April 11, 2011

Whither Human Spaceflight? (Source: Space Review)
Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, and it comes at a time of uncertainty about NASA's future human spaceflight plans. Jeff Foust discusses some of the root causes of that uncertainty and what it means for the long-term future of human spaceflight and space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1822/1 to view the article. (4/11)

Vostok: An Aerospace Classic (Source: Space Review)
The legacy of Vostok goes far beyond Yuri Gagarin's flight 50 years ago. Drew LePage examines how the Vostok design evolved over the decades into applications far beyond human spaceflight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1821/1 to view the article. (4/11)

At the Altar of Smoke and Fire (Source: Space Review)
This year will mark the end of many aspects of the shuttle era, including the various cultures associated with it. Dwayne Day describes one of those little-appreciated mini-cultures: those who photograph the shuttle launches. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1818/1 to view the article. (4/11)

Space Shuttles and the Wisdom of the Crowd (Source: Space Review)
On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle launch, NASA will announce where the orbiters will go after the final launch later this year. Ben Brockert discusses the results of an online experiment to predict where the shuttles may go. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1817/1 to view the article. (4/11)

An Open Letter to Senator Mikulski (Source: Space Review)
On Monday NASA administrator Charles Bolden will appear before a Senate appropriations subcommittee to discuss the agency's FY12 budget proposal. Lou Friedman offers an open letter to the chairperson of that subcommittee, asking her to make a critical examination of the agency's future. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1816/1 to view the article. (4/11)

Arianespace Reschedules Launch for April 22 (Source: Arianespace)
Following a last-minute shutdown on its previous launch attempt, Arianespace has scheduled Flight VA201; Ariane 5 ECA with Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn for Apr. 22 at 5:37 p.m. EDT. With the additional checkout and verification now in progress on the Ariane 5 ECA launcher, Arianespace has decided to resume the operations for Ariane Flight VA201 with the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellite payloads. (4/11)

Commercial Space Travel Gets Boost in Texas (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Commercial space travel has gotten a boost from the Texas Legislature. Lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would limit the liability that private space travel companies face. Under the legislation, people who sign up for rides on a private space flight would assume the risk of death or injury by signing a waiver. The companies would still be liable for gross negligence or damage to non-participants, officials said. The bill faces a final procedural hurdle and is expected to be sent to Gov. Rick Perry this week. (4/11)

Will Pak-China Steam Ahead in Space Tech? (Source: Times of India)
India has embarked on a nearly Rs 13,000-crore human space flight program, including a fully autonomous orbital vehicle carrying two or three crew members to low-earth orbit and bringing them back after about a week. Tentatively, ISRO plans to launch the mission in 2016 and the rocket is expected to be the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The first announcement on this program was made in 2007. Though the space agency has been working on this project for the last four years, the government has not yet given the formal green signal. Space experts fear that if the government does not take a firm decision soon, one should not be surprised if Pakistan beats India at least in the manned space program area, by sending one of its scientists in a Chinese spacecraft which will be a part of the increasing Sino-Pak space co-operation. (4/11)

Reaching for the Stars (Source: Economist)
Manned spaceflight is now no longer a two-horse race. China first sent men up in 2003, and a year later three privately funded sub-orbital missions were made in SpaceShipOne. Rocketeering remains a dangerous profession. Four missions have killed 18 astronauts between them, two each from the Soviet and American programs, and more have died in accidents on the ground. Click here to see the article and chart. (4/11)

White House Marks Gagarin Anniversary (Source: AFP)
The White House on Monday congratulated Russia on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first manned spaceflight -- but noted tongue-in-cheek that America got to the Moon first. White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed momentarily taken off-guard when asked by a Russia journalist whether there would be a special message from Washington on the anniversary, which falls on Tuesday.

"I wish I had (a) great one-liner, in Russian or in English, but I don't. I'm not sure what we have on that," Carney said. "But we certainly congratulate the Russian people on that historic accomplishment," he said, noting as a former Time magazine reporter in Moscow he understood the way Gagarin was revered in Russia. (4/11)

First African-American to Walk in Space Wants Others to Follow (Source: Voice)
AS A teenager, Dr Bernard Harris used to spend many afternoons watching space programs on television. Inspired by scenes showing people boldly going where no one has gone before, Harris vowed he would one day join them. Years later, Harris followed his dream - making history when he became the first African-American man to set foot in space.

"I always had a desire to travel to space," said 54-year-old Harris, from Houston, Texas. "I started off working for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] in 1986 as a flight surgeon and researcher prior to becoming an astronaut." In a lengthy career, Harris has had the chance to do what millions of people dream of – travel into space, which he has done two times. (4/11)

Space Jets in a Bottle (Source: IOP)
By creating space-like conditions in a slim 4m vessel, Italian researchers have helped confirm the behaviour of astrophysical jets – streams of charged particles shot out by supermassive black holes and young stars, which stretch several hundred thousand light years across space. The streams of initially charged particles – known as astrophysical jets - which can travel close to the speed of light have previously only been understood through computer simulations but are now being brought to life in lab-produced vacuums. (4/11)

NASA And Boy Scouts Of America Unveil New Merit Badge (Source: NASA)
Boy Scouts now have the opportunity to work with NASA and other technology professionals to design, build, and demonstrate a robot to earn the new Robotics merit badge. NASA and BSA developed the badge because of the wide-reaching impact of robotics and its role in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM careers. The badge is now part of the BSA's new curriculum emphasizing STEM activities and will help young men develop critical skills relevant and needed in today's competitive world. (4/11)

Why Haven't We Colonized Mars Yet? (Source: Space.com)
Humanity has been flying in space for 50 years now, but we are still confined to a single planet — Earth. If it took only eight years to go from no humans in space to the first man on the moon, why haven't humans colonized Mars and other worlds yet? Or at the least the moon? "NASA's plan as of 1969 was to have a human Mars mission by 1981, a permanent moon base in the '80s and a permanent Mars base in 1988," said Robert Zubrin, president and founder of the Mars Society.

Interplanetary human voyages pose definite scientific and technological challenges. One would have to deal with the rigors of travel — issues of food, water and oxygen, the deleterious effects of microgravity, potential hazards such as fire and radiation and the fact that any such astronauts would be millions of miles away from help and confined together for years at a time. Landing, working, living and returning from another planet would offer a host of challenges as well. (4/11)

Lost Treasures of the Soviet Space Era (Source: RIA Novosti)
While Russians will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight on April 12 with impressive 50-salvo fireworks, Sotheby's in New York will be auctioning off the descent capsule of the Vostok 3KA-2 spacecraft in which the dog Zvezdochka safely returned to Earth after a test flight; a sensor-laden mannequin nicknamed Ivan Ivanovich was ejected during the descent and landed nearby. This successful dress rehearsal set the stage for Yury Gagarin's historic flight.

Ivan Ivanovich, who was sent into orbit twice, was sold for $189,500 in 1993. Now another relic of the Gagarin era will find a home abroad. Of course, a wealthy Russian could buy the capsule, but this is unlikely, and not because of the price tag. On the day of the historic flight jubilee the burnt aluminum alloy capsule is expected to fetch eight to ten million dollars for the current owner, who bought it "privately" a long time ago, although he was ready to settle for $800,000 just a few years ago. But even $10 million is chump change compared to the cost of a decent yacht or a dozen Faberge eggs. (4/11)

Report Supports ISS Extension to 2020 (Source: Florida Today)
The nation hopes to operate the International Space Station until at least 2020, but will it last that long? NASA assessments are ongoing, but federal government watchdogs say it appears the agency's is doing an adequate job analyzing the station's wear and tear and determining which spare parts are likely to be needed over the next decade. The NASA authorization act Congress approved last year extended the station's life from 2015 to 2020.

Primary station structures like its trusses and habitable modules were certified to last 15 years. Assessments of the hardware and systems' ability to exceed that design life is in progress and will take until 2015. NASA is using statistical modeling to determine which parts are likely to fail in the coming years and staging spares based on the analysis. The report says a limited review validated NASA's results, but said those results are sensitive to NASA assumptions about spares' reliability. (4/11)

Commercial Apps Drive Space Sector Growth (Source: Aviation Week)
Consumer and commercial gear that uses the GPS signal, and direct-to-home television applications drove 7.7% growth in the international “space economy” last year, as measured by the Space Foundation in its annual report on the state of the space industry. Overall, the global space economy of government budgets and commercial revenue rose to $276.5 billion in 2010, according to Space Foundation analysts.

GPS devices and chipsets and direct-to-home satellite television paced the space sector growth, despite the laggard overall economy. Since 2005 the sector has grown 48%, rising at least 5% per year over that period. Despite the rise in budgets and revenues, there were some warning signs. Government spending on space rose by only 1.1%, and almost all of that increase was in non-U.S. space budgets.

Space launches declined for the first time since 2006, to 74 in 2010 from 78 in 2009. Russia had the most launches, with 31, while China tied the U.S. for the first time at 15 launches each. Despite the drop in total launches, payloads rose to 118 from 111 over the same period. (4/11)

Is Space Tourism the New Space Race? (Source: Space.com)
Fifty years after the Soviet Union beat the United States to send the first human to space, a new space race is heating up. This time, the players are not nations — rather, they're commercial companies that aim to send the first paying passengers to space on private spaceships. "It's an exciting time for the industry," said George Whitesides, president of Virgin Galactic. "I really believe that we're at the edge of an extraordinary period of innovation which will radically change our world."

If Virgin and other companies succeed, space could soon become one more conquered frontier, with rocket rides to space becoming as accessible as plane rides across the Atlantic. "We're just about to the point where low-Earth orbit really ought to be considered part of our normal regime," said Roger Launius, a space history curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. But while we may be nearing a tipping point where access to space expands widely beyond the select few who've left Earth to date, Launius and others caution that it's not a done deal yet.

Virgin Galactic is not alone. A handful of other companies are also racing to build suborbital vehicles to meet the perceived demand from tourists, as well as scientists who'd like to conduct short experiments in microgravity. The secretive Blue Origin company, bankrolled by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing the suborbital Goddard vehicle under the firm's New Shepard program. Armadillo Aerospace, founded by computer game entrepreneur John Carmack, is another contender with a vertically launched rocket ship in development. Masten Space Systems, and XCOR Aerospace, both of Mojave, Calif., are also building suborbital spaceships called Xaero and Lynx, respectively. (4/11)

AIA Poll Shows Public Support for NextGen (Source: AIA)
A new poll from the Aerospace Industries Association shows strong support among Americans for the FAA and its satellite-based NextGen air-traffic control system. The poll indicates that as many as 68% of Americans support new technologies to improve air safety and 65% favor maintaining or increasing FAA funding levels, while 19% favor cutting the FAA budget. (4/11)

Space Station to Conduct Week-Long Deep Space Simulation (Source: AIA)
The International Space Station is conducting a week-long partial simulation of a deep-space exploration mission next summer. Under the program, NASA's Johnson Space Center and the space station will evaluate how well the station will function as a stand-in for a long duration vehicle en route to Mars or an asteroid. (4/11)

Spacelinq: The First European Space Liner (Source: Space Daily)
Dutch initiative SpaceLinq announces that it will operate as Europe's first spaceflight operator from within Holland's territory. Lelystad Airport is the proposed home base for the future EU Spaceport Lelystad, as long as all regulation and approval from the government and airport partners will be granted. It also requires investigating planning, environmental and safety issues. "Nonetheless, we are very excited about the opportunities to service the EU spaceflight market from Lelystad", says Chuck Lauer, US co-founder of SpaceLinq.

"We choose Lelystad for its location next to the sea and close proximity to the North Sea military reserve airspace. Besides, the open space and available land, plus the desire of the community to encourage new technology and industry are other reasons to choose Lelystad as SpaceLinq`s domicile. "Also important to choose Holland is the fact that the European spaceflight market may be the largest in the world, and the Amsterdam region is already one of the greatest tourist destinations on the planet."

Editor's Note: Lauer is formerly with the U.S. "Rocketplane" venture, which had been working toward establishing suborbital flight operations from Oklahoma's spaceport. (4/11)

Tallahassee Effort Would Free Up Transportation Funding for Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space advocates in Tallahassee are working to expand the availability of $15 million in Florida Dept. of Transportation funds for spaceport infrastructure. The money would currently be available to a limited array of projects with a 50/50 matching requirement, but efforts are underway to expand the types of projects that would be eligible (by using the federal definition of spaceport infrastructure) and remove the match requirement. This could greatly leverage proposed commercial and federal investments at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The FAA-licensed spaceport at Cecil Field would not be immediately eligible for these funds, since the facility is not yet designated by Space Florida's board as being within a state-established "spaceport territory". (4/11)

Commercial Space a Hot Topic for 27th Annual Symposium (Source: Colorado Springs Gazette)
While the Pikes Peak region economy may still be sputtering, things are looking up in space. The National Space Symposium, coming to The Broadmoor this week is bigger than ever, with more vendor booths, massive outdoor rocket displays and 9,000 experts from military and aerospace industries signed up to attend. In 2010, while unemployment spiked and the real estate market continued its slide, spending increased on satellites and space-based technology. A Space Foundation report released this month shows that space spending increased by nearly 8 percent from 2009 to 2010, with global spending of more than $276 billion.

And, while space exploration and military satellite budgets face government belt-tightening, consumers are fueling the space spending boom with growth in satellite television and consumer global positioning system technology leading the way, the foundation found. Click here to read more about this week's big space conference. (4/11)

China Maps the World with Beidou (Source: Xinhua)
Early Sunday, China successfully launched its eighth orbiter of the Beidou system. It marks the establishment of a basic system for the navigation and positioning network. But how will the system pave the way for China's space exploration project? As the flaming tail disappears into the sky, came the rise of China's navigation network, Beidou. The rising star will join seven other satellites already in orbit to form a network which will eventually provide navigation and positioning services around the globe. The project started in 2000, when the first two Beidou satellites were launched into geostationary orbit.

After a period of adjustment, Beidou will start featuring services of navigation, timing, and positioning covering China around the clock. Unlike the US GPS system it can also provide a text message communication system. To complete a regional network to provide navigation services with high precision and credibility, China will launch more satellites within the coming two years. The network is scheduled to provide global services by 2020. (4/11)

Forget Space Travel: It's Just a Dream (Source: Cosmos)
The clash of two titans - physics and chemistry - are major barriers to human space travel to Mars and beyond, and may well make it impossible ... at least with current technologies. Spacecraft aimed at taking humanity beyond the Moon and across the vast reaches of the solar system are beset by physical and chemical limits. Human expansion across the Solar System is an optimist’s fantasy. Why? Because of the clash of two titans: physics versus chemistry.

In the red corner, the laws of physics argue that an enormous amount of energy is required to send a human payload out of Earth’s gravitational field to its deep space destination and back again. In the blue corner, the laws of chemistry argue that there is a hard limit to how much energy you can extract from the rocket fuel, and that no amount of ingenuity will change that.

Start with a lightweight payload – a dozen astronauts collectively weighing less than a tonne. Now add the life support systems for a one-year journey, with sufficient food, water, oxygen and an energy source to keep their living quarters warm and bright. Fifty tonnes, perhaps? Click here to read the article. (4/11)

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