November 21, 2015

RocketStar Takes First Steps Toward Holy Grail of Space Travel: Reusability (Source: RocketStar)
RocketStar, LLC announced today that it is prepared to launch its sounding rocket, "The Choppah", from Kennedy Space Center. The Choppah will be propelled by RocketStar's proprietary 3D-printed aerospike rocket engine, which had a successful Burn Test in the summer. The formal Burn Test, which was executed on behalf of RocketStar by Micro Aerospace Solutions at Kennedy Space Center, was an unqualified success and has paved the way for launch of The Choppah. Click here. (11/19)

UCF Scientists Win NASA Rides for Space Dust Research (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Tiny particles of space dust: How do they stick together? How might astronauts not stir them up? Two University of Central Florida scientists are asking, and they’ve gotten NASA’s attention.

UCF physics Professor Joshua Colwell and UCF physics post-doctoral associate Julie Brissel have won two of nine new NASA grants awarded this week to send eight experiments up on sub-orbital flights.

In their separate experiments, Brissel and Colwell will be researching what happens to dust particles in micro-gravity. Brissel will be looking for clues to the past. Colwell will be looking to develop advice for NASA missions in the future. (11/20)

Space Exploration? US Can't Make It Without Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Sputnik)
Congress has approved a defense authorization bill that would allow ULA to buy a maximum of four more Russian engines beyond its current allotment. ULA chief Tory Bruno has said that could mean the company will run out of the engines by 2019, up to three years before a rocket powered by domestic engines now being developed by aerospace company Blue Origin is ready to compete.

The result, he said, could be the same monopolistic environment the Pentagon wants to eliminate, with SpaceX instead of ULA handling all the launches. According to US the Air Force, America needs up to 18 additional RD-180 engines through 2022 “to prevent interruptions in the satellite launch schedule,” Defense News reported. (11/21)

Are Musk, Bezos and Branson the Wright Brothers of Today? Some in Congress Think So. (Source: Washington Post)
The breakthroughs were right around the corner, they promised. Soon people would be taking regular trips to the cosmos, and the era of commercial spaceflight would finally become reality. And so in 2004, the young space companies lobbied for an extended “learning period’ that would allow them to develop their rockets and space vehicles without all of the burdensome federal regulations that would hamper innovation and prevent the industry from taking off.

They got their wish for a regulatory break, but the advances were slower to come by. Now, more than a decade later, the industry says that this time it is really on the verge of that long-awaited breakthrough. And once again, Congress granted the industry an eight-year grace period that supporters say will prevent the FAA from stunting the growth of an industry that has been largely driven by a class of billionaires with huge ambitions.

Industry officials and their backers in Congress hailed the passage of the Space Act this week as an important step that will pave the way for businesses to soon take tourists to space and make the cosmos more accessible and affordable. (11/20)

Professor, Wife Convicted of Fraud in $700,000 NASA Contract (Source: ABC)
A university professor and his wife were convicted Friday of defrauding NASA by letting graduate students and researchers do all the work on a $700,000 project. Lehigh University engineering professor Yujie Ding and his wife, Yuliya Zotova, told NASA that their startup company would develop a cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change.

Zotova, 41, who has a doctorate in physics, was supposed to run the project and oversee the work of graduate students and research fellows in her husband's laboratory at Lehigh. The students never saw her there, prosecutors said. Prosecutors called their company, ArkLight, merely "a front" to seek federal grants and said Ding, 53, hid his role in the company from Lehigh.

Zotova testified that her social anxieties prevented her from going to the lab but that she worked on the project at home. Her lawyer argued that the research found at the couple's home in Saucon Township showed the depth of her involvement. The jury deliberated for two days before convicting the couple of six of 10 fraud counts. They each face up to 20 years in prison at their sentencing, scheduled for March 2. (11/20)

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station (Source: NASA)
NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil.

This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing received its first crew mission order in May. Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time. The contracts call for orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for missions in late 2017, provided the contractors meet readiness conditions. (11/20)

NASA: Cabana Played Role in Illegal Hires at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and other senior leaders were more involved than previously disclosed in illegal spaceport hires that may still be subject to federal investigation, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Auditors found the hires of three administrative assistants supporting Cabana and two other high-ranking officials at KSC headquarters suggested a deliberate effort to get around federal laws requiring competition and priority consideration for certain military veterans. NASA records show Cabana identified and lobbied for three people who became known internally as the “primes,” or prime candidates, to fill openings as his executive assistant and Deputy Director Janet Petro’s secretary in mid-2012.

One of the hires was the daughter of KSC’s procurement director, who reports to Cabana, and one was the spouse of another KSC manager. Two had worked for KSC contractors, the third for then-U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, whose district included KSC. Records show each was picked over military veterans or non-veterans who were either more qualified or entitled to first consideration for the jobs, which had salaries starting from about $47,000. (11/20)

No comments: