December 16, 2010

China to Send 7th Satellite for Indigenous Global Navigation, Positioning Network (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch its seventh orbiter into space in "coming days" as part of its indigenous satellite-navigation and -positioning network. A spokesman for the Xichang Satellite Launch Center said Thursday the "Beidou", or Compass, navigation satellite will be launched on a Long March-3A carrier rocket. The satellite is expected to join six other satellites already in orbit to form a network, which will eventually consist of 35 satellites. China started building its own satellite navigation system to end its dependence upon the U.S. GPS system in 2000. (12/16)

Why Can’t the US and China Cooperate in Space? (Source: Space Politics)
There has been a renewed effort by the US government to reach out to China and find ways to cooperate in space, including a brief mention of cooperation in space exploration last year when Presidents Obama and Hu met, as well as NASA administrator Bolden’s visit to China in October. Yet, those discussions have yet to result in any concrete steps for joint projects or other cooperative ventures between the two countries, apparently to the surprise and disappointment of some within the administration.

One expert believes that it’s because China doesn’t need to cooperate with the US as much as American officials think it does. At a space security forum Wednesday organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Washington, Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager for UCS, said China’s current space efforts were motivated by a single event: President Reagan’s 1983 SDI speech. That speech, he said, was a “Sputnik moment” for China, in particular scientists who convinced the leadership that this demonstrated the importance of space. Click here to read the article. (12/16)

Congressional Endgame Still Unclear (Source: Space Policy Online)
While Democrats in the House apparently have resigned themselves to passage of President Obama's tax deal with Senate Republicans, the endgame for the FY2011 appropriations process remains murky. The House passed a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) last week to replace the current CR, which expires Saturday at midnight, but Senate Democrats want to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that contains all 12 of the regular appropriations bills instead. The Senate omnibus bill totals $1.108 billion compared with $1.089 in the House CR.

The dollar difference is not nearly as controversial as the fact that the Senate bill contains $2.2 billion in earmarks while the House bill has none. Republicans in the House and Senate have vowed to force an end to the earmarking practice. But some want that ban to start next year, not this year. There's the rub. Republican Senators are among those who have millions of dollars in earmarks in the Senate omnibus bill.

The key point is whether objections by some in the Senate and many in the House will derail the omnibus bill, or delay its passage beyond the expiration of the current CR. Final Senate passage might not occur until Tuesday, after which it would have to go to the House for consideration. With the current CR expiring on Saturday at midnight, if another temporary CR is not passed, the government would shut down. (12/16)

FAA Reauthorization Looks Likely Next Year (Source: AIA)
A shakeup in the House of Representatives should produce a more "streamlined" FAA reauthorization bill with a better chance for passage, says Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association and a former FAA administrator. "I'm more hopeful than I have been," who led the federal agency from 2002 to 2007. One possible snag: the upcoming Highway Reauthorization bill, which could distract lawmakers from their focus on the aviation measure. (12/16)

NASA's Arsenic-Eating Life Form Gets a Second Look (Source: AFP)
Soon after NASA-funded researchers announced this month they had found a new life form that thrives on arsenic, critics took to the blogosphere with skeptical views and downright insults. The criticism spread with lightning speed, sparking a wide debate over what exactly is in the alleged arsenic-eater's DNA, but also what role bloggers should play in a field long dominated by peer-reviewed journals.

And resolution may be months or years away, as scientists wait to obtain samples of the same bacteria to try and replicate the findings led by Felisa Wolfe-Simon and published December 2 in the prestigious journal Science. The journal's editors have "received about 20 technical comments and letters responding to the article," the magazine said. "Responses will undergo review, and Wolfe-Simon's team will then be asked to formally address their peers' questions in a future edition of Science," it said. "It is hoped that the paper-responses and the authors' replies can be published in January 2011." (12/16)

AIA Projects $219.2 Billion in U.S. Aerospace Sales for 2011 (Source: AIA)
Despite slowing demand for military aircraft, U.S. aerospace sales are expected to extend their seven-year growth streak in 2011, according to the year-end review and annual forecast issued by the Aerospace Industries Association. Sales should top $219 billion next year, AIA said, a gain of about 1.2% from this year's estimated $216.5 billion. Sales of commercial aircraft are projected to rise 4.2%, helping to offset weakness in the military and space sectors. (12/16)

Senate Federal Funding Bill Calls for $10.3B Cut in Defense Budget (Source: AIA)
A $1.1 trillion, one-year federal funding measure proposed by lawmakers on Tuesday includes a $10.3 billion cut to the 2011 defense budget. The consolidated federal budget plan calls for defense spending for fiscal 2011 to be $667 billion, including $157.8 billion for contingency operations. Opponents of the bill, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said they would try to delay a vote by demanding that the entire 1,924-page bill be read aloud before it can come to a vote. (12/16)

Boeing Missile System Misses Target in Second Failed Test of the Year (Source: AIA)
The U.S. missile defense system managed by Boeing failed for the second time this year yesterday to intercept a target during a test over the Pacific Ocean. The test interceptor and target were both successfully launched, but the Missile Defense Agency was not able to achieve the planned intercept, said an agency spokesman. The Jan. 31 failed interception was blamed on a classified glitch with a sea-based radar, and officials say they will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of this week's failure. (12/16)

Lunar X Prize Registration Ends Dec. 31 (Source: GLXP)
Registration in the $30,000,000 Google Lunar X PRIZE is closing soon--all potential teams must have their applications in by the end of this year. The current GLXP teams continue to build and test, one team has left the competition, and the program now has 30 teams (21 fully registered, 9 Letter of Intent signatories) involved in the competition. (12/16)

Lockheed Awarded $1.3B for 4th AEHF Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems a $1.3 billion contract modification Dec. 15 that will allow the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company to build a fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) secure communications satellite. Lockheed Martin, the AEHF prime contractor, began ordering long-lead parts for AEHF-4 under a $22 million contract awarded in September 2009. (12/16)

Aerojet to Expand in Huntsville (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Aerojet says that over the next few months it will expand its presence in the Huntsville community by hiring 25 local engineers. This growth will allow Aerojet to provide collaborative engineering expertise, program management support and business development outreach to our government and prime customers located in the Huntsville area and across the Southeastern United States. (12/16)

Embry-Riddle Hosts 2011 Conference on Human Factors Research (Source: SPACErePORT)
The purpose of the April 7 conference is to provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present their research work in Human Factors and Applied Psychology in a collegial environment and to network with Florida students and faculty who have similar research interests. Topics of interest may include Cognitive Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Human Factors, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Physiological Psychology and other related topics. The annual event usually includes multiple space-focused papers and discussions. Click here for information. (12/16)

Texas State Senator Files Spaceflight Liability Bill (Source: WOAI)
Blasting off in a rocket ship won't just be for NASA astronauts. Average Joe's will someday go into outer space on commercial spaceships. And maybe, sooner than you think. One Texas senator is already preparing for it. Senator Carlos Uresti has filed Senate Bill 115, also known as the "Space Flight Liability" bill. It would protect private space flight companies from being sued if passengers on board are injured or killed. Uresti says if he would have waited to file the bill until the next legislative session in two years, that could be too late.

"If you go on a space flight, there's a chance you may not come back," commented Senator Uresti. On the edge of Uresti's district, the space flight company "Blue Origin" has been launching test flights from their West Texas Launch site. Engineers expect to send up the first human being in 2012. Uresti says the thrust behind Senate Bill 115 and the legal backing it would provide Blue Origin, could help stimulate the economy. (12/16)

SpaceX Offers More Details on Dragon Mission (Source: SpaceX)
The SpaceX website now includes a lengthy photographic update on the first flight and recovery of its Dragon capsule. Contrary to some earlier news reports, the Dragon's suite of Draco thrusters all performed as planned. Click here to see the update. (12/16)

Gov-Elect Scott's View of "Opportunity?" USA Forcing Space Workers Out of State (Source: Examiner)
Gov-Elect Rick Scott stated recently that the cuts to the nation’s space program represented an “opportunity.” He said that the talented workforce that is being directed toward the unemployment line would naturally go to other, new, aerospace companies. Scott must have been unaware of practices at United Space Alliance (USA) – that are forcing many former shuttle workers out of the state.

It appears this is a concerted effort to remove NASA’s launch capabilities in and around KSC. The newly-elected Scott is either unaware of this tactic or has yet to understand the repercussions of such a policy. Some recognize that once this highly-skilled workforce has been forced out – they more than likely will not return. The incentive to continue working for NASA tends to diminish when one realizes they will be denied thousands of dollars for doing so.

President Obama, Senator Bill Nelson and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas all pushed to move NASA onto this new path. Many viewed this as an intentional dismantling of the space infrastructure at Kennedy. With the recent revelation of the policies enforced by USA, these arguments gain added credibility. As to what Gov-Elect Scott views as an opportunity, one has to wonder just how well informed he is. After all, for workers to move to those space companies that are hiring – they would have to decide that it was worth the effort. Given the amount of energy that is being placed to have them leave the business – it is doubtful many will bother. (12/16)

Newspace, NASA and the Nature of Risk (Source: Examiner)
In the first decade of NASA’s manned spaceflight program NASA moved from the Mercury to Gemini to Apollo capsules within seven years. NASA learned what it needed to learn about spaceflight during the oft-forgotten Gemini Program (1965-66). The first mission of the Apollo era ended in tragedy at launch complex 37 in 1967 – the agency of that day forged ahead and sent the crew of Apollo 8 to orbit the moon a year later.

The problems with the shuttle will not be resolved with a trip to the local hardware store. SpaceX seems to understand the importance of this engineering mentality. When cracks were discovered in the second stage nozzle of its Falcon 9 they trimmed off the damaged segment – and the rocket was allowed to launch. No endless reviews, no flight readiness boards and no hand-wringing. As SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell stated, the firm does not have to deal with the, “mother-may-I” syndrome.

NewSpace has a great many flaws, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt. They are what space exploration used to – and still shoud be. They are innovative, not willing to reassemble shuttle components and dub it a new rocket – they build their own, many with their own money. NASA has become a place that stifles interest, smothers innovation and mires itself in bureaucracy. Those hired into the agency and its family of contractors appear more interested in furthering their own goals – than those of space exploration. Click here to read the article. (12/16)

Fraud, Abuse Found in NASA Research Funding to Small Companies (Source: Huffington Post)
A NASA program to encourage small companies to develop new technology has accepted questionable research from some contractors and given others multiple contracts for doing the same job, according to NASA’s inspector general. The agency watchdog said in a recent report it “identified instances of fraud, waste, and abuse by program participants that bring into question the effectiveness of the internal controls in NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program.”

NASA is currently negotiating with 309 small firms to award contracts for research projects that include advanced photovoltaic systems to generate cheap and reliable power for deep space exploration missions. About $133 million went to NASA’s SBIR program in 2009. Of some 46 investigations related to the SBIR program over the past decade, 17 percent resulted in criminal convictions, civil judgments, or administrative action, the inspector general said last year.

According to the Nov. 12 report: "some award recipients received multiple SBIR contracts for essentially the same research and provided duplicate deliverables or questionable research products... In addition, the audit is reviewing whether SBIR contracts contain unallowable and unsupported costs.” (12/16)

NASA Rocket Flies Through Earth's Shimmery Auroras (Source: Space.com)
On an island inside the Arctic Circle on Dec. 12, the frigid darkness of the early morning hours was broken by an intense orange glow, as a NASA rocket blasted off for a brief flight arcing through Earth's aurora, or northern lights. These shimmering atmospheric phenomena, produced when charged particles from the solar wind are sucked in by Earth's magnetic field, seem to create drag on satellites, and scientists are trying to figure out why. The 65-foot (19.8 meter)-long rocket launched from Norway's And√łya Rocket Range. (12/16)

Life's Building Blocks Found on Surprising Meteorite (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have discovered amino acids, the building blocks of life in a meteorite where none were expected. The finding adds evidence to the idea that some of life's key ingredients could have formed in space, and then been delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite impacts. The meteorite in question was born in a violent crash, and eventually crashed into northern Sudan. (12/16)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Elects Anderson as Chairman (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, representing 37 companies employing thousands of Americans nationwide, has selected its next Chairman of the Board, Eric C. Anderson, who holds the position of chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd. Anderson was elected by a diverse cross-section of industry leaders at a recent board meeting. Anderson succeeds Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, who has completed his appointed term. (12/16)

NASA Scientific Balloons To Return To Flight (Source: NASA)
NASA's scientific balloon program is resuming flights this month after an extensive evaluation of its safety processes following a mishap during an April launch attempt from Australia. NASA's high-altitude balloons fly instruments for scientific and technological investigations that contribute to our understanding of Earth, the solar system, and the universe. In October, a NASA mishap review board listed 25 causes that contributed to the accident, including insufficient risk analysis, contingency planning, personnel training, government oversight and public safety accommodations. (12/16)

Virgin Galactic Supports Multiple NASA Commercial Crew Teams (Source: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic will be supporting Sierra Nevada Space Systems’ (SNC) and Orbital Sciences Corporation's (OSC) work on commercial space vehicles. For the first time, it will give not only professional scientists and other crew astronauts but also fare-paying passengers the chance to experience safe orbital space flight at lower costs. Both SNC and OSC are pursuing vehicle designs under CCDEV2 featuring reusable lifting-wing bodies and runway landings, which VG believes could revolutionize orbital space flight in much the same way that SpaceShipTwo has revolutionized sub-orbital space flight.

As a contributor to SNC’s and OSC’s submissions to NASA, VG is proposing to market seats on these vehicles to the public and to its existing customer base, which now numbers more than 400 people who have made deposits of over $54 million. VG will also investigate providing its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, to SNC and OSC during their test flight programs. (12/16)

Join a Worldwide Planet Search (Source: MSNBC)
Astronomers have been looking for alien worlds for more than 15 years, and now you too can join the search. The Planet Hunters project is the latest citizen-science campaign organized by the crew at Zooniverse. Hundreds of thousands of computer users are already helping Zooniverse classify galaxies through Galaxy Zoo, and analyze lunar craters through Moon Zoo. This new project aims to recruit users to check data gathered by NASA's Kepler mission, which is expected to detect hundreds of Earthlike planets in a region of the constellation Cygnus. (12/16)

Decatur’s Space Station Link (Source: Decatur Daily)
The chances that United Launch Alliance’s Decatur plant will be involved in future manned missions to the International Space Station increased Monday with a proposal from Orbital Sciences Corp. At issue is how the United States will honor commitments to the space station after the space shuttles retire. Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. submitted a proposal to NASA in response to the Commercial Crew Development-2 contract solicitation. Its proposal names ULA as the launch provider.

The company’s proposal would use a “blended lifting body” vehicle that would launch atop an Atlas V. ULA’s 680-employee Decatur plant is the final assembly point for the Atlas V. While Orbital’s proposal incorporates the Atlas V, the company said in a release that it “is flexible enough to accommodate other launch vehicle options.” The primary domestic competitor to the Atlas V is SpaceX’s Falcon 9. ULA is developing modifications for the Delta IV and Atlas V that would enable the rockets to participate in manned space exploration. (12/16)

New Air Force Museum Director has Sights on Shuttle (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Job one for the next director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: obtain one of the nation’s soon-to-be-retired space shuttles for permanent display at the museum. “We’ve answered the questions that NASA has asked. It’s really now a matter of waiting for NASA to make its decisions public,” said John L. “Jack” Hudson, a retired Air Force three-star general who becomes the museum’s director on Thursday afternoon.

Hudson listed the positives that the museum has used to promote itself to NASA as a display site: free admission and parking; within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population; planned construction of a new, fourth building that would house the shuttle and other space program artifacts; educational outreach and interpretive programs for the public; and the Air Force’s historic role in providing financial and other resources to support shuttle launches and recoveries. (12/16)

The Final Frontier (Source: MIT)
The possibility of discovering a planet that is small, cool, rocky, orbiting a sunlike star and able to host life — an Earth twin, in other words — has made the search for planets outside of our solar system, or exoplanets, one of the hottest research areas in physical science. This three-part series explores MIT researchers’ roles in the quest to find an Earth twin and the effort to make sense of the 500 exoplanets that have been discovered since 1995. Click here to view the article. (12/16)

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