June 10, 2011

Air Force Modifies AEHF Orbit-Raising Plan, Recoups Anomaly Cost (Source: AFSPC)
U.S. Strategic Command has approved Air Force Space Command's modification of the orbit-raising plan designed to transfer the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency space vehicle to its geosynchronous orbit. Furthermore, the Air Force has secured consideration from Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company to recoup anomaly costs through productivity improvements.

To further optimize fuel usage during the orbit-raising process, the timeline for orbit-raising has been extended from Aug. 31 to Oct. 3, 2011, enabling a more efficient Hall Current Thruster burn strategy. This extension does not affect the initial operational capability date and provides additional fuel reserves to support potential future contingency operations. (6/10)

Huge Workforce Shift at NASA as Shuttle Program Ends (Source: People Management)
‘Attrition is our friend’ says HR boss at US space agency. The last space shuttle mission to be launched by NASA next month will mark the end of an era at the US space agency and herald a huge shift in staff planning, its workforce strategy director has revealed.

Jane Datta, director of workforce strategy at NASA, speaking at the Talent Management Summit yesterday, explained that the end of the space program will have “profound” skills and workforce planning implications for the 18,000 to 19,000 civil service employees and 45,000 support service contractors. “And the civil workforce does not shift quickly,” she said. (6/10)

Scaled Tests Nose Strakes On SpaceShipTwo (Source: Aviation Week)
Scaled Composites says flight tests of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo (SS2) modified with nose strakes indicate the devices produce “much improved longitudinal dynamics in the feather.” The strakes were tested on the 10th glide flight of SS2 over the Mojave Desert on May 25. (6/10)

To Boldly Go Beyond the Solar System (Source: BBC)
Keep your voice down, the press officer warns me, as I step inside NASA's mission control room in California, a center with an utterly unique role in the exploration of space. It's almost silent and very dark, here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and operators are hunched over banks of consoles.

These are people with an extraordinary job: they provide the sole connection with mankind's most distant creations. Above us a giant screen is gently filling with numbers, row after row of digits - it's the daily flow of data from an inconceivably remote corner of space. At the start of each line of figures, there's a three-letter code - VGR - that represents the longest expedition ever mounted in human history. (6/10)

Spacesuits Get New Lease on Life (Source: Nature News)
The spacesuits worn by the first astronauts are falling apart from old age. Conservators have a plan to give them a longer life, but first they have to pack them up into coffins. Conservator Lisa Young and curator Cathy Lewis of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum are overseeing the suits' move from their current home in the aptly named town of Suitland, Maryland, to a newer and better facility.

The coffins were Young's creative solution to the problem of keeping the collection of some 270 suits flat and unharmed on the journey. "We have come up with a retrofitted casket from the airline industry," says Young. "We lined it to make sure it would be waterproof. And we have seatbelts in there so the suits don't move," she says.

The caskets will be packed into climate-controlled boxes and shipped an hour down the road to their new home — the museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia — where visitors will be able to watch through glass as conservators study the precious cargo. (6/10)

Telenor Selects Loral To Build Thor 7 (Source: Space News)
Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway has selected Loral to build Telenor’s Thor 7 satellite following a competitive bidding process that began with six contestants. The win adds a second European regional satellite fleet operator to Loral’s customer base after Hispasat of Spain.

Loral bested Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy in the final competitive round. Both manufacturers had offered to include launch-service suppliers in their bids if Telenor preferred the satellite to be delivered in orbit. It was unclear whether Telenor had elected to include the Falcon 9, a relatively untested vehicle, in its selection of Loral, or would decide on a launch-services supplier in a separate competition. (6/10)

Team Vandenberg Launches Delta II Rocket (Source: AFSPC)
Team Vandenberg launched a Delta II rocket carrying the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas) observatory from Space Launch Complex-2 here at 7:20 a.m. PDT. Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"Team Vandenberg performed brilliantly once again in ensuring safe and successful launch operations," said Colonel Boltz. "We wish our mission partners at NASA well as they begin their important work with Aquarius." The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory is a collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE). (6/10)

Rocket Launched From Wallops to Test New Tech (Source: DelMarVaNow)
NASA has launched a rocket from Virginia's Eastern Shore to test new technologies. The agency says the Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket was launched at 7:16 a.m. Friday from its Wallops Island Flight Facility. The launch was delayed a day after an unsuccessful attempt on Thursday due to a failed ignition caused by a short circuit in a ground electrical support system. (6/10)

Chang'e 2 To Lay Groundwork For Mars Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
Smashed to smithereens, a return to Earth orbit for retirement, or a voyage into deep space—those are the alternative fates that have awaited the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 2 since its launch last October. Now the decision has been made: Chang’e 2 will go to the second Sun-Earth Lagrangian point this month, laying the groundwork for Martian missions.

Lagrangian points are positions that remain constant relative to two other bodies in an orbital system. The second Lagrangian point (L2) of the Sun and the Earth is in line with the two but 1.5 million km (932,000 mi.) farther out. “The second Lagrangian point is relatively ideal, because interference from solar radiation there is relatively low.” (6/10)

Canadian Space Agency Moves Forward with Executing Next Space Plan (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will see it's budget peak this year at an all time high of $424.6 million then drop 34% over the following two years according to estimates released yesterday in their annual Report on Plans and Priorities. At the same the agency has completed an overhaul and restructuring of their Program Activity Architecture which in effect begins the execution of the agency's next Long Term Space Plan. (6/10)

Reports: LightSquared Plan Poses Unacceptable Risk to GPS (Source: Space News)
Disruption of GPS positioning and navigation signals used for aviation and other applications within U.S. territory will be unavoidable if startup firm LightSquared is permitted to deploy a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network as currently planned, a pair of technical reports released June 9 concluded.

The reports, one by a White House-chartered panel and the other by a technical association that supports U.S. federal agencies, come in advance of an analysis of the interference issue being conducted by a technical working group led by LightSquared and including government and industry experts. That analysis is due June 15 to the FCC, which is weighing whether to levy additional licensing requirements on the struggling company. (6/10)

Israeli Group Threatens Legal Action Against Inmarsat (Source: Space News)
An Israeli human rights group is threatening legal action against Inmarsat if the global satellite communications firm continues to support ships seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza later this month.

As the sole satellite provider for the internationally mandated Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), Inmarsat says it has become an unwitting player in political battles raging over Israel’s protracted siege of the Hamas-controlled coastal strip. (6/10)

Commercial Rocket Engine Test Experiences Early Shutdown (Source: NASA)
An Aerojet AJ26 flight engine for Orbital Sciences Corporations' Taurus II space launch vehicle experienced a premature shutdown during a test firing on June 9. The test was conducted on the E-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Orbital and Aerojet are investigating the cause of the early shutdown. Stennis will perform checkouts to the facility to ensure its operational integrity. (6/10)

Lockheed to Lose $15 Million for Military Satellite Delay (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, has agreed to forgo $15 million in fees because of delays in placing a military communications satellite in orbit. Lockheed launched the $1.7 billion satellite -- the first of six in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication program -- on Aug. 14 last year on board an Atlas V rocket also built by the company.

The satellite has yet to reach its designated geosynchronous orbit because of “an anomaly” in the propellant propulsion system, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles said in a statement today. The Air Force has extended the time for placing the satellite in its orbit to Oct. 3 from an earlier Aug. 31 date, the statement said. (6/10)

Final Space Shuttle Mission Will Feature iPhones (Source: WIRED)
NASA’s final shuttle mission will feature outer space’s first iPhone, tricked out with an app to measure spacecraft radiation levels, orbital location and altitude. The iOS-based software, called SpaceLab, will come pre-loaded on two iPhone 4s. Testing the software isn’t mission-critical, but it may lead to terrestrial commercial devices being repurposed for space in the near future. (6/10)

Chasing the Dream of Space Travel (Source: Boulder Business Report)
The future of manned spaceflight could be made in Colorado, and if it is, its cradle could be the Boulder Valley. A low-slung, unassuming warehouse in the Colorado Technology Center in Louisville, to be precise.

That is the home of the space systems group of the Sierra Nevada Corp., a privately held company based in Sparks, Nevada that is trying to build a spacecraft that would replace NASA's soon-to-be retired fleet of Space Shuttles. The spacecraft, named the Dream Chaser Orbital Space Transportation System, would carry a crew of up to seven passengers and cargo into space. (6/10)

California Space Authority to Dissolve (Source: Lompoc Record)
The California Space Authority, which promoted the aerospace industry in the state for the past decade and led efforts to develop the California Space Center, will dissolve. Officials announced today that the CSA Board of Directors agreed Monday to begin the dissolution process, with members voting in favor of breaking up the organization.

Janice Dunn, former deputy director, said a lack of funding led to the decision. In the past few months, the organization learned an expected $5 million in federal money wouldn't be coming through. The dissolution also means an end to plans to develop the California Space Center, envisioned as providing education, entertainment, cultural activities and office space.

Until earlier this year, CSA had been working with the Air Force to develop the Space Center on land along Lompoc-Casmalia Road, where the former mobile-home park sat. More recently, CSA officials began negotiating with Lompoc city officials to develop the project on land near Ken Adam Park. Dunn said officials have notified Lompoc leaders that the CSA is terminating negotiations for the land because the organization is in the process of dissolving. (6/10)

California Space Authority Closes Shop (Source: CSA)
"The California Space Authority, Inc., (CSA) has initiated the process of dissolving the non-profit corporation in accordance with state law and the By-Laws of the organization. The CSA Board of Directors voted unanimously on June 6, 2011, to begin the dissolution process and the members of CSA subsequently voted in favor of corporate dissolution...effective June 10, 2011". (6/10)

Omega Envoy Welcomes New Sponsor for Lunar X PRIZE Effort (Source: Omega Envoy)
Omega Envoy, the “college team” that is competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), and the only student formed and led team is proud to announce a sponsorship by Solar Made. Solar Made has provided Omega Envoy with solar cells that will go onto the Florida-based team’s lander and rover.

Editor's Note: The Omega Envoy team is composed primarily of students from the University of Central Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and faculty advisers. They have received sponsorship support from Space Florida. (6/10)

Cosmic Landlord (Source: Forbes)
Real estate developer Robert Bigelow believes mankind's future is in outer space, and he's betting big on getting there. His Bigelow Aerospace owns 50 acres of Las Vegas dirt and scrub where he's put up a few sun-beaten buildings largely resembling those of the neighboring beer distributor and flooring contractor. Except that Allied Flooring Services isn't barricaded behind two rows of razor-topped fence. Nor does it have a small militia of roving guards whose shoulder patches depict a bulbous-headed alien.

The concertina and armed patrols suggest that Bigelow is up to something unusual, something expensively unusual and quite sensitive. Bigelow, 67, doesn't let members of the public behind the wire, but is happy to talk about what he's doing there. He's building hotels. Orbiting hotels. High-tech, low-cost inflatable space stations 228 miles above sea level.

If the future for humanity is in space, and Bigelow believes it is, we will need a place to stay. Bigelow made a fortune in his lifetime building affordable places to stay on Earth. In the last 15 years he has spent $210 million of his own money, and he says he will spend up to $500 million overall, in order to prove that space is a safe place for a passionate entrepreneurs. Click here to read the article. (6/10)

Caltech and JPL Make World-Changing Discoveries Right in Our Own Backyard (Source: Pasadena Weekly)
On a broad swath of shrub-covered landscape in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains between La CaƱada Flintridge and Pasadena sits NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which since 1936 has had a direct hand in creating or testing everything from nuclear weapons to weather satellites and space shuttles. Coupled with the low-key, bucolic campus of Caltech, the two powerhouse institutions have together made massive impacts on the advancement of science and technology throughout the past century. (6/10)

Editorial: Shuttle End Means it's Time for America to Define our New Apace Goals (Source: Huntsville Times)
And now there's just one. The final space shuttle flight is set for July 8, after which the Russian space agency will be America's sole means to travel into space. As the U.S. bids farewell to a reliable space vehicle, it will be up to NASA and the broader science community to lobby Congress for an aggressive space policy - one that will invigorate America to stand behind it.

President Obama has yet to be that cheerleader. He's got other pressing challenges. Given the past few years of economic struggles, space advocates could see America's wanderlust for cosmic adventure come to an end - especially with a gap in U.S. space flights until a next generation heavy-lift rocket is designed. (6/9)

Decision on GPS Satellites Could Affect FAA's Air Traffic System (Source: Aviation Week)
The Air Force is finalizing plans for the next phase of global positioning system satellites, which have been dubbed GPS IIIB. The Air Force's decision on the number of crosslinks could affect the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen air traffic requirements. (6/9)

President Obama: “I believe in the Space Program” (Source: Space Politics)
Leon Bibb of Cleveland’s WEWS-TV interviewed President Obama at the White House and asked about the future of NASA, with a particular emphasis on Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “With the space shuttle program cutting back now, or ending, after this next flight, what do you tell people at Glenn Research Center... can they count on the White House standing behind NASA staying in Cleveland?”

Obama’s response, while not making any news with respect to the administration’s space policy, shows that the president continues to put an emphasis on technology development for NASA, while indirectly reassuring the local audience he has not plans to close Glenn: "Well, I believe in the space program. Look, I’m turning 50 in about a month and a half. But, that means that I grew up being inspired by Apollo and the Moon landing...."

"... So the key, even though the space shuttle is phasing out, is, what’s that next big leap? And that’s going to require research... because, basically, we’re using the same technologies that we were using back in the 60s, in a lot of cases. That’s why a research facility of NASA’s is going to continue to be critical because we want to find what are those next technological leaps that will take us not just to the Moon, but take us to Mars and beyond. (6/9)

Asteroid Served Up "Custom Orders" of Life's Ingredients (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Some asteroids may have been like "molecular factories" cranking out life's ingredients and shipping them to Earth via meteorite impacts, according to scientists who've made discoveries of molecules essential for life in material from certain kinds of asteroids and comets.

Now it appears that at least one may have been less like a rigid assembly line and more like a flexible diner that doesn't mind making changes to the menu. In January, 2000, a large meteoroid exploded in the atmosphere over northern British Columbia. Pieces were collected within days and kept preserved in their frozen state. This ensured that there was very little contamination from terrestrial life.

The Tagish Lake meteorites are rich in carbon and, like other meteorites of this type, the team discovered the fragments contained an assortment of organic matter including amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are used by life to build structures like hair and nails, and to speed up or regulate chemical reactions. What's new is that the team found different pieces had greatly differing amounts of amino acids. (6/9)

NASTAR Center Completes First FAA Safety Approval Audit (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The NASTAR Center, the premier commercial aerospace training and research center, completed its first annual Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Safety Approval audit and inspection on June 2 for the continued use of the Space Training Simulator (STS-400) centrifuge for its Space Training Programs. The audit continues NASTAR Center's FAA Safety Approval for another year. (6/9)

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