August 9, 2011

Minotaur IV Launching From California This Week (Source: Launch Alert)
Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch a Minotaur IV from Space Launch Complex-8 here between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Aug. 10. The rocket's payload is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2. The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. Richard Boltz, is the launch decision authority. The Minotaur IV is a four-stage solid rocket vehicle consisting of three decommissioned Peacekeeper missile stages and a fourth, commercially-built stage developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. (8/8)

Rescue Reservists Support Atlas Launch (Source: USAF)
Air Force Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB supported the successful United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch August 6. Airmen with the 920th RQW provided search-and-rescue support for NASA's manned spaceflight missions from the Mercury project in 1961 through the space shuttle program, which ended in July. While there are currently no missions requiring astronaut search-and-rescue operations, the 920th RWQ continues to support NASA's rocket launch missions. (8/8)

Potential Mars Water 'A Big Deal,' Scientists Say (Source:
Claims of water on Mars have been made before, but a new discovery of potential liquid water on the Red Planet's surface last week is still making waves in the science world. What differentiates the new find from previous discoveries is the fact that it's the strongest evidence yet for liquid water, as opposed to ice, and it's on the Martian surface, as opposed to miles underground where it would be difficult to verify its presence. The research is based on observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (8/8)

SpaceX and Central Texas Take Lead in Space Exploration (Source: Waco Tribune)
The baton has now been passed and the era of private commercialization of space has dawned. There’s no doubt that the future of space flight is being made and tested here in McGregor — and that SpaceX is playing the key role. On this site — once a bomb manufacturing plant during World War II known as “Area L” — a new generation of engineers is recreating and rethinking the future of space missions. They’re doing so in our backyards and to the economic betterment of Central Texas.

This comes at a time when most cities are struggling to find new ways to attract businesses in a sluggish economy. Yet Waco is fortunate to host several thriving aviation and space-related companies such as SpaceX that are adding jobs as they seek to conquer new frontiers of outer space. Click here to read the article. (8/7)

NASA Selects Seven Firms To Provide Near-Space Flight Services (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. Each vendor will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. These two-year contracts, worth a combined total of $10 million, will allow NASA to draw from a pool of commercial space companies to deliver payload integration and flight services.

The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency's research and technology needs. The selected companies are: Armadillo Aerospace, Near Space Corp., Masten Space Systems, Up Aerospace Inc., Virgin Galactic, Whittinghill Aerospace LLC, and XCOR Aerospace. (8/9)

Nearly 300 More Aerospace Jobs Threatened in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Nearly 300 more aerospace jobs are threatened in Huntsville as Marshall Space Flight Center moves to what its director calls "a smaller, leaner center." Jacobs Technology ESTS group notified 281 workers in writing last week that their jobs could end on or before Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal government's new 2012 fiscal year. Jacobs has been Marshall's primary support contractor for engineering, science and technical services since 1989. (8/8)

ATK Sees More Layoffs (Source: Tremonton Leader)
ATK conducted more layoffs Wednesday, the result of the completion of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Approximately 100 employees, including 28 who volunteered and five who were transferred, were included in the layoff, most of them from the Promontory site.

A press release from the company said, “Although this layoff is smaller than those we have conducted in the past, reductions are never easy; we have lost some very talented individuals. Our Utah delegation continues to be instrumental in ensuring the United States retains its human space exploration program and is currently working to secure NASA’s future heavy lift vehicle. We are continuing to work on the development of the upgraded five-segment solid rocket motor and will conduct a third ground test in September." (8/9)

Will NASA's Heavy Lift SLS Rocket be DOA? Will it Take Orion With It? (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
SLS would fly just twice in the next 10 years at a price tag of up to $38 billion, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Congress is unlikely to be pleased, and that's even before the looming budget axe hanging over the next decade is factored in.

SLS is based upon technologies developed during the space shuttle era, integrating larger solid rocket boosters, the space shuttle's external fuel tank, and space shuttle main engines for the first stage. For beyond earth orbit manned missions, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) would sit on top. Critics say SLS looks a lot like the Ares V design proposed under the Constellation program, which spent $13.1 billion through April 2011 without producing flyable hardware. (8/9)

Space Junk could be Tackled by Housekeeping Spacecraft (Source: BBC)
Scientists have proposed a viable solution to the growing problem of space junk. The idea involves launching a satellite to rendezvous with the largest space debris, such as spent rocket bodies. The satellite would then affix a propellant kit, driving the debris to its doom in the Earth's atmosphere. This could inexpensively remove five to 10 such objects per year of operation. (8/9)

KARI Joins International Diaster Charter Group (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has become the newest member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ (The Charter). The Charter is a joint initiative for providing emergency response satellite data free of charge to those affected by disasters anywhere in the world. Charter members put space technology at the service of authorities in the event of a major disaster, providing earth observation data of the affected areas to assist rescue and disaster management efforts.

Each member agency has demonstrated a commitment to use space technology to serve humankind when it is in most need of assistance – when disasters of both natural and human origins strike world’s communities or wreak havoc on the environment. (8/9)

Editorial: NASA's Shattered Legacy (Source: Huffington Post)
By what right does this new, inexperienced president decide to completely do away with a human achievement that a predecessor accomplished with great fanfare, exaltation and benefit to humanity? What illustrious results has Obama ever produced? Does Obama talk to no one, not even to the American people, before he makes a decision of this magnitude? Whom does he consult? Why are we, the people, not told of the mechanics of this momentous decision?

I thought I'd go out of my mind when Obama made this announcement. I'm not alone. Harrison Schmitt, an Apollo 17 astronaut and space-policy expert said, "It's bad for the country. This administration really does not believe in American exceptionalism." This plays right into the hands of Conservatives who've been saying that Obama does not believe in or love America and would make a lousy president.

Texas Governor Rick Perry also rightly laid into the president for this travesty. Whether you support and love this president or loathe him and want him impeached, the decision to defund NASA is stupid, short-sighted and selfish. Editor's Note: The president has not proposed to defund NASA, and his decision to cancel Constellation was based on extensive consultation through the blue-ribbon Augustine Panel. (8/9)

'Avengers' Filming Starts at NASA Plum Brook (Source: Sandusky Register)
Filming began Monday at NASA Plum Brook Station for the new star-studded Marvel Comics movie, “The Avengers.” The filming is taking place in the big vacuum chamber at Plum Brook’s Space Power Facility and is expected to last the rest of the week, said Sally Harrington, NASA’s spokeswoman for Plum Brook. NASA is apparently treating the filming like a national security matter and has ordered employees not to talk to the press. (8/9)

Iran to Send New Satellite Into Space (Source: Xinhua)
Chancellor of Iran's Sharif University Reza Roustazad said Monday that Iran plans to launch a new domestically-manufactured satellite dubbed Sharif in the near future, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. "Industrial Sharif University's satellite will be the last satellite designed by university students, which will be launched into space," Roustazad was quoted as saying. (8/9)

China to Launch Civil Survey Satellite Late This Year (Source: Xinhua)
China will put into space a high-definition civil survey satellite, the first of its kind in the country, at the end of this year, said an official of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation. The satellite, ZY 3, will be launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on a Long March 4B rocket. (8/9)

NASA Gearing Up for Orion’s 2013 Debut Via Delta IV Heavy (Source:
The efforts relating to the debut launch of Orion – otherwise known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) – on a “multi-hour” test flight are ramping up, as managers discuss the preliminary objectives, which may include a “human capable” version of the spacecraft being tested. A launch date of July, 2013 has been set, with the Delta IV Heavy assigned to the role of launch vehicle.

NASA’s next human-rated vehicle has suffered from a troublesome childhood, with billions of dollars already spent on a spacecraft which has been pushed and pulled via problems with its original launch vehicle – Ares I – resulting in several mass-stripping exercises and design headaches, before finding itself part of resulting cull of the Constellation Program (CxP).

Brought back for a pointless role as a lifeboat on the International Space Station (ISS), Orion required additional political support via the 2010 Authorization Act to return to a more fitting role, as a Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration vehicle. (8/8)

Meteorites: Tool Kits for Creating Life on Earth (Source: Carnegie Institution)
Meteorites hold a record of the chemicals that existed in the early Solar System and that may have been a crucial source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth. Since the 1960s, scientists have been trying to find proof that nucleobases, the building blocks of our genetic material, came to Earth on meteorites. New research, published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that certain nucleobases do reach the Earth from extraterrestrial sources, by way of certain meteorites, and in greater diversity and quantity than previously thought. (8/8)

Meteor Explosion Surprises Pacific Island Nation of Niue (Source:
A meteor that exploded over the Pacific Ocean last week gave a late-night shock to the residents of the small island nation of Niue, according to press reports. Niue police officials say the exploding meteor created a huge bang over the island, waking up some of the 1,200 people who call Niue home, AFP reported. Officials with New Zealand's Carter Observatory said the bang was most likely a fireball from a meteor exploding about 12 1/2 miles (25 km) above Niue. (8/8)

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