April 3, 2011

Canceled NASA Rocket Resurfaces in Private Bid for Tax Dollars (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Over the last six years, NASA has paid Alliant Techsystems about $1.2 billion for the Ares I rocket, which never has flown. Last fall, President Obama and Congress agreed to cancel it — along with the entire Constellation program — because its price tag kept rising as its launch date kept slipping. So ATK has gone to a Plan B: It's repackaging the Ares I as "Liberty" to compete as a commercial space taxi that could ferry astronauts to the space station.

ATK is angling for a piece of roughly $300 million that NASA wants to use to help spur the commercial development of a space taxi. ATK claims it can Liberty ready to fly in 2015 — two years earlier than the Ares I would have been available. ATK's new plan has at least one optimistic supporter: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, who singled out Liberty earlier this year for its potential to bring 300 jobs to Florida. Whether another payment to ATK is a wise investment, however, is a question Nelson felt was appropriate for him to address. "This is a decision for NASA to make in a competition," said his spokesperson.

ATK's plan has plenty of critics. "It would not make sense to throw more bad money [toward ATK] after taxpayers already received nothing for the $1.2 billion," said Tom Schatz, president of the fiscal watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. "There is a history and credibility issue here." Click here to read the article. (4/3)

Canadian Publisher Fuels Moon Landing Conspiracists (Source: CTV News)
Did all the manned U.S. lunar landings between July 1969 and December 1972 actually take place or were they hoaxes? A Canadian book publisher has taken a closer look at images acquired by the Apollo 14 astronauts just before they left the moon 40 years ago. What Robert Godwin uncovered will probably provide more ammunition for those who doubt a U.S. astronaut ever set foot on Earth's celestial neighbor. One frequently used argument is that video of the Stars and Stripes planted on lunar soil appears to show the flags blowing in the wind -- even though there's no atmosphere on the moon.

Godwin says two frames of film taken from the Apollo 14 lunar lander in February 1971 may lead some people to believe that's true. In one frame, the American flag is pointed to the right, while in another frame, it's pointing in another direction -- to the left. Godwin, 53, says he was drawn to Apollo 14 after viewing high-resolution images of that landing site which were taken recently by a lunar reconnaissance satellite. (4/3)

US-Russian Space Crew to Take First Ride on Soyuz (Source: AP)
Two Russian cosmonauts making their first flights into space said Sunday they are counting on their U.S. crewmate when the three blast off together for the International Space Station. American Ron Garan logged 13 days in space on a space shuttle mission in 2008, which makes him the most experienced member of the crew. At 49 he is also the oldest.

Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko, 46, and Alexander Samokutyayev, 40, will ride into space on a Russian Soyuz to be launched early Tuesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They are expected to reach the orbiting station two days later. (4/3)

Station Fires Engines To Avoid Orbital Debris (Source: Space Daily)
Ground controllers have moved the International Space Station away from a piece of orbital debris. The object is a relic from a collision between the COSMOS 2251 and Iridium 33 satellites in February 2009 and had been close to the station's orbit prior to the debris avoidance maneuver (DAM). (4/3)

Japanese Spacecraft's 'Black Box' Recorder Survives Flaming Fall to Earth (Source: Endagadget)
When we reported on Japan's plans to track the re-entry process of its Kounotori 2 spacecraft with a black-box-style recorder, there were still some unanswered questions: specifically, would the REBR (Re-entry Breakup Recorder) sink or swim. Well, according to an announcement from the device's creator, the thing not only survived the fiery plunge to Earth, but it also stayed afloat after plunking down in the South Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.

During free fall, the REBR did as it was expected, automatically monitoring, recording, and eventually transmitting data about the re-entry process, and while the thing was admittedly "not designed to survive impact with the water," it continued relaying information even after landing. The next scheduled REBR mission is planned for June -- here's hoping the new guy's as buoyant as its buddy. (4/3)

Audrina Patridge Works at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (Source: Entertainment Tonight)
Entertainment Tonight catches up with Audrina Patridge to find out what exactly she has been up to between her tv gigs, it's not like it's rocket science or anything. Turns out she's supporting the development of rocket engines for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Click here to see the clip. (4/3)

Battle for Retired Shuttles Gets Fiery (Source: Florida Today)
With competition fierce to land a retired space shuttle orbiter, the cities and states vying to bring one home have gotten creative. Lobbying strategies range from a humble lapel pin to a videotaped sales pitch by a former president. There are pledges of extravagant buildings and millions of visitors if chosen. The goal is to house the shuttles where they can be used as educational displays to promote human spaceflight and inspire interest in exploration. Federal law says the shuttles should retire to places "with an historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations or processing" of the spacecraft.

That would seem to give the edge to KSC, which launched every shuttle mission and landed half of them, and Johnson Space Center in Texas, where mission control is located. Bolden is expected to be at KSC on April 12 -- the same day he announces his decision -- to celebrate the anniversary of the first flight. He flew four shuttle flights, including one in 1986 with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando. (4/3)

Want a Shuttle? Prep and Delivery Cost is $28.8 Million (Source: Dayton Daily News)
NASA didn’t have many requirements when it asked interested organizations to apply for a chance to get a space shuttle. Chief among them: Have a climate-controlled, indoor place to display it and guarantee you can come up with preparation and transportation costs totaling $28.8 million. Initially, the space agency planned to charge $42 million to prepare and deliver a shuttle. But NASA officials agreed to take on the costs of “safing” the shuttles — removing toxic materials such as fuel from the orbiters. But each shuttle recipient will still have to pay $20.5 million for “display preparation” and $8.3 million to ferry the orbiter to its final destination. (4/3)

Jobs, Money at Stake in National Fight for Shuttle (Source: Dayton Daily News)
For the first time in the history of the U.S. space program, NASA is offering its manned spacecraft to organizations other than the Smithsonian Institution, and Dayton is in the running to get one of them. “It (the announcement) will be a very big deal, indeed,” said Tom Crouch, senior curator for aeronautics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “This is the first time spacecraft that actually carried humans have been outside our collection or NASA’s.” Some of those craft are on loan to other museums in the U.S. and abroad.

The competition among museums for such important artifacts is highly unusual, said Robert Pearlman, editor and founder of collectspace.com, an online journal for aerospace historians. “This whole process is unprecedented in national museum history, if not world museum history,” he said. The stakes are high, said Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the Dayton-based National Aviation Heritage Alliance. He said if the Air Force museum, already Ohio’s biggest free tourist attraction, were to double its annual attendance of 1.3 million, it would bring 650-700 jobs and $40 million annually in additional economic activity to the region’s hotels, shops and restaurants.

“Places that understand tourism are places that want one of these shuttles,” Sculimbrene said. “It’s an international icon. It would be a huge boost to the Air Force museum and a huge boost to the region as a whole.” It’s difficult to handicap Dayton’s odds of getting a shuttle, observers say, because it’s uncertain what criteria Bolden is using in making his decisions. “This has largely been covered like a horse race, where there’s a frontrunner and a lagger,” Gessel said. “It’s more like a sealed-bid auction. We don’t know the criteria. That’s what makes it so difficult to predict which museums may get them and which may not. (4/3)

Set Budget Before Criticism (Source: Florida Today)
Congress is getting antsy about the future of human space exploration. Some members, like our own Republican Congressman Bill Posey, are worried that the lack of clear guidance and funding for NASA is setting the United States' space program up to be a second-class organization in the world. Consider what Posey had to say at a House subcommittee hearing last week in Washington. "Our nation is critically near the tipping point of ceding our leadership in space exploration for our future generations," Posey argued.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. Overly dramatic? Maybe. However, the continued lack of direction and specific funding attached to that direction is a major problem. It's not the White House's fault alone. Indeed, the White House has put forth a national space policy and proposed a budget for the nation's space agency. The Congress has since adopted a national space policy, which deviates from the White House's original proposal, but apparently in ways that President Barack Obama is on the record supporting in the interest of compromise. Click here to read the article. (4/3)

Jodrell Bank Chosen as Base for Largest Radio Telescope (Source: BBC)
Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire has been selected as the headquarters for a £1.3bn project to build the world's biggest radio telescope. An agreement to run the Square Kilometer Array from Jodrell Bank was signed in Rome by Australia, China, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK. SKA is designed to answer some key questions about the Universe.

Its location is undecided but could be built in Australia or Southern Africa. The new headquarters at Jodrell Bank will open in January 2012, superseding the existing project office at the University of Manchester. The observatory has been responsible for some hugely important astronomical discoveries since it was established after the Second World War, but there have been doubts over its future in recent years due to constant funding worries. (4/3)

Lunar Potholes May be Ideal Water Traps (Source: New Scientist)
Water molecules may be trapped in pits on the moon's surface. In 2009, the Kaguya probe spotted potholes on the moon 50 to 100 meters wide and a similar distance deep. The holes are thought to be the caved-in ceilings of caverns called lava tubes. Now Junichi Haruyama of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and colleagues say these pits could trap water formed when hydrogen in the solar wind combines with oxygen in rocks. (4/3)

Puerto Rico Schools Dominate Moonbuggy Race. Florida School Gets Third (Source: NASA)
NASA has announced the winners of the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race -- and it's Puerto Rico's year. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, snared the top two berths in the high school division; and, for the second straight year, the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao held off all comers to win the college division.

Finishing in third place in the high school division was Jupiter High School Team II of Jupiter, Fla. The Jupiter team, new to the race in 2010, tied for third place that year with perennial race contenders from the Huntsville Center for Technology. Jupiter's team also won an award for "Best Moonbuggy Design," and their 117 pound buggy won the "Featherweight Award." (4/3)

Does NASA Really Need a HLV for BEO Exploration? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Much of the debate over NASA’s heavy-lift launcher program has centered around how to build it. How much to spend this year vs. next year, to use shuttle- and Ares-derived technologies vs. starting from scratch, and whether the Dec. 31, 2016 deadline is remotely realistic. However, there is a far more fundamental issue that has received little or no attention, one that could affect tens of billions in spending and thousands of jobs nationwide in many districts and states.

In his latest note, Space Access Society Founder Henry Vanderbilt points out the existential threat faced by advocates of building a heavy-lift vehicle: namely, that the HLV might not be necessary to accomplish beyond Earth orbit exploration. A combination of existing rockets and a new technology (propellant depots) could allow the United States to launch its deep-space exploration effort without having to develop an expensive new booster with extremely high operational and launch costs. (4/2)

Canadian Space Agency President Visits China for Talks on Cooperation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean recently led a delegation to Beijing for consultations with officials of the China National Space Administration. MacLean and CNSA Administrator Chen Qiufa discussed cooperation and exchanges on space. Conservatives in the U.S. Congress are trying to block similar talks between CNSA and NASA against the Obama Administration’s wishes. Given the enthusiasm that CSA, ESA, Roscosmos and other agencies have for cooperating on space with China, such a move will likely have little practical effect on the country’s rapidly maturing space program. (4/3)

Eastern Range Tracks Every Launch and Three Women at CSR Lead the Way (Source: Florida Today)
The Eastern Range is a string of radar and telemetry dishes that extends more than 5,000 miles southeast of Brevard County. Over the past 60 years, spanning the rise of the space program itself, the range’s technicians and equipment have tracked hundreds of launches from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Unlike other operations, the Eastern Range will remain intact after the shuttle program ends. Computer Services Raytheon, a partnership between Computer Sciences Corp. and Raytheon Technical Services Co. with 500 Brevard employees, manages the range with about a $100 million budget, and its contract runs until 2017.

“The flyout of the shuttle program won’t have a big impact on most of the work we do because it’s the same whether it’s a Delta 4, an Atlas 5, a Falcon 9 or a space shuttle,” said Michael Maier, CSR vice president and general manager. “We’ve got some new radars coming on line. We have new communications systems, new weather systems. It’s a steady workload going on there.” Click here to read the article. (4/3)

House Subcommittee Looks for Ways to Improve SBIR and STTR Programs (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to examine the role of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs in promoting innovation. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will consider a reauthorization of these programs in advance of their expiration at the end of May.

The SBIR program was signed into law by President Reagan in 1982 to help spur innovation and increase small business participation in federal research and development activity. Since its inception, this competitive grant program has awarded over $23 billion in SBIR awards for more than 100,000 projects across the nation, and has helped spawn familiar companies such as Qualcomm, Sonicare, and Symantec. (4/3)

Cleaning Contaminated Groundwater is EZ(VI) at KSC (Source: NASA)
During the Apollo Program, NASA launched Saturn rockets from Launch Complex 34 (LC-34), and workers used chlorinated solvents to clean rocket engine components. These solvents belong to a category of chemicals known as dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs). NASA environmental engineers and chemists partnered with researchers from the University of Central Florida’s chemistry and engineering programs to develop an innovative technology capable of remediating the area without great cost or further environmental damage. They called the new invention Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron (EZVI).

EZVI neutralizes the toxic chemicals using nano- or micro-sized iron particles in an environmentally friendly water and biodegradable oil emulsification. EZVI is injected deep into the soil, where the contaminants diffuse through the emulsion’s oil membrane and are then dechlorinated by the iron-water interior. The only byproduct of this process is non-toxic hydrocarbon, which diffuses into the groundwater.

Once the NASA-University team had EZVI working in the laboratory, it then contracted with GeoSyntec Inc., a small environmental remediation firm in Boca Raton, Florida, through the NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. GeoSyntec worked at LC-34 to evaluate the real-world effectiveness of EZVI. Groundwater testing showed that EZVI effectively removed the DNAPLs. (4/1)

Editorial: Shuttle Descent (Source: Washington Post)
This should be an apolitical process. But, so far, it has not been. First a provision requiring the locations selected for retired shuttles to be historically connected with the shuttle program was stricken from the NASA Authorization Act — making many more destinations eligible. Then$14 million was included in President Obama’s 2012 budget request to defray the initial transportation and cleaning costs for a Dayton, Ohio facility that has applied to house one of the shuttles — when no official decision has yet been made.

The shuttle offered an opportunity for us to gaze up and forget our divisions, inspired by the work that the brave men and women aboard it were able to achieve. We hope that bringing it down to Earth will not return us to the gravitational pull of particular interests. It may be difficult to keep politics out of this process. But the least we can ask for is a level playing field for the potential recipient sites and transparency in how the decision is reached. The shuttles are honors to be bestowed, not prizes to be bought. (4/3)

Alaska Senator Supports NOAA Satellite Weather Program (Source: Alaska Dispatch)
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich supports a joint effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA to continue a program for polar-orbiting weather satellites. The program is known as the Joint Polar Satellite System. Begich joined several other senators -- including John Kerry (D-MA), Daniel Akaka (D-HA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), among others, to voice their favorable view of the program, citing natural disasters like the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan and the diminished effects of that disaster on American shores as a reason for the program. (4/3)

No comments: