June 5 News Items

NASA Still Wrestling with Ares-1 Thrust Oscillation Fixes (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA and industry engineers are still wrestling with the shaking that plagues the Ares I rocket on ascent, evaluating various possible fixes. The shaking, known as thrust oscillation, occurs because of the way Ares' solid-rocket fuel first stage burns, vibrating the vehicle like a giant organ pipe. Computer models show the shaking takes place about 115 seconds into flight. In the worst case, Ares I could be damaged and the crew hurt or killed.

During meetings this week at the Ames research center in Moffett Field, CA, engineers continued to assess possible fixes. According to a NASA blog, the engineers are still looking at putting a series of passive dampers at the bottom of the rocket and a series of spring-like brackets in the middle to soak up the vibrations like shock absorbers. Originally the brackets, called a dual plane C-spring isolator system, were too heavy to incorporate into the overall design. An updated version uses titanium, which is as strong as steel but lighter. However, the fixes are not easy and engineers have yet to settle on a solution. (6/5)

NASA Lunar Orbiter Set for Florida Launch on Jun. 17 (Source: NASA)
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, spacecraft are set to launch together to the moon aboard an Atlas V rocket on June 17. Three launch opportunities from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., are at 3:51 p.m., 4:01 p.m. and 4:11 p.m. EDT. NASA Television's coverage of the launch will begin at 1 p.m. EDT. If the launch is postponed 24 hours, the launch times on June 18 are 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m. (6/5)

Lost in Space: The Science of Battlestar Galactica (Source: New Scientist)
Sci-fi TV show Battlestar Galactica has been much praised for its gritty realism – despite being the story of space-borne refugees fleeing genocidal robots. Its treatment of subjects like suicide bombing and torture have won it plaudits from all corners; its cast and creators were even invited to address the UN earlier this year. But does the series "do" science as convincingly as it does politics? We spoke to Kevin Fong, lecturer in space medicine at University College London and a keen advocate of manned space travel, about the series' depiction of space travel and the challenges facing astronauts on long space journeys. Click here to view the article. (6/5)

Lockheed Martin Wins SBIRS Satellite Contract (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.5-billion contract for the third highly elliptical orbit (HEO-3) payload, the third geosynchronous orbit (GEO-3) satellite and associated ground modifications for the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) constellation. A contract to include a fourth HEO payload and possible fourth GEO satellite is expected to be awarded later this year. The SBIRS program is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. (6/5)

NASA Budget Slashed (Source: Huntsville Times)
A U.S. House of Representatives spending vote Thursday slashed money from the NASA budget, practically freezing exploration programs at current funding. The House Commerce Justice and Science subcommittee voted to cut the money because the future of manned spaceflight is under review, a congressman said. The move could cut money for future development of the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares rockets. The vote shifts about $360 million from exploration and support programs - mostly Ares rocket development.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said the money should be kept in place for the Ares development. "We must fund NASA in a way which ensures that America's space program remains a world leader in technology and access to space," he said in a statement released Thursday. (6/5)

Harris to Buy Air Traffic Control Unit of Canadian Firm (Source: AIA)
Harris Corp., the prime contractor for a $3.5 billion overhaul of the FAA's telecommunications infrastructure, said Thursday it will buy the Air Traffic Control division of Canada's SolaCom Technologies Inc. Once the sale is completed, Harris will acquire some 200 air traffic customers on six continents. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (6/5)

Northrop Study Finds Savings in Split Tanker Contract (Source: AIA)
A new paper from Northrop Grumman Corp. suggests the Air Force could achieve significant long-term savings on the aerial refueling tanker by offering a split, competitive contract to both Northrop and Boeing Co. Although "Northrop Grumman is not advocating a dual procurement acquisition process for the tanker replacement program," the company's study found that a split contract would help contain costs, reduce maintenance for existing KC-135s and update the fleet seven years faster than a sole-source contract. Editor's Note: Northrop Grumman work on the tanker contract would expand the company's Space Coast employment and offset Shuttle job losses. (6/5)

Tourist Touts Commercial Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Space tourist Richard Garriott believes an "inflection point" is coming in which the cost of access to space will drop low enough to reveal a variety of viable new commercial space ventures beyond just tourism or communications. An entrepreneur who made his fortune in the computer game industry, Garriott took his first trip to space last October, flying on a Russian Soyuz vehicle to the International Space Station and spending 12 days in orbit.

He said he has spent nearly all of his time since his trip traveling the world to speak about his experiences, and has met with entrepreneurial space companies such as fledgling launch provider SpaceX, space tourism company Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace and others. "I am now completely convinced that many of these ventures are going to be not just slightly successful but extraordinarily successful," Garriott said during remarks at the Space Foundation's Space Business Forum here June 4. (6/5)

General Dynamics Wins Military SatCom Terminal Contract (Source: General Dynamics)
General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies has received a $119 million modification to an existing delivery order to provide additional satellite communications earth terminals and support services for Increment One of the U.S. Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program. (6/5)

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