November 17, 2010

Delta-4 Launch Delayed to Friday Night (Source:
Launch of the Delta 4-Heavy rocket has been delayed by 24 hours to fix an issue with ground pyrotechnics that release the big booster at liftoff. The new launch opportunity is scheduled for Friday evening at 6:06 p.m. EST. (11/17)

SpaceX Focused on Dragon Integration Before Demo Flight (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX continues to work through challenges integrating the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket as it prepares for a first NASA demonstration flight targeted for Dec. 7 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. "We believe we're in very good posture for the upcoming mission with the booster," Ken Bowersox, the company's vice president of mission assurance and astronaut safety, said today. "What’s delayed us most is integrating the spacecraft."

"It's interesting -- you'd think the spacecraft on the front is the tiny, simple part, but it’s actually just as complicated or more complicated than that big old booster that takes it up into orbit," he continued. "So we're working through some final integration activities now, and should be launching soon." (11/17)

Gates: Military Cuts to Reduce Deficit Would be "Catastrophic" (Source: Source: AIA)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is speaking out against steep cuts in military spending proposed by a deficit-reduction commission. Gates announced a plan earlier this year to save $100 billion in defense costs and reinvest the savings in military modernization programs, but the commission has proposed applying the $100 billion to reducing the deficit, a plan that Gates said would be "catastrophic" to national security. (11/17)

Domenici-Rivlin Panel Targets Missile Defense, Satellite Imagery for Cuts (Source: Space News)
As part of a proposal to reduce the U.S. government’s soaring debt, the nation should freeze the Pentagon’s budget, slash its missile defense spending by $5 billion a year and transition to less expensive satellite imagery, a bipartisan debt reduction panel recommended Nov. 17. Led by retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici — the former Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee — and Alice Rivlin, who ran the White House Office of Management and Budget under then-President Bill Clinton, the panel warns that the United States risks harming its national security unless it overhauls its spending and taxation practices. (11/17)

NASA Collaborates with Alaska on Space Exploration, Science (Source:
NASA's Ames Research Center and the State of Alaska are establishing a new collaborative relationship. An agreement will be signed at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island. The agreement will foster collaboration on specific activities of mutual interest, including space exploration, advanced aviation, science research, and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The first annex under the new agreement provides for small satellite research and development with the Alaska Aerospace Corp., Anchorage, Alaska, to evaluate existing ground tracking stations at the Kodiak Launch Complex, Kodiak, Alaska, for potential use in support of NASA's small satellite operations. (11/17)

Mysterious Antimatter Created and Captured (Source: LiveScience)
Scientists have created antimatter in the form of antihydrogen, demonstrating how it's possible to capture and release it. The development could help researchers devise laboratory experiments to learn more about this strange substance, which mostly disappeared from the universe shortly after the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Trapping any form of antimatter is difficult, because as soon as it meets normal matter – the stuff Earth and everything on it is made out of – the two annihilate each other in powerful explosions.

Physicists at CERN in Geneva were able to create 38 antihydrogen atoms and preserve each for more than one-tenth of a second. The project was part of the ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus) experiment, an international collaboration that includes physicists from the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The antihydrogen atoms are composed of a positron (an antimatter electron) orbiting an antiproton nucleus. (11/17)

Spaceflight Raffle Consistent with State Law? (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Last week a Florida nonprofit, the Aerospace Research and Engineering Systems (ARES) Institute, announced a competition titled “Win A Trip To Space!”. The idea was simple: buy a raffle ticket, and one lucky winner will get a ticket on a suborbital spaceflight. But the contest rules posted by ARES appear to have not complied with state law. Both the explicit charge for the tickets and the requirement that a certain number be sold appeared to run afoul of Section 849.0935 of Florida Statues.

It is unlawful to “require an entry fee, donation, substantial consideration, payment, proof of purchase, or contribution as a condition of entering the drawing or of being selected to win a prize.” It’s also unlawful to “condition the drawing on a minimum number of tickets having been disbursed to contributors or on a minimum amount of contributions having been received”.

ARES has posted some changes to the raffle rules, possibly in an attempt to achieve compliance with state law. Another rule change worth noting is the removal of Virgin Galactic as the spaceflight provider. Click here to read the article. Editor's Note: The removal of Virgin Galactic is possibly intended to widen the field of potential providers to include companies that are planning to operate from Florida. This is not the first time a space-oriented raffle idea has been hatched in Florida. I have seen multiple attempts to do this fail over the past two decades, mainly because they end up on the wrong side of consumer protection laws. (11/17)

Hale Re-Thinks Concerns About NASA and Commercial Space (Source: Wayne Hale's Blog)
If commercial human spaceflight is to be cheaper and safer and more flexible and and and, well then it will require different oversight from the government than what we used for shuttle or station or constellation... So, what is my recommendation? Simple. Do what the [NASA KSC-managed] Launch Services Program does: require that providers HAVE standards and follow them – don’t make them pick particular processes or standards, let the flexible, nimble, [your adjective here] commercial firms pick what suits their business best. As long as they have standards and stick to them – that is what we should require.

So the CCT-REQ-1130 is a step in the right direction, but is hardly revolutionary. That revolution is what NASA leadership must show the workers how to accomplish. Leadership that will bridge the gap between policy and the work is what is needed. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. A good system can be devised, examples exist. Click here to read the post. (11/17)

Florida Tech and UN Experiment Explores Potential for Turning Poop Into Power Supply (Source: Fast Company)
For the first time, the United Nations is planning to make its mark in space with an international satellite designed to promote science education and international cooperation in the sciences. But the $5 million satellite (UNESCOSat) won't go up alone--it will be accompanied by a number of payloads, including two from the Florida Institute of Technology filled with bacteria. Why?

The first payload is intended to examine the effects of Shewanella MR-1 (a bacteria) in a microgravity environment to determine its suitability for long-term space travel. The goal is, to put it bluntly, to see if Shewanella can convert astronaut feces into hydrogen for use in onboard fuel cells. "The bacteria generates hydrogen. If we give waste to bacteria, it converts to hydrogen that could be used in a fuel cell.

We're looking at how reliable the bacteria are," explains Donald Platt, the Program Director for the Space Sciences and Space Systems Program at the Florida Institute of Technology. Shewanella's viability will be determined based on its growth rate in space--figuring out, in other words, how different its life cycle is in space than it is on Earth. (11/17)

Congress Moves Toward Ban Federal Budget Earmarks (Source: Daily Beast)
President Obama has issued a statement applauding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's new support of a ban on earmarks. McConnell announced Monday that he supports the idea, following reports last week that he was trying to sabotage Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn’s efforts to institute a two-year ban. “What I’ve concluded is that on the issue of congressional earmarks, as the leader of my party in the Senate, I have to lead first by example,” McConnell said. Editor's Note: Many innovative space-related projects around the country have relied on earmark funding. This will have an impact on space. (11/17)

KLM to Sell XCOR Lynx Tickets for Curaçao Space Tourism Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Dutch airlines KLM will handle ticket sales and promotions for Lynx suborbital flights out of Curaçao. KLM has registered for the first flight from the island in the Dutch Antilles, which is set for 2014. The company will enable frequent fliers to put their points toward flights into space. The spaceport terminal in Curaçao should give the one in New Mexico a run for its money (see concept here).

The flights, which will go to an altitude of 100 kilometers, are being managed by Space Experience Curaçao under a “wet lease” agreement with California-based XCOR. This is a significant step forward for XCOR, an engineering-focused company that has had difficulty with its marketing and promotional operations. It has pre-sold a small number of tickets, many of them to the company’s investors. (11/17)

Mars 'Hopper' May Run on Nuclear Decay and Martian CO2 (Source: BBC)
Nuclear decay-driven machines could gather gases from the atmosphere of Mars, giving future robotic missions leaps of a kilometer, researchers say. A design concept in Proceedings of the Royal Society outlines an approach to compress CO2 and liquefy it. The liquid would then be heated much as in a standard rocket, expanding violently into a gas to propel exploratory craft great distances. (11/17)

Huge Delta IV Heavy Rocket Ready For Thursday Night Launch (Source: Florida Today)
A powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket is being prepped for the planned launch Thursday evening of a classified payload for the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office, the federal agency that owns and operates the nation's fleet of spy satellites. The huge United Launch Alliance rocket -- which is the largest liquid-fueled vehicle since the Apollo Saturn V moon rocket -- is slated to blast off from Launch Complex 37 at 6:10 p.m. (11/17)

Fumes of Dry Ice, Not Water, Are Blasting from Comet (Source:
A comet visited by a NASA spacecraft this month is spewing jets of vaporized dry ice into space, scientists have found. Deep Impact's comet flyby, also known as the EPOXI mission, gave scientists the clearest views yet of any comet, and allowed researchers to link the jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. The analysis revealed that the jets are primarily made up of carbon dioxide gas and particles of dust and ice. (11/17)

Senate Reschedules Hearing on New NASA Policy (Source: Florida Today)
A Senate hearing on the implementation of NASA's new policy, originally planned Thursday, has been delayed to Dec. 1. An announcement by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee didn't provide a reason for rescheduling the hearing titled "Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010." (11/17)

Messy Fight Over Huntsville Space & Rocket Center Leadership (Source: Huntsville Times)
The governing board of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, home of world-famous U.S. Space Camp, meets in Huntsville today to do something many of its members thought they did in August: fire CEO Larry Capps. But in a year when space center board members don't agree on the center's financial health or its future, the fight over Capps is symbolic. If they're not sure they fired the CEO, what's going on at Alabama's top tourist attraction?

Today's showdown comes at a critical time for the space center. How will it evolve when its main attraction, Space Camp, is based on a shuttle program that ends next year? Is Capps, now 70, trying to stay too long? Peeling the onion of this fight, which involves some of Huntsville's most influential business and civic leaders, reveals layers of financial issues and, at the core, a large slice of personal distrust.

On Aug. 13, a majority of the members of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission voted behind closed doors to fire Capps, a former Army brigadier general who has held the top job for 10 years. To avoid embarrassment, the majority rescinded that vote and agreed to let Capps resign. When the meeting was over, then-chair Dorothy Davidson and Capps met with a reporter. Capps announced he was resigning, and Davidson said, "We just spent two-and-a-half hours trying to convince him not to." (11/17)

UK Takes 'Open Source' Route Into Space (Source: BBC)
The fundamental barrier to greater space activity is the cost of access. If people didn't have to part with squillions to get up there, far more spacecraft would go into orbit than is currently the case. High launch prices drive the need for big, rigorously tested spacecraft. They have to be that way because when you've paid so much to launch, you have to make damn sure your bird works. In-orbit failure is simply unthinkable. Add in insurance premiums and licenses and the costs spiral still further.

It works against innovation, too. Taking risks is, well, risky. So doing space is a process that is necessarily conservative. If only we could lower launch costs, the spiral might unwind; there would be more opportunity and hopefully even greater innovation. So while we wait for the truly reusable, low-cost launch vehicle, what's to be done? Well, some have gone down the CubeSat route - the roughly 1kg, 10cm-square boxes that come in standard form and can be launched en-masse as secondary passengers on rockets. (11/17)

Oklahoma Researchers Explore Out-of-This-World Agriculture (Source: NewsOK)
Out of this world agriculture may be futuristic in terms of widespread implementation. But for some, research is already under way. Among those studying the possibilities are researchers at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore. On April 5, through a grant from NASA, the Noble Foundation sent 14 Petri dishes with 50 to 150 seedlings up in the space shuttle Discovery and kept as many in a lab at the Kennedy Space Center. In general, the experiment was designed to see what, if any changes, the lack of gravity had on the growing plants in space compared to those on earth. Blancaflor said it will take years to analyze the data. However, he said they already know there were hundreds of genes in the seedlings that were modified or changed when gravity was absent. (11/17)

Keep Reaching for the Stars (Source: Washington Post)
When President Obama's bipartisan panel to reduce the federal budget deficit unveiled a proposal chock-full of deep spending cuts and tax increases last week, it sent ripples of angst across the country. The items that most set both Republican and Democrat hearts afire -- Social Security retirement age increases, gas tax raises, military cutbacks -- seemed to border on reasonable. But the one that got me was "eliminate funding for commercial spaceflight" to save $1.2 billion by 2015.

I guess the post-Sputnik drive to have the best national space program in the world is officially being laid to rest. Though Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the panel's co-chairs, acknowledged that commercial spaceflight is a "worthy goal," they said they were unclear why the federal government should subsidize it.

Here's a thought: if such a program wasn't bungled by sweetheart-deals involving contractors with no incentive to come in on time and on budget, it could be a profit center. Who will actually popularize commercial space flight by paying for the initially ridiculously expensive boarding costs? The super-rich and corporations looking to do some serious marketing tie-ins that will no doubt make them even more money. Why not position the government to reap the biggest amount of benefit? Click here to read the article. (11/17) Launches Space Tourism (
There is a new destination on the Internet for would-be space travelers. is the new place to keep up with the latest space tourism activity. The website provides daily industry news updates and a space experience review and recommendation 'space log' section for those who want to share their space experiences. These experiences may include witnessing a rocket launch, attending a space camp, parabolic 'weightless' flights, and others. There is also a space travel discussion forum for people to discuss space flight. is about people sharing their excitement and enthusiasm for this new adventure travel experience. With spaceflight for the masses nearing a reality, this unique website offers an avenue to share this interest and excitement. Visit for information. (11/17)

Africa Taps Into Space Tourism (Source: World-First)
South Africa is poised to become a leader in space and astronomy tourism, predicts the World Travel Market (WTM) Global Trends Report 2010. Astronomy and space tourism are gaining momentum in Africa, particularly South Africa, as recent investment paves the way for the continent to position itself as a leader in space science, reveals the report. South Africa is gearing up to play a major role in space exploration with the National Space Agency Act entering law last year.

The destination is already home to the Southern African Large Telescope while the MeerKAT telescope facility is under construction, paving the way for further space exploration and tourism. Travel insurance specialists, World First Travel Insurance, don't provide cover for space travel yet, but Managing Partner Martin Rothwell thinks it's something they will look at in the future. (11/17)

Florida Conference Focuses on Space Station's Future Use (Source: Florida Today)
The International Space Station is nearly complete after a dozen years of construction and an estimated $100 billion invested by the United States and 14 international partners. With the partners having agreed to extend station operations by five years through 2020, program leaders now are embarking on a new mission: proving the effort was worth it.

"How are we going to utilize this wonderful vehicle that we've assembled in space?" said Mike Suffredini, NASA's station program manager. "That is probably the most significant challenge in front of us today." Top space station managers and several hundred space industry representatives gathered Tuesday in Cape Canaveral to discuss that challenge, the subject of the American Astronautical Society's two-day national conference.

Presenters, all involved in station operations or research, discussed hopes that the next decade could produce a "killer app" that improves life on Earth, while also proving technologies that will enable humans to explore new worlds. They acknowledged numerous challenges: ensuring the station can rebound from system failures, shipping supplies and experiments up and down after the shuttle is retired, working within strained government budgets and convincing private industry to take advantage of microgravity research opportunities. (11/17)

Northrop Grumman Wins NASA Contract to Build Modular Space Vehicles for DoD (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman was selected by NASA as one of the five contractors for the Modular Space Vehicles (MSV) program. NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., acted as the contracting agent for the Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program and announced the award of the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity cost-plus fixed-fee multi-award contract, with a five-year period of performance on Nov. 10. (11/17)

Solar Sail Demo Packed Up to Prove New Technologies (Source:
For less than $1 million, scientists are planning to show off an innovative solar sail experiment beginning with a blastoff from the Alaska frontier Friday, proving new propulsion technologies that could help rid space of unnecessary debris. The NanoSail-D mission will unfurl a 100 square foot polymer sail from a satellite the size of a loaf of bread. Researchers say the sail will harness light pressure from the sun to change its orbit, eventually slowing the craft's speed enough to drop from orbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere. (11/17)

Why Space is the Impossible Frontier (Source: New Scientist)
At a news conference before his first experience of weightlessness in 2007, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said that he hoped his zero-gravity flight would encourage public interest in space exploration. He argued that with an ever-increasing risk of wiping ourselves out on Earth, humans would need to colonize space. Hawking has since argued that we must do this within two centuries or else face extinction. He was no doubt encouraged by US President Barack Obama's announcement in April this year of a new initiative to send people to Mars by 2030.

Hawking, Obama and other proponents of long-term space travel are making a grave error. Humans cannot leave Earth for the several years that it takes to travel to Mars and back, for the simple reason that our biology is intimately connected to Earth. To function properly, we need gravity. Without it, the environment is less demanding on the human body in several ways, and this shows upon the return to Earth. Remember the sight of weakened astronauts emerging after the Apollo missions? That is as nothing compared with what would happen to astronauts returning from Mars. (11/17)

Russia To Launch New Generation GLONASS Satellite In 2013 (Source: Space Daily)
Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Nov 17, 2010 - Russia's next generation Glonass-K2 navigation satellite will be launched in 2013, Russia's Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, said on Tuesday. "We have decided to modernize the Glonass signal system. We will introduce new signals with a code separation," said a Russian official. (11/16)

China Places Bulk Order for Rockets, Satellites (Source: Space News)
China Great Wall Industry Corp. on Nov. 16 signed agreements with the manufacturer of China’s Long March rockets and the builder of China’s telecommunications satellites covering the construction of 20 Long March 3A vehicles and eight satellite platforms. The bulk-purchase deals, which carry a combined value of $2.26 billion, cover deliveries for the next five years and are intended to further shorten the time between the signing of a contract and the delivery of a satellite into orbit.

The eight satellites ordered from the China Academy of Space Technology are all DFH-4 platforms. The DFH-4 is China’s principal telecommunications satellite model and the one used to win export orders. The 20 Long March rockets covered by the order will be variants of the Long March 3A, which is the basic three-stage vehicle used to transport telecommunications satellites into geostationary-transfer orbit, with the weight of the satellite payload and its orbital destination governing how many liquid strap-on boosters are added to provide more power. (11/17)

Several Space Projects Among Popular Science's "Best of What's New" (Source: Popular Science)
The Aviation & Space Category of PopSci's "Best of What's New 2010" features the Masten Space Xombie suborbital vehicle, ESA's Cryosat-2 satellite, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope, the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, the EADS Astrium Tandem-X satellite, the PWR/Boeing X-51A Waverider, and the Boeing X-37B spaceplane. Click here to see the article. (11/16)

Will the Space Coast Have Representation on the Next House Science Committee? (Source: Space Politics)
Central Florida had two of its representatives on the House Science and Technology Committee, Reps. Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas, who both served on the space subcommittee. However, both lost their reelection bids. Will their successors also seek similar committee assignments? Only one appears interested, though, and only as a backup option. Rep.-elect Sandy Adams, who defeated Kosmas, said she’s seeking a position on the appropriations committee, which would rule out serving on other committees.

If she fails, though, she said she would seek alternative positions, including taking Kosmas’s seat on the science committee. Rep.-elect Daniel Webster, who defeated Grayson, said in the same article he’s interested in the transportation, armed services, judiciary, and rules committee, and apparently not the science committee. Editor's Note: Space Coast Rep. Bill Posey also has an opportunity to gain membership on the Science committee. (11/17)

Space Laboratory Open for Business (Source: MIT Technology Review)
Scientists say they can get better use of the International Space Station now that its construction is complete and operational time extended. After nearly 12 years of development at a price of $100 billion, the International Space Station (ISS) is fully assembled, and the White House has agreed to keep the station operating until 2020 instead of 2016, as originally planned. But what to do with those extra four years? Researchers, scientists, and engineers are considering that question—-while also dealing with the fact that the space shuttles that transport crew and cargo to the ISS will be retiring next year. Click here to read the article. (11/17)

NASA to Launch Satellites From Alaska on Friday (Source: KTUU)
NASA hopes to launch two satellites from Kodiak later this week. A rocket is scheduled to launch from the Alaska Aerospace Corp.'s Kodiak launch complex between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on Friday. The Minotaur 4 rocket will be packed with science experiments. (11/17)

$10 Raffle Could Win You a Trip to Space (Source: CFL News 13)
Space trips for private citizens are on the horizon, but only for the select few who have enough money to afford the estimated $200,000 price tag for a seat. The ARES Institute, based out of Melbourne, is offering a raffle. People can enter for a seat onboard a commercial spacecraft. Ten dollars gets you a ticket. When the required number of tickets is sold or by the end of 2012, a drawing will determine the winner. (11/17)

Why Are We Going Blind in Space? (Source: New York Times)
A University of Colorado student named Scott Potter gave the command to bring down a NASA satellite called ICESat. It may seem astonishing that a fellow who has yet to finish his master’s degree in aerospace engineering would be entrusted with such a duty. But in fact, students working at the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics get to operate satellites all the time. The lab contracts with NASA and big aerospace companies to serve as mission control for various types of satellites.

Of course, the Colorado students are in charge only of flying the satellites, not of making satellite policy in Washington. If we could somehow entrust them with the latter duty, some researchers joke, perhaps it would not be such a big mess. But it is, as was made clear over the last few years by multiple reports and audits. They outlined a daunting string of problems that have put a strain on the nation’s weather and environmental satellite programs.

Many important satellites are already past their planned lifetimes, and replacements for some of them will not be ready for years, which means the nation is running the risk of losing certain critical measurements. At one point in 2005, the National Research Council described the whole system as being “at risk of collapse.” (11/17)

Looking for Earth-like Alien Planets? Focus on the Blue Ones (Source:
Astronomers hunting for Earth-like alien worlds could improve their odds by zeroing in on planets that look blue from afar, just like Earth, a new study suggests. Researchers have devised a simple way to distinguish between the planets of our solar system based on color information alone. Earth in particular stands out clearly among the other planets from space, researchers said, appearing much bluer than Mars, Venus, Mercury and the gas giants. (11/17)

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