September 30, 2011

NASA Modifies Launch Service Contract to Add Delta-2 Rocket (Source: NASA)
NASA announced the modification of its NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract with United Launch Services to add the Delta-2 rocket launch service in accordance with the contract's on-ramp provision. The modification will enable United Launch Services to offer as many as five Delta-2 rockets. (9/30)

AFCEA Conference Will Address Comm Challenges at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: AFCEA)
The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), Cape Canaveral Chapter, will sponsor a conference on Nov. 2-4 focused on "Communications Changes and Challenges on the Florida Spaceport." Click here for registration and information. (9/30)

NASA Space Telescope Finds Fewer Asteroids Near Earth (Source: NASA)
New observations by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, show there are significantly fewer near-Earth asteroids in the mid-size range than previously thought. The findings also indicate NASA has found more than 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids, meeting a goal agreed to with Congress in 1998. (9/30)

USAF Calls For Broad Industry Revamp (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force is looking to the space industry for significant improvements in reducing program complexity, launch costs and development time as it struggles to balance national security space acquisition plans for 2012 through 2016 against a flattening budget. In a lineup of 17 key Air Force investment areas by program executive offices for 2012 to 2016, the planned spending on space programs ranks second at $28.5 billion.

Immediate space acquisition priorities include continuing support of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite program, the Space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning constellation and restructuring procurement of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.

Speaking about the restructuring of EELV, Van Buren says “we need to focus on the business processes and cost control so that we do not procure one launcher at one particular time. We also have to invest in a new entrant strategy to enable the competitive environment,” he adds, specifically highlighting SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and ATK, all of which are involved in NASA’s commercial crew and space station resupply contracts. “We want to clear a new path and make sure any new entrant can be a continuing supplier.” (9/30)

Bigelow Aerospace Downsizes Dramatically (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing inflatable space habitats for commercial use, laid off some 40 of its 90 employees. “We are proceeding with a core group of fifty plus engineers, managers and support staff,” Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace’s director of Washington operations and business growth, said. Bigelow Aerospace employees said the company laid off nearly all of its machinists and that most of the workers retained are associated with the Boeing CCDev effort.

Gold said the layoffs “were caused by a perfect storm of events... We had hoped that by 2014 or 2015 that America would again be able to fly its own astronauts. Unfortunately, the prospect of domestic crew transportation of any kind is apparently going to occur years after the first BA 330 could be ready,” Gold wrote. “For both business and technical reasons, we cannot deploy a BA 330 without a means of transporting crew to and from our station, and the adjustment to our employment levels was necessary to reflect this reality.

“If anything, Bigelow Aerospace has been suffering from its own early success, and we’re years ahead of where the rest of the industry is.” Bigelow Aerospace, founded by motel mogul Robert Bigelow, views space agencies around the world as a key market for its planned space habit. The company has deployed two smaller-scale inflatable test habitats in space using Russian rockets. (9/30)

NASA Modifies USA Contract To Continue Ground Operations Work (Source: NASA)
NASA signed a $49.4 million contract modification for United Space Alliance (USA) to continue maintaining and sustaining the ground operations capabilities at the Kennedy Space Center launch facilities in Florida through Sep. 30, 2012. As a result, these critical systems can be used by future space programs. The programs include potential commercial launch vehicle customers, the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

USA has provided this support under the Space Program Operations Contract since 2006. The contract outlines the flight and ground processing and operations requirements. The modification also includes requirements for NASA 21st Century Ground Systems modifications to the Crawler Transporter Number 2, Launch Pad 39B life extension and Vehicle Assembly Building life extension. (9/30)

Sierra Nevada Awarded Additional NASA Funding for Dream Chaser (Source: SNC)
NASA will fund optional milestones pre-negotiated as part of its Commercial Crew Development Program Round 2 (CCDev2) Space Act Agreement (SAA) with Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems. NASA amended Sierra Nevada's SAA to include four additional optional milestones for a total of $25.6 million, bringing the value of Sierra Nevada's CCDev2 SAA to $105.6 million, when all milestones are completed successfully. (9/30)

Arianespace To Launch Mexsat 3 on Soyuz (Source: Space News)
The Mexican Communications and Transport Ministry has contracted with Europe’s Arianespace consortium to launch the Mexsat 3 satellite in late 2012 as a co-passenger aboard a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket or as sole passenger on a Europeanized version of Russia’s Soyuz vehicle. (9/30)

Analysts, Panetta Differ Over Job Losses Due to Defense Cuts (Source: Reuters)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that unemployment in the U.S. could rise by 1 percentage point if Congress cuts the defense budget by $1 trillion, a possibility under the debt reduction deal struck last month between lawmakers and President Barack Obama. Some analysts and commentators, however, question Panetta's figures. (9/30)

For the Rich and Patient, Space Awaits (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Plenty of Wealthy Travellers Are Lining Up To Voyage Beyond the Earth’s Atmosphere. Private space travel hit a speed bump earlier this month when Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’s spaceship went off course and had to be destroyed. But according to Virgin Galactic, the interstellar arm of Richard Branson’s holdings, there are plenty of travelers waiting for liftoff.

Only seven people have paid their way into space so far, spending $20 million to $35 million to hitch rides on Russian rockets into low earth orbit. Virgin Galactic, seeking to become the first private space tourism firm to operate regular flights, promises to send flyers, at $200,000 a ticket, on a suborbital hop that features a few minutes in space. "[Launching our first commercial flight] 18 months to two years from now is achievable, but that isn’t to say that we will achieve it. The only thing that will extend that expected timeline is if something comes up during the remainder of the test flight program," said Virgin's Stephen Attenborough. (9/30)

NASA Survey: Chance of Asteroid Armageddon Unlikely ... For Now (Source: Florida Today)
A new NASA census spotted 93 percent of all supersized space rocks zipping through near-Earth orbits. NASA scientists said Thursday that none of the 981 represents a hazard of Hollywood proportions. “We know that there are none that pose any imminent risk of an impact,” said Amy Mainzer. NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer spent the past two years scanning the skies with a 16-inch telescope and four infrared detectors 100 times more sensitive than those on predecessor spacecraft.

The robotic sentinel detected hundreds of thousands of asteroids in a main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and it also surveyed those flying in orbits closer to Earth. Tracking space rocks closer to the planet is critical to avoiding the type of cataclysmic impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. (9/30)

NASA Cannot Launch 2016 ExoMars Orbiter (Source: Space News)
The heads of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are scheduled to meet the week of Oct. 3 to determine how much further to reduce their already slimmed-down cooperative mission to Mars following NASA’s latest round of program cuts, the head of ESA science projects said Sept. 30.

NASA officials have told their ESA colleagues in recent weeks that the U.S. agency cannot provide an Atlas 5 rocket as was planned to launch Europe’s Mars telecommunications relay and an atmospheric-descent and landing module. The decision likely will force a cancellation of the 2016 launch if ESA cannot secure a Proton rocket from Russia as part of a barter effort that has not been negotiated, Thomas Passvogel said in an interview. (9/30)

Proton Delivers QuetzSat-1 to Orbit (Source: Space News)
The QuetzSat-1 satellite, which satellite fleet operator SES is counting on to deliver a quick contribution to revenue, was successfully placed into orbit on Sep. 30 aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket. The 5,600-kilogram QuetzSat-1 was built by Loral in California, and was financed through a direct loan from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The loan, valued at $171.5 million, paid for the satellite’s construction and for a portion of its insurance coverage.

The launch, from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was the second flight of the Proton M/Breeze M vehicle, but the first ILS commercial flight, since the rocket’s Aug. 18 failure to deliver a large Russian telecommunications satellite, Express AM4, into the correct orbit. The satellite, insured for around $300 million, has been declared a total loss. The failure’s cause has been traced to a flight-programming error. (9/30)

NASA Selects UCF Project as Finalist for Explorer Mission (Source: UCF)
NASA has selected a University of Central Florida space project as a finalist for its Explorer Mission of Opportunity program. The selection fulfills the dream of two UCF scientists who have been researching solar weather – and its affects on our terrestrial technology – for more than five years. If chosen, this project would be the first time UCF would lead a NASA science mission.

UCF’s team was one of five selected from 20 proposals to receive $250,000 toward its work. The team would then present its concept study to NASA, vying for $55 million to develop a launch-ready project by 2016. NASA is interested in the project because the data collected would be first of its kind, and it would help explain how earth’s space environment responds to the sun’s activities, such as solar flares. (9/29)

Senator Irked That N.Y. to Build Museum for Shuttle (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Sen. Sherrod Brown is irritated about a report that New York, which received the decommissioned Enterprise space shuttle under the premise that it would house it in the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, now plans to build a separate museum for the Enterprise. In a story in the New York Times Thursday, museum officials said they plan to use a site now occupied by a bagel shop, a car wash, storage warehouses and a strip club for a new space-themed museum. The museum does not yet own the property.

Dayton had sought to house one of the retired air shuttles at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but was not selected by NASA. Brown said the story “raises further questions about the thoroughness of NASA’s selection process” and said “I believe NASA should revisit its decision to send the Enterprise to New York.” (9/30)

SpaceX's Future Spaceship Forgets Parachute (Sources: Discovery, Florida Today)
After atmospheric reentry, but before touchdown, conventional logic dictates that the spacecraft you're riding in would deploy a parachute. I mean, that's the only sensible way to safely land a spacecraft with no wings, right? Well, if you were paying attention to Elon Musk's announcement at the National Press Club in New York on Thursday, you'll know that SpaceX isn't necessarily following conventional logic. SpaceX wants to not only land its Dragon spaceship under rocket power alone, they also want to build a two-stage launch system that will -- wait for it -- be 100 percent reusable.

“We have a design that on paper, doing the calculations, doing the simulations, it does work,” Elon Musk, CEO of California-based SpaceX told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday. “And now we need to make sure that those simulations and reality agree because generally when they don’t, reality wins.” Musk said building the rocket would be “an exciting journey... If it does work, it’ll be pretty huge.” (9/30)

NASA Awards NEXTGEN-Related Contract (Source:
NASA has selected Northwest Research Associates, Inc., for a contract award in support of the NASA Airspace Systems Program's Concepts and Technology Development project at NASA Langley's Aeronautics Research Directorate. The company will be responsible for "Wake Vortex Data Collection for Robust Modeling Validation to Enable Advanced, NextGen, Wake-Conscious, Capacity-Enhancing Concepts." (9/29)

China to Launch Rockets with Larger Thrust (Source: Space Daily)
China started developing modern carrier rockets in 1956, and the Long March rocket series has become the mainstream carriers for launching China's satellites. China is working on the development of a new generation of carrier rockets featuring a larger thrust to cater to the demand of building a space station, a chief rocket engineer said Thursday. (9/29)

SpaceX Video Shows Vision for Reusable Launch Systems (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX on Thursday unveiled a video showing its concept for a fully reusable multi-stage launch system. The concept includes rocket-powered vertical landings for each stage (and the Dragon Capsule) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Click here. (9/29)

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