November 18, 2010

Bid to Boost JAXA Budget Rejected (Source: Japan Times)
A government cost-cutting panel Thursday rejected a science ministry plea to hike its fiscal 2011 budget request for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to ¥190 billion, recommending it remain unchanged from fiscal 2010 at ¥180 billion. The Government Revitalization Unit urged the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to limit its JAXA-related budget request to the same amount the Diet approved earlier this year as part of the initial budget for fiscal 2010. (11/18)

Opinion: NASA Goes Badly Off Course (Source: AOL News)
The latest revelation that the Webb Telescope project is a third over budget and more than a year behind schedule couldn't have come at a worse time for NASA, still in budgetary limbo, operating under a continuing resolution for its funding appropriations that is likely to extend into next year. Some heads should roll at NASA, and a good place to start is with NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden.

It's true that the space telescope problem didn't start on Bolden's watch -- it really started back in the 1990s when the program was conceived -- but he never did anything about it until forced to by the release of last week's report on the problem, which some have characterized as NASA's Katrina. If this were Bolden's first, or only misstep, it might be forgivable. But it's simply the latest in a series of problems since he took over the agency in 2009. (11/18)

NASA's $100 Billion Please-Rule-Outer-Space Gift for Russia? (Source: Hudson New York)
In the process of trying to set a new course for NASA, neither the White House nor the Senate has covered itself with glory. The Obama Administration's February 2010 proposal for NASA's future direction is mostly dead: if the administration's goal was to kill the Bush-era plan to return American to the Moon, it has been a success. If the President and his advisors' goal, however, was to chart a bold new direction for the US Space Agency, the proposal has been an abject failure.

The Earth's Moon has long been recognized as the critical control point, or "Gibralter Point," of the Solar System: for more than 200 years, the British controlled access to the Mediterranean from their base at Gibraltar; similarly, even an unarmed a base on the Moon would give a similar advantage to whichever nation owned it.

Although the Constellation plan was justified by the Bush administration on both scientific and economic grounds, more important were other, unspoken, strategic grounds: to put it plainly,: from the Moon one can control access to the other planets. Further, the Moon has been shown to contain critical resources, especially water. Click here to read the article. (11/18)

Full Moons Get Electrified by Earth's Magnetic "Tail" (Source: National Geographic)
You won't get a literal jolt from looking at Sunday's full moon—but you might if you were standing on it. When the moon is full, it develops a strong electric field near the surface as it swings through Earth's magnetic "tail," according to new observations from a Japanese probe.

Earth's magnetic field creates a protective bubble known as the magnetosphere, which surrounds the planet and shields us from solar wind—a rush of charged particles, or plasma, constantly streaming from the sun. The solar wind pushes and stretches the magnetosphere, forming what's called the magnetotail. This tail reaches beyond the orbit of the moon, and it's always pointed away from the sun.

We see a full moon when the lunar orb is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun—and therefore within the magnetotail. The result is an electrostatic charge building up in the first few meters above the lunar surface once a month, creating a temporary electric field. The day side of the moon becomes positively charged, as solar radiation knocks electrons from the surface. Meanwhile, loose electrons build up on the night side of the moon and give the surface a negative charge. (11/18)

Hollywood's New Space Race (Source: LA Times)
NASA may be facing serious cutbacks, but don't tell people in Hollywood: They’re planning a trip to the moon. Maybe several trips. Multiple movie studios are scrambling to make a film set on the lunar surface. And in a manner reminiscent of the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 20th century, it's a competition rife with egos, insecurities and the belief that whoever gets there second may as well not get there at all. Click here to view the article. (11/18)

First Glimpse of an Extragalactic Exoplanet (Source: AFP)
A hot, gaseous and fast-spinning planet has been found orbiting a dying star on the edge of the Milky Way, in the first such discovery of a planet from outside our galaxy, scientists said this week. Slightly larger than the size of Jupiter, the largest in our solar system, the newly discovered exoplanet is orbiting a star 2,000 light years from Earth that has found its way into the Milky Way. The pair are believed to be part of the Helmi stream, a group of stars that remains after its mini-galaxy was devoured by the Milky Way some six to nine billion years ago. (11/18)

Utah Leaders Press NASA to Use ATK Motors (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah’s congressional delegation pressured NASA executives Wednesday to use ATK’s solid rocket boosters to send a new heavy-lift vehicle out of Earth’s atmosphere. During a meeting in Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden heard from four Utah members of Congress who are adamant the recently passed NASA appropriations act requires the rocket motors made in northern Utah remain part of the space program, particularly as it develops a replacement for the retiring space shuttle.

“My purpose in calling this meeting was to explain in no uncertain terms the Utah congressional delegation’s interest in ensuring that Utah’s solid rocket motor industry is protected,” Hatch said. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who represents northern Utah, complained NASA has moved slowly to implement the new law, which could impact thousands of jobs in the state. (11/18)

Secret U.S. Space Plane May Be Too Mysterious (Source: WIRED)
Transparency. Openness. International cooperation. These are some of the principles the United States should embrace in order to “safeguard U.S. satellites and protect space,” according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Problem is, one of America’s latest and greatest space gizmos runs afoul of those noble ideas. With its secretive X-37B “space plane,” the United States has been anything but transparent, open and cooperative.

The Air Force launched the 29-foot-long, Boeing-built X-37 in April. Now six months into a potential nine-month deployment, the X-37 periodically changes orbits, frustrating amateur satellite-spotters. Similar to the Space Shuttle, only smaller and fully robotic, the highly maneuverable X-37 includes a payload bay that can accommodate, well, practically anything. “You can put sensors in there, satellites in there,” said Eric Sterner, from The Marshall Institute. “You could stick munitions in there, provided they exist.” (11/18)

Could Deficit Problems Mean the End of Space Travel? (Source: Hartford Advocate)
“Shut up and take it” seems to be the message of the Deficit Commission. Members of the bipartisan 18-person panel have, in every interview since the release of their report last week, underlined the political unpopularity of their ideas on how to squash $4 trillion of national debt by 2020. In a nutshell, they call for a slew of new taxes and cuts to federal programs, including the sacred cows of Republicans (military spending) and Democrats (Social Security and Medicare).

Both the commission’s report and their tough-love presentation of it are dead on. It’s not hard to understand how we rang up a $13 trillion debt. Every government program is popular with someone. Taxes are loved by no one. Americans have been too childish to accept fewer programs or more taxes, and politicians have placated them. It’s high time someone told us to take responsibility, make sacrifices and clean up this mess before the next generation inherits it — or to shut up and take it.

I get teary over one governmental goal the commission, with sound reasoning, wants to end. The commission says we should save $1.2 billion by ending NASA’s subsidization of private-sector space travel. “[W]hile commercial space flight is a worthy goal,” the report states, “it is unclear why the federal government should be subsidizing the training of the potential crews of such flights.” This would essentially end America’s 52 years of work to put men and women into space. (11/18)

Ex-NASA Chief Sentenced in Contracts Conspiracy (Source: AP)
Courtney Stadd, a former NASA chief of staff, was sentenced to more than three years in prison on a conspiracy charge stemming from a $600,000 contract awarded by the space agency to a client of his consulting firm. Stadd, NASA's White House liaison from 2001 to 2003 during the George W. Bush administration, pleaded guilty in August to one conspiracy charge in a nine-count indictment. He was sentenced Thursday to serve 41 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He also was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine and $287,000 in restitution to NASA. Editor's Note: Stadd was also a board member at Space Florida, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. (11/18)

Repairs Push Space Shuttle Launch to Dec. 3 (Source: NASA)
NASA will begin the launch countdown for STS-133 no earlier than Nov. 30. That would support a launch attempt for Discovery no earlier than Dec. 3 at approximately 2:52 a.m. EST. NASA officials determined that more analysis is needed before proceeding toward the launch. Work has been under way to fix a leaking hydrogen system that caused the initial delay, and to repair cracks atop two 21-foot-long support beams, called stringers, on the exterior of the shuttle's external fuel tank. (11/18)

Second Group Calls for Steep Cuts in Military Spending (Source: AIA)
A second group of budget experts has come out in favor of steep cuts in defense spending, following the similar announcement of a presidential deficit-reduction commission last week. The new proposals, from a bipartisan group of budget experts, calls for a five-year freeze on Pentagon spending, along with changes in taxes and other federal programs, and the reports will likely step up pressure on the Pentagon to cancel weapons programs and reduce spending. (11/18)

NASA Awards Kennedy Space Center Engineering Services Contract to QinetiQ (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected QinetiQ North America to provide engineering support to Kennedy Space Center. The contract begins in March 2011 with a five-year base period and three, one-year option periods. The maximum potential value is approximately $1.959 billion. QinetiQ will provide an institutional capability for the engineering development of ground systems and equipment for handling, testing, servicing and other ground processing of launch vehicles, spacecraft and payloads. It will provide maintenance and operations at assigned laboratories, developmental shops and crosscutting technical services. (11/18)

Russia Plans To Launch Nigerian Satellites In December (Source: Space Daily)
Abuja, Nigeria (RIA Novosti) Nov 19, 2010 - Russia is planning to launch two Nigerian satellites into orbit in December, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X earth monitoring satellites will be launched to a solar-synchronized orbit by a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr heavy carrier rocket. (11/18)

Twins' Days of Tinkering Pay Off as Delta IV Poised for Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Influenced by their father, an engineer, Stephen and Greg Petrik spent time as young boys building and launching model rockets. But the identical twin brothers, 50, had no idea all the tinkering they did as youngsters would come in handy later in life. Friday they'll be taking part in final preparations to help launch a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Carrying a classified payload, the rocket will be launched at 6:06 p.m. from pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Helping to make sure the launch is successful, Greg's responsibilities include checking that all power units, such as generators, water systems and cooling and heating elements, are functioning properly. Stephen, older by 15 minutes, also works for ULA as the communications engineering lead for Delta rockets at Cape Canaveral. He's responsible for the public address system, telephones, radios and video feeds that capture the rocket's launch. (11/18)

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Sell Rides on XCOR's Rocket Plane (Source: LA Times)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will be offering future suborbital flights on a rocket plane to outer space. The airline said Wednesday that it would market and sell flights to customers through a joint venture with Space Experience Curacao, a government-backed space tourism company founded on the Caribbean island.

In early October, Space Experience Curaçao announced that it had struck an agreement with XCOR Aerospace Inc., a Mojave-based commercial space company, to launch its rocket plane from the island and take adventure seekers to more than 327,000 feet, or 62 miles, above the Earth's surface.

Curacao hopes its commercial airport can become a spaceport as early as 2014. The island is an ideal locale for space trips because of its small population, heavy traffic of tourists and picturesque landscape, with its ice-blue ocean and lush countryside, XCOR has said. Because Curacao is part of the Netherlands and not the U.S., the island cannot own the spacecraft outright and is leasing it from XCOR instead. (11/18)

Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio Pledge Cooperation Florida Issues (Source: Miami Herald)
The state's two senators pledged Wednesday night at a Florida delegation party to work together on issues central to the state. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, noted a long tradition of different party senators working together on issues, dating to Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Connie Mack. "...when it comes to issues of Florida, this is where the two of us come together and that's going to continue." (11/18)

Maui Scientists Attend International Space Conference (Source: Maui Weekly)
A small group of aerospace engineers and scientists representing various space research programs on Maui attended a five-day international meeting in the Czech Republic. The Czech Space Office hosted the 61st International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in the historical city of Prague. (11/18)

Race to Space in Mojave (Source: KGET)
"This is the Plymouth Rock of the new modern American space movement. This is where it starts," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA). In about a year, it will be home to Virgin Galactic's first spaceship factory. A 68,000 square foot hangar at Mojave's Air and Spaceport. Sir Richard Branson's spaceship company will build and test fly three Whiteknight mother ships and five Spaceshiptwo rocket planes here.

That $250 million endeavour is overshadowed, however, by what happened in New Mexico in mid-October, the unveiling of the runway for "Spaceport America", the nation's first commercial airport for space tourism. "But we took the risk and here we are today, landing on the runway, touring the terminal hangar facility and talking about when commercial operations will begin," said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

With all the aviation firsts claimed on Kern County's high desert, you'd think the sky would be the limit for Mojave Air and Spaceport, a place considered ideal to be home to a full-fledged commercial airport for space tourism. Well, that's not going to happen any time soon. The state of New Mexico is a quantum leap ahead of California in that respect. "The state of New Mexico is investing on the order of $200 million to create that spaceport, a very significant investment that made the difference for us," said George Whitesides, President/CEO, "The Spaceship Company." (11/18)

KLM to Offer a New Perk for Frequent Fliers: Outer Space (Source: New York Times)
In the rarified realm of airline frequent-flier perks, elite status can bring cushy upgrades, airport lounge access, priority boarding and any number of concierge and customer service benefits. But on Wednesday, the Dutch airline KLM set a new goal for road warriors to aim for: free space flights.

The carrier, part of the Air France-KLM group, confirmed that it had purchased a handful of advance tickets for sub-orbital space flights that are expected to be offered as early as 2014 by Space Experience Curaçao, a space tourism company founded on the Caribbean island by two Dutch entrepreneurs. (11/18)

Japan's Government Cost-Cutting Panel Recommends Maintaining Space Budget (Source: Mainichi Daily)
The government's cost-cutting panel, tasked with identifying wasteful public projects, recommended on Nov. 18 that current budget allocations for space projects be maintained. The recommendation comes just days after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed particles contained in a capsule from the space probe Hayabusa -- which returned from the Itokawa asteroid in June -- were extraterrestrial. (11/18)

Launch Provides Opportunities for Citizen Scientists (Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror)
If you miss the Narrow Cape rocket launch on Friday, you might still be able to see part of the rocket’s payload on the way down. The NanoSailD, one of the smallest satellites on the mission, will be visible in the weeks after the launch, and is the subject of an international photography competition.

“Basically I am challenging the amateur astronomers out there to take pictures of it,” said Dean Alhorn, the project’s principal investigator. “It will be at 650 kilometers early in the mission. There are not many people who will be to see it at that point. But as we progress through the timeframe it’s going to get lower and lower.” More details of the competition will be available on the astronomy website, which is organizing the competition with NASA. (11/18)

Ukraine Delivers Taurus II Launch Vehicle's First Stage to U.S. (Source: Xinhua)
Ukraine has delivered the first stage of the Taurus II launch vehicle to the United States, a step forward in a NASA- funded Taurus II program. "The assembly of the basic part of the first stage of the booster was completed in October. The cargo left the port in Mykolaiv region for the Wallops Flight Facility," the design company Yuzhnoye said.

Preparations for production of the second stage of the Taurus II launch vehicle have already been started, the company said. Eight launches valued at $1.9 billion are to be conducted. Yuzhnoye and another Ukranian company, Yuzhmash, in 2008 signed a long-term contract with U.S. Orbital Sciences Corp. on cooperation in producing Taurus-II rockets until 2019. (11/18)

China's First DFH-5 Satellite Launch Set For 2017 (Source: Aviation Week)
The first satellite based on the CAST DFH-5 bus should be launched in 2016 or 2017, addressing the active market for large spacecraft platforms. Development is scheduled for the next five-year economic plan of the Chinese government, covering 2011 to 2015, says Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) President Yang Baohua. (11/18)

Russian Santa Claus to be Tracked via GLONASS Satnav System (Source: RIA Novosti)
Father Frost, Russia's Santa Claus, received on Thursday a staff featuring a GLONASS satellite navigation system so he can be tracked on his New Year's gift-giving journey. The system will transmit Father Frost's coordinates to a special center, which will publish them on the internet so that everyone can follow his progress on his traditional New Year voyage. (11/18)

Shuttle Managers Discussing Numerous Options Including Christmas Mission (Source:
With numerous repair operations ongoing with Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137), managers are creating a number of options to provide some additional flexibility in launching STS-133. As part of the evaluations, the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) have requested input from the International Space Station (ISS) on the option of a launch window which opens on December 17.

Discovery’s tank is on the right path to complete the required repairs on both the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) and the cracked stringers/foam, although the schedule is “tight” to fully complete the procedures in time for the start of the countdown. (11/18)

Polar Bear Gets Rid of Putin's Satellite Collar (Source: RIA Novosti)
The polar bear tagged by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has rid himself of his tagged satellite collar, Vesti TV channel reported on Thursday, quoting the premier's web site. Putin put the satellite collar on a polar bear during a trip in April 2010 to Alexandra Land, one of the islands of the Franz Josef Land archipelago in Russia's far north, where scientists are studying the movements of endangered polar bears. (11/18)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket Wins Popular Science Award (Source:
SpaceX, the Hawthorne-based developer of space rockets, said its Falcon 9 rocket won a 2010 Popular Science Best of What's New award in Aviation & Space. The magazine called the Falcon 9 "The First Astronaut-Worthy Private Rocket In Orbit." In June, the Hawthorne company known as SpaceX had a successful maiden launch of its Falcon 9 rocket, which is being developed to replace the space shuttle in transporting cargo and astronauts between the International Space Station and Earth. (11/18)

Seeding the Future, Calling Private Money (Source:
We live in interesting times today, in that Chinese curse kinda way. The last three years have been a roller coaster of economic screaming, scheming, and scamming. There is a LOT of money sitting on the side economically from what those that I trust and read in the financial papers are saying. Where is a place where money can be put, risk is relatively low, and the returns spectacular or even just good? What industry stands to be able to do the most in monitoring and mapping the environment? Space. In communications, and in human spaceflight there is opportunity, but it needs a catalyst. Click here to read the article. (11/18)

World's Space Agency Leaders Discuss Common Goals at Summit (Source:
The heads of 27 space agencies from countries all over the world met on Nov. 17 in Washington to discuss the future of space exploration. NASA administrator Charlie Bolden was among the speakers at the Heads of Space Agencies Summit, organized in honor of the 50th anniversary of the International Academy of Astronautics, a group that aims to foster the development of astronautics for peaceful purposes.

The summit brought the agency leaders together to discuss international cooperation in four areas: human spaceflight, robotic space exploration, climate change and disaster management. Click here to read the article, (11/18)

No comments: