March 1, 2010

New Orion Capsule Heat Shield a “Breakthrough” for NASA (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Orion crew capsule as a shining example of new technology development? Well, that’s the latest word from Lockheed Martin which on Monday hailed the space capsule’s new heat shield as a breakthrough. “[Orion] is at the height of its development phase, which has spurred several new technologies and innovations such as a cutting edge high-temperature composite material system,” said a press release on Monday.

Lockheed developed the resin-based system as a cheaper replacement for Orion’s original titanium heat shield which would have to be made in sections and takes up to a year to put together. The new composite shield takes only months to make, weighs slightly less than the titanium shield and would save lots of money.

One problem is that the new heat shield has not officially been accepted yet by NASA as officially be part of Orion because the titanium shield is still considered to be the baseline design. A procedure is underway to change that, Sipe said. The other problem is that the Obama administration has proposed cancelling Orion and its Ares I launch vehicle. (3/1)

Suborbital Research Gets Ready for Liftoff (Source: Space Review)
When Alan Stern, a space scientist and former NASA associate administrator, decided to organize a meeting several months ago to explore the research applications of the new generation of commercial suborbital vehicles under development, some people warned him that few people would be interested enough in the topic to attend. “There were people who said you couldn’t get 50 people into a room to talk about that,” he recalled. “That’s for tourists, not for researchers and educators.” Click here to view the article. (3/1)

Reality Bites: The Future of the American Human Spaceflight Endeavor (Source: Space Review)
What will be the fate of NASA’s change in direction? Roger Handberg argues that regardless of this particular plan’s outcome, human spaceflight has long suffered from resources that have failed to match expectations. Click here to view the article. (3/1)

A Chronology of Change: Our Space Program, Our Future (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s shift from Constellation is hardly the first time the agency has given up one program for another. Donald Barker provides an insider’s perspective on the shifts of emphasis on programs within the agency over the years and what’s needed to provide NASA and its workforce some stability. Click here to view the article. (3/1)

Capt. Cernan, Where Are You? (Source: Space Review)
As NASA reorients itself away from an immediate return to the Moon, what do some astronauts who have been there think of that? Anthony Young examines what the last two men to walk on the Moon think of the agency’s new plan. Click here to view the article. (3/1)

NASA Opens High Frontier to Education and Not-For-Profit Groups (Source: NASA)
NASA is announcing a new initiative to launch CubeSats for education and not-for-profit organizations. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called picosatellites, having a size of approximately four inches, a volume of about one quart, and weighing no more than 2.2 pounds.

This is NASA's first open announcement to create an agency-prioritized list of available CubeSats. They are planned as auxiliary payloads on launch vehicles already planned for 2011 and 2012. Proposed CubeSat payloads must be the result of development efforts conducted under existing NASA-supported activities. Investigations proposed for this pilot project must address an aspect of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations encompassed by NASA's strategic goals. (3/1)

Is Obama Boxing Clever on NASA? (Source: Flight Global)
As a former Marine Corps general and Space Shuttle commander, NASA administrator Charles Bolden is well-equipped to take fire. That's good, because he needed all the grace under pressure he could muster last week when senators tore into him and his boss, Barack Obama, on the issue of NASA's new direction.

Faced with a global economic meltdown, Obama could hardly be seen to back the over-budget George Bush Moon vision. In a year when mid-term elections threaten to derail his presidency, Obama needs to avoid accusations of irresponsible spending. So the conspiracy theory about Obama's plan is that he took an axe to the Moon, fully expecting an apoplectic reaction on Capitol Hill, where Congress can now decide how much taxpayers should stump up for space exploration. The man, it seems, is no fool. (3/1)

NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moons North Pole, Additional Evidence of Water Activity (Source: NASA)
Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 1.3 million pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice. (3/1)

Space Institute Carries on Despite NASA Budget Cuts (Source: GWU)
Despite recently announced drastic cuts to NASA, GWU's Space Policy Institute will continue to encourage the exploration of the universe and policies that govern space discovery, Scott Pace, director of the institute, said. Pace said that while NASA's reliance on commercial rockets is not in theory a poor idea, tests have yet to demonstrate the ability of commercial spaceships to carry humans on these launches. "We need a government launch option until the commercial crew systems are proven to work," Pace said. (3/1)

Hawaii Satellites Aim to Help Build the Future (Source: Hawaii Business)
Kauai will be doubly involved in the launch of two satellites being built by University of Hawaii scientists and students, in cooperation with NASA. UH hopes the satellites will create economic opportunities for the state, including training a workforce for high-tech jobs, while testing new computer technology in space. The first satellite is small – a CubeSat named Kumu Ao – and is being designed and built primarily by Native Hawaiian students in the UH-Manoa College of Engineering. (3/1)

New Arlington-Based Satellite Service Plans First Launch (Source: Examiner)
A new satellite service named OverHorizon, based in Arlington, Va., has selected a European rocket to launch its first communications satellite into orbit, according to a press statement released by Arianespace. (3/1)

Proton Launches Trio of Russian Navigation Satellites (Source:
Three more Glonass navigation satellites were dispatched to space Monday, ensuring the network continues providing positioning services to Russian territory as officials seek to expand it to global coverage. The replenishment satellites blasted off aboard a Proton rocket from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. (3/1)

NASA Announces Changes at Major Centers (Source: Space News)
Patrick Scheuermann will take over as director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, replacing Gene Goldman. Goldman, who has served at Stennis since November 2008, will assume the deputy director slot at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

In February Bolden announced that Woodrow Whitlow, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, had been named associate administrator for Mission Support at NASA headquarters. Ray Lugo, the deputy director at Glenn, has been named acting director. Previously Lugo served as the deputy program manager of the Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center. (3/1)

Weather Delays Discovery's Move to Launch Pad (Source: Florida Today)
NASA has delayed the rollout of shuttle Discovery to its Kennedy Space Center launch pad by a day because of the threat or rain and lightning Tuesday morning. Discovery is now scheduled to depart the Vehicle Assembly Building at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday atop an eight-tracked crawler-transporter. (3/1)

Italian Space Plane Prototype to Attempt Daring Maneuvers (Source:
Hypersonic space planes may someday fly into space from airport runways, but an Italian aerospace firm first wants to test whether such futuristic vehicles could still pull off high-speed maneuvers during the fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. The Italian Center for Aerospace Research (CIRA) in Capua, Italy has prepped a new unmanned prototype space plane called Pollux for a possible flight in March.

Pollux would perform several test maneuvers while reaching a top re-entry speed of Mach 1.2. "We want to fly while re-entering, and we want to reduce the logical gap between aeronautics and space," said Gennaro Russo, CIRA's Space Programs lead and USV (Unmanned Space Vehicles) program manager. (3/1)

Chilean Quake Likely Shifted Earth’s Axis, NASA Scientist Says (Source: Business Week)
The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a NASA scientist said. Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

“The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),” Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).” (3/1)

Editorial: NASA Needs to Move Ahead with Next-Generation Launcher (Source: AIA)
The negative fallout from President Obama's proposed cancellation of the NASA space shuttle program is growing, writes Walt Cunningham, who piloted the first manned Apollo mission in 1968. Cunningham says NASA must continue to develop a next-generation human space system. (3/1)

Where is the Space Money Going? (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's budget did not get cut. Quite the contrary, President Obama wants to increase space agency spending by $1 billion next year. That's right, the White House wants to give NASA more money to spend next year even while slashing at least $3 billion from human spaceflight programs. So where did that money go?

What happened to the billions now spent flying astronauts on the space shuttles or finishing the new Ares rockets and Orion spaceships for the next generation of American space explorers?

Some will go to yet-to-be-defined R&D programs that NASA says will make human space exploration easier, faster and safer in the long run. Some of it is being shifted to hiring private companies to fly astronauts on the short trips from Earth to the space station and back. (3/1)

New Zealanders Lead the Way to Space (Source: Scoop)
This week Virgin Galactic announced that seven New Zealanders have paid a deposit for a Virgin Galactic sub-orbital spaceflight making New Zealand Virgin’s most significant space tourism market in terms of population size. “Although the US remains our key market in terms of actual numbers, New Zealand is streets ahead in terms of the ratio of people that have signed up per head of population.” said Carolyn Wincer, Virgin Galactic Head of Astronaut Sales.

Based in Christchurch, Mark Rocket, who changed his name in 2000 to reflect his passion for all things space, is further strengthening the Kiwi connection to space with the development of a new independent space launch system designed to take payload to space. Rocket is co-Director of the company, Rocket Lab which had it’s first successful launch from Mercury Island in November 2009.

Editor's Note: A Rocket Lab official was in Florida a few weeks ago, meeting with Space Florida, Embry-Riddle, and others to explore opportunities for collaboration. (3/1)

Brain Drain Feared as Shuttle Program's End Kills Thousands of Jobs (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Central Florida is about to experience another massive economic upheaval. When the space shuttle program ends this year, aerospace engineers, project managers, systems engineers, data specialists, electronics technicians and other highly skilled workers will be left without jobs. As the region tries to cope with the effects of the national recession and a statewide unemployment rate hovering near 12 percent, an estimated 18,000 additional residents are expected to lose their jobs by the end of the year.

Politicians, work-force agencies and economic development organizations knew years ago those shuttle jobs had a limited life. But, so far, efforts to keep those highly trained workers -- aerospace engineers, project managers, systems engineers, data specialists, electronics technicians and others -- in the area and employed offer little hope of immediate success.

Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas is drafting what she called "bipartisan, bicameral" legislation to counter Obama's budget. With other Democrats and House Republicans, she favors moving forward with the plan to increase commercial space traffic by private companies, but supplementing that business with continued shuttle flights. (2/28)

Six to Eight Launches Planned from Baikonur this Spring (Source: Kyiv Post)
Six to eight rockets will be launched from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan this spring. A Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass-M satellites will take off on March 2. There will be another Proton-M launch on March 20. That rocket will put into orbit the Echostar 14 telecom satellite.

A manned Soyuz spacecraft will launch in early April. The Progress M-05M cargo ship will blast off on April 28. There will be Proton-M commercial launches with the U.S. AMS-4R (SES-1) satellite in April and the Arabsat-5B telecom satellite in May. Cosmotrans will make two commercial launches of Dnepr rockets (converted from RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missiles) this spring. (3/1)

JPL May Get Budget Boost (Source: Glendale News Press)
The proposed 2011 budget for NASA, which includes a $6-billion boost for earth science and related projects, could bode well for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, despite massive spending and personnel cuts to manned space missions via facilities in Alabama, Texas and Florida.

The proposal would increase spending over the next five years for earth-science-related research and robotic precursor programs to the moon, Mars and beyond. It also suggests restoring NASA’s technology program, a division dedicated to finding new ways of exploring space, which had been cut by previous budget plans. (3/1)

Technology Would Shape New NASA (Source: Aviation Week)
New details of proposed changes in U.S. space policy show a dramatic shift away from the technology “pull” of a human return to the Moon to a much broader search for new technical approaches to exploring farther afield. This means U.S. astronauts would be spending their flight time for the foreseeable future on the International Space Station (ISS), doing scientific research and engineering demonstrations.

Longer term, NASA’s new managers hope U.S. crews might be able to use some of the as-yet-unspecified technology advances caught in the Obama administration’s wide net to push beyond the Moon sooner than under the canceled Constellation Program.

The policy turnaround faces opposition in Congress, which twice authorized Constellation with bipartisan support. Even in today’s polarized political environment on Capitol Hill, opposition to the Obama plan last week also was bipartisan. (3/1)

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