December 7, 2011

We Got Surveys! (Source: SPACErePORT)
I'm not the only one trying to get responses to a few year-end surveys. I'm kind of frustrated by the very low number of people who will take time to respond to these. I ask very little of my SPACErePORT recipients/readers, and would appreciate if you would take some time to respond to these things...

The folks at SpaceTEC seek responses to a survey of aerospace industry employers and their technician-level workforce needs. Click here. Meanwhile, I'm trying to entice people to respond to my own survey, revisiting the results of a 1992 study of impediments to commercial launch operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Please click here. Finally, there's one on "Reducing Human Error in Launch Vehicle Processing." Click here. (12/7)

Florida Governor Proposes $25 Million for Space Industry Development (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled his 2012-2013 budget request on Wednesday, including $10.04 million for Space Florida, and $15 million for spaceport infrastructure development through the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). There may be other space-related funding tucked into other agency budgets, including for aerospace workforce development and university R&D projects. The known funding represents a continuation of last year's investments by the state, which is a significant accomplishment given the state's otherwise austere fiscal posture.

The FDOT spaceport funds were in jeopardy only a month ago, when Space Coast advocates warned that zero dollars were included in draft budget planning documents. A lobbying and letter-writing campaign to FDOT opened the door for renewed 2012 funding, but the agency required a list of specific projects to justify the request. Three projects were put forward to split the $15 million. The project details are not publicly available.

The requested funding is part of a $66.4 billion package that will be considered alongside similar budget proposals developed by the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives during the 2012 Legislative Session, which begins in January. Florida's funding for space programs has consistently exceeded the investments made by other "space states." (12/7)

Sierra Nevada Completes Milestones for Commercial Crew Program (Source: SpaceRef)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has completed two Dream Chaser Space System Milestones under NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) Program. SNC'S fifth Milestone was the completion of a System Definition Review. This important review marked the completion of the Program's first design cycle. The most recent Milestone was the introduction of a Flight Control Integration Laboratory for the Dream Chaser crew vehicle. This laboratory allows the team to assess the vehicle's flight control surfaces and associated mechanisms required for flight. SNC has completed ten straight Milestones as part of NASA's CCDev Programs, with all Milestones completed on time and within budget. (12/7)

Study Finds Climate Changes Faster Than Species can Adapt (Source: NSF)
The ranges of species will have to change dramatically as a result of climate change between now and 2100 because the climate will change more than 100 times faster than the rate at which species can adapt, according to a newly published study by Indiana University researchers. The study focuses on North American rattlesnakes. Click here. (12/7)

First Annual International Space Station R&D Conference (Source: SpaceRef)
The 1st Annual International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development and Conference will be held June 26-28, 2012, at The Denver Marriott City Center. This conference is organized by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) in partnership with NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Inc. (CASIS). The program outline is posted at (12/7)

Former AIF Chief Opens Tallahassee Lobbying Firm, Focus Includes Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
Outgoing Associated Industries of Florida CEO Barney Bishop announced that he is opening a government relations firm based in Tallahassee, Barney Bishop Consulting, LLC. The firm will provide government relations counsel and representation on local, state and national issues, with a particular focus on business issues, including space, transportation, energy and oil exploration, and economic development. (12/7)

Editorial: Virginia Counties Should Retain Seats at Spaceport Table (Source:
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's office recently released a study designed to help the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. The authority owns the launch pads and holds the FAA license for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. The spaceport is one of four facilities in the nation licensed to launch rockets into orbit. The authority has a Space Act Agreement with NASA.

Recommendations include making the capital investment necessary for the spaceport to attract new customers and focusing on a long-term strategy -- good goals by any measure. McDonnell said he will submit legislation to the General Assembly this session to implement recommendations in the report. But the report recommends doing away with the requirement that Accomack and Northampton counties each have a representative on the board of directors.

That's a troublesome component, and one that was glossed over when McDonnell's office announced the study. The spaceport's tremendous upside -- the prospect of increased jobs and commerce in northern Accomack -- will change that part of the county. Growth has effects. Ensuring that Accomack County always has a voice at the table, at least as a liaison between the space flight authority and the people, is a necessity. (12/7)

Mars Probe Heads Toward Gale Crater (Source: Aviation Week)
Delivery of NASA’s large Curiosity rover to a Martian crater next Aug. 6 will be a do-or-die test, not just of its “sky crane” landing system, but of an equally new approach to targeting distant bodies with unprecedented precision. Curiosity will be lowered on high-tech cables from a hovering spacecraft—that looks a little like something out of a Star Wars movie—to the smallest landing zone ever. Whether it works or not, getting the rover into position for the touchdown also is stretching planetary entry and descent techniques in ways that will shape space exploration for decades. (12/7)

New Brazilian Space Policy to Stimulate Satellite Production (Source: Invest in Brazil)
The Ministry of science, technology and Innovation (MCTI) and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) have defined the model of the new space policy that aims to stimulate domestic production of satellites and the domain of technologies considered critical by the Government for the development of communications satellites, space observation and meteorology. The new policy will be in the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation that President Dilma Rousseff will launch later this month.

The proposal also includes the creation of the National Council of Space Policy, linked to the Presidency of the Republic, and a new governance model for satellite projects. The idea is to replicate the management strategy of the program of GeostacionĂ¡rio Brasileiro (SGB)- in which a director committee (in this case, composed by MCTI, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Communications and Telebras) approves plans, budgets, timelines for the construction of equipment and is ultimately responsible for the system operation. (12/7)

Egypt’s Ghost Space Program (Source: Egypt Independent)
"Ask for an education, even if you are in China" is one of the many supposedly motivational slogans painted on the walls of Egypt’s public schools. But earlier this year, China positioned an entire space laboratory in orbit, and then successfully launched a spacecraft to dock with it. Meanwhile, Egypt’s most recent piece of space-related news concerns an observational satellite that reportedly “vanished,” causing widespread confusion and inspiring countless conspiracy theories until technicians discovered the battery in its communication system had died halfway into its five-year mission.

At one point in time, the Egyptian Space Program had genuine potential; perhaps even enough for it to have eventually become an institution more concerned with exploring the universe, as opposed to merely observing it. Today, even functioning in an observational capacity might still prove too ambitious for the program’s woeful status. “In terms of space programs, Egypt is now lagging behind countries like Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Nigeria,” says the director of the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Science, Mohamed Adel Yehia. (12/7)

NASA's Marshall Center to Host Alliance of Small Businesses (Source: NASA)
On Dec. 8, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will host its Small Business Alliance meeting at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration in Huntsville. More than 350 local, regional and national business owners and managers are expected to take part in the meeting. The alliance connects small businesses with the Marshall technical community, government agencies, industry prime contractors and other organizations to share procurement information and insight on how businesses can more effectively market their capabilities to NASA and Marshall. (12/7)

Trip to 'Mars' Takes its Toll on Chinese Participant (Source: China Daily)
Despite becoming a bit thin and losing some of his hair, Wang Yue looks cheerful. After spending 520 days in a mock-up spacecraft, plus one month for extended experiments, the only Chinese volunteer in the Mars-500 program returned to Beijing on Tuesday. "If I have a chance to do it all over again, I'm willing to do it," said the 29-year-old native from Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu province. "But I will probably improve my communication skills in Russian, make a better plan for physical exercise and get my lost hair back." (12/7)

Virginia Shore Could Lose Voice in Space Decisions (Source:
A new report about how to improve competitiveness of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority recommends doing away with the requirement that Accomack and Northampton counties each have a representative on the board of directors, but the men who occupy those seats disagree. The study commissioned in response to the 2011 Virginia Appropriation Act, recommends local representatives instead become members of a non-voting advisory committee, among other changes. (12/7)

ULA Chief Urges NASA to Get Moving (Source: Florida Today)
The head of the joint venture vying to be part of the effort to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on a commercial spacecraft wants NASA to decide soon who will win that contract. A speedy decision would provide certainty as the space agency deals with budget pressures roiling Washington, Michael Gass, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, told an audience at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

ULA is a partner of three of the four companies competing for the commercial crew contract. That means ULA can't favor one partner over another as NASA mulls a final decision, and doesn't have a motive to invest in any one entry, Gass said. “Why would you continue to invest when one of three of your investments could only be the potential winner?” Gass told reporters and NASA officials. “So making a decision earlier is really helpful.” (12/7)

Space Tourism Soon Could Be Reality (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Virgin Galactic is hopeful it will have a successful test launch of its space vehicle next year. After that, says the company’s CEO, it will be offering flights as soon as it gets clearance. The problem with writing articles about space is that you almost automatically reach for cliches, the final frontier and all that. But the truth is that it is the final frontier that Virgin Galactic is hoping to exploit and it could be as soon as next year. Click here. (12/7)

NASA Telescope Likely to Find Many More Alien Planets (Source:
The new haul of potential alien planets raked in by NASA's Kepler space telescope likely won't be the instrument's last big batch of discoveries, researchers say. Scientists announced that Kepler had detected 1,094 new exoplanet candidates, bringing the telescope's total discovery tally to 2,326 possible alien worlds. And it wouldn't be a shock if Kepler delivered more big numbers before the end of its prime mission in November 2012, researchers said.

The $600 million mission detects planets by what's called the transit method. The telescope watches for the tiny dips in brightness caused when a planet transits, or crosses in front of, its star's face from Kepler's perspective, blocking some of the star's light. (12/7)

Rumors Erupt Over Higgs Boson Discovery (Source: Discovery)
This could be the announcement we've all been waiting for. As soon as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) revved up its supercooled electromagnets in 2008 -- which promptly "quenched" (read: broke down in a very expensive way) and then restarted the following year -- it's been the one piece of news the world has been eagerly awaiting: confirmation of the discovery of one of the Universe's most secretive particles -- the Higgs boson.

After gazillions of particle collisions and countless rumors of Higgs discoveries, we have... yet another rumor of a Higgs discovery. But this time, the rumor seems to be meatier than ever. According to, CERN's Scientific Policy Committee will be meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 13) to discuss, amongst other things, an update on the search for the Higgs boson. Teams from the LHC's ATLAS and CMS experiments will be in attendance. (12/7)

Texas Space Alliance Calls for State to Support Spaceports (Source: TSX)
The Texas Space Alliance (TXA) urged government leaders at all levels to support efforts to build a Texas Orbital Spaceport and redouble any efforts now underway to recruit commercial space firms to operate in Texas and fly from the Lone Star State’s southern coast. Citing high level moves in other states such as Florida and Virginia to recruit these new companies using tax, property, and other incentives, TXA warned Texas could miss an opportunity to become the next Space Coast in competition with Florida, and the potentially billions of dollars and large numbers of jobs such a facility might create.

“There is a narrow and closing window of opportunity right now and if Texas doesn’t act soon, we will lose another chance to not only save space jobs, but create even more with a truly thriving space industry in this state,” commented TXA’s Rick Tumlinson. TXA wants to see a united effort including legislators, municipalities, businesses, and land owners to structure property, tax, and policy incentives to give Texas a winning edge over other locations vying to be home to the world’s first commercial orbital spaceport.

This facility could serve both existing and emerging space launch companies such as SpaceX, which recently announced it is looking for a new location for its commercial launches. SpaceX alone has customers booked out to 2015 and beyond for multiple flights worth nearly a billion dollars, not counting the $1.6B to $3.1B value of its cargo & crew launches for NASA. Other Texas firms and institutions could also benefit from local access to space, from rocket companies to service, support, and research organizations. (12/7)

Is the Case for Mars Facing a Crisis? (Source: MSNBC)
Will NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, launched last month, mark another step toward sending humans to Mars-—or one of the last steps for a long time in NASA's Mars exploration program? Rocket scientist Robert Zubrin, founder and president of the Mars Society, is increasingly worried that it's more like the end than the beginning. "We're faced with the end of the program after this mission," Zubrin said. Click here. (12/7)

U.S. Backs Away from European Weather Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government has informed its European partners it will be unable to furnish three observing instruments it had planned to provide for Europe’s next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite system, likely forcing European authorities to de-scope the project as they scramble to finance at least part of what the United States was supposed to provide.

This was not the only piece of bad news that NOAA delivered to Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite organization and European national authorities. NOAA also said it has not yet been able to secure financing for the Jason-3 ocean altimetry satellite, whose construction is being financed in Europe as part of a trans-Atlantic cooperation. (12/7)

Conducting Research on SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo (Source: Virgin Galactic)
We at Virgin Galactic believe that providing researchers and their experiments affordable, routine, and safe access to space is a core part of our mission. The same novel and innovative features that make SpaceShipTwo the ideal vehicle to carry our private passengers into space also make it a versatile and attractive research platform that we know will allow scientists, engineers, educators, and others to collect data and study questions in a way they have never before been able to do.

The large volume and weight capacity, high apogee, and high flight rate of the WK2 and SS2 allow VG to offer a unique capability for payload and technology development in the upper atmosphere, outer space and microgravity environments. As we enter into licensed commercial operations, Virgin Galactic will offer two main types of research flights on board SpaceShipTwo. Click here. (12/7)

ULA Celebrates Five Years of Mission Success (Source: ULA)
With 56 successful launches in 60 months, United Launch Alliance (ULA) continues an Atlas and Delta legacy of 1,300 launches over the past five decades...propelled by ULA employees and suppliers located in 46 states. ULA was formed just five years ago, bringing together the launch teams from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Click here. (12/7)

Suborbital Flight Opportunities Program Deadline is Dec. 16 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Announcement of Flight Opportunities is open until the end of December, 2014 and we continuously accept proposals for payloads during this time period. The Program will announce periodic cutoff dates and will review all proposals received up to that point. The current cutoff date is December 16, 2011. All proposals received after this cutoff date will be taken into consideration during the next review cycle currently scheduled for the spring of 2012. Click here. (12/7)

Space Coast Company Wins NASA Solar Sail Demonstration Mission (Source: MAS)
Micro Aerospace Solutions (MAS) has teamed with L’Garde Inc. on a NASA mission to demonstrate propellant-less navigation on a deep space mission. This sail technology has the potential to revolutionize in-space propulsion by accelerating spacecraft using solar energy, much like a sailboat uses wind. Development of solar sail technology opens the door to propelling deep space missions, working towards manned missions.

NASA selected the MAS-L’Garde team as one of three winners out of 47 proposals received, and was the most commercially oriented winning proposal. Affordability was one of the factors in the agency’s decision on which projects to award funding. MAS will provide spacecraft component selection, pointing, guidance, power systems, control and communication for the solar sail to prime contractor L’Garde.

The ultra-thin solar sail will be seven times larger than ever flown in space before. “One reason our mission was selected was the commercial involvement. Using technology developed for very small satellites and taking advantage of these advancements allows us to fly this mission for one tenth of what it would have previously cost,” said MAS President Don Platt. This technology demonstration is scheduled to launch by late 2014. (12/7)

Florida Group Finalizes Federal Policy Priorities (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida's Aerospace Career & Development Council (ACDC), a collection of space industry stakeholders from industry, government and academia, has finalized and approved a document on 2012 Federal Policy Priorities. The document is intended as a guide for the Florida Congressional Delegation, and for candidates who will be visiting the Space Coast in preparation for elections in 2012. Click here. (12/7)

Cecil Field Spaceport Bill Begins Journey in Florida House (Source: PoltiJax)
The ability for Space Florida to offer incentives to attract space-related companies to Cecil Field got one step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday. A bill filed by Rep. Lake Ray would officially designate Cecil Field as a spaceport at the state-level. The designation would allow Space Florida to offer the incentives. Ray's bill has two more committee stops. State Sen. Stephen Wise has the bill in the Senate. It has already passed three committee stops in that chamber. (12/7)

Armadillo Aerospace Launches Successfully from Spaceport America (Source: SpaceRef)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced today a successful launch over the weekend of an advanced sounding rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch took place from Spaceport America's vertical launch complex on Dec. 4. The test flight was a non-public, unpublished event at the request of Armadillo Aerospace, as the company is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies. It reached its projected sub-orbital altitude of 124,000 feet (37.7 km). (12/7)

“Asteroid Next” Missions: Proving Grounds for Future Crewed Mars Missions (Source:
As NASA continues to define and plan for the future of human space exploration of the solar system beyond Low Earth Orbit, a workshop effort has outlined the potential path NASA will follow in the build up to eventual crewed missions to Near Earth Asteroids. As has always been the case with NASA, getting humankind to an asteroid will involve a phased approach beginning at the International Space Station.

According to a NASA presentation at the Human Space Exploration Community Workshop, “Targeted utilization of the ISS to advance capabilities needed for human exploration” is the first step in making the “Asteroid Next” path a reality. However, equally as important as using the ISS will be NASA’s ability to adequately reach and utilize the Space Station – something that will rely on the new commercial development contracts.

Under the first phase of the plan, which would begin in 2012 and continue through 2019, the development of the technology and knowledge necessary for NEA missions would be created both in orbit on the ISS and on the ground. For the ground side of development, significant resources would be devoted to the development of the next generation of space vehicles, including the SLS rocket, a new Russian rocket, an Exploration Test Module, and robotic servicing and support systems. Click here. (12/7)

Where is U.S. Space Policy Headed? (Source: Space Quarterly)
President Obama released his National Space Policy (NSP) in June 2010. Although it made few national headlines, it was big news for the space community. Broad national policies that cross interagency borders are by necessity generalized documents. Getting everyone to agree on virtually any topic is a Herculean task. This policy was coordinated across the government by Peter Marquez, then the Director of Space Policy for the White House National Security Council (NSC) and now with Orbital Sciences Corp.

Marquez always credits Damon Wells, his counterpart at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), as his teammate in getting the policy out just 17 months after the President took office. In Washington, that’s lightning fast. The Obama policy has been hailed by many space experts in the United States and abroad because of its positive, international tone that stands in stark contrast to that of President George W. Bush’s 2006 National Space Policy. The Bush policy has been described as somewhere between nationalistic and belligerent. Click here. (12/7)

Crunch Time for COTS (Source: Sace Quarterly)
The next several months represent a critical period of spaceflight. Two companies are planning a series of launches of new rockets carrying spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS). Their goal: to demonstrate that private companies, supported by NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) initiative, can handle the critical task of delivering supplies for the ISS.

The stakes are high. If either or both companies succeed, they will demonstrate that private firms are up to the challenge of supporting the ISS, giving the station a new lifeline, all the more critical after the August failure of a Soyuz rocket carrying a Progress cargo spacecraft. If they fail, though, it will raise new doubts that commercial firms can handle the bigger task of crew transportation, while putting the long-term future of the station in jeopardy. Click here. (12/7)

Analysts: Lost USAF UAV Likely Malfunctioned (Source: Defense News)
Iran's claims to have brought down one of the U.S. Air Force's stealthy unmanned RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft are highly dubious, analysts and Pentagon officials said. However, the loss of contact with the pilotless jet cast doubts on the service's claim that it has a good handle on maintaining uninterrupted control of such aircraft. On Dec. 4, Iran claimed to have shot down the stealthy Lockheed Martin-built aircraft.

Later, government officials claimed that it had used an electronic or cyber attack to bring down the bat-winged drone and that the aircraft was recovered largely intact. The Iranians have not produced any evidence to back up those claims. While acknowledging that an unmanned aircraft is missing, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-Afghanistan, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, declined to say whether the aircraft in question was an RQ-170. (12/7)

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