July 25, 2010

China Builds Hypersonic Wind Tunnel to Develop Spaceplane (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Chinese Inner Mongolia North Heavy Industries Group recently announced that the group has successfully provided the key element of “JF12 Shockwave Hypersonic wind tunnel”, which is the most advanced and creative project in world Hypersonic research area. “JF12 Shockwave Hypersonic wind tunnel” is being constructed for the initiation of China’s future spaceplane project. JF12 Windtunnel is mainly designed by the Institute of Mechanics, CAS (Chinese Academy of Science). (7/25)

Race for New Space Taxi Intensifies - Good for Florida! (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is not the only company working on a private space taxi to deliver astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Other companies, including some of the traditional behemoths of the aerospace industry, are not ceding the competition for billions of dollars worth of NASA contracts. Boeing is working with upstart Bigelow Aerospace on a simple Apollo-like space capsule capable of ferrying people to the government-run space station as well as a planned private station called the Orbital Space Complex. Up to seven people could fly in the new craft.

Boeing's spacecraft, so far blandly named CST-100, will be able to be launched on Atlas V, Delta IV, or the SpaceX Falcon 9--all from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Boeing's goal is to do final assembly and flight preparations at the spaceport. Bigelow says it would need about five launches a year to deliver crew and cargo to and from its Orbital Space Complex. The company's most aggressive plans call for a bigger inflatable space station later, requiring up to 25 flights a year.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin's work on NASA's Orion spacecraft could continue as a government project or be modified to compete for the private taxi contracts. And Orbital says it could launch astronauts aboard its Taurus-2 rocket from the Cape. The point: the government's seed money appears to be doing as planned. Companies aim to develop spacecraft that could satisfy the government's needs but also be sold to private operators. (7/25)

Florida Gubernatorial Hopefuls Visit Space Coast (Sources: Florida Today, SPACErePORT)
On a six-day bus tour of Florida, Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott stopped at Brevard Community College to discuss the space industry's needs with local officials. "Clearly the (industrial) talent here is unbelievable," said the multimillionaire businessman from Naples and first-time office seeker. "We need a team to coordinate their talent with more entrepreneurial spirit.

Another GOP gubernatorial candidate, former Cogressman Bill McCollum, will visit with space industry leaders on July 30, at a gathering sponsored by the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. The EDC also sponsored a recent visit by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. (7/25)

From Here to Infinity: WSMR History Spans Centuries (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
It has been 65 years since the first atomic bomb fused the desert sand into a bowl of green glass on the other side of the Organ Mountains. The Trinity Site where Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project scientists detonated "the gadget" is part of White Sands Missile Range, and is one of many historic firsts that occurred there, said Darren Court, director and curator of the WSMR Museum.

White Sands is also the site of the first American test flight of the V-2 rocket. The V-2 rocket was developed by German rocket scientists and used against civilians in London during World War II. After the end of World War II, captured V-2 rockets were brought to White Sands along with dozens of the German rocket scientists who developed it, including the famous Dr. Wernher Von Braun.

White Sands was also the site of the first firing of a surface-to-air missile that took out a plane, the Nike Ajax, and the first test of a ground-to-ground artillery weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. The Redstone Rocket, which was used to put the first astronauts in space as part of the Gemini program, was also developed at White Sands. (7/25)

Rocket Piece Finds a Home (Source: The Sun News)
The chunk of an Air Force rocket that washed ashore on Hilton Head Island in May was headed for the scrap heap until a Beaufort County sheriff's captain suggested a new home: the Coastal Discovery Museum. Capt. Toby McSwain helped retrieve the 12-foot by 20-foot piece of rocket fairing. He then called museum president and CEO Michael Marks with the idea that local schoolchildren might want to see it. (7/25)

Shuttle Shutdown Could Launch Sales of Collectibles (Source: Florida Today)
After a lot of trickling, the economic impact of the shuttle program on Brevard County arrives at the Titusville Sunrise Rotary Club. For the last two decades, club members have sold shuttle stuff. It started with shuttle certificates commemorating the launch sold to folks gathered to watch the lift-offs, and as the shuttle program evolved, so did the goods for sale. They grew to include hats, pins, mouse pads and T-shirts, lots and lots of T-shirts.

But the shuttle era is ending, and it's taking the club's T-shirt business with it. Up next on the tables at the Rotary fundraiser: bags of Titusville Sunrise Rotary Coffee -- served with a side of uncertainty. "I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "We're going to have to maximize our opportunities." (7/25)

Texas Group Supports Workforce Transition (Source: Galveston Daily News)
Shane Richardson had worked for the contractor only 11 months when he faced a bleak conversation. “They walked in and said, ‘We’re going to have to let you go,’” Richardson said. “They escorted me out and that was it.” With no money for the program in President Obama’s plan, many contractors expected thousands of layoffs in the Houston area. Richardson said he had no clue his job was in jeopardy.

Amid a national economic recession and competing for positions in a highly specialized industry, Richardson knew finding a new job would be difficult. He turned to Workforce Solutions, which opened the Aerospace Transition Center, 16921 El Camino Real, to prepare aerospace contractors for imminent layoffs. The center offers job assistance for aerospace contractors, focusing on interview skills, résumé revamping, federal job application help, stress management and financial management.

The center also sponsors job training sessions at the Johnson Space Center, United Space Alliance, Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s offices in Clear Lake. More than 100 people visit the center every week, manager Veronica Reyes said. Recruiters at the center rework the language of contractors’ résumés to apply their skills to those needed in other industries. Health care, energy, gas, oil and commercial aerospace companies have sought former NASA contractors through the center’s virtual job fairs. The center’s last job fair presented more than 500 job openings. (7/25)

This Week in Space History: Kincheloe Was World's First Spaceman (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
Five years before NASA launched Alan Shepard into space, another American beat him there. On Sept. 7, 1956, Air Force Capt. Iven Carl Kincheloe Jr. "piloted a supersonic plane to a record height of 126,200 feet above the surface of the earth." Kincheloe "took the X-2 to its record altitude," earning him "the title 'First of the Spacemen,'" said the Web site nasa.gov. Two years later, on July 26, 1958, Kincheloe died when his F-104 crashed at Edwards Air Force Base. (7/25)

European Space Agency Head Addresses Space Junk Threat (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The head of the European Space Agency urged swift government action to counter escalating hazards satellites face from space debris in orbit. Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA's director general, said threats of collisions with space junk require his agency to slightly shift the orbit of a satellite roughly every two weeks. (7/25)

Spacecraft Orbiting Mars Suffers Malfunction (Source: Space.com)
NASA engineers are working to revive the space agency's oldest spacecraft in orbit around Mars from an unexpected malfunction that stalled its observations of the red planet. The Mars Odyssey spacecraft entered a hibernation-like "safe mode" on July 14 due to a glitch with the 9-year-old probe's electronic encoder, mission managers said in an update. The encoder is used to control a device that moves the Odyssey spacecraft's solar arrays and the orbiter has already switched a backup unit, they added. (7/25)

The Search for Dark Energy has a New Weapon (Source: Discovery)
The nature of dark energy is one of the outstanding problems in cosmology today. Something is causing the universe's expansion to accelerate, but what? Numerous techniques are being developed to attack this problem, and astronomers have demonstrated such a technique with the largest fully-steerable radio telescope.

Theories predict that acoustic, or sound waves, from the very early universe should have left their mark in a detectable way. (What if you could hear these sounds?) By measuring the large-scale structures left behind by the sound waves, astronomers may be able to make precise measurements of some of the parameters of dark energy, thus getting one step closer to determining its nature. (7/25)

Station Supply Module Reinforced for Extended Stay in Space (Source: Florida Today)
Before its final trip into space, the cargo module known as Leonardo is being fitted with a bulletproof vest. The extra protection from micrometeoroids and space debris wouldn't be needed during a typical International Space Station visit lasting a week or two. But the next shuttle mission plans to drop off the cylindrical "moving van" and return home without it, leaving it exposed to high-speed collisions as long as the station remains in orbit. (7/25)

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