January 13, 2012

Space Coast Teacher-Turned-Astronaut Ready for Station Tour (Source: Florida Today)
A former Melbourne High science teacher is poised to make his second flight into orbit, and he’s looking forward to a six-month tour of duty on the International Space Station. “I think I’m definitely ready for this mission. We’ve spent a little over two years preparing, so now I’m at the point where the fine-tuning is almost done,” U.S. astronaut Joe Acaba said. “I’m ready to get on that Soyuz and get to the space station.” (1/13)

Conflicting Predictions for Phobos-Grunt (Source: Aviation Week)
The Russian space agency Roscosmos says its moribund Phobos-Grunt spacecraft could reenter Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Atlantic Ocean Jan. 15, raining down 20-30 chunks of heat-resistant debris off the coast of Argentina. But the agency’s forecast differs wildly from those published online by satellite-tracking enthusiasts and professional orbital analysts in the U.S. using the same publicly available data to predict points of entry that are literally all over the map. (1/13)

Five More Nations To Join WGS Program (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force is finalizing a deal with five nations to buy into the Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) wideband communications constellation as it prepares for the launch of the fourth satellite on Jan. 19. A memorandum of agreement among five nations in addition to the U.S. should be signed by Jan. 17, says Dave Madden, who oversees the Air Force’s military satellite communications program office at Los Angeles AFB. (1/13)

Space Station Dodges Satellite Debris (Source: Florida Today)
Engines successfully fired this morning to maneuver the International Space Station out of the way of debris that threatened to collide with the outpost housing six astronauts and cosmonauts. Ground controllers fired engines on the Russian segment's Zvezda Service Module for 54 seconds at 11:10 a.m. EST while the station crew, including Americans Dan Burbank and Don Pettit, went about its daily work undisturbed. (1/13)

Astronomer’s Death Shocks Colleagues (Source: Nature)
Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to astrophysicist Steven Rawlings of the University of Oxford, UK, who died in mysterious circumstances on Wednesday 11 January. Rawlings, 50, was a key figure in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Telescope Project. Rawlings’ body was found at a bungalow in a small town on the outskirts of Oxford. A 49-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder, and has now been released on bail. (1/13)

Globalstar Chief: Arbitration Decision Expected by Mid-March (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar expects an arbitration panel to rule by mid-March on whether the company is within its rights in demanding six new satellites from its prime contractor at prices the contractor says are no longer valid, Globalstar Chief Executive Jay Monroe said.

Monroe said the three-judge panel, which is expected to hear arguments in the case Jan. 24, is likely to decide the issue one way or another within four to six weeks of the hearing. Globalstar and the prime contractor for its second-generation satellite constellation, Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, disagree on whether Thales is obligated to build six more satellites with prices agreed to several years ago. Thales says the contract terms expired; Globalstar disagrees. (1/13)

Orion Test Launch Opens the Door for Alternative Human-rated Upper Stage (Source: Space News)
NASA’s quest for a rocket upper stage to boost its Orion deep-space capsule beyond low Earth orbit in test flights opens the door for an alternative human space launch capability that could impact the fledgling efforts to develop commercial passenger spaceships. The agency issued a Jan. 9 call for sources of an Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) to be used during two demonstration flights of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. (1/13)

Revised LightSquared Plan Still Interferes with GPS (Source: Space News)
An expert panel tasked by the U.S. government to test the revised plans of a company hoping to deploy a hybrid satellite-terrestrial mobile broadband network serving North America has concluded that the revised operating scheme will still cause harmful interference to GPS satellite-based navigation applications, including aviation safety.

The finding by the nine U.S. federal agencies comprising the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee (EXCOM) is a major blow to LightSquared, which has invested $3 billion in its proposed L-band network and launched one large satellite. The Reston, Va.-based company, backed by hedge fund billionaire Philip Falcone, is planning to augment that satellite with a nationwide network of ground-based signal repeaters. (1/13)

1st Science Fiction Movie Filmed in Space Stays Underground (Source: Space.com)
A new documentary about space tourist Richard Garriott's flight to the International Space Station is hitting theaters now, but the sci-fi movie he made aboard the orbiting lab remains under wraps. While up there, the video-game designer made a playful eight-minute film called "Apogee of Fear," with some standout acting assistance from a Russian cosmonaut and two NASA astronauts.

"Apogee of Fear" is the first science-fiction movie ever made in space, Garriott said, and he would like to let the public see it. There has been some demand, with the Smithsonian Institution even asking to put the film in its permanent archives because of its historical value. But NASA hasn't given the necessary go-ahead, according to Garriott. Garriott earlier said the film shows a more light-hearted side of astronauts and life aboard the space station, so it could serve as something of an education and outreach tool. (1/13)

Why Did So Much High-Profile Junk Fall from Space Last Year? (Source: Scientific American)
Two well-publicized satellite falls a month apart got me wondering: Is this the new normal? After all, there is plenty of junk in orbit, and it can’t stay up there forever. And NASA, along with many other space agencies, now requires that satellites tumble back to Earth sooner rather than later once their useful lifetimes have ended so as to limit collisions in orbit.

So how often are we going to be hearing about inbound satellites—-and worrying about the ever so slim chance that they might kill us? A call to NASA’s top orbital debris scientist clarified the issue and reassured me that we are not now witnessing the leading edge of a debris storm. Nicholas Johnson and his colleagues keep a list of all NASA objects in orbit, including an estimate of when those objects will make the fiery plunge into the atmosphere. Two huge ones on the books are the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. The plan with both is to use thrusters to drive the craft into the ocean when their time comes. (1/13)

NASA Awards $42m for New Langley Facilities (Source: DailyPress.com)
NASA awarded a $42 million contract to a Maryland company to build a new cafeteria and conference center at Langley Research Center in Hampton. Construction of the facilities, which will be under the same roof, is expected to start this spring. NASA hopes to finish work in December 2013. It is the second phase of New Town, NASA's $330 million plan to modernize Langley. "It's NASA's oldest center," Langley spokesman Rob Wyman said. "While it has done amazing work, we've got to continue to lean forward." (1/13)

Com Dev To Focus on Increasing Profitability, Not Revenue, for 2012 (Source: Space News)
Satellite component manufacturer Com Dev International on Jan. 12 reported lower revenue but higher profitability for the year ending Oct. 31 and said its new maritime surveillance subsidiary should double its revenue in 2012. Com Dev, which for two years has been struggling with five government space programs on which the company is losing money or making almost no profit, said four of the five have now been completed. The fifth will be finished in mid-2012. (1/13)

Obama Wants to Move NOAA to the Interior Department (Source: Space Policy Online)
President Obama plans to reorganize part of the U.S. government that could have a significant impact on the U.S. civil weather satellite program. The focal point of the plan, which requires congressional approval, is to merge five business- and trade-related agencies with some elements of the Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department itself would be abolished. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages the nation's civil weather satellites, is currently part of the Commerce Department, but under the Obama plan would be transferred to the Department of the Interior. (1/13)

Florida Senators Launch Space-Related Bills to Entice Industry (Source: Avionics Intelligence)
Creating a healthy atmosphere for aerospace-related businesses, whether private spaceflight or research-and-development companies, adds to Florida’s current job-creation efforts, recognizes Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando). Senate Bill 110 by Sen. Steve Wise (R-Jacksonville) seeks to update the inventory of existing spaceport territories in the state by designating the property Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville as a “spaceport territory.” It also permits the board of directors of Space Florida to designate real property within the state as a spaceport territory if the property has been licensed by the FAA as a spaceport.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) is the sponsor of a bill aimed at allowing spaceport facilities to more appropriately utilize funding due to the changing needs of Florida’s aerospace industry. Passing the Senate unanimously Tuesday, SB 634 provides the framework for infrastructure funds to be spent on applicable space projects in its master plan.

SB 934, a bill relating to Space Florida by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Palm Beach), exempts Space Florida from a law which limits advance payments received by an agency. This bill would allow Space Florida to receive advanced payments for infrastructure improvements to current infrastructure projects. Sen. Thad Altman (R-Rockledge) is the sponsor of SB 1110, which would remove the maximum amount of tax refunds a recipient of either the Qualified Defense Contractor and Spaceflight Business tax refund program or the Qualified Target Industry tax refund program may receive. (1/13)

MDA, Intelsat Terminate Satellite Servicing Plan (Source: Parabolic Arc)
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) has announced that an agreement with Intelsat to provide on-orbit servicing to the company’s communications satellites has been terminated. Intelsat had served as an anchor tenant for the Canadian company’s Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) initiative. MDA said it has not made a decision on whether to proceed with SIS, but that it was exploring options.

“MDA is continuing to pursue opportunities in this area and is currently focused on bidding a space servicing Broad Agency Announcement from a U.S. Government agency, which is due in February,” the company said in a press release. Both NASA and DARPA are looking at satellite servicing. Under the $280 million Intelsat deal, which was announced last March, the two companies worked together to finalize specifications and requirements for a servicing satellite that could refuel, maintain and repair Intelsat’s orbiting spacecraft. (1/13)

Computer Virus Infection at JAXA (Source: JAXA)
On January 6, 2012, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) found that a computer terminal used by one of our employees was infected with a computer virus, and information stored in the computer as well as system information that is accessible by the employee have been leaking outside. We are now confirming the leaked information and investigating the cause.

As the computer was used by an employee who is involved in the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV, a cargo transporter to the International Space Station,) the following information was potentially compromised: stored mail addresses; specification and operation information of the HTV; and system log-in information accessed from the computer. (1/13)

NASA Plans Public Meeting on Wallops Projects (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
A community meeting is being hosted next week by NASA about future projects at the Wallops Flight Facility. The Thursday meeting will include information about a mission in March that will include five sounding rockets being launched at night within five minutes, the first launch of the Orbital Sciences Antares launch vehicle and a hurricane research program that will use two Global Hawk UAVs. Additional topics will include expansion opportunities in the areas of aircraft fleet, UAV-based research, support of Navy landing practice for turboprop aircraft and development of the Wallops Research Park. (1/13)

Barcelona Moon Team (BMT) Explores a Dnepr Flight (Source: Google Lunar X-Prize)
The launch is one of the critical points on the BMT team’s plan and intensive efforts are being made to have a final selected launcher in the next weeks. The BMT is considering the European new small launcher VEGA as one of the feasible options, and also the Dnepr launch vehicle. The Dnepr is a ICBM converted to launch satellites into orbit. (1/13)

Space Beagle — Exhibit Explores Snoopy's NASA Role (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Charlie Brown's beloved beagle Snoopy moves beyond his fabled cartoon adventures as a World War I Flying Ace to take his flying doghouse into outer space in a new exhibit at the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History. "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA," focuses on the Silver Snoopy Award program, instituted to improve the safety record of NASA employees and contractors that resulted when 'Peanuts' cartoonist Charles Schultz was approached by NASA in 1968 with a request to use Snoopy as their safety mascot. (1/13)

2012 a Time of Technical, Financial Challenges for European Space Agency (Source: Flight Global)
Europe's next push into space gets off to a slightly anxious start this year with a tight window for the maiden launch of the all-new light rocket, Vega. Twelve months ago, when European Space Agency director general Jean-Jacques Dordain proclaimed 2011 to be ESA's "year of launchers", he had hoped to close the year with three launcher options. But while ESA and Arianespace, successfully inaugurated medium-lift Soyuz at Kourou, readiness considerations pushed Vega into 2012.

There will only be a couple of days grace period to get Vega off the pad on Feb. 9 or scrub the launch and move it to a later date, because it cannot be allowed to interfere with preparations for the next Ariane 5 mission, carrying an ATV to the Internatiotinal Space Station. As Dordain puts it, for the first time ever ESA has a launch manifest to help plan missions so as to avoid interference: "We can no longer choose the dates for a mission in splendid isolation." (1/13)

Spotlight Shines on JWST After 'Near Death Experience' (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Entering the new year with solidified political support and renewed scientific potential, some work on the James Webb Space Telescope will be accelerated this year to keep the $8.8 billion observatory on track for launch in late 2018. But there is still concern among senior officials that major tests in the next few years could uncover hidden problems that could drive the mission's cost up even more. (1/12)

Grunsfeld Charts Course for NASA Science Through Tight Budgets (Sources: Space Politics, Space News)
John Grunsfeld, NASA’s new associate administrator for science, says he will look to leverage capabilities elsewhere in the agency in order to get the most of out the directorate’s budget, citing as an example the potential use of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket for large science missions.

He acknowledged that NASA’s science programs are facing a “constrained” budget environment but warned against battles in the science community or between the science and human spaceflight directorates. “We are only as strong as our whole, and if we pit community against community, everybody loses,” he said. (1/13)

Commercial Space Industry Attracts More Internet Millionaires (Source: Investor's Business Daily)
The list of wealthy Internet entrepreneurs sending their money into outer space is getting longer and their ideas bigger. These space cowboys are pushing the envelope, looking to the stars and seeing money to be made sending people, products and scientific instruments into space. "There's an expectation that the world's first trillionaires will have made their fortune from space," said Bob Richardson, CEO of Moon Express, a developer of lunar landing technology.

Lead investors in Moon Express are Barney Pell and Naveen Jain. Pell, a former manager at NASA, sold his Internet search company Powerset to Microsoft (MSFT) for about $100 million in 2008. Jain is CEO of Intellius, an Internet provider of background reports. He also founded Internet search firm Infospace, which raised $75 million in a 1998 IPO. Click here. (1/12)

Super-Cool Planck Mission Begins to Warm (Source: BBC)
The Planck telescope, put in space to map the oldest light in the Universe, has run out of the helium coolant that keeps it in full working order. Engineers expect the observatory's systems to start to warm from their ultra-frigid state in the coming days, blinding one of its two instruments. Nonetheless, Planck has gathered more than enough data since its launch in 2009 to complete its mission goals. "We have had a flood of data - much more data than originally anticipated," said an ESA scientist. (1/13)

Musk: Can the U.S. Reclaim Its Market Share in Space Launch? (Source: SpaceX)
During remarks at the National Press Club in Washington DC, SpaceX's Elon Musk gives his thoughts on whether the U.S. can reclaim some share of the international commercial launch market from competitors in Russia, Europe, and other countries. Click here. (1/12)

"Man On A Mission" Poorly Reviewed (Source: New York Post)
Richard Garriott wanted to be a NASA astronaut just like his father, Owen, but vision problems prevented him. So the younger Garriott, who became a millionaire as the inventor of the Ultima video game, paid $30 million for a 10-day journey aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship, which included a stopover at the International Space Station. The experience is documented in “Man on a Mission,’’ a super-dull documentary by Mike Woolf. Completely lacking in imagination and purpose, this vanity project might suffice as a home movie, but it’s hardly worth the expense and bother of seeing it in a theater. (1/13)

Blasting Off as a Space Tourist (Source: New York Times)
“Man on a Mission,” the most expensive home movie ever made, is one man’s genial account of his trip into outer space. What’s odd about it is that while you can certainly sense the joy that this fellow, Richard Garriott, feels in achieving a lifelong dream, you’re unlikely to be interested in imitating him. Cramped quarters, bulky wardrobe, unappetizing-looking food: it seems like a Worst Vacation Ever candidate.

Mr. Garriott is the son of an astronaut, Owen K. Garriott, who flew two missions for NASA. His hopes of following his father into space were dealt an early setback by bad eyesight; instead he made a fortune as a video-game designer. In 2008 he used $30 million of that fortune to buy himself a space-tourist seat on a Russian flight. “Man on a Mission” tells the story of that trip.

Because we’ve seen images from space before, the parts of the film that depict Mr. Garriott’s intensive training are more interesting than the flight itself. But he’s a personable host throughout, and the images of his father watching him blast off and return lend the proceedings real poignancy. (1/13)

Targets For Orion Visits (In Space) Remain To Be Set (Source: Aviation Week)
Applications close at the end of the month for a new group of astronauts to fly the Orion capsule beyond the space station to the Moon, Mars and points in between. So far more than 1,300 would-be space travelers have applied for the job, hoping that Orion will become the ultimate enabling technology for deep-space human exploration. The figure is comparable to the response NASA received from its calls for space shuttle crews.

Like everyone who has flown in space, the Orion applicants are risk-takers, willing to gamble their lives for a plunge into the unknown. And at this point, the unknown includes specific target destinations for the craft that NASA engineers call the “multi-purpose crew vehicle, or MPCV.” While President Barack Obama has set a goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025, that is only one possible destination for Orion. (1/12)

Abertis To Sell Half its Eutelsat Stake (Source: Space News)
Eutelsat’s biggest shareholder, Spanish telecommunications infrastructure provider Abertis Telecom, on Jan. 12 announced it is selling half its stake in the satellite fleet operator in a transaction valued at about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion). (1/12)

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