August 2, 2011

SpaceX Settles Defamation Lawsuit Against Safety Expert (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX has settled a defamation suit it filed against a prominent safety expert who had inquired about rumored problems that occurred during the most recent Falcon 9 flight. In its lawsuit, SpaceX accused Fragola of spreading false rumors in order to drum up business for his consulting firm. (8/2)

Texas Drought Exposes Possible Piece of Shuttle Columbia (Source: MSNBC)
The prolonged drought in Texas has revealed what officials think may be a tank from the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart over east Texas as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003. A police sergeant in the city of Nacogdoches, located about 160 miles northeast of Houston, said the waters of Lake Nacogdoches, which are falling due to the record drought, revealed an unexpected. "We have reason to believe this may be a part of the Columbia space shuttle." (8/2)

NASA Keeps Eye on Tropical Storm as Juno Launch Nears (Source: Florida Today)
A powerful Atlas V rocket is being prepped for the planned launch Friday of a $1.1 billion NASA mission to Jupiter, but mission managers will be keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Emily in the Caribbean. The United Launch Alliance Atlas and its payload -- NASA's Juno spacecraft -- are slated to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:34 a.m. Friday.

However, Tropical Storm Emily is expected to strengthen and be in close proximity to central Florida by Saturday. Twenty- to 30-knot winds are expected along with an increasing chance of rain showers. There is a 60 percent chance weather would force a scrub if the launch is delayed to Saturday or Sunday. (8/2)

Commercial Space Industry Creates Tech Jobs in Silicon Valley (Source: Space Daily)
Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, and John Celli, President of Space Systems/Loral, met on July 29 to discuss commercial space industry capabilities and continuing job creation. Ms. Garver toured SS/L's state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, Calif., where satellites for direct-to-home television (DTH), consumer broadband, and satellite radio are regularly designed, built and launched into space in two to three years from start to finish.

NASA continues to partner with companies such as Space Systems/Loral to help strengthen U.S. leadership in space while at the same time stimulating job growth in careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). "The commercial satellite manufacturing industry is strong and over the past five years SS/L has created approximately 1,900 new engineering, manufacturing and support jobs," said John Celli, president of Space Systems/Loral. (8/2)

NASA Bets Big Rover On Novel Landing Scheme (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA will try a completely new-—and scary—-technique to land the largest rover yet on the surface of Mars next year, in a spot that scientists hope will tell them whether the planet can, or ever could, support life. Crews from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Kennedy Space Center are in the final stages of preparing the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) for an Atlas V launch to the red planet as early as Nov. 25.

If all goes as planned, the probe will reach Mars next August and begin its harrowing 6-min. descent through the atmosphere. After an entry that includes a temporary shift in the capsule’s center of gravity to gain lift before parachute deployment for a precision approach, the lander will go into a rocket-powered hover and lower the rover to the surface on nylon cords. Engineers at JPL adopted the “Sky Crane” landing technique because the car-sized Curiosity is too large for the parachute/airbag combo used so successfully by the Pathfinder mission’s Sojourner rover and the two MERs, Spirit and Opportunity. (8/1)

Utah's Solid Rocket Lobby Has Been Busy in Congress (Source: NASA Watch)
A draft letter to NASA in support of Solid Rocket Motors is being circulated for signatures on Capitol Hill. Here's an excerpt: "...the final design of the SLS is long overdue. This is perplexing since the parameters for the final design are clearly articulated in the Authorization and Appropriations Acts. The Authorization Act clearly states the SLS 'shall be designed from inception as a fully integrated vehicle capable of carrying a total payload of 130 tons or more...' "

"The Appropriations Act reinforced this requirement by stating 'the heavy lift launch vehicle system... shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons.' Both statutory texts were carefully crafted and agreed upon after consultation with rocket propulsion experts who unanimously concluded these design specifications were required to ensure a meaningful spaceflight program. These same experts also determined these legal requirements could only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors."

Senate sources link this letter effort directly back to the Utah congressional delegation, which supports ATK's role as a provider of Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters. Editor's Note: NASA appears to be considering liquid-fuel alternatives to ATK's highly expensive SRBs. Though the SRBs may be used for initial heavy-lift flights, NASA may keep the door open to liquid boosters as the vehicle evolves. (8/2)

Florida Student Among NASA's First Space Technology Research Fellows (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected the inaugural class of 81 Space Technology Research Fellows. They will receive graduate student fellowships from NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees in relevant space technology disciplines at their respective institutions.

This first class of Space Technology Fellows is part of NASA’s strategy to develop the technological foundation for its future science and exploration missions. The program’s goal is to provide the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled engineers and technologists to improve U.S. competitiveness. Selected candidates will perform graduate student research on their respective campuses and at NASA centers and nonprofit U.S. research and development laboratories.

Editor's Note: Paul Daniel Muri of the University of Florida is the only Florida-based student among the 81 fellows. He will work on "Disruptive Tolerant Networking for Distributed Small Satellite Systems." (8/2)

NASA's CCDev-2 Partners Making Progress on Human Spaceflight Programs (Source:
NASA’s key Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) drive appears to be progressing to plan, as four companies press on with the development of their manned vehicles, with an aim to transport crews to the International Space Station (ISS) by the middle of this decade – aided by Agency money, whilst allowing for the key oversight from NASA. Click here for updates on Sierra Nevada, Boeing, SpaceX, and Blue Origin. Editor's Note: All of these systems will launch (at least initially) from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (8/2)
Now, 450 People Embarking on $200,000 Space Tours (Source: NewsTrack India)
The world's first space tourists, including an eclectic mix of celebrities, scientists, and entrepreneurs are set to embark on a two-and-a-half hour space ride costing $200,000. Despite the cost, over 450 people have signed up for undertaking the space tour to travel 70 miles above Earth. The tour comprises a series of flights, each having six passenger seats and two pilots.

The tourists include comedian Russell Brand, Dallas star Victoria Principal, film director Bryan Singer, designer Philippe Starck, scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, property developers the Candy brothers, and PayPal developer Elon Musk. The flights would include 15 minutes in space and a chance to experience weightlessness when the captain makes the announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, you may now unstrap yourselves and float around the cabin."

Passengers would be surrounded by portholes so that they can enjoy the stunning views for 1500 miles in each direction and down to Earth, similar to the vistas experienced by astronauts on board the International Space Station. The tourists would undergo a medical test and three- day training, including a trial flight simulating zero- gravity conditions before embarking on a space journey. (8/2)

British Pilot Unveiled as First Captain of Virgin Galactic Space Flights (Source: Telegraph)
A British pilot is set to fulfil his childhood dream by becoming the first captain to fly tourists into space. David Mackay, 53, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013. Mr Mackay, of Salisbury, Wilts., has held a lifelong ambition to a space pilot after watching the 1969 moon landings on TV as a schoolboy. (8/2)

Is NASA Still Needed? (Source: New American)
In 1958, Congress created NASA. The rationale for America's first venture into outer space was national security: to insure that the country could defend itself against any threat from space. Since that time, the space endeavor has devolved into just another federal program. The U.S. faces no threat from any nation that can outflank it in space. Though NASA conducts certain research projects, there is little reason to believe that philanthropies and private corporations could not accomplish this research just as easily. (8/2)

Dish Network Spending Spree Part of Plan to Revamp its Business (Source: LA Times)
It seems like an odd strategy for a company in a mature business with limited growth to buy another with even dimmer prospects. But that's what satellite broadcaster Dish Network Corp. did in April when it acquired bankrupt video store chain Blockbuster in a deal valued at $320 million.

Purchasing Blockbuster, and embarking on an almost $3-billion spending spree for broadband spectrum, are part of Dish's ambitious plans to turn the company from a pay-television service with about 14 million subscribers into a competitor of Netflix Inc. and a player in wireless communications. (8/2)

Is Loral's Growth for Real? (Source: Motley Fool)
Loral carries $10.4 million of goodwill and other intangibles on its balance sheet. Sometimes goodwill, especially when it's excessive, can foreshadow problems down the road. Could this be the case with Loral? Goodwill is simply the difference between the price paid for a company during an acquisition and the net assets of the acquired company.

The Intangible Assets Ratio shows us the percentage of total assets made up by goodwill and other intangibles. Hewitt Heiserman views anything over 20% as worrisome, "because management might be overpaying for the acquisition or acquisitions that gave rise to the goodwill." Loral has an intangible assets ratio of 1%. But we're not through; let's also take a look at Tangible Book Value.

This value is simply what remains after subtracting goodwill and other intangibles from shareholders' equity (also known as book value). If this is not a positive value, Heiserman advises you to run away because such companies may "lack the balance sheet muscle to protect themselves in a recession or from better-financed competitors." Loral's tangible book value is $936.1 million, so no yellow flags here. (8/2)

Entrepreneurial Training for Ex-NASA Workers in Texas (Source: KUHF)
The Houston Technology Center is partnering with NASA's Johnson Space Center to give former shuttle program workers the tools to go into business for themselves. With the final touchdown of Atlantis, about 5500 NASA employees and contractors have either lost their jobs or are expecting layoff notices. There's a real fear in the business community that much of this highly skilled workforce will bleed away from the region.

Walter Ulrich is president and CEO of the Houston Technology Center. "This change of situation for them while in many ways is a tragedy also is a terrific opportunity. It is the largest pool of potential entrepreneurial talent that has been created in this country in twenty-five years." Ulrich says the center is working closely with Johnson Space Center and other organizations to train laid off workers in how to start companies of their own. (8/1)

NASA Loses Power and Langley Worries (Source: Daily Press)
Losing electricity may be a welcomed diversion for bored office workers. But at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, such occasions are cause for alarm. Researchers rely on power to work with hazardous materials, use cranes to move spaceship models and a host of other dangerous activities. So it’s little wonder that a temporary loss of power at Langley — on June 24 as a storm battered the region — caused a stir at NASA’s oldest research facility.

No one was reported injured during the incident, which happened around 4 p.m. on a Friday. But the emergency lights failed to start, leaving thousands of researchers, quite literally, in the dark as NASA and Dominion Virginia Power worked to restore electricity. the failure of the backup lighting system left some researchers uneasy about Langley’s aging infrastructure. “I think most of the people were concerned that the emergency lighting didn’t kick in,” Christopher Rink said. (8/2)

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