November 19, 2011

Project ACE Would Boost Colorado (Source: Northern Colorado Business Report)
A "remarkable" experiment that's never before been attempted. That is how NASA officials and others have described what they're hoping to pull off in redeveloping the Aerospace and Clean Energy technology park on the former Agilent Technologies campus. Success will mean taking technologies developed by rocket scientists working for NASA and finding companies willing and able to convert them into commercial applications.

But it's not as if NASA and private industry are strangers. In fact, if all goes as planned, the ACE park could look somewhat like the NASA Research Park in northern California, which was established in 2002 and is still growing adjacent to the NASA Ames Research Center. The park has been good for the economy of Silicon Valley and beyond, employing high-paid IT engineers, scientists and others in support of space exploration.

Likewise, ACE's 880,000-square-foot campus is seen by the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology and the city of Loveland as a potentially huge economic boost for the region and the state, with $8 billion in projected economic benefits over the next five years. ACE, of course, is not located next to a major NASA research operation, so it will have to follow a different path. Click here. (11/19)

Hawking: Space Exploration Crucial To Human Survival (Source: Huffington Post)
Stephen Hawking says the colonization of outer space is key to the survival of humankind, predicting it will be difficult for the world's inhabitants "to avoid disaster in the next hundred years." He discussed the earth's most pressing concerns in an email interview, declaring space exploration to be humankind's most urgent mission. (11/19)

Second Shuttle Hangar Ready for Another Commercial User (Source: SpaceKSC)
NASA plans to move out of a second shuttle hangar at Kennedy Space Center by next summer so an undisclosed commercial user can move in. The program readying retired shuttle orbiters for museum display has agreed to vacate Orbiter Processing Facility-1 by Aug. 1, about six months ahead of schedule. The hangar is located across the street from one where Boeing recently announced it would locate manufacturing and assembly of a capsule for commercial astronauts flights, work that could create 550 jobs by 2015.

NASA entered into an agreement July 7 with Sierra Nevada "to offer technical capabilities from the center's uniquely skilled work force." Florida Today notes that "Sierra Nevada has previously expressed interest in using a shuttle hangar to process its Dream Chaser vehicle, which resembles a miniature shuttle orbiter." (11/19)

NASA's Mars Mission Delayed a Day (Source: Florida Today)
The launch of the nation's next Mars explorer, Curiosity, was delayed a day until Saturday, Nov. 26. The 24-hour delay will allow a team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery on the Atlas V rocket that will hoist the Mars Science Laboratory to space, NASA said Saturday. The new launch window opens at 10:02 a.m. and runs through 11:45 a.m. Nov. 26 at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (11/19)

China Takes Page from US Playbook on Space Politics (Source: All Things Nuclear)
While the race to beat the Soviet Union to the moon may have been one of the most memorable experiences of the old Cold War, few would argue that the US human space flight program was pursued as a means to gain a military advantage. The effort certainly produced a variety of technologies and capabilities that could be applied to military pursuits. But the “space race” was political. The winner was assumed to be able to lay claim to superiority in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of planet earth.

Originally conceived as part of a larger effort to insure the overall development of Chinese science and technology could keep pace with the United States, the Chinese space program now appears to have added an explictly political mission. Wang Yongzhi, a senior figure in the Chinese aerospace community, revealed that China’s political leaders imposed a set of political requirements on the space station planners. Chinese political leadership “required” the mission planners to construct an “open style, national class” international space station.

Wang’s comments on the requirement to make the station open to Chinese society suggests the program managers may be planning to put teachers, researchers and other ordinary citizens aboard their national space station at some point in the future. Wang Yongzhi also noted that China’s “national” space station would be open to “friendly” international researchers. One hopes that by the time this is possible US researchers will be considered among that number, although the continued hostility of the US Congress towards the Chinese human space flight program may make that difficult if not impossible. (11/19)

China's Space Program Has No Military Purpose (Source: Hindustan Times)
China's space missions do not directly serve any military purpose, a space program official has said. But the space-related technological developments can be used in both civilian and military sectors, said Wang Zhaoyao, vice director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office. "A communication satellite can be used for TV broadcasting and military communications," he said. (11/19)

Mysterious Images in China Desert May be Satellite Targets (Source: LA Times)
Has someone found the answer to the mystery of the curious Google Earth images of the Gobi Desert? That's what Fox News implied when it ran this headline on its website Thursday: "Google Maps Mystery Actually Spy Satellite Targets, Expert Says." Ah, so it wasn't the remnants of an alien civilization after all.

The story cited the analysis of Jonathon Hill, a research technician at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, who told a website called Life's Little Mysteries that the strange lines were probably painted onto the land surface and used to calibrate China's spy satellites. (11/19)

Bolden: Spaceflight Without Marshall Center 'Unimaginable' (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's top official spent Friday touring Marshall Space Flight Center, checking out the equipment that will make new deep space missions possible and talking with the people who put the brainpower in that equipment. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. lauded the work at Marshall during his visit that focused on an ambitious outlook for the space agency rather than the budgetary hurdles of the past. "Huntsville and Marshall are a critical part of the team," Bolden said. "It is unimaginable that we would do anything with human space flight that would not go through here." (11/19)

SpaceX Has Short List for Commercial Launch Site (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX is eyeing Puerto Rico, Texas, Hawaii, or Florida to be home of a new commercial launch facility for its Falcon rocket family. The site would handle commercial missions, while flights for federal government customers could continue to be based from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Logistics costs will be a factor in the decision.

Editor's Note: NASA KSC has been working with SpaceX to understand how their requirements can be met at Launch Complex 39, on one of the former Space Shuttle launch pads. The NASA folks seem confident that this infrastructure will be available and feasible for Falcon missions. And funding from both NASA and Space Florida would likely be available. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has displayed a reluctance for sharing infrastructure with other government and commercial users, so while it might make logistical and even financial sense to expand at KSC, Musk might prefer the autonomy that would come with a separate spaceport. (11/19)

Florida Space Transportation Funding Likely to be Restored (Source: SPACErePORT)
After this year's inclusion of about $15 million for spaceport infrastructure in the Florida Department of Transportation budget, the prospects for next year were looking bleak after transportation managers neglected to include similar funding in planning documents for 2012. A letter-writing campaign ensued, along with lobbying by stakeholders like Space Florida, and now the folks at FDOT seem to be on track for another annual investment at the state's two FAA-licensed spaceports. (11/19)

NASA Ponders Orion Abort Test for 2016 (Source: Aviation Week)
Engineers on NASA’s Orion capsule would like to conduct a suborbital ascent-abort test before sending their capsule around the Moon on the first flight of the heavy-lift Space Launch System in 2017, but first they must find another $163 million to fund the recently announced orbital flight test of its planetary re-entry system in 2014. That re-entry will test 10 of the 16 items on the Orion program’s high-risk list.

If funding is available, NASA also would like to fly the suborbital ascent-abort test in about 2016. Editor's Note: This 2016 test is planned from Space Florida's Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, using a Peacekeeper-based rocket. (11/18)

SpaceX Hosting Community Picnic at Texas Facility (Source: SpaceX)
Area residents were invited to a community picnic on Nov. 19 at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. “We want everyone to come out and enjoy the festivities. It’s our way of showing the community just how much we appreciate their support,” said Lauren Dreyer, Director of Business Affairs at SpaceX. Country rock band The Black Matches will provide entertainment. For children, there will be inflatable slides, an obstacle course, and a rocket bounce house. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk is flying in from California to attend the event and Texas Senator John Cornyn is expected to stop by. (11/18)

Hutchison Presses NASA for Manned Exploration Deep Into Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Under close questioning by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, NASA administrator Charles Bolden assured Congress on Thursday that his budget-squeezed space agency is making step-by-step progress toward resuming the marquee manned space exploration that Congress wants. But Hutchison and other cautious senators pressed the former astronaut to make good on private promises to sustain year-by-year funding for multibillion dollar deep space exploration systems such as the Orion crew capsule and the heavy launch rocket despite the federal budget crunch. (11/18)

Mark Kelly Dishes on “Classic NASA Astronaut Office Management Bullsh—t” (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Tucked into Mark Kelly's book "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope" is a delightful bit of insight into how NASA micromanages the lives of its astronauts. In chapter 18, Kelly relates a story about how he and Gabby drove around Kennedy Space Center in a rented Chrysler Sebring convertible just prior to his flight. Gabby wanted to see the shuttle, so Kelly drove toward a gate leading to the launch pad. A guard stopped them, but Kelly said he was just going to drive around the perimeter and not approach the launch pad.

The guard let them in. Gabby, Kelly says, loved looking up at space shuttle Endeavour as they cruised around the shuttle, wind in their hair. Later, I got a call from one of my managers at NASA. She had heard I was driving around the launchpad and wanted to know why. “You were speeding on your way to the pad, too,” she said. The speed limit on the beach road behind the launch pad is thirty-five. “You were clocked at seventy-five,” she said. “Seventy-five?” I answered. “I was trying to go a hundred! I ran out of room.”

She didn’t like my attitude and I didn’t like her phone call... My manager was making a point. “I want to make sure I made the right decision in assigning you to this flight,” she said. I understood she had a job to do. But to me, it was classic NASA Astronaut Office management bullsh—t: Try to track down people’s little misdemeanors and then rag on them over them. (11/18)

NASA Employee Wins Cost-Cutting Competition (Source: Govt. Executive)
A NASA employee who suggested building a lending library to avoid repeat purchases of specialized tools and equipment is the winner of the Obama administration's annual cost-cutting contest. Matthew Ritsko of Goddard Space Flight Center beat three other finalists in the Securing Americans Value and Efficiency awards. He will present his idea to President Obama at the White House, and it will be included in the president's fiscal 2013 budget request, along with the other finalists' suggestions. (11/18)

GAO To NASA: Strengthen Your Controls On Commercial Space Contracts (Source: Brevard Times)
According to a Government Accounting Office report released yesterday: "In recent years, NASA has for the first time used its other transaction authority to help fund development of large-scale commercial space transportation systems. In light of this unprecedented use and the fact that these agreements are not subject to many of the laws that apply to traditional contracts executed under the FAR, it is important that NASA ensure this authority is used and managed appropriately." (11/18)

USA Gets $232.9M Contract Mod for Shuttle Closeout (Source: Space News)
NASA awarded space shuttle operator United Space Alliance (USA) a $232.9 million contract modification covering program closeout activities. The modification to the Space Program Operations Contract, a cost-plus-award-fee-reimbursement contract, provides funds for USA to prepare the retired space shuttle orbiters for public display, and to cover closeout costs for 31 space shuttle subcontractors. Besides preparing the orbiters for display, the funds will go toward property disposal and record keeping. (11/18)

Figures Demonstrate Value of Polar-orbiting Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
Weather forecast accuracy in the last 30 years has increased dramatically, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, with much of the improvement due to meteorological satellites in both geostationary and polar low Earth orbit. A three-day forecast in the early 1980s was likely to be accurate only 85 percent of the time in the Northern Hemisphere. That accuracy figure has climbed steadily to 98 percent today.

A three-day forecast for the Southern Hemisphere in the early 1980s was only 70-75 percent accurate. Since then — largely because of increased satellite coverage, especially with polar-orbiting spacecraft — the accuracy of predictions for the Southern Hemisphere has climbed to where it is nearly equal to that of forecasts in the Northern Hemisphere. (11/18)

Alien Planet Count Tops 700 Distant Worlds (Source: Space.com)
Less than 20 years after discovering the first world beyond our solar system, astronomers have bagged alien planet number 700. As of Nov. 18, the tally stands at 702 exoplanets, according to the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia. The "PlanetQuest: New Worlds Atlas," run by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, currently lists 687; the difference between the two databases highlights the uncertainties involved in exoplanet detection and confirmation. (11/18)

Russia, France to Team Up on ‘Hi-Tech Rockets’ (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia and France will pool their efforts to build cutting-edge reusable space rockets, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday. “Russian and French engineers are already working in this direction under Project Ural,” Putin said. Roscosmos and its French counterpart, Centre National d'√Čtudes Spatiales (CNES), are expected to work out a roadmap for bilateral space cooperation.

The 15-year Ural program to build advanced reusable carrier rockets was adopted in 2005. CNES Director Yannick d'Escatha has said Project Ural is part of a new rocket launch system that will replace existing carriers. The project is still at the conceptual stage as the type of rocket engine - hydrogen, kerosene or methane fueled - has yet to be determined. (11/18)

Space Program 'Demise' is Only a Progression (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
There has been much discussion over the fairly recent past about the supposed "demise" of the American space program. Much of this discussion centers around the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet following the last flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis this past July. It is true, certainly, that in the minds of many Americans the "space program" has become synonymous with the Space Shuttle, but retirement of the Shuttle fleet is not anywhere close to the "demise" of the space program. This isn't "the end," but rather "the end of the beginning." (11/18)

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