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COMSTAC Recommends Against Lifting Ban on Commercial ICBM Use

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A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

The FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) voted last week to recommend that the U.S. government maintain its ban on the use of excess ICBM motors for launching commercial satellites. The recommendation to the FAA is a non-binding one.

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New Chart Shows Performance Hit Falcon 9 Takes for Reusability

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SpaceX_rocket_pricing_May2016
On Saturday, SpaceX Founder Elon Musk posted a new price chart for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters that show the performance hit that results from making the boosters partially reusable.

The Falcon 9 can lift 8.3 metric tons (18,300 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) in its expendable form. Make the booster reusable with landing legs and fuel in reserve, it can lift up to 5.5 metric tons (12,125 lb) to GTO.

For the Falcon Heavy, the numbers are 22.2 metric tons (48,943 lb) for the expendable version and up to 8 metric tons (17,637 lb) for the reusable variant. The Falcon Heavy has yet to fly and is running nearly four years behind SpaceX’s original schedule. The latest flight date is at the end of this year.

SpaceX is charging $62 million for the Falcon 9 and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy. The company has not yet set prices for a launch with a reused first stage, but officials have estimated prices could be set around $40 million for the Falcon 9.

Musk was asked on Twitter whether the posted performance figures were for the current versions of the boosters or future variants. He elaborated in a series of Tweets:

“Basically current, but higher throttle setting. Good performance of recent launches allows us to reduce 3 sigma reserve margin”

“No physical changes to the engine. This thrust increase is based on delta qual tests. It is just tougher than we thought.”

“F9 thrust at liftoff will be raised to 1.71M lbf later this year. It is capable of 1.9M lbf in flight.”

“Falcon Heavy thrust will be 5.1M lbf at liftoff — twice any rocket currently flying. It’s a beast…”

The table also shows payload capacity for the two rockets for Mars missions. Falcon 9 can send just over 4 metric tons (8,860 lb) to Mars while Falcon Heavy can send 13.6 metric tons (29,980 lb) to the Red Planet.

This Week on The Space Show

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This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, May 2, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): DR. DAN DURDA returns as our guest.

2. Tuesday, May 3, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome PATRICK HOST to the show. Our topic will be military and defense space.

2. Thursday, May 5, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT):We welcome back DR. PASCAL LEE OF THE MARS INSTITUTE. Dr. Lee will be discussing their special film debut. Don’t miss it.

3. Friday, May 6, 2016: 2016; 9:30-11AM PDT; (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30AM – 1 PM CDT. We welcome JOSE G. MOLINA-VASQUES to discuss ISDC 2016.

4. Sunday, May 8, 2016: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): No show today due to Mother’s Day.

Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force

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In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force.

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Haskell to Design-Build Blue Origin’s New Manufacturing Facility

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Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

JACKSONVILLE, FL (Haskell PR) – Haskell, a leading integrated design, engineering and construction firm, announced today that it has been selected to design-build a new orbital rocket manufacturing facility for Blue Origin. The facility will be built at Exploration Park in Cape Canaveral, Florida – the hub of U.S. space exploration.

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for 2 STTR & 5 SBIR Awards

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honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for two Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) and five Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I awards.

The selected proposals include:

  • STTR: Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad (Partnered with Michigan Technological University)
  • STTR: In-Situ Spectroscopic Europa Explorer (Partnered with SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center)
  • SBIR: The Stinger: A Geotechnical Sensing Package for Robotic Scouting on a Small Planetary Rover
  • SBIR: Planetary Vacuum Cleaner for Venus and Mars
  • SBIR: Dust-Tolerant, High Pressure Oxygen Quick Disconnect for Advanced Spacesuit and Airlock Applications
  • SBIR: Strut Attachment System for In-Space Robotic Assembly
  • SBIR: High Temperature Joint Actuator

Descriptions of the research projects follow.
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OSTP Recommends Giving Mission Approval Authority for FAA

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George Nield

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has recommended to Congress that the Secretary of Transportation be given the power to provide mission authorizations for such non-traditional space activities as asteroid mining and private space stations, a FAA official revealed last week.

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said an authorization would stipulate that a mission is in compliance with U.S. space policy, foreign and national security considerations, and international treaty obligations.

Nield made his remarks last week during a meeting of FAA AST’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).

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NASA, NSBRI Select Proposals to Support Astronaut Health on Long Duration Missions

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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016. The pair will land March 1 after spending a total of 340 days in space. (Credits: NASA)

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016. The pair will land March 1 after spending a total of 340 days in space. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund 27 proposals to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long duration missions beyond low Earth orbit.  The selected proposals will investigate the impact of the space environment on various aspects of astronaut health, including visual impairment, behavioral health and performance, bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular alterations, human factors and performance, sensorimotor adaptation and the development and application of smart medical systems and technologies. All of the selected projects will contribute towards NASA’s long-term plans, such as those planned for the journey to Mars.
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NASA Selects Altius Space Machines for 3 SBIR Awards

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Altius_logo_newNASA has selected Altius Space Machines of Broomfield, Colo., for three Small Business Innovation Research Phase I awards for advanced propulsion in-situ resource utilization technologies.

The three proposals selected for contract negotiations include:

  • Solar Cube 2U: A Heliogyro Propulsion System for CubeSats
  • High-Flow, Low Connection-Force, In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Coupling
  • ISP3: In-Situ Printing Plastic Production System for Space Additive Manufacturing.

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SES Takes Controlling Share in O3b Networks

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SES_LogoLUXEMBOURG (SES PR)–SES S.A. (NYSE Paris:SESG) (LuxX:SESG) has agreed to increase its interest in O3b Networks (O3b) to 50.5% and, in doing so, will take a controlling share in the company. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals which are expected to be completed during H2 2016.

SES will pay USD 20 million to increase its fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1% to 50.5%, bringing its aggregate equity investment in O3b to date to USD 323 million (EUR 257 million). On completion, SES will consolidate O3b’s net debt, which is currently USD 1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate returns exceeding SES’s hurdle rates for infrastructure investments.
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DigitalGlobe Reports Increased First Quarter Revenues

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DigitalGlobe_logoRevenue up 3.5% to $175.4 Million
Net income available to common stockholders of $7.3 Million
Adjusted EBITDA up 30.5% to $95.4 Million
$61 Million of Share Repurchases Bring Total to $281 Million

WESTMINSTER, Colo., Apr. 27, 2016 (DigitalGlobe PR) — DigitalGlobe, Inc. (NYSE: DGI), a leading global provider of commercial high-resolution earth observation and advanced geospatial solutions, today reported financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2016.

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China Begins Assembly of First Flight-Ready Long March-5 Rocket

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Long March 5 model

Long March 5 model

Chinese engineers have begun assembly of the first flight-ready Long March-5 rocket, which is set to make its inaugural launch later this year. The heavy-lift booster will be capable of lofting 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit.

Yang Hujun, vice chief engineer, has spoken about the next steps for the Long March-5 project.

“After the assembly is finished in the first half of this year, it will take a little more than a month to test it to ensure that the product is in good shape. The first launch will be made after it is out of the plant in the latter half of the year. ”

The new generation of rockets will come in 6 slightly different models – for manned space travel, as well as for the lunar and Martian exploration programs.

Among planned missions, is the Chang’e-5 lunar probe, which will be launched by the high-thrust carrier rocket to collect samples of moon soil by the end of 2017.

CASIS Releases Report on Earth Observation From ISS

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CASIS_Campaign_Good_Earth_CoverEXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (CASIS PR) — The ISS provides a unique vantage point for Earth observation, and the ISS infrastructure itself provides many advantages as a robust platform for sensor deployment. Information gathered from ISS remote sensing applications have proven invaluable to resource management, environmental monitoring, geologic and oceanographic studies, and assistance with disaster relief efforts.

Recently, CASIS commissioned a study to evaluate the specific capabilities and limitations of the ISS as a host for commercial remote sensing payloads. A full report from this study is now available and is meant to initiate a path toward optimal use of the ISS National Lab as a platform for project implementation and technology development.

The report includes:

  • Expert contacts from NASA, CASIS, commercial leaders, and government agencies
  • Recommendations for how to support humanitarian and educational enrichment
  • Implementation strategies for hardware and technology adaptation on the ISS
  • Details on current and planned missions, data sources, and validation requirements

Download the report today.

New Video Shows Falcon 9 First Stage Landing From Ship

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NSRC Conference Early Bird Registration Expires Today

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NSRC 2016 logoGreetings friends of the suborbital frontier!

 Good news! The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2016) poster abstract deadline has been extended by just a few days, to Monday, May 2nd at 11:00pm PDT! Click here to submit your poster abstract:  http://www.boulder.swri.edu/NSRC2016/Site3/Abstracts.html

Also, a reminder that the Omni Interlocken Resort conference hotel discounted rate ($142/nt, $109 govt) expires this Sunday, May 1. So reserve your room soon! (Note that full refunds will be given to hotel cancellations made before noon on May 29.)

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