May 3, 2011

NASA Considering Gas Stations in Space (Source: FOX News)
Any road trip requires a pit stop or two. Soon, trips to space could be no different. NASA has quietly put out feelers for what the space agency calls an “In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer Demonstration.” It sounds far more interesting in civilian speak, however -- gas stations in space. Click here to read the article. (5/3)

Air Force Wants a Long Look at Commercial Spacecraft (Source: Network World)
The Air Force Space Test Program looks to study the feasibility of using commercial capabilities to meet selected military launch needs for rapid and lower cost alternatives. Interest is in exploring possibilities of launches for individual Space Vehicles as payloads and Hosted Payloads. Space Vehicle Payloads (SVPs) are complete spacecraft in need of launch. Hosted Payloads are experiments needing a space vehicle, integration and testing, launch, and on-orbit operations support through the host space vehicle.

The Broad Agency Announcement study will be a proof of concept, demonstrating launch of the Space Vehicle Payloads and act as a pathfinder for possible future contract efforts once this study is complete and the feasibility is fully and successfully demonstrated, the Air Force said. (5/3)

Arianespace Preps for Tropical Soyuz Launch Ops (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Over the past two weeks, Arianespace has been conducting a simulated first flight for the Soyuz launcher at its launch complex in France Guiana. The organization expects to launch its first Soyuz later this year. The exercise started on April 29, and included a morning move of a three-stage Soyuz from its horizontal assembly facility to a dedicated launch pad for the rocket.

The vehicle was then turned vertical and a Fregat upper stage and payload fairing were loaded on top to verify assembly procedures. Mission teams are now running through the end-stage of the five day dry run exercise, which includes a simulated countdown, telemetry tests, and a “virtual” liftoff and downrange mission tracking. (5/3)

Global Warming Doesn't Pass Wind (Source: MSNBC)
As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue to fill the atmosphere, the climate is expected to change. Except, it appears, one key component of the climate — wind patterns — won't all that much, at least for the next 50 years in North America where it matters most for wind energy production.

The finding, based on the output of several regional climate models, could ease concerns about where to erect new turbines and string power lines needed to wring energy from the wind. Wind energy currently accounts for about 2 percent of U.S. energy production; though the Department of Energy and wind industry backers say it could generate 20 percent by 2030. (5/3)

NASA Celebrates Astronaut Shepard's Historic First Flight (Source: USA Today)
Alan Shepard never became a household name like fellow astronauts John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the moon. But 50 years ago — on May 5, 1961 — Shepard became the first American to reach space at a time of heightened Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union. He later became one of only a dozen men to walk on the moon, where he hit a golf shot that became perhaps the most memorable moment of the Apollo 14 mission he commanded. (5/3)

Ergen Sheds Faint Light on Plans for DBSD (Source: Space News)
Satellite telecomm magnate Charlie Ergen said his $1.4 billion purchase of bankrupt satellite-broadband start-up DBSD North America is not the start of a broader plan to use DBSD’s S-band spectrum to create a terrestrial-wireless network. DBSD, Ergen said, should be viewed as an asset whose existing S-band satellite and U.S. operating license are sufficient for Ergen’s Dish Network and EchoStar companies to create a wireless broadband business. (5/3)

Orbital COO Steps Sown, But Stays Around for Taurus-2 (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Orbital Sciences Corp. says President and Chief Operating Officer James Thomson Jr. will resign from those positions, though he will remain on the company’s board and serve as a senior executive adviser.

Thompson, who joined Orbital Sciences in 1991, will devote his time to overseeing the final development and testing phase of the Taurus-2 launch vehicle program, Orbital said in a regulatory filing. Chairman and Chief Executive David Thompson will assume the role of president. The company did not immediately say if or when it would fill the chief operating officer position. (5/3)

Is Our Space Vision Still Shortsighted? (Source: MSNBC)
Two years ago, retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine headed up a commission that led the White House to scrap NASA's "unexecutable" back-to-the-moon program and focus instead on a step-by-step path to send humans beyond Earth orbit, to an asteroid by 2025, and to the environs of Mars by the 2030s.

Now NASA is nearing the end of the shuttle program, gearing up to mark Thursday's 50th anniversary of U.S. human spaceflight ... and dealing with an uncertain future for human spaceflight. Augustine says NASA is mostly following the short-term prescription he and his colleagues have laid out, but he worries that NASA's long-term future could be a case of deja vu all over again.

In an interview, Augustine told me that NASA could once again face a situation where its budget doesn't match the task it's been given. The current year's $18.45 billion budget is a bit less than last year's, and includes $3 billion for work on a heavy-lift rocket and a spaceship that could eventually go beyond Earth orbit. Click here. (5/3)

Sierra Nevada Details White Knight Drop Plan For Dream Chaser (Source: Aviation Week)
Bolstered by its recent second-round NASA Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev2) win to continue development of the Dream Chaser spaceship, Sierra Nevada Corp. is revealing new details of its plan to conduct full-scale drop tests in 2012 using the Scaled Composites-developed WhiteKnightTwo mothership. Designed for a maximum crew of seven, the Dream Chaser is a lifting body spacecraft based on NASA’s HL-20 crew vehicle, and will launch on an Atlas V.

The atmospheric drop test of the full-scale vehicle, expected sometime in the second quarter of 2012, will asses handling qualities as well as stability and control during an unpowered descent to a conventional runway landing. The design of the low-speed flight control system is being fine-tuned after drop tests of a scale model were conducted in December at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center from a helicopter hovering over the dry lakebed at Edwards AFB, in California. (5/2)

Frank says U.S. Needs to Cut Defense Spending Further (Source: Defense News)
President Barack Obama has called for a $400 billion drop in defense spending over the next decade. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said more dramatic cuts will be needed to tackle the national debt. Frank suggested the U.S. could afford to reduce defense spending, which is nearly $700 billion each year, by about $200 billion annually. (5/3)

Embraer Reports 257% Surge in Quarterly Profit (Source: AIA)
Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer reported a 257% increase in consolidated income for the first quarter compared with the same quarter last year. The company cited cost controls and tax credits as helping to boost profits. However, the country's strong currency hindered revenue. "The gains (in the currency) posed an additional challenge to the management of Embraer's expenses structure," according to the company. (5/3)

Astronaut Has $15 Billion Plan to Mine the Moon (Source: Montreal Gazette)
Moonwalker Harrison Schmitt wants to go back, only this time to mine a rare element used in the production of fusion energy -a waste-free form of nuclear energy that could help power the planet in the 21st century. Schmitt is promoting an ambitious $15 billion project to obtain helium-3 (He-3) -an isotope of the inert element -that is rare on earth, but relatively abundant on the moon.

Schmitt helped discover the substance when exploring the moon's surface on Dec. 11, 1972, as a member of Apollo 17, the last of NASA's missions to the moon. "Helium-3 is a nearly ideal fuel for fusion nuclear power . It's ideal because it produces little or no radioactive waste, unlike almost all other nuclear systems.'' Containing 20 parts per billion of helium-3, about 100 kg of He-3 could provide sufficient fuel to allow a fusion reactor to generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power for a year, Schmitt said. (5/3)

How Satellite Technology May Have Tracked Down Bin Laden (Source: Smart Planet)
Behind an exhaustive effort to take down Osama Bin Laden is a secretive agency that probes the world from the skies above. Before yesterday, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) was a rarely-mentioned arm of the U.S. government that supported military operations by analyzing images from highly-advanced satellites and spy aircraft.

Now, the NGA will forever be remembered for helping to pinpoint the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted terrorist. Click here to read an article about how the NGA has contributed to the search for Bin Laden. (5/3)

FAA Plans Public Meeting on Spaceflight Regulation, May 26 in Cocoa Beach (Source: FAA)
An FAA public meeting is planned at the DoubleTree Hotel in Cocoa Beach on May 26, at 8:30 a.m., to solicit comments and information from the public on the regulatory approach to commercial orbital human spaceflight by the FAA. This public meeting is intended to aid the FAA in its regulatory effort by receiving early input from the affected community. Written comments may also be submitted on this issue no later than June 9, 2011. Click here for details. (5/3)

Asteroid Flyby of Earth – A Stone’s Throw Away! (Source: CSE)
One of Mother Nature’s good-sized space rocks is slipping past Earth this November – and this asteroid is a little bit wider than an aircraft carrier! That’s the word from asteroid experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The flyby of the space rock is on November 8 – zipping past Earth by about 325,000 kilometers [201,700 miles] away.

That is a stone’s throw away! “This asteroid is about 400 meters [1,300 feet] wide — the largest space rock we have identified that will come this close until 2028,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. Asteroid 2005 YU55 is coming so close that a major observational campaign is to be staged. (5/3)

Report Puts New Mexico Spaceport on Map (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Four years ago, the annually published Space Report did not have a section on spaceports. The Space Report is published by the Space Foundation. It is an authoritative guide to global space activity. It is a well-respected compilation covering the major topics in the industry. Space infrastructure, a big topic in the industry did not even have a sub-category covering spaceports four years ago. In the 2011 Space Report, they are the largest category in the section. How come?

The tide is turning. More companies believe there will be commercially viable alternatives to government launch sites, and they will have customers besides the government. The Space Report breaks spaceports into two categories - orbital launch sites and sub-orbital launch sites. Globally, there are 23 orbital launch sites, four are in the U.S., one is in Kwajalein (in the Pacific's Marshall Islands) and one is in Kodiak, AK. The rest are spread across the globe. There are eight sub-orbital launch sites, five are in the U.S. (5/3)

4 Billion-Year-Old Moon Rock Lands in Atlanta (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)
NASA will provide a rare opportunity to touch a 4 billion-year-old moon rock brought back to Earth in 1972 by astronauts of Apollo 17, when the space agency brings a traveling exhibit to metro Atlanta for three days later this week. The mobile exhibit also includes a history of NASA and space exploration, and several multi-media features. The exhibit will be at the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta. (5/3)

Dish, EchoStar Settle TiVo Patent Litigation (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Dish Network Corp. and its former unit EchoStar Corp. agreed to pay TiVo Inc. $500 million to settle a seven-year patent dispute over digital video recorder technology. The settlement was announced Monday along with Dish's quarterly results. The second-largest U.S. satellite-television provider, after DirecTV, said its first-quarter profit more than doubled from a year earlier, and it posted subscriber growth for the first time since the second quarter of 2010. (5/3)

What Earth Might Look Like with Saturn's Rings (Source: Guardian)
If Earth had rings like Saturn or Uranus, what might that be like? How might that have influenced human science, culture, navigation, mythology and religion throughout the ages? Since the rings would be so bright, we might not have seen (m)any stars and planets, so how might this have affected astronomy? Would we even have a Copernicus, Galileo, or Kepler? Would Brahe have seen "his" famous supernova? Click here to see the article and video. (5/3)

Is There Room For God on a Space Mission? (Source: Discovery)
Science continues to alter the shape of religious belief, so how does devotion to a god change in orbit? Would long-distance space travel require the use of on-ship burial plots for Jewish or Muslim astronauts? And what happens if the Christian rapture or some comparable end-of-days event were to occur while you're in space?

Would Finding E.T. Change Our View of God? Certainly, these are far from pressing theological or scientific concerns, but the topic of religious belief in space continues to pop up. Here are some quick examples in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (5/3)

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