July 19, 2010

Florida Workforce Groups Gel Plans for Grant Funds - NewSpace Firms Interested (Source: SPACErePORT)
Brevard Workforce and its Aerospace Career & Development Council (ACDC) met on Monday to refine plans for investing a $15 million federal grant for mitigating the impact of Space Shuttle job losses. 63% of the funds will be used for on-the-job training, to leverage local economic development and job creation efforts. Other funds will be used for more traditional training and education programs for laid-off workers.

The OJT funding will largely be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and multiple "NewSpace" companies have entered into discussions to take advantage of the opportunity. They're also meeting with Space Florida and other local and state agencies to access the plethora of new assistance programs available for aerospace companies planning to expand or relocate here. (7/19)

Wyle Wins NASA Crew Robotics Avionics And Vehicle Equipment Contract (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has awarded a Crew Robotics Avionics and Vehicle Equipment (CRAVE) contract to Wyle for engineering services at Johnson Space Center. The contract allows for a wide variety of tasks in the areas of flight hardware and software development, non-flight/prototype hardware and software development, analysis, and sustaining engineering. (7/19)

Shuttle Experiment Opportunity Available (Source: American Aerospace)
Reservations are now being taken for cell biology and protein crystal growth experiments, among others, on the first Commercial Reusable Experiments for Science & Technology (CREST-1) mission, scheduled to fly aboard the historic last scheduled Space Shuttle flight STS-134, launching 26 February 2011. This is a time-critical opportunity; early reservation pricing is being maintained only until August 2. American Aerospace Advisors, Inc. (American Aerospace) has developed the CREST program to provide academic, government and industrial research communities with routine, low cost access to the space environment for experimentation and commercial development. Click here for information. (7/19)

Limitless Promise Of Space (Source: VOA News)
"We set ambitious goals for NASA... to improve the capacity of human beings to learn and work safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time... Our long term success and leadership as a nation demand that we do not lose sight of the promise of the future," said U.S. President Barack Obama upon the release of his administration's new National Space Policy. "That is why we seek to spur a burgeoning commercial space industry, to rapidly increase our capabilities in space while bolstering America’s competitive edge in the global economy."

U.S. space programs’ contributions to the welfare of the global community are immense. Applications on Earth of technology needed for space flight and space operations have produced thousands of innovations in health and medicine, transportation, public safety and national security, consumer goods, environmental and agricultural science, computer technology, and industrial productivity. It is almost impossible to find an area of everyday life that has not been improved by research and technology developed for scientific or national security purposes in U.S. space programs. (7/19)

Putin: Russia Earmarks $800 Million for New Spaceport (Source: France 24)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation facilities outside Moscow in Korolyov. Putin said Russia would earmark $800 million to kick off construction of its new spaceport in the east to ease its dependence on the Soviet-era spaceport in neighboring Kazakhstan.

"The government has made a decision to earmark 24.7 billion rubles (809 million dollars, 623 millon euro) over the next three years for the start of the full-blown construction of the Vostochny cosmodrome," Putin said. Russia rents its main Soviet-era spaceport Baikonur from neighboring Kazakhstan. It has said it wants to build a new one near the town of Uglegorsk in the Far Eastern Amur region and it should come online by 2015. (7/19)

NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft Discovers Surprises on Mercury (Source: New York Times)
On its third swing past Mercury, NASA’s Mercury Messenger spacecraft discovered an unexpectedly young lava plain, rapid rufflings of the planet’s weak magnetic field and an unanticipated dance of elements in the thin atmosphere. “I think the biggest surprise for the community is that the planet is turning out to be much more dynamic than people appreciated,” said the principal investigator for the Messenger mission. (7/19)

New Spaceship Could Fly People to Private Space Stations (Source: Space.com)
Aerospace heavyweight Boeing is advancing plans for its new capsule-based spaceship, designed to ferry people to and from the International Space Station and future private space stations. The capsule design is part of an effort to fill the void that will be left by the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet.

The new Crew Space Transportation-100 spacecraft (CST-100) is part of the company's $18 million award from NASA under the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Space Act Agreement. The award aims to advance the concepts and technology required to build a commercial crew space transportation system.

Boeing's capsule design is one of several efforts by different U.S. companies to develop the first private spaceship capable of flying humans to space. The push fits in with President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA, which calls for commercial spacecraft to take over the role vacated by the space shuttles of transporting astronauts to the space station. (7/19)

Congress Proposes Commission to Study Asteroid Impact Threat (Source: Space.com)
Lawmakers are paying new attention to how best to shield Earth from a bad day — getting whacked by an asteroid or comet that has our planet in its cross-hairs. A new bill introduced to Congress proposes establishing a government-sponsored commission to study the threat of a major space rock collision with Earth and how prepared we are — as a country and a planet — to face such a danger. There is a growing choir of concern regarding Near Earth Objects, or NEOs – spotting them and dealing with any Earth-threatening gatecrashers. (7/19)

Russia Scoffs at NASA Plans to Send Astronauts to Asteroid, Mars by 2015 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The U.S. does not have capacities to build an asteroid mission spacecraft by 2015, said a Roscosmos official in the wake of NASA's announcement to create the spacecraft for deep space missions. On July 15, NASA unveiled its plans to send astronauts to an asteroid and to Mars no later than 2015. "It is unreal by 2015," Krasnov said. "[They] probably won't be able to any sooner than by 2023-2025. They do not have the necessary spacecraft, and we will be ready with the project by 2018-2020". (7/19)

New ISS Research Management Structure In Works (Source: Aviation Week)
A U.S. Senate authorization measure that appears to break a political impasse over NASA’s exploration blueprint would require the agency to establish a nonprofit organization to manage and stimulate research activities in the National Laboratory portions of the International Space Station. The nonprofit would shoulder responsibilities for encouraging and prioritizing research as well as facilitate transportation to and from the outpost.

In a Nov. 2009 report titled “Significant Challenges May Limit Onboard Research,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office found NASA itself ill-suited for the research administrative role once the station’s 12-year assembly period draws to a close early next year. The station received its National Laboratory designation in 2005, opening the difficult-to-access outpost to research projects from the private sector and academia, as well as federal agencies other than NASA.

Editor's Note: The majority of U.S. national laboratories, although owned by agencies like the Dept. of Energy, are managed by nonprofit groups and multi-university consortia. Click here to read my 2009 essay on the topic. (7/19)

Solid-Rocket Motor Base Likely To Shrink (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Defense Dept. expects the solid-rocket motor industrial base — consisting of Alliant Techsystems, Aerojet and their subcontractors — to reduce its industrial footprint, but will also likely provide a minimum level of funding to sustain the skills of the workforce, said a DOD official. In some cases, facilities are operating as low as 10 percent of their capacity. This low level of work was taking place even before the scheduled conclusion of the space shuttle program and the cancellation of NASA’s Ares rocket program. (7/19)

Predicting Space Weather Needs International Response (Source: Space.com)
The sun's erratic and sometimes volatile behavior has the potential to cause real problems here on Earth, and protecting our planet will require an international effort, according to scientists who gathered recently for a meeting about the effects of solar activity.

Streams of charged particles that fly off the sun can interfere with electronics on Earth and satellites orbiting our planet. For example, during a particularly intense solar storm in 1989, power to an entire Canadian province was knocked out. Since then, other storms have knocked a handful of satellites out of service. (7/19)

How Close Could a Person Get to the Sun and Survive? (Source: Popular Science)
Of all the bodies in our solar system, the sun is probably the one we want to give the widest berth. It gushes radiation, and even though its surface is the coolest part of the star, it burns at about 9,940°F, hot enough to incinerate just about any material. As such, there are no plans to send a manned mission in its direction anytime soon (Mars is much more interesting, anyway).

But it can’t hurt to figure out at what distance a person would want to turn back. You can get surprisingly close. The sun is about 93 million miles away from Earth, and if we think of that distance as a football field, a person starting at one end zone could get about 95 yards before burning up. (7/19)

EADS Astrium Sees Limited EU Cooperation (Source: Aviation Week)
Full cooperation among all of the nations in the European Space Agency on space situational awareness technologies is unlikely because of security concerns, says Francois Auque, CEO of EADS Astrium. The most likely cooperative work is expected from bilateral or trilateral agreements among the governments of France, Germany and the United States, he says. “Due to the military aspects of [space situational awareness], I have my doubts that there can be cooperation ESA-wide,” he said. Those three countries working directly could “save a lot of time,” he says.

Like the United States, European countries are looking for ways to better identify the objects that are in space and determine whether they pose a threat to friendly spacecraft. The U.S. Air Force expects to know in the coming weeks when it can launch its first ever satellite designed specifically to surveil other aircraft. The Boeing/Ball Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite was to launch earlier this month, but it was scrubbed due to a software problem in the Minotaur IV booster. (7/19)

New Prospect for Space Arms Control (Source: ISN)
Over the past two decades, the absence of a peer military competitor has tempted US warfighters to seize the ultimate high ground and place weapons in space. The Russians and Chinese have vehemently opposed this effort and recently drafted a space arms control treaty. Although the previous administration disregarded the Russian-Chinese proposal, President Barack Obama expressed the will to come to the table and discuss preventing a potential arms race in outer space.

Obama’s space policy emphasizes international cooperation in scientific research and commercial use of space. National security receives somewhat less importance and has been limited to defense and intelligence operations. This differs from the 2006 space policy, which considered space an important tool to advance US foreign policy objectives and did not oppose the idea of space weaponization.

The international community needs to seriously delve into space arms control negotiations. There has been a lack of legal agreements banning weapons in outer space. Presently, no restrictions exist on placing weapons in space other than WMDs that have been prohibited since 1967 by the so-called Outer Space Treaty. (7/19)

The Roots of US Space "Weaponization" (Source: ISN)
The so-called Rumsfeld Space Commission Report, which had a strong influence on the 2006 National Space Policy, ascribed orbital weapons significant importance that would provide the US with an extraordinary advantage in military conflicts. The Commission also came to the conclusion that it is a “virtual certainty” that there will be a military conflict in space in the future and urged America to pursue superior space capabilities.

A product of Rumsfeld’s militaristic vision of space, the X-37B Unmanned Space Vehicle (USV) that has been in orbit since April 2010 may serve as a test-bed for space-based weapon technologies. If left unrestrained, US military ambitions to dominate space will compel Russia and China to accelerate their ASAT efforts and eventually ignite a new arms race. (7/19)

NASA Officials Rrepair Giant Antenna at Goldstone (Source: Desert Dispatch)
Officials from NASA’s Deep Space Network have embarked on a huge undertaking this summer as they attempt to make some repairs to a 44-year-old giant antenna at Goldstone on Fort Irwin. The antenna, referred to as Deep Space Station 14, or the “Mars antenna,” is the second largest of its kind in the world. At 70 meters, it is able to rotate freely on its axis and can be aimed in almost every direction, covering the entire sky. (7/19)

Putin to Discuss Russian Space Program with Industry Officials (Source: RIA Novosti)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Russia's Energia space corporation on Monday to discuss the plans for future space exploration. "During the visit...the space officials will deliver a report on the future of the Russian space industry," the press service said in a statement. Russia plans to increase its share in the global space market by designing new models of unmanned and manned spacecraft, participating in a large number of international space projects and building a new space center. (7/19)

Subterranean Living May Await Moon and Mars Colonists (Source: Discovery)
Forty-one years ago this Tuesday our moon was first visited by a small shiny craft that descended like a falling star onto the frozen lava plains of the Sea of Tranquility, carrying Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Let's fast-forward to an imaginary time much later in this century. A similarly spidery craft descends to the the Sea of Tranquility, but to the viewer’s amazement it files down into a gaping hole on the moon’s surface, like bee going into a hive.

This is a conceivable scenario for far future moon colonists. Over the past year, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has photographed unusual "pit craters" that poke into the moon's crust for hundreds of feet. These are thought to be the collapsed ceilings of underground lava tubes that crisscross the moon as lunar rilles.

When life was just emerging on Earth, streams of molten lava flowed across the moon and then solidified. Such tubes on Earth form when lava from a volcano starts to cool and harden a crust. Hot lava underneath continues flowing in channels. The moon's frozen tunnels could provide a natural shelter from the extremes on the lunar surface. They would allow for ant farm-like colonies of humans living underground. (7/19)

SpaceX Plans September Flight at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket expected to fly the first in a series of NASA demonstration missions in September is resting in its Launch Complex 40 hangar. The second Falcon 9 flight, now targeted for the second week of September, is the first under a NASA program intended to prove that Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX is ready to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

The first demonstration flight under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program will fly a real Dragon spacecraft for the first time. The capsule is supposed to separate from the upper stage and orbit the planet up to three times before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and being recovered.

At least one, possibly two, additional demonstration flights are planned before a first station supply run next year, if all the tests go well. In preparation for the September launch, SpaceX plans to deliver the rocket's second stage and the Dragon next month. (7/19)

Sea Launch's Russian Relaunch (Source: LA Business Journal)
The directional signs aboard the odd-looking platform docked at the Port of Long Beach are in both Russian and English. That’s because the rockets that are hurtled into space from the converted oil rig and a companion command ship are designed and manufactured in the former Soviet Union. These days those signs are looking to be handier than ever.

Sea Launch Co. LLC, a joint venture started by Boeing Co. that launches commercial satellites from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is expected to emerge next week almost wholly owned by Russians after 15 months of bankruptcy. A Delaware bankruptcy judge is expected to approve its reorganization plan July 27, and the company is poised to blast off again.

The good news for Los Angeles County, Karlsen said, is that despite the ownership change and some industry doubts about the company’s future, Sea Launch will remain headquartered in Long Beach and continue to launch from the Pacific. (The company also launches from the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan.) (7/19)

Critical Partnerships for the Future of Human Space Exploration (Source: Space Review)
The size of the challenges associated with human exploration beyond Earth orbit is likely beyond what any single space agency is willing to spend to carry out those missions. Andre Bormanis describes the types of partnerships that are critical to making such exploration possible. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1667/1 to view the article. (7/19)

The Real Message of a Controversial Statement (Source: Space Review)
NASA found itself embroiled in controversy earlier this month over a comment made by the agency's administrator in a Middle Eastern television interview. Jeff Foust finds that the real message is not in the administrator's ill-advised words but in the reaction to them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1666/1 to view the article. (7/19)

Should we Care About Other Planets? (Source: Space Review)
As NASA and other space agencies seek evidence of past or present life on Mars and elsewhere, there's the risk such exploration could contaminate those worlds. Linda Billings discusses the options to prevent such contamination, including even not exploring them at all. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1665/1 to view the article. (7/19)

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