July 8, 2010

NASA Solar Scientist in Huntsville Says Sun is Behaving Oddly (Source: Huntsville Times)
The sun has cycles - periods of high activity, when it has a lot of sunspots, and low activity, when things on the surface seem calm. NASA astronomer David Hathaway of Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, told National Public Radio recently that solar activity is unusually low right now. A new solar observatory may shine light on the mystery. Click here to listen to the interview. (7/8)

Moon Rock Discovery a False Alarm (Source: Columbia Daily Tribune)
The “goodwill” moon rock given to Missouri nearly 40 years ago is, indeed, missing. In May, the Missouri State Museum claimed the rock was safe and sound in the basement of the state Capitol, not lost as reported in a recent story. Interim Director Linda Endersby e-mailed the Tribune photos of the lunar display to prove it. Turns out, though, the photo was of rocks from the Apollo 11 mission — not the Apollo 17 moon rocks given as goodwill gifts to all 50 states and 135 foreign countries. Joseph Gutheinz, a former special agent with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, saw the photo and pointed out the discrepancy this week. (7/8)

Bishop Adviser Compares NASA’s Future to Base Closures (Source: Davis County Clipper)
The ups and downs of NASA’s future are being compared by one senior Utah Congressional adviser with base closure proceedings of years past. “That’s been like the base closures, equivalent of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closures) without a real process,” said Steve Peterson, adviser and legal counsel to Rep. Rob Bishop, here.

“It’s been very troubling to see how the Obama Administration has been running amuck with this whole scheme,” he said. “It’s frankly disgusting.” Peterson said it’s an example of “top level bureaucrats, once they’re in power, using an agency as their own personal play toy. They can just make whimsical decisions – and the consequences begin.”

He’s referring to political decisions that could mean the loss of thousands of ATK jobs and others in Utah, and thousands more nationally. “They don’t care that they’re toying with 25,000 lives, the lives of real people, with their experience. They don’t care,” Peterson said of the government officials. Editor's Note: More odd posturing by Congressional conservatives who normally decry growth in big-government programs. (7/8)

Sen. Warner Tours Wallops, Pledges Support (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said he sees "huge potential" for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops and wants to be a champion for the facility, citing his membership on the Senate Commerce Committee and on the science and space subcommittee. "This has the potential to become a pre-eminent facility not just for the United States, but for the world," he said. Warner toured the spaceport in the morning before a lunchtime meeting with local dignitaries. He ended his visit by stopping in at Eastern Shore Rural Health System's nearly completed new Onley Community Health Center. (7/8)

Senate Panel Near Agreement on Bill to Roll Back NASA Changes (Source: New York Times)
Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation are moving toward an authorization bill that would reverse large swaths of President Obama’s proposed changes to NASA’s human space flight program, a ranking Republican involved in the talks confirmed.

The bill, which lays out the direction of the nation’s space program for the next three years, would add at least one more space shuttle flight, speed development of a heavy-lift rocket and move ahead with building a spacecraft to venture beyond low-Earth orbit. It would also slow down a rush to invest in commercial rockets by requiring companies to demonstrate their capabilities before receiving large contracts for delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, said a staff member who was not authorized to speak for attribution. (7/8)

Better Safe Than Sorry: Rocket Software Being Fixed (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
An improbable pitfall discovered in the Minotaur rocket's flight software, posing only a minuscule chance of ruining a mission, nevertheless will be patched before the booster launches a unique space surveillance craft, officials explained Thursday.

Liftoff from the southern pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California had been scheduled for Thursday night. But the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite launch was placed on hold after rocket-maker Orbital Sciences found a timing flaw in the Minotaur's software while preparing a different vehicle for a planned September flight from Alaska. (7/8)

ISS Partners Asked to Assess Station Extension to 2025 – Potentially 2028 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The International Space Station (ISS) may live on until 2028, following confirmation by the Space Station Program Control Board (SSPCB) that partner agencies have been asked to produce an extension blueprint for continued operation until 2025, with the potential to push as far as 2028. As part of their opening evaluations, NASA managers have examined the health of the two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJs).

Previously due to be deorbited in around 2016, the ISS gained an extension to 2020 – pending the approval of the FY2011 budget proposal. It is understood there is little risk of the extension being reversed, should the US Congress decide to refine President Obama’s future plan for NASA.

As far as extending the ISS’ lifetime deep into the 2020s, the SSPCB minutes (available on L2) noted an “ISS Life Extension Internal Technical Integration effort” – a plan which will involve all ISS partners assessing the viability of safely operating the orbital outpost to at least 2025, pending Program-level approval. (7/8)

Boeing Sponsors Eleven Chicago Educators for Space Education Mission (Source: Boeing)
Eleven educators from local museums, science centers and public schools in Chicago have been selected to attend the 2010 Boeing Educators to Space Camp program held July 12-16 in Huntsville, Ala. The group will join more than 100 educators from around the world as part of a weeklong training adventure designed to help teachers motivate students in the subjects of science, math and technology. (7/8)

US Cellphone Expansion Could Deafen Radio Astronomers (Source: New Scientist)
Good news for cellphone users, bad news for astronomers. American plans to clear bandwidth for wireless transmissions could interfere with quiet frequencies used in radio astronomy. Last week, the White House announced plans to free up 500 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum over the next 10 years for devices like phones. This could triple existing cellphone capacity, says Andrew Clegg of the US National Science Foundation. But it may also make observations trickier for radio astronomers. (7/8)

How You Can Help Ensure Houston Gets a Retired Shuttle (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA has said little publicly about the fate of its retired space shuttles, but it's clear there will essentially be two orbiters that have flown in space up for grabs: Atlantis and Endeavour. This is because the National Air & Space Museum's Udvar Hazy Center, which currently has Enterprise, has never flown in space, will get space shuttle Discovery. After that happens, Enterprise will also be available. Houston-area businesses have joined forces with Space Center Houston to ensure that one of the two vehicles that have flown in space come home to Houston, the home of human spaceflight. (7/8)

Vitter Rips Obama Space Plan at Tank Ceremony (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana opened this morning's ceremony celebrating the delivery of NASA's last shuttle external tank by ripping President Obama's "radical" proposals for the space agency. "You all deserve better, and the nation deserves better," he told an audience of hundreds of NASA and contractor employees at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, earning loud applause. (7/8)

India Space Scientist Drugged, Robbed of Crucial Data (Source: Mid-Day)
One sip from a soft drink bottle cost him dear. 25-year-old Vikas Arya, a scientist from the Astronautical Society of India (ASI), a part of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), was drugged and robbed in Delhi. The robbers took a bag containing some confidential documents and contact details of some top Indian scientists, along with the victim's laptop, some ornaments and cash.

Arya was coming from Bangalore after a meeting with the Director of Laboratory for Electro-Optic Sensors (LEOS). He landed at Nizamuddin railway station at around 7:30pm on Tuesday and was looking for an auto rickshaw to go to the Kashmere Gate Inter State Bus Terminus. (7/8)

Musk Goes Public on Divorce (Source: Space Daily)
Elon Musk, the Web entrepreneur behind PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, published a lengthy account of his messy divorce proceedings on Thursday, saying he wanted to correct the record. "Given the choice, I'd rather stick a fork in my hand than write about my personal life," the South African-born Musk said in a nearly 1,500-word blog post submitted to The Huffington Post. Click here to read the article. (7/8)

Astrium And ESA To Develop The Launch Vehicle Of The Future (Source: Space Daily)
Astrium has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to undertake initial development studies for a Next Generation Launcher (NGL) for future satellite launches. This 15 month project has a total contractual value of euros 8.5 million, of which Astrium will contribute euros 1.5m of its own funds. "This contract will enable Astrium to investigate the most promising options for the next generation of European launcher in collaboration with nine European countries with past experience of working on the Ariane program." said Astrium Space Transportation CEO Alain Charmeau as he signed the contract. The NGL project is part of ESA's Future Launcher Preparatory Program (FLPP), which aims to prepare a proposal combining all the technical and organizational aspects of the program for presentation at the next ESA ministerial conference. (7/8)

Connecting Firecrackers and Solid Rocket Boosters (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
When Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem during a battle between the U.S. and Great Britain in 1814, he was close enough to hear and see the rockets landing. Congreve rockets were fired against Fort McHenry and inspired the famous "rocket's red glare" line. The rockets used gunpowder and an iron case -- today it would be called a solid-fuel rocket. Solid-fuel rockets are now commonly used as booster rockets. Today, they are used in the space shuttle and are called solid rocket boosters. But the solid rocket had humble beginnings. Click here to read the article. (7/8)

Rocketplane, Which Received $18 Million in Oklahoma Tax Credits, Filed for Bankruptcy (Source:
What started out as a dream of rockets in the Oklahoma sky and money flowing from space enthusiasts has finally ended. George French Jr., owner of Rocketplane Global, decided a mountain of debt and expectations of the same altitude were too much to burden and filed for bankruptcy. He filed the Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers in his home state of Wisconsin, but Oklahomans are suffering the loss. The original intent was to build a space tourism company in Western Oklahoma that would bring jobs as well as out-of-this-world sightseers. State lawmakers and agencies were so convinced of the plan they handed over nearly $18 million in tax credits to French in 2003 to get the company started. (7/8)

Turtles to Begin Journey at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will host the launch of thousands of baby sea turtles doomed by the BP blowout, in a mission being kept hush, hush -- for the reptile's sake. "This is such an extremely delicate operation they're trying to pull off," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said. "They want to give these turtles a shot." Only one in 1,000 hatchling sea turtles makes it to adulthood, experts estimate. But with oil right offshore of the Gulf Coast, biologists put those odds at zero. So they hope thousands of baby sea turtles soon will hatch at Kennedy Space Center, from an undisclosed climate-controlled facility. Once they break from their shells, the turtles quickly will be taken to nearby beaches at night to make their mad dash to the Gulf Stream. (7/8)

Editorial: Jobs Summit Offers Proposals White House Should Seize (Source: Florida Today)
Creating post-shuttle jobs and diversifying Brevard County’s economy for the future is of the utmost urgency. That was clear again Tuesday when officials with prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance at Kennedy Space Center announced 1,000 layoffs as the fleet heads toward its final flight next year. The news was expected but drove home the importance of a federal task force that plans to spend $40 million to create new jobs and jump-start new industries to offset the crippling impact when as many as 8,000 spaceport workers are gone.

President Obama has ordered the panel to have the recommendations on his desk in five weeks, and members have sound options to consider following a summit Tuesday in Orlando, where more than 30 companies and institutions offered their ideas. The session was sponsored by Space Florida, the state’s Cape Canaveral-based space-recruiting agency, which is showing strong leadership in trying to chart a way forward. Many of the ideas were not on the radar in February, when Obama announced his controversial shift in NASA policy, showing that government, business and education leaders from across the region continue rising to the occasion. (7/8)

More Hayabusa Particles Detected (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Wednesday it has found several dozen additional particles in a container inside a tiny capsule that the Hayabusa unmanned space probe released in June after a seven-year round-trip to the asteroid Itokawa. The announcement came after JAXA reported Monday that two particles measuring about 0.01 mm in diameter were found in the container for Itokawa surface samples. (7/8)

Last Shuttle External Tank Enroute to Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Early Thursday, NASA and Lockheed Martin will throw a party at the Michoud Assembly Facility as workers roll out the giant orange fuel tank to be used in February by the last scheduled space-shuttle mission: Endeavour's final journey to the International Space Station. The celebration will recognize more than three decades of tank work at the Michoud plant near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. In reality, it also marks the end of a unique industrial craft.

Each 158-foot tank is welded and then sprayed — initially by big computer-operated guns — with a blanket of Styrofoam-like insulating foam. Then it's painstakingly sanded, inspected, trimmed and finally finished with custom-fitted foam pieces and foam sprayed into hard-to-reach places by hand. (7/8)

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