March 4, 2011

Crash & Burn - Taurus is 1 for 4 Since 2001 (Source: Nature)
Engineers determined that the most likely culprit for the Taurus/OCO failure in 2009 was the initiating system used to separate the fairing from the rocket body. That original system used pyrotechnics to generate hot gas, which drove two pistons to push the fairing halves from the rocket body. In the new design, the system used pressurized cold nitrogen gas instead.

"We really felt like we had the problem nailed," said an Orbital official. The Glory launch failure is the third out of the past four for the Taurus rocket, and raises serious questions about the program's management, he says. A Taurus XL rocket was scheduled to be used in 2013 to launch the replacement to the lost OCO satellite, but that plan is now on hold until the investigation into the latest failure is concluded.

Orbital Science's Pegasus and Minotaur rockets use fairings and fairing-release systems that are similar to those on its Taurus rockets, says McDowell. "My guess is that this is going to turn out to be a wiring error." He adds that fairing and stage separation are among the trickiest bits of rocketry to get right. Orbital put additional telemetry apparatus on the rocket that was used to launch Glory, and they have already begun "crunching the data" to see if they can work out what happened. (3/4)

University CubeSats Lost Aboard Taurus Too (Source: NASA Watch)
After NASA's Glory spacecraft was to be released, a P-POD would have released multiple university-developed CubeSats that were selected by NASA. Included were CubeSat's developed by Montana State University, the University of Colorado in Boulder, and several Kentucky universities that combined their efforts to become Kentucky Space Consortium. (3/4)

Braun's Comments on Launch Vehicle Timeline: Heavy-Lift or Human Spaceflight? And 10 Years? (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's Chief Technologist recently remarked that it will realistically take up to a decade for NASA to develop a replacement for the Space Shuttle. "Let's call it -- think about it as a decade if you want to put a time stamp to it," said Braun. In a meeting last week that included Florida congressional staffers, they interpreted Braun's remark as meaning the U.S. will have a 10-year gap in human spaceflight capability.

Other reports read less into Braun's statement, suggesting that he meant a NASA-developed heavy-lift rocket that would carry Orion. (Allowing a much nearer-term capability for commercial human spaceflight.) Either way, a 10-year requirement for a Shuttle-derived launch system does seem unacceptably long and would be a sad situation indeed for a program that already has most of the infrastructure and vehicle components developed. Given the Congressional confusion, and the supposed 10-year requirement, NASA should offer some clarification soon. (3/4)

Ben Bova: President Should Task NASA to Pursue Space Solar Power (Source:
"I would ask that NASA be tasked - and funded - to produce a demonstration Solar Power Satellite within a specified time: say, 10 years. It should deliver at least 100 megawatts to the ground. This will generate the capability to use powersats to produce a significant portion of our nation's energy, helping to move us away from dependence on fossil fuels. It would also demonstrate to private industry that powersats have an enormous profit potential." (3/2)

Editorial: NewSpace and Old Must Find Harmony (Source: Space News)
The U.S. space community and all government and business organizations that support it are at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future unlike any seen in decades. This uncertainty has implications to our national security, our industrial base and our nation’s ability to continue accessing and exploring space without being dependent on foreign providers.

The new space model must address risk posture, acquisition strategy and approach, production volumes and capacity, as well as long-term technology development and adoption. It also must achieve the right balance between investing in emerging and existing space industries. This investment must encourage budding commercial space businesses while recognizing and building upon the strong foundation of our historic space program, which has a proven record of successfully sending astronauts into space and returning them safely to Earth.

With the numerous constraints and ambitious objectives for human spaceflight and science in Earth orbit and beyond, the dialogue must not be about new space vs. old space. It must be about how we can all work together, using our unique technologies and capabilities to help NASA define a future space. Click here to read the article. (3/3)

Astronaut Garrett Reisman Joins SpaceX (Source: SpaceX)
NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman is joining SpaceX as a senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance. Dr. Reisman will join former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox’s team in preparing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. In the coming years, NASA will use Dragon for at least 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station, creating strong flight experience before the first manned mission.

“I am excited to help SpaceX because I care deeply about the future of human spaceflight,” said Dr. Reisman. “I see commercial spaceflight as our country's best option for a robust and sustainable human spaceflight future.” Beyond safety, Dr. Reisman’s experience as an operator of both American and Russian spaceflight hardware will help SpaceX in the development of human interfaces including controls, displays, seats, suits and environmental control systems. (3/4)

National Inventors Hall of Fame Taps Former JPL Engineer (Source: JPL)
The National Inventors Hall of Fame is inducting former JPL physicist and engineer Eric Fossum, who led a team that invented a semiconductor active pixel image sensor that is widely used in cell phone cameras, webcams, digital still cameras, medical imaging and other applications. Fossum is now an engineering professor at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

The image sensor chip was created at JPL in the early 1990s. Fossum and his team developed it while researching ways to drastically reduce the size of cameras on interplanetary spacecraft while maintaining the scientific image quality. The result was the invention of the CMOS active-pixel sensor (CMOS-APS), which consolidates various functions of the prevalent image sensor of the time, but with one-hundredth of the power of its predecessors and with the ability to make its own conversion from analog to digital for output on computer monitors. (3/3)

NASA Creates Glory Launch Mishap Investigation Board (Source: NASA)
NASA's Glory mission ended Friday after the spacecraft failed to reach orbit following its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA has begun the process of creating a Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure. Telemetry indicated the fairing, a protective shell atop the satellite's Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected.

Editor's Note: ULA had argued previously that a Delta-2 would be a better choice for such missions, costing a bit more but with a higher likelihood of successful launch. Launching dozens of GPS satellites gave the Delta-2 team invaluable experience and an unmatched record of success. (3/4)

Florida Court Sides with Gov. Scott on High Speed Rail Rejection (Source: Miami Herald)
The decades-old dream of high-speed rail in Florida died Friday when the state Supreme Court turned down a last-minute lawsuit to save the project and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he would send $2.4 billion earmarked for the project to other states.

“I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens,” LaHood said shortly after he talked by phone to Gov. Rick Scott, who rejected the money for the third and final time.

A number of other states, including California and New York, have been lobbying for a share of Florida’s money ever since Scott first rejected it last month. Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, filed suit Tuesday arguing that after he was elected Scott ignored a state statute requiring construction of high-speed rail and overstepped his executive authority by refusing to spend money appropriated by the Legislature. (3/4)

Cancellation of MEADS Venture Hits Hard in Central Florida (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon has said it will not provide any more funding to the Medium Extended Air Defense System once development work, projected to cost more than $800 million, is completed in 2013. Officials cited issues including cost overruns, technical problems and program delays in their decision. The decision hits hard in Orlando, Fla., where more than 170 people are employed by the Lockheed Martin-led venture MEADS International. (3/4)

Another Day Added to Discovery Shuttle Mission (Source: AIA)
NASA has added another day to the last mission of the space shuttle Discovery, which had already been extended a day, bringing the mission now to 13 days. The latest extension will allow the shuttle's six astronauts to help unload a new storage unit that Discovery delivered to the International Space Station. (3/4)

NASA's Glory Satellite Fails To Reach Orbit (Sources: NASA, Space Policy Online)
NASA's Glory mission launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Friday morning but failed to reach orbit. Telemetry indicated the fairing, the protective shell atop the Taurus XL rocket, did not separate as expected about three minutes after launch. Orbital officials explain that they changed out the fairing separation system after the previous Taurus failure and used the one from Minotaur, which works. (3/4)

South African Firm Pushes Frontiers of Space Tourism (Source: IOL)
Space tourism is just the beginning of space exploration. This is the word from Brad Inggs, whose Durban company Orbital Horizon, in partnership with American company XCOR Aerospace, recently began offering trips into space in a new suborbital spaceship. The trip is expected to cost $95,000 (R660 000) and would depart from the US. “South Korea and one of the islands in the Caribbean is another proposed launch site – we hope South Africa is allowed to do it soon,” Inggs said.

People interested in experiencing the 30-minute trip, he said, would first pay a $20 000 deposit and fly (not included in the fee) to the US to undergo medical tests. “If they pass the test they pay the rest and move on to the next stage of acrobatic training, psychological testing and training in G-forces in Arizona to prepare for their trip,” said Inggs. After that, he said, they would come back to South Africa to wait for the call. (3/4)

Atlas Launch Packed with Pressure, Pride (Source: Florida Today)
Just as every football team has a quarterback, so does every launch team that sends a rocket into space. For the United Launch Alliance team responsible for the Atlas V rocket X-37B mission at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, their quarterback is Ed Christiansen. With a husky 6-foot-4 frame, Christiansen sure looks the part. But it's his 27 years of experience, devotion to the space industry and calm, humble demeanor that make him a perfect fit to be his team's quarterback -- the launch conductor.

"You're on the field. You're in the middle of it. You're depending on a lot of people," Christiansen said. "It's truly teamwork. It takes thousands and thousands of people to get to where we're ready to launch. When we get ready to launch, it's down to a small number of people, but it took a lot of people to get us here."

Christiansen, 55, admits that he feels a lot of weight on his shoulders on launch day. If something goes wrong as the countdown clicks ticks down to T-0, Christiansen, of Cape Canaveral, is the man in charge of pushing a big red button, which halts the launch. He's had to push it only once in the 16 years he's been a launch conductor. (3/4)

South African Government to Get Majority Stake in Satellite Company (Source: Defence Web)
The Cabinet today approved of the government’s move to acquire a majority stake in SunSpace, a private company set up as a spin-off of South Africa’s satellite development research program. Cabinet spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, said that funding to keep SunSpace intact will be made available through the usual budget processes of government. The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, is expected to outline the details soon. (3/4)

China to Put Man on the Moon by 2030 (Source: Sify News)
China plans to make a manned moon landing by 2030, but the purpose of exploration of the moon should be seen as 'peaceful' rather than a threat, a top scientist has said. Ye Peijian, chief scientist of deep space exploration at the China Academy of Space Technology, said China's space technology still lags far behind the US and Russia.

Training of astronauts for the manned missions has begun. China has also recruited its first two women astronauts for training. Also, a space station, which would have a lifespan of around 10 years, will be cared for by two or three on-board astronauts, and would be open to scientists from foreign countries, officials said. (3/4)

US Space Program is Endangered (Source: Delaware Online)
As the end of the space shuttle program nears, where and how America travels into space appear unclear. There are no defined missions, destinations or deadlines. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first U.S. manned spaceflight, America's leadership in space exploration is at risk. Our space program is beset by cancellations, budget cuts and conflicting directives for government and commercial spaceflight development.

In addition to the need to retain the unique technical expertise of tens of thousands of workers, the program's future is vital to our nation's economic future. No other government program matches the economic impact of space program spin-offs, including applications in medicine, computer technology, communications, public safety, food, power generation and transportation. (3/4)

Gov't Official: NASA Wasting $215 Million on Canceled Programs (Source: WAFF)
Hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are being wasted on a canceled NASA program. According to NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin, the federal government has blown $215 million on aspects of the Constellation project that would otherwise be canceled or scaled back.

Both NASA and Congress agreed to cancel Ares-1 and instead develop a new heavy-lift vehicle in the next budget. Martin says language inserted by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) into the fiscal year 2010 budget bars the space agency from shutting down Constellation's Ares-1 rocket program until a new budget is passed. Since a new budget hasn't been passed by Congress - hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on a soon to be defunct program.

We contacted Sen. Shelby's office about the huge amounts of money being wasted as a result of what the IG's office calls the "restrictive language" inserted in the budget. His office released this statement: "This is nothing more than absurd spin from the Obama administration. Nothing in the Shelby language prevents NASA from building the heavy lift rocket Congress calls for in the new authorizing legislation. NASA should stop making excuses and get to work." (3/4)

April 12 is Day We'll Learn Spots Where Shuttles Will Retire (Source: Florida Today)
NASA chief Charles Bolden told a congressional committee Thursday that he would announce the final display locations places for the space agency's shuttle orbiters on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight. Discovery, now in orbit, will go to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The other two -- Atlantis and Endeavour -- will be sent to educational facilities -- such as museums -- yet to be named.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is one of 29 locations seeking an orbiter. It announced plans in December to build a $100 million exhibit as the centerpiece. Lawmakers made sometimes humorous pitches during the meeting Thursday. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) lobbied for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, which gets 450,000 annual visitors. Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) offered Bolden a lapel pin saying, "Land the shuttle in Ohio," where it would reside at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (3/4)

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