Quick Takes (06-20-16)

Wanda Austin

Wanda Austin


Before closing the book on the Aerospace Corp., outgoing CEO pens one

Wanda Austin, the outgoing chief executive of the Aerospace Corporation, is sharing what she’s learned about leadership from four decades in the space business in a new book released June 5.

The book, available in Amazon’s Kindle format, is titled “Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World.” Proceeds from the book go toward Aerospace’s    STEM Endowment Fund.

Among the lessons Austin discusses are relying on mentors, developing a work ethic and proving assumptions wrong. The Aerospace Corp. is a federally funded not-for-profit research center that provides engineering advice on the Air Force’s space programs. Austin has led the organization since 2008 and is scheduled to retire Oct. 1.

Make American Satellites Great Again

Donald Trump, the GOP's presumptive U.S. presidential nominee, hasn't said much about space, beyond "I love NASA!"

Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive U.S. presidential nominee, hasn’t said much about space, beyond “I love NASA!”

The Aerospace Industries Association briefed Donald Trump June 9 on issues important to its members. AIA declined to comment on specifics, but pointed to its position papers, including one on space, which highlights that since 2006 the U.S. civilian space workforce has shrunk 17 percent due to fewer exports, less government spending and increased foreign competition. AIA notes that just one of the world’s 25 largest commercial satellite operators is based in the United States.

Controlled Burn

A few hours after Orbital ATK’s Cygnus departed the International Space Station June 14, controllers at NASA activated a combustion experiment called Saffire onboard the unmanned cargo tug to test how materials burn in space.

A full-sized test version ESA’s European Service Module arrived in Cleveland in November 2015 and was transported to NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station for testing in the Space Power Facility in 2016. Credit: NASA

A full-sized test version ESA’s European Service Module arrived in Cleveland in November 2015 and was transported to NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station for testing in the Space Power Facility in 2016. Credit: NASA

Orion service module shipment delayed

The European-built service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be shipped to the United States three months late to accommodate design modifications ESA, NASA and the two main industrial teams — Airbus Defence and Space and Lockheed Martin Space Systems — recommended during a June 16 program review at ESA’s Estec facility in the Netherlands.

ESA and Airbus now expect to ship the service module to NASA and Lockheed Martin by the end of next April — or roughly 18 months before NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket is slated to launch an uncrewed Orion on a three-week mission to the moon and back.

Nico Dettman, head of ESA’s space transportation department, said the delay was driven in part by NASA reassessing the stresses the service module needs to be capable of handling in orbit.

These “in-orbit load” specifications have recently been tightened. But any design modifications will not affect the service module’s core structure, he said.

“If it has an impact, it will be limited to the solar array wings, not the structure — nothing where flight hardware has been manufactured that we will have to touch,” Dettman said of the fresh requirements.

“It’s a late modification, but not too late.”


Significant Figures

$445 million
The maximum seven-year value of a contract CACI International won June 13 to consolidate work on the U.S. Air Force’s main satellite control network. The Consolidated Air Force Satellite Control Network Modifications Maintenance and Operations contract, or CAMMO, is one of the largest Air Force space contracts expected this year.

52.9 percent
The percentage of launch competitions between now and the end of 2022 that United Launch Alliance would need to win in order to use all 18 Russian RD-180 rocket engines the U.S. Senate approved for use in its version of the 2017 defense authorization bill.

49 percent
The size of the ownership stake the Luxembourg government taking in Planetary Resources’ European operations. The June 13 announcement is part of a broader effort by Luxembourg to take a leading role in the emerging space resources field. The value of this deal was not immediately known, but the government previously announced it had set aside 200 million euros for this effort, which would include company investments.

SpaceX’s win-loss record after its latest attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage broke a three-win streak that began April 8 with its first successful droneship landing. Falcon has successfully landed four times (the first time was on land ) in nine attempts over 17 months.

30 Seconds on Mars: A red planet round-up

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Andy Samberg

Andy Samberg

Tim Meadows

Tim Meadows

“Connor, we’ve talked about this. 30 Seconds to Mars is the name of a band, it’s not a fact.”

— Popstar agent Harry (Tim Meadows) reminding his client, Connor 4 Real (Andy Samberg), that the singer’s embarrassing wardrobe malfunction — which lasted all of 10 seconds — was not, in fact, the temporal equivalent of “a third of the way to Mars!”

The movie, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, opened in U.S. theaters June 3.


  • The European Space Agency Council, meeting in Paris last week, backed plans to launch the ExoMars lander and rover mission in 2020, two years later than previously planned. That support includes the immediate release of 77 million euros ($87 million) to ensure work on the mission is not further delayed. ESA officials said the rover mission now has a “realistic technical schedule” to support that 2020 launch.
  • NASA and the UAE Space Agency signed a cooperative agreement June 12 that includes NASA’s support for UAE’s first Mars mission, an orbiter scheduled for launch in 2020.
  • Elon Musk told the Washington Post that SpaceX will land a total of three Red Dragon capsules on Mars by 2020 and then fly a spacecraft in 2022 known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, which would eventually carry humans to Mars. Musk said SpaceX would have to “get lucky” in order to start flying humans to Mars in 2024.