April 27, 2012

Uncertainty Clouds Florida's Near-Term Space Prospects (Source: SPACErePORT)
ATK, Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Boeing, Excalibur Almaz, NASTAR, Masten Space, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, Stratolaunch, XCOR Aerospace. All of these companies have expressed interest or drawn-up plans for launching, developing or operating their commercial space businesses in Florida, but only SpaceX and Boeing have followed through with serious investments at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. We should hear more in coming weeks about some of the others, but clearly there is a gap between the vision of some of these companies, and the reality of what they can accomplish in today's environment of uncertainty for the commercial space industry.

One cause for this uncertainty is Congress' desire for NASA to narrow its field of competitors for Commercial Crew operations. A better-funded Commercial Crew program would allow NASA to assist three finalists to develop their Commercial Crew systems, rather than one or two, as requested by Congress. To really move the state's orbital space industry forward, a market beyond servicing the International Space Station is sorely needed. But companies like Bigelow and Exalibur Almaz seem several years away from orbiting their private space stations, and space mining ventures like Planetary Resources and Shackleton Energy could be more than a decade away from requiring frequent launch services.

Meanwhile, suborbital launch companies are still developing their vehicles in other locations--like the Mojave Air & Space Port in California--and waiting for the market to mature before they begin operations in Florida. Their market prospects are being bolstered by NASA and its commitments to sponsor more suborbital research flights, but most of these missions will be staged from locations outside of Florida. (4/27)

DynCorp International Awarded NASA Contract Valued at up to $176.9 Million (Source: SpaceRef)
DynCorp International today announced that it has been awarded a contract with NASA to provide aircraft maintenance and operational support services at various locations. The contract, potentially worth $176.9 million, will include work at Ellington Field at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA facilities in El Paso, Texas, and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and other locations worldwide as required.

Services include support for flight operations, maintenance, repairs and alterations to aircraft, component parts and support equipment and engineering services. Additional services include spaceflight readiness training, airborne research and development and flight test support. (4/27)

Russia Brings Three Spacemen Safely Back to Earth (Source: AFP)
Two Russian spacemen and a NASA astronaut touched down safely on Friday in the Kazakh steppe aboard a Soyuz capsule after a stay of almost six months aboard the International Space Station. Seventeen Russian helicopters and jets patrolled the clear blue skies as the silver metal capsule parachuted gracefully through the air before bumping into a field of straw and early spring grass and rolling over gently onto its side. (4/27)

Astrium-Built Galileo Satellites Fit and Fully Operational in Orbit (Source: Astrium)
The first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites built by Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, are working perfectly and now begin full in-orbit operations. The satellites successfully passed a series of in-orbit tests following their launch on the first Soyuz flight from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on 21 October 2011. (4/27)

President Obama Catches View of Dazzling Venus and Moon (Source: Space.com)
Skywatchers awed by the brilliant planet Venus shining with the crescent moon this week are in good company. The striking celestial lights also drew the watchful gaze of President Barack Obama, a new White House photograph reveals. This photo of the president with Venus and the moon was captured Tuesday (April 24) at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado by White House photographer Pete Souza. Venus is reaching its peak brightness of the year this week and was joined Tuesday by a crescent moon that resembled a bright smile in the sky as it slid by the bright planet. (4/27)

FCAAP Explores Future of Aerospace in Florida (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
NASA can't achieve the advancements needed for space exploration by itself. The effort requires the work of other government agencies, the aerospace industry and the academic community, according to a NASA official speaking in Tallahassee last week. The research and technology advances that characterized Florida's past space efforts is far from over even after the space shuttle program has been shuttered.

Florida's future as an aerospace leader became an increasingly critical issue as the space shuttle program ended last year. In his remarks, Frank Brogan, chancellor of the State University System, stressed that the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Proplusion (FCAAP) must harness and organize Florida's public and private aerospace research efforts — something that was lacking during Florida's heyday as the world center of space flight, he argued.

"You cannot today name one public, state university that is synonymous with space in the Sunshine State," Brogan said. "The good news is most of the people responsible for that lack of focus and vision aren't here anymore. But here's the challenge. Are we going to look back 20 years from now and make the same mistake?" The Tallahassee-based FCAAP was established by the Florida Legislature in 2006 and consists of FSU, the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (4/27)

India's Risat: Not a Spysat, But Can Do Surveillance (Source: Economic Times)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded the Risat launch and the department of space. He had on Wednesday told Parliament that the C-band radar can "image various parts of the country, including border areas". To queries if India had launched a spy satellite, IRO chief Radhakrishnan said, "This is not a spy satellite." But he added that the satellite can "do day and night surveillance which optical sensing satellites cannot. (4/27)

Kansas Cosmosphere Celebrates 50 Years of Education, Exploration (Source: Wichita Eagle)
Caitlin McLean, a 13-year-old from Pottawatomie County, has been bitten by the space bug. “There is this transportation thing that you can go into space for about eight minutes — it’s like being in space,” McLean said. “I heard about that and thought if I ever get that kind of money, I’m going to do it.” Earlier this month, Caitlin rode the old fashioned way — by school bus — three hours from her school in Randolph to visit the Kansas Cosmosphere for the first time. It got her mind to whirling about the possibilities. Now, she wants to be a genetic scientist.

The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which turns 50 this year, has always been about the future. Even its past is based on the dreams of what the future could be. And, its future, Cosmosphere officials say, is about keeping dreams like Caitlin McLean’s alive. (4/27)

Aerojet Successfully Tests Updated Thruster (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Rocket motor maker Aerojet has successfully tested a new version of a space propulsion system it first made for the 1977 Voyager spacecraft. The new version of a hydrazine thruster has improved valves, insulation and nozzles so the system can be configured inside of a spacecraft rather than at the surface. By being in different parts of the craft, the motor can be used on vehicles for human spaceflight. (4/27)

Boeing Faces $317M Loss in Rocket Reimbursement Dispute (Source: Space News)
Boeing would face pretax losses of up to $317 million if it is not successful, with its 50 percent-owned United Launch Alliance (ULA) affiliate, in overturning a U.S. Defense Department ruling that denied reimbursement for rocket-related costs. ULA has until June to file suit against the Defense Department in the Court of Federal Claims.

The dispute dates from June 2011, when the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) informed Boeing and ULA that some $271 million in deferred support costs were ineligible for reimbursement. In November, ULA filed a certified claim with the Air Force for collection. The following month, DCMA delivered a separate notification that an additional $114 million in deferred production costs were also ineligible for reimbursable under government contract regulations. (4/27)

USA's Local Chief Takes New KSC Role (Source: Florida Today)
Mark Nappi, who led United Space Alliance’s Florida operations during the shuttle program’s final years of flight, leaves the company today to join another Kennedy Space Center contractor. Nappi oversaw USA’s local operations beginning in 2008 when many were concerned about the ability of NASA and its lead shuttle contractor to safely fly out the final missions while simultaneously laying off thousands of contractors.

Nappi joins QinetiQ North America as senior vice president and program manager of the company’s $1.9 billion Engineering Services Contract at KSC. The contract’s work includes design and development of ground systems needed for processing of launch vehicles, spacecraft, and payloads, flight systems engineering and operation of laboratories and developmental shops, according to QinetiQ’s Web site. (4/27)

Antares Test Flight From Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Planned for August (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August, according to Orbital Sciences Corp. On April 19, the company wrapped up 10 days of transportation runs of the rocket's first stage to and from the launch pad from a building further north on Wallops Island. Those operations included tests of mechanical and electrical interfaces between the rocket and the launch pad as well as of the hydraulic systems that rotate the rocket from a horizontal to vertical position. (4/27)

Enterprise Lands in New York (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's prototype orbiter Enterprise made its first – and last – flight in more than a quarter century on Friday, flying atop the same modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that carried it airborne for its 1977 Approach and Landing Test flights. Enterprise's final frontier is the Big Apple, where it landed after a photogenic flyover of the city's landmarks on its way to becoming an exhibit on board the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. (4/27)

Virgin Galactic's Spacecraft Engine Ready In Weeks (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Richard Branson's space travel company, Virgin Galactic, which is 32% owned by Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments, expects to finish developing its rocket engine in the next two months, the group's chief executive said, marking a significant step in its ambition to become the first commercial space flight operator. The company expects to see its first commercial fee-paying customers reaching space by the end of 2013. In related news, Abu Dhabi was selected by Virgin as the location for its second Spaceport (4/27)

Astronomer Finds Meteorite Pieces in Gold Country (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Searchers near historic Sutter's Mill have discovered fragments of the meteorite that exploded high in the sky at sunrise last Sunday. Petrus Jenniskens, the same NASA astronomer who trekked across the Nubian desert four years ago to recover fragments of a small asteroid and bring them home, said Wednesday he had found fragments of the space object on the asphalt parking lot of Henningsen Lotus Park, located in the small town of Lotus in El Dorado County.

A fragment, he said, had fallen on an asphalt road in the parking lot and was crushed into smaller fragments by a car that ran over it. "This meteor itself must have been big," Jenniskens said, "probably in the kiloton range. But now we need to find more fragments so we can begin to understand how it broke apart and what was inside it." (4/27)

Help Us Private Sector, You’re Our Only Hope (Source: Meridian Booster)
It’s funny to think now that in 1969, the US government thought there wasn’t anything much more important than beating those blood-sucking communist Russians to the moon. It’s less funny and more sad to think now, more than 40 years later, we haven’t been back, nor have we been farther out into space. And it’s disheartening to know plans for future space exploration, at least funded by governments, are basically non-existent.

Recently, we’ve seen NASA’s budget go though steep cuts as the global economy destabilized because of fiscally irresponsible banks and corporations. Let’s not forget, either, it was the US government that spent the $850 billion on the bail out; a sum of green bills and silver coins so impossibly large that it overshadows the amount of money NASA has spent over its entire 50-year history.

Some perspective: We put people in space, a giant telescope in orbit, men on the moon and sent spacecraft to every planet in our solar system for less than it took to rescue the largest companies from their own mismanagement. Some of the planets even got little remote control cars that are basically our versions of WALL-E. (4/27)

Farnborough Air Show – Florida Pavilion! (Source: Space Florida)
Do you have an interest in joining Governor Rick Scott and the Enterprise Florida Team for the Farnborough Air Show? Enterprise Florida will be coordinating the Florida Pavilion at this major aviation, aerospace, and defense event, and there are discounts as well as trade grants which cover 50% of booth costs. Please contact Ken Cooksey at kcooksey@eflorida.com if you have any further questions. (4/26)

Possible Lawsuit Will Damage Our Ability to Use the Space Station (Source: NASA Watch)
Sources report that ProOrbis is considering taking formal legal action against the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It is expected that this will be made public in the very near future. The specifics of this possible lawsuit are unclear. Net result: Lawyers and accountants will kill the usefulness of the International Space Station - for all of us. Click here. (4/26)

Blue Origin Tests Design of Next-Generation Spacecraft (Source: SpaceRef)
Blue Origin successfully tested the design of its next-generation Space Vehicle, completing a series of wind tunnel tests to refine the aerodynamic characteristics of the spacecraft's unique biconic shape. The tests were carried out as part of Blue Origin's partnership with NASA under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Blue Origin is designing the Space Vehicle to provide safe, affordable transport of up to seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. (4/26)

The United States is Spacing Out (Source: Johns Hopkins News-Letter)
Since the middle of the century, when the U.S. entered its space race with the Soviet Union, the issue of space has been regarded as a technological, ideological and national security priority. The commanders of space, we presumed, would also be superior here on earth. But in August of last year, the space shuttle program in the U.S. was officially terminated. The future of the space program and NASA is now largely uncertain and the U.S. role in space is at a critical crossroads.

Recent developments in North Korea and Iran cast light on the importance of space to maintain national and global security. If the U.S. does not come up with a unified and clear space policy, the West will become vulnerable to possible nuclear attacks by North Korea and Iran. Click here. (4/27)

Occupy Asteroids? (Source: Huffington Post)
Putting aside the worst-case scenario in which everything goes wrong, it needs to be noted that the whole concept of the Planetary Resources project is simply wrong at the outset, although not so much the logic of near-Earth exploration as a precursor to human expansion into the heavens (I'm as much into Star Trek as anyone) but more so the entire premise of doing this primarily for purposes of profit, under the auspices of continued "resource extraction," which has already pushed this planet to the brink of its capacities to support human life. The basis of this operation seems to be the notion that if we simply had more resources to support our wasteful, consumptive ways, everything will be fine.

On the other hand, one could read between the lines and spot an implicit recognition on the part of some wealthy and powerful forces that the Earth is getting close to being used up, and that a viable escape plan could be realized (by the uber-elite) in a few years' time if orbital resources were to be harnessed and utilized for sustaining small human settlements in space.

With all due respect to the folks at Planetary Resources, Inc., they can kiss our asteroids! They don't own these rocks, or the moon, or any of the other heavenly bodies that occupy the skies above. It's bad enough that their modus operandi has essentially turned the Earth itself into a globally privatized system (at least as far as profits go; losses are still sought to be collectively placed on all the rest of us to bear). Now they want to file title deeds and mining claims to the heavens, and by promising us cheaper toys in the process we're not supposed to notice or care. Is that how it works? Click here. (4/27)

Space, the Next Frontier -- for Hillary Clinton? (Source: AFP)
She has been the US secretary of state, a senator and nearly became president, but Hillary Clinton joked Thursday that she might want to try another role -- space tourist. Welcoming to the State Department the British tycoon Richard Branson, Clinton hailed the space tourism pioneer for being "such a strong proponent for business-as-unusual." "I'm excited he is here because many, many, many years ago, I wanted to be an astronaut and I think he may be my last chance to live out that particular dream," Clinton, 64, said to laughter from the audience. (4/27)

Editorial: Spaceport Should Honor its Commitment (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
What's happening to the promises? We were pushed to tax ourselves in order to lure the private space-travel industry to our area. Yet, after some years, there is still no south road to what is Spaceport America. And now a glitch in building welcome and visitor centers may jeopardize the economies of nearby Hatch and Truth or Consequences along Interstate 25. There are still to be centers. But when they will be built and where they will be built has put Hatch in a bind.

This comes after the village leaders went through the trouble of annexing barren land out to the interstate so there would be the needed utilities at their welcome and visitor center. The centers are to be gathering points for tours at Spaceport America, located in Upham. The estimate is some 200,000 visitors a year. Spaceport America personnel cite shrinking funding, thus causing budget adjustments. They also note that the visitors centers were originally to cost about $500,000 each, but now they will cost $1.7 million. (4/27)

No comments: