June 9, 2011

Aquarius Launch Pushed Back to Friday (Source: Florida Today)
The launch from California of a sea salt-mapping NASA science instrument has been pushed back from Thursday to Friday. NASA said extra time was needed to resolve an inconsistency found in the software that will help a Delta II rocket steer through upper-level winds. The launch time Friday is the same, targeted for the opening of a five-minute window at 10:20 a.m. Eastern time. Editor's Note: Dozens of launch and payload support personnel from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (NASA KSC and United Launch Alliance) are in California to support this launch. (6/9)

Curiosity Mars Rover Can Launch This Year (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's independent watchdog warned Wednesday that the flagship Mars super-rover is flirting with another costly delay, but the space agency countered that the mission remains on track to launch this year. The NASA Inspector General report said the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, already two years late, may need more money to overcome continued technical challenges in the limited time remaining this year. (6/9)

Veteran US Astronaut Still Passionate About Space Travel (Source: China Daily)
Nearly 40 years since his milestone trip to the Moon, Eugene Cernan remains passionate about space. On a visit to Shanghai, Cernan shared his experiences of space flight and discussed the importance of flight safety with Chinese pilots. In his 20 years as a naval aviator, including 13 years with NASA, Cernan made his mark with three historic space missions, including one as the lunar module pilot of Apollo XVII, the final Moon landing mission.

Cernan said he was not a stranger in China because he had "walked throughout China" decades ago. "On my very first flight in Earth orbit, I did a spacewalk, and I walked across all of China in 15 minutes," he said. "We will go back to the Moon, and I believe we will go to Mars within the next generation and a half, and we will do it as an international community," he added.

Concerning China's lunar landing plan, he said China's space program is very logical. "I look forward to the day when they can join us with" putting people on the Moon, he told China Daily. (6/9)

Bill Would Cut Pay For Laid-Off Shuttle Workers (Source: Aviation Week)
A bill pending before Florida Gov. Rick Scott would cut severance pay for laid-off workers when calculating unemployment benefits, a policy that could affect thousands of NASA contractors sidelined by the space shuttle’s retirement. If Scott, a Republican who supported earlier versions of the bill as it wound through the legislative process, signs the new law, the double-pay benefits would stop effective Aug. 1.

NASA currently plans to launch its final space shuttle mission, STS-135, on July 8 and land on July 20. Two days later, prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance (USA) intends to lay off about 1,900 of its workers in Florida. Terminations after Aug. 1 would be subject to the new regulations, if Scott signs the bill. Delays launching Atlantis likely would affect when USA’s layoffs take effect.

According to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, the bill would eliminate unemployment benefits for a particular week if a claimant’s severance pay is equal to or greater than his or her weekly benefit amount. If severance pay is less than the weekly benefit amount, the amount would be deducted from the unemployment compensation. (6/9)

Technology Advances are New 'Space Race' (Source: Daily Comet)
A NASA official says this generation's "space race" is developing new aerospace technology faster than other countries. Michael Gazarik, deputy chief technologist at the agency, said that aerospace engineers have big problems to solve in coming years. He said they need to figure out how to get humans and large equipment to land on other planets, particularly Mars. (6/9)

Comtech Still Hungry for an Acquisition (Source: Space News)
Satellite telecommunications ground equipment provider Comtech Telecommunications Corp. on June 8 said a merger or acquisition remains a top priority as it transitions from being heavily focused on U.S. military work to a smaller, albeit more international, company. (6/9)

DiBello to Discuss "Florida on the Move" (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida President Frank DiBello will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral. His presentation is titled "Florida on the Move."

DiBello was selected in May 2009 to lead Space Florida, which serves as the single point of contact for aerospace-related economic development in Florida. He has more than 40 years of aerospace and defense industry-related experience. (6/9)

China's Second Moon Orbiter Chang'e-2 Goes to Deeper Space (Source: Xinhua)
China's second moon orbiter Chang'e-2 on Thursday set off from its moon orbit for outer space about 1.5 million km away from the earth, Chinese scientists said. The orbiter left its moon orbit at 5:10 p.m. and it will take about 85 days for the orbiter to reach outer space. "It's the first time in the world for a satellite to be set off from the moon in remote outer space," said Zhou Jianliang of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC). (6/9)

Second X-51 Hypersonic Flight Imminent (Source: Flight Global)
Boeing says the second flight of the X-51 hypersonic waverider is planned for the week of 13 June. The first flight of the revolutionary scramjet, in 2010, was hailed as a technological leap. The X-51 was the first hypersonic vehicle to fly using conventional hydrocarbon gas instead of more exotic fuels. It was able to actively circulate fuel to dissipate heat, a major concern of hypersonic flight. The scramjet engine burned for 140s, half its intended burn, before an engine seal failure. (6/9)

Aerospace Job Fair to be Held in Texas (Source: Ultimate Clear Lake)
Contractor Aerospace Recruiting Expo will host a job fair at the Clear Creek Education Village on June 15. Contractor Aerospace Recruiting Expo has partnered with Workforce Solutions to organize a recruiting exposition for highly skilled and experienced professionals displaced because of NASA’s reorganization.

Job seekers attending the event will have experience in aerospace, mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, budget analysis, and more. Employers interested in recruiting should register at junecare.eventbrite.com. A registration fee of $50, which includes two lunches, is required. (6/9)

Florida DOT Posts Report on Spaceport Regulation (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Department of Transportation sponsored a newly released review of state and federal spaceport regulatory issues. The report was prepared by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and can be downloaded here. This was the first space-related research project sponsored by FDOT's Research Center, which typically supports projects focused on highway technology development. (6/9)

Space Florida Board Approves Millions for New Projects
(Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board of directors met in Tallahassee on Wednesday and approved a dozen new projects put forward by the agency's staff. The projects, which include multiple infrastructure investments, launch service purchases, prototype system purchases, and grant program investments, could total $18.4 million. The agency will use a mix of state-appropriated funding and innovative financing for the projects.

This was expected to be the final meeting of the board in its current structure, with only four remaining members present. The board will be restructured in coming weeks or months as Governor Rick Scott appoints new members, as required by new legislation that reorganized the state's economic development programs. (6/9)

Space Florida Approves Matching Investment in Research Grant Fund (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida will invest $125,000 to match and leverage NASA funding that will be used by the Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) for its annual grant program for Florida-based space education and research projects. The grant program is designed for university-based projects that support the diversification of Florida's role in space-related research and technology development. (6/9)

Space Florida Expands its Spaceport Territory (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's enabling law, Chapter 331, Part 2, Florida Statutes, establishes "spaceport territories" where the agency is especially empowered to support spaceflight and space industry development programs. These territories originallly included the "Cape Canaveral Spaceport" (the combined landmass of Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station), Patrick Air Force Base, and part of Eglin Air Force Base where suborbital rockets were launched by the agency in the 1990s.

The Space Florida board on Wednesday established a new Spaceport Territory at Cecil Field near Jacksonville, home of a recently FAA-licensed spaceport for horizontal launch/landing vehicles. The designation will, among other things, facilitate the flow of Florida Dept. of Transportation funding to Cecil Field for spaceport infrastructure.

The empowerment related to Spaceport Territories in Chapter 331 has always been somewhat vague. To clarify and improve Space Florida's capabilities within these territories, the agency intends to pursue legislation in 2012. (6/9)

Contractors Eye $3.8B USAF Support Contract (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force plans to fold operations, maintenance, systems engineering and sustainment work at the Eastern and Western Test Ranges and the Space and Missile Systems Center into a single contract, estimated to be worth about $3.8 billion over 10 years.

The draft request for proposals for the U.S. Air Force Launch & Test Range Systems Integrated Support Contract, or LISC, is expected to be released this month. Boeing on June 7 formally announced its entry into the competition. Other LISC contenders are expected to include a team led by Raytheon and a joint venture called InSpace21 backed by CSC and Honeywell. The Air Force is expected to make its LISC contract award in early 2012. (6/8)

Homemade Personal Spacecraft Launches (Source: National Geographic)
Private spaceflight took one giant step forward this week when the Tycho Brahe craft lifted off atop the HEAT-1X rocket engine Friday (pictured) from a platform in the Baltic Sea. A group of Danish volunteers launched the homemade spacecraft from the floating platform Sputnik, located near the Danish island of Bornholm, according to the Copenhagen Post.

During its test flight, Tycho Brahe reached a height of 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers), the Post reported. The eventual goal is be to send the craft nearly a hundred miles (160 kilometers) into space, or about halfway to the International Space Station. Named after a 16th-century Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe (TEE-ko brah) holds one person—or, as in Friday's test flight, one crash-test dummy. (6/8)

Russia and Israel Cooperate on Nanosatellites (Source: Flight Global)
Two Israeli companies and a Russian university have joined forces to develop nanosatellite technology. Russian Israeli Nanosatellite Initiatives (RINI) brings together Tusur, the Tomsk State University of Controlsystems and Electronics, and two Israeli companies - Spacecialist and Astelion. RINI will set up an enterprise center that will develop and operate small satellites weighing up to 10kg (22lb). (6/8)

Solar Flare Sparks Biggest Eruption Ever Seen on Sun (Source: National Geographic)
A mushroom of cooled plasma popped like a pimple and rained onto the surface of the sun yesterday—shooting perhaps the largest amount of solar material into space ever seen, scientists say. The solar flare—an unusually bright spot on the sun—wasn't surprising as a "moderate" event. Space observatories in the past year recorded about 70 such solar flares, each roughly ten times weaker than "extreme" flares, of which only two have occurred since 2007.

Instead, what shocked scientists was the unusual amount of material that lofted up, expanded, and fell back down over roughly half the surface area of the sun. The event's simultaneous launch of particles into space is called a coronal mass ejection (CME). "This totally caught us by surprise," said astrophysicist Phillip Chamberlin of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), one of several spacecraft that recorded the event. (6/8)

Could Saturn's Moon Enceladus Nurture Alien Life? (Source: Discovery)
There has been a lot of publicity this year about the search for "potentially habitable planets" around other stars. The public has been repeatedly reminded of the search for planets in a star's much coveted habitable zone where the "Goldilocks" temperature is "just right" for liquid water to exist.

The irony is, however, that the nearest form of extraterrestrial life in the solar system may only be 1 billion miles away, say astrobiologists. At that distance, the sun is a feeble 1/100th its brightness as seen from Earth, and therefore temperatures are a chilly -330 Fahrenheit (-200 degrees Celsius). Out here, the majority of solar system bodies froze rock solid billions of years ago.

But the unlikely oasis is Saturn's frost-covered moon Enceladus. This would be a place for life on the edge, so say scientists at a recent meeting of the Enceladus Focus Group at the SETI Institute. In Voyager spacecraft photos taken in the early 1980s it was clear that Enceladus has a young surface. Whole craters appear to be wiped out by smoother, and therefore younger terrain. This was seen as evidence for water-ice volcanoes. (6/8)

Hang-Fire Scrubs NASA Suborbital Launch at Wallops Island (Source: NASA)
A new microsatellite designed to give scientists less expensive access to space was to be demonstrated during a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital rocket flight on June 9, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Everything was going well as the countdown reached zero, then nothing. "We have a hang fire. The launch signal was sent, but nothing happened. Now we wait 30 minutes for safety before inspecting the craft," said a NASA tweet. The backup launch day is June 10. (6/9)

NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA plans a new Centennial Challenge to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The prize purse is $1.5 million. The detailed rules and competition plans will be announced in the coming months. The competition is expected to occur in 2012. More information is available at http://wp.wpi.edu/challenge/ and www.nasa.gov/challenges. (6/9)

NASA Night Rover Challenge For Energy Storage Technology (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA plans a new Centennial Challenge to demonstrate a solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million. Detailed rules and plans will be announced in the coming months. The competition is expected to occur in 2011. More information is available at www.nasa.gov/challenges. NASA has not yet selected a partner to manage this challenge. (6/9)

Space Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows (Source: Washington Examiner)
Staffers for California's Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were no doubt nonplussed to discover that their bosses had been praised by the Tea Party on Monday. It's all of a piece of the political bizarro world in which space policy has been immersed for the last year and a half, ever since the Obama administration canceled the disastrous Constellation program in favor of a more commercial approach, and the response of many supposed conservatives in Congress was to demand a "public option."

So, how did the two senators earn the support of the Florida Tea Partiers? The Senators' call for competitive sourcing of NASA's proposed heavy-lift rocket was music to the ears of both the Competitive Space Task Force and Tea Party in Space, a Florida-based group that promotes a vigorous but fiscally responsible space program (something exactly the opposite of what those who make space policy on the Hill seem to want). (6/8)

Orbital Sciences Closes on $300 Million Credit Deal (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has signed on to a five-year, $300 million credit facility to help it with growth. The deal for Orbital replaces a $100 million revolving credit facility that was set to expire next year. The company has large operations in Arizona that work on various public and private space programs.

The new credit facility was led by Wells Fargo and co-arranged by Citi and Bank of America. The credit can be increased up to $450 million, depending on the availability of funding and additional commitments from the lenders. (6/8)

NASA Offers Grants For 2012 University Competitions (Source: NASA)
The NASA Minority Innovation Challenges Institute (MICI) is offering opportunities for minority serving institutions to apply for a $5,000 grant to enter the 2012 University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) or Lunabotics Mining Competition. Applications for both competitions are due June 30.

USLI challenges students to design, build and launch to an altitude of one mile a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload. The project engages students in scientific research and real-world engineering processes with NASA engineers. The competition will take place at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in April 2012.

The Lunabotics competition challenges students to design and build remote controlled robots that can excavate simulated lunar dirt. During the event, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can collect and deposit the most dirt within 15 minutes. This competition will take place at Kennedy Space Center in May 2012. (6/8)

Human Bones Taken to ISS for Experiments (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s second manned digital-series Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft that was launched from the Baikonur space centre in the small hours on Wednesday will take to the International Space Station (ISS) fragments of human bones, for the first time in the entire history of space flights.

“The fragments of human bones will be used to study the causes and dynamics of decalcination of bone tissue in a long space flight,” the head of the experiment, Tatiana Krasheninnikova said. The problem of decalcination is a headache for medics responsible for spacemen’s health. However it is impossible to take sample of spacemen’s bones, only their urine is being examined, and a complete picture of dynamics of changes in human bones is not clear, she noted. (6/8)

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