August 27, 2011

Space Station Could be Abandoned in November (Source:
Astronauts may need to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station before the end of this year if Russia is unable to resume manned flights of its Soyuz rocket after a failed cargo launch last week, according to the NASA official in charge of the outpost. "Logistically, we can support [operations] almost forever, but eventually if we don't see the Soyuz spacecraft, we'll probably going to unmanned ops before the end of the year," Suffredini said.

"I suspect that if we get close to Nov. 16 and we haven't flown a Soyuz yet, and by then we will have stepped down to three crew, we'll probably de-man the ISS and go to unmanned operations," Mike Suffredini said. Half of the current ISS crew launched to the complex Apr. 4 and planned to depart on Sep. 8. Officials could decide this week to extend their mission. The crew's Soyuz TMA-21 capsule can stay docked to the ISS for up to 210 days. Its design life expires in late October, and Suffredini said he expects no problems continuing their mission until then.

The other half of the station's six-person crew are supposed to return home Nov. 16. That crew's Soyuz capsule, named Soyuz TMA-02M, blasted off June 7 and would need to land in late December or early January. Russia quickly recovered from a deadly rocket crash in 2002 and launched a crew of three space fliers two weeks later. "I fully expect our Russian colleagues will resolve this anomaly in a timely fashion, and I expect them to do it in a safe fashion. Having the data they have on the anomaly is just fantastic," Suffredini said. (8/27)

Lost Russian Satellite Poses Threat to Space Navigation (Source: Xinhua)
The Russian heavy satellite Express-AM4 lost on Aug. 18 might pose a threat to other space vehicles, local media reported Friday. Citing a source in the space industry, Interfex news agency said the Express-AM4 "will stay on its orbit for years or even for decades." The Express-AM4 may collide with other telecommunication satellites from Glonass and GPS groups as well as with the Globalstar and Iridium satellites, the source said.

However, the source stressed the lost satellite posed no danger to the International Space Station (ISS) because it had been placed on a higher orbit with the minimum distance from the Earth of 696 km. Russia's space monitoring system, a subdivision of the Space Forces, is working with the U.S. United Space Operations Center to locate the Express-AM4 positions before further launches of new space vehicles, the source said. (8/27)

FAA Tech Center Jeopardized by Budget, Congressional Opposition (Source: SPACErePORT)
After canceling Constellation, President Obama proposed to establish an FAA Tech Center at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Tech Center would support applied research and development that would allow the FAA to effectively regulate the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry, which would soon be sending NASA astronauts into space from Kennedy Space Center. The Tech Center would focus, in part, on making commercial human spaceflight more competitive than it would be if the industry were forced to use NASA's ultra-stringent standards.

The Tech Center would initially employ about 50 people, but could grow substantially as the industry matures. The FAA sought $5 million to start-up the Tech Center and has been working with NASA KSC to identify office space near the Space Shuttle launch pads. Th FAA also participated in multiple recent job fairs on the Space Coast, with an eye toward identifying staff for the Tech Center. Unfortunately, planning for the Tech Center has stalled and the project could be halted altogether by Congress.

During a recent hearing in Washington, elected officials criticized the Tech Center plan for its potential to generate unneeded regulations that might impede the industry's growth. FAA officials strongly disagree, saying the Tech Center would support smart oversight for a hazardous industry that currently is largely unregulated. But, in today's Congress, regulation is a four-letter-word and any new regulations must be stopped. It probably doesn't help that the Tech Center was proposed by President Obama. So, seemingly on principle, the Tech Center may not happen. (8/27)

SpaceX Hiring Dozens in California, Texas, Washington DC (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX has posted several dozen job openings for engineers, technicians, inspectors, machinists, even an executive chef. The vast majority of the jobs are in California, at the company's Hawthorne headquarters (where Falcon and Dragon hardware is developed) and Vandenberg Air Force Base. About a dozen of the jobs are in Texas, where Falcon rockets are tested. An internship is available in SpaceX's Washington DC office. None of the jobs are located in Florida, where SpaceX already employs hundreds at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Click here. (8/27)

The Big Picture Wins Big (Source: NASA)
Remember life before cell phones? Or GPS? Or tablet computers? Kind of hard, isn't it? Air traffic management researchers feel the same way about life before the Future ATM (Air Traffic Management) Concepts Evaluation Tool, or FACET.

FACET is a computer program developed by NASA that generates simulations for managing air traffic scenarios. It provides a "big picture" view of what's happening in the skies overhead. For any given moment in time, it can show thousands of aircraft swarming through our national airspace. With each aircraft represented as a tiny icon, a FACET simulation can look like an "ant farm in the sky," with aircraft clustering around major airports like ants targeting a drop of peanut butter. Click here. (8/26)

Boeing Completes Heavy-Lift Pathfinder Tank as Michoud Operations End (Source:
While the political side of the Space Launch System (SLS) continues to be bogged down by delays and arguments, the engineering side of the vehicle is picking up, most notably on the core stage. With Boeing’s “Pathfinder” tank completed ahead of schedule, External Tank tooling is being unwrapped for checks, ironically as ET operations officially ended at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF).

August has been a relatively busy month for SLS, with NASA centers and contractors almost ignoring the delaying tactics in Washington DC, by pushing on with planning work surrounding the winning configuration of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) – as much as NASA’s top brass continue to avoid announcing it.

At the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), the new SLS DAC (Design Analysis Cycle) cycle officially started this month. Managers have already presented their teams with kickoff charts, showing what is now the well-known Shuttle Derived (SD) HLV, along with pointers towards a forward plan to develop the Upper Stage design simultaneously with the core stage. (8/26)

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