September 20, 2010

Apollo 13 Pilot to Speak in Orange Park (Source: Florida Times Union)
Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Thrasher-Horne Center of the Arts in Orange Park. Haise served as the lunar module pilot during the ill-fated 1970 space mission and served as backup crew for the Apollo 8, 11, and 16 missions. His "Failure is Not Option" session is the first in the center's new Speaker Series. (9/20)

UCF Hosts Nelson and Kosmas for Symposium on Space Politics (Source: UCF)
NASA’s uncertain future and its impact on Florida’s economy will be the focus of a University of Central Florida political symposium Monday, Sept. 27. Government and business leaders and policy experts will discuss President Obama’s plans to overhaul NASA and also the new technologies and economic development strategies that could shape Florida’s future if thousands of jobs connected with the space program are lost.

The Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government’s fall symposium, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union. Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, and Space Florida President Frank DiBello are among the panelists. The event will also be webcast on the Lou Frey Institute’s website. Click here for information. (9/20)

Ancient Star Poses Galactic Puzzle (Source: Telegraph)
An ancient star in our galaxy's halo harbors isotopes of barium that shouldn't be there – at least according to our conventional understanding of nucleosynthesis. That's the conclusion of an international team of astronomers who have spotted isotopes in a 13-billion-year-old star that should only be produced in stars that were formed later in the history of the Milky Way.

"Our observations completely contradict the theory," says Andy Gallagher at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. He and Sean Ryan, also at Hertfordshire, and their colleagues in the US and Japan studied a star in the constellation Libra named HD 140283. The team used data from the High Dispersion Spectrograph mounted on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. (9/20)

Opinion: The NASA/Iran Nukes Connection (Source: AOL News)
As the Iranians grow ever closer to having nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the U.S. House of Representatives seems determined to undermine efforts to prevent them from doing so, as an unintended consequence of its flawed civil space policy. Its NASA authorization bill will provide virtually no funding for NASA's commercial crew program, which is the fastest means of replacing the Soyuz lifeboat and crew change-out capabilities. Click here to follow the logic trail. (9/20)

NASA's Quest for Manned COTS Coming to a Head (Source: Satellite)
In the bizarre, dysfunctional world of Congress and NASA, only the House of Representatives -- with backing from a Republican seeking to protect jobs in Alabama -- could propose to send twice as much money to Russia for astronaut transportation to the International Space Station over the next 5 years than to competing U.S. firms looking to build and provide lower-cost services both to NASA and commercial operators.

House bill HR 5781 is being described by The Space Frontier Foundation as "pork-laden." It keeps the Ares I rocket, Orion crew capsule, and Heavy-Lift launcher without providing extra funding, requiring that a government-owned and operated system -- rather than a commercial alternative -- be up and running by December 31, 2015. Commercial efforts would be funded at a paltry of $250 million over 5 years (yes, that would be around $50 million per year) plus a vaguely defined $100 million loan guarantee program. In addition, commercial cargo flights to the ISS are cut by 95 percent, to $14 million.

If that wasn't bad enough, Congress wants to order NASA not to award any contract for manned spaceflight for a commercial flight unless it has a predicted level of safety equal to Ares-Orion and demands 14 consecutive successful times before services are purchased. The Lockheed-Martin Orion would only have to fly once before astronauts go on board. To top it all off, NASA would spend $900 million over the next three years to buy transport to ISS on Russian Soyuz. (9/20)

A Secret Rendezvous for China in Space (Source: Asia Times)
A month has now passed since satellite watchers first detected and tracked a new Chinese satellite on a deliberately orchestrated collision course with two older Chinese satellites not quite 600 kilometers above Earth. China has not issued any statements about its synchronized satellite maneuvers. The hunter-killer anti-satellite (ASAT) implications here are quite evident, and yet there are other possible reasons why China would want to acquire this capability.

"One is to be able, at some point in the future, to do inspections, servicing and refueling of their own satellites," said Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA). "Another is to test the equipment and refine the skills they will need to complete the very difficult remote docking activity planned for the upcoming Shenzhou missions involving their experimental space lab known as Tiangong 1. A third is to acquire a co-orbital ASAT capability."

This satellite dance in space also indicates that while the Chinese space program may be making great strides in a technical sense, it is coming up far short when it comes to transparency and more importantly, safety. Keep in mind that China is still criticized today for creating the large cloud of debris in space which resulted from its January 2007 shootdown of an old Chinese weather satellite. (9/20)

XCOR Completes Lynx Supersonic Wind Tunnel Tests (Source:
XCOR Aerospace has completed the primary supersonic wind tunnel testing of the Lynx suborbital spacecraft. The tests were performed at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center using a precision scale model and demonstrated the integrity of the Lynx aerodynamic shape and provided data to make final refinements to the vehicle. These new data provide confidence that the Lynx aerodynamic shape will have stable and controllable flight throughout the range of Mach numbers and angles of attack needed for the Lynx mission. (9/20)

Lawmakers Scramble for NASA Policy, Funds (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's advocates in Congress are racing against the clock to adopt a new space policy and get additional money proposed by President Obama. But lengthy talks have so far failed to bridge the gap between House and Senate visions for the agency. The impasse jeopardizes the extra $6 billion that Obama wants to spend on the agency over five years, and could gut Obama's plans to spur the development of a commercial space industry.

"It's important to get the authorization bill out before we adjourn for October, so that the blueprint is do the appropriations after...the election," said Sen. Bill Nelson. "I've spent a lot of time on it, but we're not there yet." Lawmakers from both parties have attacked President Obama's plan to abandon the Constellation program in a bid to preserve the program's rockets, which are important to the economies of certain states and congressional districts.

Nelson said he met with House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Bart Gordon, but they weren't able to reach a compromise. A significant dispute focuses on a Senate proposal for a heavy-lift rocket by 2015, which has support from key senators. The House rejected that option because of the projected cost -- $11.5 billion over five years. "He doesn't think we can do a heavy-lift rocket for $11.5 billion," Nelson said of Gordon. "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop." (9/20)

NASA IG: Bolden Shouldn't Have Called Marathon About Biofuels Project (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden should not have consulted Marathon Oil Corp. about a NASA-funded biofuels project, but did not violate federal laws or conflict-of-interest regulations by seeking the counsel of a company on whose board he previously served. That's the conclusion reached by the NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in a report released Sept. 20.

The report details the results of the OIG's investigation into allegations that Bolden inappropriately consulted with a senior Marthon executive as we has considering NASA's involvement in the Omega alternative fuels project. Bolden had served on Marathon's board for six years prior to becoming NASA administrator in 2009 and held more than $500,000 in Marathon stock when he contacted the company seeking advice about the NASA Ames Research Center-led project. (9/20)

Senators: Pricetag is Staggering for New Weather Satellites (Source: Space Policy Online)
In its report on the FY2011 defense appropriations bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee calculates the cost of cancelling the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and restructuring it so that DOD and NOAA once again have separate systems at more than $20 billion, what it calls a "staggering" cost.

The total includes $5 billion already spent on NPOESS, and an estimated $15.4 billion for the replacement NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and DOD Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS): $9.4 billion for JPSS and $6 billion for DWSS. Funding for DWSS is included in this bill. Funding for JPSS is in the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (S. 3636, S. Rept. 111-229). The committee also expressed reservations about the cost of the restructured program in its report accompanying that bill. (9/20)

NASA to Ship Fuel Tank for Last Planned Shuttle Flight (Source: NASA)
The external fuel tank that will power the last planned space shuttle into orbit will be shipped Tuesday to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The tank has been restored to flight configuration at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans after sustaining damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The tank, designated ET-122, will support shuttle Endeavour's flight targeted for launch in February. (9/20)

India Moon Finding Challenged by U.S. (Source: The Telegraph)
A decision by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to keep the operations of a science instrument on Chandrayaan-1 as simple as possible has raised doubts about its surprising discovery of carbon dioxide in the lunar atmosphere. Senior US scientists have challenged the Chandrayaan-1 mission’s discovery of carbon dioxide in the lunar atmosphere, contending that crucial instrument calibration data to clinch the discovery is missing from the Indian study. ISRO scientists had earlier this year announced their discovery of water and carbon dioxide molecules in the near-vacuum of the lunar atmosphere. (9/20)

China's Space Program Gears Up for Missions to Moon, Mars (Source: PTI)
China is planning giant strides into deep space exploration by sending its first lunar manned mission by 2025, a probe to Mars by 2013 and to Venus by 2015, intensifying its space race with India which also plans Moon and Sun missions. China's first step is to orbit the Moon, land and return to Earth by 2020. China plans to launch its first manned moon landing in 2025, a probe to Mars by 2013 and to Venus by 2015. (9/20)

UK Space Agency Charts Budget Growth, Spaceplane (Source:
The UK's new space agency is aiming high in its first year, calling for interest in partners to develop a plane that can launch into space from a runway. The UKSA was formed on April 1 this year at a cost of £40 million ($66 million) and drawing in some £230 ($380 million) in funds from the several existing UK space organizations it replaces. According to the UKSA website, it plans to grow the UK's current space program into a "£40bn a year" enterprise, increasing jobs in the sector from 68,000 to 100,000 within 20 years. (9/20)

UK Hub at Frontier of Space Research (Source: Financial Times)
The fledgling space hub at Harwell, Oxfordshire, has started to draw international companies keen to stake their place at the forefront of what is predicted to be a fast-growing UK sector. The £40m ($63m) International Space Innovation Centre, which aims to bring together business, research and government agencies, is being developed as the focus of the UK’s fragmented space capacity following the European Space Agency’s decision to establish a permanent base there. (9/20)

Take a Ride Into Space—And Circumnavigate the Moon (Source: Big Think)
Commercial space tourism is no longer such a distant dream. Over the next decade or so, we are going to start seeing the development of quite a few interesting relationships and partnerships all over the world where entrepreneurs offer to take visitors into orbit. Boeing announced that it has teamed up with Virginia-based Space Adventures, Inc. to start marketing the sale of passenger seats for future flights into space with a new capsule that will deliver participants to the International Space Station.

The CST-100 is a bit larger than Apollo but smaller than Orion, with the ability to be able to launch on several different rockets including the Atlas, Delta and Falcon. The price hasn't quite been set for a seat on the CST-100 and the co-founder of Space Adventures, Eric Anderson, stated that the company isn't quite ready to talk about the price yet. They did however state that the pricing matrix would be competitive to the current Russian launches on the Soyuz spacecraft which is currently used by Space Adventures. (9/20)

A Paler Shade of Black (Source: Space Review)
As the National Reconnaissance Office marks its 50th anniversary, it appears to be preparing to declassify some of its secret satellite programs. Dwayne Day examines what may be, and what is likely not to be, revealed in the coming months. Visit to view the article. (9/20)

Space Tourism and Space Policy (Source: Space Review)
Last week Boeing and Space Adventures announced an agreement to market seats on Boeing's proposed commercial crew capsule to private customers, aka "space tourists". That deal, Jeff Foust reports, may also play a role in influencing the ongoing debate about commercial crew programs on Capitol Hill. Visit to view the article. (9/20)

The ICE Mission: the First Cometary Encounter (Source: Space Review)
As NASA's EPOXI mission, using the spacecraft from the earlier Deep Impact mission, prepares for an upcoming cometary encounter, it's been 25 years since the first spacecraft made a close approach to a comet. Andrew LePage recounts the history of ICE, itself a "recycled" spacecraft. Visit to view the article. (9/20)

Air Force Study Points To Reusable Orbiter (Source: Aviation Week)
Newly declassified details of the analysis behind the Air Force's decision to opt for a next-generation Reusable Booster System (RBS) reveal a long-term preference for a rocket-based, combined-cycle upper-stage orbiter over the nearer-term expendable solution. The RBS plan is in development to replace the Air Force's existing Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) beyond 2025, and aims to cut launch costs by 50% by combining a reusable first stage with expendable upper stages. The booster would take off vertically and return to a runway landing at the launch site.

Although the study held out some optimism for RBCC proponents in the long run, its findings could be a telling blow for supporters of air-breathing turbine-based combined-cycle (TBCC) hypersonic space launch concepts. Study officials say even though the TBCC performance indicates greater specific impulse than rockets, the reusable booster turned out to be smaller, lighter and less costly. (9/20)

Space for Everyone (Source: Harvard Crimson)
Plans for Boeing to move into the space-tourism field have touched off controversy on the future role of NASA and the direction of government involvement in space travel. Ultimately, allowing the private sector into space transit and tourism is a smart decision. (9/20)

Expert Helps Brevard Look Beyond Space (Source: Florida Today)
As painful as it might be, Brevard County residents are going to have to "let go" of the space shuttle program, much like someone accepting a family member's death. Only after that happens will the community be able to move on to the next challenge. That's the take from Mark DeVolder, an author and a specialist in navigating management changes and business transformations.

"This is a huge challenge for Brevard County," DeVolder said in a telephone interview with FLORIDA TODAY last week referring to the end of the space shuttle program. "There is going to be some grieving going on, with people missing what they once had." DeVolder, who lives in British Columbia with his Canadian-born wife, is the keynote speak at 2010 annual meeting of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. The theme of the Oct. 20 annual meeting: "Transforming Our Economy." (9/20)

Elon Musk Plans New Mars Rockets Bigger Than Saturn-5 (Source: Register)
SpaceX, the rocket company founded and bankrolled by famous PayPal nerdwealth icon Elon Musk, has revealed radical plans for a colossal launcher as big as the Saturn Vs which sent men to the Moon - and has also proposed nuclear-powered spaceships to carry astronauts to Mars. The plans were discussed by SpaceX honcho Tom Markusic at a conference in America last week, but thus far the company hasn't publicized its ideas widely. At the moment, the only rockets SpaceX offers are its Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 designs. (9/20)

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