Florida’s UAS Effort Suffers Setback With FAA Decision

Florida’s effort to diversify the economy of the Space Coast with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) suffered a setback this week when it was not named as one of six test sites by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, officials said they would continue to press forward in this growing area.

The FAA approved proposal from applicants in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia to serve as sites where UAS will be tested and techniques developed for integrating the vehicles into the national airspace. The agency rejected bids from Space Florida and 18 other bidders.


Video: SpaceShipTwo is One Wild Ride

Editor’s Note: I only just noticed something about this video. Watch it and listen to the two pilots breathing heavily during the acceleration and feathering of the vehicle. They are really straining. And look at the roll and oscillations on the ship during the flight.

And that was only a 20-second burn. A full power flight would really be something.

U.S. Launch Companies at Crossroads in 2014

Cygnus is released from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus is released from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Part 2 of 2

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: In Part 1, we took a look at the highly successful year that all three U.S. launch providers had in 2013.  Today, we will look at the challenges ahead for each company.

Coming off a stellar year, each of America’s three launch providers — Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) — finds itself in a distinctly different place and facing unique challenges. The coming year could begin to significantly remake the global launch market, with significant consequences for all three players and rival providers overseas.


UrtheCast Says Camera Data Problems Likely Lie With ISS

Spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy remove the high resolution camera they installed earlier during Friday's spacewalk. (Credit: NASA)
Spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy remove the high resolution camera they installed earlier during Friday’s spacewalk. (Credit: NASA)

UrtheCast has posted an update concerning problems with two video cameras that cosmonauts installed on the exterior of the International Space Station last week:

The installation of the cameras proceeded according to plan and without incident….However, soon after installation, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside of Moscow was unable to receive any data from either camera (contrary to what was reported during the live transmission of the spacewalk). Without this data, engineers in the MCC were not able to confirm that the cameras were receiving the power necessary to allow them to survive the temperature fluctuations of the space environment. As a consequence, senior technical personnel from UrtheCast and RSC Energia (UrtheCast’s Russian partner) jointly decided that the safest and most prudent course of action was to uninstall the cameras and bring them back inside the ISS to be reinstalled at a later date, once the data transmission problem has been solved.

UrtheCast’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. George Tyc, was present at the MCC throughout the operation, along with the Company’s Chief Engineer for Space Systems, Mr. Greg Giffin. Said Dr. Tyc, “The fact the neither camera could communicate with the MCC strongly suggests that the problem lies inside the ISS and it is not a problem with the cameras or external cables. This kind of issue has been encountered before on the ISS and can be fixed in the near-term. Bringing the cameras back inside to be installed another day was simply the right engineering decision.”

RSC Energia has formed a Commission to quickly analyze and fix the problem and it has already held its first meeting. This is standard procedure at RSC Energia, which has a long and very successful history with manned space systems — it has established a rigorous process to deal quickly and efficiently with anomalies of this type when they occur.

The cameras are designed to transmit continuous views of the Earth from the orbiting station.

Mars One Slashes Astronaut Selection Pool — But By How Much?

MarsOne_logoMars One has a press release out today saying they have slashed their applicant pool by “99.5%” from more than 200,000 to 1,058. As with previous claims, however, these numbers appear to hyped.

In a September press release, the group said the following (emphasis added):

“In the 5 month application period, Mars One received interest from 202,586 people from around the world, wanting to be amongst the first human settlers on Mars.”

That figure appeared to be the number of people who had registered on the website, not necessarily those who had paid a fee, completed the application and made a video of themselves explaining why they should be selected as required.


Virgin Galactic Highlights Reel Shows “Full Duration” Engine Test

Video Caption: After an amazing year, Virgin Galactic showcases highlights from 2013, including never before seen footage from one of the full duration rocket motor ground test firings.

Credit: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory for all telescopic footage.

Editor’s Note: I’ve noticed something interesting on the video. The full duration firing — which takes up the full screen at the beginning and is at the bottom when the video goes to split screen — was done at the Sierra Nevada Corporation test facility in Poway, Calif. However, the test firing that appears in the upper right-hand corner in split screen is of a separate test done at the Mojave Air and Space Port. You’ll notice that one is nose down with flames shooting upward into the sky.

This is confusing at best. Not only are these different tests, they may not be of the same type of engine. The full duration engine appears to be burning nitrous oxide and rubber. The Mojave test appears to burn somewhat cleaner. It also takes place on a stand where sources say alternatives to the nitrous-rubber engine have been tested. I’ve witnessed two such tests roughly a year ago; sources have told me that alternative engines have been fired at the same Mojave test stand since that time.

I can’t say what type of engine is being tested in Mojave in the video. But, I can’t think of any reason why the nitrous-rubber engine — which is already being used in flight tests — would be fired in that manner (with the flames shooting upward). Of course, I’m not an engineer, so I could be wrong here.

This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): This is our final Golden Oldie Year In Review focusing on the year 2012 with TOM OLSON as the guest. This program was originally recorded on Dec. 31, 2012. When you see the program on the archives and the blog, it is ready for your play and enjoyment.

2. Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): Today’s program is the space year 2013 in review with TOM OLSON. We recorded this interview on Dec. 19, 2013. This program completes our historical look at space industry developments and predictions over the past decade.

3. Friday, January 3, 2014, 9:30-11 AM No show as I am returning from New York.

4. Sunday, January 5, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). We welcome to the show DR. WILLIAM HALAL to discuss space industry predictions and more.

FAA Announces Environmental Study, Public Hearing Dates on Shiloh Launch Site

space_florida_logoThe FAA has detailed its plans to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed Shiloh spaceport in Florida. The notice last week in the Federal Register sets a pair of public hearings to be held in New Smyrna Beach and Titusville on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, respectively.

The following information about the Space Florida-led project and public hearings is extracted from the notice.


The Launch Weeks Ahead

SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo, ready for its closeup. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A trio of orbital launches by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and ISRO will kick off the new year during the first week of January. Scaled Composites is also likely to conduct a third powered flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo by Jan. 10.


SXC Targets Growing Chinese Market for Lynx Flights

sxc_logoAn update on SXC’s expansion into Asia, where it is targeting the growing number of wealthy Chinese adventure travelers:

Chinese travellers will be able to undertake space trips by 2014 end following an agreement signed here Friday between a Chinese travel agency and Netherlands-based space tourism firm.

Travellers will have to pay a minimum of 580,000 yuan (about $95,000) to board the Lynx Mark I spacecraft produced by the US private aerospace company XCOR, Xinhua reported citing Zhang Yong, chief executive officer of Dexo Travel, a Chinese travel agency focusing on high-end travellers.

SXC announced its expansion into Asia in July with an event in Hong Kong. A division of the company named SXC Asia led by CEO Alex Tang is responsible for sales and marketing initiatives in the region.

Bigelow Aerospace Seeks Astronaut-in-Space Simulation Participants

Bigelow_Alpha_ Station
Bigelow Aerospace
Closed Volume Spacecraft Simulation Crew Members

This is a part time position. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Duty Location: North Las Vegas, Nevada

Bigelow Aerospace seeks mature, well adjusted adult individuals with backgrounds in the social, psychological, behavioral, biological, nursing, engineering or crew systems sciences for astronaut-in-space simulation studies.

Demonstrated expertise in detailed report writing with requested education background below.

US Citizens and Permanent Residents Only

The successful candidates will be expected to spend eight, sixteen or twenty four hour periods in a closed volume spacecraft simulation chamber. Candidates will live (eat, sleep and exercise) inside the chamber for defined periods of time and will be monitored continuously.

Successful candidates will be given structured daily tasks and schedules and will be expected to produce detailed daily reports on their activities and on their interactions with other crew members. The candidate will implement Bigelow Aerospace programs for quantifying, evaluating and optimizing crew systems, including process efficiencies, program quality and reporting on psychological, existential, social and environmental factors in spacecraft crews.

BS or MS in Social, Psychological, Behavioral, Biological, Nursing, Engineering, or Human Factors Sciences.

Apply Here

Russia Successfully Launches Maiden Flight of Soyuz 2-1v

Russian Soyuz-1 booster. Credit: Pavel Kolotilov
Russian Soyuz-1 booster. Credit: Pavel Kolotilov

A Russian Soyuz 2-1v lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Saturday, successfully orbiting a satellite and two calibration spheres in the first launch of the new booster.

The “light” launch vehicle, which is designed to lift small payloads, is a significantly modified version of the venerable Soyuz launch vehicle that has been a mainstay of Soviet and Russian space programs since 1966.It maintains a similar outward appearance, but it is very different on the inside.

Modifications include the use of a NK-33 engine in the first stage, the elimination of four first-stage booster rockets, and the use of a Volga upper stage. The NK-33 engines are left over from the Soviet program to land men on the moon, which was canceled in the early 1970’s.

For its maiden launch, the Soyuz 2-1v orbited two SKRL-756 calibration satellites and the AIST-1 micro-satellite.

The new launch vehicle is capable of orbiting payloads weighing between 2,800 to 2,850 kg to low Earth orbit depending whether it is launched from the Plesetsk or Baikonur cosmodromes. Plans call for launching the booster from the new Vostochny spaceport now being constructed in the Russian Far East.

The Soyuz 2-1v was the 80th orbital launch of 2013 worldwide. There are no additional launches planned for the rest of the year.

NASA Prepares for First Orion Test Flight in 2014

The heat shield for the Orion spacecraft has been placed on a work stand inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Mike Chambers)
The heat shield for the Orion spacecraft has been placed on a work stand inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Mike Chambers)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Orion’s first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1, is less than a year away now, and the team building the spacecraft is meeting milestones left and right as they prepare the vehicle for its debut.

The Orion crew module that will fly 3,600 miles above Earth on the spacecraft’s first mission is continuing to come together inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since the heat shield that will protect it from temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit was delivered to Kennedy in early December, the Orion team has been preparing it for installation. They’ve placed it on a work stand and begun drilling the holes necessary to attach it to the module. The heat shield is scheduled be put in place in the spring.


Commercial Cameras Installed on ISS Not Functioning

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio captured this view of spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy working outside the International Space Station and posted it to Twitter. (Credit: NASA)
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio captured this view of spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy working outside the International Space Station and posted it to Twitter. (Credit: NASA)

Two cosmonauts set a new Russian spacewalk record on Friday but the two cameras they installed on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) failed to send telemetry to flight controllers on the ground, NASA announced today.

Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy spent 8 hours and 7 minutes outside of the station with the primary objective of installing a pair of cameras provided by UrtheCast of Vancouver, Canada. The cameras — one high-definition, one medium-resolution — are part of a commercial venture designed to give continuous live coverage of the Earth as ISS circles the planet.