April 3 News Items

Japan Successfully Tests New H-IIB Rocket's First Stage (Source: JAXA)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries performed the first captive firing test for the first stage flight model tank of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle on Apr. 2 at the Tanegashima spaceport. The test went smoothly and was intended to verify the safety of firing two engines simultaneously; confirm the interface between the launch vehicle and the ground facility; and confirm the countdown sequence up to liftoff. (4/2)

Undergraduates Invited to Apply for Summer Workshops at KSC (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and the Florida Space Grant Consortium invite undergraduates registered at Florida universities and colleges to attend 5-day Workshops scheduled throughout the year. The next workshops are on May 4-8 and May 11-15. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. The workshops provide the building blocks necessary to advance education goals, as well as assist students entering the space / science workplace. Students are engaged in stimulating science and math activities as well as offering exciting opportunities to meet key employers and scientists at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Visit http://www.spaceflorida.gov/undergrad.php for information. (4/2)

Atlas V Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The Air Force and United Launch Alliance launched a next-generation military communication satellite into space on Friday night from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Global Wideband SATCOM-2 spacecraft was the payload. It's the second of three next-generation satellites built through a $790 million Air Force program that will replace an existing constellation. Five are ultimately planned. (4/3)

Russian Rocket Roars Away From Baikonur for 9-Hour Ascent (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Proton rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan Friday, beginning a more than nine-hour mission to deposit a versatile European communications satellite into a high-altitude geosynchronous transfer orbit. The 191-foot-tall rocket left the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1624 GMT (12:24 p.m. EDT), turning northeast from the launch pad and tearing through the night sky on the power of six first stage RD-276 engines. Eutelsat's W2A spacecraft is bolted atop the rocket, beginning a mission to deliver a variety of communications services to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of South America and India. (4/3)

U.S. Intel Chief Wants New Spy Satellite Program (Source: AP)
The national intelligence director and defense secretary are asking the Obama administration to approve a new top-secret spy satellite program that could cost more than $10 billion, according to government, military and industry officials. The program calls for building two sophisticated satellites equal to or better than the huge, high-resolution secret satellites now in orbit. At the same time, the government would also commit to spend enough money on commercial satellite imagery sufficient to pay for the construction and launch of two new commercial satellites. (4/3)

Japan Plans Missile Early-Warning Satellites (Source: AFP)
Japan outlined a plan Friday to develop satellites within five years that could quickly detect a ballistic missile or rocket launch from space using infrared sensors. A task force under Prime Minister Taro Aso released the paper as Japan readied for North Korea's rocket launch. Japan already has four spy satellites in orbit -- launched after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan in 1998 -- including one that allows Tokyo to monitor any point on Earth once a day.

But the task force called for the development of infrared sensors on satellites that would detect heat from a missile's blast-off and provide immediate warning, faster than the images taken by spy satellites. The basic plan also proposed the use of space technology for monitoring the sea to detect smuggling, illegal fishing and piracy. (4/3)

A Letter to the President About NASA (Source: What's New)
Dear Mr. President: Last month you said the space agency is drifting and needs a mission "appropriate for the twenty-first century." The new Administrator, you said, should think about "the next great adventures and discoveries under the NASA banner." I know you’ve been busy with G20 stuff and haven’t had time to name this visionary, so in an effort to help What’s New did the thinking for whoever it will be:

1) Astronauts are a relic of the 1960’s "space race" and a major obstacle to the continued exploration of space. Therefore the ISS, which serves no useful purpose anyway, should be given to China and the crew sent home on the Soyuz. 2) Global-warming critics insist climate change is the result of solar variations and is not anthropogenic. Therefore, NASA should move with due haste to locate DSCOVR at the unique Lagrange-1 vantage point to resolve this question.

3) The greatest quest in science is to find life to which we are not related. Therefore, NASA’s robotic exploration of the solar system should be expanded to include the ocean moons of Jupiter. There should also be a ban on human visits to any planet that might harbor life; we’re crawling with bugs. 4) The great discovery of this century is the existence of planets around other stars. The bad news is that we can’t get to an exoplanet. The good news is they can't get here. Therefore we should employ the huge advances in optical technology to develop a new generation of advanced space telescopes capable of examining exoplanets for evidence of life. (4/3)

Anderson: Additional ISS Space Tourism Flight Possible in September (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said an additional tourism flight later this year is possible, as he outlined the company’s plans for chartered flights early in the next decade. Russia's plans to fly a Kazahk cosmonaut to the Space Station in September might fall through, opening up the third Soyuz seat for a potential tourist. Who the tourist might be is unclear. American investment guru Esther Dyson and Australian millionaire Nik Halik have trained as backups for recent tourists Charles Simonyi and Richard Garriott. Google co-founder Sergey Brin also has put down a $5 million deposit on an orbital spaceflight. Space Adventures' plans for charter flights to the station have slipped a year to 2012. Anderson says that he believes that seats could open up on Soyuz taxi flights even though they are supposed to be filled once the station’s crew doubles to six crew members this summer. (4/3)

Japan Aims for Walking Robot on the Moon by 2020 (Source: AP)
Japan hopes to have a two-legged robot walk on the moon by around 2020, with a joint mission involving astronauts and robots to follow, according to a plan laid out Friday by a government group. Specifics of the plan, including what new technologies will be required and the size of the project's budget, are to be decided within the next two years, according to Japan's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development. Development of a lunar robot is part of a broad framework outlined by the group, which is charged with plotting a new course for Japan's space strategy. As a next step, joint exploration of the moon involving robots and astronauts will be considered. (4/3)

SpaceX Continues Push for Role in Human Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
U.S. plans to one day send humans to Mars could be the impetus that recaptures the nation's interest in space, and Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) would leap at the opportunity to be part of it, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said. Calling participation in human spaceflight the company's "holy grail," Musk said he had planned from the start to build a rocket that would one day ferry humans into space. Moving beyond low Earth orbit to Mars missions would be "amazingly great," Musk said in response to a question from the audience.

Musk has said previously he could human rate SpaceX's planned Dragon cargo capsule, being developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, in 24 months with a $200 million cash infusion from NASA. A crew-carrying Dragon variant was included as an option under the $278 million COTS development contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in 2006. NASA awarded a $170 million COTS contract to Orbital Sciences Corp. to demonstrate a similar cargo delivery capability for the space station. Musk said it would not be a stretch to add an escape system, seats, harnesses and an improved life support system to make Dragon suitable for human spaceflight, he said. Dragon already is designed to have a limited life support system for biological cargo such as plants and scientific experiments. (4/2)

Economic Downturn Has Bright Side for Military Workforce Retention (Source: Space News)
Acquiring and retaining the government workforce to manage space programs has been a challenge in recent years, but the global economic downturn has actually helped the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) fill some much-needed positions, according to its commander, Air Force Lt. Gen. John "Tom" Sheridan. Experienced individuals with systems engineering and program management skills have long been lured away from the Air Force to higher paying jobs in industry, but the current job market has allowed the service's space acquisition shop to pull in many new interns and some mid-level civilian personnel. This comes at a critical time for SMC, as one-third of its workforce is eligible to retire in 2010 and a shortage of mid-level personnel is expected. (4/3)

On-Orbit Failures Keep Chinese Insurers in the Red (Source: Space News)
China's fast-developing space insurance industry has struggled to make a profit in the past two years because of in-orbit failures of two telecommunications satellites using China's new DFH-4 satellite design, with insurance claims eating into the profit generated by the recent failure-free performance of China's Long March rocket, Chinese insurance officials said April 2. (4/2)

New England Economy Could be Devastated by Pentagon Cuts (Source: AIA)
With its high concentration of defense and technology companies, New England could be hit especially hard by Pentagon budget cuts, the Boston Globe reports. United Technologies, Raytheon, General Dynamics and iRobot are some of the firms with a major presence in the region and major programs on the chopping block. "All the major programs that are being discussed would have a Massachusetts or New England impact," says a Capitol Hill source who is tracking the issue. (4/3)

USA Launches Process of Space Militarization – Russian General (Source: Itar-Tass)
The United States has already launched the process of militarization of outer space, the deputy head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s chief department for international military cooperation said. Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky reminded the readers that the U.S. National Space Policy, signed by the U.S. president on August 31, 2008, announces the right to a free flight and an unimpeded functioning in outer space of American space systems as the national property of the USA. The document also stresses that the USA will resolutely prevent any threats to its space means as well as hostile space activity by other states. “The new doctrine adds a tougher and more unilateral nature to these actions,” Buzhinsky believes. (4/3)

Bill Posey Bill: Keep Shuttle Flying (Source: Florida Today)
Rep. Bill Posey introduced a bill Thursday that would continue flying the shuttle until its replacement, the Ares rocket, or another U.S.-made spacecraft, could immediately resume taking Americans into space. The measure represents the latest attempt by federal lawmakers to extend the life of the shuttle program beyond its scheduled retirement next year. Posey's bill calls for at least two shuttle missions a year, starting in 2010. "Or, they could have three (launches) one year, two the next," the Florida Republican said. "We just don't want to lose our launch team. We'll never be able to get back that kind of talent again."

NASA estimates it would cost about $2.5 billion per year to keep flying the shuttle after 2010. Posey called that estimate high. He said he believes the price to be about $1.5 billion per year instead. Although his legislation does not include any funding, he plans to introduce a separate appropriations bill that would provide $1.5 billion for next year's fiscal budget "to get things started." Posey's bill also calls for various cost-cutting measures, including the possible retirement of one of the shuttle orbiters. NASA also would be required to cut back on shuttle upgrades not related to safe operations. (4/3)

'Gore-Sat' Climate Probe May Get Second Chance (Source: Discovery News)
NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory was designed to monitor Earth from the vantage point of distant space. It was to be the first probe to give scientists a holistic, global view of temperatures and environmental conditions. Originally named Triana, it became a poster child for then-Vice President Al Gore, who thought it would be a good idea for NASA to put a TV camera on the spacecraft so it could broadcast live views of Earth from the vantage point of deep space as a constant reminder that we share one world. Politics outmatched science, however, and when the Bush Administration took office in 2001, it killed the program, sending Triana into deep storage rather than deep space. After sitting in a box at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland for eight years, the observatory is now on the brink of resurrection. (4/3)

Northrop Grumman-TRW Whistle-Blower Case Settled (Source: LA Times)
In one of the nation's largest settlements in a whistle-blower case, Northrop Grumman Corp. has agreed to pay the federal government $325 million to resolve claims that TRW, which it acquired in 2002, provided defective parts for a spy satellite program in the 1990s. But in an unusual twist, the federal government also announced Thursday that it had settled a separate, long-running dispute with Northrop and agreed to pay the aerospace company $325 million -- essentially meaning that no money will change hands. (4/3)

Russia to Unveil Spaceship Plans (Source: BBC)
The Russian space agency is expected to unveil development plans for a next-generation manned spacecraft on Monday. Roscosmos should name the ship's prime developer, which has competed to win government funds for the project. The proposed new spacecraft should enter into service sometime towards the end of the next decade. It will replace the venerable three-seat Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four decades. Although Roscosmos has remained tight-lipped about the upcoming presentation, the agency has quietly released its requirements for a future manned transport system to the Russian space industry.

In doing so, the agency has shed some light on the ship's likely design and its possible missions. The spacecraft, currently known only by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, for Prospective Piloted Transport System, would be able to reach low-Earth orbit or to enter orbit around the Moon. The Earth-orbiting version of the ship would have a mass of 12 tonnes, carry a crew of six, along with no less than 500kg of cargo; while its "lunar cousin" would weigh 16.5 tonnes, have four seats and be capable of delivering and bringing back 100kg of cargo. Click here to see an artist's rendering of the craft. (4/3)

NASA's Chief Auditor Resigns (Source: Florida Today)
President Barack Obama accepted the resignation today of Robert Cobb, NASA’s beleaguered inspector general. His resignation will be effective April 11. The action comes after repeated calls by U.S. lawmakers for Cobb to step down because of allegations that he compromised investigations and retaliated against whistle-blowers. An audit released earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office also found that Cobb failed to uncover waste and abuse at the space agency, saving taxpayers 36 cents for every dollar spent. That’s compared with the $9.49 average for federal watchdogs, the report said. (4/3)

UF Marking Anniversary of Galileo's Discoveries (Source: Gainesville Sun)
Galileo was the first person to use a telescope to observe the moon's craters, Jupiter's satellites and other sights not previously seen from Earth. Four hundred years later, star gazers are still using small telescopes to discover objects such as comets and meteoroids. The University of Florida is marking the anniversary of Galileo's discoveries with events tonight celebrating telescopes big and small. Members of the UF astronomy department and Alachua Astronomy Club are holding a workshop to help members of the public assemble home telescopes, as part of worldwide astronomy events. (4/3)

Soyuz Spacecraft Return to Earth Postponed Until April 8 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The landing of a Soyuz spacecraft with members of the 18th Expedition to the International Space Station and a U.S. tourist has been delayed by one day, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Friday. A landing capsule from the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft, carrying U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov and U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi, was originally scheduled to return to Earth on April 7. (4/3)

Virginia Space Grant Consortium Gets $1.4 Million NASA Grant (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
The Virginia Space Grant Consortium will be awarded a $1.4 million grant for its Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program. It was one of nine nationwide grants handed out by NASA’s Office of Education. The scholars program is a one-semester interactive exploration-themed online course for high school juniors, followed by a one-week residential Summer Academy at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. (4/3)

Blakey: International Competition Calls for Increased NASA Funding (Source: AIA)
The way to protect U.S. leadership in space against growing international competition is stable and sufficient investment, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey told a House appropriations subcommittee. "Today more than 60 countries have active space programs, some of which, as we know, are extremely ambitious," Blakey said. "Funding for NASA and the other agencies involved in space provides the backbone for the U.S. response to these international challenges."

Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Blakey emphasized the importance of addressing the upcoming capability gap in U.S. manned space access during the next seven years. "NASA will need as many resources as possible to speed the introduction of the next generation of space vehicles to reduce that gap," Blakey said. "Dropping the funding ball for these agencies during this critical time is not an effective strategy to keep U.S. space leadership." (4/3)

New Weather Satellite to Help Track Hurricanes (Source: Miami Herald)
A new satellite set to launch later this month from Cape Canaveral will help weather forecasters better predict hurricanes and will assist in pinpointing distress signals to trigger search-and-rescue operations. The $499 million GOES-O (geostationary operational environmental satellite) will orbit about 22,000 miles above the Earth, sending back high-resolution images for the next 10 years. "This is really exciting. Hopefully, we'll see marked improvements in our ability to forecast,'' said Joe Schaefer, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center. ``It's going to guarantee the availability of state-of-the-art satellite data for the next decade." (4/3)

Kehler: Spherical Battlespace is New Theater of Operations (Source: USAF)
The world is no longer flat and information is no longer static. Neither can military operations confine focus to one area of a conflict while remaining oblivious to interconnections with the larger picture. It is time the view of the battlefield is turned upside-down. This is the message of the commander of Air Force Space Command. Gen. C. Robert Kehler laid out his vision of the redefined theater of operations -- the spherical area of operations.

"I am going to define that as an area starting at the geostationary distances from the earth and extending down," General Kehler said. "I think for far too long we have looked at our conception of future battlespace by standing on the ground and looking up. I think that might be the wrong way to look." While the concept of always seeking the high ground is as old as military doctrine itself, seeking to understand this newly defined area is a daunting task. "The spherical battlespace is constantly changing as on-orbit objects transverse across a volume that is 6,000 times larger than the airspace of the earth below," General Kehler said. (4/3)

Space Debris: Europe to Set Up Monitor in 'Two or Three Years' (Source: SpaceDaily.com)
The European Space Agency (ESA) hopes to start monitoring orbital debris within the next few years, an official said Thursday at the close of the largest-ever conference on a worsening space peril. "The goal is to be able to offer 'precursor' services in the next two or three years which among other things issue alerts about collision risks," said Nicolas Bobrinsky of ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt. (4/3)

Orion Contractors To Get Major Funding Boost (Source: Aviation Week)
Contractors working on NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle and its Ares I launcher will get more money this spring -- about $1.8 billion for Lockheed Martin's work on Orion alone -- to account for schedule and design changes since the human-rated spacecraft developments started in 2006. "We've matured the design substantially, so there will be new costs because we made it harder to build," Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley says, characterizing the Orion contract modification only as "substantial."

Pending changes in the Ares I contracts to ATK, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne will reflect schedule slips forced by inadequate funding in fiscal 2009-10, as well as "some minor design improvements or tweaks that we've discovered along the way on the engine and on the solids," Hanley said April 2. The contractors have been working to a September 2013 initial operational capability (IOC) for the vehicles that will take the place of the space shuttle fleet in delivering U.S. astronauts to orbit. But Hanley said there has "always been a funding challenge in '09 and '10" to keep that original IOC on track, and the money isn't there as a result of past congressional continuing resolutions, which kept spending relatively flat. (4/3)

U.S., Satellite Operators Discuss Better Tracking (Source: Reuters)
U.S. military officials and commercial satellite operators Thursday discussed better tracking of satellites to avert collisions like the one that destroyed a Russian and U.S. satellite in February, creating more space debris. The meeting is part of the U.S. Air Force's drive to improve tracking of objects in space. The Air Force said this week it would work with U.S. Strategic Command to expand satellite tracking by October 1 to all 800 maneuverable spacecraft now operating. (4/3)

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