January 28, 2011

NASA’s Overbudget Mars Rover in Need of Another Cash Infusion (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission needs an $82 million cash infusion to maintain its late November launch date after development of the $2.47 billion rover exhausted program funding reserves last year. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division, attributed the 3 percent cost increase to problems developing the truck-sized rover’s mobility systems, avionics, radar and drill, as well as delays in completing the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite, which is designed to sniff the surrounding air for carbon-containing compounds. (1/28)

France Ready To Back ISS Extension if Europe Revamps Funding Formula (Source: Space News)
The French government stands ready to endorse extending the operational life of the international space station to 2020 and beyond but is insisting on new ways of financing the work with its European partners, the head of the French space agency, CNES, said. CNES President Yannick d’Escatha did not spell out the mechanism France would like to see adopted to determine how much of the station’s annual operating charges each European nation would pay. (1/28)

Hughes Sale Attracts Interest from Established Fleet Operators (Source: Space News)
Established satellite-fleet operators Inmarsat, Intelsat and EchoStar have signaled interest in bidding for the 57-percent stake of satellite broadband provider Hughes Communications that is being put up for sell by its owner, private-equity investor Apollo. Regardless of whether these companies will pursue their interest into an auction likely to feature competing bids by several private-equity investors, even an initial interest by them suggests how far Ka-band satellite broadband has come in terms of market acceptance. (1/28)

Stephen Hawking Wouldn't Talk to an ET, Would You? (Source: AOL News)
Hardly a day passes without someone, somewhere claiming to have seen a UFO. In just the last year, Chinese airports were closed down -- not once, but several times -- after the sighting of an unidentified flying object. This week, we speak with Space.com's Dave Brody and AOL's resident ufologist Lee Speigel, to get their perspective on the search for intelligent life in the universe. Click here. (1/28)

Israel, ESA to Sign Cooperation Agreement (Source: Y-Net News)
The sky is the limit – Israel on Sunday will sign a cooperation agreement with European Space Agency ESA. According to the agreement, the two will collaborate on various fields of space science, including astronomy, astrophysics, solar system research, space and satellite engineering, environmental pollution monitoring and meteorology. In addition, they will conduct joint research on natural disasters and hold space experiments in zero gravity conditions, as well as biological and medical research and space applications for urban planning and surveillance. (1/28)

Gates: Pentagon Faces Spending Crisis as Congress Stalls Budget (Source: AIA)
The failure by Congress to approve a final budget for the Defense Department has resulted in a spending crisis that could force the department to cut its spending by as much as $23 billion this year, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. While the Obama administration submitted its annual budget proposal of $549 billion for the Pentagon in early 2010, Congress has not taken a final vote, and the department could be forced to make immediate cuts in training and operations, Gates said. (1/28)

FAA to Call for Stepped-Up Satellite Navigation Effort (Source: AIA)
The FAA next week is expected to call for more help from private industry in designing satellite-guided precision flight paths at U.S. airports. Only 75 airports currently have such procedures in place, leaving 375 airports to rely on old, less efficient systems. GE and Boeing have helped design flight paths at two airports, and experts would like to see more such public-private partnerships. Without satellite-guided navigation to help relieve congestion, "we'll just hit gridlock," says an official at the Aerospace Industries Association. (1/28)

U.S., EU Eye Anti-Satellite Weapons Pact (Source: Washington Times)
The Obama administration is negotiating with the European Union on an agreement limiting the use of anti-satellite weapons, a move that some critics say could curb U.S. development of space weapons in general. Three congressional staffers told The Washington Times that Pentagon and intelligence analysts said in a briefing Monday that the administration is looking to sign on to the European Union‘s Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

The briefing followed the completion of an interagency review that recommends the United States sign on to the document with only a few minor changes to its language, according to two administration officials familiar with the review. That recommendation is awaiting final approval from the National Security Council. A draft of the code of conduct dated Sept. 27 says countries that sign on to the document vow to “refrain from any action which intends to bring about, directly or indirectly, damage or destruction of outer space objects unless such action is conducted to reduce the creation of outer space debris and/or is justified by the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense. (1/28)

ESA Secures Funds for Data Relay Satellite System (Source: Space News)
After more than two years of negotiations, European Space Agency (ESA) governments have secured the full funding package to build a data-relay satellite system whose initial customer will be the European Commission’s Earth observation program. The agency’s Industrial Policy Committee, which clears funds for release, has approved 280 million euros ($380 million) for the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) system. EDRS will include two laser-optical terminals, one installed as a hosted payload aboard a still-unselected commercial telecommunications satellite to be launched in 2013 or 2014, and one aboard a dedicated data-relay satellite to be ready for launch in 2014 or 2015. (1/28)

U.S. Hoping to Become ‘Close Partner’ of India in Space Exploration (Source: ANI)
A senior official of the Obama administration has said that United States is hoping to become 'close partner' of India in space exploration. The removal of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) from the Commerce Department's Entity List is an indication that Washington will no longer treat India's space program as a target, but as a close partner in space exploration, said Robert O. Blake, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. (1/28)

Stennis Future Remains Bright (Source: WLOX)
As the space shuttle program is coming to an end, leaders in Hancock County are anxious to see what role Stennis Space Center will play in NASA's new missions. For nearly 50 years, the space center has been a vital part of the economy. Construction on new rocket test stands is moving forward at Stennis Space Center, even though NASA has not committed to what kind of space engines will be tested here or when.

Still, Stennis Director Patrick Scheuermann said he's confident, America's space future launches from Hancock County. "These test stands we have in Hancock County are really the only stands that we have left in the United States that can go seven days a week 24-hours a day," Scheuermann said. He said Stennis workers have nothing to worry about. NASA's largest rocket motor engine test facility will be a major player in the nation's future in space. (1/28)

Editorial: Exploration of Space No Longer Excites America (Source: Yuma Sun)
The hope now is that commercial involvement in space will replace lagging government involvement. NASA has just announced it will try to lease out some of its unneeded facilities at the expansive Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Americans looked up to the sky 25 years ago and saw a tragedy. Now our view has shifted to earth and we no longer seem to have time or interest in considering the great possibilities of manned space exploration. That is a tragedy of its own - one that the astronauts who lost their lives that day would deplore. (1/28)

The Final Shuttle Missions (Source: USA Today)
Three more shuttle missions are planned, one each for the remaining shuttles. Discovery is due to launch Feb. 24 and go to the space station with a load of supplies and a storage cubicle. Endeavour is to launch April 19 and also go to the space station. It will carry more supplies and a multimillion-dollar physics experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. NASA has a final flight set for June 28. Shuttle Atlantis will take supplies to the space station and return a faulty pump. But NASA does not have funding yet for the few hundred million dollars to pay for the mission. (1/28)

U.S. Needs Space Goals (Source: Courier-Journal)
The point of revisiting the tragedies today is not to underscore the inherent dangers of spaceflight. It carries great risks, even as it brings great rewards. Rather, it is to reconnect with the spirit of dedication and sacrifice required of exploration and discovery. A lot of smart and brave people have been willing to put everything on the line, including their lives, to further our knowledge of the solar system, the galaxy and the universe.

“We are being irresponsible in our failure to make the scientific and technical progress we will need for protecting our newly discovered, severely threatened and probably endangered species — us,” astronaut John Young wrote. “NASA is not about the ‘Adventure of Human Space Exploration'; we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. All human exploration's bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul.” (1/28)

UF Experts Recall Challenger and its Impacts (Source: Gainesville Sun)
In the wake of the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, NASA created a medical support team to respond in case of emergencies. A team of University of Florida doctors and nurses was selected for the task and has been a mainstay at launches in the decades since the disaster. Team medical director Dr. Kevin Ferguson said the work has given him an appreciation of the lengths to which NASA has gone to ensure successful missions.

Ferguson was part of the UF NASA Medical Support Team at the time of the Columbia disaster in 2003. Because the shuttle disintegrated during re-entry, there was nothing team members could do. The team includes two physicians and two nurses assigned to work each day a shuttle might launch. Team members undergo training that simulates potential disasters.

Ferguson said he hopes the team will be able to continue in a similar role with the private missions expected to replace the program. "I'm actually excited about what's going to come," he said. Click here to read the perspectives of other University of Florida experts. (1/28)

FSU Remembers Challenger (Source: WCTV)
The Challenger disaster became a “where were you when?” moment for a generation, especially for schoolchildren — now adults — who were gathered in classrooms across the nation to watch live on television as McAuliffe made history. Florida State University experts are available to answer questions and provide historical perspective on this national tragedy. Click here for information. Editor's Note: I was an FSU student, going to class in Tallahassee on the day Challenger was lost. (1/28)

Florida Loses Senate Armed Services Committee Seat (Source: Tampa Tribune)
Changes in committee assignments and the loss of seats by Democrats in the U.S. Senate mean Florida will no longer have a senator on the key Armed Services Committee. In recent years, the state has had two senators on the prestigious committee, Democrat Bill Nelson and former Republican Sens. Mel Martinez, who resigned in 2009, and George LeMieux, who replaced him until the 2010 election.

But Nelson has given up his seat at the request of Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Rubio's committee assignments do not include armed services. Because Democrats lost seats in the 2010 election, they lost some of their dominance in committee assignments, and Reid said senators would have to limit the number of seats they hold on the most desired committees.

Nelson kept the commerce seat in part because it oversees NASA, and Reid asked him to keep his intelligence committee seat instead of armed services because of the importance of Middle East terrorism issues, said Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin. McLaughlin said Nelson won't allow Florida's military interests to go overlooked, because he maintains close ties to committee Chairman Carl Levin and has veteran staff experts on military issues. (1/28)

Florida Governor Shifts Gears on Economic Development (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Rick Scott is pursuing a shakeup of Florida's economic development apparatus. "I think he's trying to run Florida like he's run his businesses in the past, and we're going to give him every opportunity to make that sell," said Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Scott also suggested that regions of the state that are more willing to slash regulations on development would get a stronger focus from his administration. "The places in our state that are more receptive to bringing businesses, they're going to get more attention," he said. "We're going to focus on the ones where we know we can make things happen."

Meanwhile, Senate budget writers said Thursday they were girding for cuts "like we have not done in any time before" as they begin drafting a spending plan for next year. Scott budget is due on Feb. 7. Editor's Note: Space Florida officials don't expect any changes in their role or relationship with the Governor's Office, though there's concern about the level of funding that will be available to the agency. Gov. Scott is also expected to name a new Space Florida board of directors soon. (1/28)

USC and SETI Institute Team Up (Source: SpaceRef.com)
An affiliation between the University of Southern California and the SETI Institute will create formal ties between one of America's premier research universities and one of the most innovative and highly regarded scientific research institutions. The affiliation joins a leading private university and a unique research institute pursuing the study of the living universe. This affiliation significantly heightens USC's profile in astronomy and astrobiology and establishes a strong research and education presence in Silicon Valley for the university. The affiliation is effective immediately. (1/28)

Editorial: NASA's Culture Kept Safety from Forefront (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The investigations of the Challenger disaster exposed an organizational culture at NASA so influenced by politics, schedule exigencies and managerial careerism that it could never exert itself to the utmost to protect the human lives at stake. When Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, the investigative report was eerily similar.

By then, however, the public had largely lost interest in the manned space program, even as the private sector and the Russian space agency were dabbling in space tourism, where curious millionaires would be treated to a joy ride for astronomical fares. After 2011 there will be no more space shuttle. In a stunning reversal, the massive Constellation return-to-the-moon program embarked on by the George W. Bush presidency was excluded from President Obama's 2011 budget and is likely slated for oblivion.

There are few champions to defend Constellation other than the military-industrial complex and their congressional allies, partly because the ultimate goal of a manned journey to Mars has never seemed realistic or worth the price. Constellation also bound NASA's future to perpetuation of the primitive launch technology of explosive rocketry vs. major investments in more exotic but benign systems like antigravity or electromagnetism. (1/28)

New Spaceships Should be Safer than the Space Shuttle (Source: MSNBC)
NASA says private-sector spaceships will have to satisfy safety standards that the space shuttle can’t meet — and the companies building those spaceships say they'll rise to the challenge. The loss of Challenger and its crew of seven, including educator-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, dramatically highlighted the risks associated with the world's most complex flying machine.

NASA eventually hopes to use commercial craft to ferry astronauts back and forth to the space station as well. But the job won't be easy. In a set of draft requirements issued last month, NASA said it expected commercial companies to measure up to the same risk standards the space agency expected for itself: a 1-in-1,000 chance that the crew would be lost during a journey to and from the space station. (1/28)

Indian Travel Agency Eyes Space Tourism (Source: Express Buzz)
Kerala Travels was the first to offer Antarctica-Arctic packages and now is working on an ambitious plan to send children to space. "This is the first stage of space tourism where 30 children would be sent to a space camp at the Singapore Space Center (SSC) where they would be given a through understanding of space by experts from NASA. Then there would be the next stages that are being planned," said an official with the agency.

Talking about their space travel plan, Chandrahasan said 30 children in the age group 12 to 18 years would be selected from various parts of the country to be sent to the Singapore Space Centre (SSC) on April 27. After their stint at Singapore Space Center, plans will be made to send them to space. (1/28)

Will Human Spaceflight Ever Truly Be Safe? (Source: Space.com)
NASA has launched 132 manned shuttle missions in the 30 years of the space shuttle program. The agency has lost two of them — Challenger and Columbia. Russia's Soyuz program has a similar failure rate, with two fatal accidents in just over 100 manned missions — though Soyuz hasn't had a fatality in nearly 40 years. The shuttle and Soyuz risks are thus in the same ballpark as the chances of dying while trying to climb Mount Everest. From 1922 to 2006, one out of every 49 people who undertook the climb ended up dying.

The risk takes on a whole new perspective when compared to the safety record of commercial aviation. In 2010, U.S. airlines did not have a single fatal accident, despite taking to the skies more than 10 million times and carrying about 700 million passengers. Comparing a rocket-powered trip to low-Earth orbit with a redeye from San Francisco to Los Angeles isn't really fair, however — they're two completely different beasts. (1/28)

One big reason human spaceflight remains so risky is that it's so expensive, according to O'Connor. In the aviation world, it's common to test-fly a new aircraft a few thousand times, to make sure everything works properly and all of the kinks get worked out, O'Connor said. But cost issues make such extensive flight testing pretty much impossible for spaceships. "We prove our system while we're doing our mission with it. We don't have the luxury of doing those in series." (1/28)

EADS Astrium To Develop Spaceplane (Source: Aviation Week)
EADS Astrium has disclosed that Singapore will be a partner in its suborbital spaceplane program. At the Global Space & Technology Convention in Singapore, EADS Astrium executives announced that Singapore will be building a small-scale demonstrator of the spaceplane and may be involved in developing parts for the commercial product. EADS Astrium is also hoping Singapore will ultimately have a fleet of its commercial spaceplanes stationed at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Christophe Chavagnac, EADS Astrium’s suborbital spaceplane chief engineer and program manager, says Singapore companies will be designing and building a small-scale demonstrator spaceplane used to test aerodynamics and glide capability. It will have no engines, whereas the real vehicle uses turbofan engines as well as a rocket engine. The spaceplane’s two fuselage-mounted commercial turbofan engines are needed for takeoff and initial ascent. Once it reaches an altitude of 12 km. (7.5 mi.), the rocket engine takes over.

A maximum altitude of 100 km. is achieved before the spaceplane descends. There is a period when it glides, before the turbofan engines are started and the vehicle makes its approach and lands. The fact that it uses conventional turbofan engines means it is designed to take off and land from commercial airports. EADS Astrium also plans to apply for EASA certification for the vehicle. (1/28)

1 comment:

Space Travel Sam said...

It's good to see that the US will be partnering with India and that the US is recognizing the important role that countries besides the US, Russia and the EU countries are continuing to have in the growth and development of space exploration/space travel.