September 1, 2011

Space Coast State Legislators Prepare for Early Session (Source: SPACErePORT)
Seven state legislators comprise the Brevard County legislative delegation, each representing a different part of the county otherwise known as the "Space Coast." On Sep. 7 they will meet with local agencies and interest groups to discuss local legislative and policy priorities for next year's Legislative Session in Tallahassee. At the top of the agenda is KSC Director Bob Cabana and Space Florida Government Relations Director Chris Snow. Click here.

Cabana's remarks are TBD, but Space Florida has already released its tentative list of priorities, including a recurring budget line for the agency, continued infrastructure support from FDOT, "spaceport territory" status for Cecil Field, and adjustments to economic development funding payments through Space Florida.

The 2012 Legislative Session will begin two months earlier than usual, on Jan. 10, to accommodate ongoing statewide redistricting (which will add two Congressional seats in the state). Still stinging from the Space Shuttle's retirement, Space Coast officials are hoping to maintain the visibility of space policy issues in Tallahassee and as national campaigns heat up in 2012. (9/1)

Texas Space Alliance Calls on Hutchison to Support Commercial Space (Source: SpaceRef)
The Texas Space Alliance (TXA) urged Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the rest of the Texas Congressional delegation to give their full support to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's call for transferring funding to American spacecraft companies and end plans for a giant "pork" rocket being promoted by the Senator and others. (9/1)

Did Soyuz/Progress Debris Crash in Peru? (Source:
The Peruvian military for several days have been actively seeking a "space object" that crashed in the difficult to access outskirts of the Cusco city. Thousands of people saw the fall of the "UFO". "This has never happened before, - said one of the witnesses, - many of us were panic-stricken." That is why the mountain-wooded neighborhood of Cusco has been examined by military helicopters and commandos units.

But there is another reason for the deployment of intensive search of a suspicious space object. The Peruvian authorities have been warned by a "certain friendly government" that "most likely" debris of the Russian "Progress M-12M" dropped on the territory of the country. It was launched from Baikonur on Aug. 24 but failed to reach its desired orbit. Attempts to find fragments of the craft in Siberia have been unsuccessful.

The "meteorite", which caused so much noise in Peru, was recorded on August 25, and its trajectory, according to Peruvian experts, was virtually identical to the approach trajectory of Progress. It may be noted that the fall of the "Shuttle" in the U.S. in 2003 was accompanied by exactly the same visual and audio phenomena as the mysterious "Peruvian Meteor". (9/1)

Debris of Used Progress Spacecraft Sinks in South Pacific (Source: Itar-Tass)
After undocking from the ISS on Aug. 23, the Progress M-11M was put into a lower orbit to support various research experiments. The spacecraft was on an independent flight for nine days. The Progress M-11M engines were started at 13:34 Moscow time on Thursday at the command of the on-board computer. The engines worked for braking, and the spacecraft began to descend from the orbit. The craft sunk in a designated area in the South Pacific to a depth of 4,000 meters, several thousands of kilometers east of New Zealand. (9/1)

Argentina and Brazil May Team for South American Space Agency (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Argentina has proposed to Brazil that the two nations join in creating a South American space agency. Brazil's defense minister on Tuesday received the proposal from his Argentine counterpart. Argentina's minister asked the authorities of both countries and companies to create a strategy that will enable the region to develop the space sector.

The “existing spaces and the ability of Brazil”, besides the “potential” of Argentina in this field, which, he says, “can be very well used.” “What keeps us from having a satellite launcher South American? The challenge for ministers is to create a South American space schedule and have own satellite in 2025″, said Brazil's minister. (9/1)

Air Force Space Command Celebrates 29 Years of Service (Source: AFSPC)
The Air Force Space Command celebrates 29 years of service. Originally organized to manage missile early warning and space tracking systems, Space Command brought together operators from Strategic Air Command and technicians from Air Force Systems Command. Today AFSPC operates in the space and cyberspace domains and provides military focused space and cyberspace capabilities with a global perspective to the joint warfighting team. (9/1)

Orbital Sciences Awarded $135M Satellite Contract (Source: AP)
NASA has awarded a $135 million contract to Orbital Sciences Corp. to design, build and test an earth sciences satellite. Orbital says the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, called ICESat-2, will measure the topography of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice. The satellite is scheduled to launch in 2016. (9/1)

UK Spaceplane Engine Tests Underway (Source: Flight Global)
Testing is under way to demonstrate the heat exchanger technology crucial to a hybrid air- and liquid oxygen-breathing rocket motor that Oxford-based Reaction Engines believes will enable single-stage-to-orbit flight. The Sabre engine is intended to power a reusable, runway take-off and landing unpiloted spaceplane called Skylon, which promises to put payloads of up to 12t into orbit - and as much as 6t to a high geostationary orbit - for 10% of the cost of a traditional rocket launch. (9/1)

Catching a Lazy Asteroid (Source: Discovery)
An asteroid approaching Earth? You say that like it's a bad thing. In a fascinating study published by researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, the closer the asteroid gets, the better. Why? So the chunk of space rock can be put into Earth orbit, of course. Having an asteroid in orbit would be useful for mining purposes. After all, it is believed these interplanetary interlopers contain bazillions of dollars-worth of resources -- despite the ridiculously large overheads involved in safely excavating precious metals and minerals.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, how would we collect these soon-to-be orbital asteroids so we can plunder them? Actually, according to the study, there may be a condition that will allow us to "simply" pluck one or two asteroids that come close to Earth before they fly past to continue their orbit around the sun. Click here. (9/1)

Shuttle Program Ends, But Rocketdyne Will Keep Making Engines (Source: LA Daily News)
The storied space shuttle program officially ended on Wednesday but its main engines, made in Canoga Park by Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, will likely roar on. While the company still is involved in the space program, many employees were reflective about the end of an era. Already, however, Rocketdyne has filled its calendar with NASA and military missions.

Early last month, Rocketdyne engines powered the Juno spacecraft as it launched from Cape Canaveral on a mission to study Jupiter. A Rocketdyne-powered Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory is set to launch Sept. 8 on a mission to the moon. Rocketdyne is also developing hypersonic flight technology, with a test engine that has has hit five times the speed of sound. Rocketdyne is one of 13 companies selected to develop technology for NASA's new Space Launch System. (9/1)

NRC: Space Debris Has Reached “Tipping Point,” Strategic Plan Needed (Source: Space Policy Online)
A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) asserts that using "reasonable assumptions," the orbital debris environment has reached a "tipping point" where debris will "continually collide with itself" creating more debris. The report calls on NASA to develop a strategic plan for its programs that address the problem.

The NRC report, "Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs," was written in response to a request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) via NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. Its overarching recommendation is that NASA "develop a formal strategic plan that provides the basis for prioritizing the allocation of funds and effort over various [debris mitigation] program needs." (9/1)

NASA Accepting Applications For Aeronautics Scholarships (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is accepting scholarship applications from graduate and undergraduate students for the 2012 academic year. The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2012. Graduate students must apply under a specific research topic to align with NASA's aeronautics research programs. The list of available topics is posted online. Click here.

NASA expects to award 20 undergraduate and five graduate scholarships to students in aeronautics or related fields. Undergraduate students entering their second year of study will receive up to $15,000 per year for two years and the opportunity to receive a $10,000 stipend by interning at a NASA research center during the summer. Graduate students will receive up to $35,000 per year for up to three years, with an opportunity to receive a $10,000 stipend interning at a NASA research center for up to two consecutive summers. (9/1)
NASA Reaches its Outer Limit for Film Support (Source: LA Times)
NASA sees films and TV with space themes as a way to keep public interest in its programs. The agency readily consults on Hollywood projects, but it has pulled back from 'Apollo 18.' The Weinstein Co. has released the documentary-style sci-fi thriller and is marketing it as a movie culled from "found footage" from a U.S. space mission. To recap: Evidence of a vast, 40-year government conspiracy is allegedly about to be exposed by the movie studio that brought you "Piranha 3D" and "Scream 4."

A number of this summer's openly fictional films — "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "The Tree of Life," "Another Earth" — have wrestled with galactic themes and relied on NASA scientists, materials and imagery. Last year, in fact, NASA collaborated on nearly 100 documentaries, 35 TV shows and 16 feature films. But after initially touting "Apollo 18" as one of its upcoming fiction film collaborations, NASA has begun to back away from the movie.

"Apollo 18 is not a documentary," said Bert Ulrich, NASA's liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations. "The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. We were minimally involved with this picture. We never even saw a rough cut. The idea of portraying the Apollo 18 mission as authentic is simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps a bit of a 'Blair Witch Project' strategy to generate hype." (9/1)

Decatur Alabama: Calling on Jupiter (Source: Decatur Daily)
Community outreach is not unusual among Decatur residents, but in this case it’s on a universal scale. An Atlas V rocket, assembled by workers at the local United Launch Alliance plant, on Aug. 5 launched the Juno orbiter for NASA. For those of us in Decatur, it is all the more extraordinary because its accomplishment was a result of Decatur workers.

There is nothing wrong with being a blue-collar town, but that description of Decatur is being challenged by ULA. As NASA increasingly relies on commercial launch vehicles, Decatur will continue to expand its reputation for being a center of space exploration. (9/1)

Armadillo Plans: Clustered Tubes, Coastal Launches, No Powered Landings (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Armadillo's "Stig" tube rockets are designed to be clustered and staged to allow for larger payloads to be carried on suborbital flights. This serve as the basis for its suborbital space tourism vehicle. A first flight of a “prototype boilerplate vehicle” is planned for 2012. The vehicle will take off vertically with eight engines, turning off four in flight.

In a shift, though, the vehicle will not perform a powered vertical landing. “We’re working on a GPS steerable recovery system with chutes” that they plan to test on the next Stig flight. The shift from a powered landing to using parachutes was intended to lower the fuel load on the vehicle. Armadillo is looking, eventually, to orbital flight as well. “We intend to go orbital down the road...We want to crawl before we walk and before we run.” The company would be interested in launching from a coastal spaceport in Texas, like the one that been in some reports earlier this summer; “we’ve even talked about launching from the Gulf [of Mexico], if we can’t find a land base.” (9/1)

100 Year Starship Takes Shape (Source: SpaceRef)
The 100 Year Starship (100YSSTM) is a project seeded by DARPA, with NASA Ames Research Center as executing agent, to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable. The goal is to develop an investment vehicle--with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries--which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change.

This announcement is intended to solicit proposals detailing the "machinery" of the 100YSS business stratagem, and will result in the award of a grant to bring the 100YSS organization into existence and cover start-up costs, as well as some initial intellectual property. A principal assumption underlying DARPA's grant award is that it will constitute the totality of government investment in the 100YSS organization. Click here.

Additionally, all interested parties are advised of the 100YSS Public Symposium which will take place September 29 through October 2, 2011 at the Hilton Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The Symposium is a free event open to all. Further information may be found at (9/1)

Super-Earth on 'Edge of Habitability' (Source: MSNBC)
Planet-hunters say they've developed a relatively simple method for determining how livable a faraway world might be, and they've used the formula to identify a top candidate: a super-Earth that's 36 light-years away. A research paper is making the rounds among those who follow the accelerating search for planets beyond our solar system, pointing to a new prospect for the short list of potentially habitable planets: HD 85512 b, a world that's at least 3.6 times as massive as Earth, circling an orange star in the constellation Vela.

The authors rank the extrasolar planet right up there with Gliese 581d, a prime prospect for habitability that is 20 light-years from Earth. "HD 85512 b is, with Gl 581d, the best candidate for exploring habitability to date, a planet on the edge of habitability," they say. The paper uses HD 85512 b as a test case for a set of equations aimed at assessing how livable a particular planet might be, based on its orbital parameters, how much radiation it gets from its parent sun and the nature of its atmosphere. (9/1)

KSC Picks California Company to Integrate CubeSat Carrier on EELV (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA/KSC has selected California-based CSA Engineering for a sole-source contract to design, manufacture, and test a Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) mating device to an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA). This will enable EELV rockets to carry and deploy multiple CubeSat microsatellites as auxilliary payloads. (9/1)

Shuttle Program Officially Ends (Source: Florida Today)
NASA on Wednesday officially closed the books on the space shuttle program. Without ceremony, the program that launched 135 missions over 30 years -- the last in July -- ended and morphed into the new Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement Office, which began operations on Sep. 1. The office is responsible for readying orbiters for public display and ensuring unneeded facilities and property are closed down, sold or made available to new users. Dorothy Rasco, a former shuttle program business manager who was already leading the transition process, heads the office from JSC. (9/1)

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