January 10, 2012

NASA Awards Launch Services Program Support Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected a.i. solutions Inc. to receive a contract award that will enable the agency's Launch Services Program (LSP) to provide integrated services for the preparation and launch of NASA's next generation of scientific and exploration spacecraft. The Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 2 (ELVIS 2) contract has a potential maximum value of $138.1 million. This new contract resulted from a competitive, small business set-aside.

The contract has a two-month phase-in period that begins February 2012, followed by a one-and-a-half-year base period extending from April 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013. Two option periods are available that would bring the total period of performance to five years. The ELVIS 2 contract supports LSP and LSP-sponsored missions, activities and strategic initiatives for multiple NASA programs, the Defense Department and other government agencies and commercial launch activities.

The contract will provide LSP with program management support; vehicle engineering and analysis; launch site support engineering; communications and telemetry; technical integration services; LSP programmatic safety, reliability and quality support; support at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California; information technology support; and special studies. (1/10)

Stolen New Mexico Meteorite Worth $20K-$40K Found (Source: AP)
A meteorite that landed in Russia in the 1940s and was recently stolen from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque has been located. Authorities found the rock after a man in Missouri bought it for $1,700. It's worth between $20,000 to $40,000. The Meteorite Museum at UNM flew an employee to retrieve the nearly 21-pound chunk of space — and lug it through security.

School police believe someone stole the meteorite from the display case and walked out the front door. Investigators have a suspect but no one has been arrested. The meteorite was once part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and crashed in Siberia. It was a gift from a Soviet scientist. The Meteorite Museum is closed for a security review. (1/10)

2012: A Stepping Stone to the Future (Source: America Space)
When André Kuipers boarded the International Space Station, two days before Christmas, not even his years of training could have fully prepared him for the size, grandeur and beauty of the complex in its finished state. In fact, the last time the Amsterdam-born physician flew into orbit in April 2004 was in the dark period after the loss of Columbia, a time when the future of the ISS and its completion hung very much in the balance.

Today, nine years since Columbia, the station is for all intents and purposes complete – a bright star, visible with the naked eye from the ground, bristling with golden solar arrays and sprouting silvery modules from Russia, the United States, Europe and Japan – and the mission of Kuipers and his crewmates on Expedition 30 is to put it all to work in the post-Shuttle era. Click here. (1/10)

New Telescope Captures Supermassive Black Hole (Source: Science)
The supermassive black hole in the core of a distant galaxy known as Cygnus A spews jets of gas into space over distances of more than 200,000 light-years. The jets (orange) were imaged by the new International Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) Telescope in Europe. The picture shows how the jets slam into the hot gas surrounding the galaxy. Click here. (1/10)

Galaxy-Wide Race Ends in a Tie (Source: Nature)
A race between two energetic photons that began more than 7 billion years ago and spanned half the galaxy has ended in a virtual dead heat. The result, if it stands up to scrutiny, would tighten the limits, suggested by some theories, on how ‘lumpy’ space-time can be. Click here. (1/10)

$10 Million X Prize Aims to Realize 'Star Trek' Medical Tricorder (Source
Handheld "Star Trek" technology capable of instantly diagnosing people's medical conditions need not wait until the 23rd century to become a reality. The X Prize Foundation teamed up with wireless-technology giant Qualcomm to officially announce a new $10 million prize for anyone who can create the 21st century version of the futuristic device.

The $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize — named after Star Trek's medical tricorder — looks to find a winning device capable of collecting key health information about individual patients and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases. The prize announcement at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas emphasized technologies that could put the state of a person's health into the palm of his or her hands. (1/10)

ISS Performs Upgrades to Support Inaugural Dragon Visit (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The six-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS) have been hard at work over the past few weeks, performing multiple hardware and software upgrades in order to ready the station to support the new fleet of commercial resupply vehicles, ahead of next month’s inaugural visit of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the orbital outpost. Click here. (1/10)

How to NOT Get Funded in the Astronomy World (Source: Space.com)
In an increasingly competitive environment for research grants from dwindling federal budgets, many scientists are eager for clues on how to secure funding. The National Science Foundation has humorously shared a series of tongue-in-cheek tips on "How Not to Get Funded*" Click here. (1/10)

The Challenges of Building A House on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
Going to Mars? Expect to stay a while. Because of the relative motions of Earth and Mars, the pioneering astronauts who touch down on the Martian surface will have to remain there for a year and a half. For this reason, NASA has already started experimenting with a habitat fit for the long-term exploration of Mars.

Last year, students at the University of Wisconsin won the XHab competition to design and build an inflatable loft addition to a habitat shell that NASA had already constructed. The final structure now serves as a working model that is being tested in the Arizona desert. (1/10)

Defense Firms Reach Out to Republican Candidates (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Defense firms are reaching out to Republican presidential candidates in a bid to prevent further defense cuts. "At this point we see all of the oxygen in the room being absorbed by the presidential debates," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. "We want to be part of that oxygen, if you will." (1/10)

Congress Dithers on FAA Reauthorization (Source: AIN Online)
After months of talks between House and Senate negotiators over FAA reauthorization, a compromise agreement remains stalled, primarily because of a labor dispute between the major airlines and organized labor. Although both chambers in Congress profess the need for long-term legislation to set the course for agency programs and funding, at press time the issue appeared to be headed into the New Year without resolution.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the House Republicans inserted a provision in their reauthorization bill that would overturn a recent National Mediation Board rule that makes it easier for labor unions to organize airline workers.

The FAA has been operating without a new long-term bill since 2007, when the previous multi-year FAA authorization expired. According to Rockefeller, “there is no movement, no give” in the GOP-controlled House. But Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, maintains he has been and continues to be willing to reach a compromise on every single issue in the bill. (1/10)

The Perils of Big Science (Source: Space Politics)
Pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge has become increasingly expensive. In astronomy, that has meant larger telescopes, both on the ground and in space (in addition to increasingly complex planetary probes). In particle physics, it involves a series of larger and more powerful accelerators. However, one Nobel laureate fears that governments’ willingness to fund such ventures may have reached its limit.

Steven Weinberg said he is pessimistic that governments would fund the next step in particle accelerators beyond Europe’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), regardless of the scientific case for it. “It’s going to be a very hard sell, and it may be impossible to get the next accelerator built,” he said. “Whatever else it is, a large scientific lab is a public works project,” Weinberg said. “It, therefore, will always get enthusiastic support from local politicians... and hostility, or at best apathy, from legislators from other parts of the country.”

Weinberg, who has long been a strident critic of human spaceflight, said: “All of the great discoveries that have made such great progress in cosmology in particular have been from unmanned observatories... The International Space Station was sold as a scientific laboratory, but nothing interesting has come from it.” Editor's Note: How about corporate sponsorship? In China, it seems a beer company has signed on to sponsor that nation's lunar exploration program. (1/10)

Spaceport Facilities Bill Heads to Senate Floor (Source: Capital Soup)
A bill by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) is one step closer to allowing spaceport facilities to more appropriately utilize funding due to the changing needs of Florida’s aerospace industry. Senate Bill 634 passed unanimously in the Senate Military Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee this week and will be considered next on the Senate floor.

“Florida’s aerospace industry is recognized as an important part of the state’s long-term success plan to build a knowledge-based economy that supports and creates high-value-added businesses and jobs,” said Benacquisto. “This bill will help Space Florida deliver on its goals by providing the framework for infrastructure funds to be spent on applicable space projects in its master plan.” (12/7)

Private Spacecraft Are Your Transportation, Scientists, and Real Estate Brokers (Source: Fast Company)
In the absence of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, private companies are left to fill the black hole of space exploration. Now, 50 years after John Glenn orbited the Earth, some very different kinds of explorers are leading the way. Click here. (1/10)

Fourth Wideband Global SATCOM Set to Launch at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceRef)
The Air Force scheduled the launch of the fourth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite aboard a Delta IV launch vehicle January 19 from Pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This is the fourth launch for the WGS constellation and the second WGS launch on the Delta IV launch vehicle. The WGS-4 satellite will provide the warfighter with enhanced communication capabilities while extending global coverage. (1/9)

Florida Legislative Session Kicks Off with State of the State Address (Source: SPACErePORT)
Governor Rick Scott mentioned the state's space heritage in his annual State of the State address, which tradionally kicks off the state's annual Legislative Session. “From our shores, we have launched men to the moon. And with this same brave spirit, millions have come to plant their flag in Florida soil to build something new and better,” he said. The Legislature will consider multiple aerospace-focused bills and budget items over the next several weeks. Here's a list of Space Florida's priorities. (1/10)

Aerospace, Defense Shares Show Mixed Results for 2011 (Source: Aviation Daily)
Some aerospace stocks performed well in 2011. Shares of suppliers such as Hexcel, TransDigm Group and Triumph Group posted gains of more than 30% for the year. Shares of aircraft manufacturers and defense contractors posted mixed results in 2011. (1/9)

Jim McCarthy: State Must Embrace Space Opportunities (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Many challenges and exciting changes are ramping up for the space industry in Florida as work continues on the future of space exploration. More than ever, the state needs to be aggressive in creating a robust atmosphere for space business. Florida has the third-largest space industry in the United States and ranks fourth in the nation for space-based employment.

The aerospace industry impacts almost every county. Preserving and fostering this high-tech industry requires unified action by industry and local, state and federal government officials. Future business and employment opportunities must be generated to ensure we hold and leverage a world-class workforce. In addition, the space business brings in cutting-edge research and development of global significance inspiring Florida's future scientists and engineers.

It is critical that Florida's legislators, local elected officials and the business community work together to lead America's next chapter in space exploration; attract new business by offering incentives to create a vibrant 21st century aerospace community; and position Florida to capture innovative national and international space-related business to stimulate the economy. Failure to act now will mean missed opportunities to grow the state's high tech economy. (1/10)

Russia Hints at Foul Play in its Space Failures (Source: AFP)
The head of Russia's beleaguered space program hinted on Tuesday that foreign powers may be behind the string of failures that struck his agency in the past year. Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were traveling through areas invisible to Russian radar.

"It is unclear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are traveling through what for Russia is the 'dark' side of the Earth -- in areas where we do not see the craft and do not receive its telemetry readings," he said. "I do not want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we cannot exclude," Popovkin said. (1/10)

Europe's EADS to Resume Management Reshuffle Talks (Source: Reuters)
Airbus parent EADS will make a new effort to push through carefully scripted management changes by the end of the month after postponing a decision in December at the request of the French government. Chief Executive Louis Gallois, who is expected to be awarded a British honorary knighthood as he nears retirement, has told employees he is "fully committed" to running EADS until his successor is appointed in "mid-2012," according to a company memo. (1/10)

How to Get a Cosmos From Nothing (Source: MSNBC)
OK, so how can you get a cosmos from nothing? Lawrence Krauss traces a series of discoveries building up from Einstein's general theory of relativity to the latest studies of dark energy, explaining how scientists have determined that empty space is seething with energy in the form of virtual particles. From the perspective of quantum physics, particles are popping into and out of existence all the time. The way Krauss and many other theorists see it, nothingness is so unstable that it has to give rise to something ... in our case, the universe as we know it. (1/10)

Canada Keeps Eye on the Sky with its Taste for Space (Source: Financial Post)
In space, no one can hear you invest — but Canadians are doing it anyway. Take Urthecast, a Vancouver-based firm with a taste for space: It’s betting $10 million on two cameras that are being built by a British partner. Late next year, a Russian mission will fly them to the International Space Station, where they will be installed to beam pictures and constant, near-live video to Earth. The revenue model? Data sales and advertising.

Space has played a large part in Canada’s history. When the country launched the Anik A1 communications satellite in 1972, it became the first nation to have a communication satellite in geostationary orbit. “It was the thread that brought this country together as much as the railroad,” says Mark Burbidge, head of industrial policy at the Canadian Space Agency.

He contends government influence is waning. “People in the private sector can get things done cheaper, better and quicker,” he says. “Whether it’s for tourism, cargo or Earth observation, there is the mindset in the space industry that we don’t need massive budgets,” says Mr. Burbidge. (1/10)

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