April 13, 2012

Leinbach's Lingering Feelings on Constellation (Source: SPACErePORT)
ULA's Mike Leinbach, one of three panelists speaking on the future of the space program during an event at Brevard Community College on Friday night, expressed his lingering displeasure with the cancellation of Constellation and the tendency for new presidential administrations to make major changes to our nation's space programs. He made similar criticisms last year while working as NASA's Shuttle Launch Director at KSC, causing some controversy.

Like his comments last year, Friday's remarks seemed pointed at President Obama, whom he also said took too long to announce a space policy after Constellation ended. One audience member took offense at Leinbach's comments, shooting back that President Bush and Congress were largely to blame Constellation's demise, due to their underfunding the program. Leinbach claimed that the Constellation program was doing just fine before it was cancelled.

It seemed ironic to me that Leinbach, who appears to have been a strong a proponent of Ares-1, is now leading an effort to establish ULA as NASA's chief provider of human launch services. Opponents of NASA's Ares-1 approach argued that it was an unneeded and overly expensive duplication of existing commercial Atlas and Delta launch capabilities. Here's a video of the entire panel session event. (4/13)

Space Junk is the Focus of a New IMAX Movie and NASA Nightmares (Source: Huntsville Times)
It took humans a half-century to turn Earth's final frontier into "an orbiting junk yard," a new documentary film says, and now we need a way to clean up what we thought was endless space. A new IMAX movie, "Space Junk," now playing at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, brings into dramatic focus a problem NASA has been working to track and solve. An audience in the Huntsville theater this week gasped at vivid computer-animation of the debris field and an infamous 2009 collision in space that made it worse. (4/13)

UK Supports Space Innovation Overseas (Source: SSTL)
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts has announced a £6 million co-funded grant for commercial products and services developments from space-based systems and technology. SSTL is leading one of four projects that will benefit, as part of the National Space Technology Programme (NSTP), delivered through the UK Space Agency and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). The funding was announced as a trade delegation including the Prime Minister, Minster Willetts, and SSTL Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sweeting, visit Japan. Among the key themes of the trip is increased space research collaboration between the two nations. (4/13)

Rice University to Launch Space Studies Degree (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Rice University, in partnership with NASA, will launch a master's degree for space studies beginning this fall.
The degree track will be one of five Professional Science Master's programs at the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, the university said. NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Rice last year and is working more closely with universities and entrepreneurs to help address a shortage of qualified professionals for the shifting needs of the aerospace industry, the university said. The industry is focusing on reemphasizing research and development, as well as translating space technologies to energy, medicine and other areas. (4/13)

Orbital Commerce Project Advances Hypoxia Study for Spaceflight (Source: OCP)
OCP/ Black Sky Training in conjunction with its training partner Dr. Paul Buza, a recognized expert in both DCI and hypobaric hypoxia, announced today that they have begun a study into the effects of hypobaric hypoxia on people taking neuro-psychiatric prescriptions. This study will determine if there is any change the patient’s physiological and psychological profile during high altitude flight.

Dr. Buza stated" I have often questioned the possibility of the exacerbation of medication side effects as a function of mild hypoxia as seen in cabin altitudes of 6000-8000 feet due to hypobaric hypoxia. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest this is true with the use of alcohol during flight. I am particularly concerned with the class of neuropsychiatric drugs including anti-depressants that have a significant side effect profile even at sea level equivalent pressures. (4/13)

Kim's Rocket Fails, but North Korea's Space Threat Is Scarier Than You Think (Source: TIME)
North Korea rarely has much to show off. Every 20 years or so, they upgrade to a new Kim, and the product rollout is pretty much the crazy, hermit-state equivalent of the iPad 3 launch. This week, however, Pyongyang had a whole different kind of launch in mind and took the unheard of step of polishing up the Dear Leader statues and throwing open the doors to the international press, as the country attempted its first satellite launch. It was a dud. According to U.S. and Japanese defense officials, a rocket fired from North Korea early Friday failed mid-flight, breaking up in the atmosphere.

But just the idea of North Korea aiming for space — and having the missile muscle to get there — led to hair-on-fire panic in east Asia and a more measured but very real angst in the rest of the world. A loonytoons country with nuclear weapons and global reach is no one's idea of a good thing. The key questions — still unanswerable — are whether North Korea may soon have the technical chops to reach orbit and if they do, does that mean anything? (4/13)

The Space Craze That Gripped Russia Nearly 100 Years Ago (Source: WIRED)
Newspapers proclaimed that hundreds of starships would soon venture out into the cosmos. People dreamed of moon colonies that were just a few years away. Ordinary citizens organized competitions to build rockets to reach the edge of space. Welcome to Russia in the 1920s. America’s fascination with space grew up in the 1950s and ’60s. But the Russians had already beaten us to it a generation earlier, during the world’s first space craze. The entire country seemed to become captivated by the idea of interplanetary travel. (4/13)

Policy Class Travels to Capital for NASA Visit (Source: Technique)
From March 29 to 30, students in professor Robert Braun’s Science and Technology Policy class went off Tech’s campus for two days when they traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress, White House administration and NASA officials. This semester, the class of about 20 has been studying NASA and the policy it is involved with on Capitol Hill.

Braun, a professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering at Tech, returned to campus in Oct. 2011 after taking a position for two years as NASA’s Chief Technologist, the first one in over a decade. During this time, Braun was charge of long-term, visionary plans for space exploration such as plans for Mars exploration, going back to the moon and looking for planets around other stars. He also worked with Congress, the administration and the White House to advocate for funding in the budget, and talking to those on Capitol Hill about the importance of investing in advanced technology. (4/13)

NSS to Step Up Plans to Advocate for NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Politics)
The National Space Society plans to increase its efforts to advocate for NASA’s human spaceflight programs in the near future, but will also act as a watchdog for at least one element of that effort, the space advocacy organization’s executive director said Thursday.

Paul Damphousse, who became NSS’s executive director early this year, told the audience at the Space Access ’12 conference in Phoenix that he would seek to invigorate the organization’s outreach efforts with respect to NASA’s programs. “NSS could have a done a little bit better job in the last couple of years” advocating for policies, he said. “One of the things at the top of my list is to bring back a strong advocacy role.” (4/13)

Editorial: How About a Boost Into Space? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
On Tuesday, the private spaceflight company SpaceX announced that it's exploring the possibility of building a launch facility in Cameron County, between South Padre and the Mexican border ("S. Texas seen as launch site," Page B1, Wednesday). This idea makes too much sense to let it fail.

From the engineering side, South Texas offers a prime location for a spaceport. Even farther south than Cape Canaveral, it's optimally positioned to use the Earth's rotational spin for an extra launch boost. And the ocean to the east would allow multistage rockets to drop stages without concerns about hitting a populated area, while also allowing for recovery of reusable parts.

Beyond geography, Texas offers affordable real estate and a roster of NASA aerospace engineers that make it a natural destination for a future spaceport. Other states, such as New Mexico, have created spaceports. But local geography makes those better suited to quick up-and-down tourist flights. (4/13)

Events Mark Shuttle Discovery's Last Days at Space Coast (Source: CFnews13)
The end of the shuttle program has hit so many hard, especially those who spent years working on the orbiters. Titusville resident Don Conover spent a quarter century with NASA, nearly half of it working as an engineer on the Discovery's flight systems. In less than a week, Discovery will be the first orbiter to leave the Kennedy Space Center for museum life. It became the "workhorse" of the fleet, after the Challenger disaster. Conover said he's proud to have worked on this particular shuttle for so long. Click here. (4/13)

ISS Translates Robotic Assets in Preparation to Greet SpaceX’s Dragon (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The International Space Station’s robotic arm has completed a double walk-off to be in position to grapple SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft next month. Currently set to launch no earlier than April 30, Dragon will have to successfully complete a series of demonstration milestones, prior to permission being granted to approach the Station for berthing via the SSRMS. (4/13)

Climate Science Attacks by Former NASA Staff Shouldn't be Taken Seriously (Source: The Guardian)
Based on the job titles listed in the letter signatures, by my count they include 23 administrators, 8 astronauts, 7 engineers, 5 technicians, and 4 scientists/mathematicians of one sort or another (none of those sorts having the slightest relation to climate science). Amongst the signatories and their 1,000 years of combined professional experience, that appears to include a grand total of zero hours of climate research experience, and zero peer-reviewed climate science papers. (4/12)

Virginia Governor Recommends $9.5 Million Budget for Spaceport (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has offered a recommendation to the Virginia General Assembly to boost the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport annual budget from the $7.5 million adopted by legislators earlier this month to $9.5 million annually.

The $2-million annual increase in the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority budget signals the McDonnell Administration's determination to make Virginia a significant commercial space player in this decade. Nonetheless, state legislators must ratify the recommendation when it meets in Richmond next week in what has been a fiscal logjam over the two-year $85-billion Commonwealth budget. (4/11)

Work Ongoing at KSC to Upgrade Crawler/Transporter for SLS, Other Rockets (Source @ATKRocketNews)
ATK tweeted today from NASA KSC with comments on NASA's ongoing upgrades to the crawler/transporter that will carry the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) and other rockets (including ATK's Liberty?) from the VAB to Launch Complex 39A or 39B. The crawler is being modified to carry 50% more weight, with four times the power capability to support all future launch operations, including commercial crew launches. In total there are 44 line item modifications being made to the crawler, most scheduled for completion this fall. (4/13)

Astronauts Prepare for Arrival of SpaceX Cargo Capsule (Source: Aerospace Daily)
U.S. and European astronauts on the International Space Station are training for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, tentatively set to launch at the end of the month. The SpaceX capsule will be the first U.S. commercial cargo mission to the station. (4/13)

Putin Awards 1st Cosmonaut Squad (Source: RIA Novosti)
At an official ceremony in Moscow’s planetarium today, Russian PM Vladimir Putin awarded a team of Russian cosmonauts – Alexei Leonov, Valery Bykov, Boris Volynov, Viktor Gorbatko and Valentina Tereshkova – a special award for contributing to Russian manned space flights, forging international space ties and popularizing the country’s achievements in space research. (4/13)

NASA Partners With U.S. Air Force to Study Common Rocket Propulsion Challenges (Source: NASA)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Launch Systems Directorate in Los Angeles are collaborating on the Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Development NASA Research Announcement (NRA) to study an affordable, next-generation rocket engine. Partnering on this effort will strengthen mutual organizational goals, including reduced development and total life cycle costs, cross agency collaboration for rocket propulsion system development and strengthen competitive growth in the nation's rocket propulsion industrial base. (4/12)

This Just In: North Korea Still Sucks at Launching Rockets (Source: WIRED)
Congratulations, North Korea. You have just failed to put a satellite in orbit for the fourth time in fifteen years. Exhale, America: Pyongyang will not be able to attack you at home. The North Korean rocket launch that gave the world heartburn is a dud. Again. CNN reports that the Unha-3 rocket blew up after failing to get its “Bright Star” satellite into orbit. In case you’re counting, that makes them 0 for 4 since 1998. (4/12)

Ex-Im Bank Touts U.S. Benefits of Backing Hispasat (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Export-Import Bank on April 12 awarded Spanish satellite fleet operator Hispasat the bank’s 2012 “Deal of the Year” award, citing bank guarantees totaling $388.5 million for two Hispasat satellites built by Loral. “These satellite deals are already supporting more than 260 full-time American jobs,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement. (4/13)

A Puerto Rico Spaceport for SpaceX? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The environmental study for a Texas-based spaceport for SpaceX is now moving forward. Expect a similar effort to proceed for a Puerto Rico spaceport. SpaceX is looking at multiple locations, including in Florida, to accommodate its anticipated launch manifest. There is an erstwhile movement in Puerto Rico to establish a spaceport on the island's eastern coast at/near the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, and SpaceX says they have been approached by Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico's location may be a bit better than Texas' for a vertical-launch spaceport--at least for high-inclination orbits--but equatorial launches could fly over a large number of populated islands in the Caribbean chain. Meanwhile, back in Florida, SpaceX continues to work with NASA toward using LC-39, and they are taking steps to calm the fears of Florida officials who may think a SpaceX departure from state is imminent. (4/13)

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