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House Space Subcommitee’s Surreal NASA Budget Hearing

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Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

I woke up early this morning with a low-grade headache. Checking Twitter, I discovered I’d slept through the beginning of a House Subcommittee on Space’s hearing on NASA’s budget with Administrator Charlie Bolden.

My headache immediately worsened as I found the hearing webcast on my cell phone. A whole range of largely unprintable words and phrases came immediately to mind, but there was one that kept coming back: clown car. The House Science Committee really needs a bigger clown car.

It’s not the committee members’ criticism of the Boulder (sorry, Asterorid) Redirect Mission that I had a problem with. Or their demands that NASA actually present a road map to help guide the nation on the road to Mars. I even understood why they felt the Obama Administration’s request for Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion was low. And the Europa mission probably needs more money. All those things are the subject of legitimate debate.

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NASA Selects 149 SBIR & STTR Phase II Proposals for Funding

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NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 149 research and technology proposals from American small businesses and research institutions that will enable NASA’s future missions into the solar system and beyond while benefiting America’s technology-driven economy right here on Earth.

The selected proposals now will enter into negotiations for contract awards as part of Phase II of the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. The selected aerospace technology and innovation projects have a total value of approximately $118.1 million, supporting 117 U.S. firms and research institutions in 26 states.

“Just as small businesses are driving our economy, technology is driving exploration,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These selected proposals demonstrate the creativity of American entrepreneurs and, along with our other technology investments, will contribute to ensuring the U.S. remains a leader in technology development and space exploration.”

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High Resolution Video of Falcon 9 First Stage Landing and Crash

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Space Symposium Briefs: Stratolaunch, Falcon 9, CST-100, UAE to Mars & Lunar Bases

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Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

I’ve been monitoring the Twittersphere for news out of the 31st Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. There have been a few interesting items of note:

  • Stratolaunch President Chuck Beames says the company is considering other air-launch rockets in addition to the one being built by Orbital ATK for use with its massive six engine carrier aircraft. The Orbital ATK rocket is for medium payloads but won’t be ready for several years. Stratolaunch is looking at smaller rockets that could be developed more rapidly and help with more near-term revenue.
  • SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says the company’s next attempt to recover a Falcon 9 first stage may occur over land rather than on a barge at sea. SpaceX is building landing facilities at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
  • Boeing plans to reveal the crew of its first CST-100 flight test this summer. The crew for the planned 2017 test will include one Boeing test pilot and one NASA astronaut.
  • The new United Arab Emirates Space Agency decided to launch a spacecraft to Mars in 2020 because sending an orbiter to the moon is too easy. The space agency, which was formed only last July, has yet to define the mission to the Red Planet or select international partners.
  • Current DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Wörner would really like to see the establishment of a base on the far side of the moon to enable radio astronomy. Wörner is set to take over had head of ESA in several months.

Vostochny Project Becoming Increasingly Farcical

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Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russia’s multi-billion dollar Vostochny spaceport project has now gone from absurd to farcical.

On the heels of a hunger strike by unpaid workers comes word of another group of more than 500 people who say they haven’t been paid for four months.

The workers have sent a personal appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In very large letters. On the roofs of their workers barracks.

No, I’m not kidding. This comes directly from the you can’t make s— like this up file. Click the link and take a look at the photos.

I think they sent the appeal to the right place. Putin presides over a mafia state where theft and corruption runs rampant. He and his cronies have greatly benefited from it. But, when he actually needs to get something done, his ambitions are hamstrung by the very system he has put into place.

This latest embarrassment will undoubtedly be followed by more firings of those responsible by Putin’s military industrial complex czar, Dmitry Rogozin, who has direct control over the Vostochny project. The question is whether or not Rogozin should be fired for presiding over this sorry mess.

Orbital, Aerojet Rocketdyne Disagree on Cause of Antares Explosion

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A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

After the explosion of an Antares rocket in October, NASA left the investigation in the hands of the company’s that bands of the company that built and launched the rocket, Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Orbital ATK). Yesterday, we got the first official word on what that investigation has found. And it’s very confusing.

Orbital ATK Executive Vice President Ronald Grabe said during the 31st Space Symposium that the failure was caused by excessive wear in the bearings of a turbo pump for one of the two first-stage AJ-26 engines supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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AFRL Review Finds Skylon’s SABRE Engine Theoretically Viable

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Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

OXFORDSHIRE, England (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd. is pleased to announce that analysis undertaken by the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’) has confirmed the feasibility of the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (‘SABRE’) engine cycle concept.

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ULA Video Describes Benefits of Vulcan Rocket

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Video Caption: Innovative next generation launch system will provide country’s most reliable, affordable, and accessible launch service.

Terminal Velocity Aerospace to Demonstrate Payload Return Capsule

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Terminal_VelocityATLANTA, GA, April 14, 2015 (TVA PR) – Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC (TVA) was recently selected by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) for demonstration of a small payload return capsule and associated technologies via a high-altitude drop test. Flight test of the prototype capsule will demonstrate mission-enabling communications technologies and verify integrated performance, including functionality of its parachute recovery system. This activity is directly aligned with TVA’s efforts to develop a small reentry device, RED-4U, capable of returning the payload mass and volume equivalent of four or more CubeSats. In addition, as part of this drop test, a payload provided by Dr. Abba Zubair of the Mayo Clinic in collaboration with the Center for Applied Space Technology (CAST-ARMM) and Morehead State University will serve as a pathfinder for the transportation of high value space-based research products from space back to a terrestrial laboratory.

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Alaska Aerospace Corporation Renames Kodiak Launch Complex

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Kodiak_Reconstruction_3
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) — The Kodiak Launch Complex is no longer, in name at least. Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), a premier aerospace company that owns and operates the non-Federal Kodiak Launch Complex, announces that it is renaming the facility “Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska” (PSCA) to reflect the growing capability of AAC to meet customer requirements and its broader aerospace commitment to the Pacific region.

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