March 31, 2016

Arizona Conservative Group Threatens to Sue County to Cancel World View Spaceport Deal (Source: KVOA)
Pima County's powers-that-be say having space tourism here will be a giant leap for the economy, while creating 500 well-paying jobs. The Board of Supervisors in January approved a bond sale for a $15 million loan to World View Enterprises. The plan is for Spaceport Tucson to be built by November on nearly 30 acres.
Customers would travel 100,000 feet above the earth in a high-tech balloon. The cost of a trip: $75,000. That's about three times the average salary of Pima County residents. Critics call the deal  a lot of hot air, and illegal.

Jim Manley is a senior attorney with the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Phoenix. He told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “The Goldwater Institute is ready to fight to protect Pima County taxpayers from being taken advantage of.” Manley sent a letter this week to Pima County supervisors, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and County Attorney Barbara LaWall, threatening legal action if the World View deal isn't canceled. Manley says the agreement violates Arizona's Gift Clause. (3/30)

12 Teams Propose Designs for Int'l Gemini Mars Competition (Source: Mars Society)
The U.S. human spaceflight space program needs a goal, and that goal should be sending human explorers to Mars in our time. In order to help provide such direction and get a serious humans-to-Mars program underway, the Mars Society launched the International Gemini Mars Design Competition in August 2015, which would create a plan for a two-person Mars flyby that could be placed on the desk of the President-elect in November 2016 and completed by the end of his or her second term.

Subsequent to the contest announcement, 19 teams from around the world filed letters of intent to compete. Of these, 12 teams, representing 25 universities from nine countries, including Argentina, Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have now filed design reports. (3/31)

Huge Satellite Company OneWeb is Hiring in Central Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Satellite company OneWeb, which plans to launch up to 900 new satellites starting in 2017, is hiring for senior level engineers on Florida’s Space Coast. OneWeb has been scouting a possible location on the Space Coast, and recently starting hiring in Melbourne, about 40 miles south of Kennedy Space Center. The company hasn’t officially announced a Florida location yet, but the job postings on its website are a clear sign.

OneWeb’s arrival would add to a recent string of good news for Central Florida's Space Coast, which last year saw space company Blue Origin announce a new rocket engine testing facility at Cape Canaveral.

Space Florida is about to award a major new contract to build a new 120,000-square-foot spacecraft assembly building at Kennedy Space Center. Although there are many possible tenants, and Space Florida would not confirm the tenant, one of the most likely occupants is OneWeb. (3/31)

Wright Brothers Offshoot Heads For Deep Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Known as Curtiss-Wright Corp. since 1929, the company started by the first men to fly a heavier-than-air vehicle has evolved through growth and acquisition into a multibillion-dollar operation with more than 8,400 employees. Among the many markets it serves is spaceflight, where it is keeping alive the first-in-flight heritage of the founding brothers.

In 2011, Curtiss-Wright bought an Irish company called Acra Control Ltd., which was pushing the envelope to lower the cost of spacecraft components by fabricating data handlers, controls and other electronics boxes with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. The idea was to spare spacecraft primes the expense of designing COTS-based components by doing it for them, testing them to make sure they could handle the rigors of spaceflight, and selling them for less than larger companies can manufacture them on their own.

The savings turn out to be substantial, according to Daniel Gleeson, the Dublin-based space business development manager for Curtiss-Wright. Customers have reported savings of as much as 75% on the parts manufactured in Ireland, he says, allowing them to buy their way into an impressive set of spaceflight projects since 2000. Click here. (3/31)

Bolden Seeks Stability for NASA in Upcoming Presidential Transition (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that while he has not had any contact with current presidential candidates, he hopes that the next administration will not make major changes to the agency’s programs. Bolden also emphasized that although he seeks stability for the agency and its workforce, he has no plans to remain as head of NASA after a new administration takes office in January.

He said he expects candidate contacts will come after the two parties hold their nominating conventions this summer. Under a recent change to federal law, the candidates can start to set up transition teams after the party conventions, even before the general election in November. “Our intention is to welcome them with open arms,” Bolden said of those transition teams. “And if not, to go and find them, whenever we can.” (3/31)

UrtheCast Wants a 8-Satellite System in Addition to 16-Satellite Radar/Optical Constellation (Source: Space News)
Geospatial imaging services provider UrtheCast Corp. of Canada on March 30 gave investors an in-depth look at the company’s strategy, including a new eight-satellite constellation addition to the 16-satellite system announced in 2015.

UrtheCast declined to say when its OptiSAR constellation of eight optical and eight two-band radar satellites would be built, insisting that the company would not seek funding from the capital markets but would wait for prospective customers to commit the needed resources.

The same is true for the newly disclosed UrtheDaily constellation of eight medium-resolution optical satellites. To be built by the same Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.-based team that will build OptiSAR, UrtheDaily will not happen without firm customer commitments, the company said. (3/31)

Russia Readies for First Vostochny Launch (Source: Tass)
The first launch from Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome is still on track for late April. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Wednesday that data from a recent "dry rollout" test of a Soyuz rocket at the new spaceport is being analyzed, but that Roscosmos was still planning to make that inaugural launch in the last 10 days of April. Komarov said he expects the spaceport to host five launches in 2018, eventually increasing to 8 to 19 government and commercial missions a year. (3/30)

SpaceX Wins Initial Round in Broadcom Lawsuit (Source: Courthouse News Service)
SpaceX has won an initial round in a lawsuit filed against the company by chip maker Broadcom. A court in California denied a Broadcom motion to prevent five former Broadcom employees from working at SpaceX. One of those engineers said he was "profoundly unhappy" working at Broadcom and sought a job at SpaceX. Broadcom filed suit against SpaceX last week after a collaboration between the two companies on advanced computer chips broke down and several Broadcom employees left to join SpaceX. (3/30)

Kuiper Belt Object Is Clue That Planet Nine Exists (Source: New Scientist)
The discovery of a distant Kuiper Belt object is the latest evidence for the existence of a "Planet Nine" in the outer solar system. The newly discovered Kuiper Belt object, announced in a recent talk, has an eccentric orbit oriented similarly to several other such objects. Earlier this year, scientists argued that the alignment of those objects was evidence that there was an unseen planet, potentially as large as Neptune, in the outer reaches of the solar system shaping the orbits of those Kuiper Belt bodies. (3/30)

Antarctic Ice Loss Could Double Expected Sea Level Rise by 2100 (Source: Washington Post)
Sea levels could rise nearly twice as much as previously predicted by the end of this century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe, according to new research published Wednesday. The main reason? Antarctica.

Scientists behind a new study published in the journal Nature used sophisticated computer models to decipher a longstanding riddle about how the massive, mostly uninhabited continent surrendered so much ice during previous warm periods on Earth. They found that similar conditions in the future could lead to monumental and irreversible increases in sea levels.

If high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue, they concluded, oceans could rise by close to two meters in total (more than six feet) by the end of the century. The melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 15 meters (49 feet) by 2500. (3/30)

Russia Will Install Telescope in Brazil to Monitor Space Debris (Source: Folha)
The Russian government will install a telescope in Brazil to monitor the growing threat of space junk. It is the first telescope for this purpose installed in Brazil. The telescope is expected to be operational in November. The telescope will be small, with a 75cm opening, but will have the ability to cover large areas of the sky. It will be fully funded by the Russians. (3/30)

Russia Sells Troubled SeaLaunch (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos has found a buyer for a troubled commercial space project known as Sea Launch. “I cannot tell you who the investor is, or the value of the contract, due to certain obligations. I hope that we will have something to say about it by the end of April,” Igor Komarov said. He did, however, say that investors from the U.S., Australia, China and Europe had expressed interest in the project.

Despite its commercial potential, Sea Launch has struggled to take flight. It filed bankruptcy in 2009, and has undergone several periods of inactivity due to technical failures. The company emerged from bankruptcy a year later with Energia taking control of 85% of the company.

But the problems continued. In 2014, the company faced procurement difficulties as relations between Russia and Ukraine collapsed in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Crimea. Sea Launch is designed to work with Zenit rockets — built in Ukraine, but some 70 percent of the components are Russian. (3/30)

NASA and Microsoft Team Up to Give Virtual Tours of Mars (Source: Inverse)
Get NASA representatives and Microsoft employees in a room together and the conversation will turn to technology and its application. That seems to be how “Destination: Mars,” an interactive exhibit launched jointly by the space agency and technology company, came to be. The people from NASA had worked tirelessly to image the planet and the people from Microsoft had worked tirelessly to invent a way to allow people to step into imagery.

For those that don’t know, the Hololens is a mixed reality headset that a user wears to experience virtual elements that interface with one’s actual environment. It merges the physical and the virtual worlds together and creates something entirely new.

In the case of the “Destination: Mars” exhibit, the Hololens will let ordinary people “visit” Mars. The exhibit, opening at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer, will take people on guided tours through several sites of Mars reconstructed in a virtual space using real photos taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover since it landed on Mars in August 2012. (3/30)

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