COMSTAC Likes SSVs as Trainers for Spaceflight (Source: SPACErePORT)
A committee advising the FAA on commercial spaceflight policy believes
that commercial "Space Support Vehicles" can reduce commercial
spaceflight safety risks. The Commercial Space Transportation Advisory
Committee (COMSTAC), during their meeting in Washington DC last week,
discussed SSVs as a tool for training and gathering health/safety data
on candidate spaceflight crew and participants, with routine operations
at FAA-licensed spaceports.
The SSVs (like Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft)
operate in a regulatory gray area, not certified as space vehicles and
unable to operate for hire to train spaceflight participants. COMSTAC
stopped short of issuing a binding recommendation (requiring an
explicit response from the FAA Administrator) to establish a new
licensing approach to accommodate SSV operations. They chose instead to
await the planned release later this month of a Congressionally
mandated study and recommendations on the SSV issue by the Government
Accountability Office. (11/2)
How NASA Astronauts Vote From Space (Source:
While tens of millions of people around the United States head to
polling places to cast their votes in Tuesday's presidential election,
the only American in space filled out his ballot long ago. NASA
astronaut Shane Kimbrough — the sole American on the International
Space Station right now — filled out his absentee ballot before ever
leaving the U.S. for his space launch from Kazakhstan on Oct. 19,
according to the space agency.
While Kimbrough didn't vote from his post on orbit, astronauts do have
ways of voting if they are physically in space. NASA's Kate Rubins —
who just flew back to Earth over the weekend — said that she used a
somewhat complicated, but convenient sounding electronic method to send
her completed ballot back to Earth before leaving the station. The very
much absentee ballot address was marked "low-Earth orbit," the location
of the Space Station, Rubins said. (11/1)
Opinion: Commercial Crew – It Was
Never About Saving Money (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The last time NASA had to pay for astronauts to hitch a ride to the
International Space Station (ISS) with the Russians on their venerable
Soyuz spacecraft, they paid – on average – nearly $82 million per seat,
for a total of six seats. That’s $490 million to transport six
astronauts to and from the ISS.
Think about that for a moment: NASA has paid Russia almost half a
billion dollars to ferry six people to the ISS. It appears that the
former communists have learned capitalism in a fairly short time –
Soyuz seats have increased 384 percent in 10 years. Having no
competition allows Russia to increase prices with relative impunity.
To be fair, that amount does cover more than just taxi service to the
orbiting outpost – launch services and flight training are also
included in that “low, low” price. However, that’s still a lot of money
to be sending to a government that may be actively operating against
U.S. institutions. Moreover, Russia’s military actions in Syria and
Crimea has raised troubling questions. Click here.
NASA Signals Interest in Extending
Commercial Spaceflight to the Moon (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA on Tuesday took a tentative step toward contracting with private
companies to send scientific payloads to the surface of the Moon,
beginning as early as next year. The space agency hasn't committed to
funding these projects yet, but this may be a signal the agency is
interested in a wider program to explore the Moon.
The agency released a request for information (RFI) for a "Small Lunar
Surface Payload" program that recognizes the ability of several US
companies to develop robots to land on the Moon. The timing coincides
with the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which requires entrants to land a small
spacecraft on the surface of the Moon by the end of 2017.
"NASA is asking for information about small instruments that could be
placed on small lunar landers, and our interest is that we want to
address our strategic knowledge gaps," said John Guidi, deputy director
of the advanced exploration systems division within NASA's human
spaceflight division. (11/1)
Aerojet Rocketdyne Posts 3Q Loss
Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a loss of $11.1 million in its third
quarter. The California-based company posted revenue of $463.8 million
in the period. Aerojet Rocketdyne shares have climbed 12 percent since
the beginning of the year. (11/1)
Experts Concerned by SpaceX Plan to
Fuel Rockets with People Aboard (Source: Reuters)
A proposal by Elon Musk's SpaceX to fuel its rockets while astronauts
are aboard poses safety risks, a group of space industry experts that
advises NASA has told the U.S. space agency. "This is a hazardous
operation," Space Station Advisory Committee Chairman Thomas Stafford,
a former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force general, said during a
conference call on Monday.
Stafford said the group's concerns were heightened after an explosion
of an unmanned SpaceX rocket while it was being fueled on Sept. 1.
Causes of that explosion remain under investigation. Members of the
eight-member group, including veterans of NASA's Gemini, Apollo and
space shuttle programs, noted that all previous rockets carrying people
into space were fueled before astronauts got to the launch pad.
"Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over
the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster,"
Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about
SpaceX's proposed fueling procedure. SpaceX needs NASA approval of its
launch system before it can put astronauts into space. (11/2)
Monster Chinese Telescope to Join
Tabby's Star Alien Hunt (Source: Space.com)
The world's largest single-dish radio telescope will join the hunt for
intelligent aliens that could be building a "megastructure" around the
star KIC 8462852 — otherwise known as "Tabby's Star." The recently
completed Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or
"FAST," is almost 200 meters wider than the famous Arecibo Observatory
in Puerto Rico. And now FAST will join the Breakthrough Listen SETI
project to "listen in" on the strange star. (10/31)
We've Found 15,000 Near-Earth Space
Rocks (Source: Seeker)
News reports of incoming asteroids are a dime a dozen. Most headlines
shout about these incoming marauding space rocks, but buried in the
text is the big reveal that those asteroids will fly safely by, missing
Earth by a large margin. Though the tabloid press may dull our fears of
these scary interplanetary vagabonds, our planet getting hit by an
asteroid is a credible threat. We've been hit before, and we will get
To prepare ourselves for a possible future impact, there are several
astronomical campaigns (based in space and on the ground) specifically
designed to find and track asteroids that come too close to Earth for
comfort. These types of asteroids are known as "Near-Earth Asteroids,"
or NEAs, and NASA has announced that 15,000 of these space rocks have
been identified and cataloged. (11/1)
Space Walk of Fame Retitles Florida
facility 'American Space Museum' (Source: CollectSpace)
A Florida museum led and supported by spaceflight pioneers, community
leaders and former space program workers now has a new name to better
reflect its mission. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum, founded in
2001, has been renamed the American Space Museum.
"The name change was a logical next step in our evolution as it gives
visitors a better idea of what they'll experience at our facility,"
said Tara Dixon Engel, the American Space Museum's executive director,
in a statement.
The 6,100-sq.foot (570-sq.m) museum, which moved into its current
Titusville building in 2014, displays artifacts and collectibles
donated by astronauts and space workers who were involved in U.S.
program since its start in the 1950s. The museum's exhibition hall
devotes galleries to NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as
well as the more recently-retired space shuttle program. (11/1)
China And Japan Vie To Shape Asia's
Approach To Outer Space (Source: Forbes)
The increasing militarization of outer space involving all major space
powers, in and out of Asia, presents huge challenges to the existing
global legal and policy regimes. How might the top Asian space powers,
China and Japan, attempt to shape institutional outcomes amid such
realities? A book I edited out from Cornell University Press this
October, entitled “Asian Designs: Governance in the Contemporary World
Order,” takes up this issue.
“Asian Designs” gives us a new way to think about how Asian powers aim
to plant their flags in matters of global governance. Under a novel
conceptual rubric, the book uncovers and scrutinizes thousands of
formal and informal institutions, processes and practices they are
deploying in shaping governance patterns across a number of cases.
Here, I’ll focus on space. Click here.
Subsidizing Elon Musk’s Dream
(Source: Daily Caller)
The idea of traveling to Mars is all the talk among space enthusiasts.
The red planet is just sitting there, waiting, almost daring humans to
walk on it, even colonize it. While the idea is intriguing, it won’t be
cheap. And at least one of the “pioneers” hoping to send people to
Mars, billionaire Elon Musk, is mapping his path right through your
In an attempt to have his own “Kennedy moment,” President Barack Obama
this month declared his desire to make visiting Mars a reality. “We
have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in
space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to
Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an
extended time,” the President wrote in an op-ed for CNN.
That’s an ambitious goal, and a bold declaration from the man who ended
NASA’s ability to travel into space. But Americans do love the idea.
The nation still takes great pride in being the first to land a man on
the moon, as it should. However, the idea of traveling to Mars is not
being billed as a return of America’s dominance in in space. It’s more
of a private enterprise, with public funding. (11/1)
Making America Great Again in Space (Source:
President John F. Kennedy challenged our great nation to go to the moon
“in this decade,” and just eight years later, we heard Neil Armstrong’s
legendary words spoken from the moon: “That’s one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind.” Our space program helped America become
the undisputed leader for generations in high technology, created
countless jobs and prosperity, and our national pride and international
respect soared to high levels.
We have not returned to the moon in 44 years, but just when we were
getting on track for bold missions to the moon and then Mars, President
Obama dealt American space exploration an almost fatal blow, which
handed China and other nations a decade’s head start.
Hillary Clinton may give us more of Mr. Obama’s anti-space policies,
and divert even more space exploration funding to global warming theory
advocacy. America cannot afford to lose another four years while other
nations race for the moon and Mars and reap all the rewards. (11/31)