March 19 News Items

ViaSat Changes Launchers as Proton Prices Drop (Space News)
ViaSat Inc. is canceling its contract with Arianespace for an Ariane 5 launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite in favor of an International Launch Services (ILS) Russian Proton rocket, ViaSat announced March 11. The decision will save ViaSat some $20 million even if it pays contract-cancellation penalties to Arianespace, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company said March 11. (3/19)

GSA & NASA Ames Plan Small Business Outreach Event on Apr. 14 (Source: NASA Ames)
On Apr. 14 the General Services Administration and the NASA Ames Research Center will hold a small business outreach event from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the NASA Ames Conference Center. This event is free and is open to NASA employees, NASA contractors and all government employees in the San Francisco Bay Area. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with representatives of local small businesses on GSA federal contracts. Firms exhibiting include those in the areas of space technology, aerospace engineering, research and development, Information Technology (IT), emerging technologies, software applications, simulations, systems safety and assurance, logistics and technical services, environmental services and comprehensive facility maintenance services. Questions on the event can be directed to Mark Reiss at or Lupe Velasquez at (3/19)

ILS and SES Announce Three New Proton Launches (Source: ILS)
International Launch Services (ILS) and SES announced three new launch assignments under the Multi Launch Agreement that was signed in June 2007 between ILS and SES Satellite Leasing Limited, SES’ satellite procurement and leasing company in the Isle of Man. This innovative agreement was designed to provide SES with increased flexibility in their launch plans and improved schedule assurance. Two of the missions will be NSS-14 for SES NEW SKIES and Sirius 5 for SES SIRIUS. These missions are scheduled respectively for late 2010 and 2011. Additionally, Proton has been designated to launch the OS-1 mission in early 2010, destined for the U.S. domestic arc. (3/19)

Iran's First Satellite 'Completes Mission' (Source: AFP)
Iran's first ever home-built satellite, which was sent into orbit last month, has now completed its mission, state television reported. The launch of the Omid (Hope) satellite sent alarm bells ringing in the international community, which voiced concern over Iran's development of technology that could be used for military purposes. "The satellite did not encounter any technical problems," space expert Asghar Ebrahimi was quoted by the television as saying. "The satellite has successfully completed its mission." He said the satellite would remain in orbit for another 38 days before re-entering Earth's atmosphere. (3/19)

Dragon: Is it Safe? (Source: Air & Space Magazine)
In a hulking industrial building on the west side of Los Angeles, a machine called the Mazak AJV-60 fabricates what may well be the next rocket and capsule to carry people into space. Other machines whir and grind in the background, part of the assembly line that upstart company SpaceX has built in the shadow of nearby aerospace giants such as Northrop Grumman and Boeing. In the next few years, SpaceX will place the capsule, Dragon, atop its Falcon 9 rocket and send it into space carrying cargo and, the company hopes, NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

Dragon looks like a larger, slimmer version of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules that once lofted Americans into space. But if SpaceX is going to launch astronauts, it will have to become the first private company to meet a little-known set of NASA safety standards, NPR 8705.2B, "Human-Rating Requirements for Space Systems." NASA broadly defines human rating as a design process. Spacecraft with humans aboard must offer them enough control to get out of bad situations, and to take advantage of ways to make the flight a success. A crew must have a means to recover from all sorts of emergencies, from launch pad to orbit.

During the coming five-year gap, NASA's alternative is to buy seats on Russia's Soyuz capsule. But SpaceX's Dragon, developed in part with NASA money, may offer a homebuilt, economical alternative. The company plans to stick to a budget that would make its seats a bargain at no more than $15 million each—-those on the Soyuz capsule now cost between $35 million and $45 million. So, SpaceX will test a key question: Is it possible to make a rocket safe enough for humans and cheaper than its predecessors? Click here to view the article. (3/19)

Atlas Waits Behind Delta (Source: Florida Today)
A Delta rocket mission is leap-frogging to the front of Florida's Space Coast launch line-up due to a delay in sending up the Atlas V rocket grounded earlier this week by an engine valve failure. The U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance plan to launch a Delta II rocket and a GPS satellite early next Tuesday. A graveyard shift launch window will extend from 4:34 a.m. to 4:39 a.m. (3/19)

Mars Researchers Take an Arctic Road Trip (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Sea ice is dwindling all across the Arctic, so much so that in 2007, ice melt opened up the fabled Northwest Passage, the all-water route across the American continent that ill-fated voyages sought for centuries. The region might become even waterier in years to come, but one research team is going on a scientific road trip along the northern sea ice while they have the chance. Starting next month, adventurers from the Mars Institute plan to drive a modified Humvee across more than 1200 miles of treacherous thin ice and frozen ground, becoming the first road vehicle to drive the route of the Northwest Passage. This trip is meant to be a dry run for an even more extreme environment—the surface of Mars. (3/19)

Japan Eyes Lunar Landing (Source: Aviation Week)
Veteran Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata's long-duration stay on the International Space Station (ISS), which began March 17 when he transferred his Soyuz seat liner to the station's Russian lifeboat, kicks off an ambitious human spaceflight effort for Japan that could eventually see Japanese landers on the moon. The key to Japan's plans for the human portion of its space program centers on the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), an autonomous cargo carrier scheduled to make its first flight to the ISS in September on an H-IIB rocket.

The 16.5-ton spacecraft was designed to deliver six tons of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, primarily for the Kibo laboratory module and station logistics. But Kuniaki Shiraki, executive director of the human spaceflight program at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said March 17 that JAXA is considering HTV upgrades as part of the agency's 10-year plan now in development. (3/19)

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