April 19, 2016

Florida's Next Aerospace Challenge: Workforce Development (Source: Florida Today)
Florida’s Space Coast has seen impressive growth in its aerospace and defense industries. The dark days after Atlantis’ final mission in 2011 have given way to a kind of renaissance at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, with ULA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada, Moon Express, Rocket Lab, Firefly and others developing new vehicles that will launch and land here.

Lockheed Martin’s work at the Cape for the Navy’s strategic missiles program is growing, and thirty minutes south of the spaceport, companies like Northrop Grumman, Harris, Embraer, Thales and others are hiring hundreds of skilled workers to meet their growth needs. It seems we’re well on our way to regaining the jobs lost after the Space Shuttle’s retirement.

Now we welcome Blue Origin’s planned launch vehicle manufacturing, and the secretive Project Sabal, to be announced as a OneWeb satellite manufacturing operation. These two are the culmination of decades of effort by Florida to diversify its space industry beyond its traditional launch services role. Florida must now avoid becoming the victim of its own success by developing and attracting the talent needed to make these companies thrive. Click here. (4/19)

French Court Rulings Ease Threat to Arianespace, Eutelsat Business in Russia (Source: Space News)
Decisions by separate French courts have removed an immediate threat to the business relationship between French and European launch-service providers and satellite fleet operators caught up in the dispute between the Russian government and the former shareholders of Russia’s Yukos energy company.

In a decision issued April 15, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, or Paris High Court, ruled that ex-Yukos shareholders’ freeze on around $300 million paid by Paris-based Eutelsat to Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) of Moscow would be lifted. The court ruled that these assets belonged not to the Russian government per se, and should not be held hostage to the Yukos legal action. (4/19)

To Explore Deep Space, We Need to Build a Rocket Factory on the Moon (Source: Tech Insider)
Strong gravity and a thick atmosphere allow us to live here on Earth, but they're also what make it so difficult to leave the planet. Rockets have to exceed at least 25,000 mph to escape Earth's gravity. That means spacecraft may end up using a substantial portion of their fuel before they even start heading to a far-out destination like Mars.

But what if we could launch from somewhere that doesn't have an atmosphere, and has significantly less gravity? Astronaut Byron Lichtenberg flew two missions to Spacelab in the 1980s and 90s, and he now chairs a NASA standing review board that oversees the Commercial Crew Program, which works with companies to get supplies and astronauts into space.

And Lichtenberg's dream is to make NASA's next mission to build a rocket factory on the moon. "Personally, I would like us to go back to the moon first and set up permanent bases up there and develop infrastructure on the moon and actually build the Mars ships on the moon, because it's got all the raw materials to build the big structures," Lichtenberg says. (4/19)

OneWeb to Build 900+ Satellites in Highly Automated Factory (Source: E&T)
900 satellites are to be mass produced in Florida by the Richard Branson backed start-up OneWeb, which aims to create a global network for high-speed internet access. The satellite factory is due to be constructed near NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after OneWeb finalised a contract with European defence and space manufacturer Airbus to design and build them last year.

The satellites, weighing less than 150kg each, will provide direct internet access to users in remote areas that still lack connectivity. The network will be 10 times larger than any previous satellite constellation and should start allowing users to access high-speed internet as early as 2019. The venture is led by OneWeb founder Greg Wyler and has raised $500m from Virgin, Airbus, India's Bharti Enterprises, chipmaker Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat SA, The Coca-Cola Co. and Mexico's Totalplay.

Editor's Note: OneWeb described the $85 million factory as a highly automated, state-of-the-art production line for satellites. The modular satellites will each weigh 150kg, featuring electric thrusters, star trackers, reaction wheels, avionics and other components...supply chain opportunities for Florida companies. (4/19)

ULA's Role in the Commercial Crew Program (Source: ULA)
ULA is pleased to have been selected by Boeing to provide the launch service for the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2017. The flight-proven Atlas V offers the most reliable and safest launch service capability for crewed missions. Click here for a video. (4/18)

Space Companies Feud Over What To Do with Rockets in ICBM Stockpile (Source: Washington Post)
They were once among the fiercest weapons of the Cold War, capable of delivering nuclear warheads to any place on the planet. But for years the Pentagon’s stockpile of intercontinental ballistic missiles have been living out a peaceful retirement, holstered in underground, climate-controlled bunkers where they are periodically maintained and tested by the Air Force.

To at least one company, that’s a waste of a perfectly good rocket. Orbital ATK wants to unearth the dormant missiles and repurpose them to launch commercial satellites into orbit. Russia has released its Soviet-era ICBMs into the commercial market, the company argues, so the Pentagon should be allowed to sell its unused ICBMs as well.

But to do that, Congress would have to ease a 20-year-old restriction that prohibits the sale of the missile motors for commercial use. And that has touched off a rancorous battle that has extended from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill. (4/19)

One Reason for Russia's Lame Record on Space Launch Innovation? (Source: SPACErePORT)
During the ongoing U.S. debate on the use of retired ICBMs for commercial space launches, Orbital ATK has argued that Russia has been converting their old Soviet ICBMs for commercial satellites, so we should too. That's a fair argument, but maybe Russia's notable lack of entrepreneurial commercial innovation in space launch is a direct result of this flood of Soviet ICBMs.

I still believe the retired U.S. missiles should be put to productive non-commercial re-use, a bit more aggressively than they have been under the Minotaur program and in a way that still benefits companies like Orbital ATK. The Air Force should determine their cost for maintaining and/or destroying the deactivated missiles and then solicit a vendor (like Orbital ATK) who can launch them for a smaller cost, one a month, until they're all gone.

Each launch would support launch team training, missile defense targeting, and range technology testing. They can also carry suborbital and orbital payloads for educational and government "customers". (4/19)

NASA's Latest Video May be the Most Beautiful Thing You See Today (Source: CNN)
NASA has released a video shot in space of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis phenomena and it is, quite frankly, phenomenal. The five-minute clip uses time lapses shot from the International Space Station and shows the dancing lights, which occur when electrically charged electrons and protons in the Earth's magnetic field collide with neutral atoms in the upper atmosphere, in gorgeous Ultra-High Definition. Click here. (4/19)

The Feds Won’t Pay These Ill Nuclear Pioneers From the Space Race (Source: McClatchy)
Lorraine Kurowski never knew many details about her husband Dan’s job at a secretive, sprawling facility on a hilltop far north of Los Angeles. “We need the money and we’ll have a good retirement,” she remembers him saying, “but when I die, turn the lights off and watch me glow.” That line – “watch me glow” – became a running joke about his job, but today Lorraine wishes she had taken it as a warning.

Dan, known by his coworkers as “Big Dan,” worked from 1964 until 1997 as a radioactive waste packer at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a sprawling facility where some of the nation’s top scientists contracted by NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission once worked together to advance the fields of space exploration, weaponry and nuclear power at the height of the cold war. Click here. (4/18)

Down But Never Out: Space Coast Everlasting (Source: Florida Today)
With all of the recent and upcoming milestones with the Orion program, I am compelled to look back over the last 10 years with a sense of great pride in our community. Back then, the media were descending on the Space Coast like vultures, predicting the demise of a local economy reliant on the space shuttle program. It was hard to watch.

What the naysayers didn’t know is that Brevard County is home to the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, one of the best economic development offices in the state. They also didn’t realize that the EDC’s efforts to overcome the immediate economic hit at the end of shuttle started six years before their predictions. It was the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast, combined with our community’s high level of sophistication, collaboration and creative approach that opened the door to building a bigger and stronger economy.

Those of us involved know that with the win of Orion assembly at KSC also came the beginning of our growing reputation as a home for spacecraft development, and of course the related investment and jobs. Orion is a technical and economic development success story and a huge source of pride for those of us in the countless small, medium and large businesses who are engaged with the EDC. (4/17)

McCain Urges USAF Secretary to Address Russia's Role in National Security Space Program (Source: SpaceRef)
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah James today expressing concern about her recent congressional testimony about how much it would cost to eliminate U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines, and the participation of Russian nationals in space launches under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

During the hearing, Secretary James estimated that ending the United States' reliance on Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines by replacing the Atlas V launch with a combination of Delta IV and Falcon 9 launches would cost as much as $5 billion. But, shortly before the hearing, Secretary James indicated to the Committee that transitioning to Delta IV and Falcon 9 launches would cost roughly $1.5 billion.

"Contrary to the estimates you provided to me in private, I am left to conclude that your decision to publicly cite a figure as high as $5 billion was done so to obfuscate efforts to responsibly transition off of the RD-180 before the end of the decade," writes Chairman McCain. "...We have since been briefed by the CAPE and have been provided with compelling analysis demonstrating cost implications that are starkly different from what you stated in your testimony.  (4/18)

Sen. Shelby is Costing America $50 Million a Day in Exports (Source: Forbes)
Sen. Richard Shelby, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, has hobbled the ability of the US Export-Import Bank to finance large deals due to his unwillingness to move an Ex-Im board nominee through the Senate panel. This failure "is costing the U.S. about $50 million in exports every day," writes Loren Thompson. "Why? Because every other major trading nation has an export credit agency of its own, and without the backing of such an agency US exporters big and small have to compete on an un-level playing field." (4/15)

Pentagon Report Urges Congress to Close Some Military Bases (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon says more base closures are needed, noting that 22% of US bases and facilities will be regarded as excess in just a few years. "As Department of Defense leadership has repeatedly testified, spending resources on excess infrastructure does not make sense," Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in a letter that accompanied a report to Congress. The report urges Congress to make the base cuts. (4/15)

Chain of Onboard Failures Responsible for Hitomi Observatory Failure (Source: Spaceflight 101)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency pieced together a rough timeline of the events sending the agency’s Hitomi spacecraft into an uncontrolled tumble, causing the spacecraft to break up in late March. Analysis of available telemetry data suggests a chain of errors led to the 2,700-Kilogram spacecraft entering a tumble when using invalid attitude data and operating its thrusters according to improper settings.

Hitomi, launched back on February 17, ran into severe trouble on Saturday, March 26 when it failed to check in with a ground station during a scheduled communications pass. Five debris objects separated from the spacecraft were tracked in orbit and calculations by the Joint Space Operations Center showed they were liberated from Hitomi around 1:42 UTC +/-11 minutes, indicting a very serious onboard anomaly had transpired. (4/15)

Hyten: Pace of Change Forces New Way Of Operating In Space (Source: Aviation Week)
In the summer of 2015, Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, says the military created a threat-focused space enterprise vision while working on an ongoing analysis of alternatives on the future of protected satellite communications. A report on that analysis suggested that the service should continue on its current path. But that was not good enough for Hyten.

“After I got done screwing myself out of the ceiling, I paused and I thought about that,” he said. Hyten concluded that the problem was a thought process that is rooted in the past way of doing business. But stepping back to look at the threats, it was clear that more needed to change – including reducing the disparate number of ground systems and the high cost of launching military satellites into space.

In the past year, the Air Force stood up its space mission force, started operating a satellite that spies on other space objects and created a test bed for space operations. Now, it is working closely with the National Reconnaissance Office on what it calls the “space enterprise vision.” (4/15)

Planets, Asteroids are in Lockheed Martin's 2016 Travel Plans (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has an intriguing list of destinations it's working on this year: Jupiter, an asteroid or two, Mars and maybe Venus. Those spots in the solar system are ones that Jefferson County-based LMSS's projects are reaching, leaving for, being built for or being proposed to go to in a busy latter half of 2016.

“We’re not a company that does only one spacecraft, one mission at a time,” said Guy Beutelschies, LMSS' director of interplanetary programs. “We’ve been doing these kinds of planetary missions for NASA since the 1960s, so we have a lot of experience and people who can be tapped for different projects. This is what we do.” (4/17)

Chinese Scientists Succeed in Micro-g 3D Printing Test (Source: Space Daily)
Chinese scientists have successfully tested 3D printing at microgravity, the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization (CSU) announced Wednesday. The CSU team has conducted 93 parabolic test flights in France, and printed out the designed specimen with Chinese-developed equipment and processes. (4/18)

Chinese Space Lab Back on Earth After Groundbreaking Embryo Experiment (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An uncrewed spacecraft landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region Monday after nearly 13 days in orbit carrying an array of microgravity research experiments, including a groundbreaking investigation that showed mammal embryos can develop in space, Chinese state media reported.

The Shijian 10 re-entry module landed in the Siziwang Banner of Inner Mongolia on Monday. Protected by a heat shield, the landing section re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after separating from the Shijian 10 spacecraft’s orbital module, which remained in space to conduct further experiments.

The mission, also called SJ-10, carried 19 experiments investigating fluid physics, combustion in space, materials science, biotechnology, and the effects of microgravity and radiation on plants and animals, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which manages the program. (4/18)

Chinese Scientists Develop Mammal Embryos in Space for First Time (Source: Xinhua)
The Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, displaye mouse embryos four hours before they were launched into space. Over 6,000 early-stage mouse embryos carried by China's retrievable scientific research satellite have developed in space, making it the world's first-ever successful test on mammal embryo development. (4/17)

Mobile Phone Technology Propels Starshot's Extraterrestrial Space Search (Source: Sputnik)
On the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering space flight, Stephen Hawking, Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the $100 million Starshot project. The project aims to demonstrate the possibility of space exploration using light-propelled nano spacecraft. The scientists plan to launch a small spacecraft into space and propel it to our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, in just one human generation.

A wafer-thin chip carrying cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation and communication equipment will enable the space probe to capture images of possible planets and other scientific data. "The big technological advance over the past decades has been the miniaturization of electronics, smart electronics. It was all driven by the cellphone industry. If you look at an iPhone and strip it from the case and the human interface, you’re left with smart electronics that weigh roughly a gram, much lighter than anything else to use." (4/18)

Jennifer Lawrence Narrates ‘A Beautiful Planet’ in Support of Space Exploration (Source: Variety)
Jennifer Lawrence won’t be going to space on film until “Passengers” comes out at the end of the year, but she got a headstart Saturday at the premiere of “A Beautiful Planet,” the documentary from IMAX and NASA that she narrates. The documentary was shot digitally and features footage from the International Space Station.

The film premiered at the AMC Loews 13 in Manhattan. In addition to Lawrence, notable attendees included Aziz Ansari, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the film’s writer and director Toni Myers, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, as well as the NASA astronauts featured in the documentary. (4/17)

Expanding the Space Station Market (Source: Space Review)
A prototype expandable module, delivered on the latest ISS cargo flight, is now installed on the station. Jeff Foust reports that the company that developed it, Bigelow Aerospace, now has interest in adding a much larger module to the station by 2020. Click here. (4/18)
Hunting Red October (Source: Space Review)
In the 1980s, the CIA used satellites to try and monitor the development of a new class of Soviet submarines, but were often stymied by clouds. Dwayne Day describes how one naval analyst used satellite imagery to argue the Soviets would have their next submarine ready earlier than expected. Click here. (4/18)
A Starshot Into the Dark (Source: Space Review)
Last week, a Russian billionaire announced plans to invest $100 million into an effort to develop tiny spacecraft that could travel to the near stars within a few decades. Jeff Foust examines the Starshot concept and the numerous challenges it faces. Click here. (4/18)

How Profitable Is SpaceX? How Much More Profitable Will It Become? (Source: Motley Fool)
According to SpaceX's published list of launch prices, an average Falcon 9 launch currently costs $61.2 million. That's already half the best price that ULA charges for a launch. It's cheaper, too, than the $77 million that Airbus Safran Launchers will charge for its new Ariane 6 rocket. Already, SpaceX is a formidable competitor, and one its foes will be hard-pressed to beat on price.

Beating SpaceX on price will get harder when SpaceX relaunches its recovered Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX could offer as much as a 30% discount on such missions, cutting the price tag to perhaps $40 million (undercutting Ariane by nearly 50%). SpaceX is said to be profitable at launch costs half of what ULA charges. If we assume profit margins roughly equal to what ULA enjoys -- say, 10% -- at its current price point, plus the ability to cut prices 30%  and still remain profitable, a realization begins to dawn:

Theoretically, once it gets reusability down to a science, SpaceX could soon have as much as 40% worth of operating profit margin to play with. With margins like those, SpaceX would have the option of maintaining its prices -- already the cheapest on Earth -- and reaping gargantuan profits. Or SpaceX could lower its prices, pass savings along to its customers, and crush its competition at a whim. Or anything in between, and not necessarily in that order. (4/18)

With SpaceX at Boca Chica, Future Seems Further Away (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
Before, when billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX was making its FAA presentation as part of its Environmental Impact Statement, we were told by the Sunshine Boys over at the Brownsville Economic Development Council that there would be rockets shooting off from the lomas of Boca Chica beginning in 2013. The spiel was that the project would bring 1,000 high-paying jobs of over $55,000.

SpaceX's application to the FAA states in black and white that after 10 years in operation, the most full-time employees they would use would be less than 200 and not all of them close to the $55,000 pitched by the BEDC. For those ephemeral jobs, Musk gets $15 million in incentives, tax abatements, and undying praise. Local residents – when and if it's built – can get a thrill for their money by standing some 10 or more miles away to watch a rocket take off and dirty up their beach and destroy the serene habitat of endangered species.

So, since SpaceX isn't anywhere near to launch four years after it announced the hires in 2012, we are now told that it will be 2018 before anything resembling a rocket gets launched from there. For now, the local newspaper is encouraged that trucks are hauling dirt out to the beach in preparation for the construction of the launch site. Well, a mound of dirt is better than nothing, we guess. (4/18)

Virgin Galactic Will Likely Launch OneWeb Satellites From Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
OneWeb already has $500 million in funding to launch its new satellites. Wyler confirmed that some launches will eventually occur at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. That would mean the arrival of another major new player in the growing commercial space race in Florida, joining ULA, SpaceX and Blue Origin with major operations.

Wyler and local officials said the plan to launch from Florida on Virgin requires more permitting and negotiation. Virgin Galactic is planning to launch satellites from its LauncherOne system, which tucks a rocket and satellite under the wing of a 747 named Cosmic Girl. The plane carries LauncherOne to an altitude of 35,000 feet before releasing the rocket to begin its flight to orbit.

Wyler, 46, lives in Sewall's Point, about 120 miles south of KSC. Wyler said OneWeb chose Florida not just for the spaceport, but also for the "deep bench of aerospace and engineering talent here." "It always helps to bring a diversity of jobs locally," ULA's director of East Coast launch operations Tony Taliancich said. "It's a good sign for the area. The ability to attract industry to this area, close to the launch sites, helps create a better infrastructure." (4/18)

Gravity Waves May Ripple Through Pluto's Hazy Atmosphere (Source: Mashable)
Scientists are starting to get a clearer picture of how Pluto’s strange, hazy atmosphere works. Their latest discovery, concerning waves rippling through the dwarf planet's atmosphere, means that Pluto shares some unexpected similarities with Earth. Researchers think shifts in atmospheric brightness may be due to gravity waves, which can occur when air moves over the top of mountains. (4/18)

NASA's Fermi Telescope Poised to Pin Down Gravitational Wave Sources (Source: NASA)
On Sept. 14, waves of energy traveling for more than a billion years gently rattled space-time in the vicinity of Earth. The disturbance, produced by a pair of merging black holes, was captured by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. This event marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves and opens a new scientific window on how the universe works.

Less than half a second later, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a brief, weak burst of high-energy light consistent with the same part of the sky. Analysis of this burst suggests just a 0.2-percent chance of simply being random coincidence. Gamma-rays arising from a black hole merger would be a landmark finding because black holes are expected to merge “cleanly,” without producing any sort of light. (4/18)

Will We Know Extraterrestrial Life When We See It? (Source: Science News)
There may even be things alive on Earth that have been overlooked because they don’t fit standard definitions of life, some scientists suspect. Astrobiologists need some ground rules — with some built-in wiggle room — for when they can confidently declare, “It’s alive!”

Among the researchers working out those rules is theoretical physicist Christoph Adami, who watches his own version of silicon-based life grow inside a computer at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

“It’s easy when it’s easy,” Adami says. “If you find something walking around and waving at you, it won’t be that hard to figure out that you’ve found life.” But chances are, the first aliens that humans encounter won’t be little green men. They will probably be tiny microbes of one color or another — or perhaps no color at all. (4/18)

Growing Launch Activity Lifts Space Coast Bars, Businesses (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
More launches mean more traffic for bars, restaurants and other businesses on the coast, merchants say. A view of the launches from the port attracts many eyes to the eastern sky as the rockets lift off, leaving a trail of smoke.

The business is sorely needed on the Space Coast. The end of the shuttle alone resulted in 7,000 to 10,000 lost jobs on the Space Coast, according to estimates from economic development groups. Brevard County's unemployment rate has stayed above Central Florida's overall rate since then. Click here. (4/18)

Mikulski Vows to Increase NASA Funding in Senate Bill (Source: Space News)
The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee said April 18 she will seek additional funding for NASA in a spending bill her committee will take up later this week. In the last in a series of annual addresses before the Maryland Space Business Roudntable here, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said she would seek to ensure that NASA’s existing array of science and exploration programs were fully funded in the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill.

“We will make sure that we have the resources we need to keep NASA going,” she said. That included, she added, additional programs, like a satellite servicing initiative at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that Mikulski has helped fund in previous years. “I will do everything I can to find targeted funding for the new opportunities and the new possibilities, like in satellite servicing.” (4/18)

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