December 27, 2011

China's Eyes in the Sky 'Go Public' (Source: South China Morning Post)
Beijing is making its home-grown Beidou satellite navigation system available for civilian use, posing a challenge to American dominance in the field. Though still incomplete, the Beidou system had already proven its worth in boosting China's military, technological and economic muscle, the central government said.

China Satellite Navigation Management Office director Ran Chengqi released Beidou's interface communication document (icd) at a press conference in Beijing yesterday. Access to the codebook had long been limited to the People's Liberation Army and some companies with government backgrounds, but now even Hongkongers will be able to use Beidou's service. (12/27)

Thinking Big in Space (Source: The Economist)
As a small boy Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, dreamed of going into space. He even tried to launch the hollow aluminium arm of a chair, stuffed with propellant, into orbit. It didn't work out. But his latest adventure in space travel - a joint venture with Burt Rutan, a famous designer of aeroplanes - looks more promising. Earlier this month, the two of them said they will build an air-launched orbital delivery system. To do this, Paul Allen’s company Stratolaunch Systems will have to build the world’s largest aeroplane.

The Stratolaunch, as the plane will be called, will be big. Really, really big. It will have six engines, a wingspan of 385 feet (117m) and weigh about 544 tonnes. (The wingspan of Boeing's 747 is around half that of the Stratolaunch.) Taking off will require 3.6km of runway, and the aeroplane will launch its rocket - a shortened version of the Falcon 9 rocket, built by another private space firm called SpaceX - at around 9,100m (or 30,000 feet). The whole contraption will be able to put about 6 tons of payload into low-earth orbit. Click here. (12/27)

China GPS Rival Beidou Starts Offering Navigation Data (Source: BBC)
China's satellite navigation system has become operational, according to an official. Beidou now offered location, timing and navigation data to China and surrounding areas announced the project's spokesman Ran Cheng. China has been working on the system since 2000 to provide an alternative to the US government-run Global Positioning System (GPS). The move should make China's military less dependent on foreign technology.

A launch earlier this month delivered the tenth of Beidou's satellites into orbit. Beijing plans to send a further six satellites into space by 2012 to extend the system to most parts of Asia, and then expand the network to a total of 35 satellites offering global coverage by 2020. (12/27)

Maritime Microsat Delivered to China for January Launch (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm said Dec. 27 that the VesselSat2 maritime-tracking satellite it will use to supplement its planned constellation of Automatic Identification System (AIS) satellites has been delivered to China in preparation for a Jan. 12 launch. The 29-kilogram microsatellite will be lofted into polar orbit aboard a Chang Zheng rocket lifting off from China’s Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. (12/27)

NASA No Priority for Most Presidential Candidates (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Of all the presidential candidates, the election of Newt Gingrich likely would have the greatest effect on NASA for one simple reason. He would pay attention to it. The beleaguered space agency, despite its frequent mention in lofty speeches about "reaching for the stars," rarely gets put on the front burner of domestic policy — if it's on the stove at all.

It took former President George W. Bush more three years after his election in 2000 to unveil any significant plan for the agency. President Barack Obama's biggest impact has been following though on a campaign promise to downgrade NASA's troubled moon program — the one set up by Bush. But Gingrich is a self-described "space nut," an advocate whose ideas — from space taxis to orbiting lasers to a colony on the moon — have drawn praise and derision. Click here. (12/27)

NASA Seeks to Bolster Ties with Commercial Crew Firms (Source:
NASA and private space firms are determined to strengthen partnerships in the next phase of development in the agency's commercial crew transportation program, which is due to kick off in February, officials said last week. A memorandum of understanding is now available to commercial partners to better communicate industry concerns and NASA requirements in the absence of a fixed-price contract, which NASA was planning to implement next year to continue to development of crew transportation vehicles. (12/26)

AIA: Congress Should Address Sequestration Before Election (Source: The Hill)
The Aerospace Industries Association is urging Congress to address defense cuts from sequestration before the 2012 election. "From every reasonable, rational approach, we want to get this resolved as soon as possible -- we need to know what's going to happen," said Cord Sterling, vice president for legislative affairs at the AIA. "When your company's very survival could depend upon decisions that are made or not made, you cannot take that risk. You cannot sit there and say DOD hopes it will go away." (12/27)

Lawmakers Could Reach Compromise on FAA Bill (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have not reached an agreement on the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill and remain at odds over the bill's labor provision. However, some observers say they could reach a compromise that would involve dealing with union organization issues separately. If lawmakers reach a compromise, the legislation could pass this spring. (12/27)

Failed space Missions Rise to 5 for Russia in 2011 (Source:
A Russian Soyuz-2 rocket failed to launch a communications satellite Friday, marking the fifth failed space mission this year for Russia. "This area of the space industry is in sort of a crisis," said Russian space-agency chief Vladimir Popovin. The Soyuz-2 rocket fell to Earth in Siberia after the failure. (12/27)

Globalstar Announces Satellite Launch Update (Source: Globalstar)
Globalstar announced that six new Globalstar second-generation satellites have been rolled out to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in preparation for a scheduled launch on Wednesday, December 28th. Earlier this month, the six satellites were mated to the upper stage dispenser which was then integrated to the rest of the Soyuz launch vehicle prior to rollout.

Wednesday's scheduled liftoff will be the third launch of Globalstar's second-generation constellation satellites. The Company has contracted with launch services provider Arianespace for a total of four launches of six satellites per launch. The first two launches were successfully conducted in October of 2010 and July of this year. (12/27)

Space Junk Brings Bad Atmosphere (Source: Herald Sun)
A failed Russian Mars probe laden with toxic fuel is due to hit the Earth (and chances are that it will come down over Australia), a comet had a close shave with the Sun and space junk fell in Africa. It sounds like the plot of a truly abysmal Hollywood action movie starring a shirtless Matthew McConaughey but they are all events that have occurred in the past week.

Scientists are hoping the Earth's atmosphere will incinerate the troubled Phobos-Grunt probe, currently hurtling around the planet at 30,000km/h. Jolly good then, we'll just cross our fingers and hope for the best, shall we? So, on the off-chance you're forced to an underground bunker with the family and wait for the universe to implode, here's my handy survival guide. (12/27)

Russia Appoints Deputy Prime Minister to Lead Space Sector (Source: Space Policy Online)
Russia's news agency ITAR-TASS revealed today that on Monday Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "empowered" Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin "to be in charge of Russia's space sector." Rogozin wants a report on Thursday from Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, on the most recent launch failure. (12/27)

NASA’s Planetary Probes Dominate in 2011 (Source:
It was an interesting year for NASA as the 2011 calendar brought about the retirement of the iconic Space Shuttle fleet, the completion of the USOS segment of the International Space Station, the launch of three new planetary missions, and the ongoing scientific endeavors of NASA’s fleet of planetary probes. In all, 2011 proved a banner year for NASA’s unmanned explorers in our solar system. Click here. (12/27)

In Skies Over Iran, a Battle for Control of Satellite TV (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Shohreh, a 37-year-old Iranian nurse, sat down with her husband and parents one night in September to watch a documentary about Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, scheduled to be shown on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s BBC Persian channel.

But when the Tehran family settled on the couch with a bowl of pistachios and switched on the television, all they saw was scrambled imagery. The satellite signal was being jammed. "We were very disappointed that we couldn't see the film," said Shohreh, who declined to let her last name be used. (12/27)

Annus Horribilis: Space in 2011 (Source: Air & Space)
A long established year-end tradition – for good or ill – is a review and analysis of the preceding twelve months. Who am I to fight this trend? Being that I am a “the glass is not only half-empty, but chipped and cracked down the middle” space policy town crier, be fairly warned as I conclude this year’s blogging with a look back at 2011. Click here. (12/27)

Garneau Eyes Run at Liberal Leadership in Canada (Source: CBC)
Liberal MP Marc Garneau is keeping the door open to a potential run at his party's leadership, but says he would also be willing to support a younger candidate who could revive the Grits. In a year-end interview, the MP for the Montreal riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie signalled interest in succeeding Michael Ignatieff as the next permanent Liberal leader.

Garneau acknowledged he is relatively new to politics, having only been elected to Parliament in 2008 after serving as president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2006. But the former astronaut and naval captain said he's ready to step up his contribution to his country yet again. (12/27)

Siberian Homeowner Fixes Roof Amid Compensation Snag (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Siberian homeowner who escaped serious injury when a fragment of a Russian communication satellite crashed through the roof of his house had to fix it himself as the authorities wrangle over compensation. A titanium ball of about five kilograms, crashed through the roof of the single-family home in the Ordyn district. The homeowner, Andrei Krivorukov, had gone out to the yard to fetch firewood minutes before impact.

The village administration promised to do repairs at its own expense but did not. Novosibirsk Region Governor Vasily Yurchenko said on Tuesday the compensation should be paid by the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos whose satellite and booster rocket had caused the damage. More than 10 satellite fragments were found in an area some 100 kilometers from the city of Novosibirsk. (12/27)

NASA: No Impact Expected From Latest Soyuz Mishap (Source: Florida Today)
NASA officials say a Soyuz 2.1b rocket crash today should not impact International Space Station operations because its failed third stage is significant different than the third stage engine on Soyuz FG rockets and Soyuz U rockets that launch crews and cargo, respectively, to the outpost. "The Russian Soyuz 2.1b booster that was lost on Dec. 23 has a different third stage engine than the Soyuz boosters used for launching Progress cargo vehicles or Soyuz capsules," a NASA spokesman said. (12/27)

Space Policy Not Likely to Change if GOP Candidate Elected (Source: FSU News)
After the space shuttle's retirement this year, frustration over the decline in the nation's human spaceflight capability may leave President Barack Obama open to attack in the 2012 campaign. But experts say the Republicans vying to replace Obama are unlikely to seek big changes to NASA's post-shuttle transition, which relies on Russia to deliver U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station until the commercial sector is ready to take over the job.

Obama's signature space policy shift — privatizing astronaut flights to the space station — is a conservative one, and tight NASA budgets in the coming years will limit flexibility to change course. "His image on space is vulnerable; I think his policies are less vulnerable," said Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at American University. "Since the White House has already embraced the commercial approach, it's hard for a Republican to get on the other side of that position." Click here. (12/26)

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