June 22, 2011

Air Conditioning the Military Costs More Than NASA's Entire Budget (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA's annual budget is dwarfed by a lot of other programs, but this may be the most incredible. It costs $1 billion more than NASA's budget just to provide air conditioning for temporary tents and housing in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Gizmodo. The total cost of keeping troops cool comes to roughly $20 billion. That figure comes from a former DOD chief logistician in Iraq. NASA's total budget is just $19 billion. (6/22)

Taurus II Engine Sustained Damage in Fire During Test (Source: Aviation Week)
An Aerojet AJ26 engine destined to power the Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus II launch vehicle in the run-up to commercial resupply flights for the International Space Station (ISS) was badly damaged in a fuel fire June 9. The AJ26 engine shut down prematurely after a fuel leak developed during a hot-fire acceptance test, and the leaking kerosene fuel ignited. While the engine was damaged, the test stand at Stennis Space Center suffered only minor damage. (6/22)

SpaceX Seeks Tweeters (Source: AmericaSpace.org)
SpaceX is looking for a few good tweets. More to the point – they want you to follow theirs. The commercial firm is hoping to use Twitter to inform the world of the company’s efforts to reinvigorate U.S. space flight efforts. Under the name of @SpaceXer – SpaceX will post regular updates regarding the company’s activities on Twitter.

SpaceX has stepped up its public and media relations efforts of late and the push to have more eyes checking out their tweets is a part of this. “There are a lot of amazing things that are taking place at a daily basis at SpaceX,” said SpaceX’s Vice President of Communications Bobby Block. “We want to invite the public, everyone really, to follow these events on our Twitter account.” (6/22)

Editorial: NASA Struggling for Support (Source: Huntsville Times)
Perhaps Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose state is home to Johnson Space Center, will ride to NASA's rescue if he declares a campaign for the presidency. Otherwise, there doesn't seem to be much, if any, support among Republican presidential primary candidates for the space agency as we have known it for 50-odd years.

After the recent Republican debate that showed little support for NASA, Dr. Jess Brown, a political science professor at Athens State University, said the best interpretation of the debate is that we will see far more reliance on the private sector and a reduction in NASA's role, generally a policy much like the view of President Obama. He has drawn lots of criticism for that in Huntsville.

Perhaps the candidates see the space program as an easy place to save a lot of money, either by cutting it outright or farming out its role to (federally subsidized) private enterprise. Sen. Richard Shelby, in a statement Thursday, reminded the candidates that they need to "embrace the things that have made America great." He said he hopes they realize "that balancing the budget does not require abandoning our historic role as space pioneers." (6/22)

Time for Action, NASA Told (Source: Pasadena Citizen)
It’s time to stop studying NASA’s Space Launch System and get moving on a final plan of action, several congressmen wrote to NASA on June 14. "The best and brightest engineers and technicians in human spaceflight are leaving in droves, and we are gravely concerned the Obama Administration will make it impossible to reconstitute the technical capabilities and industrial base necessary to carry out our legislated direction for NASA,” they wrote.

“The recent layoffs of thousands of highly skilled American workers supporting NASA’s human spaceflight program,” the letter points out, “should serve as a wake-up call to the Obama Administration that decisions are needed relative to our space launch system and overall human spaceflight implementation plan."

“Unfortunately, however, a majority of these layoffs are directly attributable to the Obama Administration not making NASA’s human spaceflight program a priority in its budget requests to Congess, coupled with agency leadership purposefully circumventing the will of Congress laid forth in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010…and the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.” The letter is signed by Pete Olson, John Culberson and Lamar Smith of Texas, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Rob Bishop of Utah and Bill Posey and Sandy Adams of Florida. (6/22)

Extra Pressure for Atlantis Crew for Final Mission (Source: Telegraph)
Atlantis is scheduled to blast off on July 8 and will be the shuttle program's 135th and final flight, something which the crew admit adds an extra burden to the mission. Ferguson said: "You know we are very honored to be in this position, there's many people who could be here. We just happened to win, the dice fell and our names were facing up.

"So we consider ourselves fortunate, lucky. We haven't talked about this, but each of us feel an extra burden to make sure we put on the best possible face forward for the last go around of this and the crew is very prepared." (6/22)

Navy Instrument Supports Air Force Space Weather Efforts (Source: NRL)
Data products from the Special Sensor Ultraviolet Limb Imager (SSULI) developed by the NRL Spacecraft Engineering Department and Space Science Division were officially transitioned for use in operational systems at the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) on June 9.

The SSULI sensor software and derived atmospheric specification, the Air Force Weather Agency received a formal letter from the Defense Weather Systems Directorate (DWSD) at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) recommending that they begin using the SSULI data as inputs into Space Weather models and also as standalone data products. (6/22)

Life on Enceladus? (Source: Science)
Spouting plumes of ice and water vapor certainly make Enceladus one of the solar system's liveliest places. But continuing studies of the composition of those plumes are now making Saturn's icy moon the most promising place to look for extraterrestrial life. Researchers reported that the best sampling yet of the plumes by the Cassini spacecraft reveals strong evidence for liquid water beneath the deeply frigid surface—an ocean, a sea, or at least water-filled cracks. (6/22)

Mark Kelly Retirement Generates Senate Buzz (Source: The Hill)
Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), announced Tuesday he would retire Oct. 1. Kelly, a NASA astronaut and Navy captain, has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in Arizona next year. Media reports throughout the state have said Kelly would be the leading choice for Democrats if Giffords is unable to run for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) seat. Kelly has said nothing to spark this speculation. (6/22)

Editorial: Give Space Program Support, Not Grief (Source: Star Tribune)
As a contractor working on the International Space Station program, I read Keith Reed's lamentation that "America has given up on exploration" (June 19) with no small amount of frustration. His claim that the "decision was made" to cut manned spaceflight "entirely" simply isn't true.

President Obama proposed last year to continue with the retirement of the shuttle, begun by his predecessor, and to rescope the manned space program to focus on technology development and research for building an in-space transportation infrastructure.

Under this new exploration architecture, the International Space Station would continue operating as a testbed for future missions, while commercial service providers would take over much of the Low Earth Orbit work so NASA could focus its resources on exploration technologies. To meet these new goals, the president did request a sustained budget increase for NASA over the next five years. (6/22)

Wallops Launch Set for Tuesday (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
A Department of Defense military surveillance satellite is set to launch from Wallops Island aboard a 70-foot tall U.S. Air Force Minotaur I rocket. The launch is scheduled for Tuesday between 8:28-11:28 p.m., with the launch window extending to July 10. The ORS-1 satellite is the Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office's first operational satellite to be deployed. (6/22)

EADS Astrium Looking for Funds to Launch Spaceplane (Source: Flight Global)
EADS Astrium's Spaceplane concept - designed to take four passengers 100km into sub-orbit - is edging closer to reality following the signing up of Singapore as a partner. However, more money is needed for the project to be launched commercially, said Francois Auque. "The Spaceplane concept is very mature. We are now looking for development money," he said Auque.

A consortium of Singapore industry will build a small-scale demonstrator of the Spaceplane - which would compete with the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. Singapore is also interested in hosting sub-orbital flights at Changi airport. Astrium has been working on the Spaceplane concept since 2006. The aircraft will take off and land conventionally from a standard airport runway using its jet engines.

At an altitude of about 12km, a rocket engine ignites, taking the vehicle to 60km. The propulsion system is then shut down and the Spaceplane's inertia takes it to over 100km, allowing passengers to hover weightlessly for several minutes. The entire trip takes 2 hours. (6/22)

Getting Ready for the Next Big Solar Storm (Source: NASA)
In Sept. 1859, on the eve of a below-average solar cycle, the sun unleashed one of the most powerful storms in centuries. The underlying flare was so unusual, researchers still aren't sure how to categorize it. The blast peppered Earth with the most energetic protons in half-a-millennium, induced electrical currents that set telegraph offices on fire, and sparked Northern Lights over Cuba and Hawaii.

This week, officials have gathered in Washington DC to ask themselves a simple question: What if it happens again? "A similar storm today might knock us for a loop," says Lika Guhathakurta, a solar physicist at NASA. "Modern society depends on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS, and satellite communications--all of which are vulnerable to solar storms."

In 1859 the worst-case scenario was a day or two without telegraph messages and a lot of puzzled sky watchers. In 2011, an avalanche of blackouts across continents could last for weeks to months as engineers struggle to repair damaged transformers. GPS could go down. Banking and financial networks might go offline. A century-class solar storm could have the economic impact of 20 hurricane Katrinas. Click here. (6/22)

Streamlined Islands Could Mean Ancient Oceans on Mars (Source: WIRED)
Teardrop-shaped formations on Mars could have formed deep underwater. A new study highlights surprising similarities between these Martian landforms and streaky seafloor mounds off the coast of Trinidad, bolstering evidence for an ancient ocean in Mars’ northern plains.

“Based on this analogy, I am humbly suggesting that teardrop-shaped islands on Mars formed underwater in a relatively deep ocean,” said geologist Lorena Moscardelli. Planetary scientists started suspecting Mars might have had a standing ocean in the late 1980s and 1990s, when images from the Viking Orbiter showed what looked like shorelines and river channels.

Images from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft revealed even more evidence that a lot of liquid had once surged through Chryse Planitia, including the raised, streamlined mounds Moscardelli calls teardrop-shaped islands. But whether they were carved out of dry land or underwater was unclear. (6/22)

Comm Failure After Japanese Earthquake Raises Questions (Source: Japanese in Space)
The post-earthquake communication system failure raises questions about the overall performance, reliability and robustness of Japan's "Local Authorities Satellite Communications Network" as well as the dedicated satellite networks known as "J-ALERT" and "SafetyBird." SafetyBird in particular includes a dedicated nuclear power plant early warning component, for example.

Did the severity of the Japan earthquake simply knock out satellite dishes in multiple locations by shaking them and therefore terminating the connection between ground equipment and their respective satellites? Or did power supply disruptions knock out satellite transmit and receive devices?

No explicit language in the report points a finger at the satellite ground segment, but the suggestion is too strong to ignore, and the results are too obvious to overlook. This report to the IAEA leaves many unanswered questions about the status of satellite communications in this instance. (6/22)

Monster Chinese Telescope the Next ET Hunter? (Source: Discovery)
In radio astronomy, the bigger the telescope, the better. And in 2016, the Chinese are expected to blow the international radio telescope competition out of the water with the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST). Construction has begun in the Guizhou Province in southern China. It not dissimilar to the famous Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. However, FAST will be bigger, faster and more sensitive than Arecibo.

FAST will contain 4,400 triangular aluminum panels, suspended inside the dish, each of which can be adjusted to deform the dish's overall shape. It will be able to "tilt" its viewing angle 40 degrees from the vertical in all directions, a luxury Arecibo never had. And its remote location is generally free of interfering radio transmissions.

The FAST concept began life as the Chinese contribution to the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA), but the SKA project will eventually find a home in either South Africa or Australia, using an array of smaller radio antennae. In 2006, China decided to go it alone with FAST and devoted funds to its construction. Here's what it will look like. (6/22)

Europe's Galileo Sat-Nav in Big Cash Boost (Source: BBC)
Sufficient savings have been found in Europe's Galileo sat-nav project for at least six additional spacecraft to be bought for the system before 2014. 500m euros (£440m) will become available to make the extra purchase, taking Europe's version of GPS from 18 operational satellites in the next few years to 24. This should make a big difference to Galileo's performance. (6/22)

Online Prices Soar for Atlantis Launch Tickets (Source: Florida Today)
John Milleker was so disheartened when he saw the prices listed on eBay for tickets to the last shuttle launch that he nixed traveling to Florida to watch the final liftoff. Packages of tickets are being offered for hundreds of dollars -- and as high as $5,000 -- on certain Web sites. That dwarfs the $20 to $65 price charged at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"Seeing how people were treating history put a bad taste in our mouth," said Milleker, an IT manager from Baltimore who became enamored with spaceflight after watching Atlantis launch last year during a NASA Tweetup event. While a shuttle launch can be seen for free at beaches and other spots around Brevard, tickets for a closer view have been in high demand for the final flights. (6/22)

Four or Five Soyuz Launches This Year From Kourou (Source: Itar-Tass).
Four to five commercial launches of Soyuz rocket carriers will be made under the program of the Russian-French joint venture Starsem before the end of the year, the head of Progress design bureau, Alexander Kirilin, said at the Paris Air Show. (6/22)

Discovery Prepares For Trip To Smithsonian (Source: WESH)
NASA provided reporters with a rare opportunity Tuesday to go inside a space shuttle orbiter. Discovery is being prepared for its final flight on the back of a Boeing 747 to Washington. Taking the steps that astronauts have taken is a familiar feeling to a select few space shuttle workers authorized to go inside an orbiter. Click here. (6/21)

Photos Show Discovery Being Stripped Bare at KSC (Source: Daily Mail)
And now Discovery, the oldest shuttle in NASA's fleet, is finally being stripped of her precious instruments as she prepares for her final journey to Washington D.C. These pictures show the berthed spacecraft being gutted of all but her super structure as crews ready the record breaking craft for her new home at the National Air and Space museum. (6/21)

Potential NASA Competition Puts MDA Deal at Risk (Source: Globe and Mail)
A deal worth $280-million for MacDonald Dettwiler is in jeopardy because of potential competition from one of the company’s key customers – NASA. MDA announced a preliminary deal with Intelsat to build a ground-breaking system to refuel and repair satellites while in orbit. Intelsat would be the anchor customer and also solicit business for MDA from the U.S. government, a key underpinning of the deal’s business plan.

NASA, under budget pressure, is now considering a commercial venture similar to MDA’s plan, a change from what had been previously been billed as an experiment to stoke private sector interest in the technology. NASA’s robotic refuelling mission, which itself depends on MDA robot technology, is set to launch on July 8 to the International Space Station, carried on the program’s final space shuttle flight. (6/21)

A Warning From the Rocket Men (Source: DOD Buzz)
Although everyone expects the U.S. and world defense budgets to hit a plateau at best and a decline at worst, the aerospace giants are keeping up an optimistic front: But there’s one sector that clearly wants to sound the alarm about the threat it sees in Austerity America: The space guys.

Top leaders with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne warned that possible spending cuts and ongoing government indecision could hurt or even kill America’s space industry. Rocketdyne president Jim Maser said that if NASA doesn’t make a decision about its next big rocket program by the end of the year, it could begin losing engineers and other talented people.

And if the government takes too long to pick a new direction for NASA, it might not be possible to fully reconstitute the U.S. space industry. How does this affect DoD? The military is a huge user of space, and with the pending demise of the space shuttle, there are fewer options for the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office and other space-users to get their satellites into orbit. (6/21)

Rutan: NewSpace Progress Slower Than Hoped (Source: MSNBC)
The mastermind behind the first privately funded spaceship says he's disappointed by the pace of progress since SpaceShipOne took its historic trip, seven years ago today. Burt Rutan has retired from Scaled Composites and is now living in North Idaho, hundreds of miles from California's Mojave Air and Space Port.

When SpaceShipOne broke the space barrier on June 21, 2004, Rutan was hoping he'd be one of the first passengers on a commercial flight to the edge of space, more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) up. He even said he wanted to "go to the moon in my lifetime" and "see my grandchildren go to the more interesting moons of Jupiter and Saturn."

Today, folks are still talking about the possibility of sending passengers around the moon — perhaps by 2015. It doesn't look as if anyone will be going to the moons of Jupiter or Saturn anytime in the next few decades, though, and even that first private-sector passenger flight to space has not yet taken place. "Yes, disappointed that progress has been slow," Rutan wrote. (6/21)

USC Engineering Seeks Florida Students (Source: USC)
On July 12 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering will host an information session for prospective students to learn more about the engineering graduate education opportunities available at USC, while continuing to work full-time and without re-locating to Los Angeles. Visit http://mapp.usc.edu/infosession. (6/21)

Go Boldly to Sci-Fi Summer at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: KSCVC)
Experience the maiden voyage of Sci-Fi Summer: Where Science Fiction Meets Science Fact. Now through September 5, 2011, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is hosting Sci-Fi Summer, a celebration of the last 50 years of human spaceflight and science fiction during this limited-time exhibition. (6/21)

Canada and the Final Frontier (Source: BC Local News)
Canada's contribution to space exploration is revealed – and celebrated – in the Surrey Museum's highly-anticipated summer exhibition, Stellar Space. A year in the making, and created in collaboration with the likes of the Canadian Space Agency, the exhibition finally opens this Saturday, offering visitors a deeper respect for Canada's scientific strength and ingenuity. (6/21)

LightSquared Reworks Plans to Avoid GPS Interference (Source: Fierce Wireless)
LightSquared said it will use a 10 MHz chunk of L-band spectrum that is in the lower portion of its spectrum holdings to launch its wholesale LTE network as a way to mitigate GPS interference concerns. The company, which has been embroiled in a fight with the GPS industry and government agencies over how much its network interferes with GPS receivers, said its proposed solution will be a way to preserve GPS and get its network off the ground. (6/21)

GPS Companies Still Have a Problem with LightSquared (Source: Kansas City Business Journal)
LightSquared's move within the L-band spectrum was met with criticism from a group formed to block LightSquared from using the very frequency in question. According to the Coalition to Save our GPS: "This latest gambit by LightSquared borders on the bizarre. Last week, LightSquared unilaterally delayed filing of the study report that culminated months of intensive work to evaluate interference to GPS because they purportedly needed two more weeks to analyze the results..."

"Days later, well before the report is scheduled to be filed, LightSquared unilaterally announces that it has found a ‘solution.’ [This] is nothing but a ‘Hail Mary’ move. Confining its operation to the lower MSS band still interferes with many critical GPS receivers in addition to the precision receivers that even LightSquared concedes will be affected... It is time for LightSquared to move out of the MSS band.” (6/21)

Arianespace to Launch Astra 5B Satellite (Source: Arianespace)
SES, the Luxembourg-based satellite operator, has chosen Arianespace as primary launch provider for its Astra 5B satellite, within the scope of the “Multi Launch Agreement” between the two companies. The launch is planned for mid-year 2013. Weighing about 5,800 kg at liftoff, Astra 5B will be boosted into geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane 5 launcher operating from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. (6/21)

Aerojet, QinetiQ and EADS Astrium Crisa to Market Ion Propulsion System (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet, QinetiQ, and EADS Astrium Crisa have entered into a joint agreement to supply the XENITH (Xenon Ion Thruster) ion propulsion system to the worldwide commercial spacecraft market. Built around the ultra high-efficient T6 ion thruster developed by QinetiQ, the XENITH propulsion system will provide a reduction in propellant consumed by more than a factor of 12 over conventional chemical propulsion systems. (6/21)

ISU Summer Session Coming to Space Coast in 2012 (Source: NSCFL)
The International Space University (ISU) 2012 Space Studies Program (SSP12) will convene at the Florida Institute of Technology, in partnership with NASA Kennedy Space Center, on June 4 – August 3, 2012. Organizers invite sponsorships by Space Coast businesses to show their support for continuing education in space studies. More information can be found in the attached flyer. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor contact Delilah Caballero at dcaballe@fit.edu. (6/22)

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