July 20, 2016

Spaceport America Chief Steps Down (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Christine Anderson, the executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority who oversaw construction of Spaceport America and has led the organization for more than five years, resigned Tuesday. “As you may recall, I committed to doing the job for one year, and it has now been over five,” Anderson wrote in her resignation letter to Richard Holdridge, chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority board of directors.

“I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while,” Anderson told the Sun-News Tuesday. “I love the job, but after 5½ years this is a good time to leave because it’s before the legislative rush.” Anderson said she has no firm plans for the future, other than looking for her next adventure. Anderson was hired in February 2011 to replace Rick Homans, who said at the time he had been pressured to step down by Gov. Susana Martinez. (7/19)

Customers of India’s PSLV Rocket Say India Unlikely to Accept U.S. Terms (Source: Space News)
Past and future customers of India’s PSLV rocket said they doubt whether India will ever sign the kind of price-commitment agreement with the U.S. government that has been a subject of dispute for a decade. Without substantial modifications that would reduce the agreement to no more than a fig leaf, Indian authorities will never agree to lose face by signing it because of its implied loss of sovereignty, they said. (7/19)

Clusters of Small Satellites Could Help Estimate Earth's Reflected Energy (Source: Space Daily)
A team of small, shoebox-sized satellites, flying in formation around the Earth, could estimate the planet's reflected energy with twice the accuracy of traditional monolith satellites, according to an MIT-led study published online in Acta Astronautica. If done right, such satellite swarms could also be cheaper to build, launch, and maintain.

The researchers simulated the performance of a single large, orbiting satellite with nine sensors, compared with a cluster of three to eight small, single-sensor satellites flying together around the Earth. In particular, the team looked at how each satellite formation measures albedo, or the amount of light reflected from the Earth - an indication of how much heat the planet reflects. (7/19)

How the Moon Causes Californian Earthquakes (Source: Cosmos)
The gravitational pull of the sun and the moon is responsible for a type of earthquake that is regularly felt along the San Andreas fault in California. While that has been known for some years, a new study sheds lights on the mechanics of the phenomenon, suggesting we can predict when the quakes are most likely.

Under the influence of the sun and the moon, the Earth’s crust flexes, stressing the fault and setting off small tremors, known as low-frequency earthquakes, deep underground. In a similar way to cyclical tides in the ocean, so too are the effects on the fault, with seismic activity coming and going over a two-week period, the new study finds that gives other insights into the geoscience behind the phenomenon.

The researchers studied 81,000 low-frequency earthquakes that occurred between 2008 and 2015 along section of the fault at Parkfield in central California, known as the state’s “earthquake capital”. They then compared them against the two-weekly “tidal” cycle. That showed that the “small earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault are most likely to occur during the waxing fortnightly tide — not when the tidal amplitude is highest, as might be expected, but when the tidal amplitude most exceeds its previous value”, the scientists wrote. (7/19)

Entrepreneurs Add Zest to Space Race (Source: Sun Sentinel)
"The general belief in the new space community is that if you cut costs to gain access to space, the economics of space make sense," explains Eric Berger. "You can make money in space." Such innovation comes at a critical juncture as NASA is stalled by uncertainty over its next major mission. While NASA is working on a new mega rocket that will have more thrust than the legendary Saturn V, it is burdened by a clunky, expensive bureaucratic system reliant on a dysfunctional Congress for funding.

Some of the new space explorers have a more ambitious, even audacious, agenda — to play and live and work and set up businesses in space and on other planets. Where once the space race was between the U.S. and Russia, it's now between corporations with profit as an incentive. These companies' plans for space are right out of science fiction that, as Musk and Bezos have shown, is quickly turning into reality. (7/19)

Republican Platform Endorses Commercial Space Partnerships (Source: Space.com)
The new platform of the Republican Party includes language supporting the use of public-private partnerships to develop space capabilities, an approach that has been used by administrations of both major political parties. The platform, formally approved by delegates at the Republican party convention July 18 in Cleveland, also features language supporting "unfettered access" to space and increasing the number of scientific missions.

The 54-page document includes two paragraphs about space in a section about technology policy nearly one page long. One paragraph focuses on the use of public-private partnerships.

"The public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies have given us technological progress that has reduced the cost of accessing space and extended America's space leadership in the commercial, civil, and national security spheres," it states. "The entrepreneurship and innovation culture of the free market is revitalizing the nation's space capabilities, saving taxpayer money, and advancing technology critical to maintain America's edge in space and in other fields." (7/19)

Florida's Space Coast "Booming" in National Aerospace Ranking (Source: PWC)
Florida moved into second place, primarily because of an increase in aerospace wages. But Florida’s Space Coast is booming, with major new initiatives being planned in that area. In 2015, SpaceX said it was leasing launch pads at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Also last year, Blue Origin announced it is building a production facility for manufacturing its fleet of orbital rockets in Florida and is planning to launch its orbital rockets from Cape Canaveral. Boeing opened a commercial spaceship plant at Cape Canaveral to build spaceships for NASA. Click here. (7/19)

NASA Speaks Out About UFO and Mysterious Video Feed (Source: Huntsville Times)
The internet is chattering with speculation about a video purporting to show a UFO entering the Earth's atmosphere on July 9. Posted by a repeat UFO spotter called "Streetcap1," the video below shows something apparently captured by a camera on the International Space Station.

NASA says that strange light in the sky near the International Space Station last week wasn't a UFO in the sense of an interstellar visitor. A spokeswoman said the space agency is sure because, "No 'UFOs' in the popular sense have been seen from the ISS."

NASA Headquarters spokeswoman Cheryl Warner responded Friday to an inquiry about a video taken from the space station showing a bright light descending toward Earth. The video feed stopped just as the object appeared to enter the atmosphere. "Reflections from station windows, the spacecraft structure itself or lights from Earth commonly appear as artifacts in photos and videos from the orbiting laboratory," Warner said. Click here. (7/18)

Kennedy Space Center Security Firm to Lay Off Almost 300 Workers (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Security services company Chenega Security & Support Solutions, LLC will lay off 272 employees between Sept. 26-30. The Chantilly, Va.-based company filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity on July 18. Chenega's Florida facility specializes in protective services for NASA and has a location at the Kennedy Space Center. (7/19)

Air Force: DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 Involved in “Debris Causing Event" (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force said one of DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution imagery satellites was part of what they described as a debris-causing event July 19, but the company said that the satellite remains operational. The Joint Space Operations Center, which is the Defense Department’s nerve center for space operations and tracks space objects from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, tweeted July 19 that it had identified a debris-causing event related DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite. (7/19)

Raytheon Says Escobar Dooms $1B FCA Suit Relit On Appeal (Source: Law 360)
A recent Supreme Court decision (Escobar), according to one analyst: "affirms that government contractors that present half-truths and fail to comply with relevant and important requirements when seeking payment from the government are liable under the False Claims Act.

Raytheon urged a California federal court Monday to bury a $1 billion False Claims Act suit that was brought back to life by the Ninth Circuit over a weather satellite contract, arguing the allegations aren’t specific enough to sustain the suit under the Supreme Court’s recent Escobar decision. In a motion to dismiss, Raytheon said the complaint brought by a qui tam relator fails to allege that Raytheon made “specific representations” in its invoices that were fraudulent. (7/19)

Air Force Seeks Public Input for SpaceX and Blue Origin Spaceport Projects (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Air Force 45th Space Wing has published notices inviting public comment on two ongoing Environmental Assessments for the development of a launch site for Blue Origin and two additional landing pads for SpaceX on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Blue Origin comment period ends on July 28. The SpaceX comment period ends on August 3.

Editor's Note: Some reports have given the impression that SpaceX wants additional landing complexes around the spaceport. SpaceX's plans for "Landing Zone One" have always included three landing pads at former Launch Complex 13. It will be very interesting to see an attempt at multiple near-simultaneous landings in such close proximity...especially with three sonic boom shock waves affecting the boosters during their descent maneuvers. (7/20)

Social Media Blitzes Lift SpaceX, ULA on Launch Days (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space companies such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance would like a word with you. The commercial space giants have leveraged social media to encourage direct conversation with the public, using tools that were not available to government space agencies in the days of the lunar landings and the space shuttle.

A major goal for the new space race is to engage a new generation through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Using social media is a way to convey the drama of a launch, communicate accurately and build support for the emerging private space race.

"I can instantly engage with people, go back and forth and have a dialogue with them in a way that wasn't possible before social media," said Tory Bruno, CEO of the Lockheed Martin-Boeing space partnership United Launch Alliance. "It provides a means to communicate instantly and ubiquitously." (7/18)

Canadian Space Agency Wants a University CubeSat From Each Province/Territory (Source: SpaceRef)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will issue a call for Letters of Intent from post-secondary institutions later this month to develop a CubeSat. The intent is to have one CubeSat built in each province and territory and to have them launched. The CSA would arrange for the launch of each CubeSat, most likely a bulk buy through an secondary payload launch service provide such as NanoRacks, Spaceflight Industries or Antrix. (7/15)

Tarp Blamed for Japanese Satellite Damage (Source: Reuters)
A misplaced tarp will delay the launch of a Japanese military communications satellite by up to two years. Sources in the Japanese government said that the DSN-1 satellite was damaged during shipment to Arianespace's French Guiana launch site when a tarp blocked valves used to equalize pressure between the shipping container and the aircraft cabin. The resulting difference in air pressure damaged antennas on the spacecraft, requiring repairs that will take more than a year to complete. (7/18)

Five Mars Orbiter Studies Funded (Source: NASA)
NASA awarded five contracts Monday for studies of a new Mars orbiter that could launch in 2022. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Space Systems Loral each won contracts to perform concept studies for a proposed orbiter that would provide communications, imaging and other capabilities. Internal NASA studies have proposed using solar electric propulsion for the mission, and also have it play a role in Mars sample return efforts. (7/19)

Air Force Gets Closer to Space (Source: Space News)
The Defense Department is going through a space "renaissance," according to a key Air Force official. Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations who previously led the 14th Air Force, said last week that renaissance is based on a desire to protect and defend critical space assets that the U.S. military is increasingly reliant upon. Raymond also said that the Pentagon continues to examine "disaggregation" of space capabilities on a larger number of smaller spacecraft and hosted payloads. (7/19)

SpaceX Plans Dragon Capsule Reuse Too (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX could launch a reused Dragon capsule as soon as next year. At a post-launch press conference Monday, NASA and SpaceX officials said they may reuse the pressure vessel from a Dragon spacecraft as soon as the company's 11th mission to the ISS under its current contract, currently scheduled for early 2017. While SpaceX has suggested in the past that the Dragon spacecraft could be reused, NASA has required a new Dragon spacecraft for each mission to the station. (7/19)

China Commissions Space Tracking Ship as New Station Readied (Source: Space Daily)
China on Tuesday formally commissioned its next-generation Yuan Wang 7 ocean-going ship for tracking and controlling spacecraft, after a two-month trial period. According to the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department, the vessel will be used for maritime tracking of the Shenzhou-11 manned space mission, and the Tiangong II space laboratory mission scheduled for later this year.

The department currently operates three other Yuan Wang-class ships (numbers 3, 5, and 6), based at Jiangyin on the River Yangtze, near Shanghai. The ship is said to be the most technologically-advanced watercraft designed by China for the use of space tracking. The vessel features three large dish antennae some 10-12 meters in diameter, and an array of radomes and aerials. (7/19)

Robot Would Assemble Modular Telescope - in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Enhancing astronomers' ability to peer ever more deeply into the cosmos may hinge on developing larger space-based telescopes. A new concept in space telescope design makes use of a modular structure and an assembly robot to build an extremely large telescope in space, performing tasks in which astronaut fatigue would be a problem.

The robotically assembled modular space telescope (RAMST) design is described by Nicolas Lee and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an article published this week by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (JATIS). (7/19)

Kepler Discovers 104 New Exoplanets (Source: Cosmos)
Scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system – so-called exoplanets – discovered by the Kepler telescope. The list was drawn up from 197 candidates found by Kepler during its K2 mission. The new discoveries include a system comprising four possibly rocky planets that could potentially harbor life, according to lead author Ian Crossfield of the University of Arizona. They are all larger than Earth and orbit the M dwarf star K2-72, 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. (7/19)

Why Didn't SpaceX Didn't Land the Falcon 9 on a Droneship This Time? (Source: Inverse)
Although it was the company’s fifth rocket landing overall, it was only the second time the company has achieved such a thing on solid ground. The previous three successful landings were all attempted on the company’s Of Course I Still Love You droneship, floating in the Atlantic.

Its important to remember the ISS is in low Earth orbit (LEO). Before Monday, the last three SpaceX missions sent Falcon 9 rockets out to geostationary orbit (GTO) — which is a staggering 22,236 miles above the earth’s surface. In each of those instances, the company landed the rocket on its droneship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Getting a rocket back down from GTO is a much tougher feat.

Editor's Note: I think this is a bit misleading. The barge-landed first stages did not have to return from GTO, they only had to go further downrange and with higher lateral speed, preventing a return to the spaceport. (7/19)

Last Shuttle Commander ‘Back in the Fight’ with Boeing (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
When Chris Ferguson climbed into the commander’s seat of the shuttle Atlantis five years ago Friday for the spaceship’s final flight, he didn’t know what turn his career would take when he returned to Earth. Like many space shuttle workers, Ferguson had to decide what to do next. Atlantis’ final flight, which lifted off July 8, 2011, was Ferguson’s third space mission and capped a nearly 30-year flying career with the Navy and NASA.

After joining Boeing in late 2011, Ferguson helps lead the company’s development of the CST-100 Starliner space taxi, one of two U.S.-built commercial spacecraft selected by NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. “Now I find myself right back in the fight again, right back in the fight as a stakeholder in making sure that we’re successful,” Ferguson said.

Launch pads at Cape Canaveral are also seeing changes. "It’s sort of a hopping place. For each one, it’s like are we all going to live in this symbiotic relationship where we’re all providing reliable inexpensive transportation to low Earth orbit,” Ferguson said. “That, to me, is sort of like nirvana.” (7/11)

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