February 24, 2012

USAF Notices Unreliable on Orbital Risks (Source: Aviation Week)
The spacecraft-conjunction advisories put out by the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) are inaccurate and less useful to prevent interference and collisions than the orbit data that satellite operators have started sharing among themselves, according to a top Intelsat executive who has helped set up the operator collaboration.

The conjunction summary messages (CSMs) from JSpOC, which are based on projections of radar tracks, fall short of position data for radio interference maintained by the world’s major satellite operators by about two orders of magnitude, according to Richard DalBello, vice president, legal and government affairs, of Intelsat General. Click here. (2/24)

Official: Stennis Jobs Appear Stable (Source: Sun Herald)
Jobs at Stennis Space Center should be safe under the proposed slimmed-down NASA budget for 2013, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said Thursday. She met with management, employees and reporters Thursday at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and at Stennis. Garver called NASA’s proposed $17.7 billion budget “stable,” although it cuts $59 million from the current budget. “The Stennis budget request is also very stable, only adjusting because of work on the A-3 test stand,” she said. “We continue to fund all the programs and Stennis plays a really key role in two of those three largest priorities for NASA.” (2/24)

NASA, ALA Team Up to Offer Astro4Girls Pilot (Source: Library Journal)
Nine public libraries around the country will present “Astro4Girls and Their Families” during National Women’s History Month this March. The project is a pilot collaboration among National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-funded astrophysics education and public outreach programs and the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office.

Some of the activities offered will include astrophotography using robotic telescopes, building telescopes, making edible active galaxies, learning about women astronomers, including the project scientist of the NASA SOFIA mission. Mangala Sharma of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who is coordinating the Astro4Girls program, told LJ the focus is on middle-school-aged girls, but many activities and events will welcome participation from older and younger children and their families. Click here. (2/24)

Iran to Launch Domestically Built Jajr Satellite (Source: Press TV)
Head of Iranian Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli says the country plans to launch its domestically-built Fajr (Dawn) satellite into space during early months of the new Iranian calendar year (commencing on March 20). Fajr is a measurement and imaging satellite that will examine subsystems used in previous satellites, Fazeli told IRNA on Tuesday. He added that the manufacturing work of the satellite is still underway and nearly complete. He noted that the national Fajr satellite will be placed in elliptical orbit of 400 km in radius and will remain in space for a year and a half.

The ISA head stated that the project was originally scheduled to launch during the Ten Days of Dawn (February 1-10) celebrations, marking the 33th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, but was postponed for better preparedness.” On November 12, 2011, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced that the country is set to launch into space three domestically-manufactured satellites dubbed Fajr (Dawn), Navid (Harbinger) and Tolou (Rise). (2/24)

Stratcom, U.S. Allies Exploring Combined Space Operations (Source: Space News)
U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) entered a “discovery period” around the first of the year to talk with U.S. allies and develop concepts for a combined space operations center, according to the Stratcom commander. U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler cautioned that no formal agreements have been reached but said Stratcom is looking to build upon existing relationships with allies in the space arena.

Kehler was given limited authority to negotiate space situational awareness (SSA) arrangements with allies in November. Previously that authority resided with the U.S. secretary of defense. The Stratcom commander would first negotiate with a specific country before requesting authority from the U.S. State and Defense departments to formally conclude an agreement. (2/24)

DIA Director: China Preparing for Space Warfare (Source: Free Beacon)
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed new details of China’s space weapons programs last week, including information regarding China’s anti-satellite missiles and cyber warfare capabilities. Burgess stated in little-noticed written testimony prepared for an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Beijing is developing missiles, electronic jammers, and lasers for use against satellites.

Much of the space warfare activity is being carried out under the guise of China’s supposedly non-military space program, he said. “The space program, including ostensible civil projects, supports China’s growing ability to deny or degrade the space assets of potential adversaries and enhances China’s conventional military capabilities,” Burgess said. (2/24)

Future Lunar Bases, Why, Where, and How (Source: Space Quarterly)
Lunar bases and their location is a subject that has been discussed and argued about for decades, without any real consensus, because each interest group is driven to a different area. Some think little of the Moon and see it as nothing more than a distraction on the way to Mars. The thesis of this article is that not only is the Moon vitally important for developing a sustainable infrastructure to support the eventual settlement of Mars, it is vitally important for the overall future of mankind and for the economic development of the solar system. Click here. (2/24)

Partners Look to Enhance Vega (Source: Flight Global)
For evidence that winners have friends, look no further than Vega. As soon as Europe's new small launcher made its spectacularly successful maiden flight, Italian space agency head Enrico Saggese received a call from German counterpart Johann-Dietrich Woerner who, along with his congratulations, expressed enthusiasm that his agency, DL, might join forces with Saggese's ASI to develop the launcher further.

Specifically, DLR is thought to be keen to help devise a European alternative to the final, fourth stage of Vega, which is the tried-and-tested RD-869 restartable engine built in Ukraine and also used as the third stage on the Dnepr launch vehicle and its predecessor, the SS-18 (SATAN) intercontinental ballistic missile. (2/24)

Group to Create Makerspace at Mojave Air and Space Port (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Attention, Mojave spaceport workers! Do you wish there was something to do at night in Mojave? Looking for a place to work on your own projects? Want to meet people from other companies who share your interests? The Mojave Makers want to make that happen.

The group is working to set up a “makerspace” in a building at the airport. The workshop will contain tools and equipment where members can work on their own projects during off hours. It also will provide a place where workers can make social connections and provide the spaceport with a sense of community that it is now lacking. (2/24)

Project Icarus: Laying the Plans for Interstellar Travel (Source: The Atlantic)
In September of last year DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, convened a conference in Orlando, Florida, to discuss and promote one of its newest and most intriguing research projects: The 100 Year Starship Study. According to DARPA, the study is intended to "develop and mature a technology portfolio that will enable long-distance manned space flight a century from now." To that end, DARPA is now negotiating a grant of $500,000 to ex-astronaut Dorothy Jemison, whose personal foundation will team up with Project Icarus, a division of Icarus Interstellar, to seed the plans for an interstellar mission that could span several centuries. Click here. (2/24)

Nomad Planets Roam Our Galaxy (Source: Discovery)
The Milky Way may be teeming with more than 100,000 free-flying planets, worlds that unlike our orderly solar system are not orbiting parent stars. This is the finding from a study that extrapolates from observations of a dozen so-called "nomad" planets, which were detected when their gravity briefly contorted light of passing stars -- a phenomenon known as gravitational microlensing.

To derive the estimate, astrophysicist Louis Strigari, with Stanford University’s Kavli Institute, and colleagues factored in the gravitational pull of the Milky Way, how much material it contains and how that material might be divided up among bodies ranging from Jupiter-sized objects down to tiny worlds like Pluto. Among the study's most interesting conclusions is that that there are not enough solar systems in the galaxy to account for all the nomad planets, which means that not all the free-flying worlds are orphan planets ejected from their birthplace. (2/24)

Mr. Witt Goes to Sacramento as Mojave Begins Revitalization Effort (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt will be visiting Sacramento next week to lobby California lawmakers to provide regulatory relief and the types of incentives that other states have been providing to space companies. Although Mojave has become a thriving aerospace research and development center, it has done so despite California ranking last among the states in terms of business friendliness, Witt said during a meeting of the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors. Obstacles include high taxes and a substantial regulatory burden.

Meanwhile, other states such as New Mexico, Virginia and Florida are offering lower taxes, financial incentives, and looser regulatory environments to attract space companies. New Mexico has built a $209 million spaceport for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which is being developed and built in Mojave. There are concerns that other states could lure companies away from Mojave. Witt will outline specific measures he would like to see legislators support during a press conference on Monday during the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, Calif. He will then meet with lawmakers in Sacramento later in the week. (2/24)

China Paces to the Moon (Source: Voice of Russia)
China announces its next manned spaceflight to be launched next summer. What are the implications for ‘senior space powers’? On February 21, Chinese space officials announced that the next manned Shenzhou-9 spacecraft will be launched between June and August this year. Its main task will be to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, launched in September 2011. The docking mission will be performed manually, so that the docking technology can be checked. Then, the crew will board the station to live and conduct scientific experiments.

While European space powers are constantly discussing the viability of space stations, their Chinese colleagues are persistently treading the path once taken by the USSR and the USA: from rocket launchers and satellites to first citizen in space and, possibly, to first citizens on the Moon. Even though the plan apparently takes more time than expected (for example, in 2002 Chinese officials announced Chinese lunar base to be ready in 2010), it is still rather rapid, since the first manned Shenzhou-5 was launched in 2003. Click here. (2/24)

Space Tourism: A Survival Guide (Source: Bloomberg)
Nearly 500 people from 18 to 88 have forked over $65 million in deposits on the $200,000 ticket price. What can you, O brave space pioneer, expect as you prepare for and embark on your historic voyage? The specifics are not yet final, but extensive interviews and a site visit have yielded this detailed preview of the four-day experience. Click here for the article, and here for a graphic showing the pre-flight preparations. (2/24)

Space Shuttle Discovery Joins the National Collection (Source: Smithsonian)
Discovery, the longest-serving orbiter in the space shuttle fleet, will be accepted into the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum collection. The space shuttle has been the icon for American spaceflight for a generation, and Discovery has flown every type of mission during its 27-year career.

After a period of preparation and delivery, the orbiter will be placed on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar of the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Occupying a central position in the space hangar and surrounded by scores of other major artifacts, Discovery will represent the drive to establish routine space transportation and to enable people to live and work in space for scientific and practical benefits.

Space shuttle Enterprise, currently on display in the same location, has been showcased at the Udvar-Hazy Center since the center opened in 2003. Enterprise has been seen by almost 9 million visitors to the museum and it will continue to inspire and educate the public at its new home. (2/24)

Czechs to Establish Their Own NASA (Source: Prague Daily Monitor)
The Czech government wants to establish a space agency after the model of the U.S. NASA,. The project is to be one of the stimuli to competitiveness supported by the government's national economic council NERV. The Czech Space Agency (NKA) is to administer "incubators" of the companies needing help with the take-off of interesting projects. It is to be formed by the end of the year. The Transport Ministry that is now in charge of space programs says its establishment will not cost anything. (2/24)

UK Space Agency Awards £2.5 Million for Commercial R&D Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Twenty-two innovative British companies are to share £2.5 million ($3.97 million) of government support for the design and development cutting-edge space products and technologies. As part of the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Program (NSTP), twenty-nine projects are receiving grant funding to develop commercial products and services using space technology or space-derived data.

These ‘fast-track projects’ applied as part of the ‘Space for Growth’ competition, and each will last between 6 and 9 months. The projects will carry out research and development in: Satellite Telecommunications; Sensing; Position, Navigation & Timing; Robotics & Exploration and Access to Space. Click here for a list of project funding recipients. (2/24)

ITT Systems Corp. Wins $8,502,772 for Range Support (Source: FLDC)
ITT Systems Corp., Cape Canaveral, Fla., is being awarded a $8,502,772 cost-plus-award-fee and cost reimbursable contract for Space Lift Range System contract support for increased interim supply support spares to support the eastern and western ranges in case of equipment malfunction or failure. The location of the performances is Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Work is expected to be completed by Oct. 31, 2012. Space and Missile Systems Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the contracting activity. (2/21)

ESA Signs $1.8B Deal with Thales Alenia for Six Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Feb. 24 signed the biggest satellite-construction contract in its history, a $1.8-billion, six-satellite deal with Thales Alenia Space to provide meteorological services from geostationary orbit for 20 years starting in 2018. In addition to being its biggest-ever satellite commitment, the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) contract was one of the most contentious in the history of the 19-nation ESA. (2/24)

Florida Budget Bills Include Aerospace Investments (Source: FLORIDA SPACErePORT)
The Florida Senate has approved a $71.2 billion budget for the state's FY-13 operations, including the following aerospace-related investments: $10.039 million for Space Florida; $8.97 million for an Embry-Riddle Aerospace Research and Technology Park; $1.457 million for the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (led by NASA Advisory Council Chairman Dr. Ken Ford); and $100,000 for the Florida Institute of Technology to continue work on a "Governor's School for Space Science and Technology" (grades 9-12) in the vicinity of Kennedy Space Center.

Meanwhile, the House version of the budget, which totals $69.2 billion, includes: $10 million for Space Florida; $9 million for the Embry-Riddle aerospace research park; $4.239 for the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition; and nothing for the Florida Tech "Governor's School" project. House and Senate conferees have only two weeks left in the regular Legislative Session to hammer out a compromise budget for consideration by Governor Rick Scott. Gov. Scott will have the ability to strike specific elements with line-item veto authority.

Funding from the Florida Department of Transportation for spaceport infrastructure is not explicitly included in the budget bills, but is instead included in the agency's five-year workplan. About $10 million is expected to be approved. (2/23)

Colorado Senate Advances Space Liability Measure (Source: Denver Business Journal)
A once-controversial bill granting limited liability to companies operating spaceflights out of Colorado passed the Colorado Senate unanimously on Tuesday. Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, is viewed as the key piece of legislation needed to help the Front Range Airport, which is six miles east of Denver International Airport, to get federal designation as a spaceport.

Trial lawyers originally planned to oppose the bill until an amendment was added last week that grants a more narrow immunity window to such companies. During preliminary debate on the measure Monday, both Republicans and Democrats hailed it as a bill that could help to create jobs. Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont said SB 35 will “put a welcome sign on Colorado to the aerospace industry.” The bill heads next to a House committee. (2/23)

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Land in Bay Area (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Southwest Research Institute will host the third annual Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 27-29. The conference seeks to connect researchers and educators wanting to participate in, learn about and contribute to the new era of commercial, reusable suborbital spaceflight.

The conference will include more than 120 invited and contributed talks, as well as keynote addresses and discussion panels. Key speakers include Apollo Astronaut and X-15 Pilot Neil Armstrong, XCOR President Jeff Greason, Virgin Galactic Chief Test Pilot David Mackay, and FAA Associate Administrator George Nield. Editor's Note: Sponsors include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Space Florida, and the Florida Space Institute at UCF. I'll be there. (2/23)

Minuteman III Launch Planned in California on Feb. 25 (Source: Launch Alert)
A Minuteman III ICBM is scheduled for launch from north Vandenberg AFB on the morning of February 25 between 02:01 and 08:01 PST. In past Minuteman III launches from Vandenberg, the Air Force has tried to launch at the instant the launch window opens. However, a launch can be delayed by problems at Vandenberg or downrange and can therefore happen at any time during the six-hour window. (2/23)

Why Astronauts Crave Tabasco Sauce (Source: NPR)
If you think astronauts just want dehydrated dinners and freeze-dried ice cream, think again. After a few days in space, they start reaching for the hot sauce. In fact, they may start craving foods they didn't necessarily like on Earth. "They crave [spicy] peppers, they crave sour and sweet things," says Jean Hunter, a food engineer at Cornell University. That means Tabasco sauce was definitely on the menu for space shuttle astronauts. Click here. (2/23)

Scores Apply for Martian Taste Test (Source: MSNBC)
Want to get paid $5,500, plus expenses, for tasting different kinds of space food on Hawaii's Big Island for four months? Join the crowd: About 100 people have applied for the job so far, and there are still six days to go before the deadline. There are a few catches, though: You'd have to be cooped up in a fake Mars habitat for most of that time, cut off from the rest of the world except for a time-delayed communication link.

Forget about packing the bikini. Anytime you leave the habitat, you'd have to wear a bulky spacesuit. And don't expect a luau. The whole point of this exercise is to find out whether it's better to feed you freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, or let you make your own meals from "shelf-stable" ingredients such as flour, beans, rice and cheese. For 120 days, you'll have to write detailed assessments of all those meals ... as well as your own mood.

University of Hawaii researcher Kim Binsted says the applications have been streaming in as the Feb. 29 deadline approaches. She can tell where HI-SEAS has gotten a shot of publicity by keeping track of where the emails are coming from on any particular day. "Apparently Italy heard about us yesterday," she said. By next week, she expects to have 200 or so applications to choose from. (2/23)

Space Sphere Falls to Earth in Brazil (Source: Interligado)
A mysterious object fell from the sky this morning in the city of Anapurus-MA, 28km away from Chapadinha. The fall of the object, so far unidentified occurred around 06:00 this morning in the village wells, property of Mr. "Iron Leg". According to the information after a crash that looked like lightning or thunder, the mysterious object came to the floor. With spherical object about the size of a cylinder of cooking gas.

In the fall trees were destroyed, signaling that the object fell from a high altitude. Several curious have gone to town to see the object and it has been said that major media state and national levels would be moving to the village in an attempt to unravel the mystery. Among the population began to appear numerous speculations and beliefs. Some say that the object was part of a satellite that was decaying in space. Others who would be part of an alien spacecraft, and the more perplexing a harbinger of doom. Click here. (2/23)

Cape Takes Delivery of Next Atlas 5 Aboard Mariner Ship (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A month after striking a darkened bridge in Southern Kentucky and a span of roadway collapsing onto its bow, the rocket-carrying Delta Mariner cargo vessel finally sailed into the Cape Canaveral wharf Thursday. The ship, which is used to transport rocket stages from the manufacturing factory in Alabama to the two primary U.S. launch sites in Florida and California, hit the Eggner's Ferry Bridge in Kentucky while trying to pass beneath it Jan. 26. (2/23)

Orbital Hopes Antares On Pad In Five Weeks (Source: Aviation Week)
Barring additional difficulties getting a new launch pad ready at Wallops Island, Va., Orbital Sciences Corp. expects to begin fit checks and other pad work with its first Antares cargo launch vehicle late next month or early in April. That would clear the way for a first launch of the liquid-fueled rocket late in June or early in July. Problems getting the greenfields Antares pad at Wallops certificated for propellant handling and pressurization delayed the schedule “eight to nine months,” Thompson said, and traffic at the ISS could thwart the notional plan to begin docking at the station at the end of the year. (2/23)

AAS Issues Statement Supportive of President's Budget Request (Source: AAS)
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) issued a statement thanking President Obama for his strong support of science as embodied in his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013 but asking him and the Congress to strive harder to maintain a balance of small, medium, and large space missions in astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science, and solar physics. Some provisions of the President’s FY 2013 budget, especially a 20 percent cut in NASA’s planetary science funding, threaten to undermine the recommendations of recent decadal surveys of these fields by the National Academy of Sciences.

"It is challenging to receive a budget from the President that supports part of our discipline and undercuts another," says AAS Executive Officer Dr. Kevin B. Marvel. "We will work throughout 2012 to encourage Congress to fully support all of the decadal surveys' priorities." (2/23)

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