November 23, 2010

NASA Selects Companies for Advanced Aircraft Concepts Study (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded two contracts for studies designed to identify advanced concepts for airliners that could enter service in 2025 and fly with less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption. A team led by Lockheed Martin of Palmdale, Calif., was selected for a contract worth $2.99 million. A team led by Northrop Grumman of El Segundo, Calif., was selected for a contract worth $2.65 million. Both contracts have a performance period of 12 months, beginning in November. (11/23)

Astrotech Wins NPOESS Processing Work (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Space Operations has won a fully-funded task order under an existing $35 million Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. The Company will provide facilities and payload processing services from its VAFB location in support of NASA's National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) mission scheduled to launch October 25, 2011. (11/23)

US Postal Service Reveals Designs for 2011 Space Stamps (Source: CollectSpace)
Alan Shepard will be depicted on a 2011 U.S. postage stamp wearing the silver spacesuit in which he made history as the first American astronaut to fly into space. The stamp's design, which was quietly released last week by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), shows Shepard from his shoulders up centered between images of his rocket lifting off and his capsule orbiting the Earth. Opposite the astronaut's portrait on an adjoining stamp, an artist's rendering shows NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting the planet Mercury. Editor's Note: How do we get USPS to develop a larger series of space stamps? I bet they'd be very popular. (11/23)

Russia Plans Work on Nuclear Space Projects (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Energia space corporation will start developing standardized space modules with nuclear-powered propulsion systems next year. Energia director Vitaly Lopota said the first launches with a capacity of 150 to 500 KW could be made some time in 2020. Roscosmos Director Anatoly Perminov previously said the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial if Russia wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the moon and Mars.

The project will require an estimated 17 billion rubles (over $580 million). Energia earlier said it is also ready to design a space-based nuclear power station with a service life of 10-15 years, to be initially placed on the moon or Mars. It is also working on a concept of a nuclear-powered space tug, which could more than halve satellite launching and orbiting costs. (11/23)

Russia to Spend $2 Billion for Space Clean-up (Source: Xinhua)
Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia will build a special orbital pod designed for sweeping-up satellite debris from near-Earth space. The system was estimated to cost about $1.9 billion U.S. dollars. "The corporation promised to clean up the space in ten years by collecting about 600 defunct satellites on the same geosynchronous orbit and sinking them into the ocean," said an Energia official.

He said the cleaning satellite would work on nuclear power and be capable to work up to 15 years. Energia said that the company would complete the cleaning satellite work-out and assembly by 2020 and test the device no later than in 2023. Sinyavsky said that Energia has also been drafting a space interceptor designed to destroy dangerous space objects heading toward the Earth. Editor's Note: Heads up, Pentagon! These Russian systems would have capabilities that could pose a threat to your operational satellites too. (11/23)

Russian Scientists Developing Moonbase Protection Systems (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian scientists are developing automatic sealing systems to protect future manned space stations on the Moon and Mars from debris, Russia's Central Research Institute of Machine Building said. "Protection of spacecraft modules against micrometeorite impact and space debris, based on the use of protective screens, that is passive protection, is at the limit of its technical capability due to weight restrictions," the institute's experts said.

"This is why we need to develop new protection based on self-sealing systems capable of independently and quickly restoring the object's air-tightness in case of leaks," they said. Scientists said there are three ways of self-sealing a spacecraft. The first is to place a plug into the hole and thus stop the air leak. The second is to feed liquid sealant into the rupture, and the third is a combination of the two methods. (11/23)

U.S. Mission Proposed to Send Astronauts to the Moon's Far Side (Source;
While NASA has officially given up its plans to send humans back to the surface of the moon anytime soon, a contractor is proposing a mission to send a crew to a stationary spot in orbit over the far side of Earth's neighbor. Lockheed Martin has begun pitching an L2-Farside Mission using its Orion spacecraft under development.

The company says such an endeavor could sharpen skills and technologies needed for a trip to an asteroid – as well as showcase techniques useful for exploring Mars by teleoperation as astronauts orbit the red planet. Both are stated goals under the new direction for NASA outlined by President Obama.

From a "halo orbit" around an L2 point on the moon's far side, a crew would control robots on the lunar surface. Teleoperated science tasks include snagging rock specimens for return to Earth from the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin – one of the largest, deepest, and oldest craters in the solar system – as well as deploy a radio telescope array on the farside. (11/23)

Dragon Re-Entry License - Not the First? (Source: HobbySpace)
Gary Hudson believes the Commercial Experiment Transporter (COMET), which failed to reach orbit on a Conestoga 1620 rocket on Oct. 23, 1995 (launched from the Wallops Island spaceport in Virginia), actually had received the first commercial spacecraft reentry license. A paper published in 1998 about COMET included the following statement:

"Ultimately, the OCST [Office of Commercial Space Transportation in Dept. of Transportation] licensed the COMET reentry vehicle as a payload on a licensed expendable launch vehicle. In this way, the OCST licensed the first landing of a reusable space vehicle before passage of legislation (still pending) that would empower the OCST to license vehicle landings." So it sounds like the COMET got the first return license but Dragon got the first license actually authorized by legislation.

Editor's Note: The Conestoga and COMET were developed by Houston-based Space Services Inc. Conestoga used a cluster of Delta-2 strap-on solid rocket motors, wrapped around surplus Minuteman missile stages. COMET was to be a retrievable experiment carrier for NASA's CCDS (Centers for the Commercial Development of Space) program. Click here for more on the rocket. Also, back in the mid-1990s, OCST was part of the Dept. of Transportation, not FAA, so SpaceX can still claim to have the first "FAA" reentry license. (11/23)

Virgin Galactic Blasts Report on Environmental Impact of Space Tourism (Source: Guardian)
It isn't easy trying to pioneer an entirely new industry - just ask Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's attempt to take tourists into space. Not only does he face the prospect of launching a multi-billion dollar venture in the wake of an economic downturn, but he is also having to battle growing environmental concerns about the high profile project.

It can't be a coincidence that on Oct. 22, as Virgin Galactic opened its first spaceport, Geophysical Research Letters published a report suggesting that the environmental effects of this new mode of space travel might be more severe than first thought. The report has Whitehorn hopping mad. "The research was fundamentally wrong," he says. "If you had a Virgin Galactic program running for ten years, if you assumed that we weren't using biobutinol (which we will) we're talking about less environmental impact over ten years than 1.5 shuttle launches." (11/23)

340 Aspiring Astronauts Already Ticketed for Space Travel (Source: WFAA)
At least three Dallas-Fort Worth-area travel agents are taking reservations for space tourism flights. $200,000 pays for three days of training at Spaceport America, then a flight to 50,000 feet before SpaceShipTwo disconnects from WhiteKnightTwo and rockets up at three times the speed of sound until the dark expanses of space finally frame the planet. From take-off to touchdown, it's a little more than a two-hour flight. Zero gravity lasts about five minutes.

Perhaps most fascinating is that experts predict more people will go to space in the next five years than every astronaut that has ever gone before. To accomplish that, details have to be sorted out first: Issues like space insurance, space traffic control and maybe — most importantly — how spaceports can launch spacecraft without interfering with more traditional aircraft criss-crossing the country. (11/23)

Earth and Space Science Missions Less Risky if Conducted by a Single Agency (Source: National Academies)
Earth and space science missions developed and implemented by federal agencies in collaboration typically result in additional complexity and cost and increased risks from divided responsibilities and accountability, says a new report from the National Research Council. Federal agencies should not partner in conducting space and earth science missions unless there is a compelling reason to do so and clear criteria are met in advance.

The committee examined case studies from previous domestic and international missions, received briefings from several agencies, and drew upon committee members' own experiences to reach its conclusions While there are varying amounts of cooperation among agencies, the report says that generally the more interdependent agencies are for mission success, the higher the degree of complexity and risk associated with the project.

Editor's Note: Case in point: NPOESS. Exception to the rule(?): DOD procurement of launch services (like last week's Minotaur-4) to fly a mix of payloads from DOD and NASA. Perhaps it makes sense for multiple agencies to use a single procurement mechanism, but not to combine requirements for a complex hardware/technology development program.

National Academies Report Seems to Support National Space Council Concept (Source: SPACErePORT)
The new National Academies report that cautions against multi-agency management of space science missions seems to argue in favor of a new system for inter-agency coordination, where such multi-agency programs are warranted. Here's a quote from the news release accompanying the new report: "There is a need for coordinated oversight of interagency collaboration; however, OMB and OSTP are not suited to day-to-day oversight. Some alternative governance mechanism may be required to facilitate accountable decision-making across multiple agencies." This is the kind of role envisioned for a National Space Council. (11/23)

World Space Agencies to Jointly Explore Solar System (Source: Xinhua)
International space agencies have agreed to cooperate over the exploration of solar system using unmanned spacecraft, said Russian federal space agency Roscosmos. "Universal understanding of the birth and the development of our Solar System ... has widened significantly with the beginning of the space era, which gave an opportunity to see everything through the eyes of automatic research equipment," according to a Roscosmos website statement. Countries were not likely to achieve any palpable results if they worked separately, said the statement, which came as a result of the recent meeting between 25 space agencies in Washington. (11/23)

Space Club Donates $40,000 to Brevard Schools for Space Week (Source: NSCFL)
National Space Club Florida Committee has donated $40,000 to the Brevard Schools Foundation for Space Week, a program that over a two week period in December allows all 5,300 Brevard County sixth grade students and their science teachers to participate in a full day of organized and hands-on activities at Kennedy Space Center. Their contribution is matched by a grant from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

In addition to their financial contributions, National Space Club members and companies also participate during Space Week by giving student presentations and setting up aerospace-themed exhibits for the students. Since 2003, over 35,000 sixth grade students have participated in this innovative program. Since the inception of Space Week, the National Space Club has contributed over $125,000 to the program. (11/16)

Tiny, Cheap, and Fuel-Less: Is O/OREOS the Future of Satellites? (Source: Smart Planet)
Friday saw the launch of the Minotaur IV rocket, which made its low-key launch from Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Kodiak Launch Complex in Kodiak, Alaska. Onboard were multiple small satellites, some largely new, some based on proven technology. Nestled somewhere among the others, though, was clue about NASA’s near future in space, a strange little craft called the O/OREOS.

For a multi-purpose, standalone research module with an expected mission length of six months–not to mention a NASA project–this satellite is phenomenally cheap, at just $1.75 million. It won’t need any propellant to carry out its two experiments–a study of how microbes reproduce in space and a battery of tests on how certain organic molecules respond to weightlessness, radiation and UV light–so it won’t carry any. Oh, and it’s the size of a loaf of bread.

The O/OREOS is one among a growing trend nanosatellites, a class of orbiters that could change the way certain tupes of research are done in space. Small and light enough to be tucked away aboard rockets without interfering with existing payloads or dramatically altering launch weight, they’re unprecedentedly affordable to launch, as well as build. (11/23)

Stanford Students Design Canopy for CubeSats (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stanford researchers have completed the first successful tests in zero gravity of a canopy for CubeSats — the tiny satellites that hitch rides on rockets sending larger satellites into orbit. The goal is to gather data on what happens when micrometeoroids slam into a satellite. Such impacts often knock out electronic equipment on satellites. The encounters are poorly understood, but the canopies could be a first step in eventually building “black boxes” for satellites similar to airplane flight recorders. Click here to see the video. (11/23)

NASA’s Plan to Save Astrophysics From Space Telescope’s Budget Overruns (Source: WIRED)
The $1.5 billion in cost overruns needed to complete the planned successor to the Hubble Space Telescope had NASA astrophysicists fearing for the future of other projects. But it appears NASA won’t suck funds from other astrophysics research to pay for the telescope. “They’re not going to ravage the astrophysics budget,” said Alan Boss, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and chair of the NASA advisory council astrophysics subcommittee, said. “That is wonderful news.” (11/23)

USAF: AEHF-1 Engine Failure An Anomaly (Source: Aviation Week)
Preliminary findings of an investigation into a malfunction on the Pentagon’s newest communications satellite, worth more than $2 billion, indicate that an onboard engine failure was an anomaly and not the result of a design failure. This is clearing the way for the second of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites to be slated for launch as early as March 2012.

AEHF-1’s liquid apogee engine (LAE), which was designed by IHI Aerospace of Japan, failed to fire as planned, leaving the spacecraft in a low orbit. The LAEs, however, performed as expected, and the culprit could be a problem in the fuel system feeding those engines. "It was a manufacturing issue in the propulsion system," said an Air Force official...a problem with "workmanship." (11/22)

Ex-Manager Credits Hubble for Religious Converts (Source: Decatur Daily)
The Hubble Space Telescope mission statement never mentioned evangelical pursuits when NASA adopted the idea in 1973. Its former project manager, however, said the billion dollar spacecraft has certainly helped substantiate a beginning point for the universe, and its spectacular images have transformed atheist and agnostic scientists into Christian converts.

Jim Odom, a Decatur resident who led the Hubble program in the 1980s, told the Rotary Club of Decatur on Tuesday that he knows many people in the scientific community who became Christians by the observing the wonders of the heavens revealed by Hubble, which is celebrating its 20th year in operation. “It was purely what they saw (through Hubble),” he said.

Odom was moved briefly to tears when he recalled how four of the 12 key astronomers and astro physicists who worked on Hubble with him at Marshall Space Flight Center went from non-believers to believers in a God-created universe. "That to me is worth more than all the science Hubble produced,” he said. (11/23)

NASA, the White House and PETA Lead in Social Media, Online Strategy (Source: Business Wire)
NASA, the White House and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) outpace other public sector organizations when it comes to social media savvy and online strategy, according to the first annual Digital IQ Index for the Public Sector. The index measures and ranks public sector organizations’ Digital IQs across four dimensions: effectiveness of an organization's site, digital marketing, social media and mobile platforms. (11/23)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Space Industries Inc, Max Faget's commercial space company did, in fact, receive the first re-entry license for its COMET capsule in the 1992-1995 timeframe.