July 29, 2017

MEI Wins NASA Safety, Mission Assurance Services II Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to Millennium Engineering and Integration Company of Arlington, Virginia, for Safety and Mission Assurance Services (SMAS) II for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This is a cost-plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum ordering value of $185 million. The effective ordering period is from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2022.

The contract, a small business set-aside, will support Goddard projects in the implementation of agency and center policy in the areas of occupational safety and health, systems safety, reliability and risk assessment, mission software and ground systems assurance, quality engineering, systems review, management systems and mission assurance, both on-site and at supplier facilities. (7/28)

We Need a New Space Treaty (Source: PC Magazine)
There is only one law in space, and it's called, appropriately, the Outer Space Treaty. Approved by the United Nations in 1966, its primary purpose was to prevent the militarization of space. Back then, the US and the Soviet Union were at the height of the space race, and what the world feared most was the prospect of nuclear weapons orbiting miles overhead like so many swords of Damocles.

The treaty forbids any government from placing any weapons of mass destruction into orbit and requires the moon be used only for "peaceful purposes." It also makes states liable for "any damage caused by their space objects." Pick up your stuff, nations! So far, the treaty has worked. The problem is, things have changed since 1966. The Outer Space Treaty hasn't. (7/29)

Virgin Orbit's 747 Launchpad Arriving in California After Texas Mods (Source: Press-Telegram)
Cosmic Girl, the specially-modified aircraft that Virgin Orbit engineers designed to essentially function as a flying launchpad, is scheduled to make its first landing at Long Beach Airport on Monday. Virgin Orbit split from Virgin Galactic to become its own company in early March. Virgin Galactic’s focus will be offering of commercial human flights into space, while Virgin Orbit’s business model is based on launching small satellites into orbit.

The aircraft is a former Virgin Atlantic 747-400 passenger jet with modifications enabling it to fire a rocket that Virgin Orbit calls LauncherOne. The idea is for Cosmic Girl to be able to carry LauncherOne under one if its wings and fire the rocket spaceward like a giant missile. Cosmic Girl underwent its modifications in Texas. Virgin Orbit has more than 300 people attached to its LauncherOne project working in Long Beach. (7/28)

China Developing Atomic Clock for Beidou NavSat System (Source: ECNS)
China is developing a new generation of atomic clock, which it aims to use on the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC). The microwave mercury ion clock is currently one of the most accurate tools for measuring time by tracking atomic movement in the microwave range, said Wang Nuanrang, project leader at the CASTC. It can provide extremely precise measurements of time that can be used in the fields of deep space exploration and satellite navigation. (7/29)

Will Trump Get a Man to Mars? (Source: Politico)
President Donald Trump made a bold promise in April: He would send a human to Mars during his first term — “or, at worst, during my second term.” Vice President Mike Pence doubled down earlier this month. “Here from this bridge to space, our nation will return to the moon ad we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” Pence said at the Kennedy Space Center. But just about everyone else is saying fat chance. Even Trump’s space policy adviser for his campaign and transition says getting a man or woman on the face of Mars by 2024 is virtually impossible. (7/28)

Senate Committee Restores NASA Funding Trump Wanted Cut (Source: Huntsville Times)
The Senate Appropriations Committee has given NASA and its big Space Launch System rocket the funding needed to stay on track, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby says. NASA gets $19.5 billion for 2018 in the budget approved Thursday by the full committee. That's just $124 million below 2017 funding and $437 million above President Trump's budget request.

Before NASA exhales, however, this spending measure must pass the full Senate, a spending bill must pass the House, both bodies must reconcile their differences, and Trump must sign the final version. SLS will receive $2.15 billion next year if the committee's budget survives the hurdles ahead. That's the same funding as this year and $212 million more than Trump's White House requested.

Significantly for SLS supporters, the committee budget includes no less than $300 million for development of the Exploration Upper Stage needed for the second SLS launch with a crew, Shelby said. The budget also gives NASA $1.35 billion - the same as this year and $164 million more than Trump's budget - for development of the Orion capsule. (7/28)

NASA Soars Past Goal for Kickstarter to Restore Mission Control (Source: KTRK)
Science lovers everywhere have come out in full force to support NASA's plans to restore Mission Control at Johnson Space Center to its former glory. Announced just over a week ago, the Kickstarter campaign dubbed the Webster Challenge has raised $285,200 and counting, more than $35,000 higher than NASA's original goal. "With you, failure was never an option," Space Center Houston, which is affiliated with the campaign, said in a Friday tweet thanking the nearly 2,000 different donors.

The iconic Mission Operations Control Room at NASA's Johnson Space Center is in "acute need of restoration," according to the space agency. Funds raised through the campaign will go toward restoration of five distinct areas of the Mission Control facility and will focus specifically on rehabilitation of flight control consoles and Apollo-era wall displays. (7/28)

6 Things You Might Not Know About NASA Glenn (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
A new study shows that NASA's Glenn Research Center helps drive Northeast Ohio's economy. Pare back research at GRC, as the center is called for shorthand, and the region hurts -- as do its builders, restaurants, retailers, tax coffers and numerous Glenn suppliers. There's no current threat of that, however. Even when President Donald Trump released a budget that sought cuts in many major areas of government, GRC escaped intact, thanks to its research on space propulsion.

Trump wants to send astronauts to Mars. GRC wants to propel them there. Congressional appropriators are working on spending bills to turn funding requests into reality. "So far, so good," says Marty McGann, senior vice president for advocacy for the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which looks out for the community's business interests. Click here. (7/28)

Upcoming Asteroid Flyby Will Help NASA Planetary Defense Network (Source: UA News)
For the first time, NASA will use an actual space rock for an observational campaign to test NASA's network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense. The asteroid, named 2012 TC4, does not pose a threat to the Earth, but NASA is using it as a test object for an observational campaign because of its close flyby on Oct. 12, 2017.

NASA has conducted such preparedness drills rehearsing various aspects of an asteroid impact, such as deflection, evacuation and disaster relief, with other entities in the past. Traditionally, however, these exercises involved hypothetical impactors, prompting Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory to propose a slightly more realistic scenario, one that revolves around an actual close approach of a near-Earth asteroid, or NEA.

"The question is: How prepared are we for the next cosmic threat?" said Reddy, an assistant professor of planetary science at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. "So we proposed an observational campaign to exercise the network and test how ready we are for a potential impact by a hazardous asteroid." (7/27)

Three-Man Crew Reaches Space Station as U.S. Boosts Research (Source: Reuters)
A new crew arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, giving NASA for the first time four astronauts to boost U.S. research projects aboard the orbiting laboratory. A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three spaceflight veterans slipped into a docking port aboard the station at 5:54 p.m. EDT as the $100 billion research outpost sailed about 250 miles (400 km) over Germany, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

Strapped inside the capsule, which blasted off aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan six hours earlier, were Randy Bresnik, with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Sergey Ryazanskiy, with the Russian space agency Roscosmos; and Italy's Paolo Nespoli, with the European Space Agency. The men will join two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut already aboard the station, a project of 15 nations.

Their arrival means the U.S. space agency now has four crew members instead of three available for medical experiments, technology demonstrations and other research aboard the station, the U.S. space agency said. The extra astronaut will effectively double the amount of time for research, program manager Kirk Shireman said at a station conference last week. (7/28)

The Atmosphere of One of Saturn’s Moons Has the “Building Blocks” of Organic Molecules (Source: Mic)
One of the challenges in looking for life on other planets is we don’t necessarily know what we’re looking for. Water definitely seems important. A planet’s star has something to do it. And we’re carbon-based, so maybe other life is too — or maybe not. But if we’re looking for carbon-based life, scientists pondering one of Saturn’s moons just spotted some very interesting chemicals, floating way up above the surface in the moon’s atmosphere.

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon — larger, in fact, than both Earth’s moon and Mercury. It has intrigued scientists with its un-moon-like dense, cloudy atmosphere of nitrogen (that’s the biggest piece of our atmosphere here on Earth) and methane. Particularly intriguing is the phenomenon where that methane falls to the surface like rain and forms rivers and lakes across the moon’s surface. (7/28)

North Korea Launches ICBM, Possibly Landing Within Japanese Waters (Source: Independent)
North Korea has fired an an intercontinental ballistic missile which may have landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to the country's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The zone reaches 200 nautical miles from the country's coast. Mr Abe has called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. The missile was tracked by the US military and is believed to be capable of 10,000km range, which includes the US. This launch had an apogee well above the altitude of the International Space Station. (7/28)

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