December 21, 2011

Roscosmos, ESA Discuss Ganymede Mission, Joint Rocket Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos and ESA have agreed to pursue missions aimed at returning soil samples from the south pole of the moon and landing a spacecraft on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. The decision was made during a Dec. 19 meeting between Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin and ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain. The space agency chiefs also discussed the potential involvement of Russia in the U.S.-European ExoMars program and collaboration in developing new launch vehicles. (12/21)

Astrium To Acquire Italian Antenna Maker (Source: Space News)
Space system prime contractor Astrium of Europe has agreed to purchase a majority stake in satellite antenna and ground segment manufacturer Space Engineering S.p.A. of Rome in a transaction that will boost Astrium’s presence in Italy, which is Europe’s third-largest space investor. Under the agreement, Astrium will acquire 66.78 percent of Space Engineering, which with its Teleinformatica e Sistemi subsidiary employs about 150 people in Rome and Tito, Italy. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. (12/21)

NASA Conducts Orion Parachute Testing for Orbital Test Flight (Source: Inside KSC)
NASA successfully conducted a drop test of the Orion crew vehicle's parachutes high above the Arizona desert Tuesday in preparation for its orbital flight test in 2014. Orion will carry astronauts deeper into space than ever before, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure a safe re-entry and landing.

A C-130 plane dropped the Orion test article from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds. Orion's drogue chutes were deployed between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which then deployed two main landing parachutes. This particular drop test examined how Orion would land under two possible failure scenarios. (12/21)

Aerospace Innovation: Embry-Riddle Sees Green Skies Ahead (Source: Florida Trend)
A project at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach has offered a glimpse into an electric future for aviation. Over two years, about 200 students from a range of academic disciplines helped create a sleek, hybrid-powered airplane that a core group of about 40 readied in time for a NASA-sponsored competition, the Green Flight Challenge, in October.

A thrifty 100-horsepower, four-cylinder engine brings the two-seat Eco Eagle aloft. Once the modified glider reaches cruising altitude, the pilot flips a switch and the broad-winged craft shifts to an even more efficient 40-hp electric system. The Eco Eagle couldn't compete for the Green Flight Challenge's $1.3 million prize — judges ruled it ineligible because a required parachute system couldn't be installed in time.

But Embry-Riddle's plane, flown by alumnus Mikhael Ponso of Brazil, earned plaudits nevertheless as one of only four (out of 14) competitors from the U.S. and abroad to complete the two-day, 200-mile competition. A battery powered, all-electric plane built by a team from Pennsylvania and Slovenia won the competition, which was staged in California. (12/21)

Russian Soyuz Launches Crew to International Space Station (Source:
The Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft has launched toward the International Space Station from the wintry Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying three crewmembers for the station’s current Expedition 30 and future Expedition 31 crews. (12/21)

NASA IG Finds Lapses In Property Downsizing (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Inspector General has found the agency is scrambling to meet aggressive real property reduction goals outlined by the White House Office of Management and Budget and Congress, largely because of uncertainties over its future human exploration missions and budget outlook. The 53-year-old agency has become the federal government’s ninth largest property holder, possessing more than 5,000 buildings, laboratories, wind tunnels, launch pads and test stands with a combined replacement value exceeding $29 billion.

More than 80% of the structures are more than 40 years old and reaching the end of their useful lives, according to the IG’s audit. Auditors found agency managers struggling to meet the targets as they transitioned to an agency-wide master planning initiative started in 2008 from a traditional approach in which center managers largely determined their infrastructure needs independently.

The agency, spread across 10 field centers from coast to coast, responded favorably to three IG recommendations for strengthening master planning activities. The first of the larger master plans is anticipated by the end of this year, several months later than anticipated, largely because the effort was based on a consolidation of planning by the individual centers. Click here. (12/21)

Earth-Sized Exoplanets Found - Will We Find Earth 2.0 in 2012 (Source: Discovery)
On Tuesday, astronomers using NASA's Kepler space telescope announced the discovery of two Earth-size worlds orbiting a star 1,000 light-years away. Kepler has detected many more candidate worlds of this size, but this was the first time confirmation of small rocky worlds with terrestrial dimensions had been announced. Does this mean Kepler's mission has been accomplished? Is this proof that Earth 2.0 exists? It is after all Kepler's prime objective to seek out Earth-like worlds -- or "Earth analogs." Isn't this exoplanetary duo "Earth-like"?

In the quest for Earth 2.0, the potential to support liquid water on a planetary surface is of paramount importance. Liquid water, after all, is crucial for terrestrial biology. Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f may be the right size, but both are in the wrong place to be called "Earth analogs." Now, turn the clock back to Dec. 5, when another Kepler announcement confirmed the discovery of a world orbiting its star within the habitable zone. Click here. (12/21)

Beaming Down Earth's Energy From Space (Source: Discovery)
It's always sunny in low-Earth orbit, so what better place to look for a source of solar energy? With the end of "cheap oil" rumored to be rapidly approaching (if not already upon us), not to mention the effects of fossil fuel use upon the environment and climate, sources of alternate, clean and renewable energy appear to be the unavoidable wave of the future. But the key factor in all these ventures is efficiency -- how to get the most "bang for the buck" in the harnessing, creation and distribution of energy.

Oil and coal must be extracted, shipped, refined and burnt, contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Wind needs to be 1) present, and 2) converted to energy with turbines, and water requires the construction of dams, which are not only expensive but also radically change the ecosystem of the river they are built upon. Even ground-based solar panels are subject to weather and the Earth's day/night schedule.

Enter the concept of space solar power -- using orbiting solar panels that constantly collect energy from the sun, unfiltered and uninterrupted, and "beam" it back down to Earth where it can be sent along the grid for use by communities. The sun is constantly putting out incredibly vast amounts of radiant energy in all directions (about the equivalent of 2 billion power plants' worth of yearly energy every second!). Click here. (12/21)

NASA Reflects on 2011 Progress. (Source: NASA)
In 2011, NASA began developing a heavy-lift rocket for the human exploration of deep space, helped foster a new era of commercial spaceflight and technology breakthroughs, fully utilized a newly complete space station, and made major discoveries about the universe we live in, many of which will benefit life on Earth. Click here. (12/21)

Editorial: NASA Needs To Wake Up to Reality (Source: Space News)
Today the U.S. space program is laboring under a set of unrealistic goals because the present leaders in the White House, Congress and NASA are ignoring the environment the nation faces and the history of canceled space initiatives over the past 30 years. It really doesn’t have to be that way.

To be specific, the present concept to initiate a large-scale rocket with the plan to land on an asteroid in 2025 and travel to Mars in 2035 is not a realistic goal. The national budget will not support the cost and the technology required to accomplish these objectives. The money is simply not available, nor will it be anytime soon. The studies that have been conducted over many years by both NASA and other groups support this conclusion.

Therefore, as time passes, it will become painfully obvious that this approach is unrealistic and overly expensive, and it will likely meet the same fate that other large NASA projects have in recent decades and be canceled. If one looks around, there are obvious ways to formulate a rational and economic set of goals that could produce a meaningful human space exploration program and meet the budget limitations the United States faces over the next two decades. Click here. (12/21)

Commercial Crew Solicitation Expected in February (Source: Space News)
NASA will solicit proposals in February for the third phase of a program aimed at developing commercially operated astronaut transportation systems. NASA wants to pick at least two winners by August, Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said during a conference call. Mango described the next phase of NASA’s commercial crew program as a “pretty big jump” from the previous two rounds, which focused on developing only individual components of crew transportation systems.

“Obviously, this next phase has to be a lot bigger than element designs,” Mango said on the Dec. 20 call. In the third phase of the program, NASA hopes to get at least two competing crew transportation systems ready to enter production. More details about the award will be discussed in advance of the solicitation on a public conference call tentatively set for early February, Mango said. (12/21)

Editorial: Of GOP Candidates, Gingrich Has Passion for Space Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
For the rapidly dwindling number of people in our government, the media and the general population who grasp the true importance of the United States maintaining a strong and pre-eminent human-spaceflight program, there was an under-reported criticism of Newt Gingrich by Mitt Romney at a recent debate in Iowa. It deserves a great deal more attention and analysis for a few reasons. Click here. (12/21)

Emirates and Kazakhstan Sign Space Agreement (Source: Zawya)
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science & Technology (EIAST) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Space Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Kazcosmoz), to cooperate in space exploration and technology within the framework of peaceful use of the outer space. The MoU will enable the two organisations to share expertise and resources in a number of areas including space science, earth remote sensing, satellite communication and global satellite navigation. (12/21)

You May Spend Your Next Vacation in Space (Source: WTOP)
For your next vacation, how about trading in your bathing suit for a space suit? "To date, space tourism has been limited to a very elite few," says Patrick Tucker with the Bethesda-based World Future Society. Tucker says that's about to change. "Next year, Virgin Galactic is scheduled to begin sub-orbital passenger flights," Tucker says, adding that there also are plans for sub-orbital hotel. Virgin Galactic's flights will cost $200,000 each.

Another company called Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Va., plans to offer similar flights for nearly half that price: $102,000 per passenger. A sub-orbital spaceflight will take you about 62 miles up, the altitude where space is conventionally considered to begin. It will give you a spectacular view of the curvature of the earth along with the darkness of space. (12/21)

Canadian Wins Space Flight (Source:
Joe Miller, a database administrator (DBA) for Research In Motion at its Mississauga campus, won British-based Red Gate Software’s “DBA In Space” contest, beating out some 5,500 other entrants from across North America, England and Germany. First prize was either a sub-orbital space flight, which would take the winner 10 times higher than commercial aircraft and a third of the way to the International Space Station, or $100,000 in cash.

Miller, 36, took the money, but his dream to make it to outer space remains very much alive. He says he'll invest the cash to buy a ticket in a few years’ time. “I’m incredibly excited to have won such an amazing competition and I’m accepting the cash prize while maintaining my plan of travelling to space,” Miller said. “With money in the bank, I can make a decision when the time’s right for me or even my son, Theo, to go to space.” (12/21)

Floridians Try to Shield Defense from Budget Cuts (Source: Sun Sentinel)
South Florida Congressman Allen West and defense industry leaders in Florida hope to fend off budget cuts that they fear will severely squeeze contractors in the state who do $14 billion worth of business. Florida could lose as many as 40,000 defense-related jobs as a result, according to a report from the Aerospace Industries Association earlier this month.

The failure of a congressional supercommittee to agree on a debt-reduction plan will trigger an automatic $600 billion cut in defense spending starting in 2013 unless Congress finds a way to avoid it. West, a Republican from Plantation and an Army veteran, hopes to use his seat on the Armed Services Committee as a bully pulpit to oppose further cuts.

“Now is not the time to gut our military,” he said. He said Congress will have to look for other ways to save money, such as closing tax loopholes, cutting duplicative programs and selling federal land. The impact could hit the 196 contractors in Central Florida and 180 in South Florida. (12/21)

China to Launch First High-Resolution Mapping Satellite for Civil Purposes (Source: Space Daily)
China will launch its first-ever high-resolution geological mapping satellite for civil purposes next January, according to official sources. The Ziyuan III satellite will be launched aboard a Long March 4B carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China's Shanxi province. (12/21)

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