May 23, 2011

FAA Meeting on Regulatory Approach for Commercial Human Spaceflight (Source: FAA)
The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will hold a public meeting in Cocoa Beach on May 26 to solicit comments and information from the public on the regulatory approach to commercial orbital human spaceflight by FAA. Specifically, FAA is planning to propose regulations to protect the health and safety of crew and space flight participants for orbital human spaceflight as soon as circumstances require after December 23, 2012. Click here. (5/23)

Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation (Source: Space Review)
A major issue of contention for NASA's near-term plans has been how much reliance it should place on commercial providers for crew transportation to low Earth orbit. Mary Lynne Dittmar presents a paper she prepared last year with the late Mike Lounge on one approach to handle that transition. Visit to view the article. (5/23)

A Transorbital Railroad to Mars (Source: Space Review)
Many space enthusiasts have been seeking solutions to lower the cost of space access, while others have promoted human exploration of Mars. Jeff Foust reports on linked proposals from one leading space advocate that address both issues. Visit to view the article. (5/23)

The Dangers of a Rocket to Nowhere (Source: Space Review)
The debate about the future development of a NASA heavy-lift launch vehicle drags on in Congress and industry. Lou Friedman warns this process could lead to no NASA human spaceflight program at all. Visit to view the article. (5/23)

The Disappearing Shuttle (Source: Space Review)
Last Monday the shuttle Endeavour lifted off on its final mission, but observers were somewhat disappointed when the orbiter soon disappeared through a cloud bank. Jeff Foust describes the launch and how, soon enough, the shuttle program itself will fade from view. Visit to view the article. (5/23)

You Can't Get to Heaven on a Pentagon Spacecraft (Source: Space Review)
Last week Huntsville hosted the International Space Development Conference (ISDC), the annual conference of the National Space Society. Dwayne Day recalls an earlier ISDC that featured a presentation with a cautionary take on cooperation with military space efforts. Visit to view the article. (5/23)

Editorial: United States Will Beat China in Newest Space Race (Source: Yahoo!)
America is laying the groundwork for its greatest space endeavor since sending astronauts to the Moon. But that's not the story you will hear from a few in Congress who are more concerned with bringing home pork than advancing U.S. spaceflight prowess. Exaggerating China's future spaceflight plans is one of their favorite strategies. However, Chinese space ambitions are, in-fact, modest. Their yet-to-be-started space station won't be complete until 2020 at earliest. It will weigh only 60 tons compared to the ISS's 400 tons.

China's tentative plans for a super rocket prompted Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to say, "The announcement made clear that if the United States does not get serious about its own Exploration Program, the next flag planted on the moon may be a Chinese flag." Even before the announcement, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) made similar dire predictions about future Chinese space accomplishments.

However, careful reading of the Chinese article reveals it is a preliminary feasibility study, NOT any actual plan to build the rocket. Furthermore, given that the rocket would carry a 130-ton payload, which is exactly the same payload weight as the super rocket demanded by certain U.S. Senators, the Chinese study is probably just a knee-jerk response to the Senators' efforts. (5/23)

Space Property Rights are Key to Future Expansion (Source: Space Business Blog)
Land Claims Recognition would allow private Lunar settlements to claim some Lunar real estate and sell portions to people back on Earth, serving as a revenue source to fund private enterprise space settlement. No need to set up a factory in space, No need to mine it. No need to haul it back. Just land, set up a permanent settlement, claim it, and start selling the surrounding land to investors and speculators back on Earth to pay back the cost of developing affordable transport.

The US government has now officially decided not to go back to the moon, philanthropists cannot afford it, and there is nothing else on the moon or Mars that could be profitable enough to justify the cost of private enterprise developing safe, reliable and affordable human transport. Therefore, Land Claims Recognition is now clearly the only way we are ever going to see a significant return to the moon, but this time to stay. Click here to read the article. (5/23)

Alien Solar Systems Are Much Different Than Our Own (Source:
Alien solar systems with multiple planets appear to be common in our galaxy, but most of them are quite different than our own, a new study finds. NASA's Kepler Space Telescope detected 1,235 alien planet candidates in its first four months of operation. Of those, 408 reside in multiple-planet systems, suggesting that our own configuration of multiple worlds orbiting a single star isn't so special.

What may be special, however, is the orientation of our solar system's planets. Some of them are tilted significantly off the solar system's plane, while most of the Kepler systems are nearly as flat as a tabletop, researchers said. (5/23)

Just Four Percent of Galaxies Have Neighbors Like the Milky Way (Source: NSF)
How unique is the Milky Way? To find out, a group of researchers compared the Milky Way to similar galaxies and found that just four percent are like the galaxy Earth calls home. The research team compared the Milky Way to similar galaxies in terms of luminosity--a measure of how much light is emitted--and distance to other bright galaxies. They found galaxies that have two satellites that are as bright and close by as the Milky Way's two closest satellites, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are rare. (5/23)

Moon Satellites Arrive in Florida for September Launch (Source:
Two small spacecraft flew to the Kennedy Space Center in the belly of an Air Force cargo plane Friday, ready to start final preparations for launch to the moon in September. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to blast off Sep. 8 on a Delta 2 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Each GRAIL spacecraft is about the size of a washing machine and will weigh about 440 pounds at liftoff. (5/23)

Space Traffic Jam Means Weird Sleep Patterns for Astronauts (Source:
While most people across the United States are getting ready for bed or already fast asleep, astronauts on the Space Station are just getting to work more than 200 miles above Earth.

The space station has been a beehive of activity for the last week, with 12 astronauts working a skewed overnight schedule to install experiments, perform spacewalks and deliver supplies. All the comings and goings in space have not only made things a bit more crowded on the station, they also have Mission Control juggling different sleeping shifts in space for the two crews, as well as overnight hours on the ground. (5/23)

Space Agency’s Officials Face Criminal Charge for GLONASS Loss (Source: Itar-Tass)
A criminal case on charges of negligence has been opened into the fact of the loss of Glonass-M satellites. The Prosecutor’s General conducted an investigation into the circumstances linked with the loss of the Glonass satellites launched from Baikonur on Dec. 5, 2010. As a result the Central Federal District has opened a criminal case.

The investigation conducted on the instructions of the Russian president established facts of violation of the law, including offenses punished by the Criminal Code, in which officials of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) were implicated. The results of the investigation were turned over to the Russian Investigative Committee to rule whether the established facts of violations entail criminal prosecution.

The criminal case has been opened against senior officials of a Roscosmos department, responsible for ground space launching infrastructure and cooperation contacts, on charges of negligence and poor compliance with their duties, which resulted in the loss of three Glonass satellites which fell into the Pacific Ocean. Earlier, administrative punishments had been administered to a number of chiefs of Roscosmos related departments. (5/23)

Fueling Mis-Calculation Blamed for GLONASS-M Loss (Source: Itar-Tass)
An excessive amount of oxidizer, inserted after fuelling calculations made by the Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, is blamed for the December failure of a Proton rocket carrying three GLONASS-M navigation satellites. The failure cost the Russian government 4.3 billion roubles. (5/23)

EU Announces Launch Date for First Galileo Satellites (Source: AFP)
The European Union announced Monday it will launch the first two satellites in its long-delayed and hugely over-budget Galileo navigation system from French Guiana on Oct. 20. EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said the launch, from the Kourou spaceport, would take place at 7:00 am local time and the satellites would carry the names of Belgian and Bulgarian children. Intended to rival the GPS and Chinese and Russian projects, Galileo's costs have risen to 5.4 billion euros ($7.2 billion). (5/23)

Satellite Pair Healthy on Orbit Following Ariane 5 (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket on May 20 successfully placed telecommunications satellites for India and a Singapore/Taiwan joint venture into geostationary transfer orbit in the third of a planned six launches this year. Both satellites’ owners reported their spacecraft were healthy in orbit. It was the 44th consecutive launch success for Ariane 5.

The ST-2 satellite will replace the ST-1 spacecraft launched in 1998 at 88 degrees east for a joint venture of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) and Chunghwa Telecom of Taiwan. The satellite will offer substantially more capacity than ST-1, although the exact number of C- and Ku-band transponders was not announced. (5/23)

NASA to Announce New Human Space Transportation System (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA will announce at 3:30 p.m. EDT on May 24 a decision that will define the next transportation system to carry humans into deep space. NASA's plan for a new crew space transportation system has been a point of contention for Congress since the President's decision last year to rely on the commercial sector, not NASA, to get people to and from low Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS).

Congress grudgingly went along with the Obama plan in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act with the caveat that NASA must build a large launch vehicle capable of taking 130 tons to LEO (a "heavy lift launch vehicle" or HLLV) to enable human exploration to more distant "beyond LEO" destinations. The NASA-developed system also would serve as a backup to the commercial systems for access to LEO if they do not materialize or fail. (5/23)

Altius Space Machines Gets Seed Funding From Orrery Group (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Angels Network announced that the Orrery Group will invest in Altius Space Machines (ASM) of Colorado. The investment corresponds with ASM’s successful testing of its “Sticky Boom” electro-adhesive rendezvous and capture technology on a Zero-G Corp. microgravity flight. The amount of the investment was not disclosed. Electrostatic Adhesion technology developed by ASM uses thin plastic pads with embedded electrodes to create a “static cling”-like force that enables sticking to almost any surface--anything from wood and brick to metals and plastics. (5/23)

Advocates Say New ATC System will Transform Air Travel (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Shifting to a new NextGen satellite-based air traffic control system will cost the government and airlines billions of dollars and take about 15 years to fully implement, but advocates say the system will be worth the effort. Randy Babbit, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, is pulling for the overhaul, saying it is "a pivotal time in the history of aviation." Editor's Note: The NextGen capabilities that are planned would support the integration of spaceflight operations. (5/23)

Chinese Academy Takes Space Under Its Wing (Source: Science)
On 3 May, the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that five space science missions were slated for launch in CAS's decadal plan, which began this year. The bevy of missions marks a turning point for Chinese space science. China has sent more than 100 satellites into space, but only one had a dedicated science mission; the rest have served purposes such as telecommunications, surveillance, remote sensing, and weather forecasting. Even China's two lunar missions—Chang'e-1 and -2—were driven primarily by engineering goals and science came second. Now space science, a poor stepchild under the China National Space Administration, has found in CAS a new parent keen to boost its development. (5/20)

Editorial: What's Our Space Vision? (Source: Asheville Citizen-Times)
The rise of a number of private companies pursuing space flight, manned or otherwise, indicates the coming — at least, someday — routinizing of spaceflight, at least into low earth orbit. Just as commercial airlines have made air travel routine, someday private companies will routinely send tourists, cargo and other missions into orbit, and eventually beyond. But right now the future for the U.S. is a muddle, with no real direction for manned flight.

What's needed is something to inspire a new generation of Americans, the animating idea behind President Kennedy's galvanizing call to land a man on the moon in the 1960s. It provided a vision, it drove technology and it inspired millions of young Americans to study engineering, computers, math and other science and technology fields. Today, the U.S. is in danger of — or already — falling behind in many crucial fields even as high technology is changing everything about how we live. U.S. companies have more high-tech jobs than they can fill with American workers. (5/23)

Technology Helps Pope Extend Reach Into Space (Source: PC World)
Technology has given Pope Benedict XVI a window into space and the astronauts he spoke to the ultimate morale boost. From his perch at the Vatican, the pope spoke Saturday for about 15 minutes via video link to the crew of the International Space Station and the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour docked alongside.

He talked about world affairs and expressed sympathy for wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head by a would-be assassin at a political event four months ago. Her husband, Mark Kelly, who is of Irish-Catholic descent, is commander of the Endeavour. The astronauts talked about the importance of space exploration.

The pope could see the astronauts on a television screen, but they only heard his voice. No Skype in use on Vatican computers apparently. It was the first time that the pope has spoken with astronauts in orbit, though Pope Benedict XVI isn't the first pontiff to have a space connection. (5/23)

Space Tourism Might Bridge the Gap Between NASA, Private Companies (Source: Huntsville Times)
Space tourism, an idea that might seem frivolous to serious rocket scientists, is actually a key next step in the evolution of spaceflight. Space tourism could attract the publicity and investor interest needed to break spaceflight's current problem, according to panelists representing teams vying to win the Google Lunar X Prize race to the moon.

The space problem starts with the widely held belief that "space is expensive, dangerous and belongs to the government," said Tim Pickens, leader of Huntsville's Rocket City Space Pioneers team. The problem with NASA for young people, said Michael Policelli, leader of Penn State University's Lunar Lion team, is, "I don't want to work on something for 10 years and it gets canceled due to funding." Private companies are creating what Policelli called "the beginning of a new era." Space tourism is part of that, he said. (5/23)

Jobs Challenge Ahead for Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Endeavor's blast off last week began the countdown to the final shuttle launch in July and the start of a cruel summer for thousands of space workers who will soon be out of work. The spring wasn't any kinder. It brought the end of any hope the Space Coast might have had left for $40 million first promised last year by President Obama to help blunt the pain of the end of the shuttle program.

Last year Obama traveled to Kennedy Space Center and announced the initiative in front of hundreds of cheering workers and dignitaries. The money never made it into the federal budget compromise agreed to last month. Today, the best the administration has to offer is a proposal to spend $5 million in 2012 for an FAA commercial spaceflight tech center at KSC.

Soyuz's Parting Shot of Endeavour, Station Could be One for the History Books (Source: Florida Today)
For the first time, a Soyuz spacecraft will undock from the International Space Station while a shuttle is present. The departing Soyuz crew will take pictures of the joined shuttle and station before heading toward a late landing in Kazakhstan. The departure presents what may be the only opportunity to take pictures NASA and many space fans covet of the shuttle, on the eve of its retirement, parked at the $100 billion outpost that is its greatest legacy. (5/23)

Senate Panel Hears About Down-to-Earth Benefits From Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Microwave ovens. Heart pumps. A new way to clean fragile paintings. These are among the technological and commercial benefits from the space program, space industry officials told a Senate panel Wednesday. The innovations demonstrate the extra value of being a leader in space exploration, the Senate space subcommittee heard.

Lawmakers and experts said the inventions are examples of why spending on NASA is important, even amid widespread calls to reduce the federal budget. "This can-do spirit can overcome extraordinary obstacles," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, the subcommittee chairman. (5/19)

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