June 28, 2017

GAO Says NASA Unfairly Marked Bidder On $182M Contract (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has sustained a small business’ protest over its exclusion from consideration on a $182 million NASA aircraft services contract, saying in a decision made public Tuesday that the company’s bid was unfairly assessed by the agency.

Pinnacle Solutions, Inc., of Huntsville, Alabama, protested the exclusion of its proposal from the competitive range under the aircraft logistics, integration, configuration management, and engineering services (ALICE) procurement at JSC. Pinnacle argued that NASA misevaluated its proposal and unreasonably excluded it from the competitive range. (6/27)

NASA Thinks it's Cracked Quiet Supersonic Flight (Source: The Register)
NASA says the preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) project suggests it is possible to create a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce a sonic boom. A quieter supersonic passenger aircraft has long been on designers' minds, as there's a market for faster travel over land as well as oceans.

Which is why NASA is running the QueSST program; the agency fancies developing some technology the United States' plane-makers can use to Make America Great Again.

It's therefore encouraging that NASA says “Senior experts and engineers from across the agency and the Lockheed Martin Corporation concluded on Friday that the QueSST design is capable of fulfilling the LBFD aircraft’s mission objectives, which are to fly at supersonic speeds, but create a soft 'thump' instead of the disruptive sonic boom associated with supersonic flight today.” (6/27)

SpaceX Plans Expansion of Rocket Refurbishing Facilities in Florida (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX wants to expand facilities in Florida to refurbish and store its reusable rocket boosters as it increases the pace of launches, documents filed with authorities show. SpaceX proposes building a 67,222-square-foot hangar just south of its Cape Canaveral launch sites to prepare recovered Falcon boosters for reflight, according to the documents.

The Port Canaveral Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider SpaceX's proposed lease on Wednesday. Since successfully landing its first Falcon rocket in December 2015, SpaceX has successfully returned boosters 12 more times on drone barges floating in the ocean or on a landing pad on the ground. Two of those boosters were refurbished and relaunched on second satellite-delivery missions. (6/27)

Blue Origin Alabama Plant Contingent on ULA Contract (Source: Huntsville Times)
"After signing a BE-4 production contract with United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin will build a state of the art, high-tech manufacturing facility at the Cummings Research Park here in Huntsville, Ala.," Rob Meyerson said. He added, "Construction can begin following the signing of such a contract expected to be later this year."

Lucia Cape, senior vice president of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, confirmed the link Monday afternoon. Blue Origin needs the new engine for its own New Glenn rocket, but the Alabama plant depends on Blue Origin getting the ULA engine contract. "Yes, the ground breaking will follow a production contract with ULA, after down-select of the engine is made," Cape said. "There is not a set time for this decision."

So, why a big public announcement for a plant Blue Origin won't build unless it wins a ULA contract it hasn't won? Why was a detailed package of state incentives totaling nearly $50 million released, along with details of Huntsville's own $6 million in incentives? Huntsville officials said the announcement clarified for other cities competing for the Blue Origin plant that Bezos had decided. Huntsville had won. (6/28)

How to Buy a Satellite and Launch it Into Space (Source: GQ)
For the first time since the beginning of the space age, privatisation of space has reached such an extent that now you can build (or buy) your own satellite and send it into space. Now if you’re wondering why you’d spend money to send a satellite into space, the answer, really, is because you can!

Because these are the glorious times we live in! Because it just puts you in the same league as NASA, SpaceX, ISRO and the likes. Okay maybe not… but because you can actually boast about having something in common with Elon Musk or, really, just use it at a bar or on your Tinder profile. We’re really running out of reasons why you shouldn’t send out a satellite into space. Click here. (6/28)

NASA Doesn't Benefit From Your Cute Meatball T-Shirt (Source: Racked)
Although in recent years, the government has seemed less invested in sending men and women into space, the desire to dress like an astronaut is on the rise. Thanks to films such as Hidden Figures and The Martian, combined with a return of ’70s-inflected fashion, NASA-inspired clothing is popping up all over.

Coach’s Space collection is the latest in a growing trend of fashion designers’ creation of NASA-inspired items from flight jackets to T-shirts to yes, fancy purses. Like Topshop and Urban Outfitters before them, Coach incorporates the official logos of NASA into their collection while adding some original designs of their own, including Space Rexy, a whimsical Tyrannosaurus Rex sporting a space helmet and jetpack.

But how do fashion brands get permission to use the NASA logos? Unlike other collaborations, there is no licensing process or licensing fee to be paid, since NASA is a government agency. No share of profits makes its way to NASA. But that’s not to say that anyone can use the NASA logo whenever they please. In order to obtain permission to use the logo, a company must submit designs to the Multimedia Division of NASA's Office of Communications. (6/27)

OneWeb Begins Satellite Production in France, In Advance of Florida Operations (Source: Florida Today)
Smart tools, infrared inspection cameras and “cobots,” or collaborative robots, are a few of the high-tech systems OneWeb Satellites will deploy in a state-of-the art factory opening next year at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. On Tuesday, 4,500 miles away in Toulouse, France, the company unveiled an initial production line that will build the first 10 of OneWeb's 900 mini-satellites designed to expand Internet around the globe.

That pilot run of spacecraft at an Airbus facility will shake out processes that will be implemented in a larger manufacturing center now under construction at Exploration Park. “We have just about nine months until the first of our fleet launches into orbit,” said Greg Wyler, founder and chairman of OneWeb. “Then, if all goes well, we will begin the world’s largest launch campaign, sending new satellites up every 21 days." (6/27)

Long March 8 And 5B To Widen China’s New Launcher Family (Source: Aviation Week)
Interchangeable modularity is a central concept for China’s new family of space launchers. With initial versions of three rocket types now flying, the industry is moving to widen the payload options with new combinations of propulsion modules. A new type, Long March 8, is intended to economize on development and production costs by using a major module of Long March 7, a founding member of the family. (6/28)

China Claims Strong Progress With Lifting-Body Space Launchers (Source: Aviation Week)
“What keeps you up at night?,” U.S. President George W. Bush asked his Chinese counterpart in 2006. Creating 25 million jobs a year, Hu Jintao replied. The Communist Party’s deep concern about social stability and employment explains why China’s sprawling state enterprises, from oil refineries and banks to airlines and even rocket builders, are tasked not just with economic development but also with keeping people employed. (6/28)

Space Laws Need To Balance 'Competing Interests' (Source: Forbes)
How does one establish proper policy and regulation without stymying innovation in the space travel industry? That’s a question scientists, legal experts and lawmakers from around the world have been working to answer since the 1960s.

The Outer Space Treaty, the primary source of international space law, was ratified two years before the Apollo 11 astronauts walked on the moon. It requires that countries be responsible for national space activities involving both governmental and non-governmental entities and holds them liable for any and all damage that results from those activities. Click here. (6/27) 

The International Space Law You Need to Know if You Want to Leave the Planet (Source: The Verge)
Want to explore the Solar System? Well you’re going to need to brush up on international space law before you leave the planet, and that means studying the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.” Or, as most people refer to it, the Outer Space Treaty.

Signed in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty establishes a number of guidelines that nations should follow in order to explore space. The document touches on topics like appropriating space objects and how to prevent the contamination of other planets. It’s not a very comprehensive treaty, meant to be flexible in its interpretation. But more than 50 years later, with more than 100 nations party to the treaty, the agreement has ensured the peaceful exploration of outer space — and could continue to do so for many years to come. Click here. (6/17)

Blue Origin Retains Engine Lead as House Considers Limitations on Launch System Funding (Source: Space News)
An independent assessment of rocket engine development delivered to a House committee last week has concluded that Blue Origin remains well ahead of Aerojet Rocketdyne despite a recent testing setback.

That assessment, provided in a closed-door meeting organized by the House Armed Services Committee June 23, comes as the full committee is scheduled to mark up a fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on June 28 that would limit the Air Force’s ability to support launch vehicle development.

The “chairman’s mark” version of the bill, released by the committee June 26, includes a section restricting Air Force funding of vehicle development under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. Under that provision, the Air Force would be limited to funding new engines, integration of those engines with vehicles, and related capabilities to support national security launches. (6/27)

Blue Origin Picks Alabama Because the Space Industry is Ruled by Politics (Source: The Verge)
It’s an interesting move for the company, which has been mostly developing the engine at its headquarters in Kent, Washington, and testing the hardware in Texas. But the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. On the surface, it’s a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville’s decades-long history of rocket development.

But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin’s plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn. But that’s not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. ULA is developing a new rocket called Vulcan and it needs new US-made engines for the vehicle.

ULA has made it very clear that the BE-4 is the first choice to power the Vulcan, and the company is even partially funding the development of the BE-4. That would be a huge contract for Blue Origin. The problem, though, is that this isn’t a totally done deal. ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn’t work out: the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-1. Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn’t have until now: it’s building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama — and that comes with some very key political protection. (6/27)

NASA: You Could Probably Make Wine In Space (Source: Gizmodo)
As humanity expands to become a multi-planetary species, some important questions must be considered: Can we bring cats? What about dogs? Also, can we make wine in space?

Thankfully, some scientists are hard at work answering the first two questions—and now, a scientist from NASA’s Vegetable Production System called “Veggie” says space viticulture might be possible with the right technology and a lot of patience. Veggie grows a variety of salad-type crops aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for astronauts to enjoy. (6/27)

6 of the Best Places to See the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 (Source: Space.com)
Some people may think it absurd to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to see an event that will last less than 3 minutes, but millions of people are expected to do just that to witness the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. In addition to watching this breathtaking celestial show, there are many other things to see and do in and around the eclipse path.

The eclipse will cross the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Skywatchers inside the "path of totality" will see the moon completely cover the disk of the sun. The path is about 70 miles wide and more than 2,000 miles long. It crosses through deserts, forests, national parks and cities. Click here. (6/27)

Dancing Cubesats (Source: Aerospace America)
Space-industry watchers have little doubt that the tally of cubesat launches in 2017 will demolish the previous record set in 2014 when 132 of these miniature satellites were launched. Already, government agencies, universities and companies have launched 142 cubesats as of June 1.

Once seen mainly as a way to give students hands-on experience, cubesats have proved so useful that NASA, the U.S. Air Force, intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley startups are devising multimillion-dollar Earth imaging and communications missions around them. With that newfound importance, come challenges.

When cubesats were humble teaching tools, professors were satisfied with whatever data they could obtain before their cubesats succumbed to drag and burned up in the atmosphere. With millions of dollars and key objectives now on the line, many cubesat developers want their spacecraft to have propulsion. Click here. (6/27)

SpaceX Will Try for Third Falcon 9 Launch in Less Than Two Weeks (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
After back-to-back launches last weekend, SpaceX could launch its next Falcon 9 mission as soon as Sunday Florida with a high-power Intelsat communications satellite. Liftoff Sunday will hinge on the ability of SpaceX’s launch team to prepare KSC’s launch pad 39A for another flight after the successful June 23 blastoff.

A customary hold-down hotfire test of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines is scheduled as soon as Thursday. An Intelsat spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Sunday’s one-hour launch window will open at 7:36 p.m. EDT. If the flight takes off Sunday, it will be the third SpaceX launch in a little more than nine days. (6/27)

Commercial Crew Providers Making “Significant Progress” Toward First Flights (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As the mid-way point of 2017 arrives, both of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program service providers are making significant progress toward the first uncrewed test flights of their Dragon and Starliner capsules.  At their second quarter 2017 meeting, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel noted this progress while also discussing outstanding concerns regarding the program and vehicles as well as the positive steps being taken to address these matters.

During last month’s NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) second quarter meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, the panel noted the “significant progress” both Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) providers are making toward their first uncrewed demo flights. Currently, SpaceX is on track to be the first to perform their uncrewed flight, known as SpX Demo-1. (6/27)

Space Station Lets Go of Roll-Out Solar Array After Retraction Fail (Source: Space.com)
After a week of tests on the end of the International Space Station's robotic arm, the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) was safely jettisoned. While the rollable solar panel unfurled successfully at the beginning of the experiment, the ground operations team was unable to retract it to stow.

ROSA is a flexible, lightweight unit that could someday help power solar-electric propulsion spacecraft for journeys far beyond Earth. It was released yesterday (June 26) according to a procedure developed before the instrument flew, in case of this contingency, NASA officials said in a blog post. (6/27)

VP Pence Visits Air Force Space Assets in Colorado (Source: USAF)
Vice President Michael Pence made history by being the first vice president to send a payload command to a Global Positioning System satellite, Friday, June 23, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

The command is part of the care and feeding the 50th Space Wing space professionals provide on a daily basis to ensure GPS remains the world’s premiere space-based position, navigation and timing system.

Pence visited Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, along with Second Lady Karen Pence, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, for a space orientation in support of the administration’s relaunch of the National Space Council. (6/27)

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