December 18, 2015

SpaceX Planning Sunday Falcon 9 Launch After Test (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has tentatively scheduled the launch of its first Falcon 9 mission since a June failure for Dec. 20 after completing a static-fire test of the vehicle on the launch pad late Dec. 18. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk reported on Twitter shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern that the company had completed a brief test fire of the rocket’s nine main engines on the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The launch, carrying 11 Orbcomm satellites, will be the first for the upgraded Falcon 9. The launch will also be the first for SpaceX since the June 28 failure of a Falcon 9 version 1.1 carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX later said a strut in the rocket’s upper stage broke during the vehicle’s ascent, setting off a chain of events that caused its destruction.

SpaceX may also use the launch to attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage, part of the company’s efforts to develop a reusable version of the Falcon 9. That could involve a landing at a decommissioned launch site at Cape Canaveral that SpaceX has turned into a landing site, dubbed Launch Complex 1. (12/18)

FAA Moves Closer to Approving Falcon 9 Landings at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
An FAA environmental review found no issues with plans by SpaceX to land its Falcon 9 first stage at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The FAA, in a document formally known as a finding of no significant impact, concluded there would be no major environmental issues linked to SpaceX’s plans to land Falcon 9 first stages at a decommissioned launch site the company now calls Landing Complex 1.

The document notes that final approval from the FAA for a Falcon 9 first stage landing would require either a new launch license or a modification to an existing launch license. An environmental review, such as the one completed by the FAA, is one part of the overall launch license application process.

Any attempted landing by the Falcon 9 first stage at Cape Canaveral would also require range approval from the U.S. Air Force. Sources at Cape Canaveral have said the Air Force has informed them that the overall launch complex will be closed to non-essential personnel for a landing. (12/18)

Space Florida Annual Report Highlights Progress Statewide (Source: Space Florida)
In FY2015 alone, Space Florida was pleased to recruit, retain and/or expand 16 space and aerospace-related companies and 1,027 jobs averaging a $76,357 annual salary. Space Florida’s FY2015 business development opportunities increased by 36% from the previous year as well. In addition, the number of financial deals facilitated by Space Florida nearly doubled in the past year and the organization provided a total of 124 businesses with technical and/or financial related assistance. Click here. (12/18)

Here’s the Information Virgin Galactic Has Sought From Firefly (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In Virgin Galactic’s arbitration procedure against its former Vice President of Propulsion, Tom Markusic, Sir Richard Brnason’s space tourism company has sought a broad range of documents in its effort to prove that Markusic violated his employment contract and took proprietary information in setting up a rival company, Firefly Space Systems. Click here. (12/17)

Inaugural Georgia Aerospace Conference & Exposition Announced (Source: Georgia Aerospace Expo)
Come discover why Georgia is "A Great Place for Space” at the first annual Georgia Aerospace Conference & Exposition taking place October 13-15, 2016 in Macon, Georgia. The Georgia Aerospace Expo will 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. Click here. (12/17)

Made In Space Teams with Enterprise In Space to 3D Print First Space-Bound Airframe (Source: SpaceRef)
Enterprise In Space (EIS), an international project of the non-profit National Space Society, is excited to announce a partnership with Made In Space, Inc. to extensively use 3D printed components in a spacecraft to be launched into Earth orbit. This educational spacecraft will be the first real spacecraft bearing the "Enterprise" name.

Once in orbit, the NSS Enterprise will not only be the first 3D printed airframe in space, but it will also carry more than 100 passive and active student experiments into space and back to Earth. After selecting the design concept for the spacecraft through the Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest, EIS is now preparing to bring the winning design, created by video game artist Stanley Von Medvey, to reality. (12/18)

DoD’s Pivot to Commercial Satcom: Reality or Wishful Thinking? (Source: Space News)
Rising bandwidth demand, emerging threats, and tight budgets are driving the Pentagon to leverage commercial satellites to deliver secure communications. Click here. (12/18)

Unscheduled Spacewalk Likely on Monday (Source: NASA)
The International Space Station’s mission managers are preparing for a likely unplanned spacewalk by Astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra no earlier than Monday, Dec. 21. Late Wednesday, the Mobile Transporter rail car on the station’s truss was being moved by robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, to a different worksite near the center of the truss for payload operations when it stopped moving. The cause of the stall is being evaluated, but experts believe it may be related to a stuck brake handle. (12/18)

NASA Orders its Second Commercial Crew Flight from Boeing (Source: The Verge)
NASA just ordered its second commercial crew flight from Boeing — one of the two private companies that is building vehicles to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. That means Boeing is guaranteed to launch astronauts at least twice on its CST-100 Starliner vehicle. NASA ordered its first crewed flight from Boeing back in May, and in November, the space agency ordered a crewed flight on SpaceX's Crew Dragon. There's still no word on which company will launch NASA astronauts first. (12/18)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Finishes Design Review on Proposed RD-180 Replacement (Source: Space News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne said Dec. 17 that the AR1 engine it hopes to build for ULA’s next-generation "Vulcan" rocket has completed a key design review. The review, similar to a preliminary design review used in government acquisition, clears the way for further development of the kerosene-fueled engine. (12/17)

Canada Takes Aim at an Asteroid (Source: CSA)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has delivered a sophisticated laser-based mapping system, its contribution to a NASA mission that will be Canada's first international attempt to bring a sample of an asteroid to Earth. NASA's Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission will study Bennu, an asteroid that has the potential to impact the Earth in the late 2100s. (12/17)

Jews On Mars? (Source: Jewish Business News)
Yes, he has seen the recent film “The Martian.” But unlike the other millions who have seen that movie, Barak Stoltz went much closer to Mars. Stoltz spent in a few cramped capsules that make up the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) practicing for a manned mission to Mars. “As both a Jew and an Israeli I plan on sharing some of my culture and beliefs with the rest of the crew, giving them a glimpse into our culture,” Stoltz says. (12/17)

Putin Hopes Launches from Russia's New Spaceport will be Come in Early 2016 (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he hopes the first launches from the Vostochny space center will be held in the first quarter of 2016, but warned that there is no need for excessive hurry. He said Vostochny is "the largest project of national significance." "We are creating an entire city," he said. (12/17)

Moscow Confirms Suspension of Russian-Ukrainian 'Dnepr' Rocket Launches (Source: Space Daily)
Launches of Russian-Ukrainian carrier rockets have been suspended in accordance with President Vladimir Putin's decree, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) Commander Col. Gen. Sergei Karakaev said Wednesday. Dnepr is a three-stage space delivery vehicle based on the family of R-36M intercontinental ballistic missiles.

It is launched from two Russian bases: Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Yasny in southern Russia, part of the SMF's 12 missile formations. The Russia-based international space company Kosmotras is tasked with upgrading the RS-20B missile developed in Ukraine. Unconfirmed reports emerged in April that R-36M intercontinental ballistic missiles would no longer be launched under the Dnepr program in 2015. (12/17)

Alabama Landings for Dream Chaser Spaceship Move a Step Closer (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville is a step closer to landing a spaceship at its international airport. Now, if it can just get a federal blessing for the sonic boom that will be heard in three states when the ship approaches.

Officials said today they were "successful" in the first phase of testing whether Sierra Nevada Corp's Dream Chaser could safely and without damage land at the Huntsville International Airport. The Colorado company is developing the mini-space shuttle to ferry cargo and eventually astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. It will take off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket built in nearby Decatur, Alabama. (12/17)

The Privatization Of Space Offers A New Hope For Humanity (Source: Huffington Post)
Private space travel was effectively illegal until 2004. Then came along the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, which ripped away the limitations of space travel and effectively allowed private resources to be funneled into the exploration of space.

It was just over 11 years ago that NASA opened its doors to the private sector, and since then we've seen some amazing advancements in space technologies. Private spacecrafts have launched -- and returned -- to Earth. Elon Musk's SpaceX has restocked the International Space Station. And again thanks to Musk, we might only be a few years away from sending a manned spacecraft to Mars.

Considering we have made no significant progress in space travel since the 60s, we could be about to enter a new era of space exploration. Set phasers to stun, this should be pretty amazing. Not only will the new space race change the world forever, but the privatization of space technologies could save mankind. (12/17)

Israel's Amos-5 Satellite Failure Caused by Power Supply Malfunction (Source: Space Daily)
Israel's AMOS-5 satellite failed as a result of a problem either with the power supply or an onboard cable network due to the external impact of high-energy cosmic particles, the manufacture of the satellite said in a statement Wednesday.

Communication between the Israeli operator Spacecom and the satellite, manufactured by the Russian company JSC Academician M.F. Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems, was lost a month ago. AMOS-5 was launched into space on December 11, 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On Tuesday, Spacecom announced that the Amos-5 commercial satellite had completely lost power. (12/17)

Virginia and Orbital ATK Ready Again for Antares Launches (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
The launch site for Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is primed and ready to see the medium-range booster return to flight sometime early next year. That was the message relayed by representatives of the company during a roughly two-hour long tour of both Wallops Flight Facility’s Pad 0A and the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF).

According to Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK, the RD-181 engines that graced the “enhanced” Antares that currently rests on its side inside the HIF are brand new. The new engines are significantly different than the engines that earlier versions of the rocket had used – the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ26 engines, also known as the NK-33. Those engines were some 40 years old when they were integrated into the five prior launches of the Antares. (12/18)

When Elon Musk Goes to Mars, He Won’t be Overly Troubled by Planetary Protection (Source: Ars Technica)
A lot of scientists and engineers who study Mars worry about planetary protection, the concern that biospheres on other worlds might be contaminated by microbes from Earth. It’s a bit like Star Trek’s prime directive, and NASA and other space agencies take pains to clean their robotic spacecraft of Earth-based life before launching them to other planets.

What, then, does this mean for SpaceX and its ambitions to send humans to Mars in the coming decades? According to the company’s founder, Elon Musk, not much. During the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco this week, Musk was the featured guest at the Presidential Forum. While he mostly addressed climate issues, he was asked during the Q&A about the potential of humans to contaminate Mars.

Musk was unperturbed in his response. No, he said, it doesn’t really seem like there’s life on Mars. Certainly he would take steps to not extinguish any life that probes might find. “But I think the reality is that there isn't any life on the surface of Mars,” he said. “There may be microbial life deep underground where it's shielded from radiation and the cold. That's a possibility, but in that case, anything we do on the surface is not going to have a big impact on the subterranean life.” (12/17)

Airport Renovation, Costs to Close Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center (Source: West Hawaii Today)
For 24 years, the Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Space Center helped keep alive the memory of a local hero while introducing travelers — especially children — to the wonders of space. In March — 30 years after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that claimed the life of South Kona’s Onizuka — that legacy is going away.

The center will close its doors at the end of March. In its place will be constructed a new gateway to an airport renovation priced at $70 million. “In the next few months, people should go visit if they can,” said Rick Asbach, one of the directors of the nonprofit facility. “It would be good if we could get some places in the community to put some of the things on display, rather than putting them in storage and having them sort of melt away.”

The state Department of Transportation has offered to construct a new building directly across the street from the current location at the Kona International Airport terminal. But after several years of working with the DOT and considering four different sites, the governing board of the space center has decided that the higher costs of operating a much larger building, along with other new costs and responsibilities, are just too much. (12/18)

NASA Reviving Effort To Put Spare Orbiting Carbon Observatory Sensor on ISS (Source: Space News)
With funding in the 2016 omnibus spending bill approved by House and Senate appropriators, NASA will be able to revive Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, a dormant effort to measure carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.

The OCO-3 program,  using an instrument leftover from NASA’s campaign to build the free-flying Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 launched in 2014, will track carbon dioxide from its perch on the exterior of the International Space Station. (12/17)

Christie's Sells Flown-to-the-Moon Omega Speedmaster Watch for $245K (Source: CollectSpace)
A watch that was flown to the moon, of the same make and model as the watches NASA issued to all of its Apollo astronauts to wear while in space, was sold by Christie's on Tuesday for $245,000 to the watchmaker's own Omega Museum in Switzerland. (12/16)

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