October 27, 2010

Moonwalker Shares Thoughts on America's Journey Into Space (Source: WPTV)
Retired Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell flew aboard the Apollo 14 mission and spent almost ten hours working on the surface of the moon. With the 40th anniversary of Apollo 14's journey fast approaching, Mitchell expressed optimism about future expeditions on the lunar landscape and into outer space.

As for the Space Shuttle program being set to retire next year, Mitchell says there are good reasons for it. One is economics. He states "it was a necessary step, I believe, because our economic system had virtually collapsed on us... Going back to the moon is important, but not nearly as important as getting the world economic system up and humming again." The second reason for the shuttle retirement he cites, is technology. Mitchell says "The shuttle is almost 30 years old now. They're all old machines." (10/27)

Russian Progress Supply Ship Launches to Space Station (Source: CBS)
An unmanned Russian cargo ship loaded with three tons of supplies blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday and set off after the International Space Station. Liftoff was timed for roughly the moment Earth's rotation carried the launch pad into the plane of the space station's orbit and as luck would have it, the lab complex was almost directly over Baikonur. (10/27)

General Dynamics Third-Quarter Earnings Rise (Source: AP)
General Dynamics says its third-quarter earnings rose 14 percent on strengthening sales for its business jets, military and commercial ships and technology support systems. The defense contractor also raised its forecast for the year. The company earned $650 million, compared with year-ago earnings of $572 million. Revenue rose 4 percent to $8 billion. (10/27)

Northrop Grumman Reports Third Quarter 2010 Financial Results (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman's third quarter 2010 earnings increased to $489 million, from $464 million in the third quarter of 2009. Net earnings for the 2010 third quarter increased to $497 million, from $490 million in the prior year period. Third quarter 2010 sales increased 4 percent to $8.7 billion from $8.35 billion. (10/27)

Macdonald Dettwiler Profit Rises 34 Percent (Source: Reuters)
Canadian satellite and data distribution company Macdonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) experienced a net profit jump of 34 percent in the third quarter. MDA made C$38.3 million ($37.2 million) on revenue of C$263 million in the three months to Sept. 30. That compared with a net profit of C$28.5 million on revenue of C$245.6 million in the same period a year earlier. (10/27)

NASA's "A-Train" Expands Earth Science (Source: NASA)
The "A-Train" formation of satellites —- which currently includes Aqua, CloudSat, Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) and Aura satellites —- barrels across the equator each day at around 1:30 p.m. local time each afternoon, giving the constellation its name; the "A" stands for "afternoon." Together, these four satellites contain 15 separate scientific instruments that observe the same path of Earth's atmosphere and surface at a broad swath of wavelengths.

At the front of the train, Aqua carries instruments that produce measurements of temperature, water vapor, and rainfall. CloudSat, a cooperative effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and CALIPSO, a joint effort of the French space agency and NASA, have high-tech laser and radar instruments that offer three-dimensional views of clouds and airborne particles called aerosols. And the caboose, Aura, has a suite of instruments that produce high-resolution vertical maps of greenhouse gases, among many other atmospheric constituents.

In coming months, the A-Train will expand with the launch of NASA's aerosol-sensing Glory satellite and the carbon-tracking Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch the Global Change Observation Mission-Water (GCOM-W1), which will monitor ocean circulation. Meanwhile, a fifth satellite, France’s Polarization and Anistropy of Reflectances for Atmospheric Science coupled with Observations from a Lidar (PARASOL), which studies aerosols, is easing out of an A-Train orbit as its fuel supplies dwindles. (10/27)

Weather Threatens Friday's Delta 2 Launch from California (Source: Lompoc Record)
A storm system set to arrive later this week is threatening plans to launch a Delta 2 rocket Friday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Blastoff is set for 7:20 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-2. Instead of having several minutes to get the rocket off the ground, the team has just one shot a day to launch the booster so the satellite is placed where it needs to be in space.

The Delta will carry the fourth COSMO-SkyMed spacecraft, an Earth-imaging satellite built by Thales Alenia for the Italian Space Agency and Italian Defense Ministry. The small window each day won’t be helped by the Central Coast’s rainy fall. Launch weather officers at Vandenberg are calling for a 70-percent likelihood that conditions will force a delay. (1/27)

Rep. Napolitano and Astronaut Jose Hernandez Visit Local Schools (Source: Rep. Napolitano)
Rep. Grace F. Napolitano hosted astronaut José Hernández as he visited Pueblo School in Pomona, 4th Street Elementary in East L.A., and Lampton Elementary in Norwalk, sharing his story with students and encouraging them to seek higher education. Hernández visited the three schools at the request of Rep. Napolitano. “Today is a great day for our schools,” Napolitano said. “We are honored to have José Hernández here to motivate our students to reach for the stars.” (10/27)

NASA Ups Ante In Commercial Crew (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has unveiled a $200-million solicitation to beef up its current $50-million investment in commercially provided crew transportation concepts, with the intention of awarding multiple contracts by March. Companies have until Dec. 13 to submit proposals for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev 2) program, a follow-on to a current program that is funding work by Sierra Nevada Corp., Boeing Co., United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Paragon Space Development. (10/27)

Historic KSC Launch Pad 39-B Dismantled (Source: WESH)
Forty years of space history is being demolished at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral as crews worked to begin dismantling historic launch pad 39-B. It is not yet clear when launch pad 39-B will make history again. The pad is one of two used for both the Apollo and Shuttle programs. Shuttle Discovery is prepared for its next flight on the only remaining pad, 39-A, where it is set to launch Monday. The last time pad 30-B was used it launched an Aries 1X, which was to be the rocket to launch astronauts to the moon again. The Aries program has since been canceled. (10/27)

New Mexico Spaceport Sets Stage for Commercial Space Race (Source: AP)
Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson shook hands five years ago to build the world's first dedicated spaceport. With the runway 45 miles north of Las Cruces complete, and the terminal and hangar facility nearly done, they see their partnership as a major milestone for the world's burgeoning commercial space tourism industry. It's only a matter of time now -- and not much time -- before the industry starts to take off, experts say.

Branson and Richardson predict this place in southern New Mexico will be a hot spot in the next nine to 18 months. But it won't be the only one. The commercial space industry is rapidly developing with companies like SpaceX seeking to supply the International Space Station for NASA. Other firms, including Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace are testing systems that would carry unmanned payloads to space.

Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos is also in the race with Blue Origin, a Washington state company that plans to compete as a space taxi. Boeing Co. has lined up Virginia-based Space Adventures to sell seats on the seven-person spaceship it wants to build to fly to the International Space Station starting in 2015. Space Adventures currently sells seats on trips to the space station aboard the Russian-built Soyuz spaceship. (10/27)

Clash May Be Brewing over Galileo Funding Woes (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system, now confronting the financial trouble its backers have known was coming for two years, might need to be labeled “too big to fail” in the manner of the U.S financial institutions that were saved from ruin by government cash, a European parliamentarian official said. The program has repeatedly been on shaky financial ground, and at one point was saved by an unusual — and still-debated — maneuver that included using surplus agricultural-support funds to cover Galileo’s most-urgent needs.

Galileo is intended as a constellation of 30 satellites in medium Earth orbit to provide positioning, navigation and timing services worldwide, similar to what the U.S. GPS system does today. To date only 14 Galileo satellites are under contract, along with four more test vehicles that are so late — launches are scheduled in mid- and late-2011 — that they now might be incorporated into the operational network. The program has yet to secure funding to launch four of these 18 satellites, and money to field the rest of the constellation is, for the moment, nowhere to be found.

Similarly, the full ground network has yet to be built because of financial constraints. The European Commission wants the first 18 spacecraft, which will provide a rudimentary service but nothing like what was promised, in orbit in 2014. The remaining satellites will be launched as funds are made available. But the current financial crisis has caused some European government officials to consider once-heretical ideas including seeking a non-European rocket to launch the satellites, and making do with a constellation of perhaps 24 satellites. (10/27)

Want to See Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Hurrah? Here's How (Source: Space.com)
Record crowds by the thousands are expected to turn out Monday to watch NASA's space shuttle Discovery soar to space for the last time. Luckily, a shuttle launch is such a bright spectacle that anyone on Florida's Space Coast can get a decent view. The shuttle is poised to blast off on Nov. 1 at 4:40 p.m. EDT to make one last delivery trip to the International Space Station.

Tickets are scarce, but there are still some steps spectators can take to make sure they have a memorable experience watching shuttle Discovery launch. Click here to see the options. (10/27)

Has Dark Matter Finally Been Seen? Time Will Tell (Source: Space.com)
In a new finding that could have game-changing effects if borne out, two astrophysicists think they've finally tracked down the elusive signature of dark matter. This invisible substance is thought to make up much of the universe — but scientists have little idea what it is. They can only infer the existence of dark matter by measuring its gravitational tug on the normal matter that they can see. Now, after sifting through observations of the center of our Milky Way galaxy, two researchers think they've found evidence of the annihilation of dark matter particles in powerful explosions. (10/27)

Dead Spacecraft Walking (Source: NASA Science)
A pair of NASA spacecraft that were supposed to be dead last year are instead flying to the Moon for a breakthrough mission in lunar orbit. "Their real names are THEMIS P1 and P2, but I call them 'dead spacecraft walking,'" says Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA, principal investigator of the THEMIS mission. "Not long ago they appeared to be doomed, but now they are beginning an incredible new adventure."

Their original mission was going well, except for one thing: Occasionally, they would pass through the shadow of Earth. The solar powered spacecraft were designed to go without sunlight for as much as three hours at a time, so a small amount of shadowing was no problem. But as the mission wore on, their orbits evolved and by 2009 the pair was spending as much as 8 hours a day in the dark.

The team brainstormed a solution. Because the mission had gone so well, the spacecraft still had an ample supply of fuel--enough to go to the Moon. NASA approved the trip and in late 2009, they headed away from the shadows of Earth. With a new destination, the mission needed a new name. The team selected ARTEMIS, the Greek goddess of the Moon. It also stands for "Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. (10/27)

Teen Sailor Lost at Sea Meets NASA Rescuers (Source: Space.com)
Lost and alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a furious storm, things were looking bleak for 16-year-old Abby Sunderland. Sunderland was on a mission to be the youngest person to sail the world solo and nonstop, a record previously held by her older brother Zac. But her 40-foot (12-meter)-long vessel, Wild Eyes, was damaged in the storm, leaving her stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Sunderland activated her emergency signaling devices and NASA's Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system pinpointed her exact location in less than an hour during the aggressive storm. She was rescued two days later. (10/27)

The Race to the Red Planet (Source: FOX News)
A 50-million-mile target has been set, a straight spaceshot with a clear (though distant) goal. But who will make the first footprint on Mars? Though both Russia and China have put men in space and say they hope someday to set foot on the moon, the United States remains the only country to do so. Yet Russia and China and some other countries have also publicly articulated a vision for manned space exploration that includes a more distant target: Mars. Click here to read the article. (10/27)

Billionaires Wanted for Starship Plan (Source: MSNBC)
For some billionaires, space travel is a cause worth big bucks. The examples range from Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson, who's putting together what's likely to be the first suborbital spaceline, to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who is backing the publicity-shy Blue Origin space venture (and benefiting from NASA funding). But how far are deep-pocketed space fans willing to go? Pete Worden, the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, recently hinted that billionaires are being recruited to kick in contributions for a deep-space mission known as "the Hundred Year Starship."

The idea builds on the long-discussed concept of sending people on one-way missions to space destinations, in hopes of jump-starting colonization of the final frontier. Worden is quoted as saying NASA has already committed $100,000 to the project, with DARPA providing another $1 million in funding. Worden said he has discussed the potential price tag for one-way trips to Mars with Google co-founder Larry Page, telling him such a mission could be done for $10 billion. "His response was, 'Can you get it down to $1 [billion] or $2 billion?' So now we're starting to get a little argument over the price," Worden was quoted as saying. (10/27)

China Kicks Off Manned Space Station Program (Source: Xinhua)
China has formally begun its manned space station program, aiming to complete construction of a "relatively large" manned space laboratory around 2020. China was aiming to develop and launch the first part of a space laboratory before 2016, focusing on breakthroughs in living conditions for astronauts and research applications. The country would develop and launch a core cabin and a second laboratory module around 2020, which would be assembled in orbit around the earth into a manned space station. (10/27)

Arianespace Expects Potential Growth in Asian Market (Source: Xinhua)
Arianespace, the world's leading launch service company, said it looked forward to the future growth of satellite-launching business in the Asia-Pacific region. Arianespace expects the business in the region would cover about 40 percent of the company's business around the world in the future. Up to now, the satellite launching business in the Asia-Pacific region accounted for about one third of the total business of the company.

Arianespace opened a representative office in Tokyo in 1986, the company had supported the satellite industry in Asia for more than 20 years, covering about 70 percent of the regional launch market. Founded in 1980, Arianespace serves 76 customers representing 101 countries. As of Oct. 1, 2010, Arianespace had launched a total of 283 payloads, accounting for more than half of all the commercial satellites now in service worldwide. (10/27)

Space Leaders Discuss Operating in Resource-Constrained Environments (Source: AFSC)
A discussion panel consisting of the Honorable Peter Teets, the Honorable Keith R. Hall and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Neil Beer, moderated by retired Air Force Col. Jack Anthony, focused on "The Future: Way ahead in a competitive, resource-constrained environment...lessons learned." Click here to read a rundown of their comments. (10/27)

France To Boost ESA Contribution Next Year (Source: Space News)
The French government and the French space agency signed a new five-year budget contract that provides a 10.2 percent increase in France's spending at the European Space Agency (ESA) starting in 2011. The increase, which will bring the French contribution to the 18-nation ESA to $1.06 billion a year, is less than the 12.4 percent increase that CNES officials had been counting on until earlier this year. But the ministry said it would enable France to meet its commitments to its ESA partners for programs already agreed to, while also permitting France to pay off its debt to ESA by 2015. (10/27)

Mystery Solved: Why Do NASA Space Shuttles Look So Dirty? (Source: Space.com)
They're big and fast and fly in space, but NASA's space shuttles are far from being shiny white spaceships straight off the factory floor. Case in point: Space shuttle Discovery, as it nears retirement, wears its age with pride. Discovery is NASA's oldest flying space shuttle and the most-flown of the agency's three-orbiter fleet. But after 26 years of spaceflight (Discovery first launched in August 1984), the shuttle shows its age. Its white and black exterior is marred with black streaks.

It turns out, there's a reason. Discovery and other shuttles earn their weathering mainly from the searing heat of re-entry through Earth's atmosphere, when they are subjected to scorching hot temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. While NASA engineers routinely inspect each shuttle for dings and damage after each flight, they only replace equipment that really needs it. That means insulation blankets, tiles and other gear – even if they look dirty or worn – stay on the ship if they can still do their job. (10/27)

ULA Pair Veterans of Delta Rocket Program (Source: Santa Maria Times)
As the Delta 2 program marks a half century of launches this year, two workers at Vandenberg Air Force Base have a long history of helping keep the rocket flying. United Launch Alliance employees Bill Sobczak and Stephanie Gartrell have worked on the Delta rocket since the 1980s, a span when the site has seen some years pass without any liftoffs and others with missions occurring almost monthly. Click here to read their story. (10/27)

NASA Officials Concerned Over Continuing STS-135 Uncertainty (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) have echoed Shuttle workforce concerns from Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon about prolonging the current uncertainty about the status of the proposed STS-135 mission. Lawmakers authorized NASA to fly Atlantis’ mission, though it continues to lack the appropriation of funding. The ASAP met at JSC last week for its fourth quarterly meeting.

“The plan we have put in place allows us to carry through enough money to be able to keep the program going and make the decision on whether we fly 135 as late as possible,” noted Mr Shannon during preflight briefings at JSC. “We really can’t make that decision under a continuing resolution – we need an appropriations and I’m not sure when that is going to show up, but if it shows up even as late as February or March, we can keep the program intact to preserve the option to fly 135 in the summer time.” (10/27)

NASA Spacecraft to Get Historically Close View of Comet Next Week (Source: AIA)
NASA says its Deep Impact spacecraft will make a historic close encounter when it comes within 435 miles of the comet Hartley 2 next week. The fly-by will take place Nov. 4, and it is part of a NASA effort to learn more about the formation of the solar system through the study of comets. (10/27)

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