April 30, 2016

Iridium Satellites Good to Go for July SpaceX Launch (Source: Space News)
Iridium Communications said the contracting team for its second-generation Iridium Next constellation had put past delays behind it and would be ready for a first launch of 10 satellites in late July aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Iridium said the launch date could slip by a few weeks, depending on SpaceX’s management of its busy manifest, but the 10 satellites will ready for the July rendezvous.

As of March 31, Iridium had paid SpaceX $315.3 million for the seven launches. Iridium a refundable $3 million deposit for future launches. In effect, Iridium pays SpaceX $6.7 million per satellite launched (7 Falcon 9s x 10 satellites each) while paying Kosmotras $25.9 million per satellite launched (1 launch with two satellites). (4/29)

Mikulski and Bolden to Tour Virginia Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia will host Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and agency Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday, May 3, for an employee town hall and tour. The tour will include a stop at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A, where preparations are underway to conduct a hot fire test of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket in preparation for returning the rocket to flight operations this summer. (4/29)

Johns Hopkins Researchers Aim for Safer, More Efficient Rocket Engines (Source: Space Daily)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded two contracts totaling $1.48 million to the Energetics Research Group, based within Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering, to help set the stage for the next generation of U.S.-made rocket engines.

The funding will be used to reduce risks associated with new technologies that may replace the Russian-made RD-180 engine. Johns Hopkins is the only university to receive funding from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's recent program, which granted ten awards totaling $34.6 million. (4/29)

ULA Determines Cause of March 22 Atlas Launch Anomaly (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
ULA engineers have determined that an anomaly with the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV) assembly caused a reduction in fuel flow during the March 22, 2016 flight of an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying the OA-6 Cygnus to the International Space Station. This led to the boost phase being approximately 5.5 seconds shorter than had been planned.

With an understanding as to why the in-flight anomaly occurred in hand, the firm is now carrying out an inspection of its supply of RD-180 rocket engines. So far, the anomaly has only impacted the launch of the fifth, and final, Mobile User Objective System satellite (MUOS-5).

While ULA has stated previously that the March 22 event and the subsequent investigation had only impacted the MUOS-5 mission, today’s statement adjusted that by saying: The impact to the remainder of the Atlas V manifest is in review with new launch dates being coordinated with our customers. (4/29)

SpaceX's 360 Video Puts You On the Drone Ship as Rocket Lands (Source: Mashable)
An incredible new 360 video from Elon Musk's SpaceX puts you right on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean as the company's Falcon 9 rocket came in for its successful landing on April 8. The new video shows everything from the rocking of the ship as the rocket comes down to the deployment of its landing legs just before touchdown. Click here. (4/29)

FAA Advisory Committee Recommends No Changes to ICBM Policy (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel approved a recommendation April 28 calling for no change in current policy that restricts the use of excess intercontinental ballistic missile motors for commercial launch vehicles.

The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) approved the recommendation during a meeting here after hearing a request from the company most interested in using those motors that it defer action on the recommendation. (4/29)

Russian Rocket Engine Maker Not Commenting on US Launcher’s Anomaly (Source: Sputnik)
The maker of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines created a special commission to investigate the premature shutdown of its booster during last month’s launch and reserves comments until clarifying the circumstances surrounding it, the Energomash space and rocket engine company official said Friday.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) determined earlier on Friday that an anomaly with the RD-180’s device regulating the fuel-to-oxidizer ratio entering the rocket’s thrust chamber, or the Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV), was behind the March 22 early shutdown of the Atas-5 booster. (4/29)

Universe Likely Has Many Extinct Civilizations (Source: Discovery)
Is there life in the universe? If there is, can it communicate — and does it want to talk to us? If such a civilization is out there, how long could it survive? These are some of the fundamental questions astronomers regularly consider when they think about aliens.

Suffice it to say the answers are not as easy as Star Trek or Star Wars would make you believe. The most famous answer took place in 1961, when astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is now known as the Drake equation. You can read it on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) website here in full, but understand that it outlines the variables needed for a technological civilization to communicate with us.

A new paper in Astrobiology suggests there could be a way to simplify the equation, based on the observations of exoplanets that we have made since the first one was discovered in the 1990s. While the result is depressing — life was plentiful, but is likely extinct — it does have applications to help us extend our own civilization, the researchers said. (4/29)

Why There's an Astronaut On Your Cruise (Source: Conde Nast Traveler)
When it comes to cruise ship amenities and programming, forget outside the box—how about out of this world? Yes, even the sky is no longer the limit for the cruise industry, as they increasingly turn an eye toward outer space with a series of "cosmic cruises," touting onboard programming and lectures on astronomy and space travel, and with guest speakers ranging from astronomers to astrophysicists to—yep—actual astronauts. Click here.

Editor's Note: Not mentioned in this article is former Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy, who has been lecturing on cruises for several years now. Port Canaveral, on the south end of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, is a very popular cruise port. (4/28)

3 Reasons Why 2018 Will Be the Make-Or-Break Year for SpaceX (Source: Popular Mechanics)
This has been a monumental week for SpaceX. And we mean that in the "build-a-statue-for-the-owner" sense. Elon Musk entered the space launch market with the intent of fundamentally changing the industry. Now it seems like 2018 will be the year we know if he succeeded. Here's what's on the docket. (4/29)

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