February 6, 2011

LADEE Moon Mission to Launch From Virginia in 2013 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The first planetary mission to be flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island will be the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) in May 2013. LADEE will launch aboard a Minotaur-V booster rocket provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. The is a small spacecraft mission being developed and led by Ames Research Center. It is equipped with a neutral mass spectrometer, a dust detector and an ultraviolet/visible spectrometer. (2/6)

House Appropriations Committee to Review NASA This Week (Source: Space Politics)
On Feb. 10 at 10:00 a.m., the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will convene to discuss oversight of NASA and the NSF, featuring the inspectors general of the two agencies. According to The Hill, this hearing is one of “hundreds” planned by House appropriators to look for places to reduce spending. “The goal of the hearings is to help identify top management challenges and find ways to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in these respective departments and agencies,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said. (2/6)

Kelly Should Skip This Mission (Source: AVweb)
When you power up the avionics on later model Cirrus aircraft, a questionnaire pops up that asks the pilot probing questions about his or her fitness to fly. It was introduced in response to a flurry of Cirrus crashes in which the airplanes performed as designed but there were shortcomings in the left seat. Although a lot of us dismissed the gimmicky nature of the screen display, I've seen it make pilots pause in a bit of self assessment before turning the key. Whether it's prevented a hung over, distracted or sick pilot from taking off and ultimately crashing we'll never know but the enforced introspection can't hurt and might even help.

Maybe NASA should consider a similar system for its space shuttle simulators (assuming the ancient computers can handle the graphics) given the remarkable decision to allow Mark Kelly in the left seat for the April 19 launch of Endeavor while his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, undergoes rehabilitation for a gunshot wound to the head suffered less than a month ago. Given the "right stuff" heritage of the astronaut corps, it's perhaps not surprising that Kelly, described by his boss, Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson as a "tough guy," was given the nod. But it was the justification for the decision that bugged me.

Both Kelly and NASA claim his presence will make the mission safer, that in spite of the whirlwind of events in the past few weeks this tough guy, who was three weeks ago weeping in the embrace of the President on national TV has shaken off the emotion, the stress and turmoil to the point where he is considered the best choice to ensure the safety of the mission and those on board the shuttle. Whitson says he's been training with the crew for 18 months and, despite a three-week break while he was at his wife's bedside, he'll catch up quickly because of his experience. It just doesn't pass the smell test in my opinion. (2/6)

Father of GPS Responds to Obama's "Sputnik Moment" Comment (Source: MMD Newswire)
In response to last week's State of the Union Address by President Obama, Dr. Francis "Duke" Kane (Col., USAF, ret.), the Father of the U.S. Global Positioning System, says "Similar to Eisenhower's answer to the Sputnik threat, we must invest in science and technology, education and human creativity." At 92 years of age, he is the President of the Schriever Institute and still a bellwether for what is next in the "Strategy of Technology." For the past decade Duke has advocated development of programs to inspire the "speed of light generation" to pursue space exploration with an eye toward Mars and how we can harvest "living energy" from space.

Perhaps more than any external threat such as that posed by the Soviets in 1957, today our personal Sputnik is our feeling of inadequacy in the face of all of the technology present in our lives. Many of us hold back and are afraid of technology. We are conservative in the face of change and hold onto the status-quo because we have a sense of control.

As the 21st century "Sputnik moment" penetrates the national conscience after the recent State of the Union address, it is time for reflection about our perceptions and attitudes about "shop class" and "vocational education." The role and scope of technology in our world is changing rapidly. Our cell phones now have more computing power than the computers used by NASA to put man on the moon. Click here to read the article. (2/3)

Florida Officials Turn to Incentives, Innovation to Entice Businesses (Source: Florida Today)
So what will it take for SpaceX and others in the commercial space business to start creating jobs in Florida, where thousands of shuttle engineers and technicians are being laid off? It's going to take three to five years, millions of dollars in state incentives and infrastructure, and billions in the NASA budget. And that's to re-employ just a fraction of the workforce involved in launching the shuttle.

It's also going to take patience -- and a recalibrated expectation of what these companies may do for employment levels in Brevard -- on behalf of jittery residents and eager economic development officials as SpaceX and other companies gradually become established in Florida. "I'm not concerned about their near-term growth line," Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. "Their profiles for staff growth are enough to attract our interest and warrant the investment we're making."

"It will only happen if we can fill some need," said Marshall Heard, a former manager at The Boeing Co. who now serves as an adviser to the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. "You need to figure out how to do something better or faster or less expensively. And sometimes those things are related. That's where you start." Heard said studies show that Brevard County's aerospace labor force is less expensive and better trained than California's. (2/6)

SpaceX Hiring, But Not in Florida Yet (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX wants to hire 101 in Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 already work. Two jobs are open in Texas, and there's another opening in Washington, D.C. But during a week when 548 shuttle workers were told they had lost their jobs at Kennedy Space Center, the company heralded to become the model of the emerging commercial space industry advertised on its website for a freshly graduated engineer to join its Florida workforce of 60.

One job. No experience necessary. It's not as if SpaceX lacks business. At least 20 launches are scheduled from Cape Canaveral during the next several years. So what will it take for the California company, and others in the commercial space business, to start creating jobs in Florida, where thousands of shuttle engineers and technicians are about to be laid off? It's going to take three to five years, millions of dollars in state incentives and infrastructure, and billions in the NASA budget. And that's to re-employ just a fraction of the work force involved in launching the shuttle. (2/6)

Up for Grabs? Private Companies Eye KSC Facilities (Source: Florida Today)
The Kennedy Space Center site where some of the greatest shuttle payloads were prepared for launch, including the Hubble Space Telescope and interplanetary probes, is now a patch of grass. The Vertical Processing Facility was mothballed after the Columbia disaster when the shuttles began flying only International Space Station components. Last year, with no prospective tenants and high costs to bring it up to code, the facility built in 1964 was razed without ceremony.

"It was just not on anybody's radar screen as being a viable facility for reuse," said KSC's Jim Ball. "At the end of the day, it made more sense to knock it down." Matching infrastructure with the new mission isn't as simple as turning over the keys. KSC won't be sure which facilities will become fully or partially "underutilzied" after the shuttle until NASA designs the heavy-lift rocket lawmakers asked it to build. Also, Congressional budget gridlock and potential cuts have left companies uncertain if plans to develop commercial systems will be funded enough to make flying astronauts a good business. (2/6)

KSC Facilities May or May Not Fit Budget and Business Plans (Source: Florida Today)
Commercial operators working to reduce spaceflight costs might decide KSC's aging facilities aren't the best fit, costing too much to refurbish, operate and maintain. Once matches are made between companies' needs and available assets, costs must be negotiated. By law, NASA can't just give away its vacant space but must charge a market rate. And their age and high maintenance costs might make them a hard sell.

"One of the first questions any company would ask is not only how much it costs to lease, but how much it costs to operate and maintain, and that's where you may see some companies lose interest in some facilities," said Edward Ellegood, a space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "Some, however, are uniquely capable, and duplicating them offsite would be more expensive."

For example, he said, it might be cheaper to build hangars from scratch than to refurbish the highly specialized garages designed for shuttle orbiters. Facilities fit for hazardous operations, on the other hand, might be impossible to recreate elsewhere. Companies could base some operations outside the center gates at a planned research and development park, or close enough that the surrounding community would still benefit from the jobs. However, they are also considering opportunities in other states for coveted manufacturing work. (2/6)

NASA Deputy Administrator Visits Colorado Innovation Sites (Source: NASA)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Colorado to meet with entrepreneurs and discuss innovations in space exploration and technology development critical to America's future in space. "It's a pleasure to see commercial space making rapid progress in Colorado," Garver said. “As NASA becomes more nimble, companies like Sierra Nevada and others will help the U.S. out-innovate, out-educate and out-build any competitor in the world”. (2/6)

Editorial: On to Mars -- But Not Back to Earth (Source: L.A. Times)
We can establish a human outpost on Mars in our generation, and reputable scientists are finally getting on board with the idea. Risky though it may be, we have the technology to place a person on the Red Planet. But, if NASA demands that the Mars explorer must return to Earth, then the idea becomes more like science fiction, and colonization probably can't be achieved within the lifespan of those now reading this article.

For a Mars colony to be a reality within the next 15 or so years, the first traveler would have to live out his or her life as a permanent resident of an alien desert world. That person could eventually be joined by others, but return would not be an option. When we eliminate the requirement to bring the explorer back, we remove a major obstacle to mission practicality. Carrying a special return vehicle with rocket fuel to the surface of Mars, or somehow manufacturing fuel on the planet for a return launch, will not be feasible for decades.

Planning is underway for a robotic mission to bring a one- or two-pound sample of Martian soil back to Earth for analysis, but even such a roundtrip mission to retrieve a tiny amount of dirt is a major technical challenge. For a human mission, the life support and resupply would be greatly simplified if it's a one-way trip and there is only one astronaut. In such an expedition, a small person would hold an advantage — a female astronaut might be preferable — because smaller bodies make less demand on life-support systems. (2/6)

No Major Flaw in Failed Indian Rocket (Source: Outlook India)
There was no major design flaw in the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle of the Indian Space Research Organization -- GSLV-F06 -- which crashed seconds after take-off on December 25 last year, said Dr G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the fact-finding committee. The GSLV Analysis Committee headed by Nair will be able to draw final conclusion within next few weeks. "We found that there is no major design flaw in GSLV-F06. (2/6)

Homans: Governor's Spaceport Authority Assertion "Wholly Untruthful" (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Gov. Susana Martinez declared that the board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and me, its executive director, withheld information from her and the transition team. This allegation is wholly untruthful. In fact, I responded completely and timely to all requests for information and even sought out members of the new administration to provide briefings and documents.

In fact, I was thanked for my responsiveness by Mr. Sherman McCorkle, chairman of the Spaceport Transition Team, Mr. Jon Barela, secretary-designate of the Department of Economic Development (EDD), and Rick May, secretary-designate of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). Rather than accuse me of improper activity as an excuse for her wholesale firing of the leadership of the NMSA, I would prefer it if Gov. Martinez were honest and just said she wanted a change at the NMSA. Period. (2/6)

Astrobotic Technology Announces Lunar Mission on SpaceX Falcon 9 (Source: Astrobotic)
Astrobotic Technology Inc. today announced it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9. The expedition will search for water and deliver payloads, with the robot narrating its adventure while sending 3D video. The mission could launch as soon as December 2013. The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon. Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing.

The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars. The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights. The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications. In addition to Carnegie Mellon, where several prototypes have been built and tested, the mission is supported by industrial partners such as International Rectifier Corporation and corporate sponsors such as Caterpillar Inc. and ANSYS Inc. (2/6)

Falcon-9 Passes Environmental Hurdle at Vandenberg (Source: Santa Maria Times)
SpaceX's plan to bring a new rocket to an old launch pad won’t cause any significant environmental problems. A draft environmental assessment reviews the SpaceX proposal to launch the Falcon-9 and Falcon-9-Heavy rockets from Space Launch Complex-4 East, a former Titan 4 launch facility on South Base. “SLC-4E is an existing launch complex that would require minimal modifications to accommodate the Falcon 9 and Falcon 9-Heavy programs, thus minimizing adverse environmental impacts,” the document notes. (2/6)

Minotaur Blasts Off Following Delay (Source: Lompoc Record)
A Minotaur 1 rocket and its top-secret satellite rose above south Vandenberg Air Force Base early Sunday morning after being delayed a day. The rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex-8, with mostly clear skies serving as the perfect back drop to watch the rocket’s first-stage motor fall away. The Orbital Sciences Corp. space vehicle is made up of retired Minuteman missile stages topped with the firm’s rocket components. (2/6)

Renewable Energy Tour Visits Space Coast (Source: SCEC)
The Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (FARE) welcomes you to be part of the 2011 Florida Renewable Energy Tour. This tour will travel through 10 cities across the state, reaching an audience of over 2000 individuals and businesses. The tour will feature discussion of renewable energy legislation to be introduced in the 2011 Legislative Session. The tour will also feature industry & policy experts and state & local elected officials. Each individual event will be in Town Hall format with a discussion on job creation and local economic growth through renewable energy development, and a question and answers session from industry experts and State legislators. Click here for information on the tour's Space Coast stop on Feb. 12. (2/5)

Space-Based Solar Power Set for First Test (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
A team of scientists from several organizations will begin tests this spring on a space-based power generation technology using satellites. The technology would start by generating electricity from sunlight in space, convert the power into microwaves and then send it to Earth, the team said. The planned test will attempt to convert a strong electric current into microwaves and transmit them 10 meters away in a simulated outer space environment at Kyoto University.

The group comprises scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., IHI Corp. and Kyoto University. A successful test would likely accelerate the goal of putting a space-based power generation system into practical use by 2025. Space-based solar power generation, which is 10 times more efficient than earthbound generation, would be a major step forward in terms of fulfilling energy needs, as the strength of sunlight in space is about twice that on Earth.

Mitsubishi Electric has proposed what it calls the Solarbird project, in which 40 relatively small 200-meter solar power generating satellites would be launched. This could produce 1 million kilowatts of electricity, equivalent to a nuclear power plant. The Solarbird system would collect sunlight using reflecting mirrors fitted onto satellites in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator. After the electricity is generated, it would be converted into microwaves and transmitted to Earth. (1/23)

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