April 7, 2010

Air Force Wants Reusable Rocket Ships (Source: Network World)
The Air Force today said it would launch a program that would bring it reusable rockets that could carry military payloads into space and return to Earth. Known as the Reusable Booster System (RBS) Pathfinder, the spacecraft would consist of an autonomous, reusable, rocket-powered first stage with an expendable upper stage. The reusable first stage would launch vertically and carry the expendable ship to a particular point in orbit. The reusable portion would return to the launch base, landing aircraft-style on a runway, the Air Force stated.

One of the most direct ways for the return flight to take place is known as a rocket-back maneuver where upon delivery of its payload, the rocket would immediately swing around or reverse direction and use its main engine to fly directly back to the launch site, the Air Force stated. The return to launch site maneuver is completed with an unpowered reentry and gliding flight and landing. The Air Force said the Pathfinder also has a number of other requirements, including: low-manpower requirements; the use of Liquid Oxygen and Kerosene as main propellants; and reusable, highly reliable systems with extensive use of Integrated System Health Management to ensure system operations. (4/7)

Boeing Hands Over GOES-P Satellite For Final Testing (Source: Space Daily)
Boeing has announced that it transferred control of the third Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-P) to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on March 24 to begin on-orbit verification testing. GOES-P - which was officially renamed GOES-15 after reaching geosynchronous orbit - will serve as an on-orbit spare to the current GOES constellation and support enhanced Earth observation and weather monitoring for more than 50 percent of the planet, including the continental United States. (4/7)

San Diego Team Delivers Camera For Next Mars Rover (Source: Spce Daily)
Malin Space Science Systems has delivered the two cameras for the Mast Camera instrument that will be the science-imaging workhorse of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, to be launched next year. The instrument, called Mastcam, has been tested and is ready for installation onto the rover, named Curiosity, which is being built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (4/7)

India to Launch Five Satellites in May (Source: Live Mint)
India’s space agency will launch in May five satellites, including an 120-kg remote sensing satellite from Algeria, on a single rocket. The polar satellite launch vehicle or PSLV will carry a homegrown remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2B, which can snap images of less than a meter, three educational satellites—two from Canada and one built by engineering college students in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. (4/7)

Doing a 180 - AFRL's Rocket-Back Pathfinder (Source: Aviation Week)
Forget the personal jetpacks, the thing we've waited longest for is a military spaceplane. The US Air Force is finally getting round to testing the reusable, maneuverable orbital vehicle part, in the shape of the Boeing X-37B. But what about the commensurate quick-turnaround launch vehice? Well the Air Force Research Laboratory has just released a pre-solicitation notice for its Reusable Booster System (RBS) Pathfinder program. This is to be a subscale demonstrator for a reusable booster that would launch vertically, release an expendable upper-stage stack, and return to a horizontal landing on a runway at the launch site. The full-size RBS is envisioned as replacing Atlas and Delta EELVs some time after 2035.

The Air Force has been studying reusable boosters for a long time and has looked at first stages that glide back to base or fly back under jet or rocket power. AFRL has decided that the most promising concept for RBS is "rocket-back" - carry extra propellant and use the main rocket engines to reverse the unmanned booster's velocity then glide back to a horizontal landing. The Pathfinder program is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of the rocket-back maneuver. Compared with "jet-back", studies show rocket-back offers lower weight, cost and airframe heating, and a simpler design that can meet the RBS turn-around requirement of 48 hours.

The approach requires the vehicle to fly at significantly higher angles of attack as it pitches over to reverse its flightpath. Pathfinder is envisaged as a four-phase, 48-month, $33 million program. Up to three companies would be awarded Phase 1 study contracts totaling $4.5 million, after which one team would be selected to design the demonstrator and conduct first a propulsion-system ground test then at least two booster flights followed by three or more rocket-back tests. (4/7)

Questions Raised About Spaceport Firm's New Mexico Ties (Source: New York Times)
Summit West, the company that won a $32.5 million contract for construction at Spaceport America received credit for being a New Mexico business, but questions have come up over how much of a presence the firm maintains. Summit West appears to have two offices, and the one in Albuquerque contained nothing but an unplugged telephone this week. The company lists its corporate headquarters in Phoenix. Its Web site says it has completed only one project in New Mexico and has another in progress.

Summit West won the $32.5 million contract to build Spaceport America's terminal-hangar facility, aided by an in-state preference credit. In a November news release announcing the contract, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority called "Summit West of Albuquerque, New Mexico," a company with "a strong history of construction in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest." When visited by news media, the New Mexico office door was closed, lights were off, blinds were drawn, and a building receptionist told the newspaper no one was there. Building owner Charles Walker said Summit West has been renting space for less than a year. He said he's never seen anyone inside the offices.

Toni Balzano, deputy cabinet secretary for the Economic Development Department, suggested Summit West moved its offices to trailers at Spaceport America after getting the contract and eventually will return to Albuquerque. She said Summit West was "given in-state preference" by the state Purchasing Office during the contract bid process -- a 5 percent credit for state companies to make them competitive with outside bidders. (4/7)

Japan Astronaut Gets Designer Space Clothes (Source: France24)
The latest creation by Japanese fashion designer Tae Ashida is truly out of this world -- an outfit twinning a blue cardigan and shorts made for astronaut Naoko Yamazaki. The US space shuttle Discovery blasted off on Monday with Yamazaki and two other female crew on board, bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on a historic mission that put more women in orbit than ever before. Ahead of her departure, Yamazaki, 39, asked Ashida, daughter of fashion guru Jun Ashida, to design her work clothes for the 13-day space mission and she came up with a slim knit cardigan in light blue with navy blue shorts. (4/7)

10 Space Jobs From the Near Future (Source: WIRED)
So what will a job market for the aspiring space junkie look like in 20 to 30 years? For a long time, the single goal for kids that were obsessed with spaceflight was to become an astronaut. Now, it looks like that job title will have some competition. Here are 10 non-scientist jobs I believe youngsters should start to prepare for. Click here to view the article. (4/7)

First fully Indian Made GSLV Launch Planned for April 15 (Source: The Hindu)
Almost 18 years into development, the first fully Indian-made GSLV satellite launcher with the critical indigenous cryogenic upper stage stands ready at its launch pad and will be flown on April 15 from the Sriharikota spaceport. Codenamed GSLV-D3, the three-stage rocket will put in orbit the 2.2-tonne advanced communication and navigation satellite, the GSAT-4. So far since 2001, five GSLV launches have taken off, with one failure. “This mission is more important than other launchers because we are testing the indigenous cryogenic stage in flight. This is a complex technology that uses liquid propellants,” Dr Radhakrishnan told a news conference. ISRO will henceforth use its own cryo upper stage in the GSLV. Over the last decade, it has used the heavy-lift higher-orbit launcher supplied by Russia in the seven upper stages. (4/7)

India: China's Anti-Satellite Program a Threat to Global Space Assets (Source: PTI)
India today slammed China's anti-Satellite (ASAT) program, terming it a threat to global space assets. In 2007, Beijing successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) vehicle, destroying an inactive weather satellite. "The threat is not only for us, but for the entire world because it (China's 2007 test) has created space debris". One can only try to avoid debris hitting satellites, he said, adding there is a talk of "scavenging" of debris from orbit. But this concept needs to evolve and "one has to see how one is going to do that," he added. (4/7)

US Scientist Who Tried to Spy for Israel: I Won’t End Up Like Pollard (Source: y net)
Former NASA scientist Dr. Stewart Nozette, who was charged with trying to pass classified information to a man he thought was an Israeli Intelligence officer, told an undercover FBI agent that he does not want to "end up like Pollard." Nozette, 53, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is facing a new charge of attempted espionage. According to a Fox report, the US Attorney's Office in the District has filed a superseding indictment claiming he tried to pass classified information about the Navy to a man he thought was an Israeli Intelligence officer. Nozette thought he was being recruited by the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. (4/7)

Rep. Kosmas Remarks on NASA's Future (Source: WOFL)
Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna, said she is eagerly awaiting the president's visit, but said she is not totally on board with the president's vision for NASA. “I'm certainly hoping he will come and bring some good news and that there will be some movement on his part. As you know, he introduced in his budget a sort of outline or plan that frankly, we have found unacceptable,” said Rep. Kosmas. “We have made some propositions and proposals that we are hoping that the President will use to fill in the blanks that we thought were missing from his budget proposal. So I'm hoping, um, that it won't be a sales pitch and that it will actually be an opportunity for us to come together and find some common ground that will help us to mitigate job loss on the space coast.” (4/7)

NASA Contractors: Abandoning the Constellation Moon Program? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
While some members of Congress are gearing up for a battle royale with the White House over President Barack Obama’splans to cancel NASA’s Constellation moon program, some of the agency’s main aerospace contractors appear to be abandoning the troubled rocket project that was once billed as “Apollo on steroids.” Recently rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne have told other contractors — namely Lockheed Martin, Boeing, ATK and the United Space Alliance — that it will no longer support their lobbying efforts to keep Constellation alive. Their departure from the elite lobbying effort — confirmed by very reliable sources and PWR officials — is a blow to the effort to keep the moon program going over the objections of the President. Pratt & Whitney is the nation’s No. 1 rocket engine maker. (4/7)

NASA Plans New Robot Generation to Explore Moon, Asteroids (Source: Space.com)
American astronauts may not return to the moon anytime soon, but robotic explorers seem poised to go there — and just about everywhere else — in the solar system in short order. NASA's new space exploration plan includes a heavy emphasis on robotic missions that would land on the moon, Mars and even asteroids to pave the way for human exploration. The agency's 2011 budget calls for funding two such missions starting next year. One of those missions is a lunar expedition that would test the ability to control robots remotely from Earth, or the International Space Station, on the moon. (4/7)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Leaves ‘Dancing With the Stars’ (Source: WKRG)
Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, but he won't be spending any more time on the dance floor. The 80-year-old astronaut was eliminated Tuesday from "Dancing With the Stars." Aldrin and his professional partner, Ashly Costa, consistently finished in last place during the ABC television show's three weeks of competition. He earned just 13 points out of 30 for his waltz on Monday's episode. (4/7)

NextGen Conference Stresses Cooperation, Commitment (Source: AIA)
Murky policies and competing interests are bigger impediments than technology when it comes to implementing the NextGen air traffic control system, according to stakeholders and regulators. Data sharing, equipage and training are among the many issues yet to be worked out, and as a result the National Airspace System "isn't as far advanced as it could be or should be," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told attendees at a Washington conference on Tuesday. Babbitt said consensus was key, and that all players should "commit to delivering capabilities on a set schedule and at specific locations." (4/7)

Yahsat Secures First-Ever Shariah Compliant Space Insurance (Source: Zawya)
Yahsat has successfully secured the first ever Shariah compliant space insurance policy. The insurance solution, which was specifically developed to meet Yahsat’s needs, covers the launch and in-orbit operations of Y1A and Y1B, the Yahsat satellites scheduled to be launched in 2011. Methaq Takaful Insurance Company and ElseCo Company, both companies based in the UAE, provided the insurance coverage. Willis Inspace designed the takaful insurance coverage. The uniquely crafted insurance solution was a seamless fit with the innovative technology, deep regional insights and fresh approach that Yahsat will bring to the markets and the customers that it will serve. "Insurance protection is an integral part of our satellite program. With firm roots in the region, we are proud to be the first organization to use a new Shariah-compliant insurance solution for space programs. This augurs well in the development of the Takaful insurance market as well as make available an alternative market for space insurance products," said Yahsat's CEO. (4/7)

Space Shuttle Retirement Leaves Russia Grinning (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Monday's launch of space shuttle Discovery marked the 131st shuttle flight since Columbia blasted off in 1981, but the shuttle fleet will be mothballed after three more flights. The clear winner from the shuttles' retirement will be Russia. While the U.S. intends to leave the transport of astronauts and equipment to the ISS up to the private sector, there is no prospect of that in the foreseeable future--and the shuttle fleet will retire later this year.

The United States' financial difficulties have dented any realistic aspirations it had to return to the moon or reach Mars. Many other nations are in a similar plight. However, if the United States loses its own transport to the ISS, the Russian spacecraft Soyuz will find itself with a monopoly on taking astronauts to the space station. Moscow is cashing in: Although Russia previously charged 3 billion yen to carry an astronaut on the Soyuz, this figure was bumped up to 5 billion yen in a deal it signed last year with the United States.

Once the leader in space development, the United States' space exploration policies are now drifting aimlessly. This lack of certainty is shaking up the strategies of other countries--Japan included. (4/7)

India Aims for the Skies, Targets Space Tourism (Source: Economic Times)
India is seriously taking up the challenge of pursuing space tourism in a big way. Newly-appointed chief of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr K Radhakrishnan says the space agency is exploring new strategies and technologies for human space flight programs, low-cost access to space tourism and the colonization of Mars and the Moon.

As of 2009, space tourism opportunities have been limited and expensive, with the Russian Space Agency providing this facility. The price for a flight brokered by Space Adventures to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is $20-35 million. Space tourists usually sign contracts with third parties to conduct certain research while in orbit. This helps minimize their own expenses. "Space tourism is something where India can play a niche role with its affordable solutions. However, this will take some time," says Ajey Lele. But the fact that this is an achievable challenge was evident when he said: "India’s Chandrayaan program was less costly than the private jet gifted by Mukesh Ambani to his wife." (4/7)

Multi-State Grassroots Advocacy Group Invites You to Washington (Source: CSE)
Citizens for Space Exploration, a multi-state grassroots space advocacy group, is organization its 19th annual trip to Washington, D.C. We invite you to join this group of concerned citizens as we meet with Members of Congress to inform and educate them about the importance of a robust space exploration program and a fully funded NASA budget. This is a self-funded trip, but assistance is available for coordinating your participation. This may be the most important CSE trip ever! Visit http://www.citizensforspaceexploration.org/dctrip.htm for information. (4/7)

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