June 22 News Items

Constellation and its Challengers (Source: Space Review)
The committee charged with examining the future of NASA's human spaceflight programs kicked off its work last week with a public hearing in Washington. Jeff Foust reviews the event, which largely shaped up to be an examination of Constellation and several potential alternatives. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1401/1 to view the article. (6/22)

Gum in the Keyhole (Source: Space Review)
A proposal for a new series of reconnaissance satellites that are only marginally different from an older series has generated opposition from one key member of Congress. Dwayne Day looks at what may be for the intelligence community another case of political theater. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1400/1 to view the article. (6/22)

Why Is It So Hard To Go Back To The Moon? (Source: Space Review)
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, and serves as a reminder of what we have not accomplished in space in the intervening decades. Taylor Dinerman wonders just how it will be before the United States, or someone else, sends people back there. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1398/1 to view the article. (6/22)

Tourism Companies Partner for Space Travel (Source: Travel Agent Central)
Ensemble Travel Group has a new partnership with Rocketship Tours, a company dedicated to making space travel accessible and relatively affordable to those who aspire to such an out-of-this-world adventure. This unique space experience includes a five-day, four-night training program at a deluxe resort in Arizona, medical evaluation and screening, and cancellation insurance. Guests will travel to the edge of space in the suborbital Lynx rocket ship. Unlike other programs, the RocketShip Tours adventure is truly intimate, pairing just a single passenger on each flight—-who sits in the co-pilot’s seat—-next to the astronaut-pilot who’s flying the space vehicle.

The Lynx rocket ship is being built in Mojave, CA by XCOR Aerospace, headed up by Jeff Greason, who was recently named to a White House panel to review NASA space flight programs. Once completed next year, the space vehicle will undergo a series of test flights in preparation for its official launch in 2011. RocketShip Tours, headed by travel pioneer and entrepreneur Jules Klar, is the exclusive global provider of passenger services for the Lynx. (6/22)

Using Weather Satellites To Predict Epidemics? (Source: NPR)
The swine flu outbreak caused a minor panic all over the world, but swine flu's got nothing on the great Rift Valley fever epidemic of 2006. Don't remember that epidemic? That's because it never actually happened. Scientists at NASA and the Department of Agriculture used some high-flying technology to help stop the outbreak. Scientists can use weather satellites to track things like sea surface temperature and cloud cover, which are good indicators of heavy rainfall. But what does that have to do with Rift Valley fever? It turns out that rainfall is the key to the disease. (6/22)

DHS to Kill Domestic Satellite Spying (Source: AP)
A government official says Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to kill a controversial program begun by the Bush administration to use U.S. spy satellites for domestic security and law enforcement. The program was announced in 2007 and was to have been run by Homeland Security. It has been delayed because of privacy and civil liberty concerns. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Interior Department will continue to have access to this satellite imagery. (6/22)

The Weirdest Object in the Solar System? (Source: Space.com)
The dwarf planets and other objects that litter the Kuiper belt in the far reaches of our solar system are a strange bunch, but astronomers have found what they think might be the weirdest one. Discovered in 2004, the minor planet now known as the dwarf planet Haumea, to honor its Hawaiian discovery, is as big across as Pluto and one-third of its mass, but shaped something "like a big squashed cigar," said one of the astronomers who studies the object, Mike Brown of Caltech. (6/22)

France Wants Replacement for Ariane 5 Space Launcher (Source: Reuters)
France wants Europe to start looking into a space rocket launcher to replace Ariane 5 at some point between 2020 and 2025, President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said on Saturday. The Ariane-5, which is billed as a cost-effective launcher for large satellites, has launched satellites for European telecoms operators, telescopes and scientific space observatories. But it was time to start working on Ariane 6, the president's office said in a statement. (6/22)

NASA Criticized for Sticking to Imperial Units (Source: New Scientist)
NASA's decision to engineer its replacement for the space shuttle using imperial measurement units rather than metric could derail efforts to develop a globalised civilian space industry, says a leading light in the nascent commercial spaceflight sector. "We in the private sector are doing everything possible to create a global market with as much commonality and interoperability as possible," says Mike Gold of the US firm Bigelow Aerospace, which hopes to fly commercial space stations in orbitMovie Camera. "But NASA still can't make the jump to metric." (6/22)

Pad Work Continues Ahead of Ares Flight Test (Source: Florida Today)
While a presidential panel reviews the future of NASA's human spaceflight program, work continues to renovate a launch pad for the first flight test of the rocket being designed to replace the space shuttle. Over the weekend at KSC, workers removed the walkway that 53 shuttle crews traversed to enter their spaceship for launches from pad 39B between 1986 and 2006. The 64,000-pound, 65-foot orbiter access arm, which includes the "white room" that is the astronauts' last stop before boarding the shuttle, was located at the pad's 195-foot level. (6/22)

Moon Blanket Could Protect Lunar Colony (Source: Cosmos)
The first astronauts to return to the Moon could be shielded from cosmic and solar radiation with a flexible covering designed by university students. Textile engineering students at North Carolina State University were challenged by their professor to design the multi-layered, multi-purpose Lunar TexShield as part of their third-year classes. The TexShield won the students second prize in a NASA competition. (6/22)

Europe to Study ATV Freighter Upgrade (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency is about to look in detail at how it might upgrade its space station freighter so it can return cargo safely to Earth. At the moment, the Automated Transfer Vehicle is discarded after delivering supplies to the orbiting platform. The agency will ask industry in the coming weeks to define the requirements for a far more capable ship. To be known as the Advanced Re-entry Vehicle (ARV), it could be the first step to an eventual manned vehicle. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which made such an impressive debut at the space station last year, is seen as the starting point in all these discussions. (6/22)

Editorial: Everybody's Going to the Moon (Source: Guardian)
Between 1976, when a Soviet Luna 24 robot landed, scooped up some soil and returned to Earth, and 1990, when a Japanese spacecraft began a highly elliptical orbit that took it 10 times past the moon, nobody paid much attention to our nearest neighbour. Between 1994 and 2008 there were two automaton visitors from the US, one from the European Space Agency, and one each from Japan, China and India. Right now, almost 40 years after the historic landing of two astronauts aboard Apollo 11, America is once more heading for the moon with a pair of unmanned probes.

The Russians have plans for at least one new robot mission; China has announced a second lunar explorer; the US plans three more probes. Enthusiasts inside both the European and US space agencies are pushing for a permanent manned lunar base. Britain wilfully abandoned its space ambitions in 1971, after launching one British satellite, Prospero, from one British rocket, Black Arrow. The Thatcher and Major administrations were only grudging partners in the European Space Agency, and successive UK governments have obdurately refused to have anything to do with manned space flight. Such attitudes were complacently justified at the time as down-to-earth. They seem short-sighted now. A great adventure is afoot, and we are not part of it. (6/22)

ITAR Slows SpaceX Launch Support (Source: Aviation Week)
The vibration problem that has delayed the SpaceX launch of Malaysia's RazakSat satellite could have been fixed with a minor adjustment to the satllite, but ITAR regulations prohibited the company from assisting the satellite owner. Instead, SpaceX had to provide a shock-absorbing interface to accommodate the payload. (6/22)

NASA Awards Space Station Contract to ARES Corp. (Source: NASA)
NASA has signed a $144 million follow-on contract with ARES Corp. of Burlingame, Calif., for International Space Station Program integration and control services. ARES will provide support for configuration management, data management, information technology, safety and mission assurance, vehicle integrated performance, resource and budget analysis, program schedule development, engineering and technical services, spacecraft integration, international partner integration and strategic analysis planning. The three-year contract includes two one-year options that could extend the contract through 2014. If both options are exercised, the total value would be $180 million. (6/22)

Space Florida Update (Source: SPACErePORT)
During a series of Space Florida advisory committee meetings this week, the agency described its progress on several high-profile space transportation projects. Having committed $4.5 million of its $14.5 million budget for the facility, the agency continues its "get-ready" work at Launch Complex 36, obtaining permits and designing basic pad elements that can support multiple users. Spending the remaining $10 million is contingent upon finalizing commitments from one or more of the facility's potential users.

Meanwhile, the agency is proposing to re-license Launch Complex 46 (formerly converted by the Spaceport Florida Authority) to support military and commercial launches. In February, the FAA approved a plan for consolidating Space Florida's pending launch site operator's license to include both LC-36 and LC-46. (6/22)

Stockton Firm Wins Space-Vehicle Contract (Source: San Joaquin Record)
Applied Aerospace Structures Corp. has won a contract to build and test a structural portion of the Cygnus spacecraft, an unmanned vehicle NASA needs to carry supplies to the International Space Station after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. The contract comes from Orbital Sciences Corp. Dulles, Va., which has $2 billion in NASA contracts to develop the Taurus II missile and cargo-delivery system. Earlier Stockton-based Applied Aerospace won contracts to build nose cones and other components for the Taurus II. (6/22)

Arkansas Researchers to Help NASA Look for Signs of Life on Mars (Source: Arkansas News Bureau)
NASA has awarded a team of Arkansas researchers a $1.5 million grant to develop a system to look for signs of life on Mars, officials at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced. The Arkansas team won for its proposal “Mobile Surveying for Atmospheric and Near-Surface Gases of Biological Origin.” The researchers are developing a system to look for signs of life in a broad region around a landing site on Mars. (6/22)

Martian Lightning Detected (Source: Science News)
Scientists say they have seen the first direct evidence of lightning on Mars, in the form of electrical discharges during a Martian dust storm. The finding has implications for human travel to the Red Planet and for studying possible origins of life on Mars. It has been thought that lightning might be possible on Mars. Bits of dust rubbing against each other in one of the planet’s famous dust devils could charge up the particles the same way that running on a carpet charges up socks. All that charge could then be discharged in a zap, either as lightning or a shock. (6/22)

Work in Space Communication Nets Award for Caltech Professor (Source: Pasadena Star News)
To get a true sense of Robert J. McEliece's field of expertise, you'd have be positioned far out in space - give or take a billion miles. Because that's where his work with algebraic error-correcting codes comes into play. These are the codes that help make reliable deep-space communication with interplanetary spacecraft possible. Put simply, the codes ensure that as much information as possible is being transmitted from Point A to Point B. McEliece will be honored Thursday for his contributions to the field when he receives the coveted IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal. (6/22)

Stellar Solutions CEO Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year (Source: Stellar Solutions)
Stellar Solutions CEO Celeste Ford received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2009 Award in the services category in Northern California. According to Ernst & Young LLP, the award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who are building and leading dynamic, growing businesses. Celeste Ford was selected by an independent panel of judges, and the award was presented at a gala event at The San Jose Fairmont on June 13, 2009. (6/22)

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