September 10, 2015

Branson Pitches OneWeb to Australia (Source: Brisbane Courier-Mail)
Richard Branson is trying to convince the Australian government that OneWeb can be an alternative to its National Broadband Network (NBN). Branson, visiting Australia this week, said he plans to meet Friday with Australia's communications minister on how OneWeb could provide broadband connectivity to remote regions of the country. NBN already plans to use two geostationary satellites, the first of which is scheduled to launch at the end of this month. (9/9)

Aerojet Hires Former Boeing Executive (Source: Aerojet)
A long-time Boeing executive is now at Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company announced Wednesday that it has hired Jim Simpson as its new senior vice president of strategy and business development, effective Sept. 21. Simpson worked at Boeing for 35 years, most recently in a similar position in Boeing's Network and Space Systems unit. (9/9)

Elon Musk Reveals Plan to Drop Nukes on Mars to Prepare Planet for Humans (Source: Independent)
Elon Musk is clearly in the 2016 race for Supervillain of the Universe, because on the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," he suggested there were two ways to make Mars hospitable for humans. There's a slow way and a fast way, and both, said Musk, involve warming the planet. The slow way is to flood the planet with greenhouse gases and cause a kind of Martian climate change over a matter of years. The fast way is much more … interesting.

"The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles," said Musk with a completely straight face. "You're a supervillain!" Colbert said. "Superman doesn't say, 'let's drop nuclear bombs.' That's Lex Luthor, man." That would be one way to do it. And how does he propose getting there affordably? Why, with his reusable SpaceX rockets, of course. (9/10)

Lockheed Martin to Cut 500 Information Systems Jobs (Source: Denver Post)
Lockheed Martin is eliminating about 500 jobs from its Information Systems & Global Solutions segment as the defense contractor adjusts to changing government priorities and tries to sharpen its competitiveness. The aerospace and defense company employs about 112,000 people globally, so the cuts amount to less than 1 percent of its total workforce. (9/9)

Europe to Promote End-User Equipment for Galileo System (Source: Space News)
A European government agency will spend €100 million to promote development of equipment for the Galileo navigation system. The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency said the funds, in the form of grants and procurements over the next five years, are designed to stimulate work on receivers and related equipment that use Galileo. The funds are intended to comply with a U.S.-European agreement to not erect barriers to each others' navigation systems. (9/9)

NASA Picks Five Teams for Deep Space Cubesats (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded $100,000 to five teams competing to develop deep space cubesats. The five teams each won $20,000 prizes for their performance in the first of four ground competitions for the Cube Quest Challenge. The competition, held in August with the results announced Wednesday, covered the preliminary design of cubesats designed to fly to the Moon or deep space to test communications and navigation. At the end of the ground competitions, the top three teams will be eligible to fly their satellites on the first Space Launch System mission. (9/9)

Canada Dominates European Rover Challenge 2015 (Source: Space Daily)
Canadian teams have dominated the second edition of the biggest European competition for Mars rovers that took place on Sept. 5-6 at the Regional Science-Technology Centre in Podzamcze, Poland. The Space Design Team of the University of Saskatchewan scooped the first prize, while the McGill Robotics Team from the McGill University in Montreal finished third. The Next Team of the Bialystok University of Technology, representing the host country, secured the second spot on the podium. (9/10)

Blue Origin Expected to Build Rockets on the Space Coast (Source: BayNews9)
A big announcement set for next week could set the stage for a new era on the Space Coast, state leaders say. Blue Origin is expected to reveal plans to build rockets near the Kennedy Space Center. Until now, the Space Coast has primarily been known as the place that launches rockets to space.

State leaders with Space Florida, however, say Brevard County should be known for more in the space industry. Experts say Blue Origin's plans to build rockets could change the perception that the Space Coast is traditionally used to process and launch rockets and spacecraft. Blue Origin is a privately funded aerospace manufacturer set up by founder Jeff Bezos.

The high-end jobs of design, engineering, manufacturing and assembly were done elsewhere. Some of that will change next week with the anticipated announcement. State leaders say they've been successful in other areas, as well. NASA's Orion crew capsule was the first spacecraft to ever be assembled in Florida. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule will also be built in Brevard County. Blue Origin is expected to make its plans official during a news conference next week at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (9/10)

Sierra Nevada Announces New Dream Chaser Designated Landing Site Program (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems announces the launch of a new program, the Dream Chaser-Preferred Landing Site Program, in which SNC will work with spaceports and commercial airports to become a designated landing site for the Dream Chaser spacecraft.

“The number of applicants requesting spaceport licenses both domestically and internationally has increased dramatically over the past 24 months,” said John Roth, vice president of business development and strategy for SNC’s Space Systems. “SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is the only commercial space vehicle that is capable not only of a runway landing, but landing on runways that already support commercial aircraft. SNC has created this program based on the tremendous interest we have received to date from spaceports and airports around the world that want to host Dream Chaser landings as a stimulant to their local economies.”

Through the Dream Chaser-Preferred Landing Site Program, SNC is offering three different levels of designation, with the highest level culminating in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issuing a re-entry license to SNC for the designated spaceport or airport. This program was created based on similar work currently being done with Ellington Spaceport in Houston, Texas and the Huntsville International Airport Authority (HIA) in Huntsville, Alabama. (9/10)

ULA and Blue Origin Announce Production Agreement for American-Made BE-4 Engine (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin signed an agreement to expand production capabilities for the American-made BE-4 engine that will power the Vulcan next generation launch system. The BE-4 engine offers the fastest path to a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180. Development is on schedule to achieve qualification for flight in 2017 to support the first Vulcan flight in 2019.

"This agreement gets us closer to having an affordable, domestic and innovative engine that will help the Vulcan rocket exceed the capability of the Atlas V on its first flight and open brand new opportunities for the nation’s use of space,” said ULA's Tory Bruno. The Vulcan rocket brings together decades of experience on ULA’s reliable Atlas and Delta vehicles, combining the best features of each to produce an all-new, American-made rocket that will enable mission success from low Earth orbit all the way to Pluto.

The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s would power each ULA Vulcan booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. ULA is teaming in the development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for more than three years and testing of the BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin’s test facilities in West Texas. (9/10)

Firefly Conducts First Engine Hot Fire (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today that it has successfully tested its first rocket engine, Firefly Rocket Engine Research 1 (“FRE-R1”).

Firefly is developing one combustor design that will be utilized to power both stages of their small-sat launcher – “Firefly Alpha.”  The Alpha upper stage will utilize an engine (FRE-1) with a single combustor, whereas the first stage engine (FRE-2) will use an array of twelve of the same combustors arranged in an annular aerospike configuration.

FRE-R1 is a propulsion pathfinder for both stages of Alpha.   It operates using LOx/RP-1 propellants, but the basic combustor design can utilize either methane or RP-1 fuels. The upper stage variant of the engine (FRE-1) will produce 7,000 lbf thrust, and the first stage cluster used in FRE-2 will produce 125,000 lbf thrust. (9/10)

Australia to Europe in 90 Minutes on German Hypersonic Rocket Jet (Source: International Business Times)
Germany's space agency is currently working on a hypersonic jet powered by rocket technology that will be able to carry passengers from Europe to Australia in just 90 minutes, at 25 times the speed of sound. The SpaceLiner is an ultra-fast form of transport that makes use of existing space rocket technology so as to avoid the many technical problems that make hypersonic aircraft currently impossible.

On top of this, the scientists at the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen are also working on technologies to make the jet 100% eco-friendly and reusable, which is currently not possible in space rockets. The SpaceLiner has been conceptualised since 2005 and after a decade of research, the DLR scientists are now moving into the next phase of their project, and believe that the aircraft will fly by 2045. Click here. (9/3)

Much to See on New Mexico’s ‘Space Trail’ (Source: Clovis News Journal)
It includes more than 50 specific locations around the state and spans the ages — from a mountaintop called Wizard’s Roost in Lincoln County, where prehistoric New Mexicans aligned stones to the summer and winter solstices, to the Socorro County’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory, one of many modern-day astronomical observatories around the state.

You can find New Mexico Space Trail maps at a couple of choice locations on the Internet, at and To see them up close and in person, however, isn’t always so easy, since most of the sites are closed to the public because of preservation or security concerns. The maps and the information they provide really highlight the fact that New Mexico has a rich history, and a promising future, in space observation and exploration. (9/8)

Virgin Galactic, Spaceport Looking Up (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America are reaching for the stars again. The commercial rocket company, which aims to fly paying passengers to space from southern New Mexico, is making steady progress on building its second spaceship after a disastrous accident destroyed its first ship over the Mojave Desert in southern California last fall.

The new rocket could be finished in a few months, paving the way for ground and air tests — the final steps before commercial flights can be launched from Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said. After captive carry testing, Virgin will proceed to glider tests with the passenger vehicle, followed by rocket-powered tests to reach space. That’s the point Virgin was at last fall, when one of the pilots mistakenly deployed the ship’s braking system prematurely, tearing the rocket apart.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation, released this summer, found the rocket’s design is sound, although Virgin has integrated new features to guard against such human error. (9/8)

President Mukherjee to Present Gandhi Peace Prize 2014 to ISRO (Source: Business Standard)
President Pranab Mukherjee will present the Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2014 to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Wednesday at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted by the Government of India in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. (9/8)

Welcome Back, Proton (Source: Space News)
The commercial satellite telecommunications industry watched with bated breath as Russia’s Proton rocket, returning to flight after a May failure, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Aug. 28 carrying Inmarsat’s third Global Xpress Ka-band communications satellite. A huge collective sigh of relief could almost be heard 15 hours and 31 minutes later, when the rocket’s upper stage released the satellite into its proper super-synchronous transfer orbit, concluding a successful mission.

Khrunichev has struggled in recent years with quality control on the longtime government and commercial workhorse, which has failed six times since 2010. ILS, despite the fact all but the most recent failure occurred on Russian government missions, has been hammered by Proton’s reliability issues, which have allowed competitors Arianespace and SpaceX to gobble up nearly all of the available business in 2014 and so far in 2015. (9/8)

Consumers Win in a Competitive Space-based Broadband Race (Source: Space News)
Right now, several companies are working to launch massive satellite constellations into space to provide super-fast Internet virtually anywhere on Earth. Two of the leading firms advancing this plan, OneWeb of Great Britain and U.S.-based SpaceX, share the same goal — to bring broadband Internet to the billions of people who currently lack access. But it remains a question whether the path to the new era of space-based connectivity will be spurred by healthy commercial competition or regulatory turf wars over satellite spectrum.

Over the past six months, Greg Wyler’s OneWeb has acquired the support of satellite makers like Airbus, would-be launch providers like Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, as well as several major corporations and telecommunication providers. The startup, based in Britain’s Channel Islands, plans to launch some 600-700 satellites by 2019.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, meanwhile, has advantages of its own. As a highly efficient rocket manufacturer and the world’s fastest-growing launch service provider, the California-based aerospace company has reason for optimism in its plan to launch 4,000 satellites within five years. SpaceX already has built complex satellites in-house. And in January, Google and Fidelity announced a $1 billion bet on the continued success of SpaceX. (9/8)

Can SpaceX Internet Satellites Succeed Where Google and Facebook Failed? (Source: DCInno)
SpaceX's plans to beam Internet access from space is just one item on the long list of ambitious and possibly world-changing projects that Elon Musk and his companies are working on right now. But while there are plenty of tough challenges facing SpaceX in its efforts, the competition for the higher ground has been self-winnowing, despite the rewards to any group that can make cheap, reliable Internet a global phenomenon.

Musk announced his plan for a network of thousands of satellites to beam the Internet to the Earth earlier this year. Using some of the $1 billion it raised in January, it will start manufacturing satellites in a factory near Seattle.

One notable fact about the investment is Google's involvement. Google had made much of its own plans for an Internet satellite network, even hiring OneWeb founder Greg Wyler to run its satellite division. But money and other delays frustrated Wyler to the point that he decided to leave Google and start WorldVu Satellites to pursue his vision. His company is now backed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. (9/8)

NASA's Europa Mission May Land on Ocean-Harboring Moon (Source:
NASA's upcoming mission to Europa may actually touch down on the potentially life-harboring Jupiter moon. While the main thrust of the Europa mission, which NASA aims to launch by the mid-2020s, involves characterizing the icy satellite from afar during dozens of flybys, the space agency is considering sending a small probe down to the surface as well.

"We are actively pursuing the possibility of a lander," Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said last week during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2015 conference in Pasadena. (JPL manages the Europa mission.). (9/8)

8 Arrested in Protest Against Telescope on Hawaii Mountain (Source: ABC)
Eight people were detained early Wednesday in the latest round of arrests in an ongoing battle over construction of a giant telescope atop a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The state Department of Land and Natural resources said 20 of its officers arrested the seven women and one man on Mauna Kea at about 1 a.m. The officers were enforcing an emergency rule created to stop people from camping on Mauna Kea.

The land board approved the rule in July. It restricts access to the mountain during certain nighttime hours and prohibits certain camping gear. The rule was prompted by protesters' around-the-clock presence to prevent construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Construction at the telescope site near the summit has been stalled since April. (9/10)

Amount of Russia’s Space Junk in Orbit Shrinks Over Year (Source: Tass)
Although Russia is still number one by the amount of space debris left in near-earth space, the amount of debris of Russian origin has reduced over the past year from nearly 6,300 to less than 6,200, the press service of the TsNIImash (Central Research Institute of Machine-Building - the head research center of Roscosmos), told TASS.

According to a TsNIIMash report, published in November last year, the United States accounted for 4,570 space debris. China was number three with 3,660. Since then the number of Chinese objects went down to 3,570, while that of US ones grew to about 4,680. "The low near-earth orbits are the most polluted ones, with most of the space junk present at altitudes of 700-900 kilometers to about 1,500 kilometers," TsNIIMash said. (9/9)

Russian Space Agency: Space Debris May Pose Threat to Russia’s National Security (Source: Tass)
Pollution of near-earth space may create major hindrances to further space exploration in 50 years from now and even pose a threat to Russia’s national security, the head research center of Roscosmos (TsNIIMash — Central Research Engineering Institute) has warned.

"The problem of space debris is getting exceptionally acute. It can be formulated in rather harsh terms: if no transition is carried out within decades to fundamentally new space rocket technologies with the aim to prevent the emergence of space debris the level of pollution of near-earth space in 50-60 years’ time may considerably hinder further space activities, which, in turn, may have adverse effects on many aspects of state activities and even create a threat to Russia’s national security," said TsNIIMash press-service. (9/8)

What Happens When Corporations Want to Extract Space Resources? (Source: Independent)
There was never a territory in human history that someone didn't think they could own or make money out of. And that goes for outer space as well – in fact, it has done for the best part of 60 years. Click here. (9/8)

Here's How UCF, NASA are Teaming to Explore Space (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
The University of Central Florida is launching its research efforts into zero gravity. With the help of a $415,000 NASA grant awarded to UCF on Sep. 8, a team of physicists and students will design, build and operate a satellite from start to finish. The satellite will be used as part of NASA's Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration program, which aims to learn more about the formation of planets. Arizona State University is the only other school to receive the grant.

Another benefit to the business community is the experience future potential employees gain from research and experiments, such as this satellite. Josh Colwell, UCF physics professor, said half the team of about a dozen people is engineering students, who will gain hands-on experience that they can later take to the workforce. (9/9)

The Tiny Town That Hates Elon Musk (Source: Bloomberg)
People who live in Boca Chica Village, all 26 of them, knew Elon Musk’s SpaceX company would put the South Texas town on the map after it was selected last year as the world’s first commercial rocket-launch site. Now, many want SpaceX gone and their obscurity back. The residents say SpaceX representatives told them recently they would be required to register with the county, wear badges and pass through checkpoints on launch days, which will occur about once a month beginning as soon as next year.

During a 15-hour launch time frame, their movement around the village could be restricted. If they happen to be picking up groceries past a designated "point of no return," forget about going home. SpaceX’s proposed methods to enforce the safety rules -- sweeping the beach with drones and video surveillance -- aren’t helping matters. While the rules still might change, all this makes residents wish SpaceX would go away, with some even talking about acts of civil disobedience or maybe a lawsuit.

"I’m like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’" said Cheryl Stevens, 55, who settled in Boca Chica Village a decade ago in search of quiet, rustic beauty. "It’s like Nazi Germany." SpaceX spokesman John Taylor declined to comment. (9/9)

Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres Seen in Greater Detail (Source: CBS)
The latest images from Dawn reveal surface features as small as 450 feet across. The two bright spots are now resolved into one very bright area near the center of a crater known as Occator with about eight smaller concentrations to one side surrounding an area where the deposits appear more spread out. Researchers with the Dawn project have not yet weighed in on what the bright material might be or how it got there. Click here. (9/9)

Commercial Crew Tower Moving to Cape Pad (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Boeing and United Launch Alliance are moving pieces of a commercial crew access launch tower into place at Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, preparing the pad for the next phase of human space flight. When constructed, the launch tower will service Boeing's CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, which will be ready to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station by late 2017 or 2018.

This week, crews are hauling the first two tiers of the launch tower from a nearby construction yard to the pad surface. The tiers will be lifted into place atop each other at the foot of the launch pad starting next week, according to NASA's Commercial Crew blog. Boeing and United Launch Alliance are building the tower as part of the effort to convert the pad from uncrewed missions. (9/9)

Nelson Seeks Swift Compromise on Commercial Launch Bill (Source: Space News)
As Congress reconvenes after its summer recess, a leading member of the Senate Commerce Committee says he will seek to swiftly hammer out a compromise between versions of a commercial launch bill passed by the House and Senate. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the full committee, said he hopes that a House-Senate conference committee can work out differences between the two bills by the end of the calendar year.

“I’ve already talked with the chairman in the House to try and get that going, and get it going fast,” he said, referring to House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). House Science Committee spokeswoman Laura Crist confirmed Sept. 8 there is “ongoing discussion” about the bills. Click here. (9/9)

Bezos’ Rocket Engine Plans Could be Snuffed Out with Aerojet Deal (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ plans to build a new rocket engine may be about to be disrupted. Aerojet Rocketdyne has reportedly bid about $2 billion for United Launch Alliance. The problem for Bezos’ Blue Origin is that the company is currently the leading contender to build a new rocket engine, the BE-4, to replace Russian rocket engines that now power the ULA's Atlas 5 rockets.

But California-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, long the nation’s largest builder of rocket engines, badly wanted that contract, and has been fighting to beat out Blue Origin for the deal. So if Aeroject Rocketdyne buys ULA, the company will likely use its own engines on the Atlas 5, and not Blue Origin's engines. This could be a setback for the secretive Blue Origin, which, backed by Bezos’ deep pockets, has emerged as one of the nation’s leaders in the new space industry.

“I think this is checkmate if it actually happens,” said Marco Caceres, who covers aerospace for the Teal Group, an analyst firm outside of Washington D.C. He adds he has no doubt that Aerojet will want to use its own engine, the AR-1, once the company owns the United Launch Alliance. “I believe Blue Origin would be left out in the cold,” he said. Bezos has enough money, though, that he likely would proceed to develop the BE-4 engine himself, added Jeff Foust. (9/9)

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