December 16, 2016

Floridian of the Year: Frank DiBello, Rocket Man (Source: Florida Trend)
Space exploration has lent itself to outsized figures: Alan Shepard, John Glenn and the rest of the Mercury Seven. Neil Armstrong and the New Nine. So too with the 21st-century private space industry: Elon Musk and SpaceX, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, Greg Wyler and OneWeb. Then there’s Frank DiBello, a mild-mannered consultant.

He’s past 70. His “first” in space had nothing to with flight: He started the first space-devoted practice group at a major accounting firm. He’s measured, deliberate. The only thing that’s flashy about him is the bright pocket square in his very proper suit. But DiBello and Space Florida, the economic development organization he leads, have exerted an outsized influence in building a new commercial future for Florida in space.

DiBello’s leadership bore notable fruit in 2016. But in 2009, Space Florida had spiraled into crisis. With the final shuttle flights looming for 2011, its executive director resigned amid media scrutiny and complaints from private sector executives about Space Florida’s performance. DiBello, then working with the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, was hired to take over Space Florida. Click here. (12/16)

Georgia Senate Study Committee Recommends Spaceflight Legislation (Source: Spaceport Camden)
Yesterday, the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Spaceport Camden held its final meeting in Atlanta and finalized their recommendations. The Study Committee urges the Georgia General Assembly to propose and pass legislation that sends a clear signal to the commercial space community that Georgia is open for business.

The Camden County Board of Commissioners welcomes the Committee’s recommendation to pass legislation in Georgia that will help  attract the commercial space industry to the state. Administrator Steve Howard said: “To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this report is one small step for Spaceport Camden, but one giant leap for Georgia. There is still plenty of work to do before rockets launch from Camden County, but we look forward to working with the General Assembly to make Georgia the best place in the country for aerospace entrepreneurs to do business.”

Camden County continues to work through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to obtain a launch site operators license. Environmental and safety reviews are in process and a decision by the FAA is expected in 2017. (12/15)

Space Florida Board Approves Minotaur Operations at State-Managed Pad (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board of directors approved the planned use of Launch Complex 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for a 2017 Minotaur-4 launch by Orbital ATK. The FAA-licensed launch would likely be the first of multiple Minotaur missions, along with an Orion Launch Abort System test atop a Peacekeeper first stage sometime in 2018. (12/16)

Space Florida Board Approves Deal for In-Space Fiber Optic Production (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board of directors approved a $3 million deal with an unnamed company planning to commercially produce advanced fiber optic cable aboard the International Space Station for sale on Earth. The state space agency will finance equipment aboard the space station for the company's use. (12/16)

Boeing and NASA Prepare for the Assembly of the First SLS Rocket (Source:
Prime contractor Boeing recently discussed the current progress of assembly and production for the first Core Stage elements of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). With assembly of the major structures almost complete, all the different first-time pieces are working their way along parallel paths at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Boeing and NASA choreograph the development and testing work that will put together the first complete new rocket stage next year and certify it for its inaugural flight in late 2018. Click here. (12/16)

FCC Chief Stepping Down (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who has been critical of the satellite industry over spectrum issues, is stepping down. Tom Wheeler announced Thursday that he will resign from the FCC on Jan. 20. Wheeler's resignation had been expected given the presidential transition, but he had delayed announcing it to the consternation of some Republicans in Congress. Wheeler, who became chairman in 2013, criticized the satellite industry earlier this year for not being willing to share spectrum to support development of 5G terrestrial wireless systems. (12/15)

Missile Defense System Needs New Satellites (Source: Space News)
Pentagon officials say missile defense systems need a new generation of tracking satellites. At a forum this week, officials with the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency said that while they rely on terrestrial tracking systems now, a space-based layer could fill gaps in coverage. Such a system would augment current satellites in geostationary orbit that provide warning of missile launches but can't track their trajectories accurately enough to support missile defense systems. (12/15)

NASA Official Not Worried About Trump Threat to Earth Science (Source: Nature)
The head of NASA's science mission directorate said he is not concerned about the influence the new administration will have on the agency's Earth science work. Thomas Zurbuchen said in an interview this week that Earth science has been a part of NASA's activities since the agency's inception, and believed it offered value to taxpayers. He added that, unlike the Energy Department, NASA had not been asked to identify scientists who are working on climate change research. (12/15)

Making NASA Great Again (Source: National Review)
It’s worth remembering why John Genn was willing to risk his life on a first-ever space flight. In 1962, at the height of the Cold War, space was important and worthy of such risk. We were going to the moon to demonstrate our technological superiority to the Soviets and the world, and Glenn’s flight was a crucial milestone on that path. Half a century later, that sense of importance — and the willingness to take risks that came with it — has been lost.

Why is it that, over half a century after John Glenn’s famous flight, our mantra has gone from “Beat the Soviets to the moon” to “Safety is the highest priority,” a phrase used repeatedly in Congressional hearings? In my book a few years ago, I argued that it is because space is no longer important enough to justify the risk of human lives, at least with taxpayer funds. And that when safety is the highest priority, actually accomplishing things in space becomes a lower one by definition. Click here. (12/15)

Georgia Legislature Considering Spaceflight Liability Indemnification (Source: Brunswick News)
A Georgia legislative committee has endorsed legislation supporting development of a spaceport in the state. A state senate committee said Thursday that it supported legislation that would provide liability protections for companies launching from the state, similar to laws in a number of other states. A bill providing that liability protection will be taken up in the state legislature in 2017. The bill is considered vital to plans to develop a commercial launch site in Camden County, Georgia, on the Atlantic coast. (12/15)

Space Florida Gets Clean Audit (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board of directors received a report from the agency's annual independent audit on Friday. The audit found no significant issues of concern for an agency involved in creative financial transactions involving hundreds of millions of dollars in state and private investment. The assets of Space Florida exceeded its liabilities for the years ended June 30, 2016, 2015, and 2014 by $104,456,708, $110,090,733, and $97,225,619 (net position), respectively.

Space Florida’s total net position decreased by $5,634,025 for the year ended June 30, 2016, increased by $12,835,114 for the year ended June 30, 2015, and increased by $8,135,255 for the year ended June 30, 2014. Space Florida’s state appropriated revenue for operations for fiscal year 2016, 2015, and 2014 was $22,907,937, $18,853,607, and $12,149,685 respectively. Click here. (12/16)

Public Comments Invited for Cape Canaveral Spaceport Master Plan Update (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida invites comments (by Dec. 23) for its 2016 update to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Master Plan. Here are the briefing charts on the update. (12/15)

Orlando Sentinel Launches KSC Visitor Complex Sweepstakes (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Orlando Sentinal and the KSC Visitor Complex are launching a few lucky readers into space. Enter today for a chance to win tickets to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Click here. (12/15)

Juno Safe Mode Incident Explained (Source: Space News)
A safe mode that disabled NASA's Juno spacecraft during an October Jupiter orbit was triggered by an issue with data from one of its instruments. Scott Bolton said the safe mode, triggered hours before the spacecraft made a close approach to the planet, took place because of a glitch handling data from one instrument. Engineers have developed a software patch to correct the problem, but the patch was not ready in time for Juno's latest flyby on Sunday. The spacecraft remains in a 53-day orbit around Jupiter after postponing a maneuver that would put Juno into a 14-day orbit. That maneuver has yet to be rescheduled. (12/14)

India and US to Exchange Earth Science Spacecraft Data (Source: Times of India)
The Indian government has approved an agreement to exchange Earth sciences data with the United States. The agreement, signed in July, allows India's space agency ISRO to receive data directly from the Landsat 7 and 8 spacecraft through an Indian ground station. In return, ISRO will provide access to data from its Resourcesat-2 spacecraft to the U.S. Geological Survey. (12/14)

Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick on the Likelihood of Alien Life (Source: Film Famine)
Eyes on Cinema has put together a video of directors Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick talking on separate occasions about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Here is what these filmmakers that are renown for films about extra-terrestrial life had to say. (12/15)

What Laws Apply to Crimes Committed in Space? (Source: Washington City Paper)
Back in the 70s, advance reports that Skylab’s crew was to be supplied with small rations of wine inspired so much public outrage that NASA instituted a strict ban on in-flight alcohol consumption. Any astronaut caught smoking pot, then, might well be summarily forced out the nearest hatch as a matter of policy. As for other forms of space murder: not a likely occurrence just yet, but if commercial off-earth travel does become routine, eventually human nature will take its course and some serious crime will occur outside of terrestrial jurisdiction.

Ideally by then there’ll be working guidelines to cover such eventualities; thus far, though, the field of criminal law hasn’t left our planet’s atmosphere. It’s not like authorities have been reluctant to export earth-style legal thinking into the cosmos. Barely a year after the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the U.N. established the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and a 1967 treaty set forth a kind of extraterrestrial constitution, establishing that space and the celestial bodies therein are intended for the use and mutual benefit of all humankind and may not become the property of any nation. (12/14)

Japan's Big Plan to Clear Up Space Junk (Source: BBC)
Space. A vast area filled with speeding comets, planets and well, a LOT of junk. The junk includes things like old satellites, gloves, and toolkits accidentally dropped by astronauts. But Japan could have a plan to whip the junk into shape, or out of the way, at least. They think Kounotori, the Japanese space ship with a 'tail' could be the answer. Click here. (12/14)

Orbital ATK Launches CYGNSS Aboard Pegasus Rocket at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: BBC)
Eight satellites, each the size of a small suitcase, have blasted off over Cape Canaveral on a rocket launched from the underside of a plane. It was the third launch attempt by Orbital ATK for NASA. It is hoped the satellites will measure wind speeds in stormy weather. Current satellites can not measure accurately when it is raining heavily, so forecasters have to rely on "Hurricane Hunter" planes. (12/15)

Florida Polytechnic Student Wins Grant to Study Space Radiation (Source: Florida Polytechnic Univ.)
It could be decades before humans make it to the rocky surface of Mars, but Florida Polytechnic University sophomore Payton Barnwell is already working to get them there safely. Having landed a $12,000 grant through the Florida Space Research Program, Barnwell will lead a project this spring testing how to possibly protect plants, technology and explorers from radiation.

Prolonged exposure to space radiation — as astronauts traveling to Mars would experience — can cause irreversible damage, including cataracts and increased risk of cancer. Radiation can even pass on mutated genes to the next generation, extending the harmful effects beyond the individual. Barnwell and her project aims to engineer a solution to this serious barrier to space exploration. (12/15)

Solar System’s Biggest Asteroid is an Ancient Ocean World (Source: Nature)
Asteroids might look dry and barren, but the Solar System’s biggest asteroid — Ceres — is chock full of water, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has found. “It’s just oozing,” says Thomas Prettyman, a nuclear engineer at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. He led the team that built the neutron-counting instrument aboard Dawn, which reported its findings on 15 December in Science.

Today, the water is either frozen as ice, filling pore spaces deep inside Ceres, or locked inside hydrated minerals at the surface. But billions of years ago, early in Ceres’s history, heat left over from the Solar System’s formation probably kept the asteroid warm inside. This allowed the water to churn and flow, helping to separate Ceres into layers of rock and ice. (12/15)

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