October 13 News Items

EELVs Not "Dead" as Crew Launch Option (Source: NASA Watch)
"From what I hear from in and around the 9th floor, Charlie Bolden's actual opinion (and that of those around him) is somewhat different than is portrayed in Hyperbola. While there is not much interest at NASA in the evolution of EELVs towards providing a heavy launch vehicle capability, there is certainly continued interest in the use of EELVs as part of a commerical crew launch capability. As such EELVs most certainly have not been ruled out or seen as being "dead" as an option. Stay tuned. The Augustine report lands at the White House next week and then a lot of things will start to break loose." (10/13)

Letter-Writing Campaign Expands with National Space Society Effort (Source: SPACErePORT)
The "Save Space" letter-writing campaign initiated by Brevard County in Florida continues to grow, as other organizations encourage their constituents to send letters to President Obama. The National Space Society this week delivered a draft letter to its members nationwide, encouraging them to sign and send them to the White House. The letter recommends a $3 billion increase to NASA's top-line budget. (10/13)

SpaceX Hopes to Launch First Manned Commercial Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Asked what bugs them most about NASA outsourcing the job of flying crew to the International Space Station, some astronauts roll their eyes and say: "Dragon." That's the name of the capsule being built by SpaceX, the aerospace startup founded by Internet tycoon Elon Musk, a capsule designed to be fully automated. But with no controls to "fly" their ride, astronauts fear they'll be "Spam in a can" -- little more than human cargo. And if they don't pilot a ship, they worry, how can they keep the fleet of T-38 jets that are the symbol of the astronaut corps?

With the United States space program facing a crisis, with nothing to replace the space shuttle when it is retired next year, such worries might seem trivial. But not to SpaceX. After all, the Mercury Seven -- NASA's original astronauts -- demanded engineers put a window in the first spacecraft because they were determined to blast off as pilots, not payloads. Now, 50 years later, SpaceX has hired its own former astronaut, Ken Bowersox, to make Dragon more astronaut-friendly.

"We'll do what makes sense from the point of view of using humans to increase the reliability of the whole system," said Bowersox. To do that, we have to give them displays and controls." SpaceX hiring Bowersox is a clear example of how serious it is about leading a new commercial era in American space exploration. Some senior administration officials think that NASA's Constellation program -- its Ares I rocket and Orion capsule-- is too costly and technically challenged. They would prefer to see SpaceX and other companies build and run competing systems for NASA under fixed-price contracts. (10/13)

NASA Announces Commercial RLV Technology Roadmap Project (Source: NASA)
NASA is partnering with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a technology roadmap for the commercial reusable launch vehicle, or RLV, industry. The study will focus on identifying technologies and assessing their potential use to accelerate the development of commercial reusable launch vehicles that have improved reliability, availability, launch turn-time, robustness and significantly lower costs than current launch systems. The study results will provide roadmaps with recommended government technology tasks and milestones for different vehicle categories. (10/13)

NASA Supports California Healthcare with Patent License Agreement (Source: NASA)
NASA has signed a patent license agreement with a California company to improve the medical community's access to hyperbaric chambers used to treat many medical conditions and emergencies. OxyHeal Medical Systems Inc. of National City, Calif., will develop new products based on technologies NASA originally developed for space. Hyperbaric chambers create an environment in which the atmospheric pressure of oxygen is increased above normal levels. The high concentrations of oxygen can reduce the size of gas bubbles in the blood and improve blood flow to oxygen-starved tissues. (10/13)

Russia Designing Rocket for Manned Flights From New Spaceport (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's federal space agency has started work to design a new carrier rocket to orbit manned flights from a new space center in the country's Far East, said Roscosmos's Anatoly Perminov. He said priority would be given to the rocket's reliability and safety, including crew evacuation at any stage of the flight. He said the new rocket would be used as a platform for heavier carriers with payloads of 50-60 tons and super-heavy carriers with payloads of 130-150 tons. The construction of the new space center, Vostochny, will start in 2011 and should be completed in 2018. Seven launch pads are to be built at the space center, including two for manned flights and two for space freighters. (10/13)

Rocket Town: Huntsville, Alabama (Source: CNN)
Huntsville has few venture capitalists -- but great scenery and a thriving community of tech startups, thanks to NASA. Tim Pickens, president of Orion Propulsion, has fond memories of the days when his parents' front windows would rattle violently in their frames. Pickens grew up in Huntsville, Ala., just a few miles from the Marshall Space Flight Center. In the past 50 years this small city in northern Alabama has morphed from cotton capital to rocket town to high-technology hub. The U.S. Army's Aviation and Missile Command is housed in the nearby Redstone Arsenal, and the federal government employs more than 8% of the local workforce. But the city's thriving engineering community and tradition of innovation have also made it a breeding ground for tech entrepreneurs.

Pickens, a tinkerer and self-taught rocket engineer, founded Orion Propulsion in his garage five years ago using equipment acquired on eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500). He had already done his fair share of amateur work. Working with the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Society, Pickens built a homemade rocket that reached a record-breaking altitude of 41 miles in 1997. He later worked as a propulsion engineer on SpaceShipOne, a spacecraft developed by Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif., which went on to win the Ansari X Prize, awarded to the first private company to build and launch a reusable, manned aircraft into space twice within two weeks.

Today Pickens runs a 40-employee firm devoted to rocket-engine testing and manufacturing. Orion Propulsion is currently working on a Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) contract to develop upper-stage thrusters for Ares I, a rocket NASA plans to use for its next manned space flights. Pickens projects 2009 revenues of $6 million, up 20% from last year. Click here to view the article. (10/13)

Harris Wins Air Force Work (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Melbourne-based Harris Corp. has received an Air Force deal potentially worth $7.5 million to support the military's aviation command-and-control network. The contract, which could extend to 2012, calls for Harris to support high-tech aviation command-and-control systems including computerized flight plans, satellite communications and global air transportation planning. The company is subcontractor to Computer Sciences Corp. on the support services program, which has a three-month base period with three, one-year options. (10/13)

Augustine Comments in Favor of "Flexible Path" Option (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"I can build predications for or against almost anything in the report, unfortunately, but the flexible option offers a couple of major advantages. The most significant of which is that many of the other options basically say, Send me some billions of dollars, come back in 20 years, and you're going to see something neat. How many citizens can remain supportive, how many engineers can devote their lives, to that kind of promise?" (10/13)

Greason Comments on Mars as a Destination (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"There are people who think we're ready for the Hail Mary pass to Mars. I'm not one of them. There's a long list of technologies that need to matured and developed. Those missions are going to be very long. We'll be in deep space for a long time. It's been decades since the United States did manned plan exploration in space. Doing it again in an environment that's 20 light minutes away from Earth, where mission control is not looking over your shoulder, that will take time and practice...The American West had to be subjected to massive civil engineering works before more than a small community of pioneers could live there. What you consider to be habitable is a function of your level of technology." (10/13)

Carmack Comments on the Purpose of Human Exploration (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"I've never really cared for arguments about manned versus robot exploration, for the sake of science. I don't really think the purpose of a space program is science. I think the base motive is to expand human civilization into space. It's about preparing way for where people are going to be in future. Science is a tertiary benefit. People weren't excited about landing on the Moon because learned about the early geology of Earth. They were excited because we landed on the damn moon. But the cost of these programs, if it's not sustainable, we're not going to move civilization into space. Things need to change." (10/13)

Aldrin Comments on "Flexible Path" Option (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"The destination is Mars, without distractions, like exploratory landings on the Moon. I'm not talking about skipping [the Moon], but using our leadership to assist the internationals, like China and India, in their own manned landings...We should establish an international lunar economic development authority. Our goal should be to develop the Moon, not explore it—we've already done that. We should conserve our resources. With its flexible option, the Augustine Commission is suggesting taking a position that doesn't strongly commit us, and leaves us open to revise things: Maybe we'll land on the Moon, maybe we won't land on Mars. That may be nice and noble, but it forgets the option that should be very attractive to a national leader." (10/13)

Pace Comments on Habitation Versus Utilization (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"There are two related questions posed by human exploration. First, is there anything economically useful to do out there, that pays your way? And second, can you live off the land, and use local resources to survive, or will we always be tied to support from earth? If the answer to both is yes, then you get space colonies, self-sustainable life off-planet. If the answer to both is no, then space is like Mt. Everest. Tourists might go to Mt. Everest, sherpas might make a living off of it, but no one really lives there.

"If the answer is that you can live off the land, but it's not economically useful, it's like Antarctica...In that case, you can form an outpost and live there, but you're sustained by constant funding, since engineering doesn't pay for itself. If the answer is that there are economically useful things to do, such as mining Helium-3 on the Moon, but we're always reliant on Earth for basic necessities, then space becomes a North Sea oil platform. You can make money there, but it will always be a hostile environment." (10/13)

Squyres Comments on Human Versus Robotic Exploration (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"Humans have an extraordinary ability to function in complex environments, to improvise, and to respond quickly to new discoveries. Robots, in contrast, do best when the environment is simple and well understood, and the scientific tasks are well defined in advance. There are also lessons to be learned from the missions of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. One is that rovers like these accomplish their tasks far more slowly than humans in the same environment would." (10/13)

Rees Comments on Robotic Exploration and Big Government Programs (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"The particular case for sending people into space is getting weaker all the time, because of advances in robotics and miniaturization. I hope, as a human endeavor and human adventure, that people do one day go to Mars. It would be sad if manned spaceflight never reached that point. If I were an American, I'd be cautious about supporting a big, federal program to go there. The problem with a NASA-type program, is that because of political and public pressure, they have to be very risk averse. Look at the Shuttle program. There have been two major accidents, and each of those failures was a national trauma." (10/13)

Park Comments on Robotic Exploration and Contamination (Source: Popular Mechanics)
"If there is a useful thing for humans to do in space, I'd be happy to do it. What they're planning on doing is absolutely the wrong thing to do. They're talking about sending human beings to Mars, at a time when we're talking about finding life on Mars. If we get there, we'll have to stay there for 18 months before attempting a return flight. Do you realize the amount of feces produced by a single human being in a year and a half? All of that will be absolutely crawling with living organisms. There's no chance of keeping from contaminating mars in 18 months..."

"The idea of being pioneers is kind of funny. Anyone who thinks they can survive on Mars without constant support from Earth is kidding themselves...When we established colonies [on Earth], we did it for very specific reasons. To rape the resources and bring them home. There aren't any resources on Mars, not that we know of...If there were diamonds a foot deep on Mars, it still wouldn't be worth the cost of sending people there. We're already doing a great job with unmanned explorers. My god, we're on Saturn, and Saturn's moons." (10/13)

After Delays, Russia Set to Add Module to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Technicians in Kazakhstan are readying a new docking compartment and airlock for launch to the International Space Station next month, the first Russian addition to the complex in more than eight years. The Mini-Research Module 2, or MRM 2, is being prepped for launch aboard a Soyuz rocket on Nov. 10. MRM 2 will serve as a new docking port for visiting Russian vehicles and an airlock for spacewalks.

The 13-foot-long module was transported last month from its factory at Energia in Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the famed Russian spaceport on the steppes of Kazakhstan. Since its delivery, MRM 2 has been undergoing electrical testing and leak checks inside a vacuum chamber at Baikonur. More than 2,000 pounds of cargo will be delivered to the station inside MRM 2, including life support equipment and Orlan spacesuits. (10/13)

Meeting to Focus on Long-Term Virginia Space Vision (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
A diverse group of politicians, professors and aerospace industry representatives is meeting Wednesday in Richmond to formulate a long-term vision for Wallops' space complex. A draft version of that vision includes the idea that it will become "the aerospace provider of choice for the Northeast region." Virginia Commonwealth University facilitator Greg Brittingham will guide the group in developing a shared vision for what the Wallops complex should become over the next 20 years.

Additionally, a charter for a new statewide commercial space working group will be discussed, led by Bruce Hoogstraten, chairman of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's Aerospace Council. In another effort to take advantage of developments at Wallops, a group including members from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia formed recently to promote space tourism in the region. It has already held two meetings and will meet again at Wallops on Dec. 3. (10/13)

ATK Expands in California (Source: Daily Sound)
With a few ceremonial turns of a golden shovel, Alliant Techsystems officials began paving the way for an expansion of their Goleta facilities that will allow the aerospace company to participate in cutting-edge space exploration and weather forecasting programs. ATK is adding a 25,000 square-foot complex to its current facility on Pine Avenue that will eventually house high-class engineering, laboratory and office space.

More space is precisely what ATK scientists will need to design and test massive solar arrays for two major programs — creating the next-generation of space exploration crafts and developing high-tech satellites to improve weather forecasting. Specifically, the aerospace company will be designing and building solar arrays to power NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its mission to the moon, in addition to providing arrays for a series of four satellites that will circle the Earth and collect data on environmental conditions, weather and the atmosphere. (10/13)

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