April 26, 2012

Raytheon Raises Forecast After Profit Increases 17% (Source: Bloomberg)
Raytheon raised its full-year profit forecast after first- quarter net income increased 17 percent. The company gained the most in New York trading since Dec. 20. Net income from continuing operations increased to $448 million, compared with $384 million a year earlier. Sales declined 1.9 percent to $5.94 billion. (4/26)

Metro Boston to Send a Reader into Space (Source: Business Wire)
Metro, Boston's #1 daily newspaper, is proud to announce that local reader Justin Dowd from Worcester, MA, has won Metro's Race for Space, a global competition to select one Metro reader to travel into space. Justin, 22, beat hundreds of thousands of candidates across the world to win a the coveted once-in-a-lifetime ticket on board XCOR Lynx, the first generation rocket-powered aircraft currently being built by leading spaceflight company SXC (Space Expedition Curacao). (4/26)

House Proposal Would Keep ORS Alive Next Year (Source: Space News)
The U.S. House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee recommends funding a rapid-response military space activity known as Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) that the Pentagon has marked for termination next year. In its 2013 budget request, the Air Force proposed closing the ORS office and allocating $10 million to integrate ORS concepts into other military space programs. In marking up its portion of the 2013 defense authorization bill, the House panel recommended rejecting that proposal. (4/26)

Russian Plan to Counter Space Threats Proposed (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has proposed a special federal program to neutralize space threats, Roscosmos deputy head Vyacheslav Davydov said on Thursday. Threats at the planetary level related to asteroids, comets and space junk necessitates significant financial, intellectual and manufacturing resources to counter through international efforts, he said. The program should be coordinated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, he added. (4/26)

Space Marketing Campaigns Heat Up (Source: SpaceRef)
United Launch Alliance has launched another salvo in the space marketing campaign war with its latest video title "What We Believe". Dan Collins, Chief Operating Officer, opens the video saying it's not about the "smoke and fire", which coincidentally is what Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne called their marketing video four months ago. SpaceX as well has posted several marketing videos. Here's a sample from each company. The marketing wars through these short slick videos are aimed squarely at securing each companies position in the limited markets going forward. Click here. (4/26)

Sun-Like Star May Have More Planets Than Our Solar System (Source: Space.com)
A star already known to host five alien planets may actually be home to a whopping nine full-fledged worlds - a planetary arrangement that, if confirmed, would outnumber our own solar system and set a new record for the most populated system of extrasolar planets yet found. The sun-like star, called HD 10180, is located approximately 127 light-years away from Earth. In a previous study that was published in August 2010, astronomers identified five confirmed alien worlds and two planetary candidates. (4/26)

European Meteo Satellite Launch from Baikonur Postponed for Months (Source: Interfax-AVN)
The launch of the European meteorological satellite MetOp B from the Baikonur Space Center originally scheduled for May 23 has been postponed for at least several months, a source from the Russian space industry said. "No decision has been made on the launch of a European meteorological satellite. The launch could be postponed for at least two or three months. At least its launch is not planned within the coming months," the source said. (4/26)

Secretive Blue Origin Project Pins Spaceflight Hopes on Reusable Rockets (Source: Space.com)
Blue Origin wants to fly under the radar all the way into space. The secretive private spaceflight firm, which was established in 2000 by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing systems to launch astronauts to both suborbital and orbital space. While Blue Origin releases details about its plans and progress sparingly, the company's basic business model has come out.

It all revolves around reusable rockets and spacecraft, developed in incremental steps. "It's really about developing and using vertical powered landing to drive reusable systems that can increase reliability and lower cost," said Rob Meyerson, the company's president and program manager. "We believe our incremental, long-term approach is going to develop the systems and technologies and vehicles that'll result in safe and affordable human spaceflight." (4/26)

Asteroid Apophis More Dangerous Than Tunguska Event (Source: Interfax)
The Earth encounter with Asteroid Apophis in 2036 may be much more destructive than the fall of the Tunguska meteorite, says a report by Federal Space Agency State Secretary. "Apophis will come close to the Earth, about 30,000 kilometers, in 2029. Its trajectory will fall under the influence of the Earth's gravity and create a probability of collision on the asteroid's return in 2036," he said.

A meteorite fell above Central Siberia, between the Lower Tunguska and Lena Rivers, on June 30, 1908. There was a powerful explosion between the Kimchu and Khushmo, Tunguska tributaries, five to ten kilometers above the Earth surface. The explosion triggered a quake and a blast wave. It was heard from the distance of over 1,000 kilometers. The blast wave uprooted trees and damaged homes in the 200 kilometer radius. (4/26)

Lockheed Names New CEO; Profit Beats Expectations (Source:: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin posted a higher-than-expected first-quarter net profit and announced a succession plan that will bring in President Chris Kubasik as chief executive officer in January. Lockheed affirmed its forecast of $45 billion to $46 billion in revenue for the full year and said operating profit should reach $3.9 billion to $4 billion. Bob Stevens, current chairman and CEO, said he planned to retire after 25 years with the company in January, but would stay on as chairman until January 2014. (4/26)

Scientists Stumped By Sun’s Asymmetrically Reversing Magnetic Field (Source: IdeaLab)
The Sun’s magnetic field is reversing, South becoming North, as it does approximately every 11 years on a cycle, but this time, something even stranger is going on: The North is moving much faster than the South, and space scientists aren’t sure why. “Right now, there’s an imbalance between the north and the south poles,” said Jonathan Cirtain. “The north is already in transition, well ahead of the south pole, and we don’t understand why.”

Further, the asymmetrically reversing solar magnetic field could have an effect on Earth, resulting in increased solar flares and the accompanying bursts of radioactive particles called “coronal mass ejections,” or CMEs, that can hit Earth and cause brilliant Northern Lights displays and problematic geomagnetic solar storms, according to NASA scientists. (4/26)

Expectation of Extraterrestrial Life Built More on Optimism Than Evidence (Source: Princeton)
Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds. But Princeton University researchers have found that the expectation that life — from bacteria to sentient beings — has or will develop on other planets as on Earth might be based more on optimism than scientific evidence.

Princeton astrophysical sciences professor Edwin Turner and David Spiegel, a former Princeton postdoctoral researcher, analyzed what is known about the likelihood of life on other planets in an effort to separate the facts from the mere expectation that life exists outside of Earth. The researchers used a Bayesian analysis — which weighs how much of a scientific conclusion stems from actual data and how much comes from the prior assumptions of the scientist — to determine the probability of extraterrestrial life once the influence of these presumptions is minimized. (4/26)

ESA contracts Astrium UK to build Solar Orbiter (Source: ESA)
ESA has awarded the contract to build its next-generation Sun explorer to Astrium UK. Solar Orbiter will investigate how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the extended atmosphere of the Sun. Astrium signed the contract on 26 April on the occasion of a ceremony celebrating 50 years of the UK in space. The signature marks the start of the development and construction phase of Solar Orbiter, due for launch in 2017. Astrium UK will lead a team of European companies who will supply various parts of the spacecraft. (4/26)

Canadarm Plays Role in Dragon Mission to Space Station (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Once Dragon is cleared for capture, Canadarm2 will perform a cosmic catch: it will grapple the capsule and install it on the space station. With NASA Astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers at the helm, Canadarm2 will reach out to grasp Dragon at a distance of 8-10 meters below the station. Pettit will use the robotic arm to seize a grapple fixture located on the side of the capsule and Kuipers will use Canadarm2 to install it on the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony node. Dragon will mark Canadarm2′s third successful capture and docking of a free-flying spacecraft. (4/26)

DARPA Opens International Dialog on Satellite Servicing (Source: SpaceRef)
When a communication satellite in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) fails 36,000 kilometers above the earth, typically, it is moved into a "graveyard" orbit where it remains indefinitely. Many of the satellites which are obsolete or have failed still have usable antennas, solar arrays and other components which are expected to last much longer than the life of the satellite, but currently there is no way to re-use them.

DARPA pioneered on-orbit satellite servicing with the successful 2007 Orbital Express demonstrator mission. Future widespread pursuit of on-orbit satellite servicing would benefit from discussions regarding the broad spectrum of technical challenges and non-technical obstacles--ranging from policy, legal and other constraints--that may hamper progress in this field. (4/26)

Utah-Made rocket Motors to Power Space Launch System (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
The head of the nation’s space program told Utah’s elected leaders Wednesday that test flights of the new Space Launch System featuring ATK rocket motors remain on schedule and will take place in 2017. The solid rocket motors that will propel the new launch system will be made in northern Utah by defense and aerospace contractor Alliant Techsystems. The move is a welcome sign for a company that has been laying off hundreds of Utahns in recent years as it wrapped up other government space and defense contracts, including the rocket motors for the now-retired space shuttle program. (4/26)

India Successfully Launches Spy Satellite RISAT-1 (Source: Xinhua)
India Thursday successfully launched its home-made remote sensing spy Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) from the spaceport of Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, sources said. The spy satellite would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry as well as for defense purposes. The satellite has been made by scientists at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). (4/26)

Worker Found Dead at KSC Died of Natural Causes (Source: Florida Today)
A man found dead at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday appears to have died of natural causes, according to the man’s employer. The unidentified custodial worker, described as a man in his 50s, was found about 2:15 p.m. in a support building near the liquid oxygen storage tank at launch pad 39A, KSC officials said. The man worked for Brevard Achievement Center of Rockledge. “Regarding the cause of death, while we are still waiting on the medical examiner’s office to confirm, all indications are that he died of natural causes,” reads a statement on Brevard Achievement Center’s website. (4/26)

LEEDing the Green Space Race (Source: DesignBuild Source)
The space race has forever changed the ways in which aeronautical engineers develop technologies and projects, revolutionizing the industry and bringing the world into the modern era of space travel. It follows, then, that NASA, cutting-edge leaders of innovation and technology, would still be breaking records in the very latest race – the green building race.

While it may not be as jaw-dropping as sending a man to the moon, NASA has yet again achieved what no other organisation has, earning the distinction of being the America’s greenest federal building ever. NASA’s Sustainability Base has achieved a LEED platinum certification due a number of green technologies employed in the running of the building. When combined, these technologies allow for an incredible facility that produces more energy than it needs to run. (4/26)

University Space Researchers Meet in Tallahassee (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
The Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion is hosting its third annual FCAAP Symposium & Exhibition in Tallahassee. The center expects leaders from state, national and international aerospace and aviation industries, along with legislative leaders and the Governor's Office, to gather for in-depth discussions on the challenges in growing this industrial sector.

In addition, the two days of sessions include a tour of Florida State University's brand new Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy Building, a 60,000-square-foot facility that serves as FCAAP's headquarters. The building supports research in aerospace, aviation, robotics and sustainable energy engineering. Symposium topics include smart/advanced materials, actuator and sensor design, subsonic and supersonic flow and noise control, and other areas relevant to the industry today, FCAAP said.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is an FCAAP partner and is participating in the Tallahassee meeting. Meanwhile, the Tallahassee event includes a concurrent meeting of the FAA's Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. (4/26)

Arianespace Makes Profit With Large ESA Subsidy (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Arianespace reports that it made a profit of 1.6 million euros ($2.1 million) on revenues of 1,012.6 million euros ($1.34 billion) in 2011. The consortium would have been in the red if not for a subsidy of 145 million euros ($191.4 million) from the European Space Agency. The company expects business to grow next year with concurrent operation of Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega from the Guiana Space Center.

The company will be able to spread its operating costs among three boosters instead of just one. Ariane 5 launched five times last year with the new Soyuz rocket, new to Guiana, lifting off twice. Vega made its inaugural launch earlier in February of this year. Profits are not as important for Arianespace because the consortium’s shareholders are its suppliers, meaning they get most of their funding through component orders. (4/25)

House Panel to NASA: Hurry and Pick a Commercial Crew Provider (Source: Florida Today)
Key House lawmakers say NASA should pick one company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station instead of prolonging a competition to provide the service, a proposal a local official said would be bad for the Space Coast. Quickly selecting “the most promising contender” could accelerate flights and save money for other programs, according to a House Appropriations Committee report explaining its recommendation of $17.6 billion for NASA in 2013, including $500 million for the Commercial Crew Program based at Kennedy Space Center. (4/26)

General Dynamics Says Defense Cuts Caused Q1 Profits to Fall (Source: Washington Post)
General Dynamics pointed to reduced military spending as the cause of its first-quarter decline in net income. The Falls Church, Va.-based defense firm says it's working to boost productivity and trim costs to compensate for the slowdown in orders. (4/26)

A Response to the Homesteading Approach to Space Development (Source: HobbySpace)
The early discussion of the 'space property rights' legal status quo is full of desperate attempts to blame the Outer Space Treaty (and the evil international Communist conspiracy it represented) for half a century of corporate failures to look beyond quarterly profit margins to long-term potential. Rand Simberg's proposal completely ignores the oft-cited argument for a Law of the Sea-style framework, as it does not serve the ideological objective of turning the heavens into private property.

The property in a Law of the Sea system is found in the physical habitats, infrastructure, and harvested resources rather than in ownership of real estate, which means that even after a powerful business had become rich, they could not shut out others from participating in the marketplace. Unfortunately, competition is not on the agenda for some "pro-business" viewpoints - merely private control, even if the result is the opposite of competitive and drastically limits opportunities for future growth.

Rand hints this is part of his agenda in condemning the Moon Treaty as having been informed by "redistributionist" motives - as if the ideal outcome is for maximum wealth to be in the possession of minimum numbers of people: Something common sense and all of history tells us is the worst of all possible worlds for economic development. Basically, the proposal is a solution in search of a problem, because I'm not aware of any rational basis for claiming that the reason we're not already out there is that people can't own celestial *territory* - something Rand merely asserts without evidence. Click here. (4/26)

NASA Releases Call For Phase II Visionary Advanced Concepts (Source: NASA)
The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals to continue promising studies for which it has supported the first phase. These cutting-edge concepts have the potential to transform future exploration missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems. NIAC projects are chosen based on their character as innovative and visionary, technically substantiated, and very early in development -- 10 years or more from use in a mission. NIAC's current diverse portfolio represents multiple technology areas, including power, propulsion, structures, and avionics. (4/26)

House Appropriators Seek Changes to Commercial Crew (Source: Space Politics)
On the eve of the full House Appropriations Committee’s markup of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, the committee released its draft report accompanying the bill, which includes additional details and policy direction for the agencies funded by the legislation. While the bill itself included no specifics about NASA’s commercial crew program, the report does call for significant changes for the program.

“The Committee supports the goal of achieving independent and redundant access to the International Space Station (ISS) but remains concerned about many aspects of NASA’s approach to the commercial crew development program,” the report states. Those areas of concern include NASA’s high projected overall costs for the program ($4.868 billion) and “insufficient safeguards” for the government regarding intellectual and physical property that, the report claims, runs the “risk of repeating the government’s experience from last year’s bankruptcy of the solar energy firm Solyndra.”

In addition, the committee claims the program’s goal of establishing an American capability to access the ISS as soon as possible is “potentially inconsistent” with the goal of also developing a new industry, and that there’s no detailed plan for the eventual shift from Space Act Agreements to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contracts. The committee report offers a solution to most of all of those issues: limiting future awards to either a single company or two companies in a “leader-follower” arrangement where one company would get the majority of the funding. Those awards would also be done under FAR-based contracts. (4/25)

Asteroid Mining – What Happened to the Dream of Space Exploration? (Source: The Independent)
Does this mean the end of space age wonder? Have heartless corporations taken away the childish glee and international pride that many feel when confronted the with idea of space exploration? It would be easy to assume this. Is this the beginning of space becoming boring? Is the next step a Deadliest Resource: Asteroid Miners reality show? That would be even easier to imagine. But it could be argued that this is also what we have been striving for. That this is what all of the missions, the exploring, the time, money and effort have been for. (4/26)

Three Earthlike Planets Identified by Cornell Astronomers (Source: Cornell Chronicle)
It's not little green men, but it could be a step in that direction: Cornell astronomers, using data from the NASA Kepler Mission, have identified three Earthlike planets orbiting their own suns, all of which could be hospitable to life. The team of astronomers used the Cornell-built Near-Infrared Triple Spectrograph (TripleSpec) at California's Mount Palomar Observatory to measure the temperatures and metallicities of small stars called M dwarfs, first recorded by the NASA Kepler mission, which then led to observations of planets orbiting these stars.

The discovery could lead to better studies of these planets and pave the way toward discovering planets just like Earth. The three planets orbit within their host stars' "habitable zones" -- the orbital distance in which liquid water could exist, and the sweet spot for determining whether life could be possible. The host stars -- KOI (Kepler Object of Interest) 463.01, KOI 812.03 and KOI 854.01 -- are located in areas of the sky between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand light years away. (4/26)

Texas Candidate Proposes Space Savings Bonds (Source: Chuck Meyer)
Former BlackBerry executive, high technology attorney and candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress for the 36th Congressional District, Chuck Meyer calls on the Texas Congressional Delegation to push their colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to create a special purpose Savings Bond program to support NASA’s plans for human space flight. “This plan cannot wait until the new Congress is elected. The time to think outside the box is now; the time to educate is now, the time to act is now! It is our collective duty as Americans to find American ways to fund human space travel, and Space Bonds are the first mission we should launch towards that important and necessary goal.” (4/26)

What NASA is Looking For in its New Astronauts (Source: The Conversation)
NASA is currently poring over more than 6,000 applications for the next intake in its astronaut program – from which nine to 15 candidates will be successful. And while the Space Shuttle program is a thing of the past, the agency is still training astronauts for a range of future missions. We spoke with Greg Chamitoff, NASA astronaut and crew member on the penultimate flight in the Shuttle program, about the astronaut program and what the astronauts-in-training can expect. Click here. (4/26)

Galaxies Defy Astronomers' Expectations (Source: Science)
Astronomers usually assume that every galaxy gives birth to the same mix of stars as our own. Now a large, new study contradicts this assumption, finding that giant elliptical galaxies—round or ellipsoidal systems full of ancient stars—spawned an excess of little stars just after the big bang. No one knows why, but the result suggests that galaxies in the early universe created stars differently than they do today. have confirmed and strengthened the conclusion that old galaxies formed a plethora of little stars. The astronomers compared the masses of 260 galaxies with their output of light, deducing the initial mass function—the birth distribution of stellar masses from high to low—in each galaxy. (4/26)

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