July 14, 2011

Sea Launch on Track to Loft Eutelsat Payload (Source: Sea Launch)
Eutelsat has assigned the launch of its Atlantic Bird 7 communications satellite to Sea Launch. The satellite will be lofted into an optimized geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) on board the reliable Zenit 3SL. The launch will occur from Sea Launch’s Odyssey launch platform after its transit to the equatorial launch site located at 154 degrees West longitude, in international waters of the Pacific Ocean. (7/14)

Dawn Set to Orbit Vesta (Source: USA Today)
Asteroid ahoy! NASA's Dawn mission has closed in to orbit the second-largest asteroid on Friday. The space agency released a new image of the "proto-planet", a failed planetary core some 350 miles wide, from a distance of 26,000 miles away. Dawn will circle the asteroid for a year before heading off to circle Ceres, the larest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter.

"When Vesta captures Dawn into its orbit, engineers estimate there will be approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between them. At that point, the spacecraft and asteroid will be approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) from Earth," says a NASA statement. (7/14)

FAA Expert to Speak at Space Club Luncheon (Source: Florida Today)
George C. Nield, associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, 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. For reservations contact LaDonna Neterer at 383-6135 or email LaDonna.J.Neterer@boeing.com. (7/14)

NASA Astronaut Steve Lindsey Leaves The Agency (Source: NASA)
NASA astronaut Steve Lindsey announced he will leave the agency to pursue a career within the aerospace industry. His last day with NASA will be Friday, July 15. Lindsey, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is a veteran of five space shuttle missions. He also served as chief of the NASA Astronaut Office from September 2006 to October 2009. (7/14)

Is the Space Race Over for the U.S.? (Source: Scripps)
The U.S. space program has reached a critical turning point. President Obama in 2010 canceled the Constellation Program, ending exactly 50 years of U.S. manned space flight. Should restoring the U.S. manned-space program be a vital national priority? Or can the private sector fill the gap in an era of government austerity? RedBlueAmerica columnist Ben Boychuk and guest columnist Lisa Schmeiser weigh in. Click here. (7/14)

The Long Tail of Space Shuttle Tech (Source: Washington Technology)
A lot of the technology developed for the program will live on in terrestrial surroundings. From its inception in 1958, NASA has developed or contracted for technology that eventually turned up in people’s homes and cars, from better water filters and freeze-dried food to wireless devices and Dustbusters. Click here to read the article. (7/14)

MP Questioned On UK Space Flight Plans (Source: Huffington Post UK)
The UK Government has been asked about future plans for sending humans into space. Steve Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester, wanted to know what role ministers could play in helping space tourists blast off from the UK into orbit. He harked back to the "exciting" 1980s Hotol (horizontal take off and landing) British space program.

Hotol was a space shuttle project developed by British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce, for which the Government scrapped funding in 1988. "It certainly put a spring in the step of the British space industry," said Mr Brine. He said the Skylon scheme for an unpiloted space plane "looks equally promising today" and asked how an "ambitious Government" could help future human space travel. (7/14)

Return of the Capsule (Source: Universe Today)
As Florida’s Space Coast braces for the end of the shuttle program this month, signs of life after shuttle are starting to emerge. Before Atlantis' final launch, three human spaceflight capsules developed by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and SpaceX were on display at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

These as well as other “Space-Taxi” systems such as the one proposed by Sierra Nevada highlight efforts to shrink the human spaceflight gap that will start on July 21, when Atlantis conducts its final wheel stop. With the number of spacecraft that have flown, are being tested or just now emerging off the drawing boards it is possible that the U.S. might have a variety of craft for a wide range of missions. Click here. (7/14)

Weather Delays Delta IV Launch at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: CFNews13)
The launch of a Delta IV rocket was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions on July 14. The rocket is carrying the Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-2 payload. The launch was rescheduled for Saturday, July 16 from Space Launch Complex 37. The launch window runs from 2:41 a.m. to 3 a.m. (7/14)

Florida Wins NASA Contract for Station Research (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a big win for Florida, NASA picked a team from the state to manage the national laboratory aboard the International Space Station -- a victory that comes with a contract worth up to $15 million annually and the potential to create dozens of jobs or more. Under the agreement, the Florida center -- expected to include companies such as Boeing, Bionetics, and Dynamac -- would solicit research proposals for the station.

DiBello said a key selling point made by the Florida team was that it would seek experiments that would have the best chance of finding applications on Earth, including cell research for potential cancer cures. He and other Florida leaders also hoped that the center ultimately will serve as a magnet for other businesses, which in turn could lead more jobs as NASA focuses its efforts on station research.

NASA officials said the contract is for 10 years, with an option to extend it for another five years -- although the intent is to have the program match the lifespan of the station, which is expected to stay in operation until at least 2020. Florida aimed to concentrate its proposal on finding research that could have a quick turn-around in the marketplace. The winning bid was applauded by Florida lawmakers in both parties, from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge. (7/13)

Contingency Team Stands Down After Last Shuttle Support Alert (Source: USAF)
The nearly 650 mobility Airmen of the 621st Contingency Response Wing here, however, saw a different finale -- an end to years of waiting for a call they thankfully never received. During every one of the 135 shuttle launches, air mobility specialists assigned to a contingency response team, or CRT, waited to deploy in the event an orbiter failed to reach orbit and landed at an emergency overseas location.

If tasked, 621st CRW Airmen were prepared to immediately step into a waiting aircraft and deploy to Kennedy Space Center, said Lt. Col. John Krystyniak, the 818th Global Mobility Squadron commander. There they would assist with handling the specialized equipment required by NASA's Rapid Response Team to secure and prepare the stranded orbiter for a safe return to Florida. (7/13)

China Seeks To Carve Out A Space Of Its Own (Source: NPR)
As the U.S. winds up its space shuttle program, Beijing is shooting for the moon. Chairman Mao once said China would never be a great nation if it couldn't even shoot a potato into space. But in 2003, it became only the third country to send a man into orbit, and since then it's launched five more astronauts — or "taikonauts" as they've been christened here, showing how China is even trying to leave its own mark on space vocabulary.

In 1970, China's first satellite blasted the Maoist anthem "The East is Red" from space. Indeed, space has always been political in China, a statement of the country's scientific and technological prowess. Three years ago, when Col. Zhai Zhigang became the first taikonaut to conduct a spacewalk, he waved a Chinese flag as he floated out of the exit hatch into space. (7/13)

Space Expert Answers Forum Audience Questions (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A number of questions were submitted at the recent Florida Forward panel on the future of the U.S. space program. Some did not get asked of the panel because of time constraints. Here are answers to some of them, provided by Dale Ketcham, director of the Spaceport Research and Technology Institute at the University of Central Florida. 3) Click here to see the Q&A. (7/13)

Bid to Infuse Webb Telescope with Cash Fails (Source: Nature)
The full House appropriations committee today debated its 2012 spending bill, which would strip funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) after a science subcommittee last week inserted the proviso. Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, tried to insert an amendment today that would have partially restored funding for JWST. He asked that $200 million be transferred to JWST from NASA's account for Cross Agency Support. The amendment failed by a voice vote. (7/13)

Olson Pushes Plan Giving Houston (Slight) Hope of Landing Shuttle (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson wants to make sure its memory lives on through carefully protected retired orbiters. He joined Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio, in demanding Wednesday that Congress require NASA to provide it with quarterly reports on the transportation and conditions of the three retired shuttles and one test vehicle. They want to include the language in the bill that appropriates funds to NASA.

“There are other qualified cities that would gladly absorb the cost of hosting an orbiter, so we are putting the recipients of the orbiters and NASA on notice, Congress is watching,” Olson said in a statement. The legislation follows NASA director Charles Bolden’s April 12 announcement of the vehicles’ retirement destinations, a distinction more than 20 locations around the country vied for. (7/13)

Next Up for NASA's Astronauts: Management, Private Gigs, Staying for Whatever Comes Next (Source: Huntsville Times) What's next for America's astronaut corps? According to one of the last astronauts to fly on the space shuttle, one answer is NASA management. But there are other career paths open to the astronaut corps. There are four American companies competing for commercial contracts to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station. According to Gregory Johnson, "many of us are going to be involved in those companies."

Some astronauts will remain with NASA "to help work with whoever wins the (commercial) competition," Johnson said. A small number will fly to and from the station on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. "There are some astronauts that are going to stay and fly the follow-on vehicle for NASA," Johnson said. (7/13)

Russia Also Has Heavy-Lift Issues (Source: MIT Technology Review)
RKK Energia, Russia's chief manned spaceflight contractor, is on a collision course with Roskosmos over Russia's future human spaceflight strategy. "We've got an unfortunate situation with our next-generation spacecraft," says Energia's Aleksandr Derechin. "Roskosmos wants a large 23-ton spacecraft [to replace Soyuz], which would also need a new powerful rocket and the new launch site on the far-eastern fringes of the country." But for more than four years, this ambitious plan has become a heavy burden for the Russian space program, Derechin argues.

While the official schedule calls for the first launch of the brand-new Rus-M rocket from the yet-to-be built Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2015, and the first manned mission from this site in 2018, many experts consider this timeline wildly unrealistic. In a run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the country may have to choose between multibillion-dollar investments in Sochi Olympic facilities or in the new space center. Critics point to the Angara family of rockets, initiated in the early 1990s but perpetually several years away from its maiden mission.

Seeing the emergence of NASA-sponsored commercial launch systems as competition, Energia proposes a fast-track strategy to bypass the Roskosmos's grand space plan for a streamlined version of the new-generation manned spacecraft atop the Zenit rocket, from an existing launchpad in Baikonur. Roskosmos has so far rejected this cheaper, faster approach. Despite this setback, Energia's alternative launch vehicle based on the Zenit reappeared last month at the Paris Air and Space Show. (7/13)

The Shuttle's Souvenir Load (Source: Houston Press)
If you're making the last-ever trip on the space shuttle, you want to make it count. And if the list put together by collectSPACE.com is any indication, this last flight is taking along enough souvenirs to outfit a small army. Almost all the items are put there by NASA to pass out later to foreign governments, support teams, contractors, politicians, anyone. The items fly in a (very, very tightly packed) duffel bag that stays stowed away the entire flight. Each astronaut gets to take a small amount of personal items, as well. Here's a list. (7/13)

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