October 27, 2015

The House Science Committee is Worse Than the Benghazi Committee (Source: Vox)
Last Thursday, the nation watched with a mix of amusement and horror as the House Benghazi committee spent 11 hours grilling Hillary Clinton on a bizarre farrago of issues, many of which bore only tangential connection to the Benghazi attack. Between McCarthy's accidental truth telling, an ex-staffer confirming the worst reports about the committee, and another House Republican conceding the obvious, it has become clear that the Benghazi committee is a thoroughly partisan political endeavor.

The thing is: The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions. Click here. (10/26)

Looking Back a Year and a Decade (Source: Space Review)
This week is the first anniversary of both the Antares launch failure and the SpaceShipTwo accident, two major setbacks for the commercial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on the progress the companies involved in those accidents are making as they return to flight, as well as the gradual progress of the industry in general. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2853/1 to view the article. (10/26)

Launch Failures: Titan Groundhog Day (Source: Space Review)
In 1986, a Titan launch failed spectacularly just seconds after liftoff. Wayne Eleazer discusses why that launch failed and how it demonstrated systemic problems with the production of its solid rocket motors. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2852/1 to view the article. (10/26)

The International Code of Conduct (Source: Space Review)
A recent effort to negotiate an international code of conduct for outer space activities failed at the UN. Michael Listner examines some issues about the latest draft of the code and what its future prospects might be. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2851/1 to view the article. (10/26)

China Launches Earth Observation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
China successfully launched one of the nation's Long March 2D rockets on Monday, lifting the Tianhui-1C mapping satellite into orbit. Liftoff took place from the Launch Area 4 (LA-4) at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu. (10/26)

NASA’s Orion Moves on to Full-Scale Assembly and Testing (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's new, crew-rated Orion spacecraft is set to undergo full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing after completing most of its Critical Design Review (CDR). The review, carried out on Oct. 21 to determine the vehicle's readiness to conduct the first mission Orion will fly integrated with the agency's new super heavy-lift booster - the Space Launch System or "SLS." That flight, Exploration Mission 1 - is currently scheduled to take place sometime late in 2018. (10/26)

Own Half a Kilobyte of Space and Computing History With Gemini 3 RAM Chip (Source: NBC)
Computing and space history buffs alike will appreciate this RAM chip from 1965, part of the first computer that ever flew on a manned space mission (Gemini 3) and is now up for auction. It's 4,096 bits, or half a kilobyte — so it isn't exactly state of the art. But at the time it was an indispensable part of the control system, and now it's a beautiful artifact of the earliest days of computing. (10/26)

House Takes Step to Revive Export-Import Bank (Source: AP)
The House has taken the first steps to revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank nearly four months after its charter expired. The vote Monday was 246-177 and set the stage for additional votes on Tuesday. Democrats joined forces with establishment-backed Republicans in a rarely used procedural step — a petition to dislodge the bill from a panel controlled by a bank opponent. (10/26)

Why an Upcoming Spacewalk Will Be So Difficult (Source: TIME)
A spacecraft that knows how to repair or maintain itself hasn’t been built yet. That’s especially problematic when the one in question is the International Space Station (ISS)—which is larger than a football field, weighs nearly one million lbs. (454,000 kg) and required 115 different spaceflights just to get its components into orbit and properly assembled.

After 15 years of continuous occupancy, the ISS is in need of one of its periodic upgrades, and on Wednesday, astronauts and first-time space-walkers Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren will step outside to perform that much-needed work.

Doing basic handyman work is radically different in space—and radically more dangerous too—and Kelly and Lindgren have been preparing for months for their orbital service call. Many of the basic protocols of any spacewalk are worked out far in advance of a mission, with practice sessions in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL). (10/26)

Lockheed Finishes Building Asteroid Sample Return Craft (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin finished assembling NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample retrieval spacecraft, which now will undergo five months of testing to ensure it is space worthy. The spacecraft will undergo vibration and acoustic tests to ensure it can survive the harsh forces of a rocket launch, after which it will be placed in thermal vacuum chamber that mimics the airlessness and temperature swings of space. (10/26)

Simulating a Starliner at Boeing (Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Imagine that you’re just learning to drive a car, but your first hour behind the wheel is spent hurtling through traffic on Interstate 70. A scary thought? That, says Pete Meisinger, is a little bit like what new astronauts experience. Their first minutes actually doing the job are spent riding a rocket into space. “It’s a very sensory-overload experience,” he said.

Meisinger’s job is to make that rocket ride seem as familiar as possible. A physicist with a doctorate, he is Boeing’s program manager for space vehicle simulators in St. Louis. That means creating flight trainers for astronauts on Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft. The goal is to make the on-the-ground training so realistic that “off-nominal conditions” — “trouble” in engineer-speak — get handled smoothly. “No part of the experience should be a surprise to an astronaut,” Meisinger said.

The Starliner will be built at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. St. Louis’ main contributions are simulators, both for the astronauts and the on-the-ground flight controllers. The simulators are now being designed. Much of what happens in a Starliner launching, from liftoff to docking with the ISS, will be automated. “The system is designed for flight without any crew at all,” said Meisinger, and a cargo version of the Starliner will do just that. (10/26)

Editorial: Don’t Shoot Down the U.S. Space Industrial Base (Source: Space News)
The commercial satellite industry was pioneered in the US, and the market was dominated by US industry until Congress in 1999 enacted an ill-considered, draconian export control regime — which treated commercial satellites the same as munitions — and nearly decimated the industry. After the restrictions were put in place, the US share of global satellite manufacturing dropped from 65 percent to as low as 30 percent, and the market share of US launch service providers was also impacted adversely.

Now that we’ve had sensible export control reform for almost two years, our domestic industry is starting to get back on its feet. But another bad policy move could once again result in legislators shooting this vital industry down. American companies and thousands of workers are being harmed by Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im). Since July 1, Ex-Im has been unable to do what it has done for 81 years: provide loan guarantees to American exporters to help seal deals in cases when the private sector is unable or unwilling to assume credit risks. (10/26)

Editorial: Time for Action on Commercial Weather Data (Source: Space News)
Commercial space-based weather satellites, owned and operated by private companies, can augment the federal government’s weather data, be assimilated into our numerical weather models, and substantially improve our ability to predict severe weather. This is my firm conviction.

I represent the state of Oklahoma. My constituents year after year find their lives threatened by severe storms and tornadoes. They deserve to have the best possible weather data available to protect their lives and property. The House Science environment subcommittee that I chair has vigorously encouraged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to explore these options.

In September, NOAA released a draft Commercial Space Policy, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. While I have some concerns about the policy as drafted, I believe this is a positive step toward NOAA procuring the services of commercial weather data satellite firms and integrating them into the weather enterprise. (10/26)

NGA To Weigh Smallsat Options Under New Commercial Strategy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) could request funding as early as next year to begin experimenting with the different imagery products becoming available from a new generation of commercial satellite operators and data analytics firms. According to a strategy document, the NGA envisions eventually entering into a variety of contracting schemes with the newcomers, many funded by Silicon Valley venture capital. (10/26)

Colorado Lawmakers Eager to See New Space Ops Center Built Out (Source: Space News)
Three Colorado lawmakers have urged senior government officials use rapid acquisition authority to expedite the establishment of a new space operations center that will experiment with warfighting techniques.

In an Oct. 22 letter, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R), and Sens. Michael Bennett (D) and Cory Gardner (R), tasked Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Stephanie O’Sullivan, principal deputy to the director of national intelligence, to move quickly on a space battle management center known as the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC. The JICSpOC is housed at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (10/26)

Russian Investigators Through with Vostochny Spaceport $84 Million Fraud (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Investigative Committee has completed its probe into a $84 million fraud affair at the Vostochny spaceport construction project. The two men involved in the criminal case are the former CEO of the Dalspetsstroi contractor, Yuri Khrizman, and the contractor’s chief accountant, Vladimir Ashikhmin.

"According to the investigators Khrizman and Ashikhmin in 2011-2013 illegally spent 5.16 billion roubles of the 22.6 billion roubles disbursed in advance payments under eleven state contracts for building Vostochny spaceport facilities. The funds were illegally used to repay Dalspetstroi’s liabilities under earlier loans, which resulted in great material losses for the Russian budget," Markin said.

Also, misuse of budget money greatly delayed construction work in 2011-2013, in other words, disrupted the implementation of a presidential decree concerning federal programs, Markin said. (10/26)

NASA Relies On Asteroid Mission To Demo Mars Tech (Source: Aviation Week)
Managers assigned to the development of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a precursor to the agency’s human Mars exploration plans, believe they can place two astronauts launched aboard a Space Launch System/Orion combination in proximity to a 20-ton boulder robotically plucked from an asteroid and maneuvered into lunar orbit. (10/26)

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