August 3, 2010

Hayabusa Fires Up Japan's Space Industry (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Hayabusa's miraculous return in June from a seven-year, trouble-filled journey inspired people across the nation, but businesses are also feeling a warm glow from the probe's success, as global interest in Japanese space technology soars. This month, NEC Corp. will launch a project with Aerojet to develop a new type of ion engine. Hayabusa's main engine failed due to fuel leaks, but the probe was able to complete its odyssey by relying on ion engines developed by tech powerhouse NEC. The two firms will collaborate on a new ion engine with a propulsion capacity 20 percent greater than the engines used in Hayabusa, according to the joint development plan. (8/3)

Ukraine Postpones Delivery of Taurus-II First Stage to U.S. (Source: Xinhua)
Ukraine's state owned company " Yuzhmash" based in eastern city Dnipropetrovsk postponed the delivery of the basic part of the Taurus-II launch vehicle's first stage to Orbital Sciences Corp. "For some technical reasons, the delivery date has been put off to September-October," the statement said. The delivery was reportedly scheduled for August. The two-stage launch vehicle is designed to transport loads of up to five tons into low orbit. (8/3)

Latest Launch Brings China Closer to ‘GPS’ of Its Own (Source: WIRED)
At 5:30 on Sunday morning, the Chinese government fired a Long March 3A rocket into orbit. It carried a navigation satellite — the fifth in a planned constellation of 30 or more Beidou orbiters that Beijing hopes will soon rival America’s Global Positioning System. For years, the U.S. Air Force has owned and operated the system that the rest of the world uses to find its way home, synch its financial transactions (thanks to the GPS timing service), and bring its ships to port. That’s given America a huge military advantage; GPS enables America’s bombs to be targeted with incredible precision. It’s also made other countries nervous: What if the Pentagon decided to mess with the GPS signal in the middle of a war?

Enter Beidou (“Compass”), China’s GPS alternative. “A global positioning system is crucial to any country’s national security and defense,” the Chinese official in charge of the program tells People’s Daily Online. “It is unimaginable for China to go without such a system.” Sunday’s satellite makes the fifth orbiter in the Beidou constellation, and the third launched this year. Another eight to 10 are supposed to be into space by 2012, providing regional coverage. By 2020, Beidou is supposed to ring the globe. (8/3)

Astronauts Weigh In On Space (Source: Florida Today)
In the 1960s, and maybe through the early 1980s, astronauts and ex-astronauts were like rock stars on the political scene. What they said mattered a great deal in Washington. So, as the nation's leaders decide NASA's future course, it's been curious to watch groups of astronauts lining up behind, or against, President Barack Obama's proposed overhaul of national space policy.

Astronauts, famous and not-so-famous, are being summoned to testify before Congress. They're signing on with various private companies holding big stakes in different options, some of them in senior executive positions that often involve as much lobbying as program management. They're signing on in groups to e-mails, letters and petitions for the existing NASA program, the president's remodeled plan or various political compromises. Click here to read the article. (8/1)

Wednesday's Ariane 5 Rocket Launch Will Benefit Africa (Source:
Two African communications satellites will blast off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket Wednesday, giving a boost to burgeoning direct broadcasting markets and helping connect remote villages with urban centers. Bolted atop a mobile table poised on rails, the 166-foot-tall Ariane 5 rocket moved to the launch zone in French Guiana on Tuesday morning. The payloads for Wednesday's launch are an Egyptian television and radio broadcasting satellite and a high-flying platform to provide long-distance communications, television and Internet to rural Africans. (8/3)

A Real Mess in Orbit: Space Junk to Hang Around Longer Than Expected (Source:
Space junk continues to clutter the friendly cosmic skies, posing threats to satellites and spacecraft, with scientists working to identify which bits of orbital rubbish to pluck from the heavens first. But a new study suggests they're fighting an uphill battle. New research on changes in the Earth's upper atmosphere suggests space debris could remain in orbit for longer than expected.

A science team at the U.K.'s University of Southampton has confirmed a long-term change in the Earth's upper atmosphere. This change, a contraction of the Earth's thermosphere, has been attributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. The atmospheric compression is keeping satellites — and space refuse — in Earth orbit for added stints of time. (8/3)

Commerce Secretary to Tour KSC Labs, Meet Displaced Workers (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Wednesday plans to visit Kennedy Space Center to talk to displaced workers and tour a science lab facility. The visit comes less than two weeks before a task force Locke co-chairs with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is due to provide recommendations on how to help diversify the Space Coast's economy as the shuttle program nears retirement next year.

The multi-agency federal task force, funded with $40 million, has held at least two meetings in Orlando this summer and accepted public input through July 31. Recommendations are due Aug. 15. Locke will meet with displaced workers to discuss administration efforts to support the area and to "listen to them about challenges they are facing -– what's working in the transition efforts and what can be improved." (8/3)

Nye: I Never Imagined (Source: Space News)
I never imagined, not for a moment, that I would so strongly disagree with two of the world’s heroes, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. As of this writing, these astronauts are opposed to key aspects of NASA’s new plan for space exploration. They, along with a few others, believe that the U.S. is ending its human (manned) space exploration. I cannot help but ask, have these opponents read the same documents that I have? Are we all talking about the same NASA? The new plan is focused on doing new things in space, developing new technology, making discoveries, and going where no one has gone before.

As I try to understand what motivates these extraordinary statements from these extraordinary men, I consider what we do agree on. I am pretty sure we agree that the shuttle program was canceled six years ago, during the previous president’s term. I believe we would agree that the Constellation program, which included the Ares 1 and 5 rockets along with an Orion space capsule, would not take anyone back to the Moon before 2020, or even 2025, some 50 years after the Apollo astronauts made the same voyage.

While the current NASA administrator fights the good fight with some of the agency’s retired explorers, other nations’ space agencies are doing new things. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has deployed a solar sail as a part of a mission to Venus. The European Space Agency (ESA) is exploring a comet, the sort of object that could impact Earth. Saving the shuttle from retirement will hold us back. Let’s imagine new adventures instead. (8/3)

Are We Alone In the Universe? (Source: WIRED)
Life in other parts of the universe may have already tried to contact us, but the message hasn’t gotten here yet. It’s something we think about a lot for sure, the question of whether or not there is life in the universe besides ours. Up to this point in our existence, there is no concrete proof to prove the existence of other intelligent life — or lack thereof. There are many theories, many ideas floating around that attempt to offer a comforting thought about life in the universe. Click here to read the article. (8/3)

Florida Federal Contractors Association Meeting Focuses on Industry Teaming (Source: FFCA)
An August 17 meeting of the Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA) will focus on the "Challenges of Teaming" to chase contract and grant opportunities. The event is free of charge and will be held in Tampa at 5:00 p.m. Click here for details. (8/3)

Boeing to Shift 2 Aircraft Programs from California to Oklahoma (Source: AIA)
With defense budgets shrinking, Boeing announced Monday it will seek to trim costs by moving two big programs -- C-130 avionics and B-1 bomber modernization -- from Long Beach, Calif., to Oklahoma City. The two programs currently employ about 800 workers. "The customer told us to be more affordable," a Boeing spokesman said. "This is one way we can do that." (8/3)

Tyndall AFB Getting New F-22 Squadron (Source: Panama City News Herald)
It was the news that area officials were hoping for: A new mission — and jobs — are headed to Tyndall Air Force Base. Tyndall’s future will include the addition of a new F-22 Raptor squadron, officials announced Thursday, with the base receiving 21 new fighter jets as part of the Air Force’s consolidation of its F-22 fleet. Rep. Allen Boyd said this will result in the addition of almost 600 personnel at the base and stemmed from government and area civic leaders’ continued efforts to secure Tyndall a follow-on mission.

Thursday’s announcement comes months after Tyndall started the drawdown of its two F-15 squadrons, as part of an Air Force-wide restructuring plan. Boyd said the first of the new F-22s would arrive at Tyndall toward the end of 2012. He said it would take about six months to get all of the F-22s into the base. (8/3)

Gates' DOD Efficiency Push Seen as Defense Against Deeper Cuts (Source: AIA)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing efficiency programs as a way to ward off greater political meddling in Pentagon budget decisions, The Wall Street Journal reports. Gates met last week to meet with defense industry leaders, seeking to wring 2% to 3% annual savings through greater productivity and efficiency. "Although industry doesn't much care for the efficiency drive, it's beginning to realize Gates is the best protection it has against much deeper cuts coming from the White House," says Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. The Wall Street Journal (8/3)

Aerospace Industry Needs Young People in Careers to Replace Retirees (Source: AIA)
With a high percentage of the engineering and aerospace workforce nearing retirement age, a push is on to recruit young people to consider careers in the industry. The challenge is particularly tough in aerospace, because the many jobs with defense contracts require employees to be U.S. citizens and have security clearances, said Marion Blakey, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. "Within 10 years, half of our workforce will be eligible to retire," Blakey said. "We have to home-grow this workforce because of the security clearance requirements." (8/3)

Boeing Enlists Hollywood to Make Engineering Cool (Source: Business Week)
With U.S. technologists retiring—and security clearances needed for many aerospace jobs—can America's youth be persuaded to take up tech? In a public service announcement shot in July, television star Pauley Perrette of NCIS encourages students to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, and technology. Boeing says that by 2015, about 40 percent of its workforce, or 60,000 people, will be eligible to retire.

In its effort to reshape perceptions of engineering and encourage young people to see technology-related work as more alluring, the Entertainment Industries Council in late July brought together engineers and executives from Fox; National Geographic Channel, a joint venture of National Geographic Television & Film and Fox Cable Networks; Discovery Communications' (DISCK) Science Channel; and Viacom's (VIA) Black Entertainment Television to explain the creative process to the engineers and foster a better understanding between the two groups.

The council is also starting an annual awards ceremony for films, TV series, newspaper, magazines, Internet, or radio content that has an impact on the public's understanding of science, engineering, technology, or math and debunks myths or stereotypes. The council is accepting award nominees through mid-September. "Engineers have been stereotyped and our industry has played a part in this," says Brian Dyak, president of the Entertainment Industries Council. "We've had mad scientists in movies going back to the '30s," he says, with scientists often portrayed as deranged and engineers as geeky. "No one realizes what a technologist does." (8/3)

Astronaut with O.C. Ties to Take Spacewalk (Source: Orange County Register)
Tracy Caldwell Dyson, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station with Orange County ties, is set to take a walk in space Thursday to replace a failed pump in the station's cooling system. Dyson graduated from Cal State Fullerton and conducted research at UC Irvine. (8/3)

Editorial: Habitable Planets (Source: Evansville Courier & Press)
How quickly what was once considered near-miraculous becomes routine. Until close to the end of the last century, it was believed that we might be alone in the universe. No astronomer had ever detected a planet outside our solar system. Then, in 1992, two were discovered, and then the discoveries came faster and faster. Now NASA's Kepler space telescope mission in just six weeks of searching has identified over 700 likely planets, 140 of them Earth-size and potentially habitable.

And that is only the beginning. Harvard astronomer and Kepler team member Dimitar Sasselov estimates that the Milky Way may have as many as 100 million habitable planets. European astronomers, using telescopes, said they believed they had found the most massive star ever discovered -- a behemoth 320 times the weight of the sun. The star is R136a1 in the Tarantula Nebula. Because it is consuming itself at an enormous rate, it is only likely to be around for 3 million years. (8/3)

Editorial: Bringing to Reality Our 'Thunder Bolt' (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America is a state of New Mexico facility. We, the taxpayers, are assuming the investment risk, and we will be positioned to benefit eventually from the policy directive to, "Promote a robust domestic commercial space industry, departments and agencies shall purchase and use commercial spaced capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent."

We will have the opportunity eventually to supply goods and services including safe, reliable and competitive launch services to government customers who want to get cargo and eventually humans to space... When Spaceport America is fully operational, we will be able to compete for government business and save the taxpayers money while creating a new commercial space industry. Let's hope this means future jobs in the commercial space industry evolving in New Mexico. What's not to love? We save money and create new jobs. Furthermore, while we maintain our status as the place where the space industry began, we establish leadership as the home of the new commercial space industry. (8/3)

Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Turns 80 (Source: AFP)
Neil Armstrong, who turns 80 on Thursday, became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide, who gazed in awe. With one small step off a ladder, Armstrong placed mankind's first footprint on an extraterrestrial world and gained instant hero status. (8/3)

Russia to Launch Moon Probe in 2012 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos will launch a probe bearing a neutron generator to study the moon's surface in 2012, a leading space researcher said on Tuesday. "Roscosmos plans to send to the moon a spacecraft bearing a neutron generator developed by our institute to study lunar surface," said Yevgeny Bogolyubov, deputy chief designer of the Automation Engineering Scientific Research Institute. (8/3)

How High Will Virgin Galactic Fly? (Source: Discovery)
Just how high can you get for $200,000? If you pony up the money to the good folks at Virgin Galactic, you'll reach an altitude of approximately 68 miles (110 kilometers) above the surface of the Earth. That's 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) above a boundary known as the Kármán line, where by most definitions the atmosphere ends and outer space begins. These dizzying, suborbital heights have typically remained the domain of experimental aircraft such as NASA's X-15, which only ascended beyond the Kármán line twice. Virgin Galactic, however, plans to offer regular flights there aboard SpaceShipTwo.

"The vehicles have been designed to go a little bit higher than that," says Stephen Attenborough, commercial director for Virgin Galactic. "We may at some point be able to offer a slightly increased altitude or higher apogee for the flight, but the physics will tell you that the higher you go, the higher the g-forces are going to be on the way up and the way down." In other words, approximately 68 miles is a perfect cruising altitude not only because it places SpaceShipTwo firmly in space, but also because going any higher would make the flight too rigorous for some prospective passengers. (8/3)

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