April 5, 2016

Large Comets May Have Liquid Water Cores. Could They Contain Life? (Source: Real Clear Science)
Some of the comets that struck Earth could have already contained life. The chances are remote, but it is possible. According to recent research published to the journal Astrobiology, large comets with a radius of over 10 kilometers could contain liquid water at their cores. The decay of radioactive isotopes of aluminum or iron could supply the heat necessary to melt the inner ice.

Katharina Bosiek, along with her colleagues Michael Hausmann and Georg Hildenbrand, suggest that a thick layer of dust could protect the core's liquid environment from solar radiation, echoing learned speculations found in prior research. Their findings make the hopeful words of Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, the Cardiff University astrobiologist who was one of the earliest proponents of panspermia, believable.

"Supposing comets were seeded with microbes at the time of their formation from pre-solar material, there would be plenty of time for exponential amplification and evolution within the liquid interior," he wrote in 2009. It's not inconceivable. Some of Earth's extremophiles display surprising resilience to the inhospitable conditions of space, and they didn't even evolve there. (4/4)

Boeing Says $300M Claim Should Block SeaLaunch Sale Plan (Source: Law 360)
Boeing implored a California federal court Friday to stop a Russian aerospace giant from selling its California-based spacecraft launch business, contending the sale is part of a scheme by Energia to avoid paying its share of $300 million in claims by Boeing over their failed joint venture. If Energia sells its Sea Launch business just as Boeing appears about to secure final judgment in its breach of contract suit, the Russian company will probably put the proceeds of the sale outside of the court’s reach.

Boeing has already won a jundgement from a 2013 suit claiming Energia and Ukraine's Yuzhnoye broke contracts and failed to reimburse Boeing following Sea Launch's bankruptcy. Boeing insists that Energia still owns and controls Sea Launch through front companies, while Energia has disputed Boeing's claims about its ownership of companies from which Boeing has sought sanctions. (4/4)

Orbital Presses U.S. Lawmakers to End Ban on Retired Missiles (Source: Reuters)
Orbital ATK is pressing U.S. lawmakers to end a 20-year ban on using decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) for launching commercial satellites and the effort has raised concern among companies that have invested millions of dollars in potential rival rockets. Orbital Vice President Barron Beneski said the company was pushing Washington to get the ban lifted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that sets defense policy for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.

The missiles were idled by nuclear disarmament treaties between the United States and Russia in the 1990s. Virgin Galactic and other space startups said in interviews last week they worry that lifting the ban would give Orbital an unfair competitive advantage if it was allowed to use surplus government rocket motors in its commercial launch vehicles. The issue could affect hundreds of millions of dollars in potential rocket launch orders in coming years.

Editor's Note: This is deja vu like the ongoing effort to limit U.S. satellite launches on Indian rockets. Over a decade ago, Orbital Sciences was adamantly opposed to allowing these decommissioned missiles to be used as space launch vehicles, complaining they harmed the company's plans for Taurus and Pegasus. Orbital reversed their stance after they won contracts to convert and launch the missiles/rockets for the military. (4/5)

Virgin Galactic Opposes 'Dumping' Former ICBMs on Commercial Market (Source: Space News)
The current Space Transportation Policy, released by the White House in 2013, commits the government to “encouraging … a viable … and competitive U.S. commercial space transportation industry” while avoiding actions that might “discourage, or compete with U.S. commercial space transportation companies.”

The White House didn’t break new ground with the 2013 policy. It simply restated the position of three previous administrations and longstanding federal law revalidated by multiple Congresses. We urge Congress to recommit to the winning strategy of unwavering support for commercial investment and American launch innovation. Click here. (4/5)

Roscosmos Rebuts Reports of ExoMars Proton Anomaly (Source: Space News)
The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency on March 31 rebutted claims from amateur satellite watchers that the Proton rocket’s upper stage came apart in orbit March 14 shortly after releasing the Euro-Russian ExoMars satellite. Igor A. Komarov reiterated statements made by Proton prime contractor Khrunichev, saying the Breeze-M upper stage separated ExoMars without incident and then proceeded with the standard passivation and collision-avoidance maneuvers. (4/5)

Spaceport America, MARS Scientific Offer First Flight First Sight Promotion (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceport America and MARS Scientific (MARS), the USA’s civilian leader in telescopic spacecraft tracking and imaging, have partnered to make the entry into the sub-orbital space business easier and more affordable with First Flight First Sight*.

Spaceport America will waive the user fee for the first launch of a new customer’s flight campaign and MARS is pleased to add nominal cost pricing for telescopic imaging and optical tracking for the first flight. First Flight First Sight is targeted at both established aerospace test and evaluation, research and development operators, as well as new, emerging players in the industry, including corporate and academic users.

The promotion is designed to encourage new business and reduce barriers to entry for first-time customers at Spaceport America. Qualified flight campaigns are those that possess an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) license, waiver or permit, meet Spaceport America’s environmental requirements, and that can be operated and recovered safely. (4/4)

NASA Facing a Climate Change Countdown (Source: New York Times)
On the other side of the dunes, a quarter mile away, sit two artificial hills some 50 feet high. Those are NASA's two biggest launch pads. And to the south sit several smaller ones. This is America's busiest spaceport, and the water is coming. Click here. (4/4)

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