March 1, 2012

Fate of Canadian Satellite Servicing Project Awaits DARPA Decision (Source: Space News)
Canada’s MDA Corp. said it would await a decision on a contract bid to DARPA before deciding whether to shelve its work on a vehicle to service satellites and perform other chores in orbit. MDA also said it expects at least one large telecommunications satellite order this year from Russia in addition to the two satellites it is already building. (3/1)

NASTAR Center Announces New Space Training Courses & Programs (Source: NASTAR)
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. Click here. (3/1)

Billings: Space Science Is Not an Entitlement Program (Source: Space Policy Online)
Linda Billings, a research professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, chastised the space science community for assuming that the work they do is an entitlement program. She was "appalled" at a meeting this week of NASA's Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) to discover how little those scientists understand about the basics of the federal budget process and their assumption that it is NASA's responsibility, not their own, to justify spending on Mars exploration.

Billings recounts the history of the rationale for federal investments in "big science" and how the situation has changed since the end of the Cold War. The aerospace community in general, she argues, needs to update its perspective on the cultural context in which federal spending takes place. "In the space community, even today too many scientists who receive NASA funding for their work appear to believe that they are entitled to continue receiving the funding they want and that NASA is responsible for ensuring that they get their money," she writes.

Space scientists need to learn about the federal budget process and advocate for their own programs, not expect that NASA will do it for them, she warns. Billings has worked in the space business for almost 30 years. She is currently a principal investigator with NASA's astrobiology program working on communications issues. (3/1)

SpaceX Completes Launch Rehearsal at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is draining propellant from a Falcon 9 rocket after successfully fueling it during a countdown dress rehearsal today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After beginning at T minus 7 hours, the countdown clock stopped as planned at T minus 5 seconds to conclude the test at Launch Complex 40, which ran systems and launch teams through procedures they’ll follow on launch day. The company said the readiness test was "successful" in a twitter statement. (3/1)

Next-Gen Weather Satellites to Improve Tornado Warnings (Source: NASA)
When you read the following paragraph, consider the following: Tornado season hasn't even started yet. On Jan. 22 and 23, 2012, more than 37 tornadoes struck the southern USA. Ten of them tore across the Lower Mississippi Valley into Alabama. Worst hit were St. Clair and Jefferson County, Ala., where 2 people were killed, about 100 others injured, and at least $30 million in damage was done. It was a chilling reminder of the April 2011 onslaught of deadly tornadoes that took a staggering toll across southern and Midwestern states.

"Even with our advances in science and communications, we can still be surprised by the deadliest storms," says NOAA scientist Steve Goodman. "But NOAA is working with NASA and university researchers to give more lead time in tornado warnings." Southern tornadoes are especially insidious and challenging to track. The hilly, forested terrain in southern states makes an approaching twister harder to spot than in the flat Midwest. In the south you might not see the first evidence of an approaching tornado until it's almost in your back yard. (3/1)

NASA Ames Gets Social with Yelpers (Source:
In the spirit of NASA's successful series of Tweetups and forthcoming events for other new media platforms, the agency's Ames Research Center will host up to 80 users of Yelp, the review-based social network, on March 8 and 16. Yelp defines itself as "an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know." The NASA Ames events will be part of Yelp's "Field Trip" series of behind-the-scenes or hands-on visits to local establishments like restaurants, farms, museums or artisan workshops. (3/1)

NASA Finds Thickest Parts of Arctic Ice Cap Melting Faster (Source:
A new NASA study revealed that the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than the younger and thinner ice at the edges of the Arctic Ocean's floating ice cap. The thicker ice, known as multi-year ice, survives through the cyclical summer melt season, when young ice that has formed over winter just as quickly melts again. The rapid disappearance of older ice makes Arctic sea ice even more vulnerable to further decline in the summer, said Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and author of the study. (3/1)

Warp Drives May Come With a Killer Downside (Source: Universe Today)
Theoretically, faster-than-light (FTL) travel might be possible using an Alcubierre Warp Drive. Of course, when the ship reaches its destination it has to stop. And that’s when all hell breaks loose. Researchers have done some advanced crunching of numbers regarding the effects of FTL space travel via Alcubierre drive, taking into consideration the many types of cosmic particles that would be encountered along the way.

Space is not just an empty void between point A and point B… rather, it’s full of particles that have mass (as well as some that do not.) They found that these particles can get “swept up” into the warp bubble and focused into regions before and behind the ship, as well as within the warp bubble itself.

When the Alcubierre-driven ship decelerates from superluminal speed, the particles its bubble has gathered are released in energetic outbursts. In the case of forward-facing particles the outburst can be very energetic — enough to destroy anyone at the destination directly in front of the ship. “Any people at the destination,” the researchers conclude, “would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for [forward] region particles.” (3/1)

Orion Escape System Motor Prepped for 2014 Flight Test (Source: Florida Today)
A major contractor this week started converting the main motor for the abort system that will launch in early 2014 on NASA’s first flight test of an Orion crew exploration vehicle. The Orion spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a two-orbit flight that will test the capsule’s heat shield during a high-speed atmospheric reentry. The idea is to simulate a return from a mission to the moon, Mars, an asteroid or other destinations beyond Earth orbit. Click here. (3/1)

What is the International Space Station's Weakest Link? (Source:
Aided by a robust, conservative structural design, officials say they foresee no technical problems keeping the International Space Station from running until at least 2020, but managers have ordered follow-up reviews of several components flagged by a cursory engineering analysis. Engineers are studying the outpost's structural stability and spare parts needs to ensure the orbiting laboratory can continue operating until at least 2020.

Managers ordered the analysis after the space station program was extended five years from 2015. Engineers are also looking at the feasibility of another life extension until 2028, the 30th anniversary of the launch of the outpost's first module. (3/1)

Canada Extends ISS Commitment (Source: CTV)
The federal government's decision to commit to the International Space Station for another five years should mean Canadian astronauts will return to space sooner than expected. Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced Wednesday in Quebec City that Canada will extend its commitment to the ISS from 2015 to 2020. The announcement came as the heads of foreign space agencies were arriving in Quebec City for an international conference where they planned to discuss the future of the space station. (3/1)

NASA Cuts Threaten Canada's Piece of Mars Missions (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Budget cuts from the White House are likely to kill two Mars missions that would have been showpieces for Canadian science and technology. Canada is a participant in ExoMars, a pair of missions to look for past or present life on the Red Planet that were partnerships between NASA and the European Space Agency. Now NASA has pulled out. Canada's role is to provide a science instrument and expertise for the first mission (in 2016), designed to study Mars from orbit. And MDA Corp., the builder of the Canadarms, has been developing a rover that would land on the planet in 2018. (3/1)

Stolen NASA Laptop Had Space Station Control Code (Source: Discovery)
NASA had 5,408 computer security lapses in 2010 and 2011, including the March 2011 loss of a laptop computer that contained algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station (ISS), the agency's inspector general told Congress Wednesday.

"These incidents spanned a wide continuum, from individuals testing their skill to break into NASA systems, to well-organized criminal enterprises hacking for profit, to intrusions that may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries' objectives," Inspector General Paul Martin said in written testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee investigations panel. (3/1)

NASA Watchdog: Space Agency Ill-Equipped to Fight Cyberattacks (Source: National Journal)
What if NASA's space operations got hacked? Investigations have uncovered “systematic” weaknesses in NASA’s cybersecurity measures, the space agency’s inspector general told a House subcommittee on Wednesday. Besides e-mail and other basic operations, NASA uses computer systems to control space missions such as the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope.

And the potential for cyberattacks on those systems is growing, Inspector General Paul Martin said at a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee. In 2010 and 2011 the agency reported more than 5,400 incidents of malicious software or unauthorized access involving its computers, Martin said. In fiscal 2011, NASA was the victim of 47 attacks by “advanced persistent threats,” which involve groups or individuals repeatedly attacking a target. Of those, 13 attacks successfully breached NASA's computers, including one incident in which credentials for 150 employees were stolen, he said. (3/1)

Air Force Playing Hardball With Space Industry (Source: National Defense)
Over the past decade, the Air Force has poured more than $80 billion into space technologies, including new satellites, launch services and information systems. The plan for the coming years is to spend considerably less as pressure grows to reduce the U.S. defense budget. The Air Force still intends to modernize key satellite constellations and provide space-based communications and surveillance services for the military and intelligence community. But program costs are going to be scrutinized at an unprecedented level of detail, Air Force officials said.

Every major space program is now the subject of “should-cost” reviews, which is the Pentagon’s new catchphrase for how it will fight contractors over every expense that is being charged to the government. Ongoing reviews of space systems include the Air Force’s top space contractors Lockheed Martin Corp., The Boeing Co., and the United Launch Alliance — a joint venture that is owned by both firms. The largest programs that are targeted for cost reductions are the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications spacecraft and the Space Based Infrared surveillance satellites. (2/29)

China's Advanced Remote Sensing Satellite Operating Soundly (Source: Xinhua)
China's first high-resolution remote sensing satellite ZY-1-02C has carried out orbit tests, and images delivered from it reach international levels, China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application said. The ZY-1-02C, which was launched on Dec. 22 last year, is the first customized land resources satellite for Chinese clients, the center said. With two high-resolution color cameras and one multi-spectral camera, the satellite will provide clients with images for disaster relief services, agriculture development, environmental monitoring and other applications. (3/1)

Experiments Going Smoothly on Tiangong-1 (Source: Xinhua)
Scientific and medical experiments being carried out onboard space lab module Tiangong-1 are seeing "good progress," according to a senior Chinese space technology expert. These experiments are largely related to the development of China's aerospace procedures, such as space weather forecasts, Qi Faren, former chief designer of Shenzhou spaceships, told Xinhua on Thursday in an exclusive interview. (3/1)

Logistics, Recycling Key to China's Space Station (Source: Xinhua)
China will have to test its docking, logistics and resource recycling technologies if it wants to establish a manned space station by 2020, a renowned Chinese scientist said Thursday. Qi Faren, former chief designer of China's Shenzhou spacecraft, said the technologies related to extravehicular activity, docking, logistics and recycling are essential for the establishment of a manned space station. (3/1)

China Prepares for Manned Space Docking This Year (Source: Xinhua)
A leading Chinese space engineer said that China's first unmanned space module, the Tiangong-1, is now capable of accommodating astronauts, making it possible for China to carry out its first manned space docking mission ahead of schedule. Qi Faren, the former chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceships series, said China will launch its manned Shenzhou-9 spacecraft between June and August this year, and conduct a space rendezvous and docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module. (3/1)

Five Places We Might Find Life in Our Own Solar System (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
Life on Earth occupies some bizarre places – pools of pitch in Trinidad and Tobago, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and frigid, lightless lakes capped by glaciers. While scientists hunt for hospitable planets circling other stars, the solar system has a few candidates. Here are five. (3/1)

Mission Control: Colorado's Front Range Airport (Source: Aurora Sentinel)
A spaceship that would transport earthlings from Aurora to Australia in about two hours. A flight from New York to Paris that’s less than 60 minutes. It’s not part of the subplot from a science fiction novel. It’s an idea that Front Range Airport officials in Adams County are striving to make a reality. Aurora’s lawmakers and community leaders are also hoping that Front Range Airport will score the necessary federal and state approvals needed to launch space tourism and commercial space travel.

Aurora City Council members on Feb. 27 gave a thumbs-up to the idea of a spaceport at the Front Range Airport on the city’s eastern border. The notion of commercial space flight is appealing to members of the Aurora Economic Development Council, who say that cities surrounding the airport including Aurora stand to receive myriad economic benefits from a spaceport. “There are enough entrepreneurs now who are developing these prototypes for these super fast planes that it could be a vanguard of an economic development wave,” said Dick Hinson, senior vice president for AEDC. (3/1)

Justin Bieber Should Launch Into Space, Scientist Says (Source:
Just call him the Biebernaut. An astronomer is making a case for launching pop singer Justin Bieber into suborbital space aboard a private rocketship. The idea is not to rid the world of the Canadian teenager and his pop stylings — he would come back down to Earth eventually, after all — but rather to help jump-start the emerging suborbital spaceflight industry. Lofting a celebrity of Bieber's stature would generate a lot of interest among the American public, which could help commercial spaceflight pick up some much-needed momentum, said Seth Shostak. (3/1)

Space.Travel Introduces "Ask a Space Travel Agent" (Source: Space.Travel)
Space.Travel, the leading destination website for space tourism, announces a new feature for its members. Certified Virgin Galactic ASA Jay Johnson's Space Agent/ Mission Controller Trisha Navidzadeh is ready to answer questions about planning and undertaking a sub-orbital spaceflight experience from potential space tourists.

“Our new ‘Ask a Space Travel Agent’ feature adds an important element to our website. Given that sub-orbital space tourism is such a new and expensive experience, it helps to be able to get solid information from a real space travel agent. We are pleased to have Trisha help answer questions from our members whom may be contemplating undertaking such an exciting and unique adventure,” says Kenneth Schweitzer founder of Space.Travel. (3/1)

Workers Remove Apollo-Era Engines from Crawler at VAB (Source: NASA)
For more than 30 years, NASA's two Apollo-era crawler-transporters carried six space shuttles (Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise) atop mobile launcher platforms from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center. After traveling 2,190 miles, crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2), which weighs about six million pounds, will receive two new diesel engines and generators so it can be used to carry NASA's Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, currently under design, and new Orion spacecraft to the launch pad. (3/1)

Don’t Let Space Program Be Killed (Source: The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register)
When President Barack Obama killed the space shuttle program, with it went U.S. ability to send humans on missions into the final frontier. For now, Russia is being kind enough to allow American astronauts to ride its rockets. That could change. But the White House assured Americans the decision was a beginning, not an end. Henceforth, the United States would emphasize space exploration with unmanned craft. If anything, the push toward destinations such as Mars might be enhanced by scrapping the shuttles, we were reassured.

Apparently those were just more in a long line of promises broken by this president. NASA has revealed cuts in Obama's budget will force a mission to Mars to be set back, possibly by years. We don't get it, and we suspect tens of millions of other Americans don't, either. Obama is willing to waste trillions of dollars on programs useful primarily because of their political value to him - but wants to take the United States out of what still is a space race.

Editor's Note: Let's be accurate here: President George W. Bush canceled the Space Shuttle program and President Obama actually extended it into 2011 with two additional missions. Also, Congress has consistently given NASA less than President Obama has requested for the agency. (3/1)

Virginia Angles for Bigger Slice of Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
The Commonwealth of Virginia and a major aerospace company aim to make a big entry into the commercial space business this year, launching the first in a series of critical supply runs to the International Space Station. A threat to Florida? No, say state officials who believe the Sunshine State is well-positioned to compete both in the cargo delivery business as well as an emerging market to launch astronauts and others to the International Space Station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

“Florida has location, location and location,” said Frank DiBello, the president of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development organization. “We have a rich heritage, and a skill set, and all of the infrastructure that is necessary to serve the marketplace, and we don’t consider ourselves threatened in any way by Virginia, or any spaceport.” Click here. (3/1)

Pentagon Might Begin Planning for Sequestration, Panetta Says (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon will start preparing for automatic spending cuts that will take place if Congress does not act to stop them, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told members of the House Budget Committee this week. Asked by lawmakers why he had not yet begun planning for sequestration, which would take $500 billion from the Defense Department, Panetta said there was little he could do to prepare for what he called "meat-ax" cuts. (3/1)

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