August 3, 2017

Lockheed Martin to Spend $350 Million on a Futuristic Satellite Factory (Source: CNN)
Lockheed Martin is spending big money to build the next generation of satellites. The defense and aerospace company announced it has started building a $350 million facility on its Waterton Canyon campus near Denver, Colorado. It's a new 266,000-square-foot "factory of the future" that Lockheed Martin (LMT) says will allow it to make satellites faster and for less money. The company is a stalwart presence in the satellite and space industries. Right now, for example, it's making GPS III satellites for the U.S. Air Force and a Mars lander for NASA.

But it's touting the new campus, which will be finished in 2020, as a big leap forward. One reason is because the facility will bring key parts of satellite production under one roof. After it builds a satellite, Lockheed Martin needs to test the technology in a special thermal vacuum chamber that simulates the unforgiving conditions in space. Right now it takes about two days to move a freshly constructed satellite to a testing location, according to spokesman Matt Kramer. That move will take about an hour at the new facility, he added.

"This is our factory of the future: agile, efficient and packed with innovations," said Rick Ambrose, the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in a news release. "We'll be able to build satellites that communicate with front-line troops, explore other planets, and support unique missions." The company says the building will have enough room to build a range of satellites both big and small. (8/3)

The Uncertain Future of Solar Electric Propulsion (Source: Space News)
For the last few years, NASA has promoted solar electric propulsion (SEP) as a key aspect of its long-term plans to send humans to Mars. While SEP systems can’t generate much thrust, they can run for long periods and are far more efficient than chemical systems. That makes SEP useful for sending cargo, rather than crew, where travel time is less of an issue.

“SEP systems are equivalent to the cargo ship for deep space missions,” said Joe Cassidy of Aerojet Rocketdyne at a June 29 House space subcommittee hearing focused on in-space propulsion technologies.

Electric propulsion is not new: it has been used on commercial communications satellites for years for stationkeeping and, more recently, orbit raising. Those thrusters, though, have been far less powerful that the SEP systems needed for interplanetary missions. NASA has been working with Aerojet and other companies on advanced, higher thrust SEP technologies. (8/3)

Lockheed Martin, Already Settled One Whistleblower Suit at Stennis for $2 Million, Hit with Another (Source: Louisiana Voice)
With three large cost-plus contracts for testing and maintenance support services, Lockheed Martin has a commanding presence at NASA’s primary rocket propulsion facility at the Stennis Space Center just over the Louisiana state line in Mississippi. But as history has shown, the potential for Abuse with such large contracts that seem to carry little apparent oversight, is overwhelming. Now two Louisiana residents, one former Lockheed employee and the other a former contract employee for Lockheed, are bringing suit under the federal False Claims Act.

The two, Mark Javery and Brian DeJan, claim that they were first given no duties and then fired from their jobs after reporting cost overruns and safety and performance issues. DeJan was a project engineer for a Lockheed subcontractor. He was supervised by Javery, who was an infrastructure operations manager. As part of their respective jobs, they were to monitor preventive maintenance metrics and to report the results of their findings to NASA employee Reginald “Chip” Ellis, Deputy Program Inspector for the Rocket Propulsion Test Program.

In April 2014, DeJan and Javery began investigating “unexplained cost overruns and performance issues with the maintenance of test facilities.” Their lawsuit says that during their investigation, they received “credible information that maintenance and charges related to NASA’s agreement with Space Exploitation Technology were being charged “inappropriately” to the Test Operations Contract for which Lockheed was the prime contractor. (7/4)

Use This Astronaut's Training Tip to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking (Source: Inc.)
Few things trigger more fear than the thought of public speaking. But going blind during a spacewalk while circling the Earth at five miles a second might be scarier. That's what happened to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield when he conducted a spacewalk to make a repair on the International Space Station. It was his first spacewalk, and his left eye went completely shut. The problem soon spread to his right eye, and he went blind in space. Hadfield's experience applies to avoiding panic in most situations, especially when one experiences stage fright. It's hard to talk yourself out of a panic attack in the moment. The trick is to avoid panicking in the first place. Click here. (8/3)

SpaceX Helped Tesla with a Huge Headache in its Cars (Source: Tech Crunch)
Tesla reported its second-quarter earnings today, which means a bunch of Wall Street analysts jumped on the phone to probe the ever-quotable Elon Musk — including, believe it or not, about SpaceX. To be sure, it wasn’t specifically about space or flight — it was whether some of the innovations happening at SpaceX can be applied to Tesla. Musk runs both companies, which means it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would share research. It turns out, in this case, that SpaceX was able to help fix a major issue in its cars that saved around 8 hours of work per car, Musk said on the call.

“We had a challenge in service just over the past week where we needed to determine the quality of an object deep within our structure, an aluminum casting. That’s something that SpaceX knows how to do. Our team reached out to the SpaceX team, the SpaceX team provided us with some ultrasonic sensors so we could quickly take corrective action.”

This is semi-significant as it demonstrates the benefit of running both companies for Musk. It wouldn’t be surprising, but as both companies need to figure out how to operate successfully and be long term businesses, both need to figure out how to improve their products. For Tesla, that’s cars; for SpaceX, it’s obviously rockets. It makes sense that there would be a lot of overlap between the two when it comes to the actual science that went into building the materials. (8/3)

Iran Says Space Sanctions Violate Nuclear Deal (Source: Law 360)
Iran on Tuesday said it had filed a formal complaint over new U.S. sanctions imposed after a recent space launch, saying they violated the 2015 deal in which it agreed to curb its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions. (8/2)

Space – the Next Frontier of Mining (Source: Asia Miner)
As mining of resources gets more difficult, riskier and expensive, forward thinking companies like Planetary Resources are looking further afield – beyond the bottom of the ocean and the far reaches of Antarctica, into space. It’s not that Planetary Resources only wants to mine minerals such as platinum or nickel and bring them back to Earth, although this is possible and becoming increasingly feasible, it wants to mine the most essential ingredient to the sustaining of life – water.

H2O can be extracted from many asteroids in a fairly simple process and then used in its natural form for drinking, protecting humans from cosmic radiation and, most importantly, for the production of rocket fuel. The latter is the focus of Planetary Resources’ work, according to the US-based company’s CEO Chris Lewicki, who says water can be the fuel of space. “Water is pretty simple stuff but in space, you can’t get enough of it. It’s useful for supporting life but you can also turn it into rocket fuel to refuel spacecraft,” he says. (7/29)

Asteroid Mining - Who Wants to be a Trillionaire? (Source:
Scarcity has been a defining feature of human existence, driving economies by making goods in limited supply more expensive than those that are abundantly available. But scarcity has been built into our way of doing business because we view resources as entirely Earth-bound. That could soon change. Today, a group of entrepreneurs are beginning to think that asteroid mining could help eliminate the scarcity of some resources and make some people insanely wealthy at the same time. Click here. (7/21) 

Luxembourg Space Exploration Laws Criticized (Source: WORT)
Luxembourg legislation governing its exploitation of space resources "is grossly contrary to international law," says Stephan Hobe, a  member of the Steering Committee of the International Space Law Institute. "This law can only be decided at an international level," the United Nations, Hobe said. Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy Etienne Schneider has already prepared a two-fold answer for the critics.

He says that the sea is geographically delimited but that the fish caught there belong to the fisherman and that Luxembourg cannot dream of influencing the committees of the United Nations. In response, Schneider seeks to take the lead in space exploitation, gather partners in the venture and clarify points of legislation. (8/3)

ULA Plans $115M Infrastructure and Tech Investment for Alabama Vulcan Manufacturing Operation (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance will invest $115.6 million locally on new technology and infrastructure in preparation to build the Vulcan launch system at the company's Morgan County plant. ULA is expected to complete its capital investment by the end of 2020, according to the Morgan County Economic Development Association. The latest ULA project is not expected to bring any new jobs to the area, but Barney Lovelace, attorney for the board, said the investment would help secure the existing 620 jobs at the plant, worth an estimated $43 million a year in payroll before benefits.

The board unanimously approved the abatement of $2.79 million in non-educational state and local property taxes over a 10-year period for the ULA project and $790,250 in non-educational city of Decatur and state sales taxes during the construction. (8/3)

Dynetics Plans Facilities and Jobs Expansion at ULA Alabama Site (Source: Decatur Daily)
Dynetics announced plans earlier this year to build a $14.2 million aerospace testing facility on ULA property. Construction on that facility has not yet begun and is not slated for completion until next July. But the company already has announced plans for a second building on the site as it progresses toward an aerospace-structures complex adjacent to ULA.

The 25,000-square-foot hardware integration building is expected to cost $7.4 million and will manufacture parts for NASA and other customers upon completion, which is slated for December 2018. The project is expected to bring 15 jobs with a combined annually payroll of more than $1 million, an average of $67,500 per employee. That adds to 10 jobs with an estimated average annual salary of $80,000 already announced for the testing facility.

Dynetics decided to proceed with the areospace complex after securing a $221 million contract to design, manufacture, test and assemble the universal stage adapter that will join the Orion space capsule in its exploration upper stage slated to fly in the 2020s. The board approved the abatement of $255,000 in non-educational state and local property taxes and $139,050 in city of Decatur and state sales taxes during the construction. (8/3)

39-Day Downtime as Eastern Range Supports "Recapitalization" at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source:
“Eastern Range recapitalization is used as a predictable pause in operations for range users and the range itself so we can perform semi-annual maintenance requirements encompassing critical engineering projects, more intrusive maintenance actions and infrastructure work,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing Commander.

“During recapitalization, we can perform maintenance and sustainment actions not possible during our busy launch schedule that includes not only launches, but daily pre-launch major milestone operations. The planning process is collaborative in nature and includes all range users in determining the dates for range closure.”

Eastern Range Ready to Return With Two Key Launches After Stand Down (Source:
While not usually visible to the public, this year’s first semi-annual multi-day stand down period on the Eastern Range became a much more noticeable affair thanks to SpaceX’s rapid fire pace of missions which from 1 May through 5 July averaged an impressive one launch every two weeks off of LC-39A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. With this rapid pace of missions, the last month has been a newly strange time on the Eastern Range with a total launch drought of 39 days (assuming an Aug. 13 SpaceX mission to the Space Station) seeming like a time of “nothing’s happening.”

Indeed, that could not be further from the truth. While part of the launch drought is due to pacing and mission order, with ULA’s and NASA’s TDRS-M mission delaying from Aug. 3, the stand down period – known as recapitalization – was initiated by the Air Force and the Eastern Range itself so that critical maintenance work could be performed on Range assets. Click here. (8/2)

Scotland is the ‘Place for Space’ ... Satellite Developer Predicts Boom for 'Exploding' Industry (Source: The National)
Scotland is “the place for space” – and could dominate the satellite industry as start-ups pioneer world-leading technology, it is claimed. Already the country accounts for 18 percent of British space industry jobs over more than 100 companies and public organiszations. More than 7000 people are employed in the sector, with Glasgow building more satellites than any other European city in the past two years. (8/3)

Trump Says US Will Return to Moon — Now He Has to Make it Happen (Source: The Hill)
Of course, we have seen this movie before, twice, as a matter of fact. Two presidents named George Bush announced bold space exploration programs only to see them dashed on the shoals of politics. One might be forgiven for wondering if we’re in for a third iteration of the cycle of an announcement, lack of effective follow-through, then eventual cancellation. Pence, who will chair the newly established National Space Council, should remember the following paraphrase of a maxim first expressed by Napoleon: If you start to return to the moon, then return to the moon.

One fortunate thing regarding a return to the moon is that both NASA and SpaceX are already building some of the hardware needed to accomplish the task. NASA’s Orion deep-space ship and heavy-lift Space Launch System are slated for an uncrewed flight in early 2019 and a crewed flight around the moon two years later. SpaceX has announced that it intends to conduct a circumlunar flight using a the Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon Heavy in 2018 at the earliest. All that is needed, at a minimum, is a lunar lander.

The first thing that the Trump administration needs to do to make the return to the moon a reality is to acquire the third part of the architecture, a lunar lander. This last piece of hardware needed to return to the moon should be acquired commercially. A number of companies have already either mastered vertical takeoff and landing technology (such as SpaceX and Blue Origin) or are working on small lunar landers (such as Moon Express and Astrobotic). (8/3)

Missile Tests Stand Up Alaska Aerospace Business (Source: Alaska Journal)
North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un tested his new intercontinental ballistic missiles twice in July. It was his way of showing the world he has a big one. Both times events in Alaska deflated him, at least a bit. Kim’s first test was July 4 and his second on July 29. The U.S. fired off a test missile interceptor July 10 from Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport with a second interceptor launched July 30, one day after Kim fired off his second test ICBM.

Both interceptors from Alaska hit their ballistic missile targets high above the Pacific Ocean. They were fired by U.S. Army units from the Kodiak launch facility, which is owned and operated by the state-owned Alaska Aerospace Corp. Kim’s missiles have also extended a lifeline to the Alaska spaceport at Kodiak, which had been struggling. When the state formed the then-Alaska Aerospace Development Corp., or AADC, and built the Kodiak launch complex in the early 1990s, the goal was always to primarily service commercial space companies by offering an alternative, lower-cost launch site to the big government-owned launch centers at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base. (8/2)

Earth, Clean Up Your Trash! (Source: Air & Space)
If space agencies don’t address the debris problem, in time the Space Age could become a new Dark Age. No more satellite phone calls, Internet, or Skype. Even GPS satellites are at risk. Though their orbits are 12,550 miles above Earth, where the debris field isn’t as dense, anything bad that happens up there is forever.

ESA has decided to take action. In 2024, as part of its Clean Space initiative, the agency plans to launch e.deorbit, a $400 million robot spacecraft that will chase down an eight-ton, derelict Earth-observation satellite tumbling in polar orbit 480 miles above Earth. During its approach the spacecraft will carefully synchronize its movements with those of its restless, or “uncooperative,” target. Then it will use a robotic arm to snag a metal ring on its back end, or, perhaps, capture the satellite with a net. (8/3)

New Horizons' Next Target Just Got a Lot More Interesting (Source: NASA)
Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets? New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

The ancient KBO, which is more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, passed in front of a star on July 17, 2017. A handful of telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Patagonia, Argentina were in the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event known as an occultation – and were able to capture important data to help mission flyby planners better determine the spacecraft trajectory and understand the size, shape, orbit and environment around MU69.

Based on these new occultation observations, team members say MU69 may not be not a lone spherical object, but suspect it could be an “extreme prolate spheroid” – think of a skinny football – or even a binary pair. The odd shape has scientists thinking two bodies may be orbiting very close together or even touching – what’s known as a close or contact binary – or perhaps they’re observing a single body with a large chunk taken out of it. (8/3)

US Runs Successful ICBM Test Launch From California Spaceport (Source: Washington Examiner)
The U.S. military successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from an Air Force base northwest of Los Angeles early Wednesday. An unarmed Minuteman III missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:10 a.m. local time and traveled about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"While not a response to recent North Korean actions, the test demonstrates that the United States' nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the United States and its allies," said a statement from the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command. (8/2)

NASA, ESA Understand Major Setback Inevitable if Cooperation Stops (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's Roscosmos State Space Corporation, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) understand that possible suspension of cooperation may negatively affect each of them, Roscosmos Director General Igor Komarov said. "It's very easy to make hasty decisions which would interrupt this cooperation. Both we and our partners understand that this will throw us back. Space agencies also understand that this cooperation needs to be maintained and continued," Komarov said. (8/1)

New Infrastucture at Indian Spaceport Will Expand Capacity (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will get a major capacity boost from early 2018 as an additional launch pad is fast nearing completion. With the new launch pad, ISRO can achieve its target of sending 12 rockets into space in a year from the seven at present.

Currently, Indian space scientists use two launch pads of the Indian satellite launching station located at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. "In addition to enabling a significant increase in the launch frequency from the existing two launch pads, the SVAB can also cater to the requirements of a third launch pad at Sriharikota in future," Jitendra Singh added.

"A second vehicle assembly building (SVAB) is being established at the Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota to overcome the limitation in the number of vehicles that can be assembled and integrated in a year, which is expected to be ready by the beginning of next year," Jitendra Singh, India's Minister of State for Space, said in the Rajya Sabha. (8/1)

New Soyuz-5 to Launch From Sea Launch Platform (Source: Space Daily)
The Sea Launch international spacecraft launch service will be modernized to be suited for launches of Soyuz-5 medium-launch carrier rocket, the director general of Russia's Roscosmos state space corporation, Igor Komarov, said on Saturday.

The Soyuz-5 is expected to deliver to orbit Russia's new Federation spacecraft, designed to deliver up to four people and cargo to the Moon and space stations in low Earth orbits. The first unmanned test flight of the Federation has been scheduled for 2022, while the maiden manned flight is expected in 2024. (8/1)

Iran Rules Out Halt to Missile Tests as Tension with US Rises (Source: Space Daily)
A defiant Iran vowed on Saturday to press ahead with its missile programme and condemned new US sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic. In the latest incident, Tehran and Washington accused each other's naval forces of provocative manoeuvres in the Gulf that culminated in a US helicopter firing warning flares.

The US Navy said it had reacted to unresponsive vessels belonging to the Revolutionary Guards closing in on American ships at high speed, a charge denied by Iran which described the American move as unprovoked. (8/1)

North Korea ICBM Still Facing Technical Hurdles (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea could field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile able to strike America by next year, but Pyongyang must first overcome important technological hurdles, a US expert warned. The first of its trials, which Kim described as a gift to "American bastards," showed the rocket had the potential range to hit Alaska. But a second rocket test last week flew even longer and could have reached as far as America's West Coast, experts say.

Michael Elleman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the 38 North Analyst think tank, said it appears that the "re-entry vehicle" that would carry a warhead back into Earth's atmosphere from space had failed during the second test. "Most likely it broke up into pieces," he said.

"Prior to completely breaking up, it appears to have been shedding some of the outer layers, and then it must have finally disintegrated." Elleman's assessment was based on video shot in Japan's Hokkaido that shows an object in the night sky breaking up at an altitude of about six to 2.5 miles (four to 10 kilometers). (8/2)

UK Space Companies to Develop International Partnerships (Source: Space Daily)
The UK Space Agency is working with research institutions, industry and non-profit organisations to develop strong international partnerships to help tackle economic, societal and environmental issues using satellite technology.

The Agency will award funding through its International Partnership Programme (IPP), which is designed to partner UK space expertise with overseas governments and organisations. It is part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which aims to support cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

Ten small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and research organisations have been given a total of 338,000 pounds to use to establish partnerships in countries including Zambia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. (8/1)

Russia: Let's Cut Them Off From Access to Space (Source: Sputnik)
There are several ways Russia could respond to the new US sanctions bill. At the same time, according to experts, the response should be cautious and well calculated. The US Senate has passed a new version of a sanctions bill on Russia, Iran and North Korea.

On Tuesday, the legislation was approved by the House of Representatives. The chamber voted to attach Iran and Russia to a bill that originally targeted North Korea, which is what the Senate had requested. The bill passed by the Senate retains the stipulation that any attempt by the White House to lift or relax sanctions must go through the US Congress. (8/1)

EchoStar Loses Contact with EchoStar-3 While Changing Orbit (Source: Space News)
A 20-year old satellite in fleet operator EchoStar’s constellation is drifting after an anomaly the company said crippled the spacecraft's communications.
Englewood, Colorado-based EchoStar said EchoStar-3 “experienced an anomaly of unknown origin” during a relocation maneuver last week “that has caused communications with the satellite to be interrupted and intermittent.”

ComSpOC, a commercial space surveillance facility run by Analytical Graphics Inc., has been tracking EchoStar-3 drifting westward along the geostationary arc at a rate of 0.1 degrees per day from 87.2 degrees west. (8/2)

Congress Likely to Use Stopgap Mmeasure to Keep FAA Functioning (Source: AIN)
The Federal Aviation Administration appears headed for a stopgap reauthorization measure by Congress, as lawmakers have failed to reach agreement on a six-year deal. Lawmakers in the House left for their August break without addressing FAA legislation. (8/1)

Spencer Confirmed as Navy Secretary (Source: Defense News)
Richard Spencer has been confirmed by the Senate as Navy secretary. The Senate also confirmed seven other Defense Department nominees, including Ellen Lord as undersecretary of defense for acquisition and assistant secretaries of defense Lucian Niemeyer and Robert Hood. (8/1)

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