March 17, 2011

Adler has Soaring Plans for Space Shuttle (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Hoping to create a little last-minute hoopla for its cause, Adler Planetarium on Thursday unveiled plans for a dramatic lakefront glass pavilion that it proposes to build if it obtains one of the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles. The Adler is one of 20 museums in the running to get one of two orbiters up for grabs, Endeavor and Atlantis. “Chicago is the best place in the Middle West for a shuttle,” said Adler's president after revealing an elaborate “concept” drawing of the kind of building the city and Adler would build to house a shuttle and related exhibits. (3/17)

European Space Agency to Go It Alone on Next Generation Space Mission (Source: ESA)
The European Space Agency has postponed its selection of a large space mission to launch in the 2020-2021 timeframe, following advice from NASA that the US is unlikely to be able to contribute its share of funding to the winning selection. The selection of the so-called L-class mission is now set for February 2012. “The decision was made very reluctantly,” says David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at ESA Headquarters. “NASA could not meet our timetable to launch.” (3/17)

On Saturn's Largest Moon, It's Raining Methane (Source: Wall Street Journal)
When the weather forecast calls for April showers on Titan, the clouds of Saturn's largest moon rain methane, scientists reported Thursday. As winter on the mysterious smoggy moon recently turned to spring, researchers using an infrared camera aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected signs of a "substantial" spring rain of the liquefied natural gas sprinkling across vast fields of dunes near Titan's equator. (3/17)

Arianespace Subsidies, Space Station Extension Win ESA Backing (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to commit Europe to continue participating in the international space station through 2020, and to paying 240 million euros ($318 million) over two years to support the Arianespace commercial launch consortium and the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket. ESA’s two biggest contributors, France and Germany, were initially on opposite sides of the two issues. (3/17)

ILS Threatens Protest of Arianespace Subsidy (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch provider International Launch Services (ILS) on March 17 said it is weighing a protest of European governments’ decision to award fresh price supports to Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium, characterizing them as an “inordinate and direct subsidization of...commercial operations.”

Virginia-based ILS, which markets Russia’s Proton heavy-lift vehicle and is Arianespace’s principal competitor in the commercial market, issued a statement following the decision by the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) to grant Arianespace a two-year aid package totaling 250 million euros ($318 million), with the implicit promise of continued support starting in 2013. (3/17)

Iridium Plans To Monitor ADS-B From Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Tracking aircraft from space using payloads hosted on Iridium’s planned constellation of 66 next-generation communication satellites is a concept that is rapidly gaining momentum. Rather than waiting for a government customer to define the requirement and develop the payload, Iridium is pulling together a venture that will fund and operate a global aircraft monitoring service, selling the data to the FAA and air navigation service providers.

The concept builds on the fact that Europe, the U.S. and other countries are mandating that all aircraft be equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) so they automatically report their satellite-based position and other data to ground stations and other aircraft. By monitoring ADS-B reports from space, Iridium Next will be able to extend the system’s reach out over the oceans, as well as provide a back-up to the ground-based radios being installed by the FAA and others. (3/17)

12 American Astronauts to Visit ISS Between 2014 and 2016 (Source: Voice of Russia)
According to the concluded agreement, between 2014 and June 2016, 12 American astronauts will be taken to and from the ISS. These will be regular flights for the rotation of the ISS crew. There are four Soyuz spacecraft launched every year for this purpose, with each one carrying three people. The ISS has a permanent crew of six people, thus every astronaut spends around six months on the Space Station. (3/17)

Canada May Fall Behind in Space Business (Source: CBC)
A major Canadian space business group is expressing concern that Canada may eventually fall behind in the increasingly competitive field of satellites and other such technology. While Canada has received worldwide recognition for its iconic robotic arms, which are used on U.S. space shuttles and the International Space Station, other countries and businesses are getting into the act.

Chuck Black, a spokesman for the Canadian space business group, says Canada needs to keep an eye on the competition as more countries spend an increasing amount of money on space technology. Satellite development, he said, is an increasingly competitive business field. "I would suggest that while we are not officially falling behind yet, there is cause for concern." (3/17)

Strange Agricultural Landscapes Seen From Space (Source: WIRED)
Agriculture is one of the oldest and most pervasive human impacts on the planet. Estimates of the land surface affected worldwide range up to 50 percent. But while driving through the seemingly endless monotony of wheat fields in Kansas may give you some insight into the magnitude of the change to the landscape, it doesn't compare to the view from above. When seen from space, those same boring wheat fields are transformed into a strange and even beautiful pattern. Some of the most arresting agricultural landscapes occur in the Midwestern United States in areas that rely on center-pivot irrigation. Click here for photos. (3/17)

NASA "Can Crush" Test Will Aid Future Rocket Design (Source: NASA)
NASA will conduct an innovative engineering test on March 23 to help improve future heavy-lift launch vehicles design. The 10:30 a.m. EDT test, which will air live on NASA Television's Education Channel and the agency's website, will occur in Building 4619 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. During the test, a massive 27.5-foot wide, 20-foot-tall aluminum-lithium cylinder will be positioned between two large loading rings and subjected to one million pounds of force until it buckles.

The resulting data will help validate new shell buckling knockdown factors, which are complex engineering standards that will help design lightweight, safe and sturdy structures for future launch vehicles. The current knockdown factors date back to pre-Apollo-era studies - well before modern composite materials, manufacturing processes and advanced computer modeling. (3/17)

Ex-Astronaut Lisa Nowak Wants Criminal Record Sealed (Source: AP)
Former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who lost her NASA job over an airport attack on a romantic rival, is asking a judge to seal her criminal record. Nowak was sentenced in 2009 to a year of probation after pleading guilty to burglary charges. She had originally been charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary, which are felonies, and misdemeanor battery. Nowak, a Navy captain, was accused of confronting Colleen Shipman in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport in 2007. Shipman had begun dating Nowak's love interest, former shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. (3/17)

NASA Budget Leads to Layoffs (150 at KSC on April 1) (Source: Florida Today)
Already coping with thousands of layoffs tied to the shuttle program's end, Kennedy Space Center is cutting more jobs because of flat federal funding so far this year. About 150 positions are expected to be eliminated by April 1 to reduce costs associated with the center's day-to-day operations. Custodial, library, health, security and transportation services are among those affected by reductions in hours or staffing.

The services are funded under the center's roughly $369 million Management and Operations budget, which is separate from programs such as the shuttle and International Space Station. The problem is that the space center, like the rest of NASA, has been operating at 2010 funding levels for nearly the first half of the 2011 fiscal year while Congress has haggled over the budget. While funding has remained flat, costs for various contracts and goods have increased, creating a $33 million shortfall. (3/17)

Slazer Joins AIA as Space Chief (Source: AIA)
Frank Slazer, an executive with nearly 30 years of experience on space policy issues and programs, has joined AIA as the Vice President of Space Systems. Most recently, Slazer developed and implemented business development strategies across the NASA civil space market for Northrop Grumman. He was responsible for developing and managing customer relationships and all aspects of the business acquisition process. Slazer was also director of Civil Space business development at United Launch Alliance and Boeing. (3/17)

Russia’s Soyuz - The only Vehicle to ISS (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russian Soyuz spaceships will deliver American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) at least through 2016. A decision to that effect was made after the US space shuttle program was finally discontinued, making the rotation of ISS crews a purely Russian concern.

A deal clinched by the parties stipulates the training of US astronauts at the Russian Space Agency before stepping aboard Soyuz vehicles, as well as their return and evacuation from the landing site upon the end of expeditions, Roscosmos spokesperson Alexander Vorobyov said.

"In addition, we will deliver about 50 kilograms of cargo per crewmember on board the spacecraft and bring approximately 17 kilograms back to Earth. Furthermore, the Russian side bound itself to removing waste at the rate of 30 kilos per person," Alexander Vorobyov explained. (3/17)

Mitsubishi Satellite on Schedule Despite Quake (Source: Space News)
The ST-2 commercial telecommunications satellite built by Mitsubishi of Tokyo suffered no damage from the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan and will be shipped to South America in time for its scheduled May launch, a Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) official said. ST-2, which is owned by a joint venture of SingTel and Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom Co., will be shipped to Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana in about a week.

The 5,100-kilogram ST-2 represented the first non-Japanese customer for Melco’s DS2000 satellite platform. More recently, Melco booked a two-satellite order from Turkey. ST-2 is scheduled for launch in May, along with India’s 3,150-kilogram GSAT-8/Insat-4G telecommunications satellite, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket operated by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium. (3/17)

Three Russian Satellites Under Construction (Source: Space News)
Russia’s largest satellite-fleet operator said March 16 it had completed its financing of three telecommunications satellites and confirmed contracts for their construction with Russian and French satellite builders. Russian Satellite Communications Co (RSCC) Chief Financial Officer Dennis Pivnyuk said the company recently assembled the financing for the spacecraft and has notified ISS Reshetnev and Thales Alenia Space to begin full-scale construction. (3/17)

Hyperactive Comet Is a Spiky Mystery for Astronomers (Source:
Comet Hartley 2, the icy "space drumstick" photographed by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft last year, is an active object that still perplexes scientists as it travels through the solar system. Deep Impact visited Hartley 2 in November, revealing what one scientist described as "our favorite little hyperactive small comet." Hartley 2 rotates around a central axis much as Earth does, scientists have revealed. But the comet also rolls around its long axis like a spinning bowling pin. Make that a spiky bowling pin: The rough edges of Hartley 2's surface are dotted with rocky spires that can reach 230 feet (70 meters) high. (3/17)

Launch of New ISS Mission Slated for April 5 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The launch of the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft carrying members of a new crew to the International Space Station has been tentatively scheduled for April 5, a source at the Baikonur Space Center said. The new crew with Russians Alexander Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko, and U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan are expected to arrive at Baikonur on March 21, the source said.

"The preliminary date for the launch is April 5, around 4 a.m. Moscow time and a reserve date is April 7," he said, adding that crew training is due to start on March 22. Roscosmos said Monday it had postponed the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS due to technical problems. The launch of the TMA-21 was originally scheduled for March 30. (3/17)

"Gabby" Lands With Kelly In Kazakhstan (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth this week wearing a blue wristband that has a peace sign, a heart and the word "Gabby" to show his support for his sister-in-law, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was critically wounded during a Jan. 8 assassination attempt that killed six and injured more than a dozen others. (3/17)

Group Campaigns to Bring Retired Shuttle to Houston (Source: KTRK)
The Greater Houston Partnership has launched a grassroots effort to get one of the soon-to-be retired space shuttles back where they believe it belongs -- Houston. Houston is home of the United States' space exploration program and NASA's lead center for human spaceflight, but -- even with those designations -- there is no guarantee that Space Center Houston at NASA's Johnson Space Center will be a shoe-in for the shuttle home selection.

The final decision is expected to be announced April 12 by NASA Chief Administrator Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden Jr. Before that decision is made, GHP is asking people in the Bay Area to write their legislators and to sign a petition that urges President Barack Obama to send one of the shuttles back home to Houston. (3/17)

Academy Award Winner James Cameron Joins X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees (Source: X PRIZE Foundation)
The X PRIZE Foundation announced the appointment of James Cameron to its Board of Trustees. Cameron joins a world-class Board of Trustees that includes a growing list of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers such as Dean Kamen, inventor, CEO, DEKA; Dr. J. Craig Venter, CEO, Synthetic Genomics; Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla and CEO, SpaceX; Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author; Anousheh Ansari, first female private space explorer; Larry Page, CEO & co-founder, Google; and Arianna Huffington, President and Editor in Chief, Huffington Post Media Group. (3/17)

Man’s Remains to Rocket into Space (Source: Trentonian)
The lifelong dream of a former Trenton resident will be fulfilled this spring — posthumously. The family of Larry O'Neill, a retired Canadian Forces Electrical Instrumentation Technician who died nearly five months ago, will soon watch as a portion of his ashes are sent into orbit aboard a Celestis satellite with those of Star Trek actor James Doohan.

"He was a huge space fan," said Trenton resident and daughter Lori Jennings. "If you can't go into space as a tourist, then I guess this is the next best thing... He loved everything about space, it didn't matter if it was Star Trek or a black hole. He read everything about it and knew all the constellations." After their father died, Jennings and her sister browsed the Internet for companies that could accommodate their father's wish.

After a bit of searching, they found Celestis, Inc., a Houston-based company that sends ashes into space. Although they don't have the exact date, the family will watch as one gram of O'Neill's ashes journey into Earth orbit. Jennings said the trip for the tablet of ashes — approximately the same size as a vitamin C pill — cost the family $2,500. (3/17)

Editorial: Spaceport America: Countdown to the future (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
As NASA struggles to switch from the space shuttle to other missions, and scrabbles for funding, Spaceport America should take on increased importance in space travel. The spaceport also should attract private investors and industry in the area, with possible benefits for the entire Southwest. Of course, Virgin Galactic is an anchor tenant at the spaceport. There's plenty of room for others.

New spaceport director Christine Anderson said, with some understatement, "It would be nice to draw in some economic investors, as any venture would like to do. ... We're trying to get more customers, too." That will be a key to the spaceport's success. Education, tourism, commerce ... space holds unlimited possibilities, and Spaceport America puts this area's foot in the door. (3/17)

Texas: Beam Up This Bill, Scottie (Statesman)
A bill designed to encourage commercial space flight from the Lone Star State was unanimously approved by the Texas Senate. Senate Bill 115 by state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, would promote the development of a commercial space launch industry in Texas by clarifying that “participants on a space vehicle launched from Texas must assume the risk of injury if they are made aware of the risks and sign a written waiver of liability beforehand.”

He said several private companies are interested in developing commercial space launches to allow private citizens to fly into space. Current Texas law is silent on the liability of private space flight entities. Customers and consumers routinely sign liability waivers for a variety of activities and endeavors, yet case law precedent allows plaintiffs to sue those the waivers supposedly protect. Uresti said the situation is especially troublesome with respect to commercial spaceflight because it fails to recognize this as an inherently dangerous activity for which there can be no absolute guarantee of safety. (3/17)

Bacchus: American Competitiveness Needs Space Program (Source: The Hill)
The return of Discovery from its 39th and final mission was the beginning of the end of America’s space shuttle program. Was it also the beginning of the end of America’s human exploration of space? The hope is that retiring the aging and expensive shuttles will free up federal money for developing a new heavy-lift launch system that can take us beyond the low earth orbit of the station and into deep space. The hope, too, is that private U.S. commercial space companies have advanced to the point where they can make smaller spacecraft capable of ferrying people as well as provisions to and from the station.

Yet, for all the considerable promise of private commercial space exploration, it is not at all clear that commercial rockets will be able to be “man-rated” by NASA to taxi astronauts any time soon. And, sadly, one of the very few recent examples of bipartisanship in Washington has been the utter bipartisan failure thus far to figure out what to do next in human space flight, how to make it work, and how to pay for it at a price our chosen leaders think we can afford.

For far too long, far too many in both our political parties in the Congress and in successive presidential administrations alike have treated human space flight as just another job-producing public works project. As we see it, the space shuttle Discovery was rightly named. If America stands for anything, it stands for discovery. Our historic task as Americans is to discover more. It is to use our freedom to extend as far as we can the ultimate reach of human experience, knowledge, and understanding. To fulfill this task, we must reach for the stars. (3/17)

Report: Iran Sends First 'Life Capsule' Into Orbit (Source: AP)
Iran says it has sent the country's first space capsule that is able to sustain life into orbit as a test for a future mission that may carry a live animal. The state IRNA news agency says the capsule was carried by a rocket dubbed Kavoshgar-4 - or Explorer-4 in Farsi - some 75 miles (120 kilometers) into orbit. The launch of the capsule is a part of Iran's ambitious space program.

Thursday's report provides no other details about the "life capsule" but said it was launched on Tuesday. Last year, Iran sent its first domestically made telecommunications satellite into orbit and announced it had successfully launched a rocket carrying a mouse, turtle and worms into space for research purposes. There are concerns Iran's space program could also bolster its ballistic missile program. Editor's Note: "Seventy-five miles into orbit"? Sounds like a suborbital mission. (3/17)

Astronauts' Mission in Tallahassee: Push Space (Source: Florida Today)
In April 1972, astronaut Charlie Duke was walking on the moon with Apollo 16 crewmate John Young when the voice of mission control crackled over their headsets. Congress had just voted to fund the space shuttle. On Wednesday, the retired Air Force general, investor and motivational speaker was walking the halls of the Capitol, urging lawmakers to consider a series of economic development incentives for an aerospace industry reeling from the shuttle's retirement.

Brevard County went into a tailspin at the end of the Apollo program -- Duke's flight was the second-to-last moon mission -- and it faces as many as 9,000 industry layoffs when the shuttle retires. The shuttle program lasted 30 years and will have flown more than 130 missions. "It's really been a popular program, you hate to see it end," Duke told Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. "We need to maintain our lead in space."

Duke and shuttle astronaut Kay Hire were the celebrity faces of a 70-member team that fanned out across the Capitol with a "Space Industry Day" mission to glad-hand and educate all 160 lawmakers. They hope to persuade a cash-strapped Legislature to approve a series of initiatives, including the Space Business Investment Act and Aerospace Jobs Retention Tax Credit, and a $10 million appropriation to keep Space Florida running. (3/17)

After Earth: Why, Where, How, and When We Might Leave Our Home Planet (Source: Popular Science)
Earth won’t always be fit for occupation. Given the risks posed to and by humans on our planet, we might someday leave Earth simply to conserve it, with Earth becoming a kind of nature sanctuary that we visit now and again, as we might Yosemite. Click here to read the article. (3/17)

Space Day in Florida, Space Legislation Advances in Texas (Source: Space Politics)
Space industry supporters, backed by two former astronauts, held their annual Space Day in Tallahassee, seeking support for legislation to make the state more competitive for space businesses. This includes securing $10 million in funding for Space Florida as well as passing legislation to provide tax credits for spaceflight projects. The bill, SB 1224 in the Florida Senate and HB 873 in the Florida House, would provide $10 million in non-transferable and $25 million in transferable corporate income tax credits per year.

Meanwhile in Texas, the state's Senate unanimously passed SB 115, which would provide immunity for spaceflight operators in Texas. The legislation was uncontroversial enough members were cracking Star Trek jokes prior to voting on the bill, the Austin American-Statesman reported. This is the second time the state’s senate has approved such legislation: a similar bill, SB 2105, won unanimous approval from the Texas Senate in 2009 but died in the Texas House. (3/17)

Florida Space Industry Bills Gain Support with Focus on Jobs (Source: Sunshine State News)
Sen. Thad Altman, a Republican who hails from the Space Coast, says when you factor in jobs from related industries, the losses from the Shuttle shutdown could reach 15,000 to 20,000. Altman is the sponsor of one of the bills space industry leaders are hoping will pass in Tallahassee, SB 1224. The heart of the bill is designed to give corporate tax credits for spaceflight projects.

"We hope that these tax credits will play a big role in helping us be competitive. We have the best launch facilities on the planet, but there is competition out there," Altman said. States like New Mexico, California and Virginia have already begun developing their own space industry policies in hopes of luring businesses there. Some companies are beginning to develop their space-related programs in other countries.

There's a good chance Altman's bill, and another space bill by Majority Whip David Simmons, will pass through the Legislature this year. Simmons' bill, SB 652, provides spaceflight entities with immunity from certain liabilities associated with spaceflight. Senate President Mike Haridopolos has already shown support for the bills, and business incentives aimed at creating jobs are sure to appeal to Gov. Rick Scott. (3/17)

Space Colony Art from the 1970s (Source: NASA Ames)
A couple of space colony summer studies were conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Colonies housing about 10,000 people were designed. A number of artistic renderings of the concepts were made. These have been converted to jpegs and are available as thumbnails, quarter page, full screen and publication quality images. Click here to view them. (3/17)

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