March 30, 2011

Is Roscosmos Beginning to Crack Under the Strain? (Source: Space News)
Two recent launch failures and sharp public criticism from leading government officials is putting the Russian space agency Roscosmos under a harsh spotlight. It’s also raising questions about whether the launch campaign the country is pursuing this year is too aggressive. After having led the world with 31 launches last year, the Russians will increase that pace to 48 this year. That is a launch every 7.6 days. No other country in the world comes close to that figure.

There are signs that this increased pace is beginning to affect the quality of Roscosmos’ work. In December, three expensive navigational satellites ended up in the Pacific after pad technicians filled the upper stage of a Proton with too much fuel. In February, the failure of an upper stage on a Rockot booster stranded a Russian military satellite in a useless orbit.

Russia's increased burden of carrying U.S. astronauts comes at a time when the nation is pursuing a number of expensive high-profile space projects. These include the construction of new spaceport in the Far East, the testing of the Angara rocket, and the development of a new spacecraft and booster to replace the venerable Soyuz system. (3/22)

British Space Companies Begin Trade Mission in Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
The leader of the British space agency said the way to create space jobs in Florida and Britain is cooperation. "Partnership is absolutely crucial," said CEO UK Space Agency Professor Keith Mason. "The important thing is to make the cake bigger so everybody gets a bigger slice. If you can do that by partnering between Space Florida and the U.K., that's the best way."

Mason spoke at a space conference this afternoon in Cocoa Beach. Space Florida began last year reaching out to the British space industry. He lead a delegation of British scientists and businessmen who hope to expand the space industries of both countries. "The U.K. government recognizes that space is one of the growth areas," Mason said. Gov. Rick Scott canceled a planned appearance when bad weather prevented him from flying in from Tallahassee. (3/30)

Noted Physicist David Garfinkle to Speak at Embry-Riddle on Einstein’s Legacy (Source: ERAU)
World-renowned physicist Dr. David Garfinkle will deliver the 10th annual Elston Memorial Lecture on Gravitation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on April 9. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Willie Miller Instructional Center on Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus. In his lecture, titled “Einstein’s Legacy: From Black Holes to the Accelerating Universe,” Dr. Garfinkle will explain that black holes are in fact among the brightest objects in the universe and are possibly connected to wormholes, dark matter, and dark energy. (3/30)

Celestis Reschedules Earth Rise Memorial Launch (Source: Celestis)
Celestis has provided an update on their next Earth Rise Service mission, The Goddard Flight, which will fly out of Spaceport America, New Mexico. While launch was projected to occur on April 1 at Spaceport America, liftoff has been moved to May 20. The delay is due to damage to the spacecraft's flight electronics system that occurred during a recent test. (3/30)

Six Firms Vying To Build Telenor’s Thor 7 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Telenor Satellite Broadcasting has received bids from six manufacturers vying to build the Thor 7 telecommunications satellite, which will mark Telenor’s entry into Ka-band satellite services and signals its intention to expand beyond its existing operations, the company’s chief executive said. Four U.S. and two European manufacturers submitted offers for the mixed Ku- and Ka-band Thor 7. They are Astrium and Thales Alenia of Europe; and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences and Loral of the United States. (3/30)

New R&D Dashboard Tracks Federal Science Agency Investments (Source: SSTI)
A new prototype website allows users to track R&D grants and awards from federal agencies. The current version provides publicly reported federal agency data from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health from 2001 to 2010. It also provides output data on patents, patent application and publication. Future updates will integrate the site with all federal agency databases and additional output data. Click here to test-drive the site, including data on Florida's share of R&D funding awards from these agencies. (3/30)

Boeing Brings Astronaut to Qatar to Inspire Students (Source: Arabian Aerospace)
Qatari students had a chance to hear first hand about space travel as Boeing continued its lecture series for students in Qatar pursuing studies in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Boeing, which has a regional office in Doha, brought Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, a retired NASA astronaut who holds doctorates in mechanical and biomedical engineering, to tell students how her engineering education prepared her to fly on five space shuttle missions and for a successful career in the aerospace industry. (3/30)

ASA Offers Edward O'Connor Scholarship (Source: ERAU)
The Aerospace States Association (ASA) invites applications for the Edward A. O'Connor Jr. scholarship for 2011/2012. The due date is April 30. Also offered by ASA is a scholarship sponsored by Rockwell Collins. Edward O'Connor was the first executive director of the Spaceport Florida Authority, the agency now known as Space Florida. While at the Spaceport Authority, O'Connor led the creation of the ASA. Click here for information. (3/30)

Which Near-Earth Asteroids are Ripe for a Visit? (Source: Scientific American)
In April 2010, amid mounting criticism that his space plan lacked direction, President Barack Obama gave a speech in Florida to lay out a few ambitious goals he had in mind for NASA. The details of how those targets would be met remain somewhat sketchy even today, but the goals themselves were clear—sometime around 2025, the U.S. would perform an unprecedented feat. "We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," Obama said.

NASA already sent a robotic spacecraft to land on the near-Earth asteroid Eros in 2001, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) even managed to return a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa in 2010. So where will the next robotic mission go, and where will astronauts first touch down in the decades to come? A group of astronomers working through a census of nearby asteroids has a few suggestions. Michael Mueller and his colleagues have since 2009 been using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to gauge the properties of hundreds of near-Earth objects (NEOs), a campaign known as ExploreNEOs. Click here. (3/30)

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Progresses (Source: DCist)
Orbital and SpaceX (which tested its Falcon 9 rocket successfully last December) were the winners from Phase 1 of NASA's COTS competition, and now have contracts for a total of 20 cargo transportation missions to the ISS from 2011 to 2015. You can read more about the program and ongoing phases at NASA's website. While SpaceX will launch its rockets from Florida, Orbital will be doing all of its work at MARS. Part of the Taurus II vehicle is being constructed in the Ukraine and will be shipped to MARS for final assembly in the new HIF.

Representatives from Orbital assured us that the launch of the Taurus II (unlike those of Wallops' usual sounding-rockets) will be seen as far away as Indiana. Yup, that means that starting in September we'll be able to view rocket launches from our own backyards and roofdecks. We'll be sure to let you know when MARS firms up those dates so we can all head outside to watch, or schedule a photo meetup. Also: suck it, Florida! (3/30)

British Industries Talk Aerospace Trade (Source: Florida Today)
A delegation of six U.K. space companies will discuss doing business with space companies in Brevard County and elsewhere in the U.S. during a two-day trade mission that starts today on the Space Coast. Gov. Rick Scott and British Consul-General Kevin McGurgan are among those planning to attend. Agencies and companies also in attendance will include Space Florida, whose president, Frank DiBello, will make the opening remarks, as well as NASA, The Boeing Co., EADS and Raytheon. Scott will host a discussion on how to strengthen the space industry by encouraging cooperation between U.S. and British firms. (3/30)

U.S. Senate Delays Key NASA Hearing Until May 5 (Source: U.S. Senate)
A U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing planned for March 31 has been pushed back to May 5. The focus of the hearing is NASA's FY-12 budget. Witnesses will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. (3/30)

Avio Reports Dip in Revenue, Says Vega To Launch in 2011 (Source: Space News)
Italian rocket-propulsion manufacturer Avio of Italy on March 30 said its space division reported revenue of 285.7 million euros ($378.6 million) in 2010, down 1.6 percent from 2009, and that Europe’s new Vega small-satellite launcher, for which Avio is prime contractor, would conduct its maiden flight late this year.

Avio, which produces about 14 percent of the value of Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket in addition to work on Vega and tactical-propulsion programs for the Italian Defense Ministry, did not break out profitability figures for the space division but said its performance was “important for the group, both in terms of profitability and stability” in 2010. Avio owns 70 percent of ELV, the prime contractor for Vega. The Italian Space Agency owns the remaining 30 percent of the company. (3/30)

Aerojet Breaks Ground on Huntsville Expansion (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Aerojet, in partnership with Huntsville City Mayor Tommy Battle and Chamber of Commerce executives, held a groundbreaking ceremony, marking the launch of Aerojet’s new office expansion project. The company is working toward hiring an additional 25 engineers who will reside in the new office space. These Aerojet engineers will provide technical expertise in solid, liquid and gel propulsion, warheads, specialty metals and fire suppression systems. They also will provide face-to-face, hands-on technical interaction with all of our Huntsville customers for current and future programs. (3/30)

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