September 8, 2010

Rockot Hauls Three Russian Satellites Into Space (Source:
Three small communications satellite blasted off Wednesday from northern Russia into low Earth orbit on a converted ballistic missile. The 95-foot-tall Rockot launcher lifted off from Complex 133 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles north of Moscow. Made of retired missile parts, the Rockot's two core stages finished their work a few minutes after launch. A Breeze KM upper stage later injected the payloads in the planned orbit, according to Khrunichev, the launch vehicle's prime contractor. (9/8)

NASA Opens Space Station For Biological Research From NIH Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA is enabling biomedical research with National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants that take advantage of the unique microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station to explore fundamental questions about important health issues. The NIH Biomedical Research on the International Space Station (BioMed-ISS) awards are the next step in a new partnership to apply the national laboratory to research that complements NASA's own space studies.

The NIH studies include research on how bones and the immune system weaken in space. NIH is hosting three rounds of competition for the initiative. The first round of grants for the ground-based phase, totaling an estimated $1,323,000, has been awarded to three projects from Harvard, the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the University of California, San Diego. (9/8)

Blakey: Space Exploration Remains Vital Issue Given Our Current Economic Woes (Source: The Hill)
Our economic landscape is still experiencing Richter-scale tremors, including lingering unemployment at levels not seen in more than 30 years, and a manufacturing infrastructure that is increasingly moving overseas. We are at risk of losing our edge in technological advances and, more specifically, our hard-won leadership in space.

Unfortunately, the American public is largely unaware that the U.S. space program faces a formidable challenge. The Obama administration is proposing to cancel the current government-run space exploration program, known as Constellation, and instead encourage a market-based solution for commercial space transportation – primarily for delivering cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

Many in Congress reacted to his proposal with outright animosity fearing that transferring our space transportation infrastructure to the commercial sector would ultimately lead to ceding our role as the international leader in space. A stalemate between Congress and the administration ensued and now each side waits for the other to blink. (9/8)

Ohio Group Wants NASA to Work with Laboratory at Wright-Patt (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Dayton Development Coalition leaders are planning a trip to NASA’s Glenn Research Center to discuss partnership possibilities with the Air Force Research Laboratory and aerospace-supporting businesses. “There’s so much embodied in the national laboratories in our state,” said Joe Zeis, chief strategist for the coalition, whose members include Dayton-area companies and local governments. “It would be a shame if we weren’t all talking together.” The meeting is part of efforts the coalition is making under an agreement with the Ohio Department of Development, he said. (9/8)

How NASA Lost Control of the Organics-On-Mars Story (Source: Science)
NASA last week promoted, as quietly as it could, laboratory work that suggests that organic matter may be able to survive for eons on the surface of Mars. “Missing Piece Inspires New Look at Mars Puzzle” read the headline of their news release on Friday afternoon, just before the long holiday weekend. Pretty mundane stuff, especially with the second sentence declaring that “this doesn’t say anything about the question of whether or not life has existed on Mars.”

But if NASA was playing down the new work to avoid another life-in-a-martian-meteorite media frenzy, it only partially succeeded. “Mars life may have been missed years ago” read the UPI headline, while BBC News went with: “Mars may not be lifeless, say scientists.” The problem was that although the NASA release may have had a cautionary note near the top, it had “Mars” and “life” in its first sentence. So the media’s treatment of the new paper—which was accepted 19 August for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets—hewed closely to the life-on-Mars line.

So it would seem building blocks of life might well be on Mars but as yet undetected. Sounds like front-page news, but news stories ignored or played down another caveat in the NASA press release: Organic matter that has nothing to do with life is delivered to Mars by the ton every year in meteorites and cosmic dust. (9/8)

Boeing Official Sees Commercial Revenue Growing at Unit (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Revenue at Boeing Co.'s satellite systems unit should grow slightly in coming years, helped by commercial demand, the unit's chief executive said Tuesday. Craig R. Cooning told reporters at a round-table discussion that he expects "modest growth" in the unit's sales in the coming years. Boeing Satellite Systems doesn't provide its revenue separately, he added. (9/8)

Workers Prepare to Dismantle KSC's Launch Pad 39B (Source: Florida Today)
A shuttle program landmark will gradually vanish from view at Kennedy Space Center as the year winds to an end. Workers this month plan to start tearing down the fixed and rotating towers at launch pad 39B, which helped launch 53 shuttle missions carrying 321 people. More than 4,000 tons of steel, iron and other materials should be dismantled by mid-January.

With Congress now considering canceling that rocket in favor of commercial crew launchers, it's anyone's guess what might blast off from the pad next. Possibilities include a commercially developed rocket or a heavy-lift vehicle that could become NASA's new focus, or related test vehicles. (9/8)

Marshall Space Flight Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary (Source: WAFF)
The Rocket City is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA unveiled a marker commemorating the center's dedication by President Dwight Eisenhower. Marshall is where German scientists and engineers working under Wernher Von Braun designed America's first manned rockets. (9/8)

More Satellites Getting Built with Export Credit Backing (Source: Space News)
Export-credit agency funding, which has played a major, and occasionally indispensable, role in recent satellite financings, is likely a long-term phenomenon and will become a fixture on the market for rich and poor satellite operators alike, financial analysts and satellite industry officials said.

Led by France’s Coface but including the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Chinese government and the recent addition of Export Development Canada, export-credit agency (ECA) financing for satellite projects totaled less than $300 million in 2008 and then jumped to $3 billion in 2009 following the financial crisis that dried up the traditional credit and debt markets. Once reserved for companies that are financially struggling, export credit recently has been sought by cash-rich, low-debt operators including SES and Inmarsat.

Other analysts have questioned whether export credit does not distort the market by assuring the survivability of programs that otherwise would not get financed. These analysts point to Coface’s recent backing, through loan guarantees, of the Globalstar, Iridium and O3b constellations as examples. “Let’s call this what it is,” ILS President Frank McKenna said Sept. 6. “Let’s not fear the ‘S’ word. These are subsidies.” (9/8)

Water Main Also Closes KSC Visitor Complex (Source: Florida Today)
The water main break that closed Kenned Space Center on Wednesday also shut down the KSC Visitor Complex, located just outside the center gates. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, located six miles west on the mainland, remained open. More than 1.5 million people each year visit the Visitor Complex, which is run by Delaware North Companies. (9/8)

Strong Winds in Baikonur Delay Launch of Cargo Ship (Source: Interfax)
The launch of the Progress M-07M cargo carrier to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed until September 10 because of bad weather, a source at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan said Wednesday. The spacecraft will remain on the launch pad, he said. The decision to postpone the launch was made on Wednesday after officials from the weather monitoring service gave their recommendations, the source said. (9/8)

Vega Launcher Production Contracts Signed by ESA, Arianespace and ELV (Source: ESA)
As the development of Europe's new Vega small-payload rocket is coming to an end with the qualification flight scheduled in 2011, two contracts were signed to allow the project to move on to the next phase. ESA and Arianespace signed the work order for production of the first Vega launcher, after qualification, as part of the Vega flexibility demonstration flights frame contract signed in December 2009.

At the same ceremony, Arianespace and the ELV company (European Launch Vehicle, Avio Group) concluded a frame contract for five launch vehicles with a firm order for one. Vega will be able to inject payloads weighing up to 1.5 tons into a low polar orbit (300 km to 1500 km). Vega is a 'single-body' launcher with three solid-propellant stages and an additional liquid-propellant stage. Unlike most small launchers, it will be able to place multiple payloads into orbit. (9/8)

ATK Announces Plan to Refinance Its Credit Facilities (Source: ATK)
ATK is in discussions with a group of lenders about refinancing its existing senior credit facilities, consisting of a $500 million revolving credit facility and a $257.8 million term loan. ATK hopes to replace the existing facilities with a new 5-year senior credit facility of up to $1.0 billion, consisting of a $600 million revolving credit facility and a $400.0 million term loan. (9/8)

China Remains Silent on Satellite Rendezvous (Source:
The U.S. Air Force last week acknowledged tracking Chinese satellites secretly testing orbital rendezvous technologies, nearly two weeks after the spacecraft may have bumped into each other more than 350 miles above Earth. Experienced amateur satellite observers have been watching the satellites passing close to each other since mid-August, when they noticed a slight disturbance in their orbits indicating the craft may have briefly touched. (9/8)

UA Alum, Rocket Scientist Running for Congressional Office (Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat)
UA alumna and rocket scientist Ruth McClung is seeking election as a Republican representing the congressional district that includes the UA. McClung stressed the prime opportunity to turn District 7 red in a speech made to UA College Republicans at the Student Union Memorial Center. The 7th Congressional District includes the UA and is represented by Democrat Raúl Grijalva. (9/8)

Augustine Panelist Rallying Support for Senate's NASA Bill (Source: Space News)
A former member of a White House-appointed committee that reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight program last year urged fellow panelists to back a Senate bill that supports commercial space and technology development efforts detailed in the group’s final report. “Those who want to change the way things have been done as an important step forward to a human future beyond [low Earth orbit] should, in my opinion, strongly support the Senate version of the NASA authorization,” wrote Princeton University professor Christopher Chyba in an Aug. 25 e-mail to all nine fellow former members of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. (9/8)

U.S. Air Force Working to Save Ailing Military Satellite (Source:
The U.S. Air Force is gaining ground in its attempt to save an advanced new military communications satellite after a crippling malfunction left it without a working main engine. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 1 satellite launched successfully Aug. 14, but suffered a main engine breakdown a day later while trying to perform maneuvers to raise its altitude in orbit.

A series of smaller maneuvers using the satellite's smaller hydrazine thrusters have successfully raised it to an intermediate orbit. Officials estimate it will take the satellite 10 months to a year to reach its intended orbit 22,300 miles (35,900 km) over the Earth's equator using just the smaller thrusters. Originally, the move was expected to take 90 days. (9/8)

TV Broadcasts Bound for Iran Intentionally Jammed (Source: Space News)
Egypt’s Nilesat satellite operator has suffered repeated intentional jamming from at least two different sources in recent months, starting with attempts to block entry into Iran of new broadcasts from the BBC Persian television service and then jamming of Nilesat’s World Cup soccer and music broadcasts, Nilesat Chief Executive Salah Hamza said Sept. 8.

Hamza said Nilesat has suffered periodic interference for the past four years. Until recently, he said, it concerned only news broadcasts, particularly those from BBC Persian. But this summer, the company’s broadcasts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup also were jammed, from a different source. In August, he said, jamming of a Nilesat-carried music station began. (9/8)

India Successfully Tests New Rocket Motor (Source: The Hindu)
Six months after a failed test, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully conducted the second static testing of its liquid core stage (L110) of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk -III). The test lasted 200 seconds at ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) test facility at Mahendragiri.

L110 is one of the heaviest earth storable liquid stages ever developed by ISRO. L110 stage had two high pressure Vikas engines in a clustered configuration. Nearly 500 health parameters were monitored during the test and the initial data acquired indicates its normal performance. (9/8)

Japan's 1st Navigation Satellite Good for GPS (Source: Daily Yomiuri)
In a nation crowded with mountains and skyscrapers, signals from navigation satellites sent to Global Positioning System devices on the ground, such as those in car navigation systems, are sometimes blocked by obstacles that make it difficult for the devices to accurately determine their locations.

However, Saturday's planned launch of Japan's first navigation satellite is expected to solve the problem, at least partly, as the so-called quasi-zenith satellite would spend significant time above Japan. This would enable people using GPS locator-equipped cell phones and car navigation systems in this country to receive more accurate information. (9/8)

Deep Impact Imaging Of Comet Hartley 2 Begins (Source: Space Daily)
Some five years after its July 4th 2005 'comet shot' was seen around the world, the Deep Impact spacecraft has begun regular imaging of a second comet target, Hartley 2. The spacecraft will continue imaging Hartley 2 during and after its closest approach on November 4, providing an extended look at the comet. (9/8)

Commercial Crew, EELV, and Avoiding Repeating History (Source: Space Politics)
Many people who are opposed to the administration’s proposal to invest up to $6 billion over the next five years to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities insist that they’re not opposed to the concept of commercial crew, only the approach. If a company develops a commercial crew system on their own dime, they argue, they’d be happy to support buying services from them—-they just don’t want their development subsidized by the federal government.

However, one industry official warned last week that such an approach threatens to repeat the history of another program. George Sowers, vice president of business development for United Launch Alliance, said the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program had a mixed outcome. He said EELV was “a business failure” for Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as they have failed to recoup their investment in the vehicles, especially as anticipated commercial launch demand failed to materialize.

He noted that at one point in the 1990s Lockheed had a conservative forecast of 19 Atlas 5 launches a year; current launch rates are instead about five a year, virtually all for government customers. He noted the parallels between the EELV and commercial crew debates are “kind of eerie”. He said it would be unwise to depend on private ventures picking up most of the costs of developing systems on the basis of capturing promised commercial markets. He advocates having the government invest in developing commercial crew capabilities. "...If the government does invest, then a commercial market can be established and then the government can get its return on investment.” (9/7)

Asteroids Are Back in Vogue (Source:
Responding to President Obama's call for a manned asteroid mission by 2025, brainstorming scientists and engineers say NASA could start exploring nearby space rocks with robotic probes in four years, followed by a bare-bones human expedition by the end of the decade. The target dates require a quick agreement on a space exploration strategy between Congress and the White House, notwithstanding ever-present budget and technical challenges.

Asteroid exploration would meet key scientific, economic and national security objectives, according to the plan's proponents. It would also serve as a waypoint to Mars, NASA's ultimate destination. Human visits to nearby asteroids could collect hundreds of pounds of samples, shedding light on the formation of the solar system, valuable minerals that could be harvested for commercial pursuits, and the threat of these objects to civilization on Earth. (9/8)

Editorial: Calling for Action (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s space shuttle fleet comes closer to retirement every day, and with it more hard times for Brevard County’s economy. But the end also is creating an opportunity to grow new industries that could spawn prosperity, with the renewable energy field a rich well waiting to be tapped. That makes next week’s Space Coast Energy Symposium another important step in building the critical mass of awareness that’s required, with some of the best, brightest and most innovative minds around making the strong case for action.

The goal of Tuesday’s meeting is to strengthen consensus and open the eyes of doubters to the perfect fit that awaits, matching the scientific skills of the shuttle workers with renewable energy companies. And to again spotlight the need to enact policies missing in Florida to create the market certainty to attract alternative energy firms here. Importantly, the session will feature presentations from entrepreneurs successfully leading the way and who can speak to the jobs and economic benefits their renewable companies bring. Click here to read the editorial. (9/8)

Boeing Reorganizes and Shrinks Military Aircraft Business (Source: AIA)
Boeing announced on Tuesday plans to trim its military aircraft business and eliminate more than 400 jobs amid U.S. defense spending cuts. Under the restructuring, Boeing Military Aircraft will be reduced from six divisions to four as the company eliminates its stand-alone helicopter unit and combines part of its unmanned aerial-vehicle business with its missile operation. (9/8)

Defense Industry Poised for Mergers, Acquisitions as Demand Shifts (Source: AIA)
A wave of dealmaking, mergers and acquisitions is expected to sweep the defense industry soon as companies adjust to tighter defense budgets and shift priorities from traditional weapons to emerging areas of demand, such as cybersecurity, surveillance and unmanned systems. Deal volumes in aerospace and defense have already increased by 45% over the same period a year ago to $4.2 billion so far this year, and top officials with Boeing and Lockheed Martin said at a defense summit that they planned targeted acquisitions to address the new areas of demand. (9/8)

Unique Lab Puts College Students at Controls of NASA Satellites (Source: AIA)
College students with the University of Colorado-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics who have been helping NASA pilot the Earth-watching ICESat satellite for years helped bring the satellite back to Earth and crash it harmlessly into the Barents Sea. The laboratory is one of only a few institutes in the world that teams undergraduates with professional engineers and programmers to help provide the training and certification to operate NASA spacecraft, and it is the only university to have controlled five unique satellites. (9/8)

Falcon Improvements Readied for October Launch (Source:
SpaceX, is preparing its Falcon 9 medium-lift rocket for a second flight in October. The company says its engineers have been making improvements to the rocket since its debut in June, including fixing an issue that caused the rocket to rotate several degrees as it left the launch pad, and relocating a liquid oxygen drain outlet that contributed to a second stage roll captured by an on-board camera.

The maiden Falcon 9 mission was funded by a U.S. government agency that SpaceX has declined to name and carried a qualification unit of the company's Dragon space station cargo capsule into orbit. The next three Falcon 9 missions will carry Dragon in an increasingly complex series of demonstrations under SpaceX's $278 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA. Upon successful completion of the demo missions, SpaceX will begin making regular cargo-delivery runs to the international space station under a separate contract valued at $1.6 billion. (9/8)

Group Plans Career Fairs in Florida, Texas, Alabama (Source: Next Step in Space Coalition)
The evolution of space exploration will not depend on any one mission. Rather, Space is an integral part of who we are and what we can achieve as a nation and as human beings committed to exploring frontiers beyond ourselves. We invite all local and national employers committed to our nation’s continued leadership in the Space Economy to join us and participate in one or more of the following career fairs in Florida, Texas and Alabama. As a potential employer or company committed to the continued growth of the Space Economy in these regions, we are hosting this series of career fairs to help match employers with the best and brightest of the space industry.

The Space Economy Florida Career Fair will be held on Sep. 29 in Cape Canaveral. A Houston-based event will be held on Oct. 15, and a Huntsville-based event will be held on Oct. 27. Click here for information on the Florida event. (9/8)

Atlas 5 Rocket to Launch Commercial Imaging Satellite at Vandenberg (Source:
A commercial Earth-imaging satellite launch has been added to the U.S. military, reconnaissance and scientific payloads booked on the powerful Atlas 5 rocket's manifest. The company's Commercial Launch Services marketing arm has arranged a deal to boost the GeoEye 2 spacecraft to orbit in late 2012 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Atlas 5 has carried out nine commercial missions since 2002 and this new launch is the only non-government one currently in the rocket's backlog. (9/8)

Embry-Riddle Team Supporting Fuel-Slosh Experiment with NASA (Source: ERAU)
Members of a joint team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Orbital Sciences Corp., and United Launch Alliance will get the chance to test a fuel-slosh experiment in weightlessness thanks to NASA’s Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST) program. This year, 17 teams from across the nation will gather at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 to receive astronaut flight training and conduct their experiments aboard a Zero-G aircraft. (9/8)

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