March 8, 2011

NASA Warns Ice Melt Speeding Up (Source: Space Daily)
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace, according to a new NASA-funded satellite study. The findings of the study - the longest to date of changes in polar ice sheet mass - suggest these ice sheets are overtaking ice loss from Earth's mountain glaciers and ice caps to become the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted.

The nearly 20-year study reveals that in 2006, a year in which comparable results for mass loss in mountain glaciers and ice caps are available from a separate study conducted using other methods, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets lost a combined mass of 475 gigatons a year on average. That's enough to raise global sea level by an average of 1.3 millimeters (.05 inches) a year. (A gigaton is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds.) (3/8)

Rush Limbaugh Pushes Conspiracy to Explain Glory, OCO Losses (Source: Media Matters)
Last week radio pundit Rush Limbaugh suggested that NASA may have intentionally ditched its Glory satellite into the South Pacific to maintain what he believes is a liberal global warming hoax. A few days later he "doubled down" by suggesting that liberal interests would benefit from Glory's failure, and the failure last year of NASA's OCO satellite launch. Click here to listen to his conspiracy theory. (3/8)

NASA Seeks Sponsor/Organizer for NanoSat Launch Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA's new Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge will provide $2 million in prize money (and possibly more money from non-NASA sponsors) for the first provider able to deliver a payload with a mass of at least 1 kilogram and dimensions of at least 10x10x11 centimeters to Earth orbit, complete at least one orbit past the launch site and deliver payloads successfully at least two times in one week.

The agency invites interest from an "allied organization" to help manage the competition, including to verify that payloads have been placed in orbit via ground tracking or other means, which might be done through partnerships with NASA, the Air Force, private entities or through sponsorships. Range safety costs and procedures will be a critical issue for competitors, but some existing and new ranges may offer incentives to attract competitors. Click here for information and here to view the NASA solicitation. (3/8)

Difficult Decisions Ahead on Mars (Source: BBC)
The joint Mars exploration envisioned by the US and Europe is set for an overhaul, following an announcement by the Americans that their part of the budget is critically short of funds. NASA and ESA had agreed to send two rovers to the Red Planet in 2018. In Europe's case, this vehicle is already designed and about to be built. But a new report from the US National Research Council says the probable $3.5 billion cost of the American side of the mission is $1 billion too high.

The "planetary decadal survey" recommends the effort be scaled back or postponed indefinitely. As an example scenario of how the mission could be modified - or de-scoped - to fit within the new suggested budget, the report considers the situation in which the European rover is simply left behind on Earth.
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Such a one-sided outcome from a revision process is not thought to be likely, but it gives a sense of the difficulties NASA and ESA now face in developing a joint initiative to land and rove on Mars later this decade. (3/8)

Some Of Mars' Missing CO2 May Be Buried (Source: Space Daily)
Rocks on Mars dug from far underground by crater-blasting impacts are providing glimpses of one possible way Mars' atmosphere has become much less dense than it used to be. At several places where cratering has exposed material from depths of about 5 kilometers (3 miles) or more beneath the surface, observations by a mineral-mapping instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate carbonate minerals. (3/8)

Embry-Riddle Worldwide, AIA to Produce New Aerospace Publication (Source: ERAU)
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Leadership (CAAL) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have signed an agreement to jointly produce a new publication for the aviation and aerospace industry. AIA and CAAL will work together to produce an authoritative report that will offer extensive business and economic data on the U.S. aerospace industry, as well as the global economy. A report such as this will become a new high-water mark as global markets expand and U.S.-based manufacturers continue to grow to meet this demand.

The alliance will allow AIA and CAAL to produce studies intended to benefit the aerospace industry both domestically and globally. AIA’s annual “Aerospace Facts & Figures,” the industry standard for 57 years, will merge with CAAL’s “Aerospace Economic Report and Outlook (AERO).” The AERO was introduced in 2010 at the first Aviation and Aerospace Manufacturing Summit to be a resource for 21st century industry success. (3/8)

Ad Astra and NASA Sign Support Agreement on VASIMR Technology (Source:
Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) have signed a Support Agreement to collaborate on research, analysis and development tasks on space-based cryogenic magnet operations and electric propulsion systems currently under development by Ad Astra. The agreement was signed by NASA-JSC Director of Engineering, Mr. Stephen J. Altemus and Ad Astra's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Franklin R. Chang Diaz. (3/8)

Wanted for Human Space Exploration: A Destination! (Source: SPACErePORT)
The recently released Planetary Science Decadal Survey identified robotic missions to Mars and Jupiter as top space exploration priorities for the science community. As NASA and Congress tussle over funding for heavy-lift and beyond-LEO human exploration capabilities, sorely lacking are firm destinations and timelines for reaching them. Without these, there seems to be little point to the exercise. Without these, NASA cannot adequately define the design requirements for a heavy-lift rocket, or finalize a credible budget for it. (3/8)

White House Orders NASA to Cancel Two Climate Change Missions (Source: AIA)
The White House, under pressure to reduce federal spending, has ordered NASA to cancel two major climate change missions that were planned to launch by 2017. The Earth science missions included the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice, and their cancellation reportedly came prior to the failed launch of the Glory satellite last Friday due to rocket malfunctions. (3/8)

Used Space Shuttles Go for $29M (Source: Daily Beast)
When the space shuttle Discovery returns from orbit on Wednesday, concluding its 39th flight in its 27-year space-traveling career, its journey still won’t be over. According to NASA, 21 institutions across the country have put in proposals to land either the Discovery, or one of its soon-to-be-retired mates, the Endeavour and the Atlantis, to their collections. The cost of the Discovery, which has logged 150 million miles traveled, will run museums a hefty $28.8 million. Some museum’s campaigns are more energetic than others.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan has collected 150,000 names on a petition urging that one of the shuttles be housed there, while Seattle’s The Museum of Flight has erected a $12 million wing just on the hope that they might land a shuttle. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida, however, may boast the most appealing offer. They plan to suspend one of the shuttles horizontally, as if it were in flight, with the payload doors open, and have it serve as the centerpiece of a $100 million, 64,000-square-foot exhibit slated to open in 2013. (3/8)

Who Wants a Pre-Owned Shuttle? Everyone. (Source: New York Times)
Condition: 27 years old, 150 million miles traveled, somewhat dinged but well maintained. Price: $0. Dealer preparation and destination charges: $28.8 million. So, does anyone want to buy a used space shuttle? Yes, it turns out. This old vehicle — the space shuttle Discovery — is an object of fervent desire for museums around of the country, which would love to add it or one of its mates, the Endeavour and the Atlantis, to their collections.

The Discovery is to return from orbit on Wednesday, concluding its 39th flight and its space-faring career, but it will make at least one more ascent — piggyback on a 747 airplane — to its resting place for public display. NASA will announce the final destinations for the three soon-to-be-retired shuttles on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launching. Click here to see descriptions of the competing museum locations. (3/8)

Sen. Brown Calls for Transfer of Retired Shuttle to Ohio Museum (Source: WDTN)
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown continues to push for NASA to land Space Shuttle Atlantis in Dayton. Brown met with NASA Administrator Major Gen Charles F Bolden, USMC (Ret.) Tuesday urging him to locate the retired Shuttle at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

"I made the case to Administrator Bolden that Dayton's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the right choice to house the Shuttle Atlantis," Brown said. "Ohio, as the birthplace of aviation and within a day's drive for 60 percent of the American population, would be extraordinarily well-suited to host the Shuttle, and I plan to continue pushing for Ohio as the decision process continues." (3/8)

Executive: Aerospace Firms are Waiting on NASA for Clearer Goals (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Rocket-building companies need clear directions and goals from NASA and Congress, an aerospace executive said Monday. One problem is Congress hasn't told NASA precisely how much it can spend this year or next. Another concern is that NASA hasn't said exactly what sort of rockets it wants or how it will choose them. "We have no clarity at all until NASA says what they're doing next," said Jim Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. "We're running out of time." (3/8)

Editorial: ULA Rises in Rocket World (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance rocketed above a competitor last week, literally. NASA long has used ULA’s Delta II — built in Decatur, but now being phased out — to launch its smaller scientific satellites. It ended its contract after the Defense Department opted to use only ULA’s heavier-lift Atlas V and Delta IV. The drop in volume increased the cost of the Delta II, and NASA went shopping for less-expensive options. It decided on the Taurus XL, built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Orbital is in the process of developing the Taurus II, a cheaper alternative to the Atlas V and Delta IV. The bad news for NASA, taxpayers and Orbital was that the Taurus XL launch failed. A $424 million satellite ended up on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. ULA officials would never say so, but Orbital’s failure was ULA’s gain. NASA had an unbroken string of success in using ULA’s Delta II to launch its expensive satellites. Both of its Taurus XL launches — the first in 2009 — have failed.

ULA rockets are enormously expensive, but the satellites they launch are more so. As the company that employs 680 in Decatur faces increasing competition from unproven rockets, the Taurus XL failure was a reminder that reliability is more important than cost when it comes to satellite-launch vehicles. (3/8)

University of Arizona Could Benefit if NASA Goes 'Smaller' (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
NASA should scale back or delay its big "flagship" missions to planets and moons in our solar system if the agency can't cut its costs, according to a review team of scientists asked to set priorities for lunar and planetary exploration. The recommendations of the National Research Council could actually be good news for University of Arizona scientists competing for smaller missions, said a UA official.

The report, "Vision and Voyage for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022," described a program for the next decade that "vigorously continues NASA's two programs of competed planetary missions" - called Discovery and New Frontiers - and recommends that those smaller missions receive an increase in their budgets. UA specializes in these kinds of smaller missions. (3/8)

Mitsubishi Electric Wins Turkish Satellite Order (Source: Bloomberg)
Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corp. won the contract to build two communications satellites for Turkey. Up to 50 Turkish engineers will work in Japan on the construction of the Turksat 4A and 4B satellites, an Istanbul-based newspaper reported. Launch is set for 2012, the newspaper said. (3/8)

UK 'Over-Reliant' on GPS Signals, Engineers Warn (Source: BBC)
The UK may have become dangerously over-reliant on satellite-navigation signals, according to a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Use of space-borne positioning and timing data is now widespread, in everything from freight movement to synchronisation of computer networks.

The academy fears that too many applications have little or no back-up were these signals to go down. Receivers need to be capable of using a variety of data sources, it says. Dr Martyn Thomas, who chaired the group that wrote the report, told BBC News: "We're not saying that the sky is about to fall in; we're not saying there's a calamity around the corner. (3/8)

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