September 7, 2016

Launch Of SpaceX Workers' $4M Wage Deal Delayed (Source: Law360)
A California judge on Tuesday grounded a former Space Exploration Technologies Corp. employee's attempt to intervene and block the company's $3.9 million settlement of 3,800 workers' claims they were underpaid, but held off on approving the deal without some procedural tweaks. (9/6)

Soyuz Trio Blaze Through Atmosphere to Land in Kazakstan (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After orbiting Earth for 172 days, three members the International Space Station’s (ISS) Expedition 48 crew undocked their Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft from the outpost and barreled through the atmosphere a couple hours later to land on the Steppe of Kazakhstan. (9/7)

A Space Error: $370 Million for an Integer Overflow (Source: HowNot2Code)
Start. 37 seconds of flight. KaBOOM! 10 years and 7 billion dollars are turning into dust. The programmers were to blame for everything. Four satellites, 2,600 lb, of the Cluster scientific program (study of the solar radiation and Earth’s magnetic field interaction) and a heavy-lift launch vehicle Ariane 5 turned into “confetti” June 4, 1996.

The previous model-rocket Ariane 4 has been successfully launched more than 100 times. What could go wrong? Apparently, to conquer space, one should know Ada language well. The built-in computer IRS2 passed incorrect data, because it diagnosed a contingency, having “caught” an exception that was thrown by one of the software modules. At the same time the on-board computer could not switch to the backup system IRS 1 because it had already ceased to function during the previous cycle (which took 72 milliseconds) – for the same reason as the IRS 2. Click here. (9/2)

Orion's Aggressive Launch Plan Hurt by 'Funding Instability' (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A report issued by NASA's inspector general Tuesday said that "much work remains" in the space agency's effort to prepare its Orion spacecraft for an eventual flight to Mars in the 2030s. Among the obstacles facing NASA, according to the report, are delivery delays of a service module for the spacecraft, multiple financial shortfalls and the need for a successful test flight in September 2018 that will send Orion around the moon.

The report found that "officials are working toward an optimistic internal launch date of August 2021 for (a crewed test launch around the moon) – 20 months earlier than the agency's external commitment date of April 2023." According to the report, officials are "concerned" that the schedule, along with the program's budget, will ultimately mean deferments of certain tasks, resulting in a delay to the schedule and increased costs. (9/6)

Earth's Carbon Points to Planetary Smashup (Source: Space Daily)
In a new study this week in Nature Geoscience, Rice petrologist Rajdeep Dasgupta and colleagues offer a new answer to a long-debated geological question: How did carbon-based life develop on Earth, given that most of the planet's carbon should have either boiled away in the planet's earliest days or become locked in Earth's core?

The ratio of volatile elements in Earth's mantle suggests that virtually all of the planet's life-giving carbon came from a collision with an embryonic planet approximately 100 million years after Earth formed. "Even before this paper, we had published several studies that showed that even if carbon did not vaporize into space when the planet was largely molten, it would end up in the metallic core of our planet, because the iron-rich alloys there have a strong affinity for carbon," Dasgupta said. (9/7)

NASA Tests New Insulation for SLS Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
You may not think about insulation much, but it's one of those unsung industry heroes that keeps our drinks cold and homes warm on those bone-chilling winter days. Insulation also is a key component to protecting NASA's Space Launch System and its super-cold fuels for the journey to Mars. Different types of cryogenic foam - used for very low temperatures - will insulate the rocket's core stage and launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS).

Three types of foam have been developed and are being tested for SLS. The foams are all closed-cell materials, which means they are stronger and have greater resistance to heat flow and moisture. They also are non-ozone-depleting and flame resistant.

The different types of insulation are applied by varying methods: automatically by a robot; manually using a hand-held spray system; and hand mixed for pouring into molds. "With some parts of the rocket being so massive, like the core stage, robotic applications help reduce time and manpower with more control and continuous sprays," said Amy Buck, SLS core stage insight lead. The thickness of the insulation varies depending on the hardware, but it is typically about one inch. (9/7)

Japanese Team Unveils Moon Rover Design (Source: CBC)
Japanese space race team Hakuto unveiled its lunar rover design on Monday for next year's Google-sponsored Lunar X PRIZE competition. At 58 centimeters long and 36 centimeters high, the prototype weighs only 4 kilograms. The weight is kept down by using the latest carbon fiber material typically used for aircraft. Each wheel is equipped with motors, allowing for smooth maneuverability on the moon's surface.

Google launched its Lunar X Prize competition in 2007 to encourage space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the moon. The competition, which will be held next year, involves landing a privately-funded rover on the moon, which should then travel 500 metres, and transmit back high definition video and images. The first team to successfully complete the mission will scoop the $20 million US prize. (8/30)

Blasting to Conclusions (Source: Space Review)
An explosion during a test last week destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, and damaged its launch pad. Jeff Foust examines the implications of the accident for SpaceX and other companies and organizations. Click here. (9/6)
How We Settle Mars is More Important Than When (Source: Space Review)
Much of the discussion about human missions to Mars has focused on the technical challenges of such missions. Joelle Renstrom argues that the various ethical considerations of such missions should not be ignored. Click here. (9/6)
A Seven-Year Mission (Source: Space Review)
On Thursday, a NASA mission to collect samples from an asteroid is scheduled to lift off. Jeff Foust reports on goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which range from understanding the origins of the solar system to paving the way for future asteroid mining efforts. Click here. (9/6)
The Best Reason to Go to Mars (Source: Space Review)
There are no shortage of reasons why humans should travel to Mars. Eric Hedman describes how the effort needed for such an expedition could catalyze technological development and education, helping improve conditions for people around the world. Click here. (9/6)

Construction of Vostochny Spaceport to Be Completed in 2016 (Source: Space Daily)
Russian space agency Roscosmos expects the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome to be completed by the end of 2016, Roscosmos General Director Igor Komarov said Friday. "We must solve all remaining issues in the nearest future to accelerate the completion of construction and finish it by year-end," Komarov told Rossiya-24. (9/5)

Russian Space Agency Plans to Launch Satellite to Study Sun Layers in 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Roscosmos space corporation plans to develop and launch a satellite to study external layers of the sun in 10 years, according to the public procurement portal data. It is noted that the research and development work should be conducted within Russia's federal space program 2016-2025, which prescribes fundamental studies of the sun. (9/5)

Ignore Workforce Issues At Your Peril (Source: Aviation Week)
Aerospace and defense (A&D) is among the most dynamic, challenging and evolving industries. Today, external influences adding to the industry’s complexity include uncertain global economics, tight defense budgets, innovative technology needs and an ever-evolving industrial base.  Additionally, workforce issues in aerospace and defense are near the top of the list of challenges facing the industry for several reasons.

First, retirement eligibility continues to grow, increasing the ever-looming “retirement bubble.” Second, this retirement bubble, along with few new defense program starts and increased commercial competition, creates a difficult environment for workforce planning, even with significant improvements in workforce planning tools and techniques in recent years.

Third, increasing, direct competition for A&D skills, within and outside the industry, is creating difficulty in attracting and retaining talent. These challenges have implications not just for the human resource team, but for the business and industry as a whole. Click here. (8/29)

Could The U.S. Military Lose Its Connection To Space? (Source: Aviation Week)
The American military leverages and relies on an uninterrupted flow of data, communications and sensing like no other. The use of space-based assets to facilitate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), precision navigation and targeting, and command and control is extensive, and the information is distributed widely to commands and platforms as well as devices.

This space-enabled toolkit is powerful. And like many tools whose use is so pervasive, there is a tendency to take this asset for granted. But lately the military is asking, “What if it got interrupted? How would U.S. forces fight and operate without information clarity?” The possibility of gaps in the military’s space-linked connectivity is not a subject the Pentagon—an institution devoted to the study of worst-case scenarios—will engage with publicly.

Rather, the Air Force, which commands more than 90% of the overall space budget, contends  its infrastructure is too layered and agile to disrupt. For the past 2.5 years, it has conducted a strategic review assessing U.S. space architecture vulnerabilities, resilience and possible mitigation measures. Click here. (9/5)

Technical Issues Surpass Budgetary Ones to Delay Commercial Crew (Source: Space News)
A NASA report expects that the first commercial crew missions will be delayed until at least late 2018 because of technical issues. The report, prepared by NASA's Office of Inspector General and completed prior to the Sept. 1 Falcon 9 explosion, found that both Boeing and SpaceX have been experiencing technical problems in their development of their crew vehicles that will push back test flights and make it unlikely either will be ready to begin regular crew transfer flights until late 2018. That raises the possibility that NASA may need to acquire additional Soyuz seats should those vehicles experience additional delays. (9/6)

Serious Budget Cuts Coming for Russia's Space Agency (Source: Tass)
Roscosmos is anticipating "rather serious" cuts in its budget in the coming years. Igor Komarov, head of the state space corporation, said the exact size of the cut will not be known for several months as the Russian federal budget is developed. Komarov warned that the cuts could affect development of the country's new spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, delaying work on additional facilities there. (9/6)

Mars Water Signs Could Reroute Curiosity Rover (Source: Nature)
Streaks on Mars linked to flowing water could force NASA's Curiosity rover to make a detour. Curiosity is currently ascending Mount Sharp, a mountain in the center of Gale Crater where dark streaks known as recurring slope lineae have been spotted by scientists. These streaks may be created by liquid water, although recent research suggests the amount of water they contain may be far less than previously thought. However, concerns about contamination should Curiosity approach those streaks could require the rover to stay well away from them, complicating its ascent of the mountain. (9/6)

Congress Girds for Defense Spending, Policy Fights (Source: Defense News)
When Congress returns from an extended recess after Labor Day, it is expected to finish work on its annual defense policy and appropriations measures — but President Barack Obama has issued a veto threat that hangs over it all.

Whether Republican leadership wants to joust with the president on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to score political points in an election year remains an open question. Earlier this year, a Pew poll found public support for increased defense spending had climbed to its highest level since a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Do they want a fight, or do they see where President Obama vetoed the bill last year where there was no political outcome?” Justin Johnson, of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said of GOP leaders in Congress. “Do they want a fight right before the election, or do they choose to wait until after the election to try to negotiate an outcome?" (9/2)

What Happened to Sea Launch? (Source: LaunchSpace)
Sea Launch is a unique space launch system intended to be an attractive way to launch geostationary earth orbit (GEO) satellites. It was developed as a multinational endeavor that uses a mobile maritime launch platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on a specialized Zenit-3SL launch system. The first launch took place in March 1999 with launches occurring for the next 15 years. A total of 36 attempts produced 32 complete successes and one partial success. Click here. (9/7)

SpaceX Scours Data to Try to Pin Down Cause Rocket Explosion (Source: Space Daily)
"We are currently in the early process of reviewing approximately 3000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a time period of just 35-55 milliseconds," SpaceX spokesman Phil Larson said in a statement. The investigation will be oversighted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and also has the participation of the U.S. space agency NASA, the U.S. Air Force and other industry experts, Larson said. (9/7)

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