November 23 News Items

UCF Project Selected for Blue Origin Suborbital Flight (Source:
Blue Origin has selected three unmanned research payloads to fly on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a part of Phase 1 of the New Shepard Research Flight Demonstration Program. Among the three payloads is the Microgravity Experiment on Dust Environments in Astrophysics (MEDEA). The principal investigator of this effort is Dr. Joshua Colwell, of the University of Central Florida. Other projects include the Three-Dimensional Critical Wetting Experiment in Microgravity, from Purdue University; and the Effective lnterfacial Tension lnduced Convection (EITIC), from Louisiana State University. These flights are planned to begin in the coming years to demonstrate the integration and operation of scientific experiments into the New Shepard system. (11/23)

Florida Small Business Research Projects Selected for NASA Funding (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected for development 368 small business innovation projects that include research to minimize aging of aircraft, new techniques for suppressing fires on spacecraft and advanced transmitters for deep space communications. The awards are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Eight of the projects include Florida small businesses or universities, including two STTR projects: Streamline Numerics, Inc. off Gainesville (teamed with the University of Michigan) for an Advanced Unsteady Turbulent Combustion Simulation Capability for Space Propulsion Systems; and Alabama's Orion Propulsion, Inc. (teamed with the University of Central Florida, for Carbon Nano-Composite Ablative Rocket Nozzles.

The six SBIR projects include: Longwood-based Aligned Concepts, LLC, for a Oversubscribed Mission Scheduler Conflict Resolution System; Orlando-based OptiGrate Corp. for a Monolithic Rare Earth Doped PTR Glass Laser; Orlando-based APECOR for High-Temperature, Wirebondless, Ultra-Compact Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductor Modules for Space Power Systems; Belleair Beach's Fractal Systems, Inc. for a Multi-Component Remediation System for Generating Potable Water Onboard Spacecrafts; Tampa-based Advanced Materials Technology, Inc. for the Manufacture of Novel Cryogenic Thermal Protection Materials; and Jupiter-based Florida Turbine Technologies, Inc. for a Magnetically Actuated Seal. Click here for information. (11/23)

European Satellite Launch Delayed (Source: AFP)
The launch of a European telecommunications satellite from Kazakhstan was postponed on Monday after Kazakh authorities raised objections, Russian news agencies reported. "The launch of the European space device has been postponed indefinitely by the Kazakh side, even though all documents are in order," an official from Russian space agency Roskosmos told Ria Novosti and Interfax. He did not provide further details. (11/23)

Kazakhstan Blackmails Russia for Proton-M Booster Launches (Source: Pravda)
Russia’s Space Corporation Roskosmos had to delay to the launch of Proton-M booster rocket with Eutelsat-W7 European satellite on board. The rocket was supposed to blast off from the Baikonur Spaceport in Kazakhstan. However, the launch has been delayed indefinitely after the Kazakh authorities did not give their permission for it. An official statement released by Roskosmos said that the launch of the W7 spacecraft of Eutelsat had been canceled for reasons, which Russia was not accountable for. The satellite should have been launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur on Monday, Nov. 23. All the works related to the scheduled launch had been completed and coordinated with Kazakhstan’s Space Agency (Kazkosmos).

Russian experts believe that the scandal might have occurred because of the rent conditions. Russia and Kazakhstan have a special lease agreement for Baikonur Spaceport. The agreement, ratified by the governments of the two countries, stipulates that Kazakhstan shall not hinder the activities of the renter either expressly or by implication. Russia has already paid the rent of $1.265 billion to Kazakhstan since 1998, when the agreement was signed.

Kazakhstan ’s decision to cancel the launch might also be related to ecological reasons. One of the previous launches of Russia’s Proton-M booster with a Japanese spacecraft on board ended with a breakdown. The fragments of the rocket landed in an uninhabited area, about 50 km far from the nearest settlement. Kazakhstan’s EMERCOM officials said after the accident that the content of the toxic fuel – heptyl – on the crash site exceeded the norm some 5,200 times. Russia had to pay a $2.5-million-dollar compensation to Kazakhstan, although the Asian nation was asking for $60.7 million. Afterwards, the Kazakh authorities said that they would probably decide to halve the number of Proton-M launches in 2008. (11/23)

New Map Suggests Mars Was Wet and Humid (Source: AFP)
A new detailed map of Mars shows what was likely a vast ocean in the north and valleys around the equator, suggesting that the planet once had a humid, rainy climate, according to research published Monday. The computer-generated map, based on topographic data from NASA satellites, also shows that the network of valleys on the red planet is at least twice as extensive as previously estimated. "The relatively high values over extended regions indicate the valleys originated by means of precipitation-fed runoff erosion -- the same process that is responsible for formation of the bulk of valleys on our planet," said a report co-author. "A single ocean in the northern hemisphere would explain why there is a southern limit to the presence of valley networks," he said. (11/23)

Building a Better Alien-Calling Code (Source: WIRED)
Alien-seeking researchers have designed a new, simple code for sending messages into space. To a reasonably clever alien with math skills and a bit of astronomical training, the messages should be easy to decipher. As of now, Earthlings spend much more time searching for alien radio messages than broadcasting news of ourselves. We know how to do it, but relatively little attention has been paid to “ensuring that a transmitted message will be understandable to an alien listener,” according to a new research paper. Neither the Arecibo message, beamed at star cluster M13 in 1974, nor the Cosmic Calls sent in 1999 and 2003 were tested for decipherability. So the researchers devised their own alien-friendly messaging system. (11/23)

Florida Lawmakers Lobby Obama for More NASA Funding (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
More than 80 U.S. House members wrote President Barack Obama this week, urging the White House to increase NASA funding by up to $3 billion annually so that the agency can accelerate plans to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. The letter, spearheaded by Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach, attracted the support of most Florida House members and several lawmakers from California and Texas. Those three states are directly tied to NASA’s human spaceflight program. “We believe an increased level of funding is essential to ensure NASA has the resources needed to meet the mission challenges of human space flight,” wrote the lawmakers, including U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, and Alan Grayson, D-Orlando.

The letter was aimed at showing the White House that NASA funding has broad funding in Congress, although the 81 signatures represent less than 20 percent of the 435-member House. Surprisingly, the list did not include the signatures of two key House lawmakers: U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn, who chairs the House Science and Technology subcommittee and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, who heads the subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan also did not sign the letter. The West Virginia Democrat chairs the House subcommittee that oversees NASA funding. (11/23)

New Group to Enhance Cooperation Among Spaceports Worldwide (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the creation and initial membership of the Spaceports Council, composed of spaceports worldwide who seek to cooperate on issues of common interest such as airspace access, legal and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure, international policy migration, liability, and voluntary common operating standards. Frank DiBello will represent Space Florida on the council, which also includes representatives from Spain, Sweden, Scotland, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, California, Indiana, and New Mexico. New Mexico's Steve Landeene will chair the council. In addition to DiBello, Todd Lindner will participate on behalf of the Cecil Field Spaceport, proposed near Jacksonville. (11/23)

Former Astronaut Is Candidate To Run Florida State University (Source: Florida Today)
Norm Thagard, a former NASA astronaut and now professor at the Florida State University, is among the candidates to become that school's next president. Thagard, who flew aboard the space shuttle on four missions and for an extended tour on the Russian space station Mir, is currently an associate dean of the school of engineering at FSU. (11/23)

Congressman John Mica to Speak at Embry-Riddle Graduation (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will hold its commencement ceremony for 388 candidates for graduation on Dec. 14. Guest speaker U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Law (LL.D.) during the event. Mica is currently serving his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which stretches from Orlando to Jacksonville. As the two-term Republican leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the largest committee in Congress, Mica helps formulate and oversee federal policy in all areas of transportation, including aviation, and has called for the development of a comprehensive and national strategic transportation plan. (11/23)

Plan for Human Mission to Asteroid Gains Speed (Source:
Call it Operation: Plymouth Rock. A plan to send a crew of astronauts to an asteroid is gaining momentum, both within NASA and industry circles. Not only would the deep space sojourn shake out hardware, it would also build confidence in long-duration stints at the moon and Mars. At the same time, the trek would sharpen skills to deal with a future space rock found on a collision course with Earth. In Lockheed Martin briefing charts, the mission has been dubbed "Plymouth Rock – An Early Human Asteroid Mission Using Orion." Lockheed is the builder of NASA's Orion spacecraft.

Study teams are now readying high-level briefings for NASA leaders - perhaps as early as this week - on a pilgrimage to an asteroid, along with appraisals of anchoring large, astronaut-enabled telescopes far from Earth, a human precursor mission to the vicinity of Mars, as well as an initiative to power-beam energy from space to Earth. The briefings have been spurred in response to the recent Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee and the option of a "Flexible Path" to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. (11/23)

Spy Satellites Lose Their Mystique (Source: Space Review)
The NRO and Congress are grappling with the direction the nation's reconnaissance satellite program should go. Taylor Dinerman argues that this is evidence that, thanks to past failures, the NRO doesn't have the influence and prestige it once did on Capitol Hill. Visit to view the article. (11/23)

Dysfunctional Space Advocacy (Source: Space Review)
It's a critical time for the future of NASA's human spaceflight efforts, which makes space advocacy as important as it has been in years. Jeff Foust finds, though, that activists don't appear to be operating at the level they should if they want to make a difference in the ongoing debate. Visit to view the article. (11/23)

Space Tourism is No Hoax (Source: Space Review)
A provocative essay in Space News last week called space tourism a "hoax" and its purveyors "con men". Stephen Ashworth counters that space tourism is, in fact, essential to the future of spaceflight. Visit to view the article. (11/23)

A Good Old-Fashioned Space Rush (Source: Space Review)
What could get industry and government alike motivated to support human space exploration? Jim Gagnon suggests it might be the space equivalent of a land rush. Visit to view the article. (11/23)

Editorial: Plan to Convert a NASA Depot is Worth Pursuing (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Barring delays or a change of heart from Congress and the White House, NASA's space shuttles will be grounded for good by this time next year. Unfortunately, the economic turmoil for Florida's Space Coast is just getting started. Shuttle contractors for NASA already have begun cutting jobs there in anticipation of the program's end. Last month, more than 250 positions were eliminated. The total could reach 7000.

With such a disaster looming for the region's economy, it's imperative for federal, state and local officials together to explore every reasonable opportunity to keep this work force employed and productive. Such an opportunity was proposed last week by the head of Space Florida, the agency charged with developing the industry in the state, and the president of United Space Alliance, the shuttle's lead private contractor. Under their proposal, NASA would transfer to another government agency — perhaps to Space Florida — its Shuttle Logistics Depot, a Cape Canaveral complex of machine shops and labs that have supported the program.

United Space Alliance would then use the complex, its equipment and — most important — its workforce of 300 engineers, technicians and machinists to produce and refurbish equipment for the U.S. military. There's billions of dollars of this kind of work to be done because of the long U.S. deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Space Florida's president, Frank DiBello, says there's also a shortage of skilled manufacturing and refurbishing contractors for the military. (11/23)

U.S. Wary Of Space Cooperation With China (Source: Aviation Week)
This autumn, China and the U.S. began moving toward greater cooperation in space. As China lifted a little more of the veil covering its space program, U.S. officials expressed a greater desire to work together in exploring space. Presidential science adviser John Holdren floated the idea of increased cooperation in human spaceflight last spring. The Augustine committee raised the idea again, and Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao pledged to deepen space cooperation last week. Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for the U.S. to keep its distance. While the U.S. explicitly decided to separate its space exploration activities from the military, China’s human spaceflight program is a subsidiary of the People’s Liberation Army. In that context, the risks of illicit technology transfer are considerable.

Closer relations create greater opportunities for China to acquire sensitive technology. In 2007, the U.S. launched the inter agency National Export Enforcement Initiative, designed to combat illegal trafficking in sensitive technologies. Within a year, charges were filed against 145 criminal defendants. Iran and China were the intended destinations for most of the known illegal exports. The Justice Dept. noted, “The illegal exports to China have involved rocket launch data, space shuttle technology, missile technology, naval warship data, [UAV] technology, thermal imaging systems, military night-vision systems and other materials.” This is consistent with other Chinese activities, including a massive 2005 cyber-raid on NASA’s computers that exfiltrated data about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s propulsion system, solar panels and fuel tanks. (11/23)

Atlas V Launches Communications Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a commercial communications satellite blasted off Monday morning from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch of Intelsat-14, on behalf of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, was the 19th by an Atlas V and the ninth for a commercial customer. It also marked ULA's 35th launch in 35 months. The Intelsat-14 satellite will provide high-powered video and data services through its 40 C-band and 22 Ku-band payload to customers throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa, according to the company. (11/23)

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