February 17, 2012

Foundations In Place for South African Space Program (Source: Engineering News)
The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was formally launched on December 9, 2010, but began operations on April 1, 2011. It absorbed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartebeeshoek, west of Pretoria, and the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO), which fell directly under the National Research Foundation. Sansa is now approaching the end of its first financial year (March 31).

“Things have gone well, notwithstanding the challenges of setting up a new entity and incorporating entities with their own ways of operating and their own ethos,” reports Sansa CEO Dr Sandile Malinga. “It has been a great success. Integration hasn’t hampered what we do.” Currently, the agency is divided into four divisions – Earth Observation, Space Operations, Space Engineering and Space Science. (2/17)

Astronomers Receive NASA Grant, Develop Telescope to Orbit Earth (Source: Daily Wildcat)
A UA astronomy research team was awarded a $600,000 grant from NASA to develop a telescope to study how planets are formed. Glenn Schneider, a Steward Observatory astronomer and principal investigator of the project, led a team of six scientists to study what kinds of materials are needed for planets to form, and what types of star systems provide the best environment for these formations. (2/17)

Editorial: Leave Space Exploration to the Private Sector (Source: Daily Nebraskan)
I WANT YOU...To help me build a colony on the moon! Here's why: In 1941, Henry Luce proclaimed the 1900s would be remembered as the "American Century." By most objective standards, he was correct. Our nation was the wealthiest, boasted the strongest military, had the best schools and was liberal democracy's great counterweight to communism. The first 12 years of this century, however, have sucked.

This century has featured terrorist attacks, constant war and financial meltdowns across the world. For the first time since the 1970s, people can fairly question whether their life prospects will be better than those of their parents. Unless the world ends in December (per those pesky Mayans and their calendars), there's plenty of time to improve this century. Luckily, we have visionary leaders such as Newton "Leroy" Gingrich, who want America to go the basics.

By basics, I mean space. After all, we beat the Soviets into space, right? Some say the reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was because of complex geopolitical realities and overly stretched military spending. That's hogwash. All "Real Americans" know the Soviet Union ended because Ronald Reagan beat up Mikhail Gorbachev at 200 miles in altitude. We bested everyone once in space. Why not go back to where we're the best? Click here. (2/17)

Isle of Man's Space Potential Impresses Expert (Source: Manx Radio)
It's hoped a visit to the Isle of Man by senior executives from the international Space Foundation will provide a boost for the Manx government and businesses involved in the local industry. Manx government figures indicate the global space industry was worth about $300 billion in 2011, and the Island's share of the profits reached the $1 billion mark. The Isle of Man is home to twelve space firms involved in work developing space tourism technology and satellite communications. (2/17)

Launch of China's Manned Spacecraft Shenzhou-9 Scheduled (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch its manned Shenzhou-9 spacecraft between June and August this year, as well as conduct a space rendezvous and docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module. The space docking mission will be manually conducted by astronauts, giving China another chance to test its docking technology, the spokesman said. The Shenzhou-9's three crew members will board the Tiangong-1 after the docking is completed, living there and conducting scientific experiments. (2/17)

Telespazio Nabs Six Contracts Worth a Combined $146 Million (Source: Space News)
Satellite ground systems and Earth observation services provider Telespazio on Feb. 16 announced it had won six contracts worth a combined 112.1 million euros ($146 million). The biggest of the contracts, valued at 86 million euros, is a five-year agreement with the French space agency, CNES, and launch services provider Arianespace to provide telemetry, control and telecommunications services for five years at Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport. (2/17)

Dale Returning to House Science Committee (Source: Space News)
Former NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale is returning to Capitol Hill to serve as principal policy adviser to Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. "I am thrilled to be able to work for Chairman Hall and I look forward to working with all the Members and staff of the committee," Dale wrote in a Feb. 16 email to colleagues. She begins her new job March 5. Editor's Note: Ms. Dale was also once a controversial candidate to lead Space Florida. Kind of an interesting story. Click here. (2/17)

Final Preparations Under Way for Third ATV Launch (Source: Flight Global)
Technicians at the European Space Agency's spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana have started integrating ESA's third Automated Transfer Vehicle robotic supply ship - named Edoardo Amaldi after the late Italian physicist considered a pioneer of European spaceflight - with the Ariane 5 ES rocket that will carry it to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 9 March, with docking to the ISS expected on the 19th. (2/17)

Moon Landers Advance at Masten Space (Source: MichaelBelfiore.com)
Imagine you’re standing on the moon, watching the daily cargo rocket arrive. Actually, it will probably look like Masten’s planned XEUS vehicle. Masten is putting together a demonstration system built around a United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage rocket and its single RL-10 engine.

Four Masten 3,500 pound thrust propulsion modules will bring the ship in for a horizontal touchdown without the high velocity dust plumes kicked up by the big guy. Dust will be a major concern to people living and working on the moon. Even without blowing around, it can be damaging to spacesuits, machinery, and other equipment. Another advantage of this design is that cargo can be unloaded near the ground, without relying on tall ladders or a crane. Click here. (2/17)

The Void of Space: Who Regulates Commercial Suborbital Flight? (Source: Txchnologist)
The commercial space flight industry has plenty of problems right now, but safety apparently isn’t one of them. “Weak demand, foreign competition, financial limitations, and technical challenges seem to be more significant impediments [than safety] at the moment,” says Scott Pace. In 2004, Congress and the FAA cut the private space flight industry a break – companies can develop and test their with relatively little oversight.

Currently, all flights by ventures such as Virgin Galactic, are conducted under a special “experimental certificate,” from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transport (known as the AST). These certificates, valid for one year, allow operators to fly vehicles with test pilots and “participants,” i.e. passengers, as long as they’re not paying for the privilege.

By law, all commercial space flights must be privately insured, so state and Federal indemnification laws seem to be aimed, in part, at reducing the potential burden of insuring this nascent industry. Until the industry matures, says Hertzfeld, “there is currently no true certification of a space vehicle that is equivalent to that of an aircraft.” The industry is in a catch-22: until commercial suborbital flight is routine, it won’t possible to create certification processes similar to civil aviation. Yet getting to the point means a lot of uncertainty; roughly 5 percent of U.S. launches failed in 2011. That was a good year. (2/17)

"Rocket Ship" Owner Says Kentucky Bridge Lights Were Out Before Wreck (Source: Paducah Sun)
The owners of the Delta Mariner rocket cargo ship that struck and collapsed part of a western Kentucky bridge said they were not responsible for a nighttime collision that took out part of the span because some of the bridge's lights were not working. Foss Maritime, which owns the Delta Mariner, made the claim in a federal lawsuit seeking to exonerate itself from any liability from the Jan. 26 wreck.

The company said the bridge lacked lighting for northbound commercial traffic on the river and that only one span of the bridge was marked with navigational lights, with a green navigational light at the center of the span and red lights on each pier. "The remainder of the bridge was dark," attorney Bobby Miller of Paducah wrote in the lawsuit. (2/17)

NM Congressman: To be Competetive, New Mexico Must Look to the Stars (Source: The Hill)
Special interest groups in Santa Fe have harmed New Mexico’s competitive edge as the home to commercial space flight. Up until now, New Mexico had been the leader in this burgeoning global industry. Today, we stand on the precipice of losing our future to Colorado, Texas, Virginia and Florida. Click here. (2/16)

Timely Commercial Successes are Key For Getting FY-13 Funds (Source: SPACErePORT)
During his remarks at an FAA conference on Thursday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he believes the Senate will come close to appropriating the amount requested by President Obama for the commercial crew program in NASA's FY-13 budget. (The final FY-12 budget included deep cuts for commercial crew.) However, Nelson stressed that upcoming SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial launches for NASA must occur soon and be successful, especially as they are expected to occur amid deliberations on the FY-13 NASA budget. (2/17)

Cosmonauts Perform ISS Spacewalk (Source: Space Today)
Two cosmonauts worked outside the International Space Station for over six hours on Thursday, moving a crane and performing other tasks. Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov spent six hours and 15 minutes outside the ISS in a spacewalk that ended at 3:46 pm EST (2046 GMT) Thursday. Their primary task was to move the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs airlock module to the nearby Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station.

The move, originally planned for an EVA that took place last August, is part of work to replace the Pirs module with a multipurpose lab module next year. The two also installed a materials experiment on the station's exterior and took samples from the insulation of the station's Zvezda module, but ran out of time before they could install new debris shields on that module. (2/17)

Scott Signs Bill to Improve Space-Related Infrastructure (Source: Florida Today)
Saying “the Space Coast is extremely important to us,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed one of Space Florida’s top legislative priorities into law, making it the first bill to emerge from the 2012 session in Tallahassee.

The bill tweaks the Florida Department of Transportation’s definition of launch support facilities to match a broader federal definition, one that includes not only launch pads and control centers but assembly and processing facilities. The is change expected to facilitate funding for infrastructure upgrades that could help the state attract more commercial space activity. (2/17)

Virginia Governor: Invest in Wallops Spaceport (Source: Virginian Pilot)
Gov. Bob McDonnell is again calling for more investment in Virginia’s space launch facilities at Wallops Island. He spoke about the issue Wednesday in Washington at a conference on the future of the commercial space industry. It’s part of an effort to highlight a new report that argues Virginia is well positioned to become a leader in commercial space launches – an industry poised for growth as big government space programs shut down.

The report, compiled by the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University, also offers recommendations, including infrastructure improvements at Wallops Island, the development of a space research center in Hampton Roads, and the appointment of a state “director of space.” McDonnell has been pushing to make Virginia a hub for commercial space launches since taking office, saying that such investments would usher in good paying jobs and a big economic boost. (2/17)

France, Italy Shun Orion Development (Source: Aviation Week)
Two of Europe’s biggest International Space Station contributors have rejected a NASA proposal that would see the European Space Agency (ESA) pay its share of ISS operating costs by building a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew transport capsule, saying the proposal is technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.

For now, participating ESA member governments are covering their share of space station utilities and other operating expenses with routine supply runs of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), a sophisticated cargo craft capable of automatic rendezvous and docking that is powerful enough to boost the ISS into a higher orbit. However, with only three such missions remaining, ESA member governments are weighing a follow-on barter arrangement with NASA to cover about €450 million ($600 million) in space station utilities costs anticipated in 2017-20. (2/17)

NASA Shuts Down Its Last Mainframe Computer (Source: Physorg)
NASA has just powered down its last mainframe computer. Umm, everyone remembers what a mainframe computer is, right? The last mainframe being used by NASA, the IBM Z9 Mainframe, was being used at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Cureton described the mainframe as a “ big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available, secure, and powerful. They are best suited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot of input/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.” (2/17)

U.S. Seeks Global Collaboration on Satellites (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. is looking for international cooperation opportunities on future satellites, said Richard McKinney, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs. "In the era of more constrained budgets, we're going to take a look at how we can leverage each other's capabilities," he said. Some U.S. satellites already use components from international suppliers, McKinney said. (2/17)

NASA Awards Grant to Develop Moon Structures (Source: The Republic)
A University of South Dakota chemistry professor is helping NASA develop structures that will make it possible for people to live on the moon. Ranjit Koodali is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of South Dakota. He has received a $200,000 grant from NASA to study the design of a multi-functional structural composite insulation system for lunar habitats. (2/17)

Incredible World of Communication Satellites (Source: Promo Codes)
Most of us take satellites for granted. Satellites are so far removed from our daily reality, they’re easy to forget about. Yet even from the unimaginable distance at which they orbit the earth, they allow us to use mobile phones, TV, radio and the internet. So who makes them? Who launches them? And what do they look like up close? Click here. (2/17)

Masten's Niche: Precision Landing (Source: Masten Space)
We’ve received a number of inquiries about precision landing and why it’s important to us – shouldn’t we be focusing on high altitude suborbital vehicles? The short version is that it addresses a major market need and provides near-term customers for us as we develop our long-term launch capability. That said, it also is an area that allows us to contribute to our national space program in a tangible manner. Internally, it also provides us a mature rocket recovery mechanism that will enable higher tempo launch operations.

Our goal is to provide a testbed platform for faster and safer demonstration of planetary landing systems at lower cost, allowing the engineers to focus on high level innovation. To achieve these goals, our GN&C system can now host a third party GN&C system to operate under the watchful eye of our proven software. A third party guidance solution can feed inputs to our control system, effectively controlling the rocket along a planned trajectory. Click here. (2/17)

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