March 30, 2016

Bruno's Perfect Launch Record Is No Match for Musk's Low Cost Rockets (Source: Bloomberg)
After a United Launch Alliance rocket blasted off in a fiery arc from Florida last week, Tory Bruno shook hands with everybody in the control room. Then he headed home. It’s his low-key routine for celebrating each spaceflight by the largest U.S. rocket company after 106 uneventful missions. “I have a nice glass of single-malt whiskey and then we move on to the next launch,” Bruno said.

Bruno’s ritual may be shaken by billionaire Elon Musk. With audacious talk of colonizing Mars, Musk’s SpaceX is upsetting the once-staid industry with lower-cost rocket flights and reusable boosters. The company has also broken ULA’s lock on U.S. defense missions.

The challenges of revamping a company unused to price competition doesn’t faze Bruno, 54. He’s a mechanical engineer who has written management books based on the medieval Knights Templar, exploring themes such as “warrior monasticism.” Click here. (3/30)

Volusia Officials, Residents to Pitch Area to NASA (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
The fight to bring aerospace commercial industry to Volusia County will continue Wednesday night in New Smyrna Beach during a public meeting to review the potential environmental impacts of NASA’s long-term plans for Kennedy Space Center.

Local economic officials say they intend to take advantage of the opportunity to underscore their hopes of attracting space-related jobs, companies and economic development to Volusia County. Although the plan mentions a commercial launch facility that Space Florida has proposed at Shiloh, on the northern end of NASA property in southern Volusia, it does not include a recommendation for that spaceport in its map or land use.

"Shiloh is still on the table, but this meeting is not directly related to Shiloh," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency. "Because of Shiloh, that got people in Volusia thinking more proactively of getting a big piece of this pie in the future." (3/30)

Man Arrested After Vehicle Rams Mauna Kea Telescope Facility (Source: ABC)
A man is under arrest after police say he rammed a vehicle into a radio telescope facility atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory says it doesn't appear Tuesday's incident damaged the radio telescope antenna. Two employees who were on site at the Very Long Baseline Array are uninjured. The facility's fence, building and vehicles are damaged. (3/29)

India Considered an Alternative Site for TMT Telescope (Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald)
Thirty Meter Telescope officials plan to visit India as they continue their search for alternative sites to Mauna Kea, according to a newspaper report. The Times of India said last week representatives of the $1.4 billion project, stalled in Hawaii following protests and legal challenges from Native Hawaiians, will stop in the mountain village of Hanle in a couple months.

The village is located in the Ladakh region near the Chinese border and is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Mt. Saraswati. At 14,800 feet, the Himalayan mountain, renamed after the Hindu goddess of learning, stands about 1,000 feet taller than Mauna Kea. (3/30)

Has Tiangong 1 Gone Rogue (Source: Space Daily)
China's announcement in late March that telemetry to the Tiangong 1 space laboratory had ceased is disturbing. The language used in the original Xinhua story was vague, but strongly suggested that Tiangong 1 had malfunctioned. This analyst has waited more than a week for a correction, clarification, or resumption of telemetry to be announced by China. That hasn't happened. We can safely conclude that Tiangong 1 has truly fallen silent.

Without telemetry, China will be unable to receive data from Tiangong's scientific instruments. More disturbingly, it seems highly probable that China will be unable to control the laboratory. Tiangong 1 is now a rogue spacecraft. That's no problem in the short term, but it could become a matter of concern when its orbit finally decays. (3/30)

NASA Trumpets System Reviews as Milestone Toward Mars (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA officials announced what the agency called a “major milestone” in its quest to launch astronauts to Mars and other deep-space locations. The agency has reviewed plans for facilities and ground support systems that will process future rockets and spacecraft on Florida’s Space Coast.

The move lays out a path for rockets and vehicles to get approved and transported on  the coast in the event of a launch. To do this, Kennedy Space Center must be modernized to integrate with the agency’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System. (3/29)

Boeing is Cutting 4,000 Jobs (Source: CNN)
Boeing has announced it will cut 4,000 jobs to reduce costs as it battles rival Airbus and softer demand for aircraft. The aircraft maker said it should be able to achieve the job reductions, equal to about 2% of its worldwide staff, through normal attrition, voluntary buyouts and leaving open positions unfilled. (3/29)

Space Florida Sponsors Venture Forum for Startups (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and Florida Venture Forum are calling for early stage companies to present at the 2016 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg, Florida on May 17. Early Stage presenters will compete for $150,000 in cash prizes; 1st - $100K, 2nd - $30K, 3rd - $20K. Click here. (3/30)

NASA's 'Spaceport of the Future' Reaches Another Milestone (Source: NASA)
NASA has completed a major milestone on its journey to Mars and is ready to begin another phase of work on its spaceport of the future, where the next generation of astronauts will launch to Mars and other deep-space destinations.

The agency recently wrapped up a comprehensive and successful review of plans for the facilities and ground support systems that will process the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Click here. (3/29)

New DNA/RNA Tool to Diagnose, Treat Diseases (Source: NASA)
If NASA is going to send astronauts on years-long missions, the agency will need new and better tools to monitor whether the men and women are healthy along the way. One company has developed a tool that could make comprehensive diagnostics at long distances a reality for NASA — and it has big potential to advance medicine on Earth, too.

Currently, Earth-based researchers keep track of things like white blood cell counts and cholesterol and cortisol levels, dubbed “biomarkers,” with tests that use special proteins called antibodies. But the antibodies have a short, three- to six-month shelf life and can be ruined by the high levels of radiation in space, making them ill-suited for such missions.

Research from the 1990s suggested an alternative: single strands of RNA and DNA that can be folded into three-dimensional structures and, like antibodies, bind to specific molecules. These structures, called aptamers, can be stored at ambient temperatures without degrading and are impervious to radiation. (3/29)

Malfunctioning Japanese Satellite was Not Hit by Debris (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has concluded that a Japanese astronomy satellite that malfunctioned March 26 was not struck by debris, meaning the spacecraft likely suffered from a technical problem. “We have seen nothing that says it was struck by debris,” said Capt. Nicholas Mercurio. (3/29)

U.S. Launch Companies Lobby to Maintain Ban on Use of Indian Rockets (Source: Space News)
Richard Verma, U.S. ambassador to India, gave a speech celebrating the growing U.S.-India cooperation. “In September 2015, for the first time India launched a U.S. satellite – well, actually four at once,” Ambassador Richard Verma said. “The satellites belonged to a U.S. company... Other U.S. companies have sought launches on India’s PSLV, including a Google satellite scheduled for launch in April.”

The next day, the FAA endorsed an advisory committee’s recommendation that commercial U.S. satellites continue to be barred from using the PSLV. In its Feb. 26 decision, the FAA said it agreed with its Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) that Indian launch services, owned and controlled by the Indian government, threaten to “distort the conditions of competition” in the launch-services market. Click here.

Editor's Note: In the early 1990s there were similar efforts to maintain a quota system that limited the number of U.S. satellites launched by Russian and Chinese rockets. The quotas were eliminated in part because they encouraged technological advances on European and Asian satellites, which were cheaper to launch on the foreign rockets. (3/29)

India: PSLV Launches Generated $101 Million in Commercial Launch Fees 2013-2015 (Source: Space News)
India’s PSLV rocket launched 28 non-Indian satellites between 2013 and 2015, generating 80.6 million euros ($101 million) in commercial launch fees, mainly on the strength of three missions carrying foreign satellites as the main payloads, the Indian prime minister’s office said. (3/30)

Long March 3A Lofts Beidou-22 Satellite (Source:
China conducted its third successful orbital launch on Tuesday, orbiting another navigation satellite. The (or Beidou-2 I6) satellite was launched by a Long March-3A rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Tuesday’s launch was the second of a series of Beidou launches schedule for 2016, making another step in the strengthening and completion of the Beidou program in 2020. (3/29)

SpaceWorks Releases 2016 Nano/Microsatellite Market Assessment (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks Enterprises announced the annual update to its nanosatellite and microsatellite market assessment. The assessment details the latest observations and trends of the nano/microsatellite market. Projections indicate more than 400 nano/microsatellites will need launches annually in the year 2022 and beyond. The study summary is available in presentation form as a free download. Click here. (3/29)

NASA Looks for New Medicines From Fungi in Space (Source: Newsweek)
When fungi get stressed out, they make some useful medicine. In an attempt to squeeze one particular species for all the drugs it has, researchers will be sending it to one of the most harrowing environments imaginable: outer space. Penicillin and many other drugs come from fungi’s secondary metabolites, side products that aren’t essential for the organisms' everyday survival, but that the microbes make under tough conditions.

Scientists aren’t sure what purpose they serve, but some are toxic to people while others are helpful. The researchers, comprising a joint team from the University of Southern California and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hope the high radiation and low gravity on the International Space Station (ISS), which is circling the Earth about 200 miles up in the sky, will push the species Aspergillus nidulans to produce some of these molecules. (3/29)

3 Things to Watch for From SpaceX in April (Source: DC Inno)
SpaceX probably isn't looking forward to April showers. Elon Musk and his team have way too much planned and will need some clear skies to make it all come about. Here's what to keep an eye on from SpaceX in the coming month—including a planned NASA launch and a stepped-up lobbying campaign. Click here. (3/28)

Another NASA Program Is Over Budget, Behind Schedule (Source: Daily Caller)
A developing NASA system is nearly $100 million over-budget, more than a year behind schedule and is delaying critical functions that ensure spacecraft safety, thanks to a nearly decade-old agency decision, a government watchdog reported.

The reason, according to the Monday report, is that NASA in effect is trying to build a Ford using parts from a Chevy, Toyota, Honda and Buick, according to the agency’s inspector general (IG). The IG compared the effort to “taking automobile parts not designed to work together from several different brands and attempting to assemble a new car.”

NASA’s developing Spaceport Command and Control System (SCCS) – part of a Kennedy Space Center upgrade – will control various functions in ground equipment once it’s completed and online. But “developing the SCCS software in this manner has cost millions more than expected, resulted in a schedule that continues to slip and will produce a product with less functionality than planned,” the IG said. (3/29)

One of Earth’s Missing Minerals Found Locked Inside Meteorite (Source: Science News)
The last of a group of dense minerals that make up much of Earth’s crust and upper mantle has been found tucked inside a meteorite that slammed into Australia 135 years ago. The newly discovered mineral, a variety of majorite, is potentially abundant in sinking tectonic plates and could help illuminate the behavior of the deep Earth, its discoverers say.

Each identical component of this mineral contains 32 magnesium atoms, 32 silicon atoms and 96 oxygen atoms arranged in a distorted cube. Natural samples of MgSiO3 tetragonal garnet, the mineral’s scientific moniker, had eluded scientists since the mineral was first artificially produced in 1985. While many minerals found in meteorites form when slamming into Earth, the new mineral formed in space when two asteroids collided at a relative speed of about 2 kilometers per second, the researchers report. (3/29)

Astronomers See Object Crashing Into Jupiter (Source: Mashable)
Two amateur astronomers in different parts of the world captured what looks like an asteroid or comet impacting Jupiter on March 17. The independent videos show what may be something slamming into Jupiter on its right side. The Jovian impact looks like a small flash just above Jupiter's distinctive clouds before disappearing. (3/29)

Four Engines Competing To Send Military Satellites Into Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Lawmakers and generals agree it is time to stop launching U.S. national security spacecraft with Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine, but after that U.S. military space-launch policy is a free-for-all. With the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program on its last legs, four companies are at work on whatever may come next. Replacing the RD-180 on the Atlas V is not a solution, because United Launch Alliance (ULA) does note intend to keep flying its workhorse launcher. (3/29)

Pentagon Backs Raytheon’s Troubled GPS Ground-Segment (Source: Aviation Week)
Top U.S. Air Force officials have called it “a disaster” and “the No. 1 troubled program within the Department of Defense.” But for now, the service is continuing with the $4.1 billion GPS III ground-system network in development at Raytheon, despite its being almost six years late and more than $1 billion over budget. Known as the Operational Control System (OCX), the satellite ground network is designed to operate the Air Force’s third generation of GPS navigation satellites. (3/29)

Can Alabama Pull Together Incentives Necessary for Blue Origin Rocket Plant? (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance continues to make rocketry look easy, but it faces heavy competition in the space launch market. North Alabama will have to compete, too, if it wants to continue to attract key players in that market. And getting ready for that competition will take more leadership from lawmakers in Montgomery.

Florida, which already is home to a Blue Origin testing facility, is gearing up to make a play for BE-4 production, too. The same attributes that convinced Boeing to build what is now the ULA rocket plant in Decatur are still in play: inexpensive land, skilled engineers, ease of transportation and access to world-class technological training facilities. The plant employs about 800 people.

But if Alabama is to compete with Florida and other states for Blue Origin or any other rocket manufacturer’s business, incentives are going to be part of the equation. It’s simply the cost of doing business. And that means the state needs to have its fiscal house in order. Right now, it doesn’t. The Legislature scrapes by just to fund the essentials, and doesn’t even do that well. North Alabama’s economic future depends on state lawmakers who show little ability to see further ahead than the next fiscal year. (3/29)

JAXA Believes It's Still Possible to Recover Hitomi (Source: Space News)
A senior official with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said March 29 that he still believed it was possible to restore control of the Hitomi astronomy satellite, but that any recovery effort would likely take months. Masaki Fujimoto said it was likely Hitomi was mostly intact despite an incident March 25 that generated debris and caused the spacecraft to tumble.

Fujimoto noted that controllers have detected brief radio signals from Hitomi since the incident that disabled it. JAXA received signals at ground stations at about 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Eastern March 28. Those transmissions suggest the spacecraft has not completely broken up. (3/30)

Russia to Launch 44 Satellites Into Orbit by 2025 in $1.3B Program (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is planning to orbit 44 satellites by 2025 with cost amounting to 87.4 billion rubles ($1.3 billion), Roscosmos State Corporation said Wednesday. "In the period of 2016-2025, 44 space satellites will be put into orbit. The total volume of budget financing is 87.4 billion rubles," Roscosmos stated. (3/30)

Virgin Galactic Is Helping Develop A New Supersonic Commercial Airplane (Source: Huffington Post)
If the discomfort of air travel has got you down, the prospect of speedier flight will be music to your ears... or rather, a sonic boom to your ears. Colorado-based startup Boom Technology is developing a prototype of a plane that flies at more than twice the speed of sound, capable of making the trip from New York City to London in just 3.4 hours. Last week, Virgin Galactic signed on to help develop and build the plane, meaning a better era of supersonic air travel could be just around the corner.

Virgin Galactic intends to help engineer, design and manufacture the supersonic Boom plane. The prototype is not operational yet and Boom is still seeking more funding, but the project is a promising step toward an era in which extra-speedy air travel could become the norm. Editor's Note: Is this an opportunity for Spaceport America? (3/29)

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