December 8, 2011

Virginia Bill: Send Your Ashes to Space, Get a Tax Break (Source: Virginian Pilot)
Even though scripture says it's hard for a rich man to get into Heaven, Virginia may soon make it less expensive for people to blast their remains into the hereafter. Del. Terry Kilgore has introduced legislation that would provide a tax credit of up to $8,000 for those whose mortuary arrangements involve booking passage for their cremated remains aboard a commercial space flight to send them into Earth or lunar orbit.

In a brief interview Thursday, Kilgore, R-Scott County, said he submitted the bill on behalf of commercial space flight advocates. Boosting that industry has been a goal for Gov. Bob McDonnell, who last month proposed increased state support for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to benefit the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. It wasn't immediately clear Thursday how much it costs to send an urn into the great beyond. Efforts to reach regional spaceport officials for comment about the bill weren't successful. (12/8)

Space Florida Skirts Cuts in Scott's Plan (Source: Florida Today)
Funding to attract space industry jobs and upgrade facilities would escape cuts next year under Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. And the state Department of Transportation would chip in another $15 million for infrastructure improvements expected to help transition some former space shuttle facilities at Kennedy Space Center to new commercial users.

“Florida's aerospace industry is going through a major shift and there has been significant, positive movement from the business development side this year,” Space Florida President Frank DiBello said in a statement. “We look forward to leveraging this funding to continue that progress in the coming year.”

“Despite the crippling loss of thousands of shuttle jobs, Tallahassee still rightly sees aerospace as an industry with strong potential for growth,” said Edward Ellegood, a space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “In today’s austere fiscal environment, remaining at last year’s (funding) level is a big victory for the agency.” (12/8)

NASA 4-6 to Confirm Life on Mars by 2015 (Source: Mirror)
Americans want to see if life exists on Mars, presumably because they’ve run out of places on Earth to overthrow. NASA are sending a probe to Mars because scientists reckon it could be a habitable place, unlike Jupiter, Mercury, and Peckham. Sending a mission to Mars says the Americans are still deeply committed to exploring new frontiers but to me it suggests they’ve given up on Earth.

Hills go just 4-6 that by 2015 NASA will confirm the current existence of any kind of life, including microbial, on the Red Planet. That’s an awful long time to wait and an awful long way to go for a small pay-out. It’s 50-1 for the current UK Prime Minister or US ­President to confirm the existence of ­intelligent extra-terrestrial life within a year of you placing the bet in your local betting shop. I have no idea if intelligent life does exist on Mars, but there’s more chance of finding it there than in my local betting shop. (12/8)

City Lights Seen From Space Reveal How Countries Change (Source: WIRED)
You can tell a lot about a country from its lights. New research suggests that the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Linescan System — a series of satellites that have been taking pictures of nighttime lights on Earth’s surface for nearly 20 years — can reveal details about changes happening on the ground.

“We can now ask how does observed lighting behave in response to things such as population and economic growth, external investments, war, and economic collapse,” said Christopher Elvidge, who leads the National Geophysical Data Center’s Earth Observatory Group, during a presentation at the 2011 American Geophysical Union meeting on Dec. 7. (12/8)

Indigenous Indian Space Technology On Par With Others (Source: ANI)
ISRO's John P Zachariah said that indigenous Indian space technology is at par with others around the globe. The PSLV C-18, which was launched in October this year, carried Indo French tropical weather satellite Megha Tropiques from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. Zachariah also stated that the country's scientists are capable of executing space probe programs without much reliance on sources from abroad. (12/8)

LightSquared Touts New Test Results (Source: Aviation Week)
Advocates for LightSquared are using a time-honored Washington technique in arguing that the company should be allowed to proceed with plans to build a 4G wireless broadband network — they’re reframing the debate, painting objections about interference with GPS signals as needlessly complex. “Our opponents have turned basic engineering issues into a political debate,” LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja told a Capitol Hill audience Dec. 7.

According to the company, the three private companies — Javad GNSS, PCTel and Partron — that make GPS equipment have been testing interference solutions and those tests have gone well. “Preliminary results show that GPS devices tested in the lab easily surpass performance standards thanks to these newly developed solutions,” Ahuja said. “We are confident that this independent testing will mirror testing being done by the federal government.” (12/8)

Official: Russia’s GLONASS Starts Full-Scale Operations (Source: Prime)
Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) has started full-scale operations, said Alexander Zubakhin, spokesman of state-owned company Russian Space Systems. Specifically, operations of GLONASS’ 24th satellite have begun, Zubakhin said. Prior to launching the operations of the satellite, GLONASS was unable to provide global coverage. In order to cover the whole of Russia, the system requires 18 operational satellites. (12/8)

Airman Brings Space to Ground Forces (Source: AFNS)
Satellite communications and Global Positioning Systems are common battlefield tools for U.S. and coalition forces in today's overseas contingency operations. Occasionally, these tools can be hindered by space weather and solar activity. To counter these unpredictable situations, the Air Force employs space liaison officers, embedded with combat forces, to train forces on how to effectively utilize these tools and to teach troops how to ensure these devices are as accurate as possible. Click here. (12/8)

Latest Fermi Studies Find No Trace of Dark Matter (Source: Physics World)
Independent analyses of data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have found no trace of low-mass dark matter – the mysterious substance thought to make up much of the universe. The results appear to go against recent direct evidence for low-mass dark matter, although some physicists believe there is no conflict. Dark matter is an invisible substance thought to make up nearly a quarter of the mass/energy of the universe.

While its gravitational pull is needed to explain the properties of massive structures such as galaxies, Dark Matter does not interact strongly with light and has therefore yet to be observed directly. The most popular candidates for dark matter are so-called weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). To spot these WIMPs directly, researchers have built detectors in underground labs where the low background noise ought to allow any signals to stand out. (12/8)

ESA Selects Astrium to Build Sentinel-5 Precursor Satellite (Source: ESA)
Furthering Europe’s capacity to monitor atmospheric pollution, ESA has awarded a contract worth €45.5 million to Astrium UK to act as prime contractor for the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite system. Scheduled to be launched in 2015, Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P) will be the first satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric chemistry for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program. (12/8)

Eutelsat Refinances $2.4 Billion Debt (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat has refinanced 1.765 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in debt due in June 2013 with a mix of 5 percent bonds and a separate package including a credit facility and bank loans that will relieve the company from repayment obligations until mid-2016, Eutelsat announced Dec. 7. (12/8)

France Undecided on Ariane 5 Investment Question (Source: Space News)
France is undecided about whether European Space Agency (ESA) governments should invest 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in an upgraded Ariane 5 rocket when they meet in 11 months or put this investment into an Ariane 5 successor vehicle instead. This suggests that despite continued German government pressure that the Ariane 5 upgrade be supported, French officials are not certain that at a time of enormous pressure on public budgets, the upgrade — called the Ariane 5 Mid-life Evolution, or Ariane 5 ME — is the way to go. (12/8)

Boeing Receives Air Force Contract for Reusable Booster System Work (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has received a $2 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to define requirements and design concepts for the Reusable Booster System (RBS) Flight and Ground Experiments program. This program will enhance space launch capability by providing a reliable, responsive and cost-effective system. (12/8)

KSC Visit Fires Up Students About Space (Source: Florida today)
Former NASA astronaut Jon McBride looked out over a sea of sixth-graders and told them what it’s like to fly in low-Earth orbit, how cool it is to travel five miles a second — five miles every heartbeat — at 18,000 mph. For the ninth consecutive year, every Brevard County sixth-grader is rocketing off to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The field trip is a full-day adventure aimed at revving up the kids’ interest in space exploration, and encouraging them to study science, math, engineering and technology. “What we’re trying to do is get the next generation of kids excited about what we’re doing … so they can be our replacements,” said Adrian Laffitte, director of Florida Government Relations with Lockheed Martin and a veteran Atlas rocket launch director. (12/8)

NASA Will Test Blue Origin Engine at Stennis (Source: NASA)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Blue Origin and announced that the company has delivered its BE-3 engine thrust chamber assembly -- the engine's combustion chamber and nozzle -- to NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where testing will begin in April 2012. The company is developing a reusable launch vehicle, designed to take off and land vertically, and an escape system for its crewed spacecraft. Testing will take place on the center's E-1 Test Stand. (12/8)

So, You Got a Space Rocket But Nowhere To Launch It? (Source: WIRED)
So, you want to build a space rocket or maybe you already have? Unless you represent a government agency, have access to Californian deserts or Siberia you might soon realize you have problem. The problem faced by everyone building rockets. Where in hell are you going to launch it?

Before getting into the darkest realm of it all (export issues) you should consider all options in your own country. In our case (Denmark) we are situated in a very dense populated area which is the case for most of Europe which makes it quite difficult for you to persuade anyone to launch at a random site on land. Most countries have test ranges for amateur rocketry and so do Denmark. But unless you want to stay (deliberately) below 2 km this is a no-go. Click here. (12/8)

Audit Says Hundreds of NASA's Moon Rocks Missing (Source: AFP)
Researchers have sticky fingers when it comes to NASA's moon rocks and meteorites, and hundreds of samples have gone missing after being loaned out by the US space agency, an audit said Thursday. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin issued a report detailing foibles such as the US space agency making loans to researchers who never used the samples, or simply losing track of rare pieces dating back to the first US trip to the Moon in 1969. "According to NASA records, 517 loaned astromaterials have been lost or stolen between 1970 and June 2010," said the report. (12/8)

Europe's Vega Rocket Launch Set for Early 2012 (Source: AFP)
Europe's new Vega rocket, which can place a 1.5-ton satellite into low-Earth orbit, is expected to see its first launch early next year, Arianespace chief Jean-Yves Le Gall said Thursday. "We will have the first launch in January or February, Le Gall told AFP in Washington, while noting that he expected to sign contracts soon for the Italian-built rocket. Vega, which broadens the range of European launch vehicles with a smaller rocket, is expected to carry a scientific satellite named Ares on its first mission. (12/8)

The Value of Space Exploration (Source: Policy Mic)
But with every big discovery in space exploration, there seems to be a backlash about the value of all the money spent on a seemingly impractical endeavor. In fact, nothing could be more important, more valuable, and more human than studying and exploring our surroundings, terrestrial and beyond. Space exploration instills us with curiosity, inspiring the masses and filling us with awe. Countless technologies are created in the process of developing the means of exploring the cosmos, and perhaps most importantly, the future of energy lies not on Earth, but in space. (12/8)

Seattle Museum to Host Soyuz Reentry Capsule (Source: Seattle Times)
A Soyuz reentry module that brought "space tourist" Charles Simonyi of Medina back from a 2009 Russian-American space mission rests on the central Kazakhstan plain where it landed safely. Simonyi has acquired the reentry module and will provide it to Seattle’s Museum of Flight on a long-term loan. Simonyi made the announcement at the museum, which this week named its $12 million space gallery in his honor. The reentry vehicle and the gallery’s main attraction, a NASA plywood shuttle trainer used by American space-shuttle crews, are expected to be in place by the middle of next year. (12/8)

Peres Promotes Israeli Moon Probe (Source: JTA)
Israeli space enthusiasts are taking part in an international moon-probe competition. President Shimon Peres cut the ribbon Thursday on Space IL, a nonprofit group that will compete for the international Google Lunar X Prize. The challenge is to become the first team to successfully launch, fly and land a robotic spacecraft on the moon. The team also must operate the spacecraft, which will carry an Israeli pennant, across the lunar surface and relay back video. (12/8)

Colorado Pursuing Spaceport Designation (Source: Denver Post)
Gov. John Hickenlooper said today that Colorado has applied for a spaceport designation with the federal government. Hickenlooper said his administration has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration stating that it is seeking the designation. A spaceport designation would allow for the creation of a facility from which space-bound payloads can be launched. The sites are viewed by many as important economic development tools because of the potential growth in commercial space payloads and eventually space tourists.

In his letter seeking that Colorado be recognized as a "proposed spaceport state," Hickenlooper noted that Colorado is home to more than 140 aerospace companies and is ranked among the top three states in terms of revenue generated from the aerospace industry. He also cited the presence of military space operations including the Air Force Space Command headquarters and North America Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD.

The governor told attendees of an aerospace roundtable event being held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science that Front Range Airport is a likely candidate for the designation. The airport, which is east of Denver International Airport, is comprised of 4,000 acres and is surrounded by 6,000 acres zoned for industrial development. Hickenlooper said it is important to have a spaceport that is both in a remote location and has access to the support services it needs. He said the state has the potential to have the designation in place by the end of 2012. (12/7)

Editorial: Without Science, America Just Wouldn't be the Same (Source: Go San Angelo)
This is in regard to the political cartoon in Saturdays Standard-Times. One panel has a NASA rocket launching with the title "NASA spends $2.5 billion going to Mars" while the following panel states, "While American kids go hungry." The absolute absurdity of this cartoon's end statement simply floored me. This country has spend trillions in wars, billions in bailouts, but it's NASA who is crossing the line? This is the type of ignorance that is destroying the science field in this country.

You know what the beautiful thing about science is? If we don't discover/explore something, someone else will. That is the big difference between science and art. If Mozart hadn't composed Piano Concerto No. 21, nobody, past nor present, would ever do it. But with science, if we didn't land on the moon, someone else would have.

Lets put this "absurd" NASA dollar figure into perspective. The bank bailouts — that one single money transaction — were larger than the combined 50-year budget of NASA. So when people complain that NASA is taking way too much of the taxpayers' money and using it toward "unnecessary experiments," I respond: It's not that there isn't enough money to feed starving children, its that the distribution of funds in this country is skewed. (12/7)

European Space Company Will Compete with Alabama Plant to Launch Satellites (Source: Huntsville Times)
European aerospace titan EADS will officially enter the race next year to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and government satellites into orbit, the company's president said. Sean O'Keefe, president of EADS North America and a former NASA administrator, discussed the opportunities his company sees in aerospace and defense with The Huntsville Times editorial board.

"We're looking at a very strong opportunity to compete for launch vehicle systems," O'Keefe said. A joint venture between EADS and Utah-based solid-rocket motor manufacturer ATK wil develop the Liberty rocket, using ATK solid-rocket boosters and an Ariane 5 upper stage. They will develop two versions of the new rocket, O'Keefe said. One will be "human-rated" to carry astronauts, and the other will be designed to lift Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office satellites into space. (12/7)

Why Russia’s Mars Failure Is Bad News for NASA (Source: Popular Mechanics)
As new information Russia's Phobos-Grunt program and the management culture at the Russian space agency Roscosmos comes to light, it now appears that we should have been surprised if the mission had succeeded. If reports coming out now are true, Phobos-Grunt was riddled with last-minute problems that should have been fixed before it launched. This is unsettling news for NASA, which, with the retirement of the space shuttle, is now reliant on the Russians to get humans into orbit. (12/7)

Lockheed Gets $312 Million for AEHF Anomaly Analysis (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems a $312 million contract for on-orbit anomaly analysis on the service’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) secure satellite communications system, the Defense Department announced Dec. 5. The cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification covers “on-orbit anomaly resolution and investigation” as well as system testing, sustainment and other functions, the Pentagon said.

The Air Force penalized Lockheed Martin with a $15 million reduction in its contract award fee June 10 as a result of the delay. The Air Force said Lockheed was at fault for not properly flushing out one of the satellite’s fuel lines, which resulted in an engine ignition failure. Air Force spokeswoman Christina Greer said she could not immediately comment on the anomaly resolution contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2014. (12/7)

Asian Space Race Is Heating Up, US Policy Expert Warns (Source:
An intensifying space race is taking place in Asia, policy experts say, even if officials from the countries' space agencies are unwilling to acknowledge it. This increasing competitiveness is fueling regional tensions, and without greater cooperation among Asian space nations, there is a risk for future confrontations and the further militarization of space, said James Clay Moltz. (12/7)

Japan Megaquake Shifted Gravity Satellite Orbits (Source: New Scientist)
The Tōhoku earthquake that rattled Japan on 11 March changed Earth's gravitational field enough to affect the orbits of satellites. The satellites' altered courses suggest that the earthquake was stronger and deeper than instruments on Earth indicated.

These weren't just any satellites: they are the twin spacecraft of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which fly 220 kilometers apart in a polar orbit about 500 kilometers above Earth. GRACE's job is to map the Earth's gravity field, and it does this by monitoring the effect of minute variations in the field on the trajectories of the satellites and the changing distance between them. (12/7)

Russian Woman Cosmonaut May Journey to Space Station (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Russian female cosmonaut may fly to the International Space Station in 2013, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Wednesday. Cosmonaut Yelena Serova, the first female cosmonaut of the post-Soviet era, should be trained and prepared for a flight lasting up to 170 days he said. (12/7)

Hubble Space Telescope Passes Major Science Milestone (Source:
The famous Hubble Space Telescope has crossed a major milestone, accumulating 10,000 science papers based on its observations. After 21 years of taking stunning pictures of the heavens, Hubble has established itself as one of the most prolific astronomical endeavors in history, NASA announced. (12/7)

NASA Looks to 3D Printing for Spare Space-Station Parts (Source:
Launch $1-billion-worth of spare parts to the International Space Station, and you can keep Earth's orbital outpost going for another decade. Send up some 3D-printing devices, and you invest in the ability to build everything on demand in space: space-station parts, astronaut tools, satellites, even spacecraft.

A first step toward space factories may come from NASA's recent selection of a U.S. startup's proposal to build a 3D printer for the space station. Such printing technology could build any number of objects, layer by layer, based on designs uploaded from mission control. Astronauts would only need "feedstock" material, such as plastic or metal, to make new tools or spare parts on the fly. (12/7)

NASA to Hold Industry Day in Huntsville to Discuss Advanced Booster (Source: NASA)
NASA will host an industry day at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. to share information on an upcoming NASA Research Announcement for the Space Launch System's (SLS) advanced booster. Marshall is leading the design and development of the SLS on behalf of the agency. The new heavy-lift launch vehicle will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system. The 130-metric ton, evolved SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with a significant increase in thrust over existing U.S. liquid or solid boosters. Its first full-scale test flight is set for 2017. (12/7)

Mystery of Mars Gullies Solved (Source:
Gullies crisscrossing the Martian poles could be formed by carbon dioxide rather than by liquid water, a new study finds. Using calculations taken from industrial applications on Earth, scientists determined that frozen carbon dioxide on Mars could move the sand or dust piled on top of it as it vaporizes. In the spring, the Martian frost is heated enough to shift the overlaying sediment down steep slopes, gashing the surface like water running downhill. (12/7)

NASA Tells Skeptical House Panel Webb Fixed (Source: Aviation Week)
Work on the James Webb Space Telescope is on track to stay within its latest cost and schedule plan, NASA told Congress, now that the agency has implemented recommendations from the outside panel that found the 6.5-meter segmented infrared telescope’s cost had jumped by $3.6 billion over its earlier estimate. “NASA now has a robust new baseline cost and schedule for JWST,” said NASA's Rick Howard. “This new baseline provides high confidence that NASA can implement JWST within the resources available in a constrained budget environment and achieve a launch readiness date of October 2018.” (12/7)

Near-Space Lightning May Play Role in Climate (Source: Discovery)
For the longest time, scientists didn't even know that extremely bright, split-second bursts of lightning called sprites were happening in Earth's upper atmosphere. "There were some rumors of them," said geophysicist Hans Stenbaek-Nielson, with the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. "Pilots had seen them, but back in the early '90s no pilot was willing to acknowledge that they saw something up there because that would result (in questions about) their mental state."

Now scientists not only know sprites exist, they've caught them and a host of related phenomena flashing in the skies above the Midwestern United States this summer. "It may play an important role in solar activity and climate," added Yukihiro Takahasi, a professor at the Department of Cosmosciences at Japan's Hokkaido University. Aside from impacting the motion of air, sprites have enough energy to trigger chemical changes in the atmosphere, such as the production of ozone-eating nitrogen oxides. (12/7)

NASA Mars Rover Finds Mineral Vein Deposited by Water (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found bright veins of a mineral, apparently gypsum, deposited by water. Analysis of the vein will help improve understanding of the history of wet environments on Mars. "This tells a slam-dunk story that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity. "This stuff is a fairly pure chemical deposit that formed in place right where we see it. That can't be said for other gypsum seen on Mars or for other water-related minerals Opportunity has found. (12/7)

Boeing CST-100 Program May Generate Huntsville Jobs (Source: Huntsville Times)
The Boeing Company will use Huntsville-based employees to help develop its new Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, and the program could develop an unspecified number of new local jobs in the process. It's just too soon to tell how many. Keith Reilly, Boeing's Deputy Program Manager for the Commercial Crew Program, said Boeing is beginning to staff up in Huntsville for work on the CST-100, a key part of Boeing's Commercial Crew Transportation System.

Reilly said that while most of the design work would be done in Houston or Florida, design and development of the electrical power controllers would be largely or wholly done by Huntsville employees. Boeing will use some of its Huntsville-based engineering force, possibly up to 20, in the process. Editor's Note: Boeing in October announced that the CST-100 program would be based at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and would ultimately generate over 500 jobs there. (12/7)

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