May 8, 2011

Spaceport Contractors Say State is Slow to Pay Up (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Widespread frustration among Spaceport America contractors about cost overruns and late payments for their work recently led one firm to walk off the job site. The departure of the subcontractor, Bowers Electric, could throw another wrench in the $32.5 million terminal-hangar, already four months behind schedule. The iconic building is the largest unfinished component of the $209 million spaceport's first phase.

Contractors said late payments are among a spectrum of problems that have plagued the terminal-hangar since construction began in December 2009. But the delayed invoicing was further compounded by the transition in gubernatorial administrations at the start of the year, some said. (5/8)

ESA Hands Over Keys to Soyuz Launch Site (Source: ESA)
The official ceremony marking ESA’s handover of the Soyuz launch site to Arianespace took place today at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, after the site was declared ready for the first flight and the completion of a simulated launch campaign. The French space agency, CNES, as prime contractor for the building work, along with its European and Russian partners, has spent recent months qualifying the site. (5/8)

Will Humanoids Take Over the Space Program? (Source: FOX News)
They require no food, can last for decades, willingly perform mundane tasks, and can walk in space without a spacesuit. And they’re mostly expendable -- if you overlook the cost. Humanoid robots could make deep space exploration more feasible. As NASA prepares for Endeavour's last mission, and the final shuttle flight ever by Atlantis in June, space experts are starting to wonder if NASA should rethink its mission. Should future crafts be flown by autonomous bots we control from Earth? Click here. (5/8)

China Launches Rocket to Monitor Space Environment (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched a space environment-monitoring rocket Saturday morning from the southern island province of Hainan as part of the nation's key "Meridian Project." The rocket was sent into space at 7 a.m. from a launch site in Hainan, said a statement from the Center for Space Science and Applied Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

"The successful launch test will play an important role in the country's research on the independent monitoring of the space environment and safeguarding the security of space activities," it said. The rocket is the first of its kind for the "Meridian Project," which is a ground-based network program to monitor the solar-terrestrial space environment and has been supported by the Chinese government. (5/8)

Cost of Suborbital Space Travel Will Be Slashed (Source: Travel Mole)
Travel agents waiting for the price of space flights to come down will be disappointed to hear they'll never be affordable to even their highest spending clientele. Will Whitehorn, former president of Virgin Galactic, said the cost of a short hop into space was unlikely to come down to less than £60,000. "Unfortunately gravity doesn't discount," he told delegates at the Advantage conference.

Whitehorn, one of the keynote speakers, said Virgin Galactic was hoping to launch the first commercial space flights within the next 18 months at a cost of $200,000 per person. "That price will come down within five to seven yeas, but I don’t think it will ever be much less than $100,000," he said. (5/8)

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