February 12, 2012

Space Florida's DiBello Featured for Tallahassee Public Talk (Source: TSS)
The Tallahassee Scientific Society will open its 'Horizons 2012' speaker series with a Feb. 23 event featuring Space Florida's Frank DiBello. He will provide a status report on Florida's struggle to cope with the end of the Space Shuttle program. The event will be open to the public, at the Challenger Learning Center's IMAX theater. Click here for information and tickets. (2/12)

Young Girl's Curiosity Leads to Becoming First African-American Astronaut (Source: USAF)
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However, going from a small town in Alabama to miles above the surface of the earth required a few stops along the way for Dr. Mae Jemison, who was the first African American woman accepted to the NASA astronaut program. Born Oct. 17, 1956, in Decatur, Ala., and raised in Chicago, Jemison was a studious child, spending hours in the school library reading about astronomy and other sciences. Her parents - a carpenter father and teacher mother - encouraged her curiosity, even allowing her to study pus when she got an infection from a splinter. (2/12)

Forecast Good for Atlas-5 Launch From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The long-range weather outlook for Thursday's sunset sendoff of the Atlas 5 rocket carrying a U.S. Navy mobile communications satellite is calling for an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions. The 44-minute-long launch window runs from 5:46 to 6:30 p.m. EST, and the only small concern for violating the weather rules during that period is the development of cumulus clouds over Cape Canaveral. (2/12)

Final ‘Go’ for Vega Launch (Source: ESA)
Vega is all set for launch on Monday. The new launcher passed its final hurdle on Saturday at Europe’s Spaceport, the Launch Readiness Review, and is ready for a Feb. 13 liftoff. This last review checks the final status of the entire launch system, including the vehicle and the ground infrastructure, following the full dress rehearsal of the countdown and launch of earlier this week. The first mission is scheduled for liftoff during a two and a half hour launch window lasting 10:00–12:30 GMT (5:00-7:00 a.m. EST). (2/12)

Europe Stakes Billion-Dollar Bet on New Rocket (Source: AFP)
A pencil-slim rocket is scheduled to lift into space from South America on Monday, carrying a billion-dollar bet that Europe can grab a juicy slice of the market to place satellites in low orbit. The maiden flight of Vega culminates a decade-long plan to turn Europe's base in Kourou, French Guiana, into the world's most versatile spaceport. The launcher 30 meters (100 feet) long and three meters in diameter is designed to hoist loads ranging from 300 kilos (660 pounds) to 2.5 tons into orbits from 300 to 1,500 kilometers (187-937 miles) depending on mass.

"Vega is a flexible vehicle, with a mission to meet demand for small payloads," said Benoit Geffroy, an engineer at ESA's launchers department. Vega aims to shoulder its way into a market already teeming with half a dozen existing or would-be competitors, including India, China and Russia -- which is selling launchers using a converted Cold War ballistic missile -- and US commercial firms. Editor's Note: Those US competitors include Orbital's Taurus, Pegasus, and Minotaur, the ATK/Lockheed Athena, and the SpaceX Falcon-1. (2/12)

Venezuela's Second Chinese-Built Ssatellite to be Launched (Source: Xinhua)
President Hugo Chavez said on Friday that a new Chinese-built satellite for Venezuela will be launched this year. Chavez made the announcement at a farewell party in Miraflores Palace, the presidential residence, for a group of 50 telecommunications engineers before they traveled to China for training. The group of civil and military engineers from the Bolivarian Agency for Space Activities will be trained in China for six months to operate the new satellite. (2/12)

Iran to construct Spaceport for Bigger Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has said that Iran will construct a new launch base to send bigger satellites into orbit. Vahidi said the base will be used to launch 1-ton satellites into an orbit of 1,000 kilometers high. Iran is planning to launch satellites into orbits of up to 36,000 kilometers high next year, he was quoted as saying. Iran, a founding member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, launched its first domestically-made data-processing satellite, the Omid (Hope), into space in 2009. (2/12)

The Revealing Moon Debate (Source American Thinker)
On January 25, Speaker Gingrich proposed that the U.S. government build and maintain a colony on the moon. He was promising the moon in order to get votes in Florida from those who work for NASA and its contractors. The next day, the Florida Republican debate occurred. It was too soon for the candidates to focus-group their positions; as a result, their arguments in the debate revealed how they actually think. Click here. (2/12)

India: Rocketful of Lies, Intrigue and Deceit (Source: India Today)
In January, Prime Minister Singh made three important announcements, committing 10,000 crore to a supercomputer, neutrino observatory, and a solar energy corporation. Never before has so much public funding (~$2 billion) flowed into science projects. Are the country's institutions capable of these goals? Are our scientists also good managers of public funds and commercial dealings? Are there adequate audit mechanisms in place?

Such questions would not have been asked but for the tough action taken by the Dept. of Space against the retired chairman of ISRO and three top scientists for their alleged role in a commercial agreement with Devas Multimedia in 2005. The Devas deal featured serious procedural lapses. Devas had no track record, no financial muscle, and no technology. The deal was even more suspect because Devas had been founded by former ISRO scientists. (2/12)

New Mexico: A Lawyer's Idea of Marketing (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Of all the reasons given by all the New Mexico legislators for all of their votes this session, none are as absurd as the one offered by Sen. Lisa Curtis, who claimed that her vote against a bill to offer limited liability protection for spaceport manufacturers and suppliers was actually a good thing for our spaceport. Spaceport America will now be more attractive to people who want to take the risk of space travel, but would have shied away if suppliers and manufacturers had been granted limited liability from lawsuits, Curtis argued.

I can just see the promotional material now: "Come to Spaceport America! Your loved ones can sue for a bundle if you get killed in a horrible accident." It's a marketer's dream. As president of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association, maybe Curtis actually thinks that way. Perhaps each summer as she is planning the family vacation the primary factor in her decision is the tort laws in each state she is considering visiting.

The New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association made donations to state legislators totaling $14,000, outspending Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant for the spaceport, by a total of five to one, according to a story by Albuquerque Journal politics writer James Monteleone. House Businesses and Industry Chairwoman Debbie Rodella raked in $5,000, while committee members Thomas Garcia, David Chavez and Eliseo Alcon shared another $5,000. All voted against the House version of the bill. (2/12)

Time to Give SETI a Chance (Source: New Scientist)
The thousands of probable worlds discovered in orbit around other stars are making our corner of the universe appear a lot friendlier to life these days. Earth 2.0 will be hundreds or even thousands of light years away; too far from us to detect trace chemical "biosignatures" that would suggest life. But we could look for life on Earth 2.0 via "technosignatures" such as radio signals produced by intelligent life.

These would be cheaper and easier to find than biosignatures. It is a long shot, but one that is affordable and we can do it now. In fact the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been on the case since the 1990s. Despite being denied public funds, SETI still carries out searches with private money. SETI is a logical addition to the publicly funded endeavours exploring other worlds. It is time to fund it properly, either with public money or privately. Now that we know there are planets beyond our solar system, and where to find them, we should give SETI a fighting chance to see if anybody is home. (2/12)

Satellite Export Rules Have Cost $20.8 Billion, 250,000 Jobs (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The United States’ restrictive export laws have devastated the nation’s satellite manufacturing industry, resulting in a loss of $20.8 billion in revenues and nearly 28,000 jobs annually over a 10-year period, according to a new report published by the Aerospace Industries Association. The U.S. share of world satellite manufacturing revenue has dropped from 63 percent to about 30 percent.

“The U.S. space industry currently faces dual threats; major reductions in federal aerospace spending and overly restrictive satellite technology export policies,” AIA said in the report. “If we continue on this path, without implementing the right reforms, our nation risks the scenario of a weakened space industrial base that is unable to fully meet U.S. national security needs or sustain our technological edge against foreign competitors.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for improvements, including returning jurisdiction for satellite export control back to the administration, removing low- and no-risk technologies from the U.S. Munitions list, developing cooperative technology agreements with foreign nations and partners, and promoting satellite exports. Click here to download the report. (2/12)

Science Missions Bring Universe Into Focus as NASA Struggles with Manned Flight (Source: Washington Post)
Life is tough these days at NASA, the space agency that can’t launch anyone into space. It wrestles with basic questions: Where to go? How to get there? When? And for what purpose? It killed a plan to return to the moon and now is building a jumbo rocket to go to . . . well, it’s unclear. Maybe to an asteroid: a rock to be named later.

NASA is betting that private companies will create a commercial taxi for flights to low Earth orbit. In the meantime, NASA astronauts ride on aging Russian rockets that look increasingly creaky. At any given moment, a few Americans are on the international space station, circling the planet every 90 minutes, nearly as anonymous as they are weightless.

But even as NASA goes through this awkward transition in human space flight, the agency has one bright spot: science. NASA’s scientific missions — robotic probes, telescopes, satellites — are bringing Earth, the sun, the solar system and the universe into sharper focus. NASA’s internal chart shows 86 missions, involving 96 spacecraft, either in service or preparation. That doesn’t include the two European Mars missions. It does include other international collaborations, and the extended operations of aging spacecraft that have completed their primary mission and are still blinking away. Click here. (2/12)

Mercury Astronauts Needed Steel Nerves (Source: Florida Today)
Talk about a steely-eyed missile man – John Glenn has ice in his veins. The ability to take raw fear and channel it into “cautious apprehension.” That’s a good thing because Glenn would be the first human to launch aboard a converted Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, a vehicle that had a checkered past – “about a 45 percent failure rate, something like that,” Glenn said. Click here. (2/12)

Leinbach at ULA: Atlas Can Fly Humans Soon (Source: Florida Today)
Atlas V can and will be ready to fly humans by the middle of this decade. Mike Leinbach was talking with his boss just this week about the timetable and based on what he’s learned since joining the company, his assessment is two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years based on a range of factors, some of which are driven by the readiness of the spacecraft being built by three different companies rather than ULA’s rocket.

“We will be waiting for the spacecraft providers,” Leinbach said, signaling that he expects the company to have met NASA’s requirements on safe flight of astronauts and to have engineered and built the ground support equipment necessary prior to the private companies’ space taxis being at a similar readiness level. That’s not because those engineering efforts are behind or slow. Rather, it’s because Atlas V has a head start that perhaps doesn’t get quite enough attention.

One “long pole” in the development effort involves ground systems. A new launch tower, for instance, has to be built around the existing pad infrastructure. It was never meant for human spacecraft. So a tower that provides access for astronauts is under development. A further complication is developing an access tower that would work for three different designs of spacecraft: Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, the three commercial crew firms who’ve opted to fly on Atlas V. (2/12)

Leinbach on Commercial-Friendly Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Regarding the commercial competitiveness of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Mike Leinbach says he doesn’t see the current safety operation at Cape Canaveral as a hindrance to expanded private space flights as some have suggested. “I wouldn’t call it red tape. I would call it requirements that are in place for a reason. The Air Force has a duty under federal law to protect the public from launches and with that comes an awesome responsibility. I see those requirements as a necessary part of doing business.” (2/12)

Sun Points Loaded Gun at Earth (Source: MSNBC)
As solar activity builds toward an expected peak in 2013, a double-barreled sunspot has been doubling in size over the past couple of days and now has the potential to shoot significant eruptions in our direction. It's not certain that active region 1416 will erupt with coronal mass ejections as violent as the blasts that were thrown off by the sun late last month. But it has developed a mixed "beta-gamma" magnetic field that packs enough energy to throw off medium-scale solar flares, SpaceWeather.com reports. "Any such eruptions this weekend would be Earth-directed as the sunspot turns to face our planet." (2/12)

Billionaire's Soyuz Spaceship Lands in New Home (Source: MSNBC)
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft that carried a billionaire into orbit — and ended up being purchased by the billionaire — was settled into its new home in Seattle's Museum of Flight on Friday after a whirlwind intercontinental trip. Software executive Charles Simonyi was on hand for the arrival of the Soyuz TMA-14 descent module, which took him into space along with a NASA astronaut and Russian cosmonaut in March 2009. That launch marked Simonyi's second trip to the International Space Station, for which he paid an estimated $35 million. (2/12)

CubeSat Group Hopes to Add University Sats to ITAR Exemption (Source: CubeSat.org)
Sponsored by Congressmen in Colorado, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, HR-3288 is designed to remove commercial satellites and related components from the U.S. Munitions List, thereby exempting them from onerous ITAR technology transfer restrictions. The folks at CubeSat.org are concerned that the bill does not include scientific or educational satellites.

Given the negative impacts that ITAR has had on international CubeSat collaborations, they ask that CubeSat advocates contact the bill’s sponsors and other members of Congress to urge them to amend the bill before it becomes law. Click here. (2/12)

Fox-1 Cubesat Selected for NASA ELaNa Launch Collaboration (Source: Hobby Space)
Project ELaNa, NASA's "Educational Launch of NanoSat" managed by the Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center, announced on February 10 that the AMSAT Fox-1 cubesat has been selected to join the program. NASA will work with AMSAT in a collaborative agreement where NASA will cover the integration and launch costs of satellites deemed to have merit in support of their strategic and educational goals. (2/11)

Story of Galactic Destruction and Time Will Blow Your Mind (Source: Gizmodo)
In 1995, the world was astonished by the image of a group of 4-light-year-tall columns located in the Eagle Nebula, 7,000 light years from here. So unimaginable it was that someone called them the Pillars of Creation. The only problem is that the pillars didn't really exist. Something had destroyed them more than a thousand years ago.

Limited by our understanding of time, we look at objects in space as if they were mountains or the ocean. We genuinely perceive these stellar landscapes as something that is up there fixed, secure, rooted in our reality. But our diminutive perception of time, the same that makes us think we are the center of everything, is just an illusion. At the cosmic scale, just like in our individual lives, things move constantly. The architecture of the cosmos is ever changing and scientists know—-since 2007, only a few years after they were observed—-that these gargantuan structures don't exist anymore. Click here. (2/11)

One Giant Leap for Former Fast-Food Joint (Source: Mountain View Voice)
Inside a shuttered McDonald's at NASA Ames Research Center is a surreal scene: stacks of silver disc-shaped film canisters, an old reel-to-reel tape machine and the sound of NASA technicians talking during a 1960s mission to photograph the moon. What is going on is a sort of archeology of the digital age, or "techno-archeology" as it is called by Dennis Wingo, the man in charge of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project.

Wingo, CEO of Skycorp Inc., is the space industry entrepreneur who partnered with NASAWatch.com editor Keith Cowing to promote the project in 2008. The 1,478 tape canisters stacked across the McDonald's kitchen floor are artifacts from NASA's unmanned moon missions in 1966 and 1967. The images were used to map NASA's 1969 moon landing but were set to be destroyed by a federal records center in Suitland, Md. when Wingo and his partners rescued them in 2007. Click here. (2/11)

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