February 20, 2016

Air Force: Atlas 5 Will Be Grounded if RD-180 is Found to Violate U.S. Sanctions (Source: Space News)
A high-ranking Air Force official said Friday the service would stop launching national security satellites aboard ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket if the Treasury Department finds that importing the rocket’s Russian engine violates U.S. sanctions.

Earlier this month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked the Air Force to prove that Russia’s recent reorganization of its space industry does not put ULA’s purchase of RD-180 engines in violation of sanctions the U.S. imposed against Russian officials in 2014. U.S. government agencies, led by the Treasury Department, are taking a fresh look at whether RD-180 imports still steer clear of the sanctions.

“If we’re not supposed to be flying the RD-180s, they’re grounded,” he said. “If these folks are on the sanctioned list, if the Department of Treasury comes back and says that there’s a problem with that relationship, then we have to work with the Congress and others to move ahead. We will not violate the law.” (2/19)

NASA Sees Record Number of Astronaut Applications (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has received a record 18,300 resumes from people keen on becoming astronauts, the US space agency said Friday. The number of applications for a spot in NASA's 2017 class is almost triple the amount that came in during the last recruitment call for the 2012 class. And it shatters the previous record of 8,000 in 1978. (2/20)

Where 7 Former SpaceX Execs Landed (Source: DCInno)
Elon Musk has attracted a wealth of talented people to SpaceX over the years, but those engineers and executives haven't all stuck around since then. But, where do you go when your last job was helping launch rockets and sending humanity beyond Earth? Check out some of the unlikely places these former big names SpaceX have landed. Click here. (2/190)

The Mir Space Station Was a Marvel, a Clusterfuck, and an Underdog Hero (Source: Motherboard)
The core module of the iconic Mir space station, launched 30 years ago Saturday, was a cramped living space that could barely support two cosmonauts. But over the years, the station evolved like a multicellular organism, sprouting six more pressurized limbs from the DOS-7 base block to become the largest spacefaring vessel of its day, as well as the first continuously inhabited orbital outpost in human history. Click here. (2/19)

U.S. State Dept. Official to Tour Asia on Space Security (Source: Nikkei)
A U.S. assistant secretary of state will visit India, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea from next week through early March for discussions on space security, strategic stability and arms control, the State Department said Friday. (2/20)

‘Most Troubled Program’ In Air Force: Raytheon’s OCX (Source: Breaking Defense)
After a decade of improvements to space acquisition after more than a decade of disasters, the most troubled program being built by the US Air Force is again a space program. So said the man who should know: Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, head of the amazing but often-reluctant-to-speak folks at Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The program is OCX, the new ground station for the GPS constellation that is designed to double the accuracy of the Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) signal, provide unimpeachable cybersecurity against both external and internal attack. and be able to communicate with all of America’s satellites.

But the cost of the system, built by Raytheon, has more than doubled to $3.6 billion. And it’s years late. This is a rare lapse for Raytheon’s work in ground systems. It built the ambitious system that controls the National Reconnaissance Office’s spy satellites, known as MIND  (Mission Integration and Development), which came in on time and on budget and won awards. (2/20)

Welcome to Spaceport America. Your Rocket Will Depart Soon. Ish. (Source: WIRED)
“It’s kind of a load of crap, everyone thinking Florida is the place for space,” a woman tells me at the McDonald’s in Alamogordo. “New Mexico invented space.”

Most of the time, Bleth says, Spaceport is not in use. Companies other than Virgin sometimes lease the facilities to launch rockets or other things that go high into the sky. But a lot of the time, it’s like today: empty. This is a feature, not a bug, Bleth says. “Here, you get the best of both worlds. We are government-owned, private-enterprise-leased. Unlike NASA, we can bring in resources for each project,” he says. “We expand and contract as needed.”

I just spent two hours [touring] the place that’s supposed to make us all pioneers in the second space age, and all I can think is that it’s a concoction worthy of North Korea. That if I leaned on a wall, I might discover it is only cardboard and my hand might crash through it. That everything there is either hollow or dangerous. And that ACME/Wile E. Coyote sign taped to the doors? The metaphor is irresistible: Maybe Richard Branson is Road Runner, and we are all Wile E. Coyote, thinking we have just been delivered a beautiful gift, but instead we open the box and discover we are holding a bomb. (2/20)

Space Congress Plans Updates on Mars, Commercial Crew (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Cape Canaveral area will host the 44th Annual Space Congress on May 24 to 26, including updates on NASA’s push to commercialize some launch services and planned missions to Mars. The theme this year is “Further exploration for universal opportunities.” It will be held at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral.

The congress is a gathering of top researchers and visionaries who present speeches or papers on recent space developments. The program this year hasn’t been finalized yet. It also encourages groups to exchange information that benefits engineers, scientists, educators, students and other professionals on the Space Coast. (2/20)

NASA Moves Forward with Mission Using Spy Satellite Telescope (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has formally approved plans — a year ahead of schedule — for an infrared space telescope launching around 2024 to record unique wide-angle views of the cosmos, seeking answers to questions about mysterious dark energy and searching for habitable worlds around other stars, the space agency announced Thursday.

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope is projected to cost approximately $2.3 billion and should operate for at least six years. Its observing post is baselined to be at the L2 Lagrange point, a gravitationally neutral location nearly a million miles from Earth in the direction away from the sun.

WFIRST’s centerpiece is a 7.9-foot (2.4-meter) telescope originally built to allow U.S. intelligence officials to spy on adversaries. Instead of turning the powerful telescope toward Earth for a clandestine surveillance mission, NASA plans to repurpose the hardware for cosmic research. (2/18)

Only Sri Lanka Signs Up for India’s Saarc Satellite Plan (Source: Times of India)
More than a year after PM Narendra Modi first mooted the idea during the 18th Saarc summit held in Nepal in 2014, only Sri Lanka has formally agreed to join the Saarc satellite project. An Isro official told TOI on Thursday that the remaining six members, including Pakistan, have so far only given their approval in principle. (2/19)

Virgin Galactic Unveils New Spaceship (Source: SpaceRef)
Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJS, today unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo. The rollout ceremony was attended by Sir Richard Branson and his family, Virgin Galactic's Future Astronauts, and partners. Professor Stephen Hawking named the new vehicle Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity via a recorded speech and said, "I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship."

The new vehicle's build process kicked off in 2012 with each component part undergoing rigorous testing before assembly. With VSS Unity now fully manufactured and unveiled, The Spaceship Company will undertake integrated systems verification, followed by ground and flight tests in Mojave and ground and air exercises at its future home in Spaceport America, New Mexico. The Spaceship Company has already started work on the next SpaceShipTwo. (2/19)

Astronomers Discover Five New Exoplanets (Source: Weather)
Keele University astronomer Pierre Maxted and a team of space researchers announced this month, in the journal arXiv, that they had discovered five new exoplanets outside our solar system. Classified as "hot Jupiters" for their orbital proximity to their parent star and being much warmer than our own Jupiter, Maxted and his space colleagues detected the distant extrasolar objects using the Wide Angle Search for Planets cameras at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, South Africa.  (2/19)

Georgia Subcommittee Approves Bill for Commercial Spaceport (Source: Jacksonville Times-Union)
A House subcommittee split along party lines Thursday in narrowly approving a bill designed to lure companies to a proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County. However, the subcommittee Republicans in the majority approved, by a vote of 4-3, a revised draft of House Bill 734 that no longer limits the right of nearby residents to sue companies for noise nuisances.

Now the bill only requires rocket passengers to sign a consent waiver that protects the companies from being sued unless there was negligence. “The meat of the bill is actually the consent waiver. That’s the standard of consent in all seven, space-friendly states, and so, that’s what we’re trying to do to keep competitive,” he said.

Camden County officials hope to attract space-operating companies away from those other states and to a proposed spaceport on unused industrial land at Harriet's Bluff on the Crooked River. Consultants suggested legislation will add to the attraction. (2/18)

Space is the Next Frontier for UAE/India Relations (Source: Arabian Aerospace)
Space exploration has been identified as a key area of co-operation between the UAE and India. The sector was singled out among a draft of collaborative agreements between the two countries during this week's key UAE mission to India led by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. (2/15)

Why ISRO Deserves the Budget Hike it’s Been Recommended (Source: The Wire)
When the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests last visited the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and reviewed current work there, it recommended a 50% increase in its annual budget. It took note of ‘the need for enhancing manpower, particularly the scientific manpower of ISRO, the lack of which was disabling the organisation to optimize its potential’.

The government aims to use space technologies for a variety of public services. To realize this, ISRO needs enough funds to meet the demand for space vehicles and launches, and invest in technological research. (2/19)

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