April 27, 2010

Marshall: Too Big to Fail? (Source: Hobby Space)
Senator Shelby from Alabama has railed against the bailout mentality that comes with "too big to fail" corporations. "We need to tighten that up to make sure that it doesn't happen," he says. "The message should be, unambiguously, that nothing's too big to fail. And if you fail, we're going to put you… put you to sleep." Now look at the performance of Marshall Space Flight Center in his home state, which features a stunning history of major space vehicle development programs that it failed to bring to fruition...largely due to its own program management missteps. Before Sen. Shelby starts claiming that the COTS teams are being bailed out for being late, which in fact doesn't cost NASA since the fixed-price payments are milestone dependent, he should explain why MSFC has long been too big too fail and been bailed out repeatedly at the cost of many tens of billions of dollars. Click here. (4/27)

Tallahassee: House Offers Less for Space in Jobs Bill (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Florida's House of Representatives is advancing a tweaked version of the jobs package that passed in the Senate last month, designed to help save space jobs and support other economic development. One of the bigger changes for the economically battered Space Coast is less money to deal with the imminent end of the shuttle program this year. The House amended its version onto the broader Senate bill Tuesday as lawmakers inch closer to Friday’s scheduled adjournment.

The House package adds up to $49.8 million in spending and tax breaks in 2010-11, $16.2 million of which is money that would go to Space Florida for launchpad work, worker re-training, and commercial space business recruitment. The Senate version had included a $35 million appropriation for space and research-commercialization grants. Editor's Note: This is one of multiple space bills moving through the legislative process in Tallahassee. Some of the other bills provide funding too. (4/27)

Japan to Launch 'Space Yacht' Propelled by Solar Wind (Source: Space Daily)
Japan is to launch a "space yacht" propelled by solar particles that bounce off its kite-shaped sails. A rocket carrying the Ikaros -- an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun -- will blast off from the Tanegashima spaceport on May 18. The flexible sails, which are thinner than a human hair, are also equipped with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity to create "a hybrid technology of electricity and pressure". (4/27)

Lost and Found: Soviet Lunar Rover (Source: Discovery)
In November 1970, a Soviet probe landed on the surface of the moon and released two ramps. A rover, named Lunokhod 1, descended to the surface to take pictures and conduct experiments. It carried with it a French-made light reflector, which could be used by scientists on Earth to compute distances and better understand lunar geology. Ten months later, Lunokhod 1 fell silent, its location on the moon unknown. Over the years, scientists occasionally beamed a laser around its last known coordinates, hoping for a return beam from the reflector. They got no response and figured the rover had fallen into a crater or parked itself beneath a cliff, blocking its reflector from Earth.

But their luck changed last weekend when, armed with high-resolution pictures from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists zeroed in on the rover. “It turns out that our previous best-guess position was miles off,” says Tom Murphy, with the University of California, San Diego. Using a 3.5 meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, Murphy and his team sent pulses of laser light toward the newly found rover and found the retroreflector in excellent condition. (4/27)

Virginia Spends $12M-$14M to Lure Northrop (Source: AP)
Virginia used an incentive package worth $12 million to $14 million to help it beat Maryland and the District of Columbia to land the corporate headquarters of defense giant Northrop Grumman Corp., Gov. Bob McDonnell said. McDonnell considers the money well spent. He said the relocation of the defense contractor from Los Angeles will result in $30 million in new tax revenue over the next 10 years. He said the incentive package was less than what was offered by the D.C. government, which had been reported to be as much as $25 million. (4/27)

Chile Wins Battle to Host Mega-Telescope (Source: Science)
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) officially announced that its next mammoth optical telescope, the 42-meter-wide European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), will be built on Cerro Armazones, a mountain in northern Chile. That decision had been expected after ESO's site selection committee declared in March that Armazones was its favored location—all of ESO's existing telescopes have been built in Chile. But the announcement will disappoint many in Spain, who had been campaigning hard to have the telescope built on the Spanish island of La Palma. (4/27)

ORS Could Foster International Partnerships (Source: Aviation Week)
Executives at Alliant Techsystems (ATK) are eyeing the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program as a possible “flagship” to foster international partnerships on military space efforts. The forthcoming Space Posture Review is expected to push the idea of more collaboration with allies on space matters, both as a potential cost-saving position and to foster technology and data sharing. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said international collaboration could dissuade a potential adversary from attacking space platforms. “The wide reliance on GPS acts as a deterrent against attack on the constellation of GPS satellites,” Lynn said, using GPS as an example of a worldwide resource. “An attack on a U.S. GPS satellite today is in effect an attack on all countries who use it.” (4/27)

Russian Military Satellite Successfully Launched (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Kosmos 3M rocket launched from northern Russia overnight to place a military navigation satellite in orbit more than 600 miles above Earth. The two-stage launcher lifted off Tuesday from pad 132 at the Plesetsk spaceport. U.S. tracking data shows the satellite was released in a nearly circular orbit more than 600 miles high with an inclination of about 83 degrees. The spacecraft was named Kosmos 2463 under the Russian military's naming system for defense satellites. Russian officials did not disclose any more details on the satellite's mission. (4/27)

Earth Microbes May Contaminate the Search for Life on Mars (Source: ASM)
Bacteria common to spacecraft may be able to survive the harsh environs of Mars long enough to inadvertently contaminate Mars with terrestrial life according to research published in the April 2010 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The search for life on Mars remains a stated goal of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and Astrobiology Institutes. To preserve the pristine environments, the bioloads on spacecraft headed to Mars are subject to sterilization designed to prevent the contamination of the Martian surface. Despite sterilization efforts made to reduce the bioload on spacecraft, recent studies have shown that diverse microbial communities remain at the time of launch. The sterile nature of spacecraft assembly facilities ensures that only the most resilient species survive, including acinetobacter, bacillus, escherichia, staphylococcus and streptococcus. (4/27)

Ohio Lawmakers Push for Shuttle Orbiter (Source: Florida Today)
Competition is heating up between states angling for one of the space shuttles after the fleet's retirement later this year. The Ohio Congressional Delegation sent a letter to NASA this week reiterating its call for one of the three shuttles to be displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "The U.S. Air Force played a significant role in developing the nation's space program," Congressman Michael Turner said. "Retiring a space shuttle orbiter at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just miles away from the historic home of Orville and Wilbur Wright, will strengthen the aerospace heritage of the region." (4/27)

NASA Ames Director Receives Arthur C. Clarke Award (Source: NASA)
The director of NASA's Ames Research Center, S. Pete Worden, was recognized by The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation for his leadership in space exploration. Worden has written or co-written more than 150 scientific technical papers in astrophysics, space sciences and strategic studies. He also served as a scientific co-investigator for two NASA space science missions. Before becoming Ames center director, he was a research professor of astronomy, optical sciences and planetary sciences at the University of Arizona. His primary research was on the development of large space optics for national security and scientific purposes, and near-Earth asteroids. (4/27)

Northrop Grumman to Move Headquarters to Northern Virginia (Source: AIA)
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. says it will move its headquarters from Los Angeles to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., to be closer to its customers in the government. The company announced its plans to move across the country by 2011 in January, and, while it was also considering sites in Maryland, Northrop settled on Virginia, with the site expected to be either in western Fairfax County, near Washington Dulles International Airport, or the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va. (4/27)

Loss of Contact with Hypersonic Glider Investigated (Source: AIA)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Lockheed Martin say they have launched an investigation into what caused the loss of contact with the first HTV-2 test vehicle about nine minutes into its mission. The mission, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on April 22, was designed to demonstrate the umanned HTV-2's technology for high-performance, long-endurance hypersonic flight, but telemetry signals from the hypersonic glider were believed to be lost somewhere between reentry into the atmosphere and starting its hypersonic glide. (4/27)

NASA Conducts SubScale Flight Tests for X-48B Blended Wing/Body Aircraft (Source: Popular Science)
A NASA/Boeing team has completed the first phase of flight tests on the unique X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft. Flights of the subscale model were conducted at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in March 2010. Boeing Phantom Works' unique X-48B technology demonstrator features unusual engine placement and super-critical airfoil. Click here to see some photos. (4/27)

New Mexico: Launching a New Reality as We Head Into Space (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
On Tuesday, May 4, the second annual New Mexico Space Grant Student Launch will be held at Spaceport America. On Thursday, May 6, the Orion Pad Abort Test will be conducted at White Sands Missile Range. The SL4 rocket built for the student launch is a sounding rocket, technology that has been around since the 1950s and is used to conduct experiments in the atmosphere. The technology used in the Pad Abort Test is a technical leap into the future. It is technology designed to assure the safety of human spaceflight. Both are commitments to assuring the next generation of manned spaceflight. (4/27)

Editorial: Space: The Free-Market Frontier (Source: OC Register)
America's future in space is entrepreneurial. President Barack Obama partly has recognized that reality in his recent speeches and policy changes on NASA and American space policy. "I give Obama mixed reviews on his space policy," Ed Hudgins told us. He's director of advocacy and a senior scholar at the Atlas Institute, and author of "Space: The Free Market Frontier." There were positive elements, he said, including "cancelling the Constellation," a proposed new mission to the moon. And the president is encouraging "the private sector for low-Earth-orbit missions."

Mr. Hudgins said that only the private sector can make prices for a product or service go down as quality goes up, such as with computers, TV sets and the global airline industry. The same is true for making space flights more common for commercial or tourist missions. He pointed to such ongoing private space efforts as those by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk's SpaceX in Hawthorne and Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace.

On the negative side is Mr. Obama's vision for NASA, which is struggling for new missions as the Space Shuttle program is retired this year. He talked about a mission to Mars occurring in his lifetime. "I expect to be around to see it," the president said in an April 15 speech at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Given that the president is 48 and could live another 40 years or so, that's not all that ambitious. He also called for landing an astronaut on an asteroid within 15 years. (4/27)

Subcommittee Investigates the Shrinking Global Supply of Helium-3 (Source: U.S. House of Reps.)
The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing to investigate the causes and consequences of the shrinking supply of the important helium-3 isotope. Helium-3 is a non-radioactive gas that is a by-product of the Department of Energy (DOE)’s production of tritium for nuclear weapons. It also is an essential component of neutron detectors used in a wide range of applications from radiation portal monitors at the nation’s ports and border crossings to medical imagining, low-temperature physics, oil and gas exploration, missile technology and neutron backscattering facilities.

Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons production worldwide –- and the resulting manufacture of helium-3 –- has decreased. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been an increase in the demand from DOE, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Defense (DOD) for radiation detection devices which rely on helium-3. As a result, there is now a critical shortage in the global supply of helium-3. (4/27)

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