January 27, 2017

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Firefighters Battle Doubled Work Hours (Source: Law360)
A union representing Cape Canaveral Air Force Station firefighters and other emergency responders hit their government contractor employer with an arbitration complaint in Florida federal court, accusing Centerra Group LLC of doubling their on-duty hours in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. Transport Workers Union of America AFL/CIO Local 525 on Monday said Centerra has refused to enter into arbitration guaranteed by a 2012 CBA after the company unilaterally upped the time the station emergency responders must remain on duty. (1/26)

Small Satellites an Alternative for Weather Needs (Source: Space News)
Commercial smallsat systems provide new opportunities and challenges for the weather community. At a panel session at the AMS meeting this week, companies developing constellations of smallsats to collect GPS radio occultation data argued their systems could provide much more data per dollar than conventional satellite systems. However, those systems also face challenges, including how to incorporate their data into weather models as well as how governments can buy data while also maintaining their mandate to freely share weather data. (1/27)

NASA Twins Spaceflight Study Shows First Results (Source: Nature)
The first results of NASA's "twins study" show signs of the stress spaceflight imposes on the human body. The initial results are based on studies of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year on the ISS, and his twin brother and fellow astronaut Mark, who was on Earth during that time. The first results shows differences between the Kelly twins, including gene-expression signatures and microbiomes, although how much of that difference is due to the spaceflight versus just natural variability is still uncertain. (1/27)

Universe Expanding at 71.9 km Per Megaparsec (Source: Space.com)
The universe is expanding faster than expected. A new study, using observations of quasars by the Hubble Space Telescope, calculated a Hubble constant — a measure of the expansion rate of the universe — of 71.9 kilometers per second per megaparsec. That's higher than the rate of 66.9 kilometers per second per megaparsec derived from data from the Planck space observatory. The discrepancy, astronomers suggest, could be linked to the effects of dark energy accelerating the universe's expansion over time. (1/27)

Engine Defects May Ground Proton for Months (Source: Russian Space Web)
Defective engines may ground Russia's Proton rocket for months. Russian media reported that test firings found problems with engines used in the second and third stages of the Proton rocket, reportedly due to the replacement of heat-resistant alloys in those engines with cheaper, but more failure-prone, materials. The Proton may not return to flight until June or July as a result. Roscosmos is also looking into engines made by the same manufacturer, Voronezh Mechanical Plant, used in the upper stage of Soyuz rockets. The director general of the plant resigned last week. (1/27)

FAA's Shana Dale Moves Back to NASA, Temporarily (Source: Space News)
A former NASA deputy administrator is back at the agency, at least temporarily. Shana Dale, NASA deputy administrator from 2005 to 2009, is on loan to NASA from the FAA for four months, officially to perform a commercial space study. However, observers say she is poised to become part of the "beachhead team" at the agency to guide it during the early months of the new administration. The White House has yet to nominate a new administrator or deputy administrator for NASA. (1/27)

Boeing’s New Spacesuit May Look Stylish as Hell, But It’s All Business (Source: WIRED)
Astronauts will wear the sleek suit as they rocket to the International Space Station aboard the Boeing Starliner next year. The bright blue onesie does away with the fishbowl helmet in favor of a hoodie secured with a pressurized zipper. The gloves work on touch screens. Even the booties got an upgrade from Reebok.

The Boeing Blue is designed for intra-vehicular activity, meaning it’s meant for wearing inside the spacecraft. It offers a measure of protection in the event of a serious problem like sudden depressurization or a fire. Unlike a suit designed for extra-vehicular activity, it can’t shield astronauts from micro meteoroids or keep them from being baked like a potato by solar radiation.

They’ll wear it primarily during launches and re-entries, when they face the greatest risk of something going wrong. The goal this time around was the same—create a suit capable of protecting astronauts from fire and sudden changes in pressure—but make it lighter, sleeker, and more comfortable. Besides the hoodie, gloves, and more flexible boots, the 20-pound suit is 10 pounds lighter than the pumpkin suit. It’s less fussy too, with fewer zippers and buckles and such to make it easier to get in and out of. And the material was designed to allow water vapor out while keeping air in, making the suit cooler. (1/26)

Latest Space Safety Engineering Journal Online (Source: IAASS)
The Journal of Space Safety Engineering, Volume 3 No. 3 is now online with several technical papers. Click here. (1/27)

ULA's New Rocket May Spur Future Aerospace Innovation (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Commercial rocket companies SpaceX and Blue Origin are working toward perfecting the ability to land and relaunch rockets, but competitor United Launch Alliance isn't just sitting idle. In fact, the Centennial, Colo.-based firm is working to create its own version of reusable rockets. And space industry officials said the drive for innovation could lead to further advancements that would boost the region's economy. (1/26)

50 Years On, NASA Unveils Hatch from Apollo 1 Fire (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A relic from America's first space tragedy is finally going on display this week, 50 years after a fire on the launch pad killed three astronauts at the start of the Apollo moon program. The scorched Apollo 1 capsule remains locked away in storage. But NASA is offering visitors at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex a look at the most symbolic part: the hatch that trapped Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in their burning spacecraft on Jan. 27, 1967. (1/25)

The Guts and Glory of Forgotten Astronaut Donn Eisele (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
His formal titles are space historian and director of education at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park. But Francis French is also something of a treasure hunter. French sorted through the personal belongings of the late Donn Eisele and found an unpublished memoir written by the Apollo 7 astronaut.

It was an important discovery: Eisele was the pilot of the first Apollo spacecraft to test the command and service module in space. That 1968 flight helped pave the way for the first Americans to land on the moon. And the Apollo 7 mission was the first to broadcast an astronaut crew at work on live TV. (1/19)

NASA Scientists Join Resistance with Rogue Twitter Account (Source: U.S. Uncut)
Scientists resisting the Trump regime are growing in number, with a new NASA Twitter account emerging that’s solely dedicated to bypassing censorship. The account @rogueNASA is in the same vein as @AltNatParkSer and @AltUSEPA in that it’s an account not affiliated with a federal bureaucracy. As such, the account is free to defy President Trump’s obsession with pulling all references to climate change from government websites and social media accounts.

Those behind the account explained its necessity in a series of tweets pointing out that despite the very real dangers of climate change and an overwhelming repository of scientific research confirming its validity, the new administration is hell-bent on silencing the distribution of critical scientific information to the American public. (1/25)

NASA Releases Climate Change Images As Trump Still Claims It Doesn't Exist (Source: Houston Press)
NASA has just released a set of breathtaking photographs showing that — despite the repeated avowals of President Donald Trump that climate change isn't a real thing — serious changes are happening in the world, and NASA has photographic proof.

The series, "Images of Change," has been dropped at a key moment for the federal space agency's climate change work. Under President Barack Obama, NASA was focused on Earth science and climate change studies. The research wasn't as attention-grabbing as the work that was being done over at NOAA, Texas Representative Lamar Smith's favorite climate-change punching bag, but it was still happening. (1/26)

Air Force Could Take Spare NOAA Satellite for Military Use (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is considering taking over a spare NOAA geostationary weather satellite to provide coverage of the Indian Ocean region. During a panel at the AMS meeting this week, Ralph Stoffler, director of weather for the U.S. Air Force, said the Air Force and NOAA signed an agreement last month that could allow the Air Force to take possession of the GOES-14 weather satellite, currently a spare, and move it to the Indian Ocean region.

That would address a long-running problem the Air Force has had with getting good weather data from the region, as it currently relies on aging European weather satellites there. The Air Force would not pay for the satellite, but would be responsible for developing a downlink station in the region. (1/26)

New NOAA Satellite Goes Online With Tests (Source: Space News)
NOAA says its newest weather satellite, GOES-16, is doing well in initial tests. The agency released the first images from the spacecraft earlier this week, and in presentations at the AMS meeting officials said the spacecraft is operating well. All six instruments on the spacecraft have achieved "first light" and are going through a rigorous test program expected to last through May. NOAA will then decide whether to operate GOES-16 from its eastern or western orbital slots. (1/26)

Congress Complains DARPA's Satellite Servicing Program Competes With Commercial Efforts (Source: Space News)
Several members of Congress have asked DARPA to reconsider a planned satellite servicing program. In two separate letters, four members of Congress said that DARPA's Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program appears to be in conflict with national space policy by competing with private efforts to develop satellite servicing systems.

One member, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), complained that RSGS also appeared to duplicate a NASA satellite servicing program, Restore-L, focused on satellite servicing in low Earth orbit. Orbital ATK, which is not participating in the RSGS program, is developing its own satellite servicing system through its Space Logistics LLC subsidiary. (1/26)

Like Europe's Galileo, India's NAVIC Satellites Also Have Clock Problems (Source: NDTV)
An Indian navigation satellite has suffered a problem with its atomic clock similar to those experienced on Europe's Galileo spacecraft. One of the seven satellites in the NAVIC system, which provides navigation services for India and the surrounding region, is not in service because of a problem with its atomic clock, according to A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO.

The atomic clock is from a Swiss company, Spectratime, that provided the atomic clocks on the Galileo spacecraft recently reported to be suffering problems. Kumar said ISRO is working to try to resolve the clock problem and return the spacecraft to service. (1/26)

Boeing Unveils New Space Suits for CST-100 (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing unveiled Wednesday the new pressure suits that astronauts flying on the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft will wear. Boeing developed the bright blue suit with David Clark Co. to be a lighter, more comfortable version of the "pumpkin" pressure suits worn on shuttle missions. The suit's advances include lightweight fabrics and a hoodie-like helmet that can be zipped into place. Those suits would be first used on a CST-100 test flight to the ISS scheduled for August 2018. (1/26)

NASA Resumes JWST Vibration Testing (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has resumed full-fledged vibration testing of the James Webb Space Telescope after an anomaly during a test last month. NASA said this week that an anomaly during a Dec. 3 test was created by "gapping," or very small motions, in a launch restraint mechanism in the telescope. Inspections of the telescope found no evidence of damage, and vibration tests have since resumed. NASA emphasized that Webb remains on budget and on schedule for a launch in October 2018 despite the delay caused by the anomaly investigation. (1/26)

NSF Seeks Proposals for Sharing Arecibo Telescope Costs (Source: AP)
The National Science Foundation has issued a call for proposals for partnerships to shoulder the cost of running the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. NSF is seeking proposals for cooperative partnerships to handle operations of the giant radio observatory starting in 2018. NSF, which currently spends about $8 million a year running Arecibo, wants to cut its share of costs down to $2 million, with the new partners making up the difference. Proposals are due to the NSF in late April. (1/26)

Pluto's Moon May Have Had Plate Tectonics (Source: Space.com)
Pluto's largest moon, Charon, may have once had a form of plate tectonics. In a new paper, planetary scientists conclude that the moon once had an ocean of liquid water and, as it froze, the moon's crust expanded and cracked. That would explain features like rifts valleys found on Earth, although scientists said they haven't seen anything that would show plated colliding into each other and creating mountains, as happens on Earth. (1/26)

Musk Tunnel Effort Starts at SpaceX (Source: Daily Breeze)
Elon Musk's tunnel-boring ambitions will start, modestly, at SpaceX. In a series of tweets this week, Musk said he was following through with plans to build tunnels to help relieve traffic, starting "across from my desk at SpaceX." As it turns out, that initial tunnel will go only from the company's headquarters building to a parking garage across the street. The company had been in discussions with local officials in Hawthorne, California, where the company is based, about building either a pedestrian bridge or tunnel, and recently started preparations on company property for a tunnel. Three company employees were injured crossing that street in a hit-and-run accident last month. (1/26)

Dream Chaser Arrives at Edwards for Drop Tests (Sources: NASA, Parabolic Arc)
Sierra Nevada delivered its Dream Chaser spacecraft Wednesday to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, located on Edwards Air Force Base. The spacecraft will undergo several months of testing at the center in preparation for its approach and landing flight on the base's 22L runway. The test series is part of a developmental space act agreement SNC has with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The upcoming test campaign will help SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser. The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract beginning in 2019. Dream Chaser will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024.

Dream Chaser was last at Edwards in 2013 for its first and only drop test. It was released from a helicopter and glided to a runway landing. However, it crashed after part of its landing gear failed to deploy. NASA has given the company a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) using a cargo variant of the spacecraft. (1/26)

Budget Likely to be First Indication of Trump’s Space Priorities (Source: Space News)
The space community likely has a few more months to wait before it gets an idea of what U.S. space policy under the Donald Trump administration may look like, a top aerospace analyst said. “The first big milestone that we’ll see may well be the release of the administration’s first budget omnibus, which we will see sometime in the spring. That’s going to be significant,” said Carissa Christensen, co-founder of The Tauri Group.

The consensus among budget watchers in Washington is that the end of March is the earliest the new administration is likely to release its first budget proposal. That will be the first opportunity everyone has to see just what space programs the White House considers priorities — and which ones it could do without. (1/26)

NASA Under Trump is Still Waiting for Marching (and Launching) Orders (Source: Washington Post)
Amid massive political upheaval, NASA just keeps cruising along, a $19 billion, 17,500-employee agency that so far has flown under the radar. NASA employees are waiting to find out whether they'll be told to send astronauts back to the moon. They hear rumors that the Trump administration will try to strip the agency of its Earth Science research. Most of all they are wondering who their new administrator will be. The name that keeps surfacing as a top candidate is Rep. Jim Bridenstine.

What Trump will want out of NASA is unclear, because no one's talking. Trump has rarely spoken about space, but he and his aides have now met several times with Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX. (Musk went twice to Trump Tower, and was part of a gaggle of business leaders that visited the White House earlier this week.)

Ultimately, NASA answers to the White House. Vice President Pence is expected to reestablish an entity known as the National Space Council, and serve as its chair. That would oversee not only NASA but the (this part has to be whispered) even more extensive U.S. military and national security space operations. (You should know that taxpayers fund a lot of telescopes that look down, not up.) (1/26)

Rogue Actors and the Coming Space Law Crisis (Source: Discover)
James Gilley points to a few plausible cases where rogue actors could set off an international legal crisis. The first possibility involves non-signatory state actors – there are roughly 70 – establishing a presence in space and pursuing illicit activities. Chances of this scenario playing out are relatively low, since most of the potential nations lack launch capabilities and even traditional rabble rousers like North Korea have actually signed the treaty.

Another option is the “flag of convenience” scenario, under which private corporations base their operations in non-signatory countries – likely small developed nations – to avoid the constrictions of the treaty. But the most likely rogue actors, according to Gilley, are private companies operating within countries – like the United States – that have signed the treaty. The cozy agreement between corporations and home countries could change, particularly if a company rejects the regulatory framework of its home nation, or is seen to be reckless.

As for a fourth rogue actor scenario – of private companies launching from international waters – well, “we haven’t written laws on that,” says Gilley. “But it’s going to happen, and we need to clarify what’s going on.” This prognosticating may seem academic for the time being, but given the magnitude of the issues at stake – weaponization of space, accidents involving nuclear propulsion, or the reconfiguration of global markets – it’s best to be proactive. (1/26)

India-China Rivalry Reaches Into Orbit and Beyond (Source: Nikkei)
A new space race is underway in Asia, with China and India dueling for dominance while other countries make leaps of their own. National pride and defense are major motivators, but so are practical considerations -- generating income from satellite launches, mitigating natural disasters and monitoring crops. By establishing a presence in Earth's orbit, and perhaps the expanse beyond it, governments and companies aim to ensure prosperity on the ground.

After India's decision in November to scrap its largest bank notes, the picture on the back of the new 2,000-rupee replacement bill was surely the last thing on the minds of cash-strapped citizens. The image, though, highlights a major national achievement and emphasizes the country's highest aspiration: to secure its place among the stars. (1/26)

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