December 15, 2010

Missile Blasts Off From California in Interceptor Test Flight (Source: Lompoc Record)
An interceptor missile blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base today as part of a missile-defense test. The missile roared into cloudy skies shortly after noon. The launch was the last one planned in 2010 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and was a repeat of the year's first blastoff. The $120 million test was postponed Tuesday due to foggy conditions and air-traffic-control issues.

The test involves a target missile, which was launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean. The interceptor missile, carrying the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, popped out of its underground silo on north Vandenberg Air Force Base. (12/15)

AIA: Solid 2010 Results for Aerospace (Source: AIA)
With another solid financial performance in 2010, the aerospace industry has again demonstrated its vital importance to the U.S. economy. "Aerospace has produced solid results, including a new sales record for the seventh straight year, leading all manufacturers in trade surplus and providing a sense of stability amidst the chaos of economic upheaval," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey.

In her remarks to more than 300 members of the news media, government and industry at the association's 46th annual Year-end Review and Forecast Luncheon, Blakey cited a preliminary total aerospace sales figure of $216.5 billion. Aerospace orders made a strong bounce back into positive territory, increasing 20 percent over 2009. "While still off from our high in 2007," Blakey said, "this increase hopefully marks the bottoming-out of the recent decline in orders." (12/15)

Visitor Complex Releases $100 Million Plan for Retired Orbiter Exhibit (Source: Florida Today)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex today announced plans to create a $100 million exhibit featuring a flown shuttle orbiter -- assuming NASA awards one to the Space Coast. The 64,000-square foot exhibit showing the orbiter as it appeared in flight is included in a 10-year master plan whose design is just under way.

"We would be honored to showcase one of the space shuttle orbiters so we have begun designing a dynamic, interactive exhibit to tell the space shuttle story from our own unique perspective," Bill Moore, the visitor complex's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Kennedy Space Center is home to the space shuttle; all of the 132 missions have launched from here." (12/15)

Newest Space Station Crew Members Launch From Kazakhstan (Source: NASA)
NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will join Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka aboard the orbiting laboratory. (12/15)

Cassini Spots Potential Ice Volcano on Saturn Moon (Source: NASA)
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan that are similar in shape to those on Earth that spew molten rock. Topography and surface composition data have enabled scientists to make the best case yet in the outer solar system for an Earth-like volcano landform that erupts in ice. (12/14)

Senate to Consider 9-month FAA Reauthorization Measure (Source: AIA)
The House of Representatives has opted to extend the FAA's authorization for nine months rather than three, providing "a measure of stability and certainty to FAA programs," according to Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., the outgoing chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The extension is part of an omnibus appropriations bill, which the Senate is scheduled to take up this week. (12/15)

Senate Would Also Fund Post-Shuttle Economic Transition Grants (Source: SPACErePORT)
Like the House's Continuing Resolution, the Senate NASA appropriation bill (page 193) allows a $60 million transfer to the Department of Commerce for post-Shuttle economic transition grants. The Senate language is not word-for-word identical to the House CR language, but the intent is clear.

President Obama sought $100 million for post-Shuttle economic adjustment grants: $40 million for Florida and $60 million for other states. The $40 million for Florida was supposed to include $35 million for project grants (to be awarded in January), and $5 million for first-year set-up of an FAA space transportation Tech Center at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Click here to see the Senate budget bill. (12/15)

Shuttle Workers May Leave Town For Severance Money (Source: WFTV)
Shuttle workers say there's a problem with their severance plan. Laid off shuttle workers want to stay in Brevard County, but some say United Space Alliance is encouraging them to leave. After 19 years as a shuttle tech, Beyers lost his job and got a severance, but the payout depends on whether he stays or goes. If he gets hired out of town, the severance payments keep coming; but if he finds similar work on the Space Coast, the money cuts off.

The waiver forces workers to give up large portions of their severance if they get hired by NASA or a NASA contractor or subcontractor within 50 miles of the Space Center. A USA spokesman said this prevents double payments from NASA, but WFTV found laid-off space workers who take jobs with NASA, or its contractors in other parts of the country, keep all of their severance pay. Beyers says the 50-mile clause is driving some of his former co-workers out of state.

Space Florida, the state agency that promotes aerospace, hopes many will work around the waiver by finding local jobs that don't tie to NASA. "They may not be directly back into the space program. They may be back in these new application areas, but we do think they are going to find work," Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. But there are no guarantees, and government leaders have warned once shuttle workers leave they won't likely return. (12/15)

Thales Alenia Wins Arsat Payload Contract (Source: Space News)
Satellite operator Arsat of Argentina has selected Thales Alenia Space to provide the electronics payload for an Arsat 2 telecommunications satellite to be launched into Argentina’s 81 degrees west orbital slot in 2013, Thales Alenia Space announced. (12/15)

Venus Miss is a Setback for Japanese Program (Source: Nature)
Few events can be as gut-wrenching for a planetary scientist as a multi-million-dollar spacecraft going silent while executing a crucial maneuver. Loss of signal at such times usually spells disaster, and the spacecraft may never be heard from again.

Researchers and engineers working with Japan's Akatsuki spacecraft were spared that worst-case scenario on 6 December. Although Akatsuki failed to make contact for more than an hour after the scheduled engine burn that was to place it in orbit around Venus, it did eventually call home. But the news was not promising. Not only had Akatsuki been tumbling out of control for a period of time, it had failed to enter orbit. It will now have to circle the Sun for six years before it gets a second chance. (12/15)

NASA Satellite Helps Predict Weather on the Sun (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
A new NASA satellite is giving Earth-bound forecasters the best opportunity they've ever had to predict the weather - not here at home, but on the storm-wracked sun, 93 million miles away. Launched into orbit earlier this year, the unmanned spacecraft is the first in a series of space agency missions called Living with a Star, - a 10-year program of more and more specialized satellites that scientists expect will help them understand the sun's turbulent surface and its violent interior better than ever. (12/15)

Malay Government Allays Fears of Planet Collision in 2012 (Source: Malay Mail)
The government has allayed fears that Nibiru or Planet X is on a collision course with the Earth in 2012. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, said the National Space Agency worked closely with international space agencies such as NASA with regard to such claim.

"According to NASA, there is no evidence of Nibiru's existence in its space observatory. So far, none of the identified space objects pose any direct threat to Earth. "If the planet (Nibiru) exists, it can be seen with the naked eye and astronomers would have certainly monitored the object," he said in reply to Senator Datuk Shamsudin Mehat. The claim that Nibiru would collide with Earth was first mentioned in 1995, but became a hot topic of discussion among the public, especially via the Internet, since last year. (12/15)

Tests at NASA Glenn May Lead to Mining on Moon, Mars (Source: West Life)
Whenever astronauts eventually return to the moon or explore the surface of Mars, they’ll need plenty of resources to sustain them while away from Earth. A prototype interplanetary mining rover visited the NASA Glenn Research Center last week as part of the space agency’s effort to prepare for such trips. “We are very convinced that the only way to make space travel for humans and robots long-term is to use natural resources wherever we go,” said Kurt Sacksteder, director of Glenn’s Space Environment and Experiments Branch. (12/15)

Voyager-1 Reaches Edge of Solar System (Source: Telegraph)
The Voyager probe was launched in 1977 and passed by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune before veering north. It is now 10.8 billion miles from the sun traveling at a speed of 38,000 mph. The solar wind, a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun, has slowed to a speed of zero and is moving sideways rather than outwards, marking the end of the solar system. NASA said the 722kg probe would take another four years to fully exit the solar system and enter interstellar space, the area between the influence of the sun and the next star system. (12/15)

Space Education Building Breaks Ground at Colorado Airbase (Source: USAF)
After nearly six years of operating at an off-base location, the Space Education and Training Center broke ground for its new $14.4 million facility here Dec. 10. The state-of-the-art training and education facility will house the National Security Space Institute and Advanced Space Operations School for space professionals. Moving the campus to a military installation resolves force protection and academic operations concerns with the current off-base facility. The anticipated move-in date is set for fiscal year 2012. (12/15)

Orbital Unveils Supplier Team for CCDev 2 Bid (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is proposing a “blended lifting body” vehicle that would launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket to deliver four astronauts to the international space station. According to industry sources, Orbital plans to team with Virgin Galactic of New Mexico to market commercial rides on the planned spacecraft and conduct drop tests of the orbital space vehicle using Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Virgin Galactic, however, is not mentioned in Orbital’s Dec. 14 press release, which lists only the “major suppliers” that will “contribute major elements of the system.” Among them is Northrop Grumman, which is identified in the press release as “the lead airframe structures designer.” Northrop Grumman owns Scaled Composites, which is building WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo for Virgin to operate.

Orbital’s other CCDev 2 suppliers include Thales Alenia Space, which would be responsible for the vehicle’s pressurized crew compartment; Honeywell and Draper Laboratory, which together would be responsible for human-rated avionics; and United Launch Alliance, which builds and operates the Atlas 5 rocket designated as the baseline launcher for the Orbital crew vehicle. Editor's Note: Orbital's CCDev design seems to be based on their early 2000s NASA Orbital Space Plane (OSP) concept. (12/15)

Space Superfund Needed to Clean Mounting Orbital Trash (Source:
The orbits around Earth are cluttered with chunks of space junk – high-speed riffraff that poses a growing threat to robotic satellites and human-carrying spacecraft. There are currently hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris greater than 1 centimeter wide whizzing around in space. But while this space litter may be out of sight, out of mind for most of us, a new report on orbital debris has flagged potential solutions to deal with the threat.

The report anchors its space cleanup thinking and approaches to more down–to-Earth woes like acid rain, hazardous waste, chlorofluorocarbon and oil spills. The same superfund approach to those earthly pollution problems could be reworked to tackle space junk, according to the report, which is titled "Confronting Space Debris - Strategies and Warnings from Comparable Examples Including Deepwater Horizon." (12/15)

Nuke-the-Asteroid Idea Revived to Protect Earth (Source:
If a big asteroid were streaking toward Earth and time were running out, a well-placed nuclear explosion could help humanity avert catastrophe — and not just in the movies. A new study has injected new life into the old idea of dealing with a potentially threatening space rock by nuking it. The new analysis suggests that a nuclear blast could safely destroy even a relatively large asteroid. And astronauts wouldn't need to bore deep into the space rock to implant the bomb. An explosion on the asteroid's surface would likely do the trick, scientists report. (12/15)

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