November 22, 2011

SpaceWorks Commercial Releases Nano/Microsatellite Launch Demand Assessment (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks has released a new study highlighting increasing yearly demand for orbital launch services for the nanosatellite and microsatellite market. The study, entitled “Nano/Microsatellite Launch Demand Assessment 2011” is a quantitative assessment of past launches and a projection of future launch demand up to 2020. Projections indicate more than 100 nano/micro satellites will need launches in the year 2020.

Nano/microsatellite demand was projected through 2020 using the combination of historical launches and known future launches from the SpaceWorks Commercial Orbital Satellite Database (OSD). A subset of this database was used to analyze the nano/micro satellite market. Market projections are demand based, relying on the publicly announced plans of small satellite operators, launch vehicle providers, government agencies, etc. (11/22)

Satellites Respond to Humanitarian Needs (Source: ESA)
A review of crisis response using Earth observation techniques is now available online. The Respond Atlas outlines global events where remote sensing assisted in preparing for and responding to disasters and humanitarian crises. he Respond project began in 2004 as a European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative. During its five years of service, hundreds of maps were produced to assist in relief efforts linked to crises such as the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, the 2004 Asian tsunami and even Sudan’s refugee situation in Darfur. (11/22)

Virginia's Department of Transportation Supports Spaceport Bill (Source: Virginia Business)
“The legislation currently will address the authority, its structure, governance and enable our growing space infrastructure to go to the next level,” Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s transportation secretary, said. “We believe there is enormous opportunity in the Commonwealth of Virginia in commercial space, and we’re prepared to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Connaughton would not specify how much increased investment the administration would seek, but said: “Our intention is to explore a fairly hefty increase going to the MARS facility.” He said currently the authority receives about $1.5 million each year. Connaughton said the administration is working with General Assembly leadership on the draft of the bill. (11/22)

New York Museum Gets Title, Finds a Home for the Enterprise (Source: New York Times)
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum now owns a space shuttle, and museum officials say they have figured out where to put it – at least for a while. On Tuesday, NASA signed over title to Enterprise, a full-size prototype for the shuttles that flew into space, to the museum, which is housed in a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked on the West Side of Manhattan. (11/22)

How to Save Earth From a Killer Asteroid (Source: TED)
What's six miles wide and could end civilization in an instant? With humor and great visuals, Phil Plait details all the ways asteroids can kill, and how to avoid them. Click here. (11/22)

Ask the Lawyer: Do We Own the Moon and its Potential Resources? (Source: Daily Breeze)
Does any particular country have a better claim to the moon than another? Since we have been there, could we extract minerals for our benefit if and as they are found? What happens if space debris harms someone or someone's property? Click here for answers. (11/22)

Some Virginia Study Findings (Source: SPACErePORT)
The KPMG study of Virginia's Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) included some comparisons with Florida's spaceport efforts, and some findings I thought were interesting. It found that Florida offers a superior geographic location for geosynchronous launches, and that cost, facility and schedule issues are usually secondary considerations when compared to the geographical/orbital inclination capability. It found that MARS/Wallops is more favorable for small suborbital missions, although unique orbital inclinations (for ISS missions) will be available.

It is not clear how the infrastructure being developed for Orbital's Taurus-2 will benefit other potential launch providers. Many of those providers would like a backup launch capability, but encourage a 'build it and they will come' investment by Virginia. It found that VCFSA's agreement and cooperation with the state of Maryland should be strengthened, and its relationship with Orbital Sciences Corp. may raise conflict of interest concerns among other potential customers.

Finally, it found that the VCSFA board should be restructured, and its staff structure should be reconsidered. The study recommended tht now is the time for VCSFA to choose a strategic direction, either to maintain the status quo as a limited-access launch site; go with a more risky 'full speed ahead' approach by investing to accommodate major commercial space customers; or taking an 'opportunistic midcourse' featuring limited near-term investments while waiting to see how the market matures and how other states react. (11/22)

Cubesats Move Out Of The Classroom (Source: Aviation Week)
Cubesats — the small, cheap spacecraft popular with engineering students due to their hands-on appeal as teaching tools — are attracting attention beyond the academy as their capabilities grow and launch opportunities proliferate. “It really is a technology; it’s not simply a cheap platform,” says Mason Peck, director of the Space Systems Design Studio at Cornell University. “There’s a lot more going on than that.”

Peck has been selected to be NASA’s chief technologist in January, and stresses that until then he speaks as an engineering professor at Cornell. But in that role he has seen the nascent cubesat industry mature to the point that commercial companies are offering cubesat components, allowing students to be as creative as they might once have been with a pile of Lego building-block toys. (11/22)

Astronauts Get Budget Russian Reception After Returning From Six-Month Mission (Source: Daily Mail)
Astronauts returning from the International Space Station were brought down to earth in more ways than one with a bargain basement Russian reception held in a remote Kazakhstan field. Just a handful of mission personnel and a few locals were on hand to meet American Cmdr. Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa from Japan and Russian Sergei Volkov after they returned from a six month mission.

Their Russian space capsule was rolled over by hand before they were carried, fireman-style, to be plonked in a row of deckchairs where medical personnel gave them a quick once-over. The trio then put on brave faces as they were taken to a nearby building for a press conference where they were presented with bunches of flowers and personalized Matryoshka nesting dolls. (11/22)

Revving Up For The Next Space Race (Source: Daily Free Press)
Is China’s plan for a space station an attempt to own the moon entirely? China has announced that they plan to establish a space station and travel to the moon by 2020, and the nation could be planning a “lunar land grab” over the next 15 years, according to a recent report in Discovery Magazine. Will China’s space endeavors incite the next space race?

“China’s bid to become a power may lead to an arms race in space that could be very costly and dangerous for the world,” Boston University international relations professor William Keylor said in an e-mail interview. “A Chinese lunar base by 2020 would certainly give China an advantage at a time that the United States is reducing its spending on space projects.”

BU astronomy professor Andrew West said China’s decision to travel to the moon may have more to do with the political implications of the endeavor than the resources available on the moon. “There’s probably not much that’s financially worth in terms of minerals on the moon. The cost to get to the moon is so great that nothing you bring back is worth it,” he said in an interview. “China has been very prosperous lately. Their plans could have great political ramifications.” (11/22)

Florida Group Considers Federal Policy Priorities (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida's Aerospace Career & Development Council (ACDC), a collection of space industry stakeholders from industry, government and academia, met on Tuesday to discuss various state and federal issues, including a draft document on 2012 Federal Policy Priorities. The document is intended as a wish-list for the Florida Congressional Delegation, and as a guide for candidates who will be visiting the Space Coast in preparation for elections in 2012. The draft is being circulated for comment and approval among the ACDC membership. Click here. (11/22)

ULA Completes Milestone Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced the completion of a key milestone that could lead toward the certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight. ULA has successfully completed the second required major performance milestone of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement. The Design Equivalency Review (DER) completes a rigorous assessment of the flight-proven Atlas V launch vehicle's compliance with NASA human spaceflight requirements.

To successfully complete the DER, NASA human spaceflight experts and ULA engineers worked over a span of several months to perform a detailed review of all NASA requirements and processes, and identified the extent to which the Atlas V meets those requirements. Because Atlas V is already certified to fly the nation's most complex exploration and national security missions, the need for any lengthy and inherently risky launch vehicle development program is expected to be avoided. Three of the four current NASA CCDev partners providing commercial crew integrated services have selected Atlas V as their launch vehicle. (11/22)

Virginia Completes Study of Commercial Space Flight Facility (Source: SpaceRef)
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell released a study on the economic competitiveness of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). The study, commissioned in response to the 2011 Virginia Appropriation Act, reviewed the governance, organization and competitive landscape for the VCSFA in order to identify the necessary steps to make the Mid Atlantic Spaceport (MARS), located on Wallops Island, the best commercial space launch facility in the country. The study was conducted by KPMG Corporate Finance.

"MARS has the potential to become the leading commercial space flight facility in the United State, all while creating much needed jobs and economic development in all corners of the Commonwealth. With our tremendous educational institutions, manufacturing capabilities, workforce, and ranking as the number one state in the nation in which to do business, the recommendations contained in this report will help Virginia seize a growing portion of this critical sector," the governor said.

The report identifies a number of findings related to the VCSFA and makes seven key recommendations designed to enhance the economic competitiveness of Virginia's commercial space flight industry. "Since the VCSFA's creation, Virginia has become a leader in commercial space flight," said VA Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. "We look forward to working with the General Assembly this session to implement the initiatives recommended in KPMG's report." Click here. (11/22)

Lawmaker Will Introduce Legislation to Prevent $500B in Defense Cuts (Source: Bloomberg)
Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., says he will introduce legislation designed to prevent $500 billion in defense cuts triggered by the congressional supercommittee's failure to agree on debt reduction. McKeon also serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military," he said. (11/22)

Boeing Re-Examines Kansas Facility Because of "Limited Prospects" (Source: Wichita Eagle)
Boeing said "limited prospects for future work" are forcing the company to re-examine the future of its facility in Wichita, Kan. The defense plant employs 2,100 workers and is one of four company plants that handle upgrades and maintenance of military aircraft. (11/22)

Russia Returns Astronauts from International Space Station (Source:
NASA astronaut Mike Fossum was one of three people who returned from the International Space Station this week. Fossum landed in Kazakhstan on Monday after spending almost six months at the space station. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa also returned from the space station aboard a Russian-provided Soyuz craft. (11/22)

Nigeria Plans to Relaunch Satellite in December (Source: Xinhua)
The Nigerian Communications Satellite-1 Replacement (NigComSat-1R) would be launched on Dec. 19, according to a top official with the Nigerian Communications Satellite. The company's Managing Director Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai made this known in Lagos on Monday. He said the new satellite would be sent into the orbit from China. (11/22)

Checkout Of AEHF Paves Way For 2012 Launch from Florida Spaceport (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force says activation of its Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) military communications satellite continues to progress well, and the launch of two more jam-proof satellites is now on track for 2012. Although launched in August 2010, the AEHF satellite took 14 months to reach orbit on Oct. 24, 2011, after debris in the propulsion system prevented the spacecraft’s liquid-fueled booster engine from placing the satellite in its correct apogee.

With the planned launch of AEHF-2 in April 2012, the Air Force says preparations also are underway to deploy AEHF-3 in December 2012 and AEHF-4 in April 2017. Launch of SBIRS GEO-2 is currently penciled in for spring 2013, the Air Force says. (11/22)

New Competitors Step Up in EELV Market (Source: Flight Global)
NASA is widely seen as the arbiter of US space programs, and in terms of space-based research, interplanetary exploration and other above-board subjects, this view is correct. But its budget pales in comparison to the space programs budget of the US military, which is far and away the largest of its kind: militaries worldwide spent $32 billion in 2009 on space, according to a report by Euroconsult; that year, the US military spent about a quarter of that on satellite and launcher procurement alone, a figure that does not account for the classified but undoubtedly impressive intelligence procurement budget.

The only vehicles deemed low-risk enough to fly important payloads for either the military or NASA are the evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELV) family, sold only by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of aerospace behemoths Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Now the commercial space boom is giving rise to competition. Two companies, SpaceX and ATK, are building launch vehicles capable of carrying heavy payloads into orbit. Both companies are promising to launch for lower prices than ULA, but both are running into stumbling blocks.

DoD has been slow to capitalise on the current commercial space boom. They have much to be cautious about - military and intelligence satellites are, almost without fail, very large and very expensive, and generally deemed crucial to national security. With that burden, the DoD is understandably inclined to use vehicles with the lowest risk - Atlas V and Delta IV are approaching 50 combined launches, with only two partial failures recorded. SpaceX, in contrast, lost their first three launches using a smaller version of Falcon, and ATK's rocket, despite being based on two highly successful launchers, is years away from first flight. (11/22)

US Science Agencies Dodge Deep Cuts (Source: Nature)
The most fractious and combative US Congress in recent memory is getting on with approving a 2012 budget — although perhaps only so that it can move more swiftly to the next battlefield. On 17 November, legislators passed a spending bill that includes allocations for several key science-related agencies. The bill has since been signed off by President Barack Obama.

The budget was a relief for researchers and their advocates, who had feared deeper cuts to science. Under the provisions of the bill, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all received modest increases (see A work in progress).

Even NASA, which has seen its budget shrink by nearly US$1 billion over the past two years — essentially because it has ended the space-shuttle program — kept all its major science initiatives. It even got an increase for the 6.5-metre James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which has been subject to chronic cost overruns that at one point prompted deficit-focused Republicans to propose dropping it from the space agency’s budget altogether. (11/22)

Cash Flow Gives XCOR Momentum (Source: Flight Global)
Plans to develop a rocket-powered spaceplane that can put passengers into microgravity - within a half hour - gained from a funding deal signed in September. Having cleared a critical cash hurdle, suborbital spaceflight aspirant XCOR is pressing ahead with spaceplane development in its bid to carry fare-paying passengers to the edge of space. XCOR's rocket-powered Lynx is designed to carry a pilot and one passenger to 103km and microgravity at speeds up to Mach 2.9 before a 4.5g pullout and gliding descent. The entire flight will take 30 minutes.

The Mojave-based operation had hoped to have wheels up for a test flight in 2010, but despite a 2009 wet lease agreement with Yecheon Astro Space Center in South Korea, funding remained a sticking point owing to political tension on the Korean peninsula and the financial crisis. However, a similar 2010 agreement to provide tourism and scientific flights from Curacao has been firmed up. (11/22)

AIA Commentary on Supercommittee Failure (Source: AIA)
The announcement that the supercommittee cannot reach agreement to avoid sequestration is of grave concern. At stake are $1.2 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts hitting the Defense Department, NASA, FAA and other federal programs. The Defense Department will need to start applying cuts to the fiscal year 2013 budget immediately and job losses will increase as the Pentagon is forced to halt work. (11/21)

Obama Threatens to Veto Changes to $1.2T in Cuts (Source: AP)
President Barack Obama said Monday he will veto any effort to get rid of automatic spending cuts that would begin to take effect in 2013 if Congress can't find other ways of trimming government deficits. Those spending cuts include significant reductions to the defense budget. Obama issued his threat an hour after leaders of Congress' deficit-reduction supercommittee announced that they had failed to reach agreement on cutting the debt. This means the government is facing about $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts that start to kick in in January 2013. (11/22)

Editorial: Seize Virginia's Spaceflight Opportunity (Source: Daily Press)
Wake up Virginia: it is time to seize a unique spaceport opportunity. During these challenging economic times, the Commonwealth is slumbering while the greatest job creation opportunity in a generation is slipping through our fingers. I am referring to Wallops Island, and its potential to host human spaceflight.

As confirmed by a recent visit of high-level officials from the United Launch Alliance, Wallops can support a launch trajectory that is at least as attractive if not slightly better than Florida. While Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral drown companies in bureaucratic red tape, the Wallops Island launch facility is well known for its small, efficient staff and business friendly environment.

Most important of all, a company that brings its human spaceflight activity to Wallops could be a big fish in a small pond, and would not suffer from the costly scheduling difficulties and delays that have become an inherent part of launching from Florida... However, none of this will matter if elected officials in Richmond and Washington are asleep at the wheel. A strong, coordinated and bipartisan effort must be made to incentivize and pressure companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to conduct commercial crew operations from Wallops. Click here. (11/19)

OMB Directs Agencies to Cut 2013 Budgets (Sources: Government Executive, NASA Watch)
Back in August, the Obama administration is directing federal agencies to submit fiscal 2013 budget requests that are at least 10 percent below their current appropriation level. Citing fiscal pressures and the recently enacted deficit reduction package that raised the debt limit, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew sent a memo Aug. 17 to agencies instructing them to plan a 2013 budget that is at least 5 percent below their 2011 spending levels. (9/18)

Mars Landings are Hard, But Another Mission Begins (Source: Washington Post)
NASA officials were asked some years ago to catalogue the number of technical actions and successful communications necessary to fly a spacecraft safely from Earth to Mars. The number: about 10,000. And that was for an orbiter, as opposed to a lander such as the Mars Science Laboratory, which requires an additional and very demanding descent through the thin Martian atmosphere to the surface.

No wonder the track record for successful missions to Mars is not great. About 43 flyby, orbiting and landing missions have been sent to Mars by NASA and other nations in the past 40 years, and only 12 have been fully successful. That’s a failure rate of more than two out of three. Click here. (11/22)

Roscosmos Plans to Reorient Scientific Missions from Mars to Moon (Itar-Tass)
After an abortive mission of the interplanetary station Phobos-Grunt Roscosmos is considering the variants to reorient scientific missions from the Mars to the Moon. “If it is clear that all failed (with Phobos-Grunt), we will decide what to do next. We are already planning the Moon as the next step. Probably, it is reasonable to make some more clear-cut steps on the Moon, and as for the Mars, to stake on the joint work with our colleagues,” Roscosmos' Vitaly Davydov said. (11/22)

An Elevator to Space? Better Take the Stairs (Source: Time)
Some ideas just refuse to go away: trickle-down economics, the bolo tie, couscous. Add to this the space elevator. If you're not familiar with the space elevator, perhaps you've heard it referred to by one of its other names: the beanstalk, the orbital tether, the nonsynchronous orbital skyhook. No? Well never mind, because unlike the bolo tie, it doesn't exist. And unlike the tie too, it probably never will — not in this lifetime at least. But don't tell Google that.

The space elevator has been back in the news lately because of tech-world buzz that Google X — the secret Skunk Works where the company that gave us great doodles, a good Web browser and so-so e-mail — has included it on its list of what-if technologies it's trying to help develop. The Irish Times predicting confidently that "the space elevator may well replace rockets in 50 years." Maybe, but here's an important hint for aspiring futurists: "within 50 years" is almost always geek-speak for "like, um, never?" Here's why. Click here. (11/22)

American Museum of Natural History Looks at Future of Space Exploration (Source: YNN)
TThe space shuttle program may be no more, but there are still loads of questions many of us wonder about outer space. The new exhibit "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future Of Space Exploration" at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side not only asks those questions but attempts to answer them too. "How soon will space tourism be a reality? Will humans colonize other cosmic bodies? How much do we really need to worry about asteroids?" says American Museum of Natural History President Ellen Futter.

What makes the exhibit compelling is viewers don't just get written answers, but they also see what some future innovations might look like, from how a space elevator could make traveling to the moon as easy and smooth as a cruise around the Caribbean, to what futuristic, more natural-looking space suits could looking like. Click here. (11/22)

New Approach in Search for Alien Life (Source:
Scientists are recalibrating their search for alien life to take into account the possibility that radically different life forms may exist in environments which would be extremely hostile to organisms such as those found on Earth. A new two-pronged approach designed by researchers from NASA, the SETI Institute and several universities, attempts to replace Earthling-biased preconceptions of what constitute conditions for life.

A new system for classifying exoplanets (those outside our solar system) would use two different indices. An Earth Similarity Index would categorize a planet based on how similar it is to Earth, including its mass, radius and temperature. Under this index, the distant 'Goldilocks' world of Gliese 581g comes close to Earth. Meanwhile, the Planetary Habitability Index would look at issues such as the presence of a stable substrate, available energy, appropriate chemistry, and the potential for holding a liquid solvent. (11/22)

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