April 11, 2016

India, China Set Eyes on Joint Satellite Constellation for BRICS (Source: Economic Times)
Space really knows no national boundaries, yet some of the most bitter earthly battles are fought on space issues. Amid this so-called star wars, some new green shoots of international collaboration can be seen to be emerging. Most recently, possibly the short sightedness of Pakistan led it to opt out of the proposed SAARC Satellite, a friendly gift from India. From its ashes, it seems a new proposal to have satellite constellation on behalf of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has emerged. (4/11)

Kepler Recovered from Emergency and Stable (Source: NASA)
Mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM). On Sunday morning, the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth, enabling telemetry and historical event data to be downloaded to the ground. The spacecraft is operating in its lowest fuel-burn mode.

The mission has cancelled the spacecraft emergency, returning the Deep Space Network ground communications to normal scheduling. Once data is on the ground, the team will thoroughly assess all on board systems to ensure the spacecraft is healthy enough to return to science mode and begin the K2 mission's microlensing observing campaign, called Campaign 9. This checkout is anticipated to continue through the week. (4/11)

New 360-Degree Video Puts You Right Next to a Delta IV Launch From California Spaceport (Source: The Verge)
It’s doubtful that any of us will personally see a rocket launch from a few hundred yards away, but fortunately virtual reality can provide the next best view. A new 360-degree video debuting this week at the 32nd Space Symposium — an annual conference for space industry leaders — transports viewers to an actual nighttime ULA rocket launch, right as the vehicle shoots into the sky.

The footage of the event, made with help from Koncept VR, is so close to take off that any person standing in the same spot would be blasted with piping hot steam and debris from the combusting main engine. The rocket in the video is a Delta IV — one of the two primary vehicles manufactured by the United Launch Alliance. Click here. (4/11)

General Dynamics Completes Massive Radar Array for Space Fence (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
General Dynamics has completed its 350-ton receive radar array for the orbital tracking system called Space Fence. "The structure stands 12 meters tall and is about the size of two regulation NBA basketball courts placed side-by-side," said General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies in a statement. "It is designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricane force winds and extremes in temperature and humidity while maintaining a consistent surface flatness that varies less than one millimeter from one end of the structure to the other and from side-to-side." (4/8)

NASA Invites University Students to Propose Smallsat Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA is once again extending an opportunity to teams at colleges and universities with campuses in the U.S. to propose small spacecraft technology projects to be conducted in collaboration with NASA researchers.  The Smallsat Technology Partnerships solicitation is being issued by the Small Spacecraft Technology Program, as an appendix to the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for 2016.

Small spacecraft, as small as the size of a four-inch cube, represent a growing field of space research in which universities have often led the way.  Small spacecraft, or smallsats as they are commonly called, can provide an alternative to larger, more costly spacecraft as the platform of choice for rapid in-flight technology demonstrations and testing, or specialized scientific research and exploration.  Using innovative approaches, smallsats can be developed relatively quickly and inexpensively and have opportunities to share a ride to orbit in the company of larger spacecraft. (4/11)

Obama to Talk About Astronaut's Year in Space (Source: Space.com)
President Barack Obama tweeted out a welcome to Scott Kelly shortly after the US astronaut returned from spending almost a year in space. "Welcome back to Earth, @StationCDRKelly!" the President tweeted. "Your year in space is vital to the future of American space travel. Hope gravity isn't a drag!"

NASA and its space station partners flew Kelly and Mikhail Korneinko 340 days in orbit as a pilot program intended to pave the way for missions to Mars lasting more than two years. Both men supplied countless blood and urine samples and other medical stats before, during and after their flight so that medical researchers can pinpoint just how living in microgravity alters the body. (4/11)

Will ISRO Participate in the International Space Station? (Source: The Wire)
For a while now there has been some speculation of possible Indian participation in the International Space Station (ISS). This may be an excellent method for space agencies such as NASA and ESA to reach out to ISRO. However, does this idea hold water? Will this primarily be a foreign-policy-drive from the West to India or is this to add a more prominent space faring country to the ISS and so secure another source of funding? Let us assess the merit of these questions.

While ISRO’s vision is to “harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration”, the cost involved in the human space exploration program is 10-times its satellite/robotic missions. By ISRO’s own metric, the former would require Rs.30,000-40,000 crore; this is the reason the agency has decided to stick to robotic missions. (4/9)

Virgin Galactic Price Rises But Will Fall Again With More Spaceports (Source: Guardian)
The first 100 “future astronauts” who signed up for Virgin Galactic’s journey to 100km above the Earth had paid $200,000 for the privilege. A further 600, who would follow the first 100 into space, put down a sizeable deposit on a $250,000 ticket. All 700 would experience zero-gravity for six minutes and look down on the planet curving away beneath them. But no one wants to lay out that kind of money to die.

A figure of $500m has been mentioned as the amount so far invested in the venture. That’s a lot to lose if things go pear shaped. Understandably, no one wants to spend too much time reflecting on the accident. Alsbury’s name is mentioned but it’s a swift reference to the past before moving quickly on to the glorious future. The note that everyone strives for is epic, historic and optimistic.

He’s looking at the first flight some time next year. If you’re interested, it’s probably wise to apply soon. Virgin Galactic is about to start selling tickets again. To add to the current 700 ticket holders, Branson thinks there are a few thousand people who can afford the current prices. And they’re going up, not down. It will now cost $300,000 to become an astronaut. “Then,” says Branson, “we’ll slowly but steadily start bringing the price down as we build more spaceships and more spaceports around the world. (4/10)

Climate Change is Altering How the Poles Drift (Source: Climate Central)
The spin of the earth is a constant in our lives. It’s quite literally why night follows day. And while that cycle isn’t going away, climate change is messing with the axis upon which our fair planet spins. Ice melting has caused a drift in polar motion, a somewhat esoteric term that tells scientists a lot about past and future climate and is crucial in GPS calculations and satellite communication.

Polar motion refers to the periodic wobble and drift of the poles. It’s been observed for more than 130 years, but the process has been going on for eons driven by mass shifts inside the earth as well as ones on the surface. For decades, the north pole had been slowly drifting toward Canada, but there was a shift in the drift about 15 years ago. Now it’s headed almost directly down the Greenwich Meridian (sorry Canada no pole for you, eh). Like many other natural processes large and small, from sea levels to wildfires, climate change is also playing a role in this shift. (4/8)

SmallSat Boom Outpacing Regulators in the US (Source: Via Satellite)
U.S. regulators are grappling with how to ascribe the most appropriate policies for small satellites as their proliferation becomes more significant. Agency representatives and private sector executives, the latter of which have already orbited or plan to orbit hundreds of SmallSats, discussed ways to craft the best regulatory regime to preserve and protect the space environment.

Government officials admitted off the bat that they are currently playing catch-up with the commercial sector. U.S. startups, universities and other players have introduced swarms of SmallSats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) well ahead of a fully rounded out regulatory framework for all of their operations. Click here. (4/8)

PLD Space Receives Funding From Spanish Government (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The European launch company PLD Space has been awarded by the Spanish Government with a $1.56M propulsion project called TEPREL. TEPREL (Acronym for Spanish Reusable Propulsion Technologies for Launchers) will help PLD Space to continue their liquid rocket engine program, the first one dedicated to boost the small satellite industry in Europe.

This project will help PLD Space to have a 35kN engine qualified for flight by the end of 2017. PLD Space is working since 2014 with a proprietary propulsion system that will be used as first stage of the suborbital reusable rocket ARION 1. The Spanish Government with TEPREL will help PLD Space to continue its development with the regenerative version and the flight qualification unit.

The company is also working in parallel with a new engine version that uses the same TCA (Thrust Chamber Assembly) but has some modifications to be used as second stage of the PLD Space’s ARION 2 orbital reusable launch vehicle and also with a single shaft LOX/kerosene turbopump. All this propulsion developments will be qualified for the first orbital flight, targeted in early 2020. (4/10)

Last Shuttle External Tank Departs to California for Display (Source: Collect Space)
The last space shuttle tank is beginning its journey from Louisiana to Los Angeles. The tank, which had been in storage at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, was trucked early Sunday to a barge to be shipped via the Panama Canal to Los Angeles. The tank will then be moved to the California Science Center, to become part of a display with the shuttle Endeavour there. (4/10)

Roscosmos Establishes GLONASS Development Department (Source: Tass)
The leadership of the Roscosmos State Corporation has established the department of navigation space systems to coordinate the resolution of all tasks connected with the development and use of the GLONASS global navigation satellite system.

"In Russia, the functions to create, introduce and use GLONASS are fancifully distributed among various organizations and departments," the newspaper said. "The formation of the GLONASS department in Roscosmos is an attempt to coordinate the actions of various departments," it said. (4/11)

Roscosmos: Russia is Undisputed Leader in Launch Services Market (Source: Tass)
Russia ranks second to none in the world on the launch services and engine market as it administers more than 40% of all space launches, according to the Head of Roscosmos State Corporation Igor Komarov speaking with RT TV news channel. "There are areas where Russia is an undisputed leader, particularly launch vehicles and launch services. This is where we are number one by a large margin, administering about 40% of all space launches worldwide," Komarov said. (4/11)

Industry Jockeys Over ICBM Motors For Commercial Space Launch (Source: Defense News)
Orbital ATK argues that US companies are at a distinct disadvantage in the small-payload launch industry. The Russians are using rocket motors from the nation’s decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch commercial payloads in this weight range at a much lower cost, according to Orbital ATK.

Meanwhile, companies in Europe and India are building launch vehicles for this weight class using subsidized government funds. Orbital ATK is arguing the US government should allow US companies to buy rocket motors from decommissioned Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles at market price to use for commercial space launch. This move would create jobs at home and stem the flow of US dollars to Russia, argued Orbital ATK's Barron Beneski.

The plan would save the Air Force the $15-20 million a year it spends maintaining about 800 excess ICBM rocket motors, and inject $30 million of business into the launch vehicle supply base, Fortunato said. Another advantage is job creation at the four launches ranges across the US, Beneski said. Click here. (4/11)

Satellites to Aid Rollout of Ccrop Insurance (Source: Deccan Herald)
ISRO’s constellation of satellites will be pressed into service to assess crop damage to ensure faster compensation payout under the Centre’s newly launched crop insurance scheme. The remote sensing satellites moving over the country will be used to prepare cadastral maps, which will carry time-tagged crop information. In case of bad monsoon or excess rain, satellite images before and after crop damage will be used to assess the yield loss. (4/11)

Slovakia to Send its First Ever Satellite Into Space (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Slovakia is gearing up to launch its first satellite to orbit with the aim of demonstrating the country’s ability to carry out scientific experiments in space. The pocket-sized one-unit CubeSat, named skCUBE, is currently slated for liftoff in June atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The central European state is one of the last countries on the continent to have its own satellite. (4/11)

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