June 21, 2011

Challenge Seeks to Re-Fund SETI Search (Source: SETI)
Organizers hope a $200,000 challenge will allow SETI to resume scanning the skies for signs of intelligent life. "We are discovering more Earth-like planets every day, so now is more critical than ever to look for extraterrestrial life. A contribution from you, today, will fund telescope scans for signs of intelligence beyond our solar system. Please donate and help us find intelligent life out there." Click here. (6/21)

Thales Alenia Wins Contract for Kazakhstan Satellite (Source: Thales)
Thales Alenia Space announces a contract with JSC “ISS – Reshetnev Company” to supply the KazSat3 communications satellite payload. Thales will be the communications payload supplier. The satellite will be based on an Express 1000 platform provided by JSC “ISS – Reshetnev Company” and the satellite will be integrated and tested in ISS’ premises, Zheleznogorsk, Russia. (6/21)

ESA Reentry Vehicle on Track for Flight in 2013 (Source: ESA)
ESA and Thales Alenia Space Italia will begin building the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) for its mission into space in 2013. Europe’s ambition for a spacecraft to return autonomously from low orbit is a cornerstone for a wide range of space applications, including space transportation, exploration and robotic servicing of space infrastructure. (6/21)

Galileo’s Soyuz Launchers Arrive at French Guiana (Source: ESA)
The two Soyuz launchers that will fly the first four satellites of Europe’s Galileo navigation system into orbit have arrived at Kourou harbor in French Guiana, completing a journey that took them halfway round the world. The first two Galileo In Orbit Validation satellites are set to be launched from Europe’s Spaceport on 20 October, with two more following them into orbit by mid-2012. (6/21)

Editorial: To Mars and Back – or a Bust-Up? (Source: Flight Global)
Five hundred days locked in a windowless container outside Moscow sounds like some sort of Soviet-era re-education scheme. It would certainly be enough to drive one crazy - which, in a way, is exactly the point.

But while most people would assume it takes a madman to volunteer for such a regime in the first place, the six men who have just completed a year of this isolation experiment - and will remain in their can until November - are hugely qualified for the ordeal.

Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency chose an engineer, a space scientist, a military physician, a surgeon, a navy diver and a trainee astronaut to "crew" their Mars 500 simulated 18-month mission to the Red Planet and back. Click here to read the article. (6/21)

USAF Eyes Fix For GPS IIF Electrical Problem (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force and Boeing are testing a fix to correct an electrical problem on the first GPS Block IIF satellite that was launched May 27, 2010, and is now in orbit. The satellite’s “M” code signal, optimized to reduce jamming for military operations, has been shut off until there is verification that the problem has been solved. The glitch was discovered during testing of another GPS IIF satellite on the ground. (6/21)

Iran Satellite is Step Toward Human Spaceflight (Source: New Scientist)
Satellite today, monkey tomorrow? Or perhaps a nuclear missile? On 15 June, Iran put its second ever satellite, Rasad-1, into orbit 260 kilometers above Earth. The nation hopes to use the experience to launch a monkey into space this year and, by 2019, a human. The worry is that such rockets could also be used to fire missiles at targets on Earth.

At 15 kilograms, Rasad-1 may be tiny, but it is a boost to Iran's space capabilities, says Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation think tank, headquartered in Washington DC. "People wondered after the first time if they just got lucky," he says. "Now that they've put two satellites up there, that indicates perhaps it wasn't a fluke the first time." (6/21)

Bolden: Europe, U.S. Should Team In Space (Source: Aviation Week)
As NASA puts the finishing touches on proposed hardware designs for a congressionally mandated space exploration program, the agency’s top official says U.S. companies should partner with European industry to develop it.

“It is my hope that we’ll be able to have Europeans in the critical path somewhere in the exploration initiative,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. As NASA finalizes the design of a new heavy-lift rocket, Bolden also says he hopes U.S. companies will team with European firms to develop the heavy-lift launcher. (6/21)

Mark Kelly Retires From NASA to be With Wife Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Source: AP)
Mark Kelly announced his retirement from the Navy and NASA on a Facebook message Tuesday, saying he wanted to spend more time by the side of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as she recovers from her gunshot wound. He ends with a declaration of optimism in NASA’s future:

"I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them. There isn’t a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA. Exploration is a critical component of what makes our country great. We will continue to explore and NASA will continue to lead that effort." (6/21)

ESA, NASA Discuss Joint Manned Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are discussing plans to build a joint U.S.-European spacecraft based on existing designs that could ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and one day carry humans beyond low Earth orbit.

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the space agencies are hashing out a plan that would combine the service module of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) – a spacecraft built by EADS Astrium that is used to haul cargo to the orbiting complex – with NASA’s Multipurpose Crew Vehicle.

Embry-Riddle Team Wins Rocket Competition in Utah (Sources: SPACErePORT, ERAU)
A team of students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University won an international rocketry competition last week in Utah. Nine teams competed this year, including two from Canada and one from Brazil. Embry-Riddle's Pathfinder III rocket launched perfectly and was recovered completely intact and ready to fly again. All electronic flight systems functioned flawlessly.

The altitude was 10,310 feet. Prior simulations had predicted 10,300. The competition target altitude was 10,000. This was the sixth annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. (6/21)

Black Hole Kills Star and Blasts 3.8 Billion Light Year Beam at Earth (Source: On Orbit)
Observations have shown that the flash from one of the biggest and brightest bangs yet recorded by astronomers comes from a massive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy. The black hole appears to have ripped apart a star that wandered too close, creating a powerful beam of energy that crossed the 3.8 billion light years to Earth.

The high energy X-rays and gamma-rays persisted at an extremely bright level for weeks after the event, with bright flares arising when further chunks of the star apparently fell into the black hole, while at optical and infrared wavelengths it is as bright as a hundred billion suns. The extreme brightness of this event comes from the fact that it created a powerful beam of energy pointing a jet of light towards the Milky Way which was detected on Earth 3.8 billion years after the star was ripped apart. (6/20)

Albrecht: Restructure NASA (Source: Space Politics)
Mark Albrecht, who was the executive secretary of the National Space Council during the George H.W. Bush administration and, later, president of International Launch Services, is pessimistic about the future of human spaceflight, citing the failures of previous major exploration programs, saying “it is hard to imagine” another president making a major push in this area.

He says “changes are urgently needed at NASA” for there to be any hope of reviving human space exploration, reforms that are not themselves sufficient but “necessary preconditions for success” of any new exploration initiative. He also endorses greater participation by international entities “based purely on financial and technical capability” as opposed to policy considerations.

Separately, he calls for a radical restructuring of NASA as it relies more on these partnerships. The agency, he argues, should be focused on space science and human space exploration; other efforts, including aeronautics and Earth sciences, should be transferred to other agencies. He advocates for closing unneeded NASA centers through a BRAC-like process. He calls for "a willingness to let go of what has long brought institutional comfort at the expense of national achievement.” (6/21)

Russia Launches Progress M-11M Space Freighter to ISS (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian cargo spacecraft was launched Tuesday to the International Space Station (ISS). The Progress M-11M lifted off atop a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. It is to deliver 2.5 tons of fuel, water and foodstuffs. The freighter is scheduled to dock with the ISS on June 23. (6/21)

Russia’s Rocket-Space Industry to Have 3-4 Holdings (Source: Itar-Tass)
Following the second stage of restructuring of Russia’s rocket-space industry, it will consist of 3-4 holdings, which will be united depending on their specialization, Roskosmos chief Vladimim Popovkin said.

Reporters asked if the restructuring program for Russia’s rocket-space industry will be corrected. Earlier, the restructuring organized 14 holdings. Popovkin said that during the first stage, which structured the holdings, quite often major enterprises acquired others. (6/21)

Russia to Resume "Rokot" Launches in 2011 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said one or two launches of the "Rokot" booster rocket were possible this year. Russia suspended the launches of this type of rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome after a faulty accelerator unit placed the GEO-IK 2 satellite into off-design orbit in the beginning of 2011. (6/21)

Update on Angara and Proton (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said the first launch of the light-lift version of Russia's new Angara rocket will be in 2013. "Prior to that, we plan one launch of the South Korean KSLV-I booster, equipped with the first stage of the Angara." Also, "the Defense Ministry settled all the issues of funding the construction of the Angara launch complex at the Plesetsk cosmodrome." he said.

Russia might use the Briz-M upper stage atop a Proton-M booster with three GLONASS satellites at the Baikonur cosmodrome later this year. The upper stage will replace the DM-03 model. In December 2010, Russia lost three GLONASS satellites because of DM-03 refueling.

"This year, there is possibility to launch a Proton from Baikonur with three GLONASS units. A decision has been made that the Proton will be equipped with a Briz-M unit. This decision is now being coordinated at the Defense Ministry." (6/21)

Energia Not to Produce Soyuz Spaceship for Space Tourists (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Energia aerospace corporation will not produce another piloted spaceship Soyuz-TMA for space tourists, Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said. “New space tourists cannot be put into space onboard the Soyuz spaceship in the near future. The Energia aerospace corporation has a very intensive schedule of (non-tourism) piloted flights." (6/21)
Russia to Allocate 402 Billion Roubles for GLONASS Through 2020 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia will allocate 402 billion roubles for the GLONASS Federal special program, Roskosmos chief Vladimim Popovkin said. “All applications we filed are satisfied,” he said. However, “it is not clear when the money will be allocated...In some cases we may borrow money.” (6/21)

Conversion Booster Dnepr to be Launched with Ukraine Satellite (Source: Itar-Tass)
A Dnepr rocket with the Ukrainian satellite Sich-2 will be launched from the Yasny launch site in the Orenburg Region, Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said. The Dnepr is a converted heavy RS-20 ("Satan") intercontinental ballistic missile. Popovkin noted that “we together with the Ukrainian National Space Agency decided to troubleshoot the missiles involving Ukrainian specialists.” (6/21)

'Ultimate Cloud' Comes to the Rescue (Source: MSNBC)
Cloud computing isn't just for your music player anymore. The satellite-telecom company Iridium is working with partners on satellite-based systems that can uplink data on a regular basis to its orbiting "cloud" of 66 satellites, just in case a wayward airplane or hiker needs assistance in the remote regions of the world where cell phones and radios don't work.

If such a system had been in place when an Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, investigators might have been able to study near-real-time information about the plane's troubles, rather than waiting or the recovery of the jet's black boxes from the ocean bottom. "They wouldn't have had to spend two years and $40 million," said Matt Desch, Iridium's chief executive officer. (6/21)

Q and A with ‘Alien Hunter’ Seth Shostak (Source: Washington Post)
Self-proclaimed “alien hunter” Seth Shostak, 67, is a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and the host of its weekly radio show, “Are We Alone?” The nonprofit institute was founded in 1984, and Shostak has worked there since 1991. By scanning the skies for radio communications, Shostak expects that SETI will find intelligent life on another planet by 2025. Click here. (6/21)

Space Contractor Wyle Inks New Texas Lease (Source: San Antonio Business Journal)
The Brooks Development Authority has approved a two-year lease agreement with Wyle for 25,000-square-feet of space at Brooks City-Base. Wyle owns a human-use centrifuge with flight simulation capability as well as altitude research chambers that replicate normal-to-severe flight conditions.

Wyle intends to maintain its focus on research, development, testing and evaluation opportunities with the Department of Defense, but will branch out to commercial work further. The company also provides biomedical and engineering services for NASA’s human space missions; test and evaluation services for aircraft, weapon systems, networks and other government equipment. (6/21)

Musk Follows Own Advice With Recent Lawsuit (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX's defamation lawsuit against Valador comes less than a month after the rocket developer got into a public spat with prominent aerospace analyst analyst Loren Thompson after he questioned SpaceX's pricing, which is extremely low by industry standards.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment Monday. However, in a nugget of advice to new high school graduates, SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently offered his philosophy on dealing with "bullies." In his quote, in a June 9 Daily Breeze special graduation tab, Musk said: "As for bad advice, my parents advised me to ignore bullies. That doesn't work. You have to punch them on the nose." (6/21)

Merging Missile Ranges Can Help Business, Shield Jobs (Source: Florida Today)
For the past 20 years, advocates for a more robust commercial launch industry here — including us — have been saying the Cape must become more business friendly to attract companies and entrepreneurs. That means less red tape and more nimbleness in helping companies get their rockets off the ground. And therein lies the problem with the Eastern Range.

The range is run by the Air Force 45th Space Wing and controls the airspace over the Cape and off the Atlantic coast. It’s an important mission the Air Force has long done well. However, the military bureaucracy is not designed to meet the demands of the fast-changing business world and the slow pace in revamping range policies is hampering new commercial efforts.

That makes an Air Force proposal to merge the operations of the Eastern Range and its counterpart in California — the Western Range — and have them run by a private contractor a smart bet to reduce burdensome regulations where it can be done safely and where it’s logical. Another benefit is that it could speed needed modernization, such as switching from radar dishes to GPS for tracking rockets. (6/21)

Boeing Among Companies Interested in Range Contract (Source: Florida Today)
Consolidation of the Air Force's Eastern and Western Ranges is something Space Florida President Frank DiBello supports. He says “even the secretary of defense is having trouble making the range accessible to the interests he wants” because of Pentagon intransigence.

The Air Force is expected to open the $3.8 billion range contract for proposals soon, with Boeing among the companies saying it will pursue the work. However, the Air Force has already laid down a marker the firms will have to consider: Preserving the 500-person Eastern Range workforce.

Frankly, that may not be possible. Consolidations by their nature usually result in some job cuts as companies utilize efficient new technology and trim personnel costs. Still, we agree as many jobs as possible should be saved on the Eastern Range to prevent adding to the huge job losses under way with the shuttle program’s demise next month. (6/21)

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