January 24, 2011

NASA Looks for Commercial Users for KSC Facilities (Source: NASA)
NASA has released a Notice of Availability (NOA) and Request for Information (RFI) to identify interest from industry for space processing and support facilities at Kennedy Space Center. The facilities may become available for space-related commercial use following the end of the Space Shuttle Program. The facilities that may become available are well-suited for entities operating or directly supporting government or commercial launches or space user services.

The announcement groups facilities into four classes: space vehicle processing and launch facilities; off-line processing facilities; payload processing facilities; and miscellaneous facilities. Facilities listed in the announcement include: Launch Pads 39A and B, the Vehicle Assembly Building, Orbiter Processing Facilities and the Shuttle Landing Facility. Click here for information.

Editor's Note: One potential roadblock: the Commercial Space Launch Act prevents the government from providing facilities that would compete directly with nearby commercial interests. In the early 1990s, this piece of law basically allowed Astrotech to veto any efforts to obtain KSC or CCAFS facilities for commercial payload processing. (1/24)

Watchdog Group Questions Google Use of Moffett Field (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Consumer Watchdog has issued a report focusing on Google’s allegedly close relationship with the federal government. One of the issues they have raised involves Google’s $1.3 million per year lease of space at Moffett Field, which is under the control of NASA Ames:

"When a deal between NASA and top Google executives to use the base was first disclosed in 2007, it called for only four jets to use the base. But newly released government records show that the Google executive fleet has now grown to six jets and two helicopters, while at least 40 Google employees hold security badges at the base and all of the planes are supplied with Department of Defense jet fuel." (1/24)

Sea Launch Announces New Management (Source: Sea Launch)
Energia Logistics Ltd. (“ELUS”) has named Kirk Pysher as Chief Operating Officer. ELUS is a new organization responsible for all aspects of satellite integration and launch operations for Sea Launch Zenit-3SL missions. Pysher will lead an operations and engineering team in support of hardware production, engineering services and launch services. Prior to joining Sea Launch, Pysher played an integral role at The Boeing Company in support of the design, development and operation of the Delta family of launch vehicles.

Editor's Note: Chances are slim that Sea Launch will relocate its Zenit launch operations to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, despite the availability of state infrastructure funding to convert Launch Complex 36 for the rockets. Sea Launch's biggest barrier to profitability are its hugely expensive overhead costs for operating and maintaining its deep-sea launch platform and a control ship. (1/24)

San Jose Schools Launch Experiment to Station Aboard Japanese Rocket (Source: Hobby Space)
The sky is not the limit for students at Valley Christian Schools. Two dozen of them have an elaborate "student-designed, self-contained plant-seed growth chamber" experiment on its way to the International Space Station aboard the Japanese HTV cargo vessel launched last week. The chamber fits in an experiment rack built by Nanoracks LLC. Click here for information. (1/24)

San Jose School Plans Space Experiment Conference on Aug. 1-2 (Source: Valley Christian Schools)
Come join us for the debut of an exciting new education conference to teach high school administrators, teachers and students educators how to start and maintain a meaningful space education program in your school. This HANDS-ON conference will focus on many exciting topics:what it takes to start a first class space education program in your school. Visit http://www.vcs.net/quicklinks/mathscience/space-conference/index.aspx. (1/24)

Palazzo Named Space Subcommittee Chairman (Source: Hattiesburg American)
Congressman Steven Palazzo has been named space subcommittee chairman on the House Science, Space and Technology committee. “Representing the home of NASA’s largest rocket engine testing facility in the country, I am excited to be able to play a role in shaping future manned space-flight missions and maintaining Stennis Space Center’s critical importance in that effort,” Palazzo said.

Governor Haley Barbour said the appointment "shows the regard and respect the Republican Party has for our state that a freshman congressman would get this vital appointment." Palazzo defeated Democratic incumbent Gene Taylor in the November general election. "Congressman Taylor, a conservative Democrat, had to wait some 15 years to get a subcommittee chairmanship from the Democrats, but the Republicans are giving one to Congressman Palazzo his first year,” Barbour said. (1/24)

Last Shuttle Mission Patch Released (Source Florida Today)
CollectSPACE has unveiled the design of the 135th and final shuttle mission, an Atlantis flight scheduled for this summer assuming funding is available. CollectSPACE editor Robert Pearlman said the patch's designer is believed to be mission specialist Rex Walheim's wife, a graphic artists who designed the STS-122 mission patch. Click here to see it. (1/24)

Could Extraterrestrial Intelligence Sway Religious Beliefs? (Source: Space.com)
The discovery of extraterrestrial life might not shake people's faith in their religious beliefs, but it could lead them to wonder if Jesus Christ had incarnations on alien planets, scientists and theologians say. These speculations and more arose from researchers presenting at a meeting of the Royal Society in London last year addressing the potential impacts of aliens on society.

In one of the studies, which were released Jan. 10, astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA Ames Research Center noted the consequences that aliens might have on society depend on whether humanity discovered only extraterrestrial life or also extraterrestrial intelligence. (1/24)

Russia's Spaceship Debris Fall Into Pacific Ocean (Source: Xinhua)
The Russian space cargo ship Progress M-08M left orbit and fell into the Pacific Monday after three month of work at the International Space Station (ISS), reported the Mission Control Center outside Moscow. "As calculated by Mission Control ballistics experts, the Progress M-08M's debris, which did not burn up in the thick layers of the atmosphere, fell into the southern part of the Pacific Ocean far away from navigation routes. The Progress undocked from the Russian module Pirs first and then left the orbit, the control center said. (1/24)

Putting a Stamp on Canada's Space Contributions (Source: PARS3C)
Canada Post has released a series of commemorative stamps that shows just how widely the Maple Leaf has spread. For the space fans, of course, most of us know that the Canadarm not only bears the name of our country, but also the government’s “Canada” trademark that also includes a maple leaf. One of the stamps features the Canadarm robotic manipulator. This also isn’t the first time that Canada’s space history has been stamped on envelopes. In 2003, the eight Canadians who had flown into space by that date were all put on stamps, which was unusual given that generally the only living person allowed on Canadian stamps is the Queen. (1/24)

Lockheed Martin Plans Colorado Space Systems Laboratory (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Lockheed Martin plans to increase the affordability and efficiency of space system development with the opening of a new advanced technology and virtual simulation facility, known as the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL). The CHIL, located at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company headquarters in Littleton, Colo., integrates several virtual reality technologies enabling engineers and technicians to validate, test, and understand products and processes virtually before creating them physically. The result is a reduction in risk with savings in both time and cost. (1/24)

Skinsuits and MiniMags (Source: QuantumG's Blog)
The Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit and Mini-Magnetosphere Radiation Shielding are two technologies which, if successful, will change the way you think about space exploration and eventually even colonization. They address the two fundamental stumbling blocks of long term missions in space: the negative health affects of zero-g and radiation exposure.

Zero-G Skinsuits exert a force on the wearer's body which duplicates the loading on the skeleton that gravity usually provides. The expectation is that Skinsuits will reduce or eliminate the deleterious bone loss that astronauts currently experience in zero-g. So far, the prototypes have only been tested on parabolic flights, although they are similar to the Russian penguin suits which were used by cosmonauts on MIR (unfortunately with little to no reported results - as is typical of Russian space medicine).

MiniMags produce an electric field around a spacecraft that interacts with the interplanetary plasma to produce a charge separation, strengthening the field. When ionizing radiation hits the electric field it is deflected and so does not cause damage to the spacecraft or its occupants. It was widely believed that such a shield could not be achieved without superconducting magnets and large power sources. However, a number of observations of solar wind phenomena and subsequent ground experimentation has shown that only a small electric field is initially needed - the neutral interplanetary plasma will do the rest. (1/24)

Deficit Reduction Efforts Have Businesses on Edge (Source: AIA)
As lawmakers begin aggressive proposals to reduce the deficit, the business community has not been enthusiastically following. Two main areas of concern are that spending cuts at federal agencies could damage the revenue stream to government contractors, and that deficit-cutting efforts could result in the loss of critical tax breaks and incentives. "There's no question that our industry and a group of very committed CEOs understand and believe that we are going to have to reduce the federal deficit," said AIA's Marion Blakey. "The concern is that a sweeping and ill-considered deficit reduction initiative could catch the defense budget as part of a well intentioned but devastating cut." (1/24)

Senate Probe Likely to Delay Air Force Tanker Decision (Source: AIA)
The decision on a $35 billion Air Force contract to build 179 aerial tankers will likely be delayed until March or even later due to a Senate probe into the inadvertent release of bidders' information to the competing bidders, Boeing and EADS, according to defense industry sources. (1/24)

Fly Me to the Stars (Source: Space Review)
Given the near-term challenges of just getting beyond Earth orbit, does it make sense to think about how to travel to other stars? Lou Friedman explains the benefits of long-term planning for interstellar missions, as DARPA and NASA are currently exploring. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1765/1 to view the article. (1/24)

EML-1: The Next Logical Destination (Source: Space Review)
One potential destination for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit is the Earth-Moon L-1 point. Ken Murphy discusses the various roles a human presence there could play in supporting space exploration and development. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1764/1 to view the article. (1/24)

Sub-Scale and Classified: The Top Secret CIA Model of a Soviet Launch Pad (Source: Space Review)
During the race to the Moon in the 1960s, the CIA built models of the Soviet N-1 launch pad to help them better understand the launch site infrastructure. Dwayne Day describes the discovery of one of those vintage models in an unexpected location. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1763/1 to view the article. (1/24)

Union Sues S.C. Governor Over Statement About Boeing Plant (Source: Wichita Eagle)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is facing her first big lawsuit after saying the state would try to keep unions out of the Boeing plant in North Charleston. The lawsuit asked for a court order telling Haley and her director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to butt out and remain neutral in matters concerning union activities.

"There's no secret I don't like the unions," Haley said when asked about the litigation. "We are a right-to-work state... We are pro-business by nature. I want us to continue to be pro-business." The lawsuit came after remarks Haley made as she nominated Catherine Templeton to run the state's labor agency. She said Templeton's union-fighting background would be helpful in state fights against the labor groups, particularly at Boeing. (1/24)

Liftoff for California Space Center: Groundbreaking Expected This Year (Source: Pacific Coast Business Times)
After a decade of proposing and planning, a mid-year groundbreaking is scheduled for the California Space Center, a 500,000-square-foot complex just outside of the only space port on the West Coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Two firms — including Hawthorne-based SpaceX, the company vying to take U.S. astronauts into orbit as NASA replaces the space shuttle — have signaled interest in leases once the facility is built.

The project is being spearheaded by the California Space Authority, a nonprofit that acts like a chamber of commerce for the Golden State’s space industry. The idea has been bouncing around since the late 1990s for a facility that would bring together an educational center, viewing stands for the public to watch rocket launches at Vandenberg and much more commercial space for contractors. (1/24)

NASA Proponents in Ohio Still Push for Runway (Source: Sandusky Register)
Supporters of NASA Plum Brook Station are playing offense and defense these days. They're actively lobbying for funds to build a runway, which would make it easier for contractors and government agencies to fly satellites and other space equipment to the facility for testing. But they are also preparing to mount a defense of the agency's appropriations, since federal lawmakers are under new pressure to trim the budget.

For years Erie County commissioners have seen Plum Brook as the key to economic development. They want the facility to attract high-tech companies like Sierra Lobo. While all three commissioners support the runway project, Pat Shenigo has made it his crusade. He's traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for funding and has approached every state and federal politician who ventures into Erie County.

When Democrats controlled Congress, Shenigo said, he concentrated on trying to win money to pay for the runway. That now seems unlikely, so Shenigo has a new approach: Entice NASA to give its unused land to Erie County for development. If the land is secured and NASA has access to Lake Erie water, Erie County could work with an existing port authority to develop the land. (1/24)

Still Got the Right Stuff: the Next Generation of Rocket Scientists (Source: Ars Technica)
You could make the case that right now is the most exciting time in a generation to be young and interested in space. The Space Shuttle is preparing for its final flights, soon to be replaced by a new era of launch technology. "NewSpace" companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are lowering launch costs, paving the way for large-scale space exploration.

Incentive competitions such as the Google Lunar X PRIZE are both spurring research and development and creating dozens of new groups for young graduates to bring their skills to. These are indeed heady times for the young and starry-eyed, and these future space leaders aren't just sitting in class, waiting to join in. At college campuses and high schools around the world, students are actively preparing for a future in space, using weather balloons to photograph the curvature of the earth, engaging in rocketry competitions, and even designing orbital space settlements.

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) is exactly what it sounds like: an organization for college students who are interested in promoting and facilitating a permanent human presence in outer space. (SEDS has dozens of chapters worldwide.) SEDS was cofounded by Peter Diamandis, the creator of the X PRIZE and the in-development Rocket Racing League, and a good deal of his energetic, entrepreneurial spirit is still apparent in the organization today. Click here for more. (1/24)

Space Components Can be Found in Unlikely Places (Source: Telegraph)
Space shuttle engineers have often been forced to source parts by unusual means. Most famously, NASA scientists used eBay to find replacement parts so primitive they would not even be recognized by home computer users. The shuttles, first launched in 1981, often rely on components that are so out of date, they are no longer made.

Some used a type of computer disk drive that was outmoded by the end of the 1970s. NASA announced in 2002 that it had bought outdated medical equipment in order to scavenge Intel 8086 chips, a variant of those used to power IBM.'s first personal computer, in 1981. Engineers are known to have searched the internet to find an obsolete circuit board used to test the shuttle's master timing unit, eventually finding one for just $500. (1/24)

Mobile Phone to Blast Into Orbit (Source: BBC)
British engineers are planning to put a mobile phone in space. The team at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford want to see if the sophisticated capabilities in today's phones will function in the most challenging environment known. The phone will run on Google's Android operating system but the exact model has not yet been disclosed.

It will be used to control a 30cm-long satellite and take pictures of the Earth in the mission later this year. Although mobile phones have been flown on high altitude balloons before, this would likely be the first time such a device has gone into orbit several hundred kilometers above the planet. "Modern smartphones are pretty amazing," said SSTL project manager Shaun Kenyon. (1/24)

Delta 4-Heavy's Hush-Hush Payload Found and Identified (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The clandestine cargo carried into polar orbit Thursday aboard the first California-launched Delta 4-Heavy rocket was a crucial replacement satellite for the nation's surveillance and security network, amateur sky-watchers say. The sophisticated imaging bird follows a long line of Keyhole-type spacecraft that provide ultra-high resolution imagery for the U.S. intelligence community, according to hobbyists who track orbiting satellites with remarkable precision.

Ever since the Delta 4-Heavy rocket fired away from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the amateur observers have been hunting for the new satellite to figure out its identity. The conventional wisdom before the launch said the payload would fly into the Keyhole satellite constellation, and observations from the past few days proved the guess correct. (1/24)

SpaceX Aims for Next Milestone: Carrying Astronauts (Source: LA Times)
After becoming the first private company ever to blast a spacecraft into Earth orbit and have it return intact last month, Hawthorne rocket maker SpaceX is pushing toward its next big step. It wants to be the first commercial firm to launch astronauts into outer space and has submitted a proposal to NASA.

SpaceX wants in on the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the Space Station. The company is already building rockets and capsules to deliver cargo to the station. NASA's Commercial Crew Development program hopes to award about $200 million in seed money in March to companies to develop rockets and spacecraft for the next step in manned spaceflight after the shuttle. Several aerospace companies, including SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing Co., have submitted proposals. (1/24)

India's Antrix to Boost Market Share in Remote Sensing Data Products (Source: Business Standard)
Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), plans to increase its remote sensing data products market share with the launch of Resource-sat-2, a remote sensing satellite using PSLV C-16 version rocket next month. The number of ground stations which the Antrix has been operating across the world may also go up from 20 at present. (1/24)

Japan's H-2B Success Doesn't Sell Japanese Rockets (Source: Asahi)
Japan racked up another space travel success last week with its second launch of an H-2B rocket carrying a single-mission cargo module loaded with supplies for the International Space Station. Although the launch was celebrated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and U.S. observers from NASA, who lauded Japan's achievement of a 95-percent success rate, selling the technology to other countries is still a long shot.

Japan hopes to pitch this good track record, and its development of the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV). But higher costs brought about by the current strength of the yen and the added fuel costs for placing payloads into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, hurt Japan's competitiveness. Saturday's launch marked the nation's 19th success, combining flights of both the H-2B and its H-2A sister craft. Japan plans to launch one HTV every year through 2015, for a total of seven missions. (1/24)

Discovery Rollout Set for Jan. 31 (Source: Florida Today)
Shuttle Discovery is expected to return to the launch pad a week from today as repairs to its external tank near completion this week. Kennedy Space Center teams plan to begin Discovery's slow crawl to pad 39A at 8 p.m. next Monday , weather permitting. As with the shuttle's September move to the pad, which was then expected to be its last, the time was set to allow hundreds of center employees an opportunity to see the shuttle up close and celebrate its final mission. (1/24)

No comments: