April 18, 2011

Rep. Adams Convenes Group to Discuss NASA Direction (Source: SPACErePORT)
Congresswoman Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, assembled a group of about a dozen space industry officials on Monday to discuss concerns about a "lack of vision" for NASA. The group generally agreed that without an established destination for human space exploration, NASA has insufficient information to design and develop the vehicle systems that will be required.

Rep. Adams expressed an opinion similar to that of Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), that the lack of a vision and mission for NASA will result in the U.S. loss of control of the "high ground" of space, with impacts on U.S. national security and competitiveness. Rep. Adams suggested that with NASA's failure to establish such a vision, it is now up to Congress to do it for them. (4/18)

Production of Systems for Satellites to be Increased (Source: The Hindu)
The ISRO Inertial Systems Unit here will step up production of systems for satellites and launch vehicles because of ISRO's plan to increase the frequency of satellite launches to meet the rising demand. The fabrication of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles is mostly done in Thiruvananthapuram, and various units under ISRO here are gearing up to meet the demand for components.

G. Ravindranath, who recently assumed charge as Director of the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, said that besides the production of inertial systems, the fabrication of solar arrays and instruments for satellites was being stepped up. The unit, which boasts facilities for precision fabrication, assembly and integration of systems and testing, is capable of making and delivering inertial systems for the country's entire space program. (4/18)

Solar Flare Could Prove to be Chandrayaan-2’s Nemesis (Source: DNA India)
India’s first unmanned mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, may have been successful in playing a pivotal role while making the breakthrough discovery of water on the lunar surface. But the way the intended two-year moon-orbiting mission was aborted after just 312 days due to intense solar radiation that roasted its electronic panels and abruptly stopped data relay, Indian space scientists are worried about the fate of their second unmanned touch-down lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, scheduled to be launched in September 2013. (4/18)

Blue Origin CCDev 2 Plans Revealed (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Blue Origin is developing a Crew Transportation System, comprised of a Space Vehicle (SV) launched first on an Atlas V launch vehicle and then on Blue Origin's own Reusable Booster System (RES). NASA funding through CCDev 2 and the future Commercial Crew program will accelerate availability of the Blue Origin CTS.
The biconic Space Vehicle will be capable of carrying seven astronauts and will transfer NASA crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS), serve as an ISS emergency escape vehicle for up to 210 days, and perform a land landing to minimize the costs of recovery and reuse. It will also conduct separate commercial missions for science research, private adventure, and travel to other LEO destinations. Click here. (4/18)

Pentagon Tells Congress its Programs will Cost More (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon responded to President Barack Obama's announcement that he wants to reduce defense spending by $400 billion over the next 10 years by telling Congress that its 95 major acquisition projects will cost $64 billion more than previously estimated. However, the increased costs will be spread over several years and might not have a significant effect on the Defense Department's efforts to reduce overall spending. (4/18)

Obama's $400 Billion Defense Cut Might be Just the Beginning (Source: AIA)
President Barack Obama wants defense spending to be reduced by $400 billion, a figure that is both defensible as well as feasible. Analysts say it will require a relatively small reduction in spending over the next 10 years. However, the $400 billion figure might be just the start of Obama's plan. Deficit-reduction panels have suggested as much as $1 trillion in defense cuts. (4/18)

NASA Program Leads Efforts to Make Aircraft Greener (Source: AIA)
NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation program is leading research efforts to make aircraft quieter and more fuel efficient. The ERA program is also trying to reduce emissions. ERA's goals are ambitious, but insiders are optimistic. "It's quite a challenge, and people are asking how we are going to do this," said ERA Project Manager Fayette Collier. "We've done some experiments that lead us to believe that although this is difficult, we think it is achievable." (4/18)

Tobacco and Beaver Pelts: The Sustainable Path (Source: Space Review)
Debates about human space exploration often focus on destinations and technologies. Charles A. Gardner argues that a more important requirement is finding an economically sustainable path for human exploration into and settlement of the solar system. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1827/1 to view the article. (4/18)

Following SpaceX Down the Rabbit Hole (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month SpaceX announced plans to develop a more powerful version of its Falcon 9 rocket, called the Falcon Heavy. Stewart Money examines what the implications are of a vehicle with the performance and cost goals of the Falcon Heavy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1826/1 to view the article. (4/18)

Shuttle Scavengers (Source: Space Review)
NASA used the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle launch last week to announce where the orbiters will go once the fleet is retired. Jeff Foust reports this set off a new debate about one aspect of the agency's past when attention should be focused on its future. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1825/1 to view the article. (4/18)

NASA's Continuing Problems (Source: Space Review)
More than six months after the fiscal year started, NASA finally got its final 2011 budget last week. Taylor Dinerman notes, though, that the agency still faces a host of problems in its human spaceflight, science, and other programs. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1824/1 to view the article. (4/18)

NASA Dishes Out $270 Million to Speed Return to Orbit (Source: Scientific American)
No one knows what the next U.S.-based rocket to take astronauts to orbit will look like, when it will launch, or who will have built it. But all indications are that the rocket won't be NASA's. A few frontrunners to take that role emerged April 18, with the announcement that NASA is awarding four companies a combined $270 million to develop manned spaceflight systems.

Blue Origin will receive $22 million to develop vehicle designs and test engines and an escape system; Boeing will get $92.3 million to develop its CST-100 crew capsule; Sierra Nevada Corp. will receive $80 million to pursue its Dream Chaser spacecraft; and SpaceX will get $75 million to continue work on its rockets and capsules and to develop technologies such as a launch-abort system.

The companies will be expected to provide their own funds as well, albeit on a smaller scale than the NASA contributions, to develop their technologies. NASA received 22 proposals for funds, said Philip McAlister. He said the goal was to select "a portfolio of approaches" that might return NASA astronauts to flight soon, without foreign assistance. (4/18)

NASA Pulls Out of Astrophysics Missions (Source: Science News)
Two proposed space missions to study supermassive black holes and other high-energy phenomena have fallen into NASA’s gaping budget hole. Both missions were collaborations between NASA and the European Space Agency. When NASA recently determined that it could not come up with its share of funding for astrophysics research over the next few years, ESA decided it would have to scrap the projects as now envisioned. A third mission, planned by NASA alone, also appears to be in jeopardy.

One of the missions, known as LISA, short for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, would have been the first dedicated space mission to search for gravitational waves. The other is the roughly $5 billion International X-ray Observatory, which would have cost NASA about $3.1 billion, would discover and examine some of the universe’s earliest supermassive black holes. (4/18)

U.S., Europe Plan Single-rover Mars Mission for 2018 (Source: Space News)
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will scale back plans to send a pair of rovers to Mars in 2018 and instead build a single vehicle that would drill into the red planet’s surface and store soil samples for eventual return to Earth. The agency could contribute roughly $1.2 billion to the mission while also covering the cost to launch the craft. (4/18)

New Radio Wave Technique Could Detect Alien Planets (Source: Space.com)
Radio waves from the auroras of planets like Jupiter could be used to detect exoplanets that orbit at large distances from their parent star. Scientists have shown that emissions from the radio aurora of planets such as Jupiter and Saturn could be detectable by radio telescopes such as the European Low Frequency Array, or LOFAR. (4/18)

Painkillers Lose Their Potency in Space (Source: New Scientist)
When astronauts reach for a painkiller in space they might not get the relief they expect. A NASA-funded investigation has found that medicines can be compromised by conditions in space. This could be a big problem for astronauts on longer space flights, such as a trip to Mars.

If stored correctly most drugs have a shelf life of between one and two years, during which time they should retain most of the potency indicated on the label. To investigate how space travel might affect drug potency, Brian Du, from the Wyle Engineering Group and colleagues sent four medical kits containing 35 medicines commonly used by astronauts into space, while four identical kits were stored in a controlled environment on Earth. Click here. (4/18)

What Will the Universe Look Like in One Trillion Years? (Source: Discovery)
A trillion years from now the universe will be a much simpler place for far-future astronomers to ponder. One trillion years? Yes, when the universe is 100 times its presents age the only stars left will be the ones that are the longest burning: red dwarfs. New star formation will have died out eons earlier, so there will be no iridescent nebulae, supernova blasts, or blue giant stars like Rigel in the constellation Orion.

Our Milky Way will have lost its identity long ago through merging with the Andromeda galaxy, M31. The resulting giant elliptical galaxy will be devoid of dust and gas. The night sky will be a largely homogeneous sprinkling of stars. Stellar density will concentrate toward the galactic core. There will be no bright arch of the Milky Way to obscure the view all the way into the core. But as long as there are stars, there will be planets, and the possibility of intelligent life to gaze curiously upon the sky. (4/18)

Ukraine And Brazil Prepare Cyclone-4 Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
Launcher and pad preparations to boost the Ukraine-built Cyclone-4 from Brazil’s Alcantara spaceport are entering their final phase, with the goal of completing the qualification liftoff next year. Discussions between Ukraine and Brazil to jointly work on a Delta II-class launcher and launch site date back to the 1990s.

The three-stage launcher uses the Cyclone-2 (derived from the SS-9 intercontinental ballistic missile) as its first two stages, and features an all-new third stage that replaces the one used on Cyclone-3. It is designed to orbit 5,300-kg (11,700-lb.) single or multiple payloads into low Earth orbit or 1,600 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Meanwhile, preparations continue at Alcantara for the launch facilities. The site is being configured to handle up to six liftoffs per year.

Officials for Alcantara Cyclone Space, the venture selling the launch service, note that Cyclone-2 had a 100% success rate in 105 attempts from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (the Cyclone-3 had six failures in 120 launches; it was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia). (4/18)

Teams Reach for the Sky at NASA Student Launch Initiative (Source: Huntsville Times)
More than 40 teams of students from colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country converged on Bragg Farms for the NASA Student Launch Initiative. Their goal was to achieve some of the same engineering feats that made the U.S. Space Program possible, but on a much smaller scale. The university teams were also competing for a $5,000 prize, sponsored by ATK Aerospace Systems. The high school, middle school and 4-H teams were not competing, but were participating for experience's sake.

Editor's Note: University teams were from Embry-Riddle, Florida A&M University, University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida. Two Florida high school teams from Plantation High School also competed. (4/18)

Planets Around White Dwarfs? (Source: Astronomy Now)
Astronomers are finding tantalizing hints of planets around dead stars. When a dying star swells into a red giant and loses mass by ejecting its outer layers to leave behind a white dwarf, the orbits of any planets around the star (and which were not swallowed up by the red giant) will expand. It is this widening of orbits that improves our ability to detect them.

The Degenerate Objects around Degenerate Objects Project, or DODO will sample around 40 young white dwarfs within 65 light years. Deep, wide-field images in the near-infrared using Gemini and the Very Large Telescope in Chile were obtained where the common proper motion of companions is being analyzed over one to three years in order to confirm if they are indeed orbiting the white dwarfs. DODO is sensitive to a few Jupiter masses. (4/18)

Big Test Looms for British Space Plane Concept (Source: Space.com)
A huge, unmanned British space plane is on pace to start launching payloads into Earth orbit in less than a decade — provided it can pass a crucial engine test in June, its designers say. The Skylon space plane — which would take off and land horizontally, like a commercial jet — is still a concept vehicle for now, but it recently passed several rigorous independent design reviews.

Private funding is lined up to see it through all stages of development, culminating with the start of commercial operations in 2020. That funding, however, is contingent on Skylon hitting some key milestones along the way, and a big one looms just a few months off. In June, the Abingdon, Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines plans to test a component of its revolutionary hybrid jet/rocket engine. On the line is $350 million in investor funding — and perhaps the future of the project. (4/18)

Do Aliens Speak Particle-Tongue? (Source: Discovery)
Extraterrestrials may have a better way to communicate across space than radio waves or optical beams. A team of scientists suggests ET could encode neutrinos, for example. These particles of matter are similar to electrons, but since they have no electric charge, they can pass through anything. This makes them ideal for long-distance travel.

Astronomers have been scouring the galaxy for decades for alien-produced radio signals -- and more recently for non-naturally occurring light pulses, as well -- to no avail. ET could, for example, send out a neutrino beam at precise (and non-naturally occurring) energy levels that would be sure to catch a scientist's eye. (4/18)

Shuttle Workers Get Layoff Notice (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s prime space shuttle contractor, United Space Alliance, told employees April 15 that half of them will need to find other jobs this summer. The official notification was long expected, as the shutdown of the 30-year-old shuttle program has been under way for several years. “We’re starting the process,” USA spokeswoman Kari Fluegel says. “We’ll take self-nominations [for layoffs] first, then determine who else needs to go.” (4/18)

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Exec Cancels $1.3 Million Contract (Source: The Republic)
The new head of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has canceled a $1.3 million contract with a firm that has overseen much of the facility's development. Executive Director Christine Anderson wants the work overseeing the development done by state employees. She confirmed to the paper that she cancelled the contract signed last fall with Albuquerque-based Procurement Solutions 14 months before it was set to expire.

"It is my philosophy that a person who commits government funding, gives direction to government employees, manages government contracts and acts on behalf of the NMSA Executive Director should be a government employee," Anderson said in an email to the paper. She said small contracts may be awarded for other services performed by the company. (4/18)

Cosmonauts Eager, Hopeful for Reboot of Bulgaria's Space Program (Source: Novinite.com)
Bulgaria's first cosmonaut Gen. Georgi Ivanov has urged the government to take steps to reinvigorate and develop the Bulgarian space program. Ivanov, who flew in open space on a Soviet-Bulgarian mission in 1979. Ivanov is the head of the Bulgarian committee for marking the anniversary of the Gagarin flight.

When Gagarin's flight was announced, Ivanov was a sophomore in the Bulgarian military pilot school. He said he and his classmates believed that it will be forever before a Bulgarian would fly into space. Ivanov said that the next Bulgarian to fly in space might be a space tourist; however, he is convinced that the Bulgarian scientists have the capacity to create a new space program that can get Bulgarian cosmonauts in space again. (4/18)

No Space for UAE Pilots (Source: 7Days)
Emirati nationals will not be able to apply as pilots for the first commercial plane to be launched into space, despite millions of dirhams being pumped into the venture by an Abu Dhabi investment company. Although Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments owns almost a third of the space company, on the careers section of its website, Virgin clearly states that applicants must be US citizens to secure the coveted role.

Duties would include testing in Mojave, California, followed by commercial operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Successful applicants should be available to begin their new job in June of this year. In 2009, Abu Dhabi firm Aabar Investments announced it had become a 32 per cent stakeholder in the initiative, after partnering with the company and investing more than Dhs1 billion ($280m) in the project. (4/18)

It Takes Moon Shot to Ace This Class (Source: Wall Street Journal)
For decades, mining on the moon and colonizing Mars have been the stuff of sci-fi dreams. Now both are being taken seriously by Columbia University—and NASA. The institutions are joining forces to study a future for mankind in space, including work through a design studio in Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

"The first question I ask is why we're going to space," said adjunct associate professor Yoshiko Sato, who created the class five years ago. "People worry about the current health of the environment on earth so this might not be about a choice—it might be the only way." Click here for more. (4/18)

Brown Had No Help from Obama Aides on Shuttle Effort (Source: Dayton Daily News)
It seemed a no-brainer: The White House could have given a boost to Sen. Sherrod Brown’s re-election next year and helped President Barack Obama in a state he must win to earn a second term. All the White House had to do was say the magic words: Send a shuttle to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Instead, NASA officials last week said that when the four space shuttles are retired this year, they will be donated to California, New York, Florida and Washington, D.C. Three on the East Coast, one on the West Coast. And for Sherrod Brown and Ohio? Nothing.

The decision, according to one insider, left Brown incredulous. Not only did the Obama administration pass up a chance to help Brown, but it flubbed a great photo opportunity — Obama, Brown, House Speaker John Boehner and former astronaut John Glenn — greeting the arrival of the shuttle at Wright-Patterson. (4/18)

Blobs In Space Yield Mystery and Wonder (Source: Discovery)
Thanks to a convergence of digital image processing, the Internet, and a renaissance of powerful ground-based and space observatories, people today are accustomed to seeing drop-dead gorgeous pictures of celestial objects: tie-dye nebulae, technicolor stars, and majestic galaxies.

The irony is that some of the most extraordinary things in the universe can only be seen as fuzzy blobs by our most powerful telescopes. This was underscored by last week’s announcement of a series of extraordinary X-ray and gamma-ray blasts from a star being devoured by a monster black hole. 2012 doomsday predictions pale in comparison to the violence of an entire star being stretched like taffy and them swallowed into the gravitational abyss of a Battlestar Galactica-class black hole. (4/18)

Huntsville-Based Dynetics Gains Big Partner for Google Lunar X Competition (Source: Huntsville Times)
This has been a big week for a local high-tech company with its eyes on the stars. Officials with Dynetics have been extremely busy - both with work duties and big-time announcements. The Huntsville-based company announced that Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has joined the Rocket City Space Pioneers, a group of businesses led by Dynetics, competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. (4/18)

Into the Fourth Era of Space Exploration (Source: Paragould Daily Press)
The American Civil War showcased two history-shaping technologies: the railroad and the telegraph. Both Union and Confederate logisticians amazed European military observers by moving large armies hundreds of miles by rail, and then quickly throwing them into battle. For worse and for better, railroads would ultimately connect Paris to Berlin, then Baghdad, then Beijing.

With the telegraph sending data at the speed of light, Union Gen. William Sherman, in Chattanooga, could contact the War Department in Washington in a matter of minutes. In some respects, the Internet is just a telegraph where everyone is his own telegrapher. In the shorthand method for designating upgrades of software and hardware, think of the telegraph as Internet 1.0.

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Hans Mark speculates that in four or five centuries, people will remember the 20th century for the Apollo moon landings — human beings physically landing on another heavenly body. Gagarin’s spaceflight 50 years ago was the first dramatic success in that venture. Click here. (4/18)

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