February 26, 2016

NASA Project Setbacks Less Frequent, Still Routine: GAO (Source: Law 360)
Although the NASA has improved its contract management processes in several ways in recent years, significant projects are still routinely running over budget or behind schedule, a Government Accountability Office official said during congressional testimony Thursday. With several key projects approaching critical stages, the space agency can minimize the risk of performance problems by continuing to adopt management best practices, said GAO's Cristina T. Chaplain. (2/25)

Florida Tech Researcher's Technique May Help Discover Earth-Like Exoplanets (Source: Space Daily)
A study led by Florida Institute of Technology astrophysicist Daniel Batcheldor has demonstrated that a charge injection device, or CID, has the ability to capture light from objects tens of millions of times fainter than another object in the same picture.

An exoplanet next to bright star is one such example. This ability is a result of how the CID is used as a type of camera: each individual pixel works independently and uses a special indexing system. Very bright pixels get addressed very quickly, while the faint pixels are allowed to carry on gathering the fainter light. (2/26)

Europe Speeds Galileo Deployment (Source: Space Daily)
Europe will launch an extra pair of satellites this year in a bid to speed up full deployment of its multi-billion-euro Galileo sat-nav system, launch firm Arianespace said Thursday. The additional launch from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, is planned for May 2016, followed by a already scheduled four-satellite launch towards the end of the year, the company said. (2/25)

Arctic Warming: Rapidly Increasing Temps are 'Possibly Catastrophic' for Planet (Source: Independent)
The rapidly warming Arctic could have a “catastrophic” effect on the planet’s climate, a leading scientist has warned. Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in California, said there was a growing body of “pretty scary” evidence that higher temperatures in the Arctic were driving the creation of dangerous storms in parts of the northern hemisphere.

Since about 10 February, the area covered by sea ice has been noticeably below any of the last 30 years as the Arctic has experienced record-breaking temperatures of about 4C higher than the 1951-1980 average for the region. “What is much less clear is the complex consequences. We are, effectively, conducting a global experiment on the only planet we have. The interconnections with weather patterns, sea-level, and more are real.

“And while there remains uncertainty about the ultimate consequences, there is a good and growing body of research that is pretty scary." Among the “scary” possibly consequences is that the warming Arctic is altering weather systems for much of the northern hemisphere – and not in a good way. (2/25)

Florida Research Unveils History of an Ancient Meteorite (Source: Phys.org)
A Florida State University student has cracked the code to reveal the deep and interesting history of an ancient meteorite that likely formed at the time our planets were just developing. Jonathan Oulton, a 2015 FSU graduate, working with Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Science Professor Munir Humayun, studied the pieces of a meteorite called Gujba.

Using sophisticated lasers and mass spectrometers at the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Humayun and Oulton conducted in-depth chemical analysis of the meteorite samples that shattered previous theories about when and how this meteorite had formed. Previously, scientists believed that Gujba was formed more or less from the dust of the solar system.

But, as Humayun and Oulton analyzed it, they discovered it had a far more complex geological history than previously thought. They inferred that Gujba formed from the debris of a collision between a parent planet that had both a crust and mantle, something that would only be found on a fairly large planet of the kind that is not seen today in the asteroid belt. (2/25)

Boeing-Lockheed Said Not Suing Over $80 Billion Northrop Award (Source: Bloomberg)
Boeing and Lockheed Martin won’t ask a federal court to overturn a stealth-bomber contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp., people familiar with the situation said, allowing the $80 billion program to move forward without risk of a lengthy legal fight. The decision by the two biggest U.S. defense contractors, which bid jointly for the top-secret project, clears the way for Northrop to develop one of the biggest U.S. weapons systems of the next decade. (2/26)

Gorilla Costumes, Etc.: Astronauts Spend $63,000 Sending Novelty Items to ISS (Source: Daily Mail)
They are picked from thousands of candidates to travel into orbit around the Earth because they are judged to have the 'right stuff'. But it appears astronauts on the International Space Station also have a penchant for comical - and seemingly expensive - stunts. A series of novelty costumes and personal items used by the current crew in recent weeks have cost an estimated $63,210 (£45,250) to send into orbit. With other estimates suggesting it could be as high as $91,052 (£65,296). (2/26)

SpaceX Scrubs SES-9 Launch Again (Source: Space News)
For the second night in a row, SpaceX postponed the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES-9 communications satellite Feb. 25, citing a last-minute problem with propellant loading. SpaceX halted the countdown 1 minute and 41 seconds before the scheduled 6:47 p.m. EST liftoff of the rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

SpaceX manager John Insprucker, on the company’s webcast of the launch, said that launch controllers were “still evaluating” loading during the final minutes of the countdown and decided to stop the count. Although the launch window extended for more than 90 minutes, Insprucker said that the timing of the hold, so close to the scheduled launch, meant that SpaceX had to call off the launch for the day. A new launch date has not been set, but Insprucker said it would likely be in a “couple of days or so.” (2/25)

Greenland: 'Ice Sheet is Now Losing ~8,000 Tons Every Second, Year-Round, Day In and Day Out' (Source: Daily Kos)
New research reveals that within the Greenland ice sheet there is a recently formed layer of ice that has been found where it should not be. It is this ice layer that will cause even greater rates of sea level rise than had previously been thought. Greenland is a moist environment and until recently most surface meltwater would percolate into the tightly packed snow on the surface absorbing vast quantities of water.

But the discovery of this new ice layer, which formed during a very warm melt season in 2012, shows that the massive ice sheet can no longer absorb meltwater in some areas. A well-respected group of scientists noted that the percolation of meltwater through the firn began to change about 10 years ago. It was hard not to note that massive meltwater rivers had formed on the ice sheet and the meltwater that did not descend to the bedrock via a moulin (a vertical conduit that channels water downwards) became rushing torrents to the sea from distances of up to 30 miles. (2/24)

DigitalGlobe Reports Earnings (Source: Reuters)
U.S. satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit, helped by lower costs and improved performance in its international defense and intelligence business. Click here. (2/25)

Arianespace Adds 12th Launch (a Soyuz) to This Year’s Manifest (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Arianespace will fit in a launch of a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana in May to deliver two more European Galileo navigation satellites to orbit, giving the French launch services firm 12 missions on its 2016 manifest, officials said Thursday. The Soyuz flight is currently scheduled for May 24 at 0848 GMT (4:48 a.m. EDT), putting the 13th and 14th members of the Galileo navigation network’s operational fleet into orbit. (2/25)

Iridium, Frustrated by Russian Red Tape, to Launch 10 Iridium Satellites with SpaceX (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on Feb. 25 said it has revamped the launch sequence for its 72-satellite Iridium Next constellation because of red tape in Russia and now plans a first launch of 10 satellites aboard a SpaceX rocket in July. (2/25)

Palm-Size Satellites Could Hunt for New Alien Worlds (Source: Space.com)
Tiny satellites could hitch a ride into orbit and spot alien worlds from afar, new research suggests. NASA's 2,230 pound (1,052 kilogram) Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of potential planets around other stars. Now, some scientists want to go smaller: They propose  searching for new worlds using miniaturized satellites that can fit in the palm of your hand. (2/25)

An Interorbital Systems Double Roll-Out (Milsat Magazine)
After its successful first commercial launch in 2014, Interorbital Systems’ CPM TV has been refitted and repurposed as the CPM-G (Common Propulsion Module-Guided) to carry out in-flight guidance system testing. The CPM functions as both a stand-alone sounding rocket/test-bed and as the basic construction unit for the company’s NEPTUNE orbital launcher: Interorbital’s bundled modular launch vehicle.

With a planned spring 2016 launch, Interorbital Systems (IOS) will meet the second of three pre-orbital launch milestones prior to conducting its third flight-trial: a space-altitude suborbital flight projected for mid-year. In addition to serving as the main in-flight guidance system test, the March/April launch will carry 11 commercial smallsat units, all running hardware and comms tests for their Q4 2016 orbital launch on IOS’ NEPTUNE modular rocket system—which itself is undergoing testing against the rigors of launch in the rocket series’ first orbital mission. (2/25)

Former NASA Chief on US Space Policy: “No Vision, No Plan, No Budget” (Source: Ars Technica)
During a congressional hearing Thursday, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin had harsh words for the space agency—and the space policy crafted by President Obama's administration. Under the Obama administration's guidance, NASA has established Mars as a goal for human spaceflight and said that astronauts will visit the red planet by the 2030s. However, a growing number of critics say the agency’s approach is neither affordable nor sustainable.

On Thursday, Griffin, administrator of NASA from 2005 to 2009, joined those critics. The United States has not had a serious discussion about space policy, he testified, and as a result, the space agency is making little discernible progress. NASA simply cannot justify its claims of being on a credible path toward Mars, he added.

“To quote my friend and colleague Jim Albaugh, the now-retired CEO of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, the current administration’s view of our nation’s future in space offers ‘no dream, no vision, no plan, no budget, and no remorse,’” Griffin said during a hearing of the House Science Committee. “We must remedy this matter with all deliberate speed.” (2/25)

Congress Wants to Make it Harder for the President to Change NASA's Long-Term Plans (Source: The Verge)
NASA’s priorities are vulnerable to new presidential administrations, but a bill debated today in Congress could make it more difficult for the White House to alter the agency’s long-term goals. The bill is called the Space Leadership Preservation Act, and it’s designed to give Congress more direct power over NASA's projects and policy-making processes. According to the author of the bill, these changes are supposed to help prevent NASA's initiatives from being canceled whenever a new president takes office.

The new act would create a board of directors for NASA; Congress would pick between eight members, while the president can appoint three. These board members cannot be employed by companies that hold contracts with NASA — such as SpaceX or Boeing. Members are also prevented from working at any of these companies for two years once they leave the board. Click here. (2/25)

Tucson Firm Wins NASA Contract for Water System (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Technology developed by a Tucson company may soon be purifying water on the International Space Station and, eventually, as part of future deep-space exploration. Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corp. has won a $400,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase III contract from NASA to further develop its patented Ionomer-membrane Water Processor System. (2/25)

Lockheed Martin Reveals Lunar Orbit Outpost to Help Launch Man to Mars (Source: Daily Mail)
Almost half a century since man first walked on the moon there are plans to build a human outpost orbiting our satellite. Such an outpost is intended to support a crew of four astronauts for up to 60 days in cislunar space - the region around the moon. It would allow them to operate robots on the moon's surface and analyze moon rocks, as well as provide a base for deep space trips to Mars, for example.

The plan is the brainchild of Lockheed Martin's space systems division. The division is looking at ways to use NASA's Orion capsule as a cislunar base as part of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) projects. (2/25)

Rocket Lab Name Former SpaceX Exec as VP (Source: SpaceRef)
Rocket Lab announced today that Garrett Katzenstein has joined the company as Vice President of Product and Mission Management. Katzenstein will oversee customer experience from point of sale through vehicle integration and successful launch. Katzenstein was most recently the Senior Manager for Mission and Launch Operations at SpaceX. (2/25)

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