March 10, 2011

No Shuttle Bid for Colorado Museum (Source: Denver Post)
The space shuttle Discovery landed Wednesday for the last time, and some 29 museums are competing for the right to display the world's most-flown spacecraft. Wings Over the Rockies Ar & Space Museum isn't one of them, curator Matthew Burchette says.

"Sure, we'd love to get it, we just don't have the $20 million" that would be required to cover the cost of preparing the craft for display and transporting it, he said. NASA's shuttle program is coming to an end. This means three surviving space-flown shuttles — Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis — and Enterprise, a landing-test craft that never went to space, will become museum pieces. (3/10)

Virginia Lawmakers Increase Funding for Tech-Based Economic Development (Source: SSTI)
Virginia lawmakers have dedicated funding to R&D commercialization, SBIR matching grants, and funding for early stage equity investments. To help reach a goal of adding 100,000 college graduates to the state over the next 15 years, lawmakers also passed the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011, providing enrollment-based funding to increase access to higher education and enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study.

Lawmakers approved $10 million for an Economic Development Incentive payment, which includes $6 million for the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) to authorize grants to technology firms, loans to construct wet-labs, and for the SBIR matching program ($2 million of which is earmarked for matching Phase I SBIR awards from the National Institutes of Health), and $4 million in new funding for the Center for Innovative Technology Gap Fund to provide seed-stage equity investments in Virginia-based technology and science firms.

Another $5 million was appropriated to seed a new R&D tax credit program approved by lawmakers earlier in the session. Under the bill, companies can claim a 15 percent credit for qualified research, increasing to 20 percent if the research is done in partnership with a Virginia university. The program is capped at $5 million per year. (3/10)

Abu Dhabi Heads for the Final Frontier (Source: The National)
The final countdown has begun for the launch of Abu Dhabi's space program. As early as March 30, engineers at mission control, housed in a sleek, curved building east of the capital, will reach the next frontier with Arianespace's launch of the Y1A satellite. Once in orbit, the $600 million satellite will be the centrepiece of strategy to make Abu Dhabi an operations center for the next generation of space technology.

"This is a great project for us at Yahsat, for Mubadala, for Abu Dhabi, and the country," said Jassim al Zaabi, the chief executive of Yahsat, the firm launching the Y1A. "This company is going to be 100 percent operated by Yahsat. It's not a matter of just building and watching the satellites. The pride that we'll have as a team is being able to operate the system in-house."

Yahsat is owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company controlled by the Abu Dhabi Government. And while much attention is focused on the impending launch, it is only one of Abu Dhabi's space-industry ventures. The emirate's Government has a majority stake in the Thuraya satellite phone company. Aabar Investments, also government-owned, holds a 32 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, and the capital could serve as a spaceport if Virgin Galactic opts to build one in the region. (3/10)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Plans to Attend Husband's Shuttle Launch (Source: ABC)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, just two months after receiving a gunshot wound to the head, plans to attend next month's launch of the space shuttle piloted by her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. Arrangements are being made to host Giffords in the family viewing area at the Kennedy Space Center. Giffords continues to recover at a Texas rehabilitation facility, where she was taken after she was shot in the head during an alleged assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz., in January. (3/10)

Rep. Adams Pledges Continued Support for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district includes KSC, pledged her continued support for human spaceflight in a statement following Discovery's landing. “As this era comes to an end, it is more important than ever that we don’t lose sight of NASA’s human spaceflight program, and that is why I will continue my efforts in the House to keep human space flight as a top priority of NASA,” she said. (3/9)

NASA Unveiling New Rocket Integration Facility At Virginia Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA will unveil its new rocket integration facility at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 22. The Horizontal Integration Facility will support medium-class mission capabilities. The first customer to use the facility will be Orbital Sciences Corp. with its Taurus II launch vehicle. (3/10)

Florida Amendment to "Economic Emergencies" Statute Could Cover Shuttle Impacts (Source: SPACErePORT)
In addition to Space Florida's established agenda of space policy and economic development issues in Tallahassee, a new initiative has surfaced to adjust an obscure state statute focused on "economic emergencies" so that it can be applied to the situation on the state's Space Coast. Chapter 290.053 currently allows the Governor to waive the eligibility criteria for the state's economic development incentive programs to "provide economic relief" in "small communities" impacted by an economic emergency. Space industry advocates are proposing an amendment to Ch. 290.053 to add "financially distressed" communities like Brevard County (which doesn't qualify as a "small community").

This change would boost efforts by Space Florida, Enterprise Florida, Workforce Florida, and similar local agencies, to support the expansion and relocation of aerospace and high tech companies to the Space Coast. The Governor would be required to consult with the Senate President and House Speaker. (3/10)

Space Florida Partners Begin Work on KSC Exploration Park Site (Source: Space Florida)
Site work has begun on Exploration Park, the high-tech research and office park being developed by The Pizzuti Companies in partnership with Space Florida. Initial work includes clearing the initial phase's 60-acre site, transporting fill dirt and initial site grading. Work on this phase of the project is expected to take approximately eight weeks to complete.

“We are thrilled to see the park making progress and look forward to showcasing this unique offering to customers,” noted Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “We’re excited to begin this portion of the project and to take the next steps toward creating a world-class office and technology park,” Pizzuti's Tom Harmer said. “We are actively engaged in discussions with a number of potential tenants as we prepare the site for the start of vertical construction.”

Pizzuti is serving as Master Developer of Exploration Park in a public/private partnership with Space Florida, the State’s aerospace economic development organization. Civil engineering services are being provided by Jones Edmunds and Titusville-based RUSH Construction is the project’s general contractor. The fill dirt being used to develop the first phase of the Park has been donated by Port Canaveral as part of a cooperative agreement between Space Florida and the Port. (3/10)

Florida Space Day Comes to Tallahassee (Source: Space Florida)
Florida’s space industry will visit Tallahassee on March 10 to participate in Florida Space Day and share the challenges the industry faces in ensuring Florida remains at the forefront of the nation’s space program. The state’s $8 billion aerospace industry employs 84,000 workers from 1,900 statewide companies. As the space shuttle completes its final flight this year, the job losses could reach 21,000 direct and indirect jobs losses that represent a highly skilled workforce across Florida. Click here for information. (3/10)

Florida's Avera Motors Becomes Rivian Automotive (Source Florida Today)
The up-and-coming automobile company originally known as Avera Motors has a new name. The new moniker, which followed a legal threat from South Korean auto giant Hyuandi Motor Co., is now Rivian Automotive. “We selected a powerful, timeless name that illustrates who we are as a company, how we blend with the natural environment and what we seek to do within the industry,”said R.J. Scaringe, the founder and chief executive officer of Rivian.

Based in Rockledge, Rivian engineers are producing ultra-efficient automobile that many people hope will be built in Brevard County. Hyuandi said the previous name “Avera” infringed on Hyundai’s trademarked use of “Azera,” one its models. Instead of using its valuable financial resources on a lengthy legal battle with Hyuandi, Scaringe opted to rename the company. Editor's Note: Rivian boasts its use of space-related materials (a light-weight "spaceframe") and is supported by Space Florida and local aerospace workers. (3/10)

An Honorable End to a Noble but Flawed Program (Source: National Post)
The space shuttles are magnificent machines, triumphs of human engineering. But despite their symbolic identification with cutting-edge technology, the shuttles were developed in the late 1960s. Filled with optimism about the future of spaceflight, NASA wanted a space truck, a vehicle that could haul cargo and crew up into the orbiting space stations and science outposts people were confident would soon be circling the Earth.

The advantage of the shuttle was going to be the fact that it could roar into space, drop off crew or cargo (be it scientific, military or commercial) and then return to Earth, land, and do it all over again days later. It didn’t work out that way. Though the shuttle is indeed reusable as hoped, the brutal forces of reentry are so devastating that shuttles require months of repair after each flight. This has driven the cost-per-flight far beyond what would have enabled viable orbital industry.

Instead of an all-purpose truck for orbit, NASA's vehicle could be used sparingly and wasn’t ideally suited to either of its two tasks. The shuttle is an inefficient transporter of humans because of how much space is given over to hauling cargo, and the design of the shuttle (it sits next to its rockets and fuel tanks during launch, not on top of them) introduce risk of the kind of disaster that destroyed the Columbia. And as a cargo vehicle, its many systems designed to support a human crew are simply wasted weight and space. Having invested enormous funds into building the fleet, only to then discover their limitations, NASA had painted themselves into a budgetary corner. (3/10)

Beam It Up (Source: Economist)
Laser beams can deliver energy to machines through thin air. This might be a good way to power drone aircraft or a space elevator. THE Pelican, a small, remotely controlled helicopter drone weighing less than a kilogram, is powered by a battery that provides about 20 minutes’ flying. And yet, one evening last October, the Pelican took off, rose ten meters and hovered throughout the night. It was brought down in the morning only because the exhibition hall near Seattle, where it was airborne, was about to open for business.

This remarkable feat was achieved with the ingenious use of a laser beam. The laser, aimed from the ground at photovoltaic cells mounted on the Pelican’s underside, charged the chopper’s battery, keeping her aloft for an unprecedented 12 hours and 27 minutes. An optical-tracking system kept the laser beam on target, creating a “scientifically exciting, yet a little boring” experience. (3/10)

Celestial Storm Warnings (Source: New York Times)
Weather is often in the headlines. But largely unnoticed last month was the weather that forced airlines flying the polar route between the United States and Asia to detour south over Alaska. This unusual routing was a response to a “space weather” event — an enormous ejection of charged gas from the Sun capable of scrambling terrestrial electronic instruments.

Such events can happen at any time but tend to become more severe and more frequent in roughly 11-year cycles. The peak of the current cycle is expected in 2011-12. What’s especially significant about this is that the world’s reliance on electronic technology — and therefore vulnerability to space weather — has increased substantially since the last peak a decade ago.

From sporadic solar flares to ethereal shimmering aurora, manifestations of severe space weather have the power to adversely affect the integrity of the world’s power grids, the accuracy and availability of GPS, the reliability of satellite-delivered telecommunications and the utility of radio and over-the-horizon radar. (3/10)

Northrop Grumman Continues Support for Zero-G Teacher Flights (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The Northrop Grumman Foundation is accepting teacher applications for the 2011 Weightless Flights of Discovery program, a unique professional development initiative that places teachers on microgravity flights to test Newton's Laws of Motion and energize students during their formative middle school years.

The Foundation has selected two locations for this year's flights: Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12, 2011, and Los Angeles on Sept. 26, 2011. To learn more about the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program, please visit (3/10)

After the Shuttle's "Blind Alley", What Next for Space Travel? (Source: Adelaide Now)
When the space shuttle program was first announced in 1972 by US President Richard Nixon, it was intended to literally shuttle goods and people to-and-from space every fortnight. It is a target it has never come close to meeting. Brett Biddington, the author of two reports on space activities for the Kokoda Foundation - a Canberra-based think tank - says that a century from now, the space shuttle program will be regarded as a "blind alley" that was not particularly successful but from which we have learned.

He thinks the next 15-20 years will be characterized by an emphasis on robots and increased international cooperation in an effort to save money. "I think the future for solar and planet exploration for the foreseeable future is unmanned robotic expeditions," Mr Biddington says. (3/10)

Complementary Technology Could Solve GPS Vulnerability (Source: EurekAlert)
Solutions to potential GPS vulnerabilities include eLORAN (Enhanced Long Range Navigation), a revamped version of the 1950's LORAN terrestrial radio navigation systems used extensively by the US military which have been brought into the digital age and demonstrated as an ideal accompaniment to GPS. eLoran uses high-power, land-based transmitters, operating on low frequencies. The GAARDIAN project announced hugely encouraging results for the first ever trial of joint GPS/eLORAN receivers which tested their ability to detect anomalies caused by natural effects such as solar weather, and GNSS interference.

Editor's Note: It seems that the U.S. military has come to a few conclusions: 1) GPS signals (and the weapons and operations that rely on them) remain vulnerable to disruption; 2) Military-oriented disruptions to GPS can have substantial negative impacts on essential non-military users; 3) The U.S. cannot stop the increasing number of proposed SatNav systems proposed by Europe, China, Russia, India, etc.; and 4) These non-U.S. SatNav systems can serve as redundant backup systems to GPS, making it more difficult to disrupt the military capability. (3/10)

Space Exploration Equals Money Well Spent, Always (Source: Palm Beach Daily News)
Today, I’m wearing my Star Trek The Next Generation Communicator Pin in honor of the Shuttle Discovery’s final touch down. It’s a replica of the gold and silver little ditty that Captain James T. Kirk and his crew wore on their uniforms and tapped every time they wanted to connect with one another. Wish it really worked. If it did, I’d telegraph to all how important America’s space program has been and will be in the future.

Plenty of folks think space exploration is a waste of our tax dollars. Many think NASA's budget ought to be cut to the bone. Current budget proposals do cut them and leave NASA with a 2011 budget of about $18.6 billion. If you think that’s unreasonable, consider this: It takes between $800 million and $2 billion dollars to bring a new drug into the market place. That includes R&D, patents, etc. etc.

So which would you prefer? A dozen or so new drugs with so many side effects you wonder how in the world they got FDA approval that then frequently get yanked from the market for one reason or another, or, trips into outer space where the tools necessary to do so result in very practical at-home everyday products we all can use? I’m going with the practical stuff. (3/10)

Army Studied Moon Base Requirement in 1959 (Source: Astronautix)
"There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon. The lunar outpost is required to develop and protect potential United States interests on the moon; to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the moon, for further exploration into space and for military operations on the moon if required; and to support scientific investigations on the moon."

"Initially the outpost will be of sufficient size and contain sufficient equipment to permit the survival and moderate constructive activity of a minimum number of porsonne1 (about 10 - 20) on a sustained basis. It must be designed for expansion of facilities, resupply, and rotation of personnel to ensure maximum extension of sustained occupancy. It should be designed to be self-sufficient for as long as possible without outside support." Click here to see the 1959 study. (3/10)

Weather Looks Great for Delta IV on Friday (Source: Florida Today)
Despite miserable conditions today, near-perfect weather is expected for Friday's planned pre-sunset launch of a spy satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is targeting a 5:57 p.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 37, flying a National Reconnaissance Office payload. The lastest Air Force forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions Friday and into the weekend if the launch is delayed. (3/10)

Boeing Starts Inmarsat Series (Source: Aviation Week)
Boeing has completed the preliminary design review (PDR) on the first of three Inmarsat-5 high-power Ka-band spacecraft it is building for the London-based mobile satellite services provider. Boeing is a longtime provider for Inmarsat, having built its Marisat and Inmarsat-2 series; but the new Inmarsat-5 series are the first in which all 89 transponders are dedicated to Ka-band. The spacecraft are based on the Boeing 702HP satellite bus and form the backbone of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network, which is to provide broadband speeds of 50 mbps. (3/10)

Russian, Korean Satellites Nearly Collide (Source: Space News)
A South Korean weather satellite had to be moved to avoid a collision with a Russian military satellite, Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported March 11. Russia’s Raduga 1-7 came within 3 kilometers of the Korean Cheollian satellite, orbiting at 128.2 degrees east, between March 7 and March 8, said the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, which quickly revised the Cheollian’s orbit. The abrupt movement of Raduga 1-7 also forced two Japanese satellites to be moved. Russia has not yet responded to Japanese and Korean requests for an explanation. (3/10)

'Skylon' Spaceplane Aims to Fill Void Left by Shuttles (Source: CNN)
A new chapter in space travel may not be light years away if a groundbreaking design for a fully reusable spacecraft can get off the ground. "Skylon" may only be at the concept stage but it could usher in a new era of space exploration and discovery, says its UK-based designers, Reaction Engines Ltd. Key to the Skylon proposal is a hydrogen fuel-powered rocket engine called SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) designed by the company's managing director Alan Bond.

SABRE is a "combined cycle rocket engine with two operational modes." Says Mark Hempsell"The engine starts by burning hydrogen with air and finishes up burning hydrogen with liquid oxygen like a shuttle engine." This all happens in the same rocket engine chamber, Hempsell says, allowing Skylon to take off and land in a similar way to conventional aircraft. Click here to read the article. (3/10)

Ohio Aerospace Day Highlights State's Global Leadership in Aerospace (Source: Ohio Business Dev. Coalition)
As aerospace industry growth continues, businesses need an ideal environment that combines a business-friendly climate, deep industry knowledge base, a well-educated workforce, dedicated universities and research institutions, and most importantly a strong supply chain to get products to market.

As the state celebrates is third annual Ohio Aerospace Day on March 10, its goal is to celebrate the achievements of the state's aerospace industry, while increasing the awareness of the importance of this industry and its ability for the state's future economic growth. Ohio lawmakers dramatically revamped the state's tax structure, creating the lowest rates in the Midwest and an extremely profit-friendly business climate for companies that locate in the state.

Ohio's aerospace jobs rank 1st among the 12 comparable states in private sector aerospace and defense manufacturing value-added, nearly double the national average. More than 66,000 specialized aerospace and aviation workers--double the national average--provide Ohio with an abundant pool of professionals to effectively meet industry needs. (3/10)

Editorial: Manned Spaceflight Takes Back Seat to Global-Warming Hysteria (source: Washington Times)
The return to Earth of Discovery marked the beginning of an uncertain future for NASA. Following a half-century that challenged the boundaries of human achievement, President Obama has dramatically lowered his expectations. Instead of traditional space exploration missions, some commercial-spaceflight development, an absurd obsession with global-warming research and - bizarrely - Muslim outreach dominate the administration’s attention. The crash of NASA’s Glory climate satellite on liftoff last week was an apt symbol of the dismal state of an agency adrift. (3/10)

'Coalition to Save Our GPS' Launched (Source: PR Newswire)
Representatives from a wide variety of industries and companies have form the "Coalition to Save Our GPS" to resolve a serious threat to the Global Positioning System (GPS) – a national utility upon which millions of Americans rely every day. The threat stems from a recent highly unusual decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant a conditional waiver allowing the dramatic expansion of terrestrial use of the satellite spectrum immediately neighboring that of GPS, potentially causing severe interference to millions of GPS receivers.

The conditional waiver was granted to a company called LightSquared. The unusual waiver granted in January to LightSquared by the FCC allows it to use its satellite spectrum for high-powered ground-based broadband transmissions if the company can demonstrate that harmful interference could be avoided. The usual FCC process of conducting extensive testing followed by approvals was not followed in this instance. Instead, the process was approve first, then test. Additional safeguards are needed. Click here. (3/10)

NASA to Upgrade Deep Space Network (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
After recent studies, NASA has decided to upgrade its 40-year-old Deep Space Network. This global network of antennas is now sending commands to numerous robotic spacecraft, such as NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers and the two Voyager spacecraft. The Deep Space Network is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Because NASA's fleet of robotic spacecraft requires continuous communication, there are three communications complexes strategically positioned around Earth: in California, Spain, and Australia.

Each complex consists of several large antenna dishes and ultra-sensitive receiving systems, ranging in size from 70 meters wide (320 feet) to 11 meters (36 feet). Very high power transmitters of nearly a half-million watts tell the spacecraft to turn on computers, activate instruments and make course corrections. The 70-meter antennas are more than 40 years old and are showing signs of surface deterioration from constant use. (3/10)

Juno Probe Gets Final Tests in Preparation for Jupiter Mission (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin is conducting final tests on Juno, the solar-powered probe scheduled to take off Aug. 5 for a five-year mission to Jupiter. With 400 solar panels spanning 66 feet, Juno will be able to operate under solar power at a greater distance from the sun than any previous spacecraft. (3/10)

Scientists: If Aliens Ever Land on Earth, They Will Be Robots (Source:
In civilizations advanced enough to travel between the stars, it is quite likely that machines have supplanted their biological creators, some scientists argue. Automatons – unlike animals – could withstand the hazards to living tissue and the strain on social fabrics posed by a long interstellar voyage. Furthermore, nonliving beings would not have to worry all that much about the environmental conditions at their destination – including whether the planet is hot or cold, bacteria-plagued or sterile, has oxygen in the air or is airless — machines would not care. (3/10)

Spaceships Like Shuttle a Big Mistake (Source: CRI)
Recognition, admiration and a noticeable feeling of regret are what people read from media reports concerning the final landing of the U.S. shuttle, Discovery, a legendary spaceship that will soon be decommissioned after 27 years of service. But not all feedback have been positive. In one case, the world's most-flown spaceship and the space program it represented have been called, "the biggest mistake in the U.S. space program that has cost the human race 40 years of progress." The remark comes from an expert.

"It is definitely the end of an era and an end we are happy to see come." Dr. Lee Valentine, executive vice president of Space Studies Institute, California, said. Valentine said the shuttle design was extremely expensive "political compromise" and can only be partly re-used, costing the human race 40 years of progress. (3/10)

Space Junk Could Completely Cut Off Our Access to Space (Source: Discovery)
It can be very easy for the untrained eye to assume that the occasional streaks seen whizzing through the night sky are natural meteors. However, it turns out that every year, approximately 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of man-made meteors plummet through the atmosphere and are most likely misidentified as natural pieces of space rock.

It's a worrying prospect, but with increasing levels of space junk, it's not just us down here on the surface that are at increasing risk of some of those pieces of junk actually hitting the ground (although the vast majority of space junk is tiny and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere). Astronauts in orbit are incredibly vulnerable to the stuff and if unchecked, we may eventually become cut off from space by our own celestial equivalent of barbed wire. (3/10)

NASA Programs to Fight Space Junk Threat Under Review (Source:
To better meet the growing threat of space junk around Earth, the National Research Council is taking a close look at NASA's orbital debris programs to suggest improvements. The so-called emptiness of space is in fact far from empty, at least in the neighborhood surrounding Earth, which is becoming more and more crowded with functioning and defunct spacecraft. Naturally occurring small meteoroids, trash such as spent rocket stages, as well as debris created by collisions between satellites, adds to the mess.

The growing detritus poses a danger to all spacecraft orbiting Earth, including manned spaceships like the space shuttle and the International Space Station. So the NRC has established a special committee to review the steps NASA is taking to face the space junk threat. "It's a worldwide problem – everybody who does operations in space is creating debris," NASA's Gene Stansbery said. Stansbery is the program manager for NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (3/10)

Oops! Hopes for Alien Earth Go Poof (Source: MSNBC)
I should have known it was too good to be true: Last month, it looked as if a world known as KOI 326.01 was the best hope among the Kepler mission's 1,235 candidates to be a second Earth. It was thought to be a bit smaller than Earth, and even better, it was located in a "habitable zone." That's the area of space surrounding a star where water could plausibly exist in liquid form. Those two characteristics — smaller than Earth, and in the habitable zone — put KOI 326.01 in a class by itself.

No more, unfortunately. A fact-checker at Discover magazine, Mara Grunbaum, called up the Kepler team for more information about the planet, presumably because it was going to be featured in a future issue. Members of the team, including San Jose State University's Natalie Batalha, double-checked their figures and determined that the planet candidate is actually somewhat warmer and much larger than originally estimated.

That's the way it goes with these Kepler candidates: As more observations are gathered, checked and double-checked, the basic statistics for any particular candidate may need to be revised. And in some cases, the "candidate" may not exist at all. Instead, the supposed planetary detection may turn out to be merely the effect of two stars passing in front of each other. (3/10)

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