September 24, 2011

Supervisors Get Tour of Mojave Space Port (Source: Ridgecrest Daily Independent)
The Kern County Board of Supervisors met Thursday in a rather untypical setting – the Mojave Air and Space Port. Supervisor Zack Scrivner planned the special meeting at the location to introduce the Supervisors to Mojave’s high-tech aerospace test center. General Manager Stuart Witt offered a briefing on the history of the Mojave Air and Space Port for the Supervisors and members of the public. He spoke on the airport’s unique location and the assets that carries. Just this week, the space port held a grand opening for its new hangar, housing the newly completed aircraft for Virgin Galactic – the White Knight Two and Spaceship Two. (9/24)

First Phase of Construction at Spaceport America Nearly Complete (Source: KVUE)
The first commercial spaceport is rising in the desert of southern New Mexico. Construction crews are putting the final touches on the futuristic looking terminal and hangar as well as the dome-shaped operations center.
“We’re just about done with phase one,” said Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. That construction should be completed by the end of the year. (9/24)

Japan Withholds Photos Taken by Expensive Satellites, Citing Security (Source: Mainichi Daily News)
The cost-benefit performance of Information Gathering Satellites (IGSs), which the government has launched at a cost of some 800 billion yen in taxpayers money, remains unclear because the photos they have taken and the details of their operations have been withheld. The government has said that the satellites, which are aimed primarily at monitoring military facilities in North Korea and other countries, also play an important role in gathering information in the event of a massive natural disaster. (9/24)

Editorial: Our Priceless Supremacy in Space (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
The recent retirement of the space shuttle brought an important era in American space exploration to a close. But it doesn't have to mean the end of American leadership in space. Just as Apollo led to the shuttle, there is always another chapter to be written in space. Whether America or another nation writes it, however, depends partly on critical decisions that the administration and Congress will make in the coming months.

Space leadership helps us in the near skies as well. Aeronautics advances enabled by space research have made civilian air travel safer and ensured that our air forces are the strongest in the world - as we saw when they helped stop Moammar Gadhafi's forces without a single U.S. casualty. Aerospace also remains one of the strongest U.S. manufacturing sectors, providing hundreds of thousands of high-skill, high-wage jobs. The industry generates exceptional returns in international trade.

America cannot settle for second place in space. And in many ways, the final Atlantis flight opens the door for change and continued growth. Indeed, the post-Atlantis world calls for more leadership, discovery, innovation, and creativity from NASA, not less. Everyone understands that federal funding is scarce. But cutting our commitment to space would sacrifice far more than it would save. (9/24)

Aerojet Expands Office in Alabama (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Rocket motor maker Aerojet announced Friday it is expanding its Huntsville, Alabama, office. Aerojet is subsidiary of California-based GenCorp. The office will expand to house up to 40 employees in engineering, business development and program support. Aerojet’s work in Huntsville is concentrated on solid and liquid propulsion for rockets, human spaceflight, specialty metals and warheads. (9/24)

Republican Lawmakers Call for Investigation of LightSquared Case (Source: Space news)
The political controversy over alleged ties between the White House and a company seeking U.S. government approval for a satellite-terrestrial broadband network serving North America widened Sep. 22, as Republican lawmakers called for a formal probe of the matter. Five Republicans on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee expressed support for an “aggressive investigation” into why LightSquared received regulatory approvals from the FCC despite well-document concerns that its planned network would interfere with GPS applications, including national security. (9/24)

Virginia Spaceport Suggestion a KSC 'Betrayal' (Source: Florida Today)
A proposal by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to support launches of human spaceflight missions from Virginia may pose a "direct threat" to the economy and workforce on the Space Coast, local leaders say. As part of a comprehensive environmental review of potential new operations, Wallops is considering the impact of infrastructure upgrades needed for unspecified manned missions.

Florida space and economic development officials weighed in with public comments, saying any NASA funding that supports launches of people on orbital flights from Virginia would be a wasteful duplication and further undermine a workforce reeling from the shuttle's retirement. A Wallops spokesman said the facility has no immediate plans to launch people, but its site-wide environmental review is exploring every possible opportunity to avoid additional costly studies down the road.

Weatherman and Space Florida President Frank DiBello say NASA shouldn't commit resources to establish a Wallops-based capability to launch crews to the International Space Station, given the agency's shrinking budget and congressional mandates to improve efficiency and support communities hurt by major program changes. With about 7,000 contractor jobs lost due to the space shuttle's retirement this year, "no community is more egregiously impacted than Florida," DiBello wrote. (9/24)

SpaceX Developing a Reusable Rocket, Plans Launch Tests in Texas (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX is developing an 106-foot tall reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) rocket called Grasshopper based upon the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. It has applied for an experimental permit to conduct a series of flights up to 11,500 feet at its engine testing facility in McGregor, Texas. Here’s the description of the vehicle and its flight profile from a draft environmental impact assessment released by the FAA earlier this week:

"The Grasshopper RLV consists of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. Carbon overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which are filled with either nitrogen or helium, are attached to the support structure...The overall height of the Grasshopper RLV is 106 feet, and the tank height is 85 feet."

"The Grasshopper test program expected to be conducted under an experimental permit would consist of three phases of test launches... SpaceX would repeat tests under each phase as necessary until SpaceX is ready to proceed to the next phase. Multiple test launches could occur each day during daytime hours only, and would be consistent with SpaceX’s lease with the City of McGregor. For example, SpaceX is prohibited from conducting engine tests between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. per SpaceX’s lease with the City of McGregor." Click here. (9/24)

Russian Spacecraft Makeover Could be Game Changer (Source: MyFOXHouston)
A spacecraft that what was once old is now new again thanks to a major makeover. And it could be a game changer for space exploration. Commercial aerospace company Excalibur Almaz USA has revamped a Russian spacecraft used in the 1970s and 80s. The company replaced the inside of the spacecraft with new technology. It's now called the re-usable return vehicle. The goal is to provide cargo and transportation to the international space station. There is no launch date set. The company is still fundraising. (9/24)

UARS Down, But Location Unknown (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) reentered overnight Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, but NASA is not yet certain precisely when or where. (9/24)

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