September 23, 2015

Filmmakers Show the Scale of the Solar System in Amazing Video (Source:
If Earth were as small as a marble, the solar system out to Neptune would cover an area the size of San Francisco — and that's just in two dimensions. That point is driven home by a new video called "To Scale: The Solar System," which shows filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh, along with a few of their friends, building a size-accurate model of our cosmic backyard in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Click here. (9/22)

Will We Ever Achieve the Vision of '2001: A Space Odyssey'? (Source:
In 1968, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and his screenwriting colleague, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, presented "2001: A Space Odyssey," an almost documentary vision of how engineers and scientists of the time envisioned the future of spaceflight, the prospects for artificial intelligence and the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrial life.

The movie's famous opening scene shows prehistoric ape-men struggling for survival, until a mysterious, monolithic, black slab implants in one of them the transformational idea of bone tools and weapons. The film then skips 4 million years in a single frame, and we're on our way to the moon, where another, buried monolith awaits its discoverers. Click here. (9/22)

Faulty ExoMars Component Also Used on Other Spacecraft (Source: Space News)
The faulty component that delayed Europe's ExoMars mission also affects several other spacecraft. The defective pressure transducers on the ExoMars lander demonstrator, whose replacement will delay the mission's launch from January to March, were also to be used on several other spacecraft, including the BepiColombo mission to Mercury, the Cheops exoplanet-hunting satellite, and Solar Orbiter. None of those missions will suffer launch delays, though. The components were all produced by Moog Bradford, a Dutch division of Moog, Inc. (9/23)

GAO: FAA Space Office Needs to Justify Requested Budget Increase (Source: Space News)
A GAO report said the FAA needed to provide more information to justify its requested budget increase for its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The report said the FAA did not follow OMB guidelines for explaining why it requested an additional $1.5 million for the office, which licenses commercial launches and spaceports. It also criticized the use of launch projections in budget requests that have, in the past, overestimated the number of commercial launches. The FAA said it will provide more details in future budget submissions, but noted the office is busy with other activities, such as pre-application consultations, not easily captured in other metrics. (9/22)

Air Force Movest Toward Common Ground System Architecture for Satellites (Source: Space News)
All new Air Force satellites must be compatible with a ground control system that is a step towards a common ground architecture. Air Force Space Command head Gen. John Hyten said future satellites must work with the Multi-Mission Satellite Operations Center (MMSOC), which is currently used primarily for Operationally Responsive Space missions. The MMSOC is seen as a step towards consolidating ground control systems into a single one. (9/22)

North Korea: Launch of Multiple Satellites is "Imminent" (Source: CNN)
North Korean officials said a launch of multiple satellites is "imminent." Officials, in a CNN interview outside the country's new satellite control center, said the country will launch Earth observation satellites on a launch now expected for early October. Many outside observers believe the launch is primarily a demonstration of a long-range ballistic missile. (9/22)

Buzz Aldrin Urges South Korea to Join with US for Space Travel (Source: Korea Times)
The second person to step on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, on Monday said South Korea needs to join forces with other countries to develop its space program, referring to possible support from the United States. "America could help countries like South Korea and India (with space exploration) because America does not need to spend money for what they need, such as designing the landers,” the 85-year-old spaceman said at a lecture held by Etnews, a local internet media, at Yonsei University. (9/21)

Can We Afford a Trip to the Red Planet? (Source: Epoch Times)
The date of the events in “The Martian,” the fall blockbuster starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars, isn’t explicitly revealed in the film itself, but the author of the novel the movie is based on said that the initial launch of the mission to Mars takes place on July 7, 2035, for reasons involving the orbit pathways of the two planets.

The 2030s is a common estimate for when mankind will take its first steps on the red planet. Top NASA officials have set 2039 as the provisional date for the first Mars landing, and Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said that his company could offer $500,000 tickets to Mars as early as 2025. But the road to landing a shuttle on Mars is far from straightforward, and a cursory glance at the details of such an undertaking can be daunting. Click here. (9/22)

Air Force Awards $828M More For Space Research Center (Source: Law 360)
California-based Aerospace Corp. will add on more than $828 million worth of work to an existing Air Force contract to run its space development and support center, according to a Friday announcement from the Defense Department. (9/21)

Elon Musk Wants to Launch 4000 Satellites to Provide Global Internet (Source: Space Daily)
Never criticized for a lack of ambition, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has a new plan to make the Internet accessible from anywhere on the globe. How? By launching a fleet of 4,000 satellites into low Earth orbit. SpaceX filed a request with the US Federal Communications Commission for permission to encircle the planet with telecom satellites capable of beaming the Internet to anywhere on Earth.

Google - which has now invested in SpaceX's efforts - announced a similar plan in 2014, and estimated it would need 180 satellites in order to span the whole planet. But Musk has an even grander strategy. SpaceX's plan calls for 4,000 satellites to remain in orbit.

How much is all of that going to cost? The company hasn't officially released any estimates yet, but Google said it would set aside over $1 billion. In January, Musk told Businessweek that he expected the system to reach at $10 billion. (9/22)

ULA Selects Orbital ATK to Provide Solid Boosters for Atlas V and Vulcan (Source: SpaceRef)
ULA and Orbital ATK announced a long-term strategic partnership in which Orbital ATK will become the sole provider of solid rocket boosters for ULA’s Atlas V and Vulcan launch vehicles, effective in 2019 when the new motors are ready for launch.

Under this partnership, Orbital ATK is investing in the design, development and qualification of two new rocket motors with design similarities to each other that leverage the company’s proven solid motor technology. These motors will significantly lower the price to ULA and to the U.S. government. They will be used to support launches of ULA’s Atlas V and Vulcan vehicles and will also be commercially available to support other customers. (9/22)

ULA Boosters Deal Moves it Away from Aerojet Rocketdyne (Source: Denver Business Journal)
ULA announced a long-term pact to have Orbital ATK make its solid rocket boosters starting in 2018, dealing another blow to long-time supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne. Aerojet Rocketdyne currently builds the solid-rocket boosters used on the Atlas V, which has become the workhorse rocket handling two-thirds of ULA’s missions. (9/22)

Delay to FAA Reauthorization Could Harm Growth (Source: Avionics)
A delay to congressional reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration "could create a 'wait and see' attitude, which will translate into lack of progress, which has both short- and long-term effects on aviation growth," said AIA Vice President Ali Bahrami. "Also, under a [continuing resolution], agencies are usually not allowed to initiate new projects and initiatives that may be needed to improve infrastructure. (9/21)

ZERO-G Returns to Flight with Anniversary Deals (Source: ZERO-G)
Zero Gravity Corp. (ZERO-G) has been operating commercial weightless flights in a specially modified Boeing-727 aircraft known as G-FORCE ONE. In recognition of the anniversary, all clients who purchase seats on the ZERO-G Experience scheduled to fly in 2015 will receive a 20 percent discount off of the US $4,950 retail price.

“We’ve flown over 500 weightless flights with more than 12,000 clients, including notables like Stephen Hawking, James Cameron, Kate Upton, Halle Berry, Martha Stewart, Sharon & Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Dyrdek.” said ZERO-G President Terese Brewster. “In celebration of our 10 year anniversary, we want to say ‘thank you’ by discounting all remaining 2015 seats.”

“We warmly welcome Everts Air Cargo to the ZERO-G family. Their wonderful team of professionals will manage our aircraft operations and we look forward to flying with them for decades to come,” continued Ms. Brewster. Editor's Note: ZERO-G plans to host as many as 21 flights in the remainder of 2015 and 2016 from Florida airports, including in Melbourne, Miami and Orlando. Several of the flights will be devoted solely to flying research projects. Click here. (9/22)

Orbital ATK Raises Funds in Financing Move (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK announced an offering of $400 million aggregate principal amount of senior notes due 2023 (the "notes") in a private placement pursuant to Rule 144A and Regulation S under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"). The notes will be general senior unsecured obligations of Orbital ATK and will be jointly and severally guaranteed on a general senior unsecured basis by certain of its existing and future subsidiaries. (9/21)

SpaceX Working to Return Falcon to Service (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
SpaceX is working to return the Hawthorne, California-based company's Falcon 9 v1.1 booster to service. The firm has been working for almost three months to rise above the unsuccessful seventh CRS mission (under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program) where a strut in a Falcon 9’s upper stage failed, which resulted in the complete loss of the rocket and its payload of the Dragon spacecraft. Click here. (9/22) 

Boeing Sees New Mexico and Utah Sites as Initial Starliner Landing Areas (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The first few flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew capsule will likely land on expansive desert plains in New Mexico or Utah, according to a former astronaut charged with developing the spacecraft’s operations scheme.

Boeing is still finalizing a list of five candidate landing sites in the Western United States, but the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah will initially be the prime return locations, said Chris Ferguson, deputy manager of the CST-100 Starliner program. (9/22)

Reality Check for Suborbital Tourism (Source: Flight Global)
Spaceflight has always had a dual personality. For a case study, look no further than Virgin Galactic. As we learn this week, the firm is making steady progress towards providing an air-launch service for small satellites. Meanwhile, its original business – to air-launch a rocket-plane capable of taking six passengers on a short suborbital ride, for $250,000 a seat – languishes years behind schedule and is awaiting the outcome of the investigation into last year’s fatal test crash.

Both projects demand lots of engineering but build on established practice. The difference, however, is fundamental – and is a distinction that everyone else in the space business should note. The push to offer a satellite launch service stems from confidence that a clear market demand could be satisfied profitably with acceptable risk by applying commercial sector cost control to a limited objective. The reasonable expectation that satisfying this demand economically will lead to more demand makes for growth; a sound investment.

Suborbital tourism, on the other hand, is a wildly risky venture motivated by ideas like saving the world by letting people see its beauty from space and unshackling humankind from the confines of one mere dot of a planet in the vast cosmos and… whatever. Spaceflight, in short, is a solid engineering business too often burdened by visions of a dubiously desirable future just beyond human reach. (9/22)

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