January 29, 2016

Space Florida Pursues 'Major' Aerospace Deal (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida hopes to close a deal soon with a company considering a “major aerospace presence” in Florida, potentially bringing 250 jobs with an average salary of $86,000. The project — referred to by the code name "Project Sabal" — involves an unnamed publicly traded company and anticipates construction of a $36 million manufacturing facility, part of $80 million in initial capital investment.

The state would contribute $17.5 million to that facility, which the company hopes to move into by March 2017. “We know there’s other states chasing them,” said Howard Haug, Space Florida’s executive vice president, treasurer and chief investment officer, during a board meeting Thursday in Tallahassee. “We expect they’ll announce soon. This is down to the 11th hour.”

“I think “major aerospace presence’ may be an understatement here,” said board chairman Bill Dymond, an Orlando attorney. “This is yet another very significant deal, with the potential to be even more significant." Editor's Note: Last July, OneWeb and Airbus announced a deal worth more than $1 billion to build and launch 900 microsatellites. They said most of the satellites would be built by an Airbus/OneWeb joint venture "at a production facility in Florida." (1/29)

Iran Now Free to Seek Satellite Deals (Source: Wall Street Journal)
With sanctions lifted, Iran is seeking access to satellite technologies and services. The end of many economic sanctions with Iran as part of a nuclear deal is giving the country the ability to explore the purchase of various space capabilities, such as leasing capacity on commercial communications satellites. Iran is also interested in new ground terminals and related ground systems, and ultimately in acquiring advanced communications or imaging satellites. (1/29)

Ariane 6 Design Finalized (Source: BBC)
The basic design of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle is now finalized, according to the head of Airbus Safran Launchers. Alain Charmeau said in an interview this week that with the design now completed, his company is working to sign contracts with suppliers for key elements. He added that while there are studies about incorporating reusability into the Ariane 6, likely by recovering the vehicle's first stage engine, it's unlikely to be incorporated into the rocket before 2030. (1/28)

NASA Delaying Space Station Resupply Mission, Awaiting SpaceX Launch Plans (Source: Florida Politics)
SpaceX's upcoming launch schedule remains uncertain. The company has not set launch dates for Falcon 9 missions carrying the SES-9 communications satellite or a Dragon resupply mission to the ISS. A NASA spokesman said the agency was "awaiting an announcement from SpaceX on a new launch date" for the cargo mission to the station, previously scheduled for February. SpaceX did not comment on its launch schedule or apparent delays. (1/28)

Orbital ATK Rocket Completes Missile Defense Test (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK successfully launched and tested its Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) rocket for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Controlled Test Vehicle-02 Plus (CTV)-02+ mission. The company also supplied its Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile target rocket for this critical national security system test.

The OBV was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on Jan. 28. Orbital ATK provides the OBV to MDA as part of an industry team led by Boeing and Northrop Grumman. MDA and the GMD team confirmed all primary OBV objectives for flight test were achieved. These included pre-launch built-in test functionality, silo launch and fly out of the OBV, accurate booster delivery of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) and acquisition of telemetry data for further characterization of the OBV’s flight characteristics. (1/29)

Antarctic Fungi Survive Martian Conditions on the International Space Station (Source: Phys.org)
European scientists have gathered tiny fungi that take shelter in Antarctic rocks and sent them to the International Space Station. After 18 months on board in conditions similar to those on Mars, more than 60% of their cells remained intact, with stable DNA. The results provide new information for the search for life on the red planet. Lichens from the Sierra de Gredos (Spain) and the Alps (Austria) also traveled into space for the same experiment. (1/27)

NASA Learns Electric-Propulsion Lessons For Sceptor X-Plane (Source: Aviation Week)
When NASA unveiled its new vision for aeronautics research in 2013, part of the strategy was to get back to flying X-planes and enable its researchers to “learn by doing”—a culture eroded over the decades as budgets became smaller and risks less tolerable.

As a flagship for the return-to-flight research, NASA’s distributed electric propulsion testbed, the Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology Operations Research (Sceptor) program, is tackling the hurdles that have emerged over the years to prevent NASA building X-planes. (1/27)

Italian Air Force to Unveil Their Military Space Situational Awareness Strategy (Source: Telco Professionals)
Colonel Piero Serra, Chief of Air and Space Policy, Italian Air Force, will be speaking on Day One of the Military Space Situational Awareness Conference. His unique presentation entitled "Italian Military Space Situational Awareness Strategy for the 21st Century," will review the SSA capability of the Italian Armed Forces, assets available to the Italian Armed Forces in Space and how these can be enhanced and further collaboration with the industry to maximise SSA for future Italian operations. (1/26)

A Close Look at Spaceport America's FY-2017 Budget Request (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sixty-five percent of the spaceport's $6.4 million budget — $4.16 million — is spent just staffing the spaceport. That figure includes nearly $2.4 million for 20 staff positions plus another $1.8 million for full-time fire, EMT and security serious at the remote site. The full-time onsite fire and EMS services are required because the nearest services are an hour away in Truth or Consequences and are all volunteer.

The authority is budgeting $668,000 for facilities maintenance alone for a spaceport that is not being utilized for its primary purpose — spaceflight — by its anchor tenant. That amount is in addition to the cost of five staff positions devoted to maintenance & operations.

The revenue estimates appear rather optimistic. The $600,000 in Virgin Galactic user fees will only appear if the company actually uses Spaceport America for spaceflights before June 30, 2017. If the testing of the second SpaceShipTwo takes the entire fiscal year, and Virgin continues to conduct those tests in Mojave, the spaceport authority will have a significant hole in its budget. Virgin Galactic is set to roll out SpaceShipTwo on Feb. 19 and is not talking about its flight test schedule, so it remains unclear when it will move operations to New Mexico and begin revenue flights. Click here. (1/28)

Elon Musk to Unveil Mars Plans This Year, Wants To Go To Space by 2020 (Source: Ars Technica)
For the last few months rumors have been swirling within the aerospace community about how SpaceX would soon unveil an ambitious architecture that will allow it to begin human missions to Mars within a decade. In response to those rumors, a company source said nothing was "imminent," and that appears to be true.

Elon Musk said, "I'm hoping to describe that architecture later this year at IAC ... and I think that will be quite exciting." This year's International Astronautical Conference will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from September 26 to 30. This may include discussion of both a super-heavy rocket as well as starships that could ferry large numbers of people from Earth to Mars, known as the Mars Colonial Transporter.

Musk also said he hopes to fly in one of his Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station in four or five years. Although a handful of space tourists have visited the Russian Mir Station and International Space Station aboard government vehicles, it would be unprecedented for a person whose company had built a spacecraft to then fly that spacecraft into space. (1/28)

A Twist in the Air Force’s Outyear Budget: Funding for ORS (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to request funding for its Operationally Responsive Space office for next year and beyond, providing a measure of budgetary stability for the rapid-response office for the first time in several years. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was “ a big believer in ORS” and that the Air Force would fund the program “going forward.”

That’s a significant change from a year ago, when the Air Force requested about $6.5 million for ORS for 2016  but budgeted nothing for the office for 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020.  Two years ago, the Air Force tried to shutter the ORS office by leaving it out of its 2015 budget request entirely. Congress rebuffed that attempt and came to the program’s aid again by including $18.5 million — roughly triple what the Air Force had requested for ORS — in the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill  enacted in December. (1/28)

How Things Work: Space Fence (Source: Air & Space)
In early 2019, U.S. Air Force Space Command will activate a powerful new space surveillance radar to replace an array, shut down in 2013, that had served since the age of Sputnik. Now under construction, the new array will operate in a band of frequencies 1,000 times higher than those covered by the previous system, activated in 1961.

Shorter wavelengths make the new radar more precise; it will be able to detect targets as small as about four inches in diameter (as opposed to the old 30-inch limit) and will expand the catalog of space debris tracked by the Space Command from about 23,000 objects to 200,000

When the Space Fence is completed on Kwajalein Atoll, 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii, it will serve as the first stage in a production line feeding data to the Joint Space Operations Center at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. When the radar detects an object orbiting Earth, it reports to computers that characterize the object and calculate its trajectory. (1/28)

North Korea Activity Points to Possible "Space" Launch (Source: Reuters)
The United States has seen increased activity around a North Korean site suggesting preparations for a possible space launch in the near future, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday. The officials cited intelligence suggesting movement of components and propellant, adding the United States believed a test could take place even within a couple of weeks.

"Our concern though is ... it's the same technology to develop ICBMs" (inter-continental ballistic missiles), one of the officials said. U.N. Security Council members were discussing fresh sanctions against North Korea after it conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6. The Pyongyang government is already under sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea last conducted a long-range rocket launch in late 2012, successfully putting into orbit an object it claimed was a communications satellite. Western and Asian experts said it was part of an effort to build an inter-continental ballistic missile. (1/28)

Strong Evidence That the Earth Was Hit Head-On by a Mars-Sized Planet (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The early solar system was, for lack of a better term, a chaotic hellscape. Everything we see today, from Mercury on out to the inner Oort Cloud, was a product of a series of collisions that accumulated into moons, asteroids, and planets. And perhaps one of the most violent blows came when a planet roughly the size of Mars smashed into a fledging planet called Earth.

At the end of the cataclysmic event, two bodies were left standing: Earth itself, and a fragmentary, molten piece of the two  planets that coalesced into the Moon. But there's been a debate in the planetary science community: Did that early small planet, Theia, side-swipe the Earth, or did it run into it full-on? For a while, all signs seemed to point to Theia landing a glancing shot at Earth, resulting in the orbits and speeds we see today.

But recent analysis of material taken from the Apollo 12, 15, and 17 missions tells a different tale: that of a violent head-on collision, one that left the Earth forever scarred with the fragments of Theia, and that left the Moon with the same ratios of material. The results of this study were published today in Science. Click here. (1/28)

When NASA Moves Out of Low Earth orbit, Will Private Companies Move In? (Source: CSM)
As it prepares to travel deeper into space in the next decade or so, NASA is urging private companies to leverage the investment it has made in low Earth orbit with the goal of commercializing this region of space near Earth.

Already astronauts aboard the International Space Station, an international crew of six people from the United States, Russia, Japan, and England, are doing research in microgravity for private companies like Merck, Novartis, and Procter & Gamble. But NASA says it wants to see this work expand broadly, and eventually, for commercial labs to operate in space independently of the ISS, a lab that NASA thinks it will be ready to leave by 2028.Click here. (1/28)

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