January 3, 2011

Space Challenges for 2011 (Source: Space Review)
A new year brings new hopes for the future, but plenty of challenges as well. Jeff Foust outlines some of the key issues facing civil and commercial spaceflight in the coming year, from budget battles to the end of the shuttle program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1752/1 to view the article. (1/3)

Peace (Source: Space Review)
International cooperation in space can pay dividends on Earth as well as in space. Lou Friedman argues that it's time to properly recognize the role that civil space cooperation can play in enhancing national security. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1751/1 to view the article. (1/3)

What's in a Number? (Source: Space Review)
For decades the US Air Force used a series of program numbers to identify classified programs. Dwayne Day recaps the effort to link those numbers with specific programs. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1750/1 to view the article. (1/3)

US, Germany Developing Secret Spy Satellites (Source: AFP)
Germany and the United States are jointly developing secret spy satellites under the guise of a commercial programme despite opposition from France, leaked US diplomatic cables showed Monday. The project, named HiROS, envisions the construction of an undetermined number of high-resolution observation satellites capable of spotting any object on the planet down to a size of just 50 centimeters (about 1.5 feet), according to classified cables from US embassy in Berlin leaked to WikiLeaks.

The satellites will have the capacity to take infrared images at night and to send images much quicker back to earth than the satellites currently in service, the cables showed. Due to the controversial nature of the program, US and German officials have decided it should be presented as a civilian project with environmental aims, run by commercial entities. But in reality it is "under the total control" of the German intelligence service BND and the German aerospace centre DLR, the cables showed. (1/3)

KSC Starts New Year with Discovery Tank Repairs (Source: Florida Today)
After a holiday weekend off, Kennedy Space Center technicians today are beginning repairs to small cracks on several support beams on Discovery's external tank that were found during X-ray inspections last week. Program managers are scheduled to meet again this afternoon to continue reviewing engineering analysis that has attempted to explain what caused the cracks in the beam's called "stringers" on the tank's mid-section, which is called the intertank. (1/3)

Intelsat Mulls Options In Wake Of Zombie Sat (Source: Aviation Week)
Intelsat says their Galaxy 15 satellite temporarily lost Earth lock on Dec. 17, causing it to lose enough power to shut down its primary C- and L-band payload. On Dec. 23, the battery completely drained and the baseband equipment command unit reset automatically, as it was designed to do. The spacecraft then began accepting commands and sending telemetry again, allowing engineers to place it in safe mode. The satellite — which industry has dubbed Zombie Sat — is now Sun-pointed and thermally balanced with batteries fully recharged and no longer poses a threat to neighboring satellites or customer services.

They will then seek to move the satellite to one of Intelsat’s orbital locations so it can be thoroughly tested to determine the viability of the payload and all the functionalities of the spacecraft. In the second quarter, Intelsat took a $104 million impairment on Galaxy 15, which was originally designed to operate through 2020. In the third quarter, the company said it may write down the residual value of the spacecraft, $34.2 million as of Sept. 30, if it is determined it cannot be recovered. (1/3)

Surface of Mars Possibly Shaped By Plate Tectonics In Recent Past (Source: Space.com)
A patch of land near the huge Martian volcano Olympus Mons may bear evidence of recent tectonic activity on the Red Planet, new research suggests. The many ridges and scarps on the rumpled apron of land north and west of Olympus Mons are likely signs of tectonic thrusting, according to the study. And this activity could be very recent — within the last 250,000 years or so. (1/3)

Moonstruck: Student-led Race to Space (Source: UCF)
Entrepreneurs will roam in space some day, and a student-led group in central Florida is in the thick of the competition to send a remote- controlled rover to the moon as one of the first steps in the private sector’s ambitious leap from Earth. Earthrise Space, an Orlando non-profit launched by aerospace engineering students and advisers, may not win the race to the moon but it has achieved several milestones, including snagging a NASA contract that could be worth $10 million. Click here to read the article. (1/3)

“That Can’t Be Too Hard to Undo” (Source: Space Politics)
NASA’s current predicament—-being required to spend money during the ongoing series of continuing resolutions on elements of Constellation effectively canceled by the NASA authorization act—-has gotten the attention of one member of Congress, but with the potential for undesired consequences for the space agency. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) made recent comments on NASA budget cuts:

"I’m looking at about two hundred billion. As the amount that we can either identify and eliminate the waste or at least begin the process and I’ll give you one that’s pretty easy. It’s been in the papers. In the last days of last congress they funded five hundred million dollars for a rocket program at NASA that’s already been shut down. That can’t be too hard to undo."

The potential problem for NASA is that Issa and like-minded fellow members of Congress could see that spending not as an artifact of FY10 appropriations language that needs to be updated to allow the agency to instead fund other programs, like the new heavy-lift Space Launch System included in the authorization act, but as waste to simply be cut entirely. (1/3)

Space Agency, Defense Agency Seek to Launch Rockets for Canada (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Canada has the technological ability to build its own rocket to launch small satellites, a top priority for future research at the Defense Department and a capability also being studied at the Canadian Space Agency. Canada now relies on other countries, such as the U.S., India and Russia, to launch its spacecraft into orbit, but both the Defense Department and the space agency are looking at the option of constructing a Canadian-made launcher.

DND’s science organization, Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is examining what might be needed for a small rocket as well as different possible mission scenarios that could be undertaken. In addition, a 2009 briefing package produced by the military’s Chief of Force Development noted that the development of a launcher for small satellites is a key focus area for DND’s future research and development. (1/3)

Our Place In Space After The Shuttle Program Wraps (Source: NPR)
America's space program is scheduled to undergo a fundamental shift in 2011. Unless something changes by the end of the year, NASA will no longer have a rocket to send astronauts into space. The space shuttle program is being retired, and for the moment there is no American replacement rocket capable of sending people into orbit. Click here to see NPR's article. (1/3)

Opinion: 2011 -- The Year of Commercial Space Travel (Source: AOL News)
Early in the New Year, I expect both Masten and Armadillo to start flying new systems with supersonic aeroshells that will let them achieve unprecedented speeds and altitudes for vehicles that land vertically with rockets. They have previously only flown to a few thousand feet, but the new versions will fly all the way into space (a little more than 60 miles altitude) from government-approved ranges.

In terms of horizontal-landing suborbitals, XCOR will begin actual construction of the Lynx, a two-seat vehicle that takes off from and lands on a runway, and perhaps start flight testing it later in the year in Mojave, Calif., starting with taxi tests, then runway rolls, takeoffs and once arounds, all under pure rocket power, slowly expanding its envelope with the eventual aim of getting to space.

Also in Mojave, expect more drop tests of Virgin Galactic's seven-passenger SpaceShipTwo, perhaps with powered flight later in the year as its hybrid (solid fuel, liquid oxidizer) rocket engine completes its development and is installed in the vehicle. But expect SpaceX to be the star of the show next year, as it was this year, with actual orbital activities, a much greater challenge. Click here to read the article. (1/3)

Harris Corp. Awarded $42 Million Contract for Satellite Project (Source: Harris)
Florida-based Harris Corp. has been awarded a 30-month, $42 million contract by Sierra Nevada Corp. to supply antenna and radar electronics for a satellite that will provide military commanders in the field with timely, high-resolution radar imagery of the earth's surface – regardless of weather conditions or time of day. Harris will design, build and integrate the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite payload for Sierra Nevada as part of NASA's Rapid Response Space Works and Modular Space Vehicles program for the U.S. Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office. (12/16)

No Word From Stuck NASA Mars Rover Spirit (Source: AP)
The odometer on the Mars rover Spirit has been stuck at 4.8 miles for more than 1 1/2 years and has been incommunicado since March. This double dose of bad luck hangs over the scrappy spacecraft, which marks its seventh year on Mars on Monday. NASA doesn't know if the Spirit is dead or alive, but it's diligently listening for any peep as the rover remains mired in a sand trap. "There's a realistic possibility that Spirit may never wake up again," said Dave Lavery, Mars rovers program executive at NASA headquarters. (1/3)

USA to Lay Off 150 This Week (Source: Florida Today)
Lead space shuttle contractor United Space Alliance plans to lay off about 150 employees at Kennedy Space Center this week. The local layoffs, effective Friday, are the first of potentially several thousand this year as the Houston-based company undergoes a dramatic downsizing in preparation for the final shuttle flight.

The affected employees were given 60 days notice and are eligible for severance packages based on their years of service and an additional "critical skills" bonus for some. The departures include both voluntary and involuntary layoffs. USA expects to have slightly fewer than 4,000 Florida employees after the upcoming layoffs, and about 6,500 companywide. Cuts will probably occur on a quarterly basis, but the timing and size will depend on the schedule for flying out the remaining shuttle missions. (1/3)

NASA Unveils Rules for Space Taxis (Source: Discovery)
Companies wishing to take over the job of flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station have some new guidelines to ponder. NASA has released a 39-page document outlining what will be needed to certify commercial crew transportation systems. The agency wants any spaceships flying its astronauts to be an order of magnitude safer than the space shuttles, which are being retired in 2011 after two or possibly three missions.

The document states that the risk of losing a crew during launching or landing on a commercially provided spaceship should be no more than one-in-1,000. It also calls for manual override systems and some remote operational capabilities. NASA is not the only government entity looking to certify space vehicles for commercial flights. The FAA has oversight of space travel that does not involve NASA. FAA, which is looking to develop a similar set of guidelines, is expected to closely follow NASA’s lead in this effort. (1/3)

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