August 6, 2010

NASA Takes Inventory For The Next Steps (Source: Aviation Week)
Launch vehicle engineers here believe a shuttle-derived vehicle built around the space shuttle main engine (SSME) is probably the fastest route to a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Some kind of heavy lifter is emerging as a centerpiece of the compromise space policy being worked out between Congress and the White House.

But that is only a rough call in a close race with vehicles based on the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) RS-68 or a kerosene-fueled engine NASA may develop in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. The internal study of families of heavy-lift launch vehicles based on the three engines is helping NASA managers catalog the capabilities they control as they try to find ways to fit them into the next phase of U.S. space exploration, whatever that turns out to be.

That involves throwing out the carefully crafted approach to what then-Administrator Michael Griffin called the agency’s biggest challenge--managing the transition from the space shuttle to the follow-on Ares I and its Orion crew exploration vehicle—-and finding the best way forward in today’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along space-policy environment. (8/2)

Richard Branson's Space Travel Dreams (Source: Forbes)
Richard Branson is a tireless entrepreneur who has created a vast empire of companies under Virgin, a brand that manages to stand for innovation. But Branson, at 60, believes his best work is ahead of him. Here he describes his "Big Deal" and what he feels he will be remembered for. "Something like this starts with a dream. As long as 10 years before I had dreamt the name Virgin Galactic Airways. I'd dreamt about the fact that we could create a commercial spaceship company."

"Of course people told me I was nuts, but that's been true my whole life. I had to go and prove people wrong. I had to go and find the best engineers. I discovered Burt Rutan, who is the genius aviation engineer. And we built SpaceShipOne, and now he's built SpaceShipTwo... As a commercial spaceship company we can't afford to lose anybody. Every ticket has to be a return ticket.

It was Burt's genius idea of turning the spaceship into a giant shuttle car, and for it to come in as a shuttle car into the Earth's atmosphere, that was the breakthrough. That's the safe reentry mechanism nobody had come up with before. At Virgin we'd like to think we transformed the airline business and the trade business. But I think the thing that most likely, in a business sense, we will be remembered for is introducing commercial spaceship travel. (8/5)

Boeing Plans Commercial Space Taxis by 2015 (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing plans to be ready to fly commercial space taxis from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station by 2015 and soon will decide where the spacecraft will be manufactured and assembled, officials said Thursday. Designed to launch on United Launch Alliance Atlas or Delta rockets, or perhaps even SpaceX Falcon 9s, the spacecraft also are destined to fly to a commercial space station being developed by Bigelow Aerospace in Nevada.

Four test flights -- including three from Florida -- are targeted for late 2013 and 2014. Florida is competing with Alabama, Texas and Nevada for various parts of the spacecraft work. Decisions on where work will be done are expected within three months. "We're going through the process of deciding not only where we will do the manufacturing, but where we will do the mission operations, the training, the sustaining engineering, the program management -- all aspects of the program," said John Elbon, Boeing's vice president for commercial space programs.

NASA in February committed to providing Boeing and partner Bigelow Aerospace with $18 million in seed money for development of an Apollo-style capsule that would ferry up to seven people. Future funding depends on the outcome of ongoing NASA budget negotiations. Pending congressional approval, NASA plans to issue an RFP for commercial crew transportation to the International Space Station late this year or early next year. Space taxi services probably will be procured from two contractors. Boeing aims to team up with a launch provider -- likely United Launch Alliance -- to bid on the contract. (8/6)

California Aerospace Leaders to be Honored at September Event (Source: AIAA)
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will honor the winners of AIAA technical and literary achievement awards on September 1 at a noon luncheon in conjunction with the AIAA SPACE 2010 Conference & Exhibition and the 28th AIAA International Communications Satellite Systems Conference (ICSSC), being held August 29–September 2, 2010 at the Anaheim Convention Center and Hilton Anaheim Hotel. California honorees include Wanda Austin, Harvey Berger, and J.D. Hunley. Click here for information. (8/6)

Funds Available to Florida Space Grant Partners for Senior Projects (Source: FSGC)
The Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) and its affiliate universities may request funds for specific senior design projects. Senior design teams and/or faculty advisors may choose a project from the national ESMD Space Grant Senior Design Project List. Applications will be forwarded to FSGC for endorsement. Unless otherwise requested by the Space Grant office, all funds will be distributed directly to the requesting university. A total of approximately $140,000 annually is avaliable for this national ESMD Educational activity. It is anticipated that most requests will be in the range of $5000 or less. Visit (8/6)

Focus Moves to House (and White House) on NASA Authorization Effort (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
While the quick passage of the Senate bill took some space supporters by surprise, it must now be reconciled with a very different piece of legislation now trudging through the House of Representatives. Unlike the Senate version, the House bill provides little money for commercial space companies and does not call for the development of a new heavy lift rocket but a modification of Constellation’s overbudget and technically troubled Ares I rocket. Some lawmakers from California and Florida are moving to try to amend the bill to look more like the version that passed the Senate.

The Senate bill orders NASA to build a heavy lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new rocket and capsule — about $11 billion during three years, with $3 billion next year — than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. Some space experts say the funding levels of the bill and the aggressive schedule set NASA up for another failure. Administration officials say that the White House is neither supporting nor opposing the Senate's bill. (8/6)

More Room in GEO, Say Scots (Source: Aviation Week)
Geostationary orbit getting crowded? Well, create a new one. It's possible, say Scottish researchers, confirming an idea first proposed by physicist Robert L. Forward in 1984, but later branded impossible by his critics. Forward, also reknowned as a science-fiction writer, proposed that solar sails could be "levitated" by the pressure of sunlight above or below the usual geostationary orbit, which lies on the Earth's equatorial plane. Critics dismissed such light-levitated "displaced orbits" as impossible because of orbital dynamics, but engineers at the University of Strathclyde's Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory say they have proved Forward was right. (7/28)

New York Senator Blunts Language Favoring Florida, Texas for Shuttle Placement (Source: NY Daily News)
Senate Commerce Committee members dueled Thursday night over language that could have killed the chance of winning a retired space shuttle for the West Side's Intrepid museum. Florida and Texas senators shoved a phrase into a NASA authorization bill that would have limited competition for the shuttles to places with "a historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters."

That would have likely eliminated New York. But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) inserted additional language to include places involved in the "retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles." The Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier, participated in picking up several astronauts at sea after space missions in the 1960s. A Gillibrand spokesman said committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) approved her language. Negotiations were underway to get full Committee approval.

Gillibrand said the Intrepid would be the best showcase for one of the three remaining shuttles - Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery - which will be retired next year. One is likely ticketed for the Smithsonian in Washington. "This decision has to be made based on the merits," Gillibrand said. "On the merits, New York wins." (8/6)

Defense Authorization Blll Hits Roadblock in Senate (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) wants to bring the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill to the floor of the Senate when the Senate returns from its August break, but SASC ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) strenuously objected yesterday. Sen. Levin was attempting to get a unanimous consent (UC) agreement to bring the bill to the floor in September, but Sen. McCain blocked the UC because he opposes some of the bill's provisions, especially repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. (8/6)

Inmarsat Picks Boeing to Build Three Satellites in California (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has received a contract from Inmarsat to build three Ka-band satellites to add to Inmarsat's current mobile satellite services fleet. Financial details were not disclosed. The fixed-price contract, with options, calls for three 702HP commercial spacecraft with 89 Ka-band beams that will operate in geosynchronous orbit with flexible global coverage. The new satellite series, called Inmarsat-5, draws on Boeing's four decades of experience gained from the production of more than 175 commercial communications satellites and its extensive expertise in Ka-band satellite communications systems. (8/6)

Eyes on Mars, SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Vehicle Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. government should lead development of a nuclear thermal propulsion system for a future Mars mission and leave new heavy-lift launchers to commercial entities, SpaceX says. Unveiling conceptual plans for a family of Falcon X and XX future heavy-lift vehicles at last week’s AIAA Joint Propulsion conference, a company official said, “Mars is the ultimate goal of SpaceX.”

The company, which until now has focused mostly on development of vehicles to transport cargo and humans to low Earth orbit (LEO), believes its Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launchers could be evolved into a heavy-lift family that will provide the basis for a Mars-capable architecture. For the transition from Earth to Mars, however, SpaceX believes nuclear thermal is the preferred propulsion means for the piloted aspect of the mission, while solar-electric power could be used to transport supplies. Click here for a chart. (8/6)

Arianespace Picked to Launch Intelsat-20 (Source: Arianespace)
Satellite operator Intelsat and the Indian Space Research Organization have chosen Arianespace to launch the Intelsat-20 and ISRO's GSAT-10 satellites. Weighing 5,800 kg. at liftoff, the Loral-built Intelsat-20 will be boosted into geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane 5 ECA from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The GSAT-10 launch is slated for the first quarter of 2012, using an Ariane 5. GSAT 10 will be the 15th ISRO satellite to use the European launcher. Starting with the Apple experimental satellite on Flight L03 in 1981, Arianespace has orbited 13 Indian satellites to date. Arianespace has another Indian satellite in its order book, INSAT 4G (GSAT-8). (8/6)

Boeing 'Cutting Metal' on New Spaceship (Source: OC Register)
Much of the groundwork for a new Apollo-style capsule that could carry as many as seven astronauts into space is being laid at Boeing's Phantom Works facility in Huntington Beach, managers at Boeing said Thursday. The new capsule, for now called the CST-100, could become a workhorse in low Earth-orbit, ferrying astronauts or cargo to the International Space Station, or ISS, after the space shuttle fleet retires next year.

The capsule is also being designed to appeal to space ventures by private companies, including an inflatable space station under development at Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas. "We're at a point in the development of human spaceflight where there's a market emerging beyond the ISS, beyond NASA," a Boeing official said. The new capsule could be launched using a variety of rockets, Boeing says, and could make its return to Earth by splashing down in the ocean, as the crew capsules in the Apollo program did, though it is mainly designed to come down on dry land. (8/6)

Aerojet Tests Orion Main Engine Injector (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet, under contract to Lockheed Martin, has successfully completed more than 20 injector tests for the 7500-pound thrust Orion main engine (OME) for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle. The tests are a combination of checkout, development, and qualification that will anchor models and satisfy combustion stability qualification requirements. The OME is a pressure-fed, regeneratively cooled, storable bi-propellant engine that is a technically advanced, increased performance version of Aerojet's flight-proven 6000-pound thrust space shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System Engine (OMS-E). (8/6)

Iridium Secures $1.8 Billion in Loan Commitments (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on Aug. 4 announced it had secured bank commitments totaling more than $1.8 billion to finance the company’s second-generation system of 72 in-orbit satellites and nine ground spares. The funding, which will be part of a credit facility that has the tentative backing of France’s export-credit agency, Coface, will carry an interest rate of less than 6 percent, most of which will be on fixed-rate terms, with repayment starting in 2017 and continuing through 2024. (8/6)

Moon's Shell May Be Wet, But Inside Is Bone Dry (Source:
Recent studies have found vast amounts of water ice at or near the lunar surface. But the inside of the moon is bone dry, a new study finds. A recent study of lunar rock samples from NASA's Apollo missions could mean the moon's interior harbors less water than thought. In fact, a new examination of the lunar rocks' chlorine composition indicates that the moon is essentially dry – without any water deep inside at all. (8/6)

NASA Delays Spacewalks to Fix ISS Cooling Pump (Source: AFP)
NASA on Thursday pushed back by one day the first of two spacewalks to fix a pump module on the International Space Station's (ISS) cooling system that dramatically failed last week. The first spacewalk will get under way at 1055 GMT on Saturday, a week to the day that an ammonia pump on the ISS failed, setting off alarms in space and at Mission Control on Earth. A second sortie has been planned for Wednesday to complete the job of swapping out the pump with one of four spares on board the ISS, NASA said. (8/6)

NASA and Commercial Industry Combine to Outline Propellant Depot Plan (Source:
A collaboration between experts at numerous NASA centers and commercial companies have created a plan for an “in-space LO2/LH2 PTSD (Propellant Transfer and Storage Demonstration) mission, to affordably support a 2015 demonstration and follow-on missions”, highlighting an exploration architecture built around existing vehicles and Propellant Depots.

Answering a Request For Information (RFI) in June, a broad range of NASA, other US government, academic and industrial participation resulted in a roadmap to enable a flagship demonstration mission of propellant storage and transfer ability in 2015. Such a mission would build on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) exploration master plan, which removes the need for a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV), instead combining the use of current EELV vehicles – such as Atlas V or Delta IV – with an on orbit ability to refuel in space via fuel depots. (8/6)

Executives Provide Outlook on ATK's Rocket Business (Source:
Two different NASA authorization bills winding through Congress are both encouraging for rocket-builder ATK, a top contractor for the endangered Ares rocket family, company officials said. "Congressional support for accelerating space exploration is encouraging," said Mark DeYoung, president and CEO of Alliant Techsystems Inc. "The House and Senate authorization bills bode well for ATK's long-term role in this effort." (8/6)

Ken Ford Honored with NASA's Highest Award (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
NASA awarded its highest civilian honor to Institute for Human and Machine Cognition founder and CEO Ken Ford on Thursday during ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The Distinguished Public Service Medal was given to Ford to honor his "extraordinary work in significantly contributing to and furthering the mission" of the space agency. (8/6)

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