October 10, 2015

NASA On Track for Human Mars Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot  said the agency is on track to send humans to Mars by the 2030s; and although NASA has not laid out a specific plans to getting humans to the surface of Mars, it has the resources and capabilities to do so. Lightfoot said NASA will accomplish this "for about one-tenth of the budget" of Apollo, which referred to NASA's share of the overall federal budget. Lightfoot's comments come as NASA released a report Thursday offering some more details about its overall plan, but not a specific technical approach. (10/8)

SpaceX Opposes ULA Waiver for RD-180 Engines (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX opposes a proposal to grant a waiver to ULA regarding RD-180 engines. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that claims that ULA would not compete for the launch of a GPS satellite without being granted access to additional RD-180 engines was "nothing less than deceptive brinkmanship for the sole purpose of thwarting the will of Congress." The Pentagon is considering a waiver to current limits on the number of RD-180 engines ULA can use for national security launches. (10/8)

Russian Satellite Maneuvers, Silence Worry Intelsat (Source: Space News)
A mysterious Russian military satellite parked itself between two Intelsat satellites in geosynchronous orbit for five months this year, alarming company executives and leading to classified meetings among U.S. government officials. “This is not normal behavior and we’re concerned,” Kay Sears, president of Intelsat General, the government services arm of Intelsat, said. (10/9)

Com Dev Might Put Itself Up for Sale (Source: Space News)
Satellite component manufacturer Com Dev of Canada, which earlier this year canceled a proposed stock offering of its exactEarth space-based maritime surveillance company, said it is now considering whether to put itself up for sale as it reviews strategic alternatives. (10/9)

AIA: Congress is Ignoring Fallout, Warnings From Loss of Ex-Im (Source: The Hill)
Lost international orders since Congress failed to reauthorize the US Export-Import Bank are "causing the American aerospace industry to lose ground against its foreign competitors, and potentially thousands of workers to lose their jobs," writes AIA President and CEO David Melcher.

"US companies large and small have been telling members of Congress for months now that overseas customers are going to buy from their foreign competition in the absence of the Ex-Im Bank matching finance options provided by every other foreign government. Sadly, these warnings have been ignored." (10/8)

ULA Sends Spy satellite, Cubesats Into Orbit on California-Launched Atlas (Source: Space.com)
United Launch Alliance successfully sent a US spy satellite and more than a dozen cubesats into orbit on Thursday. "That was a great launch, and I'm very excited," said NASA's Andres Martinez. "Small satellites provide NASA the ability to rapidly develop and launch groundbreaking technology into space." (10/8)

Michigan University Eyes Florida for Aviation Program Expansion (Source: Mt. Myers News Press)
Western Michigan University is considering expanding its aviation program in the Punta Gorda, Charlotte County area in Florida. WMU's College of Aviation would build a hangar at the Punta Gorda Airport and rent classrooms at Florida Southwestern State College. The goal of the expansion is to offer year-round flying for WMU students. (10/8)

Space Florida Lab Tenant at Claims Breakthrough in Hydrogen Production (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A secretive company focused on new hydrogen fuel technology has launched a multimillion-dollar round of fundraising from its headquarters at Kennedy Space Center. Called Joi Scientific, the company claims to have found a revolutionary process to create hydrogen fuel from water – a new green source of energy. The company co-founder, veteran technologist Traver Kennedy, says he has landed a significant investment in the company’s Series A round, which is the first institutional investment in venture capital terms. (10/9)

SpaceX Wrapping Up Falcon 9 Failure Investigation (Source: Space News)
SpaceX expects to complete its final report on the June 28 failure of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle within a month, but does not yet have a firm timetable for resuming flights, a company official said Oct. 8. Josh Brost said the final report on the failure should be delivered to the FAA, which licensed the launch, “maybe in the next month.”

Elon Musk said a strut holding down a helium bottle inside a propellant tank in the rocket’s upper stage broke. That caused the tank to overpressurize and burst, destroying the vehicle. That explanation has held up during later phases of the investigation, Brost said. “The early reports you saw in the press, where we talked about it being caused by a strut, those have born out,” he said. (10/9)

New Data Center Streamlines IT Infrastructure at KSC (Source: NASA)
Kennedy Space Center’s new data center is open for business. Located in KSC’s Industrial Area, the facility officially was opened Thursday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by space center leaders and employees. The new data center marks another major milestone for KSC and is a key component in the spaceport’s capability to support multiple users, KSC Associate Director Kelvin Manning told the audience.

At only 16,000 square feet, the data center will replace approximately 45,000 square feet previously dedicated to five “legacy” data centers and IT support areas. Once the facility is fully operational, it will be three times more efficient than the legacy data centers, positioning the spaceport to take on even more work, according to Vanessa Stromer, director of IT and Communications Services at KSC.

Consolidating the data centers into a single new one provides streamlined IT operations, improved efficiency and round-the-clock support. Editor's Note: I didn't know its aging data centers were a bottleneck for the spaceport's growth. (10/9)

CubeSat to Demonstrate Miniature Laser Communications in Orbit (Source: NASA)
NASA and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, California, have received confirmation the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) CubeSat spacecraft is in orbit and operational. OCSD launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

OCSD is the first in a new series of six NASA-managed technology demonstration missions set to launch during the coming months using CubeSats to test technologies that can enable new uses for these miniature satellites. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (10/9)

Orbital ATK Still Looks Like Marriage Made in Heaven (Source: Flight Global)
At that time, Orbital’s chief executive David Thompson, who now heads the combined company, described a “merger-of-equals” that would bring together “innovative developers and cost-efficient manufacturers who have worked closely together for over 25 years” with “complementary technologies, products and know-how and highly-compatible cultures”. (10/9)

Flooding Hit Thales Alenia Space Plant, but Satellites Unscathed (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes, France, production plant suffered water damage from flash flooding that killed 20 people on Oct. 3, but none of its satellites, all in clean rooms, was affected, the company said.

The large Thales plant, incongruously located near downtown Cannes, as of Oct. 9 was still being cleared of the water and mud that penetrated into the facility’s stockroom and other ancillary areas. Facilities directly involved in satellite assembly were returned to service as of Oct. 5. (10/9)

Ukraine Keeps Cooperating with Russia on Space Projects (Source: Tass)
The Ukrainian State Space Agency suspended cooperation with Russia at the inter-state level, but continues work on international cooperation projects, the agency said referring to an interview of its chairman Liubomyr Sabadosh. "Working with the Russian Federation, Ukraine had international commitments," he said, citing cooperation on launches of Soyuz rockets with astronauts on board.

"If we announce now that Ukraine renounces its commitments, this will damage the image of the state and will halt the whole space program on the international space station," Sabadosh was quoted as saying. "There is no other way to get to the space station but through the Baikonur launch pad (that Russia leases from Kazakhstan), using Russian rocket carriers and the Ukrainian control system," he continued. (10/9)

Here is NASA’s Three-Step Plan for Getting Humans to Mars (Source: Washington Post)
Consider, for a moment, that humankind hasn't landed on the moon in over 40 years. We're out of practice! Space technology has come a long way, sure, but we've been focused on making incredible rovers and satellites and making the most of our time on the International Space Station. If we want to build our way up to landing on Mars, we need to get in some practice — and a lot of research and development — in human planetary landings.

The moon is an obvious choice, though it seems unlikely that NASA will opt to build a moon lander. It's possible some international partner or private company will step up to the plate. But in the meantime, our big practice event involves lassoing a piece of an asteroid and tugging it into the moon's orbit. It's a step down from the previous plan of taking a whole asteroid into the moon's orbit, and an even bigger step down from the first plan — which was to land astronauts on an asteroid itself. Click here. (10/9)

Cheeseburgers Will Be Added to ISS Menu (Source: Sputnik)
The Russian Roscosmos space agency reportedly plans to break the monotony of space meals with a new flavor – cheeseburgers in tubes. A fast-food company earlier approached Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov with an offer to provide cosmonauts with this pasty delicacy in space. Padalka, recently returned from the International Space Station (ISS), said his US colleague Scott Kelly had taught the space crew how to make burgers at the ISS during a previous space mission. (10/9)

Canadian Region Celebrates Space Week (Source: Nugget)
North Bay launched its inaugural World Space Week activities Thursday, welcoming more than 60 international and local business representatives during a day focusing on the city's potential as an industry hub. “What we're trying to do is create that interest – to create awareness,” said Mayor Al McDonald, who is co-chairing the activities with Canadore College President George Burton.

He said the industry day provided an opportunity to talk about changes and needs within the aviation, aerospace and space industries. And McDonald said it was a chance for local and international businesses to have a look at what the city has to offer and explore potential partnerships. (10/9)

Space Industry Moving Beyond a Year of Setbacks (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Twelve months, three devastating crashes. The burgeoning commercial space industry suffered a trio of blows this past year, but executives say the setbacks have not shaken their resolve to send tourists into space, supply cargo and eventually crew to the International Space Station, and explore new territory beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up over the California desert during a fourth powered test flight in October a year ago, killing one pilot and injuring another. Since then, the anchor tenant at New Mexico’s Spaceport America has been building its second SpaceShipTwo and is currently outfitting the vehicle with internal systems. (10/9)

Florida Launch Pads: New Designs for Space Access (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
For the past several years, the historic launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, have undergone sweeping changes as the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program brought a new vision to the spaceport. Those changes have now spread across the lagoon to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where pad modifications are underway for various commercial space access operations. Click here. (10/9)

Mars Once Hosted Lakes, Flowing Water (Source: Science)
Last week, NASA announced they’d spotted occasional signs of flowing water on Mars. These briny flows, discerned from orbit, originated on the steep slopes of valleys or craters at four widely scattered sites in the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Now, a comprehensive analysis of images gathered by NASA’s Curiosity rover provides the strongest evidence yet that Mars once was warm and wet enough to have lakes and flowing water year-round and for extended periods of time—possibly for millions of years. The findings hint that the Red Planet once had a climate hospitable enough for microbial life to develop and evolve. (10/9)

Blue Origin Waiting on New Shepard Tests Before Selling Tickets (Source: Flight Global)
Space tourists could be waiting up to two years to purchase tickets to ride Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space capsule, with the company saying it wants to get much further through flight testing before offering its zero-gravity experience.

The first developmental flight in April might have validated the general New Shepard concept, but the vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing launch vehicle was not recovered. Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, says New Shepard will fly again by the end of the year, but the company is not ready to start offering tickets to space. (10/8)

Sierra Nevada on Watch for Critical Cargo Award (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A prototype of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane is nearing shipment to the Mojave Desert to resume runway landing tests as officials wait for word from NASA whether the company will win a competition to ferry cargo to the Space Station. The NASA announcement, expected in November, bears additional significance after the space agency bypassed the Dream Chaser for Commercial Crew.

Sierra Nevada has agreements with the European Space Agency, Japan’s space agency and the German space agency to study how the Dream Chaser could fare in the international marketplace. But the scope of that work is a sliver of the value of a NASA cargo award. Sierra Nevada is up against NASA’s incumbent space station cargo transportation providers, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, and Boeing, which has proposed using its CST-100 crew capsule for supply runs. (10/8)

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