January 31, 2011

Smithsonian Considering Display of Challenger and Columbia Debris (Source: CollectSpace)
The National Air and Space Museum may incorporate debris from space shuttles Columbia and Challenger in its new gallery dedicated to the soon-ending shuttle program. The display will only go forward however, if the families of the shuttles' fallen astronauts and NASA officials agree with the museum's plans. The solemn artifacts, which were recovered in the wake of the loss of shuttle Challenger 25 years ago last Friday and the loss of Columbia eight years ago on Tuesday, would be used to teach the public about the conditions that led to the two tragedies. (1/31)

NASA Announces SAIC Information Technology Contract Extension (Source: NASA)
NASA extended the Unified NASA Information Technology Services, or UNITeS, contract with Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. The sole source contract extension provides agency-wide information services and integration support for the NASA Information Technology Service Network. This extension begins Feb. 1 and includes an eight-month base period valued at approximately $36.4 million. The action extends the contract period of performance by a potential 14 months for the continuation of activities through March 31, 2012. (1/31)

Businesses Take Flight, With Help From NASA (Source: New York Times)
Boeing and SpaceX are not the only competitors seeking to provide space taxi services, a program that NASA calls commercial crew. Last year, in the first-round financing provided for preliminary development, Sierra Nevada Space Systems won the largest award: $20 million out of a total of $50 million. In December, another space company, Orbital Sciences Corp., announced it had submitted a similar bid for a space plane it wants financed during the second round. NASA is to announce the winners by the end of March, and they will divide $200 million.

After the second round, NASA would like narrow its choices down to two, maybe three, systems to finance. The blueprint for NASA, passed by Congress last year and signed into law by President Obama, calls for spending on commercial crew to rise to $500 million each year in 2012 and 2013. Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who was one of the primary architects of funding plan, has said the intent was to provide $6 billion over six years.

But what Congress puts into the budget could be far less. “They’re not getting $6 billion over six years for commercial crew,” said a Senate aide who was not authorized to speak for attribution. “That’s never going to happen.” The aide estimated commercial crew might receive half that much. (1/31)

Space Industry Gives Island 'Wow Factor' (Source: IsleOfMan.com)
The arrival of two space station hulls in the Isle of Man has provided a real boost for its space industry. That's the belief of the director of the Island's Business Development Agency, which includes space commerce. Hundreds of people saw the massive hull parts, which belong to locally registered space tourism firm Excalibur Almaz, as they were transported under wraps to Jurby. (1/31)

India to Launch Remote Sensing Resourcesat in February (Source: Deccan Herald)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is getting ready to launch Resourcesat 2, a remote sensing earth observation satellite, by the end of February. The satellite has reached the Sriharikota spaceport and tests are being conducted. The polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) will be launched between Feb. 20-25. With nine orbiting satellites and the tenth one to join in February, India has the largest number of remote sensing satellites in the world providing imagery in a variety of spatial resolutions. (1/31)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Group of Associate Members (Source: CSF)
Seven companies providing support services to the commercial spaceflight industry have joined CSF as Associate Members. They include ARES Corporation, Cimarron Software Services, Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation, Innovative Health Applications, MDA Corporation, RS&H, and SEAKR Engineering. With the addition of these new Associate Members – in locations ranging from Kennedy Space Center, Florida and Denver, Colorado to Houston, Texas and Pasadena, California – the Commercial Spaceflight Federation now includes over 40 leading aerospace companies. (1/31)

Orbital's "Prometheus" Spaceplane Shares Dream Chaser's HL-20 Heritage (Source: New York Times)
Orbital Sciences Corp.'s space plane design is a refinement of the same NASA HL-20 concept that is being more closely followed by Sierra Nevada for its Dream Chaser craft. Following in the pattern of tapping Greek mythology for the names of its spacecraft, Orbital calls its plane Prometheus. Orbital says development of Prometheus would cost $3.5 billion to $4 billion, which would include the cost of upgrading the Atlas V rocket and two test flights.

With enough financial support, David W. Thompson, chief executive of Orbital, is sure that his company can build and operate Prometheus. But he is less sure that his industry is at a tipping point for spaceflight to become much more common, driving down prices and opening up space to new businesses. “I think it depends on what the demand curve really is,” Mr. Thompson said. “I would say I’m highly skeptical.” (1/31)

As Egypt Shuts Down The Internet, One Group Wants Online Access For All (Source: TIME)
When the Egyptian government blocked Internet access and mobile texting capabilities in an attempts to thwart protestors' ability to organize, Kosta Grammatis had new ammunition to pitch his big idea: what if there was a satellite service for Internet and phone — affordable for the average Egyptian — that could not be shut off?

Grammatis knows a satellite that might be up for sale, and he and a few others want to raise money to buy it. They formed a non-profit called Buy This Satellite in the hopes of acquiring a dormant communications satellite from a company currently in bankruptcy. Grammatis wants to move the satellite from its current orbit above Earth and park it over Africa, offering online access to some of the world's poorest citizens. (1/31)

Leonard David Honored with National Space Club Press Award (Source: Space Policy Online)
Veteran space journalist Leonard David has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious National Space Club Press Award. Mr. David's 45 years of reporting on civil, commercial and national security space activities has "informed and inspired professionals and enthusiasts alike" according to the citation. Mr. David's byline has appeared in virtually all of the key space policy-related publications over the years. Currently he writes for Space.com, Space News, and AIAA's Aerospace America, as well as serving as a research associate for the Secure World Foundation. The award will be presented on April 1 in Washington DC. (1/31)

Air Force's Second X-37 Space Plane Nears Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Two months after a sister ship successfully concluded a demo flight, the U.S. military's second robotic X-37B space plane is in Florida preparing for blastoff March 4 on another secret mission. The 29-foot-long, 14-foot-wide space plane is being readied for flight in a processing facility near its launch site at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Like its predecessor last year, the X-37B will lift off inside the nose cone of an Atlas 5 rocket. The flight is scheduled for March 4, but the Air Force has not released a time for the blastoff. (1/31)

Russia to Stay in Kazakh Cosmodrome for Economic Reasons (Source: Xinhua)
Russia will never leave the Baikonur cosmodrome rented in Kazakhstan, even upon the completion of its new Vostochny space launch site, the head of Roskosmos said. Anatoly Perminov said "We will not abandon Baikonur till the end of times...space cooperation with Kazakhstan would be gradually switched to the entirely commercial tracks."

According to Perminov, Kazakhstan has already offered Russia to use one of Baikonur's launching pads for commercial launches after Russia's shift to the Vostochny cosmodrome of its main space operation. Besides, Baikonur will be used for Russian-Ukrainian joint commercial launches. In addition, Perminov revealed that Russia plans to use the Kourou launch site in French Guiana this year, and eyes cooperation agreements with Israel, Vietnam, Nigeria, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. (1/31)

Tracking the Origins of Speedy Space Particles (Source: NASA)
NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interaction during Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft combined with computer models have helped track the origin of the energetic particles in Earth's magnetic atmosphere that appear during a kind of space weather called a substorm. Understanding the source of such particles and how they are shuttled through Earth's atmosphere is crucial to better understanding the Sun's complex space weather system and thus protect satellites or even humans in space. (1/31)

First Cosmonaut's Daughter Applies for Gagarin Trademark Registration (Source: RIA Novosti)
Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov confirmed that the youngest daughter of the world's first cosmonaut has filed an application to register a trademark for "Yury Alexeyevich Gagarin." "I do not consider it shameful given that everyone is making money on Gagarin's name. Why can't his family do it?" Perminov said. Gagarin's daughter, Yulia, filed the application to the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks on January 26 ahead of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight by Yury Gagarin. (1/31)

Florida Space Industry Sets Mar 16. as Florida Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: Space Florida)
For more than 15 years, Florida’s space industry leaders have visited Tallahassee during the state's annual Legislative Session to participate in Florida Space Day. This year's Space Day will be held on Mar. 16 and will focus on the challenges the industry faces in ensuring Florida remains at the forefront of the nation’s space program.

With over 400 statewide aerospace companies employing 31,000 workers, current aerospace issues impact all Floridians. NASA alone has contractors in 47 of the 67 counties and there are more than 1,000 subcontractors throughout the state. As the Space Shuttle program completes its final flight this year, the job losses could reach 21,000 direct and indirect jobs--losses that represent a highly skilled workforce across Florida.

During Space Day Industry leaders and representatives will conduct legislative visits with House and Senate Representatives to bring collaborative messages on space and aerospace initiatives and discuss pending legislation with policymakers. To learn more about Florida Space Day To learn more about Florida Space Day 2011, visit www.floridaspaceday.com. (1/31)

Russia 2010 Leader for Space Launches (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia confirmed its absolute leadership for space launches in the past year, Anatoly Perminov said. He said Russia made 31 launches of various booster rockets last year (one of them failed), which made up 41 percent of the launches in the world. “We are called ‘space cabbies’ and we are proud of that”, the Roscosmos chief said. “This is quite an achievement to win in tough competition” in the world today, “accounting for 41 percent of the launches,” he said. (1/31)

Chinese Astronomers Set Sights on Overseas Scopes (Source: Science)
Chinese astronomers are about to gain a superior view of the heavens--at premier perches far from their homeland. The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is negotiating with four world-class optical and infrared facilities in Chile and the United States to give Chinese astronomers around 50 nights of observing time per year at the telescopes. (1/31)

Senate Plans to Debate FAA Bill this Week (Source: AIA)
Senate Democrats plan to bring an FAA reauthorization bill to the floor this week, though the measure is being pitched primarily as a jobs bill, thanks to $8 billion earmarked for airport construction projects. "This measure will give a green light to overdue improvement projects at airports across the country," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in announcing the measure. "These projects will make air travel safer and more efficient while also putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work." Though Republicans in the House have promised quick work on their own FAA bill, it is unclear how they will respond to the Senate's airport spending plan. (1/31)

Honeywell Sees Q4 Earnings More Than Double as Demand Picks Up (Source: AIA)
Honeywell International reports that improved demand in the fourth quarter helped boost its profit to $369 million, or 47 cents a share, up from $150 million, or 20 cents a share in the same quarter a year earlier. The company also announced that private investment company Rank Group will acquire its automotive consumer products business for about $950 million. (1/31)

With Repairs Complete, Discovery Heads Back to Launchpad (Source: AIA)
The space shuttle Discovery should be returned to its launchpad tonight after months of work to repair cracks in the vessel's external fuel tank. "Teams have worked very hard over the last few months and done a remarkable job doing all the testing on the tank and making all the modifications," said a Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman. Technicians will now go to work making the same precautionary modifications on Endeavour, which is scheduled for a launch on April 19. (1/31)

Memorials and Malaise (Source: The Space Review)
This time of year is traditionally a somber one at NASA, as the agency recognizes those who lost their lives on missions. Jeff Foust examines a deeper angst that is evident today as well, given the continued uncertainty about NASA's future human spaceflight plans and budgets. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1770/1 to view the article. (1/31)

All Space Politics is Local (Source: The Space Review)
In the new Congress, as in previous ones, the leadership of key space-related committees is dominated by people from states with major NASA facilities. Lou Friedman discusses the importance of broadening NASA's appeal to win more support, and funding, in the future. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1769/1 to view the article. (1/31)

Launch Failures: The "Oops!" Factor (Source: The Space Review)
Launch vehicles are complex machines that sometimes can be felled by simple failures. Wayne Eleazer describes several such failures of rockets, and how a simple "oops", compounded by other problems, caused them. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1768/1 to view the article. (1/31)

Editorial: Reconsider Cuts In Space Programs (Source: The Intelligencer)
One of the catch-phrases President Barack Obama used during his State of the Union speech last week carried more than a touch of irony with it. "This is our nation's Sputnik moment," Obama said in recommending more government spending on education and research. He referred, of course, to the satellite the old Soviet Union launched into orbit in 1957. It prompted the United States to reexamine its school systems and its support for technological innovation.

It also resulted in a national dedication to a space exploration program second to none. By 1969 an American was walking on the moon. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe there will be much more progress in that regard - because the Obama administration is overseeing the dismantling of many National Aeronautics and Space Administration's programs. The space shuttle's days are numbered, with no replacement envisioned.

Obama's idea of space exploration, then, certainly does not match the original "Sputnik moment." If Americans indeed are to commit to a leadership role in technology, the president and Congress may want to consider the irony of Obama's words compared to his actions in regard to space exploration. (1/31)

Giffords Husband to Decide on Space Trip in Mid-February (Source: Reuters)
The astronaut husband of a U.S. congresswoman seriously wounded when she was shot in head will decide by mid-February whether to join the last NASA shuttle launch as scheduled, the space agency said Sunday. Mark Kelly, the commander of April's Endeavour mission, has been on leave to tend to his wife, Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. "I believe Mark is planning to decide in the next few weeks whether he can resume training and of course he will be candid with the space shuttle crew," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. (1/31)

Gazing Afar for Other Earths, and Other Beings (Source: New York Times)
In a building at NASA’s Ames Research Center here, computers are sifting and resifting the light from 156,000 stars, seeking to find in the flickering of distant suns the first hints that humanity is not alone in the universe. The stars are being monitored by a $600 million satellite observatory named Kepler. On Wednesday, Kepler’s astronomers are scheduled to unveil a closely kept list of 400 stars that are their brightest and best bets so far for harboring planets.

Some of these worlds could turn out to be the smallest and most Earth-like places discovered out there to date. They represent the first glimpse of riches to come in a quest that is as old as the imagination and as new as the iPad. Over the next two or three years, as Kepler continues to stare and sift, astronomers say, it will be able to detect planets in the “Goldilocks” zones, where it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water. (1/31)

Asteroid Deflection Should Be Next 'Sputnik Moment' (Source: Discovery)
Popularized by Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, the 1,300-foot long near-Earth asteroid Apophis has been widely reported as a "doomsday asteroid." It has projected razor-thin near-misses with our frail blue planet in 2029, 2036, 2056, 2068, and beyond. Professor Leonid Sokolov of the St. Petersburg State University and U.S. planetary scientists agree that on Apr. 13 of 2029 the asteroid is predicted to brush by Earth at 18,000 miles altitude, below the height of Earth's geosynchronous satellites.

The bottom line is that asteroids are featherweight objects compared to other solar systems bodies. Gravitational forces and even the pressure of sunlight can shove them around. There are so many dynamical uncertainties affecting asteroid trajectories that Apophis will haunt us right up to 2036, and well beyond. So here's my Sputnik Moment: Launch an international space program to ensure the long term survival of the human species by building and testing a robust asteroid deflection capability. Click here to read the article. (1/31)

European Space Agency Faces Spending Freeze (Source: Aviation Week)
Increased support for European launchers and approval of the International Space Station lifetime extension will be at the top of the European Space Agency’s playbook for 2011, despite a continued spending freeze. ESA will also have to name a new slate of directors to fill vacancies in the science and technical directorates and new divisions established under a reorganization last June.

The revamp will create a new human spaceflight/operations directorate and reinforce agency support functions such as procurement and planning/control. The agency also wants to create new synergies between its science operations and astronaut training facilities in Germany and German aerospace center DLR. The issue of launcher support, the ISS extension and director nominations will be decided at the next meeting of the ESA council in March.

Measures related to launcher support, the ISS extension and EDRS must be undertaken without affecting a spending freeze put in place for 2010-11 to fend off a possible funding crisis among some ESA members. The 2011 budget, approved in December, calls for a 6.6% increase in spending, to €4 billion. (1/31)

Rogers Commission Member Comments on NASA Safety (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Alton Keel Jr. was a member of the Rogers Commission that investigated the causes of the disaster. He graciously agreed to answer several questions I had about the commission's work and NASA, with the benefit of a quarter century of hindsight. Q: Do you feel NASA heeded the recommendations of the Rogers Commission?

"NASA made a gallant effort but fell short. Most importantly, it was not successful in establishing a truly independent office for oversight of flight safety. It also was not able to put in place a fully communicative and transparent launch-decision making process. The 'flawed decision making process' discovered and exposed by the Challenger Commission was still apparent in the investigation of the subsequent Columbia accident.

"NASA is a victim of their success and of their own public relations. They have left the general public with the impression that the shuttle missions are routine and the public has consequently to a great extent lost interest. Sadly, the Challenger and Columbia accidents can be attributed to a degree to parts of NASA being similarly lulled into complacency and beginning to treat shuttle launches as routine." (1/31)

Bigelow Signs MOU to Create Human Spaceflight Program for Dubai, UAE (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) and Bigelow Aerospace LLC, an organisation dedicated to providing affordable options for spaceflight to national space agencies and corporate clients, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to drive joint efforts to usher in a new era in human spaceflight based on innovative technologies, affordability, commercial sustainability, and strong international partnerships.

As per the MoU, EIAST and Bigelow Aerospace will explore joint efforts to establish a next-generation commercial human spaceflight programme for Dubai and the UAE, leveraging recent advances in human spaceflight. They will work to create a world-class microgravity research and development programme with a potential focus on advanced biotechnology applications, and a variety of other commercial space-related activities. (1/31)

Media Remarks on JFK's Space Interest Lacked Context (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
As a fan of JFK, I was a bit disheartened several years ago, when I read about the JFK audio being released which, the media reported, revealed JFK was not interested in space - just wanted to beat the Russians to the Moon. Then, last week, a blogger posted a negative comment in reference to my wishing President Obama would set a time specific goal for space human exploration. The blogger regurgitated the spin about Kennedy's alleged disinterest in space, quoting JFK as as saying, "I'm not interested in space." That source enabled me to access the complete JFK audio and transcript (see page 17) of the meeting almost fifty years ago.

The bottom line is that Kennedy did not say, "I'm not interested in space." What Kennedy did say was, "I'm not that interested in space." What did "that" mean? His remark was about adding over $400 hundred million (in 1962 dollars!) more to the space program's budget. Kennedy indicated he was not interested in spending that much extra if we could not beat the Russians. The transcript also indicates it's very clear that Kennedy considered the lunar landing the most important single goal of this nation except for national defense, and he viewed the value of the lunar program as part of our national security. "Now," as Paul Harvey would say, "that's the rest of the story." (1/31)

SpaceX Continues Rapid Growth with New Office in Virginia (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX is opening a new office in Chantilly, Virginia to serve customers looking for reliable, affordable launch solutions. The community is home to some of the world’s leading Internet and high-tech companies. “We are excited to open offices in Chantilly,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and CTO. “It will provide us with valuable access to important customers and an exceptional talent pool as we continue to grow.” (1/31)

Russian Government Plans to Revamp Defense Industry (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the government was planning to adopt a new program on the modernization of the country's defense industry in the near future. Russia needs a strong and modernized defense industry to carry out its ambitious state rearmament program until 2020. A comprehensive rearmament of Russia's Armed Forces is expected to begin in 2011. It will see the share of modern weaponry reach 30 percent by 2015, and total 70 percent by 2020. The government plans to allocate 20 trillion rubles ($641 billion) for this program. (1/31)

Casa Romantica Launches Out-of-This-World Exhibit (Source: Orange County Register)
Now through March 27, San Clemente's cultural center hosts NASA displays about manned space flight and earthly technologies that developed from it. If you've ever wondered what astronauts eat in space, San Clemente's Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is the place to find out. Hint: It's not exactly fine dining.

Space food is one of the curiosities presented in "They Came from Outer Space," an exhibit about space exploration that the Casa has on loan from NASA through March 27 at 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente. During Saturday's opening day of the exhibit, the Casa offered a few culinary samples for sale – commercially available versions of freeze-dried, vacuum-packed astronaut ice cream ($2) and space sticks ($1). (1/31)

UK Space Sector a Potential Growth Industry (Source: The Engineer)
The space sector is one that’s often held up as hugely important for the UK. Combining the most advanced technologies of aerospace with both newly developed and tried-and-tested electronics, it straddles the hard-nosed commercial realities of the telecommunications sector, the increasingly urgent calls for information on the Earth’s climate and the ways and reasons for its changes, and the curiosity-driven aspirations for exploration and expanding the boundaries of science. The public is often unaware of the UK’s place in the industry - the lack of launcher technology and the UK’s historical lack of involvement in manned space exploration has kept it away from the limelight.

However, according to Prof Martin Sweeting, head of space science at Surrey University and chairman of small satellite pioneer Surrey Satellites, the sector is growing faster than most other parts of the UK’s economy. ’Studies in the UK now show that the space sector is one of the highest value-adding economic sectors,’ he said. Sweeting believes the UK’s strength in this sector stems from a focus on innovation. ’The UK has pioneered the development of service-based businesses such as InMarSat and Paradigm, rather than relying on institutional purchases of satellite hardware,’ he explained.

Government input to help the sector should be structural rather than financial, Sweeting believes. ’We do not want government hand-outs just to keep the sector alive, as that tends to detract from ensuring that what we deliver is of real value,’ he said. ’Rather, government should provide a supportive tax environment for research and development, and financial underwriting for export, as with countries such as France and Germany.’ (1/31)

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