October 3, 2010

True Progress Awaits NASA Appropriation Approval (Source: Space Politics)
Because NASA is operating under a Continuing Resolution, it is still bound by language in the FY10 appropriations bill that prevents NASA from terminating Constellation or starting up replacement efforts. “We are still living under the appropriations language [so] will not be terminating any contracts and, of course, can’t have any entirely new starts,” said Lori Garver. “Those changes will have to wait until an approved appropriations bill.” However, she said that with the authorization bill eliminating the uncertainty about NASA’s future direction, it’s possible to reshape those continuing Constellation contracts. “We definitely feel now that we can direct them with more clarity from that bill.”

One other area that may be in flux in the near term is work on a heavy-lift launch vehicle, as directed in the bill. While the legislation is rather specific about the type of HLV NASA should develop, Garver said there may be some room to maneuver to keep other options open. “I think the trade space continues to be open on what type of vehicle we will have,” she said, adding that they may get “some additional guidance” from appropriators. “There’s still a lot of ability on the part of NASA to work with our stakeholders on what exactly is included in our new heavy lift launch vehicle.” (10/1)

Gleise 581G: Great Place to Visit, But I wouldn't Want to Live There (Source: What's New)
The excitement was palpable; "This really is the first Goldilocks planet," gushed co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. "Goldilocks" is a reference to the planet’s orbit, smack in the middle of the habitable zone of the star, Gliese 581. The NASA and NSF press releases came complete with an artist’s rendering of a lovely planet with patches of blue suggesting the presence of water. Of course, water would not appear blue in the red glow of Gleise 581, a red dwarf.

How could scientifically unsophisticated viewers be expected to understand that the information content of this image, coming from the top science agencies of the world's leading space power, was less than zero? Alas, the planet is tide-locked, always exposing the same face to its red-dwarf sun; Goldilocks must eat her porridge straddling the Terminator separating the too-cold dark side of GL581g and the too-hot illuminated side. The sad part is there was no need for the hype. (10/1)

Martians: Could the Answer be Closer to Home? (Source: What's New)
There are many astrobiologists--perhaps realizing that we will never travel to another star--who insist the prospects for finding life, or at least fossil life, on Earth's nearest planetary neighbour remain high in spite of past disappointments. They point to salt deposits as evidence of a warmer and wetter past. The danger is that frustrated scientists will give in to the "bungee jumpers," who are more interested in adventure than in trying to find an answer to some profound question.

They want a manned mission to conduct the search, but humans would be committed to remain on Mars for 18 months, waiting for the next conjunction with Earth. It's not a pretty picture; countless millions of Earth organisms will hitch a ride to Mars in every human gut, and multiply in their excrement. We would find life on Mars, but it would look familiar. Mars should be quarantined. (10/1)

Lunacy Averted: Constellation is Officially Dead (Source: What's New)
Perhaps someday the far side of the moon will be a quiet spot to listen for radio messages from across the galaxy. For now, Congress decided it's time to stop looking back at the moon and look forward. Constellation, the program that was to have sent astronauts back to the moon to establish an outpost without a purpose, was cancelled by legislation written by the Senate and passed by the House. The bill also extends the life of the shuttle for one last trip to the ISS in 2011. However, NASA must then switch to private contractors to ferry passengers and supplies to the largely forgotten, but still costly, ISS. Perhaps next year they can find a way to shut the ISS down without publicly acknowledging that it had been a pitiful mistake. (10/1)

Registration Opens for Spirit Of Innovation Awards (Source: Conrad Foundation)
The Conrad Foundation challenges high school students to create innovative products using science, technology, and entrepreneurship to solve real-world, 21st century problems. Registration is now open for the 2010-2011 Spirit of Innovation Awards. If you are a high school student (13 to 18 years old), or if you know a high school student, or know someone who knows a high school student please visit http://www.conradawards.org. (10/1)

Dos Pueblos High's Abo-Shaeer Named a MacArthur Fellow (Source: CSA)
For the last nine years, Dos Pueblos High School teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer has been changing the lives of students — especially those at the renowned Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy he leads. Earlier this month, he received news that will change his. Late Monday, the MacArthur Foundation announced that Abo-Shaeer, 38, has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, one of 23 recipients of a $500,000 stipend from the foundation. (9/28)

XCOR Applauds Congressional Passage of NASA Authorization Bill (Source: CSA)
XCOR Aerospace applauds the passage of a landmark NASA funding authorization bill that will accelerate the commercial space transportation industry with billions of new funding for research and development, commercial crew, and other critical missions that will drive new commercial space markets. Further, the bill preserves funding for NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program, which promotes regular, frequent, and predictable access to the edge of space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads which is critical to broadening the base of future space markets through low cost access to space. (9/30)

SpaceShipTwo to Resume Captive Carry Flights from California Spaceport (Source: Aviation Week)
Scaled Composites is poised to resume captive carry flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) with the return to flight of the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) launch aircraft. WK2 was damaged Aug. 19 in a landing gear failure. The unconventional four-engine mothership resumed flight tests at Mojave, Calif., on Sep. 13 following repairs to the left vertical tail and modifications to the main landing gear. The undercarriage was beefed up with what senior Scaled management describes as a minor modification, plus an additional fail-safe redundancy. (9/28)

Virgin Galactic Slows Satellite Launcher Plans (Source: BBC)
Virgin Galactic's satellite launching rocket, LauncherOne, that once attracted $110 million in investment is now in doubt. LauncherOne's manager has departed and the space tourism company's chief executive is talking only about future possibilities for the rocket. The rocket would take satellites weighing up to 200kg (440lbs) into low-Earth orbit for $1-2 million, air-launched from Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft.

In July 2009, Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investment offered Virgin Galactic $110m for LauncherOne development, if further studies proved the business case. Later that year, Virgin hired Adam Baker to be its general manager for small satellite launch and to conduct those studies. Dr Baker had previously worked for Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), which was interested in working with Virgin Galactic on the project.

But SSTL backed out after attempts to raise some feasibility funding from the then British National Space Centre (now the UK Space Agency) did not succeed. Dr Baker left Virgin Galactic last month and there is no clear explanation from the company as to why the project is not set to follow Mr Whitehorn's timetable. (10/3)

Saudi Group Signs Agreements with NASA (Source: Kuwait News Agency)
Saudi Arabia city of King Abdulaziz for Science and Technology (KACST) signed here on Saturday two agreements in the fields of Space Geodesy and Aeronautics in addition to a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) in the fields of space and aviation with NASA. The signing ceremony came following the opening session of the Saudi International Conference for Space and Aviation which was held here today and co-organized by KACST and NASA. The Conference was attended by a number of international scientists, astronauts and experts specialized in the field of space science and technology. (10/3)

Turkey to Launch Intelligence Satellite in 2012 (Source: Xinhua)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would launch a national intelligence satellite in 2012. The intelligence satellite named "Gokturk" was being built by Turkish engineers. Turkey will launch RASAT, the first observation satellite designed and produced by Turkish engineers, from Yasny Launch Base located in a southwestern Russian blast bordering Kazakhstan this year. (10/2)

Commercial Space Effort Gets Boost From FAA (Source: Space.com)
The FAA has taken some big steps to help push commercial spaceflight forward with two new programs to study and streamline the emerging industry. In the last two months, the FAA has launched an online lessons-learned database dedicated to the private space transportation industry, as well as a new center to serve as its hub for commercial spaceflight issues.

The new database, announced Sept. 24, creates a way for people in the nascent field to share useful information quickly and easily, FAA officials said. The idea is to improve the safety of commercial launch and re-entry activities. FAA has a similar database covering commercial air travel. But the FAA is doing more than compiling and helping share information. The agency has also created a new Center of Excellence to study and address the challenges of commercial spaceflight. The Center is a consortium made up of industry, universities and government agencies, led by New Mexico State University. (10/3)

Glory's Launch Delayed by Spacecraft, Rocket Reviews (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A problem with the Glory satellite's solar array system and continued engineering work to clear the Taurus launcher for flight are delaying the start of a $424 million NASA mission to investigate climate change. Managers tentatively reset Glory's launch for Feb. 23 to give teams more time to prepare the satellite and Taurus XL rocket. The Feb. 23 date is pending approval from the Air Force range in California. The satellite was supposed to ship this month to the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Liftoff was previously scheduled for Nov. 22. (10/3)

Historic 'Mars Antenna' in Mojave Desert Undergoing Repairs (Source: LA Times)
Frequented more by packs of stray burros than by cars, the road is a lonely one. Thirty-five miles north of Barstow, 30 minutes from the nearest highway, it ambles through parched desert before dropping into a low valley. Here, where the pavement ends, the great antenna rises.

"Only this isn't just any ordinary antenna," said Peter Hames, who oversees the massive structure for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "This is one of the main contributors to our understanding of the solar system." Deep Space Station 14 — informally dubbed the Mars antenna because its initial task, in 1966, was to track a spacecraft after it flew past Mars. Its most eye-catching element is its parabolic dish, which stretches nearly the length of a football field and weighs nearly 2,000 tons.

As the decades have passed, however, the 44-year-old edifice has grown increasingly troublesome. By last year, maintenance crews were spending almost 20 hours a week repairing it. So in March, in anticipation of a series of spacecraft launches over the next five years that could lead to a manned flight to Mars, a major remodeling job began. (10/3)

Japan Seeks To Reorient Space Spending (Source: Space News)
The Japanese government wants to promote more private-sector space development by reorienting its spending away from its research focus and toward commercially oriented programs and crafting a new law to permit commercial launch services. The Japanese government’s recent decisions to develop the Epsilon small-satellite launcher and to extend the annual operating window for the heavy-lift H-2A rocket to year-round operations are examples of this new focus. So is the start of development of a 400-kilogram Earth observation satellite. (9/28)

Backyard Inventors Go Head-to-Head in Google's $20 million Moon Competition (Source: Daily Mail)
It was once a pursuit reserved for astronauts and top-secret government officials. But now backyard inventors are hoping to land their own weird and wonderful spacecrafts on the moon after Google launched a $20 million competition. Twenty two teams who have worked tirelessly on their strange machines will meet in the Isle of Mann tomorrow to thrash out the final details of the missions. Click here to see their concepts. (10/3)

No comments: