January 25, 2011

Virginia Bill Would Direct Tax Revenues to Commercial Space Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
There’s a move afoot in the Virginia Legislature to direct tax dollars generated by commercial human space entities in the state to support the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and development of the Wallops Island spaceport. The provision in Senate Bill 1447 reads:

"The net revenue generated by the corporate income taxes paid by corporations that engage in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training shall be transferred to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority... Not later than 30 days after the close of each quarter, the Comptroller shall transfer to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority an amount from the general fund that is equal to the estimate provided by the Tax Commissioner."

Editor's Note: This was attempted multiple times in Florida, but the measure failed because lawmakers feared it would set a bad precedent. They believed other industries would demand similar treatment, eroding the state's discretionary tax base. If the spaceport-related tax revenue scheme were successful, other more powerful lobbies (Disney?) would surely seek to duplicate it. (1/25)

Air Force Plans To Track 20,000 Pieces of Space Trash (Source: TPM)
Above our heads, 21,000 pieces of man-made junk uncomfortably share the orbit around our planet with satellites, space craft and space platforms. These chunks of orbital debris threaten to collide with all that equipment, potentially bringing down communications, scientific, and military satellites. But if the Air Force has its way, its Space Fence system will track the thousands of pieces of debris and give data to scientists to help them avoid collisions.

This past November, the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center put out a call for proposals for developing a Space Fence that will use up to three powerful S-band radars to keep track of debris in the southern hemisphere as small as one inch in diameter. These new sensors will compliment the current United States Space Surveillance Network, whose sensors can follow objects down to ten centimeters in diameter. (1/25)

A Star's Shocking Transformation (Source: MSNBC)
What a difference a wavelength makes! The camera on NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, transforms the relatively ho-hum star Zeta Ophiuchi into a stunner, wrapped in a colorful, gauzy shawl of interstellar dust. Astronomers theorize that the blue giant was part of a double-star system that broke up when its partner star went supernova.

Now Zeta O. is speeding away through a cloud of dust and gas at a speed of 54,000 mph, and creating the yellowish bow shock you see in this picture. The shock wave is similar to the wave that a boat pushes in front of the bow as it speeds through the water. The feature is completely hidden in visible light, but WISE's infrared camera was able to see it through the obscuring dust. If it weren't for all that dust, Zeta O. would be one of the brightest stars in the sky. (1/25)

Putin Pushes On New Space Port (Source: Moscow Times)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered the government to complete the paperwork for the construction of the Vostochny spaceport as soon as possible so that work begins this year as planned. "We are talking about a new, big national project," he told a weekly Presidium meeting. "Construction must begin precisely on schedule."

To be built at an estimated cost of at least 80.5 billion rubles ($2.7 billion), the spaceport is designed to ease the country’s dependence on the Soviet-era Baikonur launch site, which Russia is leasing through 2050. Joint launches from France's Kourou spaceport will begin sometime in the first half of this year, but the growing amount of business justifies a new national spaceport, Putin said. (1/25)

How to Hitch a Ride to Space (For Your Satellite) (Source: CNET)
Got a satellite you want to pitch into orbit? India's space agency will take it, but the Indian government doesn't really want to with deal you unless you've got a "primary"--a bird larger than 200 kilograms. Instead, businesses and universities with smaller, "secondary" satellites can hitch rides on launch vehicles designed for primaries by working with launch broker Earth2Orbit, which can sell you spots on Indian launch vehicles and even help you interface your small satellite into the launch vehicle for the brief trip. Earth2Orbit will also help you sort out insurance issues.

Co-CEO Amaresh Kollipara laid out the business for me. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) doesn't have the manpower to hustle for business nor the staff to deal with owners of smaller satellites. Likewise, most companies don't have access to government agencies like ISRO, NASA, its Russian counterpart Roscosmos, or the big commercial launch providers like Boeing or SpaceX, when they want to launch a smallish satellite. (1/25)

NASA Offers Cash Prizes for Amateur Pictures of NanoSail-D (Sources: Huntsville Times)
It's about the size of a family camping tent, and it's flying through space for the next 70-120 days. You can't miss it because it's five- to 10 times brighter than Venus. And NASA is offering cash prizes for the best picture of its NanoSail-D solar sail. In cooperation with Spaceweather.com, NASA will pay $500 to the grand prize winner, $300 to the first prize winner and $100 to the second prize winner. Click here to learn more about the contest. (1/25)

California Amateur Wins Chambliss Award (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Last week the American Astronomical Society (AAS) announced that R. Jay GaBany, a product manager for internet-based companies from San Jose, California, is the 2011 winner of the Society’s Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award. The award is given annually to an amateur astronomer from North America who makes outstanding contributions to scientific research.

Using a 20-inch telescope at his remote Black Bird Observatory in New Mexico, GaBany has been one of the world’s leading amateur astrophotographers for the past decade. But his contributions go far beyond just taking pretty pictures. In recent years, GaBany has devoted hundreds of hours to work with a team of astronomers to take deep CCD images of galaxies far beyond our Local Group. (1/25)

Direct Losses From Glonass Launch Failure Top 2 Billion Rubles (Source: Itar-Tass)
Direct losses from the abortive launch of three Glonass satellites in the end of last year stood at 2.5 billion rubles, Federal Space Agency head Anatoly Perminov said Tuesday. The Agency and the Defense Ministry are searching for ways to accelerate the construction of three new satellites, he said. That would be done in the first half of 2011, he added. (1/25)

Russia to Launch New Batch of Glonass Satellites by June (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will launch another three Glonass-M satellites on board a Proton heavy carrier rocket later this year to complete the orbiting Glonass grouping, the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos said. Anatoly Perminov told a news conference that Roscosmos allocated about 3 billion rubles ($100 million) for the launch, expected in May-June. The recent loss of three Glonass-M satellites as a result of a series of mistakes made by the Russian Energia rocket corporation cost Russia 2.5 billion rubles ($82 million) in direct damages. (1/25)

Russia Plans to Bbuild Rocket for Mars Missions (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Khrunichev research center plans to develop a new super-heavy-lift rocket to launch piloted spacecraft to Mars. "[It] will be based on the design of the Angara rocket," a Khrunichev official said. Angara rockets, designed to lift between 2,000 and 40,500 kg into low earth orbit, are expected to become the core of Russia's rocket fleet, replacing several existing systems. The rockets have a modular design similar to the U.S. Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) fleet. (1/25)

When is a Group of Stars not a Galaxy? (Source: New Scientist)
Are there impostors lurking among the many millions of galaxies identified so far? No one can give a clear answer because there is as yet no formal definition of what a galaxy is. But a pair of astronomers are now putting the question of what defines a galaxy to a public vote, in the hope of reaching a consensus and avoiding the sort of controversy that surrounded Pluto being stripped of its status as a planet.

While a typical galaxy contains billions of stars, a number of tiny galaxies have been found in recent years that do not fit the classic picture and instead resemble the groups of stars known as star clusters. So which are they? "There is no simple definition of what can be a galaxy or a star cluster," says Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn in Germany. "Where does one draw the line?" Click here to read the article. (1/25)

Giffords Will Lead Democrats on Space Subcommittee, Wilson Serves from Florida (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) will be the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) will serve as Acting Ranking Member during her absence. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of Miami is also on the subcommittee, joining Florida Republican Sandy Adams. (1/25)

Roscosmos: No Contracts Signed Yet With Space Adventures for Billionaut Flights (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Adventures, which had announced the conclusion of an agreement with Russian Federal Space Agency and RSC Energia to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013, has not signed any contract neither with Roscosmos, nor with RSC-E, Roscosmos Human Spaceflight Directorate Head Alexey Krasnov said. According to Krasnov, the a.m. negotiations may commence in spring, provided that Space Adventures finds funding for increasing of Soyuz production, from four to five space vehicles per year. (1/25)

Russia to Spend $6 Billion on New Spaceport, Rocket and Human Spacecraft (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov said Russia will spend $6 billion through 2015 to build its new Vostochny spaceport and to develop replacements for the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft. “The total cost of building a promising manned transport system, a new space rocket complex, Rus-M, the ground processing facility will be about 180 billion rubles by 2015,” he said.

Perminov said that the new Rus-M rocket being developed by TsSKB Progress will be capable of launching up to 24 metric tons into orbit. The new rocket will be tested in 2015, with human launches of a new six-person spacecraft being built by RSC Energia planned to begin in 2018. Designs for the new rocket and spacecraft were drawn up last year. (1/25)

Lawsuit Could Postpone FAA Bill (Source: AIA)
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-FL, hopes to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill this year, but a lawsuit over training for air traffic controllers could lead to further delays. Washington Consulting Group has alleged that Raytheon Technical Services won the contract through bid-rigging. Raytheon denied the charges, but a U.S. District judge last week refused to dismiss the case. With Congress already concerned about a spike in near-miss incidents, experts say the case could become an issue in the FAA debate. (1/25)

Democratic Membership of the House Science Committee (Source: Space Politics)
Although there’s been no formal release from the Democratic caucus of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Democratic members of the committee were formally named last week in a House resolution. Sixteen Democrats will serve, including Floridian Frederica Wilson from Miami. Many of the Democrats named served on the committee in the previous Congress, although there are several new members as well. Subcommittee assignments have not yet been announced. Click here to see the list. (1/25)

Rep. Adams Remarks on Space Subcommittee Assignment (Source: Rep. Adams)
“After spending years working and meeting with Space Coast business leaders and NASA officials, I am ready to hit the ground running as a leader on space issues on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. As a past member of the Space Caucus in the Florida House of Representatives, I look forward to continuing my work as an advocate for NASA and emphasizing the importance of space exploration to the rest of my colleagues on the Committee and within the Republican caucus." (1/24)

Scientist: Russian Space Programs Underfunded (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is not in a position to carry out global space programs single-handedly and should team up with India and Kazakhstan, veteran rocket scientist Boris Chertok said on Tuesday. He said Russian space programs are grossly underfunded compared to similar projects in the United States and China. "As for China, it has sufficient resources to undertake space programs on its own," Chertok also said. (1/25)

Why Space Taxis Might be Safer than NASA's Shuttle (Source: New Scientist)
A quarter of a century after NASA's space shuttle Challenger disintegrated on launch, killing all seven of its crew, the next generation of US astronauts faces a sea change. They could soon be traveling in space "taxis" operated and built by commercial firms instead of the shuttle, which retires later this year. But there are good reasons to think these will be safer than the shuttle. John Logsdon points out that the companies vying for space taxi contracts include Boeing and Lockheed Martin, already major contractors on NASA's space missions, both crewed and uncrewed.

Even those new to the market like SpaceX are testing uncrewed launches first, which puts them at a safety advantage compared with the shuttle's first flights. "The first time we launched a shuttle, we put a crew on it," says Logsdon. Specific features of the new vehicles also help, says AIAA's Robert Dickman. Unlike the shuttle, all the new craft will be able to eject crew to safety if their launch vehicle fails--unlike the Space Shuttle.

Design changes apart, the next chapter in space flight is uncharted territory - some flights will carry tourists on joyrides. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration will ensure that pilots are licensed, vehicles have first flown without passengers, and crew are trained for emergencies. Companies will then inform passengers of the risks. Dickman also warns that spacecraft are still a lot more dangerous than planes. "It will be a long, long time before space flight is safe," he says. (1/25)

Space Coast Firm Wins Commercialization Grant (Source: Structural Composites)
Structural Composites was one of 13 Florida companies to share nearly $3 million in grant funding through the Florida Research Commercialization Matching Grant Program (FRCMGP). Structural Composites won $245,000 to boost its innovative lightweight boat technology in this highly competitive grant program. The grant matches federal SBIR and STTR funds, enabling companies to produce the kind of distinctive technologies and associated jobs that are driving today’s knowledge-based economy. (1/24)

For Rent: Big Space Center (Source: Florida Today)
NASA on Monday hung "for rent" signs on Kennedy Space Center launch pads, firing rooms, the Vehicle Assembly Building and other facilities now supporting shuttle missions. Virtually every facility involved with shuttle operations could be offered for commercial use, from orbiter hangars and mobile launcher platforms to the shuttle runway and high bays where vehicles and payloads are prepared for flight. But exactly which facilities are made available remains to be determined. (1/24)

For NASA, Longest Countdown Awaits (Source: New York Times)
For NASA, as it attempts to squeeze a workable human spaceflight program into a tight federal budget, the answers appear to be “somewhere” and “not anytime soon.” When the space shuttles are retired this year — and only one flight remains for each of the three — NASA will no longer have its own means for getting American astronauts to space. What comes next is a muddle.

The program to send astronauts back to the moon, known as Constellation, was canceled last year. In its place, Congress has asked NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket, one that can go deep into space carrying big loads. But NASA says it cannot possibly build such a rocket with the budget and schedule it has been given. Click here to read the article. (1/24)

Should We Worry About a War in Space With China? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The causes of American unease regarding the Chinese space program are easy to trace. A Chinese orbiter is currently circling the moon, looking for landing sites for unmanned missions. The nation's stated goal is to land men on the moon by 2020, and it's not yet clear if a permanent base is being considered. China's surging military ambition has increased Pentagon worry over its space program, because launch rockets and long-range missiles share many developing technologies. Furthermore, China's sole government-sanctioned rocket company, China Great Wall Industry Corp., is a dual-purpose military and space outfit. Click here for more. (1/20)

Florida Legislators: Obama's Speech Needs NASA Focus (Source: Florida Today)
Florida lawmakers are looking for President Obama to lay out lofty goals for space exploration in his State of the Union speech. "I'd like to hear a speech like John Kennedy -- a national commitment to human space flight," said Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge. "Keep us first in national security, first in economic security, and inspire the next generation to reach for the stars."

"At a critical juncture for NASA, I think the president owes it to the American people to explain how he intends on preserving jobs along the Space Coast," said Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Orlando. She urged the president to announce a plan for responsible spending cuts and a blueprint for fixing the budget process.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, said he'll work with Obama if the president is serious about tackling the debt and not postponing tough decisions. But Rubio said he'll challenge the president "if he insists on pursuing the same old course of wasteful spending, higher taxes and policies that make it harder for businesses to start up or expand." (1/25)

US Drops Indian Groups from Entities List (Source: DNA)
Meeting the long pending Indian demand, Obama administration removed nine Indian space and defense related companies including those from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), from its export control 'Entity List'. The decision that came out close to India's Republic Day, is said to be a move towards strengthening high technology trade between the two countries. (1/25)

U.S. Rep. Adams to Serve on Space, Judiciary Committees (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams will serve on two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives: Science, Space and Technology; and Judiciary. The first committee deals with NASA and space-related issues. The judiciary committee has jurisdiction over federal criminal laws, constitutional issues, immigration law, and intellectual property rights, among others. (1/25)

NASA Ponders a Home Away From Home: Far Away From Home (Source: Washington Post)
Humankind is looking deeper and deeper into the cosmos and seeing incredible things that were totally unknown just a few years ago. In the past three decades, astronomers have described the nature of gamma ray bursts, proved that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and helped land rovers on Mars. And yet, while our telescopes can see Earthlike planets more than 20 light-years into the intergalactic abyss, we humans can't seem to get past the moon, a sterile rock orbiting just 238,000 miles from Houston. What's taking so long?

The first problem is fuel. The distance between Earth and Mars changes, since our orbits are elliptical, but the minimum distance is 34 million miles. Fueling a spacecraft over that distance poses a challenge, because as you add fuel, you add weight. As you add weight, you have to add more fuel to propel that weight. At certain distances, the cycle becomes totally unmanageable: Traveling on conventional fuel to Proxima Centauri, the next closet star after our sun, for example, would require a tank larger than the visible universe. (1/25)

Irvine Women's Conference Hosts First Female Space Tourist (Source: Daily Pilot)
Coastline Community College hosts its first Iranian-American Women's Leadership Conference, which will feature Anousheh Ansari as the guest lecturer. The Iranian American became the first female tourist to go into space five years ago. Ansari was a space tourist aboard a Soyuz mission to the International Space Station in 2006. (1/25)

New Florida Space Magazine Launches (Source: ARES Institute)
Aerospace Florida magazine provides news and information about Florida's defense and space industries and the space program. Aerospace Florida covers it all... the missions, the business and the politics of space. We bring you the latest space news every month from Florida's Space Coast. Click here for the first issue. (1/25)

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