May 5, 2017

Bulgarian Satellite to Launch on Reused Falcon 9 in June (Source: Space News)
A communications satellite built for a Bulgarian operator will be the second payload to launch on a previously-flown Falcon 9, that operator announced May 5. In a statement, BulgariaSat said its BulgariaSat-1 spacecraft is scheduled to launch in mid-June on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first stage of that Falcon 9 will be the same one that launched 10 Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January.

Maxim Zayakov, chief executive of BulgariaSat, said the use of a reused first stage lowers the launch price and “makes it possible for smaller countries and companies to launch their own satellites.” The company did not disclose the price it is paying for the launch, including what discount it is receiving for using a “flight-proven” first stage. The list price of a Falcon 9 is $62 million for a 2018 launch, according to SpaceX’s web site. (5/5)

Are Small Satellites A New Revolution? (Source: Paste)
Nanosatellites have transformed the way we think about satellites. It used to be that satellites were for lofty things like GPS and monitoring the weather. The idea of students being able to conduct experiments in space was silly; after all, the competition for space in the limited payload bay of a Space Shuttle was fierce. There just weren’t a lot of options; space was closed to students and those without huge budgets and the ability to work with NASA for space on packed Shuttle flights.

When your cargo isn’t the primary payload for a rocket, you get little say in when a rocket launches or where it goes. If a primary payload isn’t quite ready as the launch date approaches, and your CubeSat is launching on that particular rocket, guess what: Your launch will be delayed, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Destination is also a factor: Your satellite will go wherever the primary payload is going.

With advances in small satellites, and the commercial interest that’s arisen from them, demand for launch space is at an all-time high. So it makes sense that companies such as Vector and Rocket Lab are developing rockets specifically for these customers. Rather than treating small satellite operators as secondary customers, these small rocket companies are planning to give CubeSat and nanosatellite operators more choice and flexibility by making them the primary payload for their much smaller capacity rockets. (5/5)

Florida Tech Planet-Hunting Experiment Online Outside ISS (Source: Florida Today)
Tests are underway now that a Florida Institute of Technology research project aimed at detecting Earth-like planets is transmitting data from outside the International Space Station. A prototype of the university's tissue box-sized charge injection device, or CID, was moved last week to the outside of the station's Japanese Experiment Module using a robotic arm. At the heart of the CID is a sensor designed to advance special imaging technology that had never before flown in space. (5/4)

NASA Pushes for Diversity in Planetary Science (Source: Science)
In December 2016, NASA began accepting bids for its next New Frontiers competition, a chance to mount a $1 billion mission to a solar system destination such as Venus or Saturn’s moon Titan. That announcement contained something new: language stating that the agency expects the values of diversity and inclusivity would be reflected in proposing teams. That statement stems from a grassroots effort of planetary scientists to calculate the breakdown of NASA planetary missions by sex, finding that, in the past 15 years, the progress of women had stalled. Bids for the competition came due in late April, and many hope NASA’s new awareness could be a first step toward making sure the merits of all applications can be seen. (5/5)

Martian Life Must be Rare as Free Energy Source Remains Untapped (Source: New Scientist)
If life still exists on the Red Planet, it must be very rare – or so an unexploited energy source in the atmosphere suggests. The Martian atmosphere is unusually rich in carbon monoxide, which many microbes here on Earth can convert to carbon dioxide to yield energy for growth. “It’s a free lunch, just sitting in the atmosphere, that microbes could be eating,” says Steven Sholes, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington. The persistence of that leftover lunch suggests that Martian life must be nonexistent, or at least very rare. (5/4)

Wow! Cassini's Bird's-Eye View of Saturn Plunge Astonishes in New Video (Source:
An amazing new video shows just what NASA's Cassini spacecraft saw during its first "Grand Finale" plunge between Saturn's cloud tops and the gas giant's rings last week. The new Saturn dive video captures about an hour of Cassini observations on April 26, starting near the planet's north polar vortex, and the bizarre hexagonal jet stream that surrounds it, and heading south from there. Click here. (5/4)

DOD Lifts Civilian Hiring Freeze After White House OK (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Department of Defense has lifted its freeze on hiring for civilian positions, according to a memorandum made public Wednesday, while urging DOD components to be cautious when deciding if a new civilian hire is truly necessary. (5/5)

GOP Calls for Repeal of Sequestration to Pave Way for Trump Defense Spending (Source: The Hill)
House Republicans are calling for a vote on the repeal of sequestration budget caps, with 141 members signing a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan. "As President [Donald] Trump begins to prepare his budget request for fiscal year 2018, it is imperative that we provide him with the ability to fully fund national defense," the letter states. (5/3)

Pioneering Black Exec at NASA Tells How She Rocketed to Success (Source: Daily Breeze)
Christine Mann-Darden, the first black female executive at NASA’s Langley Research Center and a scientist featured in the book “Hidden Figures,” has a formula for breaking glass ceilings. “P to the fourth power,” she told Carson middle and high school students this week, is really a very simple credo: Perceive yourself in a job you like, plan how to get it, prepare for it, and persist.

She shared insights and stories about her life’s work in a Tuesday evening presentation to middle and high school students at Carson’s only independent charter school, Magnolia Science Academy 3. “When I was your age, I liked math and science, but we didn’t have a lot of it in school,” Mann-Darden told attendees. “When I went into 11th grade, I took geometry, and that’s what made me love mathematics. I decided I wanted to major in mathematics.” (5/4)

[Florida's] Aerospace Growth Gets Turbocharged (Source: Business Facilities)
The global aerospace and defense (A&D) sector is likely to experience stronger growth in 2017. Following multiple years of positive, but subdued rate of growth, the report forecasts the sector revenues will likely grow by about two percent in 2017, according to Deloitte. The global A&D sector revenue rebound is attributed to a number of factors in both the commercial aerospace sub-sector and the defense sub-sector. Click here. (5/4)

NASA is Offering a $15,000 Prize if You Can Speed Up its Simulation Code (Source: The Verge)
NASA just announced several bounties to improve its FUN3D software, which is used to simulate fluid dynamics. The system is used internally at NASA, as well as by companies like Boeing and Lockheed, to develop and optimize new vehicles and engines. The FUN3D project was started back in the 1980s, and it has been in active development for decades, but NASA's looking for help to optimize the (FORTRAN) code. It's offering $15,000 and $10,000 prizes to the top two contributors of code optimizations, and is also offering another bounty for more general optimization suggestions. Click here. (5/4)

California Seeks to Tax Rocket Launches, Which are Already Taxed (Source: Ars Technica)
Home to the Mojave Air & Space Port and promising launch companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Orbit, California has a thriving rocket industry. Accordingly, the state is now looking into taxing this vibrant industry, and the Franchise Tax Board has issued a proposed regulation for public comment. The proposal says that California-based companies that launch spacecraft will have to pay a tax based upon "mileage" traveled by that spacecraft. (We're not exactly sure what this means, either.)

The proposed regulations are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies. The tax board is seeking public input until June 16, when it is expected to vote on the proposed tax. Until now no other state has proposed taxing commercial spaceflight. In fact most other states, including places like Florida, Texas, and Georgia, offer launch providers tax incentives to move business into their areas.

Phil Larson, a former Obama White House official, said California is discriminating against rocket companies by doubly taxing them. Instead of such a tax, Larson said, California should work with industry to develop a system of taxation that encourages investment in the state. "The state could advance a proactive effort in the legislature to make sure that California doesn’t end up at the back of the bus in the new space race by supporting a national framework for space innovation," Larson said. (5/4)

Consider Taxing Spaceflight Like Aviation (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida has for decades exempted rocket fuels from the state's fuels excise tax (Ch.206.42(4)), and machinery and equipment used to develop rockets and their payloads is exempt from Florida sales and lease taxes, while certain payloads (modules, racks, lockers) are exempt from ad valorem taxes. But I have argued in the past that certain exemptions should be reconsidered.

Much of our nation's airport infrastructure is funded 
through the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) using revenues from fees, surcharges and taxes on aviation fuels, passenger tickets, cargo, and landings. Spaceport groups in the past have attempted to access AIP grant funding for their launch/landing infrastructure needs, but aviation groups rightly argued that spaceflight operations do not contribute tax revenues to the AIP fund so spaceports shouldn't be eligible to receive grants.

Adding a modest rocket fuel surcharge, launch/landing fee, or payload tax to the tab for commercial launches/landings, and feeding those revenues into the AIP, could give spaceports legitimate claim to federal grant funds. This might one day be the best way for the FAA to assist those spaceports burdened with outdated or insufficient infrastructure. (5/5)

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