March 29, 2011

Astronauts4Hire Teams With Survival Systems USA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astronauts4Hire is pleased to announce that it has entered into an exclusive training partnership with Survival Systems USA for emergency spacecraft escape and surface water survival training. Survival Systems USA will provide A4H members with the knowledge and skills necessary to react appropriately to post-landing emergencies and successfully perform an underwater egress with and without an Emergency Breathing Device, and to care for themselves in a sea survival situation.

“Spaceflight missions are still a long way from becoming routine, and there is always real possibility that a failure in the launch vehicle or the de-orbit operation could occur,” said Astronauts4Hire COO Jason Reimuller. “Though manned spaceflight systems cover such contingencies with abort systems, the resulting abort trajectories often lead to a post-landing situation that might require the crew to egress the vehicle in one of a variety of environments, some of which may be hazardous and time-critical.”

Emergency egress training is a required element of the training program that Astronauts4Hire astronaut candidates must complete to earn their qualification as Research Specialist Astronauts. After an extensive review of training providers, Astronauts4Hire chose to partner with Survival Systems USA because it offers the most comprehensive and applicable training program available. (3/29)

How to Display a Retired Space Shuttle (Source: Collect Space)
On April 12, NASA will announce where its three space shuttle orbiters, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, as well as the prototype Enterprise, will be going for public display. NASA requested that museums submit statements of interest, including details about how they would meet the requirement of exhibiting a space shuttle orbiter in an environmentally-controlled, enclosed display. Click here to see a gallery of illustrations for the proposed museum displays. (3/29)

Museums Make Final Push for Retired Space Shuttles as NASA Decision Nears (Source: Collect Space)
With only two weeks remaining before NASA announces where its space shuttles will be retired for public display, museums nationwide are putting forth their final pitches as to why they should be bestowed an orbiter. Museums in New York and Chicago recently revealed new concepts for their planned exhibits while in Seattle, they're raising their profile by literally raising the walls for a space shuttle-sized gallery.

Elsewhere, astronauts, elected officials, and others with a vested interest in where the shuttles are going are making their voices heard. NASA Headquarters has confirmed that an event of some type will be held on April 12, but the specific details as to how the announcement will unfold are still being decided. (3/29)

Will Morpheus Be the First Vehicle on the Moon Since Apollo? (Source: FOX News)
Nearly 40 years after Americans last set foot on the moon, a determined band of NASA engineers, undeterred by massive budget cuts and red tape, may have paved the way for a long awaited return to the lunar surface. In 2009, President Obama slashed the Constellation project, a nearly $100 billion project to replace the aging space shuttle fleet with a group of new spacecraft that could ultimately take man to the moon and beyond. The end of Constellation seemed the death of America’s lunar ambitions to many.

But not to everyone. A group of NASA engineers -- acting on their own initiative to find funding in other research and development projects, and in partnership with an aerospace startup, together with their own sweat equity -- have designed and built a breakthrough piece of technology: the first new lunar landing craft from the space agency in 40 years. Meet Project Morpheus. Final destination: the moon. Click here to read the article. (3/29)

Russia to Launch Space Freighter to ISS on April 27 (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian cargo spacecraft will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 27. The Progress M-10M will lift off atop a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. It is to deliver 2.5 tons of expendables, fuel and foodstuffs to the ISS. The foodstuffs will include 20 packages of marinated cucumbers, green apples, lemons and oranges, as well as unspecified fresh vegetables. The freighter will also deliver "psychological support kits" from the cosmonauts' families, including candy. (3/29)

Pentagon Braces for Order to Cut Billions from Future Budget (Source: AIA)
The Defense Department is preparing for an anticipated order to slash billions of dollars from the five-year Future Years Defense Program, which would be on top of the $78 billion the Pentagon already plans to cut from spending between 2012 and 2016. With the Office of Management and Budget expected to issue the fiscal guidance as soon as this week, officers and senior civilians from all Defense Department services met in a series of meetings last week to determine how the cuts might be made. (3/29)

NASA Scientists Cook Up Alternative Jet Fuel Using Chicken Fat (Source: AIA)
Scientists at the NASA Langley Research Center are working on a concept to make an alternative jet fuel using chicken fat. The biofuel, called Hydrotreated Renewable Jet Fuel, already powered an RV the scientists drove across the country, and the Air Force already has purchased thousands of gallons to test in their jets. (3/29)

Unique Aerospace Invention Ready For Debut (Source: Space Daily)
The first Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR), an instrument designed and constructed by engineers at The Aerospace Corporation, is set to plunge to Earth on March 29, shortly after 7 p.m. Two REBRs were carried to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard a Japanese HTV2 on Jan. 21. The REBR is a small autonomous device that is designed to record temperature, acceleration, rotation rate, and other data as a spacecraft reenters Earth's atmosphere. The REBRS will be attached to spacecraft returning to Earth from the ISS and will take measurements as the spacecraft breaks up during its reentry. (3/29)

Government Moves to Reform Defense Export Controls (Source: AIA)
The government is taking action to reform defense-related export controls in an effort that should do much to help the defense industry as the U.S. moves to cut back on defense spending. A plan announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year would consolidate exports to produce a single export-control list, a single licensing agency and single enforcement and information technology systems to allow officials to concentrate on key technologies. (3/28)

Satellite Companies Say Export Controls Harm Competitiveness (Source: AIA)
U.S. satellite makers say they operate at a disadvantage when competing for foreign contracts due to laws that impose bureaucratic reviews on international technology sales. Under ITAR, federal agencies must okay satellite exports, a process that takes about three weeks. "The European companies developed a product that they branded as ITAR-free," says an executive with Orbital Sciences, allowing them to say to potential customers, "'Well, look, you don't have to put up with those U.S. regulations.'" The Aerospace Industries Association estimates that the U.S. share of global satellite sales stands at less than 30%, down from 73% in 1998. (3/28)

Space Firms Hiring for Commercial Projects (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Looking for a job? The private space industry is hiring. Brand-name players such as Orbital Sciences Corp., SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic are looking to fill positions for a number of commercial efforts. But you'd better have a good resume and an engineering or science degree for most of the slots. Orbital has 62 open positions, with engineers dominating its listings. A few engineering positions have been open for more than a year. Since Orbital does a lot of government work, there's also a sprinkling of contract managers and financial analysts.

Upstart SpaceX with over 1,250 employees has a total of 87 open jobs as of today. The bulk (75) of open positions are located at the corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. There are also 10 jobs openings at the company's rocket development facility in McGregor, TX. Earlier this month, SpaceX announced a 10 year lease agreement with the City of McGregor allowing the company to more than double the size of its facility, from 256 acres to 631 acres.

Virgin Galactic (VG) has less transparency as to how many people it has on its payroll and is only advertising two positions, but one is a biggie. Virgin needs a Head of Operations at its Space Port America facility in New Mexico. The Head of Operations will have primary responsibility for strategic leadership of VG commercial sub-orbital operations, including flight operations, spaceport operations, crew logistics, and operational safety and security. (3/29)

Congressional Recess Discussions Touch on Space (Source: Space Politics)
With Congress in recess this past week, members were in their home districts talking about policy issues-—which, in the case of certain districts in Alabama and Florida, means talking about space. Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) told an audience of local retired military officers that the US is making “a horrible mistake” by not having a clear path forward for human spaceflight, saying that space is the “ultimate military high ground” (but not further explaining the link between human spaceflight and military space applications, which rely on unmanned spacecraft.)

By contrast, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district includes KSC, did not mention space in a luncheon speech Friday, telling Florida Today afterwards that her constituents “all know that I am working hard for NASA.” One constituent interviewed after the speech, in fact, said she would have liked to hear more from Adams about space issues.

With all the concerns about funding levels, heavy-lift launch vehicle programs, commercial crew development, and the like, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) decided to focus instead on another NASA issue: outreach to Muslim countries. “Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s the mission of NASA,” he told a town hall audience, referring to comments made by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last year. (The administration would agree with Rep. Brooks: they later said Bolden misspoke.) Brooks said he hopes that Congress will stop those outreach plans and “focus on strengthening NASA and the space program” in the name of “American exceptionalism”. (3/28)

Congress to NASA: Follow the Authorization Act (Source: Space Politics)
At a Women in Aerospace panel event last week, several Congressional staffers had a clear message for NASA: they have little interest in renegotiating, or simply ignoring, provisions of the NASA Authorization Act the Congress passed last year. “This isn’t a negotiation,” said one participant of the panel. Another panelist said that there was interest in no more than “minor relative changes along the margins” to the authorization act that could be implemented in future appropriations bills, without going into further detail.

One particular area of concern several panelists cited was NASA’s support—-or lack thereof—-for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which combined get about $2.8 billion in the administration’s FY12 budget request, compared to just over $4 billion in the authorization act. One panelist suggested Congress might have to look elsewhere within NASA, or even outside the agency, such as the Departments of Commerce and Justice, which share the same broader budget allocation as NASA, to fully fund those programs.

Likewise, one panelist expressed disappointment that NASA hadn’t delivered an acceptable report on the development of the SLS and MPCV that the act required 90 days after enactment. The agency did deliver a report in January, but many key members effectively rejected it. “NASA, with no consultation with the authorizing committees, decided to produce what they called a preliminary report, and sent that up and said, ‘We’ll get back to you when we decide on the rest of it,’” the panelist complained. “That’s an approach that’s simply not going to work in this environment.”

Participants also wondered why, while NASA was proposing funding SLS/MPCV below authorized levels, it was also proposing funding commercial crew development above authorized levels: $850 million in the FY12 request versus $500 million in the authorization bill. One panelist said that while there was general suport for commercial crew development, there remained some skepticism that there was a need for multiple providers. (3/29)

California Space Authority Shifts Vandenberg "California Space Center" Plan (Source: CSA)
The Board of Directors for the California Space Authority (CSA) voted to terminate the pursuit of a long-term lease at Vandenberg Air Force Base for development of the California Space Center. The lease discussions started in February 2004. “A recent determination by the Air Force Real Property Agency (AFRPA) that the California Space Center is a private project that requires full regulation by the County of Santa Barbara has ended the viability of an Air Force lease for the California Space Center,” stated CSA Executive Director Andrea Seastrand.

Regulation by the County is expected to take three to five years and would be required to be completed before the Air Force granted a lease for the Center. The Air Force was expected to issue a 50-year enhanced use lease to CSA for a 71-acre site at VAFB by Sept. 30, 2010, and had taken several significant steps toward that objective. The Air Force began formal negotiations with CSA in March 2010 after its issuance of a sole source justification for those negotiations, completed the requirements of the federal environmental process for the project in June 2010 and notified Congress in Sept. 2010 of its intent to issue a lease to CSA.

The CSA Board voted to explore the possibility of moving the California Space Center to a site within the City of Lompoc, adjacent to Allan Hancock College. If CSA moves forward with that site, construction could begin within 12 months, following completion of the state environmental process. The Center is projected to create more than 1,700 direct jobs and to attract 500,000 visitors a year upon its completion. The Center’s estimated economic impact during the first 12 years is $2.37 billion. (3/28)

"We've Got to Move On" (Source: Space Review)
As the 2011 fiscal year reaches the halfway mark this week, NASA still lacks a final budget for the fiscal year as well as a firm plan for its future human spaceflight plans. Jeff Foust reports on how the continued debate and lack of action has some in industry increasingly concerned. Visit to view the article. (3/28)

Picking Sides in Cislunar Space (Source: Space Review)
Many space exploration architectures have identified the two Lagrange points near the moon, L1 and L2, as promising stepping stones for future human missions, but which one is better? Dan Lester examines the tradeoffs of going to one point versus the other, and the benefits of either. Visit to view the article. (3/28)

India's ABM Test: a Validated ASAT Capability or a Paper Tiger? (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month India tested an ABM that officials claimed could also provide the country with an anti-satellite capability. Michael Listner explores how serious India may be in developing its own ASAT. Visit to view the article. (3/28)

Russia, Israel to Boost Space Cooperation (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia and Israel will expand space cooperation, pursuant to a document signed by the two sides’ space agencies. It provides for interaction as regards the exploration and use of outer space, as well as the application of space technologies for peaceful purposes. The agreement was signed by Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov and Director General of the Israeli space agency Tsvi Kaplan. Our correspondent Oleg Nekhai reports.

The two countries already have positive partnership experience in this area. In particular, Russian carrier vehicles assisted Israel in putting five of its spacecraft into orbit. At present, our country is developing an Amos-5 communications satellite for Israel, Anatoly Perminov pointed out. The new document, experts argue, facilitates the transition from purely commercial projects to a brand new level of interaction, opening up new fields as well. "This is an essential breakthrough in international space cooperation as far as Moscow’s interests are concerned," an official stressed. (3/28)

Ariane 5 Mission with Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn is “Go” for March 30 Liftoff (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace’s second Ariane 5 mission of 2011 has been given the green light for its March 30 liftoff with the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellites, clearing the way for this heavy-lift vehicle’s rollout tomorrow to the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone in French Guiana. It will be the 57th launch of an Ariane 5. (3/28)

Decommissioning Work Starts for Shuttle Discovery (Source:
And so it begins. Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center have begun taking apart the shuttle Discovery, the ship now a laboratory specimen for engineering forensics before her future date with a museum. Inside orbiter hangar No. 2 last week, the shuttle's nose piece containing the control thrusters used to maneuver the spacecraft was removed and taken to the hypergolic maintenance facility for decommissioning. It's the first visible sign of critical post-flight safing work now underway on the three-decade-old Discovery as she goes into retirement. (3/28)

Larry the Cable Guy Spotlights NASA in History Series (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Larry the Cable Guy takes history lessons in unusual directions by visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston. How unusual? He gives viewers a look at NASA’s special space toilet in Tuesday’s installment of “Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy.” The program airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday on History.

Larry’s real name is Dan Whitney, and he lives in Sanford. He is also a huge fan of NASA and editorializes in support of the U.S. space program. During the hour, Larry talks to astronauts aboard the International Space Station, visits Mission Control and watches astronauts train underwater. He also learns about recycling in space and how astronauts drink water made from their urine. It’s not your usual history lesson. (3/28)

Japanese Satellites Survived Deadly Quake in Clean Rooms (Source:
Inspections show Japan's next space station cargo freighter and two other large Japanese-built satellites due for launch over the next year suffered no major damage from the March 11 earthquake that ravaged parts of the country, according industry officials. Japan's third H-2 Transfer Vehicle, an unmanned robotic spaceship designed to resupply the International Space Station, weathered the earthquake at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. facility in Nagoya, a large city southwest of Tokyo away from the zone of heaviest damage. (3/28)

NASA Cans James Cameron's Mars Camera (Source: Discovery)
NASA is dumping plans for a pair of high-resolution 3-D zoom cameras being developed by film director James Cameron for the new Mars rover, Curiosity. Instead, the rover, which is scheduled to launch this summer, will fly with two fixed-length cameras, one telephoto and the other a wide-angle. "The possibility for a zoom-camera upgrade was very much worth pursuing, but time became too short for the levels of testing that would be needed," NASA said in a statement.

Cameron, who had hoped to parlay the technology used to create the film "Avatar" into a real space expedition, took the news in stride. "While Curiosity won't benefit from the 3D motion imaging that the zooms enable, I'm certain that this technology will play an important role in future missions," Cameron said in a statement. (3/28)

The Solar System's Secret Ingredient - Fairy Floss (Source:
New research has found when the earliest rocks were formed in the Solar System they resembled fairy floss more than the building material of planets. Scientists made the discovery after highly detailed analysis of a meteorite fragment from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

The fragment was originally formed in the early Solar System when microscopic dust motes gathered around larger one millimetre grain particles. Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists said that the Sun and its family of planets formed from a cloud of dust and gas in which clumps gradually appeared due to the force of gravity. They suggest this process eventually gave birth to the Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. (3/28)

Yuri Gagarin: Waste of Space? (Source: Telegraph)
The Vostok capsule that carried Yuri Gagarin – the world's first spaceman – into orbit on April 12 1961 looked nothing like the sleek craft Buck Rogers used to travel the cosmos in science-fiction fantasies. It had two tiny windows; Gagarin did not need to see where he was going since he had little control over his craft. The spherical shape brings to mind circus performers shot from cannons.

In truth, that analogy is accurate; Gagarin's feat was an exponential embellishment on that fairground stunt. Far more meaningful space spectaculars had already occurred, but their importance went unrecognized because they lacked human passengers. On that day nearly 50 years ago, Gagarin demonstrated a principle that remains rock solid: in order to garner attention, space needs a face. (3/28)

Research Across the Universe Spans Multibillion-Dollar Industry at Home (Source: ACS)
Scientists are spending scarce government money to study mysterious black stripes in the rainbow of light given off by celestial objects millions of light-years across the universe. There is no practical use for knowledge about these colors missing from the glow of Andromeda, Triangulum and other distant galaxies. Nevertheless, their research on this arcane topic, termed Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs), gives birth to a new, multibillion-dollar-per-year industry on Earth.

Unlikely as it may sound, that scenario actually happened, and a Nobel laureate today cited it as a prime example of why society should continue funding research in astronomy and other scientific disciplines that has no obvious immediate use. "The potential benefits of spending money to understand what's going on across the galaxy, despite these tough economic times, are enormous," Harold Kroto, Ph.D., said. "It is absolutely vital that the public realize that some of the most important discoveries are the unexpected ones." (3/27)

India, France to Launch Two satellites; Cooperate in Astronomy (Source: Net Indian)
India and France will co-launch two satellites from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch pad later this year and early next year for gathering data relating to climate in tropical areas and for the study of oceans. The satellite for the study of oceans is to be called SARAL. The data from the other satellite will enhance understanding of the tropical weather phenomenon, including the monsoons.

French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont told UNI a satellite would be launched by the end of this year, while the second launch will take place early next year. The launch of the satellite for the study of tropical climate is slated for this year. Both the satellites would be launched aboard an Indian rocket. (3/27)

British Space-Industry Leaders Visit Colorado (Source: Denver Post)
Looking for business and collaborations, the British space industry has invaded Colorado for a couple of days. A half-dozen British space-industry leaders are in town to meet with economic-development and space-industry leaders. Colorado was a logical choice for the delegation, with the state's concentration of space-related military commands, eight major aerospace contractors, higher-education programs and about 400 companies that develop, design and build everything from software to satellites to missiles, group members said.

It's the "entrepreneurs and startups — the people who are thinking out of the box" — that define Colorado organizations as potential creative partners, said Keith Mason, chief executive of the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council. The two-day space mission in Colorado began Monday with a half-day seminar explaining the United Kingdom's space-exploration program. Joining in hosting the seminar were the Colorado Space Coalition, a group of industry stakeholders working to make Colorado a center of aerospace excellence, and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. (3/29)

Student Launch at Spaceport America Rescheduled Due to Rocket Parachute Issue (Source: The Republic)
The annual New Mexico Space Grant Consortium's student launch was set to go off early Friday from Spaceport America. Officials say the launch has now been delayed until May 20th because of a hardware problem with the rocket's parachute system. Officials say a drop test was successful, but part of the flight hardware became entangled during recovery and was damaged. The project's mission requires the safe return of the students' experiments so the hardware has to be fixed.

A total of 27 onboard experiments were scheduled to be launched aboard the SL-5 rocket. The experiments involve 115 students from Albuquerque and northern New Mexico. Space Grant Consortium director Patricia Hynes says a lot of planning and effort has gone into the launch, and she remains optimistic despite the delay. (3/29)

SAIC Deal with NASA May be Worth $1.3 Billion (Source: Washington Business Journal)
SAIC Inc. has won an information technology contract with NASA that could be worth as much as $1.3 billion. SAIC said the NASA Integrated Communications Services contract would provide managerial and technical expertise for the entire space agency, including corporate and mission enterprise services, center and associated component facility services, infrastructure projects and contract management services. (3/28)

The Sun Rises on Chinese Space Science (Source: BBC)
The world is changing, and fast. A new report from the Royal Society examines how the emerging economies, led by China and followed by others such as Brazil and India, are challenging the "old order". The pre-eminent scientific positions of the US, Western Europe and Japan are now being eroded on every front - in the number of scientific papers published, in citations made, and in patent applications. In terms of pure investment, the emerging economies are also pumping increasing funds into their labs and their science-based industries.

I say, where there is a challenge so there is an opportunity. So far, the Chinese have put two spacecraft in orbit around the lunar body. The future missions Chang'e 3, 4 and 5 will very likely land, rove and finally return rock samples to Earth. This is not one of those classic "brain drain" stories; rather it's about chasing possibilities. John Zarnecki believes British and Chinese space interests can build a strong new partnership. Click here to read the article. (3/28)

Japanese Stork Flies Away From Station (Source: Florida Today)
A robotic Japanese cargo carrier that doubles as a garbage scow is making its way toward a destructive atmospheric reentry after a high-flying departure from the International Space Station. U.S. astronaut Cady Coleman and Paulo Nespoli of the European Space Agency released the cylindrical carrier from the end of the station's Canadian-made robotic arm at 11:46 p.m. as the two spacecraft flew high above the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Remotely controlled from a space center north of Tokyo, Japan's second HTV cargo carrier fired two separate bursts from onboard thrusters to propel the vehicle away from the station's immediate vicinity. A series of additional thruster firings will put the White Stork spacecraft on course for a reentry over the Pacific Ocean around 11:09 p.m. Tuesday. (3/28)

NASA Computer Networks Have Potentially 'Catastrophic' Security Holes (Source:
NASA’s internal computer network is full of holes and is extremely vulnerable to an external cyberattack, an audit by the Office of the Inspector General has found. Even worse, it appears several of the vulnerabilities have been known for months, yet remained unpatched. “Six computer servers associated with IT [information technology] assets that control spacecraft and contain critical data had vulnerabilities that would allow a remote attacker to take control of or render them unavailable,” an audit report said.

“The attacker could use the compromised computers to exploit other weaknesses we identified, a situation that could severely degrade or cripple NASA’s operations,” the report continued. “We also found network servers that revealed encryption keys, encrypted passwords, and user account information to potential attackers.” It is not unusual for previously unknown network security holes to be found in large organizations. In that light, Martin’s audit might have been seen as positive for revealing the vulnerabilities. (3/28)

Funding Uncertainty Shaping NASA Programs (Source: Aviation Week)
The ongoing budget impasse in the U.S. Congress is starting to have an effect on NASA’s plans, including the joint Mars missions the agency is mounting with its European counterpart. “We have already started taking things off the table,” Administrator Charles Bolden said.

Among the potential hits to NASA’s planning is the long-term robotic Mars program, which the agency is working on in cooperation with the European Space Agency. Both ESA and NASA are planning to send rovers to Mars to cache promising rock and soil samples for an eventual return to Earth, but the National Research Council (NRC) panel that set the latest “decadal” priorities for NASA already has recommended that the rover missions be “descoped”. (3/28)

DOD, DOT Slam FCC Over GPS Interference Concerns (Source: Flight Global)
The US Department of Transportation and Defense Department on 25 March issued a strongly worded letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing concern over elements of an ongoing analysis on the potential effects on GPS of a newly approved broadband system. FCC in January granted conditional approval of a L-band satellite-based broadband system to be deployed by wholesale provider LightSquared.

Much of the aerospace industry says the network, which includes 40,000 transmitters that will rebroadcast the L-band signals at high power, will have significant interference effects on terrestrial and airborne GPS signals that operate in an adjacent frequency band. The aerospace industry had recommended that the approval process be based on the notice of proposed rulemaking process, a lengthy but thorough process with opportunities for public input.

The conditional approval requires that the FCC determine "that the harmful interference concerns have been resolved" before the network goes operational later this year, a determination the agency plans to make based on industry-led analyses to be completed by mid-June. Meanwhile LightSquared is moving forward with agreements with broadband providers to use the new service. (3/28)

Smooth Sailing (Source: Space News)
As a college student in Prague, Tomas Svitek was fascinated by solar sails. It was the 1970s. NASA, the European Space Agency and Japan were all exploring whether solar sails could assist spacecraft missions to rendezvous with Halley’s Comet. Although solar sail technology was deemed too immature at the time, Svitek’s interest in the concept never waned.

More than three decades later, after fleeing Czechoslovakia as a political refugee, Svitek is putting the finishing touches on his solar sail. His small company, Stellar Exploration Inc. of San Louis Obispo, Calif., is the systems integrator for LightSail-1, the Planetary Society’s $2.2 million effort to build a kite-shaped, mylar solar sail that fits in a triple cubesat, a standardized satellite bus comprised of three 10-centimeter cubes.

If all goes well, LightSail-1 will fly in 2012, turning and tacking to maintain its orbit, while relaying images of the sail to viewers on Earth, said Lou Friedman, LightSail-1 program director and former executive director of the Pasadena, Calif.-based Planetary Society. (3/28)

NASA Wants to Install 80 Acres of Solar Panels at Wallops Flight Facility (Source: Virginia Business)
NASA is proposing to install 80 acres of solar panels at its Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore to eventually create enough power to provide electricity for 850 homes. The solar panels would help NASA meet or exceed federal requirements for using renewable energy and to stabilize Wallops’ growing utility costs.

Under the plan, the solar panels would generate 10-gigawatt hours of electricity. In addition, two, 2.4-kilowatt residential-scale wind turbines would be installed at the NASA Visitor Center and the security guard state at Wallops Island. The plan would be built in multiple phases over time. (3/28)

Orbital Sees First Taurus II Flight from Wallops In September (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is on track — with “a limited amount of slack” — to fly its new Taurus II launch vehicle in September on a risk-reduction mission. The first flight main stage is on a ship en route from the KB Yuzhnoye factory in Ukraine to the new Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) here, where it will be mated with its ATK Castor 30A upper stage and Cygnus cargo capsule.

“The risk-reduction flight will be September, five-and-a-half or six months from now, depending on how things go,” said David W. Thompson, chairman and CEO of the Dulles, Va.-based space-hardware company, during the HIF dedication ceremony March 22. “And that will be followed about three months later by the COTS [Commercial Orbital Transportation System] demonstration mission in mid-December.” (3/29)

Meet Kepler's Entire Exoplanet Family (Source: Discovery)
This spectacular visualization shows each of the Kepler stars with tiny silhouettes representing exoplanetary candidates. All of the stars have been correctly scaled by size. Each star has also been colored to appear as our eye would see them if we were viewing from a location outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Many of the stars have more than one exoplanet, indicating a star system of worlds.

NASA's Kepler telescope has been diligently cataloging exoplanetary candidates since 2009 and has spotted 1,235 candidate worlds orbiting other stars. These worlds are currently "candidates" as their transit signal (the slight dimming of starlight as the exoplanet passes between its parent star and the space telescope) needs to be further analyzed to confirm the exoplanets' orbit. (3/29)

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