April 27, 2011

Virgin Galactic Touts Spaceport Business (Source: KRQE)
Building new hotels, restaurants, homes and stores in the middle of the Jornada del Muerto, an iconic New Mexico desert. It might sound like a reach to some, but Virgin Galactic says there are lots of opportunities for developers to cash in on the creation of a shimmering space city around New Mexico’s Spaceport America in the Jornada east of Truth or Consequences.

Addressing the New Mexico Commercial Real Estate Development Association, NAIOP, Virgin Galactic Vice President Will Pomeranz said each space tourist who comes here will bring an entourage that will need a complete spectrum of travel and tourist destination services. (4/27)

Can Canada Afford the Final Frontier? (Source: Canada.com)
Here’s a question for you: how many Canadian astronauts can you name? Marc Garneau and Roberta Bondar, yes. Chris Hadfield would make the list too, since he’s about to command the International Space Station in a couple of years. If you’re from Quebec, you’ll probably add Julie Payette. But is that all of them?

Well, if you go to the Canadian Space Agency’s Astronauts page, you’ll see biographies of 11 Canadian astronauts. However, bear in mind that most – Cdr. Garneau and Dr. Bondar included – were selected in 1983, 28 years ago. Col. Hadfield was selected in 1992. As things stand right now, only three Canadians – Col. Hadfield, Ms. Payette and Dr. Robert Thirsk – are active and qualified for space flight, though two more astronauts recruited in 2009 are now in training.

The cost for these five people? About $6.3 million. This is the amount reported by the Canadian Space Agency, in its planning and priorities report for 2010-11, for “human space flight mission – operations.” It’s meant to cover not just salaries, but training, medical support and maintenance, skills plan development (i.e. working out how to teach the skills the astronauts need in a standardized, effective process), and so on. (4/27)

Huntsville Shuttle Team Nearing the End of Long Journey (Source: Huntsville Times)
They've known the end of NASA's space shuttle program was coming this summer, but knowing it and feeling it are different things. "I had to go down to Florida (last) week for a flight readiness review, and driving off the center it hit me," said Johnny Heflin of Huntsville, leader of the design engineering team in the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office.

"You know, I'll get to do this a few more times, and then I'll have KSC in the rear-view mirror as I'm leaving," Heflin said last week. "And I don't know if I'll get to go back and see those guys again and be part of another launch." Heflin is one of about 1,500 people working on the shuttle at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center. Not all of them are in Florida for Friday's liftoff of America's next-to-last shuttle mission. (4/27)

U.S. Astronauts Not Sure Where They Go Next (Source: CNN)
As the space shuttle program winds down with the last launch scheduled this summer, many in the astronaut corps are wrestling with what to do next. For the foreseeable future, Russian rockets will be the only way for U.S. astronauts to get to space. Mike Fincke, an Endeavour mission specialist, has spent a year in space but is flying on a shuttle for the first time.

"I think all of us with all the changes that going on with our country's space program and NASA, all of us professional astronauts are looking into our hearts to see what we're gonna do next," Fincke said. "I really want to stay. I want to stay here at NASA. I believe in what we are doing." (4/27)

New Stamp honors First U.S. Astronaut in Space (Source: Washington Post)
The U.S. Postal Service’s recent stamp rollout continues today with two new stamps honoring America’s space program. Postal and NASA officials will unveil images honoring former astronaut Alan Shepard, who piloted the first U.S. manned space flight on May 5, 1961. Another image commemorates the Messenger unmanned spacecraft currently orbiting the planet Mercury. The formal dedication of the stamps will occur May 4 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (4/27)

50-Acre Brush Fire Burns 3 Miles From Endeavour Launch Pad (Source: CNN)
A 50-acre brush fire burned Wednesday about three miles from a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, but the fire posed no danger to the countdown for Friday's launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, NASA said. The fire was being fought by the fire department of the Merritt Island National Refuge on space center property. (4/27)

NASA Langley to Test New Docking System (Source: Daily Press)
If it works on the Ford Escape, why not a spaceship? That's the theory behind NASA's newest gadget, which engineers say may eventually lead to hands-free parking at the International Space Station and other destinations. The gadget is called STORRM, which stands for Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation. Essentially, it is a high-powered laser and camera that provides real-time, three-dimensional images as a spacecraft approaches its destination. It will be tested in space for the first time on the shuttle Endeavour. (4/27)

Astronaut Flew on Atlantis 2 Years After Parkinson's Diagnosis (Source: KHOU)
It’s been 15 years since astronaut Rich Clifford boarded the shuttle Atlantis with a secret – a secret he’s now willing to share. Clifford had a problem with his shoulder, but the doctors had missed it. More than once, in fact. So finally, in 1994, he got an answer that would change his life. "I asked him to look at my shoulder because my right arm wasn’t swinging naturally," Clifford recalled.

First thing the next morning, Clifford and his flight surgeon arrived at the Texas Medical Center to see Dr. Joseph Jankovic. "It was the standard neurological stuff. You tap your toes, and you touch your nose. And he said it all looked pretty normal. Then he said, ‘I want you to walk down the hall for me,’" Clifford said of his first meeting with Jankovic. A walk down the hall was all it took to diagnose a progressive degenerative disease for which there is no known cure. Clifford had Parkinson’s.

What surprised Clifford then was how the doctors – including Jankovic – regarded his diagnosis as good news. "He said, ‘I know you’ve got Parkinson’s, but I’ve got to prove to NASA that it’s not something else. Something worse, like ALS or MS,’" Clifford recalled. By the time an astronaut is ready to fly, NASA has invested anywhere from $10 million to $20 million in each crew member. They’ve already been pilots in the military, been to test pilot school, gotten a master’s in engineering and have been at NASA for 10 years. (4/27)

Final Poker Flat Rocket Launch of the Season Set (Source: Fairbanks News Miner)
The last launch of the season was scheduled for midnight on April 26 at Poker Flat Research Range, if skies are clear and the weather is good. A Terrier Black Brant will be launched so NASA scientists can study the rocket's performance in the upper atmosphere and test recovery aids packed into the rocket's 22.5-foot payload. The rocket is expected to reach a peak altitude of 183 vertical miles. Chuck Brodell, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, says this rocket launch provides NASA an opportunity to learn what recovery mechanisms, such as strobe lights and streamers, work best in the Alaska terrain. (4/27)

Space Coast Loses Federal Job-Development Grants (Source: Florida Today)
A $40 million plan to help Space Coast workers find jobs after the shuttle program retires has become a casualty of recent congressional spending cuts. The plan depended on congressional approval of President Obama's plan to expand NASA's budget. Instead, Congress cut the agency's budget. Obama had proposed $35 million in Commerce Department grants to spur creation of high-paying jobs in fields such as aeronautics and medical research, to replace some of the thousands of lost shuttle jobs.

Commerce officials had reviewed grant applications and were prepared to act on them months ago. Obama also proposed giving the FAA $5 million to develop a commercial spaceflight "Tech Center" at Kennedy Space Center, another source of regional jobs. Meanwhile, Obama has proposed spending $850 million in FY-2012 to develop private rockets, but that amount remains contentious in Congress. Obama also proposed spending $550 million in fiscal 2012 to fully fund the retirement program for 10,000 past and present shuttle workers, and $5 million for the FAA tech center.

Editor's Note: In addition to the $35 million for Florida grant projects, President Obama last year requested $60 million for similar assistance to other states affected by the Space Shuttle's retirement. It seems this money is gone too. (4/27)

Obama, Air Force One Will Arrive At Spaceport's "Skid Strip" (Source: Florida Today)
President Barack Obama will fly in Air Force One to the Skid Strip at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, tour an Orbiter Processing Facility and view the 25th and final flight of shuttle Endeavour Friday at Kennedy Space Center. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, will attend the penultimate shuttle launch. The arrival time of Air Force One: 2:10 p.m. The Obama Family will depart the Skid Strip at 4:40 p.m. President Obama is delivering the commencement address at Miami Dade College early Friday evening. (4/27)

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Takes Off for ISS (Source: Xinhua)
A Russian cargo spaceship was launched into space Wednesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch was this year's second Russian resupply Progress M-10M spacecraft to the Space Station, which delivers about 2.6 tons of cargo. Besides water, food, fuel and oxygen, the vessel also brought drosophilas and plant seeds for scientific experiments. The cargo ship is scheduled to dock automatically with the ISS on April 29. (4/27)

Russia, Sweden to Boost Space Cooperation (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia and Sweden agreed on Wednesday to improve cooperation in the space industry, including their intention to launch Swedish satellites using Russian carrier rockets. The two countries signed a relevant declaration during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Stockholm. The sides also agreed to jointly use ground facilities to gather information for operating their own orbital objects and those of third countries.

Sweden and Russia will also cooperate within a Russian space research project to monitor the Earth's polar regions. The project envisions using a new satellite cluster, called Arktika, to provide environmental monitoring data for accurate weather forecasts and to aid national socio-economic development. The system is scheduled to begin operating in 2015. The cost of the project is estimated at 30 billion rubles ($1.23 billion). (4/27)

NASA Explorer Schools Symposium Showcases Student Research (Source: NASA)
Students from across the nation will gather at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 4-7 for the NASA Explorer Schools symposium. Future leaders in science, technology, education and math, or STEM, will present their work to NASA scientists, engineers, fellow students and educators.

The competitively selected group of fourth through 12th-graders consists of 58 students and 29 educators. The various research projects were designed to improve teaching and bolster interest in STEM disciplines. The students were required to complete an original investigation focused on existing NASA missions or research interests. Participants presented their work to experts at virtual regional symposia held January through March at NASA centers using the agency's Digital Learning Network. (4/27)

Boulder, Huntsville are "Final Two" in National Solar Observatory Competition (Source: NSO)
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA Inc.) has elected to pursue advanced negotiations with the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Alabama in Huntsville for selection of a new home to host the National Solar Observatory (NSO). NSO is operated by AURA under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation for the benefit of the astronomical community.

NSO comprises offices and observatories in Sunspot, Sacramento Peak, NM; Tucson and Kitt Peak, AZ; and a global network. NSO has started building a 4-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope to go on Haleakala, Maui, HI, and is merging two existing facilities into a new worldwide Synoptic Observing Network. Seven organizations from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico responded to the opportunity. (4/27)

Simberg: NASA Over a Russian Barrel (Source: Washington Examiner)
Russians are trying to maintain their monopoly on providing lifeboats and (after we retire the Shuttle later this year) crew transportation for the International Space Station. SpaceX could compete with them, starting later this year, at least for provisioning cargo, once they demonstrate that their Dragon capsule can rendezvous and dock with the station.

With the addition of a life-support system (currently under development), SpaceX could take over lifeboat duties, with a system that can return seven instead of three (as the Russian Soyuz does), potentially allowing an increase in station crew size. That could be done in as little as a year. With the addition of a launch abort system (also under development), they could offer rides to orbit for $20 million a seat, instead of the $63 million that the Russians now charge, knowing that they will have a monopoly with the upcoming end of the Shuttle program. Click here. (4/27)

Russia to Build Aerospace Defense Shield (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia will build a national aerospace defense shield by the end of 2011, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Viktor Ozerov said. He believes that a combined aerospace defense force will cooperate more effectively with NATO’s European anti-missile defense system.

Last year, President Medvedev approved a plan to merge the Space Forces created in 2001, the Air Defense Forces and also the missile attack warning and space surveillance systems into a single military force. (4/27)

Rocket Escape Systems Go From Tractors to Pushers (Source: New Scientist)
Looks like its time to say goodbye to the traditional "pointy bit" we're used to seeing on US space rockets. The wunderkind space flight outfit SpaceX is following Boeing's lead by developing a launch escape system (LAS) for its forthcoming human-rated rockets that does not require a clunky booster tower to be mounted on top of the crew capsule.

Rockets like Russia's Soyuz, China's Shenzhou and NASA's Saturn V have large rocket motors on top of the capsule. If any rocket stages below the crew exploded on the launch pad, four solid rockets in the tower would loft the capsule well clear of the mayhem and allow it to parachute to the ground a safe distance away. But the tower's weight slows the launch and, if it's not needed, dumps a perfectly good set of rocket motors in the ocean. So it's a big waste of resources. And there are better ways to do it in any case, say US experts. Click here. (4/27)

Penn State Alumni Astronauts Not Pleased with Space Policy (Source: PennLive)
Three Penn State alumni astronauts are not all pleased with how the transition away from the shuttle is being handled. Originally, NASA had a plan for a new vehicle system that would be ready to replace the shuttles. Then, missions changed and budgets were cut. Now, it might be five years before the United States can put a person in orbit without renting space on a Russian rocket.

“I think that’s shameful,” Pawelczyk said. “I think that’s a violation of our national policy.” Our nation’s reputation for scientific exploration will get seriously damaged as Russia and China continue sending rockets up, Weitz said. The lack of a defined goal — Mars, the moon, an asteroid, a fixed point in space — makes it harder for the public to get behind the space program, Pawelczyk said.

Editor's Note: The Shuttle retirement plan put forward by President Bush included a multi-year gap and reliance on the Russians. (4/27)

Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic Make Waves in Munich (Source: NewSpace Journal)
On Sunday afternoon Eric Anderson of Space Adventures, and George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic appeared on a panel in Munich. The panel’s moderator, Spencer Reiss of Wired, introduced Anderson as the person would sell you a ticket for a trip around the Moon, “and there’s only one ticket left, and it’s $150 million.” When Space Adventures announced its circumlunar flight plans in 2005, they said they would sell two seats for $100 million each.

Anderson indicated a short time later that the price apparently had gone up, but, “we have sold one of those.” Reiss asked Anderson who the purchaser was, but Anderson didn’t give a name: “When we tell you, you’ll know who it is. You’ll recognize the name.” Anderson said “we’ve got people we’re finalizing with right now” for the second seat on the flight, which he said would take place around 2015. (4/26)

Marco Rubio: Manned Spaceflight Vital to U.S. Interests (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Thirty years ago, the United States launched the first space shuttle mission from Kennedy Space Center. It marked a new era of American leadership in space and showed that Americans would be committed to being first in space and on the cutting edge of scientific progress to improve our lives.

This week, President Obama will attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour's last mission. While it is an opportunity to celebrate Endeavour's history and the brave people who have made it a proud one, it is also a bittersweet occasion. The president's space policy is jeopardizing America's longstanding commitment to manned space exploration. This has serious consequences for Florida.

The Constellation program's cancellation will close off what has been our most reliable path to low-earth orbit, endanger thousands of jobs and force us to rely on the Russian Soyuz vehicle to continue our work on the International Space Station. Although America once led the way to the moon, we now face the unacceptable prospect of limited options to simply get a human into space. (4/26)

Thirty Schools Will Close Early on Shuttle Launch Day (Source: Florida Today)
Thirty schools will close early Friday in anticipation of traffic snarls expected with Endeavor's last shuttle launch – a first for the Space Coast's public school district. Brevard Public Schools officials announced the decision Tuesday at the urging of Titusville Police and the Emergency Operations Center. "We've never done this before for a shuttle launch," District Spokeswoman Christine Davis said. "They’ve never pressed us to close schools before." (4/26)

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