December 1, 2015

Texas' Embarrassing House Science Chairman is Investigating Climate Scientists (Source: Dallas Observer)
Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is hard at work trying to subpoena a group of government scientists who published a study last year yet again suggesting that the planet is warming because of humanity's use of fossil fuels, just like those Exxon scientists said decades ago.

Lately, some Republicans have claimed that global warming is slowing down, but the scientists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published research in the journal Science contradicting that claim, with findings of their own showing that nope, sorry, global warming really isn't slowing down. Smith is not happy with the NOAA's work.

Smith, a man who believes that "throughout history, marriage between a man and a woman has been the cement that has held civilizations together," is an interesting choice to chair the science committee. Since 2010, Smith has enjoyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from industries like oil and gas and companies getting sued for exposing people to asbestos. Click here. (11/30)

Laser Power: Russia Develops Energy Beam for Satellite Refueling (Source: Space Daily)
Russian scientists have developed a unique system for the transmission of electricity between spacecraft using lasers and photoelectric converters, according to the Russian daily Izvestia. Roscosmos plans to perform a unique experiment where it hopes to transmit energy wirelessly in space. The new technology, which will use a space laser, may be of use to sophisticated satellites and military space vehicles. (12/1)

Cashing In on the Final Frontier (Source: USA Today)
With all the troubles here on planet Earth, it’s comforting that things are at least looking up for the Final Frontier. In fact, it seems as if President Obama’s legacy could be to have seen more progress in U.S. commercial development of outer space than any other president, something that might surprise him as much as it surprises me.

The existence of a Western frontier did much to shape the American character as optimistic, open and generous because it’s easier to be optimistic, open and generous when you don’t see yourself as limited to what’s already available. A space frontier, I hope, will do the same thing for humanity in general. Looking around at the world today, I’d say it’s about time. (12/1)

Hawaii Space Agency Asks for Continued State Funding (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
A state agency devoted to advancing space exploration will be dissolved next summer if Gov. David Ige doesn’t approve an emergency appropriation to continue its operations. The director of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) said that without $670,000 from the state it will have to close in June. PISCES was established to conduct research to support exploration of the moon and Mars. (11/30)

China Plans Environmental Satellites (Source: Reuters)
Chinese government officials said Monday they will launch satellites to monitor the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Two carbon-monitoring satellites are currently under development and will be completed by next May, although the government has not announced launch dates for the spacecraft. The announcement is tied to the COP21 climate change conference underway in Paris. (11/30)

Space Training Transformation is Underway (Source: AFSPC)
The Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Commander, General John Hyten, as the Space Professional Functional Authority, directed implementation of a more robust Undergraduate Space Training Air Force Specialty Course and the transfer of space weapon system specific training responsibility to AFSPC by the beginning of Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16).  This transfer took place, as scheduled, on 1 Oct 2015.

At CORONA Top 2012, Air Force leadership recommended the split of the Space and Missile (13S) career field into the Space Operations career field (13S) and Missile Operations (13N) career field, which was approved by the Secretary of the Air Force on 10 February 2013.  The CORONA findings identified the current length and instruction of Undergraduate Space Training as insufficient to satisfy the training requirements for today's Contested, Degraded and Operationally Limited environment. (11/30)

Hypersonic Rocket Engine Could Revolutionize Space Flight (Source: Reuters)
Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines are developing a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies. They call it the greatest advance in propulsion since the jet engine; potentially revolutionizing hypersonic flight and dramatically reducing the cost of space access.

The company recently announced a strategic investment from BAE Systems of 20.6 million pounds ($31.4 million USD), in addition to a grant funding of 60 million pounds ($.4 million USD) from the British government, to accelerate the development of their unique SABRE engine.

SABRE, which stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, is designed to enable aircraft to operate from a standstill on the runway to hypersonic flight in the atmosphere, and then transition to rocket mode for spaceflight. (11/30)

Did NASA Reject Hillary's Childhood Dream of Becoming an Astronaut? (Source: Washington Post)
"So when I was about 13, I wrote to NASA and asked what I needed to do to try to be an astronaut. And of course, there weren’t any women astronauts, and NASA wrote me back and said there would not be any women astronauts. And I was just crestfallen. But then I realized I couldn’t see very well, and I wasn’t all that athletic, so probably, I wouldn’t be the first woman astronaut anyway.”

A story like this poses inherent fact-checking challenges. Neither the Clinton campaign nor NASA could produce the correspondence. But NASA spokeswoman Lauren Worley said the agency has “no reason to doubt its authenticity.” If NASA rejected Clinton because there was no astronaut program for women or immediate plans for one around 1961 or 1962, the response would have been consistent with the agency’s policy on female astronauts at the time, according to agency officials. (11/30)

NASA Uses Lessons From Space To Design An Efficient Building (Source: NPR)
There's a building in Mountain View, Calif., where energy-saving technologies of the future are being tried on for size. Step inside, and the first thing you notice is the building is dead quiet: no noisy air whooshing through louvers.

That's because the building uses passive cooling instead of traditional air conditioning. Cool ground water passes through a system of small tubes running below the ceiling. The electricity comes from solar panels on the roof and a fuel cell, an electricity generator NASA frequently uses in spacecraft.

This building is at NASA's Ames Research Center, and it's called Sustainability Base. As the name suggests, it's designed to minimize energy consumption and waste, and maximize recycling and reuse. The technologies being tried out should help reach a congressionally mandated target of reducing fossil-fuel-generated energy consumption in all new federal buildings to zero by 2030. (12/1)

Layoffs Hit Michoud Assembly Facility Amid Management Changes (Source:
Nearly 200 workers at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans will lose their jobs in January after the maintenance contract for the facility changes hands. It is not yet clear how many jobs the new contractor will keep.

Jacobs Technology, the company that currently maintains and operates Michoud, notified state workforce officials Monday (Nov. 30) that it failed to win renewal of its contract with NASA and will be eliminating 195 jobs as a result. The layoffs are effective Jan. 31, 2016, when the company's contract ends. (12/1)

As NASA Discards Reusable Engines, Blue Origin and SpaceX Push New Frontiers (Source: Ars Technica)
On the Monday before Thanksgiving NASA made what it deemed a momentous announcement: the space agency had awarded $1.16 billion to Aerojet Rocketdyne for rocket engines that would power its “Journey to Mars.” By contrast, a few hours earlier, the private space company Blue Origin secretly launched a rocket into space and safely landed it.

The contrast between the deal struck in corridors of Washington D.C. and what had happened in the desert of West Texas could not have been more stark. The engines that will power NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System, were first developed in 1970. These RS-25 engines that gave the space shuttle its thrust were engineering marvels; with some refurbishment NASA could use them over and over again. But now NASA is funding a contract to restart production of those old engines because they would no longer be reused.

In contrast to the billions of dollars NASA spends on legacy hardware, Blue Origin has received about $25 million from the agency during its 15-year existence. That’s less than the cost of a single RS-25 engine. With the launch of its New Shepard vehicle, Blue Origin has gone not only for reusable engines but a reusable booster and a reusable spacecraft. (12/1)

New Mexico Senators Praise New Space Law (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on Monday praised the passage of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The new law will modernize commercial space regulations and encourage competitiveness in the industry, according to a news release issued by Udall’s office.

Udall and Heinrich are longtime champions of modernizing U.S. policies governing commercial spaceflight, according to the release. "The commercial spaceflight industry creates jobs in New Mexico and strengthens our economy," said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. "Today's companies are early pioneers in a still-developing industry with enormous potential, including in New Mexico.

The bill provides an essential legal framework that will enable New Mexico’s commercial spaceflight industry to grow in the years ahead. “New Mexico has a unique opportunity to take advantage of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry," Heinrich said. "Our state has long been the frontier of space exploration. Assets such as Spaceport America, our national laboratories, research universities, and innovative private companies will put New Mexico in a starring role in the next stage of commercial space development.” (11/30)

Boeing Ends C-17 Production in California (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing closed out C-17 deliveries and seven decades of aircraft production in Long Beach, California, with the departure of the last airlifter for the Qatar Emiri air force to the company’s San Antonio facility on Nov 29. The final aircraft is one of four C-17s that will be delivered to Qatar in 2016, and together with one aircraft that remains unsold and in storage in Texas, takes the overall production tally to 279. (11/30)

The Secret to Conquering Space Without it Killing Us First May Lie in Our Bones (Source: Motherboard)
As humanity slowly gears up for an eventual space flight to Mars, one of the toughest questions we’re still trying to answer is how to conquer space without space killing us first. For decades, astronauts have returned to Earth anemic, their red blood cell count depleted, leaving them vulnerable to infection. A team of scientists led by Dr. Guy Trudel, a rehabilitation physician at the University of Ottawa, is investigating how to prevent anemia from occurring by investigating the effects of microgravity on bone marrow.

Bone marrow produces red blood cells and affects how well they function in the body. On Earth, when somebody is bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or otherwise unable to move for an extended period of time, their bone marrow grows fattier, which Trudel says contributes to anemia. In space, the effect is perhaps the same, since less force is put on the limbs, but this has never been studied before. (11/30)

Russian Manned Mission to Moon to Require up to Six Angara Launches (Source: Tass)
Russia’s manned mission to the Moon will require from four to six launches of the Angara-A5V heavy-lift rocket from the Plesetsk and Vostochny spaceports. According to the source, a manned flight to the moon is possible under a scheme envisaging two coupled launches. First, a lunar take-off and landing complex is placed on a low Earth orbit, and then the upper stage with effective cryogenic propellants is orbited.

The third launch orbits a manned spacecraft, and the fourth - another upper stage. After docking of the lunar take-off and landing complex with the manned spacecraft on the lunar orbit, the crew descends to the Moon surface inside the lunar take-off and landing complex, carries out the research program and returns to orbit. After that the spaceship returns to Earth.

Also, another coupled Angara-A5V launch will be needed before the manned flight to deliver and deploy the first expeditionary unit of the lunar base on the Moon. (11/30)

Judges Reduce Reduce False-Claims Counts Against UF NASA Fraudsters (Source: Law360)
The Eleventh Circuit Monday clipped as time-barred two of 22 counts from a False Claims Act case against a former University of Florida professor and his wife — already convicted of illegally gaining $3.7 million in NASA contracts. A three-judge panel remanded the case against Professor Samim Anghaie and his wife Sousan Anghaie to a Florida federal court, asking the trial court subtract from the nearly $3 million in penalties and damages it awarded in the FCA case. (11/30)

Astronauts Getting Augmented Reality Headsets This Week (Source: Popular Science)
Virtual and augmented reality devices have slowly edged their way into our lives, popping up on headsets and in cars. Now, they are boldly going where no AR or VR has gone before, into space. This week a resupply mission will carry two Microsoft HoloLenses to the space station. The devices will be used by astronauts like real-time instruction manuals, part of a NASA project called Project Sidekick.

The idea is to facilitate closer communication between astronauts in space and ground control. A technician in Houston could see what an astronaut wearing the HoloLens is seeing in real time. The person in ground control could then draw a circle around a particular piece of hardware or button on the space station, pointing it out to the astronaut and making instructions for repairs or experiments even more clear than relying on written or vocal instructions. (11/30)

What Gets Made In LA Is Way More Than Movies (Source: NPR)
America is still making stuff. And in terms of jobs, the Los Angeles area is the biggest manufacturing hub in the country. There are a few reasons why. There is plenty of space here to build things like factories and runways. That beautiful California weather? It's actually great for testing planes year-round.

Aerospace has had its heart in LA for decades, and SpaceX is a good symbol of the future of that industry. Its headquarters in the LA suburb of Hawthorne had at one time been used to make fuselages for Boeing airplanes. Now it houses a private company that's venturing into outer space.

Technology — like drones and satellite communications — is also part of the new aerospace industry in the Los Angeles area. The area's ports have helped make it easier to export the goods made here. Ships wait in long lines along the coast to get in. There, shipping containers pile up on top of each other like Legos. Click here. (11/30)

SpaceWorks Launches Blink Astro LLC (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks has formed a new subsidiary to develop and manufacture small satellites and to pursue satellite-based global machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Blink Astro is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based SpaceWorks. Blink will become the small satellite unit within the overall SpaceWorks group of companies and follows from an internal SpaceWorks project of the same name.

Blink initially intends to enter the rapidly growing M2M connectivity market by providing affordable and reliable data messaging services via a small network of nano-satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit. Blink’s target markets include oil and gas, precision agriculture, logistics and shipping, marine biology, and the military. (11/30)

XCOR Founders Start New Company (Source: Space News)
Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson left XCOR to found a new company, Agile Aero. That company, which, like XCOR, is based in Midland, Texas, will be focused on addressing a problem Greason says has afflicted XCOR and other aerospace companies: the inability to rapidly develop and test vehicles, be they high-speed aircraft or launch vehicles.

Greason said that he’s seen advances in rapid prototyping of spacecraft payloads, and XCOR has had success rapidly building and testing rocket engines. “But when it comes to vehicles, people have either found them slow to develop, or they have gone to vehicles that treat the atmosphere as a nuisance,” he said.

Agile Aero intends to first work on a technical solution to that development problem, supporting itself with some consulting work. “We don’t have the answers yet, but we have a clear grasp on the challenge,” he said. “We think if we work on that, we can solve that problem, not just for one company but for a whole industry.” (11/30)

NOAA Satellite Breakup Shares Cause With DOD Failure (Source: Space News)
A NOAA satellite retired in 2014 has suffered an apparent breakup, the second time in less than a year that a polar-orbiting weather satellite has generated orbital debris. The breakup, if confirmed, would be the second time in less than a year for a satellite in polar orbit. In February, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 satellite exploded in orbit, creating several dozen pieces of debris.

A sudden temperature spike in the DMSP spacecraft led engineers to conclude a battery in the spacecraft ruptured because of a design flaw. Seven other DMSP spacecraft have a similar design flaw. Orbital debris mitigation guidelines developed by the U.S. government recommend removing all sources of on-board energy on a spacecraft, including venting propellant tanks and discharging batteries, when a spacecraft reaches the end of its mission.

It’s not clear if spacecraft controllers were able to carry out those procedures when the NOAA 16 spacecraft encountered its mission-ending anomaly last year. (11/27)

NASA, Congress Need to Embrace New Paradigm for Space Leadership (Source: Space Policy Online)
A panel of space policy experts told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Thursday that NASA has an important role to play in the future, but one different from its roots.  They believe NASA, and Congress, must embrace a new paradigm where the agency leads commercial and international partnerships, rather than dominating the program.

The panel -- Lori Garver, John Logsdon and Charles Miller -- covered a broad range of civil space topics, but the focus was human space exploration program, particularly the role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) between NASA and the commercial sector, and international cooperation, especially with China.

Garver, Logsdon and Miller see those PPPs as harbingers of a new era of space exploration featuring a much greater role for innovative “new space” companies. They view Congress and entrenched NASA-industry interests as obstacles that, for example, led to the requirement for NASA to build the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule using “old space” government procurement methods. (11/22)

How the New SLS Engine Contract is a Step in the Wrong Direction (Source: Space Review)
NASA announced last week a contract with Aerojet Rocketdyne to make an expendable version of the RS-25 engine for future Space Launch System missions. Gerald Black argues that, with the recent developments in reusability by others in the industry, developing expendable engines and rockets is unwise. Visit to view the article. (11/30)

Expanding the Space Industry (Source: Space Review)
While the space industry generates several hundred billion dollars in revenue a year, it's still small compared to many other industries. Jeff Foust describes how a recent conference attempted to make connections between space and some other industries to help the space industry grow. Visit to view the article. (11/30)

Financing Space Companies in an Age of Complexity (Source: Space Review)
Companies in the commercial space industry, among others, can find it difficult to raise the money they need to build their businesses. Eric Hedman offers a potential solution that takes advantage of provisions in existing law, with some changes, to provide companies with a new source of investment. Visit to view the article. (11/30)

Blue Origin Sticks the Landing (Source: Space Review)
Last week, Blue Origin made another successful test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, this time flying to an altitude of 100 kilometers and successfully landing the vehicle's propulsion module under rocket power. Jeff Foust reports on the implications of the successful test, and the reaction it got from the head of another company in the field. Visit to view the article. (11/30)

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