March 12, 2010

Starfighters Plans KSC Flight This Week (Source: SPACErePORT)
Starfighters Aerospace will conduct research/training flights aboard their F-104 jet aircraft on Monday and Tuesday from the Space Shuttle Landing Facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Starfighters is the only FAA-approved provider of such services to commercial customers, and they have provided recent flights for suborbital spaceflight trainees. Click here for more on Starfighters. (3/12)

United Launch Services Wins Air Force Contract for EELV (Source: DOD)
Colorado-based United Launch Services has been awarded a $6,502,811 Air Force contract which will provide new capabilities, tools, or resources required to increase the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch rate (with launch sites in Florida and California). (3/10)

Loral Reports 2009 Year End Financial Results (Source: Loral)
Loral has reported revenues and net income were $993 million and $232 million in 2009, compared to revenues and net loss of $869 million and $(693) million in 2008. Reported revenues and net income were $260 million and $60 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to revenues and net loss of $230 million and $(629) million for the fourth quarter of 2008. (3/12)

European Officials Poised To Remove Chinese Payloads From Galileo Sats (Source: Space News)
The European Commission appears set to order the builders of the initial four Galileo navigation satellites, now in final assembly, to remove their Chinese-built search-and-rescue payloads as part of an evolving security and technology-independence policy, European government and industry officials said. Similar motivations will prevent the builders of the full 30-satellite Galileo constellation from purchasing search-and-rescue terminals from Canada’s Com Dev despite Canada’s status as an associate member of the 18-nation European Space Agency and Com Dev’s acknowledged expertise in the technology. (3/12)

Microcosm Designing Low-Cost Imagery Satellite, Working on Launch Vehicle (Source: Space News)
Spacecraft engineering firm Microcosm Inc. for the past year has been designing an imaging satellite for the U.S. Army that it says could eventually be bulk bought for about $1 million a copy. An executive with the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company said Microcosm engineers recently came up with an idea for a new small-satellite launch vehicle they hope the Air Force will help develop.

The Army Space and Missile Defense Command in April 2009 awarded Microcosm a $70,000 contract to do initial design work on a satellite called NanoEye, Richard Van Allen, vice president of the company’s space systems division, said. Last month, the company was awarded a $50,000 follow-on contract that will culminate with a preliminary design review. Microcosm estimates it would need an additional $1 million and 18 months to build and test the demonstration satellite, Van Allen said. (3/12)

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) -- 25 Years and Counting (Source: USA Today)
This year marks a double anniversary in the search for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It was 25 years ago last month that the SETI Institute began its work to see if we are alone in the universe or one among many intelligences populating the stars. But the search goes back further still. It's been 50 years since Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake began Project Ozma. That ground-breaking work, using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia, was the first to begin searching the skies radio signals that might indicate life in other solar systems. (3/12)

Sea Launch Preparing for Bankruptcy Exit (Source: Space News)
Sea Launch Co. is in advanced negotiations with two potential strategic investors and expects to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings by midyear and to return to operations in 2011, Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said. Karlsen declined to name one of the investors. The other is Space Launch Services, created by Excalibur Almaz, a company founded to launch astronauts into orbit to stay at a space station based on existing Russian hardware. The company also has been looking at making the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit launch system capable of launching astronauts. Sea Launch uses the Zenit rocket to launch satellites. (3/12)

Sea Launch Considers Relocation to Open Access to U.S. Govt. Missions (Source: Space News)
One option being considered by Sea Launch is to relocate its ocean-launch platform closer to U.S. territory. A launch from U.S. territorial waters would have the dual advantage of reducing the time and expense of positioning the floating launch platform in the Pacific Ocean on the equator, and increasing the possibility that Sea Launch could qualify as a U.S. launch system and thereby compete for U.S. civil government launch contracts.

A Sea Launch operation freed from its debt service could be operated for about $50 million per year. The biggest cost is the Sea Launch Commander control ship, which accompanies the Odyssey launch platform to and from the launch site. Sea Launch lost money every year since its first flight in 1999 and accumulated some $1.4 billion in losses before filing for bankruptcy protection. A Chapter 7 liquidation of Sea Launch’s assets would fetch between $100 million and $130 million.

Editor's Note: To launch equatorial-orbiting payloads from within U.S. territorial waters, Sea Launch may require an Atlantic Ocean site and an East Coast base of operations. As I've said here before, Sea Launch could eliminate its highest-recurring-cost infrastructure (and benefit from Florida incentive investments) by relocating onto Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (3/12)

Longer Marches (Source: Aviation Week)
The Chinese space industry is studying a Moon rocket in the class of the Saturn V while separately moving ahead with a medium-heavy launcher that will complete a modern, modular family of launch vehicles. Chinese space engineers appear to be planning to assemble manned lunar spacecraft in orbit with two or more launches per mission. The medium-heavy launch vehicle, previously foreshadowed as a relative of the new Long March 5 heavy launcher, is being developed under the name Long March 7. Long March 5 and 7 and the lighter Long March 6 will form a family of rockets, says the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. (3/12)

EADS-Astrium's Space Tourism Business-Jet (Source: Aviation Week)
EADS-Astrium's space tourism business-jet is being designed to carry four passengers 100 km up into space, giving them more than three minutes of weightlessness, the astrium space jet takes off from a standard airport using its jet engines. However, once the craft is airborne at an altitude of about 12 km, the rocket engines will be ignited to give sufficient acceleration to reach 100 km. In only 80 seconds the craft will have climbed to 60 km altitude. The seats balance themselves to minimize the effects of acceleration and deceleration, ensuring the greatest passenger comfort and safety. (3/12)

Boeing To Modify F-16s To Be Targets at Cecil Field Spaceport (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing has won the U.S. competition to convert surplus Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters into drones to replace the QF-4s now used as full-scale aerial targets for weapon-system testing. The company has received a $69.7 million contract for the first phase of the QF-16 program, covering engineering, manufacturing and development. Most of that will occur in St. Louis, while flight testing and production will occur at Boeing’s plant in Cecil Field, Florida. Editor's Note: The F-4 target drones operate regularly over the Gulf of Mexico, remotely flown from their home base at Tyndall Air Force Base in Northwest Florida. I imagine many of the F-16 drones will also fly from Tyndall. (3/12)

KSC Awards Civil Design, Engineering and Services Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Jones Edmunds & Associates of Gainesville, Fla., to provide civil and environmental design, engineering and other professional services. Services will be provided at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and overseas emergency space shuttle landing sites. The work will rehabilitate, modernize or provide new facilities and systems at these locations. The IDIQ contract has a maximum value of $25 million. (3/12)

Multi-Year Gap Expected With Additional Shuttle Missions (Source: Space Politics)
David Radzanowski, NASA's deputy associate administrator for program integration in the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), discussed shuttle extension during a panel session last week. He acknowledged that many believe that flying the shuttle beyond the remaining four missions is not wise. “Our own Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has essentially said that they don’t support extending the shuttle beyond its current manifest. Essentially they said that the point to make the decision to extend the shuttle has passed.”

“If we’re directed to do so, and if the money actually shows up, and if we bring the workforce and the suppliers onboard that we need to move forward, there would still be a two- to three-year gap between the last flight and the new additional flights,” he concluded. “That’s just the way it is, folks, that’s the way it is because it takes us that long to build an external tank.” (3/12)

Editorial: Congress Should Fund Shuttle Extension (Source: Houston Chronicle)
We agree with Sen. Hutchison that the nation should not be forced into a false choice between maintaining the shuttle or developing other programs while relying on the Russians or Chinese for access to space. We can -- and must -- do both, and additional short-term funding for the shuttle is the best route to preserving our independent launch capabilities while building a robust manned space program for the future. (3/12)

Navy Considers Backup Plans After Another MUOS Delay (Source:
The U.S. Navy says it will not start launching its next-generation MUOS communications satellites until September 2011. As a result, military space officials are racing to develop several options to diminish a pending gap in critical tactical mobile communications. The Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS, satellites will replace an aging mix of obsolete military satellites. (3/12)

Space Florida Secures Licenses for Launch Complexes 46 and 36 (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has secured Air Force Real Property Licenses for Space Launch Complexes 46 and 36 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. As a result, the 45th Space Wing now grants Space Florida full rights to proceed with construction and refurbishment work at either launch location.

These licenses are in line with the 45th Space Wing’s mission, assuring access to the higher frontier. “This will help us better execute that mission. It’s a win-win-win for the Air Force, the state of Florida, and the nation,” said Col. Ed Wilson, 45th Space Wing Commander. (3/12)

New Suborbital Spaceships Spark Scientific Frenzy (Source:
Anticipation is on the rise for a new crop of commercial suborbital spaceships that can serve the scientific and educational market. These reusable rocket-propelled vessels are expected to offer quick, routine and affordable access to the edge of space, along with the capability to carry research and educational crew members.

There are a number of "cash and carry" suborbital craft under development by such groups as: Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, as well as XCOR Aerospace. The Vehicle builders still face rigorous shake-out schedules, flight safety hurdles, as well as extensive trial-runs of their respective craft before suborbital space jaunts become commonplace. (3/12)

Utah: Save Constellation by Slowing It (Source: Deseret News)
Instead of following President Barack Obama's proposal to cancel a new-generation rocket and space exploration program, a bipartisan group of House members is asking NASA merely to slow its development. A group that includes Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked NASA to assemble a team of experts to figure how it could continue development of the Constellation program by using only the money that Obama proposed in his 2011 budget. (3/12)

Russian and Japanese Space Chiefs Discuss Mission to Mercury (Source: Itar-Tass)
The chiefs of the Russian and Japanese space agencies have discussed details of the project for a mission to Mercury to be implemented with the European Union's participation. (3/12)

AMS Payload Problem May Delay Shuttle's Last Flight (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Possible problems with a $2 billion physics experiment could delay the space shuttle's final flight and further complicate White House plans to retire the orbiter fleet this year. At issue is a van-sized device called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer that scientists hope will tell them more about the universe and its beginnings. The AMS is scheduled to fly aboard Endeavour in July to be installed on the Space Station, but a potential design flaw has forced NASA officials to consider postponing the mission.

The trouble lies with the experiment's magnets, designed to work within a few degrees of absolute zero. The magnets are designed to bend interstellar particles as they flow through the tube-shaped device; scientists will be able to identify the electronic charge of the particles by how they curve. But engineers are worried that heat from the sun's rays and from the station itself could warm the magnets, which could make them malfunction or shorten the experiment's three-year life span. (3/12)

New Export Promotion Cabinet Could Boost Space Business (Source: New York Times)
President Obama on Thursday announced a broad effort to promote American goods overseas, hoping to bolster competitiveness abroad and create jobs in the United States. But trade specialists questioned whether the plan had the potential to double exports in five years and create two million jobs — the president’s goal — saying the major challenge would be to overcome stiff trade barriers and create new markets. Editor's Note: This initiative was discussed at a recent spaceflight group and was considered a positive development for the U.S. space industry. (3/12)

ZERO-G Announces "Weightless Lab" Research Program (Source: ZERO-G)
The ZERO-G Weightless Lab provides an affordable first step for space-based scientific research projects. It is a specially designed two-day program that provides commercial access to Martian, Lunar, zero and hyper gravity environments for scientific research. The program is open to academic, corporate and government agency applicants. It offers clients the availability to charter a section of the ZERO-G plane rather than the entire plane, for the two-day program. A July 22-23 flight is planned in Florida. Click here for information. (3/11)

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