May 9, 2010

NASA Assembles Five-Segment Motor For Development Testing (Source: Space Daily)
Technicians at ATK Space System's test stand in Promontory, Utah, gently guided a segment of NASA's five-segment development motor, or DM-2, into place in preparation for the second full-duration ground test, also called a "cold motor" test, targeted for September 2010. The motor's overall temperature will be lowered to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to validate the motor's performance in cold weather. Although similar to the solid rocket boosters that help power the space shuttle to orbit, the Ares I first stage motor includes several upgrades and technology improvements implemented by NASA and ATK engineers. Engineers will use the measurements gathered from the test to evaluate thrust, roll control, acoustics, motor vibrations, nozzle modifications and insulation upgrades. (5/9)

Utah Tea Party Politics: Sen. Bennet's Successor's Plans for NASA (Source: Space Politics)
At the Utah Republican Party convention in Salt Lake City, delegates effectively ousted Sen. Robert Bennett, failing to nominate him for a fourth term. Bennett didn’t make it past the second round of balloting, which ended with two candidates, Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, selected to face off in a primary next month. Given Utah’s demographics, whomever wins that June 22 GOP primary will likely win the general election in November.

So how do Bridgewater and Lee stack up on space policy compared to Bennett, who sharply criticized NASA’s plans to cancel the Ares launch vehicles-—which would lead to the loss of jobs at ATK’s Utah facilities? The two candidates haven’t touched on this much yet. Lee doesn’t mention space on the issues page of his web site. Bridgewater, though, does answer the question of whether he supports the president’s plan “for the privatization of NASA” in the negative. “The same rockets that send a man to the moon could send a missile across the world to defend our nation,” he claims (bringing visions of a Saturn 5 or Ares 5 being repurposed as an ICBM). “NASA plays a vital role in the security of our nation and the strength of our military.” (5/9)

Griffin Decisions Led to Current Situation (Source: Space Program & Project Mgt. Group)
Mike Griffin in 2005: "As NASA Administrator, I already own a Heavy Lifter (in) the Space Shuttle stack. I will not give that up lightly and, in fact, can't responsibly do so because ... any other solution for getting 100 tons into orbit is going to be more expensive than efficiently utilizing what we already own." Well, that's exactly what he did - he gave all of that up.

He had man rated four-segment SRBs and he threw them away in favor of 5 segment unrated SRBs for Area-1 and 5. He had tooling, handling, trained people at the Cape, and a launch pad ready for a human-rated 8-meter diameter core launcher, and he threw them away for a 10-meter core for Ares-5 that wasn't rated at ANY level...and who in this industry thought for one minute, that the US could sustain the development of two new launch vehicles, as well as a new manned spacecraft?

What was the Ares I supposed to do, that man-rating the Delta-4 couldn't have? Those who argue that man-rating a booster that was never intended to be must never have heard of Redstone, Atlas or Titan. It worked in the 60's, it would work fine now. Lesson learned: without cold war dollars, this country can support one new manned spacecraft, and one multipurpose launch vehicle. The launcher chosen needs to be built during one four year White House administration. (5/9)

BP Oil Spill Manages to Mess Up NASA's Space Shuttle Launch (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
The massive oil spill plaguing the United States Gulf Coast has also thrown a wrench in NASA's plans to deliver a huge space shuttle fuel tank from Louisiana to Florida for the last launch of shuttle Discovery in September. The expanding oil slick has cut into the deep water route typically used by NASA barges and their tugs to haul the 15-storey space shuttle fuel tanks from their manufacturing site – the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans – to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Space shuttle program manager John Shannon said Monday that NASA's recovery ship Freedom Star – one of two ships that deliver shuttle fuel tanks as well as retrieve an orbiter's twin reusable solid rocket boosters from the Atlantic Ocean after a launch – is not equipped to make the shallow-water detour around the oil spill. "It's kind of stuck in Gulfport, Mississippi right now because of the oil slick," Shannon told reporters in a morning briefing. "They've had to take a different path with the barge and the Freedom Star cannot do that shallow-water course to Michoud." (5/9)

Colorado Leaders to Lobby on Capitol Hill for State Projects (Source: Denver Post)
Leading Colorado business and civic leaders will make their annual trek to Washington, D.C., to buttonhole legislators on issues of importance to the state. "Accelerate Colorado" plans to hit on top policy issues such as aerospace, defense, bioscience and transportation during the trip Monday through Wednesday. The 100-member contingent will meet with all of Colorado's congressional delegation and key federal decisionmakers. "We seek to make our priorities known so that Colorado receives crucial federal support for projects and programs that drive the state's economy," said Wendy Mitchell, president and chief executive of Accelerate Colorado. (5/9)

Where's the Dark Matter Hiding? (Source: Discovery)
Dark matter is one of those things that keep astronomers in business. It make up 23% of the energy of the universe, however, we don't yet know what it IS. Particle physicists are on the hunt, and a tantalizing possible detection was announced last December. New data from a different instrument, Xenon100, casts a rather big shadow of doubt.

Although a few astronomers still doubt the actual existence of dark matter, most of the evidence points to an as-yet-undiscovered particle that does not interact with "normal" matter or light in any obvious way. In fact, these WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) do not interact with themselves in the same way that "normal" matter does. This is nicely seen in the "Bullet Cluster" in which the dark matter is separate from the hot cluster gas (above). This result really drove home the concept for me, personally. (5/9)

SpaceX Focuses on Changes (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is determined to break through the barrier to launching new, cheaper rockets from Cape Canaveral. They want to change how rockets are designed, built, prepped and launched. They want to change how new launchers are cleared for flight by the Air Force. They want a new American-made rocket that's cheaper than others. In the process, they want to blaze a trail for other new space companies. If they succeed, the U.S. could regain dominance in the worldwide space-launch market the old-fashioned way -- by being competitive on price.

So, SpaceX's success is our success. More American launches mean more launches from Cape Canaveral. That means more space jobs. That means everyone here, including its competitors, should be rooting for successful Falcon 9 launches just like they root for successful Atlas, Delta and shuttle launches. But it's going to take time. Musk is learning this year why others have found it expensive and frustrating to get a new rocket cleared for flight. The Air Force's range safety folks are -- rightly so -- conservative about making sure exploding rocket parts won't rain down on populated areas. (5/9)

Editorial: Spaceport America Must Keep Promises to Neighbors (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Rick Homans, interim head of the Spaceport Authority, may be correct when he said the spaceport isn't legally obligated to resolve water problems being experienced by landowners near the spaceport site. But Homans was there from the start, and he knows that public assurances were given to the spaceport's neighbors that they would not be harmed by either construction or daily operations at the facility. Those assurances were made on behalf of both the spaceport and the state government that was backing it.

"Both of them told us, multiple times, the spaceport will not affect our way of life. Well, guess what - it just smacked us right up the side of the head," spaceport neighbor Sylvia Smith said. The "both of them" in this case referred to former spaceport head Steve Landeene and board member Gary Whitehead. We're pleased that the Spaceport Authority has moved to mitigate the damage. FNF Construction Inc. of Albuquerque, which holds a temporary permit to pump from the Romero Well and sells the water to other contractors, has agreed to provide a water storage tank, pump and plumbing to reach the Smith home, and to supply water to any other residents whose wells become impaired. (5/9)

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