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Leading the News (19th September, 2016)
Senate Committee Aims To Shield Mars Mission From Major Changes.
The Wall Street Journal (9/17, Subscription Publication) reported that the Senate Commerce Committee intends to adopt a bill that would prevent a future president from making major changes to NASA Mars mission programs. The measure would ensure funding stability following the November elections, and help prevent future cuts to rocket and spacecraft programs under the mission. The bill also explicitly states NASA should aim for “a capability to extend human presence, including potential human habitation, on the surface” of Mars. The Journal noted that although the provision would not be legally binding on either members of Congress or the president, it could make it more difficult politically to make major changes to such programs.
Space News (9/16, Subscription Publication) reported that the bill, called the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016, would also “require NASA to evaluate alternatives to its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and develop a plan to transition activities currently performed on the International Space Station to commercial platforms.”
Aviation and Aeronautics
US Air Force Plans To Shrink Manned Aircraft Fleet.
Defense News (9/18) reports that the US Air Force, according to an analysis by Avascent, is planning to “divest 232 T-38 trainers, 166 A-10 Warthogs and 160 F-16s over the next five years, while adding 185 F-35s.” The overall fleet would drop by 235 planes by 2021, though the service’s “target-drone inventory” would grow by 108 aircraft, and the UAV fleet would grow, “with 81 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned systems scheduled for procurement.” Congress is expected to prevent the retirement of legacy aircraft, however, since “the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 are largely protected,” and the article concludes that one can expect “new programs such as the T-X trainer or JSTARs replacement to be pushed back yet again.”
Drone World Expo To Feature Commercial UAV Applications.
Aviation International News (9/16) reported that Drone World Expo will be held November 15 and 16 in San Jose, California, and will feature “more than 100 industry experts.” UAV applications in “imaging, construction, photography and video, precision agriculture, security, public safety, mapping and surveying, inspections, research and conservation, communications, parcel delivery and humanitarian efforts” will be represented at the expo.
Iran Transport Official: US To Grant Licenses For Boeing, Airbus Aircraft.
Bloomberg News (9/18) reports that Iran’s Deputy Transport Minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan said Sunday that he expects the US Treasury to grant licenses for the purchase of more than 200 Boeing and Airbus aircraft by the end of the month, and that he anticipates delivery of the planes before March 2017. Kashan said, “The US should’ve issued the licenses already and they haven’t done that,” adding that the licenses will be issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). According to Kashan, Iran has a $10 billion financing deal with a leasing company for the Airbus aircraft.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin To Gain Most From $38 Billion US-Israel Aid Package.
In continuing coverage, Zacks Investment Research (9/16) reported that the $38 billion US to Israel military aid package has “been structured such that the majority of the Israeli defense spending goes to US companies,” and that Israel can only spend 26.3% of funding it receives on products manufactured at home. Boeing and Lockheed Martin “are expected to gain the most” from the deal through upgrades to Israel’s current fleet of fighter jets and the acquisition of 33 F-35 fighter jets. Israel will also receive “several C-130 heavy-lift cargo planes, four SAAR 6 Corvettes, Merkava tanks and Namer Armored Personnel Carriers, Hellfire missiles, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and other Precision Guided Munitions.”
Airbus To Launch Restructuring Initiative.
The Financial Times (9/18, Subscription Publication) reports that Airbus CEO Tom Enders is planning a restructuring initiative for next month, aiming to cut costs in order to offset losses from its A380 superjumbo and A400M transport aircraft programs.
Air Force Grounds 15 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters For Insulation Problem.
The Washington Post (9/16) reported that the US Air Force announced Friday that it is temporarily grounding 15 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets after discovering “peeling and crumbling” insulation inside their fuel tanks, the “latest problem for the $400 billion system.” An Air Force spokesperson said that “the F-35 is still in development and challenges are to be expected.” According to the service, 57 aircraft are affected, 42 of which are still in production.
Headlines from AIAA SPACE 2016
We encourage our readers to visit the AIAA SPACE 2016 forum notebook to learn more about the dynamic discussions that took place in Long Beach, CA, 13–15 September. Headlines from the forum include:
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Space and Astronautics
Arianespace’s Mowry To Join Blue Origin.
Space News (9/16, Subscription Publication) reported that Arianespace President and former Satellite Industry Association Director Clay Mowry will join Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Wiener Kernisan is to succeed Mowry as Arianespace’s president, according to a company release.
Wildfire Postpones ULA Launch In California.
The AP (9/18) reports that the launch of an Atlas 5 rocket carrying a WorldView-4 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base was delayed due to a wildfire that required firefighters be redeployed away from the launch site. According to United Launch Alliance (ULA), the launch will be posted until after September 26. The Lockheed Martin satellite will be operated by Digital Globe to provide high-resolution images of Earth for customers.
In contradictory coverage, the CBS News (9/16) reported that the delay was due to “a ‘very small’ hydrogen leak in a ground system that caused an unusual ‘ice ball’ to develop on an umbilical.”
Roscosmos Announces Delay Of Soyuz Spacecraft Launch.
CBS News (9/17) reported that the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced Saturday that the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft, due to carry three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), has been delayed indefinitely “for technical reasons after tests at the Baikonur Space Center.” Soyuz MS-02 commander Sergey Ryzhikov, flight engineer Andrey Borisenko, and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough were to dock at ISS on September 25 to replace Soyuz MS-01 commander Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi.
Pratt & Whitney Cuts Jet-Engine Delivery Targets For 2016.
Bloomberg News (9/16) reported that Pratt & Whitney cut its 2016 delivery target from 200 to 150 for its new jet engines “as the company grapples with production issues that have marred the turbine’s rollout.” Pratt parent company United Technologies Corp CEO Greg Hayes said, “Nobody’s happy. ... The airlines aren’t happy they’re not getting the engines. We’re not happy we’re not delivering.” Hayes said Pratt will increase production rates to deliver between 350 to 400 geared turbofan engines next year to keep up with demand, an “unprecedented ramp” in production. On Friday, Pratt & Whitney President Bob Leduc said that the company is working to reduce production time for the engine’s fan blades from 60 days to just 30 days.
Musk To Reveal Details Of Interplanetary Transport System.
Ars Technica (9/18) reports that Elon Musk will provide details on SpaceX’s plans for the newly renamed Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), formerly the Mars Colonial Transporter, at a September 27 session during the International Astronautical Congress. Musk has said the craft “can go well beyond Mars,” implying that the ITS could reach other destinations. Ars Technica names “moons around Jupiter and Saturn” as possibilities, and notes that “Musk appears to be pushing full steam ahead into deep space.”
Liquid Water Existed On Mars A Billion Years Later Than Previously Thought.
Business Insider (9/16) reported that NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured images which reveal that “a considerable amount of water” existed on Mars approximately a billion years later than was previously thought, according to researchers. Smithsonian Institution research team leader Sharon Wilson said, “We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins. ...Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time.” According to Wilson, the lake basins existing between 2 and 3 billion years ago held approximately 670 cubic miles of water, and were likely fed by runoff from melting snow. The research was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets.
Aldrin Opens Kennedy Space Center’s “Destination: Mars” Experience.
USA Today (9/18) reports that astronaut Buzz Aldrin attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new “Destination: Mars” experience on Sunday. The exhibit, developed by Microsoft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, features images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover that visitors can view using a Microsoft HoloLens “mixed reality” headset. Aldrin, who is chairman of STEM education organization ShareSpace Foundation, said he hopes the Mars mission efforts will cause a new version of “the Apollo effect,” which stimulated interest in STEM during the lead up to NASA’s moon landing.
NASA Glenn Research Center Inducts Nine To Hall Of Fame.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/17) reported that NASA Glenn Research Center inducted nine new members into its Hall of Fame on September 14, its 75th anniversary. The inductees are STEM education advocate R. Lynn Bondurant Jr.; physicist and former Director Julian M. Earls; Sanford Goron; Bonnie McBride; physics professor Harold Kaufman; researcher Lonnie Reid; Guggenheim fellow Eli Reshotko; former Center Director Andrew Stofan; and engineer Steven Szabo.
Legislation and Policy
New Zealand Gives Go-Ahead For Commercial Space Launches.
ONE News (NZL) (9/15) reports that the New Zealand government has given permission to Rocket Lab to operate space launches from the country’s Mahia Peninsula. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced that a contract has been signed that allows the company to go ahead with launches before legislation is officially passed, and that launches will begin next year. Joyce said, “This contract is an important milestone in the work the Government is doing to support the development of a New Zealand-based space industry,” and noted that the country has “clear skies, access to good launch angles, a skilled workforce and an innovation-friendly business environment.”
Officials Call For Policies, Industry Standards To Manage LEO Satellites.
The Wall Street Journal (9/16, Subscription Publication) reported that at AIAA SPACE 2016 last week, Air Force and NASA officials said that they envision both federal rules and voluntary industry standards for management of satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). The Air Force’s Winston Beauchamp said, “Multiple companies are planning constellations of hundreds, or even thousands, of small satellites.” In order to monitor and track them all effectively, operators and authorities “really need to set up some rules of the road, some standards [and] some technical” specifications, he said.
Airlines Call For Privatization Of ATC, Delta Remains Opposed.
The Street (9/16) reported that the US airline industry voiced support for privatization of the air traffic control system (ATC) at the Airline for America (A4A) annual summit. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, “We need to get ATC reform done,” while Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that for the airline industry, “the No. 1 issue is the air traffic control system.” However, Delta Air Lines remains opposed to privatization; a Delta spokesperson said, “Delta does not oppose reform. ... But we do oppose privatization and upheaval. ... The nation’s air traffic system needs to be modernized through next generation technologies and procedures,” which privatization could endanger.
SkySkopes, Sharper Shape Seek UAV Beyond-Line-Of-Sight FAA Exemptions.
ABC News (9/18) reports that several commercial UAV operators, including SkySkopes and Sharper Shape, are pursuing FAA exemptions that would allow the companies to operate UAVs beyond the line of sight. The FAA has until now only issued such exemptions to three companies, all of which participated in a year-long pilot program: CNN, BNSF Railway, and PrecisionHawk. According to SkySkopes’ President and CEO Matt Dunlevy, it is “extremely important” that the FAA issue more waivers. Dunlevy said, “That is the silver bullet that’s really going to unlock the potential in our industry.”
FAA Seeks To Take On Role As “Traffic Cop” For Satellites In Space.
The Wall Street Journal (9/18, Subscription Publication) reports that recent developments on Capitol Hill indicate that the FAA is seeking to take over part of the Defense Department’s responsibilities for overseeing and policing the approximately 1,400 commercial satellites orbiting Earth. At AIAA SPACE 2016, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation George Nield said that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx submitted a report earlier this month that explains that the FAA is both ready and capable of taking on the responsibilities of monitoring and notifying operators of collision hazards.
Also in the News
France, Egypt Split Over TNT Traces On EgyptAir Crash Debris.
Reuters (9/17) reported that French investigators say that they were prevented from further examining debris from a May 19 EgyptAir plane crash after finding “trace levels of the explosive material TNT” on it. France has declined to validate the presence of TNT, as it says its investigation was obstructed before the source of the traces could be determined. An Egyptian investigation committee has denied the charge, saying that “None of the investigators were prevented from participating in investigations, but rather the work is being done jointly according to the conduct of the investigative process.”
Friday's Lead Stories
• China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Lab.
• GoPro Releases “Teaser Video” For Karma Quadcopter UAV.
• Vega Rocket Launches, Delivers Five Earth Observation Satellites To Orbit.
• Proposed Legislation Seeks Clarity For Commercial Space Regulation Authority.
• NASA Official: Mission To Mars Is “Not A Competition” With Private Industry.
• Astronaut Jeff Williams Describes Experience In Space.
The news is about coming.