October 14, 2015

Lockheed Can Expect Contest for GPS Satellites, Air Force Says (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin is likely to face competition from Boeing and Northrop Grumman for billions of dollars in contracts to build as many as 22 improved GPS satellites. The Pentagon approved an Air Force proposal for competition in part because Lockheed fell behind in completing the first of as many as eight of the GPS III satellites under a contract it won in 2008. Lockheed is about 28 months late in delivering the first satellite because of flaws in the satellite’s navigation payload system, produced by a subcontractor, that the company and the military say are now corrected.

A contest to build new GPS satellite would be separate from the competition the Air Force has begun for launching military satellites. The Air Force this month released a request for proposals on the first of nine competitive military launches through 2017 that will pit SpaceX against ULA. (10/14)

Palm Oil Company Caught Destroying Forest, NASA Satellites Reveal (Source: Eco-Business)
Activists have documented a palm oil company destroying lowland rainforest in Sumatra’s endangered Leuser Ecosystem. Last month, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) reported that PT. Tualang Raya was clearing rainforest in Aceh Timur. RAN’s allegations are supported by independent data from Global Forest Watch, a platform for monitoring changes in forests worldwide.

Global Forest Watch’s data shows a significant amount of activity within Tualang Raya’s concession over the past 18 months, including a number for FORMA alerts which use NASA MODIS satellite data to provide near-real time monitoring of changes in forest cover. According to Global Forest Watch, Tualang Raya destroyed at least 1,250 hectares of degraded primary forest between 2005 and 2014 in its 5,140-hectare concession, accounting for most of its clearing during that period. (10/13)

First Launches From Vostochny Cosmodrome Possible in Spring 2016 (Source: RBTH)
The first launches from the Vostochny Cosmodrome are possible in 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. "You should plan the first launches for 2016, for spring, if you do that by the Day of Cosmonautics, that will be good. If not, there is no need for rushed work," Putin said at a conference held at the Vostochny spaceport.

"Space activity is not an area for acting in a rush or exerting super-efforts, it needs rhythmic work and quality," the Russian president said. Putin ordered to finalize the water supply, electric power and water disposal systems of the spaceport and to prepare for launching space vehicles. (10/14)

New Zealand Ground Station Open, Joins Other Stations In Alaska and Washington (Source: SatNews)
Spaceflight, the leading full-service satellite, launch and communications provider, announced its third and newest ground station in Invercargill, New Zealand is now fully operational with two other operational stations located in Fairbanks, Alaska and Tukwila, Washington.

Spaceflight continues to build out a network of ground stations to meet customer demand for low-latency communications for small satellites or constellations for Earth observation and other applications. As a result, operators can more rapidly access the data their satellites collect via Spaceflight’s network of ground stations. (10/13)

Prosecutor: Cases Against Telescope Protesters to Be Tossed (Source: ABC)
Cases are being dismissed against the people who were arrested or cited for violating an emergency rule aimed at stopping telescope protesters from camping on the Big Island's Mauna Kea, Hawaii County's top prosecutor said. Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said his office dropped cases against the 14 people arrested and six people cited. One case involving an arrested protester had previously been dismissed, he said. (10/13)

Putin Hopes for More International Cooperation in Space Industry (Source: Sputnik)
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said that he hopes for international cooperation in the space industry at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s Far East. “Of course, we hope for international cooperation, it is already pretty large-scaled today, but we need that our partners to be sure that the Vostochny Cosmodrome is one of the best places for joint work. We will increase its capacity,” Putin said during a meeting. (10/14)

Virgin Galactic Test Fires New Rocket Engines (Source: Telegraph)
Virgin Galactic has been testing its new rocket engines that will deliver satellites into space, and wants everyone to know things are going well. Recent test footage uploaded to the company's YouTube account shows the NewtonThree rocket engine firing for over a minute in a blistering blast of flames. The NewtonThree rocket engine is one of the key propulsion components in LauncherOne - Virgin Galactic’s dedicated small satellite launch vehicle. The main stage engine provides a 73,500 lbf thrust. (10/14)

Chinese Corporation Launches Alibaba Like Platform for Space (Source: SpaceRef)
China Head Aerospace Technology Co, better known for producing a variety of aerospace products, testing services and facilitating access to China's market, today unveiled what it hopes will be a leading business-to-business online platform akin to Alibaba, but for the space community called ByHead.

The company with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and the Netherlands, and with customers such as Airbus and Clyde Space, is using years of data its collected, along with a membership of 500,000 Chinese contacts to build out the platform. The company is also integrating marketing of their Micro-Nano satellite platforms and SmallSat launch services into the product.

Zhang Qiliang, Manager of the Heads Online Aerospace Department, said the company is still adding Chinese companies to the platform but that it already has a substantial database of companies and products. (10/13)

China Says Space Station Assembly Will Start In 2018 (Source: Aviation Week)
China’s human-spaceflight organization plans to launch the first element of its three-module space station in 2018, with assembly complete set for 2020 and full operational capability with rotating three-person crews scheduled two years after. (10/13)

World’s Deepest Swimming Pool Could Be Used For Space Tourist Training (Source: LinkedIn B2B)
Developed in partnership with Blue Abyss, the proposed pool would be 50m deep and could be used for training space tourists by simulating the microgravity conditions experienced in space. The University of Essex hopes to build the world’s deepest swimming pool which would be used for training future astronauts.

Developed in partnership with Blue Abyss, the proposed pool would be 50m deep and could be used for training space tourists by simulating the microgravity conditions experienced in space. In comparison, NASA’s current ‘Neutral Buoyancy Lab’ training pool in Houston is just 12m deep. Astronauts currently train in the American space agency’s pool in full spacesuits, working on mockups of the International Space Station to simulate maintenance and research tasks that need to be carried out in space.

The ambitious project is backed by British astronaut Tim Peake. Peake sees the facility ‘as something that does not yet exist in Europe and that would compete with, or potentially even surpass, what is available in the US and Russia’. The project is expected to cost £40m and would also include a lecture theatre and classrooms, along with an adjacent 120-room hotel. (8/15)

KSC Awards Contracts for New Small Satellite Launchers (Source: Florida Today)
KSC's Launch Services Program has awarded $7 million to Rocket Lab USA, $5.5 million to Firefly Space Systems and $4.7 million to Virgin Galactic. The companies were selected under the new Venture Class Launch Services initiative to launch a NASA CubeSat on a demonstration mission by March 2018.

The initiative aims to help foster a new class of rockets that can deliver growing numbers of small satellites to various orbits. Those small satellites, some as little as 4 inches on a side, now must hitch rides as secondary payloads on much larger rockets, limiting launch opportunities and control over schedules and orbits. Some of the new small launchers could launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (10/14)

The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy (Source: The Atlantic)
In the Northern hemisphere’s sky, hovering above the Milky Way, there are two constellations—Cygnus the swan, her wings outstretched in full flight, and Lyra, the harp that accompanied poetry in ancient Greece, from which we take our word “lyric.” Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009.

The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

This light pattern doesn’t show up anywhere else, across 150,000 stars. We know that something strange is going on out there. When I spoke to Boyajian on the phone, she explained that her recent paper only reviews “natural” scenarios. “But,” she said, there were “other scenarios” she was considering. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.” (10/13)

OneWeb Taps Former GeoEye Boss, Plans Manufacturing in Florida (Source: Space News)
OneWeb LLC, which is planning a 700-satellite constellation of low-orbiting satellites to provide broadband worldwide, on Oct. 12 named Matthew O’Connell, a former chief executive of geospatial imagery provider GeoEye, as chief executive.

O’Connell, in an interview, said his first priority would be to oversee the last details of OneWeb’s joint-venture agreement with Airbus Defence and Space of Europe, which will be building about 900 OneWeb satellites, including spares, most of them presumably at a factory in the United States. Florida is the most likely venue. Click here. (10/14)

Aerojet Reports Quarterly Loss (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a loss in its fiscal third quarter Tuesday because of its Antares settlement with Orbital ATK. The company said it had a net loss of $38.1 million on $440.5 million in net sales in the quarter that ended Aug. 31. Those totals included a $50 million payment to Orbital ATK to settle its dispute over the role Aerojet's AJ-26 engine played in the loss of Orbital's Antares rocket in a launch nearly one year ago. The company also said it has spent $24 million so far this fiscal year working on its AR-1 engine the company has proposed as a replacement for the RD-180. (12/14)

Exodus Proposes In-Line Staging for Reusable Launcher (Source: Exodus Aerospace)
Our version of horizontal launch enjoys advantages in high lift to drag over other horizontal systems.  Because the second stage is a low aspect ratio craft it serves as the leading edge strake to the wing of the first stage closely attached to it. When the two delta wings are joined there is still enough wing exposed on the first stage to allow both wings to generate lift while drag is still lower. Click here. (10/14)

China’s Space Station Planners Put Out Welcome Mat (Source: Space News)
China is soliciting international participation in its future manned space station in the form of foreign modules that would attach to the three-module core system, visits by foreign crew-transport vehicles for short stays and the involvement of non-Chinese researchers in placing experiments on the complex, the chief designer of China’s manned space program said Oct. 12. But he declined to commit to an international orbital docking technology that would facilitate international participation in the Chinese facility. (10/13)

NASA Has No Choice but to Refuse China’s Request for Help on a New Space Station (Source: Quartz)
The chief designer of China’s space program, Zhou Jianping, said his country would solicit international partners for a space station it plans to launch in 2022, with opportunities ranging from shared experiments and spacecraft visits by foreign crews to building permanent modules to attach to the main station.

The European and Russian space agencies already have signed preliminary agreements with China, but NASA will have to snub the project. The ban on cooperation between NASA and the China Manned Space Program is a legacy of conservative lawmaker Frank Wolf, who cut off any funding for work with China in protest of political repression there and for fear of sharing advanced technology; he retired in January, but the restrictions remain in place. And NASA is not a fan of them. (10/13)

North Korea's Space Agency to be Accepted as Intl' Astronautical Federation Member (Source: Arirang)
North Korea's space agency has reportedly been accepted to join an international space advocacy organization. Washington D.C.-based NK News said it was told about the space agency's acceptance to the International Astronautical Federation by a participant at the Federation's annual congress.

The participant also told NK News that North Korea is not yet aware of its acceptance, because its representative didn't attend. NK News reports North Korea's membership in the Federation could likely be met with criticism, considering rocket launches by the North's space agency are widely seen as political and not scientific in nature. (10/13)

NASA, Israel Ink Space Cooperation Agreement (Source: AFP)
NASA and the Israel Space Agency signed an agreement Tuesday to expand cooperation in civil space activities, the Israeli government said. The deal was signed by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and ISA director Menachem Kidron on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem. Bolden said the agreement would enable the US space agency to tap Israeli innovation and technology in cooperation. (10/13)

Pentagon Mulls Option for More Sole-Source Launch Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department, which is just now introducing competition into the national security launch market, is simultaneously studying whether to award some contracts on a sole-source basis, presumably to incumbent ULA, to ensure that it has at least two rocket families at its disposal for the foreseeable future, a Pentagon spokesman said Oct. 8.

“If it is deemed necessary in order to maintain two viable sources of launch services, sole source allocation of some launches will be one of the options examined,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson said in an Oct. 8. statement. (10/13)

Atlas Pad Decision Will Require Efficiency Improvements (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA, in its quest to downsize to one launch complex on each coast, has decided to go with the Atlas 5 launch pad (LC-41) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for their future Vulcan launch operations. The decision might say a thing or two about ULA's Vulcan designs, or about the company's funding constraints.

LC-41 and the Atlas launch processing flow has been viewed as more efficient than the Delta 4 operation at nearby LC-37. But LC-37 features two launch pad areas, only one of them currently used for the Delta, so ULA could have built a tailor-made Vulcan pad alongside the Delta pad, ultimately converting the Delta pad into a second Vulcan pad for higher throughput.

It is unclear how many launches per year ULA can conduct from a single LC-41 launch pad. ULA will have to accommodate military, NASA, human spaceflight, and commercial satellite missions from a single pad, while SpaceX decided it needs three pads (LC-40, LC-39A, and at Boca Chica) for the same types of missions. So, it seems ULA's decision was largely a financial one, with a built-in expectation that the company can dramatically improve its efficiency to maximize its launch throughput at LC-41. (10/13)

First Pocket Rockets take Tiny Satellites for a Spin (Source: New Scientist)
The next giant leap in space exploration could start with a small spin around the lab. A new propulsion system for shrunk-down satellites called CubeSats just passed a key lab test, and could be headed to space in the near future.

CubeSats, cheap, simple satellites built from off-the-shelf parts, promise a revolution in space exploration – but only if only we can steer them. Because they are so simple to build, they could open up space exploration to students and countries that lack their own space programmes, says Paulo Lozano at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“If little satellites had the capability to move, we could do a lot of things that currently we cannot,” Lozano says. So Lozano and his colleagues are designing a miniature propulsion system – small enough to fit in your pocket – that can steer CubeSats around low-Earth orbit – or even out of the solar system altogether. Instead of chemical fuel, which is heavy and inefficient, they use an ionic liquid, made entirely of positively or negatively charged ions. (10/12)

NASA’s New Mars Plans Are Total Fantasy, Lawmakers Say (Source: BuzzFeed)
A new NASA report called “NASA’s Journey to Mars” outlines a three-step proposal to visit the Red Planet in the 2030s. The $18.5 billion agency wants to start by building a jumbo space rocket that would help shuttle people to an asteroid. Then, after that practice mission, NASA would (somehow) transport people into Martian orbit. An unbuilt solar powered habitat is proposed.

Parts of the jumbo rocket and a space capsule have been built. Two test launches have been funded, with flights set for 2018 (with no crew) and 2023. But that’s it. “This proposal contains no budget, it contains no schedule, no deadlines,” House science committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas said. “This sounds good,” he added, “but it is actually a journey to nowhere until we have that budget and we have the schedule and we have the deadlines.” (10/12)

Spreading the Word about Space Economy (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
It’s better to create the positive than try to deconstruct the negative... Creating a new commercial space industry has been a collaboration across many sectors of the economy, which is now producing new launch vehicles, new human spaceflight vehicles, new spaceports and new satellite systems.

Eleven years ago, no one would have believed we could have this new industry, which is hiring thousands of people and re-hiring the workforce from the heritage space industry. Kennedy Space Center is transforming itself, but believe me, it is much easier to start with a clean slate like we have here in New Mexico rather than refurbish 50-year-old infrastructure. Yet, Florida is doing just that. New Mexico, well, we have an opportunity here like we have not had since the Apollo program.

The story we are telling here in our community is one where leadership from the city, county, state and federal level is creating the positive, despite all the negative trying to deconstruct an industry that will help our community bring jobs, good jobs to our community... This is a tough environment to compete in, and low-paying, minimum-wage job opportunities will not raise the ability of our state to attract companies that require a professional workforce and allow us to compete with our neighbors to grow this entire regional economy. We will continue to export our human capital unless we bring exciting jobs here now. (10/12)

The Journey to Mars Starts with the Journey to the Moon (Source: SpaceRef)
One of the highlights of the International Astronautical Congress is the annual Heads of Agencies public forum. In recent years the forum hasn't produced much in the way of substantive discourse. That was not the case this year. This years panel included leaders from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) of Russia, China's National Space Administration (CNSA), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the hosts, the Israel Space Agency (ISA).

Three themes emerged from; The need for even stronger international cooperation, the moon as the next destination and the need to provide ongoing measurable benefits to the public from Earth observation. The last theme was championed by new ESA Director General, Jan Woerner.

When asked what the next destination for exploration should be, the overwhelming consensus was more moon exploration. China's Xu Dazhe discussed their moon sample return mission and a lander on the far side of the moon, with a moon first approach. ESA's Woerner concurred with the "moon first" approach which he called a "moon village", meaning international cooperation on several projects. (10/13)

Aerojet’s Quarterly Loss Widens Sharply, Hurt by Charges (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc.’s third-quarter loss widened sharply as the company recorded large expenses tied to a settlement over the failed launch of an unmanned rocket last year. Last month, Aerojet unsuccessfully bid $2 billion for United Launch Alliance—its largest customer. (10/13)

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