October 22, 2010

Virgin Galactic Plans Orbital Service (Sources: NewSpace Journal)
Sir Richard Branson said the development of an orbital vehicle is a long-term goal of Virgin Galactic and they would try to find ways to accelerate it. “Obviously we want to move on to orbital after we’ve got suborbital under our belts, and maybe even before that,” he said. He then mentioned NASA’s commercial crew development program and its request for proposals in the coming months. “Virgin Galactic is going to put forward proposals, and we plan to start work on an orbital program quite quickly.” Branson declined to provide any details but said the company would say more in the next three to four months. (10/22)

China Unveils its Own Version of Google Earth (Source: Guardian)
A Chinese government body has released its own online satellite mapping service, designed to compete with Google Earth. Google and China have been at odds since last year, when a serious hacking attack originating from China prompted Google to ultimately withdraw its search service from the mainland. Google had not applied for a internet mapping license in China, but Google's mapping service is accessible from computers on the mainland.

Chinese regulations issued in May require companies providing online map and location services to apply for a license. In order to apply, firms would have to keep map servers storing data within the country. Google said at the time that it was studying the new rules, which gives China the right to shut down providers that fail to qualify for a license. Mapping in China is still subject to state-secrecy restrictions, creating headaches for mining companies unable to source high-resolution deposit maps, and even for hikers. (10/22)

Cosmonaut Food Prices Skyrocket Due to Inflation (Source: AFP)
The price of food rations on board the International Space Station (ISS) has increased by nearly 50 percent over the past year due to inflation, a Russian official said. "Last year, the cosmonaut's daily ration in space cost about 11,000 rubles (250 euros), and today the cost is reaching 15,000 rubles." The increase is caused by price inflation on natural products used in making the rations, and rising costs of required tests and analyses, he said. Cosmonauts consume between 1.6 and 1.75 kilograms of food per day. (10/22)

Honeywell Boosts Full-Year Forecast as Profit Tops Estimates (Source: Bloomberg)
Honeywell boosted its full-year forecast after third-quarter profit topped estimates. Sales at all divisions rose on a year-over-year basis. Demand climbed at the Aerospace unit. Net income declined 18 percent to $499 million from $608 million a year earlier. Revenue climbed 9 percent to $8.39 billion. (10/22)

NASA Seeks Delay of Extra Space Shuttle Launch (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's top shuttle manager said that adding a third mission before the fleet's retirement next year would ensure the International Space Station continues to run at full capacity, and that the agency hoped to schedule the flight as late as possible in 2011. For now, that flight tentatively planned for late June is unfunded pending congressional approval of a 2011 budget, and John Shannon, the shuttle program manager, has told teams to treat it as a 50-50 proposition.

But he said the mission would provide important protection against the possibility that the $100 billion outpost could run short of supplies while new commercial spacecraft are developed to deliver cargo after the shuttle's retirement. (10/22)

NASA Shift to Private Firms Boosts Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A shifting direction at NASA bodes well for Spaceport America, a spaceport official said. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke about some of the changes within her agency, when addressing attendees on the third and last day of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces. A federal authorization bill signed into law last week allocates funding to solicit services from private aerospace companies, with the aim of taking astronauts and payloads to space. (10/22)

Spaceport Runway Dedicated in New Mexico Desert (Source: NewsWest-9)
Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, prospective astronauts and dozens of others interested in making commercial space travel a reality gathered Friday in the New Mexico desert to mark a major milestone. They celebrated completion of the runway at Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

The nearly two-mile long runway (now formally named the Gov. Bill Richardson Spaceway) is designed to support almost every aircraft in the world, day-to-day space tourism and payload launch operations. Virgin Galactic is the spaceport's anchor tenant and plans to use the facility to take tourists on flights into space, and state officials are seeking to add companies for other commercial space endeavors, such as research and payload delivery missions. (10/22)

LCROSS Satellite Workers Receive Popular Mechanics Award (Source: L.A. Daily Breeze)
The workers who built NASA's satellite that slammed into the moon in search of water last year, received Popular Mechanics magazine's 2010 Breakthrough Award for superior innovation. The satellite known as LCROSS was designed and built in Redondo Beach by workers of Northrop Grumman Corp. and NASA Ames Research Center. The award, presented this month, is an annual recognition of advances that will improve lives and expand human horizons. (10/22)

Replica Engines Recommended for Retired Orbiters – Flown SSMEs for HLV (Source: NasaSpaceFlightNow.com)
All three orbiters are set to donate their Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) to the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) program, following their final flights. A Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) meeting recommended the orbiters should instead gain Replica Shuttle Main Engines (RSMEs) – previously scrapped nozzles installed via an adaptor – for when the vehicles retire to exhibitions.

The additional nine SSMEs will boost the development program for the HLV – which is set to be Shuttle Derived (SD) – allowing them to participate in early testing and the opening test flights of the new vehicle. The PRCB meeting – conducted on Thursday – was presented with a Change Request (CR) document, which follows on from January’s proposal to delay the disposal of SSME assets, pending “future launch vehicle architecture” decisions. (10/22)

Huntsville Experts Give Laid-Off Space Workers a Peek Behind the Hiring Curtain (Source: Huntsville Times)
Human resources administrators - the people who recommend applicants to managers for jobs - pulled back the curtain last week to give laid-off Huntsville aerospace workers an inside peek at how hiring works. They recommended something old - networking - and something new - ways to "get past the computer screen" to an actual interview. Afterward, they even offered encouragement for "senior" workers who fear today's job market. (10/22)

Lunar Rush Far, Far Away as Earthlings Struggle With Laws in Space (Source: Wall Street Journal)
An international space treaty created at the height of the Cold War likely makes it very difficult for any party to claim rights to the lunar water scientists now say exists. That 1967 treaty, ratified by the U.S., China, India and 95 other countries, in effect prevents any nation from owning the moon.

The agreement reflects the concerns of the two superpowers at the time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, that space should be used peacefully, that no weapons of destruction should exist there, and that it should be used for the benefit of all mankind, according to legal experts. Yet technology and moon exploration have advanced in the past four decades. That is forcing lawyers to grapple with how international law can govern ownership rights in outer space. It is unlikely any corporation would undertake lunar resource-extraction without far more legal certainty that its rights would be legally protected.

Editor's Note: I've said this several times before: The U.S. should lead efforts to update international space treaties, to incentivize foreseeable types of private-sector space investment for exploration and development. (10/22)

China Moon Mission Moving Forward (Source: Beijing Review)
China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2, successfully completed its third and final braking on October 9, allowing the satellite to enter a 100 km-high lunar orbit, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC). The maneuver is significant not only because compared with its predecessor Chang'e-1, it is more challenging for Chang'e-2 to brake, as it must do so at a closer distance to the Moon and at a higher speed, but also because the success meant that the spacecraft would be able to begin scientific exploration activities soon. (10/22)

NASA Official: We Are Not Competitors (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
NASA's deputy administrator told a gathering of commercial space industry professionals here Thursday that the federal government and the private sector are partners, not competitors, in the future of space exploration. "We are in this together. We are in the trenches together, and we cannot turn our weapons on each other," NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver told those attending the sixth annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum on Thursday. (10/22)

Astronauts Hope Storm Doesn't Delay Launch (Source: WFTV)
NASA officials are hoping Tropical Storm Richard doesn't interfere with shuttle Discovery's launch in less than two weeks. NASA officials answered questions Thursday about the upcoming launch. Lead space shuttle flight director Bryan Lunney, who is flying on his 14th mission with Discovery, said the astronauts are ready to go and don't want any delays. (10/22)

New UCLA Research Provides Insights Into Space Weather, Could Benefit Satellites, Aircraft (Source: UCLA)
Settling decades of scientific debate, researchers from UCLA and the British Antarctic Survey have discovered the final link between electrons trapped in space and the glow of light from the upper atmosphere known as the diffuse aurora. The finding will help scientists better understand space weather and how space storms affect the Earth's atmosphere from the top down, with potential benefits for the satellite, power-grid and aviation industries, the researchers said. (10/22)

U.S. Must Be Ready to Meet Asteroid Threat, White House Science Adviser Says (Source: Space.com)
National emergency plans for natural disasters can also work in the unlikely scenario of an asteroid strike on the U.S., according to a letter to Congress by the White House's top science adviser. The 10-page letter by OSTP Director John Holdren adds that the U.S. has a responsibility to the world as the country most capable of detecting space rocks that threaten Earth. The Oct. 15 letter is addressed to the leaders of the House Committee on Science and Technology. (10/22)

Russia to Launch 8 Glonass Navigation Satellites in 2011-2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will put eight Glonass-M satellites into orbit in 2011-2013 to ensure the effective operation of its satellite navigation network, a Russian space industry official said. Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. The network requires 18 operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the entire territory of Russia and at least 24 satellites to provide navigation services worldwide. (10/22)

Enterprise Florida Developing State Aerospace Directory (Source: EFI)
Enterprise Florida is compiling a directory of Florida’s aviation/aerospace and defense companies, and their capabilities. The Directory will be distributed during Florida trade missions, international events (Paris, Farnborough and Singapore Air Shows), Florida’s network of international offices, and other international and domesitc programs. Click here for a short questionnaire and that must be completed and returned no later than Nov. 12. (10/22)

Mistrust Dilutes Goodwill at Global Space Exploration Conference (Source: Space News)
An Oct. 21 conference of the world’s spacefaring nations to discuss space exploration featured a heavy dose of good feelings but also highlighted the mistrust that will slow the effort: Germany’s suspicions of France, France’s fear of being dominated by the United States, Russia’s distrust of long-term U.S. government policy, the U.S. distaste for new international bureaucracies and many governments’ refusal to start multibillion-dollar investments.

Germany's representative said Germany wanted Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket to be center stage in Europe’s exploration strategy. But he complained (to France) that the Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to the space station scheduled for December has been moved to February to permit the vehicle to conduct three commercial launches. The ATV launch delay, which German officials attributed to French priorities, forced NASA, Russia and the other space station partners to adjust the station’s complicated traffic management.

France's representative urged all nations to go beyond the “natural annoyances” that happen when sovereign nations embark on a common enterprise. France's number one principle for space exploration is that the program is conducted “without exclusivity or appropriation of the project by one nation or another.” France is wary of a project in which the U.S. is the leader, although it was noted that the administration of President Obama, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, appear to be seeking a truly collaborative effort. (10/22)

Russia Likes NASA Leadership, But Not Other Elements of U.S. (Source: Space News)
Russia's delegate to the Global Space Exploration Conference said that he has many friends at NASA and considers them to be the salt of the earth. It is the other elements of the U.S. government that raise suspicions, he said. He said it is natural that a global exploration project would seek a leader, and that the leadership “will belong to one country —- of course the United States, as the most powerful space country. We would have no problems if all people in the U.S. were NASA people. Unfortunately, that is not the case, so we need to think about this leadership question.”

On the topic of Russia's exploration plans, he said: “Russia does not have an approved exploration program [because] Russia doesn’t have adequate resources to take on new obligations,” said Osipov, stressing that he was expressing his own opinions and not necessarily those of the Russian government. “Even if we had adequate resources, it’s unlikely we would be planning a Moon base or to fly [cosmonauts] to Mars. Why? Because one lesson we have learned is that space projects should not be politically driven. They should be based on expected results and on resource calculations only. (10/22)

Astrium Takes Majority Stake in ND Satcom (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES has sold a majority stake in its ND Satcom satellite ground system provider to Astrium Services in a transaction that SES expects will further its entry into the market for hosted payloads for military and other government agencies. Astrium Services, which owns Britain’s military telecommunications satellites as well as several Earth observation satellite services companies, is buying 75.1 percent of ND Satcom for an undisclosed price. SES will retain a 24.9 percent stake. (10/22)

NASA Deputy Recounts Battle for Commercial Crew Backing (Source: Space News)
Surrounded by supporters at an annual commercial spaceflight conference, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver was in a celebratory mood having won congressional backing last month for fostering development of crewed commercial spacecraft. Garver lauded enactment of a bill President Barack Obama signed into law Oct. 11 that largely backs his plan to cancel the nation’s Moon-bounded Constellation program and extend the life of the international space station through at least 2020, providing a government market for commercially operated cargo tugs and crew taxis.

The three-year NASA authorization does not fund NASA programs, though it sets guidelines for congressional appropriators to consider when drafting annual spending legislation. In her remarks, Garver was quick to assert the bill’s support for abandoning much of NASA’s $10 billion investment in the Moon-focused Constellation program, despite fierce opposition from both sides of the aisle. Seen by many as the architect of Obama’s new vision for NASA, Garver has spent months selling the plan within the agency and on Capitol Hill. (10/22)

Soot From Space Tourism Rockets Could Spur Climate Change (Source: AGU)
Rocket exhaust could become a significant contributor to global climate change in coming decades, according to a new study. The research finds that soot emitted by rockets — not their carbon dioxide emissions — has the greater potential to contribute to global climate change in coming decades. The researchers assume that a fast-growing suborbital space tourism market will develop over the next decade and examine the climate impact of soot and carbon dioxide emissions from 1,000 suborbital rocket flights per year, the approximate number advertised in recent materials promoting space tourism.

The study provides the first detailed look at how rockets using hydrocarbon fuel might affect Earth’s climate system. The researchers find that soot particles emitted by the proposed fleet of space tourism rockets would accumulate in a stratospheric layer at about 40 kilometers altitude, three times the typical altitude of airline traffic. These particles efficiently absorb sunlight that would otherwise reach the earth’s surface, causing projected changes in the circulation of the earth’s atmosphere from pole to pole. Unlike soot from coal power plants or even jet aircraft, which falls out of the atmosphere in days or weeks, particles injected by rockets into the stratosphere remain in the atmosphere for years. (10/22)

LCROSS Finds More Water Than Expected on Moon (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission confirmed that there is water at the south pole of the Moon -- more than expected. The Centaur upper stage of the rocket that launched LCROSS and its companion spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, was targeted to impact a crater on the south pole of the Moon last year. LCROSS was able to observe the impact for a few minutes before it, too, impacted the Moon.

Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, characterized the material that the Centaur impacted as "fluffy snow-covered dirt." He said the Moon's south pole has some of the coldest temperatures in the solar system and can "preserve water ice in a vacuum for billions of years." Wargo reported that they definitely saw water ice in the ejecta plume created by the Centaur impact, and it was 50 percent more than their initial estimates. (10/22)

NASA Awards Contract to Team FREDNET, Google Lunar Prize Contender (Source: Team FREDNET)
Team FREDNET (http://teamfrednet.org), the leader in open-source space exploration, officially announced that it has been awarded a NASA Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contract at the maximum government purchase value of $10.01 million. As a recipient of this ILDD contract, Team FREDNET will offer technical data relating to its robotic Google Lunar X PRIZE landing mission, which in-turn will influence the development of future NASA human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems. Among the partners in Team FREDNET is Broward Community College in South Florida. (10/22)

Kosmas Opponent Visits with Space Officials (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast will sponsor another candidate discussion on aerospace policy issues, this time with Sandy Adams, candidate for U.S. Congressional District 24. This policy forum will center on the substantive transition in the aerospace industry which has the potential for extreme effects on our economy. The meeting will take place on Oct. 28 in Cape Canaveral. The EDC has organized multiple forums like this to expose candidates of both parties to space industry issues. (10/22)

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