October 20 News Items

New Mexico Woman Arrested as Spaceport Trucks Roll (Source: KRQE)
Monday marked the first day of what residents and business owners in Truth or Consequences will experience for the next six months as big trucks rumble through town to reach Spaceport America. Trucks began carrying tons of material to the spaceport through the downtown area, which brought out protestors trying to stop traffic.

Commercial flights from the Spaceport are supposed to carry passengers into space within a couple years, but in the meantime it's sending some people into frenzy. A Sierra County deputy said he went to downtown T or C where protestors threatened to stop trucks by standing in front of them in crosswalks where "pedestrians have the absolute right of way...and cannot be arrested for being in them," according to an e-mail that had been circulating the town. (10/20)

Moon-Dirt Diggers Win $750,000 in Prizes (Source: MSNBC)
Three robotics teams claimed a total of $750,000 in NASA prizes on Sunday in the Regolith Excavation Challenge, aimed at promoting the development of robots capable of digging up lunar soil. The awards marked the first time in the competition's three-year history that any team qualified for a cash prize. After two days of competition at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., organizers gave the first-place prize of $500,000 to Paul's Robotics of Worcester, Mass. Terra Engineering of Gardena, Calif., was awarded the second-place prize of $150,000. Team Braundo of Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., won $100,000 for its third-place showing. (10/20)

US Losing Space Race (Source: DOD Buzz)
The nation that made it to the Moon in 12 years now struggles to build a satellite in that time and is at risk of losing its preeminence in space. Those words come from one of the top four space intelligence lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, chairman of the House Select technical and tactical intelligence subcommittee. Ruppersburger noted that 20 years ago the U.S. had 70 percent of the commercial satellite market which is now down to 27 percent.

The country faces serious risks to its launch industry, he said, noting that France continues to build new launchers and improve its technologies. “Their companies are getting stronger and ours are getting weaker,” he said. It isn’t just commercial communications satellites and space exploration where the US is fading. A string of enormous and nearly complete failures in developing intelligence satellites has left the administration and Congress exceedingly wary of funding new programs, such as the new spy satellite program approved in April by President Obama. “We can’t afford any more failures,” he said. (10/20)

Spy Sat Battle Joined On Hill (Source: DOD Buzz)
The Senate wants to build an unproven but technologically attractive reconnaissance spy satellite said to be relatively cheap. The House wants to build a technologically proven but more expensive spy satellite. Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and her vice chair, Sen. Kit Bond, support the unproven technology (reportedly developed by Boeing and Northrop Grumman).

According to Space News: “the alternative plan [supported by the senators] would develop a larger constellation of cheaper and less-complex satellites.” But Bruce Carlson , director of the National Reconnaissance Office, builder and operator of the nation’s spy satellites, told the paper that Feinstein and Bond’s technology, is “a demonstration of some technology — which by the way we think is very keen — and we are very high on demonstrating that technology. But it is not a solution to the intelligence needs of this country.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, chairman of the House Select technical and tactical intelligence subcommittee, and his House colleagues support proven technologies under a Lockheed Martin program that will not be cheap but are relatively mature. But even though Ruppersberger supports Lockheed Martin’s approach, he told reporters here at the Geoint conference in San Antonio this morning that he harbors unease about it in terms of both cost and technology. (10/20)

Russia Says No Private Soyuz Flight Till 2014 (Source: Flight Global)
Space Adventures goal of a private Energia Soyuz TMA spacecraft flight in 2013 cannot be achieved, according to the Russian federal space agency's head of human space missions directorate, Alexey Krasnov. He explained that enabling a private Soyuz flight would take four or five years because the vehicle's operations have to change and the pilot's training regime has to be altered. This is because there would be one pilot and two tourists and not one other cosmonaut and one passenger. Another problem is that the annual Soyuz production rate has to be increased to five spacecraft from today's four. All four Soyuz are needed to serve the International Space Station's six crew. (10/20)

NASA Rolls Out Ares 1-X, But will Obama Let it Fly? (Source: London Times)
NASA’s Ares 1-X rocket was finally secured on the launch pad today ready for its $455 million test-flight, even as the White House considered a proposal that the vehicle should be scrapped. The demonstration flight will allow NASA to test hardware and gather critical data, in readiness for manned launches that are planned to begin in 2015, when astronauts would be launched in a capsule known as Orion stacked on the top of the rocket.

But the Augustine Panel has suggested the abandonment of Ares in favour of cheaper, commercially-built boosters. John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute said NASA has now reached a “tipping point” as President Obama ponders the future course of America’s manned space program, mindful that public support for exploring beyond earth has waned since the glory days of the Apollo program 40 years ago. But he added: “To characterize Ares as a complete waste would be wrong. There will be value in doing this. Whether it’s the value that was originally envisioned is a different matter.” (10/20)

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