September 2 News Items

Law Forcing Space Companies to Sell (Source: DOD Buzz)
The acquisition reform legislation passed by Congress is forcing major defense companies to sell subsidiaries so they don’t fall afoul of new restrictions forbidding manufacturers from owning companies that advise the government about acquisitions. The most glaring example appears to be the pending sale by Northrop Grumman of TASC, a company with some 5,000 employees who provide the military and, especially, the intelligence community with technical advice on acquisitions and operations.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, just said “yes” when I asked him if the TASC sale is largely being driven by language in the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act drafted by Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Several experienced space acquisition experts said independently that the TASC sale was being driven by the bill. The relevant text can be found in Section 207 of the bill, which requires the creation of regulations forbidding “organizational conflicts of interest.” (9/2)

Space Hotels: Bad for Sweat Glands, Good for Sunsets (Source: Faster Times)
Last year, Wall-E may have scared us all into thinking that space travel would turn us into potato sacks with dangling, short legs, only concerned with a giant, touchscreen panel. Well, that last part may come true sooner than later: Students at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art in the U.K. are currently designing hotel concepts that decidedly emphasize health, exercise, and nutrition.

The Space Hotel Project includes clothes with chest flaps (good luck to those with especially pungent sweat glands), a robot concierge, sleeping bags that hang from pods, a COLBERT treadmill, and a customizable food menu. Students who apparently miss the Dance Dance Revolution trend yet are now fond of yoga resistance bands have also envisioned an exercise wall where one can “pull on elastic bands in time with lights and music” to maintain their muscles while enjoying zero gravity. (9/2)

Space: Hawaii's Final Frontier? (Source: Honolulu Magazine)
It sounds like science fiction. But to Jim Crisafulli, director of Hawaii’s Office of Aerospace Development, civilian space travel is as real as jet travel to and from the Mainland. Thanks to House Bill 994, which passed in July, Hawaii will, over the next three years, conduct environmental impact studies and community input surveys in the hopes of joining the ranks of states like Florida, Oklahoma and New Mexico, which already have spaceport licenses.

The current plan hopes to use existing runways and airports, such as the Big Island’s Kalaeloa Airport and Kona International, to launch space planes. Space planes, which are still being developed, look like small business jets and can carry five passengers plus a pilot. They would take Hawaii passengers about 75 miles offshore before jumping to Earth’s suborbit. After a plane climbs to about 50,000 feet, it shoots into the sky at a face-melting 2,644 miles per hour. Passengers will then feel weightlessness for three to four minutes as the plane falls from suborbit at 350,000 feet. The proposed route would take passengers from the Big Island to Oahu, and feature premium travel packages—for $200,000—that include hotel rooms and space camp training.

Ticket prices “might come down in three to five years [after the program is running],” says Chuck Lauer, of Rocketplane Global, a company developing a space plane and interested in starting civilian space travel in the Islands. It may be another three to four years before Hawaii taxpayers would even see a properly tested plane. So why invest? (9/2)

Trash in Space May Force Shuttle, Station to Dodge (Source:
NASA is tracking a piece of rocket trash hurtling through space that may require the linked shuttle Discovery and International Space Station to move out of the way Thursday. The space junk, an old piece of a spent Ariane 5 rocket body, is expected to zoom past the space station and Discovery on Friday and make its closest approach just after 11 a.m. EDT at a distance of just over 6.2 miles. (9/2)

SBIR Conference Planned in Orlando, Sep. 21-24 (Source: SPACErePORT)
The 2009 SBIR "Beyond Phase II" Conference and Technology Showcase will be held at the Orlando Marriott World Center on Sep. 21-24. The event is designed to bring together key technology and acquisition personnel from government and industry to enable the transition of SBIR-funded research and development into products for government and private sector commercial markets. Click here for information and registration. (9/2)

XCOR Reaches Significant Milestones on Lynx Engine Program (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace announced it has reached several significant milestones in the 5K18 rocket engine test program. This is the engine that powers XCOR’s Lynx suborbital spacecraft. “Like all of our rocket engines, this engine has demonstrated the ability to be stopped and re-started using our safe and reliable spark torch ignition system”, said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “The basic cooling design has also been completed and the engine is able to run continuously at thermal equilibrium. With those milestones reached, the 5K18 test program is now moving forward into a second phase of tuning and optimization, in which we will also greatly increase our cumulative run time.” (9/2)

NASA to Boost Climate Study at Langley, Other Facilities (Source: AIA)
Officials at NASA's Langley Research Center said Tuesday that about 30 employees will be assigned to a $265 million climate change initiative known as the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory. Employment could eventually swell to 150 when two satellites are launched as early as 2016. (9/2)

Extending Space Station Key to Mars (Source: Reuters)
Getting humans to Mars will require medical research on the International Space Station through at least 2020, said the program's lead scientist, presenting a time frame five years beyond NASA's current budget forecast. Extending the life of the station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that is nearing completion after more than a decade of construction, was a surprise finding of the presidential panel reviewing the U.S. human space program.

"NASA needs the ISS," program scientist Julie Robinson said. "A six-month stay on the space station is going to be the best analog we're ever going to have for a six-month microgravity transit to Mars in the future." The study team's report was to be delivered to the White House this week but was not expected to be publicly disclosed until mid- to late-September. The panel also said NASA's $18 billion annual budget, about half of which is spent on human space projects, falls about $3 billion a year short for Constellation, the moon-and-beyond exploration initiative NASA plans after it retires the space shuttle and station programs. (9/2)

'It Looks Good For Us Here' at Marshall (Source: Huntsville Times)
Robert Lightfoot, Marshall Space Flight Center's new director, told center employees Tuesday that Huntsville should be able to count on future NASA launch and science work. "It looks good for us here," Lightfoot said. "There are some concerns about the future, but decisions will be made soon. We all still have a job to do. We cannot forget that there are six space shuttle flights left, an Ares I test launch on schedule and science research we perform here." (9/2)

Space Rovers Tested in Arizona (Source: MIT Technology Review)
At its annual Desert RATS event, NASA is testing new robots in a simulated lunar environment. Each year a NASA-led team of researchers, called Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS), test their latest human-robotic exploration systems in a simulated lunar environment in Arizona. This year, the agency is conducting a 14-day mission during which two crew members--an astronaut and a geologist--will live inside a Lunar Electric Rover (LER). They will only leave the rover--wearing spacesuits--to perform simulated moonwalks.

The event kicked off on August 28 and will continue until September 18. It will include testing NASA's K-10 rover, designed for reconnaissance and mapping, and its Tri-ATHLETE rover, a heavy-lifter that carries a habitat for the LER to dock to. The field tests are important in the development of NASA's planetary robotic systems--it not only gives engineers and technicians experience with the equipment, but it ensures their reliability for future missions. (9/2)

Atheists Say NASA is Violating Separation of Church and State (Source: Los Angeles Chronicle)
An Atheist-First Amendment public policy group charged last week that NASA is violating the separation of church and state by permitting a "space missionary" memento on the latest Discovery Space Shuttle Mission. On board the shuttle is a piece of an airplane that crashed in Ecuador in 1956 that carried members of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. One of the shuttle astronaut contacted the Idaho-based group proposing that the item be taken into space as part of a government-funded exploration project. The event has re-ignited enthusiasm by religious groups for "space missionary" proselytizing. Click here to view the article. (9/2)

NASA Langley to Lead $265 Million Climate-Change Study (Source: Daily Press)
Most scientists agree sea levels will continue to rise. By how much and when is another matter. It's an uncertainty the federal government hopes to solve with CLARREO, a $265 million program led by NASA Langley Research Center. Officially known as the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory, the program is one of 17 recommended in a 2007 National Research Council study. The study blueprints the nation's earth science objectives for the next 10 years. CLARREO has been in the works since 2007, but Langley officials kept largely mum about it until Tuesday, when they unveiled details before a few hundred employees. (9/2)

US Scientist’s Flip-Flop on Chandrayaan (Source: Thaindian News)
Three days after the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) admitted the abrupt end of its Chandrayaan-1 mission, Carle Pieters, science manager at the NASA-supported spectrology facility at the Brown University, said: “I think it’s a complete success...The achievements are very difficult to accomplish...What we have not achieved is our ultimate goal, which was a much more extended mission that was to be achieved during the full two years. But, the first phase of what we wanted to accomplish, we were able to accomplish and we will be working with the data in the future.”

Asked to comment on ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair’s claim that 95 per cent of the objectives were achieved, Pieters was noncommittal. “I can’t claim in one way or the other as I have information only on my experiment,” she maintained. (9/2)

Space Florida Sponsors Collaborative Mars Experiment Design Competition (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, The Mars Society, NASA-Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Department of Education have joined forces to create a competition in which Florida middle and high school students will design scientific experiments to send to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah.

Space Florida and the Florida DoE will help spread the word about the competition through Florida schools and host entries via the Space Florida website ( Students from middle and high schools across the state will be invited to design and submit experiments that could assist in the study of Martian environments. Once top designs are selected by the Competition’s Advisory Committee, Space Florida will sponsor the winning teams/individuals with $100 each to cover assembly and shipping costs to the MDRS Habitat in Utah. (9/2)

Titusville Firm Wins California Spaceport Support Contract (Source: SPACErePORT)
Call Henry Inc. of Titusville, Florida, has won a $7.7 million Air Force contract modification to support maintenance, modification, and modernization for facilities, property and Western Range Support equipment to ensure successful performance during tests, operations and launches. (9/2)

Moon Dust Not as Strange as Hoped (Source: New Scientist)
Ever since a 1998 space shuttle experiment saw what appeared to be an anomalously heavy variety of matter, the hunt has been on for more of the same. Now, a search of lunar soil for so-called "strange matter" has come up short, casting doubt on whether it exists at all. The standard model of particle physics describes six types of quark, including the up and down quarks which make up protons and neutrons, found inside ordinary atoms. Physicists have long theorised about strange matter that would also contain strange quarks. Strange matter is heavier and denser than ordinary matter, as the strange quark has roughly 10 times the mass of the up or down quark.

Researchers took 15 grams of lunar soil from the Apollo missions and accelerated the grains past a powerful magnet. Any strangelets present would curve less in the magnetic field than normal matter - but none was observed. (9/2)

Moon is Target for High-Energy Cosmic Rays (Source: Cosmos)
Astronomers have found a new way to search for high-energy cosmic rays, the most energetic particles in the universe, by scanning the face of the Moon. Cosmic rays stream through space and constantly bombard the Earth's atmosphere. They pose little threat to us on the planet's surface, but can cause electronic glitches in satellites in space and, in high doses, are dangerous for astronauts. Their origin has not been proven, although theories suggest they may be created by the supermassive black holes thought to be at the heart of galaxies or result from the decay of massive particles leftover from the Big Bang. (9/2)

Spacewalkers Tackle Hefty Tank Removal in Orbit (Source: AP)
A pair of spacewalkers successfully tackled a hefty tank removal job at the international space station Tuesday as their crewmates unloaded comedian Stephen Colbert's namesake treadmill for all "those famously fat astronauts. The only concern Nicole Stott and Danny Olivas had about mass — everything is weightless up there, after all — involved the huge ammonia tank they needed to disconnect. They held the freed 1,300-pound tank steady until a robot arm grabbed it. A new fully loaded tank will be installed on the second spacewalk of the mission Thursday night. The old one will be returned to Earth aboard Discovery. (9/2)

UCLA Astronomers Wait Anxiously to Learn Fate of Research Project (Source: UCLA Today)
UCLA astronomers are anxiously waiting today (Sep. 1) to see whether the massive wildfire that has scorched more than 100,000 acres so far will end their long-term project to supply NASA with data on magnetic fields at the surface of the sun. Their research depends on scientific equipment located at the base and on top of a 150-foot solar tower located at the Mount Wilson Observatory, which has been the focus of a firefighting effort to save the 40-acre complex, where critical communication facilities for television and radio are located, as well as various research projects run separately by UCLA, UC Berkeley, USC, Caltech and Georgia Tech. Two UCLA staff observers, one of whom lives at the observatory complex, were evacuated Friday night. (9/2)

Orion Would Fly Late if New Rocket Ordered (Source: Florida Today)
The first flights of the next-generation Orion spacecraft would be pushed back at least a year or two if NASA is directed to scrap the Ares I rocket and switch to another launcher, officials said Tuesday. NASA would have to redo design work that already has been finished on the Orion — Apollo-like capsules designed to fly U.S. astronauts on moon missions or to the International Space Station. “Swapping out rockets seems like it’s just a straight-forward thing, but we have to keep the entire mission in mind,” said Jeff Hanley, manager of NASA’s Project Constellation, which is developing Ares rockets and Orion spacecraft. (9/2)

China Adjusts Satellite Orbit After Skewed Launch (Source: Reuters)
An Indonesian communications satellite launched from China two days ago has had its orbit corrected, China's Xinhua said, after it failed to enter a preset path. The Palapa D satellite, owned by Indonesian satellite communications company Indosat, was launched from Xichang in Sichuan province on Monday. It failed to reach its preset orbit after the third stage of the Long March rocket used to launch the satellite did not ignite correctly. The initial failure had been a setback in China's efforts to market its space launch capability to other countries. (9/2)

Cirque du Soleil Boss Outlines Space Visit Plans (Source: CBC)
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté says his coming "social mission" in space is a chance for him to champion water issues while entertaining the world with an unprecedented "planetary artistic event." Laliberté, 50, will become Canada's first space tourist when he blasts off from Earth on Sept. 30 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft heading to the International Space Station.

The Quebec billionaire, who is calling himself a "private space explorer," revealed more details of his mission via webcast from Moscow on Wednesday. His mission will climax Oct. 9, when he will orchestrate a worldwide event involving celebrities on five continents, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, Brazilian culture minister Gilberto Gil, astronaut Julie Payette and performers Peter Gabriel, Shakira and U2, among others. (9/2)

Peckham Leaves SpaceX to Rejoin Boeing (Source: Space News)
Rob Peckham is returning to Boeing Satellite Systems International as vice president of business development after only six months at SpaceX. Peckham, a former president and general manager of Sea Launch, left that company in March to become vice president of business development at SpaceX. Before joining Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch, where he worked for nine years, Peckham worked for Hughes Space and Communications Co., now Boeing Satellite Systems of El Segundo, Calif.

Peckham’s departure is the second quick exit of a former Sea Launch executive from SpaceX, developer of the Falcon series of rockets and the Dragon capsule designed for international space station resupply missions. Jim Maser, Peckham’s predecessor at Sea Launch, left the company in March 2006 to join SpaceX as president and chief operating officer, only to leave the following December to take the reins at rocket engine maker Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. (9/2)

Hope Rising that Mount Wilson Observatory Will Escape Los Angeles Wildfires (Source: Times Online)
As of early Sep. 2, the situation on Mount Wilson remains stable with very good prospects. Mount Wilson Observatory, which is threatened by the wildfires raging outside Los Angeles, saw firefighters return to the site, which is one of the most significant landmarks in the history of astronomy, and have intensified their efforts to protect it. (9/2)

Rocket Hiccup No Jam-Up for China (Source: China Daily)
The failure to put a satellite into orbit earlier this week is only one bump on a long road of successes, said a space expert. The mishap is the first glitch in a string of 75 successful launches for China's rocket program dating to October 1996, said Pang Zhihao. China experienced major setbacks between 1994 and 1996, but regained its international reputation after tightened quality control and a series of successes. Pang pointed out that launching a satellite is risky, and other countries have also experienced failures. (9/2)

Orion Passes Milestone As Questions Loom (Source: Aviation Week)
Putting the Orion crew exploration vehicle atop a new rocket would require a year or two more work to get back to its current stage of development, project managers said Sep. 1. NASA experts completed their preliminary design review (PDR) on the four-seat capsule Aug. 31, and cleared project engineers to begin work on detailed design. The only major open issue involved the parachute system in the capsule's forward bay, which had "gotten pretty heavy and difficult to deploy," according to a project manager. That is being redesigned, with a separate PDR coming up "within a month."

"I think we have a way to close that for sure in the near term," Geyer said in a telephone press conference Sept. 1. But while the final PDR board vote was unanimous in favor of moving ahead with design of the Orion, the vehicle's future will be shaped by decisions growing out of the report of the Augustine Panel. (9/2)

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