February 14, 2017

Northrop, BAE, Raytheon, Others Net $3B Missile Contract (Source: Law360)
Northrop Grumman Technical Services Inc., BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Raytheon Co. and five other companies will share a $3.04 billion U.S. Army contract for the research and development of missile defense technology, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Thursday. According to a statement from the Pentagon, the $3,038,000,000 contract involves the design, development, demonstration and integration, or D3I, for the so-called Domain 1 of the Army's space, high-altitude and missile defense program. (2/13)

Raytheon Ducks ‘Incomprehensible’ $1B Satellite FCA Suit (Source: Law360)
A California federal judge on Friday threw out a would-be whistleblower’s False Claims Act suit accusing Raytheon of defrauding the government over the course of a $1 billion weather satellite contract, calling the most recent complaint “incomprehensible” and not up to snuff under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Escobar decision. (2/14)

Air Force Raises Concerns about Harris Corp. Testing of GPS Parts (Source: Bloomberg)
Another problem with the GPS 3 program has led the Air Force to raise new questions about Lockheed Martin's oversight of the effort. The most recent delay involves capacitors that had not been property tested by a subcontractor, Harris Corp. Testing of those capacitors was completed in December, but the issue delayed the delivery of the first GPS 3 satellite until later this month. The testing problem "raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management," Air Force Maj. Gen Roger Teague said in a December message to congressional staff about the issue. (2/13)

DARPA Confirms SS Loral Pick for Satellite Servicing Project (Source: Space News)
DARPA is moving forward with a controversial satellite servicing program, announcing Thursday it will partner with Space Systems Loral. Under the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, SSL will provide a satellite bus for a DARPA-developed servicing payload, which, after launch, will carry out a series of demonstrations to show its ability to inspect and repair satellites. SSL plans to use that system commercially, servicing government and commercial satellites, once the demonstrations are completed. Orbital ATK filed suit earlier this week to block the deal, arguing that it violated national space policy by giving SSL an unfair advantage over other commercial satellite servicing programs. (2/10)

OneWeb to Use New Mexico-Based SolAero's Solar Panels (Source: Space News)
A deal with OneWeb had led a solar panel manufacturer to expand its plant. SolAero is spending $10 million to modernize its Albuquerque, New Mexico, facility to produce solar panels for OneWeb's constellation of 900 satellites. The updated facility will be able to produce both the panel structures as well as the solar cells and circuits. SolAero expects to be producing the first flight article solar panels for OneWeb there in 45 days. (2/13)

ESA Could Build Space Based Gravitational Wave Observatory (Source: Space News)
Scientists are optimistic that ESA will proceed with development of a space-based gravitational wave observatory. A European consortium submitted a proposal to ESA last month for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), featuring three spacecraft linked by lasers to detect gravitational waves. ESA is expected to select LISA for flight likely in the early 2030s. Scientists said they're optimistic about LISA's prospects because of the discovery of gravitational waves last year, as well as the technical performance of the LISA Pathfinder mission last year, which exceeded expectations. NASA will contribute about 20 percent of the mission's cost through instruments and other technologies. (2/13)

Scientists Puzzled That Mars Climate Allowed Liquid Surface Water (Source: Space.com)
Planetary scientists are still puzzled how Mars could be warm enough early in its history to support liquid water on its surface. Despite significant geological evidence that water once flowed on the surface, a new study raises questions about how the planet's atmosphere could be warm enough to allow water to remain liquid. That study suggests Mars had far less carbon dioxide in its early atmosphere than required to sufficiently warm the planet. One possibility is that other greenhouse gasses warmed the planet, although such gases would be short-lived in the atmosphere. (2/10)

Recalculating Risk (Source: Space Review)
NASA has grappled with the risks associated with human spaceflight for decades. Jeff Foust reports on how one top NASA official wants to reexamine how NASA calculates and communicates risk for crewed spacecraft. Click here. (2/13)
Launch Failures: Dew Discoveries (Source: Space Review)
For a while, it appeared that engineers had found all the ways a launch vehicle could fail. But, as Wayne Eleazer explains, new vehicles have created new failure modes, and even new categories of launch failures. Click here. (2/13)
Presidential Space Leadership Depends on the Enabling Context (Source: Space Review)
Space advocates continue to look back at President Kennedy as a model of presidential leadership in space policy. In the first of a two-part essay, Matt Chessen discusses what factors made Kennedy effective, and how they translated—or didn’t translate—to later administrations. Click here. (2/13)
Build a Moon Mall and Make the Moon Pay For It (Source: Space Review)
President Trump’s preferred method of communication seems to be Twitter. Sam Dinkin provides ten tweet-sized recommendations on how to make space great again. Click here. (2/13)

NASA Picks Its Three Favorite Landing Spots for 2020 Mars Rover (Source: GeekWire)
NASA has whittled down its choices for its next Mars landing site to three spots, including the hills where the space agency’s Spirit rover roamed a decade ago. The Columbia Hills are among the three finalists because the silica deposits discovered there during Spirit’s mission suggest the site might have been part of an ancient hot springs.

That’s the sort of place that geologists say might hold evidence of past life, which is high on the scientific agenda for the rover that’s due to be launched in 2020. The others include Jezero Crater: Based on orbital imagery, scientists suspect that water filled up and drained away this crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the cratrer wall and created a lake. The wet conditions back then might have supported microbial life.

NE Syrtis Major: This layered terrain shows signs of being warmed by volcanic activity in ancient times. Underground heat sources might have given rise to hot springs and melting ice on the surface. If the conditions were right, microbes might have flourished in liquid water that came in contact with the region’s minerals. (2/13)

Scientists Make Huge Dataset of Nearby Stars Available to Public (Source: MIT)
The search for planets beyond our solar system is about to gain some new recruits. Today, a team that includes MIT and is led by the Carnegie Institution for Science has released the largest collection of observations made with a technique called radial velocity, to be used for hunting exoplanets.

The huge dataset, taken over two decades by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, is now available to the public, along with an open-source software package to process the data and an online tutorial. By making the data public and user-friendly, the scientists hope to draw fresh eyes to the observations, which encompass almost 61,000 measurements of more than 1,600 nearby stars. (2/13)

Diehard Coders Just Rescued NASA’s Earth Science Data (Source: WIRED)
Like similar groups across the country—in more than 20 cities—they believe that the Trump administration might want to disappear this data down a memory hole. So these hackers, scientists, and students are collecting it to save outside government servers.

But now they’re going even further. Groups like DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA’s earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they’re keeping track of what’s already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun. (2/13)

North Korea's Missile Threats to US May Not Be Empty for Long (Source: Space.com)
North Korea has always talked the talk, and now it seems to be walking the walk as never before. The nuclear-armed rogue nation appears to be making progress on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which could conceivably allow the Hermit Kingdom to make good on its oft-repeated threat to turn major American cities into "seas of fire," experts say.

"They've probably reached the point where they're going to need to start testing the missiles themselves — the whole system," said Joel Wit, senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute (USKI) at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. "Most people think that could come sometime this year." (2/13)

Space Aggressors Jam AF, Allies' Systems (Source: USAF)
The 26th Space Aggressor Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base is always gearing up for the next exercise in replicating enemy action against space-based and space-enabled systems. Teams of adversary subject matter experts regularly employ jamming techniques to train Air Force, joint and coalition personnel how to recognize, mitigate, counter and defeat threats.

“Our mission is to train others,” said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Millspaugh, the 26th SAS superintendent. “Currently, Schriever is the only place in the Department of Defense that provides this type of instruction and training that we use to help get our military partners up to speed.” (2/13)

Teams Practice for Cape Canaveral’s First Launch of Minotaur 4 Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Three inert Peacekeeper missile stages have been stacked at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 46 pad, demonstrating the techniques that will be used to assemble a Minotaur 4 rocket to launch an experimental space surveillance satellite this summer. Decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles form the basis for Minotaur 4 rockets, operated by Orbital ATK, and will deliver the majority of power to launch a small spacecraft, called SensorSat, into Earth orbit.

Launch is tentatively planned for July 15 at roughly 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). Known as the Operationally Responsive Space-5 mission, or ORS-5, it will be the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral. Officials say the Cape was chosen as the launch site because it is best suited to fly the special five-stage Minotaur 4 into the desired equatorial orbit. (2/13)

Officials Mull Proposal for Manned Mission to Refurbish Hubble Telescope (Source: Wall Street Journal)
An industry initiative could meet Trump's goals for a swift, dramatic space effort. President Donald Trump’s advisers are considering an industry proposal to send a manned spacecraft to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope within the next few years, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions are still preliminary, no specific plans have been drafted and senior White House aides or administration advisers currently overseeing NASA could veto the idea. (2/13)

Climate Scientists Are Worried Their Link To Weather Satellites May Be Choked Off (Source: BuzzFeed)
Earth scientists say a private telecommunications company’s plan would hurt their access to NOAA’s weather data. But the company says its proposal will do the exact opposite and “democratize weather information.” When cyclones barrel along the Pacific or tornadoes rage across the Midwest, satellites eye the tempests and send real-time weather data earthward.

But the weather science community is worried they won’t always get those crucial views and other data, because of a proposed auction of one scientific band of the radio spectrum that’s under consideration by the FCC. Just a bit of radio interference can throw off the calculations used to make accurate weather predictions that are “extremely sensitive” to even small temperature differences, said Jordan Gerth. “Even 2 or 3 degrees can be the difference between a rapidly growing thunderstorm and one that’s not going to pose a threat,” Gerth said. (2/13)

Why it’s Time for Australia to Launch its Own Space Agency (Source: The Conversation)
Any nation that hopes to have a space program needs to be able to keep an eye on its orbiting assets at all times. This means that Australia has become a key link in the global chain of ground-based tracking stations. NASA has a deep space tracking facility at Tidbinbilla in the ACT, managed by the CSIRO, and the European Space Agency (ESA) has one in New Norcia, Western Australia.

The New Norcia station plays a further role as it picks up and tracks the ESA launches from French Guiana as they curve across the Indian Ocean on their way to Earth orbit or beyond. This means that Australia plays a critical role in many other countries’ space programs. Right now, about 40 space missions – including deep space planetary explorers, Mars rovers, solar observatories and astronomical space observatories – are routinely downlinking their data through radio dishes on Australian soil.

If Australia is to capitalize on its strengths in space tracking as well as space science, and is to get on board with the burgeoning commercial space industry, it’s time that we considered forming a space agency of our own. A space agency serves several roles. First and foremost is the creation of coherence across a complex sector. In particular, the agency would need to coordinate and drive the development of homegrown space technologies. (2/13)

UK Could Be Shut Out of Super-Accurate EU GPS System it Helped to Build (Source: Independent)
Brexit could leave the UK out of new EU-wide global positioning system (GPS) that went live in December after more than 15 years in development, with much of the cutting-edge work having been carried out by British companies.

The Galileo system, developed in partnership between the European Union and the European Space Agency (a 22-country, non-EU organisation that the UK will not be leaving), has been years in the making, and was built to end the dependence of European countries on GPS technology provided by either the US, Russia or China, who could shut down access to their systems should they so decide. (2/13)

Phoenix Entrepreneur Raising $100,000 for First Near-Space Mission Launch (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
A Phoenix-based near space commercial flight startup is trying to raise $100,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to help it fund a manned near-space launch later this year. Phoenix-based SpaceUnbound is working with two other companies to launch the Helios Mission, where three pilots will capture the 2017 total solar eclipse in virtual reality on Aug. 21. (2/12)

Branson Still Doesn’t Really Understand Why SpaceShipTwo Crashed (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson was interviewed for the Jan. 30 edition of NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast. Beginning at 25:44, there’s a brief discussion of the October 2014 crash that destroyed the first SpaceShipTwo and killed co-pilot Mike Alsbury.

Branson recalls that for the first 12 hours after the accident he wasn’t sure if the SpaceShipTwo program would continue. “But, once we realized it was a pilot error and not a technical error, I was able to tell all the engineers it was nothing to do with them. And that the basic craft was sound.” Alas, most of this explanation is wrong.

Yes, Alsbury did make a mistake by unlocking the spacecraft’s feather system early, causing the vehicle’s twin tail booms to deploy during powered ascent. Aerodynamic forces then ripped the ship apart. However, the accident was in large part about poor engineering and safety standards. (2/13)

More Alien Worlds? New Data Haul Identifies 100+ Possible Exoplanets (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have spotted more than 100 new potential alien planets, including one in the fourth-closest star system to the sun, a new study reports. This haul of newfound possible exoplanets, which have yet to be confirmed as bona fide alien worlds, comes from a new analysis of 20 years' worth of data gathered by the HIRES (High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer) instrument at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. (2/13)

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