September 22, 2016

Senate Commerce and House SS&T Committees Approve Space Bills (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee each held markups of space-related legislation. The Senate committee approved the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the INSPIRE Women Act. The House committee approved the TREAT Astronauts Act. Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a few more weeks in 2016, but if all parties are sufficiently motivated to reach compromise, there is more than enough time to get the bills to the President's desk before the end of the 114th Congress. Click here. (9/21)

Good (Space) Fences Make for Good (Orbital) Neighbors (Source: Space News)
The Space Fence Integration Test Bed that Lockheed Martin opened earlier this year in New Jersey has already tracked its first satellites, giving the Air Force a taste of what the full-scale system will be able to do. Now in the home stretch of its decade-long development, the conversation about Space Fence has shifted from the nuts and bolts of the radar’s cost and schedule to how the Air Force will take advantage of the more powerful system to help predict and prevent space-based collisions.

Improved space situational awareness is a pillar of the Air Force’s vision for protecting its satellites from orbital debris strikes and deliberate attacks, especially as the Pentagon expects increased threats to national security satellites. The Space Fence, once operational, is expected to be able to track an estimated 200,000 objects, including debris as small as 5 centimeters. (9/19)

New Airliner Flight Tracking Tool Will Provide One-Minute Updates (Source: Aviation Week)
Nascent space–based surveillance company Aireon has joined forces with flight tracking specialist FlightAware to offer airlines a Web-based aircraft tracking tool, which will provide updates every 1 min. The companies said their new GlobalBeacon system will satisfy the normal mode and distress mode tracking standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The two modes will be implemented in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and are part of the organization’s Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS).

With GlobalBeacon, Aireon and FlightAware will offer continuous 1 min. tracking all at times using surveillance data from Aireon’s space-based ADS-B network and FlightAware’s existing flight tracking feeds and assets. FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker said airline customers will use the system through a Web-based, real-time aircraft tracking dashboard. It will feature configurable alerts, providing an airline customer with immediate notification of abnormal events. (9/21)

Aerojet Contends That AR1 is Lower-Risk Option for Vulcan, Could Serve SLS Too (Source: Space Policy Online)
Aerojet Rocketdyne argues that its AR1 engine remains the lower risk option for ULA's new Vulcan rocket. Company executives said this week that the engine's conservative design and use of kerosene, rather than methane, fuel makes it a better option for Vulcan. ULA, though, has baselined the use of Blue Origin's BE-4 engine for Vulcan, and expects to make a final decision by next spring. If ULA goes ahead with the BE-4, Aerojet said the AR1 could be used on other vehicles, including advanced boosters planned for an upgraded Block 2 version of NASA's Space Launch System. (9/22)

'Passengers' Almost Gets Deep Space Hibernation Pods Right (Source: Inverse)
In the new trailer for Passengers, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are on a deep space journey that’s cut short when their hibernation pods malfunction and they’re woken up, 90 years too soon. It’s a common trope — and tragedy — in science fiction, but it’s also not that unrealistic.

Hibernation pods were dreamed up because deep space destinations are so profoundly far away; science fiction needed a way to explain away the problems that come with decades-long space voyages, like aging, resource consumption, and the mental strain of living in a confined space for long periods of time. Using hibernation pods, which show up in movies from Alien to Avatar, provides a neat solution to those problems. (9/20)

Musk to Give the Speech of His Life on Mars Plan (Source: Ars Technica)
Elon Musk will deliver this year’s most anticipated aerospace speech on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico. The talk, “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” marks a singular moment for the man who has upended the global launch industry during the last five years and will now finally peel away some of the layers of his grand vision to colonize Mars—and possibly other places in the Solar System.

It was mooted in some aerospace circles that Musk might change the focus of his much-advertised speech at the IAC meeting after the loss of a Falcon 9 rocket earlier this month (the second), the cause of which remains unknown to the public. And while Ars has learned that substantial changes have been made to Musk’s speech, its central theme will remain how to address the challenges of creating a self-sustaining colony on Mars. Click here. (9/22)

NASA Scores High In Workplace Survey (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA ranks second among the largest U.S. federal agencies on two workforce fronts, engagement and global job satisfaction. (9/21)

World Space Week Kicks Off With Cape Canaveral Party (Source: BRPH)
The EDC of Florida’s Space Coast in partnership with BRPH and Space Florida is hosting World Space Week Kick-Off Party, Monday October 3 at the Florida Beer Company in Cape Canaveral from 5:00pm-8:00pm. World Space Week is an opportunity for organizations across the world to come together and collectively inspire and stimulate interests in space, space sciences and education. No one in the state of Florida has a registered event, until now. Click here. (9/21)

Missile, Space and Range Pioneers Plan 50th Anniversary Dinner on Oct. 21 (Source: MSRP)
Kennedy Space Center Director and former shuttle astronaut, Bob Cabana, and Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot, Fred Haise, will be panelists at an event celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers (MSRP). A special award will also be presented to Brigadier General Wayne R. Monteith commander of the 45th Space Wing for the Air Force’s 50 years of support of MSRP.

The MSRP 50 th anniversary banquet is October 21 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cocoa Beach and is open to the public. The banquet includes a sit-down dinner and a cash bar. Social starts at 5:30 pm, with dinner served at 7:00 pm. Tickets are limited and are $45 for MSRP members, $60 for non-members, and $35 for students and active military. VIP Corporate tables for eight participants are available for $500. Click here. (9/21)

Georgia Spaceport Steering Committee Adds Member (Source: Spaceport Camden)
he Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of Stephen Fleming to the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee upon the recommendation of County Administrator, Steve Howard. Fleming is a highly successful senior executive with leadership experience in startups, multinationals, private equity, and university-based economic development. (9/21)

NASA to Have Limited Role in SpaceX’s Planned Mars Campaign (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX’s chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk’s space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet.

While considered high risk by NASA standards, the Red Dragon Mars mission revealed by SpaceX in April has a “reasonable likelihood” of success, according to Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development. McAlister said NASA will act as a consultant to SpaceX on the Red Dragon project, the first of a series of Mars landers planned by SpaceX. NASA’s participation will diminish in later missions, he said.

SpaceX plans multiple robotic Mars missions over the next decade leading up to a human expedition. It is all part of Elon Musk’s long-term vision to colonize Mars, a topic the business mogul plans to discuss in detail during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, next week. The company’s first Mars mission — Red Dragon — is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral as soon as May 2018 aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. (9/21)

Infant Found Dead in Parked Car at Marshall Space Flight Center (Source: Huntsville Times)
A 7-month old child died at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., today after being left in a parked vehicle during the work day, a NASA spokesperson said. The child, who was not immediately identified, was found at 4:42 p.m. "Early reports indicate that the parent intended to drop the child off at the childcare center and instead went straight to work," NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Stanfield said in a statement. (9/21)

Time for U.S. Military to Let Go of Civil Space Situational Awareness Mission (Source: Space News)
Four years ago, I wrote an in-depth report called “Going Blind” on how the United States was in danger of losing its ability to “see” in space, a capability known as space situational awareness (SSA). “Going blind” would have detrimental effects on the entire world’s ability to use space in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner. While there have been some efforts since to improve the situation, the situation is still dire. The core issues have not been addressed, and the challenges are only increasing.

The time has come for the U.S. military to let go of the spaceflight safety mission, and allow a civil entity — likely with help from the private sector, academia, and international partners — to create its own public, high-accuracy catalog of space objects, and provide safety of spaceflight services to satellite operators. At the same time, the U.S. military should refocus its own efforts on developing SSA capabilities that are critical to protecting U.S national security space capabilities from potential threats. (9/21)

NASA Spots a Seemingly Impossible Cloud on Titan — For the Second Time (Source: Washington Post)
Saturn's moon Titan has been called the most Earthlike world found to date. It's the only other place in the solar system where stable liquid sits on the surface — seas of liquid methane flow into channels that have created magnificent canyons — and scientists have suggested that the icy world might be able to support some kind of alien life. Now researchers think they can add yet another "Earthlike" quality to Titan's extensive list: a seemingly impossible cloud on Titan may be created by weather processes we've seen before at home.

The unlikely cloud type was first spotted decades ago by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. It was made of a carbon- and nitrogen-based compound called dicyanoacetylene (C4N2). C4N2 is part of the chemical cocktail that cloaks Titan in an orange-colored haze. But high up in the stratosphere where this particular cloud sat, the compound was scarce. Scientists could find just 1 percent of the amount of C4N2 that should have been needed to create the cloud. NASA's Cassini mission recently spotted a second example of this crazy kind of cloud. (9/21)

Congress Gets Report on Giving FAA Space Traffic Role (Source: Space News)
The FAA is willing to take on the task of informing commercial, civil and foreign satellite operators of possible on-orbit collisions, while leaving the Defense Department in charge of supporting military space missions. “We think that makes a lot of sense,” said George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves, partner with the Defense Department and other stakeholders to see if we can make that work.”

That view is backed up by the Department of Transportation’s Report on Processing and Releasing Safety-Related Space Situational Awareness Data, sent to Congress Sept. 6. Under a provision of the 2015 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to consult with leaders of other federal agencies and to determine whether the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation could take over a portion of the space situational awareness role currently performed by the Defense Department.

The report concludes the FAA could perform the role, but says Congress would need to give the agency new legislative authority because both the U.S. National Space Policy of 2010 and the U.S. National Security Space Strategy of 2011 assign responsibility for space situational awareness to the Defense Secretary and National Intelligence Director. (9/21)

ULA Raises SpaceX Explosion in Fight Over Pentagon Contract (Source: Washington Post)
The recent explosion of a SpaceX rocket should raise concerns about going with the lowest bidder on sensitive national security launch contracts, the chief executive of the United Launch Alliance wrote in a letter to top Pentagon officials earlier this month. Tory Bruno, ULA’s chief executive, urged the Air Force to postpone the deadline for bids, saying it should take time to explore the impact of SpaceX’s rocket failure while also taking into account both companies’ experience and past performance.

The Pentagon should have particular reservations, Bruno wrote, given that two of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have blown up, which he said “serve as a reminder of the complexity and hazards intrinsic to space launch services.” “This strategy defies both law and logic and puts hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and Warfighter mission needs unnecessarily at risk,” he wrote. (9/21)

Lockheed Martin to Build Two More GPS 3 Satellites for U.S. Air Force (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force exercised a $395 million contract option for Lockheed Martin to build the ninth and tenth satellites in the next-generation of position, navigation and timing satellites, the Defense Department announced Sept. 21. Under a roughly $3.6 billion contract awarded in 2008, Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver is the prime contractor on the GPS 3 program and was under contract to build eight next-generation satellites. (9/21)

China's Race to Space Domination (Source: Popular Science)
“China sees space capability as an indication of global-leadership status,” says John ­Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “It gives China legitimacy in an area that is associated with great power.” Click here. (9/21)

Embry-Riddle Payload to Fly on Blue Origin Rocket (Source: The Avion)
Embry-Riddle is an environment that fosters the growth of many exciting research projects. One of the newest, and most interesting, is that of the Spacecraft Payloads class, which is developing a payload to be launched in early 2017. The course is taught by the Coordinator of the Commercial Space Operations program, Dr. Justin Karl. The class, officially titled “CSO 395 – Spacecraft Payloads,” will develop and build a payload that will fly on the first commercial flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle. (9/21)

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