October 15, 2010

Undergrad Proposal Deadline Nears for NASA Reduced Gravity Flights (Source: NASA)
The deadline is fast-approaching for undergraduate students to submit their team proposals to NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. Proposals must be received by 11:59 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, Oct. 27. The program gives aspiring explorers a chance to propose, design and fabricate a reduced gravity experiment. Selected teams will get to test and evaluate their experiment aboard a modified Boeing 727 jetliner provided by the Zero-Gravity Corp. Click here for more. (10/15)

South African Space Council Appointed (Source: News24)
A 15-member SA Council for Space Affairs (Sacsa) has been appointed by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. The individual team members, from various sectors of government, academia and industry, were appointed in line with the Space Affairs Act No 84 of 1993 to serve on the council. The council will be headed by Dr Peter Martinez, of the National Research Foundation's South African Astronomical Observatory, as its chairperson. (10/15)

Long-Lived Mars Odyssey Gets New Project Manager at JPL (Source: JPL)
The new project manager for the longest-working spacecraft currently active at Mars, NASA's Mars Odyssey, has a long track record himself. He is Gaylon McSmith, a former pilot of U.S. Air Force fighter jets and Continental Airlines airliners. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., he has been a leader on the Odyssey team since two months after the spacecraft began orbiting Mars in October 2001. On Dec. 15 of this year, Odyssey will break the record for the longest-working spacecraft ever at Mars. (10/15)

NASA Funding Bill Includes Civil Service Layoff Moratorium (Source: Cleveland.com)
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said the spending bill for NASA will protect “hundreds” of civil servants from layoffs over the next three years. The bill, signed Monday by President Barack Obama, was a Senate version of which Brown held up passage until a three-year moratorium on reductions in force was inserted. Brown’s office released the statement following criticism last week by U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-10, Cleveland, and Steven LaTourette, R-14, Bainbridge. Each voted against the Senate bill on Sept. 29. Each cited potential job losses at Glenn, among other things. (10/15)

Defense Department Eyes Small Satellites for Flying UAVs (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department is investigating whether to field a group of small satellites — perhaps operated by commercial industry — that would assure communications with unmanned aerial vehicles flying on the edge or outside of conflict zones. The project, called Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AISR), would feature satellites with four beams in Ku- and Ka-band to assure that sufficient satellite bandwidth is available for outrider Global Hawk or other unmanned aircraft without depriving satellite links to those in the thick of a conflict zone, officials said. (10/15)

U.S. Air Force Ponders New Upper-stage Rocket Engine (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is beginning to weigh options for developing a more capable and affordable upper-stage engine for the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets the service uses to launch most national security payloads. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles is giving industry until Nov. 9 to submit ideas for building a next-generation upper-stage engine to replace by 2017 the two versions of the RL-10 engine Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne builds for the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. This has garnered the attention of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and its rival Aerojet, the other main U.S. producer of liquid-fueled rocket engines. (10/15)

Lockheed, Lawmakers Urge NASA To Fund Orion Development at 2010 Level (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin officials along with Colorado lawmakers are warning that NASA’s spending plan for the Orion crew capsule over the next year is insufficient to retain the program’s current workforce and would make it difficult to conduct a flight test of a prototype the company envisions for late 2013. In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Ed Perlmutter — both Colorado Democrats — said until Congress hammers out a new 2011 spending bill, NASA must fully fund Orion’s continued development as a crew exploration vehicle, regardless of the president’s plan to scale it back for use as a crew lifeboat on the international space |station. (10/15)

Pentagon’s 1st SBIRS Craft Faces Narrow Window for 2011 Launch (Source: Space News)
After nearly a decade of delay, the U.S. Air Force tentatively plans to launch its first dedicated Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite April 30 but faces a narrow launch window, which means any additional hiccups in the program likely would push the mission into 2012, a service official said. (10/15)

Why Mars? Buzz Aldrin Wants a Lunar Base First (Source: FOX News)
The road to Mars leads right past the moon. So why isn't a return trip on the agenda? That's what Buzz Aldrin wants to know. President Obama recently green-lighted a brand new mission and a new budget for NASA, including a grand long-term goal: a manned mission to Mars. But Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, says the moon is much more essential to American space efforts. In its haste to make new policy, Aldrin and other experts say, NASA is overlooking a critical component of space travel: a permanent, manned base on the moon that would make reaching Mars a much easier task. (10/15)

Why Scientists Think Life Exists on Other Planets (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Gliese581g is only a small planet very much like Earth, and it flies in orbit around a small star much like the sun. It's 120 trillion miles away as most of us count - but only 20 light-years as astronomers see it. Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz, a veteran searcher for planets far beyond our solar system, said forthrightly that he puts the odds at "100 percent" that some form of life must exist on that planet right now.

Why was Vogt so certain? The best answer is that life on Earth exists literally everywhere, in wildly varied forms and in every conceivable environment, so why not in other environments elsewhere? Microbes, after all, are even now chewing on hydrocarbons from the disastrous BP oil spill that persists at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico 2 miles down, where it's perpetually dark and airless. Even more advanced forms of life, like giant clams, crabs, shrimp and strange tube worms, are now thriving in near-boiling water at the mouths of volcanoes deep undersea. (10/15)

Orbital Debris from Chinese Satellite Tops 3,000 Pieces (Source: Discovery)
Three and a half years after China intentionally blew up a satellite as part of a weapons test, 97 percent of the debris remains in orbit, posing “distinct hazards to hundreds of operational satellites,” writes NASA in its October issue of Orbital Debris Quarterly News. The number of pieces of debris from the Fengyun-1C spacecraft surpassed the 3,000 mark last month. The tally as of mid-September was 3,037 objects -- roughly 22 percent of all the cataloged objects in low-Earth orbit. (1/15)

NASA Awards Contracts For Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contracts to six companies for the purchase of technical data resulting from industry efforts to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions. The data from these contracts will inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems. The solicitation resulted in multiple IDIQ contracts with a total value of up to $30.1 million over a period of up to five years. For each selected contractor, the minimum government purchase is $10,000, and the maximum government purchase is $10.01 million.

Earthrise Space Inc. of Orlando, Florida, is among the winners. Also included are Astrobotic Technology Inc. (Pittsburgh PA), Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (Cambridge MA), Dynetics Inc. (Huntsville AL), Moon Express Inc. (San Francisco CA), and Team FREDNET, The Open Space Society, Inc. (Huntsville AL).

The ILDD contracts enable delivery orders that will specify data associated with system testing and integration, launch, in-space maneuvers, braking burns, lunar landing and other enhanced capabilities. Knowledge acquired from this data will be applied to the development of lander systems necessary to execute human and robotic missions to the moon, near-Earth asteroids or other solar system destinations. (10/15)

Experts: Huge Space Tourism Expansion Just Months Away (Source: CNN)
It's unlikely that you've heard of PJ King, despite the fact that he's about to set himself apart from most humans who've ever walked the planet. In as soon as 18 months, King could be launching into space as a paying commercial space tourist. "One of the reasons I'm doing this is precisely because I want these things to be ordinary," King said. "Part of the problem with space travel is that it is special."

Plunging prices are opening doors to consumers which have been all but closed for half a century to everyone except "right stuff" supermen and superwomen with names like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. "I believe in this," King said. "This is not a just a bunch of rich people going into space for fun." (10/15)

Intelsat’s Runaway Satellite Continues to Pose Interference Threat (Source: Space News)
The Intelsat satellite that has remained in switched-on mode while in an uncontrolled drift along an orbital highway, posing broadcast interference threats to other satellites, is now expected to continue to emit signals at least through late November and perhaps until late December, Intelsat officials said. (10/15)

First Person: How I Trained to Fly in Space (Without Leaving Earth) (Source: Space.com)
The stage is set for space tourist flights as early as next year, but what will those intrepid space tourists feel during the flight? That's what I found out in a recent training session, and wow, was it a wild ride. As someone who's been to Space Camp and witnessed four space shuttle launches to date, I've long considered myself a space geek. But my space cred was put to the test as never before when I took a stab at suborbital launch practice. Click here to view the article. (10/15)

Bolden Gets Some Support for China Trip (Source: NASA Watch)
In a letter From Representatives Larsen (D-WA), Boustany (R-LA) and Kirk (R-IL), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden got some encouragement for his upcoming visit to China: "We are writing to congratulate you on your upcoming trip to China. U.S.-China space cooperation is an important piece of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship and we hope your trip proves successful. Specifically, we ask your support for the the U.S. and China to establish a joint-rescue capability in space that would enable the U.S., China, and Russia to rescue each other's space crews." (10/15)

Needed: US Support for International Space Rescue Regime (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Humans from around the world are now going to space as the "envoys of mankind," a legal moniker adopted in the Outer Space Treaty and the Rescue of Astronauts regime by members of the United Nations. The U.S. need not wait the siren call of a Titanic-like space mishap to determine if we have measured-up to the spirit of international space law. We need not determine the ethnicity of envoys of humanity to determine their worth of a space rescue. Whether or not they are Chinese, Indian, Russian, American NASA astronaut or a private American space tourist, Americans need to lead in the development of protocol and etiquette in providing assistance in space emergencies.

There will be another Apollo 13, Challenger or Columbia mishap in space by Americans. Equally, there will be life-threatening problems in space for the Chinese, Russians and Indians. We need not adopt domestic policy that demeans the international law to save the lives of fellow envoys of humankind. Those that attack NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's trek to China this coming weekend need to think about this context. Click here to read the article. (10/14)

Questions About Government Versus Commercial (Source: HobbySpace)
In response to comments from NASA Astronaut Jerry Ross regarding the risks of relying on commercial space transportation, HobbySpace writes: "I wonder if Ross can point to any study showing that government owned airlines are safer than privately owned ones? Why didn't non-profit operation prevent the rush to launch, shortcuts and heedlessness that led to Challenger and Columbia? Where is the proof that NASA's inclination to do things as expensively as possible leads to greater safety? Why does the US military rely on private firms to launch crucial national security satellites when those firms could "have an accident or a huge budget overrun and [...] go bankrupt"? Where is the evidence that NASA astronaut employees are unbiased objective observers to debates on the use of commercial launch services?" (10/14)

Florida Endorsements for Kosmas and Posey, But Not For Grayson (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) received an endorsement from Florida Today, citing her work on space policy. “The tireless efforts of Kosmas to help craft a solid blueprint for NASA’s future and her fierce advocacy for the spaceport and creating post-shuttle jobs” has been the “one constant” for the Space Coast in this period of change, the editorial states. “The work has been the centerpiece of her term and earns Kosmas our strong recommendation for re-election.” Her opponent, Sandy Adams, has an “appalling” lack of knowledge about NASA: during an interview with the paper’s editorial board on the day the House was voting on the NASA authorization bill “Adams hadn’t even read the measure and did not know any of its specifics.”

The same editorial also endorses the reelection bid of Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who, unlike Kosmas, is not facing a strong reelection challenge in his district immediately south of Kosmas’. Although Posey was opposed to the administration’s original plan for NASA, he later supported the Senate version of the authorization bill. “It was the right decision in the best interests of the Space Coast, with both a NASA heavy-lift rocket and commercial rocket fleet approved,” the editorial notes, adding that “his knowledge of the commercial space industry can serve the Space Coast well”.

Kosmas previously won the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, but that paper has decided not to endorse Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), instead throwing its support behins his Republican challenger, Dan Webster, for the Orlando-area district. Grayson is known in space circles for his sharp questioning of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in House committee hearings earlier this year, as well as his opposition to commercial elements of the administration’s plans for NASA (“the epitome of socialism and corporate welfare”, as he put it in July.) Space policy, though, does not figure in the Sentinel’s decision to support Webster over Grayson.

Space Pace (Source: Toledo Blade)
When President Obama canceled the Constellation program, the space exploration community grumbled. A return to the moon in 2020, followed by a manned mission to Mars next decade, was the centerpiece of President Bush’s vision for NASA. But Mr. Obama tore up that plan in favor of a program built around unmanned probes, a mission to an asteroid followed by a manned orbit of Mars, the rise of a commercial spacecraft fleet, and reliance on other nations for lifts to the international space station. For veterans of the astronaut corps, this redirection didn’t have enough of the right stuff.

This week, the President signed the NASA Space Exploration Act, which commits the United States to a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025 and one to Mars in the 2030s. It calls for a NASA budget of $19 billion in 2011. Critics should be celebrating. Although missions at the end of this decade still will feature astronauts, Mr. Obama is smart to rely on unmanned probes and the private sector until then. Most of what scientists have learned about space comes from telescopes and other unmanned technology.

Space programs of unlimited dollars for manned rockets are financially unsustainable. Because much of that cost reflects the expense of protecting human life, moving to more unmanned missions saves money. There always will be a role for manned space exploration, but robotic probes should do the bulk of the exploration in the next decades. The President’s program sustains exploration that matters. (10/15)

Japanese Astronauts to Transfer Base Back Home from Houston (Source: IBN Live)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has said it plans to transfer Japanese astronauts from the U.S. training center in Houston to Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture due to the upcoming retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Female astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, 39, has already returned to Japan and will be followed by others in moving to the agency's Tsukuba Space Center, located northeast of Tokyo, after they finish their missions in the United States.

JAXA President Keiji Tachikawa said the transfer will help the agency "make better use of the astronauts' knowledge and experience for Japan's space development," and also yield the benefit of reduced costs compared to keeping them overseas. (10/15)

How the Isle of Man Became a Major Player in Space Commerce (Source: IsleOfMan.com)
The space industry is a sector that until the 21st century would not have been associated with the Isle of Man. But things have certainly changed in a big way during the past decade. Tim Craine, Director of the Business Development Agency for the Isle of Man Government, admits the talk of the Island being associated with space commerce would have been "science fiction" just a few years ago. But the truth is stranger than fiction - and can be far more interesting.

There are numerous firms now based here and one of them - Excalibur Almaz - plans to offer trips round the moon and back for space tourists at a cost of $31m. Recently aerospace market and consultancy analyst firm ASCEND declared the Island the fifth most likely nation to return to the moon. Meanwhile a report by the Economic Policy Centre said the UK should follow the example of the Isle of Man and the US when it comes to its space industry. Click here to read the article. (10/15)

Safety Priority as Launch Focus Shifts (Source: Florida Today)
The Air Force wants to help commercial companies launch from Florida's Space Coast, but pressure to be more user-friendly must be balanced with primary mission: protecting the public from errant rockets. "With the president's mandate to really support commercial launch, we're taking it seriously. We want to do this right," Brig. Gen. Burke "Ed" Wilson, commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range, said Thursday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Commercial companies have complained certification can be overly difficult and time-consuming. Wilson said the Air Force is working to streamline the process while maintaining public safety. "In the past that's taken several years, and we're beginning to look at ways to make that much, much quicker -- a much shorter timeline," Wilson said. He believes the Air Force is ready to handle an increase in launch traffic. "We've clearly got the capability to take on more launches... A busy range is actually a better range," he said. (10/15)

India's Jugnu Launch Postponed to 2011 (Source: Indian Express)
Jugnu, the nano satellite developed by Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) is expected to be launched in the polar orbit from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in the first six months of 2011. Though it was expected that it would be launched this month, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has allotted a slot in the first half of 2011 to IIT-K for the launch. (10/15)

NASA Demystifies 'Bizarre X-Shaped Intruder' (Source: Huffington Post)
In January, NASA scientists spotted a mysterious X-shaped object hurtling through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They believed the object, named P/2010 A2, was the result of a recent asteroid collision, a rare sight. They were only partially right.

According to Discovery News, Hubble scientists who have been tracking the debris now say the collision probably occurred in February or March of 2009. "We expected the debris field to expand dramatically, like shrapnel flying from a hand grenade," said David Jewitt, who lead the Hubble observation. "We found that the object is expanding very, very slowly and that it started not a week but nearly a year before our January observations." Click here to see the photos. (10/15)

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