May 11, 2011

Texas Limits Liability for Space Tourism Providers (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Texas lawmakers have taken a tentative step toward embracing space tourism by passing Senate Bill 115, which limits liabilities for commercial providers of spaceflight in the state. Essentially, if space tourists sign a waiver, unless the company shows “gross negligence evidencing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the space flight participant” it is protected from lawsuits. So if a rocket launched from Texas blows up, there’s no compensation for one’s relatives.

Lobbyists for the bill included the secretive Blue Origin company, which has facilities in Culberson County, as well as the Texas Space Alliance, an organization formed to promote the Texas space industry. The space alliance, in a news release, acknowledged that it is playing catch-up to other states in the space tourism game. (5/10)

Ugly Truth of Space Junk: No Feasible Solutions (Source: MSNBC)
The concern over orbital debris has been building for several reasons, said Marshall Kaplan, an orbital debris expert within the Space Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. In Kaplan's view, spacefaring nations have passed the point of "no return," with the accumulation of debris objects in low-Earth orbits steadily building over the past 50 years.

Add to the clutter, the leftovers of China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test in 2007. "The fact that this single event increased the number of debris objects by roughly 25 percent was not as important as the location of the intercept. The event took place at an altitude of 865 kilometers, right in the middle of the most congested region of low-orbiting satellites," Kaplan pointed out.

Toss into the brew the collision of an Iridium satellite with an expired Russian Cosmos spacecraft in February 2009 — at an altitude similar to that of China’s ASAT test. As a result of 50 years of launching satellites and these two events, the altitude band from about 435 miles to a little over 800 miles has accumulated possibly millions of debris objects ranging from a few millimeters to a few meters, Kaplan said. (5/10)

Andrews Space Delivers Power Unit for Orbital's Cygnus (Source: Andrews)
Andrews Space has successfully delivered the first of four fight-qualified Cargo Module Power Units (CMPUs) that will supply power to payloads aboard Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft. Andrews was contracted to deliver three flight-qualified CMPUs, which power mid-deck locker payloads destined for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Cygnus cargo vehicle. Orbital will fly eight missions between 2012 and 2015, delivering 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the ISS. (5/11)

Launch Firms Forge Ahead in Commercial Crew Program (Source:
After being passed over for NASA's commercial crew development awards, rocket contractors ULA and ATK are keeping their human-rated launch programs alive for now in anticipation of another NASA competition. The agency expects to solicit more proposals for the third round of the CCDev program before the end of 2011. Awards could be announced in early 2012. Officials hope to issue up to $850 million in the CCDev 3 awards if lawmakers appropriate enough funding for the commercial crew program.

"If you look at what was awarded, they only awarded capsule content," ATK's president said. "They did not award any launch vehicle content. We continue to work that in cooperation with our partners." The company is continuing internal work on the Liberty rocket. The rocket's preliminary design review, a key development milestone, is still scheduled for August.

"ULA is in the process of meeting with our partners and studying our options to determine a path forward," said Chris Chavez, a company spokesperson. "We have met all of our obligations on CCDev 1." ULA planned to select a vendor to build the emergency computer this year, then put the system through testing to make sure it will survive the noisy, bumpy environment of launch. The company would like to put the EDS on unmanned satellite launches before trying it on a crewed mission. (5/11)

Legislature Gives Space Florida Needed Support (Source: Space Florida)
Things weren’t looking good in the Legislature a few weeks ago for Space Florida, the state’s space-recruiting arm. Gov. Rick Scott wanted to strip the agency of its autonomy and fold it into a massive new economic development bureaucracy that would have strangled its ability to aggressively seek new space companies.

That didn’t happen as Brevard County and other lawmakers blocked the move and closed out the session passing several measures that give the agency $43 million in valuable tools to grow the commercial space sector. The timing was critical because of the shuttle program’s imminent demise and Space Florida’s need to continue pressing hard to land firms at Cape Canaveral. (5/11)

SpaceX Names Bret Johnsen as Chief Financial Officer (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX has named Bret Johnsen as Chief Financial Officer, bringing 20 years of financial leadership experience in high-profile, publicly traded companies to SpaceX as it undergoes rapid growth on the back of tremendous technological and market success. Johnsen's appointment follows the company’s fourth straight year of profitability (2007-2010). The total value of SpaceX NASA and commercial contracts recently topped $3 billion for over 40 launches. The company has also grown to more than 1,300 employees. (5/11)

Blogging From Mars? Log On to the Interplanetary Internet (Source: Discovery)
Should humans set foot on Mars dirt in the next few decades, I doubt our ultra-connected future-Earthlings would want anything less than to watch the event via a high-speed, high-definition (3D?), surround-sound direct link to the Red Planet's surface. We'll want to see every grain of Mars dust in the air, hear every astronaut's boot crunch in the regolith and experience the emotion felt by the small band of humans exploring an alien planet for the first time in history.

Who knows, our first Mars astronauts might even want to do a spot of micro-blogging -- or whatever the mid-21st Century equivalent may be -- as they document that historic moment, transmitting data over tens of millions of miles back home. But what if the infrastructure of today's Deep Space Network (DSN) -- only three radio antennae located in the U.S., Australia and Spain -- has simply been upgraded, where mission communications are priority and bandwidth is too low to even consider streaming video (let alone interplanetary status updates or app downloads)?

Vint Cerf, chief Internet evangelist for Google and the man known as one of the "fathers of the Internet," set out his priorities for the world's online future. Cerf has been working closely with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for the last few years, testing systems that may be used to expand an Internet-like system into interplanetary space, finding a standardized Internet protocol that every satellite, lander, rover and astronaut can hook up to (the blogging Mars astronaut scenario imagined above would come much later). (5/11)

Rocket Man Completes Flight Over Grand Canyon (Source: RIA Novosti)
Yves Rossy, widely known as ‘rocket man’ performed a daring flight over the one of the nature's wonders in the US states of Arizona’s, Grand Canyon. He fulfilled his wonderful dream with help from his jet rocket pack. The flight was over 305 km high and landed safely with the help of a parachute. Before his flight, he worked hard to gain permission from the federal authorities of Arizona to attempt the stunt. The Federal government had turned the green light to his adventure but was only given 2 hours flight permission due to safety. Click here for video. (5/11)

Loral Urges Patience on IPO vs. Spin-off Decisions (Source: Space News)
Loral said its two operating divisions — satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral and satellite operator Telesat — are firing on all pistons and that neither is in immediate need of a stock-market introduction or an outright sale. Loral CEO Michael B. Targoff nonetheless said he understands investor frustration that a search for one or another option for both divisions, which has been going on for months, needs to come to an end at some point. (5/11)

Loral Reports First Quarter 2011 Financial Results (Source: Loral)
Loral announced its financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2011. Revenues and Adjusted EBITDA1 at both Telesat and Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) showed continued improvement when compared to the first quarter of 2010. SS/L reported first quarter revenue of $280.7 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $40.5 million. Telesat reported first quarter revenue of $205.7 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $158.9 million. (5/11)

Iridium Announces First-Quarter Results (Source: Iridium)
Iridium reported strong financial results for the first quarter of 2011 and updated its outlook for the full-year 2011. Net income was $8.3 million for the first quarter of 2011, as compared to a net loss of $1.3 million for the first quarter of 2010. Iridium reported first-quarter total revenue of $91.3 million, which consisted of $61.2 million of service revenue and $30.1 million of equipment and engineering and support revenue. Total revenue grew 12 percent versus the comparable period of 2010. The Company ended the quarter with 447,000 total billable subscribers, which compares to 359,000 for the year-ago period. (5/11)

Intelsat Announces First Quarter Earnings (Source: Intelsat)
Intelsat reported revenue of $640.2 million and a net loss of $215.6 million for the three months ended March 31, 2011. (5/11)

GeoEye Reports First Quarter 2011 Earnings Results (Source: GeoEye)
GeoEye, Inc., a leading source of geospatial information and insight, reported revenues were $86.6 million for the first quarter of 2011, a 7.8 percent increase from the first quarter of 2010. Operating profit was $24.2 million for the first quarter of 2011. (5/11)

Floridians Head to D.C. to Boost Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Dozens of economic-development advocates from Central Florida will meet with lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday to stress the importance of the space industry. The Central Florida Partnership, an umbrella group for business, civic and government interests, organizes the annual pilgrimage to highlight a single priority. This year, 75 participants will stress the importance of Space Coast jobs - from Brevard County to Tampa.

"The whole state has a stake in it," said Michael Ketchum, vice president of the partnership. "This is not just a bunch of engineers and aeronautical design people coming up." The trip comes at a tumultuous time for NASA and Kennedy Space Center. Congress cut $241 million from the space agency's budget for fiscal 2011. More cuts are threatened for fiscal 2012, which starts Oct. 1. (5/11)

NASA Detects New 'Super-Earth' Transit (Source: Cosmos)
The movement of an exoplanet twice the size of Earth and eight times the mass has been detected only 41 light years away from us using data from NASA's Spitzer satellite. Located in the Cancer constellation, this planet has been classified a 'super-Earth' because it has a mass greater than the Earth's but less than that of the Solar System's gas giants. Due to discrepancies between results from the Spitzer team's study and a separate, simultaneous study of the planet, researchers have suggested that this could indicate the presence of an atmosphere. (5/11)

KSC Chief Shares Employment Optimism (Source: Florida Today)
The number of jobs at Kennedy Space Center will fall to about 8,000 this year, then will begin to grow by as many as 2,000 jobs spanning several years as new programs are created, KSC Director Bob Cabana said Tuesday before the National Space Club. "If we really do this right, we'll get back to where there are 10,000 contractors and civil servants," Cabana said at the group's monthly meeting. (5/11)

Gabrielle Giffords Aims to Return for Shuttle Launch (Source: Arizona Republic)
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords intends to return to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch NASA make another attempt on Monday at launching the space shuttle Endeavour. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:56 a.m. Arizona time. Giffords' astronaut husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, is commanding the mission. She went to Kennedy Space Center for the planned April 29 launch, which was scrubbed because of technical issues. (5/11)

NASA Banned From Working With China (Source: Discovery)
To push mankind deeper and deeper into space, more expensive and ambitious missions are needed. Therefore, international collaboration is sought after to share the load. For NASA, however, China won't be a part of any joint scientific endeavor for the next fiscal year, at least. A clause included in the U.S. spending bill approved by Congress to avert a government shutdown a few weeks ago has prohibited NASA from coordinating any joint scientific activity with China. The clause also extends to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The short two sentence clause was included by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to prevent NASA and OSTP from using federal funds "to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company." This clause would also prevent NASA facilities from hosting "official Chinese visitors." (5/11)

New Mexico to Begin Guided Tours of Spaceport America (Source: News West)
Tours of Spaceport America in southern New Mexico will be offered to the public starting this week. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority announced Tuesday that it selected Albuquerque-based company Follow The Sun Inc. to conduct the preview tours. The spaceport is expected to be fully operational later this year. The tours are aimed at giving guests an up close look at the spaceflight facilities before operations begin. The three-hour tour will cost adults $59 and $29 for children under 12. (5/10)

NASA Joins Emirati Scientists to Study Desert Conditions in UAE (Source: Arabian Aerospace)
The work of NASA and a number of Emirati interns who looked at desert conditions in the region will be highlighted on day three of the Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF). The event, which focuses on education and training, will also include a live satellite link-up from the GSSF to NASA's Ames Research Center.

Each year NASA Ames Research Center's Spaceward Bound scientific team selects one desert internationally and for 2011 the Arab Youth Venture Foundation (AYVF) and NASA collaborated to conduct this research in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). While in UAE, the research team studied the surface transitions and microbial life from the sandy dunes and desert pavement (gravel surfaces) in the areas of Al Ain and Al Gharbia. (5/10)

Iran to Send Satellites Into Space to Prepare Maps, Photos (Source: Xinhua)
A senior Iranian aerospace official said the country will soon launch two satellites into space to take high resolution wall maps and aerial photos of locations around the globe. Head of Aerospace Industries of Iran's Electronics Industries Co., Asghar Ebrahimi, said Iran would send the Fajr (Dawn) satellite into space by September, while the Tolou (Sunrise) satellite would be launched in February 2012. (5/10)

LightSquared Boosts Payment to Inmarsat by $40 Million (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat has received an unexpected $40 million in cash from U.S. satellite-terrestrial wireless broadband start-up LightSquared to compensate for the investment Inmarsat will make to adapt its use of L-band satellite spectrum in the United States, Inmarsat announced May 9. (5/10)

NASA Selects California Teachers For SOFIA Science Flights (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected six teachers to work with scientists aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) during research flights in May and June. This is the first team of educators selected to participate in SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 100 inch (2.5 meter) diameter telescope.

The six teachers selected for the SOFIA program submitted applications that included plans for taking their training and flight experience back to their classrooms. Two of the teachers are from California, including Marita Beard of Branham High School in San Jose, and Kathleen Joanne Fredette of Desert Willow Intermediate School in Palmdale. (5/10)

Most Telecom Sats Could be Removed from USML (Source: Space News)
Export licensing jurisdiction for most U.S. commercial communications satellites and related components could be transferred to the U.S. Department of Commerce without posing much risk to national security, according to an interim report prepared by the U.S. Defense and State departments.

Currently all U.S. satellites and related components reside on the U.S. Munitions List (USML), a register of militarily sensitive items whose exports are tightly controlled by the State Department. The Commerce Department licenses items on the Commerce Control List (CCL), which contains dual-use items that are less sensitive from a national security perspective. (5/10)

Space Shuttle Once Seen as a Passenger Vehicle (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The space shuttle has an interesting early history and was originally conceived as a truly reusable spacecraft with a reusable manned booster and orbiter (such as this design by North American Rockwell). The problem is that the manned booster was monstrous, about the size of an aircraft carrier, as a vessel to carry the vast amounts of fuel needed to reach orbit. Eventually the fully reusable spacecraft was scrapped as being impractical and too expensive. Click here for a graphic. (5/10)

Vint Cerf's Final Frontier: The Interplanetary Internet (Source: Information Week)
What does
the man who invented the Internet do for an encore? He builds a space-based version of the worldwide computing and communications network. "We need a set of protocols that work on interplanetary distances, TCP/IP does not," said Cerf. (5/10)

Astrobotic Moon Mission on Track, Still Raising Money (Source: Pittsburgh Business Times)
Within two weeks, all the parts of Astrobotic Technology Inc.’s lunar rover and lander should be machined and in the planetary robotics bay at Carnegie Mellon University, and, in two months, the vehicle should be in California undergoing structural integrity testing. It’s all part of the start-up's mission to the moon. The company, one of the competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize and a spin-out of CMU, is also on a fundraising mission looking to investors for roughly $5 million in series A funds.

The company has so far received $11.5 million in contracts with NASA, as well as cash and in-kind support of $4.2 million from project partners such as Alcoa, ANSYS, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Investors are needed, Gump said, to bridge some of the timing challenges between payment milestones that are attached to the federal contracts. (5/10)

India's New Satellite Beams High Quality Images (Source: Space Daily)
India's latest advanced remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2 has beamed high quality images distinctly showing the northern and western regions of the country, the space agency said Monday. Select images were presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. The 1.2-tonne Resourcesat-2 was launched April 20 by a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-C16) from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km north-east of Chennai. (5/10)

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