June 6, 2010

Space Club Invites Nominations for Kolcum Award (Source: NSCFC)
The Space Coast Chapter of the National Space Club is soliciting nominations for this year's Harry Kolcum award. We are selecting two people for the award. The first is the person, either a government or contractor PAO/Communications rep/marketing person/community relations specialist, government relations specialist, etc., who resides in Florida, who did the most to promote space during fiscal year 2010. The second is a member of the news media whose coverage during the year has done the most to promote the space industry. If a person has a big event in the final days of September, feel free to include it.

Please provide a short bio on the person and a 2-3 paragraph nominee summary. E-mails are acceptable and please send to Craig Covault at cpcovault@gmail.com by COB Sept. 24. The Kolcum award committee will select and announce the winner in October and will present the award at the November NSC luncheon. The criteria for the award is listed below. If I missed someone, please forward this to them, I'd like it to be advertised far and wide. (6/6)

Ideas Abound to Save Jobs as Shuttle Program Ends (Source: AP)
Some of the suggestions business leaders offered included giving incentives to companies who hire aerospace workers, retraining workers to find new jobs, providing research and development funds, and helping laid-off workers start businesses. Mark Nappi, vice president and Florida site executive for United Space Alliance said the company had about 6,000 employees in Florida last year, 5,000 now and will be down to around 1,000 next year. He pleaded with leaders to make sure the skills workers have developed over decades aren't lost when they are laid off, calling for some to be rehired for future projects. "We must retain these core skills when flight resumes," he said. (6/6)

SpaceX Shuffles Dragon Cargo Flights to Space Station (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX hopes to move forward its bid to deliver supplies to the International Space Station to the second test flight of the Dragon capsule next spring, foregoing an extra mission to prove out the cargo ship's rendezvous capabilities. The schedule change will keep the company on track to carry logistics to the station next year, despite schedule delays on the Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX previously agreed with NASA to fly three demo flights of the Dragon capsule under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. If the test flights go as planned, the company would now only launch two shakedown missions before starting a dozen operational sorties to deliver equipment to the space station.

"We don't yet have final approval from NASA on that. We've discussed it with them at length. We're designing the COTS 2 flight to be capable of that, and we are optimistic that we'll clear the various regulatory hurdles to achieve that." Under the earlier plan, the second Dragon flight would approach within approximately 6 miles of the ISS, to test long-range navigation, rendezvous and radio communications systems. That mission would be scrapped under the new plan. (6/3)

Falcon-9 Launch Sparks Australia UFO Frenzy? (Source: AFP)
A bright spiralling light, believed by astronomers to be a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, was spotted in skies across Australia's east coast just before dawn Saturday, sparking a UFO frenzy. Described by some witnesses as a "lollipop-type swirl", the cloud of light was seen over the country's three easternmost provinces. "It certainly had that lollipop-type swirl ... but it was travelling low and fairly fast, and as it went past me and I looked up, it looked like a row of lights, maybe four lights," one Brisbane resident said.

Astronomer Andrew Jacob, acting curator of the Sydney Observatory, said it was most likely SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, launched Friday from Cape Canaveral shortly before dawn broke over Australia. "It fits best, a rocket travelling overhead with something venting out of it, fuel venting out of the motor," Jacob told AFP. "The rocket's probably tumbling or spinning a little which creates a spiral effect, a little like water coming out of a hose when you spin it. That's the best explanation I have so far, probably the most likely one." (6/6)

Eastern Range Key to Future (Source: Florida Today)
Chances are, not a day goes by without you tapping into a commercial satellite. But the satellites you use, whether to provide your favorite TV channels or make a long-distance call, were most likely launched from the jungles of South America or the steppes of Central Asia -- not Cape Canaveral. Things were not always this way. Until the late 1980s, the Space Coast dominated the commercial launch market. Since then, though, such launches have slowed to a trickle at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, even as the commercial launch industry grew into a multibillion-dollar business.

President Obama's plan to spend nearly $2 billion -- including $429 million in 2011 -- transforming the spaceport into a "21st Century Launch Complex" could lure more of those commercial payloads back to Florida. That might mean fewer jobs at remote tracking locations such as Ascension Island as older equipment is retired, but it would create new jobs locally to support the increased launches. Ideally, the region would also capture some of the pre-launch work, such as assembling the satellites, that is now done elsewhere.

"There is no question that the Cape is as viable as any place in the world to compete for commercial launches," Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. "What we need to do is streamline operations and make this an efficient and inexpensive place to launch." The first step toward doing that, according to the Obama plan -- which is still under intense scrutiny by Congress -- is upgrading the Eastern Range, which provides tracking and safety services for all launches from the Cape and KSC. (6/6)

Could Life Survive on Mars? Yes, Expert Says (Source: McGill)
Researchers at McGill's department of natural resources, the National Research Council of Canada, the University of Toronto and the SETI Institute have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a highly unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's extreme North. Dr. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist explains that the Lost Hammer spring supports microbial life, that the spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, and that therefore they too could support life.

The subzero water is so salty that it doesn't freeze despite the cold, and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface, which had provoked the researchers' curiosity as to whether the gas was being produced geologically or biologically and whether anything could survive in this extreme hypersaline subzero environment. "We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer," Whyte said, "but we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms – organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen." (6/6)

Orion Becomes Liability, Lockheed Martin Pulls 600 Engineers Off Project (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Orion’s role of transporting US astronauts into space has been reduced to little more than an assumption it may one day be involved in human space exploration, after contractor Lockheed Martin effectively washed its hands of the project due to fears relating to termination liability. With key procurements cancelled, the Denver-based company ‘moved’ 600 engineers off the project, effectively leaving the vehicle in limbo.

Although the Program Of Record (POR) remains in place – due to the lack of Congressional approval for the much-maligned FY2011 budget proposal – NASA managers have effectively given up on any faint hope of implementing the long-term strategy that was centered around the marriage between Ares and Orion. (6/6)

The Amazing Story Behind Branson's Virgin Galactic Project (SourcE: Daily Mail)
The first thing you notice about the Mojave Air & Space Port is the large number of commercial airliners just sitting around under the desert sun. The climate here means it's the perfect place for aircraft manufacturers to store planes whose owners haven't managed to finish paying for them. If the spectre of this aviation elephants' graveyard wasn't strange enough, five miles to the west is the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm - the second-biggest in the world, with more than 5,000 wind turbines.

It's a weird landscape; and it seems to inspire off-the-wall businesses, and the one-of-a-kind thinkers who run them. One of these businesses is called, with the kind of obviousness that seems redolent of a gentler age, the Spaceship Company - and in its workshop at the airfield, spaceships are being built. This is the astonishing backdrop to what promises to be the first venture to take paying passengers into space.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic isn't the only company taking the business of space tourism seriously. But it's further along with its preparations than its competitors, with its Sir Norman Foster-designed Spaceport America due to be completed next year in New Mexico, and its spaceship three months into its flight-test program. Click here to read the article. (6/6)

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