September 26, 2010

Space Surveillance Project Successfully Blasts Off (Source:
Leaving behind the earthly limitations imposed on reconnoitering space, a telescope-laden sleuth was launched Saturday night to survey the dangers of orbital debris and monitor nefarious threats against vital national security satellites. The Space Based Space Surveillance mission streaked into a sun-synchronous orbit 336 miles above the planet following a successful boost provided by the Minotaur 4 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The initial three-and-a-half minutes of flight were powered by left-over motor stages from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The three stages propelled the SBSS satellite into a suborbital arc while traveling southward over the Pacific Ocean. A commercial Orion 38 solid-fuel motor serving at the Minotaur's fourth stage. It marked a flawless maiden mission for the Minotaur 4 in its satellite-launching configuration, giving the Air Force a new proven rocket to launch mid-sized cargos weighing as much as two tons. (9/26)

Spy Agency Plans String of Launches (Source: Santa Maria Times)
An Atlas 5 rocket that blasted off last week from Vandenberg Air Force Base signaled the start of a busy string of missions carrying critical national security payloads for the U.S. spy satellite agency, officials said. “This is the first of six launches in the next seven months,” said NRO spokesman Rick Oborn. “It’s the most aggressive launch campaign NRO has had in at least 20 years.” (9/26)

UN 'to Appoint Space Ambassador to Greet Alien Visitors' (Source: Telegraph)
Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, is set to be tasked with co-ordinating humanity’s response if and when extraterrestrials make contact. Aliens who landed on earth and asked: “Take me to your leader” would be directed to Mrs. Othman. She will set out the details of her proposed new role at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire next week. The 58-year-old is expected to tell delegates that the proposal has been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other starts, which is thought to make the discovery of extraterrestrial life more probable than ever before. (9/26)

British Firm Seeks to Become First to Put Tourists in Space (Source: Daily Mail)
A team of British rocketeers plan to open the door to the stars by becoming the first private firm to put tourists in space. Starchaser boss Steve Bennett and astronaut Matt Shrewbridge hope to loft the first paying passengers into the cosmos by 2015. But before they can do that the Manchester-based firm, must carry out a series of trials.

The first ‘milestone’ in November will be testing their 20ft Launch Escape System (LES) – a rescue pod that separates from the rocket if the spacecraft fails. And next year they plan a manned launch test, firing the already-built 70ft 'Starchaser 4 off the ground in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. (9/27)

First Major Wave of KSC Space Worker Layoffs Strikes Friday (Source: Florida Today)
When the first of several large groups of United Space Alliance employees dined at El Leoncito on U.S. 1 earlier this month, Michael Sanchez initially saw it as an encouraging sign for the family business. Then, at the Mexican and Cuban restaurant with a direct view of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pads, he learned the occasion: It was a going-away party for employees being laid off or retiring Oct. 1.

This week, the reality of long-anticipated shuttle program job losses hits the Space Coast as nearly 900 local employees of Houston-based USA, NASA's lead shuttle contractor, prepare for their last day of work Friday. Local workforce officials believe subcontractors will cut another 200 positions, bringing the total to about 1,100. (9/27)

Bishop: Congress Needs to get Moving to Save Utah Jobs (Source: Standard-Examiner)
A frustrated Rep. Rob Bishop left Washington, D.C., for Utah on Friday afternoon, taking time only to call the Standard-Examiner from the airport and lambaste House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not holding a vote on a bill he thinks is the best compromise yet to save jobs at ATK Space Systems. "We voted on virtually nothing, we moved nothing," he said. "That's part of the frustration."

Bishop is one of a number of congressmen from states that build rocket parts for NASA who are working to keep the Constellation moon rocket program from being taken out of NASA's budget, as President Barack Obama's proposed budget calls for. Part of Constellation is the Ares rocket, whose motor is built at ATK Space Systems in Utah.

Both the Senate and the House are working on bills that keep the program from being canceled outright. Congressmen from Utah, Texas, Alabama and Florida are trying to craft language that requires NASA to continue to build and buy the type of heavy-lift rocket motors needed for manned space flight. All those states would lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars if Constellation is canceled. (9/27)

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