June 1, 2016

ULA Gets Millions for Already-Contracted USAF Launch Work (Source: DOD)
United Launch Services (a subsidiary of ULA) has been awarded a $138,686,361 modification to a previously awarded contract for launch vehicle production services. ULS will configure an Air Force Atlas V 541 and provide commodities for four previously ordered missions. This modification adds pre‐priced contract line items and does not constitute exercised options. Work will be performed in Colorado, Alabama, and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida through September 2018. (5/31)

Antares Test Paves Way for Summer Launch (Source: Space News)
An Antares first stage completed a static fire test late Tuesday in advance of a return to flight in July. The first stage, held down on the pad at Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, fired its RD-181 engines for 30 seconds in the test late Tuesday. Analysis of the data from the test is ongoing, but Orbital ATK officials said the test appears to be a success. That hot-fire test is one of the last milestones before the Antares returns to flight, launching a Cygnus mission to the International Space Station. That launch is expected to take place in early July. (5/31)

Former Sea Launch Exec Joins ILS (Source: ILS)
A former Sea Launch executive has taken a job with International Launch Services. Peter Stier is joining ILS as its new senior director of sales. He previously worked for, among other companies, Sea Launch as its vice president of sales, business development and marketing, as well as Boeing and L-3 Communications. (5/31)

U.S. Commercial Crew Will Allow Russia to Fly Tourists Again (Source: Sputnik)
Russia may get back into the space tourism business in a couple of years. The head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center said there are no plans through 2018 to send tourists to the International Space Station on Soyuz vehicles. All the seats on upcoming Soyuz missions are required for ISS crew rotations, but the development of commercial crew vehicles by Boeing and SpaceX, expected to enter service in 2018, could free up seats on later Soyuz vehicles. (6/1)

New Astronaut Training Complex to Open at Vostochny Cosmodrome by 2022 (Source: Sputnik)
A preflight astronaut training complex at Russia’s new Vostochny Space Center will be completed by 2022, the head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center said. “According to the confirmed schedule, the construction of the preflight astronaut training center at the Vostochny Cosmodrom will be completed in 2022…This will be the most modern preflight training complex,” Yuri Lonchakov told journalists. (6/1)

Boeing Seeks Right To Chase Down $515M Sea Launch Money (Source: Law360)
Boeing asked a California federal judge to let it pursue around the world more than $515 million in judgments against its former partners in the Sea Launch joint venture, maintaining the companies have taken steps to try and avoid paying their share for the failed business. Last year, Boeing won summary judgments on allegations that Ukrainian state-owned KB Yuzhnoye and PO Yuzhnoye Mashinostroitelny Zavod and Russia-based SP Korolev Rocket and Space Corp. Energia had broken contracts by leaving Boeing holding the bag. (6/1)

Politics Threatens to Ground Military Access to Space (Source: The Hill)
ULA is now designing a new all-American rocket and engine to replace the Atlas V, which will end American reliance on RD-180s.  But for some in Congress this isn’t good enough. They are demanding that the military stop using the RD-180 almost immediately, regardless of the consequences for our military and national security. That would create a dangerous gap in U.S. launch capabilities for a number of years until the new rocket is complete and certified to launch.

The effects are not just military. Prematurely restricting RD-180s for the military will also have an impact on NASA’s commercial crew program and cargo shipments for the International Space Station as fewer launches with the RD-180 overall may make overhead costs for NASA use prohibitive.

It’s no surprise that some members of Congress have launched a public campaign against using these engines – tough talk about the Russians has always been good politics. But for those of us in the space business, we learn fast that the easy path isn’t always the right one or the safest one. The Air Force Secretary testified that prematurely ending the use of RD-180 engines could cost taxpayers as much as $5 billion. (5/31)

XCOR's Lynx Might Be Down for the Count, Can its Texas Spaceport Shrug it Off? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Even if XCOR is seemingly killing its marquee spaceplane, that doesn't necessarily mean the company is in trouble. In March, XCOR entered into a contract with ULA to develop a new upper-stage rocket engine that uses liquid hydrogen. Some people who might be crushed to hear about the probable demise of the Lynx are in Midland TX, where the spaceplane was supposed to be designed and flown. Yet in the heart of Texas the news is not seen as unexpected, or debilitating.

XCOR is the anchor tenant of the spaceport and broke ground at the airport in August. The engine testing was already supposed to move from California to Texas. The FAA requested that engine testing be moved away from the airport, say J. Ross Lacy, Midland city councilman and a member of the Texas Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee, as well as the Midland Spaceport Development Corporation Board. "It makes total business sense," Lacy says of XCOR's pivot to engine work. "They made us aware of the layoffs and called us to update us on their plans."

Part of the reason why Lacy is not howling mad is that Midland already got a bump from landing XCOR as a tenant. Along with the flight company came Orbital Outfitters, which came to the spaceport at the same time as XCOR to build flight suits. Orbital Outfitters will get to use the Midland Altitude Chamber Complex, a structure built by the spaceport with $3.5 million of taxpayer money containing equipment hard to find outside of NASA. (5/31)

Study Suggests Planet 9 is Stolen Exoplanet (Source: Space Daily)
New research suggests the mysterious and controversial "Planet 9" isn't an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet -- stolen by the sun from its original host star.

Most stars are born in clusters. The orbits of newborn stars often put them in relatively close proximity. The new simulation suggests that as our sun and another star passed by each other, the gravitational pull of our sun pulled in an exoplanet -- a theft that's gone unnoticed until recently. It's likely that prior to its kidnapping, Planet 9 -- also known as Planet X -- was bullied to the outer edges its original star system by other planets. (5/31)

Who Owns Space? (Source: Harvard Business School)
An associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Matt Weinzierl is the author of a new case entitled Blue Origin, NASA, and New Space, which he uses as part of his course in the MBA elective curriculum, The Role of Government in Market Economies. In that course, Weinzierl and his students investigate when and how government can work with markets to help society achieve its goals. In the rapidly-evolving space sector, he argues, society will have the opportunity to determine the proper roles for government and the private sector nearly from scratch. (6/1)

Bezos' Space Plan: Building Infrastructure For The Next Generation (Source: Forbes)
“If you go back to when I started Amazon, all of the heavy-lifting infrastructure to support Amazon was already in place. We did not have to invent a remote payment system. It was already there. It was called the credit card,” he said. “We did not have to invent transportation – there was this thing called the postal service,” he continued. “If we had had to deploy last-mile, it would’ve cost hundreds of billions of dollars.”

“So when it comes to space, I see it as my job – I’m building infrastructure the hard way. I’m using my resources to put in heavy-lifting infrastructure,” he said. “So the next generation of people can have a dynamic, entrepreneurial explosion into space...We have to dramatically lower the cost of access to space.” (6/1)

Gravitational Waves May Reveal Stringy Universe (Source: Ars Technica)
Everyone has been pretty excited by the recent observation of gravitational waves. I know that I am prone to exaggeration, but gravitational waves really do open up a new way to observe the Universe. Gravitational waves will generally pass through the early Universe and not notice the electrons and protons that we think of as ordinary matter. So the waves will carry information about the events that created them. And those rare moments when they scatter? We might get information from that, too.

The matter of the early Universe is just one playground, though. The other exciting possibility is to use gravitational waves to observe objects that do not emit light. These events and objects will be visible due to how they scatter gravitational waves. What might these objects be? In addition to the usual suspects, like black holes, are exotic things like cosmic strings. Yes, strings... in space. (5/31)

Give DoD 18 RD-180s; Alternatives Too Late, Too Costly (Source: Breaking Defense)
When the National Defense Authorization Bill comes to the Senate floor, lawmakers will face an important choice regarding the future of national security space launch. The Defense Department has relied upon United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV and Atlas V rockets — the latter powered by the Russian-built RD-180 engine. Maintaining redundant launch system capabilities — known as Assured Access to Space — is mandated by law, Title 10, Section 2273.

Given Russia’s recent hostile behavior, it’s only prudent to develop a domestic alternative. The question facing Congress is how to best attain this goal. Given budget pressures and the necessity of keeping military space launches on track, we may have to extend the use of the RD-180 as a bridge until a new American design is fielded.

The Pentagon should buy the additional 18 RD-180s and use the Falcon 9 when necessary. Why? Because the alternative of buying Delta IV launches is so expensive that it would break the Air Force’s budget. Pursuing this path would add an additional $1.5 billion to $5 billion to the launch budget, equating to upwards of 50 F-35s or two Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers. (6/1)

Japan's Litany of Errors Spun Hitomi to Pieces (Source: The Register)
Japan's space agency JAXA has detailed the litany of errors that ended with the failure of its Hitomi (Astro-H) spacecraft. Their conclusions are pretty damning for the agency, centering around a lack of protocols to manage a major change in the craft's thruster, and the disabling of safety systems. The sequence of events before the break-up, as far as the analysis can determine, started with a problem in the attitude control system (ACS).

This reported that the satellite was rotating when it wasn't, and to break the mistakenly-reported spin, mission controllers started the reaction wheel spinning. The next failure was that the magnetic torquer operated by the ACS didn't work, and that caused the reaction wheel to keep accumulating angular momentum (in other words, speeding up). This was exacerbated by a loss of Star Tracker (STT) data, which would have told the controllers the reported spin was incorrect; and even when the data was available, a misconfiguration meant it was ignored.

The ACS switched it to a safe mode and tried to use the thrusters to correct things – but it used “inappropriate thruster control parameters”, and sped up the rotation. Then components started breaking away. There was yet another failsafe that wasn't operating. The satellite had a Coarse Sun Aspect Sensor, which again would have provided data contradicting that from the ACS. The designers had decided not to use this data, because the limited 20° field of view of the sensors risked it producing false positives. (6/1)

China Plans 5 New Space Science Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
 China will put into space five new satellites within about five years as part of the country's fast-expanding space science program, a science chief said. The five satellites, including a Sino-European joint mission known as SMILE, will focus on observation of solar activities and their impact on the Earth environment and space weather, analysis of water recycling and probing of black holes, according to Wu Ji, director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (6/1)

French Minister Calls for European Rocket R&D Effort, Says SpaceX Victory Still TBD (Source: Space News)
France’s space minister on June 1 urged a redoubled European effort in space research, and specifically in next-generation rockets, in the face of what he said were increased investments by the United States and other major space powers.

Visiting the French and European space agencies’ merged launcher directorate in Paris, Mandon rejected the idea that SpaceX of the United States already had too far an advance in its rocket-reusability program to be matched by Europe. (6/1)

Space Foundation Seeks to Honor Colorado Space Industry Leaders (Source: Space Foundation)
Colorado has always been committed to space and with so many heroes connected to the state, we are honored to show our appreciation to the astronauts, aerospace executives, government officials, scholars and other public and private sector leaders who have contributed most significantly to the evolution, success and development of Colorado’s space economy as one of the most important in the nation and world.

Join us October 7, 2016, during World Space Week, for the inaugural landmark gala. Proceeds benefit education and outreach programs of the Space Foundation in order to continue to inspire new heroes for generations. Click here. (6/1)

Proposition for Replacement of RD-180 Engines by Ukraine (Source: Blackbird)
Is it possible that the Ukrainian space industry, which recently passed through a rough time and was strongly affected with economic crisis, will beat a Russian competitor in the American market? Millions of dollars given to American companies surely will resolve the lack of an American rocket engine with comparable parameters to the RD-180. But what is a better motivation for increasing this effort than little competition from the outside?

During a May visit of representatives of Ukrainian authorities to the U.S., Ukrainian officials proposed to combine efforts of American and Ukrainian companies to develop a new rocket engine able to replace the Russian RD-180. With much lower labor cost in Ukraine, it is more than possible to manufacture new generation rocket engines in Ukraine with lower costs that NPO Energomash is offering to ULA their RD-180.

For Ukraine's space industry it will be a unique chance to leave crisis behind and enter to the American market. Their space industry, which was during years of USSR most modern, was put in the front of catastrophe during recent two years. The Crimea crisis was the beginning of the end of cooperation with Roscosmos, which was a main source of money for Ukraine's space industry. The end of the joint programs like Sea Launch, cancelling Russian participation in Dnepr rocket, and canceling the Tsyklon-4 program by Brazilian partners, left Yuzhnoye without any customers. (6/1)

All the Vehicles That Will Take You to Space (Source: Washington Post)
Commercial companies like SpaceX are starting to gain traction in the space industry. There are currently more than a dozen private rockets capsules and spaceplanes under development, with more on the way soon. Most will carry cargo, while others will primarily be for crew and space tourism. Click here. (6/1)

Will NASA’s ARM Mission to an Asteroid be Canceled? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While NASA’s public outreach efforts have focused primarily on going to Mars, the agency’s interim missions robotic and crewed visits to an asteroid—are facing opposition in Congress. Congress has not been enthusiastic about the asteroid mission to date. In March, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) called the mission “uninspiring.” To put an exclamation point on the matter, the House stated that “…no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid.”

Asteroid exploration has not enjoyed uniform support from the aerospace community, either. Where this leaves NASA’s journey to Mars is still yet to be determined. The agency has been promoting an incremental, capability-based approach to getting to Mars, with one of its “strategic principles” being that any Mars program must be “Implementable in the near term with the buying power of current budgets and in the longer term with budgets commensurate with economic growth.” Not surprisingly, there are differing views in Washington D.C. over what that should mean. (6/1)

How Does Quantum Mechanics Allow The Sun To Shine? (Source: Forbes)
The greatest source of concentrated energy in the Universe today is starlight, where the largest single objects in the Universe emit tremendous amounts of power through the smallest of processes: the nuclear fusion of subatomic particles. If you happen to be on a planet in orbit around such a star, it can provide you with all the energy necessary to facilitate complex chemical reactions, which is exactly what happens here on the surface of Earth.

How does this happen? Deep inside the hearts of stars — including in our own Sun’s core — light elements are fused together under extreme conditions into heavier ones. At temperatures over about 4 million kelvin and at densities more than ten times that of solid lead, hydrogen nuclei (single protons) can fuse together in a chain reaction to form helium nuclei (two protons and two neutrons), releasing a tremendous amount of energy in the process. Click here. (6/1)

NASA Satellite Finds Unreported Sources of Toxic Air Pollution (Source: NASA)
Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions.

A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Current, sulfur dioxide monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage. The inventories are used to evaluate regulatory policies for air quality improvements and to anticipate future emission scenarios that may occur with economic and population growth.

The 39 unreported emission sources, found in the analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014, are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters, oil and gas operations found notably in the Middle East, but also in Mexico and parts of Russia. In addition, reported emissions from known sources in these regions were -- in some cases -- two to three times lower than satellite-based estimates. Altogether, the unreported and underreported sources account for about 12 percent of all human-made emissions of sulfur dioxide. (6/1)

Bayer, Planetary Resources Collaborate to Improve Agriculture with Space Data (Source: Planetary Resources)
Planetary Resources is pleased to announce that we have signed a memorandum of understanding with Bayer, one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies, regarding the development of applications and products based on advanced space imagery from our Earth observation platform, Ceres.

Bayer intends to purchase data from Planetary Resources to create new agricultural products and improve existing ones, to "deliver truly practical intelligence to growers anywhere on the planet,” according to Liam Condon, the Bayer CropScience CEO. (5/31)

A Year on Mars (Source: Space Review)
The recent Humans to Mars Summit in Washington was only the latest in a series of conferences about human exploration of Mars. Dwayne Day compares this conference with some other ones, and discusses what was said, and overlooked, there about getting humans to Mars. Click here. (5/31)
XS-1 Prepares for Liftoff (Source: Space Review)
Last week, DARPA released a request for proposals for the next phase of its experimental reusable launch vehicle program, XS-1. Jeff Foust reports on how the competition stacks up for XS-1 and whether the program can retain its relevance as private ventures make progress on their own reusable vehicles. Click here. (5/31)
The Rapture of the Wonks (Source: Space Review)
Advocates of artificial intelligence can be as devoted to their belief that it will positively benefit society as space advocates are of the benefits of space settlement. Dwayne Day describes a recent interview with a science fiction author who has a more cautionary view of both subjects. Click here. (5/31)
A Comprehensive First Look at Denmark’s Domestic Space Law (Source: Space Review)
Denmark is the latest country to develop a national space law. Michael Listner reviews the provisions of the new law and how they compare with other nations and with international treaties. Click here. (5/31)
Petitioning the US to Take the Lead in Space Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
Advocates of space-based solar power have launched petitions seeking to win attention and support for the concept within the federal government. Mike Snead makes the case for why readers should sign those petitions. Click here. (5/31)

The Moon's Water Actually Came From Asteroids, Not Comets (Source: Inverse)
study released today details how we’ve been getting the early history of the moon all wrong. While we previously thought the moon’s water was delivered by comets, it would seem that we should have been crediting asteroids in providing water during the beginning of the moon’s evolution, around 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists collaborating from all over the world analyzed samples from both comets and meteors (as well as the lunar surface) and found that more than 80 percent of water inside the moon can be traced back to asteroids; it was asteroids, not comets, that were overwhelmingly hitting the moon during its early of geological history (the first 500 million years or so). (5/31)

Orbital ATK Conducts Successful Antares Test Firing (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Orbital ATK has conducted a full-power “hot fire” test of the upgraded first stage propulsion system of its Antares medium-class rocket using new RD-181 main engines. The 30-second test took place at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A. Initial indications are that the test was fully successful. (5/31)

Once a National Hero, Syria's Lone Cosmonaut is Now a Refugee In Turkey (Source: NPR)
More than 2 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, driven out by the fighting that erupted in their homeland in 2011. But none can claim an odyssey quite like that of Mohammed Faris. As Syria's first and only cosmonaut, Mohammed Faris rocketed into orbit with two Soviet colleagues in 1987. He conducted experiments and photographed his country from space. By the time he returned to Syria, most everyone in the country knew his name.

Yet Faris is now a refugee himself, fleeing to Turkey after speaking out against the government's efforts to crush the 2011 uprising. He ended up in Istanbul, much better off than most, but a refugee all the same. (5/31)

Ukraine Proposes Joint Production of Rocket Engines to Replace Russia's RD-180 (Source: Tass)
Ukraine has proposed to the United States joint development and production of rocket engines to replace Russia’s RD-180 that the US side buys for its space industry, head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) Lyubomyr Sabadosh said on Monday, commenting on the results of a Ukrainian delegation’s visit to the United States on May 23-27.

According to Sabadosh, the US experts expressed interest in the supplies of engines to replace the Russian ones. The SSAU head said that during future negotiations between the sides that will be held in Kiev in November, they should discuss the timeframe of the development, conducting tests, as well as the funding. (5/30)

Is An Exoplanet 1,200 Lightyears Away Capable of Sustaining Life? (Source: CS Monitor)
A distant planet 1,200 light years away from Earth, which may have rocky topography and an ocean, could be capable of sustaining life, according to a new study. "We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water," lead author Aomawa Shields, a postdoctoral program fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a press release. "This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet."

Scientists determined that Kepler-62f, which is about 40 percent larger than Earth, is the outermost of five planets that orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. The planet's size suggests it could be rocky and perhaps have oceans. The researchers used existing global climate models to simulate possible climates on Kepler-62f, while using the HNBody computer model to calculate its orbital path. They also entertained several possible scenarios of atmospheric conditions to determine whether the planet could sustain life. (5/31)

Military GPS Receiver Advances Could Help Trim Satellite Costs (Source: Inside GNSS)
Advanced military receivers using the sort of modern multi-channel, multi-constellation capabilities already available commercially, could enable the Air Force to focus its anti-jam efforts on the ground, simplifying future GPS satellites and lowering their cost. Moreover, experts told Inside GNSS, the cutting-edge receivers could be deployed years before the anti-jam capability planned for the new GPS III satellites would be fully available. (5/31)

Chang'e 5 Lunar Probe to Land on Moon and Return in 2017 (Source: Xinhua)
China will send lunar probe Chang'e 5 to land on the moon and return with lunar samples in the second half of 2017, according to State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) on Friday. It will be the first time a Chinese probe to land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth, and the third stage of China's lunar exploration endeavor, said the SASTIND.

The first stage of lunar expedition was achieved by sending Chang'e 1, a circumlunar satellite, in 2007. China landed its first lunar probe Chang'e 3 on the surface of the moon in 2013. China is also planning to be the first country to land on the far side of the moon. That mission will be carried out by Chang'e-4, a backup for Chang'e-3, and is due to be launched in 2018, according to SASTIND. (5/26)

NASA Chief Says 21st-Century Space Is About Cooperation, Not Competition (Source: Washington Diplomat)
China and Russia may not be America’s preferred partners when international relations are at play, but both countries have proven invaluable allies when it comes to issues slightly out of this world — in space. NASA is not only behind the first steps mankind took on the moon, but it is also behind a number of “giant steps here on Earth,” according to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.

NASA’s use of “soft and smart power” has led to myriad international partnerships between the United States and a number of other countries, including Russia and China, which in many foreign policy arenas are considered rivals or antagonists. But in space collaboration, the United States can take “global leadership by example and action,” said Bolden. (5/27)

Zero-G Offers Ride with George Takei to Celebrate Star Trek Anniversary (Source: GeekWire)
It’s not deep space, but if you’re looking for an adventure that feels a bit like it, Zero Gravity Corporation is promoting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go weightless with a “Star Trek” star. Roddenberry Adventures is teaming with Zero-G to offer a chance to fly with George Takei, the actor who portrayed Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original television series. Twenty seats will be available on a specially modified Boeing 727.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of “Star Trek,” the flight will take place in Las Vegas on Aug. 4, almost 50 years after the airing of the show’s pilot episode. Each ticket is $6,500 and will include a Zero-G flight suit, Regravitation Celebration, certificate of weightless completion and photos and video of the unique experience shared with Takei. (5/31)

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