December 16, 2015

Russia and China Consider Merging GLONASS and BeiDou Navigation Sat Systems (Source: Space Daily)
Russian and Chinese experts have developed a draft project to create a global international navigation system based on China's BeiDou and Russia's GLONASS satellite navigation for the member states of BRICS group and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russian Space Systems company said in a statement on Tuesday. (12/16)

Europe Moves Closer to Complete Nav Sat System With Soyuz Launch (Source: Space Daily)
Europe was set to launch the next two satellites Thursday for its multi-billion-euro Galileo satnav system, a rival to America's GPS. This would bring Europe a step closer to providing initial navigation services by next year. The project should ultimately comprise 30 orbiters, including a number of spares.

The two satellites are numbers 11 and 12 for the Galileo system. Initial services can start once 16 are in place -- hopefully after a four-satellite launch in the second half of 2016. The project, which will also provide crucial search-and-rescue services, has been plagued by delays, technical glitches and budgetary difficulties. (12/5)

Scientists Launch NASA Rocket into "Speed Bumps" Above Norway (Source: Space Daily)
A team of scientists led by Marc Lessard of the University of New Hampshire Space Science Center launched an instrument-laden, four-stage sounding rocket from Norway's Andoya Space Center about 280 miles above Earth to study how particles move in a region near the North Pole where Earth's magnetic field is directly connected to the solar wind. The launch occurred Sunday, Dec. 13.

Funded by NASA, the second iteration of the Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling, or RENU 2, was designed to measure the complex, underlying physics behind the northern lights and heating of the very high altitude thermosphere - a process known as "upwelling" that contributes to the phenomenon of "satellite drag." (12/16)

Ellington Airport's Latest Project to Serve Spaceport (Source: Houston Business Journal)
The Houston Airport System received a $3.1 million state grant to help build a new air traffic control tower at Ellington Airport, home of the city's future spaceport. The current tower was built in the 1950s and sustained damage during Hurricane Ike. Emergency repairs were made, but the tower is still vulnerable to further damages.

The new tower will be built adjacent to the current tower and is slated to open in early fall 2017, with construction beginning in the coming summer. The current tower will continue to operate in the meantime. The entire project is expected to cost more than $7 million. The grant will go toward designing and constructing a utility building, utility yard and parking area, as well as the purchase of new navigational and communication equipment.

Once completed, the tower will support the Ellington Joint Reserve Base military, general aviation and the future spaceport that is making headway. Houston's spaceport recently gained a partnership from NASA. The five-year deal will allow NASA to provide safety training, engineering capabilities, operations support and other services to HAS as it develops the port. (12/15)

UK Aims to Peake in Space Recruitment (Source: Recruiter)
As a British astronaut makes his way towards the International Space Station, the government’s aptly timed National Space Policy announces support for the commercial space sector, which could produce 100k jobs. Former army pilot Major Tim Peake, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, blasted off from Kazakhstan to spend six months on the space station where his work is hoped to inspire young people to study science and related subjects.

The government’s first National Space Policy, released on Sunday, aims to position the UK as the European hub for commercial spaceflight. The government says this could be worth £40bn to the UK economy and create 100k jobs by 2030. But Jonathan Lee Recruitment’s aerospace, aviation and defense specialist Matthew Heath warns businesses in the sector need to act now to secure future skills. (12/15)

Russian Spacecraft Manual Docking to ISS Caused by Engine Lack of Thrust (Source: Tass)
Russia's Soyuz TMA-19M manned spacecraft with a new orbital expedition crew docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in a manual, and not automatic mode, because of the lack of thrust in one of the docking and orientation engines, a source in the rocket and space industry said.

Another source reported previously that the Kurs-A automatic docking system glitch occurred due to interference of the radio signal from the US cargo spacecraft Cygnus (docked to the ISS since December 9). Trained for manual flying and building on extensive flight experience, Malenchenko guided the Soyuz back to is docking port after the spacecraft started backing away in its initial approach to ISS. (12/16)

Windex-Like Ocean Sloshes Within Enceladus (Source: CSM)
Research on one of Saturn's moons is presenting the best evidence for the potential for life outside Earth that astronomers have found yet, and it hinges on the discovery of a substance that resembles Windex.

NASA scientists have determined that the "fine spray of water vapor, icy particles, and simple organic molecules" found to erupts through the surface of the moon's south pole likely comes from from a global underground ocean. Scientists have speculated that some liquids likely lie beneath the surface of the moon's south pole, but new research confirms that a global ocean sloshes beneath the entire surface of the moon. (12/15)

NASA Examines Global Impacts of the 2015 El Niño (Source: NASA)
People the world over are feeling, or soon will feel, the effects of the strongest El Niño event since 1997-98, currently unfolding in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. New satellite observations are beginning to show scientists its impact on the distribution of rain, tropospheric ozone and wildfires around the globe.

New results presented Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco show that atmospheric rivers, significant sources of rainfall, tend to intensify during El Niño events, and this year's strong El Niño likely will bring more precipitation to California and some relief for the drought. (12/16)

Final NASA Budget Bill Fully Funds Commercial Crew and Earth Science (Source: Ars Technica)
For the first time since 2011, Congress has fully funded NASA's commercial crew program, keeping open the possibility that the space agency will be able to end its reliance upon Russia for transportation to the International Space Station by the end of 2017.

The final fiscal year 2016 budget bill provides $1.24 billion to the agency for its commercial crew program, the exact amount requested by President Obama. NASA's Charles Bolden has said without the full request, efforts by SpaceX and Boeing to develop their spacecraft will be further delayed. Earlier iterations of both the House and Senate budget bills had provided hundreds of millions of dollars less for commercial crew.

In another concession to the White House, the final budget bill also provides $1.92 billion for Earth Science research, just $20 million less than the President's original budget request. Although below the level Obama sought, this cut is slight compared to initial budget proposals from the House and Senate which had slashed as much as $500 million from the President's request. (12/16)

NASA Budget Includes Other Important Items (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Here are some additional provisions included in the omnibus spending bill. Deep Space Habitation Module: $55 million “for a habitation augmentation module to maximize the potential of the SLS/Orion architecture in deep space. RESTORE Satellite Servicing Program: $148 million, with $133 million from Space Technology and $15 million from Space Operations. Plutonium-238 Production: $15,000,000 for the production of fuel needed to power deep-space vehicles. (12/16)

Lockheed, Northrop Support Space Coast School's Aerospace Program (Source: SPACErePORT)
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have offered grant funding and materials in excess of $8000 to support operations of the daVinci Academy at Merritt Island High School, near the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The academy focuses on aerospace technology and engineering.

The daVinci team's corporate support will also enable their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition. The high school has also been working with NASA to develop a cubesat. Also, the faculty director for daVinci, Charles Parker, has been identified by the Space Coast STEM Council as the STEM Educator of the Year. (12/15)

Peruvian Satellite Taking Shape with Airbus Support (Source: SpaceRef)
PerúSAT-1, a future very high resolution Earth observation satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space for CONIDA, the Peruvian Space Agency, is taking shape with the instrument now mated onto the platform. The satellite will soon undergo a comprehensive test campaign as a complete system.

The integration work, carried out in the cleanrooms of Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse (France), is progressing well on schedule so as to deliver the satellite less than two years after the entry into force of the contract, a record delivery time for such a powerful satellite system. The launch of PerúSAT-1 is scheduled for mid-2016. (12/15)

China Develops Next-Generation Crew Vehicle (Source: Sino Defense)
As China continues to progress towards the construction of a manned space station in the LEO around 2020, the Chinese space industry is now working on the concept of a next-generation multipurpose crewed spacecraft vehicle, which can transport crew or cargo to the Moon, Lagrange Points, Near Earth Asteroids and Mars.

According to a research paper titled “Concept Definition of New-Generation Multi-Purpose Manned Spacecraft”, the future Chinese multi-purpose crew vehicle will be a capsule-type spacecraft, capable of carrying 2 to 6 crew members to Earth orbit and beyond. The spacecraft will be built in two versions: a 14-ton version for LEO, Near Earth Asteroid and Mars missions, and a 20-ton version for lunar landing missions. The two versions will be based on the same crew module design, but feature different propulsion systems to meet different mission requirements. Click here. (12/15)

Air Force Awards Three Engine Research Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force awarded three small research contracts Dec. 14 as part of a broader effort to end U.S. reliance on a Russian rocket engine for launching national security missions, according to posts on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The contracts are the second round of deals as the service aims to replace the RD-180 engine.

The second-round contract recipients are: $902,000 for microelectronic design firm Tanner Research of Monrovia, California; $935,000 for the Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore; and $728,000 for component manufacturer Moog Inc. of East Aurora, New York. The Dec. 14 postings did not include any details of the technologies engineers would study with the contract money. (12/15)

Satellite’s Last Days Improve Orbital Decay Predictions (Source: NASA)
Scientists are learning more about how the upper atmosphere and ionosphere affect space satellites as well as communications and navigation here on Earth, thanks to new data from a U.S. Air Force satellite that recently completed a more than seven-year mission.

The Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite burned up in Earth’s atmosphere during a planned reentry on Nov. 28, leaving behind a treasure trove of data about a part of the space environment that’s difficult to study. The unique set of sustained observations from C/NOFS will greatly improve models currently used to predict satellite trajectories, orbital drag and uncontrolled re-entry. (12/14)

SpaceX Preparing for Launch of “Significantly Improved” Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is gearing up for both the first launch of its Falcon 9 rocket since a June launch failure and the first flight of a “significantly improved” version of the vehicle, but questions remain about the company’s plans to attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage.

SpaceX is planning a static fire test of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Dec. 16. If successful, that test would clear the way for a launch attempt “about three days later,” or Dec. 19, between 8 and 9 p.m. Eastern, according to a Dec. 10 press release from Orbcomm, the launch’s customer.

The launch is also the first for an upgraded version of the Falcon 9. “There are a number of improvements in the rocket,” Musk said. The changes he mentioned included increased thrust, an improved stage separation system, and a stretched upper stage that can hold additional propellant. “I think it’s a significantly improved rocket from the last one,” he said. (12/15)

Life-Friendly Chemistry Revealed Inside Saturn Moon (Source: Discovery)
After determining that the ocean beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus has roughly the same pH as Windex or soapy water -- an indication that the water has been in contact with rock, creating potentially life-friendly chemistry -- scientists are moving on to the trickier hunt for evidence of hydrothermal venting.

The data comes from NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, which in October made its deepest dive into plumes of vapor and ice jetting off the southern polar region of Enceladus, a 310-mile wide moon that has emerged as a top contender in the search for life beyond Earth. Early analysis of Cassini’s 30-mile high pass over Enceladus indicates that the moon’s subsurface ocean, which is believed to be the source of the plumes, has telltale chemical fingerprints of water that has interacted with rock.

“This is remarkably high pH solution,” said geochemist Christopher Glein. “How did it get that way? We think that what happened on Enceladus, and which could still be happening today, is that there were geochemical reactions between magnesium and iron-rich rocks in Enceladus’ core reacting with ocean water. Those reactions led to the high pH.” (12/15)

Public Vote Renames Exoplanets for Gods, Monsters and Scientists (Source: New Scientist)
A public contest to name cosmic objects came to an end on Tuesday, when the International Astronomical Union announced new monikers for 14 stars and 31 exoplanets. The names are intended as approachable replacements for the astronomical designations originally given by scientists.

For example, the first sun-like star spotted with an orbiting planet is known as 51 Pegasi, and its planet 51 Pegasi b. Their new IAU-given names are Helvetios and Dimidium, respectively. Helvetios refers to a Celtic tribe from the Middle Ages, while Dimidium is the Latin word for “half”, a play on the planet’s mass measuring about half that of Jupiter. Both names were selected by the Astronomical Society of Luzern in Switzerland. (12/15)

Space-based Propulsion Technologies Power Deeper Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
Spacecraft propulsion systems are tiny compared to rocket engines, though they fulfill much the same task as their larger counterparts: generating thrust. For communications satellites, however, thrust serves a unique purpose—to produce carefully measured pulses that help spacecraft achieve their final trajectory and orbital positions, and to maintain those positions once reached. To do this, extreme precision and reliability are necessary over the typical 15-year service life of a comsat. Click here. (12/15)

NASA Changes Huntsville Skyline with SLS Test Stand (Source: Huntsville Times)
When it's finished in 2016, the new rocket test stand NASA showed off at its Marshall Space Flight Center Monday will stand 225 feet tall. That's 15 stories tall, skyline changing for neighboring Huntsville. What NASA will hang from Test Stand 4693 is even more impressive: a large section of the cylindrical core of the Space Launch System, the rocket that will carry astronauts back to the moon and beyond in the next decade. (12/15)

FAA Advisory Group Endorses “Moon Village” Concept (Source: Space News)
The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what’s known as “Moon Village.” The vote was conducted by email after COMSTAC held a meeting via teleconference on the topic Dec. 10.

The recommendation states that the FAA, “after consulting with the appropriate U.S. agencies, engage directly with ESA in support of the ‘Moon Village’ concept, with the goal of fostering the participation of U.S.-based commercial entities in the planning and creation of the ‘Moon Village.’” (12/15)

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