November 10, 2011

Brazil Joins the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ (Source: ESA)
In the year that severe flooding and landslides claimed over 800 lives in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil has joined the international space organization that makes timely satellite data available to rescue authorities during disasters. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research – INPE – formally became the newest member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ on 8 November. (11/10)

Heads up – Sub-Orbital Flights Are Coming (Source: Roger-Wilco)
Curacao, Changi, Spaceport America, Zaragoza, Lelystad... What is common among these airports? Seemingly nothing but do not be misled by appearances. All these airports are getting ready to launch and receive sub-orbital flights in the not too distant future. While our industry is still trying to figure out how to integrate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into the civil air traffic management environment, private industry is throwing another challenge at us: sub-orbital vehicles.

Although sub-orbital flight may seem like the plaything of a few crazy bilioners, it is anything but. There is huge potential in this and it is not for nothing that so many entrepreneurs led by Richard Branson, as well as visionary airports, are getting on the band wagon. Even mighty KLM is involved, albeit only in a marketing capacity… for now anyway. So what kind of aircraft or spacecraft if you like are we talking about and what do they mean in terms of air traffic management requirements?

A typical first generation sub-orbital vehicle is a kind of rocket powered machine that takes off from a runway and boosts itself to an altitude of around 330.000 feet at which space is commonly considered to begin. Skimming the top of the atmosphere the vehicle and all within it, experience a short period of weightlessness before it tips over and glides back to a runway to land. In a way this is reminiscent to what the Space Shuttle used to do but then on a much reduced scale. Click here. (11/10)

What Happens to Scaled Composites After Burt Rutan? (Source: Flight Global)
Burt Rutan founded Scaled Composites in 1982 and over three decades drove its research into such risky projects as the round-the-world flight of Voyager and the atmosphere-topping climb of SpaceShipOne. But Rutan retired from Scaled Composites seven months ago, and moved from southern California's Antelope Valley to a lake on the foothills of northern Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains.

Will Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman-owned subsidiary since 2007, carry on its founder's unique tolerance for high-risk research, and succeed? We had the opportunity to interview Rutan last week, and we broached this topic carefully. We asked him what he hopes Scaled Composites becomes after his departure. Click here. (11/10)

Editorial: Avoiding the Void! (Source: Washington Post)
Some things the private sector just does better. Take space travel. The U.S. government got us to the moon, but that was when the government had support to do things like that. Or do anything at all. But as is often the case, what we thought we were doing wasn’t what we were really doing. What we THOUGHT we were doing was supporting science with the goal of furthering understanding, and exploring in the name of discovery.

What we were REALLY doing was funding a big thrill ride. And it was thrilling, sort of. Getting a person to the moon was an astoundingly tantalizing idea, and who knew what we would discover in the process? It was pretty amazing that it happened, though we didn’t want to think about what we discovered. What we discovered was that space is just brutally devoid of anything remotely conducive to human life, or life of any kind, in the vicinity we are likely to ever get any earthlings to.

We’re not that interested; we want astronauts and adventure. Data? Yawn. Like all science and research funding now. Just waste, fraud and abuse! What the public wants is the thrill part, and the private sector is stepping up with rockets that will be able to take the very rich on an exciting dash into low orbit! We don’t want to think about the emptiness of space, or of our priorities. (11/10)

Lockheed Martin to Select Delta 4 Rocket for Orion Test (Source:
NASA announced this week it has signed on to a long-sought proposal by Lockheed Martin for a $370 million unmanned orbital test flight of the Orion capsule in early 2014, clearing the way for final contract negotiations for launch on a Delta 4-Heavy rocket. The United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy is the largest U.S. rocket currently in existence, and it's needed to boost the Orion spaceship into an oval-shaped orbit stretching nearly 5,000 miles above Earth.

From there, the Orion will dive back into Earth's atmosphere at more than 20,000 mph, giving engineers key data on how the spacecraft responds to a re-entry at speeds nearly replicating what the capsule will see when returning from deep space missions to asteroids and other destinations. (11/10)

CASIS National Lab Group Adds Staff (Source: Space Florida)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)—-the non-profit entity recently selected by NASA to maximize use of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory (ISSNL)-—has hired five executives to direct the Operations, Marketplace Development and Economic Valuation functions, support intellectual property issues for the organization, and support STEM education initiatives. (11/10)

Alabama Congressman Hopes for Budget-Cut Deal, Concerned for NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
During a stop in Huntsville, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) said the country's mood is pointing toward a balanced budget amendment for Congress, that Huntsville has a chance to take part in future cybersecurity work. Aderholt is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. The eight-term congressman said money is in place for the Space Launch System rocket project, but he remains concerned about whether the administration is committed to a strong NASA, as opposed to continuing to emphasize commercial space efforts. (11/10)

Bolivia Expects Huge Benefits from Chinese-Built Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Bolivia expects huge benefits from the satellite "Tupac Katari", which is being built by a Chinese company and will be put into orbit at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. Deputy Science and Technology Minister Pedro Crespo said the satellite will benefit Bolivia, one of Latin America's least developed countries, in different areas such as education, medicine and communication. He added that Bolivia is confident about the advantages the Chinese satellite will offer, and that the government is trying to make the most of it. (11/10)

Pegasus Barge Bids Farewell to KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The barge NASA used to deliver space shuttle external fuel tanks from New Orleans to Florida set sail from Kennedy Space Center on Friday, possibly for the last time. The Pegasus, towed by a crew of three seamen and one technician aboard the Freedom Star solid booster recovery ship, is bound for Bay St. Louis, Miss., where it will remain in storage until a new use for it is determined, NASA said. The Pegasus sailed 41 times and delivered 31 space shuttle external tanks between 1999 and 2011. (11/10)

The Methane Habitable Zone (Source: Astrobiology)
The search for life is largely limited to the search for water – we look for exoplanets at the correct distance from their stars for liquid water to splash and flow freely on their surfaces, we ‘follow the water’ on the red planet Mars, and SETI scans radio frequencies in the ‘water hole’ between the 1,420MHz emission line of neutral hydrogen and the 1,666MHz hydroxyl line.

Suppose, though, that life needn’t be constrained to a water-based chemistry; would we be able to recognize the signatures of such life and the habitats in which it lives? From one perspective, water seems such a good match for life because it may be the only match – no other liquid has the properties or abundance that water has. On the other hand there is another point of view that says life simply works with whatever materials it has at hand. On Earth, that material is water, but on other planets it may be something else. Click here. (11/10)

China Intends to Launch its Own Research Craft to Mars in 2013 (Source: Itar Tass)
China intends to launch its own research craft to the Mars in 2013, the Chinese press reported, commenting on the failure of the Russian Phobos Grunt spacecraft. At present, China has no earth-based station with strong enough signal to reach Mars. That is why China urged Russia to maintain cooperation in Mars exploration. “By having the Changzhi rocket boosters, China can launch satellites to the Mars orbit. But it has no ground-based station in order to keep in touch with them,” Chen Changya said. (11/10)

IEA: World has Five Years to Avoid Severe Warming (Source: Space Daily)
The world has just five years to avoid being trapped in a scenario of perilous climate change and extreme weather events, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Wednesday. On current trends, "rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change," the IEA concluded in its annual World Energy Outlook report.

"The door to 2.0 C is closing," it said, referring to the 2.0 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) cap on global warming widely accepted by scientists and governments as the ceiling for averting unmanageable climate damage. Without further action, by 2017 the total CO2 emissions compatible with the 2.0 C goal will be "locked in" by power plants, factories and other carbon-emitting sources either built or planned, the IEA said. (11/10)

Embry-Riddle Partners with Chinese Universities (Source: ERAU)
Agreements between Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and two Chinese universities will aid one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation industries and attract more Chinese students to Embry-Riddle. The agreements, signed in China in October, will create collaborative degree programs with the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST) and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Chinese students in the programs will study for three years in China and the fourth and fifth year at Embry-Riddle. They will receive a bachelor of science degree from their home university during or after their fourth year and a master’s in science from Embry-Riddle at the end of their fifth year of study. The agreement involves three Embry-Riddle degree programs offered at the Daytona Beach campus. (11/10)

Intelsat Consolidates Control of Horizons Joint Venture (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat has renegotiated its two-satellite Horizons joint venture with SkyPerfect JSat Corp. of Japan to put it more firmly under Intelsat’s control and permit a Horizons spacecraft to be moved from a slot covering North America to one serving the faster-growing Russian market, Intelsat said Nov. 8. (11/10)

JWST is Crowding Out NASA’s Other Science Missions (Source: The Economist)
In 2002, when NASA considered plans for a Hubble successor that would study the universe in infra-red, rather than visible light, that would be ready to fly in 2010 and would cost just $2.5 billion, saying “yes” was easy. Nine years later, NASA is regretting that decision. The James Webb space telescope (JWST) is still in the workshop, and its launch date has been set back repeatedly (2018 is the latest official estimate). Its cost has gone up to $8.8 billion, a figure that, if history is any guide, could rise still further, which would be embarrassing at the best of times.

But with public-spending cuts looming and NASA’s budget flat for the foreseeable future, it is causing real strains. It is not just politicians that are restive. Astronomers have long worried that ballooning JWST costs would affect other science projects. Officially, NASA says only that other missions will be delayed, but there are fears that some could be cut completely. One potential sacrifice is WFIRST, an infra-red space telescope intended for launch in 2020. This is designed to probe the nature of “dark energy” thought to be responsible for the quickening expansion of the universe. A string of other, smaller projects could suffer as well. (11/10)

International Consensus on Joint Space Exploration (Source: SpaceRef)
Representatives from 28 countries, the European Commission and the European Space Agency met in Italy on Nov. 10 for the Third International Conference on Exploration and the first High-level International Space Exploration Platform. Representatives endorsed the Lucca Declaration, which recognises the benefit of a continuing dialogue on future space exploration to help identify potential areas for international cooperation.

It is expected that further discussions will cover joint missions and collaboration on research, and could lead to greater cooperation in areas such as access to space, innovation and space technologies, the use of current and future low-orbit infrastructures, and future human and robotic presence further out in space. They made a commitment to begin open, high-level policy dialogue on space exploration at government-level for the benefit of humankind. The United States offered to host the next meeting. (11/10)

Budget Battle Threatens To Ground Initial GMES Satellites (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA), raising the stakes in its battle with the European Commission over the future of Europe’s multibillion-dollar GMES environment-monitoring effort, has threatened to refuse to launch the first group of GMES satellites unless the commission agrees to fund the system’s operations.

The threat, made in a letter from the chair of ESA’s Council to senior European Union (EU) officials, illustrates the growing concern at ESA and among GMES backers that what was initially viewed as a tactical move by the commission to elicit support for GMES may now in fact scuttle the program. (11/10)

Asteroid Planning Gap Leaves Earth 'a Sitting Duck' (Source: CBC)
The massive coal black asteroid 2005 YU55 zoomed by Earth this week in harmless fashion, but interest groups say the relatively close encounter is a reminder the world is "a sitting duck in a cosmic shooting gallery," with no international plan in case of a disaster. Ray Williamson is executive director of the Secure World Foundation (SWF), one of many groups that have submitted papers to a UN working committee looking to develop guidelines for member states on how to respond to near-Earth objects.

Williamson said there's an important need now for an international defence strategy that includes finding potentially hazardous objects such as asteroids, predicting their locations, and giving adequate warnings to citizens about when and how they will hit the Earth — even though such a disaster may be decades away. Among the foundation's recommendations is the establishment of a global Information, Analysis, and Warning Network. (11/10)

Germany to Buy EADS Shares From Daimler (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The German government plans to purchase a 7.5% stake in aerospace group EADS from Daimler AG in a bid to preserve a Franco-German balance of power at the Airbus parent after no private investor could be found, government officials said. Officials said the stake in European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.—with a market value of roughly €1.2 billion ($1.65 billion)—would be acquired by Germany's state-owned development bank. (11/9)

EADS Boosted by Airbus (Source: Wall Street Journal)
European aerospace giant EADS on Thursday raised its full-year forecast for orders, revenue, profitability and free cash flow, saying demand for commercial aircraft remains strong although defense spending by cash-strapped governments is under pressure. At the same time, however, it announced a delay in the entry into service of its new wide-body A350 XWB jet, saying this is now planned for the first half of 2014 instead of the end of 2013. EADS is taking a $270.8 million charge to cover cost overruns on the A350 program. (11/10)

NIST Physicists Chip Away at Mystery of Antimatter Imbalance (Source: NIST)
Why there is stuff in the universe—-more properly, why there is an imbalance between matter and antimatter-—is one of the long-standing mysteries of cosmology. A team of researchers working at NIST has just concluded a 10-year-long study of the fate of neutrons in an attempt to resolve the question, the most sensitive such measurement ever made. The universe, they concede, has managed to keep its secret for the time being, but they’ve succeeded in significantly narrowing the number of possible answers. Click here. (11/8)

Dragon Offers Ticket to Mars (Source: Nature)
Dragon, the privately built space capsule intended to haul cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), is auditioning for another high-profile role. Its maker, SpaceX, says that the capsule, which is set to make its first test flight to the ISS, could be dispatched to Mars — drastically cutting the cost of exploration on the red planet. Together with researchers at the NASA Ames, the company is working on a proposal for a first 'Red Dragon' mission.

The group advocates repurposing Dragon and the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch rocket to send an ice drill that would look for life near the poles of Mars. The mission could launch as early as 2018 for a cost of $500 million, proponents say — well within the budget of NASA's least-expensive class of planetary missions. Click here. (11/8)

DARPA Solicits Air-Launch Proposals (Source: Flight Global)
DARPA has released a broad area announcement (BAA) calling for information about launching small satellites from aircraft as a low-cost alternative to expensive vertical rocket launches. The program, called airborne launch assist space access (ALASA), calls for a range of modified carrier aircraft and custom-built rockets. A computer-generated picture accompanying the BAA features a heavily modified Bombardier regional jet, providing an example of what may be to come.

The significant limitations associated with air launch have restricted the practice from widespread use. In particular, rocket and satellite weight and performance are greatly restricted by limited aircraft payload capacity, performance and safety issues associated with highly explosive chemicals. (11/10)

Seven Charged with Infecting NASA Computers (Source: The Hill)
Six Estonians and one Russian were charged on Wednesday with planting viruses in more than four million computers around the world, including computers belonging to U.S. government agencies such as NASA. The defendants earned at least $14 million from the scheme, according to prosecutors. At least half a million of the infected computers were in the United States. The Estonians were arrested on Tuesday in Estonia; the Justice Department is seeking their extradition to the United States. The Russian national remains at large. (11/10)

Ohio Senator Questions New York Space Shuttle Bid (Source: WHIO)
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is still trying to bring a retired space shuttle to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In a letter Brown is sending to NASA, he questions the selection process and the changes New York made to its winning bid. He says new plans submitted by the Intrepid Air and Space Museum amount to a new bid. He says that should be re-evaluated. (11/10)

New Weather Satellite Brings Work to West Virginia (Source: State Journal)
A new NASA satellite launched on October 28 advances a massive global weather and climate data system supported, in part, by Global Science and Technology's West Virginia office. NASA's NPP is touted as the most advanced weather satellite ever to be developed. The acronym stands for National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS, Preparatory Project. (11/10)

Alabama's 'Rocket City' Hopes For Another Boom (Source: NPR)
Driving into Huntsville, Ala., it's clear what this city is all about: A giant Saturn V rocket looms ahead in the skyline. This is the city that made the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon. "We're the only place in the world that still has expertise about going into deep space," says Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

And the city has been on a high-tech growth spurt ever since. The place dubbed "Rocket City" is now a metropolitan area with 400,000 people, a high-tech enclave in a poor state. But with NASA downsizing and the specter of automatic defense cuts looming, Huntsville finds itself in limbo. Click here. (11/10)

Launching Virginia's Space Industry (Source: Roanoke Times)
Thank our lucky stars. Virginia has a governor in Bob McDonnell who understands the importance of private-sector innovation and investment in future commercial human spaceflight from Wallops Island. Our governor will not settle for a revolution of lowered expectations sought for us by Space Florida. Space Florida has attacked Virginia's spaceport through an environmental assessment of needed land-use changes at Wallops Island to support human space flight.

Florida political leaders want all human spaceflight infrastructure dollars flowing to Florida and not one red cent to Virginia. With the Orion space capsule and the Space Launch System the latest federal space launch system already set for the Kennedy Space Center, Space Florida selfishly continues to seek to nix human spaceflight from Virginia. Florida seeks to soak up all domestic federal space dollars.

A competitive commercial launch market hosted by both Virginia and Florida will enable Americans to compete with Russia and China space launch sectors. Competition paves the way to innovation while overindulgent federal subsidies sought by Space Florida create a monopoly. Florida should be working with Virginia, not against it, to launch humans to space. If we want to see Virginia flourish, now is the time to tell our members of Congress to support commercial crew spaceflight from Wallops Island. Click here. (11/10)

Idaho Lab Sends Battery to Space (Source Arbiter Online)
The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a unique perspective on the upcoming November Mars mission launch. Engineers at INL have been working for months to create the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), a battery to power the rover named Curiosity. “It’s terrific that INL is building a battery for the Mars Rover. We (Boise State) have great connections with NASA and INL, it’s a great facility,” Barbara Morgan, former astronaut and Distinguished Educator in Residence said. (11/10)

Virginia Air and Space Center Struggling Repay Loan (Source: Daily Press)
In September 2010 Todd Bridgford, the executive director of the Virginia Air and Space Center, made an upbeat presentation to the Hampton City Council about progress at the downtown venue that had just celebrated its 15th year in the black. But just over a year later the venue is facing financial and other problems. Bridgford recently resigned and was replaced by an interim manager appointed by the city.

Visitor numbers have slumped and the center is struggling to make payments on a $2 million unsecured loan that's due to SunTrust bank. Brian DeProfio, a special projects manager with the city of Hampton, replaced Bridgford on Oct. 31. The move came four days after the board of directors announced that Bridgford decided to retire. DeProfio said the Air and Space Center did meet its payroll last week. (11/10)

The Voice of NASA (Source: USF Oracle)
Most USF mass communications graduates go on to work for news stations, advertising firms or print publications. The flight path for George Diller's career took a different trajectory. Diller, who graduated from USF in 1972 with a degree in broadcast journalism and again in 1977 with a degree in business administration, has worked for NASA for 32 years. He was there for the first shuttle launch in 1981 and even broadcast the countdown for the final shuttle launch in July.

During his time at USF, Diller worked for WUSF, announced Bulls baseball games and covered the Kennedy Space Center for a local Clearwater station. The Oracle caught up with Diller to talk about his job, the future of NASA and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Click here. (11/10)

China Trains Crew for Manned Space Docking (Source:
Following the successful docking of China's unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, with the space lab module, Tiangong-1, the next step is to send up a team of astronauts. With the crew already chosen and training underway, they will take control of the rendezvous and docking mission between the two spacecraft. Due to take place next year, the success of the project literally lies in the hands of the astronauts.

To achieve the goal, China's space center has developed large-scale equipment and training simulators for the astronauts. As well as pursuing theoretical study and undergoing operational training, each crew member will carry out simulated rendezvous and docking protocols a thousand times each. (11/10)

Russia's Attempts To Save Mars Probe Unsuccessful (Source: NPR)
Russia's space agency says it has failed so far to fix a probe bound for a moon of Mars that got stuck in Earth's orbit. Efforts to communicate with the unmanned Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Ground) spacecraft hadn't brought any results yet. The probe will come crashing down in a couple of weeks if engineers fail to fix the problem.

Controllers will continue attempts to fire the probe's engines to steer it to its path to one of Mars' two moons, Phobos. The $170 million craft has reached preliminary orbit, but its engines never fired to send it off to the Red Planet. The space agency only has a few hours a day to reach the probe due to Russia's limited earth-to-space communications network. (11/10)

Spaceport Sheboygan Raises Funds With Liquid Nitrogen Competition (Source: Sheboygan Press)
Spaceport Sheboygan will host the first "Ice Moons" competition on Nov. 19, which will find more than a dozen local chefs and bartenders using their talents to mix the evening's special ingredient — liquid nitrogen — into out-of-this-world concoctions before guests and celebrity judges. All proceeds will support educational operations at Spaceport Sheboygan, which is the centerpiece of the Great Lakes Aerospace Science & Education Center (GLASEC). Spaceport is a member of the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. (11/10)

Astronauts Falling On The Moon (Source: Huffington Post)
In all fairness, walking on the moon probably isn't a piece of cake. On the other hand, this video the Atlantic posted is hilarious. We're pretty sure the ultra-low gravity and awkwardly bulky space suits have something to do with the epic clumsiness ... but come on. It's impossible not to chuckle while watching them stumble and fall over slowly while kicking up clouds of moon dust. Click here. (11/10)

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