May 4, 2017

A Look Inside Airbus’s Epic Alabama Assembly Line (Source: New York Times)
The ships from Hamburg steam into Mobile Bay several times a month. Loaded upon them are the titanic parts of flying machines: tails, already painted; wings, already functional; the fuselage, in two segments, front and rear. The pieces are set on flatbed trucks and escorted by police cars to a decommissioned Air Force base, Brookley Field, about four miles from the harbor. There, between the runways, the European aerospace company Airbus has built a $600 million factory to assemble airplanes in the United States. Click here. (5/3)

Space Florida Seeks New Fuel, Facilities at Former Shuttle Landing Strip (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Growing commercial activity at Kennedy Space Center is prompting Space Florida to seek contractors to provide more fuel and new air-traffic-control facilities at the runway known as the Shuttle Landing Facility. The need for more fuel at the runway is prompted by more cargo flights and the potential for launching more satellites from the wings of jets.

On Wednesday, Space Florida released a request for proposals from potential fuel suppliers, calling for at least two fueling trucks that carry 5,000 gallons of Jet-A fuel, or a similar capacity. Space Florida owns the former shuttle landing strip, and is preparing it to serve launch companies operating in the area. The landing strip will soon require more than 100,000 gallons of fuel per year, according to Space Florida projections.

In 2015, the agency says the facility needed 72,872 gallons, up from 67,558 in 2013 and 72,285 in 2014. The RFP didn’t list the amount of fuel used in 2016. Growing commercial activity includes the arrival of OneWeb and Blue Origin at the nearby Exploration Park, which is also run by Space Florida. On Feb. 21, a previous request went out for contractors to remove and replace existing communications equipment in the facility’s Air Traffic Control Tower. (5/3)

Space War Games at USAF (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force held the first-of-its-kind training event last month for space operations. The "Space Flag" exercise is modeled on the well-known "Red Flag" air combat training event. During Space Flag, airmen practiced scenarios that might take place in space during a conflict. The Air Force plans to carry out "increasingly more realistic operational scenarios" in future exercises, which the service plans to conduct twice a year. (5/4)

Still No IPO for SpaceX (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX shot down a report that the company is planning for an initial public offering of stock. Company president Gwynne Shotwell said a report published early Wednesday about plans for an IPO were "not true." That report was based on an email sent by Empire Capital Partners, an asset management firm who claimed that SpaceX was preparing to offer shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The firm later said they had no evidence an IPO was in the works. (5/3)

Vector Launches Prototype at Mojave (Source: Space News)
Vector tested a prototype of its small launch vehicle Wednesday. The Vector-R engineering model, designated P-19H, lifted off from a pad in California's Mojave Desert. The company did not disclose the peak altitude of the flight, planned to be 1,370 meters, but called the flight a successful test of the vehicle. The company said Wednesday's flight was the first of several suborbital launches planned to evaluate key technologies planned for the vehicle. (5/3)

Russia Cosmonaut Call Attracts 200 Applicants (NASA Got 18000) (Source: Tass)
Russia's latest cosmonaut selection round has, so far, attracted just 200 applicants. The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos started accepting applications in March and said Wednesday it had received 200 to date. The deadline for applications is July 14, and Roscosmos plans to select six to eight new cosmonauts. By contrast, NASA received more than 18,000 applications in its most recent round last year. (5/3)

California Plans for Collecting Taxes on Spaceflight (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
California is considering a tax on launch companies that could depend on where in space the satellites they launch go. The Franchise Tax Board is seeking public input on a proposal for levying taxes on spacecraft launched by California companies. The formula is based on the number of launches a company performs as well as the "mileage", or orbital altitude, of the satellite, with the tax rate declining the higher the satellite's orbit is. State officials say the tax is modeled on those used for other transportation companies. The board will vote on the proposed tax June 16. (5/3)

Air Force Working to Improve Space Cybersecurity (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is working to improve cybersecurity for space systems. That effort, the service says, is complicated by a "stovepipe" architecture and ground systems that are, in some cases, decades old. The Space Defense Task Force is working to address security concerns with a new common ground system, a secure hardware and network infrastructure and revised policies and procedures. (5/3)

Reaction Engines Begins Construction of UK Rocket Engine Test Facility (Source: Reaction Engines)
Reaction Engines Ltd. began construction of a new engine test facility where it plans to undertake the first ground based demonstration of its revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine. The test facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK will enable Reaction Engines to test critical subsystems along with the testing of a SABRE engine core, which will commence in 2020.

The project represents a substantial investment for Reaction Engines, which will consist of a multi-purpose propulsion test stand designed to accommodate various test engine configurations, an assembly building, workshops, offices and control room. The location of workshops and other support facilities alongside the test stand will enable configuration changes to the engine to take place at the site, reducing the down time between testing phases and accelerating the development program of the SABRE engine. (5/4)

Mars Armada Could Congest Deep Space Network (Source: Space News)
NASA's Deep Space Network is preparing for a traffic jam of Mars missions in the early 2020s. Current plans call for the launch in 2020 of missions by NASA, ESA, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, as well as SpaceX's Red Dragon. Most of those missions will seek to use the DSN for communications, putting a strain on the system. The network is looking at ways to handle this increased traffic, including the ability to track multiple spacecraft with a single antenna. (5/3)

Hawking Says Humans Need to Leave Earth Within the Next 100 Years or Face Extinction (Source: Mic)
Um, Elon Musk might want to hurry up and get us to Mars with his SpaceX program already. Why, you ask? Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned physicist, says it's almost time for humans to bid farewell to their home planet. In the upcoming BBC documentary Expedition New Earth, Hawking suggests humans have 100 years to colonize elsewhere or prepare for the extinction of our species.

A hundred years is a lot sooner than Hawking's previous predictions. In November, he gave a similar warning — but said we had a comparatively lengthy 1,000 years to find a new spot to carry on the future of humankind: "Although the chance of disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years ... By that time, we should have spread out into space and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race." (5/3)

Vector Completes Successful Flight Test of Vector-R Launch Vehicle (Source: SpaceRef)
Vector, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced the successful test launch of the P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle. This flight test is the first of several upcoming launches which will enable Vector to evaluate critical technologies and functions of the operational family of Vector launch vehicles.

This announcement comes on the heels on Vector's recent agreement to conduct a flight test in Camden County, Georgia. Vector and key members of the spaceport community in Camden County showcased the Vector-R launch system and concept of operations for future launch operations on-site last week. The summer launch from Spaceport Camden is part of a series of incremental launches which will help Vector further validate the company's technology, mature launch vehicle design and operations, and evaluate candidate launch sites for the future. (5/3)

SpaceX to Launch Thousands of its Own Broadband Satellites Starting in 2019 (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX on Wednesday said it plans to launch thousands of satellites on Falcon 9 rockets beginning in 2019 to establish what would one day become a global broadband internet constellation. Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's vice president of satellite government affairs, told a Senate Committee that the company is aiming to launch 4,425 small satellites to low Earth orbit beginning in 2019, with full deployment expected by 2024. All would launch, in phases, on Falcon 9 rockets. (5/3)

Private Funds Are An Old Tradition in U.S. Space Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
Jeff Bezos has an expensive enthusiasm, and plenty of money to finance it. To bankroll Blue Origin, the Amazon founder says he just sells $1 billion worth of Amazon stock a year. His personal reusable space launch enterprise is “doing fine” with that business plan, according to Bezos, whose entrepreneurial skills recently moved him up to the No. 3 position in Forbes’s worldwide personal wealth tally at an estimated $77.8 billion.

He is not the only billionaire spending big bucks on space. Elon Musk of SpaceX wants to colonize Mars, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen has funded an air-launcher for space shots that makes Howard Hughes’s “Spruce Goose” almost look like a Piper Cub. Some NASA careerists worry that the U.S.’s space program is too important to be left to individuals who could change their minds or get hit by a bus.

Alexander MacDonald, an Oxford University economist who advises the space agency at JPL, writes that educated Americans were interested in space long before what is typically called the Space Age. Most of the time they dug into their own pockets, rather than counting on Washington to use their taxpayer funds. The difference, he says, was our forefathers invested in bigger and better telescopes instead of rockets. (5/3)

Strike-Delayed European Rocket Launch to Go Ahead (Source: Space Daily)
A satellite launch delayed since March 20 due to a crippling general strike in French Guiana, will go ahead on Thursday, launch firm Arianespace said. An Ariane 5 rocket is set to hoist two telecommunications satellites, one South Korean and the other Brazilian, into Earth orbit from Europe's space port in Kourou, Guiana,

The French territory was hit by more than a month of disruptions following a general strike, which saw workers erecting barricades around the space centre and delaying the launch several times. The blockade was lifted on April 22, allowing for preparations to start afresh. (5/3)

NASA Selects Arkansas' First CubeSat (Source: Space Daily)
Arkansas' first CubeSat, a small satellite selected by NASA for space education and research, will observe the Earth's climate and measure the composition and concentration of atmospheric gases. In February, NASA announced the selection of ArkSat-1 as one of 34 satellites from 19 states and the District of Columbia that will be launched into space between 2018 and 2020. (5/4)

Louisiana Helping NASA Launch Into Deep Space (Source: The Advocate)
NASA's partnership with Louisiana has taken us to remarkable places, including putting humans on the moon and to the International Space Station. We build space ships in Louisiana. We're building one right now for journeys farther than any human explorer has ever traveled.

At Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, a uniquely skilled workforce is manufacturing the 212-foot-tall, nearly 28-foot-wide core stage for the Space Launch System, and already delivered the all-important pressure vessel of the Orion spacecraft. SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world, capable of carrying Orion and a crew on missions into deep space, blazing paths into deep space that will lead us to Mars and sending large science probes beyond Mars to the outer planets.

Approximately 3,500 people go to work at Michoud every day, generating more than $342 million overall economic output for the regional economy. Nationwide, Michoud supports more than 5,000 jobs, producing a total economic output of more than $800 million. Michoud is home to approximately 20 other government agency and commercial tenants that do everything from protecting our borders, to building wind turbines to manufacturing cutting edge advanced materials. (5/2)

SpaceX, Blue Origin Have Opened a “Window of Opportunity” for US Air Force (Source: Ars Technica)
The US military has taken note of SpaceX's achievements, as well as those of Blue Origin and its reusable New Shepard suborbital vehicle—and that company’s ambitions to also build a large, reusable orbital rocket. “This has opened up a window of opportunity and gotten the attention of serious people,” Charles Miller, an aerospace consultant and president of NexGen Space, told Ars.

To that end Miller partnered with a number of Air Force officers at Air University and former Air Force officials to study the potential effects of lower-cost access to space on the US military. The “Fast Space” report, which has been briefed to senior officials in the US military and government in recent months, concludes that the US Air Force can benefit from these commercial developments.

“The USAF can form private sector partnerships to create a virtuous cycle of launch cost reductions of between 3 and 10 times lower than today’s costs,” the report finds. “Doing so could enable completely new approaches for the Air Force to defend American values, protect American interests, and enhance opportunities to exploit the unique global advantages of the ultimate high ground.” (5/2)

The Moon is the Gateway to NASA’s Exploration Future (Source: Space News)
The idea of some kind of human-tended facility in orbit around the moon is not new: NASA has suggested for years that such an outpost might be developed in the “proving ground” phase of its exploration plans, allowing astronauts to test technologies needed for missions to Mars, but offered few specifics about it.

In recent weeks, though, NASA had laid out more details about what such an outpost might look like and how it could be built, driven by the need to start planning payloads for the initial missions to develop it. “There’s starting to be a sense of urgency” about identifying those payloads, said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, in a March 8 talk at the Goddard Memorial Symposium.

That urgency, he said, is because the first Space Launch System flight to deploy elements of that outpost, Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), could launch within four years. “We’ve really got to start making some decisions about what that cargo is, whom we partner with and how we build the equipment,” he said. (5/2)

Here’s How an Asteroid Impact Would Kill You (Source: Science News)
It won’t be a tsunami. Nor an earthquake. Not even the crushing impact of the space rock. No, if an asteroid kills you, gusting winds and shock waves from falling and exploding space rocks will most likely be to blame. That’s one of the conclusions of a recent computer simulation effort that investigated the fatality risks of more than a million possible asteroid impacts.

In one extreme scenario, a simulated 200-meter-wide space rock whizzing 20 kilometers per second whacked London, killing more than 8.7 million people. Nearly three-quarters of that doomsday scenario’s lethality came from winds and shock waves, planetary scientist Clemens Rumpf and colleagues report online March 27 in Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

In a separate report, the researchers looked at 1.2 million potential impactors up to 400 meters across striking around the globe. Winds and shock waves caused about 60 percent of the total deaths from all the asteroids, the team’s simulations showed. Impact-generated tsunamis, which many previous studies suggested would be the top killer, accounted for only around one-fifth of the deaths, Rumpf and colleagues report online April 19 in Geophysical Research Letters. (5/2)

The Abort Rocket Motor for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Just Aced a Big Test (Source:
A motor for the Orion spacecraft underwent a three-pronged fiery test ahead of being used for flights across the solar system. Orbital ATK ran the abort system motor test successfully, the company announced yesterday (May 1). Footage from the test, whose location was not disclosed in a statement, showed fire emanating as planned from the motor before finishing with a puff of black smoke.

The attitude-control motor shown in the test is designed to steer the Orion spacecraft's crew module away from the launch vehicle if there is an emergency. Orion is a spacecraft NASA is developing to take crews away from Earth, to locations such as the moon's orbit or an asteroid. (5/2)

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