August 11, 2011

Teams Practice Lifting Shuttles at Airports (Source: Space Daily)
It will take two large cranes, a specially built sling, four masts and about 45 people to perform the complex maneuvers to safely lift a space shuttle off the back of a modified 747. Because it hasn't been done in more than 20 years, teams rehearsed the lift on the Shuttle Landing Facility's ramp at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is a scene coming soon to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York as NASA's shuttles are handed over to museums for public display. "People have different emotions about it, but I'm kind of honored to put them in their final display location," said Casey Wood of United Space Alliance's Integrated Landing Operations. He is part of the team that will oversee the work. (8/11)

NASA and Sweden Partner on Small Spacecraft Technology Development (Source: Space Daily)
NASA and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) are collaborating to develop powerful low-cost satellites for advanced space missions. Miniaturization is a recent trend in space exploration, as smaller and smaller spacecraft demonstrate that they can do things that once required enormous and expensive spacecraft. (8/11)

Controllers Lose Contact with DARPA Hypersonic Vehicle (Source: Space News)
Range controllers lost contact with a DARPA experimental hypersonic vehicle launched Aug. 11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) launched at 7:45 a.m. local time atop a Minotaur 4 rocket, a converted ballistic missile. Initial Twitter posts by DARPA said the HTV-2 successfully separated from the rocket and was on track for the glide phase of its mission.

But subsequent posts indicated that controllers had lost contact with the vehicle. “Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry,” DARPA said in a note posted about an hour and a half after the liftoff. “HTV-2 has an autonomous flight termination capability. More to follow.”

This was the second test flight of the HTV-2, which is designed to demonstrate the aerodynamic properties, materials and guidance of vehicles traveling through the atmosphere at speeds approaching Mach 20. The first HTV-2 flight, which occurred in April, was cut short when controllers lost telemetry about nine minutes into the mission. (8/11)

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Inspirational Rant on NASA Cutbacks (Source: io9)
Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson was on Bill Maher last Friday, and he said everything that needs to be said about plans to slash NASA's budget, including doing away with the James Webb Space Telescope. His phenomenal, astounding rant is one of the greatest pieces of truth-telling you'll hear today. Click here. (8/11)

China Launches Pakistan Satellite (Source: SatLaunch)
A Long March-3B rocket successfully launched PAKSAT 1R communications spacecraft for Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Lift-off occured at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China. PAKSAT 1R weighed 5115kg at launch. After completion of in-orbit tests at 33.5 East it will be stationed on its final orbital position at 38 East. PAKSAT 1R is planned to be in service for 15 years according to info given by China Great Wall Industry Corporation. (8/11)

Google's Goal: Inspire First Privately Funded Moon Landing (Source: NPR)
As 29 teams worldwide are compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, they're trying to build robots that could reach the moon by the end of 2015, roam around the moon's surface, and send photos and videos back to earth. Why is Google offering $30 million in prizes to winners, what rules must be followed, and have rivalries formed? Guest host Allison Keyes speaks with the X Prize Foundation's founder. Click here to listen. (8/11)

Will Lunar Competitors Forego the Google Lunar X Prize Over IP Rights? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sometime during the next 3 years, a rocket will sit on a launch pad in Florida or elsewhere in the world containing a lunar lander and rover built to win the Google Lunar X Prize. Only, the team launching it might no longer be in the competition. Why would a team turn down a minimum of $20 million in prize money for a mission that costs many times that amount?

That’s an excellent question. And a fascinating tale. The answer involves the Master Team Agreement between the X Prize Foundation and the competitors that lays out the rules for the competition. The mandatory agreement assigns all media rights and many IP rights to the X Prize Foundation and Google. The parties are free to profit from the teams’ work as they wish, with revenues then apportioned according to a formula.

This arrangement has never sat well with many competitors who understandably want more control over the rights to their work. Any missions flown are likely to generate massive worldwide interest, and there is potential to profit on the flight and any surface activities that are undertaken. The rights provisions — and the uncertainties over them stemming from years-long negotiations over the MTA – have made it difficult for teams to raise money and attract sponsors. Click here. (8/11)

Florida to Invest in Spaceport Infrastructure for SpaceX (Source: Florida Today)
Florida has pledged more than $7 million to help SpaceX increase its local launch rate and potentially attract hundreds of jobs to the Space Coast. SpaceX plans to renovate one facility and build another at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station so the company can process multiple Falcon 9 rockets and ready spacecraft for launch.

"Having extra processing facilities for launch vehicles and payloads enables us to increase our launch rate," said SpaceX spokesman Bobby Block. "The greater the launch rate, the more activity you have out at the Cape." The company currently has 20 launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport under contract, including 13 for NASA, and hopes to launch from there monthly starting in 2015.

Editor's Note: Florida's SpaceX investment is part of a new systematic approach for using Florida Dept. of Transportation money for spaceport infrastructure. This isn't the first FDOT spaceport investment, but now there's an FDOT-accepted process for including spaceport projects in the annual FDOT spending plan. (8/11)

Editorial: A Very Timely Arrival for Mars Rover (Source: Ventura County Star)
American self-esteem has taken a beating lately so we could use some good news, and now we have some. The Mars Rover Opportunity, after a perilous, three-year, 13-mile drive, has reached the rim of the Endeavour Crater and set up shop on an overlook called Spirit Point, named after its now moribund twin, the Rover Spirit.

Opportunity has traveled more than 20 miles on Mars, which may not seem like much until you realize that when the two rovers were sent to Mars in the summer of 2003, they were expected to be finished and dead the following April. The success of this mission is due to the hard work, dedication — and let's be honest about it — the brilliance of NASA and its contractors, engineers, programmers, astronomers and technicians. (8/11)

NASA To Study Cryo Storage In Space (Source; Aviation Week)
Four U.S. companies will spend up to $600,000 each to define demonstration missions that would validate the concept of storing cryogenic propellants in space to reduce the need for large launch vehicles for deep-space exploration.

Touted as an alternative approach to space exploration by the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee headed by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, orbiting fuel depots would be launched ahead of vehicles designed to escape Earth’s gravity and move on to the Moon and beyond. (8/11)

DARPA Plans 100 Year Starship Symposium in Orlando (Source: DARPA)
The 100 Year Starship Study is an effort seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. A 100 Year Starship Study public symposium will be held from Sep. 30 through Oct. 2 at the Hilton Convention Center in Orlando.

The symposium is open to the public. There is no charge to register. The symposium will present 7 topic tracks, special events, keynote speakers, a Sci fi authors' discuss panel and an exhibition hall. This exciting and unique event is expected to attract roughly 2,000 people from throughout the U.S. as well as from other countries. Register today here. (8/11)

Four Companies Vying to Carry US Astronauts — and Capture a Special Flag (Source: MSNBC)
At the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April, a reporter asked former NASA Administrator Dick Truly, "What do you think about NASA’s space policy?" The three-star admiral and former astronaut, who helped lead America's space agency through the aftermath of the 1986 Challenger explosion, thought for a moment. Then he answered with bedrock sincerity, choosing his words with deliberate care: "If you can tell me what NASA’s policy is, I'll tell you what I think."

The laughter was slow to fade. Lately it's been hard for NASA to make a decision and stick with it. But Admiral Truly, it's just possible that America’s stumble-along space agency has stumbled upon a pretty good plan for low Earth orbit. U.S. companies are working on space taxis that could start flying Americans to the International Space Station within four years or so.

Low-cost flights from those companies could free up a larger chunk of NASA’s $18 billion-plus yearly budget to spend on NASA’s true purpose: exploring the future routes needed to get our species off Earth when humankind's cradle can no longer sustain life. Click here to read the article. (8/11)

Space, But With Stars: Katy Perry and Russell Brand (Source: Faster Times)
For now, try to forget the bummer news that time travel—-at least in the sense of moving a particle faster than the speed of light—-ain’t ever happening. Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic is promising a unique consolation prize, on a much more gratifying timeline: Sub-orbital space.

Right now, a ticket will cost you $200,000, with a minimum deposit of $20k, but a larger deposit (or an outright purchase) will allow you to skip ahead a bit in line past over 400 other depositors, and join Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Pharrell Williams, and Dallas Austin near the front of the line, when flights depart in 2013. (8/11)

Deal That May Bring 600 Jobs to KSC Could Get OK Soon (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana said he is optimistic a deal will close soon to transfer control of a former shuttle hangar to Space Florida. He said that will clear up red tape, and enable what he described as "a commercial company" to move into the building known as Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3, where it hopes to employ 500 to 600 people.

Cabana provided that nugget of good news during a speech Wednesday to more than 100 members of the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce. During his presentation, Cabana conceded that the local space industry is going through tough times following the end of the space shuttle program, as the combined local work force of NASA and space-industry contractors has dropped to about 8,200 from a peak of about 18,000. (8/11)

NASA's New Propulsion Institute Could Stem Huntsville Brain Drain (Source: Huntsville Times)
There's an urban myth in the rocket world that today's engineers couldn't recreate the mighty Saturn V F-1 engines that took Americans to the moon if they wanted to. Critical technology has been lost, the story goes. Not exactly true, say today's propulsion experts at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Some techniques are no longer available, it's true, but better ones exist.

NIRPS proponents want to preserve today's expertise so it can be there tomorrow. But the plan doesn't stop there, and the institute's possibilities are beginning to excite the rocket world. "The rocket propulsion industrial base" is "under a lot of stress," Lightfoot said, to put it lightly. In that environment, who will keep track of the knowledge to solve propulsion problems and preserve that knowledge for tomorrow? Who will bring government, academia and industry together in an economically efficient way to answer tomorrow's propulsion questions? (8/11)

Roskosmos to Coordinate New Principles of Launch Insurance (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) in the near future will coordinate a new regulation on the order of insuring space risks, Vladimir Popovkin said. “Currently, the Federal Space Agency on its own initiative is drafting its own regulation on the procedure of the insurance of launches of spacecraft." Roskosmos will implement the policy temporarily, while submitting it for approval at the federal level.

The main idea of the new principles of insurance is that the cost of insurance should be part of the cost of the spacecraft. “This is a worldwide practice,” Popovkin said. According to him, full insurance must, first and foremost, be applied to devices of mass production, in particular, to the GLONASS satellites. Had the GLONASS satellites lost last December been insured for their full value, then it would be possible to receive the sum insured.

According to Popovkin, the agency will carefully choose insurance companies. “The companies will be selected based on a retrospective of their work on the market and the offered insurance rates,” he said. “It is planned to create a certain pool of insurance companies, of which it will be possible to choose the most suitable one for the risk insurance.” (8/11)

Looking for the Thumbprints of Parallel Universes (Source: Discovery)
Sixty years ago there was a rip-roaring debate over whether the universe actually had a beginning. Was there really a creation moment dubbed the "Big Bang," where the universe spontaneously arose out of nothing -- not even from ashes like the legendary Phoenix? Or was the universe eternal, as Einstein imagined and worked into his concept of a cosmological constant?

It looks like cosmologists today might be able to have their cake, and eat it too. An emerging new idea is that the universe had a Big Bang, but only one of countless creation moments in a "megaverse" that is eternally inflating with multiple big bangs, like a string of firecrackers going off. (8/11)

America In Space: Should Man Be There Too? (Source: NPR)
To people of my generation, manned missions have an irresistible appeal. To hold us back here is to hold back our destiny. I am not sure what the younger generation thinks, the people who grew up with the space shuttle, the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope. I'm sure many will say that we've done the moon and it's time to move on to new and bigger dreams. The question is, what dreams are those?

Many politicians want a strong and active space program that can keep on generating jobs and income for their constituents. The livelihood of thousands of people depends on it. Then you have the appeal of going where no one has gone before, spreading our presence in the cosmos, perhaps fulfilling our evolutionary destiny. You also have the scientists, who tend to prefer cheaper, robotic missions in large numbers to attend the needs of many research areas.

Finally, you have the privatization of space and the possibility that other nations will (and some already are) aggressively pursue their economic interests in the cosmos. We don't want to be left behind in either the economic or the scientific space race. So, there are many hands pulling at the space exploration tug of war. The reality is that — in the short term — we don't have the resources to send a human to Mars. (8/11)

Space Club Seeks Items for Silent Auction Benefit (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club (Florida Committee) seeks donated items for a silent auction that will be held during the NSCFL annual Space Ball, on Oct. 22. Click here for information. (8/11)

Traveling Smithsonian Exhibit Launches at Florida College (Source
Age after age, we've looked to the heavens and wondered what's out there. About all we're certain of is this: We are definitely NOT alone. And now, we've got the pictures to prove it. Fact is, some of the best pictures are on display until mid-September in the Webber Gallery at the College of Central Florida. The display is open Tuesday through Saturday; the exhibit is free.

The nearly 60 photos of our planetary neighbors in the “Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes” traveling Smithsonian exhibit were painstakingly assembled by artist and filmmaker Michael Benson. Click here for information. (8/11)

1st HackerSPACE Workshop Coming to Kentucky in November (Source: Make)
Kris Kimmel of Kentucky Space is organizing the first hackerSPACE Workshop, which provides an opportunity for makers learn about building spacecraft from space professionals and engineers. The focus of the workshop is on the CubeSat satellite platform. The workshop is November 11-12 in Lexington, Kentucky.

The workshop will be led by Bob Twiggs, Emeritus professor and former director of the Space Systems Development Lab at Stanford University, now professor at Morehead State University and also with Kentucky Space. Bob is credited with inventing the CubeSat spacecraft, which is now helping to revolutionize space, putting it within reach of more people than ever. Click here. (8/11)

Could High-Speed Rail Take Us to Mars? (Source: NBC Bay Area)
The estimated cost of building California's high-speed rail system has increased, again, to at least $60 billion, perhaps as much as $80 billion, and maybe more. This comes on top of news that ridership of the system likely will be lower than previously estimated. How much is that? Put it this way, space travel is much, much cheaper than a fast train to San Francisco.

The annual budget of NASA is $18 billion. Estimates of a manned mission to Mars are between $30 and $40 billion -- half as much as California high-speed rail. Right now, I can't get to Mars. But I have a host of ways -- flying, driving, taking the bus, or taking a slow train -- of getting from my home in LA to the Bay Area.

So why not take that high-speed rail money and use it instead for a state space program? Yes, space travel is notoriously expensive. But a space program would be cheaper and more likely to produce innovation and economic breakthroughs than high-speed rail. And if it seems outlandish for a state with California's fiscal problems to start its own space program, just think about what that says about the practicality of high-speed rail. (8/11)

Mojave Space Port Firms Selected by NASA for Suborbital Flights (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
Four aerospace firms working out of the Mojave Air and Space Port were among seven chosen by NASA to develop aircraft for suborbital flights carrying a variety of payloads. XCOR, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic and Whittinghill Aerospace LLC are now each preparing their respective vehicles. The suborbital flights, each of which will be bid on by the companies, are part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. (8/11)

Canada, Brazil to Cooperate on Space, S&T and Education (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Canadian Prime Minister held talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during a state visit to the South American nation this week. The leaders agreed to cooperate in a broad range of areas, including space exploration, science and technology, and educational exchanges. (8/11)

Defense Community Raises Concerns Over Supercommittee Membership (Source: The Hill)
The super panel tasked with slashing the national deficit seems to lack a pro-military hardliner, but defense sources are placing their hopes in the inclusion of two senators and the prospect of a grand deal on entitlement reform. Recommendations from pro-Defense lawmakers and lobbying organizations went unheeded. (8/11)

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