March 8, 2010

France To Pay Russia One Billion For 14 Soyuz Carrier Rockets (Source: Space Daily)
France has put aside some $1 billion to buy 14 Soyuz carrier rockets from Russia, French satellite launch firm Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall said. The new deal marks another step in cooperation between Russia and France in the space sector. Arianespace signed a contact with Russia's space agency in 2008 for the launch of 10 Russian Soyuz-ST carrier rockets from the Kourou space center in French Guiana. (3/8)

NASA to Repair Deep Space Antenna in California (Source: MSNBC)
The deep space antenna that relayed Neil Armstrong's famous "one giant leap for mankind" declaration from the moon to a rapt American audience will be offline for eight months for repair. Work begins this week to replace a steel donut-shaped bearing on the aging 230-foot-wide dish at the NASA Deep Space Network site at Goldstone Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The labor-intensive process, which will involve jacking up 9 million pounds, will keep the antenna out of service until at least November. (3/8)

Court to Consider NASA Employee Background Checks (Source: Reuters)
The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would decide whether NASA background investigations, required of scientists, engineers and all other employees at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, violated their privacy rights. The high court agreed to rule on the legal challenge by the longtime employees, who had been classified as "low risk," to the in-depth checks for information on medical treatment or counseling for drug use or any other "adverse" information, including private sexual matters.

The laboratory, owned by NASA and operated by the California Institute of Technology, is known for developing satellites, rockets, spacecraft and telescopes. All positions at the laboratory are filled by contract employees. Employees who do not agree to the checks could lose their jobs. (3/8)

Warp Speed Will Kill You (Source:
Captain Kirk might want to avoid taking the starship Enterprise to warp speed, unless he's ready to shrug off interstellar hydrogen atoms that would deliver a lethal radiation blast to both ship and crew. There are just two hydrogen atoms per cubic centimeter on average in space, which poses no threat to spaceships traveling at low speeds. But those same lone atoms would transform into deadly galactic space mines for a spaceship that runs into them at near-light speed, according to calculations based on Einstein's special theory of relativity. (3/8)

Q&A: Europa and Jupiter Mission (Source: BBC)
The US and European space agencies have drawn up plans for a major space mission to the Jupiter system, to launch in 2020, a talking point at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. The Europa-Jupiter System Mission will focus on Jupiter's icy satellites Europa and Ganymede, investigating their chemistry and geology. Dr Robert Pappalardo from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has led a study to scope out the venture. He told BBC science reporter Paul Rincon why this mission could yield "spectacular results". Click here to view the Q&A. (3/8)

NASA's Need to Win Hearts and Minds (Source: Space Review)
Since the rollout of the FY2011 budget proposal last month, with its major changes to NASA's exploration program contained within it, the agency has struggled to win support from skeptical members of Congress and others in the space community. Jeff Foust discusses why the agency may need to make more of an emotional appeal, rather than just rely on budget documents, to win support in the coming months. Visit to view the article. (3/8)

Does NASA Have an International Future? (Source: Space Review)
The administration's decision to cancel Constellation and abandon the Vision for Space Exploration is another example of a decision made by NASA that impacts international partners. Taylor Dinerman argues for more stable multi-year funding for the agency for it to be considered a good partner by other nations. Visit to view the article. (3/8)

Costs of US Piloted Programs (Source: Space Review)
How much does human spaceflight cost NASA? Claude Lafleur examines the historical record to determine just how much the space agency has spent on sending humans into space over the years. Visit to view the article. (3/8)

NASA's Breakdown or Breakthrough? (Source: Space Review)
Much of the attention devoted to NASA's budget request has focused on plans to cancel Constellation and rely on commercial providers for human spaceflight. Luis Fernández Carril says that such a focus ignores the other key features of the budget proposal. Visit to view the article. (3/8)

Raytheon GPS Contract Could Grow as Demand Rises (Source: AIA)
An $886 million contract awarded to Raytheon Co. for the upgrading of ground positions for the U.S. Global Positioning System could wind up being worth more than twice that much as the demand for GPS increases globally. The U.S. is currently the only provider of global GPS signals, and the total market for the equipment today is about $20 billion, a Raytheon official said. (3/5)

Charlie Crist Dings White House on Space Summit (Source: Politico)
Florida Gov. and Senate candidate Charlie Crist is voicing skepticism that a newly scheduled White House conference on NASA's future will soften cutbacks in the manned space program. The Obama administration plans a conference in Florida on April 15 to discuss spaceflight and "implications of the new strategy for Florida, the nation, and our ultimate activities in space." But Crist sounded unimpressed: "While continuing dialogue about the space program is welcome, I'm afraid we already know the outcome. Unless we continue the Constellation program that allows America to be a leader in space innovation and provides jobs for many Floridians on the Space Coast, this discussion will leave many of the same problems unresolved." (3/8)

SpaceX Static Rocket Engine Test Planned Tuesday at Cape (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is gearing up for a static firing of its Falcon 9 rocket at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a test that is considered a major milestone to the inaugural flight of the new launch vehicle. The 3.5-second hot-firing will take place at Launch Complex 40, a renovated complex that used to be used for Air Force/Lockheed Martin Titan rocket launches. (3/8)

Suborbital Launch Planned on Mar. 11 from Wallops Island in Virginia (Source: NASA)
The next launch from Wallops Island is a NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket, scheduled for 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on March 11. The backup days are March 12 and 13. (3/8)

Costa Rican President-Elect Looks to Boost Costa Rica Into Space (Source: Tico Times)
At the top of President-elect Laura Chinchilla's agenda for her meeting with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on last Thursday was convincing her that Costa Rica's should be a part of international space programs. Costa Rica's own Franklin Chang, a retired NASA physicist and astronaut, is developing new plasma engines for space travel from a plant in Liberia, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and Chinchilla wants to ensure that his products are incorporated into worldwide projects.

“We want recognition for Costa Rica, so the country can enter this special industry,” Chinchilla said, seeing in the space industry an opportunity to stimulate more high-paying jobs and international prestige for the Central American country. “We hope that Costa Rica is the first Latin American country (to enter the space industry.)” She said she will push the new Legislative Assembly to quickly ratify the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, which is a requirement for Costa Rica to collaborate in space technology. (3/8)

Uncertain US Space Future Launches International Shake-Up (Source: Earth Times)
For a world that depended on the United States as the cornerstone of international cooperation in space, NASA's uncertain way forward has triggered a reshuffling of global ambitions. Will Russia gain unprecedented leverage in space and on Earth? Will China build its own competing coalition of manned space efforts? These questions are raised by the looming retirement of the ageing US space shuttles later this year and the scrapping by President Obama of a new moon-worthy spacecraft under the Constellation program.

The most obvious change will be the rise in Russian prominence. After 2010, its Soyuz will be the only way for humans to reach the ISS, after a decade-long cooperation by space agencies, including the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe. Russian space agency chief Anatoli Perminov indicated that Moscow plans to jack up the price of its services in 2012 after existing agreements expire. While he did not give any exact figures, the US is already paying $306 million to use Russia's services through 2011. And it's clear to many that Russia hopes to boost its share of the space technology market with the profits. (3/8)

New Satellites to Improve Daily Life (Source: Korea Times)
The hit-or-miss weather forecasts are on everyone's list of the most annoying things in everyday life here. But Korea's space agency claims to have a remedy ready when about $314 million state-of-the-art meteorological satellite is launched next month. The Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite (COMS-1), which will be strapped to a European rocket and blasted into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) next month, is the first in a series of new Korean satellites to be launched from this year to 2013. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said that the wealth of satellite images, data and communications functions provided by the new fleet of craft will have visible effects in science research, industry and the daily lives of people. (3/8)

Houston? You Have a Problem (Source: LA Times)
Mark the calendar again for April 15. It's a Thursday. In addition to your income taxes being due, President Obama has called a special space summit in the politically important swing state of Florida that day to change the fundamental direction of NASA in coming years because he believes in change. Bold change, in fact. This Florida change probably has nothing to do with Obama's presidential predecessor being from Texas, a state that didn't vote for the Illinois Democrat when he ran against Hillary Clinton (51-47) and disliked him even more when he ran against John McCain (55-44). (3/8)

Project Exoplanet Brings World Together (Source: Times of India)
Fourteen exoplanets have been discovered since the year began while the figure for 2009 was 84, said eminent astronomer Malcolm Longair, of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Exoplanets are those planets that lie outside the solar system. There are billions of stars in our galaxy and a significant percentage of these have planets orbiting them. "As of February 27, 429 exoplanets were discovered, some of these by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Infrared Observatory", he said at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

While the HST has a mirror measuring 2.5 meters, the size of JWST’s mirror is 6.5 meters. The project is an international one with collaboration among NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The launch, scheduled for 2014, will be from the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guyana. (3/8)

India's Space Program in Take-Off Mode (Source: Earth Times)
As the United States winds down its space shuttle program, emerging economy India is developing its own reusable launch vehicle that it hopes will make it a space power. The Avatar, a reusable launch vehicle (RLV), would be capable of delivering a 500 to 1000-kilogram payload into orbit at a fairly low cost. The Aerobic Vehicle for Hypersonic Aerospace Transportation (Avatar) is just one example of how far India's space program has traveled since it first launched a sounding rocket in 1963 from a fishing village Thumba in southern Kerala.

India's space scientists have, over four decades, slowly but steadily developed a mature capability despite small budgets and an embargo on high technology transfers because of its nuclear tests. "With a miniscule budget, we have developed cutting edge technology," said Madhavan Nair, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Today, India's Department of Space encompasses the ISRO, more than a dozen research and development units, and the Antrix Corporation, a state-owned company that markets space products and services. More than 500 small and medium industries contribute to the programs. (3/8)

Indian Forestry Satellite Planned by 2013 (Source: The Hindu)
Union Minister for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh has announced that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will launch a dedicated forestry satellite in all likelihood in the year 2013. Against the biennial exercise in vogue, the facility will help to continuously monitor the forest cover, health and diversity. Similarly, efforts are on to launch an indigenous satellite for monitoring greenhouse gases and aerosol emissions next year, which will place India on a rung occupied by a select few in the world. (3/8)

A Lot is Riding on SpaceX Rocket (Source: LA Times)
A new rocket 18 stories tall and waiting to be launched from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Spacecport could determine the fate of a private aerospace venture in Hawthorne -- and even possibly NASA's space program. The Falcon 9 booster, developed by SpaceX., is going through final preparations for its maiden test flight and could blast off as early as next month. The rocket is a major contender to assume NASA's responsibilities in hauling astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station in the wake of President Obama's budget proposal to outsource space travel to private businesses.

The eyes of the U.S. government will be on the launch to see whether the Falcon 9 has the right stuff. NASA has invested more than $200 million in seed money to help the company, also known as SpaceX, develop and build the nine-engine rocket, and has an additional $1.6 billion on the table with a contract for 12 flights to transport cargo in the coming years. (3/8)

Space Taxis: Bold New Era or Death of Manned Exploration? (Source: Earth Times)
The massive cement expanses that dot the flat Florida landscape have been launching pads for history: the first US astronauts blasted into orbit, the Apollo missions to the moon and nearly 30 years of space shuttle flights. But human space travel from Kennedy Space Center will soon come to a halt. Russian Soyuz capsules as the only means to get humans into orbit - at least until commercial providers can deliver a series of new spacecraft to serve as taxis that NASA will pay to ferry astronauts aloft.

"I believe this budget and the vision it represents would end our human spaceflight program as we know it and would surrender at least for our lifetime our leadership in the air," said Senator David Vitter, a Republican who is joined by many members of both parties, particularly those with NASA centers in their districts. Critics in Congress decry a loss of US prestige, declining technological progress, the lack of a distinct inspirational goal and a fear that emerging powers like China and India will outpace the US. They also worry about loss of jobs in their districts, with an estimated 7,000 shuttle-related jobs to be lost in and near Kennedy Space Center alone.

But top space officials argue there was never enough money to get back to the moon under the existing plan, which NASA administrator Charlie Bolden called "living in a hallucination." Freed of the routine task of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA could refocus on new and as yet unspecified missions, he said. Obama's plan must still be approved by Congress, where the next- generation Constellation spacecraft program was popular, if underfunded. Members of Congress have expressed ire that they were not consulted, and many say the details of commercial spacecraft are too sketchy and potentially unsafe. (3/8)

Preserving Space Jobs Big Focus for Shelby (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby is concerned. As NASA's Constellation space exploration program hangs in the balance, Shelby told The Times editorial board on Sunday afternoon he's concerned about private companies getting into the business of space. He's worried that China and India will "fill the vacuum" if U.S. manned space flight goes away. But most of all, Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is troubled about the loss of jobs if Constellation is killed. "The jobs are important," Shelby said. "You lose the critical mass of scientists and engineers, it's hard to bring it back. We're going to do everything we can to retain this program....I believe some of us have fundamental disagreements on how the administration wants to go." (3/8)

Last Shuttle Trip to Space to Leave Leonardo Behind (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA plans to leave a parting gift to the International Space Station after the last shuttle mission docks with the floating lab - added storage space for science research. The Leonardo multipurpose logistics module - basically a huge, round storage tank - has been used to transport supplies, food and experiments to the station over the past decade. It will be modified to become a permanent part of the station. Marshall Space Flight Center oversaw the construction of Leonardo, which was performed at the Alenia Aerospazio factory in Turin, Italy. The Italian Space Agency provided Leonardo as its contribution to the space station program. (3/8)

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