July 1, 2011

A New Home for Falcon-9 Processing at the Cape (Source: SPACErePORT)
Last month, Space Florida's board of directors approved several infrastructure investments at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. One of those investments was apparently intended to meet SpaceX's need for expansion at the spaceport. With limited room at a Launch Complex 40 building for horizontal processing of Falcon-9 rockets, and scant extra room in the same facility for work on Dragon capsules, SpaceX was looking at excess facilities within the CCAFS Industrial Area nearby. With support from Space Florida and the Air Force 45th Space Wing, SpaceX is now modifying the Delta Mission Checkout (DMCO) facility--which formerly supported Delta-2 rocket processing--for Falcon-9 operations. (7/1)

Celestis Plans Next Earth Orbit Memorial Launch from Florida (Source: Celestis)
CElestis' next Earth Orbit Service mission, The New Frontier Flight, is scheduled to launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida during Q3/Q4 of this year, carrying cremated remains for several customers. If you've ever considered viewing one of our launches in person there's probably no better place to do that than sunny Florida! With attractions such as NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and beautiful Cocoa Beach, you will find plenty to do in addition to viewing our exciting liftoff. We'll post more details about The New Frontier Flight as the launch date approaches. Click here. (7/1)

New Private Space Plane Has NASA Roots (Source: Space.com)
The next-generation spaceship chosen to fly American astronauts into orbit and back may look a lot like NASA's soon-to-be-retired space shuttle — and it even has NASA roots, too. The Dream Chaser space plane, a private spaceship under development by the firm Sierra Nevada Corp., is in the running to provide orbital taxi services to NASA for trips to the International Space Station. The Dream Chaser vehicle looks much like a miniature version of the space shuttle, and its design is based largely on the HL-20, a NASA concept vehicle first drawn up in the early 1980s. (7/1)

NASA Foresees 2-Year Final Shuttle Retirement Phase (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s long-running shuttle program will transition quickly into a two-year final retirement phase – marked by thousands of reassignments of federal civil servants and contractor layoffs – once Atlantis touches down. “The program will end 30 days after wheel stop,” NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon told a June 30 news briefing. Atlantis is expected to return to KSC on July 20.

Shannon counts a 5,500-person contractor workforce and 1,200 federal employees, most of them stretching from Utah to Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Shuttle retirement activities, which began three years ago, have claimed orbiters Endeavour and Discovery, which concluded their final flights on June 1 and March 9. The workforce will fall by 3,200 personnel, most of them at KSC, within days of Atlantis’s anticipated Florida homecoming. By late August, the combined shuttle workforce will drop to 1,000 as the orbiter’s initial de-servicing is completed, Shannon says.

Over the next two years, the numbers will continue to decline as NASA dispositions shuttle hardware. The dwindling retirement team will start with shuttle equipment at NASA installations and finish with property at off-site facilities, according to the program manager. The program counted 16,000 contractors and 1,800 government personnel during the early phase of space station assembly a decade ago. (7/1)

China in Space: Not Time for Bright, Shiny Objects (Source: AOL News)
As America's Space Shuttle program comes to an end, commentators often link that event to the view that the US is abrogating leadership in space to the Chinese. The Shuttle, however, is one part of a much larger US space program, and replacing it will be part of a new US approach to space, one relevant to the globalized world, recognizing economic realities, and the dual use nature of most space technology which makes military considerations an imperative part of US considerations.

The Chinese are moving forward to replicate human and lunar space feats accomplished by the US more than 40 years ago. The Chinese are also expanding their military space capabilities. How do Chinese plans impact the US? As the US contemplates implementation of the 2010 National Space Policy (NSP), the time is right for sorting through what space activities the Chinese are doing that the US should be concerned with, and what has been a distraction. It's time to sort out the bright, shiny objects of China's space activities from the real threats and prioritize consequent US space efforts. Click here. (7/1)

Two More Moonlets for Jupiter (Source: Sky & Telescope)
There was a time when finding a new planetary satellite brought praise and publicity to the discoverer. But those days are gone, apparently. Word from the IAU's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams is that observers have spotted two tiny moonlets around Jupiter. I confess I only stumbled across the CBAT's June 1st announcement a few days ago. And the discoveries themselves were made 10 months ago, when Jupiter was enjoying its closest opposition to Earth at any time between 1963 and 2022. (7/1)

Transformers Has Real-Life NASA Touches (Source: Space.com)
The latest installment of the "Transformers" film franchise may be packed with Hollywood special effects, but sometimes all that high-tech fakery doesn't hold a candle to the real thing. That’s why the film's creators turned to NASA for help. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which opened June 29, creates an alternate version ofNASA's Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 (in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin find a robot alien spaceship) as a major plot point, then puts the agency's space shuttle Discovery — and some employees — in the spotlight. Director Michael Bay filmed Discovery on the launch pad at KSC last October, with some shuttle workers appearing as extras in the scenes. (7/1)

Rockets Scheduled to Launch in July and August (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A Delta IV is scheduled to launch the GPS IIF-2 mission on July 14. The mission, which will be the second of the United States Air Force’s next-generation GPS satellites, will launch from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport between 2:49 a.m. and 3:08 a.m. The next rocket to launch will be Atlas V 551, which is scheduled to launch the Juno mission for NASA on August 5. It will launch from Space Launch Complex-41 with the goal of improving our understanding of the planet Jupiter. (7/1)

Inspector General: NASA Faces 'Multiple Challenges and Risks' (Source: Florida Today)
NASA must protect against cost increases in developing commercial rockets while providing a reliable — and safe — way for people to reach the International Space Station post-shuttle, the agency’s inspector general warned this week. Demand for commercial rockets will increase after Atlantis’ planned July 8 launch, the last of the shuttle program. Inspector General Paul Martin warned that “NASA faces multiple challenges and risks” as it becomes a full-fledged transportation program. Click here. (7/1) -

Chiao on the End of the Shuttle Program and Future of Space Pleasure Cruises (Source: Vanity Fair)
After NASA enjoys a summer of astronaut nostalgia and commemorative T-shirts... what then? Maybe all of those rumblings about space tourism will actually come to pass, and NASA will get a second lease on life. Even if space travel becomes as widely accessible as Caribbean cruises, there’s a good chance it’ll be just as disappointing as Caribbean cruises.

Once you get past the awesomeness of being in space, a space cruise will probably cost too much, the meals will be tasteless and the drinks overpriced, most of the other passengers will be cranky retirees, and your cramped cabin won’t even have a good view of Earth. To get the skinny on the future of terrible vacations in space, I called retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, former commander of the Expedition 10 and tenant of the International Space Station. He was kind of a bad-ass, because there’s no such thing as an astronaut who’s not a bad-ass. Click here. (7/1)

Apollo Veterans Warn of Shuttle Retirement's Risk to ISS (Source: SpaceRef.com)
"We believe that the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet after the flight of STS-135 next month will create an unacceptable flight risk for maintaining safe and reliable operations of the International Space Station (ISS). As you well know, the shuttles are the only spacecraft that can provide independent spacewalks for critical ISS repairs."

"If an incident or life support failure rendered the ISS uninhabitable, repair spacewalks to restore operations would not be possible from the space station. In a worst case scenario, deterioration and loss of systems on an abandoned ISS could result in an uncontrolled, catastrophic reentry with risks to populated areas around the world." Click here to read the letter. (7/1)

Lockheed Preps Deep-Space Successor (Source: Denver Business Journal)
The upcoming final mission of NASA’s space shuttle fleet has cast a spotlight on Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ work building the next spacecraft for U.S. astronauts. NASA asked Lockheed Martin Space Systems to have its test version of the Orion capsule spaceship — renamed the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) — available to the media at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for the shuttle launch scheduled for July 8. (7/1)

Eumetsat Members Withhold Approval of Weather Satellite Constellation (Source: Space News)
Europe’s meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat, will spend the next three months trying to persuade its member nations to finance a next-generation polar-orbiting satellite constellation following its inability to win unanimous approval for the work the week of June 27, a senior Eumetsat official said July 1.

While the delay will not by itself cause problems for the second-generation polar system, called EPS-SG, it illustrates the concern that many of Eumetsat’s 26 member nations have about government spending, even for programs whose value is not questioned, the official said. (7/1)

India's PSLV Launch on July 15 (Source: The Hindu)
Preparations are on in top gear for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV- C17) from Sriharikota on July 15 between 4.48 p.m. and 5.08 p.m. The rocket will put into orbit communication satellite GSAT-12. Both the launch vehicle and the satellite were built by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The satellite that weighs 1,410 kg has 12 extended C-band transponders. (7/1)

NASA's Costly Space Ride (Source: Guardian)
The final launch of the NASA space shuttle takes place next week. Dreamed up more than 50 years ago, the shuttle was seen as a first step for the new high frontier: as a nimble all-purpose vehicle to carry people, hardware, groceries, air and water into orbit and then come back for more. It followed on from the Apollo moon program – billion-dollar throwaway technology where everything was used only once.

The shuttle program was initially authorized in 1969 – the year in which visionaries, and politicians too, dreamed of human colonies on Mars and the moon, and slowly-wheeling satellite cities of 10,000 people or more, exploiting the riches of captive asteroids, all by 2001. By the time it was launched 30 years ago, the Star Trek dream had faded, and the cold war had cruelly intensified.

The shuttle was by then a military tool, and an awkward compromise: a plane-shaped rocket that had to be flown from California landing strip to Florida launch pad on the back of a jumbo jet; a rocket-powered plane that must glide home from near-Earth orbit with the help of computers and a crazy flight path. Today, at the end of three decades in service, the shuttle looks increasingly like an idea that took Nasa for an expensive ride. (7/1)

Filmmakers Use Social Media to Record Legacy of the Space Program (Source: Space Crowd)
On July 8, millions of people will watch coverage of the last space shuttle flight and remember a moment in time when all things became possible. "The Space Crowd," which chronicles the US Space Shuttle program through the eyes of the American public, produce the film, a "Sociomentary." The film, made in cooperation with NASA, captures personalities, activities and stories from NASA's biggest fans as they countdown the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the end of the Shuttle program.

Hundreds of people will be featured in an upcoming film about the US Space Program. You could be featured in the movie too. Join The Space Crowd: Contribute shuttle-related stories to upcoming film. The Space Crowd, an independent film by two Wisconsin-based filmmakers, Troy Janisch and Mike Klein, along with Boston filmmaker, Tom Koulopoulos, will document the memories of the space program as well as the July 8th event for NASA in a documentary that will be released in early 2012. (7/1)

Uncle Sam Sues Florida Astronaut for Return of Space Camera (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Strapped for cash, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell didn't think twice about auctioning off a camera he brought back from the moon 40 years ago. But Uncle Sam thought about it - plenty. The federal government Thursday sued the 80-year-old suburban Lake Worth man, claiming he was trying to sell property that wasn't his.

"Defendant Edgar Mitchell is a former NASA employee who is exercising improper dominion and control over a NASA Data Acquisition Camera," government attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court. They are asking U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley to order Mitchell to return the camera immediately. Mitchell, who gained fame in 1971 when he became the sixth man to walk on the moon and has remained in the limelight by lecturing about his beliefs in alien landings and paranormal activity, scoffed at the government's claims. (7/1)

Let the Sun Shine In (Source: Economist)
“Reason”, a short story written by Isaac Asimov that was published in 1941, is set on a space station which collects solar energy from the sun and sends it, via microwave beams, to earth and other planets. The robots that control the beams are under the command of a more advanced model called Cutie, which turns out to have developed its own religion, and ignores the wishes of two astronauts who visit the station. Today it is not just robots in science-fiction tales who are believers in the wonders of space solar power (SSP); the idea also has a small but growing number of human adherents.

The basic idea is simple. Light from the sun is the most abundant and cleanest source of energy available in the solar system. Around the clock, 1.3 gigawatts of energy pour through every square kilometer of space around the earth. This energy could be captured by vast arrays of photovoltaic cells mounted on a satellite in orbit around the planet. These solar cells would be illuminated at all times of day, whatever the weather or the season. And with no atmosphere in the way to absorb or scatter the incoming sunlight, solar panels in space would produce over five times as much energy as those on the ground.

Although there may not be any technical difficulty with the idea, the economics are another matter. The main obstacle to SSP is the huge cost of launching the satellites into space. Conventional electricity in America costs between four cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for hydro-electric power (the cheapest kind) and ten cents for coal-fired generation. Even under the most optimistic scenario, SSP would produce electricity at a cost of around 50 cents per kWh with existing technology. It sounds hopeless. Yet recent developments mean that advocates of SSP are more optimistic than ever before. Click here. (7/1)

Private Companies Hold the Key to Space Travel's Future (Source: CNN)
There are no roller coasters near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. No Ferris wheels, either. Yet this desert town could soon be a hot destination for thrill-seekers from around the world. That's because nearby, within New Mexico's high desert valley, is the future home of Spaceport America -- the world's first commercial spaceport. And it's the first stop for those who want to travel into space.

"People used to tell me it would be impossible to build your own spaceship and your own spaceship company and take people into space," says Richard Branson, who heads Virgin Galactic. "That's the sort of challenge that I love: to prove them wrong." While Branson's company is geared toward tourism, other companies are trying to win contracts to carry supplies and people to the Space Station. NASA has already paid out about $1 billion to several companies to help them develop cargo- and crew-carrying ability. NASA says this will allow it to concentrate on missions to the moon, Mars, or to an asteroid. (7/1)

Shuttle's End Will Reverberate in Texas and Beyond (Source: Economist)
Those were the days. For nearly 50 years the Johnson Space Center in Houston has dominated the city’s cultural and economic life. The Space Center is an economic anchor for the region. It employs more than 18,000 people, and the statewide economic impact of NASA spending in 2009 was nearly $3 billion. It has helped draw about 50 aerospace contractors to the region, lured by several billion dollars’-worth of government contracts.

The job losses will be most extensive in Texas and in Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. They will be especially painful for Florida, which had a 10.6% unemployment rate last month—a grim figure that nevertheless marks a two-year low. Houston has a more resilient economy, but it worries about a brain drain. “The only area where we’ve been able to maintain a leadership role is in technology,” said George Abbey. NASA says that the shuttles will be succeeded by new leaps forward. If those fail to materialize, it is not just Florida and Texas that will lose out. (7/1)

Dish Network Close To Getting Wireless Airwaves (Source: Investors.com)
Satellite TV broadcaster Dish Network's radio spectrum holdings will soon rival those of the nation's wireless phone companies. Just what Dish Network will do with those airwaves is the source of growing speculation. Dish Network as soon as Tuesday could cinch a deal to buy the radio spectrum licenses of bankrupt telecommunications firm TerreStar Networks for $1.37 billion. When combined with Dish Network's other spectrum, the TerreStar deal will make the satellite broadcaster one of the biggest airwave holders.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, co-owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone, own the most spectrum. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, which AT&T is seeking regulators' approval to buy, come next. With TerreStar's spectrum, Dish Network would rank right behind T-Mobile and ahead of MetroPCS Communications and many other wireless players, says Bryan Kraft, analyst at Evercore Partners. Dish Network does not sell speedy Internet access. While it could build a wireless broadband network, that's not likely, analysts say.

Still, Kraft says it's possible Dish could partner with a wireless services provider to gain a broadband product. "Ideally, Dish Network would like to contribute the spectrum for cash or equity and reach a wholesale agreement with a wireless operator," he said. (7/1)

LightSquared to FCC: We Can Fix GPS Issues (Source: CNET)
LightSquared, the hedge-fund-backed start-up that plans to build a nationwide wireless 4G network using both satellite and land-based spectrum, filed its official plan for reducing interference between its service and GPS navigation systems. LightSquared acknowledged earlier this month that its initial network plan interfered with GPS navigation devices, such as those used in cars, on boats, and by the U.S. Department of Defense. But the company said its new proposal will solve most of those issues. And the company called on the GPS community, which has been critical of LightSquared's plans, to help it resolve the remaining issues.

"This issue will be resolved by good data, smart engineers and good-faith problem-solving dialogue," Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared CEO, said in a statement. "The end result will be continuity for the reliable and safe GPS system we have come to depend on along with a new high-speed wireless network that will provide huge benefits to consumers."

In the detailed report to the FCC, the company said it would use a new block of spectrum that is further away from the GPS frequencies and thus will cause less interference. The company has said that this would reduce interference for 99.5 percent of GPS devices in service. To mitigate interference among the remaining devices, LightSquared said it would work with the GPS community to resolve the issues. (7/1)

Hawaii Needs Satellite Broadband Service (Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)
Innovation has always played a prominent role throughout the culture and history of Hawaii beginning with King David Kalakaua, who envisioned a modern communications service for the islands. He put his vision into practice by installing a modern communications system at Iolani Palace that included the recently invented telephone and also granted the first telephone charter in the kingdom in 1883, all of which was revolutionary for the time.

Today, the Obama administration's plan to "win the future" involves the 21st-century equivalent of island innovation, extending far and wide access to high-speed Internet service, a critical component of modern communications infrastructure. And while significant investment and innovation have brought wireline broadband to more than 95 percent of American households, wireless broadband is fighting what seems to be a losing battle to keep up with consumers' voracious appetite for bandwidth, the demand for which doubles every two years.

But America and Hawaii can't afford to wait. With an improved high-speed Internet infrastructure, our access to the best teachers and doctors would no longer be limited by geography. Small businesses would be able to access markets worldwide without the costs of travel or long-distance phone bills. (7/1)

Boeing Spends $4.1M Lobbying on Space, Defense (Source: Forbes)
Airplane maker and defense contractor Boeing spent almost $4.1 million in the first quarter lobbying the government on space issues, pilot training, and other aerospace and defense issues. Boeing gets about half of its revenue from defense work and space exploration. Its lobbying included NASA funding, funding for the International Space Station, commercial spaceflight and science education. (7/1)

Families of Challenger Astronauts Support Future Human Spaceflight (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Human spaceflight is one of the greatest enterprises America has ever undertaken--making discoveries, creating inventions, producing role models and educational motivations for our youth, and serving as a strong example of US world leadership. Since the mid-20th century, NASA has led our Nation and the world in this great undertaking. Today, however, we no longer live in the 20th century--but instead the 21st century. This is a century with new challenges and also new opportunities.

If the U.S. wishes to continue its leadership in human spaceflight during these challenging economic times, setting an example for all the world to follow, we believe that it must vigorously support the development of new human spaceflight capabilities in the private sector. We, the families of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew and founders of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education--heroes we lost to further the exploration of space--strongly support the continuation of human spaceflight under a new paradigm of commercially led efforts to low earth orbit, and government led efforts beyond. (7/1)

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