December 17, 2015

India Successfully Tests Multiple-Burn PSLV Engine (Source: NDTV)
India's space agency on Wednesday successfully tested restarting of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket after its engine was cut off during the mission to launch six Singaporean satellites, a top official said. "The restart test was successful. The engine was fired for nearly five seconds. We will be using this technology sometime next year," ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said. (12/17)

India Has Launched 57 Satellites for 20 Countries (Source: Live Mint)
India earned €26 million by launching six satellites for Singapore on Wednesday. It underlines the commercial potential of India’s space program. So far, India has earned around $36.7 million (at today’s exchange rate) from the launch of foreign satellites, while around $74 million have been committed for those in the pipeline. With Wednesday’s launch, Isro has launched 57 satellites for 20 countries. (12/17)

China's Booming Space Program Might Put the US and Russia to Shame (Source: Tech Insider)
Space exploration for China didn't exactly blast off. By the time China launched its first satellite, the US had already landed men on the moon — twice. And China didn't send a person into space until 2003, even then by relying heavily on Russian hardware.

But that has all changed. China's space program is booming. "[T]he Chinese are ... vaulting ahead," writes astronomer Chris Impey wrote in his book "Beyond: Our Future in Space." "Their Long March rocket is original and has quickly eclipsed Russian rockets." Today the China National Space Administration (CNSA) continues to innovate, channeling national ambition into an aggressive moon exploration program and a brand-new space station.

"Unlike one of the stereotypes that they're just sort of copying our technology, they're actually innovating," Impey recently said. "They have very young engineers in their space program — very keen, very well trained, very ambitious." Click here. (12/17)

Make a Launch Part of Your Epic Florida Vacation! (Source: WeAreGo)
Space Florida has received funding from the state to promote space tourism. This isn't limited to the business of launching tourists into space, it also means marketing the state's space launches as a viewing attraction for tourists who visit Central Florida and the state's Space Coast. Then there are the space-focused attractions at Disney World and the KSC Visitor Complex. Click here to see the latest 15-second clip that was developed for the promotional campaign. (12/16)

Physics Uses Warp Theory to Look Beyond Relativity (Source: The Register)
Experiments to examine the possibility of making a real-life warp drive may fail, but they teach us a lot more about the limits of the universe and the physics that describes it. Is there a way past the light barrier? The signs have not been good for more than a century.

The experiments that led up to Einstein’s publication of the theory of special relativity 110 years ago in his 'annus mirabilis' seemed to rule it out completely for anything made out of normal matter.

Jules Henri PoincarĂ© worked on predecessors to Einstein’s theories. He remarked on the apparent “conspiracy of dynamical effects” which caused apparent time and distance to alter according to the speed of an object following an 1887 experiment performed by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley that failed to obtain the results anyone at the time expected. Click here. (12/16)

Georgia Aerospace Conference & Exposition Planned (Source: PRLog)
Come discover why Georgia is “A Great Place for Space” at the first annual Georgia Aerospace Conference & Exposition taking place October 13-15, 2016 at the Edgar Wilson Convention Center in Macon, Georgia.

The Georgia Aerospace Expo was created to facilitate continued growth in the aviation and space industries in Georgia and neighboring states, by providing an opportunity for leading experts, scientists, and industry leaders with an open and collaborative platform to come together and interact. This is the first large-scale event in the Southeast devoted to the aviation and commercial space industries. This event is designed to be an unprecedented gathering of the some of the most influential and creative thought leaders from across the aviation and space industries. (12/16)

Northrop Grumman Maps Out 'Bold' Vision for Aerospace Sector (Source: Reuters)
Northrop Grumman Corp , riding high after its selection to build the next U.S. long-range bomber, says it is investing heavily and hiring workers as part of a focused plan to unveil at least one "big, bold and ingenious" new technology each year. (12/16)

China Launches Dark Matter Probe (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a satellite Wednesday night to search for dark matter. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 7:12 p.m. Eastern Wednesday and placed the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. The spacecraft, also known as Wukong, will study cosmic rays, seeking potential signatures of dark matter. (12/16)

Spending Bill Fully Funds NOAA Satellite Programs (Source: Space News)
The omnibus spending bill will keep NOAA's satellite programs fully funded. The bill provides $809 million for the first two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites and $871.8 million for the GOES-R program, as well as $370 million for the new Polar Follow On budget line to start work on the next two JPSS spacecraft. NOAA overall receives $5.7 billion in the omnibus bill, more than $100 million above its original request. (12/16)

Gore Contributes to Economy with Launch Viewing Delays (Source: Space News)
Former Vice President Al Gore, recalling the several days of delays before the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft in February. Gore was part of a panel session at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting Wednesday, along with some scientists, on observations of the Earth by DSCOVR, a mission he instigated while in office in 1998.

"Several of us who are here spent a lot of time down at Cape Canaveral when the launch of DSCOVR was postponed several times. I got to know the Cocoa Beach Hilton real well. It was a really great experience, and I learned a lot from these scientists around the buffet table and at the bar when we were killing time waiting for the rocket to go off." (12/17)

NASA Subcontractor Fights Arbitration Over Paint Job (Source: Law360)
A subcontractor fired from a NASA paint job over alleged lead contamination contended Tuesday that it is not mandatory the company arbitrate its wrongful termination claims with the prime contractor, and that the court can properly hear the spat.

PASI of LA Inc. blasted primary contractor Harry Pepper & Associates Inc.'s motion to dismiss, pause or at least transfer the wrongful termination case to Mississippi federal court. The suit, currently before a Louisiana federal court, also names project supervisor Jacobs Technology Inc. and NASA as defendants. (12/16)

Orbital ATK Wins ULA Contract for Large Composite Structures (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK has been awarded a contract from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for large-size composite structures to be used for the Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles. The order consists of a variety of composite structures 13 to 18 feet (4 to 5.5 meters) in diameter with lengths up to 63 feet (19 meters), including fairings, payload adapters and diaphragms, interstages, nose cones and structures providing main engine thermal/aerodynamic protection. (12/17)

On the Brink of Space Tourism (Source: Billionaire)
Skydiving? Only if it’s at 29,500ft, minus 50 degrees and off the top of Mount Everest. Prototype submersibles? Only at 3.8km under the ocean, flitting in and out of the Titanic’s ballrooms. The Danish financier and author Per Wimmer takes a methodical approach to his jaw-dropping exploits. “I have an annual adventure calendar,” he explains. “If something falls through and there’s a hole in the schedule, I make sure there is a Plan B.”

But what Wimmer is best known for is his ambition to be the first Danish citizen in space. So keen is he for this accolade, that Wimmer purchased tickets for all three commercial tourism space flights as soon as they were available. These are run by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Greason’s XCOR Aerospace and Eric Anderson’s Space Adventures. Had it not been for the tragic Virgin Galactic crash last year, Wimmer would likely have already achieved his ambition this July.

Now, XCOR and Virgin are neck and neck in a modern-day commercial ‘space race’, which will see one or the other launch the first space tourism flight between 2016 and 2017. Wimmer will be among the world’s first civilians to experience sub-orbital space, in a half-day trip reaching 100km in altitude. Click here. (12/16)

On the Job: NASA Wallops Island (Source: WMDT)
When you think of NASA, the first thing you think of is space and interplanetary exploration. But the reality is, they do so much more than that, and a lot of that work happens within our own atmosphere. 47 ABC was invited to NASA Wallops Island to learn what goes on in the scientific balloon lab. Click here. (12/16)

Congress: NASA Must Not Only Go to Europa, it Must Land (Source: Ars Technica)
In November we revealed details about a daring mission to land on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and now it has become the law of the land. The Congressional budget deal to fund NASA for the fiscal year 2016 includes $1.63 billion for planetary science, of which $175 million is designated for the “Jupiter Europa clipper mission.” It has a target launch date of 2022.

But the new budget legislation does not stop there. It further stipulates, “This mission shall include an orbiter with a lander that will include competitively selected instruments and that funds shall be used to finalize the mission design concept.” In other words, it's against the law to fly the mission to Europa without a lander.

The overall budget for NASA provides $19.2 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, about $700 million more than President Obama requested. “This number, this year, is the largest vote of confidence that Congress has ever given NASA,” Texas Congressman John Culberson, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the space agency, told Ars. “There’s enough money to do everything on their plate.” (12/16)

SLS Gets Strong Support in NASA Budget Bill (Source: Space News)
One big winner in the bill is the Space Launch System. The heavy-lift launch vehicle receives $2 billion in the omnibus spending bill, nearly 50 percent more than administration’s request of $1.36 billion and higher than levels in the House and Senate bills.

The report accompanying the spending bill requires that NASA spend not less than $85 million of the SLS funding on an “enhanced upper stage,” a reference to the Exploration Upper Stage NASA has planned to use on the first crewed SLS mission and subsequent flights.

Agency officials have previously raised questions about whether that new upper stage could be ready in time for that mission. However, the increased funding, and a prohibition on spending funding to human-rate the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage that will be used on the first SLS mission, is intended to address that. (12/16)

Crews Begin Removal of Telescope Equipment from Hawaiian Site (Source: Reuters)
Construction crews for what would be one of the world's largest telescopes have removed equipment from the dormant volcano in Hawaii where it was set to be built after the state Supreme Court revoked its permit, project officials said on Wednesday.

The move by TMT International Observatory signals the project faces a potentially significant delay if the team behind it ever applies to state officials for a new permit to build at the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (12/16)

Geysers on Saturn's Moon Enceladus Are Mysteriously Losing Steam (Source:
The famous geysers on Saturn's icy, ocean-harboring moon Enceladus aren't what they used to be. The geysers, which blast material from Enceladus' subsurface ocean into space from the moon's south polar region, were first spotted by NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft back in 2005. Now, a new study of Cassini data shows that the geysers' output has dropped by 30 to 50 percent since then. (12/16)

The 'Most Earthlike' Planets We've Found So Far Are Not Very Earthlike (Source: Motherboard)
The title of most “Earthlike” exoplanet has been in constant flux recently. Every few months, a new extrasolar planet waltzes in and upstages the last contender. Last year, it was Kepler-186f. Then it was Kepler-438b. Kepler-452b, which was announced by NASA with much fanfare on July 23, is now the popular favorite.

But what is lost in some of the public frenzy over these exoplanets is the fact that, well, they aren’t that Earthlike at all. “The word ‘Earthlike’ is used way too often,” said Sara Seager, a prolific exoplanet expert based at MIT, in a phone interview with Motherboard. (12/15)

Aliens May Be Polar Bear-Sized (Source: Discovery)
How big and powerful would aliens be compared to humans? The answer that we can currently give is of course limited, because we haven’t found any evidence for extraterrestrial life, yet. But a little statistics knowledge suggests we may be way underestimating a typical alien’s stature.

Simpson wrote on a website explaining the research, The Big Alien Theory. The punchline? When it comes to aliens, the “average” size (he says) is likely to be roughly 310 kilograms, or 683 pounds. That’s about the mass of a polar bear.

To come up with this figure, first Simpson surveyed Earth’s range of species and made a few observations. Species that are larger physically will have lower population densities (think, insects vs. whales). Given that everything in the universe is subject to the laws of thermodynamics — meaning, larger species consume more energy — this is probably a common theme across the universe. (12/16)

Budget Bill Very Good to NASA, KSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA and Kennedy Space Center may be looking at the best budget deal they have seen in several years in the spending bill unveiled by Congressional leaders. The bill increases NASA’s overall spending for next year by 7 percent to $19.3 billion. And it fully funds, for the first time, the space agency’s plans to develop a private space industry to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, displacing the Russians’ service by 2017 or ’18.

Central Florida’s two members of the House space committee, U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, and Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, hailed the spending bill as a victory for NASA and the area’s economy. “This is a huge increase in funding that has nowhere to go, from a practical matter, except to Kennedy Space Center,” Grayson said in an interview.

The bill also secures $410 million to develop all the launch infrastructure needed for KSC to launch the SLS rocket, a line item Posey has requested. “The final space numbers are an improvement from earlier this year and include record funding levels for programs on the Space Coast,” Posey said. (12/16)

India’s PSLV Rocket Puts Six Singapore Satellites Into Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched one of the agency's PSLV boosters and, in so doing, placed six satellites for Singapore into orbit. Liftoff occurred at 7:30 a.m. EST (12:30 GMT) on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, India. The mission, designated PSLV-C29, was flawlessly conducted, with the satellites being placed into their intended orbit. (12/16)

Funding Restored for NASA Plum Brook Station (Source: Sandusky Register)
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown says that funding has been restored for NASA Glenn in Cleveland and NASA Plum Brook Station, heading off budget cuts which Ohio lawmakers feared would hurt northern Ohio's NASA facilities.

Ohio lawmakers had feared that as much as $60 million would be cut from the budget of NASA Glenn, the parent of NASA Plum Brook Station in Erie County. In fact, funding was increased for the two funds that NASA Glenn draws from, Brown said. (12/16)

Firefly Board Member Sues to Stop Alleged Virgin Galactic “Fishing Expedition” (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A member of Firefly Space Systems board of directors has filed suit in Los Angeles to overturn an arbitrator’s judgment that he turn documents over to rival Virgin Galactic in a dispute between Virgin and its former vice president of propulsion. Patrick Joseph (P.J.) King filed the action on Tuesday in a case involving Tom Markusic, who left Virgin Galactic to form Firely with King in early 2014.

“After Dr. Markusic left Galactic, [Richard] Branson sued his ex-employee ... falsely accusing of Dr. Markusic of breaking his former employment agreement by ‘stealing’ what apparently is nothing more than standard open-source technical information which is available in the academic literature, that Galactic claims are someone ‘trade secrets'”, the suit reads. Click here. (12/16)

Spending Bill Lifts RD-180 Engine Ban, Puts ULA Back in Competitive Game (Source: Space News)
The new language, included in the omnibus spending bill for 2016, says “that notwithstanding any other provision of law” the Air Force could award a launch contract to any certified company “regardless of the country of origin of the rocket engine that will be used on its launch vehicle, in order to ensure robust competition and continued assured access to space.”

Congress banned future use of Russian engines for U.S. national security launches in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 as a response to Russia’s 2014 incursion into neighboring Ukraine. Lawmakers, the Air Force and ULA have been debating the specific terms of the ban ever since. (12/16)

Congress Lifts RD-180 Restriction, McCain Blows Gasket (Source: Parabolic Arc)
An angry Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered a blistering speech on Wednesday blasting two of his colleagues and ULA over a provision in the omnibus spending bill that would lift restrictions on the use of Russian-built RD-180 engines to launch defense payloads.

McCain singled out two colleagues, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), as being responsible for the provision. He also accused ULA, which uses the RD-180 in its Atlas V rocket, of manufacturing a crisis by declining to bid on a competitive military satellite launch, effectively ceding the contract to rival SpaceX. ULA said it could not spare an RD-180 engine for the bid. The company also said the terms published by the U.S. Air Force for the bid made it unlikely they could win.

Editor's Note: According to Breaking Defense, McCain said he may pursue “a complete and indefinite restriction on Putin’s engines” in next year's NDAA bill.(12/16)

'Super-Earth' Spotted Just 14 Light Years Away, Closest 'Habitable' Exoplanet (Source: Daily Mail)
The search is on for a second 'Earth' that humans could colonise and now there's a new candidate - Wolf 1061c. The rocky orb, more than four times the mass of the Earth, is the closest potentially habitable planet found outside our solar system so far, orbiting a star just 14 light years away. It is one of three detected by Australian astronomers that orbit a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061. (12/16)

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