March 29, 2016

Chip Maker Sues SpaceX for Predatory Hiring (Source: Courthouse News Service)
A computer chip company has filed suit against SpaceX, claiming the space company is hiring away its employees. Broadcom filed suit in Orange County, California, last week, claiming SpaceX hired a number of Broadcom's top engineers to develop "a family of sophisticated, customized computer chips."

The two companies had been working together on the development of advanced computer chips for an undisclosed project, but SpaceX ultimately ended the collaboration. Broadcom alleges that SpaceX then sought to hire the Broadcom engineers working on the project. SpaceX countered that the engineers reached out to them seeking jobs, concerned about potential layoffs at Broadcom. (3/28)

SpaceX Allegedly Hired Ex-Broadcom Workers To Get Trade Secrets (Source: Law 360)
Broadcom Corp. has filed a trade secrets suit in California state court accusing Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of raiding and hiring away key engineers so it could learn about Broadcom's proprietary technology and save hundreds of millions of dollars in design and development.

Broadcom alleged in its Wednesday complaint that five engineers, also named as defendants in the suit, violated confidentiality agreements by bringing to SpaceX deep knowledge about work that Broadcom said it performed for a SpaceX project in 2015. (3/28)

Russia Plans to Put Three More Glonass Satellites in Space This Year (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is planning to launch up to three Glonass navigation satellites this year. The head of the company that builds those satellites told Russian media Tuesday that it expects one of its Glonass-M satellites to launch in the next three months, followed by another later this year. A third satellite could launch late this year. There are currently 24 satellites in the Glonass constellation, of which 23 are operational. (3/28)

Indian Launch to Deploy 22 Satellites (Source: PTI)
India plans to launch a record number of satellites on an upcoming mission. The director of one of the Indian space agency's centers said Monday up to 22 satellites will be flown on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle mission slated for May. That launch's primary payload will be the Cartosat 2C remote sensing satellite, with the rest small satellites from the U.S., Canada, Germany and Indonesia. The 22 satellites would be more than double the previous record of 10 satellites on a single Indian launch. (3/28)

India Moves RLV Tech Demo to May (Source: The Hindu)
India is also planning a long-delayed launch of a reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator in May. That vehicle, a subscale version of a spaceplane concept, will make a suborbital flight, reaching a peak altitude of 70 kilometers and top speed of Mach 5 before splashing down. That test has been delayed a number of times since last year. (3/28)

Flyby Comet was Larger than Thought (Source: Discovery)
A comet that flew close to the Earth last week was significantly larger than originally thought. Comet P/2016 BA14, which flew past the Earth March 22, was first believed to be only about 125 meters in diameter. Radar images taken during the flyby, though, showed it is about 1 kilometer across, with an irregular shape. The discrepancy in size is likely because the comet is darker than earlier estimated. (3/28)

Mars World Resort Planned in Vegas (Source:
Resort developers want to create a simulated Mars in Las Vegas. "Mars World," to be located near the Las Vegas Strip, would offer visitors "the music, costumes and culture of a Mars colony." (And, given its terrestrial location, presumably its gambling as well.) Development of the resort will require raising about $2 billion. A similar proposal several years ago for a Moon-themed resort in Las Vegas failed to get off the ground. (3/28)

Canadian Scientists Aren't Talking About Hitomi Failure (Source: Motherboard)
An astronomy satellite that was launched to much fanfare on Feb. 17—NASA, Europe and the Canadian Space Agency partnered for the launch, with Japan as the lead—has lost touch with Earth. Canada’s reported contribution of $10 million mostly went towards a laser alignment system, which gave its scientists a place at the table.

Because of the investment, “Canadian scientists get to go to the front of the line in getting time to use this unique astronomical telescope,” said Luigi Gallo. “There is no doubt that we will be making big discoveries when it opens for business.” But on Monday, less than two days after communication was lost, there was only radio silence from Canadian collaborators, who felt they should wait for more news from JAXA before commenting publicly. (3/28)

Here’s Why the Next SpaceX Launch Isn’t Just About the Booster Landing (Source: Ars Technica)
It's a big idea. It's a bold idea. And at first blush, it seems a bit of a daft idea. A company called Bigelow Aerospace wants to build space stations for the government and hotels for private customers that will inflate like balloons once they reach outer space. Bigelow’s inflatables have the potential to revolutionize spaceflight by providing lighter, and much larger, places to live in space.

But the big question remains: Does anyone really want to live in a space balloon? NASA intends to find out and has signed a $17.8 million contract with Bigelow to do so. As early as April 8 a deflated module will launch inside the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The space agency has agreed to attach a test module to the International Space Station, inflate it, and over the course of two years determine if such a contraption can work in space. (3/28)

The Only Political Event Discussed on the Space Station (Source: Sputnik)
Crews working on board the International Space Station rarely discuss politics, but they made an exception to this time-honored tradition when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane engaged in an anti-terrorist mission in Syria in November 2015.

Mikhail Korniyenko and Sergei Volkov, who had spent a year working on board the space outpost, described in an interview with RT how angry their American colleague, Scott Kelly, was when he learned that the pilot of the Russian Su-24, who had managed to eject from the plane, was shot and killed by militants while he was still in the air parachuting down. (3/28)

NASA Will Test ‘Green’ Rocket Fuel in 2017 (Source: Motherboard)
Last year, 87 rockets went orbital. Each of these rockets was fueled by a propellant, and despite the wide variety of rocket propellants available, none of them are exactly what you’d call environmentally friendly. While the impact of astronautics might seem negligible when compared with other sources of emissions, NASA is nevertheless taking the environmental impact of space travel seriously.

To this end, the agency created the Green Propulsion Infusion Mission (GPIM), which will launch a small satellite into orbit in early 2017 to test out a new “green” alternative to the rocket propellants currently being used. The propellant, known as AF-M315E, is a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate based fuel/oxidizer blend developed by the US Air Force at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. According to NASA, this new fuel offers a number of advantages over the hydrazine-based fuels currently in use. (3/28)

Lockheed Martin Opens Space Fence Test Facility in New Jersey (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Objects in space will soon be monitored by a radar array for the U.S. Air Force's Space Fence as part of Lockheed Martin's (LMT) new test site representative of the larger system under construction on the remote Kwajalein Island.

The New Jersey test facility will be used for early validation of hardware, firmware and software that will enable the Space Fence to detect, track, and catalog orbital objects more than 1.5 million times a day to predict and prevent space-based collisions. The test site will also provide early lessons learned on installation of the S-band ground-based radars, support maintenance training and allow engineers to test verification procedures. (3/28)

How Space is Changing the U.S. Air Force’s Day-to-Day Operations (Source: Space News)
Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations, is direct when asked what a newly contested environment means for nationals security satellites. “When aircraft started shooting down other aircraft, we didn’t stop flying planes,” he said. “The same is true for the space domain. We have got to be able to operate.” Click here. (3/28)

KSC Seeks Public Input on Master Plan Impacts (Source: Florida Today)
A public meeting Tuesday evening could influence whether Kennedy Space Center allows a pair of seaports and a second runway to be developed in the coming years, projects that would impact the environment and access to Playalinda Beach in North Brevard.

The “scoping” meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Eastern Florida State College’s Titusville campus will solicit input on a draft report assessing the environmental impacts from KSC’s updated master plan and two alternatives.

NASA considers the updated master plan to be the spaceport's road map through 2032, helping to facilitate “a 20-year transformation from a single, government user launch complex to a multi-user spaceport,” according to an executive summary. Click here. (3/28)

How Close Atlas V Came to Failure in Last Week’s Cygnus Launch (Source: Spaceflight 101)
Calculations presented in this article, based on the presently known facts & public data, will show that the mission was about one second from failure. ULA admitted to the problem on Thursday – confirming that the first stage shut down prematurely and the trusted Centaur Upper Stage had to make up for the performance loss by extending its burn. A closer study of margins is warranted to get an idea of how close things ended up being.

The first stage was tasked with a burn of four minutes and 15.5 seconds, however, the Live Telemetry Display provided by ULA showed shutdown occurred early, at approximately T+250.1 seconds, or around 5.4 seconds earlier than planned. As a result, the Centaur Upper Stage had to extend its burn to make up for the performance shortfall of the first stage, ending up firing its 102-Kilonewton RL-10C engine for 14 minutes and 52 seconds, instead of the planned 13-minute and 45-second burn.

The cause for the early shutdown was the Common Core Booster running out of Liquid Oxygen, having operated the RD-180 in an oxidizer-rich setting for a significant part of its burn... As Centaur lost mass by burning propellants, acceleration on the rocket stage increased and the pitch was lowered to allow the stage to build-up speed to eventually achieve orbital velocity and reach the desired orbital speed. Click here. (3/28)

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