September 15, 2010

Energy Symposium Sprouts Consortium for Follow-Up (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Coast industry, government and academic leaders who organized last week's Space Coast Energy Symposium have established a new Space Coast Energy Consortium to lead follow-up efforts to develop an energy-based economy that has the potential to equal or exceed the space industry's regional economic impact. The Symposium highlighted opportunities to leverage the area's space industry and workforce to support new energy initiatives. Participants urged Florida to catch up with other states by removing policy impediments for energy industry development, and establishing firm targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy use. They stressed that such changes would attract billions of dollars in new investment and generate thousands of energy-economy jobs. (9/15)

NASA Could Launch Scramjets From Magsleds (Source: Fox News)
NASA's next potential space project seems ripped straight from science fiction novels -- a horizontal aircraft launcher for the space agency's supersonic air-breathing jets. Early mockups of the Advanced Space Launch System feature a wedge-shaped aircraft with so-called "scramjet" engines; such engines work by taking in air, mixing it with hydrogen and simultaneously compressing it. The process generates extremely high temperatures that ignite the mixture to create a surge of jet propulsion.

The vision: a horizontally launched craft that takes off at Mach 10 along an electrified track similar to those used on roller coasters. Upon return, the aircraft would be able to land directly onto a runway. And according to NASA, it's very much within reach. “All of these are technology components that have already been developed or studied,” said Stan Star, NASA’s branch chief of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Kennedy. “We’re just proposing to mature these technologies to a useful level, well past the level they’ve already been taken.” (9/15)

Boeing, Space Adventures to Market Commercial Orbital Flights (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing and Space Adventures announced an agreement to market commercial rides to low Earth orbit aboard a Boeing capsule now in development. If the initiative is successful, many customers flying on Boeing's Crew Space Transportation-100 spacecraft, of CST-100, would likely launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The capsule is being designed to launch atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas V and Delta IV rockets and SpaceX's Falcon 9, which have pads at the spaceport. The companies see a market for flying tourists, companies, government agencies and astronauts from other countries to the International Space Station or other destinations. Boeing has already partnered with Bigelow Aerospace in the hope of flying astronauts to a privately run space station being developed by Bigelow. (9/15)

Gates Unveils 20-Point Plan for Slashing Wasteful DOD Spending (Source: AIA)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced more than 20 changes to Pentagon purchasing policies that are designed to slash wasteful spending and give military contractors more incentive to complete projects on budget. Gates' goal is to save the military $100 billion over the next few years and use the money to modernize Pentagon programs. Richard Sylvester, vice president of acquisition policy for the Aerospace Industries Association, said he had no major objections to the plan. "Over all, I think it's positive," he said. "We've got a number of good things in there." (9/15)

Augustine Voices Preference for Senate Bill (Source: Space News)
Norm Augustine is leaning toward the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill. The retired Lockheed Martin chief exec and former chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee wrote: “I am of course prepared to address ‘facts,’ and I believe it to be correct that the Senate bill comes closer to any of the options in our report than the House bill.”

A lukewarm endorsement of the highly prescriptive Senate authorization, but not surprising given that companion legislation in the House keeps NASA’s Ares 1 rocket in the trade-space for developing a government-owned crew-to-LEO capability, a scenario the Augustine Committee branded as left little room for in its findings. On the other hand, the Senate measure calls for starting work on a shuttle-derived heavy-lift rocket next year despite Obama’s plan to punt development to mid-decade.

When asked if he was prepared to advocate on behalf of the Senate legislation — as fellow committee member and Princeton University professor Chris Chyba did in an Aug. 25 e-mail to all nine of his co-panelists — Augustine invoked the committee’s charter: “As you will recall, our committee was specifically asked by the White House not to take a position on any given option, presumably because that would simply make decision-making more difficult." (9/15)

Virgin Galactic Chief Briefs State Aviation Officials (Source: Wichita Business Journal)
The National Association of State Aviation Officials held its 79th annual convention and trade show in Wichita on Sep. 11-14. Guest speakers for the event included former NASA chief of staff and current CEO of Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides, who briefed the group on the growing market for suborbital human spaceflight. (9/14)

India To Launch Four Satellites In December (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is gearing up to launch four satellites within a span of one week in December. 'We will be launching the satellites this December. Currently the two rockets are being assembled,' Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director P.S. Veeraghavan said. The two rockets are the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the heavier Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The PSLV will carry three payloads -Resourcesat and two small satellites each weighing around 90 kg made in Singapore and Russia. The GSLV will launch the INSAT series communication satellite. (9/15)

Houston-Area NASA Contractors Learn to Diversify in Wake of Program Cuts (Source: Houston Business Journal)
For Randy Parker, the recent decision by the federal government to end the shuttle program at NASA is having more than just a ripple effect. It’s changing the way his company does business. Parker, owner of GB Tech Inc., says a number of aerospace jobs being phased out at the end of September aren’t being replaced, which means less work for Houston area firms. GB Tech, for example, had 80 employees in support of shuttle activity and those jobs are currently being trimmed.

As a result, NASA contractors aren’t taking any chances and are already looking into creative ways to diversify and find new revenue in order to survive. The stakes are sky high. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the Johnson Space Center manages an annual budget of $5.9 billion, and oversaw contracts worth $4.3 billion handled by Texas businesses during fiscal year 2009 through direct spending and through Small Business Innovative Research grants.

GB Tech employs approximately 150 employees and will lose about half of that payroll by the end of September. Parker says that some of the employees have worked for the shuttle program for over 20 years and are now opting to retire because their skills are so specialized. GB Tech, which provided specialty landing and safety software for The Boeing Co. and the International Space Station, is now turning to other industries to survive. (9/6)

Editorial: House Should Support Senate's Bill to Set NASA's Course (Source: Florida Today)
Like so much else in Congress, the new policy needed to set NASA’s course is stuck in an election-year tangle with competing bills in the Senate and House. That’s worsening the uncertainty at NASA and places like the Space Coast that have an enormous amount at stake in the agency’s future as the shuttle fleet’s end nears. It’s time to move forward, and that can best be accomplished with House members dropping their measure that could come up for a vote soon and supporting the better Senate blueprint.

The Space Coast’s two representatives — Democrat Suzanne Kosmas and Republican Bill Posey — should be among those signing on. The Senate bill is the result of bipartisan negotiations led by Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson that bridged major differences and is backed by key Republicans such as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. It has gotten the green light from the White House, which views it as a compromise that keeps important parts of President Obama’s plan intact but makes concessions in reviving elements of the Constellation moon program he canceled.

The Senate bill isn’t perfect. To pay for the heavy-lift rocket and Orion, it takes money away from the commercial crew program and research and development, which some oppose for understandable reasons. But it’s a reflection of the political realities that NASA is facing in Congress and the fiscal realities it will confront in coming years as huge federal budget deficits make dollars scarce. And NASA programs targeted for deep cuts or elimination unless they have sound bottom lines. That means House members coming to their senses and backing the Senate plan. (9/15)

Space Junk: Hunting Zombies in Outer Space (Source: New Scientist)
Earth's rings have never looked so beautiful, you think as you look up at the pallid sliver of light arcing through the night sky. Yet unlike Saturn's magnificent bands of dust and rubble, Earth's halo is one of our own making. It is nothing but space junk, smashed-up debris from thousands of satellites that once monitored our climate, beamed down TV programs and helped us find our way around.

This scenario is every space engineer's nightmare. It is known as the Kessler syndrome after Donald Kessler, formerly at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Back in 1978, he and a colleague proposed that as the number of satellites rose, so would the risk of accidental collisions. Such disasters would create large clouds of shrapnel, making further collisions with other satellites more likely and sparking a chain reaction that would swiftly surround the Earth with belts of debris. Orbits would become so clogged as to be unusable and eventually our access to space would be completely blocked. (9/15)

Brazilian Delegation in Ukraine to Discuss Cyclone Launches from Alcantara Spaceport (Source: RIA Novosti)
A military delegation from Brazil will arrive in Ukraine on Wednesday for three-day talks on military and space cooperation, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. Ukraine and Brazil set up a join venture, the Alcantara Cyclone Space, in 2006, as part of a large-scale program to send the Cyclone-4 Launch Vehicle into space by 2012. (9/15)

UA Rocket Group to Blast Off (Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat)
Building a rocket was their dream. Now it’s a reality. The Rockoon Team, a a group of 15 students, is close to test launching a rocket it has been designing and building for the past year and a half. The rocket is in its final stages, and the team expects to do its test launch at the end of September. Measuring approximately 14-by-14-inches, it also has an 8-foot-tall wooden platform. Carrying eight pounds of fuel, it will have a GPS so that it can be retrieved. The structure is made of carbon fiber. (9/15)

Russia Ships Four Atlas Rocket Engines to US (Source: Russia Today)
Four Russian-made rocket engines will soon be on their way across the Atlantic to NASA. The high-tech RD-180 boosters are to be flown to America onboard the world's largest cargo plane. The RD-180 is a powerful machine weighing over five tons – the heavyweight among rocket engines. The four that are now being shipped to the US will serve as the engines for Atlas space rockets which transport satellites into (9/15)

Finding Life on Other Planets Will Reveal How Common Life Is Across the Universe (Source: Discover)
Do we have company in the universe? In the next three decades we’ll probably know. I’m confident that we’ll detect signs of life on exoplanets by observing their atmospheres. We may not discover technological civilizations in the next 30 years, but we should be able to find evidence for simple life-forms. To reach that goal, we’ll need a space mission that can obtain spectra of exoplanets’ atmospheres. This involves blocking out the light from the central star and bringing light from the dim planets into focus.

I hope that vigorous space exploration continues and that humankind will have a space station that resides between Earth and the moon. Outside the gravitational field of Earth, we could launch robotic spacecraft to other destinations in our solar system. Further ahead I’d like to see tiny spacebots —smaller than your cell phone—travel outside our solar system to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. By keeping the mass of those spacebots low, we could more easily accelerate them. We could launch an army of these tiny bots and have them do what your cell phone does: take pictures and phone home. (9/14)

KSC Families Leaving, One at a Time (Source: Florida Today)
As workers prepare for post-shuttle Brevard, what impact will their absence have on our economy? When Brandon and Lisa DeVries move to New Hampshire next month, they will depart the Space Coast just ahead of a massive wave of space industry layoffs. After 10 years in Brevard, the 34-year-olds will leave behind family and friends, and the footprint that their jobs and lives filled -- an economic void that could remain empty for years and multiply in size if more families leave for jobs elsewhere.

A safety engineer at Kennedy Space Center, Lisa DeVries has landed similar work at a nuclear power plant 1,350 miles away. She starts Oct. 4, three days after her present employer, United Space Alliance, plans to lay off 900 space shuttle workers here. Leaving the Space Coast ends a dream for the DeVrieses, who met at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., when they were 22. Both family cars carry commemorative shuttle license tags, and their home is decorated with dozens of shuttle images. They admit they are space geeks. And they regret that they won't be around to witness the final shuttle launches. (9/12)

Spaceport America Seeks Deputy Director (Source: NMSA)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) is accepting applications for a Deputy Director to oversee the daily operations of Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. This position announcement marks another significant milestone as the historic project transitions from a construction site to an operating spaceport. Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, salary history and references to: Deputy Director Search Committee, New Mexico Spaceport Authority, 901 E. University Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88001. (9/14)

NASA What Could Be its Final Shuttle Crew (Source: Florida Today)
NASA today named four veteran astronauts who could become the last crew to fly a shuttle: commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. For now, the astronauts comprise the "launch on need" crew that will be on standby to fly a rescue mission if Endeavour, which is now the last scheduled flight, sustains crippling damage. (9/14)

Florida's Budget Deficit Estimated at $2.5 Billion (Source: Florida Today)
A slowly emerging economic recovery, spending cuts and more federal stimulus dollars have helped cut a potential shortfall in next year's Florida budget by more than half, a state economist said. Gaps of up to $2.8 billion and $1.9 billion are forecast for the following two budget years. Lawmakers must figure out ways to eliminate the gaps because the Florida Constitution requires a balanced budget. (9/14)

Say Goodbye to Sunspots? (Source: Science)
Scientists studying sunspots for the past two decades have concluded that the magnetic field that triggers their formation has been steadily declining. If the current trend continues, by 2016 the sun's face may become spotless and remain that way for decades—-a phenomenon that in the 17th century coincided with a prolonged period of cooling on Earth. (9/14)

Russia Plans to Restore its Weather Satellite Network by 2030 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will fully rebuild its network of weather forecasting and monitoring satellites by 2030 under a state program for the development of meteorology, the government said in a statement on Tuesday. At present, Russia has only one weather satellite, the Meteor-M type, in orbit and mostly uses meteorological data from U.S. and European weather agencies. At least six Meteor-type satellites will be necessary to provide sufficient data for independent weather forecasting. (9/14)

Russia's Mission Control Set to Readjust ISS Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
The orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) will be raised on Wednesday by about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), Russia's Mission Control official said. "The aim of this operation is to ensure optimal conditions for the return of [three] astronauts [to Earth] on board the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft on September 24, and for the docking with a new manned Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch on October 8," the official said. (9/14)

NASA Selects High School Students For INSPIRE Education Program (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 1,895 high school students to participate in the agency's Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience, or INSPIRE. The INSPIRE project is designed to encourage students in grades nine through 12 to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The students will have access to an online learning community that allows them to interact with their peers, NASA engineers and scientists. The community also provides appropriate grade-level educational activities, discussion boards and chat rooms to learn about NASA career opportunities. The students may also be selected to participate in 2011 summer workshops or internships at NASA facilities and participating universities. (9/14)

Space Makes Polymers Hard (Source: WIRED)
Space radiation might finally be good for something. The high-energy particles that degrade spacecraft and threaten astronauts’ health could actually help make a new material useful for inflatable space habitats. “Under space conditions, radiation is usually considered a damaging factor,” said materials physicist Alexey Kondyurin. “But in our case, space radiation plays a positive role.”

Kondyurin and colleagues developed a glue-like material that’s goopy on the ground but hardens in space, and sent it 25 miles into the stratosphere tethered to a NASA balloon. Their results are published in a report online. Ultimately, materials like Kondyurin’s may be used to build inflatable structures in space. Lifting bulky buildings into orbit or transporting them whole to the moon or Mars is difficult and expensive. But materials that can blow up and self-harden (or “cure” in the language of materials scientists) could let future astronauts pack their houses on their backs. (9/14)

CCAGW Slams Sole Source Space Pork (Source: CCAGW)
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) today called on Congress to resist the temptation to resurrect the failed Ares 1 rocket element of NASA's unaffordable and unsustainable Constellation program. The House is slated to consider NASA authorization legislation this week. “Congress would be wise to reject the House bill and favor the Senate’s legislation, which would allow the private sector to invest in a competitive commercial system and result in more efficient space travel.” (9/14)

Senate Appropriators Recommend Zero Funding for NPOESS, $50 Million for DWSS (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate defense appropriations subcommittee (SAC-D) marked up the FY2011 defense appropriations bill on Tuesday, recommending zero funding for DOD's portion of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) that the White House wants restructured after years of cost overruns and schedule slips. It approved $50 million for DOD's successor program, the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). (9/14)

Shelby Takes Credit for EELV Funding in Senate Bill (Source: Sen. Shelby)
The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program has been allocated $1.15 billion in the Senate's FY-2011 Defense Appropriations Bill. Sen Richard Shelby (R-AL), a vocal critic of using EELVs for NASA commercial crew missions, released the following statement about the EELV funding: “The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle is built in Decatur and serves as the Air Force’s space lift modernization program...EELV improves our nation’s access to space by making space launch vehicles more affordable and reliable.” (9/14)

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