December 18, 2011

Space Industry Summit Planned at Spaceport Sweden (Source: Hobby Space)
Just one month after Mojave Air and Space Port and Spaceport Sweden signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU), Sweden hosted executives, researchers, students and political representatives from the Swedish space industry at the Swedish Institute for Space Physics in Kiruna (Swedish Lapland 200 KM north of the Arctic Circle) for the National Swedish Space Summit. Click here. (12/13)

Aerial Drones May Be Vulnerable to Sabotage Because of GPS (Source: Daily Beast)
The recovery of a drone in Iran may have exposed a serious flaw in the system that has become the cornerstone of America's military campaign against terrorists. Earlier this fall, the Air Force acknowledged in a little-noticed press release that a virus had affected computers at its Nevada base where many of America’s unmanned aerial vehicles—those famed drones—are operated remotely in faraway war zones. Air Force officials emphasized that the breach did not specifically impact the operation of drones, describing it as “more of a nuisance than an operational threat.”

Now, three months later, government officials are eerily quiet on how a fully operational drone managed to get captured in Iran amid reports the GPS system may have been hacked. Suddenly, America’s vaunted drones—the weapon of choice for spying, killing and tracking U.S. enemies these last few years—seem to have lost a sliver of invincibility and created worries about the vulnerabilities to increasingly curious enemies. (12/18)

NORAD Tracks Santa (Source: NORAD)
NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets. Tracking Santa starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system consists of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. On December 24th, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole. Click here. (12/18)

With Pool, JSC Jumps in With Both Feet as Task Evolves (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The shuttle's retirement has meant not only the loss of 3,500 Houston jobs, but a glut of facilities, which includes the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. In November, NASA announced a deal to share the pool with Petrofac Training Services, a global oil services company. "This is a look at the way Johnson Space Center is going in the future with any excess capacity we might have," Paul Hill, director of mission operations, said. Without the need to train spacewalking shuttle astronauts, NASA only needs about 60 percent of the pool's space. (12/18)

Huntsville Has Good Month in Commercial Space Race (Source: Huntsville Times)
Make room, NASA, and move over, Army. Space in Huntsville isn't just for government any more. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's plan to base his new Stratolaunch Systems company in Huntsville was followed Wednesday by word that another commercial space company, Sierra Nevada Corp., will bring its Dream Chaser mini-space shuttle for critical stress tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Marshall also briefed industry representatives in Huntsville Dec. 6 on its plans to create a National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems specifically to bring business, government and academia together to solve rocketry problems. (12/18)

India Aims at 45 to 50 Launches (Source: IBN)
The 12th five-year plan period will be a busy one for ISRO’s Sriharikota spaceport. If things pan out as ISRO hopes it would, then 2012-2017 will see more number of missions compared to previous five-year plan periods. ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said that the ISRO was targeting 45 to 50 launches during the 12th five-year plan. (12/18)

Economic Potential of Colorado Spaceport "Another Star in Our Sky" (Source: Denver Post)
A spaceport — even one that might not be operational for a decade or more — is just what aerospace and economic development experts say is needed in Colorado. Proposed for Front Range Airport near Watkins, the spaceport has the potential to attract new companies and high-paying jobs to the state.

"It would be another star in our sky," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. Colorado already has the No. 2 space economy in the country — behind only California — with a diverse industry comprised of commercial, private and military endeavors. Opportunities and the impact posed by the transformation of Front Range Airport into a spaceport haven't been studied yet, so specifics are lacking.

However, some companies already have told Clark and Elaine Thorndike, chief executive of the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology, that a spaceport is what they need to relocate here. "Companies that are either suppliers to the commercial space market or part of the aerospace sector in general are extremely excited," said Thorndike, who is directing development of the Aerospace and Clean Energy Park. A spaceport fits neatly with the park's goal of accelerating space and clean-tech technologies. (12/18)

American Museum of Natural History Heads to Space (Source: Staten Island Live)
How many museums let you play God? The option arises more than once at the American Museum of Natural History’s new show, “Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration.” The best might be the “Mars Terraforming Table,” a play station that starts as a wide touchscreen depicting a Martian panorama, dry, red and barren. The vista changes depending on the instructions. The idea is to “terraform” inhospitable Mars, tweak it until it becomes earth-like, a big job but apparently doable.

Mars has no atmosphere, no cloud cover, precipitation or ground water, no rivers or oceans, fauna or flora. One of the earthifying strategies involves establishing mines, factories and industries that would spew greenhouse gases: carbon and other organic goodies. Mars needs exactly what earth doesn’t. Exercising this option, along with introducing genetically altered species, gradually remakes the grim red planet. In the final screen, a boy and his dad are hiking the terraformed Martian wilderness, now green and Earth-like. (12/18)

NASA Budget Cut Avoided (Source: Space Politics)
On Thursday, it appeared that NASA and other non-defense discretionary spending would be trimmed to pay for a $8.1-billion disaster relief bill. The House had proposed a 1.83-percent cut to such spending, which NASA confirmed to Space News on Friday would result in a $325-million cut it the agency’s FY2012 budget. Other non-defense agencies, including the FAA and NOAA, would also have their budgets cut by the same percentage. However, the prospect of that cut has been averted after the Senate rejected the cut Saturday morning. The cut was contained in a separate piece of legislation from the actual disaster relief bill, allowing senators to vote for the disaster spending but vote against the rescission. Both bills passed the House on Friday. (12/17)

The Folly of Private Space Travel (Source: Financial Times)
NASA, which once brought the US boundless prestige, is underfunded and feckless. Last year, President Obama called for an end to moon exploration just as China and India were taking it up. This summer, the space-shuttle program ended after three profligate and crash-prone decades, leaving the US with no domestic means of getting its astronauts to the space station. Paul Allen aims to remedy that with Stratolaunch Systems.

Is this a shining new model for allowing “corporate visionaries” (as USA Today embarrassingly calls them) to boldly go where ordinary democratic politics have failed? Or is it a pointless rich people’s hobby, with disturbing elements of crony capitalism? Modern consumers are too indulgent of this kind of dream-your-dreams malarkey. For now, the heart of Virgin Galactic’s ideas for space tourism seems to be charging people $200,000 to experience a few minutes of zero gravity.

One can argue that allowing decadent gazillionaires to experience zero gravity is only harmless fun. But this argument weakens when government enters the picture in any form. Americans of the 1960s were willing to pay 5 percent of the federal budget for NASA not because it gave them prestige but because it gave the US firepower. NASA was a defence program. To the extent that rockets are being developed for defense, private investors should be nowhere near them. Click here. (12/17)

Spain Will Build Space Hotel by 2012 (Source: Andalusia-Travel)
In Nov. 2009 the Spanish company Galactic Suite announced the start of a unique project - construction of the space hotel Galactic Suite Spacec Resort. At the same time the company director Javier Claramunt stated that the project will be realized in less than three years. But the experts didn't fully agree with this statement. The terms and budget of the hotel were considered to be unreal. The stated cost is 3 billion Euros, which were transferred to Galactic Suite by an anonymous investor.

But a few days ago, Claramunt assured the press that in 2012 the orbital hotel will receive its first visitors. Fort-five people have already booked tours to the new hotel and more than 200 are interested in it and are awaiting the test results. The cost of three days in orbit will be $4.4 million, including an eight-week stay on a tropical island for training and medical examinations. Galactic Suite Space Resort will accommodate four guests and two professional astronauts. It is assumed that the tourists will be delivered by Virgin Galactic, which will cost them another $200,000. (12/18)

Michoud Facility Finds New Role: Movie Production (Source:
Some of the remaining workforce at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) found themselves with job sheets that had nothing to do with the space program, as they spent some of their days removing equipment to make space for a string of production companies to use the facility to film parts of their blockbuster films. The first of which was GI Joe 2 (Retaliation) – which has now completed filming inside MAF, ahead of its summer 2012 release date.

This movie stars Bruce Willis – who is no stranger to space hardware, following his staring role in the blockbuster movie Armageddon, which filmed at numerous NASA centers, including the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Universal Pictures will arrive in January to film two movies (the titles of which are being kept secret), while Disney and MGM are also in the process of negotiating the use of MAF’s 101 building for filming purposes. (12/18)

Coronel to Travel Into Space in 2014 (Source:
He is leaving no room for doubts: “This is what I have always wanted!” During the Millionair Fair in Amsterdam, 39-year old Tom Coronel signed a contract with SXC Space Expedition Curacao’s Michiel Mol to become one of the 100 ‘founder’ astronauts to travel into space in 2014, among others with model Doutzen Kroes and DJ Armin van Buuren. "I vividly remember that Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch astronaut, came to visit us at home and told about his adventure in space in a very inspiring way. From that moment on, I was certain: being able to wave to the earth as an astronaut from space, wouldn’t that just be fantastic? (12/18)

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