October 2, 2011

Measuring up Florida's Aerospace Talent (Source: Workforce Florida)
Workforce Florida seeks to better understand employer satisfaction with the current workforce and future talent needs of Florida's aviation and aerospace companies. Please take a couple of minutes to fill out this brief online survey by clicking here. Your insights will help Workforce Florida better support and grow this critical industry in Florida. A letter of introduction from Workforce Florida CEO Chris Hart is posted here.

Consider forwarding this survey to others in the industry and thanks for your participation in this important research. Apologies for duplicate mailings or if you have already completed this survey. For questions please contact Tish Nichols at SRA Research Group. (10/2)

FAA's KSC-Based Tech Center Cut From House Budget (Source: Space Politics)
Earlier this month the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee passed a 2012 appropriations bill that included only $13 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), less than half the administration’s request of $26.6 million and below the FY11 level of $15 million. The report accompanying the appropriations bill has recently been released by the committee, suggesting the FAA should focus its resources more on aviation, including air traffic control, than spaceflight.

“Given the challenges facing the FAA with NextGen, safety oversight, rulemaking activities, and the operation of the world’s largest 24 hour air traffic control system, the Committee denies the Administration’s request for additional staff and resources for this office,” the report states, referring to AST. “Given the constrained resource environment that is facing the agency, the FAA can ill afford to divert resources away from core mission activities to this office.”

The big losers in the House bill are two new initiatives, a Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center in Florida and a proposed $5 million low-cost access to space prize. Neither program would receive any money in the House bill, accounting for most of the difference between the House bill and the administration’s request. (10/1)

Russia Launches First Soyuz Rocket Since August Crash (Source: AFP)
A Russian Soyuz-2 rocket launched a GLONASS navigation satellite on Sunday, the defence ministry said, in the first launch since a freighter carried by the flagship vehicle crashed into Earth in August. Russia has "successfully completed the launch of a Soyuz-2 rocket with the GLONASS-M (satellite)," Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. (10/2)

Urine-Loving Bug Churns Out Space Fuel (Source: SBS)
Scientists say they have gained insights into a remarkable bacterium that lives without oxygen and transforms ammonium, the ingredient of urine, into hydrazine, a rocket fuel. So-called anammox - for anaerobic ammonium oxidation - germs caused a sensation when they were first identified in the 1990s, but uncovering their secrets is taking time.

"Proving this was quite a feat," said Mike Jetten. "We had to deploy a range of new experimental methods. In the end, we managed to isolate the protein complex responsible for hydrazine production, a beautifully red mixture." The team's work initially piqued NASA's interest, but this faded when the US space agency learned that only small quantities of precious hydrazine are produced, "nothing like enough to get a rocket to Mars", said Jetten.

"Now we are accurately determining the crystal structure of the protein complex. Perhaps we can improve the production process if we have a better understanding of how the protein complex fits together." Anammox is now used commercially in water purification because it is so energy-efficient in breaking down ammonia. (10/2)

Editorial: NASA's Plans for Michoud Assembly Facility are Encouraging (Source: Times-Picayune)
Michoud Assembly Facility has long played a key role in the nation's space program, and it's encouraging that NASA wants to use Michoud in the next phase of space exploration. While no formal announcement has been made, Sen. David Vitter's office said that he's been told that Michoud will be the site where several components of the new heavy-lift rocket will be manufactured.

That could mean about 2,000 jobs for Michoud, according to Stephen Doering, NASA's director at Michoud. Michoud employed thousands during the peak of the space shuttle program, when the external tank was manufactured at the facility in eastern New Orleans. This decision shows that NASA continues to recognize the value of Michoud, and rightly so. As Sen. Vitter points out, it is the only NASA facility that's ready to do the large-scale manufacturing needed to make a heavy-lift rocket.

According to his office, the space agency is looking at using Michoud to manufacture the rocket's core stage, upper stage and the instrument ring and also for doing work to integrate engines with the core and upper stages. Money for the heavy-lift rocket program is in the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bills, and it's important for Congress to vote to fund this next step into space. Louisiana's delegation, including Sens. Vitter and Mary Landrieu and Rep. Steve Scalise, say that they'll work to make sure Congress funds the program. That's what needs to happen. (10/2)

Obama Under Fire Over Space Plans (Source: AFP)
High-profile critics fear President Barack Obama's commercial overhaul of human spaceflight is going nowhere and could mark the end of half a century of US supremacy among the stars and planets. "We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, warned lawmakers at a recent hearing.

The end of the space shuttle era has left America's human spaceflight program in an "embarrassing" state, Armstrong said, arguing that NASA needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to the International Space Station. "I don't think any of the ISS partners looks at what we are doing in the US with commercial cargo and crew and feels very confident," Space Policy Institute director Scott Pace said. "So there is a great gap between the aspirations of the policy and the actual capabilities that exist now."

NASA has consistently rejected such criticism, arguing, like Obama, that the Constellation plan was over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation. Spokesman David Weaver described the vision laid out by the president at the Kennedy Space Center in April 2010 as "bold" and said it would "one day allow the first astronauts to set foot on Mars." (10/2)

Delta 2 Rocket Could Win New NASA Launches, Probably Not From Florida (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
With its final scheduled flight looming just three weeks away, the workhorse Delta 2 rocket has won the right to rejoin the competition for future NASA satellite launches. But the news is no guarantee the Delta 2 will be picked by NASA to deploy upcoming satellites. It simply means the rocket can fight for future launches of medium-class payloads against rivals such as Orbital Sciences, SpaceX and Lockheed Martin.

ULA has parts to build as many as five Delta 2 rockets. "We hope sometime in the near-future that results in a few more missions, and those would most likely be missions out of Vandenberg." Those five remaining rockets were envisioned to fly in the Heavy configuration with 46-inch-diameter strap-on solid motors. Since the pad at Vandenberg cannot accommodate the bigger boosters, ULA will need to purchase the regular 40-inch motors from builder Alliant Techsystems for any potential future flights. (10/2)

Arctic Ozone Loss at Record Level (Source: BBC)
Ozone loss over the Arctic this year was so severe that for the first time it could be called an "ozone hole" like the Antarctic one, scientists report. About 20km (13 miles) above the ground, 80% of the ozone was lost, they say. The cause was an unusually long spell of cold weather at altitude. In cold conditions, the chlorine chemicals that destroy ozone are at their most active. (10/2)

Are Aliens Part of God's Plan, Too? (Source: Space.com)
The discovery of intelligent aliens would be mind-blowing in many respects, but it could present a special dilemma for the world's religions, theologians pondering interstellar travel concepts said. Christians, in particular, might take the news hardest, because the Christian belief system does not easily allow for other intelligent beings in the universe, Christian thinkers said at the 100 Year Starship Symposium. In other words, "Did Jesus die for Klingons too?"

"According to Christianity, an historic event some 2,000 years ago was supposed to save the whole of creation," Weidemann said. "You can grasp the conflict." If the whole of creation includes 125 billion galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, as astronomers think, then what if some of these stars have planets with advanced civilizations, too? Why would Jesus Christ have come to Earth, of all the inhabited planets in the universe, to save Earthlings and abandon the rest of God's creatures? (10/2)

Project Could Bring Every City on Earth Within Two Hours' Travel (Source: The Australian)
It offers the prospect of Sydney to London becoming a short-haul flight and travelers arriving in Tokyo before the credits for the on-board movie roll. A Formula One tycoon is linking up with KLM, the Dutch airline, to develop spacecraft that could bring every city on Earth within two hours' travel time. This week they will reveal the first British passenger to buy a ticket for a ride on an early version of the craft, providing sub-orbital flights for space tourists.

Their ambition, however, is to pioneer commercial space travel with, they hope, the first scheduled flights within 15 to 20 years. Michiel Mol, a Dutchman who co-owns the Force India F1 team, said: "Being able to travel from London to Sydney in an hour and 45 minutes, that is the future. It is also the reason why KLM joined our firm [Space Expedition Curacao] as a partner. Mol says he has already sold 35 tickets for flights from the Caribbean island of Curacao. Regulatory approval is still under negotiation.

His first spaceship, the Lynx, from the Californian firm XCOR Aerospace, will be unveiled next spring and will, he claims, feature breakthrough technology with a reusable engine. "It's the first time a spaceship will be capable of doing four flights a day and of doing 5,000 flights with one engine," he said. The first generation spaceship will travel at 2,200 mph, but the second generation will need to reach a velocity of 13,750 mph. Click here. (10/2)

Next Dragon to Launch No-Earlier-Than Dec. 19 (Source: Universe Today)
SpaceX will work to launch the next Falcon-9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to the Space Station no-earlier-than Dec. 19. “We recognize that a target launch date cannot be set until NASA gives us the green light as well as the partners involved in the International Space Station program make a decision on when to continue Soyuz flights. Our flight is one of many that have to be carefully coordinated, so the ultimate schedule of launches to the ISS is still under consideration,” said a SpaceX spokesperson. It will have been over a year since the last SpaceX launch. (10/2)

Houstonians in Congress Try to Wrest Shuttle Enterprise From New York City Museum (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Houston’s miffed congressional delegation wants to wrest the retired Shuttle Enterprise from New York City, contending NASA’s award of the coveted spacecraft was based on promises that are not being kept. Texas lawmakers are reopening efforts to persuade the Obama administration to display Enterprise Johnson Space Center following a published report that New York City’s USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is having problems fulfilling commitments to NASA. (10/2)

Star Travel? Make It So, Experts Say (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Faster than the speed of light. Much, much, much more powerful than space shuttle main engines that generate more horsepower than 28 locomotives. Able to skip through solar systems — entire galaxies — within the blink of an eye. Look! Here in Orlando. A nerd herd is charting a course this weekend that could lead to interstellar travel within 100 years.

Sounds crazy, right? It’s pretty far out. “But the technologies to do this are going to be here within the next 100 years. I have no doubt,” said Philip Metzger, a physicist who works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Do I believe it’s possible? Yes,” said Daniel DeMartino, 18, a Florida Institute of Technology student from New Jersey. “Will it happen? That, I don’t know. That will depend on a whole lot of things.” (10/2)

The 100-Year Starship: US Agencies Ponder Interstellar Travel (Source: Space.com)
Warp drives. Artificial gravity. Terraforming planets. These concepts might sound as though they're ripped from the pages of science fiction, but they're the topic of serious scientific presentations at DARPA's 100-Year Starship Symposium in Orlando. Humans have sent probes to planets and asteroids throughout our solar system, and one should leave the solar system next year (though it took Voyager 1 more than 30 years to get that far).

DARPA and NASA have teamed up on a $1 million project called the 100-Year Starship Study to begin contemplating technologies and organizational strategies that could enable an interstellar mission to launch within 100 years. "The 100-Year Starship is about more than building a spacecraft or any one specific technology," DARPA officials say. "Through this effort, DARPA seeks to inspire several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies and cross-cutting innovations across myriad disciplines." (10/1)

Seven-Satellite Plan Set for Domestic GPS Network (Source: Japan Times)
Japan plans to establish a network of four satellites in the latter half of this decade to improve the accuracy of its global positioning system. In the future, Japan will set up a network of seven "quasi-zenith" satellites to set up a GPS system independent of the one operated by the United States, the officials said. (10/1)

Sen. Brown Trying Once Again to Get a Space Shuttle in Ohio (Source: WTAM)
Back in April, the administrator of NASA announced that three decommissioned space shuttles would go on display at the Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and at a science museum in Los Angeles. In addition, a test model of the shuttle would go on display in New York. Ohio and Texas had also put in bids for a shuttle, but were turned down.

Now, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown says New York City is doing a "Bait and switch" and he would like NASA to reconsider its process on how it determined where the four remaining shuttles would be housed. Brown tells WTAM 1100 that he and some other senators are sending a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking him to reopen the process. Brown says that unlike New York, Ohio is ready to house one of the shuttles. (9/30)

Extremophile Survives Simulated Space Travel (Source: USA Today)
NASA astrobiologists have taken up study of "extremophile" microbes that thrive despite severe heat, cold or radiation, looking for bugs that might linger in inhospitable places such as the subsurface of Mars or the interior of Saturn's geyser moon, Enceladus. Researchers looked at two hardy bugs, salt-loving "haloarchaea" microbes and compared them to a a radiation-resistant bacteria, D. radiodurans, asking how well they would survive radiation found in space. Click here. (10/1)

Red Star Rising: Is U.S. Losing the Space Race to China? (Source: Daily Finance)
China's 8.5-ton unmanned test module is the first orbital building block of what will eventually become the country's answer to the International Space Station -- a new space station, definitively not international, belonging solely to China. Next year, the Chinese plan to conduct two additional space missions in which astronauts will briefly occupy and live aboard the station.

While China admits it will be several years before the new station is fully operational, the fact that the Middle Kingdom is expanding its reach into space poses existential questions to NASA, and to America: Are we still a superpower? Is there a future for America in space?

You can hardly open a newspaper these days without running into one (or more likely, several) articles describing America's perilous debt situation. A common theme running through these pieces is how extremely fragile our economy appears in contrast to China's booming business environment; how every year, our trade deficit sends hundreds of billions of dollars flowing out of America, and into China ... where those dollars are apparently being used to finance a new space race. (10/1)

The Problems of Reusable Rockets (Source: Flight Global)
The main obstacles of a reusable spacecraft are heat and weight. Heat is generated by the friction of moving through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, and dissipating heat is one of the major challenges of any spacecraft. The first stage will have to survive the flame from the second stage once it separates, and the second stage will need extensive shielding to re-enter safely, much less steer and execute a precision landing. Of course, that extensive shielding adds a whole lot of weight.

SpaceX declined to comment on just how they would solve that problem, but they wouldn't spend the money if they didn't think it could be done. Even 'disposable' launchers can only launch payloads of roughly 2-4% of their total weight. It requires an incredible amount of thrust, which requires more powerful engines, which require additional fuel, which adds more weight, which requires more thrust... Not to say it's impossible of course, but it is, as Musk put it, "super-damn hard." (10/1)

Nuclear Power to the Stars (Source: Astronomy Now)
To send spacecraft to other stars in the space of a human lifetime, new methods of propulsion are going to be needed to provide the necessary ‘oomph’ to break free of our Solar System. Currently the best bet is nuclear fusion power, but there’s a problem – it hasn’t even been shown to be a commercially viable source of energy on Earth yet.
‘Splitting the atom’ in the 1930s paved the way for modern day nuclear fission reactors, but nuclear fusion is a different and altogether far cleaner process.

Rather than releasing binding energy of atoms energy by splitting them apart into lighter nuclei, fusion melds atomic nuclei together, but to so it is necessary to break though the electrostatic force, a fundamental repulsive force between two charged particles. To breach the electrostatic barrier high temperatures and pressures are required. The Sun’s core has a temperature of over 15 million degrees Celsius to generate energy by fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium.

Nuclear fusion reactors on Earth basically have to match these conditions and, suffice to say, that isn’t easy. This is the challenge being faced not only by nuclear scientists worldwide, but also by those researchers of advanced spacecraft propulsion attending the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Orlando, Florida, this weekend. There are some ingenious solutions, however. Click here. (10/1)

SLS Schedule Improving – Crewed Moon Mission Moving to 2019 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With all cylinders now firing on NASA’s exploration planning effort, the development and early mission schedule for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion are starting to fall into place, with dramatic improvements being worked for NASA’s opening crewed Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) mission with the Orion (MPCV). SLS-1, a 70mt version of the SLS, is still expected to debut in 2017, with a “crew capable” Orion being sent on a test trip around the Moon. The 2021 debut of a crewed SLS/Orion is now being pushed to the left by two years, with a launch date of 2019.

Unlike the Constellation Program (CxP) – which appeared to start with an unsustainable schedule, prior to almost yearly slips being noted during Program Milestone Reviews (PMRs) – sources note that all SLS mission schedules are being worked with large amounts of margin. It has been noted that the crewed mission around the moon may even be advanced to 2018, one year after the debut SLS-1 launch, should funding projections remain stable. Even with the two year advance to SLS-2, the downstream manifest is expected to improve to the point the evolved SLS may be ready “many years” ahead of the previous schedule. (10/1)

NASA Tells Contractors Space Launch System Will Stay in Budget (Source: Huntsville Times)
The early list of contractors for NASA's new heavy lift rocket unveiled in Huntsville Thursday looks like the old list of contractors who built the space shuttle and other past rockets. That's not surprising, NASA officials told an industry briefing, because the only way to build the new rocket on time and on budget is to use existing contracts and workers to get started.

NASA is planning and hoping for a level budget of $3 billion a year through 2017 to build the first of a series of big rockets that are the foundation for the so-called Space Launch System (SLS). The rockets are being designed and developed at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center and are how NASA will eventually "put human boots" on Mars, in one official's words.

"Affordability means not just what the end cost of the rocket is, but year by year staying within our means," Marshall procurement officer Earl Pendley told a room full of more than 500 contractors looking for a piece of the new work. (10/1)

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