December 30, 2011

NASA Listens as Voyager One Nears Edge of Interstellar Space (Source: Federal News Radio)
When NASA first envisioned the Voyager space probes in 1972, Ed Stone was there to help design them, and he was there when Voyager One launched in 1977. Thirty-four years later, Voyager One has reached the outermost edge of the solar system, still sending back signals. As the Voyager Program's chief scientist, Stone is still listening.

"Voyager One is now about 11 billion miles from Earth," Stone told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin on Friday morning. "It's very close to the edge of interstellar space. It's still inside the huge bubble the sun creates around itself called the heliosphere." (12/30)

Astronaut Stops to Smell the Roses (Source: MSNBC)
One of the last astronauts to ride on a space shuttle will be riding a totally different vehicle on Sunday: a flower-bedecked float in the 2012 Rose Parade. The 5.5-mile journey down the parade route in Pasadena, Calif., doesn't hold a candle in distance or danger to the 5.3 million-mile journey that NASA astronaut Rex Walheim made in July during STS-135, Atlantis' program-ending mission. But it's a perfect follow-up for several reasons. Click here. (12/30)

After Exploring Space, Hernandez Finds Mission on Earth (Source: The Record)
You'd think after 2009, Stockton astronaut Jose Hernandez wouldn't have any new worlds to conquer. Think again. He used last year as a transition time - moving from NASA to a commercial aerospace job in Texas to an October announcement that he was moving back to the San Joaquin Valley so he could run for Congress. His new world will unfold in 2012 when the 49-year-old Hernandez, a Democrat, campaigns for the first time as a candidate for public office. (12/30)

Russia Falls, China Rises in Space Efforts (Source: Aviation Week)
The two largest space powers outside the U.S. had wildly divergent records in 2011, with Beijing boasting 19 launches and demonstrating in-orbit docking for a future space station while the Kremlin ordered an investigation into a string of high-profile engineering failures plaguing Russia’s space program.

The implications for Russia of a nosedive in the quality of its space efforts could be especially serious. The failures have been condemned by President Dmitry Medvedev, and the efforts at recovery will be watched carefully beyond Russia. The troubles have hit just as NASA has become reliant on its International Space Station (ISS) partner for manned spaceflights and as Moscow seeks to expand its commercial reach with launches from South America. (12/30)

Langley on Track to Meet NASA Facility Reduction Goal (Source: Daily Press)
Half of NASA's 10 major field centers are lagging behind on orders to rid the agency of aging buildings, wind tunnels and other structures, according to an internal report. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 required agency downsizing, which NASA hopes to achieve by demolishing, selling and transferring some of its 5,000 buildings and structures.

The National Academy of Sciences found that NASA has $2.5 billion in deferred maintenance costs. Since late 2004, the agency has disposed of 645 buildings and structures worth a combined $931.5 million in current replacement value. Among the structures demolished at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton was the Full Scale Wind Tunnel, a six-story warehouse used to test everything from World War II fighter planes to NASCAR automobiles.

Including the wind tunnel, Langley has disposed of 148,395-square-feet of real property since 2003, second only to NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, according to the report. The downsizing upset civil service workers, particularly Langley's aeronautics division, last decade when union leaders accused NASA of initiating a back-door attempt to close Langley altogether. The mood has simmered since because Langley has kept its civil services workforce steady. (12/30)

NASA in Huntsville Faces 2012 With a Clear Road Map Ahead (Source: Huntsville Times)
After ending the 30-year space shuttle era in 2011 not really sure what came next, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center enters 2012 with as clear a roadmap as it has had in years. Center Director Robert Lightfoot ticked off the positive developments in a late December interview. "We've just gotten the marching orders for Space Launch System," Lightfoot said, referring to NASA's September decision to go forward with a new deep-space exploration system underpinned by a heavy-lift rocket developed in Huntsville. Click here. (12/30)

NASA, Contractors Wonder if Orion Will Aid Region’s Economy (Source: Houston Business Journal)
To have and have not. With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, that pretty much sums up the story of NASA’s funding future. Back in the 1960s when funding freely poured into the agency, the public was glued to their TV sets watching rocket launches. But those days are gone. NASA no longer captivates the public’s attention in quite the same way, and has often come under criticism during the past two decades for misguided management. Click here. (12/30)

Canadian Space Program Targets the Moon for Human Exploration (Source: SpaceRef)
Canada is targeting the moon as its next step for human exploration. While this is not a new objective more details are available after NASA hosted the Human Exploration Workshop as part of the Global Exploration Roadmap. A meeting of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) was held in San Diego between Nov. 14-16 and brought together over 100 participants from 14 space agencies. The workshop was divided into four panels:

Jean-Claude Piedboeuf made three presentations. The first on the status of Canada's space exploration program, the second on the Moon Next Scenario and the third on Near-Term Implementation Ideas, Strategies, and Plans. What's interesting is Canada's interest in human exploring of the moon, as in Canadian astronauts. This is not a short term goal, but after focusing on the ISS, it's part of the next step of robotic and then human exploration of the moon and is considered a Canadian exploration objective. (12/30)

With Main Spaceport Facilities Done, Virgin Galactic Moves In (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
In return for NMSA building the terminal hangar and two-mile-long runway at the spaceport, Virgin Galactic has promised to set up its headquarters in New Mexico, and Las Cruces will be home to its first offices opening in January 2012. Virgin has already hired more than 100 people, many of them Americans, because large-scale rocketry falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) passed after the 9/11 attacks.

One of the critical issues facing the tourism and supply chain economic development for the spaceport is adding suppliers to liability protection, which lawmakers have only been willing to give to the main launch companies such as Virgin. Without similar liability protections given to those supporting the companies taking passengers on space flights, spaceport supporters are saying the effort won’t generate many jobs, especially if Spaceport America’s business becomes limited to only government and testing launches.

One local company, Barnett’s Las Cruces Harley-Davidson dealership, debuted merchandise that flew to suborbital space 73 miles over Spaceport America in a rocket launch May 20. Along with student educational experiments, the UP Aerospace rocket carried 30 insignia pins for Barnett’s. The three varieties of pins all come with certificates about the flight anda display case to be sold online for between $3,000 and $5,000 each. (12/30)

Musk Tweets On Space Competition, Technology (Source: Hobby Space)
Elon Musk posted the following two Twitter messages in response to China's recent space pronouncements: #1) "SpaceX has Boeing, Lockheed, Europe (Ariane) and Russia (Proton/Soyuz) near checkmate in rocket technology. End game is all about China."; and #2) "Not that this really matters. All current rocket tech, including ours, sucks. Only when it becomes fully reusable, will it not suck."

Editor's Note: You can follow Elon Musk on Twitter here. (And you can follow my FLORIDA SPACErePORT tweets here.) (12/30)

UNIDROIT in Space: Lawyers without a Client (Source: Spacce News)
How do you get a loan using as security an asset that can literally fly away, like an airplane? How about an asset that cannot be touched and has multiple leases operating at the same time, such as a satellite in geosynchronous orbit? Those are questions that once puzzled private companies, their financiers and lawyers but are routinely dealt with today in transactions around the world. Click here. (12/30)

Disney: Man in Space (Source: USA Today)
By the mid-1950s, the idea of space flight and outer space exploration had gone beyond the fantasies of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers to be a real technological possibility. During this time, Walt Disney never showed any interest in the space opera fantasies that had captured the imagination of the American public. Television shows like Space Patrol and many others were as prominent as cowboy Westerns. The space shows were also very similar to the cowboy shows with blazing ray guns and hostile aliens and barren landscapes.

Walt’s interest was in the future just around the corner, inspired by the “World of Tomorrow” exhibits at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. At Disneyland, the Tomorrowland area that opened in 1955 was supposed to represent the world of 1986, which was the next scheduled appearance of Halley’s Comet. Click here. (12/30)

Probes to Study Formation of Moon (Source: Pasadena Sun)
NASA officials on Wednesday announced plans to study the moon with two twin spacecraft probes that should give scientists their most detailed map of the lunar surface and help them unlock the history of its genesis. The $496-million mission has taken four years to come to fruition and will last at least 82 days. Up to 25 engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will monitor the compact, solar-powered probes, in addition to a team at Lockheed, which built the spacecraft.

David Lehman, JPL’s project manager for the so-called GRAIL mission, said the team is excited, but there won’t be any celebrating until the second probe successfully starts its lunar orbit on Jan.1. “The anxiety level is heightened right now,” he said. The probes, known as GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, will help scientists piece together the moon’s history by beaming back a higher resolution gravity map than what they have for any planet, including Earth. (12/29)

China: Moon Mission on the Horizon (Source: Xinhuanet)
Preliminary research on a "giant leap" to the moon has been included in the government's plans for the next five years, according to a white paper issued on Thursday. Research on a heavy-thrust carrier rocket - vital for launching manned spacecraft to the moon - will be carried out in the next five years. The white paper is the third one issued on space activities by the State Council Information Office. The other two were published in 2000 and 2006.

However, Zhang Wei, spokesman for the China National Space Administration, said that there is no timetable for a manned moon landing. Experts said that despite China's achievements in manned spaceflight and lunar exploration it needs a different type of technology, especially for the launch, to land a man on the moon. (12/30)

South Africa Hopes to Gain Head Start in the African Space Race (Source: Business Daily)
IN 2011, SA put the building blocks in place to bolster its position in the Africa space race. Internationally, the country showed its best face, hosting the 62nd International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town in October. It was the first time the important gathering of scientists, engineers and space policy makers had been held in Africa.

But SA is lagging behind some African countries in terms of its presence in space. Its pathfinder satellite SumbandilaSat, referred to as a "crippled ship", disappeared from the country’s radar this year, leaving SA without a satellite in space. The country’s first low-orbit satellite was beleaguered by problems during its two-year period in space, finally culminating in power and communication loss. Meanwhile Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt have two satellites each, while Angola has one.

"Unlike the other (African countries), we built our own satellite," Marian Shinn says. "Sumbandila was a prototype, to learn how it works. We’ve learnt and are planning to put up a satellite as part of the African Resource Management Constellation." Kenya, Nigeria, Algeria and SA are signatories to the constellation, which requires each member to launch a satellite to monitor their water, agriculture, climate and human settlement patterns, among other things. (12/30)

Editorial: Lost in Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The future of the U.S. space program, and the fortunes of the economy of Florida's Space Coast, will largely depend on the level of commitment to space exploration from the president — whether it's Barack Obama or one of his Republican challengers. But as the Sentinel's Mark Matthews reported this week, space seems to be on the radar screen of just one GOP candidate, Newt Gingrich. When former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney mentioned space in a recent debate, it was only to mock Gingrich for his idea of establishing colonies on the moon to mine its minerals.

Space policy deserves to be more than a punch line or an afterthought from would-be presidents. For decades, U.S. missions to Earth orbit and beyond have been not only a source of international prestige, but also a driver of technological advances and scientific discoveries. Obama is pushing for private rocketeers to fill the post-Shuttle gap, but their success could be determined by whether the White House remains committed and can get Congress to go along.

NASA could turn into a ripe target for budget cuts if the agency is not a presidential priority. Well before Florida's Jan. 31 presidential primary, state voters should insist on hearing from each of the GOP contenders about his or her vision for space. Editor's Note: Click here to see an official list of Florida Federal Space Policy Recommendations for 2012. (12/30)

China Space Report Touts Tech, Tiptoes Around Military Uses (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Since China shocked the world by obliterating one of its aging weather satellites with a missile in 2007, it has struggled to reassure other countries of its peaceful intentions in space. That’s the background to a State Council white paper, released on Thursday, that reveals ambitious plans for space exploration over the next five years. As a follow-up to the last such report in 2006, it is partly meant to allay foreign concerns that China’s space program is driven by military calculations.

Among the highlights: an unmanned moon mission that will return lunar soil samples; new space labs; and a home-grown satellite navigation system. These developments will be accompanied by a rapid launch pace with 100 satellites planned for orbit. Though the tone of the report is celebratory, it’s clear that China realizes that its rapid ascent as a space power requires explanation to outsiders. Military analysts feared that China’s missile strike on its own satellite was the initial shot in a space arms race. Click here. (12/30)

Proposed Tax Break Could Launch New Business for Virginia Spaceport (Source: WTKR)
NASA has launched thousands of rockets from Wallops Island over the last 60 years. And the state is hoping to capitalize on commercial space opportunities with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport there. Soon, state lawmakers will consider a tax break that could foster a new niche for the facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore: launching cremated human remains into space.

House Bill 19 would authorize a tax deduction of up to eight thousand dollars for Virginians who pay to have their cremated remains launched into earth or lunar orbit. The catch? You'll have to use a spaceport operated by the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority. (12/30)

New Mexico Spaceport Contractors to Meet Public (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic and key site operations contractors will provide a briefing on upcoming activities at the first Spaceport Community Forum of the year at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 10. The meeting will be held at the Doña Ana County Government Center at 845 N. Motel Blvd., in the main commission chambers. Representatives from Fiore Industries, Enterprise Advisory Services Inc. and Follow The Sun Tours will be on hand to share their roles at Spaceport America, talk about upcoming contract opportunities, and how to engage their procurement processes. (12/30)

2011's Top Mysteries of Space (Source: The Week)
Between a giant planet made of diamond and a massive stellar explosion that shone with the light of a trillion suns, this was quite a year for stargazers. Space junkies were treated to a marquee year in 2011, thanks in part to powerful new telescopes that let astronomers peer into previously unseen parts of the universe. From potentially habitable new worlds to a crystallized planet that may very well be one gigantic diamond, click here for a roundup of the year's most exciting intergalactic discoveries. (12/30)

Russian Officials Rattled by Breach at Rocket Plant (Source: Reuters)
Russia's deputy prime minister vowed Thursday to punish "sleepy" security officials after bloggers posted dozens of photos of an apparently unguarded strategic military rocket motor factory near Moscow. Blogger Lana Sator said she and friends met not a soul, much less any security guards, as they roamed around state rocket-maker Energomash's plant, snapping pictures, on five separate night-time excursions in recent months.

She posted almost 100 pictures of decrepit-looking hardware from inside a rusted engine-fuel testing tower, the plant's control room and even its roof at lana-sator. Russian media cited a senior space agency official, speaking anonymously, who described the breach as a shock of the same scale as German pilot Mathias Rust's brazen Cessna flight under Soviet radar to land on Red Square in 1987. Click here. (12/30)

Roskosmos to Prepare Strategy to 2030 by Late February (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency will prepare a strategy of the space sector development to 2030 and later. The document is to be ready by the end of February. “Following the order of Dmitry Rogozin and the order of Vladimir Putin, we should prepare a strategy of the space sector development to 2030 and later,” Roskosmos’ Head Vladimir Popovkin said after meeting with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. “If we do not look in future, we shall lose a lot – from the staff to technologies,” Rogozin said.

Popovkin said that the document will include objectives for fundamental research, for use of space in the interests of the social and economic development of the country and tasks for the sphere of piloting. Rogozin said that the document will be ready in 50 days. “We have agreed that in 50 days I shall receive the document, to be presented to the prime minister,” he said. “The document will be connected with the doctrine of development of Russia’s space to 2030.” (12/30)

Meridian Satellite Search Stopped After its 13th Fragment Found (Source: Itar-Tass)
The 13th fragment of the Meridian satellite that supposedly crashed after launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome was found in the Ordynsk district of the Novosibirsk region on Thursday. It was found in the fields of the Ust-Lukovsky farm. The piece is a sheet the size of one meter in length and about 30 centimeters in width. Presumably, it is a fragment of the spacecraft’s skin.

On Thursday, the search for the space debris is stopped due to the large amount of snow. Now the search party will go to the site only if someone accidentally finds a fragment, Ryasnyansky said. The incident occurred due to the fact that as a result of failure of the third-stage engine of the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket the satellite did not reach the target orbit, and its fragments fell in Siberia.

Editor's Note: I don't believe the crash site of the August 24 Progress M-12M space station cargo carrier has been found, since bad weather in Siberia suspended the search in September. (12/30)

Rogozin, Popovkin Agree to Create Space Industry’s Personnel Reserve (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin and head of the space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, have agreed to create a personnel reserve for the national space industry. Rogozin pointed to a shortage of personnel in the space industry. "There are young people and there are veterans, but middle-aged people in the space industry are few,” Rogozin said.

He promised that the level of professional training would continue to be raised and veterans of the Soviet space industry invited to join this effort. Rogozin said that on January 23 he would hold a meeting with the rectors of the leading universities working for the defense industry and also for the space and nuclear power industries. (12/30)

Rogozin Orders Popovkin Finalize Analysis of Space Accidents Jan 25 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises in the government the defense industry, including the Federal Space Agency Roskosmos, ordered Vladimir Popovkin, head of the agency, to finalize by January 25 the analysis of the accidents in the space and to present a corresponding report.

“We shall analyze the reasons of the accidents in the space sector, and by January 25 I shall receive a report,” Rogozin told reporters after his meeting with Popovkin. He added that later on the report will be submitted to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Along with the report, Rogozin expects to receive a list of immediate measures to correct the situation.

“We have instructed a veteran of the space sector Mister Koptev to conduct research of these problems,” he said. Popovkin said in his turn that a detailed plan for improvement of the sector will include the introduction of control by the agency, due from January. (12/30)

China Reveals its Space Ambitions for Next Five Years (Source: MSNBC)
China plans to launch space labs and manned ships and prepare to build space stations over the next five years, according to a plan released Thursday that shows the country's space program is gathering momentum. China has already said its eventual goals are to have a space station and put an astronaut on the moon. It has made methodical progress with its ambitious lunar and human spaceflight programs, but its latest five-year plan beginning next year signals an acceleration.

By the end of 2016, China will launch space laboratories, manned spaceship and ship freighters, and make technological preparations for the construction of space stations, according to the white paper setting out China's space progress and future missions. (12/30)

China Sticks to Peaceful Use of Outer Space (Source: Xinhua)
China adheres to a principle of peaceful development in its space missions and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, a spokesman said. Zhang Wei made the remarks while answering a question at a press conference held in Beijing for the release of the white paper titled "China's Space Activities in 2011." The white paper says that China always adheres to the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the weaponization of, or an arms race in, outer space.

By clearly listing "peaceful development" as a key principle that governs China's space missions, the paper demonstrates the nation's resolution in carrying out space activities in a peaceful way, Zhang said. "It has been a common aspiration for the whole of mankind to explore, develop and utilize space for peaceful purposes," he noted. (12/30)

Secondary Payloads Dropped From SpaceX Demo (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX won't launch a pair of small communications satellites during its next demonstration flight for NASA, which is targeted for Feb. 7 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company now plans to launch the prototype Orbcomm satellites as a secondary payload one mission later, during the first commercial delivery of cargo to the International Space Station.

NASA had been reviewing plans to deploy the Orbcomm payloads on the next flight to ensure they wouldn't interfere with the Dragon capsule's first visit to the station. The revised launch plan reduces risk for Orbcomm and allows SpaceX to focus on its upcoming demonstration under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.

"SpaceX will fully verify the mission performance on the COTS mission and focus on the successful berthing of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station," a news release says. In total, SpaceX plans to launch a constellation of 18 Orbcomm OG2 satellites by 2014 on its Falcon 9 rocket. (12/30)

Last Shuttle Flight was Florida's Top Story in 2011 (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
The end of the space shuttle program after more than three decades of flights to low-earth orbit launched past Gov. Rick Scott’s shakeup of state government and the Casey Anthony murder trial as Florida’s top story of 2011, according to a poll of newspaper editors. It marked the end of the 30-year-old space shuttle program. It was a moment of celebration and apprehension for NASA’s thousands of workers and contractors, many of whom lost jobs. (12/30)

Space 2012: What’s Ahead (Source: Air & Space)
Predicting the future is never easy, things don’t always turn out the way you expect, blah blah blah... Here goes anyway, with our forecast of space program events and trends for the coming year. Click here. (12/30)

Titan: A Wet World Not Far From Earth (Source: WIRED)
Astronomers weekly announce the discovery of new exoplanets, some similar in size or temperature to our planet –- but Earth-like worlds are not always far away. Though Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is a small, cold world orbiting on the outskirts of the solar system, it actually boasts many familiar features. “Titan is fascinating because it has some surprising properties so similar to Earth,” said planetary scientist Oded Aharonson from the California Institute of Technology. “It has a liquid which erodes channels, an atmosphere, a hydrologic cycle, and many other parallels.” (12/30)

Sun Storms May Affect Radios, Cell Phones (Source: ABC)
Intense solar activity may affect Earth today, potentially disrupting radio and cell phone transmissions. On Monday, the sun released a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a "massive eruption of solar plasma," according to The blast is expected to affect the Earth through Saturday. "Coronal Mass Ejections from the last few days may cause isolated periods of G1 (Minor) Geomagnetic Storm Activity on December 28-29," NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center wrote. "R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December." (12/29)

No comments: