October 13, 2010

Radio Broadcasting Satellite Ready for Liftoff Thursday (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A new spacecraft to broadcast music, news and variety programming for Sirius XM Radio is scheduled to blast off Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Sirius XM 5 satellite will join a fleet of spacecraft already beaming radio signals to receivers in cars, trucks, boats, aircraft, homes and mobile devices of more than 19.8 million subscribers. A Russian Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage will deploy the 13,192-pound spacecraft on a high-flying trajectory taking Sirius XM 5 more than 22,200 miles from Earth. (10/13)

Multi-million Dollar Lawsuit Stops Commercial "Spaceflight" Jump (Source: Space Policy Online)
The record-breaking attempt by Felix Baumgartner to become the first human to break the speed of sound in free-fall has been halted by a lawsuit, Universe Today reported. Promoter Daniel Hogan has filed suit against the Red Bull Stratos Initiative team claiming he originally pitched the idea in 2004 and that, after a year of conversations where important details were discussed, Red Bull told him they were not interested. Hogan was then surprised when Red Bull announced the project last January without acknowledging his idea or seeking permission to use the confidential information he provided.

Red Bull issued the following statement: "Red Bull has acted appropriately in its prior dealings with Mr. Hogan, and will demonstrate this as the case progress. Due to the lawsuit, we have decided to stop the project until this case has been resolved." Hogan had allegedly already assembled a team to carry out the stunt, which would have been made from 130,000 feet. Under the Red Bull Stratos Initiative, Baumgartner is to make the jump from a balloon at a slightly lower altitude - 120,000 feet - somewhere in New Mexico as announced last May. (10/13)

Sen. Jim Webb Visits Virginia Spaceport (Source: Spaceports Blog)
U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made his first official visit to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Orbital Sciences Corp. is slated to launch the first Taurus-2 rocket to orbit from the spaceport next summer. Thereafter, the Taurus-2 will launch about every six months carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace continues to review the site as a potential future launch site for the ULA Atlas-V to carry humans to a Bigelow private space station around mid-decade, according to Bigelow attorney Mike Gold. (10/12)

Sen. George LeMieux to Speak at Embry-Riddle on Oct. 21 (Source: ERAU)
Sen. George Lemieux (R-FL) will offer his views about the economy, health care, and national defense during a visit to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach on Oct. 21. His visit is part of Embry-Riddle's "President's Speaker Series". The event is free and open to the public and will begin at 3:00 p.m. in the College of Aviation Building. (10/13)

Midterm Election Results Could Add Pressure to Cut Defense Spending (Source: AIA)
Pressure to cut U.S. weapons funding, already heavy, could become even greater if the Nov. 2 congressional elections result in significant Republican gains, analysts say. The Pentagon is working to keep the defense budget stable, but there is growing pressure on defense spending by a presidential deficit-reduction panel and members of the Tea Party movement. (10/13)

China's Second Lunar Probe Expected to Have Enough Fuel to Return to Earth (Source: Xinhua)
China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2, is expected to have enough fuel to fly back to earth, the vice chief-designer of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said. Chang'e-2 was carried into lunar orbit by a rocket, and only corrected once during the transfer from earth orbit to lunar orbit, so a large amount of fuel will be left after its mission, Zhou Jianliang, the vice chief-designer of BACC, said.

Zhou said there are three possible "fates" for Chang'e-2 after it finishes its six-month mission: landing on the moon; flying to outer space; or returning to earth. The fate of Chang'e-2 will be decided according to its condition when the mission is complete. The Long March-3C carrier rocket took Chang'e-2 into space from southwest China on Oct. 1. The probe completed its final braking on Oct. 9 and is now orbiting the moon at a 100 km-high orbit. (10/13)

Sirius XM Radio Adds Subscribers (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Sirius XM Radio Inc. said new-subscriber growth tripled in the third quarter and announced plans to sell up to $550 million in eight-year notes to institutional investors as it seeks to refinance shorter-term debt. The company also disclosed in a regulatory filing Wednesday that a handful of states, led by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, have started an investigation into its consumer practices. (10/13)

ABS Orders Satellite from Loral (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator ABS of Hong Kong has contracted with Space Systems/Loral to build the triple-frequency ABS-2 satellite for launch in 2013, ABS and Loral announced Oct. 13. The contract, which had been put on hold for over a year as the fast-growing Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) company sought to close the financing, comes one month after private-equity investor Permira Advisors agreed to purchase a majority stake. (10/13)

12 Peruvians Book Tickets for Space Trip (Source: Xinhua)
Twelve Peruvian citizens booked tickets of $200,000 each for a space trip, a Peruvian agent of the British company Virgin Galactic said. The Peruvians, whose identities are undisclosed, will enjoy the space experience and see the Earth from above, local daily El Comericio de Lima reported on Monday, quoting sources from Virgin Galactic. (10/13)

UCF Hosting Huge Space Conference (Source: UCF)
The University of Central Florida is hosting a space conference that should help position researchers and educators to take advantage of a new generation of commercial space vehicles for suborbital travel. The new vehicles will revolutionize access to space by providing frequent and low-cost trips. And the future is closer than many think.

More than a dozen corporations and government agencies, including Space Florida, are sponsors of the event. The conference will provide a forum to learn about the research and education personnel capabilities offered by this new space endeavor. NSRC2011 also will provide guidelines on vehicle design requirements for those interested in participating in space flights. (10/13)

NASA and Etsy Partner on New Type of Space-craft (Source: NASA)
NASA and Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade arts and crafts, have partnered to launch "Space Craft," a contest where entrants share an original handmade item or work of art inspired by NASA and NASA's programs, such as the Space Shuttle Program and human spaceflight, aeronautics, science and exploration of the universe. Contestants can enter two-dimensional original art (painting, drawing, prints, mixed media, photographic, and computer generated prints). Three-dimensional entries, including wearable art and soft sculptures, also may be entered. Click here for info. (10/13)

Congressional Concerns Remain as NASA Chief Prepares for China Trip (Source: NASA Watch)
"U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and John Culberson of Texas -- both Republicans serving on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that approves NASA's annual budgets -- are opposed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden leading any collaborative talks with Chinese officials about manned spaceflight programs when he visits China Oct. 16-21. Both lawmakers have requested a briefing on the trip before Bolden and his NASA colleagues leave town. A NASA official said Oct. 12 that Bolden would be tied up in a senior management retreat before he departs Oct. 15 for China. "No formal briefs are scheduled but we will be prepared to answer any questions," the official said." (10/12)

Republicans Tell Rubio That Obama is Responsible for All That Ails NASA (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Like so many candidates before him, Republican U.S. Senate frontrunner Marco Rubio today made the mandatory pilgrimage to Florida’s Space Coast to learn of space industry concerns. The forum was organized by former Congressman Tom Feeney and included outgoing U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Congressman David Weldon, incoming state senate president Mike Haridopolos and state Sen. Thad Altman, all Republicans.

Rubio heard a fair amount of partisan bashing about the U.S. space program. Although President Obama only yesterday signed a law that authorizes a new vision for NASA and increases its annual budget, Rubio was told that the agency lacked a firm direction and funding. Many were angry that there is still a multi-year gap at the end of the shuttle program (which Obama had promised to reduce), and that NASA will be dependent on the Russians to fly crew to the Space Station. Nobody mentioned that the gap and reliance on the Russians are a relic of the Bush administration’s NASA strategy.

Weldon told Rubio that the Constellation program was proceeding “just fine” and was cancelled only because it was a Bush program. No mention was made of the technical and financial woes dogging Constellation’s Ares I rocket and Orion capsule. Rubio also heard from industry executives about the latest NASA plans to give a larger share of space to commercial rocket companies and why it was important to have a heavy-lift rocket development program. But nobody explained to him the competition and enmity between the two camps. Click here to read the article. (10/13)

Rubio Calls for Fiscal Discipline to Fix Space Woes (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
After meeting mostly conservative space industry leaders on Tuesday, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio said what he had heard was a confirmation of his fiscal conservative beliefs. “The reason why NASA is not funded appropriately is because you don’t have fiscal discipline,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “If you had fiscal discipline then the federal government would be forced to focus on the issues [like space] that are important and that matter to our country... But the biggest overriding problem we have is that this administration failed to outline a compelling, long-term vision and goal for the program.”

Rubio, a favorite among Tea Party activists, was also told that Florida was losing space skirmishes to the powerful senators from Maryland and Alabama, Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Republican Richard Shelby. Former Congressman Dave Weldon and others told Rubio that if he is elected, he needs to “go toe-to-toe” with both of these senior and immensely powerful politicians.

Editor's Note: One attendee at the conservative-leaning discussion with Rubio called it "an echo chamber attached to a partisan feeding frenzy." At this and other recent Space Coast events, much attention was given to the great potential for developing a Commercial Crew capability at KSC (in lieu of Ares-1) and proceeding with a near-term heavy-lift rocket (although Obama would have delayed it a few years). Both of these--together with improvements to the spaceport and human missions to asteroids--are hallmarks of President Obama's plan, but the Republican candidates persist in criticizing the President for a lack of vision. (10/13)

Registration Opens for Suborbital Research Conference in Orlando (Source: SwRI)
Registration and abstract submission for the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Research Conference (NSRC), scheduled Feb. 28 - March 2, 2011, in Orlando, Fla., opened this week. NSRC-2011 will alert and educate the research and education communities to the many new opportunities offered by a new wave of human suborbital vehicles. The conference web site can be found here. (10/12)

562,000 Visitors A Year at Spaceport? (Source: ABQ Journal)
Preliminary data from a state-commissioned market study concludes that when Spaceport America and three visitor centers are completed, they could draw 562000 visitors per year. That's more than either Carlsbad Caverns National Park or White Sands National Monument. The market study, conducted by Overview Research of Las Cruces, was released last week by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to public officials and hospitality industry experts with a request for feedback. Responses will be used by the Spaceport Authority to help plan and develop visitor services related to the $200 million project. (10/12)

Recently Discovered Habitable World May Not Exist (Source: Science)
Two weeks ago, U.S.-based astronomers announced the discovery of the first Goldilocks planet circling another star: just the right size and just the right temperature to harbor alien life. But yesterday at an exoplanet meeting in Turin, Italy, Switzerland-based astronomers announced that they could find no trace of the prized planet in their observations of the same planetary system.

All the excitement has been over the subtlest of wiggles in the motion of the star Gliese 581 that lies just 20 light-years from the sun in the direction of the constellation Libra. A consortium of institutions led by the Observatory of Geneva in Switzerland had already discovered four planets circling Gliese 581 by sorting out the subtle motions of the star that are induced by the gravitational tugs of any orbiting planets. They could find no reliable sign of a fifth planet in Gliese 581's habitable zone. (10/12)

Space Security: Europe and U.S. Authorities Debate Implications (Source: Secure World Foundation)
European institutions continue to reflect on the uses of and needs for security in space. Furthermore, the U.S. has undergone a series of major space reviews this past year. To explore European and U.S. perspectives on these issues, Secure World Foundation joined forces with the French Institute of International Relations’ (Ifri) Space Policy Program to foster open discussion on topics of mutual interest in the space security arena. Click here to read the article. (10/12)

Space Travel: Would You Buy a Ticket? (Source: CBC)
Virgin Galactic's space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo has achieved its first solo glide flight, marking another step in the company's eventual plans to fly paying passengers. The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is undergoing rigorous testing before it can carry tourists to space. In the latest test, SpaceShipTwo did not fire its rocket engine to climb to space. Tickets to ride aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000. About 370 customers have plunked down deposits totalling $50 million, according to Virgin Galactic. (10/12)

NASA Faces Tough Decisions to Plan STS-135 Ahead of Appropriation (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Despite the President signing the Bill which calls for NASA to fly STS-135, Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon has spoken to his teams about the battle that remains, one which requires retaining the required capability – whilst still being in the right position fiscally – to push forward with the summer 2011 mission.

Technically, all the major hurdles – such as the safety assessments and political support – have been successfully negotiated to the point NASA managers simply need the required funding to “pay” for the mission’s elements, ranging back to planning and training, through to the hardware and support. The problems, however, are by no means small, such as the Shuttle Program already being deep in the midst of shutting down, with 1,500 workers losing their jobs earlier this month, and further job cuts to come.

“The morale is tough; it is a very tough environment right now, but the team is really hanging in there,” noted Mr Shannon, in reference to the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) workforce, who have already been decimated by the job losses – adding that he is very proud of that group. The upcoming end of the Shuttle Program has been known for several years, so the emphasis continues to focus on finishing strong, rather than already grieving the loss of the program, especially with up to three flights remaining. (10/12)

Astronomer Captures Asteroid's Close Pass (Source: Astronomy Now)
Amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins from Utah captured impressive images of asteroid 2010 TD54 that passed the Earth with just 46,000 kilometers to spare on Tuesday. The asteroid, estimated to be around seven meters in diameter, was discovered on 9 October by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona as part of routine monitoring of the skies. Click here to see the photo. (10/13)

NASA 'Intrusions' May Deter Rocket Scientists (Source: New Scientist)
Forget rocket science, space researchers are at the heart of an extraordinary legal battle over privacy. The case will help to clarify whether the US federal government can legally perform extensive background checks on employees doing non-classified work. It could also affect NASA's ability to attract top scientists. In 2005, Robert Nelson, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, led a group of 28 colleagues in objecting to background checks introduced by JPL as part of efforts to beef up homeland security.

The group sued, claiming that the checks were "intrusive" because they gave NASA permission to collect information – such as a person's medical history and sexual habits – which was unnecessary for workers at the laboratory, who use satellites and robotic spacecraft to explore the solar system. "They wanted to know who we slept with," says Nelson. "We thought that was off-limits, out of bounds." (10/13)

Dentists Get Help From Space (Source: Space Daily)
Dentists and their patients will soon benefit from a tiny new high-resolution X-ray camera. A Swedish company has adapted an advanced technique used for miniaturising space hardware to make a visit to the dentist a little more comfortable. The camera takes X-ray pictures that are dramatically more detailed and with higher contrast than the conventional X-ray machines widely used by dentists today. The heart of the camera is a tiny 'structured scintillator' device that converts X-rays to visible light. (10/13)

Japan Space Agency Sent Chilean Miners Astronaut Underwear (Source: Asia One)
Japan's space agency said it had sent special astronaut underwear for the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped deep underground for ten weeks, ahead of the rescue operation that kicked off Wednesday. The high-tech "space underwear" has special moisture and odor absorbent properties, said an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, although he said it was uncertain the men had actually chosen to wear it. "Originally, we were told the rescue was going to take much longer. Our package was handed over to the Chilean authority last Wednesday," a JAXA official said. (10/13)

NASA Officials: Recovery for Chilean Miners My Replicate Astronauts' (Source: The Hill)
Chilean miners who are undergoing a rescue operation to bring them up from underground will benefit from health plans that are geared for astronauts, NASA officials said. The officials said that as they researched which aspects of the miners' experience are similar to those of astronauts who return from space, the findings showed a significant number of qualities that translate. Special diets and care around refeeding are key for both groups, according to the officials. They added that Chilean authorities have done an outstanding job of preparing miners' families for the return. (10/13)

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