July 9, 2010

Perminov: Chinese Flights to ISS Possible After Space Shuttle is Retired (Source: Parabolic Arc)
There’s more from RIA Novosti about a proposal to have Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft back up Russian spacecraft that will be supplying the International Space Station with crew and cargo. It quotes Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov as saying that Chinese vehicles meet all existing safety requirements to backup Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.

"According to him, the Chinese can support the program after shuttle retirement in 2011, when Russia remains the only country to maintain ISS crew rotation. 'This is rather tough, so Russia is interested in backup Chinese vehicles,' Perminov said."

Perminov repeated an earlier claim that the five space agencies that run the station are awaiting an answer from China on this proposal. He adds an interesting detail: the head of the China Space Administration has left his post with no successor in place, which is part of the reason there has been no response. (7/9)

Perminov: Human Mars Trips Set for After 2035 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated that the mission to Mars is planned after 2035, answering the questions of the students at the opening ceremony of International Students’ Science School “Space Exploration: Theory and Practice” in Russian Federal Space Agency.

“Russia, Europe, the USA are interested in Martian missions today. India and China also have similar projects. There are more talks about human space missions to Mars. Russian Government have approved Federal Space Program which clearly defines sequence of automated space missions, as well as future human missions. The basic strategy implies Martian program to be implemented after 2035,” Perminov stated. (7/9)

GE Aviation Wins Phase 2 Contract for DARPA Hypersonic Vulcan Engine (Source: Parabolic Arc)
DARPA has awarded a $31.7 million contract to GE Aviation for development of the Vulcan hypersonic jet engine. GE Aviation will work on constant volume combustion technology for Phase II of the agency’s Vulcan program, which aims to create a hypersonic engine to power a vehicle that could be used for surveillance, reconnaissance or “other critical national missions, according to the agency’s website.

The award follows an 8-month first phase of the project, which included work by GE Aviation, Alliant TechSystems, General Electric, and Rolls Royce. DARPA has forecast that the Vulcan project could require an additional 4.5 years of development, split into three phases lasting 18 months apiece. (7/9)

Europe Explores Regulations for Suborbital Spaceflight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The advent of sub-orbital private human spaceflight has created a need to draft specific legislation in the areas of responsibility, liability, safety, insurance, certification and more. The USA has taken the lead in this respect and has set up an extensive body of (temporary) rules dealing with these issues since 2004, when SpaceShipOne started the new space race, for ‘space tourism’.

Although the majority of these activities will take place within the USA, several plans related to sub-orbital space tourism also exist in some EU Member States. A September symposium in the Netherlands will focus on the legal issues arising from this new era of human spaceflight by analyzing the perspectives of various stakeholders, and will attempt to formulate some recommendations for its efficient and adequate regulation. (7/9)

San Diego Space Society Launches Out of This World from South Park (Source: SDUN)
Governing members of the San Diego Space Society, a two-year-old organization dedicated to space exploration education and outreach, will soon be in the business of sending people into space. SDSS President Jesse Clark and Secretary Chris Radcliff said the new Space Traveler’s Emporium, opening at the corner of 30th and Grape streets on July 17, will be one of the first space-tourism travel agencies. “We’re going to sell things that people would probably buy if they were traveling to space, because there is a possibility that you can actually do that now,” Clarke said. (7/9)

Senate Bill Adds One Final Shuttle Flight (Source: WDBO)
Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says he's a believer. "It's going to have to be a near miracle to pass this NASA bill, but I believe in miracles." The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation next week is expected to pass a bipartisan NASA authorization bill that would match the president's $19 billion request. The Senator said in Orlando Friday, the legislation will provide new direction over the next three years.

The bill would provide for one final space shuttle flight, probably next June. Nelson says the mission could bring lots of cargo to the International Space Station, and provide the capacity to remove unneeded equipment from the station, much more than current Russian supply ships can do now. (7/9)

Once Retired, Where Will the Shuttles be Displayed? (Source: WDBO)
NASA is finalizing plans to display the three remaining space shuttles after their retirement early next year. "There's been a great deal of interest. Most of the major museums out there and others have asked for orbiters," said a NASA spokesman. Over 20 applied to the initial Request For Information and four or five are still in contention. Site visits are planned to make sure a physical move of a space shuttle is feasible, he added. (7/9)

Culbertson to speak at Space Club Luncheon at Cape Canaveral (Source: Florida Today)
Orbital Sciences Corporation Senior Vice President and Deputy General Manager Frank Culbertson will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club meeting Tuesday. His presentation is "Commercial Space Flight." The luncheon event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Culbertson’s responsibilities include the execution and performance of all Orbital programs related to human space flight including the Commercial Orbital Transportation System Program and the Launch Abort System Program for the Orion spacecraft. (7/9)

Nelson: Compromise NASA Authorization Bill Will Pass Next Week (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said he's confident that a senate committee will pass a bi-partisan NASA authorization bill next Thursday that offers compromises to President Obama's controversial proposals, but preservers key priorities. The bill, which would match the president's $19 billion request, would request "at least" one additional shuttle mission, to be flown next summer.

And it would accelerate development of a shuttle-derived heavy-lift vehicle that could serve as a government back-up if commercial launchers failed to offer crew taxi services in a safe and timely manner. The bill would also continue to develop a fully capable Orion spacecraft for deep space exploration, not the scaled back version the administration has said would serve as a Space Station lifeboat. That station's life would be extended by at least five years, to 2020. (7/9)

Space Florida Receives FAA License for Launch Complex 46 (Source: Space Florida)
The FAA has approved a Launch Site Operator’s License for Space Florida to facilitate commercial launches from Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46). With the FAA License now approved, Space Florida may actively pursue commercial customers for launch commitments at SLC-46. Full Complex readiness is anticipated within 12 months of a formal customer commitment.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin and ATK announced their intention to return the Athena launch vehicle to the marketplace. Promotional materials put out by both companies list Florida as one of four potential launch sites. Space Florida is also in discussions with additional customers that are showing interest in utilizing SLC-46.

In May, Space Florida received Department of Defense (DoD) approval on the Explosive Site Plan for the complex. Additionally, in February, Space Florida received the Real Property License for SLC-46 from the U.S. Air Force. At that time, a Joint Use Agreement was also signed by the Navy, which shares utilization of the property for occasional testing exercises. To date, corrosion control has been conducted on the Mobile Service Tower at SLC-46. A timeline for additional Launch Complex infrastructure build-out will be determined once a customer commitment is received. (7/9)

NASA to Fly Hurricane Research from South Florida (Source: NASA)
Three NASA aircraft will begin flights to study tropical cyclones on Aug. 15 during the agency's first major U.S.-based hurricane field campaign since 2001. The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes mission, or GRIP, will study the creation and rapid intensification of hurricanes.

The three NASA aircraft taking part in the mission are a DC-8, WB-57 and a remotely piloted Global Hawk. The DC-8 will fly out of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. The WB-57 will be based at the NASA Johnson Space Center's Ellington Field in Houston. The Global Hawk will be piloted and based from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, in Palmdale, Calif., while flying for up to 20 hours in the vicinity of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. (7/9)

India Traces GSLV Crash to Turbo Pump Failure (Source: Space News)
A turbo pump malfunction is being blamed for the April 15 launch failure of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The rocket veered from its flight path nearly five minutes after liftoff and crashed into the Bay of Bengal along with a communications satellite. Investigators traced the failure to a turbo pump malfunction that abruptly stopped the flow of liquid hydrogen fuel to the thrust chamber of the rocket’s domestically built third stage just 2.2 seconds after its ignition. Investigators suspect that excessive pressure built up and thermal stresses produced “gripping at one of the seal locations” that caused a rotor to. The launch failure is a set back for India’s plans to attain self-sufficiency in cryogenic propulsion development. ISRO spent 3.3 billion rupees ($70.5 million) to develop the engine. (7/9)

NASA Names KSC Veteran Lugo as Director of Glenn Research Center (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Ramon "Ray" Lugo III as director of the agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, effective July 18. Lugo has been Glenn's acting director since March. As Glenn's director, Lugo is responsible for planning, organizing and leading the center's activities in research, technology and systems development programs in space propulsion, space power, space communications, aeronautical propulsion and microgravity sciences.

Lugo was named Glenn's deputy director in November 2007. Before that, he served as deputy manager of the Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lugo began his NASA career at Kennedy as a cooperative education student in 1975. Lugo's prior leadership positions include executive director of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Management Office, director of Expendable Launch Vehicle Services, manager of the Facilities and Support Equipment Division in the Space Station Project Office, and chief of the business office in the Joint Performance Management Office. (7/9)

NASA's Muslim Outreach: Al Jazeera Told First (Source: Washington Examiner)
Lawmakers were surprised to learn recently that the Obama administration has made reaching out to Muslim nations a top priority for NASA. They will probably be more surprised to learn that administration officials told the Middle East news organization Al Jazeera about it before they told Congress. Elected officials got calls from Charles Bolden on June 28, the day the White House released its new long-term plan for the space program. "He ran down some of the things from the president's new space policy, and mentioned outreach to Muslims," Rep. Pete Olson recalls. "That stunned me. I didn't believe it."

As it happens, Bolden's calls came several days after Bolden discussed the Muslim initiative with Al Jazeera. According to a NASA spokesman, Bolden sat down with Al Jazeera's Imran Garda on June 17, during a stop in Doha, Qatar. Bolden's Mideast trip, which was timed to mark the first anniversary of President Obama's June 2009 Muslim outreach speech, was devoted to pursuing "a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world."

Editor's Note: NASA's outreach to Muslim nations was first reported in the media in mid-February of this year. NASA's outreach to developing nations is not unlike the kinds of strategic outreach Chinese and Russian space agencies have been making throughout Africa, Asia and South America. (7/9)

Science, Fiction Fizzle at 'Star Trek Live' at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Watching Star Trek Live is an out-of-this-world experience, and sometimes that's not a great thing. The 30-minute show, featuring two actors on a stage and others on-screen, is running at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex several times daily through Sept. 6.

Its presence brings make-believe space exploration into an attraction dedicated to the real thing and to the folks who truly went where no man had gone before. The Star Trek Live pre-show mixes a science quiz with trivia questions from the original Star Trek television series and the 2009 motion picture. The show's conclusion is satisfactory and pays attention to Trek history, but I still don't think Trek fans will be thrilled. Captain Kirk barely is addressed, and the lore isn't explored much. (7/9)

Moonbase Alpha: In Space, No One Can Hear You Yawn (Source: Softonic)
Who didn’t want to be an astronaut once upon a time? Rockets, weightlessness and walking on the moon looked really cool. NASA are trying to bring our dreams crashing into harsh reality, with their free educational game Moonbase Alpha. It could be fantastic - multiplayer missions on the Moon to save the base after a destructive meteor shower. It features a moon-buggy and robots! Unfortunately, Moonbase Alpha doesn’t feature Bruce Willis, and is designed with team-building and realism in mind.

In my first half an hour, I walked and jumped gracefully, but really slowly around the moonbase. I picked up a welder, drifted towards electrical units that were broken, and fixed them slowly. I then drifted back to the toolshed, to grab a wrench. Did you know astronauts can’t carry more than one object at a time? Using the moon-buggy speeds things up, as you can load items onto it, one by one, and move a lot faster. But it’s still hardly exciting. (7/9)

Space Trouble: ISS Missing Oxygen and Toilet (Source: Russia Today)
The American segment of the International Space Station has received a double hit by malfunctioning equipment. Both the toilet and the oxygen regenerator have broken down almost simultaneously. Now NASA astronauts are relying on their Russian colleagues for both respiration and waste disposal, a source in the space industry told Interfax news agency.

The oxygen regenerator went out of service on Monday, but NASA did not report on it until Friday. Meanwhile, the Russian-built toilet in the American sector broke on Tuesday. So far, all attempts to fix the devices have failed, but mission control says they have alternative solutions. (7/9)

Buzz Aldrin Speaks on Space at Palo Alto Hotel (Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Buzz Aldrin touched on his history in the air and his hopes for the future of space exploration during a speech in Palo Alto Thursday night, more than 40 years after he became the second man to walk on the moon. Speaking at an evening event at the downtown Garden Court Hotel, the 80-year-old former astronaut said the United States needs to stay at the front of "global space leadership," and pushed for further exploration of Mars. He said he hoped the U.S. space program will focus on Phobos, one of Mars' two moons, which would allow NASA to improve its exploration of the planet's surface and help rovers Spirit and Opportunity to get "done in five days what was done in five years." (7/9)

Power Anomaly Hits Indian Satellite (Source: The Hindu)
Due to a power supply anomaly in one of its two solar panels, there is a partial non-availability of services on India’s INSAT-4B Communication satellite. The INSAT-4B carries a total of 24 communication transponders (12 Ku-Band and 12 C-Band) and has been in operation since March 2007. The satellite experienced a power supply glitch which led to switching ‘off’ of 50 percent of the transponder capacity late on July 7. (7/9)

NASA's Mission: Exploration or Diplomacy? (Source: Government Executive)
Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News that Bolden's Muslim mission remarks were "a new height of fatuousness. NASA was established to get America into space and to keep us there." And former NASA administrator Michael Griffin told the Washington Examiner that "it is a perversion of NASA's purpose to conduct activities in order to make the Muslim world feel good about its contributions to science and mathematics."

It strikes me that this is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. First of all, Bolden was talking about what the president had asked him personally to focus in the course of his duties, not giving a full characterization of the agency's mission. (In other words, it sort of goes without saying that first and foremost NASA focuses on space exploration.) Second, Bolden was clearly trying to be nice to his guests. Third, as Slate's Christopher Beam points out, like it or not, NASA's mission has always been to a degree diplomatic. Why did Space Station Freedom mutate into the International Space Station? At least in part because the U.S. wanted to use NASA's auspices to build better relations with key countries.

And what's more, NASA's mission routinely has been characterized as ranging far beyond just launching rockets into space. Throughout its history, the agency's existence has been justified in terms of feel-good values that have little to do with its scientific mission. The last president certainly bought into this notion. "We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts the national spirit," President Bush said in announcing his vision for space exploration in 2004. (7/9)

Former Melbourne High Teacher to Live on Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
Former Melbourne High science teacher Joe Acaba is among a new group of astronauts assigned to live on the International Space Station, NASA announced today. Acaba, who taught at the school in 1999-2000 and visited the station last year during his first spaceflight, is scheduled to launch on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in April 2012. He'll fly with veteran Russian cosmonaut and space station commander Gennady Padalka and cosmonaut Konstantin Valkov. (7/9)

Space Agencies Tackle Waning Plutonium Stockpiles (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
While NASA is counting on an act of Congress or a renegotiated deal with Russia to acquire plutonium for its next robotic deep space missions, the European Space Agency is considering alternative nuclear fuels to power its own probes traveling into the sun-starved outer solar system.

NASA's dwindling supply of plutonium-238 nuclear fuel will not be sufficient to power an orbiter to visit Jupiter's moon Europa, NASA's contribution to a planned $4.5 billion joint flagship mission between the U.S. space agency and Europe. That's unless the U.S. Department of Energy, which supplies nuclear fuel for NASA missions, receives funding to restart domestic production of plutonium or successfully resolves a contract dispute with the Russian government. (7/9)

No comments: