March 10, 2016

India’s PSLV Rocket Successfully Launches IRNSS-1F Navigation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has successfully launched the IRNSS-1F navigation satellite on March 10, increasing the fleet of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) to six. Liftoff took place at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The launch was delayed by one minute for collision avoidance according to space debris studies. (3/9)

China's Space Station: 2 Arms, 'Wings', and a 'Chinese Hubble' (Source: GB Times)
The chief designer of China's human space program has revealed new details on the country’s first space station, which will be completed around 2020. Zhou Jianping, speaking to state media on the sidelines of China’s ongoing parliamentary sessions, explained that the project will include three modules, two 30m solar panel 'wings', two robotic arms and a telescope dubbed 'China's Hubble'.
Zhou, who is a member of China’s top consultative body currently in session in Beijing, said the space station will comprise of a core module and two labs forming a T-shape, each weighing about 20 tons. An ‘optical module’ will also be part of the Chinese space station, according to Zhang Yulin, a senior military official and a deputy to the National People’s Congress. (3/9)

Boeing and Lockheed Martin Being Cautious on Vulcan Development (Source: Space News)
The two parent companies of United Launch Alliance are cautiously supporting plans to develop the next-generation Vulcan rocket. Executives at Boeing and Lockheed Martin said this week they are taking a "cautious and conservative approach" in supporting investment into Vulcan, citing disagreements between the Air Force and Congress on the best way to end reliance on the RD-180 engine. Boeing's Craig Cooning said that an Air Force contract recently awarded to ULA, coupled with internal R&D funding, gives them a path towards fully funding development of Vulcan. (3/9)

Orbital ATK Orders More Russian Engines (Source: Tass)
Orbital ATK has ordered eight more RD-181 engines from NPO Energomash, the Russian company said Wednesday. The engines will be used on the Antares launch vehicle, which is scheduled to make its first flight with the RD-181 later this year. NPO Energomash delivered four RD-181 engines last year and is scheduled to deliver four more this year. Editor's Note: And why are these not part of Congressional efforts to ban the use of Russian engines? (3/9)

Japan Maps Out Retirement of H-2 as H-3 Rocket Development Advances (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan expects to retire its H-2A rocket in 2023. The H-2A, which made its 30th launch last month, will be retired after the introduction of the next-generation H-3 rocket in 2020. The Japanese government expects to perform 19 more H-2A launches before its retirement, assuming the H-3 is successfully introduced on schedule. The H-2B, a version used for launching cargo missions to the ISS, will be retired in 2019. [Asahi Shimbun]

The Most Interesting Man is Leaving Earth (Source: USA Today)
The Most Interesting Man in the World is leaving it in the latest Dos Equis commercial. "Dos Equis doesn't always retire their 'Most Interesting Man,' but when they do, they send him to Mars," wrote one account of the latest commercial featuring the iconic "Most Interesting Man in the World." The Mexican beer has decided to retire the long-running character in its commercial with a one-minute spot in which he boards a rocket bound for Mars — on a one-way trip.

While the character has helped significantly increase Dos Equis sales in recent years, the Heineken-owned brand decided it was time to refresh their advertising. A new, and younger, "Most Interesting Man" will appear in ads later this year. (3/9)

3 Ways DoD is Beefing Up in Space (Source: C4ISRnet)
As the military becomes more reliant on satellite communications to carry out a wide range of global missions, leadership is focusing on building up space capabilities that improve on legacy systems and prepare for the future.

Space has become increasingly contested with adversarial countries gaining and launching their own satellite systems, some of which are targeting the U.S. In response, Defense Department officials are making some significant changes to their own space operations. Click here. (3/9)

FCC Chairman Issues Sharp Warning to Satellite Industry (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s bare-knuckled attack on satellite operators’ refusal to share Ka-band spectrum with future 5G terrestrial mobile providers ripped through the Satellite 2016 conference here like a cold mountain wind.

It was also a warning to the satellite industry that what it often describes as its victories over terrestrial rivals at a recent congress of global wireless frequency regulators left bruises are unlikely to heal anytime soon. In a March 7 address, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, breaking with the protocols that usually accompany such gatherings, did not mince his words. (3/10)

SpaceX Plans 16 More Launches in 2016 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell on March 9 said the company expected to conduct 16 more launches this year, including an inaugural Falcon Heavy rocket in November, and would accelerate its launch rhythm in 2017. SpaceX has made lavish forecasts in the past and has come up short. But the company has now launched, twice, the Falcon 9 Upgrade rocket and has not announced any major enhancements for the coming months. A stable product line makes it easier to accelerate launch cadence. (3/10)

Why Does Mainstream Media Keep Censoring Frighteningly Serious Cosmic Events? (Source:
A giant fire ball smashed into the Atlantic earlier this month, which was largely unreported on by the mainstream media. Similar events have gone unnoticed in the past. All this in the round, why are major media outlets ignoring these frightening cosmic occurances?

The incident took place on February 6th when a meteor exploded in the sky approximately 620 miles off the coast of Brazil. The detonation released nearly 13,000 tons of TNT, which is equivalent to the amount of energy compressed into the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

According to Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “There is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth. In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.” He forgot to clarify there are no known asteroids on a trajectory course with Earth. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. (3/9)

SpaceX Targets 30% Cost Reduction with Reused First Stages (Source: Space News)
SpaceX' president said a launch with a previously used first stage could be priced 30 percent less than the current Falcon 9 rockets. SES of Luxembourg, SpaceX’s biggest backer among the large commercial satellite fleet operators, has said it wants to be the first customer to fly with a reused stage.

But SES Chief Executive Karim Michel Sabbagh said here March 8 that SES wanted a 50 percent price cut, to around $30 million, in return for pioneering the reusable version. Shotwell said it was too early to set precise prices for a reused Falcon 9, but that if the fuel on the first stage costs $1 million or less, and a reused first stage could be prepared for reflight for $3 million or so, a price reduction of 30 percent – to around $40 million – should be possible.

Editor's Note: Speaking of million dollar fuel costs, I hope SpaceX is taking full advantage of Florida's tax exemption for such fuels: Title XIV, Chapter 206.42(4) - "Fuels of such quality not adapted for use in ordinary motor vehicles, being produced for and sold and exclusively used for space flight as defined in s. 212.02 are not subject to the tax pursuant to this part, parts II and III, and chapter 212." (3/10)

Skylon Spaceplane Aims to Take On SpaceX with a Reusable Rocket Design (Source: The Verge)
Aerospace engineers have dreamed of a spaceship that can launch like a plane, get to orbit, and land on a runway since the 1960s. A British company, Reaction Engines Limited, wants to make that dream a reality. REL’s sleek, winged spaceplane, called the Skylon, looks like something out of the retro-futuristic visions of old magazine covers.

The uncrewed spacecraft is built to fly like a jet until it gets to an altitude of about 92,000 feet at five times the speed of sound (3,800 miles per hour). Then rocket propulsion will shoot the Skylon to orbit along with 15 metric tons of cargo. On return, it’s designed to glide down to a waiting airport, rather like the Space Shuttle.

According to a recent economic analysis by REL – but with some backstopping from independent consultancy London Economics –  Skylon can get a pound of mass to orbit for between $686 and $1,230 per pound, depending on how optimistic the forecast. This is comparable to SpaceX’s currently advertised rate of about $2,100 per pound for the Falcon 9 and $770 for the upcoming Falcon Heavy. (3/8)

SpaceX Won't Need Former Shuttle Pad to Meet Bulk of Backlog (Source: Space News)
Gwynne Shotwell said SpaceX does not need to start use of Launch Complex 39A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to help work through its backlog. That launch pad will be used for the Falcon Heavy rocket, however.

“We don’t need to have Pad 39A operational this year to get caught up on the manifest,” Shotwell said. “But I do think we are probably going to launch a Falcon 9 before we do the Falcon Heavy in November. SES actually wants to fly from 39A so we are going to see if we can get that ready for SES-10 and maybe SES-11.” (3/10)

Lockheed Martin Plans Voluntary Layoffs for 1,000 (Source: Space Daily)
Lockheed Martin announced a 1,000-job voluntary layoff program to reduce employment in its Aeronautics Division. The program will be available to mid-level employee groups in seven of the company's U.S. facilities, and comes at a time of reduced defense spending. The Aeronautics Division is Lockheed Martin's largest division, providing about one-third of its revenue, and builds the F-35 fighter plane and other military aircraft. (3/9)

Classified Pentagon Programs Will Cost $68 Billion In 2017 (Source: Aviation Week)
The Pentagon’s “black budget”—the money spent on programs and activities that are unacknowledged in nonclassified documents—amounts to around $68 billion in fiscal 2017, according to an Aviation Week analysis. This is about 12% of the total $582 billion budget and is similar in magnitude to the entire defense budgets of France, Russia or the U.K., as estimated by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Classified budgets are separate line items spread throughout R&D, procurement, and operations and maintenance subbudgets. The total amounts are similar—$22.5 billion in R&D, $20.7 billion in procurement and $24.9 billion in operations—but represent different percentages of those accounts. Almost one-third of R&D and nearly 19% of procurement are classified, but only 10% of procurement costs are. The black-world share of acquisition (R&D and procurement) is 24%, versus 17% at the end of the Cold War. (3/9)

Challenges Facing DOD as it Changes Approaches to Space Acquisitions (Source: SpaceRef)
Most major space programs have experienced significant cost and schedule increases. For instance, program costs for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program, a protected satellite communications system, have grown 116 percent as of our latest review, and its first satellite was launched more than 3 years late. For the Space Based Infrared System High, a missile warning satellite program, costs grew almost 300 percent and its first satellite was launched roughly 9 years late.

Right now, DOD is at a crossroads for space. Fiscal constraints and increasing threats—both environmental and adversarial—to space systems have led DOD to consider alternatives for acquiring and launching space-based capabilities, such as: disaggregating large satellites into multiple, smaller satellites or payloads; relying on commercial satellites to host government payloads; and procuring certain capabilities, such as bandwidth and ground control, as services instead of developing and deploying government-owned networks or spacecraft. Click here. (3/9)

Second Chances: NASA’s InSight Mission Eyed for 2018 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With rumors swirling that the mission could be cancelled, NASA announced on March 9, 2016 that the InSight mission would get underway on May 5, 2018. This follows the December 2015 announcement that the mission would not launch this year (2016) due to a vacuum leak in the spacecraft’s primary science instrument.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is planned to study the internal mechanisms of terrestrial worlds like the Red Planet – and Earth. If there are no further delays, InSight is slated to touch down on the dusty Martian plains as soon as Nov. 26, 2018. (3/9)

Infamous 'Wow Signal' From Space May Be Comets, Not Aliens (Source: NBC)
A powerful radio signal received from space in 1977 and never explained may have been the result of a then-unknown comet, not extraterrestrials, an astronomer proposes in a new paper. The "Wow! signal" is named after what astronomer Jerry Ehman wrote ("Wow!") next to the paper readout of the radio telescope that recorded it.

The signal was very powerful and emanated briefly from a single point in the sky, right at a wavelength many have suggested would be a natural one for extraterrestrial life to transmit in: one indicating the presence of water.

But Antonio Paris at St. Petersburg College in Florida has found that two comets, yet to be identified in 1977, were in just the right position, and due to their halo of hydrogen might have given off energy in the right wavelength. Neither skeptics nor hopefuls should get excited yet, though: Paris' proposal isn't that the comets are definitely the cause, but rather that they are a possibility that has never been ruled out. (3/9)

ULA Awards Upper Stage Engine Contract to XCOR (Source: Parabolic Arc)
United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation’s premier launch services provider, has awarded XCOR Aerospace with a new contract through the United States Air Force to develop an upper stage propulsion system for Vulcan, ULA’s next-generation launch system.

XCOR’s 8H21 LO2/LH2 engine (25k lbf thrust) is being developed for the upper stage propulsion for ULAs Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES). Since 2008 XCOR has been working closely with ULA on a subscale 2,500 lbf thrust liquid hydrogen engine, which was successfully built and tested in 2015. In 2016, XCOR began development on the full scale 25k lbf thrust liquid hydrogen engine, the 8H21, under a privately funded contract with ULA. This partnership with the Air Force will further support this engine development. (3/9)

Legislation Aimed at Boosting Washington State’s Space Industry Fizzles Out (Source: Geek Wire)
Two measures that would have lent a hand to Washington state’s fledgling space industry have been stalled in committee and aren’t likely to win approval during the state Legislature’s current session, the bills’ sponsor said. “We’re having such a tough time with the budget” that the space-related measures appear likely to go by the wayside this year, even though they’ve enjoyed bipartisan support, said state Rep. Jeff Morris.

One of the bills, HB 2434, would have created a space exploration center to boost Washington industry. That bill is stuck in House Appropriations Committee. The other bill, HB 2226, would have let spacecraft manufacturers enjoy tax incentives that are similar to those currently offered to Washington’s airplane manufacturers, as in the Boeing Co. That bill didn’t make it out of the House Finance Committee. (3/9)

Unexpected Signal That Could Change Everything has Particle Physicists Salivating (Source: Nature)
Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the giant particle-physics experiment near Geneva, Switzerland, have searched for many possible subatomic particles and novel phenomena. They have tried to recreate dark matter, reveal extra dimensions of and collapse matter into microscopic black holes.

But the possibility of an electrically neutral particle that is four times heavier than the top quark — the current heaviest — and that could decay into pairs of photons has apparently never crossed anybody’s mind. No theorist has ever predicted that such a particle should exist. No experiment has ever been designed to look for one.

So when, on 15 December last year, two separate teams at the LHC independently reported hints of such a particle, the reaction of many experts was similar to that of US physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi when the muon, a heavier relative of the electron, was discovered in 1936. Click here. (3/9)

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