January 16, 2010

Chinese Rocket Launches with Beidou Navigation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Chinese Long March rocket hauled a new navigation satellite to a high-altitude perch over Earth on Saturday, marking the first space launch of the year for the world's space programs. The Long March 3C rocket blasted off from the Xichang spaceport. The satellite is the third member of the second-generation Beidou constellation. Two spacecraft were launched to medium Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

First-generation satellites were launched between 2000 and 2007 to test the Beidou concept in space and provide limited services for China. China eventually expects to launch 35 Beidou satellites, allowing the system to have a global reach similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System. Officials hope the Beidou system will provide navigation, timing and messaging services to the Asia-Pacific region by 2012. (1/16)

Nelson Talks Space at KSC Meeting (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In remarks last week at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Sen. Bill Nelson saud he believed if the President requested more money for NASA, Congress would appropriate it “even though there are so many other competing demands.” He did not mention the fate of Ares I but said he expects that the President will fund the development of a new heavy lift rocket capable of traveling to the moon and beyond as well as a larger role for rockets designed and operated by private companies.

Nelson also said he supported a larger role for commercial rockets to take crew and cargo to the space station and said that he wanted NASA to work with the Air Force to launch more commercial rockets and to do more R&D. He said he has requested money for various commercial space projects, including funds for the construction of launch pads for commercial rockets at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and commercial rocket research grants for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Editor's Note: Sen. Nelson supported funding for Embry-Riddle's Space Transportation Research & Development Institute. (1/14)

Where Does Space Begin? (Source: ABC Science)
So you've won a ticket to be one of Earth's first space tourists. You want to take note of the exact moment that you enter space. How will you know where 'Earth' officially ends and 'space' begins? Unfortunately you won't. There's no clear boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, says Dr. Kevin Pimbblet at the University of Queensland. Luckily, you can choose between several boundaries that claim to mark the 'edge of space'. The most commonly accepted one, as defined by the World Air Sports Federation, is something called the 'Kármán line', 100 kilometers above Earth's mean sea level. "This line is where the atmosphere becomes too thin for aeronautical flight," he says.

If you're too busy looking out the window and miss this boundary, there's another at 118 kilometers, established recently by Canadian and US scientists. It marks the spot where ions — charged particles created by solar radiation — begin to take over the atmosphere in earnest. If you also miss this one, don't worry — in reality Earth's atmosphere extends above the planet for hundreds of kilometers. Even the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting Earth at an altitude of about 400 kilometers, still feels the effects of our atmosphere.

If, however, you just can't wait the 100 or so kilometers for your historic moment, you may be able to celebrate your entry into space a little closer to home. The U.S. defines an astronaut as anyone who has traveled to an altitude of 80 kilometers or more, says Pimbblet. This boundary marks the beginning of the thermosphere, the part of the Earth's atmosphere where the temperature stops dropping, and begins to rise again. (1/16)

Japan's Galaxy Express Rocket Venture to End (Source: iStockAnalyst)
IHI Corp. has decided to liquidate a joint venture (that had included Lockheed Martin) for the development of Japan's GX medium-size rocket, following the government's decision to scrap the government-private sector development project, sources said. Heavy machinery maker IHI is expected to book an extraordinary loss of about 10 billion yen for the liquidation of Galaxy Express Corp., which was established in 2001.

IHI, which has a stake of over 40 percent in the rocket development company, plans to hold talks with other shareholders, including Mitsubishi and Kawasaki, for the liquidation. IHI made the decision to terminate the joint venture considering that the business would not be feasible without government involvement, according to the sources. The government canceled the rocket development project late last year in a process to eliminate wasteful spending.

It determined the project was not economically viable after estimating that an additional 94 billion yen would have been needed to complete the two-stage rocket. A total of about 70 billion yen has already been spent on the project, with the private sector shouldering about 43 billion yen. Editor's Note: Back in 2006 the vehicle’s debut was delayed no earlier than 2011, five years later than originally planned. The culprit was be the GX’s liquid natural gas-fueled second-stage engine, whose projected development cost had nearly tripled in 2006, to $292 million. (1/16)

Wish Buzz Aldrin a Happy 80th Birthday (Source: CSA)
As one of the leading space exploration advocates, Buzz Aldrin continues to chart a course for future space travel from Planet Earth to the Moon and on to the stars. In honor of his 80th birthday, The Planetary Society is gathering good wishes from all over the planet to present to Buzz. We will personally deliver all your messages in a giant birthday card! The deadline is coming up fast, so send in your greetings by Jan. 20. Click here. (1/16)

Interorbital Announces Payload Info for first Neptune Flight (Source: CSA)
Mojave-based Interorbital Systems (IOS) is a rocket manufacturer as well as a small satellite developer. The Company recently announced the names of the teams and experiments slated to fly on the first orbital launch of the company's new modular rocket, the NEPTUNE 30. Click here for information. (1/16)

Astrium Receives $217 Million Contract to Upgrade Ariane 5 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Astrium for the initial development phase of its program to enhance the performance of the Ariane launch vehicle and make it even more competitive. ESA’s Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) program aims to raise the payload capacity of Ariane 5 from 10 to 12 tons, an increase of 20%. (1/16)

Globalstar Prepares for Launch of Second-Generation Satellites (Source: Globalstar)
Globalstar announced that in preparation for the upcoming launches of its new second-generation satellites the company has commenced installation of satellite telemetry control unit (TCU) upgrades. The hardware and software upgrades provided by Thales Alenia Space are being installed at strategically located Globalstar gateway ground stations in Argentina, Australia, Botswana, France, Korea and the United States. These initial pre-launch upgrades will provide Globalstar with the capability to globally monitor and control the orbital deployment of its new second-generation satellite constellation which is scheduled for launch beginning this summer. (1/15)

Space Shuttle Program Layoffs Continue: Boeing Sheds 36 Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In the latest round of layoffs to hit NASA’s space shuttle program, Boeing Friday handed out pink slips to 36 of its employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “These employees run the range from general support personnel to engineers,” a press release said. All were given 60-days notice. Boeing has hundreds of employees that work in the shuttle program, 300 in Florida directly tied to the shuttle, most of whom will lose their jobs when the shuttles are retired later this year. More layoffs are scheduled for the spring and again in the fall. Layoff numbers have not been set.

“Given the current state of the economy, the end of the space shuttle program marks a one-two punch for the aerospace community,” the release said. Some 7,000 space industry workers will lose their jobs by the time the shuttle program ends, which Boeing warned will be a disaster for Brevard County. “Along with the other positions that will be lost due to the end of the shuttle program, [unemployment in] Florida’s Brevard County will have increased to 14 percent – making it a tie for the highest unemployment rate in the nation,” it said. (1/16)

NASA Safety Panel: Don’t Extend Shuttle; Keep Moon Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) told the agency Friday it would be “unwise” to extend the space shuttle program “significantly” beyond its planned 2010 retirement and warned against alternatives to the proposed Ares-1/Orion launch system. The ASAP report recommends that NASA continue with its Constellation program. NASA, however, is unlikely to do this because of underfunding and nagging technical problems with its Ares-1 rocket.

The ASAP report largely ignores those issues and instead puts its faith in the Ares-1 rocket, which it said was “designed from the beginning” with a “clear emphasis” on safety. “To abandon Ares-1 as a baseline vehicle for an alternative without demonstrated capability nor proven superiority (or even equivalence) is unwise and probably not cost-effective,” notes the 117-page report, issued late Friday evening.

Specifically, the advisory panel attacks the idea of using commercial rockets and international partners to resupply the station, as suggested by the Augustine Panel. The ASAP said NASA warned against putting too much faith in commercial or international spacecraft because there weren’t proper standards for safety. The ASAP report also blasted the idea of extending the space shuttle era beyond its final five flights this year. (1/16)

Five Canceled NASA Missions (Source: Discovery)
As with most things in life, NASA missions tend to gain the most attention when they either succeed fantastically or fail utterly. But what about the NASA programs that neither soared nor plummeted? In this article, we'll run through five space missions that wound up on the cutting room floor. Click here to read the article. (1/16)

UFO Reports Give Clues to Secret Russian, Chinese Missile Tests (Source: MSNBC)
In an ironic encore, yet another secret military missile test has sparked widespread UFO reports from surprised ground witnesses. On Dec. 9, a Russian Bulava missile was launched from a submarine within sight of northern Norway, resulting in a spectacular spiral display and a spate of UFO sightings. This week's UFO reports apparently were sparked by a Chinese missile that was fired to intercept another missile in flight, for the first time in the nation's history.

Witnesses in China's inland provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu weren’t as well equipped with cameras as last month's Norwegian witnesses were, so the only images reaching the West merely show fuzzy-colored clouds and streaks. The military secrecy surrounding China's missile test is so tight that Beijing officials seem to be at a loss as to how to respond to the reports.

As with December's Russian missile test, cases such as these underscore how important it is for intelligence agencies to seek out and evaluate reports of unidentified flying objects from countries of interest. For decades, such reports from the Soviet Union and China might have provided hints about top-secret military missiles and space weapons. The stories would be most valuable precisely because the unidentified flying objects were not true “UFOs” at all. (1/16)

Obama Memo Puts Export Reform on Front Burner (Source: Space News)
President Barack Obama has directed his administration to recommend by no later than Jan. 29 steps leading to an overhaul of the U.S. export control regime, according to a presidential directive signed Dec. 21. The recommendations are to be based on the findings of a sweeping interagency review of U.S. rules that govern exports of unclassified military and dual-use technologies — including commercial communications satellites — announced by the White House Aug. 13.

“The results of this review shall be used to prepare a comprehensive set of recommendations to create a new U.S. export control system,” states the Dec. 21 document, known as Presidential Study Directive 8. “The recommendations shall include statutory and regulatory steps necessary for implementation.” The task force’s recommendations are to be delivered to members of the president’s Cabinet, including the secretaries of commerce, defense, energy, homeland security, state and treasury, as well as the U.S. attorney general and director of national intelligence.

U.S. export control reform is a polarizing topic that pits national security hawks against the American aerospace industry. The U.S. space industry in particular has seen its market share decline since a 1999 crackdown on U.S. commercial communications satellite exports. Congress made all commercial satellites subject to the restrictive International Traffic in Arms Regulations — administered by the U.S. State Department — in the late 1990s following allegations that China was benefiting militarily from launches of U.S.-built spacecraft. (1/16)

ILS May Pitch Proton as Cost-saver Over Soyuz for Galileo Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. company that markets Russia’s Proton heavy-lift rocket says it can launch Europe’s Galileo satellites for one-third the cost of what the European Commission has agreed to pay to launch the navigation craft aboard the European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket. Virginia-based International Launch Services (ILS) is weighing whether to pitch its Proton offer to the commission as part of a broader strategy that includes adapting the rocket to carry two mid-size telecommunications satellites into geostationary-transfer orbit at the same time. (1/16)

Italian Space Agency Expects Budget To Remain Flat for 2010 (Source: Space News)
The president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) expects his agency’s budget to withstand the pressures of the economic downturn and to remain at about 700 million euros ($1 billion) a year in 2010 and 2011, with ASI joining several Italian government ministries in a request for additional funds to prepare Italy’s satellite navigation services. (1/16)

No comments: