March 1, 2011

Earth to Shuttle: Pilot Eric Boe, Please Call Your Florida Grandmother! (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gladys Roscoe, 93, is waiting for a very long-distance call. She's hoping her grandson, astronaut Eric Boe, will give her a jingle now that he and the rest of the space shuttle Discovery crew have docked at the International Space Station. She just wants to make sure he's OK. And she doesn't have access to a computer or to NASA TV to find out for herself. Boe, 46, an Air Force colonel, is the shuttle pilot. He earned his stripes as a good grandson when he surprised Roscoe with a call during his last shuttle mission, in 2008. (3/1)

Solar Flare Eruption Recorded By NASA (Source: Huffington Post)
A large and stunning solar flare was captured on camera by NASA this past week. According to the BBC, the eruption lasted about 90 minutes, and was the latest in a series of sunstorms. NASA caught the flare in extreme ultraviolet light, using high definition and a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, making the sense of motion appear seamless. The eruptions created a "tendril of plasma" (a solar prominence), which can be seen in the video. Click here to see the video. (3/1)

Commercial Manned Launch Services Awaken (Source: AFCEA Signal)
NASA is betting that industry can build a space transportation infrastructure. The end of the space shuttle program is the signal for NASA to turn to the private sector for human access to orbit. The space agency that built a series of manned spacecraft to blaze a trail to the moon now is placing its bets on several commercial space technology companies to provide entry for humans into low earth orbit. This new direction for the government space agency has several goals. First, it seeks to establish a domestic manned orbital capability to reach the International Space Station. After the shuttle program ends this year, the only way for spacefarers to reach the space station for the next few years will be through Russian space agency launches.

Another goal is to spur commercial development of space utilization. With two or more commercial firms offering manned orbital access, other space-based industries could begin operation in orbit, secure in the knowledge that their access is not limited to government launch vehicles and spacecraft. Several companies already are planning space-based facilities with functions ranging from research and development to tourism. (3/1)

What Obama and Congress Should Do for Spaceflight & Space Exploration (Source:
If you could ask President Obama and Congress to do one thing related to your field that would be for the good of the economy and the country, what would it be and why? Here are the replies of several space industry leaders. (3/1)

Space Walk of Fame Planned to Honor Shuttle Workers (Source: NSCFL)
The Space Walk of Fame needs your help with the Shuttle Monument in Titusville's Space View Park. Organizers now have $85,000 reserved for the monument. For $100 the contributor can chose an autographed picture from astronaut Bob Crippen or astronaut Fred Haise. For $200 or more we will send both autographed pictures. Engravings for active or retired space workers will cost $100. Donations can be sent to the U.S. Space Walk of Fame at 4 Main Street, Titusville, FL 32796. (3/1)

XPC Concept Would Convert Atlas Strap-On Booster Into Suborbital Payload Carrier (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance is working with Special Aerospace Services (with offices at Space Florida's campus) on a concept that would augment an Atlas-5 orbital mission with an auxiliary suborbital heavy-lift capability. Imagine taking one of the strap-on solid rocket boosters (SRB) attached to the Atlas-5 and swapping it with a payload cannister of the same size and shape. Like the SRB, the eXternal Payload Carrier (XPC) would be jettisoned from the core vehicle at altitude (or it can remain attached), providing a substantial amount of microgravity exposure for a large volume of experiments and test articles. (3/1)

State Senators File Suit Against Governor Over High-Speed Rail (Source: Florida Today)
Two state senators have sued Gov. Rick Scott to force him to accept $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail in Florida. Sen. Thad Altman, a Republican (and chair of the Senate's space committee) from Melbourne, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, filed the emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court with the assistance of their attorney, Clifton McClelland Jr. of Melbourne. Scott announced two weeks ago that he would reject the money. He argued against federal deficit spending and said he doubted the ridership projections for the project. Further, he said the state could be responsible for billions of dollars in costs if the high-speed rail program failed. "This is a clear reach of the executive branch," Altman said. "The governor acted outside of his constitutional powers." (3/1)

Groups Offer New Suborbital Space Services in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
Three Florida-based companies participating at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Orlando are offering alternative approaches to accommodating suborbital research and providing access to simulated microgravity flights aboard commercial aircraft. The Tampa/St. Pete area companies include: Astronauts4Hire (recruiting and training private sector astronauts for commercial space contracting); 4Frontiers (developing a new service for air-launched suborbital rockets); and Aurora Aerospace (offering small-aircraft microgravity rides, similar to the service offered by Zero-Gravity Corp. (3/1)

Discovery's Last Mission Extended for a Day (Source: AIA)
NASA has approved a request to extend the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station by one day. The extra day will allow crews more time to outfit a new storage model and to possibly perform a photo fly-around to capture views of the complex with the shuttle docked, along with Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships. (3/1)

XCOR Considering Florida Manufacturing for Lynx (Source: Florida Today)
With the help of state incentives, Mojave, Calif.-based XCOR Aerospace, one of the leading developers of suborbital spacecraft, is considering launching and landing one of its two-seater Lynx rocket planes from KSC’s shuttle landing strip and establishing production in Brevard County. Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, recently won approval to triple incentives available to XCOR from $1 million to $3 million.

The company says work assembling the Lynx — which could fly multiple times daily — and engines built for other rockets could create 340 local jobs over five years, and attract entities that fly suborbital payloads. “We certainly feel that such a transition will occur as well to attract things like the small satellite manufacturers and the researchers that will be using our vehicles, and others once we are located there in Brevard,” XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson told Space Florida’s board of directors Feb. 18. (3/1)

Atlas V X-37B OTV-2 Florida Launch Set for March 4 (Source: USAF)
The 45th Space Wing is set to launch an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 on March 4. The rocket will carry an Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). The launch window for this Air Force mission opens at 3:39 p.m. EST. The X-37B will provide a flexible space test platform to conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment where it will need to function. (3/1)

Space Hotel, Commercial Flights Coming Soon (Source: WKMG)
It's the beginning of a new era in space flight. "You're going to actually see a new American suborbital space vehicles flying into space," George Whiteside, CEO of Virgin Galactic said Monday. It won't just be scientists and astronauts on board. Instead you will have a chance to fly. "When you and I get to go to space, we hope Virgin Galactic will be the one to take you there," Whiteside said. Whiteside said with the space shuttle program retiring, the future of local space travel is launching commercial flights. (3/1)

In Historic First, Three Scientists to Fly on Commercial Spacecraft (Source: CSF)
Three scientists, including a former NASA executive, will become some of the first scientists to fly on a commercial spacecraft — and they will fly multiple times — under the terms of two funded agreements announced between the nonprofit Southwest Research Institute and two commercial spacecraft providers, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.

The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a nonprofit research institute with annual revenue exceeding $500 million, will purchase a total of 8 to 17 scientific research flights on two vehicles – Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx Mark I – to fly both scientists and scientific payloads to the upper atmosphere and space. The scientists selected for the flights are Dr. Alan Stern, Dr. Dan Durda, and Dr. Cathy Olkin, and the science payloads will include biomedical, microgravity science, and astronomical imaging projects.

All three scientists selected have trained for suborbital spaceflight aboard zero-G aircraft, in NASTAR centrifuges and aboard Starfighter F-104 jet fighters in the last year. Dr. Stern, the former head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, stated, “We at SwRI are very strong believers in the transformational power of commercial, next-generation suborbital vehicles to advance many kinds of research." (3/1)

Reality Check: Do Oscar Losers Get Free Space Tourist Flights? (Source:
It's tough to feel sorry for the actors who failed to take home an Oscar at last night's Academy Awards ceremony. After all, the losers still have money, looks, fame, adulation and — if some reports were to be believed — a free trip to outer space. The New York Post reported that commercial spaceflight firm Virgin Galactic apparently gave a free orbital spaceflight on its SpaceShipTwo craft to each non-winning Oscar nominee. The tickets — which would be worth at least $200,000 — were reportedly stuffed into consolation "swag bags," along with the usual jars of caviar and face cream.

Other media outlets, including People magazine, picked up on the story. The only problem is, it's not true. "I can confirm that there was a model of the VG spaceship given to the Oscar VIPs, not a flight," Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides. (3//1)

Meteorites 'Could Have Carried Nitrogen to Earth' (Source: BBC)
A meteorite found in Antarctica could lend weight to the argument that life on Earth might have been kick-started from space, scientists are claiming. Chemical analysis of the meteorite shows it to be rich in the gas ammonia. It contains the element nitrogen, found in the proteins and DNA that form the basis of life as we know it.

The researchers say meteorites like this could have showered the early Earth, providing the missing ingredients for life. Details of the study by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (3/1)

Suborbital Industry Sells its Potential (Source: Florida Today)
After the shuttle's retirement this year, a tourist or scientist could launch from Kennedy Space Center before another crew of NASA astronauts does. The flights would be suborbital, on private spacecraft whose operators say could be ready to launch within a year or two and would fly customers far beyond wealthy thrill seekers. The nascent suborbital industry also holds potential for microgravity research and testing technologies that will help reduce the cost of space travel, proponents said at a UCF conference.

"I like to think that it's 1979 and the PC is just about to appear in the next year, and we're at one of those early conferences in Silicon Valley," said Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Southwest Research Institute and a former head of NASA science programs. "I think the power of suborbital for transforming spaceflight is something similar." The industry will also play a role in transforming the Space Coast after the shuttle program ends later this year, as leaders work to diversify the area's economy beyond the boom-and-bust cycle of NASA human spaceflight programs. (3/1)

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