October 20, 2010

Bigelow Laments Shortage of Launch Facilities (Source: SPACErePORT)
Bigelow Aerospace chief Robert Bigelow discussed his commercial space station plans during the International Symposium on Personal & Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in New Mexico. Among the concerns that 'keep him up at night' is the lack of launch facilities to support the anticipated demand for crew transportation. Bigelow officials have recently been proponents of launching human missions (aboard Atlas-5 rockets!) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in Virginia.

Editor's Note: Even Orbital Sciences Corp. with its smaller-sized Taurus-2 rocket is concerned that Wallops Island might not be able to accommodate human spaceflight missions. Would it be possible to launch Atlas-5 rockets from Wallops? (10/20)

NASA Announces Launch of Human Health and Performance Center (Source: NASA)
NASA has established a global forum for organizations interested in advancing human health and performance innovations in space and on Earth. NASA's Human Health and Performance Center (NHHPC) will give members an opportunity to collaborate, network and share information. NHHPC members include NASA centers and partners, industry, academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Members will work together to advance human health and performance innovations for spaceflight, commercial aviation and any challenging environment on Earth. (10/20)

Boeing Raises 2010 Outlook on Strong Q3 Earnings (Source: AIA)
Boeing said it earned $837 million in the third quarter, on revenue of $17.0 billion, helped by increased volume in commercial jetliners. "Our results and revised outlook reflect the continued strong performance of our commercial production and services programs and the ability of our defense businesses to produce solid results in a challenging environment," CEO Jim McNerney noted. Boeing Defense, Space & Security's third-quarter revenue declined 6 percent to $8.2 billion. (10/20)

Boeing Recognized as KSC's Prime Contractor of the Year (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Boeing has been named the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year by NASA for outstanding contributions to the agency's small-business program on the Checkout, Assembly and Payload Processing Services (CAPPS) contract at KSC. The honor is one of NASA's Small Business Industry
Awards for 2010. (10/20)

White House Hosts its First Science Fair (Source: AIA)
President Barack Obama welcomed the first White House Science Fair this week, praising student inventors and exploring winning exhibits. The exhibits included a solar-powered five-gear car and a hydro-power water purification system. Editor's Note: Listening to this event on the radio, I heard one participating student tell President Obama that SpaceShipTwo was her inspiration for her project. (10/20)

Editorial: China's Space Program: Phantom Menace or New Hope? (Source: Global Times)
It's the silly season in the US. So it's no surprise, just a disappointment, that some of the US legislators, especially the Republicans set to retake Congress, are again sharpening their sword and sticking it to China. I'm not talking about exchange rates, jobs, the environment or human rights, but something more deadly serious: the future of the final frontier. It's Star Wars season in Washington and the US empire is striking back.

Already three Republican congressmen who sit on the committee that controls NASA's budget have risen to the occasion by criticizing NASA's outreach to China. Two are part of the attack of the clowns that is the "Tea Party." The third is long-time China-basher and ironically appropriately named Congressman Frank Wolf. This Wolf can do real damage when he howls, however, because it is likely that come January he will chair the appropriations subcommittee that determines just how much money NASA gets.

Obama's new space policy encourages bilateral and multinational cooperation. Cooperation makes sense because costs and knowledge are shared. Space politics makes for some strange bedfellows. Many Tea Partiers actually physically demonstrated against Obama's new space policy because reduced budgets and outsourcing would mean less government jobs. Come on, guys, you can't have it both ways! (10/20)

CERN Scientists Eye Parallel Universe Breakthrough (Source: Reuters)
Physicists probing the origins of the cosmos hope that next year they will turn up the first proofs of the existence of concepts long dear to science-fiction writers such as hidden worlds and extra dimensions. And as their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva moves into high gear, they are talking increasingly of the "New Physics" on the horizon that could totally change current views of the universe and how it works.

Billions of particles flying off from each LHC collision are tracked at four CERN detectors -- and then in collaborating laboratories around the globe -- to establish when and how they come together and what shapes they take. The CERN theoreticians say this could give clear signs of dimensions beyond length, breadth, depth and time because at such high energy particles could be tracked disappearing -- presumably into them -- and then back into the classical four.

Parallel universes could also be hidden within these dimensions, the thinking goes, but only in a so-called gravitational variety in which light cannot be propagated -- a fact which would make it nearly impossible to explore them. (10/20)

Titusville Event Recalls Toll of Space Work (Source: Florida Today)
For Palm Bay resident Sally Ann Fassett Maldona, Tuesday's memorial ceremony for space workers who died in the line of duty was one that her late husband, John W. "Jack" Fassett, would have appreciated. "Jack always cared about the other men he worked with," she said after the memorial for 42 workers who died while working for the space program at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Jack Fassett, a spacecraft coordinator for Goddard Space Flight Center, died as a result of injuries suffered in a 1964 accident involving a rocket motor explosion during a test. Two other people died and others were injured in the accident. Jack and Sally Ann were childhood sweethearts. Click here to read the article. (10/20)

New NASA Moon Plan: Pay Others to Go (Source: Discovery)
Congress may have put the kibosh on NASA's plan to return astronauts to the moon, but that doesn't mean the agency is giving up its lunar ambitious. The new plan? Pay others to go. There's a rich pool of partners to choose from, thanks to a Google-sponsored competition offering $30 million in prizes for landing and operating rovers on the moon. So far, the contest, which is based on the 2004 $10 million Ansari X Prize competition for privately funded human spaceflights, has drawn 22 contenders. (10/20)

Florida Senate Candidate "Stood Up"to Fix NASA Plan (Sources: CBS4, Space Politics)
During a debate among Florida's three leading candidates for the seat currently held by U.S. Senator George LeMieux, Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek, and Marco Rubio had little to say about space policy, but Meek did mention his opposition to the Obama Administration's NASA plan, and his work to fix it. "I was against the administration's proposal and as it relates to NASA I stood up and it got better from the administration; and when it comes to Floridians I'm on their side." (10/20)

Astrobotic Technology wins Moon mining award from NASA (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University to develop a prototype robot for mining water and methane ices at the Moon's poles. These volatiles can refuel astronauts' spacecraft for their return trip to Earth, halving the cost of human Moon expeditions. The $599,970 award will fund a two-year effort to build a robot able to dig into frozen lunar dirt despite the Moon's one-sixth gravity, which leaves excavators much less traction, needed to push digging implements into the ground, than on Earth. (10/20)

Workers Race to Replace Damaged Soyuz Crew Capsule (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Responding to unexplained damage to a piece of the next Soyuz spacecraft, the Russian builder of the capsule has shipped a replacement descent module to Kazakhstan for the next three-person crew to the International Space Station. Russian officials ordered the unusual swapout after technicians discovered a problem with the descent module of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft when it was unloaded after a train trip from its factory. (10/20)

NASA's Monkey Radiation Experiment Faces Unclear Future (Source: Space.com)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has obtained documents discussing a controversial NASA-funded project that would expose squirrel monkeys to radiation. A draft titled "Decision regarding the disposition of the NSRL Proposal N-249," was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents do not resolve the future of the space radiation experiment, which would take place at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Department of Energy redacted essentially all of the content of the emails and the draft decision it forwarded to PETA. (10/20)

Bigelow Aerospace Soars with Private Space Station Deals (Source: Space.com)
A private space company offering room on inflatable space habitats for research has found a robust international market, with eager clients signing up from space agencies, government departments and research groups. Bigelow Aerospace has been busy marketing private space modules, an outreach effort leading to six deals being signed with clients this year.

The deals involve Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom. "These are countries that do not want to be hostage to just what the International Space Station may or may not deliver," Bigelow said. The company's Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 unmanned test modules, lofted in 2006 and 2007, have served as forerunners to ever-larger and human-rated space structures. More recently, a 185,000 square-foot expansion to Bigelow's North Las Vegas facilities is enabling the churning out of bigger space habitats.

A question that continues to float through the halls of NASA and the Congress: Is there a commercial market for utilizing space? "We've got a very certain and loud answer to that. Not only is there a commercial market, but it's a one that's robust and global," said Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. (10/20)

Editorial: A Popcorn-Bred Perspective of Space Commercialization (Source: Space News)
As the heated debate over commercial crew continues, constant expressions of support to the commercial space sector — even from those who have so passionately argued against the President’s proposal — reveal something perhaps slightly shocking: agreement.

Key opponents of the President’s proposal have often felt compelled to add that despite their misgivings they do in fact support the commercial crew concept. These are the traces of the unspoken assumption in the space policy community that at some point in our spacefaring future, we will need a robust commercial space sector to share the load.

How can safety standards best be incorporated to developing designs? Are the companies ready? Is there a real market? What policies should be in place to protect government investment? These are the questions being asked. They center not on the question of whether crew transportation to low Earth orbit should ever be turned to the commercial sector, but when and, most importantly, how. (10/20)

Asteroid May Have Triggered Evolution (Source: Cosmos)
A colossal asteroid that struck South Australia during a glacial cold snap 590 million years ago may have triggered the evolution of Earth’s earliest complex organisms, Australian geologists reported. Researchers from the University of Adelaide argue that the well documented Acraman asteroid impact coincided with an extensive glaciation period more than 500 million years ago and created ideal conditions for an explosion of complex organisms, the Ediacara biota. (10/20)

Main Engine Probably Not to Blame for AEHF 1 Trouble (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
As investigators narrow the list of potential culprits in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite's main propulsion system problem, the Air Force has decided to delay launching the follow-up spacecraft and rearrange its upcoming Atlas rocket manifest. After launch, the system detected that the proper boost wasn't being generated and immediately terminated the operations. Engineers have since created a rescue plan that's being implemented to use AEHF 1's smaller thrusters, but it will take nearly a year to accomplish.

The on-going investigation into the misfire indicates the main engine wasn't the cause of the problem and that the fault resides somewhere else in the overall propulsion system. "I will tell you that I have high confidence it was not the engine itself and that it was part of the propulsion system that we think we are going to end up looking closely at," said Dave Madden. (10/20)

Building Europe's Vision for Space Exploration (Source: ESA)
Europe's vision for launching astronauts and robot explorers out into the Solar System will come into sharper focus on 21 October when the ministers responsible for space activities meet in Brussels to discuss Europe's goals for space exploration. Ministers from the 29 ESA and EU states will rendezvous in Brussels this week for their second International Conference on Space Exploration as the next step towards creating a future European exploration strategy. (10/20)

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