October 2, 2015

ULA Lofts Mexican Satellite on Atlas Rocket at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
An Atlas 5 lifted off from Cape Canaveral this morning carrying a Mexican communications satellite. The rocket lifted off at 6:28 a.m. EDT, delayed to the end of its 20-minute launch window when a boat strayed into restricted waters off the coast. The launch is the 100th for United Launch Alliance since the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture started operations in late 2006. (10/2)

China Launches Long March 3B Rocket with Beidou-3 Navigation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On Tuesday, Sept. 30 China successfully launched its third-generation navigation satellite into orbit. The BDS I2-S satellite, lifted off atop the country’s Long March 3B launch vehicle at 7:13 p.m. EDT (23:13 GMT) from Launch Complex 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. It is the 20th satellite for the Chinese Beidou Navigation Satellite System. (9/30)

Russia Launches Cargo Spacecraft to ISS (Source: Tass)
The Progress cargo ship was packed with 2.3 tons of cargo. This launch was the last one for the Progress M-M series, to be replaced by the Progress MS cargo ships with the next mission due on November 21. The Progress space freighter docked with the ISS at 10.54 p.m. GMT and is expected to undock on December 9. (10/1)

Despite Evidence of Water, Conditions on Mars are Less Than Hospitable (Source: Washington Post)
The indication of liquid water on Mars "doesn't mean astronauts are going to have a swimming hole," writes Joel Achenbach. "It's mostly about zero inches deep," he writes, noting that the bottom line is "Mars has an unhelpful atmosphere: Too thin to slow you down very much with parachutes, but thick enough to burn you up if you enter at high speed with inadequate shielding." (9/30)

NASA and ESA will Move a Small Moon by Slamming a Spacecraft Into It (Source: Popular Science)
We've smashed into the moon, and bounced onto a comet, but a whole 17 years after Deep Impact and Armageddon debuted in 1998, we still haven't managed to change the course of an asteroid.

Sure, we landed the NEAR-Shoemaker orbiter on an asteroid in 2001, but we didn't even try to see if we could change its orbit. Come on, everyone, we can do better. Now, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have announced plans to fill that gaping hole in our asteroid knowledge by smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid's moon and watching what happens. (9/30)

Dinosaur-Killer Asteroid May Have Triggered Eruptions Around Globe (Source: Washington Post)
An asteroid might have had some help killing off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientists said the impact of the giant asteroid or comet, in the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, may have shook the Earth so hard it exacerbated an ongoing volcanic eruption halfway around the world in India's Deccan Traps. The combination of the two might have done in the dinosaurs, according to research published in the journal Science. (10/1)

Layman Help Sought in Solving Dwarf Planet Mysteries (Source: Space Daily)
Throwing open the doors to the hallowed halls of science, stumped researchers welcomed help from the public Wednesday in solving a number of nagging mysteries about dwarf planet Ceres. NASA's space probe Dawn, which travelled seven-and-a-half years and some 4.9 billion kilometers to reach Ceres in March this year, is the first to orbit a dwarf planet.

The probe is seeking to learn more about the structure of Ceres, which circles the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, in a bid to better understand the formation of Earth and other planets. But many of the features of Ceres have left researchers scratching their heads -- including a six-kilometre (four-mile) high protrusion they have dubbed "Lonely Mountain".

One fan of the probe sent Russell an email saying the mountain reminded him of some ice structures he had seen in the woods years earlier while living in Arkansas. "These ice structures started just poking out (of the ground). Each one of them had a rock or something like that protecting the surface, keeping it cool," Russell said in describing the ice. Russell said "many suggestions" have poured in from the public but did not provide an exact number. (9/30)

Blue Origin Making Progress with BE-4 Engine (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin says it is making progress in the development of its BE-4 engine. The company said Wednesday it has completed more than 100 staged-combustion tests of engine components, testing both the engine design and manufacturing techniques as the company prepares for an upcoming critical design review. Blue Origin is developing the BE-4 for its own orbital launch vehicle as well as for ULA's Vulcan rocket. (9/30)

Ex-Im Renewal Languishes Despite Support in Both Houses (Source: Syracuse Post-Standard)
David Melcher The US Export-Import Bank assisted New York in doing $744 million in business with foreign buyers last year, supporting 132 companies, including 82 small businesses in the state. "Unfortunately, a concerted effort by lobbyists with a rigid ideological agenda has succeeded in getting Congress to avoid voting on extending Ex-Im's operations, even though majorities in both houses back the bank," writes AIA President and CEO David F. Melcher. (9/30)

AGI Wins Space Tracking Contract from Air Force (Source: Space News)
The Air Force awarded a contract to a company that provides commercial space situational awareness services. The $8.4 million contract with AGI covers a subscription service to the company's Commercial Space Operations Center, or ComSpOC, which the company created to provide an alternative for space situation awareness data to the Air Force's own Joint Space Operations Center. The contract makes the Air Force the first government customer for ComSpOC. (10/1)

Lockheed Says Further Consolidation Among Primes Won't Harm Competition, Innovation (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin disputes the assertion that further consolidation among prime contractors could harm competition or dampen innovation. "We believe that defense contractors should continue to be assessed based on the performance and effectiveness of the products and solutions offered, not on the size of their company," said spokesman Dan Nelson.

Editor's Note: They said the same thing when Lockheed Martin and Boeing merged their launch businesses to create United Launch Alliance, which did indeed result in a harmful lack of competition (and, some might argue, innovation too). (9/30)

Boeing Receives Five-Year Extension to ISS Support Contract (Source: Space News)
Boeing has received a five-year extension to its contract with NASA to support operations of the International Space Station, an agreement worth $1.18 billion. NASA has asked Boeing to evaluate the viability of keeping ISS running through 2028. (9/30)

Moon Express Signs With Rocket Lab for Lunar Launches (Source: Moon Express)
Moon Express is one step closer to becoming the first private company to land a spacecraft on the Moon. The company signed a contract with Rocket Lab on Sep. 30 to launch three Moon Express robotic spacecraft to land on the Moon starting in 2017. Moon Express is the first company in history to secure such a contract.

Under the launch services contract, Rocket Lab will use its Electron rocket system to launch three missions of Moon Express' MX-1 lunar lander spacecraft. The MX family of flexible, scalable spacecraft/landers are capable of reaching the lunar surface from Earth orbit on direct or low-energy trajectories. The breakthrough robotic space vehicle offers multiple applications, including delivery of scientific and commercial payloads to the Moon at a fraction of the cost of conventional approaches.

Two launches of MX-1 have been manifested with Rocket Lab for 2017, with the third to be scheduled at a later date.  Moon Express has the option of launching from Rocket Lab's private launch range in New Zealand or from an American range. (10/1)

Garver Skeptical About Current Mars Plans (Source: GeekWire)
A former NASA official is skeptical the agency can sustain its long-term Mars exploration plans. Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, speaking at a technology conference in Seattle Thursday, said plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, using technologies that, in some cases, dated back to the 1970s, was not the best way to go to Mars. "What we need is the capability to do it in a time frame and at a cost that is achievable – and I think that’s within 10 years," she said. As for how it could be done, Garver, who advised Hillary Clinton on space policy in the 2008 campaign, said, "I think the next president will have a lot to say about that." (10/1)

Lockheed Martin's ISS Cargo Concept Dropped from NASA Competition? (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Lockheed Martin has reportedly been dropped from consideration for a NASA space station cargo contract. Lockheed Martin had proposed a system involving a reusable spacecraft called Jupiter and expendable cargo carrier called Exoliner to transport cargo to the station, making it one of five major bidders for the Commercial Resupply Services 2 competition. The company was reportedly removed from consideration due to cost. Neither the company nor NASA confirmed the report, based on rumors widely circulating in the industry over the last several weeks. (10/1)

India Posptpones RLV Tech Demo (Source: Express)
India has postponed the launch of a reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator until at least the end of this year. The demonstrator, a scale model of a spaceplane that would fly a suborbital trajectory, was scheduled to launch on a GSLV rocket in October. That launch is now scheduled for late December or January, giving engineers more time to complete tests on the vehicle. (10/1)

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