June 30 News Items

Knob Freed From Atlantis Cockpit (Source: Florida Today)
A small knob has been freed from the cockpit of shuttle Atlantis, a step toward easing concerns that the orbiter could face a lengthy mission delay or even be retired early. The notched rotary knob, used to fasten a work light to a bracket, wedged itself between the shuttle's dashboard and one of six forward windows during the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in May. But NASA must now assess any damage the knob caused to Window No. 5, which could still result in significant delays if its pressure pane needs to be replaced. (6/30)

Venture to Build Military Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
A clutch of former Pentagon brass is helping to start a company that offers a new service: satellites intended solely for military communications that would be built, launched and owned by private investors. The new company, called U.S. Space LLC, attempts to meet a need that the U.S. military has struggled to fill. As U.S. forces deploy to out-of-the-way regions, the Pentagon frequently needs more satellite capacity for communications and distribution of surveillance videos than it can get its hands on. The military's own satellites are expensive, and often take too long to deploy to satisfy fast-changing battlefield needs. Meanwhile, the military hasn't always been able to lease sufficient bandwith on traditional commercial satellites, particularly in remote areas such as Afghanistan.

The new company intends to build and launch relatively small and inexpensive commercial satellites that would be optimized for military use and leased only to military customers, according to Mark Albrecht, the company's chairman and co-founder. Backers said the price of the satellites would be held down by keeping them small, modular and relatively basic, without tailoring them for special needs and piling on bells and whistles. The company's board members count three former Air Force generals, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, who until recently served as the military's top uniformed space-acquisition official; retired Major General James Armor, a former space policy maker; retired Major General Craig Weston, who is also the president and chief executive of U.S. Space. The company's backers include firms headed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Defense Secretary William Cohen. (6/30)

Fresh Satellite Launches for Sirius XM Radio (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A new broadcasting satellite for Sirius XM Radio launched aboard a Proton rocket to a high-altitude transfer orbit stretching more than 22,000 miles above Earth. The Sirius FM5 satellite, the company's fourth spacecraft, blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. Officials with International Launch Services, the U.S.-based firm overseeing commercial Proton flights, confirmed the Breeze M upper stage completed its first burn to arrive in a temporary parking orbit about 111 miles above the planet. (6/30)

NASA Pitches Cheaper Moon Plan (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Like a car salesman pushing a luxury vehicle that the customer no longer can afford, NASA has pulled out of its back pocket a deal for a cheaper ride to the moon. It won’t be as powerful, and its design is a little dated. Think of it as a base-model Ford station wagon instead of a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade. Officially, the space agency is still on track with a 4-year-old plan to spend $35 billion to build new rockets and return astronauts to the moon in several years. However, a top NASA manager is floating a cut-rate alternative that costs around $6.6 billion.

The new model calls for flying lunar vehicles on something very familiar-looking — the old space shuttle system with its gigantic orange fuel tank and twin solid-rocket boosters, minus the shuttle itself. There are two new vehicles this rocket would carry — one generic cargo container, the other an Apollo-like capsule for astronaut travel. Those new vehicles could both go to the moon or the international space station. What’s most remarkable about this idea is who it came from: NASA’s shuttle program manager John Shannon. He recently presented it to an independent panel charged with reviewing NASA’s costly spaceflight plans. And he was urged to do so by a top NASA administrator. It shows that top officials in NASA, an agency of engineers who regularly make contingency plans, worry that their preferred moon plan is running into trouble, space experts said. (6/30)

Virginia Candidates Link Spaceport to Energy Plans (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Virginia's two candidates for governor have linked the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to the state's energy development plans suggesting that Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert McDonnell may have a vision for space-based solar power development in the years ahead. Deeds, speaking to a Energy Technology Summit, suggested that the Virginia spaceport become a part of a larger energy technology plan for Virginia while McDonnell spoke of the essentials of coal, nuclear energy and the spaceport as keys to the state's energy potential. While neither candidate for Virginia's executive mansion has directly linked the spaceport's future to space-based solar power, there is a growing nexus between the spaceport and energy that would lead to a conclusion that the two candidates have a vision that would use space-based technologies for future electric power production in Virginia. (6/30)

SpaceX Raising Another $60M for Private Space Travel (Source: Venture Beat)
Space travel company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, has raised $15 million of a new funding round, according to VentureWire. The round may eventually grow to $60 million. VentureWire first spotted the news in a regulatory filing and has confirmed the news with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the firm leading the round. It sounds like the company's fortunes continue to improve. Founded in 2002 by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, who serves as CEO for both the Hawthorne, Calif., company and electric car maker Tesla, SpaceX really started proving itself last year when it finally launched a rocket into space after three failed attempts. (6/30)

Ukrainian Workers Needed for Virginia Launch Program (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport have begun construction of launch facilities for Orbital's Taurus II rocket and its related work with NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. Orbital ultimately expects to be capable of four to six launches a year from Wallops, launch site manager Norman Bobczynski said. The company's choice of Wallops as the home base for its Taurus II project will bring $40 million to $100 million of investment into the area from Orbital, NASA and the state. A dock will be needed to bring the first rocket stage to the spaceport. The first stage will be built in Ukraine. Some testing and assembly of the rocket will be done by a team from the Ukraine, Bobczynski said, meaning 30 to 50 Ukrainian workers at a time will be at Wallops during the lead-up to launches. The company is working on finding housing for those workers, who will remain in the area for weeks or months at a time and who will need office space outside the Wallops Flight Facility, he said. An 80,000-gallon fuel tank will be shipped to the island from a Mexican manufacturer in November. (6/30)

Sweden Considers SpaceX Falcon 1 for its Spaceport (Source: Hyperbola)
Swedish Space Corporation business development manager Mattias Abrahamsson says Spaceport Sweden's future could include launches of the SpaceX Falcon-1, allowing the Swedes to launch satellites from their most northern territory without dropping rocket stages onto their neighbors. (6/30)

China Unveils Fund to Finance Aerospace Industry (Source: Space Daily)
China has unveiled the country's first national fund aimed at investing in aerospace, state media reported, as the country tries to compete with the industry's heavyweights. Investors in the fund, which expects to raise 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion), include state-run operations such as Xi'an Yanliang National Aviation Hi-Tech Industrial Base. The fund is located in the northwestern city of Xi'an, one of five aircraft industry bases set up in China. This is the first time the country has launched a fund to help develop the aerospace industry, which has previously relied on government special-purpose financing. Xi'an Yanliang National Aviation Hi-Tech Industrial Base focuses on the manufacturing of passenger aircraft and is involved in developing the homegrown mid-range aircraft ARJ-21 with 70 to 90 seats. (6/30)

Aerojet Gets Air Force Contract for Minuteman Stage Testing (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to Aerojet General Corporation, of Rancho Cordova, Calif., for up to $7,332,694. This contract action will provide for testing of Minuteman II Stage 2, SR19 motors to assure rocket motor reliability for use in rocket systems launch programs as launch targets. (6/18)

Space Florida Sets Relaunch (Source: Florida Today)
After some turmoil at the top, Space Florida is back -- we hope -- to doing deals and shoring up the launch industry and jobs in Brevard County. New President Frank DiBello took over after his predecessor failed to produce a business plan, whiffed at lining up investors and ran afoul of lobbying and contracting rules. Click here to view a brief interview with DiBello. (6/30)

DiBello: NASA Commitment to "Heavy-Lift" Vehicle is Best for Florida (Source: Florida Today)
When asked about which post-Shuttle rocket scenario is best for Florida, Space Florida's Frank DiBello said: "The ones that are best for Florida are to commit to a 'heavy lift' vehicle. Ares 5 does the job as a heavy-lift concept. There's a lot of work associated with that. And then, things associated with lunar are very good for Florida because of the capabilities that are here. We've already demonstrated the ability to launch and do the final assembly and integration." (6/30)

DiBello: Shuttle Workforce is a National Asset (Source: Florida Today)
DiBello said the Space Shuttle workforce is a "national asset" that has a high-value culture. "They have a culture of safety, quality assurance, adherence to procedure and regulation, and rigid documentation of what's going on. Commercial companies spend fortunes trying to develop that in their workforce. We have it here in abundance." (6/30)

ESA Offers Astronaut Training for European Space Tourism (Source: Flight Global)
To aid a European suborbital tourism industry the European Space Agency might provide astronaut training, but its first step is expected to be an annual conference or workshops to facilitate a dialogue between companies and other potential stakeholders. Such training and forums have been identified in ESA's new space tourism position paper. In the paper the agency envisages it providing human spaceflight services including astronaut training, engaging in partnerships with European space tourism ventures and contributing to the development of the necessary pan-European related legal framework. (6/30)

Japan a Low-Key Player in Space Race (Source: Japan Times)
Japan has launched Earth observation, communications and weather satellites as well as other space vehicles since it began its space program in the late 1960s. The program initially fell under the authority of the National Space Development Agency but is now under NASDA's successor, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. Last year, U.S. space shuttles brought components of Japan's Kibo (Hope) space lab to be attached to the International Space Station. Despite the recession, the government budgeted ¥344.8 billion for space exploration in fiscal 2009, an increase of 10.4 percent from the previous year. Despite such ambitious outlays, Japan lags behind other nations in space. (6/30)

Ball Gets Analyst Upgrade, NASA Contract (Source: Daily Camera)
Ball Corp. is aggressively cutting costs and could soon benefit from a rising volume, an analyst said. Ball's volume hit a bottom in the first quarter "with an aggressive cost-cutting program and likely price increases in 2010 setting the stage for outsized earnings growth over the next three years." Separately, Ball's aerospace unit was awarded a $9.7 million contract to assess and potentially refurbish a NASA instrument to measure gases in Earth's upper atmosphere, officials announced Monday. (6/30)

Uranium Found on the Moon (Source: Space.com)
Uranium exists on the moon, according to new data from a Japanese spacecraft. The findings are the first conclusive evidence for the presence of the radioactive element in lunar dirt, the researchers said. They announced the discovery recently at the 40th Lunar and Planetary Conference. The revelation suggests that nuclear power plants could be built on the moon, or even that Earth's satellite could serve as a mining source for uranium needed back home. The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft, which was launched in 2007, detected uranium with a gamma-ray spectrometer. Scientists are using the instrument to create maps of the moon's surface composition, showing the presence of thorium, potassium, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, calcium, titanium and iron. (6/30)

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