September 21, 2011

Students Urge Armstrong to Promote Commercial Partnerships to Congress (Source: SpaceRef)
The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) gathered 300 signatures for a letter addressed to the President and Congress in support of a visionary space policy. They shared the letter with Neil Armstrong, urging him to carry their message to Congress during his Sep. 22 testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee. Here's an excerpt from their letter:

"As NASA inspired and amazed the world by landing humans on the surface of the Moon in the late 1960s, the average age in NASA's Mission Control was only about twenty-eight. People not much older than we are now played an enormous role in one of the crowning achievements in the history of the world. We believe that if NASA is refocused on developing new technology and on operating in partnership with the emerging commercial spaceflight sector, the youthful energy and excitement that allowed the Apollo missions to inspire the world and to reach unprecedented success will be rekindled."

"These commercial firms are the places we as students are most eager to work; and that enthusiasm is spilling over to NASA as the space agency begins to partner with this new industry. The decisions you make today will decide whether we as a nation truly progress forward with our space exploration endeavors, or whether we lose out on the promise of the moment. We thank you for allowing us to make our opinions heard." Editor's Note: This message seems at odds with the testimony that Armstrong delivered to Congress in 2010, in opposition to the President's plan for NASA to focus on technology development and commercial partnerships. (9/21)

NASA Had Chance to Retrieve UARS 10 Years Ago (Source: Daily Press)
NASA had a chance to retrieve the school bus-sized satellite that’s hurtling toward Earth but passed on the opportunity about 10 years ago, a former NASA scientist said. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was built to be retrieved by astronauts and taken back to Earth aboard the space shuttle, said James Russell, a former scientist at Langley Research Center. NASA brass was considering such a mission around 2000 but Russell and other scientists convinced leaders to keep the satellite in orbit because of the data the instruments were gathering. (9/21)

Contest for Space Exploration Ideas (Source: CSE)
Here’s your chance, America. What do you think the U.S. ought to be doing in space? What do you think should be next in space exploration? Will we go back to the moon? Will we send humans to Mars? Will the ISS make breakthrough discoveries that better serve mankind? What’s Next? We want to shape the future of space exploration. And we want to hear from you.

Sound off – share your visions for the future of space exploration by participating in the Coalition for Spaec Exploration's “What’s Next?” contest. It’s easy to do: submit a short video on your vision of the future of space exploration. We also welcome your comments on our What’s Next blog. The grand prize is an iPad2. We want to hear from YOU! Click here. (9/21)

ISS-Bound Astronauts Confident in Russian Launch System (Source: Florida Today)
Three people training to fly to the International Space Station later this year say they are confident in the Russian Soyuz rocket that will launch them toward the outpost. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, U.S. astronaut Don Pettit and European astronaut Andre Kuipers have no qualms about riding a rocket similar to one that suffered a launch failure on Aug. 24. Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers are scheduled to launch Dec. 26 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, riding atop a Soyuz FG rocket. (9/21)

Defense Industry Consolidation Expected (Source: Reuters)
Defense-industry executives are expecting merger mania to hit, with United Technologies' interest in Goodrich possibly the start of a consolidation wave. Insiders are expecting acquisitions of second- and third-tier defense firms, but changes are also possible in the top tier. Cuts to defense spending could spur the changes. Editor's Note: Many of these companies also are space industry contractors. (9/21)

NASA Moving Quickly on Contracting for Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Aviation Week)
With the confirmation of a design for NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), the agency’s hard-pressed spaceflight contractors finally have some information they can use to help them retain space shuttle and Constellation engineers and other workers. The skills of those employees, which come only from many years of experience, will be essential for building and flying the most powerful rocket ever built.

NASA says it will publish its plans for procuring the SLS on Sept. 23, with an industry day on the subject to follow next week. Senators say they will be watching to see how fast NASA moves on modifying existing contracts for the SLS work-—as ordered in last year’s NASA reauthorization bill. (9/21)

NASA Plans to Fund Only One CCDev Company? Probably Not. (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Those who have plowed through NASA's draft CCDev RFP documents have raised concern about one passage that reads: "...The acquisition will be conducted as a two-phased procurement using a competitive down-selection technique between phases. In this technique, two or more contractors will be selected for Phase 1. It is expected that the single contractor for Phase 2 will be chosen from among these contractors after a competitive down-selection."

This appears to indicate that NASA will select only one company for Phase 2, contrary to past claims that the agency planned to support the development of multiple providers. Does this represent a change in plans? Probably not. Later in that same section, NASA says: “Notwithstanding paragraph (a), the competition in Phase 2 may result in the award of multiple contracts if budget allows.” That indicates that the agency remains open to providing multiple awards in the following CCDev phase.

In addition, when talking to Florida Today reporter James Dean, he shared a clarification he received from NASA on that issue. It turns out that the clause in question is a standard one in FAR-based contracts, and that the Commercial Crew Program was “investigating getting a waiver or deviation from this standard clause language for the final RFP.” (9/21)

UARS Satellite Set for Friday Re-Entry (Source: Washington Post)
Washington will be spared when the NASA satellite UARS crashes to Earth. So will Manhattan. Indeed, the entire East Coast of the U.S. looks safe as I examine the projected crash map. There are very well-defined orbital tracks that show where it will be going in the final few days before the expected Friday-ish re-entry, spectacular fireballing and debris-spewing. One trajectory, for example, shows it passing over Texas and close to Chicago. Europe is very much in the line of fire, with multiple trajectories that pass over that land mass. Click here to see the map, and here to see a simulation of the breakup. (9/21)

Labor Dispute Settled, Arianespace Plans Sep. 21 Launch (Source:
Arianespace says it has resolved the labor dispute that delayed their planned Sep. 20 launch of an Ariane-5 rocket from their spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Another launch attempt is planned for Sep. 21 at 5:38 EDT. This will be the 204th Ariane mission since 1979. (9/21)

Space Angels Network Invests in Wireless Power Beaming Company (Source: Space Angels Network)
Space Angels Network, a national network of seed‐ and early‐stage investors focused on aerospace‐related ventures, will invest in LaserMotive, Inc. of Kent, Washington, LaserMotive is an independent R&D company specializing in wireless power beaming. LaserMotive is the third company so far in 2011 to receive investment through Space Angels Network and its members.

LaserMotive’s laser power beaming technology, developed for its winning entry in the 2009 NASA Power Beaming Challenge, can wirelessly transfer energy over long distances using laser light – to create an endless source of power to aircraft, spacecraft, lunar rovers and more. Space Angels Network investors were particularly interested in LaserMotive’s potential to revolutionize how unmanned vehicles are powered and the promise of using power beaming for space‐based applications. (9/21)

Russia Launches Military Satellite (Source: AFP)
Russia on Wednesday successfully launched a military satellite after a three-week delay caused by the failure of one its workhorse Proton-M rockets, the Roskosmos space agency said. The satellite, which was launched "in the interests of the ministry of defense," reached orbit nine minutes after takeoff from the Baikonur spaceport that Russia leases from Kazakhstan. (9/21)

That Old Heritage Moon (Source: New York Times)
NASA is considering what can be done to protect what it calls “heritage sites” where Apollo missions landed on the Moon. What worries NASA is the Google Lunar X Prize, which offers a $20 million reward to the first private team that can land a robot anywhere on the Moon, cover a distance of around 500 yards and send data and images back to Earth. Twenty-nine teams are in the race.

NASA would like to keep the competitors away from the Apollo landing sites, and it wants to create a no-fly-and-no-drive zone above and around them, especially where the first and last manned Moon missions — Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 — landed. The risk is that dust kicked up by a successful landing, or a crash, could disturb the traces of our presence on the Moon. There is no mention yet how the rules would be enforced. (9/21)

NASA Chooses Boeing to Build Test Composite Fuel Tanks for Future Rockets (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has chosen Boeing to build two composite cryogenic fuel tanks for testing as possible ways to save weight on future spacecraft. The tanks will be tested at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, which is leading the test program. The two tanks, 5 meters wide and 2 meters wide, will be built at Boeing's Seattle facilities and transported to Huntsville testing starting in late 2013. The project is a $24 million contract for Boeing. (9/20)

Access to Shuttle Expertise Gives SLS Advantage Over Constellation (Source:
With all related centers and contractors noting a significant ramp up in planning for SLS, the development phase will be key to ensuring the mistakes of the Constellation Program (CxP) are not repeated. CxP claim their problems were related to a lack of promised funding, although continual changes to the baseline design and integration between the Ares I first stage and the Orion capsule – from very early in the process – caused major impacts to the schedule milestones.

NASA managers know such a repeat would likely result in SLS being the last vehicle they’d ever gain political support to build. Thankfully – from a design standpoint – the SLS is utilizing a lot of commonality with the esteemed Shuttle engineering arm, utilizing a workforce which is fully focused on vehicle engineering, as opposed to the CxP days, when Shuttle was still the priority and hosted the majority of the hardware skillset, leaving CxP noticeably short in that department.

While the SLS’ heritage from both CxP and Shuttle are obvious – via the likes of the “External Tank” core, J-2X driven Upper Stage, and initially the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) – the aft of the SLS relies on the power which was very specific to the Shuttle orbiters. (9/21)

NASA Announces International Space Apps Competition (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA is announcing the International Space Apps Competition to support the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which President Obama announced Tuesday. The challenge will culminate with a two-day event next year that will provide an opportunity for government to use the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers to help address global challenges.

During the event, NASA representatives and officials from international space agencies will gather with scientists and citizens to use publicly-released scientific data to create solutions for issues, such as weather impact on the global economy and depletion of ocean resources. (9/21)

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