February 2, 2011

Feds, NASA Agents Raid KSC-Area Home (Source: Florida Today)
The Port St. John home of two former United Space Alliance employees was raided by authorities as part of an investigation by the NASA Office of Inspector General. Officials of NASA and space shuttle contractor United Space Alliance are cooperating with the investigation. But they declined to elaborate on the investigation, referring questions to the investigative agency. “We have no comment regarding the matter at this time,” said Renee Juhans, executive officer for the NASA Office of Inspector General, which conducts independent oversight of NASA programs and operations.

Brevard County Sheriff’s Office call records indicate that the SWAT team and a bomb squad were dispatched to the scene Tuesday, and that at least some residents of the area were temporarily evacuated. A white sport utility vehicle with a United Space Alliance sticker on a side window was parked outside the blue, one-story home today. No one answered the door or the phone at the residence. One news report said an investigator with the words “Computer Forensics” on his jacket searched the garage Tuesday night. (2/2)

Virginia Senate Advances NewSpace Measures (Source: Spaceports Blog)
A key committee in the Virginia State Senate has passed a bill that will earmark state income tax revenue generated by commercial human spaceflights. State Senator William Wampler seeks to transfer potential state revenue generated in Virginia from sales of private human spaceflights aboard the Russian Soyuz brokered by Virginia-based Space Adventures to further develop the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.

The committee placed a time constraint on the measure, making it effective beginning July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016. The amount of revenue to be generated for the spaceport is unknown. Space Adventures President Tom Shelly backed the measure in a communication to Wampler and the Virginia General Assembly. The firm is marketing two seats for $150 million each for treks around the moon in 2015, Space Adventures expects to resume orbital spaceflight sales with the Russians in 2013-2014 at a rate estimated between $30 to $50 million each.

Another bill exempting certain space launch data from the state's Freedom of Information Act is also advancing in the state's Senate. Both measures are expected to pass the 40-member Senate and be referred to the 100-member House of Delegates. (2/2)

JPL to Host High-Tech Small Business Conference (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will host the 23rd annual High-Tech Conference for Small Business on Mar. 1-2, at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. The conference will provide an opportunity for technologically oriented small businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans and service-disabled individuals to discuss subcontract opportunities with major corporations, federal agencies, local government agencies and JPL's purchasing and technical communities.

Various "how-to" workshops will include information about conducting business with JPL and the federal government, certification programs offered by the federal government and JPL's future technological needs. "This year, more than ever, people are looking for new ways to market their business and gain exposure," said Edgar Murillo, High-Tech Conference coordinator and a small business administrator at JPL. "The High-Tech Conference provides information to assist small businesses in developing strategies to prepare to become a contractor." (2/2)

UF Astronomers, NASA Team Find Six Closely Packed Planets Orbiting Same Star (Source: UF)
A NASA team including three University of Florida astronomers has found six new planets in a distant solar system that in some ways resembles our own. The NASA team includes UF associate professor Eric Ford, postdoctoral associate Althea Moorhead and graduate student Robert Morehead.

“This is the new prototype for a system of rocky planets beyond our own,” Ford said. “It changes our understanding of the frequency of solar systems like our own in deep space.” The planets range in size from twice to 4½ times Earth’s diameter. The five confirmed planets are larger in mass but less dense than Earth, and closely packed, taking from 10 to 47 days to orbit the star. There is almost certainly a sixth planet orbiting nearly twice as far away, but its distance from the star makes its confirmation more difficult, Ford said. (2/2)

Lawrence Berkeley Lab to Help Map Universe (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Berkeley astronomers have won approval for a telescope project that will reach back in time more than 10 billion years to probe the role of mysterious dark energy in speeding the universe's early expansion. The telescopic venture will provide new information that will allow scientists to map the entire universe in greater detail than ever before. It will involve 35 science institutions around the globe and will result in the biggest map of the universe ever created. (2/2)

WikiLeaks: US and China in Military Standoff Over Space Missiles (Source: Telegraph)
The United States threatened to take military action against China during a secret "star wars" arms race within the past few years, according to leaked documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph. The two nuclear superpowers both shot down their own satellites using sophisticated missiles in separate show of strength, the files suggest.

The American Government was so incensed by Chinese actions in space that it privately warned Beijing it would face military action if it did not desist. The Chinese carried out further tests as recently as last year, however, leading to further protests from Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, secret documents show.

Beijing justified its actions by accusing the Americans of developing an “offensive” laser weapon system that would have the capability of destroying missiles before they left enemy territory. The disclosures detail the private fears of both superpowers as they sought mastery of the new military frontier. (2/2)

NASA Deputy Administrator Meets With Commercial Space Innovators in Colorado, Nevada (Source: NASA)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will travel to Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., this week to meet with leaders of two commercial space companies, Bigelow Aerospace and Sierra Nevada Corp., and tour their facilities. NASA is partnering with the commercial sector to develop innovative technologies to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in future space endeavors. (2/2)

Astronauts 4 Hire Accepting Applications Until Feb. 5 (Source: A4H)
A4H is now accepting applications from prospective Flight Members between now and February 5, 2011. Download the fillable PDF application form, and submit your application today! Click here for information. (2/2)

U.S. Space Security Strategy Will Likely Have Military Focus (Source: Space.com)
The official strategy for protecting the nation's space assets, due to be released soon, will probably focus on security from a primarily military perspective, experts say. The Obama administration is expected to announce its National Security Space Strategy in the next week or so. The NSSS spells out how the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will carry out the country's National Space Policy, which the president issued last June.

The strategy will likely view the problem of space security through a military prism, according to experts. And while the NSSS — like the National Space Policy — is likely to stress international cooperation in several fields, it will probably be vague about how to make such cooperation happen. The NSSS will address how to safeguard U.S. space assets, such as communications and military satellites, which are vital to national interests.

These satellites could conceivably be lost to a number of threats. One is hostile action — foes may try to blow them up with missiles, or jam their signals electronically. Another threat is the huge cloud of orbiting space junk that cocoons the Earth. Protecting U.S. space assets from these and other threats will be the main priority of the NSSS, and it will likely lay out several different strategies for doing so, said one analyst. (2/2)

Here's How Orbital Sciences May Be Failing You (Source: Motley Fool)
Margins matter. The more Orbital Sciences keeps of each buck it earns in revenue, the more money it has to invest in growth, fund new strategic plans, or (gasp!) distribute to shareholders. Healthy margins often separate pretenders from the best stocks in the market. That's why I check on my holdings' margins at least once a quarter. I'm looking for the absolute numbers, comparisons to sector peers and competitors, and any trend that may tell me how strong Orbital Sciences' competitive position could be. Click here for more. (2/2)

Natural Gas Leak Forces KSC Evacuation (Source: AP)
Hundreds of people were evacuated from several buildings at Kennedy Space Center because of a natural gas leak. The early Wednesday leak was caused when a backhoe struck a natural gas line. As a precaution, workers were evacuated from facilities including two Orbiter Processing Facilities, which are the hangars for the space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavor. There were no injuries or damages and everyone is back at work. (2/2)

Russians at Work on Military Spaceplane (Source: Flight Global)
Russian Space Forces researchers are working on an unmanned reusable spacecraft similar to the US Air Force's Boeing X-37 orbital test vehicle, the head of the armed forces unit dedicated to military space operations has revealed. Oleg Ostapenko, speaking just weeks after the end of the X-37B's maiden, 220-day mission, said: "Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell." (2/2)

China Said to be Working on X-37 Type Spacecraft (Source: sUAS News)
A report published by China Aviation Journal, [said] China has successfully launched its own space plane prototype, the news came out shortly after the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane, which is widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb. (This story has now been deleted.)

China has made significant progress toward the development of an unmanned trans-atmospheric vehicle and a Space Plane. Beijing’s technological advancement has obvious commercial and scientific uses, however the military significance of the plane cannot be denied. Chinese officials say that their rocket powered space plane program may be a reaction to U.S. ambitions to dominate space and develop space planes, hypersonic transports and bombers.

The involvement of fighter aircraft design institutes, plus previous statements of Chinese spacecraft design officials and related military-engineering literature, suggest that China wants its space planes to perform military, even attack, missions. The Chinese Daily said Beijing’s development of the aircraft was leaked to the press like recent stories about its new stealth fighter dubbed the J-20, but authorities were “deleting all Internet posts about the space fighter.” (2/2)

NRO Pathfinder Satellite Scheduled to Launch Saturday from California (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The U.S. military plans to launch a Minotaur rocket Saturday with a secret technology research mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, the government agency that oversees the country's spy satellites. The solid-fueled Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur 1 launcher is scheduled to lift off some time Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The launch window is a secret for now, but the Air Force plans to announce a time for the blastoff Thursday evening. (2/2)

Perchlorate, Rocket Fuel Chemical To Be Regulated By EPA (Source: Huffington Post)
The EPA is setting the first federal drinking water standard for a toxic rocket fuel ingredient linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and young children. Setting the standard will protect public health and spark new technologies to clean up drinking water, according to the EPA's chief. Based on monitoring conducted from 2001 to 2005, 153 drinking water sources in 26 states contain perchlorate. The standard could take up to two years to develop. Perchlorate is also used in fireworks and explosives. In most cases, water contamination has been caused by improper disposal at rocket testing sites, military bases and chemical plants. (2/2)

Rare Meteorites Reveal Mars Collision Caused Water Flow (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Rare fragments of Martian meteorites have been investigated at the University of Leicester revealing one of the ways water flowed near the surface of Mars. Scientists at the University's renowned Space Research Center, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, examined five meteorite samples -- including the very first nakhlite, found a century ago.

Nakhlites are a form of meteorite known to have originated on Mars. They are named after the village of El-Nakhla in Egypt where the first one was found in 1911. By comparing the five meteorites, they showed the presence of veins created during an impact on Mars. They suggest that this impact was associated with a 1-10 km diameter crater. Buried ice melted during this impact depositing clay, serpentine, carbonate and a gel deposit in the veins. (2/2)

NASA Building Shows Future of Smart Green Design at Autodesk (Source: Tree Hugger)
Last week, design software firm Autodesk held a sustainability summit at their San Francisco office. The designs created with Autodesk software are often impressive, and very often have a sustainable bend. But there were two presenters whose projects particularly highlighted the greener edge to using the various programs in Autodesk's suite of tools. The first was NASA Ames building, which broke ground back in 2009 and is set for completion in just a couple months.

The NASA Ames building is a phenomenal example of what can be accomplished when a design team combines its strengths with the best technology NASA has to offer. Determined to build essentially a space station on the ground, the design team worked to use the natural resources available to them as much as possible, with little or no external input. This means a building that maximizes passive solar heating and cooling, renewable energy, and smart technologies to minimize water use and even have zero sewage waste. (2/2)

NASA and Pinellas County Provide Unique Experience for Students (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA is partnering with the Pinellas Science Center, St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Pinellas County School System to inspire and encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The event, in honor of African-American History month, will take place Feb. 8-11 at the science center and area elementary and middle schools. More than 1,000 fifth- and eighth-grade students will have the opportunity to interact with minority role-model speakers, participate in hands-on educational activities and view astronomy presentations in KSC's portable planetarium. (2/2)

Maiden Flight of Russia's European Soyuz-ST Rocket Set for Aug. 31 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first flight of Russia's Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket from the European space center in French Guiana has been scheduled for August 31, 2011, the Progress design bureau said. "The new schedule of work under the program of Soyuz launches from Guiana envisages the first launch of the Soyuz-ST-B carrier rocket on August 31, 2011," the design bureau's press service said. The rocket will carry two Galileo navigation satellites. (2/2)

Bigelow Teams with State on Commercial Space Business (Source: Florida Today)
The state of Florida and Bigelow Aerospace are teaming up to build a spacecraft exhibit that will be used as a marketing tool to bring new business to the state. Robert Bigelow, president of the Nevada-based company, also said that Florida could end up being the launch facility for the 20 to 25 flights that will be required to service Bigelow commercial space stations later this decade. What's more, the Space Coast could serve as the site for a space station module production plant that could employ between 1500 and 2000 people.

Editor's Note: The production plant would be for an extra-large-capacity inflatable module that Bigelow hopes to manufacture in the future. Manufacturing for the company's initial series of modules will be located in Las Vegas. Also, Bigelow expects to require a total of 156-186 launches between 2015-2023. (2/2)

NASA Finds Earth-Size Planet Candidates In Habitable Zone, Six Planet System (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered its first Earth-size planet candidates and its first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface. Five of the potential planets are near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of smaller, cooler stars than our sun. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets. Kepler also found six confirmed planets orbiting a sun-like star, Kepler-11. This is the largest group of transiting planets orbiting a single star yet discovered outside our solar system. (2/2)

At NASA Ames, Girl Scouts Learn to Dream (Source: MountainView Patch)
Little girls can grow up to be whatever they want, even astronauts. That's why the "Girls Go Tech" program of the Girl Scouts of Northern California teamed up with NASA to host "When I Grow Up," a full day of activities to engage and encourage girls to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The event took place on Saturday at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.

During the event, girls between the ages of 5 and 18 participated in hands-on, science-related activities guided by scientists, engineers and researchers who represented a wide variety of fields at Ames and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to see a video. (2/2)

National Space Club Seeks Silent Auction Items for Space Ball (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Committee of the National Space Club (NSCFL) is planning a silent auction during its annual Space Ball on Oct. 22. In preparation for the event, the NSCFL invites organizations to donate items for the auction. Contact Charlie Mars at cmars@cfl.rr.com if you are interested in donating something. (2/2)

Orbcomm Admits Key Maritime Satellite Failed in Late 2010 (Source: Space News)
Satellite two-way messaging provider Orbcomm said the only satellite in its constellation capable of monitoring maritime traffic had ceased functioning but the company expects to replace it by this summer. Orbcomm said its Quick Launch 3 satellite, one of six launched in June 2008 and built by a Russian-German team, had failed in orbit in late 2010. The satellite was the sole remaining in-orbit asset carrying Orbcomm’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, which captures signals from ships and relays the data — including heading, speed, destination and cargo — to coastal authorities. (2/2)

Satire: Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill to Destroy Asteroid (Source: The Onion)
In a strong rebuke of President Obama and his domestic agenda, all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year to destroy the immense asteroid currently hurtling toward Earth. The $440 billion legislation would send a dozen high-thrust plasma impactor probes to shatter the massive asteroid before it strikes the planet, is strongly opposed by the GOP.

"The voters sent us to Washington to stand up for individual liberty, not big government," Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said. "Obama's plan would take away citizens' fundamental freedoms, forcing each of us into hastily built concrete bunkers and empowering the federal government to ration our access to food, water, and potassium iodide tablets while underground... We believe that the decisions of how to deal with the massive asteroid are best left to the individual," King added. (2/2)

What is Space Junk and Why Should We Be Worried? (Source: Telegraph)
Space junk is the term used to describe man-made rubbish floating in space – often litter from space exploration, including spanners, nuts, bolts, gloves and shards of space craft. The majority of the debris in space is believed to consist of small particles but some objects are larger, including spent rocket stages, defunct satellites and collision fragments. As many as ten million pieces of human-made debris are estimated to be circulating in space at any one time. Experts believe that global positioning systems, international phone connections, television signals and weather forecasts could be affected by increasing levels of space junk. (2/2)

One Giant Leap For Tourist-Kind (Source: Chicago Tribune)
You know what it feels like to be in space? Like you're sick. Think head cold. "Your face gets kind of puffy," said Gerald Carr, 78, who once spent 84 days orbiting the Earth, as I picked at a piece of NASA-made red velvet cake. "But you become used to it."

It was a Tuesday afternoon in a Kennedy Space Center banquet room on Florida's salty-aired, sun-kissed Atlantic coast. Forty visitors and I were there for the daily "Lunch With an Astronaut," and for an hour, Carr was our astronaut. But for all his tales from orbit, it didn't take long to take up the issue at the forefront of Space Coast minds these days: the end of NASA's space shuttle program.

The once-proud program is coming to a close, almost 50 years to the day since Alan Shepard became the first American in space, igniting a nation's imagination and giving central Florida an international tourist attraction 10 years before Disney World popped up 50 miles west. What will become of tourism at the sprawling Space Coast beyond the occasional unmanned rocket launch? (2/2)

Stennis Rolls Out Red Carpet for Congressman (Source: WLOX)
Stennis leaders don't mind taking a break for some show and tell when their audience is South Mississippi's freshman Congressman. Steven Palazzo was just appointed to Chair the Space and Aeronautics sub-committee. "The Orbital Sciences program is what we're doing as part of one partnership that the agency has," Director of Stennis Space Center Patrick Scheuermann said. "Space-X is the other provider that we're looking forward to hosting soon."

"On the base I'll just say NASA has somewhere around 2,600 employees on the base, sprinkled between this complex and the AB-complex," Scheuermann said. Better understanding Stennis and its mission for NASA will help Palazzo help define its role in NASA's new mission. And Palazzo said he will be looking out for Stennis' best interest. (2/2)

Commission Formed to Investigate Russian Defense Satellite Situation (Source: Itar-Tass)
A commission has been formed to investigate the situation of a defense satellite launched with a Rokot rocket on Tuesday. “The commission is working at the Plesetsk launch site,” an official said. There is information that U.S. stations had traced the Russian satellite on an orbit much lower than the designated one but the satellite disappeared later on, the source said. (2/2)

Russia Finds Missing Military Satellite (Source: AP)
Russia's military says it has located a newly launched military satellite that went missing a day ago after entering into the wrong orbit. Space Forces chief Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko said Wednesday they located it and established stable communications with the craft. Ostapenko said space experts will now work to determine whether it can serve its intended purpose in an orbit that differs from the designated one. The satellite was built for geodetic studies. (2/2)

Will Israel Soon be Able to Plant its Flag on the Moon? (Source: Haaretz)
If Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub succeed and send a robot to the moon, they'll donate their millions in prize money to promote science among Israel youth. Yesterday the trio announced their participation in the Google Lunar X Prize competition - an effort to send an unmanned vehicle to the moon and beam back high-quality photos and short films.

The competition seeks to encourage space scientists and engineers from around the world to develop cheap technologies for robotic space exploration. To win, a team needs to raise private funding; the first team to achieve the mission gets $13 million; second prize is $5 million. The other prizes total $5 million. So far 13 groups have registered for the competition; prizes can be won up to the end of 2015. (2/2)

Famed Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Visits San Diego (Source: 10news.com)
Hundreds of people gathered outside the San Diego Air & Space Museum Tuesday for a chance to meet the second human to set foot on the moon. "My son's always wanted to be a pilot, and his dad is a pilot so it's a dream of his to maybe be an astronaut some day," said Jana, mother of two. Many of all ages waited for hours for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet American astronaut Buzz Aldrin. (2/2)

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