July 19, 2017

ULA Atlas to Launch Dream Chaser Cargo Missions to ISS (Source: ULA)
Sierra Nevada announced that it selected ULA's commercially developed Atlas V rocket to launch the first two missions of its Dream Chaser cargo system in support of NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. The two awarded Atlas V missions will carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS. The first mission is set to lift off in 2020 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The second contracted mission is scheduled to lift off in 2021. Dream Chaser will launch atop an Atlas V 552, with a dual engine Centaur upper stage. (7/19)

Russia Will Launch Another Tourist to the Space Station in 2019 (Source: Sputnik)
An Asian space tourist will fly to the International Space Station in 2019, a Russian executive said Tuesday. Vladimir Solntsev, director general of RSC Energia, said the unidentified person is planning to fly to the station, with additional tourists to follow. Seats on Soyuz spacecraft will be freed up when NASA begins using commercial crew vehicles to transport its astronauts to and from the station. Solntsev said Energia has a "preliminary contract" for a commercial circumlunar Soyuz flight, but that it required a "suitable investor" to fund upgrades to the Soyuz for such a mission. (7/19)

Sensor Glitch Fudges Sea Level Increase Data (Source: Nature)
A satellite sensor glitch gave scientists incorrect data on the rise of global sea levels. Satellite data had failed to show significant increases in sea levels, which was in conflict with data from tide gauges. Scientists said they believe a calibration problem with a sensor on the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite, launched 25 years ago, masked a real increase in sea levels that has been growing over time. (7/18)

Short-Notice Contract Termination Led to XCOR Layoffs (Source: Space News)
The former CEO of XCOR Aerospace told a Senate committee Tuesday that a terminated contract caused the company's most recent problems. Jay Gibson was asked about financial difficulties at companies he had been involved with at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his nomination to become Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Defense Department.

Gibson said that XCOR was told by the company it had been working with on an engine development program that its funding was terminated, with only 30 days' notice. Gibson didn't name the company, but XCOR said last year it was focusing its work on an engine development program with United Launch Alliance. Gibson left the company last month after being nominated for the post, and XCOR laid off all its employees at the end of June, keeping some on as contractors. (7/18)

Vega Readied for August Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Vega rocket is being prepared for an upcoming launch of two Israeli-built satellites. The Vega rocket has been stacked on its launch pad in French Guiana for the Aug. 1 launch of the Venµs and Optsat 3000 spacecraft, both built by Israel Aerospace Industries. Venµs, a joint mission of the French space agency CNES and the Israel Space Agency, will track environmental conditions. Optsat 3000 is an optical reconnaissance satellite for the Italian military. The launch will be the tenth for the Vega small launch vehicle. (7/18)

Russia's New-Generation Soyuz Rocket Gets Go Ahead (Source: Russian Space Web)
Despite severe cuts in its space budget at the end of 2015, the Russian government gave the go ahead to the development of a new launcher family, which could finally replace the legendary Soyuz rockets after seven decades in service. Moreover, the new rocket is also positioned as a steppingstone toward the super-heavy booster to carry a next-generation manned spacecraft into deep space. Russian officials did not hide the fact that the latest move was prompted in part by the competition from the US-based SpaceX company.

"...Competitors are already stepping on our heels, look what's billionaire (Elon) Musk is doing with its projects!" Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the Vesti TV channel on Dec. 30, 2015, "We are treating his work with respect and we are studying and analyzing it in detail," Rogozin said, "...we are looking for solutions which will make our space launches much cheaper and these solutions will be found... to maintain our leadership in the launch (services) market." (7/17)

Air Force Secretary Hints at Military Applications for Stratolaunch Super-Plane (Source: GeekWire)
Stratolaunch, the six-year-old space venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, says it’ll use the world’s biggest airplane to launch small satellites into orbit – but what kind of satellites? The company’s executives have always said the Pentagon could be a payload customer, but when Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson visited Stratolaunch’s super-hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Monday, it threw a spotlight on how important military contracts could be.

The twin-fuselage Stratolaunch plane, nicknamed Roc, is designed to carry as much as 550,000 pounds of payload up to an altitude of about 30,000 feet for launch during midflight. The plane can take off from any runway that can accommodate a 385-foot-wide, 1.3-million-pound monster. Satellites can be sent to any orbital inclination at any time, regardless of the weather. Multiple rockets can be launched during a single sortie.

Editor's Note: The USAF's huge C-5 cargo aircraft can carry 285,000 pounds of payload. Although it would be a challenge to carry typical military cargo in an external under-wing manner, I guess Stratolaunch could serve some unique non-space cargo role. Also, the C-5 and Russia's Antonov have ferried rocket stages and large payloads to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, so Stratolaunch might deliver other rockets without air-launching them. (7/18)

Five Ways ISS National Lab Enables Commercial Research (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A growing number of commercial partners use the International Space Station National Lab. With that growth, we will see more discoveries in fundamental and applied research that could improve life on the ground. Since 2011, when NASA engaged the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the ISS National Lab, CASIS has partnered with academic researchers, other government organizations, startups and major commercial companies to take advantage of the unique microgravity lab. Today, more than 50 percent of the CASIS flight manifest represents commercial research. Click here. (7/18)

Space Station Project Seeks to Crystallize the Means to Counteract Nerve Poisons (Source: Space Daily)
The microgravity conditions of the International Space Station (ISS) may hold the key to improving our understanding of how to combat toxic nerve agents such as sarin and VX. That is the hope of Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats (CounterACT) project that is part of an initiative at the National Institutes of Health aimed at developing improved antidotes for chemical agents.

"With increasing worldwide concern about the use of chemical weapons, there is significant interest in developing better counteragents," said David A. Jett, Ph.D., director of the CounterACT program, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of NIH. Developing antidotes to this type of poisoning requires detailed knowledge about the structure of the AChE enzyme. Until now, the forces of gravity on Earth have posed a challenge to this area of research. That's where traveling into space comes in. (7/18)

US Space Corps: Why the Idea of Battling China and Russia in Space is So Flawed (Source: Space Daily)
While US lawmakers are moving forward with plans to create a "Space Corps" with the announced purpose of battling China and Russia in space; American generals oppose the idea of introducing space units. Russian political analysts review why this idea is so flawed. forward with plans to create a "Space Corps" to be able to battle Russia and China in space.

"National security space can no longer be treated as a pay-for," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee, said this week. "We have very real risks to Russia and China in space, and warfighting has become absolutely dependent on space," he added. The newspaper reports that the House moved forward with its plans to create a Space Corps this week when it passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (7/18)

Boeing Hurting for More Satellite Sales (Source: Via Satellite)
Boeing doesn't expect the GEO order drought to subside anytime soon. Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International described this year's level of commercial satellite purchases as "pretty paltry so far," and sees no near-term change. Spiwak said Boeing is continuing to invest in digital payload technology that can shorten build times. Boeing is also pursuing a "high degree of commonality" between geostationary satellites and smaller, non-geosynchronous satellites, he said. (7/19)

AIA Reverses Stance On Trump Ex-Im Board Nominee (Sources: Aviation Week, Politico)
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is adding its voice to a growing chorus calling on the White House to withdrawal its nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) as the next Export-Import Bank chief. Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about him, largely because he strongly opposed the bank while serving in Congress. The Senate Banking Committee, which will be responsible for vetting his nomination, has not yet received his paperwork. (7/19)

Florida's Regional Hubs Foster Next-Gen Innovation (Source: Crain's)
The Corridor is a joint initiative of three research universities – UCF, University of South Florida and the University of Florida. Over the past two decades, it’s partnered with more than 360 companies on more than 1,400 research projects in sectors ranging from agri-technology to sustainable energy, investing more than $65 million in funds that were matched by corporate cash and in-kind investments of $182 million, generating an additional $900 million downstream.

“We’re always working with partners to identify opportunities to position our region, and Florida, as a global competitor in technology, with an emphasis on several key industries,” said Ed Schons, president of The Corridor, who cites Central Florida’s new BRIDG (Bridging the Innovation Development Gap) consortium project as the latest example.

Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, now called BRIDG, is a collaborative effort by The Corridor, UCF, Osceola County, Enterprise Florida, the Orlando Economic Partnership and others. It's the world’s first industry-friendly, smart-sensor consortium. With an emphasis on the “D” portion of R&D, BRIDG offers companies both clean-room infrastructure and high-volume manufacturing capability for advanced smart sensor technologies like imagers, advanced devices, and 2.5-D/3-D chip integration. Click here. (7/19)

NASA Will Not Release Public Report on SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Failure (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA will not publicly release the results of its own investigation into the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched a Dragon resupply ship into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2015. After saying it would release a summary of the agency’s investigation, NASA passed the buck to the FAA on an accident that destroyed $118 million worth of cargo the space agency was sending to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time,” the agency’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said in an email. (7/19)

Elon Musk Knows What’s Ailing NASA: Costly Contracting (Source: Ars Technica)
The world of federal contracting practices may seem arcane, but today as NASA and the US Air Force confront the need to modernize their spaceflight capabilities, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how agencies award contracts and measure results. At the heart of this issue lies a tussle between traditional aerospace companies and their penchant for cost-plus contracts and a desire by new space firms such as SpaceX for fixed-price awards.

This debate seems likely to become a key flashpoint in the emergent space policy of the Trump administration as it decides over the coming months what it wants to do in space and which companies will help achieve those ambitions. Elon Musk has chosen not to stand on the sidelines. This past weekend, in fact, he doused what had been a smoldering debate with gasoline. It began with a seemingly innocuous question during a meeting of the National Governors Association. Asa Hutchinson asked Musk about NASA. The agency seemed to be “floundering,” Hutchinson noted, and he wanted Musk’s advice for getting it back on track.

Musk replied that he loved NASA, and he commended its recent successes in astrophysics and planetary exploration. But to really energize the public about the space agency, Musk said, it must get humans more involved in exploration. He suggested setting a “serious goal” for NASA, such as building a lunar base and sending people to Mars and providing the resources to accomplish this. He didn’t argue that NASA needed more money, but rather, it must change the way it awards contracts. Click here. (7/18)

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