September 1 News Items

Embry-Riddle Blends of Simulations for Unmanned Aerial Systems with Real-Time Air Traffic (Source: ERAU)
As home to one of Embry-Riddle’s residential campuses, Daytona Beach boasts the second-busiest general-aviation airport in the nation. However, one kind of aircraft you won’t see at the airport is an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Although UASs like Predator-B, Shadow, and Global Hawk are being relied on more and more by the military, the use of unpiloted aircraft is rare in the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) because the current air traffic system can’t ensure the separation of manned and unmanned aircraft. As the situation now stands, the vehicles are primarily relegated to designated military areas.

Nonetheless, the demand to expand NAS access for UASs is increasing because they can perform certain tasks for longer durations, for less money, and in a safer manner than piloted aircraft, tasks such as collecting weather information inside hurricanes, tracking wildfires, securing our country’s borders, and monitoring highway congestion. In response to this situation, researchers at Embry-Riddle have developed a unique solution that will train future UAS operators while also testing concepts that may ultimately lead to integrating UASs into the National Airspace System.

“By using commercially available flight simulators, our researchers have fused live real-world air traffic with that of simulated UAS operations,” said Ted Beneigh, Embry-Riddle aeronautical science professor. “With this new combination, we can transfer the training and testing of UASs from the sky to the simulator while maintaining a level of realism to prepare UAS operators of the future.” (9/1)

NASA, FAA Working in Tandem on NextGen (Source: AIA)
As the FAA ramps up efforts to boost the near-term benefits of NextGen technology, NASA is focused on mid- to long-term pieces of the system to facilitate a full roll-out by 2025. With two separate development tracks under way, "The challenge is to make the connection between them as robust as possible," says a NASA official. "They need to be linked." (9/1)

SpaceX Delivers Space Station Hardware to Support Future Commercial Launches (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX has delivered the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communication Unit to Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launch on Space Shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis will deliver the unit to the International Space Station (ISS) to support SpaceX's future flights to the orbiting laboratory. Developed by SpaceX, in collaboration with NASA, the unit allows for communication between the ISS, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, and ground-based mission control. The system also allows the ISS crew to monitor an approaching or departing capsule. As part of NASA's COTS competition, SpaceX will conduct flights of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS and then returning to Earth. (9/1)

Editorial: A One-Way Ticket to Mars (Source: New York Times)
Now that the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings has come and gone, we are faced with the grim reality that if we want to send humans back to the Moon the investment is likely to run in excess of $150 billion. The cost to get to Mars could easily be two to four times that, if it is possible at all. It is quickly becoming clear that going to the Moon or Mars in the next decade or two will be impossible without a much bigger budget than has so far been allocated. Is it worth it?

The most challenging impediment to human travel to Mars does not seem to involve the complicated launching, propulsion, guidance or landing technologies but something far more mundane: the radiation emanating from the Sun’s cosmic rays. The shielding necessary to ensure the astronauts do not get a lethal dose of solar radiation on a round trip to Mars may very well make the spacecraft so heavy that the amount of fuel needed becomes prohibitive. There is, however, a way to surmount this problem while reducing the cost and technical requirements, but it demands that we ask this vexing question: Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again? (9/1)

Mitsubishi, IHI to Join $21 Billion Space Solar Project (Source: Bloomberg)
Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp. will join a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) Japanese project intending to build a giant solar-power generator in space within three decades and beam electricity to earth. A research group representing 16 companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., will spend four years developing technology to send electricity without cables in the form of microwaves.

Japan is developing the technology for the 1-gigawatt solar station, fitted with four square kilometers of solar panels, and hopes to have it running in three decades. Transporting panels to the solar station 36,000 kilometers above the earth’s surface will be prohibitively costly, so Japan has to figure out a way to slash expenses to make the solar station commercially viable, said Hiroshi Yoshida, Chief Executive Officer of Excalibur KK, a Tokyo-based space and defense-policy consulting company. “These expenses need to be lowered to a hundredth of current estimates,” Yoshida said by phone from Tokyo. In the U.S., agencies have spent $80 million over three decades in sporadic efforts to study solar generation in space, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. National Security Space Office. (9/1)

NASA's Vision Needs Hard Questions, Perhaps an Entrepreneurial Boost (Source: Washington Post)
"Shoot for the moon," goes the old saying. "Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Lately, this seems to be NASA's strategy. Its vision for human space exploration, the Constellation Project, envisions landing on the moon by 2020 and on Mars by 2037. Devised after the commission investigating the Columbia shuttle disaster found that the space program suffered as much from a lack of vision as from technical failure, this lofty mission sought to fill the vision vacuum and encourage a new generation of Americans to look upward. The vision came at a price. Although proponents noted that the Constellation Project was small in the grand scheme of the federal budget, the plan would cost billions of dollars.

So it is little wonder that the Augustine Panel has been expressing concern. If the committee's public comments are any indication, its findings will be grim: NASA's recent budget cuts render the current manned mission plan impossible. This is not the first time NASA's plans have suffered from lack of fiscal foresight: Once the international space station is completed next year, the current budget calls for deorbiting it by 2016. Maybe it's time to take a step back to assess the right role for a manned space program that requires billions of dollars annually -- and for what? Certainly, boldly going where no man has gone before is an American creed. But with the advent of increasingly complex and precise instruments, science in space requires less and less input from astronauts. Groundbreaking research can occur without humans. NASA should not have to sacrifice programs that are truly ground-breaking to keep the international space station manned and supplied. (9/1)

China To Begin Construction Of Orbital Space Station In 2020 (Source: RIA Novosti)
China will begin the construction of its own orbital space station in 2020, according to a top official with the country's manned spaceflight program. Gu Yidong said that China would send two or three space labs into orbit in 2010-2015, while the basic module of the space station is to be orbited by 2020. The spacecrafts will "form the basic orbital complex of the Chinese space station" when docked together, he said. According to earlier Chinese media reports, China plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2030 and subsequently build a lunar base to send missions to other planets in the Solar System, such as Mars. (9/1)

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