April 12, 2016

Generation Orbit Gets NASA Support for Air-Launch Propellant Tank Design (Source: Generation Orbit)
Generation Orbit has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Langley Research Center to collaboratively pursue the design, manufacture and test of a novel composite cryogenic tank as an evolutionary path for its GOLauncher family of air launch rocket vehicles.

Utilizing LaRC's Integrated Structural Assembly of Composites (ISAAC) automated manufacturing capability, the two year program will quantify the performance, cost, and schedule impact of tow-steering load path control and automated fiber placement for the design and manufacturing of cryogenic propellant tanks. GO's air launch systems present a unique application of Langley's capabilities to develop a composite liquid oxygen tank capable of efficiently distributing aircraft integration loads. (4/12)

AIA Pushing Candidates To Do More For U.S. Space Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
The Aerospace Industries Association is using the annual Space Symposium here to sound an election-year call for better U.S. government support as its member companies market their commercial-space wares abroad.

David Melcher, president and CEO of the trade group, said last week he plans to promote a set of steps the government can take to help the U.S. space industry compete as the Cold War government market for spaceflight hardware shifts to an international business environment. (4/12)

France Seizes Millions Intended for Roscosmos (Source: Moscow Times)
French officials have seized $700 million in payments due to Roscomos and a Russian company. The seizures includes $400 million Eutelsat owed to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million Arianespace owed Roscosmos. The French government took the funds after international arbitrators ruled Russia owed the former shareholders of oil company Yukos $50 billion. Russia is appealing the seizure in French courts. (4/12)

U.S. and UAE to Share Space Data (Source: Space News)
U.S. Strategic Command and the United Arab Emirates will share space situational awareness data. Representatives of Strategic Command and the UAE Space Agency signed the agreement Monday at the Space Symposium. Strategic Command already shares such data with a number of countries and companies. (4/12)

Yang Enterprises Sues Space Coast Launch Services (Source: Law 360)
U.S. Air Force space launch operations support subcontractor Yang Enterprises Inc. hit prime contractor Space Coast Launch Services LLC with a breach of contract lawsuit in Florida federal court Friday accusing the company of underpaying it $9 million. Space Coast has ignored the terms of the 10-year subcontract for labor and materials, Yang said, a subcontract that it contended guarantees the company 12 percent of the overall value of the contract for the U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing. (4/11)

DARPA Unveils Unmanned Spaceplane Program’s 2nd Phase (Source: Executive Biz)
DARPA and its industry partners will transition into the second phase of a program to build a reusable unmanned spaceplane that can carry satellites into space. DARPA will hold a proposers day April 29 in Virginia for phase two of Experimental Spaceplane-1, a program to develop a spaceplane that can carry payloads of at least 3,000 pounds demonstrate aircraft-like flight for 10 times during 10-day periods.

Three contract teams led by Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems received $19.5 million in combined funds in August 2015 for XS-1’s first phase. DARPA will award contracts for phases two and three through a competitive process and as Other Transaction Authority agreements to share costs. (4/11)

If ULA Can Compete With One East Coast Launch Pad, Why Will SpaceX Need Three? (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA believes its new Vulcan rocket will compete effectively for international launch business using a single launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company is betting that a well-designed vehicle with a streamlined and flexible processing flow will allow a manifest of more than a launch per month from the pad, including cargo/satellite and human spaceflight missions for commercial, NASA and military customers.

SpaceX, meanwhile, believes it will need three launch pads to serve the same market, two at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and one at a new Boca Chica spaceport in South Texas. SpaceX intends to shift its commercial missions to the Texas site while the Florida launch pads serve government and human spaceflight missions. (It is also possible that LC-39A in Florida might ultimately be converted for SpaceX's follow-on super-heavy rocket, for missions to Mars.) (4/12)

Russia, US to Continue Space Partnership Despite Political Disputes (Source: Tass)
The visit of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to Russia has demonstrated that the United States and Russia will maintain friendly relations regarding the work at the ISS despite the current geopolitical environment, according to the Head of the country’s Federal Space Agency Igor Komarov speaking with RT TV news channel.

Bolden visited Russia in late March this year for an evaluation of the recently completed ISS year-long mission. "I saw him (Bolden) talk to the cosmonauts and to Sergey Krikalev, with whom he had spent so much time onboard the space station, as well as training and preparing for the mission. And I’ve seen the relations between Mikhail Korniyenko and Scott Kelly after they’d spent a year together at the ISS. And I’m sure this spirit and this relationship will live on. (4/11)

Russia May Set Up Orbital Stations on Moon, Mars in Half a Century (Source: Tass)
Russian orbital stations may be set up on the Moon and on Mars in the next 50 years while space tugs for space tourists may appear on the International Space Station in the next 10-15 years, according to the Head of the country’s Federal Space Agency. (4/11)

Building Lunar Base Should Precede Flight to Mars (Source: Tass)
The next major step in space exploration by humanity should be the creation of a base on the Moon, and only after that it would be expedient to start the preparation of the first manned flight to Mars, say reputed experts of the American nonprofit organization Space Foundation that is engaged in popularization of space research. As it turned out, the approach to these issues worked out by Russia's Roscosmos is closer to them than NASA’s.

Head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov said at a Russian government meeting in March that the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 "envisages laying the necessary groundwork for full-scale Moon exploration after 2025 and manned landing on the Moon by 2030." (4/11)

Commercial Competition Finding Way Onto ISS (Source: Aviation Week)
More private companies are finding their way to the International Space Station (ISS), looking for profits and unique test opportunities on the orbiting outpost. Orbital ATK and SpaceX are delivering new commercial hardware to the ISS on their Cygnus and Dragon cargo vehicles, which are berthed at the station simultaneously for the first time as the companies resume normal operations following earlier launch failures.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus that reached the station last month carried a commercial 3D-printing system that already has attracted a six-month backlog of orders. The next SpaceX Dragon is planned to deliver a new experiment-accommodation facility this summer that will offer onboard competition to NanoRacks, which pioneered commercial operations on the station. The new hardware marks more movement toward NASA’s goal of handing off low Earth orbit (LEO) to the private sector in the post-station era. (4/11)

'Bizarre' Group of Distant Black Holes are Mysteriously Aligned (Source: Discovery)
A highly sensitive radio telescope has seen something peculiar in the depths of our cosmos: A group of supermassive black holes are mysteriously aligned, as if captured in a synchronized dance. These black holes, which occupy the centers of galaxies in a region of space called ELAIS-N1, appear to have no relation to one another, separated by millions of light-years.

But after studying the radio waves generated by the twin jets blasting from the black holes’ poles, astronomers using data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India realized that all the jets were pointed in the same direction, like arrows on compasses all pointing “north.”

This is the first time a group of supermassive black holes in galactic cores have been seen to share this bizarre relationship and, at first glance, the occurrence should be impossible. What we are witnessing is a cluster of galaxies, that all have central supermassive black holes that have their axes of rotation pointed in the same direction. (4/12)

Project Aims to Visit Alpha Centauri in 20-Year Mission (Source: Breakthrough Initiatives)
Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced a new Breakthrough Initiative focusing on space exploration and the search for life in the Universe. Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled nanocrafts. These could fly at 20 percent of light speed and capture images of possible planets and other scientific data in our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after their launch.

The program will be led by Pete Worden, the former director of NASA AMES Research Center, and advised by a committee of world-class scientists and engineers. The board will consist of Stephen Hawking, Yuri Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg. The research and engineering phase is expected to last a number of years. Following that, development of the ultimate mission to Alpha Centauri would require a budget comparable to the largest current scientific experiments.

The Alpha Centauri star system is 25 trillion miles (4.37 light years) away. With today’s fastest spacecraft, it would take about 30,000 years to get there. Breakthrough Starshot aims to establish whether a gram-scale nanocraft, on a sail pushed by a light beam, can fly over a thousand times faster. Click here. (4/12)

Coming Soon to an Orbit Near You: Inflatable Space Stations (Source: Daily Beast)
If the B330s launch in 2020 as planned—and yes, that’s a big “if”—they could represent the first purely private space enterprise. Neither NASA, the U.S. government, nor any other space agency is, at present, party to the Bigelow-ULA deal—although that could change. Indeed, Bigelow stressed that he wants to work with NASA.

Initially, at least, the B330s will strictly hang out in Earth’s orbit. Boosting to positions a couple hundred miles above Earth’s surface, the B330s will expand to their full volume. Each balloon station comes complete with its own power, life-support systems, and maneuvering thrusters arranged around a central, metal frame.

Bigelow and ULA chief executive Tory Bruno repeatedly declined to discuss the costs associated with the B330s and their planned launches. But both expressed their confidence that the 12,000-cubic-foot inflatable stations would be big enough—and cheap enough to build, launch, and operate—to attract a wide range of paying tenants. (4/12)

Landing Rockets Is Awesome, but How Much Will Refurbishing Them Cost? (Source: MIT Tech Review)
SpaceX just demonstrated a mind-blowing trick, launching a rocket and then flying it back to Earth for a neat, upright landing on a ship bobbing off the coast of Florida. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story when it comes to making rockets truly reusable. The company still has to show that it can restore a rocket to the standard needed for another launch, and it’s unclear just how much that might cost. Click here. (4/12)

America Needs a 21st Century Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy (Source: Colorado Springs Gazette)
When we think of space, what often comes to mind are NASA's great achievements - which the space agency's administrator Charles Bolden will be talking about at the symposium - or the military and intelligence satellites that are critical to our national security. But we often don't consider how essential space is to the well-being of our modern economy. As the Space Foundation has reported, space represents a $330 billion global market, with three quarters of the activity commercially related.

While U.S. space companies compete well in this market, we should be doing much better. We know that western European nations - as well as Japan, Russia and India - view the space market as a strategic commercial opportunity for growing their economies - and so should we. Yet we have shot ourselves in the foot with detrimental policies and political apathy that has denied billions in global market opportunities to U.S. companies.

The first decision was the 1998 congressionally mandated imposition of munitions-level export controls on satellites. American companies' share in the global commercial satellite market subsequently plummeted from 63 percent to 30 percent. Fortunately, due to the intervention of the Bush and Obama administrations, we've modernized export controls, giving our companies a fair chance to compete for commercial contracts. Click here. (4/12)

ULA Puts Atlas Back on Track for MUOS Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
As the internal investigation continues into the first stage performance trouble on the last Atlas 5 rocket launch, the next mission on the manifest has slipped to May 27. Originally planned for May 5, the flight of the Navy’s fifth and final planned Mobile User Objective System communications satellite has been postponed twice while engineers work to determine the exact cause of the anomaly. (4/12)

Russia to Shift All Lunar Launches to Vostochny Cosmodrome (Source: Sputnik)
Moscow made the decision to shift all operations linked to Russia's moon mission to the Vostochny cosmodrome. "All further works to implement the lunar program, including a flight around the moon and a moon landing will take place after 2025. All launches will take place at the Vostochny cosmodrome," RSC Energia General Designer Yevgeny Mikrin said. (4/11)

60% of Russians Think Their Country Is World Leader in Space Exploration (Source: Moscow Times)
As Russia marks Cosmonautics Day on Tuesday, six out of 10 Russians believe their country is the world's leader in space exploration — a sharp increase over the past three years, polls by the independent Levada Center indicated. Another 17 percent of Russians named the United States as space exploration leader, compared to 21 percent who said so in 2014, and to 31 percent in 2013 — the year before Moscow became involved in the Ukraine conflict and unleashed vehemently anti-American rhetoric.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of Russians this year named their country as global leader in space exploration, compared to 46 percent in 2014 and 35 percent in 2013, Levada Center polls indicate. China came in a distant third in the latest space leadership poll. About 6 percent of Russians named it as leader, compared to 11 percent in 2014 and 9 percent in 2013, the Levada Center said in a report. Editor's Note: Behold the power of state-run media (and a very complacent Russian public). (4/12)

Oklahoma Air and Spaceport Wins $6.7 Million Deal from Air Force (Source: The Oklahoman)
The U.S. Air Force has a awarded a $6.7 million, five-year contract to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority. The authority owns and operates the FAA-licensed spaceport formerly known as Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base. The contract allows the Air Force the use of the airport for flight training operations of the 97th Air Mobility Wing from Altus Air Force Base, and the 71st Flying Training Wing from Vance Air Force Base. (4/12)

India, NASA Push To Advance Launch Of Earthquake Satellite (Source: Aviation Week)
India’s space agency is working with NASA to advance the launch of a satellite to monitor climate change and earthquake patterns. The NASA-Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Synthetic Aperture Radar, or Nisar, is designed to observe and take measurements of some of the Earth’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides. (4/11)

Falcon 9 First Stage Sails Into Port Canaveral – Ahead of Big Plans (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With Falcon 9 already proving she could successfully return the first stage to the LZ-1 landing pad at Cape Canaveral, a successful – more challenging – landing on the drone ship would prove to be a huge boost. Elon Musk has noted the use of drone ship fleet for first stage landings will be required on around half of future SpaceX missions.

“The rocket, at stage separation, is zooming out to sea at an incredible velocity. It doesn’t have enough propellent to zero out that velocity, boostback and land (on certain missions),” noted Mr. Musk. “So in order to achieve effective reusability for missions that go to high orbit, you really need ocean landing.”

Notably, Dragon missions would allow for boosters to return to land, but for this mission the aim was to prove ASDS landings could be achieved. “We wanted to do a ship landing where there’s a lot of margin,” Mr. Musk added. “(CRS-8) would have been a low margin return to land or a high margin ship landing. “So this helped us show the ship landing can work.” (4/12)

Orbital ATK Wins Intelsat as Anchor Customer for New Satellite Life Extension Service (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK announced that Intelsat has signed a contract to become the first customer for Orbital ATK’s new satellite life extension service. As one of the world’s leading commercial satellite services providers, Intelsat has a long track record for incorporating innovative satellite technologies into its global operations.

Under the agreement, Orbital ATK will manufacture, test and launch the first Commercial Servicing Vehicle (CSV), the Mission Extension Vehicle-1, which incorporates flight-proven technologies the company has used in its commercial satellite and space logistics businesses. After successfully completing a series of in-orbit tests, the MEV-1 will begin its mission extension service for Intelsat in 2019. (4/12)

Space: The Final Financial Frontier, Legally Speaking (Source: Lawyers Weekly)
Space may be the final frontier but it represents the start of a whole new world to the mining industry. With rising concerns about the sustainability of global natural resources reserves, the stage is slowly being set to exploit minerals on the Moon and even on the countless asteroids orbiting the Earth.

Ram Jakhu, associate professor and incoming director at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal, says a variety of studies have shown that the Earth’s natural resources are depleting at an increasing rate and could be exhausted as early as the end of the century. “That means one has to look outside this planet,” he says. (4/8)

Pharmaceutical Development and Antibiotic Effectiveness (Source: The Medical Frontier)
Pharmaceutical antimicrobial effectiveness is paramount when subject to extreme environments such as weightlessness. The significance of testing, synthesis, and purification of antimicrobial samples in orbit utilizing the International Space Station for microgravity research is crucial in the investigation and development of new and emerging antibiotics.

It is vital because, in short-term parabolic flight, some of the antimicrobial compounds that were synthesized began to decompose. These same compounds were tested in a lab before the flight and were effective at fighting bacteria. After the parabolic flight, the initial testing was to determine if these compounds were still intact. Unfortunately, some of the molecular makeup of these compounds showed decomposition due to the force, the G’s, of the flight and the exposure to several 30-seconds of zero gravity.

If some pharmaceutical cannot survive in short-duration, extreme flight then this can create a limiting factor in the usefulness of necessary medications for astronauts and long-term space travel. Click here. (4/9)

Bigelow and ULA Join Forces to Foster a New Era of Sustainable Space Commercialization (Source: ULA)
Bigelow Aerospace and ULA are partnering to develop and deploy habitable volumes in Low Earth orbit (LEO). The volumes will be based on the Bigelow Aerospace B330 expandable module with the initial launch to orbit in 2020 on ULA's Atlas V 552. The B330 will have 330 cubic meters (12,000 cu ft) of internal space. The craft will support zero-gravity research including scientific missions and manufacturing processes.

Bigelow is in discussions with NASA to attach the B330 to the International Space Station. Beyond its industrial and scientific purposes, it has potential as a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars. Transportation to the B330 will be provided by NASA’s commercial crew providers, whether the station is free flying or attached to the ISS.  The traffic to just one module will more than double the number of crew flights per year.

According to Bigelow, the B330 would "enlarge the station’s volume by 30% and function as a multipurpose testbed in support of NASA’s exploration goals as well as provide significant commercial opportunities."  The working name for this module is XBASE or Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement.” (4/11)

Closing the Case for Reusable Launchers (Source: Space Review)
A successful first stage landing by SpaceX Friday on a ship at sea is the latest evidence that we are entering a new era of reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports that concerns about the viability of reusable rockets may be shifting from technical obstacles to economic ones. Click here. (4/12)

Chasing Shadows: Apollo 8 and the CIA (Source: Space Review)
Did CIA intelligence about Soviet lunar plans influence NASA’s decision to send Apollo 8 to the Moon in 1968? Dwayne Day reexamines that historical question based on evidence in a declassified document. Click here. (4/12)

A Major Role for the EU in Lunar Development (Source: Space Review)
There’s some interest in developing an international lunar base of some kind, despite the fact that NASA has made it clear it has no desire to take the lead. A group of authors describe why the European Union should lead this project and the benefits it will gain from doing so. Click here. (4/12)

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