May 12, 2011

Rep. Mica Says FAA Reauthorization Bill Might Be Delayed (Source: AIA)
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House transportation committee, said that lawmakers have made progress on the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, but a few sticking points might cause the legislation to be pushed back. Mica said the current FAA law might be extended in order to give negotiators more time to strike a deal. (5/12)

Space Transportation Policy Review Underway (Source: Space Politics)
Nearly a year after the release of an overall national space policy, the Obama Administration is starting a review of “sectoral” policies, starting with the national space transportation policy. In his remarks opening the meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) in Washington yesterday, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation George Nield stated that the first interagency policy committee meeting regarding updating the policy took place on Tuesday.

The policy was last updated by the George W. Bush Administration in December 2004 in a document officially designated NSPD-40. “It’s been several years since that was put out, and things have changed, so we want to look through what we have and see if the existing environment warrants some modifications to the policy,” Nield said.

Representatives of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council, who are jointly running the policy review, provided some more details. The review of the policy is just getting started, they noted, with a target of completing the review in four to five months, although they cautioned that timeline is subject to delays. “Issues come up, there are challenges that you have to work through,” Damon Wells of OSTP said. That work would be followed later by reviews of other sectorial policies covering commercial remote sensing and positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT). (5/12)

House Committee Plans $8.9 Billion Drop in Defense Funding (Source: AIA)
The House Appropriations Committee is planning to trim federal programs by $121 billion next year, with $8.9 billion in cuts coming from defense funding. How that will affect defense programs remains unclear, as a dozen subcommittees are working on the details of spending caps. (5/12)

Limbaugh: Obama is Eviscerating NASA, Supporting Muslims (Source: Rush Limbaugh)
Rush Limbaugh, during his May 11 radio show, once again accused President Obama of weakening NASA. "He is eviscerating NASA... he is going to renew his outreach to Muslims (after double tapping Osama)." The rotund radio host has bloviated before on the NASA issue, suggesting that the agency purposely destroyed the two climate-research satellites (OCO and Glory) that fell into the Pacific after launching from California, because they would disprove claims of global climate change that are largely accepted by non-conservatives. (5/11)

UAE Could Soon Have its First Man in Space (Source: Arabian Aerospace)
The world could soon see the first Emirati in space, as the Global Space and Satellite Forum 2011 (GSSF) focused on developing the regional space industry's experts of the future. During the final day of GSSF, senior representatives from NASA delivered an interactive UAE Space Career and Exploration video uplink to a gathering of aspiring Emirati astronauts and space industry hopefuls.

Dr Omar Al Emam, Voluntary Space Technology Advisor, Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF), spoke about the work of the NASA Lunar Science Institute in California and the importance of hands-on space technology for the youth of the region. For students, the final day of GSSF provided the chance to hear from some of the world’s leading experts in the field, while exhibitors were afforded the opportunity to connect with the region’s future generation of space professionals. (5/12)

Israel to Invest Millions in Real-Time Satellite Capacity (Source: Jerusalem Post)
The Defense Ministry is set to invest millions to upgrade Israel’s space communication capabilities, to enable reconnaissance and surveillance satellites used by the IDF to provide real-time intelligence. As things stand, Israeli satellites can only download their data when they fly directly over Israel – which can mean a delay of up to 90 minutes, a critical handicap in times of conflict.

Israel currently operates the Ofek 9, Ofek 7 and the Ofek 5 satellites, as well as the advanced TecSar satellite which is one of only a handful in the world that uses advanced radar technology instead of a camera. The IDF also receives services from two commercially owned satellites known as Eros A and B. (5/12)

India Designing Reusable Spacecraft (Source: Times of India)
The director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) said India`s space scientists are designing a reusable space craft, which is likely to be launched in 2030. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is currently working on Human Spacelift Project or the man mission in 2015 and Chandrayan-II in 2013, he said. "The winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) has already been configured. It will give India an edge in space science as no country except the US has yet launched a reusable satellite launch vehicle," he added. (5/12)

India's Space Ascent Gains New Boost (Source: ISN)
Speaking before the Indian Parliament in November 2010, US President Barack Obama outlined his policy of "forging deeper cooperation with 21st century centers of influence - and that must necessarily include India." Noting space collaboration as an area ripe for expanded collaboration, the joint statement by Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced their determination to "transform bilateral export control regulations and policies to realize the full potential of the strategic partnership between the two countries."

To fulfill this objective, nine institutions critical to Indian space and defense technology development were removed from the US Department of Commerce "Entity List " in January. This list restricts commerce in space, nuclear, chemical and biological technology with certain organizations. The Commerce Department also reallocated India to an export control category exclusive to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) "adherent" states. These revisions ease the path for exporters to obtain licenses for transfer of space technology to India, although individual licenses may still be denied. (5/12)

Forum Discusses Developing Middle Eastern Space Experts (Source: Trade Arabia)
Developing the regional space industry’s experts of the future was the focus for a major space and satellite forum in Abu Dhabi that ended on May 11. The Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF) 2011 saw participation from senior representatives from NASA. They delivered an interactive UAE Space Career and Exploration video uplink to a gathering of aspiring Emirati astronauts and space industry hopefuls.

Appearing live in the video presentation from the NASA Lunar Simulation Center in California, Doris Daou, director for Education and Public Outreach, Nasa Lunar Science Institute was joined by NASA colleagues Greg Schmidt and Brad Bailey, deputy director and senior scientist respectively. The scientists demonstrated the advanced robotic technology of the field science rovers used in inter-planetary exploration and the Center’s simulated lunar environment. The presentation also gave attendees the chance to participate in an interactive Q&A session. (5/12)

California Teachers to Fly With NASA (Source: NBC)
Two of the six teachers selected to fly on NASA's flying observatory are from California. Marita Beard, of Branham High School in San Jose, and Kathleen Fredette, of Desert Willow Intermediate School in Palmdale, will be on the modified Boeing 747SP. The flights out of Palmdale are scheduled through June.

The plane -- called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy -- is fitted with a 100-inch infrared telescope. It's used to study black holes and star formations. More than 70 teachers flew on NASA's previous flying observatory, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. The program was in operation from 1991 to 1995. (5/12)

Aquarius to Illuminate Links Between Salt, Climate (Source: JPL)
When NASA's salt-seeking Aquarius instrument ascends to the heavens this June, the moon above its launch site at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base won't be in the seventh house, and Jupiter's latest alignment with Mars will be weeks in the past, in contrast to the lyrics of the song from the popular Broadway musical "Hair." Yet for the science team eagerly awaiting Aquarius' ocean surface salinity data, the dawning of NASA's "Age of Aquarius" promises revelations on how salinity is linked to Earth's water cycle, ocean circulation and climate.

Salinity – the concentration of salt – on the ocean surface is a key missing puzzle piece in satellite studies of Earth that will improve our understanding of how the ocean and atmosphere are coupled and work in tandem to affect our climate. While satellites already measure sea surface temperature and winds, rainfall, water vapor, sea level, and ocean color, measurements of ocean surface salinity have, until quite recently, been limited to sparse data collected from ships, buoys and a small number of airborne science campaigns. (5/12)

Superflare from Crab Nebula Has Astronomers Mystified (Source:
The Crab Nebula, the dusty remains of an exploded star, has unleashed a surprisingly massive flare that is five times more powerful than any eruption previously seen from the celestial object, leaving scientists struggling to explain the event, NASA says. The so-called "superflare" was detected on April 12 by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and lasted six days. Its exact cause has scientists scratching their heads, especially since the superflare followed an earlier gamma-ray flare from the nebula in January. (5/12)

Ohio Senator Seeks Cleveland HQ for Space Station National Lab (Source: Sherrod Brown)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with several members of the Ohio Congressional delegation, sent a letter this week to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden urging him to select Space Laboratory Associates—a joint non-profit entity of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the Battelle Memorial Institute—to manage the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. (5/12)

NASA May Get Deep and Meaningful with Mars (Source: Irish Times)
NASA has sketched out some interesting future projects that it is considering, including probing the interior of Mars, floating on a sea on one of Saturn’s moons and hopping on a comet. The space agency put out a call for spaceflight projects last year under its Discovery Program, and from the 28 submissions they received, these investigations are the finalists.

The first involves kitting out a Mars lander with a seismometer to measure quakes, a thermal probe to measure heat flow from the planet’s interior and equipment to measure tiny wobbles in Mars that could give clues about its core. Another proposed project looks to land on and float in a methane-ethane sea on Saturn’s moon Titan, while the final one aims to land on a comet several times and look at how it interacts with the sun. Each team now gets $3 million to flesh out their idea, and next year NASA will select one for a potential mission in 2016. (5/12)

New Mexico Spaceport Project Hits Bumps (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Delays, disputes and construction problems in recent months have plagued the state-funded Spaceport America project, already more than a year behind schedule. Plus, there have been nearly $1 million in change orders since February, and that total doesn't include a new planned entryway for the terminal/hangar building that will house the headquarters for anchor tenant Virgin Galactic.

The state's estimate for that do-over, which will accommodate the wishes of Sir Richard Branson's company: $1.1 million. Richardson administration officials agreed to the modification, and the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, who took office Jan. 1, intends to honor the request. Even Mother Nature has intervened at the projected $209M project. The site's $33 million futuristic terminal/hangar isn't even complete and already has suffered wind-related roof damage. (5/12)

Canadarm will Reside in Ottawa Museum after Final Space Trip (Source: Globe and Mail)
The original Canadarm’s new home on Earth will be the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. The Canadian technological marvel grabbed the world’s attention when it flexed its robotic muscles for the first time almost 30 years ago. That’s because the word “Canada” boldly jumped out in front of the cameras when the space arm moved out of the cargo bay of a U.S. space shuttle in November of 1981. (5/12)

Detecting Wandering Worlds That Host Life (Source: Astrobio)
Interstellar planets — those without stars to orbit — could serve as havens for life. They are often thought to be nearly invisible, since they are much dimmer than stars and do not have any suns nearby to illuminate them. Now, however, research suggests these worlds might be detected by their auroras.

Interstellar planets might either be rogue planets that were originally born around a star and were later cast out by gravitational tugs of war, or sub-brown dwarfs that formed alone in interstellar space. Scientists have suggested that interstellar planets could support life under or even on their surfaces. (5/12)

Japan Ends Land Observing Mission After Satellite Trouble (Source:
Japanese space officials have given up on recovering the crippled Advanced Land Observing Satellite, declaring the mission over after the craft lost power last month, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced. The Earth observation satellite stopped communicating with Earth on April 22, and Japan's space agency announced the craft appeared to lose all electricity hours after it entered a low-power safe mode. (5/12)

NASA's $10B Rocket Plan Recycles Shuttle Parts, Draws Flak (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's latest plan to replace the space shuttle would spend at least $10 billion over six years to test a rocket made of recycled parts of the shuttle — with no guarantee it would ever be used again. NASA is proposing a so-called "shuttle-derived test flight campaign" to provide test-launch its nascent crew capsule — and keep shuttle workers and contractors busy — while the agency figures out what it really wants in a next-generation "heavy-lift" rocket that could go to the moon or beyond.

"There is a senior contingent [at NASA] coalescing around this option," acknowledged a senior NASA manager not authorized to speak on the record about the plan, which the agency hopes to present to Congress by June 20. But critics are already deriding the plan as "a rocket to nowhere" that would pay billions to the aerospace industry to perpetuate the use of 30-year-old shuttle technology while further postponing resolution of a fundamental question: What's the mission of NASA's human-spaceflight program?

For NASA, the plan has the merit of being a cheap — even at $10 billion through 2017 — and easy answer to a congressional mandate to quickly build a rocket out of parts used on the shuttle or developed for the now-defunct Constellation moon-rocket program. (5/12)

Mercury Space Capsule at Cocoa Beach School Needs Repair (Source: Florida Today)
A mockup of the Freedom 7 capsule in front of Roosevelt Elementary in Cocoa Beach is in need of refurbishing and painting. The Mercury capsule was used in flotation and other tests during the early days of America's manned space program. If interested in helping with the restoration of the Freedom 7 space capsule, call Joe Morgan, chairman of the Brevard County Historical Commission at 321-205-6065. (5/12)

Mini-Satellites Aboard Shuttle all Set for Trial Run (Source: Florida Today)
Clouds of dime-sized satellites sailing the solar wind might one day help warn of approaching sun storms that could knock out power grids. They could sprinkle onto the moon's surface, or into the atmosphere of Jupiter or Saturn to gather chemical clues about those distant worlds. Click here to read the article. (5/12)

Orbital Promotes Taurus II Launcher for Wider Applications (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Orbital Sciences is in the process of promoting its Taurus II medium class launch vehicle for applications above and beyond its current set of manifested International Space Station (ISS) resupply missions. Orbital has outlined three configuration options and is planning to build a West Coast launch site to complement its East Coast pad at the Wallops Island MARS Spaceport.

Currently, Orbital has 10 vehicles under contract to NASA for ISS resupply between 2011 and 2015. In a Powerpoint document released on the company’s website last week, Orbital is aiming for 35 total launches over the next 10 years. Doing the math, Orbital is looking to sell another 25 launches between now and 2020. (5/12)

Taurus II Pad Planned in Either California or Alaska (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
By the end of this year, Orbital Sciences expects to select a site for a West Coast launch facility and have it available for missions by mid-2014. Current West Coast sites listed on one of Orbital’s slides include Kodiak Island, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Construction for a West Coast would likely include building a horizontal integration facility to mount payloads onto the Taurus II rocket and putting together a transporter/erector/launcher vehicle to roll the rocket to the pad, put it upright, and hold it until the moment of launch. (5/12)

Astrotech Subsidiary Wins $16.2 Million Contract (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Corp. has been awarded a $16.2 million contract to fabricate, install, and test Ground Support Equipment (GSE) for the U.S. government. Under a firm fixed-price contract, fabrication begins immediately with delivery targeted for the first quarter of fiscal year 2013. (5/12)

Worried on China, US Seeks Rules in Space (Source: AFP)
The United States said Wednesday it wanted to set guidelines with China on the use of space, voicing worries that the Asian power is increasingly able to destroy or jam satellites. China stunned the United States in 2007 by becoming the third country to shoot down one of its own satellites in space, the first such test in the more than two decades since Washington and Moscow halted their "Star Wars" programs.

Gregory Schulte, a senior US official in charge of space defense, described China's investment in the field as "eyeballing" and said he has asked his Beijing counterparts in past talks to set "rules of the road" moving forward. "We told them that we are worried that, particularly in crisis, a misunderstanding in space could easily lead to an inadvertent escalation that would not be in the interest of either of our countries," he said. (5/12)

NASA Lunabotics Competition Includes Florida Teams (Source: NASA)
Forty-six teams of undergraduate and graduate students from the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia and India will participate in NASA's Lunabotics Mining Competition May 26 - 28 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The student teams have designed and built remote controlled or autonomous robots that can excavate simulated lunar dirt. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can collect and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 15 minutes.

Teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Florida State University will represent the State of Florida in the competition. An Embry-Riddle team that competed in 2010 won first place in the Outreach category. Click here for more information. (5/12)

Dawn Probe Shifts To Approach Phase (Source: Aviation Week)
Controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are using 12-in. ion thrusters to ease NASA’s Dawn spacecraft into orbit around Vesta, a protoplanet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that may have one of the oldest planetary surfaces in the Solar System. The probe has switched from radio navigation to the use of guide stars for the final leg of its 4.8-billion-km (3-billion-mi.) journey.

Now only about three times the distance from Vesta as the Moon is from Earth, the spacecraft will use its solar-electric thrusters to chase its target as it orbits the Sun. On July 16, when the probe draws within a range of 9,900 mi., Vesta’s gravity will capture Dawn and it will “spiral” into orbit around it. (5/12)

Ideas Wanted for 100-Year Starship Project by DARPA, NASA (Source:
The United States military is calling for ideas to aid a joint study with NASA that will identify the requirements necessary to make interstellar space travel possible, as well as practical. DARPA put out the request for information, or RFI, to help support a detailed study of the 100-Year Starship project, which it's working on with NASA. DARPA isn't asking for spaceship designs at this early stage; it just wants some help organizing the project and making it more feasible, especially from a financial standpoint. (5/12)

Elon Musk Prepares SpaceX for IPO (Source: The Register)
Famous upstart startup firm SpaceX, soon to deploy the biggest rocket seen since the days of the Apollo program, will shortly go public. However its founder, colourful nerdwealth geek-icon biz kingpin Elon Musk, seems likely to retain a controlling interest. Hints had emerged previously that Musk might seek further funding through a public offering, and yesterday SpaceX in effect confirmed that an IPO is coming. The company announced that it has appointed former Broadcom accounting officer Bret Johnsen as CFO, leaving no doubt that his first task will be to prepare SpaceX for a market offering. (5/12)

UK Leads Space Disaster Charter (Source: BBC)
The UK is to lead the international effort that co-ordinates the acquisition of satellite pictures whenever there is a natural disaster. Britain will chair the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters for the next six months. Images taken from orbit in the event of earthquakes or floods are critical tools in helping emergency responders deal with a crisis. Satellite maps can show the extent of the damage or the areas under water.

NGOs, UN agencies and national civil protection centers will use the information to guide their aid efforts on the ground, pinpointing still-passable roads and the best locations to set up refugee camps or mobile medical units. The charter was established by the French and European space agencies in 1999 but has since been joined by a range of other organizations, such as the UK Space Agency, that can provide access to remote-sensing satellites. And the requests for help are becoming ever more frequent - at least once a month. (5/12)

Unmanned Morpheus Lander to Fly Untethered (Source:
For the first time, NASA is sending up its unmanned Morpheus lander to fly untethered as the agency tests technologies designed to take people into space. NASA used the latest technologies to build the Morpheus lander, and it hopes the vehicle will one day enable manned missions to the moon, another planet or an asteroid. (5/11)

Russian Officials: Rocket Engine Maker Lost $32M with Half-cost Sales to U.S. (Source: Space News)
The Russian Comptroller's Office has accused the engineering firm NPO Energomash of selling RD-180 rocket engines to the United States at half their production cost. The result was a loss of $32 million in 2008-2009, the report said. It did not say how many engines had been sold. The RD-180 powers the U.S. Atlas 5 rocket, routinely used by NASA and the Pentagon to launch high-value satellites. (5/12)

SES Q1 Operating Profit up 6.7%, Revenue up 4.2% (Source: SES)
“SES’ financial results are on track, reflecting business developments in the first quarter. SES reports revenue of EUR 428.4 million (+4.2 %). Recurring revenue grew 3.1% to EUR 428.4 million. Operating profit was EUR 206.3 million (+6.7%). (5/12)

Hosted Payload Holding up Launch of SES-2 (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on May 12 said the launch of its SES-2 telecommunications spacecraft, which carries an experimental infrared sensor for the U.S. Air Force, has slipped again and will not occur before late this year. SES also said another one of its satellites has been delayed by late delivery of a Kazakh satellite sharing the same launch. Luxembourg-based SES said neither satellite’s delay will have an effect on its 2011 revenue. Both delays appear to be examples of the down side to sharing satellite missions. (5/12)

Mayflower Test Satellite Deemed Success After Falcon-9 Launch (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman and Applied Minds, LLC announced the success of a recent launch and orbit of a Mayflower test microsatellite. Data gathered from around the world was analyzed, showing all tested systems functioned correctly including a new, previously unproven advanced solar cell deployment system. While this first flight collected baseline design data, subsequent flights at higher altitudes will demonstrate unique propulsion, communication and orientation capabilities, and novel payloads. (5/12)

The Push-and-Pull of Rocket Science (Source: MIT Technology Review)
A new type of escape system will alter the iconic look of the next generation of space rockets. SpaceX is developing a new launch escape system that won't need that iconic pointed booster tower that traditionally lugged crew capsules behind it in case of emergency. The old design is being rejected in favor of a new one--one that would push instead of pull. Click here tor read the article. (5/12)

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