September 11, 2011

Submit Your Own Space Question for Republican Debate (Source: SPACErePORT)
FOX News is providing an online venue for the public to offer questions for the Republican primary candidates during their Sep. 22 debate in Florida. This is an opportunity to highlight the importance of space policy issues and to get on-the-record space policy statements from the candidates. By submitting a large number of smart space questions to the debate moderators, we will have a better shot at having one asked during the event.

Please give your question serious consideration as you don't want to allow the candidates to dodge the issue. Remember, these are professional politicians and thus evasive by definition. Click here. (9/11)

NASA Sees Testing SLS In 2017 for $18 Billion (Source: Aviation Week)
Early cost estimates for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress has ordered NASA to build indicate the agency believes it can test an unmanned version of the “core” vehicle selected by Administrator Charles Bolden for about $18 billion by the end of 2017. That previously undisclosed figure, which the agency gave to Booz Allen Hamilton for an independent analysis of the big rocket’s cost, includes the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and $2 billion in modifications to ground launch facilities at KSC.

The amount, which NASA believes it could provide under its fiscal 2012 budget request for human space exploration, would deliver a basic SLS able to lift 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit. That core would use surplus space shuttle main engines and the J-2X upper-stage engine now in development. The rocket could “evolve” to the 130-metric-ton capability Congress ordered in the three-year NASA reauthorization act passed and signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010.

NASA estimates obtained by Aviation Week show NASA told Booz Allen analysts that the core SLS could be developed for about $10 billion, plus $1.5 billion to cover the agency’s full-cost accounting approach that includes civil service salaries. The “21st Century Ground Systems” Congress ordered for the new vehicle would cost about $2 billion, plus a $0.4 billion full-cost escalator. (9/11)

India to Have One More Spaceport (Source: Outlook India)
Amid requests from various countries for launch of their satellites, India has decided to set up one more launch site to expand its capacity in this aspect. At a meeting held by the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary T K A Nair here to review performance of the Department of Space, it was decided that a feasibility study would be conducted for a new site, sources said.

The decision to find a new site was taken after the meeting was told that ISRO has only two satellite launch pads, both of which are affected during the cyclone season, the sources said. The two launch pads are located at Sriharikota High Altitude Range (SHAR). (9/11)

Flight-Ready Astronauts Could be in Short Supply Soon (Source:
The number of NASA astronauts hase fallen by about half since President Bush announced in 2004 that the space shuttles would be retired. NASA aims to hover around 60 astronauts. In the immediate near future, there will be only up to six flight opportunities a year. So, on the surface it would seem there would be plenty of fliers available. However, the issue is far more complex than that, according to a yearlong investigation by the National Research Council, which released a report this week.

The flight opportunities are long-duration stays aboard the International Space Station. Each stint requires upward of two years -- sometimes more -- training in the United States and Russia. The crew members (and their backups) have to learn to interact with an international crew and with an armada of international spacecraft from Russia's Soyuz crew vehicle to the Russian, European and Japanese cargo modules that visit sporadically.

They've got to learn skills different from a space shuttle mission. And, the range of knowledge they need to survive aboard the outpost is far greater than what they'd need for a very structured list of tasks that would be accomplished on a typical two-week space shuttle flight. (9/11)

NASA Sets Sights on Mars After Unmanned Moon Shot (Source:
In late November, NASA will launch the sophisticated Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) toward the Red Planet. The centerpiece of the ambitious MSL mission is a Mini Cooper-size rover named Curiosity, which will roam the surface of the planet searching for clues of its wet past and potential habitability. The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover will land in Gale Crater, a 96-mile wide scar in the Martian surface. MSL is expected to land on Mars in August 2012. Once on the surface, Curiosity will explore Gale Crater in hopes of determining if the region could have once supported some form of primitive life on Mars. (9/11)

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