August 5, 2010

Senate Approves Bill to Preserve America's Human Spaceflight Capabilities (Source: Sen. Hutchison)
The Senate has approved bipartisan legislation championed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, to safeguard America's human spaceflight capabilities while balancing commercial space investment with a robust mission for NASA. The bill is also supported by Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.).

"Senate passage of this comprehensive legislation is a critical milestone that will boost America's human spaceflight program," said Senator Hutchison. "By embracing this bipartisan vision for the future of NASA, the Senate has spoken with a unified voice. I encourage my colleagues in the House to take up this crucial bill in order to get NASA on track to continue its proud heritage of innovation and exploration." (8/5)

NASA Images Show Continuing Mexico Quake Deformation (Source: NASA)
New NASA airborne radar images of Southern California near the U.S.-Mexico border show Earth's surface is continuing to deform following the April 4 magnitude, 7.2 temblor and its many aftershocks that have rocked Mexico's state of Baja California and parts of the American Southwest. The data, from NASA's airborne Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), reveal that some faults in the area west of Calexico, Calif., have continued to move at Earth's surface, most likely in the many aftershocks. (8/5)

Wyle Helps Prepare Robonaut 2 for Launch to Space Station (Source: Wyle)
While Wyle has assisted hundreds of astronauts, cosmonauts and civilians who have gone into space since the 1960s, the company has now completed its preparations for NASA's first "human-like" robot for launch aboard the next Shuttle mission and installation on the International Space Station.

It may not be the last. NASA's Robonaut 2 (R2), planned to be launched to the International Space Station this November, surpasses previous dexterous humanoid robots in strength, yet is safe enough to work side-by-side with humans. (8/5)

House Resolution Increases Momentum for National Aerospace Week (Source: AIA)
“The U.S. aerospace industry is a powerful reliable source of employment, innovation and export income,” declared Rep.Vern Ehlers (D-MI) during a floor speech July 21 introducing a joint resolution establishing National Aerospace Week. House Concurrent Resolution 282, which passed by 419 to 0, permanently establishes National Aerospace Week during the third week of September. This year the celebration is Sept. 12-18. A similar resolution is expected to be introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kit Bond (R-MO) this month. (8/5)

ATK Reports Strong FY11 First-Quarter Operating Results (Source: ATK)
Alliant Techsystems reported operating results for the first quarter of FY-2011. First quarter sales of $1.2 billion were in line with expectations and remained steady compared to the prior-year quarter. First quarter net income rose 8 percent to $75 million, reflecting a lower tax rate, margin improvements, and lower interest expense. ATK is narrowing its full-year sales forecast to the upper end of its previously announced range due to the encouraging outlook for the company's NASA business. (8/5)

To Infinity and Beyond (Source: The Economist)
In the summer of 1977 two American spacecraft were launched on what is arguably the grandest mission ever: the exploration of the outer planets of the solar system and the space that lies beyond. More than three decades later, they have become the farthest man-made objects from Earth, reaching out in the darkness to overtake earlier missions to oblivion. The Voyager spacecraft have not only clocked up a far better understanding of the outer planets, they also illustrate mankind’s third great age of discovery.

The Voyager spacecraft survived, and refuted the arguments of astronomers within NASA that neither human space flight nor robotic exploration was necessary when a space telescope could divine the features of the universe. They stand as a monument to America’s pioneering spirit, as well as its scientific prowess. (8/5)

ATK Sets Test for Next Ares 1 Solid Rocket Motor (Source: Huntsville Times)
lliant Techsystems (ATK) and NASA have said they will test the second fully developed Ares I solid rocket motor, known as Development Motor-2 (DM-2), this month. The five-segment rocket motor is an upgraded version of the space shuttle's 4-segment booster, and has also been identified as a key element of a potential NASA heavy lift launch vehicle.

This is a so-called "cold motor" test, ATK says. The motor will be cooled to 40°F to measure motor performance at low temperature, as well as to verify design requirements of new materials in the motor joints. These new materials will allow ATK to eliminate joint heaters that were necessary in the original 4-segment motor design. This will save weight, reduce system complexity and simplify launches, the company says. (8/5)

DirecTV Profit Rises 33% as Prices Rise (Source: LA Times)
DirecTV Inc. said second-quarter profit rose by 33 percent with net income of $543 million (up from $407 million a year ago). The satellite TV company attracted customers from its U.S. cable rivals and Latin American operations took off in part due to the World Cup fervor. The nation's largest satellite TV provider said it added 100,000 net U.S. subscribers in the quarter. While that was down from 224,000 in the same quarter last year, when it was helped by the shutdown of analog broadcast TV signals, DirecTV remains one of the few subscription TV providers that is adding video customers. Most major cable companies are not. (8/5)

ISS Program Reaches Out to Researchers (Source: Aviation Week)
Nearly 300 participants gathered Aug. 3 for the first NASA International Space Station Research Academy, a three-day offering designed to familiarize researchers and payload developers with the orbiting outpost’s designation as a National Laboratory and its capabilities to support experiments in fields ranging from fundamental biology and physics to biotechnology and Earth observations.

The initial program, conducted close to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, is likely to be repeated around the country as NASA nears the end of the station’s 12-year assembly, with ample room to spare on the station for scientists who would not normally be interested in microgravity investigations. NASA controls 75% of the internal station volume, which is shared with its foreign partners and rivals the size of a four-bedroom house. NASA intends to use just half of its internal and external assets for its own research, leaving the rest to users eligible under National Lab guidelines established by Congress in 2005. (8/5)

Straight Outta Titan: Dr Dre Gets Astronomical (Source: New Scientist)
Mixing science with hip-hop music isn't merely a hobby of scientists and science writers with time on their hands. In an interview with VIBE magazine, hip-hop legend Dr Dre mentioned that he was thinking of an instrumental album called The Planets. "It's just my interpretation of what each planet sounds like. I'm gonna go off on that. Just all instrumental. I've been studying the planets and learning the personalities of each planet," he told interviewer Jerry Barrow. "I've been doing this for about two years now just in my spare time so to speak. I wanna do it in surround sound. It'll have to be in surround sound for Saturn to work." (8/5)

Air Force Rejects 3rd Tanker Bid, Prompting GAO Protest (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon says it won't consider a bid by U.S. Aerospace to build the $35 billion KC-X aerial tanker, prompting the California contractor to file an appeal with the Government Accountability Office. The Air Force says U.S. Aerospace failed to submit its bid by 2 p.m. on July 9 as required. But the company claims its messenger arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB at 1:30 p.m., only to be denied entrance and then given "incorrect directions." Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell notes that proposals from Boeing and EADS arrived hours before the deadline. "This is a $30 billion-$40 billion bid," he says. "This is not a high school homework assignment. Deadlines count here."

Editor's Note: Why is this in the SPACErePORT? This contract was originally awarded to an EADS/Northrop Grumman team and a large portion of the work would have been done on the Space Coast at Northrop Grumman facilities...potentially by newly laid-off Space Shuttle workers. The EADS contract win was overturned after a protest by Boeing. (8/5)

American Students Win International Rocket Contest Fly-Off (Source: AIA)
Student rocketeers from France, the United Kingdom and the United States competed in the Third Annual Transatlantic Rocketry Challenge. The four-member team from Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Pa., posted the best score to win the international fly-off. Horsforth School in Leeds, England, placed second. The French team was unable to launch its rocket due to technical problems. (8/5)

Air Force Set to Launch First AEHF Satellite from Florida (Source: NASA Watch)
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF-1) atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on Aug. 12. The launch window will open at 7:13 a.m. it will close about 20 minutes later at 7:34 a.m. EDT. The launch is scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC 41). (8/5)

HiRISE Finds Exposed Ice in Fresh Martian Crater (Source: Space Fellowship)
HiRISE images of fresh craters in the middle to high Northern latitudes show exposed water ice on the poleward-facing slopes (see here). The enlarged image shows an approximately 6 mile (20 feet) diameter crater. Based on “before” and “after” images acquired by the Odyssey THEMIS and MRO CTX cameras, respectively, this crater formed some time between April 2004 and January 2010. The crater is at a latitude of 44 degrees North and is itself located on the ejecta of a larger crater. The image was acquired in early summer, when frost at this latitude is not expected. It is therefore believed that the bright blue material in this false-color color image is sub-surface ice that was exposed by the impact. The area of exposed ice based on the HiRISE images is about 1-2 square meters (10-20 square feet). (8/5)

Made-in-Canada Moon Buggy Backed by Stimulus Cash (Source: Globe and Mail)
It’s not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of stimulus spending, but the Harper government’s plan to dig Canada out of the economic ditch includes cash for a niche moon-buggy industry. Buried among the $47-billion stimulus package’s tally of mundane infrastructure projects such as bridges and buildings is $110-million for the Canadian Space Agency.

The organization’s trying to develop what it calls “signature technologies” to help Canada make its name in future extraterrestrial missions – just like the robotic Canadarm did in years past. To this end, the space agency this summer called for bids to build Canada two lunar rovers. The prototypes could cost Ottawa $11-million apiece although this would include a duplicate buggy in each case for testing purposes. (8/5)

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Pledges Support for Space Diversification (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Wednesday acknowledged "very difficult, trying times" at Kennedy Space Center, but told employees facing layoffs that federal support would help the Space Coast make the transition from the shuttle to new economic opportunities. The $40 million federal task force that Locke and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden co-chair faces an Aug. 15 deadline to provide President Barack Obama with recommendations for how to help the region's economy diversify and create jobs.

Locke suggested the money would likely strive to attract or expand technology and alternative energy businesses, promote research and partnerships with higher education institutions, and finance ideas proposed by local economic development leaders. Locke said the transition from the shuttle "will not be painless, and it will not be immediate," but help is coming. "A lot of resources will becoming to this area in the months ahead," he said. (8/5)

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