CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22nd, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. U.S. House appropriators back a spending increase for NASA’s Space Launch System exploration rocket as part of the agency’s 2016 budget. The new Disney production Tomorrowland invites hope for the future through its central character, a young woman with dreams of space travel. Why are there no moons around the large asteroid Vesta? India looks to build on its successful moon and Mars missions. The European Space Agency declares it will not wage the campaign against manmade orbital debris alone. Russia plans multiple Soyuz launch complexes at Plesetsk. NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive mission spacecraft completes its commissioning phase and begins science observations. The U.S. House passes legislation on Thursday extending regulatory protection to the commercial space industry. Space Florida launches a space tourism initiative that encourages visitors to witness a rocket launch. XCOR’s Mojave, Calif., team prepares for suborbital passenger flights with the Lynx space plane.

Human Deep Space Exploration

NASA’s Space Launch System gets big push from House Appropriations Committee

The Huntsville Times (5/22): The U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week approved a proposed 2016 budget increase of $150 million for development of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket for future human exploration.  If the full House and U.S. Senate agree, SLS spending would rise to $1.85 billion next year. In addition to launching NASA’s crewed Orion capsule, the SLS would also start a robotic spacecraft on its way to Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter, in 2022. Overall, NASA spending in 2016 would rise to $18.53 billion.

Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’ draws inspiration from NASA’s past and future (5/22): Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, from which space shuttles and Apollo moon rockets once launched, has a feature role in Disney’s new movie, Tomorrowland.  In the film, young Casey Newton aligns her dream of flying in space with a fictional inventor played by actor George Clooney.  Tomorrowland, based on the original Disney attraction, is a “celebration of imagination, optimism and joy,” according to one reviewer.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Vesta has no moons: Is it unlucky or did it eat them?

New Scientist (5/23): The large main belt asteroid Vesta claims no moons, which is unusual for a large planetary body in the solar system.  Moons may have existed once but merged with Vesta in the past, according to scientists.

ISRO planning another inter-planetary expedition

Deccan Herald, of India (5/21): Following successful robotic missions to Mars and the Earth’s moon, the Indian Space Research Organization is weighing destination options for a future mission, according to ISRO Chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar.

Low Earth Orbit

Dordain says ESA cannot go it alone in debris mitigation

Space News (5/21): Jean-Jacques Dordain, the soon to depart leader of the European Space Agency, says efforts to deal with the mounting issue of manmade orbital debris must draw support from other nations, or ESA will with withdraw from the initiative. Dordain also criticized the U.S. for excluding China from future space planning and failing to establish more clearly defined long term exploration goals.

Three Soyuz-2 launch sites to be built at Russia’s Plesetsk spaceport by 2019

TASS (5/21): The Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, envisions three new Soyuz launch pads in Plesetsk, a military launch complex. The development increases the prospects Russia will no longer have to depend on Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for most Soyuz launches.

NASA’S SMAP spacecraft begins science operations

Spaceflight Insider (5/21): Launched in January, NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive mission spacecraft cleared the commissioning phase of its three year mission this week. The spacecraft will contribute measurements of soil moisture conditions on a global scale that can be used for drought assessment and disaster planning.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

House passes bill to promote space exploration

The Hill (5/21): The U.S. House on Thursday passed legislation that encourages investment in private sector space exploration. The bill’s provisions would reauthorize risk-sharing insurance programs for commercial space launches for another decade. It would also direct NASA to report to Congress on how the government and international governments regulate space traffic and orbital debris.

House passes bill to benefit commercial space industry

USA Today (5/21): The U.S. House votes to extend regulatory protection to the U.S. commercial space sector on Thursday. The U.S. Senate’s support for the less than bi-partisan legislation is unclear, according to the report.

Space Florida launches rocket tourism campaign

Orlando Sentinel (5/21): Space Florida’s “We Are Go” campaign draws on history and the future to tout Florida’s Space Coast as the place for tourists to witness a space launch and invest in the future of commercial space.


You may be able to travel to space for $100,000

ABC News (5/22): In Mojave, Calif., XCOR’s Lynx suborbital space passenger plane is coming together. The developers envision 30 minute trips to space beginning possibly in a year for the rocket powered spacecraft that takes off and lands on a runway. The initial $100,000 per passenger cost will drop, according to the report.

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