September 23, 2011

SpaceX, Roscosmos Cool Their Jets (Source: Aviation Week)
After years of delays, fledgling rocket company SpaceX is ready to launch NASA’s first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station this fall. But that opportunity may continue to elude SpaceX for a while longer, as a recent Soyuz launch failure could prompt yet another schedule slip. And with less than two months remaining before the planned launch date, Dragon is still undergoing electromagnetic interference testing but is expected to ship to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport by the end of September.

In the meantime, Russian investigators are probing the Aug. 24 Soyuz rocket failure that delayed a planned Sept. 21 manned mission to the station until Nov. 12, says Russian space agency Roscosmos. That mission will be preceded by the Oct. 30 launch of another Progress freighter. Gwynne Shotwell says the ISS program could conduct as many as four Russian missions to the space station before the SpaceX demo can occur. NASA is working with Roscosmos and SpaceX to reach a final decision on a target launch date for upcoming Soyuz missions and the COTS test flight. (9/23)

Space Florida Wins Clean Energy Jobs Grant (Source: EDA)
Under a new grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Space Florida will lead a multi-agency project aimed at accelerating the growth of energy-sector jobs in the Central Florida region. Space Florida will work with NASA KSC, the Space Coast Energy Consortium, Brevard Workforce, and the Technological Research & Development Authority (TRDA). Click here for information. (9/22)

Jeff Bezos: Amazon's Rocket Man Keeps Getting Richer (Source: Forbes) founder Jeff Bezos was one of the biggest dollar gainers on this year’s Forbes 400, adding $6.5 billion to his fortune over the past year — and managing to stay just ahead of Mark Zuckerberg, who is hot on his heels. Bezos’ boost comes on the back of an impressive 55% rise in Amazon shares, pegging his net worth at $19.1 billion. He’s now the 13th richest person in the U.S., just behind New York’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Bezos has kept quiet about his other big investment: Blue Origin, a highly secretive commercial space company he funds. Bezos has been funneling money into the Texas firm for years in hopes of developing a vertical take-off, vertical landing rocket. He broke with protocol and spoke out in early September when one of Blue Origin’s spacecraft crashed during a test flight. He issued a rare statement on Blue Origin’s blog only after locals told Forbes of the explosion. As Blue Origin works on its next development, so does Amazon — we presume, anyway. Bezos is one billionaire who can keep a secret. (9/23)

Petition Seeks to Reallocate Defense funds to NASA (Source:
"Billions and Billions of dollars are thrown at the Military while NASA's budget continues to shrink causing them to cut programs which may actually benefit society unlike the wars we are currently involved in. America needs to wind down these wars and reallocate all that money into our space program and make it the inspiration that it was when Americans first landed on the Moon over 40 years ago. America and Humanity require a permanent presence in Space and no amount of telescopes or rovers are going to meet that requirement. Manned Missions are the only answer but NASA does not the have funds to make this vision a reality. Our President needs to see that investment in space is an investment in Americans, Jobs and the Future of Humanity." Click here to sign the petition. (9/23)

Blame Congress and Pork, Not NASA (Source: National Review)
Rory Cooper’s criticism of the space agency in National Review is notable not so much for what it says, but for what it leaves out of the story. Beyond that, it gets several things factually wrong. The Obama administration has been an ongoing policy disaster on almost every front, but space policy is one of the few things that it has gotten at least partially right. It is also one of the few areas in which it can legitimately say that it inherited a mess that it attempted to fix, in the face of resistance from the porkmeisters on the Hill.

I would also note that while Cooper’s litany of criticism of many of General Bolden’s statements is justified, the fact remains that for all the talk about “Muslim outreach,” there is nothing in the budget for it, and most of the nonsense that comes out of the administrator’s mouth is politically correct lip service, and has nothing to do with what the agency is actually doing. That said, let’s review Mr. Cooper’s misstated and incomplete narrative. Click here to read the article. (9/23)

Bolden: NASA Must Take More Risks to Remain Innovative (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says it is imperative for the agency to take risks if it wants to stay at the forefront of aeronautics research and exploration. "I think we actually have to demand more risks. If you want to be innovative, if you want to make advancements, if you want to do big leaps then you have to put some risk in your programs. You have to be willing to take chances and get it wrong every once in a while," Bolden said. "If something's going to go wrong in our world at NASA I want it to be because we're on the edge of the envelope." (9/23)

Rocketry Challenge Winners Come to Washington (Source: OSTP)
Michael Gerritsen, Colt McNally, Landon Fisher, and I visited Washington, DC as ambassadors for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). We spoke on Capitol Hill on Sep. 14 and met with leaders in the Obama Administration, including his science and technology advisor Dr. John Holdren, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Our team of four competed in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, where students in 7-12th grades design, build, and fly a rocket to reach specific parameters while competing for over $60,000 in scholarships and prizes.

For the 2010-2011 challenge, the rocket entries were required to reach 750 feet in altitude and land in 40 to 45 seconds, all while carrying a raw egg payload. If the egg breaks, or even fractures, the team is disqualified. Over 600 teams from across the nation entered the challenge this past year, and only the top 100 qualifying teams were invited to compete at the national finals located in The Plains, Virginia on May 14. Our team was not only fortunate enough to make the top 100, but also to win the title of national champions. Later we became international champions at the 2011 Paris Airshow. (9/23)

Humans Envisioned On Mars In 25 Years (Source: Aviation Week)
The Global Exploration Roadmap, unveiled by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group on Sep. 22, offers two 25-year human pathways to Mars. One follows the “Asteroid next” approach favored by President Barack Obama, while the other features a “Moon next” gateway more akin to the George W. Bush administration’s scrapped Constellation program.

Representatives from 10 of the agencies met in Kyoto, Japan, on Aug. 30 to sign off on the release of the 45-page document, which will undergo further discussion, leading to a planned revision in 2012. Fluid in its outlook and five years in the making, the roadmap does not come with a price tag. Nor does it require binding agreements from existing participants or exclude newcomers, including the noticeably absent China. (9/23)

FAA Warns Pilots About Falling Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
The FAA is warning pilots flying aircraft today to be on the lookout for falling debris from a defunct NASA satellite that is expected to reenter Earth's atmosphere. "It is critical that all pilots/flight crew members report any observed falling debris to the appropriate ATC facility and include position, altitude, time, and direction of debris observed." (9/23)

NASA Takes Next Step in Building New Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has taken the next step in building the new heavy-lift rocket that will carry Americans into deep space by posting an overview of how it plans to acquire needed parts and services for the rocket. The acquisition overview was posted Thursday on a federal business opportunities website.

Specifically, the announcement said NASA is planning work in the following areas: boosters, stages, avionics, engines, payload adaptors and farings, advanced development and systems engineering support. The announcement names the contracting officers and gives their contact information. NASA will discuss the acquisition strategy in detail Sep. 29 at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. (9/23)

Space Coast's Advanced Magnet Lab Awarded U.S. Department of Energy Grant (Source: AML)
Advanced Magnet Lab, Inc. (AML) has won a $700,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant to advance next generation wind turbine technology. AML was selected based on a proprietary innovative turbine generator which enables the development of the first fully superconducting direct-drive generator for large offshore wind turbines. These generators are up to 75% lighter, 50% smaller, more efficient and more reliable than systems in use today. This new technology could position the U.S. as a global leader in wind energy technologies, reduce the cost of wind energy, and support thousands of new manufacturing, construction and planning jobs. (9/23)

It's Still Impossible: Researchers Doubt Light-Speed Broken (Source: Cosmos)
Experiments out of CERN recording faster-than-light neutrinos, which arrived at their final destination 60 nanoseconds earlier than light, must be wrong, researchers say. "This is the cosmic speed limit and there are no known exceptions," says Robert Plunkett, a particle physicist at the Fermilab near Chicago. Massive accelerators, like those at CERN, are capable of pushing particles close to the speed of light, but not beyond it - a physical impossibility dictated by the laws that govern our universe. (9/23)

Aerospace Alliance Meets in Florida (Source: NWF Daily News)
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, are working together to improve the region’s multi-billion dollar aerospace industry. The Aerospace Alliance held its first summit Friday at Sandestin to bring together government and business leaders from the four states to discuss ways expand the industry. “We need a collaborative effort to really make things happen,” said Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

Carroll said one of the biggest challenges her administration has dealt with is where to go with the space program after the Space Shuttle. The space program is a $65 billion industry in Florida, responsible for about 700,000 jobs, and Carroll was adamant the program wasn’t going away. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey said the space industry is central to the entire armed forces, but that America’s military advantage will disappear if it is not the leading space power on Earth. “The space program is a disaster,” McCaffrey said. “I would argue right now we’re No. 2 in space. The Russians are in a slight lead. We’ve got to do something about it.”

“We want to be shameless promoters of the resources we have in the area for aerospace because nobody can touch it,” said Gray Swoope, Florida’s secretary of commerce. “Nobody can touch the resources we have in these four states combined in aviation, in space, in the aerospace industry anywhere in the world. We have a unique opportunity together as four states to tell our story.” (9/16)

After UARS, Second Big Satellite Set to Resist Re-Entry Burn-Up (Source: New Scientist)
Even if NASA's 6-tonne UARS satellite does not cause any injury or damage when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere today, there is more space junk headed our way next month. A defunct German space telescope called ROSAT is set to hit the planet at the end of October – and it even is more likely than UARS to cause injury or damage in populated areas. (9/23)

Emptyhanded: Search for Russian Progress Spacecraft Debris in Discontinued (Source: Itar-Tass)
Roscosmos has discontinued the search in the Republic of Altai for the debris of the Progress M-12M cargo craft, which crashed in the region on Aug. 24. The search party, based in the village of Artybash, the Turachak district, for all the time, will return to Moscow. The search for Progress fragments will continue during launch and post-launch operations in the officially designated RP-327 area of fall of used stages of rockets, launched from Baikonur. Editor's Note: Maybe it fell in Peru? (9/23)

No Space Question During Debate, But Gingrich Gets One in Pre-Interview (Source: CFnews13)
Space advocates from Florida and elsewhere struck out in their efforts to add a space-focused question to the Republican presidential candidates' debate in Orlando on Sep. 22. However, CFnews13 conducted a pre-debate interview with Newt Gingrich, where he once again spoke in favor of commercial space development. Here's a video of the interview. The space question is asked toward the end at 5:45. (9/23)

Japan Launches New Spy Satellite to Beef Up Surveillance (Source: Straits Times)
Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit on Friday, officials said, in its latest effort to beef up surveillance against the threat of North Korean missiles. The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying a new information-gathering optical satellite lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in south-western Japan. (9/23)

Hatchet Job: Obama’s NASA - Leading From Behind (Source: National Review)
President Obama’s NASA unveiled its new rocket system designed to lift man into space sometime after 2021 with no clear mission or objective. This is just the latest in a long string of embarrassments for NASA since Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver took over. In Jan. 2010, Bolden labeled NASA an “Earth improvement agency” and said it would essentially scrap manned space exploration and concentrate on “researching and monitoring climate change.” This redefined mission came with additional funding. NASA was going to spend more, and do less.

Then in July 2010, Administrator Bolden announced NASA’s mission as threefold: (1) “re-inspire children”; (2) “expand our international relationships”; and “foremost” (3) “reach out to the Muslim world.” He condescendingly explained that Muslim outreach would help Islamic nations “feel good” about their scientific accomplishments.

In this same interview, Bolden “inspired children” by declaring the United States could never reach beyond low-earth orbit again, as it did alone from 1968–1971, without international help, saying: “We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit as a single entity. The United States can’t do it, China can’t do it — no single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.” Click here. (9/23)

Surf, Sand & Space: The Astronaut Beach House (Source: Universe Today)
Astronauts preparing to launch into space for the better part of the last four decades have had a welcome refuge – the astronaut beach house. This small two-level structure it is often missed by those that are ferried past it to the nearby launch pads. The astronaut beach house is — for those set to thunder into orbit – a vital place to collect their thoughts before they make history.

Let’s take a look inside, as three astronauts provide Universe Today with a guided tour of this historic and storied house. They include Dr. Sam Durrance (former director of the Florida Space Research Institute), Embry-Riddle alumni Nicole Stott, and Robert Springer. Click here. (9/23)

Rep. Hall Announces Investigation Into Unauthorized NOAA Climate Service (Source: SpaceRef)
House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) will initiate a formal Committee investigation into the formation of a "climate service" at NOAA. Hall's announcement follows nearly ten months of Committee inquiry and correspondence related to actions by NOAA to stand up a climate service, triggered by NOAA senior official Tom Karl's statement that the agency is currently performing as if such a service were currently in place.

NOAA is precluded from establishing or implementing a climate service unless explicitly authorized by Congress to do so. Hall has repeatedly called on NOAA to clarify the nature of their Climate Service activities. In recent correspondence to the Committee, NOAA acknowledged that "at times some NOAA staff engaged in climate services activities referred to themselves or their existing teams in shorthand, using terms such as 'NCS' or 'Climate Service'; however NOAA has not changed its organizational structure to establish or implement a Climate Service Line Office." (9/22)

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