April 1, 2016

Gass Joins XCOR Board, Greason Exits (Source: XCOR)
The former head of ULA has joined the board of XCOR Aerospace. The company announced this week that Michael Gass, who stepped down as president and CEO of ULA in 2014, is one of three new members of its board. Also joining the board of the suborbital vehicle and rocket engine developer are former Lockheed Martin executive Tom Burbage and Art Bozlee. Jeff Greason, a co-founder of XCOR who left the company last year, is among those leaving the board. (3/31)

XCOR Begins Testing Private Spaceflight Later This Year (Source: Curacao Chronicle)
By the end of this year XCOR Aerospace will begin the testing of space travel with its Lynx suborbital craft. At least that’s the plan. Initially the company wanted the first one hundred people into space in 2015 from a launch site here on the island. But technical problems threw a spanner in the works.

According to XCOR the technology is not yet ready to take tourists into space. The company provides travelers, who pay $125,000 per person for a chance to fly 100km up into space and return again. 300 tickets have already been sold. (4/1)

Huntsville Moves Toward Dream Chaser Landings (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville officials are pressing ahead with plans to accommodate landings of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser vehicle at its airport. SNC officials said they while they have been approached by other airports to serve as potential landing sites for the vehicle, they are not currently pursuing any of those opportunities other than at Huntsville International Airport. A recent study identified several obstacles to landing Dream Chaser there, including the need for licenses and the potential for runway damage, but airport officials indicated those issues could be resolved. (3/31)

Florida Economic Development Uncertainty After Funding Fizzles (Source: Politico)
Late in the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers rocked Florida’s political world when they decided to snub Gov. Rick Scott by not funding his top priority: $250 million in economic incentive cash. That decision set off ripple effects through the economic development industry and foretold a potentially drastic overhaul of the state’s business recruitment infrastructure. Scott’s request, if funded, would have gone to Enterprise Florida.

The lawmakers' decision represents a step away from the incentives that have, in part, defined Scott’s economic development strategy. Some Enterprise Florida board members say it’s time to re-examine the mission of the organization, while others say the Legislature's decision will result in other states beating Florida on big-money economic development deals.

Texas was mentioned often as officials from the Scott administration and Enterprise Florida lobbied lawmakers for the funding. As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the future of Enterprise Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is organizing a task force to consider economic development strategies outside of Enterprise Florida moving forward. (4/1)

Texas Enterprise Incentive Fund Shrinks (Source: Politico)
The Texas Enterprise Fund was created under then-governor Rick Perry in 2005 and at its peak had $235 million. This year officials tried to persuade the Texas legislature to go back up to $200 million, but lawmakers did not add any additional funding. The fund currently has $90 million available for economic development deals. (4/1)

Arizona Balloon Launch Incentive Called Unconstitutional (Source: AZPM)
Pima County violated the state Constitution when it approved a $15 million deal for a high-altitude balloon launch facility, a lawyer for the Goldwater Institute said Wednesday. Goldwater, a constitutional watchdog and conservative think tank in Phoenix, issued a press release demanding the county rescind approval of what Goldwater lawyer Jim Manley called a "sweetheart deal."

The county plans to borrow $15 million, to be paid back with interest by taxpayers, to build the launch pad for World View Enterprises headquarters near Tucson International Airport. The rationale was that the company will bring 400 high-paying jobs to the facility within five years.

“Sweetheart deals were outlawed by Arizona’s Constitution more than 100 years ago,” said Manley, Goldwater senior attorney. “Our state’s founders couldn’t have made it more clear: if a private company wants money from taxpayers, it has to give taxpayers something certain—and proportional—in return. This deal doesn’t meet that simple standard.” (3/31)

NASA Contract With CU Helps Broaden Colorado Space Industry (Source: CU Independent)
The state of Colorado remains one of the most supportive states involved in the growing industry of aerospace. NASA selected a group of University of Colorado graduate students as one of five teams in the nation to compete for the opportunity to launch a self-designed satellite. This project is extremely important for the diverse communities involved with aerospace in Colorado and the students studying this subject matter. (4/1)

No Moon, No Magnetic Field, No Life on Earth (Source: Cosmos)
Researchers believe the Earth's core should have dropped to 3,000-degrees C but the Moon kept it warm for the past four billion years. The gravitational push-pull of the Moon on iron deep inside Earth keeps it hot and molten. And a liquid core is needed to generate a magnetic field, which forms a protective shield against blasts of particles from the Sun. (4/1)

When Will SpaceX's 'Crew Dragon' Take Humans to Space? (Source: Inverse)
The government contracted $2.6 billion to SpaceX to fund the Crew Dragon, and $4.2 billion for Boeing’s CST-100. And recently, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin aerospace company announced it plans to send people into space around 2018. Here’s what we know so far about SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which SpaceX is keeping mostly under wraps.

The first Crew Dragon is set to launch sometime in 2017. Before then, Gwynne Shotwell said in January 2015 that SpaceX will fly more than 50 Falcon 9 missions prior to putting crew on the vehicle. There will also be a demo mission without crew and an in-flight abort test. NASA announced when it commissioned SpaceX that all contracted commercial crewed missions will carry up to four NASA or NASA-approved astronauts.

Two astronauts will be sent on the first Crew Dragon mission, although the spacecraft has the capacity to take up to seven. All commercial vessels will stay in orbit for a maximum of 210 days. The Crew Dragon has eight SuperDraco engines — an upgrade of the unmanned Dragon capsules. These engines, which produce 120,000 pounds of axial thrust, are built into the side walls of the vessel allowing it to maneuver in orbit and land propulsively even though the first mission will land in the ocean with parachutes. (4/1)

SpaceX Hopes to Sell Used Falcon 9 Boosters for as Low as $40 Million (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX intends to cut the price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch by up to 30 percent when flying with reused first stage boosters, an achievement the company still hopes to demonstrate before the end of the year. That figures to approximately $43 million per flight, a reduction from the Falcon’s commercial rate of $61 million published on SpaceX’s website. (4/1)

Russia Launches Progress MS-2/63P Resupply Mission to ISS (Source: NasaSpaceFlight)
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has launched the Progress MS-2/63P resupply mission to the International Space Station on Thursday. The mission is the first of three Russian resupply efforts to the Space Station this year and the second immediate resupply mission to the ISS in the last nine days following the Orbital ATK Cygnus launch.

Progress MS-2 is the second in a series of new Progress vehicles that is debuting new software and communications equipment and configurations that will become standard on not just future Progress missions but future human Soyuz flights to the Station as well. (3/31)

Roscosmos to Hand Over Glonass Infrastructure to MoD in 2016 (Source: Space Daily)
The Russian space agency Roscosmos will transfer control over the ground infrastructure of the Glonass global positioning system to the country's defense ministry later this year, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov, said. Glonass is a satellite navigation system, an alternative to the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The system currently consists of 28 satellites, of which 23 are operational, and a number of ground relay stations. (3/31)

New SETI Search for Signals from 20,000 Star Systems Begins (Source: Space Daily)
The SETI Institute has inaugurated a greatly expanded hunt for deliberately produced radio signals that would indicate the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Over the course of the next two years, it will scrutinize the vicinities of 20,000 so-called red dwarf stars.

"Red dwarfs - the dim bulbs of the cosmos - have received scant attention by SETI scientists in the past," notes Institute engineer Jon Richards. "That's because researchers made the seemingly reasonable assumption that other intelligent species would be on planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun." (3/31)

Is Planet X to Blame for Earth's Mass Extinctions? (Source: Space Daily)
Earlier this year, scientists at Caltech offered the most convincing evidence yet of a ninth planet, Planet X. Now, a retired astrophysicist suggests the hidden planet is responsible for Earth's periodic mass extinctions -- like the disappearance of the dinosaurs. In a new study, Daniel Whitmire argues that an undiscovered ninth planet triggers disruptive comet showers every 27 million years.

Whitmire and his research partner John Matese pointed to evidence of periodic comet showers in the fossil record dating back some 500 million years. In 1985, there were two alternative theories for what might trigger major comet showers -- a sister star to the sun, vertical oscillations of the sun as it orbits around the center of the Milky Way. Those theories have since been discredited, while the Planet X theory has acquired legitimacy. (3/30)

Giant Prehistoric Ocean Discovered Deep Below the Ground (Source: Sputnik)
A group of scientists have discovered an ocean-sized body of water that was formed during the Archaean geologic eon, at least 2.5 million years ago, and is concealed hundreds of miles deep in our planet’s crust.
This vast reservoir is located many kilometers within the Earth’s crust and was formed under considerable pressure and temperatures up to 1,530 degrees Celsius, with its water being locked in crystalline mineral structures. (3/31)

Planet Formation in Earth-like Orbit around a Young Star (Source: NRAO)
The disks of dust and gas that surround young stars are the formation sites of planets. New images from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal never-before-seen details in the planet-forming disk around a nearby Sun-like star, including a tantalizing gap at the same distance from the star as the Earth is from the Sun. This structure may mean that an infant version of our home planet, or possibly a more massive "super-Earth," is beginning to form there.

The star, TW Hydrae, is a popular target of study for astronomers because of its proximity to Earth (approximately 175 light-years away) and its status as a veritable newborn (about 10 million years old). It also has a face-on orientation as seen from Earth. This affords astronomers a rare, undistorted view of the complete disk. (3/31)

Pioneer Space Monkeys' Path to Space Led Through Pensacola (Source: Pulse)
If you know your space pioneers, then you’re probably familiar with Neil Armstrong, the first human to ever walk on the moon. You also probably know Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into space. But a pair of monkeys — a squirrel monkey named Miss Baker and a rhesus monkey named Miss Able — are much less known, but may have had just as much of an impact on the space race as any human being.

Long before the naval aviators Shepherd and Glenn stepped foot into Pensacola to begin their training, it was another pair of pioneers who would help pave the way for future space travel. In the late-1950s, at the dawn of the U.S. space race, Naval Air Station Pensacola was home to the Naval School of Aviation Medicine, which was tasked with studying the effects of spaceflight on the human body. (3/31)

Earth-Space Telescope System Produces Hot Surprise (Source: Phys.org)
Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution of any astronomical observation ever made. Their achievement produced a pair of scientific surprises that promise to advance the understanding of quasars, supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

The scientists combined the Russian RadioAstron satellite with the ground-based telescopes to produce a virtual radio telescope more than 100,000 miles across. They pointed this system at a quasar called 3C 273, more than 2 billion light-years from Earth. Quasars like 3C 273 propel huge jets of material outward at speeds nearly that of light. These powerful jets emit radio waves.

Just how bright such emission could be, however, was thought to be limited by physical processes. That limit, scientists thought, was about 100 billion degrees. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a temperature hotter then 10 trillion degrees. The observations also showed, for the first time, substructure caused by scattering of the radio waves by the tenuous interstellar material in our own Milky Way Galaxy. (3/29)

Private Satellite Operators Grapple with Role of National Satellite Programs (Source: Satellite Today)
While assessing the many changes that have taken hold of the satellite industry over the past few years, operators debated a topic that remains unchanged for decades: the role of government-driven national satellite programs. Private satellite operators face the challenge of competing with government-backed programs around the world, as some governments deem owning one or more satellites a national priority. Click here. (3/15)

Spaceflight Turns Up Genes that Stunt Hair Growth (Source: Cosmos)
As if astronauts on the International Space Station didn't suffer enough. Alongside muscle and bone wasting, bouts of depression and anxiety and a weaker immune system, a new study shows their hair growth may become sluggish in space too. Click here. (3/31)

Governor Launches Review of Space Florida to Assess Return on Investment (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Rick Scott’s office has launched a review of Space Florida’s finances to determine what kind of return on investment the agency gets for taxpayers. The investigation comes after an Orlando Sentinel article Sunday that detailed the lack of transparency about spending at Visit Florida, a sister agency.

Space Florida isn’t concerned about the state review, said Dale Ketcham, its chief of strategic alliance. “It’s not a surprise, it’s happened before,’’ Ketcham said. “We just assume that we’ll be reviewed from time to time.” Space Florida will receive $19.5 million next fiscal year to promote aerospace and space tourism ventures. It has about 35 employees and total payroll of $4.7 million. (3/31)

Builders Start Final Stage of Work at Vostochny Spaceport (Source: Tass)
Builders have started the final stage of work at the Vostochny spaceport — the site improvement. "Improvement is the final stage of the work that includes a set of activities: roadway improvement [if necessary], development of sidewalks, landscaping — the arrangement of lawns, planting coniferous and deciduous trees and ornamental shrubs," the press service said. In addition, Dalspetsstroy experts are to equip several viewing platforms for observing the first launch.

"Employees of Russia’s Spetsstroy also continue the work on the facilities that are not involved in the first launch of a carrier rocket — the facility for the storage of rocket fuel components, a meteorological complex, the second stage of the industrial construction and maintenance base, the residential properties’ construction area," Dalspetsstroy sources added. (3/31)

Construction Firm Demands $17.9M From Vostochny Cosmodrome (Source: RAPSI)
Dalspetsstroy, the company in charge of the Vostochny Cosmodrome construction has filed three lawsuits with the Moscow Commercial Court against the management of the spaceport demanding overall 1.2 billion rubles ($17.9 mln). The first lawsuit demanding 537 million rubles ($8 mln) from Vostochny is going to be heard on April 19. Other lawsuits are going to be heard on June 7.

The construction of the space center, due to become Russia's main launch site, began in 2012. The facility is planned to be completed in 2016. The first manned mission is scheduled for 2018. Dalspetsstroy has repeatedly reported that the project was behind schedule at some sites but promised to catch up.

According to investigators, ex-CEO of Dalspetsstroy, Yuriy Khrizman, his son Mikhail and Viktor Chudov, Chairman of the Khabarovsk Territory Duma, embezzled about 106 million rubles ($1.6 million) belonging to the company. However, one criminal episode was uncovered within the investigation into the case over alleged embezzlement at Vostochny Cosmodrome. (3/31)

Stick to the Facts in Georgia Spaceport Debate (Source: Brunswick News)
What is wrong in a nation today where committees and elected officials must make decisions based on two – and sometimes three or more – completely different lists of facts, and often contradictory ones at that? It’s almost like each debate comes with a large grove or field of a variety of facts and individuals pick only those that suit the particular stand or position being taken at the time.

One debate that hits close to home where this apparently appears to be the case is the debate over the proposed spaceport in Camden County. Each side is presenting a different scenario as to how many occupied homes or vacant houses a rocket launched from the proposed site would fly over on its way toward the Atlantic Ocean and onward to outer space.

Numbers range as low as two to as many as 34, depending on whose list is being read and reviewed. Two is the number presented to a state legislative committee by the side advocating for the spaceport; 34 is the number offered to the same committee by the side unhappy about Woodbine being a launching pad for rockets. People have a hard enough time trying to decide for themselves how they feel about certain projects or ideas with real facts. They should not have to worry about either side distorting its argument in an attempt to gain an advantage or sway public opinion. (3/31)

Ukrainian Space. Going in Circles (Source: Ukraine Today)
Despite our accomplishments at the Ukrainian Space Agency, I expected a dismissal, as it was quite clear that I didn't fit in with the emerging system of corruption. Perhaps I wasn't politically correct enough for Dmytro Tabachnyk, then head of the President's Administration; alternatively, it could be because before the trip to Vancouver, I had forcefully transferred money into pay wages at the Kharkiv "Kommunar", bypassing all the intermediate hands. I'd just fulfilled my promises to the plant workers when the director called me, right from a protest rally at the company.

I had different kinds of regrets. The newly appointed Director General almost immediately canceled a strategic meeting with the Head of European Space Agency, Jean-Marie Lutton. Shocked French colleagues told me that he cited lack of time. Agreements with India, Poland, and Hungary that we signed were never fulfilled. Click here. (3/31)

Lasers Could Hide Earth from Aliens – or Tell Them We’re Here (Source: New Scientist)
Shining a laser into space could cloak the Earth from prying alien eyes – or broadcast our presence. That’s the idea put forward in a new study by a pair of astronomers, who claim that if the aliens have had the same idea, we might already be able to find them.

From the perspective of a given star, the Earth only spends 10 hours per year crossing the face of the sun. If we fired a continuous 30 megawatt laser in certain wavelengths towards that star for those 10 hours, it would cancel out the dip our planet makes in the sun’s light.

Of course, there are other ways to detect a planet. If the aliens had already spotted us using a different technique, the cloak itself might give us away. “I think that’s an argument against doing this,” says Seth Shostak at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. “It’s likely that if they have good astronomical instruments, they’ve already found the Earth.” (3/31)

India to Join Hunt for Gravitational Waves (Source: Discovery)
On Thursday, NSF director France Cordova signed an agreement to establish an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. “Today is an exciting day because it offers the promise of deepening our understanding and opening an even wider window to our universe,” Cordova said in a statement.

Combined with LIGO’s twin observatories, a third detector in India would enable scientists to pinpoint the source of gravitational waves, leading to deeper understanding of what sets them off and how they propagate. “We look forward to working closely with our Indian colleagues in this endeavor to further our knowledge of the most energetic phenomena in the cosmos,” Cordova said. (3/31)

ULA Narrowing List of Suspects in Rocket Anomaly (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The detective work into the Atlas 5 rocket’s first stage performance trouble during the Cygnus cargo ship launch a week ago has implicated the fuel system as the likely culprit for using up the liquid oxygen supply too quickly. That is what ULA engineers report as the post-flight analysis continues into the first stage anomaly that shut down the main engine prematurely and required the Centaur upper stage to compensate for the shortfall.

To give the team ample time to figure out what went wrong and implement any corrective actions, the next Atlas 5 launch has been rescheduled from May 5 to May 12. That flight will use the most-powerful Atlas 5 configuration with five side-mounted solid motors to lift the 15,000-pound Mobile User Objective System satellite No. 5 into a highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit stretching 22,300 miles high. (3/31)

Two GPS Satellites Retired After Two Decades in Space (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A pair of long-lived Global Positioning System satellites launched two decades ago recently went to graveyard orbits and were turned off, their missions at an end. The GPS 2A-20 and GPS 2A-26 satellites, deployed by Delta 2 rockets from Cape Canaveral on May 12, 1993 and July 15, 1996, respectively, were formally retired in March after far exceeding 7.5-year design lives. (3/31)

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