May 17, 2016

White House Threatens Veto of Defense Bill Over Launch Provision (Source: Space News)
The White House has threatened to veto a defense authorization bill in part because of its launch provisions. In a statement of administration policy issued Monday, the White House said it "strongly objects" to language in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, citing it as one of several reasons why advisers would recommend that the president veto the bill as written.

The White House argues that the bill overemphasizes spending on development of a main engine over an overall launch system. It also claims that language giving the Defense Department data rights to launch systems developed under the program is not feasible and could require renegotiation of contracts already awarded by the Air Force. The full House is scheduled to debate the bill this week. (5/17)

Russia to Start Financing New Phoenix Rocket Development in 2018 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will begin financing the development of a new carrier rocket dubbed Phoenix in 2018, Deputy General Director of Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center Aleksandr Medvedev said Friday. Cargo capacity of the projected carrier rocket is expected to be within the range from nine up to 15 metric tons, he specified.

Phoenix is expected to be Russia's domestically produced rocket, which is planned to become the first stage of country's super-heavy rocket, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Expenditures on developing the Phoenix carrier rocket are included in Russia's federal space program for 2016-2025. (5/17)

DOD's NGA Plans Silicon Valley Presence (Source: Space News)
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency plans to open a center in Silicon Valley to work more directly with imagery and other startup companies there. The "NGA Outpost Valley," patterned after a Defense Department center in Silicon Valley, will allow the agency to work more closely with companies based there. The region is home to Planet Labs and Google-owned Terra Bella, two companies developing constellations of small imaging satellites. (5/17)

Canadian Astronaut Selected for ISS Mission (Source: Globe and Mail)
Canada has selected its next astronaut to fly to the International Space Station. David Saint-Jacques will fly to the station in November 2018 for a six-month mission, the Canadian government announced Monday. Saint-Jacques, selected as an astronaut in 2009, has both a Ph.D. in astrophysics and an M.D. He beat out Jeremy Hansen, the only other active Canadian astronaut; neither has flown in space yet. (5/16)

Price for Soyuz Seats Rises to $88 Million (Source: Tass)
A Russian company says that the cost of seats on Soyuz missions to the ISS has gone up. RSC Energia said Monday its latest contract with NASA for seats to the ISS in 2018 and 2019 charges the space agency $88 million a seat. Previous reports about that contract put the seat value at less than $82 million each. NASA's requirements for the seats will depend on the availability of commercial crew vehicles under development by Boeing and SpaceX that are slated to enter service in 2018. (5/17)

Hawaii Telescope Permit Gets Next Hearing (Source: Honolulu Civil Beat)
A hearing Monday marked the start of a new review of a permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope. The hearing started the planning for a "contested case" review of a permit to build the large telescope atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea. The Hawaii Supreme Court stripped the original permit for the telescope last year after concluding the state denied opponents due process. Many native Hawaiians, who consider Mauna Kea sacred, oppose the telescope, and Monday's hearing was packed with protesters. (5/16)

Mars Methane Not Found Twice (Source:
A spike in methane the Curiosity rover detected in the Martian atmosphere in its first year there did not reappear in the second year. Curiosity saw a brief surge in methane, rising by about a factor of 10 to 7 parts per billion, for several weeks in the rover's first Martian autumn. However, Curiosity, which has now spent two Martian years on the planet, did not see a similar surge in its second autumn there. Curiosity has detected much smaller variations that do appear to be seasonal, but those variations could be caused by geological as well as biological processes, and thus is not alone evidence of life. (5/16)

ESA Assures Italy, Avio That Vega Won’t be Short-Changed by Airbus Safran Launchers (Source: Space News)
Negotiations will start by June between the now fully operational Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) and the European Space Agency on the ASL’s bid to complete construction of the future Ariane 6 rocket. Avio has been worried that an ASL-dominated Arianespace would favor Ariane 6 over Vega for contracts where both vehicles could make a viable offer.

Asked whether ESA would favor the creation of a VegaSpace – a commercial company separate from Europe’s Arianespace that would sell only Vega launches – to protect Avio’s interests, Woerner told journalists May 9: “Of course not. That would be a detriment to the overall program” of making Europe’s launch sector more competitive. “But Arianespace has to make [Avio] a fair deal.” (5/17)

Virginia Kids Launch First Elementary School Satellite (Source: CBS)
Students at an elementary school in Virginia are very excited, and the reason for their excitement is out of this world -- a tiny satellite being launched Monday by astronauts at the International Space Station. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca el Choueiry helped build the satellite. "I think it's awesome!" she said. "I'm really excited that's it's finally up in space."

And now St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington is the first grade school in the nation to put a satellite in orbit. The main payload is a small camera which will beam photographs back to earth using an antenna that fifth grader Felix Pellegrino helped build. "We don't really control where it does take a picture, but it does take a picture every 30 seconds," he said. (5/17)

Landed SpaceX Rocket Suffered 'Max' Damage (Source: Florida Today)
Half-a-mile above its landing target early on May 6, a SpaceX rocket booster slammed on the brakes, firing three engines to cut its speed by more than 300 mph in three seconds. The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage then touched down gently in darkness on the deck of a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, completing a high-speed, 75-mile drop. The booster was traveling more than 5,200 mph when it separated from the rocket's upper stage, compared to about 4,000 mph during the previous mission.

The sea landing showed SpaceX can recover boosters intact from some of its most challenging launches, but the rocket’s searing return from space took a toll. CEO Elon Musk indicated the rocket stage may not be in shape to launch again, but will help the company assess the flight-worthiness of boosters recovered in the future.

Now the question is whether tweaks to heat shielding and perhaps other systems can harden the rocket so it can withstand such severe forces in good enough condition to fly again without extensive refurbishment. Quick and easy turnarounds are the key to making reusable rockets a game-changer that dramatically lowers launch costs, SpaceX has repeatedly said. SpaceX hopes to re-fly its first rocket, the one it launched in April, later this year. (5/16)

UCF Wins NASA Grant to Study Astronaut Cognitive Issues for Deep Space Missions (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA awarded two University of Central Florida professors $900,000 to study cognitive issues such as memory and attention in astronauts on lengthy space assignments. Stephen Fiore and Shawn Burke’s project is one of 27 selected from 18 institutions around the country that will receive money from a $12 million pool over three years. The projects were selected because NASA is preparing to send astronauts on distant missions, including Mars. Click here. (5/16)

NASA Rocket Platform Piece Arrives at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Workers - with a little help from the Brevard County sheriff's motorcycle unit - slowly transported a large platform to the Kennedy Space Center in a convoy that wound its way through Titusville on U.S. 1. It is the latest piece of a platform to be rolled through north Brevard on its way to the space center. It is part of a component used to launch NASA rockets. (5/16)

How Does NASA's Chief Scientist Work (Source: Slate)
Ellen Stofan, who serves as chief scientist at NASA, has a job like no one else in this world—or on any other. She trained as a geologist, using radar data to study volcanic activity throughout the solar system. Today, however, she helps coordinate NASA’s scientific strategies across fields and disciplines. Sometimes that means reading through huge stacks of recent research, other times it’s about carrying NASA’s message to the public. To help us better understand what she does, she took us through a typical day—and offered some exciting suggestions about where NASA might be headed. Click here. (5/16)

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