April 27, 2016

Georgia Spaceport Official Supports Space Entrepreneur Program (Source: CAI)
Spaceport Camden has partnered with Startup NASA’s SPACE RACE in order to launch the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Spaceport Camden Project Leader, Steve Howard, will serve as a judge in the SPACE RACE competition where student-based teams aim to commercialize promising NASA inventions through a startup challenge. Entries are being accepted until May 1st and judging will occur in early September.

The SPACE RACE allows college students to meet world-class mentors/advisors, win prize money, as well as launch a startup around a commercially viable NASA invention. Teams will also have an opportunity to earn seed funding and make a significant, sustainable impact on our region. (4/27)

Vector Space Seeks to Build Rockets in Tucson to Lift Tiny Satellites (Source: Tucson.com)
Space entrepreneur Jim Cantrell is planning to build small rockets in Tucson that will launch micro satellites into orbit at a fraction of the cost involved in full-scale launches.

Cantrell is CEO of newly formed Vector Space Systems, which announced Tuesday that it has secured “angel investment” of $1 million to continue building and testing prototype rockets already being developed by Garvey Spacecraft Corp., which is a partner in the new venture.

Cantrell, who has run a space investment and consulting business called StratSpace from Tucson since 2008, said the 35-foot-tall rockets will be manufactured here and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, California and Alaska. The rockets will carry lightweight satellites into low-Earth orbit, from 200 to 800 miles up, Cantrell said. (4/27)

Schools-to-Space Visits Merritt Island Christian School in Florida (Source: SpaceTEC)
Schools-to-Space visited Merritt Island Christian School the latter part of April.  The award winning movie, “I Want to be an Astronaut,” which was originally premiered on the ISS, was screened for 35 students and staff. SpaceTEC® is a licensed screener for the movie which was produced and filmed by David Ruck.

“I Want to be an Astronaut” is the story of a young high school senior who is working to be admitted into the United States Naval Academy (which has graduated the largest number of astronauts), and continue to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut.  Afterwards, a discussion was held with the students about potential STEM careers as an aerospace technician and the space program in general. (4/27)

Chinese Suborbital Launches (Source: Xinhua)
A Kunpeng-1B suborbital rocket was launched from Danzhou City in south China's Hainan Province, April 27, 2016. Kunpeng-1B was launched from Danzhou City at 2 a.m. by the National Space Science Center (NSSC). The rocket fulfilled its mission of taking measurements in the upper atmosphere that will help with research of rocket sounding, high-speed flight and space tourism, said the NSSC. (4/27)

Killing Russian Rocket Engines Too Soon Could Cripple U.S. Security (Source: Forbes)
A case in point is the eminently sensible idea to stop using Russian rocket engines on U.S. military launches. The Atlas V rocket relies on two powerful RD-180 engines for its first-stage propulsion. The engines are manufactured in Russia by a company whose executives have close ties to president Vladimir Putin. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, pretty much everybody in Washington agreed the U.S. needed to develop its own engines and get rid of the Russian technology.

Sen. John McCain says it is foolhardy to depend on the Russians for national security launches, and in the process reward Putin’s cronies every time an Atlas lifts off. In principle, he is right. In practice, though, McCain’s efforts to ban imports of the Russian engines as soon as possible could cripple U.S. security. The reason why is that there is only one alternative rocket for launching many satellites called Delta IV, so if it fails and Atlas isn’t available, key satellites can’t reach orbit.

So the US must have assured access to space, which is defined as two dependable families of launch vehicles — either of which would still be available if the other was grounded. Up until recently, the two families were ULA's Atlas and Delta. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was certified as a suitable launch provider last year, but only for four of the eight national-security orbits. (4/27)

Can Commercial Space Really Get Us Beyond Low-Earth Orbit? (Source: Forbes)
The entrepreneurial captains of the new commercial space frontier are sometimes brash, sometimes brazen, and often larger than life. But are they really going to get us beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO)? For those of us who grew up in an era when NASA budgets were tied to Cold War geopolitics, it’s understandable that we approach this new phase of private space funding with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. But are we Apollo-ites simply being too skeptical?

After all, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has proven that it can deliver goods to the International Space Station (ISS ) and is in the midst of testing reusable rockets. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has successfully tested its own reusable rocket. And Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace has just made good on its inflatable habitat now attached to the ISS. Click here.

Editor's Note: I used to think that Earth orbit and maybe the Moon should become an "enterprise zone" for commercial development, while exploration beyond the Moon is more suited to government-led missions. I now believe NASA should work to actively facilitate U.S. commercial lunar programs (and maybe operate a lunar research outpost). And while I still think NASA should lead international exploration missions to Mars and beyond, I no longer think industry shouldn't pursue their own interests out there. (4/27)

SpaceX Planning to Send Spacecraft to Mars as Soon as 2018 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX is planning on sending one of the crew-rated Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. The aptly named “Red Dragon” could be sent to the Red Planet in order to further develop the architecture the NewSpace firm needs in place to enable its planetary ambitions.

Today’s announcement is part of a larger story: Under an agreement the company has entered into with NASA, SpaceX would carryout this 2018 mission on behalf of NASA. It would send the Red Dragon on its debut flight to Mars filled with science instruments. The Washington Post has stated that SpaceX would be receiving technical (but not financial) support from NASA under this agreement. (4/27)

Five Human Spaceflight Missions to Look Forward to in the Next Decade (Source: The Conversation)
From astronauts breaking records for the longest amount of time spent in space to experiments growing food and keeping bacteria in orbit, the past decade of human spaceflight has been fascinating. There has also been an explosion of privately-funded spaceflight companies providing access to space, including delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The next decade will see a remarkable mix of countries and companies getting involved. Plans include taking humans from low-Earth orbit back to the moon and even an asteroid in the 2020s – all designed to help prepare for the ultimate goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s. Click here. (4/27)

NASA Selects Small Business R&D Projects, Four in Florida (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 399 research and technology proposals from 259 American small businesses and 42 research institutions that will enable NASA's future missions into deep space, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. The awards have a total value of approximately $49.7 million.

Selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology. Click here for the complete list of winners. Four of the projects are by Florida small businesses, as described below.

Interdisciplinary Consulting Corp. of Gainesville for Low Profile, Low Frequency, Adaptively-Tuned Acoustic Liner; Mainstream Engineering Corp. of Rockledge for Bidirectional Dual Active Bridge Power Converter for Spacecraft Power Systems; Prioria Inc. of Gainesville for Distributed Sensing, Computing, and Actuation Architecture for Aeroservoelastic Control; and R Cubed Engineering of Palmetto for Avionic for Low Altitude High Density SUAS - Dynamic Configurable Dual ADS-B with Interrogation. (4/27)

First Launch From Vostochny Postponed for 24 Hours (Source: Russian Space Web)
Inaugurating the new Russian spaceport of Vostochny in the country's Far East, a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket will launch a trio of satellites into the Earth's orbit. The historic liftoff marks the beginning of a gradual shift of Russian space activities from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the Russian territory. Unfortunately, on the first launch attempt on Wednesday morning, the automated sequence stopped at tank pressurization, shortly before the planned Soyuz liftoff.

Editor's Note: President Putin is reportedly at Vostochny to see the launch. As ruthless as Putin has been known to be, I imagine that the launch officials are very nervous about getting this one right. (4/27)

Say Hello to Our Future Mega-Space Telescope (Source: Discovery)
The JWST will be the most powerful space telescope ever to be launched. Looking at wavelengths “beyond” Hubble’s capabilities, the joint NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency and Space Telescope Science Institute mission will observe the universe in infrared light, opening a previously unseen look at the first galaxies to form at the beginning of time.

Infrared light passes through even the most optically opaque molecular clouds, allowing us an incredibly high resolution and intimate look into star-forming regions. Though JWST won’t “replace” Hubble, as it won’t access the optical and ultraviolet wavelengths Hubble sees so well, it will see further back in time and give us a revolutionary view of the infrared cosmos. (4/26)

Edwards Fails in Senate Democratic Primary to Replace Mikulski (Source: Washington Post)
Chris Van Hollen was projected to win a Senate primary that exposed racial and gender divisions within the Maryland Democratic Party, as voters chose him over Rep. Donna Edwards to compete in November for a rare open seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) after 30 years. Edwards is the ranking Democratic member of the House Space Subcommittee. (4/26)

NASA Mars Lander Tech Effort Gets Budget Cut (Source: Space News)
A NASA Mars landing technology program will be substantially cut because of a budget crunch. NASA now plans to spend only about $3 million on its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project in 2016, down from $20 million previously planned. A NASA official said Tuesday the agency had to make cuts to LDSD and some other space technology projects in order to accommodate a satellite servicing project, RESTORE-L, that was moved into the space technology portfolio in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. (4/27)

Air Force Official Wants Studies on Fair Use of ICBMs for Space Launch (Source: USAF)
The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command clarified his views on the use of excess ICBM motors. Gen. John C. Hyten said that while he in favor of finding ways to put the motors to use, "we must not put the small launch market at risk." He recommended studies to see how many motors could be sold to industry, and at what prices, to avoid giving companies that use them an "unfair competitive advantage." Any decision on the commercial use of ICBM motors, he said, would require policy direction from Congress. (4/27)

South Florida Company Thrilled to Get NASA Job (Source: Palm Beach Post)
The thousands who go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex are seeing the work that comes out of a little shop in Jupiter. George Varga and his four full-time employees at Glasstech recently finished restoring metal at the 35-foot-tall fountain at the complex on Merritt Island. They also did entry panels at the Atlantis Shuttle Building.

This summer, Glasstech is planning its biggest job to date — restoring a 4-foot stainless steel fence around the Rocket Garden, an outdoor area that has replicas of rockets from the Mercury, Apollo, Gemini and Delta programs. About 1.5 million people annually visit the complex. (4/25)

Progress by Virgin Galactic Good News For New Mexico (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The visit by WhiteKnight­Two last week to Spaceport America was an important reminder that even though much of the work is happening in another state, Virgin Galactic is still moving forward with plans to operate the world’s first and greatest space tourism venture from southern New Mexico.

WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier plane for the spacecraft, took off from the Spaceport America runway and climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet. Pilots simulated the flight of a spaceship, and practiced “touch and go” landings during what all involved considered to be a successful practice run.

The need to diversify operations at the spaceport has become increasingly clear since the 2014 crash, and the new operating plan envisions several different sources of potential revenue. But the success of Spaceport America is still very much tied to Virgin Galactic. Every step it takes toward the start of commercial launches is a step forward for the spaceport. And so, the progress report from last Wednesday was good news. (4/25)

Embraer Delivers Its 1000th Private Jet (Source: Forbes)
Last Tuesday was a happy day in Melbourne, Florida. In a region of Florida that had been hammered by the 2008 recession and struggled with cutbacks at NASA, formerly a large employer providing high paying jobs, a Brazilian company that manufacturers private jets was at the center of attention on the Space Coast.

In an economy that may not be struggling for jobs, but certainly is struggling for decently paying jobs, employees on the line at its facility make between $50,000 and $80,000, according to executives. There was a certain irony, as private jets, foreign companies and governments, and international trade are often at the bully pulpit when politicians are trying to whip followers into a frenzy.

The facility in Melbourne represents 600 jobs that are new since 2011, with 500 more on the way. It’s part of the often, untold story about private aviation’s contribution to the U.S. economy. The General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) reports private aviation generates $219 billion in annual economic impact and supports over 1.1 million jobs. (4/24)

Senators, Finish the Job on Ex-Im (Source: Cincinnati.com)
Over the past year, dysfunction in Washington has put the aerospace industry at risk when some in Congress tried to shut down the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Ex-Im, as it is often called, is a small federal agency that helps American companies export goods by offering financing and insurance to help close deals when no commercial alternative is available.

A small group who believed that the government should have no role in helping American firms compete in the world markets aimed to kill Ex-Im. They made wild claims about the bank hurting taxpayers despite the fact that it doesn’t cost taxpayers one cent to run since companies pay interest and fees for its services. Ex-Im actually takes in more money than it costs to run, which then helps pay down our national deficit. (4/25)

Thales Alenia Wins Initial Funding for High-Altitude Platform, 2018 Demo (Source: Space News)
Space-hardware manufacturer Thales Alenia Space on April 26 contracted with the French state investment bank, Bpifrance, to build a prototype high-altitude platform for future telecommunications, Earth observation and surveillance missions.

The Stratobus project, which Thales Alenia Space has been designing for several years, has won 17 million euros ($19.2 million) in backing from France’s Investing in the Future public bond program to reduce technology risks over 24 months. (4/26)

Garver: Transition Fever (Source: Space News)
Every four years the space community gears up for potential changes in administration — assured this time around as President Obama finishes his last year — and the impact a White House transition will have on NASA. And it sure seems like there is a lot more talk among the civil space community this round than usual about the upcoming NASA transition. My phone has been lighting up nonstop and my “dance card” has been filling up from long-lost friends with requests lately, even though my day job has been managing an airline pilots union for the last two and a half years.

Everyone wants to re-hash what happened eight years ago, many with hopes to avoid a similar transition in the future. There have been congressional hearings, draft legislation and industry-led coalition pronouncements, all focused on ensuring that the next President doesn’t touch a hair on the head of the current path or programs at NASA. As you can imagine, I do have some thoughts on the matter. Click here. (4/26)

Space Coast Among Best Places for STEM Grads in 2016 (Source: NerdWallet)
According to the most recent data, the unemployment rate for STEM workers was 2.3% in June 2015, which compares with the 5.3% jobless rate nationwide among all industries in the same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates growth in STEM jobs will top 9 million over the decade from 2012 to 2022. STEM employees are sought after and often earn more than workers in other industries. The average STEM salary was $85,570 in 2014, compared with $47,230 for all occupations, according to the BLS.

After an analysis of the nation's 330 largest metro areas, NerdWallet ranked the best places for STEM graduates in 2016. Huntsville Alamaba ranked number one. Florida's Space Coast was among the top 10, ranking #8 with an average salary of $84,594 and a ratio of 96.4 STEM employees per 1000 jobs in 2015. Florida's Emerald Coast also broke the top 100 at #82. Click here. (4/26)

New Small Launch Vehicles (Source: Space Daily)
Recent reports indicate there are roughly 20 launch vehicles that are either ready or under development around the world designed to serve the small satellite market for payloads weighing up to 1,000 kg. However, judging from history, not all of these will be successful. Nevertheless, the level of interest and financial commitment associated with creating new options for small satellite manufacturers and users is quite exciting.

One of the primary reasons for this level of activity is the recent array of announcements related to new constellations of small satellites each numbering in the dozens to hundreds of communications and remote sensing spacecraft. The competition is fierce, and all ventures will require access to launches in the next several years.

Add to this the interest in cubesats for both constellations and standalone missions, and you have an apparent extreme demand for space launch capacity. Although the size and strength of the market for small satellite services has yet to be measured, entrepreneurs are not to be deterred. An optimistic estimate of small satellite numbers that may be launched over the next four years ranges from several hundred to several thousand. Click here. (4/26)

Soyuz Demonstrates Arianespace Mission Flexibility (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace's third flight of 2016 has demonstrated the versatility of its medium-lift Soyuz launcher, which deployed five European satellites of varying sizes into three different low Earth orbits during a mission lasting four hours.

Departing the Spaceport in French Guiana on April 25, Soyuz first released Sentinel-1B - a spacecraft for radar surveillance of the environment and for security issues - at 23 minutes into the mission. Three miniaturized CubeSats were then deployed at 2 hours, 48 minutes after liftoff, followed by the separation of the Microscope scientific satellite at 4 hours into the flight. (4/26)

Clean-Space Board Game Teaches the Environmental Costs of Space Missions (Source: Phys.Org)
It might not look like a training exercise: space engineers sitting around a meeting table, throwing down cards on a board game. But they are busily learning about the hidden environmental costs of space missions. ESA's Clean Space initiative – tasked with reducing the environmental footprints of the space industry both on Earth and in orbit – includes a dedicated 'ecodesign' element. As part of this effort, this new board game was created by the Quantis company.

Terrestrial industry uses the 'life cycle assessment' method to assess the environmental impacts across a product's entire life. Now it is being harnessed for space projects, too. "The aim was to find a more effective way of communicating the concept, as opposed to paper reports or online presentations," explains Rainer Zah of Quantis. (4/14)

Will Space X Be Your Next Ten Bagger? (Source: Seeking Alpha)
I am constantly on the lookout for ten baggers, stocks that have the potential to rise tenfold over the long term. Look at the great long-term track records compiled by the most outstanding money managers, and they always have a handful of these that account for the bulk of their outperformance, or alpha, as it is known in the industry.

I've found another live one for you. Elon Musk's Space X is so forcefully pushing forward rocket technology that he is setting up one of the great investment opportunities of the century. There is only one catch. Space X is not yet a public company, being owned by a handful of fortunate insiders and venture capital firms. But you should get a shot at the brass ring someday. (4/25)

House Armed Services Committee Wants AR-1 Engine in Atlas V (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The House Armed Services Committee appears determined to require ULA to re-engineer its Atlas V booster with a new Aerojet Rocketdyne engine in its first stage even though the launch provider doesn’t really want the motor. Instead of replacing the RD-180 engine, ULA is developing a brand new booster named Vulcan that would be powered by Blue Origin methane-fueled BE-4 engine and a re-engineered Centaur upper stage called ACES.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s kerosene-fueled AR-1 is being funded as a backup option in case ULA drops plans for the Vulcan booster. The U.S. Air Force has provided funding for both the BE-4 and AR-1 engines. The service has also funded propulsion development by other companies such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK. A draft House measure that will be marked up on Wednesday would prohibit the U.S. Air Force from funding anything other than a replacement engine for the Atlas V. (4/26)

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