August 18, 2011

Space Coast Student Academy to Contact Space Station Astronauts (Source: MIHS)
Merritt Island High School students in the da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology will make contact with the astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) on Aug. 30 at 2:04 p.m. via ham radio technology at the MIHS baseball field. Various dignitaries, academy advisors, school administrators, faculty and student involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) coursework will be on hand.

The contact will last 12 minutes and be made by selected Academy students who will ask questions of an astronaut. The entire Brevard community, along with the world, is invited to witness this event through webcast. Visit the MIHS website at on Aug. 30 for details and links. (8/18)

Florida to Get Millions to Aid Small Businesses (Source: Florida Today)
A federal small-business program will provide nearly $100 million in financing for Florida business expansion. That investment under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 is expected to spur private companies to lend businesses in the state 10 times that amount, or $1 billion.

Under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, states applied for $1.5 billion to be distributed to state-run programs that work with lenders to boost credit available to small businesses. Enterprise Florida will get half the state's $97.7 million to invest in small businesses through a venture-capital fund.

The state will use the other half to assure local lenders they'll be repaid any money they loan to businesses. That's designed to increase the amount of money loaned, according to Don Graves, deputy assistant secretary for small business at the Treasury Department. Editor's Note: Space Florida says the funds can be used to support space industry startups. (8/17)

NASA Aeronautics Working Toward Carbonless Silent Aircraft (Source: ZDnet)
Someday, there might not be a need for noise-cancelling headphones in airplanes. That’s because NASA’s Aeronautics division has been working to knock out two of the biggest problems with airplanes today: noise and carbon emissions. “The new idea is bringing all of this together at a much higher level of integration,” NASA's Fay Collier said during a presentation at the TEDxNASA event in San Francisco.

The two key problems to producing carbonless silent aircraft can be derived from the goal of the project itself. To attack the first problem, carbon emissions, Collier said that there is already technology to reverse this hazard “in the pipeline right now” and nearly ready for introduction as NASA, government agencies and others have been working on this for the last 10 to 15 years. (8/18)

Defense Spending Cuts Could Hit Space Coast Companies (Source: Florida Today)
Defense budget cuts will likely impact Brevard County, where defense spending provided a huge boost for the local economy thanks to Harris Corp., DRS, Northrop Grumman and many smaller operations. After facing 7,000 to 8,000 job losses from the space industry, Brevard might take more hits as contracts for defense companies shrink or disappear altogether.

In the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks, the annual defense budget has more than doubled to $700 billion and annual defense industry profits have nearly quadrupled, approaching $25 billion last year. The decline of defense spending could also slow the schedule of rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where United Launch Alliance workers loft military satellites for the Air Force and science missions for NASA. (8/18)

Embry-Riddle President Pushes for Satellite Air Traffic Management (Source: Wichita Eagle)
One of the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry is to establish safer, more secure airways, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University president John Johnson said Tuesday. "We need to adapt to a nationwide system of satellite air traffic management," Johnson said after speaking at the Wichita Aero Club luncheon meeting. "The technology is there."

Embry-Riddle is one of three institutions working with the FAA on an effort to move from today's radar-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based system. Embry-Riddle has taken a leading role in field testing the equipment that will make it possible. "It's been working great," Johnson said.

Embry-Riddle's fleet of 100 aircraft used in flight training are equipped with ADS-B satellite technology, which allows aircraft to automatically transmit or receive data — such as identification, position, altitude and speed — through a satellite data link. The ADS-B technology allows pilots to see all the traffic in their airspace, he said. (8/17)

Chart Shows Spacecraft Launches Over the Past Decade (Source: Economist)
Space is not a two-horse race. Although America and Russia, the traditional space-race adversaries, have launched more spacecraft than any other countries, a slew of smaller players are nipping at their heels. According to Futron, in 2010 China launched more rockets than America, for the first time ever. Russia remains top, thanks in no small part to its commanding position in the commercial launch market, where its cheap and reliable rockets have attracted a lot of business. Last year 13 out of 26 such launches were Russian. Click here. (8/18)

China Loses Satellite in Long March 2C Launch Failure (Source:
With an apparent urgency to complete an orbiting constellation, China launched another new satellite in the ShiJian-11 series, just three weeks after the launch of the previous ShiJian-11 mission. However, the launch of the Long March 2C with ShiJian 11-04 failed during ascent after leaving the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Thursday.

The new satellite was launched from the SLS-2/603 launch pad with the same launch azimuth of the Shi Jian 11-03. According to Chinese media this was classed as an “experimental satellite”. Like the previous SJ-11 satellites, the new satellite was developed by the DongFangHong Satellite Company of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (8/18)

Russia 'Loses Contact' with Satellite After Launch (Source: AFP)
Russia has lost contact with a major new telecommunications satellite hours after its launch into orbit aboard a Proton rocket. The Express-AM4 satellite was launched Thursday morning from Russia's Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan and was due to provide digital television, telephone and Internet services across Russia. "The radio systems are not detecting the satellite in its fixed orbit. There are no signals from the satellite," a source said. A loss of the satellite would be a major blow for Russia after the embarrassment in December when three navigation satellites crashed into the ocean instead of reaching orbit. (8/18)

Russia Locates Lost Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos has found the Express-AM4 communication satellite, which went missing after its launch early Thursday. The high-power Express-AM4 communications satellite, launched on a Russian Proton rocket from Kazakhstan, was to provide digital television, telephone and Internet services across Russia and other former Soviet Union countries. The satellite and its upper-stage booster, Briz-M, had gone into an off-design orbit.

According to Roscosmos, the first four engine burns by the Proton-M carrier rocket worked properly during the launch but problems occurred before the fifth burn due to a malfunction in communications with the space vehicle. The 5.8-ton satellite was designed and built jointly by state-controlled Khrunichev State Research and Production Center and Astrium, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Corporation (EADS). (8/18)

18-Year-Old GPS Satellite Returns to Navigation Duty (Source:
Operators of the Global Positioning System have brought a decommissioned satellite back to life to replace an ailing craft in the precision navigation network. The GPS 2A-22 spacecraft had been removed from active duty two years ago to accommodate the deployment of a fresh bird into the constellation. Now, the Boeing-built satellite is back in action to transmit the timing and location signals to users around the world.

Launched in August 1993 atop a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, the satellite has long surpassed its 7-year design life. But with some use still left to give, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schreiver Air Force Base in Colorado have taken the rare step of reactivating it. (8/18)

Solar Wind Could Turn Retired Satellites into Harmful Space Debris (Source: SPACErePORT)
During the early years of spaceflight, little concern was given to space debris. Large satellites launched by the U.S. and the Soviet Union were not designed for end-of-life re-entry and were instead raised to benign "graveyard orbit" locations above the geosynchronous plane, where they were largely forgotten. There probably are dozens of large non-functional satellites in such orbits. At these high altitudes, orbits were not expected to degrade from contact with the upper-atmosphere, as is the case with objects in lower orbits.

However, some satellite trackers are seeing evidence that the circular graveyard orbits of some of these retired satellites are becoming elliptical, meaning they may occasionally dip into the lower orbital paths of other operational satellites. One likely cause for this is solar wind. Another is their occasional collision with micrometeors (which would cause additional debris fragments). (8/18)

Offering Funds, U.S. Agency Dreams of Sending Humans to Stars (Source: New York Times)
The government agency that helped invent the Internet now wants to do the same for travel to the stars. In what is perhaps the ultimate startup opportunity, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years.

The awarding of that grant, on Nov. 11 — 11/11/11 — is planned as the culmination of a yearlong DARPA-NASA effort called the 100-Year Starship Study, which started quietly last winter and will include a three-day public symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Sep. 30 on the whys and wherefores of interstellar travel. The agenda ranges far beyond rocket technology to include such topics as legal, social and economic considerations of interstellar migration, philosophical and religious concerns, where to go and — perhaps most important — how to inspire the public to support this very expensive vision. (8/18)

AsiaSat Operating Profit Up 30 Percent (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat on Aug. 18 reported double-digit increases in revenue and operating profit for the first six months of 2011, saying its core Asian market segments are all in good health and likely to continue growing. Revenue grew 16 percent, to 801.9 million Hong Kong dollars ($103 million) compared to the same six-month period a year ago. Operating profit, at 482.5 million Hong Kong dollars, was up 30 percent from a year ago. (8/18)

Will We Be Able to Deflect an Earthbound Asteroid? (Source:
For any single human being, there are bigger things to worry about than death by space rock. For the long-term survival of humankind, on the other hand, asteroids pose a real danger. A 6-mile-wide asteroid that struck off the coast of present-day Mexico 65 million years ago induced ecological changes that wiped out the dinosaurs. Inevitably, an Earth-shaking chunk of space debris will strike again.

However, so many earthly worries exist that a cosmic one which, at any given moment, is infinitesimally small doesn't garner much attention — or government funding. Several scientists who study asteroid hazards agree: Humankind probably won't start readying its planetary defenses until we know the danger is real. We'll need evidence that a large asteroid is actually headed here.

Will it be too late by then? It depends. "Human beings can solve any technical problems that are put in front of us," said Daniel Durda, an expert on asteroid collisions. "It's the social and political issues that we struggle with." Rusty Schweickart, former NASA astronaut and founding member of the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes, concurred: "The geopolitical realities are daunting. The technical issues are easy by comparison." (8/18)

Selling Space Flight To Everyday Earthlings (Source: Fast Company)
Space Adventures and other private space flight companies have hooked up with household brands--Gillette, Audi, and most recently 7-Eleven--to offer joyrides in space for lucky winners in raffles and competitions. Or, really, the winners get a space experience without the astronomical price tag that would put such flights potentially out of reach. Call it an appetite whetter for what is presently an elite, expensive market. Or just the latest tourism gimmick. (8/18)

Russians Unveil Space Hotel (Source: CNN)
Russian firm Orbital Technologies plans to open the first space hotel in history in five year's time. The space hotel, or "Commercial Space Station," as it's officially called, will float 250 miles above Earth. The hotel can accommodate a maximum of seven people at a time. To check in, tourists will have to undergo special training that can take up to three months, depending on the type of spacecraft they fly to the hotel.

The firm says that stays can range from three days to six months. Spending your vacation in space will no doubt inspire travel stories like no other, but what's there to do once you're sealed in up there? Not much, it turns out, apart from going online and watching TV. "Most likely, there will be access to the Internet and other communications on the ground," says Sergey Kostenko, CEO of Orbital Technologies, the company constructing the station.

"Menus will be chosen before the clients are launched," Kostenko adds. "Food is prepared on the ground and shipped to space, dehydrated." No impulsive late-night snacking then. There will be no shower, but you can clean yourself with wet wipes. Fun! You can't seek solace in alcohol either, because it’s banned on board. Click here. (8/18)

Tauri Group Prepares Reusabe Suborbital Market Study for Space Florida (Source: NASA Watch)
The issue of whether the market for scientific research aboard reusable suborbital launch vehicles is real or over-hyped was one topic of discussion during an FAA roadmapping workshop for the agency's new Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. It was timely, then, that Tauri Group has just completed a "market characterization" study for Space Florida.

Generally, the study validates that there are "significant opportunities across all markets" for suborbital services, "particularly in research and aerospace technology". Click here to view a summary presentation on the study's focus areas and results. (8/17)

Russia: Too Much Focus on Human Spaceflight (Source: Reuters)
Moscow no longer sees manned spaceflight as its top priority but remains committed to its International Space Station obligations, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos said. Russia holds a monopoly on flights to and from the 16-nation station. Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said Russia was spending almost half of its space budget on manned flights and needed to shift focus to more technology-oriented projects.(8/18)

Next-Gen Engine Vital To U.S. Rocketry (Source: Aviation Week)
Development of the Air Force’s proposed next-generation upper-stage engine is vital to inject new life into the industry, even though the operational requirement remains obscure, say supporters. The Air Force issued an RFI in 2010 for a next-generation engine (NGE) to replace the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL10 by 2017. The effort was launched amid concerns that the venerable engine is reaching its design limits and costing more as PWR’s customer base shrinks with the retirement of the space shuttle.

Two variants of the RL10 power the upper stages of the Air Force’s Atlas V and Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV). The Air Force plans to continue using the EELV family through 2030 and, according to the request for information, wants a new “upper-stage engine utilizing modern design and manufacturing methods... that will demonstrate state-of-the-art operating margin and reliability and minimize life-cycle costs.”

EELV operator United Launch Alliance has since embarked on a joint effort with XCOR Aerospace to develop a low-cost, flight-ready, liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen, upper-stage engine, while PWR has outlined a road map for an all-new RLXX engine based on an evolution of the RL10. In the interim, PWR is also reworking the many excess RL10B-2 engines in the inventory into a new common RL10C variant for use on the Atlas V. (8/18)

Giant Space Blob Glows From Within (Source: Astronomy Now)
A team of astronomers using ESO's (European Southern Observatory) Very Large Telescope (VLT) have found that a rare and vast glowing cloud of gas known as a Lyman-alpha blob is being powered by light emitted from galaxies that are embedded within it.

The observed blob is 11.5 billion light years from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius, with a diameter of 300,000 light years. It emits characteristic wavelengths of light known as Lyman-alpha radiation. This radiation is emitted from the cloud when the electrons in hydrogen atoms drop from energy level two to energy level one within the atom's orbital shells. (8/18)

Could the Moon be Younger Than We Think? (Source: Cosmos)
The Moon may be younger than previously thought and may even have lacked a magma ocean in its early life. According to new analyses of lunar rock, current hypotheses of when the Moon formed may be incorrect. The Moon contains large amounts of a type of white rock called ferroan anorthosite, and according to current lunar formation theories, these anorthosites are the oldest crustal rocks on the Moon, formed when the planetary body first solidified. Analyses of three different isotopes in these rocks now suggest that they crystallized as late as around 4.36 billion years ago. (8/18)

Neil Armstrong Rallies Afghan Troops (Source: Reuters)
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, jetted into Afghanistan this week with two other lunar greats to give a much-needed morale boost to the country's struggling air force. The 81-year-old American, who became a global sensation in 1969 when he became the first man to set foot on the lunar landscape, met Afghan officers in training at Camp Eggers in Kabul, the headquarters of the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan. (8/18)

Northrop's Move to Virginia is Important for Firm, CEO Says (Source: LA Times)
Northrop Grumman is moving its headquarters to Falls Church, Va., in an effort to grow. "This is an important move for the company, and it's one that we believe will improve the effectiveness in serving the nation and our customers," said Northrop CEO Wesley G. Bush. "The proximity to Washington enables us to be a more integrated part of the federal process." However, the aerospace company will continue to have a significant presence in Southern California. (8/18)

Export Controls Undermine Industry, Northrop CEO Says (Source: Defense News)
Wes Bush, CEO at Northrop Grumman, is raising concerns about the consequences of export controls. "Today's export restrictions are hurting the industry in the U.S. without making us any safer, and they could cause the U.S. to relinquish to other nations, ultimately, its lead in these technologies," Bush said. (8/18)

Space Command Retires Workhorse Satellite (Source: AFSPC)
Members of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron, along with their counterparts from the 53rd Signal Battalion, waved a fond farewell to a trusted old friend Aug. 12. They shut down the final components of the satellite simply known as "B9," with a couple of mouse clicks. And with that, a Defense Satellite Communications System vehicle that served both the Air Force and Army for 18 years sent its last bit of vital information. B9 was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas II rocket in 1993. (8/18)

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