August 27, 2010

Hero Astronauts Honor Elite Students with $200,000 in Scholarship Awards (Source: ASF)
Signed, sealed and delivered! The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) has awarded 20 exceptional college students around the country with a total of $200,000 in scholarships for the 2010-2011 school year. ASF bestows the largest monetary award given in the U.S. to engineering and science undergraduates and postgraduate students based solely on merit. The ASF Scholarship Committee, comprised of Academia, Astronauts and Astronaut Scholar alumni, reviewed the applicants and chose the top students from each institution to become Astronaut Scholars. Click here to see the list of winners. (8/17)

FAA Center: One For the Price of Two (Source: Lurio Report)
In awarding its new Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation R&D, the FAA forced a marriage of two competing teams, led by New Mexico State University (NMSU) and Stanford, into a single Center led by NMSU. The FAA intended to allocate $1 million per year to the new Center. Evidently as a consequence of adding the Stanford team, the latter will itself receive $1 million at least in the first year; i.e. the Center--as a whole--will get a ‘double-barreled’ $2 million in FAA funds for the first year. For the following four years it will be funded to at least $1 million, possibly more. Of course, all funding is contingent upon the Center providing at least matching dollars.

Editor's Note: Unlike other FAA Centers of Excellence, which are very narrowly focused on specific (aviation) technology challenges, the new Space Transportation center has a very broad focus, so $1 million per year may be a little too small an investment to address all of the challenges faced by the FAA as it works to regulate and enable the growing industry. (8/27)

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Reports Progress Using Stimulus Funding (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sierra Nevada Corp. says it is making “excellent progress” on efforts to develop its Dream Chaser orbital vehicle, according to a report on the website. The Nevada-based company received $20 million from NASA earlier this year to fund work on the spacecraft, which would be used to ferry crew to and from the International Space Station. The grant was one of five awards made under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program. NASA has not committed to any one technology.

An interesting aspect of this grant is that it funds propulsion module test firings. Sierra Nevada is using the same propulsion system for Dream Chaser as it is for the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle, which is being built by Scaled Composites for Virgin Galactic. Development of the hybrid propulsion engine for SSTwo has been reportedly slow and problem plagued, so the NASA funding probably helps a lot. If they do get it to work, Richard Branson can credit NASA with an assist. (8/27)

Com Dev Struggles with Cost Growth on Government Programs (Source: Space News)
Canadian satellite component builder Com Dev International on Aug. 26 warned investors that it faces continued cost-growth problems on several U.S. and Canadian government satellite programs and that it is further reducing its revenue and profit forecast for the year. It will be the fourth consecutive quarter that Com Dev has had to confront unexpected cost growth in contracts for government customers. Com Dev Chief Executive John Keating said he is confident the company has taken “appropriate steps to fully address the expected costs on these five programs, so they won’t continue to generate negative gross margins.” (8/27)

NASA Ames Stimulates California's Economy (Source: CSA)
NASA’s Ames Research Center generated 5,300 jobs and $877 million in total annual economic activity in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area in 2009, according to a new economic benefits study. Click here for more. (8/27)

NASA's 2nd Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Design Challenge (Source: CSA)
NASA is inviting students in grades 5-8 to participate in the 2nd Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Design Challenge. The challenge uses real-world scenarios that meet science and mathematics content standards. Students can participate in a formal, informal or home-school setting. Teams of up to six students will design a water recycling system for the unique environment of the moon. Teams will then test their system on a simulated wastewater stream. Proposals and results are due Feb. 28, 2011. Visit for information. (8/27)

NASA Space Settlement Design Contest (Source: CSA)
Design a space colony! Space colonies are permanent communities in orbit, as opposed to being on the moon or other planets. Designing a space colony involves physics, mathematics, space science, environmental science and many other disciplines. The NASA Space Settlement Design Contest is for 11-18-year-old students from anywhere in the world. Individuals or teams may enter. Grades 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12 are judged separately, except for the grand prize. All participants will receive a certificate. Visit for information (8/27)

Hall of Fame Selects California Space Industry Leader (Source: CSA)
SAIC's Tom "Tav" Taverney was one of 10 individuals who served at Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., to be inducted into the Space Operations Hall of Fame on July 28 by the Air Force Association (AFA) Tennessee Ernie Ford Chapter. Taverney, honored for his "unique spacecraft control software," was the only recipient in the technical category. In the nomination, he was praised "for supporting two major potential satellite failures and getting the satellite back into operation." Click here for information. (8/27)

Full-Scale NASA and ATK Solid Rocket Motor Test Set for Aug. 31 (Source: CSA)
NASA and ATK will conduct a full-scale test of a five-segment, first-stage solid rocket motor at 11:05 a.m. EDT on Aug. 31. The test at the ATK Aerospace Systems test facility in Promontory, Utah will assess motor performance at low temperatures. Visit (8/27)

Boeing Wins USAF Contract to Begin Work on Seventh Phase of Satellite (Source: CSA)
The U.S. Air Force has approved a contract extension to pay Boeing $182 million to begin work on a seventh installment of a military communications satellite. The contract builds on earlier work in which Boeing is building three Wideband Global SATCOM, or WGS, satellites, and the extension could bring Boeing as much as $2 billion in new work. (8/27)

Board Appointment Delays for Space Florida May Impact Workforce Support (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's Board of Directors was dissolved last week by legislation that was passed earlier this year in Tallahassee. Governor Charlie Crist was expected to name a new slate of board members last week to replace the old ones, but the selection/vetting process is still underway. Without a board in place, Space Florida is unable to enter into agreements valued at over $100,000. Some local officials are concerned a prolonged delay could prevent the timely distribution of over $3 million appropriated by the Florida Legislature for aerospace workforce assistance. The workforce funds will flow through Space Florida to a local workforce agency to assist displaced Space Shuttle workers. (8/27)

California Space Authority Seeks Board Nominations (Source: CSA)
Nomination requests for candidates for the California Space Authority Board of Directors will open September 1, 2010 and close on September 30, 2010. Additional information and nomination forms will be available September 1, 2010 on the California Space Authority website at (8/27)

NASA and U2 Create Video to Celebrate Collaboration (Source: NASA)
NASA and U2 released a commemorative video highlighting a year's worth of collaboration in space and on the Irish rock band's 360 Degree tour. U2 approached NASA in 2009 with an idea to include a dialogue between the band and the crew of the International Space Station during U2's world tour. The astronauts of Expedition 20, the crew then living aboard the space station, agreed to participate and spoke with U2 several times before recording a video segment the band incorporated into its concerts. (8/27)

Measuring The NASA Stimulus (Source: National Journal)
There's no doubt that NASA spending -- as with the spending of any government agency -- can benefit the economy directly through the purchase of goods and services, and indirectly by inspiring industries that spin off from its technologies. But how much of a benefit is an open question -- one that most researchers have given up trying to resolve. This question becomes more pertinent than ever as NASA proposes to issue a series of technological challenges through its $572.2 million Space Technology Program.

Perhaps partly due to the experimental nature of the program, which makes it difficult to predict what technologies would make the cut for development and who would use them, deriving a specific return on investment isn't included in the agency's FY11 budget proposal. Instead, it promises Congress that the program will help build a "more robust national capability for space activities that will improve our competitive posture in the international marketplace, enable new industries and contribute to economic growth."

Most of the academic and NASA-related studies published between the mid-1960s and 1980s agree that NASA benefits the economy, but "economists are not in agreement in finding a clear and best approach to measurement," wrote Henry R. Hertzfeld, research professor for George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, in a 1998 compilation of economic studies focused on NASA. "It is also clear that no one measure is a comprehensive indicator of NASA impacts and benefits," he added. (8/27)

Online Job Fair Now Open to KSC Employees (Source: KSC)
An online job fair is now open to all KSC employees through Aug. 30. In order to participate, job seekers must be registered with Brevard Workforce. This fair provides the opportunity to preview employers who may participate in an on-site job fair Wednesday, Sept.15. Some participating employers may use this virtual event to pre-screen and set up interviews during that job fair, as well as the one on Thursday, Sept. 16. To register, visit (8/27)

Pentagon: White House to Seek Modest Defense Budget Growth (Source: AIA)
The Obama administration will likely seek only a modest increase of 1% over inflation in its next defense budget request for fiscal year 2012, says the Pentagon's chief financial officer, Robert Hale. The figure suggests slower growth for the defense budget, but Hale said he hopes the military will avoid more substantial cuts due to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' substantial cost-saving efforts. (8/27)

Aerospace Suppliers Worry Over Industry's Future in Washington State (Source: AIA)
The future of the aerospace industry in the Everett, Wash., region appears uncertain after Boeing chose South Carolina over Washington when selecting a site for a second 787 production line. The decision came only after Boeing met secretly with the company's machinists union to try to negotiate a long-term labor contract, and officials in Everett, the site of the first production line, say the company sent a huge statement in moving its second production line elsewhere. (8/27)

KSC Commercial Space Forum Planned on Sep. 7-8 (Source: SPACErePORT)
Join senior commercial space experts, executives and entrepreneurs for a commercial space market overview of emerging markets, facilities and drivers, sponsored by the Center Planning and Development Office. The evemt will be held on Sep. 7-8 at the KSC Training Auditorium and is intended for KSC civil servants and contractor personnel. The discussions will center on commercial space markets, trade and export controls, and other topics. (8/27)

Whither NSSO? (Source: Space Politics)
On Thursday the Pentagon released a memo from Secretary the Air Force Michael Donley discussing changes to the Air Force’s space management and organization. The changes were designed to address a “confusing” structure for the service’s space organization. As DOD Buzz notes, perhaps the biggest changes are making the Under Secretary of the Air Force “the focal point for space” at Air Force headquarters and giving the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition the responsibility for space acquisition.

Another aspect is the uncertain, but not particularly promising, future of the National Security Space Office (NSSO), originally a joint office between the Defense Department and NRO. While Air Force staff currently assigned to NSSO will now fall under the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, decisions about NSSO staff associated with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) will be deferred until after a roles and responsibilities discussion is completed. (8/27)

Arianespace to Market India Rocket (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
With global major Arianespace offering to promote indigenous rockets in the multi-billion-dollar satellite-launch market, the coffers of the Indian Space Research Organization could soon be filled with lots of moolah. The European firm plans to market Isro’s workhorse rocket, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, for commercial launch of satellites as part of its partnership with the Indian space agency.

The launch of each of these one-ton remote sensing satellites would fetch ISRO about $20 million to $40 million, while those weighing less than a ton but designed for scientific missions would bring in lesser revenues. “We are working on marketing the PSLV as we are not involved in launch of smaller satellites. I’m sure India will become a major player in the global market,” Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman & CEO, Arianespace, told Deccan Chronicle. He said the market for hoisting remote sensing satellites is set to grow. (8/27)

How to Create Space Vomit (Source: MSNBC)
NASA is famous for taking advantage of the best innovations this country can offer: Tang ... Teflon ... space pens ... and, um, artificial vomit? The space agency's latest "Behind the Scenes" video, narrated by spacewalker/comedian Mike Massimino, focuses on research being conducted on space trash bags at Johnson Space Center's Advanced Water Recovery Systems Development Facility. These bags have to stand up to everything that astronauts on future space missions need to get rid of. That includes food scraps, dirty astronaut diapers ... and the occasional outcome of space sickness. (8/27)

Buzz Aldrin Among Panelists at Space Center (Source: Downy Patriot)
Monday’s AIAA gathering at the Columbia Space Learning Center included panelists representing different professional engineering/science-oriented groups but which have somehow cast their lot in a common cause—U.S. human space exploration—was anything but dull. The National Space Society’s Mark Hopkins, at one time ostensibly with the Rand Corporation, and Boeing’s Dean Davis, who acted as panel chairman, both spoke of the huge resource potential of space (“potentially very rich for humans”), exploration as a prelude to economic development, the technological innovation this will demand, and the likely stance Congress usually takes when weighing such weighty matters: how to maximize their chances for re-election (“A program involving such things should be politically saleable”).

In the panel also were Jeff Greason, member of the Augustine Commission and president and co-founder of XCOR Aerospace, and Robert Zubrin, president and founder of the Mars Society and Pioneer Astronautics, and an author as well. Completing the high-caliber panel of doctorate-degreed speakers was Buzz Aldrin, who was the featured panelist and practically needs no introduction. Also slated to talk but unable to make it were Rep. Jane Harman and other elected officials, as well as representatives from Scaled Composites and SpaceX. (8/27)

Former NASA Head Back in DC Area After Plane Crash (Source: CNN)
Former NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his son, Kevin, have returned to the Washington, DC area after recovering from a plane crash in Alask. The August 9 plane crash on a mountainside killed five people, including former Sen.Ted Stevens. O'Keefe was recuperating at an Alaska hospital, but had recovered enough to be released from that hospital and moved to another hospital, the O'Keefe family spokesman said Thursday. (8/27)

Museums Fight to Get Retired Space Shuttles (Source: ABC)
A new space race is on and the competition is vicious. We're not talking about putting a man or woman on the moon or Mars but museums duking it out over which one gets to house the retiring space shuttles. Millions of dollars are at stake and the battle is shaping up to be one of the fiercest in museum history. The problem is that 21 institutions across the nation are seeking the three spacecraft. (8/27)

Space Coast Vying for Retired Shuttle (Source: FOX)
One of most popular exhibits at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is this full size mock-up of the space shuttle, and it's partly why top brass here are refining their sales pitch amidst stiff competition to receive one of the orbiters which will be retired with the program. "It's appropriate, since we are here at Kennedy Space Center said Andrea Farmer," spokesperson for the Delaware North owned Visitor Complex. "This is where every space shuttle is launched from, more than half of them have landed here, and they've been cared for here."

Vacuum Lab to Grow Space Crystals May be Added to ISS (Source: BBC)
Scientists are planning to use the space station to grow a new kind of crystal for use in solar cells by 2013. They say the vacuum conditions in space improve the quality of thin film crystals, giving them properties that are unachievable on Earth. The technique, called Molecular Beam Epitaxy, could improve electronics, in particular raising the efficiency of solar cells as much as 60%.

Scientists behind the proposed move call it "an industrial evolution". "The unique vacuum environment of space allows us to move forward in terms of computers, solar cells, high speed transistors, high power transistors, energy - all these areas would benefit from advancing materials in space," Professor Alex Ignatiev from the University of Houston in Texas told BBC News. (8/27)

Earth's Upper Atmosphere Shrinking, Scientists Say (Source: AFP)
The upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere are unexpectedly shrinking and cooling due to lower ultraviolet radiation from the sun, US scientists said. The sun's energy output dropped to unusually low levels from 2007 to 2009, a significantly long spell with virtually no sunspots or solar storms, according to scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. During that period, the thermosphere, whose altitude ranges from about 55 to 300 miles (90 to 500 kilometers), shrank and contracted from the sharp drop in ultraviolet radiation. (8/27)

Tracing the Big Picture of Mars' Atmosphere (Source: JPL)
One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere. The joint European-American mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, will seek faint gaseous clues about possible life on Mars. This instrument, called the ExoMars Climate Sounder, will supply crucial context with its daily profiling of the atmosphere's changing structure.

The European Space Agency and NASA have selected five instruments for ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The European Space Agency will provide one instrument and the spacecraft. NASA will provide four instruments, including ExoMars Climate Sounder, which is coming from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Two of the other selected instruments are spectrometers -- one each from Europe and the United States -- designed to detect very low concentrations of methane and other important trace gases in the Martian atmosphere. (8/27)

Mars’s Mysterious Elongated Crater (Source: ESA)
Orcus Patera is an enigmatic elliptical depression near Mars’s equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet. Located between the volcanoes of Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, its formation remains a mystery. Often overlooked, this well-defined depression extends approximately 380 km by 140 km in a NNE–SSW direction. It has a rim that rises up to 1800 m above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies 400–600 m below the surroundings.

The term ‘patera’ is used for deep, complex or irregularly shaped volcanic craters such as the Hadriaca Patera and Tyrrhena Patera at the north-eastern margin of the Hellas impact basin. However, despite its name and the fact that it is positioned near volcanoes, the actual origin of Orcus Patera remains unclear. (8/27)

The Moon: Creating Capability in Space and Getting Value for our Money (Source: Air & Space)
Of all the possible destinations in space, the Moon offers the proximity, accessibility, and materials necessary to learn how to use what we find in space to create new capabilities. Harvesting the resources of the Moon will allow us to make what we need in space, rather than carrying it with us from the Earth's surface. The model currently used to pursue our national interests in space - design-launch-use-discard - restrains opportunity, affordability and capability. We can break the limits imposed on all of these factors by learning how to use the resources of space. Click here to read the article. (8/27)

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