November 9, 2011

Virginia Delegation Closing Ranks to Support Commercial Crew (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) joined a growing number within the Virginia Congressional delegation supporting commercial space launch from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. "The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport" is a "sensible location to launch the Atlas-V," the Congressman communicated in a Nov. 2, 2011 letter to a constituent after noting that the Boeing CTS-100 commercial crew vehicle would fly atop the Atlas booster rocket.

Griffith, a freshman serving on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, joins Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Virginia US Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) in making recent remarks favorable to Virginia engaging in commercial crew flights in this decade. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has the potential capability of being on par with, or perhaps better than, Cape Canaveral to launch commercial crew and cargo to the International Space Station using the Atlas-V 402. (11/8)

Musk Issues Statement on USAF New Entrant Criteria (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX welcomes the release of the detailed criteria the U.S. Air Force will use to certify new companies to provide launches for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. “We very much appreciate the steps the Air Force is taking to ensure fair and open competition,” said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "This is a complex process and the Air Force is doing the right thing for both the American taxpayer and those whose lives are at risk in the field.” (11/9)

NASA Scores Apparent Engine Test Success (Source: Florida Today)
A 500-second test-firing of NASA's first new rocket engine for human space exploration since the 1970s was an apparent success today. Mounted in a test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the J2-X engine ignited and ran for about eight minutes and 20 seconds.

A continuous whoosh of bright white exhaust -- the byproduct of igniting about 130,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen -- gushed out of the test stand. A team of test engineers, many wearing loud-and-proud Hawaiian shirts, were glued to computer consoles in a nearby control center. (11/9)

Is It Just Me, or Has It Been Raining Satellites Lately? (Source: Scientific American)
Two well-publicized satellite falls a month apart got me wondering: Is this the new normal? After all, there is plenty of junk in orbit, and it can’t stay up there forever. And NASA, along with many other space agencies, now requires that satellites tumble back to Earth sooner rather than later once their useful lifetimes have ended, so as to limit the possibility of collisions in orbit.

So how often are we going to be hearing about inbound satellites—and worrying about the ever-so-slim chance that they might kill us? A call to NASA’s top orbital debris scientist clarified the issue, and reassured me that we are not now witnessing the leading edge of a debris storm. Click here. (11/9)

GPS Group Urges FCC to Ban LightSquared's Use of ‘Upper' Spectrum (Source: BNA)
A lobbying group representing global positioning systems users and vendors urged the Federal Communications Commission Nov. 8 to permanently bar LightSquared Inc. from deploying a mobile broadband network using a 10 megahertz block of spectrum that is the closest to GPS operations.

Recent test results have confirmed that use of the company's upper 10 MHz block of frequencies interfered with GPS receivers used by the Coast Guard, NASA, and the FAA, and caused GPS receivers used by first responders such as state police, fire, and ambulance crews to lose reception. LightSquared has agreed to move operations to a lower 10 MHz of spectrum to alleviate interference problems with most GPS devices, at a cost to the company of $100 million, but is holding out hope that it could use the upper block at some point in the future. (11/9)

Editorial: America's Quest for Mars Involves Huntsville in a Big Way (Source: Huntsville Times)
There are some who still believe the moon landing was a hoax. So to many, the idea of landing on Mars or an asteroid might seem even more far-fetched. It's going to happen one day. The only question is when. Today's planned test of a powerful J-2X rocket engine at the Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi marks a major step in that process.

Marshall Space Flight Center is managing the J-2X project being developed by Pratt & Whitney Rockedyne in California as part of Marshall's role over the complete propulsion system. The United States can't pull a Mars mission off alone. It's going to take the cooperation of a host of countries that value the spinoffs that would come from such an endeavor. (11/9)

Energy Company Launches Plan for First Lunar Mining Operation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The process of establishing the world’s first operational lunar base and propellant depot business in space is underway as SEC launches its initial fundraising campaign. This comes in the footsteps of recent amazing new discoveries of huge deposits of propellant-feedstock ice on the Moon by NASA and other international space programs.

Joining forces with RocketHub, one of the largest crowd funding platforms, SEC [ ] seeks to raise the initial seed capital necessary to complete its top level planning in order to then secure the first major round of investment capital necessary to complete preliminary designs of all system elements. (11/9)

ESA To Launch Cost-cutting Initiative (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to reduce its internal operating costs by 25 percent in the next five years as its way of adapting to the economic crisis buffeting Europe. Addressing a conference on space policy at the European Parliament, Jaques Dordain said the agency understands it cannot ignore the economic tumult that is forcing most of its member governments to reduce their budgets. Including funding it receives from the commission of the 27-nation European Union and other organizations for which it performs work, ESA’s 2011 budget is about 4 billion euros ($5.6 billion). (11/9)

Asteroid Encounter Highlights Potential for Catastrophic Impact (Source: SPACErePORT)
What some may call a near-miss of an 'aircraft carrier-sized' asteroid on Nov. 8/9 has highlighted the potential for a catastrophic asteroid impact sometime in the future. The B612 Foundation aims to find ways to alter the orbit of such asteroids to protect the Earth. Click here. (11/9)

Mica: NextGen Bill Could Be Before President by Christmas (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Legislation that would modernize the nation's aging air-traffic-control system could be before President Barack Obama by Christmas, Rep. John Mica, R-FL, says. The legislation would include a four-year modernization plan as well as incentives for private companies to participate. "I don't think there's any question about the cost benefit of NextGen," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. (11/9)

The Woman in Charge of UN's Outer Space Affairs (Source:
Meet Dr Mazlan Othman, the former director-general of the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa), now based in Vienna, Austria, where she heads the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa). As the director of Unoosa, she has been guiding the world body’s outer-space program and seems to have made a mark with her extensive knowledge of astrophysics.

Mazlan who frequently visits the United Nations' headquarters in New York for official work, holds a position that brings her in contact with the world’s leading astrophysicists. Some Westerners may find it uncommon to see an Asian woman head a outer-space body that is essentially perceived as a male domain. However, a glance at the petite incumbent’s impressive credentials can easily convince even the hardened sceptic that this is a woman who commands respect in her field. (11/9)

“Phobos-Grunt” Fails to Hit Target for Mars Mission (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russian interplanetary probe “Phobos-Grunt” failed to settle into required orbit. An emergency situation occurred when the station was to enter its flight path to Mars. The reason for the failure lies in the propulsion system, which should have ensured the movement of "Phobos-Grunt" after its separation from the launcher.

Popovkin said that a likely scenario had been foreseen. The station made it to support orbit, communication with it is being maintained. Experts now have three days to work out a new flight program for Phobos-Grunt". The probe was successfully launched on Tuesday night from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The purpose of the mission is to collect samples from Mars’ moon – Phobos. (11/9)

Russia Still Hoping for Phobos-Grunt Miracle (Source: Space Policy Online)
Russia's Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-soil) sample return mission remains stranded in Earth orbit while Russian experts wait for the spacecraft's orbit to pass over ground stations capable of sending and receiving all the necessary data to troubleshoot the upper stage problems. The specially designed Fregat upper stage failed to place it into its Mars transfer orbit. Two firings were planned. Both were out of range of Russian tracking stations. As time passed, it became apparent that the spacecraft was not where it was supposed to be.

Vladimir Popovkin said that only three days of battery power were available, limiting the amount of time engineers had to troubleshoot and potentially resolve the problems. Another report said that about two weeks are available. Yet another report said a new attempt to place the spacecraft into the Mars transfer orbit will take place on Nov. 10. (11/9)

Mason Peck Named NASA's Chief Technologist (Source: Cornell University)
Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has been named NASA's chief technologist, effective January 2012. Peck will serve as the agency's principal adviser and advocate on matters of technology policy and programs. Peck leads several Cornell spacecraft research programs including CUSat, an in-orbit inspection system consisting of a pair of twin satellites designed and built at Cornell. CUSat is scheduled to launch in 2013 on a Falcon 9 rocket. (11/9)

Russian Mars Mission Halted by Glitch in Low Earth Orbit (Source:
Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission, an audacious effort to retrieve samples from a Martian moon, is stranded in low Earth orbit following a successful liftoff Tuesday from Kazakhstan aboard a Zenit rocket, according to Russian reports. Two rocket burns were supposed to propel the massive probe on a course toward Mars late Tuesday, but indications are the engine firings did not occur, according to Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian space agency. (11/9)

Are Alien Probes Lost in Space? (Source: MSNBC)
After analyzing our capability to detect objects in the solar system, researchers have come to a conclusion that should be fairly obvious: Even if extraterrestrials left something in our solar system like the artifacts we’ve sent out into deep space, we almost certainly wouldn’t know they were there. "The vastness of space, combined with our limited searches to date, implies that any remote unpiloted exploratory probes of extraterrestrial origin would likely remain untouched," according to researchers. (11/9)

Astronomers Trace Galactic Crash, Bang, Wallop! (Source: Astronomy Now)
The rate at which galaxies merge to mammoth sizes has been figured out by a team of astronomers, revealing that any given Milky Way-sized galaxy has merged with another of comparable size over the past eight billion years as well as two to three dwarf galaxies over the same time period. The merger rate is of a huge importance to understanding galaxy evolution, helping astronomers to understand how these giant structures have fattened up from devouring their galactic encounters. (11/9)

Long March 4B Launches YaoGan Weixing-12 for China (Source:
China’s YaoGan Weixing-12 (YG-12) satellite – highly likely to be used for military purposes – has been launched into orbit by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (Long March 4B) rocket on Wednesday. Once again, the Chinese media classed the satellite as a new remote sensing bird that will be used for “scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.”

Also on board the launch vehicle was the small TX-1 Tian Xun-1 satellite, which is equipped with a 2.5 kg CCD camera that was built by Suzhou University, sporting a maximum resolution of 30 meters. The satellite is 0.60 m x 0.75 cm in size, with a weight of 35 kg. (11/9)

China's Mars Explorer Hitches Ride with Russian Spacecraft (Source: Xinhua)
China's Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter was successfully launched on Wednesday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The orbiter hitched a ride on Russia's Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Soil) spacecraft, which is an unmanned probe bound for Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.

As a small-sized research satellite, the Yinghuo-1 will detach from the the spacecraft and begin to orbit Mars in autumn of next year, when the Phobos-Grunt is scheduled to reach Mars. The satellite will orbit Mars for one year, collecting data on the planet's magnetic field, ionosphere, landscape and gravitational field, according to the SASTIND. (11/9)

Does Mars Have Rights? Terraforming the Red Planet (Source: Reason)
Does Mars have rights? And what about Europa, Ganymede, and Titan? Some researchers believe these bodies could harbor extraterrestrial life. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty requires spacefaring nations to conduct exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies “so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter...”

Overseeing this requirement for planetary protection of not only the Earth, but also other planets, moons, asteroids, and comets, is the international Committee on Space Exploration (COSPAR) headquartered in Paris and NASA’s Planetary Protection Office. The goal of the treaty is to prevent back contamination—that is the introduction of extraterrestrial life to Earth—and forward contamination—the introduction of Earth life to extraterrestrial environments. Click here. (11/9)

NASA Buyouts May Trim KSC's Workforce Further (Source: Florida Today)
Roughly 150 Kennedy Space Center employees are eligible for voluntary buyouts NASA is offering to trim its civil service workforce. The reductions, if fulfilled, would be the first notable drop in the center’s government ranks since the shuttle program’s end this summer, which saw thousands of contractors let go, though agency officials say the two issues aren’t directly related.

“We’re just trying to maintain the level of workforce necessary to perform long-range work,” said Grey Hautaluoma, a spokesman at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. NASA on Tuesday could not immediately provide the total number of buyouts being offered across the agency, which has nearly 19,000 civil servants, or how many centers were involved. (11/9)

2014 Orion Flight Will Put Re-Entry Systems to a Test (Source: Florida Today)
The 2014 Orion test will test systems critical to ensuring crew survivability on missions beyond Earth orbit. Orion spacecraft returning from deep space missions would re-enter the atmosphere at about 24,000 mph. The 2014 test will loft Orion to an altitude of about 5,000 miles. The spacecraft will lap Earth twice and then re-enter at about 20,000 mph — about 84 percent of the re-entry speed on exploration missions.

It also signals NASA’s intent to move more quickly on the development of a new heavy-lift launch vehicle that will propel Orion and astronauts on exploration missions. Some in Congress have chided NASA for a slow start on the $3-billion-a-year Space Launch System project. NASA intends to fly a low-altitude test of the Orion Launch Abort System in 2016. The pole-shaped system would use small rockets to pull an Orion spacecraft and its crew away from an exploding rocket. (11/9)

Orbital Orion Test Sets Schedule for Space Florida Launch (Source: SPACErePORT)
Before deciding to put an Orion in orbit in 2014, NASA was considering whether this mission should precede or follow a suborbital test of the Orion Launch Abort System. The suborbital flight will be conducted at Space Florida's Launch Complex 46, aboard a Peacekeeper-based Minotaur rocket, provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. NASA had anticipated that this suborbital test could occur in March 2014. The decision to launch the orbital Orion test in 2014 will push the suborbital test to 2016. (11/9)

Eutelsat’s W3D To Launch on Proton (Source: Space News)
An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket will launch Eutelsat’s W3D satellite in late 2013 under a contract ILS announced Nov. 9. The satellite, ordered by Paris-based Eutelsat in late 2010 following the loss of the W3B spacecraft — which failed just hours after launch when it developed a catastrophic leak in its fuel tank — will carry 56 Ku-band transponders and will be operated at Eutelsat’s 7 degrees east longitude orbital slot. (11/9)

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