January 12, 2016

Record Pace of Ariane 5 Flights Planned for 2016 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Arianespace plans 11 launches from French Guiana this year, including eight flights by the heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket with up to a dozen large telecommunications satellites and four spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo navigation system.

The overall number of launches scheduled in 2016 is one less than the flight rate Arianespace achieved in 2015, but if the company launches eight Ariane 5 rockets, it will set a new record for Europe’s workhorse rocket. (1/12)

Space Protection - A Financial Primer (Source: Space Daily)
In 2014, Gen. John Hyden, Commander of USAF Space Command, said, "I don't ever want to go to war in space. With anybody. That is bad for humankind. It's bad for our military. It's bad for the United States of America. It's counterproductive for the amazing things that we do in space. Little if any good can come from a war in space." He further stated, "All that being said, the only way to avoid such a war is to always be prepared to defend ourselves. Always." Click here. (1/12)

Second SLS Test Stand Begins Rise at NASA Marshall (Source: Space Daily)
A crane moves the first steel tier to be bolted into place on Jan. 6, for welding of a second new structural test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama - critical to development of NASA's Space Launch System.

When completed this summer, the 85-foot-tall Test Stand 4697 will use hydraulic cylinders to subject the liquid oxygen tank and hardware of the massive SLS core stage to the same loads and stresses it will endure during a launch. The stand is rising in Marshall's West Test Area, where work is also underway on the 215-foot-tall towers of Test Stand 4693, which will conduct similar structural tests on the SLS core stage's liquid hydrogen tank. (1/12)

SpaceX: Barges Still Needed for Some Missions (Sources: Space News, SPACErePORT)
Last week I speculated that SpaceX might no longer need its fleet of barges to accommodate landings of its first-stage boosters. Now, according to Space News: "SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said ship landings are needed for 'high velocity missions' even after the successful first stage landing last month at Cape Canaveral."

I guess higher-velocity missions won't be able to use the more-vertical ascent trajectory that would allow a powered return to the spaceport's landing pads. Barges would be required for landing further downrange. It leads me to wonder how many of these high-velocity missions are needed to justify the costs for maintaining and operating a fleet of the barges. (1/12)

SpaceX Test Clears Falcon-9 for California Launch (Source: Space News)
A successful static fire test late Monday clears the way for the next SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and landing attempt. Data from a seven-second test of the rocket's first stage engines on the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California "looks good," the company said Monday night. Verification of the test's success would allow preparations to proceed for Sunday's scheduled launch of the Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite. SpaceX also plans to land the rocket's first stage on a ship at sea. (1/12)

ULA Prepares for First 2016 Atlas-5 Launch from Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Preparations are underway for the first Atlas 5 mission of 2016. Stacking of the two-stage rocket is underway at Cape Canaveral for a launch scheduled for Feb. 3. The Atlas will carry the twelfth GPS Block 2F satellite, replacing a GPS satellite launched in 1990. (1/11)
Plot Thickens in Legal Battle Between Virgin Galactic and Firefly Founders (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A new round of accusations are flying between Virgin Galactic and a former employee who started a competing company. In legal filings, Thomas Markusic, a former Virgin Galactic vice president of propulsion and co-founder of Firefly Space Systems, claims he left Virgin because of concerns about the safety and performance of the hybrid rocket system used by Virgin's SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, claims Markusic did not raise those concerns while employed and even sought a consulting agreement after leaving the company. PJ King, another Firefly co-founder, has filed suit to overturn an arbitrator's decision that would require Firefly to turn over documents to Virgin Galactic. Click here. (1/12)

Send Bowie to Mars! (Source: BowieOnMars)
David Bowie has spent his life wondering if there was life on Mars. And so does the European Space Agency. Help us convince them to take a statue of Ziggy Stardust on their Mars mission of March, 21st 2016. Let's make this happen. Click here. (1/12)

Could Space Vision Problems be Genetic? (Source: Eurekalert)
Vision problems experienced by astronauts may have a genetic link. NASA researchers said they have identified two significant genetic differences in enzymes tied to vision issues astronauts have experienced on long-duration spaceflights. While researchers said they don't yet understand the mechanism that causes the vision problem, the genetic link can help them narrow down who to study in efforts to understand and address the problem. (1/11)

China Lunar Mission Moves a Step Closer (Source: Moon Daily)
China has developed the manufacturing techniques for a key part to be used on its super-heavy rocket that will fulfill the nation's manned missions to the moon. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, working with other Chinese institutes, has developed a super-large interstage ring to be used to connect stages of the rocket, tentatively called the Long March 9. (1/12)

Commercial Crew Astronauts Get a Look at Starliner Trainer (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Two of the four NASA astronauts training to fly Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft recently tried some of the systems that will prepare them for flights to the International Space Station. During a visit to Boeing, astronauts Eric Boe and Bob Behnken focused on systems used for learning to manipulate switches and display panels. Flight controllers were also able to experience devices they will use to train for flight tests and missions.

“Historically, some trainers were just a simple component that might have a very specific task,” he said. “This one has a lot of capability with multiple tasks coming together so it can execute more complicated training scenarios.” Two of the trainers are to be delivered to NASA in the autumn of 2016. Boeing is also building an immersive, high-fidelity training system that’s to be delivered in early 2017 to Houston’s Johnson Space Center. (1/11)

U.S. Official: China Turned to Debris-free ASAT Tests Following 2007 Outcry (Source: Space News)
The outcry that followed the Chinese military’s 2007 destruction of a weather satellite and the immediate creation of thousands of pieces of space junk has helped dissuade China from conducting similar debris-generating tests, a U.S. State Department official said. Since that 2007 event, U.S. Defense Department leaders say China continues to develop anti-satellite weapons and officials point to similar tests in 2010, 2013 and 2014.

Mallory Stewart, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for emerging security challenges and defense policy, called the 2007 event a “remarkable incident of irresponsible behavior” during a Jan. 11 speech at the Atlantic Council. Stewart delivered the keynote speech as part of a discussion on “Space Weapons and the Risk of Nuclear Exchange,” held to mark the ninth anniversary of the notorious test.

“There have been subsequent tests by China, but none of them have been debris generating,” Stewart said. “At the State Department, we like to attribute that to the huge international outcry.” The non-debris-generating nature of the tests suggests China may have gained a better appreciation of the diplomatic costs of debris-generating antisatellite tests. (1/11)

Orbital ATK Declines To Test Fly Re-Engined Antares Before First Mission (Source: Defense Daily)
Orbital ATK won’t test fly its re-engined Antares launch vehicle before its return to flight under NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) program. Orbital ATK Vice President and General Manager of Antares Mike Pinkston told reporters here in December that the company “is sure” it doesn’t need a preliminary test flight. (1/8)

Space Florida Focusing On Attracting Business Through Manufacturing (Sources: Defense Daily, SPACErePORT)
Space Florida is touting its manufacturing capacity to attract new business as federal budgets tighten and political diversity through “ship-and-shoot” falls out of fashion. Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said in the past 20 or 30 years, when budgets were fat and new start programs plenty, companies placed manufacturing facilities across the country and shipped their hardware to Florida only when they were ready to launch.

Leaner budgets now require companies to take advantage of lower costs that can be achieved by locating manufacturing sites near the launch site. Blue Origin, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin are recent examples with their decisions to locate their rocket and space capsule manufacturing/final assembly operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (1/11)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Developing CubeSat Propulsion System with Green Propellant (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has entered a public-private partnership with NASA to mature the development of an MPS-130 CubeSat propulsion system using a green propellant, known as AF-M315E. Once fully developed, not only would the technology increase in-space CubeSat mission capabilities, but AF-M315E would provide a safer, more efficient and higher performance alternative than traditional hydrazine propellants. (1/11)

University Taps Air Force Expert To Launch Space Traffic Effort (Source: Space News)
Space situational awareness expert Moriba Jah is joining the University of Arizona to direct a new space object behavioral sciences initiative encompassing satellite tracking and space traffic management. Jah was a spacecraft navigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, charting courses for several Mars orbiters and landers before joining the Air Force Research Laboratory in 2007 to lead research programs in space object behavior assessment and prediction. (1/11)

Northrop Awarded $4.8M Contract for GPS Improvements (Source: Government Computer News)
Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $4.8 million contract to evaluate the performance of new GPS receivers and help create the architecture for new GPS/inertial navigation systems. The company will also ensure that the technology complies with the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen air traffic control requirements. Government Computer News (1/7)

Russia Postpones Launch of Glonass-M Satellite (Source: Tass)
The launch of Russia’s navigation satellite Glonass-M No. 51 has been postponed from late January to February 7, a source in the space rocket industry has told TASS. The satellite was brought to the northern space site Plesetsk in late November. Originally it was to be put in orbit with a Soyuz-2.1b rocket and a Frigat booster on December 29 last year. The satellite’s manufacturer - Reshetnev Information Satellite System - eventually declared a postponement till late January. (1/11)

NASA Reveals Astronauts are ‘Sleep-Deprived’ in Space! (Source: A2Z Update)
I’m sure you must have wondered if astronauts sleep in space. A new NASA research reveals sleep times of astronauts is compromised and may lead to disruption of circadian rhythms. At NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, researcher Erin Flynn-Evans is focusing on the major reasons that lead to disruption of circadian rhythms. The reasons include noise and uncomfortable temperatures.

Flynn-Evans, a researcher at the Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory at Ames was quoted as saying: “Imagine flying across the country and getting jet-lagged,” said. “It’s very similar to what astronauts deal with on the International Space Station, only the stakes are higher.” (1/9)

Proton to Lift Key Space Mission of 2016 (Source: Russian Space Web)
The Proton’s launch campaign in 2016 will open with a liftoff on January 28. Along with the delivery of the Eutelsat-9B communications satellite, the flight will be the final qualification for theProton-M rocket and its Briz-M upper stage, before a similar vehicle lifts the historic ExoMars-2016 mission on its journey to Mars. Several Proton launches at the end of 2015, showed increasingly accurate performance of the Briz-M in delivery of its payloads to orbit — a welcome news for the ExoMars team. (1/9)

NASA’s Latest Rover Concept Is Inspired by Worms and Amoebas (Source: Motherboard)
Every rover we have sent to explore other planets has had the same basic “lab-on-wheels” design, with the exception of the adorable skiing Prop M robots of the Soviet space program. But despite the ubiquity of these automotive rovers, there’s no reason that future robotic explorers should be tied to these models when there are potentially dozens of other ways to cover ground on extraterrestrial worlds.

Like, for instance, taking a page out of the invertebrate handbook by slithering around in an amoeba-like blob sack. It must be a pretty solid idea (pun intended) because NASA was granted a patent for it this week. The new wormlike rover concept, dubbed the “amorphous surface robot,” is an attempt to overcome some of the difficulties experienced by traditional rovers, which are large, heavy, and vulnerable to the harsh conditions of other planets. Click here. (1/10)

Gravitational Wave Rumors Rumble Social Media (Source: Discovery)
In the roller-coaster rumor mill that surrounds some of the biggest physics endeavors of our time, it pays to remain skeptical when extraordinary claims of historic discoveries are made on social media. In a tweet by Lawrence Krauss this morning, the well-known Arizona State University theoretical physicist and cosmologist wrote: “My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.” (1/11)

'The Martian' Wins 2 Golden Globe Awards (Source: Space.com)
"The Martian" won two Golden Globe awards Sunday evening (Jan. 10), just two days before the sci-fi epic's release on DVD and Blu-ray. "The Martian" won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (yes, the harrowing tale of survival against long odds is apparently a comedy), and star Matt Damon took home the Best Actor hardware in the same category.

NASA officials and researchers advised Scott and other movie team members, helping to make "The Martian" as believable and scientifically accurate as possible. (The agency also promoted the film, as a way to help publicize NASA's real-life crewed Mars plans, which involve sending astronauts to the Red Planet by the end of the 2030s.) (1/11)

Florida Astronomer: Famous Wow! Signal Might Have Been From Comets, Not Aliens (Source: New Scientist)
On 15 August 1977, radio astronomers using the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University picked up a powerful signal from space. Some believe it was our first interception of an alien broadcast. Now it seems something closer to home may have been the source: a pair of passing comets. The signal – known as the “Wow! signal” after a note scribbled by astronomer Jerry Ehman, who detected it – came through at 1420 megahertz, corresponding to a wavelength of 21 centimeters.

Searchers for extraterrestrial transmissions have long considered it an auspicious place to look, as it is one of the main frequencies at which atoms of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, absorb and emit energy. What’s more, this frequency easily penetrates the atmosphere. But in the 40 years since, we’ve never heard anything like it again.

Antonio Paris, a professor of astronomy at St Petersburg College in Florida, thinks the signal might have come from one or more passing comets. He points the finger at two suspects, called 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs). “I came across the idea when I was in my car driving and wondered if a planetary body, moving fast enough, could be the source,” he says. Click here. (1/11)

Philae Lander Fails to Respond to Last-Ditch Efforts to Wake It (Source: New Scientist)
Farewell, Philae. The space lander that touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (and in our hearts) in November 2014 has not responded to a last-ditch attempt to wake it, and it now looks almost certain that the lander is permanently sleeping.

Comet 67P is moving away from the sun, and in just a few weeks will become too cold and dim for the lander to survive. It has not been heard from since July 2015. Last night, mission managers at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne sent a signal to Philae commanding it to spin its internal flywheel, a risky and unpredictable manoeuvre that could dislodge it from its shady landing spot in the hope of getting more sunlight on its solar panels. It didn’t work. (1/11)

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