August 14 News Items

White House Makes Official a Review of Export Control System (Source: White House)
"The President has directed that the NEC/NSC launch a broad-based interagency process for reviewing the overall U.S. export control system, including both the dual-use and defense trade processes. The aim of the review is to consider reforms to the system to enhance the national security, foreign policy, and economic security interests of the United States. The US has one of the most robust export control systems in the world. But, it is rooted in the Cold War era of over 50 years ago and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape." (8/14)

Last GPS Launch Raises Questions About Delta-2's Future (Source: SPACErePORT)
Monday's planned Delta-2 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will be the last one to carry a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite to orbit. Future GPS missions will be aboard Delta-4 or Atlas-5 rockets (or Falcon-9 if SpaceX is successful in adding their rocket to the Air Force's EELV program). Only one more military Delta-2 mission remains planned in Florida, launching on Sep. 15 with a Missile Defense Agency payload, followed by NASA's GRAIL lunar mission in 2011. Five other Delta-2 missions will be launched from California, and the last five existing Delta-2 rockets remain unsold.

With the end in sight for military use of the Cape's Delta-2 launch pads at Launch Complex 17, the costs for maintaining the facility are of increasing concern. The Air Force plans to halt its funding of LC-17 maintenance in September, allowing NASA to cover the costs until GRAIL is launched. After that, the responsibility could go to United Launch Alliance or whichever agency decides to buy the remaining five vehicles/missions. As it attempts to sell the remaining rockets and perhaps re-start production of new ones, ULA faces growing competition from domestic and foreign competitors, including Taurus, Falcon, and Minotaur rockets in the U.S. (8/14)

Japan Set to Launch First Space Station Re-Supply Mission (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch a H-2B rocket with the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo ship from Tanegashima Island, carrying scientific instruments and drinking water to the International Space Station (ISS), at 1:04 p.m. EDT on Sep. 10. It will reach the ISS six days following launch. HTV is a first-of-its-kind cargo spacecraft for the Japanese. Astronauts will use the station's robotic arm to grapple the free-flying spacecraft and berth it to an open port docking with a US-made module. (8/14)

Virginia Spaceport Investments Paying Off (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) is now building $70 million worth of new spaceport infrastructure, which will enable the spaceport to launch medium-heavy to heavy rockets. Funding for the new launch pad, horizontal integration facilities, fueling systems, etc., is coming from the Commonwealth, the federal government and private industry. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership projected Orbital's Taurus II project at Wallops Island alone will generate 125 six-figure paying jobs and 222 indirect jobs with suppliers and contractors.

In June of 2008, after intense, head-to-head competition with Florida, Orbital Sciences Corporation, selected MARS as the demonstration site for the launch of their new Taurus II rocket. To win the launch competition with Florida, the General Assembly and Governor supported $26 million in bond financing for new infrastructure needed at the Spaceport to accommodate larger rockets. Orbital will invest $45 million in Virginia to assemble, test and launch Taurus II. Orbital received $170 million from NASA for the new rocket design and manufacturing.

In December of 2008, Orbital Sciences received a $1.9 billion dollar contract for eight re-supply missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2011 to 2015. Orbital will launch the re-supply missions from MARS. The Chairman of Orbital recently said they expect to launch 4-to-6 rockets a year from MARS after the new infrastructure is operational. MARS has been selected by NASA to launch LADDEE, [the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer]. The US Air Force has selected MARS, again, to participate in launches for its 'Operationally Responsive Space" program which uses space to help battlefield commanders 'real time' in the field such as TacSat-2, TacSat-3 and NFIRE. (8/14)

Virginia Suborbital Launch Planned on Aug. 17 (Source: NASA)
Inflatable aircraft are not a new idea. Hot air balloons have been around for more than two centuries and blimps are a common sight over many sports stadiums. But it's hard to imagine an inflatable spacecraft. Researchers from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., are working to develop a new kind of lightweight inflatable spacecraft outer shell to slow and protect reentry vehicles as they blaze through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. They will test a technology demonstrator from a small sounding rocket to be launched at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. The launch is scheduled for Aug. 17. (8/13)

Candidate's Big Budget Increase to Make Wallops the Premier U.S. Spaceport (Source: DelMarVaNow)
The newest destination in Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan is out of this world. Literally. McDonnell on Thursday pledged a tenfold boost in state funding for Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That would mean $1 million annually during the most austere budget year in memory in a bid to make Wallops the nation’s premier commercial spaceport. He’s even proposing space tourism, so wealthy paying customers can boldly go where no vacationer has gone before. (8/14)

Satellite Shows Devastation Caused by California Fires (Source: SSTL)
Satellite imagery from the recently launched UK-DMC2 satellite shows forest fires in the Los Padres National Forest east of Santa Maria at 11:10 local time on Aug. 12. California is currently experiencing widespread forest fires, which has lead to evacuations in two areas. Earlier today, Bloomberg reported that more than 1,900 fire fighters were battling the blaze that has burned at least 48,457 acres in the Los Padres National Forest area of Santa Barbara County. The image was acquired by DMCii in Guildford, UK from the new UK-DMC2 earth observation satellite just 16 days after its launch into the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) on 29th July.

To the East of Santa Maria, an enormous cloud of smoke from the fire can be clearly seen extending to the West above the patchwork agricultural of farms that begins in the outskirts of Santa Maria. The artificial red indicates green vegetation and the dark patch indicates burned areas, revealing the damage that has been caused to the trees of the Los Padres National Forest from which the smoke plume is blowing. The characteristic shape of Lake Cachuma can be seen to the south of the image. Click here to view the news bulletin. (8/14)

Time for Shuttle Extension is Running Out (Source: Florida Today)
President Barack Obama would need to extend shuttle operations by the end of the year to avoid a gap between the fleet's scheduled retirement in late 2010 and the launch of any additional missions, a NASA official said Thursday. And even though a White House review panel is holding open an option to keep shuttles flying for six more years, the ongoing shutdown of the program is fast reaching a point where it would be hard to reverse course. Earlier this month, NASA staged a final shuttle main engine test in Mississippi. Operations at an external tank factory in Louisiana and a solid rocket booster plant in Utah are winding down. What's more, NASA is poised to lay off 1,200 shuttle employees -- 10 percent of the work force -- in October. At least 400 of those job cuts would come at Kennedy Space Center. (8/14)

Scientists Propose Lab-Grade Black Holes (Source: Science News)
One day, scientists may create the ultimate tempest in a teapot — an artificial black hole in a millimeter-long gadget. Mysterious black holes were originally thought to gobble up everything around them, including light (hence the name). But in the 1970s, British physicist Stephen Hawking predicted that because of quantum effects, these voracious monsters should emit photons. Right on the brink of the black hole, these photons “are so energetic that they go beyond what we understand,” says study coauthor Miles Blencowe. Such emitted photons, known as Hawking radiation, have not yet been caught in the wild, nor have they been simulated in an experiment, leaving knowledge of their basic properties — and existence — in limbo. In the new study, the researchers propose using a series of tiny, cold superconducting devices called SQUIDs in a linear, train-track–shaped arrangement to create a black hole analog. “But unlike a black hole out in space, we know the physics of this system,” says study coauthor Paul Nation. (8/14)

NASA's Trajectory Unrealistic, Panel Says (Source: Washington Post)
NASA doesn't have nearly enough money to meet its goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 -- and it may be the wrong place to go anyway. That's one of the harsh messages emerging from a sweeping review of NASA's human spaceflight program. Although it is just an advisory panel, the Human Space Flight Plans Committee could turn the entire space program upside down. Appointed by President Obama and headed by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine, the 10-person panel has held a series of marathon meetings in recent weeks to try to Velcro together some kind of plausible strategy for NASA. The agency's trajectory over the next two decades, as well as the fate of thousands of civil servants and private contractors, could be affected by the group's report, due at the end of this month.

John Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, observed the panel's session Wednesday and said NASA faces a problem that has been years in the making. "This is a heritage of one of the many failed promises of the Bush administration -- to set out a very good policy and then not provide the resources that come anywhere near funding it," Logsdon said. (8/14)

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