April 12, 2011

Omega Envoy Gains Microhard Systems As Sponsor (Source: AmericaSpace.org)
Omega Envoy, the Florida-based “college team” that is competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), and the only student-formed and -led team announced a sponsorship by Microhard Systems Inc. Microhard Systems Inc. will provide equipment that will aid the team in sending their rover to the lunar surface. Earthrise Space Inc (Omega Envoy’s parent organization) will space qualify these systems and test them during this summer’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) located in Devon Island in Canada. (4/12)

Alabama Center Gets Space Shuttle Maneuvering Engine (Source: Huntsville Times)
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville will receive a space shuttle orbital maneuvering engine for display as NASA begins parceling out parts of the shuttles. "It's fantastic," Center Director Dr. Deborah Barnhart said shortly after the announcement. "Anything having to do with propulsion, that's us." Barnhart was referring to the fact that the shuttle's propulsion system was developed and managed at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center. (4/12)

NASA Chief: Having Giffords at Shuttle Launch a 'Triumph of Good Over Evil' (Source: AP)
Having Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) at the launch of her husband's space shuttle flight is symbolic of the "triumph of good over evil," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "I wear a bracelet for Gabby because she's a personal friend," he said while fighting back tears. Giffords's husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, is slated to command the the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight. (4/12)

No Shuttle for Adler, But Spaceflight Simulator Coming (Source: Chicago Sun Times)
4, 3, 2, 1 ... this mission is aborted. Chicago’s Adler Planetarium will not be the home to one of four retired space shuttles in circulation, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. announced. Adler will get a space-flight simulator used to train astronauts that’s currently in Houston. It will become a new centerpiece for the planetarium, said Adler President Paul Knappenberger. The simulator is three-stories high and features a “full-scale mock-up of the crew compartment’’ of a space shuttle, he said. It’s “the next best thing’’ to a shuttle, Knappenberger said. (4/12)

Russia's Retired Space Shuttles Gets Little Respect (Source: WIRED)
The famous shuttles will remain icons of American space exploration and symbols of national pride. As the nation looks back on an era heavily defined by Cold War competition, photos of the Russian shuttle counterpart show a strange and improbable endgame to a once grand space race. The Buran orbital vehicle was the Russian answer to the U.S. space shuttle, but ended up being a Zune to America’s iPod.

Only one Buran was ever completed and sent into orbit, completing just a single, unmanned mission in 1988. The program ended in 1993, and its lone space veteran was stored in a hangar at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. In 2002, the hangar collapsed. The accident claimed the lives of eight workers and destroyed most of the shuttle. Photographers have documented what they describe as a Buran that was left unfinished after the program shut down. A private collector has reportedly purchased the abandoned carcass shown in the photos posted here and is planning to move it to an as-yet-undisclosed location.

As of the last pass made by Google’s satellites, a big chunk of a Buran spacecraft is languishing in an overgrown industrial yard in Moscow. The cockpit of another was reportedly purchased by a hospital for use as a hyperbaric chamber, but never worked, so it ended up as a lawn ornament. Another set of photos posted in 2006 shows a shuttle that is still in tact, and remains at the Baikonur cosmodrome. Click here to see the photos. (4/12)

NASA Shuttle Simulator Donated to Texas A&M (Source: WTAW)
Bryan/College Station is not getting a retired space shuttle. But NASA did make a shuttle-sized contribution to Texas A&M University. NASA is sending one of its shuttle simulators to A&M’s Aerospace Engineering Department. A&M is the only education institution receiving any shuttle items other than heat shield tiles, according to a NASA news release. (4/12)

Virginia Accumulates Space Credentials (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Cape Canaveral, Houston, Vandenberg, Huntsville all come to mind as America's places where spaceflight begins. But Virginia? Believe it or not, the state may have to issue a variant of its tourism logo which reads, "Virginia is for Space Lovers." Our story begins in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, where one secretive three letter agency lives without fanfare in Chantilly. The National Reconnaissance Office – NRO – celebrates "50 years of vigilance from above" this year and oversees all satellite and overflight reconnaissance projects "whether overt or covert."

Perhaps it is no great surprise that upstart rocket manufacturer SpaceX recently opened up an office in Chantilly to support government and commercial customers, followed by its announcement of the Falcon Heavy rocket aimed at putting big satellites – like those operated by NRO – into orbit. Another Northern Virginia customer SpaceX will work with out of Chantilly is McLean, Va.-based Iridium. SpaceX has a $492 million contract to provide launch services for putting up the Iridium NEXT constellation into orbit between 2015 and 2017.

Around the corner from SpaceX is Orbital Sciences Corp. Orbital and SpaceX are the two winners for International Space Station (ISS) resupply. With SpaceX getting the larger of the two NASA ISS resupply contracts, Orbital has its work cut out for it to step up to the plate and demonstrate its Taurus II/Cygnus rocket and spacecraft combination later this year. Our story ends by taking a four hour car ride to the Eastern shore and Wallops Island, launch site for Orbital's Taurus II/Cygnus combination. (4/12)

Budget Deal (Finally) Saves NASA From Wasting Money (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The budget compromise under consideration by Congress may finally spell relief for NASA, which — thanks an unfixed budget directive — has been forced to spend more than $250 million over the last six months on its canceled Constellation moon rocket program. According to draft language of the 2011 budget, NASA no longer will be prohibited from shutting down Constellation; a constraint inserted into the 2010 budget by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.

Normally, that type of provision would disappear once Congress passed another budget, which is due Oct. 1. But because Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree for six months on a 2011 spending plan — and simply extended the 2010 budget — the Shelby language has stuck around. In January, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin estimated the language would cost NASA an estimated $577 million a year — or $1.4 million a day — on “potential inefficient use of funds” because the White House and Congress agreed to cancel Constellation in October.

The amount would have been much more — perhaps into the billions of dollars — but NASA officials said they transferred much of the Constellation work into another rocket and capsule program that they agency has begun building since Congress and the White House killed Constellation. (4/12)

Embry-Riddle Professor to Teach Space Science in Ukraine as Fulbright Scholar (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Professor Lance Erickson has been selected as a Fulbright Scholar. With this prestigious grant, Dr. Erickson will teach several undergraduate space science classes at the National Aviation University in Kiev, Ukraine, from August 2011 to May 2012. At Embry-Riddle he teaches aircraft/spacecraft development, space flight, planetary and space exploration, space station systems and operations, and Russian space operations and technology. (4/12)

Lawmakers React to NASA Shuttle Announcement (Source: The Hill)
Winners and losers made their reactions clear Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. “Disappointment doesn't begin to describe this news,” tweeted Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), who represents the Houston area. “It's unthinkable that the home of human space flight wouldn't represent the ideal home for a retired orbiter,” tweeted Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX). Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted that the decision was based on “political favors.”

“Outrageous that Ohio didn't get the space shuttle,” tweeted Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). The National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton was considered a top contender in the competition. “We're the home of Wright Bros & countless advances in aviation. Shameful decision.” “[C]ongrats to everyone involved in the top-notch bid,” tweeted Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who described himself as “disappointed” but apparently graciously resigned to his state's Museum of Flight losing their bid. (4/12)

Will Russia Win the Next Space Race? (Source: Forbes)
On April 12, 1961, Russia started the 20th century space race, sending its first cosmonaut, Yury Gagarin, into orbit for 108 hours aboard the Vostok spacecraft. Fifty years later, the country’s president Dimitry Medvedev is talking about the world’s next space race: a nuclear powered manned space flight to Mars.

“We still hope to able to travel to other planets,” he told Russian television Tuesday during a special Cosmonaut Day celebration dedicated to Yury Gagarin’s life. “I don’t know how soon we will be able to achieve that, but I think that mankind will always…dream of exploring outer space,” he said, adding that space exploration brings scientific and practical benefits to life on Earth. (4/12)

Canadarm on Space Shuttle Endeavour to be Returned to Canada (Source: Canadian Press)
The Canadian Space Agency is negotiating for the return of the robotic arm on Space Shuttle Endeavour after its final flight later this month. NASA received five Canadarms or so-called remote manipulator units. The space agency says the first arm was developed and manufactured for shuttle use under an original memorandum of understanding with the American space agency.

One Canadarm was lost in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986 that killed seven astronauts when it exploded on liftoff. The CSA says since the arm on Endeavour has most of the components from the original arm, it is the one that will be returned to the Canadian Space Agency. Endeavour is scheduled to blast off for the International Space Station on April 29 on its last trip into space. (4/12)

Canadarm: Where Should it Go? (Source: CBC News)
Canadian science museums are already making the case for why their particular facility is the optimal one for displaying the Canadarm. Rob Godwin, space curator for the Canadian Air and Space Museum at Downsview Park in Toronto, believes the Canadarm should return to its birthplace. Renald Fortier, curator at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, thinks his large facility would be a better fit for the 15.2-meter arm. Frank Florian, director of public programming for Telus World of Science in Edmonton, believes the arm should travel across the country "just to really, again, showcase science and technology here in Canada." (4/12)

No Shuttle, but Seattle Gets Full-Size Simulator (Source: Seattle Times)
Seattle's Museum of Flight will not get a space shuttle. It will, however, get a full-fuselage shuttle trainer in the new $12 million facility it is building. The trainer is the only one of its kind in the world. Every shuttle astronaut used the simulator to prepare for spaceflight. Unlike the actual shuttles, the public will be allowed to walk inside the trainer. (4/12)

Taking on EELV is SpaceX’s Top Priority After Servicing Station (Source: Space News)
Elon Musk said entering into direct competition with today’s Atlas and Delta 4 rockets for U.S. Air Force business is SpaceX's second-highest priority after developing a cargo service to the international space station. He expects his next Falcon 9 flight to the space station, carrying the company’s Dragon cargo capsule on its inaugural flight to the orbital complex, is likely to occur in September or October.

SpaceX is positioning itself as a low-cost alternative to the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 vehicles the Air Force now uses almost exclusively. “We want SpaceX to fully compete with EELV,” Musk said, referring to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program under which the Air Force developed the Atlas and Delta rockets. An Air Force official said the service in all likelihood would purchase SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, with the contract contingent on the vehicle flying successfully at least twice before it is entrusted with an Air Force satellite. (4/12)

Instead of a Shuttle Houston Gets ... Seats (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Sure Houston may be the home to human spaceflight, may have managed the space shuttle program, may have controlled the flights and trained the astronauts ... but that wasn't enough to get a retired orbiter for display. But not to worry, NASA has a wonderful consolation prize for the community. We're getting -- are you ready for it? -- flight deck pilot and commander seats. Space Center Houston probably needs to begin planning for a larger parking lot post haste. (4/12)

USAF Prepares For First Sbirs GEO Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
After nearly 15 years of development work, more than eight years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the first of the U.S. Defense Department’s new early missile warning satellites is finally poised for launch. The Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) geosynchronous (GEO) satellites will provide a new generation of IR sensors designed to detect ballistic missile launches—including “dim,” short-range boosts—faster than today’s Defense Support Program (DSP) constellation. (4/12)

Recycling Rockets (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) may be due for a break in the price of its upper-stage rocket engines, thanks for a little recycling by rocket-engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. PWR has a plan to convert excess RL-10 engines that are unlikely ever to be used on the Delta IV launch vehicle into a configuration that will fly on the Atlas V. The company is preparing to modify RL-10B2 variants into a new type dubbed the RL-10C1 that will fit the Atlas V.

Currently the big Atlas uses the RL-10A4 variant. Among changes to be made in the B2 engines is removing two sections of the three-section composite nozzle so it will fit on top of the Atlas V first stage. There will also be changes in electronics, including a shift to a single upper-stage igniter for both variants. “They have a large inventory of RL-10B2s right now,” Bouley told reporters during the National Space Symposium here. “We would have to build more RL-10A4s from scratch to continue to feed what is needed for the Atlas V line.” (4/12)

SpaceX Makes Strides Without Air Force as a Customer (Source: National Defense)
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, stood in front of a reusable capsule his eight-year-old company sent into orbit in December, and expressed frustration with the U.S. Air Force. It is the only major launch customer in the world that has not signed up to use one of its family of rockets. NASA has awarded SpaceX major contracts to resupply the international space station, but so far has not gotten any love from the Air Force.

"I am a little disappointed in progress with the Air Force [expendable launch vehicle] contract," he said. "The Air Force is the sole holdout in terms of world launch." SpaceX is shooting for a yearly manifest of about 22 missions. NASA and a range of commercial customers have signed up for rides aboard its Falcon 9 rocket. The company has had many discussions with the Air Force, but its interest waxes and wanes, Musk said. "We are making sure that any reason to not use SpaceX has been removed," he added. (4/12)

Kazakh Spaceport Project Delayed Until 2017 (Source: Xinhua)
The commissioning of a key space launch facility has been postponed again to 2017 due to errors in the draft design and slow progress in relevant flight tests, a Kazakh national space agency official said. The Baiterek project, co-launched in 2004 by Kazakhstan and Russia, will serve to launch new environmentally safe rockets to phase out older boosters at the Baikonur Cosmodrome that used highly toxic propellant. (4/12)

Australian Space Alliance Forms (Source: HobbySpace)
The Australian Space Alliance (ASA), a nationwide network celebrating the adventure of human space exploration, has been formally established. As the Australian space industry continues to develop and expand, ASA will focus on building a platform in which people can share experiences, explore intellectual possibilities and connect with fellow rocketeers. Visit http://www.spacealliance.com.au/. (4/12)

NASA Chief Suggests JWST Won’t Launch before 2018 (Source: Space News)
Launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) stands to be delayed until 2018, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told lawmakers. NASA had been planning to launch JWST in June 2014 but an independent review released last fall called that date into question. Bolden said NASA does not need any money this year beyond the roughly $400 million currently budgeted for Webb in order to make a 2018 launch date. (4/12)

Astronauts4Hire Completes First Orbit (Source: A4H)
Today is April 12, otherwise known as the Cosmonautics Day, Yuri’s Night, and the International Day of Human Space Flight. 50 years ago on this date, man first ventured into space and ushered in the era of human spaceflight. It was only fitting that the maiden flight of the Space Shuttle occurred on this date 30 years ago. Astronauts4Hire (A4H) shares its anniversary with these important milestones of space history. One year ago today we formed A4H, signifying a new chapter in the unfolding story of human spaceflight. (4/12)

Senator Blasts NASA Denial of Dayton's Space Shuttle Bid (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the process by which NASA decided to distribute four retired space shuttles to museums around the country. Dayton's National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will not get one of four retired space shuttles, Brown said.

"NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers," Brown said. "NASA was directed to consider regional diversity when determining shuttle locations. Unfortunately, it looks like regional diversity amounts to which coast you are on, or which exit you use on I-95. Even more insulting to taxpayers is that having paid to build the shuttles, they will now be charged to see them at some sites." (4/12)

Rep. Olson Disappointed with Texas Loss (Source: Rep. Olson)
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) today expressed disappointment at the announcement that Houston was not selected as a permanent home to one of the retiring shuttle orbiters: "Disappointment doesn't begin to describe my reaction to this announcement. Houston has been a critical component of every aspect of the shuttle program. Every astronaut that has flown in a shuttle has called Houston home. "

"The men and women who launch and land every shuttle flight have earned the right to call one of the retired orbiters home. This oversight smacks of a political gesture in an agency that has always served above politics. Having said that, Houston and the amazing people who work at the Johnson Space Center have always risen to every challenge presented to them and this is no exception." (4/12)

Defense Companies Need New Focus as Budget Tightens (Source: AIA)
Defense companies will need to step up focus on cost, weight and energy efficiency in the new tight budget environment, said top defense officials on Monday. "Those three questions increasingly are important to us," said assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford at a conference. (4/12)

Global Weapons Spending Declines for First Time in Decade (Source: AIA)
Military budgets around the world increased by just 1.3% in 2010 for a total of $1.63 trillion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The figures represent the first time government spending on weapons has slowed in nearly a decade. (4/12)

U.S. Arms Exports Should be Higher Than Ever in 2011 (Source: AIA)
Arms exports from the U.S. should be higher than ever, exceeding $46 billion, in fiscal year 2011, a defense official said on Monday. Among items in the highest demand include Boeing C-17s, Lockheed Martin C-130Js, aerial drones and missile defense systems, said Richard Genaille, deputy director of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, at a conference. (4/12)

NASA Picks Homes for Retired Shuttle Orbiters (Source: Space.com)
NASA unveiled the final flight plans for its three retiring space shuttles on Tuesday, assigning two to museums in Washington DC and California, and keeping the third at its launch and landing site in Florida. A fourth, prototype orbiter will also go to a new home in New York City. Discovery, NASA's oldest remaining orbiter and the world's most flown spacecraft, will be displayed by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Endeavour, which will launch on its own final mission later this month, will be given to the California Science Center, a department of the State of California, in Los Angeles. Atlantis will remain in Florida to be exhibited at the spaceport's official visitor complex after launching on the 135th and last mission of NASA's shuttle program in late June. Enterprise, which has belonged to the Smithsonian since 1982, will be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted aircraft carrier docked to a pier in New York City. (4/12)

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