August 26, 2011

Spaceport America Snares Federal Grant (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
For the second consecutive year, Spaceport America has received a federal grant award to help fund new infrastructure. The Federal Aviation Administration grant is worth $249,378 toward the cost of a roll-back vehicle integration building at Spaceport America. The roll-back vehicle integration building is projected to cost $498,756, of which the FAA grant will pay for half. (8/26)

Mike Griffin: No New Rocket Until a New President (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA and its contractors know the next step in human spaceflight, they've been working on it for six years, and they're eager to build the big new rocket that is the key to taking that step. That was the positive take on a panel convened by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle Friday afternoon at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Battle brought industry and former government leaders together hours before a gala celebrating NASA's last great rocket program, the space shuttle.

Panelists were less positive on when NASA will get the green light to build the rocket. Views ranged from "we're getting closer" to "it's a brutal time for budgets and it's not going to get any easier" to a flat prediction that it won't come until the Obama administration goes. That assessment came from former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, a steady critic of the White House that replaced him as NASA chief and killed the rocket program Griffin was leading. (8/26)

NASA Aims To Move Orion Test To Cape (Source: Florida Today)
NASA intends to move a flight test of the abort system for the Orion crew exploration vehicle to Cape Canaveral from a missile range in New Mexico, and the agency is targeting March 2014 for the launch. The test flight is to be staged at Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to an agency white paper obtained by Florida Today.

The test originally was scheduled to take place at White Sands Missile Range because the Orion spacecraft initially was designed to return to Earth and parachute down to land. But NASA since has changed that plan, and now, the spacecraft will splash down in water. Senior NASA officials this week decided there would be several advantages to launching the test flight from Cape Canaveral. A water landing could be executed, and the launch site would be located close to Orion assembly, integration and production facilities at Kennedy Space Center.

A converted Peacekeeper missile will be used to launch an Orion crew module equipped with a Launch Abort System, which would use rocket motors to pull the spacecraft away from a booster rocket during a launch accident. Editor's Note: Launch Complex 46 is licensed to Space Florida, and operated by the agency under agreements with the FAA, Air Force, and Navy. (8/36)

Kucinich: GE Exec Should Quit Govt. Council Because NASA Tech Transfer (Source: Common Dreams)
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called upon General Electric’s Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt to resign from his position as head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Kucinich’s statement came in response to news reports that, in exchange for short-term profit, GE is sending advanced technology to China that was originally created by NASA. "If he does not resign, the White House should remove him," Kucinich said.

A report in Monday’s Washington Post described the transfer of a virtual reality display system for airplane cockpits that GE is transferring to the Chinese as part of its joint venture with a Chinese state-owned company. The display system GE is transferring was originally developed using Synthetic Vision technology created by NASA in partnership with private industry. NASA has committed millions of dollars to pursue development of synthetic vision systems. (8/26)

New Space Florida Board Announced (Source: Space Florida)
During the 2011 Florida legislative session, a bill was passed establishing that Space Florida “shall be governed by a 12 member independent board of directors which consists of the members appointed to the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, Inc.” Six members of this board are appointed by Governor Rick Scott, three by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and three by House Speaker Dean Cannon. Therefore, Space Florida's board members now include:

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (co-chair); Jay Beyrouti, President, Monicarla, Ltd.; Ron Campbell, Director, The Seminole Companies; Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, Partner, Broad and Cassel; Debra Duvall, Partner, Water Pointe Realty Group; John Falconetti, President, Drummond Press; Danny Gaekwad, CEO, NDS USA Information Technology & MGM; Adam Hollingsworth, CEO, Parallel Infrastructure, LLC; Chris Kise, Partner, Foley Larner; Fred Leonhardt, Senior Partner, Gray Robinson PA; Don Phillips, Managing Director, Phillips Development and Realty; Hal Valeche, President, York Street Capital Advisors; and Phil Waller, Vice President, MWH Americas, Inc.

In addition to its new Board, Space Florida will also have an Industry Advisory Council to aid in its governance. This 15 member advisory council will be appointed by the Governor and will be made up of Florida residents with expertise in the space industry. Specifically, the following areas of expertise will be reflected in the members that make up this Council: human space-flight programs, commercial launch, organized labor, other aerospace-related industries, and an alternative energy enterprise with potential for aerospace applications. The advisory council shall elect a member to serve as the chair of the council. This chair will serve ex-officio on the full board of Space Florida. (8/26)

Nigerian Satellites are Picture Perfect (Source: BBC)
Nigeria's latest Earth observation satellites have returned their first pictures. The spacecraft, launched on 17 August, give the African nation a powerful new capability to map its own lands and other parts of the globe. NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X will also assist the Disaster Monitoring Constellation. This UK-managed fleet of spacecraft is used to picture regions of the Earth gripped by natural calamities. (8/26)

ATK Shows Off Liberty Launch Vehicle (Source: Tremonton Leader)
On Aug. 20, ATK workers, along with family and special guests, were given a up-close and personal look at ATK’s newest rocket motor, the Liberty Launch System. Liberty is a 5-stage rocket motor developed to be used on all types of spacecrafts, both manned and unmanned. ATK will be testing Liberty in September and test flights could be possible in 2013. Initial crew operational capability could be as soon as 2015.

Liberty is the newest phase of motor that will be used, not only for government use, but also for commercial space transportation business. Commercial space exploration is an exciting prospect for ATK. The initial view of Liberty on Saturday was hampered by lightning warnings within a 30-mile radius of ATK. Any lighting strike could set off the motor so housing was placed around it, until the threat was lifted. (8/26)

Huntsville Mayor Asks NASA Administrator to Give Marshall 'A Mission' (Source Huntsville Times)
Mayor Tommy Battle had a simple request on behalf of Huntsville's aerospace community when NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. visited on Friday. "Give us a mission" is how Battle put it Thursday. Battle hosted Bolden for lunch when the NASA administrator came to Huntsville to help celebrate this summer's successful conclusion of the 30-year space shuttle program.

Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA's propulsion center, is waiting for NASA and White House approval to begin work on the rocket that will follow the shuttle. Formally known as the Space Launch System, it includes a heavy-lift rocket big enough to boost astronauts and their equipment into deep space. (8/26)

Huntsville Mayor Hosting Panel Talk on Starting New Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Huntsville Times)
Mayor Tommy Battle hosted a panel discussion on saving NASA's proposed new heavy-lift rocket. The hour-long, free event was open to the public and included as panelists Mike Griffin, former NASA administrator and King-McDonald Eminent Scholar & Professor, University of Alabama in Huntsville; Shar Hendrick; Bud Cramer, former congressman from North Alabama; Steve Cook, director of space technologies at Dynetics; and Jim Chilton, of Boeing.

Panelists addressed "NASA's missions, direction and leadership, congressional actions and attitudes, technical aspects of lift capability, past and future projects, the recent Independent Cost Assessment, what next, impact on Huntsville, how to move forward, and why this is important to the country," the mayor's office said in a statement. (8/26)

Scholarship Group Launches Space Auction (Source: Florida Today)
It's a space geek's dream! Take a Caribbean cruise with Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter. Go SCUBA diving with Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. How about a water skiing adventure with former NASA Chief Astronaut Kent Rominger? Or witness the Nov. 25 launch of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory with legendary shuttle astronaut Bob Crippen.

These and other unique opportunities are up for grabs in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's Fall Auction of Astronaut Experiences & Memorabilia, which opened for online bids on Friday and continues though Sept. 3. Click here to get a piece of the action. (8/26)

The Space Hotel: Will It Launch? (Source: The Morton Report)
No matter how deep of a recession the world has been in, the hotel industry has not ceased to amaze us with its rapid expansion and innovation, staying the course and plowing forward with a childlike obliviousness to the world’s woes. The Russian firm Orbital Technologies recently revealed its plans for an orbiting hotel room, complete with its own space shuttle craft designed to transport guests to and from this mystical place in the sky.

Though most space experts are already putting the proverbial kibosh on the program, claiming that Russian space programs have neither the proper funding nor a skilled enough workforce to complete such a task, the teams remain confident the new spacecraft design will be ready and operating by 2015. (8/26)

Spaceship Crash 'Exposes Russia's Systemic Failures'(Source: AFP)
The crash of an unmanned Russian spaceship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) exposed a systemic lack of proper checks and a dearth of qualified staff, experts said. The first such failure since Soyuz rocket launches began in 1978 has prompted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to call for a major shake-up in quality checks on spacecraft during and after production.

Experts stressed that the failure of the Soyuz rocket should not affect future flights to the ISS. But they acknowledged a range of problems, from low salaries of space workers to lax technical checks. The reason for the crash was likely to be a technical fault in production or human error by workers at the launch, said Igor Lisov. "It is almost 100 percent certain that it was a production error or down to bungling operators," he said. (8/26)

Northrop Grumman Begins Voluntary Buyout Program (Source: LA Times)
Northrop Grumman launched a voluntary buyout program at its aerospace division this week, but said that if fewer than 500 people volunteer, the company will have to resort to layoffs. "This action is being taken because of defense budget uncertainties and pressures on current and projected business," said Jim Hart, a spokesman for Northrop. "We must adjust our budgets by the end of this year to be prepared to meet the challenges of what shapes up as a demanding 2012." (8/26)

FAA Spaceport Grants Will Strengthen (Source: USDOT)
The FAA is awarding grants to projects at three spaceports. With matching support, these projects will develop and expand our nation’s commercial space transportation infrastructure, going a long way toward meeting President Obama’s National Space Policy and its greater emphasis on using the commercial space industry to meet our current and future space transportation needs.

$125,000 will go to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to improve security and remote monitoring; $125,000 will go to the Mojave Air and Space Port in California for a Supplemental Environmental Assessment; and $249,378 will to the New Mexico Space Port Authority to construct a mobile structure to prepare larger rockets before launch. Editor's Note: Florida submitted a grant proposal but it was not selected for award. (8/26)

With Kan Canned, What’s Next for Japan in Space? (Source: Space News)
The Aug. 26 resignation of Japan’s embattled prime minister Naoto Kan could well turn out to be great for Japan’s space program. Here’s why: two of the leading candidates to replace him, Seiji Maehara and Banri Kaieda, as former state ministers for space development, have a vested interest in tying up some very important unfinished space business.

Seiji Maehara, 49, is not only a hawk and advocate of a more robust security structure, but as former state minister for space development he was instrumental in trying in spring 2010 to push through a radical shakeup and simplification of bureaucratic control of the government’s space activities. This was stymied and he’ll be looking to get his plans back on track.

Likewise, the efforts of his replacement, 62-year-old Banri Kaieda, to push through Maehara’s plans were blocked by a recalcitrant Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) that has spent the last three years opposing any moves that would diminish its space budget and planning authority. (8/26)

African Space Research: Dreaming of a Manned Shuttle (Source: BBC)
It would be easy to laugh at Chris Nsamba, founder of the African Space Research Program. For a start, his research center is based in his back garden where there's not much evidence of the type of sophisticated tools and machinery I'd imagine you need for this kind of work. When I was there, most of the engineers were equipped with just sandpaper and paint brushes.

They haven't even started work on the shuttle yet, at the moment it's more of a theoretical project. They have begun to build an aircraft though, apparently to test their engineering skills before they begin work on a shuttle which they hope will send a Ugandan cosmonaut into space. (8/26)

Lawmakers Take Tour of New Mexico Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A group of New Mexico lawmakers with oversight of some taxpayer dollars being spent on the $209 million Spaceport America toured the facility this week. State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said the project seems on-track, with spaceport officials reporting construction is about 90 percent complete.

"It's an amazing project and set up, and the private money that's coming in, I hope will be sufficient for us to be able to complete the project," she said. "With NASA coming on board and wanting to use this facility, I think that's a good boost to the spaceport." Editor's Note: NASA? (8/26)

Siberian Illnesses ‘Not Linked’ to Spacecraft Crash (Source: RIA Novosti)
The headaches reported by residents of a south Siberian village are not linked to the fragments of a space freighter that may have crashed in the area, a spokesman for the Roscosmos space agency said on Friday. Ten people have complained of headaches, increased blood pressure and sore throats since the Progress M-12M space freighter fell to earth in the region, a doctor at a hospital in the Karakosh village told RIA Novosti.

The fragments have yet to be found. The freighter was also carrying toxic heptyl fuel, although experts say it would have burnt up in the atmosphere. Russian medical officials have also said no trace of the fuel has been discovered. ‘If people really had been poisoned with some toxic matter, then a lot more people would have requested medical help, and their symptoms would have been a lot more serious,” the Roscosmos spokesman said. (8/26)

Beijing Less Likely to Seek Space Dominance if Treated as Partner, Not Pariah (Source: Telegraph)
The joker in the global space deck is China. No one knows quite what they’re planning to do in space. Recent musings from Beijing – highlighted in a new Pentagon report - inlcude the occasional reference to “space dominance”. The Chinese are rightly worried about how the US will react when economic dominance inevitably shifts eastward. They probably feel safe with Obama, but fear what a President Palin might do to restore American prestige. In other words, given uncertainty in Washington, a bit of careful planning for war in space makes sense.

Given our mutual reliance on fragile satellites, advanced nations – including the Chinese – must learn to swim together, or risk sinking as one. That means keeping weapons out of space and co-operating to advance space science for the benefit of all. Quite simply, China needs to be brought into the orbit of nations. The reason China acts like a pariah is perhaps because she has so long been treated like one. (8/26)

Arianespace: First Soyuz Launch from Kourou to Go Ahead (Source: Space Daily)
Paris (AFP) Aug 25, 2011 - The maiden flight of a Soyuz from Europe's space base will go ahead as scheduled on October 20, as it is a different version from the rocket involved in Wednesday's launch failure by Russia, Arianespace said on Thursday. "The problem that occurred yesterday is linked to a third-stage motor, and the Soyuz model that we will be using uses a different third stage." (8/25)

Black Hole Caught in Act of Swallowing a Star (Source: MSNBC)
For the first time, a black hole has been caught in the act of tearing apart and swallowing a star that got too close. Scientists, who until now had witnessed only the aftermath of such events, say the observation is shedding light on "relativistic jets," bursts of matter that shoot out at nearly the speed of light.

The Swift satellite observed a string of extremely bright bursts of gamma rays from outside our galaxy that began March 25 and lasted about two days. Scientists have detected gamma ray bursts in the past, but this pattern of light was completely different. Observations by several radio telescopes suggested the flare occurred in the center of a galaxy, and that the source of this radiation was expanding at 99.5 percent the speed of light. This suggested the flare came from a relativistic jet released after a black hole ripped apart a star. (8/25)

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