September 19, 2010

Charlie Bolden and NASA Middle East Outreach: Take II (Source:
It looks like Charlie Bolden may be headed back to the Middle East soon - this time, to Saudi Arabia. The purpose? To get the Saudis more involved in ongoing peace negotiations. There seems to be a new element emerging in the Obama Administration's efforts to advance a Middle East peace accord. That element is getting Saudi Arabia's involvement as a broker that could heavily influence Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Present at the White House during the recent round of diplomatic talks were leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. Conspicuously missing were leaders from Saudi Arabia, a fact noted by the President and State Secretary Clinton.

According to one of several sources knowledgeable on the subject "expect to see a wave of mid-level Administration appointees embarking on a round of carrot-and-stick sweetener overtures" to Saudi officials to entice them to join the Obama effort. One surprising player in this diplomatic dance is NASA Administrator Charles Bolden who will soon be dispatched to Saudi Arabia on an erstwhile technology and trade mission aimed at fostering greater Saudi involvement in NASA and space programs. (9/16)

Will We Discover An Earth-like Planet By May 2011? (Source: Gizmodo)
A scientific paper predicts that we will find a potentially habitable Earth-like planet by early May 2011. Using the properties of previously discovered exoplanets, the authors developed a simple metric of habitability for each planet that uses its mass and temperature to rate it on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 is Earth-like, and 0 is so very not Earth-like. Plotting these values over time and taking the upper envelope yields a nice march towards habitability. The likeliest time is early to mid-2011, or more precisely, early May 2011. And if not then, their data show that there is a 75% chance that the discovery will happen by the end of 2013. (9/19)

Suborbital Rocket Launch from Virginia Set for Tuesday (Source:
The rescheduled launch of a suborbital rocket from Virginia's Eastern Shore is now on for Tuesday. NASA delayed the launch earlier this month. The space agency said Tuesday's launch window is from 8-11 a.m. at its Wallops Island facility. (9/19)

Bet On One More Shuttle Mission (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will fly three more space shuttle missions, and here are four reasons why: 1) jobs & politics; 2) a crew is training; 3) other prep work is ongoing; 4) time and costs will be minimal in the 'big picture'. Click here to read the article. (9/19)

Vandenberg Team Guides Nation's Critical Launches (Source:
Whether it's launching a national security payload with an Atlas 5 rocket Monday night or rehearsing for the West Coast debut of the mighty Delta 4-Heavy, these are active times for Vandenberg Air Force Base's 4th Space Launch Squadron. "We perform better and are happiest when we are busy," Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt, the squadron commander, said. The squadron's mission is overseeing the EELV rockets flown from Vandenberg carrying satellites into highly-inclined and polar orbits. (9/19)

ULA: Light Amid Clouds (Source: Decatur Daily)
While turf battles in Congress may prevent it, United Launch Alliance is positioned to have a major role in the future of manned space flight. In a recent interview, two ULA vice presidents outlined projects in which modified ULA rockets would have the ability to launch astronauts and otherwise participate in human space exploration.

ULA’s main assembly plant is in Decatur, where it employs 670 and has another 200 contract employees. The plant builds both the Atlas V and Delta IV heavy-lift rockets that — with modifications already in progress — ULA officials said could play a central role in manned space missions.

Among the tasks in which ULA believes it could play a valuable role: a) Building a heavy-lift rocket; b) A rocket for taking crew to low-Earth orbit or the International Space Station; c) Use of the Delta IV to launch an Orion crew capsule in missions beyond low-earth orbit; and d) Technological assistance on all aspects of a revised program of manned space flight. (9/19)

Bova: Enterprise Has Taken to the Seas, But Not Yet to the Stars (Source: Naples News)
All of NASA’s space shuttle orbiters have been named after famous sea vessels of exploration: Columbia, Discovery, Challenger, Atlantis and Endeavor. Only the first shuttle orbiter was named differently. The Enterprise (which never flew in space) was named after the starship Enterprise of the popular TV science-fiction series, “Star Trek.”

Yet where did Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” come up with that name for his fictional starship? Enterprise is a name with a long tradition in the U.S. Navy. In fact, even before there was a U.S. Navy, ships named Enterprise fought for America. When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, the armed sloop Enterprise battled against British ships on Lake Champlain, in New York state. (9/19)

Uncle’s Advice Launches 31-Year Aerospace Career at Vandenberg (Source: Lompoc Record)
Bob Flores admits that he was uncertain when an uncle suggested applying for a job with an aerospace firm at Vandenberg Air Force Base. That was 31 years ago — and the Santa Maria resident still works at the base, now in the finance department for United Launch Alliance. It’s all thanks to his uncle Charlie Flores, a Nipomo resident who retired in 1998 after 40 years of working at the base. (9/19)

UK's Skylon Project Set for Design Review Next Week (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Reaction Engines’ Skylon project — which aims to create a full reusable single-stage space plane — is set to undergo a two-day review by an international team of experts beginning on Monday, according to a memorandum the company submitted in August to the British Parliament.

"A major international review of the SKYLON spaceplane to be held on 20th to 21st September. This review will host over 100 experts from around the world to assess the economic and technical aspects of the SKYLON concept. The outcome of this Review , supported by an evaluation from the European Space Agency will give the UK Government confidence that, should further support to project be given, it will be on the basis of a thorough assessment." (9/19)

Conflict Over NASA Spaceflight Program Complicates Funding (Source: Washington Post)
NASA's human space program, long the agency's biggest public and congressional asset, has become instead its biggest headache. As never before, NASA watchers say, an agency that generally is funded and directed through White House and congressional consensus has become the focus of a brutal, potentially crippling and politically topsy-turvy battle for control that is likely to come to a head next week.

NASA politics have always defied labels. But now a series of unlikely alliances and negotiating positions have left Congress in an especially difficult bind, with the distinct possibility that the fiscal year will end this month without an approved 2011 budget. The result, congressional negotiators and observers say, would be layoffs and a very unpredictable agency future. (9/19)

A Herculean Effort to Deliver Broadband by Satellite (Source: BBC)
The date was September 1999 and banker David Williams was sitting on a beach in Santa Monica: "I'd just spent a soul-destroying day at a satellite manufacturer, trying to push forward a project and getting bogged down in just the most ridiculous bureaucracy. [And my wife said]:'if you think you're so bloody clever, go and do it yourself!'"

Roll forward to September 2010 and David Williams, now CEO of Avanti Communications, is just about to see his first satellite go into orbit on an Ariane 5. The payload for Hylas was developed through Esa's Artes telecoms research program. Hylas-1 is intended to be the first of three spacecraft (and more). Its primary market will be those people who live in internet-deprived areas - locations where terrestrial technologies such as fiber do not reach.

Consumers on Hylas should enjoy speeds up to 10Mb per second. In other words, it will help meet the Universal Service Commitment in the UK to provide 2Mb/s to everyone by 2012. The endeavour has been a private-public one. The British government put funding into the European Space Agency's telecommunications research program, Artes, to produce the Hylas payload at EADS Astrium. (9/19)

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