August 16, 2010

Argentina Plans Space Program, Including Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
Argentina is developing satellite-launching capability with the hope of garnering some of the new business currently going to China. Several of Argentina's neighbors are in the process of launching satellites with Chinese help, and others are actively considering an early entry into the Space Age. Although Argentina, too, has signed up for space cooperation with China, officials said the satellite program would be launched with the nation's own resources.

Analysts said Argentina could see satellite technology development not only as a new line of business but also as a way of bolstering defense capability amid a continuing row with Britain over a sovereignty claim on the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory. Exactly how debt-ridden Argentina will finance its satellite program remains unclear. Argentina has set 2013 as the target date for joining the club of countries currently able to launch satellites for their own use or for clients. Aside from the United States, Russia and the European Union, the list includes Japan and Israel.

Conrado Varotto, chief executive officer of Argentina's National Committee of Space Activities, told the media Argentina expects to build and launch its satellite at a fourth of the going cost "anywhere else." Varotto indicated Argentina was tired of begging other countries to help it with putting its own satellites into orbit. "With the needed resources, we estimate that by 2013 we could be launching the first space vehicle," he said. Varotto said Argentina's satellite program would have the capacity to put into orbit satellites weighing 550-900 pounds. (8/16)

Canadian Scientists Help Search for Life on Mars by Looking for Methane Gas (Source: KBS Radio)
The latest hunt for signs of life on Mars will involve a team of Canadian scientists searching for gas. The researchers are part of an international team that will work on an instrument known as MATMOS — or Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer. The mission is designed to take one approach to looking at life on Mars by examining the composition of the atmosphere. (8/16)

China Helps Developing Nations Become Space Players (Sources: Space Daily)
Several of Argentina's neighbors are in the process of launching satellites with Chinese help, and others are actively considering an early entry into the Space Age. Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela have received Chinese aid for their satellite launch programs. Although Argentina, too, has signed up for space cooperation with China, Argentine officials said its new satellite program would be launched with the nation's own resources.

Editor's Note: President Obama was pilloried for proposing that NASA should reach out to Muslim nations. Meanwhile, China (and Russia) are creating win-win revenue-generating alliances with nations that once looked to the U.S. for leadership and support.

Pentagon OKs New Weather Satellite (Source: DOD Buzz)
The Pentagon’s head of acquisition signed an Acquisition Decision Memorandum last week telling the Air Force to plow ahead and develop plans for a new weather satellite, one replacing the ill-fated NPOESS program. Ironically, the requirements for the new satellite — to be known as the Defense Weather Satellite — are the same as they were for NPOESS, according to a congressional aide. This means that the main difference from NPOESS will be that there will a Defense Department satellite containing sensors that meet the military’s requirements instead of a single satellite that meets the requirements of DoD, as well as its former NPOESS partners, NOAA and NASA. (8/16)

Solving the Mystery of the Long Solar Minimum (Source: Astronomy Now)
A team of researchers led by Mausumi Dikpati from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Roger Ulrich from the University of California, Los Angeles have suggested a cause for the unusually long lull in solar activity in the last decade. Our Sun is constantly changing, differing in the number of sunspots and solar flares over an 11 year cycle. The changes in the level of the activity of the Sun can have wide ranging effects here on Earth, such as communication satellite blackouts and power grid failures. (8/16)

$5 Million Center to Support Commercial Rockets Urged for Space Coast (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A new facility to support the fledgling commercial spaceflight industry could be coming to the Space Coast under a plan announced Monday by a team of White House advisors asked to find ways to help the Florida economy recover from the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle.

The proposed FAA office would get $5 million of the $40 million that President Barack Obama pledged to the state when he visited Kennedy Space Center in April, with the other $35 million going to a grant program. The administration has said it wants to significantly increase commercial rocket flights at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The administration's proposal to build a new FAA facility for commercial spaceflight dovetails with new legislation that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson plans to sponsor. The legislation aims to grow the commercial space industry with major tax breaks. (8/16)

Aerospace Must Revive Its Spirit (Source: Aviation Week)
On June 4, Falcon 9 achieved orbit, and I won a number of bets. In most cases, the people I bet against were predicting failure for reasons related to SpaceX’s lack of experience and heritage hardware. The young crew at the heart of SpaceX, and their leader, Elon Musk, sure don’t look like their peers at Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Orbital Sciences! They do lack experience and definitely lack heritage hardware. Yet, I won my bets because I strongly believe there are things more important than experience and heritage, such as an entrepreneurial culture and talent. And this is where SpaceX is currently head and shoulders above its competitors.

I helped build and run one of the U.S.’s leading space engineering graduate programs at the University of Michigan, home of the nation’s first collegiate aeronautics program with graduates such as Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, astronaut James McDivitt and many leaders of the U.S. aerospace industry. And each year, we see hundreds of Michigan students enter the aerospace workforce—young people who aspire to make a mark, just like these heroes before them.

I recently performed an analysis of the very best students in my space engineering programs over the past decade, based on their scholarly, leadership and entrepreneurial performance at Michigan. To my amazement, I found that of my top 10 students, five work at SpaceX. No other company or lab has attracted more than two of these top students. (8/16)

What is Space Weather? (Source: Why Files)
Space weather describes the conditions in space that affect Earth and its technological systems. Space weather storms originate from the sun and occur in space near Earth or in the atmosphere. Space weather, like weather here on Earth, is continually moving and changing. Space weather phenomena include the Northern Lights and solar radiation storms.

Northern Lights are caused when charged particles get trapped by Earth’s magnetic field and flow toward the poles, accelerating as they move through Earth’s magnetic field. The most energetic of the electrons penetrate the atmosphere and collide with the nitrogen and oxygen atoms, charging the atom. When the excited atom returns to its normal energy state, it gives off red or green light. Near the South Pole, the same phenomenon is called Aurora Australis, the southern lights.

Solar radiation storms occur when the sun suddenly emits large amounts of energetic particles. These storms can affect communication on aircraft flying polar routes, where the storms are strongest. Strong X-ray emissions from the sun can also disturb the upper regions of our atmosphere and cause larger radio blackouts. (8/16)

Space Task Force Recommends Grants (Sources: Florida Today, Orlando Sentinel)
A presidential task force will recommend competitive grants as a way to encourage businesses to come to the Space Coast and help the region survive the loss of the shuttle program. Companies in the fields of aviation and aerospace, clean energy, homeland security and life sciences will be encouraged to compete for $35 million in grant money through the Commerce Department. An additional $5 million would be distributed to commercial rocket companies vying to launch from Kennedy Space Center, under the recommendations to be released Tuesday after being formally submitted to President Barack Obama last week.

The Task Force recommended to Obama that most of the money go to grants in five areas: aviation, clean energy, homeland security, information technology and life sciences. Bids for the grants likely will open up in September, and administration officials hope to select winners by the end of the year. Competition is expected to be fierce, as more than 30 local groups outlined proposals last month during a day-long forum at Orlando International Airport. (8/16)

Indiana Firm Gets Thrust from Stimulus (Source: South Bend Tribune)
In October the worst recession since the Great Depression forced South Bend-based Manufacturing Technology Inc. to deliver some grim news to employees. It laid off about 20 of its 115 workers, and a second similarly sized round of cuts loomed on the horizon.

But a month later came some brighter news. The specialty welding firm had been subcontracted by Boeing, aided by about $11 million in federal stimulus money, to build three giant welding machines for NASA's Constellation space program. MTI is designing and assembling the machines that will use friction stir welding to join sections of 70-foot-tall fuel tanks for the Ares 1 rocket. (8/16)

Nelson Aims to Boost Commercial Rocket Industry (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson wants to create five business enterprise zones around the country that would give tax breaks to space-related businesses. The Florida Democrat is unveiling his plan Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center. Under the plan, space-related businesses would qualify for major tax breaks and other incentives. Nelson says the plan would help attract engineers and scientists to these enterprise zones and create jobs in an industry facing uncertainty. (8/16)

Economic Development Group Under Pressure as Shuttle Jobs Slip Away (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County's jobless rate was 11.4 percent in June. The July figures are due out Friday. Rising unemployment and the impact of 8,000 jobs lost with the retirement of the space shuttle program brought the local Economic Development Commission’s job creation efforts, and its overall efficacy, into question among some members of Brevard County commission. The EDC operates on a combination of government funding and dues paid by individuals and businesses, with the county last year paying $1.5 million of the organization’ s $2.2 million operating budget.

Although the budget has yet to be finalized, the EDC is in line to get about $1.4 million from the county for the coming fiscal year, down about 7 percent from its fiscal 2009-10 allocation. With municipalities slashing their own budgets, the attention paid to — and expectations of — economic development efforts is at an all-time high.

An EDC official said he is pursuing three “really solid prospects” in the aerospace and defense industries that could provide a surge of new jobs. He wouldn’t disclose the companies’ names but said they are recruited firms, not existing ones looking to expand. One of the companies is eyeing Melbourne; another is considering Melbourne or Palm Bay; a third is inquiring about Melbourne, Palm Bay and Titusville. But competition is heavy, and he is involved in “a five-state shootout” for one of the companies. (8/16)

With Shuttles Becoming Museum Pieces, Cities Vie to Land One (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
They've racked up a lot of mileage, and their $28.8-million price — sans engine — should be enough to cause sticker shock. But that isn't stopping institutions from Los Angeles to New York from engaging in a new space race to land one of the soon-to-be-retired shuttles. Twenty-one institutions are in fierce competition for what one museum director called the rarest of space artifacts. They've enlisted former astronauts and high-flying officials to back their bids for one of three orbiters. Lawmakers have even tried to use congressional legislation to give their states a leg up.

"Like anything rare, the orbiters will be hugely popular attractions," said Valerie Neal, spaceflight history curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. She called them the most significant space artifacts to become available since the Apollo and Skylab command modules in the 1970s. Florida, where the shuttle is launched, and Texas, home to mission control, both say they deserve one. Ohio says it should get one because it was the home of the Wright brothers. New York City says it should get one because it can draw the biggest crowds.

At least three museums in Southern California, with its aerospace heritage, say they have the right stuff. Chicago's Adler Planetarium is competing, as are institutions in Seattle; Tulsa, Okla.; Huntsville, Ala.; and McMinnville, Ore.; home of another big flying machine — the Spruce Goose, formerly of Long Beach. No date has been set for a decision, but the shuttle, workhorse of the space program for three decades, is scheduled to make its final flight next year. (8/16)

Proof of Aliens Could Come Within 25 Years, Scientist Says (Source:
Proof of extraterrestrial intelligence could come within 25 years, an astronomer who works on the search said Sunday. "I actually think the chances that we'll find ET are pretty good," said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, Calif., here at the SETI con convention. "Young people in the audience, I think there's a really good chance you're going to see this happen."

Shostak bases this estimation on the Drake Equation, a formula conceived by SETI pioneer Frank Drake to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate. That equation takes into account a variety of factors, including the rate of star formation in the galaxy, the fraction of stars that have planets, the fraction of planets that are habitable, the percent of those that actually develop life, the percent of those that develop intelligent life, the fraction of civilizations that have a technology that can broadcast their presence into space, and the length of time those signals would be broadcasted. (8/16)

Space Spectacles: NASA Evaluates Adjustable Astronaut Eyewear (Source: Scientific American)
Middle age is often accompanied by the onset of presbyopia, a condition whereby the eye's crystalline lens loses some of the youthful elasticity that enabled it to focus on nearby objects. The remedy for most people has been reading glasses or, for those already wearing prescription lenses, bifocals. For the handful of humans who work in the topsy-turvy environs of the space station or a spacecraft, presbyopia can be a bit more problematic because reading can take place at any number of odd angles, not to mention in microgravity, which tends to degrade vision.

Add to this the fact that many astronauts today are either at or approaching the age when presbyopia sets in, and it is not surprising that NASA is evaluating a new type of adjustable eyeglass lens called TruFocals for use during training and on missions. For the past six months NASA has been taking TruFocals through a detailed certification process to ensure they are not only a better option than other types of eyeglasses but that the materials used to make them will not pose a hazard to astronauts in their enclosed work environs, says C. Robert Gibson, a senior optometrist at the NASA Johnson Space Center. (8/16)

Russia Proposes Launch of Arktika Space Monitoring Project in 2014 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Economic Development Ministry has proposed launching the Arktika (Arctic) satellite system from 2014, the head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Monday. The system, which is worth around 70 billion rubles ($2.5 billion), will monitor climatic changes and survey energy resources in the Arctic region.

Arktika could become an international project. "It is a purely civilian system, comprised of six satellites," the Roscosmos chief said. "Canada is working along the same lines and would like to cooperate with us." He said Italy and a number of Asian countries were also interested in the project. The system, , will monitor the weather and environment of the North Pole, pinpoint hydrocarbon deposits on the Arctic shelf, provide telecommunications over the hard-to-access areas and ensure safe air traffic and commercial shipping in the region. (8/16)

ISS Could Last Another Decade (Source: RIA Novosti)
The International Space Station (ISS), which has been in orbit for 10 years, could continue work for another decade, the head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Monday. The service life of the ISS ends in 2015 but participants of the project are currently discussing ways to extend its operation until 2020. "It has great potential," Anatoly Perminov said in an interview with Golos Rossii radio station, adding that the ISS had not yet fulfilled all of its missions. (8/16)

Move Over, NASA, The Entrepreneurs Are Coming (Source: Discovery)
In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA was the space program. Gemini, Apollo, men on the moon. Things have changed. Today, on Engineering Works! Listen to the podcast. Those of us of a certain age remember when a launch from Cape Canaveral was exciting. Everything stopped so we could watch. Things are different now. The space program is still important, but budget deficits and different priorities threaten. And NASA’s not the only game in town anymore.

Private companies are pushing to take over pieces of what used to be NASA’s exclusive turf. Everything from building innovative inflatable space stations to developing rockets to put them into orbit. It’s too early to tell if space entrepreneurs like this are going to be able to carve out niches for themselves in space, but it seems to be working. A small-scale inflatable space station is in orbit now around the earth. You can use the company’s onboard video system to check it out. And they have several other versions of the habitat ready to go. Almost.

Another company has used its own rocket to put a model of its own space vehicle into orbit. Other versions of the rocket, all the way to a massive three-engine heavy-lift rocket are on the drawing board. These companies want to make space more accessible than it seems to when NASA was the only option. And they think they can do it as well as NASA and cheaper. (8/16)

NASA Institute Seeks Lunar Research (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Lunar Science Institute at Ames Research Center brings the same interdisciplinary approach that the center’s Astrobiology Institute has pursued over the past decade as it seeks to understand the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. This is a broadly based research agency that largely exists in cyberspace with collaboration among academia, NASA centers and researchers in industry. It's director is an astrophysicist who was formerly deputy associate center director at Ames who has recently immersed herself in lunar studies. She says she is surprised at how fascinating the Moon is. (8/16)

Researchers Quantify How Earth's Magnetosphere Protects the Planet From the Solar Wind (Source: Lockheed Martin)
It has long been known that the Earth's magnetic field provides a protective barrier for life on Earth. As energetic particles stream outward from the Sun in the form of the solar wind, they are deflected by a "force field" created by the Earth's magnetosphere. Now, a team of scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Lockheed Martin, and several other institutions have used data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to understand precisely how the process works.

"Without the Earth's magnetosphere, which extends outward into space, the highly energetic charged particles carried by the solar wind could strip away some of Earth's atmosphere," said Lockheed Martin's Stephen A. Fuselier, lead investigator for the IBEX-Lo sensor. "The exchange of electrical charges between the solar wind and the outer reaches of the Earth's atmosphere is one of the causes of atmospheric loss, but the Earth's magnetosphere blocks the solar wind from penetrating close to the planet. (8/16)

Astronauts Replace Failed Cooling Equipment on Space Station (Source: CNN)
The repairs performed on the International Space Station's cooling system Monday morning appear to be working. NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson installed a spare 780-pound ammonia pump module to replace a broken unit that they removed last Wednesday, NASA said on its website. Wheelock attached four bolts and Caldwell Dyson mated five electrical connectors, then ground controllers confirmed the module was in healthy condition when it began receiving power. After a pressure check and more fluid cable connections, ammonia began to flow into the module, NASA said. (8/16)

Closures of Overseas Air Force Bases Examined in Savings Effort (Source: AIA)
A Pentagon advisory board is looking at the potential cost savings and the effect on national security if some U.S. Air Force installations overseas were closed. A Congressional task force has already given a positive assessment of the scenario, but the closures would mean the loss of thousands of jobs. The assessments are the result of an order from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to find $102 billion in savings over the next five years to shift funds to the war-fighting effort. (8/16)

Florida Looks to High-Tech Companies for Jobs Amid Defense Cutbacks (Source: AIA)
Despite receiving billions of dollars in contracts during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, central Florida defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Harris Corp. have had relatively unchanged employment levels due to the attrition of retiring workers and other factors. As the state considers the fate of the job situation as the Pentagon pulls back on its $700 billion-a-year budget, many will be looking to high-wage, high-tech companies to fill the job gap. (8/16)

Defense Companies Still Hiring in Key Areas, Despite Declines in 2009 (Source: AIA)
Despite defense budget belt-tightening and economic indicators, the jobs outlook in the aerospace and defense industry looks relatively strong, and companies expect to hire in areas such as acquisitions and cyber-security. The Aerospace Industries Association reports that 2009 represented the first time in seven years that the level of aerospace employment declined, however most companies continued to hire for critical jobs. (8/16)

Report Provides Once-a-Decade Guidance for U.S. Space Science (Source: AIA)
The National Research Council released a once-a-decade study on Friday outlining the top priorities for the direction of U.S. space science over the next 10 years. The report has historically served as a guideline for federal agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy for formulating their astronomy and astrophysics budget requests, and the new plan includes factors such as increased support for projects that can be fielded quickly in response to discoveries and new ground- and space-based telescopes. (8/16)

NASA Jobs, Economy Fuel 24th Congressional District Race (Source: Florida Today)
The 24th Congressional District stretches across four counties. But its focal point for many is the Kennedy Space Center, where an estimated 8,000 jobs will be lost with the expected end of the shuttle program next year. The future direction of NASA and how that will affect the Space Coast's economy top the concerns among voters going into the Aug. 24 congressional primary. The next Congress could play a big role in shaping the nation's space missions post-shuttle.

The five Republicans and two Democrats running generally promise to work toward minimizing the economic fallout from the end of the shuttle program. The next representative from District 24 -- which includes North Brevard and parts of Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties -- is likely to be in the middle of that debate. The Democratic candidates include incumbent Suzanne Kosmas and Paul Partyka. The Republican candidates include Sandy Adams, Karen Diebel, Tom Garcia, Deon Long, and Craig Miller. Click here to learn their views on space. (8/16)

Third Space Station Repair Mission Underway (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A pair of NASA astronauts began a third spacewalk at 6:20 a.m. today to replace a broken cooling pump that failed during a power surge on July 31 aboard the International Space Station. The mission — estimated to last six hours or more — is the latest high-wire act for Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson and calls for the two to install a one of four spare pumps into the slot that used to house the broken one.

It took two spacewalks to remove the broken pump, including one mission that lasted more than eight hours and set a record for the longest spacewalk at the station. Originally, NASA had planned for only two spacewalks, but Wheelock and Caldwell Dyson could not completely remove the broken pump during the first, record-setting spacewalk because of problems disconnecting a cooling line from the 780-pound pump. A fourth spacewalk is possible, depending on how quickly the two astronauts can do their work today. (8/16)

Is the Merlin Engine the Workhorse of Future Spaceflight? (Source: Space Review)
All eyes are on SpaceX as it seeks to lower the cost of space access and open up new markets. Stewart Money argues that the company's most important innovation may not be its launch vehicles or spacecraft but a rocket engine that could be for space what another engine was for the automotive industry. Visit to view the article. (8/16)

A Tale of Two Museums (Source: Space Review)
The quest to land one of the space shuttles upon their retirement continues, pitting museums across the country against once another. Jeff Foust pays a visit to a pair of Ohio museums, one a leading candidate for a shuttle and one simply struggling to stay alive. Visit to view the article. (8/16)

Can the UK Aerospace Base Drive Human Space Efforts Forward? (Source: Space Review)
The UK is reconsidering its approach to space exploration with a new government and the formation of a space agency. Andrew Weston examines how the country's rich aerospace heritage might provide the support for a reinvigorated space program. Visit to view the article. (8/16)

NASA Hurricane Program Gears Up in Florida (Source: NASA)
The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment is a NASA Earth science field experiment in 2010 that is being conducted to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes. Researchers from NASA's Langley Research Center are supporting the program aboard a NASA DC-8 research aircraft at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. (8/16)

NASA Releases New Image Of Massive Greenland Iceberg (Source: Space Daily)
On Aug. 5, 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, about 251 square kilometers (97 square miles) in size, or roughly four times the size of Manhattan, broke off the Petermann Glacier along the northwestern coast of Greenland. The Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 70-kilometer-long (40-miles) floating ice shelf, according to researchers at the University of Delaware, Newark, Dela. The recently calved iceberg is the largest to form in the Arctic in 50 years. Click here for more. (8/16)

Editorial: The Sun Also Surprises (Source: New York Times)
Despite warnings that New Orleans was unprepared for a severe hit by a hurricane, America was blindsided by Hurricane Katrina, a once-in-a-lifetime storm that made landfall five years ago this month. We are similarly unready for another potential natural disaster: solar storms, bursts of gas on the sun’s surface that release tremendous energy pulses.

Occasionally, a large solar storm can rain energy down on the earth, overpowering electrical grids. About once a century, a giant pulse can knock out worldwide power systems for months or even years. It’s been 90 years since the last super storm, but scientists say we are on the verge of another period of high solar activity. Though less frequent than large hurricanes, significant storms have hit earth several times over the last 150 years, most notably in 1859 and 1921. Those occurred before the development of the modern power grid; recovering from a storm that size today would cost up to $2 trillion a year for several years. (8/16)

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