January 26, 2012

Candidates Debate Space Policy on CNN (Source: SPACErePORT)
During Thursday's nationally televised GOP presidential debate, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all had an opportunity to discuss their vision for space exploration, mostly in response to 'grandiose' comments made Wednesday by Gingrich. Gingrich reiterated his ideas (and hinted at having Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a running mate), but Paul revealed little interest in space (and none in going to the Moon), aside from for military purposes. Paul suggested a healthier economy would allow very-rich people to invest in space enterprise.

Romney again spoke of bringing expert stakeholders together to set a direction for a "vibrant and strong" space program. He suggested that Gingrich's Moon base idea is unrealistic and expensive. In response to Gingrich comments that a lunar base might largely be privately financed, Romney said that as a business leader, he would have fired any executive who proposed investing billions for a lunar base.

Santorum stressed his pledge to reduce federal spending during every year of his presidency, which would leave little opportunity for non-essential investments in space exploration. He suggested that the other candidates were basically putting irresponsible space ideas forward to get votes. Romney made a similar accusation about Gingrich, but Gingrich countered that all the candidates should be learning and adopting the priorities of the states where they're campaigning. (1/26)

Dream Chaser Making Impressive Progress Ahead of CCDev-3 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has provided a positive overview on their progress in readying their Dream Chaser spacecraft for commercial crew operations in 2016. A fan favorite – due to its baby shuttle orbiter appearance – Dream Chaser has been paired with the highly reliable Atlas V launch vehicle as part of their Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) aspirations. Click here. (1/26)

ASAP: Commercial Crew Program at Risk From Inadequate Budget Oversight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) believes that NASA’s commercial crew program is at risk from inadequate funding and the space agency’s decision budget-based decision to use less intrusive Space Act Agreements (SAA) to oversee the work of developing vehicles to replace the retired space shuttle.

“It appears to the ASAP that the FY-2012 funding level approved by Congress, which was less than half of what was requested by the Administration, will not allow commercial crew transportation to the ISS by 2016,” ASAP said in its annual report released this week. “In fact, if the new funding level continues into the future, it is the ASAP’s belief that the program is in jeopardy, thus extending the current lack of a U.S. human spaceflight capability and resulting in no alternative to reliance on Russia to obtain access to the ISS.” (1/26)

Weatherman: Space Coast Votes Are Key to Presidential Hopefuls (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Over the last 20 years, the road to the White House has run through Florida's I-4 Corridor. More late money, attention and campaign resources have been directed to this region than any other part of the country. This area’s importance to the presidential race has intensified now that Florida has 29 Electoral College votes, compared to 27 in 2008. Florida is the largest swing state in the country and, therefore, has never been more important.

As a matter of national security and global competitiveness, the candidates must make space a part of their respective platforms. The space industry was Florida’s first high profile, high-wage industry and launched the high-tech juggernaut that the Space Coast, and much of Florida, is today. Much of America’s technological prowess of the last generation was the product of the space program. To abandon that capability is to condemn this nation to a second class status.

The future of space needs to include a definitive program that we know will succeed. Whether this is the Space Launch System (SLS) or commercial space, we need commitment and sustained appropriation. The Constellation program was cancelled due to inadequate funding. We cannot continue to invest our future in similar programs that we know will suffer the same fate... The candidates want and need our votes, so it is incumbent upon each of them to demonstrate his understanding of the issues surrounding the Space Coast and our high-tech companies, and how this fits into the bigger issues of national security and global leadership. We have the delegates; each candidate needs to demonstrate why he should get them. (1/26)

Zubrin: How Much Is an Astronaut's Life Worth (Source: Reason)
If we could put a man on the Moon, why can’t we put a man on the Moon? Starting with near zero space capability in 1961, NASA put men on our companion world in eight years. Yet despite vastly superior technology and hundreds of billions of dollars in subsequent spending, the agency has been unable to send anyone else farther than low Earth orbit ever since. Why? Because we insist that our astronauts be as safe as possible.

Keeping astronauts safe merits significant expenditure. But how much? There is a potentially unlimited set of testing procedures, precursor missions, technological improvements, and other protective measures that could be implemented before allowing human beings to once again try flying to other worlds. Were we to adopt all of them, we would wind up with a human spaceflight program of infinite cost and zero accomplishment.

In recent years, the trend has moved in precisely that direction, with NASA’s manned spaceflight effort spending more and more to accomplish less and less. If we are to achieve anything going forward, we have to find some way to strike a balance between human life and mission accomplishment. What we need is a quantitative criterion to assess what constitutes a rational expenditure to avert astronaut risk. In plain English, we need to answer a basic question: How much is an astronaut’s life worth? Click here. (1/26)

Pentagon To Buy Less Commercial Satellite Imagery (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department intends to reduce planned purchases of commercial satellite imagery in 2013 as part of a broader initiative aimed at reducing U.S. military expenditures by $259 billion over the next five years, according to a Pentagon planning document released Jan. 26.

However, the document says the Pentagon will continue to increase its commercial satellite imaging capacity, an indication that planned government-backed investments in new spacecraft will go forward. Commercial imagery was listed among several programs targeted for substantial reductions, the document said, specifying that purchases for imaging capacity that exceeds requirements will be affected. (1/26)

Ginrich Versus Obama: A Perfect Storm for Space Launch Industry? (Source: SPACErePORT)
What if Newt Gingrich wins the GOP nomination to run against President Obama in the General Election? We would have a space-saavy Gingrich basically agreeing with many of President Obama's current space policies, but very critical of his lack of emphasis on space exploration. We would see both Gingrich and Obama looking for ways to streamline the NASA bureaucracy (Gingrich to encourage innovation and Obama to save money). We would see Gingrich calling for an aviation-like approach to space transportation, and Obama supporting a greater role for the FAA.

With the Defense Department now considering base closures, NASA looking at ways to turn KSC into an airport-like facility, and Congress pushing legislation to dispose of unneeded federal facilities, we could see big changes at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (1/26)

Why Does NASA’s Chief Climate Scientist Keep Getting Arrested? (Source: Gizmodo)
Jim Hansen has been head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies for 31 years. In this time, he's been arrested twice. Why? How? Because, as he tells Scientific American today, he believes the White House is ignoring its own agency's alarming data on the state of the Earth's environment.

Both arrests happened during protests against mountain-top removal coal mining. Above you can watch his speech at the Appalachia Rising in September 2010, where he delivered this bon mot: "We are in danger of becoming the land of the rich and the home of the bribe." After the talk, he was arrested along with 100 others for failing to obey an order to disperse.

Hansen testified before congress twice in the '80s about the implications of global warming. After that, he tells Scientific American, he stayed away from activism so he could concentrate on doing science. By 2004, he had produced so much science that made it clear the environment was in grave danger, and the government was doing so little about it, that he dove back into speaking out. (1/26)

Pentagon Plan Includes Base Closings and Pay Raise Cuts (Source: New York Times)
The Pentagon took the first major step toward shrinking after a decade of war, announcing it wanted to limit pay raises for troops, increase health insurance fees for military retirees and close bases in the U.S. Although the pay-raise limits are modest, and would not start until 2015, the proposed cuts are certain to ignite a political fight in Congress. Increasing health insurance fees for former service members and closing bases are also fraught with political risk, particularly in an election year when Republican candidates are charging that President Obama is decimating the military.

Next year’s Pentagon budget is to be $525 billion, down from $531 billion this year. As the Pentagon is called on to find $259 billion in cuts over the next five years — and $487 billion over the decade — the department’s base budget (not counting war costs) will nonetheless rise to $567 billion by 2017. For comparison, the current Defense Department base budget is $531 billion. Pentagon officials said savings from any future base closings were not factored into the five-year budget that Mr. Panetta was sending to the White House, but one official described the closings as “the right thing to do.” (1/26)

Florida House Budget Skimps on Governor's Incentive Funding Request (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
House budget-writers are proposing to give Gov. Rick Scott more flexibility to dole out tax dollars to companies promising to create jobs — but less than half the $230 million he wanted to award. The House Transportation and Economic Development Committee recommends providing $73 million to Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity for business incentives. Scott had asked for $125 million for specific types of tax credits and incentives, along with extra flexibility to decide how those dollars would be spent — on tax rebates, brownfield redevelopment credits, up-front cash payments, and the like. (1/26)

LightSquared Files Ethics Complaint (Source: Politico)
Exasperated by a government process that has left them scrambling to avoid bankruptcy, LightSquared filed a complaint with NASA’s inspector general’s office Thursday alleging that a key member of a panel that advises the government on GPS violated ethics laws. Bradford Parkinson, second in command of a federal advisory board that has played an integral role informing the government’s views of the LightSquared-GPS controversy, “appears to have violated a federal conflict of interest statute” as a special government employee, the filing states.

Parkinson serves as vice chairman of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board, which advises the Defense Department, the Transportation Department and a host of other federal agencies on GPS policy. Parkinson has a multimillion dollar stake in Trimble, a GPS manufacturing company at the heart of a campaign to derail the broadband company from entering the market. The PNT Advisory Board operates under the auspices of NASA. (1/26)

Threat From Retired Satellite Exceeds NASA Standards (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, a NASA satellite retired from service Jan. 5, will present a 1-in-1,000 chance of harming someone when it makes an uncontrolled fall from Earth orbit some time after 2014, a level ten times riskier than NASA now requires for re-entering spacecraft, according to an agency spokesperson.

The forecast for the satellite's re-entry calls for a return between 2014 and 2023. Fluctuations in solar activity cause the atmosphere to expand and contract, making it difficult to accurately predict when uncontrolled satellites will re-enter. The satellite, launched in December 1995, was designed before NASA issued standards for public safety from re-entering spacecraft. NASA satellites must now have a probability of striking a person of less than 1-in-10,000. (1/26)

President Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance (Source: NASA)
On this solemn day (Jan. 26), we join the NASA family and all Americans in honoring the brave men and women who gave their lives in the pursuit of space exploration. It is important to remember that pushing the boundaries of space requires great courage and has come with a steep price three times in our Nation’s history – for the crews of Apollo 1 and the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. The loss of these pioneers is felt every day by their family, friends, and colleagues, but we take comfort in the knowledge that their spirit will continue to inspire us to new heights.

Today, our Nation is pursuing an ambitious path that honors these heroes, builds on their sacrifices, and promises to expand the limits of innovation as we venture farther into space than we have ever gone before. The men and women who lost their lives in the name of space exploration helped get us to this day, and it is our duty to honor them the way they would have wanted to be honored – by focusing our sights on the next horizon. (1/26)

Lockheed Martin Profit Declines 15% on Weak Electronic, Space-Unit Sales (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin's fourth-quarter profit fell 15 percent on weak sales in its electronic and space businesses.
Net income from continuing operations fell to $698 million, from $821 million a year earlier. Lockheed forecast 2012 full-year sales of $45 billion to $46 billion. Space Systems sales declined 7.4 percent to $2.11 billion, Lockheed said. Unit profit declined 7.5 percent to $258 million. (1/26)

Vega's Heavy Burden (Source: Flight Global)
To avoid the prospect of losing a high-value commercial payload on a risky maiden flight, Vega's first mission - VV01 - will carry a basket of scientific spacecraft, including nine so-called "cubesats", the 1kg 10cmx10cm boxes that are increasingly popular with low-budget researches thankful for any lift to orbit.

But while loss of the main payload would also not be a financial disaster, science would be far, far poorer if Vega fails to deliver the Italian space agency's LARES, or Laser Relativity Satellite, which will study the so-called frame dragging prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity. This asserts that the rotation of a massive object such as the Earth will impose a drag on a smaller object passing nearby. (1/26)

Plasma Cloud Responsible for Phobos Mission Failure? (Source: RIA Novosti)
The answer to the mysterious failure of the Phobos mission may now be close at hand. An inter-departmental commission looking into why the Phobos-Grunt space probe did not make it to Mars has come up with the likely version of events. Scientists say the formation of plasma on the probe whilst inside the Earth's magnetosphere may have caused the device to fail. (1/26)

Tea Party Group Likes Newt's Space Ideas (Source: TPIS)
Mr. Gingrich's bold ideas challenge the status quo that is infecting the 9th floor at NASA Headquarters. Moreover, Newt touched on a theme that we at TEA Party in Space (TPIS) have railed against: the inefficiencies of the government bureaucracies. This is not an attack on the people working at NASA, this is what the system is set up to do. What Mr. Gingrich correctly points out is that the system is broken. We are relying on a system to get astronauts to the ISS that has had three failures in the last six months. We are watching the Chinese lay out plans to overtake us in space and our arrogant politicians simply scoff it aside.

NASA doesn't have a clue on how to achieve Mr. Gingrich's ideas and vision of a moon base, but Bigelow Aerospace does. And this isn't just pie in the sky. We have private entrepreneurs who are investing their fortunes into spaceflight. Hundreds of millions of dollars, of their personal wealth, doing more with less and having better results in the process. This is the model that must be endorsed by NASA and political leaders and then enacted. Mr. Gingrich articulates a vision that TPIS supports entirely.

But now comes the interesting part for Mr. Gingrich. He must articulate his vision in a way that will not only sway NASA leaders but also politicians who "bring home the bacon" to their states and districs. The bacon, of course, is prized NASA dollars that have been flowing to the same districts and same states for decades. It can be done. Mr. Gingrich says his vision will create more jobs in the aerospace sector, we agree Mr. Speaker, but how? (1/26)

TEA Party Endorses Newt Gingrich in Florida Primary (Source: Sunshine State News)
The TEA Party of Florida endorsed Newt Gingrich in the Florida presidential primary, saying the former House speaker has "articulated direct and serious steps designed to reduce spending, cut our deficits, pay down our national debt, and return liberty to our citizens in doing so." Reconstituted from the party whose candidates garnered 310,000 votes in 20 races in 2010, TEA is pursuing a broader outreach strategy this year. (1/26)

GOP Hopeful Rick Santorum Bails on Brevard Visit (Source: Florida Today)
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has canceled plans to speak at Saturday’s Space Coast Tiger Bay luncheon. Barbara Davis, head of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee, said she was notified that Santorum would be out of town an unable to participate in the event. J.B. Kump, Tiger Bay executive director (and former district director for Congressman Dave Weldon), said those who had purchased tickets for the event are being notified of the cancellation and will receive full refunds. (1/26)

General Dynamics Q4 Profit Drops (Source: Wall Street Journal)
General Dynamics reported a 17% drop in profit for the fourth quarter as compared to the same quarter the previous year. The company took a $111 million impairment charge, as well as $78 million in losses, for Jet Aviation in the quarter. However, the defense contractor forecast stronger earnings in 2012. (1/26)

Boeing Profits Rise by 20% in Q4 (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Boeing posted a 20% increase in fourth-quarter profit to $1.39 billion, compared with the same quarter a year earlier. However, the aircraft manufacturer offered a conservative forecast for 2012 with earnings per share of $4.05 to $4.25. "Despite pockets of economic uncertainty and defense-budget pressures, our markets remain large and growing," Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said. (1/26)

Wallops Evolving Into Smallsat Launch Center (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, long a center for sounding rocket science campaigns, is becoming a site for small satellite launches as well, according to NASA’s new chief technologist. Mason Peck, a Cornell professor who assumed a two-year assignment managing NASA’s open-ended technology-development effort Jan. 3, toured the venerable launch site on Virginia’s eastern shore Jan. 24, and found it a promising spot for smallsat work.

The center is developing its own “six-pack” dispenser that would be able to launch the equivalent of six cubesats on a commercial launch vehicle, says Peck, who has been an advocate of cubesat work for students in his academic role. And Wallops has three launch pads for commercial orbital launches, including a new pad nearing certification to loft Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares commercial cargo launcher.

The first flight-test of Antares will carry a few cubesats supplied by Ames Research Center that are designed to vet the use of smart-phone hardware as low-cost cubesat avionics. Wallops has launched more than 14,000 rockets since its first lifted off July 4, 1945. Most of those were suborbital sounding rockets, but in addition to the long-standing launch capabilities, the facility has processing and fabrication capabilities that may be useful as NASA looks for low-cost ways to test nascent technologies in space. Those include the six-pack dispenser, which Peck called a “Pez dispenser for cubesats” that can handle a mix of as many as six cubesats. (1/26)

NASA Has Fizzled, But Wernher von Braun’s Exuberant Vision Lives On (Source: Reason)
During World War II, Wernher von Braun had a lot on his mind. The German rocket scientist was busy running Adolf Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 programs, which sent more than 10,000 rockets into England in 1944 and 1945. But beneath Von Braun’s famously exacting manner lurked a dreamer who throughout the conflict obtained a treasured subscription to Astounding Science Fiction by using a false name and a neutral mail drop in Sweden. The magazines made their way to Germany in diplomatic pouches.

When Von Braun immigrated to the U.S., he took to the pages of Collier's magazine to launch one of the most influential popular science writing series of all time. Von Braun sketched out his vision of a manned space program—starting with orbiting and spinning space stations, working through lunar landings, and culminating in a massive expedition to Mars. Illustrated by the great astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell, the series fired the imaginations of a generation of tech lovers; it was science fiction with all the rivets showing. Many cite it as the true beginning of the U.S. space program.

As Von Braun would put it, in an update to the old saw, “Late to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.” The Collier’s campaign was his way to use science fictional ideas to advertise the future he wanted to create. And it worked: Von Braun went on to run the famous Apollo program, which put a man on the moon... Congress came to see NASA primarily as a jobs program, not an exploratory agency. Slowly, NASA complied with the post-Apollo vision—- safety-obsessed, with few big goals for manned flight beyond low Earth orbit. Very little useful science got done in the space station. NASA never did the experiments needed to develop the technologies required for a genuine interplanetary expedition. Click here. (1/26)

Simberg on Gingrich: Would be Most Space-Conversant President (Source: Reason)
"Had Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) not switched parties seven years ago while being allowed to keep his seniority, the 88-year-old defender of the status quo would not be the current chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Instead the chairmanship would have fallen to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has defended the administration’s space policy. Rohrabacher will almost certainly take over when Hall retires or is term-limited out in five years. If Newt Gingrich by some miracle wins the GOP presidential nomination and the White House, he would be the most space-conversant commander in chief in American history. So the stars might yet align [to fix our space program]." (1/26)

Gingrich isn't a newcomer to this issue. He has been geeking out on space for a long time. He even founded the congressional Space Caucus. Many of his space speech's explicit points were excellent—-and consistent with the current push for more reliance on the private sector—especially the 10 percent of NASA's budget he proposed setting aside for prizes to encourage private spending and innovation. (1/26)

Santorum: Moon Base Idea is 'Crass Politics' (Source: Politico)
Santorum was asked at Florida State University about whether he'd expand NASA programs after Newt Gingrich's pledge for a new moon base. "I go back to trying to be very up front and honest with the people of Florida, the people of the country," he said. But given a potential explosion of inflation, he said, "the idea that anybody's going out and talking about grand, new, very expensive schemes to spend more money at a time when we do not have our fiscal house in order, in my opinion, is plain, crass politics." (1/26)

Romney Schedules Public Rally Near Spaceport Entrance (Source: Florida Today)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, canvassing the state this week in hopes of becoming the GOP nominee, will be in Brevard County on Friday at 3:00 p.m. for a rally in Cape Canaveral. He’ll visit Astrotech's former SpaceHab facility, near the South Gate entrance to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (1/26)

Loral Selected to Provide High Power Communications Satellite (Source: SpaceRef)
Loral has been awarded a contract to provide a high power communications satellite. Further information on the contract award will be released at a later date. (1/25)

Pluto: A Dwarf Planet with Rings? (Source: National Geographic)
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently speeding through the outer solar system toward its July 2015 date with Pluto, when it will take a good close look at the dwarf planet’s mysterious surface, atmosphere, moons, and… rings? Less than three-quarters the size of our moon, Pluto nevertheless has no shortage of fascinating features. It has a curiously mottled coloration that seems to change with its seasons, an atmosphere that expands and falls back onto its surface, a system of four moons in orbit around it — the most recent of which, currently called “P4″, was announced just last summer — and, according to Planetary Science Institute senior scientist Henry Throop, possibly even a system of rings.

Opening of UK Site Producing the Heart of Galileo (Source: ESA)
The first Galileo satellites are already in orbit, with more on the way. Today ESA’s Director General and the UK’s Universities and Science Minister attended the grand opening of the facility where navigation payloads for the next batch of Galileo satellites are being built. UK company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford, Surrey, is assembling the payloads for the next 14 Galileo satellites. These follow on from the initial four, the second pair of which will be launched this autumn. (1/25)

United Technologies Reports 11% Jump in Q4 Profit (Source: Bloomberg)
United Technologies reported an 11% jump in profit for the fourth quarter, to $1.33 billion, compared with $1.2 billion for the same quarter in the previous year. The company's aerospace units posted improved sales for the quarter, while sales dropped at its air-conditioning division. (1/26)

Jeff Greason Talks Florida Space (Source: NPR)
"I think the space industry will continue to be a growing part of both the U.S. and the world economy in the future. I think how much of it is on Florida's coast is going to be tied to the policy choices that we make as a nation in what we do with the federal government's space program, with the NASA space program.... The future of what NASA is a choice that we make, it's not a destiny, and there are multiple things we can do with the nation's space program, and some of them might have a very bright future for Florida."

"The Cape has a natural advantage as a launch site for expendable large boosters, and really the choice that hasn't been clearly brought into focus in national policy is if we wanted to select a policy that was good for Florida, we would select a policy that had a lot of launches. And, you know, the more launches there are, the more activity that there will tend to be at the Cape."

"That's not the only thing that can be done in Florida, but that's an area where Florida has a real advantage over other sites. And it's a challenge, if I may say, in the current posture of our program is that we are, as was discussed earlier, putting our energies towards the development of a larger booster that would fly less often. And that's not necessarily such a great thing for Florida." (1/25)

Starflighters Expands Fleet at KSC (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The final pieces of a unique squadron of supersonic jets arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19, where they will be reassembled and put to work with a private company aiming to use them for research and microgravity training. The new planes were part of a group of five F-104 fighters bought by Starfighters Inc. from the Italian Air Force. The company already had four of the aircraft, but that wasn’t enough for the company to pursue a number of different opportunities.

Starfighters operates out of a hangar at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy under an agreement with Kennedy. Svetkoff’s main goal is to fly research and development missions, ranging from experiments flown for universities to evaluating rocket and spacecraft components in high-stress environments including high-acceleration and microgravity.

Space Florida and Embry-Riddle University already have partnerships with the company. Because the aircraft can soar to some 70,000 feet and speed past Mach 2, it can be used to launch small satellites into space. The 19-foot-long, 900-pound rocket, about the size of a Sparrow missile, has already been tested in a series of taxi runs hanging from an F-104′s wings. Test flights carrying the rocket but not launching it will be conducted in the next month and the first launch is in works to take place in the summer. Click here. (1/25)

Extraterrestrial Outfitter (Source: Air & Space)
Eric Anderson is clear about his goal. “I’d like to go to space in the next five to 10 years,” he says. “I don’t want to wait.” He sits comfortably on a white leather couch in his office at Space Adventures in Vienna, Virginia, wearing a dark suit and open-collar shirt. A trim, fit man with a closely shaved head, he acts like he’s ready to go tomorrow. But wait he must, until he develops the net worth required to take his dream trip. That may explain why he’s working two high-profile jobs at once: chairman of Space Adventures, and president and CEO of Seattle-based Intentional Software. “Intentional actually could be worth billions and billions of dollars,” he says. “It could be my ticket.”

For the last 10 years, Anderson and Space Adventures have been brokering deals for well-heeled passengers to fly aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. Now that those trips have become more or less routine, Anderson is primed for his own ride. And he’s ready to take Space Adventures to the next level—to the moon. Click here. (1/25)

How to Make A Giant Telescope Mirror (Source: NPR)
The world's largest mirrors for the world's largest telescopes are made under the football stadium at the University of Arizona. Why there? Why not? "We wanted some space, and it was just used for parking some cars, and this seemed like a good use," says Roger Angel. Angel is the master of making big mirrors for telescopes. For 30 years he has been using a method called spin casting to make the largest solid telescope mirrors in the world. At the moment, he's making the second of seven mirrors, each 27 feet across, that will go into the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will be sited on a peak in the Andes Mountains in Chile. Click here. (1/26)

Follow-Through With Congress Key to Gingrich Space Vision (Source: Florida Today)
The vision Gingrich unapologetically called “grandiose” offered few details about how it would be implemented, what budget was needed or whether it could earn support from Congress. But Gingrich said his space program would be “very different” and make some within NASA “uncomfortable,” drawing applause. Next Tuesday’s Republican primary may tell if voters on the Space Coast and across the state find the proposals inspiring or threatening to a space program still adjusting to changes implemented by President Barack Obama.

Mike McCulley, a former shuttle pilot who went on to lead shuttle contractor United Space Alliance, said “consistent, steady leadership” was paramount, noting that little ultimately came from the space exploration vision President George W. Bush introduced in 2004... "President Bush gave a good speech, but nobody followed up on it.” (1/26)

Instrument Glitch Found on Renamed Suomi NPP Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
With a stunning snapshot of the Earth to share, the United States' freshly launched dual-purpose polar-orbiting weather and climate-tracking observatory has been branded with a new name to honor a pioneer. Launched with the mouthful name National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, on Oct. 28, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the craft originally was conceived as a experimental test-bed for a future era of weather platforms.

While the satellite remains in checkout mode, its instruments have produced a stunning view of the Americas from the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument as seen above. That testing, however, has uncovered a larger than expected decrease in sensor sensitivity in four of VIIRS's near-infrared and visible channels because of tungsten oxide contamination on the surface of the instrument's mirror during preflight coating, causing it to darken. (1/26)

NASA Says No to Phobos-Grunt Crash Theory Test (Source: RIA Novosti)
NASA has refused to participate in an experiment designed to show if U.S. radars could have had an impact on Russia’s troubled Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, Anatoly Shylov said on Thursday. “Roscosmos filed an official request to the U.S. side to participate in the investigation, but they refused,” Shylov said. The official also said that the government commission inquiry into the cause of the probe’s crash had issued a final report with the results of the investigation. It is expected to be published next week. (1/26)

More Limits on U.S. Space Systems Unacceptable (Source: Heritage Foundation)
The Obama Administration launched a push for an international Code of Conduct pertaining to activities of space-faring nations, but its activities have been cloaked in secrecy. This lack of transparency caused 37 Republican Senators to request more information about the Administration’s negotiations on this issue in February 2011. According to Ellen Tauscher, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, “We will never do a legally binding agreement because I can't do one. I can't get anything ratified.” It appears that the Administration is trying to circumvent the Senate’s constitutional role in consenting to the ratification of international agreements that should be concluded as treaties. Click here. (1/26)

Spacecom on Verge of Ordering Large Ka-band Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Spacecom of Israel, whose planned expansion beyond the Middle East and Europe is starting with the Africa-centered Amos 5 spacecraft that began commercial service on Jan. 25, expects to order a large Amos 6 satellite equipped with Ka-band spot beams in addition to C- and Ku-band transponders within weeks. Tel Aviv-based Spacecom has been discussing Amos 6 for nearly two years but did not issue a formal request for proposals to prospective manufacturers until last summer. A request for final bids is being sent out in the coming days, with a decision on the builder to be made before April. (1/26)

Next Frontier For Florida's Space Coast (Source: NPR)
Can the private space industry ever replace all those jobs along the Space Coast? I'm hearing from some experts that the answer is: eventually, but it will look very different than it has for the last 50 years and some change. There's been one big program, obviously, the space shuttle program. There's been one sort of entity that all of the workers, some 15,000 workers, have worked on. But now you're looking at kind of a new paradigm. Just last week, NASA went to the administration and told them that they had sort of a new way of looking at their culture, much more diversified is what we're looking at.

Kennedy Space Center would be, instead of working on one project, an eclectic mix. NASA will be over here in one area, maybe the Department of Energy is over here in another area working on alternative energy technology, and over here there's the commercial space industry park, and so on. So could we have all of those jobs back? Yes, but it's going to take some five to 10 years, probably at the minimum. In the meantime, there's some work but nowhere near as much. (1/25)

Roskosmos at a Crossroads (Source: Russia BTH)
To mark the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s first space flight, the year 2011 was declared the Year of Space. It was not the best year for the Russian space industry: There were 32 launches, and four of them failed. This puts the failure rate at 12.5 percent –– only the first years of space exploration in the 1960s saw a higher rate. The accidents suggest a systemic crisis in the Russian space industry. Can it be overcome?

Thirty-two launches are scheduled for 2012, the same as the previous year. Nearly half of them are mixed projects either involving foreign partners or conducted exclusively on behalf of foreign customers. As for ambitious projects such as interplanetary flights, there are none on the list. However, Russia plans two flights to the moon by 2020, while in the long term, Roskosmos intends to establish a manned base on the moon. (1/26)

Vesta Likely Cold and Dark Enough for Ice (Source: Space Daily
Though generally thought to be quite dry, roughly half of the giant asteroid Vesta is expected to be so cold and to receive so little sunlight that water ice could have survived there for billions of years, according to the first published models of Vesta's average global temperatures and illumination by the sun. (1/26)

New Mexico Spaceport Officials to Hear from Virgin Galactic (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority will hear an update from Virgin Galactic and discuss a proposed change spaceport officials said is needed to state law when it convenes today in Santa Fe. Spaceport proponents are pushing for a law change in the current legislative session that would restrict lawsuits by passengers against parts suppliers and manufacturers of spacecraft.
The taxpayer-financed, $209 million Spaceport America, located just north of Dona Ana County, is an under-construction launch site for commercial space vehicles. (1/26)

New Mexico Spaceport Lawsuit Protection Bill Moves Forward (Source: AP)
Dona Ana County Commissioners unanimously signed off on a state bill that would restrict a space travelers right to sue Spaceport and Virgin Galactic in most cases of injury or death. A proposal for the 2012 state legislative session would limit lawsuits against manufacturers and suppliers of spacecraft. Backers of the bill argue it's needed to keep the spaceport north of Dona Ana County competitive with three other aerospace-focused states that have already OK'd similar measures. (1/26)

Obama Moved Space Policy in the Right Direction, But Still a Long Way to Go (Source: Reason)
By any reasonably objective measure, U.S. human spaceflight policy is an awful mess. We have spent hundreds of billions of federal taxpayer dollars during the last half-century, with little to show for it in terms of significant human expansion off the planet. In some ways, we have gone backward. There are near-term, cost-effective solutions to our space problems, but the people who guide policy in Congress aren’t interested in them, insisting instead on pouring further tens of billions into a giant rocket that probably will never fly and that internal NASA documents show is unneeded.

After the Obama administration announced its modest policy changes, the space policy establishment disingenuously and often mendaciously sought to preserve its decades-long rent seeking by feeding into national anxieties about American exceptionalism and the president himself. Sadly, the old guard has had some success. Bad policies are perpetuated because most people on Capitol Hill, members and staff alike, are too busy with more important matters than space and tend to defer to colleagues who compete for space-committee assignments so that they can keep the pork coming. The situation has been aggravated by the Obama administration’s political missteps.

Despite adopting the best space policy in years, perhaps ever, it blundered in rolling out the changes and remains inarticulate, confused, and confusing in explaining them, allowing obfuscation by supporters of the status quo to go largely unchecked. It is ironic that an administration otherwise hell-bent on increasing government ownership and control in so many other aspects of American life would be the one that finally came up with a policy designed to privatize a function that has long been performed by a government agency, with the explicit goal of encouraging competition. Click here. (1/26)

No comments: