November 4 News Items

NASA Drops Ares I-Y Flight-Test (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA's Constellation Program has recommended dropping a planned follow-on to last week's successful Ares I-X flight-test because it doesn't have the funding necessary to get an upper stage engine ready in time. Instead, the Ares I-X engineering team will study the costs and benefits of going ahead with a 2012 launch previously dubbed "Ares I-X prime" that would flight-test a full five-segment Ares I solid-fuel first stage and the Orion crew exploration vehicle launch abort system at high altitude, according to Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley.

Hanley said on Nov. 3 he has recommended to NASA headquarters that the Ares I-Y test planned for March 2014 be canceled because the J-2X engine needed to propel the upper stage won't be ready in time to support that test date. The problem is money, he said. (11/4)

Space Hotel Takes Reservations for 2012 Opening (Source:
Some forward-looking vacationers have already booked a stay at the first space hotel, which is on track to open in 2012, according to the owners of the planned orbital resort. Spacefarers can book a three-night stay at the Galactic Suite Space Resort for $4.4 million, the Barcelona-based company planning the hotel has said. So far 43 paying guests have already reserved a spot, while more than 200 have expressed interest, Galactic Suite Ltd's CEO Xavier Claramunt told Reuters.

Despite Claramunt's confidence, critics have questioned whether the hotel can really be ready so soon, and whether the company has enough money to see the plan through. Claramunt said an anonymous billionaire has fronted the company $3 billion to finance the project. (11/4)

Virgin Galactic Considers New Satellite Design (Source: Flight Global)
Virgin Galactic's proposed LauncherOne rocket may orbit a new mini satellite designed specifically for the launch vehicle to increase the payload's useful mass for power, propulsion or instruments. In conventional rockets adaptors integrate a spacecraft with the launcher but that means useful payload mass is reduced. A decision about a LauncherOne specific satellite could come following internal studies or Virgin Galactic's expected mid-2010 request for industry proposals.

A previous Virgin Galactic study concluded an all-composite two-stage rocket, air launched by the WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft, could orbit a 200kg (440lb) satellite. Whatever the decision Virgin Galactic's target launch price is $2 million and the spaceline's president Will Whitehorn told the International Astronautical Congress in Daejeon that the service could be operating a year after his suborbital tourism was up and running.

Over the next six to seven months Whitehorn's new general manager for small satellite launch, Adam Baker, will develop a business plan. Speaking to Aerojet, Northrop Grumman and others Baker will investigate whether the rocket is outsourced or produced in-house, what type of launcher it will be, if its expendable or reusable, and if its payload will be designed specifically for LauncherOne. (11/4)

Countdown Begins for NASA's Uncertain Future (Source: MSNBC)
Is America's space effort due for a major course correction? Or is staying the course and sticking with NASA's five-year-old plan to return to the moon the best strategy? In the wake of an independent panel's report on future spaceflight, the answers to those big questions about the nation's next giant leap ... or smaller step ... in outer space are now being debated in the White House and on Capitol Hill. And although projecting the outcome is murky business at best, the countdown is ticking down toward multibillion-dollar decisions that need to be made.

In short, the gearheads have had their say. Now it's up to the politicians. If it were up to the Augustine Panel (the gearheads) the space effort would likely be in for an extreme makeover. Although their mission was only to lay out the options for future exploration, rather than recommend which option to take, the way the options were framed in their 155-page report suggested a dramatically different path for NASA.

That wasn't necessarily the takeaway for the politicians, however. In Congress, the influential players in space policy tend to come from places where the jobs are. The prevailing view among those player was that $3 billion a year in additional funding would fix what ails the current space program, and that no further course correction was necessary. Click here to view the article. (11/4)

NRO To Loft Several Big Satellites by Mid-2011 (Source: Space News)
Several high-priority and high-priced satellites crucial to U.S. national security are slated to launch over the next 15 to 18 months, according to Bruce Carlson, director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). During a keynote address here at the Strategic Space Symposium, Carlson did not provide details of the upcoming missions. Most of the NRO’s satellite programs are classified. Carlson noted the launches to make the point that the NRO continues to perform its mission despite having had its struggles in recent years. (11/4)

GeoEye Dodging Space Junk With Increasing Frequency (Source: Space News)
Commercial imaging satellite operator GeoEye has had to move its 10-year-old Ikonos spacecraft seven times to avoid orbital debris, according to the company’s chief operating officer, who said the problem is only growing worse. The company has had to take evasive actions four times with its GeoEye-1 satellite, which has been on orbit just over a year. He said space situational awareness information is crucial and that the more accurate the data, the less fuel a satellite has to consume to avoid a potentially catastrophic collision. The fewer evasive actions a satellite has to take, the longer it can last on orbit, he said.

Space situational awareness continues to be a point of emphasis for the U.S. military, particularly in the wake of a collision early this year between an active Iridium communications satellite and a spent Russian craft. U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry James, commander of the 14th Air Force and U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space, said the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network is tracking 21,000 objects in Earth orbit and is performing close monitoring of some 800 maneuverable satellites for collision risk assessment. Speaking with reporters here at the symposium, James said the goal is to increase the number of closely monitored satellites to 1,300 by the end of the year. (11/4)

Posey Revives Campaign to Keep Shuttle Flying (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A freshman lawmaker from Florida this week called on Congress and the White House to consider flying the space shuttle beyond 2011, an option for NASA’s future that largely has been ignored since an independent space panel issued its recommendations last month. In a letter to congressional appropriators, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, asked that they include language in 2010 spending bills that would stop NASA from doing anything that “would preclude the possibility of flying the Shuttle beyond the current flight manifest.” “During this time of uncertainty and in light of the Augustine Committee’s clear indication that Shuttle extension is integral to closing the gap, this request is quite reasonable,” Posey wrote. (11/4)

Elevator To Space? They're Really Trying (Source: WESH)
Rocketing into space? Some think an elevator might be the way to go. That's the future goal of this week's $2 million Space Elevator Games in the Mojave Desert. In a major test of the concept, robotic machines powered by laser beams will try to climb a cable suspended from a helicopter hovering more than a half-mile (one kilometer) high. Three teams have qualified to participate in the event on the dry lakebed near NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards. Attempts were expected from early Wednesday through Thursday. Funded by a space agency program to explore bold technology, the contest is a step toward bringing the idea of a space elevator out of the realm of science fiction and into reality. (11/4)

Bill Posey Criticizes Obama for Misleading NASA & Brevard County (Source: Examiner)
Florida Congressman Bill Posey passionately voiced his pro-NASA stance during an interview with local conservative radio talk show host, Bill Mick, of Bill Mick Live, on WMMB AM. Posey used the platform to highlight the unique aspects of the Ares Program and other aspects of NASA, but Posey's positive tone changed when he was asked about President Obama's position on NASA. Posey said: "When the President appointed the Augustine Commission and tasked them, he put the restraint on it that, 'remember now, your recommendations must be within my proposed budget'.... So they were tasked with an impossible job of coming up with sufficient product." (11/4)

StratCom Aims to Curb Space Arms Race With China (Source: Omaha World-Herald)
The leader of the U.S. Strategic Command hopes a recent tour he gave of Bellevue’s Offutt Air Force Base will lead to decreased American-Chinese competition in space. Gen. Kevin Chilton gave that tour last week to Gen. Xu Caihou, China’s second-highest ranking uniformed officer, explaining StratCom’s role and showing his guest around the base near Bellevue. Chilton, speaking at Tuesday’s space conference held at the Qwest Center Omaha, said he hopes the visit proves to be the beginning of friendly talks between the United States and China — talks that could shed light on Chinese intentions as they beef up their space-based satellite and weaponry programs.

“We’re looking for opportunities to begin follow-up dialogue,” Chilton said. “I don’t think either country ... is interested in a future arms race.” Recent hints from China suggest the Chinese might be interested in challenging American superiority in space. Earlier this week, the leader of China’s air force called a military competition in space “inevitable” during an interview that some experts viewed as a potentially aggressive shift in Chinese policy. (11/4)

India's Space Ambitions Taking Off (Source: Washington Post)
In this seaside village, the children of farmers and fishermen aspire to become something that their impoverished parents never thought possible: astronauts. Through community-based programs, India's space agency has been partnering with schools in remote areas such as this one, helping to teach students about space exploration and cutting-edge technology. The agency is also training thousands of young scientists and, in 2012, will open the nation's first astronaut-training center in the southern city of Bangalore.

"I want to be prepared in space sciences so I can go to the moon when India picks its astronauts," said Lakshmi Kannan, 15, pushing her long braids out of her face and clutching her science textbook. Lakshmi's hopes are not unlike India's ambitions, writ small. For years, the country has focused its efforts in space on practical applications -- using satellites to collect information on natural disasters, for instance. But India is now moving beyond that traditional focus and has planned its first manned space mission in 2015.

The ambitions of the 46-year-old national space program could vastly expand India's international profile in space and catapult it into a space race with China. China, the only country besides the United States and Russia to have launched a manned spacecraft, did so six years ago. (11/4)

More Secrets of Mercury Unveiled in September Flyby (Source:
The flyby of Mercury made by a small NASA probe in late September was scientifically rewarding, despite a glitch that squandered half of the planned observations at the innermost planet, scientists said Tuesday. The primary purpose of the close encounter, to use Mercury's gravity to bend the spacecraft's trajectory, was perfectly executed. It was more accurate than all six planetary flybys conducted by the $446 million MESSENGER mission since its launch in 2004, according to Sean Solomon, the mission's principal investigator at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. (11/4)

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