December 7 News Items

Embry-Riddle Alum to Pilot Endeavour on Next Shuttle Mission (Source: SPACErePORT)
February 4 is the current date for NASA's next Space Shuttle launch, a 13-day ride that will bring the Tranquility module to the International Space Station. The "STS-30" mission will include six astronauts, including pilot Terry Virts. Virts is an alumnus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Two other crew members are alums of Florida Tech. (12/7)

Three Commercial Space Stations Equals Opportunity for Launch Industry (Source: SPACErePORT)
According to, you could hear the crickets chirp during last week's subcommittee hearing on human spaceflight safety when witnesses were asked about potential commercial crew markets beyond the International Space Station. Maybe the mostly pro-Ares group was unaware that a Bigelow Aerospace executive was sitting in the audience right behind them, or that two other companies are also hoping to deploy commercial space stations in the near future.

Bigelow Aerospace seems to be out in front of the pack, with two unmanned prototypes in orbit, but Excalibur Almaz has established an impressive team and is reported to be among the investors providing money to keep Sea Launch afloat (probably to deploy their Russian-designed station). Then there's Galactic Suite, a Spanish company planning a "space hotel" for completion by 2012. All three plan to use Russian or Ukrainian rockets, but at least two are also reportedly also talking to companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, and SpaceX to carry passengers to the orbital outposts. (12/7)

Orbital Tapped To Continue Distributed Spacecraft Work (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Orbital Sciences Corp. a sole-source contract worth $74.6 million to continue developing a distributed, or fractionated, satellite architecture. Virginia-based Orbital in Feb. 2008 beat out five competitors to win a contract for the first phase of DARPA’s F6 satellite development program. The project aims to demonstrate the ability to fly multiple satellites in a close formation that would communicate wirelessly with one another, and perform like a single integrated spacecraft. Orbital previously received contracts totaling $13.6 million for the program. (12/7)

In 2010, the Civilian Space Industry Finally Takes Off (Source: Popular Science)
For a traveler heading up the highway toward the Mojave Air and Space Port, 70 miles north of Los Angeles, the surroundings are ghostly. Mojave is a boneyard, where commercial airliners go to die. Yet on the day I visited last October, there was life in the wide blue sky overhead, and it was more striking than the sight of even the most modern airliner. I saw a kind of flying catamaran streaking from west to east. As it came into view, it looked like two business jets flying in formation and high-fiving each other. I was watching the VMS Eve, the airborne launching pad for the smaller rocket ships that in the next few years, Virgin Galactic says, will begin taking paying passengers to space...

There are several fundamental tasks—potentially very profitable tasks—that the space shuttle’s retirement will leave behind. For a private company willing and qualified to step into the gap, these include ferrying cargo and scientific experiments, hoisting and repairing satellites, and even tidying up a bit of the “space junk” now circling the Earth like ocean flotsam. One audacious broker says it will be able to arrange a trip to the far side of the moon and back for a mere $100 million or so a ticket. But the basic logistical tasks are also enormously important, and if private companies can prove themselves capable, those tasks could form the backbone of an entirely new industry. Click here to view the article. (12/7)

It's Lonely Here in Space (Source: Discovery)
With the departure last week of European Space Agency astronaut Frank DeWinne, Canada’s Bob Thirsk and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, life aboard the International Space Station has gotten a whole lot quieter. Until a new crew arrives on Dec. 23, NASA's Jeff Williams and Maxim Suraev are holding down the fort, which is considerably larger than the last time just two people were left in charge.

"There's not a lot of activity going on," NASA's spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier told reporters recently, when asked if the prospect of a two-man crew posed an issues for station operations. "We moved all the major activities that were occurring to other periods when there will be more crew. We are prepared and ready to cut back a little on operations, but still be able to do a little bit of science research with just two crew members on orbit," he said. (12/7)

Ares Debate Needs All the Facts (Source: Florida Today)
Congress is not sitting idle waiting for President Obama's new space exploration policy. Members of Congress with a stake in continuing the Ares I rocket program are ready to fight a presidential directive to kill or dramatically alter the program. Last week, Congress held a hearing on astronaut safety in a subcommittee headed by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the wife of NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords invited a panel of experts to testify about the safety of NASA's Ares rocket compared to the space shuttle and proposed commercial crew launchers. The witness list, however, was loaded with NASA and Ares I supporters and included just one representative of the "commercial" companies.

And, for a couple of hours, members of Congress and the public were treated to many of the same arguments we've heard for months about the Ares I rocket being 10 times safer than the space shuttle. The witness roster and questioning seemed stacked in such a way as to cast Ares I as the only good option. However, it's always good to remember bias exists on every side of this debate. Commercial promoters smacking Ares around are trying to land big NASA contracts to take astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station. NASA managers arguing for keeping the program as is are fighting for their paychecks and their roles as leaders of the nascent program.

Every independent review of Ares I -- meaning every one not done by NASA managers whose jobs depend on the program continuing -- indicates the rocket will not be ready to fly humans until at least 2017 and maybe 2020. The ISS is set to be retired in 2015 at worst and 2020 at best, leaving Orion with no place to go. Even with funding increases, the components needed for deeper space missions are on track to be finished by 2025-2030. Extra funding for NASA could help make the case that staying the course, but these decisions need to be made after examining all the data, not just some of it. (12/7)

Attention Space Workers: Embry-Riddle Now Offers Masters Degree in Logistics/Supply Chain Mgt. (Source: ERAU)
Starting in January 2010, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is offering the Master of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (MSLSCM) degree via Eagle Vision. That means student can take the course at home over the Internet using their computers and a web based cameras. It's a real-time session with an instructor and other students. The first class, LGMT 536, Purchasing for Logistics and Supply Chain Managers, will be held on Thursdays, from Jan. 11 to Mar. 14, from 5:30 pm to 10:15 pm. Click here for information.

Also, Embry-Riddle now offers several courses as part of a minor track in Space Studies at its Daytona Beach campus. Click here for information. (12/7)

Building Up a New Market for Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
On Monday Virgin Galactic will formally unveil its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, and much of the focus of that event will be on space tourism. Jeff Foust reports on an emerging alternative market for these vehicles that its proponents believe could someday be bigger than tourism. Visit to view the article. (12/7)

Ares 1, the Space Advocacy Community, and the Media (Source: Space Review)
Last week NASA released the latest results from the Ares 1-X test flight in October. John Jurist criticizes some space advocates and the media for misunderstanding or misrepresenting what that test, and other Ares 1 development efforts, mean for the program. Visit to view the article. (12/7)

How Safe is Safe Enough? (Source: Space Review)
Last week the House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing comparing the safety of Constellation versus commercial alternatives. Jeff Foust summarizes the meeting and examines if the committee was asking the right questions about the future of human spaceflight. Visit to view the article. (12/7)

How Damaging is "Climategate" to NASA? (Source: Space Review)
A set of leaked emails from a UK research institute have created a controversy in some circles about the state of climate research and global warming. Taylor Dinerman wonders what implications this debate has for NASA. Visit to view the article. (12/7)

Mid-East Space Experts Call for Regional Agency (Source: The National)
Space experts are calling for the creation of a regional agency to bring the Middle East’s various programs together, and help train the next generation of rocket scientists. “Like there’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we want the Muslim Institute of Technology,” said Ahmad al Dousari, the director of space and remote sensing at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. “As individual countries, we cannot compete with India for instance. India is a huge country with a big budget and a big space program. We don’t even have the manpower to put the program on its feet.” (12/7)

NASA and Arab Youth Venture Foundation Launch Student Program (Source: NASA)
NASA and the Arab Youth Venture Foundation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) have partnered to provide three to 12 UAE engineering students each year the opportunity to work with U.S. students, scientists, and engineers on NASA missions. The program's goal is to engage outstanding college students from the UAE in fields of science, technology, engineering and aerospace. (12/7)

START Treaty Expires, Russia Dismisses Continued Monitoring (Source: AIA)
U.S. inspectors quit their post in monitoring Russia's main missile plant on Friday as a nuclear arms treaty that put them there expired. The U.S. had urged a continuation of inspections under the START treaty, but Moscow refused, dismissing the monitoring as part of concessions made by a weak Soviet Union in its final days. U.S. officials are trying to complete a "bridging" agreement in Geneva this week, so some verification measures can remain in effect until a START replacement is finalized. Editor's Note: The START treaty has impacted launch programs at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, as it deemed certain launch pads "inspectable" by Russian authorities if they were to be used for orbital rockets based on U.S. ICBM components, like the Minotaur. START has been an impediment for bringing such rockets to the Cape. (12/7)

Public Space Travel: Reality or Mirage? (Source:
The unveiling of SpaceShipTwo is generating high-altitude hope and a good dose of hype for public space travel, yet there are those who wave an advisory flag. One such person is Roger Launius, a Senior Curator at the National Air and Space Museum. He measures up those early flights of SpaceShipOne and the promissory note it delivered in terms of flying future rubbernecking space tourists. "It seems to me that five years after the flight of SpaceShipOne, space tourism, while still stirring because of its promise of allowing anyone to participate, remains a hazy mirage on the distant horizon. I wish it were otherwise," he said.

At a basic level, Launius pointed out, tourism at any time and place in human history has required a trio of major components: 1) A discretionary income available for leisure travel; 2) Ample leisure time to spend on both preparations for and taking the trips themselves; and 3) An infrastructure supporting tourism that offers accommodations, food and amenities, transportation systems, and attractions to see and do at the place visited. "None of these three components are available in abundance for space tourism, although all exist to a small degree," Launius said. However, he said there seems "good reason" to believe that some form of sub-orbital space tourism will become a reality.

"It may well remain the province of wealthy thrill-seekers, essentially the same class of those who climb Mount Everest, rather than the masses who dominate the current $600 billion-plus per year tourism industry." Furthermore, a tiny elite of multi-millionaires, Launius explained, may continue to fly aboard Soyuz capsules to Earth orbit, but the reality is that orbital space tourism is many decades away absent a major breakthrough in space access. (12/7)

45th Space Wing Commander Featured at Jan. 12 Space Club Luncheon (Source: NSCFL)
The Jan. 12 luncheon of the National Space Club's Florida Committee will feature Brigadier General Edward Bolton as the guest speaker. In addition to providing an update on the Air Force's leadership role at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Bolton will help present the club's 2009 Florida National Defense Space Award. The event will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Cape Canaveral. For information and registration, visit or contact (12/7)

Houston Facility's Space History to be Highlighted in Modernization (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Until recently, many employees of Houston's Parks and Recreation Department weren't aware that when they strolled down to the supply room for paper clips they were walking in the footsteps — literally — of pioneers of the American space program. The department's offices are in a southeast Houston building that was home to NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center from 1962 to 1964. It was here that the Mercury astronauts paved the way for their Apollo successors to win the race that put Americans on the moon before their Soviet competitors. The building's history and design have been highlighted in a $16 million renovation intended to transform it from an obscure bureaucratic center into a public amenity. The parks department intends to lease part of the building and its courtyard for public events, such as weddings, to recover some of the costs and make the property more familiar to the community. (12/7)

Virgin Galactic Launch Vehicle Attractive to U.S. Military (Source:
As Virgin Galactic prepares to roll out its suborbital passenger spaceship, U.S. military officials seeking low-cost, responsive access to space are studying the company's latest exotic concept to deliver small satellites to orbit. Peter Wegner, director of the Pentagon's Operationally Responsive Space program, said the private firm's conceptual air-launched rocket design is "attractive" for potential military missions. Virgin Galactic's plans for a small satellite launcher were given a significant boost in July, when Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments took an equity stake in the company. (12/7)

Aabar is investing $280 million and taking a 32 percent stake in Virgin Galactic's holding company. Aabar may also commit up to $110 million more to fund Virgin Galactic's satellite launch vehicle, dubbed LauncherOne. The ORS program has so far contracted for launches with the missile-based Minotaur 1 and 4 rockets and the privately-developed Falcon 1 booster. (12/7)

Virgin Craft Could Compete Against Minotaur (Source:
LauncherOne reportedly would lift 110-pound satellites to orbit for less than $2 million. Military "Operationally Responsive Space" (ORS) officials hope to eventually put small satellites on call for rapid launch as needed. Low-cost launch providers are imperative to achieve such objectives. An enhanced version of SpaceX's Falcon 1 can haul more than 2,200 pounds to low Earth orbit (LEO) for $10.5 million, according to company documents. Launch prices for the Minotaur-1 and 4 rockets, mostly derived from stockpiled missile hardware, are not readily available. An ORS official said there are more than 100 Minotaur-1 motor stacks and parts for approximately 44 Minotaur 4 rockets. (12/7)

Editor's Note: Minotaur-1 is based on the Minuteman ICBM and can carry 1,874 pounds to LEO. Minotaur-4 is based on the Peacekeeper ICBM and can carry 3,825 pounds to LEO. Orbital's air-launched Pegasus can carry 976 pounds to LEO. (12/7)

20 Organizations Express Interest in Getting Retired Shuttles (Source: Houston Chronicle)
With space shuttles still launching and landing, NASA isn't keen to talk about what will happen to the iconic vehicles after they're retired. But the competition among institutions to land a space shuttle for public display is heating up. About 20 institutions — including a group of bidders led by Space Center Houston — responded. Since then, however, the space agency has been mum. “We're still in a holding pattern,” said Robert Pearlman, editor of, a Web site for space history enthusiasts. “I don't think anyone in the program really wants to talk about retiring the orbiters while they're still flying them.” With the recent safe return of space shuttle Atlantis to Kennedy Space Center, NASA now has five shuttle missions scheduled during the next year before it retires the vehicles.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is guaranteed one of the vehicles. The institution already has space shuttle Enterprise — which was used as a test vehicle in atmospheric flights but never flew in space — on display at its Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. NASA has confirmed that it will give the Smithsonian space shuttle Discovery, which the institution prizes for its role as the return-to-flight orbiter after both the Challenger and Columbia tragedies as well as its role in launching the Hubble Space Telescope. (12/7)

Italian-Made Logistics Module to be Modified for Permanent Station Attachment (Source:
NASA and the Italian Space Agency are planning to strip the Leonardo cargo module of unnecessary parts and beef up shielding to equip the barrel-shaped spacecraft for a permanent stay at the International Space Station. Leonardo will fly on the final space shuttle mission scheduled for launch Sept. 16 next year. The reusable module has flown six times since 2001, delivering internal cargo, experiments and crew supplies to the complex on space shuttle missions. Leonardo is slated to fly once more on the shuttle Discovery in March before undergoing final outfitting for its new permanent role at the station. The new module is called the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM. (12/7)

NASA Looks at Adding Another Shuttle Launch (Source:
NASA managers have confirmed they are working on the addition of STS-135, to fly at end of the shuttle manifest in late 2010 or early 2011. Although the mission has some way to go before it is baselined, Atlantis would gain the honor of flying the logistics mission to the International Space Station (ISS). At present, the shuttle’s flying days would end with STS-133 – which is manifested as the final shuttle mission on the current schedule. STS-335 was recently included as the LON (Launch On Need) flight in support of STS-133 rescue mission – in the event of a contingency. In order to be in a good posture for such a rescue, Atlantis would be processed almost as per normal.

However, information became available late last week that NASA and United Space Alliance (USA) managers at KSC have been requested by the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) to evaluate Atlantis’ processing flow beyond the rescue mission requirements. Further investigation confirmed the evaluations are based around a full-up STS-135 mission. JSC sources also confirmed the information, noting they too were looking at the potential for baselining Atlantis under a STS-135 mission, regardless of the outcome on the upcoming decision from the White House on whether or not to extend the shuttle program as far as 2015. (12/7)

The Making of SpaceShip Two (Source: MSNBC)
Hundreds of paying space tourists and travel agents, rocket geeks and glitterati have gathered in the California desert town of Mojave to see what's likely to be the first commercial suborbital spaceship up close ... and I got an early look. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane has been under development for years in a Mojave hangar at Scaled Composites - the company that built the craft's predecessor, SpaceShipOne, to win a $10 million prize for private spaceflight five years ago. Click here to view a photo slideshow of the vehicle's development. (12/7)

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