August 29, 2011

Gas Generator Blamed for Progress Launch Failure (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Progress M-12M transport ship accident on August 24 was caused by a malfunction in the gas generator in the Soyuz carrier rocket’s third stage engine, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said. "Members of the emergency commission have determined the cause of the failure of the Soyuz carrier rocket’s third stage engine. It is a malfunction in the engine’s gas generator,” he said. (8/29)

Sens. Nelson, Hutchison Again Urge Action by NASA (Source: Sen. KBH)
U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson, Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee, said: "The very fact that NASA must make contingency plans for reducing the size or evacuating the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) if the Russian Soyuz cannot return to flight by November, is a compelling illustration of the urgent need to comply with the law and proceed immediately with the development of alternative and backup launch capabilities. Failure to take this action undermines U.S. leadership in space and jeopardizes our huge investment in the ISS." (8/29)

Resilient, Disaggregated, and Mixed Constellations (Source: Space Review)
US military space programs are facing a vicious cycle of cost, complexity, and requirements that is no longer sustainable. Thomas Taverney proposes that large, exquisite systems should be replaced by constellations that mix big spacecraft with smaller, less expensive ones. Visit to view the article. (8/29)

Exploration Initiatives From the Private Sector (Source: Space Review)
Prospects for human space exploration seem uncertain at best, given limited direction and funding concerns. Lou Friedman sees some hope, though, in the form on new initiatives from the private sector. Visit
Link to view the article. (8/29)

The Mars Consortium 2011 (Source: Space Review)
How can governments win public support for funding human expeditions to Mars? Frank Stratford argues they may have to be pushed to do so by private initiatives. Visit to view the article. (8/29)

The Telescope that Ate Space Science (Source: Pajamas Media)
A couple months ago, Florida Today ran an exposé on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program, which is far behind schedule, with costs ballooning several hundred percent over the original estimates. Sadly, as the paper points out in a follow-up editorial, this isn’t anomalous behavior at the space agency — it’s typical. And, just recently, NASA said the new heavy-lift rocket it wants to send astronauts on future deep-space missions from Florida would cost $9 billion and come in two years behind its mandated 2016 completion date.

Now, the telescope problem has gotten even worse. Last week, Aviation Week reported that the latest cost estimates are now up to $8.7 billion, and it has kicked off an intra-agency fight for funds, pitting space science against human spaceflight. NASA cannot afford this. As the June editorial pointed out, this is NASA’s Katrina. JWST is eating up the budget for other space science projects, in an extremely austere fiscal environment. Moreover, NASA’s inability to control costs doesn’t inspire confidence that it will be able to execute future programs, such as the Space Launch System, properly.

It is time — long past time — to pull the plug on this project, and start over with a clean sheet of paper and new assumptions. Moreover, if NASA is allowed to move forward with the technology development it seeks, and not have the budget for it eaten up by an unaffordable government launch vehicle for which there are no mission requirements or payloads, it will be possible to assemble large telescopes in orbit, and then move them the million or so miles to the planned observing site. ...Let’s hope that the White House agrees. (8/29)

Placing Blame for JWST (Source: Pajamas Media)
JWST started under NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Associate Administrator Ed Weiler. Virtually all of its chronic and unabated cost increases and schedule slips have occurred under Weiler’s watch either at NASA HQ or at NASA [Goddard Space Flight Center].

When former SMD [Associate Administrator] Alan Stern tried to bring the escalating costs of programs such as JWST and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) under control, in 2008, multiple NASA sources note that [then-Deputy Administrator] Chris Scolese and Ed Weiler maneuvered to force Stern’s resignation, in a classic NASA “shoot the messenger” move, with Weiler taking Stern’s place within barely a week.

Note that both Scolese and Weiler still have their jobs. Administrator Bolden, despite the fact that he is a Marine general, seems reluctant to properly manage or discipline underperformers, even though they were not his appointments (the putsch described above occurred under NASA Administrator Mike Griffin). Ideally, the White House would deal with his own underperformance, but the last thing they want to do right now, amidst all their other problems, is a job search and confirmation for a new administrator. (8/29)

Counting Senators for NASA's Heavy Lift SLS Rocket (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
At last count, 14 Senators had written or signed letters to the White House and/or NASA about NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket for exploration beyond low earth orbit. Ten of them are Republicans – a statistic not sitting well with the Tea Party in Space (TPIS). But why is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on board? The answer is surprisingly small.

Senate correspondence around SLS breaks down into five major groups: Details Now; Booster Competition; Western Solids Alliance; Southern States; and Announce Now. Each group has its own reasons to put in their two cents for SLS and some groups conflict. Click here. Editor's Note: It's not clear which groups include Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, though they might be most effective if they found common ground with the other Southern States senators. (8/29)

Celestis Planning Next Memorial Flight From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Celestis)
The reservation deadline for Celestis' next Earth Orbit mission is Sep. 9. The New Frontier Flight is scheduled to launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the fourth quarter of 2011. As of this writing, we have only four available preferred positions remaining. The price for the preferred capsule service is $3,995.00. If you are considering memorializing your loved one on board this historic space mission, then we recommend you contact us ASAP to make a reservation. Click here. Editor's Note: It isn't mentioned by Celestis, but I believe the launch vehicle carrying this Celestis payload is a SpaceX Falcon-9, with a primary mission to the International Space Station. (8/29)

Three ISS Crewmembers May Return to Earth Sep. 16 (Sources: Itar-Tass, RIA Novosti)
Thee members of the current crew working aboard the International Space Station (ISS) can return to Earth on Sep. 16, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said. Initially, the Soyuz TMA-21 spaceship with three ISS crewmembers was scheduled to land on Sep. 8, but the abortive launch of a Progress transport ship on August 24 necessitated adjustments in the schedule.

Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said the landing of the ship with Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Ron Garan would be postponed for a week. As for the trip of the next resident crew to the ISS, it will take place only after the launch of the next transport ship, i.e., not earlier than late October.

Roskosmos said it would make two unmanned Soyuz launches before sending a new mission to the ISS in order to prevent further setbacks. “I think we will make one or two launches of the unmanned craft, either an automated one or a freighter, or both, and a manned launch afterwards,” Krasnov said. (8/29)

Hurricane Irene Spares Launch Facilities (Source: Florida Today)
Hurricane Irene caused no damage that will impact upcoming launches from Cape Canaveral or Wallops Island, Virginia. The storm passed more than 200 miles off Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last Friday. NASA's GRAIL moon-mapping mission remains on track to launch Sep. 8 on a Delta II Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 17B.

Irene had weakened to a Category 1 storm by the time it made a more direct pass near Wallops over the weekend. Orbital Sciences Corp. reports some minor water seepage into a new hangar housing its Taurus II rocket stages, which will will be used for tests tied to the NASA program preparing for commercial deliveries of cargo to the International Space Station. (8/29)

Astronauts Could Grow 'Kitchen Garden' on Mission to Mars (Source: Telegraph)
Astronauts on the first manned missions to Mars could tend “kitchen gardens” of salad and vegetables onboard spaceships, scientists claim. Experts say the crops would not only give crews healthy food to eat during the long journey to the red planet, but would also improve the atmosphere onboard by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. In addition, the plants suggested as suitable by a NASA scientist would require minimal tending and not take up much room on spacecraft.

The 10 “prime candidates” are lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, peppers, strawberries, herbs and cabbage. Unmanned spacecraft full of supplies including long-lasting food could also be sent to Mars before astronauts set off, so they would have something to eat when they arrived. “Right now, we are looking at the possibility of implementing a bioregenerative system that would involve growing crops in space and possibly shipping some bulk commodities to a Mars habitat as well. (8/29)

Soyuz Failure Puts More Pressure on SpaceX to Deliver (Source: Florida Today)
This week's failure of a Russian resupply mission bound for the International Space Station has increased the spotlight on the next U.S. vehicle scheduled to visit the outpost: SpaceX's Dragon capsule. "It certainly puts some increased pressure on SpaceX," company founder and CEO Elon Musk said. "It just means we've got to make sure we deliver."

SpaceX is targeting a Nov. 30 launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on its most ambitious mission yet, which hopes to make Dragon the first commercial spacecraft to berth at the orbiting research complex. It's only a demonstration mission, and won't carry cargo critical to ongoing station operations. But a successful flight would set the stage for commercial cargo deliveries next year, a long-term capability essential to supporting six crew members and meaningful science research on the station -- especially if other vehicles experience problems. (8/29)

Russian Rocket Worries Could Leave ISS Standing Empty (Source: Moscow News)
Russia’s rocket problems could leave the International Space Station unstaffed come November as NASA waits for progress on the fate of the Soyuz spacecraft. According to NASA, there are enough resources to keep the astronauts safely in space until the end of October – but after that things get complicated.

If further freighters cannot make the trip, and the next incoming team of astronauts does not arrive before the scheduled departure of the second half of the current crew on Nov. 16, the station will have to be left unmanned. In theory it would be possible to keep a three-man crew on the station into December, but there are practical concerns about bringing them back to earth in the middle of winter.

Returning astronauts typically land in remote parts of the Kazakh steppe, and are collected and taken to the Baikonur space complex. But in the teeth of the Kazakh winter a search and rescue operation could be complicated by extreme weather conditions, making NASA reluctant to rely on this. (8/29)

Editorial: NASA Needs the Go-Ahead for a Clearly Defined Mission (Source: Huntsville Times)
There's a way. There's just not a strong will. That's where America's space program finds itself as space experts try to figure out NASA's roadmap. The space agency is at a critical juncture with the shuttle program over and uncertainty on Capitol Hill over development of a new space launch system (SLS) within tight budgets.

Plenty of groundwork has already been laid in developing a heavy lift rocket system to venture beyond low-Earth orbit. They just need a mandate to build and a defined mission. And the administration has yet to deliver. "SLS is not a paper rocket," Steve Cook, director of space technology at Dynetics, said Friday at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center... It's time to give NASA those marching orders and the resources it needs to succeed. (8/29)

NewSpace to the Rescue for the Space Station (Source: Huffington Post)
The fact Russia's launch failures are happening right now, just as we have almost abandoned our human spaceflight program and shifted to complete dependence on theirs, is almost the work of providence. It gives us the chance to change our course before we completely shoot our feet out from under us, or rather, before Congress does. We need to fix a couple of things right now.

It is absurd that more then 50 years into the age of human spaceflight the entire world depends on one launch system to get people to and from space. It is even more absurd that the U.S., who largely funded and built the space station, is having to pay another country to carry supplies and even our own astronauts to a facility you and I paid for. There is an easy solution. In fact, we could have up to five potential and different spacecraft flying to space -- if Congress (once again) will simply get out of the way.

NASA is already trying to create a new commercial spaceflight industry that will be able to do all of these tasks, do them cheaply, do them safely and do them using different vehicles flying on different rockets. But Congress, in particular Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, and Florida Senator Bill Nelson (with some quiet support from Senators Hatch and Mikulski) are intent on gutting the Commercial Crew program and putting all the money into yet another giant, never to be built job creator popularly called the Space Launch System (SLS). (8/29)

Embry-Riddle Tests Spacecraft-Fuel Dynamics in Weightlessness (Source: ERAU)
A joint team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and several industry partners recently collaborated on a series of spacecraft-propellant experiments aboard a NASA parabolic aircraft at Johnson Space Center. Floating in weightlessness, student Nathan Silvernail performed experiments for United Launch Alliance (ULA) as his thesis project in Embry-Riddle’s M.S. in Mechanical Engineering degree program; previously Silvernail earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle.

With long-term space missions to comets, asteroids, and other planets envisioned for the future, the joint team believes that existing technology could be adapted to refuel on-orbit spacecraft in ways that would negate the need for the continual development of heavy-lift vehicles, thereby saving time and money.

The team’s recent experiments in zero g focused on studying the dynamics of on-orbit propellant transfer. “United Launch Alliance provided a basic design and the means of performing the fuel transfers in zero g,” said Dr. Gangadharan. “Nathan then developed the scale model and designed his own parts to get it all to work. I’ve been very impressed by his dedication and the quality of his work.” (8/29)

Lockheed Martin Awards Scholarships to Embry-Riddle Students (Source: ERAU)
Lockheed Martin has awarded scholarships totaling $20,000 to the EmpowerEd Scholars Program. Scholarships will be awarded to four students attending the university’s school in Prescott, Ariz., and to four students at the campus in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The EmpowerEd Scholars Program is open to accomplished high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a degree at ERAU. The EmpowerEd program is committed to the advancement of underrepresented students in aviation, aerospace, scientific, business, communications and related fields. In addition to scholarship support, students also have access to Embry-Riddle’s First Class Program, which provides mentors and tutors to students to ensure their success while they are in school. (8/29)

Impacts May Spread Life to Other Planets (Source: ABC Science)
New computer simulations indicate microbes inside rocks blasted from Earth could survive long enough to reach other places in the solar system. The study is a new twist on the panspermia hypothesis that suggests the seeds for life on Earth come from outer space. Scientists used computer modelling to show how an asteroid or comet slamming into Earth with enough velocity would kick impact ejecta up into space. Depending on the velocity and impact location, debris would reach the orbits of the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and beyond. (8/29)

Frustrated Brazilian Space Research Director Stepping Down (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The director of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Gilberto Câmara, has announced that he will step down from his post later this year, about two years before the end of his term. “I left the space agency is due to the exhaustion caused by the daily struggle with legislation and institutional structures totally inadequate to institutions of Science and Technology. Adding to the frustration at the lack of renewal of the staff by INPE,” Câmara said in a statement.

A newspaper attributes Câmara’s decision to “differences with the leadership of the Brazilian space program and a break with the president of the AEB (Brazilian Space Agency), Marco Antonio Raupp” over the future of a joint rocket project with Ukraine and a proposed merger of AEB and INPE.

There is a fundamental disagreement over whether to continue a joint project to launch the Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rocket from the Alcantara spaceport. The billion dollar effort is years behind schedule and there are complaints on the Brazilian side about Ukraine failing to live up to its financial commitments. “Câmara has been a leading critic of the Brazil-Ukraine project, which competes for resources with satellite program developed by INPE. It is estimated that Brazil still need to put $600 million in the partnership,” the newspaper reports. (8/29)

Russia's Workhorse Launchers Grounded by Investigations (Source:
Two of Russia's most flown rockets -- responsible for nearly one-third of the global launch rate over the last few years -- are grounded in the aftermath of consecutive mishaps that spoiled the mission of a communications satellite and a resupply flight bound for the International Space Station.

The Proton rocket's Breeze M upper stage was the culprit in an Aug. 17 failure that stranded a Russian government communications satellite in the wrong orbit. Less than a week later, a Soyuz rocket's third stage cut off early, the booster fell short of orbit and destroyed a Progress cargo freighter headed for the space station. The flights originated from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Both launchers are now grounded, leaving crews and supplies without a way to reach the space station and placing commercial satellite launches in limbo for customers around the world. Derivatives of the Breeze upper stage and the Soyuz rocket at fault for this month's anomalies were aboard 13 orbital rocket launch attempts this year. In 2009 and 2010, the components believed to be culpable for this month's failures helped approximately one-third of all global space launches reach orbit. (8/29)

Russian Rocket Crash Deals a Blow to U.S. Space Strategy (Source: Sunshine State News)
America's presence in space took another leap backward when a Russian rocket bound for the International Space Station went down shortly after launch. "This is exactly why I offered legislation to keep the shuttle flying," said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge. "With the Russians, we have no backup plan."

Space policy expert John Logsdon said it's too soon to hit the panic button. "... it is very much overreacting to suggest that this single failure suggests that this Russian launcher is no longer reliable," Logsdon said. "Of course," he added, "if the investigation discovers...some across-the-board decline in Russian safety and mission assurance efforts, that would be a cause for concern."

Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, said, "The Russian Progress has a legacy of successful flight, but last week's anomaly certainly drives home the reality that the U.S. needs to have its own commercial resupply program up and running as quickly as possible so that we can reduce reliance on other countries. (8/29)

Teams Still Complaining About Google Lunar X PRIZE Rules (Source: Hobby Space)
The Master Team Agreement (MTA) governing how teams can compete for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE remains a bone of contention for the contest organizers and teams. At least one team representative calls the current MTA "egregiously one-sided, overly burdensome, oppressive and unconscionable." This MTA controversy has been brewing for several months and could impact the success of the prize initiative. Click here. (8/29)

Florida Senators Write Obama About Heavy-Lift Funding (Source: Space Policy Online)
Florida's Senators, Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R), joined forces to write to President Obama about funding for facilities at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The letter was written to clear up what the two Florida Senators believe was a "misunderstanding" in a letter written to President Obama by five Senators from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi on August 15.

One of the complaints in that letter was that NASA's FY-2011 operating plan would transfer money from the congressionally-mandated Space Launch System (SLS) to KSC to pay for facility upgrades. The letter from Nelson and Rubio seeks to clarify that there are funds in separate parts of NASA's budget for facilities at KSC. They emphasize their support for the SLS, but argue that ground systems for a new launch vehicle like the SLS are just as necessary as the "design and build phase." They point to a difference between NASA's budget categories for "21st Century Ground Systems" that are part of the SLS budget and "21st Century Launch Complex" that is part of "general construction updates" at KSC.

Their bottom line is that they support the "continued use of SLS funds to develop a complete heavy-lift rocket, including the KSC projects in question." Click here to see a copy of the letter. (8/29)

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