April 14, 2016

United Launch Alliance Suspends Atlas 5 Flights (Source: Reuters)
ULA said on Wednesday its Atlas 5 rocket will need to be repaired before flights resume following an early engine shutdown on its last mission. “There will be corrective action," said Tory Bruno, ULA's chief executive. "I’m still confident that we’re going to get all the missions off within a year, but there’s going to be a little shuffling around,” Bruno said. The company’s next launch of a military communications satellite, MUOS-5, originally slated for May 5, has been delayed indefinitely. (4/13)

Billionaires Will Need One Heckuva Giant Space Laser For Probe To Alpha Centauri (Source: Forbes)
Building the probes doesn’t seem to be the hard part here. The hard part is this: how do you fuel them in such a way that you can get them to Alpha Centauri in a reasonable amount of time. NASA launched the Voyager space probes in the 1970s. In their 40-year journey the two Voyagers have zoomed past Pluto and are now 12 billion miles from the Sun. If they could maintain that pace the Voyagers might reach Alpha Centauri in about 2,500 years.

That’s too long. So Milner and Hawking propose a faster mission. It starts with blasting 1,000 or so mini-probes into space onboard a rocket. Once out in space this mother-ship would launch the probes, which would emerge like butterflies to unfurl diaphanous foil wings. From Earth, a phalanx of powerful lasers would fire at the probes, whose wings would catch the laser power as if it were a breeze. In minutes the laser gust would accelerate the probes to a fifth of light speed — 134 million miles per hour.

Now about those lasers. In order to get the probes moving as fast as possible, the lasers need to hit them with one big tsunami of energy. So the laser array would need to tap 100 gigawatts of power, but only for two minutes. That’s a huge amount of power, equivalent to 10% of total U.S. electric power demand in the middle of the day. New York’s summer peak electricity demand was 33 gw in 2013. Click here. (4/13)

DARPA Spaceplane Competitors Will Have More Skin in Game (Source: Space News)
DARPA expects the winner of the next phase of the XS-1 program to pick up some costs of the vehicle's development. DARPA plans to release a solicitation next month for phase 2 of its XS-1 experimental spaceplane program, as Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman wrap up their phase 1 work.

DARPA has allocated about $140 million, which officials acknowledge is not enough to develop the reusable first stage and complete a flight test program. DARPA expects to use its "other transactional authority" to make the award, allowing for cost sharing with the winning company. (4/13)

Hyten Could Head Strategic Command (Source: Breaking Defense)
The head of Air Force Space Command, once considered a likely candidate for Air Force chief of staff, may run Strategic Command instead. Gen. John Hyten had been widely considered a leading choice to the take the U.S. Air Force's top job, but now is thought to be a more logical choice to run Strategic Command. Sources say Gen. David Goldfein, the current vice chief of staff for the Air Force, is now the leading candidate to become Air Force chief of staff. (4/13)

Space Fence Falls Behind Schedule (Source: Space News)
A long-awaited update to a space tracking system used by the U.S. Air Force is running more than a year and a half behind schedule. The update, known as Increment 2 to the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, will not be ready until 2018, 19 months later than originally planned. That update is part of a $1 billion effort to update its space tracking system, allowing it to make use of data from the new Space Fence and end reliance on the aging Space Defense Operations Center that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. (4/13)

Yuri's Night Celebration Helps Students Mingle with Science Pros (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
While celebrating the first person to travel to outer space, Emily Judd said she cannot wait to see a milestone even further out: a human landing on Mars. “It’s the next big step we have to take as humanity,” said the University of Central Florida student, who organized a Yuri’s Night celebration in Orlando on Tuesday.

The Yuri’s Night event included virtual reality tours of a launchpad, a mockup of a Mars ice house and other space-related content. It was held in conjunction with a conference on earth and space that lets students like Judd mingle with space industry professionals.

As private industry joins the space program, they need to cultivate a workforce of the future for the industry, one Judd wants to be a part of. “It’s really taking off,” she said. “It’s a great time to be a student in aerospace engineering looking to get involved in the space industry.” (4/13)

ESA Chief Extols Virtues Of 'Moon Village' (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency's director general believes a “Moon Village," open to all, has a better chance of combining global resources for the more challenging and expensive push to Mars. While NASA’s leadership has its eye on cislunar space and Mars as the next destination for astronauts, European Space Agency Director General Johann-Dietrich W├Ârner believes the lunar surface offers the best chance of ensuring the International Space Station’s (ISS) 15-nation global partnership flourishes. (4/13)

U.S. Department of Space (Source: Space Daily)
Perhaps now is the time for aspiring candidates for the highest office to start painting bold visions for America's future, to consider a US Department of Space that can play a vital role both in the domestic and in the international policy of our nation.

Besides helping to build up infrastructure of friendly nations, align the projects and goals of various spacefaring nations, assist in global space projects like space based solar power or building a planetary defense system to thwart potentially hazardous asteroids and comets, creating and running international manned missions to Mars, orbital space debris mitigation and monitoring and tackling various aspects of climate change, a Department of Space would also help to coordinate the activities of private fledging space companies here in America, that have a history of being squashed by NASA trying to protect the agency's own charter and monopoly. (4/14)

Russia Working on New Generation of Space Rocket Engines (Source: Space Daily)
The Russian space industry is working on the creation of new rocket engines for advanced launch vehicles, Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said. The Russian-built RD-180, the successor to the Soviet RD-170, is featuring a dual-combustion chamber and a dual-nozzle design. It has been in service since 2000.

He added that the company was also working on the upgrade for Russian RD-180 rocket engines. All key components for Russia's space industry will be manufactured in Russia by 2020, Komarov said. (4/14)

Iranian Space Success Result of Close Contact with Russian Scientists (Source: Space Daily)
Active work in the field of astronautics has begun with Iranian scientists building launch vehicles and satellites that have gone into orbit. "Also solely with our own efforts, we have successfully launched the biological capsule of living creatures into space (including capsule with a monkey). Scientific research is happening in Iran vigorously to this day." According to Borzoo the foundation of the Iranian Space successes was laid by close contact with the Russian experts. (4/14)

China, India Pave the Way to BRICS Cooperation in Space (Source: Space Daily)
The decision of China and India to work together on a joint system of satellites would allow the members of BRICS to be more independent and implement more complex engineering projects in space without having to depend on US technology, Russian military expert Vasiliy Kashin told Sputnik in an interview

A few days ago during his visit to India, Wu Yanhua, Deputy Administrator for the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA), said Chinese and Indian space scientists would begin cooperation in the field of aerospace. (4/14)

Technology for Mars Puts Bubbles Into Beer (Source: NASA)
At the end of a long day of work, many people like to grab a cold pint of beer. Few of them think about the bubbles in the glass and how much brewers have to pay to put them there. But Robert Zubrin — president of the Mars Society and founder of multiple aerospace technology companies — does.

Zubrin and his companies have worked with Johnson Space Center’s In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) team for years, developing technologies that could take existing substances on Mars — especially Martian air, which is 96 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) — and turn them into fuel, oxygen, drinkable water and other crucial resources. (3/16)

Lockheed’s In-Space Habitat Leverages Orion Work (Source: Aviation Week)
Lockheed Martin is leveraging power, environmental control, galley and waste compartment systems already under development for its Orion crew exploration capsule for an in-space habitat the company is developing under one of a dozen NASA commercial partnership agreements. The agreements were initiated a year ago to help transition the agency’s human spaceflight activities from low Earth orbit to a cislunar proving ground in the 2020s and the Martian environs a decade later. (4/12)

Exos Taps Armadillo Experience For Reusable Suborbital Launcher (Source: Aviation Week)
Citing pent-up demand for suborbital flights for research, microgravity manufacturing and education, a Texas-based company has signed a five-year agreement with Spaceport America in New Mexico to begin commercial flights of its reusable suborbital launch vehicle later this year.

Based in Caddo Mills, Texas, Exos Aerospace Systems & Technology was formed in 2014 by employees of the former Armadillo Aerospace, which was pursuing manned suborbital space tourism with ambitions for orbital spaceflight. Exos’s suborbital launcher is based on Armadillo’s Stig-B design.

Armadillo was founded in 2000 by game designer John Carmack. In 2013, he became chief technology officer of virtual-reality developer Oculus, which was sold to Facebook in 2014. “When Facebook bought them for $2 billion, Carmack was told to focus on Oculus, not rockets, so he had to step away,” says John Quinn, Exos co-founder and chief operating officer. (4/12)

ULA Plans Second, Bigger Round of Job Cuts in 2017 (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance plans to eliminate more than 400 jobs in 2017 in addition to the 375 it plans to cut this year. ULA told The Denver Post it planned to eliminate about 375 jobs in 2016 largely through voluntary separation. Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said a second round of job cuts is planned for 2017. “We’re going to do one more next year ­— about the same size, a little bit bigger — and then we’re going to be done.” (4/13)

Lockheed Martin Seeks Additional Uses for Proposed NASA Habitat Module (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin is considering additional applications of a cislunar outpost that it is designing for potential use on future NASA human spaceflight missions, including supporting commercial lunar missions.

Bill Pratt, program manager for Lockheed Martin’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA, said he believes that there could be other applications for the proposed habitat once it completed its primary mission for the space agency. "My personal view is that the outpost would be great support for countries or other entities that want to go to the lunar surface.” (4/13)

Remote Servicing and Repair Could Be ‘Holy Grail’ for Space (Source: GPS World)
There are few Holy Grails in space. Today’s announcements from several different companies made it clear that a couple of these Holy Grails are hopefully about to be realized.

This morning, Orbital ATK, in conjunction with its customer Intelsat, announced they are entering the home stretch for a viable and hopefully profitable space payload Mission Extension Service/Vehicle (MEV). Indeed, they actually announced they are fully funded and open for business. Intelsat as the inaugural customer was on hand to support Orbital ATK and explain why this is a necessary mission. (4/12)

Will Giant Sticky Space Roombas Solve Our Space Junk Problems? (Source: Reason)
Space junk is annoying now—small objects have already popped holes in the International Space Station—but it will become an increasingly serious problem as we enter the era of cheap, frequent commercial launches. (Pretty solid work in April, by the way, SpaceX and Blue Origin. Kudos.)

Just in the last month, debris was spotted flaming over the Sri Lankan coast and a rogue object was briefly blamed for knocking out Japan's new research satellite (unfairly, as it turned out).

Enter Astroscale, the Singaporean company that just received $35 million in funding to work on clearing out some of the estimated 150 million pieces of junk floating around the ol' blue marble—especially antique microsatellites, which have a relatively short two- to five-year lifespan and will soon be deployed by the dozens and hundreds for all kinds of reasons, including mapping and communications. (4/12)

Get In on the Colorado Space Jobs Boom! (Source: The Gazette)
Gazette's Eric Singer talks with a representative of the Colorado Space Coalition at the Space Symposium at the Broadmoor Hotel. Vicky Lea focuses in on how our state is cashing in on the space boom. Click here. (4/12)

Colorado Spaceport Closer to Reality (Source: The Gazette)
Space tourists are a step closer to rocketing to orbit from a spaceport east of Denver, a leader of the effort said. Front Range Airport, southeast of Denver International Airport, expects preliminary approval as soon as this summer for horizontal launches from Spaceport Colorado. “Our intent is to provide space access for Colorado,” he said.

David Ruppel said space flights could also launch satellites for Colorado’s large aerospace industry. Colorado is the nation’s No. 2 aerospace state behind California and is home to firms including satellite-builder Ball Aerospace, rocket builder ULA and innovation leader Sierra Nevada Corp.

While Ruppel hopes to get approval soon, it could be much longer before he gets a viable rocket. Virgin Galactic’s program is recovering from a 2014 incident where its experimental spaceplane broke up in flight. Ruppel said he’s also wooing rocket-builder XCOR, which is designing the Lynx spaceplane, which would feature a horizontal launch. (4/12)

Space Provides Dividends to Earth (Source: Huffington Post)
What do lightweight rocket bodies and pacemakers have in common? In a word, LaRC-SI (Langley Research Center Soluble Imide). This material, developed by Rob Bryant at NASA Langley in the 1990s for use in rockets, also happens to be biologically inert—meaning that it can be used in medical devices without risk of the body rejecting it. Click here. (4/12)

Lawmaker Seeks New Space Traffic Management System (Source: Aviation Week)
Bridenstine’s bill would transfer space situational awareness from the Defense Department to a civilian agency such as the FAA or a commercial operator. But he is careful to point out that the Pentagon will remain responsible for protecting U.S. military space assets and therefore continue to be involved with space situational awareness.

Future plans indicate growth. SpaceX and OneWeb are planning massive small satellite constellations. “There’s going to be a ton of traffic,” Bridenstine says. “We could put ourselves in a position where we deny ourselves access to orbit.”

The U.S. Defense Department already tracks tens of thousands of items in space and currently provides space situational awareness for its own use, for other U.S. government agencies, and for foreign governments and commercial space enterprises. (4/12)

NASA Selects 13 Early-Stage, High-Concept Moonshots (Source: Tech Crunch)
NASA has announced the recipients of its yearly National Innovative Advanced Concepts awards, and they’re just as out there as the planets and other stellar objects they propose to mine, analyze and explore. There are 13 projects that have been given Phase I consideration: about $100,000, with which the team can investigate their concept’s feasibility. Click here. (4/12)

Make Mars Great Again: Can the 2016 Election Save NASA’s Journey to Mars? (Source: Ars Technica)
Not everyone feels negative about NASA’s human spaceflight program during Obama’s presidency, there are few who offer unqualified praise for the president. He just never really showed much interest in space. While Obama did propose bold changes early on to NASA, seeking to more closely align the agency's goals to funding levels, Congress objected and the president retreated almost immediately.

He chose to invest his limited political capital in other areas, effectively ceding most power over NASA’s human spaceflight programs to a Congress largely driven by parochial interests. And when an agency needs a unified purpose and the means to achieve it, this is rarely a formula for success.

As NASA worked through the policy implications of building a big rocket on a budget, it searched for a justification. It settled on the Journey to Mars. Almost everything NASA did became part of this. Even last summer, when the grand piano-sized New Horizons whizzed by Pluto and sent stunning images of the world back to Earth, Bolden said it represented “one more step” on the Journey to Mars. Click here. (4/12)

KSC, Groundswell Group Aaim to Pave Way for Start-Ups (Source: Florida Today)
What it will take for the Space Coast to launch more business ventures based on licensed space technologies? At an event Tuesday, investors, space officials and entrepreneurs attempted to lay out a road map of sorts to show the way. More than 100 people attended the program at the headquarters of Satcom Direct. It was hosted by TerraCom Direct and featured the Kennedy Space Center's Technology Transfer Office and Groundswell.

Groundswell is a Melbourne-based incubator program aimed at assisting start-up technology companies in the area. TerraCom Direct is part of Satcom Direct. "We'd really like to see more licensing of NASA technology within the Florida business community," said Michael Lester, manager of technology development partnerships with the Kennedy Space Center's office technology transfer. Click here. (4/13)

New Animation of NASA's Heavy-Lift SLS Launching From Florida (Source: NASA)
Animation depicting NASA’s Space Launch System, the world's most powerful rocket for a new era of human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. With its unprecedented capabilities, SLS will launch crews of up to four astronauts in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on missions to explore multiple, deep-space destinations, including Mars.

Traveling to deep space requires a large vehicle that can carry huge payloads, and future evolutions of SLS with the exploration upper stage and advanced boosters will increase the rocket’s lift capability and flexibility for multiple types of mission needs. Click here. (4/13)

Moon Village vs. Journey to Mars: Which Space Vision will the Next President Pick? (Source: GeekWire)
Over the past eight years, the focus of NASA’s space vision has shifted from the moon, to a near-Earth asteroid, to the journey to Mars. The European Space Agency’s director-general, meanwhile, has been talking up the prospect of building a Moon Village. And one of the latest buzzwords for commercial space ventures is “cislunar” – that is, space operations in the vicinity of the moon.

What’s a future president to do? Space policy ranks among the least prominent issues on the campaign agenda: GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, for example, says he loves space exploration but thinks it’s more important to fix potholes on Earth. Nevertheless, leaders of the space industry say the next president will play a key role in determining the world’s future course on the final frontier.

“Our next administration can lay the groundwork for the next couple of decades,” Larry Price, Lockheed Martin’s deputy program manager for the Orion spaceship development program, said here today during the 32nd Space Symposium. (4/13)

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