May 1, 2016

Orbiter Lands at KSC Runway (Source: Florida Today)
Nearly five years after NASA's shuttle program declared "wheels stop" on the final mission, a space shuttle orbiter appeared to grace Kennedy Space Center's runway again last week. Named Inspiration, the orbiter is a full-size mockup familiar to many on the Space Coast: It was displayed for more than 20 years outside the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville.

LVX System, a developer of LED lighting technology that was given the mockup by the KSC Visitor Complex, plans to spend at least a year and roughly $5 million refurbishing the Inspiration at the former Shuttle Landing Facility, near the runway's control tower. CEO John Pederson said a lease subsequently worked out with Space Florida allowed the refurbishment to be done at KSC. (4/30)

Debus to DiBello (Source: Florida Today)
The National Space Club Florida Committee on Saturday bestowed its top annual honor, the Debus Award, to Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. DiBello is being honored for his role in helping the Space Coast rebound from the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle program and its transition to more commercial space operations. During his tenure, companies such as Boeing, Blue Origin, OneWeb Satellites, Embraer and Northrop Grumman have announced plans to establish or expand operations in the area. (4/30)

Orion Under Pressure at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The pressure vessel forming the core of the Orion crew capsule slated to blast off on from Kennedy Space Center in late 2018 on an unmanned test flight is undergoing pressure tests to ensure its structural integrity. KSC teams recently moved the pressure vessel to a stand and then a proof pressure cell for the tests inside the Armstrong Operations and Checkout building.

Also recently, the underlying structure for the mission's service module, which is being provided by European Space Agency, was shipped from Italy to a German facility for integration. The service module, which will provide power and propulsion for the mission, is expected to move to KSC early next year. (4/30)

Astronomers Discover Bizarre Asteroid-Like Tailless Comet (Source: CSMonitor)
Is it an asteroid-like comet? A comet-like asteroid? A space rock with a bit of a split personality, born near Earth, has found its way back home, according to a new study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.

“If you’d shown me the spectrum, I would have just said this is another stupid asteroid,” said paper co-author Olivier Hainaut to Gizmodo. “If you showed me the orbit, I’d say yeah, it’s a standard long-period comet. But you don’t at all expect to find a rocky asteroid on an Oort cloud orbit. That’s wrong.” (4/30)

ULA Pushes Launches Back to 'Early Summer' to Address RD-180 Anomaly (Source: Florida Politics)
Still dealing with concerns from an early engine cutoff that did not affect the success of a March 22 rocket launch, United Launch Alliance is now looking at launching its next Atlas V rocket no earlier than early summer, the company announced today. But a critically timed NASA asteroid mission should still blast off as planned in September, the company stated.

The company is getting to the bottom of an unexpected glitch that occurred in its latest Atlas V launch, when the rocket carried an Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule into space. ULA was scheduled to launch a military MUOS-5 satellite atop an Atlas V on March 29, and initially delayed that to May 12. Now that’s being pushed back to “early summer,” though no specific date has been set. (4/30)

Bezos Explains How Blue Origin Will Prevent Rocket Engines From Melting (Source: Popular Science)
The BE-4, a rocket engine that Blue Origin is developing, uses a preburner to set up a big combustion reaction that generates all those flames and propulsive gases. Basically what the preburner does is it burns a small amount of fuel, and uses the steam from that to drive some pumps that move the fuel—methane and oxygen—into the combustion chamber.

The problem is, that preburner reaction can get very hot. Like 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt a lot of rocket parts. Blue Origin plans to cool down the steam coming from the pre-burner to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise it might melt the turbines that power the pumps that dump fuel into the combustion chamber. To cool it, they mix unburned oxygen gas into the steam. To make sure the oxygen mixes thoroughly without hotspots, they use a fancy computer modeling system.

"To date, we’ve completed several million core hours of CFD modeling of BE-4 combustion processes. Modeling of the preburner shows good mixing and temperature uniformity upstream of the turbine. The combustion and temperature data we’ve gathered in our subscale testing correlate with our CFD predictions." The company is hoping to fire up the rocket in stationary tests later this year. (4/30)

Turkey and Ukraine to Cooperate on Building Satellites (Source: SpaceWatch)
In a clear reaction to collapsed relations with the Russian Federation, both Turkey and Ukraine have announced their intention to cooperate with each other in the development and manufacture of satellites, as well as collaboration on other strategic technologies.

The announcement has come as a surprise to analysts, many of whom claim that apart from an obvious geopolitical agenda to counter Russian strategic dominance and influence in the Black Sea and Caucasus, there seems little industrial and technological foundations for the proposed relationship to succeed. (4/30)

Iran’s Future Spy Satellites: What Can Be Done? (Source: SpaceWatch)
Recent media reports have suggested that Iran and Russian Space Monitoring Systems, Information & Control and Electromechanical Complexes (VNIIEM) could sign a contract for a high-resolution remote sensing satellite in the coming weeks. If this deal goes ahead, the Iranian satellite would be launched in 2018, and will be based on VNIIEM’s Kanopus-V remote sensing satellite, a version of which has already been built and launched for Belarus.

With the Iranian sanctions regime steadily coming apart, it is only a matter of time before Iran acquires – or even develops on its own – a high-resolution imaging satellite that will revolutionize its military and civil remote-sensing capabilities. Such a development is of particular concern to a number of countries in the Arabian Gulf and also for Israel. What are the implications of Iran gaining such a capability, and what, if anything, can other countries in the Middle East do to mitigate any military advantage Iran might gain from using a high-resolution imaging satellite? Click here. (4/30)

The Great Pluto Debate (Source: Guardian)
As the consequence of the findings of an ambitious planetary astronomer, the elite group of nine planets has overnight shrunk to eight, and your mission is now heading towards a “dwarf planet”, just another piece of ice and rock in the vast Kuiper belt, the band of mostly small bodies that forms the perimeter, the unglamorous outer suburbs, of the solar system. That’s exactly what happened to Alan Stern a decade ago.

Shift forward nine years, and New Horizons has just stunned the world with the clarity and drama of the images of Pluto sent back from its flyby. Hundreds of millions of people go online to look at them. Stern is the subject of international attention, feted, apparently vindicated, a man who appears to have answered his critics about the relevance of Pluto.

But then, out of the blue, the same astronomer whose original research prompted the demotion of Pluto announces that he’s discovered evidence of Planet Nine, a major planet somewhere between the size of Earth and Neptune, that could take the place of Pluto – the original ninth planet – in the known planetary system. That is exactly what Mike Brown did. Click here. (5/1)

2D Spacecraft, Reprogrammable Microbes & More: NASA Eyes Wild Space Tech Ideas (Source:
Get ready for two-dimensional spacecraft and microorganisms that can recycle Mars dirt into working electronics. While both may sound like science fiction, they could soon be a reality, thanks to the latest round of space technology funding from NASA.

These are just two of the 13 exciting new concepts to win Phase 1 funding this year from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts(NIAC) program, which aims to encourage and invest in groundbreaking research that could transform how NASA does space exploration. Click here. (5/1)

Little Astronaut Discovers Our World in Touching Father/Son Photo Project (Source: PetaPixel)
There was a time when what you consider your “day-to-day,” with all its errands and monotony, was new and fresh. A time when each trip outside was a foray into the great unknown. That’s the feeling that photographer dad Aaron Sheldon and his 4-year-old son capture in their photo project Small Steps Are Giant Leaps. Click here. (4/27)

Some Damage to Soyuz Launch Pad After Inaugural Vostochny Launch (Source: Russian Space Web)
A preliminary post-launch inspection at Vostochny revealed that the protective shield on the lower service platform below the launch pad was torn off by the loads during the liftoff. In addition, NPO Avtomatiki shipped back to its facility the cable, which was suspected as a culprit in the failed launch attempt on April 27. The cable was expected to arrive to the lab after May Day holidays for the analysis of its soldering joints, which could be faulty.

Industry sources also said that, specialists were editing footage obtained by external cameras on the Soyuz rocket before it could be released to the general public. Even though the images were beamed to the launch control room in real time during the ascent, officials were apparently scrutinizing the video, so it would not be "misinterpreted" by the press. Obviously, any evidence of damage to the launch pad or to the rocket itself would be prime candidates to be edited out. (4/30)

Why Landing a Flying, Fire-Breathing Red Dragon on Mars is Huge (Source: Ars Technica)
Is this really a big deal? Oh, heavens, yes. No private company has ever launched a significant, independently financed expedition into deep space, let alone all the way to Mars. In fact, only two world powers have ever softly landed spacecraft on Mars. The U.S. has done so half a dozen times, and the Soviet Union did it once with Mars 3 in 1971—although the vehicle failed after sending back just 15 seconds of data.

And all previous soft landings have been relatively small and light; SpaceX is talking about landing a Dragon weighing about 6,000kg on the surface of Mars. The previous landing heavyweight was Curiosity, at 900kg. Soft-landing a 6,000kg object on Mars would be a stunning achievement for NASA or any government-backed space agency. For a private company, it's unheard of. Click here. (4/29)

Russian Director Responsible for Vostochny Gets Prison Sentence (Source: Moscow Times)
Igor Nesterenko, the former director of the construction company involved in building the Vostochny Cosmodrome - was sentenced to three years and three months in a labor camp on charges of fraud, the RBC newspaper reported Friday.

While working as director of the Pacific Ocean bridge-building company (TNK), Nesterenko embezzled over 100 million rubles ($1.6 million) via a scheme run by an associate, Sergei Yudin. He was arrested in the far eastern Primorye region in April following complaints from TNK workers over unpaid wages, RBC reported, citing the regional Investigative Committee statement. (4/29)

Why NASA Is Building An $18 Billion Rocket To Nowhere (Source: BuzzFeed)
Space adventure fans might enjoy NASA’s latest saga, the story of a rocket to nowhere that Congress wants, very badly, built in Alabama. Or they might be really pissed off. In its 2017 budget request, NASA asked Congress for $1.3 billion to build its next jumbo rocket. Last week, despite years of fighting with the Obama Administration over its plans to explore an asteroid with the rocket, the Senate Appropriations Committee not only granted the request, but gave the space agency an extra $995 million to build it. Click here. (4/30)

LauncherOne to Start Test Missions in 2017 (Source: Via Satellite)
Virgin Galactic is planning a test campaign for its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle next year consisting of multiple trial-launches to pave the way for commercial missions. The air-launched vehicle, first announced in 2012, has undergone some significant evolutions since inception, including a doubling of its payload performance, improved engines and switching carrier aircrafts from WhiteKnightTwo to a Boeing 747-400 nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

Since then Virgin Galactic has also built and furnished a LauncherOne manufacturing plant in Long Beach Calif., and signed a massive contract with OneWeb for 39 launches. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said the company’s goal for 2016 is to finish the development program for LauncherOne, and start building the test launch vehicles, which will basically be identical to the operational version. He added that Virgin Galactic is creating a test plan with partner L-3, which is augmenting the Cosmic Girl aircraft to support the launch vehicle.

Whitesides said engine development is proceeding very well with the Newton 3 main stage and Newton 4 upper stage engines. Virgin Galactic replaced the Newton 1 and Newton 2 engines, which were pressure-fed, with the newer pump-fed versions. Will Pomerantz, VP of special projects at Virgin Galactic, told Via Satellite the Newton 1 and Newton 2 were pathfinder engines used as part of LauncherOne’s development process. Whitesides said that the structural development program is also very well advanced, paving the way for the test campaign next year. (4/27)

The Best New Geography for Spaceflight is in Georgia (Source: LinkedIn)
Did you know the State of Georgia now has THE BEST geography on Planet Earth from which to launch rockets into orbit? See People are always surprised, but according to NASA's history, recently declassified reports show that only because of a "can-do" General along with an adjoining Air Force infrastructure, Cape Canaveral won the mid twenty century site to house the nation's spaceflight infrastructure.

The geography of Georgia (and Cape Canaveral) is important because there is almost a 400 meters per second speed bump from the Earth's rotation. Also rockets get to orbit by traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, there other very positive attributes for the Georgia location. Not only does Georgia have one of the planets best geographies for spaceflight, it is also home to one of the world's best program for turning out space flight engineers. (4/30)

Haskell to Design-Build New Orbital Rocket Manufacturing Facility (Source: Haskell)
Jacksonille-based Haskell, a leading integrated design, engineering and construction firm, has been selected to design-build a new orbital rocket manufacturing facility for Blue Origin. The facility will be built within Exploration Park at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport – the hub of U.S. space exploration. This is Haskell’s second engagement for the private spaceflight company. Haskell previously performed design-build services on a 20,000 SF launch site complex in Texas that was completed in September of 2006. (4/29)

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