April 5, 2017

ULA Shaves Atlas Price Amid Competition (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance has dropped the price of its workhorse Atlas 5 rocket flights by about one-third in response to mounting competition from rival SpaceX and others, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday. “We’re seeing that price is even more important than it had been in the past,” Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, or ULA, said during an interview at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“We’re dropping the cost of Atlas almost every day. Atlas is now down more than a third in its cost,” Bruno said. As of December 2016, a baseline Atlas 5 rocket launch was selling for about $109 million, though satellite operators can make up at least half that cost by getting more favorable insurance rates and other factors, including an on-time launch, ULA has said.

In contrast, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, lists the base price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch on its website at $62 million. ULA’s cost reductions include trimming its payroll. The company last year said it planned to cut as many as 875 jobs, or about one-quarter of its workforce, before the end of 2017. (4/4)

Russia Pushes Next Angara Launch to 2018 (Source: Tass)
Russia has postponed the next launch of the Angara rocket until next year. Andrei Kalinovsky, head of the rocket's manufacturer Khrunichev, said additional tests at a new production facility in the city of Omsk have delayed the next Angara mission to 2018. Meanwhile, the last launch of the Rockot small launch vehicle, also provided by Khrunichev, is planned for late 2017 or early 2018. That launch will place Europe's Sentinel-3B Earth observation satellite into orbit. (4/4)

Aerospace Lobby Pushes Trump To Fill Ex-Im Board (Source: Law360)
The Aerospace Industries Association on Monday leaned on the Trump administration to begin filling the three vacancies on the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s board, stressing the need for the embattled export credit agency to resume financing high-value deals. AIA President and CEO David F. Melcher said that the incomplete Ex-Im board is stifling the industry’s goals of enhancing U.S. security and innovation. He issued a clear call to the White House to resolve the impasse. (4/4)

Air Force Creates New Space Leadership Post (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is creating a new leadership position for space to be filled by a three-star general. Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, said Tuesday the new deputy chief of staff for space will be in charge of organizing space efforts and policy for the Air Force, similar to existing deputy chief of staff positions for operations and intelligence. Raymond, speaking at Space Symposium, said the Air Force was looking at ways to overhaul is acquisition system for space and make more use of the Operationally Responsive Space Office. (4/4)

National Space Defense Center Established (Source: Space News)
The U.S. military's Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center is getting a new, and shorter, name. U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the center, known as JICSpOC, has been renamed the National Space Defense Center. The center, based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, brings together the Defense Department, intelligence community and commercial sector to address threats in space. The name change reduces any confusion with the Joint Space Operations Center, or JSpOC, the Defense Department's space command and control center. (4/4)

CNES Hopeful for Resuming Kourou Spaceport Operations Soon (Source: Space News)
The president of the French space agency CNES is hopeful that launches will resume from French Guiana soon. Jean-Yves Le Gall said Tuesday at Space Symposium that the French government is working "very hard" to resolve protests there that have suspended launch preparations at the Kourou spaceport. "I am very, very confident that we will resume with the launches in the coming days," he said. The comments came the same day as a group of protestors staged a sit-in in a conference room at the spaceport. (4/4)

Space Corps Proposed to Ensure US Military Space Dominance (Source: Space News)
A key House member called for the formation of a "Space Corps" that could eventually lead to a separate branch of the U.S. military. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said in a Space Symposium speech Tuesday that a Space Corps within the Air Force would ensure that space systems within the Air Force are led by people with expertise in them, and give those people more opportunities to rise through the ranks. Rogers said a transition process for creating a Space Corps, which could later lead to a separate military branch, could start in defense authorization bills this year and next. (4/4)

Bruno: ULA Still Considering Reusability Issues (Source: Florida Today)
The CEO of United Launch Alliance said that, despite SpaceX's success, the "jury is still out" regarding reusability. Tory Bruno said that while SpaceX demonstrated a full first stage could be reused, it's not yet clear what the best technical and economic approach to reusability is. ULA has been studying a different approach it may implement on its Vulcan vehicle, which would recover only the first stage engines. The Vulcan's upper stage, ACES, could also be reused in space, becoming a tug or even a lunar lander. (4/4)

Lab Creates 'Super Potato' That Could Grow on Mars (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a lab in the Peruvian capital of Lima, a simulator mimicking the harsh conditions found on Mars now contains a hint of life: a nascent potato plant. After experimenting in the Andean nation's dry, desert soil, scientists have successfully grown a potato in frigid, high carbon-dioxide surroundings.

Though still in early stages, investigators at the International Potato Center believe the initial results are a promising indicator that potatoes might one day be harvested under conditions as hostile as those on Mars. The findings could benefit not only future Mars exploration, but also arid regions already feeling the impact of climate change. (3/30)

SpaceX Slashes the Cost of Getting Into Orbit (Source: Advanced Television)
The precise cost of launching last week’s SES-10 satellite into orbit is rumored to have been in the $30 million-$40 million range, or about half the $60 million-$70 million normal fee. SpaceX performed a flawless launch using a ‘pre-flown’ first stage, and in a later briefing, SpaceX founder Elon Musk also said that the satellite’s protective fairing was also recovered. The fairing, which shields the satellite on its way to space, costs $6 million, he said. “The fairing has its own thruster control system and a steerable parachute,” he added. (3/3)

China's BeiDou System to Expand Cooperation to SE Asia (Source: Xinhua)
China's home-grown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) will expand its cooperation to Thailand and Sri Lanka, and then to the entire Southeast Asia, in a bid to go global, the system's operator has said.

Du Li, general manager of Wuhan Optics Valley BeiDou Holding Group Co., told Xinhua recently that his company will continue to explore models for international scientific and technical cooperation on BDS, including the joint construction of base stations, joint technical development and research, personnel training and exchanges, and others. (4/1)

French Billions Offered to End Guiana Protests (Source: Advanced Television)
The French government has reportedly promised French Guiana a special payment of $4 billion if the region’s strikers end their protest actions. The national strike has closed down all activity at the French-owned spaceport at Kourou. Two French minsters of state flew to Cayenne last week with the promise of extra cash, well over the normal budget spend of some €430 million over the five-year budget period. (4/3)

Great Potential for a SpaceX Hub in Canada (Source: Globe and Mail)
To succeed with its audacious plan to launch a global constellation of telecomm satellites, SpaceX needs a new spaceport. Putting 4,425 communications satellites in place will require approximately 300 to 400 launches, at a rate of up to one launch a day. SpaceX’s current location for launches to polar orbit – Vandenberg Air Force Base in California – is an active military facility that cannot accommodate this level of commercial activity.

Happily, there are several ideal sites available on the southeast coast of Nova Scotia. An ideal site for launches to polar orbit has both open ocean and tracking stations straight to the south or the north. Such stations exist straight south of Nova Scotia – in the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica. (4/2)

Billionaire Space Race (Source: Stuff)
A new "space race" of sorts is brewing - a battle of the billionaires. In one corner: Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX has been making headlines with its reusable rockets, as well as recently announced plans to take people around the moon. But there's another private business competing for a slice of the heavens above us: Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. Click here. (4/3)

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