June 8 News Items

Dot Mars (Source: Economist)
Cyberspacec is noisy, chatty and well-connected. Space, by contrast, is not. Communication between Earth and spacecraft is clunky and reminiscent of the days when switchboard operators had to plug in telephone lines by hand to connect the people at either end. But that is now about to change. America’s space agency, NASA, has been researching what it calls the delay- (or disruption-) tolerant network protocol, or DTN. The idea is to introduce to space the automated protocols that enable seamless communication on the terrestrial internet.

Communicating in space is quite different from the constant flow of information on Earth, where a buzz of greetings, acknowledgments and farewells flits between computers as they locate each other, exchange data and then disconnect. Space communication happens in distinct jumps, and requires a “store and forward” system that can retain information at each step in the process. For example, if a rover on Mars needs to send data to Earth, it would first need to store the data until it was within range of an orbiting satellite. After receiving the data, that satellite would hold the information until it could be sent on the next hop towards Earth. Click here to view the article. (6/8)

Red Tape in Orbit (Source: Economist)
A small company has won an important legal challenge to America’s space-technology export-control regime. For many years people in America’s space industry have complained that the rules governing the export of technology are too strict. Understandably, the government does not want militarily useful stuff to fall into the hands of its foes. But the result is a system that is too strict in its definition of “militarily useful” and which favours lumbering dinosaurs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which survive on big government contracts, rather than small and nimble “furry mammals” that need every customer they can get, domestic or foreign.

In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to America’s rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the government’s claim that foreign passengers traveling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-control regime. Click here to view the article. (6/8)

Vaccines in Space: Taking Biotech to Microgravity Labs (Source:
Last week, International Space Station crews conducted a trailblazing microgravity vaccine experiment on behalf of a company to thwart drug-resistant infections. The trick: growing superdiseases in space. Soon after, the CEO of the company behind the experiment told attendees at a conference in New York City what he envisions for the future of space-age biotech.

Previous NASA spaceflight experiments have shown that microbes grow better in space, but the cause is still being debated. One popular theory is that nutrients can be absorbed more efficiently through cell walls and from multiple directions without the presence of gravity. Another, more obscure, theory: There is a latent genetic code in the microbes that is expressed in microgravity.

Thomas Pickens (son of the billionaire energy entrepreneur, T. Boone Pickens) doesn't care all that much why this phenomena occurs?—he just wants to cash in on it. As the president and CEO of Astrotech, Pickens established a subsidiary to develop vaccines using the fruits of space research like last month's experiment. "We found it commercially viable to send microbes to space," he says. "They just jump off the charts in terms of growth." (6/8)

NASA Unveils New Tranquility Module At KSC (Source: Florida Today)
In a ceremony that marked the beginning of an end, NASA on Monday unveiled the U.S. Tranquility module -- a barrel-shaped spacecraft that will be the final major American addition to the International Space Station.

The Tranquility module is to be launched Feb. 4 on shuttle Endeavour. Flying up with it will be the Cupola -- an observation post with six windows that will give astronauts a 360-degree view around the sprawling station. Berthed on the Earth-facing port of the Tranquility module, the Cupola will be equipped with a control station where astronauts will operate the outpost's mobile transporter as well as its Canadian-built robotic arms. (6/8)

Payton Warns Of Small Satellite Danger (Source: Aviation Week)
Defunct microsatellites pose a growing space debris risk and must be better tracked in orbit, according to Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force for space. "Some people call these microsats," Payton said during the Space Foundation's Space Business Forum here June 4. "Ten years after their launch, they become space debris. They become potential ASATs. We need to keep track of these smaller and smaller spacecraft."

Payton wants to set up a more routine relationship with commercial satellite operators, similar to the Air Force's relationship with NASA. "Our increased emphasis on space situational awareness is so important, so we can do a better job of conjunction analysis, we can do a better job of notifying folks," he said. The Air Force has no initiatives for removing orbital debris underway, but "that might be a place for an entrepreneur to jump into," Payton said, particularly for large objects such as spent rocket stages or derelict spacecraft. (6/8)

Two Florida Lawmakers Lobby for NASA Bucks (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two lawmakers from Florida’s Space Coast urged Congress to increase funding for NASA’s human spaceflight program, warning that proposed budget cuts would mean job losses and a lengthy reliance on the Russians to get American astronauts into orbit. “Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake in our state and across the nation,” wrote U.S. Reps. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, and Bill Posey, R-Rockledge. Click here to view their letter to appropriators. (6/8)

Marshall Space Flight Center Opens New Engineering Building (Source: Huntsville Times)
A new, energy efficient and environmentally friendly building was formally opened at Marshall Space Flight Center. The $30 million facility will house about 500 engineers who will perform work on the International Space Station and space shuttle programs. Building 4601 is home to engineers from Marshall's Materials and Processes Laboratory and Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department, where they will continue work on NASA's future launch vehicles. The new building is expected to slash energy consumption and have lower power bills. Today it costs about $450,000 a year for power usage at the four decade old main office building 4200. This building is expect to cost about $140,000 a year, said Cedric Davis, a facilities manger at Marshall.

The building is the second of three planned at what Marshall managers have dubbed "the engineering complex." Building 4600 was opened in 2005, and construction on a third building, which will have offices and labs for about 500 more people, should begin before the end of this summer. (6/8)

Globalstar Facing August Financing Deadline (Source: Space News)
Struggling mobile satellite services operator Globalstar Inc. has until Aug. 5 to secure fresh financial commitments from its principal shareholder and the manufacturers of its second-generation satellite constellation or risk cancellation of a French export-credit agency loan guarantee, Globalstar said June 8. (6/8)

Satmex to Pursue Debt Restructuring (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Satmex said it will open negotiations with its creditors on a restructuring of the company's debt to permit the purchase of a new satellite that Satmex Chief Executive Patricio Northland said could cost between $320 million and $350 million. (6/7)

Iridium Sticks with Growth Forecast Despite Revenue Dip (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Satellite LLC reported a slight dip in revenue for the first quarter of 2009 compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, with its subscriber base increasing 2.5 percent during the period. The company said June 3 it is sticking with forecasts of 20 percent subscriber growth this year and a modest increase in revenue from 2008. (6/7)

Telesat Canada Withdraws from Satellite Lease (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat Canada, in a move that provides the company with cash and removes pressure to spend money on a new satellite this year, has agreed with APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong to end a long-term lease of Telstar-10/Apstar-2R. Telesat will receive a refund of $69.5 million covering advance payments previously made on the lease contract, Telesat and APT announced June 1. (6/2)

Should India and the US Cooperate on Space Solar Power? (Source: Space Review)
If the US has a serious medium-term need for a very large new source of clean energy, India needs it even more. Space solar power (SSP) may be the only alternative that could be made to work before the major global electricity demand crisis hits, around the year 2050. In Washington lots of people have complained that the Obama Administration has so far not given the India-US relationship the attention it deserves. Others are waiting to see if this relatively new team is going to follow up on the progress made by previous administrations in building a real friendship between the two democratic giants. The one area in which there seems to be movement on, though, is a “renewable energy partnership”. (6/8)

Can the Private Sector Make a Breakthrough in Space Access? (Source: Space Review)
Many space enthusiasts embrace the idea that private entrepreneurs can achieve a breakthrough in space access where large government funded efforts have repeatedly failed. This belief remains widespread despite many years of many failures by the private sector. Previous failures include Kistler Aerospace and Rotary Rocket, among many others. Current hopes are pinned on Elon Musk and SpaceX, Richard Branson/Burt Rutan and Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, and miscellaneous other entrepreneurs and firms. Yet common business practices in modern high technology firms and the historical pattern of major technological inventions and scientific discoveries are in clear conflict. Click here to view the article. (6/8)

Space Policy 101: Civil Space 2009 (Source: Space Review)
What are the prospects for national civil space policy in light of a new administration and a review of NASA's human spaceflight efforts? In the first of a two-part article, Dwayne Day reports on a conference last week that examined these and related issues. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1391/1 to view the article. (6/8)

An Uptick for Space Tourism (Source: Space Review)
A few months ago there seemed to be little progress in many aspects of both orbital and suborbital tourism. Jeff Foust discusses how that's changed somewhat, for the better, thanks to some recent developments. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1390/1 to view the article. (6/8)

Too Soon to Give Up on Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
The International Space Station is over budget and, upon completion, it will not include all of the capabilities once planned. Cost-cutting by Russia and the U.S. forced compromises. A space shuttle disaster in 2003 led to a lingering supply-line crisis that easily could have forced the partners to evacuate the station because of shortages of food, water and spare parts. If you were just paying attention to headlines and critics, you'd have thought the project was doomed.

But here's the thing: Space is hard. Building a solar-powered spaceship the size of a five-bedroom house is a big deal, especially in an environment where the slightest misstep could destroy the whole complex and kill everyone aboard. Ultimately, compromise and ingenuity won out. Fast forward to 2009. The space station is almost built. The U.S., Europe and Japan have labs there now. Six people are living on board. A lot can happen in 10 years. (6/8)

New Cleaning Protocol for Future 'Search for Life' Missions (Source: Eurekalert)
Scientists have developed a new cleaning protocol for space hardware, such as the scoops of Mars rovers, which could be used on future "Search for Life" missions on other planets. The new protocol was developed as part of a project to investigate life that exists in extreme Arctic environments, which are the closest analogue we have on Earth to the surface of Mars. The studies are also designed to help guide future NASA and ESA planetary missions.

The decontamination protocol was developed and tested by scientists at the University of Leeds and NASA. It deals with the dilemma known as 'forward contamination' - ensuring that bugs from Earth don't hitch a ride across space and jeopardise the integrity of samples collected by rovers. The decontamination protocol involves a cocktail of chemicals that were applied and tested on various sampling devices, including a glacial ice core drill and a rover scoop. "We are trying to avoid a case of mistaken identity," says Professor Liane Benning, a biogeochemist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the paper. (6/8)

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