July 14 News Items

Augustine Panel Considers Ares Alternatives (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Members of the Augustine Panel have asked NASA to design a new way to send astronauts back to the moon. The request could result in NASA ditching the controversial Ares I rocket design that the agency has spent the past four years and more than $3 billion creating and defending. And any redesign would almost certainly delay NASA's first-launch deadline of 2015, though most critics no longer consider that deadline realistic. Panel members have told NASA they want to see the effects of both minor tweaks and "wholesale" changes to its Constellation Program that is intended to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 on a new generation of two Ares rockets and a crew capsule called Orion.

NASA's critics have said there's no way the Constellation program can meet its 2015 launch schedule — let alone return astronauts to the moon by 2020 — given the technical problems and multibillion-dollar cost overruns on its Ares I rocket. "One of the [panel's] subcommittees has asked the [Constellation] program to present both the baseline ... program and one of the variants that they have studied as well," said one committee official. The request coincides with NASA scrambling some of its top engineers to study an "architecture" that would use a single rocket to launch both humans and cargo to the moon. Constellation's current approach calls for two rockets — the Ares I that would carry humans into space, and the enormous Ares V to lift heavy cargo.

NASA confirms that it is looking at different versions of the Ares V, though a spokeswoman played down the significance of the review. "They are looking at a whole new launch architecture," said one NASA contractor familiar with the study. "Although it's still too early to pronounce Ares I dead, it is safe to assume that members of the committees have doubts about it." Editor's Note: The architecture being considered seems consistent with the Jupiter-130 "in-line" (as opposed to "side-mount" design offered to the panel. A variant of this design also is said to have been offered by Boeing. (7/14)

Grand Plans for Moon and Mars, Budget Permitting (Source: New York Times)
NASA’s program to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020 is often called “Apollo on steroids.” To detractors, this is a description of disparagement — treading the same path as 40 years ago, only with bigger, costlier rockets. But NASA officials say the new missions will be much grander — astronauts living on the Moon for months at a time, driving hundreds of miles across the lunar surface and, for the first time, building an outpost on ground that is not Earth. “It’s not just flags and footsteps,” said John Olson, director of the office within NASA’s exploration systems mission directorate that integrates the disparate parts of a lunar program. “It’s substantially important work.”

The technologies and skills, the NASA officials say, are essential before pushing on to Mars, the next major destination. Scientists see several exciting research possibilities on the Moon, like building a radio telescope on the far side, shielded from the noise from Earth, and looking for layers of frost in shadowed craters near the poles, which may preserve hints of the solar system’s past. But with trillion-dollar federal budget deficits and a blue ribbon panel now re-evaluating the United States’ human space flight program, there is some question whether the lunar designs that NASA has drawn up over the past five years will be built. The agency could be told to focus on robotic missions, to undertake cheaper alternatives for getting to the Moon or to shift its target to something else, like an asteroid. (7/14)

Commercial Launch of SpaceX Falcon 1 Rocket a Success (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Malaysian satellite rode a Falcon 1 rocket into orbit Monday night, marking the first time the privately-developed booster has successfully launched an operational spacecraft. The 70-foot-tall rocket was making its fifth flight. Three of its four previous launches failed, dooming two small military satellites. But SpaceX, the California-based company that developed the launcher, scored its second straight success Monday, almost nine months after the Falcon 1 first reached orbit last year. (7/14)

NASA Scrubs Fifth Attempt to Launch Endeavour (Source: Space Daily)
NASA scrubbed a fifth attempt to launch the space shuttle Endeavour due to stormy weather Monday, and said it would prepare for a sixth attempt early Wednesday evening. The launch had been scheduled for 6:51 pm Monday, but unsettled weather, including nearby late-day thunderstorms, forced NASA to abort the countdown. (7/14)

Cargo Shortfall is Real Risk to Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
The International Space Station has cost American taxpayers at least $31 billion so far, and that's a conservative estimate that doesn't include billions more in indirect costs. Let's hope the United States is not going to toss that investment away now that the orbiting laboratory is almost complete. There are finally enough people living on board to actually do science experiments. After all, that was the stated purpose of a space station. A major threat to the space station's viability is cargo delivery. The space shuttle hauls a lot of stuff to the space station each time it goes there. The space shuttle hauls a lot of stuff to the space station each time it goes there. Think of it as a space "big rig."

Russians haul up food, water and supplies in their Progress cargo tug. Think of that as a U-haul trailer. After 2010, however, the U.S. doesn't plan to be flying space shuttles or buying Progress cargo tugs. Instead, NASA's plan is to send cargo to the space station aboard a pair of private spacecraft that are yet to fly and are both behind schedule. While NASA's formal plans call for SpaceX and Orbital Sciences spacecraft to make deliveries as early as 2011, neither is on track to hit that mark.

If there are delays in 2010, NASA would have to significantly scale back science aboard the space station, according to the Government Accountability Office. If there are further delays in 2011, the GAO says, "NASA could no longer maintain a space station crew of six astronauts and its ability to conduct scientific research would be compromised." The backup plan? There isn't one. (7/14)

Northrop Gets $30M Contract for 'Space Fence' Development (Source: LA Business Journal)
Northrop Grumman Corp. has been awarded a $30 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for development of the "Space Fence" global space surveillance ground radar system. The new Space Fence is part of the U.S. Department of Defense's effort to continually track and detect objects such as space debris and satellites in low and medium earth orbit. The Space Fence will replace the current VHF Air Force Space Surveillance System built in 1961. (7/14)

The Numbers Game (Source: Space Review)
It's a simple question that's difficult to answer: how many objects are orbiting the Earth? Brian Weeden explains the challenges in identifying and tracking satellites and debris, and how the US military and others can improve this effort. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1417/1 to view the article. (7/14)

The First Space Cadets (Source: Space Review)
Getting the Air Force's first satellite program going was both a technical and organizational challenge. Dwayne Day describes how a few officers -- the "Space Cadets" -- helped push the program forward. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1416/1 to view the article. (7/14)

To Boldly Go... Where Others Have Gone Before (Source: Space Review)
The current committee reviewing NASA's human spaceflight efforts is hardly the first such effort to study the agency and its future. Edward Ellegood looks at what lessons those past efforts have to offer to the Augustine committee. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1415/1 to view the article. (7/14)

Did 1969 Mark the End of the Dream? (Source: AFP)
By the early 21st century, we would be colonizing the Moon, honeymooning on Mars and scouting the moons of Jupiter, if the visions conjured by the first lunar landing were to be believed. Forty years later, the sad truth is this: today, we do not venture beyond our own backyard. Our travelling horizon lies no farther than the International Space Station, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) above our heads. The two pioneers of manned space flight, Russia and America, have indeed been joined by China, but so far it is done no more than replicate their brief low-orbital trips of nearly half a century ago. While robots do all the real exploration of space, humans are stuck in a rut, says Francis Rocard, an astrophysicist in charge of Solar System exploration at France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). (7/13)

Augustine Panel Drops Site Visits (Source: Aviation Week)
Members of the White House panel reviewing options for future U.S. human spaceflight have dropped site visits in the interest of efficiency as they work to meet an end-of-August deadline. The 10-member panel, headed by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, has visited Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, where NASA is developing the Ares I crew launch vehicle; the Delta IV production facility in Decatur, Ala., the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and the SpaceX plant in Hawthorne, Calif., to gather data. But instead of continuing the practice, its members have opted for back-to-back public hearings July 28-30 in Houston, Huntsville, Ala., and Cocoa Beach, Fla., where NASA's human-spaceflight centers are located, and a final public meeting Aug. 5 in Washington. The panel also is soliciting public input on its Web page at www.nasa.gov, and plans a series of "fact-finding meetings" July 21-23. (7/14)

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