August 24 News Items

SpaceX Making Steady Progress on Falcon-9 (Source:
SpaceX continues to plan to debut the new Falcon 9 rocket by the end of this year, but company engineers are still qualifying some parts of the vehicle for the rigors of launch. "We're not down to an exact date, but we are targeting the end of the year. And so far, so good," said Tim Buzza, SpaceX's vice president of launch operations. Everything should be qualified for flight in about two months, Buzza said.

Company officials are careful to point out the Falcon-9 uses similar technology to the smaller Falcon-1, but the new launcher is more than twice as tall and 25 times more powerful than anything SpaceX has flown before. Pieces of the first Falcon-9 are stopping at the company's Texas test facility on the trek from California to the launch site in Florida. "We're focusing on those first two flights and getting all that hardware moving from Hawthorne through Texas to the Cape," Buzza said. (8/24)

Coping With the Closing (Source: Space Review)
Space enthusiasts have coped with the relative lack of progress in the four decades since humans first walked on the Moon in varying ways. John Hickman describes these various approaches and how they can pose obstacles to the future. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

Still on the Ground Floor (Source: Space Review)
Several years ago there was renewed interest in the concept of the space elevator, but that enthusiasm has yet to translate into major progress. Jeff Foust reports on a recent conference where the space elevator community took stock of the current situation and made plans to forge ahead. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

PAN's Labyrinth (Source: Space Review)
An Atlas 5 is scheduled to launch next month a mysterious satellite identified only as PAN. Dwayne Day sheds a little more light on this spacecraft and its possible mission. Visit to view the article. (8/24)

U.S. State Department Comments on North Korea's Concerns Over South Korean Launch (Source: US State Dept.)
A State Department spokesman gave the following comments in response to media questions about North Korea's concern that South Korea's space launch was not receiving the same kind of international scrutiny directed at North Korea's recent rocket launch activity... "The South Koreans have developed their program in a very open and transparent way and in keeping with the international agreements that they have signed onto. This is in stark contrast to the example set by North Korea, which has not abided by its international agreements." (8/24)

Using Existing Rockets Could Save Taxpayers Cash (Source: Florida Today)
The Atlas V and Delta IV rockets were designed, built and launched by private companies. But they're far from privately developed rockets. You and I and other taxpayers will have spent at least $30 billion on Boeing's Delta IV and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V over the rockets' lifetimes, more than double what the companies and military leaders told Congress it would cost. So, it could be a good thing for taxpayers if the government adds work to America's underutilized existing rocket fleet rather than continuing to spend billions more dollars developing a new rocket that is destined to end up over budget and years behind schedule.

The story of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles is like most other big government space projects, whether run by NASA or the Defense Department. They almost always end up less capable than planned, more expensive than advertised and reaching space years late. In the beginning, taxpayers were to invest just $1 billion in the development of the two new rockets. Boeing and Lockheed were to pick up the rest of the tab, and then sell launches of military, science and spy satellites back to the government at a cheaper rate. Taxpayers would save up to $10 billion over the life of the program compared to past launcher programs. (8/24)

ESA Proceeds with Advanced Re-Entry to Evolve to Human Capsule for Space Access (Source: ESA)
The European Advanced Reentry Vehicle is proceeding through the development cycle. It is based on an evolution of the ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which has shown its capabilities for logistics supply to the International Space Station. ARV would provide ESA with the means of undertaking complete space transportation missions, from launch to landing, using the International Space Station (ISS) as its initial destination. Launched on an Ariane 5, the ARV would have a forward section to return payloads to Earth. This concept could then be used as a basis for a human space transportation vehicle. (8/24)

ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) Being Prepared for 2012 Test (Source: ESA)
In 2012, Europe's new Vega launch vehicle will carry ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle into space. The vehicle will then return to Earth to test a range of enabling systems and technologies for atmospheric re-entry. Vega is targeting a market for small satellite launches. (8/24)

Bring Your Questions for Buzz Aldrin (Source: NYT Freakonomics)
On Saturday, Buzz Aldrin became the first astronaut to accept an Emmy award. Aldrin has agreed to take your questions — about NASA, walking on the moon, the value to society of space exploration, or anything else you can conjure — so ask away in the comments section below. As with all Q&A’s, we will post his answers here in a few days. Click here to participate in the conversation. (8/24)

Ares I-X Launch Defended As Important For Any Rocket Program (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is readying the world's tallest rocket for rollout at Kennedy Space Center and officials are confident the Ares I-X will fly no matter what course the Obama Administration charts for the agency. NASA officials stated that the data is applicable to any rocket, not just the Ares I. NASA Ares I-X mission manager Bob Ess said, "We have a very high confidence level that the Ares I-X is germane to NASA. Period. No caveats." Even with "looming uncertainty," Ess stated that his team is "totally focused" on the launch. Ess said the assembly of the rocket was a test in and of itself. A team of just 30 launch controllers -- compared to 200 for space shuttle operations -- will conduct the Ares I-X countdown. (8/24)

NASA Budget Changes Pending Decisions on Alternatives (Source: Space News)
Obama is not expected to significantly boost the projected funding profile for NASA's manned spaceflight program...according to sources with ties to the administration. Instead, officials are scrubbing NASA's 2010 budget proposal, and the assumptions made by the Augustine Panel, for potential cost savings over the next decade. Some sources familiar with the administration's thinking say the agency should not expect any more than an extra $1 billion for manned exploration. Even though the future of Orion and Ares 1 remain uncertain, sources close to the administration say the latter is likely to meet the budget ax in favor of an alternative launcher. Likewise, Orion could be vulnerable if a safe, reliable commercial option for crew transport to the space station could be quickly developed. (8/24)

Political Fight Looms Over Commercialization of Space (Source: AIA)
Private companies are hailing "a much more free-market approach" to space exploration as federal budget shortfalls require a rethinking of NASA's role. A number of companies, including United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, are rushing to build workhorse rockets that NASA can use on a contract basis, freeing the space agency to focus its spending elsewhere. But shifting to commercial contracts would likely spark a backlash on Capitol Hill as lawmakers fight to keep NASA jobs for their districts. (8/24)

Start-Ups Are Poised For Latest Space Race (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In America's latest space race, a new breed of scrappy entrepreneurs could be facing off against some of the government's largest, long-established aerospace contractors. The scale and nature of sending this type of work to private contractors, unheard of in the history of NASA, could help the administration cope with an increasingly dire budget situation and fill crucial gaps in its program. SpaceX, a trailblazer in this commercial space arena, hopes the initial launch of its Falcon 9 heavy-lift rocket will happen by early 2010. They are lobbying Congress and urging the White House to come up with financial support for the rocket.

"At the end of the day," said Larry Williams, the company's point man in Washington, "a commercial approach requires industry to share the development investment risk" but also permits greater rewards by selling the technology to other customers. "It's a much more free-market approach." Other smaller industry players and various start-up firms are also bound to compete for the new business, which is slated to go into operation around the middle of the next decade. Also poised to jump into the commercial-services market is United Launch Alliance, a Boeing / Lockheed Martin joint venture that already launches nearly all of the Pentagon's larger satellites. (8/24)

UCF Professor Joins Spaceflight Research Group (Source: Central Florida Future)
An associate professor of planetary science at UCF was recently appointed to a prestigious research and development group that specializes in space vehicles. Josh Colwell joined the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group in August. He will serve on a panel with other professionals from universities such as John Hopkins University, Purdue University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specializing in microgravity physics. Each professor brings his own expertise and experience to the panel. Where Colwell specializes in microgravity physics, other professors specialize in areas like atmospheric sciences, space life sciences and aerospace engineering. (8/24)

Joseph Smith's Mormon Teachings Equate with Modern Cosmology (Source: Mormon Times)
When the Big Bang theory emerged around 1930, Joseph Smith's views of the universe didn't look good from a scientific perspective, according to a former NASA physicist. But times, and the climate of cosmology, have changed. Ron Hellings, a believing Latter-day Saint who earned a doctorate in physics and spent 25 years as a research scientist at NASA, is well-aware of the contradictions and uncertainty out there. "In the last 20 years, we have learned so much about the universe that we are now mystified and profoundly confused," Hellings said. "This is no time for anyone to criticize anyone else's beliefs based on what cosmologists know."

That applies to the Mormon Prophet, whom Hellings is convinced knew something about the cosmos and did his best with the language at his disposal. During a presentation at the Mormon Apologetics Conference titled "Joseph Smith and Modern Cosmology," Hellings explored teachings of the Prophet that have "cosmic implications" and analyzed them against the backdrop of science. He detailed the evolving understanding of the universe and how we arrived at an exciting but "very confusing" time in the world of cosmology.

Hellings put particular emphasis on Doctrine and Covenants 131:7, which states, "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure." He emphasized that the Prophet expressed his learning in his own words -- not those of a future scientist. "I believe that it's true that Joseph Smith knew something about the cosmos, and that he tried to explain it to the Saints in the language that he had at his command." Translated into more modern terminology, Hellings concluded that the Prophet's views on the cosmos comprise the following points: matter-energy is conserved, everything is matter-energy, and the universe is infinite and eternal. (8/24)

NASA Should Keep its Commitment to the international Space Station (Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
The presidential panel reviewing the U.S. manned space program had tough choices to make. But there's at least one choice that didn't call for a rocket scientist. Namely, NASA should follow the panel's recommendation and keep its commitment to the international space station at least to 2020, four years longer than the cutoff date called for under the agency's current budget plan. What's the point of pulling the plug in 2016 on a project that took more than 10 years and $100 billion to build just a few years after it's finished? Why give up so soon on this vehicle for research and international cooperation among more than a dozen nations? It was only a few months ago that the station was finally ready to upgrade to a six-member crew, giving it enough manpower to begin fulfilling its research potential. (8/24)

World's Tallest Rocket Readied For Test Flight (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is readying the world's tallest rocket for rollout at Kennedy Space Center and officials are confident the Ares I-X will fly no matter what course the Obama Administration charts for the agency. Standing 327 feet tall in NASA's 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building, the super-sized rocket is about 15 stories taller than a NASA space shuttle. It is scheduled to roll out to launch pad 39B on Oct. 26 and then launch five days later. (8/24)

No comments: