September 25 News Items

Ansari's $10 Million Purse (Source: Huffington Post)
Ever since I was a young girl in Iran, I have had a deep curiosity and active imagination which peak whenever I look up at the night sky. I'm fascinated to think about how we got to this place and time, what will come after us and what else is out there. For many others the dream of space is tied to the thrill of riding a rocket, but if I could blink my eyes and be there, I would do so. To me, rockets are just transportation -- the allure is in exploring the universe. I have also always had an inner voice which compels me to follow my dream and aspirations. This voice has been my guide in my journey to the U.S. and in rough road of entrepreneurship to successful business. Even though my Entrepreneurial aspirations were not directly related to my passion for space, they ultimately provided me the financial means to make space travel a realistic possibility. Click here to view the article. (9/25)

NGA to Seek Higher-Resolution Commercial Satellite Imagery (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) plans to sign new imagery contracts with commercial satellite operators next year that will be structured like the purchasing deals currently in place but yield higher-quality data, an agency official said. As part of the new electro-optical satellite imaging plan approved by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year, the NGA intends to buy commercial imagery with ground resolution as fine as a quarter-meter, Winston Beauchamp, the NGA’s acting technical executive, said in a Sept. 23 interview. However, the NGA faces a potential obstacle on Capitol Hill, as key U.S. senators have balked at certain aspects of the overall plan. (9/25)

Bolden Says Commercial Crew a Tough Sell for NASA Old Guard (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told an audience of space entrepreneurs and U.S. lawmakers he is skeptical of the private sector’s ability to take over manned operations in low Earth orbit, but is hopeful commercial space companies will succeed. “I would be telling you a lie if I told you we’re on board, we’re really excited about this,” the former astronaut said during a commercial space seminar held Sept. 23 on Capitol Hill. Bolden was referring to a private-sector push for NASA to outsource manned missions to and from the international space station after the agency retires its aging space shuttle fleet in the next year or so.

“We’re battling, we’re struggling to advise our president on what is the proper course to take,” Bolden said of the Augustine panel’s options. “But I am confident we can come up with the right answer.” While Bolden expressed reservations about the future of private-sector space, in the same breath he acknowledged a willingness to change the way NASA has done business in the past. Using a fraction of the $1 billion NASA received earlier this year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the agency has committed $50 million to a so-called Commercial Crew Development (CCDEV) program in an effort to accelerate development of commercial human space transportation systems. Roughly two-dozen companies had expressed interest in the money by early September. (9/25)

How Astronauts Could 'Harvest' Water on the Moon (Source: New Scientist)
Newly confirmed water on the moon could help sustain lunar astronauts and even propel missions to Mars, if harvesting it can be made practical. A microwave device being developed by NASA could do just that. Three spacecraft – India's Chandrayaan-1 and NASA's Cassini and Deep Impact probes – have detected the absorption of infrared light at a wavelength that indicates the presence of either water or hydroxyl, a molecule made up of a hydrogen and an oxygen atom. All found the signature to be stronger at the poles than at lower latitudes. Some of these molecules may be created continuously when solar wind protons – hydrogen ions – bind to oxygen atoms in the lunar soil. Comet impacts may also have brought water to the moon. Water delivered by comets or generated by the solar wind could randomly diffuse over time into permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles, which were recently measured to be colder than Pluto. (9/25)

China Shows U.S. Delegation Next Spacecraft (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. and China are beginning to open lines of communications that could lead to greater cooperation in human spaceflight. This significant move comes as the Obama administration ponders a way forward in space that may include more willingness to work with China in areas that previously were off limits. The two space-faring nations have a lot to offer each other. The U.S. program is in a budget-induced crisis, without the cash it needs to continue on its current path to build a pair of rockets to take astronauts back to the Moon and beyond. China’s space endeavors appear to have plenty of money, but they lack the technology and experience needed to catch up quickly on their own.

The new administration in Washington seems willing to play a more collegial role in the world, and the leadership cadre in China seems willing to play along. Hindering that is a legacy of mistrust that may have eased just a little last week, at least in the area of human spaceflight cooperation. As a former deputy NASA administrator and the head of China’s Manned Space Engineering Office held back-channel talks, human spaceflight officials here offered an unprecedented opportunity to examine the Tiangong-1 docking target and the next in its series of Shenzhou human spacecraft, as well as previously off-limits space facilities.

And five of the six Chinese astronauts who have flown in space quizzed two former space shuttle commanders about aspects of their common profession, ranging from rendezvous and docking techniques to the best way to manage astronaut schedules. The questioning marked a stark contrast with the first encounters between NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts as their two human-spaceflight programs began to work together in the early 1990s. At that time, the Russian program had deep experience in human operations in space, but was strapped for cash. (9/25)

More Woes for Constellation From the GAO (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Just as Constellation supporters are pressing hard on Capitol Hill to resist efforts to kill the program's Ares rockets and Orion capsules, the Government Accountability Office, released a report Friday saying NASA has been unable to close the business case for the space shuttle's replacement. The report says NASA's Ares I rocket and Orion capsule are still dogged by technical troubles and financial shortfalls. But the biggest problem, it says, is that NASA ultimately does not know what the program is going to end up costing taxpayers.

"While the agency has already obligated more than $10 billion in contracts, at this point NASA does not know how much Ares I and Orion will ultimately cost, and will not know until technical and design challenges have been addressed," it says. The report estimates that Ares I and Orion will end up costing $49 billion of the total $95 billion for the Constellation Program. The GAO report will almost certainly add the confusion in Washington and through the country about where America's human space flight program is going next. (9/25)

Russia Hopes U.S. to Extend Shuttle Operations (Source: Reuters)
Russia hopes the U.S. will extend the deadline to retire its space shuttles beyond 2011 and has heard unofficially it is possible, the head of Russia's space agency said. NASA plans six more missions by its fleet of aging space shuttles by late next year or early 2011 until the construction of the $100 billion International Space Station (ISS) is completed. The shuttles will then be retired. But the head of Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, said he would prefer to see further shuttle missions to the Space Station. "From some sources we have learned that it is possible to extend the life of the shuttle beyond 2011," Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov was quoted as saying. "Then the situation would change substantially and it would be possible to work jointly with the Americans, unlike now, when the main burden (for the ISS) lies with the Russian side," he said. (9/25)

Astrotech Relocates to Austin (Source: Statesman)
The satellite and space research company Astrotech Corp. officially splashed down in Austin this week, with a private dinner for business leaders Monday night and a Wednesday night reception at the Long Center where the guests included a NASA executive. The company, which provides services and products for the space industry and conducts space-based scientific experiments, moved from Houston to Austin this summer, but had stayed under the radar until recently. "We just felt like Austin had a better feel for what we wanted to do in the future than we were experiencing at the time in Houston," said CEO and Chairman Thomas Pickens III, the son of oilman T. Boone Pickens.

City boosters hailed the company's arrival in Austin and the potential of biotech spinoffs to create more jobs. The company, which has 11 employees in Austin, is a "great feather in our hat," said Dave Porter, senior vice president for economic development with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. "This is an example of the kind of company that we'd like to see here," Porter said. "It's a great fit." (9/25)

Water on the Moon Stirs Hopes for Base (Source: Huntsville Times)
The moon might be an airless, barren ball of rock circling Earth, but scientists revealed Thursday it still holds surprises. Granted it's in microscopic portions - a two-liter bottle of moon rocks and dirt would yield less than an ounce, researchers say - but the announcement boosts the hopes of those who want to one day build a moon base for astronauts. Long suspected to hold water, a NASA instrument on an Indian moon probe confirmed expectations coming from past lunar probes about the water. The discovery also means the work Marshall has been doing to develop lunar bases and robotic landers is likely to continue, Cohen said. Teams in Huntsville have been researching how to use moon rocks and dirt to churn up concrete and boil trapped water out of the material. (9/25)

SpaceX DragonEye Sensor Successfully Demonstrated on Shuttle/Station Mission (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a proximity sensor, called DragonEye, on NASA’s STS-127 shuttle mission to the International Space Station. DragonEye launched aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour and was tested in proximity of the Station in preparation for future visits by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. With the help of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office, DragonEye, a Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor, has undergone flight system trials aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in preparation for guiding the Dragon spacecraft as it approaches the ISS. The DragonEye LIDAR system provides three-dimensional images based on the amount of time it takes for a single laser pulse from the sensor to the reach a target and bounce back, providing range and bearing information from the Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. (9/25)

ULA Successfully Launches Missile Defense Payloads from Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, on behalf of the NASA Launch Services Program, successfully launched the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Demonstration mission for the United States Missile Defense Agencyon Friday morning. STSS Demo is an element of the STSS Program, a space-based sensor component of a layered Ballistic Missile Defense System designed for the overall mission of detection, tracking, and discrimination of ballistic missiles. After launch, the two STSS Demo spacecraft were both successfully deployed during a nominal flight lasting approximately 55 minutes. (9/25)

Russian Space Chief Hints at Shuttle Extension (Source: AIA)
Russian space agency chief Anatoly Perminov was quoted today saying he heard unofficially that the U.S. might delay the retirement of space shuttles planned for 2011. New NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to visit Russia next week. (9/25)

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