October 28, 2010

Denver Ballot Initiative Seeks Creation of Space Alien Affairs Commission (Source:
Initiated Ordinance 300, on the ballot in Denver Colorado, asks voters to decide whether Denver should create an "extraterrestrial affairs commission" that would "ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations". Click here for more. (10/24)

Potential Post Election Landscape Raises Big Questions About Budget Strategy (Source: Huffington Post)
If Republicans win a majority of seats in Congress, the new Tea Party-infused GOP would have to quickly confront the real-world consequences of its tax-cutting, budget-cutting, debt-reducing, anti-government rhetoric. Lame-duck Democrats probably will have to pass another short "continuing resolution" to cover funding of all government programs until the 112th Congress convenes for the first time on January 3. If that happens, President Obama will not get the priorities and new programs he wanted, and Republicans will get the chance to undo them.

But the GOP will have to quickly make good on their pledge to cut $100 billion in spending -- a number they have bragged about even while avoiding discussing painful, controversial specifics. Editor's Note: One of those specifics is NASA's budget. There is no pro-NASA, pro-exploration strategy that does not require a hefty increase in the agency's budget. Indeed, the GOP's pledge to cut overall government spending could actually reduce NASA's budget and leave the agency at the bottom of a big smoking hole. (10/28)

SpaceX Opens Office in Huntsville to Explore New Business (Source: Huntsville Times)
The high-profile commercial space company led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is opening an office in Cummings Research Park. "Huntsville is the Rocket City," spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said Wednesday night. "We want to be a part of it." The company, which is vying for contracts to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, isn't trumpeting its arrival. It will be a small office with a few employees as the company explores new business opportunities, Brost said. (10/28)

SpaceX Dragon Cleared For Launch, Awaiting First FAA Re-Entry License (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX is awaiting an FAA license to fly its Dragon capsule through the atmosphere, following launch on a Falcon 9 rocket targeted for Nov. 18 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch license was granted Oct. 15. The pending re-entry license will be the first ever issued by FAA, according to George Nield, FAA’s associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation. (10/28)

SpaceShipTwo Performs Second Glide Test (Source: NewSpace Journal)
The first SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Enterprise, performed a glide test on Thursday in the skies above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, according to observers as well as Virgin Galactic. No details about the flight test, other than that it was successful. (10/28)

New Wine to Celebrate Virginia's Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and Holly Grove Vineyards are pleased to announce ‘Genesis’, a new Virginia wine, with a very unique label celebrating the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and Virginia’s return to space. Billie Reed, the Space Authority’s Executive Director will give ‘Genesis’ to his NASA hosts when he attends the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in Florida. Jonathan Bess, the owner of Holly Grove Vineyards, discussed this idea with Spaceport officials while attending a presentation by Bigelow Aerospace. (10/28)

SES To Cover North America Using Fewer Slots (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on Oct. 27 said its business in emerging markets is growing as fast as hoped but that the mediocre long-term prospects in North America will lead to shutting down a few occupied orbital positions in the coming years. Luxembourg-based SES, which has 11 fully owned satellites under construction and is leasing capacity on a spacecraft being built for another operator, reiterated its forecast of 5 percent average annual revenue growth between 2010 and 2012. (10/28)

Raytheon Reports Third Quarter Results (Source: Raytheon)
Raytheon announced third quarter 2010 net sales of $6.3 billion, compared to $6.2 billion in the third quarter 2009. Operating cash flow from continuing operations reached $413 million, compared to $749 million in the third quarter 2009. (10/28)

Turksat Nearing Award of Two-satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
Turkey’s Turksat satellite fleet operator has received best-and-final offers from bidders vying to manufacture the Turksat 4A and Turksat 4B telecommunications satellites in a competition that does not include the company that has built most of the previous Turksat spacecraft, according to industry officials. Thales Alenia Space is sitting out this contest for reasons that remain unclear.

Turksat is already behind its stated schedule of announcing a winner in time to have the satellites in orbit in 2012, but it has received bids from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco) of Japan, Lockheed Martin Space Systems of the United States and a team proposing a satellite platform built by Orbital Sciences of the United States with a payload built by Astrium of Europe, officials said. (10/28)

Superhero Suit to Strengthen Astronauts' Bones (Source: New Scientist)
With its stitching clearly visible and reference lines drawn in marker pen, the stretchy superhero-blue suit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Man Vehicle Laboratory doesn't look like much. But if it works as planned it could offer orbiting astronauts a replacement for something they are sorely missing: gravity.

The microgravity of orbital flight is tough on the bones. Even with regular exercise, an astronaut can lose 1.5 per cent of the mass of some bones in the hips and lower back in just one month. That is similar to the bone loss experienced by a post-menopausal woman in a year. To combat the problem, Russian cosmonauts wear space suits designed to mimic gravity. Bungee cords on the suit's arms and legs exert a force that simulates the body's weight. But these suits are difficult to wear for long periods, and it is not clear how effective they are in preventing bone loss.

The team at MIT, led by engineer James Waldie, now based in Melbourne, Australia, has designed a suit that should be more comfortable. Made of an elastic material, the suit is deliberately cut too short for the wearer, and has stirrups that wrap around the feet so that it stretches when the wearer puts it on. Click here to read the article. (10/28)

Bigelow Aerospace Shows Off Bigger, Badder Space Hotels (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Bigelow recently displayed concepts for the various configurations of clusters of its workhorse BA-330 module. It's an impressive structure—45 feet long, 22 feet in diameter and containing 12,000 cubic feet of volume. (In one scheme shown by Bigelow, nine BA-330s were connected to create a space hospital with more than 100,000 cubic feet of habitable space.)

Capable of comfortably supporting six crew members, according to Bigelow, each BA-300 module is more than 10 times as large as the dual-Orion configuration that Lockheed Martin has devised for its Plymouth Rock asteroid mission. In fact, during one panel discussion, Bigelow tweaked the Lockheed Martin representative sitting next to him, claiming that "Orion is unnecessary." Bigelow joked that he wanted to make sure that crews returned from deep space alive and well—or, at least, without turning on one another after suffering attacks of claustrophobia. (10/28)

China is on Path to 'Militarization of Space' (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
The Asian space race is moving along slowly, but steadily – and China is in the lead, with technology that could give it a military advantage over the US. China looks set to pull ahead in the Asian space race to the moon, putting a spacecraft into lunar orbit Oct. 6 in a preparatory mission for an unmanned moon landing in two or three years. If successful, it will put China a nose ahead of its Asian rivals with similar lunar ambitions – India and Japan – and signal a challenge to the American post-cold-war domination in space.

Compared with the American and Soviet mad dashes into space in the late 1950s and '60s, Asia is taking its time – running a marathon, not a sprint. Meanwhile, some have pointed out that China's moonshot, like all space programs, has valuable potential military offshoots. China's space program is controlled by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is steadily gaining experience in remote communication and measurement, missile technology, and antisatellite warfare through missions like Chang'e 2. The security implications of China's space program are not lost on India, Japan, or the U.S. (10/28)

DOD Space Fence Design Moves to Next Phase (Source: USAF)
Electronic Systems Center officials released a request for proposal announcement Oct. 20, 2010, for the next phase of a program that will revamp the way space objects and debris are identified and tracked. The Space Fence program, with a total anticipated value of more than $3.5 billion, will deliver a system of geographically dispersed ground-based sensors to provide timely assessment of space events, said program manager Linda Haines. "That will allow us to reduce susceptibility to collision or attack, improve the space catalog accuracy and provide safety of flight," she said. (10/28)

ATK Calls Rocket Engine Ready for Flight (Source: Daily Herald)
Officials at Alliant Techsystems say recent testing shows their Utah-built rocket motor is ready to fly. But they say they're not sure of federal funding. ATK Aerospace Systems executive Charlie Precourt said the company's next-generation Ares-1 rocket motor performed as designed during the Aug. 31 ground test in Promontory and is ready for flight testing. The two-minute test produced a fiery blast and some 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower. Another ground test is tentatively planned next fall to see how high heat would affect the motor. (10/28)

NASA Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water (Source: NASA)
The ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis. Stratified soil layers with different compositions close to the surface led the rover science team to propose that thin films of water may have entered the ground from frost or snow. The seepage could have happened during cyclical climate changes during periods when Mars tilted farther on its axis. The water may have moved down into the sand, carrying soluble minerals deeper than less-soluble ones. (10/28)

Debt-Free Sea Launch Emerges From Bankruptcy (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
After winning court and regulatory approval of its Chapter 11 reorganization under majority Russian ownership, California-based Sea Launch emerged from a 16-month bankruptcy process Wednesday with plans to resume satellite delivery missions in 2011. Sea Launch's plan of reorganization was approved July 27 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware and cleared the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment on Sept. 8, leading to the reshaped company's effective date of Oct. 27. (10/28)

Neutron Star Packs Two Suns' Mass in London-Sized Space (Source: BBC)
Astronomers have discovered what they say is the mightiest neutron star yet. The super-dense object, which lies some 3,000 light-years from Earth, is about twice as massive as our Sun. That is 20% greater than the previous record holder. Like all neutron stars, the object's matter is packed into an incredibly small space probably no bigger than the center of a big city like London. (10/28)

Delta Launch Delayed by Problem with Booster (Source: Lompoc Record)
The launch of a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base tentatively has been delayed 48 hours due to a problem related to the space booster. Liftoff of the rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg now will shoot for 7:20 p.m. Sunday, officials said Wednesday evening. The launch initially was set for Friday night. The United Launch Alliance 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. (10/28)

United Launch Alliance Announces Credit Accord (Source: Denver Post)
United Launch Alliance has announced a syndication of a new $400 million, three-year senior unsecured revolving credit agreement. Officials of the Centennial-based satellite-launch company said the agreement will provide more flexibility for service and capitalize on industry trends. The transaction announced Wednesday was led by U.S. Bank joined by BNP Paribas and Wells Fargo. (10/28)

Gifford's Husband Scheduled to Meet Twin in Space (Source: Fox 11 AZ)
While Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been concentrating on beating back Kelly's challenge, her mind also has been in space. Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, is expected to be the commander of Endeavor, the final shuttle mission for NASA. The mission, which launches in February, will bring equipment to the International Space Station. Upon arrival, he expects to see his twin brother, Scott, who is the commander of the station for the next six months. (10/28)

Research Rockets Rain Down on Alaska Refuge (Source: Alaska Dispatch)
Largely unnoticed by all but the wildlife and a handful of wilderness wanderers, the U.S government has, for decades now, been slamming rockets into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of northern Alaska. The bombing, NASA says, is nothing to worry about; it's merely a little fallout from science. Hikers who have stumbled on the debris, though, say it is more than a little unsettling. "These rockets would kill anyone near the impact site and would destroy a cabin," said Brad Meiklejohn, who found the tail end of a rocket in the Wind River drainage of the Brooks Range this summer and then started examining the debris field.

"There was thick, half-inch metal shrapnel over a 100-foot radius around the rockets." Not to worry, say the scientists. The rockets come from the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Poker Flats Research Range and are used almost entirely for auroral research, which means they only go up and come down in the winter when the aurora borealis is active over the North. Rare is the traveler in ANWR in the winter, but Poker Flats doesn't take even that for granted, said Kathe Rich, operations controller at the launch facility. "We also do flyovers," she said. (10/28)

Obama Welcomes Chilean Mine Rescue Heroes (Source: Washington Post)
President Barack Obama welcomed some of the heroes of the Chilean mine rescue to the White House on Thursday. He met with some of the Americans involved in the rescue of 33 miners earlier this month. The rescuers were recruited from NASA and several U.S. businesses. (10/28)

Russia Ready to Discuss Training Ukrainian Astronauts (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is ready to consider training Ukrainian astronauts as soon as it gets an official request from Kiev, the head of Roscosmos said. "For the first time they [Ukrainian officials] raised the issue seriously. This requires serous and thorough preparations," Anatoly Perminov said. He said that the two neighbors have no agreements on the issue, adding that the possibility of taking Ukrainian astronauts to the Space Station should be agreed with all states, participating in the project. "Preparing a special agreement may take about a year," he added. (10/28)

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