May 11, 2016

U.S. Asked India to Pause Plan to Launch Commercial American Satellites (Source: Financial Express)
The United States has asked India to put on “pause” the plan to launch commercial American satellites till the federal government gives a go ahead on mandatory technology exports, ISRO has told a parliamentary panel.

“For the launch of US-licensed satellites meant for non-commercial purposes from India, the US had enabled granting of export licenses upon signing of Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) in July 2009. The agreement was again renewed in 2014. For commercial satellites, we have got into a scenario where the American side is saying to hold it on pause. They are not agreeing with providing the necessary export clearance for the commercial satellite."

To facilitate the launch of US-licensed satellites meant for commercial purpose in India, discussions were initiated to conclude Commercial Space Launch Agreement (CSLA), it said. “Even after several rounds of discussions, before the visit of the US President to India in November 2010, both sides could not converge on a mutually agreeable draft. The discussions were focused mainly on definitions and clauses on subsidies, improper business practices, transparency, inducements, etc. (5/11)

Airbus Wants a Slice of the Microsatellite Launch Business (Source: Bloomberg)
Airbus is working on developing a launcher to send mini satellites into orbit, people familiar with the project said, a move that would pit it against the likes of Virgin Galactic and Rocket Lab. The France-based company is working on a project to build a commercial launcher for so-called CubeSats and nano satellites, the people said, asking not to be named because the project is not public.

The plan comes as NASA unveiled in October contracts worth $17 million with three companies, including billionaire’s Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, to help develop launchers for small satellites. Airbus’s project would give a European company a piece of the emerging mass market, the people said. Airbus officials declined to comment on any mini-satellite launcher plans. (5/10)

Are We Ready for a New Space Race? A Q&A with Allen Steele (Source: AEI)
Recently SpaceX announced its plan to reach Mars in unmanned missions by 2018. Elon Musk is not alone among private entrepreneurs – Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson included — aggressively advocating for more R&D into space exploration. And these innovators are not just thinking about exploration, but serious colonization. In Musk’s words: “It’s a fundamental decision we have to make as a civilization. Mars is the next, natural step. In fact, it’s the only planet we really have a shot at establishing a self-sustaining city on.”

Sounds like the stuff of science fiction is becoming science fact. To get our heads around what the next steps in space exploration could look like, I spoke with Allen Steele, an award winning writer whose most recent book, Arkwright, was published in March. Click here. (5/10)

Falcon 9 Rocket at Port Canaveral Attracts Visitors (Source: MyNews13)
A steady crowd is gathering at Port Canaveral to see close up part of a SpaceX rocket that made a successful landing just days ago. The Falcon 9 booster, the second to successfully land on the barge, arrived around 10 p.m. Monday on the autonomous spaceport drone ship.

Dave Keller drove all the way from Sarasota to see a piece of space history before it's hauled off to be used again. "I mean, where else can you be a couple hundred yards from people working on a rocket?" he said. "It's inspiring to see what these guys are doing." Keller isn't the only one taking in the sights along the port. A steady stream of curious onlookers has set up shop with a stellar view of the rocket.

"It has a lot of people talking," says Grills owner Joe Penovich. Port restaurants like Grills have the welcome mat open for viewing the rocket. They have an ideal deck to see all the action, and business is up with people coming by marvel at it. "It's been great for our business, and I'm excited for the industry," said Penovich. (5/10)

Tiny, Water-Powered Spacecraft Could Be the First to Mine Asteroids (Source: Gizmodo)
We need to start prospecting asteroids, something that DSI and the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources are now in a race to do. Planetary Resources has spent the last few years designing and building a series of prospecting craft, including the Arkyd 3, which deployed into low Earth orbit from the International Space Station last year.

The Prospector-X appears to be DSI’s answer to the Arkyds—a demonstrator vehicle that’ll test a range of technologies needed to mine asteroids. These include an optical navigation system that tells the spacecraft precisely where it is in relation to a near Earth object, and an avionics core designed to survive intense blasts of cosmic radiation. The most interesting and novel piece of equipment is a small thruster that runs on nothing but water.

All of the technologies featured on the Prospector-X are in some level of commercial development, and DSI plans to make a side business selling these systems to the burgeoning satellite market. The first resources DSI mines from asteroids will remain in space, furnishing other companies with a cheaper supply of fuel and spare parts. (5/11)

Orion Mission Still Planned in 2018, Maybe Months Early (Source: Space News)
Managers of NASA's key exploration programs are working to carry out the first SLS/Orion mission as soon as September 2018. At a panel Tuesday, the heads of the SLS, Orion and ground systems programs said that while they have an agency commitment date for the launch of Exploration Mission 1 of November 2018, they're currently working towards a launch in September. Work on all those systems is going according to plan, they said, thanks in part to "favorable appropriations" by Congress above the agency's request. (5/11)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Releases Quarterly Earnings Report (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne reported improved results in its fiscal first quarter Tuesday. The company reported earnings of $5.1 million on revenue of $356.9 million in its first quarter this year, compared to a loss of $3.3 million on revenue of $323 million in the same quarter last year. The company also said that it has spent $75.6 million so far on the development of its AR1 engine, including $32.1 million out of its own pocket. (5/11)

Global Eagle Buying EMC (Source: Space News)
Satellite connectivity provider Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) is buying maritime satellite services company EMC for $550 million. GEE, which has focused on satellite services in the aeronautical market, hopes to find synergies with EMC, which provides connectivity for yachts and cruise ships. The merged company will have global coverage in C and Ku bands and some Ka-band coverage. (5/10)

After a Year in Space, X-37 Mission Still Unknown (Source:
The latest X-37B mission is approaching one year in orbit, but with no clues about its activities. The X-37B launched May 20 on an Atlas 5 mission, and remains in orbit, although the Air Force has not commented on its activities in orbit. An Air Force spokeswoman would only confirm that the spacecraft has been in orbit for nearly a year. This flight is the fourth for the X-37B, with previous flights lasting up to nearly two years. (5/11)

Midland Texas Spaceport Considers Vertical Launch Capability (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
The city of Midland, Texas, is studying the possibility of developing a vertical launch site. The Midland Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, is negotiating a contract with engineering firm RS&H to examine the feasibility of a site for vertically launched rockets. The city's airport is already a licensed spaceport for vehicles that take off and land horizontally, with XCOR Aerospace as its anchor tenant, but is looking to expand its capabilities to grab a larger part of the overall space market.

[Florida-based] RS&H, one of the largest players in spaceport development, and Holder Aerospace, a consulting firm MDC currently works with, should help put Midland at the forefront as MDC continues to sell companies on the city’s space industry offerings, Hilliard said. Editor's Note: Good luck with that. Maybe this is possible for suborbital launches, but there are (sparsely) populated regions downrange for both equatorial and polar orbit azimuths. (5/11)

McGregor Texas Puts New Limits on SpaceX Engine Testing (Source: KWTX)
Another Texas city has set new regulations on engine tests by SpaceX there. The McGregor City Council approved ordinances that limit when SpaceX can fire engines at its test site on the city's outskirts, and also how loud they can be. The new rules prohibit tests between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and require permits and fees for tests that exceed certain decibel levels. Residents in McGregor and neighboring towns have complained about some engine tests that SpaceX conducts there. (5/11)

Thornton Leads Upgrade of Ground Special Power for Orion (Source: NASA)
When Michael Thornton was growing up in the small south Florida city of Clewiston, he never dreamed of working in America's space program. Today, he not only is helping NASA prepare for the Journey to Mars, he recently was selected as the agency's Kennedy Space Center Employee of the Year.

As software lead for the Ground Special Power Branch of NASA Engineering, Thornton traveled to Denver in 2015 for a meeting between officials with NASA and Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft. Following the review, he realized there was a need to upgrade ground power systems to adequately support the new vehicle. (5/11)

Hillary Clinton Wants More Transparency (About Aliens) (Source: Five Thirty Eight)
Hillary Clinton does not think enough of the truth is out there. As The New York Times reported Tuesday, she thinks there may be something to all those reports of UFO activity.

“There’s enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen making them up,” she said when asked if she believed in UFOs during an interview in April with “The Breakfast Club” on radio station Power 105.1 FM. She has pledged to declassify government files on aliens, if they exist, provided that there’s no national security risk.1

Clinton is not the first presidential candidate to indulge in extraterrestrial conspiracies. Shirley MacLaine claimed that former Rep. Dennis Kucinich shared a UFO sighting with her, but you’d have to believe in something a lot less plausible than aliens to think he had a chance of prevailing in his 2004 or 2008 presidential campaigns and getting the chance to open the books. (5/10)

Chinese Space Program Increases International Cooperation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
China’s growing space program is deepening its cooperation with Russia and Europe while partnerships with the U.S. remain severely limited due to Congressional restrictions. “It is well understood that the U.S. is a global leader in space technology. But China is no less ambitious in contributing to human development,” said Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China’s human space program. “Cooperation between major space players will be conducive to the development of all mankind.” Click here. (5/10)

Space Exploration Tempo Quickens (Source: EE Times)
After the lull and uncertainty that followed the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in July 2011, the pace of U.S. exploration of our solar system has regained momentum. The dwarf planets of the outer solar system and the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune are being probed and other ambitious missions are planned. Meanwhile, a nascent U.S. commercial space sector continues to achieve firsts in low Earth orbit. Click here. (5/9)

SpaceFlight Insider Gets Brazilian Franchise (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Since its inception in 2013, Florida-based SpaceFlight Insider has become one of the fastest-growing and most diverse space news websites currently in operation. In an effort to reach an even greater audience, the company is unveiling a Portuguese language franchise to target the Brazilian market.

“SpaceFlight Insider has capitalized on its strong relationships within the aerospace community to allow us to do the best job possible with the resources at our disposal,” said SpaceFlight Insider’s Founder and Senior Editor Jason Rhian. “When Jefferson [Michaelis] approached me with an idea for a Portuguese-language franchise – I remembered that our job was to inform the world about how important space exploration is and that this could be a great resource for those who speak Portuguese.” SFI-B will be a standalone website with its own staff of writers, photographers and other team members. (5/10)

Ariane 6 and Vega C Boosters to Secure Europe’s Autonomous Access to Space (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The European Space Agency (ESA) is on track to develop its fleet of launch vehicles of the future. The agency’s Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers are slated to be highly competitive in the world market, offering reasonable prices for launch services. According to ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner, these boosters should secure autonomous access to space for Europe.

“Vega C and Ariane 6 are very important to secure Europe’s autonomous access to space. Considering the prosperous worldwide development of Vega C and Ariane 6, based on very successful history, these boosters should also be competitive in the market,” Wörner told (5/10)

1,284 Newly Validated Kepler Planets (Source: USA Today)
The Kepler telescope has looked up in perfect silence at the stars and found more than 1,200 new worlds. NASA said Tuesday that Kepler, constantly searching the cosmos for "exoplanets" circling other stars, has detected an additional 1,284 planets outside our solar system. That more than doubles the spacecraft’s previous tally of exoplanets.

The latest batch of new worlds includes 100-plus that are roughly Earth-sized and therefore almost certainly rocky, Morton said. Planets that are rocky, rather than gassy, seem the best bet as incubators of life outside our own corner of the galaxy.

Among the most noteworthy of the new planets are Kepler-1638b and Kepler-1229b. Both are similar to the most Earth-like planets known from outside the solar system, said Natalie Batalha of NASA’s Ames Research Center. The first is slightly bigger than Earth, while the second is roughly the same size as Earth. (5/10)

Goopy Dark Matter Could Slow Down Inflation of the Universe (Source: New Scientist)
A strangely goopy form of the dark stuff that makes up the majority of the universe’s matter could have had a surprising effect on its early evolution – and it could make ripples from the big bang easier to spot.

Dark matter is the mysterious substance that makes up 80 per cent of the universe’s matter, yet it only interacts with ordinary matter through gravity. The most popular candidate for this stuff is the WIMP, or weakly interacting massive particle, but decades of searches for this particle have come up empty. WIMPs also predict certain things that we don’t actually see in the universe, such as a swarm of mini-galaxies around the Milky Way.

Although goopy dark matter behaves exactly the same as WIMPs in modern times, their calculations suggest that in an earlier phase, it changed its behaviour from acting like matter to acting like radiation. Going back even further, the dark matter becomes stiff, and behaves like a fluid, resisting compression. (5/10)

NASA Chief: STEM Interest Needed to Reach Mars (Source: US News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Monday said that the U.S. needs kids to get involved with science at the elementary school level to innovate ways to reach Mars by the 2030s, and that heroes in fields like space travel are needed to inspire new engineering students.

The NASA chief and former astronaut spoke during an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, advocating for a hands-on approach to pique interest in studying the science, math and technology that is crucial to the future of the space program. Inspiring elementary school kids to get into those fields is more effective at creating career engineers and other specialists than creating that interest in college, he said. (5/10)

DOD Fights to Protect Space (Source: Washington Post)
Faced with the prospect of hostilities there, defense officials are developing ways to protect exposed satellites floating in orbit and to keep apprised of what an enemy is doing hundreds, if not thousands, of miles above Earth’s surface. They are making satellites more resilient, enabling them to withstand jamming efforts.

And instead of relying only on large and expensive systems, defense officials plan to send swarms of small satellites into orbit that are much more difficult to target. At the same time, the Pentagon has designated the Air Force secretary a “principal space adviser,” with authority to coordinate actions in space across the Defense Department. Agencies have begun participating in war-game scenarios involving space combat at the recently activated Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center. (5/10)

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