October 9, 2011

Argentina Plans First Domestic Satellite Launch (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Argentina, by 2013, is looking to join the exclusive club of nations with the capacity to launch its own satellites. Engineers are now working on the new Tronador II (Thunderer II), a two-stage rocket that will be capable of launch a 200 kg payload into low-Earth orbit. Engineering faculty at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata will begin tests on a Tronador prototype next year with the intention of having a vehicle ready to launch in 2013.

The work is being overseen by the National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE). Argentina’s first domestic satellite mission will lift off from a new launch pad at a military base in Puerto Belgrano. The 34-meter tall rocket is based on the Tronador I, a single-stage booster that was first launched in 2007. The earlier rocket served as a technological testbed and only reached 20 km in altitude.

The Tronador II project is a key part of Argentina’s National Space Plan, which also the domestic development of satellite systems, the establishment of the Institute of Space Studies, the creation of information systems using space data, and the expansion of ground infrastructure. (10/9)

Editorial: Here's a Sputnik Moment for the U.S. (Source: Houston Chronicle)
It was impossible not to notice the disheartening coincidence of the calendar. As the political bickering and backbiting about the placement of a retired space shuttle in New York City rather than at the Johnson Space Center continued, the Chinese were reaching for the future in space.

The Chinese space laboratory Tiangong I was successfully launched last week. The small prototype will allow that nation to test docking technology that will be needed for a space station planned by the Beijing regime. The first step will be docking with an unmanned vehicle planned for November. Tiangong I, which means "Heavenly Palace," is expected to remain in orbit for two years.

We congratulate the Chinese for this important step into space. At the same time, however, we believe this Chinese success should be viewed as a Sputnik moment for this nation - an urgent call to reinvigorate our own, seemingly rudderless space program. (10/7)

Planning for a 'New' KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Art Waite enjoys the “cool factor” of working on America’s space program. Waite is director of aerospace for BRPH in Melbourne, an architecture and engineering firm with strong roots in the early U.S. space program. BRPH has its eye on playing a big role in the transformation of KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to a 21st century spaceport. Waite and his colleagues at BRPH are one of many government and contractor teams engrossed in projects to re-imagine, then re-engineer and ultimately re-build an array of historic space-launch facilities.

Waite and his colleagues see some reason for optimism as the nation, temporarily without the capability to launch humans into space on its own, seems to be settling now on a system for both the short haul trips to the space station and longer, tougher sojourns deeper into the solar system. Recent decisions to go ahead with a Saturn-caliber super rocket and to redevelop — and modernize — most of KSC are good signs. A steady stream of commercial space companies poking around KSC and Cape facilities looking for bases of operation also shows promise.

“The doors are open,” he said, to so many possibilities both public and private. Each new rocket and spaceship concept raises new questions to be studied and, BRPH hopes, new work to be done repurposing or rebuilding space facilities. (10/9)

Lost in Translation: Cyrillic, Semantics and SpaceX (Source: Universe Today)
Matters of space flight are no different than other international issues. What is said (or not said as the case may be) can suffer from being “lost in translation.” Such was the case recently when the media (this website included) reported that members within the Russian Space Agency had stated opposition to SpaceX docking their next Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station.

“This was never a SpaceX issue,” said NASA Spokesman Rob Navias during a recent interview. “This was an International Space Program issue – which has final approving authority for any spacecraft set to dock with the International Space Station – be it the HTV, ATV or even Soyuz, they all have to go through the exact same process.”

“This is basically an issue of semantics, of interpretation,” Navias said. “The Russian media wrote this article and when it was translated – it appeared as if that Russia was saying something – which they simply weren’t.” No one partner has a ‘controlling authority’ over the ISS. A good example of this is when Russia flew Dennis Tito to the ISS in 2001 – over initial U.S. objections. (10/9)

Editorial: China Should Have Own Ambitions (Source: China Daily)
The launch of the Tiangong-1 spacecraft has attracted the attention of the world and some TV viewers in some foreign countries even watched the live broadcast in late September. The public opinion is generally neutral. Some have made objective evaluation of the event, giving good-willed blessings to China's technological progress and expressed desires to extend cooperation with China, while others have expressed concerns that their own leading space positions are being challenged.

The concerns have mostly come from the U.S. Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin recently said at a hearing of NASA's supervision committee that China has almost the same strength with the United States as a strong space competitor. It is impossible for the world's largest developing country to have the same strength as the largest developed country. China's explorations in space technology could by no means challenge in the near future the leading position of the U.S.

Americans tend to have awareness of potential dangers and inspire themselves by exaggerating rivals' strength. The concerns held by the U.S. run some risks. The U.S. has viewed China's normal development as a challenge -- the negative impact of which is not limited to the false interpretation of the intentions of China's development. Therefore, some U.S. experts with far sight are worried that if the U.S. really takes China as its rival, China will eventually regard the U.S. as its opponent. Click here. (10/9)

Virgin Galactic Space Pilot Afraid of Heights (Source: Mirror)
As the world’s first commercial space pilot, British flying ace David Mackay will be at the controls when his Virgin Galactic spacecraft soars to 360,000ft. But coaxing him into a cherry picker for a photo high above the craft is a different matter. He’s terrified of heights. David reluctantly agrees but he is visibly nervous as the machine lifts him towards the roof of the hangar at the Mojave Air & Space Port. “I do have a bit of a fear of heights,” he admits. “But I don’t get scared of heights when I am flying a plane." (10/9)

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