March 27, 2010

Russia to Boost Share in Global Space Market (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia wants to increase its share in the global space market by building a new space center, the head of Russia's Energia space corporation said on Friday. "More than 80% of the space market is controlled by the United States. It has unquestionable supremacy in space. Russia only has 0.5% of the market, but when the Vostochny space center is built, we would like to have at least 10% of the market. That's in the region of $30 billion, which is realistic," Vitaly Lopota said.

Russia will spend around $14 billion building the Vostochny space center in its Far Eastern Amur Region. The new space center, which will employ 20,000-25,000 people, will ensure Russia's independence in the launch of piloted space vehicles, currently carried out at Baikonur. The first launch from the new center is scheduled for 2015 and the first piloted spacecraft are intended to blast off in 2018. (3/26)

U.S. Government Missing Hosted Payload Opportunities (Source: Space News)
Eighteen commercial satellites that could have carried U.S. government piggyback payloads have been placed into production in the past two years, but only one is slated to host such a payload because the government still has no policy on the matter, U.S. government and industry officials said here March 17. "These are missed opportunities,” Joseph Rouge, director of the U.S. National Security Space Office. “We should have been on all 18 of these satellites.”

As they have for years, commercial satellite operators said they are only too happy to host U.S. government instruments. Depending on how the contract is structured, the government pays an annual fee to the satellite operator, or a sizable up-front fee that can offset the company’s prelaunch investment in the satellite. (3/26)

Contractors Preserving Constellation Funds To Pay for Program Closeout (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin could be forced to slow or stop work on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle this spring in order to preserve enough money to cover the cost of shutting down the project as soon as this fall. While NASA is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to shutter Constellation, agency officials say they do not know whether that money will be enough to pay for the government’s closeout costs and still cover the termination expenses NASA contractors would incur as a result of having to cancel orders, vacate leases and pink-slip employees when the program is ordered shutdown.

As a result, some contractors — including Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems — are preparing to slow or stop work on Constellation in order to set aside program money to cover their own termination expenses when NASA formally issues the shutdown orders. “They have to either gamble that these programs are going to continue or they’re going to have to start slowing work and saving money for shutdown costs,” said one congressional source. “It’s an indirect but powerful way of shutting down those programs.” (3/26)

California Congressman Supports Commercial Crew Concept (Source: Space News)
Most of the subcommittee members in attendance at last week's space hearing were skeptical of Obama’s plan, though at least one, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), said he supports handing crew transportation to the private sector. “If the private sector can do something for half as much, or even one-fifth as much, as what the public sector can do, we are limiting what our accomplishments are going to be in space by insisting that the government and the bureaucracy is the only one who can really be trusted to get the job done,” he said. (3/26)

Probe Says ISRO Shots Were all from Guard's Service Rifle (Source: DNA India)
An investigation into the shooting that occurred in the wee hours of March 16 at the Byalalu unit of the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) revealed that there was no firing from intruders. Ballistic experts submitted a report to state police confirming that there was no firing from outside. The report was submitted after a two-day examination of the site revealed that there was no evidence to support the claims of the security guard on duty at the time. The incident was understood to be an indicator of the vulnerability of sensitive installations to terror attacks. (3/26)

Comet Crash Creates Potential for Life (Source: Nature)
Striking a glancing blow to a planet could create the perfect conditions in a comet's icy core to create amino acids — molecules that are vital to forming life on Earth. This shock-compression theory for making amino acids has been developed by Nir Goldman and his colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Goldman presented their results on 24 March at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco, California. (3/26)

New Spacecraft Discovers Dozens of Asteroids ... Every Day (Source:
Dozens of asteroids that have been lurking undetected in our solar system are being discovered every day by NASA's newest space telescope, scientists say. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope was designed to search for "dark" objects in space, such as brown dwarf stars, vast dust clouds, and yes, asteroids. Many of the asteroids WISE is spotting are darker asteroids that were likely missed by past surveys conducted by visible light telescopes. (3/26)

Orbit Tweaks Urged For OCO Replacement Sat (Source: Aviation Week)
A National Academies report on monitoring compliance with climate change treaties formally endorses NASA’s plan to build and launch a replacement for its Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) spacecraft, although it suggests the agency consider changing its planned orbit to allow better monitoring of human sources of greenhouse gases. The replacement would be built by Orbital Sciences Corp. (3/26)

Pentagon Not Yet Concerned Over NASA Changes (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told House defense appropriators March 24 that they were not yet aware of specific concerns within the Pentagon over ramifications stemming from proposed changes at NASA. Pressed by new defense spending subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) about Pentagon concerns already voiced, both Gates and Mullen said they were not yet aware of particular concerns over heavy-lift rockets or the industrial base if the Obama administration’s plans for the civilian space agency take hold.

Mullen did mention, however, that he and other defense officials have had longstanding concerns over the space industrial base, much the same way they do for shipbuilding. Like with warships, the admiral said there is consensus that the Defense Department is paying too much for old systems when it comes to space assets. (3/26)

New Yorkers Tell NASA to Bring Discovery to Intrepid Museum (Source: NY Daily News)
The space shuttle Discovery is the early favorite to land permanently at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum - if New Yorkers have a say. "The name fits. Discovery. New York is a place where people find new things, new lives, learn expression and inspiration," said Amira McLaughlin, a 35-year-old graphic designer from Brooklyn.

The Intrepid is considered a front-runner as museums across the country vie to be the permanent hangar for NASA's soon-to-be-retired shuttles - Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. (3/26)

Lack of Full Funding for Virginia Spaceport Concerns Legislator (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Virginia State Del. Lynwood Lewis has expressed public concern with state funding for "the lack of full funding for the budget request, which had been supported by the Governor's office for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. While the spaceport did receive a significant increase in funding, it is not enough to do what must be done in light of the terrific projects evolving at the spaceport."

The spaceport will soon have two operational launch pads capable of Minatour I and V boosters along with the yet-to-be-tested Taurus II scheduled to deliver commercial cargo to the Space Station beginning in 2011. The launch facility has a lunar orbiter spacecraft mission in the manifest for 2012.

Last year Virginia supported spaceport operations with less than $100,000 annually. In the 2010 General Assembly, the spaceport budget was increased to $838,000 annually for the next two years but about $500,000 less than the $1.37 million requested annually. "The Governor's office has indicated that they are willing to mount an effort between now and the reconvened session on April 21, to amend the budget to provide for full funding of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport budget request," Del. Lewis, representing the district where the Virginia spaceport is situated, said. (3/26)

Legislation Could Steer Retired Shuttles to Pre-Identified Communities (Source: Space Politics)
A provision tucked into legislation introduced earlier this month could shortcircuit the bid by New York and many other cities seeking to land an orbiter, from Seattle to Tulsa. The “Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act of 2010″ (S. 3068 and HR 4804) states that, once the shuttle fleet is decommissioned (several years later than planned), the orbiters would be awarded to institutions under a competitive process like the current one, but with “priority consideration given to eligible applicants meeting all conditions of that plan which would provide for the location, display, and maintenance of one Orbiter at or near the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, and one Orbiter at or near the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville, Florida.” With one orbiter already expected to go the National Air and Space Museum, that would shut out the Intrepid and anyone else. (3/26)

Discovery Set for April 5 Blastoff to Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
Discovery and seven astronauts are officially scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station at 6:21 a.m. April 5 -- the year's second shuttle flight and one of four remaining. NASA confirmed the targeted launch date today following an all-day flight readiness review at Kennedy Space Center. (3/26)

Over the Mojave Desert, Suborbital Vehicles Take Flight (Source: CSF)
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Masten Space Systems’ Xombie vehicle both completed milestone test flights recently over the Mojave Desert, another step on the path towards commercial suborbital flights to space. On March 20, Masten Space Systems’ Xombie vehicle, which successfully competed in NASA’s Lunar Lander Challenge last year, reached its highest altitude yet, 1046 feet, during a test launch. The recent flight marks another milestone towards Masten’s stated goal of providing “affordable access to space for a variety of scientific payloads” including “microgravity, space, and earth science experiments.”

On March 22, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, built by Scaled Composites, successfully completed its first “captive carry” atmospheric test flight at Mojave Spaceport attached to the WhiteKnightTwo mother aircraft, remaining aloft for 3 hours. “This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams,” said Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites. “The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.” (3/26)

Spaceport Begins Work on Virgin Galactic Hangar (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
With construction under way on the 110,152-square-foot Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s new space liner took to the skies for the first time carrying its rocket spaceship. Virgin Galactic will be the anchor tenant at Spaceport America, and the Terminal Hangar Facility is being built for its operations. The foundation for the facility’s steel towers has been laid and the building is on track to be turned over to Virgin Galactic by early 2011. (3/26)

More to Come at Spaceport America, Despite "Jaundiced View" of Some Legislators (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
Steve Landeene said he expects to soon be making other announcements about significant private space companies coming to Spaceport America. With NASA rethinking its mission, private companies providing affordable access to space will become more significant partners in the future, Landeene said. NASA recently announced it intends to spend $75 million on development of suborbital vehicles.

It also helped that the Legislature passed and Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law informed consent legislation, which defines the passengers as participants who know they are taking a risk in these private space flights. State Sen. Steve Fischmann agreed with Landeene that many northern lawmakers have a “jaundiced view” of the spaceport until they learn more about R&D potential that’s possible along with the space tourism.

Landeene admitted some won’t be able to get behind the spaceport until they’ve seen it work and produce more local activity. He said his office continues to investigate other opportunities for providing more “supply chain” business to the local area, as well as packaging tourist experiences. The spaceport’s construction, however, is the primary task of his office, he noted. (3/26)

Technical Hitch Delays Ariane Rocket Launch (Source: Reuters)
A technical problem has delayed the launch of an Ariane rocket scheduled to launch two satellites from French Guiana on Friday. "During final countdown operations for Flight 194 slated for today, an anomaly occurred in a launcher subsystem," Arianespace said in a statement. "As a result, Arianespace has decided to replace this part, and thus to postpone the launch for a few days," it said. (3/26)

ITU Implores Iran To Help Stop Jamming (Source: Space News)
The global regulator of satellite orbital slot and broadcast frequencies on March 26 asked Iran to track down the source of intentional jamming of Eutelsat satellite signals that carry news broadcasts into Iran. In a delicately worded statement apparently designed not to antagonize Iranian authorities, the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said it accepted the findings of the French National Frequencies Agency concluding that the interference to Eutelsat signals, particularly those from the BBC reporting on Iranian politics, is coming from Iranian territory. (3/26)

In Bid for Space Station Status, China to Build 'Heavenly Palace' (Source: CS Monitor)
The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) may want to draw up a large “Welcome to the Neighborhood” sign. China has announced plans to launch a modest space station of its own next year. Two women will be chosen to be space station astronauts from among China’s 16 female Air Force pilots.

Initially, the 8.5-metric-ton module will be unmanned, providing a target that China’s budding human-spaceflight program can use to practice on-orbit dockings. If all goes well, however, taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) will move in. After launching its first taikonaut into space in October 2003, China is now moving methodically and deliberately to catch up with other major space-faring nations.

China’s module, floridly named Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace), represents the first step in the country’s three-stage plan to assemble an orbiting lab. This first step is more akin to NASA’s Skylab, a converted second stage from Apollo-era Saturn V rockets that was launched in 1973. It hosted three crews between 1973 and 1974. (3/26)

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