May 19, 2011

Masten Space Systems Signs Contract with Space Florida for Launches (Source: Space Florida)
Masten Space Systems and Space Florida announced today the signing of a $400,000 contract under which Masten will perform a series of demonstration flights of a Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) reusable suborbital launch vehicle from Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Under the contract, Masten will complete multiple flights. These operations will serve as a pathfinder to assist Space Florida in developing operational requirements for VTVL vehicles, recommending the optimum operational scenario, and determining the program schedule to achieve launch capability as soon as possible.

In conjunction with the demonstration launches to be performed by Masten Space Systems, Space Florida has committed additional funds for Range costs and facilities upgrades at LC-36. This investment is anticipated to shorten processing timelines at the Eastern Range for other new vehicles, as well as provide a benchmark for Range costs that will enable faster and cheaper setup for other commercial launch providers. (5/19)

China to Launch More Beidou Navigation Satellites by 2012 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch some eight Beidou navigation satellites by 2012. China has sent eight Beidou satellites into orbit, as the latest was launched in April this year, said Ran Chengqi, director of China Satellite Navigation System management office. Beidou satellite navigation system will finish comprehensive tests as of October 2011 and have the capacity to provide "preliminary" services for most parts of China, Ran said. By 2020, about 35 satellites will form Beidou's global satellite navigation system. (5/19)

Colorado Leaders to Lobby Congress on Polar Satellite (Source: Denver Business Journal)
A group of 100 Colorado business and government leaders will head to Washington next week to lobby the state’s congressional delegation for funding for the Joint Polar Satellite System, among other things. Accelerate Colorado, a business-government coalition, will make its annual trip to the nation’s capital May 23-25. (5/19)

50 NASA Langley Contractors Cut (Source: Daily Press)
About 50 NASA Langley Research Center contractors have been laid off since Oct. 1, according to a Langley spokeswoman. Marny Skora said a majority of the contractors worked for California-based Jacobs Engineering Group under the company's ROME contract — ROME stands for Research, Operation, Maintenance and Engineering.

Signed in 2004, the 10-year, $950 million contract includes everything from groundskeeping and security to wind tunnel operations and information technology. It includes a handful of subcontractors, such as Analytical Services & Materials, Inc., in Hampton. Skora said the layoffs were spread across various areas of the contract. (5/19)

U.S. Special Forces Develops Satellites to Track Terrorists (Source: Popular Mechanics)
An official with Special Ops revealed that the U.S. recently launched mini-satellites that could clandestinely track high-value targets, like al-Qaida terrorists. "We sent up four satellites to demonstrate passing TTL [tagging, tracking, locating] data," Doug Richardson, a civilian official at U.S. Special Operations Command, referred to a December launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying the CubeSats.

Richardson, an official working in the Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Exploitation program in Special Ops Command, is responsible for several programs designed to help locate high-value targets using covert tracking tags: Hostile Force Tagging, Tracking and Locating, and Clandestine Tagging, Tracking and Locating. These tracking satellites are part of the growing Special Operations focus on "high-value target" missions, best exemplified by the raid earlier this month that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Richardson presented his office's work in a packed, standing-room-only auditorium at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa. The satellites may solve a fundamental dilemma of using tracking tags on enemies: how to follow them once they are in place, particularly in parts of the world like Afghanistan, where having a satellite in place to capture a signal can be a challenge. (5/19)

India Begins Sounding Rocket Launches on Regular Basis (Source: The Hindu)
ISRO has resumed monthly launches of sounding rockets from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) to conduct studies of upper atmosphere. The TERLS used to launch RH 200 sounding rockets regularly on the third Wednesday of every month. However, over the years, the launches were regulated based on needs.

The program has been restored on regular basis with the first launch in the series taking place yesterday. The program was meant to support experiments to study atmospheric behavior using sounding rockets like RH-200 and balloons. These included university collaboration schemes where student payload experiment and rocket development programs are undertaken. (5/19)

Lawmakers Demand Documentation on NASA’s Compliance with Law (Source: Space News)
Key members of the U.S. Senate have given NASA until June 3 to produce a plethora of documents and other data detailing the agency’s efforts to comply with a 2010 law that requires it to begin work on a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule capable of manned missions beyond low Earth orbit.

In a May 18 letter to NASA, leaders on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, who are largely credited with drafting the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, say the agency is dragging its feet in carrying out the law.

More than seven months have passed since President Barack Obama enacted the bipartisan legislation. But the effort remains on hold as NASA weighs options for building an affordable space exploration architecture while fulfilling Obama’s desire to nurture development of privately built space taxis. (5/19)

Obama Administration Faces Pushback on ITAR Reform on Hill (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Obama Administration seems to be taking a thorough and careful approach something that is vital to America’s high-tech base. Its aim is to not only deal with the symptoms of the problem but its root causes and create a fair and clear system that everyone can understand. The Administration has built broad support for the effort, which is already pretty far along.

But, somehow that’s not enough. If the Administration was moving faster, there would be howls from Congress about how it was endangering national security. When it acts responsibly, it gets hit for moving too slowly. You can never please everybody, but it sometimes seems that the Obama Administration can never please Republicans on the Hill.

Rep. Ilianna Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) instead proposes legislation could probably get part of the reform done quicker, but is it worth junking the on-going process for something that will likely not solve all the problems? (5/18)

Early Nuclear Propulsion Program Featured in Radio Interview (Source: NPR)
Journalist Annie Jacobsen explores the history of highly classified military operations at Area 51 and other test sites in Nevada on NPR's Fresh Air program. The interview touches on the 1960s Air Force "Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application" (NERVA) program, which included plans for the detonation of multiple nuclear bombs to propel a spacecraft to Mars. The segment can be heard at the 13:00 mark on this audio file. (5/19)

Cast Adrift in the Milky Way, Billions of Planets, All Alone (Source: New York Times)
Astronomers said Wednesday that space was littered with hundreds of billions of planets that had been ejected from the planetary systems that gave them birth and either were going their own lonely ways or were only distantly bound to stars at least 10 times as far away as the Sun is from the Earth.

There are two Jupiter-mass planets floating around for each of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, according to measurements and calculations by an international group of astronomers led by Takahiro Sumi, of Osaka University in Japan, and reported in the journal Nature. (5/18)

Sweepstakes Winner Would Fly on Suborbital Craft (Source: TCPalm)
Space exploration isn't just for astronauts anymore. It's for anyone with an interest. You could win a chance to take the ride of a lifetime to the edge of space through ARES Institute, a Brevard County-based nonprofit organization that promotes space exploration.

"The whole idea of this is to involve anybody in the public who likes space or watches the space shuttle launch, or just cares a little bit," said Matthew Travis, executive director of the Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute. "Anybody has a chance. There are no requirements."

People have until Dec. 31, 2012 to enter the ARES sweepstakes to win a suborbital trip into space. The flight likely will take place in 2013. The winner will be chosen in the first months of 2013. ARES will accept voluntary tax-deductible donations of $10 or more. Click here for information. (5/19)

After 12 Years, Japanese Astronaut Ready for Blast-Off (Source: Yomiuri)
After 12 years of training, Satoshi Furukawa, a former University of Tokyo Hospital surgeon, will finally expand his career into a whole new field--space. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Furukawa will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Soyuz spacecraft on June 8, where he will conduct medical research during a stay of about 5-1/2 months.

Furukawa, 47, took an examination given by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (now JAXA) in 1998 when he was a surgeon at University of Tokyo Hospital and was selected as a Japanese astronaut candidate in 1999. During his 12 years of training in Japan, the U.S. and Russia, he mastered not only English but also Russian. (5/19)

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