December 12, 2015

KSC's GSDO Review Completed for SLS Heavy-Lift Rocket at Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) has successfully completed its critical design review, on the path to preparing for the agency's journey to Mars. Members of the review board completed their in-depth assessment of the plans for the facilities and ground support systems at Kennedy Space Center that will be needed to process NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for deep-space exploration missions.

A Standing Review Board composed of aerospace experts from NASA and industry also will provide an independent assessment. Results of the review process will be briefed to senior agency officials in the coming months as the last step in the process.

"The completion of this review represents a critical milestone for the GSDO team that clearly demonstrates we are on track with the launch site upgrades required to support SLS and Orion test, checkout and launch in 2018," said Mike Bolger, GSDO program manager. (12/12)

How Elon Musk Plans on Reinventing the World (and Mars) (Source: GQ)
One of his companies is trying to upend the auto industry. Another of his companies is trying to put people on Mars. Yet another is trying to bring electricity to everyone who needs it. Elon Musk wants to reinvent the world in a single lifetime. But is the future ready for Elon Musk? Click here. (12/12)

Jose Canseco's Plan to Terraform Mars (Source: Motherboard)
Former baseball superstar Jose Canseco says he has solved one of the most difficult atmospheric engineering problems conceived of by man: Terraforming the planet Mars to make it habitable for humans.

Canseco—whose math credentials include counting from zero to $45,580,000 (in total earnings) during his 16-year career and then counting back down to -$1.7 million while bankrupting himself—has calculated that if humans launched nuclear missiles at Mars's polar ice caps, the ice would melt and form an ocean 36 feet deep across the planet.

Nuking Mars makes sense in theory but is highly infeasible in the near-mid future because carrying a bomb large enough to the planet would be extremely expensive and difficult. Launching anything to space is quite dangerous—strapping a nuclear warhead large enough to melt the ice on Mars increases the danger level quite a bit. (12/11)

COMSTAC Weighs Expanding US Access to India’s Launch Services (Source: Via Satellite)
The FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) and its International Space Policy Working Group (ISPWG) are considering expanding access to India’s launch services to the U.S. market through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its commercial arm, Antrix Corp.

On Dec. 10, the group tabled a vote to recommend to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to remove the waivers that satellite companies are currently required to obtain from the State Department and Department of Commerce for the export of satellites for launch to India.

Current legislation set in 2005 requires satellite companies to enter into an extra layer of government review in order to gain approval for the export on launch of satellites to India. The current legislation was intended to discourage the use of Indian launch vehicles by American launch companies John Sloan, space policy analyst and program lead for International Outreach at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation explained during the meeting. (12/11)

Northrop Would Bid if Pentagon Opens GPS Opportunity (Source: Reuters)
Northrop Grumman Corp this week said it would bid if the U.S. Air Force opens a fresh competition for next-generation GPS satellites next year, as expected, and perhaps later on a new ground control system.

Tom Vice, president of Northrop's Aerospace Systems division, said he expects the Air Force to launch a competition for new Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and Northrop was ready to participate. Northrop already builds satellites for the U.S. intelligence community and is building the powerful new James Webb telescope for NASA.

Air Force officials have said they expect to start early work in 2016 on a competition for a next batch of GPS satellites, followed by a formal request for proposals in 2018. (12/11)

Debate Grows Over Whether X‑Rays are a Sign of Dark Matter (Source: Science News)
The search for a suspected calling card of the universe’s most elusive matter has come up empty. Multiple days of telescope time spent looking for a specific X-ray glow coming out of the nearby dwarf galaxy Draco failed to turn up any signal.

Finding such a glow would have offered a compelling clue for the identity of dark matter, the invisible, inert stuff that makes up more than 80 percent of the universe’s matter. The study’s authors say that the absence of the X-rays in Draco, one of the most dark matter–dominated objects known, means that scientists had previously detected the X-ray emissions of interstellar atoms rather than dark matter.

Not everyone agrees with the study’s conclusion, including a different team of scientists who commissioned the lengthy Draco observations and are reviewing the same data. Those scientists, who haven’t yet published their analysis, say they can’t rule out the possibility that dark matter produces the X-rays that have been spotted emanating from other cosmic objects. (12/11)

The Hunt for Alien Molecules (Source: Scientific American)
Something strange was hiding in the Horsehead. The nebula, named for its stallionlike silhouette, is a towering cloud of dust and gas 1,500 light-years from Earth where new stars are continually born. It is one of the most recognizable celestial objects, and scientists have studied it intensely. But in 2011 astronomers from the Institute of Millimeter Radioastronomy (IRAM) and elsewhere probed it again.

With IRAM’s 30-meter telescope in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, they homed in on two portions of the horse’s mane in radio light. They weren’t interested in taking more pictures of the Horsehead; instead, they were after spectra—readings of the light broken down into their constituent wavelengths, which reveal the chemical makeup of the nebula. Displayed on screen, the data looked like blips on a heart monitor; each wiggle indicated that some molecule in the nebula had emitted light of a particular wavelength.

Every molecule in the universe makes its own characteristic wiggles based on the orientation of the protons, neutrons and electrons within it. Most of the wiggles in the Horsehead data were easily attributable to common chemicals such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and neutral carbon. But there was also a small, unidentified line at 89.957 gigahertz. This was a mystery—a molecule completely unknown to science. (12/11)

Ex-Im Bank Reopens, With Restrictions (Source: Aviation Week)
Back in Business? The long, difficult fight to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank has finally been settled, with Congress voting to reopen the bank—through 2019. And while the bank, which provides export credit financing, is again welcoming new applications—it can only process transactions of less than $10 million. (12/11)

Japan to Launch X-ray Astronomy Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Japan will launch an X-ray astronomy satellite atop an H-2A carrier rocket in February next year, as an effort to elucidate the structure of space and its evolution. Mitsubishi and JAXA decided to launch the H-2A Launch Vehicle No.30 with the X-ray astronomy satellite "ASTRO-H" onboard on Feb.12, 2016 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan's southwestern Kagoshima prefecture. (12/11)

4K Cameras Shoot Spaceflight (Source: Motherboard)
Rocket launches are inherently epic, but NASA has taken it to a whole new level with its ultra high definition footage of last Sunday’s Orbital ATK launch. The Atlas V rocket blasts off at the seven minute mark in the above video, and the close-up of the burn—framed by sparkling falling debris—is straight-up hypnotic.

The footage was captured by a suite of six 4K cameras that were installed as part of the new project NASA TV UHD, which is “the first ever non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel in North America,” according to the agency. In addition to launches, the channel will release videos captured by the 4K cameras aboard the International Space Station, and will also remaster classic spaceflight footage. (12/11)

Satellites Could Test the World's Climate Vows (Source: Reuters)
Scientists from the United States, Japan, and China are racing to perfect satellite technology that could one day measure greenhouse gas emissions from space, potentially transforming the winner into the world's first climate cop.

Monitoring a single country's net emissions from above could not only become an important tool to establish whether it had met its promises to slow global warming, a point of contention at climate talks in Paris, but also help emitters to pinpoint the sources of greenhouse gases more quickly and cheaply. (12/10)

GPS 3 Ground Segment Faces Two-year Delay (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force will be unable to immediately leverage the full capabilities of its next-generation GPS 3 positioning, navigation and timing satellites after the service said the associated ground system faces continuing technical difficulties and needs at least two additional years of work.

The two-year delay on the Operational Control Segment, or OCX, was confirmed by the U.S. Air Force Dec. 8. Earlier that day, Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, called the  program “a disaster.” (12/11)

Raytheon Missile Interceptor Contract is a Win for Aerojet (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Raytheon's $543.3 million contract to provide Standard Missile SM-3 interceptors to the US Missile Defense Agency should be a boon for supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne. Aerojet's MK 72 booster launches the SM-3, which also uses Aerojet's maneuvering propulsion. (12/10)

Station Crew Members Return to Earth (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three International Space Station crew members landed in Kazakhstan early Friday. The Soyuz landed in Kazakhstan at 8:12 a.m. Eastern time, nearly four hours after undocking from the ISS. The Soyuz returned to Earth NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and JAXA astronaut Kimiya Yui after a 141-day mission. Three new ISS crew members are scheduled to launch on another Soyuz Dec. 15. (12/10)

Component Problems Force Weather Satellite Launch Delay (Source: Space News)
Component problems forced NOAA to delay the launch of a weather satellite by six months. A transistor in the GOES-R satellite failed during a two-month environmental test at its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin. That failure, and a problem with a solar array control mechanism, led NOAA to conclude that rushing the repair work to meet a March 2016 launch date was unwise. The spacecraft is now scheduled to launch in October 2016 on an Atlas 5. (12/10)

Congressional Supporters Fight "Misconceptions" About New Space Law (Source: Space News)
Members of Congress and their staff are defending a new commercial space law with controversial provisions about space resource rights. In a speech Wednesday, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), chairman of the House Science space subcommittee, argued there were "a number of misconceptions about the intent and the legality" of the space resources section, which requires companies to extract resources in order to claim rights to them. House and Senate staff members said they did not believe the law granted any new rights to companies but instead made clear existing policy. (12/10)

The Last Zenit? (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
What may be the last Zenit rocket will launch Friday. The Zenit is scheduled to lift off at 8:45 a.m. Eastern from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying the Elektro-L2 weather satellite. Strained relations between Russia and Ukraine, who makes the Zenit, and a lack of commercial business for Sea Launch, mean that no additional Zenit launches are currently planned. (12/10)

Why Does Saturn’s Moon Look So Much Like Earth? (Source: Washington Post)
It's not like Titan is some kind of Earth twin that just happened to jump into orbit around Saturn. But in a solar system full of planets that look nothing like our own, it's uncanny to see something this familiar. It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover.

NASA describes Titan as "one of the most Earth-like worlds we have found to date." Its air isn't breathable (it's almost entirely nitrogen, with a little methane thrown in instead of oxygen) and at -290 Fahrenheit, it's way too cold for a human to chill on. But if you had a breathing mask and the best thermal underwear ever created, you could jump around in gravity a bit weaker than our own moon's and see some surprisingly Earth-like features. Click here. (12/11)

Astronauts Celebrate Progress on ULA's Crew Access Tower in Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Four astronauts training for test flights with NASA’s Commercial Crew program joined the festivities at Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday morning as one of the highest steel beams was placed on the Crew Access Tower during a “topping off” ceremony with United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Hensel Phelps at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport launch site in Florida. (12/11)

Was a New Planet Found in Our Solar System? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
There's something out there, and it could be a planet in our solar system. In fact, it could be a Super-Earth. In 2014, an object was observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. It was observed again in May of this year. It's in the vicinity of the Alpha Centauri system, a three-star cluster that is the closest star system to our own at just over 4 light years away.

The suggest it could be one of three things: a TNO, or Trans-Neptunian Object (like Pluto), which is any body that orbits the sun beyond Neptune; a Super-Earth, meaning bigger than Earth but smaller than the gas giants like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune or Uranus; or a very cool brown dwarf, which is what some scientists refer to as a failed star - bigger than Jupiter, but not big enough to produce the fusion necessary to become a star. (12/11)

It’s a New Planet! It’s an Unknown Star! It’s — Oops! (Source: Science News)
Reports of large, previously unknown planets wandering through the outer solar system have been exaggerated. A few odd blips of radio waves from space hint at not one but two massive bodies far beyond the orbit of Neptune, researchers suggest in two recent research papers. A dearth of follow-up observations and the sheer unlikelihood of stumbling across such beasts, however, are cause for a healthy dose of skepticism.

“The nature of the source [of these radio waves] has only become more confusing,” admits Wouter Vlemmings, an astronomer at Chalmers University of Technology and Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden and lead author of one of the papers. Based on feedback received less than 24 hours after posting the papers, “I would rule the chance for an outer solar system object extremely small,” he says. “It was just not something we could rule out on the data alone.” (12/11)

Japan Seeks To Become Full Partner with U.S. in Space (Source: Space News)
As American and Japanese officials praised the strong relationship the two countries share in civil and military space activities, one Japanese officials at a recent forum said he sought to elevate his country’s role in that partnership.

In a speech at a Dec. 10 event here on the U.S.-Japan alliance in space organized by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, Takeo Kawamura, a member of the House of Representatives of the National Diet of Japan with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said his country should become “equal partners” with the U.S. in space.

“The main idea I have here is to move from dependency to coexistence with the U.S.,” said Kawamura, speaking through an interpreter. “That’s my challenge today, to establish a more equal relationship.” One specific area he mentioned as an area for greater partnership is in the area of space-based navigation. Japan is developing a regional satellite navigation system called Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) that could be integrated into America's GPS. (12/12)

Fight for NASA Glenn Dollars Involves High Stakes for Cleveland (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
All those scientists at NASA Glenn Research Center are helping take the town back to the future. It's the officeholders in Washington who seemingly want to make sure Greater Cleveland is stuck in the past. The people we send there — the ones who live off our tax dollars — had better make sure that doesn't happen.

Congress could blow a 10 percent hole in NASA Glenn's $581 million budget, reducing Glenn's 2016 budget by $60 million. Two of the U.S. Senate's most powerful appropriators, Alabama Republican Richard Shelby and Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, want to shift money away from NASA Glenn to a project in Maryland designed to refuel orbiting satellites that face extinction.

Shelby, whose state is home to NASA's gigantic Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, has been trying to pry dollars away from the Cleveland and Brook Park location since at least 1991. Ohio's three powerful congressional cardinals in the House — downstate Republicans Dave Hobson and Ralph Regula, along with Democrat Louis Stokes — were usually able to beat back those attempts. (12/11)

UrtheCast Corp. Announces €25 Million Term Loan (Source: UrtheCast)
UrtheCast's wholly-owned Spanish subsidiary, UrtheCast Imaging, S.L.U. ("UrtheCast Spain") has obtained a senior secured term loan of €25 million, representing approximately CAD$37.5 million, (the "Loan") from Banco de Sabadell, S.A. ("Sabadell"). The Loan has a five year term and will accrue interest at the EURIBOR 6 month rate  (but no less than 0%) + 2.6% per annum. (12/11)

Russian-Ukrainian Zenit Rocket Orbits Weather Satellite (Source: Tass)
A Zenit-2SB Russian-Ukrainian carrier rocket with a Fregat-SB booster has successfully delivered the Elektro-L No. 2 weather satellite into orbit, Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos told TASS. This launch may be the last in the history of the Zenit carrier rockets if Russia and Ukraine fail to reach an agreement on a new one.

The last Zenit rocker made by the moment is currently at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan and is set to be launched in 2017. But the assistance of Ukrainian specialists is needed to prepare for the launch. (12/11)

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