July 13, 2010

Eyes In The Sky Give India Edge In Space (Source: Space Daily)
With the successful launch of Cartosat-2B on Monday, India has reached a `critical constellation' of 10 active remote sensing satellites in space, which gives it a clear edge in the region for monitoring borders and movements across them. While mapping and infrastructure development are seen as primary applications of a remote sensing satellite, its use in spying is often underplayed. A combination of four Cartosats (1,2,2A and 2B) hovering 630 km above earth allows India to keep areas under close and prolonged surveillance. Multiple satellites ensure that a particular geographical area can be `revisited' every 48 hours. (7/13)

U.S. Signals Flexibility on Space Weapons Treaty (Source: Reuters)
The United States would consider a new global treaty to ban deployment of weapons in space if it meets its security concerns and includes safeguards against cheating, a U.S. arms control official said. Frank Rose, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state, also indicated that any future pact must prohibit land-based anti-satellite systems -- a technology favored by countries including China. (7/13)

Orbital Debris Threatens Peaceful Use of Space, Group Tells U.N. (Source: Space.com)
Dealing with space debris presents a thorny political issue that must be addressed, according to an international foundation's brief to the United Nations. In an address to the U.N.'s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Secure World Foundation – a non-profit organization committed to space sustainability – emphasized the importance of developing a legal framework and protocol for cooperating to address this problem. Tensions between countries about the best way to deal with space junk could make a solution difficult, experts say. (7/13)

Special Space Celebration in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Friday, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center will host their seventh annual Space Exploration Celebration. The event, previously called the Saturn-Apollo Reunion, is a time for those who support the space program to reminisce and see old friends. The outpouring of community support for the first reunion enabled the museum to not only restore the Saturn V rocket but also to upgrade its planned housing. (7/13)

“You Don’t Need a Wheelchair in Zero Gravity” (Source: Russia Times)
An 11-year-old wheelchair-bound Russian girl wrote a letter to the cosmonauts on the ISS saying she dreams of finding herself in zero gravity because then she wouldn’t need a wheelchair. Dana Novikova, from a small town near Moscow, put the message into a mailbox the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos opened in the Space Exploration Museum. (7/13)

Tighten Those Purse Strings, Scientists Tell NASA (Source: Science)
A committee of the National Research Council warned today that steps recently taken by NASA to contain spiraling costs of future space missions won't be enough. The committee's report doesn't offer any solutions to the perennial problem of scientists and engineers initially underestimating the cost of doing their science in space. But it does strongly recommend that NASA develop "a comprehensive, integrated cost-containment strategy" that early on would rein in overly optimistic cost projections before the agency commits to funding unduly risky missions. (7/13)

Orbital Would Likely Launch Astronauts from the Florida (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA commitment to commercial crew taxis could one day lead Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch from Cape Canaveral, a senior executive said. "If we are successful in moving into commercial crew transportation, I haven't found another place that supports human spaceflight better than this one, so I'm pretty sure we'd be talking to you very seriously when that time comes," said Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut and senior vice president overseeing Orbital's human spaceflight programs.

He was the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee's monthly luncheon. For now, Orbital is focused on developing the vehicles and infrastructure that will allow it to launch cargo to the International Space Station from Virginia. NASA has a $1.9 billion contract with Orbital to fly eight station resupply missions by 2015, after the shuttle program has retired. (7/13)

NASA Ames and Microsoft Provide Mars 3-D Close Encounter (Source: NASA)
NASA and Microsoft Research are bringing Mars to life with new features in the WorldWide Telescope software that provide viewers with a high-resolution 3-D map of the Red Planet. Microsoft's online virtual telescope explores the universe using images NASA spacecraft return from other worlds. Teams at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., jointly developed the software necessary to make NASA's planetary data available in WorldWide Telescope. (7/13)

Survey: Cost Cutting is Top Challenge in Aerospace (Source: AIA)
A survey of 31 top aerospace and defense executives indicates that cost-cutting pressure is the top challenge that most firms face. As defense priorities shift in the U.S., the industry faces a "new reality," said Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens, and the survey found that 90% of executives saw cost-reduction pressure as one of their three top challenges, along with supplier consolidation and competition from new players. (7/13)

Pentagon Seeks To Shift Money to Satellite Programs (Source: Space News)
A U.S. military reconnaissance satellite whose development is being rushed to provide support to U.S. combat forces is slated for a funding boost this year under a broad Defense Department reprogramming request recently sent to Capitol Hill. The $3.9 billion reprogramming package, under which funds allocated for specific programs in 2010 would be redirected to more pressing needs, was signed off on by Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale.

The request asks that $15.7 million be redirected to an optical and infrared reconnaissance satellite dubbed ORS-1 to ensure that it is ready to launch in November as planned, according to a copy of the request obtained by Space News. If the reprogramming is approved, the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office would be funded at $238.2 million this year; ORS-1 is the office’s most substantial development program to date. (7/13)

NASA Announces Three New Centennial Challenges (Source: NASA)
NASA announced three new Centennial Challenge prize competitions, with an overall prize purse of $5 million. NASA's Centennial Challenges are prize competitions for technological achievements by independent teams who work without government funding. The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge is to place a small satellite into Earth orbit, twice in one week, with a prize of $2 million. The goals of this challenge are to stimulate innovations in low-cost launch technology and encourage creation of commercial nano-satellite delivery services.

The Night Rover Challenge is to demonstrate a solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million. The objective is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems on Earth.

The Sample Return Robot Challenge is to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrain without human control. This challenge has a prize purse of $1.5 million. The objectives are to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. (7/13)

AsiaSat-Sea Launch Contract Will Require Court Approval (Source: Space News)
AsiaSat and Sea Launch have entered into a contract designed to end their year-long dispute and provide Asiasat with a launch of a future satellite for no more than $98 million. The agreement must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court overseeing Sea Launch’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Sea Launch currently expects to emerge from bankruptcy by September on the strength of a financial lifeline provided by Russia's RSC Energia, which manufactures the upper stage of Sea Launch’s Zenit 3SL rocket. (7/13)

Transformers Movie Filming Soon at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Michael Bay's third Transformers movie won't have Megan Fox. And it doesn't need the Space Shuttle. Or they don't need it on the pad while they're shooting on Florida's Space Coast. So the Brevard Co. filming dates have been pushed back, according to Bonnie King, Brevard County Film Commissioner.

"They seem to be looking at mid-Sept. to early October now," King says. "NASA is in the business of launching shuttles and they can't be working around a film crew's needs, and with the last shuttle launch shifted (Nov. 1, now), things have eased up on the production schedule for the movie." (7/13)

What’s the Next Big Step in Solar System Exploration? (Source: Discovery)
For the past half century we have witnessed a golden age of solar system exploration unfold: flybys of all the major planets, followed by orbiters, and on selected worlds, landers. So where do we go from here? The problem is that much more elaborate and complicated spacecraft are needed to pursue the detailed questions raised by our initial planetary reconnaissance. And, the price tag goes up with level of difficulty.

Our first flyby of Mars cost $84 million (in 1960s dollars). The Mars Science Lab, Curiosity, scheduled to land on the Red Planet in 2012, comes in at just over $2 billion. Missions now being considered could easily be double that cost, or more. There are places to go and wonders to discover, but very little money to build and fly complex robotic explorers across many millions of miles.

The basic question is, what is the most important thing we want to learn about the solar system next? We’ve seen lots of rocks, volcanoes, ice flows, and even lakes of liquid methane. But they become a bore after a while. The planets present vast wastelands, untouched by any obvious sign of life. Finding a "second Genesis" in our solar system is our ultimate quest. Click here to read the article. (7/13)

Japanese Solar Sail Successfully Rides Sunlight (Source: Space.com)
An unmanned probe riding a solar sail through space has felt its first accelerating push from sunlight in a successful test of its novel propulsion system. Observations of the Ikaros solar sail built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the spacecraft has received a growing speed boost from light radiated by the sun. The effect stems from the cumulative push of light photons striking the solar sail. When measured together, it adds up to a small continuous thrust that does not require fuel use by the Ikaros craft. (7/13)

Bankrupt Sea Launch Signs Contract with AsiaSat (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Sea Launch netted a contract last week to send an unspecified AsiaSat communications satellite to orbit between 2012 and 2014, strengthening the company's backlog as it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy later this year. AsiaSat will assign a satellite to the launch slot at a later date, according to a Sea Launch statement. The spacecraft will launch on a Zenit 3SL rocket from the Odyssey platform in the Pacific Ocean. (7/13)

Tulsa to NASA: Come in, Please (Source: Tulsa World)
The Tulsa Air and Space Museum is continuing its fundraising efforts in hopes of landing a retiring space shuttle. The museum has raised nearly $100,000 since NASA announced in December 2008 that three NASA shuttles were headed for retirement. Tulsa is one of 21 cities competing for the shuttles. (7/13)

Plan to Send Two Indians Into Space (Source: The Hindu)
An unmanned crew module will be put in orbit around the earth by a modified Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 2013 as a forerunner to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) sending two Indians into space, said an ISRO official. India has plans to send two astronauts in a low-earth orbit and they will stay in space for about a week before returning to the earth. A third launch pad, at a cost of Rs.1,000 crore, will be built at Sriharikota, where the rocket that will take the astronauts into space will be assembled and launched. (7/13)

Spaceport America Seeks Bids for Tour Provider (Source: New Mexico Business Weekly)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority issued a request for proposals July 12 seeking bids by contractors to provide sightseeing tours of the Spaceport America facilities and construction job site in southern New Mexico. The winning bidder will provide regular weekend tour services for the public starting in September.

Members of the public can currently sign up for “hard hat tours” of the Spaceport online. Those tours are provided on an as-needed basis. Under the proposal request, tours will be conducted every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, said Authority Executive Director Rick Homans. (7/13)

NASA Teaches Children to Embrace Science (Source: UCF Today)
Even as uncertainty looms over the future of U.S. space exploration, NASA staff was in Orlando on Saturday, encouraging children to embrace science, math and technology. NASA educators teamed with University of Central Florida students to entice future astronauts, engineers and scientists with activities such as observing stars in an inflatable planetarium, launching stomp rockets and exploring a “robonaut” — a robot that looks like a person. (7/13)

White House Backs Away from NASA Chief (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The White House on Monday distanced itself from comments made recently by NASA chief Charlie Bolden, as spokesman Robert Gibbs said a key goal of the space agency was not outreach to Muslim nations. “That was not his task, and that’s not the task of NASA,” Gibbs told reporters.

Critics have compared this to Obama’s desire to cancel the over-budget Constellation moon-rocket program as an example of the president’s misplaced priorities for the nation’s manned-space program. The reproach from Gibbs — who said Bolden misspoke — was the harshest criticism yet from the White House, which last week issued a statement agreeing that NASA should “engage with the world’s best scientists and engineers.” (7/13)

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