April 5, 2012

CASIS Names Interim Chief Scientist, Adviser (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today named renowned surgeon and researcher Timothy J. Yeatman, M.D., as CASIS Interim Chief Scientist. Additionally, Dr. Alan Stern, a planetary scientist, aerospace consultant, and former NASA executive, has been appointed CASIS Scientific Adviser. Doctors Yeatman and Stern will lead research initiatives for the organization. Editor's Note: Click here for a video featuring Dr. Yeatman. (4/5)

Company with Pittsburgh Roots Aims for Moon (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Astrobotic Technology has altered its October 2015 mission to the moon in dramatic fashion. It's headed to the lunar north pole to prospect for natural resources, including water and methane, and abandoning plans to land near the equator with a primary goal of winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. The new goal is to advance science by confirming the presence of resources necessary for colonization of the moon. The space robotics company, which holds six NASA contracts to develop robotic equipment for moon missions, changed its strategy to take full scientific advantage of landing its first robot on the moon. (4/5)

UK's Cranfield University a Big Winner in UK Space Agency Funding Awards (Source: Cranfield University)
Cranfield University, the wholly post graduate University in Bedfordshire, has been awarded funding for two separate pico-satellite (CubeSat) studies by The UK Space Agency as part of their National Space Technology Program (NSTP). The NSTP program promotes the development of new commercial and scientific applications by offering funding for novel concepts to be explored. Cranfield's growing presence within the CubeSat field is highlighted by being the only institution in the current round of grant awards to win 2 grants. (4/5)

Black Sky Training Adds to Spaceflight Training Staff (Source: Space News)
Black Sky Training is proud to announce MOU’s and agreements for Strategic Partnership with two leading industry professionals. Dr. Paul Buza is the founder and medical director for the Southern AeroMedical Institute (SAMI). Dr. Buza will work with the BST staff to create an FAA certified course for CFI’s as well as high altitude training and training protocols. BST will market the chamber and related training through its existing marketing channels, as well as developing new channels and relationships.

Jim Alsip is a Master Certified Flight Instructor with an aerobatic endorsement. He is a charter member of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), and has been an active FAA Safety Team Representative. BST will market Mr. Alsip’s current training offerings as well as develop FAA certified courses for both pilots and CFI’s. BST will develop other courses and offerings for pilots and non-pilots utilizing Mr. Alsip's talents. (4/5)

Nine NASA Astrophysics Missions Granted Extensions (Source: Space News)
Nine NASA-funded astrophysics missions, including the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, will continue scanning the heavens for at least another two to four years, according to an April 3 notice on the U.S. space agency’s website. NASA’s decision to extend the science operations for nine of its 14 in-orbit missions largely follows the recommendations of an outside panel of senior scientists that convened in late February to weigh the scientific merits of keeping these missions in service. Click here. (4/5)

The Whole Universe In One Photo (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA has unveiled an astounding new image of our galactic neighborhood - a new star atlas for the entire universe. The atlas includes a catalog of the entire infrared sky, over half a billion stars, galaxies and more captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. Edward Wright, WISE principal investigator at UCLA, said: "Today, WISE delivers the fruit of 14 years of effort to the astronomical community." Wright began working on the WISE mission in 1998. Made up of more than 2.7 million images taken at four infrared wavelengths of light, the new image captures everything from nearby asteroids to distant galaxies. Click here. (4/5)

AIA Urges FCC to Consider Alternatives to LightSquared (Source: Aerospace Daily)
The Aerospace Industries Association urged the Federal Communications Commission to look at other methods for providing broadband access other than LightSquared's proposed network, which interferes with GPS signals. "[T]he FCC should continue to examine how satellites can be used as a means of providing or extending broadband access to hundreds of millions of Americans, including those in underserved and unserved areas," the AIA said. (4/5)

NASA Should Pick Destination for Mission, Experts Say (Source: Florida Today)
NASA advisers are urging the agency to decide quickly on a destination beyond Earth orbit. "Given the budget reality and the development time for new hardware and software, which is estimated to be at least 10 years, now is the time to pick a specific destination," wrote NASA Advisory Council Chairman Steven Squyres in a letter. (4/3)

Rep. Palazzo: Future Innovation Needs Public-Private Balance (Source: The Hill)
In the clamor for increased R&D spending in today’s struggling economy, it is important to note this public-private balance holds the key for future successes. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than with current NASA operations. Even in the face of slashed budgets, NASA is balancing development of our next-generation rocket system and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle while supporting commercial cargo launch efforts to the International Space Station. Developing a mutually beneficial relationship between NASA and commercial industry can enable commercial providers to carry human crews to low Earth orbit in the near future.

This will have major impacts for our nation’s space presence in the world alongside the emerging space tourism industry, which promises to be a billion-dollar economy within the next decade. This is good news at a time when we depend on Russia’s space program to send astronauts to the International Space Station, and as China emerges as a space leader. We cannot cede hard-earned American leadership to other nations due to our own neglect. Click here. (4/5)

New Texas Institute Coordinates Space Medicine Research (Source: Voice of America)
NASA, the U.S. space agency, is planning for a future mission to Mars that would provide the most strenuous test yet of human endurance outside earth's gravity, atmosphere and geomagnetic field. Not far from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, there is now a new institute that will help support that goal, by coordinating international research on health issues related to human space flight.

Since the human space flight adventure began more than 50 years ago, scientists have learned a lot about things like the effects of weightlessness on bones and muscles, and the danger of increased radiation exposure in space. The primary mission of the non-profit National Space Biomedical Research Institute, located at Rice University, is to coordinate and support research projects designed to assist the U.S. space program. (4/5)

Q&A: The Anthropology of Searching for Aliens (Source: WIRED)
Before we can understand an alien civilization, it might be useful to understand our own. To help in this task, anthropologist Kathryn Denning of York University in Toronto, Canada studies the very human way that scientists, engineers and members of the public think about space exploration and the search for alien life. From Star Trek to SETI, our modern world is constantly imagining possible futures where we dart around the galaxy engaging with bizarre alien races. Denning points out that when people talk about these futures, they often invoke the past. But they frequently seem to have a poor understanding of history.

For instance, in September at the 100 Year Starship Conference — a symposium created by DARPA for thinking about long-term spaceflight goals — Denning noted that the conference was framed as an extension of old traditions of exploration, for example mentioning Ferdinand Magellan as an exemplary hero who circumnavigated the globe. Not only did Magellan not circumnavigate the globe (he was dismembered in the Philippines before finishing the task), his mission was not entirely laudable. Click here. (4/5)

Minotaur Launch Booked for Space-Based Range Demo in Virginia (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The U.S. Air Force has purchased a Minotaur 1 rocket for a mission in 2013 to prove less-costly, next-generation range tracking, safety and communications systems to streamline future launch operations. "If you go down to one of the big launch ranges, we use radar tracking systems, we use a beacon, and we use optical trackers to track the rocket through its flight path," said Peter Wegner. "And if it gets outside of the pre-approved window then we send a flight termination command."

The Air Force is migrating toward using GPS receivers on rockets to avoid the overhead costs of legacy radar trackers. The next step will be for launch vehicles to track themselves, comparing real-time GPS positions to predicted values, and issuing a command to destroy itself if it veers too far from its planned flight path. "We're working really hard on what we call space-based range systems," Wegner said. "The idea behind space-based range is you literally take all that range infrastructure, which is time-consuming and costly, try to streamline it and put it on the rocket."

The Minotaur 1 launch will be conducted as a commercial flight. "We're going after a commercial acquisition approach for a Minotaur," Wegner said. "We're trying to push hard on different cost models from a business perspective." The FAA will license the launch commercially instead of through Defense Department oversight. "That's saving us quite a bit of money, maybe double-digit millions [of dollars] in cost savings," Wegner said. (4/5)

Minotaur Sponsor's Future in Question, But More Virginia Launches Planned (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office, a Defense Department program conceived to demonstrate space systems on leaner budgets and rapid schedules, is sponsoring the ORS 3 mission, which is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2013 from Wallops Island. Officials expect the ORS-3 launch to go forward despite the proposed closing of the Operationally Responsive Space office in President Obama's FY-2013 budget request. The spending plan, which needs the approval of Congress, would transfer the ORS initiative to the Space and Missile Systems Center, which manages Air Force space procurement.

The ORS 3 mission will mark the 11th launch of a Minotaur 1 vehicle, a four-stage booster powered by decommissioned Minuteman missile motors and heritage systems from the air-launched Pegasus rocket. It will be the fifth Minotaur 1 flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. An enhanced Minotaur 5 rocket, propelled by more powerful Peacekeeper missile motors, is also due for launch in mid-2013 from Wallops with NASA's LADEE mission to probe the tenuous lunar atmosphere. (4/5)

To Infinity - And Alabama (Source: American Prospect)
The space shuttle program may be over, but for some states, now's the time to get excited about the great beyond, thanks to the idea of launch sites for cargo, satellites, and—of course—commercial flights. The Federal Aviation Authority has already licensed eight such sites in six states across the country. Now Alabama is shooting to get one of its own.

A new proposal filed Tuesday would create a nine-person committee that could recommend building the "Alabama Spaceport Authority." If approved by the panel and the feds, the project would be fully funded with federal dollars. But as WHNT reports "it could still be another four to six years before Alabamians could launch into orbit from their backyard." Editor's Note: "fully funded with federal dollars"??? Looks like Alabama's state lawmakers might be counting on folks like U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) to earmark federal funds for this project. (4/5)

Ohio Delegation Calls on NASA To Fire Florida-Based ISS Nonprofit (Source: Space News)
Members of Ohio’s congressional delegation urged NASA to strip a Florida nonprofit of its status as manager of the international space station's national laboratory and give the job to a Cleveland-based group instead. “In light of the events of the last six months, culminating with the resignation of the head of the Center for Advancement in Science and Space (CASIS), we are writing to encourage you to reconsider your contract, and express our strong support for reconsideration of the Space Laboratory Associates proposal to manage the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory,” the lawmakers wrote in an April 4 letter to Mark Uhran, NASA assistant associate administrator for ISS.

Part of CASIS’ mandate is connecting would-be researchers with sources of financing and providers of payload integration services — in effect, to act as an economic development agency for the orbital outpost. To facilitate that task, the group receives $15 million in annual funding from NASA. Of that, roughly $3 million is for research grants, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. (4/5)

Falcone Says Bankruptcy Is an Option for LightSquared (Source: Bloomberg)
Phil Falcone said he may consider voluntary bankruptcy for LightSquared Inc., the broadband wireless venture majority owned by his hedge fund that has been derailed by regulators. “There are arguments that we would be better off in bankruptcy than not,” Falcone said in an interview. “LightSquared, if I have to, I’ll put it into bankruptcy. I don’t care,” adding that he would maintain control of the Reston, Virginia-based company if it filed.

The company, which had planned to build a high-speed data network for as many as 260 million users, is struggling to survive in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to block the service because of potential signal interference with global-positioning systems. Falcone, through his hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, has invested about $3 billion in the venture. (4/5)

Delta-4 Launch Included Key Parts from Utah’s ATK Sites (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
ATK facilities in Utah played a manufacturing role in this week’s launch of a Delta IV rocket carrying a national defense satellite from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. ATK produced the two graphite epoxy motors, known as GEMs. The 70-foot-long, 60-inch-diameter motors ignited at lift-off Tuesday, burned for 90 seconds and delivered 560,000 pounds of thrust to propel the national defense payload into orbit.

The ATK facility in Promontory manufactures the heat-resistant nozzle for the rocket’s first-stage hydrogen-powered engine. External temperatures at launch can exceed 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. ATK supplied a total of nine composite structures for the launch vehicle, some as large as 5 meters in diameter and 1 to 15 meters in length. Hardware for those structures came from ATK’s Clearfield facility. (4/5)

Loophole Could Allow Private Land Claims on Other Worlds (Source: WIRED)
Who owns the moon? What about Mars? For now, the answer is no one, but as more private companies, billionaire entrepreneurs and national governments start casting their eyes on space, the question could change from a futuristic problem into a real issue. Under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which governs international space law, no one nation can claim sovereignty over a body in space. But there could be a loophole.

Full blown colonization and settlement of other planets, moons and even asteroids might actually happen, says space policy consultant Rand Simberg, if a government could provide one thing: property rights. Parceling out plots of land on celestial bodies might encourage people to invest in these properties, and this would benefit Earth economically, according to Simberg. He proposes the Space Settlement Prize Act and lays out how such a scheme would work in a new paper published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, on Apr. 2.

Editor's Note: I received my Lunar Derivative Conveyance Claim this week from Space Pioneers LLC. My lunar address is 5616 Space Pioneer Avenue, Apollo 11 Landing Site. When can I build? Space Pioneers is issuing these claims as part of their efforts to advance the debate on using property rights to spur commercial space development. (4/5)

Altai-Sayan Region Almost Cleared of Space Rocket Fragments (Source: Itar-Tass)
The territory of the Altai-Sayan region has practically been cleared of debris of space rockets launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Director of the Center for Monitoring Carrier Rocket Debris Fallout Area in Siberia Professor Alexander Puzanov said.

Part of the Altai Territory, the Republic of Altai, Khakassia and Tuva are the predicted impact point of the second stage of space rockets launched from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. Over the past three years alone, 30 launches of the Soyuz rockets and 23 launches of the Proton rockets have been carried out from Baikonur. “They do not burn completely in the atmosphere. Thus, if the second stage of Proton weighs about 12 tons, according to our calculations, up to 5-7 tons fall to the Earth surface,” Puzanov said.

According to him, before 1999, the work to clear the territories of space debris was not carried out, in fact. “At present, almost everything has been removed. Small fragments may still remain in the basins of the Abakan River in Khakassia and Chulyshman River in the Altai Republic. It is simply impossible to get to these places,” Puzanov said. (4/5)

Delta 4 Rockets Going Up and Rolling Out on Same Day (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
While a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket was being fueled during its countdown to blast off on the West Coast Tuesday afternoon, a mammoth Delta 4-Heavy vehicle was being rolled out to its East Coast pad. The dual operations resulted in a successful launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and delivery on the program's next booster to its Cape Canaveral pad for flight in June. Both missions are giving space-lift power to the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. (4/5)

SLS to be Robust in the Face of Scrubs, Launch Delays and Pad Stays (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The new Space Launch System (SLS) will be able to cope with a minimum of 13 scrubs – or cryo cycles – and remain happily at the launch pad for a minimum of 180 days, according to the latest technical overview document. This robust design approach will assist SLS in being able to deal with issues relating to either itself or its payload during the launch pad flow. (4/5)

Extension of Kepler Mission Means More Work for Colorado Students (Source: Daily Camera)
The University of Colorado students who work the controls of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft will get another four years at the helm. NASA announced Wednesday that Kepler's mission -- to scour a small patch of sky in search of Earth-like planets in other solar systems -- will be extended until 2016. Kepler was built by Boulder-based Ball Aerospace and is controlled by about 20 students (with the help of professionals) at the mission control inside CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. (4/5)

Entrepreneurs Race to Get a Rover on the Moon and Win $30 Million (Source: Scientific American)
On a muddy, rubble-strewn field on the banks of the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, a five-foot-tall pyra­midal robot with twin camera eyes slowly rotates on four metal wheels, its electric motors emitting a low whine. In a nearby trailer, students from Carnegie Mellon University huddle around a laptop to watch the world through the robot’s eyes. In the low-resolution grayscale images on the laptop’s screen, the rutted landscape looks a lot like the moon, which is the robot’s ultimate destination.

Now that NASA’s space shuttle is retired, scientists may turn to privately funded rockets to get themselves and their equipment into space. The Google Lunar X PRIZE competition offers $20 mil­lion to the first nongovernment team to get a rover on the moon. Of the 26 competitors, Astrobotic may stand the best chance of winning. Team leader William “Red” Whittaker has spent his career building innovative robots. (4/5)

Spaceport America Launch Set for Thursday (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A SpaceLoft-6 sounding rocket will launch Thursday from Spaceport America, according to a Kirtland Air Force Base announcement. A New Mexico Spaceport Authority spokesman confirmed the launch will take place sometime today, but declined to specify the time, saying the agency has concerns about the public traveling to the site. The rocket will be carrying seven payloads "crucial" to future work by a Kirtland Air Force Base division, called the Operationally Responsive Space Office. (4/5)

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