April 15, 2016

A Disney Space Station? It No Longer Seems Like Such a Goofy Idea (Source: Ars Technica)
During a news conference this week, Bigelow was asked why he didn’t just want to fly autonomously and avoid the headache of dealing with NASA. “That is really attractive, believe me,” he acknowledged. “However, that isn’t in the best interests of NASA. The station offers the best choice of the two choices, and our hope is that NASA will be the primary customer.” If NASA agrees to the test, it may also benefit Bigelow by helping to pay for the launch of the module to the station.

The first non-NASA participants might well be space tourists, staying perhaps a week, or they may be commercial researchers. There will be an opportunity for naming and branding of the space habitats, perhaps by an anchor tenant. The goal of sponsorship would be to keep costs lower for users or individuals. “We would love to see Disney have a Disney space station,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” (4/15)

UCF Physics Professor Named to NASA Mission, Lands Grant for Space Mining (Source: UCF)
UCF physics professor Dan Britt has been named to the New Horizons mission team as the spacecraft heads to the Kuiper Belt. He’s also just landed a grant to help create fake asteroid material, which will help NASA and private companies prepare the technology needed to mine asteroids and eventually other planets. (4/14)

EU, Russia Explore Future Joint Space Projects (Source: Space Daily)
The space agencies of Russia and the European Union are examining possible joint missions following the 2024 decommissioning of the International Space Station, European Space Agency Director-General Jan Woerner told Sputnik. Russia, the European Union and the United States were solid in a decision to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2024, well beyond the original plan for decommissioning in 2015. (4/15)

Navy Awards Grant for Virginia Spaceflight Academy (Source: DelMarVa Now)
The U. S. Navy has awarded a $12,500 grant to the Virginia Space Flight Academy for STEM education. The grant will enable the academy to purchase two 3-D printers and two computers that support computer aided design software, along with providing scholarships for campers. It also will provide funds to help design curriculum. (4/13)

Commercializing Space - From LEO to Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
Companies are looking for "pots of gold" in space. That gold could come from commercial efforts that would extend the life of the International Space Station or to mine water from the Moon. Civilian space agencies might benefit as well—working with each other to reach the Moon and ultimately charting a path to Mars. Click here. (4/15)

Air Force Seeks Solution for Use of Retired ICBMs (Source: Space News)
The head of Air Force Space Command is trying to find a "sweet spot" for commercial use of retired ICBM motors. Gen. John Hyten said it would be preferable to get some value of out those motors by selling them to companies for commercial launches rather than simply destroying the motors. Hyten, though, said those motors would have to be sold at a price that would not put other companies developing their own small launch vehicles at a disadvantage.

Editor's Note: How about disposing of them creatively, by launching one per month from a single spaceport to support range technology development, launch workforce training, missile defense targeting, and to carry educational and military research payloads. (4/15)

Winter is Coming. Unsure of Continued Growth, Companies May Be Building Reserves (Source: Space News)
While investment in space companies surges, investors caution continued growth isn't guaranteed. At a Space Symposium panel this week, analysts and investors noted strong growth in space investment in recent years, including a record $2.3 billion invested in 2015 alone. However, one investor cautioned that this growth should not be taken for granted, as either industry-specific events or broader economic changes could slow that growth. Many companies raising large rounds may be "storing it away for the potential of winter." (4/15)

Rocket Lab On Track for 2016 Test Launches (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab remains on track to begin test launches of its Electron small launch vehicle later this year. The company announced this week that it finished qualification of the rocket's second stage, and will soon start qualification of its first stage. Rocket Lab is planning a campaign of at least three test launches starting this summer, with the commercial missions starting in early 2017. The Electron, launching from New Zealand, can place up to 150 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit for less than $5 million. (4/15)

GPS 2.0 Could Integrate Satellites with Terrestrial Systems (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Aerospace Corporation plans to unveil a proposal for a next-generation navigation system dubbed "GPS 2.0". That system would use the current constellation of GPS satellites, coupled with terrestrial navigation aids, to provide improved accuracy and avoid potential jamming threats to the GPS satellite signal. That system would require development of new receivers once standards for the concept are finalized. (4/15)

Air Force Defends Estimates for Higher Cost of Phasing Out Atlas-5 (Source: Defense News)
The Air Force is defending cost estimates it has developed for ending reliance on the RD-180 engine. Gen. John Hyten said at a press conference Thursday that switching from the Atlas 5 to the Delta 4 and Falcon 9 could bring significant additional costs, since it's not clear how much the Delta 4 in particular would cost at the end of the decade. Hyten's comments come after Sen. John McCain sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James earlier this week citing perceived discrepancies in cost estimates for that launch vehicle transition. (4/15)

Russia vs. Elon Musk: U.S. Startup Threatens Moscow's Role in Space (Source: Moscow Times)
The biggest threat to the future of Roscosmos might be from one man: Elon Musk. Launch price reductions by SpaceX have made it more difficult for Russia to sell commercial Proton launches, reducing foreign revenue Roscosmos is counting on as government funding declines. SpaceX, along with Boeing, is also developing commercial crew systems that will take away a stream of NASA revenue for launching astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft. Roscosmos may be "incapable of competing with SpaceX and other agile private space companies," said one Russian expert. (4/14)

North Korean Missile Launch Fails (Source: CNN)
North Korea attempted to fire a missile from its eastern coast Friday, but the launch ended in failure, according to South Korean and U.S. officials. South Korea's military did not specify what sort of missile was part of the test. The attempt involved an intermediate-range Musudan missile, according to South Korean media reports. (4/15)

Does Presidential Intervention Undermine Consensus for NASA? (Source: Plantary Society)
Consensus for human spaceflight is very difficult, given the lack of an external authority to unite the community or even being able to clearly define what the human spaceflight community actually is. And given the current nature of partisanship in the United States, achieving consensus for the human spaceflight program might actually be undermined by strong actions of a President attempting to provide clarity to NASA.

Presidents and their policies naturally become the symbolic target of the opposition party. Anything promoted by the President effectively induces opposition by association. For highly polarized issues like the role of government in the economy, or social issues, the impact is minimal—the opposition has already been clearly defined and generally falls into clearly defined ideologies of the Republican and Democratic parties.

But for issues that do not fit readily into a predefined political ideology—like space—the induced polarization by the President can be significant. In fact, Lee showed that space, science, and technology issues incur the greatest increase in partisanship based on their inclusion in the Presidential agenda. (4/14)

Secretive ANGELS Satellite Part of New Space Experiments (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is using a little-discussed satellite that launched in 2014 as part of ongoing experiments that look at how the Defense Department and intelligence community would act during a war in space. Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, said during a press briefing here that the Defense Department has used the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space, or ANGELS, satellite during recent space experiments. (4/14)

Pentagon Updating DOD Space Policy (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon is in the early stages of revising its space policy for the first time in more than three years, a move that would provide an updated framework for how the Defense Department’s space enterprise operates. The revisions would flesh out the Defense Department’s guidance on several topics including how to best take advantage of rapidly evolving commercial capabilities and how to protect military and spy satellites from attack, according to government and industry sources.

The changes may also incorporate a more thorough policy on offensive space tactics, they said. Doug Loverro, the deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, said in an interview here April 14 the revisions are the result of a wide-reaching 2014 study, known as the Space Strategic Portfolio Review. (4/14)

Clarifying ULA's Launch Manifest Plans (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A Reuters report noted that ULA’s Atlas V would have to be repaired before flights could resume. However, ULA clarified that, at present, the only mission that will be affected by these repairs would be the MUOS-5 launch. That mission had been slated to launch on May 5, it was pushed back a week to May 12 and has since been listed as “indefinite” as to when it will launched on the Eastern Range. At present, there could be as many as eight more flights of the Atlas V launch vehicle between now and the end of 2016. (4/14)

Turkey and Ukraine to Coordinate on Satellite Projects (Source: Sputnik)
Now that Turkey has announced the creation of its own space agency, it is eagerly looking for international partners. Luckily for Ankara, Ukraine is available - some might say desperate - for economic development. In the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Kiev is desperate to revive its struggling economy.

"They are going through a painful transition away from the previous leadership and trying to create a new approach, a stronger economy, tackling corruption," US Senator Dick Durbin told Sputnik. Kiev appears to be betting that Turkey’s fledgling aerospace industry could provide a solution. Editor's Note: Sputnik is a mouthpiece of the Putin administration in Russia, typically critical of Ukraine, and Turkey. (4/14)

Group Files Lawsuit Against Arizona County Officials in World View Incentive Dispute (Source: KVOA)
Pima County’s loan of $15 million to World View Enterprises, a space tourism company, has sparked a lawsuit. The defendants: Pima County, its entire Board of Supervisors, and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Jim Manley, Senior Attorney with the conservative think-tank Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, told us he’s filing the suit on behalf of three Pima County residents. “We're asking the court to put a stop to the World View deal and all of the deals that come out of it.” (4/14)

Local Candidates Debate Georgia Spaceport (Source: Golden Isles News)
Candidates running for public office in Camden County agree creating jobs is a priority, but they are not in agreement over the best way to create them. Most candidates participating in a forum Tuesday in Woodbine said they believe a proposed spaceport is likely the key to good-paying, high-tech jobs. Click here. (4/14)

Virgin's SpaceShipTwo Readied for New ‘Space Renaissance’ (Source: Flight Global)
Virgin Galactic is positioning itself as a key player in the new “space renaissance” as it returns SpaceShipTwo to flight testing, chalks up commitments for its small satellite launch service, and teams up with Northrop Grumman on the US military's XS-1 spaceplane program.

The space group’s chief executive George Whitesides says in the coming years there will be significant flight demonstrations by Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and many others, and Virgin has its own milestones coming up.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of hardware development going on right now,” Whitesides tells Flightglobal at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on 13 April. “What we’re going to see over the next couple of years - two or three years - is all this stuff is going to start flying. What a time! This is absolutely a space renascence that we’re living through right now.” (4/14)

Opinion: Stop Silicon Valley Colonizing Space! (Source: DW.com)
Call me a Luddite or plain stupid, but the problem with the Starshot project is the involvement of tech billionaires. In this case, the headliners are Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg, I regret, needs no introduction. Milner, meanwhile, is a somewhat lesser-known Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist, who has featured on Bloomberg's list of 50 most influential people.

The thing about governments is they tend to be accountable to the public. The tech industry, on the other hand, pushes a heavy-handed program of self-regulation. It is accountable to no one but company shareholders. And I'm not sure it's the best idea to rely on largely unknown and unaccountable people to explore space, with all its potential ramifications for humanity, given that most of us are unaware of where their precise interests lie. (4/14)

ULA Targets Reusable Upper Stages (Source: Defense News)
ULA’s next-generation rocket, the future Vulcan Aces, will be able to refuel in space, opening the door to in-orbital assembly and other complex space operations. Most aerospace companies focus on reusing the first-stage rocket, ULA president and chief executive Tory Bruno said. The concept of a reusable first-stage rocket, if it proves reliable, could transform the space launch market.

But ULA is taking a different approach. Bruno wants to reuse the upper stage, which — unlike the first stage, which falls to the ground before it reaches space — is orbital. “We had the idea, well, why do you have to bring it back to Earth just to reuse it?” Bruno said “Why don’t we just leave it in space?”

Atlas V’s upper stage, dubbed Centaur, can operate for about seven or eight hours in space, which allows ULA to directly inject a spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit. The next-generation Vulcan’s upper-stage rocket, dubbed Aces, will be able to operate for seven or eight days using its initial loaded propellant, Bruno said. This will allow the Aces to perform multiple missions in space. (4/14)

Black Girls in Space (Source: Earlham Word)
Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned African American poet, writer, lecturer, and activist. When asked about recurring themes in her work, Giovanni told me about space. “I’m really a space freak. I love the idea of going into outer space,” Giovanni said. “That’s probably the one thing that has come through my work in the last 50 years.”

“I think [the Martian journey] is going to happen in the next 20-30 years,” she predicted. “It’s a question of going up, and, not trying to conquer Mars, but trying to find a way to live with it. That’s what we should have learned. “If Earth is going to send an Earthling to another planet, I think of necessity it has to be a black woman. Because the black woman has shown that she can get along with everybody, she will love everybody. We need to send into space somebody who is loving.” (4/14)

Bezos Says Blue Origin Will Not Make Satellites (Source: Via Satellite)
Blue Origin will not make satellites, though the company’s orbital vehicle will be available to launch such spacecraft, founder Jeff Bezos said. Bezos said Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine will be the company’s contribution to national security space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Lockheed Martin and Boeing joint venture, is planning to use the BE-4 on its next generation Vulcan launch system. (4/14)

McCain Skeptical of US Air Force Space Launch Cost Estimate (Source: Defense News)
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is accusing the US Air Force of misrepresenting the cost to eliminate reliance on Russian rocket engines for space launch. During a recent hearing, Secretary Deborah Lee James testified that replacing ULA’s RD-180-powered Atlas V launch vehicle with a combination of ULA’s Delta IV heavy launch system and SpaceX’s newly-certified Falcon 9 could cost as much as $5 billion, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, wrote in a Wednesday letter to James.

But shortly before the hearing, James told the committee that splitting future launches between the two domestic vehicles would cost roughly $1.5 billion, McCain said. James’ testimony also appeared to contradict recent independent cost estimates by the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, or CAPE, McCain claimed. CAPE has determined that the cost of ending reliance on Russian-made rocket engines could be similar to what the US pays today, he wrote. (4/13)

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