October 3, 2011

Space Tourism Society Plans Seminar Series (Source: STS)
The Space Tourism Society announces a series of seminars focused on the Space Experience Economy (SEE). Our overview SEE seminars will provide the latest information, perspectives and forecast for the growing Space Experience Economy, space enterprise, as well as discussion and networking. Seating is limited to 20 participants per seminar. The first event is planned at the Proud Bird Restaurant in Los Angeles. Click here for details. (10/3)

Wanted: A Few New Astronauts (Source: MSNBC)
NASA says it's opening the application process for astronaut candidates in early November, for the first time since the shuttle fleet's retirement this summer. Even though the shuttles will never fly again, and even though astronauts will be traveling to the International Space Station exclusively on Russian spacecraft for at least the next three years, it takes years to train a new crop of spacefliers and get them into the rotation.

The class of candidates to be selected over the next year and a half could conceivably be among the first visitors to a near-Earth asteroid in the mid-2020s. NASA is still working on the detailed timeline for the application and selection process. A tentative timeline suggests that the application deadline will be sometime early next year, that the candidates would be chosen in the first half of 2013, and that they'd report for duty that summer.

How many will be chosen? Last time NASA selected a new class of astronauts, about 3,500 people applied, somewhere around 110 were selected to undergo an initial interview, and in the end, nine Americans were selected to join NASA's astronaut corps. They were joined by 10 others from Japan, Canada and Europe. One official says NASA's next class might have eight to 12 astronaut candidates. "It's not going to be a big number," he said. (10/3)

OSU Partners with NASA and KSC on Education (Source: Space Daily)
Thanks to the involvement with NASA, Oklahoma State University's (OSU) NASA Education Projects office is known more widely across the United States than here on campus. For the next five years, OSU will be the implementation partner with the NASA Kennedy Space Center's Educator Resource Center. The 5-year contract with KSC will bring in $2 million in grants. Steve Marks, principal investigator for OSU's NASA Education Projects, said the money will be pushed toward the personnel that will be hired on by OSU for salaries.

OSU is the regional headquarters for the State of Oklahoma, as the NASA Education Projects for teacher education to schools across Oklahoma. OSU has an office at all 10 NASA Visitors Centers across the U.S. "Through the four grants we have up and running now, there are about 45 employees working across the U.S. for OSU at the NASA headquarters," Lang said. Starting Oct. 1, at least five employees are to be hired at the Kennedy Space Center and contracted out through OSU. (9/28)

Roscosmos: Matter of South Korea Launch Should Not Be Politicized (Source: Itar-Tass)
Vladimir Popovkin who heads the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), said the matter of the launch of the South Korean rocket should not be politicized. He said that the launch will be made in 2012. When asked by Korean reporters about the destiny of the joint project for the launching of the rocket that failed due to the second stage’s malfunction, Popovkin said: “As to the two flops with the launching of the South Korean rocket in whose manufacture the Khrunichev Center participated, all the problems have been cleared by now.

What is more, the causes of the failures have become clear. The next such launch will take place next year. It must remove all the discrepancies with the Korean side. I am sure that in the two launchings the Russian stage functioned effectively. I would like the matter to be viewed as technical rather than as political,” he said. (10/3)

Awarding Medals to Astronauts is No Small Step for Lawmakers (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It’s probably a good thing that Congress didn’t plan the moonshot. The House on Monday is expected to authorize the use of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for a Nov. 16 ceremony to present congressional gold medals to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and John Glenn — more than two years after President Obama signed legislation to award the nation’s highest civilian honor to the space legends.

It was not immediately clear why it has taken two years to arrange for the ceremony. Congress voted in 2009, marking the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, to award the medals. The ceremony is important for NASA supporters who are fighting to shield the space program from a budget-cutting stampede on Capitol Hill. (10/3)

Construction of Bayterek Launch Complex at Baikonur Lags Behind Schedule (Source: Interfax)
The construction of the Bayterek launch complex at the Baikonur cosmodrome is 1.5 years behind schedule, Roscosmos said. "Bayterek's construction delay is over 1.5 years from the approved general schedule due to the suspension of financing by the Development Bank of Kazakhstan, the statement says.

Efforts are being made to boost the implementation of the project, it says. The Federation Council said in a press release that Bayterek, a launch facility designed for Bayterek rockets based on the Russian Angara rocket, is scheduled for completion in 2014. The Zenit rocket complex (a technical and launch complex at Baikonur) will be also modernized under a separate project that has attracted $25 million worth of investment, the document says. (10/3)

Giant Asteroid Vesta Has Mountain Taller Than Anything on Earth (Source: Space.com)
A NASA spacecraft orbiting the asteroid Vesta is revealing new details about the huge space rock's surface, including a massive mountain that rises taller than Mt. Everest on Earth. NASA's Dawn probe has been circling Vesta since mid-July, when it arrived in the asteroid belt that orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

So far, Dawn has beamed back surprising views of Vesta that revealed an enormous mountain in the asteroid's southern hemisphere and show that its cratered surface is incredibly diverse place. The south polar mountain is larger than the big island of Hawaii, the largest mountain on Earth, as measured from the ocean floor. It is almost as high as the highest mountain in the solar system, the shield volcano Olympus Mons on Mars." (10/3)

NASA Awards KSC Security Contract to Virginia Firm (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA picked Chenega Security & Support Solutions LLC of Virginia to provide protective services at Kennedy Space Center. The four-year contract begins Dec. 1 and has a maximum potential value of $151.9 million. The contract resulted from a competitive small business set-aside. Chenega will provide a variety of services including security, emergency dispatch, firefighting and ambulance services. (10/3)

Orbital Observations of Mercury Reveal Unprecedented Surface Detail (Source: JHU Gazette)
After only six months in orbit around Mercury, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft is sending back information that has revolutionized the way scientists think about the innermost planet. Analyses of new data from the spacecraft show, among other things, new evidence that flood volcanism has been widespread on Mercury, the first close-up views of Mercury’s “hollows,” the first direct measurements of the chemical composition of Mercury’s surface and the first global inventory of plasma ions within Mercury’s space environment. (10/3)

NASA's 'Shuttlyndra' a Massive Waste of Tax Dollars (Source: Pajamas Media)
This is a tale of a government investment gone far awry. Favored by politicians promising jobs in a high-tech industry of the future, and fueled by political cronyism, it consumed untold amounts of taxpayer dollars, with little to show for it, despite warnings by experts that its business plan was flawed. No, it’s not Solyndra — it’s much worse, at least in terms of the amount of money proposed to be wasted on it, and in other ways as well.

Let’s call it “Shuttlyndra,” aka NASA’s Space Launch System. Shuttlyndra isn’t just a contract, but multiple sole-source, no-bid, cost-plus contracts, guaranteeing that the taxpayer money will be spent. And because of the nature of the contracts, in which the contractors are reimbursed for time and materials regardless of results, and there is no real competition, there is an excellent chance that the taxpayer won’t get much for the money — at least if its predecessor program, Constellation, is anything to go by. (10/3)

Space Shuttle Transfers Coming Soon (Source; CollectSpace)
Six months after learning from NASA whether they would be receiving a retired space shuttle for display, museums in Los Angeles, Houston and New York are moving forward – and around – their plans to bring the winged spacecraft to their facilities. The California Science Center in Los Angeles will be the first museum to take ownership of an orbiter, Endeavour, during a private title-transfer ceremony scheduled for next week.

The prototype shuttle Enterprise, which unlike Endeavour never flew in space, isn't scheduled for transfer — by title or transport — until next year but the plans to display it at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City are moving. And while Space Center Houston, the official visitor center for Johnson Space Center, was not awarded an orbiter, it is still planning to display a full-scale shuttle and in doing so, make room for space shuttle Atlantis to move to the KSC Visitor Complex. (10/3)

NASA's New Plan for Massive Rocket Greeted with Enthusiasm, Criticism (Source: Xinhua)
Plans by NASA to build a massive rocket are being greeted with both enthusiasm and criticism in the U.S. No politician or political analyst knows if NASA is going to be able to get all of the funding that it wants for the SLS program. With an unstable U.S. economy, as well as Congressional elections and a Presidential election due to be held in 2012, members of the U.S. Congress may be hesitant about voting to give NASA the 3 to 3.5 billion dollars of annual funding needed to complete the SLS program. Click here. (10/3)

Moon's Shadow Makes Waves in Earth's Atmosphere (Source: Space.com)
Like a gigantic boat plying the heavens, the moon's shadow creates waves in Earth's atmosphere that travel at more than 200 mph, a new study reveals. This effect was predicted back in the early 1970s, but researchers were only finally able to observe it during the total solar eclipse of July 22, 2009. The researchers discovered that acoustic waves in Earth's upper atmosphere pile up along the leading and trailing edges of the moon's shadow as it moves across Earth, like the waves produced when a ship plows through water. (10/3)

Science and Human Exploration: Together at Last (Source: Space Review)
Is there a way to speed up the development of human exploration systems while also performing good science? Jack Burns and Scott D. Norris describe how Orion can be used, in conjunction with robotic spacecraft and future crewed landers, to unravel the secrets of the Moon. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1942/1 to view the article. (10/3)

A Progress Report on Commercial Cargo and Crew (Source: Space Review)
NASA's efforts to develop commercial cargo and crew transportation systems for accessing the ISS, among other potential applications, have become critical programs for the agency. Jeff Foust reports on the progress companies involved in those programs are making as well as concerns about the future of commercial crew in particular. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1941/1 to view the article. (10/3)

Creating Near-Term Results in US Human Space Exploration (Source: Space Review)
Under NASA's current plans, the first human exploration mission won't take place until at least 2021. Alan Stern and Gerry Griffin argue that's too long to wait, and offer a pragmatic alternative to accelerate human space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1940/1 to view the article. (10/3)

Riding Titans (Source: Space Review)
The achievements of Project Gemini have often been overlooked in space history in favor of the firsts accomplished by Mercury and Gemini. Dwayne Day offers some insights into Gemini's history from a recent symposium. Visit
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1939/1 to view the article. (10/3)

National Space Strategy: Proactive or Reactive? (Source: Space Review)
Is United States space policy insufficiently farsighted? Christopher Stone argues that it is, based on evidence China sees the need for, and is willing to support the development of, space-based solar power.
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1938/1 to view the article. (10/3)

Using a Flying Magic Carpet to Explore Mars (Source: Smart Planet)
It looks more like a thin sheet of plastic and you can’t take mythical princesses for rides on it just yet. But even flying magic carpets start out as humble prototypes. The flying or hovering part (to be more precise) is achieved by running electrical current through the device to create ripples of air underneath, which in turn drives propulsion. Currently, the device moves at a speed of less than an inch per second. The researchers are hoping with some design tweaks, they can bring that up to a yard per second.

So why not just build a hovercraft? Jafferis argues that the advantage of using a Disney-style approach is that there are no moving parts. Compared to a rover, it might be better equipped to traverse a really dusty terrain like Mars without getting gunked up or worn down. The next challenge would be to scale up the technology. For instance, the magic carpet is powered by batteries, which keep it anchored. But the researchers have devised a way to set it free by incorporating solar powered technology. Click here. (10/3)

Iran Indefinitely Suspends Plans to Launch a Monkey into Space (Source: Popular Science)
Iran’s ambitious 1960s-styled plans to send a live monkey into space aboard one of the Islamic Republic’s Kavoshgar-5 rockets have been suspended indefinitely, a top space official told Iranian state television today, which pretty much dashes any hopes that we might see a primate hurled into suborbital space before year’s end.

Hamid Fazeli, Iran’s space chief, said earlier this summer that the launch would happen by late August, and he did not give a concrete reason for the postponement of those plans today. But it marks a setback for Iran’s space program, which hopes to either launch a manned space mission by 2020 or develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the West, depending on who you ask. (10/3)

GLONASS Hits 5-Meter Accuracy (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system has been upgraded to a precision of up to 5 meters after the successful launch of the 24th GLONASS satellite. Sunday's GLONASS-M launch marked a turning point bringing the number of GLONASS satellites to a complete set, as planned by the designers. "This was the second satellite launch from the Plesetsk spaceport. Russia launched its first global navigation satellite n February 26th 2011. Before that, all navigation satellites were launched by the Proton-class rockets from the Baikonur space launch facility."

GLONASS’ previous versions had an accuracy within 50 meters. Alexander Zheleznyakov of Russian Cosmonautics Academy, comments: "Signals could be lost and some areas remained uncovered by the system before the GLONASS system of satellites was brought to full capacity. Now, a full constellation of satellites is working at full capacity." (10/3)

Musk and SpaceX Launching a New Era of Private Spaceflight (Source: Popular Mechanics)
It's been a stellar 18 months for SpaceX. The aerospace company signed a $492 million launch contract-—the largest in history-—with satellite company Iridium Communications. It received a $75 million slice of NASA pie to develop an escape system for its Dragon spacecraft. And in December, it became the first private company ever to launch a craft into orbit and successfully recover it: After circling the Earth twice, the unmanned Dragon splashed down within a mile of its target in the Pacific Ocean.

The company says the Dragon capsule will be able to lift seven astronauts into orbit atop its Falcon rocket-—more than double the capacity of the Russian Soyuz, at less than one-third of the price per seat. NASA engineer and 2010 Breakthrough Award winner Daniel Andrews calls SpaceX's achievements "necessary and impressive," poised to create "very real, high-tech jobs in a new market sector." In fact, at press time, SpaceX advertised 130 open positions. (10/3)

X-37 Still Orbiting on Classified Mission (Source: Space.com)
After nearly seven months of flight, the Air Force's latest X-37 robotic space plane is nearing a milestone in its secret mission in Earth orbit as it chalks up mileage and operational experience. As of last week, the reusable X-37B space plane had been in orbit for more than 206 days, two months shy of its 270-day mission design lifetime. The spacecraft, which looks like a miniature space shuttle, launched on its clandestine mission on March 5 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The X-37B — like the now-retired NASA space shuttles — is capable of returning experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis, as well as re-flight of equipment. What exactly the vehicle does while circling the Earth is a mystery, since the spacecraft's cargo is consistently classified. Payloads may well involve high-tech testing of photoreconnaissance gear, but other hardware for intelligence-gathering could be onboard.

Editor's Note: As with the Space Shuttle, perhaps after the Air Force gains more experience with precision landings of the X-37 in California, the vehicle may transition to landing at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, where it can be quickly (and more inexpensively) reconfigured for its next mission. (10/3)

JSC's Future May Hinge on Orion Spacecraft (Source: Houston Chronicle)
"If." That's the operative word around the Johnson Space Center these days as it and the rest of NASA transition into a world in which the agency has no means of flying its own astronauts into space. This uncertainty is why there's such hope surrounding the still-under-development Orion spacecraft. If Orion flies during the second half of this decade, the Houston center, known originally as the Manned Spacecraft Center, will have a purpose and a future. But that's a big if.

Orion only flies if the U.S. government commits to funding its development over the long term, and Orion only will fly beyond low-Earth orbit if the White House and Congress also fund construction of a heavy-lift rocket. That's no small feat considering the program must be funded across multiple Congresses and, possibly, presidential administrations. "We don't have a great track record of sustainability," admitted Mike Coats, director of Johnson Space Center. (10/3)

Powerful New Telescope Array Opens Eyes on Universe (Source: Astronomy Now)
A crucial step for the world’s most powerful ground-based telescope array, the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) took its first science observations, of the colliding Antennae galaxies. Currently comprising twenty working 12-meter antennae, the final array, set for completion by 2013, will boast 66 telescopes.

At a grueling 5,000 meters altitude in the Chilean Andes, ALMA is located at one of the highest and driest astronomical sites in the world, affording exceptional atmospheric conditions for making observations. These long wavelengths allow astronomers to study extremely cold objects in space, such as the dense clouds of cosmic dust and gas from which stars and planets form, as well as very distant objects in the early Universe, and the relic radiation left over from the big bang. (10/3)

British Scientists Bid to Develop Instruments for World's Largest Telescope (Source: Guardian)
British astronomers will be in a prime position to take the leading role in building critical scientific instruments for the world's biggest optical telescope, thanks to a £3.5m research project announced by the UK's astronomy and space funding agency. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be built in Chile in the next decade. It should be powerful enough to uncover how the universe evolved in its earliest years. It could even help reveal whether life exists anywhere else in the cosmos. (10/3)

Airlines Want Satellite-Aided Airport Approaches (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The FAA faces escalating airline industry pressure to accelerate use of onboard satellite-based navigation systems that can plot more precise airport-approach routes, which could save money and ease airport congestion. An industry-government report released last week urged more focus on short-term benefits of air-traffic control modernization before advocating sweeping changes that would effectively replace ground-based radar networks with onboard satellite-based systems. (10/3)

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