March 3, 2011

China's "Fantastic Four" Moon Plan (Source: Space Daily)
Since 2010, this author has pursued the story that China was planning four missions to land on the Moon this decade. The idea was a big change from our earlier understanding of China's Moon plans, which suggested there would be just two landings. Now, more evidence for the "Fantastic Four" has emerged in the Chinese media. The evidence for such a plan is now highly convincing! Click here to read the article. (3/3)

Is Radiation A Concern For Space Crops (Source: Space Daily
Radioactivity lingering in the soil near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident has not prevented life from creeping back at the Ukrainian site. Now researchers have discovered that oil-rich flax plants grown in the highly radioactive soil can apparently adapt and thrive with few problems.

The first generation survived with changes in barely 5 percent of the plant proteins, and researchers have also collected results from a second generation of flax grown in a radioactive plot of land near Chernobyl. But a mystery remains as to how the flax - a source of plant fiber and dietary oil - has adapted biochemically to the highly radioactive environment. (3/3)

Secretive Blue Origin Moving Forward, Expecting More NASA Funds (Source: Seattle Weekly)
​Jeff Bezos' venture into suborbital space flights is preparing to meet a funding milestone this month, although nobody wants to talk about it. Amazon founder Bezos never says too much about anything, and his privately funded space company, aided by a $3.7 million grant from NASA last year and competing with Boeing among others, is likely his deepest secret. But Bezos is hiring engineers as he continues to develop a vertical launch and landing spacecraft called New Shepard, expecting even more NASA funding this month.

The $3.7 million federal money already in hand is being used to develop an astronaut escape system and build a composite space-capsule prototype for ground-based structural testing. The project is divided between Bezos' space-flight field in West Texas and Blue Origin's renovated 280,000-square-foot headquarters facility on 26 acres in Kent.

The company will not discuss any success it has had in developing its prototype--which Bezos hopes will someday lead to private suborbital space rides for tourists. But NASA apparently thinks there's progress: the agency says it is proceeding with plans to award roughly $200 million to eight companies, including Bezos', this month, to continue development and testing. (3/3)

President Speaks to ISS and Discovery Crews (Source: Space Policy Online)
President Obama was a couple minutes late, but he finally spoke to the combined crew of the International Space Station and the space shuttle Discovery this afternoon just after 5:00 pm EST. He asked ISS Commander Scott Kelly how he was doing and said how proud he is of the astronauts. He said they were setting a great example with their courage and commitment to exploration.

He said to Discovery commander Steve Lindsey that it must be fun to be the last commander of Discovery and to be completing construction of the ISS. Lindsey said that with their landing now scheduled for Wednesday, Discovery will have flown for 365 days in space and would not be forgotten for a long time.

Obama noted that there is a vehicle from each of the ISS partners as part of the ISS right now, and it was a testament to the partnership. Obama also talked about the new "crew member" who is aboard the ISS -- Robonaut 2. He said it would inspire young people to be interested in science and technology. Obama ended by saying "We could not be prouder of what you guys are doing." (3/3)

Spacepower and Warfare (Source: NDU)
Like war itself, space warfare, the decision to build space weapons, and whether or not to weaponize space are all matters of policy, not theory. It is the job of theory to anticipate such developments given the template that history suggests. Land, air-, and seapower lend imperfect analogies to spacepower, but they are applicable enough to see that spacepower may have its own grammar, but not its own logic. The logic of statecraft and warfare laid out in Sun Tzu's The Art of War and in Carl von Clausewitz's On War applies to spacepower as well as any other element of military power.

A student of spacepower must become thoroughly familiar with both of these works. War is a political activity and therefore a human activity with a long history that serves as a guide path. Spacepower is already part of the warfighting mix in the political and strategic unity of war, and this trend will continue. Some predict that spacepower will make the greatest contributions to combat effectiveness in wars of the 21st century. Click here to read the article. (3/3)

Top Space Focused Companies Critical of Canada's R&D Funding (Source:
Four of Canada's ten largest space companies are critical of the federal governments implementation of research and development (R&D) funding as outlined in the governments Science and Technology strategy "Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage." One of the reasons cited is that "the pendulum has swung too far away from direct funding for companies at the later stages of R&D toward more funding for universities to perform basic "public good" R&D in collaboration with the private sector." (3/3)

NASA Planetary Budget Casts Doubt on Europa Mission (Source: Space News)
With NASA facing declining budgets for building and operating planetary probes over the next five years, one of the agency’s senior science-community advisers warned that there will be no funding to begin development of a flagship-class mission such as a long-sought detailed survey of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa.

Currently there is just one flagship-class planetary mission on NASA’s plate: the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory, a nuclear powered, car-sized rover slated to launch in November. But scientists have long had their sights on Jupiter and its moons, particularly Europa, and a visit to that system is being studied as a possible collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). (3/3)

Russian Defense Ministry Still Trying to Establish Contact with Lost Satellite (Source: Interfax)
Contact could still be established with the Geo-IK-2 geodetic military satellite, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman for the Space Forces Lt. Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. "Efforts aimed at establishing contact with the Geo-IK satellite continue in full at the moment because there is still a chance of establishing contact with it if we manage to secure a positive energy balance," he said. (3/3)

Northrop Grumman to Cut 500 Jobs (Source: AIA)
Northrop Grumman says it plans to cut 500 jobs in its Electronic Systems sector. The cuts will largely be at the division's base in Linthicum, Md., and other Maryland locations, but they will also be spread among facilities in states including Illinois, Virginia, Connecticut, Florida and Alabama, the company said. (3/3)

China to Launch First Space Lab by 2016 (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese senior space technology expert said Thursday that China is expected to launch its first space laboratory before 2016. "With the technological program ready, the lab's research and development are going smoothly," said Qi Faren, former chief designer of Shenzhou spaceships. As the second phase of China's manned space program, the lab, likely to be named Tiangong-2, will gradually be developed into the core module or experiment module, said Qi. China is to launch its first unmanned space module, Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace, in the second half of 2011, serving as a platform for spacecraft to rendezvous and dock -- allowing for the building of the space station. (3/3)

Heavy-Lift Rocket by 2016 Deemed Unlikely (Source: Florida Today)
House lawmakers voiced exasperation Wednesday with budget plans that they fear will throttle back plans to develop a government rocket. Last year's NASA Authorization called for $3 billion in FY-12 for a heavy-lift rocket and capsule, and $500 million to develop commercial rockets to ferry crews to the International Space Station. President Obama's FY-12 budget proposes $2.8 billion for the heavy-lift rocket and $850 million for commercial rockets.

The Authorization calls on NASA to launch a heavy-lift rocket by 2016, but NASA officials said in January that's probably impossible, even with the extra money in the law. "I am concerned that you're really not interested in meeting that deadline," Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) told Bolden. Bolden said he expects to give Congress a schedule for the rocket's development by summer."I have not said I cannot do that, but I don't want to mislead anyone and say that we can do that," Bolden said. (3/3)

Bolden: Final Planned Shuttle Flight Possible Within Budget (Source: Florida Today)
One focus of concern at last week's Congressional hearing was how to pay for a third shuttle flight this year, given threatened spending cuts. A House-passed spending bill for the rest of fiscal 2011 would cut $600 million from NASA's $18.7 billion budget. The bill is pending in the Senate.

Bolden said he expects Congress to approve a compromise bill that would allow him to launch the third shuttle flight as scheduled in June. "If you take drastic action and significantly reduce the amount of money that I get -- if we ever get a 2011 budget -- then it could change things," Bolden said. (3/3)

Rep. Weiner Invites NASA Astronaut to Brooklyn, Queens Schools (Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
In collaboration with NASA, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) announced that he will bring a real-life NASA astronaut to meet with local students from three schools in Brooklyn and Queens. After Weiner wrote a letter to NASA requesting the out-of-this-world visitor, the agency announced that Dr. Michael Massimino — a veteran astronaut whose resume includes the fourth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission — will visit students in P.S. 200 in Pomonok, P.S. 232 in Lindenwood, and P.S. 312 in Bergen Beach on Monday, March 7. (3/3)

Once Upon a Time, The U.S. Had a Manned Space Program (Source: The Sun)
Early next month, a few people will take a moment to remember the day 50 years ago when the first manned space flight took place. Yuri Gagarin made history on April 12, 1961, when the Soviet Union drew first blood in the space race. It would be another 10 months before American John Glenn successfully orbited the earth after two other U.S. astronauts made suborbital flights.

By 1968, the Apollo program took Americans farther than ever before, out of the grip of gravity and to the moon. Now, there is a real possibility that it might be years before another American leaves Earth orbit again, at least aboard an American vessel. Once the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, the trains didn’t stop running. They ran farther and more often. More trains were built, and an industry was born.

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget would freeze NASA’s budget and eliminate an anticipated $6 billion increase. The increased funding would have been used to modernize the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as well as develop a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, ushering in the next phase of the nation’s manned space exploration program. The budget is still in the development phase and can be altered by Congress. (3/3)

Russia Moves Beyond Near-Earth Orbit (Source: Voice of Russia)
In time for the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic first flight to space, Russian space scientists have prepared three programs to explore our solar system for the period until 2050. Although differing in scale and costs, all of the proposed scenarios reach beyond the near-Earth orbit to the far cosmos. Chief of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency Anatoly Perminov unveils some details:

"The programs envisage flights to the Moon in the middle of the 2020s, the creation of Moon-based research laboratories in the 30s and first exploratory missions to Mars by the beginning of the 40s. The proposals are now being scrutinized. The ultimate choice will, of course, be determined by the government’s financial abilities. In my opinion, most of those projects could be implemented in cooperation with other countries." Russia is looking into the possibility of creating a nuclear-powered transport and energy module having no analogues in the world and offering certain advantages in terms of space exploration. (3/3)

CEO of Virgin Talks Space (Source: Central Florida Future)
George Whitesides, CEO and President of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, spoke to students and faculty on Feb. 28 in the Pegasus Ballroom about the future of space flight and space tourism. Virgin is making it possible for anyone to take a trip into space. The second you place a deposit and save your seat, you become a part of an exclusive club with access to all parts of the projects.

For $200,000 and a $20,000 deposit, anyone is able to travel into space. According to Whitesides, there have only been about 500 people who have traveled to space. Virgin Galactic has already gotten more than 400 people signed up. Even celebrities are signed up to take flight. Katy Perry has signed up her husband, actor Russell Brand, to take a flight into space. "That should be an interesting flight," Whitesides joked.

He later said that a few other celebrities that he couldn't name had also signed up and bands have inquired about being able to perform so they can be one of the first musicians to play in space. The presentation wasn't all jokes and celebrities, however. Click here to read the article. (3/2)

Chinese Space Program Promising: Expert (Source: CRI)
China disclosed its space missions for 2011 on Wednesday, featuring the launch of an unmanned space module and the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft scheduled for the second half of this year. The Tiangong-1 space module, or Heavenly Palace 1, is expected to perform China's first space docking with the Shenzhou-8, according to Qi Faren, a space technology expert.

If the first space docking goes well, the Shenzhou-8 will probably be carrying astronauts for manned space docking procedures, a move that has been widely recognized as one of the key technologies necessary to build a space station. Tim O'Mahony, Communications Manager at Kexue Communications, told CRI that the space docking will lay the ground for further space research for China.

"This should be the new version of space station", O'Mahony said. "They will use the space station mainly to do research on different things that will help us on earth, but also look at the effects of radiation and long-term space exposure. So they can plan a mission to Mars." (3/3)

Loral Awarded USAF Study Contract (Source: Space Daily)
Loral was awarded a $1.5 million study contract by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's MILSATCOM Systems Directorate to evaluate options available to meet future war fighting communications needs. Loral will study how commercial technologies and best practices can fulfill military communications mission needs cost effectively while exceeding mission assurance requirements. (3/3)

Chinese Rocket Plant Would be World's Biggest (Source: Space News)
China is building what one Chinese space official called the largest rocket design, production and test facility in the world, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The story quotes Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, as saying the first phase of the construction project currently underway in the northern part of the country will be completed this year. "Twenty of the 22 plants have been completed, and some of them are ready for operation. The base is designed to meet China's growing demand in space technology research and development for the next 30 to 50 years, he added." (3/3)

Space Florida Partners with TRDA on New Financing Program (Source: Space Florida)
Florida-based small and medium sized, growth-oriented companies working in the state’s key industry clusters are poised to receive support from a new program that seeks to expand the level of investment available to these businesses. The I2 Capital Acceleration Program (pronounced I squared for “Igniting Innovation”) is a cooperative project between Space Florida and the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) to assist Florida-based companies within the Aerospace/Aviation, Biotech/Life Science, Clean and Alternative Energy, Defense/Homeland Security, or IT/Telecommunications industry sectors.

During the course of the initiative TRDA will establish a Qualification Review Board whose role is to assess the readiness of applicant businesses for potential state and private investment and to recommend up to 12 companies to receive intensive mentoring and commercialization services. The Board will be comprised of venture capitalists, strategic investors and senior industry professionals with domain expertise within key industry clusters that have been identified as high-wage job creation industries for Florida. (3/3)

U.S. To Embrace Foreign Navigation Services (Source: Space News)
The U.S. stands ready to use foreign satellite navigation systems as a complement to the U.S. GPS system for homeland security and other government services, including aviation-related safety-of-life applications, according to the head of the office coordinating satellite navigation systems for the U.S. government.

Anthony J. Russo, director of the U.S. National Space-Based PNT Coordination Office, said that once the non-U.S. systems meet reliability and integrity standards applied to GPS, they could be integrated into the U.S. government’s use of positioning, navigation and timing services. After initially resisting the arrival of other satellite navigation constellations, the United States for several years has championed the idea that the nations building such systems — Russia, China, Europe, Japan and India, in addition to the United States — assure their compatibility. (3/3)

Europe Confident Galileo is Adequately Funded (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation project has sufficient funds to finance the launch of all 18 satellites now under construction and to maintain sufficient safety margin to cover unanticipated problems, a senior Galileo program manager said March 2. Javier Benedicto, head of the Galileo project office at the European Space Agency (ESA), said the launch of the last four of these satellites has not been contracted but that money has been set aside, and contract prices negotiated with Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium. (3/3)

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