September 3 News Items

Island Britain: Sleepy Isle of Man Moves Into the Space Age (Source: Times Online)
The Isle of Man, 220 square miles of hill and glen with 82,000 inhabitants, has reinvented itself. Its business now is business, not tourists or kippers. A self-governing island, which belongs to neither the United Kingdom nor the European Union, it responded to the collapse of tourism by slashing taxes and developing a financial sector.

This outcrop in the Irish Sea is a magnet for entrepreneurs, an incubator for new enterprises of the most surprising sort. A Manx company called CVI made the laser optics with which NASA’s Phoenix Lander spotted snow on Mars last year. Another Manx company, Odyssey Moon, is competing to win the $30million (£18.4million) Google Lunar X prize by putting a robotic landing craft on the Moon. A third, Excalibur Almaz, is developing space tourism.

Later this month Nicole Stott, wife of a Manxman, will begin her four months at the International Space Station. The Isle of Man has officially joined the space race. Mrs Stott’s husband, Chris, a space fanatic working for Lockheed Martin in the late 1990s, persuaded the island’s Government to file for the orbital satellite space slots that it is entitled to. In 2004 Allan Bell, the Treasury Minister, needed a headline-grabbing announcement for his budget and declared a zero corporate tax rate for space activities. The response, he says, was “quite amazing”. (9/3)

Leading Article: Political Space (Source: The Independent)
The revelation that the wife of the Japanese prime minister-elect was once abducted by aliens and whisked off to Venus ("a very beautiful place... very green") is food for thought. One can imagine how a few members of our own political classes would benefit from the sort of trip taken by Miyuki Hatoyama.

Gordon Brown would surely find a view of Olympus Mons on Mars more inspiring than the fells of the Lake District. John Prescott might discover a species of life out there capable of understanding his verbless sentences. There must be a black hole somewhere out there in the universe in which Nick Griffin might be safely deposited. For John Redwood it would be a homecoming. If travel broadens the mind, what more improving junket for our legislators than some space travel? (9/3)

Japan's HTV On Target For Sep. 11 Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
Japan's unmanned H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) has passed a NASA flight readiness review and is in final preparations for liftoff from Tanegashima Space Center on its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sept. 11 local time. The 10-meter long spacecraft is capable of carrying 4.5 metric tons of internal cargo and 1.5 tons of external cargo. This first flight will carry 2.5 metric tons internally - which will mostly be station logistics, with about 20 percent of the pressurized volume being occupied by research hardware. (9/3)

Martian Meteorite May Have Held Life (Source: New Scientist)
More than a decade after the furor over a Martian meteorite that some claimed contained fossil microbes, a new analysis suggests the rock's environment on Mars was conducive to life. In 1996, some scientists argued that ALH 84001, a Martian rock found in Antarctica, contained complex carbon-based molecules and some microscopic markings shaped like bacteria. Sceptics said that the shapes were ambiguous and that the molecules could have been formed at temperatures of 650 °C or so. Even the hardiest known microbes on Earth die above about 120 °C.

But an analysis of the other mineral deposits in ALH 84001 - such as those containing calcium and iron - by Paul Niles of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and his team suggests that water surrounded the rock and had been cool enough for life to thrive. "These minerals were formed in what is very likely to have been a habitable environment," says Niles. (9/3)

Mission to Mercury (Source: MIT Technology Review)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that its newest satellite, called BepiColombo, will travel to Mercury using ion-electric thrusters developed by U.K. company QinetiQ. The space agency already uses a smaller version of the same system--made of T5 ion thrusters--aboard its GOCE satellite, which launched earlier this year to measure earth's gravitational field. BepiColombo, which is scheduled to launch in 2014, will use four T6 ion thrusters. The company says the thrusters used in both spacecraft are ten times more efficient than traditional chemical ones. ESA awarded QinetiQ a contract worth $37.4 million to build the electric propulsion system. (9/3)

NRO: No Business For Conflicted Companies (Source: DOD Buzz)
Less than a month after President Obama signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act into law, the National Reconnaissance Office acted with almost blinding speed and issued a memo detailing its adamant stand against the possible appearance of any corporate conflicts of interest.

The memo, which was sent to us after our story appeared on how space manufacturing companies are being forced to sell advisory companies that do business with the intelligence community, lays out very detailed instructions for companies hoping to do business with the maker and operator of the nation’s spy satellites.

Any company that does not comply with the conflict of interest requirements: "will also be prohibited from bidding on or participating in any NRO contract to supply the system(s), or any major component thereof, or from serving as a subcontractor, vendor or consultant to the system supplier or major component supplier or major component suppliers on any system related to the work while in a non-conflicted status." (9/3)

Obama Administration Mulls U.S. Human Spaceflight Future (Source:
President Barack Obama is not expected to significantly boost the projected funding profile for NASA's manned spaceflight program in the next few years, despite warnings that the space agency needs between $3 billion and $4 billion more annually to send astronauts back to the Moon, according to sources with ties to the administration.

Instead, White House and NASA officials are scrubbing NASA's 2010 budget proposal for potential cost savings over the next decade that could help fund some means of sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit as soon as 2020. One possibility being weighed by the administration is abandoning the idea of astronaut landings on the Moon in favor of missions that would take astronauts on close flybys of heavenly bodies such as asteroids. (9/3)

Diamandis Finds The New Spirit of St. Louis (Source: Huffington Post)
Many people look at the X PRIZE Foundation and say, "WOW" - what a great idea." What they may not know is how one person's initial concept evolves to that "WOW" stage of achievement. Here's my journey. Click here to view the article, (9/3)

NASA Partners To Revolutionize Personal Transportation (Source:
NASA officials have signed an agreement with Unimodal Systems, LLC to collaborate on the use of NASA-developed control software and human factors techniques to evaluate acceleration, jerk and vibration of an advanced transportation vehicle system. The control software was originally designed to control robots and other applications. The collaboration will help NASA better understand the softwares usefulness, human performance and safety.

This collaborative effort is anticipated to help NASA with its aeronautics and space activities, while Unimodal gets to develop the next generation high-speed transportation system, said Jeffery Smith, deputy chief of the Entrepreneurial Initiatives Division at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. NASA will receive valuable feedback from our systems software usage. (9/3)

Satellite Stranded by Chinese Rocket to be Salvaged (Source: Space News)
Indonesia’s Palapa-D telecommunications satellite arrived in standard geostationary transfer-orbit position Sept. 3, three days after being left in a useless orbit by an underperforming Chinese Long March 3B rocket. The satellite is expected to be guided into its final geostationary-orbit position by mid-September, according to the satellite’s builder, Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. One industry official said Palapa-D, designed to operate for 15 years, will have enough fuel for eight to 10 years of service following the orbit-raising maneuvers.

The decision to attempt to salvage the satellite despite its placement in a too-low orbit was made with Palapa-D insurance underwriters, whose payout amount to Indosat likely will depend on how much commercial life the satellite can provide. (9/3)

The 'Save Ares' Campaign Goes Online (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The push to save NASA's newest rocket went online this week with a new video that encourages viewers to tell Congress and the White House that it should stick with the Constellation program and not "take a chance" with other spacecraft designs. A video uses selected clips from the Augustine Panel, but it largely cherry picks testimony from hours of panel hearings and gives the impression that the Panel supports Constellation more than it actually does.

The video was posted at the same time that contractors who are working on the Constellation program -- including Lockheed Martin and solid-rocket manufacturer ATK -- are setting up a major lobbying effort to persuade Congress to allow NASA to continue work on the Ares 1 for at least another year. Because "rounderb" is anonymous, it's impossible to tell whether the video is connected to that effort. Click here to view the video. (9/3)

ORBCOMM and SpaceX Reach Deal to Launch Satellite Constellation (Source: SpaceX)
ORBCOMM Inc. SpaceX have reached an agreement for SpaceX to launch 18 ORBCOMM Generation 2 (OG2) satellites to begin as early as the fourth quarter of 2010 through 2014. SpaceX will deliver ORBCOMM’s second-generation satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) for the purpose of supporting ORBCOMM’s existing constellation of satellites, adding new features, and growing its global Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) offerings.

Each new satellite will be equipped with an enhanced communication payload designed to increase subscriber capacity for M2M communication up to 12 times over the current satellite constellation, increase message sizes, and include AIS detection capability. SpaceX plans to launch the second-generation satellites on multiple Falcon 1e launch vehicles. Designed from the ground up by SpaceX, the Falcon 1e has upgraded propulsion, structures and avionics systems in order to further improve reliability and mass-to-orbit capability. (9/3)

A Second SoCal Observatory in Peril (Source: Sky & Telescope)
For the past week firefighters have staged an all-out effort to save the historic observatory atop Mount Wilson in Southern California from the devastating Station Fire, which by Wednesday had engulfed some 200 square miles of the rugged San Gabriel Mountains. But the fate of a second big scope in the area remains unknown — and prospects for its survival are much more dire. Located just 5 miles northeast of Mount Wilson, Stony Ridge Observatory is home to a 30-inch telescope. It's historic in its own right, a facility built by and for amateurs. When completed by its 15 founders in 1963, its big eye was the eighth largest telescope in California and likely ranked as the largest amateur scope in the United States. (9/3)

DOD Official: Defense Changes Must Consider Industry's Health (Source: Defense News)
Pentagon officials should try to avoid weakening the U.S. defense industry as they make major program decisions, especially ones that affect niche areas such as stealth aircraft and space systems, said Ashton Carter, Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics chief. "I feel industrial base issues are completely legitimate because having the best defense industrial and technology base in the world is not a birthright," Carter said during a Sept. 1 interview. "It's not about jobs, it's about certain kinds of jobs: very skilled, very rare kinds of skills that are not easily replicated in the commercial world and if allowed to erode would be difficult to rebuild." (9/2)

Mt. Wilson Observatory Escapes Serious Damage (Source: LA Times)
The historic Mt. Wilson Observatory, site of some of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the 20th century, appears to have escaped serious damage from the Station fire, but scientists working on the mountain say the blaze still managed to take a toll on the ongoing research there. As many as 40 different projects were underway at the observatory and some people had waited a year to get observing time. They will have to be rescheduled. "Losing observing time is a small problem compared to losing the observatory," said an observatory director. (9/3)

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