May 10, 2011

Intelsat Gives Team Another Week to Free Satellite's Stuck Antenna (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on May 10 said it will give ground teams another week or so to try to shake free a stuck antenna on the New Dawn satellite before abandoning the effort in order to deploy the satellite’s other reflector antenna, which they assume will function normally. (5/10)

Another Turn at the Plate for Export Control Reform (Source: Space Politics)
Ah, export control reform. The space industry has talked about the subject for over a decade, since shortly after Congress put satellites and related components on the US Munitions List in the late 1990s, subjecting them to the far more rigorous requirements of ITAR. While there have procedural changes during this time that have helped streamline the export licensing process, efforts for more fundamental changes, including removing satellites and

their components from the USML, have so far fallen short. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t stopped trying. Last week Rep. C. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) introduced HR 1727, the “Strengthening America’s Satellite Industry Act”. The bill covers a variety of issues associated with export controls, but the key provision of bill for the satellite industry is section 5, which states that “the President is authorized to remove satellites and related components from the United States Munitions List”. That’s similar to a provision in a State Department authorization bill in the previous Congress; that bill passed the House but died in the Senate. Both the older legislation and Ruppersberger’s new bill include language that would still ban the export of such components to China. (5/10)

Space Foundation Updates NASA Budget Analysis (Source: Space Foundation)
The Space Foundation has updated its report providing an overview and comparison of the NASA budget. The report is among many services the Space Foundation provides to the Washington, D.C., community and others who are interested in and/or involved in space policy. Click here to download the analysis. (5/10)

Soyuz Launch From Europe Spaceport Set for October (Source: AFP)
The maiden launch of the veteran Soviet-Russian rocket Soyuz from Europe's space base in South America has been scheduled for October. "Right now we are looking at mid-October" for the first launch, said Arianespace spokesman Mario de Lepine.

Soyuz will carry the first two satellites in Europe's Galileo navigation system, the competitor to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), he said. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia agreed to deploy Soyuz at Kourou, French Guiana, under a 2003 accord to provide Arianespace with a medium-sized launcher. (5/10)

French Prime Minister: Soyuz Will Complement, not Compete with, Ariane 5 (Source: Space News)
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has reasserted his belief that operating Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz rocket at Kourou will complement Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. Fillon, who as French space minister in July 1996 was instrumental in the creation of a Franco-Russian joint venture to commercialize Soyuz launches from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, said importing Soyuz to Kourou was envisaged from the start. (5/10)

Boat Would Sail on Saturn Moon's Sea (Source: Discovery)
Scientists are working on a mission to send a robotic boat to explore an extraterrestrial ocean in hopes of learning about how the building blocks of life began to assemble. The destination: Titan, the largest moon of Saturn -- bigger than Mercury and Pluto -- which sports lakes of liquid methane and ethane near its northern polar region.

"We have no expectation of finding living things," Johns Hopkins University planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz told Discovery News. "But we think the complexity of the organics (on Titan) can lead us to the steps toward life." With its rich stew of organic compounds, Titan, which has a thick atmosphere and weather systems, is believed to resemble primordial Earth, despite surface temperatures that hover around minus-290 degrees Fahrenheit. (5/10)

Space Religion: Mormonism and the Final Frontier (Source: Discovery)
You can argue that religion is just another childish thing that an interplanetary species should leave behind. But we seem rather attached to our gods and goddesses, so it seems just as likely that we'll take religion into space with us. Which brings us to Mormonism.

It seems that bearded prophets out of antiquity didn't even consider the possibility of space stations. But Mormonism is a slightly different matter, as Joseph Smith founded the first Latter-day Saints church less than 200 years ago. Despite the religion's frontier roots, Mormon cosmology takes other planets and even the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life into account. Click here. (5/10)

Pakistan Satellite Uplink Rights of BBC, CNN Suspended (Source: International Herald Tribune)
Authorities suspended on Saturday uplink facilities of nine foreign satellite news channels, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VoA), CNN and Al Jazeera. Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan said the suspension was temporary and an inquiry had been launched to ascertain why the foreign channels were using uplinking facilities without first obtaining mandatory permission from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).

She said that certain violations had been observed in the past week’s coverage of the Abbottabad operation to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. “They were spitting venom against Pakistan,” said the information minister. After issuing show-cause notices, Pemra suspended uplink facility of Fox News, NBC News, CNN, CNS, IBN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Voice of America and Sky News for violating Section 31 of the Pemra Act of 2007. (5/10)

ULA Does It Again (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance is so consistent in its success that it’s easy to forget the enormity of its achievements. On Saturday, the company, which assembles all its satellite-launch rockets in Decatur, made its 50th successful launch since it was formed in December 2006.

ULA is not the only company building rockets, and its are the most expensive. Companies like flashy SpaceX hope to provide rockets with greater capacity at a lower cost. Maybe SpaceX will succeed in this goal, but a goal that may prove more elusive is establishing the reliability that ULA has managed with its Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta II. (5/10)

JPL Makes Pitch for New Mars Project (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
A JPL scientist’s pitch for a new Mars lander that would perform unprecedented study of the Red Planet’s interior is one of three ideas in the running for future NASA funding through the agency’s competitive Discovery Program. The proposed Geophysical Monitoring Station (GEMS) would pack a scientific payload that includes a thermal probe, seismometer and orbital tracking system. All are tools for discovering the inner composition of Mars to help explain the largely unknown story of that planet’s beginnings — and to some degree, Earth’s. (5/10)

Final Shuttle Mission Unlikely to Fly Until Mid-July (Source: Florida Today)
Endeavour's final blastoff is set for 8:56 a.m. next Monday, while the last shuttle mission -- by Atlantis -- is likely to slip to mid-July, NASA officials said Monday. Endeavour is back on track for launch after about 10 days of troubleshooting and repairs that followed a scrubbed attempt April 29.

NASA won't set a new Atlantis launch target date until after Endeavour is off the ground, but the second week of July is now the approximate timeframe -- squashing speculation that the launch would be timed to the July 4 holiday. (5/10)

NASA Tries Out an Undersea 'Asteroid' (Source: MSNBC)
A NASA team is going underwater this week in the Florida Keys to lay the groundwork for the space agency's first simulated journey to an asteroid. Sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid ranks as one of the top goals for NASA's retooled vision for space exploration. This week's engineering tests, organized by NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, will help NASA get ready to set off for its new target. (5/10)

Augustine, Wolf Agree: NASA Headed for a Ditch (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Norman Augustine and Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf probably don’t agree on much, but there’s one thing they do see eye-to-eye one: NASA is underfunded and the agency is headed for serious problems unless something major is done. "...if we’re to have a program of the type that we described as attractive in the report that we put out, there’s not enough money in the out years to do it...If we don’t have it, then we’re probably pursuing the wrong program. If we add the money, then this will be the right program, in my judgment,” said Augustine.

Wolf, who heads up the House appropriations committee that oversees NASA, expressed a similar fear this week during a House budget hearing. “It seemed like the administration didn’t learn its lesson, though, because this year’s NASA budget is also unacceptable,” Wolf said. Heaccused the White House of short-changing the heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule in its 2012 budget blueprint to cover increases in Earth science, space technology and commercial spaceflight. (5/10)

Satellite Dishes are Chattering Away in Pakistan (Source: Res Communis)
The satellite dimension of the entire Bin Laden affair is complex indeed, and the analysis of same is ongoing. This involves much more than the role of the real-time satellite surveillance and communications in the overall command and control of the U.S. raid on the Bin Laden compound which included multiple live feeds back to the White House and the Pentagon.

With more emphasis now being placed on the Bin Laden compound as a command center, the earlier placement of satellite downlinks within the compound itself takes on added importance, especially since the release of a video showing Bin Laden watching satellite TV. (5/10)

Florida Legislature Delivers $43+ Million For Space Industry (Source: Space Florida)
Aerospace-related economic development played a significant role in the 2011 Florida Legislative Session, with more than $43 million being committed for growth of the industry in the coming year. Governor Rick Scott laid out an aggressive plan, not only for Florida’s overall economy, but for Florida’s space industry in particular, and that plan was formalized by the Legislature.

The Florida Legislature appropriated approximately $10 million to Space Florida to recruit new business, expand existing business, and create jobs during this critical time in Florida. Space Florida worked with the Legislature and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to secure $16 million in infrastructure funding for launch support facilities.

The Space Business Incentives Act passed with $10 million in innovative space business tax credits for new and expanding space-related businesses. Specifically, the bill includes corporate income tax credits and transferable net operating loss tax credits. Also, a Spaceflight Informed Consent was passed to protect spaceflight companies and their subcontractors from certain liabilities. (5/9)

Fountains of Optimism for Life Way Out There (Source: New York Times)
For those who hunt for life on other worlds, water in its liquid form is perhaps the leading indicator. Life as we know it on Earth is based on water and carbon. And if organisms can prosper here in nasty environments — in geysers, in the depths of the sea, in toxic waste, in water that is too hot, too cold, too acidic or too alkaline — why could they not prosper out there?

Scientists for years regarded liquid water as a solar system rarity, for there was no place apart from Earth that seemed to have the necessary physical attributes, except perhaps Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa, which probably concealed a subterranean ocean.

The past 20 years of space exploration, however, have caused what the astrobiologist David Grinspoon calls a sea change in thinking. It now appears that gravity, geology, radioactivity and antifreeze chemicals like salt and ammonia have given many “hostile” worlds the ability to muster the pressures and temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. And research on Earth has shown that if there is water, there could be life. (5/9)

Space Travel 'Will Never Be Affordable' (Source: Wanderlust)
In a blow to travelers hoping to one day fly from London to Sydney in under three hours, former Virgin Galactic boss Will Whitehorn has told delegates at the Advantage 2011 Travel Conference than the cost of even a short hop into space is unlikely to drop below £60,000. Virgin Galactic is hoping to launch it's first commercial space flight in 18 months time. Fares are expected to start from a stratospheric £120,000 and drop to around £60,000 in five to seven years time.

"Space flights are more cost-effective that supersonic flights because they use less fuel," he said. "And by flying outside the earth's atmosphere travel times will be cut dramatically." High operating costs will keep fares high. "Unfortunately, gravity doesn't discount," he said. (5/9)

Space: If You Have the Money, We Have a Program (Source: LA Times)
Gregory Rodriguez argued that President Obama needs to challenge America to be great, and that the challenge of space travel is just the ticket. We can't do big things unless we think big. We can't think big unless we allow our imaginations go beyond the mundane. There's nothing less mundane than galaxies far, far away.

Well, yes. There are, however, a couple of problems: One, money. And two, money. Americans have always had a love-hate relationship with space and our space program. Supporters love the triumphs, the soaring inspiration of it all. Opponents argue: With so many problems here on Earth, why are we wasting money on space?

Now, throw in the worst economic downturn in decades and you get this: With so many problems here on Earth, and the fact we're so deeply in debt, why waste money on space? Just how tight have things become? Heck, we don't even have enough money to keep searching for ET. (5/9)

Lift-off for Private Space Travel Dream? (Source: BBC)
In a gleaming white lobby, with curiously warped furniture familiar from Star Trek, twenty-somethings in shorts and T-shirts amble past like they're on their way to hear a band. Parked outside, under a brilliant southern California sun, is an electric-powered Tesla sports car. And even the address has a certain style: Number 1, Rocket Road, Los Angeles.

This is SpaceX, one of a new breed of private ventures promising a revolution in spaceflight - and redefining what is cool about space as well. As I sign in, two thoughts hit me: First, that the youngsters are the modern equivalent of the legendary generation that put men on the Moon. Apollo-era ties and slide-rules have been replaced by jeans and iPads.

Second, it's perfectly possible that someone born in the ancient year of 1958, such as your correspondent, might actually be the oldest person in the building. I check: there are a few space-age oldies but the average age is a mere 28. Even the boss hasn't quite turned 40. Elon Musk is dressed like many of his staff: in a black T-shirt and plenty of stubble. He made his fortune on the Internet - where else? (5/9)

Beleaguered FAA is Slow to Ramp Up for Role in Human Spaceflight (Source: iWatch News)
Traditionally, the commercial space industry meant launching satellites for business. Increasingly, it is being defined as human space travel open to the public. In 2004, five manned commercial spaceflights were launched, and since then, both public and private funding has poured into the research and development of commercial space tourism.

Companies are currently developing spaceports— launch and reentry sites—to accommodate anticipated space tourism flights, and states are rolling out economic incentives. In June 2010 New Mexico provided $190 million to construct a spaceport and Florida provided over $500 million in new space infrastructure development. The FAA has granted $500,000 to four spaceports in 2010.

FAA’s increasing responsibility is reflected in its 2012 budget request. Administration spending for commercial space transportation was 75 percent higher than the $15 million in 2010. The FAA also plans to increase staff by 45 percent and is allotting an additional $5 million for its space incentives award program. (5/9)

NASA, Stanford Websites Hit by Search Engine Scammers (Source: IT World)
Scammers looking to flog cheap software have hacked Web pages on high-profile websites, including those belonging to NASA and Stanford University. NASA, just a week away from a space shuttle launch, has now removed dozens of Web pages that popped up on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory website. They were used to flog low-cost versions of Adobe's Creative Suite and other products, according to cached versions of the pages, still viewable on Google.

The scammers loaded up the Web pages with nonsense text (a sample: "Edit buy adobe premiere pro cs4 some callouts and balloons to make this time it took you and saved you a long time") and links to many other hacked pages.

Affected sites included those for NASA, Stanford University, Syracuse University and Northeastern University. NASA had cleaned up its site Monday, but others, including Stanford, had not. Visitors to those sites could encounter the hacked pages even if they weren't looking for cheap software. (5/9)

NASA Managers Aligning to Combine Final Dragon COTS Test Missions (Source:
NASA HQ appear to be closing in on a decision to combine the second and third of three planned Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flights (C2 and C3) of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Internal schedules, presentations and memos are continuing to point towards a working plan for a preliminary Nov. 30 launch date for the beefed up mission, although challenges remain ahead of approval.

Buoyed by the success of Dragon’s debut flight, the combination of the next two demonstration flights has been cited as a viable goal for what is key element of NASA’s future aspirations, a roadmap which will eventually hand over the keys of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to the commercial space flight sector, allowing NASA to refocus the Agency’s attention on Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration. (5/9)

NASA Plans Test of Advanced Nuclear Power Generator (Source:
Two of the robotic missions NASA selected for further study last week would be powered by experimental nuclear generators, a new technology under development to boost the efficiency of electricity production in deep space. NASA picked robotic missions to Mars, a comet and Saturn's moon Titan as finalists last week for a launch opportunity in 2016, and two of the probes would employ a cutting edge nuclear power source never tested in space.

The space agency plans to settle on a single mission in June 2012, fully funding the winner for development and launch later this decade. Although NASA requires the missions to launch by the end of 2017, scientists in charge of all three probes target blastoff in 2015 or 2016. Probes to Titan and comet Wirtanen, a small object composed of a mix of rock and ice, would be powered by Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generators on their journeys into the outer solar system. (5/9)

Editorial: America Quits Race for Space (Source: Digital Journal)
It's official. America has left the space race. Once Endeavour is cleared for launch and its mission completed NASA's shuttle program will be over. The Allen Telescope Array, run by the SETI Institute near Mt. Shasta, has had its funding cut, leaving the project shutdown with its array of radio telescopes turned off, deaf, and pointing towards the ground.

Last month, the project ran out of funding, another victim of shrinking grants and the current financial climate that pervades the country. The giant array was used to listen to radio signals from certain areas of the cosmos in hopes that a signal from an intelligent race would be discovered. According to the Los Angeles Times a small crew has been left to take care of the observatory and keep it from deteriorating in the elements. (5/9)

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