July 30, 2011

Experts: Opportunities Increasing for Engagement with China (Source: Space News)
The United States and Europe face barriers to effectively engage with China on space policy matters, but recent changes within the Chinese government and industry present an opportunity for dialogue and possible technical cooperation, a panel of experts agreed July 28.

Among Washington space policy circles it is often said the motives behind Chinese space policies and actions are, at best, not transparent and, at worst, nefarious. These sentiments are in many cases inaccurate and reflective of a failure to communicate between both sides, three academic and policy experts said at an event here hosted by the Secure World Foundation. (7/30)

Weird Moon Crater May Be Crash Site of Old NASA Spacecraft (Source: Space.com)
A strange-looking scar on the moon has astronomers wondering whether the cause of this peculiar impact feature is a piece of space debris that smashed into the lunar surface or a spacecraft that made a planned crash landing decades ago. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera spotted the curious impact using its narrow-angle camera, which has such a high resolution that it can often see small features from Apollo-era spacecraft that either landed or crashed.

The "butterfly-shaped" mass of lunar rubble could be the remnants of NASA's Lunar Orbiter 2, which made a planned crash landing on the moon in 1967 at the end of its mission. The unmanned Lunar Orbiter 2 was a spacecraft used in 1966 to help scope out possible landing sites for the Apollo and Surveyor missions. (7/30)

Astrium Profits Weighed Down by Services Division (Source: Space News)
Europe’s EADS aerospace giant said its Astrium space division reported higher sales but lower pretax profit for the first six months of 2011 and said revenue from its Astrium Services division fell by 26 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Astrium Services, which in recent years has distinguished itself as the fastest growing and most profitable of EADS’s space businesses, reported a 26 percent drop in revenue, to 378.3 million euros ($544.4 million), for the six months ending June 30. (7/30)

Spaceflight Psychology and the New ‘Right Stuff’ (Source: WIRED)
With arguably the coolest job on or off the planet, astronauts need nobody’s pity. Nonetheless, theirs is a life of extraordinary psychological demands: leadership, technical proficiency, split-second decision making and ironclad focus. And beyond fulfilling the “hero” requirements, astronauts have to deal with mundane chores, like bringing in new supplies and taking out the garbage.

The view is the best thing about their work environment. Air conditioning units put out constant noise. Microgravity is disorienting. Body fluids move all over the place, leaving them with puffy faces. Astronauts often have trouble sleeping and suffer from flu-like symptoms known as the “space crud.” Even on Earth, with the ability to go home at the end of the day, we’d find these taxing.

“You can train people in simulators, but in space there is no walking out of it,” said Douglas Vakoch, clinical psychologist and a director at the SETI Institute. “Flights are becoming longer and more complicated, so the stress is higher too.” Click here to read the article. (7/30)

Bullish Eutelsat Plans To Boost Spending on New Satellites (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat reconfirmed its status as the fastest-growing of the world’s major operators and said it remains so optimistic about prospects in Russia, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa that it is raising, not lowering, its investment in new satellites in the next three years. Bucking the trend of its fellow major operators, Eutelsat now expects to spend 550 million euros ($788 million) per year through 2014 on spacecraft to capture the demand that the company says remains dynamic in these regions. (7/30)

Garver: NASA Must Evolve the Way It Works with the Private Sector (Source: Space News)
Despite concerns that funding shortfalls will hamper NASA’s efforts to promote a private industry capable of ferrying cargo and crew into low Earth orbit, government and industry officials attending the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual conference said they were confident that commercial firms would continue to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. space program.

NASA officials are working diligently “on evolving the way we work with the private sector,” Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said July 28 at the NewSpace 2011 conference here. While the overall percentage of NASA’s budget going to the private sector is likely to remain at the current level of approximately 85 percent, the space agency is changing the way it spends that money in an effort to help private companies “leverage that money to bring in more private investment, more innovation, open new markets, reduce costs and provide economic gain.” (7/30)

Russia to Launch Three Rockets in August (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos is planning to launch two satellites and a space freighter next month. The Express-AM4 satellite will be launched on August 18 on board a Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

A Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft will be launched from Baikonur to the International Space Station on August 24 on board the Soyuz-U launch vehicle. A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket will orbit a Glonass-M navigation satellite after the launch on August 25 from the Plesetsk Space Center in northern Russia. (7/30)

What Lies Inside Jupiter? (Source: NASA)
Jupiter's swirling clouds can be seen through any department store telescope. With no more effort than it takes to bend over an eyepiece, you can witness storm systems bigger than Earth navigating ruddy belts that stretch hundreds of thousands of kilometers around Jupiter's vast equator. It's fascinating. It's also vexing. According to many researchers, the really interesting things--from the roots of monster storms to stores of exotic matter--are located at depth. The clouds themselves hide the greatest mysteries from view.

NASA's Juno probe, scheduled to launch on August 5th, could change all that. The goal of the mission is to answer the question, What lies inside Jupiter? There are many basic things researchers would like to know—like how far down does the Great Red Spot go? How much water does Jupiter hold? And what is the exotic material near the planet's core? (7/30)

Vancouver Island: Future Spaceport? (Source: Canadian Press)
Whether Canada should have its own space-launch facility is a debate that's been making the rounds in the scientific and business communities for years without any progress being made. But that hasn't stopped Redouane Fakir as he develops a proposal to build the first-ever rocket launch site on Canada's west coast. His dream is to eventually make Vancouver Island Canada's future hub for space science and exploration — once he lines up the cash, local co-operation, and government approval.

The astrophysicist already has his eye on a site, even at this early stage: Estevan Point, an isolated peninsula halfway down the west coast of the island. Fakir says he wants to build a "parking-lot-sized" launch pad that would send Canadian space probes into a polar orbit. Fakir says the platform, which could also be used to send up scientific balloons, would not be busy all the time. (7/30)

Macdonald Dettwiler Says Revenue Could Turn Flat (Source: Reuters)
Macdonald Dettwiler and Associates, the Canadian satellite and data distribution company, reported a rise in quarterly profit on Friday and announced a share buy-back, but it warned of flat revenues next year. MDA, famous for creating the robotic arm used on NASA space shuttles, lost a major source of business with the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan this year, while a Ukrainian communications satellite project has hit hurdles. (7/30)

Space: A New Frontier for Tech Lobbying (Source: Politico)
President Barack Obama’s √©lan for Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur bent on launching private rockets into space cheaply, includes multiple personal visits, high praise and apparent reciprocation: Musk this year attended a $35,800-a-head Obama fundraiser and has filled other Democratic coffers with cash. But in the new post-space shuttle space race, it takes more than glad-handing with the president to get the lucrative civilian and military contracts involving both human and cargo transport.

Musk, who founded PayPal and Tesla Motors, is no pauper. His outfit, SpaceX — and other relative newcomers such as Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp., are all fighting to wrestle a greater share of riches from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which are to space launches as the USS Enterprise is to “Star Trek” and still lord over all other firms when it comes to government contracts.

Since 2003, SpaceX’s lobbying expenditures have steadily increased each year, nearly reaching the $600,000 mark in 2010. Through June 30, the company has this year spent $320,000 lobbying federal entities from the Senate and Office of Management and Budget to NASA and the Air Force, putting it on pace to again exceed the previous year’s total. Musk has personally made more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to federal candidates and committees since the 2008 election cycle. Click here. (7/30)

PSLV Success, ISRO Still in Trouble (Source: People's Democracy)
ISRO’s PSLV rocket provided limited but effective capability within a certain range of applications including communications. PSLV has been used to launch a total of 44 satellites to date including 23 for other countries including academic, observational, remote sensing and student-project micro-satellite payloads.

But when it came to intensive communication requirements for round-the-clock services such as television including direct-to-home services and telephony, ISRO and India have had to depend largely on the launch capabilities of others especially the Russians and the Europeans from their launch pad in Kourou in French Guiana. (7/30)

UK Man to be First to Fly Tourists Into Space (Source: BBC)
A Wiltshire man is set to become the first pilot to fly tourists into space. David Mackay, 53, from Salisbury, is the chief pilot for Virgin Galactic. Mr. Mackay, who spent 16 years with the RAF before joining Virgin Atlantic in 1995, said he had held a lifelong ambition to become an astronaut.

Mr Mackay was one of four pilots selected to become Virgin Galactic test pilots. He went on to work with the development team at Virgin's Spaceport out in the Mojave Desert in California, where he made test flights in Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo "mothership". (7/30)

Atlas and Delta Rockets Arrive Together on Delta Ship (Source: Florida Today)
Another space first: The company that launches Atlas and Delta rockets delivered a combined shipment of both vehicles for the first time this week. The United Launch Alliance Delta Mariner sailed into port with the Atlas V that will launch NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory in November. The ship also carried the Delta IV rocket that will launch an Air Force communications satellite in December. (7/30)

New Webb Telescope Technologies Already Helping Human Eyes (Source: NASA)
Even while construction of the James Webb Space Telescope is underway on the most advanced infrared vision of any space observatory, its technologies are already proving useful to human eye health here on Earth. "The Webb telescope program has enabled a number of improvements in measurement technology for astronomy, mirror fabrication, and measurement of human eyes, diagnosis of ocular diseases and potentially improved surgery," said Dr. Dan Neal, Research Fellow at Abbott Medical Optics Inc. in Albuquerque, N.M. (7/29)

Is the Space Age Over Or Just Beginning? (Source: Huffington Post)
Just as the first robber barons helped open up the new frontier of the Old West, we may see a new generation of robber barons capitalizing on the opportunities of space. It was prefigured in science fiction, with Robert Heinlein's D.D. Harriman in The Man Who Sold the Moon over 60 years ago and, more recently, warp drive inventor Zefram Cochrane in the otherwise social democratic Star Trek: First Contact in 1996.

With a variety of private players, it promises to be a very interesting era. Though the accidents that plagued the early days of aviation could have even more devastating impacts in these still early days of space. Of course, had we chosen differently, we could have much more advanced results already. Once upon a time, we were to have gone to Mars by, well, a quarter century ago. But the Vietnam War was catastrophically expensive. (7/29)

China Makes it Two in a Week with Successful Launches (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
For the second time this week this week alone, China has launched a satellite – this time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Shi Jian 11-02 satellite was launch at 07:42UTC by a Long March 2C (Chang Zheng-2C) launch vehicle from the SLS-2 launch pad – as the Chinese prepare for a busy August. (7/29)

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