June 9, 2016

Boeing's $325M Sea Launch Win Too Big, Energia Tells Court (Source: Law 360)
A Russian aerospace company that owes Boeing some $325 million for the failed Sea Launch joint venture urged a California federal court Tuesday to trim off $20 million, saying the court missed “crucial undisputed facts” that another Sea Launch investor already paid that amount. RSC Energia had been found liable in September for Boeing's losses when the pair's Sea Launch LLC joint venture went bankrupt in 2009. The Russian company said Tuesday that its $325 million share of Boeing's $515 million in judgments should be reduced. (6/8)

China Plans Massive Lab 10,000 Feet Underwater (Source: MSN)
China is speeding up efforts to design and build a manned deep-sea platform to help it hunt for minerals in the South China Sea, one that may also serve a military purpose in the disputed waters. Such an oceanic “space station” would be located as much as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) below the surface, according to a recent Science Ministry presentation viewed by Bloomberg. The project was mentioned in China’s current five-year economic plan released in March and ranked number two on a list of the top 100 science and technology priorities. (6/8)

Dish Network Battles OneWeb and SpaceX for Ku-Band Spectrum Rights (Source: Space News)
A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX.

SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive. In a June 8 FCC submission, the coalition says the low-orbiting satellite constellations in Ku-band have provided no credible evidence that they will ever be built. Even if they are, there is plenty of spectrum available in both Ku- and Ka-band, the coalition said. (6/9)

Russian Rocket Launches Intelsat 31 Spacecraft (Source: SpaceFlight InsideR)
International Launch Services (ILS) conducted a successful launch of its Proton-M booster carrying a communications satellite for Intelsat. The rocket, with the Intelsat 31 spacecraft (also known as DLA-2), lifted off at exactly 3:10 a.m. EDT (07:10 GMT) June 9 from Launch Pad 24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (6/9)

McCain and Musk: Corporate Cronies Gone Wild (Source: Washington Times)
What happens when corporate interests see a $600 billion government authorization bill coming down the pike? Especially when it’s a bill that has been enacted every single year for more than 50 years? Well, not surprisingly, if you’re the Washington office (read: lobbyist) of such a corporate entity, you go all out to get your provision into that bill.

This week’s example comes from the U.S. Senate, where Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona is attempting to use his clout to do a big favor for one of his big liberal donors during consideration of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. What is beyond dispute is that Sen. McCain wants the Pentagon to use rockets made by his liberal donor buddy, Elon Musk, whose SpaceX is now trying to get those contracts. But there’s a hitch: SpaceX doesn’t have a rocket capable of carrying these payloads into space.

And even if it did, SpaceX has another problem: Its rockets seem to have a tendency to blow up. One almost wonders whether Mr. Musk should seek the assistance of the noted rocket engineer Wile E. Coyote before his next attempt. This is a real problem. Roughly two-thirds of our military, intelligence community, scientific and even weather satellites are launched into space on the Atlas V rocket, which uses the Russian RD-180 rocket engines. (6/8)

McCain NDAA Amendment Would Leave Musk in Rocket Seat (Source: The Hill)
“[Elon Musk] definitely goes where there’s government money,” Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research, told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s a great strategy, but government will cut you off one day.”

Not until McCain is out of office. Musk’s interest in the defense authorization bill is more than just passing. SpaceX is one of two companies certified to sell rocket engines to the government to launch military and intelligence satellites into space. McCain has proposed an amendment that would render the opponent, the United Launch Alliance, ineligible.

McCain’s amendment would “impose restrictions on the procurement of services of property in connection with military space launch from entities owned or controlled by persons sanctioned in connection with Russia’s invasions of Crimea.”  The ULA, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, buys the engines that power its rockets from Russia. Without those engines, only McCain’s pal, Musk, would be qualified to bid on these projects. (6/9)

Orbital ATK’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles Facing Increased Competition (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Orbital ATK has a family of Minotaur launch vehicles that are derived from decommissioned Minuteman II and Peacekeeper ICBMs. Components from the Pegasus air-launched booster, which Orbital ATK developed on its own, are used in the Minotaur line. Under law, the Minotaur rockets cannot be used for commercial missions. As a result, they are primarily used by government agencies for selected missions.

Orbital ATK’s boosters range in price from $40 to $55 million, raising questions as to their long-term competitiveness. SpaceX, for example, charges $62.1 million for its much more powerful Falcon 9 booster.  The company has talked about lowering the price to $40 million for reused versions of its rocket.

Meanwhile, Orbital ATK faces competition both from existing and planned launch vehicles.  The table below shows Orbital ATK’s small-satellite launch vehicles (in blue) with other rockets that are operational or in development with similar payload capacities to low Earth orbit. Click here. (6/9)

Jordanian King Meets NASA Administrator (Source: Ammon News)
His Majesty King Abdullah II on Wednesday received, in the presence of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein, Administrator of NASA Charles Bolden. During the meeting in Al Husseiniya Palace, the King said Jordan looks forward to benefiting from NASA's programs and experience in the scientific field. He also spoke about possibilities for Jordanian educational and academic institutions to benefit from these programs. (6/8)

NASA-Themed Clothing Is Touching Down in Your Closet (Source: Complex)
The simplest manifestation of our childhood desires is seen in the glut of space-themed T-shirts produced by the likes of Urban Outfitters and Topshop; the fast-fashion retailers are both currently providing the nostalgic masses with tees printed with NASA’s logo. The logo has been played with by brands like VFILES, and Pintrill has used old NASA patches and pins on jackets. Y-3 is creating spacesuits that finally look like the type of apparel we were promised in every futuristic movie.

Teen Vogue's June/July cover even features Gigi Hadid's brother Anwar in a full spacesuit. In the fashion-adjacent art world, artists like George Henry Longly are exploring the themes of space exploration, the duo behind Standards Manual are reproducing the NASA manual, and famed architect Daniel Arsham is always up to something similar. (6/8)

Luxembourg’s Asteroid Mining Initiative Could Boost Space Exploration (Source: Observer)
The developing technologies involved in turning space mining from fiction into reality could potentially help fuel more ambitious space exploration programs. NASA could develop contracts with space mining operations to obtain resources in space for extended missions rather than ferrying them from Earth.

“I believe the future lies in a robust space economy that is driven by commercial interests,” Dr. Simon Worden, the former NASA Ames Research Center director, who is advising Luxembourg on its space mining initiatives, said during a news conference, according to ArsTechnica. “The interesting thing is that we’re seeing a situation here where space agencies globally are moving from doing these things themselves. (6/8)

Russian State Media: Ukrainian Engine Proposal a "Formula for Disaster" (Source: Sputnik)
A joint effort by the US and Ukraine to replace Russian rocket engines would be a perfect "formula for disaster," retired US Department of Defense analyst Franklin "Chuck" Spinney told Sputnik. A Ukrainian proposal to co-manufacture large rocket engines with the United States to replace Russian ones would face enormous problems, Spinney claimed.

"From a program management point of view, based on my experience in the Defense Department... teaming corrupt - and probably incompetent - Ukrainians with US defense-space contractors is a formula for a budget-schedule-performance disaster," Spinney said. 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 Lyubomyr Sabadosh said.

However, if such a deal was approved, both US aerospace contractors and Ukrainian companies partnering with them were likely to try and take full advantage of opportunities for cost overruns and loopholes in agreements, Spinney predicted. (6/3)

Arianespace Delays Ariane 5 Launch for Rocket System Anomaly (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The launch of an Ariane 5, mission designation VA230, was delayed from Wednesday, June 8, to Thursday, June 16, due to an anomaly that occurred on a fluid connector between the cryogenic upper stage and the launch table during the rollout to the launch pad. Arianespace is currently working on the replacing the component that caused the anomaly. (6/8)

How Crimea Fractured Ukraine’s Space Program (Source: Space News)
The last two years have been tough for Ukraine in general, and its space program in particular. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 meant Ukraine lost access to a major ground station located there. That annexation, and ongoing unrest in eastern Ukraine, has also cut off most business Ukraine’s space industry had with Russia. The conflict also put on hold plans to launch Lybid, a communications satellite for Ukraine built by Canada’s MDA Corp.

There have been other problems as well. Demand for the Ukraine’s Zenit launch vehicle has dried up as Sea Launch suspended operations, and its future remains uncertain. Brazil backed out — for now, at least — of an agreement to host a launch site for the Cyclone-4 rocket. The failure of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket in October 2014 also affected Ukraine, as the rocket’s first stage is designed and built by Ukrainian firms Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash. Click here. (6/7)

Projects Selected for Florida/Israel Aerospace Technology Grants (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and Israel's Industrial Center for Research and Development have selected the third-round winners of industrial research and development funding tied to the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Program. In October 2013, Florida and Israel created a $2 million recurring joint fund for projects that benefit both Israel and Florida.

For this Call for Projects, in total, 12 joint proposals were submitted and four teams have been selected for the third-round awards. The winning projects include a "Lab-On-A-Chip" system biological space research; radiation protection technology for spaceflight; a sensor suite for tracking objects in space; and a tele-health platform for long-duration space missions. Click here. (6/5)

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