December 1 News Items

First Flights of NASA's Ares Rocket: Less Safe Than Space Shuttle? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA’s Ares I rocket and Orion capsule need to fly at least seven times before they can be deemed safer than Space Shuttle orbiters. That conclusion is in the original 2005 study NASA used to select the Ares I and Orion over other alternatives. Yet, it is at odds with NASA’s current assertion that Ares and Orion will be so safe they can launch humans after just one flight without astronauts on board. The claim that the Ares-Orion combination would be safer than the shuttle – and safer that using a commercial rocket to lift Orion into space – has become critical to NASA’s defense of the Ares I, a rocket that’s behind schedule, over budget and facing increasing pressure to be scrapped.

According to the 2005 Exploration Systems Architecture Study, known as ESAS, “Analysis has shown that early crewed CEV missions will be riskier than the shuttle.” The ESAS recommended that after two test flights, the first five flights of the new rocket and capsule deliver only cargo to the Space Station to establish a record of reliability before putting humans onboard. "If there were no cargo flights beforehand, the risk of the first crewed flight after the two test flights would be approximately 1-in-40, or approximately [2.5 times the shuttle]." NASA astronauts say they want the next NASA spaceship to be 10 times safer than the shuttle.

Under current plans, NASA proposes putting astronauts aboard Ares I and Orion by sometime in 2015 after only a single unmanned flight of the final rocket. A NASA official said that in the four years since the ESAS was first conducted, there have been advances in engineering risk assessments and that supercomputer analyses say that the ultimate risk of losing a crew aboard Ares I would be just 1-in-2,800. But he acknowledged that even with better risk-assessment techniques and designs, a new rocket poses considerable risk. Click here to view the article. (12/1)

Both of NASA's Mars Orbiters are Down for the Count (Source: New Scientist)
The Red Planet is experiencing a partial radio blackout this week, as both of NASA's Mars orbiters have been felled by technical glitches. Until one of the probes can be brought back online later this week, the outages will delay operation of the twin Mars rovers, which use the orbiters to efficiently relay data back to Earth.

The main blow to rover operations comes from NASA's Mars Odyssey, which reached the Red Planet in 2001 and has been the prime communications relay for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity since they landed in 2004. Odyssey has been down since 28 November, when its computers registered a memory error and sent the spacecraft into "safe mode", which minimises spacecraft operations. Odyssey's most natural communications backup, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has been kept on standby since August, when the spacecraft spontaneously rebooted for the fourth time this year. (12/1)

New Technique to "Revolutionize" Astronomy (Source: Cosmos)
There is a frustrating amount of light pollution in the night sky. But a new invention could "revolutionize" the way astronomers see the stars, said an Australian-German collaboration. "Once up and running it will exceed the power of the James Webb telescope [which will be the successor to Hubble]," said project leader, astronomer Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the University of Sydney in Australia.

"What we are doing now is developing an instrument [called a] photon integrating multi-mode spectrograph," said Bland-Hawthorn. "Good light goes forward, and bad light goes back." The instrument, about the size of a microwave oven, consists of stacked layers of fibre optics that channel single photons. This enables the astronomers to focus on photons from particular objects - such as stars - and ignore the unwanted light from the rest of the sky. (12/1)

Weather Forecast Spurs Delta Launch Delay (Source:
The forecast of dismal weather and bleak odds of launching the Delta 4 rocket Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral have led mission managers to postpone the flight by 24 hours. Liftoff will be retargeted for Thursday during a window stretching from 7:22 to 8:43 p.m. EST. Meteorologists are predicting stormy conditions to sweep across Central Florida during the afternoon and evening hours on Wednesday. That system is expected to slide southward by Thursday, giving better chances of acceptable weather for the rocket then. (12/1)

SpaceX Booms in Texas During Economically Lean Times (Source: KWTX)
During a time when most businesses are cutting hours, cutting corners and cutting jobs in an attempt to slash the bottom line, a company in Central Texas has been growing, albeit not so silently. SpaceX announced Monday that the McGregor Rocket Development Facility now employs more than 100 permanent staff members, a number that swells in excess of 150 with contractors and test support staff. SpaceX's facility in Central Texas spans 300-acres just outside of Waco and is home to five rocket test stands, three structural test stands and several state of the art control and utility buildings. The facility itself dates back to the early 1940s when the U.S. military first used it for solid rocket motor testing. SpaceX acquired the site in early January 2003 and has grown from an initial three-person team to well over 100 employees and counting. (12/1)

NASA: Debris No Threat to Space Station (Source: CNN)
A piece of space debris is not expected to pose any danger to the two crew members aboard the international space station, a NASA spokesman said Tuesday.
NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said the space junk would get no closer than about a kilometer from the space station, where Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev are sleeping. Earlier Tuesday, while tracking the debris, Mission Control was considering waking the astronaut and cosmonaut if they needed to take shelter in the Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station, Humphries said. (12/1)

Weather Iffy For Wednesday Delta Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Weather prospects don't look good for Wednesday night's scheduled launch of a Delta IV rocket. There is an 80 percent chance that weather conditions will be no-go for the launch scheduled for 7:21 p.m. from Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The weather forecast improves to only a 20 percent chance that weather will force a scrub if the launch delays 24 hours. The rocket will be carrying an Air Force communications satellite: the Wideband Global SATCOM-3 satellite. The communications satellite will help boost the communications capabilities of U.S. troops. (12/1)

Space Station Partners Assess Logistics Needs Beyond 2015 (Source:
Space officials in Europe and Japan are considering plans to build and launch additional indigenous cargo ships to the International Space Station if the program is extended beyond 2015. Although NASA has only budgeted for station operations until 2015, the Augustine Panel recommended continuing the program through at least 2020. "We're waiting for our government as well as the governments of the other agencies, who have a great interest in seeing the extension of the International Space Station program, to get maximum use of their modules extended beyond 2015," said John Uri, NASA's lead scientist for the station. If the station's life is extended, more cargo missions will be necessary to serve logistics needs for crews aboard the outpost.

Four more flights of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) are planned through 2015. Six more Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle missions are also on tap through the rest of the station program. Japanese officials may also ask for funding to fly extra HTVs to the station, but their request may face steeper opposition. A Japanese government panel has singled out the country's space program for potential budget cuts. The Government Revitalization Unit spent more than a week screening budget requests of Japanese government agencies and advised reducing funding by 10 percent for the HTV program. The unit price tag for each HTV is around $200 million, excluding the cost of the H-2B rocket. Europe's ATV spacecraft costs about $300 million, not including the Ariane 5 rocket or mission costs. (12/1)

Space Coast Legislators Discuss Jobs, Space (Source: Florida Today)
By the retirement of the shuttle in late 2010 or early 2011, as many as 7,000 Kennedy Space Center workers could lose their jobs, said Lisa Rice, president of the Brevard Workforce Development Board, at the delegation's annual meeting. And the shuttle shutdown could wipe out another 21,000 indirect jobs, she warned. Rice predicted the unemployment rate in Brevard County could "easily" hit 13 percent. State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, the delegation's newly elected chairman, said that the county faces "an economic tsumani."

"The priorities of Brevard County: Obviously, it's going to be jobs and space," Brevard County Commission Chairwoman Mary Bolin said. "That's what we need to concentrate on, because that is going to be the lifeblood of Brevard County for...years to come." Representatives of more than 40 Space Coast governments, public organizations, charitable groups and industry associations lobbied legislators for hours, hoping to gain a toehold in Tallahassee talks. Space Florida President Frank DiBello urged the lawmakers to support space-related bills supporting commercial launch zones, research and development tax credits, and aerospace employment tax credits. (12/1)

Spaceport Quarry Temporarily Lost (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A company constructing the runway at Spaceport America has lost access, at least temporarily, to one of its main quarries, after a problem was found last week by environmental officials. Steve Landeene, executive director for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said the violation stemmed from an inspection of a quarry that's supplying aggregate to the Albuquerque-based contractor, David Montoya Construction Inc., which is building the runway. "The environmental folks ... found there are a few mobile homes too close to the crusher operation," he said. "They were asked to stop operations." (12/1)

Soyuz Makes Safe Return To Cold Earth (Source: Florida Today)
Search and rescue teams have pulled three astronauts and cosmonauts from a Soyuz spacecraft after its safe touchdown on icy terrain in central Kazakhstan. Russian Roman Romanenko, Belgian Frank De Winne and Canadian Bob Thirsk returned to Earth after spending 186 days on the International Space Station as members of its Expedition 20 and 21 crews. Poor visibility, snow flurries and ice grounded eight Mi-8 helicopters normally used to deploy recovery teams. A convoy of all-terrain vehicles reached the landing site minutes after the 2:15 a.m. touchdown. The Soyuz, looking scorched after its less than hour-long drop from space and fiery re-entry through Earth's atmosphere, landed upright and on target about 50 miles northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk. (12/1)

No comments: