November 19, 2010

Alaska Senator Seeks $9.5 Million Earmark for Alaska Spaceport (Source: Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance)
Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich in May put in a formal request for a $9.5 million earmark from the Department of Defense budget to cover costs for operating the Kodiak Launch Complex, after the Alaska Aerospace Corp. lost its contract with the Missile Defense Agency, the source for the majority of the facility’s launches. Like another $4.5 million the Alaska Legislature recently sent to the Kodiak Launch Complex, the federal funding would help cover the day-to-day expenses of the complex as it looks for rocket launch customers to provide a sustainable source of income. Editor's Note: Sen. Begich's request could fall victim to a proposed ban on earmarks, now being debated in Congress. (11/19)

Minotaur Rocket Poised to Send Research to New Heights (Source:
In a business where mission costs are often measured in billions of dollars, the $170 million value of Friday's rideshare rocket launch from Alaska seems like a bargain. It is, according to U.S. Air Force officials. The Minotaur 4 launch vehicle is mostly powered by leftover solid rocket motor stages from the retired Peacekeeper ballistic missile. Its fourth stage and a hydrazine kick thruster are derived from the air-launched Pegasus rocket program from Orbital Sciences Corp. The Minotaur holds seven satellites, each packed with experiments, to be be released one-by-one in orbit 400 miles above Earth. (11/19)

Rohrabacher “In Line” to Chair Science Committee? (Source: Space Politics)
An article by Bakersfield TV station KGET noted that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was among those attending the groundbreaking of a Spaceship Company facility at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Rohrabacher, a supporter of commercial spaceflight, had been invited by area congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the article tantalizingly adds, “Rohrabacher is in line to become the chairman of the House Science Committee.” That may not be a direct line, though: the latest chatter is that Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the current ranking member of the committee, still has the inside track to chair the committee come January. (11/19)

Virgin and KLM - the New Space Race? (Source: The Independent)
KLM has laid down the gauntlet to Virgin by announcing that it too will offer sub-orbital flights to its customers. The Dutch flag-carrier said Nov. 17 that it will support Space Experience Curacao by allowing members of its frequent flyer program to redeem points for space flights, as well as including it in future KLM vacation packages. The deal will see KLM marketing and selling flights (available in early 2014) aboard the Lynx suborbital spacecraft provided by California-based XCOR.

In October, Virgin unveiled the new runway at Spaceport America in the US state of New Mexico, where its Virgin Galactic space tourism program is based. It is scheduled to come into use in 2012 when the VSS Enterprise, a six-seat craft designed to reach suborbital altitudes, begins taking its first passengers into space. While Virgin is charging a $200,000 (€146,500) ticket price for its first flights, it could be undercut by KLM, which is reportedly planning to charge €70,000 a flight. (11/19)

NASA Doubles Up on Metal for Shuttle Repair (Source: CFL 13)
Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center installed new sections of metal on the shuttle’s external fuel tank. The new sections, called “doublers,” are twice as thick as the original stringer metal, two pieces of which were found cracked earlier in November. (11/19)

One Small Step for a Movie Critic (Source: Wall Street Journal)
It began at a smallish airport in the San Fernando Valley, where a Boeing 727-200 awaited me and a couple of dozen other passengers dressed in quasi-astronaut suits provided for the occasion. The airplane was operated by the Zero Gravity Corporation, a commercial venture that gives its passengers a chance to experience weightlessness. The flights usually last 90 minutes and, in our case, took us out over the Pacific Ocean, where we flew at altitudes between 25,000 and 30,000 feet.

The flight was an effort to promote the X Prize Foundation, a group that gives prizes to encourage innovation in science, education and global development. (As logos plastered inside the fuselage made clear, the flight was also a promotion for the new Blu-ray extended collector's edition of "Avatar.") Among the notables on the plane were the film's writer-director, James Cameron; his producer, Jon Landau; Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos; Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation; and Elon Musk. (11/19)

Former Officials Urge ‘Radical’ Overhaul of European Launch Industry (Source: Space News)
A group of former high-ranking European government and industry officials wants European governments to levy an annual tax on commercial satellite operators and abolish the Arianespace launch consortium in its current form to help keep Europe’s launcher industry solvent.

The group says Europe’s launcher sector, which depends on commercial revenue more than any other government-backed rocket industry, cannot survive without a radical reorganization that ultimately includes building a single rocket to serve medium- and heavy-lift requirements. The vehicle would succeed today’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket and would also replace the European version of Russia’s Soyuz vehicle, which will operate from Europe’s spaceport starting in 2011.

Arianespace “lacks the financial capabilities to face the normal risks of commercialization,” and suffers from an insufficient involvement by ESA member governments, and the executive commission of the 27-nation European Union. Placing a smaller Arianespace inside Astrium Space Transportation, the Ariane 5 prime contractor, is one option. Another is to transform Arianespace, and the commercialization of all European launch vehicles, into an “ESA Special Project.” Click here to read the article. (11/19)

Bolden Says Extra Shuttle Flights Needed As Hedge Against Additional COTS Delays (Source: Space News)
NASA needs to fly an additional space shuttle mission next year because development of privately owned rockets and spacecraft designed to ferry cargo to the orbiting outpost is likely to be delayed, according to the agency’s top official. “If there’s any delay in ... delivery of commercial capability to take cargo to station, we could find ourselves in a situation as bad as having to de-man the station or take it down to three people, and we really don’t want to do that,” said the NASA chief. (11/19)

European Space Agency Signs Long-Contested Weather Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) signed a contract with an industrial consortium to build six next-generation meteorological satellites, providing closure to an episode in European space industry politics that everyone involved — ESA, its partner Eumetsat, and the winning and losing contractors — would just as soon forget.

Valued at $55 million, the six-month contract will allow the winning consortium of Thales Alenia Space of France and OHB Technology of Germany to begin full design work on the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) system. MTG is composed of four imaging satellites and two spacecraft carrying infrared and ultraviolet sounding instruments, plus an associated network of ground facilities. (11/19)

China's Military Spaceplane? (Source: Space News)
As a follow-up to a notional fighter concept that emerged during Airshow China, there's a similar advanced concept the same group had of a future military space plane. What is particularly interesting is the fact that China, at times, has talked about restricting the militarization of space, but, of course, has conducted an anti-satellite test and advanced its space prowess across a whole range of domains. (11/19)

Delta-4 Launch Delayed (Source:
The launch attempt of the United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy with a National Reconnaissance Office payload was scrubbed today. During the launch countdown, anomalous temperature data signatures were detected on the port and starboard strap-on common core boosters during cryogenic fueling. When detected, mission managers halted the countdown and stopped further tanking of the rocket. (11/19)

Outlook for FY2011 Appropriations Remains Murky (Source: Space Policy Online)
The U.S. government is operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on Dec. 3. Congress must do something to keep the government operating after that date, but what it will do remains unclear: pass another short-term CR, pass a CR for the rest of FY2011, or pass an omnibus appropriations bill that funds all government agencies. The total price of the omnibus bill is about $1.1 trillion. On Thursday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that voters made clear that they do not want Congress "passing massive trillion dollar bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors" and he will not support such a measure. Senate Democrats need 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor. There are 57 Democrats, two Independents, and 41 Republicans currently in the Senate. (11/19)

California Delegation Members Win Leadership Positions (Source: CSA)
Four members of the California Congressional delegation have been chosen for leadership positions in both the Republican and Democratic parties within the U.S. House of Representatives for the 112th Congress. The Republican party has selected Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Majority Whip and Rep. David Dreier as Chairman of the House Rules Committee. The Democratic party has selected Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader and Rep. Xavier Becerra as Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

As expected, Republicans chose Rep. John Boehner (OH) as their nominee for Speaker and he is expected to take the gavel from current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) when the new Congress convenes on January 5, 2011. Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) was chosen as Majority Leader, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Bakersfield) was nominated for Majority Whip, the number three spot in the leadership. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX) was selected for Republican Conference Chair. Rep. David Dreier (San Dimas), who is expected to become Chair of the Rules Committee, was selected as the Republican’s Rules Committee representative.

The House Democrats voted to keep the same leadership team in the 112th Congress, when they become the minority. Rep. Pelosi won the election for Minority Leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD) will become Minority Whip. The Democratic Caucus created a new position, Assistant Leader, to ensure Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC) stayed in the top leadership ranks. Rep. John Larson (CT) was chosen as Caucus Chairman and Rep. Xavier Becerra (Los Angeles) will serve as Caucus Vice Chairman. (11/19)

Lockheed Martin Announces Layoffs, Facility Closure (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin says it will close a facility in Eagan, Minn., and will move manufacturing work from facilities in Middle River, Md., and Owego, N.Y. The actions will affect about 1,100 jobs, but the layoffs will be offset by the transfer of about 685 jobs to Owego, Virginia, or other locations, and the changes are designed to save $150 million over the next 10 years. (11/19)

Chris Stott Named as Manx 'Business Person of the Year' (Source:
The Isle of Man’s ever-increasing presence as a major player in the space sector was recognized with one of the top awards at the Isle of Man Newspapers Awards for Excellence going to Chris Stott of ManSat. The award as 'Business Person of the Year' was handed over to Chris in recognition of his work with ManSat, pioneering the space sector in the Isle of Man, bringing huge amounts of revenue to the Island at a time of difficult economic circumstances. (Stott's wife is astronaut Nicole Stott, an Embry-Riddle alumni who will fly on the next Shuttle mission.) (11/19)

Private SpaceShipTwo Heads for New Territory (Source:
The passenger-carrying suborbital SpaceShipTwo is headed for more aggressive testing — a step-by-step shakeout of the vehicle before entering commercial operation. "Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program," said Sir Richard Branson.

More momentum is in evidence with The Spaceship Company (TSC), which broke ground Nov. 9 on its new Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. TSC's mission is to build the fleet of SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwos for its customer Virgin Galactic. (11/19)

Should Pluto Be a Planet After All? Experts Weigh In (Source:
Now that Pluto may have regained its status as the largest object in the outer solar system, should astronomers consider giving it back another former title — that of full-fledged planet? Pluto was demoted to a newly created category, "dwarf planet," in 2006, partly because of the discovery a year earlier of Eris, another icy body from Pluto's neighborhood. Eris was thought to be bigger than Pluto until Nov. 6, when astronomers got a chance to recalculate Eris' size. Click here to read the article. (11/19)

Elon Musk is Redefining How Business is Done (Source: Newsweek)
It’s hard to tell if Elon Musk is a brave visionary or a quixotic dreamer. The 39-year-old has used the fortune he made from cofounding PayPal to start SpaceX. His hope: to create a transport service for NASA’s astronauts to get to and from the International Space Station. It sounds wild, but President Obama has already endorsed outsourcing some space transport to commercial companies. And in 2008, SpaceX won a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to deliver cargo to the space station with Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets. Aside from space travel, he also has an electric-car company, Tesla, and a solar-power firm called Solar City. Musk, who serves as CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, talks here about his work and what it takes to succeed. (11/19)

From Dogs to Frogs, the Creatures That Rocketed Into Space (Source: Newsweek)
In 2010, space travel has become so common that many people don't even notice when a country sends fliers into space. But 50 years ago it wasn't so clear that animals could go to and from space safely. So, when on Aug. 19, 1960, the Soviet Union was able to launch a pair of dogs into orbit and bring them back in one piece, it got major bragging rights in the Cold War space race. Although Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn are celebrated as early heroes of the space race, it's dogs like Strelka, Belka, and their host of furry—or slimy or wet—comrades who were the true pioneers of the final frontier. Here's a gallery devoted to their memory. (11/19)

U.S., EU Spar Over WTO Ruling on Subsidies (Source: AIA)
The U.S. and European Union traded accusations at an appeals court hearing of the World Trade Organization Nov. 11. Both sides are appealing a WTO ruling in a case brought by the U.S. against EADS-owned Airbus over subsidies the European-based company received for passenger jets from the European Union and four member states. Editor's Note: It would be interesting if the issue of international launch industry subsidies ever gained the attention of WTO. (11/19)

Canada’s MDA To Build Lunar Rover Prototypes (Source: Space News)
Canada’s MDA Corp. will design and build two lunar rover prototypes for yet-undetermined missions under a contract with the Canadian Space Agency valued at $11.3 million. The contract, part of the agency’s Exploration Surface Mobility Program, calls for the rovers to be ready for field testing in late 2012 along with other robotic technologies Canada is developing to prepare for a future international space exploration effort. (11/19)

Someday Soon, Japan May Launch a Manned Spacecraft (Source: Asahi)
Now that NASA has decided to retire its fleet of space shuttles, attention is shifting to Japan's unmanned transport vehicle, the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV), to carry payloads to the ISS. The HTV, developed to carry cargo, is now approaching the technological level at which it can be used as a manned spacecraft. "The day will soon come when Japan will launch manned spacecraft," said Dai Aso, 46, function manager of HTV project team. "We aim to offer an efficient delivery service to the universe, only requiring short-term preparations before launch," he added. (11/19)

Voyager Recordings Re-Mixed (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
In 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched. On both spacecraft, NASA had placed a copy of the Golden Record containing sounds and images from the Earth for intelligent extraterrestrials or humans of the future to find. The contents of the album were selected by a committee headed by the late astronomer Carl Sagan and included sounds from nature and animals, music and greetings in 55 languages. Sagan said "...the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."

On Nov. 1, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in Exile (SETI-X) released "Scrambles of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Records, Remixed by Extraterrestrials" (Seeland Records). The organization, which is a dissident offshoot of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, claims that it received transmissions believed to be alien reworkings of the original Voyager Golden Record. "Scrambles of Earth" features 70 minutes of sounds and music that come across as interesting, yet eerie experimental pop sounds. The cuts range from "Total Transmission," a burst of the first 10 seconds of everything. Click here for more. (11/19)

Boeing in Bid to Supply Satellites to Malaysia (Source: Bernama)
Measat, the satellite communications provider, "is in the process of acquiring an additional satellite, potentially two," says a Boeing official. Boeing has provided a Request For Proposal (RFP) to supply communications satellites to Measat Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd. Of the Measat Satellites orbiting in space, he said three out of four were delivered by Boeing. "We are in the middle of the competitive process to supply Measat a satellite as they are seeking high bandwidth to increase their commercial communications capacity," he said. (11/19)

Japan to Develop Cheap Satellite for Emerging Markets (Source: AFP)
Japan is developing a low-cost surveillance satellite to aid disaster relief and other purposes as it looks to expand its reach into emerging markets, government and corporate officials said. Japan's trade ministry is collaborating with NEC Corp. and other companies to develop by 2012 a small satellite costing a fifth of current prices for conventional monitoring satellites, trade ministry official Shuichi Kato said. NEC will contribute technology it developed for the Hayabusa asteroid probe program. The satellite would be ready for launch in 2012 and sales would be aimed at emerging countries such as Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand as well as Dubai and Kazakhstan. (11/19)

Attention Shuttle Museum Losers: Replicas Available (Source: SPACErePORT)
Those museums unsuccessful in their bids to acquire a retired Space Shuttle orbiter may be interested in acquiring a full-size replica, for $2.2 million. "Made to close exact dimensions of the original Space Shuttle Orbiters. The price does not reflect an interior but a full interior is available." Click here for details. Editor's Note: I'm not sure if this is legit. (11/19)

China's New Rocket Family Seems to Have a Gap (Source: Aviation Week)
China is developing a new family of rockets that will replace at least part of the current series of Long March 2, 3 and 4 space launchers. I say "at least part of" because there seems to be a gap in the line-up. Long March 6, still under development by SAST in Shanghai, will be capable of launching 1 ton to an orbit of 600 km., SAST says. Long March 7, a product of CALT in Beijing, is designed for launching payloads of 10-20 tons to low Earth orbit.

Even allowing for greater throw weights to less than 600 km., there is clearly a big space between the two launchers. Yet CALT and SAST do not reject the suggestion that one day the new series will replace the old one. The answer may be that the quoted Long March 6 payload is that of the minimum version of that rocket, whereas the biggest, with a full set of boosters, would approach Long March 7 capability. (11/19)

Former Shuttle Manager Decries NASA’s Commercial Crew Safety Regs (Source: Space News)
The battle being fought behind the scenes between NASA officials and space industry executives over requirements for commercial crew transportation burst into public view Nov. 14 when NASA’s former space shuttle program manager warned that the conflict was “poised to kill the [commercial transportation] initiative in its infancy.”

Wayne Hale, the former shuttle manager who left NASA in July to join Special Aerospace Services, a Boulder, Colo.-based consulting firm, compared the relationship between the commercial human spaceflight industry and NASA to a “coming train wreck.” Efforts to maintain high safety standards have led to voluminous requirements for vehicles designed to carry astronauts, Hale wrote. “Somewhere along the line, we have crossed over the optimum point to ensure safety and just added cost and delay,” he added. (11/19)

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