December 28, 2010

Galaxy 15 Status Update: Power, Communications, and Control Restored (Source:
On 23 December, the power from the Galaxy 15 battery completely drained during its loss of earth lock and the Baseband Equipment (BBE) command unit reset, as it was designed to do. Shortly thereafter Galaxy 15 began accepting commands and Intelsat engineers began receiving telemetry in our Satellite Operations center. We have placed Galaxy 15 in safe mode, and at this time, we are pleased to report it no longer poses any threat of satellite interference to either neighboring satellites or customer services.

After completing initial diagnostic tests, we will load updated commanding software to the satellite. We expect to relocate the satellite to an Intelsat orbital location where engineers at our Satellite Operations Control Center will initiate extensive in-orbit testing to determine the functionality of every aspect of the spacecraft. We will provide an update through normal sales channels, and MyIntelsat, if and when the satellite recovery mission is successful. (12/28)

Astronauts4Hire is Hiring (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut? Do you have specialized scientific, engineering, or operational experience relevant to human spaceflight? Now is your chance to make your dreams come true! Astronauts4Hire is seeking candidates to expand its cadre of prospective commercial astronauts. Applications are due February 5, 2011 for full consideration in this selection cycle. Individuals interested in becoming flight members can submit their application via the Astronauts4Hire website,, before February 5, 2011. (12/28)

Is Orbital Sciences Going to Bomb? (Source: Motley Fool)
Is Orbital Sciences sending any potential warning signs to alert investors? Take a look at this chart, which plots revenue growth against Accounts Receivable (AR) growth, and Days Sales Outstanding (DSO). When that red line (AR growth) crosses above the green line (revenue growth), I know I need to consult the filings. Similarly, a spike in the blue bars (DSO) indicates a trend worth worrying about. (12/28)

The Top 6 Spaceflight Stories of 2010 (Source:
This year was a big one for spaceflight, with governmental agencies and the private sector alike marking many key milestones. During this watershed year, for example, NASA changed course to pursue new goals, the first private space capsule was launched into orbit and the International Space Station reached the 10-year mark of continuous human habitation. Here's a brief rundown of the top six spaceflight stories of 2010. (12/28)

Can NASA Compete with SpaceX? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Early this month, SpaceX launched an unmanned version of its Dragon capsule into orbit, took it for a few spins around Earth, and then brought it home with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The total cost — including design, manufacture, testing and launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule — was roughly $800 million. In the world of government spaceflight, that's almost a rounding error.

The ability of SpaceX to do so much with so little money is raising some serious questions about NASA. Inside NASA, some employees have taken to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letters "WWED," which stands for "What Would Elon Do?" It's a lack of affordability that is killing NASA, experts say. Aerospace-industry executives, NASA contractors and employees all warn that unless the storied agency can become leaner and more efficient in an era of shrinking federal budgets, it could find itself becoming a historical footnote.

"NASA and industry need to partner together to change our approach," says Jim Maser, the president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which has designed virtually every rocket engine used by NASA since the dawn of the space program. Over the past six years, NASA has spent nearly $10 billion on the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule — its own version more or less of what SpaceX has launched — and came up with little more than cost overruns and technical woes. (12/28)

Orion An Example of Excessive NASA Oversight (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Perhaps the greatest test case for improving the affordability of NASA programs is the Orion spacecraft. Unlike Dragon, which cost SpaceX a few hundred million dollars to design, build and fly, Orion has so far cost $4.8 billion and is not likely to fly for at least another three years — and an additional $1.2 billion.

Orion's prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., has long complained that unnecessary levels of NASA oversight drive up costs and has pleaded with the agency to cut down on required paperwork. Now, according to Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion program manager, the agency is relenting, scaling back layers of supervision and looking at other ways to cut costs.

And, rather than looking to build a fully-loaded capsule — capable for flying to the moon — NASA will build it in stages to match the budget. Under the latest plan, NASA and Lockheed would produce an unmanned test vehicle by 2013, and then a simple capsule that could orbit astronauts in 2017. By 2018, Orion would be ready to go to the International Space Station and, hopefully by 2020, would be capable of going to points beyond the moon for extended stays. (12/28)

Don't Send Bugs to Mars (Source: New Scientist)
We humans have a unique talent for contaminating Earth's pristine environments. Is it any surprise that we are also contaminating pristine celestial bodies with bacterial spores? Spacefaring nations have been sending unsterilised spacecraft to the moon, Mars, Jupiter, comets and asteroids for over 40 years. It has been estimated that about one trillion microbial spores from spacecraft are now scattered around Mars. Yet the search for life in our solar system has barely begun.

It wasn't always so. At the dawn of the space age, policy-makers had every intention to protect space from contamination. They also set out to protect Earth from material brought in from other celestial bodies that might contain toxins or pathogens. These lofty goals were enshrined in the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, now signed by all spacefaring nations. Click here to read the article. (12/28)

India-Launched Satellite and Rocket Were Not Insured (Source: The Hindu)
Both the communication satellite GSAT-5P and the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-F06 that was to have put the satellite into orbit on Saturday from Sriharikota were not insured. The GSLV-F06 cost the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Rs.175 crore and GSAT-5P Rs.150 crore. The GSLV-F06 went up in smoke because the command from its electronic brain to its first stage did not go home. This happened because four connectors, which stitch up the wires conveying the signal, prised open and the wires got snapped. (12/28)

SpaceX Launches New Space Era (Source: San Bernardino Sun)
One of the most significant events in space exploration took place this month when a private company launched a spacecraft into orbit and successfully brought it back to Earth intact and on target. The craft is large enough to ferry supplies and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station, and to perform other tasks in space, manned or unmanned.

Until the flight by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on Dec. 8, only large nations such as the United States, Russia, China, Japan and India, and the European Space Agency had been able to launch a spacecraft into orbit and retrieve it. Although there were no people aboard SpaceX's craft, there easily could have been. In a few years, there probably will be astronauts going to and from the space station in the private company's vehicles. (12/28)

Canada Weighs Space Station Options (Source: CBC)
The head of the Canadian Space Agency says a Canadian astronaut may end up hitching a ride to the International Space Station on board a commercial vehicle. CSA president Steve MacLean says he's impressed by what SpaceX accomplished, noting Canada will launch a communications satellite atop the Falcon 9 in 2011. Most of Canada's astronauts have used U.S. space shuttles to travel to the space station, but the shuttles will be retired in 2011. MacLean would not rule out Canada hitching a ride on a commercial vessel like SpaceX's Dragon. (12/28)

Technology Mission: Preserve Apollo Shots (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Mesmerized by images beamed to his TV set, 10-year-old Mark Robinson watched the Apollo 11 lunar module land on the moon. Now, Robinson leads a NASA-funded team to archive photographs from the historic Apollo missions. "I was a total 'going to the moon' nerd," said Robinson, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration and head of the Apollo Image Archive.

Both Robinson and scanning technology had to mature a little before the bold project of archiving about 36,000 still photographs from the 1968-72 moon missions could happen. The famous moon shots most people know are really copies — sometimes second or third generation — of the originals. All-important details are becoming fuzzy on those copies. It's a painstaking process to add clarity. (12/28)

Cultural History of the Moon (Source: New York Times)
The book “Moon: A Brief History,” with its wide variety of illustrations from classical texts, science fiction and other sources, describes not just the history of the celestial body but the ways it inspired the human imagination to take flight, fueled, as Proust put it, by “the ancient unalterable splendor of a Moon cruelly and mysteriously serene.” Click here to see the slide show. (12/27)

Moon Landing Postal Image Needs Your Stamp of Approval (Source:
The Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum is asking for help in selecting an iconic stamp to represent the United States in an international gallery — and one of its choices celebrates the first moon landing. You can vote on which stamp best represents America; choices include the Statue of Liberty, the capitol dome or a flag-and-fireworks stamp. One of the seven candidate stamps is the classic $2.40 Apollo 11 single. The stamp that receives the most votes by January 20, 2011, will be the winner. To cast your vote, click here. (12/28)

Hewlett Packard Wins NASA Computer Services Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA awarded on Dec. 27 a 10-year contract to HP Enterprise Services for Agency Consolidated End-user Services, or ACES. This contract has a maximum value of $2.5 billion and four-year base period with two three-year option periods. The contract will be managed at the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) in Mississippi.

The ACES contract will develop a long-term outsourcing arrangement with the commercial sector to provide and manage most of NASA's personal computing hardware, agency-standard software, mobile information technology (IT) services, peripherals and accessories, associated end-user services, and supporting infrastructure. (12/28)

Hispasat, Koreasat Ready for Launch (Source: Broadband TV News)
Arianespace has rolled out its sixth Ariane 5 for launch in 2010, preparing the final mission of this year for an evening liftoff today, December 28, at the Spaceport in French Guiana. The workhorse vehicle was transferred to the ELA-3 launch zone from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building – where the Ariane 5 was fitted with its dual-satellite payload of Hispasat 1E and Koreasat 6. (12/28)

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