February 22, 2012

International Space Law - An Overview (Source: SEN.com)
In 1957 the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched into Earth's orbit. The United Nations saw the need to provide a framework for the space activities that the USA and USSR were pursuing. The UN’s initial response was to set up a committee to manage a framework for space exploration activities. Initially created in 1958 as an ‘ad hoc’ committee, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) became a permanent body in December 1959.

The General Assembly Resolution creating UNCOPUOS recognised the common interest of mankind in outer space and the need "to avoid the extension of present national rivalries into this new field" as well as "the great importance of international cooperation in the exploration and exploitation of outer space for peaceful purposes". The states forming UNCOPUOS included the USA, the UK and the USSR.

In 1963 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 1962 (XVIII), the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. The Declaration set out various fundamental principles which were expanded upon in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Click here. (2/22)

Ares-1 Program Manager, Others in Huntsville, Like Lightfoot's Promotion (Source: Huntsville Times)
Outgoing Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot expects his new position as one of NASA's top Washington managers to go from acting to permanent, and Huntsville industry and government leaders say that's good for the city and Marshall. Early reaction in Huntsville Tuesday was also positive to the elevation of Lightfoot's deputy, Gene Goldman, to the post of acting Marshall director. Goldman's management experience includes a past stint at Marshall and as director of the key engine-testing Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

One Huntsville aerospace executive called Lightfoot's move to headquarters "very good" news for Huntsville. It means "someone who understands space transportation is now in a key leadership spot," said Steve Cook, director of space technology development for Dynetics and former NASA Ares rocket project manager. Another former Marshall director, Dynetics Executive Vice President David King, said the move is good for NASA, too. "Robert is a strong leader and will do the agency well," King said late Tuesday. "It won't hurt to have someone who knows the centers well at HQ in such an important position." (2/22)

Russia to Launch 2 Glonass Satellites in 2012 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will launch two Glonass satellites in 2012 to expand its global satellite navigation network in orbit, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday. Glonass is Russia’s answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. (2/22)

NASA Seeks New Launcher For OCO-2 (Source: Aviation Week)
Launch of the replacement Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) will be delayed at least into mid-2014 while NASA finds a new launch vehicle and fixes a problem in the spacecraft reaction wheel assemblies. After two launch failures with Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus XL solid-fuel rocket, NASA has decided to try to launch its replacement on another vehicle. Possibilities include the Pegasus XL, Falcon 9, Delta II and Atlas V, according to Jim Norman, director of launch services at NASA headquarters. Editor's Note: How about the Athena? (2/22)

Astronauts4Hire to Test New Biometric Monitoring System (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Florida-based Astronauts4Hire and partner company Vital Space will test a new biometric monitoring system designed for use by spaceflight participants on a May 2012 reduced gravity parabolic flight campaign in Houston, Texas. They will undergo up to four flights with 40 parabolas each granting 25 seconds of near zero-gravity. The project is facilitated by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, to which Vital Space and Astronauts4Hire submitted a successful joint proposal chosen by NASA in October 2011.

The ViSi MobileTM System from Sotera Wireless has the capability to reliably capture critical physiological metrics such as continuous noninvasive blood pressure, arterial oxygen saturation, heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature and multi-lead electrocardiogram. Additional data from integrated accelerometers and a display will be used to remotely view, control, and assess physiologic response. (2/22)

San Jacinto College and NASA Team Up for Competition (Source: Ultimate Pasadena)
San Jacinto College has teamed up with NASA Johnson Space Center for the 14th annual Space Settlement Design Competition, providing high school students with space exploration activities during National Engineers Week. The competition is March 16-18 and mimics the experience of working on an aerospace industry proposal team, featuring an industry simulation game set in the late 21st century. Participants from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas are scheduled to compete. (2/22)

UK Vulnerable to 'Space Weather Events' and Space-Fired Weapons (Source: Guardian)
Britain is vulnerable to attack from space-fired nuclear weapons and "space weather" – the result of changes in solar activity – and the government is not doing enough to combat its potentially devastating impact, a cross-party group of MPs has warned. The likelihood of a severe space weather event has "the potential to cause damage to electrically conducting systems such as power grids, pipelines and signalling circuits", says a report by the Commons defense committee, which also claims Britain would be vulnerable to attack from space-fired weapons. (2/22)

Pluto Stamp Petition Gains Nearly 6,000 Signatures (Source: Space.com)
The dwarf planet Pluto may be at the edge of our solar system, but an effort on Earth is seeking to put the icy world in mailboxes across the country — in stamp form. An online petition backed by scientists with NASA's New Horizons mission is pushing for new postage stamp for Pluto and is hoping to hit 100,000 signatures by March 13, which is the 82nd anniversary of Pluto's discovery. So far, the effort has gained the support of almost 6,000 Pluto fans since the petition launched on Feb. 1. (2/22)

NASA Awareness Week in Charlotte to Reach Thousands (Source: CIAA)
Taking full court advantage of a grand audience, NASA will bring the excitement of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to Charlotte during the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament, Feb. 27 - March 3. This annual event for historically black colleges and universities showcases six days of men's and women's basketball at the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the CIAA and the seventh year of NASA's participation. (2/22)

Florida Workforce Stands Ready for Orion Assembly (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A team of former space shuttle technicians at the Kennedy Space Center is about to start working on NASA's first Orion spaceship, outfitting the prototype capsule for a test flight in Earth orbit as early as late 2013. Now under construction in Louisiana, the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle will be shipped to Florida in May, when engineers will start crafting the capsule into a flight-ready spacecraft.

Inside the space center's Operations and Checkout Building, technicians will add the Orion craft's heat shield, flight computers and avionics boxes. Lockheed Martin, Orion's prime contractor, selected the O&C Building for final assembly of the spacecraft. Engineers in Florida will start receiving flight hardware for the first space-bound Orion as soon as March, as components for the craft's service module arrive at the space center. A structural mock-up of the service module will fly on the first mission in 2013 or 2014. (2/22)

What Would Happen If You Shot a Gun in Space? (Source: Space.com)
Fires can't burn in the oxygen-free vacuum of space, but guns can shoot. Modern ammunition contains its own oxidizer, a chemical that will trigger the explosion of gunpowder, and thus the firing of a bullet, wherever you are in the universe. No atmospheric oxygen required. The only difference between pulling the trigger on Earth and in space is the shape of the resulting smoke trail. In space, "it would be an expanding sphere of smoke from the tip of the barrel," said Peter Schultz an astronomer at Brown University who researches impact craters. (2/22)

Russia to Launch 100 Military Satellites in Next Decade (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is planning to launch at least 100 military satellites in the next 10 years to boost its reconnaissance and missile detection capabilities, head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin said. “The new 100 satellites will provide us with better quality intelligence, faster and more reliable communications,” Popovkin said. “This will also enable us to detect the launches and track not only ballistic, but also cruise missiles, theater and tactical missiles,” Popovkin said.

The expansion of the military satellite cluster will also boost global positioning and mapping capabilities of the Russian military, which is necessary to guide advanced high-precision weapons being developed in Russia. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the deployment of high-precision weaponry will be part of Russia’s response to the U.S.-based European missile shield. (2/22)

Editorial: Space Available (Source: Huffington Post)
Other nations -- who, combined, have now flown as many successful lunar and planetary space missions as the U.S. -- are vying to take over our leadership role. Our European colleagues, thwarted by NASA on their offers of partnership on new missions to Mars, are pursuing their own options with the Russians. The Russians, even after the stinging loss of a recent Mars mission attempt, are continuing to plan for future Mars and lunar missions. And the Chinese are making no secrets of their ambitions for more daring and far-reaching space missions, with robotic precursors leading eventually to taikonauts on the Moon and perhaps even Mars. Click here. (2/22)

Error Undoes Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Results (Source: Science)
It appears that the faster-than-light neutrino results, announced last September by the OPERA collaboration in Italy, was due to a mistake after all. A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame. Physicists had detected neutrinos traveling from the CERN laboratory in Geneva to the Gran Sasso laboratory near L'Aquila that appeared to make the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light speed. Many other physicists suspected that the result was due to some kind of error, given that it seems at odds with Einstein's special theory of relativity, which says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. (2/22)

Preschools Teach Science to Pre-Readers (Source: Boston Globe)
Preschool children are getting lessons in engineering in a new push to bring scientific subjects into curriculum early. The formalized approach to STEM learning -- science, technology, engineering and math -- in even the youngest grades is promoted by corporations, who say Americans have too weak a grasp on such subjects. (2/22)

NASA Administrator Supports Kids' Invention Contest (Source: Time Warner)
Wouldn't It Be Cool If... is a new contest jointly presented by Time Warner Cable's Connect a Million Minds and i.am FIRST, founded by artist will.i.am. The contest challenges kids in two age categories -- 10-12 and 13-15 -- to dream up the coolest invention idea to make their lives, communities and even the world more AWESOME. Now through March 28th, kids can enter the contest by submitting an invention idea and sharing how math and science can make it real. Ideas can be submitted by individuals or teams of 2 or 3 people. Click here. (2/22)

Medusa Space Established in New Mexico for Space Commercialization, R&D (Source: Hobby Space)
The Medusa Security Corporation, an advanced science and technology company from Tucson AZ, has taken a big step forward in the space commercialization race by establishing a new type of space company; Medusa Space LLC, in Albuquerque, NM. Medusa Space is focused exclusively on the science and technology of microgravity production of unique materials.

“We are not involved in the low cost access part of the space commercialization race,” said Medusa Space President Rich Glover, “our business plans and value propositions are based on the current cost of space transportation and don’t require future low cost launch capability.” The purpose of Medusa Space is to take the next step beyond merely getting to space, and actually begin to take advantage of the unique environment and capabilities associated with microgravity. (2/22)

Arbitration in Spaaaaaaace! (Source: IP in Space)
Headquartered in Paris, France, the International Court for Aviation and Space Arbitration (ICASA) was established in 1994 and is, to date, the only such organization that specializes in this area. When it was initially formed, 17 countries joined the organization. Membership “is open to any individual, company or entity, whateverits nationality may be, such as corporations, Societies, trade organizations, state and government authorities and public or private entities engaged in any activities whatsoever that is directly or indirectly related to the aviation and space sectors.” Such a liberal membership policy makes the ICASA an ideal forum for space dispute resolution. The ICASA focuses solely on air and space issues and its arbitrators specialize in space and aviation law and space issues.

Compared to traditional lawsuits, the ICASA is a low cost alternative and provides speedy interim decisions when necessary. Many international organizations, like the UN, have partially adopted French standards and the French language as a working language of their organization, and the ICASA is no different in this regard. ICASA follows the relatively low cost French arbitration cost system based on a time basis therefore ICASA arbitration costs are “lower than in lawsuits in the national courts of many countries or in certain other arbitration organs.” The ICASA also maintains records of pre-approved experts in most areas related to possible space disputes and has rules that allow the arbitrators to recommend such experts, if they are needed. Click here. (2/22)

Cosmonaut Testing at Star City Deceptively Simple (Source: RIA Novosti)
So you want to be a cosmonaut? Now is your chance, but prepare to be tested like one. The countdown is on for Russia’s first ever open cosmonaut recruitment drive, and while organizers wait for the tidal wave of applications to finally rush in, they decided to lay bare the admission tests to the space-loving masses. Most tests demonstrated to the media during a press tour of the cosmonaut training facility in Star City this week look deceptively simple, ranging from spot-a-dot attention exercises to good old trampoline jumping.

However, some, such as the “vestibular chair,” are more vexing, and all are rigorous and devilishly hard to execute. Flashy is not a keyword in Star City, but its trials give convincing proof of why only half a dozen contestants will graduate to hear the real countdown on the launch pad six years from now. Click here. (2/22)

NASA Telescope Finds Elusive Buckyballs in Space (Source: NASA)
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered carbon molecules, known as "buckyballs," in space for the first time. Buckyballs are soccer-ball-shaped molecules that were first observed in a laboratory 25 years ago. They are named for their resemblance to architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes, which have interlocking circles on the surface of a partial sphere. Buckyballs were thought to float around in space, but had escaped detection until now.

"We found what are now the largest molecules known to exist in space," said astronomer Jan Cami of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. "We are particularly excited because they have unique properties that make them important players for all sorts of physical and chemical processes going on in space." (2/22)

Air Force Eyes Nuclear Reactors, Beamed Power for Spacecraft (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. Air Force has laid out a new vision for its energy science and technology needs over the next 15 years – a forecast that includes plans for space-based power stations and the prospective use of small nuclear reactors for new spacecraft. The report, entitled "Energy Horizons: United States Air Force Energy S&T Vision 2011-2026," focuses on core Air Force missions in space, air, cyberspace and infrastructure. A series of Air Force mission-focused workshops and summits were held to shape the new strategy.

In the long term, the report says, increased solar cell efficiencies and revolutionary materials foreshadow the potential of 500 kW on-orbit power generation technologies, "which would be transformational for performing missions from space-based systems." Furthermore, there are other breakthrough space energy technologies that have the potential of achieving up to 70 percent efficiency, the report adds. Examples include quantum dots and dilute nitrides in solar cells. But there are also totally new technologies such as space tethers that could harvest energy from the Earth's geomagnetic field. Click here. (2/22)

Florida Space Institute Funds Space Research (Source: UCF)
Projects to create advanced materials that can
keep rocket fuel safe in the extreme temperatures of space, and a new wireless sensor system that would help spacecraft detect external hazards during flights to asteroids or planets are under way thanks to the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida.

The FSI, a collaboration of universities that supports space research and education, awarded grants to facilitate two joint NASA and UCF teams pursuing these projects, which seem like sci-fi but are within technical reach.
“The Florida Space Institute is turning increasingly toward growing the range and diversity of space efforts at UCF,” said Alan Stern, director of the FSI. “Combining our strengths with the talents and experience of NASA is a winning combination to secure our place as a leader of space technology and research.” (2/22)

Launch Pad Rework Pushes Antares Launch to Summer (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The first flight of the Antares booster, one of two U.S. rockets selected to launch cargo to the International Space Station, will be delayed until at least late June as work to certify the launch pad continues on the Virginia coast. Trouble certifying components of the rocket's launch pad has delayed the debut flight of Antares by eight or nine months, according to David Thompson, chairman and CEO of Orbital Sciences.

"Unfortunately, the first flight of our new Antares medium-capacity launch vehicle, the rocket we formerly referred to as Taurus 2, was delayed again in the quarter," Thompson said in a quarterly conference call with investment analysts. "This was caused by problems of completing construction work on the launch pad's propellant handling and pressurization systems." (2/22)

Rolling Stones Could Mean Mars Still Rocks (Source: New Scientist)
Mars's surface may shake with powerful quakes today, a new study suggests. If so, the planet may still be geologically active, which could be a boon to life. Conventional wisdom holds that the Red Planet ceased all its internal rumblings and volcanic activity many millions of years ago. That's because at about half the size of the Earth, Mars would have radiated away its internal heat much more quickly than our own restless planet.

But a region called Cerberus Fossae, a system of faults and channels that cuts across relatively young lava flows, has gotten geologists excited that the planet's rock-n-roll days may not be behind it. Images of the region from NASA's sharp-eyed HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft show boulders between 2 and 20 meters wide scattered within the faults' valley-like chasms, suggesting they rolled down there from the surface.

If the faults are indeed active (hints of recent faults have been seen elsewhere on Mars), they might be driven by the subsurface movement of magma related to the nearby volcano Elysium Mons. That could be good news for the search for Martian life, since the energy from all that moving magma could melt ice, providing wet, life-friendly habitats, the researchers note. (2/22)

Launch Pad Trash Could Become Sea Life Treasure (Source: Florida Today)
The steel structures that provided the backbone for blasting off to space could soon enliven the underwater world of grouper and snapper. Within a year, divers and fishermen hope to get more hulls, culverts and boulders as well as segments of NASA and military rocket launch towers to lure big grouper and other fish to an artificial reef about 17 miles off Cape Canaveral’s shore. (2/22)

Editorial: Clean Up After Yourself, Even in Space (Source: Daily Toreador)
Be it the 100 million tons of garbage floating around in the Pacific Ocean or the tens of thousands of debris floating around in low Earth orbit, it seems every time mankind makes a mess, somebody finds a reason to put off cleaning it up. I think the process of cleaning up space debris would be faster and cheaper if all space-faring nations simply disposed of everything they could reach, regardless of what junk belongs to whom. However, if legal issues must be sorted through, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest to do it sooner rather than later — before the debris field expands, thus becoming more costly for all. (2/22)

Exciting Times Ahead for Space Exploration (Source: Global Montreal)
In a time of austerity, advancements in space travel seem to be a thing of the past. So is there anything to be excited about when it comes to space travel? Is space travel dead? It’s not dead – just going through a transition period, says Gilles Leclerc of the Canadian Space Agency.

Canada has always been and remains dependent on U.S. partners to carry Canadian astronauts to orbit. With the end of the shuttle program last summer, there is no available launch system for astronauts for the U.S. side, said Leclerc. So what’s next for space exploration? According to Leclerc, it may be space tourism. “The most interesting thing that is really going to explode in the coming years is space tourism,” said Leclerc. Editor's Note: "Explode" may be a poor choice of words in this instance. (2/22)

Send a Fellow Citizen to Space! Public Vote Open for 20 Semi-Finalists (Source: Space Needle)
From 50,000 to 1,000 to 20, candidates for the Space Needle's Space Race 2012 are nearing the final competition. The program, announced in August, 2011, will send a person into space as part of the Space Needle's 50th anniversary celebration. One thousand entrants were randomly selected from the initial field of 50,000 applicants from around the country. Those 1,000 were invited to submit videos highlighting why they are the best candidate for this sub-orbital space flight with Space Adventures.

Twenty of those videos now have been chosen and today they are posted on the Space Needle's Facebook page for public voting. After voting ends on Sunday, March 18, five finalists will be identified and invited to come to Seattle for a series of elimination challenges in late April/early May to determine the winner of the ultimate prize of space travel. A Florida man, John Roberts of Jacksonville, is among the finalists. Click here to vote for him. (2/22)

Orbital Blames Spaceport for Another COTS Delay (Source: Space News)
Rocket and satellite builder Orbital Sciences Corp. on Feb. 21 said its program to provide commercial cargo services to the international space station under a NASA contract has fallen a further four months behind schedule, with a test flight of the unmanned freighter now scheduled to occur no earlier than August or September. As was the case with the previous schedule slip, Virginia-based Orbital placed the blame for the delays squarely on the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which is responsible for preparing the launch pad for Orbital’s Antares rocket — formerly named Taurus 2 — and its Cygnus space station cargo module. (2/22)

India's Dept. of Space Wants to Reserve Spectrum for Satellite Service (Source: Economic Times)
The Department of Space (DoS) wants the government to reserve part of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz frequency band, being used for wireless broadband, for providing satellite services. DoS want the government to reserve 150 MHz of airwaves in the new National Telecom Policy, which is being formulated. The portions of spectrum include those that are left with the government after the auction for wireless broadband services in May 2010, where the winner of the bids had to pay over Rs 12,800 crore for 20 Mhz across the country. (2/22)

Japan to Use Satellites to Spot Suspicious Boats (Source: Daily Yomiuri)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Japan Coast Guard will jointly develop a satellite-based monitoring system to survey smuggling and suspicious boats that enter Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, officials said Tuesday. JAXA will begin to experiment with a small satellite to be launched next fiscal year. The JCG has traditionally used aircraft and ships to locate such vessels, but the new system would enable the continuous monitoring of broader areas, the officials said. (2/22)

LightSquared to Cut 45% of Workforce (Source: Reuters)
LightSquared Inc., the wireless company backed by hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, plans to lay off nearly half of its employees to save money. The Virginia-based company said it will cut 45 percent of its 330-employee workforce and called the planned move a "prudent and necessary cost savings measure to ensure the long-term success of the company." On Monday, LightSquared failed to pay $56 million it owed to a British satellite partner Inmarsat,.

A week ago the U.S. Federal Communications Commission dealt the company a severe blow when it said it would revoke permission for LightSquared to move ahead with its wireless network, after tests found that it would interfere with Global Positioning Systems used by airliners and the military. As speculation has mounted that the company might soon be forced to file for bankruptcy, Falcone has steadfastly ruled that out. (2/22)

Space Solutions for the Arctic (Source: ESA)
ESA is joining forces at two events with decision-makers, universities, industry and users to map how space services can contribute to emerging challenges in the Arctic. On 12th of March, a workshop on the integrated use of satellite communications, navigation and Earth observation will highlight the vital role played by space in supporting human and economic activities under these extreme conditions. The following day, the ‘Space for the Arctic 2012’ conference will take place at the same location, organized by the European Commission, the Danish Meteorological Institute, the Center for Polar Activities at the Technical University of Denmark and ESA. (2/22)

Obama's FCC Used Regulatory Muscle to Destroy LightSquared's Competition (Source: Daily Caller)
The Daily Caller has obtained documents, emails and communications showing how President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission demolished wireless broadband company LightSquared’s competition through a pattern of regulatory decisions apparently aimed at establishing an “open-access” Internet in the U.S. The FCC green-lighted LightSquared’s corporate formation in 2009 by allowing Harbinger Capital Partners to purchase majority ownership in satellite company SkyTerra. A major obstacle that still remained in LightSquared’s way was competitor GlobalStar.

GlobalStar had a similar operation to the one LightSquared was building at the time. A major difference, though, was GlobalStar’s already-orbiting satellites, and the broadband Internet access it was already providing to Americans in rural areas of the country... Citing the earthquake and disruptions because of the global financial meltdown, GlobalStar filed a request with the FCC in 2009, asking for a waiver extension so it could continue building its network. The FCC didn’t acknowledge receipt of the request until March 5, 2010, and didn’t open it up for public notice until four weeks later.

During the months while GlobalStar’s request languished in the FCC’s slow-moving bureaucracy, the agency was helping to finalize the sale of SkyTerra to Harbinger. That company would ultimately become LightSquared. Also during those late spring months in 2010, several advocacy groups funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros were advocating for the adoption of “open-access” Internet rules. He is reported to have invested $200 million personally in Harbinger. (2/22)

Japanese Construction Firm Aims at Space Elevator in 2050 (Source: Daily Yomiuri)
It may be possible to travel to space in an elevator as early as 2050, a major construction company has announced. Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Tokyo, on Monday unveiled a project to build a gigantic elevator that would transport passengers to a station 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. For the envisaged project, the company would utilize carbon nanotubes, which are 20 times stronger than steel, to produce cables for the space elevator. Click here. (2/22)

The Role of NASA in Commercial Crew Safety (Source: Space Politics)
How active NASA should be in ensuring, or even regulating, the safety of commercial crew vehicles is an issue that has been debated for some time, but a couple of events in the last week demonstrate that the issue is still on the minds of people on Capitol Hill. At last Friday’s hearing about the administration’s FY13 budget proposal for R&D programs, the first question posed to Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Holdren was not about proposed spending for NASA or other agencies, but about whether NASA had sufficient authority to oversee crew safety given its use of Space Act Agreements (SAAs).

“I have a problem with this,” said committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX). “It’s my understanding that NASA can’t require the companies to meet any safety standards. I don’t know how that could have been left out.” Hall then asked Holden how NASA would ensure that these vehicles “ultimate are going to be safe enough to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station?” Under a Space Act Agreement, NASA can’t force companies to meet specific safety requirements.

At a Commercial Crew program forum at KSC, NASA officials said they were confident that safety would be ensured without mandating compliance, since it will be in the companies’ best interests to meet NASA’s published safety standards in order to qualify for future contracts for crew transportation that will require meeting those standards. A separate issue is the role of NASA versus the FAA in regulating commercial crew launches. Such a mission would likely be considered a commercial launch and thus require a license from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), but Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) warned the FAA last week not to get more involved. Click here. (2/22)

NASA's No. 2 Backs Budget at Langley (Source: Daily Press)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, the agency’s number two in command, visited Langley Research Center in Hampton on Thursday. Speaking to Langley employees about NASA’s proposed 2013 budget, Garver said the spending plan reflects the Obama administration’s priorities. While NASA’s budget would slightly decline, the $17.7 billion spending still outpaces the rest of the world’s space agencies combined, she said. (2/21)

Bolden: NASA Recharting its Path to Mars (Source: Space News)
One of the best things about my job as NASA administrator is that it allows me to visit our NASA centers as well universities and aerospace industry facilities around the country where I am continually meeting people who share my excitement about the growing importance of space exploration. A few weeks ago, I was in Seattle at a President’s Jobs Council meeting where the focus was on preparing more young people for the high-tech jobs of today and tomorrow.

On consecutive days in January, I visited students at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and Morgan State in Baltimore who were eagerly pursuing space-related studies in science and engineering. It is clear that an increasing number of Americans, including key leaders in Congress, understand that NASA and a nascent commercial space industry are critical to job growth and American competitiveness. President Barack Obama punctuated that point Feb. 13 with his release of a 2013 budget that includes $17.7 billion for NASA. Click here. (2/21)

New Construction Changing Face of Marshall Headquarters (Source: Huntsville Times)
New construction is changing the classic headquarters complex at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, where Dr. Wernher von Braun's team started the American space program. Before it's done, the process will replace most of the buildings in the four-building complex and renovate Building 4200, the historic building that housed von Braun's office.

Two weeks ago, bulldozers from Harbert Construction began milling up a parking lot on the south side of the complex in preparation for a new building. The site is across from Building 4202, which the new building will replace. NASA project engineer Nelson Olinger said last week that the new building will have five stories, cost $40 million and be completed in December 2013. (2/21)

Editorial: Marshall Facelift Shows Confidence in Huntsville's Role (Source: Huntsville Times)
That earth-rumbling resounding across Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center isn't that of some new rocket tests. It's the sound of bulldozers beginning the replacement of buildings surrounding MSFC headquarters.
The work signals a strong confidence in Huntsville continuing to play a significant role for NASA. The new infrastructure could possibly even lead to new or expanded programs. (2/21)

US Scientists Discover New 'Waterworld' Planet (Source: AFP)
An astronaut attempting to visit recently discovered planet GJ1214b would land in hot water -- literally, US scientists say. Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said they have identified an entirely new kind of planet, dominated not by rock, gas or other common materials, but water. The planet is "a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere," they said, after scrutinizing the planet with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. "GJ1214b is like no planet we know of," astronomer Zachary Berta said. "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water." (2/21)

Orbital Sciences 4th Quarter Profit Beats Expectations (Source: Reuters)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, but revenue at the aerospace company fell, hurt by decreased activity in science and remote-sensing satellite contracts. The company also cut its 2012 revenue outlook. Orbital Sciences expects 2012 revenue of $1.45 billion to $1.50 billion, down from its prior forecast of $1.48 billion to $1.53 billion. For the fourth quarter, the company reported earnings of $17.4 million, compared with earnings of $21.2 million a year ago. Revenue fell 3 percent to $335.5 million. (2/21)

ViaSat Formally Files Suit Against Loral (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband provider ViaSat Inc. on Feb. 21 formally served satellite builder Loral with a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and patent infringement, saying discussions between the two companies to reach an out-of-court settlement have made no progress. The lawsuit, which says California-based Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) stole ViaSat technology and incorporated it into non-ViaSat satellites, including one for ViaSat’s main U.S. competitor, had been filed Feb. 1. (2/21)

Schiff, Republican Colleague Call Proposed NASA Cuts 'Serious Mistake' (Source: Pasadena Sun)
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and John Culberson (R-Texas) penned an op-ed piece in the latest issue of Space News, arguing that "slashing" NASA’s budget would be a "serious mistake" that would erode the nation's long-held position as the world's leader in space exploration. Proposed cuts to NASA's budget would drastically scale back the agency's efforts to explore Mars and likely lead to hundreds of lay-offs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La CaƱada Flintridge, officials say. (2/21)

All Hail Science! Unless There Is a (Heroic) Astronaut Involved (Source: The Atlantic)
Since its inception in 1958, the space side of NASA has had a dual personality, in more ways than one. The biggest duality has been the obvious split between "manned" and "unmanned" missions, which paralleled to a large degree a second split between science and engineering. The "manned" efforts have always been primarily engineering challenges. My uncle's former father-in-law worked for Rocketdyne during NASA's glory days used to say: "there is no such thing as a rocket scientist."

Aside from the obvious human element, the difference between scientific and "manned" missions, is the end result. Successful scientific missions bring back, or enable, discoveries: greater knowledge about science and the universe. In contrast, the success of human missions has been counted primarily in human achievements: the first man off the planet, or to land on the moon and return safely to Earth. We proved we could build and successfully operate (with a couple of glaring exceptions) reusable spacecraft. We set endurance records for humans living in space.

Scientific satellites are also engineering achievements, of course. But we don't sell planetary probes as a way of proving our human greatness. We sell them as a way to discover more about Mars, or Jupiter's moons, and about whether life ever existed there. The emphasis of the scientific missions, in other words, is on the intrinsic value of knowledge they produce, which is to say, on something other than us. And therein lies the crux of the problem with scientific missions. Or, at least, the problem when it comes to getting public funding and support. Click here. (2/21)

Winners and Losers as White House Requests NASA Budget Cut (Source: Flight Global)
Unmanned exploration of the planet Mars would have its budget cut from $587 million to $361 million. This would effectively preclude NASA from funding the launches of the joint ESA/NASA ExoMars mission. While science has been slightly cut from just over $5 billion to $4.9 billion, the real damage to that program is the continuing financial drain caused by the James Webb Space Telescope whose cost has now ballooned to $8.5 billion.

This will mean that several other science missions have now been delayed or cut. Having previously been paired back, commercial manned exploration is to receive a boost with the commercial crew program rising from $406 million to $830 million. Likewise the Space Launch System and Orion exploration capsule will be given $3 billion towards their development. (2/21)

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