September 18, 2010

Virgin Galactic Booster Plane Back in the Air (Source: Discovery)
White Knight 2, the aircraft that carries Virgin Galactic's commercial suborbital spaceship aloft, returned to the skies over Mojave, Calif., three weeks after a landing gear problem grounded the plane. The White Knight crew was performing touch and go's as part of a training exercise on Aug. 19 when the left main landing gear partly retracted. Because of the plane's twin-boom design, it came to rest on the tip of the left vertical tail and the left nose gear, "a unique balancing act (that) minimized the damage," says manufacturer Scaled Composites on its website. (9/17)

DigitalGlobe To Change WorldView-2 Orbit (Source: Aviation Week)
Barely days after ordering a new spacecraft for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) EnhancedView initiative, DigitalGlobe says it will lower the altitude of its WorldView-2 spacecraft, launched in 2009, to enhance spacecraft performance. The move, set for September 2011, will drop the satellite to 680 km. (420 mi.), from 770 km. now. To compensate, engineers will add a few additional ground terminals to the current network of a dozen or so stations.

The orbital shift will improve spatial resolution to 41 cm. (16 in.) at nadir, versus 46 cm. now, without affecting the satellite’s 7.25-year mission life. A potential second shift to 496 km., contemplated after September 2013, would bring resolution down to 30 cm. Resolution for commercial customers will remain at 50 cm. as prescribed by NGA. (9/17)

Atlas Rocket Set for Monday Liftoff from California (Source: Lompoc Record)
A 19-story Atlas 5 rocket is targeted for blastoff at 8:29 p.m. Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The United Launch Alliance rocket will lift off from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base. The launch window remains classified but officials have warned boaters to remain off the waters near South Base through 10:30 p.m. Monday. This marks the 604th overall Atlas mission in U.S. history. (9/17)

Minotaur Rocket Set for Sunday Liftoff from California (Source: SPACErePORT)
A Minotaur-4 rocket is scheduled for liftoff on Sep. 26 from Launch Complex 8 on Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a Space-Based Surveillance (SBSS) satellite. The Minotaur family of rockets is composed mainly of excess stages from Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). (9/18)

Webb Telescope: An Uncomfortable Silence (Source: Science News)
How can astronomers advise NASA on how to trim the costs of developing missions if no one will tell them how much the costliest mission of all, the James Webb Space Telescope, is running over budget? That’s what Alan Boss, chair of the independent NASA Astrophysics Subcommittee, would like to know. When the subcommittee met in Washington last week, Boss and his colleagues already knew that the $5 billion infrared space observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor now set for launch in 2014, was once again in need of a monetary transfusion.

What Boss wanted to know was how much. But no one in room 3H46 at NASA headquarters was willing to talk dollars and sense — when Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., asked if anyone in the room could cite a dollar figure, his question was met with a silence as deep as any in the vast empty reaches of intergalactic space. (9/18)

Editorial: It's a Giant Step (Source: Times of India)
Boeing's decision to enter into the space tourism business by the end of 2015 follows similar plans by Virgin Galactic. This extension of tourism's frontiers beyond earth is revolutionary. Boeing is developing a low-earth orbit Crew Space Transportation capsule that will shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station. A futuristic idea now looks very much contemporary and about to be realized. Space will no longer remain the final frontier to be conquered. It may open unexplored avenues for mankind and hence, marks a giant step forward. (9/18)

Editorial: This is No Joyride (Source: Times of India)
It is all very well to daydream about blasting off into space and spending the weekend at the International Space Station. But the fact is space tourism is an inherently risky proposition, more so if left to private operators. It is precisely for this reason that the efforts of companies such as Boeing to pioneer a commercial space tourism industry should not be encouraged.

Traveling into space is hardly a Sunday picnic. Professional astronauts undergo intensive training for years before they are fit to be part of a manned space mission. They have hundreds of people backing them up and providing technical support. Billions of dollars are spent to put together the infrastructure needed for such a project and to ensure the most stringent safety standards. (9/18)

One Small Step for Man to Asteroids (Source: JHU)
A team from the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in association with NASA, is developing the capabilities necessary for a human landing on a near-Earth asteroid before 2025, a deadline set by President Obama in April of this year. In preparation for the manned landing, an initial step would be to send a robotic precursor to the surface of the asteroid to collect data, which would help determine which asteroid would be the most favorable to land on.

The schematics for this new operation, called Next Gen NEAR, were planned out under the leadership of Andrew Cheng, the chief scientist at APL. But the project will face several problems before it even begins. First, 433 Eros, which was previously landed on almost ten years ago by NEAR, is a relatively large asteroid, but its orbit does not bring it close to Earth before President Obama's deadline. Next Gen NEAR has identified five near-Earth asteroids that could possibly suit the needs of the new mission, but all are smaller than Eros.

Second, NASA is currently facing several financial restrictions to its operations. In his announcement at the Kennedy Space Center in April, President Obama proposed a new NASA budget that would increase the agency's spending by six billion dollars over five years, in order to fulfill his goals of reaching an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030. (9/18)

Kosmas Hoping for House Shift on NASA Bill (Source: Florida Today)
Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, hopes the U.S. House will vote soon on a NASA authorization bill that looks more like the Senate's. "We are in negotiations between the Senate and the House, very aggressively seeking resolution to overcome the differences," Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, said. "The negotiations are happening as we speak. We are hoping that we will have a move-forward plan by the middle of next week and that we will be able to cast a vote on it." (9/17)

Dragon Debut with Falcon 9 Launch set for October 23 (Source: SpaceRef)
Pre-launch preparations for the blast off of the first operational Dragon spacecraft by SpaceX are rapidly picking up momentum following a successful launch countdown propellant test of the fully assembled rocket on Sep. 15 at their seaside launch pad on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. SpaceX spokeswoman Kirsten Brost said October 23 is the earliest date for liftoff of the Dragon reusable spacecraft to orbit on a 5 hour test flight atop a two stage Falcon 9 booster. (9/17)

Garver: NASA Must Evolve Alongside Commercial Spaceflight (Source:
NASA needs to evolve for the future, not get stuck in the past, the agency's deputy chief said last week. Lori Garver said it was time to kick start commercial spaceflight to low-Earth orbit and shift NASA's focus to more ambitious exploration missions. "Our space program needs to not be reliving the space program of the past," she said. "We have been trying to relive Apollo for 40 years now."

Instead of sending astronauts back to the moon, Garver espoused the new plan put forward by President Barack Obama to pursue trips to an asteroid and Mars. Meanwhile, NASA would try to shift the responsibility for transporting people to the International Space Station to the private sector, which has already made some strides toward commercial spacecraft capable of reaching orbit. (9/17)

Astrium Unit To Design Lunar Lander for ESA (Source: Space News)
Astrium Space Transportation will complete mission design work on a robotic lunar lander under an 18-month contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) valued at 6.5 million euros ($8.5 million). The design results, to include cost estimates for a rover as well as the lander, will be part of a package of proposals the 18-nation ESA expects to present to its member governments at a meeting scheduled for the first half of 2012. (9/17)

Fleet Sustainment Drives Continuing Space Procurement in U.S. Classified Arena (Source: Space News)
Procurement in the unclassified U.S. military space sector has come to a near standstill now that all major elements of the Pentagon’s satellite-fleet replenishment effort are under contract, but the classified side of the ledger is still seeing significant activity, with more on the horizon.

Several industry sources agree that classified space budgets are at best flat, and said replacement of existing capabilities is driving the current contracting activity. In effect, there is a bit of lag between the fleet sustainment effort of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and that of the U.S. Air Force, whose budget for unclassified space programs also is flat to declining. (9/17)

Japanese Cabinet Reshuffle Installs New Space Minister (Source: Space News)
Newly re-elected Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan named Banri Kaieda state minister for space development as part of a Sept. 17 Cabinet reshuffle. The 61-year-old Kaieda, who also becomes finance minister in the reshuffle, replaces 48-year-old Seiji Maehara, Japan’s newly appointed foreign minister, who had overseen the nation’s space program as transportation and tourism minister. (9/17)

Europe's Second ISS Cargo Freighter to Fly in December (Source:
Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle will carry more supplies, propellant and breathing air than its predecessor when it blasts off in December from French Guiana toward the International Space Station. The program's partners have not officially settled on a target launch date. Mission planners must carefully thread the ATV between a spate of space shuttle flights, visiting Russian Progress and Soyuz vehicles, and a Japanese cargo mission. The massive spacecraft, nicknamed Johannes Kepler, will ride an Ariane 5 rocket into orbit. (9/17)

No comments: