September 13, 2011

ATK's Liberty Rocket Could Put KSC to Work (Source: WESH)
NASA has given a boost to a rocket company that could rejuvenate some important parts of the Kennedy Space Center. An agreement with ATK would put a launch pad back to work for the Liberty launch vehicle. Liberty would use a larger shuttle booster rocket as the first stage and the core of a European-built Ariane rocket would become the second stage. ATK says a key factor is that it is already built and certified to carry people. No other American rocket can claim that.

Building Liberty rockets would put the Vehicle Assembly Building back to work. The crawlers and mobile launch platforms -- and their laid-off crews -- would also be needed, as well as the shuttle launch pads with teams of now out-of-work pad workers. If ATK can find customers to buy the Liberty, the company said it could be launching the rocket in two years and putting astronauts aboard within four years. NASA promised technical help and encouragement Tuesday but no money. (9/13)

ORBCOMM Prepares for Launch of AIS Satellite (Source: Biloxi Sun Herald)
ORBCOMM Inc. announced that LuxSpace Sarl (LuxSpace), an affiliate of OHB System AG, has confirmed that construction and testing of the LuxSpace VesselSat1 AIS satellite has been successfully completed, and the spacecraft has been shipped to the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) launch pad at Sriharikota. The target launch date is set for Oct. 12. (9/13)

Fears Over Soyuz Again Delay Space Launch (Source: New York Times)
The Russian space agency has again pushed back the schedule to send two Russians and an American to the International Space Station, the second such delay in less than three weeks over concerns about the safety of a Soyuz booster rocket. The new launch date of Nov. 12 leaves just three weeks for any additional delays before the orbiting laboratory would have to be temporarily abandoned and flown remotely from earth. (9/13)

NASA Selects Companies To Study Solar Electric Propulsion Spacecraft (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected five companies to develop concepts for demonstrating solar electric propulsion in space. These capabilities are important for the agency's future human exploration missions to deep space. The selected companies, pending successful contract negotiations, are: Analytical Mechanics Associates; Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.; Boeing; Lockheed Martin; and Northrop Grumman.

The awards total approximately $3 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 solar electric propulsion technologies, capabilities, and infrastructure required for sustainable, affordable human presence in space. (9/13)

Human Error Blamed for Proton M/Breeze Failure (Source: Aviation Week)
The anomaly that caused an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton M/Breeze M rocket to deliver a Russian telecommunications satellite into the wrong orbit last month has been attributed to a workmanship error, according to ILS President Frank McKenna. A worker fed a faulty parameter into the rocket’s flight software system. (9/13)

Boeing Receives Additional Wideband Global SATCOM Orders (Source Boeing)
Boeing has received a $1.09 billion contract modification from the U.S. Air Force adding funding to the existing Block II follow-on contract for full production, launch and on-orbit activation of the seventh Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite and procurement of long-lead materials for an eighth satellite. The authorization also includes options for the full production, launch and on-orbit activation of satellites eight and nine. (9/13)

Arianespace to Launch up to Four Satellites for DIRECTV (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace will launch two satellites for DIRECTV and has the option of launching another two satellites for one of the world’s leading providers of television entertainment services. All four satellites will weigh in at over 6 metric tons and will be a part of a fleet expansion and replenishment program. The new satellites will strengthen DIRECTV's direct-to-home (DTH) digital entertainment services across the United States. (9/13)

Russia Announces Launch of Two Spacecraft in Oct. and Nov. (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian space agency Roscosmos said it has tentatively set the nearest launch of a Progress space freighter on October 30 and a Soyuz manned spacecraft on November 12. Another Soyuz is scheduled to lift off on December 20 and a Progress - on January 26, 2012. The new launch schedule has been drafted on the basis of an investigation into a failed launch of the Progress M-12M space freighter from the Baikonur spaceport on August 24. (9/13)

Russia Might Launch Military Satellite on Sep. 21 (Source: Interfax)
A government commission in Moscow will gather on Thursday to make a decision on whether to resume launches of Proton-M launch vehicles, which have been suspended since the failed launch of an Express-AM4 satellite. "Unofficial working schedules envision that a Proton-M launch vehicle carrying a Cosmos military satellite could be launched on September 21 and a Proton-M carrying the QuetzSat-1 satellite at 10:32 p.m. Moscow time on September 29," the source said. (9/13)

Mega Space Storm Would Kill Satellites for a Decade (Source: New Scientist)
A major solar storm would not only damage Earth's infrastructure, it could also leave a legacy of radiation that keeps killing satellites for years. When the sun belches a massive cloud of charged particles at Earth, it can damage our power grids and fry satellites' electronics. But that's not all. New calculations suggest that a solar megastorm could create a persistent radiation problem in low-Earth orbit, disabling satellites for up to a decade after the storm first hit. (9/13)

Hosted Payload Hailed For New Business Model (Source: Aviation Week)
Though U.S. Air Force officials are hailing the forthcoming launch of a military payload hosted on a commercial satellite, funding could be an obstacle to a future Pentagon satellite infrastructure that relies heavily on hosted payloads for service. SES-2 is slated to launch Sep. 17 on an Ariane 5 rocket. The satellite, made by Orbital Sciences Corp., will carry the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (Chirp) made by Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).

The project is a “hallmark of cooperation and opportunity” that brought together an “incredible combination of different interests,” says Douglas Loverro, executive director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). The payload includes one of four infrared telescopes designed by SAIC under an Air Force program started in the middle of the decade to find an alternative in the event that the performance of Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) prime contractor Lockheed Martin continued to disappoint, threatening to expose a gap in ballistic missile warning. (9/13)

Dish Network Satellite Outage Knocks Out HD Channels Nationwide (Source: Endagadget)
If your Dish Network-connected TV is claiming total signal loss, then at least take comfort in the fact that you're not alone. While the company hasn't revealed exactly what the problem is, Facebook and Twitter posts indicate a "technical issue" with satellite location 129. The really bad news comes when we learned that bird is responsible for carrying many HD channels and HD locals. (9/13)

Boeing Space Capsule Tested with Airbag Drop (Source: Boeing)
In the Mojave Desert in southeast California, Boeing and teammate Bigelow Aerospace recently conducted a series of successful air bag drop tests for the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 mock capsule, which, like airbag tests done in cars, will help ensure that the seven crew members inside the capsule land safely after reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. Boeing is one of four companies competing to develop a commercial crew transportation system that will restore the United States' capability to provide access to the International Space Station by 2016.

After reentering the atmosphere, the CST-100's three main parachutes open at an altitude of approximately 12,000 feet. When the capsule reaches about 5,000 feet, the base heat shield drops away and six air bags inflate with a mixture of air and nitrogen two minutes before landing to cushion the passengers from the impact. For the drop tests, the team used a mobile drop rig built from a semi-truck and a trailer-mounted crane to drop the test capsule and be able to evaluate a combination of horizontal and vertical drop impacts. (9/13)

Belt Tightening At FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (Source:
Last week the House Appropriations Committee set a $13 million budget for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, representing half of what agency director George Nield requested back in May. Nield's request was 74 percent higher than what it had received for FY-2010 and FY-2011. Nield said at the hearing that he expected a ten-fold increase in the number of commercial launches and pointed to new initiatives such as the Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center at Kennedy Space Center and a “prize” program.

The budget news was greeted with concern in some quarters, with predictions of permit and license delays as a consequence of the trim-down. Alternatively, Robert Zimmerman sees this as a positive sign: "Cutting their budget will pull the teeth from their regulatory efforts. As the commercial space industry ramps up, the political pressure on this office to approve permits will increase, and if they are short of cash they will have no choice but to keep things simple and say yes."

A statutory provision limiting the scope of FAA-AST rulemaking is set to expire in 2012, which means the agency could be poised to implement a whole host of measures directly affecting the burgeoning manned commercial spaceflight market. The House version of this year’s FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act contained a provision that would extend the limitation an additional eight years from “the first licensed launch of a space flight participant,” however the version currently before the Senate contains no such extension. (9/13)

House Will Consider FAA Funding Bill (Source: Politico)
A measure that will keep the Federal Aviation Administration running is expected to go to the House floor today. Late last week, congressional leaders struck a deal that would keep the FAA funded until Jan. 31. Funding has been bogged down in partisan disputes. (9/13)

Super-Earth Discovered in a Habitable Zone (Source: New Scientist)
Whispers that the Milky Way is filled with planets have turned into a roar. Earlier this week, astronomers announced the discovery of 600 more exoplanet candidates, including one "super-Earth" which may be habitable. The news strengthens many astronomers' suspicions that habitable planets are common and that more exciting discoveries are likely as better telescopes become available.

Called a super-Earth because it is only 3.6 times more massive than Earth and possibly rocky rather than gaseous, it resides in a 58-day orbit on the inner edge of its orange star's habitable zone. If protected by a thick, cloudy atmosphere, it could have liquid water on its surface. Called HD 85512b, the exoplanet is only the second small world to be found inside a habitable zone and lies just 36 light years away in the constellation of Vela. That is close enough for future telescopes to scour it for signs of life. (9/13)

'WOW! That's Engineering' Workshop for Girls at Space Coast School on Oct. 8 (Source: SWE)
The Society of Women Engineers invites girls in seventh through tenth grades to attend "WOW! That's Engineering!" The event is a full-day hands-on workshop at Bayside High School in Palm Bay on Saturday, Oct. 8. Girls will have an opportunity to participate in five different hands-on activities throughout the day and meet a number of women engineers who will share their experiences as an engineer and engineering students from FIT and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Click here. (9/13)

Arizona Gains When UA Goes Out to Space (Source: APM)
The University of Arizona's mission to bring a piece of an asteroid back to Earth is an example of the importance of the state's universities as economic, research and educational sources, UA President Eugene Sander says. Experts at the UA are working with NASA scientists and others to try to bring back an asteroid sample that could provide valuable answers about the beginning of life on planet earth. The mission is known as OSIRIS-Rex or Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer. Click here to hear the interview. (9/13)

No comments: