August 7, 2010

Editorial: What's Missing From the Bold Plans for Human Spaceflight (Source: Washington Post)
With the funding for NASA set around $19 billion and not likely to change, bold plans for humans in space are simply not feasible. Something must give. If the administration and Congress truly want human spaceflight, they need to fund it adequately. Piecemeal funding that dooms programs to failure is a waste of money -- especially when so many truly vital space functions, from the satellites that supply maps and communications to the telescopes that allow us to glimpse distant worlds, could benefit from such support. (8/7)

CSR Wins Air Force Contract Modification for Eastern Range Work (Source: DOD)
Computer Sciences Raytheon, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded a $81,136,645 contract modification which will provide Eastern Range technical services to provide operations, maintenance, and sustainment of critical range and launch processing systems that support the launch processing mission of the 45 Space Wing and its launch customers at Cape Canaveral Air Station. (8/5)

NASA Sets Spacewalk Record During Repair Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two NASA astronauts failed to remove a broken cooling pump from outside the International Space Station on Saturday after a frustrating eight-hour spacewalk that set the record as the longest spacewalk ever at the lab. Engineers are scrambling to come up with a new repair plan. The 780-pound cooling pump broke after a power surge a week ago and the station has used one American pump — instead of the usual two pumps — to keep the station cool.

For now, the six-member crew is in no danger and station operations continue with little disruption. But if the remaining pump fails, the crew would be forced to cut power to much of the station and rely on the Russian section, which runs on a different power and cooling system, to handle critical tasks. (8/7)

NASA to Visit Asteroid Predicted to Hit Earth? (Source: National Geographic)
There's a mountain-size asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth, and NASA has plans to pay it a visit. The asteroid 1999 RQ36 made headlines last week with the announcement that the space rock could hit our planet in 2182. But a handful of scientists have had their eyes on this asteroid since 2007, planning a sample-return mission designed to help us better predict—and avoid—impact hazards.

The mission, called OSIRIS-Rex (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer), is one of two finalists in the current competition for funding under NASA's New Frontiers program, up against a proposed mission to land on Venus. The selected mission will be announced in summer 2011. If OSIRIS-Rex gets the green light, the spacecraft will launch in 2016 with the goal of mapping and bringing back pieces of the asteroid. (8/7)

Saturn Moon Loses Its Ring, Gains a Mystery (Source: National Geographic)
Until this week Saturn's small moon Rhea was the only known solid space object thought to have a ring. (Other known ringed bodies, such as Saturn, are mainly gaseous.) But a new study of optical images has failed to detect any signs of structures encircling the natural satellite.

Rhea orbits within Saturn's magnetic field, which creates a bubble of charged particles around the planet. During a 2005 flyby of Rhea, scientists working with NASA's Cassini spacecraft expected to see a dip in electron readings where the moon's surface intercepted the particles. The craft's electron readings did show the moon's wake, but they also revealed several unexpected dips in electrons just outside the moon's diameter. The best possible explanation seemed to be that something physical—a ring of debris around Rhea—was blocking the electrons from reaching Cassini. (8/6)

Superfast In-Flight Connectivity on Horizon as Inmarsat Reveals $1.2b Plan (Source: Flight Global)
Ultra-high-speed in-flight connectivity via Ka-band satellites is on the horizon for commercial and business aircraft operators following Inmarsat's decision to develop a global network of Ka-band satellites for its new I-5 constellation. Inmarsat has commissioned Boeing to deliver three state-of-the-art Ka-band satellites to serve as the backbone of a new global mobile broadband service called Global Xpress. (8/6)

Rocket Gear Heads to Alaska Spaceport (Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror)
Things are heating up on the road to Narrow Cape. The next launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex has been pushed back several times, but it looks like plans are rolling again with the news of a research satellite and rocket boosters on their way to the launch site.

Three rocket boosters are set to make their way to the Kodiak Launch Complex, according to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation. Moving the boosters, which are more than twice as long as a school bus, will require a road closure Saturday at Lash dock and cause traffic delays on the Pasagshak Highway. (8/6)

Nanomissile Being Designed To Launch the Smallest Satellites Affordably (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Army’s desire to deploy swarms of tiny satellites for various tactical missions is one of the reasons it began development two years ago of what would be the United States’ smallest orbital launch vehicle, designed to put payloads of about 20 kilograms into space, government and industry officials said.

The Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville conceived the Multipurpose Nanomissile system as a liquid-fueled core booster augmented by various strap-on solid-rocket motors. Standing just a little taller than a basketball hoop, the rocket’s modularity could make it useful not only as a launch vehicle but potentially a missile defense target, sounding rocket and hypersonic test vehicle as well. It will also be a good way to make use of aging tactical solid-rocket motors that would otherwise be decommissioned, an official said. (8/6)

Senate Plan Would Lessen KSC Job Losses (Source: Florida Today)
The full U.S. Senate passed a NASA spending plan late Thursday that would provide money to start development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle and commercial space taxis while adding one additional shuttle flight before fleet retirement. The quick start to the development of a super-sized rocket would create about 2,000 jobs at Kennedy Space Center, helping to mitigate the loss of 8,000 jobs as a result of the shut down of the shuttle fleet. (8/6)

External Tank ET-138 Under Investigation After Washer is Found in Feedline (Source:
Currently set to fly with Endeavour, External Tank ET-138 is under investigation after engineers found a washer inside the LO2 Feedline. The investigation will follow a similar route to that undertaken on ET-129 – when a noise was heard inside that tank during processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) – in order to be completely satisfied with tank’s configuration. (8/6)

Administration’s Space Policy Sets a New Course (Source: York County Journal Tribune)
President Obama’s budget takes a new approach to U.S. investment in space exploration, and recently the administration supported it with a new statement of U.S. space policy. For those with an eye for politics, the statement emphasizes a collaborative approach that was missing during the George W. Bush administration. For instance, it softens previous administration’s assertions that the U.S. would take whatever extraterrestrial actions were needed to pursue the nation’s interests.

The new policy asserts U.S. interests in a more positive manner, by emphasizing the importance of preserving free access to space. The U.S. will defend its interests, according to Obama, but “it is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to prevent mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust.” Such an even-handed approach is appropriate, because no nation can claim sovereignty over space. Conflict there is a real possibility, and the risk ought to be reduced by fair-minded policies. (8/7)

New Mexico Gov. candidates Talk About Spaceport America (Source: NM Politics)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez says the state has already spent lots of money on Spaceport America and can no longer be its “major financer,” while Democratic opponent Diane Denish says she is a supporter of the spaceport but didn’t directly answer a question about the project’s funding.

Martinez said the spaceport has “has an impressive potential to bring development opportunities to southern New Mexico,” but given the current economic realities, “additional large investments” by state government “would be a misguided use of our taxpayer funds.” She said it’s time to “attract more industry and private business to the spaceport facility to assist with future development costs.”

Denish didn’t talk specifically about the funding, but said space commercialization “can and will be an important part of Southern New Mexico’s economic future.” She said as governor she will have a “strong focus” on rural and southern economic development and called the spaceport “a visionary idea that has strong local support.” (8/7)

NASA Backs Commercial Moonshots (Source: MSNBC)
NASA says it'll buy up to $30.1 million worth of data about robotic lander projects - basically doubling the potential impact of the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. The space agency said its Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program would pay a minimum of $10,000 for each data contract relating to the design and demonstration of a lunar landing mission. "This includes data associated with hardware design, development and testing; ground operations and integration; launch; trajectory correction maneuvers; lunar braking, burn and landing; and enhanced capabilities," NASA said. (8/7)

Remote Indonesian Island Will Host Spaceport (Source: Jakarta Globe)
The Indonesian space agency this week moved a step forward in its plans to build an integrated space center on an island off the southwestern coast of Bengkulu province. Adi Sadewo Salatun, the head of the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan), said the center would be built on Enggano Island in the Indian Ocean. Adi said the island, in the outermost reaches of the archipelago, was the perfect spot for the country’s launch pad because of its low population and remoteness. (8/7)

Oklahoma Spaceport Suffers Through Rocketplane Bankruptcy (Source: Oklahoman)
The state Legislature narrowly agreed in February to continue funding the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, which runs the Spaceport in Burns Flat. Like most state agencies, the agency received a 7 percent cut; it will receive $424,289 this fiscal year, which began July.

At the time, Rep. Todd Russ said if nothing substantial happens at the Spaceport in the next three years, he would talk with legislators about possibly closing it. Agency Director Bill Khourie said it has reduced its staff from five to three but is still operating. There are several space companies other than Rocketplane that could potentially fly from the Spaceport in the near future, he said. (8/7)

Rocketplane Lands in Bankruptcy (Source: Oklahoman)
Last month, Rocketplane filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Wisconsin, where it relocated after closing its Oklahoma City headquarters at Will Rogers World Airport and relinquishing its hangar at the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat in 2009. CEO George French filed personally as well as for each of three business entities: Rocketplane, Rocketplane Global and Rocketplane Kistler. Debts for each were listed at about $8.2 million, $3.7 million, $2.6 million and $7.4 million, respectively.

The company's assets include some structural components and the patented intellectual property from the company's work designing an aircraft capable of transporting tourists into space. Those design patents may now be sold as part of the bankruptcy liquidation. Click here for details. (8/7)

CSF-Grad Astronaut Takes Spacewalk for NASA (Source: Orange County Register)
Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, took her first spacewalk on Saturday to repair a faulty cooling system on the International Space Station. Dyson assisted astronaut Doug Wheelock's efforts to remove an oven-sized ammonia pump that failed last Saturday and replace it during a seven-hour spacewalk. (8/7)

NGA Awards Big Satellite Imagery Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has awarded contracts potentially worth a combined $7.3 billion over the next 10 years to U.S. imaging satellite operators DigitalGlobe and GeoEye under the EnhancedView program. “These contracts will meet NGA, Intelligence Community and Department of Defense needs for additional amounts of imagery beyond what current contracts provide as well as support humanitarian and crisis support efforts,” the NGA said in a press release. (8/7)

Embry-Riddle Plans 2nd Annual Aviation & Aerospace Manufacturing Summit (Source: ERAU)
Planned for Feb. 23-25 at the Walt Disney World Yacht & Beach Club, this Summit will present data and address issues on the state of aerospace manufacturing in the U.S. and around the world for both military and commercial markets, and address key trends and projections for the future. The summit is targeted toward small-to-medium manufacturers, OEMs and primes, service providers, government agencies, policy makers, economic developers, and educators who serve the aerospace industry. Click here for information. (8/7)

Boeing Looking For Commercial Space Success (Source: Aviation Week)
Though not yet closed, Boeing's business case for its commercial capsule relies on NASA-funded development of a low Earth orbit reusable spacecraft that could double as a space station lifeboat as well as provide transportation to commercial destinations such as the Bigelow Aerospace-envisioned Sundancer commercial orbital stations, according to John Elbon, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s commercial crew transportation system.

At least initially, Boeing is looking to Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as the launch site for the CST-100, and to White Sands, N.M., for landings. The $1.9 billion, five-year 21st Century Launch Complex initiative included in the Obama administration’s 2011 NASA budget to overhaul Florida launch complexes also factors favorably in closing Boeing’s business case.

“To the extent we can use government assets on a per-use kind of basis as opposed to needing to invest in those assets and carry the maintenance on our books allows us to close our business case with a lower flight rate,” Elbon said. (8/7)

The Mercury 13 Women - A political and Not Very Pretty Tale (Source: Cape Cod Today)
In traditional American towns young girls' aspirations were quickly snuffed as our teachers told us that boys are astronauts. Girls can marry them. And yet, in a largely-hidden chapter of history, women had already successfully passed the tests to become astronauts! We just didn't know that.

In 1959, Look Magazine did a feature on a highly-skilled pilot named Betty Skelton. In collaboration with NASA's PR team, they had her take a number of astronaut tests (which she aced!) and created a cover story that raised the profile of the space program -- yet the highly-qualified Skelton was never really considered an astronaut candidate. It was all a promotion game.

At about the same time, the chair of NASA's Life Sciences Committee and the doctor who ran the Mercury 7 test program, and General Donald Flickinger created a program called Women in Space Earliest (Project WISE). It was run largely in secret. Their first recruit was Jerrie Cobb, who had more than 7,000 air hours (far more than any of the male candidates) and had set the world record for altitude. Even though the Air Force was not in favor of female pilots, let alone astronauts, she was unquestionably the Right Stuff. (8/7)

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