April 20, 2011

Light Shines on KSC Emergency Generator Concept (Source: NASA KSC)
Some of the same technology that let walkways stretch over space shuttles in their processing hangars has the potential to bring electricity to a stricken area after engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center developed a portable truss that deploys solar panels which generate 5 kilowatts of peak power.

Strong enough to power a small house without air conditioning, the portable generators can make electricity as long as the sun shines on their blue-black solar cells. The prototype has a bank of batteries to store energy for short periods of no sun. A larger battery bank or backup conventional generator could be used to cover longer sunless periods. Click here. (4/20)

Space Florida, TRDA Support Startup Financing Program (Source: Space Florida)
On Sep. 7, the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) and Space Florida will host the I-2 Capital Acceleration Showcase (pronounced 'I squared' for “Igniting Innovation”). They are now accepting applications from Florida-based, small to medium sized companies in the state’s key industry clusters of Aerospace/Aviation, Biotech/Life Science, Clean Tech and Alternative Energy, Defense/Homeland Security, and Information Technology/ Telecommunications to present or exhibit at the showcase.

The I2 initiative is funded under a U.S. Department of Commerce financial assistance award to Space Florida and was competitively awarded to TRDA. The I2 Capital Acceleration Showcase will cap a multi-month effort by TRDA and Space Florida to assist high-potential, private companies in the development of their businesses and capital raising efforts. (4/20)

Obama Dismisses Claim That Politics Denied Houston a Space Shuttle (Source: Space.com)
President Barack Obama said the White House played no part in choosing the museums where NASA's retired space shuttles will be displayed, and that the city of Houston was not overlooked for political reasons, according to news reports. In an interview, Obama maintained that the retirement of NASA's three space shuttles and a test orbiter to museums around the country was not politically charged. "The White House has nothing to do with it," Obama said. (4/20)

Obama Coming to KSC for Shuttle Endeavour Launch (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
President Barack Obama plans to attend the April 29 launch of space shuttle Endeavour, adding even more star power to NASA's second-to-last shuttle launch, according to a White House official. The president will bring his wife, Michelle, and two daughters, Sasha and Malia, to the launch, now scheduled at 3:47 p.m. a week from Friday.

Sources close to the discussion said several factors played into his decision to attend. For one, Obama already plans to be in Florida that day for a commencement address at Miami Dade College. Secondly, the Endeavour launch carries major significance -- beyond the emotion expected to accompany the sunset of the 30-year shuttle program. (4/20)

Budget Debate Starts to Raise Concerns for Contractors (Source: AIA)
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, recently issued a plan for reducing the deficit that did not cut any Pentagon funding. President Barack Obama responded with his own plan that included a $400 billion cut to defense spending. Defense contractors should be able to manage if the debate remains somewhere between Ryan's proposal and Obama's plan. However, if lawmakers decide to get serious about reducing the deficit, contractors could take a hit. (4/20)

Lockheed Martin Cuts Orion Program to Meet Deadlines (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin has reined in its Orion program in an effort to stick with tight deadlines set by Congress. The plan is to send an Orion capsule into orbit two years from now. "With the funding changes, the program realignments, all of those kinds of things, we've been able to preserve the core of this test program and kind of make it more than it would have been by combining a bunch of tests into single articles," said a Lockheed official. (4/20)

Luxury Resort Envisioned Near New Mexico Spaceport (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson recently said his new venture, Virgin Hotels, is two years away from opening the doors to upscale properties, which will be located mainly in urban areas. But Virgin Galactic, which is seeking to pioneer suborbital space tourism from Spaceport America, could announce, in three or four months, plans for a grand hotel catering to its high-flying customers.

A Virgin official said the development of a hotel resort oriented to its clients, who are paying Virgin Galactic $200,000 each for a two-hour ride to the edge of space, is "something that we will support, but not something we will be doing ourselves." Virgin Galactic has been talking to a number of potential partners "to support the development of something in the right place and at the right standards," but he declined to name any specific companies or say how many companies Virgin Galactic has held talks with. (4/20)

NASA's Future Depends on Spaceflight Neophytes (Source: MSNBC)
During the five decades that followed the first launch of an American into space — Alan Shepard’s flight on May 5, 1961 — NASA’s accomplishments were respected and admired the world over. Those responsible for the agency’s successes followed a simple axiom: Good is the enemy of great. NASA either flew with the best and most experienced, or not at all.

This week brought the first hint that NASA’s standards could be dropping. With the space shuttle era nearing its end, the agency awarded more than $269 million in contracts to build commercial spaceships. NASA says Americans will be riding their own spaceships once again by the middle of the decade. But old hands argue that it'll be more like seven to 10 years.

[When Congress finally passed an FY-11 budget for NASA,] the remnants of America's space family sang hallelujah. Our role in space could be getting back on track. We just might not lose our first-place standing. But then came the commercial contracts for the neophytes. NASA's decision leaves out some of America's best-known aerospace companies and discards billions of taxpayer dollars already spent on workable hardware. (4/20)

Florida May Be Do-Or-Die for 2012 Presidential Candidates (Source: Politico)
It’s all coming down to Florida, again. The fight for the GOP presidential nomination looks increasingly like it could be decided by a state with a rule-breaking, unsanctioned election that has thrown the presidential primary calendar in flux. Just like in 2008. Each Republican contender has strong incentives to play hard in Florida’s out-of-order primary to compensate for their weakness in one or more of the traditional early states.

In a wide-open primary field it’s not clear that any candidate can afford to skip even an unauthorized contest in the nation’s largest swing state. GOP White House hopefuls are already preparing to contest Florida like a bona fide early presidential state.

Editor's Note: Despite President Obama's carrying Florida in 2008, the state has swung far to the right in Tallahassee, ensuring a contentious must-win election race here. The state's space industry advocates worked hard to make space an important 2008 campaign issue, and they'll do so again leading up to 2012. (Gov. Rick Scott recently hired Mississippi's Gray Swoope to lead the state's economic development efforts. Swoope formerly worked for Gov. Haley Barbour, one of the GOP candidates determined to win in Florida.) (4/20)

CCDev-2 Winners Would Operate in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
The four companies selected by NASA to share $270 million for the agency's second round of Commercial Crew Development contracts all plan to conduct at least some operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Even Blue Origin, which ultimately could launch from their private Texas spaceport, would initially launch its biconic crewed vehicle
atop an Atlas-5 rocket from Florida. The other CCDev-2 winners, Boeing (CST-100), SpaceX (Dragon/Falcon), and Sierra Nevada (DreamChaser), would all establish long-term operations at the Cape. (4/20)

Editorial: Final Four (Source: Florida Today)
It’s down to the final four. NASA took a major step Monday to determine the private space taxis that will replace the shuttle fleet when it picked the companies to compete for the spacecraft that will fly. And grow a commercial space industry that will launch from Cape Canaveral and carry astronauts and other paying customers to the International Space Station and private orbiting labs.

NASA is awarding nearly $270 million for the work and requesting another $850 million in 2012 to speed up commercial crew efforts. Congress should allocate the money because the companies provide the best shot at closing the post-shuttle gap and in creating jobs along the Space Coast and in Florida. However, NASA remains too vague on when it will make its final choice and equally opaque on a target for the first flight, pointing only to “the middle of the decade.” That won’t cut it. (4/20)

Editorial: ATK's Loss No Surprise, But Not Wise (Source: AmericaSpace)
That ATK’s Liberty Launcher was not selected for further CCDev work came as no surprise. Not because of short-comings of the Liberty Launcher design–far from it. Rather, for NASA to have selected the Liberty Launcher would have been to admit that the determination of some at NASA, made far in advance of the Augustine Committee, that the Ares I must be canceled was in fact a mistake. The decision on the Liberty Launcher was, if the past two years are any guide, very likely a political, not an engineering call. (4/19)

CCDev-2 Selection Process and Full List of Proposers Revealed (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA Watch has posted a 17-page "Selection Statement" that provides details on the evaluation process for CCDev-2, including a list of the 22 proposals that NASA received and reasons why most of them were not selected for funding. Click here. (4/20)

Editorial: Protect Space Florida (Source: Florida Today)
Governor, don’t do it. We can’t be any more blunt in telling Rick Scott to drop his move to strip Space Florida of its autonomy and take away funds the agency needs to try to attract space and other high-technology business. If he doesn’t, Senate President Mike Haridopolos should stop him. Here’s why Scott’s plan is damaging:

Florida struggled for years to recruit private space companies because it lacked the strong, stand-alone agency necessary to serve as a one-stop shopping place for firms. Instead, companies confronted an economic development bureaucracy so unresponsive it sent entrepreneurs to California, New Mexico and Virginia. That changed a few years ago when the Legislature retooled Space Florida.

The governor wants to consolidate the budgets of the state’s economic development and job- creation agencies that operate independently into one super agency, giving him control of as much as $427 million in combined funds to award as he pleases. That’s too much power in Scott’s hands and raises the prospect of him making arbitrary decisions that hurt, not help, the state. (4/20)

Canadarm May Get New Life on Commercial Spacecraft (Source: Winnipeg Free Press)
The head of the Canadian Space Agency says discussions are taking place about how the Canadarm can be used on commercial spacecraft. But Steve MacLean says he doesn't know whether the robotic arm or its technology will be purchased by private companies. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), which built the Canadarm and owns the technology, is already working with the space agency on the next generation Canadarm and is involved in discussions with potential commercial customers. (4/20)

Huge NASA Space Balloon to Land in Outback (Source: ABC)
A multi-million dollar scientific balloon is drifting over outback Queensland and is expected to land somewhere near Longreach. NASA launched the massive balloon yesterday from Alice Springs and it is currently tracking south of Windorah in the Channel Country. It is carrying two tons of equipment to study the center of the Milky Way galaxy. (4/20)

The Dogs Who Paved the Way to Space for Gagarin (Source: St. Petersburg (Russia) Times)
While the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union putting the first man in space was celebrated across the world last week, less well documented are the many canine cosmonauts who preceded Yury Gagarin. Clothed in secrecy for many years, details of the experiments continue to come to light even now, half a century later.

A total of 42 dogs took part in experimental space flights during the Soviet Union’s race to put a man in space, as recently revealed in secret data released by Igor Bukhtiyarov, head of the state research institute of military medicine at the Ministry of Defense. Click here to read the article. (4/20)

Texas Doesn't Need a Space Shuttle on Display (Source: Star-Telegram)
"New York City!" some Texans exclaimed, crying foul about Houston's loss of a retired Shuttle. Come on, folks, we're not talking about picante sauce here. We're talking about space shuttles. Sure, it's disappointing that one will not be in Texas, but the choices make good sense given that the decision was partly based on where the most people would be able to visit the shuttles.

Yes, three are on the East Coast, so it's logical that a fourth would be sent to the West Coast. Out of 21 museums and visitor centers that submitted bids, there are a lot of disappointed people around the country, but I'm not hearing them spout the sour grapes I've heard coming out of Texas. Some Texans are saying that the choices were political, partially made with President Barack Obama's re-election in mind.

They cite the fact that California and New York are "Democratic states" and that Florida and Virginia (site of the Smithsonian venue) are swing states. Besides, some contend, Obama doesn't want to do any favors for Texas, which went for his opponent in the last election. That is so petty. Texans, we shouldn't go there. We lost out on this one, but there is no reason to start whining. Accept it and move on without trying to belittle or demonize the process. (4/20)

MAKE Experimental Science Kits For Space (Source: MAKE)
MAKE is happy to announce that we’re partnering with Teachers in Space and NASA’s Emerging Commercialization Space Office (ECSO) to organize the first MAKE Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to develop inexpensive science kits that can be built in a classroom and then sent on-board suborbital flights to conduct experiments. The NASA MAKE Challenge promises to take advantage of DIY innovations to expand the number of experiments that are able to fly and increase our knowledge of space. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2011. Click here. (4/19)

New Strategy Set for UK Space Sector (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Space Leadership Council has set out actions to boost the UK space industry and achieve outcomes of the Government. The National Space Technology Strategy for the UK details priority research and technology areas to help the UK space sector grow including telecommunications and access to space. (4/20)

Avanti Wins Arbitration to Recoup SpaceX Launch Deposit (Source: Satellite Today)
The New York American Arbitration Association ruled in favor of U.K. satellite operator Avanti Communications in its legal action against SpaceX to recover the deposit it paid SpaceX to launch the Hylas-1 satellite. The verdict requires SpaceX to pay Avanti $7.56 million with interest on the deposit. SpaceX was contracted to launch Avanti's Hylas-1 satellite toward the end of 2009 in a contract that stipulated SpaceX complete Falcon 9 validation tests by the time of launch.

When SpaceX notified Avanti that it would not be able to fulfill the stipulation, Avanti shifted the contract award to Arianespace, which launched the satellite in November. Avanti requested a refund on its deposit to SpaceX, but the launch provider held the deposit, which drove Avanti to file for arbitration in January. (4/20)

Iran Likely to Launch Bio Life Capsule by Mid September (Source: ISNA)
The Head of Iranian Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli said the country is likely to launch "Explorer 4" with bio life capsule into space by mid September. "Explorer 4" with living creatures is to be launched into space by Mid September if fundamental changes are not made in the explorer," he told ISNA.

"Explorer 4 was test launched on March 16 without a bio life capsule. We simulated a doll instead of a real monkey in a way that it will have the same conditions... at the time of launch," he said. He said Iranian space scientists and researchers are making required tests for the main launch. No exact date can be set for the main launch since the launcher may need fundamental changes which may take longer time. "But surely we are trying to carry out the launch in 2011." (4/20)

Endeavour Ready for April 29 Launch (Source: Space Daily)
NASA managers announced that space shuttle Endeavour is ready to launch next week on its final flight to the International Space Station following a daylong Flight Readiness Review on Tuesday. Endeavour is scheduled to launch Friday, April 29, at 3:47 p.m. EDT. (4/19)

Mars Presents a Challenge for Engineers, Scientists (Source: AIA)
Engineers and scientists have a lot of variables to consider when designing an aircraft to send into space, as evidenced by the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. NASA's effort to send humans to Mars is even more challenging, particularly due to the planet's unpredictable atmosphere. "Each time we fly to Mars, we learn a little more and get a little smarter," said Walter Engelund of NASA's Langley Research Center. "One thing we have learned is that the Mars atmosphere is certainly a big variable. It is much more dynamic than our own Earth's atmosphere." (4/20)

Paul Allen Considering New Commercial Space Projects (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who funded the development of the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne, is considering new projects in commercial spaceflight. "I think it’s an area where I’m considering doing further initiatives,” he told Charlie Rose. Allen wasn’t specific, talking in general about the difficulties of orbital spaceflight versus suborbital. Allen also praised the work done by Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX. “Elon Musk has done some amazing, amazing things with the boosters he’s developed to take people and cargo to space,” Allen said. (4/20)

Embry-Riddle Only Florida School in 'EcoCAR 2' Competition (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
U.S. Rep. John Mica joined Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students and leaders Tuesday to showcase the selection of the university among 16 by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors to participate in a new EcoCAR 2 competition. Embry-Riddle is the only university selected in Florida.

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year engineering competition that challenges the universities to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles without compromising performance, safety, and consumer acceptability. The mission of EcoCAR 2 is to educate the next generation of automotive engineers through real-world engineering experience. (4/20)

Japanese Satellite May Re-Enter with Hazardous Fuel (Source: SatTrackCam Leiden)
The imminent uncontrolled re-entry of the malfunctioned Japanese spy satellite IGS 1B (2003-009B) in the first half of next year (2012) is complicated by the fact that there might be a potentially hazardous half-full tank of hydrazine fuel aboard, mimicking the situation with USA 193 in 2008. The satellite in question is believed to weigh 1.2 tons (about one-third of the weight of USA 193). It was launched on a H-2A rocket on 28 March 2003 together with a sister satellite, IGS 1A (2003-009A). IGS stands for Intelligence Gathering Satellite, an English translation of the Japanese designation joho shushu eisei. (4/20)

Indian Rocket Reaches Space with Observation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Achieving a booming success after two rocket failures last year, India deployed three satellites in orbit early Wednesday with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, a workhorse 14-story booster that racked up its 17th straight successful mission. The rocket blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island on India's east coast. (4/20)

Haridopolos: A Call for Congress to Focus on Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With most day-to-day operations ceasing after the Shuttle Atlantis launches in late June, and still no clear continuing mission for NASA, contractor United Launch Alliance has no choice [but to shed its workforce]. A downsizing of this magnitude, in a single industry affecting so many high-wage jobs, is rippling through the region's already battered economy.

To make matters worse, the federal government, which assured us it had a plan for support and aggressive economic development, has failed us with empty promises that impact not only our citizens, but our spectacular space program. One year ago, President Obama and Sen. Bill Nelson came to Kennedy Space Center and announced with much fanfare the creation of an economic task force and promised $40 million in funding to offset the loss of jobs.

After local and regional organizations spent several months developing programs and proposals to use the federal grants, we have yet to see any of the promised dollars. That's a failure in leadership. In contrast, the state of Florida has made protecting our quality aerospace jobs a priority. We realize that to keep these jobs, we must successfully shift them from the public sector to the private sector. Despite limited resources, the Florida Legislature in 2010 increased space-program funding by more than 600 percent. (4/20)

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