December 13, 2010

Orbital Teams with Virgin Galactic in CCDev 2 Bid (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences is proposing a new lifting-body spacecraft capable of carrying at least four passengers to orbit by 2015 in the competition for a second round of NASA commercial crew taxi development contracts slated for award in March, according to industry sources. The spacecraft, designed to launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket and dock with the international space station, could be ready for remotely piloted test flights as early as 2014, and would be capable of carrying four passengers initially, and up to six based on future market demand, sources said.

Orbital is teaming with Virgin Galactic of New Mexico on the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) project. Virgin Galactic will sell commercial seats on the spacecraft and provide transport services for the vehicle via its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, industry sources said. Although Orbital expects to launch and land the spacecraft at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in the event of an abort, WhiteKnightTwo would ferry the spaceship between its landing location and the Cape. (12/13)

Discovery Will Return to Assembly Building Next Week (Source:
The shuttle Discovery's external tank will be loaded with supercold rocket propellants as early as Friday in a critical test to help engineers understand what might have caused cracks in two structural ribs, or stringers, during a Nov. 5 launch attempt. The test also will show whether the repaired stringers can withstand the thermal stresses of fueling and help NASA managers develop "flight rationale" before proceeding to another launch attempt around Feb. 3.

Hoping for the best, NASA managers and engineers met Monday and agreed that after the test, whenever it takes place, the shuttle "stack" will be hauled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for additional inspections, and possible repairs, before returning to pad 39A in mid January for work to ready the ship for launch. (12/13)

Brazil Launches Rocket Into Orbit (Source:
Brazil on Sunday successfully launched a midsized unmanned rocket into space. Scientists from the Agencia Espacial Brasilena (AEB) said the VSB-3 rocket took off from the Alcantara spaceport in northeast Brazil, reaching an altitude of some 242 kilometers (389 miles). Officials said the rocket, designed by Brazilian and German scientists, carried some 400 kilograms (881 pounds) in cargo, as well as various microgravity experiments for several academic institutions.

The rocket soared for about 18 minutes before splashing down some 145 miles (233 kilometers) off Brazil's Atlantic coast, where it was retrieved by the air force and marines. Brazil aims to join China and Russia as a top emerging economy with its own space program. The launch is seen as a major accomplishment for a program that has faced setbacks and tragedy over the years -- including an August 2003 rocket accident at Alcantara that killed 21 Brazilian technicians and engineers. (12/13)

Galileo Moves Forward with Launch of Tracking and Control Center (Source: Space News)
European government authorities on Dec. 13 inaugurated an Arctic tracking and control center for the future Galileo satellite navigation system in the latest signal that the program is moving forward despite the absence of funds to complete it. The Kiruna Galileo Ground Station, located at Swedish Space Corp.’s Esrange facility in northern Sweden, “will show the world that Galileo is becoming a reality and is not just paperwork,” Rene Oosterlinck, director of navigation programs at the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA), said during the inauguration ceremony. (12/13)

Iran Plans to Build Second Spaceport (Source: Tehran Times)
Iran plans to construct its second spaceport, Communications and Information Technology Minister Reza Taqipour said on Sunday. “At present, there is only one space launch base in the country… but there are some geographical limitations (in regard to launching satellites and missiles),” Taqipour said. Thus, Iran has carried out a feasibility study on the construction of a second spaceport in order to overcome those limitations, he added.

The current launch site is located in Semnan Province, and in recent years, two spacecraft have been launched from the center. The Islamic Republic successfully launched a domestically manufactured satellite carrying a capsule containing a rat, turtles, and worms in February 2010. The launch of the Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer 3) satellite was Iran’s first experiment in sending living creatures into space. Iran also plans to send people into space within 10 years. (12/13)

Canadian Project Turns to Astronauts to Help Study Aging (Source: MetroNews)
Canada's last space research project on a U.S. space shuttle has a down-to-earth goal: to delve into the role our feet play in keeping our balance as we age. Known as Hypersole, the experiment began when Dr. Leah Bent of Guelph University learned that some astronauts experience tingling in their feet. “On Earth, our skin sensitivity decreases as we age. One of the interesting things about the skin during space travel is that we see changes in the opposite direction, skin sensitivity may actually increase,” she explains. (12/13)

Saturn's Rings: Leftovers From a Cosmic Murder? (Source: MSNBC)
One of the solar system's most evocative mysteries — the origin of Saturn's rings — may be a case of cosmic murder, new research suggests. The victim: an unnamed moon of Saturn that disappeared about 4.5 billion years ago. The suspect: a disk of hydrogen gas that once surrounded Saturn when its dozens of moons were forming, but has now fled the crime scene. The cause of death: A forced plunge into Saturn.

And those spectacular and colorful rings are the only evidence left. As the doomed moon made its death spiral, Saturn robbed its outer layer of ice, which then formed rings, according to a new theory published online Sunday in the journal Nature. "Saturn was an accomplice and that produced the rings," said study author Robin Canup, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute. (12/13)

NASA Names New Chief Scientist (Source: Space Policy Online)
Dr. Waleed Abdalati is NASA's new chief scientist. He will take on his new role on January 3, 2011. Abdalati currently is Director of the Earth Science and Observation Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder and an associate professor in the University's geography department. His speciality is polar ice cover and he has worked at NASA in various capacities in the past. (12/13)

India's Test of Nuclear-Capable Missile Fails (Source: Space Daily)
India's maiden test of an upgraded version of its nuclear-capable, medium-range Agni-II ballistic missile ended in failure Friday, when the missile dropped into the Bay of Bengal. (12/12)

2010: The Year Commercial Human Spaceflight Made Contact (Source: Space Review)-
A year ago commercial crew transportation was treated skeptically, at best, in the space community; now it's a part of national policy with the support of companies large and small. Jeff Foust reports on how last week's successful flight of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft may help secure the long-term future for commercial human spaceflight. Visit to view the article. (12/13)

The Case for a Human Asteroid Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Some still question the utility of mounting human missions to near Earth asteroids. Lou Friedman discusses not only why such missions are important, but also why the timetable for them should be accelerated. Visit to view the article. (12/13)

The Pioneer Lunar Orbiters: a Forgotten Failure (Source: Space Daily)
Fifty years ago this week NASA wrapped up a largely unsuccessful series of missions to send a spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. Andrew LePage recalls the origins and unlucky fates of the Pioneer lunar orbiters. Visit to view the article. (12/13)

Commercial Space and the Media (Source: Space Daily)
Last week's successful Falcon 9/Dragon launch was certainly a major milestone for the space industry, but it got little attention in some sectors of the mainstream media. Anthony Young examines this state of affairs. Visit to view the article. (12/13)

Air Force Inspecting Space Plane, Boeing Building Another One (Source:
U.S. Air Force and Boeing Co. engineers will thoroughly review the performance of the first X-37B space plane before committing to launching a duplicate vehicle in the spring of 2011, according to Pentagon officials. Wrapping up a secret mission in orbit, the unmanned spacecraft glided back to Earth Dec. 3 and made a pinpoint landing on a 15,000-foot-long runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Boeing is building a second vehicle at a factory in Southern California. The spacecraft will be shipped "soon" to prepare for launch at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Like the first mission, the next space plane will also blast off on an Atlas 5 rocket. The flight was scheduled for launch March 4, but McKinney would not publicize a specific date until completing post-mission reviews of the first mission. "It's really just a matter of months before we do our next flight," McKinney told reporters last week. (12/13)

Second Test of Boeing Missile Interceptor Planned This Week (Source: AIA)
The Missile Defense Agency says it will attempt to launch a Boeing ground-based midcourse defense missile again this week after the missile failed to intercept its target in a test last January. The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is set to take place between Dec. 14 and 17, depending on weather conditions. It will be directed to a target missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, in the Western Pacific. (12/13)

Lockheed Martin Gets $921M Navy Contract (Source: AP)
Defense company Lockheed Martin Corp. has received a $921 million Navy contract to make Trident II missiles and related support, the Defense Department said Friday. The contract calls for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Sunnyvale, Calif., to complete work by April 30, 2016. Besides Sunnyvale, contract work will be performed in Bangor, Wash., Kings Bays, Ga., and Cocoa Beach, Florida. (12/13)

High Stakes, High Hopes for NASA's Newest Mars Rover (Source: AIA)
Curiosity is still about a year away from launch, but the stakes are high for NASA's most ambitious Mars rover. Because Curiosity weighs five times more than previous rovers, its landing on the Red Planet will require a complicated system of parachutes, rockets and a "sky crane" -- "our six minutes of terror," in the words of one NASA engineer. Such complexities have added about $700 million to the mission's budget and put it two years behind schedule, but hopes are high for the discoveries that could ensue. "We're trying to take the next step in addressing the question of whether life ever got started on Mars," says deputy project scientist Joy Crisp. (12/13)

Mica's Influence Already Showing (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, is the first Floridian to head the House's largest committee. He takes over as chariman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee in January. Mica has been a significant backer of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach. He helped ERAU secure an FAA contract in 2008 to create and test technologies for the next generation air traffic control system, transitioning from ground-based radar to satellites.

Just this year, the NextGen contract limit was increased to $50 million from $14 million and lab space is being doubled to 10,000 square feet. In July, Mica led the call that brought dozens of top aviation executives to Daytona Beach to see ERAU's research capabilities. In August, he hosted the first public demonstration of the new air traffic control technologies. He and the university are organizing a spring system demonstration for industry officials. "I hope the residual is that we can make this the center, in the United States and internationally, of aviation air traffic control technology for future decades and generations," Mica says.

"I have the deepest admiration for Congressman Mica," says Christina Frederick-Recascino, ERAU vice president of academics and research. "He has helped with money, but also he asks our opinions on legislation and language so as not to hurt aviation. I think his chairmanship will definitely help down the road. He knows transportation and he cares for this area." (12/13)

Embry-Riddle Joins NASA Human Health & Performance Center (Source: SPACErePORT)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is now one of 11 academic members of the NASA Human Health & Performance Center (NHHPC). The NASA group, managed out of Johnson Space Center, is sponsoring a January 18 workshop in Houston to discuss collaborative strategies and best practices to achieve NASA's human health and perfornance goals for future space exploration. Click here for information on NHHPC. (12/13)

Rockets to Rockies: NASA Helps Build Colorado Economy (Source: White House)
Many of the technologies that NASA develops to explore the universe and keep astronauts safe in the extreme environment of space have applications right here on Earth. From water purification systems and biohazard sensors to efficient energy systems and nutritional supplements in baby food, the spinoffs from space technology are myriad. And now a new partnership in Colorado is poised to leverage space and energy technologies to bring down-to-Earth economic benefits to the Rocky Mountain State.

Today, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver are announcing a new Technology Acceleration Program (TAP) that will leverage space technology from NASA to help accelerate economic growth and create new jobs in Colorado. This public-private partnership will create a regional economic innovation cluster focused on aerospace and energy technologies. Under this model, Federal and state governments will work together with industry and academia to strengthen Colorado’s economy. (12/13)

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