November 7, 2011

Please Take This 5-Question Survey on Space Transportation (Source: SPACErePORT)
I encourage SPACErePORT readers to complete a brief five-question survey on "Reducing Human Error in Launch Vehicle Processing". The results will be used in a paper being developed under a grant from the FAA. Click here. (11/5)

Embry-Riddle Grad to Travel to Space Station (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
NASA astronaut and Embry-Riddle alumnus Daniel C. Burbank will be aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Sunday heading to the International Space Station. Burbank will spend six months on the space station as a flight engineer for Expedition 29 and as commander of Expedition 30. Previously he was a crew member on space shuttle missions STS-106 in 2000 and STS-115 in 2006, during which he performed a spacewalk.

Another NASA astronaut and Embry-Riddle alumnus, Ron Garan, concluded his own six-month tour of duty on the space station in September. Both Burbank and Garan received Master of Aeronautical Science degrees from Embry-Riddle, Burbank in 1990 and Garan in 1994. (11/7)

Red Moon Around a Red Planet (Source: Space Review)
Phobos-Grunt is a very ambitious mission for any space power, let alone for a country that hasn't launched a Mars mission in 15 years. Dwayne Day writes that it may be too ambitious a mission, but if successful could have a major payoff for planetary exploration. Visit to view the article. (11/7)

Will Russia End its Curse at Mars? (Source: Space Review)
Probos-Grunt is the latest in a long line of Russian/Soviet Mars missions, most of which failed. Doug Messier examines the history of that program and whether this mission can break from that history. Visit to view the article. (11/7)

Congress and NASA: Expedite Commercial Crew (Source: Space Review)
In the next few weeks Congress is expected to wrap up work on NASA's 2012 budget, including deciding how much money to allocate to the agency's commercial crew program. Alan Stern and Frank DiBello argue that NASA, Congress, and the White House should work together to get that program moving as fast as possible. Visit to view the article. (11/7)

The Sisyphean Task of Export Control Reform (Source: Space Review)
Members of Congress introduced a bill last week to provide some potential export control relief for the satellite industry, while the administration continues work on its own reform efforts. Jeff Foust reports on the progress being made on both fronts, and the prospects in this latest round of the long-running struggle for export control reform. Visit to view the article. (11/7)

Protecting Apollo Artifacts on the Moon (Source: Space Review)
NASA has proposed guidelines to prevent future lunar vehicles from damaging or contaminating artifacts left behind by the Apollo missions. Matthew Kleiman describes how those voluntary guidelines can be supported by international law. Visit to view the article. (11/7)

Boeing Might Make Big Money Sending Tourists To Space (Source: Forbes)
Boeing’s recent announcement that it plans to return to the Kennedy Space Center to build passenger spaceships was heralded by all parties involved. In addition to expected job growth up to 550 in the next three years, the combined effort with Space Florida (a state-backed agency that works with space-related companies) will allow Boeing to ramp up production of the company’s CST-100.

We believe that there is significant potential in this market for Boeing as well as competitors such as Lockheed Martin. Boeing may have found a burgeoning market, one that perhaps will make up for NASA budget cuts that are certain to make a dent in the company’s U.S. Defense, Space & Security Systems division. That division contributes about 32% of the $91 Trefis price estimate.

For skeptics, Boeing and competitors are quick to point out several compelling arguments. First, this program would be profitable even if it only served the needs of NASA, and other revenue sources are available. Cargo transportation, servicing satellites and leasing the spacecraft to other countries would all add incremental revenue. (11/7)

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 later this month, could be dispatched to Mars — drastically cutting the cost of exploration on the red planet. Together with researchers at the NASA Ames Research Center, the company is working on a proposal for a first 'Red Dragon' mission.

In a presentation at a meeting of NASA science advisers in Washington DC on 31 October, the group advocated 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. (11/7)

Deflecting Killer Asteroids Away From Earth: How We Could Do It (Source:
A huge asteroid's close approach to Earth on Nov. 8 reinforces that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery, and we can't just sit around waiting to get hit again. Asteroid 2005 YU55--the size of an aircraft carrier--zips within the moon's orbit, but poses no danger of hitting us for the foreseeable future. Eventually, however, one of its big space rock cousins will barrel straight toward Earth, as asteroids have done millions of times throughout our planet's history.

If we want to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs, which were wiped out by an asteroid strike 65 million years ago, we're going to have to deflect a killer space rock someday, researchers say. Fortunately, we know how to do it. "We have the capability — physically, technically — to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts," said former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman of the B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to predicting and preventing catastrophic asteroid strikes. "We are now able to very slightly and subtly reshape the solar system in order to enhance human survival." Click here. (11/7)

New Model Predicts Less Fallout From Large Meteorite Strike (Source: Daily Mail)
It’s well known that a large meteorite hitting the Earth would not be good news, as it would cause earthquakes, tsunamis and firestorms. However, scientists have created a new model for predicting the impact of such collisions that shows the devastation wouldn’t be anywhere near as severe as previously thought. Scientists from the University of Munich argue that previous predictions of impact damage assume the Earth is smooth and spherical – but it’s actually elliptical with huge peaks and troughs, which would help to diffuse the resulting seismic waves. (11/7)

US Military Wants to Launch Satellites from Airplanes (Source:
U.S. military operations rely heavily upon satellites to spy on battlefields and coordinate friendly forces across the globe, but fast-changing ground conditions or enemy attacks on satellites can threaten to overwhelm the system. That's why the Pentagon has announced $164 million to turn airliners into airborne launch platforms that can send small satellites into orbit within 24 hours.

An airplane-based launch means that the U.S. military could swiftly deploy satellites from any normal airfield, rather than rely upon expensive and possibly vulnerable ground-based launch pads. DARPA also anticipates slashing small satellite payload costs from more than $30,000 per pound to less than $10,000 per pound — making such launches three times cheaper. Taking off from an airliner flying at 25,000 feet allows the theoretical space launch vehicle to start out above most of the atmosphere. It also adds a starting speed boost to the launch vehicle, and allows designers to use a larger, more efficient rocket nozzle.

DARPA wants the program to demonstrate at least 12 launches of 100-pound payloads to low Earth orbit, with each launch costing about $1 million. Launches could start as soon as 2015, according to DARPA's official announcement of the program on Nov. 4. But if the new program succeeds, the U.S. military could put new satellites or satellite replacements into any orbit without the limitations of fixed geographical launch pads. Anyone hoping to stop such launches would have to consider almost any airfield as a possible launch site. (11/7)

NASA Funding for 2012 is On Track for Approval Before Thanksgiving (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA funding for fiscal year 2012 is positioned for final congressional approval by Nov. 18, reports from Washington say. The question, as always, is whether the agency gets the higher or lower of the two numbers in play, or some compromise in between. The House approved an FY 2012 budget for NASA earlier this year that that totaled $16.8 billion. That's $1.6 billion below this year, approximately. The House also zero-funded the James Webb Space Telescope in response to its schedule delays and cost overruns.

The Senate passed its own budget last week funding NASA at $17.9 billion and included the Webb telescope funding. Both budgets include funds for NASA to proceed with developing its new heavy-lift rocket in Huntsville at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The NASA budget is part of a so-called "minibus" bill that congressional leaders plan to amend next week with a resolution funding the federal government into December. Current funding for the government runs out Nov. 18, meaning the minibus including NASA funding must pass by then. (11/7)

Launch Prompts Thoughts of Earthly Politics (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Amid our own daily fears and priorities, we watch this crowd of elected officials cynically wrap their own ambitions and goals in the flag of national need. And so many of us, without really thinking much, pick sides to believe in and cheer for like a high school football game and immunize ourselves against reconsideration because we no longer share common big goals.

This administration and its House foes are, for instance, both whacking and reordering space programs, seeing them as lifeless sums of money, no longer enabling national goals or pride. The space shuttles, designed for 100 missions each, are all gone now after no more than 40. So, we must rent rides on Russian rockets. The American astronaut corps, once national heroes, has declined, along with morale. (11/7)

NASA Plans First Test Flight for Orion Atop Delta-4 in 2013 (Source:
The debut of the Orion crew vehicle in space – has been given final approval by NASA. The Exploration Test Flight (EFT-1) will see Orion launched by a Della IV-Heavy from Cape Canaveral in the latter part of 2013. Known previously as the Orion or Orbital Flight Test (OFT-1), the recent change of name for the test relates to Orion’s refocused role of Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration missions, which opens with the 2017 uncrewed “lap of 8″ mission around the Moon.

The crewed debut of Orion could occur any time between 2018 and 2021, depending on the outcome of funding projections and the ongoing roadmap evaluations, which are being worked on by a team lead by former Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon. (11/7)

Spaceport America Welcome Center Location Part of Annexation Plan (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Hatch officials soon will consider expanding their village to encompass land that one day could be home to a Spaceport America welcome center on the east side of Interstate 25. Still, there's disagreement among of some village officials about their preferred placement of the welcome center - though a vote on the location is ultimately in the hands of spaceport officials.

The Hatch board of trustees will vote next week on whether to annex 151 acres of land east of its current boundaries. The proposal would annex a portion of the Rio Grande, Interstate 25, including the interchange, and a thin strip along the eastern side of the freeway. The idea is to make that area more attractive as a location for the welcome center, "rather than having it as undeveloped county land," said Jim Hayhoe, spaceport consultant for the village of Hatch. (11/7)

Editorial: Spaceport Road: Don't Find Ways to Delay (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Effective, efficient and well-conceived transportation infrastructure is a vital necessity for the success of Spaceport America. That's why a southern route — currently a dirt road — to the spaceport is being planned. It would run for about 25 miles between the Upham exit from Interstate 25. As of now, people wanting to take a paved road to the spaceport have to get to T or C and then backtrack.

Despite the obvious need, there are critics saying that work isn't proceeding quickly enough on paving that road to the spaceport. And their criticisms have merit. Current scheduling has the road being finished in November 2013. That's cutting it a bit close if space tourism flights begin in 2013, as is envisioned. But even the November 2013 target might be optimistic. Hanging over the road — and spaceport — like a dark cloud is the possibility of what kind of environmental review will be called for by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (11/7)

Report Finds Defense Firms Pay Average Tax Rate of 17.5% (Source: The Hill)
A new report by the Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that defense contractors pay a 17.5% average tax rate annually. "While the federal corporate tax code ostensibly requires big corporations to pay a 35% corporate income tax rate, on average, the 280 corporations in our study paid only about half that amount," the report said. (11/7)

Editorial: Defense Cuts Could be "Serious Mistake" for Aerospace (Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Raj Gupta, general manager of the Stratoflex Products Division of Parker Aerospace, writes in an editorial that further defense cuts could be a "serious mistake." "Such cuts would have a deleterious effect on the aerospace industry, degrading America's military capabilities and threatening our nation's position as a world leader in aerospace while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs," writes Gupta. (11/7)

Airships Offer Alternative Stairway to Space (Source: Discovery)
In the 2009 Pixar animated cartoon "Up" a widower affixes hundreds of balloons to his house and floats high above the clouds and between continents. An idea that may sound equally preposterous is to float a very large ballooned vehicle right up to the edge of space -- and then give it a boost into orbit. On Oct. 22, the altitude record for lighter-than-air craft was broken when an airship launched from Nevada's Black Rock desert ascended to 95,085 feet.

After one of two tandem balloons affixed to a 30-foot long carbon airframe burst, a command was sent to release the other balloon and the vehicle parachuted back home. It’s designers, the California-based company JP Aerospace that builds military balloons, say this is just the beginning of a plan to loft a manned station to 200,000 ft. It would serve as a gateway to low Earth orbit. Click here. (11/7)

2nd Docking of Tiangong-1 & Shenzhou-8 Planned (Source: Xinhua)
Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 have now orbited together for more than 90 hours. In just over a week's time, the two will carry out a second docking if all tests run smoothly. The second docking will be conducted with poorer orbit and light conditions purposely to test the reusability of the docking systems. Wang Xiang, deputy chief engineer of Manned Spacecraft System, said, "To make the second docking possible, the two modules need to be first disconnected. And then they will have to be reconnected perfectly."

The Shenzhou -8 is equipped with microwave radar, laser radar and a high-resolution imaging sensors to accomplish the docking. It is also important to test whether radars and sensors can be used under different conditions in the second docking. The Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 will orbit together for a total of 12 days doing tests. Then a second docking will be followed by two days' flight. Shenzhou-8 is scheduled to return to Earth on Nov. 17. (11/7)

Obama Team: No Evidence of Extraterrestrial Life (Source: USA Today)
The White House says there is no evidence of life beyond Earth -- and no cover-up by the government -- but scientists are still searching. "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race," writes an Obama administration official on the White House website.

Phil Larson, who works on space policy and communications at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, also writes that "there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye." President Obama's White House responded to a petition claiming a government cover-up of contact with space life. (11/7)

Planetary Scientists Hope To Bring Back Mars Moondust (Source: Scientific American)
Planetary scientists may soon get the dirt on a Martian moon—literally. A Russian spacecraft will soon depart for Phobos, the larger of Mars's two tiny moons. It will attempt to land there, scoop up some soil and return it to Earth for analysis. The spacecraft, called Phobos-Grunt, launches as soon as Nov. 8.

Phobos-Grunt is bringing a couple of tagalongs on the trip. One is China's first Mars craft, a small satellite called Yinghuo-1 that will orbit Mars. The other is a project of the nonprofit Planetary Society: a biological experiment called Phobos LIFE. It's a canister smaller than a hockey puck loaded with little organisms—bacteria, plant seeds, even some tiny invertebrate animals called water bears. (11/7)

China Masters Space Command, Control (Source: People's Daily Online)
China's space control network has realized integrated command and control, which ensured the successful docking of the unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou 8 with the space lab module Tiangong 1, according to the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Communication Technology. This institute is the general design organization for the integration test of China's aerospace measurement and control network. (11/7)

Galileo Satellites Handed Over to Control Center in Germany (Source: Space Daily)
Europe's first two Galileo satellites have reached their final operating orbits, opening the way for activating and testing their navigation payloads. Marking the formal end of their LEOP Launch and Early Operations Phase, control of the satellites was passed yesterday from the CNES French space agency center in Toulouse to the Galileo Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. Once the navigation payload is fully checked-out and activated, a second Galileo Control Center in Fucino, Italy - operated by the Telespazio company - will oversee all navigation services. (11/7)

The Overview Effect and the Destiny of Humanity (Source: Evolver)
Now that the experience of spaceflight is merely $200,000 and a waiting list away, what kind of transformation will be sparked by the successive crops of space-travelers returning to Earth? The cultural conversation concerning space exploration has experienced a tumultuous adolescence.

Born in the tidal waves of fear from German missile development, and culminating in the ideological theater of the 1960s Space Race, space exploration as a concept has been muddled by militaristic and nationalistic overtones. Only for the last 10 years since the end of the Cold War has space become an international cooperative effort with mutually beneficial aims. (11/7)

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