September 6, 2011

NASA Chief Technologist Stepping Down (Source: Space News)
NASA Chief Technologist Robert Braun, whose programs have struggled to find budgetary traction, will resign from the agency in October. “While professionally fulfilling, my service has been exceedingly difficult for my family and me,” Braun wrote in a Sep. 1 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This letter is to respectfully inform you of my desire to return to the Georgia Institute of Technology in October 2011.”

Braun was appointed chief technologist in February 2010. Besides the Georgia Institute of Technology, previous employers have included NASA’s Langley Research Center. Much of his work for NASA has been focused on planetary science, specifically robotic missions to Mars. Braun’s appointment coincided with an effort by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to sharpen NASA’s focus on advanced technology development as an enabler for future deep space exploration. (9/6)

An Enduring Value Proposition for NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
In the fourth part of her ongoing analysis of a value proposition for NASA's human spaceflight program, Mary Lynne Dittmar examines the role Congress plays, or should play, in shaping that value proposition. Visit to view the article. (9/6)

A Quarter Century of Smallsat Progress (Source: Space Review)
The last 25 years has seen a resurgence of interest in small satellites, which had been all but neglected after the early years of the Space Age. Jeff Foust reports on the developments that have triggered renewed interest in smallsats and the challenges they face to greater adoption. Visit to view the article. (9/6)

A Rationale for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
There are various, and often conflicting, arguments for why humans should go into space. Greg Anderson explains why he things the arguments should be based on how it is critical to the future development and survival of humanity. Visit to view the article. (9/6)

Weather Iffy For Delta Rocket Launch Thursday (Source: Florida Today)
NASA aims to launch a mission to the moon this week but stormy weather could conspire to keep a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket on the ground. The 125-foot Delta II Heavy is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 17B at 8:37 a.m. Thursday. A second, 60-second window will open at 9:16 a.m. if needed. (9/6)

New Station Crew Could Launch by Early November (Source: Florida Today)
A Russian rocket could be ready to launch a new crew to the International Space Station by early November, preventing the outpost from being left unmanned indefinitely, two American crew members said from orbit this morning. But an investigation into a failure last month by a similar rocket carrying a cargo spacecraft is still in its early stages, and may not be completed in time to the station staffed as it has been continuously since 2000. (9/6)

Groups Collaborate to Help Space Entrepreneurs (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Angels Network, LLC, a national network of seed‐ and early stage investors focused on aerospace‐related ventures, and eSpace: The Center For Space Entrepreneurship in Boulder, Colorado, today announced the beginning of a collaborative partnership to help foster the success of entrepreneurial space ventures. Under the new agreement, Space Angels Network will work with companies participating in eSpace’s programs to help them prepare for pitching their new ventures to investors. The companies will then have the opportunity to meet with Space Angels Network members to facilitate investments. (9/6)

Hardware Malfunction Blamed for Chinese Launch Failure (Source: Xinhua)
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said that a malfunction at the connection between devices of a Long March II-C rocket led to the vehicle's launch failure last month. An investigation points to a servomechanism connected to the second stage venier engine that failed in the second flight phase. (9/6)

Tiangong 1 Might be Launched in Late September (Source: Nanfang Daily)
Due to the launch failure of the experimental orbiter SJ-11-04, the Chinese unmanned space module Tiangong 1, the prototype of the Chinese space experiment station, which was scheduled to launch in late August, is now expected to launch in late September, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office. An exact launch date will be set pending the investigation into the failed rocket.

The launch of Tiangong 1, which means "Heavenly Palace" in Chinese, is a major milestone in China's space launch program for this year. According to the plan, within two years after the launch of Tiangong 1, China will successively launch a series of spacecrafts named Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9, Shenzhou 10, all of which will dock with Tiangong 1. In 2020, China is expected to finish its space station. (9/6)

A Closer Look at Houston's Shuttle Snub (Source: KTRK)
After Mike Griffin left NASA, something -- whether politics or personalities -- got in the mix and Houston was shut out. NASA's Inspector General signed off on the process, but Rep. Pete Olson said he's not convinced it was completely in line with the law. Olson had made sure NASA's 2010 budget bill included language forcing the agency to award orbiters to cities that had "an historical relationship with... the space shuttle." Sounds like Houston would be a lock.

But a senator from West Virginia opened the door to New York City, adding a phrase allowing the consideration of relationships "to the retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles." And bye-bye shuttle. Charles Bolden awarded the shuttles using a point system that gave no points for connection to space despite its inclusion in the law. But gave 20 percent of all points to international access -- meaning how many international tourists could see the shuttle. That's nowhere in the law.

"He essentially said, 'I care more about foreign tourists than I do about the community who built the shuttle,'" said Rep. Olson. In fact, Space Center Houston was never asked how many international visitors they get and two of the winning sites -- New York and California -- don't even record where visitors are from. And Space Center Houston says they were never told 10 percent of points would be given for museum accreditation and that they would've gotten it if necessary. (9/6)

Antimatter Surplus is Not Dark Matter's Smoking Gun (Source: New Scientist)
Antimatter enthusiasts will love it; dark matter hunters not so much. NASA's FERMI satellite has confirmed a previous hint that there is more antimatter than expected coming from space. The bad news is that the result almost certainly rules out dark matter as the source.

The results were reported online by the FERMI Large Area Telescope Collaboration. They hit the web just in time for the Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics conference taking place in Munich, Germany, this week, where they were immediately incorporated into the first talks.

As far as antimatter is concerned, the results back up intriguing signals picked up in 2008 by the Russian-European PAMELA satellite. The result showed that there were more positrons – the antimatter counterpart of electrons – coming from space than were expected from known processes and sources. (9/6)

Tumlinson: Decision Time for America’s Future in Space (Source: Space News)
There are moments when a decision or set of decisions that may seem unimportant can change the vector of history — times when a simple choice can decide the course of civilization. These moments are framed by a coincidence of historical forces converging at exactly the right time. The same or similar choice made in a different moment, by a different person in a different place, might have little or no effect.

Isabella made such a choice; the Founding Fathers made such a choice; Kennedy made such a choice. From each of these flowed other decisions, actions and reactions, an infinite number of smaller choices, each leading to its own infinite number of actions and reactions, literally changing the future in the years, decades and centuries after. This is exactly such a time, and a few key choices made right now as to the direction of our space program will have huge implications for NASA and our nation’s future.

At the top level of national space policy we need to adopt the frontier/settlement philosophy I have laid out many times in the past. Unfortunately, given the players involved, the debate leading to such a change will be long, and we simply do not have the time right now, as our exploration ship is sinking and is about to be delivered its coup de grace by its supposed friends in Congress. Click here. (9/6)

SES: Satellite Overtaking Cable in Germany (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES on Sep. 6 said satellite television in Germany — SES’s most profitable national market — has almost caught up with cable television in subscriber totals, with satellite reception growing and cable television declining in popularity. Germany is the focus of special attention for Luxembourg-based SES because of the switch-off of analog television there on April 30, 2012 as Germany goes all-digital. Analog television uses much more satellite capacity per television channel than does standard digital TV, meaning at the cut-off date, SES will find itself with a large number of unused satellite transponders. (9/6)

RapidEye Lands Its First NGA Contract (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has contracted with Canadian-German Earth observation satellite operator RapidEye to purchase up to $4.6 million in RapidEye imagery over the next 18 months. This is the first NGA purchase of RapidEye data. Germany-based RapidEye, which was recently purchased by Canada’s Iunctus Geomatics, operates a fleet of five identical optical observation satellites, which have been in orbit since mid-2008.

The satellites offer relative low-resolution imagery but, evenly spaced in low Earth orbit, they are able to cover vast swaths of territory — 4 million square kilometers per day — and offer relatively quick revisits to a given locale. (9/6)

FAA Bypasses Florida Spaceports With Latest Grants (Source: Sunshine State News)
Officials say Florida's status as a space center remains intact, even though the FAA issued grants to three other spaceports working on commercial-crew programs. The FAA awarded grants to spaceports in New Mexico, Virginia and California. Florida -- home to two of the country's eight federally licensed spaceports -- remains the nation's premier space state, officials say.

Spaceport Florida at Cape Canaveral and the Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville both hold spaceport designations from the FAA, and officials expect to continue attracting a variety of commercial-crew projects. Florida submitted a processing facility project for consideration by the FAA, but it was not funded. "Florida is getting quite a bit of support and assistance from the FAA in other ways. The Florida Department of Transportation is also funding projects," a Space Florida spokesman said. (9/6)

Alcântara: The Spaceport of the Future? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
“Brazil is the country of the future…and always will be.” So observed Charles de Gaulle decades ago, marveling at how South America’s largest country, blessed with enormous resources and an industrious population, was forever failing to live up to enormous potential. Brazil seems to be on the verge of ending that cycle. During the next five years, Brazil will shine on the global stage as it hosts two of the world’s greatest sporting events, the Summer Olympics and the soccer World Cup.

And yet amid the optimism, the nation’s future is clouded by a lack of trained workers, a critical shortage of investments in key areas, and an often disorganized government. Nowhere are these shortcomings more apparent than in the nation’s space program and, in particular, its efforts to turn its sleepy Alcântara Launch Center into a world-class spaceport. If Brazil can achieve its space goals over the next decade, Alcântara could become one of the busiest launch sites in the world.

However, before it can join the ranks of the world’s space powers, Brazil will have to greatly expand its small and fragmented space program, train a new generation of engineers and technicians, and successfully execute on a series of projects with foreign nations. And it will need to spend money—lots of money. (9/6)

New Apollo Moon Views Unveiled (Source: MSNBC)
NASA has released new high-resolution views of the Apollo moon landing sites, sent back by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. "These are pictures of the Apollo 17, Apollo 14, Apollo 12 landing sites, giving us the clearest view of where the astronauts went, where they sampled, where they conducted scientific experiments on the lunar surface," Noah Petro, a member of the LRO science team from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a video featuring the new imagery. Click here. (9/6)

Editorial: Reaching for the Stars (Source: LA Times)
Walk through the halls of UC Irvine's astronomy wing after dinner on a weeknight and you will find roomfuls of young graduate students, crammed into small desks, solving equations, writing computer code and developing innovative ways to analyze data. They do not have to be here. These are people with career options. They are scary-smart, creative and hardworking. Yet they have come here from all over the country and the world to sit in windowless offices and make a fifth of the money they could make back home or up the street. Why? They want to unlock the universe.

The U.S. is still the scientific light of the world. Ours is the society responsible for discovering humanity's place in the universe, that we live in a galaxy called the Milky Way, one among billions of other galaxies stretched across the cosmic landscape. A hundred thousand years from now, if humans make it that long, the U.S. will be remembered for this, and historians will point to the immense contribution of the Hubble Space Telescope, with its miraculous visible-light images, the most detailed pictures of the cosmos yet produced by humankind.

Sadly, U.S. scientific leadership is beginning to fade. There is a sense of fear among our leaders that we can't afford to invest in our future, just the kind of fear that endangers thoughtful debate about big-picture priorities. One testament to our changing priorities is our commitment to the Hubble telescope as compared to its successor. The Hubble is, in every way, a monument to scientific exploration.

The Hubble is near the end of its life, and it will soon fall from the sky. In July, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to kill its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. The full House could well rubber-stamp the recommendation. This fall, the Senate will weigh in. We need the public to speak out to members of Congress. Losing the Webb telescope would be a travesty for U.S. astronomy. (9/6)

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