June 13, 2011

PWR's J-2X Engine for NASA's Future Human Spaceflight Ready for Test (Source: PWR)
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne completed assembly of the first J-2X upper-stage engine for NASA's next era of human spaceflight in preparation for demonstration testing expected to begin this month at Stennis Space Center. The J-2X is a highly efficient and versatile rocket engine with characteristics to power the upper stage of a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

Fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the J-2X engine will generate 294,000 pounds of thrust to propel a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit. The J-2X can start and restart in space to support of a variety of mission requirements. To view a time-lapse video of engine assembly, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3vxm25f. (6/13)

NASA to Launch Robot Gas Station Experiment on Final Shuttle Flight (Source: Space.com)
Tucked amid the other gear inside the cargo bay of NASA's last space shuttle to fly will be a novel experiment: a robot gas station for spacecraft that, if successful, could change how satellites are designed. (6/13)

House Appropriators Slam USAF Satellite Block Buy Proposal (Source: Space News)
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on June 14 are scheduled to mark up a defense spending bill that would cut funding for the GPS program and launch vehicles and place restrictions on an Air Force proposal to buy a pair of secure communications satellites.

The House version of the 2012 defense appropriation bill supports the concept of buying multiple satellites at a time in order to keep costs down. But detailed information on the Air Force’s Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Efficiency (EASE) strategy is “woefully lacking,” according to language in the defense subcommittee’s report. (6/13)

Europe Aims to Launch Robotic Mini-Shuttle By 2020 (Source: Space.com)
A European-built robot space plane could be flying in orbit before the end of the decade if the project's planning discussions, which kick off this month, come to fruition. The spacecraft would be Europe's civilian equivalent to the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a robotic miniature space shuttle that has flown on two missions since 2010.

This European robot space plane would be an evolved version of European Space Agency’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV), which is expected to make its first flight in 2013. (6/13)

Florida Federal Affairs Event Planned in Washington on Jun. 22 (Source: FFCA)
The Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA) has scheduled its second Washington D.C. Federal Affairs Workshop and Networking Reception. This is a not to miss full-day event. Keeping with last year's format, this event can be done in one day, with programming beginning at 10 a.m. and the Congressional Reception concluding by 6:30 p.m. The 2011 event location is at The Hotel George on Capitol Hill. Click here for information. (6/13)

Mars Hit By Cosmic Buckshot, Again (Source: Discovery)
The Martian atmosphere is the Red Planet's blessing and curse. The blessing is that the Martian atmosphere is so tenuous it allows relatively small lumps of space rock to turn into meteorites, peppering its surface with fascinating impact craters for our satellites to study from orbit.

As fun as this may be for us remote observers, should Mars colonization be in our future, we'll be cursing this fact should our habitats get punctured -- or destroyed -- by cosmic buckshot. Fortunately for us, Earth has a hefty atmosphere, some 100 times thicker than Mars, ensuring any renegade space rocks are tortured by the extreme heating of atmospheric entry -- only the largest, toughest rocks survive the burn.

But on Mars, as this detailed photograph from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows, it receives a fairly regular peppering from space. (6/13)

Satellite Study Helps Thirsty Sahel (Source: AFP)
Embattled farmers in the Sahel countries of West Africa can take heart from a new study that should boost the accuracy of rainfall prediction in one of the world's most fragile regions. Sharp differences in moisture in small patches of land can trigger precious rain, says the paper. Researchers from Britain, France and Australia looked at satellite data that located nearly 4,000 rainstorms which occurred in the Sahel between 2006-2010.

Between 80 and 90 percent of rainfall in the Sahel comes from this kind of storm, which can brew suddenly when moisture-laden air lifts from heated earth. The scientists then overlaid this data with satellite information on soil moisture. They found that an area where there are large differences in soil moisture plays a big role in making rain. (6/13)

Upper Stage Engine Ready For Testing At Stennis (Source: NASA)
NASA's new J-2X rocket engine, which could power the upper stage of the nation's future heavy-lift launch vehicle, is ready for its first round of testing. The fully assembled engine was installed Saturday in the A-2 Test Stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Beginning in mid-June, the engine will undergo a series of 10 test firings that will last several months. (6/13)

Top Five Tech Spinoffs Mistakenly Attributed to NASA (Source: Houston Chronicle)
As we approach the end of U.S. human spaceflight (just for now, hopefully) it’s worth looking back at some space agency innovations that have crossed over into the private sector. NASA has documented more than 1,500 compelling partnerships and innovations that have come from space agency technologies. However, some of the spinoffs most popularly associated with NASA are not, in fact, NASA innovations. Here is a list. (6/13)

Boeing's Albaugh Worries About 'Intellectual Disarmament' of U.S. (Source: Seattle Times)
Jim Albaugh is worried about the future of American technological supremacy in the world. "The biggest fear I have is what I call the intellectual disarmament of this country," said the Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief, who is also this year's chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association, the trade group for U.S. defense, space and aviation companies.

"We still are the leader in aerospace," he added. "Are we going to be the leader in aerospace in another 20 years?" Albaugh is troubled that the nation's lead in aerospace, the fruit of Cold War military and space-race projects, will be allowed to wither through lack of government funding of new challenges. (6/13)

SpaceX Secures Launch Contract in Major Asian Market (Source: SpaceX)
Thai satellite company THAICOM Plc. has chosen SpaceX to launch the new Thaicom 6 telecommunications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) from its Cape Canaveral Spaceport launch site in the second quarter of 2013. The contract brings another international launch to the United States to fly with SpaceX. Thaicom is the eighth non-U.S. customer manifested for upcoming flights aboard the Falcon 9. (6/13)

Hubble in the Crosshairs (Source: Space Review)
Is Russian developing an airborne laser anti-satellite weapon? Dwayne Day examines the history of a curious Russian aircraft that may be fitted with a laser, and its implications for a potential ASAT arms race. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1865/1 to view the article. (6/13)

Skylon: Ready for Takeoff? (Source: Space Review)
The British Skylon RLV concept has received some recent attention after an ESA study found no showstoppers with its design. Jeff Foust explores the work on Skylon performed to date and identifies some challenges, both engineering and business, that it has yet to overcome. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1864/1 to view the article. (6/13)

The Irreplaceable Space Shuttle (Source: Space Review)
After next month's launch of Atlantis, the Space Shuttle program will come to an end. Taylor Dinerman looks back on what the shuttle did and did not achieve. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1863/1 to view the article. (6/13)

Orbital Awarded Contract for Thaicom 6 Satellite (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences announced that THAICOM Plc. has awarded the company a firm contract for the Thaicom 6 communications satellite. Based on Orbital’s GEOStar-2 satellite platform, the Thaicom 6 satellite will be designed, manufactured and tested at Orbital’s satellite manufacturing facility in Dulles, VA. The Thaicom 6 satellite is planned to be launched in mid-2013. (6/13)
The Greatest Mysteries of Mercury (Source: Space.com)
Mercury, by virtue of being the closest planet to the sun, has been notoriously difficult to study over the centuries. Telescopes have to contend with the sun's glare, while space probes — pulled along by the sun's gravity — must burn a lot of fuel to slow down for more than just a fleeting zoom past the small planet.

In fact, only two spacecraft have ever successfully visited Mercury: NASA's Mariner 10, back in the mid-70's, and now Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) which, after three flybys since 2008, finally settled into orbit around Mercury just this March. The Messenger mission should help answer many of the vexing Mercurial mysteries, including these following puzzlers. Click here. (6/13)

Two Agencies Warn of GPS Interference From LightSquared (Source: Rethink Wireless)
The uncertainty surrounding LightSquared's satellite/terrestrial network mounts, with two government agencies claiming that its signals interfere with GPS. Earlier this week, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated that the regulator would not allow LightSquared to begin commercial service without resolving any potential interference with GPS.

"Under no circumstances would I put at risk our nation's national defense or public safety," he said, insisting that the waiver granted to LightSquared, which allows it to offer terrestrial-only mobile services in satellite spectrum, did not guarantee a commercial go-ahead. (6/13)

ERAU Teams Win at NASA Competition (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Moon-mining robots engineered by two teams of Embry-Riddle students won awards and judges' praise at NASA's second annual Lunabotics Competition last month at Kennedy Space Center. The event drew 36 teams from the United States, Canada, and India. A student team from the university's Daytona Beach campus won the Slide Presentation Award for its excavator, called Moon Pi. One of the team members is Kelsey Justis, a senior at Mainland High School. (6/13)

First Sea Launch Rocket After Long Pause to Blast off in Aug. or Sep. (Source: Itar-Tass)
The first Sea Launch rocket after a long pause will blast off in late August – early September, Energia Aerospace Corporation President Vitaly Lopota said. “The launch window is between the last days of August and the first days of September,” he said.

It was planned to make two launches from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean this year, but one of them was moved to Baikonur, Lopota said. “We will launch one rocket from Baikonur, because the rocket for an Intelsat satellite is not ready. We will allot the rocket meant for the December liftoff of Sea Launch to help our Intelsat partners. The satellite will be carried to space in late September,” he said. (6/13)

Honeywell to Buy EMS Technologies for $506M (Source: AP)
Honeywell International has agreed to buy EMS Technologies Inc., which supplies communications equipment to the aerospace, defense and trucking industries, for about $506 million. Honeywell, the industrial conglomerate, is paying $33 per share in cash, a 33 percent premium to EMS's Friday closing price. EMS Technologies has about 15.3 million shares outstanding. (6/13)

Let's Find Way to Save Challenger Space Center (Source: Arizona Republic)
The end of the nation's space-shuttle program forces discussions about how to move to higher levels of space travel. Who knows where we'll be in 20 years as we build upon the shuttle program's scientific legacies? But in our little corner of the universe, there is another shuttle legacy that needs our attention. The mission for the Challenger Space Center in Peoria is to figure out its future.

The financially troubled education facility and museum is mired in debt, and a generous benefactor is getting anxious about when he will be repaid for his extraordinary support of Challenger. The financially troubled education facility and museum is mired in debt, and a generous benefactor is getting anxious about when he will be repaid for his extraordinary support of Challenger.

The center approached Peoria officials in the spring about taking over the facility but was rebuffed. After years of fundraising, the space center opened in Peoria with great fanfare. The community raised about $4 million to open the $7.2 million center in partnership with the Peoria Unified School District. Kevin Knight of Knight Transportation Inc., through the company KMK LLC, donated $1 million to help build the facility. (6/13)

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