August 28, 2011

Wallops Island has Minimal Damage From Storm (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Assessments find minimal damage to NASA Wallops Flight Facility main base and island, reports a security team saying, "We were fortunate." (8/28)

Space: Huntsville’s Future - But When (Source: Examiner)
The man currently heading NASA says human spaceflight is not over. He was countering claims made earlier Friday by his predecessor that it will take a new President to kick-start the manned space program again. Mike Griffin said the current administration has vehemently opposed human spaceflight. "This administration is not going to wake up tomorrow morning and say, 'Whoops, we've made a mistake.'"

Bolden did not provide that start date. He acknowledged Huntsville was the place to build the heavy-lift rocket. But he left the idea of when in a galactic void. That, despite some lawmakers as late as Friday, demanding the rocket development be put on a fast track citing the Russian rocket failure. (8/28)

NASA Heavy-Lift Rocket Not Needed for Taxi Service (Source: Florida Today)
Supposedly, this week's crash of a Russian supply rocket exposed the urgent need for a proposed NASA mega-spaceship to haul boxes to the International Space Station. U.S. senators from Texas and Alabama demanded that NASA speed development of a massive heavy-lift rocket for which Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, won authorization last year. With no replacement yet for the space shuttles, American cargo and astronauts must hitch rides for now with the Russians. No one wants that.

But use Nelson's supership for runs to the space station? And with no money so far from Congress? That's like trying to build a nitro-burning monster truck from scratch in your garage just to make a few trips to Publix. Someone please introduce Congress to the Atlas V rocket, the Ford F-150 of space travel. Three private companies, Boeing, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada, have already chosen the Atlas to carry astronauts. Their test flights begin in three years.

Editor's Note: The NASA heavy-lift rocket's primary purpose would be for extra-large payloads and missions beyond Earth's orbit. The vehicle would provide a back-up capability for ISS crew and cargo transport. Also, the Atlas V relies on Russian rocket engines. (8/28)

Editorial: 32 Nobel Laureates Say Keep the Webb Telescope (Source: New York Times)
The James Webb Space Telescope is the natural successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, reaching well beyond Hubble’s limits, revealing secrets even Hubble cannot. The discoveries of the Webb will be the source of awe and inspiration for the next generation. Cancellation of the Webb, as a Congressional subcommittee has voted to do, would deal a fatal blow to large and ambitious space science missions for the foreseeable future, and would deny the public access to new and exciting images of the type that have captured the imagination of people of all ages.

We support careful oversight over the future plans and budgets of the Webb telescope’s mission, and we believe that every possible effort should be made to launch the Webb as early as possible. (8/28)

Altai Ethnic Group to Sue Russian Officials Over Progress Loss (Source; RIA Novosti)
A small ethnic group native to the Alati Republic's Choya district where Russia's ill-fated Progress space freighter recently fell, will file a lawsuit against officials guilty of the incident, minority's leader Maria Sakova said on Sunday. The freighter was 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. (8/28)

NASA Needs to Wake Up and Give Congress Real Numbers for Projects (Source: Florida Today)
Stop me if you've heard this one before. NASA's estimates for when it will complete a new super-rocket, a spacecraft to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit and the ground support systems at the Kennedy Space Center have three basic problems. On all three separate major projects, which together form the foundation for NASA's future human exploration efforts, outside auditors have found the same flaws:

Program managers have assumed few technical problems or surprise delays, the kind that come up, usually multiple times, on every major aerospace development project. Program managers have budgeted very little "reserve" money to cover the sometimes gargantuan expenses that come along with those inevitable technical problems and delays. And program managers have planned for substantial new "efficiencies" with no data, facts or other supporting documentation to show how they're going to do certain tasks for millions of dollars less than their predecessors.

NASA's three most important future space exploration projects -- the ones critical to the future of KSC -- already are repeating the exact same three mistakes that have been made on every over-budget, behind-schedule boondoggle project in the space agency's history. Auditor, after auditor, after auditor, after auditor has found the same three problems at the root of every NASA project that's blown its budget by billions of dollars and its schedule by years. (8/28)

The Upcoming NASA Budget Fight (Source: Hobby Space)
Of course, the White House may decide to keep both JWST and SLS and let NASA muddle along with just enough funding for those programs and for commercial crew and the tech projects to keep them all going but with none thriving. That would be a shame since despite all of the noise from Shelby, Hutchison, et al about the SLS, the Administration has a lot of clout in the current budget situation with respect to NASA and could win a fight over the SLS if it chose to engage in one. They should at least use their leverage to get full funding for commercial crew, which is clearly a priority now as doubts grow over the reliability of Russian transportation to the ISS. (8/28)

Commercial Space Flight: Scientists in Space (Source: Nature)
Adventure-seeking researchers could benefit from NASA's exit from manned space flight. Jason Reimuller has always dreamed of being an astronaut for NASA. Reimuller, a climate researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, never gave up on that dream. He studies high-altitude clouds from a plane in desolate polar regions, which feeds his love of science and adventure. He also applied for NASA's astronaut program and made it to the last round, but was unsuccessful.

So in 2010, Reimuller applied to train with Astronauts4Hire (A4H). The non-profit group, registered in Tampa, Florida, aims to train scientists to do research in space, and link them with groups that need such skills. “The prospects of becoming an astronaut through the traditional route, through space agencies, are slim,” says Brian Shiro, chief executive of A4H and a geophysicist at NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. “The opportunities are probably better in the commercial sector.” Click here. (8/28)

NOAA Warns Of Gap In Future Forecasting Abilities (Source: Science Friday)
NASA and NOAA satellites have been tracking Hurricane Irene as it barrels up the coast. But one type of NOAA satellite, which orbits the poles and helps predict severe weather like tornadoes and blizzards, may soon be out of commission--with no scheduled replacement--leaving NOAA with a blind eye. (8/27)

Russia to Test Launch Soyuz Rockets Before Delivering ISS Crews (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will carry out two unmanned test launches of Soyuz carrier rockets in the coming fall before using them to deliver crews to the International Space Station, a source in the Russian space industry said on Friday. One of the Soyuz rockets will be used to deliver a new Progress M-13M space freighter to the ISS, the source said. (8/26)

Tiangong 1 to Launch in Early September (Source: People's Daily)
According to an unnamed source in a position of authority in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the remarkable Chinese unmanned space module Tiangong 1 will be launched soon. However, because the experimental orbiter SJ-11-04, which was launched last week, failed to enter Earth's orbit, the launch of Tiangong 1 has been postponed until early September.

Tiangong 1, which means "Heavenly Palace" is the name of the first Chinese unmanned space module. After the launch of this aircraft, China will successively launch the Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 spacecraft that will dock with the Tiangong 1 to build the first Chinese space laboratory. At present, Tiangong 1 and its carrier the Long March II-F carrier rocket have been moved to the launch site and are undergoing vertical assembly. (8/28)

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