March 15, 2011

Another Commercial Imager Picks Atlas 5 for Launch (Source:
Having already won the competition to launch one commercial Earth-imaging satellite, the Atlas 5 rocket has been picked by the rival spacecraft company to deploy its bird too. Atlas 5 boosters will launch both next-generation craft in the coming years from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The first mission was announced last September by Virginia-based GeoEye, Inc., to launch the GeoEye 2 spacecraft in 2012. The new deal announced Tuesday will carry the WorldView 3 craft into orbit in 2014 for operator DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colorado.

Both satellites follow earlier ones launched atop Delta 2 rockets from Vandenberg. But as that venerable rocket heads into an uncertain future with no further launches planned beyond this autumn, the bigger Atlas is capturing new business. Atlas 5 has performed nine commercial missions since 2002 and these two Earth-imaging launches join the rocket's large manifest of government payloads. (3/15)

With Smart Camera Network, NASA Tracks Lights in Night Sky (Source: Smart Planet)
NASA is deploying a network of smart cameras across the United States to better understand where the meteoroids that enter the Earth’s atmosphere each day come from. About 100 tons of the stuff — mostly fragments of dust and gravel, but sometimes big rocks — enters the Earth’s atmosphere each day. Groups of smart cameras in NASA’s new meteor network triangulate the paths of the pieces of debris. Software then computes their orbits based on data collected by the cameras.

Other U.S. meteor networks exist, but the key distinction of NASA’s new one is that it’s automated: no one has to manually look at all the cameras’ data and calculate the orbits anymore. The All-Sky Fireball Network is currently comprised of three cameras, each about the size of a gumball machine. The plan is to expand to 15 devices east of the Mississippi River, then nationwide.

According to William Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, the network will allow the agency to have a record of every large meteroid that enters the atmosphere over certain parts of the U.S. — and know where it will make impact. It also allows him to collect data on meteor speed as a function of size, which helps NASA calibrate models used to design spacecraft. (3/15)

Report Forecasts Savings Resulting From Defense Spending Cuts (Source: Space Florida)
The federal government could save $862 billion by slashing the Pentagon's budget by 1% annually over the next decade, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. The scenario is one of 14 options projected in the report, which also estimated that limiting defense spending growth to 1.4% per year, one percentage point less than the current growth rate, could save about $286 billion between 2012 and 2021. (3/15)

April and June Launches On Schedule for Vandenberg (Source: Launch Alert)
An Atlas-5 is scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 3E on April 12 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying an NRO reconnaissance satellite. The launch time has not been announced. This will be followed no-earlier-than June 9 by a Delta-2 rocket, carrying Argentina's SAC-D scientific satellite (carrying NASA's Aquarius instrument). (3/15)

Space Florida Supports French and UK Aerospace Visits (Source: SPACErePORT)
On March 22, Space Florida and a collection of other sponsors will host a series of business-to-business meetings in Cocoa Beach between several French aerospace companies and potential U.S. partners. Click here to see a list of companies and to register for the meeting(s). The following week, Space Florida will host a space-focused trade mission in Cocoa Beach that will feature a seminar on UK-US space technology opportunities. Contact Tina Lange at Space Florida for details. (3/15)

NASA Finds Cocaine At Kennedy Space Center--Again (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA is investigating after cocaine was found in a facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Tuesday that 4.2 grams of a white powdery substance was found last week at the NASA facility, though he would not say where. It tested positive for cocaine.

It's not the first time cocaine has been found at the space center. A small amount was discovered in January 2010 in a secure part of a hangar that housed space shuttle Discovery. A spokeswoman from NASA's Inspector General Office in Washington declined to comment on how that case was resolved. (3/15)

'Age of the Android' Arrives: ISS Astronauts to Unpack NASA AI-Powered Space Robot (Source: Daily Galaxy)
NASA's new humanoid space robot will see first light tonight (March 15), when astronauts aboard the International Space Station finally pry open its closet-size packing crate where it's spent more than six months. Robonaut 2 — a prototype AI powered robotic assistant designed to help astronaut crews with chores and repairs — first arrived at the station aboard the space shuttle Discovery on Feb. 26. (3/15)

Boeing Tests “Pusher” Abort System for CST-100 Capsule (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests of the Bantam demonstration engine for an innovative “pusher” launch abort system on Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft. A pusher launch abort system “pushes” or propels a spacecraft toward safety if a launch abort is needed and, if unused for an abort, the propellant can be used for other portions of the mission, such in-space propulsion. The tests were conducted on a new test stand in the California desert.

“The successful engine test series was Boeing’s last major milestone under our current Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement with NASA. It validates our technical approach for a pusher launch abort system,” said Keith Reiley, deputy program manager of Boeing Commercial Crew programs. (3/15)

Congress Still Weighing Options for New Imaging Satellites (Source: Space News)
Two years after the White House announced a plan to buy a pair of large electro-optical imaging satellites based on a legacy design, Congress is still considering a less expensive though unproven alternative to meet defense and intelligence needs, U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said March 15.

A final decision on what type of imaging satellites the United States will pursue is likely to be made during the 2012 appropriation and authorization process currently underway, Ruppersberger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. The future of the nation’s electro-optical spy satellite architecture has been in limbo since the collapse of the optical portion of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)’s Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) program in 2005. (3/15)

ORBCOMM and SpaceX Set Plans to Launch Satellites on Next Falcon 9 Mission (Source:
ORBCOMM Inc. SpaceX announced plans to carry the first two ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites to orbit on the next Falcon 9 launch this year. The ORBCOMM OG2 satellites are being manufactured by an industry team led by Sierra Nevada Corp and Boeing's Argon ST subsidiary. A total of 18 ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites are currently in production. (3/15)

Top Five Companies in Aerospace/Defense with Highest Dividend Yield (Source: Zacks)
Below are the top five companies in the Aerospace & Defense industry as measured by dividend yield. Dividends can enhance returns for investors seeking income in addition to capital gains. Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) ranks first with a dividend yield of 3.8%; Raytheon (NYSE:RTN) ranks second with a dividend yield of 2.9%; and Elbit Systems (NASDAQ:ESLT) ranks third with a dividend yield of 2.9%. Not too far behind, Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) and General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) have dividend yields of 2.8% and 2.5%, respectively. (3/15)

Shuttle Deservicing Plan Includes Potential Transfer of OPF to X-37 (Source:
After landing, we will spend approximately a year preparing Discovery to be able to be safely accessed by the public. Notably, with one Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) soon to be handed over to what is rumored to be one of the USAF’s X-37Bs, only two OPFs will be available for what will be the deservicing of three orbiters, as Endeavour and Atlantis complete their final missions over the next few months.

As such, Discovery will undergo Down Mission Processing (DMP) work in OPF-2 for two months, during which time she will be stripped of her Orbital Manuevering System (OMS) pods and Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS), prior to being rolled over to High Bay 4 (HB-4) of the VAB. (3/15)

Space Industry Officials Hoping to Sway Lawmakers in Tallahassee (Source: Florida Today)
About 70 space industry representatives will visit with Florida lawmakers on Wednesday to urge them to remember the $8 billion industry that employs 84,000 workers statewide and faces the loss of a quarter or more of those jobs as the shuttle stops flying this year. "This is a tough time and that's why this is probably the most important year we've had," said Kevin Hoshstrasser, site director for Boeing Florida Operations and Florida Space Day 2011 co-chairman.

On the annual trip to Tallahassee, teams from the space industry hope to visit all 160 state lawmakers to encourage them to keep Florida friendly to the space industry, support worker retraining and to present a unified front in dealings with the federal government, which drives the U.S. space industry with dollars from NASA. "Other states are in tough competition with us," Hoshstrasser said. "We really need to face reality." (3/15)

SpaceX Plans Rocket Test in Texas (Source: KWTX)
If you think it sounds like a rocket is taking off in McGregor sometime this week, you aren't hearing things. SpaceX says it plans to test the nine engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket throughout the week. The tests involve firing up each engine and letting it run for either 10 or 90 seconds. (3/15)

Arianespace to Launch Argentina's Arsat-2 Satellite (Source: Arianespace)
ARSAT has once again selected Arianespace for its commercial launch services – this time to orbit the Argentinean satellite operator’s second satellite, Arsat-2. Arianespace has signed a contract with Argentine operator ARSAT (Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales Sociedad Anonima) to orbit its Arsat-2 satellite by the second half of 2013. Weighing about 2,900 kg at launch, Arsat-2 will be placed into geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane 5 or Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Center. (3/15)

Hoshstrasser: Return on Investment (Source: Florida Today)
With the space shuttle program coming to a close later this year and no clear direction on its replacement, Florida is facing an economic crisis with a ripple effect that will last for years to come. More than ever, the state needs to maintain its position as the nation’s number one place to do space business.

The state’s aerospace industry employs 84,000 workers from 1,900 statewide companies. The space industry alone represents an $8 billion business in Florida. 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. (3/15)

AIAA To Host Biennial Congressional Aerospace Policy Retreat (Source: AIAA)
On Friday, March 18, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will host its first biennial Congressional Aerospace Policy Retreat. This inaugural event will brief Members of Congress, congressional staffers, and the media, on a wide variety of aerospace topics, including the role of the U.S. space program in the “post-shuttle” era.

The retreat is offered in partnership with the George Washington University Space Policy Institute, the Satellite Industry Association, the Space Enterprise Council, the Space Foundation, and the Space Transportation Association. The event is free and open to the public, and will take place on Friday, March 18, starting at 9:00 a.m.

Offering an overview of America’s aerospace policy, speakers for the event include: Charles F. Bolden Jr., NASA administrator; George C. Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation, FAA; Ken Bowersox, SpaceX; Brewster Shaw Jr., The Boeing Company; Andreas Diekmann, European Space Agency, among many others. (3/15)

TripAlertz Offers Space Flight (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Here’s one out-of-this world discount you won’t find on Groupon. TripAlertz Inc. emerges from stealth mode this week, promoting a flight to space which executives hope will launch the start-up to cosmic growth. Founded last year and seeded by Conscious Living Ventures, White Elm Capital, and a handful of angel investors, TripAlertz is a Groupon for travel with a thick layer of social networking on top.

The more people who sign up, the cheaper the hotel, cruise or other deal becomes. In the case of the space trip – a 30 minute journey to the edge of space for which XCOR Aersospace Inc. plans to charge $95,000 – the price drops to $85,000 once 10 or more people sign up. Unlike Groupon, there’s no limit to the number of people who can participate in the deal. (3/15)

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