February 9, 2016

North Korean Satellite Tumbles, Likely Inoperable (Source: CNN)
A North Korean satellite launched Saturday may be tumbling in orbit and inoperable. While the U.S. Defense Department has made no public comment on the status of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite launched by North Korea, a senior defense official said it appeared that the satellite was tumbling in orbit, and thus not able to carry out its Earth observation mission. The official didn't provide any additional details on the satellite's condition, and North Korean officials continue to declare the launch a success. (2/8)

Spaceport America Budget Request Trimmed by Legislature (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America is expected to get only a fraction of the state funding it requested for this year. A funding bill in the New Mexico Legislature would provide the spaceport with $1 million for operations, compared to a request of $2.8 million. The spaceport hasn't discussed how it will make ends meet if the lower funding level is sustained in the final version of the bill, but spaceport supporters argue it would make "absolutely no sense" to close or sell the facility given the state investment in the spaceport. (2/8)

Obama's $4 Trillion 2017 Budget Key for Several NASA Programs (Source: BayNews 9)
President Barack Obama is unveiling his eighth and final budget, a $4 trillion-plus proposal that's freighted with liberal policy initiatives and new and familiar tax hikes — all sent to a dismissive Republican-controlled Congress that simply wants to move on from his presidency. The 2017 fiscal year budget will be key for several NASA programs that have a big impact on Florida's Space Coast.

NASA plans to launch astronauts to space from Florida by 2017. The commercial crew program will need about $1 billion to keep it on track, according to Dale Ketcham of Space Florida. "To get both Boeing and SpaceX providing a reliable, safe vehicle to get Americans back into orbit from America, I think that warrants a good investment, and I think Congress will support it," he said.

"I think that’s extremely important that Congress and the White House recognize that the sooner we can bid adieu to Vladimir Putin for his services in our space program, I think everyone will benefit," Ketcham said. Ketcham said Obama's budget may also have funds to develop a U.S.-built engine to replace the Russian RD 180 engine that is currently used on all Atlas V missions, including the launch last week. (2/9)

ISU Seeks University to Host New Space Institute (Source: ISU)
The International Space University (ISU) is seeking applications from American institutions to establish the Robert A. Heinlein Institute for Space Entrepreneurship & Space Innovation on a campus in the United States. Once established, the Institute will offer a range of training, conferences, seminars, short courses, public events and research related to entrepreneurship and innovation in space commerce. Click here. (2/9)

SpaceWorks Awarded the Georgia Small Business Award (Source: NDIA)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. was honored yesterday by the Georgia Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) as 2015's Georgia Small Business of the Year. Dr. John Olds, CEO of SpaceWorks, accepted the award on behalf of SpaceWorks and its family of companies, including Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO), Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC (TVA), and Blink Astro, LLC (Blink). (2/9)

Blue Origin Ready to Build Rockets in Florida, and Maybe Engines Too (Source: Florida Today)
Blue Origin hopes to break ground within months on a rocket manufacturing facility in Brevard County, and says Florida is also in the running to win production of powerful BE-4 rocket engines. “Florida’s in the mix,” said Scott Henderson, Blue Origin’s orbital launch site director, in a presentation to the National Space Club Florida Committee on Tuesday at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral.

The Kent, Washington, company backed by Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to be ready to launch an orbital rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 36 by 2019. Rocket launch and manufacturing activity are expected to bring more than 300 high-paying jobs to the Space Coast and more than $200 million in infrastructure investment. The rocket factory will be located at Exploration Park, just south of Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

The suborbital system is a precursor to the orbital rockets that will launch from Florida. The orbital rocket will be powered by the company’s BE-4 engine, now in development. A manufacturing site could be selected this year. (2/9)

SpaceX Rocket Set for Next Flight as Company Boosts Production (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX will attempt its second launch of the year this month, as it ramps up production of its Falcon 9 rockets to handle more than $8 billion of business for NASA and commercial companies. The next SpaceX launch is scheduled for Feb. 24, carrying the 11,700-pound (5,300-kg) Boeing-built SES-9 communications satellite.

SpaceX declined to comment on the launch. But the Hawthorne, California-based company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has said it hopes to fire off more than a dozen Falcon 9 rockets this year, as well as debut a new heavy-lift booster and a third launch U.S. launch pad.

“We’re in this factory transformation to go from building six or eight (rocket cores) a year to about 18. By the end of this year, we should be at over 30 cores per year,” President Gwynne Shotwell said. (2/9)

Airbus, Safran Offer Antitrust Concessions On Launcher Deal (Source: Law360)
Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture between French aerospace giant Airbus Group and rocket maker Safran SA, offered further commitments Friday to Europe’s competition regulator to ease antitrust concerns over its acquisition of the entire stake in satellite launch company Arianespace. (2/8)

NASA Accused of 'Censoring' its Christian Employees (Source: The Hill)
NASA is embroiled in a religious freedom dispute with Christian employees, who claim they are being censored. The Liberty Institute, which is representing the Christian employees, threatened Monday to sue NASA over what it claims is religious discrimination. At issue is whether a praise and worship club should be allowed to use the name “Jesus” in NASA’s employee newsletter.

NASA told the Christian employees last year the meeting announcement they posted in the newsletter violated the government’s responsibility to remain neutral on religious matters, according to the Institute. The agency did not tell the Christian employees to stop meeting during lunchtime, but did order the club to refrain from using the name “Jesus” in their emails.

The Christian employees hit back Monday, threatening to sue NASA for religious discrimination. They argue their religious speech should be protected because it comes from a group of individual employees and is not the official position of the agency. “It is illegal for the government to censor the name of Jesus from emails authored by employees,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for Liberty Institute, said in a statement. (2/8)

McCain: Congress’s Cynical Crony-Capital Gift to Putin (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Two of my fellow senators used a disgraceful ploy that expands U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines. As the 2016 presidential campaign unfolds, the American people’s visceral anger at Washington and the leadership of both parties has been displayed by the broad appeal of “outsider” candidates.

Conservatives frustrated with the failure of too many Republicans to get serious about wasteful government spending are not the only ones who should be angry at the latest example on Capitol Hill. The pork-barrel impulse is so strong that some lawmakers are now trying to have American taxpayers subsidize Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his cronies by extending U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines. (2/8)

Why The U.S. Still Has No Viable Alternatives To Russian Rocket Boosters (Source: NPR)
When it comes to launching top-secret military satellites, the Pentagon relies almost entirely on rocket engines made in Russia. The U.S. has been using Russian rocket boosters for the past 2 decades. "Sometimes you wonder why the Americans are angry, why they're supporting Trump or Sanders or some outsider," said John McCain. "Then all they have to do is look at this process we went through with this 2000-page bill." Click here. (2/8)

GPS and the World's First "Space War" (Source: Scientific American)
Twenty-five years ago U.S.-led Coalition forces launched the world’s first “space war” when they drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Although the actual fighting did not take place in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS) played a critical role in the Coalition’s rapid dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s military during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Click here. (2/8)

Peculiar 'Cauliflower Rocks' May Hold Clues to Ancient Mars Life (Source: Universe Today)
Evidence of water and a warmer, wetter climate abound on Mars, but did life ever put its stamp on the Red Planet? Rocks may hold the secret. Knobby protuberances of rock discovered by the Spirit Rover in 2008 near the rock outcrop Home Plate in Gusev Crater caught the attention of scientists back on Earth. They look like cauliflower or coral, but were these strange Martian rocks sculpted by microbes, wind or some other process? Click here. (2/8)

Earth-like Planets Have Earth-like Interiors (Source: CfA)
Every school kid learns the basic structure of the Earth: a thin outer crust, a thick mantle, and a Mars-sized core. But is this structure universal? Will rocky exoplanets orbiting other stars have the same three layers? New research suggests that the answer is yes - they will have interiors very similar to Earth. Click here. (2/8)

Lockheed Wins $96M Next-Gen Air Force GPS Satellite Deal (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $96 million contract extension to supply global positioning system satellites until 2019, the military said. The Air Force will spend $6 million this fiscal year in return for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. providing research, testing and development of Global Positioning System III satellites, services and modules, including GPS simulators and training systems. (2/5)

Air Force Turns to Lockheed Martin to Mend Problems with Raytheon's GPS Work (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is turning to Lockheed Martin for help as Raytheon struggles with a new GPS ground system. The service issued a $96 million contract modification Thursday to Lockheed Martin to adapt the existing GPS ground system to support future GPS 3 satellites. Raytheon, the prime contractor for the OCX ground system being developed for GPS 3, has suffered delays, and the new system requires at least two more years of work. (2/8)

SpaceX Re-Starts Florida Manifest with Feb. 24 SES Launch (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on Feb. 8 said it is targeting Feb. 24 for the launch of its SES-9 telecommunications satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full-Thrust rocket, a launch that has been repeatedly delayed since September. Luxembourg-based SES said SpaceX has agreed to modify the SES-9 launch profile to permit the satellite to enter commercial service in before July, as was planned in December, before the latest series of launch delays. (2/8)

NASA ‘Surprised’ By Hybrid Power Study Results (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is pursuing further studies of a novel, Boeing 737-size hybrid turbo-electric powered airliner following better-than-expected performance results from initial evaluations. Turbo-electric propulsion concepts offer a potential path forward to more efficient aircraft by combining turbine engines with generators that distribute power to electrically driven propulsors. (2/8)

How the Space Fence Will Work (Source: Air & Space)
The concept of a fence arose from the design of the earlier system: a narrow beam that triggers an alert when an object flies through. “Our system has the ability to be steered electronically,” says Bruce. “We track [the object] and immediately create an orbit determination.” The fence will join a surveillance network of radar, telescopes, and a satellite.

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. If the item matches one already in the catalog, its record is simply updated; a new object is tracked until its orbit can be estimated and is then added to the catalog. Click here. (2/8)

Sen. Shelby Plays Russian Roulette with America’s Rockets Again (Source: Washington Times)
It is with a terrible sense of deja vu that I find myself again warning American lawmakers about our reliance on Russian rocket engines to loft military satellites. For more than a decade, America’s workhorse rocket, the Atlas V, has been powered with RD-180 engines imported from Russia. While the recklessness of this situation is obvious and Congress previously acted to end it, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama appears determined to maintain our dependence on this ill-conceived partnership. (2/8)

NASA Still Using Lessons from Challenger Disaster (Source: KFOX)
“Every time that we have an accident where we have lost members of our team, we make sure that we understand the lessons from that event and that we pass them on from generation to generation,” Kerrik said. With NASA now pivoting toward a mission to Mars, Kerrik said these lessons aren’t just important, they are critical. That’s because unlike trips to the moon or the International Space Station, Mars is a year away. (2/7)

Super Bowl 50 Has Some Surprising Space Twists (Source: Space.com)
Aside from the astronauts watching Super Bowl 50 from orbit on the International Space Station, there's a bit of space history and technology working behind the scenes for today's game. From to GPS devices that track football players, the final frontier has a key part to play when the Carolina Panthers face off against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

The stadium – which is usually home to the San Francisco 49ers – has eight acres of reclaimed redwood liming the walls and bars in the premier suite level, and rooftop benches and raised planter boxes on the solar terrace. The wood came from Hangar One, a famous area at San Francisco's Moffett Field -- a hotspot for Navy, Air Force and NASA activity. Click here. (2/7)

Why Haven’t We Found Aliens? (Source: GeekWire)
It’s a question that goes back decades: If other civilizations have arisen beyond Earth over the course of billions of years, why haven’t we heard from them? Two kinds of answers have recently come into the spotlight – one kind that’s disheartening, and another kind that’s challenging. Click here. (2/7)

After 100 Years, Scientists are Finally Closing In on Einstein’s Gravity Ripples (Source: Ars Technica)
Because of general relativity, we understand that large masses curve spacetime, kind of like standing in the middle of a trampoline distorts the fabric. When massive, dense objects in space accelerate, such as black holes or neutron stars, they create ripples in the fabric of spacetime. These ripples carry gravitational radiation away from the very massive objects, and the radiation then propagates through the Universe.

Put simply, gravitational waves represent the key to possibly unlocking universal secrets that scientists have grappled with for hundreds of years. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO, exists to try to measure these subtle ripples. Physicists have theorized about gravitational waves for a century, and they made indirect observations long ago that provided some confirmation. But because measuring gravitational waves requires extraordinary precision, researchers have yet to directly detect them.

Now after nearly four decades of planning, building, and upgrading LIGO facilities in the states of Louisiana and Washington, physicists appear to be close. Click here. (2/8)

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