January 18, 2012

KSC Breaks Ground on Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit (Source: WKMG)
Kennedy Space Center held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday to kick off construction for a $100 million, 65,000 square-foot exhibit featuring retired shuttle orbiter Atlantis. Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and the last astronaut to command a shuttle mission, Chris Ferguson attended the event. Ferguson said while he misses being up in space, he’s excited how much the shuttle have to offer KSC.

Kennedy Space Center and visitor complex operator Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts conducted the ceremonial groundbreaking in the shuttle plaza area of the complex. Jeremy Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Delaware North, who also owns the Boston Bruins hockey team, brought the Stanley Cup, the NHL championship trophy, with him to the Visitor Complex. (1/18)

NASA to Hand Over Shutte Trainer Keys to Seattle Museum (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Johnson Space Center is officially handing over the keys to the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer to the Seattle Museum of Flight. The handover ceremony includes an official signing of the Space Act Agreement that transfers ownership of the trainer, which includes both a crew cockpit and shuttle cargo bay area, and was used to familiarize astronauts with shuttle cockpit controls and emergency exit procedures over the life of the Space Shuttle Program. (1/18)

NASA Kennedy Space Center's IT Network Reaches New Frontier (Source: SpaceRef)
Ciena Corporation announced a new partnership with Abacus Technology Corp. to upgrade the expansive campus IT network at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The enhanced network, which supports activities that range from managing NASA's space launch program to hosting millions of visitors from around the world, will leverage Optical Transport Network (OTN) technology from Ciena to consolidate the Center's Ethernet, video and legacy ATM and TDM traffic. (1/18)

Satellite Spots Costa Concordia Shipwreck From Space (Source: Space.com)
An Earth-watching satellite has snapped a stark view of the Costa Concordia shipwreck from space, showing the huge ocean liner on its side just days after it tragically ran aground off Italy's Tuscany coast. The new satellite photo was taken Tuesday (Jan. 17) by an Earth-observation satellite operated by DigitalGlobe, a Colorado-based company that uses a constellation of spacecraft to take high-resolution images of Earth. Click here. (1/18)

Tiny Invisible Galaxy May Be Made Completely of Dark Matter (Source: Space.com_
Astronomers have discovered a small galaxy that is invisible to telescopes and may be completely composed of dark matter, which reflects no light. The newfound galaxy is incredibly distant and extremely small. It orbits as a satellite of a larger galaxy. Though telescopes can't spot the dwarf galaxy, scientists detected its presence through the tiny distortions its gravity causes to light that passes it by. (1/18)

Did the US Accidentally Zap Phobos-Grunt (From Kwajelein)? (Source: New Scientist)
First there were cries of sabotage, although there was never a clear motive. Now the bizarre suggestion that the US shot down Russia's Phobos-Grunt space probe has morphed into a slightly less strange claim. A Russian newspaper has reported that radar beamed from a US military base could have accidentally damaged the probe, leading to its demise. How plausible is the suggestion that radar is to blame for the probe's failure?

An unnamed source implicates the US military radar station on Kwajalein atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. At the time of Phobos-Grunt's malfunction, the source says that the station was using its radar to bounce signals off asteroids, a standard technique for imaging asteroids and measuring their distances. So any such US-inflicted damage to Phobos-Grunt could have been accidental, not sabotage, as had been darkly hinted earlier by Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos. (1/18)

How to Spot a Dark-Matter Galaxy (Source: New Scientist)
If we could don dark matter glasses and look at the universe around us, we might see thousands of miniature galaxies swarming about the luminous spirals that make up the Milky Way and Andromeda. We can't – but we have the next best thing. A technique known as gravitational lensing has allowed one of these dark dwarfs to be glimpsed, suggesting the Milky Way isn't as lonely as it looks to us Earthlings.

Astronomers think that galaxies usually grow by devouring smaller nearby clusters of stars called dwarf galaxies, no bigger than 100 million times the mass of the sun. According to this theory, the Milky Way and all other full-size galaxies should keep company with thousands of dwarfs. However, only 30 such companions have been spotted in our neighbourhood.

Where are all the missing minis hiding? One explanation is that they're mostly made of dark matter, the mysterious, aloof substance thought to make up 83 per cent of the mass in the universe but which is reluctant to interact with regular matter. (1/18)

Air Force Orders 9th WGS Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
The Air Force confirmed it has ordered The Boeing Co. to begin working on a ninth WGS spacecraft, expected to cost $377 million. It will be purchased under a recently-announced international partnership with Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Air Force officials say plans for a 10th vehicle are also in the works. (1/18)

Any Exoplanet Possible in a 'Compulsive' Universe (Source: Discovery)
The cumulative discoveries reported at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society have taken us higher toward the intellectual summit of thousands of years of speculation as to whether Earth is alone in the universe. We will ultimately reach that summit with the eventual discovery that life is a condition of the universe. In other words, that self-replicating matter is nature's favorite form of self-expression.

Gravitational microlensing surveys have lead us to the conclusion that there are zillions of places for life out there. Planets are everywhere in the universe. They outnumber the stars in our Milky Way galaxy. As the first dedicated exoplanet space missions to seek out Earth-sized planets in stellar habitable zones, Kepler's ongoing discoveries have "overwhelmed the astronomy community" says John Johnson of Caltech. Kepler's jaw-dropping observations show that the types of planets and planetary systems out there are so varied, that just about anything is possible. (1/18)

No Practical Fix For LightSquared GPS Found (Source: Aviation Week)
After a review of the latest round of tests of the GPS interference potential of LightSquared’s proposed wireless network, the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee has determined that “both LightSquared’s original and modified [plans] would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers.”

Further, FAA analysis concludes that LightSquared’s proposals are not compatible with several GPS-dependent aircraft safety-of-flight systems, says a letter to the U.S. Commerce Department signed by committee co-chairs Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, and John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation. (1/18)

LightSquared Calls for More Testing After 'Rigged' Tests (Source: Reuters)
LightSquared called for new tests of its mobile system to examine interference concerns after it accused the latest government tests of being "rigged." The new tests could take two months, forcing LightSquared to miss a January deadline for government approval of a high-speed wireless network it wants to build. The January deadline was imposed by Sprint Nextel Corp, LightSquared's partner in deploying and operating its planned network. It is unclear whether Sprint would stay on board if LightSquared misses the deadline.

LightSquared contends that any interference is a result of poorly designed GPS receivers that GPS manufacturers should be obliged to fix. LightSquared has teamed up with other companies to design filters that it says would fix the interference issues. LightSquared executives sharply criticized testing that was carried out for the Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM).

The company has already asked for an investigation of the PNT advisory board due to a possible conflict of interest as the vice-chairman of the board is also a director for GPS supplier Trimble Navigation Ltd. LightSquared said the test that found harmful interference problems was "rigged" by GPS device makers. It also complained that the test process was "shrouded in secrecy" and deliberately used older GPS devices more prone to interference issues. (1/18)

Australia Backs EU Space Code (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
Australia has announced it is backing a European Union push for a new international code of conduct for behaviour in space, following a rise in space junk and the clandestine development of satellite-destroying weapons. The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, made the announcement yesterday, on the same day the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared humankind's involvement in space was at risk from ''irresponsible actors''.

While neither Australia nor the US named those actors, secret US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal a half-decade war of words between Beijing and Washington over what the US describes as China's "anti-satellite weapons testing program". The US has also conducted similar weapons tests during the Cold War, though the last known test was in 1985. (1/18)

Is United Space Alliance About to Disappear? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
For a decade and a half, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been joined at the hip through United Space Alliance, the partnership that was responsible for launching the space shuttle. But with the shuttle era over, these two aerospace giants are disbanding USA, reports say. When the shuttle program retired last year, much of the reason for the company’s existence has disappeared, and it looks like the parent companies are pulling the plug on it.

A dirty little not-so-secret of the aerospace industry is that, in a sense, it employs well-educated migrant workers. Some people manage to spend an entire career at a single company, but many, perhaps most, tend to follow the big contracts. If the company they’re working for loses a bid, they often switch badges and go to work for the winner. But in lean times, such as the period of the early 1970s when Apollo ended and the Vietnam War sapped space budgets, there often is no new program to jump to. The demise of USA would suggest that we’re entering another such era.

So what will happen to the USA refugees? In more flush times, they might move to other companies and space and defense contracts, but today is similar to the early seventies, with the recent announcement of big upcoming cuts in defense. Editor's Note: Word is that USA will survive in some form if it wins one of the large contracts it is now pursuing. If it doesn't win, then the company goes away. USA used to be Florida's largest space industry employer. (1/18)

Here’s a Stat to Embolden NASA Cynics (Source: Houston Chronicle)
It’s now been nearly four decades since Americans flew beyond low-Earth orbit. It’s never happened in my lifetime. The question is when we’ll do so again. I’m beginning to think it may never happen during my lifetime. Anyhow, while working on a story about this topic, and the varying opinions of NASA’s present approach, I came across the following fact: Since 1969, 24 blue-ribbon panels have (re)assessed human spaceflight strategy, and exploration concepts and technologies and national priorities have continued to evolve.

What does this tell us about NASA and human spaceflight? It tells me that absent a strong mandate, clear goal and adequate funds, flying beyond Earth’s orbit just isn’t possible. And all the hand-wringing and studying and powerpoints in the world — not to mention two dozen well-meaning blue-ribbon panels — probably aren’t going to change that. (1/18)

Satellite’s Solar Array Problem Results in $132.7M Insurance Payment (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada has received a $132.7 million payment from insurance underwriters to cover a partial-loss claim filed following the Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 satellite’s solar array deployment failure in May, according to Telesat’s owner Loral.

Telesat had said following the May launch that the partial nondeployment of one of two solar arrays aboard Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 would force the company to reduce the satellite’s broadcast output to 60 percent of what was expected. In addition, because the deployment glitch left one of the solar arrays in a state that will make it more difficult to fly the spacecraft, Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 is expected to operate for just 12 years in orbit before running out of fuel, as compared with the expected service life of 15 years or more. (1/18)

New Zealand Investment in WGS Boosts Broadband Access, Saves Money (Source: Space News)
New Zealand’s investment in the U.S. Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military broadband communications satellite system will be far less costly than continued spending on commercial satellite bandwidth. In a statement issued the day after Canada announced its stake in WGS, New Zealand Defense Minister said their stake in WGS “will increase our access to satellite broadband more than twenty-fold, with guaranteed access and at a fixed price, ensuring better value for money. This gives a significant boost to our forces’ capacity both at home and abroad.” (1/18)

Plasma Thruster Could Replace Chemical Rockets for Satellite and Deep-Space Propulsion (Source: Flight Global)
Snecma and French national scientific research agency CNRS have claimed a European first in successfully testing a 20kW electric plasma thruster for spacecraft. The thruster, 13 times as powerful as the 1.5kW version Snecma already supplies for spacecraft orientation control, matches power outputs already achieved by Russian and US prototypes and helps open the way for the replacement of normal chemical rockets in propulsion during deep-space exploration missions. (1/18)

Existing Stage Needed To Meet SLS Schedule (Source: Aviation Week)
Tight budgets and a tight schedule mean NASA will use an existing upper stage for the first two tests of its Space Launch System (SLS) human-exploration rocket, instead of flying the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) with the human-rated J-2X engine already in full-scale ground test. Engineers developing the heavy-lift SLS are polling the worldwide launch industry in search of an upper stage they can use to kick the Orion MPCV on two test flights around the Moon.

Under pressure from Congress to build and fly the big new rocket quickly, the U.S. space agency has scheduled an unmanned lunar flyby late in 2017, followed by a lunar-orbital mission with a four-person crew in 2021. Because of the relatively low performance requirements for those missions, an upper stage already in use probably can fulfill them, says Garry Lyles, NASA’s SLS chief engineer. (1/18)

SpaceX Safety VP Quit Late Last Year (Source: Space News)
Ken Bowersox, the former NASA astronaut and space station commander who joined SpaceX in 2009, has quit the company. “Ken Bowersox left SpaceX at the end of last year,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Grantham wrote in a Jan. 17 email. “His responsibilities were split up among a few different people. Hans Koenigsmann was named SpaceX vice president of mission assurance.”

Bowersox, who was SpaceX’s vice president of astronaut safety and mission assurance, could not immediately be reached for comment. A Jan. 17 Space News query addressed to Bowersox’s SpaceX email account produced an automated reply notifying the sender that “this mailbox is no longer being actively monitored by the user.”

Editor's Note: Elon Musk is having similar issues at Tesla. Tesla's chief engineer and another key engineering supervisor left the company earlier this month. Their departures were uncovered by the news media, and Musk apologized for not making them public at the time they occured. Click here. (1/18)

EADS Sees U.S. as 'Lucrative Market' Amid Cuts (Source: Defense News)
EADS sees the U.S. as a rich pool of business opportunity despite the Obama administration’s announced plan to cut $480 billion from defense spending in the next 10 years, Chief Executive Sean O’Keefe of EADS North America said. "We continue to see the U.S. as a very lucrative market,” O’Keefe said, with space launch a promising area within the broad needs of the U.S. government.

There is “an intensity of interest in competitive alternatives” at the U.S. Air Force and NASA, particularly in launch capabilities for resupply of the International Space Station, O’Keefe said on the sidelines of the EADS New Year’s press conference, hosted jointly here by Airbus and EADS. Astrium, the EADS space division, provides an alternative to United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture, he said. (1/18)

Lost in Simulated Space (Source: China Daily)
China's Wang Yue was one of astronauts in the Mars-500 project to discover the effects of prolonged space flight on the body and mind. Wang Ru reports. Wang Yue, who is still recovering from 520 days of isolation while simulating a manned space flight to Mars, was given an award to honor his achievement at the Astronaut Center of China (ACC) in Beijing on Monday. The 29-year-old was one of six astronauts in the Mars-500 project, conducted by the Institute for Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP) at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with The European Space Agency and ACC. (1/18)

Teen’s Idea to Make Snowflakes in Space Wins Contest (Source: Boston Globe)
Emerald Bresnahan is 17 years old, lives in Plainville and thinks she may help find the answer to how the galaxy began -- by making a snowflake in outer space. “I learned galaxy formation is similar to how snowflakes grow: The inside forms before the rest,” Bresnahan said. So she designed an experiment designed to tackle that complex scientific question, an experiment that may be conducted later this year by an astronaut on the International Space Station, which is orbiting 250 miles above the Earth.

Bresnahan is one of 60 students between the ages of 14 and 18 whose ideas were chosen yesterday to be finalists in the YouTube Space Lab competition. Bresnahan’s proposal was selected by a panel of scientific experts, including cosmologist Stephen Hawking, from more than 2,000 submitted to the international competition. Next month, the experts will winnow the list further to six students -- two from the Americas, two from Europe, and Two from Pacific Asia -- whose ideas will be the semi-finalists. People can vote for their choice on YouTube, but the views of the experts will have greater weight in the final decision, organizers said. (1/17)

UF Astronomer on Kepler Research Team Helps Discover Planets (Source: UF Independent Alligator)
A UF astronomer was involved with the recent discovery of two planets that helps give substance to a new astronomical theory. NASA's Kepler research team, which includes UF associate professor of astronomy Eric Ford, discovered Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b, which both orbit two stars. The results will be published today in the online edition of Nature, a scientific journal. This discovery was groundbreaking in the sense that it helps support a new astronomical theory about binary star, or double-star, systems, Ford said. (1/17)

China Plans to Launch 30 Satellites in 2012 (Source: RIA Novosti)
China is planning to launch 21 carrier rockets with 30 satellites in 2012, the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation (CASC) said. The country’s ambitious space program will see a steady increase in the number of space launches in the near future. Last year, China launched 20 rockets with 25 satellites to become the world’s second country after Russia in terms of the amount of space launches. As part of the 2012 schedule, China will launch six more geostationary satellites of the Beidou-2 (Compass) system to expand its own global positioning network to 16 satellites.

Another key event on the Chinese space industry calendar is the launch of Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the currently orbiting Tiangong-1 vessel as part of an ambitious project to start building a 60-ton space station by about 2020. (1/18)

Aerospace Industry is TalTech's Luncheon Topic (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Chris Snow, senior director of government relations for Space Florida, will be the keynote speaker today at the January luncheon of the Tallahassee Technology Alliance. The meeting starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Capital City Country Club. Snow will be discussing the status of Florida's aerospace industry -- including its legislative agenda and economic development plans -- now that NASA's shuttle program has ended. Space Florida was created as a special district that is the contact for all space-related functions in Florida. It serves the civilian, military and commercial sectors of the industry. (1/18)

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