September 16, 2010

"Cyclone-4" Launch From Brazil Spaceport in 2012 (Source: Unian)
Ukraine and Brazil are preparing the launch of a new space launch vehicle "Cyclone-4". The first launch of Ukrainian-made rocket is planed for 2012 on Brazilian launch site near Alcantara. The State Minister of Defense of Brazil Mr. Nelson Azevedo Jobim said this today during meeting with the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. "The basic project is already prepared and we have every opportunity to implement such a launch in 2012" - the Minister of Defense of Brazil noted. (9/16)

FCC Halts Rural Broadband Provider’s Use of Globalstar Spectrum (Source: Space News)
U.S regulators on Sept. 15 ordered mobile satellite services operator Globalstar to stop using its satellite frequencies in ground-based communications mode until the company’s satellite constellation reaches minimum service levels. The decision will complicate Globalstar’s relationship with Open Range Communications, a rural broadband provider that uses Globalstar’s radio spectrum to provide ground links to its customers. (9/16)

SBSS Follow-On Competition Delayed (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has delayed its planned competition to build a second Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite. The first SBSS satellite, which will use an optical telescope to keep tabs on objects in geostationary orbit, was built by Boeing and Ball Aerospace. The satellite’s development took longer than expected and its launch has been further delayed almost a year due to problems with its new Minotaur 4 launch vehicle. The Air Force now plans to launch the satellite on Sept. 26.

The service in April announced plans to hold an open competition to build a second SBSS satellite with requirements identical to the first. Plans at the time called for awarding a contract to build the satellite in early 2011 with a launch to occur in late 2014. However, the release of a final request for proposals for the SBSS follow-on satellite will now take place no sooner than early 2011. (9/16)

New Biology Research to Run on Space Station (Source:
Three new biomedical experiments funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health will take advantage of the space station's unique orbital facilities and weightless environment. The experiments will use the station as a lab to study how bones and the immune system weaken in space. The NIH grants set aside about $1.3 million for the experiments as part of the agency's Biomedical Research on the International Space Station (BioMed-ISS) program. The program falls in line with the space station's designation as a U.S. National Laboratory for scientists from academia, the private sector and various government agencies. But it includes an important first, officials said. (9/16)

Moon Hit with Double Whammy of Impacts (Source: Science)
The moon may be only 384,000 kilometers away, but that doesn't mean it isn't full of mystery. Scientists studying the first year's worth of data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have found unexpected mineral deposits, the possibility that our natural satellite was bombarded in two waves in its early history, and virtually no trace of a pristine lunar surface. If scientists can confirm these findings, they could take big steps toward understanding not only the moon's distant past but also Earth's and the rest of the solar system's as well. (9/16)

NASA Hosts Symposium About Latin American Space Partnerships (Source: NASA)
NASA hosted government representatives from several Latin American countries in Washington on Thursday to share information about the agency's work in that region and discuss potential future partnerships. The participants discussed some of NASA's ongoing work in Latin America, including the NASA and U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Regional Visualization and Monitoring System. The satellite system provides information from Earth observations to help local decision makers respond to natural disasters, and environmental threats, such as air pollution and fires.

Symposium attendees also discussed how to access data from NASA's many space-based resources and how to pursue new partnerships with agency-sponsored researchers. NASA has more than 30 agreements with 20 Latin American countries covering Earth and space science, research on the space station, new uses for groundbreaking technology and education. (9/16)

NASA Awards Launch Services Contracts (Source: NASA)
NASA has announced the awards for the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II Contract. The award will provide a broad range of launch services for NASA's planetary, Earth-observing, exploration and scientific satellites. NASA has the ability to order a maximum of 70 launch services missions with a maximum cumulative potential contract value of $15 billion. The NLS II contracts are multiple award indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, spanning a 10-year period.

NASA selected four companies for awards: Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver; Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va.; Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif.; and United Launch Services, LLC of Littleton, Colo. NASA's Launch Services Program Office at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for program management. (9/16)

WTO Critical of NASA Payments to Boeing (Source: MarketWatch)
A ruling by the World Trade Organization over whether Boeing received unfair government support centers on payments made to the company by the Department of Defense and NASA. The WTO has ruled that the payments are subsidies and that they've led to an unfair competitive advantage for Boeing, a person familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires. The European Union is claiming Boeing received some $24 billion in tax breaks, research help and rebates from the federal and state level in the U.S., giving it an advantage over European aerospace rival Airbus, whose parent company is EADS. (9/16)

Editorial: Infinite Universe, Limited Budget (Source: Space News)
Once a decade, the U.S. National Research Council convenes a panel of experts to prioritize federally funded ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics research for the 10 years ahead. The finished report, called the decadal survey, influences how NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy marshal their financial resources to give astronomers and astrophysicists the tools they need to tackle the discipline’s most compelling questions.

More often than not, these well-intentioned decadal survey committees — there are separate ones for Earth and planetary science — load NASA’s cart with more missions than the space agency can possibly hope to accomplish within its limited budget. Scientists adept at calculating interstellar distances and other mind-boggling cosmic sums are notoriously bad at producing accurate cost estimates for spacecraft missions.

Time will tell whether the plan laid out in the 2010 decadal survey is any more achievable than the preceding one. But by assuming a flat-to-slightly-declining NASA astrophysics budget and obtaining independent cost and risk assessments, the 2010 decadal has taken a realistic and responsible approach instead of merely drawing up a make-everyone-happy wish list. NASA also deserves credit for reminding the astronomy community early and often that money will be tight for the foreseeable future. (9/16)

Pluto Gets 14 New Neighbors (Source: National Geographic)
Beyond Neptune's orbit, roughly five billion miles from the sun, the solar system can seem like a dark, desolate place. But like the murky depths of the ocean, the darkness hides millions of mysterious bodies—or at least, so we think. Known collectively as trans-Neptunian objects, or TNOs, the first of this population to be discovered was Pluto in 1930. Since then we've found a thousand or so objects in Pluto's domain. Some have even been given exotic names, such as Chaos, Ixion, Quaoar, and Rhadamanthus.

Using archived pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of scientists has found a way to spot TNOs, and they've added 14 more to the catalog. The new bodies range in size from 25 to 60 miles (40 to 96 kilometers) across, and they're all a hundred million times fainter than what you can see from Earth with the naked eye. (9/16)

President Obama’s NASA Plan Meeting Opposition on the Hill (Source: Daily Caller)
When President Obama promised change, most people probably did not picture NASA. But if Obama has failed to deliver change elsewhere, the nation’s premier space exploration agency could be an exception. Change for NASA, however, was probably inevitable. In 2004, it was announced that the space shuttle would be retired — something that is scheduled to take place later this year. Thus, the question then became how NASA would get U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill immediately balked at the plan, labeling it a job killer and the end of NASA excellence. “This plan was a huge change from what we were doing,” space policy analyst Jim Muncy told The Daily Caller. “But what we were doing wasn’t working, although people didn’t want to admit it.” (9/16)

Editorial: Is NASA Incompetent — or Just Lying to Us? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
This is the latest plan NASA is considering to get us to infinity and beyond. It would break the shuttle into pieces. It would take the engines off the orbiter, put them on the bottom of the fuel tank. Then it would put the astronauts in a capsule on top of the fuel tank. Why didn't someone think of this before? Wait a minute. Someone did!

Some space buffs and engineers came up with the idea in 2006, without the requisite $5 billion in R&D funding from Congress. The "Direct" team dubbed their creation "Jupiter" and gained a cult following, particularly when it became apparent that NASA's Ares-1 rocket had little chance of getting off the ground. But that was something NASA Administrator Michael Griffin would never admit. Ares was his vision, his place in history. Standing straight and tall on the launchpad, Ares was a 21st-century Washington Monument. Jupiter was a 20th-century Mr. Potato Head, with his nose where his hat should be.

So Griffin unleashed the NASA public-relations machine against Jupiter. It defied the laws of physics. It was a dodo bird that would never fly. Meanwhile, a growing group of dissident engineers within NASA were reaching the same conclusion about Ares. To them, this Jupiter idea wasn't so crazy. But Griffin kept pumping billions into Ares with the full blessing of the Bush administration. Like Brownie over at FEMA, Griffin was doing a heck of a job. (9/16)

Cuba May Link Up to Glonass System (Source: RIA Novosti)
Moscow and Havana plan to connect Cuba to the Glonass satellite navigation satellite system, the Russian ambassador to Cuba said on Wednesday. Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems enable users to determine their positions to within a few meters. (9/16)

Editorial: Our Future in Space Depends on Commercial Launches (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner had a vision for Virginia's commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport when he advanced commercial space launch entrepreneurs in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 last month. Wise Virginians can only hope Virginia's House delegation will act in a similar manner this fall. Warner and Sen. Jim Webb voted to fund commercial space crew development, commercial cargo, and new space technology propulsion development. Each element is essential in keeping the U.Ss. in the forefront of space over the balance of the decade. Each is essential in providing new launch business opportunities and hundreds of high technology jobs at Wallops Island and throughout Virginia. (9/16)

'Crunch Time' for NASA as Supporters of Senate, House Version Jockey for Position (Source: Huntsville Times)
It's being called "crunch time" for NASA, these last days of September before Congress adjourns in October to go back on the campaign trail ahead of the November midterm elections. With different House and Senate versions of a 2010 NASA budget in play, and the specter of funding limbo if neither passes, NASA's future is like the last episodes of a TV drama's season. Will the loose ends be tied up? Or is a cliffhanger coming? (9/16)

Galaxy 15 'Zombiesat' Still Alive After Expected Off Date (Source:
Intelsat says its out-of-control Galaxy 15 communications satellite did not power down as expected in late August and will continue threatening interference with broadcasting signals from other spacecraft for the foreseeable future. Galaxy 15 has not responded to commands from the ground since April, but the craft continues blaring powerful communications signals as it drifts through geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth.

There is no current threat of the satellite colliding with another craft. Engineers at Intelsat and Orbital Sciences Corp., the builder of Galaxy 15, expected the errant satellite's reaction wheels to become saturated with momentum by late August or early September. (9/15)

Space Tracking Not Good Enough (Source: DOD Buzz)
When the Chinese SJ-12 satellite kissed another in orbit and raised alarms across the space community– was this an anti-satellite test, was this a general demonstration of orbital maneuvering — the event also raised questions about whether and when the U.S. knew it happened.

All of the news about the event came from the community of amateur orbital watchers and a few professional analysts, not from the military or the intelligence community. So I asked the outgoing head of Air Force Space Command if he was satisfied with the quality of space situational awareness to which he has access. And I asked Gen. Bob Kehler if he knew about the event before the amateurs or they had the jump on his people. On the second question he said he did not know who came first and he seemed to be offering an honest and simple assessment, not a cagey avoidance of the topic.

But to the more important question — the quality of space situational awareness — he said this: “In general terms I am not satisfied with either the timeliness or quality or comprehensiveness of our space situational awareness.” Space Command is hobbled by its long-time reliance on cataloguing space debris and satellites. They spot something, note its position, confirm its orbit again and then log where it was and when it reappeared. This is not, as Kehler noted, anywhere close to real-time information. (9/15)

Aerojet Becomes a Founding Sponsor of Explore Mars (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet has become a founding sponsor of Explore Mars, a newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created to promote science and technology innovation through outreach and education efforts related to human exploration of the planet Mars. Through its sponsorship of the Mars Education Challenge and other Explore Mars initiatives, Aerojet hopes to expand public awareness and get more students interested in pursuing careers in engineering and science. Public outreach and STEM activities are both very important to Aerojet's role as a leading aerospace company. (9/15)

AFSPC Commander Focuses on Leverage in Space Community (Source: AFSPC)
The commander of Air Force Space Command detailed challenges of the space community during the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition. Gen. C. Robert Kehler outlined how leverage, integration and innovative thinking can all bring the space community into the future with existing assets. The General outlined the key to ensuring the new space policy initiative, assuring the resilience of space mission essential functions is carried out, is leverage.

"We need to leverage the existing space and cyberspace capabilities," he said. "We need to exploit the potential of current systems and the systems that we know we will have in 10 or 20 years from now. I will submit to you that we know what we will have 10 years from now; we know what we will have in 20 years. Those systems are leaving the launch pads today. We know today what resources are available to us. It's all about leverage. What are we going to do with what we have?" (9/15)

105 Days in Isolation – And Counting – For 400 More (Source: ESA)
Sailing now in interplanetary space on their simulated mission towards the ‘Red Planet’, the Mars500 crew has entered in a new phase of their isolation. The previous mission endured 105 days in 2009 and from now on, everything in this experiment is new. The six crewmembers of Mars500, safely locked in their facility in Moscow, have been cruising virtually towards Mars since 14 June, when their mission ‘departed’ from Earth’s orbit. The ‘launch’ occurred on 3 June when the hatch of their spacecraft-analogue facility was closed. (9/15)

SRI International to Evaluate Effectiveness of NASA Online Game (Source: SRI)
SRI International was awarded a contract to evaluate "Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond," a NASA-themed, multi-player, online game designed to attract student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. The game will visualize a dynamic future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. SRI researchers will extend current models for evaluating educational games by describing the public-private partnership formed to build the game and investigating the impact of game play on students' interest in STEM content and related career fields. (9/15)

Congressional Tug-of-War Holds NASA's New Direction in the Balance (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
As the space shuttle program folds, the House and Senate – and broader spaceflight community – have struggled to reach consensus on NASA's new human spaceflight focus. Not since the end of the Apollo program has the country's human-spaceflight program faced such a profound turning point, this time with little consensus on a new direction. That accounts for the unusual, highly public tug-of-war over a new direction for NASA in Congress and within the broader spaceflight community that has marked the past several months. "It really is pretty unprecedented," says Roger Launius, a spaceflight historian and curator of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington. (9/15)

NASA Budget: A Small Window for Clarity Now, Or Else the Uncertainty Will Continue (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA's workforce has lived under a cloud of uncertainty for more than a year in regards to its future direction in human spaceflight, and if the U.S. House and Senate cannot get together within the next two weeks the uncertainty will continue for many more months. As the pink slips are starting to go out there's no question morale has begun sagging at Johnson Space Center. The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30 so something needs to get done soon.

If it doesn't things get ugly for NASA and especially its workers. Most likely, a continuing resolution will fund NASA and its present programs during the coming fiscal year. However the space agency will probably slow the spend rate on Constellation projects, driving more layoffs, believing that ultimately Constellation (or its offspring) is unlikely to happen. Most critically, the malaise and uncertainty that has surrounded NASA for more than a year will continue well into 2012 as there will be no clear direction.

JSC director Mike Coats has been telling people that he needs a firm budget by the end of this month in order to retain his best people. The thinking is that, if the uncertainty continues, the best talent at NASA will jump elsewhere to more secure positions. Will there be a deal by the end of the month? I'm told that something is going to get brought to the House floor during the next week to 10 days. If U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer brings the House bill to the floor, there will be no deal because the Senate cannot accept the House bill. (9/15)

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