CSA Gets Another President With No Space Experience

Stephen Harper and cat.
Stephen Harper and cat.

In yet another sign of how little Stephen Harper thinks of his nation’s space program, the Canadian prime minister announced the appointment of another president of the Canadian Space Agency who appears to have no expertise in the field. The announcement was made in a low-key press release on Friday, the traditional day set aside for news you don’t care about and/or hope nobody pays any attention to.

The new president as of March 9 will be Sylvain Laporte, the current commission of patents and trademarks. He replaces Luc Brûlé, who became interim president on Nov. 3 after the departure of Walter Natynczyk, a retired general who came to the position with no space experience and served for all of 15 months.


Hawaiian High School Students to Design Experiments for Moon Flight

`Iolani School’s Moon RIDERS team. (Credit: PISCES)
`Iolani School’s Moon RIDERS team. (Credit: PISCES)

HILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is pleased to announce the two Hawaii high schools chosen for the Moon RIDERS student lunar flight experiment!

Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island, and `Iolani School in Honolulu on Oahu, have been selected to participate in the unprecedented student project to develop, build, test, and fly a real-life lunar experiment to the surface of the Moon!


Safran Injects $1 Billion into Rocket Partnership With Airbus

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Airbus and Safran have ramped up their launch vehicle partnership:

Airbus and Safran said their joint venture to take over design and production of Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets is expected to be in full operations by late 2015 following a Safran payment to Airbus of 800 million euros ($1 billion) in cash.

The transfer, both companies said, will be necessary for French aerospace-engine builder Safran to maintain a 50 percent stake in the new company, which was created in January and is called Airbus Safran Launchers.

In conference calls with investors Feb. 25 and Feb. 27, the two companies said that in addition to assuming the civil-launcher and strategic missiles work of the two companies, the joint venture by late 2015 is expected to have purchased the French government’s entire 34 percent ownership stake in the Arianespace commercial launch consortium.

Ultimately the joint venture is expected to have some 4,500 employees. For now, it is only 450 people — 300 from Airbus, the rest from Safran.

Read the full story.

NASA Learned Many Lessons From Orion Flight

Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)
Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues on the agency’s journey to Mars as engineers analyze data from the spacecraft’s December flight test and make progress developing and building the spacecraft for its first mission atop NASA Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. On future missions, Orion will send astronauts to an asteroid and onward toward the Red Planet.


NanoRacks Begins Deploying CubeSats From ISS Again

CubeSat deployed from ISS. (Credit: NASA)
CubeSat deployed from ISS. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON, February 27th, 2015 (NanoRacks PR) – NanoRacks began deployment from the International Space Station (ISS) of the remainder of our Orb-2 CubeSat Mission which includes 12 Planet Labs Doves. Of these Doves, ten are the remainder of Flock-1B launched on Orb-2, and two are the new Flock-1D’ Doves, launched on SpaceX CRS-5.

This was NanoRacks first deployment attempt since recent on-orbit repairs and we are excited to announce a successful first deploy.

At 8:30 a.m. CST on Friday, February 27th, NanoRacks commanded one deployer, releasing two of the Planet Labs Flock 1B Doves to low Earth orbit. Deployment commands will continue to run through March 5, 2015 when the deployment window closes.


Khrunichev Signs 15-Year Deal with Gazprom Space Systems

khrunichevMOSCOW (Khrunichev PR) — On 25 February 2015, Khrunichev Space Center (Khrunichev) and OAO Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) signed a number of documents envisaging expanded strategic cooperation between the two companies.

In furtherance of the Company Rehab Program, Andrey Kalinovsky, Khrunichev Acting CEO, and Nikolai Sevastianov, GSS Designer-General, met at Khrunichev’s Proton assembly facility to sign an agreement on strategic cooperation, and a contract for a Proton launch of GSS’s Yamal-601 communications satellite.


Shackelton Signs MOU With CASIS for ISS Cargo Return System

Shackelton Oryx return vehicle. (Credit: SEC)
Shackelton Oryx return vehicle. (Credit: SEC)

AUSTIN, Texas (SEC PR) — On 19 February 2015, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) to design, develop and test in space a variety of new, highly capable reentry vehicles enabling on–demand, rapid return to Earth of time-critical experiments from Low Earth Orbit (LEO). CASIS was tasked by NASA in 2011 to manage the U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS.

SEC’s re-entry vehicles (technically described as Mini Space Brakes–MSBs) will be developed using novel aerobraking and flight dynamics control systems. The SEC team will leverage US federal technology investments and work closely with CASIS, NASA Centers, FAA, DoD and private partners to achieve its goals.


Leonard Nimoy Passes Away at 83

Leonard Nimoy — Spock of Star Trek — has died at age 83.

Above is his last Tweet.

The perfect moments he gave us on film are his gift to us. They will be preserved forever.

Thank you, Leonard, for entertaining and inspiring me and millions of others with a vision of what we could be.

You lived long and prospered. Now you are at rest. Thank you for everything.

Air Force Doubts New ULA Engine Can Be Ready by 2019

Atlas V launch of WorldView-3 satellite (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V launch of WorldView-3 satellite (Credit: ULA)

U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee Jones told a Senate committee this week that it would be difficult to develop a new rocket motor to replace the Atlas V’s Russian-produced RD-180 by the the 2019 deadline established by Congress.

“Because this,” James said, “is rocket science.”

James said the technical experts she’s spoken with estimate that it would take six to eight years to build a new engine and another year or two to integrate it into the launch vehicle. If those estimates are right, it would push the first use of a new engine well into the 2020s.

The Air Force has not decided what engine to fund to replace the RD-180, which powers the Atlas V’s first stage. United Launch Alliance, which builds the launch vehicle, has announced a partnership with Blue Origin to develop the BE4 engine.

The Atlas V is used almost exclusively to launch defense payloads. Replacing the RD-180 has become a priority given deteriorating ties between the United States and Russia.

In series of Tweets, ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said he expects the first flight of the BE4 engine to occur in 2019. The new engine and rocket would be certified in 2022-23 for launching national security payloads.

“Developing an American engine by 2019, cert in 2022-23, is an aggressive schedule,” Bruno wrote. “The existing law leaves us no flexibility.”

“No, we cannot realistically accelerate certification to 2019. 2022-23 already has risk,” he said in another Tweet.

Ardusat Secures $1 Million in Seed Funding

Arusat deployed from the International Space Station.
Arusat deployed from the International Space Station.
  • Seed round will finance expansion of Ardusat platform, enabling K-12 and higher ed students to conduct science and technology experiments in space and on earth
  • Edtech startup also announces launch of an open data repository, where students can post experiment results for public academic use

SALT LAKE CITY (Ardusat PR) — Ardusat, an education company focused on enhancing student engagement through hands-on experimentation, today announced it has secured a total of $1 million in seed funding from Space Florida, Fresco Capital, Spire and other investors. The capital will finance the expansion of Ardusat’s Experiment Platform, which enables K-12 and higher education students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields through custom experiments conducted in space or on earth.


Pete Worden to Retire From NASA

Pete Worden

NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden has announced he is leaving the space agency at the end of March to pursue opportunities in the private sector. He was appointed Ames center director in May 2006 after retiring from a 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force.

Worden has been seen as a maverick within a relatively conservative space agency, pursuing innovative initiatives such as phonesats and synthetic biology while forging close ties with Silicon Valley companies such as Google. NASA Ames hosted an International Space University summer session; its research park is home to the Singularity University and Made in Space.

Florida Legislative Space Priorities Come Into View as Session Nears

space_florida_logoFebruary 23, 2015 (FSDC PR) — Florida’s 2015 Legislative Session will begin on March 3 and end on May 1 in Tallahassee. The biggest task for elected officials will be to approve a $77 billion spending plan, including millions of dollars for space-related programs. Governor Rick Scott in January revealed his proposed budget, which includes $12.5 million for Space Florida programs.

The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) has tracked the progress of annual space-focused funding and policy issues in Tallahassee. FSDC is gearing up for the 2015 Session with an updated chart of space-related issues, a chart that is sure to evolve several times over the next two months.

Space Florida Ops Budget ($10M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request, with $4M of recurring funding and $6M non-recurring.
Space Florida Financing/
Investment Fund

Provided in 2014 but not included in Gov. Scott’s 2015 request. May be a legislative priority.
Space Transportation
Infrastructure Funding
“TIP” program funded at $15M in 2014 within FDOT budget allocation. Status unclear for 2015.
Shuttle Landing Facility Transition ($2.5M)Proviso earmark of $2.5M in 2014, and intended for two years by sponsoring legislators. Status unclear for 2015.
Space Industry Tourism Funding ($1.5M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request. Continued funding for coordination with VISIT Florida to support tourism attractions and space tourism flight business.
Florida/Israel Joint Aerospace Development ($1M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request. Continued funding of joint aerospace projects with Space Florida and Israel.
Qualified Defense/Space
Contractor Tax Refund
Incentive program requires statutory change to renew application window for companies to qualify for refunds.
Quick Response Training
(QRT) Incentive

Supported in 2014 by Gov. Scott. Status unclear for 2015.
Embry-Riddle high school aerospace academiesSigned by Governor in 2014 as a recurring budget item to
support/expand network of high school aerospace academies.

* Note: Most budget items are subject to the Governor’s line-item veto authority.

Aerojet Rocketdyne to Develop Environmentally Friendly Propellants

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 24, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, was awarded a contract to research and develop environmentally sustainable monopropellants and gas generators for rocket and missile propulsion and Divert Attitude Control Systems. The company is working with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base; and the U.S. Army Medical Command to develop a new family of high-performing liquid propellants. The effort is funded through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, an office of the Department of Defense.