May 9, 2011

Commercial Space Skepticism (Source: Space Review)
Commercial space ventures appear to be moving forward on all fronts, with developments ranging from commercial crew funding to the testing of suborbital vehicles. However, Jeff Foust notes that some both in industry and Congress are skeptical of the long-term success of these efforts, in part because of past experience. Visit to view the article. (5/9)

Public-Private Partnerships for Space (Source: Space Review)
What is the future for space exploration in an era of fiscal constraints and competing priorities? Lou Friedman argues that there is an increasing role for public-private partnerships to advance space exploration initiatives more cost effectively. Visit to view the article. (5/9)

Iraqi Bird: Beyond Saddam's Space Program (Source: Space Review)
In addition to trying to develop a launch vehicle, Iraq also worked on an its own satellite during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Dwayne Day describes that satellite effort and the country's future satellite plans. to view the article. (5/9)

India and Space Security (Source: Space Review)
In recent years India's space program has evolved from one almost solely dedicated to serving national needs to one with a more nationalistic, even militarized bent. Victoria Samson summarizes the takeaways from a recent conference that examined India's shifting attitudes towards space and their impact on space security. Visit to view the article. (5/9)

Fundamental Question on How Life Started Solved (University of Bonn)
For carbon, the basis of life, to be able to form in the stars, a certain state of the carbon nucleus plays an essential role. In cooperation with US colleagues, physicists from the University of Bonn and Ruhr-Universität Bochum have been able to calculate this legendary carbon nucleus, solving a problem that has kept science guessing for more than 50 years.

“Attempts to calculate the Hoyle state have been unsuccessful since 1954,” said Professor Dr. Ulf-G. Meißner. “But now, we have done it!” The Hoyle state is an energy-rich form of the carbon nucleus. It is the mountain pass over which all roads from one valley to the next lead: From the three nuclei of helium gas to the much larger carbon nucleus. This fusion reaction takes place in the hot interior of heavy stars. If the Hoyle state did not exist, only very little carbon or other higher elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and iron could have formed. Without this type of carbon nucleus, life probably also would not have been possible. (5/9)

NASA's Jupiter Marketing Not Exactly Out of This World (Source: Ad Week)
Space, the banal frontier. Who wouldn't be stoked about an unmanned NASA voyage to Jupiter that will take six and a half years to complete? Still, attempts to quicken the pulse for Mission Juno, which blasts off Aug. 5, in a new spot and interactive website. The site works hard to be immersive and informative, but the concept never really gets off the launch pad. Click here. (5/9)

XCOR Ready to Bring Space Tourism to UAE (Source: Arabian Aerospace)
A rival to Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism venture is wooing potential buyers who might wish to bring the prospect of space travel to the UAE. Andrew Nelson, COO of US-based XCOR Aerospace, was at the Global Space and Satellite Forum in Abu Dhabi, to persuade Emiratis that its Lynx spaceplane could offer a viable alternative to Virgin Galactic.

The Lynx is XCOR’s entry into the commercial reusable launch vehicle (RLV) market. The two-seat, piloted space transport vehicle will take humans and payloads on a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then return safely to a landing at the takeoff runway – which doesn't have to be specially prepared. This means that it could quite easily operate out of airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or anywhere else in the region. (5/9)

NASA Offers $200 Million for Gas Station Demo in Space (Source:
Space explorers who need to top off the fuel tanks on the way to the moon or Mars may soon get their orbital refueling stations. NASA has put out the call for a $200 million mission to show how to store and transfer rocket propellants in space.

The idea of space gas stations has floated around – a Canadian company already has plans to launch a flying satellite gas station in 2015. But NASA's latest proposal represents a first step toward supporting future human and robotic missions to destinations such as the moon, asteroids, and Mars, rather than simply refueling satellites in Earth orbit.

NASA wants to look specifically at liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, which have powered the main engines of the space shuttle and several commercial rockets. Its proposal calls for "zero boil-off storage" of liquid oxygen, and at least "minimal boil-off storage" of liquid hydrogen. (5/9)

Ugly Truth of Space Junk: Orbital Debris Problem to Triple by 2030 (Source:
Dealing with the decades of detritus from using outer space -- human-made orbital debris -- is a global concern, but some experts are now questioning the feasibility of the wide range of "solutions" sketched out to grapple with high-speed space litter. What may be shaping up is an "abandon in place" posture for certain orbital altitudes -- an outlook that flags the messy message resulting from countless bits of orbital refuse.

In a recent conference here, Gen. William Shelton, commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, relayed his worries about rising amounts of human-made space junk. "The traffic is increasing. We've now got over 50 nations that are participants in the space environment," Shelton said. Given existing space situational awareness capabilities, over 20,000 objects are now tracked. (5/9)

Florida Underwater Lab Used for Asteroid Mission Planning (Source: NASA)
To determine how best to explore asteroids in the future, NASA scientists and engineers are taking their experiments underwater in the 15th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO. This year's NEEMO expedition is slated for October. Since this is the first mission to simulate a trip to an asteroid, there's a lot of work to do before the mission can start. To prepare, engineers have journeyed to NOAA's Aquarius Underwater Laboratory near Key Largo, Fla., to work through some of the concepts that will be tested in the fall. (5/9)

Japanese Movie Crew will Film at KSC, Other Space Coast Sites in June (Source: Florida Today)
A Japanese film crew will be at Kennedy Space Center and other Space Coast locales in June to film scenes for a full-length action movie that already is drawing buzz in Asia. “Space Brothers” will put a popular manga series of comic books on film for the first time. The Japanese crew was in Brevard County in February and April, scouting out locations and doing secondary filming. They will be back in June to film with the stars of “Space Brothers” and a group of local acting extras. (5/9)

For Americans, to Infinity and Beyond (Source: LA Times)
President Obama tried to use the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden to get Americans to think big again. The successful end of a 10-year manhunt, he declared last week, was a "testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people." But Bin Laden's death instead seemed to feed stubborn domestic divisions and conjure thorny geopolitical stalemates.

Maybe the president should take a different tack to get the public to embrace the "big things" rhetoric he launched in January's State of the Union address. Maybe he should use the final days of the space shuttle program — the penultimate flight is scheduled for a week from today; the final flight is set for June — to get Americans to turn their attention to the heavens, literally and figuratively. Talk about thinking big.

In recent years, NASA officials have begun to see that strident utilitarianism as an abiding threat to the future of space exploration. In 2007, Michael Griffin urged people to look beyond what he called "acceptable reasons" for recharging the U.S. space program, to embrace the "real," "intuitive" reasons for going deeper into space. "The cultural ethos in America today," he said in a speech in Houston, "requires us to have … reasons that pass analytical muster, that offer a favorable cost/benefit ratio that can be logically defended." (5/9)

Virginia Spaceport Poised to Grow After Shuttle Program Ends (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
When the 30-year space shuttle program ends this summer, NASA will turn to the shores of Virginia and MARS to help fulfill the critical mission of transporting supplies to the International Space Station. And, of course, taking out the station's trash, too. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport — or MARS — at Wallops Island is scheduled to be the launch site for nine unmanned missions related to resupplying the space station through 2015.

Those missions, to be carried out by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. under a $1.9 billion NASA contract, are the centerpiece of a plan by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to make MARS the nation's top-flight commercial spaceport. Now, "it's our time," said Billie Reed, who in 1995 helped found the state commercial space authority. After the signing of a 2004 operational agreement between Virginia and Maryland, the center became the quasi-private Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Once considered for closure by Washington cost-cutters, the Wallops Island facility has been the recipient of millions of federal, state and private dollars to renovate and repurpose the site near the Maryland border. While Florida may be what people think of most when considering space flight, Reed and others point out that MARS has several advantages, including launch trajectories to the space station that stay primarily across the open ocean, and substantial Virginia tax breaks and lower insurance costs. (5/9)

Fifty Years Into Manned Spaceflights, Starship Dreams Sit Waiting (Source: Daily Maverick)
With more terrestrial challenges absorbing our attention - global warming, the imminent milestone of seven billion people, energy crises and the constant glowering threat of extinction in one form or another – our romantic aspirations to “slip the surly bonds of Earth” seem tethered to the what-if realm of Hollywood special effects wizards. Click here to read the article. (5/9)

More Jets on the Way to KSC (Source: Florida Today)
A company that performs supersonic high-altitude instrument tests in vintage jet fighters will add five more aircraft to its fleet of four F-104s that fly from the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Purchased from the Italian Air Force, the aircraft will arrive next month. "The big thing is that these are a newer generation aircraft, vintage 1980," Starfighters Inc. President and Chief Pilot Rick Svetkoff said. "They were the last ones off the assembly line."

The company makes its home in the 10-year-old Reusable Launch Vehicle Hangar beside the 15,000-foot shuttle landing runway. The F-104 jets can fly above 70,000 feet at twice the speed of sound. NASA and commercial space companies have used the four Starfighters to test high-performance equipment used on the space shuttle, as well as telemetry equipment and a new digital camera. The company also has made several flights to test GPS tracking equipment.

To bring Starfighters and its jobs to KSC, the state agency Space Florida invested $1.8 million in a fire suppression system for the 50,000-square-foot hangar so the fueled jets could be stored there. However, it took Starfighters nearly three years to meet NASA requirements to do business at the space center. The planes are grounded around the time of shuttle launches and landings. However, those conflicts arise only several days a year and will not be a problem after the shuttle stops flying. (5/9)

Space Florida to Award $100,000 to I2 Project Participant (Source: TnT)
Space Florida plans to award $100,000 to a selected company from those presenting at the TRDA-led I2 Capital Acceleration Showcase ( on Sep. 7. “The inclusion of a $100,000 award allows the I2 Program to pair up a meaningful capital infusion with the program’s superb business guidance,” said Frank DiBello, Space Florida's president. (5/9)

Praising Arizona (Source: Sky & Telescope)
High up in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson, Mount Hopkins is home to the Fred L. Whipple Observatory. I've made it as far as the observatory’s small visitor center, taking in the four VERITAS "light buckets" that scan the skies on dark, moonless nights for the telltale Cherenkov glow created when high-energy gamma rays enter Earth’s atmosphere. (5/9)

Beginning a New Generation of Missile Early-Warning (Source:
For the past four decades a band of orbiting sentinels has watched the world and sounded the alarm when enemy missiles take flight. Now, a new generation of advanced satellites that began launching Saturday from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will continue standing guard while also giving the U.S. military better insights into global hotspots. (5/9)

Titan's Atmosphere Spawned by Impacts? (Source: Science)
Titan's atmosphere may have resulted from an early pummeling. A new study bolsters the notion that the thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon was literally blasted into existence billions of years ago by comets or other objects pounding its icy surface. The find may help solve a longstanding mystery about how and when that atmosphere came into being.

Titan isn't the largest moon in the solar system, but it is the only one with a dense cloak of gas. Atmospheric pressure on the moon's surface is about 50% higher than it is on Earth. More than 95% of the atmosphere is nitrogen, and where all of that nitrogen came from is one of astronomy's greatest mysteries, says Catherine Neish, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University. "It's one of the big unknowns in the solar system," she notes. "You've got all these airless moons, and all of a sudden there's Titan." (5/9)

New Mexico Terminates Agreement With Spaceport Project Manager (Source: Parabolic Arc)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson has terminated a two-year, $1.3 million agreement with an outside contractor that has provided many vital services to the state in its construction of Spaceport America. Anderson said the firm was doing work that should be done by state employees.

Procurement Solutions began as project manager in 2007 but found its role expanded over the years to include: securing leases, meeting with nearby ranchers, obtaining Federal Aviation Administration licensing, dealing with anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, preparing talking points for the chief of staff of then-Gov. Bill Richardson, and acting for a time as NMSA executive director. The deal was terminated 14 months early in order to put a state employee in charge of the $209 million project. (5/9)

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