November 30, 2015

DARPA Cancels F-15 Air-Launch Program (Source: Space News)
DARPA has scrapped plans to launch small satellites from a modified F-15 fighter jet after two tests of a new rocket fuel ended in explosions this year. Instead DARPA will spend the next year studying how to harness the volatile nitrous oxide-acetylene propellant and, in parallel, modifications to existing small rockets that would enable the agency place small satellites on orbit on 24 hours notice at a cost of less than $1 million.

In March 2014, Boeing Defense Space and Security of Huntington Beach, California, won a contract potentially worth $104 million to build and demonstrate the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) system. The program was intended to demonstrate the capability to launch up to 45 kilograms of payload into low Earth orbit on short notice for as little as $1 million.

Boeing’s design featured a small expendable rocket launching from underneath a modified combat aircraft that would take off from a standard airport runway. Such a system would allow the Defense Department to launch from almost anywhere, DARPA said. “The magic” in Boeing’s design, as DARPA officials described it, was the powerful nitrous oxide-acetylene propellant, also known as NA-7. (11/30)

Reddit Sleuths ID SpaceX Debris (Source: Space News)
A piece of debris from a 2014 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch was recovered off the English coast Thursday. Boaters found the object, measuring 10 by 4 meters and bearing SpaceX markings, in the waters off the Isles of Scilly, southwest of Cornwall.

British officials initially claimed the debris was from the failed June launch of a Falcon 9, but a crowdsourced investigation by members of Reddit concluded it was instead from the CRS-4 launch in September 2014. “I got it! It’s the CRS-4 interstage,” Reddit user _R_  posted Friday. “The falcon beak ends to the right side of the “o” in “Falcon”, and the bulge above “n” is different on CRS-4.” (11/30)

Satellites Need Protection as 'Critical Infrastructure,' Military Says (Source: CBC)
The military's research arm is looking for better ways to protect satellites from catastrophic failure after a 2011 space incident exposed Canada's vulnerability to communications collapse. Defense Research and Development Canada is launching an initiative with the private sector to improve the reliability of satellites threatened by space debris, harmful radiation and even software glitches that can shut down essential services, from internet access to airline flights. (11/29)

XCOR Management Shakeup Doesn't Worry Texas Spaceport (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Midland Development Corp. board member Robert Rendall doesn’t view a reported change of management at XCOR Aerospace as a “big deal.” He said on Saturday things will continue as expected as the company continues its move to Midland.

Midland Development Corp. has allocated at least $11.5 million for XCOR’s move to Midland. That amount includes a $1.5 million refurbishment of the XCOR hangar. MDC also made a $7 million deal with Orbital Outfitters for its move to Midland. Millions have also been committed to the development of a spaceport business park at Midland International Air & Space Port, Rendall said.

“What I am told is (the departures of Greason and DeLong) will not have a major impact to the company in its operations,” Rendall said. “I don’t think it is a big deal.” “(XCOR) has 50 people out there (at Midland International Air & Space Port),” Rendall said. “Indications are things are moving forward like they were before.” (11/29)

China's Indigenous SatNav Performing Well After Tests (Source: Space Daily)
The three satellites launched this year for China's indigenous satellite navigation system are sending twice as many signals as their predecessors, said the system's designer, after completing tests on the new units. The 18th and 19th satellites for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), which is being developed as an alternative to U.S.-operated GPS, were sent into space on July 26, and the 20th on Sept. 30.

While they are less than half the weight of earlier generations, the new satellites' output is greater, matching the best around the world, said the China Academy of Space Technology in its latest newsletter. After tests of their orbits and key technology, they are working as intended and in all weather, according to the academy. (11/30)

Leave No Prisoners of War Behind—Even in Space? (Source: National Interest)
The U.S. military devotes a great deal of effort to recovering its personnel who are stranded behind enemy lines. From raids on Japanese prison camps to plucking pilots from North Vietnamese jungles and Serbian forests, American soldiers and the American public, have come to expect that no effort will be spared to rescue U.S. personnel.

But what if that hostile territory is outer space? That's the question asked by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Colonel Mari Manifold, who argues that the Pentagon needs to begin considering how to rescue astronauts in the same way that it rescues pilots. Click here. (11/30)

Attention Airmen: Astronaut Applications Open Dec. 15 (Source: Air Force Times)
Have you always wanted to journey into the final frontier? Your chance could be coming up soon. Eligible active-duty officers and enlisted airmen can start submitting applications to be NASA astronauts through the USAJobs website on Dec. 15, the Air Force Personnel Center said in a Nov. 20 release. (11/29)

Florida Job Growth Outpaces Other Large States, Including Texas (Source: Gov. Rick Scott)
Governor Rick Scott announced today that Florida’s private-sector job growth rate of 3.4 percent in October was the highest among the ten most populous states, including Texas, California, and New York. October marks the eighth consecutive month that Florida’s growth rate has been first among large states. Florida’s job growth rate is also significantly higher than the nation’s, which is at 2.2 percent. (11/30)

NASA Selects Final Frontier to Test IVA Spacesuit in Microgravity (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Last week, Final Frontier Design (FFD)’s proposal,“Testing of a Novel IVA Space Suit” was selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. As one of eight recipients, FFD will receive funds to develop and build a test article space suit and to conduct reduced gravity testing on their suit during parabolic flights.

Currently slated for May 2016, this will be a significant microgravity trial for FFD space suits. “The purpose of these tests is to increase our technology readiness level (TRL) through human testing in a high fidelity, relevant environment. The results will be used to validate pressurized suit performance under live, unpredictable conditions and further our milestone goal of flight safety approval from the FAA AST. “ says Ted Southern, FFD president. (11/30)

Space Tourism Has People Lining Up Despite Cost, Safety Issues (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
As a child, eager to embrace space travel, I forgot to read the fine print. A ticket on Richard Branson’s SpaceShip Two, for example, will set up back $250,000. Take the wife and kids along and it runs into some serious money. Yet, CNN reported that some people have taken out second mortgages on their homes to pay for the journey.

And if you think the lines at LAX are bad, 600 people have already signed up for a trip aboard SpaceShip Two, which holds six people. SpaceShipTwo would be flown to 50,000 feet by a jet called WhiteKnightTwo and then released, at which point its rocket engine propels the spacecraft at 3.5 times the speed of sound to as high as 62 miles in about 90 seconds. The bad news is that when you land, you’ll be in New Mexico.

Alexander Saltman, the executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, cautioned that suborbital trips by space tourists will be dangerous. “There are going to be dangers that we don’t know about when we start flying,” he said. “There will be incidents and at some point somebody will lose their life in this industry... At this point, putting a number on it is going to be impossible, because the unknowns outweigh the knowns.” (11/28)

Cornwall's Space Race Begins (Source: Pirate FM)
David Cameron says Newquay's space race will begin in the new year. The airport is bidding to become the UK's first space port. That could mean launching satellites - and even tourists into orbit. Local MP Steve Double has asked the PM for his backing. In reply Mr Cameron said: "I'm a strong supporter of Newquay airport, not just as a user but I think it provides opportunity for a hub of businesses in Cornwall. (11/29)

ISS Crew Gear Up for Visiting Vehicle Traffic (Spaceflight Insider)
After a few weeks of no visiting vehicle traffic, allowing more time to be spent on science, the crew of the International Space Station are gearing up for a period of comings and goings on board the orbiting laboratory.

The next three-and-a-half weeks will see the slew of visiting vehicles visit and depart the station including the launch of a Cygnus cargo ship, the swapping of an old Progress cargo ship with a new one, and the transfer of crews from Expedition 45 to Expedition 46. (11/29)

Silicon Valley Exploits Time and Space to Extend the Frontiers of Capitalism (Source: Guardian)
The US Congress quietly passed an important piece of legislation this month. The Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act – yet to be signed by Barack Obama – grants American companies unconstrained rights to the mining of any resources – from water to gold. The era of space exploration is over; the era of space exploitation has begun! Click here. (11/29)

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