October 15 News Items

Ground-Based Lasers Could Interfere With Orbiting Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
In October 2006, the military affairs journal Jane's Intelligence Weekly reported that U.S. Army officials detected a "sudden decline" in the effectiveness of some its spy satellites throughout the fall as they passed over China. Before receiving an explanation from the Chinese military, initial fears were that the country had intentionally aimed ground-based lasers at the U.S. satellites to temporally disrupt their ability to collect information, or worse, materially damage them. Was this a hostile attempt by the Chinese to test its laser anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, obstructing U.S. military reconnaissance missions in Low Earth Orbit?

Probably not, said a pair of military affairs experts at a recent AAAS co-sponsored briefing. More likely, they said, the Chinese may have been trying to glean details of the satellites orbital path or, perhaps, conducting a test to see if we could detect their laser against our spy satellites. But the case does raise questions about protecting satellites in orbit. In 2000, DOD established the Laser Clearinghouse Program, which was designed to protect satellites against accidental lasing which could damage or disrupt satellites. Based at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the program requires all U.S. government organizations, including the U.S. military, to register their lasers which might damage satellites. A similar program could be considered for implementation world-wide to safely manage all peaceful laser firings into space. (10/15)

Florida Underwater "Spacewalks" Ready Astronauts for the Moon (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's moon plans may be under review by the White House but Constellation's plans to get astronauts back walking on the lunar surface continue unabated. In a NASA blog posted on Wednesday, the agency announced that three NASA astronauts are getting ready to practice future off-planet spacewalks undersea near Key Largo, Florida. The three astronauts, a Constellation Program engineer and a team of "diving 'buddies'" are getting ready for grueling underwater mission next spring as part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 14 (NEEMO 14) in NOAA's Aquarius underwater laboratory.

"Aquarius, located three miles off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is the world's only permanent underwater habitat and laboratory. The team of NASA divers and astronauts spent last week doing preliminary work at a Key Largo, Fla., base. This week the team will perform some engineering evaluations on a low-fidelity, full scale mock-up of the Altair lunar lander positioned next to NOAA’s lab." (10/15)

University of Colorado Gets $2.4 Million from NASA (Source: Boulder County Business Report)
NASA has awarded the University of Colorado at Boulder $2.4 million to design, build and operate four ultraviolet telescopes known as spectrographs to probe nearby interstellar weather. The telescopes are being built at CU-Boulder's Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy and will be launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico beginning in 2010. (10/15)

T-Minus 18 Months and Counting: for Virgin Galactic and Space Tourism (Source: Scientific American)
Twenty-five years ago when Richard Branson called up Boeing and asked for a spare 747, few would have predicted the brash entrepreneur would so radically disrupt the formerly staid business of air travel. Now the ennobled Brit predicts his company is a scant 18 months from the first commercial near-orbit flight. "We've got deposits for the first 200 seats at $200,000 a pop," Branson said. In roughly 18 months, Sir Richard, his parents and his children will go into space. "My father just wants to get to heaven quicker," he says. (10/15)

Solar System's Edge Surprises Astronomers (Source: Science News)
The edge of the solar system is tied up with a ribbon, astronomers have discovered. The first global map of the solar system reveals that its edge is nothing like what had been predicted. Neutral atoms, which are the only way to image the fringes of the solar system, are densely packed into a narrow ribbon rather than evenly distributed. “Our maps show structure and energy spectra that are completely different from what any model has predicted,” says one scientist involved. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite, or IBEX, discovered the narrow ribbon. (10/15)

Cassini Data Help Redraw Shape of Solar System (Source: NASA)
Images from the Ion and Neutral Camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggest that the heliosphere, the region of the sun's influence, may not have the comet-like shape predicted by existing models. As the solar wind flows from the sun, it carves out a bubble in the interstellar medium. Models of the boundary region between the heliosphere and interstellar medium have been based on the assumption that the relative flow of the interstellar medium and its collision with the solar wind dominate the interaction. This would create a foreshortened "nose" in the direction of the solar system's motion, and an elongated "tail" in the opposite direction. (10/15)

GAO Says NASA Networks Are Vulnerable to Attack (Source: Space News)
NASA has not done enough to protect its computer systems against intrusions and cyber attacks, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Oct. 15. According to the report, which was called for by Congress in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, NASA reported 1,120 security incidents in 2007 and 2008 that resulted in the installation of malicious software on its systems and unauthorized access to sensitive information. (10/15)

Atlas-5 Launch Scheduled for California (Source: AFSC)
Vandenberg AFB is scheduled to launch an Atlas V rocket carrying a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload from South Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex-3 on Sunday with a current launch window of 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. (10/15)

NASA May Slip Shuttle Launch Several Days Due to Range Conflict with Atlas Launch (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
From an official standpoint, NASA is continuing to target a Nov. 12 for the launch of STS-129, though Shuttle manager John Shannon noted on Thursday that Atlantis will likely be aiming for a window between Nov. 17-19 – due to an Eastern Range conflict with an Atlas V launch. Meanwhile, engineers are evaluating the shuttle and pad’s electrical systems, following “multiple indications” of lightning strikes on the pad complex during Wednesday evening. (10/15)

Obama Moves to Shift Space Tech Export Responsibility to Commerce (Source: Washington Times)
President Obama recently shifted authority for approving sales of missile and space technology back to the Commerce Department -- a move critics say will loosen export controls and potentially benefit Chinese missile development. The president issued a little-noticed "presidential determination" Sep. 29 that delegated the authority to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The new policy appears aimed at increasing U.S.-China space cooperation. Editor's Note: With its conservative bent, the Washington Times makes much noise about how this policy shift could damage U.S. security interests, but it appears to be consistent with longstanding aerospace industry requests to fix current tech transfer regulations. (10/15)

Embry-Riddle Plans Aerospace Career Expo on Nov. 4-5 (Source: ERAU)
Jobseekers pursuing professional positions in the aerospace industry are invited to expand their horizons at Embry-Riddle’s 2009 Industry/Career Expo, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, attracting top employers in aviation, aerospace, business, engineering, and other high-tech fields. National and international employers participating in the event this year include Boeing, Continental Airlines, Jamco America Inc., Northrop Grumman, Procter & Gamble, Alsalam Aircraft Co., EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space), Garmin International Inc., NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command), and the U.S. Department of State. The Expo will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 4, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 5, at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus. The event is free and open to the public. (10/15)

Florida Undergraduate Students Attend Space Florida Academy (Source: Space Florida)
On Friday (Oct. 16) and for four subsequent Fridays, Space Florida will host 17 Florida undergraduate students from Embry-Riddle, UCF, Brevard Community College, and Florida Tech for a special aerospace academy program, culminating with a scientific balloon release on Nov. 13. The program is funded under a grant from Northrop Grumman Corp. Click here for information. (10/15)

Aldrin et.al. - Commercial Spaceflight: All Systems Go (Source: WAll Street Journal)
According to astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Ken Bowersox, Jake Garn, Robert Gibson, Hank Hartsfield, John Herrington, Byron Lichtenberg, John Lounge, Rick Searfoss, Norman Thagard, Kathryn Thornton, Jim Voss and Charles Walker: NASA should push the frontiers. The private sector can handle the business of low Earth orbit. "As crew members who have flown aboard spacecraft such as America's Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, we know that exploring space is a worthwhile and challenging endeavor. Increased use of public-private partnerships—where commercial companies assume a larger role in developing the systems to be used for space transportation—is one promising path to strengthen our nation's space exploration programs. Public-private partnerships can leverage the agility and efficiency of the commercial sector while maintaining access to the skilled workers, technologies and facilities only available in the government."

"The best place to exercise and grow these space-exploration partnerships is in low Earth orbit, where humans have the most experience and where economic incentives exist to make space travel routine. While it's completely appropriate for NASA to continue developing systems and the new technologies necessary to take crews farther out into our solar system, we believe that the commercial sector is fully capable of safely handling the critical task of low-Earth-orbit human transportation...So we firmly support the findings of the Augustine Committee...NASA should put its unique resources into pushing back the final frontier and not in repaving the earth-to-orbit road it cleared a half century ago." Click here to view the editorial. (10/15)

Lockheed Names New President (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Lockheed Martin became the latest major defense contractor to make changes in its executive suite, reinstating the president and chief operating officer position and tapping executive Christopher Kubasik for the role. Mr. Kubasik, 48, will have a frontline corporate position overseeing the Defense Department's largest contractor's operations. This comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates is shaking up weapons contracting and targeting many high-profile contracts for curtailment, including Lockheed's F-22 Raptor fighter, or outright cancellation. (10/15)

Progress Launched to ISS (Source: Space Today)
A Soyuz rocket launched a modernized Progress spacecraft to the International Space Station Thursday morning. The Soyuz lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:14 pm EDT Wednesday (0114 GMT Thursday) and placed the Progress M-03M (designated Progress 35 by NASA). The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 9:41 pm EDT Saturday. On board the spacecraft are two and a half tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies for the station's six-person crew. (10/15)

Atlantis Rolled Out to Launch Pad (Source: Space Today)
NASA rolled the space shuttle Atlantis out to the launch pad Wednesday in preparation for its mission to the International Space Station next month. Atlantis left the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center just over 6:30 am EDT Wednesday, taking nearly seven hour to make the trip to Pad 39A. NASA is planning to launch Atlantis on mission STS-129 on November 12, although that launch date has not yet been confirmed. (10/15)

Hardware Glitch Delays Ares I-X Rollout (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A leak in a hydraulic system that steers the solid rocket motor on the Ares I-X test rocket has forced NASA to delay rolling the 327-foot tall design prototype out to launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center by at least one day to next Tuesday. The leak, which was picked up earlier this week, has already been fixed but needs to be retested, prompting the delay in the planned rollout to the launch pad which was originally scheduled for Monday at 12 a.m. NASA says it is unclear whether the problem will impact the planned launch date of the rocket on October 27. (10/15)

NASA Considering Job Cuts in Texas (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA is considering cutting as much as 20 percent of its employee costs on the manned space program — including jobs at Houston's Johnson Space Center — in hopes of salvaging money for ambitious back-to-the-moon plans, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver has told contractors for the agency. The effort by Garver could potentially reap savings of $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually over the next two years on space operations and acquisition of the next generation spacecraft.

The savings would provide NASA a down payment on the $3 billion more a year that outside experts say the agency needs to eventually send astronauts beyond the orbiting International Space Station. The cutbacks would reduce the number of NASA personnel at contractors' facilities to oversee space agency work as well as reduce the number of contractor personnel assigned to coordinate with NASA. (10/15)

Editorial: Slowing Space Program Hurts America's Lead (Source: Washington Examiner)
Enjoy the last few flights of our Space Shuttle fleet. After it's mothballed late next year, our nation, to the collective shame of our politicians, will have no U.S. capability to get our astronauts into space for quite possibly a decade or more to come. Why? Because President Obama and most Members of Congress don't consider our human spaceflight program to be a tangible vote-getter. As simple and as destructive as that.

During the presidential campaign in 2007, then-Senator Obama said he planned to pay for his $18 billion education plan by taking it out of the hide of NASA. In defending his desire to delay the Orion and Ares programs, he stressed, "We're not going to have the engineers and scientists to continue space exploration if we don't have kids who are able to read, write and compute."

Contrast those words, uttered to appease teachers unions, with those of President John F. Kennedy 45 years earlier in defense of the U.S. human spaceflight program: "...We mean to be part of it -- we mean to lead it...Our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us...to become the world's leading spacefaring nation." Well, after basically five decades of being the "world's leading spacefaring nation," we are handing that status over to the military-controlled program of the People's Republic of China with lesser trinkets being awarded to Russia, India and the European Union. (10/15)

Russia to Spend $13.5 Billion on New Far East Spaceport (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will spend an estimated 400 billion rubles ($13.5 billion) on the construction of the new Vostochny space center in its Far Eastern Amur Region, Roscosmos said. Russia currently uses two launch sites for space carrier rockets and ballistic missiles tests: the Baikonur space center in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, which it has leased since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.

The new space center, which will employ 20,000-25,000 people, will ensure Russia's independence in the launch of piloted space vehicles, currently carried out at Baikonur. The first launch from the new space center is scheduled for 2015 and piloted spacecraft are intended to blast off from Vostochny in 2018. Construction is expected to start in 2011, with design and survey work already under way. (10/15)

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