Space Florida Board Approves Funding for Launch Projects

space_florida_logoFrom Edward Ellegood at the Florida SPACErePORT:

The Space Florida board of directors, during a public meeting in Tampa, approved multiple requests for the agency to proceed with proprietary partnerships and project finance deals. The board also decided to delay approval of a deal to transfer control of NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility to the state, until stakeholders in Tallahassee could be fully briefed and the outcome of state budget requests is finalized, probably within 10 days.

Project Panther (known to be Blue Origin) is approved for conduit debt financing for facilities and equipment at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, including launch infrastructure and a manufacturing operation at the state-run Exploration Park on KSC property. This project, which could employ about 200, recently received a separate inducement of $8 million from the county government.

Project Nightfall (Generation Orbit, Firefly or Rocket Lab?) is approved for a $1 million financing deal, convertible to company stock and collateralized by a 15-year lien on the company’s equipment and facilities. This will lead to Florida-based test launches of a micro-satellite launch vehicle (~200 lbs to LEO), potential Florida-based manufacturing, and Florida-based launch operations.

Planetary Society Regains Contact With LightSail

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Ca., May 30, 2015 (Planetary Society PR) — After a successful launch into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral, The Planetary Society’s LightSail™ spacecraft went silent after two days of communications. The solar sailing spacecraft test mission, a precursor to a 2016 mission, has now resumed contact after a suspected software glitch affected communications. The LightSail team will soon determine when to attempt deployment of the spacecraft’s Mylar® solar sails.

Bill Nye (The Science Guy), CEO at The Planetary Society, issued the following statement:

“Our LightSail called home! It’s alive! Our LightSail spacecraft has rebooted itself, just as our engineers predicted. Everyone is delighted. We were ready for three more weeks of anxiety. In this meantime, the team has coded a software patch ready to upload. After we are confident in the data packets regarding our orbit, we will make decisions about uploading the patch and deploying our sails— and we’ll make those decisions very soon. This has been a rollercoaster for us down here on Earth, all the while our capable little spacecraft has been on orbit going about its business. In the coming two days, we will have more news, and I am hopeful now that it will be very good.”

For in-depth coverage of LightSail’s test and 2016 missions, follow embedded reporter, Jason Davis at

Satellite Industry Grew at 4 Percent in 2014

OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)
OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26, 2015 (SIA PR) — The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its 2015 State of the Satellite Industry Report, showing a four percent growth rate in world satellite industry revenues in 2014, up from three percent in 2013. Globally, 2014 revenues for the satellite industry totaled $203 billion, up from $195.2 billion the previous year. Industry growth was led by the satellite services segment, which saw its revenues increase by four percent to $122.9 billion. Satellite launch industry revenues increased significantly, rising by over nine percent in 2014. Satellite ground equipment revenues saw growth of four percent, while satellite manufacturing grew by one percent over the previous year.


Canadian Space Agency Awards R&D Funding to 21 Companies

CSACAMBRIDGE, Ontario, May 29, 2015 (CSA PR) — The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), is pleased to announce that 21 high-tech companies received research and development (R&D) funding via the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP).

The wide range of innovative projects to be developed by emerging companies as well as large established space industry leaders demonstrates how space technology drives jobs and growth in Canada’s dynamic economy.

Minister of State Goodyear made the announcement at COM DEV International Ltd.‘s Cambridge, Ontario facility. COM DEV is receiving funding to complete seven projects, including new operating systems for COM DEV products, advanced photo detection and image processing technologies, including work with aluminum additive technologies.


UK Makes Moves to Support Satellite Industry

UK_space_agencySWINTON, England (UKSA PR) — As part of the Government’s aim to provide wider access to space and remove barriers to further growth of the £11.3 billion sector, the UK Space Agency has signed an agreement with Ofcom that will see the 2 organisations working more closely together to ensure the space sector’s radio spectrum needs are fully addressed in developing the UK’s spectrum strategy.

Spectrum – the basis for wireless communications like Wi-Fi or mobile phones – is a finite resource that is much in demand. In practice, that means users have to share spectrum in order to maximise its benefit. Achieving this across a diverse range of sectors and services is a significant challenge, made more so by the rapid evolution of other services using spectrum, such as mobile broadband.


GAO: NASA, CASIS Need Metrics to Evaluate ISS Research

casis_new_logoThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report calling for NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop better methods for evaluating the research being done aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory.

GAO found that CASIS, which manages the laboratory for NASA,  has yet to establish metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of the work done on the orbiting laboratory. The report, Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, was submitted to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“CASIS officials told GAO in July 2014 that setting measurable targets would be arbitrary because CASIS processes and metrics are still evolving,” the report concluded. “In January 2015, however, the Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors told GAO that setting measurable targets is a priority for the board. CASIS, however, has yet to establish a date by which measurable targets will be developed.”


Relocation of ISS Module Completed

Credit: NASA
Permanent Multipurpose Module (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The relocation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module is complete. The PMM was robotically relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module on the International Space Station to the forward port of the Tranquility module in the next step to reconfigure the complex for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with the Mobile Servicing System Operations Center at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada, used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to maneuver the 11-ton module a short distance to its new location. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA supervised the commanding of the bolting of the PMM to Tranquility. The PMM’s hatch will be reopened tomorrow.

The operation opened the Earth-facing port of Unity as another berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo vehicles. Future U.S. commercial crew vehicles will arrive at the space-facing and forward ports of the Harmony module, which will continue its transformation later this year when a pair of International Docking Adapters will be delivered on the seventh and ninth NASA-contracted SpaceX cargo resupply missions. The IDAs will be attached to Pressurized Mating Adapters 2 and 3, enabling the station to host up to two U.S. commercial cargo and two U.S. commercial crew vehicles at any given time.

UAE Space Agency, Airbus Group Team for STEM Education Initiative

UAE_Space_Agency_LogoABU DHABI, UAE (UAE Space Agency PR) — The UAE Space Agency and Airbus Group, a world leading player in the space industry, join forces to roll-out a first series of Airbus Little Engineer Space workshops for the first time in the Middle East.

The inaugural workshop challenged some 100 students between 15 and 17 years old to carry out a simulation of a launch mission to space. The Airbus Little Engineer Space workshop focuses on introducing students to the world of space exploration and enhancing their understanding of both the benefits and applications of space technology. Over the course of four hours, students assembled and launched a rocket, set up a base and established communications.


Space Florida, NASA Agree to Terms on Shuttle Landing Facility

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)
The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

Space Florida has worked out terms with NASA to take over the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA Kennedy Space Center:

Space Florida anticipates spending $200,000 a month over the first two years to operate and develop the site, or nearly $5 million, according to a summary of the deal included in board meeting materials.

The state would assume responsibility to operate and maintain the runway for 30 years with options for extensions, according to the materials.

Space Florida has been negotiating with NASA for nearly two years to transfer KSC’s three-mile runway, where it hopes to attract companies designing spacecraft that take off and land horizontally like aircraft.

Space Florida’s board postponed a vote on the deal on Wednesday due to uncertainty over the state budget. Legislators are schedule to go back into session on Monday to deal with unresolved issues.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Begins Hot-Fire Tests in Support of US Air Force Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator Program

aerojet_rocketdyneSACRAMENTO, Calif., May 26, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD) has completed the first in a series of hot-fire tests on the sub-scale oxygen rich pre-burner in support of the U.S. Air Force Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) program.

In coming months, multiple injector configurations will be tested to evaluate the performance and stability parameters that are critical for a high-performance, high-reliability liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket engine. The sub-scale test series will be used to aid the design and development of the full-scale pre-burner and engine development. An oxygen-rich pre-burner is one of the enabling technologies of the Oxygen-Rich Staged Combustion (ORSC) cycle needed to provide high thrust-to-weight and performance regardless of hydrocarbon fuel type.


JAXA Space Aging Experiment Begins on Kibo

Ground photo of the cartridge containing nematode worms. (Credit: JAXA)
Ground photo of the cartridge containing nematode worms. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO, May 22, 2015 (JAXA PR) — JAXA’s life science experiment “Study of the effects of space flight on the aging of C. elegans* (Space Aging)” has started on the Japanese Experiment Module, “Kibo.”

*Principal Investigator: Yoko Honda, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology

Space Aging experiment aims to elucidate how microgravity affects creatures’ aging process. The experiment measures the longevity of the nematode worms (C. elegans) in space and analyzes the change of the gene expression.

The result of this experiment will clarify the senescence rate and the effects on the longevity of the worms which stay long-term in space. If a gene that controls the aging process is found, it may become a clue to the development of a new genomic drug that slows the aging or prevents age-associated diseases.

  • Launch: On April 15, 2015, the cartridge containing two types of nematode worms was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, U.S. aboard the SpaceX CRS-6 and delivered to Kibo.
  • Start of the experiment: On April 19, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly set the cartridge into the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF).
  • Observation: By a successful telecommand sent from the User Operations Area (UOA) at the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC), the observation became available. The culture and observation will last for about two months.

NASA Orders First Crew Rotation Mission From Boeing

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has taken another step toward returning America’s ability to launch crew missions to the International Space Station from the United States in 2017.

The Commercial Crew Program ordered its first crew rotation mission from The Boeing Company. SpaceX, which successfully performed a pad abort test of its flight vehicle earlier this month, is expected to receive its first order later this year. Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time. The contract calls for the orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for the first mission in late 2017, provided the contractors meet certain readiness conditions.


Orbital ATK Teams Up With UAE to Offer Master’s Level Space Studies Program

orbital_atk_logoDULLES, Virg., 26 May 2015  (Orbital ATK PR) – Yahsat, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Orbital ATK, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on May 25, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to announce the joint creation of the Gulf-region’s first Master’s level advanced studies space program, endorsed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The MoU was signed in the presence of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The signing was also attended by key government officials and Chairmen of Yahsat, The UAE Space Agency and Masdar Institute.

The MoU was signed by Dr. Ahmed Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO of Yahsat and Tom Wilson, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, on behalf of David W. Thompson, President and CEO of Orbital ATK.


Criminal Charges Brought Against Khrunichev Employees for Proton Accident

Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.
Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

If ever there was an incentive for Russia’s youth to take underpaying jobs in that nation’s floundering space industry, this is definitely not one of them:

Employees of Russia’s Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Centre have been charged in connection with the 2013 crash of Proton carrier rocket with Glonass satellites, Investigative Committee’s official spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Wednesday.

The Investigative Committee has completed the investigation into the criminal cases launched after a Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites crashed in July 2013 seconds after liftoff, he said.

Three employees, Denis Grishin, Alexander Nikolayaev and Diana Gudkova, have been charged with violating safety rules while carrying out works. The head of Russia’s Defence Ministry’s 1653 military representation, Marat Nasibulin, has been charged with negligence.

According to investigators, Grishin, Nikolayev and Gudkova in 2011 were tasked with installing the angular rate sensors on the Proton rocket that are responsible for yaw control.

“As a result of their violation of technical discipline envisaged by engineering and technological documentation, these sensors were installed incorrectly / at 180 degrees from their correct position,” Markin said.

This is not going to attract a new generation of engineers and technicians into the industry. That’s something they badly need after the post-Soviet slump.

Orbital ATK Looks to Take Cygnus to the Next Level With NASA’s Help

Artist concept of the Cygnus derived deep space habitat and airlock serviced by Cygnus derived logistics vehicles. (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Artist concept of the Cygnus derived deep space habitat and airlock serviced by Cygnus derived logistics vehicles. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virg. (Orbital ATK PR) — While the International Space Station (ISS) is going strong, enabling scientific discoveries in a state of the art orbiting laboratory, NASA is also working on developing pathways to explore beyond low earth orbit to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars. In order to live and work in deep space, astronauts will need additional pressurized habitation capability beyond what the Orion spacecraft currently provides. And Orbital ATK is looking to the Cygnus product line to help fill this need.