April 29, 2010

Is New Mexico Stealing California’s Space Tourism Business? (Source: Examiner)
The rivalry started several years ago and it is escalating since then. While Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composite Corp. at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California surprised the world with their magnificent SpaceShip One – the State of California did not take any advantage of this technological breakthrough in order to keep the space tourism business in the state where jobs are so badly needed.

Stuart Witt, Mojave’s general manager, said in a local newspaper interview that New Mexico is “credited with stealing Virgin Galactic from Mojave”, but the State of California made it very clear that they welcome the business, but there will be “no incentives” to keep the actual space tourism operations in Mojave. The tremendous efforts by the California Space Authority, the Mojave Air and Space Port and the Scaled Composites were fruitless.

New Mexico, however, pledged three hundred million dollars to build a new spaceport in Las Cruces, which poses a direct competition to Mojave. “We are proud to be on the ground floor of the second space age”, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson states emphatically. After finding no business incentives in California, Virgin Galactic decided to accept New Mexico’s offer and started their space tourism business in Las Cruces. (4/29)

Arecibo Telescope Tracks 'Potentially Dangerous' Asteroid (Source: Newswise)
A near-Earth asteroid named 2005 YU55 – on the list of potentially dangerous asteroids – was observed with the Arecibo Telescope’s planetary radar on April 19, 2010 when it was about 1.5 million miles from the Earth, which is about 6 times the distance to the moon. (4/29)

Russia Aims to Follow U.S. Lead in Private Funding of Space Projects (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia wants to encourage private companies to invest in space exploration, the head of the country's space agency said on Thursday. "Manned space systems have become rather expensive and private investment should be attracted more actively, like it is in the U.S.," Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said.

He said Russia had not seen the expansion of private investment into space exploration witnessed in the Unites States because Russian companies were not willing to invest in projects due to the "lack of fast return on investment." Perminov said the design cycle for a new spacecraft takes at least three years and only after this time period the companies could receive revenues. Russia's government has increased national space expenditures by 40% over the past five years. Last year, Russia spent $2.8 billion on its space program. (4/29)

Space Adventures Teams with Armadillo (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Vienna-based Space Adventures Ltd., which has arranged space travel adventures to the International Space Station for millionaire customers through Russia’s space program, may soon be sending tourists into space with an American partner. Space Adventures says it has signed an exclusive marketing agreement with Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace LLC for commercial passenger space tours. Armadillo has been developing suborbital spaceflight vehicles for the past decade. (4/29)

A Second Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
A collection of space-related bills was approved by the Florida Legislature on Thursday. The STAR Act authorizes resources for projects to protect, expand and diversify the state's aerospace economy, and allows eligibility criteria to be waived for incentives aimed at mitigating the Shuttle's retirement. A Space and Aerospace Infrastructure Proviso gives Space Florida more flexibility for investing previously appropriated spaceport infrastructure funds. Another bill changes Space Florida's board structure. And another one will ease the passage of future space legislation by using cost-benefit analyses to influence appropriation decisions.

Two legislative resolutions were passed last week, including one aimed at keeping a retired Shuttle orbiter in Florida, and another urging Congress to support programs in Florida that will protect the space industry workforce. Appropriations bills with significant space-related funding will be considered on Friday. (4/29)

Australia, U.S. To Share Military UHF Satellite Capacity (Source: Space News)
U.S. and Australian defense forces will share narrowband satellite capacity in the Pacific and Indian ocean regions following an agreement signed April 28 and a decision by Australia to double the amount of military communications capacity it is buying from commercial satellite fleet operator Intelsat, defense officials from both countries said.

The bilateral agreement will give the Australian Defence Force (ADF) access to the U.S. Department of Defense’s future Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation of satellites to provide UHF-frequency links to deployed troops. ADF will use the U.S. capacity for Pacific Ocean Region coverage.

In return, U.S. forces will have access to the ADF’s 18-channel UHF payload to be launched on the Intelsat IS-22 satellite in early 2012. ADF had agreed to purchase eight of the 18 UHF channels in a contract with Intelsat signed in April 2009 that included a one-year option to buy the remaining capacity. IS-22 will be stationed at 72 degrees east longitude for Indian Ocean Region coverage. (4/29)

In JSC Rally, Bolden Offers No Workforce Transition Aid (Source: AIA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told demoralized workers at Johnson Space Center on Wednesday that scrapping the Constellation program will allow the space agency to focus on revolutionary new technologies to take astronauts far beyond low-earth orbit. While acknowledging that contractors would see layoffs, Bolden did not offer the kind of workforce transition programs announced by President Barack Obama during an earlier visit to Florida's Kennedy Space Center. (4/29)

NASA May Stretch out Mars Missions to Save Money (Source: Reuters)
NASA is considering a plan to get around limited budgets set in Washington by stretching out missions to bring back samples from Mars, a researcher said on Wednesday. It may be possible to break down the complicated and expensive mission into three parts, said Steve Squyres, a Cornell University astronomer who leads the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. "It makes the program more affordable because it strings out the cost over time," Squyres said. (4/29)

Celebrating U.S. Future in Space, Hopefully (Source: New York Times)
With rock music blaring, fifth graders count down from 10-9-8 to the rocket boosters’ firing up, and blasting the computer-generated astronauts toward space. “Hey, the future looks good, huh?” says Ken Larson, jumping to center stage at the new Exploration Space exhibition at KSC.

Mr. Larson’s job is to inspire the next generation as much as he was inspired — by his father, a reporter who befriended the first astronauts, and by his grandmother, one of the first 10 employees here at what one plaque calls “the hot burning center of American dreams.” The center is cooling, though.

Here at KSC, the celebration of the future now comes with asterisks. At the visitor’s center, for example, which draws 1.5 million people every year, caveats have been forced into an extravaganza built for maximum wow. Mr. Larson’s script, for instance, now includes this lawyerly line: “We can’t confirm exactly where humankind’s next steps in space are going to take us.” (4/29)

Demonstration Flight Shows Potential of ADS-B for NextGen (Source: AIA)
Flying between Atlantic City, N.J., and Philadelphia on Wednesday, reporters in the back of the plane were able to monitor dozens of nearby aircraft in real time -- while the pilots in the cockpit had to radio air traffic control for the same information. The FAA arranged the demonstration flight to show the benefits of satellite-based ADS-B technology. "For the first time, the pilots and the controllers will actually be able to see the same thing," said an FAA official on the flight.

Editor's Note: ADS-B is also viewed as a potential tool for space traffic management and situational awareness. Companies like MITRE and institutions like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are exploring ways that ADS-B units can be integrated onto rockets and suborbital space planes. (4/29)

New Mexico Space Grant Consortium gets $2 Million (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
NASA has awarded the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium $2 million for the "Summer of Innovation" initiative to boost summer learning in programs related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a news release. The NMSGC's "Launch & Learn" proposal was one of four chosen by NASA. The program will work with participating middle school teachers and students to design and build experiments for launch into suborbital space from Spaceport America. (4/29)

NASA to Aliens: Bring It On (Source: Medill Reports)
NASA doesn’t appear to be too worried about hostile aliens. “Within NASA’s programs, our approach to the solar system exploration has been that we’re prepared to make discoveries of any type of life, any form, and we’re prepared to make these measurements using the latest techniques in planetary protection,” Mary Voytek, a senior scientist in astrobiology at NASA’s headquarters in Washington told a press briefing Wednesday.

It doesn’t seem as though we’ll stop trying to contact other life forms anytime soon. “Earth has been broadcasting radio signals for decades now,” said Steve Squyres, a researcher from Cornell University. “That horse left the barn a long time ago. We’re going to keep broadcasting, and whether we do it intentionally or not, the signals are out there.” (4/29)

NASA Balloon Crashes, Flips Car in Australia (Source: NineMSN)
An out-of-control space balloon has crashed during take-off in Alice Springs, flipping over a car and causing millions of dollars worth of damage. The massive NASA-sponsored balloon, which was carrying very expensive scientific equipment, was struck by a gust of wind as it was being prepared for launch at 8am this morning.

The wind carried the balloon away from the launch area where it hit a spectator's car and collapsed. The scientific equipment being carried on board was worth millions of dollars, and it was almost all destroyed in the crash. "It's not only the money," Professor Sood said. "It's the countless hours of time of work put in by the people who worked on this project." (4/29)

Editorial: Private Sector Should Fund Space Missions (Source: CNJ Online)
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. If the federal government really wanted to help, it should take up the proposal by former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bob Walker to give a 25-year tax exemption to any company that maintained a base on the moon for 365 consecutive days. This reward would appeal to such large, high-tech companies as GE, Microsoft, Apple and Intel.

There would be no cost to taxpayers; and no government bureaucracy involved. “The tax break wouldn’t come into effect until the moon base was constructed,” Hudgins explained. “But think of all the revenue paid by the private infrastructure” that built the moon base.

We encourage New Mexico’s and Texas’ congressional delegation to look critically at the president’s impractical and expensive space boondoggles, especially at a time when the country is already $12.7 trillion in debt. But they should embrace Obama’s push toward privatization — then push it further. (4/29)

Quest for Life Beyond Earth 'in NASA Future Plans' (Source: AFP)
NASA is pondering 28 potential missions focusing on finding life beyond Earth inside our solar system. "Astrobiology and the search for life is really central to what we should be doing next in the exploration of the solar system," Steve Squyres, a researcher at Cornell University said. "We are looking for a total of 28 different missions.... They cover everything from Mercury landers to fly-by of objects in deep outer space of the solar system -- and they are particularly relevant to looking for life," he explained. (4/29)

San Diego Museum Plans Space Day Celebration on May 8 (Source: SDASM)
The San Diego Air & Space Museum will host its 7th Annual Space Day celebration! Space Day will feature demonstrations, giveaways, and hands-on activities with local and national space experts. Invited presenters include: NASA, Lockheed Martin, Deep Space Network, JPL, San Diego Space Society, SETI, San Diego Astronomy Association, Virgin Galactic, UCSD EarthKAM, The Planetary Society, InterPlanetary Ventures, The Astronaut Teacher Alliance, Team Synergy Moon and many others. Local astronaut Jim Newman, whose ambitious spacewalks from the space shuttle helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope, is planning to join us to share stories of his dynamic space career. Visit http://sandiegoairandspace.org/upcoming/spaceday2010.html

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