April 28, 2016

A Second Life in Space for Cold War Missiles (Source: Bloomberg)
In the tradition of turning swords into plowshares, it’s an appealing idea: converting the U.S.’s ballistic missiles into rockets for civilian space transport. It’s also a sensible one -- and Congress should change the law to make it happen.

For two decades, on national security grounds, Congress has barred the sales of parts of decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the Minuteman III. Now, as part of a $355 billion refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, these missiles will be destroyed and replaced with a next-generation ICBM.

As long as Congress maintains its ban on the very idea, we’ll never know. And if it turns out to be a sensible investment for the private sector, Virgin Galactic and other competitors are welcome to get in on the bidding. Besides, it’s not as if Virgin Galactic and similar firms -- SpaceX, Blue Origin and Vulcan Aerospace -- aren’t already getting government subsidies. (4/28)

Hubble Detects Small Moon Orbiting Dwarf Planet Makemake (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Dwarf planet Makemake, the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt, is orbited by a small, dark moon. The satellite was discovered by a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) from observations conducted in April 2015. (4/28)

Russia Launches First Rocket From New Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Roscosmos has successfully conducted the first launch from Russia's newly-built Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the country’s Far East. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket, carrying a trio of Russian satellites, became the first vehicle to lift off from the just-opened spaceport.

The booster blasted off from the cosmodrome’s Site 1S on Wednesday, April 27, at 10:01 p.m. EDT after a 24-hour delay due to a computer-initiated abort 90 seconds from the originally planned liftoff. Roscosmos has yet to reveal what caused the initial delay. (4/28)

Putin Slams Russian Space Failures After Delayed Launch (Source: Space Daily)
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday criticized Russia's large number of space failures after the first rocket launch from the country's new Vostochny cosmodrome was delayed minutes before blast-off. Putin scolded space chiefs after the unmanned launch from the far eastern cosmodrome was halted a minute and a half before lift-off and postponed at least 24 hours -- the latest embarrassing glitch for Russia's beleaguered space industry.

He said space officials had told him the latest glitch was due to the "rocket system," not the new cosmodrome. The Soyuz 2.1a rocket decked with a Russian flag and carrying three satellites failed to lift off at 02:01 GMT from the launchpad, around 5,600 kilometres (3,500 miles) east of Moscow. Russia's Roscosmos space agency said in a brief statement that an automated control system had halted the rocket.

"Of course, we remain in the lead despite all shortfalls, Russia is still leading in terms of the number of [successful] launches ... which is good, but the number of failures we've seen lately is a bad thing. There should be an urgent professional response," Putin said at a federal panel meeting. (4/27)

South China City Gears Up for Space Tourism (Source: Space Daily)
South China's Wenchang City in Hainan Province is preparing to welcome rocket-watching tourists to the country's fourth space launch center. The city has completed about 70 percent of tourism preparation work for the Wenchang satellite center's first launch, scheduled for June, including improving the transportation network, and building more parking lots and public toilets. (4/28)

China Can Meet Chile's Satellite Needs (Source: Space Daily)
Chile should consider China as a potential service provider as the South American country needs to replace its sole satellite, said Chilean ambassador to China Jorge Heine. China is a first-class space power with 110 functioning satellites in orbit, a global satellite navigation system, a high-resolution earth observation system and advanced rockets, Heine wrote in an article in Tuesday's La Tercera daily. (4/28)

India Launches its Final IRNSS Navigation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched the last spacecraft of its homegrown navigation satellite system. The satellite, designated IRNSS-1G, lifted off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on April 28 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. (4/28)

Committee Wants to Double Number of RD-180 Engines ULA Can Buy From Russia (Source: The Hill)
A House committee approved an amendment to a defense authorization bill to double the purchases of RD-180 engines. The House Armed Services Committee approved the amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), during markup of the National Defense Authorization Act in the early morning hours Thursday. The amendment allows United Launch Alliance to purchase 18 RD-180 engines for national security missions, up from nine. (4/27)

With New Plane, Swiss Space Systems Plans First Parabolic Flights in 2017 (Source: Country 600)
Good news for those looking forward to Zero Gravity flights in North Bay. There have been some recent developments in getting the program off the ground. After postponing the ZeroG flights campaign back in December, Swiss Space Systems (S3) recently announced the purchase of an Airbus A340-300 that will be used in the flights.

Now they’ve also signed a partnership with a Geneva-based travel agency to market the flights in destinations around the world, including Canada. Back in November 2014, S3 announced North Bay would be the Canadian location for the ZeroG flights. The ZeroG website says the Canadian flights are scheduled for August 2017. (4/21)

DigitalGlobe Sees Spike in Demand, Revenue (Source: Space News)
DigitalGlobe reported a sharp increase in revenue from non-U.S. governments in its latest financial filings. The company said revenue from its 10 Direct Access Partner (DAP) government customers rose 35 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same quarter of 2015. The company said it's seeing strong demand from its DAP customers, with some exceeding their imagery quotas. DigitalGlobe announced Wednesday that it signed up an 11th DAP customer, and expects to have more capacity for those customers after the launch of the WorldView-4 satellite later this year. (4/28)

NASA Launches Rules On Indirect Costs, Research Access (Source: Law 360)
NASA proposed a series of rule changes for its commercial contractors Wednesday, which would make more federally funded research publicly available as well as alter how the agency pays indirect costs. The proposed rule would not require commercial firms to make their indirect costs — facilities and administration — public, but it does impose additional hurdles for commercial firms to report to NASA when those costs change, to combat cases where the agency underpays or overpays negotiated overhead rates. (4/27)

Facebook Buying Satellite Capacity for Africa Internet Access (Source: Space News)
Facebook is buying capacity on three SES communications satellites to provide Internet access in Africa. The leases of Ku-band capacity on the Astra 2B, 2G and 4A satellites are intended to support Facebook's Internet.org effort to provide broadband services to poor rural areas. The leases are thought to be short-term deals until the launch later this year of the Amos-6 satellite, on which Eutelsat and Facebook are leasing capacity. The deal is somewhat surprising, though, since the Amos-6 deal involves Ka-band capacity, and thus would likely require different ground terminals. (4/27)

Senate Advances Space Weather Bill (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a space weather bill Wednesday. The committee favorably reported the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, making only minor changes to the bill during a markup session that also considered several other bills. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the bill last week to put into law elements of a space weather plan the White House released last fall that assigns roles and responsibilities for space weather activities to various government agencies. (4/27)

Space Advocate Fattah Loses Democratic Primary (Source: Science)
A congressman who had been a strong supporter of NASA lost a primary election this week. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) lost the Democratic primary for his Philadelphia-area district to state representative Dwight Evans. Fattah had been the ranking member of the House Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee, but stepped down from that post in July after he was indicted on bribery and fraud charges. He was an advocate for NASA and other agencies' science programs. (4/28)

South Korea, US Sign Space Cooperation Agreement (Source: Space Daily)
South Korea and the United States on Wednesday signed an agreement on space cooperation to jointly explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes, Seoul's foreign ministry said. (4/28)

Air Force Awards GPS Launch Contract to SpaceX (Source: SpaceRef)
The Air Force has awarded its first competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract in more than a decade. SpaceX was awarded a contract for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a total value of $82,700,000. SpaceX will provide the Government with a total launch solution for the GPS-III satellite, in May 2018 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (4/27)

Arizona Economic Development Policy Threatened by World View Case (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Those who try to recruit companies to Arizona are choking on a bone these days — the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit over Pima County’s deal with World View Enterprises. Locally, the questions are relatively clear: Did Pima County adhere to state law and Arizona’s constitution when passing the $20 million incentive package for this local near-space balloon company? That will be answered in court.

From a statewide perspective, the questions are bigger. Gov. Doug Ducey has made recruitment of companies to Arizona one of the highest priorities of his administration. Now, for the first time during his term in office, his putative allies at Goldwater are suing to stop an incentive deal.

“This lawsuit casts doubt on what can be done from an economic development standpoint,” said Steven Zylstra, president of the Arizona Tech Council. Space travel and research, he said, “seems to be an up and coming industry, and too often AZ seems to be left behind on these kind of things. Here we have an opportunity to be in the driver’s seat, and obstacles are put in the way.” (4/26)

Georgia Spaceport Team Adds Legal Expertise (Source: Spaceport Camden)
Spaceport Camden has partnered with Gerald L Pouncey Jr., Senior Partner with Morris, Manning & Martin and head of the Environmental, Infrastructure and Land Use Practice at the firm. His primary focus at the firm is the acquisition, disposition and/or the redevelopment of major properties (including state and federal superfund sites), mergers, investments and financing related to such properties and the development and implementation of green energy technologies and strategies. He lectures nationally on these topics. (4/27)

How to Land on Mars? Don’t Ask NASA—the Senate Just Cut its Test Program (Source: Ars Technica)
The US Senate talks a good game about sending humans to Mars. The group holds itself up as the protector of NASA and a champion for the space organization's grand exploration aims. For example, as part of this spring's appropriations process, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget chided Charlie Bolden, the space agency's administrator, when his budget request didn't amply fund exploration.

"Mr. Administrator, you have traveled around the country in recent months touting NASA’s strong support for the SLS and Orion missions, when in reality this budget will effectively delay any advancement in a NASA-led human mission to Mars, or anywhere at all," said Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama. Shelby was upset with Bolden because the president's budget request did not seek a stratospheric level of funding for the Space Launch System rocket.

In his efforts to rectify the budget, Shelby therefore increased the funding for NASA's heavy lift rocket by $840 million, a 60 percent bump. To help pay for this, his committee cut the space agency's technology budget request. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project would get only a small fraction of its originally planned budget of $20 million for 2016. The cut exemplifies the political hamstringing of NASA's exploration efforts. (4/27)

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