August 16, 2016

NASA Policy Could Slash Federal Funds to Florida Small Businesses, ASBL Reports (Source: SpaceRef)
A new policy NASA is proposing could dramatically slash the volume of federal contract dollars going to small businesses in Florida. The proposed policy could have a significant negative impact on the state's middle class economy. One of the nation's leading experts on federal contracting law, Professor Charles Tiefer has issued an ominous legal opinion on the proposed NASA Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative policy.

His legal opinion on the proposed NASA policy states, "The proposed regulations would reduce the breadth of small business contracting by up to 80% or even 90% in lines of business where small business contracting is currently common. This proposal is blatant and undeniably illegal; indeed, the proposal impliedly admits the key facts underlying the illegality... The proposal should be junked. It would have an overwhelming bad impact on the breadth of small business contracting, contrary to the intent of the small business laws".

If adopted, the NASA policy could force thousands of Florida small business out of the federal marketplace and possibly out of business. The dramatic reduction in the volume of federal contracting dollars flowing to Florida small businesses could cost the state millions of jobs. Click here. (8/16)

Space Tourism Breakthrough? China Working on Hypersonic Spaceplane (Source: Russia Today)
China is planning to take space exploration to a new level, as it develops a new “spaceplane” that could take off from a runway and fly at hypersonic speed before blasting into space and back. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CATSC) is behind the project of a plane/spacecraft hybrid that will travel back and forth between the runway and space orbit at hypersonic speeds,

Development and testing is scheduled for the next three to five years. The first deployment date is estimated for 2030. The spaceplane will be equipped with a cycle engine. It will have a turbofan or turbojet engine as well as a ramjet engine that will allow the plane to horizontally takeoff from the runway and fly through the atmosphere.

Following acceleration to supersonic speeds, the spacecraft would then switch to a scramjet engine, helping it get through the so-called “near space” portion of the atmosphere. After entering space, the spaceplane will employ onboard rocket motors. The spacecraft will also be reusable, lowering China’s space traveling costs. (8/13)

'Hidden Figures' Trailer Reveals Space Race History of Black Women at NASA (Source: CollectSpace)
In the first trailer for the upcoming 20th Century Fox movie "Hidden Figures," Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan find themselves stuck on the side of an empty country road as an officer pulls up behind their car. "We are just on our way to work, at NASA," says Johnson, portrayed by Taraji P. Henson. "I had no idea they hired..." the cop begins to reply, before being cut off by Vaughan (Octavia Spencer).

The movie, which the trailer notes is "based on the untold true story," dramatizes the story of Vaughan, Johnson and Jackson who were among the black women hired to work at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, as "computers," before that title came to refer to inanimate electronic devices.

Working in then stil segregated South, alongside the space agency's male – and mostly white – engineers, the women calculated the data from wind tunnel tests and devised the trajectories needed to send America's first astronauts into space. (8/15)

China Sends Ground-Breaking Quantum Communications Experiment Into Orbit (Source: Spaceflight 101)
China sent a ground breaking scientific experiment into orbit on Monday to build the foundation for secure communications technology of the future. The Quantum Science Satellite – nicknamed Micius – is the first spacecraft to establish quantum communications between space and Earth by creating entangled photon pairs over great distances and testing the principles of quantum teleportation. (8/15)

Alaska Officials Celebrate Near Completion of Launch Complex (Source: The Eagle)
Renovations to Alaska's Kodiak launch site are nearly complete. Local officials celebrated over the weekend the progress made to rebuild facilities there damaged during a failed missile test nearly two years ago. Work to rebuild the launch facilities should be complete before the end of the year, as Alaska Aerospace Corp. seeks to line up new customers for the site. (8/16)

The Reusability Challenge: Economics, Not Technology (Source: Space News)
“Today’s technology does appear capable of addressing the known tech issues associated with the reuse of ballistic systems,” said Ben Goldberg, a senior director of science and engineering for Orbital ATK’s propulsion systems division. He discussed models he developed about the technology and economics of reusability.

However, he seemed skeptical that reusability, as currently being approached, would do much to lower costs. “You’re not going to get 100-fold,” he said, referring the magnitude of cost reductions. “You’re going to get 30 percent. That’s what all these models show... These numbers aren’t going to change by an order of magnitude,” he said. “That’s the state of where we are today.”

In the future, he suggested “technology and disruptors” might enable steeper decreases in costs. Another panelist agreed. “We’re laser-focused on building our Alpha launch vehicle,” said Tom Markusic, chief executive of Firefly Space Systems, referring to small expendable launch vehicle his company is developing. “But every company has to have a vision.” (8/1)

JWST Cost Creeps Upward Again, by 25% (Source: Space News)
The estimated cost of NASA's next major astronomy mission after the James Webb Space Telescope has grown by 25 percent. A report issued Monday by the National Academies noted that the cost of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, previously estimated to cost $2 billion to $2.3 billion, has since increased by $550 million. NASA says much of that increase has to do with changes in its schedule and the cost of its launch vehicle, with only $100 million attributable to the spacecraft itself.

The report warned that increases in WFIRST could upset the balance of astrophysics missions recommended in a 2010 decadal survey. The report concluded that, overall, NASA has done a good job implementing the recommendations of that 2010 report despite constrained budgets. (8/16)

NASA Moves Ahead with Asteroid Redirect Mission Despite Cost Increase (Source: Space News)
The robotic element of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has cleared a major review despite a $150 million cost increase that the agency blames on a delayed mission schedule. NASA announced Aug. 15 that it had approved a review of ARM’s robotic segment known as Key Decision Point B (KDP-B), which allows the mission to move into Phase B of its design and development. That KDP-B review took place last month. (8/16)

Atlas Launch Pad Gets Astronaut Access Infrastructure (Source: Florida Today)
Workers have installed an access arm that will be used by astronauts launching on the CST-100 Starliner. The access arm, which includes a "white room" where workers will help astronauts board the spacecraft, was installed Monday on top of a new gantry at Launch Complex 41, the Cape Canaveral launch pad used by the Atlas 5. The gantry has been assembled in segments between Atlas launches. The first Atlas flight carrying a crewed CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for early 2018. (8/15)

GAO Orders Relaunch of $15.3M NASA HR Contract Award (Source: Law360)
NASA should redo a $15.3 million human resources contract award, the Government Accountability Office said in a bid protest decision made public Friday that criticized the space agency for making the award without sufficient records to back it up. The GAO found fault with two aspects of the award made to a joint venture between GAP Solutions and CTR Management Group called CTRMG-GAPSI JV LLC, or CGJV. NASA improperly gave the joint venture credit for past performance on a similar contract. (8/15)

Inflight Wi-Fi Service Providers Making Gains (Source: Aviation Week)
The thousand-piece puzzle of bringing inflight Wi-Fi to the world’s airline passengers is coming together, as hardware and service providers acquire type certifications from air safety regulators, secure contracts with airlines and begin the laborious process of installing hardware, aircraft by aircraft.

After a summer lull in installations due to heavy demand on commercial passenger jets, service providers such as Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE), Gogo and Panasonic Avionics Corp. are expected to renew the process in earnest this fall. Click here. (8/16)

New Study Confirms Possibility of Fifth Force of Nature (Source: Space Daily)
New research confirms the science behind a previous study suggesting the existence of a fifth force of nature. Last year, a group of Hungarian researchers reported the possible discovery of a new type of subatomic particle. Scientists identified a radioactive decay anomaly among the results of their particle acceleration experiments.

The anomaly suggested the presence of light particle 30 times heavier than an electron. The goal of those experiments was to find dark matter, but scientists weren't sure exactly what kind of particle they'd observed. (8/15)

SpacePharma Launches U.S. Subsidiary (Source: SpaceRef)
Officials with SpacePharma SA, a world leader in providing simplified, high-value microgravity services, has expanded to the United States. SpacePharma, Inc. will introduce American research and pharmaceutical businesses to their unique “one-stop-shop” approach to accessing and taking advantage of microgravity. The announcement of the new subsidiary comes on the heels of SpacePharma receiving its third round of funding through the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Program.

SpacePharma will now offer U.S. customers access to its miniaturized, end-to-end laboratory, mGnify, which is able to perform advanced biological and chemical experiments, provide novel data and accelerate R&D pipelines. Measuring 20 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, mGnify features different types of laboratories: bio-chemistry, drug screening, gene-expression, protein crystallization and migration.

The Orbiting mini-lab can be remotely controlled from anywhere on Earth via web application and can be used with multiple microgravity platforms. These include ground simulators, parabolic flights and the company’s state-of-the-art nanosatellites, which are scheduled for their debut launch in Q4 2016. SpacePharma is teamed with Florida’s CadW Therapeutics to develop a “lab-on-a-chip” system to study DNA damage to cells during spaceflight. (8/16)

SLS Critical Flight Paths Refined for 2018 Debut; Thrust Profiles Updated (Source:
NASA’s Exploration Systems Development office has completed its review of progress to date as well as forward path activity on the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the NASA Advisory Council.  While several tasks and issues remain open, SLS continues a steady march toward its planned debut in late 2018 during the EM-1 mission as NASA continues to refine the rocket’s overall configuration thrust profiles.

Overall, the first seven months of 2016 have seen significant progress in the development of various structural test articles and the overall elements of the SLS vehicle that need to be tested prior to the EM-1 flight. Critically, most of the elements for the inaugural flight of SLS are no longer considered to be on the critical path toward making the “Not Later Than December 2018” launch window, according to the latest integrated milestone summary. (8/16)

Vector Space Systems Lays Out Big Plans for Tiny Rockets (Source: Via Satellite)
Vector Space Systems, a new micro satellite launch company, is betting big on little rockets. The company successfully tested its P-20 prototype launch vehicle, a sub-scale test vehicle for its 42-foot Vector 1 rocket, which measured just 12 feet in length, in the Mojave Desert on June 30. When built, the company says the launch vehicle will be capable of putting a 50 kg payload into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) — placing the rocket’s capabilities right at the feet of the growing SmallSat market.

Projections indicate more than 400 nano/microsatellites will need launches annually in the year 2022 and beyond, according to SpaceWorks Enterprises 2016 nanosatellite and microsatellite market assessment released earlier this year. The market is expected to see 13 percent growth per year over the next six years, between 2016 and 2022, according to the company. Vector Space Systems is comprised of industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch who see a growing demand in the small satellite sector for access to more frequent and affordable launches. (8/15)

For Smallsats, Launch Options Big and Small (Source: Space Review)
As the number of smallsats under development grows, so does the number of options for getting those satellites into space. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to both develop dedicated small launch vehicles as well as make greater use of rideshares on larger rockets. Click here. (8/15)
A 21st Century Renaissance in High Altitude Ballooning (Source: Space Review)
New technologies are allowing high altitude balloons to perform applications once reserved for satellites. Alan Stern describes the new capabilities such balloons offer and how they are augment or replace space capabilities. Click here. (8/15)
Why America Needs Space (Source: Space Review)
In these turbulent times, can space exploration help unite society? Zach Miller argues that lessons from the Apollo era, combined with the growth of commercial space ventures, show what is possible. Click here. (8/15)

Tiny Satellites: The Latest Innovation Hedge Funds Are Using to Get a Leg Up (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The latest technological innovation for data-hungry hedge funds is a fleet of five dozen shoebox-sized satellites. A company called Planet Labs Inc. has launched a small constellation of what it calls “cubesats” that can deliver much more frequent imagery of economically sensitive spots than traditional satellites. Those spots include retailers’ parking lots, oil-storage tanks or farmland.

The company, founded by three former NASA scientists, has now signed an agreement to supply data to Orbital Insight Inc., which mines satellite imagery for trading tips for hedge funds. Until now, Orbital has relied on monthly or bimonthly imagery for its analysis. The deal with Planet Labs will give them access to weekly images at first. Next year, if Planet Labs succeeds in a plan to launch another 40 or so cubesats, Orbital will have access to daily images of every piece of land on earth.

Orbital has offered clients “signals”—predictions on how prices will move for certain stocks—based on its automated analysis of satellite imagery since 2014. This analysis includes revenue predictions for big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. based on changes in the number of cars in their U.S. parking lots, or forecasts for oil inventories based on the height of floating lids in oil tanks in the U.S. In both cases, the company makes its predictions on a statistically significant sample of images. (8/15)

Deep Space Industries To Test Asteroid Mining in 2017 (Source: Cosmos)
Hot on the heels of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, US tech company Deep Space Industries has announced plans to embark on the world’s first interplanetary mining mission with the spacecraft they are calling Prospector-1. The announcement also comes soon after the US Senate passed a law which entitles people to own the goods that they mine from space. There is enormous potential for profit in this field as asteroids contain many valuable materials including iron, tungsten, magnesium, platinum and gold. (8/15)

World View Awarded 2 NASA Grants as Part of Radiation Study (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
NASA has selected an Arizona-based high-tech balloon company to develop two projects to extend data collection and rapidly deploy communications technologies. Tucson-based World View has been awarded two NASA grants. The company declined to divulge the amount of the grants, but a spokeswoman called them "huge." (8/15)

Black Hole Made in the Lab Shows Signs of Qquantum Entanglement (Source: New Scientist)
There’s only one way to study a black hole up close: build a copy in the lab. One physicist claims his desktop black hole, which swallows sound instead of light, has been spotted emitting entangled quantum particles. It could be a breakthrough in studying the exotic physics of these weird objects – although not everyone is convinced this fake black hole is the real deal.

Black holes are the ultra-dense leftovers of dead stars and are black because their gravity is so intense that nothing, including light, can escape from their gaping maws – a point of no return called the event horizon. But a strange quirk of quantum theory suggests black holes aren’t completely dark. Click here. (8/15)

PoSSUM at Forefront of Exploring Earth's Upper Atmosphere (Source: Daily Camera)
Boulder Municipal Airport isn't threatening Edwards Air Force Base for primacy in advancing man's exploration of the last frontier, but on a recent cloudless morning it briefly flirted with greater heights in aerospace research. A small team converged on the airport July 30 to conduct its first in-flight evaluation of a spacesuit designed for suborbital flights that will further the study of high-altitude space-clouds, also known as noctilucent clouds.

Development and evaluation of what's dubbed the Final Frontier Design 3G IVA spacesuit is being carried out under the auspices of the Boulder-based PoSSUM Bioastronautics Program, a citizen-science program that tests spacesuits in environments "comparable to those we would expect to have in actual spaceflight," according to its executive director, Jason Reimuller.

Project PoSSUM, which stands for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, evolved from a suborbital flight opportunity granted by NASA in 2012, through which a suborbital spacecraft — Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two, for example — is to be used to fly through a noctilucent cloud with instruments that can create a tomographic image of such clouds, just as an MRI can yield a 3-D model of the human body. (8/15)

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