January 18, 2010

House Passes Bill to Create New U.S. Code Title for Space Laws (Source: Space Policy Online)
Last week the House passed H.R. 3237, which would create a new Title of the U.S. Code for the laws that Congress already has passed regarding national and commercial space programs. Currently the space-related laws are in Title 15, Title 42 or Title 49. H.R. 3237 would group them into a new Title 51 as well as tidy them up by repealing obsolete provisions (e.g. a requirement for a report to be submitted a decade ago), correcting technical errors and making other non-substantive changes. The House Judiciary Committee's efforts to create a new Title for space-related laws began in 2005 (the 109th Congress), but the previous bills were never reported from committee. Click here for a bill summary. (1/18)

Space Cannon to Shoot Payloads into Orbit (Source: PhysOrg.com)
A physicist has proposed using a 1.1 km (3,600 ft) cannon to deliver cargo into orbit, and says the cost would be around $250 per pound, a massive saving on the $5,000 per pound ($2280 per kg) it currently costs to make deliveries using a rocket. John Hunter, a founder of Quicklaunch, bases his plans on previous work carried out at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 1992 Hunter and his colleagues fired a 130 m (425 ft) cannon built to test launch hypersonic engines. Its piston, driven by methane, compressed hydrogen gas that expanded up the barrel of the over-sized gun to shoot the projectile.

The Quicklaunch design has replaced the methane piston with a combustion system burning natural gas in a heat exchanger inside a chamber of hydrogen gas. The combustion system heats the hydrogen to 1,430˚C (2,600˚F), which increases the gas pressure by 500%. An operator then opens a valve to allow the hot, pressurized hydrogen into the 1100-meter-long barrel of the gun, where it instantly expands, shooting the projectile out and into space. As soon as the payload has left, an iris at the end of the barrel closes to capture the hydrogen for re-use. Once the projectile is launched, a small rocket engine positions the payload into a low-Earth orbit.

Hunter's proposal is to operate the "Quicklauncher" from the ocean near the equator, where the Earth's faster rotation will help launch payloads into space. The cannon would float, with 490 m (1,600 ft) of it below the surface, where it would be stabilized by ballast. Operators would be able to swivel it as required to deliver the payload into different orbits. Click here to view the article and video. (1/18)

Launch Pad Development Could Delay Vega Until 2011 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The debut launch of Europe's new Vega small satellite launcher could slip until 2011, mainly due to potential delays in the development of ground systems at the rocket's launch site in South America. "I think Vega will be launched around the 31st of December, and we will see in April whether it is just before or just after," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Agency director general. Stefano Bianchi, head of the Vega rocket program, said combined tests of the launch pad and vehicle will begin in April, along with a qualification review of ground systems. (1/18)

New Horizons in Nonproliferation (Source: ISN)
The US diplomatic push for further sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program coincides with its national space policy review. Linking US movements toward space arms control to Chinese support for firmer action against Iran could alter Beijing’s current opposition to sanctions.

The US is currently seeking to persuade China to support additional sanctions against a likely Iranian nuclear weapons program. Beijing is less hostile than Washington toward the prospect of an Iranian bomb, as this outcome would facilitate the Chinese aim of a more multipolar world. Chinese missile technology sales to states like Iran and Pakistan also generate revenue and assist energy imports.

However, China continues to seek American concessions in the field of space arms control. The current US space policy, articulated in 2006, asserts that Washington would “deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.” The country relied upon satellites for over 90 percent of its operations in the 1991 Gulf War, for instance, and regulating state activity in space would have the greatest impact on the US. (1/18)

Russia to Orbit Two Satellites, ISS Freighter From Baikonur in February (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will launch two international satellites as well as a freighter to the International Space Station (ISS) next month from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. A Roscosmos spokesman said Intelsat 16, CryoSat 2, and Progress M04M would be launched with three different carrier rockets. The Progress M04M is due for liftoff with a Soyuz-U vehicle on Feb. 3.

The Intelsat 16 communication satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. and owned by Intelsat, the world's largest commercial satellite communications services provider, will be orbited with a Proton-M carrier on Feb. 12. ESA's CryoSat-2 Earth Explorer satellite will be launched with an RS-20 rocket on Feb. 25. (1/18)

No Bananas on My Space Flight (Source: New Scientist)
Astronauts experience weightlessness, and most of them also lose weight in space. Why? Because they are often nauseous, always busy, and the food on board their capsules, shuttles and space stations doesn't look, smell or taste like it does on Earth. As a result, NASA has devoted years to creating foods that can travel safely into space and meet astronauts' nutritional needs while not making a mess of their spacecraft.

How about a nice sandwich and a glass of milk? According to The Astronaut's Cookbook, bread means crumbs, and in zero-g they become air pollution - not just messy, but inhaled into astronauts' lungs. Tortillas, therefore, have largely replaced bread in space. Fresh milk is heavy and goes off quickly, so only the powdered stuff flies. Fresh fruit? Astronauts crave it, but ripening fruit is metabolically active, and gives off odours, so the entire craft smells. Some shuttle captains have said "no bananas on my flight". (1/18)

The Future of Science and Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
The new space exploration policy expected to be released in the coming weeks will offer a new opportunity to examine the intersection of space science and human spaceflight. Jeff Foust reports on what policy and science experts think the relationship between the two fields should be in the future. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1547/1 to view the article. (1/18)

Space Systems and Missile Defense in 2010 (Source: Space Review)
The recent test of a Chinese missile interceptor demonstrates that missile defense is becoming a bigger issue around the world and not just in the US. Taylor Dinerman describes the implications this has for space-based systems that can be used to support such systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1546/1 to view the article. (1/18)

The Spaceport Glut (Source: Space Review)
Last week a Florida airport became the latest licensed spaceport in the US. Jeff Foust reviews the current state of spaceports and examines whether, at this stage of the industry's development, there may be too many of them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1545/1 to view the article. (1/18)

Space Fetishism: Obsession or Rational Action? (Source: Space Review)
A recent article criticized space advocates for unduly focusing on some technologies or ideologies as the key to humanity's future in space. John K. Strickland, Jr. responds by noting that while at times people do go too far with such "fetishes", there are rational reasons for some of the advocacy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1544/1 to view the article. (1/18)

Ares I: Is It On Or Off? (Source: Huntsville Times)
The future of NASA seems to be in a tense hold - not unlike the delays that sometimes plague rocket launches - waiting for a presidential directive to set its future course. At stake is the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares I rocket, a space shuttle replacement with its future in doubt and more than 1,500 jobs across the Tennessee Valley hanging in the balance. NASA has spent more than $3 billion and taken five years to develop the Ares I rocket. However, the launch vehicle found no support from last year's White House-appointed Augustine Commission, chaired by aerospace veteran Norman Augustine and tasked with making recommendations for NASA's future manned space exploration programs.

Huntsville attorney and aerospace expert Mark McDaniel said the decision will probably come soon. "The people I come in contact with about this say it won't take the president long to make an announcement. The timing has to be right, though," said McDaniel, who advises members of Congress and some White House officials on space and defense matters. Outright canceling of the Ares program will be difficult, McDaniel said, because U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, had language placed in the federal budget requiring Congress to be consulted extensively before any changes to the Ares program could be made. (1/18)

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