February 23, 2010

USAF Chief of Staff Highlights Importance of Space to Air Force (Source: AFSC)
The Air Force's highest ranking uniformed officer spoke on the value of space and the emerging medium of cyberspace on Feb. 18 in Orlando. "Virtually all aspects of military operations are affected in some way by the capabilities provided from (space and cyberspace), and it's difficult to overstate their importance to the success of our Armed Forces," said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff.

"From precision navigation and timing, to global satellite communications, to space-based surveillance and missile warning, our space assets provide us with an unparalleled degree of accuracy, connectivity and situation awareness," the general said. "Our exploitation of cyberspace and advanced information technologies enable us and the Joint team to properly command and control our forces - binding virtually all of our advanced capabilities together into precise, increasingly networked, and better synchronized operations." (2/23)

Bolden Overhauls NASA Organization (Source: Space News)
NASA field center directors and mission directorate chiefs will report directly to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden under organizational changes Bolden announced Feb. 23. The heads of NASA’s 10 regional field centers and four headquarters-based mission directorates currently report to NASA Associate Administrator Chris Scolese, the agency’s third-highest-ranking official. That reporting structure was put in place by Bolden’s predecessor, Mike Griffin.

Scolese will continue to be responsible for “integrating the technical and programmatic elements” of the agency, but NASA center directors and mission directorate chiefs “will report directly to the Administrator rather than through the Associate Administrator,” said Bolden’s memo. (2/23)

Space Junk Mess Getting Messier in Orbit (Source: Space.com)
The already untidy mass of orbital debris that litters low Earth orbit nearly got nastier last month. A head-on collision was averted between a spent upper stage from a Chinese rocket and the European Space Agency's (ESA) huge Envisat Earth remote-sensing spacecraft.

Space junk tracking information supplied by the U.S. military, as well as confirming German radar data, showed that the two space objects would speed by each other at a nail-biting distance of roughly 160 feet (50 meters). ESA's Envisat tips the scales at 8 tons, with China's discarded rocket body weighing some 3.8 tons. A couple of tweaks of maneuvering propellant were used to nudge the large ESA spacecraft to a more comfortable miss distance. (2/23)

Survey: Space Agencies, Spending Grew in Last Decade (Source: Space News)
The number of nations with national space agencies has continued a sharp climb after a pause in the 1990s, rising from 40 in 2000 to about 55 in 2009, according Euroconsult. Some of these nations’ space endeavors remain fragile, one or two projects often focused on small Earth-observation satellites. Euroconsult suggests it is too early to determine whether these new organizations will receive the government funding needed to establish themselves permanently.

In its survey “Profiles of Government Space Programs: Analysis of 60 Countries & Agencies,” Euroconsult says that globally, civil government space s pending increased by 9 percent in 2009 in U.S. dollar terms, reaching $36 billion. Growth was faster for the military space sector, with governments in 2009 increasing their spending to $32 billion, a 12 percent increase over 2008. (2/23)

No Easy Answer for Next Space Destination (Source: AP)
Where to next? It's a simple question that NASA can't answer so easily anymore. The veteran space shuttle fleet is months from being mothballed and the White House has nixed a previous plan to fly to the moon. For the first time in decades, NASA has no specific space destination for its next stop, although it has lots of places it wants to go. Future space flight, NASA officials say, now depends on new rocket science and where it can take us. (2/23)

Richardson: Commercial Spaceflight: Creating 21st Century Jobs (Source: Huffington Post)
Picture how different your life would be if commercial air travel didn't exist -- and imagine the millions of jobs that would vanish. Fortunately, commercial passenger aviation does exist and it exists because the U.S. government in the 1920s wisely decided to begin flying "air mail" on commercial airplanes, accelerating the growth of the entire passenger airline industry.

President Obama's bold, new plan for NASA, announced earlier this month, makes an equally wise decision by promoting the growth of commercial spaceflight. This is a win-win decision; creating thousands of new high-tech jobs and helping America retain its leadership role in science and technology. It comes at a perfect time. Entrepreneurial companies like Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, and Blue Origin are investing their own money, right now, to create new jobs across the nation, including my home state of New Mexico. (2/23)

Aldrin: Spaceships Worthy of the Name (Source: Huffington Post)
In this blog I'm going to talk about what NASA needs to do once Congress has passed President Obama's new budget that starts on October 1st. Although I spent most of last year speaking about these concepts, they may be new to some readers - and they have even greater significance now that the space program is poised to make a great, and I believe necessary, transition. My ideas, if followed, would assure America of global space leadership for many years to come. And equally cool is the fact that to develop them won't break the already near-empty national budget.

First, is the idea of what type of commercial crew-carrying vehicle should follow the Space Shuttle. Next is why we should extend the life of the Shuttle program for a small number of additional flights. And last, what those Shuttles should carry up to the International Space Station - a true spacecraft that would live only in space. Click here to read the article. (2/23)

Bolden: NASA Legit as it Readies to End Moon Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden bluntly told Congress in a letter sent Friday that the agency has kept within the law as it prepares to dismantle the Constellation moon rocket program — despite accusations to the contrary from nearly 30 U.S. House members. His letter was in response to warning sent by the lawmakers on Feb. 12 that reminded the new NASA chief that he could not shut down Constellation this year without prior approval from Congress. They said NASA has begun pulling the plug in violation of a law passed last year.

Bolden disagreed. He said NASA has started studying what it would take to cancel the $9 billion Constellation program but has not actually killed anything. And Bolden vehemently denied claims that NASA leaders were given verbal instructions to immediately axe pieces of Constellation. (2/23)

NASA Sets Sights on Inflatable Space Stations (Source: New Scientist)
Astronauts may one day orbit the Earth in roomy balloons instead of cramped tin cans, now that NASA has made inflatable space habitats a priority. The White House announced a change in direction for NASA on 1 February. Instead of the planned crewed missions to the moon, the agency intends to pour money into research and development.

The outline listed technologies on NASA's wish list but provided few details. Now NASA has fleshed out its plans in a detailed budget proposal posted on its website on 22 February. One section notes that balloon-like habitats "can be larger, lighter, and potentially less expensive" than traditional ones made of rigid metal walls. They could be used as space stations, or eventually as moon bases. NASA may send inflatable structures to the International Space Station to test their mettle – including their ability to shield against space radiation.

The document also reveals that the agency plans to restart the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. Until it was closed by budget cutbacks in 2007, the institute funded research into potentially revolutionary technologies, including space elevators and antimatter harvesting. "Its cancellation was very short-sighted," says John Cramer of the University of Washington in Seattle. (2/23)

South Africa to Return to Space (Source: Defence Web)
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says her department is looking at the possibility of reactivating and re-establishing space rocket launch facilities in South Africa, confirming a statement by an official in Parliament last year.

Nomfuneko Majaja, the government`s Chief Director Advanced Manufacturing Space Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry told the National Assembly last July that "it was hoped that SA would be in a position to be a launching state in five to ten years time." (2/23)

Mining Mars? Where's the Ore? (Source: Discovery)
Future Mars prospectors will likely find mineral riches in some unusual settings, say planetary scientists studying the different ways valuable metals might have been concentrated on the red planet. On Earth, surface waters, ground waters and even chemicals left by living things play major roles in leaching, concentrating and depositing valuable metals and minerals like iron, gold, silver, nickel, copper and many more.

But on Mars there are no oceans or surface waters; no microorganisms either. What's more, the planet is so cold that even groundwater is frozen as permafrost and functions as little more than another mineral in the ground. So where does a starving miner look on Mars for usable quantities of ore? Try the volcanoes and impact craters, says planetary scientist Michael West of Australian National University in Canberra and the Mars Institute. (2/23)

Wallops Winning More NASA Support (Source: Daily Press)
NASA is increasing its support of the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The space agency said the support contract with the Virginia Space Flight Authority has a potential value of approximately $43 million through May 2014. The investment is part of an effort to enhance the Atlantic center to successfully launch small and medium class orbital missions for NASA, as well as other federal organizations and commercial launch providers. (2/23)

NASA Releases New Details of Commercial Crew Program (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA will attempt to stimulate a portfolio of private transportation providers in its commercial crew program, striking a balance between emerging and established space companies. The space agency also plans to finish a draft of human-rating standards for commercial vehicles by the end of 2010.

In a fiscal year 2011 budget estimate posted Monday, NASA unveiled several details of the commercial crew initiative, but offered no specific timetable for when the agency will begin selecting providers. NASA officials previously stated they hoped to start operational commercial flights as early as 2014, but those schedules may be optimistic. (2/23)

Falcon-9 Readies for Launch (Source: Florida Today)
California-based SpaceX plans a fueling test of the 180-foot tall Falcon-9 rocket this week. Soon thereafter, the launch team plans a test-firing of the rocket's nine engines while Falcon-9 remains secured to the ground. The timing of the two critical tests is still being worked out. Company officials say the rocket could be ready for launch by early April.

"The schedule is intentionally fluid," SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin said after the rocket was moved out to its oceanside launch pad, the complex from which Titan 4 rockets used to blast off. "Falcon 9 is undergoing a checkout of the critical flight connections including fuel, liquid oxygen and gas pressure systems," according to a written statement from the company. "Once all system interfaces are verified, the SpaceX launch team will execute a full tanking test of both first and second stages followed by a brief static fire of the first stage." (2/23)

Future Capabilities for an Ambitious Civil Space Program (Source: Space Review)
The proposed 2011 budget for NASA begins an ambitious series of technology development efforts designed to enable future human exploration beyond Earth orbit. John Mankins identifies what he believes to be the critical technologies needed to enable cost-effective exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1572/1 to view the article. (2/22)

A Better Plan (Source: Space Review)
The current debate about NASA's future revolves around whether to continue Constellation or scrap it in favor of technology development and commercial crew efforts. Stephen Metschan argues for a third path that may avoid the disadvantages of those two alternatives. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1571/1 to view the article. (2/22)

Blue is a Little less Black (Source: Space Review)
One of the most intriguing -- and secretive -- companies in the NewSpace field is Blue Origin. Jeff Foust reports that while the company is still reticent to share information about its plans, a few more details about its efforts are now known. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1570/1 to view the article. (2/22)

Space Policy Versus Space Politics: Lessons for the Future (Source: Space Review)
NASA's new approach to human spaceflight is likely to come under scrutiny this week in congressional hearings. Taylor Dinerman offers some advice from history on more effective ways to roll out new plans for the agency. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1568/1 to view the article. (2/22)

Mercury Astronaut Signs Memorabilia for Charity (Source: ASF)
Now’s your chance to own a piece of history; for the first time ever the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) is hosting a special mail-in signing with one of only two surviving Mercury Seven astronauts, Scott Carpenter, now through Mar 15. Space enthusiasts are invited to send in artifacts, baseballs, covers, flown items, models, and photos – just about anything desired – or choose from one of the many popular photos of Carpenter featured in ASF’s Online Store at www.astronautstore.org for the space hero to sign. Items can be personalized and/or accompanied by a photo of Carpenter signing them for a Certificate of Authenticity. (2/23)

India Plans To Send Two Astronauts Into Space (Source: SpaceDaily.com)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to send two astronauts to space within six to seven years, ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said. He said India was among the leading countries in the world in space research, designing the most modern satellites in keeping with latest advances in technology. (2/23)

Starfighters Completes First Commercial Spaceflight Training at KSC (Source: Space Florida)
Two Florida residents, have become the first to complete a new commercial space flight training program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Terence Witt, founder of Witt Biomedical, and his wife Virginia trained for space in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, the same supersonic plane used to prepare Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts for space travel. Husband and wife team completed their training with Starfighters, Inc, a privately-owned company operating under a formal Space Act Agreement allowing them full utilization of KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). (2/23)

NASA Supports Univision Hispanic Education Effort (Source: NASA)
NASA is working with Univision Communications Inc. to develop a partnership in support of the Spanish-language media outlet's initiative to improve high school graduation rates, prepare Hispanic students for college, and encourage them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. (2/23)

NASA Budget Includes Funds for Counterpart to RD-180 Engine (Source: AIA)
NASA is considering building a U.S. counterpart to the Russian-built RD-180 engine with part of the $3.1 billion the agency is requesting in its budget proposal. Part of the budget proposal included $560 million next year for a heavy lift and propulsion technology research and development program, and according to the documents, the first-stage launch proposal work would focus on the development of a U.S. core stage hydrocarbon engine with levels of thrust that would be equal to or exceed the RD-180 engine. (2/23)

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