November 5 News Items

Range Technology Prize Competition Suggested to NASA (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's deadline for submitting ideas for new "Centennial Challenge" prize competitions is Nov. 8. Embry-Riddle offered one idea to the mix, aimed at boosting U.S. space transportation competitiveness through the improvement of range safety technologies. The competition would bring together various alternative range safety systems for a head-to-head fly-off during a pre-scheduled Atlas, Delta or Falcon launch, allowing NASA, the FAA and Air Force to determine which ones meet basic government-set requirements, and which ones are most responsive and least expensive to operate.

There are several alternative range safety systems available or under development, and this competition would facilitate their qualification for use by the Air Force and NASA to upgrade existing launch ranges, while also allowing their use at FAA-licensed spaceports that don't already have a NASA or military range system in-place. (11/5)

Embry-Riddle Officials Join Study Team for Point-to-Point Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: SPACErePORT)
Policy and transportation analysts at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will participate on a "FastForward" study group to develop a pre-competitive analysis of future global high-speed point-to-point passenger and cargo services, a capability envisioned to grow into a major market for spaceports and suborbital launch companies. A representative from Space Florida also serves on the FastForward group. Click here for more information. (11/5)

USA Gets Lean for Contract Competition (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
United Space Alliance, NASA's main shuttle contractor, told employees it will be canceling merit pay raises across the company next year in order to keep costs down as it tries to win new business after the agency mothballs the orbiter fleet in 2011. "The annual merit pay increases for 2010 for performance and things like that, we made the decision not to do that," said company spokesman Jeff Carr. "This really about protecting our rates to be competitive for future follow on work."

United Space Alliance, which is jointly owned by aerospace giants Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., is hoping to win the ground operations contract that will run NASA's next human space exploration program after the shuttle fleet is retired by the end of next year or in early 2011. The Houston-based company employs 8,900 people in Texas, Alabama, Florida and Washington, D.C. The largest share of the workforce-- comprising some 5,600 technicians, engineers and managers -- is at KSC.

Carr provided no details about how much money USA expected to pay out in raises, but he said that increases in employee health care costs of between seven and 10 per cent were being absorbed by the company, which needed to offset those costs in order to compete for the new contracts. The question is whether the news about canceling pay raises will help retain workers or push them to look for different jobs. Workers with the most critical skills have been promised bonuses if they remain to the end of the shuttle program. These are unaffected by the latest announcement. (11/5)

Small European Satellites Look to Hitch a Ride to Space (Source:
Future small-class European payloads are slated to shift from using Russian launchers to the Vega rocket when it begins flying late next year, but officials with Russian launch providers say they are not giving up on the market just yet. Monday's launch of the European Space Agency's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite left the Rockot launcher with a single future mission on its books.

The Rockot is made by combining two stages of the SS-19 missile with a Breeze KM upper stage to deliver satellites to orbit. But Eurockot, the joint German-Russian company that oversees commercial Rockot flights, is still discussing potential deals with ESA for upcoming Earth observation satellites. It is ESA's formal policy to award small institutional missions to the agency's Vega rocket, a new launcher being built to haul light satellites into space from the Guiana Space Center in South America. (11/5)

New Theory Tries to Explain Missing Matter (Source: MSNBC)
One of the greatest mysteries of astronomy is the problem of the missing mass: All of the matter scientists can see in the universe accounts for only a small percent of the observed gravity. Astronomers often invoke the concept of dark matter to explain this discrepancy, but some researchers say the problem is really our understanding of gravity. These scientists tout an idea called MOND — Modified Theory of Newtonian Dynamics — to explain why the universe seems to behave as if there's much more matter in it than we think.

Instead of assuming that this missing mass exists in the form of dark matter, which scientists have yet to detect directly, MOND advocates say we must alter Einstein's general theory of relativity. Under MOND, mass is much more effective at bending space-time than under General Relativity, so it takes less stuff in the universe to account for all the gravity we measure. (11/5)

Astronomy Lecture Planned at College Planetarium on Nov. 13 (Source: SPACErePORT)
Brevard Community College continues its Space and Astronomy Lecture Series on Nov. 13 with a lecture by UCF's Dr. Humberto Campins. The free lecture is titled: Small Bodies and Big Impacts: Asteroids, Comets and the Origin of the Earth's Water." The event will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the BCC Planetarium in Cocoa. Click here for information. It will be followed by a star party hosted by the Brevard Astronomical Society. (11/5)

Lockheed Disputes Reports of Further SBIRS Delays (Source: AIA)
Defense officials say the Air Force's Space Based Infrared System program, troubled by cost overruns and schedule delays over the years, will face yet another delay -- this time of 12 to 18 months -- as Lockheed Martin Corp. wraps up testing. But Lockheed disputes that view, insisting that the program is on track for delivery to the Air Force by the fourth quarter of calendar year 2010. (11/5)

NASA Aims For 2012 Ares Test Flight From KSC (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is scrapping plans for an Ares I-Y test flight because it is slipping out too far to be of use and aiming instead to launch an earlier test flight on 2012 that would feature a five-segment solid rocket booster and perhaps test the rocket's launch abort system. The earlier launch would take place at launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, giving a boost to a center that is expected to see about 7,000 layoffs in late 2010 or early 2011 when the shuttle fleet is retired.

The new test flight would be dubbed Ares I-X Prime, NASA officials said. The Ares I-Y mission was scheduled to fly in 2013 but would have slipped to 2014 -- just a year before NASA is slated to fly the first piloted flight of an Ares rocket and an Orion spacecraft. (11/5)

Debate Rages Over Radioactive Space Monkeys (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An animal rights group plans to file legal action against NASA on Thursday to stop the space agency from injecting squirrel monkeys with radiation to mimic the effects that cosmic radiation could have on long-distance space travelers. Advocates with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine claim that the $1.75 million experiment, conducted in association with the Brookhaven National Laboratory, violates internal NASA guidelines and should not continue.

“Irradiating monkeys would be one giant leap backward for NASA,” said Hope Ferdowsian, the group’s director of research policy, in a statement. “The proposed experiments are cruel, unnecessary, and lack scientific merit.” A NASA spokesman said the four-year test -- which has not yet begun -- involves injecting 18-28 squirrel monkeys with a “single shot that simulates months of exposure” to cosmic radiation that astronauts could experience during a months-long mission to Mars, a future goal of NASA. (11/5)

Space Tourism a Reality by 2012 (Source: Fox News)
The latest trend in eco-tourism is completely out of this world ... and right around the corner. Routine commercial travel to outer space may be the norm as soon as 2012, as the next generation of spacecraft — designed by private sector firms like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and others — transport adventure-seeking civilians into low-Earth orbit.

There, they can see the sun rise many times a day, and experience the breathtaking curve of planet Earth that only NASA astronauts such as Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin have previously seen. If they want to extend their stay, they can check in to the solar system’s first orbiting hotel, The Galactic Space Suite Hotel, set to open in three years. (11/5)

Success, Frustration in Space Elevator Competition (Source: AP)
A laser-powered machine has zipped thousands of feet up a cable dangling from a helicopter in a competition to develop space elevator technology. LaserMotive of Seattle qualified for at least $900,000 in the $2 million NASA-backed Space Elevator Games, which began Wednesday at the Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base.

LaserMotive's vehicle climbed 2,953 feet (nearly 1 kilometer) in just over four minutes and then repeated the feat. The Kansas City, Mo., Space Pirates went first. Their vehicle was too slow to qualify for a prize but apparently was only about 160 feet short of the top when it had to stop.

Theoretically, space elevators are a way to reach space without using rockets. They would use a cable stretched between the Earth's surface and a platform in geosynchronous orbit. The highly technical contest brought teams from Missouri, Alaska and Seattle to Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, most familiar to the public as a space shuttle landing site. (11/5)

NASA Juggles Manifest for Future Ares Test Flights (Source:
One week after the first major flight test of the agency's new Ares 1 rocket, NASA is closer to cancelling a demonstration launch called Ares 1-Y, potentially replacing it with a new, still undefined test flight in 2012 or 2013.

During a meeting last week, managers agreed to re-evaluate the proposed suborbital Ares 1-Y flight most recently scheduled for March 2014. NASA spokesman Grey Hautaluoma said Ares 1-Y had slipped too late in the development of the Ares 1 rocket to be valuable to engineers. Originally planned for 2012, the Ares 1-Y launch date had slipped until 2014, just one year before NASA says it will fly the first crewed Orion capsule on top of an Ares 1. (11/5)

Giant Galaxy Graveyard Grows (Source: Science News)
The largest known galactic congregation is bigger than astronomers thought—and its inhabitants are all dead or dying. A gigantic galactic graveyard lurks in the distant universe, and the death toll is growing. New observations establish a supercluster centered on the cluster CL0016+16 as the largest galactic congregation ever found, astronomers report in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The supercluster extends even farther than previously thought, and it’s drawing in more and more galaxies.

CL0016+16 lies about 6.7 billion light-years away from Earth. That cluster was first observed in 1981, and later observations hinted that it might be just one of a cluster of clusters. Observations by David Koo of the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1996 pointed to a large structure extending from the main cluster. (11/5)

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