said the company’s Space Systems division booked $260 million in new orders in the three months ending June 30. The NASA contract presumably accounts for a large part of that sum. (8/7)

NTSB Report Highlights Concerns Within FAA Commercial Space Office (Source: Space News)
As the FAA reviews the recommendations of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on last year’s SpaceShipTwo accident, it is facing new scrutiny that its commercial space office, faced with a heavy workload, may have been under pressure to approve applications without sufficient review.

Among the stronger claims in the NTSB’s final report on the accident, which destroyed the Scaled Composites-built vehicle and killed its co-pilot, is that staff in the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) felt “political pressure” to approve experimental permits for SpaceShipTwo and other vehicles without doing what they considered a complete evaluation.

Neither NTSB investigators, nor the report and its supporting documents, offered any insights into the source of the perceived political pressure by FAA staff. Industry officials said they have seen no evidence of outside political pressure of any kind on the office. “I haven’t seen that, and I don’t get the sense that it’s there,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida and chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. (8/7)

Russian Space Agency Owes $312 Million to Contractor for Vostochny Construction (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) acting as the state customer for the Vostochny spaceport construction in the Far East owes 20 billion rubles ($312 million) to Dalspetsstroy federal contractor firm, Company CEO Yuri Volkodav said on Friday. Other companies and organizations owe another 15 billion rubles ($234 million) to Dalspetsstroy, which is the Far Eastern branch of Russia’s Federal Agency for Special Construction, the company’s head said.

"We’re owed about 15 billion rubles. Aside from this, the customer owes us 20 billion rubles for the Vostochny spaceport construction, which brings the total debt to 35 billion rubles," Volkodav said. "Meanwhile, counterparties’ claims to Dalspetsstroy equal 2 billion rubles [$31 million] and the sum of 350 million rubles [$5.5 million] is the amount that has been acknowledged by courts, which have issued execution writs, with which we’re working," the Dalspetsstroy head said. (8/7)

Two Studies Offer New Clues to How Galaxies Form and Emerge From 'Dark Ages' (Source: CSM)
A team of astronomers has taken the measure of the most distant galaxy yet. It shines with unexpected brightness – an observation that could yield new insights into a period when the universe was emerging from its "dark ages." The results come from one of two studies unveiled this week that each provide fresh revelations about the formation and evolution of galaxies early in the universe's history and their impact on the evolution of the cosmos.

The dark ages lasted for some 400 million years after the universe cooled following the Big Bang. During this period, a fog of neutral hydrogen gas permeated the cosmos between infant galaxies. Over time, however, the collective radiation from the enormous, hot stars that filled these growing galaxies slowly burned off the fog by ionizing the hydrogen. The gradual clearing allowed radiation to traverse the cosmos. Click here. (8/7)

The Mystery of Dwarf Planet Ceres' Missing Craters (Source:
Planetary scientists have a new mystery to investigate: Ceres, a dwarf planet that orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter, appears to have significantly fewer craters on its surface than scientists had expected. Meteorites that crash into the surface of planets and other bodies in the solar system usually leave behind carved-out pockmarks as evidence of the collisions. Older bodies tend to accumulate more craters than young bodies, and scientists can use their estimates of Ceres' age to calculate the number of craters that should be littered across its surface.

But the count has come up short, said Simone Marchi. "There is a story there — what it is, exactly, needs to be seen," said Marchi, who is a member of the Dawn science team. He delivered his results here at the International Astronomical Union meeting, and showed the first crater maps of Ceres' surface. Click here. (8/7)

Air Force: EELV Transition to Competition ‘Must be Managed Very Carefully’ (Source: Via Satellite)
The Air Force wants to manage the transition to competing launches “very carefully,” now that two companies are certified to conduct missions for national security payloads. According to Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves at the Air Force Space Command, the military branch is in the second of a three-stage acquisition strategy directed to reach a state of competition as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.

This means greater scrutiny for SpaceX following its June 28 Falcon 9 mishap, and for United Launch Alliance (ULA) as it morphs the Atlas 5 into Vulcan. Greaves said the Air Force does not want to rush through bringing about competition, as mistakes made now would certainly cost the government — and hence taxpayers — more later on.

Citing Air Force studies on the cost of mission assurance, Greaves said being intentionally deliberate on mission assurance adds about 3 to 5 percent to the cost of missions in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program — a small amount compared to recovering from a preventable catastrophic failure involving the loss of a billion dollar spacecraft. The Air Force is keeping this in mind as it nears the point of competing its first launch in more than a decade. (8/7)

'Is Sending Humans to Mars Necessary?' (Source: Deccan Herald)
Why send humans to Mars or other planets when you can send a biologically engineered or synthetic organism instead? The concept may sound more like science fiction than reality, but it is a possibility scientists are increasingly looking at in the quest to inhabit worlds other than earth. Click here. (8/7)

Rocket Science is Hard. Rocket Diplomacy is Harder (Source: The Economist)
Russia had Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. In 2003 China put a man in space. Even India is exploring the heavens: last September an Indian probe began circling Mars. Brazil thinks of itself as the peer of these big emerging economies (all are members of the BRIC grouping). But when it comes to space, its efforts are earth-bound. It has put up just six smallish, non-commercial satellites, four built with Chinese help and launched on Chinese craft.

Brazil’s space program suffered a blow in July when President Dilma Rousseff scrapped an 11-year-old agreement with Ukraine to launch satellites aboard Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rockets from Brazil’s Alcântara spaceport. The official explanation implied that the much-delayed project, which had been budgeted at 1 billion reais ($290m), had become too expensive. Brazil may also fear that Ukraine will not fulfill its part of the deal, not least because its space industry is located near Donetsk, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Click here. (8/7)

US-China: Civil Space Dialogue (Source: The Diplomat)
Included on the long list of “outcomes” at the conclusion of the seventh round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings in June 2015 was a section on Science, Technology & Agriculture. Included in that section was a short paragraph on … space.

“101. Space: The U.S. and China decided to establish regular bilateral government-to-government consultations on civil space cooperation. The first U.S.-China Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue is to take place in China before the end of October Separate from the Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue, the two sides also decided to have exchanges on space security matters under the framework of the U.S.-China Security Dialogue before the next meeting of the Security Dialogue.”

The inclusion is remarkable given that other agencies of the U.S. government that deal with space, specifically NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), have been legislatively banned from using federal funds “to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company” since 2011. Click here. (8/7)

Surrey Satellite US Expands Business Development Team (Source: SST)
Colorado-based Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (SST-US) today announced the addition of Stephen Eisele and Rick Sanford to its business development team. Eisele and Sanford join Brent Abbott and report to COO Doug Gerull in SST-US’s focus on developing new business and expanding existing opportunities within the United States aerospace market. (8/7)

Senate’s Space Bill Would Extend Current Regulatory Framework (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Barely a week after federal safety watchdogs revealed persistently lax government oversight of the burgeoning space-tourism industry, the Senate voted to extend the current regulatory framework for at least five more years. Passed unanimously on Tuesday, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act aims to encourage private space ventures by providing certainty regarding insurance liability and federal regulation. (8/7)

Next Antares Launch from Spaceport Planned for March (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
The spaceport on the Eastern Shore is close to finishing repairs caused by the October explosion of a rocket and plans to launch an improved Antares in March. "We're very optimistic that we'll be doing very well in many flights in the future," said Frank Culbertson Jr., president of the space systems group at Orbital ATK. (8/7)

A Look at the Science on Hawaii's Mauna Kea (Source: ABC)
Atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea, where some Native Hawaiians have been peacefully protesting the construction of what would be one of the world's largest telescopes, astronomers have spent the past 40 years observing our universe and helping make some of the most significant discoveries in their field.

If the highly contested Thirty Meter Telescope is constructed on the site, scientists say they will be able to explore more of the universe's unsolved mysteries. Many Native Hawaiians, however, consider the land sacred. Astronomers on Mauna Kea continue to peer into the most distant reaches of our early universe, allowing them to see the time immediately following the cosmic dark ages and the big bang. Here's a look at what makes Mauna Kea such a valuable place for both science and the Hawaiian culture. Click here. (8/7)

ViaSat Squeezes Revenue Gain from Reduced Subscriber Base (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and service provider ViaSat erported a reduction in subscribers to its U.S. consumer broadband service, saying satellite beams trained on regions of highest demand are fully booked. ViaSat nonetheless sought to persuade investors that raw subscriber count is only one measure of success. Other measures include average monthly subscriber revenue, subscriber-satisfaction levels and ViaSat’s ability to, in effect, sell the same bandwidth to airline passengers. (8/7)

Silicon Valley Launches Itself into Space (Source: Flight Global)
With Airbus cozying up to Silicon Valley and Facebook unveiling a high-altitude UAV designed to take the internet where no wire could ever go, Flightglobal surveys the aerospace ambitions of the tech world titans – all of whom should bear in mind the golden rule of IT start-ups: for every mountain of riches there is a money pit of despair. Quite a few money pits, actually. Click here. (8/7)

NASA to Give CubeSats a Lift (Source: GNC)
Need to get your science project into space? NASA is making room on upcoming launches for more CubeSats. CubeSats, or nanosatellites, are cube-shaped satellites approximately four inches long, weighing about 3 pounds and usually carry scientific instruments for research. To catch a ride on NASA launch vehicles, proposed CubeSat research must address an aspect of science, technology development, education, or operations encompassed by the space agency's strategic goals.

The program is open to U.S. not-for-profits, accredited U.S. educational organizations and NASA's own research centers. NASA will select candidates for launch or deployment on the International Space Station and negotiate agreements with those selected as manifest opportunities become available. Selection recommendation does not guarantee the availability of a launch opportunity, NASA stressed. (8/7)

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