June 8, 2016

Energia Slams Boeing's Bid to Chase $515 Million Award (Source: Law360)
Russian aerospace giant Energia on Monday slammed Boeing’s contention that it and other former partners in a failed spacecraft-launch joint venture are trying avoid paying more than $515 million they owe Boeing for breach of contract, telling a California federal judge that Boeing can’t prove that they’re moving assets.

Energia asked U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. to deny Boeing’s request for carte blanche to pursue around the world the Russian aerospace giant and its co-defendants, Ukrainian state-owned KB Yuzhnoye and PO Yuzhnoye Mashinostroitelny Zavod. (6/7)

Editorial: Midland TX Spaceport Development Should Continue To Be Priority (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
On the surface, the news of layoffs at XCOR was supposed to be damning. The Midland Development Corp. (MDC) put its money behind the wrong space industry player. The efforts to turn Midland International into a spaceport would go for naught. The development restrictions created because of the spaceport classification would be called into question.

The truth is, none of that appears to be the case. The MDC, city of Midland and our community isn’t slowing down as far as space is concerned. XCOR, officials say, still matters; so do the spaceport license and development restrictions. Former XCOR chief Jeff Greason is putting his money and energies where his mouth is. He and two other XCOR founders still are betting on the space industry, having started Agile Aero. They also are betting on Midland and are keeping the operations here.

“Back when I was looking around for where to move XCOR, I searched through the United States for places that had the right combination of factors. I didn’t pick Midland out of a hat. All of the fundamentals that made Midland a good location for aerospace industry are still there.” If city leaders are serious about Midland’s future in the space industry, they will continue to approve using those resources -- and any other that are available -- for Spaceport Business Park development. (6/7)

Maybe Black Holes (and Wormholes) Aren’t as Monstrous as We Thought (Source: GeekWire)
Black holes may have gotten a bad rap. And wormholes just might be a realistic way to travel Star Trek-style after all. Years ago, the traditional wisdom about those exotic cosmic phenomena was pretty forbidding: Once something fell into a black hole, it was gone for good. Not a trace of the information describing that thing could ever be recovered. This view gave rise to a famous saying from physicist John Wheeler: “Black holes have no hair.”

And wormholes? Sure, maybe you could theoretically create an extradimensional shortcut between two points in spacetime. But it would take loads of never-seen negative energy, and anything you sent through the wormhole would be blasted to bits by extreme tidal forces. Hence, movies ranging from “Contact” to “Star Trek” and “Interstellar” are far more fanciful than factual. (6/7)

Nelson Offers Five Year Solution for Russian Engine Dilemma (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, announced that he is recommending that companies launching for the U.S. government, including ULA, stop using Russian-made engines within five years. ULA uses the Russian engine on its Atlas V rocket.

Nelson said in a news release that allowing the use of Russian rockets for five more years will save money and ensure a steady supply of satellites heading into space. “Banning the use of these engines too soon would not only cost taxpayers billions of dollars, it would put our national security at risk and unnecessarily hamper our ability to launch satellites into space,” Nelson said.

Editor's Note: Did Nelson mean only DOD launches? Russian engines are also used on Orbital ATK's Antares rocket. Antares, however, doesn't support U.S. military missions so is currently not affected by the ban that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is so intent on enforcing for ULA. This solution offered by Sen. Nelson might include NASA missions in addition to those for DOD, which would be bad news for Orbital ATK. (6/7)

Colorado Lawmakers Push Five-Year Deal in NDAA to Allow Further Use of Russian Engines (Source: The Gazette)
Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday pushed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow the Pentagon to fly satellites to space using Russian rocket motors for five more years. The RD-180 engine is a key component in a popular rocket built by the Denver-based United Launch Alliance. Lawmakers for the past two years have called for banning the engine amid rising tension with Russia, where it is built.

But moving away from the Russian rocket engine has proved troublesome as U.S. manufacturers haven't come up with a rapid replacement. Colorado's U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner were among lawmakers who pushed a measure introduced Monday that would allow use of the motor through 2022. (6/7)

NDAA 'Micromanagement' of DOD Brings Veto Threat (Source: Law360)
The White House threatened Tuesday to veto the U.S. Senate’s $602 billion 2017 National Defense Authorization Act unless major changes are made, citing issues such as attempts to “micromanage” the Pentagon, overly rigid contracting clauses and purported attempts to undermine labor- and tax-related executive orders. (6/7)

NASA Looking for Right Partners for New Launch Pads (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A NASA official said the timing is right to offer vacant land at Kennedy Space Center for development, as Florida’s Space Coast sees a rush of launch activity. Scott Colloredo, NASA’s director of planning and development, said building new launch pads requires the agency to find the right partner first.

Even before a notification period opened last week, the agency heard from multiple companies expressing interest in the property. Though he wouldn't say which companies, Colloredo said they represented both large and small aerospace firms. “These are the same companies that need to grow their footprint and they are looking for opportunities to grow at Kennedy,” Colloredo said.

“Commercial space has become a big deal,” Colloredo said. “Companies now want to take advantage of our east coast launch capabilities, controlled air space and secure perimeter. It adds up to a great place to launch rockets from.” (6/7)

SpaceX Plans to Relaunch a Used Rocket for the First Time This Fall (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX now has four used rockets in a hangar at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. One of them will re-fly for the first time in September or October. Those target dates are a little later than what Elon Musk had originally suggested, however. After SpaceX's first drone ship landing in April, the CEO said the Falcon 9 rocket could fly again on an orbital mission as early as May or June. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to land and re-fly its rockets within just a few weeks. (6/7)

Why the Deep Space Atomic Clock is Key for Future Space Exploration (Source: The Conversation)
We all intuitively understand the basics of time. Every day we count its passage and use it to schedule our lives. We also use time to navigate our way to the destinations that matter to us. In school we learned that speed and time will tell us how far we went in traveling from point A to point B; with a map we can pick the most efficient route – simple.

But what if point A is the Earth, and point B is Mars – is it still that simple? Conceptually, yes. But to actually do it we need better tools – much better tools. In its final form, the Deep Space Atomic Clock will be suitable for operations in the solar system well beyond Earth orbit. Our goal is to develop an advanced prototype of DSAC and operate it in space for one year, demonstrating its use for future deep space exploration. (6/7)

SpaceX an Example of Crony Capitalism (Source: Town Hall)
Musk is apparently a huge Beatles fan, because he gets by with a little help from his friends in government. SpaceX has enjoyed $5.5 billion worth of government contracts. Another $20 million in economic subsidies from Texas where the launch site is meant to be located. Don’t forget the 15-year tax break that takes about $3 million from local schools.

Then there is the $4.9 billion in government subsidies Musk received for his three companies. In addition to the billions in from state governments as well. You might think SpaceX was set up as a government money funnel…not a space exploration company. Sorry to be so cynical, just keep looking to the stars and dream of living up there! Don’t worry about who’s paying for any of it.

One of Musk’s very best friends in government is the venerable John McCain. Every time McCain makes a move in the space industry, you can expect to see SpaceX as the beneficiary. Why would that be? Could it be the $10,000 that the SpaceX PAC donated to Senator John McCain this cycle or the $1,780,000 SpaceX spent on lobbying in 2015 of which a large percentage was spent on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 that Sen. McCain co-sponsored and was signed into law. (6/8)

July Targeted for Antares' Virginia Return to Flight (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Inside a giant warehouse at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, engineers and VIPs posed for pictures Tuesday in front of what looked like a 20-foot-tall can of soup. Another day, another milestone in Orbital ATK's march toward its return to flight at the facility: the mechanical marriage of the two hulking modules that comprise the Cygnus spacecraft.

NASA and its private contractor are targeting a launch date some time in July, they announced Tuesday at a press gathering at the facility. Engineers are preparing the rocket to send supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. A successful launch also will send a message that Wallops remains a viable spaceport, said Dan Tani, a senior director with Orbital and former astronaut. (6/7)

Why it's Time to Go Back to the Moon (Source: The Verge)
Mars is an extremely popular destination right now. Putting people on the Red Planet has been the big goal for NASA since 2010, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made it very clear that his company is going to try to start a Martian colony as early as 2024. Mars One has managed to find hundreds of hopefuls who say they are willing to live out their last remaining days on Mars. Even Buzz Aldrin is encouraging us to get our asses there.

But a Martian colony is going to be more complicated than people realize. We still haven’t invented many of the technologies needed to keep people alive — both during the journey to Mars and when we get there. Some tech has already been created, but we don’t know how it’ll hold up in space or even on another planet. That’s why we need to shift our gaze from Mars to a much closer neighbor: the Moon.

A return to the Moon would do great things for the space community and for NASA. First, a Moon mission would probably spark more collaboration with our international and commercial partners. Roscosmos and ESA both aim to set up a lunar colony, and the two agencies would likely be eager to lend expertise, personnel, and hardware to NASA. America's burgeoning private space industry could also get involved, by incorporating their rockets and hardware into a lunar trip. And both the commercial industry and the rest of the world would benefit from NASA's leadership. (6/8)

Hawaii Robotics Team Performs Well in Florida Space Mining Competition (Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)
The University of Hawaii at Hilo placed 21st out of 45 teams at the NASA Robotics Mining Competition last month at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The school’s six-member Vulcan Space Robotics Team was tasked to design and build a mining robot that can ultimately excavate and traverse a simulated Martian terrain. The students spent hundreds of hours during the past school year building a robot named “Spock.” (6/7)

Space-Based Gravitational Wave Detector one Big Step Closer (Source: Cosmos)
The European Space Agency's plan to build an ultra-sensitive gravitational wave detector in space just took a major step forward, with the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Pathfinder mission successfully housing a pair of metallic cubes in free-fall for two whole months. A detector in space, far from the rumblings of the Earth's crust or trucks on nearby roads, will be able to pick up much fainter signals – and this is what the LISA mission aims to achieve. (6/8)

Air Force Museum Opens Expanded Space Gallery in Ohio (Source: CollectSpace)
The largest military aviation museum in the world now has the "space" to tell the full story of the United States Air Force's ongoing efforts to extend beyond Earth's atmosphere.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, officially opened its fourth building with a ceremony Tuesday (June 7) and a ribbon cutting on Wednesday morning. More than a decade in the making, the $40.8 million, 224,000 square-foot (21,000 sq. meter) hangar encompasses four different galleries, including a large exhibit area dedicated to the Air Force's contributions to spaceflight and exploration. (6/8)

Gene Thomas, Challenger Launch Director, Has Died (Source: Florida Today)
Gene Thomas, the launch director for space shuttle Challenger's ill-fated flight in 1986 and a former top official at Kennedy Space Center, has died, NASA confirmed Tuesday. Thomas died after a long illness at a hospital near his home in Collierville, Tennessee. (6/7)

Mars One Colony Project to Whittle List of Astronaut Hopefuls to 40 (Source: Space.com)
Mars One — the private venture formed to send people on a one-way trip to the Red Planet — is getting ready to whittle down its astronaut hopefuls from 100 people to just 40. In the near future (the exact date has not been announced), Mars One will hold a five-day team challenge made up of those hopefuls. The process will start with 10 groups of 10, but the groups will change composition due to "continuous elimination," the statement said. (6/7)

Masten Introduces Next-Generation Reusable Rockets (Source: Masten Space)
Introducing the next generation of reusable rockets - Masten's Xodiac and XaeroB. As the successors to Xombie, Xoie, and Xaero, these two rockets serve as terrestrial test beds for commercial and government developers. Features of Masten terrestrial test bed include: precision vertical landing; custom flight profile; rapid iteration; custom physical/mechanical integration; and rocket powered station keeping. Click here. (6/7)

A Mysterious Ring of Microwaves (Source: ESA)
Fifty years ago, astronomers discovered a mystery. They called it Loop I. Today, we still have not fully resolved the mystery of how this giant celestial structure formed but we do now have the best image of it, thanks to ESA’s Planck satellite. Loop I is a nearly circular formation that covers one third of the sky. In reality, it is probably a spherical ‘bubble’ that stretches to more than 100º across, making it wider than 200 full Moons.

Its absolute size, however, is extremely uncertain because astronomers do not know how close it is to us: estimates to the center of the bubble vary from 400 light-years to 25 000 light-years. What they do know is that the structure shows up in many different wavelengths, from radio waves to gamma rays. Planck sees Loop I in microwaves. This image’s colors reflect the polarization – the direction in which the microwaves are oscillating. Click here. (6/7)

Saving NASA’s ARM and the Journey to Mars (Source: Space News)
The recent Human to Mars Summit in Washington had a spirited discussion of when would humans get to Mars and who would they be. The NASA program, Journey to Mars, was criticized by those who want it done their way (usually with technology not yet funded or planned) and by those who do not think it is fast enough. Common to most critics is their recommendation for significantly more funding and a citation that “all that is lacking is the political will.”

The lack of political will is amply testified to by the lack of interest in the subject by all political campaigns, past and present. Hand-wringing at space conferences isn’t likely to change that. Wishing to do Mars exploration differently than proposed by NASA is intellectually satisfying but lacks any of requisite institutional or systematic program development needed for such a complex endeavor. It also lacks funding. These two factors will almost certainly result in a paralysis of progress whereby nothing is achieved that advances humans toward Mars. (6/7)

New Algorithm May Lead to a Picture of an Actual Black Hole (Source: Engadget)
MIT grad student Katie Bouman and her team have developed an algorithm that could finally show us a photo of an actual black hole. See, all the black hole "photos" you've seen thus far are merely artist interpretations depicting what we think they look like.

In order to capture, say, a picture of the supermassive black hole in the center of our own galaxy, we'll need an enormous telescope with a diameter almost as big as our planet. Since it's impossible to build something that massive, Bouman's algorithm called Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors, or CHIRP, stitches data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope array. (6/7)

Added Accountability Urged for Space Florida (Source: News Service of Florida)
Operations at the state's public-private space and tourism agencies appear financially sound. But Florida's jobs chief said Space Florida and Visit Florida could still be tweaked for more "accountability and efficiency." At Space Florida, created to expand the state's space industry, the recommendations seek further evaluation into the agency's "unique funding mechanisms."

Space Florida, which generates revenue through the management of the former Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center as a testing ground for new companies and technologies, has been budgeted for a total of $49.5 million from 2012 through the current fiscal year. The agency will get $17.5 million from the Legislature for the upcoming fiscal year. The state money includes $1.5 million to promote businesses involved in space tourism.

"We look forward to working and continuing our relationship with the Department of Economic Opportunity," Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello replied to questions about the audit. "There were no surprises on the recent review, and Space Florida works diligently to remain transparent and forthcoming on all of its activities." (6/7)

NASA Trims Astrophysics Research Funds to Cover Shortfall (Source: Space News)
NASA’s astrophysics division will cut several million dollars of research funds this year to partially cover a broader funding shortfall created by congressionally mandated allocations to other division programs.

Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, told a meeting of the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee June 6 that a $3 million cut in research and analysis (R&A) funds was the one “real impact” in $36 million in savings he had to find within the astrophysics program for fiscal year 2016. (6/7)

LISA Pathfinder Reports Record-Breaking Gravitational Wave Results (Source: Scientific American)
The most quiescent environment ever engineered by humans exists some 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, scientists announced Tuesday. There, shielded inside a European Space Agency spacecraft called LISA Pathfinder, two 4.6-centimeter gold-platinum cubes have reached an almost-perfect state of stillness, subject to scarcely more than the pure force of gravity as they orbit around the sun.

All other influences that could cause the cubes to move—jostling molecules, impinging cosmic rays and wavering electromagnetic fields—only impart a collective force roughly equivalent to the weight of a single virus held in your hand. The feat, detailed in Physical Review Letters, is a major milestone in the quest to study the cosmic ripples called gravitational waves, and it paves the way for future gravitational-wave observatories in deep space. Click here. (6/7)

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