November 20 News Items

ULA and ITT Military Contracts Boost Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Sources: DOD, SPACErePORT)
United Launch Alliance was awarded a $9,000,000 contract to accelerate the launch-to-launch time spans of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launches to preserve the capability to launch the National Reconnaissance Office L-32 mission in October 2010. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. In a separate action, ITT Industries, Inc. at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport was awarded a $66,370,706 contract option for continued program management, interface management, systems engineering and integration, depot maintenance transition, product acquisitions and modifications, and instrument modernization for operational systems and infrastructure at the spaceport. (11/19)

NASA Recruits 'Planet 51' Actor Dwayne Johnson to Spread Message (Source:
Actor Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as "The Rock," is helping to spread the benefits of NASA in a new series of public service announcements (PSAs) timed with the release of Sony Pictures' animated feature film "Planet 51." In the PSAs, Johnson touts NASA's role in education, recycling and the development of new technologies, commonly referred to as "spinoffs."

"Films are such a powerful way to reach out to new audiences and excite them about space exploration," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in a statement. "Dwayne will enlighten families about the importance of learning science and math and celebrating others' differences. He also informs the public about some NASA technologies which are used right here on Earth." (11/20)

French Bond Issue Could be Boon for Space (Source: Space News)
A French government commission on Nov. 19 proposed investing 2 billion euros ($3 billion) of a planned 35 billion-euro government bond issue in new aeronautical and space technologies including Earth observation and broadband spacecraft. The commission estimated that the total investment package would expand to 60 billion euros when private-sector and possible European Union contributions are included. The investments backed by the bond issue could come in the form of grants co-financed by the projects’ sponsors, reimbursable loans or loan guarantees made by the French Innovation Agency, OSEO. (11/20)

Soyuz Rocket Launches Russian Military Payload (Source:
Russia launched a military spy satellite into space Friday on a Soyuz rocket from the country's Plesetsk spaceport. The three-stage Soyuz rocket delivered the spacecraft to an elliptical orbit with a high point of about 560 miles and a low point of approximately 120 miles. The orbit's inclination is about 67.2 degrees, according to tracking data. The satellite was named Kosmos 2455 after the launch as part of the Russian defense ministry's naming system for spacecraft. The payload was the sixth Russian military satellite launched this year. This was the 12th flight this year of a variant of the venerable Soyuz rocket family. It also marked the 63rd space launch worldwide to successfully reach orbit this year. (11/20)

Iran to Launch Space Booster, Satellite by Late 2011 (Source: MSNBC)
Iran plans to launch a communications satellite by late 2011 with no outside help, a top Iranian official said Friday, after Italy and Russia declined to put it into orbit. The move reflected Tehran's frustration with the two countries as it tries to push ahead with an ambitious space program, which has worried world powers because the same rocket technology used to launch satellites can also be used for military purposes. Israeli media have claimed that the new Iranian satellite, named Misbah, or "Lantern" in Farsi, is a spy satellite. Iran says the satellite, which is to be launched into a low-earth orbit, is to assist in data communication. (11/20)

Cosmonaut: Russia Falling Behind in Space Race (Source: MSNBC)
Russia lacks a viable program for developing a new spacecraft and will likely fall behind in the space race, a veteran Russian cosmonaut said in an interview. Efforts to build a successor to the 40-year old Soyuz spacecraft have dragged on with no end in sight, Mikhail Tyurin said. He blamed the slow progress on a lack of clear goals and poor coordination. He said officials' talk of using the ship to fly to the International Space Station, and then the moon and Mars, are unfeasible. "One vehicle can't be both a steamroller and a Formula One racer," he said. (11/20)

Editorial: The Wet Side of the Moon (Source: New York Times)
Picture a habitat atop a hill in warm sunlight on the edge of a crater near the south pole of the Moon. There are metal ores in the rocks nearby and ice in the shadows of the crater below. Solar arrays are set up nearby and humans live in sealed, cave-like lava tubes, protected from solar flares and sustained by large surface greenhouses. Imagine the Moon as the first self-sustainable human settlement away from Earth and a high-speed transportation hub for the solar system.

We can finally begin to think seriously about establishing such a self-sufficient home on the Moon because last week, NASA announced that it had discovered large quantities of water there. While we have known for decades that the Moon had all the raw chemicals necessary for sustaining life, we believed they were trapped in rocks and thus difficult to extract. The discovery of plentiful lunar water is of tremendous importance to humanity and our long-term survival. Click here to view the editorial. (11/20)

U.S. Preeminence in Space is Eroding, Experts Tell Congress (Source: Miami Herald)
America is losing its edge in space as China, Iran and other rivals step up their efforts, experts told a congressional panel on Thursday. Among the statistics: 37 nations now have satellites in space, 13 have active space programs and eight are capable of launching their own satellites. Russia and China have particularly aggressive programs, the experts testified, while new entrants to the "space club" include Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela and South Africa. AIA Vice President J.P. Stevens told lawmakers that the U.S. share of the global commercial space market has slipped to just 15%. "Our leadership is no longer guaranteed," he said. "We're being undercut." (11/20)

Increase in Defense Spending Needed to Meet Plans (Source: AIA)
Defense spending will need to increase by 6%, to $567 billion annually, in constant 2010 dollars, in order to meet the current administration's plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The need for more funds could squeeze suppliers of advanced systems, and steadily rising maintanence and personnel costs are among other factors requiring increased spending. (11/20)

Former Astronaut-Astronomer, Sam Durrance, Joins the Suborbital Researchers Group (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announces that Florida native and former NASA astronaut Samuel T. Durrance, a PhD astronomer and veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, has been selected as the latest addition to CSF’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG). Including Dr. Durrance, SARG now consists of eleven researchers and educators, in disciplines ranging from microgravity physics to life sciences, who are aiming to increase awareness of commercial suborbital spacecraft in the science and R&D communities, work with policymakers to ensure that payloads can have easy access to these vehicles, and further develop ideas for the uses of vehicles under development by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace. (11/20)

Lighting Science Lands NASA Deal (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Lighting Science Group Corp. and the Kennedy Space Center have signed a two-year agreement to jointly develop a high-illumination and good-color-rendering LED light fixture for space exploration. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agreement calls for development of a lighting fixture prototype able to meet the unique demands of space equipment and space travel. Lighting Science CEO Zach Gibler said the agreement also opens up opportunities to take lighting advances developed for space exploration and translate them into earth-bound LED lighting applications. The company is based in Satellite Beach. (11/20)

Editorial: Who Owns the Moon? (Source: Cornell Sun)
The discovery of water on the moon opens up very basic questions that not many people stop to consider, most notably, “who owns the moon.” Who, if anyone, claims to own the moon? Who is recognized as owning the moon? Can anyone own the moon? While these questions may seem silly or trivial, the idea of eventually adding a permanent lunar base, or mining the moon for resources makes them surprisingly relevant. The answer to the question of who owns the moon, of course, is no one.

The Outer Space Treaty, the international law signed by more than 100 countries (including the United States), states that the moon and other celestial bodies are the province of all mankind, however, like most simple answers this one contains several complications. At the time the United Nations drafted the Outer Space Treaty there were only two spacefaring nations, the United States and the Soviet Union. We now have over a dozen, and many of them, China, Russia, the U.S., India and Japan, want to go to the moon. The commercial space sector is also becoming extremely interested in Earth’s only natural satellite with companies considering everything from mining the lunar surface to building extraterrestrial resorts on it.

Editor's Note: This article gives me another opportunity to suggest that the Obama Administration, with its ongoing multi-agency space policy update and keen interest in multi-national and commercial space programs, has a unique opportunity to lead the development of a new space treaty regime. Current gray-areas in today's treaties present a dis-incentive for some foreseeable large-scale commercially-oriented space projects. (11/20)

Solar Project Expansion at KSC Tied to Utility Rate Increase and State Support (Sources: Florida Today, SPACErePORT)
It doesn't yet include solar power-beaming satellites, but a Florida Power & Light (FPL) project at Kennedy Space Center will be expanded to include some other solar power R&D if the utility company is able to gain state approval for a rate increase. FPL officials said the expansion is also contingent upon state legislators passing a law supportive of renewable energy. FPL's ongoing development of a 10-megawatt solar plant at KSC would be expanded with an additional 100 megawatts, bringing 1,000 temporary jobs and 50 permanent ones. The permanent jobs would be science and engineering focused, residing at a new energy R&D center at KSC's Exploration Park. (11/20)

Key Lawmakers Stand Behind Constellation (Source: Florida Today)
Two NASA allies in Congress dug in their heels Thursday and said that the agency should continue with its troubled Constellation program and not rely on global partners to access space after the shuttle is retired in 2010. The assertions, by the chairwoman (Gabrielle Giffords) and ranking Republican member (Pete Olson) of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, signal a growing divide between Congress and the White House over NASA’s future, as the administration has indicated it wants to make space exploration more of a joint effort with other nations.

The White House has embraced the recent recommendation of a presidentially appointed space panel that advocated international partnerships to share the huge costs of human spaceflight. But Congress is reluctant to change the status quo, in part because it could put hometown jobs at risk. Thursday’s hearing was the first in a series planned by Giffords to underscore support for Constellation. Another is set for next month to assess the safety of competing commercial rocket designs, an issue Giffords said was “given inadequate scrutiny in the Augustine report.” Constellation backers frequently cite safety as a reason to continue the program’s Ares rockets and the Orion capsule.

But cost could ultimately be Constellation’s undoing. The program has cost nearly $8 billion since 2004. The White House has warned agencies including NASA to prepare for budget cuts of 5 to 10 percent. A test launch of an Ares I mockup last month cost $445 million, which led one lawmaker to question whether money would be better invested in helping commercial rocket companies. “We are spending more than any other country in the world but we are falling behind. What does that tell you?” asked U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California. (11/20)

When Good Rockets Go Bad (Source: WIRED)
In the grand scheme of human space programs in Russia and the United States, catastrophic failures are relatively rare. But they are often quite spectacular and make a big impression on the public and on the funding for space exploration. The explosions in the videos we’ve assembled here were very costly, some in terms of life, some in terms of lost equipment and all in terms of progress of the space programs. Click here to view a collection of rocket failure videos. (11/20)

Rocket Barons Share Thoughts on Launch Industry (Source:
Managers of the top commercial launch providers, including Arianespace, ILS, and bankrupt Sea Launch, disagree on the outlook of the industry as satellite operators clamor for more participants in the launch market. Arianespace and ILS can now launch about 21 commercial communications satellites per year, based on combined average flight rates. Up to 28 payloads could be launched annually if both providers ramped up operations. Those numbers don't include the expected addition of the Soyuz rocket to Arianespace's fleet next year.

The Ariane 5 is launching two satellites at a time about seven times each year. The Proton launches on commercial missions six to eight times per year. The maximum flight rates for the vehicles are nine missions annually for Ariane and 10 commercial flights per year for Proton. Arianespace and ILS agree that two able providers could efficiently handle the demands of satellite operators worldwide. But officials with Sea Launch say there is room for a third major market participant.

The Sea Launch manifest has been emptied by payloads moving to Ariane 5 and Proton launchers. Most recently, the XM 5 radio broadcasting craft switched to the Proton rocket for a launch in late 2010, earlier than Sea Launch could conduct the mission. Sea Launch's backlog now consists of three firm launches, two unidenfitifed Eutelsat missions and the Intelsat 17 satellite. Four more options from Intelsat are also on the manifest. (11/20)

Other Players Vie for Launch Business (Source:
In addition to Arianespace, ILS and SeaLaunchc, United Launch Alliance (with Atlas-5 and Delta-4) and China (with the Long March) are vying for a slice of the commercial satellite launch market, as are SpaceX (with the Falcon-9), India's Antrix (with the PSLV and GSLV), and Japan (with the H-2). All of these companies are jockeying for position in a market that is projected to consist of 20 to 24 commercial satellites per year between 2009 and 2018, according to industry studies.

These numbers lead some to fear of more oversupply in the finicky launch market and question the value of new participants and even established companies like Sea Launch. The Federal Aviation Administration's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, or COMSTAC, released a report in May predicting an average of 20.8 commercial satellites and 15.7 commercial launches to geostationary transfer orbit in the next decade. Euroconsult, a Paris-based reserch firm specializing in satellites, published a similar forecast in June calling for a total of 235 commercial geostationary communications payloads between 2009 and 2018.

Leaders of the world's largest satellite operators have made repeated statements lambasting the state of the commercial rocket industry. Eutelsat and Intelsat have both kept contracts with Sea Launch and Land Launch, despite the company's financial trouble. Both companies say they would like to see more variety in the launch market. Sea Launch officials are thankful for the support and agree with the strategy. Now we don't see any operator complaining about launch prices anymore. What they're worried about is access to space," said Sea Launch's president. (11/20)

$350,000 Awarded in Glove Design Competition (Source: Florida Today)
The two competitors sat side by side, waiting like contestants at a high school science fair. But here, at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville Thursday evening, much more was at stake: $400,000 in total prize money for designing gloves that exceeded the requirements of a NASA astronaut glove. The professorial Peter Homer, 48, from Maine had tasted victory before, winner of a similar competition in 2007. His competition was Ted Southern, a 32-year-old New York City native who designs props and costumes for a living.

Experience won, and Homer took home a check of $250,000. Southern's glove met the standards too, and he was awarded $100,000. The rest of the $50,000 prize money was held back because the five judges did not see a novel and innovative approach in the TMG design of the gloves. TMG refers to Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment, a material that makes up the outer layer of an astronaut glove or a spacesuit. (11/20)

No comments: