January 2, 2010

Spaceport Gets Mixed Reception in Truth or Consequences (Source: LA Times)
When residents of this isolated place voted in 2008 to tax themselves to pay for an audacious redevelopment scheme -- construction of a commercial spaceport in the desert -- Kim Audette was an ardent supporter. She expressed her backing in a typically quirky Truth or Consequences manner -- sprinkling herself with "space dust" and playing pro-spaceport songs on her pink violin in a local park. That was then. Now Audette's performances include ditties denouncing local officials who support the project.

The $225-million Spaceport America project has hit its first earthbound speed bump. Trucks hauling gravel rumbled through Truth or Consequences' tiny downtown this fall, upsetting some businesses and residents who complained about congestion and pollution. Located about 150 miles south of Albuquerque, Truth or Consequences is accustomed to unusual attempts at urban renewal.

In 1950, the popular game show "Truth or Consequences" promised to broadcast from the first town to adopt its name. Hot Springs, named for the thermal springs that bubbled up from the Rio Grande as it ran through downtown, jumped at the chance and reveled in the publicity. It still celebrates the May anniversary of host Ralph Edwards' broadcast from the town. But the odd name is about all the region has had going for it economically. The median household income is $23,000, well below the state's $41,000. Ranching and tourism are among the few ways to make a living. (1/2)

Battle of the Heavy Lift Launchers (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
2010 will mark a number of key decisions for NASA, not least the potential switch from the current Ares I/V architecture to an alternative mix of commerical crew launch – accompanied by a new heavy lift workhorse. A decision is expected to be announced early in the new year by President Obama, although at least three heavy lift vehicles – including a huge 200mt vehicle – were still being considered before the Christmas break. Speculation has been rife as to what the President will announce.

An extension of the shuttle program – as stated by the Augustine Commission – would only be viable if the follow-on vehicle is a true Shuttle Derived (SD) LV. Two examples were presented to the Augustine Commission, one which is based on a side-mount option – called the SD HLLV (Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle) – and another called the Jupiter LV. (1/2)

Differing Opinions on Shuttle Retirement or Extension at MSFC and MAF (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Uncertainty on the Shuttle program's retirement or extension has not helped the workforce, most of whom are concerned about still having a job as the shuttle program winds down. That uncertainty is palpable in the Shuttle Program. However, some managers continue to claim a shuttle extension to 2015 (adding new flights beyond the potential STS-137) is no longer possible, citing three-year lead times on “new” external tanks.

A 2012 extension remains viable with partly built tanks (ET-139/ET-140), added to the use of ET-122 on STS-135 and Soyuz LON (Launch On Need) support for the final mission, yet the clock is ticking on that viability. The aforementioned partly built tanks are not relevant to the lead times of up to three years. Such timelines have originated from managers at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), who are closely tied to Ares, whereas managers at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) cite documentation that shows no ET machinery has been scrapped, with lead times around half of that stated by MSFC.

Only a 2012 extension will be cited in an upcoming bill that is being drawn up by politicians – full details of which are currently embargoed – who are concerned with both the logistical support of the International Space Station (ISS) in the event of an extension of the Station to 2020, and the closing of the “gap”. Also playing a factor is increased uncertainty surrounding the timelines of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts, with SpaceX rumored to be struggling with the development of their Falcon 9 launch vehicle. (1/2)

SpaceX Readies Rocket for Launch (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX plans a February or March test flight of its first 180-foot-tall, nine-engine Falcon 9 rocket, which could play a major role in the U.S. space program by delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The first stage was shipped to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and now sits in a building by the Space Florida hangar on Launch Complex 40. The second stage remains in Texas for testing and will arrive shortly at the Cape.

A year ago the rocket was assembled on Launch Complex 40 to test the system of raising it to vertical. The rocket was then disassembled and shipped to Texas for testing. The launch date was initially scheduled for the summer of 2009 before being pushed back to early 2010. After the Falcon 9 test flight at the Cape, the company hopes to launch three demonstration flights of the Falcon 9 and its Dragon cargo capsule before launching 10 flights that carry cargo to the space station as part of a $1.6 billion deal with NASA. (1/2)

New Year's Eve - When Do Astronauts Pop the Champagne? (Source: Slate)
Last week a Russian spacecraft ferried three astronauts to the International Space Station to join the two who had been manning it since October. The crew took Christmas Day off to share meals together. What about celebrating New Year's — how do you pick the right moment when you're hurtling through time zones at 17,500 miles per hour?

Just wait until midnight, Greenwich Mean Time. By convention, the astronauts set their clocks to GMT, also known as Coordinated Universal Time. That means they'll officially ring in the New Year with those in London, Reykjavik, and Accra. The crew of the space station will also exchange New Year's greetings with mission controllers in Moscow and Houston at the local midnights in those two places—9 p.m. and 6 a.m. GMT, respectively. (1/2)

Long-Lived Mars Rovers Begin Year 7 on Red Planet (Source: Space.com)
Six years ago, NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity touched down on the red planet with a team of scientists eagerly looking ahead to their short, three-month missions. As they embark on their seventh year on Mars, the longevity of the plucky rovers continues to amaze their minders back on Earth, even with Spirit potentially permanently stuck wheel-deep in Martian sand.

Spirit set down at Gusev Crater on Jan. 3, 2004, at 11:35 p.m. EST, with its younger sister rover Opportunity landing on the other side of the planet — on the plains of Meridiani Planum — more than two weeks later at midnight EST on Jan. 25. While Sunday marks the mission's sixth anniversary on Earth, it has only been 3.2 Martian years since one year on Mars is about 687 Earth days long. (1/2)

India Hunts for Vyomanauts (Source: DNA)
The hunt for India’s first astronauts — ‘vyomanauts’ — has begun. Two of the four selected vyomanauts (vyoma means ‘space’ or ‘sky’ in Sanskrit) will finally go on India’s first manned space mission scheduled to lift off in 2015. The Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) is laying down criteria for short-listing 200 Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilots, from whom four will be selected for the space mission. While two vyomanauts will finally go on the space mission, the other two will remain in reserve.

The reason for choosing vyomanauts from the pool of IAF fighter pilots is that they are already trained to endure high gravity forces. This makes it easier to train them for space missions. “The module (for the selection) is being prepared at the moment,” he said. The run-up to the selection process speeded up after February 2009, when the Union government gave its nod to the Rs12,400-crore manned space flight mission. (1/2)

CSA Survey Helps Set New Year's Priorities (Source: CSA)
The California Space Authority (CSA) is committed to bringing the perspective and priorities of the space enterprise community to Federal, State, and local policymakers. We have prepared a survey to obtain input and ask that you and your colleagues take a moment to review the suggested action items and prioritize them by pointing out those in need of the most immediate attention. There is also a location for you to add any additional ideas that may not have come to the surface through the planning process. Click here to take the survey. Thank you! (1/1)

California Space Enterprise Status Survey (Source: CSA)
The Space Enterprise Advisory Council (SEAC), with input from the various Collaboratives and Working Groups, has prepared a survey to "take the pulse" of space enterprise in the State of California. Each year's results are compared with previous years for trending information. There are just over 20 questions in the survey. We are looking for your gut reaction to the state of Space Enterprise in the various categories. We do not expect, nor even want, you to spend any time pulling figures together or calling heads of other departments for input. We want your gut response. The estimated time to complete the survey is 7 minutes. Please click here. (1/1)

Check Out CSA's 2009 State Legislative/Policy Recap (Source: CSA)
The California Space Authority is committed to the development and protection of legislative and policy initiatives that support the state's aerospace industry. Click here for a recap of our efforts in 2009. (1/1)

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