March 23, 2012

ESA, China Discuss Shenzhou Docking At ISS (Source: Aviation Week)
European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). The two sides met at Dordain’s request on the sidelines of the European Space Agency’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launch to the ISS March 23 to further establish a dialogue and lay the groundwork for potential Sino-European cooperation in manned spaceflight.

“For the moment we cannot dock and rendezvous with the ISS, because our system is not the same as the Americans or the Russians,” said Wang Zhaoyao, the newly named director general of the China Manned Space Engineering Office (Cmseo), adding that experts from both agencies are expected to establish a working group that will meet in Paris next month to discuss Shenzhou’s compatibility with a planned ISS common docking mechanism. “We would like to have cooperation.” (3/23)

Students' Experiments to Play Out in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Science experiments devised by teenage students, one from Egypt and two from the United States, will be conducted in space as part of a move by YouTube and Lenovo to inspire young minds. Winners of a global YouTube Space Lab competition were announced Thursday, with 18-year-old Amr Mohamed of Egypt taking the honor for older students while Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma was deemed top submission in a younger group. Click here. (3/23)

Florida Federal Contractors Group Plans Orlando Meetup (Source: FFCA)
The Florida Federal Contractors Association will host a networking event in Orlando on April 10 at the Citrus Club in Orlando. Come meet with local federal contractors, academic leaders, and government agencies to discuss relevant issues and opportunities for working with the federal government. Click here for information. (3/23)

Ex-NASA Launch Chief Helping ULA Put People Into Space (Source: Denver Business Journal)
NASA’s push for private spacecraft for U.S. astronauts is a big opportunity for Colorado’s United Launch Alliance. The shift means Colorado-based ULA will prepare to do something it’s never done before — put people, not hardware, into orbit. The 3,800-employee company on Jan. 16 hired Michael Leinbach, the former launch director of NASA’s space shuttle program, to help translate its experience with space probes and military satellites into success with astronauts. There may be no one more qualified. Leinbach, 58, ran NASA space shuttle launches for 11 years, until the U.S. space agency retired the spacecraft last year. (3/23)

Say Hello to an Extraterrestrial Ocean — and Maybe Extraterrestrial Life (Source: TIME)
It's hard enough for kids to remember all of the known oceans and seas — Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Norwegian, Barents — and now they can add one more to the list: the Enceladen Ocean. The name is lovely and the place is nifty, but there's not much chance of visiting it soon. It's located on Enceladus, one of Saturn's 66 known moons. While Enceladus itself has been familiar to us since the time it was first spotted in 1789, the discovery of its ocean, courtesy of the venerable Cassini spacecraft, is a whole new and possibly game-changing thing. (3/23)

Want To Go To Mars? Elon Musk Says SpaceX Aiming for a $500,000 Trip (Source: Huntsville Times)
Elon Musk says one goal for his SpaceX private space company is offering roundtrips to Mars for $500,000. It can be done, Musk told the BBC in a recent interview. Musk provided few details about his plan for the eventual trips, but said he would reveal more in a year or less. "My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars - this is very important - so you don't have to carry the return fuel when you go there," Musk said. "The whole system [must be] reusable - nothing is thrown away. That's very important because then you're just down to the cost of the propellant." (3/23)

Mission to Saturn: Beauty from the Final Frontier (Source: TIME)
More than 13 years ago, the Cassini satellite punched through the Earth’s lower atmosphere riding atop a U.S. Air Force Titan IV rocket. Six years later, after traveling 2.2 billion miles to the outer rings of Saturn, the craft’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) began transmitting images of Saturn and its moons. The images—each taking more than two days to travel back to Earth—recorded cosmic ray trails, Saturn’s F-ring and shepherd moons. Click here. (3/23)

Jamming No Mere Nuisance for Middle East Satellite Operators (Source: Space News)
The two biggest satellite fleet operators based in the Middle East said intentional jamming of their signals by regional governments seeking to suppress unfavorable news coverage has grown from a mere nuisance into a substantial business risk. In separate comments, officials from Nilesat of Egypt and the 21-nation Arabsat consortium of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said the Arab Spring wave of civil uprisings has transformed jamming into a serious revenue-loss issue.

“It started with Libya and then moved to Bahrain, Iraq and Syria, Iran and other places,” Salah Hamza, chief technical officer for Nilesat, said. “We can play with power levels on our uplink and for awhile we succeeded in stopping it. But now the jammers are using higher-power amplifiers. They are getting more sophisticated.” Hamza said March 14 that Nilesat programming on five satellite transponders carrying more than 60 television channels has been interrupted for varying lengths of time. (3/23)

Unusual New Feature on Mars! (Source: Sky & Telescope)
As the most Earth-like planet in the solar system, Mars often attracts a hefty share of attention when it graces our skies every two years. Now Mars is generating a bigger buzz than usual among observers because an unusual protrusion has appeared in the planet's southern hemisphere. It was first noticed on the evening of March 20th by Pennsylvanian amateur Wayne Jaeschke. The feature was visible in all color-filtered exposures from near-infrared to blue light. Hopefully, scientists involved with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which produces daily images of the planet, will be able to determine if this is a weather-related event. Click here. (3/23)

Spaceport America Reaches Phase II of Construction (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Phase I of construction at the $209-million Spaceport America north of Las Cruces, which includes the 10,000-foot runway, the terminal hangar facility called the "The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space", and the internal roads, fencing, electrical system, water/sewer systems, and the dome-looking Space Operations Center, is nearly complete. Phase II construction has started and includes the final build out of the permanent Vertical Launch Complex facilities, the visitor center on the main spaceport campus, and the southern road to the spaceport. Phase II is projected to be complete in 2013. At that time, the spaceport becomes fully operational. (3/23)

Texas Firms win NASA Contracts (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
NASA has selected four Texas companies to perform architecture and engineering services at its Johnson Space Center in the Clear Lake area. This will include work at Ellington Field, the Sonny Carter Training Facility and the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. The four contractors selected are HDR Architecture of Dallas and three Houston-based companies: PDG Architects; Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc.; and URS Group, Inc. These firm-fixed-price contracts have a period of performance of five years from the effective date of the contract, with no options. The cumulative maximum indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity value of the contracts is $49 million. Editor's Note: RS&H is based in Florida. (3/23)

Weather Again Delays NASA Five Rocket Mission From Virginia (Source: NASA)
NASA has rescheduled the launch of five suborbital sounding rockets from the Wallops Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream to no earlier than Sunday morning March 25. Friday's launch attempt was postponed because of poor weather conditions. A criteria for launch is clear skies not only at Wallops but also at viewing sites in New Jersey and North Carolina. Clouds at all three sites prevented the launch attempt. The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) will gather information needed to better understand the process responsible for the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth. (3/23)

Russia to Focus on Its Orbital Cluster – Popovkin (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will prioritize the development of its satellites over manned spaceflight, aiming to boost the country’s economy, the head of the Federal Space Agency Vladimir Popovkin said on Thursday. “Our main priority is not manned spaceflight, launch vehicles or space infrastructure, but the creation of an orbital cluster that would help improve people’s lives,” Vladimir Popovkin said at a conference in Moscow. “Farmers, businessmen and individuals alike should profit from results of [our] space activity,” he said, naming weather satellites and the Glonass navigation system as two important components of the orbital cluster to get special attention in the future. (3/23)

Lockheed GPS Satellite Program "On Target" (Source: Reuters)
New navigational satellites being built by Lockheed Martin Corp are "on schedule, on target," the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said on Thursday, dismissing a new congressional report that cited an 18 percent cost increase on the program. Air Force General William Shelton told a defense writers group that Lockheed's Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite program was doing well and was "not even close" to breaching cost thresholds that would trigger a mandatory notification to Congress under the Nunn-McCurdy law. (3/23)

Space Station Faces Cosmic Traffic Jam (Source:
It's shaping up to be a busy spring and summer on the International Space Station, where a slew of spacecraft, both government-owned and private, are due to visit the outpost. The space agency of Japan announced Wednesday (March 21) that it would launch its third robotic cargo freighter to the station July 21. The vehicle, called the H-II Transfer Vehicle Kounotori 3 (HTV3), is due to lift off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center, bearing food, supplies and scientific experiments to the orbiting laboratory. And it's not alone.

On Friday (March 23), a European cargo craft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) 3 launched to deliver supplies to the station. It's due to dock on March 28, after an earlier packing issue delayed its flight. In addition, a Russian robotic cargo vehicle called Progress 47 is due to launch April 20. And it's not just cargo that's traveling up to the space station.

A new crew of two Russians and an American are due to lift off in a Russian Soyuz capsule from Kazakhstan on May 15. They will be replacing three current station crewmembers, half of the station's full six-person crew, who are slated to return April 30. That same day is also slated to see the first launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule to the space station. (3/23)

Why The Pentagon Wants An International "Code Of Conduct" For Space (Source: AOL Defense)
"Safe passage": That, in two words, is what Air Force Space Command chief Gen. William Shelton says the U.S. military will gain from an international "code of conduct" on space activities that the State Department is now negotiating – in the face of intense skepticism from some key members of Congress. Shelton and other Pentagon space officials spent much of yesterday getting grilled by the Senate on the proposed code, which as currently drafted by the European Union might impede U.S. operations in space, according to an analysis by the Pentagon's own Joint Staff. Today, at a breakfast with reporters, Shelton got a chance to say how the code might actually help the United States.

"The driver here is transparency," Gen. Shelton said. "If you look at the volume of space, just the sheer volume of space from geosynchronous orbit down to the earth's surface, that's 73 trillion cubic miles. Now, the FAA has traffic control problems over the United States just watching air traffic [in a] fraction of 73 trillion cubic miles." The U.S. military tries to keep tabs on everything in orbit, and it's improving its already impressive capacity to do so: A tracking system now able to find items the size of a basketball will soon be able to find ones the size of a baseball, Shelton said.

When and if a properly written code of conduct is in place, however, participating nations would disclose what they were doing so everyone else would know where to look – easing the task of tracking systems – and what potential hazards to avoid – even if their sensors couldn't see them at all. The code would also govern radio frequency interference and other potential problems with "safe passage" and operation in orbital space. (3/23)

Two Embry-Riddle Professors Team to Provide Launch Services (Source: SPACErePORT)
Shirley Fedorovich and Rick Perrell, two professors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, have established World Astronautics, Inc., a startup company offering to sell launch services using a variety of small launch systems. Two rockets are currently in development to carry payloads up to two miles. Additional higher-performance rockets, including for small orbital payloads, within a few years. Contact Shirley or Rick at (3/23)

Europe Launches Third Robot freighter to Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
An automated craft laden with supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) headed into space on Friday in the heaviest launch ever undertaken by Europe. The 20-ton vessel, named after 20th-century Italian physicist, Edoardo Amaldi, blasted off atop a heavyweight version of the Ariane 5 launcher at 01:34 am (0434 GMT) from the launchpad in French Guiana. (3/22)

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