January 17, 2011

Metschan: DIRECT Launcher Would Meet Congressional Heavy-Lift Target (Source: Space Review)
While a sidemount shuttle-derived rocket might not strictly meet Congressional intent for a heavy-lifter, another alternative design would: the Jupiter family of shuttle-derived vehicles that comprise the DIRECT architecture, developed in recent years by a team of engineers and others. They were so satisfied with the NASA authorization act that they effectively declared victory in a press release shortly after the bill was signed into law.

“From our perspective you couldn’t have asked for an authorization that was any closer in alignment [to] what we have been promoting now for many years,” said Stephen Metschan, one of the key people with DIRECT. "Overall, you have to be completely blind not to see that the budget and implementation time window simply doesn’t support any HLV that doesn’t have most of its elements already flight qualified and in production.”

Metschan said that DIRECT’s Jupiter-130 vehicle concept—which uses shuttle SRBs and three SSMEs mounted on an external tank—could be built on the budget and schedule of the authorization bill provided that NASA had a “hands-off” management of the project. Metschan believes that it’s NASA that needs to come up with an adequate design that will win support—and funding—in Congress. “In the end it’s up to NASA: do they want to build upon what they have achieved thus far or do they want to start all over again with a smaller political support base and budget to match?” (1/17)

Spaceflight and ISILaunch Team to Provide Services For Small Payloads (Source: Space Daily)
Spaceflight Services (Spaceflight) and Innovative Space Logistics BV (ISILaunch) have teamed to create a global spaceflight services provider for small and secondary payloads. Spaceflight will be the lead organization for integrating prospective orbital and suborbital payloads flying on US launch vehicles and suborbital platforms. In addition, Spaceflight will be the primary interface for US companies that want to fly on non-US launch vehicles.

ISILaunch will be the lead organization for integrating prospective orbital and suborbital payloads flying on non-US launch vehicles and suborbital platforms, as well as be the primary interface for non-US customers that want to fly on US vehicles. Spaceflight and ISILaunch are currently offering orbital flight opportunities to Low Earth Orbit starting in 2011 and flight opportunities to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and Low Lunar Orbit in 2014. (1/17)

Arianespace Announces Eutelsat Contract (Source: Space Daily)
Continuing a 28-year relationship marked by 25 launch campaigns, Eutelsat Communications and Arianespace have announced they have concluded a new contract for a satellite launch in the 2012 period. The contract, signed in December 2010, for an Ariane 5 launch from the Guiana Space Centre, provides Eutelsat with launch diversity and schedule assurance for its significant in-orbit expansion program of six satellites to be launched by mid-2013. (1/17)

Can NASA Develop a Heavy-Lift Rocket? (Source: Space Review)
Last week the debate on how NASA should develop a heavy-lift rocket restarted after NASA submitted a report indicating its preferred design would not fit into the budget and schedule of its authorization act. Jeff Foust reports on the issues regarding the technology, budget, and even utility of a heavy-lifter raised in that debate. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1760/1 to view the article. (1/17)

Small Ball or Home Runs: The Changing Ethos of US Human Spaceflight Policy (Source: Space Review)
Past efforts to develop big human spaceflight programs patterned after Apollo have failed, most recently NASA's implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration. Roger Handberg uses a sports analogy to explain why it's time to turn to a more sustainable approach to human space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1759/1 to view the article. (1/17)

Funding the Search for Life in the Solar System (Source: Space Review)
Advances in astrobiology have expanded the range of potential sites in the solar system that could support life. Lou Friedman discusses how to make it possible to afford exploring all those sites. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1758/1 to view the article. (1/17)

Footnotes of Shuttle History: the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (Source: Space Review)
One of the lesser-known payloads launched by the space shuttle was an experimental communications satellite. Dwayne Day describes how ACTS was part of a larger but now dated debate about industrial policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1757/1 to view the article. (1/17)

NASA Reveals Designs for Futuristic Airliners (Source: AIA)
Three design teams working under a grant from NASA have unveiled their visions of commercial air travel circa 2025. "Each design looks very different, but all final designs have to meet NASA's goals for less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption," NASA noted after reviewing the artists' conceptions. Teams led by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman submitted designs for greener, quieter aircraft. Click here to see them. (1/17)

SpaceX: NASA Should Use Dragon Instead of Soyuz (Source: SpaceX)
"The United States has an urgent, critical need for commercial human spaceflight. After the Space Shuttle retires next year, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for a price of over $50 million per seat. The December 8 COTS Demo 1 flight demonstrated SpaceX is prepared to meet this need—and at less than half the cost.

"We believe the now flight-proven Falcon 9 and Dragon architecture is the safest path to crew transportation capability. Both vehicles were designed from the beginning to transport astronauts. The cargo version of the Dragon spacecraft will be capable of carrying crew with only three key modifications: a launch abort system, environmental controls and seats.

"In addition to last month’s successful demonstration, SpaceX recently took another critical next step towards the development of an American alternative to the Russian Soyuz. On December 13th, we submitted our proposal to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev2) to begin work on preparing Dragon to carry astronauts." Click here to see the SpaceX video. (1/17)

New Report Questions NASA Safety (Source: CFNews-13)
A new report raised questions about safety at NASA.due to the current dispute about the future of the space agency. The independent NASA Aerospace Advisory Panel said the ongoing fighting over the agency's mission and funding levels can affect worker morale and the ability to maintain a skilled workforce. NASA has seen some major changes in the last several months with the upcoming retirement of the shuttles and President Obama scrapping plans for the Ares rocket. The panel is now urging NASA to reassess it's risk criteria for future space missions. (1/17)

Engineering the World's Largest Telescope (Source: The Engineer)
When it comes to telescope design, there is a simple maxim: size matters. The more light the telescope is able to focus, the sharper the images will be. The large telescopes that dominate astronomy are all reflecting instruments that focus light using mirrors, and the mirrors are getting larger. Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4m in diameter; the largest single-piece mirror currently in space is on the European Space Agency’s Herschel observatory and is 3.5m wide. James Webb’s mirror will be made from segments and will total 6.5m in diameter. On Earth, the largest telescope currently operating is the Gran Telescopio Canarias in the Canary Islands, whose primary mirror is 10.4m in diameter.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), to be built in Chile by a consortium of 15 countries will have a main mirror that is 42m in diameter. E-ELT will have five mirrors, several of which will be controlled using controlled optics. The primary mirror will consist of 984 hexagonal segments up to 2m across, each weighing about 150kg, mounted on three actuators that will adjust their position to take account of gravitational and low-speed wind forces affecting the telescope support structure - as the structure flexes, the mirrors stay still. (1/17)

Their Toughest Mission Yet (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords thrusts her husband and brother-in-law, both astronauts, into an unfamiliar spotlight. Whether strapped to a rocket soaring at 22 times the speed of sound or steering a fighter jet to a nighttime rendezvous with an aircraft carrier, the Kelly brothers appreciate nothing if not risk. Their lives are spent navigating the narrow patch of turf between danger and control, and whatever their shortcomings, the ability to perform with grace under pressure is not one of them.

So it was an especially cruel twist that the toughest moment of their lives placed the NASA astronauts in the public eye in a totally unfamiliar posture: helplessness. Neither Mark Kelly nor his identical twin, Scott, have much influence over the unfolding events involving Mark's wife, Gabrielle Giffords, a member of Congress from Arizona who was shot along with 18 others, six fatally, last weekend at a Tucson shopping center. (1/17)

Kazakhstan Ratifies Space Agreement with Russia (Source: RIA Novosti)
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law the ratification of a Russian-Kazakh space cooperation agreement. The intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in space research and the use of space for peaceful purposes was signed on May 22, 2008. It provides for tax breaks and commercial preferences in the delivery of goods from countries that are not party to the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union. (1/17)

Former Space Shuttle Columbia Crew Reunites (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson hosted a 25th reunion of the Columbia shuttle crew he joined during a weekend of celebrating their giddy success while also somberly reflecting on the dangers of human spaceflight. The Florida Democrat hosted crew members for a dinner at his home in Washington on Saturday. He then led them on a Sunday tour of the Capitol, with a pause for a moment of silence at a first-floor painting of the crew of shuttle Challenger, which blew up 10 days after Nelson's flight landed. (1/17)

NASA Flails as Forces Pull From All Directions (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With the space shuttle set to retire this year, and no successor imminent, today's NASA is being pulled apart by burdensome congressional demands, shrinking federal budgets, greedy contractors, a hidebound bureaucracy and an ambitious new commercial space industry that wants to shake up the status quo.

Efforts to get the agency back on track are in trouble. Already, a new plan for NASA signed into law by President Obama in October — to replace the Constellation program, which spent $12 billion without producing a rocket — appears to be unraveling. Two key NASA backers in the Senate — Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison — responded with a simple message: Try harder.

Though Congress wants NASA to cut costs, it also wants the agency to continue using NASA's expensive workforce and existing cost-plus contracts — meaning it will be very difficult to slash overhead costs. But extending those contracts, as Nelson and Hutchison are demanding, might not be so easy. In recent weeks, key aerospace companies (such as Aerojet) have demanded that NASA open the new rocket project to competition or face the prospect of lawsuits. (1/17)

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