Proposal Would Make It Criminal to Keep Spacecraft Parts

BY HOPE DEAN OF FRESH Take Florida news service, Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida. . TITUSVILLE, Fla. AP Lawmakers in Florida, where private firm SpaceX is increasingly launching missions to outer space, are considering a bill to add criminal penalties for anyone who finds a spacecraft or parts of one and tries to keep it. . . The proposals would require anyone in Florida who finds a spacecraft or reasonably identifiable parts to notify law enforcement officers. They also would require police or sheriffs deputies to try to find the objects rightful owner. . . The bills would protect spacecraft, satellites, parachutes or other landing aids, and any other equipment attached to the launch vehicle during launch, orbit, reentry, or recovery. The plan reflects the eagerness for Floridas Space Coast to remain the dominant player for mission launches by the emerging private space industry. . . More flights are taking off from Florida than from anywhere else in the world and bill sponsor Sen. Tom Wright, R-Port Orange, said he wants it to stay that way. . . Thats one of the things that we are all working hard to do, is to attract more space companies and keep Florida the space port of the world, Wright said during a recent committee meeting where the panel voted for the bill unanimously. . . Under the House and Senate bills, violators would risk a first-degree misdemeanor charge and could face up to one year in jail, a year of probation and a fine of up to $1,000. The crime would be misappropriation of a spaceflight asset. . . Those could be stacked on existing theft penalties up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine at its worst that already can be assessed against someone for trying to keep spacecraft parts without permission, according to a Senate analysis of the legislation. . . The bill would apply to parts found on private or public property. It also gives law enforcement permission to enter private property to recover parts if officers believe it would be necessary to avoid danger to the public or could prevent damage or destruction of the equipment. . . Elon Musks SpaceX company, which lobbied for the bills, accounted for 25 of last years 31 successful flights from Floridas Space Coast, tourism officials said. The number of overall flights broke a record set in 1966. There could be as many as 53 launches this year. . . This new generation of space technology reuses some spacecraft parts, said Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, one of the bills other sponsors. Finding those after a mission can save companies money and time but not if theyre picked up by memorabilia-seekers. . . Last August, about two dozen boaters approached too close to watch the splashdown of a manned SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the coast of Pensacola after a mission to the International Space Station. The U. S. Coast Guard said boaters ignored orders to stay out of the area. . . It points to the danger that exists with the increased amount of companies that are going to be launching off of our coasts, said Elisha Converse, a legislative assistant to Wright. People get closer than they should and probably feel more comfortable than they should touching or taking any of these items. . . He said the bills were a proactive measure to prevent thefts, more than a reaction to them. . . Space parts can be dangerous, laden with toxic chemicals. The legislation would affirm that the parts belong to the company that launched them unless they expressly announce they were abandoning interests in them. . . Despite more launches, finding or stealing spacecraft pieces is rare, according to Floridas Office of Economic and Demographic Research. But it happens. . . At least twice in the past five years, people approached the American Space Museum in Titusville to appraise protective heat-shield tiles from shuttle Challenger, which exploded over the ocean after liftoff in 1986, collections analyst Charles Jeffrey said. . . I tell them to do one of two things, he said. Call NASA and turn in those parts, or take them back in the ocean where you got them. . . Similarly, federal prosecutors filed charges against people caught trying to sell debris from the shuttle Columbia after it broke apart during re-entry over eastern Texas and western Louisiana in 2003. . . SpaceX is lobbying for the bill, but the entire competitive space industry is supportive of it, SpaceX lobbyist Taylor Biehl said. He declined to discuss the bills further. . . Florida residents should be aware of laws regarding space parts, said Robert Pearlman, the editor of space history and memorabilia collection website collectSPACE. If someone finds debris they think may be spacecraft parts, its better to turn it in than hide it in the garage, he said. . . Authorities are happy to cooperate with the public in making sure these pieces go to the right place, he said. But be prepared if it is from a spacecraft, its not going to be a situation where youre likely going to be able to retain ownership.

Spacewalkers continue solar power system upgrade
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut who last walked in space more than 15 years ago, ventured outside the International Space Station Friday to continue solar power system upgrades and to finish wiring up a European experiment platform.The astronauts, floating in the Quest airlock compartment, switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6. 37 a.m. EST to officially kick off the years fourth spacewalk, the 236th since station assembly began in 1998.What a view! Noguchi said as he floated out of the airlock some 260 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.For identification, Rubins, call sign EV-1, is wearing a suit with red stripes and is using helmet camera No. 22. She also is equipped with a new high-definition video camera. Noguchi, call sign EV-2, is wearing an unmarked suit and using helmetcam 20.Rubins is a veteran of three spacewalks, including one last Sunday with crewmate Victor Glover. Noguchi also is a three-spacewalk veteran, but his last excursion came in 2005 during the first post-Columbia shuttle mission.Last Sunday, Rubins and Glover installed a new solar array support fixture at the base of the labs far left set of solar wings. The fixture is designed to support new roll-out solar blankets that will be installed later to boost the stations power generation.But the astronauts had problems fully seating two bolts connecting struts in the Tinker Toy-like fixture. Rubins and Noguchi planned to troubleshoot the balky bolts Friday and to finish assembly of a second solar array support fixture.Rubins then will venture to the front of the European Space Agencys Columbus laboratory module, where an external experiment platform — Bartolomeo — is attached. Once in position, she will finish making electrical and data connections between the platform and the lab module that were not completed during a January spacewalk.While Rubins works at Bartolomeo, Noguchi planned to replace a failed wireless transceiver unit on the central Unity module that is used to capture helmet camera video and radio communications during spacewalks.NASA plans to install six new ISS roll-out solar arrays, or IROSA, blankets that are scheduled for delivery later this year and next aboard SpaceX Dragon cargo ships. Additional spacewalks will be needed to install additional support fixtures and, eventually, the new roll-out blankets.The space station is equipped with four primary solar array wings, two on each side of the labs power truss. Each wing is made up of two 39-foot-wide blankets extending 112 feet in opposite directions. The first two-blanket wing was launched in December 2000 with additional pairs delivered in 2006, 2007 and 2009.Solar cells degrade over time and NASA is adding six new blankets, at a cost of 103 million, to the existing power system. Each one of the new IROSA blankets measure 20 feet wide by 63 feet long when fully extended, generating more than 20 kilowatts.Combined with the 95 kilowatt output of the original eight panels, the stations upgraded system will provide about 215,000 kilowatts of power, enough for NASA-sponsored research and anticipated commercial activity between now and the end of the decade.