July 21, 2016

Orion Service Module Getting World’s Hardest Shake-Up at NASA’s Plum Brook Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Orion service module is getting a serious shake-up, thanks to the engineers and technicians at NASA's Plum Brook Station testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Inside Plum Brook's giant Space Power Facility, the service module is currently undergoing a rigorous series of vibration tests atop the facility's new vibration table, the most powerful such apparatus in the world. (7/21)

Latest Landings Continue March Toward Reusable Space Launchers (Source: Aviation Week)
Blue Origin has found its design for a one-chute-out landing of its New Shepard capsule worked as planned, and SpaceX is negotiating for a customer to ride a used Falcon 9 launch vehicle to orbit, as the two companies’ efforts to lower the cost of launch by reusing spacecraft gain momentum. (7/21)

Blue Origin Crew Capsule Safely Lands During Parachute Test (Source: Kent Reporter)
Blue Origin says a test flight last month in Texas showed the crew capsule of its New Shepard spacecraft could safely land with only two of its parachutes open. Owner Jeff Bezos emailed on Wednesday to subscribers to his company’s website the latest update:

“On our most recent flight, we performed a test to prove the crew capsule could safely land with only two of its three parachutes open,” Bezos said. “On a nominal flight with all three parachutes deployed, the capsule descends at about 16 mph before firing a retrorocket just a few feet above the ground. This retrorocket firing is what creates the large cloud of dust you see just before the capsule lands, and slows the capsule down to 3 mph before it touches the ground." (7/20)

Vector Space Completes Acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corp. to Enhance Microsat Launch Capabilities (Source: Vector Space)
Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced it has finalized the acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation. As part of the acquisition, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation Founder and CEO John Garvey joins Vector Space Systems as Chief Technology Officer.

Founded in May 2016, Vector Space Systems was formed to connect space startups with affordable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles for accessing space at a cost and schedule never before possible. The acquisition allows Vector Space Systems to accelerate its mission of fostering innovation to spark growth in the space commerce industry through reliable and frequent launch opportunities.

Vector Space Systems has already begun engine-level static fire testing and is working toward the start of sub-orbital test flights that will pathfind operations and manifest key technology experiments in Q3 2016, followed by large-scale sub-orbital test flights in 2017 and orbital launches in 2018. Garvey Spacecraft Corporation specializes in aerospace research to develop advanced space technologies and launch vehicle systems. (7/20)

Jack White Is Determined to Make ‘Vinyl History’ In Space (Source: Time)
White Stripes rocker Jack White is no stranger to making music records — and no stranger to setting them. In 2014, his album Lazaretto became the most-sold vinyl album ever. And in 2015, he set the world record for fastest-released record, performing and then producing a vinyl in under four hours. Up next? The final frontier. Space, that is.

In a mysterious clip posted to his record company’s Twitter on Tuesday, White teased a major July 30th announcement to come. All we know is that it has something to do with space and with making “vinyl history again.” This isn’t the first time White has alluded to a space endeavor; back in 2012, he told astronaut Buzz Aldrin that he was working on a “secret project” to get a vinyl played in outer space.

Aldrin recommended that White talk to the CEO of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, because Branson is “always interested in doing unusual things,” he said. Although it’s unclear whether or not that conversation with Virgin Galactic took place, we’ll know soon enough what White has in store when he shares more details at the end of the month. (7/20)

ULA CEO: the Path to Vulcan is Clear (Source: Via Satellite)
Following approval by Congress earlier this month of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), ULA CEO Tory Bruno now feels the company will have a sufficient number of RD-180 engines to transition smoothly to a domestic alternative. The current NDAA going into conference allows for 18 additional engines — amended up from an initial nine engines — which, combined with ULA’s previous allotment, brings the total number of approved additional engines to 22.

Bruno said this supply of engines is enough for the company to move forward with its transition plan in confidence. The company’s flagship launch vehicle, the Atlas 5, flies about twice as often as the lesser used and more expensive Delta family, but its Russian-built engine has been the source of controversy after the U.S. introduced sanctions on Russia for it’s annexation of Crimea. The path to Vulcan, ULA’s American-made successor to both the Atlas and Delta, was obfuscated by disagreements over how many RD-180 engines the company should need before a U.S. alternative would be available.

Now, Bruno said that path is clear. “This bridge will get us there. We are doing this very fast — this engine and rocket development that we are now in the middle of is going to be done in about half the normal span, and allow us to get off the venerable RD-180 rocket engine and onto an all-American solution.” Blue Origin claims its BE-4 engine will be flight qualified by 2017. Aerojet Rocketdyne says the AR1 will be flight qualified by 2019. Bruno said ULA would make its decision soon. (7/21)

An Astronaut Spoke at the Republican Convention, It Was Far Odder Than it Seemed (Source: Washington Post)
After Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's excoriation of Hillary Clinton, the room grew dark for a video presentation. A voice gently told the story of America's space exploration. It told of Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission and it lamented how America's explorations were in the past. The lights came up. Collins walked out.

"[I]n 2011, the space shuttle program ended," she said. "The last time the US launched our own astronauts from our own soil was over 5 years ago. We must do better than that!" Her prepared remarks concluded, "We need leadership that will challenge every American to ask, 'What’s next?' We need leadership that will make America's space program first again. We need leadership that will make America first again. That leader is Donald Trump." Those were her prepared remarks, but she didn't say that. Collins omitted that last part.

It's also odd given Trump's past statements about space travel. Asked last November how he felt about NASA, Trump said: "Right now, we have bigger problems — you understand that? ... We've got to fix our potholes. You know, we don't exactly have a lot of money." He added that he supported the privatization of space travel, which seems at odds with Collins' point. "What we spend in NASA should be appropriate for what we are asking them to do," he said. (7/20)

Huge Sail Will Power JAXA Mission to Trojan Asteroids and Back (Source: Japan Times)
Japan’s space agency has its sights on unexplored asteroids as far away as Jupiter, a project that at one level draws on centuries of sail science. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency this month unveiled a huge prototype solar sail designed to power a JAXA probe as it explores asteroids that circle the sun on roughly the same orbit as Jupiter. The sail measures 2,500 sq. meters and is made up of thousands of ultraslim solar panels. (7/21)

U.S. Air Force Expands Space Warfare Training (Source: Space News)
U.S. Air Force Space Command released an outline late last week of Gen. John Hyten’s plan for training military satellite operators to defend the ultimate high ground against adversaries striving to take away the edge satellites give the U.S. and its allies in armed conflict. The initiative, known as the Space Mission Force, aims to better prepare airmen to operate military satellites in a threatened environment and includes tactics to respond to threats.

Air Force space leaders have been planning the program for more than a year and Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, has made the Space Mission Force a prominent part of his speeches in the last eight months. Hyten’s plan aims to ensure the Air Force applies the same level of rigor to its space operations as it does to its air operations. (7/20)

CCT Supporting Launch Pad Design for Blue Origin Through RS&H (Source: CCT)
Florida-based CCT welcomes Blue Origin to the Space Coast and is proud to be a member of the RS&H team providing engineering support for launch pad design and development. CCT is providing engineering support for control system infrastructure design. (7/20)

Massive Asteroids Created Craters On Moon, Planets, Findings Show (Source: Aviation Week)
An asteroid at least 10 times more massive than originally estimated appears responsible for a prominent impact site on the Moon known as the Imbrium Basin. New findings suggest the early inner Solar System was populated by many such large protoplanet-sized asteroids and their fragments that were responsible for major impact craters evident on Mars and Mercury as well as elsewhere on the Moon.

The findings, based on observation and hypervelocity impact experiments carried out at NASA’s Ames Research Center using the Vertical Gun Range, were pursued to explain curious furrow-like formations around Imbrium, a darkened region in the Moon’s northwest quadrant that measures about 1,250 km, or 775 mi., across. (7/20)

Russia Spaceplane Engine to be Publicly Revealed in September (Source: NextBigFuture)
Russian state media is reporting that the country's Defense Ministry is developing a nuclear-armed bomber than could launch attacks from space. A prototype aircraft is under development and will be ready for trials by 2020. According to RIA Novosti, the engine, for the spaceplane, has already been tested and is expected to make its public debut in September at the International Military Technology Forum.

The report quotes a Lieutenant Colonel Solodovnikov, who states the plane will take off and patrol the skies like a regular bomber. Once given the command, the bomber would ascend into space and could hit any target on Earth with nuclear warheads within one or two hours. Russia's Ministry of Defense has denied reports a space bomber is in development, saying it was "out of the question" but not outside its technical level of expertise. (7/18)

Dearth of Dedicated Smallsat Launchers Challenges Fledgling Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
Tensions are rising between the growing small-satellite sector in the U.S. and prospective U.S.-based smallsat launch-service providers, with the latter fearing they could be undercut by competition from low-cost rockets abroad and by the sale of repurposed ICBM motors at home.

At issue is how best to sustain the number of companies developing dedicated smallsat launch vehicles in the U.S., even as smallsat manufacturers and fleet operators look elsewhere for rides to space.

Given a dearth of dedicated smallsat launchers, these manufacturers and operators—many of whom are planning large constellations of very small Earth-observation or telecommunications spacecraft—have few options when it comes to launch. Click here. (7/20)

Thales Expands Operations in Florida (Source: Area Development)
Thales, a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Transport, Defense and Security markets, has chosen to expand its operations center to Melbourne, Florida. The company expansion will add 327 high-tech positions by 2020 with plans to develop a 100,000-square-foot facility to support advancement of innovative technology and solutions worldwide. (7/11)

Taiwan is Building NASA’s Resource Prospector Lander to Mine the Moon (Source: Geek.com)
NASA has been planning the first ever mining mission on the moon for several years, and now construction of the lander and rover that will carry it out is under way. NASA is working with Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan to build the lunar lander for a planned launch in the early 2020s. The goal is to prove that important materials can be mined on the moon, thus extending humanity’s reach into deep space.

The mission is called Resource Prospector, and most of the action will take place in a small rover designed to scan the lunar surface for evidence of useful materials. We know from orbital missions like the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that there are tons of water ice and pockets of gases on the moon. Resource Prospector will try to mine it in the first ever in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) proof of concept. (7/20)

'Small Astronaut' Gets Opportunity of a Lifetime at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
We could all stand to be a little more like Harrison Sheldon. The 4-year-old "small astronaut" is the child behind a series of photos by his father, Aaron Sheldon, that have garnered national attention. The theme? In a world full of places and things often perceived as old hat, to a child, it is magnificent. While adults practically sleepwalk through places such as Target or laundromats, Harrison can be seen taking in every moment, dressed as an astronaut. An explorer in his own little world.

"It's about reminding parents that our kids are explorers in what we see as an everyday world," said Aaron. But there was one particular photo that caught the eye of Kennedy Space Center officials. Harrison, suited up, held a sign on the side of a desolate road. The sign read, "Space Coast Florida or bust."

Andrea Farmer, public relations manager at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, stumbled upon the picture and saw a match made in heaven. She read Sheldon's story through a Kickstarter page — Aaron wants to put together a book of his work. She emailed the family, who live in Columbus, Ohio, and before they knew it they were on Cocoa Beach, watching a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch into the sky early Monday morning. (7/20)

International Space Station Captures Dozens of Experiments (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Fungi found near the Chernobyl power plant might end up being put to good use. A NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory experiment sent from Florida’s Space Coast early Monday has on board fungal strains found near the Ukrainian site of the 1986 nuclear disaster.

Researchers say the materials found there are biologically active and could some day treat disease or help food crops grow. The experiment will monitor the fungi in microgravity, monitoring to see if that environment fosters any beneficial natural products. The experiment was among those highlighted by NASA on Wednesday, as the SpaceX Dragon capsule berthed with the International Space Station. Click here. (7/20)

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