February 3, 2011

First Iridium NEXT Hosted Payload Agreement Signed with Orbital Sciences (Source: Iridium)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has signed an agreement with Iridium that reserves hosted payload capacity on Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. Orbital will make several non-refundable deposits totaling $10 million in 2011 for a right-of-first refusal on 20 percent of the network's capacity to host third-party payloads. The parties also have agreed to the basic terms of Orbital purchasing this hosted payload capacity on behalf of its customers. Iridium believes the arrangement with Orbital has the potential to be worth more than $100 million, including hosting fees and recurring data service fees once in orbit. (2/3)

Alliant Techsystems Posts Lower Profit (Source: Reuters)
Alliant Techsystems said quarterly profit dropped on lower aerospace sales as the U.S. shuttle program winds down. Net income came to $70.2 million for the fiscal third quarter ended Jan. 2, compared with $78.4 million a year earlier. Quarterly sales eased about 1 percent to $1.13 billion. ATK had a sales decline of 17 percent. Missile products group sales fell 12 percent due to lower sales on NASA's launch abort system and special mission aircraft. Armament sales rose 8 percent and security and sporting sales rose 25 percent. (2/3)

Alabama Governor Visits U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Gov. Robert Bentley was among officials and dignitaries at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to honor Dr. Georg von Tiesenhausen, who received the center's inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Education. Von Tiesenhausen, 96, is one of the few living members of Dr. Wernher von Braun's rocket team. He planned the Saturn V Mobile Launch Facility that moved the giant rocket to the launch pad, and is credited with the concept for NASA's famous Lunar Rover, among many other achievements. (2/3)

Can I Use a Space Mirror to Melt My Driveway Ice? (Source: Discovery)
As you face another slice of snowmageddon, you probably find yourself asking a simple question: Could I use a giant space mirror to concentrate sunlight down to melt my driveway free? Sadly, both Russian Znamya space mirrors burned up in the atmosphere back in the '90s. While operational, Znamya 2 proved capable of reflecting a 3-mile wide patch of light onto the dark side of the Earth. But the patch sped along at a speed of 5 miles per hour and only had the intensity of a full moon. For many onlookers, it appeared as a brief flash in the sky. Znamya 2.5 aimed higher but ripped on one of the Mir space station's antennae before it could be tested. (2/3)

Solar Sails Pick Up Speed (Source: Nature)
Two trials of spacecraft have successfully unfurled their solar sails, and demonstrated that radiation from sunlight can power them through interplanetary space. Solar sails use photons from the Sun to propel spacecraft at high speeds. On 20 January, the small lightweight spacecraft NanoSail-D deployed a 10-square-meter gleaming sail in low-Earth orbit. Click here to read the article. (2/3)

Virginia Space Groups Team with Manufacturing Association (Source: VCSFA)
The Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) will work with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) and NASA Langley Research Center for the 2011 Virginia Industry Leadership Forum to be held Dec. 8-9. The theme of the event will be Advancing Tomorrow’s Factory: Innovations from Aerospace and will look at how advanced technologies from the aerospace industry can improve the productivity and efficiency of the manufacturing sector.

The headline speaker on December 9th will be David Thompson, Chairman & CEO of Orbital Sciences Corp. Key topics that will be addressed through panel presentations will include automation technologies and robotics, heat exchange technologies, the commercial spaceflight industries of tomorrow, improving engineering and STEM-related educational achievement, and challenges and solutions for skilled trades training in the advanced technology workforce.

Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Chairman of the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council, remarked, “I am thrilled to see this exchange of ideas among related industries being made possible through events like this. It will be a great way to identify and advance opportunities of the Commonwealth’s business environment for these globally competitive industries, such as aerospace which contributes over $20 billion to Virginia’s economy.” (2/3)

NASA JSC To Close For Winter Storm (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA's Johnson Space Center will be closed Friday morning due to the expected conditions caused by the winter storm. Plans call for the center to reopen at noon CST. The closing allows Johnson employees to avoid treacherous road conditions. Temperatures in the area are predicted to stay below freezing until after 10 a.m. Friday, and roadways are expected to be icy. (2/3)

Former Shuttle Worker Investigated in Theft of Shuttle Tiles for Resale (Source: Florida Today)
Federal and local authorities are investigating the alleged theft and resale of space shuttle tiles from Kennedy Space Center, which triggered a raid this week on a Port St. John home owned by a former shuttle employee who previously had access to the tiles. David Abbey is a suspect in the case, but has not been charged. Abbey at one time had access to tiles in his previous job with shuttle contractor United Space Alliance. He allegedly took tiles destined for disposal off KSC property and advertised them for sale on eBay, with prices reaching as high as $880 per tile. (2/3)

Former NASA Official Bound for West Virginia Prison (Source: Space News)
Former NASA chief of staff Courtney Stadd is due to report Feb. 4 to a federal correctional institute in Morgantown, W.V., to begin serving a 41-month sentence for a conspiracy conviction. Stadd, 55, was convicted in federal court last August and sentenced in November for conspiring with Liam Sarsfield, then NASA’s deputy engineer of programs, to steer money to his consulting firm and submitting false invoices. Sarsfield was separately convicted on a conflict of interest charge and sentenced last September to three years probation. (2/3)

Programs, Budgets Challenge Military Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Program problems and budget restrictions for military space assets are combining to change thinking on how capabilities should be developed and deployed. TSAT’s recent cancellation is part of a wider trend in U.S. space spending. Rather than develop advanced and expensive satellites with revolutionary technology, the Pentagon is adopting an evolutionary approach.

An example is the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) model, under which the U.S. hopes to create smaller, less expensive satellites that can be developed and launched much more quickly. These will offer only incremental capability but, by avoiding the high-risk development of “exquisite” systems, the Pentagon hopes to minimize the cost growth and delays that have plagued programs such as TSAT.

Even with a reduced budget, the U.S. spends an enormous amount on military space compared with the rest of the world. Overall, the Pentagon is expected to spend $4.2 billion on space procurement and $4.1 billion on R&D in FY-11. In the next 10 years, the U.S. will account for 77% of global military satellite sales; Europe will be a distant second, with 9.3%. Countries like Russia, China and Israel are increasing their military space spending and, by the end of the 10-year forecast period, Asian countries will outpace Europe with 12.5% of the market. (2/3)

Northern Mars Landscape Actively Changing (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Sand dunes in a vast area of northern Mars long thought to be frozen in time are changing with both sudden and gradual motions, according to research using images from a NASA orbiter. These dune fields cover an area the size of Texas in a band around the planet at the edge of Mars' north polar cap. The new findings suggest they are among the most active landscapes on Mars. However, few changes in these dark-toned dunes had been detected before a campaign of repeated imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (2/3)

ESA’s Lisa Pathfinder Mission Faces 2 Year Delay (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Lisa Pathfinder satellite is likely to be delayed until 2014, nearly two years later than its most-recent schedule, because of failures of two key elements during final testing, European Space Agency (ESA) officials said Feb. 3. Program managers are expected to decide in mid-April whether to change the technologies used in the equipment or continue with their use. The new delay is likely to add up to 30 million euros ($41 million), which would bring the mission’s total budget, including launch and operations, to nearly 350 million euros. (2/3)

Space Florida and Bigelow Sign Memorandum of Understanding (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and Bigelow Aerospace signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to work together to pursue and identify foreign and domestic companies that could benefit from utilization of Bigelow's expandable, orbital space complexes. Bigelow is marketing 18 separate human spaceflight programs with a variety of duration and pricing options, including an option of $28,750,000 for a 30-day astronaut visit. "[Our ambition is] to launch and successfully operate as many commercial modules as possible," said Bigelow.

According to Bigelow, if the company attracts enough customers to lease all of the orbiting, inflatable modules on Complex Alpha, it could mean up to 25 launches a year. This collaborative business development partnership will also explore approaches to supporting 1/3 scale models of the orbiting outposts in Florida. These models would assist in marketing to new customers as well as simulation of customer requirements and concepts of operations for payloads, prior to flight. (2/3)

Futron Rates Isle of Man Space Industry As 'Punching Above Its Weight' (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Futron Corp. published a benchmarking assessment study on the Isle of Man space industry with surprising results. The report highlights the Isle of Man's lead in cutting edge satellite financing coupled with the value brought by the Government's unique Public Private Partnership in orbital filing with Manx company, ManSat."The Isle of Man has effectively created a market niche that advances its national economic development, provides quality employment opportunities, and attracts significant foreign investment."

"Their non-traditional strategy for space focuses on financial and corporate services, providing a fascinating model to foster hi-tech economic activities. I imagine other nations and jurisdictions will look to the Isle to replicate its success." The Isle of Man's unique approach to space activity allows it to punch above its weight in terms of global visibility in the space industry. The Isle has proactively created an innovative niche as a global provider of financial services and administrative services that support global space commerce. (2/3)

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Sets Requirements for FY-2011 Cuts (Source: Space Policy Online)
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) released the details of how much money each of his subcommittees will have to cut for the remainder of FY-2011 this afternoon. The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that includes NASA and NOAA will have to cut 11 percent from the President's FY-2011 request for all the agencies in that bill, or 16 percent from current (FY2010) levels.

It does not specify what will happen with NASA and NOAA, but it is difficult to imagine they will not be impacted. The subcommittee will send a recommendation to the full committee and eventually the bill will have to be voted on by the full House. That vote may come next week. Five other non-security subcommittees will have to make deeper cuts, and one other also is at 11 percent. security spending (Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs) also must make cuts in the 2-3 percent range compared to the President's request for FY-2011. (2/3)

An ISS-Attached Bigelow Module Could Make a Lot of Sense (Source: SPACErePORT)
Although discussions between NASA and Bigelow have been ongoing, it seems unlikely in today's budget environment that NASA would be able to pay for attaching a Bigelow module to the International Space Station. That is, unless Bigelow might have his own motivation for linking with the ISS. Bigelow could conceivably pursue the ISS opportunity as an interim step toward developing a separate fully commercial station. This would allow the company to learn much about operating a habitable on-orbit platform, while NASA takes care of most of the operating requirements.

Depending on the deal with NASA, Bigelow could potentially send his own customers to the module, learn the finer points of spacecraft docking and multi-module integration, have access to the ISS National Laboratory research capabilities, rely on other ISS partners and COTS vendors for crew and cargo transport, and win heaps of credibility for his other ventures in LEO, at Lagrangian points, and on the lunar surface. But would it be worth the trouble of having to work within the constraints imposed by NASA and its ISS international partners? I'm thinking yes. (2/3)

Space Station Production Plant Could Bring 2000 Jobs to Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida and Bigelow Aerospace signed an agreement to build a spacecraft exhibit that will give politicians and economic development officials a glimpse of the future. There will be huge one-third scale models of the inflatable modules that will make up Bigelow's commercial outposts as well as displays that detail planned lunar bases and Mars colonies.

Bigelow plans to launch the company's first commercial space station in 2015 and open it for business the following year. A second, much larger space complex is to be launched and assembled in 2017. With almost twice the habitable volume of the International Space Station, the outpost will be so big that Bigelow would need to build a module manufacturing plant near the launch site. The Space Coast could land this production plant that would employ between 1,500 and 2,000 later this decade.

Editor's Note: I was at this event and I believe Florida Today's report may be inaccurate. Bigelow's first two series of operational habitable modules will be built in Nevada. A third and much larger module design would be too big for the Nevada plant, requiring a manufacturing site near the launch pad (in Florida?) or along a suitable waterway for barge transport. (It would also require a larger 8-meter fairing for the Delta-4 launch vehicle.) The company has not committed to developing this larger series of modules. (2/3)

Bigelow: Florida Not a Sure Thing (Source: Florida Today)
"If I was to say, 'Should the missions launch from Florida? The logic says 'Yeah, they ought to,' " said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, who came to Cape Canaveral to talk to about 150 community leaders Wednesday. "Now, can the politics screw it up? You bet it can. Or maybe somebody raises more (economic development incentive money) than somebody else does and has the kind of facilities people like our company need to have in terms of executing their business."

Domestic competition might come from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. "The absolute, ultimate, most important action, I think, that the state of Florida can take, beginning now, is to secure launch facilities to be used exclusively by the new commercial space industry, and to provide all possible political support," he said. So what are Space Florida and the state of Florida to do? The first thing to do is raise money. The second thing is to raise money. And, the third thing is to raise money," Bigelow said. "Like the old saying, 'No bucks? No Buck Rogers, right?' " (2/3)

Plan Exists for Heavier-Lift Pad at Wallops (Source: SPACErePORT)
The master plan at Wallops Island in Virginia has a future heavy lift launch pad named Pad 0-C. It is proposed to accommodate the Atlas V - Delta IV family of launch vehicles. The existing launch pads at Wallops are Pad 0-A and Pad 0-B. Pad 0-A is nearing completion after demolition of the prior pad. It is for medium lift launch vehicles such as Taurus II and Falcon 9. Pad 0-B is for light lift launch vehicles such as the Minotaur family of launch vehicles. The pads run from north to south in the order of Pad 0-A, Pad 0-B, and the future Pad 0-C.

Editor's Note: Virginia spaceport and Bigelow officials have spoken multiple times about launching Bigelow space station missions from Wallops Island, aboard Atlas-5 rockets. I didn't think it was possible, based on what I understood of Wallops' limited capacity. But a reader shared the above information to set me straight. (2/3)

NASA, Industry Bring Message to Virginia Capitol (Source: Daily Press)
Wearing a bright blue jumpsuit festooned with patches of space rockets, astronaut Dominic "Tony" Antonelli stood out Wednesday among the suits and ties at the Virginia State Capitol. Appearing before the House of Delegates' Appropriations Committee, Antonelli touted Virginia's aerospace industry, which includes two NASA facilities and numerous contractors that do everything from launching rockets to educating students.

While NASA is federally funded, Antonelli said, Virginia can help the agency achieve its goals — particularly Langley Research Center in Hampton and Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. "I'd like to ask for your continued support of those efforts," Antonelli told the lawmakers. He is one of a handful of high-ranking NASA officials and aerospace industry leaders meeting with state lawmakers this week in Richmond.

Their visit comes on the heels of a report that estimates that their facilities last year were responsible for 10,458 jobs and $1.2 billion invested in Virginia's economy. State support for NASA and the aerospace industry could become more important as President Barack Obama grapples with Republican lawmakers intent on cutting federal spending. (2/3)

NASA Weighs Plan to Keep Space Shuttle Until 2017 (Source: MSNBC)
NASA is considering a plan to keep the space shuttle Endeavour in flight-like condition after its last scheduled mission, a move that could lead to its transformation into a privatized spaceship rather than a museum piece. Endeavour’s continued operation through 2017 is part of a proposal that could receive millions of dollars in development funds from the space agency next month.

The proposal — called Commercial Space Transportation Service, or CSTS — would use Endeavour as well as a sister shuttle, Atlantis, to fly two missions a year from 2013 to 2017 at an annual cost of $1.5 billion. United Space Alliance, the contractor that currently manages the shuttle program on NASA’s behalf, has offered the proposal for the second round of funding from the space agency’s Commercial Crew Development initiative, also known as CCDev 2. (2/3)

Amid Spending Cuts, Alabama Congressman Hopes to Support NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said Congress will "probably" cut defense spending next year, possibly including R&D programs based in Huntsville, but, if he gets his way, it will boost NASA's manned spaceflight program. The House will cut spending this year to 2008 levels, Brooks predicted, but that will be "across the board, not per agency."

"I hope to increase (NASA) spending for manned spaceflight," Brooks said. The extra money would come from other agencies or other NASA line items such as studies of global warming, he said. Brooks, who sits on the House NASA oversight committee, said there will be hearings soon on global warming. He said money for NASA could come from the National Science Foundation budget. "We might have to shift money from there," he said.

Brooks said he would tour NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Wednesday afternoon. The continuing budget stalemate in Washington is hurting there, he said, as NASA tries to transition from one rocket program to another. He expects a Fiscal Year 2011 budget will pass the House in February or March. The federal debt ceiling will be raised in May or June followed by debate on a budget for FY 2012 later in the summer. (2/3)

House Committee Chairman Cuts $74 Billion in FY2011 Domestic Discretionary Spending (Source: Space Policy Online)
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has set budget limits for the rest of FY2011. The Republican-led House passed a resolution last month giving the Budget Committee chairman the power to set those limits himself without need of legislation that would have to pass though the Budget Committee and on the House floor.

His decision cuts $58 billion from the President's request for non-security domestic discretionary spending for the rest of the current fiscal year. NASA and NOAA are both in this category. How much each of the appropriations subcommittees will have to cut to reach that total was not announced. Ryan also mandated that security spending be reduced by $16 billion, for a total of $74 billion that must be cut from the President's FY2011 request. Earlier, Republicans pledged to cut $100 billion from non-security domestic discretionary spending in FY2011, so today's action does not meet that target. (2/3)

LaHood: NextGen is "High Priority" in 2012 Budget (Source: AIA)
President Barack Obama's 2012 budget proposal will give a "high priority" to modernizing the nation's air traffic control system, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Noting that the "technology we have in our cars these days is more up to date than what we have in our cockpits," LaHood said the satellite-based NextGen system is "a very important priority for President Obama." (2/3)

Lockheed Inspects Satellites for Manufacturing Debris Contamination (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin says it has been conducting exoneration exercises on satellites built on the A2100 bus to ensure that foreign object debris was not introduced into their fuel or oxidizer lines for propulsion systems during manufacturing. The debris is the suspected cause of a liquid apogee engine failure on the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, but officials say it should not be a problem for the other satellites. (2/3)

Minotaur Rocket Assembled and Tested at Vandenberg (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Engineers are preparing the Minotaur 1 rocket for launch Saturday with a research payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. government agency responsible for building and operating spy satellites. Liftoff will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Click here to see photos of the vehicle. (2/3)

Europe’s ATV Space Ferry Ready for Launch (Source: ESA)
ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle is ready for launch to the International Space Station on Feb. 15 at 22:08 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The unmanned spaceship will deliver essential supplies and reboost the Station during its mission lasting three and half months. (2/3)

Mars 500: How Realistic is the 'Mission to Mars'? (Source: Telegraph)
The aim of Mars 500 is to better understand the physical and psychological effects of long-distance space travel on human beings. In particular, scientists want to understand how people cope with the boredom and isolation and to study how the volunteers interact with each other. Even though no country is close to sending a real mission to Mars the idea is to prepare for the day when such a mission can be launched.

How authentic is the experiment? With a bit of imagination fairly authentic though there is no zero gravity. The crew's routine is the same as a real crew though. Daily life is strictly regimented: eight hours for sleep, eight hours for work, and eight hours for leisure. They are eating the same rations, carrying out the same kinds of experiments (over one hundred), and can only communicate with mission control via email. The internet functions with a delay of 20 minutes to simulate delays in deep space. Portholes are replicated by TV monitors. Click here. (2/3)

Here's Your Child's Ticket to NASA (Source: IANS)
If your child wants to become an astronaut, here's a golden chance -- Nickelodeon is hosting a contest for selection of a few kids for a 10-day curriculum at the Kennedy Space Center, Orlando later this year. The initiative is part of the channel's new annual property that will identify unusual vocations most kids want to pursue, and give them a chance to live their passion.

An online poll on nickindia.com suggested that maximum children in India wish to be astronauts, and so the channel has decided to give them an opportunity to explore the world of space sciences at NASA. "We were pleasantly surprised to know that 43 percent children want to become astronauts, followed by 25 percent children who wish to become doctors... careers like teaching and being artists were all in single digits,” Nina Elavia Jaipuria, senior vice president and general manager, Nickelodeon India, told IANS. (2/3)

UCSC Astronomers Aid in Discovery of Six-Planet Solar System (Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope believe the roster of known planets outside our solar system could easily triple in the next few years, as discoveries are occurring with increasing frequency thanks to new technology. UC Santa Cruz researchers, in conjunction with other scientists, added their latest discovery Wednesday: A distant solar system with six planets that is both unlike anything they have seen before and can provide useful insights into existing theories. (2/3)

California School's Experiment Among Winners in NASA Kids Micro-G Challenge (Source: NASA)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station this spring will conduct six experiments designed by middle school students from across the country. The winning proposals of the "Kids in Micro-g" Challenge are from California, Idaho, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state. Among the winners is Chabad Hebrew Academy in San Diego, for "Attracting Water Drops." This experiment will determine if a free-floating water drop can be attracted to a static charged rubber exercise tube. (2/3)

eSpace Seeks Entrepreneurial Space Companies for Incubator Program (Source: eSpace Center)
eSpace: The Colorado-based Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a non-profit business incubator and workforce development organization for aerospace start-up companies, announced its third round call for new incubator candidates for the eSpace Incubator program. The latest call for participants demonstrates the growing interest in commercial space ventures, as well as the success of eSpace Incubator participants and alumni. Interest in commercial space transportation is burgeoning. Meanwhile, federal and state government organizations are working to make public space flight a reality with projects such as New Mexico’s Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. (2/3)

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