January 8, 2012

China Opens 2012 with ZiYuan-3 Launch (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China launched a new high-resolution remote sensing satellite on Monday using the Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B -Y26) launch vehicle from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the ZiYuan-3 its first high-resolution geological mapping satellite, to be used for civil purposes. The ZiYuan-3 (ZY-3) is the first of a new series of high-resolution civilian remote sensing satellites, grown from a project that was initiated in March 2008. (1/8)

U.S., Thales at Odds Over Request for ITAR-Free Satellite Design Info (Source: Space News)
A U.S. State Department investigation of whether European satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space has illegally included sensitive U.S.-built satellite parts in spacecraft launched aboard Chinese rockets has remained open for more than three years because of a dispute over what information Thales should be required to submit, according to a company official and State Department documents. U.S. government policy bars the shipment of ITAR-controlled technology for launch aboard Chinese rockets.

But after receiving documentation showing the disposition of the ITAR-controlled hardware that Thales had received — documentation Thales said proved it had not been sent to China — the State Department broadened the inquiry to include every component on the Thales satellites. Thales has refused to provide these data on the grounds that doing so would violate French law and contravene contract agreements with its satellite customers. (1/6)

Some Guys: Obama Teleported to Mars With Us (Source: Wonkette)
According to two guys named Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings, Obama, then known as one “Barry Soetoro,” joined them and seven other young Americans, including the current director of DARPA, in a project that involved teleporting to the Red Planet through a so-called “jump room.” The claim is apparently serious enough that the White House has taken the time to deny it ever happened to Wired magazine’s Spencer Ackerman. Click here. (1/3)

Reader Blames Leaders for Floundering NASA (Source: Florida Today)
David Brown sees the lack of clear purpose in our space program as a lack of leadership. "It both confuses me and breaks my heart that NASA continues to operate like a government bureaucracy without direction," Brown said, noting that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden not long ago had his leadership team watch a video about the importance of having a sense of purpose.

"In conjunction with the many passionate and skilled people who work at NASA, I was hopeful that they would get back to their roots and put forth a vision that moved both the workers and the public. That lack of clarity about their mission is no small thing and as with many things, politics and self-interests continue to trump a unified sense of purpose for our greater good.

"I should add that it's unfair to single out NASA in this regard, as our political system continues to undermine many a government agency that hasn't lost its way as much as had it yanked from them. I know for a fact that there are many exceptional people at NASA who signed on because they cared about what NASA stood for. I am fortunate to have met a number of leaders at NASA who do care and are trying to make a difference where they can." (1/7)

Editorial: Virgin Galactic's Moving Workers is a Good Sign (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The countdown continues as Virgin Galactic preps for space tourism flights from Spaceport America that could possibly begin in 2013. The latest positive step has Virgin Galactic relocating some staffers — formerly based in the United Kingdom — to an office off Roadrunner Parkway. While that might not seem like much in the cosmic — dare we say "galactic" — scheme of things, it is an affirmation, if one were still needed, that Virgin Galactic is seriously pressing onward and upward with its plans.

That's important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Doña Ana County residents have been supporting the spaceport project through a sales tax. Back in 2007, some people were reluctant to support what they saw as a flight of fancy through sales tax money. But now that possibilities are becoming realities, some are even thinking that progress is too slow. One of them is space enthusiast State Rep. Andy Nuñez, I-Hatch. He said that the state needs to get "going and moving" on the spaceport operations. "I think eventually it will pay off," he said, "but I think things are moving a little (slower) than I want them to be."

We share his eagerness and enthusiasm, but at the same time, enough time must be taken to ensure the spaceport project's safety and success. This is a long-term project that should be around for a long time, evolving and progressing as space-travel technology is refined, improved and expanded. Again, the important point here is that Virgin Galactic is committed to the project. (1/7)

Wanted: Hatch Design for Tycho Space Capsule (Source: WIRED)
I would like to present an opportunity for you all with an open assignment for the Tycho Deep Space capsule hatch. We are currently at a development stage where this hatch design must be decided soon for prototype production the next couple of months. So, if you believe you are up for the task please join the development process of this DIY project. E-mail me your ideas as 2D, 3D, hand sketches (well, anything) using the address in the header. Click here. (1/6)

Sources: United Space Alliance Directed To Stop Pursuing New Business (Source: Space News)
United Space Alliance (USA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture created in 1995 to operate NASA’s now-retired space shuttle, has been barred by its corporate parents from pursuing any new business, according to industry sources. The move raises new questions about the future of the Houston-based company, a major NASA contractor that has struggled to carve out a prominent new role for itself in the post-shuttle era. USA’s current shuttle operations contract is set to expire in September.

“I have been told by folks who work at senior levels directly at USA that they have been told they can’t go after any new [contracts] — that they are basically standing down,” one industry source said. “Does that mean Boeing and Lockheed plan to totally dismantle the company? I can’t go that far, but if you are not allowed to go after any new work, that certainly says something.”

Another industry source said USA was notified of the Boeing-Lockheed Martin decision during a Dec. 6 meeting of the USA advisory board. “If they are in a proposal and a down-select hasn’t occurred, they would be able to fulfill that, if they won, but they couldn’t bid future contract obligations,” this source said. USA was not represented at a twice-yearly chief executive roundtable with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, held Dec. 6 at agency headquarters here, according to attendees. (1/6)

Space a Priority in Leaner U.S. Military (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon will continue to invest in space capabilities even as it pares down its force structure in response to massive budget pressures, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Jan. 5. “As we reduce the overall defense budget, we will protect and in some cases increase our investments in special operations forces, in new technologies like [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] and unmanned systems, in space,” Panetta said during a press conference at the Pentagon.

Panetta appeared with President Obama and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to unveil a new strategy under which the nation will rely on a smaller, leaner force structure. The defense budget had grown at “an extraordinary pace” after 2001, Obama said during the press conference. Being able to effectively operate in space was listed among the Defense Department’s priorities in the strategy. (1/6)

Key Chinese Lunar Landing System Good (Source: Aviation Week)
Testing has proved the effectiveness of crucial landing technology for China’s third lunar exploration mission, due to be launched in 2013, says national space contractor CAST. The mission, to be called Chang’e 3, is aimed at making advances in a wide range of technologies, CAST says. It lists them as soft landing, surveying the surface by rover, “survival on the lunar surface,” communications for long-distance monitoring and control, and direct injection into a lunar transfer orbit.

The landing systems that have lately completed their tests have functions such as braking and obstacle avoidance, the manufacturer says. The Chang’e 2 spacecraft, built as a spare for the pioneering Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter but sent on its own mission to the Moon in 2010, is now at the second Lagrangian point conducting observations. CAST’s full name is China Science Aerospace & Technology Corp. It has separate units that build spacecraft and rockets. (1/6)

'No Chance' Secret X-37B Space Plane Spying on China Module (Source: Space.com)
Contrary to rampant speculation, the United States military's secretive X-37B space plane is most likely not spying on a prototype Chinese space module, experts say. A BBC article suggests that the robotic X-37B space plane might be surveilling China's recently launched space laboratory Tiangong 1. As evidence, the article notes apparently striking similarities in the orbits of the two spacecraft.

But in reality, these orbits are quite different, other analysts contend, making it extremely unlikely that the X-37B is keeping an eye on Tiangong 1. "I would go as far as to say, 'no chance,'" said Brian Weeden, a technical adviser with the Secure World Foundation and a former orbital analyst with the U.S. Air Force. "It's not practical." (1/6)

Arianespace Expands, Struggles For Profit (Source: Aviation Week)
Years have ticked by since European launch consortium Arianespace turned a profit. Despite Europe’s economic crisis, the market for commercial satellite communications is strong and conditions for launch providers are generally favorable. Yet the Evry, France-based launch services company continues to rely on government subsidies.

Despite the success of its Ariane 5 rocket, which has not seen a launch failure since 2002, a second consecutive year of losses in 2010 led Arianespace’s government backers to question how a reliable, high-performing rocket could be so costly to build, operate and maintain. The answer, according to a 2011 audit that put the entire Ariane 5 system under a microscope, is politics.

“Building rockets in Europe is more expensive than building them in Russia or China,” says Jean-Yves Le Gall, a reference to the premium European governments pay to ensure geographic return on their investment in the Ariane 5. With the politics of European launch unlikely to change, Le Gall is moving the company in a new direction, diversifying the product line in an effort to yield efficiencies and tripling the number of vehicles available to commercial and government customers. (1/6)

Vega Maiden Launch Could Slip Into February (Source: Flight Global)
European Space Agency launch operator Arianespace plans a busy 2012, with seven Ariane 5 heavy-lift missions and three medium-lift Soyuz flights from ESA's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, along with two Soyuz launches at Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome. The highlight of the year, though, will arguably be the maiden flight of ESA's new light launcher, Vega, but the 26 January launch date set late last year now looks to be uncertain.

Arianespace chief executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said Arianespace and ESA were making ready for the flight, which is now listed on Arianespace's launch planner as "late January-early February". ESA director general Jean Jacques Dordain is likely to announce a flight date as early as Monday 9 January, when he will detail the agency's agenda for the coming year. Dordain will be pressed hard on this point, as Vega cannot move too far beyond 26 January in order to complete the Kourou launch before preparations begin for the next Ariane 5 flight on 9 March. (1/6)

45th Space Wing: Looking Back at 2011 and Forward to 2012 (Source: USAF)
During 2011, we participated in 11 launches off the Eastern Range that not only contributed to our national defense, but also research and space exploration... We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first free human into space, Alan Shepherd, which happened at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 5 May 1961. One of those who served proudly in space is our 14th Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Helms. She was acknowledged for her achievements and inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame in May.

There are 12 launches scheduled for 2012 on the Eastern Range. Some key missions are the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS-4) this month, SpaceX's mission to the International Space Station and the first satellite of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), both in February. Later in the year we'll have the next Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-2) launch as well as two NRO launches (NROL-38 and NROL-15) this summer. We'll also have the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), GPS IIF-4, OTV-3 and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K) later in the year. And folks wonder if the Florida space coast is still in business?! (1/6)

SLS Capability Touted for Europa Lander Capability, Enceladus Sample Return (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As the Space Launch System (SLS) teams head into their first full year since the vehicle was finally announced, fascinating – albeit well into the future – Exploration Systems Development (ESD) Design Reference Mission (DRM) options for deep space have been outlined in the SLS Concept Of Operations (Con Ops), options which include ambitious missions to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

A solidified version of the roadmap for the SLS is expected this year, as much as there had been hoped the details would be forthcoming in the last few months. One of the main challenges is believed to be the long-term funding situation for NASA, which is – as always – under pressure. Such funding constraints on the Agency may even impact on the very configuration of the SLS, although seasoned NASA teams are understood to be providing a level of mitigation by working flexible options on the launch infrastructure. (1/6)

Orbital Continues Preps for Cygnus Flight This Year (Source: Florida Today)
Orbital Sciences Corp. this week released images showing technicians working on the command modules of spacecraft being readied to fly cargo to the Space Station this year. Orbital says it will update the anticipated timing of those flights early next month when it announces quarterly financial results. The most recent schedule shows a maiden flight of the company's Antares rocket (formerly called Taurus II) in the first quarter of this year, followed by a Cygnus demonstration flight to the Space Station in the next quarter.

However, work continues to ready a new launch pad for the missions at Wallops Island, Virginia. Meanwhile, NASA's other commercial cargo partner, SpaceX, is preparing for a Feb. 7 launch from Cape Canaveral of its Dragon spacecraft to the space station. If the demonstration is successful, the first commercial resupply mission could follow within a few months. (1/6)

Editorial: Just One More Special Favor for the New Mexico Spaceport (Source: D Chieftain)
According to Christine Armstrong, executive director of the Spaceport Authority, 500 people are already signed up to fly into space with Virgin Galactic, at a ticket price of $200,000 apiece. A grand visitor center is scheduled to open in 2013. Since the spaceport is several miles from I-25, two welcome centers will be constructed convenient to the highway, and shuttle buses will take visitors from those centers to the spaceport itself. After the current bond issues expire, the facility has a plan to be self-supporting.

New Mexico has to do just one more little thing for the space industry. It’s not quite enough that we built them a spaceport with taxpayer money. The state has to guarantee that their passengers won’t sue them. Or, I should say, their passengers’ heirs, if the passengers — since we’re speaking plainly — get killed on the trip, whether vaporized by a collision with an asteroid or whatever. It’s not the spaceship operators we have to protect. New Mexico has already done that. This next one is for the suppliers to the spaceship operators. (1/7)

New York Lawyer Finally Gets His Space Wish (Source: NY Daily News)
More than 57 years after Peter Schroth wrote to the American Museum of Natural History to reserve a spot on a future space trip, he finally got his wish. Sort of. Schroth's letter was dug up from the institution’s archives. It’s one of hundreds that were rediscovered, scanned and put up online to complement the museum's new space exhibit.

Schroth was living near Buffalo when he wrote the letter just before his eighth birthday in 1954. It was a response to an ad the museum placed in several papers and magazines, asking interested readers to sign up for a trip to the moon, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn with its “interplanetary tour reservation desk.” The museum promised to turn over the submitted names to the first organization planning public trips. Click here. (1/8)

Commercial Space Travel: To Infinity and Beyond, For a Price (Source: Afro)
Imagine out of a tiny porthole in one glance being able to see the continents of Africa, Europe, and North America--at the same time. Imagine being able to cover your eye’s view of the planet Earth with one finger. Imagine being able to see the sun rise 15 times in one day, while completely circling the globe every 80 minutes.

Well, for all those who have been patiently praying to soar through the solar system, 2012 might bring an end to the wait with the first flights for tourists to the International Space Station (ISS). Going for an easy $200,000 a seat, Virgin Galactic, the same company that provides mobile phone service to millions, has already booked over 450 guests who have paid in full to explore the lower portions of the galaxy.

While no official date has been set for the first tourist flight to space, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have made test flights to space, and are in the final stages of safety reviews. To date, seven civilian non-scientists have visited the suborbital space, all of them, such as American Microsoft software developer Charles Simonyi, paying $20 million dollars to catch flights on Russian crafts. Editor's Note: Way too many errors here. (1/7)

Orion Starts From the Ground Up in Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will ramp up production at its Orion spacecraft factory at Kennedy Space Center this year, expanding the spaceport's role beyond launch operations to manufacturing vehicles that will carry astronauts into space. In a renovated high bay first erected for the Apollo moon-landing project, the tooling required to build Orion spacecraft is being put in place.

A crew module, other structural elements, and all critical systems will be delivered in the next several months, and the first Orion spacecraft destined for orbit will electrically come to life. “There’s a lot of work to be done over the next year to really put the vehicle together, to get it to that first power-up, and to make sure it’s ready to go,” Scott Wilson, NASA Orion Production Manager at KSC, said Friday. “It’s going to be an exciting year.”

The effort marks a huge first for Florida’s Space Coast. It will be the first time a NASA spacecraft production operation takes place at the launch site rather than a factory elsewhere. NASA spacecraft always have been built in other states; then the finished product would make its way to the Cape for launch. (1/7)

Next Ice Age Delayed For Thousands Of Years Warn Scientists (Source: Space Daily)
Unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are disrupting normal patterns of glaciation, according to a study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher. The Earth's current warm period that began about 11,000 years ago should give way to another ice age within about 1,500 years, according to accepted astronomical models.

However, current levels of carbon dioxide are trapping too much heat in the atmosphere to allow the Earth to cool as it has in its prehistoric past in response to changes in Earth's orbital pattern. The research team, a collaboration among University College London, University of Cambridge and UF, said their data indicate that the next ice age will likely be delayed by tens of thousands of years. That may sound like good news, but it probably isn't, said Jim Channell, distinguished professor of geology at UF and co-author. (1/9)

SpaceX To Be First To Use Solar Panels On A Manned US Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
For its first mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will use deployable solar arrays as its primary power source for running sensors, driving heating and cooling systems, and communicating with SpaceX's Mission Control Center and the Space Station. Dragon's solar arrays generate up to 5,000 watts of power - enough to power over 80 standard light bulbs.

Past American spacecraft like Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle used fuel cells or battery packs. Fuel cells are limited by the amount of chemical reactants (typically oxygen and hydrogen) that the vehicle can carry. Batteries alone are limiting due to their mass and the amount of power they can carry. Past American spacecraft like Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle used fuel cells or battery packs. Fuel cells are limited by the amount of chemical reactants (typically oxygen and hydrogen) that the vehicle can carry. Batteries alone are limiting due to their mass and the amount of power they can carry. (1/9)

Homans Tapped to Lead Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development (Source: Tampa Bay Business Journal)
Rick Homans, a former New Mexico state government economic development official, is the new chief executive officer and president of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. Homan’s salary is being kept private. Over the past couple months, the EDC has hired project managers in life sciences, business outreach and investor relations.
Homans was New Mexico’s secretary of economic development from 2003 to 2007. In that position he also served as chairman of the New Mexico Space Authority, which oversees a commercial space business project called Spaceport America. (1/6)

XCOR Expects to Fly in 2012 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
By the end of this year, XCOR expects to have a full-scale Lynx assembled and flying. The first flight will be extremely brief, a short hop off the runway, but it will be more than enough. XCOR officials remain optimistic about meeting the deadline of flying this year, although they admit there is a large amount of work to do between now and then. We’ll see. Whenever it takes off, it will be a pretty awesome thing to see. (1/7)

What's Next For Deep Space Crew Vehicle (Source: Aviation Week)
Developing the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle will generate some smoke and fire fairly soon, even as the work is deliberately slowed to avoid the “unsustainable” cost growth that scuttled NASA’s plans to use it to send astronauts to an outpost on the Moon. Orion is now recast as a multi-destination deep-space crew vehicle with an asteroid tentatively tapped as its first target. The U.S. space agency already has spent more than $5 billion on the capsule, and is on track to run its first orbital flight test early in 2014.

If all goes as planned, a Delta IV heavy rocket will send a high-fidelity test article on a two-orbit mission designed to simulate loads the capsule will encounter returning from the Moon or points beyond, and to exercise techniques for recovering it at sea. That first “Exploration Flight Test” (EFT-1) will be followed by an ascent-abort test similar to the Little Joe tests of the Mercury and Apollo capsules.

Left for a later date will be detailed development of the service module that will fly behind the capsule until shortly before reentry, a task that may see the European Space Agency getting involved (see p. 42). Also on hold are the life-support systems for the crew who will spend up to three weeks in the capsule’s cramped interior on early missions beyond low Earth orbit. (1/6)

Tumlinson: Why Space? (Source: Huffington Post)
As a spokesperson for the Frontier movement, I am often asked: "Why space?" A time back I decided to write the answer in a series of short essays to be filed onto the net as a means of perhaps explaining the somewhat unexplainable -- "Why?" You see, to those of us who see the expansion of humanity and life into space as the next obvious action for our species, answering this one question actually involves answering the biggest question of all: "Why are we here?" Click here. (1/6)

Realistic Expectations for 2012 (Source: Tea Party in Space)
America does not have a sound space policy right now. It doesn't matter what the politicans, ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE, or the Adminstrator say, we are floundering. There is no clear direction from the White House. For the first time since the late 90s we will not be sending missions to Mars in 2016 or 2018 when we have the chance. We are spending more money for projects that have zero chance of coming in on time and on budget while NASA budget is shrunk. It looks kind of gloomy. Click here. (1/7)

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