June 18 News Items

NASA Reschedules Test of Max Launch Abort System to June 25 (Source: NASA)
Because of weather concerns and launch site preparations, NASA has rescheduled the test flight of the Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, to no earlier than June 25 at the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The launch previously had been scheduled for June 20 and June 22. (6/18)

House Passes NASA Budget Bill With Constellation Cut (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA funding bill for next year passed the House on Thursday - without reversing a cut of $566 million to the Constellation human space flight program. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, filed two amendments to the 2010 budget bill covering commerce, justice and science operations, attempting to restore the funding cut. But Democratic congressional leaders did not allow either to be considered. The legislation passed 259-157. Posey and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Smyrna Beach, voted against it. Editor's Note: House members hope to revisit the budget after the Augustine Panel delivers its recommendations to President Obama. (6/18)

Atlas Launches NASA Lunar Probes (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is safely on its way to the moon. After narrowly avoiding a nearby thunderstorm, an Atlas-5 rocket launched successfully from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 5:32 p.m. The spacecraft separated from an Atlas V Centaur stage at 6:17 p.m., prompting applause from mission managers. LRO will take four days to reach lunar orbit.

It will take about two months to test all of its instruments and make sure they're in working order. Then it will drop to a circular polar orbit just about 30 miles above the lunar surface. The $511-million mission will map the moon in detail for a year, then continue a science mission. (6/18)

Quirky Supernova Could Be Something New (Source: New Scientist)
A supernova seen in 2005 may be a new type of cosmic explosion. What's more, similar explosions may have scattered antimatter throughout our galaxy. "SN 2005E" exploded in a galaxy 100 million light years away. A team led by Hagai Perets at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, has concluded that it does not look like either of the well-known kinds of supernova.

The most frequently observed form is a core-collapse supernova, which happens after a massive young star has formed a large core of iron that collapses under its own gravity, releasing radiation that blows the outer layers of the star apart. They almost always occur in regions where massive new stars are forming. By contrast, SN 2005E was in the dark outskirts of its galaxy, where few new stars are forming. Core-collapse supernovae also spit out much more debris than SN 2005E did. (6/18)

Firms Team Up for ISS Supply Ship (Source: BBC)
US and Italian companies are teaming up to build a private re-supply ship for the Space Station. The Orbital Sciences Corporation has engaged Thales Alenia Space to build a pressurized module for its forthcoming cargo vessel, Cygnus. The spacecraft is expected to carry almost three tonnes of food and equipment to the platform. The agreement between Orbital and Thales signed at the Paris air show covers nine Cygnus ships in total. The first is a demonstration flight that must prove to NASA that the commercial freighter design is up to the task, and that the robot vehicle poses no danger to the crew of the station. (6/18)

First Hard Evidence Found of a Lake on Mars (Source: Florida Today)
A long, deep canyon and the remains of beaches are perhaps the clearest evidence yet of a standing lake on the surface of Mars -- one that apparently contained water when the planet was supposed to have already dried up, scientists said. Images from a camera called the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate water carved a 30-mile-(50-km-)long canyon, a team at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported.

It would have covered 80 square miles (200 sq km) and been up to 1,500 feet deep, the researchers wrote in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. There is now no dispute that water exists on the surface or Mars -- robot explorers have found ice. There is also evidence that water may still seep to the surface from underground, although it quickly disappears in the cold, thin atmosphere of the red planet. (6/18)

Orbiter Built In Maryland To Search For Water On Moon (Source: WJZ-13)
The new NASA lunar mission carries space hardware designed and built right here in Maryland. The Lunar Orbiter was built at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. The orbiter carries high power radar, built by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Once in orbit, the radar will see where onboard cameras cannot, probing shadow and the surface for tell-tale signs of ice. (6/18)

A Better, Cheaper Rocket Than Ares? (Source: Florida Today)
Executives from several private space companies said Wednesday that they could provide cheaper, more reliable launch systems than those of NASA's Constellation program. The executives made their comments about alternatives to NASA's plan for sending astronauts to the moon and on to Mars during the first meeting of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee created by President Barack Obama. After the daylong meeting, committee Chairman Norm Augustine, a former CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., said some commercial launch efforts appear "further along than I thought." (6/18)

California Instrument Set for Lunar Mission (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, an unmanned mission to comprehensively map the entire moon carries an important instrument from California. The Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment will make the first global survey of the temperature of the lunar surface while the orbiter circles some 50 kilometers (31 miles) above the moon. The Diviner instrument was designed and built, and will be managed by, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (6/18)

Musk: Leave LEO for Private Sector Development, Let NASA Focus Beyond (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Elon Musk, who runs the rocket company SpaceX, suggested NASA turn over more work to private business. SpaceX is under contract to build a rocket that can haul cargo – and could take humans – to the space station. "If commercial companies handle low-Earth orbit then NASA [can] handle the stuff beyond low-Earth orbit" such as the moon and Mars, Musk said. (6/18)

Doubts Grow About NASA Moon Return (Source: New Scientist)
A senior NASA official expressed doubt on Wednesday that the agency could send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit without extra money or using vehicles radically different form those it is currently working on. NASA's space shuttle program manager John Shannon made the remarks in a presentation to a committee reviewing NASA's human spaceflight plans. Shannon said the space vehicles designed by NASA's Constellation Program to replace the space shuttle and ferry astronauts to the moon were "well thought out", but that the agency does not have enough money to make them a reality. (6/18)

'Moon' Movie Mines Inner Space (Source: New Scientist)
In the new film Moon, working on the lunar surface is an unglamourous affair. Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, toils alone in a stark-white base, working as a glorified handyman for Lunar Industries, an ominously glossy corporation that extracts helium-3 from the lunar surface to fuel fusion reactors back on Earth. In this vision of the future, helium-3 supplies the majority of the world's energy needs, a scenario that is not entirely outlandish, as some suspect the moon contains a wealth of the material.

Sam is there to make sure the helium-3 gets home, and he seems to have adapted well to the isolation, sustained by video messages from his wife and limited conversations with his sole companion, a remarkably low-tech robot named Gerty. But just as Sam nears the end of his three-year contract, the tedium suddenly seems to take its toll. Click here to visit the movie website. (6/18)

Hispasat Orders Satellite Based on Small Geo Design (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Hispasat of Spain has contracted with OHB System of Germany and Thales Alenia Space Espana of Spain to build the Hispasat AG1 telecommunications satellite, the development of which was largely financed by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of ESA's Small Geo program. (6/18)

Intelsat Orders Two More Satellites from Loral (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat has contracted with Space Systems/Loral to build the Intelsat 19 and 20 satellites to replace aging Intelsat spacecraft, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Loral announced June 18. (6/18)

Hershel-Planck Launch Incident Prompts Scrutiny of Ariane 5 Upgrade (Source: Space News)
Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) have established a board of inquiry to examine whether a new fairing-separation system, used for the first time during the May 14 launch of ESA's Herschel and Planck science satellites, propelled the two fairing halves too close to the satellites, according to ESA and Arianespace officials. (6/18)

Astrium Services Cleared to Buy New Spot Satellites (Source: Space News)
Astrium Services on June 18 confirmed it has won the approval of its corporate parent, aerospace giant EADS, to purchase two optical Earth observation satellites to assure the business continuity of the Astrium-owned Spot Image company despite the absence of any government financial support. (6/18)

NASA Investigates Remote Possibility of Shuttle Sabotage (Source: Space.com)
NASA does not suspect sabotage was behind the glitch that twice delayed the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour recently. But, as with any problem without an apparent solution, the space agency is investigating all possible explanations, including intentional tampering, officials said.

Endeavour's STS-127 mission was supposed to lift off June 13, but a leak of hydrogen gas from a pipe attached to the shuttle's fuel tank kept the vehicle grounded. NASA tried to launch Endeavour a second time on Wednesday, but again the leak appeared, even after workers replaced the leaky seal between the pipe and the shuttle. So far, the root cause of the issue is mysterious.

The agency began cutting shuttle-related jobs last month and expects to have to lay off a significant number of workers after the last shuttle flies. Because each shuttle launch delay has ripple effects on future scheduled flights, the stall with Endeavour has the potential to extend the shuttle fleet's end date. NASA is mindful that some workers may have a motive to push that date back as long as possible. (6/18)

SpaceX and Orbital Pitch Falcon and Taurus to Augustine Panel (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. both briefed the Augustin Panel on their progress with developing their Falcon-9 and Taurus-2 rockets to support NASA and other customers. SpaceX is planning Falcon-9 human spaceflight missions to ISS with their Dragon capsule, and could conduct missions otherwise planned for Ares-1. Orbital is pressing ahead with pressurized and unpressurized cargo-carrying missions to the Space Station. (6/18)

Florida Remains Option for Taurus-2 (Source: SPACErePORT)
In comments before the Augustine Panel, Orbital's Frank Culbertson said the company continues to consider multiple launch site alternatives for Taurus-2. He said if requirements arise for certain types of missions, Florida's Cape Canaveral Spaceport could still host Taurus-2 launches. (6/18)

DIRECT Team Pitches In-Line Jupiter-130 as Ares Alternative (Source: SPACErePORT)
Representing the DIRECT team, Steve Metschan pitched the Jupiter-130 concept for an in-line Shuttle-derived launch system. With DIRECT, the Shuttle orbite would be replaced with a top-mount payload carrier for Orion, other payloads, and other upper-stage components. Three Space Shuttle Main Engines would be mounted on the bottom of the External Tank. Existing SRBs would be used.

Metschan said this is not a "paper rocket", as most of its components are currently operational. Ares-1 and Ares-5, he said, are much more conceptual. The concept is compelling and is based on NASA's own plans, but has not been embraced by the agency or its contractors, though Boeing is said to be considering it as a concept it would support. (6/18)

Side-Mount Payload Carrier Studied to Replace Shuttle Orbiters (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA presented an alternative heavy-lift architecture to the Augustine Panel, similar to the "Shuttle-C" cargo carrier design of over a decade ago. The "Side-Mount" concept replaces the Space Shuttle orbiter with a large cargo carrying pod, attached to the External Tank using the same attach-points currently used by the Space Shuttle orbiters. One version would carry NASA's Orion capsule at the top of the pod.

The side-mount approach would encounter some of the same safety problems as the current orbiters, including foam-strikes and a less-than-ideal crew escape capability if the adjacent ET and SRBs malfunction during ascent. NASA said more analysis would be needed on various aspects of the concept. (6/18)

DIRECT Team Asks Augustine Panel to Halt Dismantling of Production Capabilities (Source: SPACErePORT)
Representing the DIRECT team, Steve Metschan asked the Augustine Panel to request that NASA discontinue its dismantling of critical production capabilities for external tanks and other Shuttle components that would be required for DIRECT or other heavy-lift Shuttle-derived vehicles. (6/18)

Sen. Nelson Addresses Augustine Panel (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In case the Augustine panel wasn't under enough pressure, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today reminded the group that their recommendations on the future of U.S. human spaceflight would carry significant weight with the White House, Congress and space community. "If you decide 'x' is going to be the case, then the White House is going to be a lot more likely to embrace 'x' regardless of whether I or others disagree with x," said the Florida Democrat. "You come to the table with extraordinary influence." (6/18)

House Committee Overrules Pentagon, Extends F-22 (Source: AIA)
The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday narrowly approved a measure to build 12 additional F-22s, despite the Obama administration's desire to halt production of the fighter. The 31-30 committee vote portends a tough battle to win majorities in the full House and Senate. (6/18)

Lockheed F-35 Seen as "Program Killer" (Source: AIA)
With potential sales reaching 6,000 units, analysts say the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could become a "program killer" that forces other manufacturers out of the market. By 2015, according to Teal Group estimates, the F-35 will control more than half the $17 billion market for warplanes. "It's entirely possible that by 2020 there will be only one surviving western fighter plane," said a Teal analyst. (6/18)

Pentagon: North Korea Could Hit U.S. in Three Years (Source: AIA)
Pentagon officials told lawmakers on Tuesday that North Korean missiles could hit the U.S. in as little as three years. Pyonyang's missile program "could present a threat to the homeland," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreeing with the panel's top Republican that the U.S. should prepare for a "worst-case scenario." (6/18)

Senate Offers Compromise Bill to Keep SBIR/STTR Alive (Source: SSTI)
The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has marked up S. 1233, a bill to reauthorize and expand the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Both programs are within weeks of expiring on July 30. SBIR, first authorized in 1982 and credited with providing startup and early-stage financing for several thousand technology and research-related firms across the country, has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support for each of its previous reauthorizations. The current effort has proven more problematic despite several positive evaluations by the Government Accountability Office and most recently the National Academies of Science.

The House and Senate were unable to craft a compromise bill before adjourning last year. Instead, Congress extended SBIR and STTR in their current forms until July 30, postponing discussion for a new Congress and new Administration. Currently, SBIR is a single program with 11 federal agencies more or less following the same rules spelled out in the authorizing legislation and the policy directive set down by the Small Business Administration. S. 1233 would alter the playing field, allowing the National Institutes of Health to make more awards to VC-backed firms than the other agencies. NIH, the venture capital community, and trade groups representing biotech and life science firms have been the most vocal advocates for more lax eligibility rules.

To date, the House version of SBIR reauthorization would be more generous - allowing VC-owned businesses full access to SBIR funding across all participating agencies. Opponents to that proposal argue the move would dilute the definition of a small business to the point of being meaningless (any large corporation could establish a SBIR shill, they argue) while also potentially putting small businesses without the financial and technical resources of VC-owned firms at a competitive disadvantage for winning awards. States without significant venture capital activity are among those seeing changes to the eligibility definition as potentially harmful to their efforts to stimulate tech-based economic development. (6/18)

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