August 31, 2010

NASA Extends USA Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has extended the Space Program Operations Contract with United Space Alliance to March 31, 2011. The $909,593,590 contract extension supports flight operations for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. The contract provides mission design and planning, astronaut and flight controller training, system integration, flight operations, vehicle processing, launch and recovery, vehicle sustaining engineering, and flight crew equipment processing. This is a cost reimbursement contract with award and performance fees. (8/31)

Grounded Space Station Test Module Could Expand ISS Capabilities (Source:
Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center are cleaning and studying a grounded space station module that could be launched in a few years as a hub for inflatable habitats and technology demonstrations. Kirk Shireman, NASA's deputy International Space Station program manager, said plans to launch the new component will depend on the outcome of space budget and policy debates among Congress and the White House.

Right now, the outpost has enough docking and berthing ports to receive all the visiting cargo freighters planned over the next few years, including Japan's H-2 Transfer Vehicle and commercial automated vehicles being developed by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. The station also has room to receive a future U.S. rescue capsule or crew transportation system, according to Shireman. But if NASA, an international partner, or commercial firm wants to add new pieces to the station, there could be a shortage of docking and berthing ports on the modules already in space. (8/31)

Lockheed Martin to Unveil Asteroid Mission Proposal (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin was to unveil a proposal this week for a mission with two astronauts to reach a Near Earth Asteroid using two Orion capsules and a dual-launch strategy as soon as 2016. The "Plymouth Rock" mission would take place nearly a decade ahead of the asteroid goal outlined by President Barack Obama in April, and Lockheed Martin officials said they have found the mission would not be as difficult as expected, with the design requirements for the lunar mission similar to those for an asteroid mission. (8/31)

Ball Aerospace, ITT in Deal to Build DigitalGlobe Earth Imaging Satellite (Source: AIA)
Earth imaging company DigitalGlobe Inc., based in Longmont, Co., has recruited Ball Aerospace & Technologies and ITT to build and integrate the company's WorldView-3 satellite. Under the deal, Ball Aerospace will be paid up to $180.6 million if it meets deadlines and technology milestones, and ITT will be paid up to $120.5 million. (8/31)

AIA: Export Reforms Will Aid National Security, Help Small Businesses (Source: AIA)
Under sweeping reforms of the U.S. export system proposed by President Barack Obama, technology exports will be assigned the appropriate level of protection across all levels of risk, allowing thousands of products that otherwise would have faced lengthy review to be downgraded or removed from the lists altogether. Some opposition to the reforms are expected from members of both parties, but the Aerospace Industries Association praised the reforms as being important to national security and particularly helpful to small businesses. (8/31)

Intrepid Museum Tries to Land Shuttle (Source: WNYC)
The Intrepid's executive director, Susan Marenoff, believes her museum has everything NASA will be looking for in an adoptive institution. It has plans to build a new structure to house the shuttle on Pier 86. Marenoff also says her museum has proven fundraising strategies. And, since the museum is located in New York City, it may be able to bring the most visitors of any U.S. museum.

"If in fact, NASA wants the most eyeballs to see this shuttle and have the most, as many people as possible, benefit from being able to experience viewing it," Marenoff says, "then we think that there's not even a second thought other than New York City." (8/31)

NASA Sends Experts to Help Chile Miners (Source: AFP)
A team of NASA doctors and scientists will travel to Chile this week to lend its expertise to efforts to keep 33 trapped miners fit and healthy. The Chilean government had asked NASA to provide technical advice that might assist the trapped miners at the San Jose gold and copper mine near the town of Copiapo.

NASA's expert knowledge of how astronauts deal mentally and physically with arduous space journeys could help the miners cope for months in their dark, cramped underground world. "The environment may be different, but the human response in physiology, behavior, responses to emergencies is quite similar," said NASA deputy chief medical officer Michael Duncan, one of the four-strong team. (8/31)

Recess Holding Up Action on NASA Bill (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
“Currently, House members are taking their summer break and won’t return until Sept. 15,” Congressman Pete Olson said. “We almost got [the NASA bill] to a vote before we left,” he said, explaining that the California delegation had a problem with an insurance item in the legislation, which has been passed by the House Committee on Science and Technology and now goes before the full House. Once it is passed by the House, then a compromise will have to be worked out between the House and Senate, which has already passed the measure. (8/31)

NASA & ATK Successfully Test Five-Segment Solid Rocket Motor (Source: NASA)
With a loud roar and mighty column of flame, NASA and ATK successfully completed a two-minute, full-scale test of the largest and most powerful solid rocket motor designed for flight. The motor is potentially transferable to future heavy-lift launch vehicle designs. The stationary firing of the first-stage development solid rocket motor, dubbed DM-2, was the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor test in NASA history. More than 760 instruments measured 53 test objectives. (8/31)

ATK Crew Dreaming of Launch Assistance Role (Source: Standard-Examiner)
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida may be a home to space rocket launches, but a technical crew shadowing the blastoff could one day sit in Davis County. A backup technical crew with real-time monitoring of any NASA launch site is just one element in the works at ATK's new Engineering Development Lab, which was opened by the company in the last year.

Sitting at consoles in a Clearfield lab will be technicians capable of helping the Florida crew, or any other, should problems arise with the hardware that boosts the rockets into Earth's orbit or space. Developing the expertise to troubleshoot the avionics system is part of the mission for the lab's engineers, who are already testing the vital systems being built for the next generation of NASA rockets. (8/31)

Space Spin-Offs Could Help the Elderly (Source: Public Service UK)
Future spin-off benefits from the work of the UK Space Agency could help government to tackle social problems including elderly care. Over the last 50 years, Britain has been involved in a number of cutting edge projects alongside partners in the European Space Agency – producing valuable societal benefits such as improved telecoms, climate change monitoring and satellite navigation in vehicles. But looking ahead, he pinpointed advanced telecare as an area that would benefit from space research and could aid government "to ensure older people live a full life without necessarily going into homes". (8/31)

First Black Man in Space Down to Earth About Career Moves (Source: San Francisco Examiner)
Physician Bernard Harris was the first black man to walk in space. He has since left NASA and established a successful venture capital firm, along with a foundation aimed at promoting science education for disadvantaged youth. He will speak to 950 students at Marina Middle School on Friday. Click here to read an interview with Dr. Harris. (8/31)

Ares (or Something Else) Rocket Motor Test (Source: CFNews13)
ATK, the NASA contractor that builds the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle, is testing a larger version of the solid rocket motor in Utah today. The motor, called DM-2 for Demonstration Motor 2, is bolted down on a base, and the plan is to fire it for about 2 minutes while recording data from hundreds of instruments. Last September, they did the same thing with DM-1, but this time, they are going to cool the motor to 40 degrees before firing it.

These motors are derived from the shuttle solid rocket boosters, but where the SRBs are composed of four segments bolted together in line, the new motor will have five segments, creating greater thrust. It was developed as part of the Constellation program, to be used on the Ares I rockets, and later on the heavy lift Ares V. Bills currently making their way through Congress call for using current technology on future rockets. So even if it isn’t called Ares, ATK figures the motor may well be used on some other vehicle. (8/31)

Firm Eyes Space Workers for Medical Tech (Source: Florida Today)
Three friends founded a company in 2004 to staff medical clinics for the government. They named their Merritt Island-based business after a famous physician, the apostle Luke. In 2009, Luke & Associates posted revenues of $37.5 million, and the company has now hired 1,100 medical workers at 68 bases in 36 states. Next year, it could double that number of employees, to 2,200, including some possibly hired from the ranks of unemployed space industry workers. The company, with 44 workers in the Merritt Island office, expects sales of more than $100 million in 2010. (8/31)

Heat Shield Job Vital to Slowing Space Shuttles (Source: Florida Today)
Shuttle Discovery took on a holiday flair after its April return to Kennedy Space Center. Following post-flight inspections, thousands of green tags sprouted from the spacecraft like pine needles. "It looked like a Christmas tree," said Richard McGehee, a United Space Alliance technician who works on the orbiter's heat shields. But the scene, which unfolds after every mission, was not festive.

Each tag indicated a "discrepancy," a place where one of the more than 24,000 delicate tiles lining the vehicle's underside or one of its roughly 1,470 insulating "blankets" needed repair before the next mission -- the last planned for Discovery -- in November. (8/31)

Satellite-Watchers Worry About China (Source: MSNBC)
Strange maneuvers involving two Chinese satellites have some space-watchers worried. The worriers are concerned that the orbital shifts involving two Shijian ("Practice") research satellites were aimed at practicing techniques for disrupting other governments' satellites in the event of an international crisis. The nightmare scenario would involve a fleet of spacecraft that went after America's telecom and Earth-watching satellites, cutting off military communications and orbital surveillance capabilities. (8/31)

Putin Rules Out Lease of Vostochny Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ruled out a possibility of leasing the Vostochny spaceport. "Russia ranks first in the world in space rocket launchings; therefore, we do not have to lease. We will fulfill our obligations that exist today and the obligations that will arise tomorrow. We have contracts in space activities; intergovernmental agreements scheduled for several years had been concluded and will be concluded in future. Moreover, today we cannot satisfy all the requests," Putin said. (8/31)

Russia to Mothball Historic Sputnik Launch Site (Source: AOL News)
The Russian government announced that the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, where the space race began with the 1957 launch of Sputnik, will be replaced within the decade by a new facility in Siberia. The world's oldest and largest space center, Baikonur has the disadvantage of being in Kazakhstan rather than in the Russian Federation, the heir to the Soviet space program. Putin noted that while the agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on the use of Baikonur runs until 2050, the new facility would begin launching unmanned spacecraft by 2015 and will take on all of Baikonur's functions by 2018. (8/31)

Venus Crater Debate Heats Up (Source: Nature)
A tortured, volcanic wasteland, baked by a runaway greenhouse effect, the surface of Venus has clearly had an unpleasant history. But just how unpleasant has become the subject of renewed debate among planetary scientists trying to understand the planet's enigmatic topography. Ever since NASA's Magellan spacecraft radar-mapped Venus twenty years ago, researchers have been struck by the relative sparseness and random distribution of its impact craters. The pattern, completely unlike that found on other terrestrial planets, suggests a surface that is uniformly young. (8/31)

O'Keefe, Son Recovering From Alaska Plane Crash (Source: US News)
Sean O'Keefe, the Washington-based CEO of EADS North America who survived the August 9 Alaska plane crash that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens, is expected to leave intensive care in the next several days, according to a family spokesman. O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary and NASA administrator, returned to Washington from Anchorage last week and underwent some minor surgery on a fracture in his lower left leg. "This appears to be the only surgery that Sean will require," family spokesman Paul Pastorek said on a web page created to keep friends and family updated. (8/31)

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