June 11, 2016

Five Space Coast Companies Get Help from NASA (Source: Florida Today)
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast recently announced that five local companies were selected to partner with NASA subject matter experts. This partnership is the result of the EDC’s Technology Docking program first introduced in January.

Technology Docking is a strategic alliance between the EDC and NASA’s national pilot program for Regional Economic Development (RED). The partnership provides small to medium-sized manufacturers and technology based companies the opportunity to work with NASA to solve a technology challenge. Those companies selected were: Alluvionic, Melbourne; GeNo LLC, Cocoa; Helical Communication Technologies Inc., Rockledge; Knight’s Armament Co., Titusville, and SeaDek Marine Products, Rockledge. (7/11)

France Supports ISS Extension to 2024, Ambivalent on Ariane 6 (Source: Space News)
The French space agency CNES supports an extension of the ISS but is skeptical about the cost benefits of reusable rockets. CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said Friday he expects the European Space Agency, the only ISS partner yet to endorse an extension of the station to 2024, to finally do so at a ministerial meeting in December.

Le Gall said that the Ariane 6 vehicle under development now would be cost competitive if it was operating today, but said it wasn't clear that efforts by SpaceX and others to develop reusable systems would be able to lower launch costs. He also said he expected the European Commission to eventually approve plans by CNES to sell its stake in Arianespace to Airbus Safran Launchers, giving that joint venture a majority stake in the launch services provider. (7/10)

Aerojet Plans Stennis Expansion for AR1 (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne will expand its facilities at the Stennis Space Center to support work on its AR1 engine. The company announced early Monday that assembly and testing of the engine will take place at its Stennis facility currently used for the RS-25 and RS-68 engines. The expanded facility will be the company's center of excellence for large liquid rocket engine assembly and test. The company is developing the AR1 as a potential successor to the RD-180. (7/11)

China Plans Next Lab Module Launch in September (Source: Xinhua)
China's second space lab module is at the spaceport for a launch in September. Chinese officials said the Tiangong-2 module arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on Saturday to begin preparations for a mid-September launch. Once in orbit, it will be able to support two astronauts for stays of up to 30 days, starting with the Shenzhou-11 mission scheduled for launch in October. (7/11)

World View Balloon Plan at Arizona "Spaceport" Concerns Airline (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
One airline is concerned about plans for a "spaceport" adjacent to Tucson International Airport. Spaceport Tucson will be a pad for launches of high-altitude balloons developed by World View, whose new headquarters are under construction just south of the airport. A Southwest Airlines manager said placing the spaceport next to the airport is a "terrible idea" that "erodes safety." World View officials said the balloon launches will take place early in the morning and be woven into the airport's overall traffic flow, exiting controlled airspace within four minutes. (7/10)

If We Want to Find Aliens, We Need to Save the Arecibo Telescope (Source: Vice)
Luckily for people involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), telescope technology has improved so drastically in the last few decades that some astronomers think we'll make first contact with alien life within 20 years. Those strides are, in part, owed to one of the most important tools in SETI research: the Arecibo Observatory.

Arecibo is a radio telescope—by far the largest in the world, at least until China's massive FAST telescope comes online later this year—and since the 1960s, it's allowed astronomers to search for aliens deeper in space than any other telescope. Arecibo is also used to research the atmosphere of our own planet and hunt for giant asteroids that may be on a collision course with Earth. But now, Arecibo is at risk of being shut down for good, which could seriously bruise the search for extraterrestrial life.

The problem is that searching for aliens ain't cheap. Despite Arecibo's usefulness, budget cuts have threatened the observatory's existence since 2006, when the National Science Foundation (NSF) recommended slashing Arecibo's budget from $10 million to $4 million between 2007 and 2011. Without an alternative source of funding, that would've forced the observatory to close. "If we lose Arecibo, then we are losing about two-thirds of the volume of galaxy that we can search." Click here. (7/8)

Magnetic Rope Observed for the First Time Between Saturn and the Sun (Source: UCL)
A twisted magnetic field structure, previously never seen before at Saturn, has now been detected for the first time, using instrumentation built at UCL and Imperial College. When the Sun’s magnetic field interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field (the  magnetosphere), a complex process occurs called magnetic reconnection which can twist the field into a helical shape.

These twisted helically structured magnetic fields are called flux ropes or “flux transfer events” (FTEs) and are observed at Earth and even more commonly at Mercury. The conditions that allow FTEs to be generated at a planet worsen with distance from the Sun, however they have been observed at all the planets out to Jupiter. The observation of this phenomenon at Saturn has been elusive.

Searches have been undertaken to find an FTE with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, with reports published of none being found. Up until now. Cassini has observed the first FTE at Saturn. The observed magnetic signature was successfully compared to that of a model to show that Cassini indeed observed a flux rope at this giant magnetosphere, and that the spacecraft passed close to the structure’s center. It is also estimated that the flux rope could be up to 8300 kilometers wide. (7/6)

India May Buy Russian Microcircuits for Its Space Program (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Angstrem microelectronics manufacturer is in talks on supplying some 10,000 radiation-resistant circuits for India's space program, local media said. Angstrem has contacted a private Indian company working as a subcontractor for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), offering to supply $200,000 worth of electronic circuits, the company told the Izvestia newspaper. (7/11)

Selling Secrets to the Russians? Jason Bourne Fan Arrested in Spy Drama of His Own (Source: LA Times)
Gregory Allen Justice had a sick wife, a job at which he felt unappreciated and a fascination with cinematic secret operatives such as Jason Bourne and James Bond. He had a special love for “The Americans,” the FX series about KGB spies in the United States.

As an engineer on the night shift at a large defense contractor, Justice, 49, of Culver City had access to sensitive technical data about military and commercial satellites, according to federal authorities. He was arrested Thursday on charges that he sold information to a man he believed was an agent of Russian intelligence. Click here. (7/9)

LBJ, Influential Lawmakers in Washington Gave Houston an Advantage (Source: Houston Chronicle)
When Houston landed the Manned Spacecraft Center - later to be known as the Johnson Space Center - in 1961, the city was over the moon with the idea that anything was possible. Of course, Houstonians already knew that. The city had harnessed the power of air conditioning to make the swampy area livable, dug the Houston Ship Channel to create one of the country's largest ports, and was on its way to becoming the capital of the nation's oil and gas industry.

Today, the $1.5 billion complex on 1,620 acres in the Clear Lake area serves as mission control, astronaut training center, leads NASA's International Space Station operations, among other projects, and is one of NASA's largest research and development facilities. Though NASA consists of 20 facilities across the country, the Johnson Space Center is the home of the nation's manned space program, and for some, the heart of the agency.

Not only was Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson - who was instrumental in passing the 1958 legislation creating NASA as majority leader in the U.S. Senate - a Texan, but other officials in influential positions also hailed from the Lone Star state: U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, House Appropriations Chairman Albert Thomas from the district neighboring Clear Lake, Rep. Bob Casey and Rep. Olin E. Teague on the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, with Teague heading the subcommittee on Manned Space Flight. (7/10)

Code that Took America to the Moon was Just Published to GitHub, It’s Like a 1960s Time Capsule (Source: Quartz)
When programmers at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory set out to develop the flight software for the Apollo 11 space program in the mid-1960s, the necessary technology did not exist. They had to invent it. They came up with a new way to store computer programs, called “rope memory,” and created a special version of the assembly programming language. Assembly itself is obscure to many of today’s programmers—it’s very difficult to read, intended to be easily understood by computers, not humans. For the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), MIT programmers wrote thousands of lines of that esoteric code.

The AGC code has been available to the public for quite a while–it was first uploaded by tech researcher Ron Burkey in 2003, after he’d transcribed it from scanned images of the original hardcopies MIT had put online. That is, he manually typed out each line, one by one.

“It was scanned by a airplane pilot named Gary Neff in Colorado,” Burkey said in an email. “MIT got hold of the scans and put them online in the form of page images, which unfortunately had been mutilated in the process to the point of being unreadable in places.” Burkey reconstructed the unreadable parts, he said, using his engineering skills to fill in the blanks. (7/9)

Eiffage Lands €200m Kourou Spaceport Contract (Source: Construction Index)
France’s national space agency has awarded an Eiffage-led consortium a €200m contract for construction of a launch complex in Guiana. The scope of work for the consortium led by Eiffage Génie Civil covers all Ariane 6 "ELA 4" launch complex structures, including the launch pad and its two flame trenches, the 6,000t, 90m-high mobile service gantry and the launcher assembly building. (7/10)

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