February 23, 2011

PolitiFact Says Rep. Posey Charges of Underfunding NASA are "Mostly True" (Source: PolitiFact)
According to Space Coast Congressman Bill Posey: "The president promised to close the space gap, but he now seems intent on repeating the events that created the space gap in the first place -- putting in place a new rocket design and then trying to underfund the effort..." The PolitiFact "Truth-o-Meter" says Posey's charge is "Mostly True." Click here to read the article. (2/23)

SpaceX Named One of 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World by MIT’s Technology Review (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX has been named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world by MIT’s Technology Review. “Private companies will dominate near-Earth space travel. And SpaceX, with its manufacturing advances for making rocket engines and astronaut capsules, is leading the way,” said Jason Pontin, Technology Review Editor in Chief and Publisher. (2/23)

DirecTV Swings to Profit (Source: Wall Street Journal)
DirecTV Group Inc. swung to a fourth-quarter profit as the satellite-TV provider continues to take market share from its cable rivals. The El Segundo, Calif., company added 289,000 net new U.S. customers, or more than double its growth from a year ago, while its Latin America unit signed up 378,000 net new customers in the period. The growth stands in contrast to the cable providers, which continued their slow bleed of video customers in the fourth quarter. (2/23)

Lynx Development Proceeds Towards First Test Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I’ve been hearing some good things out of Mojave about XCOR. It seems that most of the funding is in place, the rest will soon be, and that work is coming along nicely on building the first test flight vehicle which the company hopes to fly soon. XCOR anticipates commercial flights in the US to start in late 2012, with production Lynx vehicles flying internationally by 2014. XCOR’s COO, Andrew Nelson said that the company continues to develop and produce safe, reliable and reusable rocket powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and other enabling technologies.

“We’re building the Lynx, have a robust wet lease order book and we’re making engines for other customers,” Nelson said. “We’re always delighted to talk to potential investors and partners interested to join us in our development program.”

Of course, estimates on first commercial flights have been optimistic before (it’s perpetually 18 months away), the signs are pointing in the right direction. The big question is: Who will be first to fly commercially? XCOR or Virgin Galactic. I think Richard Branson would be pretty embarrassed if its the former. (2/23)

Former Senior NASA Official Returning to Capitol Hill (Source: Space News)
Christopher M. Shank, one of former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin’s top aides, is returning to Capitol Hill in March as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Smith, a 24-year veteran of the House of Representatives, chairs the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the Homeland Security Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which oversees NASA. (2/23)

Second Space Flight for Embry-Riddle Alumni Astronauts Alvin Drew and Nicole Stott (Source: ERAU)
Space shuttle Discovery’s final launch will be a landmark event for Embry-Riddle – the first time that two of its alumni will serve together in space. U.S. Air Force Col. B. Alvin Drew Jr. and Nicole P. Stott are assigned as mission specialists on the STS-133 flight to the International Space Station (ISS), the second space flight for both of them. (2/23)

Boeing Offers India Significant Space Cooperation (Source: IANS)
Boeing has offered to partner with India on manned space missions, including on the very significant "composite cryogenic tanks" for the launch and propulsion control of rockets. The development is apparently a result of President Barack Obama's visit here last November and the recent removal of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) from the so-called US Commerce Entities list which prohibited the transfer of dual use high technology to them. (2/23)

How Climate Change Models Could Get Better, Thanks to NASA (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
The Glory satellite's data should help atmospheric scientists improve climate models. Better models not only would increase scientists' knowledge of how the climate system operates, but also would help them make more accurate projections of the effects of global warming – even as atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to rise, as a result of burning fossil fuels and land-use changes. (2/23)

NASA Ames to be at Forefront of Agency's Commercial Space Efforts (Source: Palo Alto Daily News)
As NASA looks to the commercial space industry to take on the expensive task of shuttling humans into space, Ames Research Center in Mountain View could play a central role in developing the agency's partnerships with companies. Under a 2012 fiscal year budget proposed by President Barack Obama last week, NASA Ames will become the home of a new "emerging commercial space" office, center director Simon "Pete" Worden said Tuesday. The office "will be a clearinghouse where we can assist NASA, figuring out how we can better use these emerging commercial opportunities, as well as get feedback from the commercial community on how NASA can help them," Worden said. (2/23)

2012 Olympic Flame May be Sent to ISS (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is positive about a recently advanced idea to send Olympic Flame to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth as a part of the preparations for the 2012 Winter Olympics, Stats Secretary Vitaly Davydov said. "Frankly speaking, we have not studied possibilities to deliver Olympic Flame to the ISS. This is a very specific issue; naked flame onboard the space station is prohibited for safety reasons," Davydov said, adding that if elaborated and technically sound project of delivery was worked out, Roscosmos would consider it. (2/23)

Taurus Launch Delayed at Vandenberg (Source: Launch Alert)
Launch of NASA's Glory mission spacecraft on a Taurus XL rocket at Vandenberg AFB, Calif, was scrubbed for 24 hours this morning at about the T-11 minute point due to a problem associated with the flight termination system. Engineers still are evaluating the issue. Good weather is forecast for Thursday. The time for launch attempt tomorrow (Feb. 24) remains the same as today at 2:09:43 a.m. PST. (2/23)

Shuttle Launch Looking Good for Thursday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA held a briefing on the planned launch of space shuttle Discovery on STS-133 at 4:50 p.m. Thursday, and everything is still a go. The only issue NASA is tracking is a small internal hydrogen leak on a reaction control system, said NASA test director Steve Payne. “We’ve seen this issue before. It is well within our acceptable limits and we’re going to accept it for flight. It should be waived here shortly,” Payne said. (2/23)

New Boeing Division To Pursue Hosted Payload Opportunities (Source: Space News)
Boeing Satellite Systems International on Feb. 22 announced it is forming a new division to market to the U.S. government extra space on satellites the company builds for commercial satellite fleet operators. Boeing officials said they hope to turn what has been an episodic business in selling “hosted payload” capacity into a regular service. (2/22)

Surprising Earth-like Clouds Found in Saturn Moon's Smog (Source: Space.com)
In the dense smog of Saturn's largest moon Titan, one far dirtier than anything on Earth, scientists have uncovered a surprise — pearly white cirrus-like clouds much like the ones that can be seen in our skies. These new findings shed light on how Titan's mysterious atmosphere works. (2/22)

How Kleopatra Got its Moons (Source: UC Berkeley)
The asteroid Kleopatra, like its namesake, the last pharaoh and queen of Egypt, gave birth to twins – two moons probably spawned by the asteroid sometime in the past 100 million years. A team of French and American astronomers, including Franck Marchis, a research astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, also confirm earlier reports that the asteroid is shaped like a dog bone.

In addition, the team’s detailed study of the asteroid using small telescopes as well as the large Keck II telescope is Hawaii allowed it to determine the precise orbits of the twin moons and calculate the density of Kleopatra, showing that the asteroid is probably a big pile of rock and metal rubble. (2/22)

Space Policy Unit Calls for Australian Satellites (Source: IT News)
With satellite technology underpinning Australian banking, defense and meteorological systems, relying wholly on international providers may not be the best idea, the Space Policy Unit has suggested. According to unit chair Rosalind Dubs, Australia was “a significant user of space services”, but had become overly dependent on third parties.

Australian civilians and the military used the US Global Positioning System (GPS), which also provided time information to banks. Meanwhile, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology cooperated with agencies from the US, Europe, Japan, China and India for earth observation and weather data. Although the Australian Communications and Media Authority currently regulated 12 satellite networks, including those operated by the Department of Defense, Optus and Foxtel, Dubs said the Government did not own any of its satellites. (2/22)

NASA Proposes License Grant for Bigelow Technology (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has recommended that Bigelow Aerospace be granted a license to market some of its patented inflatable space habitat technology, according to a notice published in the Federal Registrar. "NASA hereby gives notice of its intent to grant a partially exclusive license in the United States to practice the invention described and claimed in United States Patent 7,509,774 (issued March 31, 2009) and NASA Case No. MSC 24201-1, entitled 'Apparatus For Integrating A Rigid Structure Into A Flexible Wall Of An Inflatable Structure' to Bigelow Aerospace". (2/22)

NASA Awards SAIC $62 Million IT Contract Extension (Source: Space Daily)
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has been awarded a contract extension by NASA for the Unified NASA Information Technology Services (UNITeS) contract to continue providing a broad range of information technology (IT) services in support of the NASA Information Technology Service Network. (2/22)

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