September 2, 2011

Rich Guys Have No Luck in Space (Source: Wall Street Journal)
If you want to be the richest guy in the universe, apparently you need to shoot a rocket into orbit just to make sure there are no Martians with more money than you. Some of the terrestrial world’s wealthiest men, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and founder Jeff Bezos have backed newfangled private spacecraft. Sometimes these efforts end about as well as the crew’s trip in “2001.” Click here for a rundown. (9/2)

Bezos: Successful Short Hop, Set Back, and Next Vehicle (Source: Blue Origin)
"Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet. A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle. Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job. We're already working on our next development vehicle." Click here for photos. (9/2)

Blue Origin Flight Test Fails (Source: Wall Street Journal)
An unmanned spaceship funded by Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos suffered a major failure during a recent test flight, according to govt. and industry officials, highlighting the dramatic risks of private space ventures. The vertical takeoff and landing spacecraft, developed by closely held Blue Origin LLC, was on a suborbital flight from the company's West Texas spaceport last week when ground personnel lost contact and control of the vehicle. The exact nature and cause of the failure were unclear.

Parts of the vehicle were recovered on the ground and are now being analyzed by company experts, according to govt. and industry officials. The serious malfunctions also could set back White House plans to promote a range of commercially developed spacecraft to transport crews to the Space Station. Blue Origin declined to comment. Officials at both NASA and the FAA were told in advance about the launch and are aware of the failure, according to people familiar with the matter. But spokesmen for the agencies also declined to comment.

Editor's Note: According to HobbySpace, unless they were testing abort engines for their crew module, there should be no linking this apparent accident to NASA's Commercial Crew plans. (9/2)

Sea Launch Prepares for Land Launch of Intelsat Satellite (Source: Sea Launch)
The spacecraft for the 5th Land Launch mission contracted for launch by Sea Launch AG has been delivered to the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. The Intelsat 18, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., will be launched in early October. (9/2)

Russian Military Satellite to be Launched from Baikonur on Sep. 14 (Source: Interfax)
A military satellite is expected to be launched from the Baikonur spaceport aboard a Proton rocket in mid-September. A Proton-M with a Briz-M upper stage and a Kosmos satellite will be moved to the launch pad on Sep. 10. The launch could be carried out on Sep. 14. The military satellite's launch was initially scheduled for Aug.s 31, but it was put off over a probe into the recent Proton/Briz-M failure.

Media reported earlier that the launch of the military satellite would be carried out in October, while the satellite would be sent back to the manufacturer for proof checks. "The satellite must be launched soon, or its electricity testing guarantees would expire and it would need to be returned to the manufacturer for repeat electricity tests," a source said. After an interagency commission finalized an inquiry into the causes of the failure earlier this week, the ban on Proton-M carrier-rocket launches was lifted. (9/2)

Apollo Astronauts' Souvenirs Up for Auction (Source: ABC News)
The equipment used by NASA's Apollo astronauts was government property, but crew members were allowed to bring small souvenirs, and they and other NASA employees saved memorabilia from their work. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell says he carried a microfilm copy of the Bible when he landed on the moon in February 1971 on Apollo 14. As of 2000, Mitchell said only 12 of the 100 copies he packed onboard were still intact. It is being auctioned in September 2011 for a minimum bid of $5,000. Click here for more on the artifacts up for auction. (9/2)

Behind the Mission to Land a Bible on the Moon (Source: FOX News)
The story of the microfilm Bibles -- there have been several, although this is the first to make it to the moon -- has almost been shrouded in mystery, partly because NASA logged them as “small microfilm packets” rather than Bibles. The first lunar Bible traveled to Earth’s satellite on Feb. 5, 1971, on board Apollo 14. Lunar Module Pilot Edgar D. Mitchell brought the Bible with him to honor Apollo 1 astronauts Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee who died in a cabin fire during testing of the Apollo 1 vehicle.

It had been a dream of White’s to bring a Bible to the moon’s surface. Mitchell turned that dream into a reality. Why a compact microfilm edition? Faith is precious in space -- but space is dear in space as well. The astronauts' personal kits each had an 18-ounce weight restriction, so the bibles were printed on microfilm in order to meet NASA’s weight requirements. Microfilm made it possible to shrink all 1,245 pages of that edition of the Bible onto small pieces of film.

Dozens of these almost microscopic scriptures have made it to the moon and back. Most have been given away to dignitaries and politicians (George W. Bush has one in his inventory). Click here. (9/2)

Space Beads Part of Program to Inspire Children Fighting Cancer (Source: Birmingham News)
Seven-year-old Sydney Newton already has fought off cancer. She also has a long string of beads that helped her do it. Sydney earned her beads through Beads of Courage, a national organization that helps children with cancer and other deadly diseases. Now she has a special one that has floated in the International Space Station. On Thursday at Children's of Alabama, she helped kick off a tour of dozens of beads that went up in the Space Shuttle at the request of her father, who works at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The space beads will spend September traveling the country, beginning with Birmingham, where Sydney received her treatment. (9/2)

Space Florida Plans $100K Award for Startup Company (Source: TRDA)
Join Space Florida and the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) for the Igniting Innovation Showcase in Cape Canaveral on Sep. 7. This full-day of business presentations and exhibitions will feature approximately 40 aerospace, aviation, biotech, life science, clean tech, defense, homeland security, information technology and telecommunications companies from across the state. Chosen from TRDA's Clean Tech Ventures and Capital Acceleration initiatives, these companies represent some of the most innovative and promising entrepreneurial firms. Before the event ends, Space Florida will present a $100,000 check to the most promising company. Click here. (9/2)

Japan Appoints New Space Minister (Source: Space News)
Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda unveiled his cabinet appointments Sept. 2, naming 44-year-old Motohisa Furukawa as Japan’s latest state minister for space development. Furakawa replaces Koichiro Gemba, who will serve as Japan’s new foreign minister. (9/2)

Florida Senators Dispute Sen. Shelby's Criticism KSC Spending (Source: Huntsville Times)
Florida's U.S. senators say Alabama's U.S. senators misunderstand a federal law they all helped write, a law requiring NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, says the two delegations agree on the main point: NASA should start now on the new rocket formally known as the Space Launch System (SLS).

Spending for improvements at Kennedy was always part of SLS, the Florida senators said. Complicating the debate is the fact that, in the wake of the space shuttle program, two plans for Kennedy have similar names. One is the 21st Century Ground Systems project that is part of SLS, and the other involves general construction upgrades for what is called the 21st Century Launch Complex. It is designed to make Kennedy attractive long-term as a launch center. Which plans are supported by which line-items in the budget? That's what the dueling letters are all about. (9/2)

Chiao: Make China Our New Partner in Space (Source: CNN)
Bring China into the International Space Station program. Here's how it might work. NASA would follow the model used to begin work with the Russians in the early 1990s. Technical exchanges of specialists and astronauts would pave the way for developing plans, processes and procedures to allow modification of the Shenzhou spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the ISS, with joint Chinese, U.S. and Russian crews. The U.S. would lead these efforts.

There are those who argue against any space cooperation with China on grounds that the Chinese would obtain technological secrets and capabilities from the U.S. The fact is, nothing of military value would be transferred in either direction, just as such knowledge has not been transferred to or from Russia as a result of the positive and successful collaboration in our civil space programs. China would only learn from us about how to operate with a civil space station.

The time is now. The United States should endeavor to recover the lead position in human space exploration with the cooperation of other nations. Xenophobia and isolationism are outdated concepts. Let's seize this opportunity and emerge again as a proud nation in space. (9/2)

Webb Telescope Nearing Completion (Source: Universe Today)
The James Webb Space Telescope has long been touted as the replacement for Hubble. The JWST is considered to be the one of the most ambitious space science projects ever undertaken – this complexity may be its downfall. Cost overruns now threaten the project with cancellation. Despite these challenges, the telescope is getting closer to completion. As it stands now, the telescope has served as a technical classroom on the intricacies involved with such a complex project. It has also served to develop new technologies that are used by average citizens in their daily lives. (9/2)

Another Shutdown of the FAA is a Possibility (Source: Huffington Post)
The Federal Aviation Administration faces the possibility of another shutdown as lawmakers have yet to resolve issues that led to a recent partial shutdown. "Members of Congress must work together," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "Communities could lose millions in federal funding for important airport improvement projects if Congress does not act quickly." (9/1)

Boeing Wins $1.1B in Air Force Satellite Work (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a $1.1 billion contract for work on multiple satellites that are part of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. The firm fixed-price contract covers the full production of the seventh satellite, advanced procurement of an eighth and an option for a ninth, according to the Sept. 1 notice. WGS enables high-data-rate military communication. One WGS satellite provides more capacity than the entire constellation of its predecessor system. Boeing is already under contract for six WGS satellites and had previously received long-lead funding the seventh satellite. (9/1)

Weather Hampers Search for Progress Debris in Siberia (Source: Itar-Tass)
The non-flying weather in the Republic of Altai has not been allowing for the second day in a row to continue the search for the possible site of the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft debris fall. On Thursday, because of rain, low clouds and fog, the search group did not fly to the mountains. On Friday morning it also stays on the ground waiting for permission to take off. The helicopter will fly for the search operation as soon as the weather improves. (9/2)

Domino's Pizza Moon Plan is All Topping, No Base (Source: Discovery)
I'm all for promoting space science in any way possible, particularly if it can grab headlines. But blatant publicity stunts with little substance? Not so much. Enter Domino's, the pizza company with "cosmic" aspirations. Although I'd love to see a multi-national company think out of the (pizza) box and toward promoting space science, there's little substance behind the pizza dough. Sadly, unless the Japanese Domino's office is drinking more than just coffee during their morning meetings, I see this as nothing more than a strange -- and slightly devious -- marketing ploy. (9/2)

Canadian Firm Buys Bankrupt RapidEye (Source: Space News)
A Canadian distributor of optical satellite imagery has purchased Germany’s RapidEye company out of bankruptcy and is looking to develop the now debt-free RapidEye into a major player in the commercial Earth observation market. Iunctus Geomatics Corp., whose current business includes being Canada’s exclusive distributor of French Spot optical satellite data, purchased Germany-based RapidEye for about 13 million euros ($18.9 million). (9/2)

Com Dev Posts Q3 Profit (Source: Reuters)
Canadian satellite technology company Com Dev International Ltd reported a profit for the third quarter, helped in part by lower costs and a gain on foreign exchange, but said it expects revenue for the year to decline 5-7 percent. Revenue fell nearly 4 percent to C$50.5 million. (9/2)

Cull of Shuttle Workers Theatens Efficiency and Safety (Source:
United Space Alliance (USA) Vice President Howard DeCastro said he fears there may be a price to pay for the loss of thousands of highly skilled workers at the end of the Shuttle program. “Right now and in the next 5 to 10 years, that work is likely to be in other business sectors. I worry more about the loss of the critical NASA personnel who are skilled in the planning, training, and operation of Human Space Flight.

“Without something to operate, it is highly likely that NASA will lose its core ‘operations’ capability and will have a difficult time rebuilding that capability. The probable loss of skills in NASA will manifest itself in a costly and slow return to the current level of efficiency and safety. Finally, the negative impact on many States from the loss of the Shuttle supplier industries has occurred at a very bad time for many communities. The economic hit to the State of Florida is expected to be the most devastating." (9/2)

The Precursor to an African Space Agency (Source: McGill Daily)
The International Astronautical Congress, the annual premier conference of space enthusiasts, students, and professionals, will be held in October in the African region for the first time in the event’s 60 plus year history. In light of this occasion, increasing calls are being made for the establishment of an African space agency. While I do support the creation of space agencies in developing countries, such as the Nigerian Space Agency (NASRDA) and the newly established South African National Space Agency (SANSA), I do not believe that Africa is ready for a regional space agency.

Other regional co-operative initiatives should be considered first to fully expose African countries to the benefits of Space Science and Technology (SST). At the core of the topic of space, there are two basic tenets that have stood the test of time. Firstly, to be a “space capable” nation, a country should have what some would characterize as superior scientific and technological prowess. Secondly, this designation brings pride and prestige to nations. But, to get to this stage is no easy task, no less because of the highly political nature of space engagement. (9/1)

NASA Aims to Protect Apollo Artifacts From Next Lunar Arrivals (Source: Science)
NASA has begun wrestling with how to safeguard the historic and scientific value of more than three dozen sites on the moon. These remnants of America's golden era of space exploration, including the spot where Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. left the first footprints on the lunar surface, may become vulnerable as dozens of private teams, spurred on by $30 million in prize money from Google and the X Prize Foundation, race to return to the moon as early as next year.

Later this month, the agency plans to issue what it calls "recommendations" for spacecraft, or future astronauts, visiting U.S. government property on the moon. A 20 July version of the guidelines obtained by Science proposes, for example, that missions approach Apollo landing sites and artifacts at a tangent to avoid crashing into them. It also suggests no-fly and buffer zones to avoid spraying rocket exhaust or dust onto historic equipment. (9/1)

Mars Rover Opportunity Explores Giant Crater, Snaps Photos (Source: Huffington Post)
The Mars rover Opportunity is snapping pictures like a tourist since arriving at its latest crater destination much to the delight of scientists many millions of miles away. The solar-powered workhorse beamed back images of the horizon, soil and nearby rocks that are unlike any it has seen during its seven years roaming the Martian plains.

Opportunity is doing more than just sightseeing. It recently spent a chunk of time using its robotic arm to investigate a flat-topped boulder to find out what it's made of. After a three-year drive, the six-wheel rover finally rolled up to the western rim of Endeavour Crater earlier this month to begin a new chapter of exploration. (9/1)

The Do-It-Yourself Formula for Space Disaster Movies (Source:
Outer space is one of the most fascinating things to the human mind. Its boundless mystery opens up an infinity of questions and possibilities. That being said, not a whole lot seems to go on up there. People head out once in a while—-maybe they’ve got some important space-business to take care of. Take down a meteor, communicate with aliens, moonwalk.

And, more often than not, something goes wrong. But don’t give up hope: one of those nifty astronauts (most likely the handsome one) will step up in the heat of the fight and make everything kosher. Sorry, space-kosher. So why, if this same thing keeps happening, are we as a people so fascinated by and in love with the space genre? Simple: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Click here. (9/1)

China Reschedules Launch of Unmanned Space Module (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese scientists have decided to reschedule the launch of the Tiangong-1, an unmanned space module, due to the failed launch of an experimental orbiter. The decision to delay the launch was based on the consideration that the carrier rocket Long-March II-F, which would be used for the upcoming launch, belongs to the same series as the malfunctioning one that led to the experimental orbiter SJ-11-04 failing to enter Earth's orbit in August. (9/1)

Huntsville Space Professionals Planning October Town Hall Event (Source: Huntsville Times)
National and local private sector space employers will get a chance to see how Huntsville can support private space exploration efforts at a late October Table Top hosted by Huntsville Space Professionals. The one-day meeting, set for October 23 or 24, will "show the commercial space industry the capabilities Huntsville has and the talent we have here," said HSP Communications Director Chris McLemore.

Companies invited include Space X, Virgin Galactic, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, Zero-G, Bigelow Aerospace, and other commercial space industry leaders. "We consider these companies to be the private space industry heavy hitters over the next several years," said McLemore. "We want to hear their visions and their goals." (9/1)

Domino's Plans Pizza on the Moon (Source: Telegraph)
Domino's Japanese arm has proposed a branch on Earth's nearest galactic neighbor is the latest escalation in a pizza publicity war. Rival chain Pizza Hut set the bar high in 2001 by delivering a pizza to astronauts orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station, but Domino's fought back last year in a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of its arrival in Japan.

The competition has been taken beyond the stratosphere now, however, with construction firm Maeda Corp coming up with a plan for a dome-shaped concrete Domino's restaurant on the surface of the moon. The company estimates the entire project will cost Y1.67 trillion - some £13.4 billion - of which Y560 billion (£4.5 billion) will be required to transport 70 tons of construction materials and pizza-making equipment to the moon aboard 15 rockets. (9/1)

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