April 28, 2011

Media Inspects Commercial Space Stations (Source: Manx Radio)
It may not be NASA, but to a local space tourism company Jurby is 'out of this world' as it shows off some of its craft. Excalibur Almaz brought two space stations to the Isle of Man earlier this year and they are now being turned into space hotels in a hangar. The craft, which look like giant ice cream cones, are nearly 15 metres long and five wide, and the company hopes to send them into orbit to provide accommodation for tourists and researchers.

There will be an opportunity for members of the public to see the space stations when they are put on display in June. Click here to hear an interview with Russian Cosmonaut Valeri Tokarev as he explains why it was decided to modify the Soviet-era stations on the Island. (4/28)

Astronaut Nicole Stott Wows Tarpon High Students (Source: St. Pete Times)
When astronaut Nicole Stott flew the final mission of space shuttle Discovery in February, more than 46,000 people followed her via a social networking site. Thursday, more than 400 Tarpon Springs High School students got to meet her face to face, and they were clearly in awe. Stott was at the school early to eat breakfast (a mushroom and cheese omelet) with the student officers of the science and math honor societies, but as students seated at other tables finished their breakfasts, the crowd around Stott's table grew. (4/28)

Blastoff Obscures NASA's Troubles (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Space shuttle Endeavour's scheduled launch Friday recalls sunny spectacles that marked NASA's former glory. But the sense of excitement surrounding the event masks the uncertain future of America's manned exploration program. Lawmakers, contractors and NASA leaders continue to squabble over how to divvy up shrinking space budgets.

And with the final shuttle countdown expected this summer, no consensus has emerged on how to meet the administration's goals of exploring an asteroid around 2025, and eventually sending astronauts to Mars. "NASA's fundamental problem is a lack of clear-cut direction and goals," said Scott Pace, a former senior NASA official who now teaches at George Washington University. "The current path is a very risky one, and time is quickly running out to correct course." (4/28)

Here's What We're Really Giving Up with the Shuttle's Retirement (Source: Houston Chronicle)
On Friday space shuttle Endeavour will probably launch, ferrying a fantastic science experiment known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. This is quite a large science experiment, weighing 15,000 pounds, standing 11 feet tall and with a width of 15 feet. Now imagine trying to get something like that into space.

The experiment itself is too large and needs too much power to feasibly be a standalone satellite, so it needs to be attached to the International Space Station. Fortunately, we have the space shuttle, which was built just for such purposes, to carry large objects into orbit.

A lot of people are concerned about the shuttle's retirement because the United States will have to rely on the Russians to transport our astronauts to orbit, and that's a valid concern. But equally worrisome, and perhaps moreso, is losing our ability to safely launch big stuff to the station. (4/28)

A Book Store. That’s Right. Book, Singular. (Source: New York Times)
At first glance, it looks like a charming independent bookstore, a West Village gem with a window display featuring artful stacks of gleaming hardcovers. But, wait a minute. Is that one book? Like, many, many copies of the same book? Selection isn’t the strong suit of Ed’s Martian Book, but 3,000 or so copies of “Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days With the Phoenix Mars Mission”, by a 32-year-old Brooklyn author named Andrew Kessler, are available for $27.95 each.

The book is Mr. Kessler’s account of NASA’s 2008 Phoenix Mars Lander mission, reported during 90 days inside mission control, in Tucson, alongside 130 lead
Linking scientists and engineers. Publishers Weekly calls the book a “slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect” that “delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor.” (4/28)

Still Searching: SETI Pioneer Jill Tarter Talks Shutdown, Aliens (Source: WIRED)
For many alien enthusiasts, Jill Tarter is synonymous with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. As the SETI Institute’s research director — and the inspiration for Jodie Foster’s character in Contact — she’s done more than anyone to raise the search for cosmic company from a fringe effort to serious science.

After receiving a TED prize in 2009, Tarter had grand plans for the Allen Telescope Array, a proposed field of 350 big-nosed radio dishes that would be the world’s only dedicated SETI telescope, as well as its most sensitive. But this week, budget cuts forced the ATA’s existing 42 dishes into hibernation mode. The rest are now just a dream. Click here for the Q&A. (4/28)

European Space Agency Prepares Soyuz for Dry Roll-Out (Source: RIA Novosti)
The first Russian Soyuz ST rocket built for launch from the European Space Agency's site at Kourou in French Guyana will be rolled out to the launch pad for dry systems tests on April 29, the Russian Space Agency said on Thursday. The rocket, including a Fregat SB upper stage produced by Russia's NPO Lavochkin, is due to be launched from Kourou for the first time on August 31. (4/28)

Voyager Set to Enter Interstellar Space (Source: NASA)
More than 30 years after they left Earth, NASA's twin Voyager probes are now at the edge of the solar system. Not only that, they're still working. And with each passing day they are beaming back a message that, to scientists, is both unsettling and thrilling. The message is, "Expect the unexpected." Click here to learn more about the program's discoveries. (4/28)

In Shuttle’s Waning Days, One of the Last Reasons to Cheer (Source: New York Times)
As it has many times before, sometime Friday afternoon the stretch of Route 1 in front of Chris Galorneau’s restaurant will turn into a parking lot. Drivers will abandon their cars, and customers will pour out of the Village Inn, where Mr. Galorneau is the general manager, as they will at businesses up and down Route 1, which serves as a main street for this city of 45,000.

The main draw is the fact that after this liftoff, and the launching of the Atlantis in two months, there will be no more space shuttle voyages. After three decades, the program has just about reached the end of the line. “You’re not going to see another one — this is going to be it,” said Truman Scarborough, who was Titusville’s mayor in the 1980s and served as a Brevard County commissioner for 20 years.

Mr. Scarborough and others said that for the past three or four launchings, the crowds have been getting larger as the program nears its end. Officials were forecasting perhaps a million or more for the Atlantis launch, a crowd that would rival the glory days of the space program. (4/28)

Space Coast Relaunches (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Rivian Automotive hopes the sleek, 60 miles-per-gallon sports car it is developing with help from NASA engineers will eventually deliver 1,200 jobs here along Florida's Space Coast. That would be welcome news for a region expected to lose 9,000 jobs with the space-shuttle program's end. The Space Coast has long built its identity and economy around the space program and the thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians it employed.

Now, economic-development officials are intent on luring new aerospace-related businesses, and there have been successes: Commercial launch company SpaceX and Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA are among those hiring. "Here, there's a huge untapped technical work force that can support us," said Rivian Chief Executive R.J. Scaringe.

But there is still a long way to go to fill the void left by the shuttle program, and the mood among the space community's workers ranges from somber to angry. "It's gut-wrenching," said Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce, a county agency helping place the unemployed. "It's the ending of an era." (4/28)

Shuttle Era Fades Into Space; NASA's Plans Up in the Air (Source: Sunshine State News)
“It will be bittersweet to watch as Endeavor makes its final launch after just 25 missions," said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, whose district encompasses part of the Kennedy Space Center. Space Florida is working to stay in the game by recruiting commercial launch companies to locate near the Kennedy Space Center.

Frank DiBello, head of Space Florida, remains optimistic that commercial crew and cargo programs will bridge the gap to the next generation of deep-space exploration. Earlier this year, his agency signed a memorandum of understanding with Bigelow Aerospace, which intends to launch its first Orbital Space Complex from Cape Canaveral in 2014.

"The next vehicle to carry astronauts into space from Florida’s Space Coast will be a commercial spacecraft -- and this marks a historic change, perhaps the biggest in NASA's 50-year history,” said Bretton Alexander, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based consortium of space companies. (4/28)

Analysis: Panetta Would Oversee Reduced Pentagon Spending (Source: AIA)
President Barack Obama is poised to nominate Leon Panetta -- formerly a White House budget director and House Budget Committee chairman -- as the next defense secretary, replacing Robert Gates. Panetta would have the Pentagon steadily decrease its spending to help lower the deficit. Panetta "would undoubtedly result in a faster pace of cuts to the defense budget in future years," according to Loren Thompson, a defense consultant. (4/28)

General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman Deliver Solid Profits (Source: AIA)
Northrop Grumman reported a 13% increase in earnings on higher operating margins. General Dynamics posted a 3.5% rise on higher overall revenue and margins. Analysts praised Northrop's decision to spin off its shipbuilding unit, while General Dynamics CEO Jay Johnson cited the Gulfstream unit as GD's "growth engine." (4/28)

Defense Firms Profit Despite Budget Woes (Source: AIA)
U.S. budget woes, along with President Barack Obama's call to rein in defense spending by $400 billion over the next decade, have hindered sales and caused uncertainty among defense contractors. "The trouble for the defense stocks has got more to do with the direction of the defense budget because of pressures from federal spending than with who is in charge at this point," said Anil Daka, an analyst at Morningstar. (4/28)

Babbitt Raises Concerns About Reauthorization Bill (Source: AIA)
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said the reauthorization bill approved by the House inadequately funds the agency, which could "degrade" safety and efficiency. Rep. John Mica, R-FL, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the four-year $59.7 billion bill "saves $4 billion by streamlining and consolidating FAA programs and facilities, increasing the use of cost-effective programs, and responsibly increasing the role of the private sector in facility operations." Babbitt is urging lawmakers to pass legislation that adequately funds the FAA. (4/28)

Space Day Celebration Planned at San Diego Museum on May 28 (Source: San Diego Air & Space Museum)
Enjoy demonstrations, giveaways, the opportunity to meet a real astronaut, and hands-on activities with local and national space experts! Invited Presenters include NASA, Deep Space Network, JPL, The Mars Society, SETI, San Diego Astronomy Association, UCSD EarthKAM and others. Kids 17 and under are FREE with a paid adult! Click here. (4/28)

Space Tourism for the Rest of Us (Source: CBC)
Dennis Tito made history on April 28, 2001, when he blasted off for the International Space Station and became the world's first space tourist. Several have followed him, although none are "ordinary citizens" — they're people able to spend millions for an off-world vacation — but 10 years after Tito's trip, cheaper ways to experience space are starting to appear. Click here to read the article. (4/28)

USTR Report Cites Continued Satellite Market Protectionism in China, India (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government has again singled out China and India as nations that maintain barriers to foreign satellite service providers in order to protect domestic, government-owned satellite operators. In a new report, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) pays special attention to the state of the satellite services markets in the world’s two most populous nations, both of which are fast expanding their satellite telecommunications sectors.

The report concludes that not much has changed in either nation despite regular promises from their government agencies that trade barriers would be eased. The USTR report says U.S.organizations asked to provide an update on the situation in China and India found a continued “lack of transparency in rules governing the provision of satellite capacity” in both nations. “The requirement to sell capacity only through government-owned satellite operators is problematic.” (4/28)

India Joins Bid to Clean Space Debris (Source: Express News Service)
Space agencies are starting off in a small way to clean up man-made clutter in space. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has joined sister agencies abroad to identify methods to pluck out at least three to five large junk objects from space every year. (4/28)

San Francisco Space Enthusiast Invited to Watch Shuttle Launch (Source: San Francisco Examiner)
Kathryn Hill, the 38-year-old Web art director and San Francisco resident, was one of 150 @NASA Twitter followers randomly invited to witness the final launch of space shuttle Endeavor as part of a Tweet-up sponsored by NASA. (4/28)

Haridopolos: President is Letting the Space Workforce Down (Source: Florida Today)
Tomorrow, Florida hosts President Obama and his family as they witness first-hand the launch of Endeavour, one of America’s final space shuttle missions. It’s been a little over a year since we last welcomed the president to KSC. He came to assure Floridians, especially the shuttle workforce, that his administration would help the state’s aerospace sector mitigate the impacts of the pending close of NASA’s premier program.

“I’m proposing a $40 million initiative led by a high-level team from the White House, NASA and other agencies to develop a plan for regional economic growth and job creation,” he said in his address. He called for a swift plan of action. State and local leaders quickly accommodated him by coordinating meetings, partnering on job-creation concepts and providing input for a strategy.

The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast advertised a grant program for $35 million for multiple projects with a very aggressive deadline. That was then. Tomorrow, he visits with similar fanfare, minus the mention of assistance. Now, with the disappearance of his economic task force, and most notably the nonexistence of the promised $40 million, there still are no federal efforts to help diversify our local economy. (4/28)

Budding Space Tourists Given Help to Take Off From UK (Source: Telegraph)
At present, would be space travelers are bound by the rules relating to commercial air travel, making it difficult for operators to launch rockets from this country. David Willetts, the Science Minister, announced that the space industry would no longer come under the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority.

He ordered the UK Space Agency to: “Develop reforms which will remove restrictions which put UK operators at a competitive disadvantage, and prepare proposals for new regulation for space vehicles to promote tourism in the UK.” A spokesman said that the Government would work with the European Aviation Safety Authority to ensure that the next generation of space planes were safe for tourists to travel in. (4/28)

Spaceport America Budget Cut 57 Percent (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America's operating budget was slashed 57 percent in this year's legislative session, spaceport officials heard for the first time Wednesday. The agency received about $1.17 million in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, according to spaceport Director Christine Anderson. But it's slated to get about $500,000 next year, she said.

The state budget assumed that the spaceport would receive, in addition to the half-million dollars, about $200,000 as part of the first lease payments from Virgin Galactic, the main tenant at Spaceport America, Anderson said. But she said those payments hinge upon the company moving into the under-construction terminal-hangar building in the coming year, which isn't guaranteed. (4/28)

New Mexico Spaceport Lacking 'Visitor Experience' (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
The Spaceport Authority plans to seek bids in the weeks ahead for a contract to design what is called the tourist "visitor experience" at the state-financed spaceport, but staffers acknowledge the effort is at least eight months behind the curve. "We're very late on this," Spaceport Authority executive director Christine Anderson, who started her job in early March, told the authority board.

She said requests for proposals should have been issued in September for the agency to be able to open a visitor center at the spaceport, 30 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences, by the first quarter of 2013. That is when Virgin Galactic is now projected to begin its first commercial suborbital flights. The cost of the visitor centers is estimated at $15 million, but Spaceport Authority board Chairman Rick Holdridge said at that price the project is "underfunded... That's why it's really important to find some investors," Holdridge said. (4/28)

Satellite Launch From Wallops This Summer (Source: Baltimore Sun)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is preparing for another Minotaur rocket launch down on Wallops Island, Va., the fourth since 2006. The 70-foot rocket will carry an ORS-1 satellite for the Pentagon. It’s designed to provide “multi-spectral” imaging for combatants on the ground. The launch date remains uncertain, but liftoff should occur sometime this summer. When skies are clear, orbital launches from Wallops can be seen for hundreds of miles. Watch this space. (4/28)

Space Tourism Travel Comes Closer to Fruition (Source: USA Today)
For years, when John Spencer talked about tourists taking forays into space, he often was met with giggles or a blank stare. "The laugh factor on this was really intense," says Spencer, founder of the Space Tourism Society, an advocacy group based in West Los Angeles. But with corporate visionaries pouring millions of dollars into the building blocks of such an industry, Spencer says, few people are laughing now.

"It's happening," he says. "There's a market. There's a waiting line. … Our ultimate goal is: Tens of thousands of space tourists actually leave Earth, go to orbital cruise ships, lunar ships, lunar resorts, and have a great time." (4/27)

United Space Alliance Repositions Itself for Survival (Source: AIA)
USA, the main contractor for space shuttle operations, is making changes to deal with the uncertainty of the post-space shuttle times. "We've known the shuttle program was going to be ending for some time, and we've been planning and working for an orderly transition for over two years now," said Daniel Brandenstein, chief operating officer. "The goal that we've been working toward is to retain the critical skills that we have in our organization, so that when the next program is better defined and moves into reality we will have not have lost all those skills." (4/27)

Lawmakers Indicate More Cuts to Defense Budget Possible (Source: AIA)
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have been discussing the idea of reducing or freezing the defense budget as they consider ways to deal with the deficit. The situation is expected to come to a head in May when lawmakers must decide whether to raise the debt ceiling or face a new crisis. (4/26)

NASA Tests Fuel Made From Chicken and Beef Fat (Source: AIA)
NASA said that in late March and early April it tested jet fuel made from animal fat. "The test results seem to support the idea that biofuels for jet engines are indeed cleaner-burning and release fewer pollutants into the air," according to Ruben Del Rosario, manager of the Subsonic Fixed Wing Project at NASA. (4/26)

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