May 31, 2016

Ariane 6 Engine Starts Test Campaign (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Europe’s future launcher, Ariane 6, has entered the first test campaign, marking a key milestone toward its development. Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), the company that will manufacture the booster, announced it has begun the hot-fire testing activities of the rocket’s upper stage engine, named VINCI. (5/31)

Kennedy’s Vision for NASA Inspired Greatness, Then Stagnation (Source: Ars Technica)
As NASA contemplates undertaking an even greater adventure than Kennedy's moon landing in the coming decades—sending humans safely to the surface of Mars and back—it's worth remembering exactly why Kennedy put America on a course to the moon. Those historical lessons remain relevant today, as the space agency attempts to muster the will and funding to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.

Kennedy looked to NASA Administrator James Webb to make Apollo happen, but Webb initially didn't see Apollo as the agency's top priority. To this Kennedy responds that Apollo is the top priority. That ought to be very clear, he explained. “This is important for political reasons, for international political reasons,” Kennedy said. He told Webb he did not want to finish second to the Soviets in the “race” to the moon.

A couple of points stand out from this exchange: the Apollo program succeeded because it was the top priority of the President of the United States, and its success was linked directly to the national interests of the country. After the strategic significance of Apollo and NASA faded, so too did its budget, beginning a decline in the late 1960s from 4.5 percent of the federal budget to less than 0.5 percent today. Click here. (5/31)

Space Florida, KSC Form Tech Transfer Collaboration (Source: Hark)
Space Florida announced this week a partnership with NASA-KSC Tech Transfer Program which includes an invitation to “commercial industry, as well as Early Stage & Growth Stage companies, to develop and utilize NASA technology and Intellectual Property (IP) in the marketplace.”

NASA-patented technology may be licensed for commercial use and development with a simple, inexpensive application process and reportedly very rapid turnaround. Partnership with Space Florida for this effort provides additional incentive through “a number of R&D incentive programs that may also be of assistance to companies who license NASA technologies, including its ever-expanding capital accelerator program.” Click here. (5/27)

SpaceX to Brief Underwriters on Falcon 9 Reusability (Source: Space News)
Launch-service provider SpaceX on May 30 said it would meet with insurance underwriters in the coming weeks to discuss the company’s plans to certify used rocket stages as fit for reflight, a long-held SpaceX ambition as a way to reduce launch costs. SpaceX Commercial Sales Vice President Jonathan Hofeller cautioned that any price reductions from the reuse of rocket first stages would not be known until the company has a better handle on what refurbishment costs will be.

Meeting with insurance underwriters is a necessary step in preparing the market for reusability. Most commercial satellite fleet operators insure their launches in policies that also include the satellites’ first year in orbit. After that, lower-cost policies are available to cover each successive year in orbit.

“We are meeting with the insurance companies in the next couple of weeks to go through and make sure they understand our process for certifying these and getting them ready for flight,” Hoffeler said. “Ultimately we think reusability will only add to our production capacity right now. It is not a baseline but it will improve capacity and therefore drive down costs.” (5/31)

Satellite Operator ABS For Sale (Source: Space News)
Satellite operator ABS is up for sale. Permira, the private-equity investor that owns the Bermuda-based company, is seeking to sell its stake, ABS Chief Executive Tom Choi said at a satellite industry event Monday in Singapore. Permira bought ABS for about $242 million in 2010, and last year was looking to sell the company for as much as $1.5 billion to $2 billion, but found limited interest. Since Permira acquired ABS, the company has more than tripled the number of transponders in orbit, with another satellite scheduled to launch in June. (5/31)

DOD Considers Another ORS Satellite (Source: Space News)
U.S. Strategic Command is considering a replacement for the ORS-1 tactical surveillance satellite. ORS-1, developed by the Operationally Responsive Space Office and launched in 2011, provides "mission support" imagery to support tactical operations, but is expected to reach the end of its life in 2017. Strategic Command is considering a number of options to replace ORS-1, including building a replacement, with a decision expected no later than October. (5/31)

Amid Organizational Challenges, China Seeks Bigger Slice of Satellite Market (Source: China Daily)
China's space industry has the goal of building 10 percent of the world's satellites by 2020. Yuan Minhui, director of the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information, said Monday it hopes to provide foreign customers with communications and remote sensing satellites in an effort to reach that 10-percent goal. Another, unnamed researcher said that the Chinese government will need to address a "vague organizational structure and lack of definitions and responsibilities" in the space sector in order to win more international business. (5/31)

Revamped Antares Rocket to Get Trial By Fire at Virginia Spaceport (Source: DelMarVaNow)
The upgraded Antares rocket is set to undergo a "hot fire" test May 31, thawing a freeze in commercial launches at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility since a fiery explosion in October 2014. If all goes as planned, the dual RD-181 rocket engines will fire for 30 seconds but will remain bolted to the pad, NASA officials say. A successful test is expected to set the stage for a return to flight later this summer.

Orbital ATK, based in Virginia, has a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA to ferry cargo to the International Space Station. The aerospace giant conducted two successful missions from Wallops before a third exploded just above the launch pad, destroying the rocket and causing $16 million in damage to the facility. Orbital's investigation pegged the blame to a faulty turbo pump in one of the decades-old, Soviet-made engines. The company now plans to use newly built motors from Russia. (5/25)

Help Commercial Space And Go To Mars—How NASA Can Do Both (Source: Aviation Week)
After nearly 60 years of government investment and activities in space, we have reached the point where the private sector, leveraging the accumulated knowledge and accelerating advancement of technology, has become interested in and motivated to develop economic activity in low Earth orbit (LEO). Even those with only a casual interest in space travel and exploration recognize the changes and evolution in the past decade.

The changes taking place in the space industry are driven by the belief that we are ready to commercialize space, to create an ecosystem in LEO that thrives without being sustained primarily by government dollars. This is a vision that excites many to engage and act, but the reality is that this ecosystem is not yet self-sustaining, especially when it comes to human spaceflight. Click here. (5/27)

Russia Wants To Build Reusable 'Space Cabs' For Permanent Human Base On Moon (Source: Tech Times)
Next to a spaceflight to Mars, a journey to the moon would be the trip of a lifetime, but traveling to Earth's natural satellite isn't as simple as it seems. Private rocket company Energia announced on Thursday, May 26 that it is planning to begin the construction of a space cab that would ferry astronauts and interstellar tourists from the International Space Station (ISS) to the moon.

Indeed, the company hopes to use the ISS as a permanent docking station for space cabs dubbed "Ryvok" as the first step to a manned mission to Mars. It would definitely be cheaper than conventional travel. Yuri Makushenko, a spokesperson for Energia, says the cost of the reusable manned spacecraft is a third lower than the costs of Federation-manned spacecraft.

The company plans to use the heavy-lift vehicle Angara A5 rocket, which will replace the Soyuz rocket, to launch the components of Ryvok into space. Because the moon taxi will be in orbit, astronauts won't have to wait for the Angara A5 rocket to be approved safe for human transportation. (5/27)

Branson Determined to Get Virgin Galactic Off the Ground, But Can He Succeed? (Source:
The space ship has been rebuilt with a savvy new design, and hundreds of passengers are booked in for the flight. Those wealthy enough to afford the $250,000 fare are reportedly so eager to boast about the experience on social media, they’ve asked if the ship will have Wi-Fi.

But will Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson’s space travel experiment be a roaring success, or a one-way ticket to oblivion? It’s a question that must weigh heavily on the entrepreneur’s mind as testing begins on the updated prototype of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo — hoped to finally get off the ground next year, more than a decade after the project began. Click here. (5/29)

July SpaceX Launch to Carry Private Entrance to Space Station (Source: Popular Science)
SpaceX and Boeing are competing to become the first private company to shuttle astronauts to the International Space Station in 2017 (or 2018). But before SpaceX's new Crew Dragon capsule or Boeing's Starliner can put their human cargo onboard the station, NASA needs to install a special adapter that allows these first-of-their-kind private astronaut taxis to dock with the station.

The first of two such adapters will ride to the space station on a SpaceX flight slated for mid-July, NASA announced yesterday. One adapter was supposed to ride to the space station last June, but it was destroyed when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes after launch.

When the adapter finally does arrive at the space station, a station robot named Dextre will pull it out of the Dragon's trunk and position it over one of the station's ports. Astronauts would then perform a spacewalk to finish the installation. (5/24)

China Launches Ziyuan-3 Remote Sensing Satellite and Argentina’s Aleph-1 (Source: GB Times)
China launched its second Ziyuan-3 series high-resolution remote sensing satellite along with two small Argentinian craft on Monday morning. The rocket and payloads lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on a Long March 4B rocket.

The South American startup Satellogic aims to establish a constellation of 300 small Earth Observation satellites to provide near-real time imagery of the Earth, competing against other, similar commercial ventures. (5/30)

Your Presidential Candidates...For the Milky Way (Source: Ozy)
While space hasn’t been a major campaign issue so far, there are reasons it should be, some experts argue. There are pragmatic points, such as advancing research, as well as addressing aspirational desires — like inspiring a new generation of scientists. Others hope space can help solve questions about the very genesis of life itself, or serve as the ultimate Plan B in case extreme fears over climate change come to fruition. Click here. (5/30)

New Ways To Spy From Space (Source: Aviation Week)
A vibrant commercial space sector has captured the attention of senior U.S. intelligence officials seeking new ways to capitalize on the latest imaging and other technologies. Space-based intelligence collection has long been a bastion of traditional government procurement—defined by unique, nonnegotiable requirements, close oversight and high costs—but a major theme at the Geoint 2016 Symposium in May was the recognition that new commercial practices can fill important national security requirements. (5/29)

Source: Irregularity Occurred as Soyuz Upper Stage was Orbiting Glonass Satellite (Source: Tass)
An irregularity occurred when the Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket’s third stage was orbiting a Glonass-M satellite from the Plesetsk spaceport in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region on Sunday, a source told TASS. "The Fregat upper stage worked longer than planned and used its engines to remedy the situation. A state commission is probing into the accident," the source said. (5/30)

XCOR Layoffs Primarily Impacted Lynx Team (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The layoffs at XCOR primarily affected the team working on the Lynx suborbital space plane. Some employees involved in the program remain. However, work on building the spacecraft has been suspended for the time being. Engineers working on XCOR’s rocket engines have been retained. Their main work will involve an engine for United Launch Alliance’s ACES upper stage. Some work will continue on Lynx’s engine and control thrusters.

Sources are indicating that XCOR laid off about 25 employees on Friday, which they say was just under half of the company. The exact head count before the staff reductions is unclear. Sources say around 50; however, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported in January that XCOR had 63 employees at the time. Staff remain employed at XCOR’s main headquarters in Mojave, and at its hangar in Midland, Texas.

Editor's Note: Let's not forget that Midland TX is supposed to be XCOR's R&D center, while the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Jacksonville were planned as their near-future location for manufacturing and operations, with ~150 Florida-based personnel by the end of 2018. Flashback here. (5/29)

UrtheCast to Receive Industry Canada Technology Development Program Award of $5 Million (Source: UrtheCast)
UrtheCast will receive $5.0 million in Government of Canada Technology Development Program (TDP) funding, as part of a $54 million contribution program for the development of new satellite technologies, as administered by the Government of Canada. UrtheCast’s contract for the $5.0 million portion of the TDP award is scheduled to be paid out evenly over five years.

This TDP Agreement will aid UrtheCast in the development of the ground-breaking technologies for its planned OptiSAR Constellation, currently slated for deployment in 2020-2021. The 16-satellite OptiSAR™ Constellation is expected to consist of eight X- and L-band SAR satellites and eight high-resolution optical satellites, flying in a paired, tandem configuration. (5/26)

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