May 27, 2011

This is What 43,000 Galaxies Look Like On a Map (Source: Gizmodo)
The image above is the most complete map of our local universe to date. It took more that ten years to create, has 43,000 galaxies and extends out 380 million light years from the earth. The 3D coordinates of each galaxy was recorded so the raw data could potentially be used to build a realistic 3D model of the universe. Click here. (5/27)

NASA Lays Claim to Atlas 5 Rocket for the Rest of 2011 (Source:
The U.S. Air Force plans to launch navigation and communications satellites on Delta 4 rockets later this year while a battery of NASA payloads, including missions to Jupiter and Mars, occupy the Atlas 5 rocket manifest, according to military officials.

The Pentagon launched the first geostationary Space Based Infrared System satellite, or SBIRS GEO 1, on an Atlas 5 rocket May 7, clearing the way for NASA's Juno and Mars Science Laboratory missions to blast off this summer and fall. The back-to-back NASA missions are keeping some military payloads on the ground, including the U.S. Navy's first Mobile User Objective System narrowband communications satellite. (5/27)

Copenhagen Suborbitals Aims for June 1 Launch (Source: Hobby Space)
The Copenhagen Suborbitals group is counting down to their second launch attempt, which has a window of opportunity opening between June 1-5. The vehicle consists of the Heat 1-X hybrid booster and the TychoBrahe-1 (unmanned) upper module. Click here for details. (5/27)

Venezuela, China to Launch Satellite Next Year (Source: AFP)
Venezuela and China will develop an observation satellite to be built in Asia and launched from South America in 2012, according to Venezuela's science and technology minister. The earth-observation satellite, to be built at a cost of $140 million, would be used to monitor troop movements and illegal mining as well as study climate change and the environment.

The contract was signed by the Venezuelan ministry and the state-owned China Great Wall Industry Corporation. The launch was set for October 2012, four years after the launch of the "Simon Bolivar," the first-ever Venezuelan satellite, named for the Latin American independence hero and also built with Chinese aid. "As with the first satellite, the second will be made available to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean," an official said. (5/27)

NewSpace 2011 Covers Wide Range of Topics, at Ames on Jul. 18-31 (Source: CSA)
The agenda for the NewSpace 2011 Conference is now online and includes discussions on topics like achieving low cost, reliable space access, capitalizing on suborbital space, and mining the potential of Near-Earth Objects. Also included will be a NASA Center Directors Commercial Partnership Roundtable. The conference will be held at the NASA Ames Research Center on July 28-31. Visit for information. (5/27)

NASA Seeks Commercial Suborbital Flights (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has released a draft RFP seeking bids for providers of suborbital flights. NASA will award an indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contract to multiple selectees. The payloads to be carried are unspecified beyond that they will be dedicated to, "enabling future missions and benefiting America's commercial aerospace industries".

A spokesperson at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center noted that this draft RFP is virtually identical to one issued in 2010 that provided suborbital launches to selected payloads. The awards from that RFP, totalling a half million dollars, went to Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace, both of which are slated to fly in late 2011. (5/27)

Experts: GPS at Risk with LightSquared 4G (Source: Flight Global)
A government/industry panel will warn the FAA in a 3 June report that the expected interference from a new 4G ancillary terrestrial broadband network will cause "complete loss" of GPS receiver functionality. The work is part of a broader six-month technical investigation called for by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its conditional approval of the 4G network in January. (5/27)

SpaceX, Orbital, and NASA Reassure Congress on Commercial Cargo (Source: Space Policy Online)
Representatives of the two companies under contract to provide commercial cargo services to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating after the shuttle program ends and a top NASA official reassured a congressional subcommittee that they would be ready soon. Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX and Frank Culbertson of Orbital Sciences each told the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that they are confident they can meet their current schedules. Cargo services will begin in 2012, they asserted.

In press releases immediately after the hearing, Republicans and Democrats sounded perhaps slightly less skeptical than previously, but made clear they will continue to scrutinize the commercial cargo program. The Republicans went further to say that this was just the first in a series of hearings "to provide close oversight of commercial space launch capabilities." (5/27)

Bill Would Keep Political Spending out of Procurement Process (Source: AIA)
Reps. Sam Graves, R-MO, and Darrel Issa, R-CA, have introduced legislation that would ban federal agencies from considering political spending during the procurement process. The bill would block a draft Executive Order that would force contractors to disclose their political spending.

The AIA, Chamber of Commerce and 69 other groups sent a letter to members of the House in support of the measure. "The amendment reaffirms the principle, currently embodied in federal procurement laws, that the Executive Branch has an obligation to procure goods and services based on the best value for the American taxpayer, and not on political considerations," the letter said.

Editor's Note: Seems like this is an effort to avoid the kind of transparency and visibility that is sought through the Executive Order. (5/27)

ASA Marks Anniversary of JFK’s Space Goal, Calls For a New Space Vision (Source: ASA)
The Aerospace States Association (ASA) believes our nation needs to embrace a collaborative vision for space exploration – one that incorporates the monumental knowledge, resources and capabilities developed through our historic Moon, Mars, and other space missions, along with the substantial experience and achievements of other space-faring nations, to chart affordable roadmaps to space.

We must leverage the substantial assets, expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of our private sector in pioneering the space frontier – not only to maximize the potential benefits from research and exploration, but also to facilitate development and utilization of extraterrestrial resources that can benefit people on Earth, as well as support long-term settlements on other worlds.

Finally – and to ensure sustainability – we need an inclusive, “participatory” approach to space enterprise that will engage and empower the public – an online, interactive portal enabling citizens to envision and design future missions to space, which in turn will inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, humanists, artists, educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, and others who ultimately will orchestrate our spaceward migration. (5/27)

ZERO-G Corp. Gains Approval from FAA for Spaceflight Training (Source: ZERO-G)
ZERO-G has received a Safety Approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation. In effect for five years, the approval allows ZERO-G to offer reduced gravity parabolic flight profiles to prospective suborbital launch operators to meet the applicable components of the crew qualification and training requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 C.F.R. § 460.5).

These regulations require crew members to complete training on how to carry out their roles on board or on the ground and to demonstrate the ability to withstand the stresses of spaceflight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration. (5/27)

One of Two Reflector Antennas Opened on Intelsat New Dawn (Source:
Intelsat has successfully activated the Ku-band communications system on its newest satellite, but the other half of the craft's wireless communications and broadcasting payload remains sidelined by a stuck antenna. The Intelsat New Dawn spacecraft ran into problems deploying its C-band antenna after launching on an Ariane 5 rocket last month, and the 8.8-foot-diameter reflector still won't budge, according to Intelsat officials. (5/27)

Apollo Astronaut: End NASA, Start From Scratch (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Harrison Schmitt, the 12th astronaut to walk on the moon and a former U.S. senator, has called for dismantling NASA and replacing it with a new agency, the National Space Exploration Agency (NSEA), devoted solely to deep-space exploration. Its charter, he believes, should simply be:

"Provide the People of the United States of America, as national security and economic interests demand, with the necessary infrastructure, entrepreneurial partnerships, and human and robotic operational capability to settle the Moon, utilize lunar resources, scientifically explore and settle Mars and other deep space destinations, and, if necessary, divert significant Earth-impacting objects."

Schmitt says NASA’s space science research should be transferred to the NSF, and its climate research to NOAA. He says NASA should sunset two years after the ISS is de-orbited, within the next 10-15 years. In Schmitt’s view these changes are necessary to compete with China and its own ambitions in deep space. In Schmitt’s view these changes are necessary to compete with China and its own ambitions in deep space. (5/27)

Schmitt: New Space Agency Needed to Beat China in New Cold War (Source: Houston Chronicle)
"With the recognition that a second Cold War exists, this time with China and its surrogates, the President and Congress elected in 2012 should create a new National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA)." The new agency must truly be a new agency, beginning with the workforce. Schmitt asserts:

"An almost totally new workforce must be hired and NSEA must have the authority to maintain an average employee age of less than 30. (NASA’s current workforce has an average age over 47.) Only with the imagination, motivation, stamina, and courage of young engineers, scientists, and managers can NSEA be successful in meeting its Cold War II national security goals."

Setting aside the matter of whether we’re in a cold war with China or not, it’s an intriguing idea. Whether it’s realistic is another matter. But I have to admit I’m curious what a streamlined, unshackled NASA with a deep-space exploration mandate could do. (5/27)

Ukrainian Company Explores Florida Launch, Manufacturing Base (Source: SPACErePORT)
A delegation of executives fro Ukraine's Yuzhnoye (builder of the Zenit and Cyclone launch vehicles) is exploring opportunities for basing a new launch vehicle program at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Mayak family of rockets is based on the Zenit and Cyclone vehicles and could be considered Ukraine's answer to Russia's Angara modular family of vehicles (built by rival rocket maker Khrunichev).

The Mayak would feature light, medium and heavy lift versions (8 tons, 20 tons, and 42 tons to LEO, respectively) and would be capable of launching humans. Yuzhnoye is partnered with Excalibur Almaz to carry its commercial space station hardware and astronaut personnel to orbit. In addition to launching Mayak rockets from Florida, the discussion is focusing on opportunities for manufacturing or assembly of the vehicles on the Space Coast.

Without a launch site in Ukriane, Yuzhnoye has been aggressive in building partnerships with foreign launch site partners, including the U.S. (SeaLaunch, Orbital Sciences), Brazil (Alcantara), Russia, and South Africa. Several years ago, a partnership with Aerojet was explored to bring the Cyclone rocket to the Cape. (5/27)

Holdren: Responds to Apollo Astronauts' Op-Ed (Source: USA Today)
Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan are genuine heroes who brought immense courage and competence to the moon missions they led. Obviously, they are more than entitled to their opinions on the best way forward for our space program. But their opinions would be more worthy of attention if they were based on a more accurate understanding of where we are, how we got here, and how President Obama's policy is positioning us to revitalize it with new technology, capabilities and destinations.

The Obama administration inherited a space program in disarray after eight years of mismatch between vision and budgets, and decades of underinvestment in R&D on the technologies that long-duration crewed missions beyond low-Earth orbit will require. The course correction that the White House has developed in concert with NASA and Congress will preserve the $100 billion International Space Station as the orbiting science lab and technology test-bed we need to prepare for the next steps in space.

It will shorten the gap between the retirement of the shuttle and the restoration of a U.S. capability to carry our own astronauts into orbit. And it will focus NASA's unparalleled talents on truly visionary goals — developing and using new technologies to send astronauts to an asteroid for the first time, and then moving onward to Mars — rather than spending the bulk of our limited resources to return astronauts to the moon 50 or 60 years after we did that the first time. (5/27)

Editorial: Space Heroes Stuck in the Past (Source: Washington Examiner)
...Actually, NASA was not "focusing on a return to the moon." That's what it was supposed to be doing, but it was instead focusing on building a capsule and an unneeded new rocket to get it to orbit. Getting back to the moon would have required an earth departure stage and a lander, items that were not under development because they didn't fit within the budget. There were never any serious plans for Mars -- the Orion capsule is far too small for such a long journey, and little work was being done to deal with critical issues for such a mission.

The notion that Constellation was underfunded is a myth to which program defenders continue to cling, but it's simply untrue... Mike Griffin raided other budgets to feed the insatiable maw of the Ares rocket program. Constellation's problem was not underfunding -- its problem was that Griffin selected a flawed architecture that couldn't be delivered within the planned budgets, which is why it not only was continually overrunning, but losing more than a year per year in schedule.

...I think, though, what saddens me the most [about the Armstrong/Cernan/Lovell op-ed], is their distortion of the plans for creating a vibrant commercial human spaceflight industry, and their seeming lack of faith in American free enterprise and business... I can only hope that, over time, when dozens and hundreds, even thousands of people are going into space on commercial vehicles in the years to come, and even back to the moon, many at their own expense, they will still be alive to see it and come to regret their misguided attempts to slow down what could have happened earlier with more enlightened policies. (5/27)

Thor 7 Competition Down to Loral Versus Alenia, and Long March Versus Dragon (Source: Space News)
The competition to build the Thor 7 telecommunications satellite for Norway’s Telenor Satellite Broadcasting has been narrowed to two finalists, and may feature the first face-off between the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Chinese Long March rockets. Oslo-based Telenor expects to select a winner in June for a launch in early 2014 of Thor 7, a mixed Ku-/Ka-band satellite. Industry officials said Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy are the two finalists.

To sweeten its proposal, Loral has included a Falcon 9 rocket in its Thor 7 bid, industry officials said. Loral in March purchased a Falcon 9 vehicle from SpaceX with the expectation that the contract one day would be helpful to a Loral satellite bid. Thales Alenia Space, meanwhile, is able to offer a Chinese Long March rocket because the European manufacturer has developed a product line that is devoid of U.S.-built components subject to the decade-long ban on exports to China. (5/27)

Google Gets Lost on the Way to the Moon (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Nearly four years after it was announced, the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize remains stuck on the ground, tied down by the same type of wrangling and delays that often characterize government space projects it is designed to replace. Rules for the private moon race are still being revised. Teams have had trouble moving ahead due to the uncertainty. Deadlines have been pushed back. And there is deep frustration among competitors over the X Prize Foundation’s efforts to monopolize nearly all of the media and intellectual property (IP) rights from the contest.

The competition’s original goal – to launch a new industry by demonstrating that lunar exploration can be done quickly and cheaply by the private sector – has become lost in a complex process that has left everyone frustrated. The key problem is the still-unfinished Master Team Agreement (MTA), a binding document that includes the rules for the competition. The MTA has involved years of discussion, in large part because of the complexity of negotiating a set of rules with 29 teams that will satisfy laws in the many different nations. The document has ballooned from 12 to 67 pages.

The discussions have been complicated by the growing number of teams that have signed up over the years at ever rising costs. Initial teams paid a $10,000 registration fee. The fee was subsequently raised to $30,000 in 2009 and to $50,000 for teams that joined after July 1, 2010. Another issue is media and intellectual property rights. The MTA gives the X Prize Foundation nearly total control over these rights once teams commit to a launch, a fact that has caused much consternation among the competitors. (5/27)

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