April 11, 2010

Rocketplane Global 2013 Flights from Jacksonville (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rocketplane Global expects to begin flying space tourists on suborbital rides out of Cecil Field in Jacksonville by 2013. Rocketplane has signed a letter of intent with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to become the first commercial space operator to use the former Naval air base turned spaceport. Rocketplane's Chuck Lauer said that that Rocketplane would fund development of its six-person spaceplane as part of a $300 million project that would also create a Spaceport Visitor’s Center at the Jacksonville site. The center would include full motion 3D/HD suborbital flight simulators that would allow visitors to experience a 4-minute version of the 45-minute spaceflight that well-heeled passengers will fly aboard Rocketplane’s suborbital vehicle. (4/11)

Flyback Booster Program Plans Near-Term Tests, Contracts (Source: Aviation Week)
A series of demonstrators is being planned by the Air Force to mature technology for a Reusable Booster System (RBS), its chosen replacement for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) family beyond 2025. The first of the demonstrators, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s RBS Pathfinder, is planned to fly in 2013 to evaluate the “rocket-back” maneuver that would enable the unmanned first-stage booster to return to a runway landing at the launch site.

The plan calls for development of two versions of the RBS: one with a single reusable first stage and cryogenic upper stage for medium-lift missions; and one with two reusable boosters, cryogenic core stage and upper stage for heavy-lift and growth missions. Initial operational capability is planned for 2025, with the EELV to be phased out in 2030. The RBS is expected to reduce launch costs by at least 50% at a nominal flight rate of eight a year, he says. Engines would be used for 10 flights before replacement and the reusable airframe for 100 fights.

The concept's rocket-powered return maneuver requires extremely high combinations of angle-of-attack and sideslip. An inability to do tests in wind tunnels has led to the need to build a subscale flight demonstrator. The Pathfinder would be at least 15 ft. long, launched on a sounding rocket or from an aircraft on three test flights to demonstrate different rocket-back maneuvers. Up to three $1.5 million studies will be awarded, with one team to be selected for a $28.5 million contract to build the Pathfinder.

New Engine Technologies and Large-Scale Prototype Would Follow Initial Flyback Tests (Source: Aviation Week)
The RBX, a “moderately large-scale” (50-60 ft.) demonstrator “highly representative” of the operational reusable booster system, is planned to follow the "Pathfinder" reusable booster tests in 2016-17, to raise the technology readiness level and enable a decision to begin an RBS acquisition program.

Both Pathfinder and RBX will use existing rocket engines while a parallel program, Hydrocarbon Boost, develops and demonstrates technology for a liquid-oxygen/kerosene engine to power the operational RBS. NASA and the Air Force have begun talks on jointly developing a large hydrocarbon rocket engine. The RBS is expected to reduce launch costs by at least 50% at a nominal flight rate of eight a year, he says. Engines would be used for 10 flights before replacement and the reusable airframe for 100 fights.

Editor's Note: AFRL has been in discussions with NASA and Air Force officials about supporting this program at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (4/11)

Lugo: NASA Glenn Would Stabilize, Expand Under Obama Budget Proposal (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
NASA Glenn Research Center would take greater control of its future and potentially attract more business under new tasks proposed by President Barack Obama, the center's acting director said Friday. The center would take the lead on two programs projected to cost $2.1 billion over the next five years, Ray Lugo said. The new tasks "play on our strengths and reflect a level of confidence in NASA Glenn's ability to perform," said Lugo, who oversees a 3,400-person work force of civil servants and contractors. (4/11)

Marshall Gets Four New Program Offices, Will Lead $3.1 Billion Heavy-Lift Effort (Source: Huntsville Times)
Marshall Space Flight Center will get four new program offices in a NASA reorganization. Marshall will oversee: a new program office to develop next generation engines and propulsion technologies; an Exploration Precursor Robotic Program; a Space Technology Demonstrations office; and the Centennial Challenges Program: New Program Office to manage $10 million in FY 2011 and $50 million over five years for this innovative prize program. (4/11)

Germany Triumphs in NASA's 'Great Moonbuggy Race' (Source: The Local)
"Team Germany" from Leipzig has won the NASA "Great Moonbuggy Race," where students design, build and race vehicles that tackle challenges faced by engineers of the lunar rover. The four-person German team won first prize in the high-school division after a decisive race in Huntsville.

A team from the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao won the first prize in the university division. The teams beat out more than 70 other groups from 18 US states and Puerto Rico as well as from Canada, India and Romania. "The Great Moonbuggy Race" recalls the challenges that engineers faced in the late 1960s, when they were designing the original Apollo-era lunar rover, which explored the surface of the moon in the early 1970s. (4/11)

Kosmas, Posey Agree on Shuttle Extension at Forum (Source: Florida Today)
The two members of Congress who represent Florida's space industry may be from opposing political parties, but they agree on one thing: To keep Brevard County's economy afloat and to maintain supremacy in space, the shuttle must continue to fly until a replacement is found. But they disagreed over whether President Barack Obama and Congress would ultimately provide a blueprint for saving the 8,000 Brevard jobs expected to disappear when the shuttle program ends.

"I am still hopeful that we will see some good news," Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, told an audience of about 100 people at a FLORIDA TODAY-sponsored space forum at Brevard Community College's Cocoa campus on Friday, referring to Obama's planned visit to Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. (4/11)

Thousands Rally in Central Florida To Save Space Jobs (Source: CFNews 13)
Sunday was a big day in Brevard County for those who work in the space program. Representatives from Washington, Tallahassee and the Space Coast community joined thousands of Central Floridians for a Save Space Rally. Leaders from Brevard County churches, businesses, unions and nonprofit organizations are expected to join the rally, which comes as the Space Coast’s two congressional representatives promised to pressure President Barack Obama to hold up his campaign promise to not give up on space exploration. “We here on the Space Coast need to know what our mission is -- know what it is we’re trying to accomplish, know what the vehicle is, the destination is, and what our job potential is going to be,” Kosmas said. (4/11)

Obama's Plan to Commercialize Space Travel Expected to Dominate Space Symposium (Source: Denver Post)
The National Space Symposium — the premier gathering of the international space community — always draws a crowd. But this year, the event is taking on a heightened importance as industry leaders look for clarity on President Barack Obama's proposed NASA budget. A record 8,000 people are expected to attend the annual event this week in Colorado Springs.

Scheduled from Monday through Thursday at the Broadmoor hotel, the registration-only symposium features panels, workshops, networking and back-room dealings. Aerospace companies will pack the exhibit hall. Major players in governmental, military and civilian space sectors are slated to speak. Hot topics are cybersecurity and the cultivation of a new generation of space leaders. Editor's Note: Government (local and state), industry and university representatives from Florida are attending the event. (4/11)

Editorial: Dawn of the Commercial Space Age (Source: Roanoke Times)
Monday will mark the 49th anniversary of the first human to orbit Earth in space. That man's name was Yuri Garagin. Today, he serves as an international symbol of the human quest. He is feted annually with Cosmonaut's Day and Yuri's Night globally. Since that day in 1961, more than 500 human beings have trained and escaped the upper atmosphere, crossing the so-called Karman Line to outer space. Men and women of numerous nationalities have been to space on vehicles built by Russian, American and Chinese governments. Hundreds more are destined to do likewise.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will articulate a new national space policy, and chart a new course for NASA. The president's remarks on space policy will not be easy, indeed they will be hard for many. At the conclusion of 2010, no American-made spacecraft will be available to lift our astronauts from Earth for years. And we may bear witness to Chinese walking on the moon in the next 10 years.

Instead, this president will be making a significant bet on American private enterprise and ingenuity to return Americans to low Earth orbit and enable NASA astronauts and private citizens to go beyond. And, it will come from companies like Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., California-based SpaceX and others. Americans will reach for the stars from Cape Canaveral and a little-known place called Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore, beginning as soon as 2016. (4/11)

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