November 13, 2011

NASA Develops Super-Black Material (Source: Science Daily)
NASA engineers have produced a material that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it -- a development that promises to open new frontiers in space technology. The nanotech-based coating is a thin layer of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, tiny hollow tubes made of pure carbon about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. They are positioned vertically on various substrate materials much like a shag rug. (11/8)

Soyuz Carries Station Crew Into Space From Snowy Kazakhstan (Source: SPACErePORT)
A Russian Soyuz rocket has successfully launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur spaceport carrying two cosmonauts and one astronaut to the International Space Station. The high-stakes launch was the first crewed mission to the ISS since an uncrewed Soyuz mission failed to deliver cargo to the orbiting laboratory in August. If all goes well, the crew will dock with the ISS on November 16. The Soyuz capsule will remain docked until March 16. (11/13)

Arizona Economy Gets Big NASA Support (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Arizona contractors brought in about $135 million in NASA grants and contracts in the last fiscal year, up about $20 million from the previous fiscal year. Not including awards to the University of Arizona, Tucson contractors and grantees received around $6.4 million in NASA contracts for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. NP Photonics, a maker of fiber-optic lasers and other optics, received the most in Tucson, with $1.44 million in NASA awards.

Ridgetop Group, an electronics firm based in Marana, received the second-most in NASA awards in Tucson with $1.22 million. A few of its contracts were Phase II awards, which fund the commercialization of projects that received Phase I awards the previous year. Ridgetop's projects include helicopter technologies and improving the ways that other companies use diagnostic technology to check the remaining life span in machines. (11/13)

High-Tech 'Spaceport America' Readies for Space Tourists (Source:
Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, is taking shape in southern New Mexico, not only as an outbound and incoming hub for tourists who ascend to and return from suborbital heights, but also as a high-tech haven for experimental craft that push new ways to access space.

While media attention is being paid to the futuristic Terminal Hangar Facility that is to be utilized by spaceline operator Virgin Galactic, how best to push forward onthe larger picture of commercial space is a looming question. Spaceport America is billed as the first of its kind. The desert near here is dotted with Spaceport America infrastructure, planted approximately 45 miles north of Las Cruces, N.M. This gateway to space covers 18,000 acres of land. (11/13)

Air Force Opens Door to Rocket Launch Competition (Source: USAF)
The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center announced Nov. 7 the publication of a guide that will allow commercial launch providers to compete for future launch service opportunities. Formally called the United States Air Force Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide, the document lays out the approach the Air Force will use to certify commercial launch companies to provide launch services for Department of Defense National Security Space missions. (11/7)

2012: Killer Solar Flares a Physical Impossibility (Source: NASA)
Given a legitimate need to protect Earth from the most intense forms of space weather – great bursts of electromagnetic energy and particles that can sometimes stream from the sun – some people worry that a gigantic "killer solar flare" could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth. Citing the accurate fact that solar activity is currently ramping up in its standard 11-year cycle, there are those who believe that 2012 could be coincident with such a flare.

But this same solar cycle has occurred over millennia. Anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through such a solar maximum with no harm. In addition, the next solar maximum is predicted to occur in late 2013 or early 2014, not 2012. Most importantly, however, there simply isn't enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth. (11/10)

Cain: Obama Canceled Space Shuttle (Source: Washington Post)
During his speech, Herman Cain also criticized President Obama for canceling the space shuttle program — a decision actually made by President George W. Bush — as NASA shifts its focus on travel farther from Earth’s orbit. “I can tell you that as president of the United States, we are not going to bum a ride to outer space with Russia,” Cain said to loud applause. “We’re going to regain our rightful place in terms of technology, space technology.”

Cain was talking about U.S. plans, now that the space shuttle is retired, to use Russian rockets to send astronauts to the International Space Station. In the meantime, NASA is focused on explorations deeper in space. It was Bush who decided in 2004 to retire the space shuttle program. The Republican president still supported sending astronauts to the moon and Mars. (11/13)

Coffman Backs Aerospace Export Proposal (Source: Denver Business Journal)
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado is backing bipartisan legislation aimed at helping state companies and the U.S. aerospace industry regain its former dominance in commercial satellite production. Coffman, a Republican, represents the 6th District, which includes Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and other aerospace contractors. He is a primary co-sponsor of a bill to relax 12-year-old rules preventing companies from exporting satellite-related products. (11/11)

Congress' Budget Compromise Could Sell NASA Short (Source: Florida Today)
NASA soon should learn how much — or how little — it has to spend in fiscal 2012. Key lawmakers and their staffs are working out a compromise on what the space agency will get for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. That figure could be released as early as Monday, setting up a final up-or-down vote on Capitol Hill by Friday.

One thing seems clear: There will be less money than last year. Lawmakers are focused almost completely on how to cut spending. And the recent end of the space shuttle program could encourage them to favor other national priorities. (11/11)

SpaceX Scouting Sites for Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Anticipating a sharp increase in its launch rate in the coming years, SpaceX is hunting for a new launch pad and considering several sites outside the Space Coast. CEO Elon Musk wants a pad exclusively to serve commercial customers, one that might be based in Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico or as far away as Hawaii. Flights of government missions such as NASA cargo, astronauts and defense payloads, if SpaceX wins the business, would continue from Florida and California.

“It makes sense to concentrate the Air Force and perhaps NASA business at those two (federal) facilities, and then concentrate commercial launch activity at a commercial launch site, just as it occurs with aviation,” Musk told a National Press Club audience this fall. With an all-commercial launch site, SpaceX is seeking more freedom to launch when and how it wants, with fewer of the restrictions on launch opportunities and access that apply on secure military facilities. (11/11)

Commercial Aerospace Venture Establishes Atlanta Headquarters (Source: GDED)
The Georgia Department of Economic Development announced that Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. will locate its headquarters and design facilities in Atlanta. Generation Orbit is a commercial aerospace company that uses domestic and international technology, along with expertise from aerospace-affiliated Georgia companies, to provide space transportation services to potential customers including NASA, the Department of Defense and commercial businesses.

Generation Orbit expects to create up to 10 higher-wage positions by the end of 2013. "The company’s decision to locate in Georgia definitely makes our state more competitive in the aerospace sector, which remains one of Georgia’s leading strategic industries,” said a GDED official. Generation Orbit will develop a new nanosatellite launch system known as the GO Launcher, which is an air-launch rocket system comprised of a reusable high-speed aircraft used to carry rockets to a specified altitude for launch, and expendable rocket stages to take nanosatellites into space. (11/9)

Obama Administration's 'Three Cs' Means a Failing Space Policy (Source: AOL News)
The Obama administration will probably announce soon that the United States will join in supporting adoption of the European Code of Conduct for Space Activities, which the White House now calls the "international" code of conduct. This commitment reflects the administration's continuing determination that security for US interests in space can best be found by collectivizing key space functions, replacing national autonomy with international entanglement. Click here. (11/7)

DoD Wants Cheaper, Faster Satellite Capabilities (Source: Federal News Radio)
As the military continues to shift to a net-centric view of warfare operations around the world, it calls for ever-more bandwidth from satellite capabilities. But Defense Department leaders are worried that their current approach to space acquisition takes far too long, and costs far too much to keep up with that demand. The Pentagon is wrestling with how to develop the satellite communications capabilities it knows it will need in ever increasing quantity, how to deliver new capabilities quickly and how to do it at a time when budgets are declining.

The current approach isn't working, said Gil Klinger, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space and intelligence. DoD's last effort to build a high bandwidth satellite constellation, the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) spent several years in development before officials cancelled it in 2009 for budget reasons. (11/9)

Equity Question Only Snag for Loral’s Plan To Spin Off (Source: Space News)
Loral Space and Communications expects to spin off its Space Systems/Loral satellite manufacturing division in the first half of 2012 pending a resolution of how the equity of Loral’s biggest shareholder will be treated in the spun-off company. (11/11)

Loral Reports 3rd Quarter Results (Source: Loral)
Loral Space & Communications announced its financial results for the three months and nine months ended September 30, 2011. Revenues and Adjusted EBITDA for all segments before eliminations for the third quarter of 2011 were $473 million and $180 million, respectively, compared to $527 million and $207 million, respectively, for the third quarter of 2010. Combined segment revenues and Adjusted EBITDA for the first nine months of the year were $1.42 billion and $560 million, respectively, compared to $1.43 billion and $546 million, respectively, for the first nine months of 2010. (11/9)

AsiaSat Picks Loral to Build Two Satellites (Source: Loral)
Loral and AsiaSat announced the signing of two construction agreements for two communications satellites, AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8. The contracts include AsiaSat 6 with a C-band payload and AsiaSat 8, with both Ku-band and Ka-band. The two satellites will serve Asia, the Middle East and Australasia and are designed on the SS/L 1300 satellite platform. The satellites are planned to be launched by early 2014. (11/9)

Thales Alenia Space to Build Four More Satellites for O3b Constellation (Source: Thales)
Thales Alenia Space announced today that it had signed a contract with O3b Networks Limited to deliver four more satellites for their Medium Earth Orbit constellation. These satellites are in addition to the eight already ordered from Thales Alenia Space. The first group of eight satellites successfully passed their Critical Design Review in May of this year and the system is on track for an initial launch in the first quarter of 2013. (11/10)

Editorial: Apollo’s Spirit Alive and Well (Source: Space News)
A few weeks ago I got an email from a NASA manager about the whole Space Launch System vs. commercial space controversy. The market to support these commercial players just isn’t there yet, he told me, adding that their only hope is to let NASA blaze a trail and create new assets in space that will need servicing by private companies. As for the notion that a commercial vehicle might achieve routine spaceflight in the foreseeable future, this manager seemed to rule that out. We have reached the limit of what is possible with existing technology, he said; launching people into space will always be risky, and therefore costly.

I don’t question his sincerity, but I can’t buy the premise. I’ve seen too much evidence lately that things could change, and change dramatically. The evidence is coming from companies like SpaceX, which for nearly a decade has been rethinking spaceflight from a blank sheet of paper, optimizing for simplicity, reliability and low costs. The opponents of commercial space at NASA and in Congress say the huge and vastly expensive Space Launch System (SLS) is our only hope of getting beyond low Earth orbit. They say, basically, that we have to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them — ignoring the fact that in today’s economy we simply cannot afford to.

To them, space will always be about monster rockets with monster price tags. In NASA’s own artwork the SLS even sports the same black-and-white paint scheme as the Saturn 5 Moon rocket, as if all that is needed to get us into deep space is to invoke the legacy of Apollo. But the legacy of Apollo, at its core, isn’t about big rockets; it’s the boldness of new, game-changing ideas. (11/11)

First Vega Launch Campaign Aims for January Liftoff (Source: ESA)
The first Vega launch campaign began on Monday at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana with the installation of the first stage on the pad. Europe’s new small launcher is on track for its maiden flight at the end of January. By the end of the year the LARES laser relativity satellite from Italy’s ASI space agency together with at least six small CubeSats and ALMASat-1 from European universities will be ready and enclosed in the fairing. (11/11)

Las Cruces Style: Spaceport Needs Great Art (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Space culture could be a great deal for us all. I'd like to alert area artists — and the Spaceport America powers-that-be — to some major potential art ops. Richard Branson already inaugurated his exciting new terminal with some performance art of his own (including rappelling down the Jetson-ish building himself). But there's a wealth of opportunity in the blank canvas that is Spaceport America, which seemed to me to be calling — nay, screaming — for some artistic expression. (11/13)

Iridium Announces Third-Quarter Results, Record Total Revenue (Source: Iridium)
Iridium reported strong financial results for the third quarter of 2011. Net income was $11.3 million for the third quarter of 2011, as compared to $10.7 million for the third quarter of 2010. Iridium reported record third-quarter total revenue of $102.1 million, which consisted of $69.4 million of service revenue and $32.8 million of equipment, engineering and support revenue. Total revenue grew 8 percent versus the comparable period of 2010. (11/8)

Andrews Space Delivers Cargo Module Power Unit for Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft (Source: Andrews)
Andrews Space has completed delivery of four Cargo Module Power Units (CMPUs) that will supply power to payloads aboard Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft. Andrews was contracted by Orbital Sciences Corp. in 2010 to deliver a total of four flight-qualified CMPUs, which power mid-deck locker payloads destined for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Cygnus cargo vehicle. The recently delivered CMPUs will provide up to 150 Watts of 28VDC payload power and will be used on the first CRS mission scheduled for early 2012. (11/8)

Intelsat Reports Third Quarter 2011 Results (Source: Intelsat)
Intelsat reported results for the three months ended Sep. 30, including revenue of $652.9 million and a net loss of $0.4 million for the three months. (11/8)

Found: Pristine Gas From Big Bang (Source: Keck Observatory)
Two clumps of primordial gas from the dawn of time have been detected in deep space by astronomers using the 10-meter telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory. The gas clouds are too diffuse to form stars and show virtually no signs of containing any “metals,” which is astronomer-speak for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium – the two simplest and lightest elements in the universe. In fact the only elements astronomers have detected in the clouds are hydrogen and its heavier isotope, deuterium.

The lack of metals strongly suggests that the gases are reservoirs of the pristine material left over from the Big Bang. Because stars fuse atoms to make heavier elements, these gases have never been involved in any star making in the 2 billion years between the Big Bang and their discovery. (11/13)

Mississippi's Growing Aerospace Footprint (Source: Biloxi Sun-Herald)
The past few months have brought some encouraging developments for South Mississippi’s aerospace activities, and point to continued growth. Consider the following: NASA announced plans for a heavy-lift rocket that will use space shuttle main engines and the J-2X engines, tested and/or assembled at Stennis Space Center; the Army turned over the former Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant to NASA, adding a 1.6 million-square-foot facility and increasing NASA’s building space by a third, and adding 4,000 acres of land.

In July GE said it would build a plant near Hattiesburg, the second GE Aviation facility in Mississippi. That decision adds another major aerospace engine company to the impressive list already operating in South Mississippi. The Navy plans to buy a larger version of the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, and that could bode well for the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems plant in Moss Point. American Airlines will buy more than 200 aircraft from Airbus, and industry experts say Airbus parent EADS may have to dust off plans to build an assembly facility in the United States.

All of those announcements are encouraging signs that the Mississippi Gulf Coast can expect to see more growth of its aerospace footprint. And that’s significant because aerospace is a $219 billion industry that creates high-paying jobs and has an eye constantly on the future. (11/12)

Rocket Motors Being Tested Inside Southern California Quarry (Source: 10News San Diego)
The future of space travel is being tested in a laboratory hidden inside a Lakeside quarry. 10News toured the specialized testing facility where rocket motors are being test-fired by engineers from the Sierra Nevada Corp. "Our hybrid motors will form a key role in the future of space flight," said Paul Streit, who is the vice president of programs at Sierra Nevada, which employs about 45 people in its Poway facility. The motors will eventually help boost the Dreamchaser, the company's solution for the next generation of space shuttle. (11/12)

Technology Council Supports Human Spaceflight at Wallops (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Southwestern Virginia Technology Council continues to help advance the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport by voicing support for the NASA commercial crew program later in this decade. The council communicates to federal and state legislators, to the general public via Op-Eds, and to the next generation through STEM-education within its service footprint.

Today, former council president Donald Purdie has an OpEd published in The Roanoke Times praising Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell for his ongoing support for human spaceflight from Wallops Island. The spaceport has recently been subject of efforts to nix human spaceflight infrastructure development by Space Florida. (11/10)

Officials Push for Wallops as UAS Test Range (Source: Political News)
Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner joined Representatives Randy Forbes and Scott Rigell in a letter to urge Ms. Shari Silbert, of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, to consider using its facilities on the Eastern Shore for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing. In the letter the delegation encouraged NASA to include a Wallops-based UAS test range in the alternatives that will be evaluated for the UAS-related legislation being considered by Congress.

“We understand that NASA is conducting scoping for a site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to facilitate expanded operations at Wallops,” the delegation wrote. “Given Wallops’ expertise and existing UAS testing infrastructure, we strongly believe that Wallops Flight Facility is an ideal location for a UAS test range, and request that NASA include a UAS test range in the alternatives that the agency will evaluate in the PEIS.” (11/13)

Florida Space Workers Help Restore a Home for Homeless Vets (Source: CFNews13)
They’re normally working to launch rockets from the Space Coast, but Saturday volunteers with United Launch Alliance are took on a different type of project to help homeless veterans. Thirty-five volunteers with ULA and their family members were busy Saturday cutting wood, drilling holes, and painting the inside and outside of a home that will eventually be a place for homeless veterans to live. The house was donated to the National Veterans Homeless Support group by Brevard County resident John Davenport. (11/12)

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