October 21, 2010

Rocket scientist Aims to Relaunch Propulsion Technology (Source: CNET)
The time has come to jettison the traditional chemical rocket propulsion system and move to one powered by beamed microwaves, say a group of researchers. For decades, even as rockets have gotten lighter and more powerful, the basic system for putting them in space hasn't changed. A team led by 25-year-old CalTech Ph.D. student Dmitriy Tseliakhovich thinks that the time has come for a new rocket propulsion paradigm, one that requires no chemical explosions, which could cut the cost of putting payloads in space by a factor of ten or more, and which could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of a launch.

The technology is being looked at by some as a major key to making affordable private space flights--particularly those geared towards getting cargo outside the Earth's atmosphere--for small- and medium-sized businesses that would like to explore the resources of space, but which are today unable to get off the planet. And while there is clearly a long way to go before a propulsion system powered by microwave beams or any other external source is ready for prime time, those involved in the research believe that all the required technology is already here.

To Tseliakhovich, the major rationale for pursuing external propulsion is the fact that the price for putting payloads in space hasn't changed in decades. He explains that in 2005 dollars, the cost has stayed constant for at least 50 years at around $10,000 per kilogram, mainly because so much of a rocket's space and weight is devoted to the fuel that gets it off the ground. Click here to view the article. (10/21)

Commercialization of Space - A Lucrative Domain (Source: Brahmand.com)
Space commercialization refers to efforts on the part of governments and companies to use the space environment to (i) make better and less expensive products for sale on Earth, as well as for use in space; and (ii) perform space related services, such as satellite construction and launching. Over the years, the range of civilian space applications has increased significantly. The main commercial space applications that dominate the space business at present are communication broadcasting, remote sensing and satellite navigation.

There has also been a pronounced increase in the space commercialization, as multi-national companies have expanded their business activities in transportation and launching services, communication satellites, and remote sensing. The present structure in the global commercial space market is indeed a promising scenario. The overall revenue from commercial space activities in 2005 was estimated to be $110 billions, of which $80 billion has been taken by satellite services industry. In 2009 and 2010, amidst a widespread international economic crisis the space industry proved resilient and demonstrated growth and expansion. (10/21)

India Plans Satellite Launches to Boost Transponder Space (Source: Indian Television)
A new Indian satellite will be launched by the end of the year to augment the C-Band capability, according to Antrix business development director R Parameswaran. Parameswaran said this will increase the transponder capacity and help the Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) program. He expected more satellites to be launched in the first and second quarter of next year and said this would vastly increase transponder availability by 2011-12. (10/21)

Space Systems Revenue Declines at Lockheed Martin (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin predicted on Tuesday that revenue growth would be less than previously expected in 2011, due largely to slower defense spending. The company also said its space work slowed during the third quarter. The company's Sunnyvale division, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, was the only one of four company segments with a year-over-year revenue decline. Space Systems' third-quarter revenue dropped 5 percent to just over $1.9 billion, down from nearly $2.1 billion in the third quarter of 2009. (10/21)

Group Aims for Stars with Satellite Project (Source: Central Florida Future)
Until Oct. 31, the UCF group KnightSat II will be accepting votes for its project idea in the Pepsi Refresh Project competition. If they finish in one of the top two spots, they will receive a $250,000 grant to fund their idea. KnightSat II is a team of engineering students who said they would use the grant to build a satellite. The satellite design they are developing will represent UCF in the University Nanosatellite Program, a national satellite competition that is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

This satellite, also called the KnightSat II, will test a system that could reduce space junk that orbits around the earth. "Once in orbit, the KnightSat II will deploy a gossamer sail," Schillo said, "which will increase the aerodynamic drag acting on the satellite." The design is almost complete and a model of the satellite is being built for UNP's final review in January. KnightSat II will be competing against 10 other schools, including MIT and Cornell University, for a chance to have their satellite launched. (10/21)

Highland Grove Elementary Students to Watch Discovery Lift Off for Last Time (Source: ABC)
Students got to study a topic of galactic proportions Wednesday at Highlands Grove Elementary. The topic? Space. Dana Kelly, who teaches at the school, has a history with NASA and Kennedy Space Center. She was a regional semifinalist back in 1985 for the teacher in space program. “You see that we are less then 100 miles away, less then 2 hours away and 90 percent of my children have never been to the Kennedy Space Center,” said Kelly.

This is the second year students will be able to be VIP's at the launch of a space shuttle -- and this year is a little more special. November 1st is the last launch of the Discovery. Students like Breanna and Gavin can't wait. (10/21)

Arianespace Says Long-Term Viability At Stake (Source: Aviation Week)
Arianespace is warning members of its supply chain and European governments that they must bear more of the operating costs for Europe’s expanding family of launcher systems if the systems are to remain viable in the face of growing competition. Managers hope by December to convince ESA member states to increase public financial support for the Ariane-5, Soyuz, and Vega launch systems, in particular by having the members assume launch facility maintenance and upkeep costs.

Le Gall is confident the different measures, if implemented, could return Arianespace to profitability and keep it competitive, not only with respect to new arrivals like SpaceX and reborn operators such as Sea Launch, but also against a resurgent—-and much more competitive-—ILS. Since its takeover by Proton prime contractor Khrunichev in May 2008, the U.S.-Russian launch provider has boosted its orderbook to 23 missions and sharply increased its launch rate. ILS expects to perform eight missions in 2010 and eight or nine in 2011. The total Proton manifest, including government missions, is expected to grow to 12-13 next year, against 12 this year and 10 in 2009 and 2008.

In a report made public last month, Khrunichev said it had invested $350 million since the acquisition of ILS, including $3.5 million for improved quality control hardware. This does not include the $230 million in new capital injected by the Russian government or outlays for the new Angara launch vehicle and Vostochny cosmodrome. Editor's Note: No mention here of Atlas and Delta rockets as viable commercial launch competitors. (10/21)

Can Starships Survive the Journey? (Source: Discovery)
The search for life on planets orbiting other stars will dominate astronomy for the remainder of this century (unless an incredible space phenomenon that was utterly unimagined pops up). By the beginning of the next century scientists will be planning on how to travel to other worlds to see alien life forms up close. This will at last provide incontrovertible evidence for astrobiology on a multicellular level.

By 2110 we will have mapped the surfaces of the nearest exoplanets to see oceans, storms, continents, and volcanoes. There will be photometric and spectroscopic evidence for forests and savannahs. We will have also cataloged numerous satellite companions. Once convinced a planet is inhabited (which may not satisfy all scientific skeptics), there will be endless wonder and speculation about the type of creatures that are living there. Imagine beholding the interworking of an entire alien biosphere.

But it would take a telescope with the effective diameter of the sun to actually take photographs of something the size of an elephant strolling on an exoplanet only 4.3 light-years away. (In fact the sun could be used as a gravitational lens to amplify the image of a planet, but that would not come close to providing the needed magnification.) Click here to read the article. (10/21)

Docking System Agreement Key to Global Space Policy (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
An agreement on a common docking interface for the International Space Station is pushing the program's partners closer to a global transportation policy, one that officials say is imperative for a collaborative exploration effort. The station's five partners recently agreed to technical standards for the docking and berthing mechanism.

Aboard the space station, the International Docking System Standard would permit visiting spacecraft to use any available port on the complex. NASA plans to launch two Common Docking Adapters to the space station in 2014 and 2016. Both docking systems will be carried to the outpost on H-2 Transfer Vehicles and bolted to the Harmony module at the forward end of the complex, according to NASA officials. (10/21)

Orbital Announces Third Quarter 2010 Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported its financial results for the third quarter of 2010. Third quarter 2010 revenues were $314.5 million, up 13% compared to $277.1 million in the third quarter of 2009. Third quarter 2010 operating income was $19.4 million, reflecting a 43% increase compared to $13.6 million in the third quarter of 2009. Net income was $10.6 million, in the third quarter of 2010 compared to net income of $9.4 million in the third quarter of 2009. The company generated strong new order and option exercise activity in the third quarter, which totaled about $580 million, and boosted year-to-date new business volume to just under $1.4 billion.” (10/21)

Space Coast Boosters Aim to Show the Positive (Source: Florida Today)
A plan to reverse the effects of negative press reports about coming job losses was presented at the annual meeting of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. "The EDC's Space Transition Public Relations Strategy is designed to capitalize on national media coverage to showcase our positive attributes and opportunities throughout the Space Coast," said an EDC official. "We're expecting that the space transition will trigger negative press," he added. "We want to counter that with a positive approach."

The positive media effort has three objectives: Demonstrate the Space Coast's competitive advantage for companies seeking a highly skilled high-tech workforce; Raise awareness of the diversity of the Space Coast's high-tech economy in sectors other than aerospace; Mitigate negative press regarding employment layoffs and space shuttle retirement. (10/21)

MDA Says it Has No Plans to Sell Space Unit (Source: Globe and Mail)
MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. has denied speculation that it is in talks to sell its space division. The statement Wednesday came out shortly after Bloomberg News reported that MDA, best known for its robotic space equipment, is in talks with private equity firms about a possible sale of part or all of the company. MDA said that it “is not evaluating a sale of its systems division or any portion thereof” but added that it “continually evaluates strategic alternatives” and “such alternatives may include various merger and acquisition transactions.” (10/21)

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