September 12, 2015

Soyuz Touches Down at Sunrise - Three ISS Crew Members Safely Back on Earth (Source: SpaceFlight 101)
An international crew trio of one space veteran and two rookies safely returned to Earth on Saturday, making a successful parachute-assisted landing in the Kazakh steppe aboard their Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft.

Gennady Padalka, now looking at 878 days spent in space, making him the most experienced space traveler in history, was joined aboard the Soyuz by Andreas Mogensen and Aidyn Aimbetov who spent just ten days in space to facilitate the switch of Soyuz spacecraft by Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly who are approaching the half-way point in their one-year mission. (9/12)

Pentagon Official Cites Concern About ULA Deal (Source: Reuters)
A senior Pentagon official on Friday expressed concerns about Aerojet Rocketdyne’s reported $2 billion bid for ULA and said the deal would require a careful review. The U.S. Defense Department would undertake a detailed review if the deal proceeds, looking at any financial liabilities, potential impact to the supply chain, projected research funding levels and other issues, said the official.

The proposal was "unsettling," the official said, given the U.S. government's current dependence on ULA to launch U.S. spy and military satellites into orbit, and recent launch failures involving three other companies, including SpaceX. Any change in ULA ownership and the resulting expected efforts to consolidate personnel, infrastructure and facilities, could jeopardize ULA's flawless launch record, analysts said.

ULA still has a large backlog for now, but the company's revenues face mounting pressure in coming years. Analysts forecast that ULA's earnings are likely to drop to around $300 million a year from about $480 million as orders decline, reducing the payout to Lockheed and Boeing. The company is trying to reel in more commercial launches, but faces difficult competition in an overcrowded field that is "overdue" for consolidation. (9/11)

Boeing, Lockheed Moving Cautiously on ULA's Vulcan (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed and Boeing are funding ULA's Vulcan development effort on a quarter-by-quarter basis, reflecting their own concerns about ULA's future business outlook and whether U.S. lawmakers will allow ULA to use more of its existing stock of Russian engines. Aerojet officials argue that it would be cheaper to integrate its new AR-1 engine into ULA's existing Atlas 5 rocket than building a new rocket and engine, but space experts caution that such integration efforts can also be difficult and costly.

Wall Street bankers and industry executives question whether the reported Aerojet offer for ULA overstates the value of ULA, and may have been a tactic to open negotiations with Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Aerojet's Submits a Low-Ball Offer for ULA (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The fact is that just one contract that ULA has recently negotiated is worth an estimated $938 million – alone. This was just a modification of an already existing contract with the U.S. Air Force. In a May 2014 Space News article, the value of ULA's block-buy contract from the Air Force, covering 36 launch vehicle cores, was $11 billion.

According to the Space News report, the unclassified portion of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program for 2014 was estimated at $1.4 billion. How much of this was for launch services provided by ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV boosters was not clear.

Considering the amount offered, as well as the possible state of Aerojet Rocketdyne, the price might be correct: however, it seems reversing the roles of buyer and potential seller would appear to make more sense – especially when one considers that the supposed value can be matched in what ULA makes in about a year. (9/11)

KSC Fire Department Dedicates 9/11 Memorial (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Members of the Kennedy Space Center fire and police departments dedicated a new 9-11 memorial outside of the KSC Fire Department today, Friday, Sept. 11. Eighty local firefighters attended the ceremony. The centerpiece of the memorial is an actual steel beam from the World Trade Center, destroyed by Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. (9/11)

France Unveils Commercial Space Investment Initiative (Source: Space News)
The French government on Sept. 11 said it is investing in technologies to position French industry to win contracts building low-orbiting satellite Internet-delivery constellations, a new generation of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites and proposed high-throughput broadband satellites in geostationary orbit.

The investments make good on a promise by government officials that after three years of near-obsessive focus on launch vehicles leading to the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, French attention would turn to satellites. French Economics and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron said the proposed spending — in high-end Earth observation and in both high- and low-orbiting telecommunications satellites — is designed to enhance French industry’s “acceleration and competitiveness” on world markets. (9/11)

ILS Mission Assurance VP Replaces Slack as President (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch-service provider International Launch Services on Sept. 11 said President Phil Slack is leaving the company after three years in his job and is being replaced by Kirk Pysher, who has been ILS’s mission assurance vice president. (9/11)

NASA Seeks Spending Flexibility To Keep Commercial Crew on Schedule (Source: Space News)
As NASA continues to advocate for full funding of its commercial crew program in 2016, the agency is seeking flexibility for the program in an upcoming short-term spending bill to avoid the risk of further delays.

In a Sept. 10 interview, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden confirmed that NASA would seek language supporting the commercial crew program in a continuing resolution (CR) Congress must pass this month to fund the federal government after Sept. 30. (9/11)

As it Eyes Expansion, Gogo Says U.S. Market Share is Secure (Source: Space News)
Airline broadband connectivity provider Gogo Inc. said the U.S. market is all but spoken for at this point and that Gogo’s market share is unassailable. The only unknown is which of the major competitors in the field will win how many aircraft outside North America.

Gogo repeated earlier forecasts of stunning growth, saying the $130,000 in annual revenue it receives per connected plane now is likely to rise to close to $1 million per plane in 20 years, with the total global addressable market for commercial aircraft doubling, according to aircraft manufacturer estimates. (9/11)

First Image of Planet Birth Shows Tightly Packed Worlds (Source:
A controversial space image does indeed show the first picture of planets being born, a new study confirms. When an image of the system HL Tau was unveiled last year, it sparked controversy over whether or not grooves in the disk of dust surrounding the star could be explained by the presence of newly formed giant planets.

Now, a new paper suggests that the orbit of those planets could serve to stabilize rather than eject one another, as had originally been suggested. That means this image is the first time scientists have observed a forming planetary system, and a tightly packed one at that. Click here. (9/11)

Does Oxygen Necessarily Mean Aliens? (Source: CSM)
Scientists and E.T. enthusiasts may have to rethink an allegedly telltale sign that a planet has life. The presence of oxygen, specifically O2 , in a planet's atmosphere has long been thought to be a near-certain signal that there are, or at least were, living organisms engaging in photosynthesis on the planet. But new research suggests that oxygen can exist in large quantities without being produced by living things. A new study found that some planets could have "abiotic" oxygen, produced through a a photocatalytic reaction of titanium oxide. (9/11)

New Antenna Could Give Mars Rovers a Direct Line to Earth (Source:
Talking to rovers on the surface of Mars could become much easier, thanks to a new type of antenna that would send messages directly between the robotic explorers and Earth. Currently, robotic rovers on the surface of Mars communicate with Earth by first relaying messages to a satellite orbiting the Red Planet; but the new antenna would cut out the middle-man and allow rovers to communicate directly with scientists back home.

The new antenna design would also dramatically increase the available communication time between Red Planet rovers and Earth, according to a statement from the University of California at Los Angeles. The new design could be a major boost for future missions, such as NASA's Mars 2020 rover, scheduled to begin its journey to Mars in 2020. (9/11)

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