July 28, 2010

Meet Google’s Space Commander (Source: New York Times)
Google, as you may know, runs a search engine and sells ads. How odd then that Tiffany Montague works at the company. Ms. Montague is the manager of Google’s space initiatives –- overseeing things like sending robots to the moon and ogling Mars. It’s not exactly the stuff that keeps the lights on at the Googleplex, but this type of work seems to make Sergey Brin and Larry Page happy. Unlike many Google employees, Ms. Montague is not an engineer by trade. Rather, she arrived at Google about five years ago, after serving as an officer for the Air Force and working at the National Reconnaissance Office. Ms. Montague’s specialty centered on flying high altitude aircraft and snooping on stuff.

Google first hired Ms. Montague as a project manager in the engineering group only to see her aim her “20 percent time” at the nearby NASA Ames Research Center, and for that 20 percent time to turn into her full-time job. It turns out that Pete Worden, the head of NASA Ames, used to mentor Ms. Montague during her days with the Air Force. And the two have rekindled their relationship. Click here to view the article. (7/27)

Lockheed Martin Honors Onizuka Air Force Station for Space Contributions (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin joined in ceremonies honoring Onizuka Air Force Station (OAFS) for its 50 years of service to the nation's government space program as part of a U.S. Air Force event marking the contributions OAFS made to aerospace history and the official closure of the station. Lockheed Martin has worked with Onizuka AFS since it was established in 1960 and provided the core of the Mission Control team for a variety of programs in partnership with the Air Force. Together, Lockheed Martin and Air Force personnel monitored and controlled the nation's first spacecraft from Onizuka AFS, including spacecraft for remote sensing, missile warning, navigation, meteorological and communications missions. Onizuka served as the U.S.'s sole satellite tracking station until the mid-1980s. (7/28)

Space Foundation Provides Comparison of House, Senate NASA Bills (Source: SPACErePORT)
Confused about differences between the House and Senate versions of NASA's FY-2011 reauthorization bill, and President Obama's proposed NASA plan? Click here for a comparison developed by the Space Foundation. (7/28)

Orbital Wins NASA Suborbital Launch Support Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA selected Orbital Sciences Corp.'s, Technical Services Division for the agency's Sounding Rockets Operations contract. The total value of this contract is $310 million. The period of performance is five years. Orbital's services will include designing, fabricating, integrating, and performing flight qualification testing of sub-orbital payloads; providing launch vehicles and associated hardware; and conducting various activities associated with subsequent mission launch operations. Additional services may include education and outreach activities, and environmental studies. The majority of the work will be done at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (7/28)

Japanese Study Looks at Improving the Quality of Life in Space (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Misuzu Onuki is doing some interesting work for JAXA in a sometimes overlooked area of space travel. The JAXA-funded Quality of Life in Space project is looking at the essential elements that can make all the difference between a good stay in space and a bad one. How comfortable are the accommodations? What amusements exist? How good is the food? What does a traveler smell? Are amenities offered? The study’s ultimate aim is to produce new products and services that can be used in space and on Earth. Improving the quality of space flight will be extremely important as private space stations are launched and more people spend time in orbit.

"For example, color effects both our perception and emotion which are related to our behavior psychologically. Also, color effect sour physical condition and physiology functions such as appetite and blood pressure. It is one of the ways to make improve comfort by the best use of color power both psychological and physiological aspects for living. This will improve work performance, maintain body conditions, control emotion, decrease stress and tiredness and increase overall comfort and enjoyment of space." (7/28)

Images Appear To Show Water Ice On Moon (Source: Aviation Week)
Radar images collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) probably pinpoint thick deposits of water ice in a small crater near the Moon’s north pole. Work with the Mini-RF synthetic aperture radar (SAR) on LRO follows up findings by a similar instrument called the Mini-SAR on India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which used the polarity of radar returns from the Moon’s north polar region to identify more than 40 small craters displaying the signatures of ice. If that is what it is — and measures with some of LRO’s other instruments may confirm it — there could be at least 1.6 trillion lb. of water ice in the craters that future human explorers could use for life support and rocket fuel. (7/28)

Sea Launch Signs Agreement with EchoStar (Source: Sea Launch)
Sea Launch has signed an agreement with EchoStar, providing the ability to launch up to three satellites on the Sea Launch system. Sea Launch expects to launch the satellites using the reliable Zenit-3SL launch vehicle from its equatorial launch site at 154 degrees West Longitude, in international waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sea Launch has successfully launched previous EchoStar satellites, including EchoStar IX in 2003. (7/28)

Mexican Space Agency to Have Its Spaceport in Caribbean State (Source: Latin American Herald Tribune)
The headquarters of the Mexican Space Agency will be built in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo thanks to an investment of $120 million made public on Tuesday by Gov. Felix Gonzalez Canto. The Space Center will be built in Chetumal, the state capital, on the border with Belize and Guatemala. At the site will be a launch pad, a runway, an underwater training unit and the space museum. (7/28)

Optimism Permeates Career Fair Sponsored by Huntsville Space Professionals (Source: Huntsville Times)
The scene at the University Center on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville was surreal. Mostly older, experienced members of the work force wore suits and popped breath mints as they carried copies of their résumés - passing them out to anyone who was interested. They stood in lines to speak with representatives of companies promising to have jobs available.

About 300 people seeking jobs showed up in the first hour of the three-hour career fair, Sutinen said. He expected more than 600 would ultimately be in attendance. Thirty-three companies - such as Colsa, United Space Alliance and Cummings Aerospace - had confirmed they would attend the career fair. The Spaceship Company, founded by Virgin Group and Scaled Composites and based in Mojave, Calif., came to the fair looking to hire 160 engineers to build a fleet of commercial spaceships. (7/28)

Planets Found Around Dying Star (Source: Astronomy Now)
Two pairs of gas giants locked in unusually tight orbital dances have been discovered around old, dying stars. The four gas giants were discovered via the Doppler shift method, that is, by detecting the wobble in the light emitted by their host stars as the planets track around them. The systems are part of the Keck Subgiants Planet Survey, which searches for planets around stars 40 to 100 percent times larger than our Sun. When the subgiant stars like HD 200964 and 24 Sextanis eventually become red giants they will likely engulf their planets or even fling them out of the systems completely. Image: NASA, ESA & G Bacon (STScI).

In the case of HD 200964, located 223 light years from Earth, and 24 Sextanis, 244 light years away, the planets were found to be locked in a tight orbital embrace such that HD 200964's planets are separated by just 0.35 AU – comparable to the distance between Earth and Mars – while 24 Sextanis' brood are separated by 0.75 AU. “A planetary system with such closely spaced giant planets would be destroyed quickly if the planets weren’t doing such a well synchronized dance,” says Eric Ford of the University of Florida. “This makes it a real puzzle how the planets could have found their rhythm.” (7/28)

Lockheed Hints a Classified Satellite Order is in the Offing for 2012 (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin expects a multibillion-dollar production order from the U.S. government in 2012 for a next-generation satellite system following the completion of early development on the contract, which began in early 2009, the company’s chief financial officer said July 27. Bruce Tanner did not identify the program in question. But the dates and contract volume point to the next-generation optical Earth observation satellite system that the U.S. government wants to operate alongside less-precise satellites built by commercial companies. (7/28)

How Much Would You Pay to Become an Astronaut? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The first space tourists paid something on the order of $20 million for their ride into, and stay in space. Clearly such a price is beyond the reach of all but a few on Earth. But prices may be coming down during the next few years. Various private spaceflight executives have estimated the price of a suborbital flight by 2014. Their estimates ranged from $50,000 to $100,000. That's less than half the price of a suborbital trip being offered by Virgin Galactic, and while expensive, it's not exorbitant. Luxury cruises can easily run as high as $15,000 per person. (7/28)

Chamber Members Tour MARS (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
Chamber members from Salisbury, Md., and the Eastern Shore of Virginia toured the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport recently to view the progress of a $90 million construction project in preparation for the 2011 launch of Orbital Sciences' Taurus II rocket. After receiving a tour of the mission control headquarters at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the Chamber members toured by bus the construction at Wallops Island, where Dr. Billie M. Reed, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, provided an update on construction progress. (7/28)

General Dynamics Sees Profit Climb on Steady Sales (Source: AIA)
General Dynamics Corp. earned $648 million in the second quarter, a gain of $30 million over the same period last year. Revenues were nearly flat, falling short of analysts' expectations. The company said it was raising full-year guidance and now expects to earn between $6.60 and $6.65 per share. (7/28)

Boeing Reports Across-the-Board Revenue Decline in Q2 (Source: AIA)
Even with fewer deliveries and lower profits than last year, Boeing beat Wall Street expectations in the second quarter, reporting a net profit of $787 million, or $1.06 per share. The company's commercial airplane and defense units both saw lower revenue, declining 12% and 8% respectively. Boeing said its backlog for commercial jets stood at 3,304 aircraft with a value of $252 billion. (7/28)

Lawmakers Eye Separate Passage of Aviation Safety Rules (Source: AIA)
Unable to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill, lawmakers may strip out key aviation safety regulations and attach them to another bill designed to keep the agency running for a few more months. The safety measures, drafted in response to last year's crash of a Colgan Air commuter flight, enjoy broad support on Capitol Hill, but the larger bill has been weighed down by a controversial labor provision. While separate passage of the safety rules would be politically popular, it "may lessen some of the pressure to get the rest" of the FAA bill done, warns Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. (7/28)

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