January 23, 2010

Big Changes in Store for Missile Warning Tech Effort (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force in its 2011 budget request will announce significant changes to the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance (TGIRS) missile warning technology development program, an official said. TGIRS was originally conceived as a potential alternative to the long-troubled Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), whose first dedicated satellite is almost a decade behind schedule. But as the Air Force became confident that SBIRS was finally on track, TGIRS became a technology demonstration effort that now has two main elements: an experimental sensor built by SAIC to be hosted aboard an SES Americom commercial communications satellite; and a Raytheon-built experimental sensor that the company recently was asked to qualify for spaceflight. (1/23)

Internal Debate Over New U.S. Space Policy Divided Into Four Camps (Source: Space Policy Online)
Obama Administration experts wrestling with development of a new U.S. space policy are divided into four camps according to SAIC's Dr. Peter Hays. Hays supports the National Security Space Office at the Department of Defense (DOD) and spoke to a seminar on space security. He described the four camps as "ostriches," "steroids," "soft power," and "hard power." The current deadline for releasing the new space policy is summer 2010, he said, while expressing skepticism that it will be met considering the disparate points of view.

The ostriches believe that not much has changed since the 2006 National Space Policy was released and therefore no change in policy is needed. The steroids acknowledge that things have changed and believe we need to "pump ourselves up" and do better. The soft power advocates argue for more international cooperation, partnering, development of Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs), and leveraging commercial space capabilities. The hard power advocates argue for increasing DOD's "less benign" capabilities.

As he noted, it took four years (2002-2006) for President George W. Bush's national space policy to emerge. He also predicted that a "non-prescriptive" version of the congressionally required Space Posture Review would be released along with the FY2011 budget request to meet the congressional deadline (which actually has passed already - it was December 1, 2009), with the "bulk of the work" merged into a national space strategy that would be released after the new national space policy. (1/23)

Editorial: Ares I--Small Decision, Big on Political Courage (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Like many administrations before it, the success of Obama's turns largely on gauging the willingness to pay a near-term political price to achieve long-term goals. Interestingly, a clear test case should soon be decided in a policy matter of particular concern to Florida, a situation where a relatively small decision will reveal much about the political courage of this administration. The test case is a NASA boondoggle called Ares I. The case against Ares I is overwhelming. It is overpriced and unnecessary. It competes directly with private spaceflight providers and will take so long to develop that it has already created a gap of several years in U.S.-manned access to space.

Supposedly, a "safe, simple and soon" launch vehicle for NASA's new astronaut capsule, Ares I is years behind schedule and over budget, and in its current incarnation, it will shake the astronauts like paint being mixed at The Home Depot. Ares I is just pork dressed up as cost-effective human space transportation; it's not just wasteful, but destructive to future space exploration beyond Earth orbit. Even before the inauguration, rumors were flying that Ares I would be put out of its misery. By fall the Augustine Panel's report detailed a number of compelling options, which pointedly did not include completion of the Ares I. The decision now rests with the White House.

The case for Ares I is simple. Several powerful politicians want to bring home the bacon. It's not even that Ares I creates more jobs than the commercial alternatives. In the long term, it creates fewer jobs because private-sector rockets can sell into a growing international market. The difference is that the jobs created by Ares I go to companies and states that currently work on the retiring space shuttle. In effect, it's a bailout for a few shuttle contractors. (1/23)

'Space Diver' to Attempt First Supersonic Freefall (Source: New Scientist)
A "space diver" will try to smash the nearly 50-year-old record for the highest jump this year, becoming the first person to go supersonic in freefall. The stunt could help engineers design escape systems for space flights. In 1960, US Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger made history by jumping out of a balloon at an altitude of some 31,333 meters. Many have tried to break that record but none have succeeded. Now Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has announced he will make the attempt, with help from Kittinger and sponsorship from the energy drink company Red Bull.

Baumgartner will be lofted to a height of 36,575 meters in a helium balloon. After floating up for roughly three hours, he will open the door of a 1-ton pressurised capsule, grab the handrails on either side of the exit, and step off, potentially breaking records for the highest parachute jump, as well as the fastest and longest freefall. Baumgartner will wear a more flexible version of the airtight, pressurised spacesuit currently used aboard the space shuttle (see Future spacesuits to act like a second skin). That will let him bend to achieve the standard, belly-down skydiving position needed to decelerate.

He will face extreme peril. He should reach supersonic speeds 35 seconds after he jumps, and the resulting shock wave "is a big concern." Red Bull would not reveal the cost of the project. And though it says it will launch this year from North America, it has not yet specified a date or launch site. Click here to view the article. (1/23)

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