February 18, 2012

51 Teachers Get NASA STEM Fellowships (Source: NASA)
Fifty-one teachers around the U.S. have been awarded an Endeavor Fellowship with NASA. NASA's Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project provides live, online training for educators working to earn a STEM certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University. Teachers engage with education experts, NASA scientists, and with each other to carry back to the classroom a greater understanding of NASA discoveries, to impact student learning in real-world contexts, to inspire a next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers and astronauts.

What John Glenn Meant Then and Now for the Nation (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
I was only 3 years old when John Glenn orbited the Earth, so I don't remember the day. But I remember the decade. Of a nation marching as one behind an assassinated president's pledge to land an American on the moon before 1970. Of grade school assemblies where the principal would wheel out the black and white TV so we young students could all watch the latest Gemini launch. Of my G.I. Joe astronaut set that included a Mercury capsule and a 45 rpm record of Glenn's radio communication with Mission Control. Of a Cold War battle that used space exploration as a proxy for combat to measure whether Americans or Soviets were superior. Of a nation — and a world — rejoicing when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in July 1969.

More than 20 years after Friendship 7 splashed down, I met John Glenn. He was running for president, and I worked for a small newspaper in the state capital of New Hampshire with its first-in-the-nation primary. Glenn himself was a most gracious and decent man. Shorter than I expected. His hand had liver spots, but it sure felt great to shake it. And, wow, he still had the mien of the first American to orbit the Earth. Even though we'll never have such a single national focus again, I'm glad we once did. It gave us people like John Glenn. (2/18)

NASA Leadership In Space Exploration Shaken (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA faces a loss of confidence in its international space-exploration leadership after the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from a series of joint robotic missions to Mars with the European Space Agency. Instead of working with ESA’s ExoMars program on sample-return precursor missions in 2016 and 2018, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) will join forces with the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) directorate and the Office of the Chief Technologist to work up a medium-sized mission in 2018 that may meet the needs of all three NASA units.

The Mars cut has upset space scientists and their managers on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is sure to be the main topic when NASA officials face their advisory Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group in Washington next week. It will also be an issue when NASA defends its request in Congress. Click here. (2/18)

Future of Space Transportation (Source: Air Force Space Command)
The Air Force Space Command commander spoke to the critical aspects of space launch, new technologies in launch operations and the long range vision for the launch mission last week in Washington. The general pointed out current launch capabilities require an immense amount of energy and are very costly; however, the Air Force continues to look at more efficient space transportation through engine design and purchasing improvements. Click here. (2/18)

Weather Delays Atlas Launch to Wednesday (Source: Space Today)
The launch of a military communications satellite has been rescheduled for no earlier than Wednesday after weather conditions kept its Atlas rocket grounded for the second straight day. The Atlas 5 551 was scheduled to launch on late Friday afternoon carrying the MUOS-1 satellite for the US Navy, but poor weather conditions throughout the 44-minute launch window kept the launch from proceeding. The initial launch attempt on Thursday was also scrubbed because of gusty upper-level winds. (2/18)

Air Force Defers Work on Next-gen Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
With plans for a new generation of military weather satellites on hold pending a study of options next year, the U.S. Defense Department will continue to rely on a system whose legacy dates to the 1960s and which has experienced technical problems in recent years. Congress provided $123.5 million in 2012 for development work on a follow-on system. But the Air Force is focused instead on refurbishing two aging Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP) satellites in preparation for launch in the next few years. (2/18)

Galileo Set for Fast-Track Completion (Source Flight Global)
Europe has formally put its Galileo satellite navigation project on track to provide a functional service during 2014 and near-global coverage in 2015 with the signing of contracts to build and launch eight more satellites. The €215 million package includes €255 million to build eight satellites in addition to the 18 already ordered, a €30 million deposit for up to three Ariane 5 launches and €30 million to adapt the Ariane 5 ES launcher to orbit four Galileo satellites simultaneously. (2/18)

Boeing Offers Last-Ditch Bid to Save Satellite Terminal Contract (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force said it will continue looking for an alternate supplier for next-generation satellite terminals even as it weighs a last-ditch bid by Boeing to stave off termination of its troubled, multibillion-dollar program. A top Air Force general on Friday said the service notified Congress and Boeing on Jan. 4 that it would terminate the Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminal (FAB-T) program in the fiscal 2012 budget, but decided to hold off until it could study an urgent proposal submitted by Boeing a few days later. (2/18)

California: Aerospace Manufacturing Jobs Are Here, Skilled Workers Are Not (Source: KPCC)
Owe Carlsson is sick and tired of hearing that to find manufacturing jobs you should look east, far east. “No, manufacturing is not all in China,” says the exasperated 73 year-old engineer. “The manufacturing base in the L.A. area is phenomenal, but if we do not get fresh blood into our industry, yes, those jobs will disappear.”

Carlsson is a Senior Principal Engineer at Alcoa Fastening Systems. The company makes nuts and bolts for airplanes under the umbrella of the multinational aluminum producer, Alcoa. Eighty percent of all the nuts and bolts for airplanes are made right here in Southern California. He laments that most of the high-skilled machinists making the jewels of the aerospace industry have gray hair and, like him, are long overdue for retirement. “I run into operators, retirement age, they say, ‘Where are the young people, I want to train someone!’...the next generation is not there, they’re not stepping up.” (2/18)

Harbinger, Falcone Sued Over LightSquared Investment (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Hedge fund manager Phil Falcone and his Harbinger Capital Partners were sued by a New York woman who claims she and others were misled about the fund's decision to put most of the money they invested into LightSquared Inc. Lili Schad, a Wallkill, New York, resident who said she invested $4 million with Harbinger, claiming she wasn't told that more than 60 percent of the partnerhip's money went into LightSquared, a company attempting to build a high-speed wireless network, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. (2/18)

Gov. Perry Touts Public-Private Aerospace Collaboration to Save Texas Talent (Source: Gov. Perry)
Gov. Rick Perry praised the creation of a public-private partnership that will harness the Texas based talent, creativity and resources at Houston's NASA Johnson Space Center into innovative technologies with groundbreaking implications for our daily lives. This partnership will play an integral role in keeping some of our nation's brightest minds in Texas, and preserving jobs that might otherwise be lost as a result of the ending of the Constellation program.

The state is awarding $500,000 to BayTech, a nonprofit advanced technology business consortium, to fund the Texas Innovation Program, which will help link highly trained aerospace workers with private sector partners to create new companies, expand existing companies, add jobs and keep working talent in Texas.

Additionally, the state is awarding $250,000 from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) to the Houston Technology Center to create a Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization (RCIC) at JSC to provide resources to the scientific entrepreneurial community in the Bay Area. This RCIC will review and recommend projects to the TETF Advisory Committee for consideration for funding, and will offer entrepreneurs educational forums, coaching, mentoring, and introduction to capital investments and valuable network resources. (2/18)

Passenger Spaceflight Aircraft Being Developed with Little Regulation (Source: KTVU)
While it takes years or even decades to develop new passenger jets, the government is taking a hands off approach when it comes making sure the spacecraft being designed for passenger flight are safe. The only reason we're as close as we are to passengers in space is because eight years ago, the U.S. Government took a hands off approach, letting commercial space entrepreneurs develop thier craft without regulation.

That freed up the thinking of people at the Mojave Aiport. These are intensely entrepreneurial men and women who simply want to be allowed to do what they do best. They like to call Mojave the "Silicon Valley" for new space. Passenger confidence in space tourism will blossom once prices decline and a solid safety record better than that achieved by the 550 government sponsored human space flights is built. "We've go to do exponentially better than that in space travel to start achieving numbers that the travelling public expects from our industry," explained Stuart Witt. (2/18)

Adventurer to Become First UAE Woman in Space (Source: The National)
Having walked where most women, and men, could only dream of walking, Namira Salim is busy preparing for the flight of her life. At 36, the Columbia University graduate has already conquered the North and South poles, skydived from Mount Everest and now plans to see the stars. The Pakistani-born, Dubai- and Monaco-based artist and self-confessed adventurer is preparing to make history again this year when she climbs aboard Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flight into space. (2/18)

Infinity and Beyond: Space Exploration for Pakistan (Source: Express Tribune)
Pakistan's national space program was the brain child of Dr Abdus Salaam, including a two-stage space rocket firing test on June 7, 1961, which made Pakistan the third Asian country and the 10th in the world to achieve this milestone. And as time progressed, Pakistan launched a couple of satellites into space including Badr1, PakSat-1 and 1-R. Although it is commendable that we have at least a presence in space, our enthusiasm must not end here.

It seems that the government, corporate institutions and the common people have not yet fully realised the importance of space sciences for a country’s economy. An effective and active space program can help boost a country’s economy in more ways than anticipated. Scott Hubbard, former NASA scientist, now working at Stanford University, notes that for every 1 dollar invested in NASA projects $7-8 worth of goods are produced in the industry. These are the facts that our nation needs to realize. Click here. (2/18)

Underground Oasis Found Below Earth's Driest Desert (Source: New Scientist)
A thriving community of micro-organisms nestles two meters below the surface of the ultra-arid Atacama desert in Chile. The discovery, made as part of a dry run for a potential robotic Mars mission, suggests microbes could find a toehold on the Red Planet – but that rovers may have to dig deep to find them. The Atacama desert, the most parched place on the planet, has long been considered a good Earthly analogue for Mars. The region gets rain only a few times a century, and the soil is full of salts similar to those found on the Red Planet. (2/18)

Budget Proposes $2 Billion for NOAA Weather Satellites (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NOAA's fiscal year 2013 budget request calls for more than $2 billion for the agency's weather and climate satellite programs to cover geostationary and polar-orbiting spacecraft, a space weather mission, and a joint U.S.-European ocean research observatory. (2/18)

Chandrayaan-2 May Miss Scheduled 2013 Launch Date (Source: DNA)
If the estimates of space experts are anything to go by, India’s tryst with moon, Chandrayaan-2, may not happen as scheduled in 2013. Prime reason, cited by those in the know, is country’s inability to perfect the cryogenic engine technology. “Unless you have the cryogenic engine technology, you will not be considered a space faring nation,” K Sasikumar, former head of Liquid Propulsion Center of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) told DNA.

India has perfected the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with which it can put only small satellites into the Low Earth Orbit, which is roughly 900 km from the earth. “We need heavy Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLV) for injecting heavy communication satellites weighing more than one ton into the Geo Synchronous Orbit (GSO), which is 36,000 km from the earth,” said Sasikumar. (2/18)

Lockheed Martin Plans to Double KSC Orion Workforce Next Year (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s prime contractor for its Orion deep space crew capsule is aiming to launch an early flight test in late 2013 and plans to at least double its work force at Kennedy Space Center between now and then. In what amounts to a paradigm shift, Lockheed Martin will manufacture Orion spacecraft at the launch site rather than a factory elsewhere — a first for KSC, which still is reeling from the loss of about 9,000 jobs as a result of the shutdown of the space shuttle program. (2/18)

ULA Shuts Off California Link (Source: San Diego Daily Transcript)
Colorado-based United Launch Alliance has eliminated its presence in San Diego. ULA, is a joint venture between defense giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, formed in 2006 to provide the U.S. government “reliable, cost-efficient access to space.” As part of a consolidation process, ULA shut down its San Diego production facility run out of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s (SPAWAR) Old Town campus on Pacific Highway.

ULA filed notices with California that said 29 of its workers were affected Jan. 5 and 15 employees would be affected March 29 in San Diego. Companies are legally required to provide 60-day advance notice to employees in the event of potential large layoffs. Employees were given the option to transfer to ULA’s Alabama production plant.

“Because of all the missile defense agencies being focused in Alabama, they are shifting everything down in that direction,” said a Lockheed Martin employee based in San Diego, who asked not to be named. Because of personal reasons, and the obvious culture shock of leaving a beachside haven for landlocked life, some employees have decided to stay put in San Diego. ULA did not respond to a request for comment. (2/19)

Sea Launch on Track to Loft Intelsat 19 (Source: Sea Launch)
Sea Launch AG, through Energia Logistics Ltd., has conducted a Hardware Acceptance Review of the Zenit-2S launch vehicle to be utilized in support of the Intelsat 19 mission. A team of specialists from the Chief Engineer's Office at Energia Logistics Ltd., together with specialists from RSC Energia, reviewed all of the acceptance data for the Zenit-2S #SL33 vehicle and found that all required acceptance test values were within specification. (2/17)

NASA Official: "Flat is the New Up!" for FY-13 Budget (Source: @SpaceArtAl)
"The FY 2013 budget request is out and the budget process is underway! We have stakeholders who are happy, some who are ticked off, but all-in-all we are pleased with the President’s budget request. As our CFO said, “Flat is the new up!” Some agencies were not as fortunate. A lot will happen between now and final mark-ups and votes, so stay tune for all the action." (2/17)

Stratolaunch Systems Purchases First of Two Boeing 747-400 Aircraft (Source: Hobby Space)
Stratolaunch systems closed on purchase of the first of two Boeing 747-400 aircraft that are being purchased from United Airlines. Stratolaunch contractor Scaled Composites of Mojave California with support from their subcontractor BAE Systems has developed a complete plan for how the engines, landing gear, hydraulics and other subsystem components of these aircraft will be disassembled and reintegrated into a custom composite aircraft to be built by Scaled Composites in Stratolaunch's new integration facility being built at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Tail number N196UA made its final journey on its way to becoming part of a revolutionary new aircraft last Friday and after final receiving inspection we have accepted the aircraft from United. "The arrival of the first 747 aircraft in Mojave is extremely exciting for our team. This demonstrates Mr. Allen's commitment to press forward with establishing a space transportation system that will change the way we currently perform space launch," said Gary Wentz, CEO and President of Stratolaunch. A second aircraft will arrive in Mojave in late February to provide most of the remaining 747-400 components needed to assemble Stratolaunch's new mother ship. (2/17)

Competitive Analysis of Virginia's Space Flight Industry Released (Source: SpaceRef)
A prime location for orbital launches and a trajectory path over the Atlantic Ocean position the Commonwealth's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for tremendous growth over the next few years. A new Competitive Analysis of Virginia's Space Industry details Virginia's space landscape and gives recommendations and strategies to move the program forward.

Recommendations from the analysis include funding improvements to infrastructure at the Wallops Island facilities, developing a space research center in the Hampton Roads area, and maximizing existing manufacturing resources in the region to support future growth. The full report may be viewed at: http://www.transportation.virginia.gov/. (2/17)

Did Bad Memory Chips Down Russia’s Mars Probe? (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
The failure of Russia’s ambitious Phobos-Grunt sample-return probe has been shrouded in confusion and mystery, from the first inklings that something had gone wrong after its 9 November launch all the way to inconsistent reports of where it fell to Earth on 15 January.

Section 2.3 of the accident investigation report provides insight into where the computer malfunction that doomed the probe came from: “The most likely factor which caused a ‘double restart’ was a local influence of heavy charged particles from space.” Known as galactic cosmic rays, these particles are the nuclei of heavy atoms moving at near light speed after being spit from the hearts of supernovas. Earth’s magnetosphere and atmosphere provide protection from such radiation at the planet’s surface.

Press reports suggest that investigators thought the chip failures were a result of counterfeit components—lesser circuits labeled with higher performance qualities than they actually had. But the final report does not mention this possibility. Vladimir Popovkin, head of Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, was careful to say in interviews (such as on the radio show “Echo of Moscow” on 2 February) that although chip counterfeiting was a widespread problem, “we cannot say that the chips there were counterfeit.” (2/17)

Orbital Sciences, SpaceX Prepare for Landmarks (Source: Flight Global)
Despite delays and setbacks, the spacecraft intended to become first commercial vehicles to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) are making good progress on their way to launch. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, the two companies awarded contracts under the commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) contract, are making significant progress on the issues that have led both to delay landmark launches. Click here. (2/17)

New Telescope To Make 10-Year Time Lapse Of Sky (Source: NPR)
Every 10 years, about two dozen of this country's top astronomers and astrophysicists get together under the auspices of the National Research Council and make a wish list. The list has on it the new telescopes these astronomers would most like to see built. At the last gathering, they said, in essence, "We most want the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope." Here's why. A synoptic survey is a comprehensive map of every square inch of the night sky. The Large Synoptic Survey — LSST — will do that multiple times.

"We want to scan the entire sky over and over again for 10 years," says Sidney Wolff, president of the LSST Corp., who is in charge of building the new telescope. "And we will get over 800 images of every patch of the sky." Why would you want 800 pictures of the sky over 10 years? Well, it's like taking a time lapse picture of the sky. Anything that moves or changes will be easy to see. "So one of the things we can do is, if there are any potentially hazardous asteroids out there that might impact the Earth and do significant damage, we will find them," she says.

The new telescope will also easily pick up the light from any stars that explode overnight and become supernovas. Even though its mirrors are designed to capture light, the LSST can also study things that are invisible. Really. The telescope will ultimately be built on a mountain in Chile. But two of the telescope's main mirrors are being built at the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. Click here. (2/17)

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