August 6, 2011

NASA Wants Gas Stations in Space (Source:
If humans are ever to live and explore in deep space for extended periods, space gas stations may prove a vital necessity. Toward that end, NASA has awarded contracts to four companies with plans to study how to store and transfer fuel in space. It's not simply a matter of building a Shell station in orbit. Rocket fuel is cryogenic, meaning super-cold substances like liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. If not kept extremely chilled and protected, some of those liquids tend to boil off into gases.

"Storing cryogenic propellants such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in space for long periods of time with minimal boil-off is critical for deep space human exploration," according to a NASA statement. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has been testing technologies for space-based fuel transfer, in collaboration with United Launch Alliance aboard NASA-sponsored Zero-G aircraft flights. (8/6)

NASA Awards Cyrogenic Propellant Depot Study Contracts (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected four companies to develop concepts for storing and transferring cryogenic propellants in space. These capabilities are important for the agency’s future deep space human exploration missions. The selected companies, pending successful contract negotiations, are: Analytical Mechanics Associates Inc.; Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.; Boeing; and Lockheed Martin.

The awards total approximately $2.4 million with a maximum individual contract award of $600,000. Each company will provide a final report to help define a mission concept to demonstrate the cryogenic fluid management technologies, capabilities and infrastructure required for sustainable, affordable human presence in space. NASA will use the studies to plan and implement a future flight demonstration mission that will test and validate key capabilities and technologies. (8/6)

More Than 1,000 Shuttle Workers To Lose Jobs This Month (Source: Space News)
More than 1,000 workers at companies that worked on the space shuttle program will leave their jobs for good in August. While at least one major space shuttle contractor is laying off more employees than it projected in the lead up to last month’s final space shuttle mission, at least two — United Space Alliance and Boeing — will issue fewer pink slips in August than initially predicted.

The most significant attrition is at USA, NASA’s main shuttle contractor. The Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture expects to end the summer with a workforce less than a third the size it was following the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident. USA, which laid off 1,550 workers immediately following the final space shuttle mission’s July 21 landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will lay off another 515 Aug. 12, spokeswoman Kari Fluegel said. Most of these will come out of Houston. (8/6)

NASA Announces Next Opportunity For Cubesat Space Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking proposals for small satellite payloads to fly on rockets planned to launch between 2012 and 2014. These miniature spacecraft, known as CubeSats, could be auxiliary payload on previously planned missions. Proposed CubeSat investigations must be consistent with NASA's Strategic Plan and the Education Strategic Coordination Framework. The research should address aspects of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations.

Applicants must submit proposals electronically by 4:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 14. NASA will select the payloads by Jan. 30, 2012. For additional information about NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative program, visit: (8/6)

Hammerhead Topples at Old Titan Site (Source: Lompoc Record)
Earlier this week, workers on south Vandenberg Air Force Base removed the hammerhead portion of Space Launch Complex-4 East, the former Titan 4 rocket launch facility that is visible from around the Lompoc Valley. The demolition of the historic launch facility is taking place to make way for the new Falcon 9 Heavy rocket manufactured by SpaceX. (8/5)

California and the Rise and Fall of America’s Space Program (Source: TruthDig)
Downtown Lancaster features its own answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame: A strip there honors Chuck Yeager and other aviation pioneers—a parade of people known for having the right stuff. These American heroes are depicted in elaborate frescoes on the walls of local establishments. Click here to read the article. (8/6)

Not Lost in Space (Source: Houston Business Journal)
A Houston company that bills itself as the “budget airline of space travel” is expecting a surge in business now that the U.S. space shuttle program has shut down. NanoRacks LLC negotiates on behalf of scientists for access to the International Space Station for research experiments and is busy booking room on future flights launched in other countries.

NanoRacks has already registered customers for both commercial and educational research on flights with the Russian Federal Space Agency in October and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2012, said Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks. (8/6)

Divorce Shocker: Buzz Aldrin Doesn't Own His Own Name Now (Source: National Enquirer)
Buzz Aldrin has allegedly been tricked out of using his own name professionally in a bizarre twist to his recent divorce. And NOW Buzz is fighting mad legally -- zapping his step-daughter with a countersuit! According to a new lawsuit filed against Lisa Cannon, his stepdaughter, Buzz says he was duped out of capitalizing on his famous name.

The daughter of Buzz’s estranged wife Lois, Lisa Cannon, helped run StarBuzz Enterprises LLC that helped promo Buzz. StarBuzz was created, he said, to help fund and develop new space travel technology for everyday Joes. In the bombshell lawsuit, Buzz claims that Lisa, acting as his lawyer, manipulated him into signing an agreement that gave StarBuzz ALL rights to Buzz's name, work, and public persona. (8/6)

His 'Astrochimp' Proved Space Was Safe (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Joseph Brady trained the first "astrochimp," which helped show that outer space was safe for astronauts. Mr. Brady, who died July 29 at age 89, was an Army biologist and psychology researcher whose work with monkeys and chimpanzees made him an ideal animal trainer for space flight. In 1961, NASA placed Ham, a three-year-old chimp, into a Mercury capsule atop a Redstone rocket and blasted him to a five-minute ride in space. American rocketeers had previously put fruit flies and mice in space, and the Soviets put several dogs in orbit. (8/6)

Prince Harry’s Bid for NASA Training (Source: The Sun)
Intrepid Prince Harry plans to be the first Royal to boldly go into space - and even wants to enter NASA training. Army pilot Harry, 26, is a closet Star Trek fan and "obsessed with space", according to friends. They say he has already asked Sir Richard Branson's son Sam for a seat on one of the first Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flights.

But he hopes to become an honorary member of the elite US space program after returning from Afghanistan next year. Harry needs a minimum of 1,000 hours of advanced jet engine flight time to be considered by NASA. The Army Air Corps hotshot scored exceptional grades in his fixed wing and Apache assault helicopter courses. (8/6)

‘Cosmos’ Update Coming Soon (Source: New York Times)
“Cosmos,” the 1980 documentary mini-series that encouraged a generation of viewers to contemplate the origins of the universe and their place in it, and made an unlikely television personality out of the astronomer Carl Sagan, is poised to return to terrestrial airwaves. Only this time the starship is being steered by a pilot whose identity you might not surmise even if you had billions and billions of guesses.

On Friday the Fox network is to announce that it has ordered a 13-episode series, “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” expected to be broadcast in 2013. As part of a creative team that includes Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and a collaborator on the original “Cosmos,” one of the executive producers is Seth MacFarlane, the creator, producer, co-star and animating spirit of “Family Guy,” the bawdy and irreverent Fox cartoon sitcom.

In 2009 Mr. MacFarlane was introduced by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist, “Nova ScienceNow” host and director of the Hayden Planetarium, to Ms. Druyan, a “Cosmos” co-creator. For several years Ms. Druyan said, she, Dr. Tyson and Steven Soter, another collaborator on the original series, pitched a new version of “Cosmos” to “the usual television network suspects” that did not quite see mass appeal in the series. (8/5)

New NASA Heavy-Lift Rocket Could Cost $38 Billion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The rocket and capsule that NASA is proposing to return astronauts to the moon would fly just twice in the next 10 years and cost as much as $38 billion, according to internal NASA documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. The money would pay for a new heavy-lift rocket and Apollo-like crew capsule that eventually could take astronauts to the moon and beyond. But it would not be enough to pay for a lunar landing — or for more than one manned test flight, in 2021.

That timeline and price tag could pose serious problems for supporters of the new spacecraft, which is being built from recycled parts of the shuttle and the now-defunct Constellation moon program. It effectively means that it will take the U.S. manned-space program more than 50 years — if ever — to duplicate its 1969 landing on the moon. (8/5)

Brevard's Space Tourism Sector All Smiles (Source: Florida Toay)
The launch of space tourism in the post-shuttle era got good reviews, as big crowds watched the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft lift off Friday afternoon. It is a relatively high-profile mission, and thousands of spectators crowded into two viewing sites at Kennedy Space Center to watch Juno launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. More than 1,000 of them were waiting outside the KSC Visitor Complex when it opened at 7 a.m. to be assured of getting a bus pass for the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the closest public viewing area for this launch.

Editor's Note: NASA anticipated that as many as 10,000 invited guests and other spectators would be present to watch the Juno launch. Not nearly as many as the final Shuttle launches, but still a great boost or the local tourism industry. (8/6)

Explore Space Tourism at New Mexico's Spaceport America (Source: Dallas News)
Far from the public eye, on a desolate stretch of New Mexico desert, a new project promises to write the next chapter in the story of mankind’s irrepressible urge to conquer space: the commercialization of spaceflight. Private industry, led by an assortment of aerospace companies and bolstered by NASA’s pledge of technical support and seed money, has taken up the chase.

Leading the way is Virgin Galactic, a hybrid organization melding the money and imagination of billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson and the technical genius of California aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. With a proven flight system in place, Virgin Galactic is about to usher in the age of space tourism with its launch of the first-ever commercial spaceflight sometime in 2012 from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Visitors can now explore the world’s first purpose-built spaceport. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority recently introduced a tour program that offers participants a glimpse into the future of space travel and a close look at what’s happening on the ground at the remote site 35 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences. (8/4)

Meet India's 'Space Girls' (Source: Deccan Herald)
Can India’s ‘Space Girls’ tag be limited to the Sunitas and Kalpanas? Of course, they have done us proud by putting themselves in space –– through foreign projects –– but the answer is no! Although India’s dreams of sending humans out of the Earth’s atmosphere is distant and sending women, a latent dream, there is nothing preventing women from working up the ranks in space research and development in India’s premier space agency. (8/6)

Water-Cooler Wars: Space Shuttle Showdown (Source: Independent Mail)
One View: If the argument for not having space shuttles is that we are going to build bigger and better spaceships in the future, then I am all for that. I would love to have deep-space explorations and warp speed and Prime Directives. I would love to see men riding asteroids and colonies on Mars. ...Now what do we have. A couple ideas and the near guarantee that things aren’t going anywhere. At least for a while, anyway.

Another View: I’m already tired of the space shuttle bellyaching. I do feel for the 3,200 workers NASA laid off last week, but I have this strange feeling that if a person applied for a job with the word NASA under “previous employment,” they would probably have a good chance of jumping up in the consideration pool. We’re all sad because the iconic space shuttle is being put away, but we have to realize that NASA and our government are aiming a little higher and looking a little further into the future.

We need to stop holding on to the past. We need to take a few years to plan a better space shuttle — nay, a better space craft. I would prefer one that looks kind of like the Millennium Falcon and less like the Enterprise. It’s time to move on, people. (8/6)

Suborbital Shuttle: Sydney to London in 4 Hours (Source: Australian Business Traveler)
Would you like to step onto a plane in Sydney at 3pm after a late lunch, fasten your seatbelt and be in London four hours later -- which means, given the time zones, arriving at 6am ready for breakfast and a full day of meetings? It sounds like science fiction, but Virgin Galactic wants to make this a reality. And it could happen sooner than you may think.

Space isn't the final frontier for Virgin Galactic. It's a return to the superfast era of the Concorde, only this time even faster, with a scheduled sub-orbital shuttle to whisk you from Sydney to London in four hours. Brett Godfrey, former top dog at Virgin Blue, believes that sub-orbital services will be "the next level" beyond supersonic, with substantial appeal to business travelers.

"In another 10 or 15 years it will be $20,000 -- it will be no more than a first-class ticket somewhere" Godfrey says, "and then eventually they will be able to get a slightly bigger rocket with a bit more fuel and they'll be able to get it so it goes trans-con and then around the world. It may not be in my lifetime that it goes commercial but I think it probably will." (8/6)

What Aliens Could Learn From the Stuff We’ve Left in Space (Source: Boston Globe)
If you were to visit the moon today, in the neighborhood of the Apennine mountain range, you would find a small figurine, about the same size and shape as a Lego minifigure, lying facedown in the lunar dust. Unauthorized by NASA, this “Fallen Astronaut” sculpture was placed there exactly 40 years ago this past week by astronauts David Scott and James Irwin of Apollo 15, and sits alongside a tiny plaque listing the names of 14 astronauts and cosmonauts who had died during their time in their respective space programs.

This haunting miniature memorial is only one of the many artifacts and messages that human beings have deliberately sent into space, or left there, as a symbol of our presence. Whether you agree or disagree with sending out messages, there’s no question we’ve sent out a lot already, both intentionally and unintentionally. Any creature looking at Earth from outside would already have quite a bit to reckon with. So, what does our signature look like? If one were to cast a net around everything humans have broadcast outward about themselves, what picture of Earth would emerge? Click here. (8/6)

Is Space Race Now Race to Privatize? (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
A bit more than 42 years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Near as I can tell neither he nor any subsequen
Linkt U.S. moon visitor tried to start a fast-food franchise there. The last space shuttle flight landed on Earth a couple of weeks ago, not ending U.S. space travel but changing it. Separate from the shuttle program, NASA's plans for a manned return to the moon have also been canceled.

A distressed federal budget is the culprit, of course. But count the government's virtual withdrawal from the moon race also as a casualty of scarcity of vision. Filling this vacuum will be private enterprise, according to recent stories. Spurred by current incentive — a prize of $30 million from Google — and the prospect for immense future profit, some enterprising firms are launching their own moon race.

Governments tend to be risk averse. Private enterprise gets ahead by taking risks, though there are companies aplenty whose operating strategies have amounted to complacency. Profit motive can be good. But it can also have a whole lot of should-have-been-foreseen consequences. In the case of private enterprise and moon exploration, we might want to consider what might be foreseen. Namely, exploitation disguised as exploration. (8/6)

The GPS Fiasco (Source: Economist)
The “NextGen” air-traffic control system, which uses GPS satellites to pin-point every plane’s precise position in the sky once a second, plus onboard radios that let each aircraft continually see (and be seen by) all others nearby, is to be rolled out in 2012 and fully implemented by 2022. Replacing today’s patchwork of ground-based air-traffic control radars with a blanketing mesh of GPS satellite signals should allow planes traveling busy routes to steer clear of one another, while flying in tighter formations though crowded airspace.

The aim is to save fuel, time and lives, while handling an ever increasing amount of air traffic. And so it would, except that due to regulatory haste and shortsightedness, GPS coverage of America could soon go dark in places and become patchy elsewhere. The ultimate source of the trouble is a decision made in 2003 by the FCC to grant special dispensation to a broadband satellite operator called SkyTerra, allowing it to fill gaps in its coverage by means of ground-based transmitters, using a spectrum abutting a crucial frequency used by GPS.

However, SkyTerra’s signals being mere whispers from space and its few proposed ground stations designed to operate at low power, any threat to GPS was dismissed as highly unlikely. Everything changed when Harbinger Capital Partners bought SkyTerra and renamed it LightSquared. The attraction was three-fold: SkyTerra’s swathe of under-used frequencies; its license to provide a nationwide internet service; and, above all, the FCC’s waiver allowing it to use ground-based transmitters where satellite reception was poor. (8/6)

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