November 8, 2010

Embry-Riddle Students Form S.P.A.C.E. Association (Source: SPACErePORT)
Students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have formed a Space Privatization And Commercial Exploration (S.P.A.C.E.) Association that now meets Wednesday nights at the university's College of Aviation building in Daytona Beach. (11/8)

Embry-Riddle Safety Investigation Group Plans November Meetings (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Embry-Riddle chapter of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISAS) plans meetings on Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 at the university's College of Aviation building in Daytona Beach. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle is pursuing a federal grant to establish a spaceflight accident investigation course. (11/8)

The Mysteries of Titan (Source: Space Review)
Thirty years ago this week Voyager 1 made the first close flyby of Titan, Saturn's largest moon and one of the most intriguing worlds in the solar system. Andrew LePage recounts the research into Titan and the planning that led up to that encounter. Visit to view the article. (11/8)

Space Solar Power's Indian Connection (Source: Space Review)
As the United States and India seek closer ties, should space-based solar power be on the agenda? Jeff Foust reports on developments in that field, including a new joint initiative supported by a former Indian president. Visit to view the article. (11/8)

NASA Works to Develop Hypersonic Plane (Source: AIA)
NASA says it is developing a hypersonic aircraft capable of flying at five times the speed of sound, essentially allowing commercial flights to fly from New York to Sydney in two and a half hours. The project, costing about $5 million a year over the next three years, would be part of a larger goal to create a new way of getting into space, and Mars, without using rockets. (11/8)

Allies Unite in Bid to Defend Space Assets (Source: The Australian)
Australia will join forces with the US to help protect satellite communications from deliberate sabotage. The move comes at a time when foreign powers such as China are increasingly asserting their authority in space. The move is aimed at ensuring the US and its allies maintain their dominance in space, which is fast emerging as a battleground of the future.

The joint partnership, announced at yesterday's Ausmin meeting in Melbourne, mentioned China as a country that had taken "deliberate actions" to disrupt the operating environment for satellites in space. The joint partnership is likely to lead to US space sensors operating from joint facilities such as the Naval Communications Station at Exmouth in Western Australia. The sensors would help track space objects to predict potential collisions and gauge whether some accidents were deliberate acts of sabotage. (11/8)

UK Space: the Fiscal Frontier? (Source: Management Today)
UK space companies seem to be above the concerns of their Earth-bound cousins, growing by an average of 10% a year from 2007, despite the gravity of the recession. And employment in the sector has been going up around 15% a year too. Compared to everywhere else at the minute, that’s like being strapped to the side of a shuttle and given 400,000 pounds of thrust.

Of course, it’s not all spacewalks and rounds of moon-golf. The best performing areas are more down-to-earth services like satellite broadcasting, telecoms and sat-navs (known collectively as downstream activities). But even the weaker upstream work, like satellite manufacturing, was healthy – recording annual growth of 3% from 2006/7 to 2008/9. (11/8)

UK Space Sector Earnings Now at £7.5 Billion (Source: BBC)
UK space companies have defied the recession, growing by an average of 10% a year from 2007. So says a report from the Oxford Economics consultancy, which predicts the growth will continue in 2010. The space business is now said to have a turnover worth some £7.5 billion, with employment rising at about 15% a year. The best performing areas are in so-called downstream activities - services such as satellite broadcasting and telecommunications. But even the upstream sector - such as satellite manufacturing - recorded a very healthy performance, averaging annual growth of 3% over the period 2006/07 to 2008/09. (11/8)

Current Chinese Rockets To Keep Flying (Source: Aviation Week)
China’s Long March 2, 3 and 4 launchers will continue to serve for at least 10 years, according to Meng Guang, vice president of Shanghai-based space contractor SAST. The current Long March 2, 3 and 4 are distinguished from the upcoming Long March 5, 6 and 7 rockets by their use of hydrazine fuel. The first launch of the Long March 5 heavy rocket is due in 2014.

“I think the Long March 6 and 7 will eventually replace Long March 2 and 4 and maybe Long March 3 as well,” Meng says, briefing a delegation from the U.S. space industry on the company’s progress. But no plans for phasing out any of the earlier Long Marches have been announced by CASC (China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp.). In particular, the group cannot be anxious to replace Long March 2F, its human-rated launcher. (11/8)

The Joys and Benefits of American Space Travel (Source: St. Petersburg Times)
You can call this my outer space lamentation. The space shuttle Discovery soon will make its final voyage. The shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to blast off on Feb. 27, ending the shuttle program that began in 1970. I am not alone in feeling this loss. Each time I go to Cape Canaveral or to a nearby beach to witness a liftoff, thousands of other people from around the world are there. Many of them also are lamenting the demise of the shuttle program.

Space exploration, especially manned exploration, has been good for the United States. The space program has provided tens of thousands of jobs for highly skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Americans. Florida, especially the Space Coast, has benefited from the program by enjoying millions of tourist dollars. And there have been what NASA refers to as "spinoffs" and "technology transfers." According to the agency's annual journal, more than 1,650 NASA technologies have benefited U.S. industry and science and improved quality of life. (11/8)

The Next Cape Canaveral (Source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
A runway in an otherwise vast, empty stretch of desert in southern New Mexico will soon become the starting point of weekly sightseeing trips to space for anyone who can afford the $200,000 ticket, and with NASA retiring the Space Shuttle, that might eventually include traditional astronauts as well. This flat and arid landscape near Upham was named Jornada del Muerto -- or Journey of the Dead Man -- by the Spanish explorers who traveled through the area on horseback north from what is now Mexico.

Journey of the Dead Man is an ominous name to associate with a key piece of land in humankind's space-faring future. Yet, when Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise did a fly-by of the two-mile-long Spaceport America runway at its dedication on Oct. 22, it was more than just a step forward for space tourism. The commemoration signaled that the culmination of a 20 year effort is finally within sight and as NASA is soon to be dependent on Russia for space access, the timing may be ideal for its organizers. (11/8)

Spacecraft Factory to Break Ground in Mojave (Source: Los Angeles Times)
A production facility that would build the world's first fleet of commercial spaceships is set to begin construction Tuesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The 68,000-square-foot facility, one of the first aircraft assembly plants to be built in the region in decades, will be home to the Spaceship Co., or TSC -- a joint venture owned by Mojave-based Scaled Composites and British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company.

TSC hopes to complete the complex by September 2011. It expects to build three White Knight aircraft, which resemble massive flying catamarans, and five smaller SpaceShipTwo rocket planes. TSC expects to employ up to 170 people when production is in full swing. It has begun posting job openings on its website for engineers and technicians. Editor's Note: Scaled Composites is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp. (11/8)

Special Aerospace Services Announces Commercial Human Spaceflight Forum (Source: SAS)
Special Aerospace Services, a leader in aerospace systems engineering solutions, announced today that it will host its first Commercial Human Spaceflight Technical Forum on January 12-14. The forum is being held in Boulder, Colorado, and will present a focused and concentrated technical agenda created for Commercial Human Spaceflight providers and NASA. Attendees will gain insight to techniques that will be required to successfully achieve the NASA human rating certification and FAA commercial spaceflight licensing. Click here for information. (11/8)

Asteroid Impact Early Warning System Unveiled (Source: MIT Technology Review)
At about 3:00 a.m. on 8 October last year, an asteroid the size of a small house smashed into the Earth's atmosphere over an isolated part of Indonesia. The asteroid disintegrated in the atmosphere causing a 50 kiloton explosion, about four times the size of the atomic bomb used to destroy Hiroshima. The blast was picked up by several infrasound stations used by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization to monitor nuclear tests.

No-one was injured in blast but the incident highlights the threat that planet faces from near Earth asteroids. Astronomers expect a strike like this once every 2-12 years. And the US congress has given NASA the task of sweeping the skies to identify anything heading our way. So far NASA has looked for objects of a kilometer or more in size and determined that none of these is on track to hit Earth in the foreseeable future.

But what of smaller objects? Various estimates show that an impact with an asteroid just 50 metres across would cause some 30,000 deaths (compared with 50 million deaths from an impact with a 1 kilometer-sized object). Click here to read the article. (11/8)

NASA/NIA to Sponsor Student Planetary Rover Challenge (Source: NIA)
Few NASA projects in recent years have captured the public's attention like the Mars rovers. Now researchers are hoping the chance to design a future rover may capture university students' interest. NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) have launched a new planetary rover engineering competition called Exploration Robo-Ops Student Challenge. University teams are eligible to win as much as $10,000 for designing and building a planetary rover, then demonstrating its capability to perform a series of tasks.

Graduate and undergraduate engineering teams with a faculty adviser are eligible to compete. Teams are required to submit a project plan proposal by Dec. 15. Up to 10 qualifying teams to be announced Dec. 23 will move on to the building phase of the competition. Those teams' rovers will then compete against one another at the 2011 RASC-AL Robo-Ops Forum in May next year. Click here for details. (11/8)

For NASA, Closer Looks at Mercury and Mars (Source: New York Times)
On Earth, 2011 will be another tumultuous year for NASA: its space shuttles will be retired, and it will have to wrangle with Congress and the Obama administration over a rocket and a destination for the U.S. human spaceflight program. In space, though, NASA will have a less contentious time pursuing its science missions.

Planetary scientists will finally get their first extended look at Mercury. After a trip of six and a half years through the inner solar system, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will finally pull into orbit around Mercury on March 18. On Mars, scientists will be looking to NASA’s once-and-future rovers, including vehicles that landed there nearly seven years ago and may or may not have life left in them. (11/8)

China Unveils First Moon Photos From New Lunar Orbiter (Source:
China's space program has released the first moon photos taken by the country's second lunar probe Chang'e 2, an unmanned spacecraft scouting out potential sites for a planned robotic lunar landing mission in 2013. The pictures were taken by Chang'e 2 at the end of October, according to the AFP news agency. They show an area in the moon's northern hemisphere known as Sinus Iridium (Bay of Rainbows), revealing it to be relatively flat area with craters and rocks of various sizes, according to media reports. (11/8)

Where (Almost) No Jew Has Gone Before (Source: Jerusalem Post)
Garret Reisman is a Jewish pioneer. No, he doesn’t grow cucumbers on a kibbutz in the Negev. His frontier is space and his mission is to boldly go where no Jew has gone before, or at least relatively few. “I’m the first Jew to have been on the international space station,” Reisman said at the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.

“It’s very hard to break records in space today. Yuri Gagarin first man in space, it’s been done. First man on the moon Neil Armstrong, been done. The first Jew in space, that’s been done long ago. So all I have is this: the first Jewish crew member on the international space station, and I brought with me a mezuzah.” (11/8)

Space Travel is Bad Medicine for Your Bones (Source:
A new study investigated how astronauts' bones compare to those of Earthbound folks over time, and the results are not encouraging for space travelers. Scientists have known for years that exposure to microgravity rapidly weakens bones, and the new research shows the effects can last for a year or more after astronauts return to Earth. The results stress the need to find ways to minimize the damage done during spaceflight, researchers said, because bone recovery on Earth may take a while. "If we can intervene in space and have crewmembers not lose as much, that would be the best outcome for them," said a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. (11/8)

SpaceX COTS Demo Delayed to December 7 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has postponed a planned Nov. 20 launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel to no earlier than Dec. 7. The flight, a demonstration of the medium-class rocket and space capsule being developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, was originally slated to occur in September 2008. SpaceX’s COTS agreement was later modified to reflect a June 2009 initial demonstration flight. Routine resupply runs to the international space station were expected to follow as early as December of this year, but hardware development has taken longer than planned.

The delay was attributed, in part, to a slip NASA's planned launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, which was moved to no earlier than Nov. 30 after engineers discovered a leak in the orbiter’s external fuel tank Nov. 5. But Brost also said SpaceX plans to run more tests of the Dragon capsule at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. “We have assets tied to shuttle, but we also think that additional testing on Dragon would be valuable,” she said. (11/8)

NASA Selects Companies for Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle Studies (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 13 companies for negotiations leading to potential contract awards to conduct systems analysis and trade studies for evaluating heavy-lift launch vehicle system concepts, propulsion technologies, and affordability. Each company will provide a final report to help lay the groundwork for the transportation system that could launch humans to multiple destinations, including asteroids, Lagrange points, the moon and Mars.

The selected companies are: Aerojet; Analytical Mechanics Associates; Andrews Space; Alliant Techsystems; Boeing; Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman; Orbital Sciences Corp.; Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne; Science Applications International Corp.; SpaceX; United Launch Alliance; and United Space Alliance. The awards total approximately $7.5 million with a maximum individual contract award of $625,000. (11/8)

One Shuttle Crew Out, Another One In at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Discovery's crew jetted back to Houston after Friday's launch scrub, but Endeavour astronauts have taken their place at Kennedy Space Center. The six-man crew assigned to fly what is still the last scheduled mission, on Feb. 27, is visiting today and Tuesday for training. The training is intended to familiarize the crew with orbiter systems and the mission's payloads, most importantly a particle physics detector called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. (11/8)

Fuel Tank Crack is Latest of Shuttle Discovery's Woes (Source: New Scientist)
It was supposed to be in space by now, part way through its final mission. Instead the space shuttle Discovery is grounded until 30 November and NASA is evaluating a worrying crack that has formed in the foam insulation on its fuel tank. The 20-centimeter-long fissure appeared on Friday as the tank was being drained of liquid hydrogen after a fuel leak had prevented the shuttle from launching. "It's not something we like to see," says Mike Moses, the shuttle's launch integration manager.

In 2003, a suitcase-sized piece of foam fell from the fuel tank during the launch of the shuttle Columbia, damaging its wing and ultimately causing the vehicle to disintegrate during its return to Earth; all seven astronauts on board died. In the wake of the disaster, NASA grounded the shuttle fleet for two years while it worked out how to make the foam safe. (11/8)

Engineers Mull Shuttle Repair Options (Source: CBS)
Engineers extended a launch pad access platform Monday in preparation for inspections and disassembly of a 7-inch hydrogen vent line quick-disconnect fitting to find out what caused a potentially dangerous leak that forced NASA to cancel the shuttle Discovery's planned launching last Friday. In parallel with the vent line investigation, shuttle managers also are refining plans for repairing cracked foam insulation on Discovery's external tank that was discovered after Friday's launch scrub was declared.

The cracks are believed to have formed shortly after 7 a.m. EDT Friday, about an hour after engineers begin pumping supercold liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuel into the huge tank and just before the vent line leak developed. The longest single crack measures almost four feet long, end to end, in an area measuring about 10 inches by 20 inches.

Access at the pad is difficult, but technicians tentatively plan to begin cutting away foam in the damaged area Wednesday, using non-destructive evaluation to look for signs of any problems with the underlying metal might explain the cracking. A repair plan will not be approved until after the foam in the damaged area has been "dissected" and engineers get a better idea of what caused the problem in the first place. (11/8)

Attempted Shuttle Launch Attracts VIPs (Source:
Among the estimated thousands of disappointed space fans who hoped to see space shuttle Discovery's final launch last week were some notable VIPs — a long list that includes an American billionaire, a Google co-founder and a mystery college student dressed as a giant dog. According to NASA's latest VIP list, American billionaire Paul Allen, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and the Honorable Samuel Hinds — the prime minister of the South American country of Guyana — were among the dignitaries visiting KSC for the shuttle Discovery's launch. (11/8)

Rep. Mica Vows Quick Action on NextGen Funding (Source: AIA)
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., says a controversial labor provision will be dropped next year from a bill designed to upgrade the nation's aging air traffic control system. Without this language championed by outgoing Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., Mica believes remaining issues can be ironed out quickly, allowing the NextGen system to move ahead. Editor's Note: Plans for NextGen include capabilities to support the flight of commercial space vehicles through the National Airspace System. (11/8)

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