Marc Boucher: August 2014 Archives

Marc's note: Last week I decided to run a poll on who our readers thought would be selected for funding in the next round of NASA's Commercial Crew Program which many expect to be announced tomorrow. The results were surprising at first. I expected, considering the wide variety of readers we have, to have a very close poll. What I didn't expect was the blatant padding of the results for two of the companies.

Until Monday the results were headed to what I was expecting. However at some point on Monday, "block voting" began. The votes were coming from 4 IP addresses. 3 of these IP addresses came Connecticut - specifically from the area around Norwalk (where Boeing has an office). The last IP block was traced to Sierra Nevada Corporation. It should be noted that the poll was setup with cookies so that repeat voting was not allowed. SpaceX votes were distributed across the U.S. and other countries with nothing traceable to a SpaceX office.

So presented here are two poll results. As you can see there was considerable padding of the results, but once the block voting was removed it shows a much closer result.You may interpret this unscientific poll anyway you like.

Europe's Latest Galileo Satellites Injected Into Wrong Orbit After Launch, SpaceRef Business

"An investigation is underway after yesterday's launch by Arianespace of a Soyuz rocket which left its twin payload of Europe's fifth and six Galileo GPS satellites in a lower wrong orbit.

According to a statement released by Arianespace "complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit."

Galileo Launch, Initially Hailed as Success, Is a Failure, Space News

Marc's note: After congratulatory speeches it was later learned from U.S. military data that the satellites were in the wrong orbit. One of the many questions include why didn't the launch telemetry indicate the wrong orbit? The almost two hour Arianespace broadcast did not indicate anything wrong. Details courtesy Space News Paris Bureau Chief Peter B. de Selding.

Marc's update: Based on what we know now this could be a candidate mission for future on-orbit servicing.

New Study: Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil, University of New Hampshire

"The study, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, proposes that high-energy particles from uncommon, large solar storms penetrate the moon's frigid, polar regions and electrically charge the soil. The charging may create sparking, or electrostatic breakdown, and this "breakdown weathering" process has possibly changed the very nature of the moon's polar soil, suggesting that permanently shadowed regions, which hold clues to our solar system's past, may be more active than previously thought."

SpaceX Workers Launch 3rd Suit, Allege Racist Policies, Law 360

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. employees on Monday launched a putative class action suit in California court accusing it of fostering a racist working environment in which certain workers were subjected to slurs and passed over for promotions, making this the third employee suit to befall the rocket manufacturer in less than a month."

Marc's note: I reached out to SpaceX for a comment on this new lawsuit. Here's the response from John Taylor their Communications Director.

"SpaceX rejects these allegations and will vigorously defend itself in court. At SpaceX, we don't care about your gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age or anything else of that nature--to succeed here, the only requirement is to work hard and produce outstanding results.

"Earlier this year SpaceX completed its annual review cycle and as a result of those reviews, approximately 4% of our workforce were let go. Given the ambitious goals of the company, the standards for work performance at SpaceX are very high. It is critical that all employees meet this standard."

NASA and Commercial Partners Review Summer of Advancements, NASA

"NASA's spaceflight experts in the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) met throughout July with aerospace partners to review increasingly advanced designs, elements and systems of the spacecraft and launch vehicles under development as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiatives."

... "In August or September, NASA plans to award one or more contracts that will provide the agency with commercial services to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of 2017."

Boeing Commercial Crew Program Completes Critical Design and Safety Reviews, NASA

"Boeing recently completed the Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and the Critical Design Review (CDR) of its integrated systems, meeting all of the company's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones on time and on budget."

Super-Black Nano-Coating to Be Tested for the First Time in Space, NASA

"An emerging super-black nanotechnology that promises to make spacecraft instruments more sensitive without enlarging their size will be tested for the first time on the International Space Station within a year."

Video: Small Satellite Conference 2014 Keynote Speaker Steve Jurvetson, Small Satellite Conference

"Steve Jurvetson is one of the commercial space industry's most successful investors. He is a partner of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, where he serves on the boards of Planet Labs, SpaceX, Synthetic Genomics and Tesla Motors."

Another Blue Marble Image

Earth: Blue Marble, Eastern Hemisphere, NASA

"Of all the planets NASA has explored, none have matched the dynamic complexity of our own. Earth is constantly changing, and NASA are working constantly to explore and understand the planet on scales from local to global."

Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows [With Video], NASA

"NASA research shows Earth's atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide."

Timelapse Video of Cygnus Release from the Space Station, ESA

"This video shows a timelapse of the Orbital Science's Cygnus Orb-2 spacecraft departing from the International Space Station on 15 August 2014."

Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising Money At A Valuation Approaching $10B, TechCrunch

Space Exploration Technologies, the commercial space transportation startup founded by Elon Musk with ambitions to land people on Mars, is raising investment that values the company somewhere south of $10 billion, TechCrunch has learned.

Musk's SpaceX Denies Blog Report of Capital Raising Plan, Bloomberg Business Week

"SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of that magnitude or higher been done," John Taylor, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. "The source in this [TechCrunch] report is mistaken."

Marc's note: It should be noted SpaceX did not refute the original story by Quartz in April where Quartz said SpaceX was close to closing a round of funding at that time.

Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Design for DARPA

"Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.

XS-1 has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft."

Use of Space-Based Earth Remote Sensing Data In Support of Scientific and Societal Needs - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef [Watch]

"In this session, representatives of agencies, organizations, and communities that make use of space-based remote sensing data in support of scientific and societal needs will discuss those uses, including both those now carried out using existing data, as well as potential future uses based on the data that are anticipated to become available in the future. Uses will cover topics such as operational forecasting/prediction, resource management, policy development, scientific assessment, and commercial product development."

Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business [Video]

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from industry and government discussed Emerging Space: The Next Industrial Revolution.

The availability of the International Space Station and the corresponding improved access to and from LEO has ushered in the start of a new entrepreneurial renaissance. In addition there are companies exploring revolutionary approaches to Earth observation, space manufacturing, and resource utilization of the lunar and asteroidal material. This panel will explore the broad sweep of possible applications as well as looking at how these companies could combine to form a new commercial space ecosystem."

SpaceX Releases Falcon 9 First Stage Reentry Footage from Chase Plane, SpaceRef Business

"SpaceX has released a video from the July 14th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying six ORBCOM satellites showing the first stage reentry from a chase plane."

New Bigelow Video Released

Bigelow Aerospace Releases BEAM Promotional Video, SpaceRef Business

"Bigelow Aerospace has released a promotional video on their Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It runs six and a half minutes and includes new footage."

Building Blocks to Mars - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference a panel of experts from NASA and industry discussed the building blocks of to Mars.

The panel discussion: The first step on a path of exploration that will lead to human landings on Mars will be taken in the coming months with the Exploration Flight Test 1 of Orion on a Delta IV Heavy rocket. After that, Orion and Space Launch System will begin a series of exploration missions that will lead to human journeys to Mars. As a capabilities-driven framework, these systems will enable a variety of potential paths to the Red Planet."

Marc's note: The panel discussed the "current" NASA approach. Politics, the private sector, other efforts outside the U.S. were not part of the discussion.

NASA Exploration Technology Review - AIAA Space 2014, SpaceRef Business

"At this years AIAA Space 2014 conference NASA provided a panel of experts to discuss their Exploration Technology. The panel focused on the importance of sustained space technology investments to current and future explorations missions with special emphasis on future asteroid and Mars mission requirements. The panelists also discussed recent technology project successes and challenges."

NASA Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Report #2 - 2014 [Video], NASA

"NASA has released its quarterly from the Exploration Systems Division on the ongoing Orion, Space Launch System, Ground Systems Development and Operations programs for April, May and June of 2014."

3 commercial companies compete in new space race, Houston Chronicle

"NASA should make its decision on the "commercial crew" competition in the next few weeks. At stake is not just a $4 billion contract, but prestige. The next spacecraft that flies U.S. astronauts will have an American flag, yes, but also a prominent corporate logo. That company will also join the elite club - whose only members include the United States, Russia and China - that has flown humans in space."

Marc's note: Insider vs outsider, who will win?

Also, while the article overall is worth reading, the characterization of Senator Bill Nelson as "a former astronaut" is misleading if you don't the know history. Nelson indeed did fly as a mission specialist on STS-61C, but he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time and like Senator Jake Garn who preceded him the year before, he flew on the Space Shuttle because of his role in the House of Representatives.

On-Orbit Servicing Update

The Near Term Future of On-Orbit Servicing is Robotic, SpaceRef Business

"Currently, over "$500 billion dollars in satellite assets are stationed in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)," according to Gordon Roesler, a program manager in the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), and if those assets break down, "given the remote, heavily radiated atmosphere of GEO, a company only has one replacement option at this time - launching a replacement system."

Ten-year Study Highlights Sleep Deficiency and Sleep Medication use in Astronauts

"In an extensive study of sleep monitoring and sleeping pill use in astronauts, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Colorado found that astronauts suffer considerable sleep deficiency in the weeks leading up to and during space flight. The research also highlights widespread use of sleeping medication use among astronauts."

Marc's note: Google last week launched new maps for the moon and Mars. They're available here:


NASA Holds Briefing on New Planetary Landing Technology, SpaceRef

"Today NASA held a briefing on its recent Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project test. LDSD is a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle which may be used on future planetary missions."

Yes, Virginia, You Will Be Able to Download your iTunes on Mars, Eventually, SpaceRef

"Our world is becoming rapidly connected and as humanity ventures off planet they will take their appetites for LOLz, cat memes, silly YouTube videos, and iTunes with them making a need for space-based internet and other broadband services a reality according to panelists speaking on "The Future of Space-Based Communications" at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Space is Dangerous - Be Prepared (AIAA Space 2014 Astronaut Panel) , SpaceRef

"The panel fielded questions about NASA's seemingly risk adverse culture and its possible effect on future exploration, with Crippen admitting that "NASA has become risk adverse." Brandenstein added "that if we would have had the risk culture of the late shuttle era at its beginning, we would have never have launched STS-1."

... "On actual cooperation with the Chinese, Crippen expressed his support: "I believe we ought to be approaching the Chinese to be a part of that as well, they have a space program, they are well proven. We did it with the Russians and it worked out well for us." Crippen also noted that cooperation and information sharing would "naturally be tempered by national security concerns."

NIAC Announces Five Phase II Funded Concepts, SpaceRef Business

"Looking ahead to an exciting future, NASA is continuing to invest in concepts that may one day revolutionize how we live and work in space with the selection of five technology proposals for continued study under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program."

Our Nation Networks of Spaceports is Thriving - But More Needs to Be Done to Ensure Continued Growth, SpaceRef Business

"The nation's commercial spaceport network will be expanding from the "8 that are operating now, to 17 in the next few years," Brian Gulliver, a spaceport development team leader at Reynolds, Smith and Hills, told an audience attending the panel "An Expanding Network of Commercial Spaceports" this morning at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Spacecraft on Track for November 2016 Launch, SpaceRef Business

"Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft is "on track for its anticipated first launch in November 2016," Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC Space Systems, told a press conference on August 5, 2014, at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

Related: Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Program Expands, SpaceRef Business

"The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced an expansion of its Dream Chaser program, which now includes a mix of small businesses, legacy aerospace firms, university partners, and foreign space operation organizations, in "32 states, 50 Congressional districts, and 2 foreign nations."

The Past is Prologue to the Future When It Comes to the Next Decade of Mars Exploration, SpaceRef

"Past missions, and in some case the spare parts of past missions, will help drive the next decade of Mars exploration, a panel of experts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of California at Berkeley, told an audience yesterday at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

ESA Releases Stunning New Images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA

Marc's note: ESA has released these detailed images from Rosetta of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko now that it's in "orbit". The images use the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera from a distance of 285 km. Image resolution is 5.3 metres/pixel.

Comet Siding Spring's October Encounter with Mars Will Create 30 Minutes of Concern for Global Space Agencies, SpaceRef (An AIAA Space 2014 Report)

"On October 19, 2014, at 18:32 UTC, Comet Siding Spring (2013A1) will pass Mars at roughly 150,000 kilometers, about 1/3 the distance between Earth and the Moon, in a direction putting it on a track for its dust to pass over the Martian North Pole, possibly endangering, over a thirty minute window, the collection of orbital spacecraft currently on station in that region."

SpaceX Signs Agreement with Texas for Brownsville Spaceport, SpaceRef Business

"Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that the state of Texas will provide incentives to SpaceX so that the company can build a commercial spaceport in Cameron County.

The incentives include $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). As well the state will provide $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. to support the development of infrastructure necessary for establishing a spaceport."

Gov. Perry Announces State Incentives Bringing SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility, 300 Jobs to the Brownsville Area

Marc's note: Hours after signing the agreement with Texas SpaceX launched AsiaSat 8 (Watch).



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