February 27, 2012

NASTAR Center Announces New Space Training Courses & Public Experience Programs (Source: SpaceRef)
The NASTAR Center, the premier commercial aerospace training and research center in the world, announces space training and public experience courses in preparation for upcoming commercial spaceflights anticipated to commence in 2013. NASTAR Center's Space Training courses include both new and redesigned programs to prepare passengers, pilots, flight physicians, emergency responders, and the general public for space.

The NASTAR Center space courses include lessons learned from previous training sessions and improved hands-on exercises and advanced space flight simulation exposures in state-of-the-art flight simulators built by parent company Environmental Tectonics Corporation (ETC). Lessons learned are incorporated from over 240 NASTAR Center commercial spaceflight trainees which the NASTAR Center has successfully trained since its inception in 2007. (2/27)

Spaceport Chief Seeks Help to Keep Industry in California (Source: Mojave Air & Space Port)
The man who manages the nation’s first commercial spaceport called on state lawmakers Monday to help him keep the emerging commercial space industry in California. Stuart Witt, CEO of the East Kern Airport District, which manages the Mojave Air and Space Port, said immediate action is needed to battle efforts by governors in several states to lure the new industry to their states.

Speaking at the NextGen Suborbital Research Conference in Palo Alto on Monday, Witt warned that “Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and other states, with the support of their Governors, legislators and business communities, are visiting aerospace businesses at the Mojave Air and Space Port in an effort to recruit them and their highly-skilled jobs to their states... We need a state commitment to attract aerospace to California rather than letting it continue to erode as it has for the last 30 years,” he said. (2/27)

Surging Chinese Espionage Targets U.S. Space Components (Source: America Space)
The FBI is pursuing a growing number of Chinese agents trying to obtain and smuggle U. S. space system components into China for use in spacecraft being developed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). “Multiple cases of economic espionage and theft of dual use and military technology have uncovered pervasive Chinese collection activities”, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 16.

“China has used its intelligence services to gather information via a significant network of agents and contacts utilizing a variety of methods to obtain U. S. technology to advance their defense industries, global command and control and strategic warfighting capabilities, the DIA director said in a formal Threat Assessment document and briefing to the Congress. U. S. analysts agree that China is developing a broad range of new military spacecraft and that by smuggling in U. S. space components and designs is a way to increase the capability and reliability of these satellites. (2/27)

Bobby Block Leaving SpaceX for CASIS (Source: America Space)
Bobby Block, who began working for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) as the company’s Vice-President of Communications in March of 2011 – has decided to leave the NewSpace firm to work for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space or CASIS. CASIS is a non-profit organization that manages the International Space Station (I.S.S.).

At SpaceX, Block is credited with turning around SpaceX’s media relations department. Some members of the media had difficulty with SpaceX representatives prior to Block’s arrival. As a former journalist, Block put in place elements that were missing from SpaceX’s public and media relations strategy. Whether-or-not SpaceX’s media relations will return to their former state – remains to be seen. Block’s departure comes just a few months after Ken Bowersox, a five-time space flight veteran who was serving as SpaceX’s vice-president of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance. (2/27)

Is Orbital Sciences Set to Take Off? (Source: Seeking Alpha)
While the large defense industrials are reporting flat revenue and earnings, some of the smaller, more specialized defense contractors are doing better. These companies may be getting ready for some movement on their stock price that might make them worth a look. One of these companies is Orbital Sciences (ORB). Orbital just reported their fourth quarter results and net income came in at 29 cents a share which was well over the consensus 20 cents.

Revenue was down slightly at $22 million quarter-to-quarter which is similar to many other contractors recently reporting. These have through cost control been able to increase earnings despite flat or declining revenue. In FY2011 Orbital had record revenue at $1.346 billion. This was an increase of $51 million from 2010. Much of this was driven by their Advance Space Programs segment which saw growth in national security satellite contracts.

The company's stock has traded in the $12 to $20 range for most of the last three years since it reached a high of close to $30 in late 2008. The company does not pay a dividend and the lack of movement in the price has done little to entice people to the stock. This may change in the upcoming months as Orbital expects to begin launching the Antares vehicle under a contract with NASA to re-supply the International Space Station (ISS). (2/27)

Next Sirius XM Radio Satellite Faces Multi-Month Delay (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Sirius XM Radio's next broadcasting satellite will remain on Earth several months longer than expected to address a technical concern on the spacecraft, according to a company spokesperson. "The planned launch of [the] Sirius FM6 satellite has been delayed in order to confirm its readiness status," Patrick Reilly, a Sirius XM spokesperson, said in a written statement provided to Spaceflight Now, adding the launch has not yet been rescheduled. (2/27)

Manned Russian Moon Missions Unlikely (Source: Aviation Week)
Anatoly Perminov, the former director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has downplayed the prospect that Russia will have manned space missions to the Moon. In recent weeks, Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin disclosed that Russian astronauts may land on the Moon in 2020. Perminov, who stepped down last year as director general of Roscosmos and is now deputy director general of the agency’s joint-stock company, Russian Space Systems, was dismissive when asked about the reports. (2/27)

America's East Coast Captured in Dazzling Photo/Video From Space Station (Sources: Space.com, Huffington Post)
NASA has released a dazzling picture from the International Space Station showing the Atlantic coast from Virginia to New York at a view of about 220 miles above Earth. In this photo, bright spots indicate large cities; New York City and Long Island are visible in the right side of the image, while Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va. and Virginia Beach are visible as you move south, or to the left of the photo. This video shows the entire East Coast, originating over the Gulf of Mexico and moving northward. (2/27)

XCOR Aerospace Closes $5 Million Round of Investment Capital (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace announced today that it recently closed a $5 million round of equity funding. The round, combined with cash on hand plus anticipated and existing contracts, should fund the company through production of its Lynx Mark I Suborbital vehicle. The financing included participation of new and previous investors. Among them are Esther Dyson, Pete Ricketts (co-owner of the Chicago Cubs) and several top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and former venture capitalists.

"Our $60-plus Million backlog of orders for Lynx suborbital vehicles, flights on Lynx, and our unique reusable non-toxic rocket engines gives the investor community reason to take notice," said Jeff Greason. As part of this financing, XCOR is also happy to announce a reformulated Board of Directors. The directors include newcomer Esther Dyson, former venture capitalist Stephen Fleming, Chairman of the Space Studies Institute Dr. Lee Valentine, and company founders Jeff Greason and Dan DeLong. (2/27)

Delta Mariner Arrives in Florida Following Bridge Collision (Source: WPSD)
The vessel that struck the Eggners Ferry Bridge, tearing away an entire span, has arrived at its destination. The Delta Mariner was on its way from Decatur, Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico and hit the bridge on January 26. The vessel was carrying rocket parts for United Launch Alliance. The Delta Mariner arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida on Thursday. The rocket parts are now on their way to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for an upcoming April launch. (2/27)

Ariane 5 Readied for Dual-Satellite Launch (Source: Broadband TV News)
The second Ariane 5 for launch in 2012 has completed its initial assembly at the spaceport in French Guiana. Arianespace Flight VA206 will carry out a dual-payload mission to orbit a pair of satellites for Asia-Pacific: Japan’s JCSAT-13 and VINASAT-2 for Vietnam. (2/27)

Protection of NASA Jobs ‘Just a Fact of Life’ (Sources: Florida Today, Space News)
Florida Today’s John Kelly says an often-asked question by laid-off contractors on the Space Coast is: Why did so few government jobs go away with the retirement of the space shuttle — just 13 NASA positions last year — while the contractor work force was gutted? The vulnerability of contractors and protection of government workers is “just a fact of life,” Kelly writes.

“Agencies hire contractors to do jobs. When they’re done, the job is over. The government workers’ jobs are then to move on to the next task.” One of those tasks will be oversight and coordination of NASA’s work with private companies on developing commercial space vehicles to take astronauts to the international space station. Not so fortunate are workers from United Space Alliance, the contractor NASA hired to operate its space shuttle fleet day to day. Shutting down the program ended the company’s “primary reason to exist,” Kelly writes. “So, most of the company’s workers were no longer needed after closing flights last year.” (2/27)

Spaceport Indiana Provides Out-of-This-World Opportunities for Students (Source: SPI)
Spaceport, Indiana (SPI) & Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) have inked a deal to engage all of its 62 schools in STEM and PBL programs that include a high altitude balloon launch at each facility. ISIS (Interactive Science Initiative to Support Indianapolis Public Schools), is designed to immerse students in real science projects and help them understand and apply knowledge based upon classroom learning and science in the field. ISIS is a Spaceport Indiana program that will include collaboration with educators by offering workshops that help teachers plan for PBL learning in the classroom and involve students in real experiments that expand their knowledge of earth science, chemistry, physics, and much more. The program is designed to be implemented over two academic years to cover all the schools in the IPS system. (2/27)

UAH Team Helping Japanese Space Agency Study Storm Launch Threats (Source: Huntsville Times)
The Japanese Space Agency has long grappled with the problem of delayed space launches resulting from the many days of cloudy skies Japan experiences in its winter launch window. But they are getting some help from a team of UAH scientists. Hugh Christian, a UAH Earth System Science Center (ESSC) principal research scientist, and some colleagues are working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to develop new rules that will ease launch restrictions while still protecting spacecraft from dangerous lightning strikes. (2/27)

XCOR Announces New Lynx Vehicle Payload Integrators (Source: XCOR)
At the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) in California, XCOR Aerospace announced that EMXYS of Spain, Texas A&M's Space Engineering Research Center, and the Planetary Science Institute have joined XCOR's payload processing sales channel for the Lynx suborbital vehicle. The new members of the XCOR team will provide services to the research, scientific, educational, engineering, and medical markets that are using the XCOR Lynx suborbital reusable launch vehicle for experiments and investigations.

They join XCOR's existing payload integration channel partners including: the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio and Boulder, NanoRacks of Washington DC, Spaceflight Services of Tukwila, Washington, Space Expedition Curacao, Yecheon Astro Space Center of South Korea, Cosmica of France, and African Space Institute in South Africa. The payload integrators will sell Lynx research flight services and assist in creating standardization in research hardware for the suborbital market. (2/27)

Open Issues with the Official Phobos-Grunt Accident Report (Source: Space Review)
The Russian space agency Roscosmos released this month its official report on the failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission. James Oberg argues that the report fals short in explaining just what happened to the doomed Mars probe, which has implications for other aspects of spaceflight as well. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2035/1 to view the article. (2/27)

The Critical Year for Commercial Cargo and Crew (Source: Space Review)
In the next several months Orbital and SpaceX will carry out key test flights to demonstrate their ability to transport cargo to and from the ISS. Jeff Foust reports on the progress those companies are making and just how much is riding on the success of those flights. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2034/1 to view the article. (2/27)

The Cislunar Econosphere (Part 2) (Source: Space Review)
In the concluding part of his analysis, Ken Murphy examines the potential growth of economic activity as humanity expands beyond Earth orbit to the Earth-Moon Lagrange points and eventually the lunar surface itself. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2033/1 to view the article. (2/27)

Swiss Space Debris Effort Could Open the Political Door to Space Debris Removal (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month a Swiss group announced plans to develop a small satellite that could capture and deorbit cubesats. Michael Listner explains how that could solve not just the technical issues of orbital debris removal, but policy and legal ones as well. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2032/1 to view the article. (2/27)

Bit by Precious BIT (Source: Space Review)
In the 1960s the CIA was worried that the Soviets might have the ability to take control of American spy satellites. Dwayne Day describes what's known about a program to attach payloads to those satellites to try and detect any such efforts. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2031/1 to view the article. (2/27)

AIA: 350,000 Aerospace and Defense Workers' Jobs at Stake (Source: AIA)
The budget released by the administration is not a shot over the bow of the American aerospace and defense worker -- it's a direct hit. As a result of the approximately $487 billion, 10-year cut to the defense budget alone, buying power to procure technologies that fuel U.S. military strength will be reduced in 2013 by approximately $20 billion. (2/27)

Editorial: Rubel Column on Spaceport Bill was Misleading (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The spaceport immunity op-ed piece by Walt Rubel is so misleading, and sometimes untruthful, that it demands a response. New Mexico Trial Lawyers Assn. (I am a member) has worked for decades to preserve the rights and safety of New Mexicans. NMTLA has been a leader in seeing that a citizen's right to a jury trial is preserved and that negligent persons are held accountable for their actions. Immunity laws, such as the one proposed by the spaceport bill, allow corporations to ignore the basic principle that everyone must use ordinary care for the safety of others. They deprive all of us of the right to a jury trial to recover fair compensation for harm caused by another's negligence.

Currently, New Mexico law gives a spacecraft operator immunity when a customer waives his right to sue in writing, unless the operator is grossly negligent, willfully or wantonly disregards passenger safety, knows or should have known of a dangerous condition, or intentionally injures a passenger. This law, passed in 2010, was a compromise to protect space passenger safety while promoting spaceport development. No other law is needed.

The bill proposed this year expands immunity to include manufacturers and suppliers of a spacecraft and its components. It also expands immunity so that operators, manufacturers and suppliers are liable only if they intentionally injure a passenger or do something constituting "gross negligence evidencing willful or wanton disregard" for safety. Even if they know of, and fail to correct, a dangerous situation, they still would be immune. (2/27)

Tunguska-Sized Asteroid Homing on Earth (Source: RIA Novosti)
An asteroid of the same class as one that allegedly detonated over Tunguska River in 1908 will pass by Earth next year, flying closer than some man-made satellites, according to NASA. The asteroid, 2012 DA14, will miss the planet by 26,900 kilometers on February 15, 2013, which is closer than satellites in the geostationary orbit of 35,700 kilometers, according to data on NASA’s website published Sunday. (2/27)

Photos To Space Begins Second Out Of This World Mission (Source: Hobby Space)
Photos To Space is once again offering people a chance to send their pictures to space as it prepares to launch its second package of digital photos. Photos To Space was created with the goal of getting people involved and interested in space. For a fee of just $4.95, participants can upload their digital photo to the company website.

Prior to flight the information will be transferred a proprietary storage array and placed onboard the rocket from UP Aerospace. After the launch is completed, each participant will receive a customized digital certificate with his or her photo embedded within. The certificate will also include flight information such as altitude, maximum velocity and exact launch time. (2/27)

'Space Chronicles': Why Exploring Space Still Matters (Source: NPR)
After decades of global dominance, America's space shuttle program ended last summer while countries like Russia, China and India continue to advance their programs. But astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of the new book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, says America's space program is at a critical moment. He thinks it's time for America to invest heavily in space exploration and research. Click here. (2/27)

Scientists See Red on NASA Cuts of Mars Missions (Source: AP)
NASA is making a cosmic U-turn on the road to Mars. For the past two decades, the U.S. space agency has been practically obsessed with Mars. It has hardly missed an opportunity about every two years to fling robotic spacecraft at the red planet. This summer, the most high-tech rover ever, Curiosity, will land near the Martian equator in search of the chemical building blocks of life. The more scientists study Mars, the closer they get to answering whether microbial life once existed there, a clue to the ultimate question: Are we alone? (2/27)

Northern Lights Mystery May Be Solved (Source: Space.com)
Scientists may have solved a longstanding mystery about the origin of the energetic particles that cause Earth's dramatic aurora displays. The electrons responsible for the auroras — also known as the northern and southern lights — are likely accelerated to incredible speeds in an active region of Earth's magnetosphere, according to a new study.

This region is 1,000 times larger than scientists had thought possible, providing enough volume to generate lots of the fast-moving electrons, the study reports. Researchers determined that these electrons are likely being rocketed to their tremendous speeds in the magnetotail, a portion of Earth's protective magnetosphere that has been pushed far into space by the solar wind. (2/27)

Search Outside Our Solar System Reveals a Bounty of Planets (Source: UPI)
Mankind's knowledge of planets, limited for most of human history to our own Earth and its solar system neighbors, has exploded in the last 20 years with the discovery of hundreds of exo-planets in the cosmos, a search with the ultimate goal of finding an Earthly twin that could harbor some form of life. Click here. (2/27)

Editorial: NASA Glenn Research Center Practicality (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The NASA Glenn Research Center, fresh from shipping off to Japan -- and ultimately to the International Space Station -- an instrument that will test a new generation of radio technology, has landed a project to make jet engines safer and more efficient. It's the kind of real-world technology application that's attractive to administrators, and presumably to members of Congress, in times of tight budgeting. No matter what a Congress rightly concerned about the U.S. losing its ability to get people into space aboard its own vehicles and on its own terms decides to do about the limited-exploration budget NASA has proposed, Glenn needs to keep its hand in the production and perfection of practical technology that is of clear and immediate benefit to the public. (2/27)

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