September 10 News Items

The Most Vital Space Product is Profit (Source: Smart Planet)
The problem for space is that the capital required to launch a venture today is beyond what the private market can deliver, given the long odds. Faced with this reality, our forefathers used their financial imaginations. The first transcontinental railways were given vast grants of land. The Erie Canal was a public-private partnership. Our great utilities were heavily regulated so they could get first crack at available capital. All these 19th century ideas offer possible models for our time. What we need is for both the public and private sectors to sift through ideas, to back the most promising, and to see someone through to a profit. (9/10)

Flagsuit Transforms NASA Gloves Into Pressure Suit Business (Source: Mass High Tech)
In 2007, Peter Homer developed a pair of gloves for a NASA contest — and won $200,000 for his effort. He has since launched Flagsuit LLC, a Maine-based startup developing pressure suits for astronauts that also has application as a medical device. “I started with the hands, and now I’m working on the whole thing,” Homer said. Homer designed the gloves with soft joints, rather than metal fixtures — making them more flexible, so the wearer could move with less effort. The technique also made the gloves more comfortable and cheaper to make, Homer said.

As a one-man startup Flagsuit has its eyes on making pressure suits, worn under spacesuits, for the space tourism industry, which Homer sees growing in the next two years. In the meantime, the startup plans to make money selling the suit as a medical device taking the place of a hyperbaric chamber. In addition to the $200,000 from NASA, Flagsuit has received $24,000 in three seed grants from the Maine Technology Institute. Homer is now looking for $1.2 million in angel funding in two rounds. Homer plans to use the first $600,000 to build a prototype of the hyperbaric suit and bring it to market. The remaining $600,000 would be used to ramp up manufacturing and marketing. (9/9)

Romania To Launch Its First Space Rocket In October (Source: Space Daily)
The Romanian Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Association (ARCA) announced on Wednesday that it will launch in October the country's first space rocket, in what is the final rehearsal for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize contest for landing a privately built spacecraft on the moon. The rocket, dubbed Helen, will be launched from a Black Sea platform and is a three-stage space rocket capable of reaching the outer space in suborbital flight. (9/10)

Ex-NASA Chief Griffin Calls Augustine Panel "Irresponsible" (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Former NASA chief Mike Griffin apparently has sent a scathing memo to friends and supporters in Washington, lashing out at the work of the Augustine Panel and calling some of its recommendations “irresponsible.” In the 11-point email, Griffin -- the intellectual architect and champion of NASA’s Constellation Program of Ares rockets and Orion capsules -- accused the committee of doing shoddy work and failing to make clear why Constellation isn’t viable and why the Ares I is a failed rocket. In it he stops just short at points of calling the committee liars or accusing it of calling NASA liars.

The committee said in its public hearings last month that meeting Constellation’s objective of launching astronauts on Ares I and Orion to the international space station in 2015 and returning astronauts to the moon in 2020 would cost $50 billion more than the current budget of $81.5 billion. But Griffin attacked the committee’s numbers, calling them "low-fidelity estimates developed over a matter of weeks” offered as a correction to NASA’s budget work developed over years. He also wondered, if the committee found that underfunding of NASA was the main issue dogging the agency and there is not “any evidence of substandard execution” of the Constellation program, why the panel failed to recommend giving the program more money to do the job. (9/10)

Griffin Doubts Viability of Near-Term Commercial Support for NASA (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Former NASA chief Mike Griffin's email complaints about the Augustine Panel's findings included gripes about a potential reliance on commercial launch companies. “What commercial sector?” Griffin asked. “At present, the only clearly available ‘commercial’ option is [France’s] Ariane 5. Launching a redesigned Orion crew vehicle is a valid choice in the context of an international program if - and only if - the U.S. is willing to give up independent access to low Earth orbit, a decision imbued with enormous future consequences. “

He adds: "With an appropriately enlightened [U.S. government] policy there may one day be a domestic commercial space transportation sector, but it does not presently exist and will not exist in the near future; i.e., substantially prior to the likely completion dates for Ares-1/Orion, if they were properly funded.… To hold the support and utilization of the [space station] hostage to the emergence of a commercial space sector is not ‘risky’ [as the commission acknowledges], it is irresponsible." (9/10)

$35 Million for Excalibur Almaz Week in Orbit (Source: Flight Global)
Armed with a 2007 market study that indicates annual revenues of $1 billion, space tourism company Excalibur Almaz is offering a week in orbit for $35 million from 2013. The company expects to have a test flight in 2013 and then slowly build the frequency of service of its Almaz spacecraft. Two passengers will fly with a pilot-cosmonaut in its reusable capsule and expendable habitable service module. Eventually Excalibur hopes to earn $1 billion a year by launching up to 30 people into orbit at $35 million each. The company is named after the 1970s Soviet Almaz military program that flight-tested the capsule with a reusable hull and heat shield.

EADS Astrium is working on habitable service module concepts for Excalibur, which is also looking for new avionics and a life support system for the capsule. The updated Almaz spacecraft would launch from Russia's Baikonur spaceport using either a Khrunichev Space Center Proton or Samara Space Center Soyuz FG, which is used for the Energia Soyuz spacecraft. For a 2013 test flight Excalibur will have to select either rocket by late 2010. (9/10)

Japan Launches Space Freighter to Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
Japan has successfully launched its first domestic cargo spaceship to the International Space Station (ISS). The HTV-1 unmanned cargo spacecraft lifted off atop the country's new H-2B rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The freighter is expected to dock with the ISS on Sep. 17 to deliver about 4.5 metric tons of scientific equipment and food supplies to the station.

The spacecraft is a solar-powered cylinder about 10 meters long and 4.4 meters wide. It can haul up to 6 tons of cargo, but was loaded with less cargo on its maiden flight. JAXA said it has spent about $680 million since 1997 to develop the HTV spacecraft. Japan plans to send a total of six space freighters to the ISS until 2015 - one spacecraft per year. (9/10)

NASA and ATK Successfully Test Ares-1 First Stage Motor (Source: NASA)
NASA and industry engineers lit up the Utah sky Thursday with a full-scale, full-duration test firing of the first stage motor for the Ares-1 rocket. ATK conducted the successful stationary firing of the five-segment solid motor, allowing engineers to use the test data to evaluate thrust, roll control, acoustics and motor vibrations. This data will provide valuable information as NASA develops the Ares-1 and Ares-5 vehicles. Another ground test is planned for summer 2010. (9/10)

Panel’s Report Threatens NASA’s Mission (Source: The Hill)
A report suggesting that NASA’s space travel goals are too ambitious for its budget is imperiling efforts by Florida and Texas lawmakers to win more money for the agency’s budget. The Augustine Panel said NASA’s flight program is on an “unsustainable trajectory” due to its “pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.” Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who sponsored the House appropriations bill calling for fewer 2010 NASA funds than the Obama administration requested, said the report confirms his concerns that “the emperor has no clothes.”

“It’s time to step up to the plate and give them what they need — $2 billion or $3 billion [a year],” said Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), whose district includes the Johnson Space Center. Augustine, whose former company is a leading aerospace contractor, will testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA next week, according to the panel’s chairman, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). (9/10)

Intelsat, SES Willing to Promise Future Business for Bankrupt Sea Launch (Source: Space News)
The chief executives of the world’s two biggest commercial satellite fleet operators, Intelsat and SES, said they are willing to provide written promises of future launch contracts to aid Sea Launch Co. in its effort to exit bankruptcy under new ownership. They said they view the return of Sea Launch as critical to the smooth functioning of the global satellite telecommunications industry. Having just two providers, Arianespace and International Launch Services (ILS) was said to be insufficient. (9/10)

Panel Urges NASA to Reset Priorities (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Augustine Panel is recommending that NASA shelve its goal of rapidly returning to the moon and instead focus on nurturing a robust commercial space industry that can handle short-term objectives of the nation's space program, such as ferrying cargo and crew to the international space station. The report has already caused debate among lawmakers, the administration and aerospace contractors because it casts doubt on the budgetary and technical support underpinning many of NASA's human space programs.

For example, the report concluded that now is the "appropriate time to consider" relying on private enterprise to reduce costs and accelerate access to low-earth orbit. It compares today's budding entrepreneurial space efforts to the 1920s, when government air-mail contracts sparked a boom in U.S. commercial aviation. It calls for sweeping changes in the way NASA does business and envisions a dramatically expanded role for private enterprise in human space flight in the coming decades beyond anything proposed previously. (9/9)

UAE Satellite Heralds New Space Race (Source: Financial Times)
While the western world was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this summer, the United Arab Emirates took its own small step towards the conquest of space. For the past month, DubaiSat-1, the country’s first remote-sensing satellite, has been sending images home of the ports and palm-shaped artificial islands that distinguish its coastline. But DubaiSat-1 is more than a boost to the national ego. Built by local scientists – aided by South Korea’s finest satellite engineers – it is also a testament to the UAE’s attempts to galvanise its economy through high-tech investment. (9/10)

San Francisco State a Leader in Space Race (Source: SFSU)
Since 1995, originally led by Prof. Jeff Marcy, SF State's astronomy team has discovered over 200 exoplanets, which are planets that orbit other stars outside of our solar system. Prior to their discoveries, scientists assumed there were exoplanets but never had solid evidence. The University's research team beat all others and found the first exoplanet. Since then, all other schools have been working to catch up. (9/10)

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