August 1, 2011

Space-Based Solar Power Beams Become Next Energy Frontier (Source: Popular Mechanics)
They're officially all the rage in the Pentagon and the private space industry: orbiting satellites that send solar power back down to earth to fight global warming—and turn a profit. The idea of using satellites to beam solar power down from space is nothing new--the Department of Energy first studied it in the 1970s, and NASA took another look in the '90s. The stumbling block has been less the engineering challenge than the cost.

A Pentagon report released in October could mean the stars are finally aligning for space-based solar power, or SBSP. According to the report, SBSP is becoming more feasible, and eventually could help head off crises such as climate change and wars over diminishing energy supplies. "The challenge is one of perception," says John Mankins, president of the Space Power Association and the leader of NASA's mid-1990s SBSP study. "There are people in senior leadership positions who believe everything in space has to cost trillions."

The new report imagines a market-based approach. Eventually, SBSP may become enormously profitable--and the Pentagon hopes it will lure the growing private space industry. The government would fund launches to place initial arrays in orbit by 2016, with private firms taking over operations from there. This plan could limit government costs to about $10 billion. (8/1)

Could Commercial Crew Become Less Commercial? (Source: Space Review)
A proposed change in how NASA will contract for the next round of its commercial crew development program has generated considerable opposition from industry. Jeff Foust reports on the planned change and concerns it could be the first step to more significant changes in the program. Visit to view the article. (8/1)

Utopianism and Cornucopianism in the Early Modern Era (Source: Space Review)
Many aspects of space exploration, from the language of the Outer Space Treaty to concepts for space colonies, implied a future where space was free of national interests and sovereignty. John Hickman argues that such approaches are as doomed as the utopian visions of the New World centuries ago. Visit to view the article. (8/1)

VASIMR and a New War of the Currents (Source: Space Review)
The utility, or lack thereof, of a proposed electric propulsion system to enable Mars missions has been a major point of contention for some Mars exploration enthusiasts and will be discussed again at the Mars Society conference this week. Chuck Black finds a historical analogue to this debate. Visit to view the article. (8/1)

Another Look: Falling Back to Earth (Source: Space Review)
Lou Friedman offers his perspective on the book "Falling Back to Earth" about the space policy of the George H. W. Bush Administration and its lessons for today. Visit to view the article. (8/1)

Current Strategies Towards Air-Breathing Space Launch Vehicles (Source: Space Review)
A long-term vision for many aerospace engineers and others in the space community has been the development of a reusable launch vehicle that use atmospheric oxygen for some phases of its flight. John K. Strickland examines the current state of research and the potential future directions in this area. Visit to view the article. (8/1)

EADS To Purchase Inmarsat Distributor Vizada (Source: Space News)
European aerospace giant EADS is purchasing Vizada of France, the second-largest distributor of Inmarsat mobile satellite services, in a transaction valued at $960 million that gives EADS’s Astrium Services division a major stake in L- and Ka-band mobile satellite systems alongside its established X-band capacity business for military users. (8/1)

AIA: FAA Employees on Furlough are Key to Aviation Future (Source: Washington Post)
Thousands of FAA employees have been furloughed for more than a week because of the funding stalemate going on in Washington, D.C. "While there is no immediate impact to air-traffic-control operations, many of the FAA furloughs have occurred in Next Generation Air Transportation System and air-traffic-control program upgrades," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey, a former FAA administrator.

"Significant delays in these programs would undermine the economic and environmental benefits they are expected to provide," she said. Editor's Note: Also key to the FAA's future are the furloughed employees of FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. (8/1)

NASA Space Shuttles to Find New Homes at U.S. Museums (Source:
NASA is decommissioning its space shuttles, which can be a lengthy process, before shipping them off to museums. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida will house Atlantis, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., will welcome Discovery. Endeavour will travel to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Editor's Note: Funding for the ongoing decommissioning of the orbiters is currently not included in proposed budgets for NASA. (8/1)

Space Acquisition to Step Up EADS Spree (Source: Reuters)
EADS is poised to step up a recent buying spree with a space industry acquisition in Europe that could rank among its biggest efforts to expand, sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday. The acquisition marks the latest move by the world's second-largest aerospace group to expand into lucrative services and will be led by its Astrium space division, the sources said.

EADS has embarked on a series of medium-sized acquisitions to dent a huge cash pile and reduce its exposure to cyclical manufacturing revenues, especially those at passenger jet unit Airbus. Its target list includes services, defense and security. The Astrium deal could be the group's second-largest acquisition after the 2.75 billion euro ($3.95 billion) buyout of BAE Systems' 20 percent stake in Airbus. (7/31)

Graph Shows Shuttle Program Layoffs (Source: RV-103)
United Space Alliance is the main shuttle contractor. There are dozens of smaller contractors. This Florida Today chart shows the job losses from these contractors associated with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, from Sep. 2008 to Sep. 2011. (8/1)

Epitaph to America's Human Space Flight Program (Source: RV-103)
NASA’s cohorts in the assassination of human spaceflight, the New Space Boys, celebrated. They had spent years trying to kill Constellation, the successor program to the Space Shuttle, and felt it was time to celebrate it’s death along with the Shuttle. But, as they are slowly realizing in their drunken party haze, NASA may had led them to believe they were partners in this travesty when in reality they were just “useful idiots.”

The New Space Boys are partying now, but soon they will feel the knife in their back slowly start to twist. How long before the New Space Boys seek business elsewhere? How long before they set up operations in another state or other countries such as China and Russia and sell them their services? Only time will tell where these “useful idiots” will go.

The other option, the Space Launch Systems, or more commonly known as the Senate Launch Systems or Nelson’s Folly, has already been ignored and disobeyed by NASA. SLS has basically been a “jobs program” masquerading as a HSF program and was written by Senator Bill Nelson when he realized that supporting Obama on April 15th, 2010 may have cost him his reelection coming up in 2012. (8/1)

'Red Dragon' Mission Mulled as Cheap Search for Mars Life (Source:
The search for signs of life on Mars may have just gotten a lot cheaper. NASA is working with SpaceX to plan a mission that would search for evidence of life buried in the Martian dirt. The NASA science hardware would fly to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station. This so-called "Red Dragon" mission, which could be ready to launch by 2018, would carry a cost of about $400 million or less, researchers said. (7/31)

Barney Pell’s Business Case For Going To The Moon (Source: Forbes)
Getting to the Moon isn’t easy, but it’s only rocket science. The missing element: a business case for going to the Moon, and staying there. Barney Pell is vice chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Moon Express, one of 29 groups competing for the Google Lunar Prize, has a few ideas.

He knows a good business plan: he sold his startup, Powerset, to Microsoft in 2008. He’s also a former NASA engineer. Among his most intriguing ideas: platinum mining. Click here to see a video of his proposal. (8/1)

How the End of NASA Affects US National Security (Source: Hudson New York)
Space exploration is not only critical in refusing to surrender the battlefield of space – our next serious theater of war -- to our present and future adversaries; it also is necessary in retaining US technological superiority and being able to utilize the energy and mineral resources of the Solar system essential for future global prosperity.

The major problem is that It is not just NASA but the whole of the US space industry that is in trouble. It is laying off men and women by the thousand; their skills and experience will be lost forever. Reconstituting the ability to build complex and reliable space systems without these people will be an even more expensive and time consuming process.

Meanwhile, this strategically vital industry will see its overseas competitors, such as China, grow and develop. America's edge in space is endangered, and if it disappears, a large proportion of America's global power will disappear along with it. (8/1)

What Now for the Space Coast? (Source: BBC)
One million tourists flooded Cape Canaveral for the launch of Atlantis - the final mission in NASA's space shuttle program. Fiona Foster looks back at 30 years of shuttle history and asks what the end of the program will mean for tourism in the Space Coast. Click here. (8/1)

Extraterrestrial Life Could Be Extremely Rare (Source: Physics World)
Just because life emerged early on Earth does not mean that this is likely to occur on other Earth-like planets, says a pair of US astrophysicists. The researchers' new mathematical model says that life could just as easily be rare – putting a damper on the excitement surrounding the recent discovery of Earth-like planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Estimates of the prevalence of life in the universe suffer from a severe lack of data. Indeed, they only have one data point – Earth – to support them. We are not even certain about whether our nearest neighbor, Mars, ever hosted colonies of microbes. Still, going on the Earth alone, it appears that life arose within a few hundred million years after the seething magma settled into a habitable planet.

That seems early, considering that life then evolved for something like 3.8 billion years and looks likely to continue until the Sun balloons into a red about around five billion years from now. Scientists take this one piece of information from the Earth and try to say something about the probability that living organisms will appear elsewhere in a certain amount of time, provided that conditions are favorable. Click here. (8/1)

Dawn Spacecraft Gets Cozy with Massive Asteroid (Source: AP)
Scientists are busy poring over images of the massive asteroid Vesta, the first time it has been photographed up close. The Dawn spacecraft last month slipped into orbit around the 330-mile-wide rocky body with little fanfare and began beaming back incredible details of the pockmarked surface that resembles Earth's moon.

Since entering orbit, Dawn has taken more than 500 images, while refining its path and inching ever closer to the surface to get a better view. The probe will officially start collecting science data next week once it is positioned 1,700 miles from the surface. Dawn so far has imaged the entire sunlit side of Vesta. Last week, it passed over a part of the surface hidden in the shadows and saw distinct grooves. (8/1)

Space Needle Wants to Send a Person to Space (Source: Seattle Times)
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seattle's iconic Space Needle, Ron Sevart and his team decided to create a multi-tiered contest to send a member of the public into orbit using a company from the burgeoning private space travel industry. Buzz Aldrin is expected at Monday's formal contest announcement. He will be joined by Eric Anderson of Space Adventures and Richard Garriott, a private citizens who spent time on the International Space Station.

The winning trip to space would be a suborbital shot, with about 6 minutes of zero gravity, Garriott said. The details will come later. Space Adventures is still developing the vessels that will be used for the excursions. The cost for the grand prize is about $110,000.

The contest - dubbed Space Race 2012 - will have several stages. First, anyone can sign up to enter at the Space Needle's website starting Monday through December. A computer will randomly choose 1,000 people who will then be asked to submit a 1-minute video. A fitness challenge will be set up for the top vote-getters, and to conclude, a panel will make the final selection. The winner will be announced in April 2012. (8/1)

ILS To Launch Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Satellites (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of London will launch all three of its next-generation satellites on International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rockets. The launches of the satellites, each expected to weigh about 6,300 kilograms, will occur on three separate Proton liftoffs scheduled between 2013 and 2014. The three satellites are under construction by Boeing in El Segundo, Calif. (8/1)

Dark Matter, Black Holes and the First Stars (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Almost 20 years ago, Congress cancelled what was then the most ambitious scientific project ever launched: the Superconducting Super Collider. The particle collider, the world's largest, would have resolved questions ranging from the origin of all mass to the nature of fundamental forces. But cost overruns and management issues gave a Democratic Congress an excuse to kill the program during hard economic times.

A similar situation has now arisen—and it's threatening to ground the nearly completed James Webb Space Telescope. Coming in $1.6 billion over its recently updated cost estimate of approximately $5 billion, the James Webb is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. (8/1)

Is Another "Sputnik Moment" Needed to Rejuvenate America's Space Program? (Source: KPBJ)
American astronauts wanting to visit the International Space Station — which the U.S. bankrolled — will have to hitch rides aboard relatively low-tech Russian space capsules. The irony of the situation is mind boggling when you realize that America embarked on the “space race” more than 50 years ago in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of its Sputnik orbiter in 1958.

In 2005, President Bush’s Constellation program refocused NASA’s budget to utilizing the moon as a scientific research station and base for deep space exploration. Scientists would gain experience operating away from Earth’s environment, develop new technologies, and the lower gravity would save fuel and reduce the cost of launching future missions to Mars and beyond.

But last year, President Obama basically nixed the human space program because of budgetary concerns. He wants the private sector to eventually transport astronauts to space. But there is no plan for how we transition from NASA to commercial space flight. Instead of sending astronauts into space, Obama wants to focus NASA on robotic space missions. (8/1)

Satellites Help French Winemakers Pick a Perfect Harvest (Source: Telegraph)
Now, a rising number are seeking help from the heavens in the shape of satellite technology in their search for the perfect vintage. With grape picking time fast approaching, dozens of wine domains in France – from the most prestigious Bordeaux chateaux to humbler vintners in the Languedoc and Roussillon – are eagerly awaiting information from the skies on exactly when and how to harvest their grapes. It is information some say would take "decades" to build up from the ground.

In recent days, satellite-borne cameras have been circling their vineyards taking multispectral snaps from more than 500 miles above the Earth at the rate of 1,000 plots every eight seconds. Each photograph covers an area of 34 miles by 34 miles to a precision range of four square yards. (8/1)

No comments: